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!”

E-mail
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.”

OLYMPUS

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.”

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