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!