Meili crossed the border by walking down a little-used farm-road leading from Canada to the US. It was one of many lanes farmers used to connect their land, some owning property on both sides of the unguarded border. Most of those dirt roads were privately owned and not on maps. She walked from one country to another, flanked by tall cornfields.
The girl thought her best bet would be Chicago. She bought a bus ticket at a border town and proceeded to the city. By then, she’d picked up enough English to get by. Not enough to read well, and with an accent, but sufficient for her needs. Samuel, Lois, and the others had helped a lot, often speaking English around her.
She set out to find meaningful work. Even in Sweden, Meili had heard of the Italian mafia, knowing they would have plenty of use for a good assassin. The alternative was the US government, which already employed Lois. Meili was looking forward to at least two actions, finding work and eventually showing up Lois.
She’d never liked that half-American bitch and still blamed Lois for her own breakup with Peter. Meili was also angry because Peter refused to snap her to Dallas, or Lois’s home. He did snap her to Sweden to meet his family, which gave her a way to get to Europe later.
Meili arrived in Chicago, getting off a bus right in the heart of town, known as the “Loop.” She walked for an hour, trying to find a decent hotel room. There were plenty of them, but no vacancies without reservations. She finally found a cheap hotel on the near-north side that would take her in. It was an ancient five-story building that had seen better days. Now it mainly rented weekly or monthly to low-level workers or criminals. Hookers, with a kick-back to the clerk, received a good deal in hourly rents.
Rugs were missing or threadbare and no elevators worked. The furniture was broken and filthy. Locks on the door could be opened easily with skeleton-keys, and there was no room service except to call police to carry out dead bodies, of which there were quite a few. Some died from old age, others from alcohol or drugs, and the rest from criminal activity. For those reasons, all rents were paid in advance with no refunds.
Since Meili still had a week’s rent paid in her home in Sweden, she hadn’t bothered to bring luggage except for one small bag for use on the plane. Leaving it and her excess coat on the bed, she went out to buy a few necessities. When she returned, the coat was missing as well as half her other property. The door was still locked. Among incidentals, she’d bought a cheap television set.
“The hell with this.” Meili snapped a mental picture of the black-and-white set, gathered up the rest of her things, as well as the new purchases, and teleported back to Sweden for the night.
In the morning, she came back to Chicago. She wanted to look for a mobster and find work by making her way up the corporate mob ladder.
The girl was surprised when she materialized in another room, not her rented one. She looked around her and found her television set, along with a stack of four others. Someone had obviously taken it during the night.
Meili could hear talking through a door on the other side of the room. Checking the knob, she found it locked. Angry at herself for the risk she’d inadvertently taken, she increased her mass. One kick and the door went flying outward, Meili following.
Three young people, two men and a woman, looked up as she stormed into that room. Before the men could utter a word, they were dead. The woman got off the start of a scream before following them to hell.
Calming slightly, the girl lost her extra mass and looked around the room, seeing baggies of drugs lying on a table.
As a quick cover-up, she dumped the powder around the table and on the floor then, with empty bags in hand, she left the hotel by a fire-door, never intending to return. The baggies went into a trash-can a couple of blocks away. Her thoughts were that when the bodies were found it would be blamed on other drug users.
Sammy found himself an executive, something he’d always dreamed of being. Instead of physical labor, he could wear an expensive suit and give orders. Fortunately for him, it was a largely ornamental position.
In theory, he was in charge of the data processing. In effect, the people under him reported directly to Mr. Jones. Not only that, but he knew so little about their functions that he could hardly give meaningful orders.
His supposed employees smiled and showed him their operations, deftly ignoring any suggestions. In 1961, few people had even heard of computers, and fewer yet understood them or spoke their arcane languages.
Also, in theory, he was in charge of the computer operations, although he had absolutely no idea what those huge machines were designed for. He also oversaw a long bank of telephone operators, who received calls all day and night from stringers all over the world. Their notes went directly to the computer operators, bypassing Sammy entirely.
In effect, all Sammy actually did was spend a good deal of his day signing checks brought in from the Disbursement Department and papers from other sections, having no idea where they came from, nor where they went after he’d signed them.
It did feel good to have a fancy title as “Vice President in Charge of Communications” — and he did have a large airy office and expense account. A nice, fancy, upstairs apartment came with the job.
The only thing he didn’t like was that an armed security guard accompanied him whenever he left the building. For his safety, was what Mr. Jones told him. The guy might as well be handcuffed to me, Sammy thought, even accompanying Sammy inside public bathrooms.
Another good thing was Janice, his private secretary, mostly because she was so lovely. She didn’t seem to have anything more to do than he did, giving them ample opportunity to do the nothing together. Sammy didn’t know it, but she’d been hired for those attributes, both to watch him and to try to seduce him away from Lois.
Sammy wasn’t stupid enough not to realize the situation, but thought it better than dying and still not having Lois. At least this way he would still have a chance with her.
With time on his hands, Sammy signed up for a business course at the local college. Janice even joined him, presumably to keep notes during classes, and both at company expense.
Speaking of executives, Mr. Jeffrey H. Thompson was doing well. He was CEO of “Boink Aircraft” which had many lucrative contracts from the government. His happened to be the company Ted Majostic had discovered by reading the congressman’s mind. Mr. Thompson had become a multimillionaire by selling inferior products to the government at high cost-overruns.
Through a complex system of kickbacks and paper shuffling, Thompson managed to keep a good chunk of the money for himself. His high salary and $2,000,000 yearly bonus was only the tip of the financial iceberg.
The US military received such shoddy aircraft that they were soon back for improvements, at more cost to the government. A little later, they would be back again for repairs, updates, and recalls, all at taxpayer expense. Since a no-fault clause was included in every contract, it became a triple whammy for the taxpayer.
On top of that, Thompson received even more money from the Soviets. They had paid Congressman Cranski, and some of that money trickled down to Mr. Thompson. Little of the excess profit actually filtered down to the shareholders of his company, only into his own Swiss accounts.
Thelma Tucker happened to be a lawyer, a damned good one in her own opinion. She specialized in class-action suits. The woman found that, with enough backing from others in her own class, anything could be litigated into multi-million-dollar settlements.
Since she owned stock in or outright through relatives, many law affiliated industries, she made even more money on the side.
Her firm, owned entirely by the woman herself, would charge all the law would allow, taking cases on speculation — though only the ones she was certain of winning.
She was starting on a new case at that moment, one proving that white underwear caused cancer. Her company had commissioned a series of statistical studies — using a firm owned by her in her brother-in-law’s name — all of which concluded that 99.9998% of cancer victims had worn white underwear at one time or another in their lives.
A scientist popular with the news media had agreed, for a large fee, to explain how the white dye normally used on undergarments — by over 99.76% of manufacturers — could be leached into the body through a person’s gluteus maximus, or butt. Also that, in huge amounts, that chemical had been known to cause a cancerous growth in specific types of cockroaches.
The scientist had sent notice to all major underwear manufacturers, warning them of the risk. Since that notice, and its derivatives, had jokingly been passed around inside those organizations, it could be proven that they knew the risk and did nothing about it.
That was enough proof to sue the entire underwear and lingerie industries. Using the right persuasive attorneys, she felt she could sway any jury.
Thelma figured on putting the industry on the defensive right from the start, by making them prove that the dye didn’t cause cancer. It would be much harder for the industry to prove it didn’t than for Thelma to prove it did.
Other companies associated with her, would do the investigating and the signing up of cancer victims that had worn white underwear at some time in their lives; furnish paper questionnaires and forms; check over the health records of her victims; advertise the case in the news media; hire their own experts and doctors and all the other services needed. Thelma stood to make money on every step — finishing by taking a huge chunk of any eventual cash settlement.
After that, she could make even more profit by paying off inflated costs to herself into her investigating and support companies. Those payments would increase her expenses and decrease paper-profits, which might well lead to paying no income tax from the case.
If she should win, and she’d every expectation of doing so, Thelma would make many millions. If she lost, she would still be billed by her subsidiary companies and could write it off as a loss on her income taxes, without actually losing much at all by the time it was over. It was a win, win, proposition for her.
Whether she won or lost, their expenses would cause the garment industry to change their type of dye, as well as raise prices across the board, ensuring they themselves still made a profit. The only person losing would be the consumer, who would have to buy underwear at any cost, and Thelma didn’t care a whit about them.
Already, she’d started tests to do the same with tobacco and coffee, maybe followed by “Babi Dolls.” After all, she gloated to herself, they were responsible for many cases of depression in young girls, because those youngsters couldn’t emulate them in real life.
“I understand, sir,” Joshua Erickson had just finished a series of instruction films gathered by Mr. Jones. They explained the many changes in society during the roughly 150 years he’d slept. he’d been awake over a month by then and was becoming acclimated to his new home era.
“So you see, we have several strong enemies right now. All of them virtually unknown in your former life,” Jones pointed out Soviet Russia, China, and North Korea to the man.
It had helped in that Josh had been doing the same thing on other, much shorter, sleeps. On quite a few occasions he’d slept for a few years, but that had been before the industrial revolution. Little had changed in those days.
He was at the point where he could go outside the building with a guide and not get into too much trouble. He didn’t mind the guide, since she was a good-looking woman, and had been an American History major in college. She helped Josh on all fronts, even spending some evenings and nights with him.
Josh found many things had also changed between the sexes. Dorine, his companion, was a feminist and believed firmly in equal rights for women. In Josh’s time that was unheard of. Also unheard of was her habit of waking him in the middle of the night by jumping his bones. Where Josh came from, women simply didn’t do those things. It did make learning his new life more interesting than the first week or so, when Mr. Jones had done Dorine’s job himself.
Jose was fast becoming a problem for Lois. Apparently camped out with her until school resumed, he was constantly underfoot and attempting to bed her. The lad wasn’t trying to force himself on her, being too smart for that, but the constant sexual pressure was getting to her.
“How you getting along with Tan, back in the village?” Lois asked while watching television with Jose. “Samuel says she’s been asking where you’ve been.”
“All right, I guess,” he answered, mouth full of potato chips. “She’s nice, but a little flaky.”
“You should give the girl a chance, Jose. She’s both your age, and pretty.”
“Sure she is, but so are you,” was his answer, moving closer and dropping potato chips on the floor.
“Better get those cleaned up, they’ll grind into the floor-mats.” Lois jumped up to get a whisk broom.
A couple of days later, Lois brought the girl, Tan, over to her apartment. At the least it would give her a little relief, and Tan could use the exposure to Dallas. Tan was also to be a full graduate of the school. Probably due to her feelings for Jose, Lois thought.
“I want you to show Tan around town. Teach her about the US and Mexico,” Lois instructed him. “You can never tell when it will do her good to know her way around those places. She might get a contract working here.”
Lois grinned at his consternation, while Tan sat placidly, watching television and pretending to ignore them.
“After that, you can take her to all the locations you’ve snapped, so she can do it herself. Not the ones in that West Virginia camp, only the city ones.”
That should keep him busy for the rest of his school vacation, Lois thought, mentally congratulating herself. Hopefully, he would turn his attention to the other girl and leave her alone.
“Aw, Lois. I’m supposed to be on vacation,” Jose whispered, forgetting Tan could hear him, “I wanted to visit you, not her. I can see her anytime, in the village.” He didn’t see Tan’s eyes get misty, her having as much of a crush on Jose as he had on Lois.
Although the two were gone a good deal of the time and Lois also had her bounty-hunter work, her plan seemed to backfire. Not only was Jose still trying, but now Tan was jealous of her. A good matchmaker, Lois thought, I’m not.
Tan slept on a cot in Lois’s room, with Jose sleeping on the living-room floor. It became a triangle where Tan was after Jose, him after Lois, and Lois trying to stay on good terms with an increasingly more frustrated Tan.
“You can have him. I have a boyfriend in Washington,” she lied to Tan when Jose was out of the apartment.
“You’re only saying that. Just waiting for me to leave so you can go back to sleeping with Jose,” the other woman bitched at her. “He told me all about your trip from Mexico, and I’ve seen you two together in the village. All he does is talk about you.”
“Honey, I’ve never slept with or had sex with Jose. I don’t know what he’s said to you, or implied, but it’s not true.”
“Oh, sure. I’m supposed to believe you instead, uh?”
“Tan . . . honey, why do you think I brought you here? I wanted to get you two together. I repeat, I don’t want him as a lover.”
“You expect me to believe that? A handsome man like him? And the way you two hang out and even work together? Hah.”
“Look, I’ll help you all I can. You have to do the rest. You’re stronger than Jose. Why don’t you just take him? Grab his ass and rape the guy. You’ll both feel better after that.”
Lois was getting desperate to make such a suggestion, but the image of the much smaller Tan jumping on Jose was an exciting one. One she wished she could watch. Since moving to the valley and seeing how low he was on the power pole — most of the others being able to easily best him — Jose had lost most of his Latin macho image.
“Maybe I should, at that.” Tan took the bait, giggling. “I’m not getting anywhere this way.”
That night Lois made a point of telling them both she had to work that night, and rented a hotel room for herself. Lying in the strange bed, she crossed her fingers.
“Mafia? What’s that? There ain’t no such thing.” The twentieth person she asked told Meili.
She was circulating throughout the Italian section of Chicago, not having any luck in her search. Nobody knew anything, except that there was no Mafia. Word seemed to flow ahead of her, people avoiding the Chinese girl, even crossing the street when they saw her coming. Bartenders and patrons avoided speaking to or even serving her.
She turned around, ready to kick ass. Exhausted and deflated, Meili was tired of the bullshit. “Yeah?”
“Hear you’re looking for a connection?”
“What if I am?”
“I . . . I know a guy that knows a guy. Twenty gets you a name and phone number? Whad’ya say?” It was a mousy-looking man wearing a red sports-coat and yellow shoes. He wore his dark hair in a crewcut, a thin mustache under an elongated nose. Not very reputable-looking, was her opinion. He looked like that guy, Snidely Whiplash, in the cartoon.
“Twenty? Sure.” She reached up to clasp his neck, a grayish twinge on her hand as it hardened. “Only I’m not calling. You’re taking me, and it better be good.”
“I . . . I can’t. I’m busy and it’s across town, lady.”
“Think again. You’re taking me. And you’d better hope he’s around when we get there.”
The man tried to pull away but she seemed rooted to the ground and wouldn’t give a centimeter. Meili held him easily, frowning at his attempts to escape.
“Let’s go,” she ordered, letting him loose, “and don’t try to run.”
Of course he did try to run, though it did no good, only got him slammed into a convenient wall, bloodying his nose. Becoming more placid, he led the way to a nine-year-old Chevy parked in an alley. Sitting on the far end of his seat, he drove them to the suburbs and an average-looking frame-house. The smell of nervous sweat was overpowering, despite a breeze, as they parked halfway up the paved expanse.
“His name’s Humpty . . . I mean Alfredo, Alfredo Giuliani, a made-man. This is as far as I can go, lady.”
“Don’t bet on it. You’re taking me inside.”
“No. No fuckin’ way, lady. We don’t get along. I shouldn’t be this close, the guy’s out to kill me.”
“Assuming I don’t?” Meili asked with an innocuous grin. “Come on, move your ass.”
“Please, lady. Please.”
He stopped to throw up in some bushes at a flower-decorated front porch, tears in his eyes, voice stuttering. “No. I can’t. I really can’t. I’m not kidding, I’m a dead man.”
Meili increased mass and picked her companion up under his arms, holding him away from her as she rang a doorbell, smelling urine as she pushed the button. he’d wet his green trousers.
A middle-aged man, short but massively built, answered the door, a smile on his face as he saw her companion.
“You want this?” Meili asked, holding the little man out at arm’s length.
“Damned right I do.” The heavy man grabbed the other. “Wait here, while I take it down ta my ‘exercise’ room.”
The smaller man screamed and struggled as he was carried away. A couple of minutes later his screams abruptly cut off as she heard a heavy door slam. Mr. Giuliani returned, the smile still on his face and a sheaf of currency in his hand.
“Here ya go, young lady, and thanks. There’s a reward out on ‘at rat, dead’er alive.” He laughed loudly. “An he’s a gonna wish it was dead.”
Meili shoved the hand away.
“I’m not looking for unearned rewards. I need work?”
“Your loss.” He looked around. “Ya better come inside. My wife’s out, visitin’ a aunt in L.A., so we got the place ta ourselves,” he said, looking her up and down.
The two sat together on a small couch.
“Ya wanna beer?”
“No. I want work.”
“Whad’a ya good at?”
“I suppose you’d say ‘strongarm’ work?”
“Bull. What can a tiny broad like you do? Ya’d never scare no one.” He shook his head. “Will ya pretty please gimme the money, mister?” Giuliani laughed loudly, slapping his hand on the top of the couch. “Pretty please?”
“But I’d prefer killing. I’m a trained and experienced assassin.”
“Ya mean like that old television show, Shulan or somthin’?”
“I am. And it’s ShoaKi not, ‘shulan or something.’”
“Look, little lady, I ‘preciate you bringin’ Knobby ta me. It saved me trouble lookin’ fer the bastard, but get real, will’ya?”
Meili looked around the living-room, focusing on a foot-high metal horse standing on a shelf over a fake fireplace.
“Are you attached to that statue, Mr. Giuliani?”
“Na. A gift from my brother-in-law, the cheap bastard, why? Ya wan’ it?”
Meili walked over, picking the heavy icon up with two fingers.
“Watch it, lady. At things heav. . . .”
“No, you watch, Mr. Giuliani.” Taking it in both hands, she twisted it out of shape, bringing it over to dump in his lap. “You still think I can’t handle collections?”
“That ain’t killin’, though. A lot a people can’t do that.”
“Easy. My trade.”
“Come on, lady. Prove it.” He led the way to a door, then down to the basement. Doing something to a brick wall, a section swung out, exposing a heavy metal slab of a door. Using a key, Giuliani swung the door open. Soft whimpering came out of a dark interior. Turning a switch, light flooded the inside.
Poor Knobby sat on a concrete floor, eyes bugged out in fear.
“Think ya can kill this fink fer me?”
Meili shrugged. “How you want it. Slow or fast, clean or dirty?”
Giuliani considered, eyes on the victim. “Slow an dirty is okay.” As Knobby, cringing further in a corner, listened, he continued, “Take yer frickin’ time.”
An evil grin on her face, knowing it was a crucial test, Meili moved into the room.