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Queen of Swords: a novel

Chapter XV – Justice

In order to escape and find you I had first to peel Lacey’s clutching fingers off my life.

“In my day children cemented a marriage,” Lacey was saying in such an alcoholically disconnected way that I was certain her “prescription meds” had to be some kind of downers. Making her even more easily manageable. Complainers are only looking for agreement. “Every marriage is shaky till there’s children. Without them there really is no reason on God’s green earth for any couple to stay together after the thrill is gone. I mean, don’t you think that’s what explains why gay people are always moving from partner to partner?”

All the gay people I’ve known were in a frenzy to find The Perfect One and settle down, but whatever.

“Sorry, Lacey,” I said. “You know the big problem with grandchildren? They’re constantly having events. Gotta go.”
“Well, “ she called feebly, “If you ever need a “plus one – “

I nodded and smiled, but really! As if! I separate people into two categories in life: driver’s seat or backseat passenger. You can imagine what category poor old Lacey’s in.

Moralists say “criminals” – whatever those are – long to be caught. There’s a comforting belief. Can’t be true of all of us. But risk and exposure opportunities for those of us who exercise permissionless power are out there, so it’s well to be aware.

We had been told not to investigate the crime, so of course that was what I was setting out to do. No less. But I would exercise appropriate care about it.

They’ve proved that the heads of major corporations all rank highly on the so-called “sociopath” scale. What’s that mean? It means that ruthless risk takers with a grandiose sense of self do a lot better in the world than bleeding hearts and sob sisters. So what else is new. It’s the law of the jungle. Evolutionary science. Survival of the fittest, as my husband used to say.

Power changes everything. That’s my motto. To seek power, you need control. You must know that already. Obviously this woman needs to be convicted. She’s going up, Haymaker’s going up, your dad is going up. That’s what’d got to happen to leave you free.

Here’s today’s horoscope for me: “Line up priorities: what was lost will be retrieved. Do not equate delay with defeat. Play waiting game: time is on your side. Rules, regulations prove irksome, but red tape ultimately lines up in your favor. Creative urges will be fulfilled.”
First I needed to see the place where you were “born.”

The rest stop itself was easy to find because it’s right before the bridge. More of a layby than a real rest area – it has no amenities, not so much as a picnic table. No chance mistaking the place: I knew it was the right one because wreaths of fading flowers were heaped there. Who had loved this pathetic Zanelli person so much? He sounded like a born loser to me.

I stepped out of my car to check out the offerings. Yellow and white roses, from “Your Wife”. A huge white heart of carnations with a bleeding slash of red. Ribbon said, Beloved Son. They did know he couldn’t be buried there, right? Some people are so primitive. Those flowers, those offerings, should have been for you. I saw what you had left there.

What would have happened if you’d shot your father too? The mentor must be destroyed so you can truly live. No, you played that exactly right. The courts have to dangle your father before they can convict Karen Sivarro because they want him to testify. After that, he’ll go down. As trigger man, though, he probably won’t get the death penalty.

There’s your problem. It drags it out. We’ll have to give you something to take your mind off it, that he’s plotting against you every second, sending waves of hatred to the one who was too strong.
The one who got away. It’s so much more satisfying to smash them yourself. To see the expression on their face when they realize their example “Took” too well. He’s the one who set you free. The King is Dead, Long Live the King. You stopped being a victim that day, and again the day you first spoke to the police, and once again today in court when you said about your father, “He knew what he was doing.” That was your message to him.

From my bag I took the Knight of Swords card and flipped it on the pile. At an angle I set the Justice card because the dead man had been tried in the Midnight Court and found wanting. Let those who have eyes, see.

Yet still I lingered. Your spirit had been freed from that place, yet something of you still remained. The connection between us is so strong. I have never felt the slightest impulse towards motherhood –in fact have taken care to dampen that possibility several times, and yet sometimes I am jealous of the power of the bond.

Was what I was feeling now something like what a mother feels, an emotion so physical, like a global positioning system has been permanently planted in my gut and tuned toward you? Or is it because I’m a beginner at love? I have so much to teach you, but you can teach me too. In that way, the vulnerability of need, I admit I am a beginner.

It was starting to get chilly. Felt almost as if it might rain. Bought a sandwich from a drive through and set my GPS for your address. Was I surprised to see the mailbox read Zanelli!!

What’s this? What is going on? I think I sat for twenty minutes in my car. Didn’t I say you had so much to teach me? About my own business, too, apparently! The Zanellis had lost a son. I knew from reading the newspapers that Rafe’s wife and the Disputed Child had actually gone back to live with the Sivarro family. So Karen Sivarro had achieved her end and she should quit her bitching.
But that meant the “shed” behind the Zanelli home – the one the social workers bitched about because it had no running water – was available. What better way to master the universe than to adopt your victim’s identity? It’s perfect.

The mark of my youth was longing. And the Empress – my mentor – had everything. She liked me. That was the first thing that amazed me. I took it for granted that she wanted me sexually. Everybody did. She was the first to take out the tarot deck and give me a reading. She was the Empress. I was the Queen of Swords. She’s the one who introduced me to my rich, dark heritage. She treated me like the two of us were allies, two people exactly alike from different universes. She worked for a college that licensed nursing home aides. She made fun of the other staff members, he made fun of the students, and when we went to nursing homes, she made fun of the patients and their visitors. She knew how to make giving enemas or inserting catheters secret maneuvers and meanings in our own private games.

She was so witty and well read. She wasn’t a snob like my husband. She reassured me that I could become whatever I wanted. Assume any mask or guise.

When I moved in I was so impressed by her house. It was full of artwork – not originals, but big and tasteful paintings in wonderful gold frames. She loved William Blake especially. All her furniture and rugs were the best quality. Not so good as I have now but still, better than anyone around there had reason to expect. She didn’t care for clothes and jewelry for herself but she would give me anything I wanted. She was going to take me to Europe. Take me all around the world.
When she told me she was stealing from the college I knew I had to kill her right away. It was so stupid! She was begging to get caught and I wasn’t going down with her.

One of her scams was a fake laundry company. All she did was drive the sheets from the nursing home to the cleaning plant – you wouldn’t believe what she charged for that. But she used her own car! So stupid. I got her to borrow a van from the college.

I gigged her with a box cutter. She died so fast. Her eyes were open but there was nothing behind them. She wasn’t special after all. It was kind of a disappointment actually, because I wanted her to realize how dumb she’d been. But I had to get her from behind and bleed outs go so fast.
There was all that blood but I was ready for it. Her whole body emptied out on piles and piles of sheets. But I was ready for that. We’d carefully lined the van with plastic! I undressed the corpse and separated the sheets and clothing into “medical waste” bags. Off to the “medical waste” dumpster. No one ever looks in there!

For the body I had just as good an idea. Better, maybe. The college had this tree-planting thing going on. Catalpa trees lining the entrance road, each given by a different owner. We got a little plaque! I got the Empress to buy one in honor of my stepfather! Of course she didn’t know what the secret meaning was.

Robert Garvin Junior. The backhoe digs a gigantic hole and tree sits in a bag beside it. I told them we’d fill it in ourselves. The Empress thought I was all worked up because my stepfather meant so much to me, and that was true! The best lies use the truth as well as the expectations of the victim. Line ‘em up and shut’em down. Nobody knew I’d ill the hole in at night with the Empress at the bottom of it. It’s just shovelfuls of earth. I’ve done harder jobs.

I bet it’s the healthiest tree in the line, because the Empress enjoyed her food.
I threw away the plastic and my clothes in the college dumpster and then returned the van. Off to new horizons. I had new identity, jewelry, gorgeous clothes and plenty of cash.

Not enough cash. I needed a nice millionaire with a hole in his life and such are my life skills, I found one. I’ve got plenty now for the both of us.

It feels so good writing all this down. I never thought I’d find someone to tell. Now I have told you all those spirits are released. Up, up and away. Gone forever.

My husband was very into Jung, the psychoanalyst philosopher. Basically the man said we are all figments of our own imaginations. Our desires give us birth. My poor husband liked the concept, without understanding its hidden meaning. We are all subjects or objects. Not both. In our short term across this planet plain, we must ordain our own beings as well as our own lives. When I needed you, you came.

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