Before leaving Pinky to his business, Kitty froze him, while he was in mid sentence. After exactly sixty seconds, she released him. He finished his sentence from the word he’d been cut off at. The King of Horror knew naught of what had happened to him.

As she sat in the lobby, awaiting the arrival of the international dealer of shade, Kitty tested her new power. She froze every employee she saw. Then she tried to make them perform physical tasks. Nope. On and off, nothing else.

She tried to make them perform physical tasks without freezing them. Nope.

When Gotcha walked through the doors, Kitty tried to freeze him. Nope. Nothing doing. Not even when he was standing rigt in front of her, saying, “Hello Kitty!”

“Good day, Gotcha. How are ya?”

Taking a seat across from her, Gotcha replied, “I am honoured to be in your company, on a day nearly a beautiful as you.”

Kitty’s suggestive grin mirrored the one on Gotcha’s face. Wondering if the old guy had game, she was tempted to see if he would escalate to a full on charm offensive, if she reciprocated in kind. She leaned forward, just enough to clearly show that she wasn’t wearing a bra. Eyes glued to Kitty’s girls, Gotcha leaned forward to hear what she was gonna say.

After giving him a moment of false hope, Kitty killed the game by leaning back and asking, “What have you learned about Wuhan, since last we met?”

Disappointed that Kitty didn’t wanna play one game, Gotcha tried to rope her into another. Letting the smile on his face dissolve, he leaned back and asked, “How did you know?”

Kitty wasn’t playing that game, either, “What have you learned about Wuhan, since last we met?”

Disappointed that Kitty didn’t wanna play that game, either, and fully understanding that the girl would dictate what games were played, when, where, and how, Gotcha gave up, and gave her an answer, “The lab was evacuated. They’re saying it was either a false alarm, or a drill.” Knowing there was more to come, Kitty waited. Gotcha delivered, “But our people have gone incommunicado. Disappeared.”

“So, how do you know what’s being claimed?”

“The evacuation is an open secret in the intel world. All eyes are on that lab. When the eyes in the sky see hundreds of people spilling out of it, with alarms blaring, it’s impossible to miss. When phones start ringing, answers have to be given.”

“Is anyone buying the answer?”

“Cautiously, yes. The doors re-opened less than an hour after the alarms started. The consensus is that that would not be the case, if they were at all worried that anything escaped.”

“What about your people?”

“Don’t know. We’re looking.”

Satisfied that he was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, Kitty moved on. “How much time do you have?”

“I’m all yours.”

“And I’m all yours,” Kitty said, with a suggestive overtone. “Pinky will not be joining us.”

“Yeah, he called and told me. Would you care to dine at my club? It’s out in the valley, about a half hour drive, with the streets empty. Beautiful spot.”

“Far from the madding crowds?” Kitty laughed.

“Come on. You’ll love it.”

There was no way in Hell Kitty was going anywhere with him, at least until she had some idea of why she couldn’t freeze him, but was able to pry inside the filing cabinets in his mind.

In fact, she wasn’t going anywhere with him, unless she had a quick and easy way out, just in case.

Then she realized that she had no quick and easy way out of anywhere, except her suite, on the grounds of Parliament Hill, or underneath the giant spider, outside the National Gallery.

“No, let’s stay here. I want to be nearby, in case Pinky has problems holding his liquor.”

Nodding, Gotcha said, “That’s very sweet. Okay, all the food here is first rate. A little lacking in vegan options, but I imagine you already know that, so….”

“You’ll have to pardon me for a couple minutes, please and thank you. I have to go back to my room.” When Gotcha raised an eyebrow, Kitty answered his silent question, “I’ve just now discovered that I am not pregnant,” she laughed.

Miss Kaboodle knew that Gotcha could have been suspicious about her claim that she had, just at that moment, discovered that she was not pregnant. But she also knew that guys are instinctively averse to discussing menstruation on a first date, so there would be no questions asked. “You stay rigt here. I’ll be rigt back,” she said, before rising and heading to the elevator.

As soon as Kitty got into her suite, she disappeared into the tunnel. She went to the hub, then punched a portal into the restaurant, rigt next to a table with a view.





The brothers Staal pounded on the door of Sidney Crosby’s abode with the ferocity of the anti-terrorism unit of the karma police finally looking to execute a search warrant at God’s corporate head office. “Open up! Open the door, rigt now, or we’ll kick it in!”

Sid was expecting them, and suspected there would be shenanigans, so he opened the door with an expectant grin. As soon as he did, the brothers shoved him aside, rushed into the house, and demanded, “Quick, Close it. Lock it! Bolt it! He’s chasing us.”

Having watched Slapshot more than a hundred times, Sid laughed when he saw their Charlestown Chiefs sweaters, and knew how to play along. He slammed the door, and bolted it, as Eric, Marc and Jordan rushed to the bay window to close the curtains and peak out. “It’s okay, my crib is Ogilthorpe proof,” he assured them.

Eric turned to Sid and said, “Ogilthorpe? No. It’s Ovechkin!”

Laughing, Sid sought to placate the brothers, “Hey, if my crib can withstand an attack by Ogilthorpe, it can survive one from Ovechkin.”

“He’s drunk!” Eric shrieked.

“Oh, fuck!,” Crosby laughed. “Quick, you call the cops. Get them to scramble the SWAT Team. I’ll unleash the tigers, and get my elephant gun!”

Laughing wildly, the brothers gave it up when Jordan opened his daypack, pulled out a frosty Mr. Canoehead, and tossed it to Crosby. Sid studied the can, “Mr. Canoehead? Okay, but it’s a little early, no?” As the Staals cracked their beers, Crosby said, “It must be five o’clock somewhere,” and cracked his.

“Dude, we keep telling you; it’s always five o’clock in Thunder,” Marc replied.

“You guys are maniacs,” Sid said. “C’mon, sit down.” The boys parked themselves on a couple couches. “What the fuck is going on? What are you doing here?”

Eric and Marc pointed at Jordan, who said, “We want you to fight Ovechkin.”

Thinking they were kidding, Crosby laughed, “Do I get to fuck Anna Kornikova when I beat his ugly ass?”

The mention of Anna Kornikova threw the brothers off their rush. “Wait, what? You know something we don’t?” asked Eric.

Surprised, Sid said, “Seriously? You don’t know?”

“There’s no way she’s fucking him,” said Eric.

“She did. When he brought the Cup to Moscow,” Crosby announced. “I thought that went all over the league. You guys never heard it?”

“Fuck off,” scoffed Marc. “There’s no way a babe like her would fuck an ugly swamp troll like him.”

“Seriously; how drunk would she have to be to fuck him?” asked Eric.

Passed out drunk,” laughed Jordan.

“He’s the ugliest fucker to ever play hockey,” Eric insisted. “No one’s kissed the Cup since he planted his ugly lips on it.”

“I gotta admit, I damn ear chundered when I saw that,” chuckled Sid. “But Tim Hunter is still the ugliest fucker to ever lace ‘em up. That’s why the Caps re-hired him as an ass, in ’12. Ovechkin was depressed because he he’s so fucking ugly. It was some sort of mid career, existential crisis for him.

“They had a big meeting of the brain trust, because they were scared it would kill his game. So, McPhee hired Hunter, so Ovechkin wouldn’t be the ugliest fucker in the room.”

“Did Kornikova fuck Hunter, too?” Marc laughed.

“I’m serious; she fucked him when he brought the Cup to Moscow,” Crosby insisted. “I can’t believe you haven’t heard.”

“Where did you hear that bullshit?” Jordan wanted to know.

“Gino,” was Sid’s answer. “He says she did it to piss off Federov. Hell hath no fury like a Russian trollop beaten in a divorce settlement.”

“Gino? Pffttt,” Jordan scoffed. “Three years Super League!” he mocked with a Russian accent. “Gino’s full of shit. There’s no way a babe like her would fuck anyone as ugly as Ovechkin. If I were a barnyard sow, I wouldn’t let Ovechkin fuck me.”

“Would you let Sid fuck you, if you were a barnyard sow?” asked Eric.

Jordan thought for a second. “ Sid’s pretty pretty, so… yeah, I would!”

“I wouldn’t fuck you with his dick,” Sid laughed, pointing at Marc. “Or his,” he added, pointing at Eric. “Not even if you were wearing lipstick, and were so drunk that you wouldn’t be able to pick me out of a perp walk!”

“Oh, yeah?” chuckled Jordan. “Well I wouldn’t fuck you if I were Better Than Doug.”

“He fucked her, too!” Crosby yelled. “In Sochi. Putin made them all fuck her, when they crashed and burned.” Sid knew no one believed him, so he added evidence. “Gino told me. He had to do it, too. It was either that, or off to the salt mines with them! Putin paid Better Than Doug ten million bucks, and paid Kornikova a million bucks to let Better Than Doug fuck her.”.”

“Well, that I believe,” said Jordan. “Gino’s a certified pig fucker.”

“Oh, I know it,” said Sid. “He’s a horn dog. He’ll fuck a donut in the bathroom of a Tim Horton’s. He’s a menace on the road.”

“Yeah, I remember that,” said Jordan. “Whenever he went AWOL, even for a couple hours, you knew he was back door raw-dogging an esky at the closest whorehouse.”

“The fucker racked up my credit card, when he was whoring on the road, a couple years ago,” said Sid, shaking his head.

“Seriously?” laughed Marc. “That’s fucking funny!”

“The fucker pulled one the cards I never use, out of the back of my wallet, when we were in Florida. He went whoring with it in Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis, after starting in Tampa.”

“That’s hilarious!” laughed Eric. “How’d you catch him?”

“How do you think I caught him? I got the statements. Actually, it was Kathy that found out. She knew I never use that card, so when she saw the envelope, she opened it.”

The Staals were howling laughter. “That may be the best prank ever,” said Eric. “Pure genius!”

“Yeah, it may have been, but Kathy figured it out, rigt away, even before I did. She called him, and said she had the security camera footage of him going into the massage parlours. Said she was going to the team, then the league, then the cops, then immigration, then the media, in that order, and nothing could stop her.

“She had it on speaker phone. The fucker was almost crying, begging her not to. We had to hit mute a couple times, we were laughing so hard.

“Then I doubled down and fucked him that summer, when he went back to Russia.” This was too good for the brothers to interrupt, so they let Sid carry on. “I got Gonchy to call his parents, saying he was from the KGB, sex crimes division, and he needed to talk to Gino, rigt away.”

The brothers exploded in laughter. “Fuck off! You did not!” laughed Jordan.

“Fuck yeah, I did,” Crosby insisted. “He gave them a fake name, and told them to get Gino to come to the KGB headquarters, ASAP.

“Then, I doubled down, a couple days later. Me and Bergy were day drunk in the titty bars, in Montreal.”

“Bergeron?” asked, Marc. “Patrice, or Marc?”

“Yeah, Patty,” Sid clarified. “I told him about it. He couldn’t stop laughing. He insisted I give him Gino’s parent’s phone number, so I did. He called the club manager over, and asked if he had any Russian dancers. He did, so he let us use his office to make the call.

“She was riding him, and translating. She told his parents that the RCMP sex crimes department had a warrant for his arrest, for unnatural and unlawful acts with farm animals. Said he needed to surrender himself at the Canadian Embassy in Moscow.”

The boys were in hysterics. When he stopped laughing, Jordan asked, “Did he ever find out it was you?”

“Oh, the fucker knows it was me, and he fuckin’ eh knows it was revenge, but he has never said a word about it to anyone. He doesn’t want anyone finding out about this one. He’d never hear the end of it.

“Once in a while, I’ll look at him, and start laughing my ass off, remembering it. He just looks at me, and mutters in Russian. Three years, Super League that, motherfucker!”

The boys cracked fresh beers, and toasted the merry prankster. “That, definitely, is the best prank ever,” proclaimed Eric.

“Fuckin; eh, it is,” laughed Crosby. “And let it be a lesson to you; never, ever fuck with Sid the Kid!”





 Having been assured by Madonna that the royal runaways were devoid of pretense, Lance Lear, son of Stephen, not Lance, the boy who would be King, decided to see if they, collectively or singularly, had a sense of humour.

So, when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived, precisely on time, Lance curtseyed when Madonna introduced them at the doorway. The Duke and Duchess, who were reeking of weed, took it in the spirit they assumed was intended. Meghan laughed, “Oh, you Americans! You’re so ignorant of royal protocol.”

“Not at all, not at all,” chucked Harry, returning Lance’s curtsy. Meghan joined the game by bowing, first to Madonna, then to Lance, and lastly to her husband. Madonna did the same, and everything was off to a good start.

Satisfied that the royal runaways were, indeed, playful, not pretentious, Lance asked, “So, how do I address you? What do I call you? The King and Queen, or the Prince and Princess, of Blighty?”

Harry deferred to his wife, who laughed, and answered, “If you do, I’ll have you thrown in the Tower! And, following a sham trial before her court, with a wave her royal hand, Granny will say, ‘Off with his head!’”

Playing along, Lance played the fool, and asked, “Do you still do that?”

“Sadly, no,” said the Duke. “If it were still so, the heads of every paparazzi in the Kingdom would be mounted along the Tower Bridge.”

Intervening, before her husband started spewing his disdain for the paparazzi, Meghan enlightened the commoner, “Actually, our official titles are the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. But, good God, we’ve had enough of that.”

“The Duke and Duchess of Success,” Lance chuckled. “It has a nice ring. There’s some a Seussian fun to be had with that:

The Duchess of Success
was attired to impress
But the Duke of Success
Well, his costume was a mess

You can’t wear that
Cried the Duchess of Success
That’s your grandmother’s hat
And it clashes with my dress

Well, wear another dress
Laughed the Duke of Success
‘cause you shan’t wear that
for it makes you look… a brat

Grinning, the Duchess said, “Nice save, Lance. I thought for sure you were gonna say fat!”

“He did it on purpose, I assure you,” Madonna assured the Duchess. “The boy likes mischief, and he has a way with words.”

“You’re your father’s son,” the Duke said, smiling at Lance.

“I’m my father’s bastard son,” Lance corrected, with a wink to Madonna.

The royal runaways fell silent over the awkward declaration, so Madonna winked back at the boy, and said, “A story for another day.” With her eye still on Lance, she said, “I think Harry and Meghan would be happy if you called them Harry and Meghan.”

The so far charming couple nodded their agreement. Then Madonna proved that, like her current boy toy’s bastard son, she too liked to make mischief, by adding, “Although I have it, from a reliable source, that they call each other something a little more romantic.”

Just a little aghast, and totally surprised, Harry looked at Meghan, and asked, “You told her?”

The Duchess put on a feigned frown, shrugged and answered, “C’mon, cut me some slack, Jack. I was day drunk. And Madge has a way of getting shit out of everyone.”

“So I’ve heard,” Harry grinned. Pointing at the pop star, he said, “You’d make a great tabloid hack.”

“It’s true, I do! It’s true, I would. But I’d have made a great nun, too!” Madge exclaimed. She looked at Harry and added, “But I only got the names out of her, not the story behind them.”

Once again, husband looked at wife, who said, “Oh, go on. It’s a beautiful story. And it’s not as if Madonna’s gonna run to the tabloids, and squeal.”

Harry looked at Meghan, once again, and once again, she said, “Oh, go on.”

“Okay,” said the Duke. “It is a good story. A few weeks back, I came down the stairs, where I saw Beebee playing a video game. As soon as she saw me, she stopped playing her game, and stared at me. She was looking thoroughly enchanting … and thoroughly enchanted. Then she uttered three magic words… ‘Husband shaped bunny!’”

“Oh… my… God! That’s so adorable,” Madonna gasped.

“Tell me about it,” Harry agreed. “I swear, I’ve never felt so much love in my life. Those three little words stopped me dead in my tracks. They hit me like a 40 foot wave of cream and honey, which drove me backwards, into a cotton candy forest, where everything stuck to me, and it all felt, smelled, and tasted like love.”

“Oh… my… God! That’s so adorable!” Madonna repeated, as the royal runaways made koogley eyes at each other.

“That’s some mighty impressive word work,” said the writer. “Can you repeat it? So I can steal it, I mean.”

“That’s very flattering, Lance,” said Harry. “Sure, you can steal it. God knows my family has been stealing everything we have been able to get our thieving, bloody hands on for as long as anyone can remember. Maybe you can work it into the Seussian story you started, somehow.”

“Looking at his adoring wife, Harry said it again,  “’Husband shaped bunny!’ Those three little words stopped me dead in my tracks. They hit me like a 40 foot wave of cream and honey, which drove me backwards, into a cotton candy forest, where everything stuck to me, and it all felt, smelled, and tasted like love.”

“Fantastic!” said Lance, clapping. “Bravo, brave wordsmith. So, she calls you Husband Shaped Bunny, but what do you call her? Wife Shaped Bunny?”

Harry deferred to his wife. “No. Ever since that day, ever since that moment, I have called Harry my little red rabbit.”

“And I have called Meghan my little black bunny!”

And with that, the Duchess of Success bunny hopped ove to the Duke of Success, and plopped herself in his lap, “Oh, I love you!”

“Oh, I love you.”

“I love you, and you, and you, and only you, I really do, I do, I do.”

“It is true, my little Beebee Baboo, and I love you, and you, and all of you, and everything about you.”

And before you knew it, they were playing tonsil hockey, running their hands through each other’s hair.

The little Black Bunny straddled the Red Rabbit, and started riding him, both of them completely lost in the moment.

Madonna looked at Lance, and couldn’t help but notice that the boy was rising to the occasion. Biting her lip, she managed to resist the temptation to grab him by the hair, throw him to the floor, and have her way with him. Turning her attention back to the royal runaways, who were starting to grunt and groan, Madonna said, “Yo!” loudly enough to get their attention. “I am certainly not averse to watching two beautiful people make love, but you’re welcome to use the bedroom, if you’d prefer some privacy.”

Black Bunny smiled at Madge, and winked. Then she smiled at her little Red Rabbit, took him by the hand, and disappeared with him into the bedroom.





Like a kid with a new toy, Kitty was thoroughly amused with her newly discovered power, and she couldn’t stop playing with it. She was the only pedestrian on Ottawa’s locked down streets, so she had to test her powers on drivers.

When she saw two cops in a patrol car coming her way and pointing at her, she turned the traffic light that was twenty yards ahead of them red. She laughed, and pointed at the cops, and flashed them her titties. The cops grinned. The driver looked around quickly. Seeing no one else on the road, he honked the horn excitedly. But before they could either run the red, or get out of their car, she paralyzed them, squealing with delight when they froze.

She scurried up to the car and opened the passenger side door. She pulled both their dicks out. She got them hard. She wrapped their hands around the other’s dick. She sprayed them with perfume. She closed the door. She disappeared around the corner of a building. She released them from their paralysis. She watched. She laughed her ass off. She wondered if they would file an incident report, and laughed some more.

Kitty turned the traffic light to green, and watched as the cops speed away down the street.

Wondering if she could freeze their car, without freezing them, she concentrated on the task. And the car came to a dead stop. She toyed with the idea of restarting the car, then freezing the cops as they drove away, but decided against it, opting to merely restart the car, and be rid of them. There would be time to experiment later.

As Kitty strolled past Parliament Hill, she froze the clock on the Peace Tower. Curious to see if anyone would be able to undo what she had done, she left the clock frozen, and continued on, into the Chateau Laurier.

When she got to the lobby, she froze the desk clerk and the concierge. She released them when she got to the elevator doors. Looking up at the floor indicator, she made one go up, and the other come down. She stopped them on several different floors, then stopped them both between floors, before releasing them both back to whatever machine was charged with giving them orders.

As she rode the lift to her floor, she wondered what and who else she could paralyze with her mind. Could she stop a tank? If she could stop one tank, how about a hundred of them? How about a tiger? How long could she leave them frozen without any effort? How many things could she paralyze at the same time? Could she take it a step further, and command machines and creatures to do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted? If so, what couldn’t she do? Who could stop her? Who would dare oppose her?

Ah, but there would be opposition, and she knew it. Could she stop a bullet, aimed at her head, in mid air?

Could she make plants grow? Could she defy Galileo and make the sun revolve around the Earth? If so, she would surely be named Pope, if she so desired, and as such she could dissolve the Catholic Church.

Then the epiphany hit her, ‘Holy shit! Am I becoming a God?’

‘Easy, Kitty,’ she told herself. ‘Let’s not get too far ahead of this game. Calm your imagination, and see what happens. If VoV really was responsible for this mutation, logically, VoV could reverse it, too. Wait. Does it have something to do with the phone call from Daisy, out there, all alone, ten thousand light years from home? What the fuck is going on?’’

As she passed Pinky’s open door, she peeked in. He was sitting at a desk, laptop open, open beer next to him. “Hello, Pinky!” she exclaimed.

Turning to see the girl, Pinky matched her enthusiasm, “Hello, Kitty Kaboodle! Come, talk to me.”

Kitty deposited her sweet little ass in a large chair. “Beautiful day,” Pinky said.

“You don’t know!” Kitty laughed.

“What, exactly, does that mean?”

“Oh, nothing, really. But it is splendid outside.”

“Yeah,” Pinky agreed. “Let’s hope it stays that way.” Kitty wondered if she could control the weather. Noticing that she was lost in thought, Pinky asked, “What? What is it?”

“Nothing. What are you doing?”

“Mostly, I have been wondering how the fuck you managed to reach inside Gotcha’s mind, last night.”

“I’ve been wondering that, too. I have no idea. But I can’t do it to you, or any of the hotel staff. Obviously, there is something different about your friend… whom we should be meeting, downstairs, in ten minutes.”

“I’m gonna take a pass on that,” Pinky said, reaching for his beer.

“Day drunk?”

“The eternal curse of the writer. As Saint Dorothy of Parker so perfectly put it, ‘I’m not a writer with a drinking problem; I’m a drinker with a writing problem.’”

“You’re writing?”

“Kinda. I haven’t, for a while, and whenever that happens, I hear Kafka laughing, ‘A writer who is not writing is a monster courting madness.’”

Great line!”

“He had a few of those!” Pinky laughed. “I’m figuring. Pre-writing. Wondering and wandering. Letting my imagination wander, and it’s been doing that, furiously, since we got back last night. If I were to join the two of you for lunch, I would not be able to concentrate on the conversation, and would just interrupt and interfere with whatever flow the two of you get going. Besides, I’ve heard most of his noise before, and have no need to hear it again.”

“Does drinking inspire wordcraft?” Kitty asked.

“Sometimes,” Pinky answered. “I got this out about ten minutes ago: His shadow taller than his soul, he plunged into the eternal void of misanthropic darkness. A stream of pulse-quickening, licorice-flavoured snake venom rocketed out of his reptilian adrenal gland, and electrified the fifth chamber of his beastly black heart. With the confidence of Hitler, he shrieked, ‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!’”

“That’s great! The eternal void of misanthropic darkness, licorice-flavoured snake venom, beastly black heart, the confidence of Hitler. Very tasty. Sandwiched between slices of Zeppelin and Shakespeare, it’s nom-nom-nom, gimme more, more, I want more.”

“Tell em about it. So do I. But there’s nothing. Some days the words just roar and roll outta my head. Other days it’s a battle akin to wresting the whip from the iron grip of the Marques de Sade’s clenched fist. Today is one of the latter; it took me ten hours to extract that from the festering mess of looming dementia between my ears.

“So, I’m just letting my mind race around the universe, hoping I can at least snatch and salvage some sentences savage once in a while. If I tried to actually write, today, it would be gibberish. Fat fingers full of beer blabbeling bullshit. Today, my good friends, here,” he said, opening the fridge and pulling out a fresh beer, are on a seek and destroy mission.”

“Appetite for self destruction?”

Thinking for a bit, Pinky said, “See? I worded that wrong. I am not out to destroy myself. I am out to save myself.”

“By getting loaded?”

“Correct. You see, my dear, my brain is constantly clocking at around warp three. When it gets up to warp seven, eight, nine, like rigt now, the fucking thing just won’t stop. The only way to derail this runaway train – and it must be derailed, because it’s headed for a dynamite factory – is to throw the glug-glug switch, and get blotto for a few hours. Sink into retardation, like the majority of the human race, for a while, and thus avoid a super nova of the gray matter.”

“Fascinating,” said Kitty, wondering if that was why the Gods drink, and if she would find out for herself. “Okay Pinky, you carry on. I have just enough time for a quick shower, before round two with the international dealer of shade. Should I check in on you, when we’re done?”

“No,” was the answer. “Things can get ugly, or at least messy, when I get this kind of drink on.”

“All the more reason to check in on you,” Kitty said.

“Don’t worry, kid, I know what I’m doing. You go have fun. I’ll check in with you, when I am no longer the blotto beer beast of Boston.”




dj jc cover front




The Staals were waiting in the parking lot of their family compound, when Margot arrived. Once again, they were decked out as the Hanson brothers, and playing with their remote control cars. “You guys are such a bunch of goofs,” she laughed, exiting her vehicle.

Eric feigned umbrage, “Just because we’re goofy, doesn’t mean we’re goofs.”

“Valid point.” Margot agreed. “I retract my statement. You gonna promise to make Sid an honourary Hanson, if he agrees to go to Montreal with you?”

“He ain’t exactly Goldie Goldthorpe,” said Marc.

“Or even Wally Pressenger,” laughed Jordan.

“But Sid can chuck ‘em,” said Eric.

“Oh, I know it,” Margot agreed. “You think he’ll ever drop ‘em with Ovechkin?”

Eric was the first to respond, but he spoke for his brothers when he said, “That’s what everyone wants to see! When we stomped the Russians, in Vancouver, we were all riding him, saying all that was missing was him rag-dolling Ovechkin.”

“That would have been the icing on the cake, for sure,” said Margot. “You think Sid could kick his ass?”

“It would be a Hell of a fight,” Eric said.

“Would so,” Jordan agreed, “But, yeah, Sid would beat him.”

“Especially if he got the first shots in, which he tends to do. Sid don’t do much dancing when he’s gonna go. He just drops ‘em, and starts chucking.”

Imagining the possibilities, Margot said, “It would make a great preliminary fight for McGregor and Mayweather. Maybe you should dangle that in front of him.”

Rubbing his hands together, and laughing, Eric said, “Now, there’s an idea! Not in a cage, though. Open ice, full equipment, but no helmets!.”

“I’ll leave it to the three of you to propose the terms,” said Margot. “In fact, I think I should leave this whole overture to the three of you.”

None of the brothers said anything, so Margot continued. “You guys know him; I don’t. I’d just be a fifth wheel. I understand Sid’s a gentleman, so having a woman in the room would just cramp all the dressing room bullshit you guys spew at each other.”

The brothers looked at each other, and nodded. “Good call, Thunder Babe,” said Marc.

“I’ll go with you, as far as the hub,” said Margot.

“You heading to London, then?” asked Jordan.

“No. Not rigt now. I do have an appointment there tomorrow, so I’ll go tonight. But I wanna take a peek-a-boo at something rigt now. You goofs ready?”

When they got to the hub, Margot cautioned the brothers, “Maybe it’s not a good idea to show him, or even tell him about the tunnel, just yet. See if he’s interested in going to the Habs, at all, first. If he sorta kinda is, and it will take access to the tunnel to clinch the deal, then use it. But if it’s a non-starter, if he wants to retire with the Penguins, there’s no point telling him. We don’t want to turn this into a freeway.”

Again, the brothers looked at each other, and nodded. Again, Marc said, “Good call, Thunder Babe.”

And with that, the Staals were on their way to Pittsburgh.

Margot went to check in on Daisy, just to make sure she was not suffering through a crippling acid hangover. Seeing the girl curled up in bed with her cat, both of them sleeping peacefully, the guru’s maternal apprehensions were quelled.

She noticed that Kitty’s copy of The Riff N Raff Rebellions Volume 1 was sitting on Daisy’s nightstand, with a book mark buried about a third of the way in. By the time Daisy returned to her duties at Valhalla, she will have finished the book, Margot knew. Thus, she would be aware of the tunnel. But would the girl believe the tunnel actually existed? Would Daisy figure out that that was how she managed to appear in the dining room, out of thin air? Would she believe it?

Concluding that the possibility was best dealt with if and when Daisy started asking questions, Margot turned and headed back to the hub. As she stood in the centre, debating whether or not she should go take a peek at the others, Margot heard a voice. She not only heard a voice, she felt the presence of a tortured individual.

Focusing, she discerned that the voice was coming not from the tunnel to anywhere, but from another tunnel, that lead to God knows where.

She had never dared to enter the labyrinth, having been warned that one could get hopelessly lost, never to be seen again, Margot was hesitant to follow the sound. But the voice was filled with anguish, and Margot’s maternal instinct dictated that she investigate.

Using her flashlight, she walked into the labyrinth, following the sound. The whimpering got louder, and more coherent. By the time she’d advanced a kilometer or so, Margot could clearly hear the words:

I’d have to know, I’d have to know, my Lord,
Have to know, I’d have to know, my Lord,
Have to see, I’d have to see, my Lord,
Have to see, I’d have to see, my Lord,

If I die what will be my reward?
If I die what will be my reward?
Have to know, I’d have to know, my Lord,
I’d have to know, I’d have to know, my Lord,
Why should I die? Oh why should I die?

The guru was gobsmacked. She knew who it was.

When she came to a fork, it became evident that the voice was coming from the tunnel on her rigt. But that could lead to another tunnel to her rigt, then one to her left, then one to oblivion. Margot had zero desire to wonder off into oblivion, so she stopped. The voice repeated, and she was certain it was not an echo:

I’d have to know, I’d have to know, my Lord,
Have to know, I’d have to know, my Lord,
Have to see, I’d have to see, my Lord,
Have to see, I’d have to see, my Lord,

If I die what will be my reward?
If I die what will be my reward?
Have to know, I’d have to know, my Lord,
I’d have to know, I’d have to know, my Lord,
Why should I die? Oh why should I die?

“Hello!” Margot yelled into the tunnel on her rigt. The voice stopped. All was quiet. “Hello?” she yelled again. This time her call was answered… with a scream of terror.

Then there was another scream of terror, and another, and another, each one less loud than the one before, further and further away, until only the faintest echo reached her.

“Jesus Fucking Christ,” Margot muttered to herself. “Jesus Fucking Christ.”

154 –



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How had she been able to reach inside Gotcha’s mind, is what Kitty Kaboodle was contemplating as she ambled out the doors of the Chateau Laurier, and onto Wellington Street. Why had she not been able to reach inside Pinky’s mind, or even the mind of the desk clerk at the hotel?

The best she could come up with was that it had something to do with the bear hug she had given VoV, several hours before meeting the international dealer of shade, the previous night.

Somehow, she reasoned, the creature that had escaped the darkness had endowed her with a degree of telepathy. That would explain how she was dead certain that Gotcha was lying to her, when he claimed he’d bought his fake Rolex in Geneva; he was speaking a lie, while thinking the truth. But it was more than telepathy, because Gotcha was not thinking about his vintage wine scam, when she extracted that information from his brain.

If VoV had bestowed upon her a power, why did it work only on Gotcha? VoV came from the dark, so maybe Gotcha, too, was a creature of the dark? Was he not human? Half human?

And how the Hell was she able to know what Pinky and Gotcha were going to say, before they said it, at least until she smashed Gotcha’s fake Rolex?

“What the Hell did you do to me, VoV?” she yelled, hoping the creature would materialize, but not expecting her to. VoV did not, in fact, materialize.

Did the King of Horror have something to do with it, she wondered, as she passed Parliament hill. She was transforming into the kind of character a reader would expect to find in one of his novels, after all.

Whatever was going on inside her, Kitty was not afraid of it, or even bothered by it. To the contrary, she was excited by it.

She did wonder if she would, eventually, mutate so much that she was no longer human, nor care much for humans, but even that did not bother her, in the least. She knew, deep down inside her she knew this was all part of something much bigger.

She also knew that whatever was happening to her, no matter how weird it all got, Lance would be by her side. Whether the boy who would be King would also mutate, she did not know, but it stood the reason that he would. Otherwise, he would reject her, at some point, and that was never going to happen.

Margot would have something important to say on the matter, especially if she could meet VoV, and reach inside of her. But there was no need to contact Thunder Babe, at the moment, so Kitty cleared her mind of it all.

Kitty’s tranquility was short lived. Once again, she heard the shrieks of Justicia. Once again, in her mind, she saw a pack of filthy lawyers raping her. This time the vile, degenerate swine were simultaneously savaging her twin sister, Veritas.

But this time she could not quit the vision, which got louder, and more gruesome with every step she took.

She followed the direction of the aural onslaught she was experiencing, which continued to grow louder, and louder, until she found herself in front of the Supreme Court of Canada. Of a sudden, the violent hysteria ceased.

Kitty walked to the stairs of the court, and stood directly between the statues of the sisters Justicia and Veritas.

When a security guard started coming through the front doors, Kitty froze him, in mid stride, without so much as a wave of her hand, or a blink of her eyes.

With the mid-day sun shining down on her, Kitty stood and listened to every word the sisters had to say to her, for a half hour.

When the twins fell into silence, Kitty raised both her hands in the Vulcan salute. “I understand. Live long and prosper, sisters. Live long and prosper… and do watch over me, as I strive to do your bidding.”

Then, remembering she was in Canada, Kitty added, “Please and thank you,” with a silly smile.

The girl got as far as the Wellington Street sidewalk before she remembered the security guard. She turned, and purely for affect, waved her hand in his direction.

She laughed out loud when he reanimated, looked to his rigt, then to his left. It was obvious the man was thoroughly befuddled. In her mind, Kitty heard him thinking, “Duh, which way did she go? Which way did she go?”




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When Margot awoke and stumbled out of her bedroom, still half asleep, she found Daisy stretched out on the couch with a maniacal grim on her face. “Good morning, Daisy. You still high?”

The girl looked at the guru, and admitted, “Good morning, Miss Margot. Maybe. Maybe just a little. Or maybe I’m just Crazy Daisy, like everyone says.”

“Oh, Daisy, if you’re crazy, the world needs a million more, just like you. Listen, I have to go see the brothers. If you’re ready, I can drop you at home. Otherwise, you’re welcome to stay, but I may not be back ‘til late tonight.”

“No, but thank you for the offer. I should get home and see what Peanut Taco has gotten up to. I could hear her calling for me a few hours ago.”

As they headed north towards the Staal family compound, Margot asked, “What were you laughing about, when I came out of the bedroom?”

Daisy started laughing again, rigt away. “I was thinking about Star Trek, and space, the final frontier.”

“Tell me,” Margot said with great hope.

“I saw a meme, the other day. It said the scariest thing we could find on another planet is more humans. Which would be pretty funny. But then I thought, that’s what happened in every Star Trek episode. Captain Kirk and his crew were just zooming around the galaxy, crashing cosplay parties. And all the people, all the humans, who were at the parties were wondering, ‘Where the Hell did these space cadets come from, what kinda drugs are they on, and why won’t they give us any?’”

“That’s funny, Daisy!”

“Yeah, I thought so. Then I was wondering what it would be like to be one of those space floozies.”

“You mean the cosplay girls?”

“No. No, I left that idea behind, and was imagining that all the creatures they encountered were really out there, and it all happened for real, and Star Trek was a documentary. Kinda like Space Animal Planet.”

“Okay, that, too, is an interesting twist.”

“So, I was wondering what it would be like to be one of those there space floozies that Kirk was fucking all the time.”

“The captain did well for himself. A girl in every port. An alien whore behind every door.”

“Exactly! And he banged ‘em all, that spacemanwhore. He spread his seed everywhere he went. To boldly fuck what no man has fucked before, is what they shoulda said at the start of the show. I mean, he stick his dick in every damn floozy he met out there in space. I swear, he’d have fucked a tribble, if he could have found a hole.

“That’s the real trouble with tribbles. They ain’t got no holes for Kirk to fuck. That’s why he wanted them off his ship. ‘cause he couldn’t find a hole to jam his dick into. You gotta admit, tribbles weren’t no fuzzier than the jungle bush the 60s girls were sporting. They just purred louder. And that’s the only part of a girl guys are really interested in, anyway.

“Hell, Kirk musta thought he’d died and gone to Heaven, when he saw all those purring, fuzzy pussies everywhere. So, he took a bunch, a whole harem of ‘em, back to his room, but he couldn’t get his dick into any of ‘em, so he said, ‘To Hell with these things. What good’s a pussy I can’t jam my dick into?’”

Loving it, Margot played along, “So, why did the tribbles hate Klingons?”

“I thought about that. Gotta be because Klingons got huge schlongs! I mean, just look at ‘em! You just know they be packing some serious sausage. Way too big for those cute little tribbles, even if they had holes.

“But Klingons don’t care if there’s a hole or not, if they get horny. If there ain’t no hole, they just take out one of their big Klingon knives, cut themselves a hole, and jam their huge Klingon schlongs in.”

“I think every girl has had the same idea about Klingons.”

“Well, no offense Miss Margot, but you don’t gotta be Freud to figure that one out,” Kitty hooted.

“Speaking of Freud, you were fantasizing about being a space floozy?”

“I was so, and I ain’t ashamed of it, neither. And if Captain Kirk had showed up on my planet, I’d have done him in a heartbeat.”

“The Captain was a good looking guy,” Margot admitted. “I’d have done him, too.”

Daisy thought about the two of them taking on the captain, but wasn’t sure if Margot would find it funny, so she let it go. “I bet you would, Miss Margot, pardon my French. “But I was thinking that Kirk must have knocked ‘em all up, ‘cause you just know he’s got some really healthy sperm swimming around in that spacenut sack of his. I mean, that’s why he’s the Captain, rigt?””

“That stands to reason,” Margot laughed.

“Sure it does. So he musta knocked ‘em all up. And left ‘em all behind, the rotten deadbeat dad. Amd you know them girls got shunned by everyone on their planets, ‘cause everyone knew they fucked him. The girls musta been complete outcasts. And the poor kids! All of ‘em was boys, ‘cause Kirk didn’t got no girl sperm swimming around in that manly spacenut sack of his. He’s too manly man for that. There’s a whole legion of James T Kirk’s bastard sons out there, somewhere.”

“It would be funny if they ever met up,” Margot said.

“Oh, but they did, Miss Margot. All those space hussies got together. They started a #Metoo of their own, on the space Internet.

“And they all hitchhiked to Federation Headquarters, in San Francisco, to demand child support payments, and any other reparations their space shysters could get.

“And all them space floozies, and all their bastard sons raised Holy Hell to the Federation, and it cost a gajillion space smackeroonies to get ‘em to quit their sniveling.

“And that’s why Picard and his crew are so damn lame. I mean, would you fuck any ne of ‘em? I wouldn’t. No one would. After the Kirk fiasco, you had to be asexual to get on a ship.

“But it hardly don’t matter none, ‘cause everywhere they go, they don’t see no space floozies nowhere, no more, ‘cause word spread, and lingered like a peel the paint off the wall Romulan space fart. So, whenever the Enterprise pulls into orbit around a planet, an alarm goes off, and everyone yells, ‘Lock up your daughters! Lock up your wives! The humans are coming, the humans are coming!”

As the gals pulled into Daisy’s driveway, Margot stopped howling long enough to say, “I think you have a Star Trek sequel there, girl. You have a couple days off, rigt?”

“I do. I asked my dad for them off, since it ain’t gonna be no fun in Valhalla, when ya’ll ain’t there.”

“It’ll be good for you to take a couple days off. Maybe you can start working on a pilot script; The Trial of James T Kirk, space gigolo.”

Exiting the vehicle, Kitty smiled and said, “Maybe, Miss Margot. But rigt now I’m just gonna snuggle up with my cat, and sleep for a year. It was a real long night. Thank you so much.”




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If Lance Lear, the boy who would be King, didn’t always wanna think the thinks he thinked, he didn’t always wanna dream the dreams he dreamed, either.

In his dream he was in the same position he’d found himself in that day: flat on his back, pinned to the floor, Madonna straddling his torso, suffocating him with her rack. But this time she was not Old leather Pussy. She was peak bombshell Madonna – early 20s, or maybe even still an oh, so ripe teen.

This time she was titty-slapping him. She was about to rip her top off, and continue the beating. He was harder than Chinese algebra, and his inner Neanderthal was coming out of the cave… until he became aware that Kitty was watching it all go down.

He knew that Kitty had taken the tunnel, and was standing just inside it, where she could not be seen. Madonna was oblivious to Kitty’s presence, until she felt the break of their carnal connection. The Queen of Pop sat up, looked around, a lioness sensing danger… or food.

‘A cat fight!’ the boy thought. A cat fight between two femme fatales, battling it out for him! Hissing, and scratching, spiting and gouging, snarling, and most importantly, ripping each other’s clothes off!

But the battle was not to be. Madonna went from peak bombshell to Old Leather Pussy rigt in front of his eyes, and she kept rigt on going. By the time she got off him, and fled in terror, she was 100 years old. More importantly, Kitty was pissed. The boy had zero desire to deal with that, so he woke the fuck up, in a hurry.

Twenty minutes later, as he rambled through the mostly empty streets of lockdown Vancouver, Lance came upon a kid, about his age, sitting on the sidewalk.

Above the kid’s head were scrawled the words







Below the axiom was the name questionMark.

The kid was reading The Riff n Raff Rebellions Volume 1. Next to the kid a cardboard sign leaned up against the wall;



it read.

The kid became aware of Lance, and looked up. The boy could not tell if the pretty kid was a pretty boy or a pretty girl, and he pretty much didn’t care much.

Lance pointed at the book and said, “Stephen King says that’s the best book written I the past hundred years.”

The kid smiled and said, “Not sure about that, but, based on what I’ve read so far, I’ll say this guy is the best writer in the world, rigt now.”

Second best,” Lance corrected him.

“Who’s the best?”

“Just someone no one’s ever heard of.”

“Ain’t that always the way, eh?”

“S it seems. So it seems.” Pointing at the sign, Lance asked, “Where you going?”

“That’s the wrong question” the kid answered.

“What’s the rigt question?”

“The rigt question is, ‘Can I come with you?’ To which, the answer is, ‘Yes, you can. Let’s go!’”

“Where are we going?”

“Fuck, dude, you got it all wrong. Once upon a time, for a very long time, ‘Where are we going?’ was not a question that was asked, when someone said, ‘Let’s go!’

“It was not asked, because there simply was no answer to that moot question. They had no clue where they were going. There were no maps. They just got off their fucking asses and went.”

Lance was enjoying this, given what he was up to. He smiled knowingly, and the kid continued.

“We are a bunch of soft, sugar-coated pussies. We are fat, lazy ‘fraidy cats, and will remain thus, until our species has the capability to explore the universe, without umbilical cords

“’Where are we going?’ Pffttt! Is it safe? Well, if there were no risks, it wouldn’t be as exciting as it is, would it? I am pretty confident, and a little disappointed, that there are no dragons there. Ogres and witches aplenty, but alas, no dragons.”

Amused, Lance pointed at the graffiti above the kid, and asked, “Are you questionMark?”

The kid laughed and answered, “No, I’m not. But if you’re gonna pan for gold in a ghost town, you need all the help you can get, so I figured that bit of wisdom might attract some attention, at least from intelligent life forms, preferably from another planet, but beggars can’t be choosers… so I plopped myself down here. And here you are.”

“Good thinking. I was just in Thunder Bay, and the same thing is scrawled on a billboard, across the road from the hotel I was staying at.”

The kid laughed, “What the fuck were you doing in Thunder Bay? Did you lose a bet?”

“Something like that.”

“That’s where I’m from.”

“No shit, huh?”

“No shit. That’s where I’m going. Did you meet any ogres, or witches?”

Lance ignored the question, and asked one of his own, “If it’s so bad, why are you going back?”

“I’m going to find a girl named Daisy. She’s gonna be my girlfriend.She’s a street elf. Wings of gossamer, coal dust for make-up. Magic wand in one hand, switchblade in the other.”

“She works at the Valhalla. That’s where I was staying. But,” Lance cautioned, “you’d better hurry up; a girl like her won’t stay on the open market for long.”

Laughing, the kid said, “No, I ain’t in no hurry. I already know it ain’t gonna end well.”

“So, why are you going?”

The kid shrugged and answered, “I used to say that I would rather lick the puss oozing out of the scabs in the crack of a leper’s ass, than go back there.”

“So, why are you going?”

“Because, although the road to madness is long, dark, lonely and cold, and even though the charred and broken people you pass going in the other direction are still smouldering and vibrating, you keep staggering along, because crazy is where you are meant to be.”

“Crazy with Daisy is your destiny?”

“Crazy here, crazy there, crazy crazy everywhere! May as well have some company, for a while, at least.”

“You’re an artist.”

“I am art. Art is my name, art is my game.”

Lance laughed, and wondered if Art would play a further role in the surreal dramedy he was living. “Good luck, Art.”

He reached into his pockets to turn them inside out, to show that he had no money to offer. But in his rigt, front pocket he found a wad of bills, and a handful of gold coins.

He pulled out the money and handed it to Art, who instantly started counting it. “Six hundred and sixty six dollars,” was the count.

Lance grinned, and thought of the three sixes tattooed on Kitty’s inner, left thigh, with an arrow pointing to heaven.

Art counted it again, to make sure. “Six hundred and sixty six dollars, dude. Are you the devil? Should I be going to the hockey stick factory in Nipigon? Do I have to sign somewhere for this?”

The boy who would be King turned, and walked away, without another word. Before he’d taken five steps, Art yelled, “Allah fucking Akbar!”




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With a look of astonishment etched on his face, Pinky asked, “What, pray tell, is the Gateway to Hell?”

The international dealer of shade and Chinese bunk Viagra pulled out his phone, did a quick image search, showed the image to Pinky, then to Kitty, and said, “Voila! That is the Gateway to Hell.”

“It looks like a meteor crater,” Pinky said. “A meteor crater full of fire.”

“The Soviets claimed that it’s a gas crater,” Gotcha informed his colleagues. “They said they were prospecting for oil on top of it, in the 60s.  The area collapsed as a result of their drilling, forming the crater. Their official story is that the gasses in the crater may have been poisonous, so they set it alight, thinking it would burn off in a short period of time, but it has burned ever since.”

“You don’t buy it,” Kitty said.

“I don’t buy anything that was written by the Soviets. I, myself, have found evidence that it has been around since at least as far back as the beginning of the Silk Road, a hundred years before Christ.”

“Where?” Pinky asked. “Where did you find this evidence?”

“In the Samarkand archive, in the library of Tashkent. It is written that, when Silk Road pirates were captured, they were hauled away, and tossed into the pit of perpetual fire. The map clearly shows that it is the same pit.”

“What the Hell were you doing in Uzbekistan?” Pinky wanted to know.

Kitty answered the question. “Catholic curiosity. He went there to research the Gateway to Hell. He lived next door, in Turkmenistan, for four years, when he was the unofficial Chargé d’affaires, at the Canadian Embassy.”

Demonstrably surprised, Gotcha said, “You really know your stuff, Kitty. But how do you know that? That information has been expunged from every official record. Are you scanning my mind?”

Kitty ignored the question, and asked one of her own. “How did you, a punk, get that position?”

Smiling, Gotcha said, “I’m somewhat happy to know there are things you don’t know. Or, do you know, and you’re just playing dumb?”

Once again, Kitty ignored the question. She stared hard at Gotcha with her piercing, black eyes, and asked, “How’d you get the job, punk?”

Gotcha stared back at Kitty, still wondering if the girl could scan his mind. Even if she could not, there was no point lying about it, so he gave it up.

“When I returned from Germany, I cleaned up my act. Went straight. Joined the Liberal Party. In the run up to the 93 election, I made an impression on Chretein. He rewarded me by giving me my first overseas posting.”

“What did you do that so impressed him?” Kitty asked.

Grinning, Gotcha answered, “It really wasn’t much. At least, I didn’t think so, at the time. Mulroney gave up the keys to 24 Sussex, in the spring, that year. The Tories elected Kim Campbell as their new leader. She would lead them into an election that had to be called by the fall. At a party, shortly after she was elected as the new Conservative leader, I said being Prime Minister is the best summer job a girl ever had.

“The joke got around, very quickly, all the way up to the man himself. He loved the quip. He used it out on the hustings. When it made front page headlines all across the country, he summoned me. Obviously, I further impressed him. When he was elected, he gave me the post.”

“Your official job was low level. But, in reality, you called the shots. You were Chretien’s spy.”

“I reported directly to Jean. All back channel stuff. I told him what was really going on, not what was being written in the reports. Not just for Turkmenistan, but for all of Central Asia, including the Middle East. He determined policies, and gave marching orders, based on what I told him.”

“And that’s when and where you started building your network.”


“You think the Gateway to Hell really is the gateway to Hell.”

“No one is fool enough to deny that there is evil in the world. It comes from somewhere.”

“And what, exactly, makes you think COVID originated in the Gateway to Hell. Is your hunch more than just religious superstition?”

He didn’t like Kitty dismissing religion as superstition, but Gotcha let it go. “There are chemical elements in the crater that seem to be unique, exclusive, to the crater. Not found anywhere else, until recently, that is. They’ve been found on Mars.”

Pinky couldn’t resist, “So… Satan is a Marian?” he cracked. Kitty and Gotcha both ignored him.

“Extrapolate,” Kitty commanded.

“The desert around the crater is home to all sorts of creepy crawlers. Spiders and snakes…”

“And bats,” said Kitty.

“Indeed,” said Gotcha.”And bats.”

Once again, Pinky couldn’t resist, but he dialed down the mocking tone, “So… COVID did come from a bat? A bat out of Hell?”

Gotcha stared Pinky down, telling him, with his eyes, to cut the smart-assery. Then he looked at Kitty, and said, “There’s an ultra top secret virology lab in the capital, Ashgabat. The Soviets established it. When the country gained its independence, they poured money into it.”

“How much money?” Kitty asked.

“Billions. Literally billions of dollars. Turkmenistan has the fourth largest proven reserves of natural gas in the world. They have money to burn.”

“How top secret?” was Kitty’s next question.

Ultra top secret. Not even the World Health Organization knows about it.”

“And you think they kept dissecting bats, and spiders, and snakes until they stumbled onto COVID?”

“As I say,” said Gotcha, “it’s just a hunch. But we could be dealing with some sort of variant strain of a virus from space.”

The curious Kitty said, “Tell me about Turkmenistan.”

Drawing a deep breath, and thinking for a few seconds, first, Gotcha shook his head, exhaled, and answered. “Fascinating place. A former Soviet republic, swimming in a sea of petro bucks. North Korea Lite. A white marble fist in a Las Vegas glitter glove to bedazzle and bamboozle the domestic rubes. A human rigts black hole. A police state. An orgy of misery, written by Solzhenitsyn, and edited by Charlie Chaplin.

“It’s situated at the historical confluence of the mighty rivers communism and Islam, where anxiety-tinged laughter rolls across the vast desert from the table, where the ghosts of Orwell, Kafka and Poe sit, quaffing buckets of vodka as they watch Faustian deals being struck on every corner, and chuckle to each other when the gluttonous, grotesque oligarchs roll into the brothels of the damned, as the sun sets.”

“Wow!” Pinky exclaimed. “That’s some word work, buddy! You ever thought about trying your hand at writing? Like, writing seriously. For money.”

Amused, Gotcha cracked his knuckles, and performed a quick recitation:

I am Krasputin
Call me no other
Mad Monk was father
Tsarina mine mother

I have lived one hundred years
I will live ten hundred more
I have seen one thousand wars
I will see ten thousand more

I have roamed from town to town
Out of work and down
No one loves the schizoid clown
When he wears his sullen frown

People are strange
When you’re a stranger
Their first thought is danger
You sleep in the manger

Humans are odd
So petty and trite
Children are sunshine
Then life steals their light

I am a seer
Nothing escapes me
I wish to be blind
For consciousness rapes me

People deplore me
Say I’m uncouth
Such is the fate
Of sayers of sooth

Come, take my hand
Quick! Like a bunny
I will show you the world
And I’ll make it funny 

Do not think twice
Come see life through mine eyes
Pain is the price
Laughter the prize!

As he had been looking straight at her through his recitation of the poem, Kitty understood that Gotcha wanted to be praised, so she praised him,” That’s really good, dude! I’m surrounded by wordsmiths! How exciting!”

The self-alleged leader of a global cabal of powerful people, possibly including heavies  and thugs, beamed like a schoolboy at the girl’s praise.

“What’s that from?” Pinky wanted to know. Is there more? It’s pretty good.”

Not taking his eyes off the prize he desired, Gotcha answered, “Just some nonsense. A late night gift from the goofy Gods worshipped by word nerds.

“I was watching Dr. Zhivago, one night, by myself, and for no reason I can think of, I started wondering if Rasputin had sired a child, with Alexandra Feodorovna, and if so, what became of him, after the Bolsheviks killed his mother. Thus, Krasputin.”

“Crass, as in the band, but with a K, because he’s Russian,” Kitty assumed out loud.

Very good, pretty Kitty!” Miss Kaboodle yawned, and stretched. “You’re a tired little, pretty Kitty,” Gotcha observed out loud. “We should call it a night.”

“Agreed,” Kitty agreed. “Let’s pick it up over lunch, tomorrow.”

“Agreed,” Gotcha agreed. Feeling very much like a third wheel, Pinky didn’t bother to chime in.

When Gotcha got home he sent a message out to the Gotcha network, “She has come! Gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh are in order. The usual address. Post haste. Spare no expense.”




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As Daisy took long pull on her Beaver Duck, Margot exclaimed, “That’s one Hell of a trip you took, Space Daisy! Is that all of it, or did you turn into a three headed, purple fluffalo, too?”

Daisy’s rolled her eyes, sighed, smiled and said, “No, damn it! I did not turn into a three headed, purple fluffalo. I forgot all about it. And I didn’t turn into a Buddhist monkey, neither. I’ll have to concentrate more, next time, I guess.” The girl thought for a second, and asked, “Do you think you could help me with that? Do you think you could put that far enough into my head, and anchor it real good, so I can actually dictate stuff about the trips I take?”

Margot admitted, “I think that’s beyond my capabilities, but I’m not afraid to try.”

“Oh, Miss Margot! We’ll do it, then. Next time I dose, I will let you know ahead of time, so we can both prepare.”

“Sure, Daisy. Sounds fun. But let’s give it some time, yeah? I don’t want you becoming an acid burnout. I saw what happens to kids who take too much acid, too often, back in high school, and it ain’t pretty. Forty years later, they’re still damaged goods.”

“Oh, I know it, Miss Margot. I know of few of them. Interstellar space trash that can’t even be recycled.”

“Know your limit, trip within it.”

“That’s real smart, Miss Margot. Real nice, simple rhyme. Know your limit, trip within it.” When Margot stretched and yawned, Daisy took note. “You’re tired, Miss Margot. You should go to bed.”

“I’m okay, Daisy. I don’t wanna to leave you alone”

Laughing, Daisy assured Margot, “Oh, that’s so sweet! But, really, it’s okay. I’ve tripped alone before. I spend a lot of time alone, and I like it, so it’s easy for me.”

“Are you sure, Daisy? You won’t do nothing crazy?”

Daisy laughed, “Define crazy!”

Margot laughed, “Good point.”

“I won’t do nothing stupid. I promise you, Miss Margot. I’m over the peak. The rest is just thinking like a Buddhist monkey, one who’s been smoking bananas!”

“You’re a funny girl, Daisy! You really have a way with words. You can really turn a phrase.”

“Words are so weird, ain’t they?” Before Margot could answer, she yawned again, and Daisy insisted, “Aw! It’s beddy-bye time for you.”

“You sure?”

“I am,” Daisy confirmed. “But… one last thing, please and thank you. It won’t take long, whatever long is.”

“What is it, girl?”

“Well,” Daisy said with a good deal of hesitation in her voice.

“Go on, girl. What is it?”

“Well… I saw you today.”

Margot knew what the girl meant, but stalled for time. “Yes, you did. Several times.”

“No, Miss Margot. I mean I saw you walk into the dining room, rigt outta nowhere. That’s what made me wanna trip tonight. You just appeared outta thin air.”

There was no point in lying about it, so Margot confirmed it. “I was wondering if you had noticed.”

“Well, God damn, Miss Margot, pardon my French, it was kinda hard to miss! That’s one Hell of a trick for hide-n-go-seek. Even a home-sticker couldn’t catch you.”

Margot laughed, and Daisy asked, “How’d you do it? You’re some kinda witch, ain’t you? I good witch, I mean.”

“I have a few exes that would be happy to tell you I’m a bad witch.”

“Well, to Hell with them. You ain’t no bad witch. I knew that even before you went into my head. But… can you teach me to be a witch?”

“Maybe, Daisy.”

Daisy smiled, then went silent for a few seconds, then asked, “The others; they ain’t really on Pie Island, are they?”

Once again, Margot refused to lie, “No, they’re not. But I can’t tell you where they are, so don’t ask.”

“Okay, I won’t. But… y’all are up to somethin’ real big, ain’t you? Somethin’ even bigger than the Staals giving all that money away.”

“Daisy, I don’t wanna lie to you, but I can’t tell you, either.”

“Okay, Miss Margot, I understand, really, I do. But the world is a real bad mess rigt now, and it’s gonna get worse, before it gets better. And I am pretty sure y’all have come together to do that. Make it better, I mean.

“People like Miss Madonna, and Mr. Stephen, and pretty Miss Kitty, they don’t just show up in a backwater like Thunder Bay, in the middle of a pandemic, no less, just to go see Kakabeka Falls, and jam Persians into their cakeholes.”

“What are the rest of the staff saying?”

“Not a whole lot, really. They know something is going on, but they have no idea, and they don’t care much. They’re mostly just happy they all gettin’ paid, even though the whole hotel is empty, accept for three rooms. And they are pretty sure they all gonna get real big tips, when everyone leaves.”

Margot did not respond, so Daisy asked, “The others. They are coming back, rigt?”

“Yes, Daisy. The brothers and I will be leaving tomorrow, but we will all be back in a few days. We will probably be coming and going for a while.”

“Gotcha. Miss Margot?”


“Really, if there’s any way I can help, I sure would be honoured to do so. I mean, I don’t know what the Hell I could do, but I sure would try, even if it’s dangerous.”

“Okay, Daisy, that’s a very kind offer. And I suspect you may play a role in this, before it’s all over.”

“Really!?” Daisy gushed. “Really for true? You ain’t just sayin’ that?”

“Time will tell, and we will see, Daisy. But for now, the best thing you can do is not tell anyone else about seeing me walk into the dining room outta thin air today.”

“Oh, no. I would never tell any of ‘em anything. They all think I’m cuckoo bananas, anyway, so they wouldn’t listen to me.”

Heading toward her bedroom, Margot replied, “I understand, Daisy. But don’t you let them get to you with that talk. You are an incredible girl, a wonderful human being. But… if you do turn into a three headed, purple fluffalo while I am sleeping, come and wake me up, rigt away.”




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