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…..so 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.

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