Daisy was hunched over the front desk, scrawling on a note pad, when Margot walked into the lobby of Valhalla. “Hello, Daisy, darling. What ya working on?”

“Hi Miss Margot! Wonderful to see you again. I’m working on an anti-vaccine vaccine.”

“An anti-vaccine vaccine?”

“Yeah. I’m gonna sell ‘em to all the people who won’t take the vaccine, whenever they make one of those. My anti-vaccine vaccine will nullify the vaccine, kinda like rock, paper, scissors.

“So, if the vaccine is bad, everyone who took my anti-vaccine vaccine will be healthy, and they will be able to get all the benefits that are supposed to come to everyone who takes the vaccine. You know, jobs and passports and all stuff. And if the vaccine really turns people into robot slaves for Bill Gates, all the people who took my anti-vaccine vaccine will get all their guns, kill ‘em all, and let God sort ‘em out.”

“That’s a brilliant plan, Daisy. You’re gonna be filthy rich. What’s in your anti-vaccine vaccine?”

“Organic bleach, and super-duper sunshine. And one with THC, for the potheads, but that costs more. But I gotta get the mix ratios just rigt..”

“Do you inject it, or ingest it?”

“They can stick it in their asses, for all I care, Miss Margot, pardon my French. I’m gonna send the first one to Trump. He’ll be all about it. I’ll cut him in for a piece of the action.”

“Well, you’ll have to cut Putin in, too, then. You know they’re partners on everything.”

“That’s okay. I don’t mind. I ain’t greedy. I don’t even want the money.”

“Excellent. When you’re done with that one, maybe you can come up with a vaccine for greed.”

“Yeah, and one for stupid, too.”

“You’re the second coming of Jonas Salk, Daisy.”

“Oh, I wonder if the Freedom Fries Fighters guys are digging up his grave rigt now, and crucifying him in absentia. But they’re probably still looking for Galileo’s grave. They wanna burn his bones at the stake. That’s the only way to get this witch hunt started, back where it started. Damn scientists, always trying to lead us out if the dark ages. And Cookie Monster, Little Boy Blue, Tiny Tim, and Tinky Winky, too. They out to get us all, Miss Margot.”

“You’re probably rigt, Daisy. Better be careful with all that anti-vaccine vaccine hocus pocus alchemy. Maybe you should work on creating stronger leaches, for better bloodlettings.”

“You figure? Maybe some better thoughts and prayers, too, huh?”

“Sounds prudent. I don’t think they’ll come for you, with torches and pitchforks, for that, so long as you’re not praying to Molloch.”

“Well, I have been known to run with some devils, Miss Margot.”

“Speaking of running with the devil, I don’t see your van outside. Has Eddie finally died and gone to Hell?”

“Nah, Van Halen is just blowing a lotta blue smoke, so I’m riding my bike, ‘til I can get him fixed. It’s better for the environment. The air was so clear this morning I could see the Statue of Liberty over top the Sleeping Giant for the first time ever.”

“Okay, Daisy, you keep living your life like there’s no tomorrow.”

“What else can you do, when you live in a shoe?”

“Double down on your soul, and let the good times rock n roll, Daisy, you ain’t crazy! Do you know where Kitty’s at?”

Walking out of the resto, Kitty answered the question, “I’m rigt here, Margot.”




dj jc cover front


92 B

92 a

92 c



“Daisy?” Daisy smiled at the sound of Kitty’s voice calling her name, and turned. “Have you seen Lance?”

“He’s in the dining room.”


“Stephen just left,” Daisy answered, getting close enough so no one else would hear her, not that there was anyone else in the lobby. “He did not look happy, and he left before we could get his dinner to him. Please tell him we’re sorry, when you see him.”

“Thanks, Daisy. I’m sure it’s not a problem, but you better bring Madonna six more of whatever she’s drinking. Tell her Gaga sent ‘em.”

Six more? Yee haw! She’s givin’ ‘er bullets! She gonna get all hog sloppy and give us a show? Should I make ’em doubles?”

“Send a dozen Mr. Canoeheads up to her boyfriend, while you’re at it. Maybe they’ll both get all hog sloppy, and give us a show we’ll never forget!”

Lance Lear was working on his laptop. He looked up when Kitty spoke his name as she approached. She opened with a question, “You okay?”

“I gave him the cold shoulder,” Lance replied without expression. Kitty waited. “He told me about VoV. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It wasn’t important for you to know at the time. If I had told you, it would have complicated things, and I didn’t need any complications. And, I really didn’t know much about VoV until I brought him up with the King of Horror, just now.”

Fighting his impulse to be petulant, Lance took a long, hard look at Kitty. Looking into her bottomless black eyes, he knew she had done him no wrong, nor would she ever, and vowed to himself that he would never knowingly do anything to harm her, either. “Okay, fair enough.”

Relieved, Kitty sat down. “So, you just blew him off? Daisy said he did not look happy when he left.”

“I listened to what he had to say. He asked if I wanted to start talking about us, as if there is any such thing as us.”

“Us being you and him, not you and me?”

“You and me?” Lance laughed. “What the Hel would I know about you and me? You’re writing this story, not me.”

Kitty smiled. “How do you like it so far?”

“You certainly have me hooked, but it’s a bit confusing, and frustrating.”

“And we’re only in Act 2!”

“How many acts in this one?”

“I have no idea. But I know it gets better, and better.”

“But it has to crash, at some point, and then get better again.”

“Says who? What, is that in some writer’s manual, or rule book? Is that the formula? Life doesn’t work like that, not for anyone, and our story sure as Hell ain’t gonna follow some damn Hollywood formula.”

Lance let it go. “Anyway, I didn’t blow him off so much as I gave him the cold shoulder. I’m in no hurry to get into it with him. But I did stick a fork into him today.”

“Did you!?”

“I called Madonna, mom.”

Kitty shrieked laughter. “Seriously?” Lance just grinned. “How did she react?”

“They were both stunned silent. Very uncomfortable. I acted like it was nothing, and moved along to whatever we were discussing. Very nonchalant.”

“That’s hilarious! Good boy!” Kitty’s phone rang. “It’s Margot. I have to take this.” She took it, hung up, got up, and said, “She’s here. I have to go tell her about VoV. Wanna come with?”

The boy who would be King, thought about and declined the invitations, saying, “No. I’m working on something.”

“What are you working on, my lovely, little wordsmith?”

“The Old Leather Pussy Bond idea,” the boy said with a mischievous grin.

“Really? Are you really?” Kitty asked with a bigger grin.

“Yeah. Ideas are coming. I’m just making notes. Building a bit of a skeleton story.”

Kissing her boy on the top of his head, Kitty said, “Perfect! You let your imagination run wild, Lance, I’ll talk to you later. You know we’re all heading out tomorrow, rigt?”

“Wagons ho! Let’s get this show on the road!”




dj jc cover front


91 a




He didn’t like it, but Kitty convinced Stephen that it fell to him to tell his bastard son that another of his abandoned progeny had entered, stage left. At first, King argued, out of trepidation, that it would be better for Kitty to tell Lance about VoV, since she was the one who’d found him, or her, and the three of them had already met. Kitty told him to put his big boy pants on, and man up to the job. Her mocking clinched the argument, which was, in fact, a feint, as Kitty had business to tend to with Madonna, and needed to be alone with her to explain a few things.

Before heading to the pool, where Stephen said she would find Madonna, Kitty made a quick call to Margot, to tell her what Stephen had told her about VoV. Margot told her to hold all that, as she would drop by Valhalla, on her way into town.

Madge was lounging poolside, sipping a cocktail, when Miss Kaboodle wandered in. “Hi Kitty. How’d the shoot go?”

“Good, I guess. I didn’t bother to check the pics.”

“No, no need to. It’s impossible to take a bad shot of you.”

Not feeling flirtatious, Kitty ignored the compliment. “Listen, there’s been a development that you need to know about.” Having read everything her father had ever written, Kitty knew the value of an alluring lead, and demonstrated her ability to conjure one by announcing, “Another one of Stephen’s abandoned children has turned up.”

Madonna raised her brows, and picked up her drink. Kitty told her all about VoV. Madge was intrigued, but not overly alarmed. “If you believe VoV is here to aid the cause, I believe it, too. As for his, or her business with Stephen, that’s between them. Every deadbeat dog of a dad must have his day.”

Having disposed of the preliminaries, Kitty got down to the main bout. “We’re all moving on, on the morrow, Stephen and I to Ottawa, to meet Gotcha, you and Lance to Vancouver, to meet the royal runaways. The Staals will be off to Ireland, to corner Conner McGregor, and Margot will be off to London, to establish her Empire of Love.”

“Empire of Love. That’s very poetic. It would make a great album title.”

“Thanks. It’s all yours. But it comes with a price.”

“And what’s the price?”

“Listen, Madonna, everything that we are doing has been foretold.”


“Yes, foretold. I don’t understand how. It’s something to do with time, which I still can’t wrap my head around. For all I know, this all may have happened already, and time is running backwards. If so, you could derail it. Or maybe it all went wrong, last time, and we have a second chance to make it rigt, this time”

“Derail it? Me? How?”

“I’ve seen how you look at Lance. Madonna’s face pleaded innocence, but Kitty knew better. “Don’t bother denying it.

I’ve heard it all before
I’ve heard it all before
I’ve heard it all before

I don’t wanna hear
I don’t wanna know
Please don’t say you’re sorry

I’ve heard it all before
And I
will take care of myself

I don’t wanna hear
I don’t wanna know
Please don’t say ‘forgive me’
I’ve seen it all before
And I
can’t take it anymore

Stunned, Madonna began to object, “Listen, Kitty…”

Kitty cut her off,

I’ve heard it all before
I’ve heard it all before
I’ve heard it all before

Don’t explain yourself
‘cause talk is cheap
There’s more important things
Than hearing you speak

“You need to understand one thing, Madonna; the boy is not for you. If you test him, and tempt him, and he fails, we all fail with him. And darkness will descend… and rain will fall… and evil will reign… and you’ll end up in a whorehouse, in Laos, sucking dirty dicks for wooden nickels. An Empire of Love cannot be built on a corrupt foundation. Lance must remain pure. For me.”

Madonna twitched. Her eyes blinked rapidly for four seconds, then she asked,

You want his ugly?
You want his disease?
You want his everything
as long as it’s free?
You want his love?”

Kitty answered

Love, love, love,
I want his love

Madonna twitched. Her eyes blinked rapidly for four seconds, then she asked,

You want his drama?
The touch of his hand?
You want his pleather studded kiss in the sand?
You want his love?”

Kitty answered,

Love, love, love
I want his love.”

Madonna twitched. Her eyes blinked rapidly for four seconds, then she asked, “What the fuck was that? What just happened?”

Kitty laughed, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that was a warning shot, from someone in the light, trying to tell you something about how you and Lance could write a bad romance. And, really, haven’t you had enough of those, already? You see, you want all those things you asked me if I want from Lance. You want his everything, as long as it’s free. Well, ain’t none of it free. This I know, ‘cause I’m a free bitch, baby. It comes at price far too steep for you to pay, so we will all have to pick up the tab. All I want is his love.

Love, love, love

I want his love

“I want his pure love. Do not taint it.”

Madonna sat silent, contemplating.

Message delivered, Kitty rose, but fired one last shot, and this one was meant to do maximum damage. “Don’t let your vanity delude you. He calls you Old Leather Pussy.”

Aghast, Madonna could only manage one exasperated word, “What?”

Smiling, Kitty answered, “Oh yeah. He calls you Old Leather Pussy all the time. He wants to write a screenplay, for a new Bond flick, with you as the ultimate Bond villain; Old Leather Pussy.

“Ask him about it, when you’re in the tunnel, tomorrow. You’ll have plenty of time in there, but not when you come out. Your days are numbered.

“Go out gracefully, doing good work. In order for us to succeed, this time you must not suck seed.”

Kitty blew Madonna a kiss, said “Ciao, bella,” turned, and departed.




dj jc cover front





As requested, Stephen was sitting atop the picnic table when Kitty and Daisy pulled back into Valhalla. Daisy headed inside, and Kitty made her way to Stephen, who asked, “How did the shoot go?”

“It was good, thanks.”

“You know, I’m not so sure Margot going to Wuhan is a good idea,” Stephen said bluntly.

“No need to worry about Margot,” Kitty assured him. “She’s on this mission, too. She knows what she’s doing, probably more than the rest of us, and she’s protected, so park your paternalism, and patriarchy.”

“That’s some nice wordwork, Kitty.”

“I must be picking it up from all you wordsmiths, and weirdoes.”

“Maybe so, but adding weirdoes to the end of that sentence was gratuitous. If a talent for wordcraft were communicable, you wouldn’t catch it from weirdoes.

“Well said, wily word wizard.”

“Touché! But, you didn’t want to see me to discuss linguistics, or etymology.”

“Actually, I kinda do.”

“Okay, let’s play. You start.”

“Okay, I shall. VoV.”

“Interesting. Simple anagram. One syllable. Doesn’t rhyme with anything I can think of. Could be an acronym. Not a word I’ve ever heard. Something you kids are using?”

“Not that I know of. You’re rigt about it being an anagram, obviously, and I think it is an acronym.”

“For what?”

“You tell me, oh, wily word wizard. You created it. More than that, you created her.”

Stephen’s face turned a puzzle. “I created VoV?”

“The name, and the… character, I suppose is the definitive word.”

“If what you say is true, and I am not saying it’s not, it’s a bit troubling, because this massive festering mess of looming dementia in my head may be mutating, and getting ready to march.”

“You don’t recall creating a character named VoV, and abandoning her? Long, long ago. Very early in your career, perhaps?”

“VoV? VoV?”

“The Vs are capitals, making it a perfect anagram, because it not only sounds the same, forward, and backward, it looks exactly the same.”

“So do MoM, ToT, and WoW. I’m sure we can find more, but what is this about, Kitty?”

For reasons she couldn’t understand, Kitty was getting annoyed, which became clear when she answered, “Evidently, Lance is not the only creature you created, and abandoned.” Stephen did not want anything to do with a discussion about his abandonment of his son. He would, with his son, when his son expressed an interest in talking it out, over a beer, or two at Stephen’s expense, but certainly not with Kitty, so he remained silent, and waited for more. Kitty accommodated him.

“When you first reached out to me, I started becoming vaguely aware of VoV. I had no idea who, or what she was, or that she was your creation, and she did not occupy much space in my mind, so I chose not to ruminate on it, having so many other pieces of this puzzle inside my head to try to put together. But when we saw her, in Duluth, I knew it was her. And she was there, at the border, when we crossed. She was waiting for us on this side of the border, but I knew she would be there, as soon as we saw her in Duluth. I knew she was there to protect us, especially me, as I was the one doing the dirty deeds.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“That’s so strange. I thought you had sent her. I thought you did not want to mention her in any of our communications prior to meeting, because you didn’t want anyone who might be intercepting our communications knowing anything about her. So, when we got here, I waited for you to bring her up.”

Stephen shrugged, and repeated, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. How old is she? What does she look like?”

“If she were human, she could be anywhere between fifty, and a hundred years old, I suppose. But, here’s something… Lance swore she was a he.”

That’s when the switch flicked in the massive, festering mess of looming dementia between Stephen’s ears. Kitty saw the light go on, sensed him rummaging around, grasping. Expectantly, she waited.

“VoV! Yes! VoV! My God, it’s been a million years. But she is a he. At least he would be, to me, but not to you.” The King of Horror groped around inside a cobweb covered data bank in his head. “Yes, VoV. Virtue over Vanity. Valor over Villainy. Vanity over Virtue. Villainy over Valor. The eternal struggle in humans, and humanity.”

He groped deeper, and deeper. “He took on whatever appearance people found pleasing. Male, female, any skin colour, and size or shape. But he, she, was young and beautiful.”

“Well, you left her alone, in the dark, for fifty years, so it’s understandable that she has withered. I suspect Ponce de Leon’s fabled fountain is not to be found in the darkness.”

“It just wasn’t working. I couldn’t fit him into any of my stories then, and my stories were selling, so I went with whatever was working.”

“Understandable. But now she’s back. She has survived the darkness, and come to the light, knowing that we are trying to create more light in the world, as darkness and confusion descends.”

“Or, is he here for revenge?”

“Is she capable of that?”

“As I created him, yes. The eternal human struggle; Virtue over Vanity. Valor over Villainy. Vanity over Virtue. Villainy over Valor. VoV. That struggle is the essence of VoV. Or was supposed to be. Or not. I wrestled with it. He tortured me.”

Indeed, VoV was torturing Stephen once more. “I stole the idea from a Star Trek episode; Let that be Your Last Battlefield. Two beings, brothers, locked in eternal battle. Their faces were half black, half white. Kirk thought they were exactly the same, but they were exact opposites. The rigt side of one brother’s face was black, the rigt side of the other brother’s face was white. Completely at odds with each other. Forever battling each other. I wanted to bring both of them together in one character, which was VoV.”

“My God, the internal torment she must have endured.”

“Yes. That’s what I wrestled with. I couldn’t find a way through the insanity of it all. I couldn’t make sense of it, and it was making me crazy, just contemplating it.”

“I can see how. So, she can be dangerous?”

“Not to anyone but me, I assume. I’m the one who abandoned her, after all. None of that has anything to do with you, or Lance, or Madonna, Margot, the Staals, or anyone else who joins this crusade.”

“No… but I’m the one walking into the dark tunnel with you, to meet an international dealer of shade, who goes by the name Gotcha, tomorrow.”

“I can see how that can cause some consternation. But what’s this about tomorrow?”

“Why not? Once Margot comes back, and tells us what we need to know about exactly how the tunnel works, if it’s more complicated than just walk in, walk out, we should all get on with it, no?”

“You’re rigt. So be it. On with the show.”




dj jc cover front





Mindful that Margot needed time to prep herself for Wuhan, and knowing that a discussion about the poor white trash Bard of Blunder Bay could go on and on, Kitty announced that she would take her leave. Before Kitty could call out to Daisy, to say it was time to go, Margot warned, “Be careful with Madonna.”

“Why’s that?”

“Nothing major, I don’t think. She has a big heart, and it’s in the rigt place. But she’s a woman who wants what she wants, and she’s used to getting what she wants, one way or another.”

“Oh, I know what she wants,” Kitty replied. “And believe me, Margot, she ain’t gettin’ it.”

“She wants Lance, doesn’t she?”

“And me, too! She wants everything. Do you know Faith No More?”

“The band?”

Kitty nodded, and sang,

You want it all

but you can’t have it

It’s in your face

but you can’t grab it!

“Who made the call on how the four of you will split up into pairs? Why isn’t Lance going with his father, and you going with Madonna?”

“You know, I was lost in thought when that was brought up, but I signed off on it rigt away. I can get more out of Stephen than Lance can, because Stephen wants to fuck me. Same thing with Lance and Madonna. It ain’t rocket science.”

You know what Einstein said about the splitting of the atom?”

“Refresh my memory.”

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save man’s modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

Kitty was confused. “And?”

“On a smaller scale, he could have been talking about the power of the mighty panty hamster.”

Kaboodle considered it, and came back with, “You know what Oppenheimer said when he finished in the New Mexico desert what Einstein started in his head?”

“Refresh my memory.”

“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Margot considered that, and came back with, “That’s one mighty and ambitious panty hamster you’ve got. You have power, girl. Enormous power. Be judicious, be just, and be very careful with it.”

“Have faith, “Margot, I was born for this. I know what I’m doing.”

Thunder babe let it go, and moved on. “What do the two of you want from the two of them, that they’re not already freely giving?” Margot asked.

“Maybe nothing. For all I know, from what I’ve seen, they’re playing straight. But information is a commodity, and a weapon, and the more of it you have, the better your chances of succeeding. So, I want to know everything they know. I may see things that they overlook. Same with Lance. And we have a better chance of getting it all out of them if they are slaves to their dicks, which, evidently, they both still are.”

“Okay, Kitty. You know what you’re doing. Stick on the ice, but don’t be afraid to throw an elbow, if you have to.”

“Thanks Margot. Good luck tomorrow. When can we expect a call from you two, from Wuhan?”

“It takes about a half hour from the time you enter the labyrinth, until you get to the tunnel. There will be no cell signal underground, so I will call when we start. So, a half hour, or so, after my first call. If it comes to pass that I can’t get a call off from Wuhan, for whatever reason, you should hear back from me around an hour after I make the first call, when we are back at the entrance, because I plan to get in and out of Wuhan in under five minutes. If that doesn’t happen, if you don’t get a second call, within about an hour … send lawyers, guns and money, honey, because the shit has hit the fan, in Wuhan.”

“Lawyers, huh? Your brother?”

“He will be expecting a call from me, too. If he doesn’t get it, he knows what to do, and he will contact you.”

“Wait. You’re going to the virology lab; do you have PPE gear?”

“We will make a stop along the way. We will look like we are from the World Health Organization, and be sufficiently protected to inspect any lab, anywhere in the world.”

“That’s almost disappointing. I was hoping you’d be wearing the Thunder Bay N95s.”

Laughing, Margot asked, “You’ve seen them?”

“Both versions, when we stopped for gas. Daisy tells me they are everywhere in town.”

“Yeah, ain’t nothing weird about weird around here.”




dj jc cover front


88 a



“Have you spoken much with Daisy?” Margot asked Kitty.

“Enough to figure out that she’s crazy.”

Chuckling, Margot said, “Yeah, that’s what everyone calls her; Crazy Daisy the Fucking Finn. But she’s crazy like a fox. You know anything about Finns?”

“No, nothing.”

“Aside from Stockholm, Thunder Bay has the highest concentration of ethnic Finns, outside of Finland, in the world. Ninety to ninety five percent of them are pretty dour. The rest are crazy. A small percentage of them, like Daisy and Brian, are crazy like foxes.”

“Do you know him personally?”

“No. Not really. He’s four years older than me, so he went to school, elementary and high school, with my brother. But here’s the story of the only time I never met him. This is a perfect illustration of what I am saying about crazy Finns.

“I had just moved to Vancouver, so it was late 86, or early 87. Back then, Canada was allowing America to test cruise missiles in our air space. It was a huge issue that divided the nation. I was walking along Hastings Street, downtown Vancouver, one day, when I heard someone screaming, ‘Death! Death to you all! I kill you all!’ So, I look, and there’s a pickup truck, with a box on the back, and on top of the box there’s a scale model of a cruise missile. On the cruise missile, riding it like a horse, is a guy dressed in a US Air Force General’s uniform. He’s wearing mirrored Rayban’s, the kind Tom Cruise wore in Top Gun, and he’s the one yelling at people. Sitting behind him is the Grim Reaper. The Reaper remains silent, as the General yells, but the Reaper is pointing his scythe at everyone. So, the General points rigt at me, and is about to start yelling, until I say, ‘Brian? Brian Salmi?’ And he said, ‘Margot? Margot Freitag?’ Then the light turned green, and off they went.”

“That’s crazy! And funny! And you never saw him again?”

“No. I heard about him, in the news, fairly often. He was always doing some realy weird stuff. But that’s all in his bio, on Riff n Raff dot com. Have you read it?”

“No. Not yet.”

“It’s very funny. And it will explain who Brian is.”

“I will give it a read. So, what can you tell me about him that’s not in his bio? Specifically, how did he come to know of the tunnel?”

“That’s funny you should ask, ‘cause that’s the same thing I asked myself, when I saw he included it in Riff n Raff. I had no idea, so I asked my brother. Brian grew up poor. He lived in a housing project, called LaSalle Place. There were three native girls who grew up there at the same time. Identical triplets. Faith, Hope, and Charity were their names. Beautiful girls. And it is rumoured that every guy in LaSalle lost their virginity to one of the three, but none of them ever knew which one. The girls played that game, so none of the boys would fall in love with them, ‘cause they wouldn’t know which one to fall in love with.”

“There seems to be a lot of crazy like fox going on in Thunder Bay.”

“Oh, girl, you have no idea. Anyway, I imagine that either Faith, Hope, or Charity brought Brian to the tunnel, at least once, so that’s how he knows.”

“The tunnel of love!” said Kitty. “You must have made love inside it.” Margot simply smiled. “And? What’s it like? Is it out of this world?”

“There’s only one way for you to find that out, Kitty!”

“Experiential learning is the best,” Kitty replied. “What else do you know about him, that’s not public?”

“Four years ago, my brother, who is a lawyer, got a call from Brian. They hadn’t communicated for thirty years or more, so Gavin was surprised. And he was even more surprised when Brian told him why he was calling. He and his wife were trapped in Turkmenistan. A police state. She was working for an international school, and her boss had ordered her to start exchanging millions of dollars on the currency black market. They were gonna make a run for it, get the Hell out of there, without telling anyone, and Brian wanted Gavin to assure his wife that they could sue the school’s ass off, and that the absolute best course of action was to get out, and get out as fast as possible.”

“Wow! That’s insane.”

“Yeah, it is. But it’s even more insane. Brian was certain that the whole thing was part of a bigger plot to undermine the government, foment social unrest by devaluing the currency, which would result in runaway inflation, with the end result being regime change. Economic warfare. The kind of thing that a guy named John Perkins talks about. Perkins wrote a book about how he was involved in these reindeer games. Confessions of an Economic Hitman, is the title, if you’re intrigued enough to delve deeper.”

“And his wife was being used as a pawn.”

“That’s what Brain told Gavin.”

“So, what happened?”

“They got out. It took them ten days, or so, to make the arrangements, because they couldn’t find a flight that would take them, and their two dogs, at the same time. They wanted to go immediately, but had to wait ten harrowing days to take their dogs with them.”

“Man, they must really love those dogs.”

“You wouldn’t have done the same?”

“I don’t know. I suppose I would, but… wow! That’s a really tough call. But, never mind. They got out, and what happened?”

“It all came to naught, so far as I know. Gavin couldn’t find a way to get the school into a court. The school was legally owned by your government. Frankly, Brian was probably messing with shit he should have just left alone, happy that he and his wife weren’t rotting to death in a police state prison. But that’s not Brian. He was born with a fuck you smile pasted on his face.”

“Wait, why couldn’t your brother find a way to get the US Government into a court?”

“It was a very complex case. Even though Brain had all the evidence needed to nail them, including recorded phone calls, and email exchanges, they couldn’t figure out how, or even where, to file a case. It was extremely complicated, and honestly, it was just scary shit.”

Has your brother been in touch with him since then?”

“No. He has him on Facebook, and that’s how he knew about Riff n Raff. He gave me a copy for Christmas. I followed Brian’s Riff n Raff blog, but he stopped posting a few months ago.”

“He stopped posting at the same time the world first learned about the virus.”

“Wow! You’re rigt. You think there’s a connection?”

“Would it surprise you if there was?”

“No. It would not surprise me, at all. You think Brain has a role to play in all this?”

“I suspect so.”

“I suspect you’re correct.”




dj jc cover front


86 – VoV


“Does Stephen know VoV is here?” Margot asked Kitty.

“I seriously doubt it. I would be shocked if he remembers her at all. I am fairly sure he created, then abandoned her, all alone in the dark.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know why I know things I shouldn’t know; I just know them,” Kitty answered, staring Margot straight in the eyes. “And it’s not as if it would be out of character for him.”

“Lance is Stephen’s son, isn’t he?”

“Yes. Bastard son. Lance had no idea, until I told him, when I picked him up, on a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha, a few days ago. But how did you know that?”

“There is a mild physical resemblance. It’s hard to pick up, given Stephen’s age, but if you look at old pics of him, which I did when I got home, you can see it. But there’s more than that. They have similar mental characteristics. Impetuousness, prone to jealousy, streaks of arrogance. Not unusual for great writers, of which, I assume, Lance is one.”

“Based on what I have read, so far, of his book, Lance is a fantastic writer. Hilarious.”

“So, you think Stephen created VoV, as a character, a long time ago, and then just abandoned her in the dark. And she has survived, through God knows what horrors, and made her way to here and now, to protect us, as we endeavor to bring more light to the world?”

“I would bet a million bucks on it.”

“Lance was with you, when you met her. Both times. Does he know who she is?”

“No. And I told him not to ask. He took no for an answer. He has, more than once, so far,” Kitty said with a smile.

“You and Lance are made for each other.”

“Yes. But he barely spoke in your presence, and you’d never heard of him, or me, for that matter, until what, yesterday? So, how can you tell?”

“Because I…”

“come from the light,” Kitty finished the sentence.

“As do you, Kitty. As do you.” Margot paused, and contemplated for a second. She was going to start asking for Kitty’s back story, but knew it would take a while for that tale to be told, so she dismissed the idea, and doubled back, instead. “What else do you know about VoV, if anything?”

“Well, Lance was sure she was a he. I am sure she is not.”

“So, she looks androgynous.”

“And old. Weathered. Battle scarred. But not ugly. Not scary. And she radiates… a slight sense of serenity. Perfectly calm. Cheerful, even.”

“Are you sure she radiates those things? Or could she be reflecting them? You are feeling those things, and she is absorbing them, amplifying them, and sending them back at you.”

“I don’t know, but that may be rigt. We only met her twice, and only briefly, both times.”

“I have read of such beings, if VoV is one, but never encountered one, or even met anyone who has. It was a long time ago, time being a relative term, but let’s just say it was before you were born. So, I don’t recall much about what I read, but I do seem to recall that they come from darkness, to the light, just as you say of VoV.”

“Then you know more than I, Margot. But I think we will find out more, as we wind on down this road.”

“Do you have any idea why you spell it like that? With capital Vs, and a small o in between?”

“What? I didn’t know I did that?”

“I can see it, in my mind, whenever you say her name. Capital V, small o, capital V. VoV. A simple anagram. Kinda like Bob. Actually, no. VoV is a perfect anagram, with caps on either end, because it looks exactly the same front to back, and back to front. BoB does not, even if you spell it with two capital Bs. And it seems to be an acronym, too. And it makes sense that a writer, a logophile, would create a character, and give it a name that is both an acronym, and an anagram.”

Eyes wide, Kitty said, “Yes, it’s true. A writer with a love of alliteration. An abiding love of alliteration. A writer, with an abiding love of alliteration, would create a character with a name that is both an acronym, and an anagram. And what beautiful girl could ever resist such a cunning linguist, no matter how old, and ugly, and poor he is?”

“Not you, apparently,”

“That’s fascinating. Do you have any idea why?”

“Why Stephen would do it?”


“Because he’s an amazing, astounding writer, with an abiding love of alliteration, I assume!”

Laughing, Kitty said, “Of course. But why VoV? What is it an acronym, and anagram of. Or for? Do you have any idea?”

“No, I don’t. I’d never even heard of VoV before you mentioned her, a couple minutes ago, and didn’t realize the name is a perfect anagram until just now. I’ll give it some thought, but I think you’d better talk to Stephen about this. She is his creation, after all. I suggest you do so as soon as you get back to Valhalla. This is likely to be of no small import.”

“Agreed. I will.”

Looking at her watch, Margot said, “Moving along to other strange characters, you wanted to know something about Brian.”

“Salmi. Yes. Yes, I do. Tell me.”




dj jc cover front




Once Daisy had lead Karma back into the barn, and was out of earshot, Kitty told Margot, “There’s someone who will be watching over you, when you and Steve go to Wuhan.”

Fascinated, Margot asked, “Who’S that?”

“I haven’t told the others this, yet, and I’d rather we keep it between us for now.” Margot nodded her agreement. “And I may not have decided to tell you, either, if you hadn’t said what you did about Nanibijou watching out for Steve. Bu I can tell that you believe, if not specifically in Nanibijou, you believe there is something bigger, much bigger than us, in this big room we live in.”

Margot contemplated engaging with the girl, but decided to just let her carry on, and she did. “Everything that we – and by we, I mean those of us who have already come together, and those who will join us – will do, has been foretold.

“Don’t bother asking me how I know this, because I don’t know. I just know. I know, because long before Stephen even contacted me, I knew he would. And I have known pretty much all that’s happened so far, before it came to be.

“To be clear, I am not talking about the virus, and the bigger world picture. I am talking only about what I have personally experienced so far, including meeting you. No, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen next, because I honestly don’t know. I only know what’s going to happen a few seconds, or minutes, before it happens. Like when Stephen first called me. I knew he was going to, but I didn’t know why, or when. I didn’t know it for sure, because it was my first experience with this. But a minute or so before my phone rang, I expected it to. And it’s been happening like that ever since. Just like I know that Daisy is going to come out of the barn, and ask if she can take Daisy out for a ride, if we’re gonna be a while.”

The two turned their attention to the barn. It took about ten seconds, but sure enough, Daisy came out and asked, “Miss Margot? Is it okay if I take Karma for a ride, if you two are gonna be a while?”

Margot looked at Kitty and asked, “So, what am I going to say?”

“You’re going to say, ‘No, Daisy, no time for that. I’m sorry, but we won’t be long.’” Margot said exactly that, but before doing so, she asked Kitty, “And what is Daisy going to say?”

“That’s okay. Maybe next time. She’s a really beautiful horse. Sorry to interrupt.” And that’s exactly what Daisy said.

“And do you know what I am going to say, next?” Margot asked, after Daisy had retreated into the barn.

“No. I don’t know everything, all the time. Time. Time. There it is, again. Time, time, time. What the Hell is it about time? I can’t figure it out, but when you said there is no such thing as time in the tunnel, I knew it was true. And I’d been thinking it, ever since I read about the tunnel in Riff n Raff, even though Salmi makes no mention of that.”

“Maybe he doesn’t know.”

“Do you know him? He’s from here. You’re about the same age.”

“I do, and I don’t. But hold that thought. Let’s get back to where you were wanting to go, before Daisy came out. You were saying someone, or something will be looking over all of us. Is it all of us?”

“Yes, it is all of us. All of us who are truly committed to this.”

“Okay, so, once again, who is it?”

“This is going to sound crazy, even for me… even for you, and I know you’ve seen, and been a lot crazier than me.” Margot smiled knowingly, but waited for Kitty to continue. “Her name is VoV. Lance and I met her in Duluth, as we were making our way here. I was expecting her, somehow, so I wasn’t at all surprised to see her standing on the side of the road, watching us, as we took a break, and read the Star Trib.

“And she was there when we snuck across the old border crossing, just as I knew she would be. She will always be there, when there is danger. So, she will be with you and Steve, when you go to Wuhan tomorrow.”

“That’s fascinating, Kitty, all of it. And I believe it all to be true. In fact, I know it to be true.”

“Because you come from the light.”

“Because I come from the light. What else do you know about VoV? Does she come from the light, too?”

“No. In fact, she comes from the dark. But she has come to the light, if you take my meaning.”

“I take your meaning. She has come to the light, from the dark, so she knows darkness, and has rejected it for the light.”


“She was created by Stephen.”

“Yes,” Kitty confirmed. “She was created by Stephen. And she has come from the darkness, to the light, to watch over us.”

86 – VoV



dj jc cover front




A quick honk of the flatbed Ford’s horn announced the arrival of Kitty and Daisy at Thunder Babe’s ranch on Canady Mountain. Margot came out of the barn to greet them, “Welcome to Anarchia, girls.”

“Anarchia? Like Antarctica for anarchists?” Kitty asked.

“Very good!” Margot commended Kitty’s clever deciphering of a puzzle that many found imparsable. “A little slice of silence and serenity, far from the madding crowds.”

“You should have a little robot penguin, with a circled A on her chest, running around,” Kitty joked.

“I used to have a sign, at the entrance, and another along the road in from the highway, of a penguin with a circled A on her chest, but the kids kept stealing them, so I gave it up.”

“It was probably some Linux geek,” Kitty reasoned.

“Kinda goes against the spirit of it all, doesn’t it?” Margot asked, rhetorically.

“There are mouth-breathing anarchists, and their first rule is, all property is theft,” Kitty pointed out.

“Well, they should make their own damn signs,” Margot countered. “They’re always the ones trying to make the rules. The Ayatollah Anarchists.”

“The Ayatollah Anarchists! Love it!” said Kitty.

“Let’s get down to it, shall we?” Margot asked. “Stay here a second, please and thank you.” She disappeared into the barn, came rigt back out with a horse, and asked, “Are you shy, Kitty/?’

“No, Miss Kitty ain’t shy,” Daisy answered. “You should see her stretching routine before she goes for a swim!”

“You saw the recording,” Kitty wanted to know.

“Recording? No, I was watching from the boys change room.”

Kitty smiled, and didn’t bother to ask what Daisy was doing in the boys change room. Then she thought about it, and asked, “Were you in there with Lance?”

“Oh, no, Miss kitty. I would never mess with your boyfriend… unless you was there.”

“Girls, you have a whole hotel full of empty rooms to continue this, or you’re welcome to use the barn, if that’s your thing, but I do have places to go, and people to see, so if you don’t mind…”

“No, I ain’t shy,” Kitty said, unnecessarily. “What can I do for you?”

“Great. Get your clothes off, and get Daisy to help you up on my girl, Karma. Don’t worry; she’s as gentle as can be. I’ll go get my camera.”

“What a beautiful name,” said Kitty. “I guess you named her that, because if you’re sweet to her, she’ll be sweet to you?”

Still walking away, Margot turned her head, and said, “That’s true, but that’s not why I named her Karma. I named for a girl I knew in Vancouver. Karma Leroux. She had a leonine mane of cascading, black curls, the body of Venus, and the soul of an angel.”

By the time Margot got back, camera around her neck, and a tickle trunk in hands, Kitty was mounted on Karma, stroking her, and singing softly in her ear. Margot stopped to admire the scene for a second, then put the tickle trunk on the ground, opened it, and started going through an assortment of hats. Settling on one, she handed it to Kitty, and said, “Lady Godiva in a cowgirl hat? What do you think?

Adjusting it on her head, Kitty asked, “What do you think, Daisy?”

“I think I’m gonna go see the Prime Minister soon as I can, and get you a maple leaf passport, Miss Kitty. You’re so hot!”

Margot gave her opinion by snapping off a dozen quick shots, and moving to catch Kitty’s beauty from another angle. “Daisy’s rigt, you’re gorgeous. Those Wuhan boys are gonna be gaga for you.”

“Are you really gonna go to Wuhan,” Kitty asked.

“Yes. Why not? Is there a more interesting place o the planet, rigt now? Wuhan’s where it’s at, and where it started. We may discover something of crucial importance there.”

“You’re not afraid?” Kitty inquired, as Margot continued to shoot her from different angles.

“Afraid? No. I come from the light. I’ll be alrigt. And Steve… Steve is from… somewhere else. He has Nanibijou watching over him.”

“Steve is your old, high school flame, I take it?” asked Kitty.

“You mean Steve Collins?” Daisy wanted to know.

“Both correct,” Margot confirmed.

“Who’s Steve Collins?” Kitty asked. “Sounds like a local legend.”

“Oh, he is, Miss Kitty.”

“He is a local legend. World class ski jumper, way back then. When he was little, before he even started jumping, he would take the tunnel to watch World Cup competitions. That’s how he got hooked on the sport.”

“Wow! I bet you’ve had a few really interesting boyfriends,” Kitty guessed.

Margot smiled, and replied, “Well, maybe one, or two.”

“That’s so cool, Miss Margot,” Daisy said. “I’ve seen pics of him, when he was a jumper. He was beautiful.”

“Yeah, he really was,” Margot assured Daisy.

“And you’ve spoken with him about this? And it’s all systems go?” Kitty wanted to know.

“Lift off tomorrow morning, brigt and early. He’s all about it. Says he hasn’t been on a tunnel adventure for decades, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the last girl he took into that timeless tunnel of love!” Margot clicked through the dozens of shots she’d snapped, and said, “Yeah, the Wuhan boys will be all woohoo for you, girl. I have all I need. You can climb down, Kitty.

Daisy rushed over to help Kitty dismount. Understanding that Margot had other things to do, and needing to talk to her in private, Kitty said, “Daisy, can you give us a minute, please? I have to talk to Margot in private.”




dj jc cover front




The curious creature known as Daisy cleared her throat, and said, “I wrote this when some of my friends were in Mexico. I couldn’t go, but really wanted to, so I imagined what me and Peanut would do if we could go.”

What shall we do with this Peanut Taco?
What shall we do with this Peanut Taco?
What shall we do with this Peanut Taco?
Errlie in the morning

“So, the picture would be of me looking at PT, sometimes I call her PT, as in PT Barnum, ‘cause she’s so entertaining. Anyway, the pic is of me just looking at PT as she sleeps, and there’s a clock on the wall that shows the time as 6:30. So, on the next page, I sing the chorus”

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

“And the pic is of me and PT laughing and dancing. Then you turn the page, and sing.”

Give her a sombrero, make her an amigo
Give her a sombrero, make her an amigo
Give her a sombrero, make her an amigo
Errlie in the morning

“’cause it’s Mexico, and ‘cause sombrero rhymes with taco. Well it kinda does. And the pic is of me and Peanut wearing sombreros, and laughing, but the clock on wall in the background shows it is 6:45, now. And then you sing the chorus again. That’ll be the easy part for the kids to remember, ‘cause it’s always the same, and you sing it after every verse.”

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

“And there’s a pic of us wearing sombreros, laughing and dancing. Then you turn the page and sing,”

Take her to the canteen, feed her a burrito
Take her to the canteen, feed her two burritos
Take her to the canteen, feed her three burritos
Errlie in the morning

“’cause it’s breakfast time, and we’re hungry, and she can eat a lot, a lot, and ‘cause… well, I’ll tell you that part later. And the pic is of us wearing sombreros, laughing, sitting in a canteen with three burritos on our plates, and a clock on wall in the background shows it is 7:00, now.”

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

“And then a pic of us wearing sombreros, laughing and dancing inside the canteen.”

Give her a revolver, make her a bandito
Give her a revolver, make her a bandito
Give her a revolver, make her a bandito
Errlie in the morning

“And the pic is o me and PT wearing sombreros, laughing, with guns in our hands, and the clock on wall in the background shows it is 7:15.”

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

“And there’s a pic of us wearing sombreros, laughing and dancing, with guns in our hands. We are always laughing and dancing during the chorus.”

Give her a cerveza, with some fresh tomato
Give her two cerveza, with some fresh tomato
Give her three cerveza, with some fresh tomato
Errlie in the morning

“And the pic is of us wearing sombreros, guns in our hands, laughing, with three cervezas in front of us, and the clock on wall in the background is showing it is 7:30.”

Kitty had to interrupt, “Does PT drink beer?”

“Does she ever! She loves beer. Damn cat would be drunk all day, all night, if I let her be.”

“And she drinks beer with tomatoes?”

“Yeah, tomato juice. That’s how we drink breakfast beer in Thunder Bay. Doesn’t everyone drink Bloody Marys for breakfast?”

Kitty just laughed, and said, “Yes, of course. I’m not much for breakfast beer, so I guess I forgot.”

“That’s okay, pretty Kitty, I’ll learn you one morning.”

“I look forward to that, Daisy. Pardon the interruption. Please, carry on.”

“Okay, so where was I? Rigt!”

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

“And the pic is of us wearing sombreros, laughing, with guns and cervezas in our hands, and we’re dancing, of course, ‘cause we’re always laughing and dancing in the chorus, and ‘cause, well ‘cause we just pounded back six beers, and it ain’t even eight a.m. yet. Oh, yeah, there’s a clock in the picture, and it shows it’s 7:45, now. So, you turn the page again, and sing,”

Take her to the opera, wearing a tuxedo
Take her to the opera, wearing a tuxedo
Take her to the opera, wearing a tuxedo
Errlie in the morning

“And there’s a pic of PT and me wearing sombreros, and tuxedos, laughing, guns in our hands, walking into the opera, and there’s a clock on a wall showing it’s eight o’clock, ‘cause that’s what time the breakfast opera starts in Mexico. Now, that’s not true, but kids don’t know that. Tell the little fuckers anything, and they’ll believe you.”

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

“And this time, this is the real funny part, ‘cause the two of us are just gibbled, ‘cause we’ve already pounded back six beers, for breakfast, and we’re wearing sombreros, and tuxedos, and we’re laughing, with guns in our hands, inside the opera. The two of us are farting like crazy, “cause we ate three bean burritos, and we’re shooting our guns in the air, like drunken Mexican banditos, and people are holding  their noses, “cause we’re farting like crazy, and they’re all running away, ‘cause they think we’re gonna shoot ‘em, which we ain’t, we’re just having a little fun. Kinda like a warm up act, before the opera starts. And that’s kinda how the story ends, but the song kinda repeats, one line per page, with a new/old pic. So, like this, ‘cause this is how the real song ends,”

That’s what we do with this Peanut Taco

“And we just repeat pic of us wearing sombreros and laughing,”

That’s what we do with this Peanut Taco

“And we repeat the pic of us wearing sombreros, laughing, and dancing, with burritos in your hands,”

That’s what we do with this Peanut Taco

“And we repeat the pic of us wearing sombreros, laughing, and dancing with guns in our hands,”

That’s what we do with this Peanut Taco

“And we repeat the pic of us wearing sombreros, laughing, and dancing, with guns and cervezas in our hands.”

That’s what w do with this Peanut Taco

“And we repeat pic of us wearing sombreros, and tuxedos, laughing, guns in hands, inside the opera, just pissed! And the two of us are farting, and shooting our guns, as people hold their noses and run away. And then the last line of the song, which is the last line in the story, is,”

Errlie in the morning

“And the last pic is of me, and PT laughing, and waving goodbye. And that’s THE END.”

Kitty, who had barely been able to contain her laughter through the telling of the tale, not wanting to break Daisy’s rhythm, exploded in laughter, took both hands off the wheel, and applauded wildly. “That’s fucking genius, Daisy! It’s so funny!”

“Really, Miss Kitty? You really like it?”

“Daisy, seriously, it’s brilliant.”

“Aw, shucks, well, thank you, pretty Kitty. Thank you a whole lot. A lotta people say they don’t like it, ‘cause it’s got drinking, and shooting in it, so it’ll never sell, ‘cause it’s for kids, and kids ain’t supposed to drink, and shoot guns, but I think they’re all just a bunch of humourless fucks, who need to loosen the fuck up. They’re all wound up so tight that they could crack walnuts with their assholes.”




dj jc cover front



What shall we do with this Peanut Taco?
What shall we do with this Peanut Taco?
What shall we do with this Peanut Taco?
Errlie in the morning

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

Give her a sombrero, make her an amigo
Give her a sombrero, make her an amigo
Give her a sombrero, make her an amigo
Errlie in the morning

Give her a sombrero, make her an amigo
Give her a sombrero, make her an amigo
Give her a sombrero, make her an amigo
Errlie in the morning

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

Take her to the canteen, feed her a burrito
Take her to the canteen, feed her two burritos
Take her to the canteen, feed her three burritos
Errlie in the morning

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

Give her a revolver, make her a bandito
Give her a revolver, make her a bandito
Give her a revolver, make her a bandito
Errlie in the morning

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

Give her a cerveza, with some fresh tomato
Give her two cerveza, with some fresh tomato
Give her three cerveza, with some fresh tomato
Errlie in the morning

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

Take her to the opera, wearing a tuxedo
Take her to the opera, wearing a tuxedo
Take her to the opera, wearing a tuxedo
Errlie in the morning

Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Errlie in the morning

That’s what we do with this Peanut Taco
That’s what we do with this Peanut Taco
That’s what we do with this Peanut Taco
That’s what we do with this Peanut Taco
That’s what we do with this Peanut Taco
Errlie in the morning