Thea, walking away from her car the next morning to go into her office to work, felt her cellphone ringing in her purse. She took it out.
“Ms. Cummings?” a female voice on the other end said.
“I’m Officer Lena Van Gorder. I work for the local police department, under Detective Nichols, who’s connected with Capitol in a very friendly way, if you know what I mean.”
“Yes. I also know about your attempt to find out what’s going on down there yesterday. I learned through the grapevine that Capitol is hiring. They need someone to operate what’s called the Regulating Room, since they’ve let go someone there who wasn’t…well…working out for them.”
“Oh?” Thea wondered if this ‘dismissed’ person was the one she was supposed to have met the night before.
“Yes. Also, one of their junior managers is being transferred to another branch, one in Montreal, so they’ll need someone to replace him. I was thinking that if you could somehow convince Mark LeSaffre that you and your brother—disguised, of course—were people he can trust, you could get jobs there, then find the proof you were trying to find yesterday.”
“Just giving you a suggestion. Gotta go. Can’t let Detective Nichols know what I’ve been talking about. Maybe we’ll talk again…or maybe not. Bye!”
She’d already hung up.
“Why are we meeting here instead of in your office?” Thea asked as they all sat at a table in a diner.
“Because this has to be off the radar,” Van Gorder said. “My immediate superior, Detective Nichols, is on LeSaffre’s payroll.”
“Oh, so that’s why you want us to go into Capitol instead of some undercover cops,” Guy said.
“That’s right,” Van Gorder said. “LeSaffre has connections all over the police force, not just in the Toronto area, but all over Canada, and even in the US, where Capitol has other branches. He’s seen you two, but he doesn’t know you. You can disguise yourselves with fake beards. Ms. Cummings, dress like a man. Can you imitate a man’s voice?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Thea said in a hoarse-sounding bass vocal fry.
“That’s always got to be your voice,” the female cop said. “Keep all your mannerisms, speech peculiarities, and that kind of thing consistent, or else Mark will be suspicious. He’s paranoid as hell about his enemies. I looked into your histories and learned you both have studied drama and psychology, right?”
“How did you know about our histories?” Thea asked, sneering and looking askance at the police officer.
“It’s amazing what you can find out through the internet,” Van Gorder said. “But it’s true, right? You’ve both studied drama and psychology?”
“Drama and psych for her,” Guy said. “Only drama for me.”
“Whatever,” Van Gorder said. “I hope you have good acting skills, ‘cause you have to be as believable and natural as possible, to convince LeSaffre that you are real mafia men.”
“We can,” Thea said. “We learned method acting in our university acting classes.”
“What’s ‘method acting’?”
“It means we have to learn how to be the people we’re acting as,” Guy explained. “Find stuff within our own personal lives that relates us to these mafia men we’re pretending to be, to make it more realistic, then we can—.”
“Fine, whatever,” the cop said. “Anyway, LeSaffre will want references from a mafia man, since people with criminal backgrounds, but who are also loyal to their bosses, are the only ones he trusts. He hates ‘straight’ people and trusts only the corrupt. Evil is his good. I know a crime boss who can pretend you’ve both worked for him, Trevor McCluskey, whose gambling, drugs, and prostitution rackets are up in Winnipeg. LeSaffre gets a lot of his new men from McCluskey.”
“How do you know this McCluskey will vouch for us?” Thea asked.
“‘Cause if he doesn’t, his son will do ten years for armed robbery,” Van Gorder said. “Don’t worry about the details, I’ll work all of that out. Let’s just remember to keep quiet about all this. You’re lucky I didn’t want to take my vacation time this month, as Detective Nichols wanted me to; otherwise, you’d have missed your chance to get hired by LeSaffre. He’d have found two other people instead.”
“And what’s in it for you, Officer?” Guy asked.
“My sister got mixed up in prostitution. She went missing from one of McCluskey’s brothels in Sault Ste. Marie. Is she dead, or has she been moved into one of these Capitol branches? I’d like you to help me find out, and get her out if you find her.”
“What’s her name?” Thea asked.
“Remember,” Thea told Guy, who was in a suit, “act all enthusiastic about working in Capitol and enjoying the benefit of fucking the girl of your choice, since that’s a perk Mark gives you as an employee.”
“OK,” Guy said, making sure his fake beard was on right. “With my background in computer programming, I should be able to figure out this ‘Regulating Room’ job easy enough.”
“When I got the management job, I realized it wasn’t so much because of my experience as a manager in a department store as it was my ‘attitude’ towards the ‘Commodities’. Those bastards actually call their sex slaves ‘Commodities’: how repugnant. Anyway, LeSaffre’s main concern is loyalty to his business, as that cop told us in the diner. I could sense Mark’s paranoia about being betrayed, looking in his eyes. I’ll bet you’re meant to replace the guy who disappeared when he tried to give us proof of the sex slavery and mind control. I couldn’t get that file he sent to my phone to upload, much less open, to give me the proof.”
“I guess had that guy lived, he’d have given you the password, or something.”
“I don’t know. Anyway, we can’t communicate by cellphone—they’ll track our calls and texts, as they did his.”
“OK,” Guy said, straightening his tie. “I have to act like the lecher I was with Petunia.”
“We both have to,” Thea said. “Which will be difficult for me, but we have to think like this Mark does. Total psychopath. No empathy, no pity. Shouldn’t be too hard for you, being male and all.”
“Guy, every guy I’ve known has been like that, to some extent, at least: Dad, my former boyfriends. As for you, I’m hoping you can show me you’re a little better than that…assuming you can stop fucking Petunia and actually think of other people.”
“Anyway, if you get the job, don’t only go for Petunia when they give us that ‘benefit’. You and I can only occasionally use that benefit to fake making it with her while communicating our plan to free her; if we choose only her, over and over again, LeSaffre will get suspicious, and maybe figure out that we’re the ones who met with him and Petunia in his office with Kay and Brennan. He might even have her killed, as extra revenge on us for trying to expose him.”
“Right,” Guy said, having just finished putting on brown contact lenses to cover his blue eyes. “Ready to go.”
“Good luck. Sound eager for the job. Bye.”
“I will. Bye.” He left the house.
Guy went into Mark LeSaffre’s office trying hard not to fidget. He wanted to touch his fake beard out of fear that it was falling off, or was on wrong; but he also feared making it come off from touching it. This indecision led to more fidgeting, which he had to suppress. Mark was sitting at his desk.
“So, Jack Mortimer?” Mark said, holding out his hand.
“Yes,” Guy said, shaking his hand and sitting in the same chair he’d sat in, across from Mark’s desk, when he had been there with Thea, the lawyer, and Brennan. “I’m interested in the job opening for ‘Regulator’. Trevor McCluskey heard about the job, and sent me to you.”
“Trevor McCluskey, eh?” Mark said, looking intensely in Guy’s eyes. “Another fellow, someone named Cameron Thewlis, said McCluskey referred him here, too, but for a management job.”
“Really?” Guy said, hoping his voice wouldn’t sound too shaky to Mark. “What a coincidence. I guess you’re doubly lucky that he can help you out.”
“I guess.” Mark looked over ‘Jack’ some more. “You know, you look a little familiar, Jack. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I feel I’ve seen you somewhere before…and I never forget a face.”
“Well,” Guy said, keeping still, “Do you ever hang out in The Leicester?” He smirked lewdly.
“That must be where I saw you! I bet I’ve seen you up at pervert’s row, checking out the strippers up close.”
“Hey, man, that’s the only place I sit in The Leicester.”
Guy and Mark gave each other a high five and laughed.
“You’ll be pleased to know that we have two girls from there working for us here,” Mark said with a grin.
“Which bitches?” Guy asked. “I wanna ‘Regulate’ ‘em!”
Mark laughed. “Well, if you do your job well, you’ll be doing a lot more than just regulating them, Jack. What’s most important to us here in Capitol is loyalty. We have had the police and government on our side, ever since they legalized prostitution; but there’s always somebody who wants to fink on us and shut us down, claiming we’re doing illegal things here. We had to…terminate your predecessor for being disloyal, and termination here has a way of, let’s say, getting under your skin.”
“I see,” Guy said, trying not to frown. He hoped the chill he felt slithering throughout his body wasn’t visible to Mark.
“Loyalty, on the other hand, comes with great rewards. In regulating, you watch the sexual activity between our clients and our girls—well, most of ‘em are girls, but we have some men for the gay crowd and for desperate women. It’s like watching live porn videos.”
“Sounds like a sweet gig.”
“It is, but it gets better than that,” Mark went on. “We reward your loyalty by allowing you to enjoy any one of our girls that you like, for one hour each week, for free.”
“Alright!” Guy roared. “Oh, sorry for the noise.”
“That’s OK, Jack. Your enthusiasm is understandable and appreciated, actually. We’ll give you full training on all the equipment and technology, starting the day after I confirm your reference from McCluskey. Odd how he’s in Winnipeg and you’ve been here in southern Ontario, frequenting The Leicester. Well, he has businesses and contacts around here, too, of course. Anyway, if all goes well, you’ll be starting the day after tomorrow. How’s that all sound? Oh, and the pay is $30 an hour.”
“That sounds like music to my ears.”
“Capitol will make The Leicester seem like a convent in comparison, I promise you.”
“I can hardly wait…pardon the pun.”
They both laughed and high-fived again.