Matriarchal Storytelling builds on the personal.

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The first two pictures are of me when I was sixteen and seventeen, several months apart. Glamour shots were all the rage and that second picture was my birthday present. I had colour and black and white, and truth be told, I prefer my black and white pictures.

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That era of my life I represent in my fiction writing with my Sparrow: Dream Detective stories.

The Sparrow is a little older than that — she is about nineteen when she gave away her birthdays, and she stays at the age when people do fall in love and feel strongly about true love and soulmates. Much of the logic for those surrealist stories comes from what was popping in my head way back then.

And I was an active fiction writer even back then. I just discovered Salvador Dali and was an avid reader of Agatha Christie and Dick Francis. When I started to write The World’s Most Dangerous Woman, there was no Sparrow, Doyenne Assassin, or Women of Orchid.

There was a Phil Lipton and Marigold Wesley kicking around because I had written an unpublished book that I was never happy with. It was clever, outrageous, and witty, but it was too harsh. I abandoned it, but re-read it because I could never figure out how to fix it. Sometimes the story actually works, but you know it’s not your best because while it is polished, the core isn’t what you want it to be.

Magnus is a character I have had kicking around a lot longer. In a way, since my teenage years. She originally was a concept for a superhero, except her name was Francesca Magnus Lyme. You didn’t mess with her, but I eventually dropped the idea. I had sketches of the character — with a black turtleneck top, but while I liked the look of her, she was too harsh.

Eventually, Magnus was reborn as Magnus Demeter Lyme, and I had a book called Chaser — she had her friends, but she was a smart-ass. I wrote one manuscript, it didn’t thrill me. I wrote another in the present tense — the mystery was great, but she wasn’t.

I scrapped that, too.

Then she appeared in a short story that did get published in 2008 in my short story anthology from bluechrome. She came off as a cunning jerk, but as she wasn’t the main character and the story was told from the perspective of a rival, it is up for interpretation.

Then I wrote a new manuscript with her — but while I was trying to soften her, she still wasn’t working out for me.

But I remembered Phil and Marigold, and it was time I revisited the characters with the same base, but with Phil and Magnus being former colleagues. Phil transmuted, became kinder and more secure, and I had fun with the character, not worrying about snark and crafting an immaculate plot.

Suddenly, Phil worked out, but Magnus didn’t; however, I started developing the characters of Queen’s Heights, including Holly Lake — her mysteries were a story-within-a-story, and the purpose was to give Magnus perspective — and each chapter was a self-contained story of her cases.

And then I scrapped it.

But not entirely.

Parts worked, but the mysteries were perfect for Phil and Marigold, so I tweaked them.

Magnus would go through a final transformation.

And then I found my Magnus.

The prim and proper punk.

The World’s Most Dangerous Woman.

I wrote two short stories that were published in an online literary journal. The Queen’s Heights angle was expanded and kept. So were Phil and Marigold. The short story angle was also kept.

But Magnus was still ahead of her time. No publisher wanted to touch her because she wasn’t slutty, nor was she insecure. That was the feedback I got. One publisher didn’t like the fact that she didn’t fall for one of the cabals and got burned.

That was in 2011 or so.

But it was just as well.

I suddenly wanted to tell stories of other characters, and I couldn’t do it with a traditional publisher.

So came A Dangerous Woman Story Studio.

So why didn’t Magnus work for about twenty years?

Simple: she wasn’t personal. She was my idea of what I thought a tough female character would be, but she wasn’t me.

She wasn’t personal.

As soon as I started to open up and base her on my essence, it was easier to explore the character. There was no mask or fortress between my character and me — or one between me and the audience.

Then suddenly, it wasn’t just Magnus, but a world of characters with a Matriarchal structure. The third picture was taken right after I finished my magnum opus Dr. Verity Lake’s Journey of a Thousand Revelations. It clocks in at almost 1600 pages. I have had people who read it tell me they didn’t think they could endure a book that big, but had no problem doing so because it feels like four books, not one.

That I could write 1600 pages in a few short months during a very trying time in my life happened strictly because what I was writing was personal.

Because Matriarchal builds on the personal. It is intimate in its design. You cannot nurture from a distance. It is up close to the heart or it is nothing.

I could write about characters from different times and places. Once you connect with one character, the spread of activation happens, and you become connected to them all.

What part do I wish to explore today? That’s the joy of the Matriarchal. You are putting your cards on the table. Not everyone will appreciate it, and there will be people who will do everything to try to silence you, but that’s not your problem.

I solved that problem, and now I am thinking how to take A Dangerous Woman on a different platform. I don’t know what, however.

But whatever it is, it will be personal…

Method Research, Part Three: Journalist, Expose Thyself.

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Both those prints hang on my walls in my home. Catwoman is a sentimental favourite heroine of mine. She has nine lives, is a survivor, but does it all so very glamourously.

The second one reminds me of a character I created years ago named Magnus Lyme, aka, The World’s Most Dangerous Woman.

When she wears her red dress, watch out.

When people come to my house, they usually say that you can tell an artist lives here.

It’s true. You can tell a lot about me from my house. I am not a secretive person. I am an open book.

My fiction also represents me in different ways.

When I did Chaser the first time, I was open. There were things that pissed me off no end. I put my cards on the table, and that was the reason I used playing cards as an allegory for the website.

Particularly the Queen of Hearts. Particularly the rigged game of Find the Lady.

I talked about magic tricks. There was a reason.

There were many reasons for it. If you are going to chronicle reality, you have to face it first.

And the best way to face the failings of a profession is by working in it.

When you have things on the line and your future invested in it, you have a completely different mindset.

Because when you are walking among those you are studying, it is a completely different experience than merely looking on the outside.

There is an interesting story about a doctor who had cancer:

As A Doctor, I Thought I Knew Cancer Inside And Out. Then I Found Out I Had It.

And he discovered he didn’t know as much as he thought.

He went into a version of Method Version, a post-hoc version, but he was trained to know it as a scientist.

I did the same thing with journalism (and if any moron gets offended by me comparing myself to him, fuck you. I had cancer while looking after a mother who had it at the same time. Read the memo, asshole).

When you compare your understanding before the event and after, you cannot believe how clueless and naive you were. You cannot compare.

That’s why journalism turned into a garbage pile. There is no method to the research.

And we now have a sterilized generation who think they are cunning by not doing anything and living in a bubble: you cannot be an armchair opinionist. You have to get dirty, beat up, make mistakes, and live through it — but when you go in with a plan of study, you are not wasting the ass-kicking you get: you go back and learn. Eventually, you kick-ass yourself as you gain mastery.

You see how the problems really operate. You don’t take educated guesses because it is on your own skin that you feel it as you immerse yourself in it.

Journalism has no transparency.

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For example, what PR firm or lobbyist is behind this cover? What generous benefactor hijacked or co-opted coverage? What friends in high places are waging war through the media? Positive and negative coverage has those who benefit, and yet we keep pretending the work is objective or accurate.

I worked as a journalist. I heard the cheerleading and the demonizations in equal measure. I have heard reporters who bragged about their own drug use condemn newsmakers for having substance abuse issues in their reports.

Psychoanalysts have to undergo psychotherapy before practicing their trade. Journalists should be made to do the same as well as their overlords. You would not get the cocky propaganda being spewed now.

I saw how twisted the logic became in the profession. I saw the justifications and sophistry used to make excuses for rot.

That is the reason I have always been an open book. Unless you have torn yourself to shreds, you have no business tearing other people to shreds. Journalists are assholes, plain and simple, and they should be torn into a million little pieces.

And that’s what I have done as a Method Researcher.

I tore that profession to shreds, examining every atom. I examined it as I broke through façades to see how that industry was dysfunctional.

And bigoted, misogynistic, and ignorant.

It is hard to imagine that in 2019, people don’t make demands.

And call for a replacement.

I have the blueprints because I know how that garbage was left to fester.

Because I am a Method Researcher…

Alexandra Kitty's Peculiar Academic Escapades: An Odyssey in Adlibture.

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IX

I believe in truth and honesty. I do not buy into “fake it until you make it”, but “wing it until you make it.” In psychology, there is a concept of Spread of Activation: one idea triggers similar ideas. You are more likely to think of the word “spoon” if I say “fork” than if I say “rose.”

It means we are primed to be active thinkers: stop following a script and try different things to stimulate your mind: sooner or later the answer will arrive so you can deliver.

Journalism became stuck in a vortex. There is no spread of activation. Democrats obsessed over Donald Trump and they have no ability to have another thought in their empty heads.

No wonder the US government has shut down and journalism collapsed: their passive adherence to scripts — the faking it part — brought inertia, and they can no longer make anything or make it anywhere.

If these knuckle-draggers tried different things, they’d find new combinations that would trigger new ideas and innovations.

The items do not have to be related or have any logical thread: everything is connected.

But we have a society that is disconnected. There is no spread of activation if all you do is think about one person.

As I am writing my latest book, I have had to think about a new topic front and centre. It’s about ancient art of a foreign origin.

And suddenly, the focus has me thinking about new and different things.

For example, with A Dangerous Woman Story Studio, stories are interconnected, and I have a map for generations of characters, but there is one juncture where I have three possibilities for the flagship character Magnus Lyme. I don’t know which way I will go as I have a rough sketch for those three outcomes.

Because there is one problematic character that works well, but it would be hard to make one of the possibilities work unless I do something terrible to the character, which would not be true to a character, nor give me a chance as an author to explore that character.

And then, I thought about something else, and then it all came together. The impasse is broken, and while this doesn’t guarantee that one line wins out over the other two, that character has possibilities regardless of where I take the story, making other threads make sense and have more meaning.

I never liked the character until I work out a glitch, and now the possibilities are endless. It doesn’t contradict the canon or seem odd or off. It is smooth, flows, and is aligned with the personality of the character.

I call my type of work an adlibture. Not a scripture, but going where I feel I should explore, and being open-minded to admit that I don’t know all the answers.

It is the reason why I can see where journalism went wrong: it mimics the emotionless ways of psychopaths.

It has no emotional literacy, and no concept of adlibture. It is all by an outdated and unrealistic script.

When I focussed on adlibture, I could see why I never liked the character: it was one who stuck by a script that brought ruin to many.

How do you nudge a character and do them justice?

Not follow those scripts, and suddenly, the character becomes vibrant and makes more sense.

It is the reason journalism doesn’t work: it is so restricted by patriarchal narrative that it choked itself to death.

Politics are the same. Western society is a timid and oppressive one. It looks for safe, fears the unknown, hates risk, and encourages people to make bold statements with no facts or evidence.

It breeds individual and collective ignorance and arrogance, taking away the element of surprise and of learning new things.

That’s why things are going nowhere.

They are intimidated if what they see isn’t packaged for them or spelled out.

As a side note, my writing here will be sparse for a little while. My book is pulling me away from this kind of writing. I have to think in a new way, and my focus will be elsewhere.

I am actively writing A Dangerous Woman stories — but in bits and pieces, meaning new stories won’t be completed. The way I have to write them is if I have a new wrinkle in a story — I have to find all of the blanks where that is canon and then insert those parts in them.

I was working on the Secret Issue of A Dangerous Woman magazine, and with my new twists — I am laying the groundwork for the 2019 Sampler, with two stories being interconnected. I will introduce two new series in that one: The Matriarch, which is an Otherworldly line focussing on the afterlife of Jane Carrington, and Mindwild — the psychological escapades of Dr. Nikki Oxley — her daughter The World’s Most Dangerous Woman is a supporting player in this one — and there will be some serious shocks in that one.

I will have an update sometime next week about where things stand. The book has my focus and devotion, and it is having a major impact on me focussing on various forms of strategy.

I am doing a lot of research and in this case, I am translating.

I am happy to report I got my final week’s result of my course, and although I am making an educated guess on my final mark, it is about 98% if I am calculating things correctly. I need to focus on that, too.

So if I do write here, the nature of what I write and the style is going to have a major shift. My guess it will be more positive because I am clearly out of realm of the hamster wheel.

Stay tuned…

Tales of La Nuit: Birken

In this debut instalment of Tales of La Nuit, Felix Garrison is about to discover what happens when his younger brother Dwennon has revenge on his mind…

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Felix Garrison looked in the mirror as he got ready for work. His routine was always the same. He trimmed his moustache the same way. He put on an Armani suit the same way. He timed his routine perfectly, ensuring he was neatly dressed and pressed in every imaginable way.

It made being a slave in La Nuit du bas barely tolerable.

If he had one secret regret, it was joining that cabal as a terrified freshman at university. It was not as if he wanted to join a band of literate thugs, but he had a younger brother to look after with not a single relative to help him.

He and Dwennon were orphaned when Felix was fifteen and Dwennon was eight. A serial killer picked on their parents, raping their mother, torturing their father, and videotaping the entire horrifying episode.

And it was Felix’s fault they were on Severin’s radar.

He was a nerdy teen desperate to be with the popular kids, and that meant bragging about what their dentist parents could afford to buy. It meant going to a local drug dealer’s house to smoke dope, and then blab.

Unfortunately, the drug dealer was the girlfriend of the serial killer who told him where to find the next couple to kill.

Felix never let on the extent of his shame. He had a baby brother to raise, and one who had no interest in Felix who did his best to try to toughen him up.

Except Felix was a klutz who had a knack for stepping in every cow flap in the field.

Dwennon never bonded with him. He resented Felix. He resented everything his older brother stood for.

Felix was determined to go to university and get educated. Dwennon sulked with mediocre grades, and it kept Felix up at night. The original plan was for the two to get a university degree in business or commerce, and then work toward starting a business together. Dwennon merely gave Felix stink eye and stated he wanted to go to college to get a diploma in journalism, breaking Felix’s heart in a million pieces, but he couldn’t stop him.

Felix was in serious debt trying to support him, his brother, and his university aspirations.

That’s when La Nuit du bas came calling.

It was his sociology professor Dr. Amy Parrington who recruited him into the Night, and told him to get his brother in there for protection, too. When Felix said Dwennon would never go for something Felix suggested, she told him not to tell him until he was admitted.

That was Felix’s biggest regret, and bigger than bragging his way into becoming an orphan.

Dwennon never forgave him.

Dwennon was on the bottom run in La Nuit, working as a reporter at a Toronto tabloid, and Felix had to pull favours and grovel to get his brother that job. Dwennon never knew what Felix had to do to give him his dream job in a desperate bid to get his brother’s forgiveness.

It never came.

But then Dwennon began to date another journalist at another newspaper. She was the most beautiful woman Felix ever knew. She was the smartest and the bravest. Had she been just a reporter, Felix would have been overjoyed that Dwennon finally found someone who made him happy.

Except Magnus Demeter Lyme was also in La Nuit as their top-ranking in-house detective.

She outranked them both, and Felix trembled at what she could do to them if the relationship soured.

Worse, Dwennon began to cut off Felix from his life, and Felix panicked.

He was jealous of Magnus. She had a cat that Dwennon loved more than Felix. He was jealous of the cat, too.

He should have been happy his brother became a star reporter. He should have been happy that he found happiness and a woman he obviously wanted to marry.

When the serial killer that destroyed their lives escaped from prison, Dwennon and Magnus tracked him down, and terrorized him into suicide.

Then Felix could no longer function. She was too proficient. If she could break a hardened serial killer in less than an hour, then what chance did Dwennon and Felix have?

And it was during the course of their manhunt that Dwennon discovered why their parents were targeted in the first place.

He said he didn’t take it against Felix, but by then, Felix was out of his mind.

And then began to do things he wasn’t very proud of.

Like force Dwennon into breaking off with Magnus in order for them not to be destroyed by La Nuit.

Like pushing a woman on Dwennon who repulsed him, and then pushing him into a loveless marriage with her.

But then he took one step too far, and tried to push Magnus into La Nuit’s secret prison called the Reds.

She wasn’t a real member. She was infiltrating the Night to write an exposé on them. It was easy to corner her, and tease her with the false promise of playing a game to escape their clutches.

One called Birken.

For good measure, Felix cheated to ensure she lost.

Except she won.

She walked away unscathed.

But then Dwennon walked away from his own marriage, and left Toronto for a newspaper job in Chicago, and had almost nothing to do with Felix. Worse, Dwennon decided to climb up the ranks of La Nuit by becoming an in-house detective himself.

And now Felix was alone in a cabal he cursed under his breath every waking moment of his adult life.

It couldn’t get worse, and yet, he could do nothing about it, let alone admit he was wrong and was defeated.

But he could look good in an Armani suit. He could have an organized and precise life with an enviable job and title as he pretended he was successful.

It was the way he coped with many things in his tortured life.

He took his briefcase and went to work in his expensive car. It was leased, but it was a respectable one. He went to work at precisely the same time every day.

Today would be no different. Off to work, do La Nuit’s vile bidding, think about how much he missed his brother, and work as late as possible because he did not want to come home to an empty house.

If he knew then what he knew now, he would have gotten a life insurance policy on himself, wait two years, and ended it all.

He had no direction and the one relative who he longed would look up to him was perpetually disgusted with him, calling him an expletive every chance he could.

Felix cursed the gods as he snootily walked into his office and began his daily servitude to his masters of the Night.

II

After another long and degrading day at work, Felix walked to his car, but when he came to his parking spot, the car was gone. Before he could react, someone grabbed him from behind, threw him in a limo and shut the door.

“What’s happening? Who are you?” shouted Felix as he remembered that La Nuit had a penchant for throwing disgraced members in limos to be sent for punishment. It was referred to as The Ride.

Yet those who got the Ride usually did something serious, like kill someone, and Felix never did.

He shouted and pleaded, but no one said a word until the limo stopped, the door opened, and he was grabbed and dragged out and thrown in a small room with paintings on the walls.

“Sit,” the man spat before leaving, and shutting the door. A few minutes later, another older man sauntered in and stared down at Felix.

“What’s going on?” asked Felix nervously.

“Garrison, you should know this one,” the man in the expensive suit said coolly, “Considering you were there when you went after Magnus Lyme.”

“I don’t understand why I am here. She was infiltrating the Night and using my brother…”

Before Felix could say another word, a familiar man walked in with purpose, and his presence made Felix want to vomit.

It was his brother Dwennon who looked old and hardened. Felix didn’t know what happened to Dwennon, but his decay made him want to weep and scream.

Dwennon sauntered in carrying a briefcase. Felix had never seen his brother in such a state and it was terrifying. Dwennon may have been smirking, but he had never seen his brother have insanity and rage in his eyes.

“Dwennon what are you doing here? What’s happened? Why are you here? I don’t understand.”

“Felix,” Dwennon said coolly as he opened his briefcase slowly, “I had to babysit you your entire miserable life to keep you out of trouble, and when I go to Chicago, what do you do?” Dwennon took out several files and threw them on the table in front of Felix. “You turn into a very bad boy.”

Felix shut his eyes as he began to rock in his chair.

“Look, at this, Felix – double-crossing your superior? That won’t do.

“Dwennon, don’t turn on me like this – please. What did they do to you. I never betrayed you. Never! Dwennon, please…”

“I called it, Felix.”

Felix moaned. “You called Birken on me, didn’t you?”

“Why not? You called it on my ex-girlfriend…do you know how painful that is for me to say ex-girlfriend? The second I saw her, I wanted to call her my wife. That’s all I ever wanted, Felix. One good thing. Just one. Just one good thing that made me happy. Is that too much to ask? One person who actually loved me. Just one.”

“She wasn’t there for any other reason but to…”

“Shut up! I wanted one thing. Our parents were slaughtered by a serial killer because your big, worthless mouth put them on his radar. I forgave you that, Felix. I never once threw that in your face. I never took it against you. You owed me. You owed me. That should have been how you paid me back. I wasn’t a lady’s man. I wasn’t a player or a social climber. I just wanted peace with one person who loved me. Someone who loved me back and I could make a nice, quiet life with somewhere far away. One thing…”

“Dwennon, I don’t know what’s gotten in to you, but that was years ago. She went on with her life. Why are you doing this to me? Why?”

His brother ignored him. “How do you think I feel about you? You knew I had one thing I cherished more than my own life…”

“She was infiltrating the Night to expose it! She never told you!”

“She didn’t have to tell me because I knew what she was doing! I knew from the beginning she was in it to expose it! I knew how she breathed. I knew she hated them as much as I did! You just couldn’t leave it alone, and now you are going to see what happens when you double-cross an in-house detective, Felix. You cost me a life with Magsybelle, and I will never get her back, but you know something?”

Dwennon grabbed his suitcase and dug out a stack of photographs before throwing his briefcase to the ground and faced his brother with fire in his eyes.

“Remember these pictures, Felix? This is Norton A. Dunlop – the guy who got sent up to the Reds and had the longest punishment and the worst torture. He holds the record. That’s his mug shot and the poor sucker thought that was the worst day of his life.” He then slapped the first photograph on the table as Felix began to weep.

Dwennon slapped a second picture on the table.

“That’s him one week after getting thrown in the Reds. Look at him – I said look at him, Felix! That’s right after they gang raped him for hours before beating him black and blue because he declared his undying love to a woman who was their sworn enemy. You said that to Magsybelle. You showed her these pictures! You told her in graphic detail every single thing!”

“Did she tell you? She…”

Dwennon snapped his fingers as a television screen was brought to the room. “No, but the Night records things for posterity. Play the video…”

“I already know what happened!”

“Fine,” said Dwennon as he slapped another photograph on the table. “And this is Dunlop three months after he was in their captivity. Do you remember what they did to him then, Felix?”

Felix looked away.

“What did you tell Magsybelle?”

“I said they whipped him, shocked him, and burned him…”

“That’s right. That picture was taken after the whipping he got where he had to thank his torturer for teaching him how worthless he was. Didn’t you say you were going to do the same thing to her and make her thank you? Did you?

“Yes, I did!”

“You gang up on her, threaten her with rape and torture. Just like Severin did to mom. What do you think Mama would say to that?”

Felix began to weep uncontrollably.

“You threaten the only woman I ever loved. Did you know Severin threaten to do me what he did to mom after the jury found him guilty? That’s who you are. You threaten Magsybelle – reneging a promise to me that you’d leave her alone if I broke up with her. She was no threat to you, and you aid and abet kidnapping, and were all out to have her raped, tortured, confined, and murdered. And you use this poor man’s torture – exploit it for your own selfish ends. Well, Felix, let’s see how much you like it happening to you. For real.”

Dwennon slapped another picture on the table.

“That’s the last picture of him. Look at the insanity, Felix. That’s what is going to happen to you, and I am going to make sure your stay in the Reds is longer and in a more painful condition than the reigning champ’s.”

“Dwennon! You can’t do this to me!”

“I already did. I called it, and unlike you weasel who got some superior to do it for you because you didn’t have the rank, I don’t need a proxy to call it. I called it, I voted for it, and I volunteered to throw you in the Reds myself because that’s your punishment for taking the only thing I ever wanted. You knew how much I loved her. You knew. You knew how much she loved me. I had two years of happiness. Just two. You should have just left us alone. She never said a single bad word about you. She kept encouraging me to have things to do with you because she thought we shouldn’t be torn apart. That’s how you thank her.”

“What do you want from me? I panicked…”

Dwennon walked around slowly as he looked at Felix with disgust. “You cheated. You knew the game was already rigged for her to lose, but you just had to make sure of it.”

“She won it!”

“Yes, she did. No thanks to you. She won it even though I never even heard of the Reds or Birken because if I had known, I would have given myself in her place. But someone should go in there, and it might as well be you.”

“But I’m in the Top Tier!”

“But the top in-house detective out-ranks the lowest member of the Top Tier, and I am the best in-house detective they got with a ninety-eight percent success rate. Only one had a higher average of one hundred percent – Magsybelle…”

Dwennon threw an envelope on the table.

“What’s this?”

“The same thing you gave Magsybelle. The red envelope, Felix. It makes it official. That’s the parameters of the game. That’s who is going to replace you in the Top Tier unless you can win Birken. You pissed off Nils Hansen when you vetoed his pet project, and he was hoping I would be angry enough to put the screws to you. The timing was perfect, and Vincent Amari was all gung ho…”

“Amari? He’s involved?”

“Scary, isn’t it? He has your replacement all lined up. Look at the walls, Felix: it’s his gallery, and see the space on the wall? That’s where the painting representing your downfall will be placed for posterity. You don’t have much time. Let’s see what you’re made of, Felix. Go.”

As Felix jumped out his chair, grabbed the envelope, and ran, he could hear the twisted and angry roar of Dwennon as he bellowed, “I hate you, Felix! I hate you!”

His brother wasn’t bluffing. The hatred in his eyes said it all.

III

Birken was a game of false hope, and even though Felix saw that game once before, somehow, he thought he could beat it on his own, yet everything he was doing was making things worse for him. He was being replaced with a teenaged girl who was touted as being some sort of genius, and if Amari was salivating at her brilliance, Felix could not hope to best her. He wasn’t cunning. Just conniving, and the game was rigged to backfire on average intellects.

He had been so distracted as his time was running out, he failed to see a car tailing him as he was walking in the financial district of Toronto. He didn’t know where he ought to go next, and if there were any cards he could play or deal he could make to form some sort of alliance.

But everything was going wrong.

Dwennon was making certain of it. He was cutting Felix off at the pass at every turn. He knew how Felix thought, and beat him to the punch. He was showing his older brother who was the strategist in the family, and who was the deluded loser.

He really should have noticed the car, and the goons coming out to beat Felix up as they threw him in the way he was thrown into the limo.

They were going to save Felix the trouble of playing Birken, they told him, because Amari was someone to appease because he had clout. They could always make up a story about Felix plotting to kill him, and they play heroes at Felix’s expense.

Felix pleaded to no avail.

They were going to take him to some motel room in Niagara Falls, so that they had time to set things up. The story would be that Felix was meeting a hitman in Niagara Falls who was coming from the US, but they got into a fight, and the hitman whacked Felix instead.

But as they drove, Felix saw a farmhouse that he knew could save him if he could only get away.

He jumped from the backseat and wrestled for control of the steering wheel biting the driver who swerved and skidded into a ditch. Felix climbed over him, unlocked the driver’s door and ran as fast as he could toward the farmhouse.

He remembered that there was one person in the area who could possibly save his life and turn the tables for him to win.

He ran toward the farmhouse in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Path to Paradise was his last and only hope. He jumped over a fence and ran to the front door as he banged don it furiously.

The door opened with the one face Felix hadn’t seen in years.

The redhaired woman in the black turtleneck sweater immediately recognized Felix, and then tried to close the door as she angrily shouted, “Mr. Garrison, you tried to have me murdered and you relished my demise as you said straight to my face and you have the nerve to show up on my front step!”

Felix pushed back as he desperately tried to keep it open.

“Miss Lyme...Magnus, please, whatever you do, do not close this door!”

“The only reason I am alive is that I outwitted you. Now, give me one good reason why I should not be sensible and shut this door on an impossibly devious man.”

“Because I am in over my head. You are the Red Queen and I need you to read a trick Hanafuda deck in order to prevent my murder. I fully admit I horribly wronged you for absolutely no good reason and I will not try to harm you and will do everything you tell me to do without question. This is no trick or ruse, Magnus. La Nuit is going to kill me. Please.”

She studied Felix carefully before opening the door, sighed, and shook her head. “Come on in. Let us see what has put you in such a precarious position.”

IV

Magnus worked fast. No wonder she was the greatest detective La Nuit ever had. Felix had been in awe of her speed and efficiency. She uncovered the rigs and had a plan, but part of the plan involved Felix having to call Dwennon to grovel and beg to vote in Felix’s favour as it would buy her just enough time to keep the Garrison Brothers safe from retaliation.

Felix excused himself to call Dwennon from Magnus’s bedroom as he did not know how he would react and he didn’t want to weep in her presence, and the bedroom was the most secluded room in the house. His hands shook as he dialed from her landline.

“Hello?” a deadened voice replied, disturbing Felix. He was hoping there was some life left in his baby brother.

“Dwennon, it’s me…”

“What the hell are you calling me for? I said I don’t want to…”

“Dwennon, please! I know you hate me and have every right and reason in the world, but I always loved you!”

“Loved me?”

“I was wrong, all right! I was stupid and jealous and evil. I won’t justify a single thing. I was the big villain in your life, and I will regret everything I ever did until the day I die. Please, Dwennon. Magnus is trying to save me. She took my side completely. She’s not angry at me, anymore. Please.”

There was a long pause that made Felix’s heart sink. “Fine. I’ll vote to keep you out of the Reds, but that’s the last thing I ever do for you and only because Magsybelle decided you are worth saving. I never want to hear from you ever again. I never want to see your ugly face for as long as I live. You are not my brother. Do you understand?”

Felix felt his lower lip quiver as he held back his tears. His worst nightmare just became his reality. “I understand.”

Dwennon hung up. Felix pulled himself together. At least Magnus wasn’t abusing him. He felt something buck his shin. He looked down and saw a fat, grumpy cat staring intensely at him.

With a shaky hand, he crouched down to pet the animal, fully expecting it to hiss or scratch him the way Magnus’s old cat did, but it merely purred as it nestled on the floor.

He looked at the cat dish across the room. The cat’s name was Ludwig.

“Thank you, Ludwig,” Felix said as he sat on the floor next to the feline. “I’m sure you do this with all of the guests here, but thank you. Thank you for being kind even though I never did a thing to deserve it.”

Felix sighed shakily. It was almost over, and he knew Magnus would negotiate his safe release from La Nuit – and of Dwennon’s who never wanted to be a member in the first place. It was a matter of a few hours at the most, but he was feeling terrified and alone. If it wasn’t for the cat’s reassuring purring, Felix would have completely lost it even though victory was coming to rescue him to save him from the Night.

V

Magnus left Felix near his house after the order. He immediately wired her outrageous fee, and sat down alone in his house. He had one piece of news he needed to tell Dwennon, who would most likely hang up on him. It was a silly piece of trivial news, yet Felix had to tell his baby brother about it all the same.

His hands shook as he picked up his phone and dialed, trembling at each ring until an angry voice assaulted him.

“What did I tell you?” Dwennon roared.

Felix stammered. “I am only calling you once to tell you that she lost her quilt that you gave her for her birthday,” Felix began to cry as he continued to speak, “Her animals tore it up. I thought you should know she was heartbroken that she lost it, and it happened recently. That’s all. She had it all those years because she loved you, too. She never stopped loving you, either. She’d take you back in a heartbeat. I know she would. Goodbye, Dwennon. I’m so sorry I was a lousy fath…brother to you. I’m sorry we ever got involved in the Night. I always hated them as much as you did. I love you.”

Felix hung up as he could feel his entire body tremble. He was truly alone. He and Dwennon were finally free of La Nuit, and yet while it was in the best possible way, it was also the worst, yet Magnus had done her absolute best to ensure it was as kind as it could be.

But the Night fell on them all as it tore the three of them to shreds. Magnus was a magician and pulled herself together because she knew it was part of her great magic act and was prepared. Dwennon was broken and the odds of him ever being whole again were grim, and it was then that Felix finally realized what he had done to his younger brother.

Felix looked at the broken pieces of his own soul and for the first time realized that there was nothing inside.

In all the years of grooming and preening, he did it to hide the fact that he was an empty man. The Night could hide it, but he was no longer in the Night.

And the only thing he could see was a void where his soul should have been.

He had no idea where his own soul was. He had no job or idea of where to start. He got up and stormed out of his house. Tomorrow, he sell it. He couldn’t live in it. He didn’t even want to sleep there. The place always repulsed him. It was cold and impersonal and Felix had enough.

He briskly walked around, looking for a diner that was open. He felt lost and heartbroken.

He leaned against a wall and sighed. He wondered if he should call Magnus and ask her for guidance. He didn’t want to bother her, but he needed an idea and she was always sensible. She managed to make the miserable Dwennon blissful for two wonderful years.

He took out his phone and as he was about to dial, looked down and saw a small black cat staring at him.

He sighed, placed the phone in his blazer pocket, and crouched down, petting the cat who seemed to take to him.

“Great,” he sighed to himself, “All this time I was a cat whisperer.” He picked up the cat and began to carry it home.

“I was in a cabal once,” he began to tell the placid cat, “They promised me the moon, and it was nothing but a lie. I dragged my baby brother into it thinking it would save us. He got a job as a reporter, and he broke a lot of news stories about murderers. I used to think I was jealous of him, but I looked up to him. He was my hero, you know. I lost him forever because I was a moron, but you found me, and I am taking you home with me. I’m taking it as a sign from above that I am not as worthless as I am feeling right now. I’ll take good care of you. I know how. I saw my brother take care of a cat his girlfriend owned.”

He came to the front of his house and frowned. “I don’t want to go in there. It’s so creepy. No wonder Dwennon never came for a visit. I have my weekend car. Let’s find a motel that takes pets. My treat.”

He took his keys and pressed the button to unlock it as he continued to speak to the cat.

“I don’t know what kind of job I’ll get, but, it will be on a farm or some animal sanctuary. My brother always wanted to run one with his girlfriend. She doesn’t hate me anymore, for what it’s worth. I hope you don’t end up hating me.”

He looked at the cat and sighed.

“Norton,” said Felix, “I think I will call you Norton. That was the name of poor man who died and everyone exploited for decades, me included. I hope you don’t mind.” The cat never stopped purring as Felix placed it in the car and closed the door. When he came inside, the cat sat up regally and looked at him. “Mom and dad never let us have a cat. Or any pet. You’ll be my first one.”

No wonder Dwennon adored the cat his girlfriend had, Felix thought as he sadly smiled at his new and only friend. They were endearing, despite so many people throwing them away in the cruel and cold world to fend for themselves all alone.

He then prayed to God to look after Dwennon whom he horribly wronged. Somehow, everything came into full view the moment he lost everything but his life.

But that was La Nuit du bas: a horrible place that stole souls that it used to fuel its evil ways before selling them or discarding them entirely. As empty as he felt, Felix knew he was one of the lucky ones. He would live to see another day. He could start over. At the very least, he lived through the Night and lived to tell its tale as he made peace with the woman he so horribly wronged.

It was a start, and a victory.

VI

Felix and Nortie were near Felix’s new farmhouse in Beamsville, Ontario where he was in the midst of opening a cat sanctuary. He had the necessary paperwork and was in the process of getting donations, which had become his own labour of love as Nortie regal demeanour and photogenic poise made him a natural mascot. The catio was done, and so was the house that was filled with toys, mazes, posts, and everything to make rescues feel at home. He already had several cats living with him, and more would be coming in the coming days. It was less than a year, but he was already getting ready for a new chapter of his life.

He went to the community mailbox to get his mail with Nortie walking on a lead beside him. The two were now a familiar sight: the man with the ponytail, t-shirt, jeans, and red sneakers along with the black cat who walked like an emperor. Children in the neighbourhood would come running to pet Nortie who always obliged them and was as patient with children as he was with the new rescues that were beginning to arrive.

Nortie had a natural talent of working potential donors on the spot. He was Felix’s secret weapon, and as it was all for a good cause, Felix indulged it.

There was the usual ads and fan mail for Nortie who was a hit with children. There was one letter with no return address, and Felix took it before locking the box and walking leisurely back to his house that was about twenty minutes away.

When they came inside, Felix took off the harness before taking the letter and opening it as Nortie jumped on a side table to have a look. It was a check for a princely sum for the shelter. The donor was anonymous, but made it in the name of Miranda and Stephen Garrison. The amount was the same as the fee Magnus charged to rescue him. He smiled as he became teary-eyed. He had no doubt it was Magnus who donated the sum to his new cat sanctuary. He also knew without a doubt that she had forgiven him, and knew exactly why he veered so far off the course in his life: he was orphaned by a serial killer, and lost all perspective. Her donation said it all.

It gave Felix hope. He turned to his cat and showed him the check.

“See that, Nortie? Sometimes you can be in the wrong, and someone lets you know they are going to look past it and are rooting for you. And you know what that means? If she and Dwennon get back together, she’ll nudge him to forgive me, too. I hope they do for more than just reason. Sometimes your life can be nothing but heartache and pain, and then one turn makes it happy. You know that one, don’t you, pussycat? Yes, you do.” He scratched Norton behind his ear as the Bombay cat purred loudly. “One day, Nortie, you’ll meet my brother. He is a big, whiny pain in the ass with no manners or sense of humour, and we don’t have anything in common, but he’s my baby brother, and I love him. He’s not as mature or good-looking as we are, but if he comes, it’ll be alright because his badass girlfriend always knew how to keep him in check. She’s sensible, you know, and she always puts family and animals first.”

He sat on his sofa as Nortie sat on his lap and began to massage his chest. He looked at the cat and smirked. It would take his bratty baby brother a few months to see the obvious, but Felix had no doubt a reconciliation was in the cards. He could easily forgive Dwennon in a heartbeat. He never had children because Dwennon was it. Until then, he had a sanctuary to run and get ready, as he patiently waited for that fateful knock on the door.

La Nuit wasn’t going to win in destroying the Garrison Brothers: not individually, and not collectively. He wouldn’t allow it. They fooled him once when he was a desperate university student drowning in debt with no protectors, and they weren’t going to fool him again.

He put his feet on his coffee table and looked around the room contentedly before looking at the generous check once again, nodding in approval as Nortie continued his massaging of his chest with reckless abandon.

Life wasn’t perfect, but it nearly was save for the one hole in his heart that he prayed that providence would fill with light when the time was just right.

The Gospel According to Belle Eve: Re-writing the book of rules.

I

“What’s the problem, Mick?” I asked as the Archangel Michael and I were sitting in my office having a chat over espresso and biscotti.

“While you were away in Washington, DC watching all those politicians behaving like war-mongers, I was wondering about something important.”

“And was that, peaches?”

He took out Saul Alinsky’s book Rules for Radicals, and turned to the rule that was vexing him, and showed it to me.”

1.     Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.

“I always thought there was a typo,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“Ridicule is the poor man’s most potent weapon.” I said as Mick gasped.

I giggled at his adorable response. “That makes much more sense. When a rich man makes fun of a poor man, it is cruel and often provokes others to turn on the rich man, but why didn’t Alinsky spell it out?”

“It was the failsafe should someone who was once poor misuse the rule to keep others from breaking out of their own poverty.”

“Or to ensure if the rich thought they could use the rule, it would backfire on them. We ought to test the rule. I am due for a story from you, and what better way to get one.”

“Well, we can always find someone who gained from the rule and now is misusing it.”

“As a card-carrying member of the Fiat Lux Society, I am all on board for this assignment,” said Mick before his smartphone rang, and he answered it, talked for a few minutes, and then hung up.

“Who was that?”

“Murphy.”

“Oh, Elohai, what did He want?”

“He asked me for advice.”

“Over a war?”

“No, on whether He should call the Goditor.”

“Motherlight? Whatever for?”

“Well, some bloke named Art made it up to Heaven, but then it went all to his head, and he declared himself a god, because you know…”

“Our father who is Art in heaven, yes, I can figure it out. It was the same when some cat named Harold thought angels had to sing for him every time someone said, ‘Hark.’”

“They do oblige that one because he does tell them some good stories. Murphy thought He should let the Goditor handle this one. I said she’s very busy, and perhaps He should let this Art fellow try to exercise his power and see how far it gets him.”

“He probably thought he found a loophole for turning water into wine. It’ll work itself out. At least Murphy’s got a good story to tell later on.”

“And a few jokes.”

“As long as it’s not that whole thing about Adam’s Rib. That’s not funny. Yah made Adam first, and then thought I’d be that man’s dream woman. There was just one teensy weensy problem…”

Mick nodded knowingly. “He wasn’t your dream man.”

“Blech! I’ll say he wasn’t, Peaches.”

“I suppose you have to have some sympathy for the second Eve being saddled with the likes of him.”

“She wanted him. She can have him. As for me, let’s get a good story going by proving that humour is the poor man’s most potent weapon.”

“You know I can never resist a good story. Let’s find some rich person try that strategy, and see what we can do to set things right.”

II

We decided to go to New York City where many wealthy and deluded people who lived to make poor people suffer made their home. I wore my black clam-digger pants and white dress shirt, while Mick wore jeans and a t-shirt that showed how strappingly gorgeous he was. His long blonde dreads looked striking with his dark and handsome face, and we decided to walk down on Broadway to get inspired.

But just as we began to look around for deluded rich New Yorkers, we heard groaning, and turned around to see who wasn’t too thrilled to see us there.

It was Lu.

“Oh, Elohai, not him,” groused Mick, “The only thing that could be worse would be for Lilith to be here with him.”

And right on cue, there was Lilith being her snooty and detestable self.

“You were saying, Peaches?”

“Never mind.”

Lu walked over to looked me over in disapproval, “You may be beautiful, Evie, but still look like a hippie. Women don’t wear their hair to their ankles anymore.”

“I do.”

“It’s not fashionable.”

“Neither are jabots and you wear them…”

“Because they are dashing. And you, Mick, wear is your style?”

“If you are referring to my sword that I used to win a war against you…”

“Bah! Lucky aim, is all…”

“Lu! Stop indulging those two weirdos!” Lilith shouted as she stomped over.

“Eve, you look like a peasant girl.”

“And you look jealous, peaches.”

“What do you know about anything when you just couldn’t hack it as a wife?” sneered Lilith.

“No, playing second banana to a big ham wasn’t my style, but if you want to audition for it, I am sure the second Eve may let you do it.”

Mick smirked as Lilith frowned, especially when she noticed Lu smirking.

She turned to him angrily. “What has she got that I haven’t got?”

Lu sighed. “Raw animal magnetism to drive everyone wild. She’s the original woman, after all. When she’s around, everyone wants what she’s got…”

“But I want I want is answers, and we have to go solve another war mystery. Toodles, you two!” I said as I Mick and I walked away.

“It is bad when Lu shows up, but when Lilith’s hanging around, it is serious trouble.”

“We can follow their scent to see what trouble they made, and see if there isn’t something we can use to test Alinsky’s theory.”

“You can smell them?”

“Peaches, you heard Lu: I have raw animal instincts, and I know how to use them.”

“So where is the scent?”

I pointed to a large theatre. “We are on Broadway, Mick. If anyone is trying to use humour as a weapon, it would be someone who had a stage to do it.”

III

“So,” Mick said as we looked at the curtains in the empty theatre, “This does look like a place where someone could get some ideas on using humour to make someone look bad.”

“And not likely someone who is broke to begin with – that would be for some very off-Broadway venue. This is the place you get the spotlight when you arrive.

“But what is being delivered?”

“That’s for us to find out…”

“Her! I want her!” a raspy male voice shouted as Mick and I turned around. It was a man in his thirties with thick black glasses and a black turtleneck as a young man ran behind him.

“You have star quality!” the older man said as the younger man’s wide-eyes and gaping mouth revealed this was not typical behaviour, “I have to put you in my new play!”

“But I don’t have any acting experience,” I said.

“Who cares? You’re gorgeous! Bigger than big!”

“Bigger than big…?” spluttered the young man.

“Shut up, Barnaby, you’re just a moron – but you, young woman, you’ve got what it takes!”

“For what?” I asked.

“My brand-new play!” He turned to Barnaby. “Fire Mitzie Donner – she’s being replaced with an upgrade as of this second!”

“But...” stammered Barnaby.

“But nothing! This is the real star!”

“But the play goes on tomorrow night! We can’t replace the lead actress just like that!”

“I already have! Do you have a good memory, Miss…Miss…”

“My name is Belle Eve, and I have an impeccable memory.”

“See that, Barnaby? Her memory is perfect!” He threw a script at me which I caught. “Can you memorize this in an hour?”

“Piece of cake,” I replied.

“Get the others here! We have a dress rehearsal! I have found my new muse! Change the posters!”

“Change the posters?” squealed Barnaby.

“Yes! The press will eat this up! Quick! We have work to be done!”

The man walked away as Mick and I read the script.

The young man looked confused. “This is insane! That’s not how it usually goes around here. You have agents, auditions…”

“But Evie has raw animal magnetism and people find her irresistible,” Mick replied matter-of-factly.

“I hope it works for opening night.”

“Oh, don’t worry, Peaches, it will,” I said as a smirked and leaned on Mick who gave me a kiss on my temple.

IV

“Boy, you weren’t kidding when you said you had an impeccable memory,” said Mick as we sat in my new dressing room, “You had the script memorized in no time, and pulled that dress rehearsal without a hitch.”

“Who could forget that dreadful play? It was nothing but insults about how stupid and crude poor people were.”

“It made a lot of fun of those living in poverty. It took everything in me not to object. I teach underprivileged children fencing in my spare time, and none of them remotely resemble anything in that pretentious play disguised as a political comedy.”

“That’s why I have invited all of your students and their parents to come here for opening night.”

Mick gasped. “How did you manage that?”

“I have my ways. They’ll all be flown down, spend a night at a nice hotel, have wonderful meals and a shopping trip free of charge.”

“I didn’t think you had money, Evie.”

“I don’t – but the investors of this play do, and I made a few phone calls.”

Mick raised an eyebrow. “Do they even know what they are spending lavishly on?”

“I told them the critics are coming from all over.”

“They will be big critics of a play that makes light of their hardships.”

“And as all of the press will be there as well as people recording everything on that thing they call social media…”

“We’ll see just how potent humour can be. It won’t be those wealthy snobs who watch tomorrow…”

“It will be those who the playwright and director know could never afford a seat here. Let’s see how well he can handle a misfired performance.”

V

Opening night would not be easily forgotten. I got ready backstage as Mick got the kids and their parents prepared form the other side of the curtain. When the curtain rose, I began to say my lines before I turned to the crowd. “Do we like the play so far?” I shouted.

“No!” the crowd yelled back.

“It’s mean!”

“It makes fun of poor people!”

“Poor people aren’t stupid!”

“Why is it so cruel?”

“I shrugged my shoulders. “Because that is how people with money see people who do not have it.”

The crowd jeered as the director stormed on the stage.

“You cannot improvise!” he shouted.

I pointed to the crowd as I spoke loudly. “And you cannot fool them, either.”

“What are these fools doing here, anyway!”

“Boo!” hissed the crowd as they began to throws things at the director.

“Meany!”

“Jerk!”

“Snot!”

“You made fun of the poor with this play,” I said, “How powerful a weapon is it when it backfires?”

The crowd continued their booing and shouting as the actors looked shocked. I jumped off the stage as  Mick joined me and shook his head. “You’re right, Evie, when a rich man uses humour to try to take down a poor one, the weapon turns on him.”

“Humour is supposed to show truths, not blow them away.”

“That’s what Alinsky meant. He thought humour would show the absurdity of what we accept without question.”

“The earth is a story machine, Mick. It is supposed to be comedy and Silliosity, but when people are corrupted by greed and have to have everything their own way, they become the punchline and not the poor soul they are targeting.”

“That suspiciously sound like a moral to a story that you haven’t even told yet.”

“There is more than one moral to this story; so, let’s get back and I’ll tell it to you.”

“That’s more like it. I always love a good story – it keeps the mind sharp and the heart strong.”

VI

Money can’t buy you the weapon of humour!

They say that money is the root of all evil, but it isn’t the root of all blindness. When your mind and heart are closed to the world, money are not the glasses to help you see where you are, or what you have become.

Money cannot buy you happiness or the good sense to see that you cannot have everything no matter how much money you have.

They say that humour is a person’s most potent weapon, but it is not a weapon money can buy you.

When you are rich and using humour as a weapon against the poor, that weapon recoils in disgust and fires right back on you, showing who is the butt of the joke – and those you tried to hurt with humour end up getting the last laugh!

Because there once was a stage where those who had every blessing except a kind heart thought they would bury the poor with their comedy, never thinking those they meant to harm would come and see the weapon for themselves.

And when the rich fired the weapon on the poor, the tables turned because humour has a mind and heart of its own. It is not meant to be a weapon, but a medicine that heals wounds and lifts hearts.

And when money thinks it can bribe humour to harm the poor, humour rises up and shows money is no match for it!

Matriarchal Storytelling is the reality of sound.

I

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II

When I began A Dangerous Woman, I had more than just a vision, but also a plan: to reflect the structure of reality in my stories. Much of my life is in those works, but not always in obvious places: Verity Lake’s area of study was my undergraduate thesis, and her stage “act” in the beginning of the novel Dr. Verity Lake’s Journey of a Thousand Revelations is something that happened to me in real life that served as more than just a personal revelation about the nature of reality, but became the backbone for Matriarchal Storytelling.

When I was fifteen, I had my ears tucked. They stuck out just enough for my mother to make comments for me not to wear a ponytail, and then I took the dramatic route and went for cosmetic surgery. I had to wear a huge bandage on my head for a few weeks, but when they came off, something strange happened.

Sound didn’t sound normal. Voices sounded staccato, broken, bouncing off the walls, tinny, and filled with echoes.

For about a minute.

And then suddenly all these disjointed chords pulled together and it sounded normal again.

This shocked me. I never thought about it before.

What if “normal” sound wasn’t reality? What if that abnormal sound was the reality — and the real thing, and our brains “trick” us into pulling them together?

It stayed with me. My undergraduate thesis was in psychoacoustics, and eventually, Dr. Lake’s signature act to prove that how we perceive reality isn’t the actual reality.

III

After I became a journalist, I realized that revelation extended to my chosen profession. You read a novel and it is smooth, like the sound you perceive, but that smooth flow is something you read in a newspaper article, too.

But that is not unfiltered and raw reality. That is constructed reality.

When I write a news story, for instance, that’s not what I am given.

I have to interview people. I have to corroborate what they say. I have to find evidence, research, context, and a bunch of other things that I have to dig for, such as court transcripts, high school yearbooks, eyewitnesses, memos, transcripts, and social media feeds.

And then after piecing things together, you get that nice, easy, and smooth story.

But if I were to replace the writing with the information I got in order to write it, it wouldn’t be so smooth and obvious. There would tangents and other things mixed in. There would be irrelevant information, and even contradictory information.

When I did Chaser Investigative News over a decade ago, I included the raw information — and told readers what I was doing and going with it.

In other words, I presented the raw reality of the story as I showed the process of harmonizing things.

Like sound. Your brain filters out the extraneous and irrelevant parts and harmonizes it so you don’t get too distracted.

But people take that process for granted, and then become stupid little motherfuckers who think the reality is the smooth, not the fragmented.

And when you do that, you are lying to yourself. Unless you are aware of the harmonization, you get lost because all of your calculations will be off, and you always miss the mark and not solve the problems because you take off the table the one thing that has to be on the table: that there are things that you are overlooking or taking for granted.

You have to account for the differences between reality and the perception of reality.

Before I launched the original Chaser, I wrote an anthology of short stories called Consumer-isms in 12 Easy Steps.

And many of those stories were told in an epistolary style — no narrative, but through voice mails, emails, memos, and raw data where the reader had to piece together the story.

They way I had to do it as a journalist.

IV

That book and my web site would eventually inspire A Dangerous Woman Story Studio where I would have both the smooth perceptions of individual stories, but with the raw reality of having intersecting stories. Supporting characters in one series were main characters in another. Passing references in one novel where the focus on a short story elsewhere.

Just like real life.

It mimicked the reality of sound as well as our perceptions of it.

The chords can be fragmented or sing in harmony, depending on what you listen to and how you pull those chords together.

Magnus Lyme is the root note, while Holly Lake is the melody note, and third character is the third note. It all depends on what you hear, and what notes you happen to catch.

And we see Magnus through different eras of her life that come in waves. These stories do not have to be read in order, and there are advantages to not reading them in any particular order. You are putting together a literary jigsaw puzzle, and the pieces come from all over the place.

It doesn’t matter which piece you pick up first: sooner or later the big picture emerges.

That is the advantage of the Matriarchal: you don’t have to be a slave to linearity or order. Chaos will get you there just the same, with greater advantages that teach you how to break the shackles that serve as blinders by learning to develop other senses.

That is the triumph of the Matriarchal, and that is the reason I write my stories in any order my heart feels a need and want to express…

Intellectual Gesamtkunstwerk: Creating the visionary's matriarchal scaffolding.

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I took an Art Nouveau course from Oxford University. Loved it lots for many reasons, but how often do you get to write Gesamtkunstwerk?

It is a clever concept. It is a visionary’s concept. It is a world building concept and a creator’s concept.

Build from scratch from the ground up. You are the clock. You are the compass. You design the structure and then the content.

The world is your canvas, and it is part consilience, part art, part science, and part engineering.

We often think of it in terms of art movements, but using it as an inspiration to create an intellectual scaffolding is something to consider.

I have when I created F.R.E.E.D. and refined and codified Matriarchal Storytelling.

We don’t have that kind of visionary thinking for journalism, and it is the reason I am doing what I am doing. Creating alternatives.

Everything is very patriarchal, and while Gesamtkunstwerk can imply creating everything to fall into The One, we can also create mosaics of the Infinite with them. We are not tethered by it, and the concept in no way places any kind of blinders.

We come with the blinders.

And it is funny that we speak of blinders as if that were an excuse: we may have blinders, but what about our other senses? Why are they not telling us important information?

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We are not tethered.

And yet we hold on to disposable ideas as we are held back.

That’s why you get manipulated and played.

Instead of doing an intellectual inventory, weaving new facts into a latticework of ideas as we discard those that have been proven faulty, people hoard bullshit.

And then think shutting their eyes will make the evidence go away.

You don’t have to see it, but hear it or feel it.

What I am doing is building a scaffolding for information. I discussed one sector of it — journalism, and to a lesser extent, patriarchal fiction.

Now I am moving on to strategy.

The point is to use more than one sense to gather information.

And getting rid of any and all excuses to build new worlds and to find the big picture…

2019 brings a shift in focus.

As I have mentioned before, what is popular on this site and what happens to be my focus are two different things. If I talk about journalism — which is critical — then I don’t get that much traffic.

If I talk about strategy — which is also critical, but not what I am known for — then I get more traffic and more people coming here and staying.

To those of you, thank you.

We can see the in-fighting in journalism. The Wall Street Journal bringing the Washington Post to task for their propaganda.

And it is propaganda. There was a war against journalism, but journalism is no better with their war against democracy. Media stocks are not seeing a lift from their little raging wars, but a tumble, yet it isn’t stopping them in the slightest.

So what does that mean for this website?

Chaser is going to re-invent information dissemination.

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A Dangerous Woman is going to continue to do storytelling differently.

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But those aren’t the kinds of content I can produce every single day.

I’m bootstrapping, remember?

I am an army of one woman. No staff. No fabulously wealthy benefactors I have to appease.

So as I shift away from the old journalism, I am going to focus on strategy.

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And how propaganda and manipulation are misdirecting collective thought away from critical thinking and free will with hate, fear-mongering, and ruses.

I will mention how certain articles are trying to rig thinking.

But also how to expand your options and outcomes with considering options that are hidden and suppressed.

I will be running down various war strategies, and recommend books and articles.

You know mine, but as I have ten Ikea shelves worth of books — and counting — filled with all sorts of reading, this will be your go-to place for it. It will be your reality check when you are tempted to let others do your thinking for you.

With anarchy coming because the Establishment failed to manipulate enough people to vote the way they wanted in 2016, the big guns are all over the place, this is the place that gives you sensibility in an impossibly ill-behaved world.

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I already know who is reading me. I might as well give them something to talk about…

When you have those cock-sucking motherfuckers thinking they can bomb people into submission, they should realize not everyone rolls that way.

So, for all the gaslighting, puritanical shaming, and the like, let’s not fall for that bullshit in 2019.

Let those lazy Establishment fuckers earn their keep for once.

xoxo!

The Chaser Solution: Epilogue: おもいやり, baby!

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Omoiyari. What a quaint notion. The idea of altruism. It is a not a notion taught in j-schools, but it is one I abide by because if you are in the business to teach and/or inform, that has to be your guiding motive.

Because knowledge is one of those things you give without losing it yourself.

So long as you understand that it is something without strings attached.

Too bad journalists never learned that lesson.

The Toronto Star never did, judging by this article with the link stating this:

Donald Trump has made at least 3,924 false claims so far in his presidency. The Star's Daniel Dale counted

How many lies did the Canadian PM make? How many did the Star?

How many secrets did the federal regime keep from the public? How many did the Star?

They both had a mutual secret that got exposed recently.

And it is a very treacherous one that is, in fact, scandalous.

But both the Star and the federal Grits are in serious trouble. That magic weed isn’t doing its trick, and the gullible rubes at the Globe and Mail think they know something, but they are morons.

Journalists failure to understand おもいやり has cost them their clout.

A profession thrives and progresses so long as it has innocence and idealism, from education to medicine to journalism.

When you allow psychopaths to infiltrate a noble profession and use sophistry and logical fallacies to cover up their wickedness, the profession becomes corrupt, rotten, and eventually FUBAR.

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Canadian journalism is the best example of that rot that turned them into propaganda tools. The CBC doesn’t get it. They are speculating about Trump’s government shut down and how it could backfire. They do not understand military strategy, and hence, don’t see the big picture.

When I wrote OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism, I studied The O’Reilly Factor very carefully. I drew maps all over the place. I read every single transcript of the program from the first to the very last one before I could no longer update my book. I broke down his methods and strategies and treated them like military operation plans.

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For good measure, I used my Britain’s toy soldiers to recreate five of his most effective gambits, with each soldier representing his arguments.

There was no wonder why he held full control for almost every debate save for one, which I wrote about at length that pretty much came off like this:

But Trump has a natural instinct that surpasses O’Reilly. You cannot interview a couple of “experts” and think you have figured him out.

Because journalists are so isolated from the world, that they have no idea who they are covering. They live in a psychic bubble and have less and less connect with the public.

Why?

No おもいやり.

おもいやり requires you to give, not to take.

It requires you to have respect for the past, nurture the present, and be a guardian for the future.

That’s not journalism.

Not anymore.

おもいやり guides me. I feel おもいやり and am grateful that I do.

I see things from the heart. I have emotions that give me as much information as my mind. It gives me the courage to face reality in order to find the truth.

Journalism could have been reinvented and stronger than ever. Instead of seeing problems as puzzles to solve, they decided they were going to brainwash 7.4 billion people and trick them into giving up their free will and liberties. Enough already.

Deal with your own rot first. Write exposés about the wickedness of your own profession. Once you see how far you have sunk, then you’ll understand how you got there and why people walked away from you.

Instead of scaring people, you should be making them brave.

That’s おもいやり.

That’s what is at heart of everything I do in my life, including a little resurrected site called…

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The Chaser Solution: Chapter Twelve: Months in a year, hours on a clock, it all comes up to a dozen. We mark time, but never make the most of it.

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Petty shits.

Who was worse this week?

The New York Times for publishing family gossip that was unsubstantiated, or NBC for not correcting the record when they knew they were wrong?

Even the Washington Post is cautioning them to be careful of not spreading fake news.

Should anyone care about the Times’ story? I don’t recall too many modern presidents being soldiers or enlisting. They still got voted in. Canadian universities still have those Left-wing American draft dodgers as professors, and no one is getting upset about that.

The same people who were marching in anti-war protests are bitching about someone who didn’t fight a war? You assholes didn’t, either; so just shut the fuck up.

The middle class don’t care about much.

Not even if the news has no connect to reality.

Take CBC here in Canada. They puke bullshit how the Canadian economy was “resilient” in 2018, but for whom? We had a lot of stores closing. We had factories closing.

We have a homeless crisis, and in traditionally middle class safe havens such as the Golden Horseshoe. Real estate is rapidly cooling off, and household debt is at very bad levels. We have an opioid crisis, and that’s not a sign of prosperity.

Yet like a dubbed foreign film, the voice over doesn’t ever match up with the moving lips.

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So what’s going on?

On the one hand, it is a confirmation bias: choose a self-serving narrative, and look for evidence that supports your narrative as you ignore evidence that refutes it. In the US, the press is anti-Trump all the time. It is pure insanity because they had power to be kingmakers until the day they weren’t. They are mad at him for showing them the reality of their situation.

They should have been grateful.

They should have seen what happened and how to re-invent their profession. Instead, they veered into rank propaganda and haven’t stopped as their fortunes go further down.

They hate Trump. They also hate Facebook for the same reason. They hate “populism” — again, for the same reason. They got mad at poor people for expressing themselves, using social media to do it, and voting for the only candidate that spoke to them during the election.

Once upon a time, journalists wouldn’t be hating those people: they would be writing about them and speaking to them, but then they got full of themselves and got lost in narcissistic fantasy.

You used to inform these same people. You used to publish their letters to the editor. You used to get outraged when they got hurt in life, and the Establishment tried to screw them over.

What happened to those people? Where did you go wrong?

In Canada, the press betrayed the people, but in a different way: they lied to them, but are lulling them into thinking things are better than they actually are. They mimic Soviet-style propaganda where the news told citizens how great the economy was, and it was in the toilet. People laughed at the news because it was bullshit and they knew it.

They believed it for a while, until they imploded. Regions broke away, and the fragmentation spelled the end of that system of governance.

It happened to the Soviet Union. It happened to Yugoslavia.

Would it happen to Canada? It depends how badly things go. Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta would leave. Toronto would, too. The US would greatly benefit because they could gain access to natural resources easily and quietly. It is not as if Canada would be a match for the US, but why do it loudly, when you can do the same thing silently without fuss?

But Canada was always an impossible country: it is too big with too few people spread out too far apart.

What holds them together? Fairy tales.

The kicker is that if this country could face reality, it would leave other countries in the dust.

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The US is in the same position. There is nothing wrong with their president. He is no worse than his predecessor. You cannot fault Donald Trump for seeing reality that you can win a presidency by stumping and going directly to the people in person — and by using Twitter. Kudos to him.

He exposed that the media has no teeth. They have been gumming at him for so long that you’d think they’d get tired of their own temper tantrum.

The press should have just stood back and saw their own arrogant and oblivious childishness.

I remember talking to one US reporter about Trump before November 2016. He thought Clinton would win it. I said no way. He was absolutely certain, citing polls. I said look at the polls for Brexit, and even for Toronto’s mayoralty race where Rob Ford handily won. He said it was an apples to oranges comparison. I said it was apples to apples.

Trump won.

I could see what Trump saw: a dead media. The model was no longer aligned with reality. If the strongest of the media — the US — couldn’t do it, then neither could anyone else. People can get offended all they want, but no other country had the journalistic muscle saved for the UK. They are having the same problems, and there is no relief in sight.

And what you have is a hamster wheel that marks nothing.

What you don’t have is news anymore. North, East, West, South.

No one minding the times. No one minding the place.

For example, child exploitation is a serious problem in Canada. So is human trafficking. We have a serious problem with First Nations women vanishing and being murdered. Lots of child pornography and prostitution going on here.

And the laws here are a joke.

With a press that aids and abets these people.

And in the US, the hate on Trump is so out of control that the US will pay for it for decades to come because no one is paying attention at the things that are actually important.

How many people can live well? How many people die needlessly?

What are the dangers?

That’s news.

It is not a fairytale. It is not campfire story.

It is a clock. It is a compass.

You know where you are right now and where things are going?

When you know, you are F.R.E.E.D.

What should you be going after?

That’s Chaser.

The strength isn’t in the One.

It is in the Infinite.

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And, darlings, that is your message to ponder very carefully, courtesy of…

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The Chaser Solution: Chapter Nine: Let 7.4 billion people focus on Trump. I have a life.

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The unworldly motherfuckers over at the Guardian make me laugh:

The US is on the edge of the economic precipice – Trump may push it over

Oh, you crazy kids. That’s the whole point.

He plays Go. How many times do I have to tell you dumbass knuckle-draggers? The point of Go is to surround your enemy and drown him in your swirl of stones.

If you are stuck in quicksand, you don’t fight. The more you struggle, the faster you sink.

The Left are spoiled brats who are not used to doing their own thinking. Mom and dad did it all for them. They threw fits, and there is a penalty for it.

7.4 billion people and the majority don’t get it.

I knew he was going to win, and I prepared. I didn’t get upset. I got to work.

Because it really doesn’t matter who is elected in office. The rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.

Yet the press doesn’t report on that. People would get distressed if they came to grips with the fact that they will die on a hamster wheel.

I had to make a decision when I decided to resurrect Chaser: who is my audience, and what do I actually cover?

With 7.4 billion people on the planet pretty much fixated on one man.

Imagine that. That is one hell of a lockstep.

One person I will always be covering is Alexandra Kitty.

You will get to know me. There is a person here, and it is important to know who you are dealing with. Society has lost its ability to connect, and in order to foster connection, I am the conduit for this site, just as I am a conduit for A Dangerous Woman Studio.

I do hear snarky remarks about my choice of subject. I have had people say, “You always talk about yourself,” to which I answer, “And you always talk about Trump, and I am much more interesting.”

People focus on his typos more than they do on anything or anyone else. What the fuck is wrong with people?

Fuck you.

But people do not like when a woman talks about herself without trying to appease some guy, put herself down, or is eccentric.

A woman can have hundred of DC action figures all over her house like a museum, thousands of comic books, and an entire room of Lego with working trains and cars that are made into a city, no one notices.

A man plays with dolls to cope with life, and they make a documentary and movie about him.

I can’t even say not every man gets attention because the Atlantic gave a platform to a former journalist who now delivers for Amazon. Even a down-on-his-luck guy gets more attention than a woman who had the world collapse around her.

A man created the Intercept, and even woman who think they are feminists wonder why there is no feminist Intercept when there was long before the Intercept.

I can tell you about the Blue Beetle or about the jewelry of Josef Hoffmann. You want to know about various Japanese playing cards? I am your woman. I can tell you about female magicians, rabbits, metalworking, and Clarice Cliff, among other things.

It is not as if I think I am the only person who does her own thing, but how many woman do their own thing and no one gives them any notice?

So when I decided to launch Chaser, I made a few big decisions: the focus will not be on what the locksteppers are obsessed with. Fuck that shit.

It will always be on information and stories that are important to know.

It will be the place where you find out about mindsets and rigs.

It will be the tools you need to navigate through information so you do not fall for propaganda of any sort.

And it will be from someone who has a life!

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The Promises of Theodore Nathanial: Knock, Knock

In this debut installment of The Promises of Theodore Nathanial, Theo decides to keep his word to his mother Bunny as she has a most unusual client for her latest masterpiece...

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Theodore Nathanial was a great guy, thought Katriel Pepper as she looked at her childhood friend. He was the founder of Dreaminate computers and made a truckload of billions before selling his company and then buying Queen’s Heights’ entertainment district Carnivalia, where Kat now worked as a children’s performer in the wildly popular The Whimsy’s Monster Show.

Theo was sensitive, sweet, funny, brave, wise, daring, innocent, smart, talented, strong, creative, and an amazing dancer. No one wanted to miss a step when he went on the dancefloor. He was a natural, and had no inhibitions when he busted a move.

He was cute in other ways too. For one, he was an unrepentant eccentric. He would be hanging upside down fixing something in his pajama bottoms while he was singing, just as he was doing at the moment. With Theo, you never could tell.

But there was one thing you could take to the bank: if he made a promise to you, he’d keep it. His word was his bond. If you were in trouble, and he promised to get you through it, the problem was as good as solved.

Everyone in Queen’s Heights loved Theo Nathanial to pieces for infinite reasons, but his honesty and honour made him the great friend and guardian that you could trust with your life – and be grateful to do so.

It was the reason he was hanging upside down from the ceiling of Kat’s house she built in a tree: her electrical wiring was acting up, and he promised he’d take a look at it and fix it the first chance he got, which happened to be three o’clock in the morning.

“Gotcha!” he said triumphantly as he signalled to Kat to turn the power back on. The second she did, the lights in the living room returned to normal.

“Thanks, Theo! Can you get down from there?”

“Sure,” he said cheerily as he grabbed a rafter from above, took out each leg from the rafter he hung from, and then hand-over-hand, moved close enough to a bannister, carefully placed himself on it, and then slid down as he shouted before landing on his feet, shouting, “Ta da!”

Kat laughed as she jumped up and down, clapping her hands, “Bravo!”

“My pleasure.”

“Thanks, Theo. I mean it. You didn’t have to do that.”

“I promised that I would. I have to get back home. Mom has some big shot client for her art who is flying on from Tokyo; so, I want to help her get ready for that.”

“Do you ever sleep?”

“I get my rest, just not today or tomorrow.”

Kat ran over to give him a hug. “You’re the best, you know that? There isn’t a single thing wrong with you. Don’t ever change.”

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“Theodore Nathanial, what’s wrong with you?” his mother Bunny scolded him the next morning when he told her of his previous night’s excursion at his loft condo in Carnivalia while they were having breakfast. “A gorgeous woman like Kat Pepper throws her arms around you as she’s wearing a nightie in the middle of the night, and you just leave it at that?”

“We’re just friends, Mama. I’ve known her since we were toddlers. She’s like a sister to me.”

“Are you sure you’re not gay?”

He rolled his eyes as he was accustomed to the question. “Absolutely certain. I’m not gay. How many times do I have to tell you? Why would I hide it or keep it a secret when I come from the place that had gay marriage legal since the day it was founded in the late 1800s? There are no closets in Queen’s Heights. If I were gay, I would be out, proud, unrepentant, and you’d be the second person to know.”

“And who’d be the first?”

“The guy who I asked out on a date.”

She gasped. “Your own mother wouldn’t be the first person you told?”

“My hormones come first.”

“When they work on occasion.”

“They work all the time…”

“Still single after all of these years…”

“I don’t want to get married.”

“What’s wrong with getting married?”

“Mama, I ran a company I founded from scratch. Dreaminate was my wife, and it would have been profoundly unfair to have neglected a person wife when I put my heart and soul into my company that thrived beyond all my wildest expectations…”

“First of all, you’re smart, and a Hoffding, of course it would be that successful…”

Theo rolled his eyes at the Hoffding mention. He and his mother were descendants of Dr. Darda Hoffding, one of the seventeen young women who founded the city-state of Queen’s Heights. Dr. Hoffding was a brilliant scientist who came up with countless inventions, founded the local renowned university Queen’s Heights College that refused to call itself a university as it would ruin a great motto, and came up with the Hoffding Equation: one plus one equals a bigger one, and all equations equal infinity. Whenever he retained any modesty about his intelligence, his artist mother flipped her lid.

“…And second of all, you divorced your wife Dreaminate when you sold your company.”

“I bought Carnivalia. That also needs my focus, love, and devotion. This place is what brings in tourists and makes the arts community here profitable.”

“Oh, so you are denying me grandchildren so I can make a buck?”

“Yes, and every other artist here. Besides, since when did you want to be a grandmother? You throw a fit if someone asks if I am your son and not your brother.”

“You know how much Sassy Goddess Night Cream costs for a jar? It had better make me look like your younger sister…”

“Ma…”

“Look, I don’t want to leave you alone in the world…”

“Alone in the world? You’re not old. You could pass off for a thirty-five-year-old with the way you dress.”

“Distracting me with accurate compliments won’t make me change the topic…”

“I’m content with my life, all right? I don’t need a wife to make me happy.”

“But you were made to be one half of an adorable power couple…”

“Do not set me up on a blind date again, all right? Because if you do, I promise not to go…”

“That’s playing dirty…”

“Besides, why don’t you get married? You’ve been a widow since I was a kid. I don’t see you rushing to the alter again.”

“Your father Joel was all I ever wanted or needed. You can’t have an encore like that.”

“I wouldn’t object…”

“Look, I’m in demand, and my art career keeps me…” Bunny made a face as her only child’s triumphant smirk told her she had made a fatal tactical mistake in her argument with him. Just as she was about to forbid him from holding her to the same standards, her smart phone rang. She looked at the screen and groaned.

“Damn, it’s Bingo Bailey…”

“I thought she was your bestie…”

“She is! And I forgot we were supposed to design the new studio for her children’s show before going to Toronto to go shopping…”

“Go then…”

“But I have a…”

“Tell her you’re going. I’ll handle it.”

“But…”

Theo grabbed the phone from his mother, and swiped it. “Hi, Auntie Bingo! How are you? Great. Mom’s right here…” he said cheerily as he gently fended off his mother trying to grab the phone from him. “What did you say? Of course, she’ll be there. She wouldn’t miss it for the world. Say hi to Annie for me, and remind her of our own lunch date on Friday. I will. Love you, too. Bye.”

He hung up the phone as his mother smacked the back of his head as he guffawed.

“Theodore Nathanial!”

“What?”

“Have you forgotten?”

“No, I know about Mr. Yanaihara coming here to pick up the statue he commissioned from you, and you hoping he picks up a few more pieces for his collection.”

“I have to be there!”

“No, you don’t. I’ll do it.”

“You have a job running this place, young man.”

“No biggie. I have a big staff, and I delegate. Mama comes first.”

Bunny looked concerned.

“Mama, don’t worry, okay? I promise I’ll be around when Mr. Yanaihara comes by to pick up your sculpture, and perhaps a few other pieces of yours. Go have fun with Auntie Bingo.”

“Are you sure? I know you’re busy…”

“Absolutely. I’m never too busy for my mom. I promise I’ll get him to buy you out. Now go and live it up – even if you aren’t married because your career takes precedence over wedded bliss.”

“Oh, hush up, smarty pants,” his mother groused as his infectious laugh made her smile in spite herself. She got up, gave him a kiss on top of his head before wrapping her arms around his shoulders and giving him a big hug. Of all of her creations, he was, by far, the best one she ever created, and her favourite masterpiece by far.

III

Theo had an hour to form a plan, and he didn’t waste a second. He made his various calls, and was furiously typing on his Dreaminate laptop when he his thoughts were interrupted.

“Knock, knock,” a sultry voice said as a familiar beaming face popped her head inside and winked with an equally sultry air.

Dr. Cleo Hughes was a world-renowned experimental psychologist, brunette glamour puss fashion plate and one of Theo’s childhood friends that made his mother question his sanity for not slobbering all over her, “I’ve arrived for our latest little top-secret mission.”

“You don’t mind?”

“For you, Theo, anything.”

“I just don’t want you to have any regrets.”

Cleo smiled. “My only regret in life was when I was a kid and I went with my sister and cousins to Somerset, Pennsylvania when you and Elah Ganet founded the Birch Tree Science League, and I missed all the fun of sliming your entire backyard with some strange goo that turned your mother’s birch tree looking kind of wonky. My niece is devastated that our family wasn’t one of the founding members of that years-long tradition around here...”

“Knock, knock,” said another female voice.

When Theo looked up, two other gorgeous women and childhood friends sauntered in: Alma Montgomery, the owner of the local newspaper and former investigative journalist, and Victoria Darling, owner and captain of the town’s cruise boat. “So, what’s the mission, if we choose to accept it this time?” asked Alma as she gave Cleo a hug and sat down with Victoria following suit.

“Here’s the deal,” said Theo, “My mother sold one of her sculptures to some loaded businessman who is flying in from Tokyo to pick it up. She had a work and play date with Bingo at the same time, and I thought she shouldn’t wait around, but then I got carried away and I said I’d get him to buy a lot more.”

“You promised? That’s so sweet,” said Alma.

“No problem,” said Cleo, “Just tell me about the guy, and I can tell you how to approach him…”

“Knock, knock!”

When everyone looked toward the door, two more voluptuous women popped in: it was Lucky and Mia Eckhart, the town’s resident business tycoons who always made their own powerhouse corporations from scratch.

“Theo!” they chirped in unison, “Sorry we’re late!”

“We just started,” said Victoria, “Grab a chair.”

“So, where are we?” asked Lucky.

“Cleo’s devising the strategy,” said Alma, “I’m going to do research on the man who is going to be buying every one of Bunny Nathanial’s works of art.”

The Eckhart Twins perked up. “Oh, I just love a good business strategy,” said Mia, “Remember when Cleo devised our first one, Lucky?”

“How could I forget? Our lemonade stand turned into a lucrative franchise chain and we were barely six-years-old.”

“Yeah,” smirked Alma, “And, you took your money and invested in my little newsletter I put together in my bedroom.”

“It was a great investment,” said Lucky, “We tripled our profit, and then things really took off from there.”

“So, what’s the plan?” asked Mia.

“Alma is going to find something about my mother’s client that can help Cleo,” said Theo as he passed around a dossier, “You two can consult with Cleo, while Victoria takes our strategy and helps me set up her ship for the lunch I throwing together for him when he arrives.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Alma.

“Anything for Bunny,” said Lucky.

“She’s such a doll,” agreed Mia.

“After that’s all over, I owe you ladies a big one.”

“Nonsense,” said Cleo, “I owe you for your ideas for renovating my labs at Queen’s Heights College and the Bonhomme School in Somerset.”

“Don’t worry, Theo,” said Alma, “We’re always doing things for each other. We’ve always been more like family than friends. Let’s get to work.”

IV

When Mr. Yanaihara arrived to the Queen’s Heights airport, Theo was there to greet the stern-looking and forlorn man. He introduced himself and explained his mother’s absence, but as the man immediately recognized Theo from his Dreaminate days, he was anxious to talk shop as he himself own a thriving social media company in Japan.

The man was young, while exuded confidence in his business acumen, his demeanour betrayed that there were other areas weighing heavily on him.

Theo promised the man a whirlwind tour of the best places in the city-state, and they immediately boarded Victoria Darling’s finest boat where a feast from the Magician’s Roar was waiting for them – but used the recipes of the once iconic restaurant Viand that was no longer in business as the family who owned it no longer had anyone who were chefs. Mr. Yanaihara had mentioned that he had heard of the fabled Viand from his girlfriend who was a fan of the Heights, and immediately sent her photographs through his smart phone to show her everything she was missing. He guffawed at her jealous responses as he happily translated to Theo who merely smiled cherubically and said that merely meant he should bring her here the next time, and would shortly give him the perfect pretence to come again.

They had their lunch and chatted animatedly, but as they left the boat and entered a limo, Theo quickly excused himself to make a quick call to another gorgeous childhood friend Miranda Tenney who laughed at his request. “Nana Jolene will kill me if I said no to this, and she missed a great story. She adores you. She says you’ve got spunk.”

“The adoration is mutual.”

“Don’t I know it. I think I am the only person in the world who runs a nightclub where her granny is one of the regulars. She’s always crowing how she taught you all of your dance moves. No worries, Theo, I’ll get everyone ready when you arrive. Twenty minutes is all I need. Too bad she can’t be here when this goes down.”

“Yeah, but it’s her poker night at the Greatest Show. Thanks, Randi.”

After he hung up and got in the car, they drove around several iconic places where Theo explained the history, including the iconic hammer and nail clock tower at the still in business Weavers and Tenney Tool Emporium that was still owned by the original families. Mr. Yanaihara was familiar with the Weavers and Tenney line of tools as they were popular in Japan and they had a factory in Hiroshima, and he mentioned this his current girlfriend’s love for Queen’s Heights began when she was a little girl and her mother worked for the Weavers and Tenney factory as a single mother. He looked down sadly, and confessed that he was beginning to feel as if he was losing her to someone else, and the statue was his way of trying to understand her and connect to her.

Theo smirked boyishly. “Then you have come to the right place, and the right person. We have one more stop before you pick up your statue.”

“Which is?”

“Carnivalia’s best-kept little secret that has been in my family for generations – from the days of one of its founders, Dr. Darda Hoffding.”

“You are her descendent?”

“Since the day I was born. We’re going to her old science lab.”

“Sounds intriguing.”

“And all top secret. Darda had her own ideas about the place, but then her grandson – my great-grandfather – Dieter Menzel changed a couple of things.”

The limo stopped in the middle of a secluded area of Carnivalia.

“In four…three…two…” Theo said to a confused Mr. Yanaihara until the car suddenly seemed to fall into the ground, causing Mr. Yanaihara to scream and Theo to roar with boisterous laughter. “I never get tired of that,” he chuckled as the car landed safely in complete darkness before lights came on one by one from all sides and the chauffeur left the car nonchalantly and opened the door for Theo and his guest to exit.

Mr. Yanaihara seemed duly impressed. “Now, I am more than intrigued, Theo. What secret scientific experiments you have stored here has piqued my curiosity.”

“Science? Oh, that ship sailed decades ago.”

“Knock, knock,” Theo shouted through the door as soon as they reached it.

“Come on in, Theo!” a group of excited voices shouted back.

He opened the door to a wide-eyed, but very pleased Mr. Yanaihara who saw his statue in the middle of a very busy dancefloor as there was music, dancing, and cheering as there was a large banner greeting him.

“Mr. Yanaihara, let me introduce you to the Nethersphere, the hottest nightclub of the Heights.”

“I may never wish to leave. It is a technological wonder I have never seen before.”

“You can tell your girlfriend all about it.”

“Your mother’s statue is stunning up close.”

“It’s not as swanky as some of her other work.”

Mr. Yanaihara made an intense face as he was already furiously plotting his next moves right after he busted a few himself on the dancefloor. Now he had more than a fighting chance to secure his relationship as he suddenly began to understand the enigmatic ways of the Heights that until that moment, he always assumed was a staid and girly place that played it safe.

V

When Bunny returned to her studio, she gasped at the sight. There was not a single piece of her work in the now empty room.

“Theo!” she shouted as he nonchalantly sauntered in.

“Hey, Ma, back from Toronto?”

“Where is all my work?”

“Being packed and crated out in the back,” he shrugged.

“Why?”

“Because Mr. Yanaihara bought them all.”

“Everything?”
“You no longer have any stock.”

“But how did you…?”

“A promise is a promise.”

“That’s all you’re going to tell me?”

“He likes your work.”

“That much?”

“He likes your work, he has money to burn, and has a hip and good-looking girlfriend who wants to open a feminist art museum in Tokyo, and he didn’t want to lose her to a rival. He thought buying a token statue was enough, but I convinced him she’d see right through that, and then when he called her to tell to run his revised plan, she was so happy, that he bought you out, and not only are they tight, they’re opening a gallery together. She knows her art, and he knows his business, and now they’re opening a feminist art gallery that turns into a secret night club in the evening. They’re both so excited that they can’t see straight. Oh, they’ve invited the both of us for opening night.”

Bunny began to laugh. “You’re kidding. You found all of that out about him, and got that far on it?”

“Ma, I ran a multi-billion-dollar company all by myself without compromising, joining some horrific cabal, or offering potential clients illegal favours, substances, or hookers to grease them over. I promised I’d do things the honest way, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to get what I want some other way. He had a problem; I had a goal, and we worked it out in a mutually beneficial way where we both came out with equal gain.”

“You’re something else.”

“What can I say? I got to be me. I had a couple of long days. I am going to check myself in at the Verity Lake suite at the Grand Empress for a couple of days to get some undisturbed rest.”

His mother nodded in approval. “Good for you. You earned it. Don’t worry about things at Carnivalia. I’ll look after it while you veg out. It gives me a chance to get inspired for all the work I will have to make now. In all my years, I never just sold out. I need to think things through.”

“You sure?”

“I promise. That you got from me, young man.”

He smiled as he nodded. “If anyone needs me…”

“They’ll wait until you get back. Go, you earned it. I love you, Theo.”

“I love you, too, Mama.”

He gave his mother a kiss on the cheek, and walked out of his office and made it across the street to the marquee hotel The Grand Empress hotel where his reserved penthouse suite was waiting for him. It had the most beautiful view of the place he called home, and nothing gave him peace the way the little haven did when he came there to unwind. His life may have been hectic, unpredictable, and one that had no rules, but it was one he was grateful for as he lived it to the fullest with no shortage of those to share it with.

But tonight, there was also the Nethersphere where he could kick back, flirt, mingle, let loose, and dance to his heart’s content. He had it all, whether he chose to be peaceful or wild. It was his call, his life, and it was just the way he liked it.

The Goditor: The Hellrigs

I

I was editing the latest manuscript from the publisher I worked for from my home in Milton late one night as Opie and Strahinja were playing a game they made up on the floor in the living room by my feet. I had asked what they game was about, and what were the rules, but neither seemed to or even care.

“Well then, how do you know who wins?” I asked.

“If we are both laughing and having fun, we both are winning,” said Strahinja, “We double the victory and the celebration afterward. I do not know why those scummy humans haven’t come up with such a brilliant idea.”

“That’s so true,” agreed Opie, “People are always trying to win something so that other people have to lose.”

“Gods do that, too,” I reminded them, “And when that happens, I have to audit them, and often take away their powers; so the end up losing everything even if they win a false victory.”

“But mostly scummy humans,” said Strahinja, “They are so dumb. I wish I could audit them, and then give them a few lessons in learning to share winning with others.”

“Remember the Wood Kicker?” asked Opie as Strahinja nodded. “That was one of the strangest audit’s Mommy ever had to do.”

“I do, remember because it did involve a scummy human. The level of arrogance of that person who thought they were more powerful than a god, but then kicks wood, injuring innocents and then blaming them was enough to get one of the victims to plea for you to audit the kicker in question.”

I sighed. “She was right to call me to audit the Wood Kicker, who then tried to kick wood at me, then blamed me.”

“Boy, were Love and Truth angry,” said Opie.

Strahinja nodded. “So enraged that they made gratuitous wood kicking forbidden among anyone who wishes to be a god or equivalent.”

“They also made it up to the last victim with unprecedented good fortune and few other gifts of consolation. Standing up for your rights even when you’re limping is always the best action to take.” I looked at the clock. “It’s a school day, Opie. It is time to go to bed, and you two can play your winning game tomorrow. I am sure by then you’ll think of a few new twists and turns. As for me, I have had a long day, and I need to sleep.”

“You don’t usually sleep, Mommy.”

“I know, but some reason I feel the need to do it, and that may be some sort of way for Hypnos or Morpheus to come to me with something I need to see.”

II

Not all who are in the Otherworldly sleep or need their slumber. I was one who need not usually need rest, but on the rare occasions that I felt the need to sleep, there was either a god in distress in need of my assistance, or one that had tried to distract me. In either case, I would listen to my instincts and rest.

As soon as I closed my eyes, I began to sleep, but though I was aware that I was lying in bed in the darkness, no dreams came to me.

I moved in my bed and heard a creek, and then a voice whispering something.

“Strahinja? Are you in here?” I asked, but there was no reply. I could feel my feet on the ground, became disoriented. “Strahinja? Opie? What’s going…”

I tripped on something hard that began to vibrate and yell, jolting me awake.

I opened my eyes and looked around my room, and gasped when I saw a familiar figure standing forlornly holding a book in my room. He was no enemy, but an ally who had fallen on hard times, but his presence signaled what I had experienced was a dream, and one of the utmost importance.

It was Doros, once known to the Otherworldly as the Keeper of the Seeds, but was now the current Dream Detective.

III

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“You summoned me.”

“I did? I don’t remember doing so.”

“Dream Detectives always know.”

“You’re right. I don’t usually dream, but I had a compulsion to do so, thinking it was either a trap or a deity asking for my assistance, but tonight something else, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.”

“What happened?” he asked as he sat down at the foot of my bed holding his book of bed time stories.

“I wouldn’t even say I was dreaming, just sleeping, but then I heard a whisper, and then bumped into something that felt like a stone that yelped as it vibrated. Then I woke up.”

“I have never heard of such a thing, and I know I never heard Lexy mention anything like it…” He trailed off looking devastated. It was not that long ago when he was dating Lexine Lark, known as the Sparrow who was the original Dream Detective. Just as he proposed to her on the Ninth Cloud, they were torn apart, and he had become the current Dream Detective as she had other new duties to occupy her time. While she remained in Eden, he was banished to live in the Dangerous Realm until he was summoned to solve dreams. I could see this case was most likely over his head, but he was the only one who could be of any assistance to me. Yet his sorrow came from losing his true love and not the treacherous nature of his latest case. Usually, he dealt with mortals in the waking world and not powerful entities from the Otherworldly.

“Well, we might as well face it tonight. If I can get myself back to sleep you can enter my dreams with me.”

He nodded. “All right. Do you need a bedtime story to get back to sleep, Cinnamon?”

“No, but do you sing? Lexine also sang lullabies besides telling bedtime stories. Somehow I think a story might take me away from whatever is hidden in my dreams.”

He sighed. “I never tried. Here goes something.” He began to sing a forlorn song about lost love, though seemed surprised at his own deep and rich melodic voice that betrayed his every pain and sorrow.

I fell asleep quickly and within moments, I was still standing in the dark until I heard Doros speak.

“This is very interesting. I cannot believe this.”

“What is it?”

“This is the Place Below Hell. I’ve never been, but I know it. It speaks to me.”

“But I have been here because Strahinja used to live here. We barely got out alive with all the souls buried here.”

“There is no soul in here left.”

“What do you sense?”

“We have gone back in time to this place’s beginnings.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I wish I were. This is the foundation of Hell, Cinnamon.”

“I don’t sense anything.”

“Because you can sense gods. I sense fortune.”

“Fortune?”

“I used to plant seeds of good fortune before my afterlife was torn to shreds in the Otherworldly. I was struck on the Ninth Cloud at the happiest point of my existence, and I now I am wondering if something here was summoning me.”

“But why did I end up here?”

“I don’t know, but it is time for us to find out.”

IV

“So how do we see anything in here?”

“I don’t know because God had his fiat lux everywhere else.”

“We are that far back in time?”

“If I am not mistaken, we are at the point where Lu peeked and saw the original Eve, and snuck away…”

“And then she flew the coop when she saw Adam, left Eden to become Belle Eve right before the understudy took over, and then the floor above all broke loose.”

“This place exists, but doesn’t.”

“That yelping stone exists; so if we can hear each other, there must be a way to see each other.”

“Sound came here already. So did touch.”

I crouched down and felt the rough ground beneath us, touching the stones that yelped as I ran my fingers over them. “You’re right. I can’t smell anything. Taste I am not willing to try.”

“You must have some powers, Cinnamon that can be of use. They do call you Motherlight.”

“That’s right,” I smirked, “They do. Here goes something.” I sprang up, steeled myself and willed myself to be true to my name. After all, whatever was hiding here at the beginning of time could harm my son and the reason that I became the Goditor in the first.

My form became of light, and I could immediately see an impressed Doros, and a place that looked like a cave with the most peculiar bumps around us wiggling.

Doros ran to one and touched it as it yelped. “This is serious business.”

“Do you know what it is?”

“I can feel its thoughts and intents. They are crude and unsophisticated, and, and…they are seeds of some sort.”

“You used to plant seeds of good fortune in people’s dreams.”

“These are not those kinds of seeds. Mine always giggled and were happy to thrive in the hearts of kind dreamers, chattering about all their hopes and dreams for the world and those in it. These are angry and hateful seeds that want to cause harm to the waking world, the Otherworldly, and just about any place they can find. These have a mission. They’re soldier seeds!”

“General Rem’s doing?”

“No, but they have his essence. He must have begun as one of these things. They are made to be planted and then grow like weeds with one specific purpose.”

“You can tell all that by touching it?”

“I know my seeds, Cinnamon. When I was a young man alive in the waking world, I was the son of a farmer.”

“I never knew that.”

“My father was cruel and callous man, and my only refuge were the animals and plants that loved me as he hated me. I looked after them all until the day I died, and it was their kindness that brought me wisdom about the beauty of flora and fauna, and both come from very different kinds of seeds. These are some sort of hybrid of it.”

“And you said they had a single purpose?”

“They are meant to infect the mind of an Otherworldly to rig a place for evil without the sleeper agent being aware of it so that no matter how strong or powerful the goodness is, somehow, evil takes those good intentions and brings its defeat by any cheat possible.”

“Are you serious? Are you saying I am a carrier?”

“Yes. These can only survive in the soul of an Otherworldly, but is meant to infest the waking world.”

“That explains everything about General Rem. He has been trying to break through to the waking world.”

“And Lexy always stops him, but until now, I would have never known his origins. I wish she was here.” He paused sadly before he had look of determination and reached into his satchel opening it as what seemed like countless glittering grains of gold touched everything around us, causing the stones to scream before they vanished, leaving a tiny creek of clear water amid the ground.

“Good thinking, Doros. That has to take care of all the bad seeds here.”

“In you, Cinnamon. These were the chords of this time and place that were meant to infect you.”

“I am free of this disease?”

“Yes, completely.”

“What about my son and Strahinja?”

“If they dream, I can enter their dreams and do the same thing for them, but for what it’s worth, I don’t think these are in everyone’s dreams. Just the most powerful of beings.”

“I won’t be spreading things rigged to harm goodness?”

“No, these Hellrigs are gone from your system.”

“Hellrigs? That’s what they call themselves?”

“Yes. They are meant to rig the universe in order for evil to win over good.”

“One infestation gone, and by the looks of things, it was a serious one. Who knows how long I have been a carrier, and how many more of these there are to clean.”

“That’s another mission. You are coming out of your dream. My job for now is done, and I can honestly say this has been the happiest case of my career. It gives me hope.”

V

After I thanked Doros, he vanished as I got up and opened the door to my bedroom to see Opie in his pajamas looking at me as wide-eyed as Strahinja who was wagging his tail and wiggling his ears and whiskers.

“So, what is it, Mommy?” asked Opie.

“Yes,” said Strahinja, “We heard a voice from your room.”

“Do you mean to tell me you two were eavesdropping this whole time?”

“Of course,” said Strahinja, “As you never sleep, the services of a demon Dachshund and an Otherworldly boy may be needed at any moment; so, we were readying for any deific or demonic emergency.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Really,” said Opie with an air of an emperor, “We’re always ready for any adventure.”

“Well, it was a strange adventure. I just found out why so many bad things happen to good people. There are Hellrigs hidden in the dreams of those who are in the Otherworldly.”

“I have never heard of them, and I lived Below Hell,” said Strahinja.

“They exist in the dreams in those of the Otherworldly. There is no way to see them when you are awake.”

“Sounds like a very horrific cheat.”

“That’s the reason they were set up that way.”

“What does it mean?” asked Opie.

“That every person in the Otherworldly may be a carrier of Hellrigs.”

“How do we get rid of them, Cinnamon?”

“The Keeper of the Seeds can find them and replace them with seeds of good fortune. I don’t want to take any chances with the two of you. Both of you will have to dream for him to be able to get rid of them if you are carriers.”

“He cannot do all of it alone. He is the only one.”

“There is the original Dream Detective Lexine Lark.”

“But I thought they broke up,” said Opie.

“And maybe it is time they found a mutual reason to get back together, first as friends working toward a common good.”

Strahinja looked excited. “I bet that’s how they got torn apart in the first place! Hellrigs!”

“We’ll explain it to her,” I said, “Right now, she is away on a mission. At least Doros has finally found a way to heal his broken heart, and he can gain some experience before we find Lexy. Once that happens, we just might change the essence of not just reality of the waking world – but of the Otherworldly itself.”

“It may be a dangerous mission,” said Strahinja, “But well worth the risk.”

“But not for tonight. Get back to bed, the both of you. When the time comes, we’ll all be ready.”

BONUS

From the Case Files of the Goditor:

Wood Kicker

 

Deity Name: Wood Kicker.

Status: Removed from Deific Power with a single kick to the backside.

Initial Cause for Audit: Wood Kicker is an unnamed person who believed they were more powerful and intelligent than gods, though they had caused many problems and were unrepentant for their harmful actions, particularly kicking heavy pieces of wood that often resulted in serious injury to innocent parties, whom the Wood Kicker not only refused to apologize, but would find convoluted reasons why it was the victim who was at fault.

Facts of the Case: The Wood Kicker kicked a thick piece of wood toward an unsuspecting individual, and the air born plank landed on their foot, causing bruising and pain. When the injured party was blamed for the incident because “they moved their foot”, the individual summoned the Goditor to audit the Wood Kicker as they suspected Wood Kicker saw themselves as beyond reproach, and hence, a “god.”

Respondent’s Account: Blamed others for being injured by flying wood that was gratuitously kicked, and kicked a piece of wood in defiance, narrowly missing the Goditor, and then blaming the Goditor for the incident, infuriating both Love and Truth who made their decision an unprecedented one: that all gratuitous wood kicking would be reason enough for severe punishment.

Results: Removed from both the deific power and forbidden from kicking wood for eternity.

The State of this Website, 2018.

The number of hits here is much higher than I was when I was using WordPress.

The readership is modest, but steady, and growing. It is a step in the right direction.

So in the beginning of the year, the domain name was DangerousWoman.Org.

Now it is AlexandraKitty.com, a domain name I had over a decade ago, but let it lapse, lost it, and recently got it back.

I had a very bad year.

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I mean, just terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.

It is getting better, but yesterday was a real bitch, and today is not that much better.

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Yes, I am a saint.

And it drives my enemies crazy.

But even though the last two days were nasty, I had great news, too.

And it is the first time in a long time where there was great news at all.

Even by random chance, there should have been some good with the bad, but it was bad, bad, bad, and then horrific.

And then even worse.

Saint Alexandra, indeed.

But enough about those cryptic comments, let's discuss this site, and what how it has evolved.

The most popular posts, strangely enough, have no or little mention of journalism, which may surprise you.

Or not, since journalism is off the rails.

It is all the ones about war strategy.

From Sun Tzu to Saul Alinsky, the bulk of hits comes from those entries, but by a ridiculously wide margin, and it surprises me because I am known for writing about journalism, and not war strategy.

Then the Who is She? section, The List of People Everyone Should Know, and then A Dangerous Woman’s Manifesto.

If I were to switch course, drop the journalism talk altogether, and stuck to war strategy, I would probably see the numbers I had in my Chaser heyday, if not better. It is that much of a difference. It certainly gives me something to think about.

I put all of my current short fiction here as well as Ello, but my Ello numbers are far more robust in that category.

I do have people who come here just for the fiction; so I will continue to post them here as well as well as offer them in ePub format through Amazon and Kindle, which has other offerings as well.

So as I am weaving in Chaser and A Dangerous Woman, I have to come to grips with the fact that talking about journalism isn’t working as well. I should just flat-out do F.R.E.E.D. and show, not tell.

That just leaves my artistic endeavours. I want to bring back Cavewoman Graffiti. I used to draw it with a Sharpie (no sketching), scan it on the computer, upload it to my tablet or phone, and then tweak it with software before posting it.

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I used to post them to Ello, but I am thinking of bringing it here — hairy legs and all.

I want to get back to my other arts and my music — yes, I do music, but as you might guess, my music is eccentric as I love the theremin.

I used to play the lefthander’s tuba, but so far, I am having a hard-time finding a tuba for lefties.

I want a snazzy one, too.

I would like to resume podcasting and start videos here.

But that needs to be rolled out, and done so with a firm plan. I want this site to be an entire experience.

When I did Chaser a decade ago, I tried to team-up with European researchers who were experimenting with AI, and I wanted to have a blog run on AI and not be a linear scroll. It didn’t work out, but now I can see that I don’t actually need to do it because there is another way to achieve it without it.

So 2018 brought many elements. I gathered all of the elements I want and need. It is now just a matter of putting them together.

I have been distracted, and some of that is on me. If 2018 had standout lessons for me, it is that you can be too responsible and honourable. Sometimes, the answer isn’t “no”, but an eloquent, “Fuck you.”

So I doubt that the 2019 version will have any resemblance to what I have going right now.

This entry is one of my proudest moments, and the writing, subject, analysis and content have nothing to do with it, and then this one for the same reasons.

So there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Chaser used to be a cocktail party for the intellectual badasses with great taste in music.

AlexandraKitty.com is the culmination of a lot of deep and relentless soul-searching.

And I am lit about that, darlings…more tea to spill about it all later!

Online journalism's dirty little secret: it was never truly profitable. It relied on sugar daddies who are starting to wise up to their snarky charms.

Online journalism was always a sham in that they never did the journalism differently, even though they could have, and easily.

Now investors are starting to balk at giving more money to these snarky and swaggering leeches.

Crunchbase is an interesting hub to see which online publications got money, type of rounds, how many rounds, and the like. While businesses raise capital as par for the course, the idea of bootstrapping never crosses their minds.

Bootstrapping is a superior way of doing things. For one, you live and die by your own investment. There is no cushy delusions that you are doing well. You are beholden to no one, and that means your outlet is your own lab to connect to audiences to see what works, and what doesn’t.

Bootstrapping is for the honest folk. It takes longer to grow your business, and it is slower, but that an advantage: flash in the pan is fad-driven, and it doesn’t work in the long-term.

But people who would to brag and gloat don’t like the idea of earning their keep. They want to crow about their success, even though it isn’t real success.

Journalism should have always went by means of bootstrapping. I did Chaser News that way, and had life been reasonable, I could have weathered it out. I pulled back, but now I am re-inventing it…but through bootstrapping. A Dangerous Woman is the same way, and I am now actively experimenting on business models through the theory that bootstrapping is the superior way for an alternative to journalism to find the grit of traction and grow.

You can’t keep pouring money into a venture that is not producing income without the help. It is the reason I do not believe in donation or government-funded journalism: if you are useful, people will buy your product. You buy aspirins. You buy gasoline. You buy food.

You will buy information that is relevant to your progress and survival.

I have more books on my shelves than I care to admit. I have books in mountain of boxes right now, on shelves, and against a wall. I have read almost every one except the ten I bought just before I moved, and I will read them all. I have a Debrett’s manual. I have DSM 5. I have books on Clarice Cliff. I have books on educational psychology. I have a manual on cultivated plants. I have a book on aerogeology. I have a book on the genocidal mentality. I have a book on the history of jewelry. I have a book on scientific fraud. I have encyclopedias on games, philosophy, famous authors, weapons, and fictional characters. I have a book in Japanese right on my desk, and it is hardly the only one. I have books in German, French, Serbian, and even Latin.

I have an atrociously vague Serbian cookbook whose instructions are knee-slappers:

How to make Blueberry Jam:

The same way you make strawberry jam.

Gee, thanks a lot!

It never tells you what temperature to crank up your oven, or how long to cook, let alone the amounts for various ingredients, yet my grandmother used it, and made fabulous things from it because it was for people who had an innate feel for cooking and baking.

Those books I bought for the most part, from Amazon, bookstores, library book sales, church sales, the Re-Store, and some I got for free at one campus library that was giving away books, sized me up as a book lover as I stumbled in to look for a reference, and then the librarians grabbed a bunch of bags and then ordered me to take as many books as I could, even though I insisted on buying them, but you don’t argue with librarians.

My mother thinks that I am a book addict, but I love learning. Tsundoku is not a word to describe my habits. I read my books, and remember things from them, and when I do research for the books that I write, those books are heavily used. Some are not even obvious.

For example, when I research on deceptions, I read my books on stage magic, and method acting, looking for the scaffolding in order to look for the nuances of deception.

I just bought a book an hour ago on Amazon.

I use search engines, and databases, but I pay for books. I pay for information.

So what the hell happened to journalism?

Why can’t they get people to pay?

Simple: there is nothing there to buy.

That’s the real problem in democracy: the legacy media is horrid, and so is the online versions.

And that’s where my journey into bringing an alternative to life begins…

The World's Most Dangerous Woman: Me Ne Frego

I

Miss Lyme and her friend Anala Gupta were sitting in Miss Lyme’s basement that had been converted to a metalwork studio. Anala was a goldsmith and a professional jeweler by trade, and while Miss Lyme like to work with silver clay and was a capable metalsmith, she used her talents to make artwork.

“Maggie,” Anala said after she soldered a gold bracelet, “You have a fine work space here.”

“Yours is far superior to mine and is a delightful place to make the finest of jewelry.”

“Because that is my livelihood. Yours is a mere indulgence…”

“I used to teach it, or have you forgotten already?”

“Will you ever go back to it?”

“Not likely. I was blacklisted as a journalist when I began teaching, which lasted a year or so, and then I began my consultancy business as it was more lucrative, and in tune with my talents and strengths. Metalworking is the way I express myself creatively, although when I began to dabble in it, it was the way I thought out my cases when I was infiltrating the Circle in the Sky.”

“It is a pleasing solitary undertaking.”

“I never quite ever did it alone. My former boyfriend Hunter Colby used to watch me before he partook in it himself, though he would make art pieces, while I made jewelry. It was the way we spent quiet time together.”

“It sounds lovely.”

“It was.”

“Is there any improvement with his condition?”

Miss Lyme shook her head sadly. “No.”

“I am rooting for him.”

“As am I, yet nothing I can think up has helped.”

“It is possible that you need to find a new perspective elsewhere to ponder it.”

“Yes, but perhaps I ought to consider a trip to Latvia to go watch the White Wagtail. I do enjoy watching their beauty and grace.”

“I’ll join you. I would love to meet one of your former boyfriends to compare him to your current one, and it would be more interesting if he is conscious.” Anala got up to stretch her legs, and went over to the shelf to pick up a book that caught her eye. “This is a fascinating book, yet I do not recall seeing this in your collection before.”

“I lost my original run of them when I was forced in bankruptcy, and just recently re-acquired the entire set. That is Eugenia Voight’s book on the sculptor Edmonia Lewis. Ms. Voight was a scholar who studied female artists and wrote biographies on them…”

Just as Anala was about to reply, there was a loud banging at the front door.

“Ah, the frantic sound of a client.”

Miss Lyme nodded as she pulled her black turtleneck sweater. “Yes, I will have to see what the tintinnabulation is about this time.”

She walked up the stairs and answered the door where a cowering man in a business suit looked wild-eyed at her.

“Welcome to the Path to Paradise,” she said, “Where the greatest of fears are chased away with the kindest form of bravery.”

“You’re the Red Queen?”

“I am.”

“I need you to read the Tarot cards for me.”

“An economic crisis plagues you? Come inside for a cup of tea and we’ll discuss your impossible quandary with sensibility.”

II

“My name is Barry Stone, and I work for a banking president in New York City. Hatfield and Littlejohn,” the client said as he began to compose himself, “To be precise, I am a speechwriter and personal liaison to the press for my boss.”

“I am listening,” replied Miss Lyme as Anala sat beside her and listened intently.

“My job was simple: try to negotiate positive coverage regardless of whether the reporter was just a reporter, or was affiliated with either La Nuit du bas or the Circle in the Sky.”

“I see, but how would be in the business of discerning them?”

The man smirked. “My graduate thesis was on those two groups.”

“That is very intriguing.”

“I went the Bonhomme School – a private university in Somerset, Pennsylvania, which, you may be aware, are something of renegades who have a tangential connection to Queen’s Heights.”

“They are a tiny school founded by one the sons of the celebrated Hughes Brothers,” replied Miss Lyme, “It was Ethan Hughes’ son Morgan who opened it, and it is still in the family. Ethan’s eldest brother Hammond was the famous science fiction novelist married to Dr. Verity Lake and he lived in the Heights.”

“Ethan was an architect who designed his son’s vision, while the youngest brother Dr. Garret Hughes helped found the university’s psychology department that was similar to the one he guided in Queen’s Heights.”

“And you went to school there?”

“For both my undergraduate and graduate degree, but as you know, they are unconventional, and part of our education is to be aware of such cabals who wish to subjugate us.”

“But you took your talents to a bank.”

“My boss was paranoid about them both. He knew he had to do business with them, but in such a way that he didn’t have to be blackmailed or subjugated himself. I was his secret strategist, showing him how to avoid becoming their servant. I was fairly good at the job, but as I never was in either cabal, I didn’t know things the way you know them. I have both of your books, and they filled in gaps, though I understand both your books are required reading there now.” He looked at the walls nervously, until he saw something familiar on the wall and pointed at it. “They had that prose on the wall in one of the buildings at the foyer. I always thought it was odd, and never thought about it until I seen it just now.”

“That was Alena Love’s second to last musing,” Miss Lyme said warmly, “It was inspired by Hammond Hughes.”

“I had no idea who said it, but that it has a connection to a Hughes makes sense.”

“Alena was particularly fond of him as he was as eccentric and sensitive as Verity. He wrote later they were discussing what the best way to start a conversation was and how to set oneself apart from the others honestly and without gimmicks, and that was her answer to him.”

“I guess I missed that nuance back then.”

“Yet you are here because there is something else you missed.”

“I am not sure who is behind things or why, but someone has figured out my real job within the bank, and is trying to isolate me.”

“Go on.”

The man took out his smart phone, swiped it several times, and then gave it to Miss Lyme, “That is my brother Nevil. He is the black sheep of the family, and a musician, who is sporadically employed. That’s him getting into a drunken brawl, and somehow, someone thought to record it, post it on social media, and now a newspaper is running an article about it.”

Miss Lyme read the article. “Mentioning you, though there is no reason for the connection.”

The man took the phone back, and then swiped several more times before giving the phone back to the Red Queen. “Then, forty minutes later, here is a video of my ex-fiancée having a row with her husband who is accusing her of having an affair, which I seriously doubt, but again, this hidden video goes viral, and another major daily reports on this non-story, and again, out of the blue, mentioning me, and even speculating that the ‘other man’ may be me, even though I live in another state, and haven’t had anything to do with her since she and I parted on good terms because our careers took us in different directions.”

Miss Lyme watched the video linked in the article, read the article, and returned the phone to her client. “It is a coordinated attack, and an opening salvo. It is a game of Go where the point is to surround you until you have nowhere to move.”

“Both newspapers are fronts for La Nuit du bas.”

“Yes, both had once been properties of the La Croix family, until they were killed in a plane crash a few years ago, and then both were sold to separate La Nuit-backed media companies, which makes this attack more insidious than you realize. Usually, they will pick a single media company, and have them disseminate information as to insure a highly-choreographed campaign.”

“Will you take my case?”

“Yes, of course, Mr. Stone. I will need to know of anything that your employer had asked you to do recently, and I will begin to make my inquiries from there. I would strongly recommend you stay here until I can get a firmer handle on your case.”

The man nodded as he kept looking at the musing that until minutes ago, was a mere quaint enigma.

III

You can just start at Hello

There are so many people spinning around the world.

There are so many faces to meet on your journey in life.

But some of those faces move you speak and you want to open up your heart so they can hear the chords of your heart roar their name.

How do you start talking?

How do you show who you are to those faces?

Should you be clever, funny, witty, wise, profound, gushy, or detached?

It is not the words that guide you.

It is the motive in your heart that brings you to the places you want to go.

You don’t need a plan or a script.

You don’t have to fret about the first word to say.

Because all roads begin at a single word.

Hello.

Hello is the word that takes you everywhere you want and need to go.

It is such a simple word to say.

But it is the key that unlocks new worlds as it touches hearts.

Just say hello and your heart will take care of the rest…

IV

As Miss Lyme was in her office making phone calls, and scouring her databases for information, her client burst in looking ashen.

“What has happened?” she asked.

“I just got a phone call from a journalist wanting to know what I had to do with funding some group to fund their use of a biochemical weapon that creates some virus! What is happening?”

“Who is the reporter? What group or virus did he mention by name? What did you tell him? Just write down everything that’s transpired so that I have information I can verify and follow.”

Mr. Stone sat down quickly wrote down everything as he then gave the notebook to Miss Lyme as he looked desperately at her.

“I’m doomed!”

“Nonsense, we will clear the matter up in a day or so. Whoever is behind this attack on you is in a desperate bind as well, and wishes to terrorize you because if you were rational, you would be able to easily figure out the scheme, its motives, and who was behind it.”

“I can’t even think straight.”

“That is the entire point of this exercise. Do not answer your phone or check your email. If you behave impossibly, this tintinnabulation will explode out of the control in short order, which is the point of this charade. I am sensible, and your tormentor doesn’t want sensible reactions. There is a guest bedroom, and I advise you lie down and rest. When it is time for action, I will let you know.”

Mr. Stone looked sad as he nodded and left, just as Anala returned with a notepad and sat down on the sofa in the office.

“He is terrified.”

“He is.”

“I have found out much about the newspapers who have printed those peculiar canards.”

“I am listening.”

“They are both La Nuit properties that are in much debt, and there is a rumour that they both may be sold to another La Nuit company that specializes in squeezing assets by selling their real estate holdings. It seems as if there are factions within La Nuit that are at odds with one another.”

“That is a very telling common thread.”

“Is it enough?”

“It gives me a map to the motive, here is the problem,” Miss Lyme noted, “Two embarrassing videos crop up within the same hour at two different newspapers – neither of which are owned by the same company, and the one newspaper that should have debunked both stories was completely left out of the loop and caught unawares.”

“Which newspaper?”

“The Somerset Ortgeist. While it is not owned by the Hughes Dynasty, they are neither a La Nuit nor Circle-owned paper. They have always been neutral and many of their students graduated from Bonhomme, and I am willing to bet, someone there would have been a cohort with Mr. Stone.”

“You think this is significant?”

“It is crucial to understanding this peculiar dilemma. Whoever benefits the most from this scheme managed to distract the Ortgeist. When I called the editor, she had no clue that one of Bonhomme’s alumnus was being targeted by other newspapers. She has assigned a reporter to look into the story, but they are having an uncharacteristically busy news day.”

“Do you know who is behind this complex game?”

“Mr. Stone’s ex-fiancée’s current husband is a likely player. He set up an argument with her in order to film it, or he was set up by someone else who did.”

“He is with La Nuit?”

“Or he is an affiliate to someone who is, but I have nothing as of yet to confirm or refute that theory. They are all about theatre, and this game reeks of it.” Miss Lyme took her laptop and loaded the video of the argument as Anala got up and came over to watch. Miss Lyme studied the video intensely before stopping the video and pointed to a hanging coat that was barely visible in the video. She enlarged the frame, and then typed in the address of a web database as she began scouring images before nodding confidently.

“What is this image that has gotten your attention?”

“It is a tactical morale patch.”

“I have never heard of such a thing.”

“They are military emblems to boost morale, always an inside joke to keep the insiders feeling smugly superior to the outsiders who do not know their Shibboleths.”

“Is it a clue?”

“It is a red herring used to confuse me, as whoever is setting this up knows that my grandfather Douglas Oxley was a renowned professor studying militaries.”

“You are certain it is a false clue?”

“Yes, I am. It is peculiar for a banking scandal to come along with the threat of a deadly virus, and a smear campaign, and someone with a coat that has a morale badge. It is overkill.”

“Meaning it is all a choreographed siege.”

“Precisely.”

“So how do we find out?”

“My cousin Danny had done stories on morale patches when he was a journalist in London, and he may know something about this peculiar one. Even though it is a false clue, whoever planted it had to have insider information all the same, and we can begin to see how this man is connected to this game. We can pay him a visit to see if there is a nuance to this one we need to know.”

V

“Maggie!” Danny Leo said happily as he greeted his favourite cousin with a hearty embrace, “It is great to see you! You are looking as lovely as ever.”

“I always like to visit my absolute favourite cousin,” she replied as she touched the sleeve of her form-fitting white dress. Danny turned and smiled at Anala. “I see your partner in mischief has come for the wild ride.”

Anala shrugged her shoulders as she gave a cherubic smile. “Each time I come, I am inspired in my goldsmithing, and come up with a bold new line. When I rescued that group of hostages from a king’s secret dungeon, I created one of my most popular line of bangles with chain links that open in various ways. One can sit and wallow about all the injustices in the world, or one can do something about it in such a way to bring levity and bravery to others.”

“Wallow? That has never been a Carrington trait. We are a family of proud adventurers.”

“Most of mine family is of the same ilk, save for my cousin Najina who wallows that she has not yet found a way to become enviously wealthy without having to earn it as she believes her beauty should have already done its magic trick.”

Danny chuckled. “Oh yes, I have heard about your cousin. She has quite the reputation in New Delhi, and, like many others, I have sympathy for your uncle Ritesh Gupta, especially after she auditioned for a reality show…”

Anala shook her head grimly, “Many still talk about the unfortunate incident. Needless to say, she did not make it to the program.”

“But we did make it to Toronto to ask you about this morale badge,” Miss Lyme said sweetly as she took her tablet and swiped it to show her absolute favourite cousin a clear image of it. “Do you know anything about it?”

Danny nodded, “That’s a very dodgy one.”

“How so?”

“Because represents two groups: the official military one, and the secret group of neo-fascists called the Foresight Bundle.”

“I have heard of them,” said Miss Lyme, “But as they do not have affiliations to either the Circle or La Nuit, I do not know as much about them as some of the other fronts backed by those cabals.”

“The Bundle began about ten years ago, when several US soldiers were dishonourably discharged. They murdered a Jane Doe, which our Jane Doe solved as part of her second article, but while their original leader is in jail, they are still operating as far as I know. I recognized that morale badge, and found out it had its origins in the division the founding member of the Bundle. He appropriated it as a secret code in his group.”

“And now they have some plot that is targeting my client. Of that I am certain.”

“They need money to stay in business. That’s why their founding leader killed that Jane Doe: she was tricked into bankrolling them until she stumbled upon the truth. Unlike other groups, they like the finer things in life.”

“Anything finer thing in particular?”

“French cigars. There aren’t many, but they smoked Robuste Chaud, which isn’t just expensive, but very hard to procure.”

Miss Lyme and Anala looked at each other and smirked. “I do believe one of the Feather Duster may have a clue for us. Arjana happens to be working for someone in the Parisian arm of La Nuit who is one of the owners of that peculiar brand of cigar. Perhaps the link is more intimate than what would first appear, and Monsieur Abdou Faucheux would have much to gain if Mr. Stone is out of the way as that company is hardly on solid footing itself.”

Anala nodded. “I am certain we will discover that Robuste is a money-laundering front for the Bundle.”

“I wish I could come along,” said Danny as he grabbed his blazer, “I’d like to see how this case of yours ends, but Jane Doe is going undercover for her latest story, and she won’t be checking in until tonight.”

“I am sad that you cannot come along, but we must make a point of doing a case together,” Miss Lyme said warmly before she and Anala headed for the airport where Miss Lyme’s private plane was waiting for her.

VI

 “Arjana! How wonderful to see you,” Maggie as she gave the beautiful and svelte African woman in the maid’s uniform a big hug and kiss as they entered the Faucheux mansion in Paris, “You radiate even more these days.”

Arjana pulled back while holding Miss Lyme’s hands, “Maggie! I am so happy to see you. You look beautiful in your yellow dress. It means a solution is just around the corner.”

“We are trying to cut a problem off at the pass. You know Anala.”

“We have met once before.”

“Arjana is quite the Renaissance woman,” Miss Lyme said proudly to Anala, “She specializes in Picassiette mosaics, speaks six languages fluently, and when she is not working as a translator, she is a professional welder.”

“A welder?” gasped Anala.

“Oh yes,” giggled Arjana sweetly, “I am autodidactic by nature and the strangest things catch my attention. I learn, master, and then I work in the field to learn more.”

“She makes her own cars to drive, too.”

“Wow,” Anala said impressed, “You can build motors, as well?”

“It was a challenge until it became child’s play. My brothers were all jealous at first, but now I make each one a new car for his birthday every three years.”

“And when you are not making cars, you are having another sort of escapade as One of the Feather Duster.”

“It is a fun and delightful adventure and more entertaining than watching television or surfing the Internet,” Arjana replied, “I watch the buffoons pretend to be important, and after I finish laughing, I tell Maggie, and then after we all laugh for another good long time, we protect the innocent and hold the guilty accountable for their games. It is like watching a play except I do not sit around and do nothing – I can make a difference by jumping right on the stage when the actors are too busy remembering their scripts and fixing their costumes.”

Miss Lyme smiled. “I need to know Monsieur Faucheux’s role in this current farce.”

Arjana led both women to the den where she pointed to the computer. “I already keyed in his password. All of his files are there.”

“Thank you,” the Red Queen said politely as she went through the files. “These are for blackmailing people within La Nuit.”

“It is how he maintains his wealth,” replied Arjana.

“Now, this is very interesting,” Miss Lyme replied as Anala looked at the computer screen, “A Mr. Renforth Arvin is part of that very dubious group of neo-fascists who is connected to this case.”

“Who is Renforth Arvin?” asked Anala.

“The elder brother of the man who staged that fight with Mr. Stone’s former flame, according to this file. His is the first file, and is marked a priority.”

“And yet the Bundle uses Robuste as a front to fund their operations. Why blackmail Mr. Arvin? To get a bigger piece of the profits?”

“Perhaps it is greed, or something an emergency has arisen requiring to cover the expenses quickly.”

Arjana nodded. “Faucheux has invested in a winery that hasn’t been accused of fraud.”

“That would do it,” replied Anala.

“But that would leave Mr. Arvin in a bind,” said the World’s Most Dangerous Woman, “They would need to replenish those funds themselves, and would go to a bank to cover their immediate debts, did not want the bank to do any digging and discover the connection between Mr. Arvin, the Bundle, and Robuste – or La Nuit, whom they would not want to be made aware of their games and vulnerabilities. Mr. Arvin knew of Mr. Stone through his brother’s current love, and saw an opportunity to find a bank not affiliated with either cabal, but to make certain their expert was removed or too distracted to see the ruse or who was behind it.”

“And so they began a campaign to discredit Mr. Stone.”

“Mr. Arvin went to a La Nuit bank, they would have forced him to use one of their banks with much higher interest rates where they had enough to blackmail him and keep him in place by making him do their bidding on far more dangerous games. He was trying to secure the best deal without being pressured or threatened. He must have heard about Mr. Stone through his brother’s significant other, and began to plot.”

“And then he planted the seeds of distrust in him, and they had their fight where Mr. Arvin recorded it.”

“He choreographs the optics, in such a way as to place Mr. Stone in the crosshairs, clearing the way to line his own coffers at La Nuit’s expense.”

“It is a risky way to become wealthy.”

“What about the virus?”

“That would be something the Bundle would seek, and Mr. Arvin most likely thought connecting Mr. Stone to them and their plans would make him panic. It did, but he came straight to me instead. It was the only flaw in his plan.”

Arjana nodded. “He needs funding to feed his ego and gain fortune. He thought he had so many wrinkles and tangles, that no one could follow the trail to him.”

“And yet we did,” replied Anala as she looked at Miss Lyme. “The remark about his single mistake in his plan reminds me of one of the musings on your wall from Alena Love.”

“About perfection? Yes, it is one of my favourites, as it reminds me to not become obsessed with flaws.”

“Mr. Arvin was obsessed with hiding the flaws of his plans to the point of having one that would be his undoing.”

“And that is the reason it is about to all unravel. I have a red dress to put on, and we have a scheme to stop as soon as our plan lands.”

“What should I do?” asked Arjana.

“Make a copy of these blackmail files, email them to me, and I will go to La Nuit with them to humble them and your now-former employer. You have cars to make and beautiful artwork to create. Your job here is done.”

VII

The Persian Carpet weaves the riddles of time and space

For the Persian Carpet is wise enough to keep inside its very fibres the intentional mistake.
One wrong.
Deliberately so.
For only the Creator can be without flaw.
A beautiful carpet.
Intricate, complicated, colourful, and beautiful.
But one wrong. 
Intentionally so.
So not to offende the Creator…

VIII

The two women arrived at Mr. Arvin’s office building as Miss Lyme wore her usual red dress to signal that the game was now over. He worked in a high-rise, but when she entered the building, there were screams of “The Red Queen!” as people began to run.

Anala whistled. “They know of you.”

“This place is crawling with La Nuit members. We must remember to keep a note of who is doing the running as they must have their own sins to hide.”

The two took the elevator to the top floor where the running and yelping continued while Anala used her smartphone to videotape those doing the screaming for future reference. When they reached the boardroom, Miss Lyme flung open the door where there was a meeting take place.

“Mr. Arvin, we have much to discuss,” she said sternly as the other executives in the room began to tremble and blanche, “You cavort with fascists who wish to unleash a virus on those who they erroneously see as inferior to them.”

“What are you talking about?” he said angrily.

“The Foresight Bundle. You and your brother are both members.”

At this comment, the executives ran out of the room.

“You’re going to destroy me!”

“Nonsense, you’ve done that to yourself.”

“Those brutes always want more, and I can’t do anything unless I keep them happy!”

“No denials?” asked Anala.

Miss Lyme looked unimpressed. “I do not care one whit about their demands or needs.”

“Don’t care?” shrieked Mr. Arvin.

“Or, as your defeated kind once said, ‘me ne frego,’” Anala quipped defiantly as she realized Mr. Arvin had no inkling about the Black Shirts or even the roots of fascism in the first place. She sighed and shrugged her shoulders, though she knew the effect was not lost on the Red Queen.

“They’ll kill me if I don’t deliver them each a Mercedes!”

“I have informed the authorities of their plans, and now federal agents are introducing them all to a holding cell. They will be too busy fighting for their freedom to worry about what kind of cars you can afford them. My concern is my client Mr. Stone…”

“They’ll kill me,” Mr. Arvin screamed, “Why did the moron Stone have to come to you? He was supposed to think he was smart enough to handle it himself! The Bundle will kill me…”

“Mr. Arvin, you have nothing to fear from the Bundle…”

“The hell I don’t! They’ll kill me!”

Before either woman could say anything else, a screaming Mr. Arvin grabbed his suitcase, smashed a window open, and jumped to his death just as security ran in and saw the scene.

Anala shook her head. “He feared murder by the Bundle so much that he saved him them the trouble.”

“He panicked when he saw me because he forgot that Mr. Stone had me as an option. He had planned everything meticulously.”

“Not quite. He allowed Faucheux to blackmail him.”

“The stress was too much for him. The police were supposed to be here in a few minutes to arrest him.”

Anala sighed. “And now they can remove what his left of him from the sidewalk. So much spectacle, and yet Mr. Arvin dies for no reason at all.”

“It is a dreadful end to any man, yet his fate was entirely avoidable.”

“He wished to harm your client and shame him into a grave. The human race has much to answer for, Maggie.”

“It does, yet the answers they give are as maddening and nonsensical to the questions they create. Do you need a ride to the airport?”

“Yes, if you do not mind.”

“Of course not. I do have to fly off to Toronto, but after I send you off back to India before then. I do cherish our time together.”

“As I do. It is never a boring visit. We must make it a point to go to Latvia to see the White Wagtail. After witnessing something as distressing as this turn of events, sweet birds would restore much serenity.”

“I will give you a list of dates when you return. Let us leave this depressing scene. My client is safe, my fee will be paid by his employer, and there is no reason to stay here.”

IX

Her case was over, and she had one more stop to make before she returned home. She still wore her red dress as she made her way to the nursing home in Toronto where the staff knew her by sight, but did not understand the significance of her dress or the nature of her job. They greeted her warmly as she made her way to the room carrying not her usual briefcase, but a large bouquet of white roses.

Miss Lyme placed the flowers inside the vase beside the stand next to the bed, and sat down in the chair as she sighed sadly at the comatose Dr. Hunter Colby. She picked up his hand to feel his wrist as she did whenever she visited him. She would always begin by asking if he had enough of her, or did he wish for her to stay. His pulse would race until she asked if he preferred for her to stay. He wished for her company, and she complied. This time was no different.

“Hunter, I’ve come to see you again. Your father is doing well, though he wishes you were out of this horrible state, as do I. You and I worked on quite a few cases together when I was infiltrating the Circle, but why you cannot awaken is a mystery still beyond me. You indicate that no one is artificially inducing this condition in you. You express a strong desire to awaken, and yet, there is nothing I have been able to do to pull you out of this wretched slumber. If you awaken, I would be more than happy for you to stay with me. You’ve expressed as much yourself. Do you know why you’re stuck in this vortex?”

She felt his pulse and sighed. “You’ve no idea, either. I’ve asked my mother, and have spared no expense looking for an expert who could shed light on this horrific travesty. This is profoundly unfair. There must be some solution.” She shook her head. “It is beyond odd, Hunter, that this should happen to you, given we interviewed more than one person this way – and I had never done it while I was infiltrating La Nuit du bas. Hunter, I am going to ask one small favour from you. I am absolutely convinced someone is inducing this state. I have moved you to the finest and safest facility outside of Queen’s Heights, and I am trying to convince your father to move you to into a facility in Queen’s Heights because if there are dark forces harming you, then it is in your best interests to be there so no more harm can be done to you. If there is some way that you are being harmed, try to take some sort of note of it. I don’t think it is a hypnotic suggestion, for what it is worth. If there is a common person, phrasing, anything at all, try to remember. You know I will do my absolute best for you.”

She watched him sleep as she wondered how to undo the damage, and bring peace to his troubled soul as he was a kind-hearted man who did not deserve to be stuck in the horrific prison of sleep. All she could do was talk to him with kindness and fondness, knowing it lifted his spirits, yet it always felt like failure, no matter what she said or how kindly she said it to someone who touched her heart and moved her soul.