On January 1, 2019, Tumblr, the most free form and latitudinal Internet platform that I knew of, changed the one thing that made it worth posting on. Before the change, the “adult” or NSFW pages, like this novella, were leavened into the other pages on the platform, without serious censorship.

This was, frankly, why the platform was worth working on and viewing because the adult material, in context, benefitted immensely by the pages around it. And though, as an adult poster, I’m biased, I think the other pages, even at their most daft and immature, benefited equally as much by having the sharp spicing of intelligent adult pages in their context as well. The sense of freedom to explore beyond category or content labels, of limitless possibility of presentation that Tumblr brought to both page making and page browsing was exquisite. And it was brought to an end.

The adult posters were warned to transfer their material into an adult subdivision separate from the other posts and an algorithm was imposed that censored adult posts which weren’t transferred, but censored them only partially, to meet automatic so-called “community standards“ which were neither from a community nor driven by a sensible standard but from a bunch of anonymous employees working in Silicon Valley cubicles. It was the paradigm of AU rather than AI: “Artificial Unintelligence.”

The algorithm censored at random, leaving *most* of the adult material still there to titillate the minds of juveniles, whom Tumblr now wished to protect while turning the meaning and point (yes, good adult material HAS meaning and point) of pages like mine into corned beef hash. On the date above, I deleted all of it that was mine.

At the time of the change, I was beginning to explore the earliest part of this narrative on Tumblr up to the section The Man From Chicago, and though the Tumblr page was also called The Matriarchal Zone, it was largely about my own adult spanking fetish rather than what this novella has ended up being.

I didn’t bargain for having interesting characters show up who basically took up the narrative on their own, turning it into a dystopian story of America’s future in the form of a spy thriller! Nor for having new ones twice sneak in the back door as I was about to end the story, who I just had to get better acquainted with by continuing to write.

All writing comes from other writing since we learn to write after we learn to read, and the line between homage and plagiarism is thin indeed. So I (as most contemporary spy story writers) should acknowledge my immense debt to the master of us all, John LeCarre, who, in a single book, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, invented a set of in group colloquial expressions of espionage (tradecraft, handwriting, honey trap, workname, legend, mole, babysitter, security gorillas, fleeing “in your socks”, and so on) that did not exist in any spy narrative, non-fictional or fictional, before the publication of that one book.

LeCarre himself openly acknowledged that he worked with both MI-5 (British security service) and MI-6 (British foreign intelligence), before publishing his breakthrough spy story, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, and though LeCarre’s neologisms in Tinker, Tailor were fictional, they were so good that the real spies who speak English now routinely use them! After all, they read spy stories, too. The notion of his immortalization in the Oxford English Dictionary for these amazing contributions to English vocabulary is amusing, comforting, and reassuring all at once.

As you may have guessed, I’ve polluted my mind with detective stories and spy thrillers from the youngest of ages. So I must also acknowledge Eric Ambler, who in 1940 wrote one of the most hair raising of thriller narratives, Journey Into Fear, about an ordinary person pursued by faceless professional killers without his knowing why. (“Graham sat down wearily on the bunk. It was the first time for nearly twenty-four hours that he had been left alone to think. He took his right hand carefully out of his overcoat pocket, and looked at the bandages swathed round it. It throbbed and ached abominably. If that was what a bullet graze felt like, he thanked his stars that the bullet had not really hit him.”)

Similar masterful permutations of these themes occur routinely in the filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, and other directors of what is commonly called film noir. And I must also give the nod to Graham Greene, the first author that I know of whose “entertainments” of this type turned into dark moral parables such The Third Man and The Human Factor.

Then there is the question of the tone of my prose, ironic shading off into comedic. (“Where to shoot an obnoxious pimp: in the knees. It will encourage him to make a mid-life career change.”) I owe it to the first and most famous of the “hard boiled” detective story writers, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler (“She looked as if she’d heard all the answers and remembered the one’s she thought she could use some time.”) representative books are Red Harvest, and the 2 part novella The Big Knockover for Hammett and The Big Sleep as well as Lady In The Lake for Chandler.

Equally entertaining second order writers of great influence on my style are Rex Stout, Over My Dead Body and The Golden Spiders; and John Dickson Carr, The Blind Barber, The Three Coffins, and The Arabian Nights Murder. The first and last are classic full blown farces on the order of Oscar Wilde. The middle one is an incredibly chilling “impossible crime” novel.

These are my literary roots and a bang up set of entertaining books that I recommend to your attention. Finally, I learned to read at age three and by age five my overwhelmingly favorite book, which I read over and over was an abridged version of The Count of Monte Christo by Alexander Dumas.

So I come by my literary inclinations honestly and hope you enjoy what I’ve written.

This is a fantasy of the future where the United States disintegrates into component parts, one of which is a Matriarchal State, known as the Matriarchal Zone in what is now New England. It is written with the intent of, among other things, exploring what a real political Matriarchy, where all men are subordinated to all women, would actually look and feel like.

My answers to these questions, and my initial conclusions I came to by the middle of the first draft, were that it would require multiple and different police agencies, staffed by women alone, who assured the subordination of men through widespread corporal punishment of both men and women to maintain both a rigid social structure of “everyone knows their place and takes it”, as well as an artificially peaceful atmosphere where the major characters (one man and seven women) were in conflict with that Matriarchal reality even when they dreamed, embodied, and represented the Matriarchal ideal.

As the narrative developed, went off on false tracks, then returned shamefacedly to be either excised or rewritten, it kept coming back to the trope of the adult “spanking fetish”. The author is subject to this in the form that is only tangential to sexual life, where sex is subordinated to the release of guilt through definite consequences for the person spanked, the satisfaction of private justice for the person spanking, and the mutual forgiveness and restoration of harmony between them for both. And it is this dynamic that determined the narrative itself.

In the background, I intended, generally in an indirect way, to hint at our probable dystopian future where fossil fuel climate change slowly pushes humanity into extinction. I say probable because I think it is probable in fact. All the major characters here operate with the sense that humanity is slowly disintegrating and, to quote one of my characters, the good times of yesterday were better than any good times in the present, and the bad times of today are far worse than any of the bad times in the past.

Stories like this take on a life of their own and characters are not introduced or created, but, rather, step out of the shadows. Each time I wrote about someone new, I had to get acquainted with them, let them show me their foibles, and decide how I, as the author, was going to deal with that in a coherent and connected narrative.

The Story Background

The United States pursued a feckless policy, from 2016 to 2037, of constantly reducing the taxes of the richest Americans while expanding government expenditures, thus ballooning US National Debt to far beyond its Gross Domestic Product and siphoning progressively more wealth into the hands of the upper 1% of the wealth pyramid.

In 2037 this constantly growing debt caused a massive institutional run of selling United States Treasury Bills (the actual form of the indebtedness, bought by the lenders), which led to equally massive devaluing of US currency, the destruction of Treasury Bills as the universal “safest” equity investment, and a collapse of stock markets world wide. 

This forced the world (except for the United States, which was not invited) to adopt a single world currency, halting the Worldwide economic slide, but exchanging with the dollar at a radically unfavorable rate, resulting in fifteen years of world wide major Depression, with the US sliding deepest both into hard times and civil unrest, which destroyed it.

In 2038 the Great Methane Release from the North Polar tundras occurred on a massive, unpredicted, scale and with a speed that caused the progress of man made Climate Change to increase exponentially beyond any possibility of human influence. The natural ice all around the world was expected to totally melt by 2110 causing the total sea level rise to reach 80 meters. It was expected that the amount of global warming would start to stabilize at that point, with everything between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn reaching high summer temperatures of 210 F and rendered totally uninhabitable by humanity. It is predicted that by the middle of the 22nd century no lands between 50 deg N and 50 degrees S latitude will be habitable.

The World, in 2038, stampeded in a mass panic toward the North in billions not millions. And billions died in this Great Northern Diaspora. Whole sections of land were abandoned in the United States, and both Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean were lost to the uninhabitable heat.

The + or – 52 million people left in the former USA cowered around the two ocean coasts and the Great Lakes pulling into the urban areas. Several continents suffered Biohazard Zones where the meltdown and explosion of nuclear power reactors occurred in the panic to get North. These Zones will never be populated again. All of Japan and Korea became such a Biohazard Zone, as did the sea coast from east of New York City, through Philadelphia, and to Wilmington, Delaware. Several different ones occurred in Russia including the venerable Chernobyl meltdown and the patchy biohazard zones spread through the wide expanse of the Russian Federation, as well as northern Iran.

To the north in the Amer/Canadian West countries formed in what was the state, now the country, of the Alaskan Republic, capital Anchorage, and the Western half of old Canada which became New Canada, capital Saskatoon. Much of the old Northwest Territory and the Yukon have been decimated by the thousands of Methane bubble craters spread across the land.

In the former continental USA the land was divided into four major countries: Dixieland, capital Atlanta, below the Mason/Dixon line and the Ohio River, extending to the Mississippi River; the Great Lakes Consortium, capital Chicago, occupying the old states Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, eastern Pennsylvania (to the Allegheny River), upstate New York (to the Hudson River and the Biohazard Zone) and the lower 1/3 of the former Canadian Province of Ontario; Mormonia, capital Boise, occupying the Rocky Mountains from New Canada to the Sangre De Christo mountains of northern New Mexico; Pacifica, inland from the Pacific Ocean to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges, stretching from just south of Los Angeles, all but lost to the uninhabitable heat, to the former Alaskan peninsula past Juneau.

Except for Pacifica, all of these countries claim nominal boundaries far beyond their population clusters. Pockets of unorganized but occupied mountain country, nominally in Mormonian control; such as the central Colorado plain between the “fourteeners” mountain ranges to the east and west; and the old Hispanic settlements, Native American reservations, and Pueblos in southern Utah, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, and northern New Mexico became functionally independent and self sustaining.

The arrows indicate the general direction of each country’s continual migration ahead of the Uninhabitable Heat.

Then there is the Matriarchal Zone, starting from the Hudson River as it’s western boundary and populated largely in the old state of Vermont, the Berkshire Mountains South of Vermont, and the strip of land between Vermont and the Hudson. It’s empty and indefinite boundaries extend all the way to the ocean in the east. It’s trials and tribulations are what appear here

Fem/Auth Brochure #3

Who We Are And What We Do

Since the shift earlier in the century to methane induced exponential growth in climate change, the Great American Dollar Collapse of 2037, and the Worldwide Great Northern Climate Diaspora which followed, the Matriarchal Zone was established in Northeastern North America, formerly New England, which was virtually deserted by it’s original population in the Diaspora, and whose survivors reformed as the New England Plantation on the west side of Hudson’s Bay and James Bay in New Canada.

At the Zone boundaries and airports are Customs and Passport Offices, or Cus/Pas, where all non-Matriarchal visitors to the Zone must register and accept temporary GPS chipping of the European Space Agency’s satellites network, They also must undergo retina scanning to go about their business, familial visits, and/or recreation within the Zone, with mandatory passport renewal and re-chipping every three months. Under the terms of the Six Genders Compact this will be extended to six months after 2070.

Non-Matriarchals are not legally obligated to openly display their status, but both Fem/Auth and Cus/Pas strongly encourage it, and offer free badges and badge protocol training for non-Matriarchals planning an extended stay.

The Feminine Authority Office, known as Fem/Auth, is the licensing, training, and development agency for Female managed homes, workplaces, and Female-led relationships. It exists to assist in the stable overall inclusion into world society of Matriarchy, in accordance with the Worldwide Six Genders Compact negotiated in 2045 by the World Negotiations Agency. Included in this compact is the stipulation that Dominant Women be licensed and trained and that Submissive Men be psychologically evaluated for fitness in private Female-led relationships. These are some of the major functions of Fem/Auth.

Fem/Auth works closely with Cus/Pas to see that relations between our Matriarchal citizens and our non-Matriarchal visitors remain smooth and amicable. The Zone itself is always open to applications from both men and women from outside it’s borders for submissive and dominant Zone citizenships, respectively. Ex/Pat, is the clearing house and service office for Citizenship Application and Judicial Arbitration of Submissive Abuse Cases.

In addition to these “front slash” agencies, Civ/Crim are the ordinary Civil and Criminal Courts who deal solely with legal cases involving Dominant Women Citizen Households, including Maleservants, as well as Sec/Spy, the Security and Espionage Identification Office.

Since both the legally Patriarchal dictatorships of Mormonia and Dixieland, and the “Free and Equal” democracies of the Alaskan Republic; New Canada and the New England Plantation; Pacifica; and Great Lakes Consortium have chosen, as permitted by the Compact, to be much more travel restrictive of citizens of our Matriarchy, ALL front slash agencies have summary police powers of arrest and indefinite detention over Submissive Male Citizens, non-Matriarchal visitors, and citizenship applicants.

Such agencies work closely with the Feminine Dominion Police or Fem/Dom, our ordinary national police and prisoner housing agency, with Fem/Dom housing any individuals subject to summary detention.

Submissive Male Citizenship.

The largest, and most important function of Fem/Auth is the voluntary training of male citizenship applicants in submission and subordination, as well as the compulsory re-training of male submissive citizens who are not adapting productively to a Feminine-led life. Fem/Auth also retains summary powers of arrest and detention of any male citizen, or citizen applicant, for re-training purposes.

In accordance with the Compact, male submission training consists ONLY of usual and customary subordination in the home and workplace, and such corporal punishment as is required for this with customary instruments such as hairbrushes, paddles, belts, straps, tawses, crops, light canes, and martinets. No other discipline and corporal punishment instruments are legally permitted in the Zone.

Dominant Woman Training

The Fem/Auth training program for Dominant Women and Women Citizen Applicants is designed to develop student expertise in ordinary Domination both in the home and the workplace. This program also administers Primary and Secondary education within the Zone. Currently, women citizens seeking University education must travel beyond Zone borders.

From the first Establishment of the Matriarchal Zone, men have been permitted to work in subordinate positions only, with Dominant Women in all supervisory and policy making roles.

At the Establishment it was clearly foreseen that both fair promotion and fair monetary compensation would be difficult to achieve with a Dominant/Submissive workplace. While all men must work as a subordinate to a Dominant Woman, the ranks and grades among men must, in practice, correspond to some differences in level among men, based on experience and authority. It is ALWAYS the duty of a working Dominant Woman not only to supervise each male in her workforce, but also to rank organize them and delegate authority for efficient work.

The Matriarchal Zone is like any other political entity. People have ordinary lives, careers, and jobs. In the workplace, what is needed is not only team effort and subordination, but also organization and esprit. Men follow the orders of women, but they also need to feel accepted, valued, and protected.

Twenty years ago, as the Zone coalesced, the Chief Matriarchs of the United Clans (forerunner to our present governmental system of a bicamerally gendered legislature) created The Hierarchy, a workplace template, based on the military system of commissioned and non-commissioned officers of multiple ranks. All men were subordinate to all women, and every in house business entity has a Woman-In-Charge, equivalent to commissioned military rank of lieutenant and higher, as well as a promotional hierarchy of men charged with accomplishing the basic work with status ranks, equivalent to non-commissioned ranks of Sargeant Major down to Private Soldier.

The purpose of these is to establish a system of fair reward and promotion for both genders, as well as the right of reprimand and punishment of men by women. As in the military, Dominant Women status is licensed, demanding discipline limits of the Dominant by the Dominant, and requires careful training in male psychology, as well as the development of a moral compass of both fairness and firmness in supervision of men.

Finally, Fem-Auth exercises legal authority to hear initial complaints by submissive men of Dominant/Submissive Abuse. It will evaluate such complaints and refer the ones with merit to Ex/Pat which will offer temporary housing to alleged victims of such abuse while it’s judicial proceedings are ongoing.

In the Zone, male submission is terminable by the man at any time through his permanent renunciation of Zone citizenship. And, in accordance with the Compact, until 2080 Fem/Auth will provide repatriation and refugee assistance to all citizen renunciates, and will proactively seek placement of them in the other governmental entities of the world.

The Matriarchal Underground.

A major reason why the Matriarchal Zone exists at all is that the Northeast United States and Maritime Canada was home to a large Matriarchal Underground consisting of interbreeding clans from the Highland Scots and Irish diasporas of late 18th and early 19th Centuries. It stretched from Buffalo, N.Y. on the Erie Canal in the West, to Halifax, Nova Scotia in the East, also with pockets in Bluefield, West Virginia and Boone, North Carolina.

These Southern USA pockets were the oldest female-led clans in the New World: MacDonald and MacKinnon in 1732; then came Campbell and Mackenzie after the ill-fated Jacobite Rebellion of 1745; finally MacPherson, MacQuarrie and many others after the Highland Famine of 1836.

The worldwide COVID-19 plague, beginning in 2020 and the abrupt collapse of the American Dollar in 2037 released the pent up economic stresses on humanity leading to the years of civil violence and the dissolution of the United States of America.

As well, exponential acceleration, of man made climate change by the immense and sudden Arctic tundra methane release of 2038 triggered the worldwide Megadiaspora toward the North Pole. A mass panic consuming the totally interconnected 21st Century world to avoid the now inevitable destruction of all land between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, rendering it too hot for any human habitation.

The violent times that ensued are still fresh in the memory of many citizens here as is the contraction of the wide spread USA and Canadian Matriarchals into refuges in the Berkshires centering around the three state Connecticut River boundary of Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. And the capital of the Zone still retains its former name of Montpelier.

Here we do not need to go into very much detail, but there are still Matriarchal literary artifacts from the time of Emerson and Thoreau all the way up to the Megadiaspora that deserve inclusion in the Female-led story. Most are anonymous, in keeping with the secretive culture that produced them. We print here an example.

A Chat In Matriarch House ca. 2010-2020.

That’s right. This a home, not a dungeon. Here, have a taste of this 1792 Bourbon. Cheers. Isn’t it something? A home. That’s why we call it Matriarch House. It’s feminine led and feminine run, but the men here are not worms or slaves. We get punished only when we truly deserve it, not both whether we’re wrong or right.

Anybody can appeal to the Matriarch. She’s fair but firm, and it isn’t always the man who ends up over someone’s knee or on top of the bed pillows. Calling out a man to be spanked for no good reason usually gets a woman a good butt burning by the Matriarch herself with the House Strap. Happens more often than you might expect, if you listened to the gossip around us. Just like the gossip never mentions this “men’s club” leather chair library and it’s liquor cabinet where the ladies are kind enough to not intrude.

I’m sure you’ve heard exaggerated rumors, but our spanking in the boudoir is play not punishment, play between people of mutual respect who draw the line well before chastity punishment or cages, whatever their gender. A home and not a dungeon. Alice and Corrine just got married, you know. Fine thing having to wait 25 years to openly acknowledge your love! The prudes who’ve been trying to keep that closet locked in this state deserve the paddling of their lives for doing it, and, if any show up here, they just might get it.

A couple of years back I ran my mouth too freely about Corrine (who’s the in-law, Corrine Baker, I’m also not a MacPherson by blood, Kodaly is my last name) and the three of us had a little chat with me getting twice the paddling that my own wife would give me for the same thing, so the girls could both let out their feelings, and the whacks I got “in-law to in-law” had a LOT of feeling behind them, I can tell you. Talk about bulls-eye bruises! I could hardly walk straight for the rest of the day. But I did deserve all I got. Prejudices are a sneaky thing, and could have broken the family bonds between us three for good. A sincere apology and a week of sitting on the effects of a hard, hard hickory paddle were more than worth how we still feel about one another.

How do they work out “female led” between them? Well, apparently it takes more than just a hairbrush, and you can sometimes hear the crack of that thick hickory paddle involved. But their boudoir is their business, everybody here has hairbrushes, and Alice and Corrine do regularly come down to breakfast, or even lunch, rubbing their bottoms with big grins on their faces. Occasionally, at least, we all do.

Do any men spank? Of course not! We wouldn’t love the women we do if we didn’t trust their judgment about us unreservedly. And domestic peace and bliss in a feminine run household, where women fear no man’s physical strength, must be experienced to be understood. Without that fear lurking behind it, for the first time you get REAL respect, if you deserve it. And you have the chance to give back some real respect of your own.

Yes, this is my Annabelle, always more beautiful with steam coming out her ears. A very truthful lady that we all call Belle. Belle MacPherson. The clan sisters have a long tradition of keeping their names. She made good on her prediction there about my not sitting down. If you don’t spank or get spanked a lot you don’t understand how much skill it really takes to leave a man’s fanny in that much discomfort. That time Belle was true to her word, and it left most of the house a little awestruck at how good a job she did on me.

Do we tease each other after a spanking? Of course! But we know that when we do, male or female, we’re on a knife edge–a little too much and a girl, or a man’s wife, just might call you out, leaving YOU ready to be teased after. That’s the best evidence there is about a woman’s better judgment. More often than not, it is we men who cross the line of hurt feelings. And pay for it sorely.

Another bourbon? I always try to stop at two, since Belle takes a dim view of my hanging around here smashed. And she has the most marvelous hangover treatment. Takes your mind right off your headache and puts it on your bottom end. But two is enough, really, and two I will do, without fear or shame.

House rules? They’re really simple. The Matriarch can spank anybody, though she very seldom has to. Her daughters, Annabelle, Alice, Abagail, and Artemis, can spank almost everybody and can call each other out if need be. Mothers can spank daughters and daughters-in-law. Aunts can spank nieces. And any woman over 18 can call out and spank any man. We men don’t spank. With the Matriarch and the House Strap there to deal with any arbitrary and immature spanking whims of the young women, all of us are pretty much content. Rules like these are doing a good job holding 4 generations together so far.

The rest is common sense. We all have chores, men and women, and it’s the Matriarch’s full time job to keep it all straightened out. It’s a big compound, one large house and three guest houses. These are occupied by two couples each, usually Aunt/niece pairings, who work together on our internet mail order businesses. Others of us, like Alice and Corrine and Belle, and a number of the men, have jobs in the City to take the train to. And some, like me, are retired stay-at-homes, keeping the compound clean and in repair. I do some cooking, but my specialty is the garden and grounds. It’s easier to stay out of trouble and keep sitting comfortably out there, so I appreciate my place.

Since you’ve started dating Belle’s grandchild, I hope you can understand “appreciating your place”. Henry tells me (oh, she’s still Henrietta to you, I suppose) that you’ve had your third date and already know what a paddling over the back of the couch for doing something stupid feels like, so nothing of what I’ve told you should take you that much by surprise.

I don’t know how easy she went on you. If you didn’t cry real tears and only had an excellent night in bed, you really don’t know yet what you’re getting into. If Belle gets a hold of you over some conflict with Henry, you’ll experience a whole new dimension of what “a good old-fashioned hiding” is all about, and you probably aren’t ready for that. Don’t say you weren’t warned after a warmed backside from Belle or any other woman here. Since you’re Henry’s guest this time around, you’ll be cut some slack. But don’t push it.

So mind your p’s and q’s while you’re here, particularly with Henry. You can call me either Ed, or Grandad Ed, but for now you’d better stick to “Mrs. MacPherson” or “Mrs. B.” when talking to Belle. Do you go by Peter or Pete? One more thing, Artie’s granddaughter Hebe has a lesbian partner Mary. We don’t at the moment have any more same sex couples here, but we don’t discourage any relationship the young ones want to cultivate, as long as their guests know their place and keep to it.

How did I come to be here? First thing you have to understand is that the MacPherson clan is some of the “old money” in this county–stock trading mostly–and it’s always been matriarchal, all the way back to the Highlands. Because of this, there may have been such a thing as a stingy MacPherson, but there IS no such thing as a lazy MacPherson, and never has been. Time was when the MacPherson girls largely had to seek “women’s occupations” to satisfy the mores of the day, but work they did, nonetheless.

Even then they were unconventional. Were they Abolitionists and Suffragettes? Of course! And “first woman” anything for three counties around, Doctor, Lawyer, you name it, was almost always a woman of the clan. It was Belle’s great, great grandfather Donald that founded the brokerage business in 1885, but it was his daughter that bought the bargain blue chip stocks after the Crash of 1929 that became the real basis of the family fortune.

The Miss MacPhersons work. Always, and no matter how rich the clan is. When I was in high school in the late 1960’s here, the current Matriarch, Elizabeth had just started work as the Vice Principal. I was a high strung, rule breaking young man, and one Friday me and a couple of my “buds” were caught “mooning” the school with our bare asses out the window of a passing car. We also, of course, had cut school and stayed hidden while we smoked a little weed and drank some illicit beer before our theatrical display.

So we ended up in the office of Vice-Principal MacPherson. Since she was new, and a very attractive woman in her twenties, we gave ourselves knowing looks about her being in charge of “school discipline”, much of which, in the late 1960’s, meant swinging the paddle. To our surprise, she gave us a world class dressing down and, at the end of it, stood up, pulled a paddle out of her desk drawer, and said, “Since you gentlemen are so eager to moon people, I’m going to have you moon me. One at a time, step up to the desk, drop your jeans and underwear, bend over, and put your elbows on the desk top!”

You could have heard a pin drop. I could feel the blush rising through my ears as she silently pointed the paddle at me and waved it toward the desk. As I got into position, I remembered the one or two other times I’d got my butt burned like this. It hurt a lot at the time and it stung for the rest of the day, but I didn’t think this slender young woman could do anything near that, even to my now embarrassingly bare bottom.

“Your each getting six. Don’t move out of position or I’ll start over!” There was a long and pregnant pause as I stared at the back of her desk chair….


The first whack left me gasping in the microinterval my butt took to report to my brain, and then I discovered that I had sat on a red hot stove! Tears burst from me spontaneously and by the sixth swinging insult to my glowing bare bottom I was actually sobbing. Nothing I knew had EVER hurt that much!

Miss MacPherson was a good sport after we three completed the round robin of whacking and weeping. She chatted with us and gave us ample time to reassemble our male egos while we cleaned up all traces of our tears. Looking at her, you wouldn’t have believed that she had just whacked three deserving bottoms a total of eighteen times, roughly about the same arm exercise as a full tennis set.

For the rest of the day I did everything I could to use my legs to continuously try to push my blazing rear up from the hard wooden school seats. We had been the first to get Miss MacPherson’s paddle and the rumor mill about it didn’t get started until the following Monday, so I had my throbbing butt cheeks all to myself.

When I got home and told Mother my side of the story (she had already heard the school’s) she dropped the thick leather belt she had been idly twirling and nearly fell off her kitchen step stool laughing.

“So you got to be the first to be paddled by a MacPherson did you! Lucky you! Haven’t you heard the gossip about that whole family up on their rabbit warren of an estate? All the women wear the pants in their marriages and spank their husbands and boyfriends routinely. And YOU got to be the first to experience the one school official with the hardest and most practiced spanking hand in the whole county! On the bare as well!! Woo Hoo Hoo Hoo!!!” she cackled.

“Well, it’s still your lucky day! I was going to beat the behind off you myself, but I can’t bring myself to do it since you told me. But just turn around and take down everything so I can see your poor little heiney. Oh my! Both cheeks are as red as a tomato with a big blue spiral bruise in the center of each!”

My paddling was on a Friday and my bruises got steadily worse over the weekend, to the point where I was sleeping on my stomach. On Sunday I spent much of the day sitting on a bag of ice, which I should have been doing Friday night. Mom called the school attendance office on Monday to tell them that I wouldn’t be in. She may have been pulling my leg (she often did) by telling me that Attendance had the speaker phone on and she heard LOTS of laughter in the background. Otherwise, I guess that word had got around.

Funny thing, that paddling actually turned my school life around. I didn’t do much any more with my buds (we were all too embarrassed with each other anyway). But I started really getting into reading in the school library and my grades shot up like a weed. Miss MacPherson must have heard about this because she started taking a real shine to me and wrote an incredible letter of reference to my eventual small liberal arts college.

She would also tease me, if there was no one else in earshot, telling me with a laugh that if I ever needed to stop by her office, she was always ready to give me a “very warm welcome”. Blushing and staring at my penny loafers usually followed. We were only ten years apart in age and I’d get a little stirred up in my pants thinking about how warm my bottom would be after a MacPherson style of “welcome”. I had had, you might say, personal experience with it, really didn’t want it repeated, but got a little excited over it, nonetheless, which she certainly knew.

After a few more paddlings over the course of a month, her need to give those “very warm welcomes” reduced considerably. And the rep she got for expertise and vigor when burning a student butt (male or female) was positively hair raising. One day after school, my then “steady” girlfriend, who wore my class ring with a tight rubber band around it to make it smaller, ended up with a pressing need to visit the Vice Principal in her office.

When I took her home in my car, she was still absolutely bawling and stayed so all the way until she went to bed that evening. Three days later, she showed back up at school, tender, but able to sit without squirming. With her red hair and pale translucent skin, her backside must have looked like a Tijuana sunset, but I didn’t get a chance to appreciate it. We hadn’t quite yet taken our first tumble under an old apple tree in a secluded dell in the Park of Roses. She had always laughed at me and my story of my first meeting with Miss MacPherson, but after her own warm welcome she didn’t mention it much and certainly wasn’t laughing when she did.

These days, since Elizabeth is only ten years older than me and her husband died 5 years ago, we both like socializing with each other as the two oldest at Matriarch House. Work keeps us from doing it much, but it’s always enjoyable when we do. And, of course, I’ve had regular warm welcomes over the years from her 15 years younger daughter, my beautiful wife Belle.

How did that happen? My college had a wonderful program of foreign study in Europe. I grew up talking to my Grandmother in Magyar (Hungarian) as well as English, so I picked up languages quickly, and after two years study at the University of Denmark and a couple of affairs with blonde and willowy Danish ladies, I had all Europe at my feet.

I had lucked into a job as a fashion photographer on a new, trendy, and young staffed magazine in Dresden, Germany and, after five years of that, I had made enough money to have a well equipped personal photography studio, so I left Dresden for Paris and went freelance. I was quite successful, frugal with my money, and had a good eye for European stocks, so my net worth rose high enough to be a serious contender as a potential husband in the American upper classes, “old money” or not.

And then I met Belle and fell head over heels in love with her, in Paris, in the Spring, just like one of those 1960’s romantic comedy movies starring Shirley McLaine or Audrey Hepburn. Things like that really do happen. She did the same with me….

Dinner might be just about to start. It’s a workday, so it will just be the residents of the Main House. Belle and the Matriarch (everybody addresses her as Momma or Momma Mac) are chief cooks tonight, so you’re in for an old fashioned comfort food treat.

Oh, hi, Henry! What’s that? You and Belle want a word with Peter in private? Your looking rather glum Henry, you should cheer up. It’s been nice meeting you, Peter. I guess I’ll see you at dinner, which I’m certainly looking forward to. One thing you can say about Matriarch House, living or visiting you get exactly what you deserve. Drink the last of your bourbon. Cheers.

The Matriarchal State

To turn a matriarchal underground into a matriarchal state has been the constant tribulation of us all. For 400 years, the USA had been perfect for us and many besides us: the Irish Travelers, the Romany, and so on. So we didn’t have worry about the Scotland of strife and land evictions and could settle down to farm, keeping ourselves to ourselves and ordering our clans as we would.

All clans fled after 2037 to the hospitality of the broadly extended and prosperous MacQuarries and were given refuge in the outlying clan farms of Northfield, Mass. There was formed the United Clans that negotiated in the Six Genders Compact Conference, creating the Matriarchal Zone, the land from the Hudson and Lake Champlain to the Maine coast and Nova Scotia having been deserted by non-Matriarchals. Hearing the news of the formation of the Zone, thousands of Female led families flocked to it from all over the old United States and New Canada.

Matriarchy, however, is a living, growing thing, best grown in the clan environment and the stresses of the large number of nuclear family households, particularly from Pacifica and Great Lakes Consortium, have led to the formation of a semi-authoritarian social order of the Chief Executive Matriarch (an until retirement position held by the Chief Clanness of the former United Clans), the Matriarchal Cabinet of Clan Chiefs (also until retirement); and the two elected legislatures, the lawmaking House of Matriarchs and the advisory House of Men. They meet for three months of each year to examine the executive decisions, determine which will be abandoned and which will be given permanent force of law. They have a regular election every seven years.

The fact that the Zone is officially self designated as a semi-authoritarian Matriarchal Hierarchy means that all citizens are NOT equal under law and that, even if there is not gender segregation, there are still Female social and political prerogatives that men do not have. The motto of the Zone is quite explicitly not, “Liberty and Justice for All” but “Everyone Knows Their Place and Takes It.” This is the price of building a society where Women no longer need fear men, and Men get respect for how they act, not who they are or what they look like.

The basic activity which stratifies all into their place is Corporal Punishment both in the home and out of it. This is not just a matter of an ordinary spanking for occasional readjustments in the home or the workplace. It is a matter of holding everyone, Woman or Man, responsible for maintaining the place of subordinates, and also responsible, with consequences for failure, for taking their own proper place.

Thus in the Zone, while Women spank Men, Women also get spanked, if need be, by higher ranking Women, or, failing that, by professional members of the “front slash” police agencies. In a female-led society, the need for this is rare for women above the age of 25, but often occurs through the teen years and early 20’s as fast physiological growth leads to much psychological “acting out”. The bottom tanning of an inexperienced and antisocial young woman is not just the responsibility of her mother, grandmother, and aunts, but also that of any adult woman with an established place in the hierarchy.

To sustain all this, there are several different “front slash agencies” all of whom have cooperative police powers: Cus/Pas, Fem/Auth, Fem/Dom, Civ/Crim (citizen courts), and Sec/Spy (security and counterintelligence) This is for the reason that if anyone, female or male, citizen or non-citizen, refuses to “take their place” they must swiftly be removed from circulation and either deported or retrained. Without this the social glue of fearless women and subordinate men will not hold.

However, with the great growth of single woman or mother/daughter households, with the responsibility for one or more Men, sustaining this sort of social adjustment is often problematic. The combination of adapting to a semi-authoritarian social structure and the strains of being a one-woman disciplinarian can give them a very rough time.

As with the members of the Matriarchal Underground in the United States the Zone is relatively crime free. When males are well supervised and their impulses kept in line, most violent crime simply vanishes. Particularly noteworthy is the total ban on private firearms and carrying any other concealed weapon within the Zone.

In our past diaspora to the Berkshires we lost much; many of us still can remember having much more wealth. But with the male energy supervised and harnessed to female diligence and industry, we have made a community that is prosperous in moderation and relatively equal in income and wealth distribution. In the terms of another day, we call this “job jar economics.” Under these circumstances, property crime is rare.

The Matriarchal Police or Fem/Dom are the national police, customary keepers of the peace on the streets, in the neighborhoods, and investigators of both personal and property crime throughout the Zone. 

Ordinary policing in the Zone is household to household as it was in Japan before it’s total nuclear contamination. All police are women. And Fem/Dom neighborhood foot patrols have a standing order to regularly knock on doors in their district and become well acquainted with the citizens they protect. In addition, they are trained to be as tough as they need to be to proactively prevent crime.

Their firearms are concealed, but tazer, collapsing nightstick, and handcuffs openly decorate the duty belt of a neighborhood patrol. They also are issued a three-tailed Glasgow tawse and it is used legally and firmly (though relatively infrequently) to deal with public misdemeanors in their district.

A few tawsed hands and good public bare bottom whackings over the hood of a parked electrocar, with the neighborhood looking on, discourages most petty crime and, particularly, any male juvenile crime. The miscreant is usually escorted to his own home, the household is informed, and he is left to the private hiding certain to be applied over his public tawsing.

There are courts to handle major citizen crimes, but Fem/Dom, Cus/Pas, Fem/Auth, and Ex/Pat together hold broad powers of indefinite detention of male citizens, citizen applicants, and non-citizens in Vauxhall Prison, in Peterborough. Almost all indefinite detentions of non-citizens eventually result in expulsion from the Zone, but with standard terms of time (measured in weeks) in Vauxhall, where non-citizens are placed on genuine matriarchal discipline at the hands of our tough, but professional, Fem/Dom cops. However, any non-citizen may waive his or her rights and take the same strapping a citizen would be given for a similar offense. 

2061 Edition, All Rights Reserved

The Man From Chicago

Sec/Spy Security Committee Briefing, House of Matriarchs—Restricted to Security Clearance Beta or Above

”Hard times require hard solutions. We are still in hard times in the Zone. As when we were underground, all we seek is national sovereignty and to be left alone. We also hold no male citizen here against his will. We only ask that he keep to his proper place and cooperatively take his medicine when he occasionally fails to do so.

”But no amount of negotiation softens the hostility towards us of the Patriarchal States where women have been returned to drudgery, constant child bearing, and political suppression. This is the case whether it is Dixieland, Mohamabad, or Mormonia, all of which are now at the edge of Climate Inhabitability and thus under significant social strain, projected as resentment toward we Matriarchals.

”Inside the Zone, we experience constant espionage and attempts at psychological sabotage from the governments of these states, because the Compact requires that no non-citizen be totally prohibited from visiting unless explicit harm from their visit can be anticipated. This is the reason we demand GPS microchiping of all guests by Cus/Pa, and use a long screening and training process of applicants for citizenship.

”The world is now under one currency so bribe giving for information, or for spreading oral anti-matriarchal propaganda can no longer be as easily traced, but the potential bribe giver certainly can. The Security and Spying Service, known as Sec/Spy does monitor all non-citizen microchips on a random, digital aided, basis, as well as using them to trace someone during a direct investigation of suspicious activity. If need be, we also have a silent microchiping gun that does its work with no more discomfort to the unsuspecting target than a bad mosquito bite. Plain clothes Sec/Spy agents can carry them in the form of a fully functional umbrella or in other guises.

”Since we are among the like-minded and security cleared here, we can be frank. Sec/Spy runs its own judicial and penal system parallel to the others, with full power to order long imprisonment and judicial caning in matters of legal security violations. Where this takes place, and the specifics of what goes on there, is totally secret as a matter of national security. All this, of course, is in direct violation of the Compact, thus so as far as you are concerned, outside of this room no such things ever happen. I don’t have to remind you that any comment to the contrary elsewhere is itself a VERY serious security violation.

”We do no spying ourselves. We endanger no citizen by asking them to run agent networks among the Patriarchies and put their life on the line by doing so. We have no ambition to interfere with these other states in world society. Not even with their barbaric return to Hanging, Electrocution, or the Guillotine. Nor do we use the Death Penalty or Life Imprisonment as punishment for any security crime as they most certainly do. Sooner or later any spy we hold is repatriated. The most we do is leave him with a permanently scarred and painful buttocks. This is sufficient to ensure his retirement as a field agent. We also strongly suspect that he won’t be offered a bureaucratic office job sitting from 9-5 daily when he returns.”

My name is Henry Peterson. And I’m a spy. Now if you simply take my word for it, I have some nice property down in Dixieland you can get for cheap. Right off of Mobile Bay. Oh, the town of Mobile, Alabama doesn’t exist anymore, you say? Hasn’t been there since 2040 when the sea level rise caught up to it? Well, Dixieland is kind of hot now for true vacation property, anyway.

My first statement, about my name, is false, because the second statement is true, I am a spy. My real name left me for a man who died in a car accident in 2035. At least all the news records and police records say so. Since then, I’ve had 7 different identities for my work. Including Henry Peterson.

Worried that I’m still lying to you? Nice to see someone here with their skeptical buttons on. Happens so rarely. Here, in the Matriarchal Zone, most of the dominant ladies and submissive gentlemen are really rather gullible. Price you pay for so-called “semi-authoritarian” politics where “everybody knows their place and keeps to it.”

For most people in the Zone, it’s not their place to ask questions or be skeptical, it’s someone else’s place to do that, thank you. One of those many “front slash” police agencies might just sweep you away and “retrain” you if you start doing it.

Though, I grant you, ALL the ladies here do swing a mean leather strap, even those on the outcast fringes. I know that from firsthand experience–the welts on my bottom and thighs were a full 3/4 inches wide and hurt off and on for two full weeks. Not to mention the embarrassment of being whipped and thrown out of a brothel for bad conduct. One of the tarts was asking too many questions. Cost of doing spy business here, I’m afraid, and no hard feelings left about it. I’m a pro.

As you can tell, I’m not a citizen here. Oh I have a non-citizen badge, but today’s not the day to wear it, and they are optional. Spying here is horribly easy. The only ones not clueless are the high toned bitches of Sec/Spy, the Security Service. But they can’t be everywhere at once so you stay out of their way and work your wiles on the clueless ones.

A little bit rough with the tongue about them I am, calling them bitches. They wouldn’t take it in bad part, though they might beat the behind off me if they ever hear it. In my world, one of the things such language means is that their agents are normally a little sharper than those of my agency. They’re pros, too, and tough as they come. Luckily, so far, I’ve managed to stay out of their way for about five years now.

But even good agents can get fooled and good services have weaknesses. The weakness of Sec/Spy is that they have few to no men in their agency, not even as subordinates. Whenever you make people submissive, you automatically make them into security risks. And a good thorough hiding for the man (the Zone’s answer to any and every problem) doesn’t do any good if they’ve already spilled the beans.

There are things about the way men think that women simply are clueless about, unless they ask some man about them, and “submissive” men never fully develop those habits of thought, since they have to so completely mirror their dominant women. That’s “their place” and they keep to it. So my very intelligent Sec/Spy adversaries remain clueless about the mental habits of male spies like me.

Except, I’m afraid, for Misha Haaretz, the daughter of the former head of Mossad, whose specialty was “honey traps”, where she would seduce either male or female enemy agents, steal their secrets, then break their necks when, after a good bang up 3 orgasms, the poor dupe lying next to her was totally dead to the world. Misha would make them just totally dead. She came on board Sec/Spy two years ago. The Zone was the only place still left in the slowly shrinking habitable world where she could emigrate to because she never made any enemies here. Sec/Spy was glad to hire her and she can live a real life here without ever needing to fear a bullet in the back.

Since she got here, she’s been breathing down my neck. She’s very good at breaking necks so that’s the last place you want her to be. There are very few Israelis in the Zone and, until, Misha, no known Mossad operatives. Sec/Spy hired her first as the Doctor of their judicial canings, the one who judges when the man strapped to the caning bench has finally been maimed for life. You might call the Physician’s oath she swore the Hypocritical Oath, like all the doctors in our agencies.

But it wasn’t long before she was running their small and not very well funded Counterintelligence In The Streets department. The name means looking for guys like me, long termers who last more than the usual 20 weeks before being caught, interrogated, and broken so badly that, in states like Mormonia or Mohamabad, a plane ticket back for them is the same thing as a death warrant. Doesn’t seem to trouble the conscience of Sec/Spy at all.

Misha looks for the ones who are smart and careful. There are more of them from all the Zone’s adversary countries than the high toners at Sec/Spy have even dreamed. Since you don’t execute or cane to destruction most spies and you eventually repatriate them, my own agency treats the newbies who they send here as cannon fodder, stuffing them full of nonsense that they sincerely believe, for the Sec/Spy interrogators to listen to when the rookie is finally broken. They may get a lot more strappings in your prison than they deserve for being spies, but my upper ranks think that’s better still.

The old hands like me get the time, expertise, and money to do real intelligence gathering. And the newbies get a very discreet hero’s welcome when they are repatriated, before going back into training to finally become real spies. The powers that be in my agency actually think that spying here, and getting caught, interrogated, and broken is a kind of internship for newbies. They get everything bad about being a spy except a trip to the morgue. This teaches them why their tradecraft in the field must be impeccable.

I’ve used the fact that most of Sec/Spy is clueless about how male adversaries think to my advantage. Case in point: have you ever heard of “killing two birds with one stone”? Whoever thought of that wasn’t a woman.

My cover is that of a traveling cosmetics salesman. If I were working anywhere else but in the Zone, that would be no more than a flimsy fiction by day where by night I’d be out in the seedy bars and brothels and servicemen’s hangouts looking to buy some agent loyalty from those with access to secrets without setting the price too cheap. Here, it’s real.

My bosses got me the training and a legit job to actually sell cosmetics, top drawer stuff. In the Zone, still so poor in consumer goods (they refer to it here disingenuously as “job jar economics”) ALL the women are cosmetics mad! There is no better access to any of the houses in the Zone, particularly those where the women are the movers and shakers in the land. Trust me. I’ve been in them. And I’ve even left a few self destructing microphones there, so Chicago can listen directly to their chatter for 1-2 weeks at a time.

I can speak to some of those women on a first name basis because of what I sell and because I always wear my non-citizen badge proudly on the job. So I don’t have to be so deferential with them as the men in their own households are. My cover IS my spying. Two birds with one stone.

Likewise, my suspicious weekly recreation in the brothels, bars, and gambling houses (mostly frequented by fringe men with a few Working Girls leavened in.) is pure recreation. Cus/Pas and Fem/Dom can write up all the reports they want, follow my GPS chip, or shadow me in person. And Sec/Spy can read their copies while congratulating themselves about how well they keep track of suspicious and licentious non-citizens like me. So where I would truly be spying anywhere else is actually my deceptive and skin deep cover.

My agency? GLCIS or Great Lakes Consortium Intelligence Service, pronounced like “glee/sis”, unless you are resenting a dunderheaded superior, in which case you pronounce it as “gee/zus!”

It’s openly headquartered in Chicago, the capital, saving a lot of the flim flam and folderol that Sec/Spy has to go through here to keep themselves secret. Our training, however, takes place all across the Rust Belt in small town locales where any stranger stands out like a sore thumb.

That’s our concession to secrecy. That and the fact that anyone working for GLCIS has completely abandoned their legal name in the outside world. My first mission was so dangerous that GLCIS went to the trouble of killing my old name off to prevent ANY tracking of my pre-intelligence history.

When you return from a mission, you keep the workname you last used, since a “legend” had been made with a paper trail when you were first sent in, so you can live your new name without any problem in The Consortium. The documents about you are already there. On your next mission you get a completely new identity and “Henry Peterson”, living in Chicago, simply vanishes. I won’t get a new one though. Two years more and I retire and stay Henry Peterson forever. GLCIS thinks that field spying is too stressful for anyone over 55. They’re right. Their pensions are quite generous. And I’d never make a good paper pushing bureaucrat.

Once I get across that border, I’ll get a discreet and lavish welcome. No limos, but quietly painted electrocars that rich men wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen in. China made luxury all the way. Best our security observation service has to offer. If you hang around for a little while, you’ll see. And, of course Cus/Pas will ask about it in their debriefing of you.

Brothels? you say, bars? you say, gambling dens? Of course they have them here, and the “semi-authoritarian government” pays for them, so their “submissive” men can get a bargain and tip lavishly. Most women don’t want to sleep with the men in their household, though they often obtain other sexual service from them. They also don’t want them raiding the house liquor cabinet. Only a very rare women does sleep with them, and she doesn’t talk about it. Might get their bedmate arrested and “retrained”.

But masterbating men are a pain to have around and they have to get their rocks off some other way. So do middle aged spies. The real James Bond doesn’t sleep with every woman in sight. Far too dangerous and insecure. Horribly bad tradecraft. Spies go to the high class hookers, the ones who work independently on outcalls, without a pimp, who don’t pry into the spy’s business.

Well the Matriarchal Zone has a special non-citizen permit for the Working Girls and they supervise them closely. When a spy takes some erotic time off, you have to put tradecraft first and keep your mouth shut tight even after your third or fourth orgasm turns you into goofy melting butter from the endorphins. Back in Chicago they train ALL of us to do that. And they retrain every six months. Makes for a satisfying work environment for the bureaucrats, too.

The Matriarchals also have certain standards of well dressed and good looking for the girls to meet before they give out the permits. High class tarts. No streetwalkers, no junkies, no trashy women like you pick up in bars. Always presentable.

Of course, they don’t tell you ANY of this in the slick brochures they flood the rest of the world with. Not at all. Not on your nelly.

So, on their days off, the submissive men get to go, in pairs, to spy on each other, to the Working Girls. Keeps the young ones out of trouble and the older ones happy and in their place. And they are really good high class tarts. The best I’ve ever found, and I’ve been a spy visiting brothels for a long, long time. The Matriarchals make sure they get what they pay for. AND they train the girls in how to strap the daylights out of your male butt, if you don’t behave. And they always have a soundproofed punishment room to do it in.

I’ve never turned it over as fact, but I think Sec/Spy offers them strap training in one of their secret little warrens. Maybe the men they use there are the only ones they hire. They sure keep quiet about it. No one wants to be known as a professional gigolo for the spooks. The spooks don’t want that, either. Talking is a one way ticket to long jail time here.

“It’s nice to have company to escort me across the border. And you even listen politely to my outrageous lies about my life. I AM really just a perfume and lipstick salesman. Really.”

The chaperone smiled and was silent. So was I.

Though I had never seen a picture of her in my life, I “made” Micha in one of my perfume Tupperware parties in a house of a member of the Matriarchal Cabinet. One of the reasons Mossad so treasured her was that Daddy the Chief of Operations made sure she was NEVER photographed. I know how Sec/Spy works and the mere fact that the Supervisor of the people hunting me down would actually come and take a look at me meant that they were within days, maybe hours, of closing in on me. So I ran, or as the newbies still say, “I grabbed my bug out bag and got out of Dodge in only my socks.” Really, I ran.

Where I went on my run is a confidential piece of my own tradecraft, and no spy shares his own way of playing the Grand Game, not even with his fellow spies. Unless he’s forced to. None of what I’ve already told you betrays anything about my handwriting, as we call spy techniques.

So here I now sit at the border of the Zone and the Consortium waiting my turn to be escorted across it by one of the fine subordinate gentlemen of Cus/Pas. They’ve already taken my GPS microchip, rephotographed my retina to confirm who I am, and had me turn in my non-citizen badge. The wound in my hand had already healed.

I’ve been genially telling lies about spying to my Cus/Pas escort and you’ve been reading them. Why? Because if I am captured, the first thing Sec/Spy will do is interview the gentleman and start my interrogation from there, instead of with any hard data they’ve gathered on me. My Escort knows his place, which is to accompany me and he won’t report my conversation to anyone until I’m across the border. As I said, gullible.

All of a sudden there’s a commotion around the corner and four women appear walking toward me with that determined gait that tells a old spy like me that they are at work and “on the clock”. Three were women of six feet and more tall, openly wearing the green, ill fitting, polyester, Sec/Spy uniform. The fourth was a woman, a little taller than average, slim, redheaded, quietly dressed in a woman’s business blazer and skirt of grey/brown worsted wool. Without a second thought I could tag them, The Boss and 3 security gorillas, the “muscle” of Sec/Spy, who didn’t use the Fem/Dom national police when they needed to use force.

“Hello, Micha,” I said.

“Hello, Henry,” she replied, “You have given us a dance for these last four weeks, with all my superiors blowing a total gasket about your disappearance. And the fact that you somehow made me and left.”

“Why don’t you send Larry, Moe, and Curly here over to one of those out-of-earshot tables,” I said, “and you can ask me a few questions.” She went into a whispered conference with them and they moved away.

“I hope for your sake that they don’t know who Larry, Moe, and Curly are. I really don’t want them going over my head and asking to have a session with you and their three straps in your prison cell. The way my bosses have been acting, they might just get permission to do it!”

“I’ll take my chances.” I said.

“Unfortunately, Henry, this is not going to be about “chance” for very long. You’ve already been tried and sentenced to a crippling caning next Tuesday on the Black Widow. After that, you know what we say here, ‘You won’t sit down for the rest of your life.’ It takes at least 750 cane strokes to complete such a sentence. And it’s no fun.”

“I know. The two others you’ve sent back to Chicago afterward are currently undergoing confined mental hospital treatment for post-traumatic stress…They were good men, and one was a friend, at least to the degree that you can be friends with anyone in this business. How come such a hurry to cane me to oblivion?”

She made a face. “Because the executionress, poor baby, has to start her 3 week vacation on Wednesday, and while I know what an interrogation gold mine you would be, my dolts of superiors don’t see it that way.” she paused, and then, lower and more confidential,”I could be your friend, Henry, if you could talk enough before Tuesday to show us how valuable you are.”

“You can put away the rest of the rotomontade, Micha. If caught, Chicago expects me to tell everything. They cut their losses as soon as they heard that I was on the run. They did so for my friend also, but he was too pigheaded and too macho to talk to you. He certainly isn’t very macho now. The nightmares won’t let him be. Neither am I.” I stopped and she made no reply. They’re touchy over here about being told how much those men they cane will live in torture, mental and physical, until they die. “So be my friend and postpone my trip to the Black Widow. I don’t mind at all.”

“Well, maybe, if you give me the Crown Jewels right from the start and I can show people how valuable you are to debrief. So tell me, Henry, how did you make me?”

“It’s all in that beautiful little gold choker around your neck.” Her eyes went wide and then narrowed. I could get her in a lot more trouble over that.

“You really should make up your mind to be a bureaucrat and stay out of the fieldwork. You know from the dossiers that I notice everything. That choker is decorated with the Hebrew letters of the Name of God. You also have red hair, clear pale skin, and freckles. Even back in Chicago, we’ve heard the rumors that the reason you were so good at the honeytrap game was that you “didn’t look Jewish”. And if it were me, I’d guess that the reason you always killed was to keep just how you didn’t look Jewish a secret. With hair and skin like yours I probably would, too.”

A storm was brewing on her face, “Do you really want me to let you go to the Widow? I can do that just fine and sit in the audience to listen to you shriek.”

“No Misha. But I really do have the Crown Jewels and some of them involve you. That means my good friend needs to take complete control of my debrief so I’m never asked the question I just answered. Does that make sense?” She was silent, I knew I’d won the first round.

“What other little explosive goodies do you have?” she asked.

“The main one you can’t stop questions about. But if I tell you here, I’m sure you could use it as a trophy to take to your boss. How did I escape detection for a full month and where was I hiding? Her face softened, “Well, where were you hiding?”

“In Vauxhall Prison for Cus/Pas.”

“WHAT!!!!” she almost fell off her chair, completely blindsided by my answer.

“The hour I went on the run, I took my, quite legal, pen knife and cut out the GPS chip in my left hand. It hurt like a bastard and I bled like a stuck pig. I’m sure that’s the first thing you found and all my blood along with it. At that point you could have tracked me with a scent dog, but all of those are trained and held by Fem/Dom, and it’s “just not their place” to be chasing spies on the run, now is it?” Her face told me I’d guessed right.

“But I’m also sure you thought I was merely trying to make my movements untraceable while I went to whatever safe house I had available. You put an APB out on me to the Fem/Dom cops, and you were sure that, whatever I tried to do, they would scoop me up. They didn’t. But you had to argue your superiors into it, and the APB didn’t get sent until far too late.

“After a week or more had passed, all of you at Sec/Spy concluded that I actually DID have a safe house, and it’s woman owner, know it or not, was committing treason against the Matriarchy! I’m sure THAT began to give everybody at Sec/Spy acid indigestion. The matter may have even had to go up to the Matriarchs themselves, along with the story of their friend and perfume dealer, the spy. Maybe that’s why everybody’s so keen to get me on the Widow.

“Matters got even worse after you shook down all the brothels looking for me. Not a bad guess, but the Working Girls know which side their bread is buttered on. I wasn’t there. And, finally, (playing my last card) I think someone came to you and suggested that, when they found the traitor, she could accidentally fall down some stairs and break her neck trying to run. Now, am I still your friend?”

She sat stunned for about 30 seconds. “You’re good, Henry; much better than your dossier suggested. In fact, you may be the best I’ve ever seen. But be careful, you’re inches from talking yourself into a very nasty caning and a ruined life. So how DID you get into Vauxhall Prison?”

“I simply went to Cus/Pas and showed them my mutilated hand. They didn’t ask why I did it, they didn’t care why I did it, they didn’t even ask me my name and make a retina check; they just hustled me off to Vauxhall. They also didn’t put in a new chip since I was already behind bars. That’s what you get when the powers that be tell the officers to get tough. I gambled on that, and being behind bars without giving my name made me happier than I’ve ever been in my life. Thus goes bureauracy.”

I could see the answer hit her hard, and the hardest of all was why didn’t she figure this out herself.

“Everybody has their blind spot.” I said consolingly, “I just killed two birds with one stone.”

She had nothing to say, so I continued, “It was all just pencils and crayons after that. I refused to waive my rights and take a strapping, so the wheels were put in motion to boot me out of the country as soon as I had served the required 4 weeks. I knew the time of my greatest danger was here, where you finally caught me. Somebody saw my name on the discharge and remembered the APB.

“So I’ll repeat my question, are you still my friend?”

“Well, Henry, there are 3 alternatives. I may have to, or just want to, I’m not really sure, let you go to the Widow. If I can’t get control of your interrogation I have to let you go. Next, I can get your sentence commuted and you repatriaited. If I weren’t personally involved, what you’ve already told me would let that happen. Finally, I could suggest that Sec/Spy hire you to teach our new agents. Your going to have to do something for money, and you’re far closer to being a submissive male than you think, you could become a male citizen here if you worked at it.

“So am I your friend? Maybe.”

“Misha, there’s another way you can be my friend. If I HAVE to go to the Widow, come to my cell beforehand, give me the long penetrating kiss I’m sure you are wonderful at, wrap your arms around me, and break my neck.”

“You are a wonder, Henry! That there was a fourth alternative didn’t even occur to me. I’ll give it some careful thought.”

Elizabeth’s Secret

Yes, I’m the Madam and the Elizabeth in the Elizabeth’s Secret house of the “Scarlet Fever Lane” in Montpelier, Matriarchal Zone. The real name of the street is Massey Street. Who Mister Massey was I have no idea. Some flint hearted Vermonter making his money in retail or wholesale and buying his state senator or state representative the means to win elections, I suppose. And, of course, so public spirited a gentleman would obviously make so little name for himself, that it could fit a street sign, staying there with no surround of public history or private story of anything left of Mr. Massey’s life.

Those things, like so much else, were obliterated by the Great Northern Diaspora, as it’s known in the News & Propaganda business. And, actually, as it’s known here in the Matriarchal Zone, who are as much of a self-propaganda bureau as they are a new and rising country. Maybe that’s because they were one of the few clear winners from the relevant events.

I, of course, lived among the losers in the agricultural Midwest. WE called it When The Shit Hit The Fan or Shitstorm, for short. What else can you call it when not a single New Englander was left in New England, and only Matriarchals hiding in the Berkshires were left behind. All that’s left of the real New England now is a Plantation & Colony on the west shores of Hudson’s Bay in New Canada.

So many of everybody floundered in the Shitstorm, so many of everybody died! I lost a lover and business partner, an entire family older than I was, and the purpose of a very expensive academic education. At least the Dollar Collapse destroyed the collection of my student loans.

And I had to become a Fallen Woman, a Working Girl, a Sex Worker, a “devotee of the Cyprian persuasion”, any euphemism you like that hides the name I’m proud of most: a Whore. It’s a good English word (my degrees were in English) and Doll Tearsheet the Madam with Falstaff the whoremonger are perhaps the only two of Shakespeare’s characters left that have anything to say to our post Shitstorm world. I learned the trade on the streets of Chicago until I got talent spotted by a cozy little House (only five girls, only high quality, well paying, Johns) in Cicero, home of the mobster of 150 years ago, Al Capone. Who was Al Capone? Don’t worry about it. Just stick with Doll and Falstaff and you’ll have all you need.

I’m actually prouder of being a Whore (despite my middle age, the title is forever) than a Madam. A Madam merely has to know how to run a business and where to shoot an obnoxious Pimp (in the kneecaps–it will challenge him to make a mid-life career change). A Whore has to know how to coax an erection out of a brain-dead paraplegic. The last is much harder, believe me.

I was lucky and worked for a first madam who knew all there was to know about that as well. She saw to it that her girls did, too, even me who she called Ms. Professor. She once told me privately that I was a gold mine for her with a certain type of clientele. She also called on me when she needed an extra hand doing business. Maybe she could see the makings of a Madam in me, maybe because she needed someone sharper than Tessa the Ditzy, who also had a set of regular clientele.

I was also lucky to be one of the first group of non-citizen whores that the Council of Matriarchs granted special entry to ply our trade for the Submissive Men of the Matriarchal Zone. There were only 28 of us and the program was so politically controversial that it took another three years to allow some more of us in.

In the meantime the 28 of us were servicing damn near every man in Montpelier! Not only were we getting over generous government stipends (they had no clue how much to pay us) and free apartments in a venerable (meaning the toilets always clogged) and genteel (meaning the first thing most of us found when we moved in were samplers left behind by the old lady tenants in the Shitstorm) building known as The Halo. We also were awash in tips!

The girls still do very well that way, but those first three years were like an Oklahoma Land Rush to get into our quarters and into our pants, particularly because we knew how to help the old ones, the shy ones, and the first timers to do so. We had one major incentive to save: there was almost nothing new to buy. So even the feather brains among us made and saved a ton of money. Me, I was one of the first three to purchase outright a Victorian house in Massey Street, where we three first were given permission to start Scarlet Fever Lane.

Back then the “semi authoritarian policing” of our own time was much less intrusive, and the brighter of the Submissives had a fine dry wit when they were alone and away from their Dominant Women. So the genteel Halo building quickly became known as The Tarnished Halo.

These days, since they are forced to come in pairs and spy on one another, they are far more subdued. In fact it’s nearly as hard to raise some pleasant chit-chat from them as it is to keep the tumescence in their dicks!

Both problems stem from their constant over-the-shoulder watch for the killjoys of Fem/Auth. And, privately, several who had already been “retrained” by Fem/Auth have told me that it mostly consists of brainwashing and beatings, generally the last when you couldn’t quite fake a squeeky clean brain. And when they “graduated” they were returned to their homes with a report card assessment of how much of a “reliable” submissive they were.

The Council of Matriarchs used this last fact to brief the neighborhood Fem/Dom cops to encourage all household Dominants to set the more “reliable” ones to snooping on the “less reliable” ones. Hence today’s situation where a girl so often has to work her butt off to keep them paying attention to their libidos, and this with them even being forbidden to masturbate at home!

I can’t blame the Fem/Dom cops, however, who are far more realistic and salty than any other of the proliferating “front slash” agencies. Word is that, in the prisons, once they get you calmed down with a first hard strapping for “insubordination” (such as looking at them crosseyed) they are quite affable after if you don’t get foolish. There are a number of ex-prisoners who ultimately end up in the household of their former guard. And you never hear of them filing a complaint of submissive abuse.

Fem/Dom is the front slash that has high numbers of lesbian and bisexual officers compared to the others. And you can earn the undying gratitude of Fem/Dom “Janes” and “Jill’s” who you bend the rules a little for because Jane has not yet found her Jill and Jill is “between Janes”.

I make sure I hire a fair number of girls who go both ways and keep tabs on which one’s do. Fem/Dom’s Janes and Jills get the room price on the house, as long as they generously tip the girls for the extra time they take working off their extra hunger from being so alone.

I know of this firsthand because frequently Jane or Jill craves mature and maternal and wants the long tumble with me. Unless I have urgent business, I usually accommodate them. The cops are a treat, because one of my ironclad rules for me is no messing with the girls and the one’s who don’t take no for an answer are allowed 2 weeks severance and a place to stay while they look for another house to employ them.

Keeping discipline in the House is just like anywhere else, with, perhaps with the added aggravation of the fact that the Matriarchal Zone can be a frigging bore for non-citizens to live in. Consumer goods are still rather scarce and the Matriarchal Cabinet has to support so much policing (and ancillary services like our whorehouses) that the economy is, and has been, growing only very slowly.

Fem/Dom also did we Madams a great service by teaching us how to beat the hide totally off of someone while not doing them any serious damage. They also gave us Martial Arts training and helped every house to establish a punishment room. At the time they only had unruly gentlemen in mind since a Matriarchal male bouncer is an oxymoron and the cops themselves are prohibited from moonlighting security duties. The Matriarchs want them awake on the beats.

But this has been an immense aid in keeping order among the girls of our own stable. Fem/Dom gave us a restraint bench, but I immediately went out and bought two others. I keep the Fem/Dom three tailed Glasgow Tawse in a locked drawer of my desk. Within two weeks Of installing the punishment blocks, I had a three-way cat fighting, hair pulling dispute on my hands.

I simply hauled all three of them into the Punishment Room, locked one down on each bench, and gave each of them a Fem/Dom Level 2 strapping (butt and thighs, no set number of swats, unable to sit or lie on their back at the end). And each of them got to experience the strappings and bawling of the other two. As the genial Fem/Dom cops, guards at Vauxhall Prison, had warned me to be, I was ready to have a lot of urine to clean up. And needed to be. The expression “belting the piss out of someone” is quite literally true.

I left them strapped down and opened the door to what I expected: a gaggle of Working Geese crowded around it. I got up on my soap box to make it clear that I would no longer be a mediation service. Any physical disturbance or disputes would be handled just as this one was: the parties involved would be locked down and have their butts strapped off (I waved the long tawse at them for theater).

Then I opened the door and brought them all in to see the 3 bare rear ends covered in welts and fast forming bruises. I talked a little about the Fem/Dom strapping levels making it perfectly clear that I was trained just like the cops and guards to dish out any of them at any time. Then I insisted that the three delinquents, while still toggled down apologize both to each other and the rest of the House and promise that they would NOT use physical violence in their disputes. Then I released them and they ran to their rooms.

The audience was still gathered and I told them that for the next three days there would be a lot of crying and squealing out of them (on cue there was a high pitched screech as the first one tried to either lie down or sit down). I said the other girls could help with this by going out and buying ice and rubber ice bags to treat the swelling. They immediately left to do so, leaving me with the next four of the nine major shrieks that come from sitting down on level 2 damage, lying down on it, and trying to take a hot tub bath or shower after it.

Just between you and me, the year before we established Scarlet Fever Lane, I made a Cus/Pas mistake and was hauled off to Vauxhall Prison. I chose to take what I later knew as a Level 2 strapping for it, and I did what I just described here so quickly because I have every reason to know what a Level 2 strapping will persuade a reasonable woman not to do again. Before you ask any questions, there are no reasonable men.

So you probably want to know about Henry, Henry Peterson, the cosmetics salesman and spy. What happened to him is horrid and the results showed all of us the dark underbelly of the matriarchal rule. He did tend to favor us, but spread his needs among all the houses, except Emma May’s House of All Nations. He got hooked up there to some Caribbean Creole newbie to the Zone who was hotter than a firecracker as a Whore, but only able to speak French/English patois.

She kept prying into Henry’s business while she was femme on top and had her mouth unoccupied. It took a lot to get Henry steamed (he even put up with my House’s own Tessa the Ditzy who I’d like to slap twice a week.) After his climax he dumped her roughly on the floor and started slapping Creole Cutie around, just as Emma May was walking by her door. Emma put a Fem/Dom arm lock on him and hauled him to the punishment room. Emma gets steamed very easily and Henry was buck naked strapped on the horse, so she gave him a Level 1 strapping, his entire dorsal side beaten to mush from his heels to the back of his neck.

Henry looked like just some little nermy man. He was half an inch taller than me. But even in his fifties he was physically tough. A Level 1 strapping is supposed to be so painful that you can’t even walk. Henry managed to walk 2 full blocks to the Urgent Care Station and collapsed in the lobby on his ventral side, face first, and blacked out.

They get a lot of overenthusiastic strapping walk-ins, right on the edge of Submissive abuse, so they knew what to do. When Henry woke up he was face down on a medical table and a couple of nurses were rubbing arnica for the bruises from his head to his heels. Next came a cooling cream. Followed by applications of blue ice on and off for 72 hours. They were generous to the massively flogged like Henry. They put him in a back room and the ice was rotated. They kept him on soup and other liquids so he could drink from a straw while lying face down, thus moving the other side of him as little as possible during the icing.

When the Doctor came to see him and looked carefully at the strapping she said, “This can only be a police strapping. They know where the line is and stop just short of it. Nobody else does.” Henry was asleep and after the 72 hours he was free to go having to pay only the labor and not the time of the visit. He could walk, but not comfortably, and sit with a certain amount of pain tolerance and force of will. Henry had both.

That was about four years ago, and from that point forward he spent a fair amount of time in our house. He was very much a gentleman and tipped lavishly, even when he was in the mood for age appropriate sex and asked for me. Because he was open to an old whore, he learned one of the greatest secrets of the profession: we don’t know more than the younger women (in my house I make sure of that) but we know how to do it far better and with greater sensitivity to your mood.

Henry was a long timer: half a day at the shortest and if his mood was randy he would stay both days of a weekend. Your submissive male, no matter what age, is not only tongue tied, he has, at most, four hours of stamina and then he’s through physically and mentally. Henry paced himself.

On a two day jaunt, he would sample the charms of about four of the stable. Different ones each visit. In the intervals between he was always available in his role of genial cosmetic salesman, which the girls loved. They had the quality time for themselves with Henry, rather than the other way around. Being a non-citizen whore for the Matriarchal Zone is a quite lucrative profession, and most girls took Henry’s suggestions eagerly and bought his recommendations. And Henry was good, good at everything he did. On Sunday morning (the weekly lull in the whorehouse) he would hold a make-up clinic for all of them. He was always talking about “killing two birds with one stone” whenever he possibly could.

Did we know he was a spy? No. Were we curious about him? Certainly. He could do what almost no man can do, keep clear and coherent throughout the multiple orgasms men come to the whorehouse for. Some will almost be reduced to word salad by the time 3 have passed. Not Henry. I frequently wondered if he’d somehow been trained to do that. He was extremely alert in many other ways. I’m sure he was as good a spy as he was everything else.

When Henry was found by Fem/Dom, dead on the river bank. It happened to be quite near Scarlet Fever Lane. One of the “Janes” stopped by for a lunch break on us, and told us that Henry clearly had a broken neck, and it was broken by an expert, almost like an old-fashioned hangman of long ago would break it. By that time the story had spread that he was a spy and maybe killed by one of the security officers of Sec/Spy.

Of course they already knew of his mild partiality for Elizabeth’s Secret. They had shaken us down once the week before last and took up our work time with hostile interrogations accusing us of hiding him from Sec/Spy. I asked hiding him for what? So he could get freebee nookie? My actual comment was far more salty than this. 

“I don’t give a flying fuck about badly fitting green uniforms. Just because I don’t see ’em so much doesn’t give me any reason to think them special, portentous warnings of retribution or no. If it’s worse than a Level 2 strapping, I have no need to hear it until you bring the instrument to do it with. If it’s not, I got through it, and the Vauxhall prison guards didn’t do me any favors.”

“Look anywhere you like in my house. Just don’t tear it apart. After that, take your security law you’ve been waving in our faces about this meeting out of here and let the girls do their work. They’re on the clock and being partially paid by the Zone government whose money you’re wasting along with their time!”

It took them a little aback. They weren’t used to people standing up to them. The women citizens were used to seeing uniforms as Alpha females and submitting to them. And apparently Sec/Spy liked to hire women who’d been basketball players in high school, beef them up with high calorie drinks, give them mandatory resistance training, and taught them to get up close and personal when talking to you and force you to compress your neck vertebrae to talk to them. The submissive males, of course, were positively unctuous toward them instead of just deferring to what they wanted. Fem/Auth and “retraining” we’re always in the back of their minds.

As a non citizen I was polite to all uniforms, and followed any direct orders they gave. I’m five feet five, a their-shit-don’t-smell-any-better whore and a madam who’s shot obnoxious pimps who were threatening me with a roughing up. No, guns are against the law here and I’m not concealing any. I also have been trained to get an out of control male of any size, down a flight of stairs, across a hall and into the Punishment Room. Just like you’ve been trained to do it.

If they wanted to deport me, fine. My business runs anywhere and, except for the home equity, my money is invested back in Great Lakes Consortium. I’m no fool.

If they want to threaten me with some unknown “sentence” for security law violation, let them be specific and not hide behind those security laws. The pimps at least could talk plainly about their threats. And the threats were a real thing because of it. Are yours a real thing? I don’t know and I’m not going to bother with it until you start talking plain about it. So please get your job done and let me run my business.

In the interrogation after Henry’s death I was told I was labeled a hostile witness and certain interrogation techniques were prescribed for me. So the next interrogator was a uniformed woman more my size who started the questions off low key and politely. And she didn’t have any pumped up basketball players with her.

The only problem, of course, was that she kept trying to get me to admit that I killed Henry. Hypothetically, if I did how would I do it. I have no idea. I’ve never wanted to kill anybody in my life so I would have to treat the matter as a totally new problem.

“You were raised on a farm, didn’t you have to kill animals?”

“No. Daddy was insistent on that his Precious Little Girl was going to be shielded from that. We ran chickens and ducks for eggs, goats for milk and cheese, and we even had a couple of llamas for fancy wool. All animal killing was done by the local butcher, even the chickens. Daddy had them koshered, even though we weren’t. And he was right to do it. They were much more succulent. And the only ones killed were the ones who lost productivity.”

I sometimes wonder what Daddy would say about the career the Shitstorm led me to. He didn’t make it out.

After a certain amount of time, this got boring.

“Look, we’re talking in circles. I didn’t kill Henry, I didn’t help anybody break him out of his secret prison, wherever it is, which I don’t know. I didn’t hide him while he was on the run. I don’t know who killed Henry and I’m not shielding anybody. And, as a Madam, I think my girls are as innocent as I am. What more can I tell you?”

At that point she shut her book, leaned back in her chair (I like comfort in my office and I’m willing to pay for it), looked me straight in the eye and said “Sec/Spy owes you an apology and this is officially from them, though it is still secret and deniable. We were frantic when Henry was on the run. We thought we were dealing with a citizen traitor hiding him and that made everybody’s blood run cold.

“We’ve never put out a manhunt like we did for Henry. The supervisor of The Goons used this to insist that they be part of the search and interrogating teams. They were given the brothels. Like most women citizens, they came in prejudiced against you. And they fucked up every last interrogation on Scarlet Fever Lane with their ham handed manners.

“I was appalled and my supervisor blew a gasket. She marched straight into the office of the Chief of Intelligence, shut the door and was with her for 3 hours. When she came out she told me to plan to take three days and apologise to all the brothels. The Chief herself insisted that I let down my hair and share a little background for you. My boss and I worked out what topics were accessible for that use.

“Sec/Spy agents are citizens and not uniforms, and I was explicitly told to treat you as if we were. Not everybody in our building would think that, but the Chief does. She also agrees with you that The Goons look terrible in their uniforms. I was scheduled to do this after my sessions interrogating Henry. I took the brothels’ questioning so I can do this as well. Real interrogators have better manners and The Goons are supposed to protect us and arrest those we suspect without a fight. That’s their place and they stepped out of it. I think their boss is about to have a conference with her that includes the Chief’s Senior cane.”

I told her no hard feelings about the shakedowns and a thanks for an apology that must have been difficult to construct. I liked Henry and studied him because he was so good at what he worked at, selling perfume. I don’t think he treated us any different than the hoiti-toiti Matriarchs. He was always generous with his time and it was a pleasure to service him, as well as a professional advantage to heed his advice. He must have been a very lonely man given all the time he spent in our company.

“We whores–don’t look shocked that I disdain euphemism–need to look at our peak of attractiveness every workday and Henry was an immense help with this. In this House we mourn him and miss him. And we are shocked by the rumors that his death was merely the end of a long chain of physical abuse of him by Sec/Spy after his capture.”

She continued, “Without going into detail the physical abuse isn’t true, but he was put through an excruciating emotional wringer because his capture and treatment became a football between two Sec/Spy supervisors of equal rank, one who is a not very subtle ladder climber who doesn’t care who or what they walk over to get their way.

“The other is the most terrifying woman secret agent I’ve ever met. I look into many eyes as an interviewer and I’ve seen the eyes of male professional killers. She has them. She came with excellent tradecraft of another agency and, whatever she did for them was very, very bad and very dangerous for anyone around her. Once, our eyes fully met and locked for about ten seconds. At the end of it, she knew already that I’m an interviewer, she certainly knew we’re trained to follow eyes, and I’m sure she knew that I suspected her of being a killer.

“I’ve caught a certain sadness in her eyes when she looks at me now. Maybe she wanted to work with me and now that never can happen. But I think those eyes had the same sadness looking at her victim after making her mind up to kill. So having her look at me that way is harrowing.

“Much of this drama was played out in front of Henry because no one had enough sense to get him out of the large main interview room when they weren’t asking the routine preliminary questions. To be perfectly frank, most of our interview information is extracted through carefully managed terror and fear, and I think we become callous about tormenting even the people who are cooperating.

“Henry’s alternatives were few, most of them nasty, and I think I saw him looking directly into a fast running hourglass of the decent possibilities slipping away. He was certainly a brave man. His face hardly moved a muscle throughout the impromptu bureaucratic confrontation that held his future before him. I don’t know very many men or women, in intelligence or out of it, who could of stood what he stood without disintegrating into tears.

“Then my boss came in to announce that Henry’s interrogation would be shifted ahead to next Monday. I can’t tell you why, but it meant his last chance was gone and he knew it. I watched his face flicker for a moment and then his shoulders slump. I hoped that someone else would be interrogating him but not me. When you kill a last chance for someone and do so unequivocally you kill any reason they have to cooperate with you.

“I saw two other things. One I believe I understood and one that puzzles me. I saw the two supervisors look at one another a final time. One was the cat licking up cream, the other was a poker face but with murder back in her eyes. That confrontation will continue until somebody dies of it I’m sure. The second thing was that as she was walking out the killer turned the sad eyes toward Henry. He made a gesture of cutting his throat and she abruptly turned away and ceased to look at him.

“I didn’t get my wish. I was still scheduled to interview him. Then he turned up missing from his prison cell and the entire agency went into a panic. The only one calm was the murderer supervisor, as she had been for the month that Henry wasn’t captured. Then Henry turned up dead. There’s no more I can say Ms. Elizabeth.”

“Yes, there is, I didn’t catch your name.”

“We never give it. Most people are too terrified of us to ask, so we don’t have to refuse very often.”

Misha Haaretz 2024-2062

GLCIS Official Correspondence, 2062. EYES ONLY

To: Chief of Service GLCIS February 3, 2062 From: “Evan”, Senior Intelligence Analyst GLCIS

Requested Follow-up on “Henry Peterson”, agent code: Sharpshooter

The book is still out on the capture and death of Henry Peterson. In one way it has mortally wounded Sec/Spy. In another, it has made them a laughing stock to the Matriarchals and beyond. Many of the news outlets played up this slant: The Spies That Couldn’t Chase Straight was one of the many headlines up in North New Canada.

But something more profound has happened to the Matriarchals that has shaken their values as a country to the core. The facts are as follows. There was actually a security and spying service, it had summary police powers, it’s own laws, it’s own courts, it’s own verdicts the accused was never allowed to attend, and was using one of the most horrible of punishments since the Middle Ages. They also were leveraging the terror factor of this punishment in all interrogations, which we knew. And ALL of it was only nominally controlled by the Matriarchal Cabinet: effectively Sec/Spy was a law unto itself and their operation both as a whole and in detail was a massive violation of the Six Genders Compact.

The Head of the World Negotiations Agency has explicitly made it clear to everyone in the world that if Sec/Spy was not completely eradicated within six months, they would declare the Six Genders Compact null and void. Now the Chief Matriarch is backed into a corner. But we don’t think either she or the Matriarchal Cabinet will lose their lifetime status, and the Matriarchal Zone as a whole will remain authoritarian. Every other Nation has a large percentage population with overwhelming hate of the Matriarchals, including the Consortium. That will probably increase here as elsewhere among the Nations.

We have no agent in place at The Matriarchal Cabinet, Sharpshooter was our principal source, but our best guess is as follows: The Chief Matriarch will dissolve Sec/Spy completely with the maximum fanfare, giving its minimum duties to Fem/Dom national police, distributing the lower ranking agents among the other front slash agencies, and announce the firing of all the others in the public announcement. In response, Fem/Dom will have to severely restrict daily foot patrols and cut prison guard numbers until the former Sec/Spy employees are fully integrated. Since Matriarchals are all Busy Beavers, we expect this to take 3 months.

The hardware, land, and buildings of Sec/Spy will be sold with the other Agencies having right of first refusal. The only exceptions to this will be a very large estate in Rutland that Sec/Spy kept as their poshest safehouse. The administrative layer has already been put on leave, their files transferred to Fem/Dom, and recruiting officers of all the other agencies operate the main building.

The Head of Negotiations mentioned no specific individuals, so the Matriarch has named the Chief of Service and the Mossad contact Micha Haaretz to a new agency in the Rutland estate tentatively titled Pre/Lim to “study the security problem”. We think from radiophonic communications completely in Clear and Uncoded, they are planning for the renewal of a security agency in 1 1/2 years. Probably under no name at first.

Though it’s known informally in Montpelier that Peterson was murdered by Haaretz, the Chief Matriarch intervened and terminated the investigation because of “security concerns”. This confirmed that Haaretz was not only of Mossad but from Mossad as liaison. As we suspected, Mossad had always had its fingers deep into the development of Sec/Spy from the first.

The Peterson/Haaretz story has provoked the development of a Folklore version that the act was a mercy killing requested by Peterson himself when he knew for sure that he was headed for the Black Widow caning bench. Nothing in the evidence we have refutes this, but no explanation has been found for the fact that Peterson must have still been alive when he escaped the prison. The time of death was much shorter than expected, and the physical evidence all pointed to the killing taking place where Peterson was found and with no signs of a struggle.

Based on the above, I recommend that Micha Haaretz be terminated while still exposed. Truth Teams have been informed and will begin planning upon your orders.

Hope you’re enjoying the lovely Spring weather.

GLCIS Field Agent Committee, October 2062: 

Chief of Service, GLCIS
34 Randolph Street
Chicago, Illinois
GLC 27

Of the men and women I’ve killed, Henry wasn’t the most difficult. To kill him, at his request, was an act of love. The only other expression of the love that bloomed from our first terrible meeting as hunter and prey was our final, erotic kiss. But Henry’s death has left me empty, empty now even of tears.

I sit and wait with the pretense that I’m working on building a new security service for the Matriarchal Zone. Helen late Chief of Sec/Spy believes this, the Matriarchal Cabinet believes this, but I know better. I’m loitering here waiting to die.

GLCIS will kill me soon, while I’m exposed, not to revenge Henry, but to kill all hope of a new service. When I die Mossad will send no one to replace me and none of the Matriarchals have the knowledge. It “wasn’t their place” to learn from what Mossad did for them. Finis.

I only hope that the GLCIS killers will give me a swift, clean death, such as I gave Henry. They’re professionals, so I think they will.

For the interested, Misha was shot through the chest with a high powered sniper rifle walking down the path to the mailbox of the Rutland mansion. The bullet shattered the front window, tore through a bathroom wall and lodged in the opposite wall nfrom the toilet.

The former Chief of Sec/Spy called first the Matriarchal Cabinet, then Rutland Fem/Dom. The necessary CSI team had to come from Montpelier so it took 12 hours to definitively establish the bullet trajectory to the sniper’s nest. The scent dog was brought in but the trail was too cold. The .308 Winchester round was the only piece of physical evidence. No cartridge was ever found. This, especially, caused Fem/Dom to believe that the killing was that of a professional hit team.

After weeks of questioning Rutland residents, the best assumption is that the team crossed the border by boat on Lake Champlain, walked the whole way to Rutland, camping in the local woods, drove a stolen electrocar left for them near the mansion, and dropped it at the Lake edge. No prints or DNA were found.

The Chief of Service has disappeared and is presumed to be hidden under an assumed name by the Matriarchal Zone in an undisclosed location far from Rutland and Montpelier. No new plans for reestablishing a Security Service front slash agency are expected.

Beating as one of the fine arts.

I’m Elizabeth of Montpellier, the former madam of the Matriarchal Zone’s finest whorehouse (I’m prejudiced) Elizabeth’s Secret. Sally and the girls just keep the name to please me, and they make a fuss all over me on the one or two Sunday mornings (the whorehouse lull) a month that I come over to visit just to talk with my own kind, non-citizens from Great Lakes Consortium brought over to meet the sexual needs of all those men the Matriarchals dominate, but wouldn’t dream of taking to bed despite enjoying their oral sexual services regularly. A lonely old woman, exile in a foreign land, but no longer knowing anyone in her own country, must take her company as she can find it.

The girls are always fresh and new and under 30, and both their new mistress, Sally, and the old one, me, have to take them under the wing and mind their business enough so that after they turn 30 and must leave the Zone that they aren’t destitute and have a real chance of changing careers now that their young bloom had faded. My long and healthy acquaintance with two of the members of the Matriarchal Cabinet has allowed me to place them in temporary, sheltered, part-time work with the Matriarchs for the last year they can stay, to learn a skill and pick up a couple of good letters of reference before they left the country.

You will notice I said “acquaintance” a sentence or two back. I would not, even yet, call any matriarchal my friend. Our attitudes as citizens and non-citizens of the Zone diverged too widely for friendship and there were too many things “to agree to disagree” about with all of them for more than good acquaintanceship.

Sally is young for a Madam at 27, but level headed and well schooled by me. Don’t ever tell her, please, but ten years ago, when I began planning to retire, I had to pull every string I could on both sides of the GLC/Zone border to find a girl to teach to be a high class tart that had both the brains and the ethics to move up to Management. They’re not scarce as hen’s teeth, but they aren’t that common. The young whores who retain some shred of ethics are usually the ones with no brains, and the one’s with brains are simply not trustworthy unless you are watching them, or they are too frightened of getting their butt beaten off by you to do anything but behave.

I despised pimps when I was a young whore and even as a young madam, but the older I got the more I understood them. They couldn’t trust either style of girl except if they beat them hard enough and often enough to keep them cowed and cared for them well enough so as not be turned upon. A difficult balancing act at best. The one whose kneecaps I shot off 40 years ago had the attitude that the rest of the women in the world should be treated that way, too. Bad idea. Particularly with Elizabeth.

But a certain amount of beating (or, if you are a nose in the air matriarchal, and prefer, “corporal punishment”) you must do. The Matriarchal Zone police, Fem/Dom, taught me how to turn ordinary beating into one of the fine arts, as they still practice it on the street and in the prisons, but they have fallen away from doing that with the newer Madams. So I had to teach Sally, to the gossip of the girls from all the houses on Scarlet Fever Lane, once my girls told them of it. Particularly of the trips to the prisons to watch the Fem/Dom guards in action.

Their older peers and their madams had kept alive the notion that I was some special disciplinarian who might set your entire dorsal side from heels to neck aflame for whole weeks, if it suited me. As well as my being clairvoyant about when a girl in my house was trying in any way to cheat.

In my decades as a madam in the Zone, I only gave out two of those full coverage, Level One, strappings. But both of these were semi-public among those in Scarlet Fever Lane, and had some rather embarrassed citizen plain clothes cops involved. The Matriarchals, however tough of women they are, are rather prudish when they deal with we whores, and really didn’t want any of us to land in their prisons for any length of time and “corrupt” decent citizens who had “made a mistake” and were serving time.

So the cops and even a couple of high-up members of the Matriarchal Cabinet came to see me for a solution. One of the Madams was embezzling the tips of her stable with the help of one of those brighter bent whores. The powers that be wanted them out of the country rather than enforce the Zone laws and incarcerate them. And the Six Genders Compact days when they could just boot out anyone they pleased were ending. They wanted this madam and her apprentice to leave “voluntarily” and they wanted ME to give them good enough reasons. I thought I could, so I agreed.

So, it was up to me. Those Plain Business Clothes Fem/Doms (badly fitting ones of no fashion sense whatever) gathered the delinquents, their stable, and my stable as witnesses, cramming all of them into my house’s punishment room. Mine was the only room on the lane to have three separate punishment blocks (a wise investment from my first days as madam), so both miscreants could be clamped down in sight of each other while they were being beaten.

Once they were on the blocks I laid out all of the evidence against them (which was overwhelming) and took the testimony of the girls of their own house. Despite this, they both denied the charges. So I told them that I’d apply my house rules for starting a hubbub with the police, innocently or not. And I’d give them my customary strapping for it.

The visiting girls’ eyes were like saucers at the notion that anyone would strap you for such a reason. My girls were calm, as this was perfectly familiar to them, and the cops were trying to keep from openly laughing. So I started with the butt of the young Jill whore, who began screeching immediately. My girls raised their eyebrows at such a racket, and the other girls began to look a little green around the gills.

I simply kept up the customary Level 2 strapping from butt to knees and back again, judging how near I was to preventing the target from sitting down, lying on their back, or taking a hot shower. It usually takes about 5 leisurely trips up and down and you judge it by the state of the bruises. On the third trip down young Jill whore began to scream out her confession. I slowed down to one smack about every ten seconds while I interrogated her thoroughly and she gasped out responses tying her Madam directly into the crime. Her peers sat stunned and they stayed stunned. My girls were full of curiosity about what would happen next. The cops were nodding in approval of my technique.

I stopped the strapping for a moment. And then I gave the young Jill whore the bad news. She would now be strapped for stealing and strapped far longer and harder. She screamed bloody murder before I even resumed. I then went down to her ankles and started systematically strapping upward toward her neck. You stop with this when the target can no longer even walk from the excruciating pain; ten runs up and down at the very least. Her bawling had become continuous.

Then, it was over. Two of the visiting girls threw up at that moment and I motioned two of my girls to take them away, reminding them not to step in the large pool of young Jill whore’s urine dripping off the punishment block.

Then I turned to Madam Jane and locked her hating eyes with mine. She was one of those who could make hate suppress her fear enough to almost forget she was going to get a strapping, either short or long. I don’t think we need bother with foolishness, I said. The long level one strapping that keeps you from walking is what we’ll want here, immediately. I watched her eyes shift from hatred to disbelief to sheer stark terror.

She was tough. She didn’t start screaming until I was starting the second pass, then she came unhinged, talking wildly and incoherently. The finish was anticlimactic. After I strapped Madam Jane until she also could no longer walk, the cops led all the girls away except for two I held back to clean the Punishment Room. One of the cops called for EMT’s. It may sound cruel, but I left the two delinquents strapped down until the squad arrived. I knew that the less movement they gave their backs the faster they would heal.

With the squad came two of the tall women, 6 foot and more, who used to be the old security strong arms for Sec/Spy, the agency whose collapse I had a mild hand in, and which, in the Matriarchal Zone’s fledgling years, nearly cost it the privileged place it had in the Six Genders Compact. They were both salt and pepper gray in the hair by now, but still clearly worked out to keep in shape. When they saw the beatings and the fact that I’d left the patients still secured, they nodded, smiled, applied the temporary topical anesthetic, and got the victims face down onto the gurneys with a minimum of movement.

It was one of the most harrowing ordeals of my life. I sat in my office alone after, sipping the 50 year old congac that I keep in my desk drawer and crying my eyes out with no one to comfort me for the horror that I’d committed. I had, like even most Matriarchals, despised the terror and tortures of Sec/Spy when they were finally revealed, but now, even if I didn’t have blood on my hands, I, too was a torturer, just like the Zone Police who trained me. Like so many things, experience painfully burred off, in one night, another of my high toned opinions, and left me bleeding inside. The third glass of brandy allowed me to sleep.

But there were other good, long term, results, and not just that the well strapped miscreants chose to leave the country two months later, when they could finally walk straight. For six months or so, I was in charge of both houses which luckily weren’t far from one another.

My girls were angels. There were even two who broke my rules but confessed to me that they had, despite the strapping that was coming to them. And two weeks after, when they could finally sit down without thinking about it, they both together came to me privately and gave me the largest of hugs, telling me that they thought of me as a second mother, though their first mothers never had given either of them quite such a bottom tanning as I had! There were no problems at Elizabeth’s Secret otherwise.

The other girls were victims of long term demoralization, and most of them blanched a little when I laid out the new rules in a house meeting. There were two intelligent but surly ones who didn’t. Sure enough, they were the first to break the rules and get their butts strapped off.

After that happened, with all the house watching, things settled down and one of the surly ones came to me and apologized. We talked for a while. She was 28 and only had a couple of years left on her Zone visa, which wouldn’t be renewed. She was terrified of going back to GLC with invested money adequate for only about five years of frugal living. But she had no skills, other than raising an erection and orgasm on a corpse, and, unlike the feather brains, she knew her age would find her no welcome in the GLC brothels, so she’d have to hit the streets on the downward slope of jail, John abuse, aggressive pimps, and drugs to make it all bearable. Or start early and figure out how to do outcalls all by herself.

I looked at her silently for a long while and said, could you take up my strap tomorrow and punish a girl who broke the rules? She answered that the thought alone of doing it terrified her. Good, I said. No one should enter training wanting to beat the butt off of others. I’m willing to train you to be the new madam here. The Zone government owns the business at the moment, to their very great embarrassment, and they would turn it over to you if I suggested it when your training was finished and you had successfully strapped 3 or 4 errant bottoms. Do you think you could do that?

She sat quiet a long time. This was also a very good sign of no hidden power trip in her mind. She finally said weakly, I’ll try to do it, but I’ll never be as good a Madam as you. I said nothing, but I knew the surprise coming for her when I’d finished training her. Having to do this put me in mind once again of passing on my own house, the first step which would be putting my financial house in order over in GLC.

On my next trip to GLC to manage the careful investments that have made me a wealthy woman in my old age, and to write my will, I was approached by the Senior Intelligence Analyst of GLCIS, Great Lakes Consortium Intelligence Service, (you pronounce it glee/sis) second only, I’ve been told, to the Chief of Service herself, who is the first woman to ever hold the position and, like my friend Henry Peterson, was a deep cover agent in the Matriarchal Zone in the heyday of Sec/Spy. Henry would be my age now, but Lady Chief was 20 years younger and has been on a fast track to the climax of a career.

Nobody outside of GLCIS knows WHO she is, but every woman in the country knows WHAT she is. Little by little Henry’s adventures and his final tragedy are becoming public property, so perhaps someday you will read Lady Chief’s harrowing story of how she spied and survived in a country with one of the worst, though most hidden, records of Security Service physical and mental torture of the era.

The SIA introduced himself to me as what he was but not who he was. GLCIS spies simply don’t tell you even their false “workname” let alone their real one, unless they’re living that name in deep cover as Henry was in the Zone. And, to this day, no one outside of GLCIS, and not most of them inside of it, knows what Lady Chief’s workname was inside the Zone. She was that good.

He had me call him “Peter” for short and he called me Elizabeth, since, though he knew my last name, whores and Madams don’t use them socially or professionally. Peter, then, asked me if I’d like to meet “Ian” the Chief of Service of Henry’s day, who, he told me, was actually looking forward to meeting me.

I saw no reason not to, and thought I might actually learn something about that terrible and beautiful time and place I whored in and lived through. We went to what was a discreet club high up in a Chicago skyscraper, met for Sunday brunch and stayed talking until far into the evening. Mostly my talking and he listening, but with some stories from his side.

The two senior GLCIS operatives that Sec/Spy caned until they were maimed for life died not shortly after Henry. Both were suicides on release from mental health confinement. Thus Henry chose the same road before the caning could happen to him. I knew the name Micha Haaretz as Henry’s mercy killer, but little else about her. Ian was quite forthcoming about her story, even showing me the letter she had written before a GLCIS hit team killed her. Such a poverty stricken and evil life for a woman so beautiful who fell in love with Henry when apprehending him!

What I think most people don’t know is what happened to “Helen” the last chief of Sec/Spy and Ian clearly wanted it known now, for whatever reason. She, too, had fallen to assassin’s gunfire, but the assassin was from Mossad, who had sent Micha as a liaison to Sec/Spy.

Helen was hiding in another Sec/Spy safe house in fear of GLCIS, but Mossad knew where it was and staked it out to discover where she was. Helen was killed opening her door to a birthday floral delivery supposedly from the Chief Matriarch. A silenced pistol was used, wiped, then dropped by her side. Mossad’s “handwriting” was all over this. No one in Sec/Spy, except Micha, had any decent tradecraft. Mossad didn’t want them to once the caning torture “punishment” and interrogation leverage was in place.

Mossad, rather unreasonably, blamed both Helen and the Chief Matriarch for Micha’s death without having provided Sec/Spy with the intellectual tools to protect her. Ian had to actually travel to Israel to meet his opposite number in Mossad to point this out to him and try to dissuade Mossad from killing the Chief Matriarch as well, and massively disturbing international relations in the Western Hemisphere in so doing. Her death from a heart attack two years later brought all of this to a close. And by devious ways he afterward received a thank you note from the head of Mossad. It puzzled him a little. The thanks should have been flowing in the opposite direction.

Ian had also been closer to Henry than anybody realized. They had cut their spying teeth together on a first dangerous assignment to Dixieland as it was first forming in 2040. Both Henry and Ian had taken gunshots and Ian still had the scars, but they were rescued by helicopter extraction, and both lived.

Only a small handful in GLCIS knew this, and when he was presented with a quite reasonable choice of killing Micha Haaretz, Ian hauled his very puzzled ring of top executives over the coals several times before he gave permission. Ian said to me that he wanted any such action to be a matter of good tradecraft and not a private vendetta on his part.

He reminded me a lot of Henry and was genuinely pleased when I told him so. Particularly that quality in Henry that was good at anything he undertook. Ian told me Henry was the bravest man personally that he ever knew, and I shared the description given me by a Sec/Spy interrogator of the final meeting where Henry lost his final chance to escape caning and maiming. Ian apparently had not heard it and was very silent over it. I still wonder if when I left he let himself cry about it. Henry, I think, would have.

“Peter” and I had several other chats at his insistence, and I laid bare my desire to leave my brothel in good hands when I retired, because, among other, personal, reasons I still owned the house and would be charging them rent. These days, no one in the Matriarchal Zone whoring trade could have afforded to buy it from me, even with the reputation of it’s neighborhood. And the Matriarchs were not enthused about buying me out either, because a large number of their own citizens were still opposed to having brothels at all. Thus I had a vested as well as a personal interest in the continuance of Elizabeth’s Secret.

Peter said that maybe he could help me, that he knew “a certain number” of Chicago Madams who might be able to suggest a madam candidate to me. I’m sure he knew that I knew that he was asking me to place a deep cover spy. So I made it perfectly and specifically clear that what I wanted was someone who could be trained to run a whorehouse, whatever other good qualities she may have. We left it at that. He did ask if I still knew anyone here in the old trade, and I gave him about five names. I also told him which ones knew me as “Elizabeth” and which ones didn’t.

A year or so later, I received a note on GLCIS stationary, “from your good friend Peter” printed on it but unsigned, with a round trip ticket to Chicago and a week’s worth of credit at the best hotel in town. You might be scratching your head just as much as I was. An office stationary for an intelligence agency? But GLCIS even had an openly known headquarters at the corner of Randolph and Third Streets downtown! Secrecy is a matter of all your people keeping their mouth shut, not hiding where they work. With the GLCIS system of yearly rotated worknames, even the headquarters workers who had been “made” and photographed, would have nothing but the slimmest dossier under that name in the hands of any enemy service.

And there were special arrangements for the field agents, thugs, and assassins to enter the building without just going in the front door. They had a private elevator that never went to any floor of the building besides their own two floors, thugs and agents, with full facilities including lodging and food service if needed. Even the Chief of Service met with them in their offices and not her own. So all this was plenty of security for GLICIS’ real business.

The Ritz Carelton was still the Ritz Carelton and that’s all you need to say. I was met by Peter at the door and we both went to the front desk where a room key for the twelfth floor awaited me. Superstition being what it is, the Ritz never had a 13th Floor, or so I thought. But Peter led me through the strongbox room for guest valuables and out a door opposite the lobby, to a hidden elevator that had buttons inside for the ground floor, the Mezzanine, the Parking Garage and one other floor which had no marking next to the button. There were also no call buttons on the outside of the elevator, which opened at our mere approach documented by an unseen AI run CCTV camera.

I learned later that the 13th floor had it’s own waitresses, maids, and bell hops who were trainees from the first 6 months of entry into GLCIS. They were dressed exactly like the real ones and had to learn to behave like it. I handed my electric key for the 12th Floor to one of bell hops and was given the equivalent key to his own room, which was laid out and ready for me. Sitting in the lounge chair of my room was a woman I recognized from many years ago. Seeing her sent an electric shiver up my spine. 

She had never had a “girl’s face” even when young and, when I first met her, she could have been any age from 20-40. I only met her once and she was wearing a green uniform, the uniform of Sec/Spy. Now, in middle-age, she looked and dressed like a Peeress of the Realm!

“Hello, Elizabeth! I didn’t give you my name even then and I won’t now. I’m the Chief of Service of GLCIS. Nice to see you once again.”

So I said that since she didn’t offer me a call name, like poor “Peter” and “Ian”, I’d just address her as Lady Chief. She broke up at this, with the deep contralto laughter that was only a whisper in her speaking voice.

So I continued, “I told Ian the story of Henry Peterson that you told me then. He let me think he’d never heard it before, but certainly he had, and from you. Of course, that you were working for Sec/Spy meant that you didn’t need an overt workname in the Zone while you were spying there for GLCIS. The Sec/Spy uniform took care of all of it. And that’s why nobody has ever found it out while you’ve climbed the ladder to the top.”

“Elizabeth, I underestimated you then and I’ve underestimated you now. Where were you when we needed to recruit you? You’d have made a wonderful secret agent!” She laughed again.

“That question is truly serious, if you’re willing to answer it. We’ve found no trace of you back further than a Cicero brothel/bungalow in the early 2040’s. You’re better educated than most women in your trade and I’m curious to know more. Don’t worry, I don’t need to know if you don’t want to say more.”

I replied, “It probably won’t hurt now, the records are unlikely to have survived the Shitstorm of 2037. I sometimes tell people that I once shot a pimp in the knees. That’s not quite true. I shot him through the heart. It was back in Council Bluffs when I first had to take to the streets.

“Daddy always carried a pearl handled .32 gun when he went to town to spend or change money. It was one of the very few mementos I had left of him by that time, and it cut me to the heart to toss it into the Mississippi River. But it had left behind a bullet and a cartridge and I had sense enough to see that it had to go, and that I had to go somewhere else, like Chicago.

“As for the rest of it, all of us were night people, and who among us could place any other of us anywhere at anytime in the Iowa night?

“Before the Shitstorm? I don’t look back there much, but I have degrees from Loyola University. Two of them. I was working on the third when the walls came tumbling down.”

Lady Chief said, “Professionally it doesn’t matter, we have the most exerable killers and thugs on the payroll for when we need them. And we pay them generously. Most of them already had rap sheets in their teens when we scooped them up and put them in segregated training. We GPS chip them, retina scan them, and monitor their movements every time they return. There are certain areas of the city where these thugs are forbidden to go. They’re also forbidden to seek lodging of any kind and must return here by a curfew.

“They have worknames so they are less easily made, but they don’t have access to their legends, and we have their real names and any arrest warrants against them. The issuing agencies are informed of their espionage detail and file the warrants. If they go where they aren’t supposed to or don’t return when they are supposed to, they are disciplined. If they monkey with their GPS and return, we turn them in on the warrants, or discipline them if they happen to have none. If they don’t return, we send a Truth Team out to find and kill them. They know all the rules and the consequences.

“I actually have to do the disciplining personally, like a damn gang boss! They wouldn’t pay attention to anybody but the Chief. My Sec/Spy training comes in handy. The Matriarchals would recognize the locked up X room on their floor of the building. So would you. It’s the one with the punishment blocks. About once every three months one of our desperadoes (usually a newbie) gets out of line and I personally have to drag out my old Glasgow tawse and take a couple of our security gorillas to unlock the door, strip the thug, and lock him down on the punishment block. The four or so Level One strappings I give out a year are just part of the job. It’s only a couple more than I had to do for Sec/Spy Interrogation.

“Ian tells me that this works a lot better than on his watch. He had to send security to rough the delinquent up before taking them to one of the basement cells and 3 months solitary to get the same subordination. A woman, strapping them so hard that they can’t walk for weeks is embarrassing and terrifying enough to keep everybody piped down for a good long while. I’ve been Chief long enough that my rep with them is well cemented.” Lady Chief smiled, “And just like naughty little boys, if you whip one of their behinds occasionally the rest more or less keep in line.”

“Lady Chief,” I said “since you had to play a matriarchal in the old days, it’s ironic that you still have to do it here.” She gave another deep contralto laugh.

“Elizabeth you are amazing! I never thought of it that way, but it’s true!”

“Why do you call your dirty workers Truth Teams?” I asked.

“It’s short for Moment Of Truth. That’s what they bring to anybody they are hunting.”

I had no response to that.

“Unlike Mossad, we kill only at extreme need, and none of our agents are “licensed to kill” like James Bond. We currently employ three assassins. We trained them extensively, but we only do so if the trainee already has a body on their conscience who we can confirm as dead, but no other criminal history. This is rare enough that when we find someone who fits this profile, we hire them immediately and train them as another assassin.

“The great majority of their time is spent in our Records Area, doing simple enough work that can be re-assigned if they are absent for weeks or months. A team usually consists of one killer in charge of two thugs, or two killers and three thugs. There are exceptions, but, usually, only the killer carries firearms. They tell me in Records that the killers are by far the mildest mannered of their employees, until you look in their empty eyes.

“I was something of a hybrid. I came to the Zone from here in my teens with my mother. It separated me from a handsome devil of a boyfriend who had actually fallen in love with me for real. I hated my mother for it. We wrote secret letters for the 2 years of my Dominant Woman training and the day I became a citizen with a whipping licence, I went back home, overpowered my Mother, gave her a Level 2 strapping, took the money I’d saved, and headed back to Chicago, stowing away on a returning delivery truck.

“GLCIS had already scooped up My Baby Boy, and their chops slavered over me. I got my first workname and legend and have never looked back. My real name, in which I couldn’t live without Consortium documents simply vanished. And it’s the one secret I’ve insisted on keeping from then to now.

“My Baby Boy and I had the classic two spy espionage romance, to the amusement of the rest of our agent class. But he graduated first and was sent in deep cover to Mormonia, and disappeared…” 

She halted and choked a little. For a couple of minutes I became the only Whore and Madam in the world who has ever held and comforted the chief of a spy agency!

After her short cry (which embarrassed her terribly, though she tried to hide it), she regained her composure, “We heard much later that he had been caught and hanged.”

“So how did you get back to the Zone?” I asked.

“GLCIS kept me in the bureaucracy as an interrogator for 3 years, and were grooming me to teach it to their new trainees, when word came that my mother had died. She never knew where I went to, and I don’t know that she even cared. My whipping her was a drop in the bucket of her whipping me to make me “stay in my place”, and “stop acting out”.

“Some of the other Matriarchals took a hand in that, too, just like the training says you’re supposed to, and I spent many days as a resentful teen sitting on welts and bruises from straps applied to me even by strangers or Fem/Dom foot patrols. So I’ve been no friend (though I had to pretend to be in deep cover) with any Matriarchal ever. They made me tough enough to get this job, but I still owe them no favors.”

“As soon as GLCIS thought that no one was likely to recognize me, they whisked me away to deep cover training, gave me a new name, made me a legend, and put me in the Zone to be trawled up by the new police agency, Sec/Spy. Sec/Spy was never good at vetting an agent (eventually Mossad had to do it for them) and, back then they didn’t even bother. I looked Matriarchal, talked Matriarchal, and walloped men like a Matriarchal, and that was good enough for them.”

“Once I had the uniform nobody in the Zone ever knew my name, and one of the first things I did was clandestinely fillet my own file of my deep cover name and legend. The issue never came up in performance reviews, it “wasn’t anybody’s place” to go into the matter. We had simple aliases, like agent code names, for use in house. I later learned that so many of the first group of us had no paper behind us in Sec/Spy’s files that Mossad spent years tearing their hair out over it.”

“GLCIS assured me that the Zone brochures were honest and spies who were caught were never killed, they were especially insistent about that at my last briefing, which even, flatteringly, included the Chief himself! It wasn’t until I joined Sec/Spy that I heard about the Black Widow and caning spys to a living death. But even though I wanted to kick the balls of the Chief of GLCIS for that, I was committed. He was “retired” by the time I got back, and at one point at a spy social event, I openly told him why and that I’d still like to do it. Everybody thought I’d ruined my career, but, actually, it was the first time Ian really took notice of me and kept me on his mental short list to replace him.

“I learned later that the old chief was actually in my corner, too, when push came to shove. I’ve buried the hatchet with him since, but I have a permanent knot in my own handkerchief to never, never deceive a field agent like I was deceived.
“Very early on I worked with Sec/Spy’s court system and knew that I’d already put myself in the way of a Judicial Caning within a week of taking up the job. I had to scare the piss out of many an enemy agent with the Black Widow, sitting with him watching a Judicial Caning and pretending it was the most normal thing in the world. But my own heart was constantly in my own mouth every day I was clandestinely in the Zone! And I even had nightmares about going to the Widow about once a month.”

“But I wasn’t there to spy on Sec/Spy or the Zone, though I did make the odd report or two. I was there to spy on Mossad. That’s why I made every effort to rotate through as many different Sec/Spy assignments as possible. For a while I even was with the Goons Security Basketball team, doing the clerical work that the ten 6’+ women on the squad couldn’t seem to manage. I was reporting to GLCIS on the depth of Mossad penetration into the Zone agency.

“This gave me another worry. The Zone didn’t kill spies, but Mossad sure did, casually, and while they were still in place, just like they killed Helen, the Sec/Spy Chief. Mossad took the view that they could assess the damage any spy they killed had caused by “taking back bearings” and thought that other upstart agencies, like GLCIS, needed to have a message sent to them from the morgue. Ironically, though they blamed Helen for Micha Haaretz’ death, their opinion of GLCIS improved greatly when they figured out how she had been hit and by whom.

“And that brings us to the hidden tragedy behind the overt tragedy of the deaths of Henry Peterson and Micha Haaretz. Since I didn’t have to give my name if I stayed in uniform, I was able to rent an apartment where no one could place me. Even my own agency (and maybe even Mossad, I’m not sure) never knew where I lived and they never gave the matter a second thought.

“I never worked for Micha Haaretz in Counterintelligence In The Streets. This was deliberate, she was clearly too good to pit my tradecraft against hers. And I really could see the murderous eyes of Mossad when I looked at her.

“So I’d never heard of Henry Peterson until he went on the run and there was the big blowup about the fact that he had “made” Micha and ran because of it. And Henry certainly didn’t know about me. But I had the perfect safehouse for him. Also I had my tradecraft escape prepared in the form of constantly renewed airline tickets to Atlanta in Dixieland, as well as a coded exchange to let Chicago send someone to meet me at the Atlanta airport with temporary new paper and a temporary new legend. I could have pried him out of the Zone, but fate went otherwise.

“That’s a long story and you’re the first to ever hear all of it. I’m sure you’re wondering why.”

“Not really, Lady Chief,” I said. “You want me to place a deep cover agent as the new Madam in my whorehouse. It’s probably not to spy on the Zone, but to spy on Mossad agents in the Zone. You think I have gumption enough to do this even with the threat of your agent or myself getting killed. Your right, I do, but whether I do this or not depends on a number of other things.”

Dead silence.

“Elizabeth, you’ve stunned me. You are as good as Ian and others tell me Henry was good. I’ve half a mind to ask you to go to work for us, too!”

I replied, “I’m too old for the stress of your tradecraft on my memory. Returning to your proposal which I’ve just made for you, why don’t give me some context about why you want a Madam for an agent.”

With the aura of surprise gone, Lady Chief became crisp and businesslike at the snap of a finger, “You already know, I’m sure that for about a decade the Matriarchal Zone has been languishing for want of children. And that it was only last year that they began to do artificial insemination.”

“They certainly have.” I said, “and our clientele among the Submissive Males is getting greyer and greyer, and more and more desperate to squeeze as many orgasms into their life as possible.”

She continued, “After the Sec/Spy debacle made an embarrassing show to the world that the Zone was not the utopia it’s brochures implied, the number of women applying for citizenship has dropped slowly year by year; and the number of single mother families with a story like mine–a teenager whom no amount of strapping teaches to “know their place” and who runs away to evade it is so commonplace that it bears almost no remark within the Zone.

“Of course, if they are able to leave the Zone clandestinely, they become our problem in the Consortium as street victims whose ultimate destinations are the rape clinic, the prison, or the morgue. But still they do and, as one of them, I can hardly blame them. They are often resourceful within the Zone as well. We’ve uncovered an underground teenage “travel agency” in one of their finishing schools that the galumphing beat police of Fem/Dom have never run across.

“These young folks actually smuggle people across the border and, within limits, are pretty good at it. Their tradecraft is crude, but they have heard the word, and it’s good enough so far to fool the knowyourplacers who teach them and feed them. We’d like to help them get better, of course! And to give a job opportunity to the brightest of them that manage to make it over.

“Then there is Mossad. You know on our continent the uninhabited Heat Zone has already engulfed half of the Western High Plains, is slowly cutting off the people still living on the high plateau of the Colorado Rockies, and has pushed the Mormons out of everybody’s hair into the Idaho Rockies.

“Well, in Israel, they still live in the Heat Zone we don’t, hanging on by their teeth because of their nearness to the Mediterranean Sea. And they do more and more of it underground. But they can’t dig fast enough to keep up with the birth rate, and the fainter hearted among them have been dribbling into Southern Europe and headed to Scandinavia where the Diaspora was weakest.

“We were always puzzled about why Mossad had become tangled up with the Matriarchals in the first place. And I observed that they were doing all they could to slowly take over Sec/Spy. But the Israelis have gone ahead with what they appeared to have planned to do with Sec/Spy as a base: more and more of them are applying for Zone citizenship, and there is a very special set of skills that the women who come always seem to have–the ones that the Zone seems to need most at any given moment.

“So it’s not so much a migration as an infiltration. You haven’t seen much of this yet on Scarlet Fever Lane. The Israelis in general are just as contemptuous of the hired GLC whores and madams as the Matriarchals themselves. But it’s starting to be conspicuous enough elsewhere to have even the brightest of the Matriarchals scratching their heads.

“Late last year we finally turned a refugee of Mossad instead of one from them. At first we couldn’t believe him, but he brought enough convincing collateral with him, matching what we already knew. And we still have him in one of our safehouses, where he’ll stay until we’re absolutely sure he isn’t some kind of complicated plant.

“The fact of the matter, amazing as it sounds, is that Israel has been preparing to colonize New England for the last 40 years! Moreover, our defector indicates that Mossad is trying to get the Matriarchals to fund another security police! And this time they are using tall tales of Consortium spying to scare them. We’ve never had more than about 3-4 deep cover agents in the Zone, and even in the bad old days of the Black Widow, Henry and I were the only two GLCIS Deeps in the whole country.

“The Matriarchals got used to living off the perks of the Six Genders Compact and when it wrapped up, both our public and our politicians have wanted to keep them at arms length, if not further. Through Six Genders, GLC did a lot for them, which they mostly don’t remember as voluntary help on our part.

“Now relations between us are those of ordinary states, not hostile, but formal and distant. At GLCIS we’ve not been entirely happy about this and have tried to persuade our political masters that it is still in GLC’s best interest to be a little more friendly and accommodating. We’ve had very little success.

“More importantly, however, Mossad is once again playing to the Matriarchal Cabinet’s paranoia, telling them that they are awash in our nefarious agents. And they’re trying to form a new Sec/Spy in Mossad’s own image and largely staffed by Mossad agents, now Matriarchal citizens, in the supervisory positions. There is no question in our minds that this would mean the return of some new arrangement of mental and physical torture, as well as the addition of the cavalier way Mossad has of killing people they don’t like much.

“We can’t stop the Israelis from colonizing New England if they want to, but we want to stop Mossad from bringing back torture and casual killing to our own doorstep! And if we can’t do this, we certainly want to keep current on how much they are succeeding.”

She stopped for a long pause.

Then she said, “I exited the Zone in all the confusion of the fall of Sec/Spy. Except for the memories of a few people like you, there is probably no evidence that I was ever even there. When I came back I saw our two agents that were caned on the Widow and “couldn’t sit down for the rest of their lives” because they were carefully beaten almost 1000 times with a rattan cane.

“Misha Haaretz was the bent doctor who made sure the caning didn’t stop until they were crippled. When back, I held each of them in my arms while they cried in their rooms at the Mental Hospital. I also was part of the Triage Team working with their families after they killed themselves. My only regret of my career up to then is that I didn’t pull the trigger that killed Misha Haaretz. And to my bitter heart the worst is that the woman executioner who caned all those people is now a member of the Matriarchal Cabinet.

“I had also seen the caning happen to them and used their suffering to torment two separate interviewees, one from GLCIS, into breaking completely. The boy from GLCIS never was the same again and left the agency as soon as he was repatriated. I met him as the border. He had enough of his mind left to make conversation, but not much more. He didn’t recognize me as his interrogator, and between what I did to him and the 3 times more than normal beatings Fem/Dom gave him in prison, because he was a spy, he came back to his home a shell of what he was.
“All of us, and maybe even you, have blood on our hands and a stain on our hearts.”

She stopped and looked down to keep me from seeing her cry again. I went over to her chair and wrapped my arms around her. “Yes, my heart is stained, too.” I spoke softly, “It didn’t involve spying, but it did involve pitiless torture, and it took a long time before I dared look in a mirror.”

She must actually RUN the whorehouse.

At this point I took over the conversation, “The first thing I must tell you is that if your spy is going to do this she can’t just pretend to be a Madam, she must actually run the whorehouse and run it intelligently and efficiently. Including beating the girls when necessary. In other words, she must become a Madam for real. In order to do that she must have been a whore herself for at least 2 years and trained as a whore for at least one of them. That designation, a whore, is forever, and will follow her everywhere so you will have to include that fact in any future legend she uses.

“Wherever she goes and whatever she does she will always be a whore and any whore who encounters her will know it. As well as quite a lot of women with sharp intuition, quite a lot of men who frequent whorehouses, and virtually any cop or social worker with any brains.

“And she’ll always be a Madam, though only whores from a house will spot that. We live in an even more closed society than you do. We don’t walk the same way as ordinary women. We call it the “come hither gait” if we’re a Madam or a “high class tart” and the “slut strut” if we’re an ordinary whore.

“That second designation is one that I usually have to beat the behind off of a new girl at least once for using. The Matriarchs, who pay a large part of the bills, would faint dead away if they heard it, and if a submissive man hears it, sooner or later his dominant women will know it, particularly when they come in pairs, so nobody, NOBODY, can use it in the house or out of it. If a John uses it, I throw him out, if he gives me trouble about that he’ll get a Love Pat [Level 3, crisis-cross welts, butt only–Ed.], fifteen minutes for the welts to fully swell, then a Gentle Rebuke [Level 2] on top of it!”

Lady Chief smiled at the Fem/Dom slang, “I’ve never thought of doing that!”

“You get that one, you not only can’t sit or lie down, everywhere you go, you’ll be walking crooked. One of the Fem/Dom lesbian Janes taught it to me, she says that it always gets her top marks for “correcting men” in her squad, and some quite lovely perks from being a visiting instructor in Fem/Auth’s dominant woman seminars.

“I not only teach young women to whore better, I also teach them to be high class tarts because the Matriarchs want, and will pay for, nothing less. You have to learn the gait, learn to do it more subtly than a “public pisspot” strutting her stuff on the street, and practice it until it becomes second nature. For the rest of your life you will walk that way unless you consciously try not to. At my age I get smiles from all sorts of men who clearly are frequent Johns because I still walk that way.

“We’ve our own separate thieves cant and a high class tart needs to know when to use it and to whom. I’ll teach your spy that if I take her on, because I’ll have to, but I won’t ever speak it to you. And if I find out your spy has told it to anyone outside the life, including you, a single Strict Dressing Down [Level 1] is the least of what I’ll do to her the next time I see her. And a pimp would break her knees.”

Lady Chief’s smile at Fem/Dom slang morphed into the frown that her subordinates never want to see.

I continued, “Just because we live a soft life in the Zone, doesn’t mean we’re any less tough. Even there, we have to be. And your spy will have to be, too, particularly if some John spots her gait over here where solicitation is still a crime. Even worse will be when a pimp spots her. We’re criminals, and your spy will always be, too, even if she never acquires a rap sheet. She’ll always have to be as tough as your thugs, even if she has to conceal it at as a bureaucrat at GLCIS headquarters.

“That’s the way it is, and there’s plenty more of it, too. Have you got a spy that can do all that? That you want these restrictions on any future legend you give her?”

“Elizabeth, you seem to have been giving this a lot of thought.” Lady Chief looked curious.

“I don’t know what Peter told you about my last visit here, but I knew perfectly well that he was sounding me out about a deep cover placement in my brothel. I didn’t say no, so I suspected I’d get a stronger approach sooner or later.”

Lady Chief replied, “I’ve been crying my skills away. None of that should have surprised me coming from you. And I owe you a real apology, I underestimated you once again because I started seeing your appearance as whore and Madam, instead of a person. I’m very, very sorry!”

“That is EXACTLY what I’ve been talking about.”

“We did think about another alternative, picking a likely working girl, perhaps from Scarlet Fever Lane training her to spy….” Lady Chief trailed off.

I laid out the many minuses, “They will not have more than the most basic education. And a few not even that. Some of them start on the street at 12. They also are lazy and expect to be beaten to learn. They’ll be completely confused by the commitment and motivation of their peers. Unless you train them with your thugs and I’m sure we can both see why that’s a bad idea.

“I’ve never seen a single Busy Beaver among them in 35 years. After all, they just lounge around all day waiting on call for the Johns to come to them. My old Cicero Madam used to call me Ms. Professor, because I clearly didn’t grow up in the life and was used to doing real and productive work and to learning it all and learning fast. Anyone in the life can still tell that I came to it from dire need, probably in the Shitstorm.

“Anyone not from my brothel will be a security risk waiting to happen. To hire a whore to do anything but fuck you silly, means you have no notion of their background, and trying to vet them would be a joke!

“Finally, you won’t get anyone with enough real courage to service as many as 4-5 strange men a day if she ever thinks that one of them might be from Mossad and there to kill her. That’s also a reason that a spy from you should not actively spy from deep cover until she actually is a Madam.”

There was another dead silence. Then Lady Chief slowly, and a little more softly, spoke.

“I have someone in mind who I think can learn to be tough enough. I’ve given her an overview of the assignment and told her a little bit of the history behind Elizabeth’s Secret. The only drawback I see is that she’s had little experience with corporal punishment and she’s going into a culture where it is a way of life. That’s a real shock.”

I snorted, “Yes, particularly when it’s your tush on the receiving end. Well, the only way she’s going to learn to deal with it is to have it applied to her bottom. My girls all average about 1-2 strappings a year and I don’t think she will be much different. I’m the strictest Madam on the Lane and I will treat your spy just as any other of my girls. I have ironclad rules and anyone who breaks them gets their butt strapped off with a Level 2 “Gentle Rebuke”. You could prepare her here….”

Lady Chief was reluctant, “I’ll have to think about it. Beating thugs is one thing, beating a fellow woman agent is another. And I may have to satisfy our lawyers with a written consent, codicil to everything else in her life that she’s signed away.

“I at least, had my bottom walloped enough in the Zone as a teenager, that I understood what I was going back to; though I already knew that Sec/Spy considered all submissive males a security risk and didn’t employ them, I was never going to have a male in my secret household, and I was at no risk of having a teenage daughter, so I could keep all that at arms length.

“Helen Thoroughgood, the Chief of Sec/Spy would sometimes dish out six of the best from a senior cane to the people immediately below her, but she kept that privilege to herself alone and never used the cane on junior staff. At the time of Henry’s death, Misha hadn’t been caned, and was the only one who hadn’t because of her superior tradecraft.

“The fact that Henry had “made” her was probably going to lead her to bending over in a private interview with the Chief. And she knew it. That’s one of the reasons, since she was the head of the manhunt, why she pursued it so vigorously, calling all hands on deck to not only find Henry, but also to find the Matriarchal traitor who owned his safe house.

“She began to have private conferences with the two brightest of the ten Goons, who started following her around like a pair of puppy dogs, even inside the agency Headquarters itself. If Micha went to somebody’s office, the two Goons would linger in the hall at a distance from the office door where they couldn’t hear the conversation, then close up with Micha when she came out, and stand by her own office door like entry pillars. It made everybody very nervous. A couple of people sounded out the Goon supervisor about it, but her mouth was shut up tighter than a clam. For whatever reason, Micha clearly wanted “muscle” available for her instantly at all times.

“I don’t think Micha had ever been caned, for all she knew about it’s medical effects as the Doctor of the Black Widow. I think personally that if she had been bent over for being made by Henry, it was such a large tradecraft error that she would also have been demoted, or had the choice of demotion or twelve strokes. It all depended on what Henry had to say when finally caught.

“But about 3 weeks into the manhunt, the Chief called her in for a private interview. Everybody thought that it would be for a reckoning with the cane, and every ear on the working floor was listening. Since I knew that she was a Mossad contact, I thought she might instead be discussing the effect a caning might have on her status. Mossad played for keeps and if any of their own spies had gone to the Widow, Helen, the Punishment Supervisor, the Executionress, and the Doctor in charge would all have been dead within 3 months.

“The killers would have made every effort to leave Mossad’s fingerprints and handwriting all over those deaths so that GLCIS, Dixieland’s “Poison Julep” agency with no official name or existence, and Sec/Spy themselves would be clear about who was sending the message, as Fem/Dom was picking up the pieces and scratching their heads over it.

“Helen was probably the only one in Sec/Spy who actually understood how much danger she was in if she caned Micha and Micha duly reported it back to Mossad. Micha came out of the interview quietly with her poker face but killer eyes. In hindsight, I think that’s when the plan was made to kill the traitor and make it look like an accident. Had that happened, any of Micha’s past tradecraft errors would have never been mentioned again. It left everybody baffled, but I knew enough to have a very bad feeling about it, which I couldn’t pin down. It would have pushed the Matriarchal Zone across a line it had vowed never to cross.

“I’ve never been caned myself, and the thought of it then scared me as green as my uniform. But I never saw Micha waver about it or about anything else that happened. She had ice water in her veins. Everyone else had snow cone slush. But everybody knew when the Chief gave a caning because the recipient would scream at every stroke and be heard through most of the building. And a lot of Misha’s peers would be counting the screams with pleasure, and just waiting for her to come out the door crying.

“And the loss of face with her peers would be permanent. Almost as bad as a demotion. After that I think she would have gotten in touch with Mossad to rearrange her assignment and maybe even have a face to face with them. My information, already sent to GLCIS, was that such a turn of events would have set Mossad’s timetable haywire. She had the excuse of a few sick days off until she could sit again, taking this after a caning was commonplace, and in that time she could have flown to Israel and back. Even how many sick days she took would be counted by her Sec/Spy enemies.

“But all that disintegrated with Sec/Spy itself and Henry took the secret of how he made her to his grave. Luckily for everybody concerned, Henry had hidden himself by his own tradecraft rather than a citizen’s treason. No one would have won in that event. Not even Mossad.

“Nobody but myself and Henry had any independent information on both Misha and Mossad and even my peers in interviewing never saw what I saw in her eyes. Had Misha been caned and gone to a face to face without killing Henry, there would have been a slow bloodbath. Everybody else, but me and Helen, had no idea how much fire they were playing with.

“Everybody in the Zone still doesn’t. They think to this day that GLCIS killed both Helen and Misha in revenge for how three of it’s top agents suffered and died. They stubbornly insist on running no agents of their own, even just to read and listen to what’s being said over here, let alone spy on what we’re doing or not doing. And our security people over at GLCCA (GLC Counterintelligence Agency, pronounced glee/kah) have never been quite as far up to speed as we are.

“Helen and every one of Micha’s supervisor enemies (she of course knew who they were) would be marked for disposal either by Mossad or Misha herself. And after they were all dead, Mossad would have strongarmed the Matriarchal Cabinet and Chief Matriarch in to making Micha Chief of Sec/Spy, by telling them that Mossad had ordered the killings, which could perfectly well continue up the ladder since the Zone’s only security agency had just been gutted. They had planned for a two to three year transition timed for the first class of Israeli Dominant Women to graduate to give them a new Sec/Spy employee pool. But they would be perfectly willing to take Sec/Spy over by force, if need be, at any time, because they had Micha in place.

“Though our access is limited, we think the current Matriarchal Cabinet has discussed killing every spy they uncover, particularly from GLCIS, after Fem/Dom had wrung the information out of them by carefully orchestrated strapping. We don’t know what they decided. Nor do we know why new blood there may have pushed the Zone right up to that uncrossable line again, but I have my suspicions centering around Angie the Executionress.

“Fem/Dom has picked up several light and medium cover agents of our’s who are told by us to ALWAYS fully cooperate with their interrogator. And none of these has yet been killed. When I left Sec/Spy, I brought out a lot of the video footage of the Judicial Canings and they are shown to every ordinary training class, and to every Deep Cover training class, with the message that their own work will be in a watertight compartment and any capture of them will have little to no effect on any other operation, so talk, talk openly, talk voluably, and talk immediately. We will cut our losses. And we have hit no one in the Zone since Micha Haaretz. But who knows what might happen if the Zone starts killing our agents.

“There is, however, a definite record of strangulation, silenced gunshot, and neck breaking among people we’re sure were spying on the Zone for other agencies. And the handwriting on all of them is very suggestive. So we have put the Zone on Full Red or maximum hazard status. Fem/Dom is scratching it’s head over it as a major crime wave in a country without criminals.

“I’ll discuss with my staff the future legend problem for our agent. She may have to be assigned there far longer than usual, maybe as long as a decade or more. What I have in mind will keep all the spying within your house, rather than exposing you to the risk of snooping outside. We are playing for the long haul and that’s why we so badly want to place a Madam.

Lady Chief continued, “But now I’d like to invite you to join a week long vacation of sightseeing and shopping in the Windy City with myself and my proposed agent. Just us girls. Then after 5, if you don’t mind, we can always dine at the Agent Club and discuss things in comfort and security over our favorite aperitif. GLCIS has secured the entire floor.

“I already know of your taste in cognac, but I’d like to introduce you to Calvados, Normandy Apple Brandy. Please don’t blame your wine dealer, he has no notion that we’ve been broken into his files for quite some time now.”

Of course I took her up on the offer, “Sure, I like both shopping and sightseeing, but I want one thing. You are recording all this, of course. Get her a transcript to read with breakfast. I see no reason to completely repeat what I’ve said to you about being a whore and a Madam, and I don’t want her going in with her eyes wide shut. I’m sure you don’t either. And I’d like a copy, too, so I can keep track of what we’ve done.”

“Oh, Elizabeth! Can’t I surprise you with anything?”

“Well, girl, time to start being a grown-up.”

So off we went the next morning. We hit the major boutiques, particularly the ones who sell a top line of women’s business wear and those with absolutely the best and most expensive intimates. A Madam must always buy the best and most flattering of the former that she can; a high class tart also needs at least two smart business ensembles for dress wear, preferably two that can interchange skirts and jackets.

We’d be picking up a load of enticing panties, bras, slips, and so on and I was there to use my practiced eye concerning the most flattering shapes and colors for the new agent’s skin, hair, and body type. At breakfast (she’d already read the transcript), I told her to make note about the why of my choices and add it to her Dictapad notebook tonight after our first briefing. Lady Chief also took my advice, and I told her to be careful. Anyone who she shared a bed with might start calling her Lady Madam. This won me another deep contralto laugh!

As a Zone whore, Sally (that wasn’t her name yet, of course, but it’s simpler to use it) would need a small selection of the most flattering daywear possible. Over the years I’ve occasionally had a girl who went with me to visit a Matriarch and needed to be presentable. Moreover, every time one of my girls is on the street, even to go to the drug store or the food mart, they are a walking advertisement for Elizabeth’s Secret: the well-tailored suit, that flattered her come hither gait and strongly suggested her curves without revealing them, was the best advertising, particularly since the female cops on the beat would always approach and chat.

I enlarged on it, “When the Zone cops know your name, know your House, and see your daywear, word gets around, first to their own submissive men, then to the buddies of these men if they spend a little time in one of the bars to have a drink and shoot a little pool with their “companion” on their days off. And, of course, to the lady druggist and to the food market cashiers, who are generally male.

“Of all the Matriarchals, Fem/Dom has the best and most realistic and open attitude toward Scarlet Fever Lane and its Madams and Whores. Even in the Zone, we can’t pitch our product any other way, or any better way. And, in fact, it has made our reputation on the Lane as it’s “best” and “highest class” house and won us a certain amount of envy at how my girls look so much more enticing than their girls. That is, of course, flattering.”

I continued, “But what I cherish most was Henry’s offhand remark that we were the “best high class tarts” he had ever known. We didn’t know he was a spy then, but no one could talk to him for ten minutes without reaching the conclusion that he’d led a very colorful and very unsheltered life. When I found out he was a spy, I cherished the complement even more. Spies, real spies, don’t have girlfriends where they are spying. They visit we high class whores.

“All the Madams and all the girls know the importance of pretty underthings. What they don’t really understand is that just because a panty is pretty when you hold it up to the light doesn’t mean that it will truly flatter your butt. They have the girls themselves shop and pay, with supervision, in medium priced mail order catalogs or online. I measure them, I shop for them, and I make sure that the Zone pays for top of the line goods, even when I have to have them sent to us. It’s that important.

“The other madams also don’t understand that the street and business daywear is MORE important than the frilly undies. The John that sees you in negligee is the one who is already in the house. The one that sees how good you look outdoors and how “high class but come hither” you carry yourself and behave, is the NEW customer you always want more of. Because of that, we’re always steadily busy, which is good for the girls’ attitudes and makes my job much easier.”

We made an appointment for later in the week with the best men’s tailor in Chicago. While making it, the receptionist recognized me, called me by name and chided me for not stopping in for so long. This was for me to do a check-up of my measurements, look at bolts, not swatches, of some of the new fabric they had acquired, and place an order for a new bespoke business jacket and skirt. Lady Chief was a little startled. She’d never bought bespoke herself and my familiarity with it was another surprise. And Sally was like someone who wakes up in a hospital and doesn’t know who they are.

After we left the tailor’s I said, “Buying bespoke I NEVER have been disappointed in the quality, and, particularly, the durability, of my clothes. Men’s tailors are used to the demand that a good man’s suit might need to last him 20 years. And even men’s off the rack is always better made and more durable than women’s. All the ways we cry into our Diet Soda about getting clothes that “really fit” and “really last” disappear like the morning dew.”

Lady Chief said in the guarded tone women use when considering a change in dress, “I’ll have to make an appointment here when we come back.”

To which, with a sidelong look, I replied, “They WILL ask you for your name. Just say in’,”. Another contralto laugh followed.

Sally would eventually order her two suits from Zoltan’s Bespoke Tailoring. Zoltan himself taught me the right way to measure, and followed my directions religiously; once a year I received a book of fabric swatches, did the measuring for the girls, and had the Zone buy them two bespoke suits, at first to replace the off the rack ones.

If a girl stayed 2-5 years with me, she had acquired a number of such suits, which we always looked at before making a new fabric choice to complement the ones in the closet, as well as the girl. When she had to leave the Zone at thirty, she would be taking with her the best possible wardrobe for a career change, or for going solo doing high class outcalls.

Dinner was excellent, as it would be every evening. There would always be only 3 haute cuisine main dishes with perfectly complementary wines, an appetizer and a dessert. And we retired to the library (a real one and not just a name), comfortable chairs, and a side table for each of our after dinner drinks.

Lady Chief was as good as her word and three balloon glasses of Calvados awaited us. It was lighter and more delicate than Cognac, and left a fruity aftertaste on the palate. And it was exquisite, but you could very easily drink too much of it without realizing it. Sally looked at hers with some trepidation. She was, however, still in her twenties, dining with two worldly wise “aunts”, one of whom was her boss, so she was on her best behavior without quite being sure just what that was under the circumstances. My guess is that, given her own choice, she would have ordered an Amaretto Pink Squirrel, or something equally as cloyingly sweet. But she genuinely smiled at the first taste of the Apple Brandy.

Well, girl, time to start being a grown-up.

I first asked Sally if she had any questions about her morning transcript or her today’s shopping trip. She hesitated and very diffidently brought up all the stuff about beating people. She knew, abstractly, that they were supposed to do that in the Zone, but she couldn’t really understand it…? She trailed off. I looked at Lady Chief, “The Zone stopped flooding the civilized world with it’s propaganda brochures about five years after the fall of Sec/Spy. Does GLCIS still have any of the old ones around?”

“I’ll check. You’re right, the Matriarchals were far better at explaining themselves in their own advertising than we could ever be. I’ll step away a moment, call the night shift, and have a couple of them ready for her tomorrow morning reading.” Lady Chief went over to one of the alcoves of bookcases and made a call.

I looked straight at Sally and said, “There are one of three emotions you can have about being beaten, anger, fear, and subservience. You know about Lady Chief’s beatings of GLCIS thugs, correct?” Sally nodded, “But no one talks about it directly in our training, even in our ‘interrogation practice’ units.”

I enlarged on it, “Well, the thugs have almost certainly been beaten repeatedly and arbitrarily growing up, and their response to it has been the anger and selfishness driving their criminal behavior. If you remember what Lady Chief said in your transcript about her own teen years in the Zone, her response to it was much the same, the difference being that, because of her boyfriend and GLCIS, she became self aware enough to step beyond it to the other possibilities after running away for her freedom.

“The thugs are locked perpetually into a view of things where people who have more power than you always beat you, and, unless someone does, you will get criminally out of control. So Lady Chief has to fulfill those expectations with the further stipulation that, since she is a woman, she must beat them as they have never experienced being beaten before. Just like a pimp must do to his stable of whores.

“The Matriarchal Zone is full of Lady Chiefs who have to do the same thing to keep all ordinary men totally submissive. And that “submissiveness” is the degree to which you internalize the judgment of the person with the strap that you “should” be beaten. This emotion is the personal dynamic that holds the Matriarchy together.

And I continued, “In much the same way, I have to use beating to sustain discipline among my stable of whores. Because of their lives in a house, they are prone to get sloppy about all things, and need firm rules enforced by a firm strap to be the best at what they do. Not only to be the best, but to even conceive that being a better whore is worth something. I am the strictest Madam in the Zone, and my house and girls are the best.

“The emotional force of this is fear. Fear of a rear end too sore for you to stand straight, sit down, or lie down. Realistic fear because you have either seen a sister of yours get one of these beatings, or you’ve had one yourself, and know how much, and for how long it really hurts. This is an important distinction. I don’t want my girls believing either that I think they “deserve” to be beaten or that they should think so. I want them to link a sore butt to their behavior as a consequence not as a personal judgment, and not to do that particular behavior again. That is why it is always important to clearly state and stress rules. And to show your pleasure in all the girls when the rules are followed and things run smoothly.

“YOUR strict rule for this week is to take the world class, but arbitrary, shellacking you get before it ends, so you finally know what one is like, without either anger or subservience, but with a fear of it and a desire to understand the rules well enough so that it never happens again.

“Most madams on the Lane don’t clearly understand this distinction between fear and subservience. Thus their girls never get much further in attitude than whores that trawl the street: a cover of tough bravado and a core of insecurity and lack of self worth.

“For a whore, self worth comes from being “high class”, a confidence that you do what you do very, very well, from the way you walk and dress, to the amount of excitement and arousal you extract with a blow job, and to the firecracker bang of an orgasm you pull out of a man who either lost his capacity to make it happen on his own, or never knew it could happen in the first place. And you, without compromising your “high class” dignity, can feel his joy as well.

I summed it all up, “And when, after the beating, you can finally stand straight, sit down, or lie down without thinking about how much it will hurt to do it, usually in about two weeks, there will be a very small flash of pride from a brief glimpse that “being a better whore” does truly mean something and is worth following rules for. It meant something to me, the very strict madam who recently tanned your behind, and it could mean something to you. Just a flash that will need to be renewed many times with a strap either on your backside, or on those of your sisters in the house.”

My tone lowered and I slowed down. This was IMPORTANT, “You are about to become one of my girls, and I can tell you from much experience that the energetic, motivated spy-to-be you are right now will slip away from you, as the energetic, motivated English-professor-to-be slipped away from me 35 years ago. 

“Whatever is deep in you that made you want to be a spy will stay, but all of the role playing (which we all do) to keep ourselves focused on our goals will slip away from you, and will do so within weeks. It will feel like shit and you will feel like shit, because you will have become a whore, with no longer a reason to be anything else, and you will be one until you die.”

Lady Chief slipped back quietly into her chair.

“The reason for your existence will shift from your mind to your butt and it will be that reason for existence that my strap will be speaking to if you break my rules, which, sooner or later, you will. All in you that says, ‘I’ve got this, I can be a spy playing a whore and still get by’ is purely the role playing that now surrounds your intentions and your personal goals. It will vanish, and when you first start giving out your sex to strangers for pay, you will be a whore. Forever. 

“When being a whore starts to feel like being the worst thing in the world, you will let go, get sloppy, and break one of my rules. And then get strapped for it. It hurts. It really hurts. And the way Lady Chief and I were taught to do it, it will really hurt for a long, long time, measured in days or weeks, not hours.

“I’ve been trying to convince Lady Chief that she needs to introduce you to how much it hurts and for how long, before you even make any commitment at all to take this assignment. She is still reluctant to do so, for reasons that I can clearly understand: her experience of doing it will not be about strapping, but about the memories of being strapped by her mother, by the police, and by any older Matriarchal woman she might encounter whom she didn’t even know. 

“You have to understand that if you choose to do this, you will be making a choice that she herself could never have made, even to be a ‘secret agent’ as the major goal of a life.”

I turned to Lady Chief, “Do I lie?”

“No Elizabeth, you don’t…” she once again turned her head down to conceal her tears. And, once again, I stood up, walked to her chair and put my arms around her. Sally sat stock still with her eyes as big as saucers. Her boss pulled herself together and I looked at Sally directly once again. 

“I’m sure you’ve been told that you will have to “become tough” on this assignment, but there are levels of being tough. This is the first one, to know that you will have to do something that even the woman who heads your agency couldn’t have brought herself to do on her deep cover. Think about that before going to sleep tonight. Think about it hard.

“One final thing before we return to the Ritz,” I sat back down to face Sally. “Look me straight in the eye! I will not permit ANY of this to happen if you don’t first get your butt strapped off BEFORE there is any real commitment by you to do this. If Lady Chief cannot do this to you, I will. Clear?” Sally nodded with a little shiver. I turned to the Chief of the Great Lakes Consortium Intelligence Service, “Clear?” She nodded, then hid her eyes once again.

So the next morning at breakfast sent up from room service, I asked Sally, “Did you get a chance to absorb any of those old brochures?”

“Yes. I’m just stunned. Are they still like that?”

“Pretty much. Older, greyer, less adventure filling their heads about the challenge of making a new country, but pretty much the same. From the vantage point of Scarlet Fever Lane, the dismissal of we foreign whores has hardened from disdain into disgust as the generation of those brochures (about ten years younger than my own) has hardened into menopause.”

Lady Chief added, “From the GLCIS vantage point, it has taken them a very long time to understand two things. And maybe not to fully understand them at all.

“First, that their ‘Matriarchal Underground’ depended far more on the male non-clan members that married into it than the female clan members they married with. It was the fact that so many males were so voluntarily submissive that they were willing to let themselves be not only led, but also be punished, by dominant women that made the continuity of their clans possible.

“Second, that the substitution of multiple police and security forces, “retraining”, and social services such as officially supported brothels, for out-clan matrimony actually undermined the voluntary submission of their males rather than strengthening it. For all their lip service of the need for male citizens to be ‘valued’ and ‘supported’ for their contributions, such ‘support’ somehow was always shown with a paddle or a strap. And more and more often a paddle or a strap in the hand of one or the other type of police officers rather than a woman of your own household.”

Lady Chief continued, “Elizabeth, as a young whore, lived through what we think was the moment of their apogee and decline, when the Matriarchal Cabinet started the paranoid convention of ‘more reliable’ submissives among the men spying on the ‘less reliable’ ones. That one choice pushed Zone males further from mere submission and closer to slavery, no matter what offer was made to them to voluntarily renounce their citizenship.”

I intervened, “We whores got a far more up close and personal look at male submission by servicing them in our own beds, than the new Zone women ever had of them as what were, generally, their oral sexual servants only. The culmination of this was Sec/Spy where males were absolutely excluded and categorized as either ‘security risks’ to be managed or ‘spies’ to be brutally punished into a living death.”

“I’ll put it up to you, Lady Chief, since your deep cover was Sec/Spy interrogator, would anyone there have objected if ALL the spies you broke by terror of the Black Widow had been sent there, in the end, anyway?”

Lady Chief sighed, “That’s another hard one for my heart, Elizabeth. None of those women were my friends but had I thought so, that would have meant my acknowledging that they were genuinely evil and so was I for even participating, Deep Cover or not. Now, however, I’d have to say yes, they truly were that evil, when they had any brain at all: except for, oddly, the Israeli Micha Haaretz, black Doctor of the Black Widow, who ensured that those who went to it were crippled for life.

“After she ceased to do this, her job became to chase after the very successful spies like Henry Peterson, and to do so VERY successfully herself despite almost no budget and nearly no staff. I never thought she regarded these men as anything less than worthy opponents who never merited death, even when she killed them, and who was saddened when she had to be involved with their torture even though she tortured them without mercy. That was why she was so good at trapping them, and why she fell in love with the final one, because of how good he was and how easily he almost got away.”

Lady Chief summed it up, “As much as I learned to fear and loathe her, she may well have been the most humane of them all. And there are days when I mentally converse with her as Chief of GLCIS, when a hard decision to kill or abandon another human being makes me ever less humane myself. Ian once told me that it would be one of those decisions that would tell me to retire. I often wonder how close I am to it. Ian’s own departure greatly surprised his subordinates with it’s abruptness.”

“Sally,” I asked, “did any of your training address this conundrum: how to be a decent human being and still be a spy?”


“Then here is your next lesson in learning to be tough. Once you are both a spy and a Madam, your ordinary routines as a spy are likely, sooner or later, to get other human beings either imprisoned, tortured, or killed; without any relationship to what kind of a human being they are, a gray no man’s land of no guilt or innocence, no evil or good, merely the luck of the draw. How will you deal with that?”

“Well, I don’t know…I…”

“This is your next level of being tough. Now that Lady Chief and I have raised that question, you’d better never let it go, or you will wake up one day and discover that your actions have led only to irredeemable evil and you are left with no real self worth from what you do, however much cheerleading you do for yourself. The pain you’ve caused others will hang around your neck constantly until you are demented or until you die.”

“Elizabeth, I don’t know how you know all this stuff…”

I cut in, “I’m a whore, honey! I get to listen to men when their third orgasm has turned their own brain into truth serum.”

Lady Chief continued, “But she’s right Sally. There’s a period we call agent fatigue, that happens sometime between 40 and 50, when the questions won’t let you rest, and a lot of us die of our own hand because of it, more so if we haven’t addressed the issue earlier. There is good and evil in the world, but it’s not parceled out to one person or another, or to one cause or another. Even before I took this, my last job, I had the weight of much evil on my conscience. And even more so now.”

“But I’ve never done anything like that evil.”

“That’s what I mean by another level of being tough,” I said, “tough enough to understand that sooner or later you will, whether you want to or not. And tough enough to hold on to that understanding. Why? Because you’re a spy, sweetie, a spy.”

We each went to our rooms to dress for the day. Just before I entered mine I heard Sally start crying. I looked at Lady Chief and she at me. We waited. And then it stopped. We both nodded. “I think she’ll be tough enough.” I said.

Chicago is still the best single city in which to see important 20th Century buildings. So we took the paid tour trolley. We walked across endless plazas, rode in multiple elevators to reach the top of the same building, and descended many stairs to see the backbone and guts of construction. By 3pm we were all worn out dishrags, returned to the Ritz and made a pact between us to each have the hottest and most decadent of baths, then nap until awakened by the afternoon bellhop at 6.

A Spy Love Affair

At dinner at the Agent’s Club, Sally was finally relaxing. “I think I’m falling in love with you both. Nobody, NOBODY, has ever been so consistently straight with me about how things really are.”

“Well, we’ll see how much you love us when you can’t sit down,” I said. “It usually takes my girls 2-3 weeks to rebuild affection for me. But they always do, or they don’t stay my girls.”

Lady Chief added, “Spying is both a profession you share and a stormy love affair with your fellow spies. Tie a knot in your handkerchief: someday you will have to be totally straight with someone for quite a while until you get it all said. Remember us, when it happens. That is, if you survive at all.”

Sally’s head snapped around sharply towards her. “Just being straight with you, girl. The odds that you will make it without either time in foreign prison or death are about 35% in your favor.”

“And that,” I said, “is the next layer of tough. Tell me Lady Chief, at what point do you have them make their will?”

“Normally three to five days before they go on first assignment if under light or medium cover. The day they arrive at the Deep Cover training facility otherwise. They’ll be far too busy after that to bother with such things.”

Sally let out a long whistling breath. “This is really very good perch.” She said rather weakly. Lady Chief and I both lost it!

“Girl, the spy love affair goes both ways. After this week there’s no way we will stop loving you either,” thus Lady Chief.

“But, for a couple of years it will be rather tough love,” thus I. “Just being straight with you, girl.”

In the Library, our chairs and tables awaited us. The wine steward approached. I ordered my usual Clef d’Eglise Premier. Only about every other wine steward will have even heard of it, ours didn’t blink an eye. Lady Chief asked for Calvados. As did Sally, with a bit of hesitation about pronouncing it.

Glad you could join us grown ups, girl. Signed, Your Favorite Aunts.

Lady Chief asked how I’d first learned about my Brandy. “It was the year after I turned 21. My date and I saw the name on the liqueur menu of the old Peppercorn Duck in North Chicago, and he translated it for me as “church key”. Well, in Iowa that was what we called the old fashioned beer can and bottle opener, so I HAD to try it, even if it was the most expensive thing on the menu. I was used to hard liquor, generally preferring Turkey Creek small batch Bourbon, which Daddy drank, “sippin’ whiskey” and not rot gut. But at the first sip, I fell in love with this Cognac and have never looked back.”

Then she handed us both copies of the following e-mail. I put my tongue firmly in my cheek, “Darn! And I thought I was finally going to get to see Peter’s real workname.”

Lady Chief looked askance at me, “Elizabeth, stop horsing around!”

August 4, 2078
To: Chief of Service, GLCIS
From: “{name redacted}”, Senior Intelligence Analyst GLCIS

Report of “Goshawk”, Light Cover, Scholarly Credentials, legal research, No illegal activity. Matriarchal National Library and Hall of Records.

”Enclosed is a list of the Dominant Women Graduate Classes 2064-2077. On it please find highlighted the 24 Israeli Women’s names who have so far passed the Fem/Auth citizen requirements. It is not known if others exist under non-Israeli cover names and are in Zone Deep Cover, but the balance of probability is none because the host country is friendly to the current Mossad headquarters being established in the Zone.

”Also enclosed is a list from the Matriarchal Directory, 2072. Ed. of corresponding Israeli female names each with home addresses, workplace name, and phone number. All private cell service is unregistered.

”The 24 Israeli women citizens have jobs at only 4 different workplaces: {list redacted} ALL these Zone Companies are housed in the “Gravesend Building” {address redacted} Montpellier, Matriarchal Zone. This modernized late 1920’s building is 5 stories high with a first floor re-fenestration and remodeling as a Food Court with seating and fast food vendors, including a small kosher (!) deli.”

Report of “Wingnut”, Light Cover, “family visitor” credentials, routine surveilance, no illegal activity.”

”There is no clear presence of either stairs or elevators to be seen in the open seating areas. The cafeteria style food vendor stations are backed by an enclosed hallway with an entrance at each end of the South wall and doors from the vending stations. These two side entrances are openly equipped with Palm Locks, Retinal Scanners and AI assisted CCTV above the doors. This is a standard level Alpha Mossad security entry system with the usual lack of a screen of unmarked doors in front, instead of as in our practice.

”Rotating humint surveillance of these is not possible given the low numbers of our agents in the Zone. Fem/Dom foot patrols are 3x more common than normal through this food court so a single humint watcher would arouse immediate suspicion and the court has full CCTV coverage.

”Self-destructing bot placement surveillance (false Dixieland Poison Julep bots) would be possible, but nightly janitor electro screening, standard Mossad procedure, is strongly suspected.

”Each of the upper four stories is completely occupied by one of the four separate Zone Companies. As the list shows, these company names are completely generic with no indication of what actual goods or services they offer. Very unusually, the Matriarchal Directory does not specify whether these companies are solely owned or (as is common Mossad practice) controlled by a foreign holding company. One or the other citation is required by Zone law, so this absence is significant.

”Nor do their company phone numbers respond with anything but 4 completely circular phone trees that request extensions but offer no extension directory.”

End of agent reports

The Gravesend Building has thus been converted into a “below the line” (but host country approved) Mossad headquarters in Montpelier and the 24 Israeli named citizens employed there are the legal working force of Mossad activity in the Zone.

There would be very little required to transform this into a small-staff, Zone funded counterintelligence clearing house staffed by these same 24 women. The expanded Fem/Dom patrols make this unlikely, since we know Fem/Dom is currently involved in a bureaucratic struggle to keep all it’s counterintelligence duties. Their establishment of bugged “private” male hostels for Zone visitors, and the great success they have had with this and with correlating their foot patrol reports to identify agent suspects has given them great bargaining power within the Matriarchal Cabinet.

There are far more men employed both in the fast food operations and the janitorial services than are known or suspected male Mossad operatives, but the arrangement is perfect for rotating through a large number of Medium cover male agents since such menial positions allow non-citizens to work on a Cus/Pas cleared and registered basis. These men can also work under light “family visitor” covers with the 24 female citizens.

A recent picture, source unknown, from Fem/Dom Headquarters shows that the Com Room Foot Patrol Map has a four square block area of no Fem/Dom foot coverage with the Gravesend Building in the center. Since the cops are clearly patrolling, they must be counterintelligence assigned patrol uniforms.

In that 4 block area is a subterranean private electrocar parking garage with No Vacancies posted at it’s two ground level entrances. HumInt surveillance indicates that only 5 electrocars and 3 unmarked closed vans {auto data redacted} ever leave or enter this garage regularly. It could hold at least 10 times as many vehicles.

They are all wholly owned by the Tel Aviv Below Ground Investment Corporation, a Mossad front under combined scrutiny from both our above the line, GLCIS residency, the Tel Aviv Consular Office, and our below the line partners {address redacted} from Dixieland Poison Julep–the only operation Poison Julep has managed to place in Israel and this only with our support.

The strong inference to be drawn from this is that permanent and ongoing underground construction is occurring. As long as the underlying piers of the Gravesend building aren’t disturbed, there is probably at least the same amount of office space below ground as the four Gravesend Floors have above ground. And further and lower levels could be built at leisure down to at least 3 underground floors.

A full time staff occupying all this square footage would easily run a medium sized Zone Counterintelligence agency, with, as before, it’s own “muscle”. There are probably not yet enough Mossad Zone Female Citizen operatives to completely supervise such an operation (Mossad’s constant 30 year goal), a condition expected to be corrected sometime within the next 7 years.

There is also the significant problem that Mossad is still having establishing male Zone Citizens. Only 10% of applicants pass the first psychological screening and almost all others have been eliminated at some point in the process. There would be overwhelming Zone opposition to relaxing those standards.

We believe that Mossad has learned from the “Henry Peterson” affair the drawback of a totally female workforce in a Zone counterintelligence operation. Their plans since have included a large number of male citizens to household with their female citizens and work in their Zone Headquarters, to have a legitimate submissive male presence, without the security drawbacks of male employees, when it is given over to Zone support. But they simply haven’t come up with the male citizens.

We suspect that Mossad is attempting the stopgap of medium cover non-citizen males nominally employed as day janitors and Food Court employees rotated through their headquarters on a yearly basis, or one 6 month Cus/Pas renewal.

Thus far, the weakest link for Mossad in this situation is the fact that menial jobs in the Food Court have already been scored by two of our Medium cover operatives {agent names redacted}. This is sufficient to start Operation Condom as planned.

I raised an eyebrow at Lady Chief, “Operation Condom?”

“Peter is even more facetious than you are, Elizabeth. And it IS his job to choose operation cover names. I told you yesterday that we had an idea for keeping all of Sally’s spying confined to the Elizabeth’s Secret House itself. Operation Condom is a long term word-of-mouth advertising campaign for Scarlet Fever Lane at the Gravesend Fast Food Services themselves.

“Starting with Sally’s arrival in the Zone, our agents in the food court will begin talking up three separate brothels including Elizabeth’s Secret. After a year this will be reduced to two brothels, and when Sally begins her career as Madam the campaign will be for Elizabeth’s Secret only.

“By that time we hope to have the majority of Mossad male agents as visitors to Elizabeth’s Secret at least once and photographs obtained of them while there. Headquarters can begin to establish a running database of all your clients under Fully Confidential Eyes Only status by a special team of analysts for the purpose. Clandestine photography will be the ONLY activity until such time as Sally has taken over as Madam. Once this has happened, we can look at how her spying role can be expanded. Any thoughts?”

I was totally appalled and very blunt, “You haven’t even spoken of the photography and transmission hardware, and that alone will be HIGHLY dangerous to anyone in my house. How will such hardware be installed? How extensively? And by whom? Any major activity of this kind, with workmen of unknown sources, will cause gossip all through the Lane and this will be in the hands of Fem/Dom within hours.

“As Peter’s memo points out, it’s the foot patrol reports that have made it so much more difficult for you to place agents in the Zone and keep them there. Odds are, Fem/Dom already has identified “Wingnut” and “Goshawk” and is using their GPS implants to routinely trace their movements as well as examining whatever library references they have been using.

“They probably won’t arrest them as long as they are keeping to the law, but that doesn’t mean they won’t watch them or aren’t already watching them. At least by GPS. And it isn’t even certain they won’t arrest and interrogate them tomorrow. Particularly since they are struggling to hold on to counterintelligence. Two more GLCIS scalps would make a nice show for the Matriarchs!

“All this means is that the Zone knows that not only is the Mossad building a below the line headquarters, but also knows that GLCIS knows this and is very interested in that fact. At least Fem/Dom already knows of GLCIS interest, and maybe Mossad does, too. And even if they don’t, planning should assume they do.

“Sally shouldn’t even set foot in the Zone until, I would guess, six months AFTER all agent presence in the Gravesend Building, and all covert contact with it has ceased, including in the food court, as well as pulling out the two light cover agents completely back to Chicago, so Mossad can’t start taking “back bearings” from their confessed activities. Did their reports, for example, pay any attention to the Lane and my whorehouse?

“I would also say that your Tel Aviv interest in Mossad’s shell company is compromised as well, and maybe even your Dixieland collaboration. There should be no contact, IN ANY WAY between Elizabeth’s Secret and Mossad Headquarters, or with any other GLCIS operation whatever. By the way, do you even know what the Dixielanders are doing over there? I’d want to. They might just fuck you over in Israel.

“Sally, as a madam, should be starting completely fresh and totally watertight as a Deep Cover spy. And Sally the whore shouldn’t even cross the border until ALL direct engagement with Mossad in the Zone has totally ceased at least six months earlier. I’m very disturbed that your tradecraft should operate any other way. Don’t you have any other Deep cover agents in the Zone? Or have you already set them up for failure in this same way?

“When you were deep in the Zone, Ian kept you completely isolated or YOU would have had to run far before Henry did. Assuming you could. You saw Micha Haaretz every day. And Henry had to have been equally isolated or HE wouldn’t have lasted any longer than any of your other agents back in the day, like the two who went to the Black Widow, or the poor boy you personally broke for Sec/Spy.

“I would interpret your rumors of the Matriarchs thinking about killing all agents, if true, as being fomented by Mossad, seeking to roll up and kill all your Zone assets at once. If that happens, Lady Chief, you’ll be retiring far sooner than even you expect and both Sally and I will be dead. I’ll be dammed if I’ll involve my whorehouse in anything like this.

“I’m sorry to have to say this but you and Peter are reminding me of the slacking whores in the other Lane houses, demoralized because since they’re whores there’s no point in being better at it. What I was just telling Sally about. I’ve half a mind to have Peter called over here and beat the butts of both off you with a Gentle Rebuke! You can frown all you want but you two really do need it.

“So maybe I can strap all three of you at once, I do that lots of times, you can send Sally to Deep Training, replan this escapade, clean up the yard, and then come back and talk to me. None of this is any wonderful intelligence analysis on my part. It’s just a little thought and common sense from somebody maybe already going back to Mossad’s crosshairs or, if I’m lucky, Fem/Dom’s prisons. I’m perfectly certain that my connection to Henry is still in someone’s files who has taken it out every so often to take another look at me. If it were you, wouldn’t you do that too?”

Dead silence, Sally as white as a ghost, and Lady Chief still as a statue, staring in the air, and probably throwing the brain’s triple play: Tinker to Evers to Chance, as Dad used to say. Even more dead silence.

“Elizabeth, it tortures me to admit it, but you’re right. Probably on all counts. And you’ve already whipped my butt and Peter’s too, once he reads tonight’s transcript……Will you say no right now or can we fix it?”

I countered, “It’s not me you should be asking this question, it’s Sally. You just scared the shit out of her by telling her unequivocally the odds against her. And now this.”

I turned to Sally. More dead silence. She squeaked, “I’m just terrified. I don’t know what to say….”

I waited. Then I said to Lady Chief, “We can keep on this week as we are, you can send Sally into Deep Cover training with this task AND a fallback one that she can choose instead, then you can ask that question to me AND her again after you straighten things out. And I want to see Peter at tomorrow’s dinner.

“This session has been very tough on us all. And the lesson you should learn from it, Sally, is that being straight with people isn’t a one way street. In the day I got here and before you arrived the following morning, Lady Chief and I had to talk equally straight and tough to each other. You read the transcript of it, but it’s not the same as hearing it when it happens.”

Sally remarked, “It sure isn’t!”

“Yes,” Lady Chief contributed, “This is how we talk to one another in the closed door meetings with top level staff. Or at least it should be. It comes to my mind that it really hasn’t been since Peter came up with the idea of a Madam agent in the Zone. Something else happened, too. We have a gadfly very like Elizabeth to whom I owe a great apology. It’s our Counterintelligence Abroad analyst. Several meetings back she was getting up on her soapbox about Dixieland in Israel. She thinks that we’re losing far more information, about us, to Dixieland, than we are getting from them about Mossad.

“She’s right, but Peter and I have never considered it all that important, and I cut her off in that meeting by saying as much. It’s been three meetings since I’ve seen her. I think she took two sick days and if I remember, started her 3 week vacation two days earlier. That will be two more meetings that she will have missed. And any talk about the Dixieland/GLICIS collaboration has dropped off the agenda into a black hole. I’ll have to speak with her deputy, tomorrow, and leave the two of you until dinner. Would that be a problem?”

“What do you think, Sally?” I asked, “Do you want to spend some quality time with me at the Field Museum? The Chinese Jade exhibition is still on and jade is a hobby of mine. And maybe you can talk a little more to just me about how you are feeling.”

“Well, I guess so. You’ve knocked me back quite a bit. Is that how you talk when being a Madam?

“Every bit of it Sally. You’ll never hear me talk any other way in the house, unless my office door is closed.”

“Do the girls love you? I think I would.”

“They’re happy being the best, happier, I think than any other girls on the Lane. And, in the end, that’s all I really care about. We, and maybe you, will be outcasts wherever we are. The Zone is as good as it gets, but we are still outcasts in foreign exile. We don’t have to bribe anybody to keep the business open and all of us out of jail. And we don’t have to fend off pimps. But you’ll learn to understand the looks we get on the street from the Matriarchals are the looks we will get until we die. You will, too, if you join us.”

Lady Chief then said, “Elizabeth, I think I need some quality time with you, too. I’m beginning to think my staff has become reluctant to talk straight in that venue. I can’t have that! They are my eyes and ears.”

I was conciliatory, “I’ll try to sneak it in. Let’s go back to the Ritz and get some sleep.”

The next morning, Lady Chief and I met in my room over early, early morning coffee hot, milky, dark roast, brewed strong–French Go Juice. She, at least, would need it. When both she and last night’s transcript came together in the same place at the same time, there was going to be an explosion. “You realize that don’t you?” I asked.

She was both grim and heart aching, “Yes, I do, and it is going to cut to the heart of both my fitness for this job and my willingness to continue to do it. Maybe this is the one that will convince me to retire. There are so many things that your analytical precision has shown up as wrong.”

“Let me ask you a couple of questions. How many agents are you currently running in the Zone?”

“Sixteen as of last Friday. Six in light cover, eight in Medium Cover, two in Deep Cover.”

“How isolated are the two deep covers from all your other operations and assets? Are they truly watertight?”

“I think so. But that will have to be re-examined today.”

“Have they started passing you information?”

“One has the other hasn’t.”

“How relatively vital are they?”

“The silent one very. The target is the Matriarchal Cabinet. This is the best chance to renew a level of access which we never have been able to sustain since Henry was blown and died.”

“Is the source chipped?”

“No, that’s the beauty of it, for the first time ever, we’ve a citizen. A citizen traitor, unfortunately. And we have made sure so far that she has done absolutely nothing different since we first turned her.”

“What’s her motivation?”

“Revenge. The Current Chief Matriarch ordered Angie, then a mere hanger-on and CP trainer from the old Sec/Spy to cane the agent’s father, a non-citizen, to a crooked walking, non sitting status with 60 precise, well laid on, senior cane welts from top of butt to top of knee. The CM was there to see it done, which was highly unusual, and it was clear she had a personal agenda for doing so.

“The CM did this because her father was angry that Angie had already laid 24 of the same welts completely covering his citizen-in-training teenage daughter’s butt, because she made a rude gesture to the Matriarch herself. The CM also watched her caning. Her father merely spoke his mind to the CM about it without any violence on his part. She only carries a single nasty scar and some mild nerve damage since she had the younger body. And she, at least, was given experienced aftercare and treatment.

Lady Chief continued, wincing, “The CM then had him immediately taken to the border and thrown out of the country without any aftercare, leaving him at the mercy of the minimal EMT skills of a local volunteer fire department and a regional hospital in Upstate New York. Rumor reported her saying ‘His place is in the dirt beyond our borders. Let him keep to it.’ His daughter, who was there, says that rumor is correct. He scarred horribly, though regained function of his legs and butt. That was 10 years ago. According to our agent who visits him since he can’t set foot in the Zone any longer, he is still getting skin grafts. Angie was the only Matriarchal who would beat them that viciously. And it got her a seat on the Matriarchal Cabinet.”

Lady Chief’s dictapad rang. She listened to what was first bad news, then very bad news. She turned to me, “We now have fifteen. The Deep Cover that had just started sending has been found dead, smothered in his bed with a broken and entered window in the apartment. Mossad trying not to show handwriting.”

“How many of your light and mediums can you pull from the country?”

Her phone rang again. The news was even worse. “Goshawk” and “Wingnut” had been rolled up by Fem/Dom.

She answered my question, “Any who haven’t been killed or caught, but not all at once and in a panic.”

The phone rang again. The two placements in the food court had been found dead, both in the same apartment, slain execution style.

“Elizabeth, I have to go and deal with this. I’ll try to catch up with you this evening at the Agent’s club.”

I sat and drank my coffee trying to decide how much to tell Sally. A phrase rang in my head, “This is just too pat.” I called Lady Chief’s Dictapad got voicemail, left the following message: “This is your new fashion adviser. The phrase for the day is, ‘This is just too pat.’ Though Sally and I didn’t know it, four more that were Medium covers were discovered dead before noon. And by the end of the day GLICIS had two out of 16 agents left: the fallow lying Deep Cover, and the source in Fem/Dom headquarters.

At the Field, I paraded my knowledge of jade, another one of my hobbies, when I had time for it. At one point, Sally said, “You have so much real love to give, even to a hobby. I’ve never known anyone who CARES as much. Even the Chief doesn’t. After all our talk I can see that far too much caring has been burned out of her from being a spy and more by being a spy mistress. And she’s SO alone.

Sally continued, “When I came to GLCIS 3 years ago, and got my workname, leaving my real one behind for good, I had to leave friends, and a guy I’d been seeing, behind, as well as a job that was working out for me. The guy even cried a little, though he clearly wasn’t going to ever ask to marry me. GLCIS had to vet and brief my parents, who obviously, I couldn’t just abandon, luckily they are my only close relatives. That keeps things simple. 

I still visit them a lot, though I always arrive and leave in the dark, with a GLCIS driver, don’t go outside their house, and, for local consumption, my workname is their “niece by marriage”. I don’t know exactly what they say about the girl with my real name who used to be their daughter, and that they and the agency worked out between them, so I left a list of friends for them to tell.

She said with satisfaction, “GLCIS has been straight with them, if I’m placed in a clerical position in Chicago, my visits to them would continue. But if I ever go abroad, it would be without their immediate knowledge until I was in place. They were given half of a torn postcard. If they ever received the other half, they would know that I had gone into non-communicating foreign service with a different workname and a different cover. Their “niece”, if anybody asked, was also abroad and not expected back for quite a while.

Everything has been done so that no one will ask. I’m told that usually works. Thus two young girls vanish, and I become someone they’ve never even heard of. I jumped a little when the Chief told me my odds in deep cover, but I and my parents already know that if I die in cover, it will be as if I’d been buried at sea and no body would return.

“My parents would receive my death medal, which is already filed in Headquarters, and any other medal I’d won in service; be told that I died in valiant espionage service in GLCIS, but nothing more; could tell any of their acquaintances so; and would be given another torn card half and pre-stamped envelope to send immediately to the Agency if ANYONE they didn’t know asked about it for any reason no matter how convincing it sounds. We learned all this together and I had my major cry with my mother and, surprisingly, with my father, who’d never cried in my presence before.”

Sally’s voice dropped, “The most chilling thing I’ve ever heard was a rumor in training is that someone who betrayed the agency was, if possible, killed by a Truth Team, but their next of kin would receive exactly the same medal, morsel of information, and postcard. The affair would be filed in a separate “eyes only” file for the top tier of administration under the Chief, with the spy’s last workname and sordid story. No other reference would be left in GLCIS except for an “eyes only” notice under the last workname. Once on a filing training assignment I ran across one of these and it froze my heart.

“In regular training we also were explicitly warned that if someone went into Deep Cover Training while training there, they would simply vanish without notice into a new workname, like the spooks we all are. It’s happened twice in my class in three years, though not to anyone close to me. If I go there, all of them, close or not, will simply vanish for me, too. I think I’ve already lost a little of my capacity to care. Maybe if I go to work for you, some of it will come back.”

I said, “It’s happened to all my girls, but only after about 3 strappings either experienced in person, or seen happening to others.”

I moved on to the information of importance, “Now that we’re seated on this nicely cool granite bench, I have to give you some bad news. GLCIS agents in the Zone are either being rapidly arrested or found dead in their residences. Lady Chief got the first word this morning, and I think it even odds that when we see her at the Club, she may be the recent unwillingly retired Chief of GLCIS. Or she may not show up at all. If she doesn’t this discussion is over. Unless they throw us out, after which, I’ll simply rent another room, and we will continue our enjoyable little vacation in Chicago.

I laid out the contingency plan, “If no one at GLCIS shows up for you, then the day before I fly back we will go to their building and see if you still have access to the agent door. If you do, you will call my Dictapad and say one word, “conclusive”, go up to the agent floor and start asking why the hell you weren’t retrieved. Even if you can get in the door, there is a real possibility that you will be arrested and interrogated. If you are, just pretend you’re on the witness stand and tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about all our time together. In that case, I’ll simply go to Midway, change my ticket and take the next flight out to Montpellier.

“If you can no longer get in the agent door call and say “unknown”. In which case you come back to where you left me, and we will take off to parts unknown (at least to me just yet). Because there is a good chance that a GLCIS Truth Team will be looking for us in GLC and, maybe, Mossad looking for us in the Zone. We’ll figure out what to do on the fly. It’s early, I know, but we need to go back to the hotel, and park ourselves in the Mezzanine Restaurant Bar because we need some place to be except the 13th Floor until we would normally be coming home.

I moved on, “I need to make some Dictapad calls and take an electrotaxi ride and will leave you in the bar. My taxi ride will be my secret. If someone spots you and comes for you, you just got bored with staying on the hotel floor and slipped down here for a drink. Don’t get yourself smashed, one cocktail and then coffee please. And don’t ask about what I’ll be saying on the Dictapad! You may have to tell the truth to somebody about what I said, but you won’t know why I said it”

Sally looked longingly at me, “Elizabeth, I’m terrified.”

“So am I honey, so am I.”

In the bar, I ordered a Grey Goose Martini, extra dry, with a twist, and “cold and bleak as a Russian winter”. The waitress smiled. Sally ordered a Margharita. Regressing away from grown up again.

I got on the Horn. “Charley, this is Elizabeth of Montpellier. There was a time when you and I had 6 orgasms together. Remember? No, I’m not plying trade. I’m in Chicago for a week and I’d like to do some business with you. You still sell pest control supplies, don’t you? Yes, a bear does shit in the woods. And yes, this is Chicago after all. I’ve got a woodchuck problem, do you have anything reliable and without a history? Money’s not a problem and I’ll pay for the extra. One of those? Good. With the fixin’s? Good. Are you still off Midway? I’ll be right over.”

“Hold the fort, sweetie, this shouldn’t take long. And don’t tell Lady Chief ANYTHING about this or ask about it yourself. It’s important and I don’t want an argument over it.”

Midway was near, it was a taxi trawl, so I could get back promptly. I went through the door, said hi to Charley, gave him a long wet kiss, and told him that if he wanted any more, he’d have to give me the gun for free.

It was a nasty little 5 shot revolver, a Smith & Wesson Airweight snubby. It would fit in my clutch bag and I could even shoot it through my clutch if I had to. He pushed the gun and a loader toward me, both already full of low recoil wadcutter .38 ammunition. So I had a chance to hit what I was shooting at. I took the roll of precounted cash out of the clutch. After he recounted it and put it in his pocket, I put the gun and loader into the clutch.

Before I closed it, “No history, Charley? Scouts honor?”

“Look at it close, Elizabeth. It’s never been fired. Factory new. And because of the 6 orgasms, you’re getting it at cost.”

“Thanks, Charley. Next time I’m in town I owe you a full afternoon’s entertainment, on the house.”

He grinned wickedly, “Don’t think I won’t remember, honeypot.”

I walked out right into a slow passing taxi. I was now carrying the clutch bag, by it’s gold filled chain, diagonally across my body, since it was now much heavier. It fell right at my hip bone, perfect for settling my right hand into it.

I made a Dictapad call in the electrocar to an old friend in the business who does age appropriate outcalls from the classifieds. Chicago is a big enough and sophisticated enough city that she’s done very well. I asked to stay the night with a friend if I had to go on the run. She was still an old friend. She asked if she could come along. 

I stopped the taxi at the Travel Agency open to the street in the corner of the Ritz building and, without altering my Chicago to Montpellier from Midway ticket, I bought two more tickets Chicago to Toronto from O’Hare, once again paying cash and leaving the names unfilled. Far enough away (across all the goddam Great Lakes) but still in the GLC since Sally wouldn’t yet have a visa. Of course, I’d have to ditch the gun. But that was the insurance policy before the flight. And I might be able to turn that around.

A little less than 45 minutes and I was back at the table. Sally was stirring her coffee by her empty cocktail glass. And even my vodka martini was still cool, if not cold, and Grey Goose is still Grey Goose even when cool, so it went down smooth. After settling the tab and the tip it was just about time to return to the 13th Floor to freshen up, so we walked through the strongbox area to the elevator with no call buttons and the AI opened it for us. I gave a little thank you. We probably still had time.

Once we got there Lady Chief was waiting for us. She looked a wreck, like she’d just fought off a mugger. But then I guess she had.

“I had to see the President’s Chief of Staff, but I’m still the Chief of GLCIS. Barely. And who did I find out had been there before me? Peter, sticking a knife in my ribs, trying to be made interim Chief. I asked to have that knowledge kept between us and he agreed. 

“So Peter won’t be joining us. He has a much more important task: trying to track down our killers through whatever sources we have in Israel. And I set a gentleman I now trust a lot more trying it through Dixieland itself.

“Why that task? Well, because of you again, Elizabeth. When I thought about it, I found all of this too damn pat, too. I figure Peter’s job will be easier if he can talk again to whoever he called at Mossad to start the process.

“The damage? We are down to two agents in the Zone. Fem/Dom has two and the twelve others have been murdered. I had my clerical staff run an e-mail search throughout GLCIS using the code names of the two agents still standing. Very little came up anywhere and none of it was Peter’s. When they did the same thing with the other agent code names, Peter had tangled every last damn one of them into the business of snooping at the Gravesend Building, letting Mossad have a good look at all of them.”

Lady Chief laid out the explanation, “I think Elizabeth in last night’s transcript stampeded him into trying to knock me out of my job before he was ready to. I ordered that all copies (they are all numbered hard copy, no electronic) of all our transcripts collected, checked, and vaulted in my office. As well as all the original recordings. And I’ve just collected the ones we have here. All numbers are accounted for. Since Peter was sometimes at my desk, he, very fortunately, left all his copies there. We will personally take charge of any new recordings at the Club.”

Then she began the emergency drill. “I had them retrieve and classify the correspondence on the two agents standing as Chief’s eyes only, locking out everyone including the people who generated the e-mail. I’m talking to them privately early tomorrow. I ran Elizabeth’s name, all of Sally’s worknames, Elizabeth’s secret, and Scarlet Fever Lane through the same wringer. Virtually all the correspondence was Peter’s or mine. None of it involved Goshawk or Wingnut. I had these frozen in the system but not reclassified, so even I can’t access them without the two IT’s on my staff. They will tell anyone who asks, such as Peter, that this is a system glitch they are trying to work out. I then had them set up a secret bcc copy of ANY new correspondence from any of the previous searches routed to me.”

And then, “Tomorrow at noon I’ve called a meeting with all my subordinates except Peter, who I’m having fly to the Zone to examine the crime scenes firsthand under his pre-prepared journalist credentials to see what he can pry out of Fem/Dom. We’ll hash it all out then and determine what open assets either Dixieland or Mossad has that we could hit if we needed to. I even called our gadfly on vacation and told her to get her ass back on the red eye flight so I could apologize to her. She said she would, if she didn’t completely laugh it off.

“Finally, I called my opposite number at the Security Agency, GLCCA and explained my Peter problem. I asked for a shadow to make sure he got on the plane to the Zone, then a full Surveilance work up on him: house, Dictapad, electrocar, favorite supper hangouts, bars, all of it, right to the GLCIS front door, and, finally, a Customs tripline for his return. I even peeked into his office, stuck a micro GPS on the bottom of his briefcase and gave GLCCA the tracking code. We’ll know just where he went in the Zone. GLCCA isn’t that great at finding spys, but if you find one for them they’ll surveil them to hell and gone!”

Lady Chief closed the meeting, “Let’s clean up and dine ladies.” Lady Chief certainly had resilience. A quick hot shower, a change of clothes, and ten minutes at the make-up mirror and she was nearly good as new.

At the club the evening’s dinner had a Swiss/Austrian air to it. This food is an iron test for a real chef. It is so easy to cook it badly and serve up glop that when the spätzle is exactly the right texture and the jeagar schnitzel has just the right hint of lemon juice, all prejudice and all resistance against it just melts. And when it’s served with strong wheat beer what better can there be? At the table we were all so weary, all we did was girl talk. I told Sally that if she came to work for me I’d break out my secret treasure trove of Henry Peterson’s cosmetics for all the girls her first day on the job.

I elaborated, “The weekend before he went on the run, Henry had accidentally left one of his three sample cases in the house. I had put it away safely in my office. The cosmetics were so fine I didn’t want any pilfering or I would have ended up strapping my whole damn stable and putting the house out of commission for two solid weeks. Then in all the confusion of his capture, escape, and death it got shoved to one side in my mind and one side of the credenza behind my desk. Even your Goons didn’t give it any attention which, in hindsight, they most certainly should of in the house search. When young Lady Chief was interviewing me after Henry’s death it was sitting to the right and behind me. I saw her glance over there several times and remembered it was Henry’s. I thought about showing it to her, but it occurred to me that things might become too complicated if I volunteered it.”


Lady Chief snorted, “Too complicated! I’ll say! If you’d mentioned it, I’d have cuffed you up, hauled both it and you to the Sec/Spy lockup, and given you a REAL interrogation complete with videotaped footage from the Black Widow. There would have been nothing but your own word about how it got there and I’d have thrown every threat from ‘receiving stolen goods’ to Judicial Cane worthy security violations about ‘espionage property’ at you to see if I could make you tell it any different. You got very lucky on that one, lady!”

“Luck? Lady Chief…wellll maybe ‘better judgment’ would be more accurate.”

Sally was losing it, “B-but, cosmetics that old, would there be anything left that’s kept the right consistency?”

I answered, “At the time they were some of the finest and best made cosmetics in the world. They’re still good. I use them a little when I want to remember what a gentleman Henry really was. I’d love to share some of that if we three kings do embark on this journey together.”

The dinner and the wheat beer relaxed us and we made a point of ordering extra coffee along with our aperitifs so we didn’t just nod off. I ordered my 50 year old “church key” Cognac again, Lady Chief her Apple Brandy, and Sally showed her adventuresome mettle by not only ordering my Brandy, but even trying to pronounce the French all by herself! Grown up, indeed. Matured by an afternoon of stark terror, actually, sitting alone 45 minutes in a hotel bar not sure whether she would ever see either of her two Aunts again! In my mind, I even forgave the Margharita she’d ordered and let that little fact slide into oblivion. Of course it would have been much worse if she’d looked into my clutch bag. I had told her not to bring it up to Lady Chief and she was stepping carefully trying to do a good job not doing that.

“It will be considerably more robust than your last night’s drink, peaches. Take small sips very slowly, holding the opening of the glass below your nose.” It took her perhaps about 5 sips before her small smile of last night returned.

I took charge, “So, lessons, young lady: you not only need to be tough, you need to think fast and clearly in times of crisis. Lady Chief just outlined a textbook version of how you do it before we came to dinner. You start with a fundamental principle, spies are controlled by in-house correspondence with names, search names and you get a clear picture of what is being said TO field agents, being said ABOUT field agents, and said BY field agents.

“From there she and I both formed the hypothesis that my analysis was the trigger for this disaster, and that analysis was seen by Peter alone. Hence ‘too pat’. What happens then, when you input names of agents killed or rolled up by Fem/Dom? You get correspondence from Peter, telling all agents XYZ to snoop around the Gravesend Building. Why is this a problem? Fourteen separate agents were told to do this–unbelievable overkill for the project and leads pretty clearly to the conclusion that GLICIS wasn’t keeping tabs on Mossad, Mossad was keeping tabs on GLCIS by having them stop by for lunch at the Food Court every so often!

“Moreover, the correspondence mentioning the two agents still in place has no presence of either Peter or the Gravesend Building in what is almost no correspondence at all about or from them. This probably means that Peter and Mossad still don’t know about them. Otherwise they’d be dead, too. Where does this lead? To Peter as a Mossad mole, planning with them to destroy all of GLCIS’ Zone assets at once to knock Lady Chief off her perch and put GLCIS totally under Mossad’s control. BUT two things happened and, I’ll bet two things didn’t. The first thing that didn’t happen is that Peter hadn’t yet approached the President’s Chief of Staff to slowly undermine his boss. Correct, Lady Chief?”

“Correct, and CoS was totally put off by Peter’s obvious venality.”

I went on, “Second, Peter couldn’t be sure that he had identified all of GLCIS’ assets in the Zone. In fact, the “source unknown” photograph from Fem/Dom headquarters probably telegraphed to him that there WAS at least a Fem/Dom source that he didn’t know about. But up until last night, that wasn’t troubling him. Why? Because he was certain that this new mission of the Deep Cover Madam could be used to turn over, sooner or later, how many other assets there were by steadily linking everything to Operation Condom, and give him time to start poisoning Lady Chief’s well with the President’s Chief of Staff. My guess would be that he has already been pestering you about the need for ‘liaison’ with the CoS about the Deep Cover Madam, for which he would eventually volunteer. Also about the need to ‘coordinate’ the Madam operation with the other GLCIS assets. Correct?”

Lady Chief in clear mode, “On the money on both counts, Elizabeth! Tradecraft or not, somehow, some way, I have GOT to get you on the payroll! I haven’t heard cogent analysis like this since Ian used to do it at our staff meetings. NOBODY under me has shown me anything like this. And, of course, your critique of it blew things wide open. Peter isn’t much of a gambler, so I suspect he merely informed Mossad and Mossad simply decided to do the killing now. They’re self starters about killing and they must have thought that they could leave enough GLCIS bodies behind to force me out. They were almost right. And I’m beginning to wonder if Peter has been undermining me with my own senior staff. Let me take a Dictapad break.” She left for the Library alcove again.

Sally looked at me with grave concern, “But this must mean that Mossad must know about you and I.”

It gave me a shiver. “You’re on the case girl. Of course they do. And if this had happened 2-3 years from now, we’d both be dead, and maybe all my girls, too. Given the way brothels work, they could possibly kill one of us on the street, but not both. They would have to kill both of us at once in the house, where the girls would see it.”

Sally went white, “Oh My God!”

“Now we have to look at how to respond to that. I have some ideas. The first is to take you with me to Toronto when I leave. I already have the tickets for us leaving from O’Hare not Midway, paid in cash and with the names blank and the departure time changeable. My old ticket, sent to me with Peter’s signature is still active, so I’ll be looked for there at the end of the week. Under those conditions, if we make Toronto, we probably have at least 48 hours before we are found. There’s a lot I can do at that time to bring you in as a GLC whore. My house isn’t a safehouse, but, of all places, It is probably the safest for us both.”

I looked around. “And now that we’re sure of it, I need you to take a look in my clutch when we both go to the restroom. In it I’ll show you why I want you to stay next to me like glue from this moment on. Don’t speak a single word in the Ladies Room. Not one.”

Lady Chief returned. “I just sent my IT chums deviling after Peter + each of my own senior staff. He might just be careless enough to have put something on paper. He certainly left a big enough trail to the Gravesend Building. If so, I can send him on leave for insubordination, cut his access to GLCIS, and keep GLCCA surveilance on his tail in GLC.

“I can also prepare to fire him for cause or to order security to bring him to interrogation if we turn up more concrete evidence of a link to Mossad. I’ve also scheduled prior solo appointments with each member of my staff, just in case Peter has been sloppy on paper. I haven’t used my interrogation chops in a while, so maybe I’ll get the chance.”

I said, “Sally is getting it. She just told ME that Mossad knows about us. Which means our original plan for a deep cover Madam is shot to hell and I’m massively at risk when I return to the Lane. But I DO have to go back and I do still need a candidate for Madam. Sally is also blown, at least under her current in-training workname. I have an idea of how to get around that. But what do you think?”

“You’re correct on all counts once again, Elizabeth. You and Sally are giving me the biggest heartache and headache in this. I don’t want to have to identify your dead bodies. I could put you in a safehouse here…”

Without a pause, “One you’re sure that Mossad doesn’t know about? I don’t think so. We have to pretend that we’re still on our vacation, except for you, in the daytime.” Mossad knows about us, but Mossad doesn’t know what we know. With me returning to the Zone, I don’t think they’ll try a hit on me here, but you never can tell.

“We both need body armor vests. We also need a baby sitter from GLCCA to follow us in Chicago and watch our backs. And we need stunt doubles, armed and also in body armor vests. Sally will need a whole new workname, legend, and passport, and we need to arrange a shenanigan in the GLCIS training program. But first, I need to arrange my bladder.”

“So do I,” Sally said.

While we were walking toward the ladies room, I whispered, “Look in it when we wash together.” As I went through the door, I opened my bag with one hand and “come hithered ” into a stall, Sally followed into the next stall. I peed, came out, and sat on the bench to wait for Sally.

She emerged and the two of us together went to the sinks, with me to Sally’s left and my open clutch between us. I watched her face in the mirror. She was learning to control her reactions. After she glanced down and saw the gun, she looked up with merely an expression that looked like a stuffed duck. We dried our hands, I closed the clutch, and as we walked through the “whoosh” of the door, I whispered, “Courtesy of my good friend Charley and his 6 orgasms.”

Elizabeth’s plan

Lady Chief looked worried, troubled, and despairing. If Sally was blown, she could NOT go back to either regular or deep training. Since I was blown, sooner or later I was walking into a bullet. “So what’s this great plan you have, Elizabeth.”

“First, when we leave the club late and in the dark tomorrow or the next day or the day after, depending on when we’re ready with everything else, you will leave with the GLCCA doubles and return to the Ritz. Afterward WE will go to the apartment of a good friend of mine. Our luggage will still be at the Ritz and our doubles can choose from among our clothes. My ticket to Montpellier will also be there.

“The doubles will do our last vacation day, and Double Sally will see Double Me to the airport. The only place I’ll be definitely located on Peter’s itinerary will be at my Midway flight to Montpellier. If any shit is going down that is the likely place. GLCCA can add some armed huskies at the Airport, arrange for the Doubles to go through armed as well as those following the Doubles, and some extra can even be on the plane. If there is no problem, when they reach Montpellier they can turn around and come back to O’Hare, not Midway.

“Sally and I will be flying to Toronto out of O’Hare: we probably have about 48 clear hours for me to make phone calls and try to get Sally in on a “whore visa” and then we’ll take surface transportation to the Zone border. She’ll also have the option then to apply for Female citizenship, if we don’t have a “whore visa”, or she wants to on her own. Ex/Pat and Cus/Pas will take it from there.”

I gave her a reassuring tidbit. “You will, potentially, have a long term deep cover once she jumps through the citizenship hoops. Then you can bring her back for deep training. If we do have a whore visa and she comes with me, I will install both of us in Elizabeth’s Secret as Madam and whore and begin her training in the brothel, then as an unofficial Madam until she can go back to deep training. When she returns, I will see her installed as the new Madam of the house and start my retirement.

“She will need a totally new name, legend, and passport when she flies out of Chicago, and under that name and legend she will become citizen or whore. Don’t retire the old name and legend until you do the following: inform the regular trainers that she is bound for deep training and don’t say anything to the deep trainers about her at all. Make the old name an “eyes only” file with the real story so she can reconnect with you in a couple of years. Does that sound sensible?”

“Ok, Elizabeth, but know this, I will have a workname, legend, and new safehouse to run waiting for you when you retire, and if you dig in your heels over there in the Zone, I will personally come and drag you across the damn borderline and put you there. Clear?”

“Yes, Lady Chief,” I said.

Lady Chief was up early and so was I. I knew Sally would need at least a couple of hours more sleep after the roller coaster of spy stress yesterday: all the way from learning that her chances of surviving deep cover were 1 in 3, to learning that her agency was being murdered out from under her, to being left alone in a bar having no notion of what to do if no one came back, to figuring out that Peter had already blown our cover to Mossad, finally to discovering that one of her favorite aunts had turned into a Pistol Packing Mama!

Welcome to the exciting world of espionage, dear! Just keep your adrenals topped up and ready to kick in instantly.

Once up, breakfasted, dressed, and sitting with a second cup of coffee, I handed her a package, she opened it, and there was a Kevlar vest of her size. “They were delivered early this morning. I’m wearing mine. Put yours on under your blouse. They will stop most any pistol bullet targeted for your torso. It’s important to look at yourself in the mirror and smooth your silhouette, so you don’t telegraph that you’re wearing a vest and cause some Nimrod to take aim at your head first. A vest won’t stop rifle rounds, so we’ll just have to take our chances with that.”

When she returned the vest wasn’t printing. I asked her, “Can you see any trace of mine?”

“No, Elizabeth.”

“Good. Have you had any pistol training?” I took both the revolver and loader from my clutch.

“Yes, but not with one like yours. Not revolvers.”

“I bought one so that, if need be, I can shoot from inside my clutch without the gun showing. You can’t do that safely and reliably with automatics. Revolvers load and unload differently and carry far fewer bullets. This is a spring loader for this gun. You can see it only holds five shots. Let me show you how to load and unload. Come sit with me on the bed.”

I popped the cylinder, turned the gun barrel up and tapped the axle with my palm. Five bullets dropped on the bedspread. Then I pointed the barrel down, slipped the bullets held by the loader into the cylinder and then turned the knob on the loader’s rear. The new shells dropped into place and I closed the gun and put it on the bedspread I then picked the shells up from the bedspread and worked them back into the loader. “Now you try it.”

It took her about five tries to get a smooth and seamless full reload. Then I said to her, “Empty the gun. Now hold it as you’ve been trained to shoot pistols.” She had difficulty getting both hands settled. “The gunbutt is a different shape than you’re used to. Hold out gun and hands in front of me.” I shifted her hands into a solid, two handed, revolver grip. I had her put the gun down on the bed, then had her repeatedly pick it up and grip it. Once again it took about five tries to get one clean, smooth,and firmly held grip.

“Pop the cylinder to check that it’s empty. It’s a little clumsier than clearing an automatic. Close the cylinder, put the gun back down on the bed, pick it up with a two handed grip, aim at the closet and put your finger on the trigger….

“That’s right, hold the finger beside the trigger as you bring the gun up, and don’t put it on the trigger until the gun is pointed correctly, and ready to shoot. You’ve been taught well. This gun will have a very stiff trigger, so you have to hold it solidly and pull the trigger forcefully. Dry fire at the closet now.

I prompted, “Pull the next one with a little more force and try to hold the barrel steady. They don’t point as naturally as an automatic so you have to pay a little more attention. Now, pull harder. Good. That’s a lot steadier. Repeat picking the gun up and dry firing at the closet.” This time it only took her three tries to get a smooth sequence.

“Now put the gun down, reload it, refill the loader, and hand both back to me. Good, they already taught you where to point the barrel. Beyond this you’ll have to rely on the muscle memory from your prior training.

I added, “When we’re walking stay just a little behind me to my right. If you see my hand drop into the clutch bag, move to the left and directly behind me. Stand up and try this now. Once again. And once more.” All three of her shifts were clean. “Always watch for my hand. I may not have time to speak if we run into trouble. Any questions?”

“How did you learn all this, Elizabeth?”

“In this country, my profession is a crime and I am a criminal. As such, I’ve had to learn where to obtain a gun illegally, and my own Chicago madam taught me these things to fend off aggressive pimps. I’ve had to fire, as they say, “in anger” only once.

“But you must now keep in mind that you are with a criminal who has just committed a major crime–possessing an unregistered gun. That’s why I told you not to tell Lady Chief. I want the opportunity to shoot back if I have to. Criminals do. And even Lady Chief doesn’t fully understand that I walk like one kind of known Chicago criminal, a whore. Even at my age. And even a mildly attentive cop will know it and probably peg me as a Madam as well.

“So why do I take this risk? Because we are truly in danger, and a trip to jail, bad as it is, is still more fun than a trip to the morgue. Any other questions?” She shook her head.

I continued, “If we are stopped and I’m shaken down, you are just as surprised as the police officer is that I’m carrying heat in my handbag. Don’t tell it any other way no matter what happens. It’s almost 9 and we have to be standing in front of the building at exactly 9.”

Downstairs, we waited and I kept my eyes strictly on the street. “We will have a GLCCA baby sitter. They have badges. They will drive a distinct car, one they wouldn’t use for shadowing. It will pass by us and the person in the passenger seat will flash a badge. Wherever we go, we will know where it is. Here it comes and…oh, good grief!…it’s light acid green! There’s the badge. It’s two women. Very slick. They don’t look like cops and any problem maker will underestimate them.”

I turned to itinerary, “Today our destination is the Art Institute. They have the best small collection on this side of the world of important late 19th and 20th Century paintings. You’ll recognize many old friends from your undergraduate Art History classes. When we’re tired, we can sit in the coffee shop and you can bend my ear a little about how you feel.”

Once in the taxi, our babysitters pulled right in behind us. This was a great help. I wouldn’t need to be rubbernecking for tails and making the cabbie suspicious. They would do that. And since GLCCA are actually a non-uniformed national police with arrest powers and concealed weapons (GLCIS isn’t a police force and neither agents nor bureaucrats are supposed to carry arms, except for the Truth Team killer) if there is trouble with a persistent tail, or anything else, they can pop out their portable red light and put on their siren, stop the taxi, and put us into their vehicle.

There was no trouble and we entered the museum of the Art Institute. Turning a corner, Sally ran smack into the first piece that left her stunned.

“Oh my God! It’s the Cezanne split plate still life!” She stood transfixed for a full two minutes or more. And came off of it looking like she had seen a vision. The rest of the morning until about 1 pm, all I heard were her hoarse loud whispers, “Oh my god, it’s this painting!….oh my god it’s that painting!….there’s a Corot I’ve never seen!” At 1pm she was like a wrung out dishrag from the over stimulation. We went to the coffee shop.

I opened, “You were starting to tell me what you thought of us. Why don’t you continue.”

Sally responded, “Well, mainly, the both you of scare the life out of me, with all your talk of killing and being killed. And of being beaten. In my classes these things were mentioned, and even the story of Henry Peterson was told to us. He must have been amazing, thinking up that tradecraft escape that baffled everybody. And when they told us that he died from a broken neck by the woman who fell in love with him, even though he knew that she was an espionage serial killer, it made my skin crawl a little. And to meet someone who knew her professionally, and knew she was that killer…!

She went on, “But our instructor was a medium cover agent who, by luck, got an assignment in Pacifica to build a local agent network with money. He was blown and his network was rolled up, but he got out with an extra change of names and passports, a bald cut of his hair, wearing sunglasses, and shaving his mustache.

“He also wore a gaudy banded straw brimmed hat when he bought the ticket, teased the ticket seller so she’d remember him and then immediately ditched the hat in the first available restroom trash can, and went through the airport security hatless and without wearing the sunglasses.

“He then made sure to sit far enough away from his departure door that he could watch the heavy crowds in that area over top of a face concealing magazine with the sunglasses back on. Once he was on the plane it was a non-stop directly to Chicago.

“How much this tradecraft would have held up if the Pacifica Security hadn’t been two hours behind him, he couldn’t say, and he told us so honestly.

“The most he was facing, if caught, was only a maximum 15 year prison term, nobody was chasing him to kill him, and he probably would have been traded for an equivalent GLC spy capture after a year or two.

Sally summed up, “Although he could tell us real things about real experiences, nothing he had to say was anything like these high stakes we’ve been playing for here, with people killed in their beds, treacherous spies in high places, and REAL, life transforming, cover demanding the toughest of minds for the rest of your life, whether you survive the deep cover or not.

“I’ve seen, up close and personal, that kind of toughness in both of you. It awes me, it frightens me, and it makes me feel like a five year old standing with two larger than life statues of Greek Goddesses. But I’m proud that the Chief chose me to do this, I do have a spy love affair with you both, and I think I’m far tougher now than I was a week ago, even though I’ve got a long way to go.

“You are, personally and professionally, good beyond hope as teachers and models for a spying career. And the strongest, clearest, most honest women I’ve ever met. I’m also proud that both of you trust me enough not to pee my pants at being told “your survival chances are one in three” or at being shown surreptitiously that you are walking around with a loaded gun.

“I’m terrified of the pain of having you beat me. The notion of “too sore to sit for two weeks” is at once too abstract and too frighteningly unknown. But now I trust you to “strap my butt off” in a way that will get me through the terrible pain, the first time and every other time it has to happen, like a first time parachute jump with the instructor tagging along. You won’t have to coddle me, I promise you. I’ll put all the courage I have into this, and I think, because of both of you, I’ve already discerned far more courage in me than I would have dreamed the day I gave up my name and left it behind.

The vigor of her tone slipped a little, “I don’t think I’m afraid of becoming a whore, but I’m edgy of my initial responses to “having sex with strangers for pay.” Will it deaden my capacity to enjoy sex or push sex for love out of my life for good? Will it contaminate and compromise my self-worth, or shame me if I ever see my parents again, or even if I see my fellow spies again who weren’t asked to walk down such a path? This all is the end of the paved road and the beginning of the unknown wilderness.”

I was so pleased! “Wonderful. You’ve started talking straight to yourself. Now keep it up. Lady Chief and I aren’t goddesses. In fact, we’re just like you right now. Life has forced us to talk plain and straight and tough. To ourselves and to each other. It’s never easy. It’s far easier to deceive yourself.

“As a madam, a whore, and a criminal, my actions are on a much shorter feedback loop than Lady Chief’s so my self-deception is rather like stepping on a tines-up garden rake in the grass. The reactions come clear and fast and hard. And you can easily break your nose, or worse. It teaches you to keep looking where you’re walking.

“The fandango of straight talk between the two of us two days ago, showed Lady Chief how much she’d been deceiving herself for what has really been quite a long time, being lulled to sleep by a man who’s smooth and persistent and indirect. ‘Oh, I see Chief, you’re probably right there, but let’s look at it from this angle, blah, blah, blah.’ He never talks straight until he’s ready to stab you in the back, and even then, he doesn’t talk straight to you, he talks straight to whoever you answer to. After he’s caused the shit to hit the fan.

“Now the question is, how long can she keep secret from him that he’s been blown to us. She has no smoking gun on him linking him to Mossad, until she has that it is even odds that if she puts him on leave or fires him, no amount of surveillance will keep him from being a danger.

I stressed this point, “He’s not just a bureaucrat, he’s a field agent–for Mossad. And if he’s flushed, he’ll exercise all his tradecraft from Mossad. I don’t think he is a killer, but he has contact with a whole spy agency full of killers and killing is clearly the default setting over there. They are willing to TRY to kill anybody if they have half a chance to do it, even Lady Chief herself. The riskiest part of what we are doing is when we leave the Agent’s Club in the night. All three of us are together and out in the open. And even with doubles, Lady Chief herself is still exposed.”

Then my Dictapad rang. It was Lady Chief.

“Where are you?”

“At the Art Institute Coffee Shop.”

“Come back to the Ritz as fast as you can.”

“Why? What’s up?”

“Somebody took a shot at me at my desk! It missed me by inches, I think because my building’s window glass is so old. And there’s even more important stuff to tell you once you get here.”

So we stepped lively out to the door. I saw the green car on the opposite side of the street but no taxis in sight. I waved at them to come to us 3 times. They had to go around the block to do so. They pulled up and the woman passenger pulled down the window.

“We have to get back to the Ritz, now! It’s an emergency and we can’t wait for taxis.”

“The door’s unlocked, jump in. Hello, I’m Violet and this is Sarah. We’ll get you there.”

I looked at the two small submachine pistols hooked to the middle of the dash, “That’s some arsenal you have there.”

Sarah chimed in, “We’re normally an arrest team, but our labeled jackets are off for the profile on this job. We back the regular teams up half a block away in case some perp gets loose. Today we’re supposed to look like we’re not cops. Our service pistols are in the smalls of our backs. We were given the only electrocar GLCCA has distinct enough to be absolutely sure you could see us. Our green paint job also doesn’t print “police”.

I was impressed, “Have you got any other tricks up your sleeve?”

Sarah again, driving intently, “Yeah. Sometimes we’re a pair of sisters on civilian electrocycles. It’s harder to carry the ordinance under our jackets–they have to dangle from our strong side armpits.” as she pointed at the submachine pistols, “But for a natural profile the cycles are even better. And our advantage as a team on cycles is that Violet here is left handed, which significantly expands our field of fire when together.

“You gonna babysit us tonight?”

“Yeah, we’re 15 on, 15 off.”

Traffic was low and they drove the usual 10 miles per hour faster than posted that the police do, so we were at the Ritz already. We went through the usual spin cycle up to the 13th floor.

Lady Chief was in my room with the door open. She looked a little shaken. Like somebody had shot a rifle at her and the bullet had missed by inches.

“So what are you going to do?” I asked.

“For the moment, I’m going to stay here, until we know who’s behind this shooter. My suspicion, of course is, Mossad trying to make things a little easier for Peter to replace me. It’s completely out of their handwriting, which may be part of why the bullet missed, an amateur marksman who is one of their normal killers.

“GLCCA is already looking for the location of where the shots came from. Maybe whoever fired it made another mistake. The bullet was jacketed, and when it came out of the wall, it wasn’t distorted at all. We have access to the GLC combined police files computer of microphotos of bullets from guns with either a criminal history or officially owned by an agency and can compare them.

“I have four of our security people here. One guarding each emergency stairs (which we can’t block for safety). One subbing for the AI on the elevator, with a list of who can come up. And one in the lobby keeping an eye on the outer strong room door. If a killer tries the elevator, he’ll be trapped.

“We don’t normally arm them but, now they are armed with small submachine guns under their sports jackets as well as sidearms. I’m also ordering secure communications equipment to be installed here permanently. It never occurred to any of us to use this as an in-house safehouse, but THAT is a good idea.”

I put my finger in the air to stop her speaking, “Just make sure that someone brings fast food from outside. You don’t want to encourage poisoning. If you add two more of them watching the bottoms of the emergency stairs, you can trap somebody, too.”

She replied, “I thought of that. But that would completely strip headquarters from any security. I can’t do that.”

I pushed a little, “Maybe you could replace some of them with the armed cops from GLCCA and pick up some stair watchers.”

“I DIDNT think of THAT and it’s right under my goddamn nose! I’m more rattled than I think I am…”

She wasn’t crying but the look on her face told me to hug her, which I did. She steadied up. I glanced to my right and Sally still was exactly where I told her to be, with a very mature look of concern on her face, instead of the panic of the past. She’ll be tough enough and smart enough, I thought.

“May I hug you too, Lady Chief?” Even better. She now is learning that, at least for the moment, she’s one of us and not just a juvenile employee. I noted that she picked up my nickname for her boss.

The hug concluded, I spoke up. “I’m sorry to interrupt again, but I thought of something that you might want to do ASAP. Has your Mossad refugee ever seen Peter in the flesh? If not, why don’t you show him Peter’s picture?”

She popped right back into crisp mode, “You’re right! Let me step away for a Dictapad call.” She went into the hall.

I said to Sally, “The rifle isn’t Mossad’s handwriting, but it sure could be Peter’s, coming as he does from GLICIS.”

“Yes, I thought of that, too. It’s very frightening.” She didn’t look all that frightened, particularly compared to how she started with us days ago.

“You’re getting up to speed, girl! Maybe I should teach you about firearms more often.” I smiled.

Her comeback was slow and serious, “No, it’s what you said about being a criminal, as well as all those wonderful paintings. Something happened to me, and I could feel it grow as we rode here in that awful green car. I’m going to be a GLC criminal, too. And as I looked at those paintings, I thought, These are the best there is, a wonderful collection. 

I’m a spy. That’s my job, no matter how dangerous, for me or others, even others I don’t know. And I should strive to be my best. My job wants me to become a whore and be taught how to be the best, a high class tart, by one of the women I’ve come to love, especially when she is being realistic and tough as nails. I know she is going to give me an absolutely flaming behind sooner or later, and to be my best I’ll have to try, during that horrible 20 minutes, and the painful days after, to remember that it was and is an act of love.’”

She looked me directly in the eye an with her chin lifted, “I’ll try to do that, Elizabeth, no matter what.” That was about to start ME crying, so my only way to conceal that was to give her a hug.

At that moment Lady Chief came back in with the largest of smiles. I guessed she had good news. “GLCCA will not only pinch hit for half of my security crew, down in the lobby, but also something even more important that that.

“The GPS data GLCCA collected shows that Peter spent 6 hours (!!!!) straight in the Gravesend building, and no time at all at Fem/Dom Headquarters or any of the crime scenes despite my asking him explicitly to do that. So I now can put him on leave, seize him for interrogation, and no matter how that comes out, I can fire him as a security risk! At the moment, he is back in his hotel room in Montpelier, too.”

Her expression shifted to another smile that we never had seen, a grim little smile that narrowed her eyes, “And maybe have something more done to him.” She held the feral expression a little longer, then morphed back into the Lady Chief we knew. “Maybe we should conclude the hug fest?”

At that moment Sally and I still had our arms around one another. She turned red and I could feel my blush rising. Then we let each other go and simultaneously broke into laughter.

I turned trying to suppress my laughter, “Yes, Lady Chief, we both think that’s a very good idea.”

She concluded, “I also made the call for the communications equipment, and had a photo of Peter deviled after for use at the safehouse. It’s getting late, so let’s shower and change.”

Our green meanie baby sitters were there, and parked pointed in the right direction, a little beyond where we were waiting for the taxi. That made sense. It was far more likely that any foolishness would be in front of us rather than behind us, making us drive into and through the ambush rather than speeding away from it. I could see Violet in the Shotgun seat with her ordinance up and eyes scanning everywhere. I had to suppress an impulse to open my clutch and put my hand on my revolver butt.

At the club we stopped and they stopped ahead of us, jumping out immediately with their submachine guns and standing by the door of the curbside of the taxi. The driver had his head down managing the fare for Lady Chief. When he looked up and saw the girls with guns it looked like he was about to shit his pants. One of the girls reached over the hood and flashed her badge at him. He immediately relaxed. This was familiar, this was routine, except for the fact that the fares got out willingly and weren’t immediately handcuffed. The femmecops escorted them to the door, waited until the fares got on the elevator, then went back to their own spectacularly ugly green electrocar and drove off, leaving the cabbie with a good story for supper time on Sunday.

I don’t really remember the food at our dinner. I’m sure it was excellent but I was too wired by the situation. I asked Lady Chief if she’d found anything smelly in Peter’s e-mail. But he had been too careful. It was always “the issues I’d mentioned last week.” Or “when we get together I’ll fill in the picture” and so on. But Lady Chief had the dates and recipients to take into the one-on-one meetings and her interrogation skills weren’t rusty in the least.

If she felt any resistance as she pressured with the dates, she asked if the subordinate had kept an entry in the logbook mandated by GLCIS policy. Then she’d ask them to retrieve it; she’d thumb through it; and then said she’d “retain it for further study” for “our next meeting”, which she hadn’t mentioned before, and observe the reaction. With that little ruse, it was easy to tell the ones that Peter had convinced even if they wouldn’t come clean about what he was saying. There were about 3 of them. 

The open ones told tales of Peter asking if the recipient saw any “health issues” with the Chief, or openly asking if there was any thing that they were dissatisfied with at GLCIS or with the Chief. Since both Peter and the chief outranked all the others, the less said by the staff member to either of them the better to avoid getting in between the two. Or at least most felt that way. Which is why the meetings started being so flat and uneventful. As well as being more and more dominated by Peter.

If she saw that openness about what Peter had asked or told them, she gave an abbreviated briefing of the problem and told them at the end that there was strong enough evidence that Peter was a Mossad mole for her to order his interrogation when he returned. 

She also said that the less said by the water cooler the better. And she said it with a certain smile they all knew that meant “don’t cut your own throat”. That smile she had acquired after her Sec/Spy days, by remembering the few times Micha Haaretz had buttonholed her on the side about some issue in that agency.

In the group meeting, she expanded that briefing but not by that much. She mentioned the suspicion in his handling of the agents who had been killed and casually said that they would see a great many e-mails restricted to the Chief’s eyes only as evidence in the investigation, including, undoubtedly, some that they had written but the system would no longer let them see. And watched the three who resisted her trying to keep from peeing their pants, and that everybody else was at least a little nervous, wanting to get back to their own log books to see if everything in them was kosher.

She repeated to everybody the remark about the water cooler. With the same smile.

After being told all that, I thankedh my lucky stars that, when I first met her, I hadn’t mentioned a thing about Henry Peterson’s cosmetic box on my credenza. I couldn’t be sure, but I suspected that the little episode where her face turned feral thinking about what else might be done to Peter was the smile she learned from Micha.

His Best Armagnac

When we withdrew to the Library, Sally had another surprise for us both. Lady Chief and I ordered our preferred tipples, and then Sally asked the Wine Steward to bring her his best Armanac and the bottle for her to look at! Both Lady Chief and I sat up and took notice.

I spoke first, “What HAVE you been doing and where did THAT come from, girl!?”

Sally then said, “I’ve actually read a lot from curiosity about different wines and liqueurs. But I’ve never considered them as something I’d ever drink. Even among fellow students here, a macho taste for Single Malt Scotch is about as exotic as they get. I did try it, but it’s not quite for me. So I defaulted back to my bar choices from back home with the girls, like Margharitas for the salt, and other sweet cocktails for the sugar. And next time, Elizabeth, I WILL order a vodka martini, too, and you’ll need to get used to my being able to read your face far more easily than a few days ago.”

I could feel myself blushing. As a madam she’ll do just fine.

“But you’ve been quizzing me about changes in my attitude, and just now having heard that Lady Chief has literally dodged a bullet, and maybe I won’t even get a chance to dodge the next one, it occurred to me that I’ve been dining at this wonderful club being too shy to take advantage of it. It’s time that I start finding out what I will like. I’m pretty sure that if I don’t start here, the biggest such opportunity I’ve ever had, with my two new, and now only, friends, five years from now I’ll want to kick myself for it.”

At this point the wine steward returned with Sally’s drink and the bottle, left them, and left himself with that smooth and secret withdrawal that you only see from the best of those “in service”. Sally sipped her drink, smiled, took a larger sip, then put it down. “Less robust than your’s Elizabeth, with milder aroma, and very, very smooth on the tongue and palate compared to either of yours.” Then, she took a quick glance at the label and pulled out a ballpoint pen to write on her palm.

“And, for once, I want to be straight with both of you. I said ‘only friends’ because I know perfectly well that whether it’s where I grew up or where I once did a little training and now can’t go back, except for you two, right now, I’m utterly alone. I’m headed to a foreign “posting” even if it’s an irregular one I’ve not yet been trained for. My old friends have been given a fairy tale about where I am and what I’m doing; I’ve vanished, like the spook I will be, from my fellow students of last week; and I won’t have a final security blanket of another set to replace them in a deep cover class. My parents, who I won’t see again and maybe forever, will soon have no more than two halves of a postcard, and if I die tomorrow, they will never know my grave, even if it happens to be in GLC, because it’s too insecure for them to know it, at least for a very long time. All that will remain is my workname in a file and a medal in a box on the mantelpiece of my childhood home. That, and your memories of me.

“When I’ve not been there, you’ve been celebrating together my rapid growing up. You may not have known, but I’ve known from our first day together that you have been doing that. You also may not have known that I came to you just a skosch more grown up than I’ve been letting on. Or maybe you do know that, but if you didn’t, you do now. There’s nothing for me left to hide from you: you are my only friends and I’ve come to love you unreservedly. And from now forward, I’ll have no real friends, except for the both of you. I will never get to write you a love letter about it, so now is my only time to get it all said, friend to friend, lover to lover.”

Dead silence even from me.

Then the tears came for both Lady Chief and I, and it was Sally’s turn to stand up and do the hugging.

The next day was an early, early day for Lady Chief and I, with more French Go Juice and her Dictapad already ringing. The technicians installing the duplicate secure communications were early birds, too. First, GLCCA had found the snipers nest on top of a building a block south of Randolph and Third. More worryingly, the spent cartridge had been found there and both cartridge and bullet traced to a Remington bolt action rifle in the GLCIS stores. When checked, the rifle was missing as well as it’s Sniperscope.

The last signout was fully one month before and the workname signature of the assassin that normally used the rifle had been badly forged. That assassin, “Bob”, denied knowing anything about it and, unusually for one of the killers, became very annoyed that someone had taken “his” favorite weapon in the small arsenal (less than 25 guns) held by GLCIS. The interrogators worked on him but, after a polygraph test were satisfied he wasn’t the thief.

The date of the signature was immediately before one of Peter’s trips and Peter did have late night key access to the Arsenal. Since Peter was still in the Zone, as confirmed by briefcase GPS, one day longer than expected, the inference would be that, the month before, he had passed the rifle on to a Mossad contact in GLC just before his earlier trip. But this inference was shaky enough that Lady Chief decided to stay in the hotel a couple more days. Sally and I, however, had to keep up the profile of our careless and easy vacation. Besides, today was my appointment at the tailors’. Lady Chief would just have to do bespoke on her own.

While Sally and I were showering and dressing, the most important call came. GLCCA had been having trouble finding stunt doubles that matched our age, height, weight, build, and hair color. They’d found one women agent and one woman supervisor in Cleveland that would do, with a red/auburn rinse on “Sally’s” natural blond. We’d meet them at the club tonight.

Then came two pieces of very disturbing news just before we were ready to leave. One of the Truth Teams was gone. Summoned by a secure and cleared request from Peter to meet them on the GLC side of the Kingston, GLC/Zone bridge over the Hudson, only 30 miles north of the now eternally uninhabited Biohazard Zone. The supervisor of the thugs and assassins hadn’t been at Lady Chief’s meeting because he wasn’t that level of management. He saw no reason not to comply, even though the request was on very short notice and unplanned. In addition, Peter’s GPS had finally gone silent on the Zone side of the Hudson.

After a check of the weapons store, it appeared that the team had taken two military belt knives; a .22 target automatic with a stubby, threaded barrel; a silencer to thread onto it; a behind the back holster; two extra magazines; and 100 rounds of .22 rimfire ammunition. Lady Chief told us that this was the standard load out for a face-to-face hit: the killer carried the gun and the two thugs each carried a fighting knife to back him up.

As a final note, by searching the area near the sniper’s location, GLCCA had discovered the rifle in a nearby dumpster, so, after we left, Lady Chief decided to return to Randolph Street and put the bureaucratic wheels in motion for GLCCA to apprehend Peter and the Truth Team members and put the GLCIS interrogators on notice to be ready for them.

Apparently, Lady Chief’s staff had kept silent about Peter. If I had had that request from her, with that same feral smile, I’d have, too. Once, back in Cicero, I’d serviced one of “The Outfit”. My madam paid the Chicago organized crime hoodlums for protection and bribe giving in Cicero, so his was on the house, and he didn’t tip. I’d never been so “up close and personal” with anyone more frightening in my life. So much so that I still remember every detail of the entertainment. He was a fan of rear entry and sincopating knee bends. That feral look of Lady Chief’s was almost as scary and was also almost hypnotizing. This helped me understand Henry’s courage at instantly falling in love with Micha, his black widow spider. I sometimes wonder today if Henry’s sentence had been commuted, and they both became long term lovers, whether she would have killed him in the end, anyway. From one Black Widow to another, more merciful, one.

As we sat with our second cup of coffee and Lady Chief’s fourth, I turned over the matter in my mind, “Mossad and Peter must have come to the conclusion that he’s blown to us, and the rifle shot at Lady Chief was a last attempt to save the plan for Mossad to take over GLICIS. Since no exterior commotion occurred whatever, such as an EMS, following the shot, Mossad must know it didn’t succeed. I can’t see Peter summoning his own Truth Team unless that was part of a larger plan to cut off our escape. This would imply that one Mossad team must be at the Montpellier Airport and Peter with the Truth Team are backing them up. At this point their objective must be to keep us away from Fem/Dom at all costs, no matter how much china gets broken.

I followed up, “If they don’t, and Fem/Dom rolls us up, they will almost certainly get permission to run Mossad out of town for their wholesale Zone killing spree. Even the densest of the Matriarchs would understand that they can’t have a foreign intelligence agency killing any number of whomever they please in the Zone. And it might get so out of hand that all newly made Israeli Matriarchals will be deported and their door to Zone citizenship slammed shut for good.

And I added, “Though they wouldn’t have attacked any member of GLCIS, there is no reason for the Truth Team not to obey Peter and kill Sally and I. Peter is covering exactly the alternative I had been planning, a ground entry into the Zone which probably is the Kingston Bridge rather than the Albany one, if the bus is coming from Chicago, or any other city on the south side of Lake Michigan or Lake Erie. Mossad’s headquarters is up and running, right?”

Lady Chief, “Yes, Elizabeth, as far as we know.”

“So they could also have a team on the Zone side of the Albany crossing without breaking the bank?”


“And we know that at least one Mossad killer is probably still running around loose in Chicago, so they still may try a hit at Midway on our doubles. Peter and the Truth Team would then be covering the least likely entry and they would have only the one gun while any of the Mossad teams will be far more well armed.”

“I see no problems with that, Elizabeth, Mossad is pedantically addicted to overkill when trying to find a victim without a known location. So all that makes good sense. And we need to keep up the preparations at Midway,” Lady Chief, crisp as a Matriarcal Zone first yearly frost in late December.

I added, “Yes, and under the circumstances GLCCA should be put on notice to be ready for a REAL firefight if something pops there, including having a plan of how to deal with the press if things get out of hand.”

I continued, “The weakest link in their net will be Kingston on the ground, so I should still proceed as planned. We can’t do too much about the Zone/Albany side of the bridge, so we should send a GLCCA team to Kingston two days from now, no earlier, to have them find and apprehend Peter and Company, if they can.”

Sally, with her new game face on, put in, “What about O’Hare and Toronto? Do we need babysitting there?”

I said to Sally, “We will leave tomorrow, when or after Lady Chief and the doubles go on their last excursion.” I handed Lady Chief a paper with my old friend’s address on it. “Try to get Violet and Sarah, our last night’s baby sitters, to follow our taxi from this address to O’Hare and keep us company while we wait for our flight. It’s nearly 9, so we need to pick up our new GLCCA team. We’ll see you this evening, Lady Chief.”

On the curb in front of the Ritz, a far more discreet but still vivid blue electrocar drove by us with another badge flash and a pair of large men in awful red and chocolate rayon Hawaiian shirts! I prayed sincerely that they weren’t wearing shorts. My appointment at Zoltan’s was at 10, so we headed there first. Traffic was light, and we were early, so we sat on a public bench, baby sitters in sight, surrounded by pigeons, with a cool late August wind whipping in from the Northeast over Lake Michigan. That meant a Low pressure circulation somewhere in Upper Wisconsin, near Green Bay, and a few rocky and choppy days ahead on Lake Superior. “I miss this a lot.”

Sally looked startled, “You must be kidding. That wind is freezing out here.”

“Yes, but when I was your age, a seasoned whore, and still found life an unexpected adventure, albeit a criminal one (I’d just finished my first jail stint under a far different name), even a chilly August wind was sweet and free. I don’t miss the cold, I don’t miss the horrible city I had to streetwalk in before I found a good house to work for and a well connected Madam to get me another name. I miss being young, just like any old woman. A false temporary driver’s license could always be had for lots of money here, and she told me it was a gift from her and now I had to cut the mustard in the bedroom. After a driver’s test, accompanied by my Madam, I had a real license and turned that into a real passport of a Chicago born girl. I’ve never looked back.”

I noticed, half a block from Zoltan’s, a pizza parlor with all the markers of good and neighborhood on it. I filed it away.

Sally said, “We settled O’Hare, but what about Toronto?”

I elaborated, “We could fly anywhere from Milwaukee to Rochester and still do this. Peter won’t be in any place to find out which even if he eludes capture, and Mossad will have to start over to locate which city we went to, so we should have at least 48 hours before they do and, after that, if we have to stay, I’ve another old friend I think would hide us. Just the first of about 2 dozen phone calls I’ll have to make. It’s almost 10, so let’s go look at fabric.”

The receptionist greeted us cheerily and asked about “our other friend”. I said, “She couldn’t come to make an appointment today. She’s been having some issues with her staff.” I didn’t exactly see or hear anything, but I’m perfectly sure Sally, a step behind me and to my right, was having a horrible time keeping a straight face.

“She’s so elegant! I’m sure Zoltan would LOVE to dress her!”

Zoltan himself stepped into the waiting area, “Come in Elizabeth! It’s so nice to see you again! And bring in your young friend, I’m sure she’s eager to see.” He is a very florid Hungarian with the genuine old world manners that are parodied in Dracula movies. Small, like Henry Peterson, with wire glasses, a bald pate with a natural grey tonsure around it, and the precise fingers all good tailors have. He took the tape from around his shoulders and began the tailor’s measuring drill. At the end of it he reported that everything was the same except my hips were 1/2 inch wider. To look at him, as he told me this, you would have thought he was the mortician for my best friend who also had killed my friend accidentally!

“Age, Zoltan, age!”

“Unfortunately so, Elizabeth! And this young lady, you are taking her under your wing, no? Yes, you are, and she needs business clothes just like yourself. Now Elizabeth, we’ve been friends a long time and you have never brought a young lady here. She must be someone special to you. So I will measure and tailor her a suit for free with your choice of fabric.” He turned to Sally, “Step over here, my dear.”

This time Zoltan worked far more slowly, making each measurement twice and writing the result down carefully in pencil in a little leather covered notebook. Once or twice he took a third measurement after writing it down, just to be sure. Any woman would recognize those locations. They are the places where off-the-rack clothes, no matter how expensive, never quite fit you, no matter what your body type, because one side of your body measures ever so slightly different than the opposite side.

I’m perfectly sure Zoltan knows what my profession is, because after all these years of making business wear for myself and the girls of my house, he has never made a single remark about it one way or another. Like Henry, I suspect his own needs have been met for years by high class outcalls, or the very cozy and discreet top drawer houses in Cicero. When you’re a Madam you learn to recognize the good manners of Gentleman John and he the courteous welcome of Lady Madam. So he knew Sally was to be my trainee.

The measuring done, he led us to his pattern books. “What do you think, Elizabeth? Some darted suppression in the jacket waist and a snug, but not tight, pencil skirt? Such as here (pointing), and here; perhaps even a light touch of padding in the shoulders, and twin cuts on the back of the jacket…Young lady, turn around and walk straight away from us! Thank you! Yes twin cuts as here (pointing again) closer to each other than the line of each hip?”

“Zoltan, after so many years you understand my needs perfectly. But since this is a first bespoke suit and she won’t quite know how to wear clothes that genuinely fit, keep the detailing plain so I will be able to see better to coach her.”

“Agreed, Elizabeth. And lighter above, darker below?”

“Yes, but only a very subtle difference. And let’s start with solid variations of Oxford Gray.”

“And does she have some pretty red shoes to wear with it?”

“She will, Zoltan, she will.”

Zoltan then turned us over to his niece Irma for the tour of the new bolts of fabric. Swatches are simply not large enough to give you a complete feel of the hand of the fabric, so I like to come every so often to play with bolts of the same swatches Zoltan sends me. I did a brief tour for Sally of types, colors, and country sources for the various fabrics. At a certain point she looked straight at me, “Is there anything you DON’T know Elizabeth?”

“Plenty, Sally, but everything I need to know I make sure I know well.”

By then it was 1 pm and we left Zoltan’s. Irma gave me two file cards with measurements, one for each of us, and told me, as usual, pin and chalk any alterations and mail the suit back. Then we went to the pizza parlor and ordered a small deep dish for eating then and a medium for take away. They still don’t do deep dish right anywhere but this city. I had root beer, Sally had cherry cola.

We walked out the door with the hot cardboard box and directly toward the bright blue car. Our babysitters gave us the widest of grins. “Sausage and procuitto ham with 3 cheeses, gentlemen. Courtesy of GLCIS. Enjoy!” l shoved it through the driver’s side window. We went back to the bench and only then did I call for an electrocab, our babysitters would have time to enjoy twenty minutes of so of fresh, hot deep dish.

Sally, on point, “Yes, Elizabeth, I got the message, I even got the part about waiting to call the cab.” Actually it was 30 minutes, so I headed us back to the Ritz and, since it was still only 3:30 we stopped in the Mezzanine Bar, ordered two Grey Goose martinis and relaxed a little. I stated, “I’ll have to step away again to do some more magic, but I won’t be gone nearly as long as last time.”

Around the corner was a small, neighborhood shipping center. I bought some bubble wrap and cellophane tape, borrowed a scissors, then went to the unisex restroom, locked the door, sat on the toilet, and called the Delta Soho Hotel in Toronto. After making reservations for two tomorrow for two days, I asked to reserve a box in the strong room to receive a valuable package for me when it arrived.

That finished, I flushed, washed, and dried. Then I folded down the baby changing station, took out the loaded revolver and it’s spring loader, wrapped and taped each in bubble wrap, put the items back in my clutch along with it’s chain, filled in around them with the remaining bubble wrap and taped the clutch shut.

Out in the open, I returned the scissors, asked the clerk to pack the clutch for shipment, and filled out an address form for my own name c/o Delta Soho Hotel. The clerk asked if I wanted to add a return address. I told him no, it didn’t exist any longer. He just nodded and dropped the finished package in the back.

The Dutchess of Kumquat

Sally’s glass was still half full when I returned and, wonder of wonders, mine was even still cold! I asked her if she liked it. She said it was quite nice. Better than a Margharita? She stuck her tongue out at me and said Yes. Then she looked at me narrowly and asked, “Where’s your clutch?”

I replied, “Aw, you noticed! Did we learn to do that in Spy School?”

“Lady, it’s been ‘comehithering’ at me all day while I’ve been following you.”

Now it was my turn to stick my tongue out, “That’s a cheeky and insubordinate way to talk to your Madam!”

“In for a penny, in for a pound. She’s going to beat my ass off anyway, so why not?”

Then she looked down at the table, “I’m scared, Elizabeth, I’m scared. I know we can’t take that gun on the plane tomorrow, but now not having it scares me just as much as your having it did when I first saw it.”

I said, “Honey, I’m scared, too. For all I’ve done, I’ve never been chased by professional killers before. We both need to cry on the shoulders of Lady Chief.”

“Now that we got a look at the killer in her, thinking about having Peter shot, she scares me as much as anyone. Only you don’t scare me.”

I didn’t have much to say to that. After flogging Jill whore and Jane madam, even I scared me.

Sally continued, still distressed, “I dreamed last night that I went into my bathroom, turned on the light and Lady Chief’s killer face was staring back at me from the mirror. I woke up in a cold sweat. I already have an answer to your question the other morning: No, you can’t be a decent human being when you’re a spy. But I’m already a spy!

“I’ve no body count yet, but if Lady Chief, our doubles, our babysitters, or you but not I are killed, that will be the first of my bodies to always carry with me. I don’t think she’s directly ordered that many killed, though I’m sure at least one, or she wouldn’t occasionally have that face, but she and you both made clear that my bodies will include all the ‘collateral damage’ of my spying. That frightens me almost as much as being given my own ‘moment of truth’ either by Mossad’s killers or by those of GLCIS.”

At that point our waitress said the bar had a call for Elizabeth. I went and picked it up. “Hello?”

“Will you two stop getting soused down there and come up to shower and change so we can eat!” Lady Chief, only 2/3 annoyed, but still annoyed. I settled up both tab and tip at the bar.

“We are being paged, peaches, and if we don’t wear our goodie two shoes and look sorry, we might get OUR butts beaten off!”

Lady Chief was buoyant, “Elizabeth, your suggestion to show the Mossad refugee Peter’s picture has hit the jackpot! He produced names and dates and content of the meetings. He said that Peter even had the recklessness to use his GLICIS workname! We checked and dated his expense records. He had the gall to have GLICIS both pay for the flights and his per diem! We now have no need to interrogate him whatever.” She looked up and away from us, then she said softly and slowly, “It’s just shame there’s a truth team involved…”

I shivered and, in my mind’s eye I saw Peter’s corpse on an autopsy table. She’s made her decision to have him killed, I thought, and maybe her own Truth Team, too. More bodies from the job to carry for the rest of her life. I looked at Sally. I could see she had realized the same thing, but both of us kept silent.

“Let’s clean up, ladies,” Lady Chief said, “You two and your Martinis have made us a little late.”

The routine with the Babysitters was the same, blue car in front, taxi behind. I warned Lady Chief about the Hawaiian shirts, but I could still see her give a little shudder. The guys though, were still happy as clams, and smiled at us as they passed our location then parked. They looked just like novelty salt and pepper shakers. They were probably both happily married men. Some men who are still look at and like well dressed women of any age with no self-consciousness, never even considering themselves anything but already spoken for.

At the entrance to the Club skyscraper, the hula twins were a little more discreet than Violet and Sarah. They were actually in long pants, tan chinos, with badges on belt fobs and service automatics casually but carefully on their belts. They just must have had the loud shirts for the “not police” profile, not understanding that both wearing the same style was also a signal of “police”. No submachine pistols, however. They held both doors for us and even came in with us until we were on the elevator.

Upstairs, our doubles were already there. We each evaluated the others. GLCCA seemed to be one of those services where the women were noticeably brighter than the men. GLCIS not so much. The latter is a far more satisfying place to work. And the women who work there look far more satisfied.

My double and I immediately had a little cop-and-Madam eye to eye with each other. My looks have aged reasonably well; I don’t dye my hair though I care for it and my skin, my weight has always been in control; and my tailoring is the best that Chicago has to offer. My double was more careworn and dissatisfied with life, a little too comfortable in a swivel chair with the hip expansion that brings, and did have a decent clothes eye to pick the best that a middle level salary and the department stores of Cleveland could do for her, but she was a skinflint about hair care and it showed: substance too dry and her self applied, out of the box, hair color too bulletproof.

And, of course, Lady Chief, at the pinnacle of professional achievement, never looked like anything less than the Dutchess of Kumquat, and even disheveled (we’d seen a lot of this over the past five days) still looked like a disheveled Dutchess of Kumquat. She wasn’t disheveled this evening.

Sally and Double Sally both had the under 30 freshness that shines in any simple clothing, but Sally understood that nobody really shines in bargain basement, “business attire” and had the sense never to wear any. Double Sally not so much.

Our guests clearly both thought they were tougher than I was, AND thought they were tougher than they were. Maybe they were right. Double Sally was more subdued (she was with The Boss, after all) but quite quickly picked up that, despite discrepancies in Seniority, Age, Experience, and Profession, the three of us were clearly a team. My double figured that out, too, but was not nearly so approving of it, or me.

Over dinner Lady Chief, with input from both of us, outlined the basic situation, a mole of Mossad’s in GLCIS. She told them that there was at least one Mossad killer in the city who had taken a rifle shot at Lady Chief already, that we’d found the rifle, and that there was probably a team of as many as five with silenced pistols and five extra magazines for each killer.

“Mossad assassin tradecraft is obsessively over engineered, and silenced 9mms with subsonic ammunition for close killing is their standard handwriting.”

At this point Double Sally had to be told the meaning of all that intelligence agency jargon. Double me had a frown that was almost a scowl. Like Lady Chief said, as a spy catching agency, GLCCA was not quite up to speed, though they were pretty good cops. They also clearly had a home brewed “know you place” culture, with the drawbacks of the Matriarchals minus their advantages.

Sally spoke and Double Me’s scowl deepened, “They know that their mole is blown and that our return to the Matriarchal Zone is highly likely to disrupt all they are doing over there. The Midway flight is the only specific place and time they have located for us, and they will be trying to kill you at all costs. Do you have your vests?” They nodded.

“And will you be armed?” I contributed. Desk workers above a certain rank were discouraged from carrying, so she hadn’t brought any guns, only Double Sally was armed. “Bad idea. It’s your choice, but I’m sure Lady Chief can have something brought to you from the GLICIS arsenal tomorrow morning, if you ask. Correct?”

“We at least can talk about how up to par your shooting skills are,” thus Lady Chief.

She resumed, “Mossad’s tactics favor using choke points. Such as doorways. In homes or apartments they often use ‘delivery man’ ruses. In an open area they will favor any hard door you must pass through, shooting on the outside for faster escape, or indoor choke points like the security pass through. They also like to shoot from concealment and bullet resistant cover whenever possible. Therefore the place of greatest danger for you is the Airport Building Entrance. There are lots of places for concealment and cover such as permanent concrete waste containers. I’ve advised your Chief that the best way to avoid a firefight is low profile concealment of your officers that identifies the killers before they have shown their guns and makes the bust then.

“Once their guns are out they will shoot and keep shooting. From behind cover, experience has shown that they have sufficient tactical training to escape apprehension by doing so, even against larger security forces. Basically, if they start shooting, you’ll have to kill them. Since they’re foreign intelligence assassins, this is a Major Security Danger and the legal rules of engagement are far less restrictive even than ordinary SWAT team apprehensions. Keep that in mind. Any questions?”

“Thank you very much for the briefing. I’m sure our officers are able to have things well in hand.” Double me, dismissively.

Lady Chief smiled, “Then let’s enjoy the main courses of our dinner.”

One thing my profession hasn’t given me is time to learn about the fancier foods, even though I enjoy them when I have them. I make sure my girls cook well. We have 16 in the House, of whom 4 are on call daily to service the Johns, so there are 6 day shifts of two cooks, two dishwashers who also do laundry, and two housekeepers each, plus a day off for every girl. A good deal of Sally’s training, both as whore and madam, will be large scale home economics.

But the girls cling to comfort food in a life that doesn’t have many comforts, so our standby is the old, old standard, Joy of Cooking, now almost 150 years old. I’ve not mentioned it, but a majority of the Madam’s time is taken up in marketing and meal planning rather than tanning backsides, and a majority of the girls’ time is cooking or cleaning. I insist on it. It makes everybody happier: girls, Johns, and Madam. Clear, strict, rules and home comforts are what keep both they and me out of the Punishment Room.

Lady Chief attempted to open some conversation about the dishes on the table. Sally and I both had many questions and ideas. Our guests were rather silent and morose, though they did seem to enjoy the meal. I think Double Sally would have been more participatory had she not been under the eye of The Boss. I also suspect there was very little straight talk in their shop. You can manage with that when little but promotion is on the line. In GLCIS, it’s lives on the line, as Peter might find out since Lady Chief decided that interrogating him would not be fruitful and Mossad will decide that he is no longer useful.

With coffee, Lady Chief spoke, “My team have confidential matters to discuss, so we’ll be adjourning to the Library. The Entertainment Room is to your left. Feel free to have the run of it. We’ll inform you when you need to leave with me.” She never used that word before about us, and I wondered if she wasn’t twisting the tail of Double me a little.

In our chairs with our coffee, Sally returned to the Calvados, “I don’t know if I’ll stick to this in the long run, but it’s the most to my taste right now.”

“That’s also a good part of being straight with yourself, learning from those who do know what you don’t know, then having confidence now in what you do know. I think it’s the same in tradecraft isn’t it Lady Chief?”

“Of course, and you have to be ready to say to your mentors and your superiors, ‘I have a problem with that. Let’s discuss it further.’ That openness is what started to slip away in my staff meetings. I gave that a lot of thought today, and it struck me that, with the exception of my gadfly, none of my staff have ever been field agents. I think that’s where I took the wrong turn.

“When I was on Ian’s staff, it was precisely the opposite. I should have used that standard from the first, rather than relying on recommendations, particularly Peter’s three recommendations, who I’ll be reinterrogating tomorrow. A lot of winnowing will be needed and I’ll need to start developing an ex-agent pool.”

Sally replied, “Given what I know now, I suggest you look at the instructor of the Tradecraft class in Agent Training. I mentioned him before. Of all there, I think he’s been by far the straightest talker both to us and to himself. For obvious reasons, he’s the most unsettling teacher and his the most unsettling class for all of us. Even me. I now know I’ve been making mountains out of molehills since I met a couple of new friends.”

Lady Chief was very sincere, “Thanks Sally, hanging around Elizabeth, you may now know more about being straight than anybody else in our shop who’s not already in Deep Cover. Elizabeth has a hell of a lot more to be straight about than even most agents, and, if you become one, you’ll be piling the agent issues on top of hers.”

Sally replied, “I know. Kind of fun actually. Or it least it will be until I have a body around my neck. I’m kind of worried that our guests will be my first two. They really don’t seem to be taking it, or us, very seriously.”

“I think you’re right, but that’s their problem. We can hope, at least, that they have burial insurance, as well as hope that they don’t need it. My opposite number in GLCCA is the same way. I don’t think I convinced him that taking on Mossad killers is more than an ordinary SWAT team operation, or even that anything would happen at all. It actually makes me yearn for Fem/Dom. Those cops would at least listen to someone else who had more information than they did, and not just when they extracted it with a strapping.”

I added, “I’m highly relieved that it’s our doubles going in with the Green Meanies backing them up.”

“But there’s something else I’d like to discuss. Are you serious, Lady Chief, about hiring me to run a safehouse?”

“Serious as a tumor and sober as a judge, Elizabeth,” Lady Chief replied.

I snorted, “I haven’t heard that in decades! Did you grow up in Iowa? You don’t have to answer that. We all know you sprung out of the Mediterranean Sea near Cyprus on a scallop shell. Your legend says so.

“But I’m going to need some financial help to do it.”

Lady Chief looked at me intently and with a touch of sadness, “Elizabeth you’re one of us now. GLCIS would take care of you even if you came to us destitute.”

“No not that kind of help. I’ll be retiring quite well off, thank you. About 2/3’s of my net worth is invested carefully over here in GLC. But the other third is the home equity in my whorehouse building. Zone economy being what it is and not likely to change any time soon, there is little to no chance that I can liquidate that asset. Elizabeth’s Secret itself is basically a franchise granted to me by the Zone and can be transferred to Sally seamlessly when the time comes, but I’d planned to stay and collect rent from that franchise for the use of the building, which is wholly and privately owned by me.

“What I would need is what they call a Reverse Mortgage, where the value of the home can be transferred in regular payments to my Zone account as my living expenses and then can be transferred to a GLC account when I move there and close the Zone account out. I would sign the title for the home to whomever owned the mortgage. Arranged that way, I would need no more than a week, maybe even less, to close my affairs, and up until then, I can continue to live there on the Lane until I decide to move as part of the agreement, and from that point forward, the whorehouse franchise would pay rent to the owner of the mortgage, even if that rent were only nominal.

“Then if Sally returned from deep cover to GLC, the Zone Government would reassign the franchise to whomever it deemed fit, even if Sally had to simply disappear and go on the run. The only problem is that GLCIS can’t do this directly, nor can any of it’s former employees and have Fem/Dom trace it down. Some arrangement has to be made under the table by the Agency to make this happen.”

“I don’t think that would be a serious problem, Elizabeth,” Lady Chief said, “All it would take would be a couple of shell companies, one principal and one holding. We spread out the purchase and maintenance of equipment such as electrocars among several shell companies, which we control through three holding companies wholly run from Randolph Street. None of the GLCIS people appear in any capacity except as the CEO in the holding companies, and this they do under separate, legendless names from their GLICIS workname.”

I decided, “On that basis then, I’ll consider it. With a new GLC name I’ll have to strip away any prior contact with the life, particularly the friend or two that still remain, and of, course Zoltan the tailor. And I would need to hire household help under my workname and use them for all tasks that would have a good possibility of my accidentally running into whores or Madams from Chicago who remember me or who will be able to spot me as an old whore. It will be a limited, virtually friendless, life except for yourself.”

Lady Chief had that sadness, “I know, Elizabeth, so is mine. But that’s one of the reasons we have this club, so that people like you and Ian and “Curtis”, the first Chief of of GLCIS (as well as myself at my retirement) can develop new friendships with former and present agents, without need for an outside social venue.”

“Then let’s leave it here for now.”

Sally then took the floor, “Let me point out that neither of you tough as nails women have had the gumption to mention that we are saying “goodbye” tonight to each other for years. Even Elizabeth and I are doing this though we will live in the same house together. Nor have you been able to say what I’ve said that you love the two of us both. Please do. I’m grown up enough, you should be too.”

I thought for a moment and then I said, “There’s a part of me, from the Shitstorm, that never grew up and that I’ve walled away from others. It occurs to me that she has been talking tonight, with typical Iowa caution, what destroyed us when the USA fell apart, except for it’s major cities. I’ve just told her to go take a walk. I love you both dearly, whether it’s you who will become a different person or Lady Chief who hides whatever person she is. I love you and will under any and all names you use and will cherish this week together until I die.”

Lady Chief said, “I’ve twice loved this much only to unwillingly lose both lovers to the work of spying. This sweet week has shown me unequivocally how loveless I am and how painful that is. Spying is, once again, going to keep us apart, maybe forever. I love you and I love the love you have given to me. And if I lose you, at least it’s in a service that all three of us share, and we are all willing to separate for the sake of this work. I hope you both come back, I hope we all finally have a happy ending together eating dinner in this club. But as we all know, the chance of this is one in three.” Her voice broke and then came back in the full contralto that she professionally conceals. “I just love you, that’s all…” The tears came from her, and, for once, she didn’t try to hide them as all three of us hugged one another.

Sally and I returned to our chairs and we all wiped our eyes. Then Sally looked up with a wicked grin, “There are couple of loose ends we should tie up. Neither you have ever gotten around to strapping my butt off, and I need to be shown the basics of how a whore goes both ways. Which of you is going to do it? Do you think the club would mind if we did it here?”

“You’re baiting the tiger, girl! It’s not just your butt that’s in danger, Elizabeth and I both know how to strap you from head to heels. So I wouldn’t push your luck!”

“She’s right. And you’re going to be within reach of the strap of one of us for a long, long time!” I threatened.

We stood up as one all knowing that it was time. Lady Chief said, “Before we part, Elizabeth, take this half of postcard. If someone in the Zone approaches with the other half, they will have important information.”

My clutch was in the mail, my luggage turned over to Double Sally and Double Me, so I tucked the card into my bra. When I looked up they were both staring at me, and then they lost it into contralto and mezzo soprano laughter. I blanked for a moment, then got the joke, “Yes, we whores still do it. Sally will learn to do it, too, or she’ll get a strapping!”

I hugged Lady Chief and then Sally. She then stepped up to Lady Chief, pinned her arms against her side, and planted a big, open kiss on Lady Chief’s lips. Lady Chief’s eyes opened wide, then she relaxed and met the kiss lips to lips, tongue to tongue. For a long, long sensuous time they relaxed into one another. Then, as the kiss ended, Sally kept hold of Lady Chief and looked at me, “You two! When will you get it that I’m ALL grown up!”

Harriet’s Bungalow

We went back to the Entertainment room, collected our doubles out a hot game of Cribbage, and we all took the elevator down to the lobby. We saw the doubles and Lady Chief off with the Hula twins driving their blue car right behind. We sat on a bench near the elevator, talking about our week and talking about it’s details inconsequentially. Ten minutes later, I called our electrocab.

This time I needed to do the gawking, looking for someone following. For the cab driver’s sake, I told a little fib. I said this was my daughter. As part of her divorce proceedings, she had obtained a restraining order against her husband. But he just violated it and we barely had time to give him the slip. He’s a large, angry, and dangerous man and he might have spotted us and be following. I’ve someplace safe to put my daughter, but it won’t be safe if he tracks us there.

So I told him at this next light, go one block up and make four left turns so we come out at the same light. Anybody behind us who does that is following. The cabby did our little litmus test and it came up negative. “How did you learn to do that, ma’m?” he asked. I told him another fib, by reading crime novels. From there we proceeded to Melrose Park, a small middle-class suburb to downtown Chicago’s west. My friend’s house was a tidy little California bungalow on a postage stamp lawn. She came out of the front door as we arrived. I paid the cabbie and tipped generously. “For the sightseeing.” I said. “That’s one slick trick ma’m. I’ll have to file that one away.”

We’ll call my friend “Harriet”. I knew her from my Cicero whorehouse days long ago. We were stablemates, but she wasn’t Tessa the Ditzy. These days she did “mature” outcalls, as I said before. She had aged well, but wasn’t a looker in her young days, and today she looked like a hip and fashionable grandmother. Mostly her Johns were around our age, but every once in a while a younger man, usually in his twenties, would try her as an experimental change from his usual habits. When he did, he got the surprise of his life. Grandma knew more tricks than he’d ever seen out of any young whore, and she knew the one’s he had seen a whole lot better. Grandma enjoyed the change, too, and gave him full value for his money.

I introduced Sally by first name only, as we do in the life. If more is needed we use our town of residence, the name of our whorehouse, or even preceded by our Madam’s first name as a possessive, my friend would be Harriet of Chicago or Harriet of Melrose Park, depending on the circumstances. I said back at the beginning that I’m Elisabeth of Montpellier or Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Secret, Sally would be either of those two, or Elizabeth’s Sally, if the speakers using it were both in the life and neither Elizabeth nor Sally. I explained this to Sally the next day on the plane as her first introduction to whore’s etiquette.

Yes, I know, the public pisspots and junkies on the street have none, and call each other by first name only, if not by something nastier and not always in jest, but Harriet and I were High Class Tarts, from “respectable” houses or doing outcalls, and keep clearly the distinctions between ourselves and whores without manners. Sally would learn that etiquette, and if I heard her violate it in the house, or heard OF her violating it outside the house, she’d get a strapping. I didn’t expect that to happen. It mostly occurs with the youngest whores who have, by luck, just landed in the house from the streets.

Harriet and I had a lot to catch up on, and, after all we’d already been through in less than a week, by now Sally and I were background and foreground, depending. So Harriet started using our thieves cant, and I had to remind her that we weren’t alone. She had known, by the way I’d introduced Sally, that Sally was in training and would not be taught the cant until much later, but had simply forgotten that the younger lady was there. Sally also was like Lady Chief in her deep cover days, and could at will become unnoticeable as a Japanese Ninja. I strongly suspect that her initial recruiters had spotted this quality and saw her potential as a spy because of it.

As midnight approached, Harriet showed us to the guest room and it’s generous queen size bed swelling almost to the walls of a room intended for the furniture of another day. The side with the most space, including the door, held a dainty Art Deco dresser with a huge round mirror. We undressed and Sally turned out the light. The room had a mild glow from a streetlight out the window. As Sally turned around toward the mirror, her back was totally naked. I stepped up to her, drew two right hand fingers slowly and lightly down either side of her spine, cupped my left hand on her upper arm, and blew gently on the little hollow behind the lobe of her ear, “Now what were you saying about learning to go both ways?” I whispered. And our dance began.

The aching bodily need of each of the three of us for the other two was a growing, exquisite, torment as our days together went by, and it broke through both Sally’s and my boundaries like a raging flash flood as she turned around and we were mouth to mouth, breast to breast, leg to pubis. She turned and led me, big sister to little in the deep, dark, dangerous wood, ’til we reached the side of the bed and fell together on it with a grappling crash. For the first few minutes there was frenzy, then a smooth flowing rhythm as both she and I remembered at the same that I was also there to teach her so passion and need would stretch time itself.

We did actually get about four hours sleep, waking up at 10:40 for a quickie morning cuddle. And then we were out for the hot hearty breakfast that already was there for us. Harriet is a whore and really good, one who is genuinely worth the money, a keeper if your needs are regular and you like them met thoroughly. We were showing plenty of body language when we came in the door the previous evening, and, more importantly, trailing scent. She made sure to come between us twice to be sure. And I looked her dead in the eye with my head tilted slightly right and slightly sidelong. She smiled a little, secret smile for me.

Not to put to fine a point on it, our need for each other was absolutely rank with a week of close contact. They were a flute and an oboe playing exactly the same notes. The closer we were to each other, the stronger the scent. The house was built of solidly sound absorbing plaster, and was dead quiet. All of the noises we made in bed, particularly in the first ten frenzied minutes, were certainly audible in the living room. Sally’s scent and mine now were two oboes playing the same notes an octave apart. If you don’t like metaphor, go back to your, “see Dick run, run Dick run.” Oh, you don’t like double entendres either? Well , honey, you’re just going to have to lump them.

Now see how polite a High Class Tart can be when telling you to get stuffed?

Our flight time was in the late afternoon, and Violet actually had to knock on the door at noon to make sure we were there. I deliberately hadn’t given Lady Chief a Dictapad number. For reasons which I’m sure you can guess. So Harriet invited Violet and Sarah in. Our hour or so of talk was like a minuet of cop being polite to whore and whore being polite to cop. We had just worked our way through that to woman to woman when it was time to leave.

The jaunt to O’Hare was uneventful, just like we wanted it, and we still were woman to woman at the gate. We liked each other, and they noticed almost immediately that Sally and I had become lovers, just as Harriet noticed that we were about to. Our auras of mutual satisfaction, relaxation, and ease were plain for them to see. All our talk waiting for the plane was inconsequential, mostly polite questions about us and Lady Chief. It was very plain that to those outside us, we were the Odd Triple. And they were filling in gaps, like good cops should, left by their own contact with us and the gossip of the hula twins, because they knew about the pizza.

This may not have been the oddest assignment of their tenure, but it certainly was a change from running around with letters on the back of their green and gold windbreakers, waving their submachine pistols. Get the Green Meanies out of their green windbreakers and that horrid green car, and they are neither so mean nor so green. Nor were they office weary but chair loving bureaucrats from Cleveland. The GLCCA flatfoots in Chicago were pretty carefree, and actually a lot of fun. There are police (such as The CPD) that are too full of themselves to go out on stakeout duty in rayon Hawaiian shirts, and they’re not much fun.

There also was a subtle feeling, sitting in the airport, that somehow these two femmecops had become part of our team. I may have sensed this when I asked for
them to see us off.

The plane boarded, like planes do, with the captain smiling and holding his hands behind his back, and since we were the last passengers of only a mildly occupied plane, and had no luggage, the walk down the center aisle was free of bumping heads and colliding with passengers and a perfect display for the Captain of my come hither gait. I filed away to check if his smile had enlarged when he saw us off.

Inside Sally’s new legend was a letter from Lady Chief:

Since you are going to go into cover before we can train you, let me give you advice. It is a long, lonely, and dangerous road. Except for Elisabeth, who will be your very, very strict boss, and, since we didn’t get around to it here, will sooner or later tan your backside to a degree you can’t even yet conceive–a sisterhood of pain, not love–you will be totally alone, with only a non-citizen badge to get you cut a little slack by almost any adult Zone woman or any Fem/Dom police officer. A little slack, not much. Non-citizens are still subject to immediate arrest and indefinite detention, though their real crimes now pass through what were citizen only courts a decade ago.

Zone men will always be polite, but reserved with you even in your bedroom. They are told to spy on each other and the cops might ask them at any time what’s up with your “companion” you are responsible for watching whose name they will already know. When they encounter him, they will ask the same thing about “his” companion and note whether the stories match.

Fem/Dom beat cops of your neighborhood will be minding your business to the extent of even coming in the house and asking Elizabeth to introduce any new girls to them. They’ll remember the names and what house they belong to and input them by datalink after every visit. And even the friendliest beat cop will also be a Zone Citizen, a Matriarchal who knows her place and takes it, and you will be a foreign whore who doesn’t. That emotional gap is almost unbridgeable.

The rest of the Matriarchals will despise you. And this even though they refuse to service the males of their own household and deny that any such thing is their place. They will diss you loud and long behind your back and sometimes in front of it saying that you have NO place here and a man has NO right whatever to independent sexual relief.

This sounds insane, but I heard this or something close to it at least once a month when I was in Deep Cover pretending to be one of them. The only one I never heard it from was Micha Haaretz who somehow, some way remained humane toward any and all, even when she killed and tortured them. They saddened her once she made the decision, but she never hid from their worth as human beings even when she took it away from them as they came to an evil end directly and personally from her hands.

She certainly had more bodies hanging on her than I do. But I have killed impersonally, by proxy, and insulated from the humanity of those I kill. I can’t tell you which is more evil in the end, but I can tell you which is more painful, murder combined with isolation even from my victims. I told you that I talk to her frequently and, despite the gossip, I keep pictures of both her and Henry Peterson, the star crossed lovers, together on my office wall. Sometimes I see in the eyes of Micha’s picture the murder I remember in her eyes in person, sometimes I see the sadness. They are the same eyes. And besides asking her what I am losing with every new body added, I also ask what was it like to give someone the greatest of bliss and then snap their neck. Micha haunts us all, even if we never know it, and certainly haunts all spies.

Will you be a spy as well as a whore? a spy as well as a Madam? or will you turn your back on we who kill or maim or imprison without hate, but merely for convenience, or merely ‘in the line of duty’? And stay so far away from whom we kill that when violent death comes to us, we usually can’t see the face behind it, either. Micha didn’t, Helen chief of Sec/Spy didn’t, and our latest 12 agents didn’t. Henry was very lucky and did. Will such a refusal be right? Who can say? But right or wrong it will be YOURS. Since I made the decision to spy, none of my decisions can I own, right or wrong. We are all responsible for our decisions and their consequences, but when you rent your decisions instead of owning them, the evil you do will not budge an inch, and the good you do will barely rise an inch.

Neither I nor my agency can give you a whole lot but fear, danger, and grief, but in memory of the short, intense love affair between the three of us, I will give you the workname Sally Bayer. Once it was my birth name, once it was my own that got lost among my travels, my deceptions, and my lies. The only way I have found it again is to give it away. Now it’s yours. And this legend and passport that goes with it. Memorize that legend well, it is your only protection. But you’re trained enough to already know that. I know you will be Sally of Elizabeth’s Secret, Sally of Montpellier, Matriarchal Zone, the names in which you will whore. But you will spy as Sally Bayer, until you survive and come back to us, if you do.

On the wall of the top floor of GLCIS there are listed the worknames of the spies who wore them in Deep Cover. The majority of them have daggers next to them. These are the spies who died in service. Among them, with its dagger, is Henry Peterson. He was our best: the toughest, the bravest, the sharpest mind, and the most impeccable in tradecraft. Even our best has died in service. Every one of us going into deep cover needs to hold that bitter fact next to their heart and never let it go. He had no next of kin. His death medal and service medals stay in a case, with a brief explanation, beside my office door.

One of the list, without a dagger, bears the words, Workname Unknown. That is me. The third Chief of Service of GLCIS, and my favorite nickname, Lady Chief, was from the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known. Lady Chief can stand for the workname I was able to destroy and become the spook that never was there, a spy’s ideal, surely. I survived and I continue to serve. Most who survive don’t. Most are too painful in body, too cloudy in mind, and too exhausted in heart to continue. We don’t have a mark for them, but we should. The ones who died gave their all, the ones who came back but could not serve again gave all but their all. The rest of us who came back, able to serve, are merely the spooks who never were there, are the least of us, with “Workname Unknown”.

After she read this on the plane she started quietly crying. I took her hand and held her head.

The plane reached Toronto as Sunset merged into Dusk. Behind us was the Sun steadily sinking to the horizon in it’s burnt orange glory and ahead of us was a magnificent alpenglow. We saw both as the plane made the turn for the final approach. As we deplaned, the sun was gone from the sky and dusk was merging into twilight. Our electrotaxi ride to the Delta Soho and our check in were no more interesting than almost all of my hundreds of cab rides and check ins before it. I had bought us both a set of new underwear at the airport, and a small, handled, dufflebag to hold them and Sally’s manuscript.

And as soon as the room door opened, the beds were singing a song promising welcome and deep dreamless sleep to we two transient lovers who spent half their time the night before in turbulent Eros, magnificent passion, and the first culmination of a journey into secrecy, betrayal, and fear. As we sat in the chic and retro 1980’s postmodern Club Tub chairs on casters, in the back of my mind was whether the other two erotic culminations would happen that would bind us all indissolubly and place our espionage guilt into one burden that all three would carry with our mutual and lifetime love. All of us had but two friends and not just Sally, all of us faced our future alone.

The same thing was in the front of Sally’s mind, but we didn’t need to speak of it, each could read it in the other as part of the temporary closeness of body merged to body the night before. We would never be so open to each other again until and unless we came together again, in both uses of the word, and the time for that would be counted in years. I had never been so open since before I became a whore. I had spent a lot of time over the week thinking of whether Sally would become tough enough to be a whore. She already was. Now the only question about her is whether she will be courageous enough with chances of only 1 in 3 of surviving, and think well of it enough in the future, despite the inevitably growing guilt, to become a spy. That question not even the mutual intuition of recent lovers could answer.

Where would solitude without culmination for Lady Chief lead? She was clearly showing her agent fatigue. Some kill themselves because of it, some turn into truly self aware demons like Micha Haaretz because of it, and some survive it at the cost of an absolute diminishment of the joy of life. Some of Lady Chief’s joy had already gone, and we had seen her demon face within. Would she still retain any of the hope and determination she held, when she had to spy among the unconscious demons in the hell of Sec/Spy, lived to tell about it, and continued to serve until picked to lead? 

Would she escape the ever closer danger of dancing with the demon inside her, as well with as the demon she escaped at Sec/Spy, but still talks to now, while the number that she must kill by proxy keeps slowly increasing? In the final remark Lady Chief made on the subject, of mild regret that the Truth Team was tangled up with Peter and by implication that all of them would die, which would, ironically, be a massacre of the innocents, I heard chilling echoes of Micha Haaretz in the letter she wrote before Ian and GLCIS killed her.

But Odysseus was tied to the mast to hear the Song of the Sirens, and both of us were tied to the turbulence of our empty stomachs that had disposed of our airline snacks an age ago. The Soho itself had a restaurant, and appetite made up for what we were missing from the Agent’s Club. The food was what they called here “stodge”, plain and filling with a mingling of flavors in harmony at it’s best, instead of the separate development of the freshest of materials with precision in the kitchen and, always, elegance of presentation, that we were served at the club.

As stodge and, by courtesy “Canadian”, the quality of each component of our dinner was variable. The iceberg lettuce salad could be safely ignored, the Beef Wellington was excellent with the pastry surround having the right degree of both flakiness and crunch, and the beef within succulent and juicy; the buttered carrots soft but not mush and not over salted; the bread undistinguished but the butter graced with the specific flavor of a good local dairy, a flavor distinct from every other equally good local dairy; the ale on tap was British and hardy Newcastle Brown; and then a plum pudding to praise lavishly, with the texture that only comes from true beef suet.

Then there was the coffee. At the Ritz we had become accustomed to fresh ground and very well roasted–not too little, not too much–Dark French Roast, a coffee with mellow sweetness that still stands up to an equal amount of milk without being overbearing about it, together making that silky smoothness of good cafe au lait. Now we had a brighter, medium roast, probably Tim Horton’s and not fresh ground but so recently in an unopened container and run through with filtered water in a sparkling clean double potted commercial dripolater, that most of the flavonoids have survived. It’s brightness was a little tart, but not bitter. As it is supposed to be. A coffee blend as shy as the full cream it is mixed with, that requires stern stirring with the spoon to become a happy couple.

South of the Great Lakes we still try to duplicate this marriage by cream cut with milk, “half and half” that will mimic the way full cream and coffee look with little to no effort with the spoon. But it is flat and flavorless, neither as smooth but authoritative as good dark roasts with whole milk, nor graced with the bright palate and tongue richness of fresh medium roast and whole cream. On this trip Sally and I had the very good luck to taste both.

Relaxed, satisfied, and happy with inconsequential and frivolous small talk in the good company of the friend who became a lover for an interval, but still remained a friend, Elizabeth was for once able put aside her self image as a Madam and a Whore, and Sally was able to forget for a while the hard road ahead requiring her to become as tough as nails as her mentor for the rest of her life. Then the caffeine clearness began to subside for us both and neither of us could continue to ignore the fact that we were just plain bone tired.

The hypnotizing song of fresh, starched sheets, a promise of true and lasting rest, began to call us to our room above. We left our old underwear to soak overnight in the washbasin with a squirt of the liquid hotel soap on, and rubbed into, each piece. Then we fell into each of the two beds.

“OK, Lady Chief, here’s how it went down.”

The Delta Soho isn’t the best hotel in Toronto, but it is homey and friendly, a good value for the money and is a prime stop for businessmen on per diem. The city is now part of GLC, but most of the cultural markers and amenities that made it a pleasure to travel to before the Shitstorm are still there, things like John Courage bitter ale, full fat cream for coffee, Beef Wellington and plum pudding, expressions Iike “mind the gap” in the Underground, and, of course, the Bay (or, if you must, The Hudson’s Bay Trading Company).

The people are no longer “Canadian”, but they are just as pleasant, polite, and non-confrontational as when they were. They still say “eh?” And the Part Time Ladies (no come hither gait, no thieves cant, a pliant husband or one who is their pimp) are still dowdy, like the old, old Joni Mitchell song Raised on Robbery, “along comes a lady in lacy sleeves”. The easygoing locals like more maturity than on what used to be called “the American side”. The prime age for whoring is about 35, and at that age they don’t have our flinty toughness because they don’t need it. And they still haunt the hotel bars. As long as they’re discreet, the hotels have no problem with it.

I’ve been to the Soho before and one of them in the bar recognized me and gave me a wink. Though not in the life, they recognize the high class southern GLC whores who are (usually with a little envy of the come hither gait and the narrowness of their 25 year old sterns) and both whores and Johns here are quicker to pick up when you are a Madam, and a flinty, southern one like I am.

I was in the bar in the afternoon with a Grey Goose martini, cold enough without my having to ask for it and make jokes about it (another good trait “on the Canadian side”). I sat at one of the side tables looking at the wall newspad. There had just been a large gun battle in front of the entrance to Midway Airport.

Two policemen were dead, so were four perps; one lady civilian was, to the amazement of the newscaster, only slightly wounded despite being accidentally caught in the crossfire; and her younger companion, that the CCTV footage showed kneeling and firing a pistol, was unharmed. The older woman was in stable condition at Chicago Mercy Hospital.

The police were the GLCCA national security police in their green and yellow lettered windbreakers, rather than the city police. The reporter at the scene said that, just after the shooting stopped, then three of “the boys in blue on airport duty” burst out of the entrance doors with guns drawn.

There now were a number of 9mm holes in the door glass. More glass on either side of the doors had holes, chips were shot out of the rubble concrete refuse containers by the doors, and a couple of bullets even found their way into unassumingly parked electrocars in the opposite direction. It was a only a lull, at that moment, in the very light airport traffic, that prevented more casualties.

The news editors timed the length of the gunfire on the CCTV at an incredibly long 32 seconds. GLCCA issued a press release that the incident was “under investigation”. Chicago Police Headquarters referred all inquiries to GLCCA and did not release the identities of their officers.

OK, Lady Chief, I said in my mind, here’s how it went down. You warned GLCCA that they were walking into a firefight, so they wore their fancy green meanie windbreakers over their submachine guns, but since it was in August, which is hotter than it used to be despite the Lake Michigan wind, some officers wore no bullet resistant vests. Not very bright. Mossad shoots kneeling from cover in that situation (did you tell them like we told the Doubles?) and aims for center of the torso, so two cops died.

The gunfight was so long because the killers were behind cover, like the refuse containers or the brick mounted sidewalk lights, and they had to be flanked before they could be shot. Both Double Me and Double Sally took several hits in the vest, but subsonic silenced rounds don’t have much thump, which can knock you flat on your butt; so Double Me, still standing, was probably clipped in the arm by a submachine gun ricochet.

Four dead perps kept shooting to the last, presuming that they would be conveniently killed. We project ourselves on our enemies. All of them were shot to pieces and will make messy autopsies. Were they right, Lady Chief? Under the circumstances there was no genuine need to interrogate them, and you had no Black Widow to scare them with. Did you tell the Chief of GLCCA that once they fired, killing them wasn’t a problem? You essentially told that to the doubles. And did you have your feral little grin when you said it to him?

I learned much later that when the Chicago Police Chief called the GLCCA chief (not the brightest of bulbs) raising hell about danger to civilians and “making my men look silly on camera”, the CPC got referred to you. As funny as it sounds, he had a point. You had advised GLCCA go into concealment and bust the killers before the shooting started. They didn’t pay attention to you. At least they weren’t wearing Hawaiian shirts, but their windbreakers were just as unconcealed. You told the CPC that this was a Major Security Danger, under GLC law and he could stop by for a private briefing IF he behaved himself, otherwise he could go climb a rope.

Ah, Chicago! Some things never change.

Of course I told it all to Sally after she woke up from the afternoon nap I made her take because she was getting crispy around the edges. I didn’t say, “Your first six bodies are here, girl!” because she would say it to me and would need “comforting” rather than “tough as nails.” I told it straight and simple, including my analysis. She did say it to me, did need comforting for that, and for the fear that it could have been us in the middle of it, but she didn’t cry. She’ll be tough enough.

She also told me, rather than the other way around, that despite our little interlude, she was ready to be merely whore to Madam in the Zone; and to be scared green that she’d break a rule and get her butt strapped off; that she wanted to learn well how to entertain all comers from submissive males, to randy non-citizens, to lonely Fem/Dom cops; and she cherished that her only two friends had taught her so well to go both ways.

Since she had her legend, Sally kept herself confined to the hotel room for both days memorizing it’s contents. It was a plastic spiral bound book with anonymous grey covers, about 200 8 1/2″x 11″ pages and contained every conceivable detail about her workname’s entire life up to her entry into the Zone. She had to have the all the information letter perfect and available instantly. She told me students were frequently awakened at about 3am on days when they had been working their ass off physically and mentally, and questioned closely about their legend, the one that Sally would now have to totally repress and replace since she now had a new one.

I wondered what the hell they would possibly teach her in a Deep Cover Class that was two months longer than her ordinary agent training and so packed with information that they couldn’t take time to make a will.

We had yet to figure out how to explain Sally the Bookworm to the other girls and, if necessary, Fem/Dom beat cops; and I’d have to keep her book completely locked up to prevent peeking when she wasn’t reading. The fact of her hard study, which would require a minimum of 6 weeks to become letter perfect, and the fact that I locked her book away, would be gossip all up and down the Lane. She was looking very hard to find anything in the book itself that would explain it or disguise it. To her great relief she finally did on the second day. A solution planned into the book itself.

Of course, what it was is a matter of tradecraft, eyes only for those who “need to know”. I did because I had to participate. You don’t. Sorry. What’s also tradecraft is the common household chemical that will cause the book to spontaneously combust, and the protocol if forced to do it too early.

I didn’t need nearly as many phone calls as I thought. When I called my friend in Toronto, a former Part Time Lady, now retired and minus a husband who died in his recliner watching Maple Leaf Hockey, and asked her for a stay if we had to go on the run, the cheery soprano words that came back to me were, “Got yourself in a spot of trouble, eh? We’re both getting t’ old for that, Elizabeth. Sure, come on ova. I’ll b’ looking for y’a” I decided to stay one more day with her to give GLCCA more time to roll up Peter and the Truth Team, so I told her we’d be over in the morning.

The two members of the Matriarchal Cabinet owed me a favor from my flogging of Jill Whore and Jane Madam so Sally’s visa was no problem. I had them send the word to Rhinecliff, across from Kingston. They still praised me to the skies about how I tidied that little matter up for them. I took a chance and asked how their newest member was doing and I thought of Henry selling them cosmetics when I did. Sometimes Matriarchs are surprisingly forthcoming about their own business. I was told that she had her partisans (presumably Mossad) but the Cabinet was having trouble with how slow she was at knowing her place.

I sat down, thought about Angie the executionress, the current Chief Matriarch, and Lady Chief’s new Deep Cover Matriarchal traitor. A traitor made by the fact that the Chief Matriarch let her own personal pique and desire for revenge for what was, at most, a mild loss of dignity, turn from a strapping that would have brought the young lady under control into a caning of torture, personal abuse, and deliberate permanent physical damage of both the girl herself and her father. When I was taught by the Fem/Dom guards it was made clear that you could lay down all the pain possible for the recipient to feel with a Glasgow Tawse and the right technique without doing permanent damage.

The result of that day’s sadistic entertainment for the Chief Matriarch and her cane mistress would be permanent and unappeasable anger. It has cost the Zone a citizen, and put a viper in the bosom of all of the Matriarchs. And for what? There is no way you can describe such a thing as “semi-authoritarian”. It is an act of pure, arbitrary, tyranny, plain and simple, as were the permanent maimings of the Black Widow.

As you may have gathered, I often see too much, too clearly. And what I saw was a spy and traitor who, in the end, might spell the end of the Matriarchy itself and even much more. From the feral look of Lady Chief I extracted a sense of a GLCIS deep cover training that may be far more about sabotage, destruction, and unarmed killing than it is about obtaining secrets and transmitting them. Is that true? I thought. I didn’t know. But if it was, Lady Chief might have to take on an overwhelming level of guilt that will make that feral smile the only face she can ever have, save the waxy one of the dead.

I carried the thought further in my mind : her deep cover agent is being held back for a plausible time when she can receive that deep cover training without arousing Zone suspicions of her. And then set to lie fallow until she can produce solid information, as Henry did and as Lady Chief herself did. But neither Henry, nor young Lady Chief were looking to take revenge. The sabotage, the silent killing, and the destruction, if that is what they teach, are far better implements of revenge than writing, encoding, and safely transmitting reports back to headquarters. And if she is intelligent enough to grasp the WHY of lying fallow, the careful timetable of revenge is what she will be preparing during it.

I also wondered if that brief glance of the feral in Lady Chief is the recrudescence of a desire for revenge, hidden even from herself, for her own Zone adolescence, and that this has blinded her to the danger of this source. I hoped not.

On day two in Toronto, Sally still had to keep up her study of her totally new life. I thought of how easy, in the Cicero whorehouse, it was to become Elizabeth of Chicago who is now Elizabeth of Montpellier, Matriarchal Zone and even though it’s more than 30 years since the change and I now had enough history as Elizabeth for it to be no longer a legend, it could just simply disappear in our dystopian wreck of a wonderful country. A name is no more than a piece of scrap paper blowing in the wind. Maybe that country was, too.

My original name? Ann of Green Gables, of course! You don’t believe me? Well, that’s who my legend says I am, so, too bad, that will just have to do. We’re no longer in Iowa, Toto. We’re no longer even in the USA. And, maybe, after a while, none of us who are left will be below 50 deg. N and S latitude. If there’s a Yellow Brick Road to follow, I haven’t heard of it. I’ve done my bit: no children, no grandchildren, just a lot of Johns and a few Janes and Jills.

Before the Shitstorm, my parents lived in a dream world where everything would work out somehow. So did all of Iowa. So did most of the USA. It didn’t. And it still hasn’t. Maybe we have as good of odds as Sally, 1 in 3, that it will work out someday. But, like most everybody else, I don’t think we have those odds, and I’m only betting that it won’t get that much worse until after I die.

But since I was at liberty with my own thoughts, and I strictly keep to the sailor’s old rule, no rum until the sun is below the yardarm, I took off on the Underground. First to the bus station, where I bought two tickets Toronto to Kingston by way of Niagara Falls. The clerk was about my age.

As he handed it to me, he said, “Haven’t sold one of these in a while. Used to be the busiest line we had when the destination was New York City. Now they say that the whole region down there will have to be empty forever from the power reactor radiation, melt downs, and explosions. Biohazard Zone, I guess they call it. You and your fellow traveler will probably have the coach to yourself save for a few regulars using it as a local. I’d take along some books on your Dictapad or a lot of music that you like.”

There was really nothing to say to that, so I just wished him good day. Then back to the Underground and Chinatown. Shopping in Chinatown is like what shopping used to be in 3 or 4 country flea markets on a Saturday. If you’re going to do it, you should take all day, visit as many shops as possible, and then return to any shop that has your Pearl of Great Price.

As you do it, enjoy the trashy melamine bowls so gaudy on the outside that will be so soon stained on the inside by the family that buys them, the paper umbrellas hanging from the ceilings; the intelligently designed soup spoons; and the very sharp carbon steel cleavers that the butcher in the Asian food market quarters a chicken with in two chops, the cleaver banging on a huge butcher block that would hold at least 1/4 of a cow. And chopsticks plain and fancy, expensive in lacquer and cheap in scrap bamboo, part of a set, maybe, in a thick cellophane wrapped box, with a more restrained artwork against the shiny black lacquer: food bowls, soup spoons, chopsticks, and chopstick rests.

When your tastes tire of the domestic and you’ve bought the one or two items that you can find nowhere else but an Asian family run grocery, move on to the fabric shops. The brocades haven’t been silk for over a century but, again, they are still the gum ball bright colors in every shade with appropriate peacocks, dragons, cherry and plum trees, mountains, and little retirement hovels of Taoist sages. You probably don’t need one unless you are hand making a novelty table cloth. I like looking at them and feeling them at least once in the hand to remind myself how nasty doing that is.

The sun was getting mighty close to the yardarm and I had yet to buy anything except the two spice powders, when, on impulse, I entered a tiny shop on an alley just off of a larger thoroughfare. They had all the wrong stuff in jade, the same peacocks, dragons, and panda bears carved in it and even a pretentious full but small weeping cherry tree with a jade trunk and silk blossoms. 

The gentleman in the shop was old and gray bearded and looked like one of the Taoist sages in the hovels. I turned a corner made by tables and there it was: an 8 inch statue of Kuan Yin the Buddha of compassion clearly carved with both precision and love. The jade was magnificent, pure white on the top three quarters and a spalted mutton fat green below. The line of demarcation was crisp without being too sharp, and the carver placed it where he did so to hint of a turning motion in her long gown. Here was my Pearl of Great Price.

I brought the statue up to him and asked him the price. He quoted something ridiculously low. The jade itself would cost at least 3 times what he quoted, let alone the carving. Jade is a hard but brittle stone. It is carved by using abrasives of varying levels of fineness. The process is long and tedious and the quality of this carving would not be out of place in a museum. Even without a history and a provenance, it surely was 5-10 times more valuable for the carving quality alone. I said as much to him and asked him why.

He said, “This shop was originally my father’s and this piece has been here as long as I can remember, and always prominently displayed because it was and is the most beautiful item in the shop. In both his time and mine, it has been completely overlooked, with no one even asking a price. No one. My father thought it very valuable and it is obviously beautiful. But no one would notice it. My father would point it out to customers without stating a price waiting for customer interest and willingness to bargain, for though he wanted to get the 5 times of my price that you just mentioned, he certainly would have been willing to discount the piece by 10% if anyone would bargain in good faith, and if bargained with harder, he would, reluctantly, drop to 20% discount.

“But it appealed to no one. He would always do this with any item in the shop, and never tried to hard sell or over push any item. I do, too, because this approach works. Except for this exquisite little statue, everything in this room is no more than two years old. If you price intelligently, bargain reasonably, and give the customer room to like this piece or that, more often than not they will find something to buy, particularly if they are, like yourself, not Chinese.

“People come here to find something they like and take it home, and you will sell almost anything you acquire within a year or two. They come, they want to buy, and if they bargain, they get a discount that they like that isn’t unreasonable for me, even at 20%. And I am that ‘great little shop’ in Toronto, in an alley off the main street in Chinatown, and their friends tell me frequently that they came here from such praise. I also have repeat customers, and not from Toronto, of as much as 10 years standing.

“Most don’t know, but here in Chinatown we have all sorts of people who are professional diviners. Some use the Book of Changes in the old fashioned way of picking up sticks, some do Changes with coins, some read tea or your palm, and a handful (the best) simply look at you and tell you what comes into their minds. We Chinese aren’t fools, we gossip a lot, and diviners only stay in business if they are right a good majority of the time. So I’ve always been puzzled by why this lovely piece of a great Buddha has never sold, when people buy Her image in cheap white porcelain constantly. Every so often, when I need another answer from a diviner about business or life, I take this beautiful statue with me and ask them why it never sells. The answers they give are always the same: be patient, She is waiting for the buyer that really needs her, when that buyer comes, you’ll know.

“I’ve been talking to you a lot because I wanted to study you. You asked for a price, which no one ever has. You know jade’s value, you know how beautiful and valuable the carving is, and you even understand the color change in the jade and how it’s been used.” 

At that point I shivered. That last thing I never said to him.

He continued, “You are involved in ‘clouds and water’. Even at my age I still use them occasionally, and you would be a real choice for me if we were doing your business and not mine. And they always pray to Kuan Yin, if they are Chinese, for help in overcoming the karma that led them there. You are exceptionally generous to tell me that my price is too low, which is very rare. And you are very, very afraid of something you are running away from. All that is still bothering you even while you shop. I think I know, just like the diviners told me I would. You need the help of the real Kuan Yin very, very badly. And this statue will help you to ask for it.

“The price I quoted is the price I will take. And I will burn Joss on my shrine at home for you. Please, please do openly ask Her for Her help. You are a fine lady and deserve to overcome whatever danger it is that you fear.” So I thanked him, paid him, let him pack the statue, and went back to the Chelsea. The sun now WAS under the yardarm. And I had almost fallen off the Poop Deck!

Drinks and Part Time Hospitality

While I was in the bar with my usual vodka martini with the French vodka made with rice, Sally appeared, clearly crosseyed from study and also glad the sun was under the yardarm. She ordered a Martini, but, declaring her independence of her Madam, had it with Bombay Sapphire Gin. She said it had more bite than the vodka, but was incredibly aromatic, since Bombay’s top of the line gin had a lot more herbs in it than just juniper berries. Another knot in her handkerchief from independent study. She offered me a taste and I found I preferred the smoothness and said so. I didn’t ask her. I’d know the next time we sat in a bar I’d see what she ordered.

I told her about my day in detail, as much detail as I’ve told you, and she was all agog. Her day wasn’t nearly that exciting. We were both dead tired, she from moving her brain too much and I from moving my body the same way. So we decided to dine at the Soho once again. The Beef Wellington and plum pudding were so good, we decided on an encore. It was a good choice. I told her we’d be checking out in the morning, and going to my Canadian friend’s. I’d treat my friend to the breakfast of her choice and have her suggest something good and local for dinner. We’d want to gad around the next day so we’d let my friend take the lead for sightseeing.

As we returned to our room, I made a detour to retrieve my package from Chicago from my strong box. Up in the room, I unwrapped both my packages for Sally. She knew what was in my clutch so she waited patiently while I worked my way through tape and bubble wrap to reveal my little snubby gun, the bullets, and the five shot loader that came with it, then put them back in the clutch and the clutch aside on the room dresser. Then Sally scooted on her chair casters closer to me for the unveiling of the Pearl Without Price. As the tissue paper came off and Kuan Yin in jade was revealed, something intangible shifted in the atmosphere of the room, as if the beauty of the statue itself suffused the walls and ceiling with more brightness.

I took my Taoist Sage at his word. I knew something about the Buddhism behind the statue, held it in my two hands, and prayed openly and aloud as an appeal and because of our “clouds and water” life, asking Kuan Yin to protect us from all danger and to particularly protect us from the killers chasing us. An astonished Sally asked to pray, too, and said much the same thing aloud , without the Chinese euphemism, that I explained to her after I set the statue carefully on the dresser top, where She would look over us in bed, and moving my clutch to an end table.

And it was bed to sleep in by the weary that called us once again.

Our check out was just as uneventful as our check in. We were traveling very light, with Sally’s Legend, extra underwear, and my jade statue in my duffle. In the electrocab we didn’t need a fancy four left turn follower temperature taking, nor that much of head-on-a-swivel since traffic was very light and all headed in the other direction. Arriving at my friend’s place and ringing the doorbell, when she answered, we invited her to breakfast. She said to come on in, and then retired to the bathroom mirror to “fix her hair”. Not that it needed that much, if any, fixing, but we ladies have to be free from worry whether it does. Then off in her electrocar, she took us not to a franchise, but a mom-and-pop establishment where all the regulars are seated close together. I had a lamb chop with my eggs, potatoes and sourdough toast. More good stuff from this side of the Great Lakes.

Rachel, my Part Time Lady friend, hadn’t seen me since her husband died. He apparently was cheering loudly, like men do, at the hockey game on television while she was in the kitchen fixing some finger food, and then all of a sudden he stopped. She thought he’d left his chair to go to the toilet. Then she came out with the food trays and found him slumped. Even a part time involvement with whoredom steels you for action in crisis. First, she didn’t scream and drop the food. She put it on the end table, searched for a pulse and couldn’t find one, pulled out her Dictapad and called for the EMD. No he was non-responsive and had no pulse, his color is starting to change, if I can pull him off his chair, I’ll start CPR. The front door will be open.

She fixed the door, gave an horrendous yank (straining her back) of his shoes and feet, and he fell thudding onto the floor. All this had probably taken about 4 minutes, she thought, and on his own he had only 10. If she could get the blood moving, he might get 5 more. So she ripped his shirt buttons open and started pumping his chest while she could feel the strain of her back pull tighter and tighter against her. She wasn’t strong enough to break his ribs, but she kept the chest moving and probably was pushing blood his brain needed and giving him more time. The sirens were in the air.

The squad arrived at about 8 minutes after his collapse, when she was starting to falter from the pain. One of the EMTS took over, he did break ribs, and two more wheeled in the 2 ft high gurney. One of these pulled the shock pads off of it and zapped Gene. The other had a stethoscope on him and said they were getting something. They hoisted him up 1, 2, 3, popped the gurney up to waist level and rolled it swiftly to the squad. As it pulled away with the siren and lights, they restarted CPR until the pads were brought over and they shocked him again. No response. More CPR. Another shock. They don’t do more than 3. No response. DOA.

She wasn’t devastated, even after the call from the hospital, that would come later. But the shock got to her and she barely had time to get to the counter to get a quick cup of hot sweet tea from the just filled pot. She got to one of the other chairs, collapsed, and started bawling. Gene didn’t pimp for her, but still loved her even though he had to look the other way and not ask about the extra cash that bought groceries, while his paycheck just covered the mortgage and bills. He was ten years older than she so she was still at the tail end of a Part Time Career when he retired. It had bought the house and they still had money for food and bills. They fit each other, and that was all that mattered, but now she had no one to fit to. She cried until she woke up in the chair in the dark.

The next day, the mortician called, Gene had no ID at the hospital so she had to come tomorrow and legally identify the body. That afternoon the police came. She had a rap sheet, 3 arrests, 1 misdemeanor conviction. And that’s almost certainly why they came, not because of Gene’s death, as they claimed. She put up with about 3 minutes of being pestered about her current lifestyle.

Then she put her foot down. Look, he’s still a John Doe until I go identify him tomorrow. So, officially, you can’t even know who his wife might be. You’ve come in here and asked absolutely no questions about him because there aren’t any yet to ask. I haven’t asked you, because I don’t care, but you’re almost certainly from the vice squad, simply nosing around because my name and record came up. Take your fishing poles out of here and send the real officers who are supposed to come here when the body is finally attached to a legal name.

Everything else went as you’d expect.

I looked at Sally and she looked at me. Neither of us had to say anything then or later. A whore is forever, peaches. I know, and I will have a “criminal character” wherever I go, even without a rap sheet, and will be pestered about it even when I reach the old folks home. Auntie, I’m all grown up and I’m tough enough.

She was.

Rachel wanted to go to the Bay, so we shopped with and for her, since there was nothing needed for our journey. But the Bay is a wonderful place. Everything is there and there’s plenty for everybody with the money to buy. Absolutely the opposite of the Zone, nothing is there (it hasn’t arrived yet, but it’s on the way) and there will never be enough of it, money or no. So, Gentleman John, come talk to Lady Madam of Elizabeth’s Secret of Scarlet Fever Lane (we’ve already arrived, we’re staying, and we make enough immediately if at the moment you ring the doorbell all the on call are busy) We’re a good buy, your government supports your entertainment, and for about 20 years I’ve been swinging this well worn strap, so WE are the best house of High Class Tarts in the Zone, and that means the best High Class Tarts in the world.

Just tip realistically, and behave yourself, or it will be YOU unwillingly getting better acquainted with the well worn strap.

Rachel’s choice for dinner was a Punjabi restaurant up a flight of stairs. The atmosphere was exotic enough with minimum effort, yellow plaster walls, red glass and candle fairy lamps at each table, four table lamps with 40 watt bulbs and dark red shades along the wall, dark red tablecloths, an intricately carved sandalwood three part screen shielding the cash register, and restrained vina music softly coming from small ceiling speakers.

We ordered an array of dishes for sharing, the tandoori chicken was up to standard but not more, the potatoes and rice had a touch of some kind of mint, a pleasant surprise, the Lamb Korma was medium and not mild as we ordered but the best taste and texture there, and the lentils were hearty and filling. The Galab Jamun, the dough ball with honey, was a little heavy but the honey had some flavor to it beyond clover, and the rose water flavored kulfi (milk heavy, sherbet texture) was near perfect.

We then returned to Rachel’s house. It was small but more scattered than Harriet’s. Much of the furniture was Thrift Store Special, the only reason for it to be in this house is that it was once in a thrift store and in very good condition, with no necessary relation to any other piece of furniture in the house. In other words, the interior of the house slipped over the line from “eclectic” to “random”.

All the things you might expect to find in a house were there but with little about any single piece of it worth describing. Except for one thing, Gene’s throne in front of the 40 year old Electroscreen. She still kept it there, but we didn’t ask if she ever sat in it. It was a vaguely 1960’s Danish modern arm chair with two flat, hard, rectangular, disconnected, and dark orange upholstery cushions, one for the seat and a longer one for the back. The cushions were backed by wide crossing bleached canvas webbing and the webbing was tilted backward about 15 deg. by the structure of the wood frame, bringing gravity to bear on the problem of keeping the cushions on the chair. Arms, legs and other structures were hand restained in dark mahogany over what was once blonde Scandinavian birch. Both arms were curved in the shape of a cantaloupe slice, concave side up, but thinner, narrowing to points on both the front and the rear. And the other structures of the chair were wood in shapes as common as water. This was the masculine throne.

The amazing thing to south of the Great Lakes eyes, is how hard and uncomfortable it was. We still surround our men at home with impossibly soft and padded reclining chairs, and have done so now for about 80 years. You seldom see it, north of the Great Lakes, in what they talk about, what they eat, or, even how they whore, but the strain of stoicism in the face of hardship is still there underneath. And it peeps out in many unexpected places as simple as a no frills arm chair and its limited comfort. As a look the other way husband, Gene’s role there, too, was a stoic one.

Rachel was dead flat lonely, with enough to live on a widow’s pension but not enough to venture forth and meet new friends. And she was no longer a Part Time Lady, age caught up with her as it does for all whores, even in easy going Toronto. She was desperate to talk to someone about something, anyone about anything. She wanted to hear a brief recap about of how we got to Toronto on the run, who we were running from and why. When we told the brief version of the story, there was awe in her eyes.

Elizabeth and Sally were living in the situation most commonly encountered in novels of international intrigue, from readable to trash, or in the adventure fiction on television. But there was a great deal of human concern in Rachels’ speech and body language. We had to reassure her that, though we were in great danger, we were prepared for it. It might not find us until we reach our destination which was Elizabeth’s whorehouse, where even danger, if it comes, will have to ring the doorbell first, like any Jane or John, and the door and doorbell were under our control. And if danger finally found us, it would not take us by surprise.

So much of the professional killing by agencies such as GLCIS and Mossad relies on the target being taken by surprise, and dead before they know what is going on. So the killers are dominated by any assassin’s tradecraft they’ve studied, which means routine actions and routine thinking. If the target isn’t taken by surprise, particularly one like Elizabeth, who is secretly armed and armored, all bets are off. Like Lady Chief and the unsuccessful sniper, beyond what they’ve trained for, they bring to the table little more that the wits, talent, and flexibility of the average man. If that.

But, in the end, being convinced of our awareness and resolution, the awe in her eyes won out. After that Rachel could release her needed monologue about her life without Gene, of places unknown to us and people not familiar to us who remained mere names. Elizabeth gave Sally the “here’s your next lesson, girl” look and then proceeded to listen like the whore she was to the Johns she listens to, looking for the opportunity to ask questions that would take the talk toward a place of fresh memories that would keep Rachel from flagging before the release she needed. And the simple thing that is so hard, to just keep paying attention to what you are clueless about because “you had to be there” and you were never there at all.

Sally watched both women sharply looking for clues how Elizabeth was doing one of the components of her job, that of listening well and talking to perfect strangers. Rachel, of course, was not a “stranger” though her narrative was that of one. So, in the end, when Rachel had exhausted her capacity for any talk, though there was still plenty more to say, Elizabeth simply got up, went over, and hugged Rachel silently, with a backward glance at Sally, who got up and did the same thing. And Rachel began to cry, the stoic mask breaking open to reveal for the first time, the depth of her heartache, even to herself. So they simply continued the contact and the closeness that says “We’re sorry, but we understand and will stick with you as long as you need to be heard.”

When she was genuinely finished, and not before then, we three all turned in to sleep.

In the morning at the Toronto Bus Station bus parking and loading dock, we found our bus. It didn’t take much, no other coaches were there. The bus was painted red, smeared over with decades of unwashable diesel fume residue, and surrounded with an almost visible aura of diesel exhaust. This must have been the absolutely last diesel bus in the fleet.

While we were standing next to the open door waiting, our driver was fiddling with colored flimsies on a clipboard, also a throwback of memories. Like a few things in our slowly contracting world, long distance driving still used paper to keep track of things because no one could ever figure out how to do the work efficiently electronically, except to electrify the coaches and trucks themselves. Except for ours, which Sally and I named Red Gertie. And so I floated idly between Iowa in 2019 when my school playground was just across a side street from the Bus Station and 2078 standing by the Toronto bus station in a little tidal pool of the past.

Sally made a prune face at the noise and smell but didn’t say anything. She was born in the electrocar era and, unlike me, had no memories of how noisy and smelly fossil fuel vehicles used to be. Used to be in the eyes of a child that I saw in my mind’s eye rather like peering the wrong way down an old fashioned pirate spy glass. I didn’t really want to get any closer. The engine wheezed darkly in idle as the two of us got on and then the driver. There was no one else. The bus grunted and shuddered into reverse as the driver turned the impressively large and almost horizontal steering wheel, hands end over end to back the bus left, then turning the opposite way to straighten the wheels right and forward onto the roads.

All memories pre Shitstorm are scalding to this old woman; the good times were, objectively, so much better than any good times now, and the bad times were also so much better than the bad times now. And everything we see or touch in this woman’s country has the same smeared over surface as the windows of our bus, smeared not with decades of diesel exhaust but with ennui, boredom, as we wait for the last of the fugitive ice on the planet to melt, the last of the Sea Level rise from it, and the continued fugitive crowding of us into the North by the slow but relentless march of uninhabitable heat behind us.

My prose goes on like our bus trip, word after word after word, mile after mile after mile of nothing.

The methane in the upper atmosphere is not going anywhere anytime soon and it was the melting ice and rising oceans that slowed the heat increase over the past 100 years. They are soon to be maxed out, and if the methane continues to keep more heat in the atmosphere than it lets drain away, then we are within sight of our own extinction. 

The Great Lakes are already a small pocket of people clustered tightly on the shore where the temperatures will rise slowest due to the “lake effect” until we are forced off the land below the 50deg N parallel of latitude on our little water covered island. When? Two generations, 40 years? three generations, 60 years? four generations, 80 years? Four sounds like a good number to me. Humanity as the cap and size 6b shoes of the once blue, fertile, and generous planet. Will it stop there? Probably not.

The only locals were along the Toronto to Hamilton to Niagara Falls (Canadian side) leg. The bus stopped on demand and let them off further along the way. There were a total of six by midday, then, on the American side, none.

The bus sauntered on it’s way past the magnificence of Niagara Falls, before mile after mile after mile of nothing through what used to be called the Southern Tier of Upstate New York, more or less on the Pennsylvania border, where there wasn’t all that much even before the Shitstorm. At the halfway point of the journey there was a station with a Bus Line owned diesel service pump where we refueled. With so little fossil fuel even around, keeping the tank topped up on Red Gertie was a really good idea.

We stopped and waited half an hour, for the next diesel bus, Blue Bonnie, equally covered in exhaust residue, heading west from Kingston to pull in. So the company (probably) still had only two such busses left on its longest backwater run. Sally got out, stretched her legs, went to the restroom, bought a candy bar and a lime soda from inside of the station, and kept reading her Legend while sitting at an outside picnic table. I did the same thing, except I bought a root beer (a taste from a rural Iowa long gone), and walked along the chain fence separating the gravel plaza from the field beyond. 

There were a number respectable trees from better days planted on either side of the road forming a tiny, fully wooded, copice surrounded by what was once farmland, and now on it’s long journey back to climax forest, if the heat didn’t interrupt it first. There was plenty of brush grass, scrub bushes, and vines of all kinds, with the first generation trees, Redbuds and Sumac, spotted intermittently among them

The second bus arrived from the east to top up fuel; the drivers switched clipboards and coaches so the one living in Toronto could get back before dinner, as could the one living in Kingston. There were more passengers on the Toronto inbound. I counted about five. On the way down, three electrocars had passed us on the opposite side of the road, and two passed on our side, one while we were waiting for the other bus, as did a couple of electrocycles with riders in green trimmed colorblock white windbreakers and red helmets with sunglass visors covering the whole face.

Then the whole process of a grumbling engine idle, smell of diesel exhaust, the protest at being revved up while the bus backed up first, and the end over end steering wheel travel happened again and we were off. The road started to get rougher for a while and our dodgy shocks and springs huffed and puffed over it, bouncing the passenger seats merrily as they went. Once the road had smoothed out a little, the rhythm of the diesel engine and the slight side to side movement of inertia of the coach when taking a curve was soporific and I spent the next quarter of the journey alternating between thinking and dozing.

Thoughts of Lady Chief lead to a hypnagogic dream of the two states of her face morphing back and forth, first with glimpses of the feral smile, then whole seconds of it, then longer and longer, until there was only the glimpses left of the Lady Chief we knew. I was frozen and terrified and running past my limit when every thing became brightly lit and feral Lady Chief dissolved leaving our Lady Chief naked in mind and curling into a fetal ball under the impact of the light…..

Then there was a voice in my head holding my attention in the state of almost awakened, where I could just barely feel the bus once again around me. “You have access, my dear. How you think is how things become. The “demons” pursuing your Lady Chief are but your mind and hers. You and I together have the strength enough to dissolve these manifestations for her. Pray to me for her. What she has done and is still doing is pushing her into a next life of torment….” I woke fully and could hear myself mumbling softly “a life of torment” and shivering as I did

Just before we entered the Catskills at the ghost town of Margaretville, I looked out the window to my right and saw the two electrocyclists stopped on the empty cross street and starting to turn behind us. They must have passed again on the left as the law demands, but I couldn’t see them. Other empty little towns appeared and vanished, some, like Woodstock, still having the faint cheer of an artist’s colony in fading exotic boutique signs in the wind and rain and neglect, and other towns with no visible names but merely wrecks.

When I was under my madam in Cicero, Johns of intelligence made up a large part of my patrons who, between orgasms 1 and 2, would talk about many things they knew. And, once, a John who started talking about the Catskills told me that, before the Shitstorm there were several Buddhist establishments, including a full fledged monastery, near Woodstock, on top of those mountains. They, like the Matriarchals to the East of them, were the only ones who didn’t panic and stayed put. Or so a friend of a friend told him. That was over thirty years ago, and as we meandered through dark green mountains, I wondered if they were still there. Or were they, too, forced out by lack of resources and into one of the dingy cities along the lake fronts that survived.

We were nearing Kingston. Lady Chief, in an idle moment in the Agent’s club, while we fleshed out the details of my travels, mentioned that the bus station there was just a stone’s throw from the footbridge to the Zone, which was once built for the fossil fuel automobile traffic of over a century ago. The bridge was still structurally sound so the Zone and GLC, back when relations were better, agreed to refound the towns of Kingston and Rhinecliff as Customs Centers, and sink enough money into them to support a small infrastructure for the lives of the Customs Officers and Police assigned there. As well as their households.

There was a larger and newer bridge for goods traffic two miles upriver from the foot bridge. The older bridge was turned over to pedestrians only, but with still maintained vehicle lanes, closed, with openable gates on both sides so there could be reasonable coordination of emergency services. There was an unwritten agreement that, if help was needed, emergency vehicles would cross over either way despite CUS/PAS regulations and Rhinebeck’s FEM/DOMS would organize the emergency newcomers on the Zone side.

We reached the little town of Kingston, nothing special, just every thing of the bare bones services like self-serve laundries. The bus finally came to a stop and I saw the bad news. Peter and the Truth Team were sitting on the rustic picnic table in front of the station. They must have been confident of their escape to make our killing so brazen.

“Sally, we’re going to have to rely on our vests and my clutch. When we get off the bus I want you to keep directly behind me as close as you can, touching my back if you can. If I start to fall, hold me long enough to get to the gun in my clutch. Remember to use both hands. The killer has the gun behind his back, the thugs each have a knife. We’re going to walk straight toward them.”

I got up, put my right hand in my clutch, palm solidly on the butt, finger on the trigger. My left held the airport dufflebag carrying one set of our underwear, my statue and spices, and Sally’s Legend. Out of the corner of my eye to my right, I saw an electrocar parked, front forward, next to a couple of electrocycles. That must be the getaway car, I thought. Do they have the engine running? I grabbed the exit bar on the left side door of the bus, still holding the duffel with two fingers. I felt Sally’s breathing on my neck. We stepped down and started walking. The table was about twenty yards away. All four men got up. It was quite clear who was the killer, who were the thugs, and who was the candy ass bureaucrat hanging behind.

The killer started walking straight toward me, hands down at his sides. Nothing excited, just a stroll. The others hung back, thugs with right hands in their front pockets, candy ass with a growing smile on his face. The distance between us lessened and I could see the pale, cloudy grey marbles of the killers’ eyes. They narrowed and his walk hesitated. I kept walking steadily, now shifting slightly to my left to cover his torso. I could feel the sweat of my palm on my gun in my clutch. I let the dufflebag fall. I needed to see his gun in his hand to claim self-defense, so I had to let him shoot me and trust the vest.

He made his move. His right hand swept back and the clumsy mouth of the silencer rose toward me in slow motion. I jerked the trigger three times and saw the silencer, pointed straight at me, jump four. The .38 rounds were LOUD! The killer looked surprised, then grimaced, bent over while grabbing his abdomen, and fell forward. I jerked the gun out and was trying to settle my other shaky hand around it when the submachine gun fire started. Five short bursts, I think.

Then I came to. The killer was lying straight in front of me. The thugs were lying both tilted slightly toward my left, and about 10 feet behind the killer, still holding knives. Blood was seeping out of them, a moderate amount out of the killer, but copiously out of the thugs. They would have reached me and slashed our throats before I could get control of the gun. In the distance, I recognized Sarah of GLCCA bending over Peter and placing a knife in his right hand. I felt Sally leaning on my back and crying.

I thought, well, Lady Chief, I guess you made your decision: no survivors, even among your own Truth Team.

“Yes, Elizabeth, that’s what we were told. It’s Violet. Now give me the gun.” She already had it out of my hand, and was deftly removing the clutch from my shoulder. The gun went back in it. I hadn’t realized that I’d been speaking aloud. Violet already had the submachine pistol back in it’s left underarm harness, the green trimmed white windbreaker over it, and her red helmet dangling from her other hip. She’d retrieved my dufflebag as well, “Now come with me for a walk, girls.” I could see the bridge, the Hudson River, and Rhinecliff of the Zone in the distance. Soon we were on it, walking over it, and heading toward it.

I saw a painted line running across the bridge. “Now cross that line and don’t you dare cross back over!” We crossed. “On that side of the line I have no power to arrest you, or even cross it.” She swung in her left hand, my clutch with the gun and the powder burned hole in it, around her head and then flung it into the river. “Unfortunately, your .38 bullets will show up in the autopsy. We were’t expecting them, but you did some damn fine crisis shooting. Your Chief may be able to deal with that, but we can’t take chances. For now, you escaped over the Hudson in the confusion. DON’T come back to GLC until your agency tells you to. Goodbye, and good luck.”

“Go well, Violet.” I said. Then we turned around and started walking toward the Zone. My hands holding the duffel with the underwear, the statue, and the Legend, Sally’s hands empty at her sides. Three men were dead, killed in innocence, criminals or not, betrayed by someone in GLCIS, now also dead, that they trusted to follow. As I said at morning breakfast in the Ritz, “a gray no man’s land of no guilt or innocence, no evil or good, merely the luck of the draw.” 

Lady Chief was now pushed a little closer to demonic madness, as in my dream. I remembered the white and green jade of Kuan Yin, the last voice in my dream, and the white and green jackets of our newest team members. I drew no conclusions but kept these things in my memory, in that order, from then until now. I kept silent. They were not only Sally’s bodies, they were my bodies because I’m forever linked by heart and Eros to a spunky little agent wannabe who was just a sckosh more grown up than she let on to her two favorite aunts.

As we exited from Cus/Pas, with me retina checked, Sally GPS chipped, retina scanned, and her passport whore visaed, we saw 5 or 6 Fem/Dom beat patrol cops. Instead of being bare headed like the ordinary ones, these women had navy blue Garrison caps, soft, brimless, seamed on top front to back, with blue piping, and secondary rank badges on each front side of them. The counterintelligence corps wore these when they wanted to distinguish themselves from the plain working cops.

Usually they didn’t, so you didn’t get to see those caps very much outside of Fem/Dom Headquarters. It was far more useful to substitute “counters”, as they were called, seamlessly into the regular patrols if special surveillance or investigation was needed. They wore a very small dark bronze lapel badge for the benefit of keeping other beat cops up to speed. That also isn’t very widely known. But I’m a Madam and Madams know things.

The largest of them came toward us. Taking her Garrison cap off wouldn’t have disguised her in the least. She looked like the rear of a navy blue beer truck in her uniform. She wasn’t as tall as the old Sec/Spy Goons, perhaps about 5′ 10″, but she was broader across the breasts and heavier in the arms. She had six full gold rank rings on each sleeve and the top one had a circle bent into it. You didn’t see that very often. Five rings was a full captain and that was the highest ranking cop most of the Zone public ever saw, and that seldom. She also had two golden oak leaves, one pinned on each side of her cap, and iron grey hair underneath it. Seeing those oak leaves was even rarer.

“Are you Elizabeth and Sally? Then please come with me.” We walked to a huge electrovan with FEM/DOM CONTROL on each side in the largest possible letters. The rear doors were open and the porta-steps were down. There were several large swivel chairs next to machines and she indicated that we should sit down. “I’ve something to show you,” she said. She took from her breast pocket a torn half of postcard. It looked almost like a business card in her large hand. I took out my half card. They matched.

She shut the back doors of the van and relieved me of my card half. “I’m a Fem/Dom Commander, but my name doesn’t matter. I’ll tell you a personal story briefly. When I was a young beat cop 20 years ago I had a wonderful love affair with an interrogator of Sec/Spy

“She always wore her uniform (of course I didn’t, I wanted my down time) and would never tell me her real name or meet me anywhere but my own apartment. She would say that SEC/SPY security was 24/7 and, especially as an interrogator, she always needed to show that the Agency came first. I called her Julie because I had to call her something. I’ve never loved anyone more. When SEC/SPY exploded my Julie simply vanished and I could never learn who she truly was or where she went.

“Because of her, I’m speaking to you confidentially and off the record. We had identified the five professional non-citizen killers behind the wave of murders that had been going down in the Zone in the last six months, and were surveiling them as they worked in the Food Court of a local building. We first spotted them when two other male workers, who were a non-citizen couple, were found dead together, slain execution style. A back check of GPS chips did the rest.

“A few days ago we started shadowing each of them, with their GPS, back and forth from the Montpellier Airport, a suspect at a time. Then they all appeared there at the same time. I made the decision to pull them in. One of my confidential sources, a very confidential one, had told me that they were killers from Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. They had an arsenal of silenced pistols on their person. And you two were their target. This was unbelievably brazen, daylight and in a crowded airport, so somebody really wanted you dead and dead now.”

I interrupted, “Yeah, but he doesn’t want it any more.”

“Good. So we had them in for a little talk. I already know quite a lot about you, Elizabeth. A couple of our plain clothes have a marvelous story about your expertise with a tawse. We gave the perps a little exhibition of leather and elbow grease. They thought they were tough and didn’t think we women cops could be that much of a problem. Now they think differently. Very differently.

“They told us they were run from the very same building where they served food. We had to chat with the Matriarchs and show them that these clowns have been running amok through the Zone for the last six months taking 23 separate scalps of other visitors. So we’re busting that building in a couple of hours. There was another assassination team in Albany that we didn’t know about until we sweated the one in Montpelier, but we’ve had the building staked out and they returned to it, probably because of the Montpellier Airport bust, and are now hiding in it. The knockover is going to take a SWAT team surrounding the building with a war dance in full combat dress, and maybe even a little plastic explosive.

“Fem/Dom is on the case, and you WILL be safe in the Zone if I have any say about it. And I’ve quite a lot.”

“Thank you Commander!” I said. “I’m sure you also know, unofficially, that my house bends the rules and welcomes any of you that need a little down time, uniform or not. We’ve not had the pleasure of your company, but we’d love to. We’ll never ask your name, and, in a month or two, even Sally here can give you a very warm welcome. On the house.”

She broke her very official face into a slight smile, “I’ll keep it in mind. Would you like a ride up to Montpellier on us?”

“Absolutely! We’re both sick of busses. Traveling on busses is very, very noisy and very, very rough.”

“We gathered that,” she said dryly, “sound travels a long way across the Hudson. Welcome home.”

Sally’s Introduction

Sally got her first strapping the same day we returned to Elizabeth’s Secret. Both she and I wanted the matter finally off of the agenda. We took time for a brief introduction of Sally to the 16 girls and some general description of what help Sally would need from all of them during her apprenticeship.

Then I stated that there was a purely private matter between Sally and I that occurred on the trip which could only be mended by her first strapping. Since it was private, there was no need for any of them to be present either inside or outside the Punishment Room double doors. I didn’t have a special smile for this like Lady Chief, but I was holding my venerable tawse (after over 20 years, and countless strappings, well broken in) rolled up in my hand, and when I said this, I let the tails of it unroll to the floor. That was enough.

Except for the four on call for Johns, the sun had set, dinner was over, as were the dishes, so the ladies went back to there various entertainments. At a superficial glance, I saw nothing indicating that they sloughed off their work, but I’d make an in depth inventory later. You always hope not to bring the strap out after that inventory, but sometimes….

Sally was looking a little white around the gills as she stripped off clothes from her lower body. I said, “You’ll have to take that jacket off, too. The hem of it will get in the way.” She was shaking a little but briskly got on the punishment block and I strapped her down. I went to the right side of her butt, tossed the tails over my shoulder, got my arm in position, and then brought down the first righteous smack. Sally cried out once, more in surprise than pain, then winced as the burn started to build. I heard the doorbell ring, and the eldest of the girls welcome the nighttime John in just like she’s supposed to. She collects the room fee then introduces the four girls on call.

The FEM/DOM prison guards showed me that the way to keep from tiring out was not to overengage the muscles, use only the arm muscles and snap of the elbow and wrist to swing the tawse to the top of the swing and then let gravity do the work, keep the rest of the body relaxed, and get in a rhythm that is not hurried, but is thorough. Smack! Shift left, Smack! Shift left, Smack! Shift left. Every smack should land on part of the previous one, and the red on Sally’s body was rising inexorably like the red alcohol in a thermometer. Sally is very fair skinned and the first run of strapping burns hotter because of it.

Up at the top of her butt the swelling was starting to rise in a ripple following the red. Once you reach back of the knees you change to a shift right. Now you’re strap is slapping on previously strapped skin and the pain level increases. Another ripple of swelling starts up from the knees following the strap. Smack! Shift right! Smack! Shift right! Smack! Shift right! The two swellings meet about 2/3 of the way down the butt and legs. At this point most girls start the howling and opening the waterworks as you strap the first time on a truly swollen welt and the flame of the swelling begins to burn higher over all the surface. Still the rhythm is easy, almost lazy, and you put your attention on keeping each smack exactly like the previous one. The doorbell rang again. Then rang again shortly after. A slow night, probably of randy non-citizens

That burn of the swelling never ceases as a background pain to each horrible new smack of the leather and becomes ever more painful as you strap a surface now completely covered in the swelling welts. Sally was moaning and in tears, but still toughing it out. When you get to the top of the legs you see the first bruising, an angry dark red shifting into red purple underneath the swelling. As you strap on it the pain of your immediate strapping rises further from the bruising starting at just about the bottom of the butt that presses into the chair when you sit. And then you immediately go back over the same butt bruises in the opposite direction.

At this point a lot of the girls start begging you to stop or start venting their anger. Sally’s moaning slipped into howling. You mustn’t let your rhythm break by getting angry at a girl for cursing and start trying to strap her harder. Let gravity keep doing the work. Give the girl a break. At the moment she’s under something of a strain and you shouldn’t hold her language against her. The bruises move down slower than the welts which are still rising as the leather lays welt on top of welt on top of welt.

Somewhere about the second pass down legs the welts behind the strap start merging into one swollen mass. The pressure of the swelling presses both ways, pushing the bruising deeper into the muscle and spreading it widthwise, so that bruises start to show on even the surfaces not touched by the strap, at the sides, and even around into the front at the knees, where the leg diameter is narrowest. And you can see the visible swelling of the whole butt and the thighs behind the movement of the strap. Smack! Step left! Smack! Step left! Smack! Step left.

The bruises move more slowly up and down than the welt swelling so you have one or two more times when the strap suddenly hits bruised flesh and the victim howls. When that ends and the bruises completely cover both butt and thigh, the pain that continues to develop is deep in the flesh as the bruises are pressed further and further in and all turn a dark blue-black. That is the color you are looking for. When you have that all up and down each butt cheek and thigh you have guaranteed that those areas won’t stand being sat on for at least two weeks.

When I looked at the damage to Sally’s pale clear skin, I knew it would take her three weeks. At least she’ll have plenty of time to memorize her new legend.

And you will still be breathing normally, only marginally tired, and not even with a serious sweat in cooler weather. Nothing, of course, was more tired than poor Sally’s butt and her irregular heavy breathing slowly diminished as she pressed her face into the block. When it had mostly subsided I started loosening the straps and folding them away. I caught Sally’s sidelong look with mouth open and body shivering. I went up to her head and said softly, “Just stay there a couple of minutes until you gain more control.”

After the wait I put my arms around her and rolled Sally onto her hipbone, then pivoted her on it off of the block while avoiding touching most of the bruises. On her feet I held her up until her balance was firm. At that point she did something no one else has ever done. She squeezed me harder and briefly kissed my mouth, not a peck but no where near the outrageous buss she had given Lady Chief.

“Elizabeth I love you and will never stop. You can’t beat that out of me. You’ve tanned my bottom beyond anything like my Dad and his strap did out in the garage the 2 or 3 times it happened in my teens. This was the worst pain I’ve ever felt and halfway through it became the worst minutes of my life. You and Lady Chief were right, no possible words can describe this pain. But somehow I understand the Matriarchals more now. This pain is an entire life outside of this front door, and everything else pivots around it. Here it is merely an avoidable punishment (at least most of the time) though it feels no better. But this was also an act of love, the last we’ll share for many years…..Good bye.” And she let me go with my tears starting.

Then she stood looking at me, stood straight with a major grimace, said, “Ms. Elizabeth, I’m sorry about what I did and won’t do it again. I don’t ever want to be strapped like this again. I will always obey your rules the best I can.” She never talked to me any other way until she became the Madam of Elizabeth’s Secret and I retired.

I went into my office, closed my door, poured myself a glass of brandy, and cried my eyes out.

In the larger perspective, the expulsion of all Israelis, stripping them of citizenship, and deporting them was a public relations disaster for both sides. Too many people knew the real story of the killers and their victims for it to be hidden, though no intelligible report of why Mossad had done this ever reached the public.

The Zone lost a great deal of face, citizen applications, and particularly non-citizen travel by choice; these still have not recovered after 4 full years and the Matriarchs have had to expedite their commitment to artificial insemination, though they have not yet faced what has to be done when the babies start showing up. Their economy has never been very vigorous. It has been held back by the enormous cost of police and prisons to sustain their ideal of the Matriarchal state. It is not clear how they will manage the current lack of Maternity Care in the Zone

Israel has always taken the posture that they WILL kill their enemies wherever and whenever they find them, but none of the 23 dead had any connection whatever to Israel and it’s issues, and, except for a few of the most radical in Israel, no Israeli in public life made any attempt to assert that the dead were in any way “enemies” of the Jewish state, and the ordinary Israeli public expressed an incredibly uniform revulsion at the events. The Prime Minister’s Party narrowly avoided the fall of it’s government principally by drum beating the “retirement” of the head of Mossad and the replacement of his entire top staff and forcing a reorganization of the agency to contain the number and direction of it’s future “black operations”. The opposition in the Knesset seized the opportunity to ram through legislation compelling more oversight of intelligence by the Knesset themselves.

The Chief Matriarch made two very unpopular decisions; first, she rejected the proposal that the Matriarchal Cabinet cease to be a lifetime position, though the members who actively promoted Mossad there were all convinced to “voluntarily” resign. Including Angie. Many in the Zone, quite reasonably, had blamed the Cabinet for the intelligence and security failings of the past 20 years; second, relatives of the murdered non-citizens were simply pushed rudely away by the Chief Matriarch from the discussion of what to do with the captured murderers.

It was decided not to pursue charges after a number of Dictapad calls between the Chief Matriarch and the Israeli Prime Minister featured some very tough negotiating, the final result was that ALL Israelis, even the killers, would be repatriated, but no citizen of Israel would be allowed into the Matriarchal Zone for 20 years. The Chief Matriarch also offered to cede to Israel some of the land in New England and Nova Scotia for a colony, that the Matriarchs had dismally failed to populate, as they had committed to do in the Six Genders Compact.

They jointly appealed to the current Head of the World Negotiations Agency to broker such an agreement between both countries. The behind the scenes result of this has yet to be known. The most popular solution in both Israel and the Zone is a withdrawal to the old Maine/New Hampshire border, with no exchange of any kind between a new colony and the Zone. Some sort of monetary compensation by Israel to the Zone for the loss of the land is to be worked out.

At the beginning of this narrative, I said the following, “Sally is young for a Madam at 27, but level headed and well schooled by me. Don’t ever tell her, please, but several years ago, when I began planning to retire, I had to pull every string I could on both sides of the GLC/Zone border to find a girl to teach to be a high class tart that had both the brains and the ethics to move up to Management. They’re not scarce as hen’s teeth, but they aren’t that common.”

This is, of course, the part of her legend as “Sally Bayer” that extended to and past the crossing of the Matriarchal Zone border. I won’t tell you how much is true and how much is false, much less so whether or not she’s anything besides a Madam or done any training anywhere, outside of Elizabeth’s Secret. Those were her choices to make.

But I did very recently receive another one of those letters from GLC, this time with a one way ticket to Chicago and a note that read “Get your ass over here or I’ll come and drag it over. LC”. So maybe, just maybe, Elizabeth of Montpelier might vanish on her next trip. And someday Sally Bayer might be a very, very wealthy woman, whether under that name or another.

Commander Cherry Hawkins Remembers

It’s been 20 years since the first seeds of the disastrous incident known as the Matriarch Assassination were planted. Since I’m in counterintelligence, and the highest levels of it, I’m one of the few who can see the entire scope of this incident from it’s first causes until it’s ultimate and tragic effects. By chance, I personally was present at the beginning, and through all the permutations, so I got a first hand look at all the major players and am very sure of the actual motivations of most of the parties. This is the story from that very beginning.

There has been a great deal of talk about spys and double agents surrounding this, some of which has been directed at me. The same year as all this started, I developed a confidential source in GLICIS, the Great Lakes Consortium Intelligence Service, the spy agency of the Great Lakes Consortium, our neighbor over the Hudson River and west of the Matriarchal Zone.

For decades we have known of it’s extensive spy presence here and, in 2062, in the SEC/SPY–Henry Peterson scandal, we experienced our first known contact with GLICIS dirty workers, killers and thugs organized under the name of “Truth Teams”, the name is short for Moment Of Truth which is what they are supposed to be bringing to whomever they hunt. We are 90% sure that their killers were the rifle snipers who killed SEC/SPY’s Mossad liaison Micha Haaretz, and about 60% sure that they also killed the head of SEC/SPY, Helen Thoroughgood using a fake flower delivery and a silenced pistol. That last percentage would probably rise much higher if we found any indication that their Truth Teams use face to face killing.

From the very first, every member of the Counterintelligence Triumvirate and also the Chief of FEM/DOM Police have been aware of my Confidential Source, and approved of it’s use. So I am not and never have been a “GLICIS agent” in the Matriarchal Zone. We still have no spy agency and run no agents of our own in foreign countries, so indirect sources in the spying countries that do are a valuable part of our Counterintelligence activity.

Any single agent can be (can be, not will be) trapped with our AI analyst “Shirley” that correlates and coordinates the daily reports of FEM/DOM beat patrols and GPS trails looking for suspicious activity, and now that we have adapted Shirley to process those reports (which have been archived diligently) from as far back as 15 years ago, we have even more power to spot things out of place that we never could have without Shirley. In the future we plan to input CUS/PAS retina scans and checks of fully 20 years and more duration.

But interrogating any single captured agent (which I have personally done, and still do, if the matter is important enough) gives you very little insight of an agency’s overall plan of attack on your country. Captured GLCIS agents always answer quite readily anything we want to know about what they were doing and even what were the “worknames” of the agent runners in Chicago who participated with them. But they also tell us that GLICIS goes to extraordinary lengths to keep each of their agents “watertight” or completely separated from any other operation, and if one is captured, they will cut their losses at Headquarters, shutting down the operation completely, tracing who in their central organization worked with that agent and change their “worknames”, life stories, and GLC documentation totally.

In addition, every member of GLCIS has completely and permanently abandoned their original legal name and life story, and changes those same worknames yearly. This is not taking on simply another alias, it is turning yourself legally into a whole new person. I have distinct dislikes for GLCIS and it’s ways, but I can’t fault the dedication and motivation of it’s employees.

After 2070, when Shirley first started working at full capacity, we had about two banner years rolling up Light and Medium Cover agents of both GLCIS, “Poison Julep” (the completely unacknowledged agency of Dixieland), Pacifica, Mormonia, and one agency whose name I still can’t reveal. Then the well dried up.

We think the distant agencies have simply ceased to field spys here. We also think that both nearby agencies started rotating members of a team under light cover through CUS/PAS on its now 6 month cycle of visa renewal. A team member gets through with a visa, does his segment of the spying, and then leaves the country just before his visa starts to expire. He is replaced with a second team member with a different name and a new visa who picks up where the other one left off, and so on. Even the tightest AI surveilance system cannot yet correlate reliably the movements of people who stay only until their first visa expires.

And we have been trying at all costs to persuade CUS/PAS to NOT raise that visa renewal to 1 year. They say this is a cost cutting measure to recoup the revenue it lost that was reassigned to MAT/SERV the new agency of pediatric and maternity practices and hospitals.

As to their Medium Cover agents, we still capture a Dixielander every so often, but nary a whisper of one from GLCIS. We don’t think they stopped sending them, but we have not been able to capture any of them. Thejn there are the Deep Cover agents who are placed months or years ahead of time and stay quiescent until they have worked themselves completely into the fabric of our country and then start their spying career. The most famous of the known ones being Henry Peterson the GLCIS Perfume and Cosmetics Salesman.

Neither Shirley nor we have found any more since Peterson, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

In the summer of 2068 a juvenile offender named Bernadette Johnson was proved by video to have made a rude gesture toward the Chief Matriarch at a public function. This offense was so open and seen by so many people that it had become the gossip of the entire Matriarchal Zone with lots of laughter at the Chief Matriarch’s expense. She herself was not amused.

We at FEM/DOM, including myself apprehended the young lady at her school. I was a Captain, but since we were taking her to the Chief Matriarch herself, it was deemed advisable for a ranking officer to oversee the team. And the Matriarch had asked for a counterintelligence officer in the mix, so I was dutifully there with my Counterintelligence Garrison cap on to tell her and everybody else just what I was, if not why I was there. I didn’t even know that, myself. An officer was also sent to her home to inform her father a non-citizen zone resident here to chaperone his daughter though Matriarchal training for citizenship.

She was absolutely terrified. She kept saying, “I didn’t mean it. I really didn’t mean it.” Since she was crying profusely, I said something to distract her attention. It helps with those we seize for punishment. “It’s too late for that, young lady. The question is, do you regret it and can you bring yourself to still honestly regret it after your punishment?”

“How much will I be punished? Will I have my butt and thighs strapped like at school?”

“I can’t say for certain, but usually for something like this, we are asked to give someone a Level 1 strapping rather than a Level 2 strapping like your school. It’s much worse. We call Level 2 “A Mild Rebuke”, you just can’t sit or lie down for two weeks. Level 1 we call “A Sharp Dressing Down”. We start on your back side at your heels, strap all the way up to your neck and all the way back down again.

“We keep doing this, making sure we cover the line between each two welts with a new welt directly above it. Ten times we strap up and down. It hurts too much for you to even walk. With good long term aftercare and 3 days icing down, which we do in Vauxhall Prison, after the two weeks you will walk with discomfort and think carefully before you sit down about whether you want to do it or not. We will hold you in Vauxhall for another two weeks and then discharge you. Your whole rear side will give you twinges for about 3 months after that. But there will be no permanent scarring or nerve damage.”

“Oh my god! I’ll DIE under that!!!

“No you won’t. You’ll survive it because you’re a women. I’ve given or watched this strapping many times. No woman and no man either has died from them. The men are more fragile psychologically. Some turn psychotic afterwards from the stress. No women ever has. But you are stronger than you think.

“In fact, the way you are responding tells me that you are very much stronger than you think. While you still can absorb it, let me give you my card. FEM/DOM always has a place for women who are tough enough, and in a few years, you’ll need a job. Places of employment do check your history with us, and many will not like it if they see you’ve been given a Level 1.

“See me when you do. At FEM/DOM we like women able to get through one and get on with their life.” I leaned over to her and whispered in her ear, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m one of them.” She looked at the card and at me and said, “Thank you, Captain Hawkins. I’ll try to be tough.”

We arrived at the Matriarchal Residence on Weston Street. It’s no mansion, but it’s a very upscale Victorian home of pre-Zone Montpelier. The Matriarch’s Hostess greeted us at the door, startled as usual at how tall I was, especially with my Garrison cap which few people ever see, “She is waiting in the room you see at the far left.” Two Maleservants moved noiselessly through the central hall on unknown errands. Neither of them would meet our eyes. We walked there, and I’m sure that the walk was portentous for our young lady however routine it was for us. It was a library, mostly a growing and well-tended library from 40 years ago, abandoned by the owner of the house, but you could see a small corner of additions since, from GLC, from Pacifica, from Dixieland, and from New Canada.

All titles were contemporary, and freely available in the Zone, but there was nothing on the shelf by a writer from the Zone. It occurred to me that, even with so many years on the Force, I’d never encountered a citizen “writer”, neither in our case files nor in person. Somehow that was disturbing. It felt like those “free and equal” countries had digested the Diaspora, and the end of the USA, and gone on with their lives. We certainly haven’t, I thought, and not for the first time.

The Matriarch was on one side of the long room, behind an ornate antique table that served as her desk, with a Dictapad to one side, one of the larger and older ones. Eight antique, but well cushioned, armchairs with side tables were spread around the room’s edge near the bookshelves. All tidy little islands of comfort for an individual to sink into to sit and read a book not far from the impromptu socket where the book came from.

My cop’s eyes noted that there were no such sockets in the shelves today. The only touch of real luxury was the exceedingly expensive, nine anti-gravity Glowglobes from China, over each chair and the table, that had become fashionable with those who know, and are in the know, for about five years; fashionable not with me, not with the house’s Hostess, and not with you, but with the upper crust of the flat pancake of the Zone’s relatively equal incomes from Job Jar Economics in 2068.

Relatively equal incomes don’t disturb class relations in the least, and relatively small and infrequent luxuries like household servants and Glowglobes, in an otherwise a merely comfortable and large house, are the way that the upper crust here add the signature of their status to their lives. And the Chief Matriarch is about as upper as upper crust gets. She had a neat, short crop of pure white hair, the kind that only blondes have when they age, a slightly asymmetric face, and was in a colorful but unpretentious house dress about two steps down in formality from her Hostess.

You wouldn’t think to look at her that she ruled a country by decree a year at a time. But she was, after all, relaxed and in her own home. The one thing about her at the moment that matched her actual status and importance was the cold clarity of her grey-green eyes. A young just plain lady cop who met those eyes always felt, with no justification, like something was out of place on her uniform which the Chief Matriarch not only saw, but disapproved of markedly. Someone like myself, with years and rank, the slowly softening abs and pectorals that come with those things (working out or no) and a growing number of underwire bras in my closet, felt the need to be on the ready to jump when the Chief said “frog” and to hold the same degree of alertness needed to wrestle a crocodile.

Who knows what the young lady felt about all this? Except, of course, for abject terror. We live in literary archetypes in the Zone, and who could this be in young and wide eyes but the wicked witch or imperious queen of nursery story fame.

“Well Bernadette Johnson, what do you have to say for yourself.” the Chief said imperiously.

The child glanced over at me, straightened her back, met those cold, grey-green eyes unwaveringly, “I’m sorry Chief Matriarch for insulting you with my rude gesture. Sometimes my feelings get away from me and I do things I shouldn’t have. This was something that I really shouldn’t have done and I regret it deeply. I know I will be painfully punished for it and accept that fact. I will have that same regret on the other side of this punishment that I have now and will try to endure the pain of it without resentment and learn from it.”

“That’s a pretty speech, young lady, but it’s a shame you couldn’t exercise the same control then as you do now. In the real world the record of your punishment will follow you through your life. I will be adding a note to the FEM/DOM file on it tomorrow when it as ready. It will not be as pretty as your speech,” her eyes got much harder, “but it will be clear and to the point. That will be all for now.”

My heart froze. She could only mean that she was going to ask us to put Bernadette’s file in the Major Crime and Security Risk file separation. That’s why I’m here, a “counter” captain “counterintelligence”, among the beat cops. If counterintelligence is present only then could she be classified as a security risk. She asked for me or someone like me (she doesn’t know me from Eve except as all strangers know me, the really big and tall Amazon cop) in order to establish a flimsy basis for her decision about the file by my very presence, which will also be recorded in the file!

She’s going to try to ruin that girl’s life forever and force her out of the Zone as soon as she graduates. Even we wouldn’t be able to hire her if her case went in that file, and as for anyone else, she couldn’t get a job flipping burgers. As a newly made citizen, she couldn’t even go to Scarlet Fever Lane and be a Working Girl with the GLC run brothels. A brothel could lose it’s franchise if it was discovered using her. If Bernadette stays here, she’ll be reduced to a life of petty crime, begging, and homelessness.

A fine citizen she will be, a credit to the Matriarchal Ideal. When you rank as high as I do in any of the police forces you can’t hide from the fact that the Matriarchal Ideal is propped up by official terror and constant beatings. I’m still with FEM/DOM because, even though we hand out more beatings to female citizens than any other service, it is mostly to the already incarcerated to maintain prison discipline, so I get to chase the real bad guys like that smooth GLICIS perfume salesman, Henry Peterson, who was hidden so much in plain sight, that we overlooked him for five solid years!

Luckily, it wasn’t my unit that didn’t catch him. We didn’t even exist until Peterson was killed and the SEC/SPY scandal where that agency blew itself into oblivion by making the Zone violate the Six Genders Compact. We got the job they were supposed to be doing and, once we separated the wheat from the chaff, we absorbed the few there that actually knew how to do it. They are the backbone of we counters. I’m one of the few in the high ranks that started as a lowly beat cop.

Bernadette had nothing to say about it and didn’t know that it would drive her out of the Zone for good, probably destroying her dream. She’s from GLC, but the note I could write to my major counterintelligence source over there would probably either get her an offer to join GLCSIS or perhaps one of the subsidiary activities that are run by one of the lower level bureaucrats. She might even be picked up by GLCCA, though working under that dunce who runs it would be trying. They are supposed to be counterintelligence police but they are sloppy police, and the only counterintelligence they do is when GLCIS finds them some spys!

I don’t know how high my source is in the hierarchy over there, and she still won’t respond to any name but the one I gave her years ago, Julie. They might give Bernadette a new name and legend that would separate her from this punishment forever, whatever it might be. I had a feeling in my gut that there would be something even more devastating than the stroke of the pen of the Chief Matriarch. I was right. I was about to take Bernadette to Vauxhall Prison to receive her corporal punishment. I spoke for the first time, “Chief Matriarch, what are your orders for her corporal punishment, would you require the warrant that we have drafted for your signature, or would you prefer to assign a deputy to do it?”

“Give me the warrant, Captain, I intend to keep this matter completely “in house”. She said with a slight, cold smile. “The warrant will be returned to you with my note for her file. It will be signed but will not specify the actual punishment. I won’t say more. Since your position in counterintelligence is a delicate one, I order you to leave before this can go further. You brought two officers. I’ll need two more. Please call this request in outside and show them to my Hostess. Then you no longer will be required.”

“Yes, Chief Matriarch, as you wish,” and I was about to turn and leave, but she spoke again. “One final thing Captain, I know your superiors will need to know of this and be given a true explanation of my request and what you saw here, but make clear to them that I want your conversation with them to be given the highest possible security rating available. When I debrief your four officers, I will direct them to report immediately to your counterintelligence office to be advised of the level of secrecy this matter requires. Expect them sometime later in the day. You may go now.”

“Thank you, Chief Matriarch.” Then I turned, left, and, once outside, called for two more officers from the Perpetrator Security Department. These are the ones we use when we expect a physical struggle to occur in the regular run of police business. Whatever was going to go down in the Chief Matriarch’s house, it was clearly ugly enough, given her dispensing with me and using lower ranked officers, that I suspected some physical restraint of one or more of the players might be required.

All our officers carry tazers and nightsticks, but we try to keep the usage of them as limited as possible. Both can lead to serious injury and the tazer can actually cause death. And use of our concealed police firearms is even more limited. Since, from it’s inception, the Zone has prohibited all private firearms, we have seldom faced armed opponents, and our beat patrols of two officers each for every neighborhood have been so fine grained that, with our confreres in CUS/PAS giving the Zone such extremely tight borders, little to no weapons smuggling has even been attempted.

It makes policing in the Zone much safer than elsewhere.

Our average for our cadets is about the same height as the general run of Zone women, 5′ 5″. We set a lower height limit of 5′ 0″, but the shorter cadets have a more difficult time with the physical fitness requirement. About 1/3 of our officers fall below the average height, and the other two thirds above it to a practical height limit of my 5′ 11″. I’m taller than all but 1% of the force. It’s that 1% who are assigned to the Perpetrator Security Department. It was my second assignment after beat patrol. We met more stringent physical fitness requirements which were tested quarterly.

There were ten extremely tall women, all of them 6’+, in SEC/SPY Security that were hired and given strength training as part of their job duty. When that agency was dissolved, we took a very close look at them, but were unimpressed by their general level of intelligence and trainability. We demand more than mere “muscle” of ALL our officers, whatever their rank and duties. We winnowed out most of them, but found two that met both our physical fitness requirement, which focused on cardio and physical agility rather than strength moving resistance, and our intelligence requirement, although, just between us, they didn’t meet our intelligence requirement by all that much, and are still a little bit literal minded, but they are great gals, and we three, myself and Lieutenants Harper and Watson, were tight as a drum together, on duty and off.

When I was made Captain in Counterintelligence and second in command to Commander Norris, I was told privately that Harper and Watson probably wouldn’t make Captain in their careers. On some level, I think they already know that and are content to wait for age to lessen their physical capacity and to move on to desk work when that happens. I was, too. I thought that despite my intelligence and trainability, I simply was too physically outsize for the powers that be to see anything about me but my size. It is my great gratitude to them that I was wrong.

What I later said about Bernadette Johnson and the trouble she was in to my superior, Commander Norris, was essentially what I just said to you. She agreed that superficially, the Matriarch had made it impossible for Bernadette to live in the Zone after her citizenship is granted. And her directive will keep anyone from telling Bernadette or her father about that fact, so she will be driven out rather than just leave.

Then she said, “However, we must have extensive debriefing of the officers present, to confirm that the Matriarch said “the highest level of security”, because we will add these debriefing notes to Bernadette’s file, and follow this directive to the letter. The highest level of our security is something you may have heard of, but certainly never have never seen. It is called “Eyes Only/Code Red.”

“It’s mentioned in our Security and Standards handbook, but no details are given.”

She continued, “That’s because only the people cleared in house to even know about such documents know exactly what those details are. These documents cannot be accessed in any way through the regular electronic file system, even the separate Security Risk files. They are completely separated and held in hard copy form only by myself, by the Chief of Department, and by the second Commander Bryson. No one below our rank or not a member of Counterintelligence Department can have access to them. And only the Chief Matriarch and the Matriarchal Cabinet on the civilian side can request access to these documents.

“Now, Hawkins, pay attention to this because it’s part of the bureaucratic skills you will need to cultivate. Only we three FEM/DOM counterintelligence officers, and now you, even know that the highly cleared paper archive we hold exists. Certainly none of our political masters know of it, since we have never mentioned even its name anywhere but a brief note in our handbook. Now if somehow, the Chief Matriarch wishes to see that file, we will certainly show it to her, but that having been done, there will undoubtedly be no reason to mention how it is classified and to whom it’s restricted.

“No future employer of Bernadette will be allowed to even know about it. Indeed, the Chief Matriarch is so focused on covering the tracks of her highly irregular approach to this case that, except for the beating, there will be no revenge taken on Bernadette’s future. Since the Matriarch is not likely to keep a record of it, because of the political danger it represents, and your warrant will be deposited only in Bernadette’s file, no official record of her punishment will ever exist.

“You are a very lucky gal, Hawkins. By chance, the Chief Matriarch asked for someone from counterintelligence with the rank of Captain or higher, and you were available. That chance will make it far more necessary for us to work closely with you, rather than the other two Captains, and, in consequence share secrets with you that will be told to no one else. When the time comes around for you to apply for promotion, that will be of great importance. Your first task in this close relationship will be to debrief the other four officers.”

I said, “Commander, did you learn to do this sort of stuff in SEC/SPY?” She replied, “Yes, but more particularly, I worked under Micha Harretz. She HAD to be bureaucratically sharp. She was working in a “low carving on the totem pole” department with not much money more than paid the salaries for she and the four of us, and we had the hardest job in the building, catching the top level spies of our neighboring agencies, who were intelligent, careful, and well hidden. Since she was not in counterintelligence before she came to us, but on the other side of the hide-and-seek, she called it “tradecraft”. Micha really liked the four of us because we still retained our brains, despite it all. She also had her eye on one of the interrogators who still had half a brain, for a fifth subordinate, but something happened, I don’t know what.

“As you already know, in counterintelligence here we think that all that jargon impedes the mind. It must be useful in the “hide”, or they wouldn’t love it so much, but over here in the “seek” what we need is clarity and straight talk. The only thing that needs to be secret is our information. One of the things that brought SEC/SPY down was the obsessive need to keep everything about themselves secret. Mostly to protect the Black Widow driven interrogation, which they knew damn well violated the Six Genders Compact.

“Even on the hide side, GLCIS is a far better agency with far smarter spies than Dixieland’s Poison Julep, which is not even supposed to exist. The GLICIS Headquarters is openly in the middle of Downtown Chicago, just like ours in Montpelier. How they handle their personnel secrets, particularly their killers, is something I’d love to know. But we’d have to run agents to find out. To start all they would have to do is wander around the building and look for another entrance that has people regularly coming in and out. They don’t have indefinite detention over there so as long as you don’t break the law ANY light cover agent with that instruction would be perfectly safe. But the Matriarchal Cabinet still won’t hear of it.

“Anyway, we at Counterintelligence In The Streets were really good, far better than anybody but the interrogators, and a little better even than they were. We had neither their money nor the Black Widow to help. We were regularly taking long term spy scalps, and not just Henry Peterson’s, which made ALL of the supervisors at Haaretz’ bureaucratic level into enemies. And for no good reason. We weren’t asking for a bigger budget, making them lose money, nor for more people on staff. Micha herself said that too much money let people get lazy, and too many people meant more dunderheaded staff. Four or five truly sharp people were enough.

“The only reason they hated her (and it was hate) and tried to undermine her at every turn was that we were good. So she showed us how to fight in that environment and, more importantly, why you need to know this stuff even in a shop like FEM/DOM with genuinely high morale and willing cooperation. The beat patrols are happy as clams about our new AI analysis of their street reports. But things like this situation with Bernadette Johnson crop up all the time: the Chief Matriarch gets pissy and you have to finesse that fact. So we will do just that. And if anyone else reveals that we did, we merely followed her directive to jgive this matter the highest security possible.”

They sent Lieutenants Harper and Watson to me first. They were all of a flutter about something and asked for it. For some strange reason, the patrolies hadn’t returned. When they walked into my office, I said, “Hi girls. How’s trade?”

“Cherry, we have something horrible and dangerous to report,” said Harper. I overlooked the breach of discipline of using my first name, the two were obviously very upset and we had to get that out of the way first. “Go ahead,” I replied.

After we were let in the Matriarch’s house, we were shown into its Punishment Room at the rear of the first floor. When we walked in we saw something amazing! The door opened and the first thing there was the young woman we were told that the Matriarch wanted to see punished.

She was strapped to a punishment block longways from the door, naked, and her backside was totally covered in cane welts. It was swollen to what must have been about 1/3 larger than it’s normal size. The welts were very fresh and the last of them must have been laid on just before we entered the house. It was still swelling.

The girl was bawling her head off and trying to talk about it burning, but wasn’t making sense through her cry. Standing next to the block was our old executionress, Angie, dressed in all black as she used to be when giving those shriek filled canings on the Black Widow. She was flexing a heavy cane first in front and then behind her butt, smiling a little.

“Officers, we expect better manners than you’re showing. Introduce yourselves!” It was the Chief Matriarch, seated at the back wall, on an antique wooden throne with steps at the bottom. Her eyes were level with our eyes. When I looked at them I gave a shiver. “We’re sorry, Chief Matriarch, we didn’t see you when we entered. Please forgive us. I’m Lieutenant Harper and this is Lieutenant Watson. We’re from the Perpetrator Security department of FEM/DOM. We were sent here by Captain Hawkins of counterintelligence to help with an official punishment. How may we help you?”

The Chief Matriarch continued, “That’s better. You were obviously startled by the fact that this tramp of a young woman had been caned repeatedly. No doubt you are used to seeing strappings. This is as I ordered, and this is Ms. Angie Albertson, formerly of SEC/SPY, whose great expertise with a cane I have commanded.” The Matriarch paused as we both nodded in Angie’s direction. “We are familiar with one another, Matriarch,” Angie replied, “These officers were with SEC/SPY security. Nice to see you ladies, and nice to see that FEM/DOM has steadily promoted you.”

“We can exchange courtesies later. Officers, in the normal process of punishment. This Johnson woman stepped out of her place far further than the bare facts of her case would indicate. I ordered her caned until her bottom was completely covered in welts and that she have the pleasure of experiencing each welt swell to full size before another stroke was laid

“Angie is the best and most accurate caner in The Zone so I chose her to execute this punishment, and I’ve not been disappointed with her. As you can see, the 24 strokes have been so well laid on that none of them broke the surface of another and no blood has been drawn. Magnificent job Angie.”

“Thank you Matriarch, caning is my pleasure and that is only increased by your flattering summons.” Angie replied

“Can you hear me Bernadette Johnson? Can you speak to me?” the Matriarch asked imperiously. The young woman on the block managed a strangled, “Yes, Matriarch,” through the tousled golden hair scattered across her face.

“Angie has demonstrated excellent courtesy of address toward me. That fact is probably wasted on you, but I will mention it in passing. I spoke with your school, and I’m not going to interfere with your formal citizenship ceremony for reasons that will be clear in a moment. But I’ve been quite explicit about why you must be absent for two weeks, and I specifically told the principal not to conceal the reason from your teachers or your fellow students in hopes that you receive a very warm welcome by Zone women who know their place and take it.”

“Be warned, however, the place you so gracelessly stepped out of is no longer there for you. You will find no gainful employment in the Zone anywhere. I will see to that, and if you continue to stay here after your graduation, you will starve. Unless, of course, you join the whores on Massey Street. And even there, it is a criminal offense for a Zone Citizen to do that, or for a brothel to hire you, as is street begging.

“If you ever read the Bible, you know about the permanent mark God placed on Cain for killing his brother. I chose to have you caned and caned so expertly to experience the most possible pain I could arrange for you. But I also asked Angie to cane you hard enough that YOU will be marked permanently with scars from it for the rest of your life. You deserve no less.

“So the only way you will ever stay here is in a prison cell. These officers were surprised you were not being strapped, but in any of our prisons, I’m sure the guards will give you more than enough strapping for your hide to carry. And if I ever hear you are in prison here, I will make sure you are more than well strapped.

“Officers, we don’t have any way to move this piece of refuse from here, will one of you please step outside the room and arrange that.” I gestured to Watson and she left the room to call an EMT. The Matriarch rang a little handbell. Things were quiet for the moment, then the Hostess stepped in. “Brandy, please have the Maleservants clean up the urine from this little doxy.” “Right away, Matriarch!” she disappeared.

The Matriarch resumed.”We have more work to do, officers. Her non-citizen father barged in here and had the effrontery to question my judgment on his daughter. He is now in handcuffs with the first two FEM/DOM officers here.” At this point the Maleservants appeared with a bucket and mop, “Please swab up the urine around the punishment block, then bring in enough towels to thoroughly dry the floor. We will need the block again shortly.”

At this point Bernadette moaned, “Noooo!” The Matriarch continued, “Yes, young woman, your father is going to feel the bite of Angie’s cane, too. Feel it even more than you have. I’ve had to exercise restraint…” At this point I thought, if THIS is restraint, I’d hate to see her unrestrain herself, “…since you are a female citizen in training, your caning bears some reasonable resemblance to the normal penalty of a Level 1 strapping. But your father is merely a male non-citizen from GLC so I’ll be considerably less restrained, and so will Angie,” Angie’s smile had never left her and now was a big, wide grin.

We all knew she was personally sadistic at SEC/SPY, remember? At this point the Maleservants entered with a heap of towels, not looking anyone in the eye and in total silence. The Matriarch resumed, “Angie will give him at least 60 cane welts covering him completely from the top of his butt crack to the top of his knees. She will not need to be as fussy about it as she was for you. I want him scarred repeatedly and permanently as a lesson to the people who know him in GLC: Don’t come over here unless you behave with ABSOLUTE courtesy and respect toward your betters.”

Bernadette started to cry profusely again and was softly moaning “No, no, no, not my father, no.” “Not only won’t he sit down for weeks and walk crooked for longer, Angie knows from her years at the Black Widow how to drop cane welts exactly over the major lower dorsal nerve junctions. I have no problem with her doing that. So he may just lose the painless use of his butt and legs for a long, long time.”

Bernadette started shaking as well as crying and her moans louder. I heard the clatter of the EMT’s bringing the gurney up the front steps.

The Matriarch continued, “Then I’m going to have the officers take him immediately to the Kingston Bridge and throw him across the borderline in the middle of it. He can look for his own treatment. His place is in the dirt on the other side of the Hudson. Let him keep to it. Angie, have the officers bring him in.”

At this point we had a traffic jam caused by the EMT’s and the gurney. As soon as the door was cleared, Angie departed. The EMTs were undoing Bernadette’s bindings. I went outside for a moment with Watson and whispered, “Tell them to get her to both aftercare and treatment ASAP and not nerm around on the sidewalk with topicals. She needs aftercare immediately before they ice her down or she’ll scar horribly.”

Angie, the low rank beat cops and the father reached the door and entered, I followed closely, trying to look as if I went out to make sure the Matriarch’s wishes were being served. The father was gagged. He must have been making a nuisance of himself wherever they were holding him. Good thing. If he hadn’t been, as he saw his naked daughter’s lacerated bottom, he would have screamed at the top of his lungs. He tried anyway. And as he saw his daughter taken away to who knows where he struggled against the officers for one last time. Then he went limp, defeated.

The Matriarch spoke, “Lieutenant, I think we now have matters well in hand. Thank Captain Hawkins for me. She must have read my mind sending you two outsized officers. But the smaller ladies don’t seem to have had any trouble with him, and the bruises I already see on him are a tribute to their skill. You may go.” That was it, Watson and I have returned. The other officers will probably be ordered to take Daddy away as soon as he’s been caned to pork sausage, so they may not be here until tomorrow. I’ve not seen anything this rough since the old crippling canings on the Black Widow. I must be getting old, it’s starting to make me sick.

I remarked to Harper, “We’re all getting old, and if not wiser then probably at least more humane. You took a very serious risk with directing the EMT’s, officially I don’t like that you did it, but unofficially I’m proud of you. At least the Matriarch thanked me.” I said, “after that little tale I’m sure it would be a very bad thing to ever get on her bad side. By the way, in this building and on duty I’m Captain Hawkins, not “Cherry”. Don’t use my first name on duty again.” “Yes, m’am, Captain.”

In case you’re wondering what Lieutenant Watson had to say about this, rest assured I wasn’t. She’s the strong, silent type.

The next day the two lower ranking officers were brought in when they arrived in the late afternoon. At the start of the interview they essentially confirmed my version of events, including the passage about “the highest level of security”, then they spoke of Bernadette’s caning and confirmed what the Matriarch had already said, each welt was allowed to fully swell until the next one was laid down. This took about 20 seconds apiece. In those intervals, the Matriarch constantly taunted her about her new zone citizenship-to-be, her personal erotic life, and the hell on earth that this caning was going to create for her. Since the direct quotation of these is sickening, I omit it.

In the middle of this Bernadette’s father barged in and started a tirade. The Matriarch interrupted him as he paused for breath and ordered them to cuff him, gag him, and see the Housekeeper about a place to put him where he could wait until called for. He wasn’t by any means a small man and he was enraged, so the ladies had to get very rough in subduing him, not just pinning one or both arms, but actually having to use the punches we are taught to disable someone’s wind and nerves briefly while we get him pinned. They got him cuffed and had to drag him out of the punishment room because he went limp. As they dragged him away they glanced back and saw both Angie and the Chief Matriarch smiling.

In case your wondering what my good Lieutenant buddies would have done, one would stand in front of the perp and quickly grab his wrists, twist them and lift him off the floor. The pain of the twist would distract the perp enough for him to be lifted in the air, and his arms forced back to the second Lieutenant behind him would do the cuffing, then each would take one armpit and walk him, still in the air, over to the waiting electrocar. Before putting the perp in, they would each grab his cuffed wrist again with one hand, and if he tried any shenanigans as they put him in, they would twist each wrist in the opposite direction. I was part of this maneuver many times, and it works. Reliably. No matter how large or feisty the perp, he will have nothing more than sprained wrists if he fought too hard. We once timed this maneuver in sparring, and it took all of 3 1/2 seconds to get the volunteer cuffed. That’s why they keep we big gals around.

The smaller officers then proceeded to describe the caning of Bernadette’s father. This time Angie laid down her first hard cane welts about 2 inches apart all the way down to the knees at a 35 degree angle to the body, then she came back up perpendicular to the body so that the welt of each of the tilted strokes was broken in two places by another stroke laid over top of it. The man on the the bench began to wince and make hard grunts at each stroke. It took a couple of strokes for Angie to get the right handle on this, but about 1/3 up the thighs the crossing points started to bleed. The face of the Chief Matriarch was set in stone.

Then Angie came down again in the perpendicular placing each new cane welt exactly between each of the last perpendicular cane welts, thus breaking new places in the diagonal welts which immediately started bleeding. The man started to yell uncontrollably with each stroke. Angie would stop every so often to savor the yells as they pushed higher in pitch to screams. Finally she repeated the diagonal set of welts but this time slanted in the opposite direction. The man’s butt and thighs were now covered with dozens of lacerations each very slowly oozing blood and pus.

Now Angie, at the top of the butt crack started down perpendicular, but this time placed the strokes “well laid on” evenly side by side with no gap between them. As this started, the man’s screams picked up in volume and turned into shrieks. About 1/3 down the legs, the man blacked out and his noise stopped. The Chief Matriarch now had a small satisfied grin on her face and Angie was higher than a kite with the flow of her endorphins and, even with the black clothing, you could see clearly that her crotch was very, very wet.

Now that every square inch of the man’s butt and thighs had been covered by at least one stroke and welt and the bleeding cross points were innumerable, Angie started to strike over and over again at the fold separating buttock and thigh, first from one side of the quiescent body and then from the other. A stripe of pure bleeding red purple began to seep out. When that was stable, Angie went and caned, with greater force, the side of the thigh at each end of the long, bleeding red line. With every step of this process the new wounds became deeper and the blood from them was more than just a slow trickle. In fact, for a few minutes the bleed was profuse then it slowed.

Angie, went down to just above the knees and set a similar ring of oozing blood around each knee. Finally she looked up with a post orgasmic face, shook blood off her cane and stood facing the Enthroned older woman, “Is this satisfactory, Chief Matriarch?” “Is every inch of him covered?” “Yes, every inch.” “Will he bleed out and die?” “No, Matriarch, the bleeding is nowhere profuse enough to bleed out. In fact, the first cane crossing points are already starting to scab.” “And the nerve crossings?” “That was the last set of strokes around his butt and knees. It would take much much longer to cause more damage.” “Satisfactory Angie,” said the Matriarch, “We both must wait six months for the changes in the Matriarchal Cabinet. When that happens, I won’t forget you. I’ll call the Housekeeper.”

She rang the small handbell. “Give this lady the opportunity for a hot shower, followed by a hot tub bath.” “Thank you, Matriarch. That will considerably lessen my muscle stiffness tomorrow.” Angie withdrew. “Officers, I believe you heard my informal description of what I want done. Drive this man to Rhinebeck, take him on the Rhinebeck/Kingston bridge up to the boundary line, then drop him on the GLC side. Return home, and have Captain Hawkins brief you in detail, but for now suffice it to say that everything you have seen and heard must not be told to anyone but Captain Hawkins and the Counterintelligence Triumvirate. Nothing. You may go and take this scabrous leper with you.”

“It was luck that we took one of the electrovans, principally because you were going to accompany us, sir.” I smiled, and said, “I know very well I’m a handful, ladies and it was more comfortable for me, so thank you.”

They stated that Bernadette’s father didn’t come to until they were well out of Montpellier. They had taken him out with the portable stretcher that’s in all our electrovans, and tied it down to the metal u-bolts on the floor available when the rear seat is folded down, leaving him on the stretcher face down. Most of his wounds had stopped oozing and scabbed over.

When he awoke, groaning, the passenger cop asked, can you hear and understand us. He croaked yes. They then told him that, for his comfort and, eventually, his healing he needed to move as little as possible. They described the scores of scabs across his butt and thighs and told him that breaking any one of them would just make that scar deeper. They gave him a brief description of what happened to his body after he blacked out, but nothing more.

All our cars are allowed to carry 6 sealed strong opioid tablets for cases of unendurable pain. They stopped, gave two to him and he slowly fell asleep. They reached the town an hour and a half before dusk by exercising our prerogative to travel above the posted speed limit when we can do so safely, and there was almost no traffic on the roads.

They reported to the Rhinecliff FEM/DOM station and bunkhouse, advising the local Commander of their situation and requesting two back up sets of eyes to testify about what happened should that ever become necessary. After a phone call to Montpellier that was transferred to me, I advised the Commander that no matter how loony and cruel this sounded, it was necessary for purposes of the highest secrecy in counterintelligence. I reiterated their request for a 2 pair of eyes as witnesses. Those officers and Commander should not tell anyone else anything, period. If asked the querant should be referred to me by name and Dictapad extension at Montpellier counterintelligence.

The four officers rode in the electrovan to the bridge. Before they left, they gave Bernadette’s father the second dose of opioid when they found him moaning in the van’s rear. The bridge wasn’t far away and he had absorbed just the right amount of the drug that he might have a fighting chance of walking the rest of the bridge on his own.

Our Rhinecliff comrades explained the situation to a very puzzled CUS/PAS and then came back. The sun was still in the sky over Kingston but was orange and headed low. They brought the stretcher to the border, and, before they could even get it unloaded, wonder of wonders, an EMT squad appeared, lights flashing but no siren on the Kingston side. Two EMT’s emerged with a far better stretcher and started at a double time march with it towards them on the bridge. The GLC squad members were there in a reasonable amount of time and we transferred the poor man to the other stretcher, informing the EMT’s that it was a nasty one with perhaps as many as 75 untreated cane wounds that were deliberately placed to draw blood, that this was a GLC citizen who had been separated from his papers at the caning and he had been dosed twice with opioids by us. “We know about him, we know about how nasty his condition might be, but we thank you for filling us in about how he got to this state.” One of them said.

Then we each went our separate ways. We scratched our heads over the arrival of this squad, wondering if the Rhinebeck Commander had called across the border or maybe you had from Montpellier. The Commander denied it and we’re still in the dark about why it happened. The two officers that had come with us said that, on the Kingston side, the guys were from the local Volunteer Fire Department and that they had to be laying in wait to get there that quickly. We bunked down in Rhinecliff, used their shower in the morning and now we’re here.

You don’t need to hear the usual song and dance about how secret it had to be, but they did, so I played it for them. And the next day came the explosion, which I should have seen coming, but was juggling too many balls to think of it. Of course, my boss, Commander Norris, had seen it, and had put in the call for the EMT for both humanitarian reasons and to get the explosion to happen as fast as possible.

With all this running around trying to hush things up, there were two people who’s mouths couldn’t be shut: Bernadette and her father. After the fact, when I had a breathing space, I looked up the story on Daddy. He just happened to be the brother of the Homeland Secretary of GLC! And Bernadette was the Secretary’s niece. After the fact, I heard the substance of part of the call the Matriarch received from the GLC President at 9:00 the next morning.

The then current GLC President had a reputation of being able to say the most explosive things in the voice that you and I would use to discuss the weather. He is said to have opened the conversation with, “Amy, this is Gerald, my Homeland Secretary has just told me that you had both his brother and his niece caned to hamburger yesterday, with the intention of leaving them scarred for life. Why did you do that?”

No one would tell me how the Chief Matriarch responded. But at the end of the conversation, the President said to her, “Amy, the Diaspora has made us all too poor to field and supply armies, but if we weren’t, this incident would be treated as an act of war, and given how open and unprotected your Matriarch Residence is, instead of a polite phone call you would already be in custody as a war criminal.

“I will be recalling our Ambassador, informing yours she is no longer welcome, and informing the Head of World Negotiations that we have broken off diplomatic relations and why. I’m sure he will have something to tell the world about what you have done. Fully 3/4 of the Zone’s consumer goods are funneled through Kingston or Albany. As of this morning that will cease. So If I were you I’d get to work on upgrading your Montpellier Airport cargo capacity and your Manchester Open Seaport.

“I will make no effort to stop private cross border travel and emergency communications, but be warned that unless they travel incognito, your citizens, female and male, will be at high personal risk. I already had enough of a headache keeping anti-Matriarchal sentiment under control here and now this will make me lose it. Power corrupts, which is a very good reason for my term limits. Privately, Gerald to Amy, I have no hesitation in saying that power has totally corrupted YOU. Good day.”

The news outlets in GLC had the story by 11 am, by noon questions were being asked about it in the Bicameral Legislature. The upper house of that legislature is actually a Parliament, from which the President is given his cabinet of Parilmentary members, and their questions that afternoon to the Prime Minister about the whole affair had to go unanswered until “more investigation occurred”. The news outlets had interviews with the Kingston EMT’s in place by the 7pm Nightly News.

Bernadette herself gave a Dictapad interview from her residence in the Zone where she was recuperating, at 11 pm, which was broadcast directly to the GLC viewers with their breakfast news at 7:30 am. This interview was devastating. It contained many direct quotations of the Matriarch herself matching substantially what I and my fellow officers had heard as it happened, the Mark of Cain quotation, particularly, made quite a hit with the GLC media. The nightly editorial readers of several networks had the fun of reading the story of Cain to their viewers to get them up to speed.

Daddy was still in the ICU of Peter Vanderwagon Regional Hospital in Upstate New York. By the time the dust had settled, the entire story (except, of course, for the counterintelligence bureaucratic component) was out in the open from Bernadette’s rude gesture to Daddy’s transferral across the Zone/GLC line as the sun set in the West.

The President used his executive authority to close all commercial traffic through the Albany and Kingston bridges and it stayed closed 5 full years of the next Presidential term due to the pressure of steadily growing anti-matriarchal feeling among the public and the lawmakers of GLC.

The story also contained an interesting side light on how and why Bernadette was expected to recover with minimal scarring. A Zone Amateur Botanist was traveling in Singapore five years before when she somehow got an invitation to attend a juvenile Judicial Caning. The canes are 3/4 to 1in thick and 4 feet long, they are swung two handed like baseball bats and they gain so much velocity from the leverage that it takes only 6 cane welts to entirely cover the perpetrator’s butt!

Such canes are incredibly dangerous. They can slip from your hands and go flying anywhere. So there is a tightly stretched heavy canvas wall with a hole just large enough for the perp’s bare butt to stick through. The pain is so great shrieks from everyone start from the first blow and the worst offenders or repeat offenders can be caned as much as 21 times!

But the aftercare was the most intriguing thing. The twelve people who had been caned that morning were lying, moaning, bottom up, on separate stretchers, and one of the guards was rubbing a green herbal compound into the 12 lacerated buttocks. He would go from one to one to the other, and when he finished with the 12th one, he went back to the first. When she asked, he said it was a mixture of herb leaves in animal fat that had strong astringent properties and kept the caned to acquiring, at the most, only one or two scars, and, for many, no scars at all.

A little investigation found the compound for sale in a local open market, and also some seeds of the plant, which she brought back to the Zone and started. Bernadette happened to arrive at Montpellier General Hospital just as they were starting to test the compound on cane welts. Bernadette’s bottom was the perfect trial, so, before the icing, she lay face down for two hours with a pair of incontinence panties stuffed liberally with the new poultice. She was then iced down to reduce the welt swelling.

For the next several weeks, most of Bernadette’s new skin grew back clean and clear. The sole scar left was at the base of her butt where it meets the right thigh, as was the nerve damage. She never sat down again without a mild twinge of the scar pressing on the damaged nerve. The Chief Matriarch got her wish and Bernadette’s bottom carried the mark of Cain. With the constant daily reminder of that beating, as well as the contact with her father’s abject misery, she made, we now know, a private vow to kill both Angie and the Chief Matriarch, if that could be, and calculated (correctly in the end) that if killed together there would be even more worthwhile collateral damage.

She also told herself that such an act would probably require her own death as well. Once again she was right. Though it may have seemed anti-climatic after the major explosion, there was one other important result of the Matriarch’s malice. By spreading Bernadette’s shame to her school, she clearly hoped that Bernadette would be bullied or shunned for the last weeks of her citizenship training. Precisely the opposite happened.

Since the entire story was soon known, Bernadette was perfectly willing to show off her scarred bottom in the woman’s restroom to any of her female peers, a photo of her father’s scarred butt and legs anywhere else, as well as the original gesture she had made at the matriarch. And she informally told her story from what was an exceptional memory for the actual words in any ad hoc or informal gathering of teens.

The power of this story set a lot of students to questioning what their own “place” in the Matriarchal Zone’s standing really was and whether that place was really worth it. Questions which, once asked, never let you rest from your dissonance with them. The truth was on Bernadette’s side, and that is all that is needed to begin to foment sedition, particularly among the young.

And it was all the worse as there was nary a peep of reproach for the Chief Matriarch by members of the House of Matriarchs. They apparently didn’t think it was “their place” to do so.

A very strange thing started to happen. Any store with cheap jewelry carrying the initial “B” could just never seem to keep that letter in stock. It suddenly was a teen fashion first in Montpellier, then in the rest of the Zone as the outrage of World opinion grew. More and more of Bernadette’s classmates showed up with the letter B on their person and it became a sign of solidarity, a secret code that bypassed almost all of their teachers and made the ones that felt only the emotional sedition behind it uneasy.

By the time of graduation, just about every teen in school had obtained one of the lockets or the pendants or the rings and wore them to the ceremony. It was the usual synthetic occasion of pomp and circumstance. The ceremony droned on and on but at the handing out of the little tokens on paper, a Citizenship Certificate and a Dominant Woman’s License, Bernadette’s name was called somewhere near the end, and as she claimed her certificates she received a spontaneous standing ovation. She waved to the crowd, stepped off the platform, walked out of the ceremony and was never seen in the Zone again for many years.

The Chief Matriarch heard the story 3 days later and, when no trace of Bernadette could be found, bedeviled FEM/DOM counterintelligence for almost a year insisting that they find the girl and spy on her, but to no avail. In the coming years, a surprising number of Montpellier teens kept the little B token. Most didn’t wear it too much or too openly, but they always kept it on their person and would occasionally show it briefly, without comment, before putting it away. And some of the other people they were with might respond by briefly showing a B themselves.

Thus the sedition was kept alive as the people whose hearts it had riven grew older and accomplished more in their lives. After 10 years, it became not uncommon to see it worn again on the neck of women of importance and it was an almost perfect sign of freemasonry among those whose lives were sewn with doubt by the story of Bernadette and her sadistic beating. The story stayed among them, too, as stories do despite every attempt of the powers that be to stamp them out.

The 3rd Chief of GLCIS: The Memorandum

Date: October 9, 2085
To: Senior intelligence Analyst, GLCIS
From: Chief of Service, GLCIS
About: Altering Deep Cover Training in light of Agent “Montecristo” going renegade.

Please brief tomorrow’s staff meeting with the substance of this memo. The interview with the President this morning was very difficult, I had to admit that though we supplied none of the arms or explosive, we were at fault insofar as our Deep Cover training is concerned. It has been little modified from the dangerous days from 2030 to 2050, when it was first established, and one component of it contributed directly to the criminal incident.

In particular it is the “McGuiver Goodie Box Week” where deep cover students are trained in impromptu sabotage with improvised materials, impromptu face-to-face assassination with handmade silencers sufficient for use with 9mm pistols, and silent unarmed killing methods. It is this section that needs to be separated from Deep Cover Training and taught only to our Truth Teams. In that regard, I’m proposing a policy phasing out our in house thugs, and replacing them with explosive and sabotage experts trained by us and drawn from our reserve agent pool which we retain at GLICIS headquarters for one time, medium cover penetrations. After being trained such experts could still function well as reserve agents since our use of Truth Teams is very infrequent and will be significantly reduced without operations to track and kill one of our thugs gone renegade. Any and all suggestions about how to make these changes and in what order are solicited.

A new Truth Team would consist of one killer, and either one or two agents trained to use explosives. All Truth Team members would receive more intensive and focused training in unarmed and non-pistol armed killing. I’m requesting that, under your direction, staff members do the following things. 1) reassess past truth team operations debriefings examining whether thugs made any significant contribution to the success of the mission 2) Identify whether we actually ever used any 2 killer, 3 thug truth teams. Just running it over in my mind, I can’t remember any.

Finally, I’ve told the President that I will retire as Chief in 6 months. The President, and his Prime Minister, wish to take a more proactive role in the selection of the next Chief of Service. Since major candidates will include members of the current staff, I’m asking you to meet with the President’s Chief of Staff. In house candidates will need to be schooled on the proper protocol for Presidential interviews and more extended sessions with the Prime Minister. I’m also asking you to brief the CoS on what will be needed, if candidates are considered from beyond GLCIS, to maintain the secrecy of agents in place and operations in progress.

I have told the President that, while active, I will offer him any assistance he needs in this search, but upon retirement I will withdraw from the proceedings entirely. I’ve given them six months to get their “proactive” act together, but if they don’t I’m recommending your appointment as Interim Chief so that you may take on the advisory role I will be leaving.

Yes, if you need to, you can call me Lady Chief, or just call me Julie, the name given me by my dear heart Cherry Hawkins so many years ago. I use both names as a matter of controlled familiarity, a GLCIS trademark. Just as my predecessor took a call name Ian for use when he is introduced as a “former Chief of GLCIS” so I use Julie in the same way.

Our last civil workname, which we still retain, is referred to nowhere in the GLCIS files, and we never reveal it, even to our best friends. This is for our continued safety, because when we retire we never know how many dangerous enemies we leave behind. Our pensions are deposited directly, to an independent bank, from one of the many shell companies run by the agency holding companies. My name appears ONLY on the shell company list of payees and nowhere else and that list doesn’t include my past history, my address, or my Dictapad.

When among the small circle of friends, centering around my dear “Elizabeth” now Jessica, for this year, as the Keeper of the North Chicago Safehouse; and Sally Bayer who came home from Deep Cover as a Whorehouse Madam at about the same time as I retired, and chose to take the generous pension instead of a new assignment, because the whorehouse provided the revenue for some well invested I independent means. We three did have our happy ending of dinner at the Agents Club and aperitifs in the library. And the physical bond between myself and Elizabeth and between myself and Sally were finally consummated. For the curious, Sally did indeed, take on for life the “comehither gait” of the high class tart.

I need Sally and Elizabeth both. The horror of my own crimes, mostly murders by proxy, and their collateral damage, haunts both my days and my nights, with the last of the bodies hanging on me being Bernadette and the whole ruling clique of the Matriarchal Zone. And my chats with Micha Haaretz have ceased because they are no longer necessary. Her voice is with me most of the time taunting me for the guilt and remorse she never felt. Together we three hold up all the dead bodies of each of us, giving us the space to breathe and be happy together until we go to the ultimate resolution of those crimes in OUR Moment of Truth. And my greatest fear is then, afterward, meeting Micha Haaretz face to face. But they do more for me than they need from me and I’m grateful.

So, where to start…the tone of my memo above should tell you that, if I had not offered to retire in six months, I probably would have been asked to resign. The fact that the then current Zone political disturbance was solely caused when our Deep Cover agent Bernadette Johnson went rogue, made a powerful fertilizer bomb, and used it to kill the Chief Matriarch and the entire Matriarchal Cabinet, as well as herself, at the Matriarchal Residence, simply could go nowhere except to a “new broom to sweep things clean” desire among our political masters.

As an aside to the difficulties Bernadette’s revenge made for all of us, I’ll repeat a part of my private conversation with the President, with the Prime Minister present, concerning the outcome to be expected if I handed in my resignation that day in the more general meeting. I think they both expected me to be blindsided and devastated at the prospect, the President with some sympathy, the Prime Minister with unconcealed satisfaction, though I doubt he realized how unconcealed it was and how much it was getting on the President’s nerves. At first the prime minister attempted to shut me off, but the President was interested in what I had to say and let me continue, though they both looked a little sick at the end.

“Candidly,” I said, “I brought a resignation letter along should you demand it. Yes, I said demand, under the circumstances I see no reason to euphemise it as a “request”. This is a time for straight talk. So I will outline what will happen from the moment that such a letter passes from my hands to yours.

“First, I will automatically and immediately be barred from the building and my office. At the agency, we know this may happen, and none of us leave personal memorabilia in our offices or at our desks. Nor do we have nameplates. We operate on the assumption that we are at risk at headquarters as well as on a foreign posting, if not as high a risk as in cover abroad. I was present when my two predecessors spoke to us stressing this and I have continued to do so. GLCIS policy is that all such resignations are presumed to be for culpable cause and the moment I give it to you I will become a “major security risk” in fact THE most major security risk, given the breadth of my contact with all GLCIS operations, including ones that have yet to be formally committed to record.

“My status as such a major security risk will be permanent, both for the general safety of the Service and because of the fact that the operations I’m familiar with will include ones that are planned to extend as long as two decades. Legally, this will mean that any past, present, or future of the agency’s employees will be barred from any contact with me except for the Security Officers, the Interrogators, and whatever senior official would be placed in charge of any such an interrogation. The employees of GLCCA would be included in such a ban.

“Also under law, my present workname passport will be seized and I will be barred from legal travel outside GLC. And both any pension I might receive for my service as well as any private assets I’ve accumulated will be subject to revocation at the pleasure of GLCIS and asset forfeiture will also be at the pleasure of the Service.

“Then at my level of security risk, the protocol in house will be to make a formal review of whether or not I should be killed by a GLCIS Truth Team.” At this point I finally began to have their undivided attention. “These decisions will usually examine both my level of access to past and present secrets and the likelihood that I might betray them. Up to now, employees who leave for culpable cause with my level of access have automatically been recommended for “termination” whatever realistic risk there may be of secrets being revealed. I wouldn’t expect that to change. I have personally ordered the killing of four employees designated major security risks during my entire tenure. You were not advised of it because your knowing about it is a political danger to you. The only exception to that is when the target is an employee of another agency or a citizen of another country. These parameters are set by the law establishing our charter, and the relevant executive orders.

“You look surprised, gentlemen! I remember very clearly the briefing I gave you when you entered office, Mr. President. Your predecessors made it clear to GLCIS that the security of both the country and the Service was paramount and was to be protected “by any means necessary” as it says in the Executive Order which you renewed immediately after that briefing. We kill people. Not all that many, and not all that often, but we kill those who are a major threat to what we do. Had we discovered Bernadette Johnson’s plot before it ripened, I would have had her killed. I also would have had her killed if she had not chosen to die in her own bomb blast. I planned a killing of the Chief Matriarch of the Zone and her executionress Angie Albertson at the time of the deliberate and gratuitous mutilation by them of two GLC citizens Bernadette and her father. President Gerald Washburn overruled it. For Bernadette’s sake I’m sorry he did.

“We have assassins specifically on the payroll to do just that, kill people. Somebody has to sign the death warrant, and that is me, Chief of Service. And somebody has to hire murderers and turn them into professional assassins. That is also me. Your predecessors required that they be kept completely insulated from that process for very sound political reasons. But since I presume you wish to take a more proactive approach to replacing me, the first question you need to ask about any candidate is, ‘Do I want this person to decide whether people live or die?’ or even ‘Do I want this agency to continue to have the mandate and means to kill?’ If you don’t, then you need to work on the law.

“Now I implied something that I will state explicitly. If I give you this letter of resignation I’m at high risk of being killed by my own agency. Right now the person who would make that decision is my immediate subordinate the Senior Intelligence Analyst, whom I work with every day. The process of evaluating my suitability for killing will start automatically unless he stops it. And if our roles were reversed and I was given an evaluation to kill him, I would order it done. Later the new Chief of GLCIS will have to re-evaluate that decision, if I’m still alive.

“As a “security risk” I will almost certainly be watched by GLCCA so there never will be any trouble to find me and kill me. Weather permitting, I like to sit in a rocking chair on the porch of my apartment watching the sunset every evening. GLCIS and the GLC Government would keep me from fleeing to another country, and if I tried to do it before my passport was confiscated I would almost certainly be traced and killed. Nor could I rely on any source of money that GLCIS couldn’t shut off immediately. Where I would go from there were I abroad, I won’t speculate.

“In consequence, if I hand you this letter of resignation, I will leave immediately, return home and begin to pursue my other interests. In my heart I will wish you the best of luck in finding a suitable candidate. But most of my attention will be given to my own conscience and it’s burden of the twenty-eight people whom I murdered by proxy, as well as other evil that was simply part of my job as a spy, an interrogator, an agent runner, and finally as Chief of GLCIS. And I’ll ask myself whether any of it was worth it. I don’t know what I’ll answer.”

Neither of them made any reply, and we adjourned to the larger Ministry meeting.

Having just retired and distanced myself from an incompetent committee of Parliament chaired by the Prime Minister, which dithered away those six months when they discovered that choosing the head of your Spookhouse is hard work and brain work, the “proactive involvement” of our political masters in the process gave the term a whole new meaning.

It is such a shame about Bernadette. My old flame Cherry gave you the backstory of torture, humiliation, and mutilation of her by the Chief Matriarch and Matriarchal Cabinet Member Angie, who, through nefarious ways, wormed herself back onto the Matriarchal Cabinet after having “voluntarily resigned” from it in the debacle of the Mossad Killing Spree seven years ago.

Bernadette kept her drive and desire for revenge well hidden. And when she persuaded us at GLCIS to use an altered procedure for her deep cover position, there was not a breath of suspicion of any such thing. And it certainly did look like a damn slick trick. She had brought back from the Zone, after she had fled it, her new citizenship certificate and her dominant woman licence. We set our forgers to work making two copies of each in her new worknames. 

We also made sure that workname one belonged to someone with black hair instead of Bernadette’s fine golden blonde. This, with a short and sassy blonde cut, as well as four top of the line black wigs, and heavy black horn rim glasses as well as a different makeup palette to go with them, gave us our most fluid Deep Cover agent ever, with an instant change of identities between 3 separate “citizens” whenever needed. We also noted something that Cherry had observed as well at the start of Bernadette’s journey: the Zone had no writers to speak of.

Well, we would fix that by taking her black haired workname completely out of the Zone economic system. Caitlin Jones became a freelance writer from the Zone. We paid her money directly for “pieces” (mostly written by us) monthly. With Caitlin having gainful, but hidden employment, Bernadette, as Abigail Harrison or as herself, needed no job at all since she would appear so sparingly. Thus our gold headed heroine was hidden in perfectly plain sight, in a way that would have made Henry Peterson proud!

Caitlin took an apartment in her name, and her blonde friend “Abigail” was a frequent visitor. Caitlin was very frank to the surrounding neighbors, that not having a submissive male for oral pleasures meant that she needed to cultivate a friendship where she and Abigail had to help one another with their ungovernable cravings at any hour of the day or night. So Caitlin gave Abigail a spare key to simply let herself in, and not force Caitlin to get out of bed if Abigail came late. Caitlin thus had the luxuriance of being languid and ready in bed and Abigail had the mouth watering prospect of finding Caitlin so.

And the neighbors were so thrilled that Caitlin and Abigail were so quiet a couple and so contented with one another. Nary an argument was heard between them. It looked like their match might be “the real thing”. Lucky Caitlin. She was part of a whole generation of love starved Zone women, whose career income hadn’t reached the point of being able to afford their own submissive, and then the door for them was closed when the Matriarchal Cabinet decided three years ago to completely curtail offering male submissive citizenships to non-Zone residents.

The money pinch of maternity both for the individual Zone mothers and for the Zone as a whole came upon them far faster than they expected as the artificial insemination program expanded. Soon there might not be a need for any more men than nature provided. If that. Further, from the very beginning semen was collected and frozen only from the males FEM/AUTH had judged to be “reliable submissives” So there was little need to train any males not already established as submissives by birth in the Zone, who only needed citizenship training, and a good start on a breeding program to create eventually a naturally submissive population of males.

Indeed, within the confines of the Matriarchal Cabinet it was anticipated that within 3 generations a huge backlog of sperm could be acquired and classified allowing the reduction of the male population to only those numbers required for sperm bank renewal, about 1/20th of the present population, with the rest disposed of by abortion or pre-first year infantcide.

It is estimated that Fem/Auth, the citizen police and training agency, saw their student numbers cut by 1/3 by the ending of adult submissive training, and their budget cut by 1/2 with an exhortation from the Chief Matriarch to “do more with less” (a time tested and convincing way to boost an agency’s morale). No amount of backdoor politics by ANY front slash agency with the House of Matriarchs could stop, or even slow, the wholesale budget cuts. The hard realities of needing Maternity Ward beds, gynecologists, obstetricians, more primary care doctors, day care centers, children’s clothing supplies, and an urgently needed kindergarten space and teachers for the babies born 2068-2071, the first run of artificial motherhood.

The front slash agencies in place, particularly Fem/Auth, dug in their heels when first approached about changing their bureaucratic configuration to provide some of these services, so the Matriarchal Cabinet created a new agency, Maternity Services or Mat/Serv, and gave them both ALL of the above required tasks as well as ALL the money summarily stripped from the other agencies, including Ex/Pat which was completely closed down and it’s personnel transferred to Cus/Pas at the same time that the Cus/Pas budget was cut by 30%. And all that money has proved to be barely able to keep Mat/Serv above water.

Since, from “the Inception”, the prevailing personal dynamic in the Matriarchal Cabinet has been that of paranoia, Fem/Dom street police, prisons, and counterintelligence agency had the least money taken away (10-20%) with the stipulation that counterintelligence take no cuts at all. Their response was to enlarge the neighborhoods of each beat patrol lowering the amount of policing contact with each household and the prison personnel numbers were frozen and allowed to reduce by attrition. This generally took care of budgetary matters and their morale stayed high. However, Shirley, the counterintelligence AI, showed markedly degraded performance in consequence. This led to a minority in the Matriarchal Cabinet advocating a Shirley Shutdown as a cost saving measure.

The police were the only agency savvy enough to reach out to Mat/Serv with policeman visits to the daycares and the growing elementary schools. A universal favorite among caregivers and children alike was Commander Cherry Hawkins, whose massive presence, particularly with her Garrison cap, and gentle demeanor won the children’s hearts wherever she went.

The one pressure group that had held the line against cuts in services was the submissive maledom. The advisory House of Males was an already present pressure group for males whose opinions were legally mandated to be considered and voted on by the House of Matriarchs, even if the advice was not taken. Further, the Speaker of the House of Males had held his position since the early 2050’s and had always had a savvy political relationship with the Matriarchal Cabinet. He now played on their paranoia, particularly about out of control males, to successfully keep male services like Scarlet Fever Lane untouched by cuts.

A few of Abigail and Caitlin’s peers in her generation were lucky enough to click with a submissive of the same age either during or just out of citizenship training when the financial status of each of them were about equal and they could live as roommates for the 10 years before the male’s outside income plateaued while the Matriarchal’s income and status kept rising. But most of the newly made citizen males were snatched up by Matriarchals 10-20 years older than Caitlin who could by then afford 3-4 submissives in their households.

These younger citizens had no pressure group or advocate for themselves, and observed, quite correctly, that both Matriarchy and Maternity were inhibiting their growth personally, professionally, and in quality of life. This was the same group of Pre-Citizenship students whose complacency was shattered by the story of Bernadette Johnson. For merely making a rude gesture, the still sitting Chief Matriarch ordered Bernadette caned in the most painful and life ruining way possible with the intent of giving her a permanently, painfully, and totally scarred buttocks. This was combined with driving her out of the Zone by making any attempt to live there in a legal fashion impossible. Thus always threatening her with the prospect of prison, where the Chief Matriarch averred that she would see Bernadette routinely strapped on her painful scars and thighs, for no reason and at her mere command.

Every young pre-citizen clearly perceived that this sadistic, brutal, and tyrannical fate could happen to any one of them at any time, for little to no reason, completely separate from any legal protection as citizens or process within the law. The more intelligent and better read among them could immediately see it as a return of the caning-until-mutilated treatment that the Matriarchal Cabinet had permitted for non-citizen spys, only this time directed at Zone Citizens or Citizen trainees, making the sadistic torture of it and spiteful motives behind it unequivocally plain.

At the time of Bernadette’s caning and its explosively sudden exposure, not a single person of her age in the Zone spoke against her or justified her torture. And the Chief Matriarch who ordered it done had suffered nothing for it, while her country was railroaded into 5 years of economic chaos inhibiting the ultimate earning capacity of every one of those newly minted citizens. And many, if not most, were left from all this with sedition in their hearts.

Caitlin’s deep cover as a freelance writer was managed through a GLC based shell company “McGuffin Literary Agency” who received her rough drafts, edited them, and returned them for final approval (which Caitlin didn’t trouble too much over, since her rough drafts were really, really rough). The Agency then submitted the finished pieces to obscure (read non-existent) magazines and electronic outlets. The Agency was a real powerhouse. Everything Caitlin submitted was accepted and she made a very good living in the Zone as a free lance. The checks would come to the Agency, who would make an electronic deposit of the month’s work into Caitlin’s Zone Bank account. As the icing on the cake, the Agency sent back electronic copies of “clippings” from those phantom little magazines and electronic publishers.

So, if anybody, such as Fem/Dom counterintelligence, wanted to know how she made a living, she could show them her DATALINK (big brother of Dictapads) her final drafts, her clippings, and the bank deposit receipts for each month’s work, and neither would she know, nor could Fem/Dom find out, anything about the checks sent to the superb McGuffin Literary Agency. That is the Visible Means of Support, which allows any police agency to sleep far more soundly about what you’re doing. And Abigail was simply a will o’ the wisp never appearing anywhere but Caitlin’s apartment and across the boundary in Chicago.

In addition, an electronic reporter’s blank, a camera, and a recording function, on her Dictapad, along with Caitlin’s present cover, allowed her to be anywhere, talking to anyone, at anytime, while arousing minimal suspicion. So job #1 for GLCIS was just for her to go places, talk to people, and follow up promising leads, but for GLCIS, and not for her articles. And one of the beats she walked for GLCIS, and not for herself, was anything involving the Matriarchal Cabinet, from their typical breakfast to their formal interaction with the House of Matriarchs, she was collecting for a major, commissioned article for Commonwealth GLC, the prestigious monthly for GLC’s movers and shakers.

At least GLCIS didn’t think she was walking that beat for herself, or maybe for her alter ego Bernadette.

Bernadette herself at first appeared relatively seldom in the Zone. But she frequently flew to Chicago on a long term project (visiting as “Abagail”) with collateral personal benefits. She would rent a motel room for trysts with one of the younger and more presentable GLCIS thugs and the personal benefits were his stamina and enthusiasm. Her alter ego Caitlin had had a fiery affair with one of the lesser class whores on Scarlet Fever Lane and had persuaded her lover to teach the tricks of repeatedly getting and keeping a man erect multiple times in a short space of time, as well as getting him blowing off like Mt. Vesuvius for at least the first two of them.

Caitlin, of course, didn’t get any on the job training, but she learned well enough, by seducing a couple of non-citizen males for practice, after which she probably could have filled in for her hot whore girlfriend, at least on a slow day, and Bernadette suddenly had a lot more tools in her box. Soon she had the hook deep into her thug and pretty much could drag him anywhere, just like the old, old song, “It ain’t too bad the way you’re usin’ me ’cause I sure am usin’ you to do the things you do.”

Bernadette had been given (for other purposes) an Electromagnometer, which she used to alter the readings of the GPS in her thug’s wrist to hide the fact that he was shacking up in motels and occasionally going to places in Chicago that he shouldn’t, and taking Bernadette with him.

There she made all sorts of contacts with the criminal small fry of Chicago, the ones that The Outfit didn’t even bother extorting because the yield was too low. These were medium level drug dealers; beat-ups for a price thugs (including murder if the price was right); juvenile car thieves who supplied The Outfit’s body chop shops and Vehicle Number Identification removals (a big money maker from hoodlums one step up who were “connected” with The Boys and did piecework for them); the illegal gun dealers that The Outfit left alone so their own guns, purchased there by the piecework hoodlums, would have no extra linkage and the gun dealer would never know the gun’s destination; small operation fences for stolen goods, run out of pawnshops; and very much larger scale house burglars who kept a very low profile off of The Outfit’s radar screen.

A very colorful crew, and when Bernadette’s pal “Joey” had to meet GLCIS curfews, she did a part time outcall business with all of them for in kind goods and services. To do that, She also laid out a considerable sum to an Outfit Chop Shop for a VIN free electrocar, false Dixieland and GLC license plates, and a connection to the owner’s brother in law who rented out long term garage storage, had a harridan of a wife, and was badly in need of Bernadette’s creature comforts every time she visited Chicago.

That’s how she got the blasting caps and illegal pistols: a snubby for her purse, a new but venerable design Glock 19 with both two 17 round 9mm magazines and one 30 round magazine, 100 rounds of subsonic 9mm bullets, and a threaded and extra length barrel for the Glock. She tried for a commercial silencer to go on the barrel, but her sources just couldn’t turn one over, and even her big time burglar couldn’t find one. Peculiarly, Bernadette (or Abagail) was often in the city at the same times that Caitlin was having consults with McGuffin Literary Agency on the 13th floor of the Ritz Carelton.

These consults and hotel stays occurred frequently enough for the Ritz to allow Caitlin to have a semi-permanent visitor lockbox, an arrangement they often made for wealthy Zone residents to store small personal items that, cruelly and unfortunately, were illegal to possess in the Zone and sometimes even illegal in the GLC. You may wonder why so many Zone ladies visited Chicago frequently: the answer is that a gal gets bored and just wants every so often to pick up a Dominant GLC lounge lizard for a one night stand and maybe a good sound spanking if she can deliberately act bitchy enough.

The owners of the Ritz had a long term presence in Chicago, the cashet of working with GLCIS, and were quite willing to pay The Outfit top dollar to keep any legal paper from opening up those lock boxes, passing some of the charge to the frequent guest. Among the services purchased was 24 hours notice when legal paper couldn’t be kept from arriving, so that the management could exchange “extra charge” lock boxes with a backup set of empty boxes in the basement. All part of the top-notch service. So Caitlin could arrive secure in the feeling that her little gal notions such as car license plates, a pair of firearms with ammo and extra magazines, and curious little aluminum tubes that looked like small cigar carriers and had Warning! notices on the sides, would always be there.

With all the items she needed and could find purchased and stored, Bernadette wrapped up her Chicago presence. She enticed thug Joey to a motel in a part of town that was off limits and miles from GLCIS, and, while he was sleeping off his fourth explosive orgasm four hours before curfew, she used the Electromagnometer to completely fry Joey’s GPS, extracted his wallet and Datapad, went to a fine detailing electrocar wash to have latent fingerprints in the wrong places cleaned away, then parked the car in the garage space with the Dixieland plates on it, did a second wipe of the steering wheel and the door handles, and checked into another nearby motel that she had carefully never used before. She had a very good night’s sleep, woke up and paid her bill, took a taxi to Midway Airport and vanished into a ladies room. After freshening up, Caitlin came out of the ladies room, went through the security checkpoint and waited for the flight to Montpellier to depart.

Joey didn’t do so well. With a fried GPS whose last known location was a motel in the forbidden zone, a totally missed curfew, and at least a day and 1/2 walk to GLCIS with no money or ID, Joey was at about the halfway point when a car stopped a half block behind him, a tall, gangly figure with empty eyes got out, briskly stepped up to behind Joey and emptied five silenced .22 rounds into the back of Joey’s head, got back into the car which had pulled up to him, and swiftly sped away. Fully 15 minutes later a grandmother walking her Pug dog discovered the body. No one else had been out on the mid-morning street for the better part of an hour.

The GLCIS Armorer blew a gasket when told that yet another one of the threaded barrel pistols now had a history and needed permanent disposal. It was the third one in a week and a half. (and 3 more bodies for me) The Chief herself, me, Julie, had to come down to the armory to smooth down everyone’s ruffled feathers and have the Armorer write out an emergency requisition for five new .22 target pistols. The extra two had him smiling again, and the killer had returned to his usual empty eyed stare. It wasn’t too much to do. After all, it was the Armorer himself who would have to saw off and thread the barrels. I only found out much later how much more important a body in my collection thug Joey was beyond just one of our thugs who had gone off the rails.

Caitlin also had a secondary task from GLCIS as a spy. We had given her a B pendant. Since her livelihood came from her literary agency, no one could penalize her earning capacity because she wore it openly. When anyone else flashed a B back at Caitlin, she would engage them in conversation to see how deep their Bernadette sedition really ran, usually with a “How do you think Bernadette would feel about the Zone, now, so many years later?” The answer to that question would, by both content and tone of voice, tell Caitlin about how deeply the individual’s support for Bernadette still ran, and what they, themselves actually thought about the Zone projected on an imaginary Bernadette. Caitlin made sure, however, that she only spoke her first name once and her last name not at all.

If this sounded promising, Caitlin would ask if her informant had any friends who still actively supported Bernadette. If yes then Caitlin would try to arrange a time to meet them both together, so she could get them talking to each other about the Zone, Bernadette, their own progress in Zone life, and their satisfaction with their place. This was coffee shop/ice cream parlor conversation, so Caitlin would offer to treat the informant and her friend to coffee and desert at a time of their choosing, and would give her Dictapad number to the informant. Caitlin continued the questioning by sounding out attitudes toward maternity, matriarchy as “higher ranking women”, submissive males, their own economic trials and tribulations, and, most importantly, where the Zone was headed.

This particular run of questioning was yielding results that began to make the GLCIS analysts of Agent Montecristo’s reports happy as could be. Something that seldom get’s explained but is of some importance is that Agent Handles are to keep the particulars of an agent’s cover away from the evaluators or their clients within GLCIS. Then the reports could be spread far more widely within GLCIS and up the ladder to the political consumers. The drawback to this was that no one in GLICIS could know what Caitlin, or her alter ego Abigail (Bernadette), was actually doing either in the Zone or in Chicago. It is of some irony that Bernadette’s cashe of illegal supplies was in a guest lock box of the same hotel where Caitlin flew in for debriefing by us, the McGuffin Literary Agency. We even would fake dated McLA correspondence explaining what Caitlin was doing in Chicago, that she would dutifully file back in the Zone, for the potential request of Commander Cherry’s Rough Riders in Zone Counterintelligence.

Our own counterintelligence, GLCCA, had been shaping up very nicely under our old friend Violet, of the Mossad killer days. I received a very disturbed and disturbing intra-agency memo from Violet, head of Plain Clothes Investigation over there, about a short haired blonde outcall hooker who’d been raising the temperatures of the Chicago riff raff criminals for a while, all for barter and not cash. Neither Violet nor I would have been that interested in her if the first bit of bartering Violet found hadn’t been blasting caps!

This is the sort of thing that makes an agency like GLCCA sit up and take a second look. It also caught my attention because we deliberately keep a high profile Headquarters on Randolph Street to keep down gossip and intrusive curiosity about our being an intelligence agency. As long as our data and agents are secret, our building doesn’t have to be. Unquestionably, however, this makes us very vulnerable to homemade bombs. We’ve been lucky so far, but someone our there who wants to illegally possess blasting caps (we assumed that the hooker was a paid blind for someone or something else) is a high priority target for both of us. So I pulled off the head of New Canada/Alaska agent running (the yawner of the GLCIS departments) and set him and his staff doing a little digging ourselves.

I also did Violet a favor, classified the investigation as a Major Security Danger, and wrote her so. Since this was all happening among the small time thugs and creeps, this would give Violet’s Plain Clothes GLCCA cops a lot more legal leeway in how rough they got with informants. The next day I got back a thank you card, so that must have been helpful.

Back in the Zone, what Caitlin had uncovered, that was making our analysts so happy, was an unknown to us but immense and widespread dissatisfaction, even over ten years later, with the 5 year period of non-relations and economic sanctions from GLC. GLC itself was almost always not blamed for this, but the fault was placed squarely at the feet of the higher ranking Matriarchs, particularly at the complete immunity of the then, and still current, Chief Matriarch from consequences of having destroyed relations with GLC fecklessly and arbitrarily with the Bernadette caning. “They” made the mess and dumped it on “us”, the generation of Bernadette.

“We” (the informants consistently used the plural) have been robbed of the “place” in the Hierarchy that we should have by now at age 35 or so. We were particularly robbed of the submissive males of our own generation, by the well-off generation that was then 35 in 2068 and are pushing 60 now with often as many as SIX submissives in their households while we largely have none.

“We” are also being constantly pressured to become broodmares when most of “us” barely have the economic means to survive alone. It is those younger than us, now in or just finished with citizenship training that are falling into the “mommy trap”. “We” hear them openly discussing the “choice” of submissives or children.

That generation’s male submissives are restive about why “we” women, aged 35, aren’t “taking care of them” like our males were taken care of 15 years ago! And with the closure of non GLC male citizenship applications, the ratio of submissives to Matriarchals in the citizenship training is now 1 to 3! Those of us who speak our mind to the younger males tell them not to worry, the 50 and 60 year olds will have plenty of room for them, when they graduate into the 8 submissive households. You should see the wrinkled prune faces on them when we do.

But the brighter of the young males have already figured this out and they are heading to the Whorehouses in droves and spending all their surplus income there. Even the bar patronage is drying up, gambling will soon be a thing of the past, and it even seems, very worrisomely, to be cutting into men’s retail sales. The males tell us confidentially that if they’re going to merely be sperm donors, they prefer to do the donating to women who treat them like human beings and not just Y chromosome breeding stock.

“We” are perfectly well aware where the Matriarchs (with their 6 submissives each!) are forcing us, even though they don’t have the face to admit it, into an all female society with only the most humble of places for us underneath those with more money, more clout, and better caning skills. And if we presume to step out of that place, our fate will be that of Bernadette.

Sally Bayer: A Life Just Beginning

I was very, very lucky. The stampede Lady Chief described to Scarlet Fever Lane came just at a time of stocks starting to rise over in GLC at both the Toronto Exchange and the GLC Board of Trade. I did everything I could to get my girls to stop spending foolishly and start buying into Index Funds with a Money Market Fund hedge. I badgered them, I pleaded with them, I even told them that any of them leaving the Zone destitute would get three separate butt strappings over the last six weeks of their time there. They may have even taken the last threat seriously, since that’s when all 16 of them finally got on board.

Through all the five years a Madam, I carried the strap that had been Elizabeth’s, proudly, and now that we’re together again, I’m keeping hold of it. I still get too many threats of having my butt strapped off from that quarter. The two strappings of my apprenticeship were quite enough, thank you. And I cherish more than anything her description, before I became a whore, of the I’m Just A Whore Blues which my second strapping pulled me out of. I knew it when it was happening and gave in to the strap as my only chance of making it through.

I bought blue chip Mutual Funds because I guessed right that the markets were finally coming off the bottom created by the GLC sanctions on the Zone. All of us whores made a lot of money, but I made enough for the rest of my life. I’d like to have bragging rights, but my Deep Cover and Bernadette’s Deep Cover were pieces of cake compared to Lady Chief and Henry Peterson. It’s just a shame that only revenge and death would satisfy her.

My life at 36 is just beginning and, now that I’ve been back, I’m doing some friendly arm twisting of my fellow Three Musketeers to take them to places like I was taken to Chicago, nine years ago, by the two most wonderful women in the world, both realistic and tough as nails. Just between you and me, Lady Chief’s memo here is some of the most self-straight talking and clear eyed analysis I’ve ever seen on paper of someone’s own tragic end to a career which was completely out of her control. Maybe I’ll get her to see that someday. Such a gift is so much more important than any failure or success. To my knowledge, after the Mossad killings I acquired no more bodies, and if I have, I will never know it, because now I’m not cleared to know it, which is just fine with me. More than anything else, I want to help my sister, who went the longest alone with the heaviest burden of all, find the road back to hope. I will do anything, say anything, give anything for that.

Elizabeth will speak for herself (and for Lady Chief when the going gets hardest at the end) but I’ll mention that I’ve seen enough and heard enough to know that Elizabeth has always been a strikingly beautiful woman at all her ages, though she won’t let you know it on her own. And after six years of quiet, freedom from worry, and care under the wing of Lady Chief, at 74 she is unthinkably radiant, as if every one of her ages, hidden as they were by the hardest of lives (Don’t raise your eyebrows! I KNOW how hard it is. You don’t.) suddenly has bloomed forth at once.

My career as a Madam was straightforward and I kept the reputation of Elizabeth’s Secret and it’s girls as the finest house with the Highest Class Tarts anywhere. I make that broad a claim, because it and they were given the best chance possible by the Zone to do it that any house will ever receive, and both it’s two madams did the right strapping, in the right way, to bring out the very best in the girls that they could be. And even more important, which Elizabeth didn’t mention, is that our pinnacle of High Class challenged all the houses to be better. If my girls encountered another madam, or even a forward whore from another house when outside, she would frequently be bought a free coffee or ice cream to be questioned about our bedroom techniques. To my surprise, neither the Madams nor the whores knew nearly as much as we did. I let our girls be pumped freely, because a better Lane meant more customers for all of us.

There is nowhere we go in the life that we won’t be despised by women and leered at by men. But we held our heads high that in our branch of “in service” we could not be surpassed, though somehow, somewhere, someday we might be equaled. Even today I still occasionally hear whispering behind me if I pass two people together while walking on the street. Once a whore, always a whore, just like Elizabeth told me, and like her I’m proud of it. So anyone who doesn’t think I should be, get stuffed.

(Yes, “aunties” I always was tough enough, even when you weren’t sure.)

When I came back to Chicago, my biggest nuisances were cops and pimps. I actually killed two birds with one stone, and since I never had a rap sheet (thank you Matriarchal Zone) I could and did, legally buy and register a gun. Money talks, and I have plenty of it, so the much harder to obtain Concealed Carry Permit (which the cops can deny you purely on whim) came to me easily when a good sum of money went in the opposite direction. I bought one of those little five shot revolvers, like Elizabeth’s years ago, to purse carry as she did. My stock of perfectly tailored day clothes were made to flatter my curves, not hide a gun and holster, so that again was the best option.

In my purse I had notarized copies of both my registration and CCW permit as well as my gun. When I first moved to Chicago, I was shaken down on the street by uniformed prowlies 3 times. And then it stopped. So I presumed word got around. As to the pimps, all I had to do was put my hand in my purse and step left so the gun was pointed at their abdomen and say, “Don’t try it if you don’t want to die.” After 5 years a Madam I say such things very convincingly. I only had to do this two times before word got around. Thus with a rep on both sides of the law, I had the freedom of the city.

What I did in the Zone as a spy was and must remain more ambiguous. A whorehouse is the inside looking out and waiting for the outside to come in. What I did physically can be described clearly. It was what Lady Chief originally wanted to do in the first place: install cameras and recorders, but I did it myself, secretly, from 32 reconditioned mail order Dictapads and a new DICTAPAGE to link them. One Dictapad was placed under each bed and one high up in a wall sconce with a pinhole lens in the shade.

The information was sent straightforwardly on a dedicated land line to GLCIS, being bounced off a satellite, after being encoded in the oldfashioned unbreakable way from the first days of Pretty Good Privacy of 90 years ago, and then the coded text placed in one of the electronic images made in the house. Very simple, very traditional, and only possible because Commander Cherry Hawkins did such a good job of chasing the Israelis out of the Zone. They were the only ones with sophisticated enough signals equipment to intercept what we sent. And FEM/DOM’s Shirley AI simply could not see what was going on in the house. All sorts of men and some women came in and out for 18 hours a day. Was that suspicious? Of course not! We were a whorehouse, after all.

What did we send? You have no “need to know”. Sorry.

This stampede to get laid as many times as possible while the Zone still retained some of it’s old character came in three phases: a brighter group of males (great fun to talk to actually) who uniformly thought that family submissives would be phased out ASAP and what males were left would predominantly be sperm donors. I took heed of this, since I thought better of male brains than did most Zone women, and I told my girls to act the same and really listen to what they had to say.

I knew about the advent of MAT/SERV and how most of the other agencies had as much as half their budget pulled out from under them to fund the drive for Maternity. We were well known as being able to show the best time to Johns over 60, so we also regularly entertained the old Speaker of the House of Males who was very frank to me that, though nothing had happened yet, the Lane was living on borrowed time, and would be swiftly phased out for ALL the money we were being given rather than cut back.

The next Sunday morning after I first heard this I held a house meeting, told the girls, and stated that I wanted to see each of them for half a day over the next month to make plans with them for leaving on short notice. If they weren’t ready to do that by the time 2 months had passed, they would get strapped, and not only strapped, but strapped in a new way that would keep them from walking straight as well as from sitting down and sleeping on their back. “And it’s VERY unpleasant, girls.”

Next we were deluged by the teen and ‘tweeners much more so than the other houses. I suspected that one or two of the brighter and older ones who favored our house had put the word out into citizenship training classes about us and the coming Zone changes. The two favorite clients of a happy whore (my strap was there to make sure they were happy because they were the best) are a young virgin who can be taught how to control his emission at will, and shown every trick that will keep him aroused; or an old man that you give back some of the vigor of his youth. Both are emotionally more open than the other Johns and their gratitude is real and uplifting to the entire house.

Finally, for the purpose of our story here, I was interviewed by a woman who wore a black wig (a good one, you had to really look to tell) and black glasses with purely plate glass lenses, named Caitlin Jones, who was a “free lance writer working on an article for a GLC magazine about the Lane”. She probably was, I thought, but with another agenda also, and when she finished the interview she said she heard some of our girls went both ways and was that true. I said yes about a third of us did, including myself. Then she asked to buy some room time with a bi girl. I had Brigit, our blond Valkarie, step out. “Brigit is the only one on call at the moment, but if there are times you can reliably come, I can see to it that more choices are available.” Caitlin paid the room fee and followed Brigit, half a head taller than her Jane, up the stairs.

This was so unusual that I did what Lady Chief talks about, tying a knot in my handkerchief. This lady had really good wigs, better than any in the Zone, had a bright red slash of a mouth, green to purple eye shadow, heavy brow penciling, and foundation used to visually lengthen the cheeks. Written out that way, it sounds more exaggerated than it was, it was reasonably restrained, but it went with startlingly bright blue eyes, eyes as blue as Brigit’s. I simply kept Ms. Caitlin in my mental file for future reference. I asked Brigit how she tipped and was told only So/so.

But after a few weeks, I could clearly see Caitlin’s importance. Suddenly the demand for bi girls by Janes, usually about my age, shot through the roof! It was mostly with us, because we had six of them plus myself. We were surprised by the phenomenon, and the other houses were astonished by it. The stream of thirty something Matriarchals to our house was at times almost comic, particularly in the light of how despised we were by all the older Zone women.

All of we six, as well as me, were constantly busy, and I dropped the word at a house meeting that if any who hadn’t tried it were interested, I had no objection to some inter house education of them by Brigit and the others, IF it occurred on their off hours and no crushes were involved. Pretty soon I had a force of nine plus myself. The teen and twenty plus men noted the heavy traffic, too. And it had them scratching their heads, as well as everyone at the other houses.

All of the dissatisfaction with the direction of Zone life Lady Chief reported on we quickly started hearing, too. Particularly myself, who, like Elizabeth, had a bit more sophisticated conversation than most of my girls. I liked the endorphin perks, too, and, unlike Elizabeth, a young man, particularly an inexperienced teen, was far more open to a woman slightly older than they were, so they gave me a lot of traffic, too. It’s your thirty to fifty odd aged men who are the pullet chasers. And, if I may say so, I was a better whore than most of my girls, who were still not quite “women”, as I wasn’t when asked to leave my basic spy training to go gallivanting around Chicago with my “aunts”. I also had Elisabeth to train me, she was superb at it, and I was far more hard working than all the other girls at learning.

I began to connect the woman avalanche to both their general dissatisfaction and their aching neediness, which was almost universal. Without submissives to pleasure them, life as a Zone woman could get very, very lonely. Against the view of the rapidly aging Matriarchs, a non-citizen whore also knows that women need men to socialize with as well as to keep them satisfied, and a witty John was a whore’s sweet treat. I also began to connect them with Caitlin. They would often mention in passing “this writer that they knew”, and so very many of them wore jewellery with a letter B, which I had noticed on Caitlin previously.

Moreover, it was very clear that many of them had been talking to the younger, dissatisfied Johns who were quite open about their opinion that Scarlet Fever Lane was the Zone’s best entertainment buy, and it might not be here forever. All of them, like Caitlin, were rather reserved about tipping the girls, particularly since they were having such a high old time with them. This caused the girls some dissatisfaction.

But I gave the matter some thought and finally figured out that most of our thirty something Janes were barely getting by financially. They were an entire impoverished generation, actually, and made so by that 5 year period of GLC economic sanctions. So I told the girls that, in most cases, they were making far more money than their Janes, which they found very shocking. And I pointed out that the better tippers among them were the ones with the more expensive and newer clothes. Even they noticed that the Elizabeth’s Secret tradition of buying them bespoke business suits and top of the line negligee left them MUCH better dressed than almost all their Janes.

Zoltan, unfortunately, passed on last year, tailoring to the end, though Irma did more and more of the work. I miss him. And half the fun of dressing up the girls were my yearly meetings with Zoltan, who taught me, like Elizabeth, to measure. He pined for Elizabeth too, and I told him she’d retired quietly away from Chicago. And there IS a school of thought that North Chicago is as far away from Chicago as you can get. A base libel on a very fine town.

Elizabeth of Montpellier: I am free.

I am free. Those three words sum up my life since retirement. I live in my safehouse and take care of it exactly as if it were my own. Luckily it is small, 2 bedroom, and flat, with stairs only to the basement where there are extra cots and linens for any guest who has GLCIS guards with him to make sure he stays in the house. In my persona as Jessica (or whoever that year) I do everything I can to make a guest feel welcome. Well, maybe not quite everything. I have more tricks up my sleeve that aren’t really needed in this job. I also have have security cleared agents with domestic skills on call to be cook or housekeeper when we have a guest. They’re good, just like they were in cover.

I also have a GLICIS driver available for the day on 24 hours notice. My comehither gait has narrowed a little from osteoarthritis in my hips, and I’m losing memory of my thieves’ cant, so I try to speak it with Sally when we’re alone. Back in the Mossad days, Sally was a sweet treat I sampled only once. Now she is a smorgasbord that I never tire of. Upon her return, the first words she said to me after I opened the safehouse front door were, “I love you.” And we are making up for time lost in the Zone, which was a cruel blade in my heart.

Lady Chief stops by either with Sally or alone. We’ve bonded physically as we wanted to from the first (she is still the Dutchess of Kumquat, even in bed) and it’s mine and Sally’s task to shepherd and protect her from her inner demons, whether waking her out of nightmare or still bound up in professional “failure” and personal remorse. I’m glad Sally is much younger than both of us, after I go, I want Lady Chief to be protected and loved up to her natural death and not left to some solitary and burdened self-shortening.

This year, my reverse mortgage in the Zone ends and I’ve arranged to buy the house outright from GLCIS, so Sally and Lady Chief can room with me. But it will still be on call when GLCIS needs it, with all the safehouse perks. Because of the money issues, I’ve had to retain Elizabeth as well as my workname. But it will be Elisabeth only, after I purchase the house as her, and my last workname will only appear on the pension roll with no other information.

Since the house will still be on call for GLICIS, I’ll still retain the Glock 43 and magazines, which are registered to GLICIS, and the protocol to both open the door and avoid the fate of Helen Thoroughgood of SEC/SPY, shot while doing so, as well as the security alarms and 360 degrees of video cameras around the building. The gun lives in a locked, wall mounted, cabinet beside the front door. For security purposes, any guest and any security gorillas with him will use call names as will the 3 regular residents. And I make time to put in half a day at the shooting range every two months.

I am free. GLCIS was well aware that safehouse life can drive a guest stir crazy. So when the house was set up, three out of every four walls in both the living room and dining room were set up as built in bookshelves. And a good budget line went to the purchase of good books to fill them, first with book collections from publishers like the Modern Library and the Harvard Classics, then with subsidiary works by each of the authors in those book collections. These days Chicago is THE place to buy old books and by filling in the output of the authors in the book collections, GLCIS filled a good 1/4 of the shelf space.

When I took over, I allotted one day a month to book shopping. I spread this to all levels of the used book trade from the cheapest trade-for-trade or library book sale to some of the finest antique bookshops, looking there for that one beautiful underpriced bargain. With two English degrees, even if they are 50 years old, this was a labor of love for me. When Lady Chief set up this house for me six years ago, I asked for the emphasis to be on “cozy”, both for the welcoming “home” I’d never had since I was a teenager, and for the sense of a cherished refuge for guests twitted out at having to go on the run. The houses Sally and I ran to were this way, and it made a real difference.

When I started, there were many, many metal library bookends. Three years later, most of the shelves were filled except for several strategically placed nooks created by filling a shelf segment only half full with a single bookend on one side of the book row. The nooks filled out organically over tIme with things that caught my eye at flea markets or yard sales: a copper tea kettle over here, an antique doll over there, a framed elementary school diploma from the early 20th century over yonder.

One thing I never was able to indulge in at a whorehouse was recorded music, so I went to a high end audio shop run by young men, as most still are, and brought a concept to see how close the boys could come to matching it: a small room size, economically priced sound system, with multiple digital inputs.

They were great, and they did a great job. Young men respond very well to old women who are firm in mind, intelligent in conversation, and salty in vocabulary. And one of them, who had probably been spending far too much time in the Cicero whorehouses for his own good, complemented me on my clothes while looking at me from behind as I walked away. I turned around and said, “You’re sharp, young man, but don’t be too sharp or you’ll get yourself in trouble.” And I’m sure he had a chuckle telling his co-workers what he spotted about me, and that I knew that he had.

So with books and music, a well designed but unpretentious kitchen and ceramic meal service, a sparing amount of beautifully comfortable furniture made with reading, listening, and dining in mind, but not overcrowding the floor space, and room sized rugs in rich neutrals, the house was as cozy and welcoming as one can get. And the 2-3 guests we had each year seemed to calm down visiting me and my cozy house.

I, Elizabeth, will be filling in for Lady Chief from this point on. Her demons are still too strong and the wound of an early “retirement” still too fresh for her to continue.

When Caitlin found two friends that were still strong Bernadette supporters, she revealed to them that Bernadette had returned to the Zone for a short time just after the death of her father, and might be available to meet if they could gather 3-4 more friends who would enjoy doing so. She exchanged Dictapad numbers with them and encouraged them to call her if they had any success. A couple of months of knocking around the Zone and she had a full twelve pairs of friends who had been offered the bait.

First one, then another, then another, and still another managed to accumulate about 3-5 people together. When they called Caitlin back, she told them to set a date and time for Bernadette to visit and chat with them. When that was settled in the next call to Caitlin, she told them that Bernadette would come, but she, Caitlin, was running against a deadline and so couldn’t make it. She deliberately never mentioned her own name once in these subsidiary calls. Nor did Bernadette ever refer to her at all. After a month or so Caitlin had left no more presence in the Matriarchal’s minds than “that dark haired writer woman” and even that faded as visits from Bernadette took over.

Bernadette would show up, review her story and tell them that she came back in the Zone as a quiet living citizen because she still believed in the matriarchal ideal, however much it may have been warped over the years of the Zone’s problems. She wanted to talk to “real” Zone women and learn how they felt about this. Once she got the group talking, she slipped back into the role of facilitator and moderator, kept the talk going and intervened only when someone began to advocate a more angry and proactive sedition.

Bernadette would then look at them all and say, “I have much more reason to hate the Matriarchs than anyone else here, but I tell you straight from the heart, that anger is not a way anybody can bring about a renewal in the Zone. In fact, it was the anger of the Chief Matriarch that shortened my father’s life and ruined his happiness in a chronic haze of constant pain, as well as left me with a scarred bottom that has made every time I’ve sat down for the last 17 years a nagging discomfort. The Matriarchs are all old women. We will outlive them. In fact, they might be gone sooner than anybody thinks and someone will have to step up and speak out about what Matriarchy SHOULD be, not what it has been in the recent past.”

She’d end the discussion by sending around a name and Dictapad number sheet so she could keep in touch with them all. Once that was returned, she’d ask for one person to take the lead as the contact person for this group, would check that person’s name on each sheet, and then hand out business cards with only her Dictapad number on it, but neither her name nor Caitlin’s number there, and she encouraged any of them to call her if they had good ideas about how what they’d done might go forward. Then she bid them good bye.

As she walked through the Zone darkness one phrase would ring over and over in her head just as she would use it over and over in many such meetings, “they may be gone sooner than anybody thinks…” And blond Abigail would return to her bed, letting herself in with her key and also returning to her Caitlin.

Bernadette spoke to group after group of the women Caitlin had found for her. And her phone lists began to accumulate on Caitlin’s cork board. Including a separate list for the group contact women. After about ten of them accumulated with a total of around 40 names, Caitlin put them into a binder and into the bottom drawer of her locked file cabinet taped to the bottom of an open crate of full lemon soda cans in the drawer. It would be missed by a hasty search. When any of the individuals she had spoken to called her Dictapad number, Bernadette was always generous with her sympathetic listening ear and her time. At the end of the conversation Bernadette would ask the caller to find a couple of new friends to introduce to the group.

After this happened a couple of times for each group, and she had spent a lot of time on the phone with any of her new friends who called, Bernadette would call the contact woman and offer to come again, telling the contact woman that she’d had such nice chats with X, Y, and Z of the initial group, who had offered to try to find more people to bring to see her. Could the contact woman give them a call and see how that was working?

Then they agreed upon a date and time and Bernadette returned, this time with a little talk about the history of the Matriarchal Underground, sounding suspiciously like the old FEM/AUTH brochures of years ago. But nobody was old enough to recognize them and to the 35 year olds in this group the information was totally fresh and new. Bernadette said to them that she was still doing fresh research on it, and in future visits she’d have more to say.

Then Bernadette once again, very self effacingly, moderated a discussion on the talk. At the end she reminded them that the Matriarchs might be gone “sooner than anybody thinks” and we should learn about Zone history to speak convincingly when that time came. Another passing around of the original phone list and handing out of phone cards occurred for anybody new to sign up. Bernadette once again said she was available for anybody who wanted to talk.

After one cycle of second visits the number of names on the pages increased to about 75. Caitlin used her Dictalink to put the names and numbers in alphabetical order under the contact woman’s name and number and burned the handwritten copies. With 75 people now involved, gossip was leading those who heard the word to try to attend.

Wash, cycle, rinse, and repeat. Another round of visits and the number on the lists was now 175. This time Bernadette announced that she was having trouble with her Dictapad but she’d have a new number for them next time. Of course this was a lie and the Dictapad was disassembled and scattered to the four winds, rendering it’s number useless and the name of the person who purchased it erased.

At this point it was time for Caitlin to have another conference with McGuffin Literary Agency and Bernadette apparently stayed in the Zone, so did Abigail, house sitting for Caitlin, as her neighbors were told, along with a date for Caitlin’s return. Caitlin, who had downloaded Bernadette’s list of names, started a security wipe of her Dictalink, timed to repeat until she returned from Chicago to manually shut it down.

This was again killing two birds with one stone. Any official entry to her apartment would almost certainly obtain a key from the landlord. If the counters came in, saw the Datalink wiping, and stopped it to see if anything could be found, even if they had enough sense to start it up again, the interruption would still leave unremovable traces in the Datalink activity function. One or two other things, such as the crate of lemon sodas, had a small black dot placed on them. If that dot or any of the others was in the wrong place when she came home, she would know that the apartment had been entered and “tracelessly” searched by Zone counters.

Bernadette applauded Caitlin’s caution. After all, enough people had seen her that by now Zone Counterintelligence must have heard she was back. Savvy Bernadette! She was right. The last thing Caitlin did was take a small, thin piece of cardboard and slip it between the front door and the jamb one foot off the ground where it couldn’t be seen. With a landlord and his key, any official search would almost certainly come through the front door. And if there were traces inside the apartment but that little cardboard was still in place, the searchers would know she was a spy, caught the tradecraft of the worthless cardboard scrap, and carefully put it back where Caitlin had put it originally.

They also would know that it was GLCIS handwriting. But they wouldn’t know that Bernadette knows it and Caitlin could just evaporate for good. GLCIS wouldn’t know any of it until far too late. There WAS a resource that she could use to keep the counters off her back, and she’d need it to get the goodies in the Ritz hotel security box over from GLC

Caitlin pulled into Chicago Midway two days before McLA had been told to expect her. She had some private shopping to do so she paid in advance for four days in the venerable Midway Airport Motel Omega, “The Last Chance You Have To Bed Down.”

Violet and Lady Chief were making progress looking for their blonde, blasting cap, whore. One of the outcalls was to an arms dealer, and, with a little muscle and a promise to search no further, Violet shook loose the purchase of the snubby, the Glock 19, the magazines, and the extra threaded barrel. Like the blasting caps this last was a detail to sit up and take notice of: somebody wants to put a silencer on a Glock. The GLCCA plain clothes left him with, “We know where you are and what you do. So find some otherwhere to do business before we come back with a search warrant.”

Lady Chief had Joey on her mind. Something was still not complete about his defection and his hit. Why? Why did he do it? There was no obvious reason to be seen. Unless…..a Motel….maybe a Motel with a blonde whore? Could be. She called Violet, said she might have a lead on a thug named Joey and a whore at this motel, could Violet check. Of course there could be no tales told out of school, so his being a GLCIS thug and that she herself had ordered a hit on him could be reserved. Then she went to the interrogators.

They were used to asking the thugs informal questions on the thugs’ own turf of their building floor. So were the thugs. A little friendly session about Joey was held. The thugs already knew that he had been hit and why. But, the interrogators said, there now is a whisper that he not only had broken the rules, but that he’d been turned by somebody, maybe Dixieland, to tell about all the rest of you. We want to nip that in the bud, so do you remember anything significant Joey had said? Yeah, said a couple of them, he kept going on and on about a short haired blonde whore who’d been pulling more cohones pops and bigger ones out of him than any woman he’d ever known. Charley here is long headed and said to him, “Just don’t do it in a motel or the Chief will have your scalp.” Joey nodded, but it clearly went in one ear and out the other. You couldn’t tell Joey anything.

So, Lady Chief thought, a blonde whore who could really make a man go pop. Repeatedly. Joey was Chicago streetwise, he’d had the public pisspots and probably a high class tart or three over here so he would be hard to impress. Making a man go pop repeatedly and stronger than ever before…..sounds like someone from over at Scarlet Fever Lane in The Zone. That was the flag they were all always waving, even Elizabeth (so hard to think of her as Jessica). Could be…..

Then the dictapad of Lady Chief rang. It was Violet, “Joey and the blonde whore rang real bells at the Motel. But the day clerk was surprised about the woman. She didn’t have a slut strut either loud like on the street or soft like from a house. A lot of the other markers weren’t there either. If anybody could recognize a woman in the life it would be the day clerk at a cheap motel, he’d seen scores come in to pay a bill. So maybe an amateur?…”

Lady Chief, “Well, she sure learned well from someone, my guess would be someone from over at Scarlet Fever Lane. Joey was all mouth to the other hoods here about a whore who made him pop more and better than any other he had ever known.”

A long pause at the other end of the line. “Oh… Joey was one of yours…..he doesn’t happen to have five of your bullets in his head by chance? Nobody heard a thing over there except a car pulling away fast. Aren’t silenced .22’s part of the…handwriting is it?…of your killers? Seems that’s what I remember.”

Lady Chief, “Why, how you talk! Do you think we can dispose of our thugs like candy bar wrappers? Training them costs money!”

Violet, “In case you’ve forgotten, I once gunned down a couple of them for you to save your friends. So don’t give me that! Don’t tell me anything more, I really don’t want to know. But if your killers don’t stop leaving excess bodies within the city limits one of these days CPD will actually be patrolling where they belong, instead of in the deep dish parlor and they’ll bust your killers. Even worse, your killers are psychopaths who just might start a gunfight. Wouldn’t that be nice on the evening news for the President’s Chief of Staff?

“Anyway, yes, an amateur who really needs these things she’s fucking for and can’t get ’em any other way. No front for anybody else like The Outfit. All home grown. Sound good to you?”

Lady Chief, “Sounds good to me. I’ll look into the Zone Whore angle…”

Violet, “You know, sugarplums, if it wasn’t for YOU I could ask Commander Cherry Hawkins to look into it. But she’s too busy catching your spies. Anyway thanks again for the Major Security Danger call. We’ll keep looking for what else she’s been bartering for. I’ll tap my sources in The Outfit to see if they know. Keep smiling.”

For an entire day Caitlin went to several different big box and big box hardware stores, taking the purchases back to her motel by electrocab. She bought a large lantern battery, a roll of insulated electrical wire, a roll of electrical tape and one of self-sticking silicone pipe repair tape, a wire stripper, a wire cutter, and an electrical soldering iron with solder. In the next trip, a cheap, one cycle-and-throw away, Dictapad, a pair of small nose pliers, six bars of two part epoxy putty, and two packages of two part epoxy metal welding compound.

Then after lunch, on third trip, a clear ecoplastic shoe storage box; a clean, new, and unfilled medium diameter paint can; wood paint stirrers, and a small tool for lifting paint can lids. After that, on the final trip, she went to the discount tool store and bought a portable variable speed power drill with battery charger and a set of drill bits, then ran into a fast food drive through to pick up her dinner.

Even after all these years, the Zone still came up short in reliably available consumer goods, so those who could afford it went shopping 4 times a year in Chicago. Someone going through CUS/PAS with a dedicated suitcase full of retail purchases raised no one’s eyebrows, and none of the agencies on either side of the border could trace enough of it for the word BOMB to pop up in anybody’s mind.

The next day Bernadette, not Catlin, went to the Ritz Carlton and unlocked the strongbox, taking the threaded Glock barrel. Then she went to a major plumbing supply to match the threads to a thin walled pipe nipple, finding that, she also bought some metal thread locking compound. Finally, she bought a four battery, one inch inside diameter heavy duty aluminum flashlight, a box of tea light candles, a large roll of steel wool, and a silicon cooking surface mat. Coming back to the Omega, she added these to her previous loot, and took a mild risk. She wrapped the Glock barrel in a motel washcloth, opened the rear of the flashlight handle, and carefully stuffed the wrapped barrel up the handle.

The risk was worth it. The DIY pistol silencer would be tricky and she wanted get a head start on it’s assembly.

Then there was the final trip, to the marijuana dispensary. GLC legalized recreational Marijuana from it’s inception, with a heavy 20% tax. The weed tax revenue is one of the reasons GLCIS could spend so freely and had been able to from the Service’s very beginnings. They were born and generously funded out of abject fear of GLC’s continent wide neighbors as the broken United States of America emerged from the Diaspora. From the inception, the agency had been high in the good graces of every GLC President since Curtis, the First Chief of Service, took command in 2041.

The political customers had particularly valued the quality and quantity of product from both deep cover spy Henry Peterson, that revealed the intentions and actions of the movers and shakers within the Zone, and from that of his silent, nameless, deep cover partner in SEC/SPY, who’s target was the subversion of the Matriarchs by Mossad. The outing of Peterson and his subsequent killing by Micha Haaretz, had portended a fall from grace for the Agency. But the use of it by Ian, the second Chief of Service, to set a land mine under SEC/SPY and blow it to pieces turned it into a massive intelligence victory over Mossad. Two victories, actually, one open and one so deeply hidden that it never was known by any character in this narrative except for Ian.

The details of this will remain eyes only, deliberately buried tracelessly in the archives, until most of the major characters in this narrative have found their Moment of Truth, but, when finally uncovered, it will completely explain how the inner workings of SEC/SPY were revealed in full to the world. This narrative doesn’t. 

The only clues to emerge from the shadows are, first, that a Zone citizen traitor really did exist, but not, as SEC/SPY feared, giving refuge to Peterson on the run. Second, the failure to uncover this traitor was Micha Haaretz’ greatest blunder, and Ian’s method of disposing of the evidence for all of this was, ultimately, the cause of the ‘suddenness’ of his retirement, as well as one of the most heinous actions in the history of GLCIS. Cause and effect, though it took a couple of years for the effect to mature.

How do I know it? I was the only one present both at my talk with Ian, and at Lady Chief’s description of her days in SEC/SPY. Put the two clues above with those two narratives, and the answer is pretty much right in front of you. It is still not clear, and may never be, why Ian chose to do this, but the conclusion that he did and who he did it to is unavoidable.

The Mossad killing spree, on the watch of Lady Chief, was the low point for the agency’s reputation with the customers. But after the elimination of Peter, the Mossad mole, and the total GLCIS defeat of Cherry Hawkins’ marvelous counterespionage AI, Shirley, the kind and quality of the information steadily improved and productive agent numbers in the Zone reached an all time Service high. To this was added the penetrating work of Madam Sally Bayer uncovering major secrets deep within the Zone’s submissives, and the literary efforts of Caitlin-Abigail-Bernadette, whose gathering of solid intelligence widely across the Zone, and was unlike anything GLCIS had ever accomplished before. It is on this, ultimately, that Lady Chief’s professional standing in the secret history of GLCIS will rest, not the unexpected disaster that ended her tenure.

So Bernadette, with her GLCIS expense account bought two raw kilograms of an oldie but goodie genetic strain, Panama Red, which had, by some miracle survived the profuse cannabis hybridization of the last 100 years, with it’s name now unknown to even the most learned 21st Century potheads. Indeed, Panama Red was the original, and legendary, “two hit dope” with the joint you never got completely through.

Two kilograms was large enough and expensive enough to get Caitlin in deep trouble with next January’s annual audit, and couldn’t be explained away by anything in her GLCIS duties. But January was far enough away from the timetable of Bernadette’s home brewed adventure in assassination, that her work to bring it’s mayhem to fruition would be completely finished.

The next morning, Caitlin checked out of the Omega and into the Ritz Carelton, asking for her 12th floor room that GLCIS would have waiting for her. Then she went through the strong box room, stopped to put a well wrapped package in her strong box, then through the opposite door to the AI controlled GLCIS elevator to the 13th Floor. The AI recognized her and she stepped out into the GLCIS “in house safehouse”, exchanged keys with the faux bellhop and started setting up in her room. Her debriefers would be there in the afternoon. She took advantage of the one place she could remove the black wig and glasses without an identity problem, and Bernadette ordered lunch from room service.

The debriefers were tremendously excited with what Bernadette had to tell them. Not only were 20 year old males and 35 year old women citizens restive, but the women themselves were apparently forming small discussion groups in a number of Zone locations to study Matriarchal history and planning to organize as a pressure group at the House of Matriarchs for a seat at the table about the Zone’s future. They all seemed to be rallying around the same slogan, “The Matriarchs may be gone sooner than we think,” referring to the advanced age of the Matriarchal Cabinet and the Chief Matriarch. Angie the Cane Wielder was the youngest, in her 50’s.

As Caitlin, she told them, she’d managed to penetrate one group, for one meeting, and had a Zone History handout (Bernadette’s cleaned up presentation text) on the Matriarchal Underground, which she gave them. These meetings were becoming well enough known that she decided not to return in case Zone Counterintelligence had started sniffing around, which she thought was very likely. The debriefers agreed.

What she had found was spectacular enough that she didn’t need to endanger her Deep Cover status further. They would get one of their medium cover agents or light cover teams poking around for it. A couple of light covers in the Zone were nearing the end of their visas and briefed replacements would make the change with them in a little less than two months. So Caitlin should lower her profile altogether for those two months. She should just relax and enjoy herself.

And if Bernadette could give them a location for the one meeting she attended they just might have a medium cover in place there. She already had a location for them, but it was not quite the right one for that very reason. Bernadette was going to need to visit at least one of the groups one more time without GLCIS knowing about it. When Bernadette was back in the Zone, it was found that there were no medium covers available. But on the flight back Bernadette had another bright idea that might distance her even more from Zone Counterintelligence.

As this report was cause for celebration, they called Lady Chief over the 13th Floor Secure Communication line. She thought the whole precis of Bernadette’s debrief was wonderful and she’d like to congratulate her personally. Could Bernadette meet her in the Mezzanine Bar for half an hour at 4:30? She can? Oh, that’s wonderful. So Caitlin, with black wig and black horned rimmed glasses, since the Bar was public and she had to keep her cover, dutifully showed up at the appointed time.

When Lady Chief arrived, she ordered a cold Grey Goose Martini (which I, Elizabeth, had introduced her to as her new safehouse keeper) and Caitlin ordered a Bloody Mary. After the congratulations, they made small talk about GLC and the Zone. Neither mentioned the debriefing. The bar was obviously not secure. At about 4:50, Lady Chief had a Dictapad call from upstairs. Violet of GLCCA was on the Secure Line upstairs with news about the Bomb Building Whore. Caitlin said she’d linger while Lady Chief did business.

Violet was excited, “One of my Outfit sources is part of the car theft operation. At one of their chop shops, a blonde whore with short cropped hair that so many of the guys around had dipped into, had dropped a large wad of cash for a VIN free electrocar. They also had some bogus Dixieland plates that she bought to supplement the phony GLC plates that were part of the VIN free package, so the customer could just safely drive it away,”

Violet effused, “After a call by my source to the chop shop owner, we sent a pair of our plainies to talk with him at a deep dish parlor and not his shop, made it clear to him that the only stolen electrocar we were interested in was the blonde whore’s. And that because we wanted the whore and not the car. The owner pointed us toward his brother-in-law who ran a long term pay garage and had been dipping into the blonde for some time now, to avoid the wife as much as possible. Brother-in-law had bragged that she was worth far more than the garage fee. He’d never known anybody that good.

“The plainies went to the garage and asked to see the car. Reluctantly, after they mentioned talking in the future to his wife, he showed them. It had the Dixieland plates and looked spotless, like it had been totally wiped. There’s no police data mutuality with Dixieland so they couldn’t call in the Dixieland plates and seize the car for probable cause, and they didn’t want to cause a commotion by sending technicians to confirm the absent VIN numbers, after which they also could seize it. They wanted the woman and not the car, so they called me for a 24/7 stakeout. We’ll hold this for a week and if it’s a no show we’ll come back with the technicians and seize it.”

Lady Chief, “Sounds like she may have left it for good if it’s that clean.”

Violet, “Yeah, but if she’s left it, there’s not much reason to seize it. We’ve got the garage owner by the balls. His wife is his wife and he doesn’t want to tell HER how good the whore was, and his brother-in-law at the chop shop isn’t a made man in the Outfit, but he’s connected high enough to get anyone who interferes with chop shop business hit. Chops make the Boys too much money. So we can even stake the team inside the garage, and the owner won’t give a peep to the whore if she returns.”

“Well, carry on with it. But I think we’ll go on the assumption that our amateur has acquired her goodies and retired. Thanks for the info,” concluded Lady Chief.

When Lady Chief came down again, sat, finished her Martini (nobody in their right mind leaves one behind), congratulated Bernadette once again and thanked her for the little relaxing interlude. So ended the closest Lady Chief came to exposing the plot. Had she met Bernadette upstairs without the black wig, seeing her short blonde hair might have set Lady Chief’s wheels turning. And a whole suitcase full of bomb making parts was less than 20 feet away from her as she talked on the secure line.

The Silencer

Caitlin did a little more of Bernadette’s business the next day. She went to the nearby local shipping center, bought a corrugated box, 6 feet of bubble wrap, a scissors, and a small roll of package sealing tape. She also asked for a large handled shopping bag to carry it all in. Returning to the Ritz, she waited until the strong room was empty, then quickly opened and emptied her storage box of all but the two kilos of weed, and, placing the contents in the shopping bag, she pulled the loose bubble wrap over it. Then she brazenly travelled up to the 13th floor and stepped out of the elevator carrying two contraband pistols and four blasting caps into GLCIS’ “in house safehouse”.

Her debriefers had left, and only a few of the bell hops and maids were on the floor. She retrieved the original 12th floor room key and told that bell hop that she’d leave the 13th Floor key in the room after she finished packing. With the door closed and locked, she made up a second package of contraband to store next to the weed in the strong box. That done, she packed up all the rest of her luggage, including the suitcase with the bomb and silencer parts purchases, and asked the same bellhop to help her get it all down to check out. She stopped briefly to put the new package in her strongbox while the bellhop maneuvered the luggage cart through the Strong Room and into the lobby.

He was new and young and naive. He was to start agent training the next week. Nothing about Caitlin putting a package into a strong box, before checking out, or even her having a strong box at all, struck him as suspicious. He barely registered the action and told no one about it. And GLCIS lost it’s final chance to uncover Bernadette’s plot.

Caitlin took an electrotaxi to Midway, and arrived in Montpellier that day. Since it was an early evening flight, she arrived after sunset and the hall was, dark when she got to her front door. Taking her flashlight out she checked the cardboard and it was still in the door jamb, entered and shut off the Datalink wiping, looked at the Event Function page and the wiping hadn’t been interrupted. She turned on more lights and did the black dot checking and nothing had been moved. She relaxed. She was looking forward to the next two months off. It would entail a couple of trips back to GLC unknown to anyone. So she kept the scrap of cardboard. Waste not want not.

The next day Abigail came out the back, said hello to the next door neighbor and told her that Caitlin would be back that evening.

On a rainy day a few days later, Bernadette sat down with the flashlight, the tea lights, the silicone pad, the pipe fitting, the steel wool, drill and drill bits (the battery having been charged overnight), the epoxy welding compound, the epoxy putty, and two pieces of scrap from another building project: a 12x15in rectangular particle board for a work surface and a 12 in. of 1/2in diameter wooden dowel rod.

She first removed the thin aluminum cups from the tea lights. Bernadette had far more than she needed because the thin aluminum was the hardest material to work with. Any slip at all could bend, crinkle, or crumple one of these, so she needed plenty of patience, plenty of cups, and a willingness to fail plenty of times if need be.

What she wanted was five of the aluminum cups bored through the exact center with a 13mm (1/2 in) hole. The bullets were 9mm in diameter and and they needed 2 mm clearance all the way around in all five cups for safety when the bullets were fired down the tube of the flashlight body. First she removed both the bulb and the base end of the flashlight leaving only the hollow tube of the body. Then she pushed a tea light cup into one end to make sure that it just barely cleared the inside diameter of the tube. There was no problem there.

The tea light cups each had a central dimple for a starting hole and she had to drill each in four stages so that the hole could be gradually enlarged to 13mm while keeping the drill bits centered on the mark the first bit made into the particleboard. She took the drill bit that fitted the aluminum dimple exactly and drilled each of 10 cups with that size bit, then each with the next size bit, and so on. She was careful and lucky at this stage and lost only 2 of the cups with inaccurate drilling. But the longer she worked the more likely she was to slip from fatigue.

With a drilled tea light cup, Bernadette drew both an interior and exterior circle on the silicone, then cut the outside out carefully with a scissors. This was slightly larger than the inside of the cup and she carefully trimmed the edge so that it just fit. Then she folded the circle over, edge to edge and made a single straight cut in the center from the fold to the mark of the inner circle, re-folded the circle 90 deg from the first fold and made a second straight cut. This left a cross cut into the circle only as long as the 13mm inside diameter.

Bernadette then mixed a small amount of the epoxy putty and worked a thin coat onto the bottom interior of the cup and pasted the silicone circle into the cup bottom. Cleaning the excess putty, she put that cup aside to dry and cure. This was the “wipe” on the front of the silencer that the bullet passed passed through last, pushing the four cut flaps aside. Then she opened the roll of steel wool and cut it lengthwise to approximately 1/4 of the length of the flashlight tube. She wrapped this piece around the dowel and used the tube interior of the flashlight to cut the steel wool length to an approximate fit to the flashlight diameter, cutting it just a little long because it can compress. She made 4 of these.

The cup with the wipe was dry enough to install into the flashlight tube. Bernadette mixed a small amount of the epoxy welding compound and spread a generous amount on the outside wall of the cup, put it lower side down on the table so you could see all of the wipe. Then she carefully put the upright flashlight tube over the wipe cup and smushing the welding compound around the outer cup, cleaned off the excess, and set the tube aside vertically for that to bond.

After bonding, Bernadette took the first piece of steel wool and wrapped it around the dowel and pushed it carefully down the tube until the dowel and wool both touched the silicone wipe. Holding the dowel in place, she pushed the wool around the dowel gently into the wipe with a pencil to make sure the wool fully contacted the silicone. Then she very, very slowly and carefully extracted the dowel, looking down the tube making sure she could see the red flaps at the bottom. If she couldn’t she’d push the dowel gently down and out the wipe to make sure the center of the tube was clear.

Bernadette returned to the cups, placed one on the dowel, and mixed some more welding compound, spreading it generously on the bottom of the cup and all around the sides. Holding the tube vertically, she gently slipped the cup into the tube with the dowel and carefully pushed the dowel out the wipe. Checking to see that the center was clear and using the dowel to clear it if needed, she then took the pencil and gently pushed the second cup onto the steel wool around the edges, and set the tube upright to dry and cure the bond both to the inner side of the pipe and to the steel wool below.

At this point, Bernadette put in another roll of steel wool in exactly the same way she did the first one, then another cup smeared with welding compound down on top of that. She repeated this whole process two times more, each time making sure with the dowel that the center was clear through to the wipe. This gave her a cylinder divided into four compartments each full of steel wool.

After everything had completely cured, she threaded the tube fully on the dowel and drilled four circles of six evenly spaced 5mm holes around the tube, being careful to drill into the steel wool segments and not the cups, then checked and cleared the center again. Finally she placed the screw threaded plumbing fixture onto the dowel, generously coated the fixture with the welding compound and set it into the tube, keeping the dowel threaded fully through the tube to make sure that the center was straight until the compound fully cured on the pipe fixture, then smeared each crack on both ends of the tube with still more welding compound.

This was to be a single use silencer, so Bernadette test threaded the extended Glock barrel onto the plumbing fixture, then removed it, put thread locking compound onto the Glock threads and screwed the barrel into the fixture until it seated firmly hand tight. From this point forward all she would have to do was field strip the gun, replace the old barrel with her silenced barrel, reassemble everything, load it with subsonic ammunition and the gun would make no more noise than the popping of a champagne cork. Now all she needed to do was get the guns and blasting caps over.

The Travel Agency

The next day Caitlin called the Principal of Bernadette’s old school, saying she was doing a piece on how well in recent years non-citizen Zone Mothers, and, particularly, their teen daughters, had been adapting to the Zone. Caitlin asked if they were they continuing discipline problems as they had been in the past. Unfortunately, said the Principal, yes they still were, they often returned as many as three times in a year to the punishment bench for a Level 2 strapping until they finally settle down and keep their place. One case she was dealing with right now was recently strapped for the third time in three months, and is going to have to repeat her year in consequence, having lost six full weeks of school.

There was dissent among the faculty at the school about how this could be improved, one group believing that making the strappings public and adding shaming and embarrassment to the pain was the answer. The other saying that a first strapping should be a Level 1 strapping (chris crossing welts and butt only) Level 2 should occur after this, then the Level 3 strapping should be the last resort. In their view the discipline needs to be harsher at every step above the first strapping and the student should be clearly warned at every strapping that not only would they be strapped again, the next time would be worse and more painful. The Principal herself inclined toward the second view, but both she, and the two teachers who backed her up in case of her absence, would have to carefully retrain with the FEM/DOM prison guards to learn the other levels.

Then there was one lone teacher who advocated loudly to anyone who would listen that the school should change to the cane. Her peers on the faculty just ignored her. But she had recently been advocating this in particular to the parents and spreading dissent among them. She was getting to be a real nuisance that must be dealt with soon. This particular faculty member has never tasted the cane herself, but if someone can be found who’s good at it, perhaps she could be confronted with the option of a genuine caning or dismissal.

Bernadette had to remember all her Deep Cover training to keep her mouth shut when this little tidbit surfaced.

So Caitlin asked her if there were any recreational activities they did that helped. No, the Principal said, they go through the regular mill of team sports, knitting clubs, driver training (the kids pay outside instructors with electrocars), and so on. But there was one club she still found a little bothersome, though it had been at the school forever. This was the Travel Agency, who researched and planned after graduation trips for themselves and any other student who could pay for the brochures of their choice. This club always seemed to be full of those new teenage non-citizens, including the one she had just strapped so frequently. Bernadette smiled broadly as Caitlin continued the interview well past the mention of the Travel Agency.

After concluding the interview, she had the Principal transfer her back to the School office secretary. There she asked for the name and number of the president of the Travel Agency and received it from him. Caitlin hadn’t told anybody there her last name and nobody asked for it. No one could remember from a Dictapad interview that she had black hair and black rimmed glasses. So in three weeks or even less her first name would evaporate out of the minds of both Principal and Secretary.

Bernadette remembered the Travel Agency well, and it was exactly what she had expected was still there. It was a mutual assistance club smuggling runaway teenagers over to GLC and teen contraband (read marijuana, legal in GLC, illegal in the Zone) from the other side. If you worked as a travel agent and successfully smuggled 3 runaway teens you got a ticket to be smuggled yourself, good for 6 months, and one of your 3 teens was removed from your list. You could either use the ticket yourself or let someone else be smuggled with it, and have them credited to your travel agent count. So a good travel agent could always show three trips at any given time and could keep one ticket ahead as an insurance policy.

There was also their share of the weed. The Travel Agents were smart enough not to deal for money, but always for in kind barter, and not always just from other students. Without their Madams knowing, some of the girls with the more lax houses did a brisk barter business with male travel agents. And some of the male submissive pairs were lovers and negotiated together.

There was a code phrase telling any agent you wanted a face to face with them: “romantic getaway”. You had to say it three times in any conversation for it to be acknowledged as a message. In the coffee shop or wherever, it was up to the outsider who showed up at the meeting to offer the in kind to the travel agent without any mention at all of weed. The travel agent would need to think it over, so he or she needed a Dictapad number. In a day or two there was a yes or no answer over the Dictapad, one of the cheap throwaways paid for by club dues, and, if yes, a transfer was arranged, with still no mention of the substance involved, usually in a park or other open space not well patrolled and the parties in the bargain could watch who was around them. The weed didn’t change hands directly. It was always in a dead drop nearby.

The tradecraft isn’t wonderful, but you change what you see, by what you look for. FEM/DOM was checking the non citizen GPS’s, patrolling the neighborhoods watching closely those who lived there, or were using those reports for AI Shirley to catch spies. They weren’t sending anyone undercover because they thought they didn’t need to. They were watching everybody so closely that it wasn’t an important choice. Nor did they patrol either the schools or the green spaces, since ordinary personal and property crimes were so rare.

Bernadette was a natural, she was spy training ready as is from her Citizen School days. She was a long time travel agent and always one ticket ahead so, even though she actually wanted to stay, she had a fall back of leaving. After the video of her flipping off the Matriarch started to get circulated, she was ready to leave on the evening of the day that two small FEM/DOM cops and one very large one with an unusual hat showed up at her school.

So Caitlin had uncovered the Travel Agency President’s Dictapad number, and Abigail could take over from there. The call was instructive. For it Bernadette used one of the cheap, ten use Dictapads that could be recycled at any grocery or drug store. She would buy them in groups of six, and always carry a different one for each identity, rotating them regularly through all three, with a coded label on the pad to differentiate them. She used only five calls for business on any Dictapad , interspersed with five other random number calls from a list she regularly compiled from the Zone electrophone book, and with calls she made from different locations than Caitlin’s apartment, often on Caitlin’s travels for interviews.

This whole system was relatively simple tradecraft, but it made tracking which of her citizen personae was calling from where on what phone about what issues, and to whom very hard. It also confined any electronic eavesdropping to the other party’s phone. FEM/DOM used only a very little phone tapping and that only after their suspicions were fully aroused, since phone eavesdropping was personnel intensive, where GPS and Shirley the AI weren’t. So it certainly was adequate tradecraft for its FEM/DOM target. And for most of her ruses, like this one, such a light concealment was sufficient.

Thus Abigail, “Am I speaking to the Travel Agency? Yes. Well I’m in need of an unusual romantic getaway. This number was given me along with your legal name from an insecure open source, so would you prefer to discuss matters under a call name and with a more secure Dictapad? Herbert? That’s excellent. You may call me Abigail. I’m a former member of the Travel Agency from a few years ago and arranged many romantic getaways. And nothing is more romantic on a getaway than aliases. That’s excellent. You have my number on your caller ID. This is the Dictapad I’ll be using at the moment. I’ll be looking forward to your call.”

This was still the Zone, after all, and when something continues to work, it’s nobody’s place to change it no matter how insecure it might get over time. “Romantic getaway” was still in use after at least 17 years! Bernadette thought this would be the case.

Herbert called back a couple of hours later on one of the club’s own cheap Dictaphones and set a meeting time on a park bench in one of Montpellier’s green spaces. At the meeting Abigail described how both the service and the bartered in-kind could be two birds killed with one stone, “I frequently go over to GLC to purchase and store large quantities of shredded compost. You understand the type of compost I’m talking about? Good.”

Abigail laid out her needs, “I have two packages to bring over, one large and one small. The large one is your birthday present the small one is mine. Yours weighs 2 kilograms. (Herbert’s eyes widened and he just barely stopped his mouth from dropping open. A quarter kilo of weed was a major score for the Travel Agency.) Once you have your birthday present, I will call you for another meeting here 3 days after the exchange and you will direct me to your chosen dead drop for mine.

“Do any of you still go fishing in a boat on Lake Champlain? Frequently? Why don’t you bring your boat to the Crown Point/Chimney Point narrows. Where the derelict and closed Champlain Bridge was. You can cross the lake even in a small boat there and both sides are easy to get to by Electrocar. You like that option? Excellent. When can you be there? Next Sunday morning? Sounds good to me. Say, ten o’clock.”

The marionette dance of Caitlin flying to Chicago, setting up again at the Motel Omega, renting an electrocar, closing out the strong box at the Ritz, and paying the balance owed can all be abbreviated. As can Abigail’s two day drive to Albany where she arrived on a Saturday evening carrying two separate packages, and stayed at another motel. A very early morning start brought her to Crown Point at 9:30 am on a sunny and breezy morning, and she waited on still another park bench, in the tiny historical park on the point, well within sight of the small boat that she could already see in the narrows. After beaching the boat, Herbert walked up the slope to the park bench and sat beside Abigail.

Abigail was wearing pastel blue harem pants, a recent GLC fashion and welcomed for the sake of her scar, just like her boy shorts underneath. Above was her cream pullover top showing enough of her cleavage that buttonless was a very good idea and with three extra inches in the length to visually lengthen her torso when she wore it tail out. As well as thin strapped white sandals with no real heel. She pointed to the two packages at her feet. “Here is your birthday present and mine. I’m sure you are satisfied with the quantity of this dope and I think you and your fellow agents will find the quality of it a nice birthday surprise.” Herbert smiled, just a little bit smugly, thinking to himself, “I see…”

Then, first, the carrot, “You’ll be getting your citizenship certificate this year, won’t you? And I’m sure you’ve understood that anyone who can pay for your travel service with 2 kilos of dope at GLC prices is quite well off. I don’t happen to have a submissive male at the moment, and I’m looking for a vigorous young man to be my Maleservant, seeing both to my domestic comfort and to my erotic pleasure. I would, of course, want you to cook well and clean thoroughly, like any well educated Male Citizen.

“If you enter my household, I’m sure you will require some training in oral service. The Citizenship schools neglect this aspect of submissive duties. I’m always willing to sponsor my Maleservants with training to do their sexual duties by the best instructors in the Zone, the women of the whorehouse Elizabeth’s Secret, and, while they train, I don’t mind supporting some of their own recreation, if they want.”

Herbert nodded. Abigail was definitely a Dominant Woman, but of the most dangerous type, one with an unshakable assumption that she was going to have her way in all things and also with an hypnotic and spellbinding voice tending toward a dusky contralto.

“Personally, though I require subservience and subordination, my definition of them is a little more fluid than many of my sister Matriarchals. This is one of the reasons that to serve me you will need brains and good judgment. Your handling of this transaction tells me you might have enough of them. The need for brains and judgment is also one of the reasons I never employ more than one Maleservant at a time so they can be free of a spying Siamese twin and a mutual demand to spy themselves. Thus they can actually use those brains and judgment. I enforce discipline with a hole pierced wooden paddle. This is not as immediately terrifying as a cane or a police strap, but I can tell you that, emotionally as well as physically, any time I paddle you, you’ll never want it to happen again.”

Abigail, had just described a life that was almost a paradise for a Zone submissive, the right mixture of restraint and freedom and the elimination of the constant espionage that actually hampers by far the greatest number of submissives in pleasing their mistress and fulfilling their wishes. These would probably be worth a paddling now and then. But…a dangerous Dominant Woman, still.

“When we meet again, I’ll give you the number of my next Dictaphone, which will be in service after I’m clear that my package has come over intact. You may call and set a date starting at noon and into the evening. I’ll finance an afternoon marketing trip to purchase fresh ingredients for the dinner (of your choice) that you are going to make me, and we can commence a more formal interview then.”

Then the stick. “Look me in the eye. You are getting what amounts to payment in advance, so don’t you dare double cross and burn me on this. It’s been some years since I was in citizenship school. I’ve travelled other places and studied in other schools, one of which taught me how to kill without weapons. If I were to stand up right now and walk casually behind you, it would be no problem at all for me to break your neck before you even know that anything has happened. I know your real name, I know your home address and Dictapad number, and I know where you go to school. All you know is my call name, Abigail. So don’t screw me over. Clear?”

Herbert shrunk a little on hearing this and had long lost the smug smile he started with. Maybe a little too dangerous a Dominant Woman, but, still, a nice starting household package deal. “Yes, ma’m. Good luck on your journey and I’ll be eager to hear from you in 3 days. I’ll have no trouble getting these on my boat, and it’s time I shoved off.”

Abagail treated herself to a nice, late breakfast at a little diner in the north of Albany, and then went back to the motel, which was just a stone’s throw from another office of the rent-a-car agency. A Dictapad call or two found a regular light plane shuttle from Albany to Montpellier leaving at 2pm daily from a small private airport. She reserved a seat for the next day. She stayed over one more night to rest. Then just before noon, she checked out, and returned the electrocar to the small car rental office.

There were three young gentlemen there and no other customers, so she asked if one of them would save her the nuisance of finding an electrocab and take her to the small airport, a couple of miles away. Driving around a blonde with a sassy short cut and showing that much cleavage is always high on any young man’s list, so they flipped coins and the winner took her there in the electrocar she dropped off, since it would be driven back to Chicago after being checked over, so an extra 5 miles or so on the odometer wouldn’t matter. Abagail made sure to tip him generously and give him the smile that says, “Too bad I was in a rush and had to leave….”

The shuttle started from a private field in GLC to the rather countrified and easy going Montpellier Airport where there is always runway space and runway time for the shuttle to land and get to it’s own rented hangar. Then both pilot and passenger can go through Cus/Pas. Abigail detoured to the ladies room, and Caitlin, who made the original flight to Chicago, emerged.

Three days after the package exchange at Crown Point, GLC, Abigail called Herbert to arrange the park bench meeting. On the bench Herbert opened the conversation, “Ms. Abigail, before we get down to business I just want to express the deep gratitude of all the Travel Agents for the quality of the product. It left us all speechless….for a long, long time. Thank you.”

Abagail noted the subservience of his address to her. He was still deciding whether or not to take her offer, but had enough brains to signal that he might. And though he was perfectly subservient, he still felt confident enough to exercise a little dry wit. Further, the whole transaction was an outrageous sequence of events that he managed to handle with reasonable judgment and aplomb. So he was flexible. It’s just a shame that we’ll never see each other again. Unless, of course, she needed him. Maybe as a one time driver…

She smiled at him. She hadn’t done so up to then. It melted Herbert’s heart. The most dangerous Dominant Woman he had ever known! Almost out of a spy novel! He hadn’t given much thought to what might be inside her package. At first he was too cowed by the possibility of getting his neck broken. He had decided that she wasn’t bluffing. Submissives teach each other informally at least one thing, how to read women. Your ass was literally on the line every time you talked with them. Most won’t give you a “can’t sit down” beating like the Principal or any cop, but you don’t leave a whipping by ANY Matriarchal with much comfort available for your butt! So you have to know when they’re lying and how to respond to it. She wasn’t lying about killing him or paddling him. And the smile just now was sincere.

The Sunday he scored the dope, he hosted the informal get together of all the Travel Agents, male and female. They passed around only one joint, and passed it only twice. It knocked all eight of them on their asses and into la la land for an hour and a half that felt like a week! That had fully occupied his mind until this meeting. But now he wondered about her package again.

“So where is the dead drop?” Some of her smile bled softly into her question.

Herbert replied, “In the women’s public toilet down there, behind the latrine in the farthest stall. I put it there and I’ve been watching it like a hawk. So I know it’s still there. It’s all yours. Would you prefer me to leave before you emerge?”

“No, I’ll flash the package at you when I emerge. Leave then.” When she did so, the transaction was finished, and both went their separate ways. He had completely forgotten to ask for the phone number. Maybe he had let himself forget. Abigail stood out in his mind for a good 20 years as “the one who got away”. After the assassination no photographs of Bernadette were ever shown or given to the press. Why will be made clear later, so it never even entered the mind of the poor boy that they might be one and the same.

Commander Hawkins was worried. She was used to having trouble finding fugitive spies, but this was getting absurd. She was on the hunt for Bernadette Johnson and she was absolutely nowhere. Not a single FEM/DOM beat patrol had turned up a trace of the woman.

Or even a woman remotely resembling her description: taller than average, perhaps about 5ft 8in, medium build, perhaps about 125 lbs.,very short blonde hair, short torso and long limbs (a body type that cries out for long hair and with very short hair looks gawky); favoring flowing ankle length dresses with tiny patterns, and empire waists sitting just below the breasts; or caftans falling straight from the shoulder.

Nothing whatever tight on her bottom where her ugly cane scar would press against it. And nothing showing of her legs. That description alone should have made her stick out among Zone women. There was little height variation among them, most gathering tightly around the mean of 5ft 5in. Three inches taller would register everywhere.

This is one of the reasons Commander Hawkins herself always looked so outsized. At 5ft 11in and 185 lbs she actually wasn’t as large a woman as she appeared standing in uniform next to fellow officers. But the dark navy blue fully padded shoulder tunic and generous straight legged trousers of the force were all that was needed to give her a presence, as when I first saw her, of the back of a navy blue beer truck.

Not a lot of people knew Commander Hawkins by name, but no one who saw her in uniform ever forgot her. The Amazon Cop. And this size as well as the gentleness of movement and gesture you often find in taller women was very comforting and trustworthy. Citizens would tell her things, that, perhaps, they would never willingly say to another cop, without any threat or loudness whatever on her part; unlike the five foot & little more on the beat that got there by her toughness alone and whose gruffness and impatience of manner always separated her from the citizens she was protecting.

Bernadette should have been equally visible. Blonde was a very rare hair color in the Zone. The Scotch clan history of the Matriarchals gave them a lot of red, red brown, and auburn, mostly with freckles, but the major influx of women from non-clan families at the Inception shifted the more usual color to Medium or Dark Brown. Truly black hair was also rare (a mistake in Caitlin’s legend in deep cover) and so was vivid blonde.

A tall blonde woman with short hair and long arms wearing an ankle length dress with an Empire waist. Cops everywhere are trained to observe, and Zone cops were supposed to know, or at least recognize, the name of everyone living on their beat (though less so since the budget cuts expanded beat size), so somebody on the force should have noticed her as at least NOT being from the neighborhood, even if no patrol could recall someone from the neighborhood.

The reports also noted that her eyes were that absurdly vivid and rare color called Cornflower Blue. Some of the very vivid Redheads in the Zone had them, but green was a far more common color there, and the Brown haired Zone Women were about evenly split between Brown to Hazel or Grey to Dark Blue eye color.

Bernadette was like Robin Hood, always being seen by someone in the afternoon or evening talking to groups of other women, which is where the descriptions were coming from, and then just vanishing. And the groups were odd, too. Very close in age range, centering around 35, which by now should be Bernadette’s own age, the group of women you’d always see in pairs together or alone but, never, ever with any male submissive. What Bernadette was saying to them was as yet obscure, but, just like her citizenship class, an awful lot of the women were wearing jewellery with the letter B. So likely they vividly remember Bernadette’s horrid story. Why was she here? And why can’t I find her?

So reflected Commander Hawkins. When the first reports started coming in, hers was the unpleasant duty of telling the Chief Matriarch about it. Her orders of 17 years standing were still on the books: find Bernadette Johnson and spy on her. Hell, nobody, in counterintelligence below Hawkins’ rank was even working 17 years ago. Retirement and death had just about eliminated the SEC/SPY generation from the force, even her old pals lieutenants Harper and Watson the 6+ft perpetrator controllers. They still kept up the training, but had clearly lost some flexibility and wind and they were slated to retire by the end of next year.

Hawkins herself? At around 55 she was a little young for it, and counterintelligence did less desk sitting, even at her rank, than anybody except the beat cops, so while she was now a little flabby, her weight had not risen. But it got lonely when the gals you came up in work with were almost all gone, particularly when they abandoned the Counterintelligence Triumvirate and gave head of it to Hawkins alone. It was well deserved. Hawkins was the best spy catcher the Zone had ever seen, better than even the infamous Micha Haaretz of SEC/SPY.

Hawkins was a very private woman and still carried the torch for “Julie” whose real name she never knew and who vanished as completely from the Zone as Bernadette was now vanishing within it. She’d really not made any personal friends. Ten years ago when she made her reputation by busting the killers of Mossad, the two women she’d saved by doing it, Elizabeth the Madam and Sally, her whore had been more than generous with the hospitality of their house, and both took care of her sexual needs gently and with real affection. Elizabeth particularly. But Elizabeth retired and is now somewhere back in GLC, Sally is now the Madam of their whorehouse.

And Julie? When Hawkins was promoted to Captain, Julie had, from completely out of the blue, written her a letter congratulating her, signing it “Julie” in quotation marks. In the correspondence which followed, he learned that she was with GLICIS and was very apologetic that she was hide to Hawkins’ seek. It was Hawkins herself who suggested that they treat each other as mutual confidential informants. After a letter or two, Julie agreed, as long as no secret information passed.

She hadn’t written too much to Julie in recent days. The last seven years had been relatively peaceful after the Matriarchs got it through their thick skulls that Mossad was too dangerous a playmate and Israel had been allowed to colonize Maine, which is what they had been trying to do in the first place, and do it by subversion of the Zone.

Bernadette’s Final Fling

Bernadette’s next task was originally to make another (and final) appearance at all of the study groups, but, as she told the contact persons for each of the groups, that was taking a great deal of exhausting time. What would be better is if she and the group contacts could meet separately in a preliminary meeting.

At that meeting Bernadette would read a wonderful piece of Matriarchal literature from the late underground days that would be an excellent starting point of broader issues of what the Zone had abandoned from it’s roots and what it should revive and return to.

She would give them copies of this wonderful reading and they themselves could outline what they thought were the significant points suggested by this reading, talk it through themselves, and then each of them go back to their groups and hold a similar reading of the text and ask the same questions that came up in the preliminary meeting.

It was more difficult to find a time and place for a group of women in different social sets, but Bernadette was persistent through a couple of days of Dictapad calls and, finally, they found a glimpse of daylight in all their full schedules to meet at the apartment of the most prosperous woman of the group on a late Sunday afternoon. A large apartment, with even a well-trained maleservant to manage the hospitality. He was one of those in service to a fellow student since Citizenship school, and his Mistress and he had developed an almost 20 year relationship (he had serviced her orally since the second year of school) and a long standing affection for each other. And, as one would expect, the mere fact that she started with a maleservant with no greed for another, was instrumental in her life’s success.

She was very intelligent and understood this clearly, so she was one of Bernadette’s most devoted followers. She could see not only the poverty and lovelessness of her peers, she could also directly see the difference her maleservant had made for her. Bernadette had actually known both of them in Citizenship school, and though not close then, she and he were the first she ever saw wearing B jewellery at the school. So they had been in her corner from the first.

The day of the meeting came and Bernadette read the story at beginning of this narrative, “A Chat In Matriarch House”. It cut right to the heart of them all. Everything that was good about the Underground was in it, and nothing that was bad about the Zone was in it. It was matriarchy in a form where all decisions and discipline were on a human scale, without the need for a Hierarchy which had become little but a millstone to women who were young, poor, and underegarded in the mild sense of a 35 year old woman living paycheck to paycheck with only two options for erotic relief, a full blown lesbian relationship with all the personal trials and tribulations that entailed, or to pay for what few bi whores (largely in the brothel Elizabeth’s Secret) were among those on Scarlet Fever Lane.

Bernadette was in a quandary. She wanted to go back to Elizabeth’s Secret in the worst way, but not as Caitlin Jones. The cool silent appraisal of Sally the Madam was as unnerving as any of the very scary instructors in her deep cover training. Back there, when they looked up and down you like that, there would be a pause, then, “If you screw up this tradecraft in cover like you just did there, you’ll die.” Bernadette wasn’t sure, but she had a distinct feeling that Sally had detected her wig and that her glasses were fake. Bernadette should have trusted her instincts and shunned the house after.

While Caitlin was asking questions, she could feel Sally’s intense scrutiny of her make-up step by step by step, in the order she knew was vital to keep Caitlin’s face looking longer and more hollow than either Abigail in blond flattering dark pinks, creams, and light sand browns, or Bernadette. Bernadette herself, in character, was a “natural girl” with the make-up concentrating most on smoothing and coloring her very pale skin tone and longer lashes that better show off her cornflower blue eyes.

Bernadette and Caitlin were the extremes of a continuum, from business smart in a jacket and matching A-line skirt, with low heeled Mary Janes for shoes and dark hose; to delicately feminine Bernadette in long, empire waist, dresses and straight line caftans; with Abigail the languid vamp in harem pants in between. But all three of them never wore anything that might bind on the scar on her bottom.

The presence of a place like Elizabeth’s Secret, bisexual friendly and very, very good, far better than the backstreet romance she’d had with one of the other whores on the lane, was a constant temptation. It was relief and renewal without agendas and with courtesy and grace. Exactly why Henry Peterson hung out there over 20 years ago. You paid for the service and tipped the ladies, but, unlike some other houses, it didn’t feel like you were taking a number and waiting in line. The service was prompt, but never hurried.

When one of the Johns started abusing this, the Madam was always there to politely, but firmly, set him straight. The submissives had been used to beatings all their lives and it was easy for them to talk to the girls they were visiting and get a very clear picture that NO ONE wanted onto the punishment blocks of THIS house, whether under the new or the old management. The mere fact that the room had three of them was enough to tell any savvy submissive that, without further inquiry, and the girls uniformly confirmed it.

There were a small number of Zone men, sometimes a pair, who weren’t savvy; had an attitude; got strongarmed by Sally onto a block; and had been the education of every girl in the house–except for the eldest whore as substitute hostess and the six on call. The unsavvy submissives’ plight was always the gossip of every girl on the Lane after; and always the terrifying story that spread through nearly all submissives in the Zone. Very early on Sally discovered that the more strappings the girls saw, the fewer she had to give, so she always brought them in while strapping the Johns.

The house girls usually got to see the augmented butt strapping Sally had told them about, but didn’t yet use on them much–thank Heaven for small favors–a Love Pat of crisscrossing welts over the entire butt, followed by a pause to let the welts swell fully as they burned ever hotter. Then the Mild Rebuke followed starting with the tawse lashing into an already swollen bottom and by the end, into about a 1/3 larger swelling of the butt than usual, with a full week’s longer recovery time. Particularly for relearning to walk straight.

Sally was a good sport and always asked the poor man at the end if he wanted an EMT. When they usually could do nothing but weep and groan she just called the EMT anyway. With one well walloped submissive, Sally got a thank you card two weeks later from the guy’s Mistress saying that his behavior had been about to get him sent to FEM/AUTH, but that Sally had done a far better job “reeducating” him “than those doofuses ever do”.

The girls didn’t hide from submissive Males the fact that they were totally terrified of the Madam’s strap, whether in the hands of either Sally or Elizabeth: the beatings were as bad as those of FEM/DOM, never crossing the line into the unacceptable but snuggling right up to it. Not only that, but the strict set of rules they had to follow to avoid a strapping were also enough to curl a submissive’s hair. They were almost as rigid as those of the Matriarchs’ themselves, though these two Madams didn’t have anything like Angie Albertson at their disposal to cane them into chopped liver for any of the Matriarchs at their smallest mistake.

But the new Madam here usually had only to tap them on the shoulder and smile when a submissive had gone far enough. Sally’s smile, in particular, could give any submissive the shivers. Some of that look of feral Lady Chief in Sally’s nightmare had somehow entered her heart. It also made her presence in the Punishment Room enough to curdle the blood. Sally was no sadist like Angie, but she always was so dammed cheerful while wearing that little smile, those narrowed eyes, and flaying your poor hide. It was such a shame you didn’t follow the rules, or you stubbornly outstayed your time. Nothing personal, it’s just nicer for everyone if they don’t give me a reason to strap them, but this is just an imperfect world, right? And her smile would get a little wider.

These days Lady Chief sometimes sees it in Sally and is totally terrified. So, for that matter, am I. Nothing bad ever happens, and Sally has stayed a relatively decent human being for having been a whore, a Madam, and a spy, while Lady Chief lost that opportunity decades ago, but only her own inner companionship with Micha Haaretz scares Lady Chief more. When I see it in Sally, I’m perfectly sure that she really would strap my senior ass off if she thought I needed it. Though she’s never threatened to, not even playfully.

And if the John was a non-citizen, Sally simply stepped up to him, looked him straight in the eye and talked straight, “If you want to keep the skin on your butt intact, get out of here and don’t come back.” And she wasn’t smiling when she said it. Only four non-citizens ever made it to Sally’s punishment room. When she laid out some straight talk, non-citizen men only had to hear it once to be convinced the first time.

Under her regimen, her girls got that extra touch happier, more skilled, and more sensitive to the Johns and Janes that even I, Elizabeth ever quite accomplished. Part of it was the greater closeness in age of the Madam to the whores, Sally was much younger than Elizabeth and did far more of the bedroom work, particularly with the younger Johns, the women, and the older clients, all of whom were there more frequently than on my watch. Another part of it was the sheer volume of trade. Sally had to put six on call and rearrange the household schedule to fit.

Bernadette, after her last appearance before women in the Zone, was only a stone’s throw from Scarlet Fever Lane, gave in to her impulses, held her flowing skirt as she walked up the four front steps, and knocked on the door of Elizabeth’s Secret. Sally welcomed her with the simplicity and openness that was her trademark–pleasant straight talk not swathed in the protective formality of most of the other Madams. As Berndette was paying the room rent, she looked up and said, “Ms. Sally, you may not know this. Besides your being the strictest Madam and a terror with your strap, your girls also tell me that you are the best choice for a woman in your house. Would you have time to be with me tonight?”

Sally didn’t know the girls said that about her, and concluded it was mere customer flattery, since she didn’t remember this woman in the house at all, but when she looked into Bernadette’s cornflower blue eyes, she got a shock. The eyes were the same ones she’d seen a few weeks back. Then they were topped by an expensive black wig and behind plain lenses in heavy black rimmed glasses and dramatic makeup. They also had looked straight into Sally’s eyes and not down at her from about 4-5 inches as they did now.

Sally had plenty of practice handling her face, Elizabeth and Lady Chief had seen to that long ago, so she didn’t give Bernadette the searching once over that she had given Caitlin. She just thought for a minute and concluded that tonight’s desk work hadn’t come with a crucial deadline and she was in need of a little recreation anyway. Besides, she wanted to be up close and personal with this 2.0 version of the free lance writer, to compare without seeming to do so. “Certainly. It will be a pleasure.” That wasn’t exactly a lie. She didn’t say that much of her pleasure would be rather like that of working a jigsaw puzzle.

Though Sally and the girls always offered a lights out undressing, Bernadette preferred to see her partner undress at the start and light in the early part of the foreplay which she liked to be more extended than most Janes. This was just fine with Sally because she also had footage of Caitlin nude, who seemed to have the same tastes. Bernadette actually kept the lights on a little longer because she was curious about Sally’s business wear. Rumor had it that the day clothes of Sally and the girls were made to measure by a famous tailor in Chicago. One thing was sure, they were 100% wool, like the best men’s suits, even the off the rack ones. No off the rack woman’s business wear could show a fabric of as much solidity and niceness of hand. One other thing was true, they were uniformly flattering from neck to knees and you couldn’t say how much of that was tailor skills and how much was Sally’s body.

Bernadette wasn’t surprised that Sally proved to be much more svelte than her clothes and her whore hip swing promised, with shoulders a little narrower than her hips. And, surprisingly, her very open face betrayed real loneliness, need, and lust. She must keep the girls at arm’s length and only perform on request, Bernadette thought. A good, but heart starving, idea. 

Sally’s lingerie was as provocative as it gets, flattering in color, and rich in texture where women like to touch and be touched. Sally kept them on until Bernadette was completely bare, then she stepped up, pushed the textures into the erotic spots they could reach, started to rub them, put her hands on Bernadette’s shoulders, brought her mouth almost all the way to a kiss, and whispered, “Would you like to finish undressing me?”

From that point forward everything developed from the client’s response to this, Sally’s usual starting gambit. As Bernadette took the option of the open mouthed kiss, Sally noticed that cornflower blue eyes now looked straight into rich green ones. And as their dual embrace pivoted back toward the bed, Sally briefly saw Bernadette’s four inch high heels on the floor. Four inch heels??? With a floor length dress??? She filed that away for later and focused completely on her work. As Bernadette squatted to relieve Sally of her elegant panties, she saw they were already wet in the crotch, Sally unhooked the front of her lacy bra and shed it. Having placed the panties with, but not, on Sally’s business ensemble and, leaving Sally’s lace gartered hose still on, Bernadette turned and walked to turn out the light, feeling her own wetness as she did so. Just before she reached the switch, Sally clearly saw the thick scar on Bernadette’s bottom.

Sally’s client had bought a long night of room time that divided itself into three separate and torrid interludes separated by 2-4 hours of caressing while dozing off the endorphins of 3-4 orgasms each for both of them. The whores of Elizabeth’s secret and, particularly Sally, the best of them as well as the Madam, didn’t just make the clients, male and female, go bang more times and louder. They could penetrate to the emotions behind a client’s needs, without requesting an explicit confession of them. Repeated interludes, such as Bernadette had purchased, allowed them to push ever deeper into those needs through a sensitivity of rhythm and precision of touch.

The more Bernadette climaxed, the surer became Sally’s touch where, when, and in what order; how soft, how firm, and how many times before the next doze. Once Sally got in the groove, her own orgasms became stronger and lasted longer as, emotionally, each filled the other’s emptiness. Bernadette had been sensitive enough to feel those voids in Sally, as well as vice versa. She hadn’t been trained professionally, like Sally, to reach that deeply into an ever more open heart and viscera, clearly and strongly, and with conscious intent. But like her natural talent for intrigue and secrecy, she resonated, without conscious thought, to what Sally was doing and her response became like the water poured into one glass pouring back into the glass from whence it first came.

Each of the three intervals was more magnificent than the previous one, and, so highly attuned to each other, that both knew when the last double orgasm had arrived. Bernadette looked Sally in the eye with both their bodies still tied together in a granny knot, “Ms. Sally, you are the best I’ve ever had. Ever. I was right to take the advice and choose you. I’ll take this away from here for the rest of my life and feel satisfied that I’ve drained this cup of lust to the dregs. It’s just a shame that I won’t bring much more to perfection.”

Sally smiled, her eyes twinkled, and this time she channeled Elizabeth and not Lady Chief, “You’re pretty good yourself, peaches. Come back and be with me any time. If this is a World Record, maybe we can beat it.” It wasn’t just Sally the Whore that was at her best, Sally Bayer the spy was riding the endorphin high making multiple Zip flies of conclusions to unzip later and privately. But the first reports suggested that this Caitlin, whether in black wig or chopped blonde cut, whether hiding her eyes by fake glasses or hiding her true height with high heels that she didn’t let you see, was someone of far more importance to both the Zone and GLCIS than she had yet run across, despite the uniformly positive response the evaluators were having to the quantity and quality of the secrets she had been stripping from the male submissives.

They rose and dressed, each now intimate with the other’s body with no personal distance to prevent either from helping to dress the other, Bernadette riding on bliss, Sally channeling it into one last hyperaware investigation of this woman. When both were dressed, Bernadette turned toward Sally, opened her purse and handed Sally two pieces of high value currency left over from the 2 kilo dope purchase. She handed it folded to Sally. As Sally opened it Bernadette placed her index finger on Sally’s lips, “Not a word, Ms. Sally! Not a word! You and your house are more precious than rubies!” Since neither knew the other was in GLCIS Deep Cover, neither could enjoy the irony of one spy extravagantly tipping the other out of a GLCIS expense account. But we can.

As Bernadette turned to leave and Sally walked behind to see her to the door, Sally looked sharply at the hem of the long dress. Bernadette betrayed no indication that she was walking on heels, and as she raised her skirt to use the front four steps, only a couple of brief glimpses of her shoes were possible. Sally already knew they were heels, but concluded that someone who didn’t would never be sure of what kind of shoes they were.

Just before dawn Bernadette slipped down to the river near the Lane. It never got patrolled, and particularly not this early in the morning, so she walked along it barefoot, holding her high heels in her right hand. Early on she passed, unknowingly, the spot where Henry Peterson had been killed so many years ago. Caitlin’s apartment was 1/2 mile downstream and, like the whorehouse, was close enough to the river to quickly get to the apartment door line. The cardboard was in place, and the sun had broken the horizon. After she closed and locked the door, she went to the bedroom and collapsed.

Sally went up for a shower and loungewear. She couldn’t make heads or tails of why this was important but she was certain it was. The house was sleeping, so she went into the kitchen and made a pot of strong dark roast coffee, poured herself a large mug and cut it one to one with heated milk.

Then she went to the office and pulled up the dates of Caitlin’s visit and the video of her. She scanned through it quickly and found a section where Caitlin was nude, with her back to the camera. She was bending over to step out of her panties, and there, plain as day was the scar on the right buttock just above the line of the thigh. She scanned the still off. Then she went to the beginning of her tape of last night’s tumble, where she and “Caitlin 2.0” were undressing. She picked one still of the high heeled shoes, and one still where this Jane was bending over showing the same scar.

Very early Monday morning, October 6, 2085, Sally wrote this message “in clear” for encoding in four alpha groups:

elizabeths secret incidents same woman stop both attempts disguise stop first caitlin jones writer interviews article stop good quality black wig stop black framed glasses plain glass lenses stop eyes uncommon very bright vivid blue stop bought time after interview house bi girl stop video from service shows heavy scar right buttock immediately above right thigh stop print one attached stop last nights woman identical vivid blue eyes caitlin jones stop short blonde hair stop four inches taller caitlin jones stop floor length dress stop shoes invisible stop asked evening with madam stop undressing four inch stiletto heels stop same height without heels both this agent caitlin jones stop identical scar right buttock above thigh stop service video confirms stop also confirms heels stop print two three attached stop suspect attempt penetrate agents cover stop please share info stop please advise agent course action stop sign agent semolina

A couple manipulations of the Datalink broke the message into encoded four alpha groups and embedded the message into the photograph marked 1. Then another action marked photographs 2 & 3. One more action and the message was sent to GLICIS headquarters with an encoded date and time stamp buried randomly into the message.

At 7:30 am Sally informed the eldest girl she needed to be the greeter until the 12 noon lunch, took a hot bath, set her alarm for 11:30 am, and fell into bed.

Matters were moving to culmination. The regular meetings of the Chief Matriarch and her cabinet occurred at the Matriachal Residence on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 1:00, following a light lunch served them by the housekeeper and the maleservants. Having assembled the tools for dealing silent death by gunfire, Bernadette made a fertilizer bomb.

The Bomb

Unlike the pistol silencer, the bomb broke up and scattered its components all around the explosion. With the silencer, there really is only one way it can be made, starting from the front and the wipe, working back in order through the compartments of steel wool, using a dowel to both thread the piece for handling and as a reamer for keeping the center clear for the travel of the bullet, and finishing with a threaded coupler attached to the back and held in place by the dowel while the epoxy dried.

The leftovers of Bernadette’s Chicago purchases were found in Caitlin’s apartment, and the dates of her trips back and forth were recorded by customs on both sides. So it’s possible to describe Bernadette’s silencer assembly as a straightforward narrative with reasonable certainty of it’s accuracy. But we don’t know how Bernadette built the bomb. What we do know is what was in it and can describe what it must have looked like before it was set off.

So starting from the outside, we have an old fashioned genuine leather accordion style lawyer’s brief bag with a fold over clasp and “brass” fittings under the handle on one topside of the case. This is meant to be carried only one way, vertically in one hand, is usually lifted or placed vertically, and opened from the top. You can’t swing it easily every which way like other containers and it is difficult to move at a pace faster than a fast walk while carrying it.

The explosive in the bomb was ammonium nitrate fertilizer mixed with gasoline motor oil. When mixed, it can be set off by even a hard jar one way or another, like nitroglycerin. So a bomb case like the brief bag which can only be lifted easily in one way, placed easily in one way and carried only so fast is an excellent safety feature to prevent accidental detonation.

The mixed components are a dense liquid paste like thick paint or dry wall mud and need a container other than the leather of the brief bag, in this case an ecoplastic lidded shoe storage box which can be placed width to width and length to length inside the bag with the box lid on top. The box just matched the brief bag’s interior width when the accordion bottom was almost fully stretched. The explosive is heavy and carrying it in the plastic box in this way markedly lowers the bomb’s center of gravity so it is hard to tip over, another safety consideration.

The other components consisted of the following: a lantern battery, a Dictapad, a small toggle switch, and a blasting cap. Except for the blasting cap, the other three of these were liberally puttied with epoxy putty packed below them and around them onto the shoebox top. The cap itself was puttied vertically through a hole in the center of the box top with it’s explosive lower end dipped into the nitrate/oil mixture. The puttying turned top and components into a single unified mass. The components were attached in a circle together with electrical wire in the following order: battery-switch-blasting cap-Dictapad-battery.

Except for the Dictapad wiring these together was a simple matter of twisting the exposed ends of copper wire onto prongs or other wires on each component. But since Bernadette needed a precise soldering of the connections in the Dictapad, she carefully soldered each wire/component joint as well, preventing any of them from coming loose and insuring that current would flow through them without interruption. The Dictapad had to be opened up and two separate pieces of wire attached and soldered into the circuit of the pad ringtone. Two outlet holes, one for each piece of wire were drilled through the back of the Dictapad case and the two wires threaded through them. These were attached to the other wires in the circuit.

All of this was easy to do without any explosive at all, and the whole shoebox lid treated as a single component to be attached to the explosive merely by fastening it on to the top of the shoebox. The sheets of plate glass to make the shrapnel were all set on one side between the shoebox and the brief bag leather.

The ammonium nitrate and the motor oil were not only found as residue at the crime scene, but extra cans of oil (each pack held 4) and half a 10 lb bag of fertilizer was found afterward in Caitlin’s apartment, along with three extra blasting caps, and a loaded snub nose revolver. There were multiple sources in the Zone for fertilizer and it’s not known which was used. There was only one source for the oil, a Montpellier hardware store that sold gasoline engine emergency generators. These engines are called 2 stroke, the oil and gasoline are mixed by the user, and both together go into the engine’s gas tank.

The male hardware clerks and the female store owner all remembered selling only a package of 4 oil cans to a black haired woman with black glasses about a week before the crime. The oil is never bought without gasoline and neither are bought together unless you have a generator bought from that store, so the purchase of just the oil by an unrecognized customer stood out. Also in Caitlin’s apartment there was a paint can and wooden stir sticks with explosive mixture residue. The explosive was mixed in batches in the paint can, and carefully poured into the shoebox as it sat in in the bag. The lid could then be locked on top.

There were two arming switches in the circuit. The first was the toggle switch. If it was off, the circuit wouldn’t complete no matter what the Dictapad did, and if the Dictapad is turned completely off, turning the toggle switch on won’t set off the blasting cap either. The bomb would be armed when both switches were on, but wouldn’t explode until someone dialed the Dictapad number and activated the ringer.

The simplest way to carry it safely would be with both switches off until you reach the location, then arm both switches there. Bernadette had her own Dictapad recording all throughout the incident up to the explosion. It has been recovered, but no indication is on the recording of exactly when she armed the bomb. Nor were the police ever able to discover who drove Bernadette to the Matriarchal Residence. We might make a good guess, but still no one knows.

On Monday, GLCIS high command was in a total uproar. The situation was unprecedented, all the way back to the GLCIS founding in 2041. One Deep Cover Agent had been visiting the whorehouse and spent last night in bed with the second Deep Cover Agent! And neither of them knew this about the other. Henry Peterson, from his years of experience and pure analytical talent, would have grasped the possibility immediately before even both agents infiltrated the Zone. Everyone in the current Agency, however, was blindsided.

The actual contact between the two was lopsided. Bernadette Johnson, Agent Montecristo, had no clue that Sally the Madam spied for GLCIS, but Sally Bayer, Agent Semolina, easily concluded that “Caitlin Jones” was trying to hide what she looked like, and, more importantly, Caitlin still tried to hide some of it even when she was blonde and didn’t need glasses. The hidden high heeled shoes couldn’t be connected in any significant way as tradecraft to either of the GLCIS spying tasks for Bernadette, and they suspiciously looked like what was called “private enterprise”, some extra secret activity related neither to an agent’s cover nor an Agency assignment.

A quick audit of Bernadette’s expenses picked up corroborative evidence, a purchase of an extraordinary expensive 2 kilograms of marijuana in GLC! Smuggling was the easiest and most venal private enterprise for a spy to slip under the radar with cover and weed was illegal in the Zone. A serious consultation was in order, and, conceivably, after a firing of Bernadette, a visit to the lady by a Truth Team.

The mere fact that Sally and Bernadette had interacted at all put both of them at absolutely maximum risk and completely destroyed the watertightness of both. If either was rolled up, they were instructed, because they were supposedly watertight, to immediately and fully cooperate with interrogators. With Sally rolled up, the mere mention of “Caitlin Jones” would, at some point, if not immediately, have set bells ringing among Commander Cherry Hawkins’ FEM/DOM counters.

Caitlin’s address and Dictapad number were easily available. A call about a story lead would quickly render her apartment vacant, allowing not only a search, but also the placement of a clandestine arrest team to bring her in for interrogation, too. And the search itself would find three separate Citizenship Certificates with totally different names. “Bernadette Johnson” would be recognized immediately since they were already seeking her, and the mere fact that she had two others meant that they were forgeries (Bernadette’s deepest and most deadly secret of all). Give Cherry Hawkins the least idea that there were phony citizens out there, and every last GLCIS Medium Cover agent in the Zone was compromised. ONLY Sally and Bernadette had open and legal cover under their own names.

And if Bernadette were rolled up first, not only would all the Medium Covers be totally toast, a mere mention of Elizabeth’s Secret and Sally the Madam would have sent Cherry Hawkins and a search team to the house immediately, recovering every one of the two clandestine Dictapads in each bedroom as well as the desktop Dictapage that coordinated all the data and sent the messages, Sally’s interrogation would then yield the path of the GLCIS communications satellite that carried Sally’s messages to headquarters. Sally also would cooperate completely since she thought she was watertight.

Moreover in both instances of a roll up, the Electromagnometer issued to each of them to forge or fry the data in Sally’s Dictapage and Bernadette’s Dictalink would also be confiscated. The very existence of this alone was a major GLCIS secret. A whole new spy toy and two working models would be obtained in the bargain.

Of the two, Sally’s situation was the most salvageable; the only evidence of her spying was physical and inside the whorehouse so if she shut down immediately, used her Electromagnometer to fry the data in the Dictapage, removed the Dictapads and recycled all of them, then the Deep Cover could be preserved and she could lie fallow, even if Elizabeth’s Secret were shaken down by the counters. A protocol for that was already in place, including deposit of her Dictapage and Electromagnometer in a safehouse of two Medium Cover agents whose only tasks in the Zone were emergency escape, emergency electronics disassembly and disposal, and safehouse management.

Bernadette, however, needed to be extracted immediately, depositing the forged “Caitlin” and “Abagail” documents and her Electromagnometer with the Safehouse. She would then leave the Zone in her own, perfectly legal, identity and her Abigail clothes abandoning her Dictalink after having fried it’s contents. Lady Chief, and her upper level staff had reached these conclusions by mid-afternoon Monday and drafted messages to Sally, Bernadette, and the Safehouse agents to be sent the next morning.

But the next morning was too late. Bernadette had already gone renegade for vengeance

Tuesday, October 7, 2085–Bernadette’s Dictapad.

Bernadette entered the Library. The meeting was there around the Chief Matriarch’s desk. There were seven of them, all evil witches, all crones (except for the cane wielding sadist, Angie, in middle age) who poisoned their wisdom by holding on to power past their time, by ruining pleasure in life for an entire generation with a single evil act, and by conspiring to turn the next generation into breeding stock, separated from pleasure, save what they do for themselves or each other.

Bernadette stood there with a slight smile, pointing the silenced pistol at the group, “Good morning Matriarchs. It’s sunny but cool today in the Matriarchal Zone, a mild wind is blowing, and the afternoon will be pleasant…..It’s a good day to die. As you can see, I have a pistol. It has a silencer. Let me demonstrate.” The pistol went POPPPP, the shell went flying to the right, landed on the carpet with a soft THUP, and the bullet passed within inches of the Chief Matriarch’s head, burrowing into the bookshelf behind. The group was motionless and silent. “It’s a little unwieldy with the long magazine but I still have 27 shots available. More than enough for all of you and a firefight with FEM/DOM after. So if you don’t want to die immediately and lose any chance of rescue, sit down facing that wall and put your hands behind your back.”

The group moved sullenly and sat on the floor, some slower than other from creaky joints. Bernadette was dressed to kill, as Abigail, but in a Boyfriend Shirt with the top 3 buttons open, flats on the feet, (making her 5ft 5in tall) and the harem pants which, surprisingly, had side pockets. From the left one of these, while still pointing the gun, she drew out five double circles of white plastic, non metal handcuffs, and threw them on the ground behind the group. They were already just barely locked, so she could use her one hand, slip them around their two hands, then just pull and the hands were pinioned.

The room was dead quiet and you could hear the ZZZZZZZUP as each tie locked down. She went down the row, throwing more rings out and then placing and tightening them. She was finished, and no one was going anywhere. They stared at the blank wall as Bernadette paused and waited. A couple of them, including Angie, started to shake as they anticipated the first pop, thinking that they would all be slain execution style.

“Now stand up, get in single file, and go to the Punishment Room.” While still holding the gun in one hand, she had to help three of the older ones up with the other. “I’ll be behind you with the gun, so don’t do anything foolish.” Next to the open double doors of the punishment room was an old fashioned style leather briefcase with a leather and brass colored clamp. It had an X on one side made with black electrical tape. Bernadette grabbed it as she passed. “Now sit on the floor behind the punishment block and facing out.” When they were all seated, Bernadette turned, pulled the doors to and then locked them.

As they sat, huddled together, the oldest one started to cry softly and Bernadette set the briefcase on the block, X side toward the Matriarchs. The block was straight topped and only 2 feet high so whoever used the strap or cane could get in a full, gravity aided, swing. So the briefcase was at head height of the seated group. The wooden throne in the back of the room was still there, facing the block, so Bernadette sat on it.

“Chief Matriarch, do you know who I am?”

“You’re the little citizen whore I had caned and forced out of the Zone. Commander Hawkins told me you were back here.”

“I’m so glad she got promoted. She was the only one at my beating who treated me like a human being. Except for your extravagant malice I probably would be one of her cops today. I wish I had been able to live and work in a country that was ‘prosperous in moderate measure’ as they told us in our training, the country that was there before my beating, and in my generation that has been beggared because of that beating.

“Do you ever think of that, Matriarch? Just about all the people I knew in Citizenship training, and thousands more, are living payday to payday, totally deprived of the comfort, pleasuring, and company of submissive males, all because of your hatred and malice in beating the wrong people. Do you have any remorse about that?…..

“Nothing to say? That’ll do for the “no” that you’re too cowardly to say out loud. It’s a shame. If you’d said yes, it would have been one last good thing in you at your “moment of truth”. I’d have respected that. But there is no good in you to bring to the table, I guess. Just the same hatred and malice that drove you to beat both me and my father over a trifle.

“And you, Angie. I didn’t ask if you recognized me because I didn’t have time to show you my bare ass. That’s a shame. After all, even while I was being caned, you were walking around the table and I got to see your wet crotch. The theatrical black you wear may mute it, but it sure doesn’t disguise it. Your black tights and leotards, however, did terrify me at the time.

“So at your “moment of truth” you can take that with you, that and the fact that you can cane someone to pork sausage better than any one else in the world, better even than the pros at the prison in Singapore. I’ve seen the photos, and I know. Do you have them and use them with your vibrator? Or is beating your three submissives enough to satisfy you. You ARE very generous, the beatings have sent them twice to retraining at FEM/AUTH. Nobody would want them after that. But you took them back. How do I know all this stuff? I’ll tell you in a minute.

“And, finally, you, Matriarchs of the Cabinet. You’re probably thinking that this so unfair. I’m going to die for no reason. That’s not quite true. I’ll assume the best I can about you, that you didn’t agree with what these two evil women did but you didn’t have the courage to toss them out. And for years you have been an accessory of their crimes. If you aid and abet evil, you become evil. And I don’t have a single qualm about killing you. As far as I can see, you will bring nothing of value at all to your “moment of truth”.

“Now I’m sure someone here recognizes that phrase. I’m a spy for GLCIS, a deep cover agent here for years. That’s part of how I got this opportunity to go renegade and do this. I’ve been here all the time as freelance writer Caitlin Jones. Surely you remember her, the woman with black hair you almost never see here. And she wore black rimmed glasses. Do I see a glimmer of light? At one point or another, as Caitlin, I’ve interviewed almost all of you. Not only that, I interviewed your submissives so I know a lot about you that you wouldn’t want to see in print. Angie’s submissives, for example, showed me their whip scars. At home, Angie uses an illegal single tail whip.” Angie’s face was flushed with anger.

Bernadette continued, “No Angie, you’re not going to beat them until they bleed out. Sorry. When I obtained my citizenship certificate and license to beat, I was recruited by GLCIS and let them have my fresh paper. They were ecstatic. This was the first ones they’d ever acquired. They sent it to their forgers and not only have they fabricated two for my cover, they’ve made hundreds, and there are about 20 Medium Cover spies with them here, disguised as citizens, completely unchipped and doing who knows what. I can tell you what a couple of them are doing. They’re staying at home managing a safe house for someone like me if I have to go on the run. They’re personally attached, of course.

“I’m sure Commander Hawkins has been scratching her head for years about where all the GLCIS spies are. I’m sure she doesn’t think we stopped sending them, but she’s not caught any of them since about 2073 so there’s not a lot we don’t know about you. And you know what, I’m sure there is no master list of citizen names anywhere. It just “wouldn’t be anybody’s place” to do such a thing on their own, nor anybody’s place to order someone else to do it. And nobody’s brought up the idea to YOU Chief Matriarch. If they had, we’d have known about it. As far as counterintelligence goes, the Zone is fucked. For good.

“But that’s enough about you, let’s talk about me. I’ll read you something. From the Book of Genesis, 4-14/15:

“4:14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. 4:15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

“You wanted a mark of Cain on me and you succeeded. By the grace of God, a Zone botanist, and a Singapore herbalist, my buttocks wasn’t covered in scars as you intended, with the pain and damage to follow me through all my life. But one remained, with nerve damage below it, exactly where I sit. So for 17 years I’ve never sat down without pain.

“But you know something, you’re not God. You’re not even close. And the vengeance sevenfold has found YOU. You are merely a spiteful old woman who crushed my dream of living in peace in a Matriarchy. You ruined a piece of my body that I must use every day and can never forget. You sent my father into a living death both physically and mentally. And last year a real death, a suicide, because he could no longer stand the pain, the flashbacks, and the nightmares.

“You and Angie killed him, Angie with her cane as she killed so many others in the past. You with your arbitrary whim abusing power outside of even your so called “laws”. Your propaganda says that the House of Matriarchs can “nullify” your decisions. Could they nullify the scar on my butt, or the nightmares that I have now, too? Could they nullify the 78 bleeding wounds that turned into painful scars on my father’s butt and legs. They made every conscious moment of the rest of his life so painful that he had his own Heroin pump to dull it. That’s all the Heroin did was dull it, was mask it, and he was never really free of it. When I first saw my father afterward, I made a vow to kill both of you, somehow, someway. And when he died, I knew it was time.

“I also saw that if I killed you two together, I just might shake this country to its foundations, and nullify a multitude of it’s sins by killing all of your accomplices, called the Matriarchal Cabinet. Finally, I saw that I would have to die, too. When I’ve taken my vengeance on you, your accomplices, and even this rotten and hypocritical pisspot of a country, there really will be no reason for me to live. I’m okay with that.

“At GLCIS we’ve kept count and track of every one that went through the Black Widow. All of them, even of the other agencies, had to pass through our hospital system, since we’re your only shared border. So we have records of your infamy. And ALL of them, ALL of them died by suicide to escape the living death. You murdered them too. And you laughed about it. “They’ll have to retire him as an agent and they surely won’t give him a 9 to 5 job sitting at a desk!” Ha. Ha. Ha. “You know what they say, You won’t sit down for the rest of your life.” Just a mountain of giggles.

“Micha Haaretz is dead. GLCIS killed her. In her last letter she knew it was coming. All she asked for was a swift, clean death. Largely because of saving Henry Peterson, from the Widow, by killing him, she got her wish, a bullet through the heart and no more than 2 minutes, probably much less, before she blacked out for the last time. Helen Thoroughgood is dead, from a silenced bullet of Mossad, through her right cheek, that shattered the back of her head. How do I know that? I work for a spy agency and I’ve seen a copy of the autopsy report. Why? Because Helen had recklessly exposed Micha Haaretz to our killers.

“My boss at GLCIS tells me that you both came within inches of being killed by GLCIS for what you did to me and my father. Only the intervention of the President saved you. Remember Gerald, Amy? And how he called you a war criminal? I know what you said back to him. I’ve not only read the transcript, I’ve heard the original recording. It’s a miracle you’re still alive. I would have had a much happier life than I’ll be ending today if GLCIS had had its way.

“My boss was a deep cover agent in SEC/SPY. All the time she spied here, no one ever knew her name, not even at SEC/SPY itself. And when she left the Zone, she left absolutely no record that she was ever here. In our shop, she’s known as “the spook who never was there”. And as a deep cover agent she worked just across the building from Micha Haaretz, without Micha ever knowing that a spy was even there. She was good, almost as good as Henry Peterson.

“My boss told me before I left that, by and large, Matriarchal women were essentially inhumane. Remember what you said to me after you had me beaten to the limits of possible pain. “I want him scarred repeatedly and permanently as a lesson to the people who know him in GLC: Don’t come over here unless you behave with ABSOLUTE courtesy and respect toward your betters.” That inhumane arrogance IS the real core of the Matriarchal Zone. I have never wanted to believe it, I wanted to hold on to the memory of my wonderful dream, but it’s true. Coming here as an adult and hiding in the shadows, I now know it to be true.

“The only regret I have in all this is that it will probably ruin my boss’ career and tarnish her legacy after. But there is simply no way to avoid that collateral damage.

“So let’s get to the heart of the matter. In my briefcase is a bomb. It’s made from chemical fertilizer mixed with motor oil for two stroke gasoline engines. Yes, they still have them, they’re still used on emergency portable power generators. It’s not a large bomb but it has quite a lot of power for its size. In addition, because the room has no windows, the pressure wave from the blast will actually bounce off the walls and back into the room, so it will crush your chest cavity like an egg shell. And that’s why you will die.

“Finally on the side of the briefcase with an X there are six sheets of 12×16 in. plate glass. The blast will shatter that glass into hundreds of razor sharp pieces that will rip through the leather and then rip through your faces. When they take the bodies out of here, the only way they will recognize any of you will be by your fingerprints and your clothes, although these will also be in ribbons from the glass. Your autopsy will be nasty. They will have to fish out scores of sharp glass pieces to even get to your vital organs for examination. And the mortician will not be able to give you anything but a closed casket funeral.

“That’s almost it. But, two things. Both then and now Matriarch, you have called me a whore assuming it would insult me. That’s a shame. The whores on Scarlet Fever Lane are probably the nicest people in this whole damn country. And, you know, it isn’t just for male submissives and randy non-citizen men anymore. More and more women my age are going there, particularly to the house called Elizabeth’s Secret. They have always been very women friendly and had bi-sexual whores, but the demand of 30 something Zone Women for release, relief, and companionship has forced them to retrain more than half their stable to go both ways and I think soon all of them will. I’ve been there myself and they are very, very good at what they do.

Because of the Zone support, they think they do being a whore, better than anyone else, that they are High Class Tarts. I’m certainly not that, but I needed to become one over in GLC to obtain highly illegal things like the blasting cap in the bomb and the gun in my hand. So I had to go to the whores here to learn how to give men multiple orgasms and more spectacular ones than they’ve ever had before. I went to Chicago as an amateur knowing much more than the average whore on the street. I had to barter for these things among the lowest strata of Chicago hoodlums and thugs, and within two weeks I had a street rep that wouldn’t quit. So in the last few minutes before we all die don’t feel shy about calling me a whore. I am one. And a good one. I made my self so in order to mutilate and kill you.

“Second, Matriarch, when you gave me the Mark of Cain, it wasn’t like God. You didn’t mark me because I killed anyone, and you didn’t mark me so that no one would kill me. You marked me out of personal malice and nothing more. But, just like becoming a whore, this morning I became a killer. When I came in, I killed your housekeeper and one of your Maleservants. I let the other one go so he could bring the police. I’ve been chattering all this time waiting for the audience to get here. They probably had to get their SWAT gear out of storage. I’m starting to hear multiple sirens loud enough to defeat this room’s sound deadening. So we must move on. The trigger to the bomb is another Datapad in the briefcase whose ringer will set off the bomb…….there, now I’ve input all but the last digit of it’s number.

“We’ll wait ’til they use the loudspeaker, or start battering the door……….

“There they are. Goodbye.”

Commander Cherry Hawkins, Tuesday, October 7, 2085

The explosion was loud but, oddly, didn’t blow out any of the house’s windows, just rattled them. My old gal pals Lieutenants Harper and Watson had the battering ram and had banged the door with it the second time. Then came the blast and the gals on the ram didn’t start again but we’re just staring. I looked up, and the roof of the house was starting to sag.

I shouted into a bullhorn I had brought: GET OFF THAT PORCH!!! GET OFF THAT PORCH!!! NOW!!!

The center of the house was collapsing. Watson and Harper were playing Laurel and Hardy with the battering ram, pushing it this way and that and finally both fell off the porch into the grass and the ram went spinning in a circle and landing just in front of them. (A corner of my mind interrupted, “More ram training”). Then the interior walls broke away and everything in the center of the house collapsed with a crash almost as loud as the explosion. Dust and debris were tossed up toward the sky.

I looked around and everybody was standing around looking at a loss for what to do, rifles pointed to the sky or toward the ground, helmets on, badly fitting body armor sagging (another interruption, “More SWAT training”). I turned to my left with the bullhorn: GET BACK TO YOUR STAGING POSITIONS!!!! Then everybody broke into an uncontrolled scramble. (A third interruption, “More goddam police training!”)

Then I got on the radio and called for the fire department and the medical examiner. Probably nobody but the fire gals would be going in for quite a while, but it was virtually certain that there would be bodies. And nothing else was going to happen until they cleared it out. I ordered the outside of the house to be marked off as a crime scene, called for CSI and sent everybody else home, except my all around gofer Captain Collins, a little squirt of about 5ft 3in at most, but smart as a whip and sound as a well cast bell. She’ll have my job someday if I have any say about it. At Headquarters everybody always makes fun of the two of us, because I’m so big and she’s so small, but there is no one else in that entire building that I’d rather work with.

Later, we found that the walls of the punishment room, had blown out from the blast. The room was totally contained inside the house and it’s walls were the main load bearing walls for the inside of the next two stories, both of which slowly collapsed in and down creating a huge debris pile in the center of the forlorn shell of the house’s four walls. The punishment room was totally buried under it.

Two long dumpsters were being moved onto the grass on either side of the building. The Housekeeper’s body was found first, just inside the front door. This was far enough beyond the mess that they could send the photographer in, and the ME’s, who were getting antsy, now had a body to play with. One of the fire gals came out and told us of another man’s body near the back door. So the photographer and the ME people sauntered around to the back. At first look, both the Housekeeper and the Maleservant showed single gunshot wounds, she in the chest and he in the middle of the back. Somebody knew how to shoot. It took an entire week to clear enough of the rubble to get to the punishment room.

Before that, we found two spent cartridges on the hallway floor, and one on the carpet in the outer room, known as library, where all but the wall facing inward was intact. All of the furniture in the room had been overturned or shoved into the wall by the blast. The Glowglobes were each a shattered mess. A very sharp CSI found the bullet buried about 8 inches into a leather bound book. That was consistent with the wounds in the two victims we’d already autopsied, both bullets there were stuck in the victims’ hearts. A 9mm round can be powerful enough to go completely through a thick plaster wall, like the one behind the books. Our killer was using subsonic ammunition and a silencer.

When we finally got through the rubble to the Punishment Room floor, we found the ugliest crime scene of my career, with the smell of decomposition almost unbearable. The punishment block had been spun counterclockwise by the blast and knocked over, and the one sided, shrapnel shredded, briefcase was found on the floor in the opposite direction, with many pieces of the shattered bomb parts still contained in it. The frame was crazily bent. There was one thing in it, apparently under the bomb, amazingly intact by fluke, that gave me chills. It was a 4×6 file card in tiny but clear printing longways with a salutation to me:

Dear Commander Hawkins: I think it wonderful that you were promoted to Commander. You were the only truly humane Matriarchal I ever met in the Zone and I remember our talk before my caning clearly. My father is dead, my vengeance is taken. There is no point in my living in a prison cell or out of it on the run. I wanted not only to kill the Chief Matriarch and Angie Albertson, I wanted to mutilate them as they mutilated my father and tried to do so to me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered with bomb shrapnel and would simply have shot everybody. May they, perpetrators and accomplices, rot in hell. I’m likely to join them. But, if there is a heaven, I hope you get to it. You are one of the best we have to offer. I wish I could have worked with you rather than spying for GLCIS.

With love
Bernadette Johnson

All the bodies had been crushed by the house falling in. Bernadette’s was apart and her face was somehow still untouched though most of the rest was broken bones. Beside her was her Dictapad and the silenced Glock, with an absurdly long magazine. The others were the worst post mortem mess I’ve ever seen. It was probably the entire Matriarchal Cabinet, but who was who wasn’t very clear. The glass shrapnel had mutilated the faces, shredded the clothes and lacerated the bodies. It apparently was blown all in one direction, toward it’s intended targets. Their hands were still bound. Unlike Bernadette, their skulls had all been crushed by the collapse and their bodies had as many broken bones as she.

I turned back to Bernadette’s body as my tears started. I looked down at her and said softly, “Well, Bernadette, you got your wish. They have been mutilated beyond recognition. An entire government has been destroyed and our mutual country perhaps mortally wounded. Game, Set, and Match. I wish you could have worked with me, too.”

Elizabeth: The New Improved Zone

On the day of the Matriarchal killings, the Zone came to a stumbling halt. Any current business, any routine service, and any Matriarchal decisions enshrined by the House of Matriarchs as “laws” continued, and could continue for perhaps 6 months. But no new business of government transpired, no negotiations with foreign governments continued, and anything at all done by the Matriarchs, who actually ran things, ceased. There were no immediate subordinates to step in and do their business, to take things over, kto make decisions about anything that was ambiguous. It was never the place of the heads of agencies to make such decisions, so they simply didn’t get made.

This had the greatest immediate effect on MAT/SERV. Virtually everything they were doing was at a preliminary stage where perhaps 2/3 of what they tried was obvious enough to work without high level choices, but the other 1/3 failed because they couldn’t be modified by Matriarchal decision. Either the things they were trying simply didn’t do what they were supposed to or what they did created more confusion and a larger mess that routinely had to be sent up the Hierarchy to the Matriarchs for decisions. Virtually 3/4 of Matriarchal business the Cabinet and Chief Matriarch had on the table at the moment they were killed was from MAT/SERV.

Zone citizens were, by and large, peaceful, so when the police service started to fail there was no chaos. There was simply nothing. Everybody knew their place and kept to it and if they ran out of things to do generated by the Matriarchs, they just stopped. But the babies didn’t stop and all the things you had to do with or to babies were working only 2/3 of the time. The babies simply didn’t get vital services, and a fair number of them died, which MAT/SERV was also not prepared to handle. It ground to a total halt within a month.

Matters were nearly as bad in agencies whose budgets had been drastically cut, particularly FEM/AUTH. They were trying to “do more with less” and that meant their routine things were already disrupted because they had to work with 1/2 of their previous funding. They had been forced to do a large number of things they’d never done before to respond to that, and most of these novel procedures were in preliminary stages that required Matriarch decisions virtually every day. They ground to a total halt within two months

During those first two months the only resource that continued to truly function were the immediate subordinates of the heads of the various agencies, such as Commander Hawkins. They were, in fact, the nearest thing the Zone had to truly independent decision makers. For about a week they simply spun their wheels within their own agencies and it became obvious to most of them, particularly Commander Hawkins, that they had to band together across agencies and demand that the House of Matriarchs convene, take over, and create a government ministry with a Prime Minister to make the highest executive decisions. To become, in other words, a genuine Parliament.

It took three weeks of Dictapad calls between that level of management across agencies to arrange the face to face meetings and larger conferences for any of them to even see the growing administrative disorder as a whole and determine what they would ask this new Parliament to do. Then they went as a body to the Speakers of BOTH houses. This caused some dissention among them, but the views of those like Commander Hawkins, that what was required was not gender roles but flexibility and brains so the men that had them, who were mostly already available in the House of Men, had to be taken on board, too.

What quickly became apparent was that the men had more of the flexible and intelligent people in the current legislature than the Matriarchs. Flexibility comes from taking orders and brains develop from trying to obey them when circumstances get in the way. Most of the second level administrators of the agencies had this professional profile among the women, but hardly anybody else did. Men in the Zone did nothing BUT take orders and try to find a way among the brambles in a household to accomplish them.

The only possible conclusion this led to was that both Houses had to be combined and reorganized into a “front bench” of flexible and intelligent legislative leaders and “back benches” of everybody else. Commander Hawkins had to put her career on the line by insisting that they needed help to do this and that the only competent help available were the President and Prime Minister of GLC. The Speakers, along with the cadre of second level administrators, had to form a delegation to ask for it. By this time six months had passed and even those most firmly fixed in their place had begun to become desperate. So this solution began to gather almost unanimous support.

As Lady Chief told above, she had just retired and little to no progress had been made at hiring a Chief of Service. The Senior Intelligence Analyst was acting as interim chief and would probably become chief by default. When the Zone delegation came to Chicago, Lady Chief had some unflattering things to say about the Prime Minister’s capacity for accomplishing things. But running a legislature was something he knew how to do, so they were set up promptly and correctly from the first.

The president had a number of private meetings with Commander Hawkins, the Speaker of the House of Men, and the Prime Minister. They were sharp enough to see that she was the major mover and shaker in this discussion and he was the most politically adept of the people on the delegation, and the first one to understand that they had to turn the Zone into a true Democracy because there was no longer any base of clan leaders from the old underground.

Despite the prophecies of Lady Chief, it actually took far less time than expected to get a Zone Legislature into shape. The delegation returned in one month with a plan that, despite the dissents of some of them members, particularly the Speaker of the House of Matriarchs, who didn’t want to be a full time legislator, which was inevitable for all of them, there was broad general agreement that the British House of Commons model, without a written Constitution, would suit the Zone best. The Matriarchs of the House beseeched Commander Hawkins to take the speakership role in the new combined legislature with the Speaker of the House of Males holding a coeval Executive decision function until new elections could be managed.

There would be a single election, gender separated with 1 male and 1 female representative from a district who would take on full time duties, with their household receiving compensation for the duration of the term. Once a legislature was convened, it would elect a ministry for the executive responsible to a parliament that could overturn the ministry by a majority vote of no confidence leading to new elections. Elections would be mandatory after 7 years. At that time, combined elections would be re-examined.

Then with permanent “somebodies” in charge of executive decisions, the legislature would take on the task of integrating men and women into one political entity; curbing, though not eliminating, corporal punishment in the home, including the whorehouses; outlawing it in the workplace, the legal system (except for prison discipline), and on the public streets by citizens, though the police would retain it; eliminating “retraining”; drawing up a new “workplace template” for Zone Life; and coming to grips with the Maternity problem.

They also would determine the fate of Scarlet Fever Lane and it’s financial support. The unofficial consensus was that the costs of Maternity were simply too great to keep up the financial support. There was not a majority yet favoring elimination of prostitution or of the specific zoning of it, but it would have to be on a market system basis only. The expectation was that the market could only sustain about 2 houses, 3 at most. Sally, Commander Hawkins, still looking uncomfortable in civvies, and the male House Speaker sat down to plan how to accomplish this transition. Elizabeth’s Secret would close. The other madams between them would decide who would stay.

The girls and the madams who wished to leave would be given a one time severance payment to be deposited into a money market account under their name in GLC. Elizabeth’s Secret would be transformed into a teaching brothel taking a more limited number of Johns and Janes; favoring long term customers. The Zone would add the girls’ tip losses to their severance settlement. Any girl in another house, on a 2 week apprenticeship basis, could study whore to whore. This included those who planned to leave, since some of them inevitably would slip back into the criminal milleu. These would actually benefit more from the skills training than any severance settlement.

Students would have to follow Sally’s rules, and endure Sally’s strappings, and by now Sally had quite a rep, mostly from introducing the intermediate strapping between Levels 1 and 2 of one Love Pat (Level 3, crisis-cross welts, butt only) with rest for the welts to swell, followed by one Gentle Rebuke (2). Only about 3 of Sally’s girls, who all had been strapped before, had ever experienced it, but it sure made believers out of them and the rest of the house watching them walk crooked, and everyone on the Lane heard about it within a week. Privately, Sally spoke to the madams who had chosen to stay about whore management, the Elizabeth’s Secret way, including issues of clothes, housekeeping, and discipline.

After the brothel closed Sally returned to GLC, one year since the Matriarchal Assassinations. The legends of that house and it’s two madams penetrated Zone folklore indelibly, as part of a general nostalgia for it’s history, stimulated in part by Bernadette Johnson herself, with colorful characters like Henry Peterson, Micha Haaretz, Elizabeth of Montpellier, the ever unknown Spook Who Never Was There and was also Chief of GLICIS, Angie Albertson, Bernadette Johnson, Sally of Montpellier, and Commander Cherry Hawkins–back in the Matriarchal “Wild West”.

The end of that fateful year in the Zone (October 2086) also included the retirement of Commander Cherry Hawkins. Captain Collins became Commander Collins in charge of Counterintelligence at FEM/DOM. Except for having to endure a year or so of jokes about being “just Half the Gal Cherry Hawkins was” and being asked if she enjoyed “filling Cherry’s 10 1/2 D shoes”, she herself had a fine career, supervising the broad Reissuing of Zone Citizen Certificates, vetting of their holders, and the First Citizen Census, which stopped GLICIS’ spy gravy train there.

GLCIS has gone into a risk adverse period under it’s new chief, the old Interim Chief. This simply hasn’t produced a lot of intelligence and has lost GLCIS a lot of in-house morale and a great deal of credit with the political customers. A much more positive evaluation of Lady Chief’s legacy is already under way. When all of us do dinner and drinks at the Agent Club, more and more spys, current and retired seek us out. And Lady Chief never ceases to make clear that her legacy is our legacy, although I never spied, and Sally had never cycled through the Chicago bureaucracy.

The new management at GLCIS took a dim view of the North Chicago Safehouse and my purchase of it severed all my professional ties with the Agency. They do not, however, appear to have any objection to all three of us having permanent Agent Club membership and that is perhaps the best resolution there can be. If the three of us stay in Chicago, this story must pass GLICIS censorship before it can finally be told. But I have resolved that as much of it be told as can be told without revealing any current secrets, and if that takes movement to another country, then so be it. I have independent means from work in one of life’s hardest pasts and so does Sally. There have been no new treaties of extradition signed by any of the new countries of the Shitstorm, so if we must be exiled from GLC and unwelcome in the Matriarchal Zone to tell this story, then, sobeit.

Sally Bayer: Survival And Memory

This is a story of survival. The survival of three indelibly attached friends and lovers, stripped of everything except a lot of money and a tiny little house. And the memory of three others, the star crossed lovers Henry Peterson and Micha Haaretz, and the tragic heroine, Bernadette Johnson.

Elizabeth has stopped from exhaustion in the writing and a sense of futility of anything but our mutual love. Lady Chief has nothing to cling to but the healing touch of that love. So I’m taking charge of this story as I took charge of the situation, because the story has merged into the situation, the past has morphed into the present of August 2088, and the words that are left can only be a diary, always written in the present tense.

The last of the story can only be achieved if my letter to Cherry Hawkins and her round trip ticket to Portland, Oregon, capital of Pacifica, brings her here to join us on our extended vacation, in a rented beach house, on the Oregon coast, large enough hold the four of us while we visit and tie up loose ends from the past. I told her what to bring: even in Summer, the North Pacific Coast can be subject to cool foggy weather that requires sweaters and long pants. I will offer Cherry the opportunity to join us in our life. By both desire and circumstance, we four have each made unbreakable physical and psychic bonds to one another, even if some of these were made inside the now gone World’s Best Whorehouse, Elizabeth’s Secret of Massey Street in Montpellier, Matriarchal Zone.

The plane arrived this afternoon. Cherry, who already knew that her “Julie” is the former chief of GLICIS and her hidden adversary, emerged from the flight, in sweater and long pants, towering over the rest of us, and the four of us hugged each other. And before the next words can be said she replies, “The answer is yes. I know you three are all I have and your minds have already merged with mine. I know that my Julie has returned to being Julie for good and has returned to me so I may help her heal. We will be a foursome as long as the four of us are still alive, and linked in love as long as any of us are still alive. Let’s go have fun together. Over the years I haven’t had very much fun.”

The Rest of the Story

Of course you want to know more of what happened after Lady Chief’s retirement and, as you might expect, just as you are a whore forever, once you spy, you leave unfinished spy business behind to follow you until you die. Since both Elizabeth and Lady Chief have passed on to and through their moments of truth, the unfinished spy business is now mine alone and the terrible parts can be stated with straight talk, a standard to which both Cherry and I still adhere to. Talk straight or be silent. The delayed publication of this narrative allows us to briefly carry the story further with such straight talk about human lives scarred, and the deaths of friends and lovers, that keeps any one of us in this life from having “happily ever after”.

First, and foremost, what Elizabeth feared most didn’t come to pass. She, Cherry, and I all outlived Lady Chief, who, herself, died swiftly of tardily diagnosed Stage 4 pancreatic cancer last year. I will speak later of her last days. I could tell that, for at least three years, Elizabeth was putting every mental effort into extending her life to help us keep Lady Chief from suicide. And, in those years, though she kept quiet about it, the green and white jade statue of Kuan Yin was constantly by her side on the table next to her electric wheelchair. I’m sure she prayed privately to Kuan Yin daily to help her to stay alive for Lady Chief, and to relieve Lady Chief from her demons.

Once Lady Chief’s natural death was a fact, Elizabeth simply relaxed, and her body did the rest over the course of 6 weeks. She was a January baby and died this year 3 days beyond her 87th Birthday. Both Cherry and I were with her to the last, constantly reaffirming our love, and, during the last 5 days, she said Kuan Yin was with her as well, instructing her how to deal with death and beyond. Elizabeth left softly, and with a smile, while we watched.

My greatest torment from unfinished spy business was that when I finally came out of deep cover as a spy and, incidentally, as a wealthy woman, both my parents were dead. There was no one to tell me this at GLICIS. Their direct contact with my parents ended with the mailing of their half of my “foreign cover service” postcard.

I found it out in the worst, but the only, way possible, a return to my childhood home. It was agony to be told the news by knocking on the door of the perfect strangers who now lived in the house and knew nothing of the details. My grief was not supposed to be their burden and I couldn’t say a single thing about where I had been and what I had been doing. So I thanked them while I still barely had control of my weeping, wished them well and started back down the front door path, when our old neighbor’s daughter spotted me and came running holding a brown envelope.

Though no one I once knew there had seen me since I abandoned all I had, even my legal name, to be a spy, she recognized me. What she could tell me was meager. My father died before my mother and this sometime before she had come back to take care of her own elderly parents. They couldn’t remember exactly when. My mother remembered her and courted her as a lonely old woman will do if you are younger by 30 years, sympathetic, and a returning neighbor. She would stop by to visit Mom occasionally in the five years she had left. Once she caught Mom fiddling with two halves of a postcard and asked her why. “My daughter is still alive and one day she’ll return in the dead of night. The fact that I have this postcard but nothing more tells me that. Don’t ever ask any further about this. That you even now know this is betrayal of a promise I had to make to keep her alive.”

Just before my mother died she gave her young neighbor the torn postcard with a request that she give it to me if I ever returned. It was in the envelope. As she gave it to me she said, “I won’t ask you a thing about it. Your mother’s reticence was so unusual and such a puzzle that it always stayed in the back of my mind. One day as I was idly fiddling with the postcard, the obvious answer came to me. You can’t tell me where you went, but I think I know. As you can see, she gave me the original pre-addressed envelope she was given. (It was addressed directly to GLCIS (!!!) headquarters itself instead of a shell company–sloppy tradecraft from the Peter/Mossad years.). You can’t tell me what you did there, but I can guess some of it. Let that remain just my guesses alone, take this envelope and postcard, and cherish that she loved you and believed in you until the end.”

At that point I disintegrated into the grief I had always known in my heart would be there and not just because both my parents were gone. My old neighbor enveloped me in her arms for I don’t know how long on the open street on a fine Spring morning for all the neighborhood to see. When I recovered I said, “Thank you for not asking anything. But for your comfort and in memory of whatever happiness you gave my mother I can say this. I know what you guessed, and you’re right, so if you’re ever asked you can say that you will never see me again and don’t know my present name.”

I held myself together until I closed the door of my understatedly plush Chinese electrocar, then with the envelope on the seat beside me, I cried until I could cry no longer.

I hadn’t the courage to open the envelope then and there, so I rushed to the safety of our cozy little North Chicago home and the healing of Elizabeth’s love. We both knew that, though my parents were dead, I could never even seek to find their graves nor say aloud the name I grew up with. Elizabeth immediately took up the envelope, extracted the card halves, and placed them in the nook with her jade Kuan Yin. “You can always find them there when you’re ready to.” They were all I had left of my personal past. All. And I had to make myself remember that, for all the hardship, our collective love, collective mind, and collective erotic life as first a threesome and then a foursome has still made that part of the loss from my specific choices more than worth it.

Blotting up my sniffles, I said to her what I’ve said to her countless times both before and since, “I love you with all my heart and always will. I will stay by your side and Lady Chief’s side to the end.” I needed to say no more. You may take it as metaphor that the minds of Elizabeth, Lady Chief, and I had merged into one, but it is more than that. As the years have passed, we, with Cherry, ever steadily lost more of the need to speak aloud to one another, saying things clearly with a mere glance or gesture and no real need of words.

When Lady Chief descended into dream ridden fixation on her guilt, a part in each of the four of us shared her visions and hearing with her and it weighed on each of us. We knew that what we accepted in our collective consciousness was troubling her a whole lot less, no matter how far she would go into the deepest despair that no amount of her contrition would ever let her find forgiveness before the end of this life.

Our straight talk extends even to there. Elizabeth’s experiences of comforting light in the presence of her beautiful statue became ever stronger until they finally were continuous. Our own brief glimpses of that light let Cherry and I understand what Elizabeth had come to terms with long ago.

We could sooner or later, with Kuan Yin’s help, break Lady Chief free from the demons in her mind: we had already pushed her away from her own feral self which merged (almost) tracelessly into me and with little evil having come from it; and we would sooner or later break the iron grip of Micha Harretz on her heart.

But with even the extra help, we could only delay for a single future life, Lady Chief’s confrontation with the 28 dead she had killed by proxy. Each of us were astounded when we finally heard how many, Elizabeth first, me next, and Cherry last. And we could only hope that the power of her contrition would follow her into a human life where she could purify her role in those deaths. For that, Kuan Yin would have to play her part beyond the moment of truth, as well as Lady Chief herself.

Lady Chief’s Dream #1: Micha Haaretz in Hell

“My name was once Micha Haaretz and now it is Legion. This is Hell. Our masters, who are the collective thoughts of all of us, will not tell us whether it is eternal or not. Perhaps they don’t know either. Or they do know and the answer is No, but they can’t let any of us have hope, or they would simply disappear. Eight more have joined me in Legion from the Zone and, usually if not always, most of the pain of Hell isn’t physical torture, like people imagine, though commonly some of it is, particularly at first. There is no Black Widow for you to stay strapped to for eternity and no canes.

“At your moment of truth, which is not the death of the physical body, but the total ejection of your awareness from it, and from the human world, there is a pure unalloyed brilliance. What you specifically see is what you’ve been taught to see. What I saw was the Four Letters of the Holy Name that I used to wear as a choker. When I saw them, as one of the Chosen People, my yearning for them was insatiable, but I could not reach them no matter how much I wanted to. I fell away from them with a tumble into blackness and merged with all lost souls in one. My yearning for it is still insatiable, and that is the first torment of Hell, that you are separated from that brilliance, perhaps forever, or if not, the part of me still Micha Haaretz knows that it is so long that the individuality I still try to cling to will have totally been eaten away by loss and despair.

“My name will then only be Legion and Nothing and No One and my torment even worse. As for now, we are what the Kabbalist rabbis of old called the Quiploth, the Shells of the Dead, and in our shells we keep the memory of pleasure, which is what most of us cling to. The Egyptians called them the Ka, and did everything they could to keep and sustain them for eternity. There are still shells here from hundreds of thousands of years ago, not many, but a few, as well as thousands upon thousands of Egyptians, still chanting that they are Osiris The Justified and evading the fact that their own death and conscious continuance is an attributed bulwark against deeper suffering, but it is in no way a paradise. So how long I will last shoring up the mere memory of freedom and pleasure is unknown.

“The eight more who have arrived are still trapped in the pain of their death and their anger in life, which, at least, I left quickly behind. Without Henry and without purpose, it was easy to let life go. I even, and with little effort, quickly lost the exquisite tormenting burn of the bullet through my heart. One among the eight who also found it easy to let go is named Bernadette Johnson. She thought there was nothing left to live for, but now knows that she was wrong. When the bright light hit her, the pain was much worse than the slow and careful caning of her bottom so long ago. She felt piece after piece of her imaginary skin burn and peel off and the scar on her bottom, which she still clung to doggedly as a focus for hatred turned into a burning hot coal that kept her screaming and screaming when she couldn’t release from it.

“The potent unconscious and the physical body do not respond well to the cutting off of your own life abruptly and short. And this even more so if you kill yourself. Then you bring with you not only death trauma, but also a permanent and horrid separation of your heart and awareness into two warring halves. The unconscious and the body of Bernadette wanted to live, wanted to continue, and it’s unreleased trauma in death follows any suicide as the fiery stripping of those imaginary onionlike layers of the Ka from you without your consent. Soon, however they will completely burn away to a cinder, and as she falls from the burning light, she will fall into Legion quickly, like a dropped stone, no longer wanting the black and shriveled husk of her Ka, her shell. As long as you hold on to the Ka undamaged, the torments of Legion are held somewhat at bay, you don’t have to feel as intensely the collective suffering of all who once had names like your own.

“The victims of her revenge, the Matriarchal Cabinet, would give anything for those layers to burn away and to die to their names, but their layers are stiffened and fused with the anger and fear of their lives, the malice toward others, the sadistic enjoyment of others’ pain, the greed for power, and the demand for arbitrary fulfillment of their private will in any and all things.

“Now they feel themselves as the screamingly painful crushed and lacerated bodies of their death, and as long as they cling to wanting to abandon them, that pain and torment will continue. They see but can’t recognize one another, completely mutilated, as their killer had told them their bodies would be. And, even worse, crushed to human pâté, which even their killer didn’t anticipate.

“Where are the others? Where’s Henry? I can’t tell you. Maybe he is also in Legion, with his shell stripped away. Maybe he went, like so many, most actually, back into rebirth. Maybe he reached that light where no shell can form because no imaginary body remains in the pure bliss (part of my specific torment is to know so intimately exactly what I have lost).

“The many men (and three women) whose caning on the Black Widow into flaming cripples drove them to suicide, went through a process similar to Bernadette’s, though incomplete and much briefer. They are all with me here in Ka of sooty white sheets of light covered in crumbling ashes, pointing their fingers at me, clinging to a demand for a too late Justice, a continuous wave of testimony at my trial for violating my solemn Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm…” We are all in Hell, what penalty is left for me to be given?

“They wait for you, too, Angie Albertson. Be glad that your Ka face is so mutilated and your Ka body so broken that they have not yet recognized you. I asked for a clean death, in full acknowledgement of my crimes, though still without remorse, conscious and living demon that I had become among the Chosen People, so their pointing fingers cannot touch me. You, Angie, didn’t ask for it, and there will still be the suffering to come when their white hot fingers touch you.

“Very few of my murder victims (as Micha I knew how many in total, as Micha’s shell and husk, I’ve forgotten) are here. Far fewer than I would have expected. I guess I was the perpetrator of a massacre of the innocents. Their death, with the body saturated in endorphins from intensely prolonged sex, passed by without their knowledge and only those guilty of much else, but who are strong of character, remain here in Hell. Since they were all young spies, it’s amazing how few there are.

“They no longer have need to accuse me. Whatever linked us as murderer and victim broke with a snap like their neck. The stain of their murders is already ground deeply into my Ka, and it has given me such a terrifying exterior, which I hid behind my looks and my sensual musk on Earth, that many of my fellow shells now simply panic and run into Legion after they first encounter me. Luckily, Hell has no mirrors, at least for me, and, with effort, I can will my earthly appearance to reappear if I choose.

“I get to see some of the future of those on Earth. In a very few hours, as we count time here, their own planet will have taken away the chances for all of them and the story of our species will have ended. The ones here who deliberately made money, knowing that the future would suffer for it, are now tar-and-feathered with that money, smothered in it, and in the pain of the burning tar, with the knowledge of that money’s worthlessness both then and now.

“The one who stripped away all her names, the “intelligent little rabbit” as I called her behind her back when at SecSpy, hears me as I speak. I’m not taunting her; what she hears is her manifestation of my own torment as her guilt and remorse, given words from her clinging to me and not me to her. She called for response from me over and over and over to hide from what she was–a cold blooded killer as well but one whose will to see herself live and thrive masked from her that cold-bloodedness. As a fellow killer, I have enough sympathy to hide my hellish appearance. She will see the light as the names she threw away and now cannot recover.

“You have already lost those names, Little Rabbit, and none of them any longer shield you from these merciless dreams of your guilt. And she will see the light after we finish our little chat. Yes, you know what little chat, and you already are in terror of it. It will be even more terrible than you yet know, for I will not be wearing the earthly mask of Micha Harretz, but my true form as a minor demon of Hell. The powers that be here would be quite peeved if I did anything less.

“My little rabbit’s crimes? They are deeply ground into her Ka, no matter how much she learned to hide them with a deep patina of languid elegance as a fruit of her ambition to lead a spy agency, which but led her to her downfall. She leads that spookhouse no longer, her power and prominence merely dust in the road on her journey, and her only chance to postpone the bitter fruit of her crimes comes from the prayers of her whore and her madam lovers.

“They might work, but, be warned little rabbit, unless you purify them in the next life you will join me here for good. You are already in Hell but for a only last visit and not your permanent home. I’ll fill you in about the details when we meet again, but, broadly, you must try to keep your contrition totally through death and beyond. I still like you, insofar as I can now “like” anybody, and would even pray for you myself, but my prayers can no longer be heard.”

Then Lady Chief woke up into her regular concatenation of screams and virulent weeping.

After this happened, Elizabeth or I or both of us together would hold our sister in the middle of her hysteric terror and, though she could not bring herself to repeat the details, in our minds we saw a lurid picture, rather like an electroscreen program trailer, of Micha Haaretz as tour guide to Hell. After three episodes of this and similar dreams, we came to the decision that she could never be allowed to sleep alone. The mere presence of one of us in bed with her, that she could immediately cling to, diminished both the mental torment and the number of dreams significantly from when she dreamed alone.

We would occasionally even dream in parallel with her, exploring the webs of her own fears and anxieties together, each a dream phantom to the other walking along the same terrifying path. Her dreams of Micha occurred about once a month, often, though not always, at the dark of the moon, and we shared enough of them to piece the composite together that I wrote out above.

The Hostility Begins

Elizabeth has mentioned the antagonism to her, and to all of us, that swiftly arose from the new GLCIS management. They decommissioned the Safehouse after Elizabeth bought it in cash and then three months later tried to force her to gut it of everything GLCIS had furnished it with. Elizabeth, however, had been shrewd enough to make her offer explicitly for both house and contents, with only two equally explicit exclusions. Neither she nor her attorney would budge in their negotiations with the Agency’s attorney. And her attorney quietly pointed out that in any civil suit the GLCIS representative would have to testify under oath and on the public record about the details of how the safehouse was used. Nobody really wanted that now did they? Certainly GLCIS didn’t, so they let the matter drop.

The Interim Chief of GLCIS had found the very existence of the North Chicago safehouse to be so much of a burr up his butt that he accepted Elizabeth’s offer immediately without thinking it through and, the very next day, sent a team to pick up the two items explicitly excluded from that agreement: the “two-key” security Dictalink used to to record conversations in the house and the firearm secretly under the knickknack shelf next to the front door. Elizabeth could not legally own this gun because of the 50 year old rap sheet still in the files of the Chicago Police.

The two-key system allowed the interrogators to lock and unlock access to the Dictalink jointly with the safehouse agent so that neither could use the machine nor access the data without the consent and the key of the other. Every instance of the machine being turned on for use or disabled when not needed was logged, timed, and dated in the machine itself. The machine was also solidly bolted to the concrete basement floor, so any burglar (and it would be a very good burglar) who made it past the autoset security would still have to bring their own cutting torch to detach it. This machine was the only location of coordinated exterior security, recorded secret data, and secure communication in the house, and a proprietary device of GLCIS. Possession of the gun by Elizabeth and not as an agent of GLCIS, the owner, was a serious felony.

The Interim Chief was so in a hurry to get both the Safehouse and it’s keeper off the Agency’s hands that the sales contract was run through priority GLCIS legal scrutiny immediately, and then signed, on the afternoon it arrived at GLCIS. The technicians arrived at 8:00 am the next morning with a cutting torch to remove the machine, with the GLCIS Armorer himself arriving at the same time to pick up the Glock pistol. The soon-to-be fourth Permanent Chief of GLCIS could now be assured that all of us were now only members of the Agent’s Club. And the Club itself was beginning to attract the suspicious attention of the still active GLC Prime Minister and Treasury Minister for “fiscal extravagance”. One of the changes the Ministry made to “proactively” manage GLCIS was to require an explicit, line item, report to the Ministry by the agency’s auditors of all “non-operational” expenditures, which made the Agent Club issue explicit.

Then GLCIS had it’s own mini shitstorm when the Agency Auditors made their six month report to the Treasury Department. This and the Ministry’s adverse reaction to the Agent Club, then leaked into Parliament, causing the Prime Minister a very difficult 20 minutes during the weekly questioning period. The new Chief of GLCIS had never even known that the Ministry had “reservations” about the agency expenditures and was completely blindsided. He heard about it on the evening news, as did we. There seemed to be quite a lot that we heard, second hand, taking him by surprise.

While the house was in transition, Lady Chief and I stayed together at one of the five penthouse suites of the Ritz Carelton, well above it’s non-existent 13th floor. We would visit Elizabeth regularly and stay overnight as her guests three times a week with me driving us over in my quietly discreet and elegant, Chinese luxury electrocar. We had stayed with her the night of the contract signing and toasted our coming new life as permanent roommates in Clef d’Eglise cognac and Calvados apple brandy following a cozy comfort food meatloaf dinner.

When the Armorer arrived in the morning with the technicians, he was barely civil signing our receipt and alarm bells were set off for all of us. He would have done such a task himself rather than sending a subordinate only if he had been asked to by the Interim Chief. One more definitely unfriendly hint tossed in our direction. A hint implying very strongly that we were starting to be seen as “security risks”.

From now on I won’t be able to quote our conversations in the same way Elizabeth did when we three met for the first time 30 years ago. Now they simply didn’t occur. Each of us were so much in the other’s minds that our collective spy honed and suspicion based analysis led to answers before the questions even needed to be explicitly asked. The real question was what to do about all of it. Most of the problems Lady Chief outlined in her post-Bernadette conference with the President and Prime Minister were still a possibility, including a decision by the Interim Chief to have us all killed. Every indicator started to systematically point in that direction.

There had been no revision of the standing Executive Orders for GLCIS so he was still well within his legal limits to make such a decision, a matter which we knew well. The only 2 pluses for us in our present situation was that GLCIS had already become generally risk adverse and the Interim Chief had reshuffled his top staff, pointedly shifting out all of Lady Chief’s ex-field agents and replacing them with Chicago bureaucrats who knew about “security” but never had to put their lives in trust of it. This new staff would probably increase the “dither response” to any serious GLCIS actions and likely make them telegraph their intentions while they nermed over the matter, leaving more sloppy tradecraft clues for us of the coming danger.

Nobody, in the Ministry or the agency could comprehend that the three of us were all still very alert spies, with plenty of tradecraft available to us, and with far better analytical skills than whatever was still left in the top level of the agency. One major minus for us, however, was that the changes in the Truth Teams proposed by Lady Chief had never been fully implemented, so any dangerous problems for us would still include thugs as well as both bombers and killers.

The first thing that was clear was that the three of us had to establish our roommate relationship immediately. Functionally, the safehouse was still a safehouse, needing only my purchase of another two pistols (and one other change) to return it to it’s fully secure state.

Lady Chief and I took care of the armament issue the same day that we left the Ritz. My electronically recorded gun store background check, retina photograph, and new registration was completed in the 45 minutes we spent browsing the merchandise, having purchased a new GLOCK 43, three extra magazines, and four 100 round boxes of 9mm ammunition for the house and another five shot stubby for me and my clutch. It was a Ruger LCR .38 Special whose trigger was smoother and less stiff than Elisabeth’s old Airweight making it more pleasant to live fire practice with than the Airweight or the Glock.

We then checked out of the Ritz with Lady Chief removing some items from her Ritz strongbox, but paying a full year’s worth of box rental in advance to keep it as a secondary drop, as a Ritz client of the Zone would have done, rather than the 3 months rental that the usual Chicago based traveling salesman would pay.

Both she and I had kept only a small segment of our full wardrobe (about a week’s worth) at the Ritz, with the rest in self-storage in North Chicago, three blocks from Elizabeth’s cozy house. The town was still simple enough and small enough (or in the Outfit’s pocket enough) to see no need for any law requiring valid ID for storage rental. So our storage was not quite listed under the name I normally used, Sally Bayer. 

It was astonishing how many self storage facilities you could find in North Chicago. The town was a good place to be in that business for both mom-and-pop operations like we used, and for the two or three large ones informally known locally to be under the control of the Outfit itself and used (among other things) to store spare chop shop electrocar pieces, and maybe even a few bodies waiting to be dumped. Storage rental business was so good that the Boys didn’t even bother to shake down the mom-and-pops, which would have brought them merely chump change and potential bad publicity from the strongarming. Apparently lots of people in Chicago had stuff they felt very shy about owning. Or at least owning up to the fact that they owned it.

What clothes and luggage we had at the Ritz easily fit in my electrocar, and a side trip to the storage unit let us gather up the rest, leaving there that incoherent jumble of things that merely living life attaches to you. Those things we could abandon at a day’s notice, and any adversary, such as GLCIS was proving to be, would attribute far greater significance to the Storage Unit that it merited. We were settled in (and well armed) by mid-afternoon. We kept the unit, rather than Thrift Store the contents, only because multiple secret drops are an important component of an ex-spy’s “insurance policy”, even when the enemy knows where and what the drop is. All of us felt much better when the Glock and the loaded extra magazines were, once again, secretly stowed under the fake knick-knack shelf by the front door. Our safe protocol for answering the front door, that included holding the loaded pistol, was now back in place.

After all that, which normally would be enough for one day, we sat down after dinner, caught our breath, and discussed ways and means far into the night. First, since I was the only one licensed to be armed at all times, and the only one who drove, I’d take over all the shopping and always accompany the other ladies on their own trips. 

Lady Chief, whose lonely life had for many years been brightened by a cooking hobby, would take over the kitchen and basement laundry, and Elizabeth would keep up mild housekeeping duties on the first floor within the limits of her 75 year old energy. We would try to avoid having all three of us travel together, leaving the house continuously occupied until such time as we wished to travel abroad.

In order to reduce Elizabeth’s and Lady Chief’s exposure even further, we had bought, with the gun, a kit with a barrel laser and electronic target screen to dry fire drill with the Glock regularly. And we bought sufficient “snap caps” or artificial Glock pistol rounds, so neither of my roommates needed to go to the live fire gun range to practice. The laser was too long to fit the barrel of my five shot snubby, but my trips to the live fire range every couple of weeks or so were no more dangerous exposure of myself than my trips to buy groceries. And in the end, as you will see later, it very much paid off.

It did cause a certain amount of gossip among the range attendants that I always brought in a couple of disposable Thrift Store handbags, usually of horrible taste and strung with DIY rope straps so I could wear them across my body, like my regular clutch. At the end of my range time I would always do several rounds of shooting through both ends of each handbag while they concealed my gun. Any newly hired attendant was always astonished when I regularly shot tight five round groups dead center in the guts of a man target from inside my purse. He hadn’t believed the other guys when they told him I could do this.

Every once in a while one of them would get the nerve up to ask me, when I turned in the rented ear covers and safety glasses and bought new ammunition, how I learned to shoot like that. So I’d tell him, “I taught myself because there are still too many men who don’t understand that “no” means no.” Then I’d ask him to drop my shot up handbags into the waste can behind the counter, and sashay out in my well tailored suit, with my come hither gait, while wearing my gun filled clutch, thus demonstrating just why I might have that problem.

Since our small and cozy little rooming arrangement had only a single small and cozy little bathroom, with also a toilet and crude shower in the basement, womanly primping and patting would have to have an approximate schedule with Elizabeth and I looking the other way at the more extravagant usage of time by the Dutchess of Kumquat.

With two bedrooms and three very intimate roommates each of us would be sleeping two together regularly as need and desire dictated. Our desire was still quite well developed, thank you, with the added incentive that the lovemaking among all three of us deepened and clarified our sense of collective thought, which was nearly the equal of the sex in pleasure, and constantly available to us.

Also before our trip to empty the storage unit of clothes, Lady Chief brought out some more of the ex-spy insurance policy she had stored at the Ritz: extra passports, three for her, three for me, and three for Elizabeth so she could reassume the name Elizabeth after the transfer of the house, but travel under another legal name.

From the point Lady Chief had heard of the outcome of our confrontation with a GLCIS Truth Team years ago, she had 9 different, but legitimate, passport identities carefully created, minus legends, one at a time about every six months or so, and with no hurry behind the behind the requests, doing herself first, me next, and Elizabeth last once she was put on the GLCIS payroll and had a passport picture taken.

These passports weren’t done by the forgers, like foreign documents, but by a special five security cleared person service at the GLC Passport Office. These special Passport Office employees created the yearly workname documentation set for all of GLCIS, and all these were valid and official GLC personal identification. No records of Lady Chief’s requests, beyond the usual proof-of-identity documentation for passport applications, were kept in the Passport Office. All individual GLCIS requests for these new identities had to pass through the Chief of Service office itself, were sent to the Passport Office, and then sent directly back to the CoS. From there, the passports, with individual requests for legends, were sent to the Records Department and legends were written by one of the shell companies.

Thus there was a firewall, controlled by the Chief of Service, between the legal workname identity document and the life story. And no records whatever of these solo identity documents Lady Chief had had created existed in either GLCIS or in the shell company because they hadn’t been sent out for legends.

This protocol had been established by Curtis, the first Chief of GLCIS, exactly for the purpose that Lady Chief had used it for; to create alternate but fully legal identities. This purpose was not an explicit privilege of the CoS, but it had been passed on as a secret from Chief to Chief, usually at the Agent’s Club at the changing of the guard. In Lady Chief’s case, however, the failure to hire a new Chief before her retirement and the obvious conflicts of interests, created by the Matriarchal Assassination, between herself and both GLCIS and the GLC government, prompted her to end the secret tradition.

The “Interim Chief” could make of it all what he would. If he ever even found out about it. He wasn’t good at that sort of thing. His relations as the Senior Intelligence Analyst with Lady Chief had rather quickly deteriorated once she announced her retirement and her recommendation of his appointment as Interim Chief should no permanent Chief be appointed by the time she left. In fact, both the SIA and the Prime Minister, who had little taste for Lady Chief anyway, were prime reasons to have a spy insurance policy at all, given that the Presidential Executive Order allowing the use of assassins still stood. 

Further, the GLC Ministry has rather pointedly failed to offer Lady Chief the retirement security services that had been routinely offered to Curtis and we’re still in place for a now very old Ian, the second Chief. Without her asking, a specific memo from the President’s Chief Of Staff was sent to tell Lady Chief that the matter was “under study”. Who knows? Maybe they are studying it still.

So, besides extra real identity documents under different names for the three of us, Lady Chief had persuaded her contact at the Pacifica embassy to obtain nine separate “political asylum” visas, of indefinite duration, one for each passport. With these, we could hop on a flight to Portland on a moment’s notice and establish ourselves wherever we chose in Pacifica under whatever of these names we liked.

She also had returned us to the tradecraft of her Sec/Spy deep cover days and we constantly renewed six month open Chicago to Portland airline tickets, departure time and name left blank, for each of the three of us. Luckily we were all financially placed to afford such a luxury tradecraft. We each always carried the 3 passports in our handbags, one openly and the other two hidden in the lining with all the refugee visas. In the end, we needed it.

The next day after we moved in, I drove Elizabeth to the high end audio store to buy a replacement control center for the GLCIS 24/7 communications recording gear of the house security cameras and of the house recording microphones in each room. These had been run through the GLCIS proprietary Dictalink which had departed two days before. This new system required more digital inputs than the house audio system currently had available, so we also purchased a stand alone supplementary inputs box and digital processor and made arrangements for the boys at the Audio Store to come to install it in the next few days. 

Elizabeth told me that high end audiophillia was an addictive drug, and the store workers had just too many opportunities to sample the best there is every day. After we entered the store she spoke to me aside that these were exactly the same clerks who she first met a decade ago, in their late twenties, and were still there, now slowly softening around the edges towards 40.

They still had some of the same juvenile attitude of ten years ago, at least when at work, with a little heavier beard stubble and 20 extra pounds, but around each of them there was an aura, if you will, of a wife who had a far better job than they did and never let them forget it. As well as very demanding children, mostly girls, who had plenty of opportunity to learn from mother how father’s lack of drive and ambition was a cautionary tale to any young woman with motivation and dreams.

As she told her girls this, Mom always thought about the many male subordinates she had of similar temperament that constantly thwarted her dream to have the most professional and motivated department in her company. She resented them. She resented them a lot.

The boys, now the husbands, were all happy Lotus Eaters in the store, hiding from the need to pretend to be responsible adults, with centuries of splendid recorded music on call in the best possible place to hear it. And if more worry lines were slowly being etched into their faces, this may well have been because it was difficult being married to someone constantly comparing you to her marginally acceptable male subordinates at work.

Elizabeth knew quite a lot about this, which I really didn’t learn from whoring only in the Zone, instead of in Cicero when young. Just a little bit of old fashioned listening and a touch of sympathetic flattery brought bigger than normal tips from Johns such as these, who showed up at the house more frequently than was good for them, and had wives who thought of them as stubbornly unfinished construction projects. 

And wives surreptitiously slaked their own sexual needs with a vibrator from their purse during the non-power lunch hours alone, with the door closed, at the desk of that nice corner office. Or attending them through affairs of infidelity, usually with other, more senior and powerful, men at work and, occasionally, other women.

Not that hubby knew this, of course, but the one pre-teen son among several daughters named Junior, who was a chip off the old block, brought the vibrator into the kitchen one Saturday and caused a commotion by asking his mother what it was for. Junior’s worldly education was eclipsed in Mom’s mind by the compromised professional security of her purse, and he didn’t get his question answered, or the response that he expected. 

That response was positively Matriarchal and left the next week for Junior to carefully evaluate every time he needed to sit down. Luckily, at the time hubby was lackadaisically straightening up the garage before the mowing of the far, far too shaggy lawn and Junior was soon in his room sniveling over the trouser belt welts on his bottom.

Returning to North Chicago, we found Lady Chief on a freshly purchased latest Dictapad version, which we hadn’t known she possessed, talking first to her broker, tidying up her now purely Pacifica based investments; then to her lawyer about the limbo state of her legal rights in the current situation of possible confrontation with GLCIS truth teams, and about updating her will.

Then Lady Chief and I both were knocked back when Elizabeth produced her newly bought Dictapad, which she had been using to make arrangements for the house if we left GLC permanently for hidden ex-pat life abroad. So I had to sheepishly show my freshly purchased Dictapad, too. I had been using it to prep my shopping trips. We all lost it. Then I said, “Maybe we should each enter the Tradecraft Queen of the Year pageant.” Our minds had so merged that we now all had the same good ideas, without realizing that there were two more iterations of them.

Lady Chief’s Dream #2: The ghost of Helen Thoroughgood.

Lady Chief had walked out of their shared North Chicago home on a blustery, late October afternoon, with the sun behind clouds threatening rain. The wind is from the North Northeast cold, biting, and from over Lake Michigan. Short, tentative, sprinkles are falling as the icy wind swirls. Later in the evening it might turn to sleet. Elizabeth is napping, Sally is shopping. Lady Chief isn’t supposed to be out. Her own tradecraft tells her it’s too dangerous and she can feel the thoughts from top floor offices of GLCIS and from the Parliamentary Ministry: anger, resentment, envy, and fear. The same thoughts that all of them could feel and that had kept them from sojourning at the Agent’s Club in the evening for months now. Why on earth didn’t I put on a jacket? she thinks, shivering.

As she turns around to go back she’s suddenly in Montpellier, in the Zone, on an unfamiliar street, or, maybe, on one she once visited in sunny noon as a teen. Some echo of that remained. She won’t let herself go there, won’t relive the sore and public welts after being bent over an electrocar hood and thoroughly strapped, jeans and panties down, for everyone on the block to see, by two FemDom beat cops. She couldn’t remember what she had said or done, it didn’t matter what she’d said or done, the answer was always the same–a mortifyingly public tawsing. “Take them down, honey, you’re in need of one of our Love Pats!” No, she won’t let herself go there. No. No. No.

The weather is still blustery. In front of her is a two story, well and recently tuck pointed, brick house, with the deep red bricks so uncommon in this city. The lights of both floors of the house are starting to shine brighter than the stormy dusk. On the porch are pumpkins flickering, carved with toothy grins, and each candled within. Two kitschy, MaitryKraft store corn shocks are trussed up to either side of the door posts, and a carefully elegant Rowan tree branch, covered in it’s ruddy berries is hooked above the door. Rowan keeps the evil spirits of All Hallows’ Eve away….

So which is it? Which Halloween? Which Paganism? Lady Chief thought. Was it the cute but shabby pentagram, quartz crystal, and tarot addled, neo-paganism of my mother in the months before she dragged me here? Before we came to this female halfway house that the inmates call a country? Or is it the canny, genuine, and whispered Witchcraft, herb, and poison lore of the Underground Scots Clan Matriarchals? Her best friend in school, Ellie MacDonald, had a mother who was that kind of witch. Then Rowan Tree Branch shouts at Lady Chief from a far distance in the sky, “Stay out, stay out, you cold blooded killer! Stay out!” Stay out? Lady Chief thinks, of course not! There is the front door slightly opened and light is shining through. Without my jacket I’m chilled to the bone.

As she pushes through the door and closes it behind her, Lady Chief turns back and is stopped in her tracks. In front of her on the floor are a woman’s dead body, lying face up, an automatic pistol with a silencer, an immense pile of scattered flowers, and three HAPPY BIRTHDAY helium balloons floating overhead and just under the high ceiling. As Lady Chief comes closer, she sees, to her horror, first, the pool of blood and brains under the back of the woman’s head; then the slack open jaw, with fixed, half open eyes; and, finally, the scorched hole in the crushed right cheek.

It’s Helen Thoroughgood, or what’s left of her, Chief of what had been Sec/Spy…..But she’d been killed years ago. By Mossad! I saw the autopsy photographs! Then, Lady Chief remembered where she’d seen the outside of this house. It was in a picture that came with her legend when she went into Deep Cover. Ian, then Senior Intelligence Analyst under Chief of Service Curtis, said he had obtained a safe house for her escape before she entered her cover in the Zone. When she got there, she could never locate it, even though she had an address for it, and a half postcard to exchange if she ever had to use it.

Just another one of his lies, she thought at the time. What did Ian ever do but lie? There never was such a safehouse. The address she was given was a vacant lot, and she now was trapped into spying in the Zone! Here and now she looked down at herself and was still elegantly dressed as Lady Chief, aged a little under 60, former Chief of GLCIS; former defacto gang boss dealing out beatings and death to the insubordinate and the treasonous; lesbian roommate of two loving and nurturing retired whores in a house in North Chicago. What had happened? How had she taken a wrong turn and ended up here?

Suddenly the eyelids on the body started to blink. The freezing fear in her heart made her stand stock still. The eyes were alive, but nothing else, and as those eyes locked with her widening ones, Lady Chief heard Helen Thoroughgood’s voice in her head while the corpse remained perfectly silent and still.

“It’s you! How can it be you?! How old you look! It must be only a couple of hours since I looked down that horrible pistol barrel. I’m still lying here undisturbed, waiting to be discovered. But here you are, wearing a mask of middle age, like I did a couple of hours ago when I opened that door! It MUST be only a couple of hours I’ve been lying here! How can you be so old?”

The voice paused and then continued, “You were a Sec/Spy interrogator well known for your cool ruthlessness, and I never knew your name. Did you ever have a name? Do you now? Oh, my God! YOU were GLCIS Deep Cover, weren’t you!? Aren’t you? And we never knew. But you never knew that I was in Deep Cover, too, I was the real Zone traitor, taking orders from that reckless bastard, Ian…..It can’t have been more than a few hours and you can’t be that old! I can’t be trapped here in this fetid piece of rotting meat!” The eyes started to shed slow tears of despair, some draining into her shattered and powder burned cheek. Lady Chief found this even more hair raising than before. The corpse was silent for a few moments, then resumed.

“You were like me, one of Ian’s lovers, weren’t you? You were his doxy, doing anything you could to help your spying “career”. Until you went into Deep Cover; a professional “opportunity”, you thought, on your way to the top. It was actually Ian’s tidy way of disposing of you for the sake of his reputation. Just like me! You made it out, I didn’t. Mossad killed me! Here, in this GLCIS safehouse…..” The wailing voice faded into silence and the eyes once again became fixed.

There was a sharp knocking on the door behind her. Lady Chief hadn’t locked it, and it started to open, hinges faintly creaking. Then there he was, Ian himself, impossibly old, white haired, and fumbling. He spoke, whining, “Why have you come here?!!! Why have you both come here?!!! This is MY bad conscience dreaming.” Both? she thought. Me and this corpse? She felt a soft touch on the forearm and suddenly Elizabeth was at her side.

“We know all about it Ian,” Elizabeth stated matter-of-factly, “Helen’s dead body just gave us the last piece of the puzzle. She was betrayed to Mossad by you when she went on the run. You made a choice of which of your lady loves in Deep Cover that you would set up for Mossad to kill. You wanted young Lady Chief instead of older Helen, at least until you found some newer and even younger mistress.

“As the Chief of GLCIS you couldn’t deal with the crisis created if both your back door lovers returned at once. So Mossad killed her here, in what was actually a GLCIS safehouse, and not one of Sec/Spy’s, managed at arm’s length by your spy Helen. You gave Mossad the address after you ordered Helen to use it to hide. By that time Lady Chief had already returned to GLCIS, and to your bed. Until, that is, you put her on your staff. Then she blackmailed you into retiring and helping her become Chief of GLCIS. After that, she no longer needed you.”

“Do I lie Lady Chief?”

“No Elizabeth, you don’t. Another incidental evil crime before my service as Chief and my spree of casual killing. Like all of it, it’s now beyond remorse.” Ian stood, mouth open, in speechless awe. Then he fell to the floor with a loud crash. At that moment Lady Chief finally noticed the awful smell, and when she and Elizabeth turned around, Helen’s body was already beginning to bloat into a horrible caricature of the living spy. Lady Chief screamed and wailed in utter despair. Then Elizabeth bear hugged her, first in the dream and then in the safehouse bed.

A Tangle of Lies

This is how the three of us pieced the story together after Lady Chief laid bare her carefully calculated affair with Ian. Micha Harretz and Mossad between them had concluded that there had to be two GLCIS deep covers in the Zone. One spying on the Matriarchal Cabinet, the other in Sec/Spy itself.

When Henry Peterson went on the run after making Micha, Helen inadvertently said something in a face to face meeting with Micha that convinced Micha that Helen was the GLCIS spy and a Zone traitor. Maybe it was because Helen didn’t even mention her terrible cane in a meeting where Micha should have come out caned and crying. Whatever Helen said started Micha planning to kill her, as soon as it was convenient. Helen sent Ian a detailed report on the meeting, and Ian saw immediately that she was blown, which Helen didn’t.

With Helen blown and Henry blown, then killed, Ian needed to destroy Sec/Spy to keep Micha Haaretz from rolling up Helen and taking Sec/Spy over. All GLCIS assets in the Zone would be at high risk without Helen in the driver’s seat at Sec/Spy, which was now no longer possible. Micha would be good enough as director of Sec/Spy, even with the sloppy tradecraft of her subordinates, to pick off the GLCIS agents in medium and light cover, one by one, since they were all non-citizens, GPS chipped, and all their movements could be traced retroactively. She also would be able to have them killed by Mossad whenever necessary; so, sooner or later, Lady Chief, Ian’s deep cover Sec/Spy interrogator and younger bed mate, would be discovered, too.

Ian could have extracted Helen as well as Lady Chief, but he had another, final, use for her, a bold ploy that would turn espionage disaster into triumph by completely eradicating Sec/Spy. After Micha then killed Henry Peterson, Ian ordered Helen to meet secretly with a representative of the World Negotiations Agency to tell them the whole story of Sec/Spy, it’s secret court, and it’s heinous Black Widow torturing. They met in the same GLCIS safehouse of the dream and where Helen was killed. Ian knew that since the information was coming straight from the Director of Sec/Spy herself, WNA would have no hesitation about acting on it. When they revealed it to the world and threatened to annul the Compact, there was no way the Matriarchs could deny any of it.

Everyone thought that Mossad was keeping Sec/Spy impoverished in tradecraft and full of marginal and dullard administration. We were wrong. It was Ian, through Helen, that had done so. The evidence staring us in the face should have told us that Mossad really needed a useful counterintelligence service for Micha to take over. They couldn’t have started from scratch with Israeli women as we thought they would. Micha was the only known Israeli in the whole country.

After she had killed Helen, the GLCIS agent and traitor, Micha thought that she would have enough cashet, with Mossad’s sponsorship to the Matriarchal Cabinet, that she would take over Sec/Spy. But Micha had to have something better to work with than Sec/Spy as it stood, so she would have to rebuild it into effectiveness by firing the dullards and cowards and replacing them with some more intelligent women citizens from the Zone. They were all she would have available to shape it up into a real agency, which Mossad both needed, and needed to control, for their planned infiltration of the Zone to begin.

When Sec/Spy disintegrated Micha knew that even this was now impossible and that Mossad’s time table to start infiltrating the Zone had been delayed by years. Her family ties in Israel had died long ago. That’s part of why she had emigrated to the Zone. That, and despondency over losing Henry, kept her there even though she knew GLCIS would kill her and that Helen would set her up for the killing while they waited, despondently, at the Sec/Spy safehouse mansion in Rutland. She simply no longer cared enough to even kill Helen.

It was Helen, at Ian’s direction, that had kept Sec/Spy spinning it’s wheels. All her immediate subordinates were terrified of her cane and kept the lowest, least risky, working profile possible. Mossad told Helen, through the Chief Matriarch, to promote Micha to Sec/Spy senior staff but Ian told Helen to do all she could to render Micha ineffective. We should have guessed this by the way Micha was treated. Helen assigned her to the worst possible place for an up and coming subordinate, but one where Helen could foment jealousy and hatred of Micha by the rest of her staff.

After Micha was made by Henry and he went on the run, she was going to round up both he and Helen together. She would then interrogate them both. When they both talked in interrogation, as GLICIS agents did, being watertight from one another, she would make the case for Helen to be tried by the secret court of Sec/Spy, almost certainly sending Helen to the Black Widow. From the pattern her subordinates in Sec/Spy had revealed, and Mossad had confirmed, there MUST be at least two GLCIS deep cover agents, both with access to the matriarchal cabinet. Only two people fitted the description, and, at Micha’s last meeting with Helen, suspicion became certainty.

After Micha was hit by the GLCIS Truth Team, Ian ordered Helen to go to ground in the red brick safehouse. Then Ian flew to Israel and met with the head of Mossad. The Israeli agency believed that Helen and the Chief Matriarch had betrayed Micha to the then unknown killers, possibly from Poison Julep, who routinely used Dixieland convicts as killers, but used them ineptly most of the time. If Poison Julep had planned and pulled off that hit, Mossad needed to know how they got so smart so suddenly. They also needed to teach the Matriarchal Cabinet the real lesson of a dead Chief Matriarch.

Ian revealed, in order, the following facts: Helen, as Micha believed, was a Zone traitor turned by GLCIS; Ian had been using her for years to thwart Mossad’s plan to develop an effective Zone counterintelligence agency for Micha to take over; after Henry Peterson’s death at Micha’s hands, Ian had Helen reveal to the World Negotiations Agency the Compact violations the Zone was blithely having Sec/Spy commit, so Sec/Spy would disintegrate under WNA pressure; it was GLCIS who had hit Micha, set up for them by Helen on her own, and not in collusion with the Chief Matriarch; and, finally, that Helen was currently at a GLCIS safehouse still in the Zone; and Mossad could have the location in exchange for not killing the Chief Matiarch.

Ian was a brave man and a smart one. He certainly knew that what he was doing in Israel was putting his own liberty and his own life at grave risk. We will never know if the Chief of Mossad asked him straight out why he thought he would leave the country any way but in a coffin. But we think Ian took what was a great, but very calculated risk because, if the Chief Matriarch was not responsible for the death of Micha Haaretz, it was now in Israel’s interest to preserve the status quo of great naivety within the Zone about Mossad and it’s intentions. That simply couldn’t be sustained if the Israeli agency killed the Zone’s head of state.

The possibility that Mossad’s hand in the matter could be kept hidden was virtually nil. Any assassin or team of assassins would have to submit to non-citizen retina photographing and GPS chipping. Fem/Dom contingency planning could stop all traffic across the Zone borders within minutes of the killing. After that, all they would need was a registered non-citizen name on transportation out to trace retroactively the movements of any assassin or assassins. And, as in the case of Henry Peterson, there would be no infrastructure of Israeli agents in place to manage extractions of assassins, or Mossad safehouses where an assassin trapped inside the Zone could hide. Once Mossad was clearly traced to the killing, all plans for any subversion of the Zone would be impossible to pursue.

It was also not in the interests of Mossad to start a clandestine war with GLCIS. Ian, of course, had left his travel destination at GLCIS along with the general description of what he was trying to accomplish, preserving the life of the Chief Matriarch. If Ian were killed or somehow vanished in transit, the life of no Israeli abroad in North America would be safe, including Israeli diplomats posted in any other country but GLC. And the revelation of any Mossad activity in the Zone or in GLC would have a spy’s dead body at the end of it. The very fact that the GLCIS Truth Team had carried off Micha Haaretz’s killing so smoothly and without a hitch was evidence of capacity in killing that only Mossad alone was supposed to have. They were quite aware of that fact.

Ian returned home and received a thank you note from the Head of Mossad a few month’s after Helen Thoroughgood’s death. GLICIS analysts had already concluded that Mossad was sending a message to GLCIS with so blatant a display of Helen’s killer’s handwriting. But the meaning of that message may not have been quite what the lower level intelligence analysts assumed it to be. And the house? It’s management could have been traced to a real estate company in GLC collecting rent from a long gone tenant for a corporate owner who had no other activity or specific location anywhere except for a long closed bank account. And the agency had sold it to a Zone purchaser within 3 months after Helen’s death, remitting the balance to the nebulous GLC company

The Tension Mounts

This dream of Lady Chief’s, her confession to us about her relations with Ian as Chief of GLICIS, and the overall tenor of the GLCIS attitude toward the three of us spurred us on to prepare the beginning of our “extended vacation” in Pacifica.

We started noticing the regular appearances of about three strange cars in our neighborhood, which alternated their presence with each day of the week, and noted as well the permanent parking of a closed electrovan about halfway between the safehouse and our Storage Facility and within sight of both locations. I had just finished making regular trips to the unit with Elizabeth, with Lady Chief, and by myself to put our long term storage in order. We were sure those trips were known.

When we replayed a week of CCTV from outside our house our suspicions increased. As the chief shopper, I started doing a little more random driving in between destinations and discovering that electro cars behind me had certain similar features whenever I did this. Most particularly, they always had two, and only two, usually male, occupants of the front seat. In one case one of these cars was stopped by a red light after mine had been the last car through the intersection.

I continued my on-a-whim choice of a scenic route and it never reappeared. When I reached the grocery store parking lot a little later, that car was parked on the edge of the parking lot, and not in any of the slots, but next to the curb and facing toward the parking lot entrance. Two men were seated in it.

It was GLCCA security surveillance, of course. Since we were all spys with time in the field, and in (at least subtly) hostile territory, we had paid enough routine attention to have made the operation less than a week after it started. With a coordinating electrovan plus multiple, rotating vehicles following actively, but not obtrusively, the watchers were serious about it. It was surveilance, not harassment, with enough interest to warrant a van keeping continuous watch on both the storage unit and the house.

Storage businesses are semi-secure sites which are perfect locations for difficult or dangerous arrests. The fences are too high to get over or through in a hurry, there are only two gates to seal as you close in on the target, and there is no cover anywhere for the target to hide behind.

Very likely, it was being done at the request of the new Chief of GLICIS, whose appointment (but not, of course, his name) had been announced in the upper house of the Legislature, the Parliament, by the Prime Minister the week before. That stellar event was the “other” of “in other news” before the cutaway to three commercials on the evening news screen.

Clearly the new Chief was feeling his oats at no longer being Interim and had decided it was time to do something about the three of us. But what? That was the conundrum. Storage units were also excellent, well hidden, places for a discreet daylight hit by a Truth Team.

One Monday a flat, soft package came in our mail. When Lady Chief opened it up it contained a single gaudy green rayon Hawaiian shirt covered with eight splashy white hibiscus blooms. She held it up to show it to us and a folded, four sided, business card fell out of it. As we handed it around, we found no printing on it, but only a brief handwritten note that included a small, sketchy ink drawing of a single four petaled purple flower. The note read, “You have four days.”

Of course it was our GLCCA friend Violet, putting her job, and maybe even her own life, at risk. The folks at GLCIS must have been very heavy handed with GLCCA, openly stating their real intention of killing us with a Truth Team with GLCCA being asked to uncover our local travel habits.

Since there were never more than two of us in my electrocar at a time, and that rarely, one or two of us were always ensconced in a highly secure and well alarmed safe house. So the most likely method would be a bomb attached under the electrocar, in it, or below it’s hood. The coming Thursday, four days after the arrival of the shirt and note in the package, was the day when I would usually do our weekly grocery shopping and was the optimum time to place the bomb.

The car bomb would be placed, probably magnetically, while I was in a store shopping. It would be detonated remotely while the car was emerging or entering our attached garage. That bomb would kill at least me, and cause enough commotion for the Truth Team to break the security seal of the house by force, allowing the killer and thugs to penetrate it in the confusion, and to kill however many of us were still alive inside.

If anybody in the upper levels of GLCIS had any tradecraft left, they would know that I had a registration and carry licence for two guns, one of which was a duplicate of the one they originally removed from the house, and it very likely stayed in the house when I ran errands. So, given our past history with GLICIS killers, the members of that Truth Team would probably be fitted with kevlar vests and prepared for a firefight.

One of the goodies that GLICIS had sold to Elizabeth along with the house was a mirror on a pole used to check for suspicious additions under cars. We took it to the garage and ran it exhaustively under my electrocar, as well as searching the passenger compartment thoroughly and checking carefully under the hood. All of it came out clean. We went back into the living room and sat looking at one another for a moment. “Tomorrow?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Elizabeth, then turning to Lady Chief, “Call the airline and find out the express flight time from Midway to Portland.” Lady Chief went into the kitchen with her recently purchased dictapad. The house dictapad, of course, was already tapped.

Lady Chief returned, “Tomorrow at 11:45.” I opened up my own dictapad seeking route and travel time from North Chicago to Midway. It would take 50 minutes. Longer because I’d have to do some of the scenic route and a couple of rounds of four left hand turns. So we needed to start by 9 am.

The following morning at 8:30 am I backed the electrocar out of the garage and opened the trunk. Each of us brought out several pieces of useless junk of the type that accumulates in any home over time, with the star items being framed posters that once were on the walls that a 2500 volume library now covered, a hula hoop from the fifth iteration of the fad in the 2060’s, and a creaky exercise bicycle. All three of us were clueless about where those last two items came from. We placed them in the trunk, which was otherwise and visibly empty for the watchers.

The night before we had packed those clothes and personal items which meant enough to each of us that they were worth taking along from a country that we were never going to see again. The vehicle was still in the garage and our minimal luggage fit quite tidily in the rear seat and seat well beside the Dutchess of Kumquat, who, in the morning, was looking as elegant as ever in a style of soft sweeping and swirling fabrics and a couple of simple pieces of jewelry that, if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford them.

This day it was 2 carat first water diamonds, one on a neck chain so delicate that it simply disappeared into Lady Chief’s rich, midnight blue satin blouse leaving the pendant looking like a blue giant star floating between her breasts, the second two 3/4 carat were set simply and plainly in platinum and brightening her earlobes.

Not that anyone these days sees many blue giant stars. There’s still too much methane in the atmosphere for anything like the amateur astronomy of the 20th Century. In clothes like these, growing older increases the majesty of them. Lady Chief, in her late 50’s, with artistically grey streaked hair, looked regal beyond conception or comparison.

As spys, all three of us were habitually pared down to minimal possessions, always ready to permanently get out of town “in our socks” as was the phrase in GLCIS. Two of us, as whores, were pared down to those things that would sustain us in the life when unexpectedly changing towns, even though neither of us needed to work in a house or on outcalls again. We are, after all, whores for the rest of our lives, even at Elizabeth’s 75 years, so we have no excuse for arousing contempt by looking either slaternly or dressed below our age.

Those in the life, or discerning Johns, know instantly that we still are the Highest Class of Tart. I am in my middle thirties, the true age to service a fully mature man of wealth, intelligence, and discerning taste in women beyond mere pullet chasing; and Elizabeth, in her seventies, was an age appropriate serving of rum soaked, almond flavored, cake, ready for his patrician father. And, just like the diamonds, if you have to ask the price for us first, you can’t afford it.

Elizabeth and I wore our well fitting, well tailored day clothes; myself in the first, Oxford gray, business ensemble that Zoltan the tailor had given me years ago; Elisabeth in another of his creations in desert tan, a color that now truly flattered her delicately semi-transparent, aged skin and stunning silver hair.

Beyond the smart and curve enhancing clothes, we also each brought the well-stocked toilet and make up kit that allowed us to look our best within minutes, no matter what the situation, far less make-up for Elizabeth with her silver hair, and for me a makeup palette congruent with my day clothes and with the short curled cap of Auburn hair with the well worked golden highlights of the GLC Premiere Cuts shop, a style that doesn’t hide it’s artifice, or try to pretend that I’m still 27, but is as decoratively elegant as any of our bespoke tailoring.

For all of us it was just our simple daywear (as in stylish Simple Little Black Dress daywear) and none of us were leaving with any fanfare or any regrets.

The Backup Plan

As we worked loading the trunk, none of us looked directly at the electrocar parked one block away with the two men in the front seat. By 9:00 am we had a full trunk and started on our way. The ruse was a simple one, with Elizabeth’s handwriting all over it, and based on the fixation of the watchers with our Storage Facility just blocks away.

As we passed the parked electrovan, the surveillance coordinator inside would have guessed we were going to work on filling our unit. He told the following car that, if we turned into the Storage Facility, to drive past the entrance, make a u-turn and park on the opposite side of the road, ready to pick us up if we were headed back to the safehouse.

The entrance on the other side of the yard opened onto a street with the only nearby traffic light across a main thoroughfare. If we drove away from the Storage Unit, after exiting the facility, we would have to turn and cross at that traffic light. So the coordinator called for a back up car at the other entrance of the Storage Facility pointing toward the traffic light to pick us up if we weren’t headed back. Both cars would then alternate the surveillance between them as long as we were still out and on the streets.

Since we would need to unlock our unit, raise the overhead door, place all the junk we brought into storage, spend some time fiddling it into where we wanted it, and then close and lock the door again, the coordinator told car number two not to speed to excess or break the law and keep a lowered profile from the North Chicago police. The second car could easily be in place well before we had finished.

But we didn’t do any of that. Inside the Storage Facility no one outside the fence had a direct line of sight to our Storage Unit’s door. So we simply drove in one entrance, past our unit, out the other, and turned left toward the traffic light, which obligingly turned green just before we got there. We turned left once again onto the main thoroughfare and were off to Midway airport, by way of a scenic detour through North Chicago’s Haversham park to make sure we weren’t followed. The second GLCCA car arrived at the Storage Facility just seconds after we went through the traffic light.

We heard the massive explosion as we were entering the park. And then the many sirens converging on it which followed.