Gladys Vandelay was once a rising recruit, trained to be one of the most dangerous snipers in an underground society of feminists. She has since defected, and now, she’s being recruited by another secret organization. The problem is, everyone still thinks she’s playing for the enemy. Elliot Chan’s determined to find out for himself whether Gladys is a friend or foe. The one thing they have in common is that both of them lost their fathers to the Swords of St. Catherine.
Elliot Chan: Domestication
All that talk about Gladys Vandelay… Jake had so much hope, so much faith in her. Jake’s not an idiot. Just a hopeless romantic. Who was she? What did she know? What if she knew nothing and all this drama was just a waste of time and stress. They did mention that she flunked her initiation. From my understanding, only full-fledged Swords knew the deepest innermost secrets of the Society’s infrastructure. So what could we possibly get out of this one girl? I had to see for myself.
After combing the enormous estate for most of the afternoon, I found her in the first place I should have checked. I heard she was crazy about guns but damn. By the time I arrived at the underground shooting range, she had already gone through fifty magazines, three sniper rifles had jammed and the gears of an antique machine gun had dislodged from its cogs.
A guy leaving told me that she didn’t talk to anyone and good luck. She just stayed in her lane and popped off rounds. When someone asked her a question, she pretended not to hear them. But still, I approached, pulling up a chair so as to signify that I wasn’t going anywhere.
She threw a glance out of the corner of her eye before unloading on a fresh target sheet 30 yards away. I heard she was twenty-two but she looked like she was still in middle school. Baby blue eyes. Long blonde hair with curls at the ends. From her skirt and stockings, I could tell she was athletically gifted by the bulge of her calves, the way she barely shook from the recoil. Her accuracy was also something else. She hit the X on eight out of the ten shots fired from a fully automatic.
“I’m glad to see your injury hadn’t affected your accuracy.” I said in the pause it took for her to reload.
She didn’t respond.
“You were wounded, weren’t you? I’m only assuming Col. Buchanan isn’t completely off his rocker in bringing you here.”
“Scared?” She asked.
“Terrified.” I grinned.
“You should be. I’m only barely resisting the urge to turn my muzzle your way. Now leave me alone.”
“Are you here to destroy us? Or do you really want to take down the Society?”
She slapped in a new magazine with an attitude that sent chills down my spine.
“If none of you believe me, then why the fuck…You should just get rid of me. It’s so simple it’s stupid.”
“You’re right!” I said, standing up. “It is stupid. However, Jake isn’t dumb and neither is the council. But unlike them, I know all about false hope. I know what it does to a man. They’ll sacrifice their entire lives for that which isn’t true, plunging headfirst in their graves blissfully at peace with the hope and faith that everything will work out. I learned that lesson long ago. Hope, faith, belief, these are like batteries for martyrs. I’m not a martyr.”
“You think I give a damn what you are? Couldn’t care less.” She snapped.
“I heard they killed your old man right in front of you.”
She finally aimed her gun at me but I didn’t back down.
“They killed my father in front of me too. Both of my fathers, actually. The biological and the one who adopted me. Honestly, you bitches make me sick. Initiated or not, you’re one of them. I can see it in your eyes. You all have it.”
“Selfishness. Everyone of you thinks you’re the center of the universe.”
“Please! Grow up! Every one’s selfish! You have to look out for yourself ‘cause no one else will. If all the Paramours are like you then y’all don’t stand a chance. The Swords will carve through you like cake.”
I nodded in disbelief as I walked away, kinda pissed.
“You’re selfish too, you little punk! You’re just too stupid to see it. That ‘correct the course’ philosophy is nonsense! It’s pointless. It won’t change anything. If you don’t kill them! If you don’t kill every last one of them they’ll only multiply and they won’t stop until they get their revenge! And on and on it will go! It’s insanity you fucking blockhead!”
I could still hear her shouting as I boarded the elevator. It’s not that I didn’t believe or understand where she was coming from. But I suppose that’s the difference between the Paramours and the Swords of St. Catherine. The women perpetuate the hate. The men are prepared to end it by laying down their lives. It begged the question, in the depths of my heart, am I really a Paramour? Continue Reading
Now there was once a certain senator who was known to frequent clubs and popular spots in Uptown Toronto. His name was Jared J. Chrysler, a despicable bully who had a penchant for strong-arming his proposals through city hall.
Sen. Chrysler was not a good man. Not a good man at all.
As it was, I knew Sen. Chrysler before I saw him. He was as corrupt as they come and thought himself untouchable. His dossier came replete with sexual assaults, everything from rape, torture, and murder. He was once caught on camera literally stripping the clothes off of a reporter in an elevator while he was high on coke.
Two years ago, his name dominated headlines after he declared in Parliament that women had no place in politics. He never apologized. Never chalked it up to a gaffe or a slip of the tongue. Instead, Chrysler had the gumption to stand by his words. And in spite of widespread protests, solidarity from the academia damn-near screaming for his resignation, this unsavory fellow managed to stay in office.
On top of all that, Chrysler had dealings with the Bratva. He aided in human trafficking and had the nerve to call for stricter immigration laws when one of his mistresses threatened to go public. Of course, this mistress hasn’t been seen for some time. Rumor has it she was pregnant with his child and as a result, her body was stuffed in a barrel down in the basement. Everyone knew he dabbled in narcotics and every so often, he’d had to get rid of his limos because no matter what they did they couldn’t get the stench of marijuana out of the seats.
That his execution didn’t come sooner, I think, emboldened his god-like complex. At the same time, it made him an easier target for those who weren’t bound by silly things like laws or ethics.
I think that’s why they chose me. “The first kill is always the hardest,” they say. But honestly, there was no fear. No trepidation. I wasn’t reluctant nor did I hesitate or have any second thoughts. I didn’t feel anything…other than the smooth friction of my knife sliding across his neck. I killed the man. But the ladies killed his legacy.
That’s the way we worked. A death shrouded in mystery would only inflate his infamy. We couldn’t have that. So his hotel room was staged to look like a break in. His business partner, just as corrupt as he, was our patsy. There were recordings of the partner hiring a hitman years ago. The coward called it off but we still had the tapes. Damning evidence, really.
You have to understand, I was never a full-fledged member of the Society. I wanted to be, more than anything. These ladies, these women. They’re extraordinary. Every single one of them has this overpowering presence by which you can’t help but wonder if they came fresh from leading entire legions on the battlefield. Perhaps by becoming one of them, I thought I could soak in but an ounce of their charisma, their strength.
I’m sorry. I suppose even now, I find it difficult to denigrate them. They trained me. They believed in me. But their price was too heavy. It was a price I couldn’t pay.
In New York City some years ago, I was but a budding flower, having just graduated from Elysium with a 4.0 grade average and an avid interest in finance. Having grown up in the halls of Papa’s corporate offices, I was exposed to the high stakes of million dollar hedge fund investments. Despite all that, I was groomed to be a classical composer. That’s the path my parents chose for me.
My mother and our nannies came from Surrey, hence the accent I inherited. I began playing the piano when I was about five or six, and to date, I’ve mastered all of Chopin’s compositions. However, Erik Satie was my idol. It’s all about the timing in his works and the one thing I appreciated the most was the risk he took by trying something new and, dare I say, awkward. “Gymnopedie” is my favorite. I must have rehearsed it a thousand times. Even in complete silence, I hear it in my head.
To much is given, much is expected. That is, unless you have six big brothers and three older sisters, all more outgoing and impressive than yourself. It goes without saying, my own candle paled in comparison.
They dominated everything. Dinner conversations. Galas. Parties and pageants. At some point, I suppose I just got lost somewhere in the back and I didn’t mind. I had no talent for oratory and the moment all eyes were on me, I’d freeze up with the most terrifying heart palpitations.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my family. My brothers were so cool. Strong and handsome. And my sisters…Well, I suppose it’s a bit ironic now that I think about it. Clarice, Emily, and Victoria. My heart weeps even as I say this, but every time I was in the same room with them, I was afraid. They picked on me for being so short and small. I had bad asthma and they’d mock me relentlessly for the wheezing, the “overdramatic” desperation I’d exhibit to find my inhaler.
Papa made them take me everywhere and I could tell how much they resented it. It’s a horrid feeling, to have so much in common with expensive luggage that’s been passed down through generations. It’s because of Papa that they included me but I understood why. He didn’t want me to feel alone. Papa was always looking out for me. He was perhaps the one ray of light that kept me warm in an otherwise cold and abysmal childhood.
It was because of Papa that I had the strength to smile. When I was little, I used to stare at him like he was a Greek painting. The hope that most people have towards Christ is how I felt about him. Papa came to every one of my recitals. When everyone clapped and congratulated me, words couldn’t quite express how elated my father was. He’d cry. Such emotion. I felt the love. I didn’t have to wonder with him. I simply knew how much he loved me by how open he was about showing his affections. It was to his arms that I’d run. It was within his coat that I found salvation.
Felix Domina Vandelay II. That was his name, a titan on Wall Street with investments around the world. We were decedents of King Wilhelm Vandelay of Godland who surrendered the throne to the Swedish Empire. Our family was paid handsomely for throne and has since, dominated the shipping industry back before the English stole New York from the Dutch.
My father revered history and I took after him. My siblings didn’t seem to care one way or the other, but I did. Money was something everyone had, more or less, but our heritage, our pedigree, to come from royal blood was something my father regarded with pride. He installed our family crest in the corporate emblem. I’ll never forget the smile on his face when he took me to see it. Just me. No one else wanted to come.
And that’s how it went. The Vandelay name became synonymous with both opulence and, surprisingly enough, generosity. A lot of what I know about capitalism and economy came from what my father taught me. He’d let me sit in on the big important meetings, trusting with good measure that I’d behave and simply observe. And I did. It was interesting, actually. I enjoyed listening to them talk, more than I did watching cartoons or coloring in books. The tension, the frayed nerves, the adrenaline of risking so much on a public stock or new business, as CEO, Papa was the mediator to temper all tempers.
One time, Papa introduced me to the president of an airline company. It was just a joke, but Papa said I was his only daughter. I know this sounds bad but I fantasized about being his only child. I imagined a world without brothers or sisters or even my mother. Just Papa and me. I would have been so happy. It would have been the perfect world. But as it was, my brothers and sisters existed. In particular, Clarice, the eldest sister, born six years before myself.
Clarice was in a lot of ways the ring leader of the many cliques that tormented me from boarding school to boarding school. She could blame it on her youth, sure. But I never understood it. I heard stories about bullies being jealous of their targets or wanting something their victims had. But Clarice was taller, popular, drop-dead gorgeous and intelligent enough to know when to acquiesce. She never physically abused me. Just stole or broke everything that belonged exclusively to me. She called my recitals boring and sometimes, I could hear her laughing from the balconies as I played.
When the Society approached me, it was during a very dark chapter in my life. And yes, I blamed Clarice for it. My music teacher of eight years had just lost his wife to leukemia. I was his favorite pupil. I wanted to be there for him, to commiserate with him, to let him know that he wasn’t alone. But my family had a tradition of taking the yacht across the Mediterranean every Easter. I begged my mother to let me stay behind and support him but Clarice…She put it in my mother’s head that my teacher fancied me beyond what was appropriate.
We had just ported in Barcelona when I learned that my teacher committed suicide by plummeting from his twenty-fifth floor apartment. I was fifteen-years-old.
I was racked with grief. Even my father couldn’t console me. And he tried desperately. I wasn’t eating. I refused to attend school. And one afternoon, I returned home to find my bedroom nearly stacked to ceiling with rows of my favorite flowers, the white hydrangeas. It was classic of my father to go to such lengths. It was out of respect for him that I begrudgingly return to school.
By then, there was something different about me. Everyone could see it and finally, they all left me alone. I no longer smiled. I lost the ability to laugh or giggle. I stopped coming to Papa’s offices, and every time I entered a room where I knew Clarice was present, I’d keep my gaze to the floor.
I really hated that bitch. When I cried alone, it wasn’t because I was sad. It was the growing pain of holding back the rage in my heart. Every time I’d hear her laugh, or cheer, or so much as clear her wretched throat, I’d be so stricken by this incredible urge to stab her with the sharpest thing I could find. It was really bad and I knew something was wrong with me. But who could I tell? Who would possibly understand?
Three weeks after my maestro’s passing, I found myself sitting alone in an herbal teashop down in the Village. It rained that evening with a constant patter that calmed the disquieting notions. I’d hone in an out of the constellation of raindrops on the window. Red and yellow lights blurred in straight lines that zipped up and down the wet street.
Two older men approached and offered to buy me a drink. They appeared college students, and I knew they meant well, but I dismissed both.
Then, she sat down. A velvety black coat that still held beads from the rain. Long dark hair. Dazzling blue eyes with the elegance of a former ballerina, or a debutant like myself. Without saying anything, she just smiled and I was spellbound. She extended a napkin to wipe my tears. I still remember my mascara bleeding into the soft white cloth.
“May I help you?” I asked.
She sighed and looked around once more before settling on me.
“Your guilt is unwarranted. You are trapped, my dear. Like a bird, a caged canary. I am here to set you free.”
It was unreal. Everything I needed to hear came from those few words. She followed up with nothing else, but abruptly scooted her chair out and grazed past my shoulder and made her way to the exit. I exhaled, not realizing I had been holding my breath.
“Are you coming?”
I turned around. She was waiting for me, her and three others, all wearing the same dark velvety coat but with different styles of shoes and earrings. There was a motorcade of two black luxury SUVs parked on the curb behind them.
I didn’t get up at once. It was absurd and I think she saw it in my gaze.
“I can only unlock the cage. It’s up to you to spread your wings and fly.” She said.
“Who are you?” I asked in a shaky whisper.
“I’m Breanne. That’s Scarlett. She’s Mandee. And we call this one the Andalusian.”
Breanne, Scarlett, Mandee, and the Andalusian. These were the first Swords of St. Catherine I had the pleasure to meet. And if all of Swords were as impressive as they, with all due respect, there isn’t a force on earth powerful enough to match wits.
Officially, I ran away from New York City that night. Sadly, no one noticed. Not even Papa.
Repressed memories of a murder leads to a lifelong obsession. Elliot Chan was just a toddler when it all went down, but now that he’s all grown up, he’s searching for the missing pieces. He’s searching for his mother, the woman in the green cocktail dress.
Elliot Chan – The Woman in the Green Cocktail Dress By Rock Kitaro
“When I count to ten, I want you to open your eyes. Tell me what you see. Elliot, open your eyes. Tell me what you see.”
“It’s dark. Like nighttime. There’s a light to my left. TV’s on. Everything’s grainy with blurred lines like the Zepruder film but I see the semblance of an American flag. I’m sitting low to the floor. I don’t like this.”
“It’s okay, Elliot. It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. This is why we’re here. Confront this. You’re not alone.”
I was sitting back with my eyes close but my mind open. Palms were sweaty. I didn’t want to see it but she was right. It would never end if I didn’t go through with it.
“Tell me what you see,” she prodded.
“I see a fat man sitting in a lazy boy. Right in front of me. In a white tee shirt, black pants, and a large belly. He’s bleeding. He’s bleeding out. He’s twitching. The handle of a knife is sticking out of his chest and I’m just sitting there watching. What is this? Who is he?”
“I’m not doing anything! I’m just sitting there. It’s the same as before! Nothing’s changed.”
“Keep watching!” She urged.
Even with eyes close, tears came through.
“Wait…” I said, almost in a gasp of relief. “Someone just walked by. Long calves in a green dress. High heels glistening from the TV light. I smell her, her scent, her perfume as she just walked by. Dude, she is stunning. That dress, looks like she just came back from a cocktail party or something.
“She’s walking towards the man on the love seat. She’s standing there. The man, he’s struggling to look up at her. I can hear him. He’s wheezing. I don’t know what he’s saying. Oh! She just grabbed the knife! She’s shoving it deeper into his chest. Oh my god! What the hell is this! He tumbled back! She literally just shoved the knife so hard that he fell out of the chair. She’s screaming. Stabbing him over and over again! Dude, she’s stabbing the hell out of him! I can’t do this!”
“This is messed up!”
“You’ve come so far, Elliot! See it through. You’re the only one who can!”
“There’s nothing… She stopped. She’s getting up, standing over the man’s body. Damn…There’s blood everywhere. It’s pooling around her heels. She’s walking my way. I see the knife. It’s drenched. I can’t make out her face. The TV light, it’s not enough. I’m looking up at her. Long dark hair. Her hand’s clenching the knife. It’s completely drenched as if she just dipped into a can of paint.”
“Don’t be afraid.”
I couldn’t tell if it was Dr. Wilkerson or the woman in the green dress who just told me that.
“Go on, Elliot.”
“She drops the knife. It hits the hard surface floor. She’s walking away. I turn to watch her go but I can’t see her anymore. She entered darkness. I just hear the clacking heels fading in the distance.”
“And the knife?” Dr. Wilkerson asked.
“I don’t pick it up. I don’t do anything. I just sit there. Like a dumbass.”
Finally, I opened my eyes to the white popcorn ceiling. Dr. Wilkerson’s nodding, seemingly proud of my accomplishment. Odd. I didn’t feel accomplished. I didn’t feel fulfilled and I for damn sure didn’t feel satisfied.
“How do you feel?” She asked.
“Not good, doc. Not good at all.”
“Before we entertain the possibility that this actually happened, is there any chance you saw this before? On TV or in a movie?”
“Ma’am, I saw Scarface and Goodfellas when I was six. This doesn’t even compare.”
“Where are you going? You have thirty minutes left in the session.”
“Doc, I really appreciate everything you’ve done. Really, today was truly a breakthrough. I’ll follow up next week. I promise.”
I was halfway out the door when she tugged me by the sleeve and said with caring, compassionate eyes, “You really do need to talk about what you saw.”
“Ma’am, I just did.”
This all began because of the reoccurring nightmares that decided to hit not long after I enrolled into film school. I understood the neighborhood of Chelsea tended to have that affect on impressionable artists but this was different. New York was supposed to be the place where I could shed off the past and begin anew. But no matter where I went. The unanswered questions lingered like a chronic illness, like a sore throat. There’s no vaccination for what I had.
I was walking past the eclectic boutiques of hipster vibes when I felt the vibration in my pocket. It was Marvin, my father, giving me a call.
“Hey, how’d it go?” He asked.
I heaved a little sigh before changing directions on a course for Washington Square. It’s a park in the Village known for its ripoff of the Arc de Triumph, but ideal for self-reflection amongst the shaded trees, the exquisite monuments and a lovely central fountain. Twas still early in the day, so I didn’t expect it to be noisy or packed.
“Dad…I have to ask you something and I think it’s about time.”
He’s groaned. I got the feeling he knew exactly where this conversation was headed.
“Dad…who are my real parents?”
After a long pause, he said, “Elliot, I think its time you come home.”