*This story contains mature themes that some may find offensive. Reader discretion is advised.*
The flick of a lighter snaps and the flame appears. The end of a cigarette lights up due to the rosy lips taking a long, slow drag. The smoke rises at the tip while the sky-blue eyes of Cynthia Le’font gaze out towards the morning horizon. The oranges and purples blend together creating a new day before her. She doesn’t watch the sunrise often but when she does, she imagines the world of possibilities. She runs a hand through her short blonde curled bobbed hair and considers how she feels about today.
In 1923, Calgary, Alberta is in full bloom and continuing to grow. Everyone wants a piece of it and Cynthia already has a big portion. She’s waiting for the time when she can have the whole thing. Cynthia happily touches a hand to her pouty lips and blows the sun a kiss.
“Hasn’t anyone ever told you that smoking is bad for ladies?” Calls the deep voice behind her.
“That hasn’t stopped me before.” Cynthia answers as she pulls her red kimono closer and takes another puff.
Cynthia faces the handsome naked man sitting up in her bed. His dark brown hair and sharp brown eyes scan her as she slips her long legs off of her window seat. She turns to stand up and tie her kimono belt. She strolls to her breakfast table as the nude man, also known as, chief inspector Christopher McCartney gets out of the bed to put his clothes on. Cynthia watches him lustfully as she studies the muscles on his wonderfully masculine body. Sensing he has an audience; Chris looks behind him before he completes buttoning his shirt. With a smirk, he seductively shuffles himself towards her and gets down on his knees beside her.
“You sure know how to treat an officer of the law.” He smirks as he trails his hand softly up the inside of her thigh, and teases her ever so slightly with his index finger before gently putting it inside her. A groan escapes her lips in heated glee. With the pressure of his finger gradually increasing, Cynthia leans closer to his ear and nibbles. “It would be a terrible shame to close down your little business operation, after all a woman should not be running things.”
As she finishes tracing her tongue around the outside of his ear, she lets out a hiss. “Your lucky you know how to fuck, chief constable. Otherwise, you might kiss your new promotion good-bye.”
Annoyance crosses his face first before he takes his finger out of her. He puts his hand menacingly on her knee and laughs. “Is that a threat? You know that your so called “bookshop” can be closed down in a matter of minutes by one little phone call from me.”
A chuckle escapes her lips as she takes her foot, and starts massaging the front of his clothed trousers. In a few seconds, she traces her toes up to his chest and pushes him so hard with her foot, that he falls to the ground. “And with all my countless pictures of you enjoying the services that I and my “bookshop” can end everything for you.”
Rage fills the young constable and he prepares himself to charge at her until a tall African- descended man lightly sets a silver tray on her breakfast table, holding a coffee pot, a pastry, and the condiments that she enjoys. Chris manages to get onto his feet but keeps his distance as the man-servant sends him a hateful look.
“Perfect timing Miles,” Cynthia pats his giant hand and sends a sinister look to Chris. “Our respectable chief constable is just leaving.”
Seeing that he has no choice, Chris grabs the rest of his clothes and his shoes before marching sourly out of the apartment. Miles silently pours Cynthia’s coffee for her as she butters up her croissant.
“My regards to your wife and children Chris.” Cynthia calls out smugly. A slam of the door tells her that she still has that “lovely” policeman under her thumb. Today is definitely going to be a good day.
Cynthia dressed in a feminine pin-striped pantsuit with a sparkling brooch on her lapel, reads the newspaper in her car which is being driven by Miles. A snort of derision escapes her as she reads about “The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union” speaking at the Catholic Church to continue the ban on alcohol. She can’t help but shake her head as she looks up from her paper and at Miles.
“Unbelievable!” Cynthia says to Miles. “It looks like we are going to get some more whining about the dangers of alcohol on society.”
“Does that really concern you, Miss?” Miles asks looking in the rear-view mirror briefly.
“Oh please, Miles.” She answers cynically folding her newspaper and putting it to the side. “They are nothing but bored little housewives with no lives so they are determined to make others miserable. I just provide the cure.”
Miles sends her a smile and decides to change the subject. “So, what is on your agenda for today, Miss?”
“First I need to go to the Egyptian Hammam. We have hired a new girl there that I have to try out and possibly train.” Cynthia explains without batting an eye. “Then I have a meeting to go to at “The Cellar.” We seem to be having some problems.”
“Then the Bookstore after that?” Miles inquires.
“Absolutely.” Cynthia says sending a warm but wicked smile his way. “We need to make sure that my baby is running smoothly. Don’t we Miles?”
“Just promise me you’ll be careful, Miss.” He pipes up. “You know these people don’t mess around.”
“I know.” She replies back and lights up a cigarette. “That’s why I mess them around. It’s fun.”
Miles chuckles and drives on. She trusts Miles with everything and isn’t afraid to say what is on her mind. He is completely loyal to her and has been since they were kids. His father was her family driver/bodyguard/servant just as Miles is to her now. She had taught him how to read and had given him his first book. They have been close ever since. Never in their whole lives has Cynthia ever treated him less than an equal as people tend to treat their servants especially if those servants are descended from Jamaica. Miles feels blessed to be working for her and there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for her.
The Egyptian Hammam is one of Cynthia’s favorite hangouts which is why she is a partner in it. As she awaits the interview of their latest hire, Cynthia rests in a comfortable white fleece robe, laying out on one of the luxurious sofas that she insisted on having there in the lounge. Thanks to her partially taking over the salon, Cynthia managed to turn this place from a name to an experience. She gazes around the room as she sips her cucumber-lemon water with pride.
The walls are dark but the lighting in the room offsets the beautiful golden-colored statues of Egyptian gods and goddesses, velvet upholstery blends perfectly with the hieroglyphic carvings and paintings, while the exotic plants meld well with the stone-like marble on the wall. To Cynthia’s mind, it is just like being in Egypt. Which is probably the last happy memory she has of her family. Before she could reminisce about it, she is interrupted by her associate Layla, who is the one running the day-to-day duties of the business.
“Your treatment room is ready Miss Le’font.” She says with a friendly smile.
Cynthia stands up, pulls her robe tighter, and sets her glass on the coffee table before following Layla down the long corridor. The sand-colored walls with carvings and a dark-blue pyramid-shaped ceiling covered with golden stars brings a touch of mystery and romance to the place. It is a good choice to have this artistry for the hammam.
Inside the treatment room, the walls have no decoration. There is only a counter top, sink, and various lotions and oils to be used depending on the treatment. Cynthia walks over to the massage bed and sits on it while Layla leaves the room. She lifts her legs on top of the bed and awaits the girl who is supposed to be administering her treatment. She goes back to the thoughts of her childhood when she was six of age in Egypt with her parents.
It was a hot, dry afternoon in the Cairo marketplace. The air was filled with the scents of salts and spices. The sensual experience stirs the soul even that of a child which Cynthia recognizes. She holds her parents’ hands as they explore all that this interesting place has to offer. They reach a small restaurant where a sizzling stove is cooking up food that she and her family have never tasted before. Excited, Cynthia is the first to sit in her chair at the simple wooden table before her parents join her.
“Cynthia.” Her mother says softly. “Did you know that the Egyptians invented many things that we use today? Things like locks, keys, make-up…”
“Shhh! Louise.” Her father hushes her mother in a harsh whisper. “Don’t say such things. Remember your place!”
With that, her mother is silenced and by the sad look on her face, Cynthia sees how hurt her mother is at that statement. After that, the meal and the experience are sullied due to her father’s harsh outburst. All of them sit in silence.
Back at their room, Cynthia waits outside as she hears her parents arguing. She can’t understand everything that they are saying but what she hears her mother say has always stuck with her.
“Why can’t a woman be educated any more than a man?”
“Just that!” Her father yells out. “Because a woman is to be a servant to a man and the bible says that is her place! You better remember that and make sure your child knows that.”
Her father bursts out of the room and doesn’t even recognize that his daughter was watching him go from beside the door. She hears her mother sobbing and peers meekly into the room. Her mother is sobbing hysterically, facing the giant French double windows. It all seems to happen so fast. When her mother opens those windows, steps up on the bench, and screams out to the world.
“YOU ARE ROTTEN!”
Then one small step has her mother falling from the window like she is a bird trying to fly free. Cynthia watches helplessly as the whole scene unfolds right in front of her. She runs towards the window screaming and crying for her mother. Thinking that somehow, she can stop her from going away only to look out and see the red life flow out of her mangled body on the stony ground below. One of the servants grabs Cynthia before she can do anything foolish. But that doesn’t stop Cynthia from screaming out in anguish at the loss of her mother.
A week goes by before she and her father return to Montreal, Quebec. It is a big change from the hot sands of Egypt. It is cold and snowy during her mother’s funeral. Her father is holding her hand and the priest preforming the ceremony is speaking out about her mother.
“Louise Le’font is a woman of sin. A woman who took her own life and now will not be recognized in god’s eyes.” The priest explains. “She will never be in heaven but we can all pray that she isn’t in hell, burning for her shame as a wife, mother, and woman.”
Cynthia stares at the priest with disgust as she hears the murmurs of agreement from the other parishioners. Her mother isn’t like this and they know it. She looks to her father and sees him standing there silent. He knows the whole truth and doesn’t speak out. Not for her or her mother. From that point on, Cynthia hated him and made a promise that she would destroy his good name and the society that destroyed her mother.
Back in the Hammam, Cynthia hears the door open and in steps their young new therapist. A pretty petite woman with bright green eyes, slight brown skin, and slender figure. She is a shy little thing, Cynthia senses it and therefore she can see that this girl is definitely a virgin. Young, inexperienced but at a marriageable age.
“So, you are our newest recruit.” Cynthia says haughtily as the girl docilely looks up through her long lush lashes and nods. “Very well. Show me your technique.” She pauses. “Seduce me.”
The young woman takes the oil from the counter and thoroughly applies it to her hands. Cynthia opens her robe and lays face up. The girl comes up to a supine-facing Cynthia and begins stroking her. She starts with her feet and slowly works her way up to her thighs. The girl’s left hand is placed lightly on Cynthia’s stomach and her right hand is placed on her left thigh. Slowly, her hands fluidly move until they meet at Cynthia’s root.
Abruptly, Cynthia grabs her hand and says plainly. “You are too shaky. You will need some proper training.” She sits up from the table and swings her legs down. “I’ll give you a month to learn and I’ll tell Layla to teach you. If you fail in her eyes, you fail in mine, and the streets is where you will be.”
Without a word, the new girl leaves the room and Cynthia closes her robe. Before she leaves the hammam, Cynthia decides to take advantage of the new sauna. After a rather disappointing treatment, she feels that she has earned that much.
Cynthia walks to her black car with Miles leaning patiently up against it. He opens the car door for her and she steps inside. He comes back around the front of the car to enter the driver’s seat.
As he turns on the ignition, Miles asks. “Was your business concluded Miss?”
“Indeed.” She replies. “Sadly, it was mediocre but now it’s time to go to the Cellar. I’ve got my other business to attend to.”
Without another word, Miles speeds off towards downtown. Cynthia lights up another cigarette as she watches the buildings fly by the car. Each one completely different and unique from the other. They are European in structure but each one from a different country. She can recognize that and the city is always changing. She can’t help but wonder what will become of it. When she looks across the street, she sees the temperance protestors outside of the Calgary Tower causing a ruckus yet again. She’s all for causing a commotion but do these people really have to stop everyone from having a good time? She rolls her eyes and extinguishes her cigarette.
Miles stops in front of the “Northern Rock Photography Lounge” also known as “The Cellar” to those in the underground liquor business. With Miles opening the car door, Cynthia drops her cigarette butt to the ground and stomps on it with her sharp black pump shoe. Cynthia looks up at the business sign and walks right in the front door. The flash of the bulb and the smell of the powder from the camera surround her but it doesn’t deter her from going behind the curtain where a heavy wooden door is hidden. It can only be opened with a special key, that Cynthia keeps in her small handbag. She enters the key into its slot and turns it quarter way to the right. The door silently opens to reveal a dark stairway that leads into a stone-walled cellar.
Cynthia goes down this stairway and turns on the light to reveal wooden wine racks filled with every kind of wine, liquor, and spirit that the city is in dire need of. She makes a silent promise to make good use out of each of these liquor-filled bottles. She turns towards a hallway that is brighter than the entrance. A few feet away is the meeting room where she sees three other men sitting along the table waiting for her. These men are other owners of hidden speakeasies that distribute the liquor in this province.
“Alright. We are here for more than just getting some hooch.” The tall imposing, Grigori announces in his Russian accent as he looks to everyone in the room around him. “We are getting famous visitor from Chicago.”
“Who?” asks the spindly man in a suit known only as “The Hand.”
“You know who.” Grigori states. “The one that the police are giving a run for their money. He’s in all the headlines with his stupid nicknames.”
“You don’t mean…?” Says Jake who looks like the average man on the street so no one would suspect him.
“Yes, HIM!” Grigori snaps. “He goes to MooseJaw, Saskatchewan and then he comes here. He’s going to invade us.”
“Oh, don’t jump to conclusions Grigori!” Cynthia says in annoyance as she arrogantly crosses her feet on the table and puts her cigarette out. “He probably just wants to do business with us.”
“Cynthia. This man is dangerous!” Jake raises his voice and slumps in his chair as if he is already defeated. “He tends to out the secret speakeasies that don’t meet his demands. We all know he is in the same business as us but no one can touch this man. He is smarter than everybody.”
“Well, he isn’t smarter than us.” Cynthia speaks as she puts her feet down on the ground and makes eye contact with everyone sitting around the table. “We own this side of the business. Anyone who crosses us will beg us to pull the trigger on them. Now, you leave this gangster masquerading in a business suit to me. I’ll deal with him. One way or another.”
“I just pray you don’t get us all killed.” Says the Hand.
“I’m an atheist String-bean, I don’t pray and the fact that you are willing to cower as opposed to keeping this business going says volumes about you.” She says looking straight at him. “You shouldn’t be called “The Hand” instead we should be calling you “The Coward.”” Cynthia stands from the table and walks to the edge of the hallway. She leaves them with these parting words. “Like I said. I’ll deal with our guest. Now get me my merchandise that I’ll need tonight.”
“That kind of talk will buy you an early grave.” Grigori calmly says.
She merely replies. “Then dig two for the man who crosses me. I’ll happily take him with me.”
The men look at her with awe. They admire her fearlessness but they wonder just how untouchable she really is. They will just have to find that out but for now she goes to her bookstore.
In “Betty Lou’s Bookstore,” there are men, women, and children busting to get their hands on the newest editions that Cynthia has displayed in the windows. Her storekeeper Ava is behind the cash register ringing up the next sale for a woman and her son standing beside her. Ava is a quiet but pretty young woman with glasses and her wavy girlish bob showcasing her delicate femineity. Always polished and precise in her work, Cynthia could not ask for a better shop assistant than her.
“Ava.” Cynthia greets her and she looks up to her glamorous boss.
“Good afternoon, Miss Le’font.” She says courteously and continues to wrap up more sales. “Things are very busy today.”
“I can see that.” Cynthia nods in approval. “Good work. I will be in my office.”
The office of her store is more minimal than the rest of her properties but that is fine by her. Less things to distract and easy to hide things in plain sight, like her father’s cane that she keeps hung on the wall. The only objects that matter in this room are her desk, two chairs, a lamp, and a gramophone. Just in case someone decides to snoop around and she can tell them that she plays music in here.
Cynthia walks to her plain desk and looks at the reports that Ava had put on her desk. So far, she is pleased to see that the sales are up. The two most popular books are “The Murder on the Links” by Agatha Christie and “Ulysses” by James Joyce. Sex and Violence always sells. Cynthia thinks to herself with a cocky grin. It’s nice to know that her fake business is actually making a nice profit while trying to hide her real business.
As she hears laughter outside of her door, Cynthia sees Miles chatting with a giggling Ava. The way those two look and smile at each other amuses her. She knows that Miles has been smitten with Ava ever since she started in this bookshop. He’s not his usual stoic self when he is with her. He seems warmer and more relaxed with Ava. She can’t blame him, if she went for the bookish, reserved type, she would have pursued Ava herself. But Ava is more than she appears since she is pursuing a career in law. Cynthia respects that. Ava wants to change the status quo and have women be equal to men. This is noble but a person has to be patient which is not Cynthia’s strong suit. Cynthia steps up and looks to see that the store is slowly getting empty.
“Ava!” Cynthia calls from the office and Ava looks to her. “Once you are finished with the last customer you can close the shop.”
“Yes, Miss Le’font.” Ava agreeably replies and gets back to packing up the books for her last customer.
Miles walks from the counter over to Cynthia as if knowing that she needs him. As the two of them watch Ava finish the little end of the day chores, Cynthia looks to Miles.
“You like her.” She folds her arms and nudges her elbow at him.
“What do you mean?” He inquires looking down at her.
“I’ve got eyes, Miles.” Cynthia says mockingly. “I know you are absolutely in love with her.”
After Ava leaves, Miles turns and looks to Cynthia blushing. “I do have feelings for her but I won’t do anything about it.”
“Because I would never leave you.” Miles turns to face Cynthia. “Someone needs to protect you and take care of you. I refuse to let anything happen to you.”
Once in a blue moon, Cynthia gets surprised and that’s when someone tells her that they care. She gives Miles an affectionate smile. “Come on Miles. We got some barrels of liquor to sneak in and a speakeasy to run.”
Adorned in her long black beaded dress, a feathered clip nestled in her hair, and lips painted in hot rouge, Cynthia clicks on the red street light to let her customers know that the business is open. She walks into the customer area and smiles as she studies her creation. The whole ambiance says guilty as sin. The red lighting, the candles, the luxurious chaise sofas are just the beginning. When a person steps in, they find Persian rugs on the floor, sultry paintings placed on the walls, and a bar full of every kind of spirit that a passion aches for. No wonder this is the hottest speakeasy in all of Calgary.
One of the servers, picks up the ringing phone and utters. “Password.”
After the voice speaks out, he hangs up the phone and opens the door that is well hidden behind the bookcase in the store upstairs. Once the bar is full and the streets are empty, the jazz band begins its lively tunes. The air swims with liquor, cigarettes, and music that the customers are happy to spend a pretty penny for. In her special corner, Cynthia lights up another cigarette as her cocktail is brought to her by a girl in a short skirt. A slow prideful smile crosses her lips as Cynthia revels in the life that she has created.
“Ladies and Gentlemen. Please have a seat for tonight’s special show.” The jazz singer announces.
This special show is the burlesque show that Cynthia throws in every once in a while. As her cheese plate arrives, Cynthia watches the dancer intensely. The way the dancer moves her hips, and tantalizes with a wave of her arms has Cynthia’s blood boil. When she turns and faces Cynthia, the dancer winks at her. An invitation if she ever saw one. A licentious half-smile crosses her blood red lips as Cynthia knows that she would be receptive to this dancer. She could use a new playmate as opposed to that useless cop that she has on a regular basis.
Suddenly, Miles comes behind her and whispers in her ear. “Cops are snooping around. You might have to deal with it.”
With a sigh of aggravation, Cynthia stands up from her sofa and walks to the center of the bar. She puts a finger to her nose. The band stops playing after seeing her signal. The staff goes to each table and gives the instructions. She goes to the door that the bookcase hides to tread through it. The lights go out and she goes up her stairs.
She sets up her gramophone up in the office of the bookshop so that it is ready to play and has a small lantern going. She can see these men snooping around the area through her curtained-covered window. Two police men walk towards her shop and before they can knock on her door, Cynthia opens it.
Outside the door is none other than Chief Inspector McCartney and the Chief of Police Alexander Potente. McCartney is supposed to keep this creep off her back but sometimes his incompetence has him slip up now and again. Cynthia looks at both of them indifferently.
“Can I help you?” She says coolly to the two of them.
“We have a noise complaint.” Potente tells her nonchalantly. “We need to come in.”
Not bothering to wait for an invitation, the two men walk into her bookstore. Cynthia walks over to the chaise that she keeps in the corner and switches on her gramophone. The music plays as she sprawls along her couch and taps the machine playing it.
“That’s probably why.” Cynthia points out and lights up another cigarette. “I listen to music here when I’m by myself, working on the ledgers.”
Potente stands before her with his hands on his hips. “You dress like that when you work on the books do you?”
“Is that a crime?” She smartly questions.
“Well, we know you are not exactly a lawful woman with your public indecency, fornication, drunkenness, and now we can add noise pollution to that list.” He slowly raises his voice until he yells. “And put that cigarette out! You’re a woman for god’s sake and women can’t smoke!”
“Are you going to charge me for something?” Cynthia says and is met with the two men’s silence. “I didn’t think so.” She takes a long pull of her cigarette and blows the smoke towards Potente. With his face screwing itself into a bitter expression, he goes into fits of coughing. “Now if you are quite done wasting my tax dollars, I would advise you to get the hell out of my store.”
Potente looks at her with pure detestation. It makes him sick to know that she is right and he can’t touch her. He turns to look at McCartney and gestures him to leave. As Potente strides quickly out, McCartney looks at Cynthia and can tell she is not pleased. The look she gives him tells him to watch his back. She gently touches the camera that sits on her bookshelf, reminding him of what will happen if he displeases her. After all, the pictures she has of him enjoying the club, her ladies of the night, and her herself will destroy everything for him. McCartney says nothing and walks out of the store.
Cynthia waits a few more moments before the area is deserted once more. She walks into her office, takes her father’s cane from the wall, and slams it to the ground three times. This is the signal that the authorities are gone and people can resume the enjoyment of the evening. She goes back to her party feeling victorious.
Once she is back down in her bar, Cynthia stands in the back watching the remainder of the burlesque act. The dancer she sees sends her another wink to which she returns. However, she is interrupted by Miles.
“I knew you could dispatch them but you will have to be more careful in the future.” He tells her.
“I agree. We are going to have to take some secure measures.” She expresses to him. “But for now, lets enjoy the rest of the night.”
Miles watches Cynthia saunter up to the dancer who has now finished her set. He can’t help but worry. He knows that Cynthia has a knack for solving these kinds of problems but he would hate to be around when she bites off more than she can chew. Miles watches her seductively brush the back of her hand to the erotic dancer and lightly strokes her fingers to the tip of her breast. Miles shakes his head and hopes that she is not being reckless.
The next day at noon, Miles knocks on Cynthia’s bedroom. He finds her arms wrapped around the dancer from the previous night. It doesn’t shock him to see a woman in her bed. He is pretty used to seeing her with people that she is intimate with. Besides, it’s urgent that she gets this message. Gently, Miles shakes her shoulder.
“Miss! Miss!” Miles whispers with a sense of urgency. “You’ve got a call from that man from Chicago. He wants a meeting.”
Cynthia sleepily turns to him and mutters. “Oh, the big boy with scars is going to drop in, is he? Very well, set it up and I’ll meet him in the Cellar.”
She gets out of the bed, nude and puts on her red kimono. Miles looks away until Cynthia is completely covered. She walks away from her bed, forgetting her lover in the bed. She goes to her closet and takes out a delicate pink lace dress that will give her a soft-looking appeal. From what she hears about this man, women can sway him.
“Look Miss.” Miles urges to Cynthia as she goes behind her divider painted with oriental women. “You are going to face this man and he is dangerous. Don’t underestimate him. I couldn’t bear it if he kills you.”
In her delicate pink dress, Cynthia walks out from behind her changing blinds. In an unlikely move for her, she moves to Miles and throws her arms around him for an embrace. “I’m not going anywhere Miles. No one makes me do anything or go anywhere without my say-so. I promise you that I will handle him. He’ll be out of our lives soon.”
Miles returns her embrace. Cynthia is like a sister to him and he will continue to do whatever he must to keep her safe. The problem is, how can he protect her from herself?
That afternoon, Cynthia awaits her visitor at the long boardroom table. She sits and crosses her legs against the leg of the chair. For this meeting, she knows that she will have to show off a fragile, more feminine side to her since the man she is meeting is a strict, old-fashioned catholic despite being a criminal. How he plays it after this meeting will depend on what she does next. So, she’ll see what happens.
She hears heavy footsteps approach the room. Strangely, they remind her of her father. She didn’t fear him nor does she fear this man. After all, anyone who dares cross her gets a rather unpleasant surprise. They just have to look at her father to know that is true.
She managed to trick him into giving her power-of-attorney of him and his estate. Poor old fool thought the paper she had him sign was for “a proper lady’s school.” After one of his long hard days in the office, Cynthia had slipped it in front of him. He was too tired to read it and signed away all of his rights to her. Now he is rotting in a miserable institution two hours north of Calgary. They take good care of people with “unstable tendencies.”
Then she sees him. A hefty looking man in a pristine pin-striped suit with three subtle but easy to spot scars on his face. He had a dark receding hairline and equally dark eyes but what makes him the most striking is his kindly-looking smile. He approaches her and with his thick Italian North-American accent he speaks.
“Ah! So, you are the spokes woman for this marvelous city.” He gently takes her hand and presses his lips to it before he sits across from her. “There could not be a lovelier flower to be greeted with. I hope you understand that I don’t normally run into women who know a business like this, so forgive me if I ever speak out of turn.”
Cynthia sends him a smile. His gentlemanly yet professional manner is rather refreshing but that doesn’t mean that she can’t see through his rouse.
“Well, when an impressive and famous man such as yourself wishes to see our little operation, how could I say no to a meeting?” She says as she gauges him.
“Clearly, I am not the only one.” He begins and swiftly points his two index fingers to her. “I’ve checked you out. I hear you have a brush with the boys in blue now and again.”
“It happens.” She says simply and pulls out her cigarette case. Politely she asks. “Do you mind if I smoke?”
“Please feel free. Do mind if I have one of mine?” He asks matching her politeness. She gestures him to go ahead. The gangster pulls out his cigar and lights it up just as she follows suit. “I’ve never met a woman who smokes. This is quite eye-opening.” He pauses as he sends her a smile. “Now about those run-ins.”
“Nothing to worry about. I have them handled.” When she sees his dubious expression, she begins to explain. “Some problems require money and others a personal touch. If all else fails, there is always the wild goose chase.”
“Wild goose chase?”
“You’re in Canada now. The goose is a big thing here.” She lets out a puff of smoke. “Have them go to a location where they turn up some clue or other and before they know it, they will be at a dead end.”
The man gives her a cunning smile. “It sounds like you do have things under control here.”
Sensing a “but” coming, Cynthia lifts an eyebrow as she listens to what he has to say.
“You may have things under control now but let’s face it. A woman can only do so much before a man who is stronger and smarter comes along.” As soon as he says this, she feels the hateful rage spread throughout her veins. It’s clear that he is no different from any other tyrant. “Listen Toots. Your short skirts, whoring, and blackmail will only get you so far. You need a strong hand here and that is what I will do. I’m taking over the operation here. You and your other partners will fall in line unless you all want to be six feet under. Capiche?”
Cynthia can see the under currents of his temper. But with her knowledge, acting abilities, and little luck she will turn the tables on him. She already has a plan on how but first she has to tell him what he wants to hear.
“If you want in, we want compensation.” His eyes go a fraction wide with surprise. She is showing off her business sense and tries to get a deal. “If you want to run things, we still need assurances that we achieve a worthwhile profit. Surely a business man such as yourself can understand that.”
He lets out a boisterous laugh. “You can talk a blue streak, young lady. I’ll draw up a contract and get back to you.”
He shakes her hand, stands up, and walks out of the room. Cynthia twists her face into a harsh frown. She crushes her burning cigarette with one hand, not even flinching as it burns her. With her other hand, she bunches the skirt of her dress into a tight fist. Her fingernails rip the fabric to which she doesn’t notice either. This man is a fucking monster just like the ones that destroyed her mother. She will get her revenge on him just as she did with her father.
That night, Cynthia is dressed in her new oriental golden dress with a rainbow of dragons adorning it. She feels like the dragon lady that the ladies in Chinatown dubbed her when she placed an order for this attire. A smile spreads on her red-lipped face as she descends down the stairs to her speakeasy. Once again, there’s liquor in every glass, laughter in the room, and jazz music playing to make all the people dance. Cynthia walks over to Miles who is waiting for her at her usual sofa.
“Everything alright Miss?” Miles says as he stands up and helps her to her seat.
“Yes.” Cynthia says as she calmly sits. “I just put in a good word for our new “friend” to the IRS. I thought they might want to check his income taxes.”
The server brings her a martini that she sips and basks in her victory over that oh-so-famous crook. She looks to Miles and then looks to the door. He sees this and finds himself curious.
“Are you expecting someone?” He asks her.
“Indeed.” Cynthia smiles knowingly and her face lights up as soon as her special guest comes. “And here she is.”
Miles turns to see Ava, dressed in her best red dress with her hair down instead of in a bun and those sweet little glasses over her eyes. She is so beautiful that he could swear that his heart has stopped in mere seconds. She clutches her little handbag and sends him a shy smile followed by a wave. He sends her a smile and wave in return.
“I invited her.” Cynthia says smiling as she lights up her cigarette. Miles turns and looks at Cynthia with a look of surprise. “You go be her date. You’ve earned a night to yourself Miles.”
“But what about you?” He inquires caringly.
“I’ll be here all night.” She answers with a puff of smoke. “Go and have a good time. Your mistress orders it.”
Gratitude shows on his face. He hugs her free hand with both of his before turning to go to Ava. He moves over to her and invites her to sit at the table. He pulls a chair open for her and she sweetly sits before looking up to him. When he sits and joins her, they begin to talk.
Cynthia looks at them pleased. Now and then she will do a good deed but it doesn’t do her any good to make a habit of it. She has a reputation to maintain and upfront kindness isn’t it. Suddenly one of her new employees approaches her. A delectable blonde-haired, blue-eyed man dressed in an ordinary outfit of brown pants, a matching fedora, suspenders, red tie, and a crisp white shirt. He is made to look like an ordinary man and a mighty fine spy. He bends down and whispers in her ear.
What he says has her brows cock up and walk to the center of the room to deliver her signal once again. The band stops playing and the bartender cuts out the lights. She taps Miles’ shoulder as a signal to come with her. He whispers in Ava’s ear before following Cynthia upstairs. They await in her shop once again for the authorities to arrive. This time she has a new idea, she will dress in her mink coat and pretend to be leaving her shop. If they see her leaving, they won’t be suspicious enough to barge in her store.
As soon as Cynthia sees the police men standing at the corner, she looks to Miles. “Get the car. We want to make this as real as possible.”
Miles nods and goes out the back door. Cynthia watches as the two police men walk towards her store. She gathers her coat around her and walks out her door. She acts like she normally does and locks the front door. She turns and faces the men who approach her.
“Can I help you?” She asks the two men before her.
“Cynthia Le’font, you are under arrest for public indecency, soliciting prostitution, sodomy, and liquor.” The older police man on the left speaks.
“Really? Where’s the proof?” She asks in a snarky manner. The men say nothing to her and she brushes past them as soon as Miles pulls up in the car. “Now if you two flatfoots don’t mind, I have real places to be.”
“Hey!” The other younger police officer yells at her and grabs her wrist. “You’re not going anywhere except jail!”
Miles runs out of the car and towards Cynthia. “Release her!”
“We will not because she is a criminal and a loose bit…” The young policeman didn’t even get to finish his statement, thanks to Miles socking him square in the jaw.
As he crumbles down to the ground, his partner pulls out a gun and aims it at Miles. Without even thinking, Cynthia jumps in front of Miles, shielding him from the bullet that strikes her in the heart.
A harsh gasp escapes from her mouth as Miles grabs her from behind screaming her name. Miles looks at the cops horrifically. Cynthia collapses in his arms as he turns her to face him. He holds her helplessly watching the blood run out of her mouth. He kneels her to the ground watching the life slowly slip out of her.
“I knew this would be my fate someday.” Cynthia chokes looking to Miles.
“No! Cynthia! Hold on! You’re the strongest person I know! You can’t go!” Miles pleads to her as if she has a say in it. “You’ve always said that you choose your fate.”
“I did choose my fate.” Cynthia trembles. “I choose you, my friend. My only friend. There may not be a place for a woman like me here or in heaven but you have the option to live a good life. Live that good life, Miles.”
Tears stream down Miles’ eyes. His face contorts into frantic sobs as he holds Cynthia close. He doesn’t even listen to the cops who are plotting ahead of him.
The policeman who shot the gun turns to his partner who manages to stand up after being punched by a heavy weight man. He grabs him by the collar and talks with an eerie calm. “You and I know what happened. She resisted arrest and he attacked us. I’ll finish him off and we will make that report.”
His partner looks at him, eyes wide with horror. “You mean, murder them both and lie?”
“It’s them or us and no-one can prove it!” The older cop yells but calms himself again. “There is no proof.”
“Oh, there is proof!” Yells a voice behind Miles.
Ava with uncanny resolve, along with the rest of the speakeasy patrons’ step from around the corner and stop behind Miles. Miles looks up at fury towards the cops. He says nothing but watches the scene before him unfold. The two cops see at least fifty witnesses before them. Since they can’t shoot all of them, the two policemen run in the opposite direction with half of the patrons’ chasing after them. The other half create a circle around Miles and Cynthia. Ava steps forward, puts a tender hand to Miles’ shoulder, and kneels beside him.
“We will get justice for her Miles.” She says tearfully. “I promise you.”
“Justice but not revenge.” Miles sniffles as he looks to Ava. “She wanted me to not repeat her mistakes. Let’s do this the good way. I don’t want to live a life of hate.”
Touched by what Miles says. Ava nods at him tearful but determined. Together, the two of them kneel before Cynthia and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
After she passes her bar exam, Ava takes the two police men to court. They were charged with second degree murder. Her intelligence and skill win this case and justice is done for Cynthia’s murder as these two men spend the rest of their lives in prison. In a couple of short years, Miles and Ava marry. She continued to work as a lawyer while Miles took care of the household and their children. It was a rare thing for a husband to be a homemaker in that day but with all of his years taking care of Cynthia, he took to it like a fish to water.
The world eventually forgets Cynthia Le’font. Her fortune and businesses were seized by the police and the Canadian government. There was nothing left of her in the archives but to Miles’ family her legacy lives on. Miles did as she asked of him and lived a good, lawful, and loving life. He ensured that all his descendants knew that they were all equal and that kindness is golden. Although she did not believe in such things, Miles believed that Cynthia watches over him and his family. She was the angel that created a stir.
Special Thanks to:
Betty Lou's Library: For making the 1920s come alive again. The Devenish Building, 908 17 Avenue Southwest, Calgary, AB T2T 0A3. https://www.bettylouslibrary.com/
Thrift Couture: For fabulous Vintage Clothes. 1314B 17 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2T 0C3. http://thriftcouture.ca/index.html
The Cellar Wine Store: For great wine and wonderful atmosphere. 137 8 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2P 1B4. https://www.cellarwinestore.com/
Oasis Wellness Centre and Spa: For legitimate Spa Services and Egyptian vibe. 880 16 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2R 1J9. https://www.myoasisspa.ca