Route 23A was once a well-traveled road, during the times when Potterberg was populated by people. Those hard working, under-appreciated souls had jobs at the mill, the mine, and the textile factory. Highlights of their day were the hearty breakfast before heading off for a work day, and a stiff drink afterwards so that they could make sense of what they did during the day, and who they slept with at night. But Potterberg, just like the other small Western Pennsylvania towns around it, was disappearing as fast as independent radio stations on the airways and laboring jobs where a man was paid for how hard he worked rather than how many bosses he was liked by. Though only 30 miles from Pittsburg, Potterberg may as well have been a billion miles from anywhere. The only remnants left of the once multi-generational community now were old shacks that used to be stores, and plots of scrub-grass that used to be ranches. The only witnesses to the greatness that might have been and the accomplishments which really had been were the trees, weeds and bushes that now grew wild over property so low in value and high in toxin during that no one wanted to buy it.
But there was one resource that Potterberg did provide—a hiding place within the belly of the beast that had become America. Such was the projection and hope of Leona Zimmerman as she drove back ‘home’ on Route 23A to the farm that, at least by appearances sake, was as broken down as the pothole infested ‘road’.
Her Black on Black sixty-nine rebuilt GTO motored down the dark, unlit ‘hyway’ as heartily as ever. It had been reconditioned for adversity, speed and stealth by Carlos, self-taught and university-trained Mexican engineer and officially-paid janitor. He had worked with Leona at Massachusetts University till she quit her job as a faculty member there as a biomedical researcher and professor. Her main reason for quitting was so she could do some real work and educating in the service of America, and maybe the world. One of the recipients of that education was in the seat behind her.
‘Electra’ was her name, according to the label on the electric dog collar strapped onto her neck by her previous slave master and the conditioned brain between her ears. But before she had become an obedient bitch, willing to bark, crawl or roll over and spread her legs for ‘Master Hermann’, Electra had been a 17 year old, blonde, blue-eyed Amish girl named Mirium. Miruium had dreams of marrying a dashing rancher from Montana. She had some solid prospects of getting hitched to the eldest son of one the most prosperous farmers in her Menninnite community rural Pennsylvania. Neither of those aspirations materialized.
It was no easy task, finding Mirium after she disappeared following a visit to the Plantarium in Philadephia. It was and an even harder one to get her out of Master Hermann’s ‘kennel’. Herr Hermann broke her down within a week after her abduction, then turning into Electra, his most lucrative whore. She also became his and most favorite punching bag when he was frustrated about anything.
It would be daylight before Herr Hermann and his band of neo-Nazi ex-Jews would notice that Electra was missing. Leona drew a long drag on her 17th cigarette in the attempt to stay awake and focused. She hoped that somewhere in Electra’s drug- infested brain and brainwashed slave mind, Mirium was still around and ressurectable.
But for the moment, Mirium and Electra were sleeping within the body of an emaciated 23 year old girl whose teats were enlarged by implants and hormones. Her multicolored hair reeked of Hermann’s urine and his buddy’s love juices. Her whose were covered by electrocution burns. Her mouth had been pierced by fishhooks in so many places that all she could say was a muffled ‘yes, master’ after of course being spoken to.
“I got the best surgeons on both sides of the Yellow Brick Road,” Leona whispered to her slumbering passenger softly, as it was time for Mirium to awaken from the drugs Leona had used to sedate her so that she would not scream out for Hermann to chain her back into her kennel during her extraction. “Me, my graduate student Rachel, and some associates I still am in contact with from the VA can put together anything that metal, microbes or manufactured chemicals tears apart,” Leona pledged. “And as for Master Hermann, I’ll take care of him as soon as I take care of those wounds he inflicted on you. Put him in a kennel from which there is NO escape. My word on it, Mirium.”
Mirium didn’t answer. She stared into space even though she was now awake, below the neck anyway.
“I promise, everything’s gonna be okay from now on,” Leona continued. “What do you say to that Mirium?’”
This time Leona got a respond from Mirium. She recognised her pre-slave name, for the first time since her extraction. Her face broke into a sad, mournful smile of longing, and mental anguish. Such was the first step for bringing girls rescued from sex slavery back into the land of the living. Given the progress Leona had made making with the other girls she had rehabilitated at her farm buried within the woods, Mirium was on her way to having her soul liberated. “After we’re through here, there’s a place out West I know,” Leona continued, intentionally avoiding referring to this most recent rescuee by her real or slave name. “A Reservation that no White fuck is allowed to walk on. Where any Injun assholes who try to do anything dishonorable, or unkind, get scalped, filleted and burnt at the stake. You can count on Sheriff Bill Stevenson to see to that. While he lets his official bosses think he’s keeping a lid on two bit crimes, he’s going after real criminals. Like your Master and the fucks who pay him for doing all those horrible things to you.” she continued. “As sure as the day follows night, and a six pack of beer at a good old boy Texas Superbowl party is gone faster than you can say ‘first and ten’, ‘Master Paul’ is going to get what’s coming to him, and more. Faster than you can say…”
Leona gave up trying to be witty. Her mind was too weary and her body too hurting from the rescue that involved sneaking into the dog cage cage which had been Mirium’s room. Just hours before, she had clandestinely used the best of Carlos’ electrical equipment to get the shock collar off Mirium’s neck before it zapped her with an electric jolt strong enough to fry an elephant. On the way out the slave barracks, Leona utilized her knowledge of neurobiology to give Mirium a tranquilizer that would keep her heroin-addicted body quiet but not silenced so she could make a quick getaway.
That rescue had been done without Stevenson’s help, as he was still working on getting other girls out of bondage in other places unknown of course to his official employers in the Montana State Police Department.
Leona allowed herself to ponder the special relationship she had with Stevenson, and the special history they shared. Both had undergone transitions of the boldest kind. Bill Stevenson had been Bobbie Stevens, a male spirit born into a female body. He now had body that was now in keeping with his real Spiritual gender, and a handsome lump of verile flesh at that. He was a catch for any women. But he chose a special woman, Leona, who had been Leon, a male Dark Ops soldier who sometimes worked for the good guys, and on occasion was tricked into working for bad guys. One of those bad guys was Boris Petrovitch, a Russian KBG Colonel who had been Leon’s best friend and mentor.
Leona’s skill as a biological researcher, doctor and healer of the spirit came after she decided to say goodbye to Leon and embrace the woman she had always been. The murder of her brother back on the Rez at the hands of Boris brought her back into being ‘a necessary evil’. Leona teamed up with Bill Stevenson, then a lowly Tribal Deputy, to bust up a sex-slave/human traffiking and arms distribution operation ‘Chief Boris’ had established from the Casino he took over.
Leon’s transformation to Leona was now complete, biologically as well as mentally, courtesy of Leona’s once-homophobic White mother, Emma, who had disowned Leon after he made the commitment to become Leona. Leona promised to pay Emma back every penny of the $20,000 surgical bill, but both Emma insisted that she ‘pay it forward’ by saving as many girls from the horrors of the sex slave trade as possible. And to see that Leona, her re-found daughter, didn’t screw anything up, Emma insisted on being part of Leona’s rescue and rehabilitation operation which the well-meaning governments could not legally sanction, nor officially fund.
“You’ll like my Mom,” Leona assured Mirium. “She’s still head heavy with the White Christian theology that she grew up with before she became a hippie earth mama, but my Red Power Dad infused enough seeds of Injun Spirituality into her which sprouted into an open heart. One that got a taste of sex slavery when she was kidnapped at the Rez to please older clients who wanted ‘more seasoned meat’. She still cooks with too much bland and not enough spice, and still thinks that brown rice is the perfect food for anybody and any condition, but she’s a good scout.”
Electra’s torn and scarred lips turned up at the edges. Leona allowed herself to think that it was because she was reaching Mirium inside. Leona also allowed herself to think that Rachel, who had been her most beloved and prized graduate student when she was a Professor, would come up with the right molecular miracle cure that would work for Mirium. Perhaps Rachel would come one case closer to writing her thesis, entitled “New cures for learned helplessness.” It was an ambitious title, and the contents of the work would be too revolutionary for most Departmental Review boards back at Massachusetts University. But with Leona’s experience and Rachel’s enthusiasm, perhaps they could both come up with and distribute the cure for being conditioned into being a sex slave.
At stake were at least 30 million captive souls who were still in ‘the trade’, along with a smaller number who had been liberated, in body anyway, from that most black, tortured and bleak of existences. That tortured existence did not stop being painful beyond measure when their Masters were arrested, or when the mechanical leashes they put on their bitches were broken. But, “one well-intentioned stumble forward at a time, Mirium, Electra or whoever you are, or WANT to be,” Leona said to her most rescued ‘cargo’ in the back seat.
As the sky became darker and the road less defined, Leona focused her attention on the road ahead after passing the bee-bee pellet ridden sign saying ‘Welcome to Potterberg’. The twisted turn off that had no markers on it. It was lined with camoflouged spikes that would tear apart the tires of any vehicle driven by any driver who was not given specific permission to enter Leona’s newest sanctuary, laboratory and home. It was a crude security system but one that worked in the event that the high-tech camera servailence system that the Carlos had rigged up for her didn’t.
The rising sun was attempted to bring some light what seemed to be an even more dark sky. Leona drove her rebuilt beater into the abandoned farm she bought for a song at the repo auction. Naturally-occurring and transplanted trees covering anything that could be seen of it from the air, or those satellites that even the most amateur sleuth could now access via Google Earth.
“We got another one,” Leona yelled out as she pulled up to the main building. On the outside, it was a large, broken down dairy barn with rotten and bent boards ready to be blown into rubble. On the inside, it was a far more sturdy structure.
Emma emerged from the solid, radar-proofed building within the building, dragging her tired feet with her. She threw a coat on top of an over-sized surgical smock, She ran her sweat-soaked and blood-stained fingers through her auburn hair. It had now regrown down over her shoulders, for the first time in 20 years. “You’re late, Leona,” she said with an admonishing tone. Such was her manner of dealing with overdue arrivals back home when Leona she was Leon, her favorite and most protected son back at the Rez.
“This one was a bit more complicated than I thought it would be,” Leona said as she carried a semi-conscious, emaciated Mirium’s out of the car.
“This one looks more emaciated than the others,” Emma noted, gazing with unbridled compassion into her eyes. “I suppose such comes with forced starvation.”
“Or her not thinking she is worthy of eating,” Leona replied. “If I can get her to eat, and tell me what her favorite foods used to be, think you can whip them up, Mom? Just give me a shopping list, and I’ll—”
“—Is that blood I see?” Emma interjected, with an even more emotionally-charged tone.
Leona looked around her and indeed saw fresh blood oozing from under Mirium’s arm. She panicked, thinking that she didn’t do a thorough enough exam of her still-out-of-it patient as she whisked her away from her ‘owners. Such was an unavoidable mistake she had made before. But this time, the blood was coming from Leona’s own arm, and leg. She looked at the blood-soaked rips and holes in the black S and M leggings and jacket she had worn into the ‘Pleasure Dungeon’. Such was the required uniform of the day so that she could pass as one of the clients who would get blissful rushes of pleasure by putting Mirium even into deeper hellish states of pain. Leona recalled how much she paid for the required designer leather outfit, against Emma’s recommendations. “I know, Mom. Clothing is valuable,” Leona said, anticipating the brow beating to come.
“As is the person who is wearing it,” Emma said. She put a torniquet above both wounds, noting yet again her ex-son-now-daughter’s eager willingness to court death. “You are very valuable, Leona,” she asserted.
“But right now, Mirium here is more valuable than any of us. Even though she thinks she’s not valuable at all,” Leona countered as she carried her into the room that Emma had prepared for her. There was good reason for it, which Leona related to Emma, so that her therapy could be adjusted, and of course so that Leona could vent herself as part of her own therapy as an overworked, exhausted rescuer.. “This Amish girl from Allentown was turned into a self-tortured plaything for three Arab diplomates and thirty-one Asian businessmen in DC who liked ‘white meat’ as a desert. To break her will, Mirium’s education was tailor made. She considered homosexuality a sin against God and man, so she was forced to have hot and heavy sex with three dykes, as many times a night. Then she was forced to make her snatch, as they made her call it, bigger that it was with a vibrating prod larger than any phalnynx owned by the biggest dick in Washington. Mirium, as Electra of course, went from a size 8 to size 4 leather cocktail dress courtesy of Master Paul’s dieting, drug and nutrition program. She dropped to a size two when she stopped eating on her own and had to be force fed so she would still be marketable.”
“And you know this from…” Emma inquired. She opened the door to the first room with clean sheets, clean water and food not containing addictive dope that Mirium had been in since had experienced since she became ‘Electra’.
“Some Intel I gathered,” Leona said, turning her head away from Emma’s penetrating stare. She then proceded to do a thorough medical exam of her newest patient. “Yeah, Intel I gathered from—“
“—The mouths of whoever gave you those wounds on your already over-scarred, injured and hurting body. After you captured them and ‘persuaded’ them to talk!”
Leona remained silent, continuing to do the medical exam until she felt it required to give Emma an answer. She decided on a real one this time. “I gave them medications to made them talk, this time anyway. I slipped the latest in tongue-loosening happy-pills into their drinks when we were on a ‘date’ discussing terms for renting out slaves, or becoming one, for the right price.”
“If you say so,” Emma replied. “But how did you dispose of the people you questioned after you loosened their tongues? I know you are in the habit of selling them to other Masters, as slaves, to teach them a lesson.”
“It’s a whole lot more effective than letting the legal system teach them the difference between right and wrong, despite what still-Sheriff Bill Stevenson says,” Leona countered.
“And your friend Bill’s opinion about how you get intel from bad guys when the medication to happily loosen their tongues doesn’t work?” Emma asked, demanding an answer this time.
“Like I said, so many times, sometimes one has to be a necessary evil,” Leona replied.
“Or sometimes one is just ‘evil’,” spat back into her daughter’s face.
The remark his Leona straight between the eyes as she knew that she was capable of being evil as much as she was capable of stopping it. Truth be told, in the heat of combat or when forceful means had to be exerted to extract info from captured bad guys, Leona was fulfilled by her job. She enjoyed it, actually. Yet she knew somehow how to stay on the sane and functionally moral side of the line.
It was that line which we all can cross on our own or be pushed to by pushy people or circumstance. It was that line between earth and hell. That line, once crossed, could turn anyone into a slaves who is overtaken by learned helplessness, or into masters who are addicted to exerting cruelty.
It was something that everyone, even those who had not even heard of the S and M world, would encounter in their lives at one time of another. One example of it were mild mannered souls who were conscripted into the Army and go through Boot Camp. By time-tested design, raw civilian recruits were broken down then built up again into soldiers who seek to follow orders, or get addicted to giving them, if promoted to such positions. Teenagers spared the ordeal of military service, or for that matter, any service at all, find out very quickly that it’s cool to be cruel in social situations, or ‘interesting’ to be dominated. Every scene in comedy or drama with involved shifts of power from time to time to make it interesting or relatable. No one, even born-again-Hippie-pacifist Emma, was immune from the relief of being dominated or the thrill of dominating others. As an accomplished research neuroscientist, Leona dedicated herself now to determining what chemical in the brain turned some people into slaves and others into masters. Maybe, if Mama Nature would let her, she and her prize off-grid grad student Rachel could come up with a biological cure for both. It was one of those wishes that you asked Santa for every Christmas, and demanded of the creator every other day of the year.
“So, what do we have?” another voice rang out, this one more optimistic, and young. As if on cue, Rachel walked into the room, first noting the bruises around Mirium’s neck. “Electric shock collar. Like the one that was put on me when I was taken.” Rachel once again recalled the time she tried to help Leona free an entire compound of sex-slaves at the Rez, then wound up becoming one herself for a brief time before Leona and Stevenson liberated everyone from that fate, including Emma. But it was a long enough time of enslavement for Rachel to feel what it was like to be made to feel like less than nothing.
“I remember those dog collars too,” Emma said, recalling her own experiences as an ‘older specimen’ to be marketed to special clients specially chosen by Master Boris. “When I got home, after thanking God and Leona, and you, Rachel, for my rescue, I threw away every necklass in my drawer. Including the ones that had crucifixes on them. But in the meantime, let me know what kind of food Mirium likes, or hates. As we know, and you scientists have proven, smell and taste can bring back good memories and bad ones,” With that, Emma left the room, to do what she could do something about.
Leona stared into Rachel’s eyes to see how the young scientist in advanced training was reliving her brief time as a captive of Chief Boris at the Rez. Somehow Rachel was able to detach herself emotionally from that brief visit to hell on earth. Maybe it was because the twenty-two year old rebel was at her core, above all a scientist. Such enabled one to use mind to nullify pain in oneself and others, but also could so easily deprive you of connecting you from experiencing the passions of the human heart.
“This one isn’t just another rat like you have in your lab,” Professor Leona reminded Rachel, seeing more analysis going on her student than empathy. “The girls are more than two legged versions of those rodent models of learned helplessness you have in our lab,” Leona continued regarding the rodents who were trained by zaps in an electrical maze to be so depressed that their basic instinct for survival was extinguished. “There’s a quality of soul that has to be considered here. Even with the rats.”
“I know,” the too-brilliant-for-anyone’s good young neuroscientist conceded. “But. as you told us when you were a paid lecturer back at Massachusetts U, ‘what humanity fucked up, humanistic and passionate scientists can cure’,” Rachel continued. “Or at least figure out. Using a modified design of Seligman and Maier, who showed that in dogs, like rodents, if any attempt to escape uncomfortable electric shocks is met a really painful shock afterwards, stop trying to escape uncomfortable, stop eating and—”
“—become her!” Leona interjected, referring to Mirium, still lost in a world of pain behind her despondent eyes.
“Who I think is treatable,” Rachel replied as an effective clinician. Rachel then rambled on about new drugs, neurotransmitter receptors and neurophysiological modulators which would impress the hell out of any thesis committee in North America, or even Europe. Leona felt like telling the prize grad student who left mainstream academia to be an underground scientist with her that science is an effective tool to cure the world, but that it was not the only tool. But, Rachel was at the stage in her development where one is supposed to be passionate about science above all else. Just as long as Rachel’s love of science doesn’t overshadow her love for humanity, Leona thought to herself while listening to Rachel’s most recent neurochemical theories for the causes of cruelty and learned helplessness, and the cures she wanted to try out for such. As for the particulars of such, they were worth listening to, and noting.
“—Reverse it all?” Leona interjected. “We can turn a slave back into a confident person who takes care of themselves and others? Or a sadistic fuck into a servant of humanity rather than vermin that has to be exterminated?”
“Yeah, WE,” Rachel insisted.
“In a lab that’s funded illegally, in this ‘university’ where you won’t get a doctorate that you can use on any resume?” Leona put forth to Rachel.
“WE can fix that too!” Rachel asserted. “Get the data, publish it somewhere, or everywhere and be sure the whole world reads it. We can completely revolutionize the world inside the ivy towers that grows mold inside people’s heads, and the world of the streets below where all of the shit happens.”
Leona smiled warmly and with renewed optimism. Not too many years ago, before her brother Paul’s death, and the slave ring at the Rez she had to clean up in his wake, Leona was as idealistic as Rachel. “Intelligence plus Passionate Fire always yields Earth Shattering Results”, Leona had written on the blackboard in the University in which she was hired as fledgling scientist who had pushed her way through a Ph.D. Program. With the help of Lady Luck and Papa Persistence, such led to a research grant to investigate how one can repair nervous systems that had been schmucked to pieces by disease, trauma or chemicals. There were so many biological agents of harm (or officially, ‘neutralization’) which Leona, as Leon, had inflicted as Leon on people when she was a soldier fighting bad guys, inflicting way too much collateral damage on good folks as well without her realizing it. Fighting naturally-occuring and toxin-induced neurological diseases soon became as futile and complicated as neutralizing toxic people. Persistence, as well as faith in an always beyond definable Spirit, big S, brought brought needed medicine to Leona’s burnt out and soon to be defeated soul—-naive, firebreathing optimism. The carrier of such, still speaking like a textbook, finally ended her passion-infused discourse.
“So, in conclusion, I have a new approach, a new idea that the rats gave me,” Rachel said, handing over to Leona the reams of raw data she had obtained working around the clock for three days. “Brain scans, CSF fluids, and receptor binding ratios. The statistics are solid, given the number of n values I was able to get from the rats I was able to breed. And I think it shows that—“
“—Some very promising prospects,” Leona interjected.
Rachel’s face glowed with pride, or perhaps hard-earned arrogance.
“But in the meantime, work on this ‘n’ value requires a multidisciplinary approach,” Leona said regarding Mirium, who maybe heard what was being said about her, or maybe didn’t.
“Creative behavioral modification,” Emma interjected as she re-entered the room carrying a tray of mini snacks. She had taken off her green pants and blue surgical garb in which she greeted . She was now clad in a soft-brown sweater and pale grey jeans that lacked the harshness of lines on the medical clothing which apparently had made Miruim associate her with and the the cops and soldiers she had serviced. “One to one therapy, designed one to one, and done one to one, is what Mirium needs,” the life-experienced 60 something Emma related to Rachel. “With a little culinary diagnostic help,” she continued, putting each of the snacks in front of Mirium’s nose to see if any of them would evoke a response. “One to one, with a little loving from the oven, with something everybody likes, so far anyway, thank God,” Emma said as the oatmeal raison cookie caused the edges of Mirium’s expressionless lips to flinch upward for breif but meaningful second. “Yes, one on one, is how we cure the world, Rach.”
“One-on-one that we can learn about populations from!” Rachel blasted Emma’s way through a hushed voice loud enough for Leona to hear, but not loud enough for the ‘n’ value called ‘Mirium’ to hear, so Leona hoped anyway.
Mirium woke up. Out of her parched mouth came voice that sounded possessed. “What the fuck is…Where the fucking hell am I? And that the fuck is…this?” She violently snatched the oatmeal raison cookies out of Emma’s hand, nearly breaking the old woman’s fingers. She smelled it, then took a small bite from its edge. “This tastes…good,” she said, afterwhich she spit it out.
“It’s food,” Leona offered said, on bended knee. “Oatmeal raison that has nothing in it that can hurt you. No toxin to make you sick to your stomach. No dope to get you hooked. It’s food. Safe, enjoyable food.” Leona broke off portion of the cookie and put it into her mouth, pretending as best as she could that oatmeal raison, the flavor she hated most, was her favorite. “Food that you can eat anytime you want,” Leona said, offering the cookie then the whole tray to her.
Mirium smelled the culinary treats. Some she found pleasing, others repugnant. Leona tossed aside the undesired items and offered them to her again The smell and taste of the items on the modified tray seemed to bring her back to a happy place. “I’m not going to force you to eat, but I’m asking you to eat.” Finally, she took two of the snacks into her mouth, a marchmellow chocolate swirl and a low-fat piece of sausage.
“Yes, we’re not going to make you do anything here, Mirium,” Rachel said, gently pushing over Leona to demonstrate her own technique as a therapist. “Right, Mirium?”
Sometimes the student doesn;t know better than the teacher, Leona thought to herself in the brief moment before she knew the storm would emerge again.
“My name is Electra!” Mirium spat into Rachel’s face. Then she threw the tray against the wall and spit out whatever was in her mouth. “This finger fed me, so it has to go, and go now” the n value screamed. She pulled as hard as she could to rip off her on the food covered fingers with her non-eating hand, succeeding very well in using her fingernails as amputation knives. . Rachel was confused, then baffled. Feeling the need of the moment, she rushed over to Mirium and tried to restrain her. Leona watched from a distance, then spoke with a voice from a distant time on the Rez that had to be used during times of such necessity for others.
“Electra,” Leona said with compassionate affirmation. Her tone was what one would use to to a hard-broke horse about to kick you in the groin after you got it home from the auction. Or what one would say to a dog who was afraid that the hand offering it medication was not the paw of yet another master who was trying to beat it. “Stop trying to tear off your fingers. Take a few licks of this jam sandwich. Then take small bite and swallow them. It’s good for you. And you must eat or you will die. You are not allowed to die. Do you understand?” she commanded.
“Yes, Mastress,” Electra said with down-turned eyes and a bowed head. She which she took two nibbles of the sugar-infused bread that would begin to restore her blood glucose and start the process of building up proteins. Electra smiled, or perhaps it was Mirium who was doing the smiling, having remembered who she was from the times before her abduction back in Lancaster when jam sandwiches were her favorite desert, main course and appetizer.
“Now, take bigger bites,” Leona continued, still more firm than passive. “Please,” she continued.
Something in Electra complied with the request from ‘Mastress’. She extended her teeth into the sandwich, swallowed the contents, and found it pleasing.
“May I continue, Mastress?” she asked Leona.
“Yes, thank you,” Leona continued. “But slowly.” .
“I noticed that you introduced ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and stopped addressing her by her slave name,” Rachel whispered to Leona as Mirium and/or Electra ingested her first real meal in weeks slowly, so as to not drive her into fatal pancreatitis. “And you held off off addressing her by her real name before she became a slave.”
“If you try to move more than one stride forward too fast, you slip two steps backwards,” Leona said. “As it is in science also. Despite what I used to think, and you’re doomed to know, soon enough.”
“And if you fly three steps forward with these patients?” Rachel offered. “Or try to make them move forward to what they could be rather than back to who they used to be before they became slaves?” she continued, flashing onto a new discovery, yet again.
Leona smiles with pride. Rachel was as Teslian as you could get in a young researcher. Indeed, she found out that the joy of discovery is addictive. Maybe one day Rachel, working with or perhaps even over Leona, would discover what the opiod behind that addiction to discovery is. Maybe she would use it to make kids seek the rush of innovation rather than the ‘buzz’ of being stoned on dope, or the rush of being a vicious, sadistic drug dealer.
But in the meantime, there were other n values in Leona’s charge who were in need of treatment, or at least remedies. They didn’t know who they were yet. Leona looked at progress reports for each of them that Emma handed to her on her way to the other rooms in the converted ‘barn’. She knew that it would still be a long road from liberation of their bodies to resurrection of their souls. Failure to bring them back to who they used to be, or show them to way to who they really wanted to be, would cost not only the lives of those ‘n’ values. It would result in their Masters, or friends of those Masters, finding Leona, Emma and Rachel. The fate of the trio of crusaders would be far worse things than what happened to the any slave owned by any Master Leona knew about. As for those Leona could save now, and was saving, she reviewed the daily reports of their progress at the clandestine rehab compound as noted by Emma and Rachel, contrasting such to where they had come from.
There was Victoria, a southern belle with skin as white as snow and jet black hair. She was from an upper-class Republican political family in Atlanta, Georgia whose business investments depended on good relations with the Baptist Church and the Atlanta Falcon organization. As a teen in High School, the five foot four tall fireball got her buzzes by flirting with College guys and NFL player by day, drinking them under the table at night. At one of those parties, she had met Diego Fuentes, from the new ‘Latino league’ who took a liking to her. They had shared some of his special tequilla at a local bar which was far more colorful than the frathouse. By the time she reached the worm at the bottom of the bottle, Vicci found herself escorted out of the bar, into a car, then brought to another party where she was gang-raped and violently beaten by Diego’s ‘teammates’. They drafted her into the minor leagues of the slave trade in Loredo, Texas, then Juarez, Mexico. To keep her stomach filled, she was fed a daily ration of tacos and rice in her cage. It was laced with ‘Mexican black tar’ gravy, the latter injected into her veins if she refused to eat. And just in case she tried to make a run for the border, or anywhere else, she would get a shock delivered to the collar fused around her neck. But, to be fair, or rather accurate, it was an attractive looking piece of jewelry, the purpose of which was only known to the Diego, and of course, Victoria herself.
Victoria’s forward progress at the Leona’s rehab center was put ten steps backwards one day when Emma had mistakenly served Mexican food for lunch. The taste and smell of such put her into a full blown epileptic seizure. The location in the brain where that seizure originated from could not be identified, but, it was controllable by small doses of phenobarb, supplemented by healthy quantities of taurine. Acupuncture had to be carefully done with small needles when she was sleeping, as Vicyoria still could not handle being touched, particularly with hands that were bearing anything that looked like a needle.
Lakesha was born into a black-skin family in a mostly-white rural Nebraska town. Though most female African Americans worked plain Jane jobs in their own portion of town, Lakesha aspired to something bigger than that. By the time she was 21, she was the most valued and respected nurse in the local hospital. It was a job that gave her much satisfaction inside. But more importantly, she got a paycheck that she could use to keep her three children clothed and fed. Each had growing college funds so that they could be doctors rather than just orderlies, bedpan cleaners or nurses when they grew up. They were named Andre, Adrianna and Adam, as their father, Abram, was obsessed with the latter ‘A’.
Abram was also obsessed with having his own mistress on the side. He wacked around Lakesha when she respectfully asked where he was all night and why he was giving none of his drug-dealing money to her, or his kids. In the divorce settlement, Lakesha got no real money but she left with her kids, her dignity and her freedom. Such didn’t sit well with Abram. As soon as he could, he called in a favor to one of his buds. Lakesha was snatched away after working an 18 hour shift on the way to her car in a dark parking lot. Lakesha’s new Master was from the old neighborhood who had chosen to acquire every abusive habit that respectable ‘White Americans’ linked to ‘Darkies’ in the hood. If Lakesha refused to service one of Master’s buds in his new Chicago stable, or service him, she got the whip, knife or a cigarette burn on parts of the body which were never seen by other clients, but hurt all night long afterwards in private. And when that didn’t work, pictures were put in front of her. The recently-taken photos of Andre, Adrianna, or Adam had a red ‘X’ over their eyes or forehead.
Leona’s extraction of Lateshasa was risky, requiring rescue of her children as well. So far, the kids were alright, in the most deserted counties of Oklahoma. Such would be the case as long as they stayed away from shady people on the streets, or didn’t reveal their real identity to a Cop who could be moonlighting, or recruiting, for a Masters on the side.
Yung was a Korean-American born to a U of C Berkeley classical literature professor. Like every other Asian girl not inclined to math or science, she became a classically trained violinist. Though born female, she considered herself male as well, expressing such an androginous Ka, and a closet lesbian. Her musical explorations into fusion heavy metal were not discouraged by her parents, but not a source of pride either.
Underneath her need to upstage anyone else on the musical or any other social stage, Yung was a giver rather than a taker. Her music showed it. A gig played with the wrong band, at the wrong rave, to the wrong audience member, got the altruistically independent Yung a job working for a Master who used an intricate recipe to break her. Such included forced heterosexuality, Japanese rope bondage, being a subservient maid to Master in all ways imaginable, puppy training so she considered herself a dog, conditioning aimed at making her refrain from eye contact with anyone, then…a most interesting game once she was effectively house broken.
Yung would be set out into the world, without a shock collar, charged with the task of luring new slaves for the stable, using her music and charms. Once the ‘prospects’ were sufficiently confined and contained, it was Yung who was ordered to be merciless to them while Master watched. One day after seeing the lost eyes and battered flesh she had inflicted onto the twentieth recruit assigned to her, she saw what she was doing and had done. She beat herself up with a spiked billiclub and other impliments of self-destruction. Yung was stopped just shy of self-inflicting a fatal blow by her Master, given a fatherly hug she believed was real, then was assigned another recruit to torture.
Posing as a slave buyer with Yung’s parents’ money, Leona purchased Yung’s freedom, then safe return back home. Within two days, Yung was a clear danger to herself and others, and didn’t even recognize her ‘parental units’. Repeatedly she texted her Master at the dungeon to ask if she could come back to him. Fortunately, the texts were intercepted by Rachel’s ‘special outpatient’ system before they went out. Leona took Yung into her Rehab center as a special patient, and case. As Rachel put it, Yung was ‘bipolar over the line’, possessed by both learned helplessness AND the thrill of being cruel, according to a biorythmn that no shrink could determine. And none of Rachel’s neurophysiological recording devises and blood tests could determine which side of cruelty line Yung was on at any time. However, Rachel was getting close to understanding what made Yung tick, as well as finding out how to fix the broken clock. Such is what Rachel kept saying to Leona anyway.
Tatiana was born to dirt poor parents in Moldevia. Her village was plagued by every curse imaginable by Anton Chekov and every economic disaster possible in the self-cursed Socialist experiment which had once been the USSR. Her life, family and social conditions were ugly. But her face was beautiful, accentuated by bright green eyes and long, thick brown hair that flowed down a torso that was the envy of any Pagan goddess.
When accessing the internet at the village library at the one terminal that was working, Tatianna connected to Sal. Sal was a lonely Long Island stock broker with kind brown eyes and a comb-over looking to share his bed, money and life with someone ‘kind and gentle, on the inside and outside’ after a bitter divorce. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, which even the Preist said Tatianna had to take to avoid becoming as embittered, and hated, as her mother, who wouldn’t then couldn’t leave her hated home country. The first dinner she had with Sal in America was the best meal she had in her life, both with regard to the cuisine and the company. But two dinners later, Sal’s estranged-wife came back from Barbados with a peace offering that he couldn’t refuse. Sal took back his proposal of marriage, leaving Tatianna stranded. Needing a job to stay in the country so she would not be deported, Tatiana accepted a job as a phone sex operator. She was assured that all was okay with it by another Priest, and a paycheck that she could send back to her mother to enable her to leave her father, One of the clients offered Tatianna a bonus if she met him after his shift was over. As America was the land of opportunity, it would be un-American of Tatianna to not accept said offer.
One opportunity led to another opportunity. Tatianna soon found herself employed by ‘Olympus International’, a catering company fronted by a Greek Restauranteur and his very blonde wife specializing in corporate functions where the clients could do whatever they wanted with the food, dishes and waitresses. “The American Way, I suppose,” Tatianna explained as the ‘why’ of it all each time Lorena, Rachel or Emma would try to get more information about her captivity so they could help her, and liberate the other ‘waitresses’ in the restaurant chain, most of whom were Albanian girls barely old enough to sprout breasts.
Mara came from Saudi Arabia, the third daughter to her father Omar’s fourth wife. It was a textbook case that lost all uniqueness with regard to its personal aspects, and acquired new dimensions of agony with regard to its ever-increasing frequency. Mara’s father had five wives but pleasured himself with six women, one of them being Mara. “It is natural, and an expression of my love for you,” Omar would smile into his daughter’s confused or frightened face when he lifted up her veil and took down his pants. After the first twenty times, she believed him, lifting the veil up and taking down his pants herself. Despite the anti-fertility drugs Mara was given, she got pregnant. It was a family disgrace that made maintaining family honor and the family fortune un-doable. With the willingness of her subservient mother, Mara was given away by the family who she loved, and thought loved her back. But her family was merciful. No death by burning or execution by hanging was mandated. Still, Mara had to be dealt with.
Through Jackson Smith, a friend of Leona’s who was still in the Military for the RIGHT reasons, Mara was found in a deserted brothel that fell into ‘neutral’ ground which was about to be turned into a battleground. Mara was alone, despondent, and as dead behind the eyes as anyone could be. She was scarred by cigarette burns and caustic fluids between her legs. Her vulva was bruised, dialated and reeked of semen, as did her mouth. “I can save her body, but you can save her soul. And maybe see that Prince Omar gets what’s coming to him,” Jackson wrote on the note he put on the body which he snuck into the cargo plane that landed at the Rez with as much explanation as he could surmise about her.
The plane landed without incident, greeted by Stevenson. He escorted a very sedated Mara into his car. Just as he dropped her off to another plane that took her to Leona’s Pennsylvania rehab farm, he got a call on his cell from Jackson. “Save the girl, then get the fucker. All of the fuckers,” Jackson demanded with a death rattle in his voice at the other end of the phone. A gunshot ended the call, and any hope of getting more intel about Omar or the ‘nunnery’ to which he had sent his daughter.
“So, we’ve got our paws full today, again,” Rachel said to Leona as she looked over her mentor’s shaking shoulders. “What do we do first? Progress on this group has been slow, and frustrating.”
“We start…hmmm…wherever we’re at, then we keep going,” Leona replied, after absorbing the last notes Rach and Emma had made on the six current patients in the off grid, and probably illegal, rehab facility. It was the only answer she could reliably provide, even though Rachel and the girls deserved a more definitive plan.
Back in her youth in the thick forests of Western Colorado, Billie Stevenson could smell the way to semi-legal game, smokeable locoweed and moonshine whiskey better than any of her brothers. One reason for such was that she had a female nose, and head, and face, and body, along with woman’s intuition to compliment such. After Stevenson’s transformation on the outside into the man she was always on the inside, he still kept some of his female parts. Such which included a keen sense of smell. It was put to the test when Bill Stevenson got lost in the most dangerous neighborhoods the Big Crab Apple could provide. He had been diverted from his original destination by an ambiguous road side that led him to the wrong exit from the BQE. Stevenson was behind the wheel of Saudi’s Mercedes Sedan he ‘burrowed’ from a friend of his at the UN. He found himself under a moonless sky in a poorly lit neighborhood in which every parked car was stolen, rusted out, or very used. “Just smell your way through the trash until you can smell the garbage,” he told himself as he regained his bearings, using them rather than the map he had been given as a compass. He noted the light ahead turning yellow. Seeing what he thought was an NYPD patrol car behind him, he slowed down. Several men of very black complexion, dangerously open eyes and rags for clothing converged upon him from both sides. Meanwhile, the Police car put on its flashers, turned around, and buggered off slowly in the other direction.
Seeing as light-skinned First Nations Stevenson was dressed like a rich, uptown White tourist in a very non-White downtown ghetto, it made more sense to run the red light and get arrested by a Cop than to be greeted by the local neighborhood greeting committee. But Bill’s nose said that this was the place. He opened the sedan window and breathed in a whiff of Bedford-Styvesant ‘air’. He took note of two key ingredients in the multi-scented mist that lingered under the midnight fog. “Pepperoni, ginger ‘chicken,’” according to the label on the sausages he sends out anyway,” Stevenson said as he noted the direction from which that smell was coming. “South by Southwest,” he continued, looking at a heavily gated but empty truck wearhouse down the block, as half of the neighborhood greeting committee prepared to relieve him of his tires, and the other half his life. “PJ Himmel’s place,” he continued with a friendly Western Big Sky smile, He handed his card to the head hobo, who upon closer examination, had better duds under his rags on than he did. “He’s expecting me,” Stevenson said. “Mister Himmel,” he continued, noting that each of the Black Homeless Hobos was armed with better guns under their coats than he had in his shoulder holster.
“Expecting you as what, Whitey?” Hobo number one asked.
“A buyer from Atlantis Enterprises,” Stevenson said, handing him his business card. “And I’m Injun light brown, not White.”
The hobo shone a light into Stevenson’s face, then onto his jacket, noting that it was make of leather rather than cloth. And around his redskin neck was a Navaho necklace rather than an Armoni tie. “Suppose you are, Tonto. But we can see that ya’ll get back safely to the Rez ifn ya give me the reins to that horse of yours,” he continued, grabbing Stevenson’s keys and turning off the engine.
“Master Paul wouldn’t like that,” Stevenson said. Before the Hobo could act, or react, Stevenson grabbed hold of the hobo’s wrist with one hand, and pulled out a gun with the other, aiming it at his head. “Now, if you call him and tell him that I’m here to do business, I’ll see that he knows you kept his neighborhood safe from Palefaces.”
“Sure, no problem Mister Thundercloud,” Hobo said, looking at the name on Stevenson’s card.
“Doctor Thundercloud,” Stevenson asserted, taking back his card. “That’s what they call you when you get a Ph.D. in cultural studies. Even if it’s at a university you bought with money you earned buying and selling guard dogs like you, Leroy,” Stevenson said in his best Godfather Part 4.5 voice.
“What makes you think my name is Leroy?” Hobo number one said as Hobo # 2 made the call.
“All of us are Tontos to you, and all of you are Leroys to us,” Stevenson retorted with a respectful smirk. “Just like our Paleface Masters are all Peters or Pauls, right?”
Hobo number one and two both looked at each other, with that ‘this Redskin ain’t as dumb as he seems’ stare.
“So, which one of you are going to announce me coming here? Maybe you, Hobo number one?” Stevenson added.
“It’s homie number one,” Hobo number two replied as he retrieved his Smart Phone and dialed it. “Mister Himmel,” he said to his very superior superior. “We have a client here to see you from—”
“—Atlantis Enterprizes, and meat buyers,” Stevenson yelled into the phone. Before he could say ‘Hiho Silver’, a door hidden within the shadows of the warehouse a half a block away opened. A man with a clean shaven upper lip and a thick beard covering the rest of his face, emerged. Amish clothing covered his torso. He sported a straw hat on his head, with blood on his hands.
“Instruct our client to come in the South entrance,” Stevenson heard from Leroy’s phone with a hint of Pennsyvania Dutch accent and a whole lot of Godfather in the his tone. “And the rest of you come back to work here. We have another shipment coming in, and two going out.”
Stevenson was pointed to the gate that opened up wide. After he drove through, it shut closed. Another gate then opened up the innermost lot which shut even tighter after passing through it. In the air was the distinctive smell of pepperoni ginger chicken. Boxes of it were being loaded onto the back corner of truck bearing a Pennysvania licence plate and “Jesus Loves you” bumper stickers. The rest of the truck was being filled with mint condition farm equipment.
Stevenson was directed by a man whose face was hidden by a visor, sunglasses and the night sky to park his car and proceed to the back door. The closer he got to the building, the more the ‘chicken sausage’ smelled of burning and burnt human flesh.
Emerging from that door was another Amish businessman. “Farm equipment going back home to your community back in Lancaster, Mister Himmel?” Stevenson asked ‘Master Paul’.
“To them, I am still one of them,” Master Paul said, his diction and rythym showing only a small hint of Amish German. “They need someone in the English world to represent their interests.”
“Despite what you did on your Respinich when you were 18, and what you did afterward?” Stevenson retorted. “Like exporting this ‘chicken sausage’. Spicing it up so the buyers and the diners don’t know what kind of meat it really is. Or who it was.” Another truck pulled in. Swampers wearing black tukes and dark sunglasses unloaded coffins which jiggled when they were moved inside the building from which the chicken sausage was shipped out.
“You know a lot about my business, Mister Thundercloud,” Master Paul commented with an ominous tone.
“Our business,” Stevenson replied with pride. He self-observed a grin of self-satisfaction on his face that scared him.
“And our business is?” Master Paul inquired, cautiously.
“Selling White Meat ‘chicken’ to Dark skinned clients,” Stevenson said, looking at the packages of specially-spiced sausages. “White meat that’s more valuable alive than dead.”
“-Dark skinned clients?” Himmel asked. He folded his stocky arms ‘Amish’ style. A posse of eight men with black hoods and robes brandishing weapons including automatic rifles, pistols, knifes, whips, chains and blow torches surrounded Stevenson.
“Asians, Arabs, Africans,” Stevenson replied, regarding their ethnic identities, hoping the Intel he had received was consistent with such. “Car manufacturers, Princes who want to be kinds, and Colonels who think they’re Generals. Who all pay top dollar for a privately-enjoyed meal of White Meat chicken. Assuming the chickens don’t develop legs and hitch a ride on Air Electra.”
The mention of Mirium’s slave name caused Himmer to worry. He motioned his goons to edge closer to Stevenson.
“Relax, guys,” Stevenson said. “I’m just a Redskin trying to stick it to Whitey, just like you. For the money. And for personal family reasons. Like my great grandma, who was raped by Custer’s blond haired blue eyed Palefaces. My grandma, who was pleasured by a White Priest in the Reservation School till she couldn’t get pleasure from anything. My Mother, who fell in love with a Church going White Mormon cowboy who beat the fear of the loving Christian God into her with a cat of nine tails every night. Till I wrapped it around his neck while I cut his balls off. All of those Palefaces have White Daughters. Time for me and my Redskin buds to rape some White Ass. Particularly Church Going White meat that we can cook, spice and slice up slow, after we milk the meat while it’s still walking of all of its love juices. Disposed of with cooking utensils we all know about and wipe clean afterwards.”
Stevenson held his tongue from further descriptions of canabilizing unruly or washed up sex slaves. He could see the posse of eight smiling with the kind of joy that any man, or woman, is capable of experiencing once they have tasted their first drop of someone else’s blood, or pleasured themselves with another human being’s pain.
“You do know a lot about us, Master Thundercloud,” Master Paul said with an expressionless face. He coughed, then regained his breath with what sounded like a wheeze, perhaps a rattle.
“And I want you to know everything about me, Master Paul,” Stevenson offered with a slight courtly bow. “Or is it Mister Himmel? ” Stevenson pulled out a wad of Benjamins. Some were real, most of them were fake. “Me gottem lots of wompum. Want buy white slaves that used to be owned big chiefs in West. Like Ian Eaglefeathers. Jackson Tyron. And others who took over after Chief Boris Petrovitch was retired.”
Master Paul considered all the cards and references to other players Stevenson had thrown on the table. Stevenson did his best to not show his hand while the Amish mobster sized him up. Finally, after ten tense seconds that felt like ten years, Mister Himmel dismissed his associates, or perhaps co-workers, or perhaps bosses. Hoods in the BDSM world so often hid who was master and who was slave, and so often one could be both at the same time.
“You and me should talk,” Master Paul Himmel said with the austerity and authority of an Amish Elder. He opened the door to his facility, appending his remark with another cough.
“No,” Stevenson said, noting even more armed staff inside. Weaponry and the number of people toting thundersticks were upgraded at least three fold relative to what Leona had described when had done an extraction a few nights ago. Of the hundred girls still captive there, Leona was able to emancipate only nine whose names or faces she didn’t recognize. Most ran away into the streets or back into their cages as she made her getaway with Electra. Those self-recaptured girls now lay in cages on the other side of the darkened room, soaked in their own excrements. “We go to a neutral location. So we are not distracted,” Stevenson said to Himmel. “White businessmen don’t talk shop on the factory floor, and we Injuns don’t do our horse-trading from a manure-covered coral.”
“Yes, indeed,” Himmel said as he removed his hat and grabbed an ‘English’ fedora and coat from a nearby coat-rack. He coughed up another bolus of phlegm, hiding the contents of such in his bandana. “Allergies,” he said by way of explanation. “This city air is not healthy, and the spices we use in preparing our chickens…” he said. “But, one does what one has to in order to earn a living, for ourselves and our loved ones, yes?”
“Yes indeed,” Stevenson said, contemplating what ‘loved ones’ Master Paul was talking about as they exited the building, heading for a small trailer buried amongst several trucks. “But it would be better for my buyers if they meet you in a more professional setting, that I have already prearranged, at their request, Mister Himmel.”
“Indeed yes,” Master Paul replied. “And that location is where? My people will need to know in the event that anything happens to us. For insurance purposes, as I am sure you understand.”
Stevenson wrote down the location on the back of an old Arrowhead Casino business card featuring Cheif Boris’ likeness on the front of it. The contents on both sised of the card seemed to satsify Himmel, as well as a Behimeth Amish body guard who seemed to be his second in command.
Stevenson led Himmel to his car, then drove him into a well lit street, populated by people moving to and fro with no idea about what happened behind the walls of the chicken sausage factory. While en route to the suite Stevenson had burrowed from one of his friends at the UN, he contemplated what Master Paul meant by ‘loved ones’ he was working for. Were those ‘loved ones’ an Amish family back in Pennysvania Dutch country? An ‘English’ wife and kids in Long Islandtte? Or maybe it was one of his slaves who he had ‘liberated’ into becoming his own personal property? But, as Master Paul pontificated after the usual chit chat about the evils of urban New York vs. the rural Paradise of Pennsylvania, “one does what one has to do.”
Such was the thought, and conviction, of Stevenson when he opened the door to the pitch black suite in the Imperial Hotel on East 64th street, a posh facility overlooking the River, on the 51st floor. It was a very private penthouse which had been furnished for negotiations between Masters. It was also a place where Masters could experiment with being submissives under the bootheels of the right Dominatrix.
“What are you doing?” Himmel pushed out of his parched throat as Stevenson threw a metal dog collar around his neck, the one that he had placed upon Mirium, converting her into becoming Electra.
“It still works, I think,” Stevenson noted. He pressed the remote in his pocket and delivered twice the electric shock it had delivered into Mirium’s neck, burning a ring around her neck and putting her body into convulsions.
Himmel experienced 5 seconds of what Mirium, Himmel’s ‘niece’, had felt 5 times an hour, and even more when she wasn’t being ‘Electra’.
“What do you want?” cried out like a baby after the first convulsion ended.
“For you to stop pissing and crapping in your pants, and you worthless piece of shit,” Stevenson said, noting that the always clean and obsessively tidy Master Paul was now wearing a pair of trousers caked with manure. “And for you to tell me who your business associates are,” Stevenson continued as he hogtied the still very heterosexual and still officially Amish preacher down on the ground. He inserted the ‘big Richard’ penis that had been inserted into Mirium’s vagina up Himmel’s anal cavity. “And for you to tell me everything you know about there operations, or me big Chief will do this.”
Stevenson moved the prod up and down, the same way it was used on Mirium. “Or this.” Stevenson retrieved from his briefcase a cat of nine tails and proceeded to whip Himmel’s back while he was being invaded by ‘Big Chiefs’ penis up the back door. “Or this,” Stevenson continued as he used more of the toys that Master Paul had used to convert living, free-thinking human beings into slaves for fun and profit. To be fair, Master Stevenson did allow ‘slave Paul’ to confess his sins before each punishment was exerted. And he did get some information.
Stevenson cataloged in his head what Paul coughed up about his contacts and connections, as well as putting them all on audio tape. His buddy at the NYPD, Sergei Reminkov, son of a Russian mobster who wanted to undo the harm his ‘immigrant parents’ did upon arrival in America, would of course edit out the parts where Paul was tortured for the information. Perhaps it would lead to Master Paul’s conviction along with the shut down his operation and the others associated with it. Such was something Leona was unable to do on her tour of the Big Crab Apple a week earlier due to circumstances beyond her control.
A nephew of an aunt and uncle who had been sold into the sex-slave trade during WWII, Sergei Reminkov was willing and eager to sic an army of Moonlighting Cops or mobsters who owed him favors on Master Paul and his sick, twisted buds, unofficially of course. Such was the ‘fun’ part for Leona, the necessary one for Stevenson.
But, as in all plans laid by mice, men and those aspiring to be more than themselves, something went wrong. Stevenson self-observed that he was enjoying beating the living daylights out of Master Paul. He felt more like Master Stevenson than Sheriff Stevenson. Further, the shocks, cuts, beatings, and burns were bringing his prisoner closer to death than to revealing more information about his fellow criminals.
Himmel coughed out more phlegm, then some blood, then a chunk of his lung. Then, as Stevenson pulled himself back, Himmel emitted a sardonic laugh and victorious grin, his words overshadowed by a death rattle. “I’m dying,” he said. “You made it go faster, but I’m dying. And I thank you for that. Stomach cancer, stage 3. Now…four.”
“I’ll get you to a hospital,” Stevenson barked out. He lifting Himmel off the ground, helping him onto a chair.
“First some fresh air!” Himmel pleaded through asthmatic breathing. He pointed to a window, requesting that Stevenson move him to it. “I’ll tell you everything here. So I can die in Grace.”
“Grace, after you—!” Stevenson said, complying with what seemed to be an honest deathbed confession.
“—I’m a Catholic now,” Himmel said, confirming Stevenson’s suspicions..
“Yes, to both counts,” the ex-Amish man of many faces and identities said. “But also because…well,” he continued as he looked up to the sky. “God really does forgive you if you confess your sins at the time of dying. Even Hitler, who I read was Catholic, confessed his sins at the time of dying.”
“Hitler committed suicide, which is a sin,” Stevenson pointed out.
“I want to confess my sins,” Himmel said. “But only if I can say them to God, up in heaven,” he continued as he looked at the sky above the Brooklyn Bridge.
“Just as long as you tell me everything I need to know first,” Stevenson replied as he helped Himmel hobble over to the open window, opening the curtains to it.
“Hmmm,” Master and perhaps soon to be reincarnated as a Nun Paul said as he grabbed hold of the curtains. His muttering started to sound like someone else, from somewhere else. “The flowers on these curtains look a lot like the sheets you use at Leona’s holiday farm. Blue and yellow.” He grabbed hold of a glass on the table next to the window. “And these glasses. You should get these instead of the white cups with the logo from her alma matter with the lion and the eagle that you give the girls Swiss Miss chocolate or Lipton tea at the farm when they’re….”
Stevenson’s jaw dropped. He was dismayed and terrified, at Himmel’s ominously accurate description of what Leona’s rehab center looked like. He asked himself how this low life knew what went on there behind very locked and private doors.
“I heard some complaints about the oatmeal cookies too. Too many raisons and not enough walnuts,” Himmel smirked. “From one of the nut case sluts who got out, or was released before she was ready to go, two, maybe eight weeks ago, I recall.”
“You’re a fucking liar!” Stevenson grunted back.
“No,” Himmel said as the color left his face and his eyes turned blank. “I’m an angel tonight. An angel telling you that you and Leona have more enemies than you can imagine. And not all of them out here.”
“So, then, where are they?”
“There, I think,” Himmel muttered through an other-worldly voice that was not his ow. He pointing to the Eastern sky, then the polluted air passing as sky to South, Then he directed his attention to the West and North sky beyond the hotel walls. “As I fly like now Mighty Aphrodite, as I sing my way to salvation with the overtures from…”
Himmel hummed operas that Stevenson didn’t know, but recognized from somewhere. He reached for his tape recorder, pressing the ‘on’ button. A call came in on Himmel’s cell, marked Urgent. The call display read unavailable number. “Mr. Himmel is busy now. Who is this so he can call you back?” Stevenson said politely to the caller who didn’t identify him or herself after three more very polite office-like requests. “Who is this!!!” he he finally demanded of the caller.
“Me saying goodbye and good luck, to you. Which is all I can say, because if I tell you more, well, I still have family who….” Stevenson heard from Himmel just before he pushed the window open and forced his cancerous and justifiably-tortured body out the window. It landed with a thud in the abyss below. Just as it did, the caller hung up.
Within twenty seconds, an army of thugs found their way to the bottom floor of the building, rushing past the dead body on the ground and making their way into every entrance visible. They were backed up by three police cars, the Cops emerging from it doing the same.
Leona looked at the blue and yellow flowered sheets laid on the last bed available in the treatment facility that she did not name and forbid others to do so as well. Then she smelled another one of Emma’s infamous oatmeal cookies. It lay on the night-table next to Mirium’s bed while she was out meeting the other girls in the facility. That customary ‘welcome to the way back home’ greeting seemed to help every girl on her first day in the facility. The cake-sized cookie still had ten raisins to ever nut, that nut being a walnut despite everyone’s insistence that Emma should use peanuts instead. But whatever the cookie contained, it was laid on a plate that said ‘Welcome’ in ten different languages and twenty very warm earth tone colored floral designs.
Each plate was painted personally by Emma, and in the two years during which the facility was operative, she had gone through ten boxes of dishes. While gazing at the sheets Mirium had tried to cut into pieces and swallow upon her arrival, Leona allowed herself to envision Mirium at the graduation ceremony after her treatment was done, receiving the cookie plate as a reminder of how far she had come. But the watch on Leona’s wrist kept ticking. It was made to move faster and louder by the words Master Paul said before his self-induced execution regarding an unnamed informer who was graduated as a liberated ally.
Leona looked at the ledger containing the slave and real names of the girls she and her group of burnt out idealists had liberated in the last two months. Prior to Bill Stevenson’s return from Paul Himmel’s suicide, she considered them all victories. Now they were all potential liabilities.
“So, you really believe Master Paul when he told you that one of the girls who we liberated went back to working for one of his buds, and has it in for all of us?” Leona inquired of Stevenson as he rewound the tape recording of the ‘confession’ at the hotel room. After doing so, he placed it into a metal box secured with two locks, one of which was covered with a specially-formulated potion of curare and ricin, so that whoever tried to pick it with the wrong key would die painfully while his body was paralyzed. “You’re sure that Himmel meant what he said?” Leona asked. “And he wasn’t bullshitting us?”
“He said it on his deathbed,” Stevenson he replied.
“So then why didn’t the shithead tell us who the fucking mole was?” Leona demanded. “A mole who is someone else’s still-owned daughter, or converted-into-evil grand-daughter?”
“Himmel valued his own daughters, and granddaughters,” Bill said. He showed Leona a photograph that stayed inside the room after Himmel jumped out the window, by intent or perhaps accident. “Something I grabbed from him as I tried to prevent him from taking a ten story plunge to his death.”
“And you answered his phone when it rang, because…” Leona pressed.
“I was angry, and stupid,” Bill confessed, harder on himself than anyone else would be on him, including Leona. “But mostly stupid.”
“Like I was, and still am, for believing that the thirty girls we liberated in the last two months wouldn’t revert back to being…liabilities to us,” Leona growled, fading into a lost world of her own between her ears.
“Look!” Stevenson said. He gently put his arms around Leona’s shoulders. He tried to make her look into his eyes rather than into the world of self-doubt behind her own. “According to every physiological, meta-physiological and common sense indicator all of us had, those girls were ready to go back home. And we all voted on it. We’re not gods.”
“But maybe we have to be,” Leona replied. She looked at Stevenson’s eyes and with as much kindness as she could, requested that he get his hands off her shoulders, as she was a big girl now, not in need of a man, or anyone else. “And speaking of gods, or goddesses, what was that Greek deity that Paul Himmel mentioned before he fucked off and plummeted himself into the Underworld?”
“Aphodite,” Bill related as he looked at himself in the reflection on the glass in closed and now locked window. “I don’t remember any ‘Aprhodite’ who was discharged from here in the last two months,” he said as he looked through the brief notes Leona made in the ledger regarding the last two months of patients, and the copious observations Rachel put on paper as part of her privately-obtained but hopefully earth-shattering thesis project.
“Perhaps ‘Mighty Aprhodite’ is a metaphor. Or it could be a reference to something or someone in the Woody Allen movie by the same title,” Rachel suggested as she came in to set up the very hidden cameras that would videotape Mirium in her room. Such was part of Leona’s reconditioning treatment regime, along with of course ‘Mama Emma’s’ tailor made nutritional program which was more about taste than nutrition, truth be told. “And aside from those opera tunes Master Paul sang that I you recorded, along with the cryptic descriptors of his co-workers you got on tape, what else Paul Himmel say before he expired? The plan was for us to interrogate him here in this laboratory. So I could study him.”
“Paul Himmel was a fuckhead bastard, not an ‘n’ value for you to study the neurological substrate of cruelty on!” Leona grunted back at her most prized and only scientific protegee. “And he died, he didn’t expire,” she continued. “And for God;s, Buddha’s and the Great Spirit’s sake, humanize or spice up your language before you become an n-value yourself! Before you become as dead between the ears and in the heart as the scientists we both left behind at Massachusetts University who are stuck in an never ending circle of linearity and dull out disease. Which sometimes can be cured by scientists becoming artists in the creative world, or vectors of evil to fight evil in the real world,” Leona continued. She checked the hidden hand revolvers strapped to her thighs and the dart gun in the shoulder holster pre-loaded with ten syringes of specialized inactivating agents. “And, Doctor Rachel, I noticed that in your lab, that the new violin, and/or fiddle that I paid for is still unopened. An instrument that I know that you know how to play. I assigned you the job of playing and enjoying music as part of your required education here!”
“All of that is very…interesting,” Rachel replied, in a more emotionally-neutral Vulcan voice than one that is passionate, or human. “Yes, what you said if very interesting.”
“Interesting!” Leona grunted. “What I just shared with to you was supposed to be soul opening! And all you can say about it, with technical words voiced without contractions, is that is it ‘interesting’!”
Rachel looked at her mentor, and friend, as if she was studying Leona rather than listening to her.
Leona took a deep breath, then recollected her rage-infused perspectives. “Okay, I get it,” she said to Rachel with one hand gently on the genious-in-training’s shoulders. The other was poised to go into a clenched fist about, to punch some sense into the over-self-educated nitwit’s skull. “Doctor Rachel, the goddess of science is diverting you for a while. But what the fuck about want I said, and meant, is merely ‘very interesting’?” Leona asked, ready for any answer.
“That I should adjust my speech patterns, for ‘God’s, Buddha’s and the Great Spirit’s’ sake,” Rachel discoursed back to Leona. “Which you said as a matter of conviction rather than a metaphor relating a sense of psychological urgency.”
Today, of all days, Leona was not in the mood for ‘discourse’. She answered the closest thing she ever could call a ‘daughter’ with a defiant stare.
“Alright,” Rachel replied, surmising Leona’s meaning and perhaps intentions. “I will endeavor to humanize and adjust my manner of speech for the patients so as to maximize communication and understanding.”
“And?” Bill added, as Rachel’s father. He knew more about her and cared for her more than her biological father back in Boston, or the man who she called “Daddy” when she was a bright, yet defiant, little girl back in Providence.
“I’ll keep my experiments with these patients, observational…” Rachel pledged in legalese. “Unless of course data we all agree on allows me to do otherwise.”
“I need your word on that, Rachel,” Leona said. “And that you will not use the treatments that seem to work on your learned helpless rodents on these girls, until you know all of the side effects?”
“And do I have your word that I can study any Grade 3 dominants such as Paul Himmel either of you run into, so I can understand, as the vernacular goes, what ‘makes these mother-fucking-assholes tick’?” Rachel pressed. “The disease we are fighting is binomial. Being a masochistic slave and being a sadistic master are, as the vernacular goes, two sides of the same coin. Such is a humanistic hypothesis that my observational biochemical and neurological data says is correct, at least with regard to patient 23A, and a few other n values who—”
“—Her name is Yung, Doctor Mengela!” Bill Stevenson reminded Rachel.
“Who was trained to be a helpless slave, and a vicious Master, in service of her master,” Leona added.
Rachel noted and appreciated Leona’s connection with that remark. Indeed, Doctor Rachel felt a responsibility to figure out what really happened to Leona when she was Leon, enduring all manner of degradation as a prisoner of war in war zones that officially did not exist. .
“We treat one disease at a time, Rachel,” Leona added, examining her weaponry again. She glanced at her watch, then inside her tortured soul with primal fear and primal rage, not knowing if she would fight or flight this time. “Eliminating the shitheads who make life shit for 30 million slaves in the world, is what me and Bill do. Meanwhile, you and Emma, here—“
“—do what we can with what we got.” Rachel condeded. “Unless we can up with a widespread vaccine to prevent learned helplessness and creulty before it starts!” she flashed upon. “And use a molecular configurate of that vaccine to vaccinate against cruelty. Though, in the meantime, reversal agents to learned helplessness and intentional cruelty, so we can stop this planet from getting more fucked up.
“Interesting,” Leona said, her hard face breaking into a warm smile, staring into memories that seemed to play themselves out in the air in front of her once-again-collected eyes.
“Accurate,” Rachel replied, puzzled as to Leona’s real meaning.
“No, ‘interesting’,” Leona smiled. She turned her stare into Rachel’s face, then somehow gained entry somehow into her Soul. “Interesting that you said ‘fucking up’ this planet instead of ‘creating a non-productive dynamic’ or some other descriptor that has so many words to mentally process that you forget and don’t connect to what your real meaning is.”
“And by that, you also mean…” Rachel inquired, sensing in Leona’s inflection of speech and her body language that there was some other mandate she wanted, or need to convey.
Leona hugged Rachel, for the first time. It felt odd to Rachel, though she did have to admit that it felt sustaining and supportive.. Allowing her body to adjust to perceived expectations, Rachel hugged Leona back, with equal strength. She placed her hands in the same location in Leona’s back that her mentor had placed her hands upon on hers.
Perceived social protocol as well as past memories of her life before becoming a scientist told Rachel that it was time to say nothing. She intuited that to it was time to feel something, or such a sensation was still possible for her.
“I gotta do what I gotta do out there,” Leona said to Rachel after releasing the hug first. “While you do what you gotta do here,” she concluded with a smile that still hid a whole lot of secrets behind it. “Wir sind alles in diese Ding zussammen,” she delivered as her final statement. Leona’s phone rang, summoning her to leave the room, and apparently the compound. Within two seconds of the GTO starting up again from outside, Leona honked the metallic steed’s horn. “Wir sind alles in diese zussammen!” she yelled out to Rachel.
“Yeah, we’re all in this together,” Bill Stevenson said with a tired, but still optimistic smile.
“I didn’t know you spoke German,” Rachel replied, shocked that he understood Leona’s parting words.
. “I don’t sprechen-me Deutch, but I understand a more universal language,” said while gathering his weaponry and ammunition.
“Which is…?” Rachel asked, somehow sensing something that reeked of ‘Master Paul’ and the other Masters in Stevenson.
“Look after the fort while we’re gone,” he said. “It shouldn’t be long. But if you run into any trouble…” he continued. Stevenson threw Rachel one of the guns, a semi-automatic pistol that fit perfectly into her hand as she caught it. “You can, use it on the bad guys. If you can’t, use it on yourself.”
Rachel had never held a gun only once in her life, but she never fired it. During the liberation from bondage at Boris’ compound out on the Rez, Rachel organized her fellow slave sisters in a shoot out against their captors. But nothing from her gun ever ending the life of another human being. And if it did, she didn’t see it. Psychology books and war diaries that Rachel had read said that there were some people who could easily kill someone trying to kill them or their loved ones, and some who couldn’t. The baptism of fire she had experienced was was barely a sprinkle. “So, what kind of relationship really exists between us,” she said to the thunder-stick in her now sweat-soaked hand. “Who’s the dominant and who is the submissive? I suppose we’ll both find out once the shooting stars, assuming we’ll survive it.”
Fascination devolved into fear, which Rachel knew had to be controled. The lives of six girls under her medical care and perhaps 30 million who could benefit from her scientific research depended on such.
Stevenson’s two private planes had developed engine problems due to being overused for rescue missions in the last two months. The only available loaners required over-explanation and verification regarding who was using them and where they were going. If the radar detection unit could be hammered back into obedience and the back roads were relative cop-free, it made more sense for Leona to take on her road-seasoned GTO from Potterburg to Albequerque. But due to ticking of the time clock and early snows in the Plains states, it was faster to fly commercial airlines. Such required an additional layer of deception, as the extraction and rehab operation were on more people’s radar than was originally thought.
Leona lost no time hopping a SouthWest flight from Pittsburg. It was paid for from the very-stretched operating budget money she had extorted, stole or burrowed from the slave Masters she had inactivated, or pretended to work for. Her persona this time was Sandra Taylor-Epstein, forty-five year old art dealer Torontonian with an oversized ‘Jewish nose’, perfectly-styled face-covering blonde bob and the most expensive ‘back to the earth’ NeoHippie outfit obtainable. Sandra’s siblings were the very-behind-the-scenes movers and shakers behind every Right Wing Corporation on Yonge Street and ‘hip and cool’ television show on CBC. The fate of the girls Leona had rescued, the girls she would rescue, and the ones still ‘in residence’ at the farm depended on ‘Sandra’ getting to the Sante Fe New World Art Gallery ASAP, pronto, stat. The pilot had other ideas, particularly when the weather over Oklahoma got choppy and the line-up to re-route the plane through Dallas got long. But, ‘Captain Ron’ did authorize the in-flight crew to give everyone a complimentary soft drink, TWO packs of peanuts or cookies, and a discount on renting movie viewing computers. ‘Barb’, the senior flight attendant with a big smile, bigger hair, and even bigger boobs that probably kept her in the air longer than her age would have allowed otherwise, passed around a card which provided viewers with any one of five movies, for free.
It was ironic that of the four passengers around Leona, all were male, all had regulation Southern good-ole boy bubba bellies, and all were watching the same movie. Most probably none of them had any idea about the reality behind the story in the critically-aclaimed Bruce Willis action film. Leona did understand what was really behind the plotline of ‘Tears of the Sun’, in which Willis and a handful of well-paid but highly outnumbered mercenaries were charged with evacuating a village of innocent African villagers from three hundred bloodthirsty soldiers who would kill their own mother for the thrill of it.
As ‘Leon’, Leona had seen far worse than any of the atrocities portrayed in the film. Leon was farmed out from the US Army for far less salary than Willis was getting per day and without any of the workman’s compensation protections from ‘accidents’ related to chemical exposure or physical mutilation of flesh. Most of the killing Leon did involved inactivating bad guys. Some of it involved inactivating those you thought were bad guys. It always involved innocent guys, and gals, getting the worst of it, no matter who was doing the shooting.
Some of Leona’s buddies back in the ‘good old days’ when she earned a living with a gun and Bowie knife rather than a stethoscope and microscope, really got into the thrill of the kill. As did she, to be fair. You had to numb yourself from the act of taking another life or inflicting pain upon another to stay alive and functional. The easiest was to dehumanize the enemy, of course, or demonize them, something that the “my countrymen’s lives matter than any foreign countrymen” indoctrination in Boot Camp in the Armed Services or Pledges of Allegiance to the Flag in grade school were very good at instilling. Then there was black, gallows humor, making jokes about how much splatter you can make when popping a hole into the pumpkin atop your enemy’s outstretched neck. Leona had ‘inactivated’ so many people while performing what started out to be her service as a ‘necessary evil’ for humanity, that she lost count when awake. Of course during her sleep, or lack of it, all 236 faces of those slain by her in the line of duty were clearly evident. But, she didn’t cross ‘the line’ from Painful Purgatory to Hell. Not yet anyway.
That ‘line’ had been crossed by her best bud and sometimes Mentor, Boris Petrovitch. He was now inactivated by her own hand, thankfully, after he tried to reconnect with her at the Rez which she called home at which he had set up one of the most vicious international human trafficking and slave rings imaginable. But there were others who enjoyed, and no doubt became addicted, to exerting cruelty on others who served with Leon. One of them was Herman ‘Roadkill’ LaPlume, a Belgian mercenary who followed in the blood-soaked footsteps of his father and grandfather. Then there was Billy Bob Forest, fourth-generation KKK member who loved hunting for ‘dark meat’ in as many exotic places as he could. All three would salute the occasion of taking another life with their third leg getting hard, and sometimes sprouting ‘thick vanilla syrup’.
Leona observed two of her fellow passengers on the plane watching the action-packed blood-and-guts flick. She noted that they had his hands in their enlarging left pants pocket. The bubba belly good ole boy’s eyes looked ‘sick’, and possessed. “Maybe their eyes and sicko minds of these ocular portholes and the sicko mind should have been scanned at security rather than the toothpaste tubes and water bottles in their carry-ons,” Leona thought to herself. “And maybe Rachel’s theory about a prerequisite to being a sadistic BDSM master or vicious sex-slave trader is testosterone that alters one of the limbic system neurotransmitter circuits or their neurochemical receptors has more meat than imagination to it,” she continued to ponder.
No more than a moment after giving secondary consideration to that thought, Leona’s stare was held hostage by the refection of her very feminine face in the mirror of the lap top case of the passenger next to her. “At least I didn’t get a woody when I did what I had to do, and then what I think I enjoyed doing, at the time, sort of,” she said to herself, hoping that no one around her could hear how loud she was thinking. “But, what about women?” Leona dared to consider, as she looked around the plane, sensing which one of her fellow female passengers were bitchy by choice or bitchy because they had to live or work with bastards. “Ever since I became a woman, I learned to use my head rather than my brawn, as my brain has grown and the muscles in my arms went into my breasts,” she mused as she looked down upon her well endowed breasts. “But, when I rescued Mirium, and I took out the two guards in the hallway, and the third guarding the ‘dormatory’ when his buds were out on a ‘beer and broad’ break at the strip joint down the street….Did I get an orgasm?” she asked herself. “And when I cut the balls off four of the Masters who I took out last month at other ‘stables’, then cut their throats, I did remember enjoying it. The female Master in Seattle the month before and that French Canadian ‘Godmother’ didn’t fare out much better after I introduced them the business end of my Bowie knife. But at the time, I was a necessary evil.” Maybe that concluding rationalization was a statement, maybe a question, or maybe just wishful retrospective thinking.
It was the scene where Willis finds the mole who was informing the African Death Squads where they were via a transmitter he was hiding. Willis had taken said mole under his wing and rescued him from death squad bullets several times, some of those bullets landing in his flesh. It reactivated Leona into identifying the mystery ‘Judas bitch’ who she had liberated from the slave trade then rehabilitated at her farm, at Such was at great risk to her own life and the lives of graduate student Rachel, re-connected to mother, and possible love-mate but certainly respect-mate Stevenson. Also at risk were the other girls in the facility that had liberated 164 girls from physical bondage who could be taken back by their Masters at any time. Leona thought about that slave girl, or more accurately, that mole, who perhaps had turned back into a slave after her release, working for her master, or perhaps had faked being a liberated slave while in treatment all along.
When trying to find the mole, following the money trail had led to three prime suspects. It was simple math, to anyone who bothered to smell the numbers and dig deep enough. Master paid to shell corporation, which paid to small business number one, that went to private contractor number one, then to small business number 2, then finally hired slave. The final paycheck could be in money, perks, or a big break that got said Judas bitch popularity and fame. Such put Pauline Bauer, an aspiring neo-abstract-impressionist painter, on the top of the list. The most important piece of data on her obtainable just by googling her name. Leona looked at a copy of her file on her tablet. There was twenty cyberpages of easily publically-obtainable intel about Pauline’s background as the hottest and most marketable artist since Pocasso. Such didn’t match biochemical, neurophysiological and psychological data obtained during Pauline’s long road to recovery from learned helplessness when at Leona’s farm
As the plane made yet another circle around the Denver airport, Leona went to the still-occupied restroom, leaned against the wall outside of it. Seeing that no people, or cameras, were looking, she opened up the attachment to the file on her computer. She perused once again the data collected by cyber-whiz Rachel that had been passed on to cyber-impatient Leona. She focused on pictures of how much Pauline’s art was going today, and for whom she was really doing it.
“Interesting ‘painting,” a frail woman with white hair in a tight bun around her wrinkled face and no doubt a full bladder said to Leona. “In my time, they called that finger-painting when you were a child, or spray painting the garage wall when you’re drunk. And the price for that painting now is…” She adjusted her bifocals and moved in closer to view the screen. “Forty thousand dollars!”
“Fifty,” Leona replied. “Which is what I’ll have to offer to get what I want from this artist.”
“And this artist is?” inquired the schoolteacher-librarian whose wedding finger was empty now, and probably always had been.
Thankfully, Pauline didn’t cut her ear off like Vincent did, and didn’t take an early self-induced exit from life like he did. But the blonde, very white, blue eyed South African had a far more torturous life in bondage than Vincent did. Pauline’s demons were real men, who broke her down by having her be a ‘pony’ with bits in her mouth. The details about her abduction remained unclear. But the needle marks on her arm and the tox screen done upon her semi-voluntary admission to the farm indicated that she was turned into a heroine addict. To pay for her fixes, the White Afrikaner, who had been brought up to accept that her race and family pedigree of Dutch pioneers dating back to the 1600s, serviced Black African clients. Most of them were diplomats living in New York or DC. Her bondage had lasted 6 years, Her owners having fled the country with no forwarding address the day Leona and Stevenson busted open the operation.
Pauline had been a model patient at the rehab farm. Her recovery moved forward well ahead of Leona’s schedule. But the biochemical data from her blood, spinal taps and brain scans didn’t fit Rachel’s hypotheses regarding learned helplessness and recovery from such.
What didn’t fit the hypothesis that Leona was most concerned about was why and how Pauline was now selling paintings at the most prestigious art show in the SouthWest. Her ‘art’ was the toast of the town where she failed as an art student in three different schools. Of late, it was not only crude, but racist as well. But, there was one element to it that was historically familiar. Though the school teacher-librarian lady still waiting to use the airplane restroom didn’t understand anything about Pauline’s real background, and would not believe the facts even if they were presented to her, she did see something in the paintings that Leona didn’t.
“This looks like, sort of, paintings by a 19th century artist who flunked out of art school and got disrespected by every Jewish art critic in Vienna,” she noted.
“And if Adolf would have been admitted to art school, or someone bought his paintings, he would not have taken up a career in politics?” Leona replied, with an ironic smile.
“It’s the biggest historical question of the 20th century,” Library lady noted. “Just like the biggest mystery of the 18th century. If George Washington had not been denied a commission in the British Army in 1763 after the French and Indian War because he was a Colonial, would he have formed his own Continental Army in 1776.”
“Yeah, egos. For better or worse,” Leona replied regarding what she knew about the world. But it seemed that this Library Lady knew more about people than Leona did, and how their art reflected who they really are, and could become.
Taking a chance, Leona showed the Library Lady another page of Pauline’s paintings. “What do these paintings say to you about the person who did them?” she inquired.
Library Lady looked at the pictures long and hard. She stroked the loose, straggled hairs on her double chin in the manner of an seasoned professor who writes books rather than a librarian who merely loans them out. She seemed to be the professor who Leona hoped that she might be able to become one day, once there were no more Pauline’s to have to rescue, or inactivate.
“I think that this Pauline, as an artist is…hmmm,” the woman said, appending her next thought to an intense silence.
Leona eagerly awaited word as to what the Professor-Librarian saw in the paintings. Indeed, what if an art critic who was more concerned about artists than popularity of the art say if he or she had looked at Adolf Hitler’s art back in the first decade of the 20th century? And what about this artist here who could be just as dangerous in the 21st century?
But before the old and people-wise woman could shed light on the many issues bubbling up in Leona’s head, ‘Captain Ron’ interjected. “Please take your seats and buckle your seatbelt. We’ve been given clearance to land in Denver.”
‘Barb’ the stewardess escorted the Library Lady back to her seat. Tha passenger cabin filled up with jubilant applause, particularly from those who had lost hope of making their connections at the other end. Meanwhile, Leona pensively prepared for a reunion with Pauline, preparing for the worst but praying for the bearable.
Upon arrival at the Denver airport, Leona could not find Library Lady. But she did thankfully find a seat on the next flight to Albequerque, where she and her checked in luggage arrived intact, sort of. As the bag she checked in at Pittsburg came down the ramp, the zipper she had locked closed was partially opened. But thankfully the metal boxes inside the ‘Love is all you need’ hippie-dippie stickers on the suitcase was intact, as were the contents. “Hmm,” she thought regarding the curiosity of the baggage handlers. “I probably disappointed them when they picked the lock and didn’t find any dope in there,” she mused between her ears as she peaked into the metal boxes through as small an opening as possible at the baggage claim area. “My three co-workers are all comfy and cozy,” she said regarding the firearms Carlos had amped up, then wrapped in Tibetan prayer shawls containing strips of aluminum that made the whole package look like smiling Buddha chimes. “We’re gonna have an interesting cultural evening,” she smiled at the thundersticks, putting off the pleasure of giving them names for later.
In the guise of Sandra, Leona proceeded to the rent-a-car booths. She was was told that the vehicle she had requested developed engine problems from the last owner, and that if she could wait three, maybe six, hours, she would get a free upgrade. Leona took the complimentary meal tickets and coupons for various messages at the airport with a smile, then marched over to the other car rental companies. Everyone else was sold out as well. This time is wasn’t the gods, the Fates, or a conspiracy started by a rouge branch of the CIA working in cahoots with an International White Racist cartell. It was the result of pre-Thanksgiving weather-related plane cancellations and countless travelers electing to drive to LA, Dallas or Phenoix rather than wait for another flight. Ironically, Alamo was the only vendor that had any ponies that were available.
“I got an old Mare that’ll get ya to Sante Fe, and if ya trot or hand gallop her gently, steada letting her full out, she’ll run sound for ya.” said the cowboy-turned-clerk, whose tie fit as well on his down-home-no-bullshit soul as Leona’s leisure-seeking Yuppie-elite persona fit on hers. “I can git ya’ll a reconditioned Mustang with fresh Goodyears on all fours hoofs, that hasn’t left anyone walking yet, Ms. Taylor-Epstein.”
“Sandra,” Leona replied with a ‘let’s talk turkey instead of birdshit’ smile to a man who most probably had no home to go home to. Or perhaps he had someone at home who he wished would leave. “I’ll take it, if you’ll accept a combo of cash for the rental and plastic for any insurance you have to connect to it. Taking care of my kids, with money I should have gotten from my ex, got more expensive than ever this month,” she provided by way of explanation, hiding of course the fact that she had been having trouble with the credit card stolen from the Master three extractions ago ever since leaving Pittsburg. “The holidays, you know what it’s like, Hank,” Leona said, venturing to refer to the clerk by his Christian name, in the family way.
‘Cowboy Hank’ looked at the cash, then the credit card which had been perhaps overused for supplies for the girls back at the rehab farm, or hacked into by one of Leona’s many enemies. Some of them had badges rather than just being in business with those who had badges. “I don’t see a problem here,” he said, whizzing through Leona’s credit card without her seeing what he was doing. He handed the card back to her, requesting neither a signature nor gave an explanation for his turning the card machine off before it could flash on ‘declined’. “Yup, no problem with the card, and keep the cash. Pay us when you get back. You have trustworthy eyes and I’m guessin’, an overworked brain box behind it that’s workin’ overtime helpin’ out others.”
“Thanks, Hank,” Leona said, really meaning it.
“Just tryin’ to earn my keep while I’m still in the saddle,” Hank replied. “You have yerself a great day, and a great life if I don’t see ya when you get back,” he smiled back at her, handing her the keys to the car.
“You too,” Leona said as she took the keys. She so wanted to say far more to Hank, such as ‘Have a nice life, as you deserve it’, ‘you’ll live a hell of a lot longer than I probably will,’ or ‘yeah, it’d be good for me to have someone like you in my life.’ Her dream reply were ‘there’s always a place for you on my spread in Potterburg, as I can use someone who values people more than profit, and horses are the best therapy for people who have been fucked up by other people, and since you look and smell like a horseman…’ Of course, if such things were said it would have to eventually involve saying things like, ‘that scar between my legs is where my penis used to be,’ ‘be sure to bring your guns and your horses, because you’ll need both of them if anyone finds out what I’m really doing on that hobby farm I bought’ and of course, ‘we both know that no good deed goes unpunished.’
The Sante Fe Art Gallery gala was simply fabulous. There was no shortage fabulous food, fabulous clothing on the specially-invited guests and even some fabulous paintings. Amongst the paintings that were not so fabulous were those bearing the Pauline Bauer signature on them. The most simplistic, commercial and soul-less of them had ‘sold’ signs on them, with purchase prices of $20k or more. Maybe the sales were for real. Or maybe it was a scam so that that real buyers would pay $50k to have those or other works by her in their collection.
Leona, an ex-alchie and always-potentially-addictable soul, pretended to sip the champagne that was obligatory for each of the honored guests. Doing pretend sips on free drinks that she yearned to gulp down presented Leona with a tempation harder to resist than she anticipated. But whatever Leona did tonight, the first step was to appear to be Sandra Taylor-Epstein tonight. Ms. Taylor-Epstein’s persona had been plastered and backdated on the internet on numerous websites by Rachel as a cover so she would be accepted as one of the big money people at this gala. It was no doubt was connected to some kind of human traficking/sex slave operation given the nature of some of the paintings, and the evil auras around the other ‘beautiful’ people present. As for Pauline, the most popular artist being displayed, she was notably absent. Leona stared at a promo photo of Pauline illuminated by a ten thousand dollar candelabra.
“Where are you now, between the ears, and otherwise?” Leona muttered to herself after discretly losing her fourth fill glass of firewater on an empty waitress tray.
“She went for a stroll,” replied one of the art critics with a dollar store name tag slapped onto his tweed jacket that said ‘Lance’. “Have you had the pleasure of being absorbed into Pauline’s latest work, “Jackson’s Hole in Winter”. The chiselled chin academic, bow-tied nerd who carried himself off like he was an incarnation of Richard Burton escorted Leona to the canvas in question. That Pauline Bauer oil on hard canvas showed a fuzzy likeness of snow falling around an empty mountain cave. But when analyzed through more open eyes, it beared a striking likeness to a vaginal porthole that had been opened by something very rough and painful. “Real artists do have an aversion for applause, you know,” the art critic continued said with an English accent that was as fake as the hairpiece on his swelled head. “Real artists only value compliments delivered by their closest friends, you know.”
“Yes, I know,” Leona replied, doing her best to see around ‘Lance’ and at the same time making him think she was competely absorbed by his presence.
“And you are?” Lance inquired, taken in by the ruse.
“A good friend of Pauline’s,” Leona replied with a smug Torontonian elitist grin. “I hope, maybe, unless I can’t be such anymore,” she thought. Leona prepared herself to do whatever she had to in order to extract information from Pauline as to why she became a mole, and where her real bosses were hiding.
Leona recalled that Pauline’s history when she was extracted from bondage came from heresay more than fact. Indeed, her whole enslavement could have been faked. Accomplices in that deception included her Master as well as her now very well off parents back in South Africa. The latter were noticeably not here at their favorite black sheep daughter’s first REAL art show. “Yeah, follow the money trail,” Leona considered, yet again, a compass that seldom steered her wrong. “Or the trail of blood,” entered into her ever-firing mind perhaps before or maybe after she spotted several splotches of red wine on the carpeted floor, which were all too easily being removed by a waitress with a bottle of peroxide, along with strands of long hair the same hue as in Pauline’s most recent photo. The trail of fresh blood and reddish hair led to the exit door beyond which was to a spacely used parking lot in the back of the gallery.
The tracks left by a single vehicle were fresh. The tires left an imprint in the mud that could be followed by a blind man with a walking stick. Under a moonlit sky, while pretending to smoke a cigarette, Leona noted that the trail went a half a mile, then took a gentle curve into well bushed property. Leona lost no time in turning on the motor of her now sort of functional rental Mustang, which thankfully had a very functional muffler.
The final destination for the tracks and the Mustang was a custom-made log cottage home. There were several cars in the front driveway, and two vans. From behind the closed curtains, there seemed to be a good time going on. It was too good a time, for Leona’s liking. Pauline’s voice was the loudest amongst the chatter, said voice singing an aluring melody in Afrikaner with artistic craft and gleeful charm. “Pauline never told me she could sing like that. She claimed she was tone deaf when it came to giving her music therapy at the rehab center,” Leona thought to herself from her obseration point under a, thankfully darkened sky, made possible by clouds covering up the moon. “But when I get her alone, she’s gonna sing my tune,” she vowed.
One set of footprints led to a side door that was barely visible until you got to it. The door was not locked. Such made Leona’s job of entering with the Sandra handbag containing Carlos’ thundersticks, diversionary gas cannisters and explosives much easier. As she drew up her guns, mounting the silencers on them, a million scenarios entered Leona’s mind, and as many questions to go with each of them. All of them would be answered once she opened the door leading down into what appeared to be a basement.
Once inside, the worse scenario of all hit Leona straight between the eyes as she encountered the first face that flashed out to her in the dark. It was Pauline, her hands covered with blood, a smile plastered on her face. Her half-opened eyes were possessed, the mind behind it in a zombified state. On one side of that mind was a missing ear. Connecting her to her painting station was a dog collar around her neck, freshly tatooed with a bar code tatooed.. Her chest was naked, bearing several third degree burns. Her back beaten with a whip. Strapped into her mouth was a pony bit which made her mouth bleed every time she tried to say something from it. Next to Pauline was a beautiful portrait of herself, done by an artist far more talented than she ever was, though still in her ‘avant guard primitive’ style. The title of the painting read ‘My final painting. Me as Me’. It was signed with Pauline Baeurs unique, in bright red blood, no doubt her own. That final masterpeice had on it a pricetag of $200,000.
One look into Pauline’s zomified eyes said it all. Her final painting was to be the the best seller in the gallery, her final statement before she would meet her demise. That demise was clearly outlined in a post-dated article in the local newspaper next to Pauline. The front page said that she committed suicide. The article below it revealed that Pauline had an entire house filled with paintings that were now a hundred times more valuable than when she was alive, the profits from the sales to go to Charity.
From the floor above, Leona heard a recording of Pauline singing ‘Seems like Old Times,’ now accompanied by live male voices, and some female ones, on their way from being buzzed to being hammered. The present Pauline expressed her opinion regaring it all with a dark, sardonic ‘laugh,’ then sobbing that wouldn’t stop.
“Hey down there! We’re trying to discuss business up here,” a voice from above growled. “Or I’ll come down there and I’ll carve another clit into you, you stupid bitch.”
Leona put her hand over Pauline’s mouth. “I’ll get you out of here,” she promised, looking at the door through which she entered. “But not the way we both came in,” she continued as she heard the outside door close shut, then heard the sound of two by fours being hammered into the frame of the door. Then she heard the footsteps of two men with heavy boots who were checking their weapons. “Hey, don’t worry about them,” she assured Pauline. “I brought some friends to help us out.”
Leona showed Pauline her firearms. “They’ll do the talking, and you’ll do the listening, okay?” she whispered.
With whatever strength Pauline still had in her neck she nodded a ‘yes’.
Using the specially-designed laser wire cutting knife in her purse designed by Carlos, Leona cut through the reins holding Pauline’s mouth in place. Then she burnt the chains off the dog collar holding Pauline to her painting post, then carefully inactivated the remote control electrocuting device locked around her neck. “Now, I need you to tell me any and all routes out of here, other than astral projecting through these walls.”
With a trembling hand that, miraculously, still had most of its fingers intact, Pauline pointed to a staircase leading to a door upstairs.
“I was afraid of that,” Leona said. “But, hey. No pain, no gain. You artists know that better than anyone else.”
Pauline answered ‘yes’ with her eyes.
“Now,” Leona said as she pulled a body suit out of Sandra Taylor-Epstein’s oversized handbag. “I need to put this on,” she instructed Pauline regarding the bullet-proof body one piece coverall ensemble that Carlos designed for her. “It needs to cover ALL of you,” Leona said.
Pauline fought furociously against her head being zipped up over the bloody crown of her rashly shorn scalp.
“Okay, we can work with that,” Leona conceded, leaving Pauline’s head exposed as well as her forearms. “You keep your head bowed, and run IF I tell you to.” Leona adjusted the ‘iron undershirt’ surplus asset vest under her high-end hippie-dippie blouse. That vest had been shot at and into so many times in the last year that it was more dent than shield. “You understand what I just said?” Leona asked Pauline in Afrikaner.
Pauline answered ‘yes’ again with a zombie-like nod. Unlike some of the extractees in the past, Pauline still had two intact feet, but those feet could barely keep her standing. Leona’s now 100% female body somehow retained almost 70% of the body strength she had when she was Leon. For this extraction, Leona would have to strap Pauline over her shoulders, using one arm to keep her balanced and the other to spray red-hot pieces of flesh piercing metal at anyone who stood in her way. Plan B was to leave Pauline in a safe place, then come to extract her after all the ‘doormen’ at the exit port were send to their graves or into a deep slumber. Plan C, wounding some of these goons so that thier of their buds would stay behind to save them, wouldn’t work, as every one of those goons were no doubt out for no one but themselves.
On the count of three, Leona kicked open the door to the floor upstairs and threw in one of Carlos’ infamous but always effective ‘magic dust piniatas’. It released a mixture of gas that blinded the open eye with soot and closed the airways just enough to make you think you were dying. “Put this on,” she said to Pauline as she slipped the good mask from her bag on her, and the torn up one on herself.
The reddish fog in the living room did indeed made it look like it was transformed into hell. Leona lost no time in sending two of the ‘businessmen’ in it to that underground community after they pulled their guns and tried to fire them at her and Pauline. The rest of the lowlifes in their Church going business suits lay on the ground, confounded and confused.
“Job one, taken care of,” Leona thought to herself as she carried Pauline down a long hallway at a full run. She took out one guard on the right with a bullet to the head, and the one on the left with two rounds to the heart.
“Job two, taken care of,” she said to herself as she made it outside, her car in plain sight. But also in plain sight were five goons, two on her left flank, two on her right, and one on the roof.
“Job three, about to be taken care of,” Leona said to herself as she rolled onto the ground, placing herself over a Pauline. Leona fired two rounds into the goon on the roof, three into each of the hired hands to her right, then one helping each of freshly-baked flying lead into the mouths of the two thugs for hire on her right.
As for the guests inside, Leona did consider collateral damage. Not all of the members of the party were there voluntarily. But identifying who was slave, who was master, and who was being lured into being one or the other would take time. Too much time. Getting Pauline out as quickly as possible before anyone could identify her rescuer was the prime objective now.
Leona threw Pauline into the back seat of the Mustang she had rented from the kind, honest and honorable Cowboy at the Alamo counter. Then she shot holes into the tires of every vehicle in sight. She floored her rented still four wheeled beast past the house, through main gate, and then into the black of night. A barrage of bullets that wounded the Old Mare on both of her flanks, but still left her with four good legs and shock absorbers in her all radial hoofs.
“Yes, it is a good day to LIVE,” Leona said to herself in English, then Cree, as she reached the main highway. She saw no trace of unfriendly mobsters on her tail nor any ‘special assignment’ Cops who were on their payroll. “Yes a good day to…” she continued as she looked in the rear view mirror. She stared into Pauline’s eyes. The pupils in them now fixed, and not dilating, even when the brights from the truckers in the opposing lane shone into them. Her skin was ghost white, no breath coming through her nose or mouth. A quick feel of her pulses revealed no blood coursing through her arteries. But there was one thing that DID work, as evidenced by her upturned lips. “At least she died knowing someone gave a shit about her, and thinking that she was worth something,” Leona thought to herself with some degree of satisfaction. “Whoever the hell she really was,” she continued, feeling the frustration of the bigger problem at hand regarding what unauthorized personnel knew about her freelance and often illegal extraction/rehabilitation operation. And who they were working for.
“So, it didn’t go so well there, Doc,” Rachel said to Leona on her earbud phone while assessing yet again data she had obtained over the last week, from her rodents over the last week. Yet again, she tried to connect what the rat experiments said to the findings she observed in the two legged n values from the last 4 months. “Are you coming back with the body?” she said through yet another yawn, followed by drinking yet another cup of thick black coffee that she was determined could replace badly needed sleep.
“I’d like to bring Pauline’s body back with me, but her family in South Africa wants to bury her,” Leona answered. “And they want to show her paintings at the funeral, with an open casket.”
“Tell them that she died in a fire,” Rachel said, her third eye spotting something in the readouts and graphs that the ones on either side of her nose had somehow missed. “Send them some ashes that you said were all that was left.”
“So you can investigate what’s left of her brain, Rach?”
“Data shouldn’t be wasted,” Rachel replied. “No matter how you got it. Like the medical experiments done on prisoners in WWII in 1945 that resulting in life-saving breakthroughs in 1947 for patients and people world-wide.”
“And profits for pharmaceutical companies that got hold of the medical experiment data before the American or Russian governments did,” Leona pointed out.
“I know,” Rachel pointed out. “But I’m so close!”
“To what?” Leona asked. “I do listen to what you say, and hypothesize.”
By the tone of Leona’s voice, Rachel knew that she really was listening. And Rachel being Rachel, she lost no time to talk. “Brain changes that happen when crossing the line into learned helplessness do involve the Nucleus Accumbans, and seratonin levels. And I’ll even buy the published research that says that type 1A, 2A and 3 seratonin receptors are desirable in reversing it, and that activation of 2C receptors makes it worse. But it’s not a seratonin, GABA, or cholinergic story. It’s a tale about dopamine, which is activated by seratonin afferents, in which dopamine type 2 and 3 receptors are the protagonists and type 1 receptors are the no-goodnicks. The key is to create more type 2 and 3 receptors, and decrease the number or activity of type 1 receptors. And associated with this is, as I smell it, the glutamate to glutamine inter-conversion pathway as overseen by our underestimated gatekeeper, glutamine synthetase, which is made in GLIAL cells, particularly reactive astrocytes, those spectator cells around neurons that are the puppet strings that trick us into thinking it’s the marionettes who are making all of the decisions.”
“Very interesting,” Leona replied.
“The science and the pharmacology if of it, yeah, Professor Z, but—-”
“—I was talking about the metaphors you’ve been using,” Leona interjected. “Mixed, yet not organically connected. But it shows that you’ve been using your left, artistic brain, like I assigned you to do. And you’ve been reading something other than published scientific research papers and your own notes. Though I will admit the latter usually make more sense than the former.”
“Which requires more investigation, and making the work less observational?” Rachel pressed.
Rachel remained silent, feeling the silence in the lab pounding into her ears like never before.
“So I’m to ascertain by your silence that you’re being a careful investigator?” Leona continued. “And that I’m not going to have to put you in a maze and throw away the key when I come back there before we review our most recent data?”
“I’m…doing my assigned work,” Rachel replied. She picked up a hundred page literary readout- fresh off the printer connected to her super-hyped lap top. “You told me to expand my reading into the arts so I would be a more effective scientist, so, that’s what I did.”
“And the author of this week’s book?” Leona asked. “Katzanskis? Steinbeck? Chekov? Hemingway?”
“No,” Rachel replied as the final pages of the readout slid into her hands. “Someone from this century, and who shares our point of view, genderwise.”
“Rach!” Leona shot back. “You aren’t considering becoming a man, are you?! Just because me and Stevenson had to undergo sexual reassignment to become complete, and be who we really are, you’re all woman. A pain in the ass for any bastard who may try to make you his ‘little woman’, yes. But there aren’t any Y chromosomes in your genes, or between the ears, or in your body. And the corporal mass of human flesh which is more beautiful and worth taking care of than you think!”
“I know,” Rachel said, running her non-polished and untrimmed fingernails through her scraggly but still luxuriousl long brown hair. “This author I’m reading would agree with you, and me.”
“An author who agrees with you and me?” Leona replied. “She’s gotta be a special soul. Twisted. Tormented. But, special.”
“She was, and maybe still is,” Rachel said as she viewed the scientific data regarding the author in question. “Remember Joline Rousseaux? She wrote this piece of Lesbian fiction that’s maybe more fact than fiction. ‘Elly’s Garden’, published from the French into English, and a whole lot of other languages, including some bootleg copies in Arabic. It’s gone viral on Amazon. And even at a dollar a copy, she’s gotta be a millionaire now.”
Rachel could hear Leona’s jaw drop on the other end of the phone. “I know, Professor Z, I can hear you gasp, ‘How the hell does a barely literate French Nigerian who’s a devoted Catholic write a best selling erotic novel only a month after she was released from here?’”
“Before I dig into you for not doing literary explorations for YOUR spiritual health, I have three questions,” Leona replied. “One, who’s the publisher of this book?”
“Atlantian Press,” Rachel said, after which she clicked onto the ret of the cybernotes she took down on very viral protected desktop PC. “Which is part of a money trail connecting Algerian sex slavers, to a tire manufacturer in Turkey, to a pizza delivery store in Brussels, to a real-estate holding company in Montreal, to Joline herself. Question two?”
“I assume you didn’t find this book by googling ‘humanistic and humor-evoking left brain literature for head heavy scientists who are in danger of contracting irreversible dull out virus’,” Leona shot back.
“Google didn’t recognize ‘dull out virus’. As we both painfully know,” Rachel related. “Which I’ll investigate biochemically if we can afford to buy, steal or make more lab equipment that—”
“—So how did you find this book by Jolline,” Leona interjected, postponing yet again her obsession to discover the biochemical basis for dull out disease, which turns so many potentially Alive souls into boring, procedural, lifeless and procedural ones. “Joline was one of our model success patients, who, according to the texts she sent to me, is living a ‘happily, uneventful normal life’?” she cont, suspicious about something. “Which, yes, may have some elements of dull out disease to it. But DOV is so widespread and unrecognized, and we have to cure one pandemic at a time, and—.”
“—It was something I got on my Facebook account when I went on line looking for a literature book I had to read to keep my ‘science isn’t everything’ Mom happy,” Rachel interjected.
“Facebook, where everyone knows who you are, and you don’t know who they are?” Leona said. “Pop culture fluff for fluff brains.”
“You said I had to do some ‘fun reading’, and pop culture’s all about fun and no substance, right, Science Mom?” Rachael shot back.
“Yeah, I did say that, didn’t I, ‘Daughter Fearest’,” Leona replied.
“And you said that if I’m doing Life right, work and play should be the same thing, right?”
“Yeah. I did say that, and meant it.”
“So, after I read Joline’s hot and heavy Lesbian novel, which, by coincidence, was written with words were more literary than anything that came out of her mouth, or that she wrote in the confidential daily journal that we told her to write—”
“—-And which we had read for her own good. A necessary…transgression,” Leona noted. “And should I ask if you focused on Joline before or after you ‘accidently’ ran into her novel?”
“I took another look at her blood work, brain scans, receptor ratios and CSF taps—which she allowed me to do. All of it was collected a month ago just before she left, for my own curiousity. It didn’t make sense, biologically. It was inconsistent with the rest of the data from the forty-three other liberated girls who were released over the last 5 months who, according to our follow up on them, made successful recoveries from learned helplessness. Should I continue?” Rachel asked.
“Like you expect me to say ‘no’?” Leona sneered.
“Joline arrived here after you rescued her with typical learned helplessness blood, brain scan and neurotransmitter level profiles. She snapped back up to well ABOVE healthy normal levels when she was released. Not a victim anymore, biochemically. According to my rodent data, and the samples we unofficially, and I know very illegally, got from the sample pools of now-dead slave masters, which make me conclude that—”
“—-Joline’s on her way to the dark side again,” Leona concluded. “Or was always there, able to fake normality when she had to with some biological tricks.”
“And knowing everything we did to bring her out of bondage,” Rachel replied. “Along with the where’s and who’s of our laboratory.”
“Our Sanctuary!” Leona blasted back. “And where the hell is Stevenson! He hasn’t called in, and I’ve left 5 messages for him to get back to me ASAP!” Leona screamed.
“I don’t know?’ Rachel replied. “The text I got from him said he was with you.”
“Well, he isn’t,” Leona said. “And I have to…”
The rest of the message from Leona’s phone was garbled. Then it turned silent. Rachel tried to call back, but there was no response. She tried to reach Stevenson, but got no response from him either.
“Something wrong?” an experimental ‘n value’ asked Rachel as she looked through the open door to her lab.
“Eh…nothing at all,” Rachel replied to Mirium, who was not Electra anymore. Behind Mirium were the rest of her soon to be liberated sisters, their vulnerable faces lit up by the same fire.
“Blow out the candles, almost-Doctor Rachel” Latisha added on behalf of the rest of the congregation, displaying upturned lips for the first time in two days. “We all baked this cake, and Emma said it was your birthday.”
The girls who had been given some drugs that Rachel had ‘forgotten’ to tell Leona about such sang Happy Birthday to Rachel. The young scientist smiled back at the singing sextet and blew out the candles, then glanced at the smoke they emitted afterwards. Rachel hoped and prayed that smoke would not be all that was left of the Rescue Farm in the event that she was the only ‘necessary evil’ left between those girls and their former Masters, or new ones.
“Do you have anything to declare?” the Canadian Customs Official just north of Plattsburg, New York asked Bill Stevenson.
“That I’m glad to be going home to a civilized country,” Stevenson replied in his best Canadian diction. He did his best to insure that it lacked any of the expressive upward and assertive downward inflections intrinsic to American English, and of course that the consonants were all pronounced clearly. With of course the exception of the second ‘t’ in Toronto, his home town, according to the passport bearing his real picture but not his real name.
The lightly bearded official in the dark blue paramilitary uniform with a feature-less-looking sidearm strapped to belt his punched in some numbers, then stared at the computer screen for five seconds longer than normal. Maybe it’s was just one of those things customs people did as part of standard operating procedure, like not smiling and certainly not joking with anyone passing in front of their windows, Bill thought. In a facility where, if they felt like it, any entry-level immigration officer could hold you indefinitely despite anything any judge would say North or South of the 49th Parallel.
While this Grocery Cop’s always-hidden computer screen displays a maple leaf, video games or perhaps information that don’t match the past record that was implanted on my Stevenson’s newly forged passport, the part-time Tribal Reservation Cop whose appearance this time was far more red than White pondered, while maintaining his best civilian poker face.
Stevenson looked around him at the other passengers who were on the bus. Most of them got on the human-packed sardine can in New York City and were on their way to Montreal. Such was a city which had the fire and flare of the Big Crab Apple but without its racial confrontations, overpriced hotel rooms or parking problems. They seemed like normal citizens en route to normal recreational activities, according to their body language, clothing and the anxiety they felt when pushed into a small room on a packed line with a whole bunch of ‘thou shalt not’ commandments in brightly lettered signs in English and French on the walls.
But there was one wall that only Stevenson looked at while he Customs Official apologized for ‘technical errors’ he was encountering in his new computer. The dates on the pictures of the missing girls and boys went back ten years. No doubt the happy faces in the photos were most likely not happy anymore, if indeed they still were connected to living, breathing bodies at all.
There was so much that Stevenson wanted to say to the wet around the ears Immigration Officer. By the uneven tan around his neck, he seemed to be new to a regulation paramilitary buzz cut, a uniform that wasn’t from a food chain, and a bang bang on his side that was loaded with real bullets. This probably well meaning ex-stoner who’s smuggled as much weed into Canada as he’s confiscated would piss in his pants before he would even draw his gun against one of the shitheads or assholes who had abducted and/or killed the kids whose photographs overloaded the ‘Missing’ board, Stevenson thought to himself behind a rigidly fixed smile.
But there was something else wrong with this picture, other than ‘border security’ between two countries that had been at peace with each other for two centuries that was more myth than reality, thankfully. Stevenson wondered why “Missing’ boards were always around in Canadian Immigration checkpoints and at most every bus station in Canada, but seldom on the American side of the border. Just like he wondered what would happen if the skantily-clothed teenaged girls from ‘Longg Isslanttdee’ behind him on line who had never seen Canada before wandered into the wrong Montreal neighborhoods.
The reputation of that city was that it was a centre (spelt with a ‘re’) for culture, art and gourmet food affordable even on a peasant’s budget. But Stevenson knew all too well that the Quebec chapters of the Hell’s Angels were masters of both cruelty and deception. They made the Sons of Anarchy and most of the real-life Anglophone chapters in Ontario and New York seem like Mormon Missionary Ministries.
Most HA’s in Montreal were boozers or dopers. They were also, quite literally, motherfuckers, given the fact that they stayed longest with women who had born children with them, or someone else. But some, more than the press would admit, were thinking, disciplined and therefore, functionally compassionate souls who honored a code of justice most normal civilians or Cops couldn’t handle. Such was ‘Oden’, a Ph.D. in physics who decided that he was more interested in the mechanics of motorcycles than the movements of the stars, planets and subatomic particles. He had lost one of his eyes in a barfight in which he protected three waitresses at his chapter’s bar from being raped by five bikers from another chapter.
Oden was fine with everything the HA’s did, but when it came to buying and selling women, that’s where he drew the line. Some said it was because he was an honorable man trying to do the Right thing. Some said it was because he was a practical one who understood the ‘what goes around comes around’ maxim by which the universe is ultimately run. Some said that he was just a smart businessman, who knew that there was more money to be had moving non-biological contraband than living flesh. In any case, Oden was a good man to have as a friend. Of course he was a dangerous one if you had him as an enemy.
“The value of goods you have in your bags?” the Customs Official asked Stevenson, finally breaking his silence.
“A hundred and twenty dollars,” Stevenson replied, looking downward, in that ‘cap in paw’ way one is supposed to present oneself to border guards.
“Alcohol, tobacco or firearms?” was the next inquiry.
“No,” Stevenson said, musing to himself that these Canuks cared about what you were bringing into their pristine country far more than who was getting across your work station. .
“Fruits, vegetables, meat, or dairy products?” was the next question, asked with the utmost assertion and seriousness.
“No,” Stevenson said, recalling that ‘milk solids’ were part of the ingredient list in the candybars he had in his pocket.
“Absolutely not,” Stevenson replied, looking straight into the Clerk’s ‘macho’ face to affirm his strong stand against anything that alters one’s mind or spirit for recreational thrills, or psychological comfort. Then again, maybe dope dealers would answer the question the same way.
The Clerk looked at Stevenson’s documentation, then at him, then the clock. “Have a nice day, Mister MacMillan,” he said as emotionlessly as possible, handing Stevenson back his passport. It was issued by the best Russian forger available in Pittsburg, backed up in the global cyberfile by Rachel’s computer skills and links available only through Leona’s still-clandestine contacts. Its use was required, as officially Stevenson was still on duty at the Rez in Montana, ‘gone fishing in the mountains’ to whatever FBI snitches working for the underworld would be checking up on his whereabouts.
Once off the bus in Montreal, Stevenson was greeted by Oden. The HA’s muscled up torso was covered with biker leather, his hairy head sporting a Santa Hat. “Merry Christmas” he said with a warm smile. He pulled forward a large, giftwrapped package tied to a two wheeled luggage dolly.
“The elves are making toys a lot lighter than they used to,” Stevenson noted feeling the weight of the gift. He know fully well that to question Oden’s work with regard to the quantity of arms and special explosives was not good for business, or the prospect of living to see another day.
“You were a good boy this year, Clearence MacMillan, and Santa gave you everything you wanted on your list,” Oden roared like the happiest bear in the woods. They walked towards the exit door past the Salvation Army stand, where the biker-Santa dropped a fifty into the donation pot.
“And what about who I wanted under the tree,” Stevenson asked.
“If this Nigerian bitch and snitch, Joline, is doing what I think she is, she’s gonna be impaled on my tree.” Oden gave Stevenson an unsealed Christmas Card.
Stevenson looked inside the card. He absorbed the words in as many ways as he was able to.
“The last place my club members saw here,” Santa Oden explained. “A literary club that does more than write twisted stories. They make them. And once the demons get inside of you, they know how to hide really well till it’s safe to come out and fuck up people who are trying to do the right thing. Like you and that trans Injun lady. As a hundred percent man, I can’t see what you see in ‘her’, but that’s your business. My business is to see that Joline doesn’t fuck up any other girl’s lives, or fuck you over after you rescue her from the dungeon so you can do whatever you want to her, or if you get all bleeding heart stupid, for her.”
Stevenson was always honest about everything with Oden, but there were some things that his allies, and friends, would never understand. Truth be told, they didn’t have to. Such was Stevenon’s having lived the first half of his life as a woman. Such was not the only reason why he had a despite special bond with Leona. True the two transitioned transgender ‘freaks’ talked about body parts they had gained and lost, with more humor than pathos now. But they never felt each other’s bodies under the sheets or even saw each other naked. There was always too much taking care of others that had to be dealt with first.
Oden walked Stevenson over to his ‘sled’, a super-souped two horse trailer up van, in front of the bus terminal which featured four Cleidsdales sporting reindeer horns. From the back door, bikers clad in Santa hats and full club colors gave out toys to homeless kids, and food to their emaciated parents. The gift giving was not appreciated by two very official RCMP Cops, but as the Press was there, the show was on.
“Impressive toys,” Stevenson said to Oden while taking a glance into a large trunk in the back of the trailer containing all of the firearms, explosives and diversionary tools he had requested. “And the other operator of these is where?”
“At a very heavily guarded moat in front of the dungeon, according to schedule,” Oden required. He left two of his leather-jacket clad elves with the crowd of homeless, and pretending to be homeless, gift recipents. “We gotta roll,” he said to Stevenson, motioning for a chopper bike to be brought to him.
“Brings back memories,” Stevenson said fondly as he got on top of the hog and felt its power under his feet.
“And nightmares,” Oden replied, getting on his Harley. “But ones that at least leave us after we wake up. On a good day anyway.”
Leona watched the enterage of HAs and Stevenson clad pull into a thicket of woods just as it was getting dark. Leather-clad Biker elves unloaded the wrapped gifts from their hogs. Santa Oden gave Stevenson a handshake that flowed naturally into a hearty ‘man hug’. Then Old Saint Nick slithered into the woods with his buds, instructing en route his subordinates to keep their eyes on their bikes, and not Stevenson’s ‘woman’.
“I got everything I think we need,” Stevenson said to Leona after opening up the gift-wrapped toys, all very functional and delivered to order. “You?”
“Everything I know we need,” Leona said. She took off her two thousand dollar Niemann Marcus trench coat, revealing a black leather skin-tight dress under it, Henna tattoos praising Satan on her arms and shoulders. “You’ll need this,” she said, handing Stevenson a red monk’s with a hood. “And this,” she continued, handing him a copy of Joline’s new book. “It’s officially a book reading and book signing party,” she said, pointing Stevenson’s attention to the Cops outside the main door of the Mansion beyond the woods. Three more limos pulled into the driveway, not a hundred yards away. Their well-dressed passengers were escorted out of their cars by even better dressed butlers and maids.
“It sure does look like a gala for the Metropolitan Opera in there,” Stevenson commented regarding the uptown ‘going to the Concert Hall’ attire of the guests. Leona handed him black tuxedo-like jacket and tie to go with his black trousers. “But before before you put that academic suit on, this goes under it,” she said, throwing into his chest a monk’s robe stained with real blood.
“So, let’s see what Santa gave us for Christmas,” Leona said as she opened the bags of toys delivered by the biker elves. “Hmmm a SEAL tomahawk. Razer-sharp edge that can split a pubic hair, with a shank strong enough to cut through a metal chain or the asshole’s neck who’s using that chain to keep a once-free girl, or woman, ‘obedient’. One for you, one for me. Two super-mini thunderblasts to blind anyone who stands in our way. Concealable mini-grenades and super-microsized automatic pistolas that rival anything Carlos built so well but refused to market.”
“And bigger toys for the elves,” Stevenson said regarding the rest of the illegal-to-own-in-Canada-or -the-US firearms that the bikers labeled ‘ours to use for this party’ with regard to labels in print and the way they held onto them. “And what if Joline has something to say about us getting her out of the Santa workshop inside that mansion?” Stevenson inquired of his very hot looking date.
“I’ll have a very few words to say to, then at her,” Leona grunted. “About how bad a girl she’s really been. Or maybe always was, when she pretended to be our ever grateful friend and…”. Then, Leona stopped in mid contemplation. “How did all of this start?” she asked Stevenson.
“With Joline?” Stevenson replied. “As we both know, and verified, she was a French Algerian born to Catholic parents who operated a grocery store in Nancy, France Her folks wanted to marry her off Joline to a doctor was rich, dedicated and honest. But, Joline wanted to become a bride of Christ instead. She became a Novice at a Nunnery in Calais and was send to town to buy wine and crackers that would be blessed by the priest at the ceremony where she was going to be initiated as a Sister. But she never made it back for the ceremony. A slaver who knew there was a prime market for virgin meat grabbed her just before Halloween. There was a special market that year for special virgin meat by devotees of the boss DOWNstairs.”
“You mean, Satan,” Leona said. “Who doesn’t exist, in reality, you know.”
“Maybe so, maybe not,” Stevenson replied, feeling the ‘evil’ from the blood monk robe under his tux penetrating through the cloth into his skin. “But she was raped by a Dominatrix ‘Mother Superior’ who wore a devil mask and sang Satanic verses. Then Joline was invited to to sing the verses with her.”
“Refusal of which would buy her ten lashes with a cat of nine tails, or have someone else whipped twenty times,” Leona noted. “Or so ‘Sister Joline’ told us, anyway.”
“Then she serviced women who had a fetish for wearing penises,” Stevenson continued. “Which is verified.”
“I know,” Leona conceded. “After which cats were eviscerated without anesthesia and eaten, raw, while they were still screaming in pain. Since eating someone else’s fear makes you have none at all.”
“And eating another person’s flesh, gives you power over their soul,” Stevenson noted. “Which those deluded souls inside that mansion believe.”
“They’re called assholes, shitheads, cunts, and pricks,” Leona grunted. “Or another name for one of them is, or may be…Jolines.”
“We don’t know that yet,” Stevenson said.
“We will soon enough,” Leona replied with a vengeful grunt. Feeling the anger rush through her veins. The urge to see that justice is done. The need to neutralize Jolie any way possible, ideally with as much pain as possible, so that the traitorous cunt would know the agony of being betrayed, and betraying others.
Yes, it was a ‘Tears of the Sun’ moment that extractors were allowed to be carried away with. And, as necessary part of the cycle to get the job done, liberators were required to ‘enjoy’ somehow. But as Leona was visualizing how she would neutralize the cunts, assholes, pricks and bastards inside who were about to torture another innocent animal and sacrifice another virgin human, she noticed something about her own ‘virginity’. It was an orgasm followed by seepage of secretions from her vaginal hole. Such was the female counterpart of a ‘woody’ that pricks like Boris Petrovitch and other sadistic fuckhead male bastards sprouted between their legs each time they embarked on a kill.
Was Leona addicted to exerting cruelty on others just like the Masters and Mobsters she was so good at eliminating were? Maybe Emma was right when she warned her son-turned-daughter that she could become an ‘evil’ rather than merely an ‘necessary evil’. Either way, it didn’t much matter, on this night anyway. Extracting Joline out of the Mansion, as either an informant or a victim, would most probably cost Leona her life this time. It was a projection, yes, but, this night anyway, a hope. Or perhaps it was a redemption of sorts. Leona had defied God for being an underachiever so many times that she perhaps had made too many deals with the devil. That devil, real or imagined, was waiting inside the Mansion for her.
The butler at the invitation-only party seemed civil. The gentle chatter between the guests in the hallway seemed civilized to Leona and Stevenson,. They both surrendered to formally-clad butler their citizen ‘going to the opera’ garb, revealing very non-citizen outfits underneath.
“So, who am I again?” Bill Stevenson, in his hole-ridden abused by everyone in the chapel Monk robe asked Leona. She was clad in a skin-tight black leather ‘demoness’ dress. “I’m the the submissive again? Slave obeying the Master, or Mastress?”
“You can be a dominant,” she pledged with an upward movement of her chin. “When I give you permission to do so of course,” she continued with an alluring bow, her upturned welcoming lips contrasting with her sadistic eyes. It was one of those ‘one part of the face is supposed to not match the other’ gestures that Bill recalled from his own experiences with the BDSM world as an off duty cop when trying to figue out what and who he really was inside.
Stevenson recalled how liberating it had been during those very unofficial experiments to let someone else tell him what to do. He recalled feeling relieved when someone else told him what to feel. He somehow breathed easier when the burden of ever-present responsibility and never-ending vigilance was slapped out of his chest. Of course, that was when the limits of what the Masters and Mastresses could do was honored.
Bill’s last experience as a submissive was more like enslavement, in which moderate hitting became hard beating. The whips used on his back acquiring metal spikes. The ‘make me eat whatever food you think I should have out of the refrigerator’ degenerated into accessing fecal material from the toilet. Had it not been for Bill’s ability to break out of the cuffs he was shackled with, he perhaps would have never escaped the last dungeon, or Mastress. He did forgive ‘Lady Vladimira’ for her transgressions, and after letting her de-toxify from the whiskey and cocaine she had imbibed, against the rules of the BDSM Group, he dropped all charges against her. But Lady Vladimra became addicted to the power. Or perhaps she was possessed by something, more powerful than any man or woman born of flesh.
“You look scared,” Leona said to Bill.
“I am…” Stevenson replied, hoping that none of the people around him who were adopting theor own outfits from the Underworld would hear him. “…scared.”
“Of dying?” she mused. “We’re all destined to go to the Light in the end anyway. It’s not such a bad place.”
“Unless we get diverted into another place,” Bill replied. He directed Leona’s attention to several men and women mulling around ‘the reading room’ who looked like the spitting image of Satan himself, or herself. “The elevator downstairs.”
“They’re just evil spirits, small s,” Leona said. “As beatable as the assholes who are still in their bodies. And as for the big bad devil who signs all of their paychecks and keeps them gamefully employed as minions of evil, I say to them—”
“—-be gone, in the name of Jesus, or Buddha, or someone a lot more powerful than ourselves,” Bill muttered the entities he felt floating around the room while Leona sauntered around the room. Then he directed his Commandment from Above to the minions of such, starting with a scantily clad female gladiator who let out a bolus of flatulent cloud of undigested beans into the face of a man dressed as a Nun. Seeing the need to use extra power, Bill grasped onto a crucifix in his pocket.
“You may want to point that magic over there,” Leona whispered to Bill upon her return to him, silencing his escolating muttering with a flamboyant slap across his face.. While Stevenson checked to see how many of his rotten teeth were still intact, Mastress Leona rubbed some sweetgrass between her breasts. “We have to deliver an extra dose of exorcism cocktail to the warm spaces over towards the free bar that somehow got cold,” Leona whispered into Stevenson’s ear as she pretended to stroke his genetalia. “And to the smell of rotting flesh being barbequed by sulfer and brimstone brickettes coming from—“
“—the underground dungeon?” Bill interjeted, bringing his and and Leona’s attention back to the world one can see rather than just feel. “On the other side of the door that looks like it leads to a broom closet.”
Said door opened up. Another butler rang bell, then with a bow, invited the guests to proceed down the stairs. He was clad in a traditional imitation Old English tux, with slicked back perfectly combed hair, complimented by spit-shined Oxfords on his feet. He was the kind of faceless entity who was well paid to be anonymous, and unnoticed. He kept his head bowed when the guests passed, fully accepting that he was not worthy of being looked at by anyone of any importance. But when Leona and Bill passed him, they did take a look at his face, through the corners of their now very alerted eyes. Though this butler seemed like a powerful soul, his face didn’t register any bells with anyone Leona knew. Such was not so with the woman downstairs on an elevated ;’theatre in the round’ stage. She was clad in a scanty red dress complimented by blood she was pouring over her arms on stage, greeting her rich servants with a wide smile and vacant eyes.
. “It’s Joline,” Leona noted.. “She’s dressed according to the main character in her best-selling book. If indeed it was her book,” Leona further observed thought. She did a quick inventory of the micro-sized weaponry hidden under her demoness outfit, and embedded inside her vulva. Joline was clearling possessed by possessed by something new now that was beyond the kick of being a trained sadist, or a subservient submissive.
Stevenson seemed to be thinking the same thing. Leona found herself doubting a lot more than if Satan did exist, and if there was a clitoris or penis between the legs. Could she really pull of another miracle rescue? Sure, she evaded being killed in twenty-four liberation missions to date. But each time, the bullets got closer to her vital organs. Two of them, shratnel pieces she named ‘twetle dee’ and ‘twedel dumb’, had found safe havens in her neck, aching for an invitation to enter the spinal cord. Each of those metallic visitors to the temple she called her body reminded her of their presence with a thud that felt more like a jolt.
Trying to get them removed by even the best neurosurgeons Leona knew from the science days would be very risky. Most certainly involve said ‘straight arrows’ would file hospital reports that would become official police reports that would find their way to Cops who were in bed with the criminals Leona was now dedicated to neutralize and/or eliminate. “But,” she thought, while pushing submissive Stevenson down to a kneeling position so he could serve the demonic Preistess, then bowing down to whatever Joline had become now. “Rachel has a brilliant head, and her surgical skills when putting implants into rat brains are very, very good. Maybe when they get to ‘excellent’, and the survival rates for said rodents go up from 89 to 97 percent, I would consider letting Rachel operate on me.” Of course, such would involve Rachel getting another year of education in Leona’s very unofficial research lab. And, even as the most lobotomized rat knew, Leona had to survive this rescue operation and find the shithead slave Master who had reclaimed Jolie as his, or her property, and was working on shutting down the Rehab Center for good.
Meanwhile, back in the world outside of Leona’s private abyss, every one of the guests was given a red robe with a hood to put on as a prelude to the ceremony that would lead to the all you can smoke, toke, drink and fornicate festival. The Ancient Roman themed ceremony at the alter behind Priestess Joline did involve rotting flesh. The hunk of meat in the center of it all could have been from a large cat, small dog. Change in the direction of the AC pushed the smoke Leona’s way, the aroma of which smelled more like it could be that of small child, or the limb of a sex slave who used it to push away her Master. Whatever it was, the sacrificial meat was being roasted over a pit of brickettes which smelled of sulfur. “Prepare ye to eat of the flesh of the innocents, so ye can become alive again,” the Priestess Joline half-sung as a repeating incantation. “So we may sacrifice to that which is Greater than ourselves and receive its Protection.” The congregation of rich suburanites joined in.
Stevenson came down with a violent relapse of fear. He grabbed for the Crucifix in his pocket, then strarted to pull it out in his clenched fist.
“They’re just life-bored amateurs playing at being Satanists,” assured Stevenson in a whisper after whipping his hand away from his pocket, his grasp away from the item that would maybe save their souls but get their bodies shot dead by the very armed guards surrounding them. “Or maybe they’re ex-Catholics thinking that they’re honoring the Pagan Jesus,” Leona mused after which she joined in the chanting.
“So, what’s OUR new plan, Mistress?” Stevenson asked as the first worshipers gulped down the ‘body and blood’ of the deity being caressed by a High Priestess. Her cat-claw long-nailed fingers ‘cleansed’ their chest, arms, legs, then the junction between the latter. The blessed worshopers were then passed on to the them on to the next chamber with a kiss on the forehead, appended by a smack on the ass. “If we don’t make our move now, towards the nearest exit, or move against those chanting ‘monks’, it’ll be our legs, arms and transplanted reproductive parts on the barbeque pit for sure,” Stevenson whispered in broken Cree and English.
“On Five then,” Leona said between chants, proceding to count down with her fingers in tune with the acapella ‘music of the night.’ around her. Bill and Leona discretely inserted styrofoam plugs into their ears two seconds later.
On the unsaid count of one, Bill flashed his first thunderstick towards the Monks guarding the Priestess, blinding their eyes. The multi-sensory diversion devise also evoked an ear piercing shrill that caused everyone else in the room to hear nothing but pain between their ears. Leona threw three stun grenades into each as many corners of the dungeon. Their explosion threw up red smoke. For those bold enough to stand up to face it, or who ran through it, bullets from her sidearm and Bill’s modified AK47 convinced them to think otherwise.
Bill shot one tranquilizer dart into the Priestess Joline’s arm, causing her to fall, to stumble, then fall head first onto the sacrificial alter Stevenson wrapped her up in a body suit, then made a run for the upstairs through which they came. Leona followed, shooting stun bullets at whoever dared to follow.
As Bill and Leona worked their way up the stairs, the sound of the dying and confusion downstairs diminished. Apparently, the dwelling was designed so that whatever happened upstairs could not be heard in the basement, and vice versa. The first person to greet them at the top of the stairs, was the butler, the business end of his sawed off shotgun having found its way onto Stevenson’s chest. “The ceremony is not over, Sir. My prize property is not finished with her book reading yet,” he said with a calm, procedural tone. “You may purchase her for your stable for an appropropriate price, but in the meantime—”
Leona silenced the slave master mascarading as a servant with a tranquiller dart that landed between his ears. “The happy juice gets into his brain faster that way,” she said by way of explanation.
“Or kills him faster,” Bill retorted.
“Which if it does happen, makes us all happy, right?” she replied.
Someone upstairs heard them, allowing for no time to debate the worth of taking prisoners vs the benefit of being sure that another slave master was about to die convulsing in his own excrement. Bill signaled the bikers outside to begin their diversionary cover fire.
“Music to my ears,” Leona declared with delight as heard them surround the Mansion, blasting at everyone who tried to get out. “That we both can dance to this time, yet again, Bill. To the accompanyment of this shithead’s confession,” she continued, placing the now subdued Master butler over her shoulder. “Du bist fertig?” she asked Bill.
“Da, Comrade,” he smiled back.
The escape towards the door outside went as planned. With the rest of the diversionary and killing devises they still had, Leona and Bill made it out the main room of the mansion, then onto the porch. There was only one causualty en route. The Butler Master breathed his last, courtesy of Joline’s pulling her off Leona’s back and throwing him into the line of fire of his own guards. Maybe it was intensional, maybe it was accidental. Such was postponed, as the biker Santa extraction van had to high tailed it out of the woods in the wake of the arrival of reinforcments from the other Slave Masters and Satanists escorted by siren to the site by Cops no doubt employed by them.
“So, she knows nothing, and is saying less,” Emma said to Leona as she watched Rachel inject yet another dose of ‘truth that your conscious brain is trying to forget serum’ into Joline’s veins though the one way glass at the Rehab Center’s interrogation room. “But why do you still have her arms and legs tied to the chair?”
“For her own protection,” Leona replied. She pointed to the very recent slashes on Joline’s wrists, then watched Jolie’s possessed eyes. They seemed to ocular portholes follow her own, even behind the one way mirror. “And of course your protection, Mom.”
“What about your protection, Leona?” Emma replied to the renegade, crusader daughter who used to be her obedient, fun-loving son. “And Rachel’s. She’s alone in there with her, you know, Leon, I mean, Leona.”
“Yeah, I know, Emma, I mean, Mom,” Leona shot back as a reminder of their current relationship, which part of Emma still didn’t want to accept. “After I extracted Joline from her Master, Rachel doctored her back to health, and found a way into her head.”
“After I advised her to find a way into her heart first, Leona,” Emma reminded her daughter as a daughter. “Remember?”
“Yeah, I do,” Leona replied. She accepted a hug of approval from the woman who finally accepted her, provisionally anyway, as a woman after Leona had rescued her from Slave Masters back on the Rez. Emma’s husband, and Leona’s father, had sacrificed himself so that they could live, and that Chief Boris, the head of that Slave Ring, would die.
“So, this means I can go in there and bring Joline some cookies, Leona?” Emma asked. She pulling out a bag of freshly baked pastry from her food cart, which Leona sniffed.
“Oatmeal raison with bran flakes and Maui Wowi, Mom?” Leona noted.
“Port Alberni Alfalfa,” Emma asserted. “Grown legally now in Portland.”
“If only getting everyone stoned on weed would put all of us arm in arm with each other rather than at each other’s throats,” Leona lamented. “What Joline has become, and why, isn’t as simple as that.”
“Maybe,” Emma conceded. “But giving your recaptured patients, as well as captured bad guys, weed to make them talk. You haven’t tried it yet, have you?”
”No, I haven’t, but—”
“—Look, Leon, Leona or whoever you are in transition of becoming now!” the ex-hippie Mom who never raised her voice blasted out. “You’re running out of time, and we’re in need of answers! That we includes me, Rachel, Bill, the girls who are in here for healing. It also includes the untold larger number of still free girls out there who will be in need of healing if we can’t find the mole who Master Paul said is, or was, here! Verstehen Sie, Dumpkopf!!!”
“Yeah, I know,” Leona replied. She unlocked the door to the interrogation room, allowing Emma to enter into the chamber with her weed-laced cookies. At first Joline refused to eat them. To assure their patient and/or prisoner of their safety, Emma took a bite, then requested Rachel to do so. After release of her right arm, Joline trusted the baked goods and the baker. She found the cookies to her liking, as did Rachel, who quickly developed more of an appetite than she thought she had. Then instead of Q and A, something resembling a conversation emerged between the three women.
Leona listened, trying to figure out which side of the fence delineating good and evil Joline was on. Statements that were more true than false seemed to be coming out of her head and into her mind. They didn’t relate much to the case at hand, even when Leona brought Rachel’s attention to the list of questions she had sent in with Emma. But there was one benefit to this interrogation that had thus far provided no real answers. Rachel was having fun. She was laughing. Being silly. So was Joline. And even Emma seemed to loosen up. In the meantime, Leona focused on seeing that the voice recorder had enough tape in it to capture anything meaningful to the case at hand, as Rachel and Emma were too deeply entrenched in Strawberry Fields to remember anything. All seemed to be coming to an informative conclusion as Joline related her life story prior to her abduction to her two caretakers. After they both fell asleep, Joline directed her attention elsewhere, without warning.
“These chains you put on my feet and hands will be used to hang you by the neck, or the balls,” Joline abruptly proclaimed to Leona on the other side of the mirror just as Stevenson joined her.
Joline took another sip of orange juice on the table in the ‘interview’ room. “Good OJ,” she noted, somehow repossessed by something that could not be referred to as anything but a demon. “With, no doubt, some ingredients in it that don’t grow on orange trees, or any trees. But there is one question I’d like to ask you before whatever is in this makes me answer of your questions, Leona.”
“I’ll be right in to give you a truthful answer,” Leona said into the microphone leading to the other room.
“No!” Joline shot back. She put her hand up, the demon inside of her seeing through the mirror directly into Leona’s eyes. “This kind of question is best asked from behind this wall. For my protection and yours.”
“And the question is?” Leona asked as Bill Stevenson walked in to join her.
“Is there life after death, or just more death?” Priestess Joline inquired.
“I don’t know, Joline,” Leona answered. “
“But there’s a nobel prize in literature and medicine in it for whoever comes up with a verifiable answer,” Bill added.
“Which I will relate to you exclusively, out of thanks for..well…everything you tried to do for me,” Joline replied, as herself. “It’s an asnwer so simple, I can pull it out of my ass.”
With her free hand, Joline reached under skirt and pulled out a wad of manure. Inside it was a small glass flask. “Eat shit or be done with shit, that is the question, and this is my final answer,” she continued, afterwhich she placed the flash between her legs and with a forceful motion as assertive as any she had demonstrated to date. Blood spilt onto the floor, followed by violent convulsions.
Emma and Rachel remained in deep slumber. Leona and Bill rushed into the room.
“Fuck! She’s doing an Agnes McFee on us!” Leona screamed out while Bill and her tried to revive Joline back to life. “Serial killer who snuffed 55 gold miners in Old West British Columbia then avoided the noose by sneaking arsenic in her snatch. Why the fuck didn’t I see that coming?!”
“Message from my father’s grave. Joline is as innocent as Pauline was,” the text read. It was from an unknown number, the time of the call blocked out as well. “But keep looking, please. Sarah H.”
“From Paul Himmel’s daughter no doubt,” Leona noted.
“Who won’t help us any more that that, unless she has a death wish to join her father in the afterlife,” Bill said, afterwhich horror overtook his face. “Or maybe she’s…”
“Dead already, hiring the best Jewish lawyer to plead her case to Saint Peter that it wasn’t her fault that she found out about her father being a human trafficker after it was too late?” Leona suggested.
Bill entered the data into his pocket computer. He shared the read out from the headlines of the Allentown, PA paper with Leona. “Honors student dies in fatal car crash,” it read, with Sarah Himmel’s graduation photo under it.
“It beats her being employed into her father’s business as a sex slave,” Leana noted.
“No thank you, Mister Spaceman. Mama Nature told me to never go to bed wiith any aliens on the first…date, ” Rachel said, jolting awakening from a happy slumber. “
“What’s going on?” Emma added, having been pushed into partial consciousness by Rachel.
“Now that you two have had a good nap, time to get back to work,” Leona said.
“Sister Joline, she’s–!” Rachel gasped regarding the sex slave who started off life aspiring to be a bride of Christ rather than a toy for sleazy men.
“—Autopsy material,” Leona said. “Full work up on her brain chemistry, Rachel. While Bill and me—”
“Destroy the weed I grew, that killed her!” Emma sobbed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know Joline was allergic to—”
“—Living? I didn’t either,” Leona replied.
Leona figured that maybe it was a good lesson for Emma to consider that happy weed can be toxic to vigilant brains. In the meantime, she looked at Bill. Each sought an answer from the other. This time, the third brain between them that always figured out the most complicated of issues was on a lunch break, with no indication of its return.
“So,” Bill Stevenson said to Leona when he took her on a forced hour of fishing at the pond at the Rehab Center so she could experience quiet, and perhaps even patience. “Maybe Master Paul’s telling me that one of our graduates is a mole is something he just made up. Either to make himself feel important, or just to fuck us up. Actually, to fuck me up.”
“But his daughter’s confession,” Leona challenged as she tugged on the line thinking it was a fish so she could get back to work at the lab. “The last and maybe only honorable thing the model honor’s student daughter did before she was killed.”
“Sarah could have been as crooked as her father. It wouldn’t be the first time that a Mafia Princess got straight A’s because her father paid top dollar for them.” Stevenson offered “After what we did to his Paull Himmel’s cousin’s operations, it would please him, and maybe his daughter, to have us think that our must trusted friends and students are waiting for the right time to shove a knife into our back. He didn’t believe in much with respect to the Almightly, but he did believe in an afterlife. And the opportunity to ridicule us from the grave.”
“Or pull us into the deep six with him, when we’re not looking,” Leona said. “And in the meantime, constantly looking over our shoulders while we’re on this experiment in alternative moralities that some call earth,” she continued. She looked over her left shoulder, while slowly reaching for the knife strapped to her belt.
“What? Where!!!” Bill gasped. He whipped out his revolver and pointed it in the direction of Leona’s stare, hiding his terror under a clenched tooth growl.
“So,” Leona smiled back. “You don’t believe that Master Paul’s claim that one of our graduates is on the warpath against her healer-teachers is a myth any more than I do.”
“No, I don’t,” he grumbled, collecting himself. “And it would be nice, and considerate, if you just asked me instead of scaring me half to fucking death.”
“Haven’t you heard? Fear is our friend, Bill,” Leona replied, extending her firm hand to his shaking shoulder.
“And just because everyone is out to get you is no reason to be paranoid, yeah, I know,” he concluded, He pulled away from Leona before she could show him how deeply she really did feel about him. “Time for us to leave, Weedchopper,” he said as he pulled in his fishing rod and cut the hooks off the line.
“Not yet, I’m not finished being patient,” Leona replied, keeping her line in the water.
“Or coming here for what I promised you’d get,” Bill said. He noted that Leona, for the first time in all of their fishing trip-talks, actually had something on the hook.
“He feels big,” she said, having not experienced what it was like to actually catch a fish. “What do I do?”
“Visualize cooking him up in a frying pan with corn oil and oregano,” Bill said.
“What if he’s a she?” Leona asked, doing her best to bend move with the fish, but not on her terms.
“Then visualize her in a sautee pot with butter and lemon,” he said. “Just don’t let it go.”
Leona seemed to enjoy the give and take with fish dinner at the other end of the line. For a few magical moments she allowed herself to enjoy life. Such was something she requested that her patients do, and that Rachel ‘experiment’ with. It was part of being a full woman. Nay, such was essential to be a fulfilled humanoid. Leona observed herself giving up control of everything to the Everything in all things. Then the fish threw her off balance, plummeting her into the water. Soaking, holding on to the fishless rod, she wet from head to toe, Leona was, yes, laughing! Laughing was one of those things that Leona required all of the extracted slaves to do as an indication that they had been liberated. And if they were able to make others laugh, they had become liberators.
Bill smiled vicariously as he watched Leona enjoy life rather then endure it. He thought about jumping into the water and joining her in that hard earned revelry. But just as he removed his coat, the world as it is summoned him back to duty.
Before the low flying plane circling above them could be identified as friend or foe, Leona threw the fishing rod into the water and pulled out the assault rifle she had left on the bank of the creek.
\ Bill took out his spy glasses and looked at the craft Leona had in her sites. “A delivery plane.”
“That’s not delivering anything I ordered.” Leona cocked the hammer on a Carlos-special anti-aircraft rifle, preparing to force the plane into a premature landing
“Your Montreal biker buds do deliveries by the air now?” she said after seeing the gang colors for Oden’s chapter on the wings, then a parachute floating from the plane as it made a quick U turn and headed North again. “Is it something we want, or need?” she asked.
“If we’re doing our jobs right, and effectively, what we want and need should be the same thing,” Bill replied. “But I can tell you what isn’t in the early Christmas package.”
Leona looked with regret at the fish in the pond that had escaped the hook, for now. “A frying pan with butter, lemon and oregano is your final destiny,” she promised, the smiling fish with her mouth, wishing it a good, long life with her heart. It would be a life that Leona was sure would be longer than the elusive fish, according to even the most optimistic projections.
“Early Christmas presents, we get these for what?” Tatiana said as the girls in the Rehab Center went through the portion of the Biker Santa delivery that Leona, Bill, Rachel and now Emma said was appropriate for them.
“To look hot again?” Latesha said regarding the very feminine, and very expensive clothing laid before them which was to replace the discount or second hand gender-neutral ensembles Leona provided as part of their therapy. “You want me to look hot, Doc?”
“I, we, want you to feel beautiful,” Rachel interjected regarding the gifts Papa Oden saw fit and appropriate to give his liberated neices. “We want you all to feel beautiful, which maybe can happen if you look beautiful,” Doctor R said to the rest of the girls. said with a warm smile.
Mirium, Mara, Victoria, Tatiana, Latesha and even the oft-times androgenous Yung allowed their fingers to sense the softness and smooth texture of the variety of tasteful ladies’ ware which let them imagine themselves as a lady rather than a ‘babe’, or a ‘chic’. Each was tailor made to not only their body size, but their aesthetic as assessed by their psych profiles. Victoria, Tatiana and Latesha enjoyed putting on the clothing that made them beautiful on the outside. Mirium and Yung still seemed afraid to do so. of girls enjoyed looking like babes again.
“To BE beautiful, on the inside and the outside, one feeds the other,” Leona assured her most recent extraction and her most complicated patient. Emma backed her up with an affirmative nod.
“What does Bill say about it? I want to know what a man says says about this outfit before I put it on” she said regarding the business suit with the knee length pencil flaired skirt that said ‘angelic’, and the ‘totally eighties but coming back forever’ shoulder pads that said ‘empowered’ “Or if he’ll look at me like a plaything instead of the ‘beautiful’ person who you say I am, Professor Leona.”
“If you put it on, we can ask him,” Emma offered.
“And if he looks at you like you’re a babe instead of a woman,” I’ll re-educate him with a kick straight into his ‘manhood,” Rachel added, pointing to the intersection between her own legs.
Doctor Rachel’s remark made all the girls and Emma laugh. Leona chuckled, contemplating the irony that Bill used to be a woman. Such was a fact that the girls were not ready to know yet, and perhaps didn’t have to know, even after their graduation. As for Rachel’s new ability to induce humor in the girls, it was somehow connected to the her timing, confidence and baritoned voice. “Maybe I should tell Rachel that maybe she was born as man and didn’t know it,” Leona pondered. “But knowing what gender you really are inside is something that only you know. Though maybe my life would have gotten on the right track sooner if Granny, back at the Rez, introduced me to Leona while I was still Leon.” Such was another one of those woulda’s and coulda’s that was fun to think about, but impractable to dwell on too long. “So, all of you liberated and beautiful woman ready to get an opinion about you from a real man?” Leona asked the congregation.
Everyone nodded yes to such, including Yung.
With that, Leona left the General Purpose Room, closed the door and proceded down the hall. Five minutes later, most of which was spent silently with Bill on the opposite side of the door to the GPR, she re-entered.
“Looking smart, intelligent and beuatiful,” Bill said the girls, after which he looking into the eyes of those who needed believe that most.
“Which you ALL are already,” Leona added. “And which YOU’LL know and the whole world will know after you use these,” she continued. She presented each of them with an individually wrapped package.
“What this be?” Lakesha said regarding the slab of cyber-wear with her name engraved on it. “Somethin’ I play video games on?”
“A kindle,” Mara said regarding her ‘video game’ slab. “For reading books.”
“What books?” Victoria said regarding her video slab. “I always hated reading.”
“You’ll start liking it when you read what’s on your kindle,” Rachel said. “And like it even more when you start writing your own books.”
“Which you can do on those lap top computers under them,” Leona added.
“And we supposed to write? Who gives shit about what we read and write? Outside of here, anyway,” Tatiania said, relating. Her voice shook with terror of going back out into the world, be it go her home back to the old Slavic country, or with the refugee status in this new one which Leona was able to arrange with a mixture of finese, reason and blackmail. “Who care about how smart we are outside of here?” she blasted out.
“Your new teachers, who I think you’ll enjoy learning from,” Rachel said with a big smile. “Bachelors at first. Then the Masters.”
All of the girls dropped their lap tops, Kindles and the packages under them. They looked to each other now for whatever support or trust they could get. Leona rolled her eyes, noting that once again Rachel’s consciousness was still in the library rather than in the real world those books wrote about. “What almost-doctor Rachel means, is that you’re all enrolled with full scholarships in colleges where you’ll get a Bachelor’s degree. Then, with some push and pull from some people I know, and Rachel may know too one day, a Master’s degree. Maybe even a Doctorate!”
“What if I don’t wanna be a doctor?” Lakesha said.
Before Rachel came out with what the difference between a doctor and a Doctorate is, Leona put her hand in front of the smart, but not yet wise, graduate student’s mouth. “A doctor gets an MD.”
“From a medical school, which stands for,—“ Rachel said.
“—Me Doctor, M.D.” Leona added.
The girls laughed. Leona looked at Rachel, who seemed to have learned, yet again, that humor is a better package for information transfer than plain data, even if it is statistically verified.
“And a Doctorate is…”
“A Ph.D.,” Mara said in her heavy Arabic accent. “Doctor of Philosophy.”
“Then it should be a D. Ph,” Lakesha said. “Reading it from left to right.” She turned to more often than not silent Mara, curious about something. “How is it that you know a Ph.D. is a Doctorate of Philosophy, girl?”
“Because in Arabic we read from right to left,” Mara replied.
The rest of the girls shared some gentle laughter. Humor that was based in sharing a joke rather than someone being the butt of one. Rare in the worlds they had been enslaved in, and for that matter, rare in the ‘free and civilized’ world they are about go into soon. And as for Mara, Leona tagged on another mark on her report card. Mara posed her remark regarding Arabic being read from right to left as a statement, not a question. Something she had not done with regard to a tenth of her ‘statements’ since her arrival at the Center 4 months ago after her extraction from Masters who often wouldn’t let her talk at all.
Yes, Mara’s refusal to put a question mark at the end of each statement reflected a renewed belief in herself. It was also a refusal for the Saudi-raised 17 year old to talk like American 17 year-olds, who littered their speech with ‘like’ and ‘ya knows’, ending each sentence with a question mark.
Yes, it had been a good year for the girls, and a productive one for the rehab center. The girls dream-talked about what kind of Bachelors and Doctorates they wanted to get, through scholarships ‘negotiated’ with the Suits by Bill’s biker buds, Bill, and Leona. Some of them even talked about having husbands, and kids of their own. Leona felt rewarded. These girls will carry on the flame of love, freedom and compassion. And without being a burn out like I became, Leona thought to herself. Hey, maybe one of these girls, probably with the help of Rachel, could come up with the cure for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the other ailments that keep my brain box working overtime against itself during the day, and infiltrated by nightmares most of the night.
“We should do a PBS special about this place, Leona?” Emma suggested, breaking Leona’s dive into the abyss just before she got stuck in the muck again without even knowing it, as was her habit and passion. “You’ve done more for these kids, and so many more. Something which I’m sure Leon couldn’t have done.”
The remark about Leon meant more to Leona than any Christmas present Old Saint Nick, Santa Oden or ancient Greek goddess could have dropped from the sky. Her Mom, the one who fought most against her becoming a woman biologically, now not only accepted that transition as valid but she saw it as something to be valued. Leona felt a mother-daughter-who-used-to-be-son hug coming on. But just as Leona turned around to Emma for that longed for embrace, Bill handed her an envelope.
“This was in the mailbox in town,” he said. “Addressed to Rachel.”
“Who doesn’t officially live or work here,” Leona noted.
“Tell that to ‘E’, as he or she identified him or herself, with this return address,’” he said. “1308 West 57th Street, NYC.”
“Which puts the mystery-sender’s address in middle of the Hudson River!” Leona
muttered softly, detecting an odor inside the parcel that smell right either.
“Oh, yes, that package,” Rachel said while seated at her stool at the laboratory bench which had become the place she considered more home than anywhere else she had been, or imagined. She checked her anatomical bearings again, then lowered the micropipette into a rat’s brain. “By the handwriting, or as some would call it, ‘caligraphy’, and the underwater location he kept fantasizing about, it’s probably from a very EX-boyfriend, who—“
“—Knows where you are!” Leona grunted to the student who she had not only converted into a mad scientist, but an obsessive-compulsive investigator. “How!?”
“’Why’ is the question,” Doctor Rachel replied calmly. She slowly injected the molecularly modified neurotransmitter into the brain of the rodent which she had surgically altered to be a sadistic prick, postulating this time that the extract inside that pipette would turn him into a saint, or at least an ‘average Joe’ rodent . “Why would Egmont, named after a Beethoven opera he never saw and hated when he did, want to get me back into being ‘fun’ again? Mindless, stupid, non-purposeless ‘fun’. As wasteful as…hmmm…” Rachel hesitated, trying to get her mind to formulate a pun that would have social impact and elicit the visceral response called ‘humor’.
“How did you find Egmont!?” Leona screeched. “And why is he contacting you here!?”
“I don’t know. Maybe if you open the package, we’ll both find out?” Rachel replied, calmly, and logically. “And if you’re afraid there’s something dangerous under it, feel free to open it under the hood.
Leona took in a deep breath, put on a pair of heavy gloves and opened the package, under the fumigation hood covered by a layer of somewhat protective glass.
Meanwhile, Rachel let loose with the bolus of CIE-, aka ‘Compassion inducing extract 3’. She hoped would be more effective than extract 1, and less toxic than extract 2.
“It’s a bunch of books,” Leona gasped regarding the contents of the package as viewed through the protection goggles.
“Booka about?” Rachel asked.
“Two hundred pages each,” Leona shot back after thumbing through them, seeing that there was noting between the pages except print. She dumped the pile of ‘literature’ besides Rachel.
“’How to’ books about being hip, cool, or ‘whatever’,” Rachel noted regarding the humorous instructional books about being such. “I used to find them funny. I studied them on line recently, got back to him on e mail about my findings.”
“And these?” Leona said regarding the music CDs enclosed with them.
“Country Crap, Hip Hop Hoak and Heavy Metal that sinks down into the depths of mediocrity if you’re smart enough to turn down the volume,” she said. “It’s used to rock our heads and tap our feet to those things in private. “When done in a social context amongst other people, some call it dancing.”
“Cheech and Chong, Kumar goes to White Castle, The Hangover,” she noted with a condescending eye-roll, yet with a trace of having had good memories of watching them. “But also….Dogma,” she continued. “Intelligent humor, more misunderstood than appreciated between the lines.”
“And this?” Leona said. Her anger turned into shock when she read the title of the DVD on the bottom of the file. “Woman on Fire!”
“Story about Marie Curie. Wonder woman and discoverer of radium and other things that go glow in the night,” Rachel read, while letting the Compassion extract aimed at dopamine and seratonin receptors filter through ‘Harrold the Horrible’s’ rodent brain. “Featuring Kevin Bacon, pretentious scum that he is in real life, as the kindly and generous Pierre Curie. Ex-Nazi Jackson Tyler as Einstein, probably cast as such because he looks so hot in a mustache. And as Marie Curie, Polish physicist-poet-political activist feminist…” she continued, unable to read the name.
“Katelina Nordenstrom,” Leona said, better able to read small print, than Rachel. “Who graduated from our rehab program with honors after we snatched her from her slave master in Lost Angeles.”
“Whose acting abilities in the drama and comedy exercises you made all of our girls do were as bad as…hmmm—-”
“The most soul-dead scientists and technicians I knew just before I left the university, Rachel,” Leona said. “Afflicted with more inhibitory neurons between the ears than excitatory ones. Afflicted with dull out disease that made robots at a science geek fair look like–”
“—Creatures with more vitality, and humanity, under their armor than I have between my ears, or maybe inside my heart,” Rachel realized, and gave voice to.
The alarm next to Rachel went off. She quickly went back to work on Harrold the Horrible, stopping the flow of Compassion extract at the appropriate time into the rodent’s brain. She wished she would have instead spent her time formulating Vitality extract to use on Dulled Out rodents, or, as she now realized, herself.
“So, you want any more popcorn?” Bill asked Leona as they sat side by side on the third hand couch that was more comfortable on the ass than any of the beds they used to ‘sleep’ in at the compound.
“Another cup of coffee,” Leona replied as “Woman On Fire” finally reached the 100 minute mark on the small screen tv, with another agonizing half hour or more to go. While Bill poured her another cup of super-concentrated black java, she yawned. Observing Katelina’s performance was vital to assess her former patient’s current state and alliances, but staying awake through such a badly done, emotionally flat film that even the most brilliant musical soundtrack couldn’t save was both hard and painful.
“She’s at least trying to do a good job,” Rachel pointed out regarding Katelina’s portrayal of Marie Curie from her vantage point on a stool in the corner of the central administrative office. “But it’s worth noting that Katelina is believable when she talks about physics, instead of her relationship with the married French biologist, and the time Albert Einstein tried to get her into the sac.”
“Yeah,” Leona noted, allowing that observation to incubate in her tired head. “It’s also very interesting that this display of bad acting by Katrina, along with and insincere overacting by hammier than usual Kevin Bacon got the film five major festival awards, and came in as one of the top ten box office money makers for 3 weeks in a row.”
“Interesting but not unusual. Someone paid off judges and accountants who are creative with numbers,” Bill noted. “Like Canadian publishers buying up 2500 copies of the books they put into the stores so they can claim it’s a best seller.”
“I thought Canada was an independent country, with socialized medicine, university tuition that people can afford, high schools that taught history the way it really happened, and muggers who said please before they robbed you blind in a dark alley,” Rachel said.
“You didn’t know that Canada is now officially the 51st State in these United States?” Leona sighed.
“No, I didn’t,” Rachel replied.
“That’s okay,” Bill said. “Most Canadians don’t know their country was sold to the highest bidder by the real bastards in charge either.”
“And who are those bastards?” Rachel asked like a child who just was told that Santa Clause may be more legend that fact. She looked to Leona and Bill for an honest reply, as they were both pondering the ever changing subtleties of that question. “I know, ‘when I get older’” Rachel spat out. She got her ass off the stool and turned the volume on the tv down as yet another scene of arrogant, pseudo-liberal Kevin Bacon pretending to be the intelligent and sincere ghost of Pierre Curie was about to come on. “But I am grateful for one thing in this counter-productive, cool to be cruel, defective and self-sabotaged world we’re all stuck in,” she said. “The one thing that makes this evening at the movies redeemable, and which will spare whoever has to watch this movie after we’re dead a lifetime of agony.”
“And that one thing is what, Doctor Rachel?” Leona in inquired, addressing Rachel by the title she was working so hard to get, and so rightly deserved.
“At least whoever the executive producer of this film really is didn’t put Keera Sedgwick into the lead as Marie Curie,” Rachel said regarding the pushy bitch who made it cool to be manipulative and cruel as the lead on ‘The Closer’. “Hollywierd gossip said that Miss Keera, adored and worshiped ‘Queen of Cool to be Cruel and Manipulate, was pissed off because she didn’t get to be in this film with ‘Kev’. But I can’t figure out why her fans, who she treats like shit whenever she can, love her so much.”
“Act like an asshole, get treated like a saint, Rach,” Bill replied. “Second golden rule.”
“The first being that he who has the money makes the rules,” Leona continued with a casual smile as Rachel’s private tutorial continued.
”And he, or she, who had the money to put Katelina into this film, with enough pull to keep Keera Sedgwick out of it, is, I would suggest, someone we have to find, before they find us,” Rachel pointed out with the utmost sense of urgency. She quickly fast forwarded the film to the credits, taking down all of the names of everyone who listed themselves as a producer, or who was thanked by the producers for making the film possible. “One of these idiots who allowed this movie to happen has to be the asshole Slave and Trafficking Master who gave Katelina the starring role, in exchange for her working for him, or her, again,” she grunted as she wrote down the names with such intensity that there were more holes made in her writing pad than ink. “Maybe you guys recognize these names from the travels you take that you don’t let me go on,” Rachel grunted as she read out the names, entering them into her own lap top. “Or at least you could type them into your own computer and put them through those data bases with access codes you two have, which you keep saying I can have ‘when I get older’.”
As Rachel searched for relevant links to known Slavers on her lap top, the Bill and Leona looked at each other knowing that the only way Rachel would ever get older is if she never got hold of that data base. Rachel had a bright brain, but not a clever one. Her mathematics could link a biochemical reaction to a neurotransmitter release paradym, to a receptor, to a membrane change on another cell, to an internal event in that other cell that made it wake up, go to sleep, or turn around its agenda entirely. But Rachel was never clever enough in the kind of mathematics the Masters of human manipulation and cruelty used. No matter how many Ph.Ds Rachel got in behavioral neuroscience, she would still know that if you were person A, and you wanted to do something to person B, you first went through persons C, D,E,F, and G, or perhaps person D, F,G, and C.
“So, what’s our plan?” Rachel asked Leona, then Bill. “Where do we start?” she continued, refusing to take no for an answer this time.
“The question is who we start with, I think,” Bill offered.
“Someone who Katelina hasn’t seen, and who she or her real Boss would never suspect,” Leona continued, having connected to the third brain between her and Bill working at top speed again.
“What about me?” Rachel suggested. She put up her long hair into a cutsie Maryln Monroe bob, taking on a different voice. “I can sound like anyone you want or need me to be,” she continued in a hushed ‘Happy Birthday Mister President’ whisper. “A girly girl, or maybe,” she went on with a baritone voice and swaggering gait. “A manly girl.”
Bill and Leona both recalling how they had to, out of necessity, change the nature of their voice to match the bodies they were getting used to as they underwent their gender transitions.
“So,” Rachel said, altering her voice between male and female. “What do I say to Katelina when I finally get her into a room, maybe after a hot date. I could sneak some truth serum into her drink and some love under the sheets to make her talk. No way she’ll hold back anything from me then. So, what do you say?”
Rachel waited for an answer from her two bosses, and protectors, and it finally came. “Your handler will tell you what to do when you get there,” Bill said, no more than a second after Leona agreed to the plan emerging between them.
“And my handler is which one of your trusted buds?” Rachel asked.
“A good friend of yours, who knows you very well,” Leona answered.
“And who knows us better than we know ourselves,” Bill continued. He took hold of a weapon specially designed and built by Carlos. The one and only Carlos, whose official position was an immigrant janitor cleaning up the floors at the Massachusetts University, but who ‘Professor Leona’ was smart and kind enough to share her laboratory with. The instrument of directable destruction and workable diversion was a three pound chunk of multi-functioning metal that could inactivate anyone born of woman, or anything generated from a top secret assembly line.
“Carlos?” Rachel said, regarding the ‘fix it’ Master whose funeral she had attended with Leona and Bill in a very private ceremony just a month ago. “I thought he dead!”
“Which is why he’s still alive,” Leona replied.
“So, who really was this Katelina Nordenstrom,” Carlos asked Rachel as he drank a cup of imitation Columbian coffee at the five-star hotel in Lost Angeles which paid for with cash. “Besides having been a six foot tall daughter of a five foot four Norwegian diplomat, who defied Papa’s warnings about doing modeling work in Japan to pay for her education on her own, so she could study what she wanted to rather than what the family needed her to study so they could hold onto their semi-legally obtained fortune and professional reputation. What, or rather ‘who’ happened to Katelina in Japan?”
“One of three possibilities, according to what we did know about her,” Rachel replied as she adjusted herself to the very different kind of wardrobe and new voice required for Katelina’s arrival. “All of them were rich fuckers who couldn’t afford to take on another mistress, or wife. All of it resulting in pregnancy that put her out of work as a ‘model’ for nine months.”
“And a daughter who Katelina’s Japanese ‘Godfather’ employer took under his own wing, keeping her fed, clothed and sheltered?” Carlos continued, looking over Rachel’s shoulder data file on one of the Rehab Centre’s star liberated graduates. The personal progress notes Leona’s handwriting and medical data in Rachel’s were all cluttered with red ink, left by Emma when she corrected both of the aforementioned’s spelling. “Katelina had a daughter, Erica, who was kept alive and well as long as her mother didn’t visit her more than a day a month. No harm came to Erica as long as Katelina minded her Master and pleasured his clients the other twenty-nine days of the month.”
“The last time I heard, Bill said he extracted Erica and returned her to her Mom,” Rachel said as she considered the dare to take another look in the mirror. “Unless that was another lie you grown-ups were keeping from me so I could grow up safe, secure and alive, and….” She raised her head and looked at the person in the mirror, trying to find herself in that unrecognizable image. “You’re sure my hair is going to grow back!” she gasped, slipping away from the male voice she had stayed in character thus far that day.
“We had to make it look convincing, but Emma promised that she didn’t give you a head shave that went below the scalp,” Carlos assured Rachel.
Still part of Rachel wasn’t convinced when she ran her fingers over the hairless skin on the crown of her head, made even more shiny by the rim of neatly trimmed, slightly-greyed, rim of hair encircling her ears and at the lower end .
know that have given lots of people head-shaves that go below the scalp, Emma didn’t do that on you,” he replied regarding the hairless skin atop the entire top of Rachel’s head made all the more shiny by the rim of trimmed, slightly-greyed, hair encircling her ears and the top of her neck. “You closed your eyes and gave us Carte Blanche to do whatever we needed to do to make you unrecognizable to Katelina, and desirable to her as a lover, given the history of her having a fetish for old farts who look like her follically-challenged father, Russell.”
“Yeah, I did,” Rachel answered as Russell. “But…I hardly recognize myself.”
“Then tell me about yourself, so you can recognize yourself, Russ,” Carlos offered. He put down Katelina’s profile, then adjusted the collar on his overpriced jacket and mismatching tie. Then picked up the Producer Package from his briefcase as his new persona, Juan Gonzales. Gonzales was an up and coming movie producer from Columbia who was an expert at transporting anything and anyone across international lines. According to the planted story in the Hollywood Review, he was looking to invest $70 million dollars into his next film, starting out with picking with the right stars in front of camera. “So, Russell,” Carlos said in Hollywoodeze, looking over Rachel’s first set from ‘Atlantian Talent Agency’. Such was the most recent fabrication of Leona’s companies that existed in cyberspace so prominently that no one bothered to check out its physical address. “Why do you want to be an actor?”
“To please my departed father,” Rachel said as Russ, crossing herself with no shortage of Catholic guilt. “To honor my country,” she continued, gazing up at a Guatemalan flag above the night-table. “And to serve my God,” she continued, looking up at the sky. She found herself actually believing for a moment in a divine Presence Whose existence up there whose existence could never be proved by that neurological or scientifically-framed metaphysical studies.
“And?” Carlos continued, as ‘Don’ Juan Gonzales.
“To work with the greatest actress in the world! Katelina Nordenstrom!” Rachel replied from an eve deeper Russell core.
“And?” Carlos pressed.
Rachel gave Carlos a ‘hey, let’s get real here’ eye-roll.
He replied with a no-nonsense ‘we have to work with the reality at hand here, if there is going to be any reality for any of us’ stare. “And what else, Russell?” ‘Juan’ asked.
“I want to take care of Katelina Nordenstrom even after the cameras stop rolling. When I look into her eyes, I see us having children together. And me being the father of her children. All of her children!” Rachel ranted on, after which she took a deep breath. She had seen something in herself that was a whole lot scarier than anything her rodents were made to fear in the lab.
“It’s called stepping into someone else’s life and experiencing life from their perspective, Rachel,” Carlos offered as Rachel tried to find her way back to who she was under the Terri Bradshaw makeover. “Inside all of us is everyone else. People who are good. People who are bad. People who are old or young. Rich or poor. Powerful or helpless. Male or female. The trick we have to learn is to be ourselves while feeling and experiencing others.”
“And you read this between the lines in the Mechanics and Engineering Textbooks you read?” Rachel challenged.
“Between the lines,” Carlos replied, allowing himself to be himself, the Uncle of all Uncles. The Elder of Elders. The Wise man who mentored the educated. The poorest and lowest on the totem pole who everyone else on the totem pole depended on, and not just to keep the wires from breaking or the wood from falling apart.
Rachel, whose previously thick three-foot long auburn mane was what people identified her most with, dared to feel the top of her hairless head again. She felt one of those magical ‘mentor’ moments coming on, but this time with her as the mentor to her younger brother when he noticed a bald spot on his head at the ripe old age of 22. “No grass grows on busy streets,” she had told him. She then quoted as much as she could remember about follicle-challenged Socrates, who challenged everyone, including himself, to be better than himself, or herself.
Rachel could feel Carlos about to come up with a credo, saying or observation that would stay with her for life. It would of course be appended to the ten that he had already said to her when she was working officially in Leona’s University lab as a graduate student, then in the Lab of real life as a Life Student. She noted that the number of Leona’s ‘immortal’ lines was no more than eight. But just as Carlos was about to allow Wisdom to come out of his self-educated mouth and ever-open, yet tired, eyes, they both heard a knock on the door.
“I know I’m early,” the intruder said in an elusive accent which contained the learned-ness of Londoneze, the boldness of Scandinavia, and the openness of ‘Ameri-kin Englich’. “But better to be early than late, yes?”
“Si,” Carlos said as Juan. “Yes indeed,” she continued, pointing Rachel to the door.
Rachel opened the door..
“Katelina Nordenstrom?” Rachel asked the superhot bombshell, as Russell.
“I am afraid so,” she replied, looking down at the floor, more apologetic than proud. It was the kind of look that perspective slaves demonstrate to perspective Masters when said Masters are out on the prowl looking for new bitches for their carnal kennels. “May I come in, please?” she continued, looking at Rachel’s chest, which Rachel hoped would be bound tight enough to not show her C-cup breasts.
“Yes, of course!” Carlos said in “Juanese”. “You want a drink?”
“No, thank you. Maybe you have some water?” she said as she sit down on the one of the chairs provided for her. She chose the one that was lowest to the ground.
Carlos motioned for Russell to fetch his ‘love wench’ a glass of water. Then he non-discretely pulled out a bag of cocaine, a joint and an assortment of pills from his pouch. He then reached into the bottom of his briefcase production notes and scripts. Both Carlos and Rachel noted that Katelina pulled away from the mind-altering drugs that, according to her history, she had enjoyed on many, many occasions. And when Carlos pulled out a condom from his briefcase by mistake, Katelina fell back into her chair, pushed her elbows together, and looked to see if the door was still open.
As Russell, Rachel put the drugs back into Juan’s briefcase, and gathered the script material together. Just as Katelina was about to get up and leave, Rachel handed her the script material. “This is the Real reason why we called you here, the only reason.” Rachel said to her. “Right Mister Gonzales?” Rachel asked her Carlos.
“Yes, of course, Russell,” Carlos replied. “You passed the first test.”
“And if I stay to take more tests, and pass the final exam?” she challenged.
“I like her, Russ,” Carlos said to Rachel. “And I like both of you for my movie, which will give you, Katelina Nordenstrom, a salary of…”
Carlos wrote out a figure on his business card while the over-applauded but introspective actress with self esteem somewhere below the sewer looked with fascination and curiosity at Rachel. Katelina took the card in hand and glanced at the number.
“And this money comes with what else?” she inquired, caught between fear and desire.
“Him,” Carlos replied, pointing to Rachel. “Russell Gonzales, my nephew.”
“Who doesn’t look very Guatemalan,” Katelina replied. “But…”
“Handsome, none the less?” he said. “Distinguished? Authoritative and kind? Intelligent and caring?” Such were all of the traits that Katelina said drew her to her own father. That beloved parent never lived to see her liberated from the Sex Slavery ring due to the sudden onset of cancer he contracted while working with Leona to get her out, and ‘chemo treatments’ that killed him rather than cured him. “And, yes, I do sense that you remind each other of other people,” Carlos continued as he noted the two potential lovers staring into each other’s eyes, and souls. “It is called chemistry. Which I need for this movie. A movie that the world needs,” he proclaimed as he got up, pointing Katlina and Rachel’s attention to the script synopsis.
“Yes, I know,” Katelina said. “I read this, and the script many times. A brilliant script. Many insights. Much intelligence. And much caring. Who wrote it?”
“My non-Guatemalan nephew,” Carlos said, pointing to Rachel, who pretended to be modest about a script she didn’t write, but wished she could have.
Maybe, one day, Rachel pondered. I could have written such a brilliant and loving story. If I was forced to connect to other parts of myself. Under the tutilage of Leona. The advise of Bill. The mentorship of Carlos. And, she dared to think as she looked at Katelina through Russell’s eyes. Perhaps, one way to connect to who I really am is by connecting to the loving affections of Katelina. But for the moment, Katelina was still a suspect who could very well, according to hard evidence anyway, be working for a Master who wanted to find Leona and shut down her rescue and rehabilitation center forever. That Master could kill everyone who ran it, and recapture into slavery anyone still in it, or who had graduated from it. Just as Rachel seemed to be able to see through the masks Katelina presented to her—-
“—I’m hungry. What about you kids?” Carlos interjected. He picked up the phone and looked up the number for room service.
Both he and Rachel contemplated the next part of the plan. Such would involve putting elixor in Katelina’s food that would loosen her tongue, and discipline over her romantic urges. Rachel, as a clothed Russ with a fake penile prosthetic, would interrogate Katelina under the sheets after she had been appropriately drugged and satisfied. Carlos would check out Katelina’s answers using Rachel’s lap top and the list of contacts Bill and Leona had struggled so hard to get, and keep.
If Katelina was a slave working for a Master, she would be extracted, re-liberated and rehabilitated. If Katelina had become a Master herself, she would be imprisoned in the special underground ward of the Rehab Center where more aggressive interrogation would take place. Such would be followed by her being used as a ‘test rodent’ for drugs and surgeries that Rachel claimed, on the basis of her rodent data anyway, could turn an asshole into a caring person. She would be turned into a functional idiot if the surgery went wrong.
Yes, all plans were in line while Carlos read out the room service menu. Each item made Katelina’s mouth savor as he elaborated on entrees whose names evoked the best elements of Nordic European languages that reminded the Norwegian model-slave-turned actress of home. Then, Katelina got a call on her cell phone.
She looked at the number, caught between at least two conflicting agendas. She seemed more concerned with matters of life and death rather than professional success or failure.
“Something wrong?” Carlos asked.
“Did I do anything inappropriate?” Rachel inquired, as a very caring Russ.
Katelina closed her phone trying to not let her hosts see what was on it. She put her bag over her shoulder and grabbed her coat. “We talk, eat, or whatever, here later. But in meantime, I have to take care of something.”
“Something I can help with?” Russ asked. “Have heart, want to use it.”
“Or I can help with?” Carlos added. “He who has the money makes the rules, and I do have the money.”
Katelina pondered the idea. Many thoughts seemed to be conflicting with each other behind her shifting eyes. Finally, the intra-cerebral gods decided on course of action.
“Yes,” she said with a tight and non-revealing smile. “We all go. Maybe better that way.”
Before Rachel could scientifically read her eye motions and facial movements, or Carlos could see what was rumbling in her gut, Katelina turned around and headed towards the door. Russell opened it for her, of course, being the gentleman that Rachel now found that she was. But Katerina got even tighter lipped about everything, looking straight ahead. Carlos brought up the rear, adjusting the positions of the weaponry in his coat that he came in with. One item was missing. It was the 3 pound ‘Carlos 3A’, the most concielable and powerful weapon in his arsenal. If it would be used was a now a certainty. Who would use it was now the question that worried him most. Either it would be Rachel, gone rouge as Russell, or Katerina, as whoever she really was. Both candidates walked ahead of him in the hallway, arm in arm, beconing him to join him at the elevator as it opened up.
The food at the prestigious Hollywood Bowl and Spoon smelled great, was well prepared, and presented itself with allure on the plate. It featured the topless waitresses who served it, most of the diners being gentlemen who could afford to pay $150 for a dressed up hamburger or interesting ladies to eat them with as they watched the ‘exotic dancers’ on stage.
“It’s all consensual,” Katelina commented to her gentlemen hosts, Russell and Carlos. “Legally anyway,” she continued with an angry grunt. A vacant-eyed waitress with a tasteful, jewel covered collar around her neck passed by the table. A hangman’s noose burn was obvious to anyone with open eyes under the Master brand designer necklace. Slash marks were on her wrists, burns integrated within the tattoos on her legs.
As Rachel saw it from behind her Russell designer dark sunglasses, Katelina’s shades protected her from being recognized, and at the same time made her look more businesslike. Half of the clients carried themselves off as producers of various ranks, not all of them men. When eyeing naked female flesh on stage or passing by, the male clients seemed like either adolescent schoolboys with their first look into the girl’s locker room, or kings who were working on assessing who gets the honor to be in their fifth harem. One of them looked like ‘committed to stopping human trafficking at any cost’ Kevin Bacon himself, encouraged to recreate with the food servers by a companion who looked like his wife Keera Sedgwick. Then again, to ‘commoners’ who bought and watched, rather than were overpaid to make movies, all celebs looked alike, perhaps.
Carlos noticed seeing that Rachel was too preoccupied to talk here. If she did, she would probably spill the beans, as her experience in the field as an undercover operative was still in the theoretical’stages. “I have enough money to make our film already,” the struggling-to-pay-the-rent, self-made inventor/engineer said, wondering what it would be like to have that statement be true. “But before we discuss particulars, would you mind telling me why you brought me and Russell here?”
“Research,” Katelina replied. “So that what’s on camera tells the real story about what is behind it.” Her eyes perused the girls, and women, who were being employed for zero dollars a week. She directed Carlos’ gaze to two of them. “Which one can learn a lot about by looking into the eyes of—-”
“—The redhead and the blonde?” Carlos interjected regarding a dancer flipping off the last item of her clothing and a waitress who delivered a platter of chicken wings to a table of carnivores with lifeless eyes fixed on the floor.
“Appropriate,” Katelina replied with an indignant sigh. “You gentlemen always identify ladies by the color of their hair instead of the brain under it.”
“Or the eyes that are windows to their soul,” Rachel interjected, as a ‘sensitized’ Russel, and herself.
Katelina at her new co-star, seeing maybe more than Rachel wanted her to. “You look very, very familiar,” she said.
“Men all look familiar to women, and woman all look familiar to men,” Carlos interjected, desperately and cleverly trying to keep his and Rachel’s real identities secret. Such was particularly required in this room of well armed bouncers and Slave Masters who he recognized from undercover operations in New York, Chicago and Vegas, even in the dim light. “There is a Spanish word for this ‘seeing something familiar in the face of a stranger,” he said in English. He followed up with a phrase in Spanish that Rachel did not recognize, or could translate.
“Chemistry of the soul,” Katelina said. “Or more accurately, the Heart Soul.” She gulped down a generous swig of her drink, and then two shots she colorfully took from a tray being carried around by a platnum-haired waitress. “And sometimes, the Soul has to do what the brain says no to do, and the soul is still afraid to do,” she continued in what to Rachel sounded like colorful Spanish. “Und manchmal, man kann, zu tragen der Seele, aufgeben,” she continued.
“And sometimes you can surrender to lazyness of Soul,” Rachel translated into English, as her knowledge of German was far more than Carlos’.
“Laziness that makes us not do what we must, when we must,” Katelina said, as the delivery of Commitment finally burst up from the Fire in the Belly through a troubled and tortured Soul. Such was the kind of fire that Rachel noted Leona had just before she was about to do something where someone got burned, or worse. “The mathematics of it all,” Katelina continued. She ceremoniously pulled from her purse a monogrammed pen with gold print reading ‘Massachusetts Institute of Technology’. On the other side was a name that neither Carlos nor Rachel could make out. With it Katelina frenetically wrote out something that looked like a diagram of the room, with mathematical formulas over each of the vectors that pointed to selected parts of it. “Mathematics, the universal language,” she said in English, then German, then Spanish, then what sounded like Russian, then in two Asian languages that neither Carlos nor Rachel recognized. She concluded the refrain in her native Norwegian, seeming to be homesick for the country of her origin.
Katelina gave the formula-covered napkin to Rachel. “I don’t know who, or what you really are,” she said to Rachel in German, having ascertained that Carlos didn’t understand that tongue. “But it is appropriate that you have this.”
“Why?” Rachel inquired in the tongue of her Prussian and Bavarian ancestors regarding the schematics of the room.
“You want the real explanation for why I was brought into the ‘biz’? ” Katerina said in English to Rachel.
“Yes, we do, Katelina Nordenstrom, Ph.D.” Carlos noted, finally able to make out the inscription on the other side of the MIT pen. “You playing Marie Curie in Woman on Fire was a disaster with the critics. But—”
“—-Yes, all of those bad reviews from good reviewers,” Katelina said. “Which are justified, since if you become too good at this,…” she said referring to the formulations on the napkin. “…You become less good at this,” she continued, pointing to her heart. “And the humorous and colorful artistic expressions of such.”
“What about Tesla?” Rachel challenged, realizing that she was a victim of dull out virus herself. “He was colorful artistically and effective scientifically. And Chekov, a doctor who wrote so well. And Einstein, who played the violin.”
“Chekov wrote about colorful characters, but he never played them on stage. And as for Albert Einstein, loosely translated ‘Without science, spirituality is blind. And without spirituality, science is lame.’ And as for old Nicholi Tesla, humanistic and innovative inventor well ahead of his and our time, he wrote social commentary that was as revolutionary as the inventions he gave us. The most revolutionary of everything he did is buried somewhere in a vault still under the control of the real bosses in Washington and Moscow,” Katerina said. “Like maybe weather machines that are fucking up our planet right now because they’re in the hands of capitalistic, short-sighted anti–revolutionaries. And—”
“—what you describe here, right now, is what, mathematically?” Carlos interjected regarding the formulas and diagrams on the napkin. “ I assume your intent is to put them into destructive purposes on unsavory characters here using the non-patented invention of mine that you mistakenly put into your handbag,” he continued regarding the weapon Katerina had stolen and was about to reach for in her bag.
“Along with one of my own,” she smiled back regarding the stolen pistol, as well as her own tools for causing mass destruction and distraction.
“There’s too many of them here,” Rachel warned Katelina, in her own voice, and from her own heart.
“Rachel,” Katelina said, extending her non-shooting hand to Rachel’s shaking one.
“How did you—?” Rachel replied, angered that her attempt to be Russell had failed, and was perhaps un-necessary.
“You untied the knots the slavers put into my brain with the medications you devised, and the advise you gave me,” Katerina continued.. “It was you who said that freedom and self respect don’t go away if you use them.”
“I quoted that from someone else. Formulated it, actually,” Rachel replied. “Theorized it, maybe.”
“Time for all of us to put theory into practice,” Katelina affirmed, as the most successful and now potentially dangerous graduate of the Rehab program. “For the sake of the ‘blonde’ and ‘redhead’,” she said with compassion and Sisterhood regarding the two Sex Slaves who she apparently had the most history with. “And anyone else who lets some sadistic asshole change the color of her hair. Or who allows anyone to fuck up the brain under it.” She offered Carlos’ multi-purposed semi-automatic revolver, medical dart gun and audio-visual distractor to Rachel. “You probably know how to use this better than I do,” she said.
“Yeah, I probably do,” Rachel said, holding the weapon she observed Carlos build, and helped design. “But, I’ve never neutralized human before.”
“Pretend they’re rodents in the lab,” Carlos said. “Dangerous, expendable rodents who are carrying a deadly disease,” he continued, sensing that this was Katelina’s first trial by real combat fire as well.
“Anything you can tell me about what to do once things get ‘kinetic’?” Katelina asked. “Before we put into practice the battleplan I carefully worked out on this napkin in formulas and geometrical diagrams. Which seems sound, mathematically anyway,” she continued, the un-expected variable of fear entering into her projection of it all.
“To quote a line that’s accurate, and colorful, ‘There’s nothing I can’t tell you that you won’t learn yourself after the next 5 seconds’,” Carlos replied.
“Three,” Rachel asserted.
Katelina, Rachel and Carlos discretely inserted protective cotton plugs in their ears. On the unsaid count of three all hell broke loose, but with the demons on the run this time. Katelina blinded three heavily armed bouncers with a light ray gun, then aimed at the two bosses behind them. They were Klaus Tummkinov and Chang Lin, by name anyway, two B-movie producers who Carlos recognized as some of the top twenty A-level human traffickers in Russia and China. Katerina fired out a ‘you will never to what you did to me or anyone else’ declaration to them in their native languages, began to squeeze the trigger, then…she froze. It gave Tummkinov and Lin enough time to pull the two girlfriends she came to rescue up from the floor and use them as human shields. Carlos disarmed both of the moguls with as many shots. Their blood splattered all over the property they had used to protect themselves.
Carlos then continued to fire a barrage of well-aimed drug-containing bullets that inactivated any standing human body between him, the blonde and the redhead, and the escape door. Meanwhile the high pitched siren from his ‘diffuser’ inflicted enough pain in those who had no protective cotton in their ears to keep their brains and hands busy trying to stop the paralyzing buzz.
“Protect my flank!” he shouted out to Rachel as the corridor to the escape route narrowed from a path you could drive a truck through to a path no wider than a goat trail. But Rachel froze as well. “Fire anything you have at whatever you see, Goddamn it!” he screamed out, again. “Starting with the fuckheads coming out of the kitchen!” he continued, noting that the infamous ‘gang of five’. They were all clad in the same leather jackets bearing a dragon and eagle decal with headphones around their ears, one of them being one of the Masters-in-training who got away in the raid on Master Paul’s operation in New York. “Kill them or they’ll kill you, me and the rest of us!”
The gang of five pulled out their weapons, aiming them directly Rachel. Able to process everything around her with her brain but unable to do anything about it with her rigid, trembling hands, she felt like a sitting duck. The gang of five smiled as they advanced with their sawed off shotguns and pistols, preparing to shoot her out of the water. There was nothing to stop them from doing so, until Rachel felt a thud on her chest, a very human and bloody body falling into her arms. It was Katelina. “Something I had to do, a final act of…” she said by way of explanation, The rest of her words were silenced by bullets penetrating into her head and chest intended for Rachel.
Maybe it was the taste of blood in her mouth, or the feel of a dying body on her chest, or the death rattle entering her ears with Katelina’s last breaths, but something happened to Rachel. She observed herself quickly grabbing hold of Katelina’s weapon with her left hand, regaining control of her own with her right. She fired away at the gang of five, the Sino-Russian duo, and anyone else who came her way. As bodies fell to the ground in front of her, Rachel ran over to the blonde and redhead, pulling them behind her in front of the still closed exit door. “What are your names?” Rachel asked them as she mowed down two other waves of assailants, feeling not only proficient in what she was doing, but enjoying it. She could even feel an orgasm coming on. “Tell me your names, goddamn it!” she demanded of the girls, whose only thought was to huddle on the ground and cover their heads.
“Tasha!” the blonde shouted out with a loud shrill voice.
“Naomi?” the redhead somehow psuhed out in a hushed voice through shaking teeth.
“I’m Rachel,” the former studier of life now-turned-destroyer of such said. “And this is Carlos,” she continued as her mentor-in-education, and now comrade-in-arms, ran over to her, throwing one of the girls over his back, securing the smaller one behind Rachel’s back.
“We go out this way,” he said regarding the kitchen door as more bouncers turned into assault soldiers. “A car is waiting for us,” he continued. “On the count of…now.”
With that, Rachel and Carlos somehow made it through the kitchen, then out the back door and into open space, where they heard sirens. They noticed no one coming after them. Then three police cars pulled in, followed by an ambulance. Paramedics from the ambulance emerged and took the girls into their truck. They speed away, their flashers on, their sirens silent. An officer with more brass than blue on his uniform then came up to Rachel and Carlos. “We heard there was a disturbance here,” he said as his men slowly emerged from their vehicle—with no sense of urgeny, even though every one of them had a firearm in hand, ready to use it. Half of them went inside. Half remained
“Yeah,” Carlos said to the head Cop with all the salad pinned on his chest. “Thanks for coming, Captain Jackson. And with enough men to take care of what happened in there.” .
“And what’s been happening in there for way too long!” Rachel blasted out with Missionary Zeal. “There’s gonna be a whole lot of arrests that happen today because of you guys,” she continued.
“Starting with you,” Jackson said He motioned for his men to take Rachel and Carlos into custody. They were taken away with very tight cuffs, and in separate cars.
The closest thing in Rachel’s life to being incarcerated by the Cops was stories her father told her about being arrested for sit-ins during the ‘give peace a chance’ protests of the 60s. They were well publicized events, of course, making being arrested not only a badge of honor, but something you put on your unofficial finding a mate resume that you worked on during your extra-curricular studies in college and grad school. The only time you’d have to do, even if you had a redneck judge from Alabama who celebrated Saturday night with the good ole boys at a cross burning, was a weekend in the slammer. “No good deed goes unpunished,” Rachel’s dad had said regarding his time in the slammer. “And without getting punished for doing good deeds, nothing or no one good ever happens to you,” he would continue on those ‘story telling’ family nights as he put his arm around his once-protest-babe wife, with Bob Dylan protest songs playing on the vintage turntable in the living room.
But this good deed seemed to go nowhere. And this holding cell was cold, dark, and lonely. The walls seemed to close in on Rachel each time she looked at them and tried to imagine a way out. “But, hey, no,” she observed herself thinking. She recalled the fast action movie that happened in the strip joint. This time she reviewed it in agonizing slow motion. “Remember how weird it was to shoot your first bad guy. Then how easy it was to kill the next two. Then how much fun it was to blow the other guys away, not caring if they were good guys or bad guys?” Her eyes caught hold of another resident in the cell. It was cockroach that somehow got through the cracks in the concrete. It dined on dried breadcrumbs that said resident maybe didn’t want to eat, couldn’t eat, or didn’t have time to eat before she was taken somewhere else. The roach looked at the smaller insects mulling about, thought about something, then decided to dine on those smaller insects rather than merely kick them out of their dining room. The roach seemed satisfied with the meal.
“Yeah,” Rachel said, addressing the roach head on. “I’m too big for you to be eating, but if I had you back in the lab, I’d study you. Figure out why you seemed to enjoy killing, just like I did. But there is one question I do have to ask you. Did you get an orgasm as you demolished those ants like I did when I sent those bad guys to their just reward, and the maybe-not-bad guys to an early reward?”
The roach seemed to be listening. She smiled at it, then pulled the thin blanket over her cold, goose-bumped exposed arms. “You’re a brave cockroach, coming out in the light instead of waiting for the dark. Or maybe you’re a stupid one. Or a defective one. In any case, welcome to my world, or should I say, please welcome me to yours?”
The roach didn’t answer, but the Silence did. “I’m okay with this,” Rachel said to the cell walls, and the demons within them that were materializing in her head . “I should stay in here. I’ve become too dangerous for myself, and others, to be out there.”
“Except for one thing,” a very real voice said from small slot in the cell door. “You have become a necessary evil,” he continued in a very male, and authoritative voice that sounded more like it was coming from another world, or maybe just an imaginary hallucination.
“That’s Leona’s line, becoming a necessary evil,” Rachel said to the visitor. She peered through the slot, and noted that he had the face of a Native Elder. From what she could make of it the visitor from whatever realm he hailed from had closely cropped hair, and some kind of uniform she didn’t recognise. “And who are you, to say that to me?”
“Norman King,” he answered. “A good friend of your Uncle’s.”
“I don’t have an uncle,” Rachel said. “My Mom and Dad, who both were whisked off by the Grim Reaper to the other side of the Rainbow many moons ago. They’re probably getting stoned in the Strawberry Fields with Saint Pete Seeger while he cajols them into singing Woody Guthrie tunes. I didn’t have any siblings. I’m the only family I got left now.”
“I’m talking about this Uncle,” the visitor said, pulling out a picture of Bill Stevenson, as Billie.
While Rachel looked at the picture of Bill Stevenson before he had undergone his transformation from being a woman, a picture that only insiders in her world ever knew about, she observed something about Norman. Though he looked like a Cop, he carried himself off like a criminal, by the way looked around him to see that no one else was coming, or listening.
“What about Carlos?” Rachel pressed.
“On his way home already,” he said. “Which is where I’m taking you.”
“How, and why?” Rachel inquired.
“Because sometimes there are more criminals who wear badges than those who don’t,” he replied. “A situation that you, me, Carlos and your Uncle Bill are going to put a stop to once and for all,” he continued.
The strange half-breed Indian Cop with the common name opened the door to Rachel’s cell, and threw her a bag of clothing. “Put them on, fast!” he whispered.
“Wow,” she said as she rummaged through the ensemble. All of it very female. She rummaged through her fingers through a long, auburn wig. “Hair just like my own,” she said. When trying it on, she felt a faint stubble growing atop her head.
“Your handlers saved it for you,” he said. “And your sisters weaved it into a wig. Mirium, Lakesha, Tatianna, Yung, Victoria and Mara. They’re waiting for you. But there is one question I have to ask you before we get you out of here.”
“Like, that I maybe want to start my new life as a, like, ya know, blonde?” Rachel said as she put the wig on with mocking valley girl talk, in keeping with the Mall Brat outfit.
“They took your prints, but did they take your clothes off, Russel?” he asked.
“No, they didn’t,” Rachel replied, flashing on something that was a blessing she had taken for granted somehow.
“Good,” Norman replied. “At least I know that there are some contacts here I can still trust. Now, get dressed, Fiona,” he continued, throwing her a package of fake ID.
Rachel slipped into being Fiona ASAP, wondering if she should trust Norman. She turned to the Roach to ask him, but he was gone, as was any idea of what would happen next to her.
“So, you really think we don’t have anything to worry about, Bill?” Leona said to her still legal partner-against-crime Stevenson as he flipped over another lump of flattened batter that smelled more like potato sewage than potato pancakes.
“Only how you’re gonna react to the best bannock you’ve ever tasted,” Bill said with a wide and pride grin. He continued to concoct the special dinner for Leona at the range of Leona’s trailer at the Rehab Center which he had promised her for weeks, and which she finally accepted. That dwelling contained a bedroom in which Leona always slept alone, to protect any visitors from being cut to pieces when she had nightmares and woke up with a knife in her hand, slicing and dicing anything she thought was in front of her. “You like green onions in your bannock?” Bill asked as he picked up a handful of small sprouts from the culinary cupboard containing more papers, lab notes and weaponry than food.
“Those are brussel sprouts,” she said with a kind smile that she felt herself incapable of, and unworthy to enjoy. “And as I recall, bannuck is supposed to rise up from the pan instead of flattening down into it.”
“Oh, yeah,” Bill said as he observed the lumps of dough he had put onto the skillet flatten out. After seeing them shrink into pellets he seemed to realize that he put baking soda rather than baking powder into them. “But, there’s still nothing to worry about,” Stevenson said as he moved on to the two pots on the stove that seemed to be simmering happily without any incident. “Beef stew still smells like beef stew,” he said affirming that nothing went rotten or turned into ash in the first pot. “And the Green Giant surprise!” He moved on to the second pot. He took in a hefty whiff of the multi-vegetable concoction of legumes planted by patients Lakesha, raised by Mirium and harvested just at the right time by Mara while their fellow ‘patients’ chose to do their ‘nature’ therapy at the Rehab Center minding the chickens, pigs and sheep. “Yeah, the garden surprise combo that’s…” His speech was halted after he dared to sampling the the delicacies with his tongue rather than his nose.
“Something to worry about?” Leona pressed.
Bill frantically put whatever he could from the pantry into the vegetable disaster to make the dish eatable. He started with small amounts of soy sauce. Then he moved down the spice rack, finally ending with generous amounts of catsup. “I thought you had everything under control,” Leona said. She folding her arms and refusing to let go till she got a clear, honest and real answer.
“I do have everything under control,” Bill affirmed as he did his best to prevent the potato hotcakes from turning into rock hard potato crackers. “And there is nothing to worry about. You finally accepted an offer to have someone else cook a meal for you, and experience the gentle pleasure and cerebral passion of dining.” He lit another candle, then placed it between the place-mats he so proudly he had arranged on the table which had formerly been used for strategy sessions only. “Yeah,” he said, having somehow converted the food he had prepared into something that smelled and tasted good to him, and by inference, delicious enough for Leona. “There is nothing to worry about,” he kept asserting anxiously. He put a towel over his left arm and an arch in his back in the manner of a waiter proud of his craft and station.
“I was talking about the Compound here,” Leona said. “I’m still worried. A feeling in my gut that something isn’t right here.”
“That’s just hunger,” Bill said, as he turned off the burners and placed the contents of the food into their appropriate dishes. “Or the rumblings you had over that lunch you wolfed down this afternoon, straight out of the scraped down aluminum coated pot. Your stomach is telling you that the food you make for yourself, and eat by yourself, is as toxic to your GI tract as Pop Country Music is to a mind that wants to raise itself out of the down-home-mediocre gutter.”
“I’m serious,” Leona blasted out.
“So am I,” Bill shot back. After collecting himself, he placed the food on Leona’s table, then portioned it out on her plate with a very manly artistry that contained within it feminine finesse. “Norman King got Rachel and Carlos out of the Lost Angeles Police Department jail, and files. They’re both at the Rehab Center giving this batch of girls their last lesson in how to be their own persons. Emma is baking cakes for each of them for their ‘welcome back to the world as it is’ party.”
“And the perimeter?” Leona inquired. “I’m worried about what happened this afternoon. The alarm that went off.”
“One of the chickens decided to go on a walkabout, or maybe got loose when Emma left the gate to their pen open again, or maybe gave it a few too many of her weed-flavored oatmeal cookies,” Bill said. “Superbird got stunned, toasted, then when it hit the ground, away from the electrical fence, a coyote decided it needed some lunch. I checked it out myself. The electric fence is secured.”
“And the spikes and stun mines on the approach paths?” Leona asked, her nose drawn to the food put on the plates Emma gave her which only now were being put into use. “The motion detectors for airborne and ground assault?”
“In perfect working condition,” he replied.
“And Underground?” she pressed.
“Escape tunnels still working, and functional”, Bill asserted. To silence Leona’s further inquiries, he placed a bean-covered, tomato-flavored carrot into her mouth. “No one can get into here except us. And all of our contacts say none of the sex-slaves you saved, liberated, and resurrected present a danger to us”
“But Master Paul,” Leona said, having swallowed the carrot quickly so that she could have her mouth free to work rather than enjoy the gustatory delights. “In case you forgot, he was the ex-Amish human trafficker who confessed clues to you about the informer at the time of his dying, who said—“
“—what he wanted to in order to make us paranoid,” Bill said, afterwhich he put a big spoonful of beef stew into Leona’s mouth to make her listen rather than talk. “He was screwing with our heads. Inventing stories. All that crap about the opera music he sang, and that opera he said we should be most worried about, ‘Mighty Aprodite’. It was all crap, according to Norman. After digging deeper into his past with new data that came along, which was confirmed by Katelina Nordenstrom’s diary, we both confirmed that Paul Himmel converted to being a Satan worshiper. The sect he belonged to believe they’ll get extra perks in the afterlife if they lead good guys into a wild goose-chases.”
Leona finally finished swallowing the stew. Bill observed a strange look on her face. Like she was worried about something she had never worried about before.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. “You look, pale. And worried. Like something’s gonna happen to you that you can’t stop and have been avoiding your whole life. Is it the food?”
”Yeah,” she said, tasting everything on the table. “It’s…hmmm.”
“The best I can do,” Bill replied, apologetically. He picked up his cell then thumbed through the yellow pages of the phonebook. “Okay, I’ll call in for some processed chemical crap. What brand of processed petroleum suits your fancy? Fried cheeze balls from Potters Pizza? Crow and/or pigeon wings from Chicken Palace? Canine, feline and/or cockroach chop suey from the China Gardens? Or, the new place, Roadkill Café that features—”
“—Nothing that I want, or need,” Leona said, getting up from the table. She she pulled the phone from Bill’s hand, then placed hers tenderly on his neck. Her smile was warm, inviting and finally, open.
”But…what about all of this food?” Bill said, fearing to go into the door he had worked so hard to open.
“Yeah, you have a point there,” Leona conceded. She put her finger into each of the accidentally-eatible culinary dishes Bill had so carefully prepared. She asting them in small bites, then bigger ones. Then abruptly she picked the food up with a clenched fist. She through one bolus onto her own chest. Then she rubbed another on Bill’s.
“I think it’s time we eat off of these plates,” she whispered seductively regarding the flesh skinned china. “And…see where it goes?”
Leona seemed as scared of what was about to happen as Bill was as they were about to lose themselves in each other’s eyes. Then angel of courage moved in to replace the demons of fear. Their tight lips turned upward at the edges. Their eyes softened. And finally, their lips met. Each felt the warmth of the other. Then they experienced a Fire between them. They ripped off their clothing and felt each other’s bodies till there was one body only. One agenda. One experience of Passion that connected them in ways neither of them imagined possible.
The rest of what happened that night could not be described with words, as none were spoken between them, and none were ever to be written down afterwards. Indeed, they both had nothing to worry about, forever. Until four magical hours later, when—a deafening sound converted a dream into a nightmare.
“What the fuck happened here,” Leona screeched out, the alarm blasting into her ears. “When we were fucking!” she continued while looking at the images from the infra-red night scanners on the outer perimeter of the Centre in the 40 year old shack converted into a state beyond the art security detection and defense system. The screens revealed infiltration of at least fifry intruders, this time with two rather than four legs. “How did they get through the electrocution devises we set up that could fry a horse into hamburger in three seconds flat?”
“By cutting off the power to the stove,” Bill said having noticed three of the main wires in the defense voltage system cut apart and re-sealed onto themselves to make it look like they were still intact. He glanced over at the video monitors. “And our uninvited guests are moving in slowly.”
“And avoiding all the land mines we still have in the second perimeter,” Leona noted, as the progress of the intruders escalated from a cautious crawl to an assertive walk. “As if they had a map of where the electrifying and laser landmines are. Information we shared with no one except…”
“…The girls we have in the Rehab Center now,” Bill dared to give voice to, reading Leona’s darkest and most terrifying thought.
“But that’s impossible,” Leona replied.
“So is the univited dinner company out there,” Bill answered as he zoomed in on the footage of the leader of the lead group of intruders looking like local yokul farmers but carrying state of the art 21st century weaponry. “That there is Master Paul’s second in command. He calls himself Thomas Miller now. Mennonite almost-preacher who got away from me when we raided his boss’ human trafficking operation in New York. He shaved off his beard and grew a mustache, but those eyes, I’d recognize anywhere.”
Bill moved the survailence camera lens over to the leader of the second group of uninvited evening guests, whose group was clad in black leather jackets. “Jiri Klendinik” Leona said. “Albanian sex-slave merchandise mover who took over his brother Luka’s spot after he was neutralized, by Chief Boris Petrovitch, my old mentor and enemy in slime.”
“After you cleverly tricked Boris into think that Luka was gay, then a weak and dangerous link in his international operation,” Bill noted, allowing himself the luxury of a badly needed chuckle. “After which we both got Boris off the Rez, and effectively neutralized.”
“Only after my Red Power father, who was working for Chief Boris, shot an arrow into that KGB mobster’s chest just before my old friend was going to put a bullet into my head,” Leona said, recalling the painful side of those events. “But it brought you, me, Rachel and even Emma together,” she continued, somehow needing to revisit the past so she could come up with an effective strategy to deal with the present. “And connected us to your Biker Buds in Montreal. A to Norman King, the only Cop, beside you, who I know who isn’t on the take in some form or another.”
“Until now,” Bill uttered from a dropped jaw. He pointed Leona’s attention to the screen. It featured Norman King face. The rescuer of Rachel and lifelong friend of Bill all the way back to the days when he was Billie was now leading a band of heavy armed Cops from at least five different jurisdictions through the most heavily mined maze in the second perimeter.
“What else does King know?” Leona asked calmly, as the three teams split up in a flanking maneuver, about to surround the central compound. “Besides where the mines were on the perimeter. Or maybe how to come into here and inactivate our defensive weapon grid by entering the escape tunnels from the outside.”
“Impossible,” Bill replied. “Those tunnels can’t be entered from the outside. If anyone or anything unauthorized on two of four legs comes takes four strides in them, the fifth one is their last. An extra secuity measure we put in and didn’t tell anyone about except each other. And that system is still intact. As we, two coyotes, five rabbits and that gofer who got into Emma’s weed plants can all attest to. But there is one thing I’m really curious about.”
“Why our guests are holding their positions?” Leona replied, noting the abrupt lack of movement of the appraoching enemy. “And why they haven’t attacked from the air?”
“And why the troops are having a smoke break, while their leaders are having a powwow,” he said. “Without Norman King. Who is—”
“—Extractable?” Leona suggested, noting that something about Norman King’s face seemed more aloof than expected from a man of his position. “If you can figure out a way to come up the mid portion of the tunnel exit he’s no more than twenty feet from now.” Leona threw Bill her stun gun which could deliver both electrical current and fast acting paralytic drugs. “The electric zapper is low on current, and the pharmacological bullets have only been tested on rats.”
“Rat,” Bill growled, imagining a plan more sadistic for his old, once trusted friend Norman than anything Leona envisioned for anyone of her prey. “Appropriate term for that—-”
“—-Prisoner, who we need alive!” Leona said, short circuiting Bill’s giving voice to his angry expletives. She gently caressed his arm, connecting his rage to functional reason. Then she kissed his quivering, bone dry lips, connecting the volcanic fire in his gut to the muscle between his ears. “We need you alive too,” she said with more sincerity and fear than any other time she could remember.
“While you keep the girls, alive,” Bill replied, handing Leona the M4 Aries series rifle with a magnifying scope . “If any of the ex-slaves get into the hands of those bastards out there, we know what’s going to happen to them. And if you, Rachel or Emma get captured—”
“—I know,” Leona said as her fingers then head connected to the weapon that maybe still had magic powers in her shaking hands. “A fate a lot worse than slavery.” It was a fate hard to imagine, but one which now looked like it would be very, very real.
The moon did its part to help Leona in her time of need by staying on the other side of the earth, leaving it to the stars to provide whatever natural light they could to the earth below. But in five very short hours, the dark sky that had given her enough cover to slither from the defense utility barn to the main dormitory would give way to dawn. The rising of the sun to most was a beautiful event which signified a new day with new possibilities. Such would be heralded in by the chirping of birds in a symphonic rhapsody that still was more complex and engaging than any music invented by the brains of men, or women. But for Leona, dawn was always terrifying. Perhaps it was because of the past lifetimes she has spent as soldier engaging in battles at first light; or a prisoner who was shot, hung or impaled at that traditional time of day. All of those past lifetime memories, or imaginations of such, went through Leona’s head when she locked the door behind her in the dormitory ‘common space’ room, and dared to face those who had finally trusted her enough to call it home.
“You’re probably wondering why I woke you up from your dreams or interrupted your nightmares,” she said to the ex-slave girls in the multipurpose room who were about to be set out into the world to experience and transform it as free women.
“Another literary lesson about Pluto the Geek that ya’ll think will make me smarter, but a lot lonelier in a world filled with stupid people?” Victoria shot back with a defiant Georgia drawl through a yawn.
“Is Plato the Greek,” Tatiana said, her diction and grammar regressing into Slavic Moldavian due to having visited her home there in sound slumber minutes ago. “Not Pluto the Geek.”
“Victoria knows that,” Lakesha interjected. “That Cracker bitch is just tryin’ ta be colorful, know what I’m sayin’?”
“She do get dat,” Yung added, imitating Ebonics as best as she could through her Asian mouth.
“But what none of us get, Leona,” Mirium said through the biggest yawn of all, having just gotten used to addressing her liberator by her first name. “Is that why you woke us up in the middle of the night, and then just stand there now, not saying anything.”
“Except with your eyes,” Mara noted, as fully awake as Leona was. Such was most probably due to her continued exhaustion by day and inability to sleep at night. “Maybe we can help you fix it?” the incurable night-owl asked Leona, extending her hand to her shoulder.
Leona looked at her watch, then the floor, her stare pulled into the depths of the underworld. Then she looked up at the girls, all of whom were looking at her as sisters rather than daughters. Each of them offered what they could with their eyes, smiles and hugs. They looked to Victoria as their elected rep to voice what they all had in mind.
“We know that we have to get out of here tonight,” Victoria said. “Rachel told us.”
“And did she say how?” Leona inquired, shocked and angered at her absent and blabber-mouthed student.
Yung pointed to a loose board on the floor. Tatiana loosened it. Mirium lifted up the metal plate under it. The group looked to Mara, who lowered her head, said a prayer to Allah, then handed Leona her copy of the Koran that she always kept with her. “You take this with you, into that tunnel,” she said as Leona looked into the escape tunnel. “It will protect you.”
“And if that doesn’t this will,” Tatiana said, handing Leona the revolver with her name engraved on its handle.
“And this peashooter,” Victoria added, putting her six-bullet ‘ace in the hole’ into Leona’s belt. The other girls did the same.
“And this,” Rachel added as she emerged into the room, entrusting her laborotory notes to Leona. “More important that this, is that you get out of here.”
“Mother’s orders, Leona,” formerly ‘all you need is love’ Emma said as she entered carting a large sac loaded with firearms.
“If one of us is going, we’re all going,” Leona insisted. “I’m not leaving any of you here. We’re all getting out of here! We can start over again someplace else. But if we do, we, and I, will need more than just those backpacks you girls conveniently pre-packed and the PJs on your back. But…. we have to sneak you out the main emergency tunnel.”
“Not anymore,” Bill said as he crawled his way up the escape tunnel that opened up in the middle of the room. He was soaked with blood. He repelled himself with his right leg, his left seeming to be nothing more than a loose, dysfunctional appendage. “The escape tunnels were exploded shut. All of them.”
Rachel and Emma helped Bill up onto the couch. Tatiana cut open his blood-soaked pants. Victoria ripped off a layer of her getaway PJs and used it as a torniquit. Yung grabbed a first aid kit and poured iodine over the exposed muscle and bone. Mirium held Bill’s hand as he screamed in agony when the disinfectants hit what had been intact flesh. Mara watched it all in horror, frozen.
“So, where’s Norman?” Leona asked Bill, as she and Rachel examined his wound, working together to stitch up what they could. “The fuckhead traitor who brought those assholes in here.”
“Dead,” Bill replied, feeling the pain of failure far more deeply than the agonies of the flesh.
Leona looked accusingly at Rachel.
“I calculated the dose of inactivating agent myself,” Rachel blasted back at her mentor. “There’s no way that those paralytic darts of mine would have killed him!”
“They didn’t,” Bill said, looking at his bloody hands.
“So you cut his throat?” Leona blasted at Bill. “You were supposed to get him here alive, so he could give us Intel. And how we could get of here. And ‘why’ he—”
Bill silenced Leona with a picture of a teen-aged girl. She was beautiful expression of feminity adorned with an ugly dog collar around her neck connected to a leash and an electric outlet. Her eyes reeked of helplessness and terror. “Norman’s daughter,” Bill said. “The one that’s still alive. As for what they did to his other daughter, he started to tell me, then the bullets started flying. He put himself in front of them. Most of them anyway-” He pointing to a chunk of metal embedded near the bone in his thigh, half an inch from the femoral artery. With each movement of his leg it edged its sharp edge even closer to that conduit of life-requiring blood. “And Norman said as his last words, and warning…” he continued, bringing Leona close to his ear. While doing so he pushed away everyone else. “Trust no one. Especially those you feel closest to right now. And that he’ll be seeing Master Paul soon, in heaven, not hell.” With that, Bill slipped into unconscousness.
They were the last words Leona wanted to hear, but needed to. Most painfully, she could share with no one.
Bill survived the surgery done by Rachel’s hands and directed by Leona’s head, but it would be three hours till he would wake up. In less than two hours, the rising sun would allow easy access for the assault teams outside to break their way inside. By the way they were hovering around the innermost perimeter of compound, and arming themselves with weapons of siege rather than destruction, they were looking to take prisoners rather than lives.
But one thing seemed certain now to Leona. Someone on the inside was working with someone on the outside. Especially someone who Leona felt close to now, according to Bill, who never lied to her. And as for Carlos, he was still not answering the phone calls and texts Leona had sent out to him. Either it was because he was not in the land of the living or he had joined the realm of the betrayers, perhaps alongside of Norman, perhaps for the same reasons.
The hour ticked to 4:20 AM. Leona looked around the now barricaded room at the faces of those who she now felt very close to, and for different reasons. Rachel had been the closest thing she had as a daughter. Emma was finally the mother that Leona wanted, and needed. The girls were all her sisters, each willing to take a bullet for her, or so they said anyway. Then again, Leona had heard and believed such words of dedication and trust from her father, Tom, who set her up to be a target for Russian Mobster Boris Petrovitch back at the Rez. Leona had also heard, and believed, the ‘I got your back no matter what’ from Boris when she had been a male mercenary.
Leona had a special talent for attaching herself to people who would betray her, for reasons she found out often too late. And her most trustable allies wound up dead. One of them had been Granny, certifyably crazy elder on the Rez who was the only one to openly stand up to ‘Chief Boris’. Hopefully Bill would not join Granny in the happy hunting grounds. In his service, and hopefully not in his memory, Leona dedicated herself now to finding out who the mole was in her operation. Clearly it was someone who now she knew was never her friend, ally, or comrade.
“We should do something, Leona,” Emma said, recognizing her once-son-now-daughter with the utmost respect for her situation and now consecrated new gender. “And in the meantime, who gets what?” She opened up a Santa Christmas bag, giving Leona only a look at the handguns inside. “Five bullets for each of the bad guys if they get in. The last bullet for the girls to use on themselves if there there are any badguys left?” she asked regarding the plan that Leona had only given voice to in theoretical conversations when engaged in philosophical ‘what if’ discussions to date.
Leona looked at the loaded weapons, then the girls who she was going to arm with them. Then she directed her attention to Emma, who now looked more like a guerilla fighter mama than a cookie-baking Mom. The ex-hippie had a sawed off shotgun strapped around her shoulders and a 38 revolver tucked under her belt.
As for Rachel, her weapon of choice was still biological. She coated the bullets in her Carlos Model 46D semi-automatic handgun with an extra dose of ricin, strychnine and curare, contained in liposomes that would make a shot into any part of an attacker’s body painful, paralytic and very deadly.
Leona discretely unloaded the bullets from the guns she was about to give the girls. She replaced one chamber in each with a new round from the bottom of her pocket, putting the ones that she had removed into Bill’s 38 revolver. Then she placing it into Bill’s still alive but not yet consciously-controlled hand. “What are you doing?” Emma asked Leona.
“Weapons check, and adjustment, Mom,” Leona explained. “Which I have to do on yours as well.” She held out her outstretched palm, not accepting ‘no’ for an answer.
“What about Rachel?” Emma inquired with a fearful tone as Leona did a weapons check and adjustment on her revolver and sawed off shotgun. “I’m worried.”
“Because you think Rachel’s scared?” Leona asked.
“Because she doesn’t look scared at all,” Emma replied as Leona handed back her weapons. “And all of the rescued girls do, but for different reasons.”
“I’ll do a weapons check and adjustment for Rachel, while you distribute these revolvers to the girls,” Leona said to her mother. She then sneaked the revolvers into the Santa bag for Elf Emma to give to the good, or perhaps not so good, little girls as an early Christmas gift.
“What’s wrong?” Emma asked, with the concern of a mother and a comrade. “You can talk to me about anything, girlfriend.”
“Some things, I can’t tell you,” Leona replied, looking downward. “Or anyone else,” she continued as she allowed herself the luxury of a stare at Bill’s breathing but not awake body. “Not yet,” she concluded. Then she thought of something else. “Ha!” Leona laughed. “In here, everyone who is still standing is female, or once was. Out there, everyone is male. Maybe this is about the battle of the sexes.”
“Or the battle about abuse of sex,” Emma replied, in all seriousness as she left Leona to her own thoughts, fears and now doubting everything and everyone’s soul.
“Everyone is a suspect now,” Leona thought to herself, but dared not give voice to. Such was particularly so when she noticed the distant shadows of the intruders morph into humanoid form in the monitor. They had passed through the electric fence that could fry even petrified wood into ashes.
Leona discretely looked behind the box delivering the juice to the electrical marked ‘persona non gratis, unless fried first.’ She noticed the two main wires had been cut. But thank Whatever or Whoever was in control of the Universe, or responsible for creating it, there were still two walls left between the invading army of scum and the lives Leona was dedicated to protecting. One was a steel door that could be blown open with enough firepower. The other was the kind of wall was very human, and unconquerable.
“Anyone here ever heard of Masada?” Leona said to the congregation of women awaiting execution, or worse, at the hands of the men about to enter their realm.
“Yes,” Tatiana said in English, then in Hebrew, the language of her ancestors. “Rather than to be taken prisoners and put into slavery by the Romans, Jewish rebels at Masada killed themselves,” she related, recalling her Semitic Slavic roots that went all the way back to ‘good old days’ of being invaded by Cossack Christians from the East and Polish Catholics from the West. “Hmmm,” she smiled. It was in that special way only Slavic peoples do when they know the game is lost but to retain their dignity they still have to play it. “Maybe I reincarnate as a Greek goddess. Beautiful.”
“And musical,” Yung added, envisioning her musical talents atop some new Mount Olympus in a world and perhaps planet far, far away from the ineffective ball of molten lava called ‘earth’.
“And free,” Latisha said, recalling the memory of slavery in her Afro-American roots that had been re-established for ‘special black candy’ like herself by the new Masters, many of whom were Cops.
“And valued, by even bastards with bubba bellies and bitches with bubble brains,” Victoria spouted out in an accent which was more Georgian than she ever gave voice to, at least to Leona.
“And mighty,” slurred out of Mara’s lips. “Like Mighty Aphrodite!” she continued, this time with affirmation in her voice, and a plan of some sort.
Leona didn’t know what that plan was. But it seemed to be more than a day dream about what was on the other side of the life and death line. And there was something in the words that clanged out something to follow up on as well.
“Mighty Aphrodite,” Leona muttered. “Interesting…”
“A Woody Allen movie that he made twenty years ago,” Rachel whispered to Leona. “Do you think it means something?” She discretely snuck over to Leona, pretending to give her a map that she made look important.
“I think it will,” Leona said. The plan brewing in her head materialized, working with a third brain between herself and Rachel that had become stronger, smarter and now even more intuitive. “Open the door and let the Romans in,” she whispered to Rachel as the girls, and Emma, prayed to whatever God they seemed to believe in, or wanted to be real.
“Huh?” Rachel said.
“Yes, the Romans,” Leona replied. She scribbled something on the fake map and gave it to Rachel. “Now, time for you to fuck off,” she said to Rachel, in Latin, a tongue known only to the two of them.
“I need a final piss break, because of this new dick I’m trying on,” Rachel announced to the congregation, afterwhich she strided out as Raymond.
“Something going on between you two I should know about?” Emma askedm sneaking her way next to her daughter, pretending to bring her a good luck oatmeal cookie. “Tell me what’s going on, Leona. For God’s sake, please tell me!” she pleaded in a whisper while Leona looked anxiously at the girls.
“I won’t and can’t, for God’s sake, and yours,” Leona replied. She took her gaze off the girls, just before any of them could look at or into her. She looked her watch, addressing Emma with a soft whisper from the side of her mouth. “But, to make this work, be yourself, Mom. Which I know takes a lifetime of practice, but if we finally get it right, we…” The warrior prince-turned-princess then broke out into mad laughter.
That ‘I don’t give a fuck anymore about anything anymore’ laugh scared the shit out of Emma. But such was nothing relative to what happened a terrifying 4 seconds later.
An intruder from what seemed as nowhere clad from head to toe in protective squat gear, armed to the teeth, somehoe found his way into the Multi-Purpose room. He pointed a weapon three times larger than any of the armaments in the room, with thirty times more attitude at everyone there. He fired a round of warning shots, one of which blew Leona’s weapon out of her hands before she could fire it at anything. “Everyone! Weapons down!” he grunted. All of the girls obeyed, as did Emma. But Leona stuck to her guns, aiming such back at the uninvited guest.
“And if I don’t put down my weapon, shithead!” Leona said.
“Your choice, not mine,” the intruder said. He shot Leona. She fell to the ground, laying lifelessly on the ground next to Bill, whose only evidence of being alive was breath coming in and out of his open mouth.
“So,” the masked intruder grunted to the five girls still standing, and Emma. “Which of you girls wants to come back home for milk and cookies? Alive is better, dead is ok too. Painfully wounded would be more fun for us.”
Emma pushed herself into the business end of the weapon, grabbing hold of it. “You girls, get out of here. He shoots me, you shoot him.”
“Master wouldn’t like that,” Mora said, picking up the gun Leona had given her from the ground. She aimed it at the rest of the girls just as they were about to reclaim their weaponry. “Master Paul is finally going to take me back to Daddy?” she said to the intruder in a voice that Emma had never heard.
“Yes, he is,” the intruder said. “After you prove your loyalty to Master Paul and your father. And the rest of us. Just like we planned it all along.”
Mora cocked the hammer on her weapon, then motioned for all of the girls to move together into one mass that could be taken out most effectively. “I’m sorry,” she said with a head full of ‘distance’ that infused confusion, then terror into all of her former classmates in Liberation School. “I have to do what I have to do. For Daddy, and me, and…hmm…you.”
“So you’re the mole!” Emma screamed, breaking away from the girls who hugged each other for dear life. She lashed out at the intruder, but was stopped from doing so by Mora’s fist directed into her belly. To ensure Emma’s place on the floor, Mora inserted her bootheed into her chest. “You’re the cunt who who killed my daughter!” Emma blasted out with whoever breath still left in her. “Who will be avenged by me in the afterlife, and Rachel in this life, when she gets back here with—“
“—Nothing that can stop me, or my buddies outside!” the masked intruder grunted. He turned to Mora. “You played your part well, Mora. Now you can finally tell the rest of the plan to these losers and dreamers. Before the rest of the family comes in to take you back home, and return these pieces of property back to their masters.”
“Property,” Mora said, with a gallows humor chuckle. “An interesting word that…well. Makes me rethink my part in all of this.” With that she turned her gun away from the girls and onto the intruder. “A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do,” she said, after which she fired one round between his hidden eyes. She then turned around to the girls, and Emma. “Gotta keep the morality books balanced too,” she continued. “If you hadn’t been my friends, I wouldn’t have to do this.” And with that, she aimed the gun at her own temples and fired away.
“My God!” Emma said. She desperately tried to shake Mora back to life as she fell to the ground, shaking like a dried up autumn leave in a vicious winter wind.
“My plan,” the intruder interjected. This time it was with a voice far more female than male, and a body which was of that gender. Rachel stripped away the SWAT suit behind which she was hiding, then looked towards Leona. “My plan and hers.”
“To see which one of us was one of them,” Leona said as she woke up from her slumber. She pulled out a bag of fake blood from her bloody chest. “Fake blood that I put into my pocket, to match the fake bullets I put into your guns,” she said to the girls and Emma by way of explanation. “And she’ll wake up from the anxiety attack she’s having soon enough,” Leona said regarding Mora, who had just realized that the only damage she had done to her body were some powder burns on her temples. “It was maybe wrong giving you, Mora, false bullets. And dangerous to give the rest of you girls blank rounds, but it was a necessary evil of sorts to find out who was who.”
“What we do with this bitch?” Tatiana asked Leona. The rest of the girls held Mora down, some out of pity for her, some because they wanted to tear her apart limb by limb themselves.
“Find out who she knew, and what she knows,” Leona said.
“After we take care of who she led here,” Bill said as he opened his eyes, as if awakening from the dead.
“How long were you playing dead!?” Leona blasted at him.
“Long enough to let your plan work itself out, and maybe one that I think would work to keep us all alive,” he replied. “Sometimes being dead, or close to it, gives you good ideas as to how to stay Alive. And why.”
It’s always darkest before dawn. The sky outside the rehab compound was pitch black, at least according to the cameras that were still operating. Views of the attack force were visible from the East and South, but not from the North and West. Hopefully, the armada of gangsters, human trafficking goons and very off-duty Cops didn’t know that. But there was one question that Leona needed to know most of all. When Mora had woken up to the person she was before her Saudi father had stolen her virginity she finally answered that question.
“I don’t know how many came here. But I know that the people who sent them will send as many as they need. They won’t stop until you, and everyone you work with are dead, or put in dog collars and chains,” she said to Leona. “You, Rachel, Stevenson and even Emma are on their most wanted posters now. I’m on your side now.”
“And why should we believe you?” Rachel blasted at Mora. “You were going to betray us, for…what? Money? Fame? Or was it ‘love’ you still have for Daddy!?”
“And if you kept your mouth shut and played along with Daddy and his buds’ plans, your daughter would be alive,” Lakesha sighed, relating to her own experience with her ‘ex’. “I heard that one before. They send you pictures, recycle some tape recording of her they got in the past, and tell you that your son, or daughter, would be reunited with you some day if you’re a good girl.”
“While that daughter is a gone girl,” Tatiana added. “Gone to other Daddy’s, Masters, or dumpsters. Or maybe into chicken stew that Master Paul sells with his Amish friends to make—“
“—Enough!” Mora screeched out, holding her ears. “I know! We have to stop them. All eight of us!”
“Or maybe…nine?” Emma said, having just gotten a text, as the wifi signal to the bunker finally become functional. “Carlos is back!”
“Back with who?” Bill asked as she read on. “With how much man, or woman, power?”
“Weapon power,” she read on. “Which he’ll unleash on their asses, before you can say” she said as she looked at her watch. “…Mary had a little lamb, her fleece was white as…”
The Eastern camera picked up a flair of fire in the sky that brightened the horizon, It sent laser beams into the backs of the invasion force. Leona smiled with delight as she saw the Army of wannabe Viking slavers turn into shaking leaves, holding their ears while they could, until their arms went into grand mal seizures. “Rachel!” she eclaimed to the innovator most responsible for such. “Look and see what your sound frequency generator is doing to thes guinea pigs! A biological model of grand mal seizures!”
“That Carlos should keep going till all their brain cells are fried to a crisp,” Rachel said, preparing a text message to him.
“Or maybe just toasted golden on the outside?” Leona added. “We’ll need some of them alive. For the real Cops to arrest, and…if you want, to put into cages and experiment on further, Rach. With any drugs you want.”
“Yeah..that’d be interesting, and nice,” the scientist-warrior smirked.
As for the Southern flank, Carlos’ stealth helicopter released nerve gas in two sweeps over them. He tried to do a third to inactivate the remaining 10 percent of that group, but his engines were out. He made a crash landing, according to the cameras and the ‘I’m alright!’ text he sent when after he hit the ground.
As for the North and West flanks, it was anyone’s guess. Defending the compound from inside would have been disasterous. Artillery shells came tumbling down above it, the walls to the outside crumbling faster than a ‘safe’ plan could be devised. Then–silence. A text came in from their leader to Rachel’s phone. “Change of command here. Still more of us than you. Surrender and you live, or can join us. One time offer.”
“From Ivan Griosksi,” Bill noted after reading it. “A man of his word, even to his enemies.”
“Well,” Leona said to her Army of fellow Liberators and Liberatees as she cocked the hammer on her assault weapon. “Who wants to die on their feet rather than on their knees?”
All of the girls said ‘yes’ to the proposition. Bill looked at Leona with pride at the decision their adopted daughters had made, both individually and collectively. Each picked up their weapons, after which Leona gave them real bullets to put into them. “So, we are ready?” she asked them as the sun came up, giving every one of the girls a good look at the advancing Army of infantry approaching over open ground, as if they feared nothing in front of them. “Time for all of us to…become, hmmm…to become—”
“—a verb,” Rachel suggested. “Any one any of you like,” she smiled to the misfits who had now become a congregation.
“On ten then?” Leona said.
As the countdown started, each of the girls stated the number in their own language. At the count of one, they bolted out of their hiding place and fired away. No one heard saw anything much after that, but heard a lot..and when the smoke finally cleared—-.
“So,” a raven from a branch above heard from a soft human voice that emerged amidst a field of wild wheat now covered with bodies and blood. “Who’s left?”
“Me?” the avian observer heard from Tatianna, then Lakesha, then Yung, then Victoria, but not Mora. “Me too,” it heard from Rachel, “I think,” she appended, having never experienced being shot. “Moi aussi,” the bird heard from Bill Stevenson. “And you Emma?” he continued. “Yeah…thank God.”
“And thank..her,” Bill said looking at Leona. Her eyes were still open, and whose mouth was still breathing, but only barely.
One of the enemy raised his bloody arm up, asking for mercy. Bill answered it with a bullet between his legs, then one into his head. Carlos limped in from the trees, a torniquit around his left arm. Bill looked at then smelled what was below it.
“I know,” Carlos said, resolved for the worse. “But better to have to intact cerebral hemispheres between your ears than two intact arms on your shoulders, right?”
“Not if I can help it,” Rachel said, rushing over to examine in the wound. “Anything torn apart by metal, a thinking brain can put together with…” The words got stuck in her throat. “I’m gonna save this arm, and you!” she promised Carlos, defying the gods and the laws of biology.
“After she saves me, I suppose,” Leona smirked through a mouth emitting blood and death-rattle. “She doesn’t know she can’t do it, so that means she probably can.”
“Fuck probably!” Rachel screamed back at Leona as she slit open her jacket to get a closer look at the wounds under it. “And fuck you if you let her die!” she blasted up to the Diety in the sky that she knew was there, somewhere, she hoped anyway.
As for the raven and the rest of its avian friends, they had a hearty lunch on the carrion of dead slavers lying in the field. Those that were merely ‘neurologically inactivated’ rather than dead, were taken away by Cops that Bill Stevenson knew from his days in Winnipeg. The proceedings were watched over by his biker buds from Montreal. Yes, they would talk, reveal some names, get a few more girls liberated. And yes, more assholes would replace them in the sex slave and human trafficking trade. But in a war to liberate the 30 million enslaved human souls in the world, one has to do it a thousand, a hundred or even one at a time. For now, it was enough.
(250) 587-6325 or (250) 212-1435