Two days later, Guy and Thea were wearing their fake beards and suits and ties. She winced in discomfort from having to strap down her breasts. In the hall by Mark’s office, they were waiting for him to arrive.
“I wanna grow my own beard,” Guy whispered. “Then I won’t have to wear this uncomfortable fake one.”
“What if it looks different from the fake one?” she asked. “Mark might get suspicious, especially if, during the transition between fake beard to real one, the fake one on top of your growing facial hair looks…well…off. Better stick with the fake one and keep shaving.”
“But I could–” he began.
“Shh!” she said.
Free Mark arrived just then.
“Good morning, Mark,” she said to him in the lowest-pitched vocal fry she could muster.
“Good morning, Cameron,” Mark said to her. “And good morning to you, too, Jack. Come on in.” He opened the door to his office, and they all went in.
He sat at his desk, and they sat in chairs across from him.
“I checked your references from Trevor McCluskey, and he gave you both glowing recommendations,” he said with a smile. “You did time for him once, I understand, Cameron?”
“Yes,” Thea said, then coughed after having forgotten to do the vocal fry. Resuming her fake man voice, she continued: “I was caught managing one of McCluskey’s casinos, where the machines were all rigged to cheat the customers. The cops were hoping I’d rat out McCluskey, but I insisted that the rigging was all my idea. I did five years for him, for a felony conviction.”
“Yeah, that’s what he told me,” Mark said. “No matter what offer the cops gave you, to free you early for ratting McCluskey out, you never said a word.”
“Never a word,” Thea rasped. “Doing time’s a badge of honour for my boss.”
“And you, Jack,” Mark said. “You bribed cops to keep them from sniffing out a whorehouse you managed for McCluskey?”
“Yeah,” Guy said. “The entire police station in Brantford was fucking our whores. For free, so they’d keep their mouths shut. We made them happy, they stayed out of our business.”
“As McCluskey told me,” Mark said. “I’m glad you can handle ‘public relations’. OK, let me tell you both about the philosophy of my business here. Because it really is a philosophy, you understand.”
“I’m eager to gain your wisdom, Boss,” Thea said.
“Me, too,” Guy said. “Teach me.”
“You know, people question the morality of my business,” Mark said, leaning back in his chair. “I question the very idea of morality. It runs contrary to Nature, where all animals compete to survive. The strong crush the weak. That is the nature of things.”
“I agree,” Guy said with a stony face. “Morality is all hypocrisy. Like the hypocrisy of the Church. At least evil-doers are honest.”
Thea listened to her brother, thinking, I really hope for your sake, Guy, that that was just acting. I’ve heard you bash the Church’s hypocrisy before, so I’m hoping that was the only part of what you said that was from your real feelings.
“You’re absolutely right, Jack,” Mark went on. “I’m a follower of the Marquis de Sade’s philosophy, one of absolute individual licence. Nature’s laws are clear: the strong rule over the weak. If it had been Nature’s intention for morality to hold sway, cheetahs wouldn’t be allowed to chase wildebeests, birds couldn’t eat worms, and everyone’s petty complaints would have to be satisfied, for the sake of fairness. But there’s no such thing as fairness. Equality doesn’t exist. That’s just socialist nonsense.”
“Oh, yeah,” Thea said with her raspy vocal fry. I actually feel physical pain when I agree with him, she thought.
“And I don’t just say this because I’m now in a powerful position, here in my Château de Silling, my Salò, if you will,” Mark said in reference to Capitol. “The same pitiless philosophy once applied to me, and though I hated being on the other side of the fence when I was a child, I now accept what happened as Nature’s decree.”
“How were you on the other side of the fence when you were a child?” Thea asked. “What happened to you, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I’m glad you asked, Cameron,” he said, frowning and looking up at the ceiling for a moment. He choked, then continued: “I was born into a Catholic family, and my parents insisted on enrolling me in an all-boys Catholic school, run by priests. A few of them took a liking to me and a few of the other boys, if you know what I mean.”
Is that a lump in your throat I see? Thea wondered. You’re actually human under that reptilian shell? I’d better not try to appeal to that one warm drop of your blood. Don’t wanna blow my cover.
“So, did you and the other kids try to do anything about it?” Guy asked. “You know, come forward and accuse the priests?”
“Oh, we tried,” Mark said, regaining his composure. “Nobody was on our side, of course. The priesthood had all the power, not from God, who doesn’t exist, of course, but from Nature. Even my parents were on the priests’ side, accusing me and the other boys of making up stories of sexual abuse as an excuse to be taken out of the school. ‘How dare you boys slander the name of the Holy Church!’ my father shouted at me. Really, he said that. Beat the crap out of me, too. It was then that I knew there was no God, no morality, no justice, no mercy, and no kindness in the world. There is only Nature. Might makes right. The law of the jungle.” His eyes watered.
“It’s ugly, but that’s just the way things are,” Thea rasped.
“That’s right,” Mark said. “Later, I sneaked Sade’s books into my home and read them. I laughed at how he wrote of ‘men of God’ raping women like Justine. I’m sure lots of priests and monks have done the like over the centuries, always getting away with it. This is the way of things, so we should just be honest about it, instead of trying to reform everything and moralize about what can’t be changed.”
I actually feel of kind of sorry for you, Thea thought. I never thought that would happen.
“You’re right,” Guy said. “I hate all those social justice warriors and politically correct people telling us how to think.”
“As do I, Jack,” Mark said. “As do I.”
“Me, too,” Thea grunted, in spite of herself. I hope Guy’s faking as much as I am, she thought.
“Those damn socialists are the religious people of today’s world,” Mark said. “They moralize because they’re weak. Morality is the only way weak people can be strong, and when it makes them strong, they turn their backs on it, because they knew it was all hypocrisy, anyway. I don’t blame them for using hypocrisy to gain power, for I consider all paths to power legitimate.”
“The end justifies the means,” Thea said.
“That’s right, Cameron,” Mark said. “I have a feeling we three are going to be great friends.”
“Great minds think alike,” Guy said. “As ours do.”
“Indeed,” Mark said. “Our critics say we’re using these girls, exploiting them for profit. What of it? If they weren’t here, they’d be starving either on the streets or in the Third World countries we got them from. Here they’re provided for, given food and shelter, all at my expense. Some might call that charity on my part.”
Or taking advantage of the desperate, Thea thought.
“Next to Sade, I enjoy reading Ayn Rand,” Mark said.
It was painful for Thea to keep herself from retching at the sound of that author’s name. “Oh, she’s great.”
“Great philosophy!” Mark said. “From her I learned that selfishness is rational, not evil. Everyone else is selfish, so why shouldn’t we be? I provide work as well as food and shelter for those girls—a few men, too: I don’t discriminate—and all I want in return is some work from them. We make sure the customers don’t hurt them, and our Creep technology protects them from STDs. In return, I get rich. What’s wrong with that?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Guy said. “It’s a reward for hard work.”
“Exactly,” Mark said. “I love Ayn Rand’s writing. She’s equal to Sade as an intellectual, in my opinion. Camille Paglia’s another great female intellectual I enjoy reading. People say I’m a sexist for having this kind of business, but what kind of sexist would enjoy reading women writers?”
Oh, of course, Thea thought; Rand absolves you of sexism, for sure. I bet you have lots of black friends, too.
Over the next few weeks, ‘Jack’ and ‘Cameron’ were given a full orientation in Capitol, which included sitting in the Regulating Room and watching the clients when they were with the Commodities. This was a true test of their acting abilities, especially for Thea, who couldn’t, in her heart, find watching sexually exploited women to be anything other than repellant. Still, she, like Guy, had to pretend that there was not only nothing wrong with what was going on in those sex rooms, but that it was actually as enjoyable for her as it was for Mark.
“Yeah, suck that dick, bitch,” ‘Jack’ said in the Regulating Room, grinning as he watched Kusiima on the video screen blowing a man one afternoon. She has a beautiful body, and even more beautiful eyes; but I can’t bear to look her straight in the face, he thought; her eyes’ beauty is shrouded in fear and shame.
“Yeah!” Mark agreed. “That black bitch sure knows how to work the pipe.” He chuckled.
“Yeah, I got a cock that would fit nicely in that mouth,” ‘Cameron’ grunted, finding it painful to imagine her father’s whore-mongering in order to stay in character. “Those full, black lips sliding up and down my shaft with her tongue. Mmm, baby!”
“You know it, Cameron, you know it!” ‘Jack’ said, licking his lips, using his experiences with Petunia to help him stay in character, though trying not to think of her too much, out of his own guilt.
Please, Guy, let that not be the real you saying those things, Thea thought.
When they were finished in there, Thea and Guy were allowed to have a ten-minute break. She went straight to the washroom, almost going into the ladies’ room, but stopping herself in time, then going into the men’s.
She found a toilet stall, went in, locked the door, and sat on the toilet without pulling down her pants. She didn’t need to piss or shit; she just needed some alone time.
She cupped her face in her hands. Tears flowed out of her eyes. “This isn’t me,” she whispered to herself. “This isn’t the real me. I’m just pretending. I’m not really Cameron.”
The bathroom door had opened just as she began saying that last sentence, but a squeak from the hinges, happening two seconds later, alerted her to the fact that someone may have heard what she’d said.
She continued thinking the same thing: This isn’t me. This isn’t the real me. I’m just pretending. I’m Thea Cummings. I’m not Cameron Thewlis.
Whoever was in the washroom with her had just finished pissing and was now washing his hands. She came out of the toilet stall. It was Mark.
Had he heard her whispering?
He looked over. “Oh, hi, Cameron,” he said, without a smile.
“Hi,” ‘Cameron’ said, walking out of the bathroom.