By1934 the United States had found its dark age. It was a time of loss and consolidation, an era transformation and desperation. It was a time of survival. Though the depression was lifting for some, others continued to suffer in Citadel City. Bankers broke the back of the nation's economy and created an income gorge between the rich and the poor. Corporations took advantage of the crisis to consolidate markets and expand their interests. They squeezed every penny out of local resources, and workers as a matter of “self-preservation.”
The people best equipped to survive the depression were the affluent, and the old moneyed. Their ilk always seemed to win. Their hands were in everything and their actions created ripples that radiated far beyond their boardrooms. They affected people out of view, the ones who didn’t really matter. They served themselves at the expense of others, in the name of “doing business.”
There were big financial gains to be made in a growing market overseas. A war was looming in Europe. Profiteers and investors in the US were staged and ready for deployment. On the home front there was a different type of battle brewing. It was a class war.
The ivory towers of Citadel City cast a shadow over the populous wandering the streets below. That darkness stretched to the farming communities to the south.
Betty McDougal lived with her mother Mage and her father Randall on a their farm. It was the only life she’d known. She was an innocent country girl and was happy for a very long time. At one point their farm was thriving. Her father employed people of all colors to help out. Everyone earned an honest wage, for an honest days work. Betty grew up learning to share. She believed that everyone was equal and should be treated fairly in the world. But her belief would change.
A banker named Carson used private information about the McDougal’s business and financial situation to ruin their livelihood. For a hefty payoff he helped a friend, a produce tycoon, monopolize the regional market. They poached the McDougal’s customers, contacts, and connections. They repeated this scam on neighboring farms as well. They undercut the small farm’s prices. It took the naive farmers awhile discover what happened. Then they banded together in a collective to buy seed in bulk to compete with the massive competitor’s low cost, but suppliers ignored them as a show of loyalty to their newer, bigger partner.
A whisper campaign circulated about contamination of the local soil. The rumor implied that Negroes had poisoned food going to the whites in the city. The story was ridiculous but effective. Within one season the McDougal farm shrunk. Randall couldn’t hire back his crew so they moved on. The farms output reduced to subsistence levels. It kept the family alive but not much more. He sought out other potential markets but couldn’t gain access. Randall was running out of money and defaulted on the mortgage.
Dread consumed Betty’s father and mother. Her mother’s mental health deteriorated as the crisis grew worse. One by one neighboring farms folded up. The Citadel bank foreclosed and the families were evicted. Eventually the McDougal’s number was up. They lost all the equity in their property and the sheriff forced them from their home.
It was 14 February 1934, Betty’s 17th birthday.
Randall wanted to stay in the area but there were no jobs. Through a connection in their church the McDougal’s relocated to a shelter in Citadel. The nuns furnished him with a job as a night janitor at an affiliated hospital. While he worked, Farmer McDougal dreamed of earning piles of cash and getting back the family farm. Unfortunately with his new shallow income, it would take a long, long time.
Betty didn't like the city or living in the basement shelter. It was over crowded and the high windows were barred and it felt like a prison. It seemed like a dumping ground for drunks and weirdos. Dirty men missing teeth smiled at her queerly. It made her uncomfortable. The place was dark, smelly and scary. It was hard to make friends at the shelter since people were always coming and going. It seemed that the ones she wanted to know didn’t stay very long, and the ones she wanted to avoid kept coming back. Betty worried that the shelter made people crazy over time. Her mother was getting worse. She only spoke in anger anymore. Her father was not himself either. He was losing hope.
The nuns who ran the shelter enrolled Betty in an all-girl high school to finish senior year. She didn’t mind city school. It was a distraction from the problems that surrounded her. She avoided returning to the shelter and spent her after-school time in the library. She enjoyed reading, but was distracted by her parent’s misery. To her the problem was simple; buy back the farm so they could go home. Once it was paid off no one could take it away from them ever again. They could live off the land worry free, forever. She wished for a way to save the day, but she was really only a kid. She wasn’t sure how a cute young teenage girl with long legs could make a lot of money in Citadel.
She started working in the hospital laundry after school. She didn’t really have any expenses so it was easy to save. But at the rate she was earning it would take a long time to accumulate a substantial sum. It was very hard work for very little pay. It seemed unfair. Also, there was absolutely nothing fun about fighting and folding hot, heavy, wet sheets in a room full of steam. There had to be an easier way to make a buck. At least it got her out of the shelter.
Betty worked with a several other girls near her age. Most arrived from similar stories. So they had an instant kinship. The rest were orphans transitioning from being wards of the state to full blown adults. The girls all got along and the laundry was a gossip hub of the hospital. They knew everyone else’s business. Stories that couldn't be confirmed were radically speculated on and modified into more scandalous tales. At times Betty would imitate the players in mock radio dramas. Her gift of mimicry was a big hit with her peers. They all laughed at other peoples problems over dirty, stinking laundry. It made the time pass quickly. Many of the tales of debauchery included a place called Razzles. The ritzy locale became the stuff of urban legend. It was a massive nightclub where everyone in Citadel ended up, eventually.
One night Monica, the oldest laundry girl, revealed a plan to include all her friends on a girl’s night out at Razzles. She recently stumbled into some kind of part time job at the nightclub and was leaving the laundry soon. But before she quit, she wanted to have a going away party with all her young friends. One of the waiters at Razzles offered to sneak the girls in through the back door, avoiding the big purse admission and any questions of age. All the girls had to do, was to look like they belonged, once they were inside. They were ecstatic at the prospect.
20 April 1934
The laundry girls arrived at Monica's new apartment. The space seemed too big for just one girl. It was filled with so many wonderful things and a closet full of marvelous clothes. Betty wondered how she could afford it. Exuberance whirled through the apartment. The space quickly transformed into a fashion assembly line. One girl applied make up. One girl set and styled hair. Another fitted dresses. Before long Betty was covered in borrowed clothes.
She stopped to admire her visage in a full-length mirror. She was shocked by the image. This was the first time she wore makeup. She looked different, anonymous. She always thought she was cute, but her new reflection was vampish. She liked it. She looked mature, like a movie star and would play that role for the entire evening.
Her first night at Razzles was like a dream come true. She was completely free. She danced away her dismal existence in the city. Everything at Razzles sparkled; from the crystal chandeliers, to sequin dresses, to the smiles of handsome men who approached her. In the Citadel, money meant power and freedom. They had it and she wanted it.
They treated her like a princess. She ate the finest foods and drank the most expensive champaign. Little Betty McDougal didn't have to count her pennies that night. There was no shortage of money. Cash flowed from suitor’s wallets. Their money granted her access to everything. All she had to do was smile and say yes. Anything she wanted was hers for the taking and the men paid her way. But like her father always warned her, "Don’t expect something for nothing."
For most of the night, the familiar faces of her friends surrounded Betty. They were passed around from guy to guy on the dance floor between songs. Over the course of the evening couples paired up. Later the group thinned out. The laundry girls were disappearing one by one. Then it was Betty's turn.
While she was eating a dessert she noticed her companion studying her intently. It was a knowing look with a different type of smile. He stood up and directed Betty to follow him. She abandoned her cake and obliged. He escorted her to a door at the back of the nightclub. It led to a dark descending stairway. She wobbled on her heels, nearly falling, but her partner’s strong arms caught her. The stairs ended in a cool cellar. They crossed the cellar to a hidden door. Through it was a hand carved tunnel dug during Prohibition. She was scared and clung to her underworld guide. As they progressed, the space got tighter and darker. After a series of snaking twists and turns they arrived in the quiet lobby of the most expensive hotel in the city. She was afraid to ask any questions. The man at the desk recognized her escort and after a quick cryptic exchange between men, she was whisked into an elevator and heading up. She never saw the face of the elevator operator. Her silent suitor turned to her. He could see she was scared. He leaned in to assure her with a long and passionate kiss. It made her dizzy and she melted in his arms. Boys had kissed her before but never like that. Moments later they were on the top floor, in an ornate room with a massive bed deserving of royalty.
He explained to her that this moment wasn't about love it was about business and he was defining the terms of a deal. He held up a roll of money. It was for her. To him money meant nothing, but Betty wanted it. All she had to do was lie back on the silk sheets and say yes.
He stuffed the money in her purse.
She was commanded to act as if she liked it, but it wasn’t an act. She loved it. She felt alive, powerful. She wanted more. And with each yes, she got it. It was magical.
This was the trick Monica learned to survive in Citadel. Monica shared that discovery with her friends showing them how to make real money. She provided them the means to get out of the dirty laundry. Instead of cleaning it, they could be messing it. Betty smiled to herself. She was fucking a king and she loved it!
Night after night Betty returned to Razzles. If she showed up, she made money. All she had to do was hang on a wealthy man arms and words, and perform. Even though it was like dating, she understood that she was an employee and it was business. But it still felt special.
As a janitor Betty’s father, Randall, was struggling. He performed a lifetime of hard work, but as much as he hated to admit it, he was wearing out. After each night shift he would discover a new ache or pain inside him. He knew was lucky to have the job. It didn’t pay much, but he didn’t want complain. He just couldn’t seem to get ahead, let alone save anything. Returning to the farm was starting to feel more unlikely. To distract those thoughts, he began whistling old tunes while he worked. It insulated him from his dilemma, somewhat.
Betty’s mother had a nervous breakdown. Her mental state had deteriorated and she was slipping further. The hospital that had helped the McDougals survive wasn’t equipped to care for her type of illness. She needed to be transferred to a state run mental facility, but Randall couldn’t afford it. He was stuck and looked for any options to help her. One of the admittance advisers at the facility offered a potential solution. He explained to Randall that if he divorced his wife, in her diminished capacity, she would become the property of the state. Then the facility could admit her and the state would pick up the tab for her care.
The advisor said, “I know it sounds bad, but it’s cheaper
if you dump her. It doesn’t mean you don’t love her. In fact
it’s the opposite. You’re acting in the patient’s best
18 May 1934
Her mother was taken away on the day Betty graduated from high school. Randall was surprised at how excepting Betty was of the circumstance. He hadn’t realized how quickly his only daughter was growing up. She was serious and understanding. He was proud of his little girl.
To her it was just business. She knew that being poor was destroying her family.
He assured the young woman that the situation was only temporary. His plan was to save up enough money to retrieve his wife, buy back the farm and return home. To assure that commitment he began to work longer and longer hours. So did Betty.
She knew he would never make enough the money to get them home, but she
knew she could. With the cash she was raking in at Razzles she could buy
back the family farm on her own some day. She would do anything to get
out of Citadel. She would do anything to save her family.
She was developing a talent for acting. Sometimes guys asked her to play games. They got their kicks and she got their cash. She would be whoever they wanted her to be. That was the deal. She met a lot of people on the job. Each wanted something different, but they all wanted something from her, even the most powerful men in Citadel.
Betty’s first encounter with Doctor Lacross was as unpleasant as any girl could imagine. He arrived like he was ready to work and left like he late for an appointment. His presence was one sided. There was no room for conversation or question. He was either lecturing, issuing orders or ignoring. He knew what he knew and what he had to do. He was all business. Lacross was the doctor and advisor of the Citadel elite. His oath bound him to act to benefit the health and well being of his powerful clientele. He took his oath seriously and went to great lengths to protect them.
Lacross exploded through the Razzles entrance two hours before it opened. By the way employees scattered, Betty thought the towering man wielded a Tommy gun instead of a doctors bag. When the manager approached him, Lacross produced a small notepad and spoke. “Prepare the females who were hired since the 13th.”
Betty was one of them. Before long, She was lying on the desk in the manager’s office. The surface had been cleared and covered with a crisp white sheet. An orchestra produced a haunting melody from a radio in the shadows as Lacross hovered over her.
“It’s been told that Cleopatra inserted small pebbles into her vagina as a form of birth control. Arabs invented this technique to control their camel population. She was royalty and wanted to control what grew from her. So she used a tool of man. Nothing can do more damage to this world than an unwanted child. And we certainly don’t want any coming from you.“
Betty was rigid like a doll. He lifted her knees and her skirt slid open.
“A German gynecologist named Grafenberg developed this little device.” He held up a small object. It looked like stainless steel nail. “It’s going inside you now.”
His gloved hand disappeared under her skirt like a magician. Betty gasped.
“Hold still.” He ordered impatiently.
A moment later his hand was empty and procedure was over.
“If you happen to expel the device, do not let anyone into your vagina. Notify your manager and we will make an appointment to replace it. If you think you’re pregnant. Don’t do anything stupid. Notify your manager and we will make an appointment to remove the embryo. You’re done, now go.”
Betty repositioned her skirt as she exited the room, and Lacross shouted, “Next!”
At some point, everyone who was anyone in Citadel came to Razzles. The members of the Silver Spoon Circle were no exception. It fact, they were its greatest patrons. They engorged on the offerings at Razzles quite often. The Silver Spoons were an exclusive club of the twenty most powerful men in Citadel. They were its royalty. Their membership included; financiers, speculators, politicians, industrialist, capitalist, oilmen, moguls, tycoons, and playboys. The Silver Spoons were very special guests. When they came to dine, they got what ever they wanted. When they arrived, the Razzle girls dropped what they were doing and lined up to welcome them.
The Spoons looked like a million bucks in their tails and tux. They were polished and well groomed. But once the Razzle girls had them alone and peeled away their veneers, there was nothing special. In public these men were erudite and statuesque but behind closed doors there was nothing to brag about. Betty played along. She did what they wanted, got their money, and banked it. It was green like everyone else’s.
Over time, Betty got to know all of the Silver Spoons. They all liked to brag. They talked open and unashamedly about everything they did, even crimes. They weren't discrete. They didn't care. They flaunted it. She knew what they did and how they operated, inside and out of Razzles. They got away with everything and people were hurt. In a way, Betty wished that someone would hold them accountable. But no one did.
Everyone outside of the Silver Spoon Circle were their playthings. People could be activated into servitude with coins from them, like a mechanical, children’s bank.
The Spoons loved what Betty did for them. She could tell what they needed. Her empathy made her a chameleon lover. Each one of them wanted something different and she gave it. The control she had over these powerful men made her feel superior. She was a formidable pleaser. She could take their power and make them weak. She loved it!
For Betty’s father, his big plan seemed more like a dream than a reachable goal. The expense of survival crept up on him. He fantasized of returning to pioneer days and living off the wilderness. No one could take that away. He began to feel resentment. He looked at the people he was forced to clean up after with new eyes, with angry eyes. Betty noticed changes in her father. The kind face she loved had eroded to a scowl. He took to muttering to himself, and snapped at his daughter often. She couldn’t tell if being poor had poisoned him or if the shelter was driving him mad? Eventually he became ill. When he did Betty got very scared. She thought he was invincible.
She felt guilty for going out and having so much fun at night while her father was sentenced to a hospital bed. She couldn’t bear to see the mountain of man she had known reduced to shriveled, sweating stranger. He lay there muttering about the simple life he once had. She wanted to bring the man she loved back from the brink and thought she knew how to do it.
9 December 1934
Late the next morning, Betty deposited her previous evening’s earnings in the bank. The pleasant teller updated her savings book. Betty smiled at the final tally. To her it was a good number that kept getting better and better. She took her bankbook to her father’s bedside. He seemed to brighten up at her presence. Then after some small talk, she asked how much he needed to get the farm back. It was becoming harder to have substantive conversations with her father. He responded to important issues with the words, “I don’t want to think about it.”
Betty couldn’t hide from the problems that easily. She was out there in Citadel facing reality head on and it was changing her. She had to face it. She had to solve the family’s problem since no one else could. She couldn’t leave things the way they were. She couldn’t accept or ignore the world around her. She loved her Father and wanted to help. She wanted to go back home. So she pressed him.
“Seriously dad, how much?”
Facing away from her he mumbled, “a lot.”
“Well how much is a lot?” She persisted.
In despair he blurted out the number. She couldn’t cover it yet but she could get it. At the rate she was going, she figured she could buy the farm outright sometime next year. All they had to do was hold on. Proudly, Betty presented the bankbook to her father.
All he wanted to know was where the money came from and how she got it.
She tried to explain without going into details, but he figured it out.
“I may be from a little farm down south, but I’m not an idiot.”
She felt like a little girl again. She knew he wouldn’t like it, but she did what her father ordered. She thought there was a way to explain it so that he would understand, but her words kept coming out wrong. The more she spoke the worse it sounded. The more she spoke the worse she incriminated herself. Through tear and sobs she told him everything.
He didn’t recognize his daughter anymore. She had become a complete stranger to him. Without his consent, intent or knowledge his daughter was now part of the Citadel underworld! She should have known better! How could she do this to him? She was a sneak! She sold out! When did it start? It must have been for a while based on the amount of money she had stashed! He couldn’t look at the whore before him.
Betty begged with him to listen to reason, but he wouldn’t have it. He couldn’t take her words or money. He wouldn’t acknowledge that he drove his innocent little daughter into prostitution because he wasn’t man enough to provide for his family. First he lost his wife and now her. He failed everyone. Money had destroyed them. It truly was the root of all evil. And she was contaminated. He banished the dirty slut from his life.
Betty ran. She wanted out, out of the room, out of the hospital and out of Citadel. She wanted to go back to farm, and she would get there no matter what it took!
Sister Hazel didn’t hear all the details of the conversation, but she got the gist of the immediate situation. She knew these types of dramatic exits never ended well. She intercepted the hysterical girl and guided her into the church above the shelter to console her.
As they sat in the pew, Sister Hazel tired to draw the story out of Betty. The girl recounted the argument editing out the most egregious aspects and any mention of the word Razzles. The story the nun absorbed went something like; the father and daughter had a fight about a boy. Also, Betty had been making money as a waitress and offered to give her father money to help him out. But, like most men, Betty’s father was far too proud to accept help from any woman, let alone his daughter. His pride was bruised. All the nuns knew Randall was getting a little more crotchety since the illness afflicted him. Sister Hazel was just sorry that poor Betty had the gotten the brunt of his wrath.
Betty realized Sister Hazel bought the story. The nun even offered some advice. She wanted Betty to think about her future. “You can use the money to help your father in a way where he won’t feel threatened. You can care for him while he’s sick once you’ve had the proper training. You could become a nurse. Once he sees that you’ve made something important of yourself he would be proud of you and he would embrace you once again.”
Betty listened to her words as the nun continued. “All men throw tantrums young Betty. He cannot stay mad forever. Time healed all wounds. So you must stay nearby and wait him out.”
To Betty it sounded like a good advice. She wanted to help him. Maybe this was the only way she could redeem herself in his eyes. She could become a nurse. Maybe even his nurse eventually. Sister Hazel would arrange everything with the school for Betty. All she needed was the tuition. Betty asked how much it was. The nun responded and added, “but they’ll take payments.”
The nun gulped and asked. “Do you think you have enough money for it?”
The tuition was a lot cheaper than Betty expected. She had plenty. She had he full amount and a whole lot more, but she decided not to let the nun peek into her purse.
Betty replied with big eyes. “I think I can get it all.’
Nursing school was very different from high school. There was a lot of information but everything made sense. Every question had an answer. Every idea had a purpose. Every purpose fit into a procedure. Every procedure had a trigger. Betty appreciated the efficiencies and practicality of the older nurses who instructed the small class. They were serious women who knew what they were doing. They spoke directly and held nothing back. Their candor was refreshing to a girl who dwelled in a realm of lies.
By day she studied in nursing school. At night she starred in fantasies at Razzles. She wasn’t giving up her job. The money was too good. Whether her father liked it or not, she was getting that farm back and she would do anything to get it.
Over the next two years Randall was in and out of the hospital more times than he cared to count. Between bouts of sickness, he continued working as a janitor and kept a bed at the shelter. He began using his income to make donations to the shelter. He felt he should to pay his own way. He accepted that the shelter was going to be his last home. He was deteriorating. He knew his life was ending. It was just a matter of time before it was done. He welcomed death now, but life dragged on. He tried not to think of all the things he lost.
Betty kept tabs on him during his hospital admissions. She also supplied Sister Hazel with healthy, anonymous donations to provide for the residents of the shelter. Betty's income was significant, but she had to spend it to survive on her own. Her account was still growing, but not at the rate she hoped. As she balanced her checkbook she often thought, "I don’t care for adult life."
The shine wore off Razzles for Betty. All customers weren't that handsome,
though Betty acted like they were. That was what they wanted. Some men
liked it gentle, some liked it rough and they all had their way. Over
time she did things she thought she would never do. She let men use her
in ways she couldn't have imagined. Some of their antics would have sent
her storming out of bed only a year ago.
It wasn’t only the clients who wanted something from her. It seemed like everyone around her had their hand out. She did the hard work she got the bruises, but she still had to share her earnings. The Razzle managers took a cut; there were finder’s fees, bed rentals, laundry services, tips and a steadily increasing bar tab. Whatever remained in her purse went into the bank. The number in her bankbook still grew, but it was taking a lot longer than she wanted.
As Betty learned more about each of the Silver Spoons she realized they had the upper hand everywhere. They bragged about the horrible things they did outside of Razzles. Right and wrong didn’t apply to them. No one held them accountable. They just slithered through life.
They enjoyed other people’s misery. They laughed at others who struggle to survive. Other people’s pain was the punch line to their jokes. They controlled prizes and placed them out of peoples reach. Then mocked as others jumped to grasp it. To the Spoons, it was like watching economic slapstick.
They used up Betty in the same way. She was often the butt of their jokes.
They had no respect for her. To them she was a toy, a trinket, or an accessory.
Who cared what she felt? She started to resent them.
If anyone talked back to the Spoons, they would be cut off from the funds. If you did what you were told, you got paid. Those were their rules. Everyone beneath them had to live by them. She began to hate those pricks.
During the day school had gotten harder. Finals were approaching and an all or nothing, pass or fail, do or die, air permeated her class. The impending gauntlet of tests pressed down on her confidence. She knew the material, but being challenged on it, in a formal test, was not something she looked forward to.
As part of their training, the student nurses had to shadow older, seasoned nurses as they worked their shift at the hospital. Betty liked it. It was real. She was thorough and capable and listened to all her guides’ suggestions. She admired the older nurses and hoped to be independent like them some day. She didn’t want to fail them.
Betty was a night owl so she chose to work the overnight shift. Unlike her other job at Razzles, after dark the hospital was calming and quiet. She liked her role as a nurse. People still wanted her, and she cared for them in a different way. There was a line of respect that people wouldn't cross and for the most part, patients appreciated her being at their bedside. She didn’t mind that her work in the ward took away time from Razzles. But she was realistic. She didn’t get paid for her internship and she still had to save her family.
Aware of her father's repeated admissions to the hospital, Betty would check up on him during her breaks. She would peek in on him, and if he was unconscious, she'd slip in to watch him sleep. His familiar snoring was an assurance that some things about the man who loved and raised her never changed.
One night while Betty was standing at the foot of his bed, her fathers eyes popped open and looked right into hers. The hairs on her neck stood on end. Reflexively, she pivoted to another part of the small room and feigned a supply check.
Randall called out to her, "Nurse. Can you get me another pillow?"
Betty avoided eye contact and disguised her voice to reply. "Of course. Would you like it under you head, or your back, or your knees..."
"Under my head. My fat head is smashing these other ones down like flap jacks."
She laughed, fetched a pillow and walked the long way around the bed hiding her face as she maneuvered. "I see. Well, turn your head away from me and I will tuck it under for you."
He complied and she moved in close to position the pillow. Her heart was pounding. "Can you lift your head a smidge so I can get in there?"
She was so close. His scent was so familiar. She thought of all his hugs and times she rode on his shoulders. She remembered all the times he came to her to fight off terrible imagined monsters under her bed and how he would read her bedtime stories until he fell asleep next to her.
She wanted to kiss him, but resisted the temptation. She placed the pillow then turned and headed for the door.
"Thanks. What’s your name?” he asked.
She said the first name that popped in her mind. Her voice cracked, "Madge."
"What do you know? That’s my wife’s name. Small world, huh?"
Betty exited without responding. Normally she was adept at divorcing her feelings from her actions, but she couldn't keep up the act that time. It was too real. She ran to the nearest washroom and cried in the stall. She used to be better at separating her life from her lies. Lying was hard when the truth was so important.
Day by day she saw the men of Razzles for what they really were; monsters on top of beds. She despised them. Her customer’s appetites expanded. Betty changed too. She couldn’t think of a definitive moment when it happened but she felt a difference. She stopped enjoying sex.
On the surface Betty was soft, smooth and warm and gentle. She was sweet scented and caressed with loving lips. But inside she had turned to stone. She suffered while her clients moaned in ecstasy. She had become the consummate actress. When her clients mounted her, she wanted to shrink back into the bed and disappear into her own selfish fantasies.
In her fantasy she wanted them all dead. She cleverly took all she learned from her intimate studies of the Silver Spoons and turned it against them. She imagined invading their mansions during private galas. She would create the perfect disguise and blend into the necklace and tiara crowd undetected. Since she knew all of the host weaknesses. She would lure them away from the crowd and coax the location and combination of a hidden safe, waiting to be cracked, out of them. She would tie them up, rob them and burn the mansion to the ground. Then warm her body in the glow of the flames.
The Spoons had it too easy. Betty wanted to hurt them, to make them squirm. Better yet, she wanted to punish, no, destroy them! She imagined murdering those monsters every night. She learned how frail the human body was in school. She could apply her knowledge in a way her instructors never expected. She could avenge everyone they had wronged.
15 April 1937
While working at the hospital one night, Betty went to check on her father like she had done twenty or so times before. It was the highlight of her day. The desk nurse in his ward stood and filled out paperwork on a clipboard. She ignored the young woman as she happily strolled down the corridor.
Betty turned to find that his room was empty. His bed was made. The space was cleaned and ready for a new patient.
Innocently, Betty asked the desk nurse. "Where did they move the guy from room 113?"
She replied like she was telling the time. "The morgue."
He was dead...
Betty felt the world crash down around her. The Citadel was out to get her. She was going to snap. She was going crazy. She wondered if this was how her mother felt.
She left work early to visit her mom in the mental ward of the state hospital. Betty felt obligated to tell mother that her ex-husband was dead. It had been awhile since she'd seen her. The conversation didn't go well.
Madge acted like she'd been preparing for a bout in a boxing ring. She
was agitated and paced erratically around the padded room. She was looking
for away out. She only noticed Betty like the girl was furniture to avoid
Betty searched for her first memory of her mother. They were just flashes or impressions of her mom’s unpredictability over the years; just shadows of the past. Betty realized she was now the same age her mother was, when she could first recall her. With her hair down, Betty noticed how much they actually looked alike.
She tried to calm Madge’s frantic gait. Eventually she got her to sit down, but not hold still. At any moment it looked like she would throw herself onto the floor.
"Mom, I wanted to talk to you about dad."
Betty looked for a sign of acknowledgment that her words were received. She tried again, talking slow and loud.
“Mom, I wanted to tell you about Randall from the farm."
Out of remorse and frustration she blurted, "Mom, he's dead!"
Madge stopped cold. The words stuck a nerve. Her wide, dark ringed eyes scanned the room like a lighthouse looking for a shipwreck, but met Betty's eyes instead. Her voice startled her daughter.
"He was so sensitive to your pain. No matter how small it was. If you fell off a horse he dusted you off and put you back on. You pricked your finger on a rose bush, he kissed it, took your pain away. He couldn't kiss my pain away. He was always doting on you. He did more for you than he ever did for me. You were my daughter too. He loved you more. He chose you over me, his own wife. If he's dead, he's dead because of you somehow."
That was not what Betty needed to hear. It was too much to take. She thought of her mother as the last connection to her old life, but another part of her childhood died that day. The orderlies came and locked her mom away, and Betty was alone.
1 May 1937
Betty returned to Razzles. It was the only home she had left. She sat at the bar in her white nurses uniform. A tiny captive, cyclopean audience of empty shot glasses stared up and waited for a show. In any other place this may have been an odd site, but the crowd ignored her. The intoxicating serum she ingested acted like medicine. She administered it to try and stay ahead of her pain. It hurt too much think she had killed her father. He was the only man she ever really loved.
She looked around and asked herself. "How did I get here?"
Sometimes the city seemed so small, but then everyone ended up at Razzles sooner or later. It was like the drain to a sewer. She watched the faces in the crowd through the mirror behind the bar. She saw herself in the refection too. "Am I one of these people?"
These people were all the family she had left. She knew most of them. She knew their secret and desires. She had a story to tell about each and every one of them. But none of them knew her.
Her eyes stopped on an older man in the crowd. She recognized him all too well. His name was Carson and he was the President of the Citadel Bank. He was the man who evicted her family from their farm. He was the man who held the deed to the vacant property. He came to Razzles often, although she never served him. In fact she avoided him. He had power over her in a way that no other man did. He had something she actually wanted. And she wanted it back tonight.
She was ready to step over another line. It was line she hadn’t crossed before that night. She felt like a traitor her parents, but now they were both gone. So what did it matter? It wasn’t a really betrayal. It was just business.
She picked herself up from the bar…twice. Removed a hairpin from her nurse’s cap, shook her hair down and approached him. She wasn't the little girl she once was. So she wasn’t surprised that he didn’t recognize her. He was interested in what she was offering that night. She had the manager set up a typical deal.
Shortly, the brokered couple was in a cozy rented room. He was standing near the door wearing only black socks. She was posed on the bed covered only by a red sheet. They sized each other up. Neither spoke. Carson could tell this wasn't going to be the typical intercourse he was accustomed to.
To Carson, life was a series of competitions. To him everyone was an opponent. There had to be a victor and loser in all matters. Even sex. Sex was a game of control. Each of that night’s contestants knew it. They both enjoyed it, but the game had rules. Betty was going to break them. The number one rule at Razzles was, men were always right.
In the back of Betty’s mind there was a lingering, unanswered question. She wanted the answer that night. She wanted the truth. So she used the bedroom as a lab to perform a private experiment. She wondered who had the most power? Was it the men or women? Of course, she had her own theory, but she had to test it for validation.
His mysterious adversary looked flush and ripe. "You’re very pretty. Now lay back on the bed for me."
She said, "No."
Carson wasn’t familiar with that word. She defied his orders. She sat up at the edge of the bed. He told her to stay on the bed. She got up. He reached to touch her. She pulled away and said, "No. Not till I say so."
She looked serious. He laughed at the absurdity. It was obviously a new game some sort. Betty tried to take charge. It was cute, but he wouldn't allow it. He wouldn't break his winning streak. She began tossing mean words at him through gritted teeth. Something about stealing farms from little girls. He was getting aroused.
It was getting interesting. He wanted to play too, but wasn't sure where to start. "I’m not here to talk about real estate toots. I’m here to screw you."
"Never again." Betty scolded.
Carson asked. "What?"
She glared at him and stood her ground. Her stance was preposterous to him. Did she really think that she could stop him? He laughed and provoked her. "You're little spitfire aren't you?"
"Go to hell!" she seethed.
She was marvelous and unpredictable and Carson loved it! He wanted to fight her.
He grabbed her wrist and wrenched it. He wanted to make a point. He was strong enough to fling her back to bed. She fought back. She was fighting for keeps, but he was just playing. He laughed as they wrestled. To him it was great! He loved how her soft body felt as it banged against him during battle. The harder she struggled the more aroused he became.
He was obviously the stronger of the two and he was going to win. But she didn’t make it easy, so he steamrolled over her on the bed. He crushed her under his bloated form. She couldn't breathe. He playfully mocked, "Say uncle."
His flab smothered her. All she could let out was a muffled scream. He teased musically. "I caaaaan't heeeeeear yooooou."
When the joke wore thin he let her up. He didn’t want it to end too quickly. He gave her a chance to attack again. His erection bounced as they chased each other around the bed. She lunged at him again and again. He easily repelled her. He loved that she was so mad. He grabbed both her wrists and spun her trapping her arms. He wrapped his body around hers and bear hugged her. It crushed her. He giggled as he pressed his erection into her back. "Feel that? Guess where that’s going toots?"
Then he shoved her on the bed and buried her face into a pillow. He folded her arm behind her back, and pulled at her shoulder till the joint hurt. She struggled to escape but couldn't. He had her. He had dominated her. She was utterly helpless. Betty started sobbing. Raw misery poured from her. She couldn’t stop it. To his surprise, her delicious tears, and the sweet music of her mourning made Carson climax.
She realized what happened and yelled out. "What is wrong with you people?"
He giggled. There bodies where pressed close throughout the match, but he never penetrated her. "Man oh man alive. That never happened before. Thank you, doll. That was just what I needed."
He chuckled hardily. "I haven't had that much fun since I was boy. You truly are the best, kiddo."
He released her supple form and she fell into a wet spot.
Her experiment was an utter failure. She lost control. She didn’t want him to enjoy it. She wanted him to take his semen back. He thought she was joking. She wept uncontrollably. Betty knew she wasn't in her right mind. She could tell she wasn’t making sense, but thought if she kept talking, a message would take form and coerce him. He tried to follow her words but it was too difficult.
"You ruined my life."
She begged him to sell her the farm for the number in her bankbook. She said she would do anything for him. She could make up the difference in services if it pleased him. She had to get out of Citadel. She couldn't take it one day more. She didn't want to go crazy too! She wanted the farm back and would do anything to get it. She offered her dignity in trade. It was all she had left.
He collected his clothes frantically.
"Please don't leave me! I’ll be your girlfriend or love slave, whatever you want! We can fight every night. You can hurt me,” she pleaded.
“I just want to go home!” She moaned through drunken tears.
She clung to his leg as he backed away from her. The game started off great but this nonsense ruined it for him. The whole thing had gotten too weird.
"You killed my daddy not me. You killed my daddy."
She was absolutely cuckoo. He loved when dames cried, but this was ridiculous. He didn’t care for the way she was acting at all. This was no way to treat a paying customer, especially not one of his caliber. He grabbed her arms, picked her up and shook her into silence. He yelled. "SHUT UP!"
It worked. She bit her lower lip. She sat silent and shook. She watched him get ready to leave. He broke into a lecture. "Quack, quack, quack. My goodness! Learn how to behave! I don't care what happened to your family. What’s done is done!”
There always seemed to be another line to cross. Since Betty couldn't control him, she wanted him dead. Betty decided that this was going to be his last sexual act. She could make one here own fantasies come true. She could kill one of those devils.
He turned away to ignore Betty and button up his starched shirt. She saw the perfect place to stick the knife. There was always one in the bedside drawer just incase things got out of hand. The girls couldn't have guns, they were too noisy, but knives were lying all around Razzles.
She picked up the knife and plotted it's course into his spine and through to his heart. She was ready to stab him in the back just like Carson did to her father. Her teeth were clenched. Her body shook. Tears burned her face. She gripped the knife so hard she could feel the blood pounding in her hand. She wanted to slay the monster. She wanted to put the knife right though him more than anything she'd ever wanted to do in her entire life, except to win back the family farm. It was the answer! It would be justice!
But she couldn't do it.
Carson exited the room without looking back or ever knowing how close he was to death.
She just couldn't do it.
She sat there crying in the bed. Then reassembled her nursing uniform.
The door to her room burst open with a bang. The management crew of Razzles filed in. She thought they were here to save her but they grabbed her and hefted her out. In the hallway, Carson stood with his arms crossed. He nodded his head with a smug smile as they dragged Betty from her bedroom. She was carried over the heads of the mob. She bounced off the wall as they progressed. Over the ruckus and her own wailing she heard her manager shout out. "Get that crazy broad out of here, now!"
She was hurried down a secluded back hallway and her friends dumped her in the street. As she kneeled on all fours in the gutter she was peppered by a smattering of parting shots.
"Why did you even come here tonight?"
"We don’t need those type of theatrics here!"
"You need help, Betsy!"
"That dame is nuts."
"Go share a padded room with your crazy mom."
"It’s just business!"
She was evicted again and could never return to Razzles.
She picked herself up and roamed the midnight streets of Citadel. She wandered like a ghost, glowing in her white nursing uniform. She already felt dead.
Her family lost the farm so she became a whore to buy it back. It only cost her soul. She hoped that God would understand.
All she had done, all she had become was for nothing. Her family was destroyed. Her father was dead, her mom was locked in the nut-house and Betty was fired from her job as a b-list whore. She hated life in Citadel and wanted out.
It was very late. The streets were black. The entire Citadel seemed asleep except for her and the sound of squealing tires somewhere in the distance. Through tears she saw her final destination, a rusty old drawbridge. She walked to the railing and leaned over. She wondered how cold the water was. She had never been a good swimmer and never took the time to learn. That oversight could only help her at that moment. Tears broke from her face and fell to the swirling hypnotic rhythm of the black waves below.
Betty had learned that life was constant pain and suffering.
The evil in the world was too strong.
She prayed to God to intervene
She prayed to God for a reason to live.
She wanted a way out.
She couldn’t stop crying.
The handrail on the bridge was the last line she would ever have to cross.
She inched closer.
Suddenly, a heavy crash behind her shook the air! It jarred Betty from her trance. A car had swerved off the road and into a brick wall. It took out a mailbox and lamppost as it crossed the sidewalk. From the sound of impact Betty expected the vehicle to be demolished. But the car was immaculate. It was shiny, black and streamlined. It was futuristic and menacing at the same time. It was unlike anything she’d ever seen before. The door swung open and a man rolled out onto the pavement. He was covered in blood. Her nursing training got the better of her and she responded to the medical emergency. She rushed over to him sobering up more and more with each pulse of adrenaline as she ran.
As she closed in she heard the wounded man laughing. She wondered if this city drove everyone mad eventually. He proclaimed, “I did it. I hurt them where it counts. I fought the power at the top of Citadel with truth and justice. I’m a hero!”
Betty knelt at his side and asked gently. “What are you talking about?”
“I stole their car. Ha ha, but I wasn’t quick enough to get away unscathed.” He looked at his bloodied arm.
“Why did you steal the car?” She asked.
“Ha ha. Because I’m a spy, sort of.” He responded proudly.
“You’re a traitor?” She asked.
“No, you’ve got it all backwards. I’m the good guy. This car was built for the wrong side. It was constructed for the enemies of the free world.”
“But we’re in America.” Betty corrected confused.
“I know. This car is a magnificent weapon. I stole it from an unscrupulous war profiteer named Oslo Herning.”
A chill ran through her. She knew the name. He was a client of hers and one of the Silver Spoon Circle. She spent many nights with him at Razzles.
“I, I don’t understand.” She stammered. “Oslo is a fascist?”
“There are war profiteers here in Citadel. They act against the best interests of the free world because they are motivated only by greed, not right and wrong. Their only concern is personal gain. There is a lot of money at stake if we all go to war. Some see it as a doorway to make big bucks. Unfortunately companies, and investors are anxious to profit from the death and destruction of others, including their own countrymen. They see it as an opportunity. They sell weapons and munitions to the highest bidders. In some cases they double deal and sell to both sides, bullets for one side and then the armor to the other. If that’s not evil I don't know what is.”
“They want others to die to assure the growth of their bank accounts. They have no principles. They are monsters. Someone had to make them accountable.”
His words rang as true to her as any others she ever heard or thought. As he spoke Betty pieced together past conversations she witnessed between Silver Spoons. It supported the spy’s claim. She knew they were monster too, but she didn’t know they went this far.
“Once I saw the truth, I couldn’t hide from it. I had to stop them.” He coughed out the words with a mouth full of blood.
“We have to get you to a hospital now. You've got to continue your fight. What you’re doing is too important to stop.”
"No. My part is done. It’s cost me more than I imagined getting this far. I'm tired. I’ve lost so much. If I live, I will never have peace again.”
He looked deeply into her eyes for a moment. Then said. “If you really want to help. Don’t let them have their car back.”
He took another strained breath and held it to trap a massive sob in his chest. “Please don’t let me die here in Citadel.”
Tears swelled in Betty’s McDougal’s sober eyes. She understood the sentiment exactly. The stranger was so weak and vulnerable. He had a rugged face like her father. He saw the black and white things in life, like her dad. The spy knew the difference between right and wrong. The Citadel wouldn’t stand for it, so they punished him for challenging them. She had to help him.
“I promise I will grant your wish. I know a better place where we both can go.”
She drove the big, black car out of the city. As they traveled he slipped in and out of consciousness. "I hope that you’re a good person. I hope you are moral creature."
She cried privately at his words.
"Don’t let the car fall back into wrong hands. It doesn't have to be used for evil. It’s amoral. It’s just a tool. It could be used for good.”
In less than an hour she was back at the McDougal farm. Somewhere along the route the spy’s heart stopped. She made a real connection in the last moments of the stranger’s life. As suddenly as he came to her, he was gone. She was alone again.
She pulled up the dirt driveway. She saw that brush had grown high and wild but everything else was just like they left it so long ago. She stepped from the car. The night air was fresh. The forgotten sound of crickets played a familiar tune. She was home… She was really home.
To her this was sacred ground. So she buried the mysterious hero in it.
As the young nurse dug his grave by the light of the full moon, a calm washed over her. She thought about the day she had. All the events coalesced to create this unique moment. It couldn’t have been a coincidence. Maybe it was a sign. It felt like a higher purpose was bestowed upon her that night. It felt like a reward for all her hard work. It felt like destiny.
The villains in Citadel had too much power. It was unfair. Their wealth gave them an advantage they used to abuse others. They destroyed people for sport and got away with it.
Someone needed to fight back. Someone had to balance the scales of justice. Her eyes were wide open. The spy proved that one person could make a difference. Maybe she couldn’t change the world but she could change the city. She had a way to strike back. The car was the missing piece. It could be the vehicle of her revenge. She began to devise a plan for her future.
Before morning she hid the mysterious vehicle in the barn.
It was the car of tomorrow forged by super science. In the back seat she found an operators manual in a pile of stolen, crumpled, papers. She discovered that the wonder car was full of gadgets and accessories. They would allow here to adopt a new role in life, one in a position of real power.
In the papers was a list of the villains. All the problems in the city could be traced back to these men. She recognized all the names. She could get close to them, but how far would she be willing to go to topple the Citadel?
There really was a war looming, but it was going to take place in Citadel City. Betty picked her side. She had her weapon. Now she needed to learn how to fight.