Strength in Numbers: Pt 2 The Good Girl Chs 62 - 64
62. LIFTER, STRIPPER, SOLDIER, SPY
After Lyn went into the hospice, Roz stayed in New York City, taking power of attorney and getting the necessary affairs in order. In mid December, with the streets heavy with pre-Christmas shoppers and the clouds with pre-Christmas sleet, Evelyn Carmetti met her maker.
Jenna had consolidated a relationship with Red Jannson III. The young politician had failed in his bid for Governor of Texas, running second behind the incumbent with 29% of the vote. That was enough to push the other major party to a distant third and provide the prize of a State-wide profile that would be worked up over the twenty four months to the poll for one of the two US Senate positions – Rip and Red’s ‘holy grail’.
Clare and Rip had left the Gulf Coast and moved to Dallas. That suited Clay who could be nearer to Jessica, giving her a little more certainty as she tore through her undergraduate science degree. The ‘Hammersley-Van Dykes’ were kind enough to attend the funeral, by happy coincidence, Clare finding time to speak on the joys of ‘mature age’ fitness to a health and fitness expo: she had her pro card from the IFBB and was being exalted as one of the greatest ‘over 40’ bodybuilders of the sport.
Perhaps three months before, Roz and Gareth would have been flabbergasted at some of the old ‘icons’ of the later 20th century who attended the funeral or sent condolences. However, as she neared infirmity, Lyn confided in her family the multitude of secrets that threaded through her life and ancestral history.
More correct: she confided in Roz and Jess.
Gareth set the train in motion. That morning of Jenna’s thirtieth, he confronted Lyn as to why she lied about the photo and threatened to withhold his favors until she ‘fessed up. Lyn responded in an unexpected way. She promised to tell Roz when they arrived back at her home but before that made a call to the office of the Vice President; Gareth was contacted by the Veep’s Chief of Staff, followed by a trip to Washington.
And the release of sensitive documents.
Lyn already had some of the documents. She manipulated them to tell the ‘Heidi’ story she wanted told. Jess was the unwitting conduit to the family. But when Jenna dismissed Jess’s comments on Lyn’s story that morning by the pool, Jess lost interest in the idea.
Perhaps a good thing. Maybe it meant the young teen would not recognise she was being used in as the last plank in a hoax that soon unravelled.
All because of that photo and Gareth.
“She was always the performer.”
“Sounds to me, mom, she was the best of the best.”
“A good way to look at it, Susan. Sure, I was good, I thought I was great, but no: Lyn. She was great.”
Jenna dropped her service combination cap on the tempered glass dining table and waved her arms in front of her.
“Okay, I’m sorry. I’ve come into this late. So, would someone be good enough to humor me?”
Susie and Roz looked at each other and smiled. Red had not travelled with the family to the funeral, the only male ‘partner’ of the women not to do so – Clay, Ned and Gareth being seated with their black-attired women in the extended living area of the Carmetti residence.
Susie knew a couple of other things also bugged her daughter. Jen wore her blue service dress thinking she would fit in with the admirals and generals who’d attended the service. They ignored her. And just to throw the cat into the pidgeon box, Timothy Wolff was there, extending his heartfelt sympathy. The Captain was not happy. Susie guessed that a flame still flickered.
“Okay, Jenna, just sit down and I’ll go through from the beginning.”
“At last, thank you, mother.”
Jen sat at the top of the table, tucking her skirt under her thighs and hands clenched in her lap. Susie began to speak, all the eyes of the room were upon Jenna.
“Lyn was not the woman we thought she was, she had very much the double life. For us it was even more than that. Ya see, what she said ‘bout being born in 1940 was true. Thing is, but, she wasn’t the daughter of Heidi.”
Roz came in.
“She was Heidi.”
Jen was incredulous.
“What? She was Heidi? How?”
“That story ‘bout Imelda having the child in Austria in 1923 is all true. There was a daughter born but her name wasn’t Heidi. It was Evelyn.”
“Then how could she be born in 1940?”
“Settle down, sailor ...”
Jenna glared back and crossed her arms.
“... the young Evelyn left her home at 14 and went to Spain where the superstrong girl became caught up in helping to evacuate injured republican troops in the Spanish Civil War, she didn’t fight but she did save lives.”
Susie paused for effect and continued.
“Tragedy struck in the form of a boating accident and the young Evelyn drowned. I’ve tried damn hard to get details of the incident but it’s real sketchy, specially since she was helpin’ the wrong side at the time.”
Roz came in again.
“It could’ve even been a trap ‘cause the nationalists knew how strong this girl was.”
Jenna was dismissive.
“Well, we’ve all had to deal with these sorts of things. Where does Heidi come in?”
“The next scene. The word got back to Imelda who was shattered and although her husband had passed on, readily found a sire for a second child.”
“Don’t tell me, mom, it’s a daughter and she’s got a thousand times the strength of Evelyn and Imelda.”
“Do ya want me to tell this or not?”
“The daughter was named Heidi Evelyn, in memory of her late sister. They stayed in Austria ‘til the allies occupied the country in 1945 and as refugees settled in the States. No one had any idea of their strength.”
“No one noticed the muscle?”
“Maybe Austrians are a strong looking lot, Jenna, I dunno.”
Roz thought she’d take up from there.
“The obvious thing for a superstrong woman to do was to find someone who’d pay her money to lift things, anything up to about ten ton, as we know it. Imelda joined a circus and did lifts. Heidi joins in the act and wins more and more adulation. A little seven or eight year old lifting a coupla hundred pounds.”
Jess interrupted this time.
“As you did, Gran.”
“Yeah, as I did, darlin’, and I know from experience the young girl loved the applause of the crowd. She grows up in the circus and soon becomes the star but falls out with Imelda. Anyway, circuses weren’t doin’ that good and two super-Janes do not one Tarzan make. So one had to go.”
“And that’s how Heidi left to link up with the circus that already had ‘Big Jim’ McAdam.”
Jenna interrupted her mother again, this time with a genuine inquiry.
“The thing that gets me is that, Gran, you were told by ya dad that the circus knew nothin’ of Heidi, but that can’t be right if they knew what the other competition had. Surely they must, wouldn’t they?”
The eyes of the room fell on Roz.
“Jenna, it’s best if I answer that in the cruellest way I can. ‘Cause I think that both our mothers fell pregnant to men with magnificent physiques who weren’t the sharpest between the ears.”
Susie poked her tongue against her cheek and nodded. Jenna, reminded of her own situation, looked at her hands.
“Ya already know this bit. Big Jim and Heidi get all romantic and I’m born, but rather than her being in her thirties, she was the age my daddy thought, ‘bout 16 when they got together. Oh, and before ya go askin’, yeah they got married before I was born, not that it matters.”
Roz sighed. Susie took the tag and continued.
“This is where it starts gettin’ a bit weird. We dunno why Heidi left the circus but we know that almost straight away she stopped usin’ her first name and married name and just called herself Evelyn. She made her way to Galveston and that’s where Gareth found her doin’ her strength act for ten bucks a lift.”
“As I said she did in that photo, when I was about eight or nine.”
“Or maybe ten, ‘cause it was in Galveston she had a run in with the law when she was nineteen.”
Jess pushed in.
“That’s the document she gave me, mom, she said it was a police running sheet on Heidi.”
“Well it was, just that it wasn’t 1939 like she said, it was in 1959.”
“Like the photo.”
“That’s right, darlin’. She’d fudged the date on the copy she gave us. Anyway, the ones we got from the Veep’s office were the right ones. What happened was, she’s livin’ on her wits and like any other superstrong teen, thought the best way to make a bit of money was bustin’ up a payroll van. Thing is but, young Lyn’s got a bit of class. She doesn’t go for any ol’ armor car, she wants the police payroll truck ...”
Ned and Clay laughed.
“... ya can see what happens, can’t ya?”
Roz chimed in.
“Read the report, dear.”
Susie grabbed the document from the table in front of Jenna, who continued to sit sullenly with hands returned to her lap.
“It says ‘The suspect was seen to walk behind the van and with one hand, tore the back door from its hinges. No hydraulic or other aid was identified and it appeared to bystanders that the suspect used only her own strength. Officers Tabot and Langstaff confronted the suspect who had entered the rear of the van. Officer Langstaff informed Detectives that she told him ‘I’m stronger than any of you and I’ll take what I like. You can shoot if you want, it won’t hurt me.’ The suspect jumped from the rear of the van holding a number of sacks containing cash. Officer Langstaff drew his service revolver and informed the suspect that if she did not stop, he would fire. She turned and laughed at him. He fired one round at the suspect which he believed struck her on the abdomen, she continued to laugh with no visible sign of injury to her person. As she did not desist, he continued to fire until his revolver was empty. Officer Langstaff witnessed holes in the body of the garment worn by the suspect, however, no wounds observed.’ End of report.”
Roz shook her head.
“Sorry, Susan, the bureaucracy is a little too stale. After the robbery, the police decided that my mother, Lyn or Heidi, whatever you like, was wearing a bulletproof vest, so they went after her, not thinking about her strength, but only the need for better firepower.”
“Enter the Feds”
“That’s right. They called in the FBI. They knew where Lyn was holed up, they sent in six agents with machine guns and a bazooka for back up. They thought a couple of rounds into her face would work. But no. They kept shootin’ and she’s standin’ twenty feet in front of ‘em with hands on hips laughin’ at them. They weren’t in any doubt ‘bout the lack of a vest, ‘cause they shot her top clean off her.”
“What she’s standing there half naked?”
“Near enough. They fire the cannon and she, wait for this, she deflects the shell with her right hand and it flies off and detonates behind her.
Jenna shook her head.
“Wish I coulda done that.”
“As I said, don’t ask me how. Anyway they start to panic, so she rushes forward, grabs the bazooka and snaps it in two. The agent tries to run and she gets him and hurls him like a javelin back through the wooden front door to where a squad of back up agents were standing, his broken body landing in a pile in front of ‘em.”
Susie tilted her head and held up a hand.
“Hang on, mom. Didn’t she get arrested?”
“She tormented the other five agents for a while, ya know, just breakin’ their guns and runnin’ ‘em around and stuff then when she decides she needs to get some clothes on says ‘yeah, sure, ya can take me in.’ But it was all a ruse. Soon as she gets in a cell with a Federal-issue coverall she just starts bendin’ bars and snappin’ hinges like any supergirl would.”
“So she escaped.”
“No, she just kept tormentin’ them. So they got the boss, J. Edgar Hoover, himself, down to talk with her. She was real taken with him too. He hit on her. Said he was turned on by her muscle and strength. So she lifted stuff for him, ya know, the usual bus, truck, small aircraft. He says she’s like supergirl and he always wanted to fuck supergirl.”
Ned cleared his throat.
“Just reminding y’all that we have a thirteen year old present and, umm, I didn’t think that sex would’ve been the Director’s primary motivation, was it?”
Roz shook her head and spoke.
“Sorry dear, and ya right, J. Edgar was swingin’ from another tree. He saw in Lyn a real great opportunity, not lust.”
Susie came back in.
“The documents we got from the Veep’s office show Hoover made Lyn an offer she couldn’t refuse. The FBI would pay her a thousand a month – in 1959 money – if she agreed to be on their books as an ‘agent’.”
It was too much for Jenna.
“Agent? What type of agent?”
Susie looked at her daughter with mischief.
“I guess the same as me, Captain. She did special chores. The ones the boys could only think hopeful about.”
Roz’s tone admonished her.
“No, it wasn’t like that. Hoover was worried ‘bout the arrival of the Kennedys on the political scene. He hedged his bets and decided that from the Democratic side, a good Texan like LBJ would make a nice choice as Presidential candidate, so he ‘lends’ Lyn to the Texan delegation at the National Conference they have in LA to pick their candidate.”
As a registered Democrat, Susie felt an obligation to explain the story.
“Yeah, LBJ gets Lyn to do some subterfuge for him. To check on what’s goin’ on with the Kennedys in their bunker in the Biltmore Hotel. So she turns up in a hotel maid uniform and says she’s gotta deliver this refrigerator to the room. A full, five foot tall, solid steel refrigerator, she knocks on the door and carries it into the room.”
Ned intervenes this time.
“Just carries a fridge into the room?”
“That’s right, darlin’. Thing was, the maid uniform isn’t built for muscle and the arms stretch and tear. Bobby sees the whole thing and confronts her, askin’ how strong she is. Well, she tells him, best way is to find out and she walks up to the sofa where a coupla staff are sittin’ and lifts it with one hand.”
Jenna came alive.
“Mom, ya told this story before.”
“No, I haven’t Jenna, be patient. Ya see, the FBI gave Lyn the call name of ‘Mary Armstrong’ and that’s what everyone knew her as. For this little assignment, she got to know Bobby Kennedy real well, and I mean real well, and she felt pretty keen on him too. After the first ballot when Jack got the nomination, it was Lyn who had a lot to do with massaging Bobby into accepting LBJ as Jack’s running mate. In truth, LBJ and Lyn, or Mary Armstrong, were also very close.”
“She was doin’ him.”
“Jen, Mary Armstrong is one of the greatest counter-espionnage agents of the 20th century.”
“That’s a big leap from bein’ a muscle maid at the Democrat Convention, I wish you’d just keep to chronology.”
“Sorry, darlin’, but I just want ya to know. Anyway, when Johnson gets sworn in as Veep he makes a deal with Mary for her to work under his direct command.”
“No sucker, our LBJ. So she gets special trainin’, CIA and special forces, all that stuff. Then comes the first big assignment during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She gets secreted into the US Embassy in Moscow with orders to kill the Kremlin top command. Never happened, of course, as ya know the Soviets pulled back. But she did other stuff in Eastern Europe; even saved a bus load of Czechs from gettin’ crushed by a Soviet tank during the invasion of Prague.”
“When was that?”
“Umm, 1968 I think, Jen.”
“So she was active for a while.”
“’Bout ten years. ...”
Susie tried for a bit of flippancy.
“... In fact, she even had an episode of Get Smart based on her.”
“Get Smart? What’s that.”
“Sorry, Clay, 1960s sitcom. Umm, I’ll show ya on Youtube later.”
“Umm, they did an episode where they showed a character called ‘Mary Jack Armstrong’ carrying a fridge and breaking down an iron door, among other things. It was a lift straight out of the legends of our own ‘Mary Armstrong’.”
Jen wasn’t interested in 60s sitcoms.
“Mom, ya said she was in counter-espionage.”
“Yeah, she was, but not as Mary Armstrong. In the early 1970s when Nixon was in the White House, she went back to working for the FBI and made extra cash in the spare time working at the Club.”
“It’s true whether ya like it or not. But in those days she was the star attraction. When she was on stage, the place was packed. She lifted cars and trucks, always with heels on, not that there was ever anything else.”
Roz interrupted this time.
“And it just shows how strong she was, ‘cause when we lift we use the whole of our feet to take and spread out the weight, bit like the lower lip of an ][ frame girder.”
“That’s right; otherwise we’d just sink into the sand or the road or whatever.”
“Thanks, Jen. But with Lyn, she was unique. She had incredible balance and could push all the weight onto her toes.”
“That’s a real effort.”
“It is, but if she didn’t, those heels would just snap straight off.”
“So ya sayin’, Gran, that Lyn had exceptional super strength, just like us.”
“Ya bet she did. She was the genuine second daughter.”
Susie came back in.
“Maybe that’s why she got on so well with Jessica.”
“She told me we were special girls, I just thought she meant all of us.”
Jenna was determined to keep the story flowing.
“So what of the spy business?”
Susie took it up.
“She worked for the CIA under the code name ‘Jackie Steele’. She quit when the Carter administration wound back the budget in the late 70s. Then came the ‘tell all’ novel by an ex-operative called ‘Silk Stockings, Spies and Super Strength’, the heroine being a superstrong female James Bond type called Jacklyn Steele.”
“I get it, the cover was blown.”
“The book’s on the shelf over there, it’s a good read.”
“And all this time she was workin’ at the Club.”
“When she was around.”
“But not when I was there, Susan. She’d moved on.”
“No, they thought you were her sister.”
“Maybe, that’s how the whole idea came about.”
Gareth offered his two cents worth.
“Lyn admitted to us then that she knew Roz was related to her. I just always assumed Roz knew her as well.”
“It’s a fair call to make.”
“And also just in case anyone hadn’t pieced it together, yes the FBI was running the Club.”
“And payin’ you to manage it for ‘em.”
“It had its side benefits.”
They laughed. Clay was confused.
“What’s the Club?”
Jess cut in.
“I’ll tell you later, Clayton, it’s a long time family thing.”
Roz and Susie looked at each other, then at Ned; the concern in their eyes asking the obvious question. Jenna had no doubt who spilt the beans.
“Jessica, did Lyn tell ya ‘bout the Club?”
“... she said if I was old enough to live in Dallas, I was old enough to know family history.”
Susie rolled her eyes and spoke.
“Well now we all know. Lyn was one of the great performers and great covert operatives of the late 20th century.”
Jenna shook her head.
“So how’d all the surveillance of the family and the supervision of Lyn come to go back into the hands of the Vice President if under Nixon it went to the FBI?”
“Simple answer, darlin’, is George H W Bush was an ex CIA director and a Texan.”
“Wanted to keep a close eye on things, huh?”
“Specially since his son Jeb went to school with Red Jannson junior.”
“They don’t fall too far from the tree do they?”
“I’ll get ya that book for the trip back, darlin’, take ya mind off things.”
“Great, mom, and I guess it’ll explain why all the Brass were there today.”
“No, Jen, those men were youngsters like me when Lyn was first at the Club.”
“Yeah, of course they were. I guess I should’ve been nice to that young boy I knew there, ‘cause in twenty years time he could well be a general or a senator or even runnin’ for president.”
“You have no idea how close you are to the truth, Jenna McAdam.”
“I think I do, Gareth Cormack ... No, I think I do.”
“Hey there, Uber-Girl!”
“Nice of y’all to drop in, Jessica.”
“It’s because I love you guys, you know that.”
And Jessica had literally just ‘dropped in’. A group of four freshmen, two girls, two guys stood around on the greenery at the southern side of the southern UT Dallas Residence Hall, near the basketball court. The fifteen year old Jessica Beaumont had tired of trying to manoeuvre through the lunch time crowds and just, well, went over the top.
From the other side of the four storey building, she used the extreme power in her legs to leap onto the peak of the roof (from a standing start) then hop off onto the grass verge where her friends were standing. The campus was littered with cracks and divots in the cement and asphalt evidencing where the fifteen year old had decided to employ a little something extra in her moves.
Whether she could control the destruction caused by her take offs; it was problematic on landing. The four storey drop didn’t concern her, the barefeet leaving only a small indentation in the turf, except that on landing the momentum caused her Ipod earphones to flip from the ears. A contrast with only a week prior when hitting asphalt she slipped, tearing a four foot groove that was now surrounded by orange workmen’s cones.
“And ya gettin’ better with those landings, too.”
The super-teen pushed the Ipod into her backpack – not bothering to twirl the leads.
“Thanks, hitting soft turf is sooo much easier.”
“Goin’ to the gig, girlfriend?”
“Yeah, should do, I’ll meet you at six.”
Jess was closest to the two guys, Seth and Danny, the eighteen year olds revelling in her size and physique. They claimed to be gay, then ‘bi’, but Jess neither knew for sure nor professed any interest in their preferences. The girls were a different breed. Erica was a full on gamer nerd. The oldest of the small group at nineteen, she seemed the most naive. Mousy, short and spotty, it was likely she had never spoken to a guy one-on-one, let alone anything more intimate. The other chick, Joanie, had a taste for the extreme; weird tatoos and piercings. With a face full of metal and tits and ass covered in ink, she confided in Jess that she’d spent most of the last weekend in bed with the two boys, a weird troika of lugubrious lust and laziness. The four of them were average students and each hoped that the grad student standing over them could help get them through their first year.
The Muscle Miss couldn’t have cared less.
Puberty had treated her in a different way to others. She had grown to stand 6-6 in her ubiquitous barefeet with a prospect of more to come; her hair, now worn long, had lightened to a ‘dirty’ blonde, a shade darker than her father; her eyes seemed to lighten as well – to a green-brown; and her facial features appeared to elongate. No longer could the boyish image of Frankie Carmetti be seen, she was very much a girl who could be described as pretty. Pretty average or pretty attractive. She did not possess the family beauty but nor was she plain. Unlike her elders she showed her age, indeed being able to pass for several years older. Within a whisker of completing her masters degree those on campus simply assumed she was in her early twenties. There was nothing to give away the true age of this exceptional prodigy in genetics and biochemistry.
And that nothing included her physique. Again she was ‘atypical’ of the family build. Her shoulders were about four feet in breadth, her biceps flexed to 22 inches, the forearms to sixteen. Her quads were measured at 34 inches around and calves to sixteen. The chest and lats came in at 58 inches, about the size of Roz and Lyn, but the shape was very different. Her waist was larger at 28 inches and Jessica didn’t have the ‘breasts’ of the older women, in fact, on that criterion she would be described as ‘flat chested’. Rather she seemed to have these ‘double pecs’ that extended at a horizontal level from the base of her neck and curved down giving the look of two huge, flesh colored, serrated, metal plates sitting under her shoulders. The Arnolds, Lous, Lees and Jays would be very envious of such chest development if not her all-round, all-ripped and vascular appearance.
She had ‘rebelled’ in her teens in her unique way. She continued to shun any outfit with sleeves (or at least, tight fitting sleeves). Today was normal, wearing her favorite: a black, toughened and reinforced spandex dress, the hard upper fabric fitting like a halter top and meeting at her diaphragm. The skirt length a foot above her knees, she had no need for a bra or shoes for her size 18 feet and saw no need for knickers either. Just one sexy faux-leather outfit with an abundance of muscle on show. Of course, sans-panties was par for the course among the McAdam-Beaumonts; as was shaving the pubic region. Not for Jess. To quote her mother, she was “an amazon in every sense of the word”, a thick carpet of dark hair covering her from groin to anal sphincter.
“Ya gone viral, ya know, the Band’s gonna really love you.”
“Told you it would, Seth, everyone loves the Uber-Girl.”
“Aw and those muscles, just awesome. I mean they’re even hackin’ at the vid and puttin’ up a slowed down version when ya flexin’ and stuff.”
Joanie put her hand on Jess’s forearm.
“Not only that, Uber-Girl, ya flashed ya mat at the camera. There’s stills of it all over the ‘net.”
“Aw bullshit, Joanie.”
“No, look, Jess.”
Erica’s omnipresent appliance had downloaded a still from the video onto her iphone.
“Oh. My. God. ...”
“... Aw well, I guess I’m famous.”
“Or even more famous, girlfriend.”
“Oh, yeah, thanks, Seth.”
The thing in common for this group of five was their support of on-campus grunge rockers ‘The Kid Nose Band’. They were decent enough to get some following around Dallas and the space-consuming presence of an enthusiastic Jessica in the ‘regular’ crowd was noticed by the band members. A couple of them wrote a song about her called ‘Uber-Girl’. It was popular at the gigs and they thought a vid might get them an out-of-town profile. Jess was happy to appear as herself for provision of a caesar salad and Coke and wore her favorite short, black spandex outfit for the filming. She twisted and turned, danced and gyrated, flexed and posed. She was a natural. Then right at the end she looks straight at the camera, pouts and with her hands on the hem of her dress, lifts and flashes. No more than a second. And no less.
Danny decided to ride where many have feared to tread.
“They’re gonna relook at that bus thing, Jess, after they heard the line in the song.”
“What are you talking about, Daniel?”
“The line in the song, you know, where it says you sliced open a bus.”
“That’s just an urban myth. Ever since my sister outed herself as a super-muscle bitch on C-Spin, everyone thinks they got a Jessica story.”
“This one’s got cred.”
“Don’t believe it.”
Early evening in the last winter, Jess wanted to get across town fast to meet Clay and Clare. Earphones in, Ipod on full, she ran, fast, furious and without paying attention, didn’t see the brand new Greyhound coach that was backing toward her. She went through it at a tight diagonal, entering near the back left wheels and coming out before the front right wheels. By luck, only the driver was on board. He was unhurt but as the massive girl didn’t hang around, he had a hell of a time explaining how it happened. To compound the mystery, the Band was going to call their tribute ‘The Black Streak’, until Seth convinced one of them that ‘Uber Girl’ was so much more wicked.
“So ya in class this afternoon, Jess?”
“I’m doing my final research paper and anyway, my sister is up here to meet with the Faculty. I have to go with her.”
“In trouble, girlfriend?”
“No, the Government wants to talk about a scholarship for me so I can stay here and do my doctorate.”
“I thought ya were all set for Harvard?”
“Hope this comes off so I can stay here.”
“So do we, we need ya brains.”
They shared a self-conscious laugh.
“Everyone wants a piece of my mind, Joanie, that’s the thing.”
Danny pointed toward the parking lots.
“And I’m guessin’ that’s ya sister over there.”
Jessica waved toward the massive khaki clad figure which smiled and waved back. If nothing else it was always easy for them to pick out the other in a crowd.
Jenna wore the Navy’s new khaki ‘summers’ for officers – a short sleeve shirt (a snug fit around the arms and lats – no flexing please) and baggy knee length shorts with black dress shoes and short white socks. There was an expanse of muscle that caused the jocks and chicks in her near vicinity to stop and stare. They’d been used to the hard, ripped flesh of Jessica Beaumont, but this woman was something else again.
As the officer came into earshot of the group, Seth stated the obvious.
“Oh my God, check out those boobs. They’re huge!”
Jenna ignored it. He would’ve seen more on Youtube.
“You ready to go, Jess?”
“Sure thing, Jenna, just need my backpack.”
“Hope you’ve got your shoes in there.”
Jess frowned, the other four laughed. She turned back to them.
“See you guys tonight, okay?”
A cacophony of ‘see ya’ and the sisters were alone to navigate the crowd, bobbing along under and around them as if they were in Lilliput.
“I was serious, Jess, we’re visiting the Faculty, shoes are good.”
“I don’t wear shoes, Jenna, you know that. And I’m not going to until my feet stop growing.”
In her own size 14 footwear, Jenna was almost Jess’s height. They exchanged a look of mutual frustration. The older woman sighed and tried a different tack.
“Interesting group of friends you have up here.”
“They’re not friends as such; they’re just people I go to gigs with.”
“People you hang around with.”
“I saw your video.”
“Oh, yeah. Like it?”
“I did, plenty of muscle on show ...”
“... and that little tease at the end – very naughty.”
“The hem just kind of blew up.”
“I thought that’s why you wore that hard vinyl, it doesn’t blow up when you BASE jump and doesn’t snag when you’re slicing up buses.”
“Does mom know?”
“Not from me.”
“Yeah, she mightn’t be too cool.”
“I wouldn’t worry.”
“Fine, I’m not.”
The sisters walked in silence. It was interesting how they had both ‘revealed’ themselves in the last six months.
After taking up her position, CAPT McAdam soon learned the need to ‘work’ the media, to talk to the print and online journalists, appear on radio, talk back. Then TV beckoned. Not just grabs on precautions for the latest tropical storm or an Oklahoma twister, she was invited onto chat shows, morning shows, late night TV. She always dressed well – the appropriate dress uniform – well presented, well rehearsed. Videos of her appeared on the ‘net; ‘Jenna’s Calves’, ‘Jenna’s Shoulders’ and the like. She went to elocution classes to plain down some of the peaks and troughs in her Texan drawl (or as her mother put it, to talk more like Jess). Teeth whitened, make up improved, the broad smile, the right amount of cleavage, she was the most recognised woman in the southern States.
Her relationship with the declared candidate for the US Senate from Texas was not a secret and her own profile was to soar to national standing from a ‘meet the partners’ TV special on C-SPAN’s new ‘lite’ channel (referred to universally as ‘C-Spin’).
The segment on her was an action packed eight minutes: the war record, the time in Korea, her work in emergency management. So how does she keep so fit? Fifty five seconds of gym footage (wearing the old Navy singlet and black shorts), benching for reps, curls, squats then another twenty seconds on a treadmill. All for show, with faked sweat and carefully choreographed ‘breathing heavy’: the scene went ultra-viral. A million downloads within five hours of the upload. All that muscle and strength on show (Comment: How much was she benching? 300, 400? Comment: It was 400. Comment: No, 300. The girl who knew wasn’t saying).
And with the American media all abuzz about the ‘Gladiatrix from Galveston’, Rip and Red spun the exposé hard to their advantage. Networks would not allow the Stewarts, Colberts and Lenos to ‘trash’ the reputation of such a decorated servicewoman; Fox News reported on the fallout with a clip from the show and a screen caption that read ‘Capt Jenna R McAdam USN – War Hero’.
Jenna had arrived. Many close to her held their breath to see how she would handle the attention – was it the beginning of a brilliant new phase in her career? Or the long view of an impending train wreck?
The sisters stopped outside the Faculty offices.
“Okay, Jess, I just need to know that you want this.”
“I told you I did.”
“It’s just that mom and I are sticking our necks out. When you get the doctorate you’ll have to come and work for us. No ifs or buts.”
“Plus internship in vacation time; I’ve read the fine print, Jenna.”
The PhD scholarship Jenna had set up with Washington was worth more to the University than Jessica cost them. The rough looking diamond who sat in front of the Dean, Bursar and the doctorate supervisor, with her legs crossed and in that one piece of sexy, sturdy clothing had attained an exceptional academic record. The Dean took the view that Harvard’s loss was the University’s gain and whatever arrangement Jess came to with Washington would suit them just fine. She would commence after the conferment of her postgraduate biochemistry degree in July. On the basis of her achievements to date, she should take about eighteen months to finish the program.
Beyond the discussion phase, Jenna was smart enough to remain out of the loop, allowing others to put this together. Not for her would be such an obvious ‘conflict of interest’. Her fingerprints no where to be found, she was happy with the outcome; in the short term it could be just the tonic Horizon required to remain a functioning research facility.
In the longer term, it could well house the most profound bio-genetic experiments since Gregor Mendel cross-fertilized his peas.
64. KEEPING CLOSE RELATIONS
“Jessica is convinced we approached this all the wrong way.”
“She could be right, Jenna, but I guess we’ll never know. I doubt I’ll ever be able to find her again.”
“And now she’s a real fuckin’ menace.”
Sallyanne stayed at Horizon for close to twenty months, more than a year and a half. At first she was the model scientific sample; compliant, interested and resourceful. Some useful data was obtained on her speed (up to three hundred miles per hour in a straight line) and strength (lift capacity up to about 200 kiloton).
One by one, the erratic behavior returned. Disappearing off base (returning hours or days later), refusing to comply with test conditions, faking illness and general malcontent.
Staff hated to deal with her. Sometimes she would torment them physically – squeeze a hand, a lift into the air – and other times mentally. Morale plummeted.
After a few ‘followup’ sessions, she rejected any physical advance from Susie, not offering any explanation, and an attempt to arrange satisfaction by way of a rent boy failed when she decided she wanted to ‘play hard’.
It came on a Sunday. The CCTV footage showed Sallyanne appearing to argue with a junior technician. The supergirl lost it. While still seated, Sallyanne aimed a martial arts kick at the tiny woman, forcing her left rib cage into her right lung. Nothing had prepared Susie or Horizon for the supergirl suddenly turning violent. And it didn’t end in the laboratory. Sallyanne’s furore meant doors were an inconvenience – she could walk through cement rendered walls just as easily – and security was meaningless. A marine who confronted her with rifle aimed had the butt jammed through his chest before he could fire off a round.
Out through the perimeter fencing and she was gone.
“And I think Jess was right about one thing, mom. ...”
“... The laboratory spent too much time looking at Sallyanne from a bio-mechanical and bio-physical point of view. I mean, we didn’t even determine why the transformation was imperfect, how some days she was stronger than others.”
“The medicos weren’t convinced of that. They thought she was faking.”
“But after twenty months we don’t know. That’s the point.”
Susie shook her head. She trusted her scientists. They let her down. Jenna delivered the coup de grace.
“Jess said the biggest blunder was not to consider the effect of the AL-5 treatment on the molecular makeup of the DNA in the genes. She has a theory that the reason that Dean and Sallyanne survived while the others didn’t is that they were always genetically superior in a biochemical sense. Trouble is we’ll never know because in that whole time she was here, not one sample of DNA was taken from the girl. Not one!”
“I agree. We dropped the ball.”
“You’re not a scientist, mom. I’m not blaming you. But you and I aren’t getting the right advice from the people who should know. Trouble is the person I want to give us that advice is still fifteen years old and gets her kicks flashing her hairy bits in public.”
Susie grimaced. Not concerned about the ‘Uber-Girl’ video which she thought was neither here nor there. No, she wanted to contest Jenna about her analysis of Jess’s behavior. In Susie’s view, all Jess was guilty of was wearing her dress a little too high. On a girl who is 6-6, a mini-skirt is always going to be ‘too high’. Susie picked up her wine and spoke.
“Okay, so the facility will remain closed then.”
“The laboratory will remain offline until the review is finished. The families of the deceased have been told that there was a ‘research accident’, I reckon we need to wait out the media furore before moving on again.”
“An ‘accident’, huh. In some weird ways that is very close to the truth.”
“Some of the staff will be offered voluntary termination. I forsee a time very soon when there will be one scientist and one technician at this facility and yet, ironically perhaps, we will achieve far more than has been done to date.”
Susie finished the last of her wine as Jenna moved toward her with a half empty bottle.
“Do you want another drink, mom? I’m happy to drive.”
“You’ve had the same amount to drink as me.”
“I have a heavier bodier weight.”
“No, I’m fine.”
Jenna poured some of the bottle into her glass, she was reconciled to taking the rest home with her.
“Well, before we finish, there is one little item which isn’t on the agenda.”
Susie smiled from behind her desk as the casually attired Navy officer bent from her seat to find a document among her briefing folders. Since visiting Susie at Horizon on a monthly basis the formality had slipped from Jenna’s demeanour and dress. In truth, Jenna was now too busy to care about Horizon and maintaining some charade of supervision; sharing a bottle in these meetings was a good release from the grind of a thirteen hour working day.
The Captain exhaled aloud as she found the document and placed it in front of her mother as she spoke.
“This’ll mean nothing to you or anyone else so let me explain.”
“You remember how I’ve told you that Red has this, umm, thing about blowin’ his load on me rather than in me?”
“And you’ll remember how he said he wanted to get the DNA shit all checked out because he reckoned we fabricated the story about his grandfather siring you?”
“Ya said we might as well just forget it.”
“Well get this. I decided I’d get it done. But not so that Red would know about it.”
“So you collect a sample when he blows on ya?”
“Even better. We’re in the dark and he can’t see that when he pulls out I just get him to blow right into a sample jar. All nice and uncorrupted by Jenna genes.”
“And you separately use your own DNA.”
“No, I use yours. You forget that with this job you’re on the national database.”
“And guess what?”
“It’s a perfect match.”
“That’s what the piece of paper says but I thought you’d given away that theory.”
“I spoke to ya Gran ‘bout it. She knew it was Red Senior. That was good enough for me.”
“Anyway the DNA test now confirms it.”
“Doesn’t help ya good self, Missy McAdam; It means ya fuckin’ ya first cousin.”
“And I think that dick knew that, too, which is why he never told me or went through with the formal check.”
“So ya gonna confront him?”
“Nope. Let sleepin’ hounds lie.”
“What if he wants to marry?”
“We talked about that. He says that these days there’s no sin to have a ‘partner’. He knows, mom, and he knows I’m on contraception. We’re never gonna have kids.”
“And ya won’t ever marry him.”
Jenna leant over and grabbed her mother’s forearm.
“... Mom, don’t ever overestimate what Red and I mean to each other. He is a 24 hour politician. He never relaxes, he never lets down his guard. He wants to win big and I want to help him get it.”
“Reflected glory, Jenna?”
“Just make sure you’re on the train when it’s leavin’ the station, mom. It’ll be one helluva ride.”