If Maggie knew one thing it was how to take a punch and if that taught her anything it was how to give one. Violence had long lived close to Maggie, violence had left its hideous mark upon her. She’d grown accustomed to its presence.
Violence defined her.
Born she was from and into violent acts. Wanton mother lust conceived Maggie, a child forever unloved, torn from suckling dead mother breast as that pummelled corpse, face crushed, sex brutalized with fire and steel, lay days upon the killing floor in a remote shed hidden by compost.
Dead mother delivered into catastrophe by the hands and feet of the husband, not father, never father, who from his furious impotence murdered lust mother as the child’s eyes watched and beheld all he could contrive upon this woman. A man who paused but briefly, considering if the child should survive, before he crawled and dragged his worthless life under the steel wheels of the never slow eastbound express.
Maggie forever hated weak women.
Irma, blond angel, wasn’t weak.
Maggie/Irma weren’t weak women.
And for Maggie there came opportunities to turn violence inflicted away, to guide its destructiveness. All she had to do was wait, patiently wait for those opportunities to arrive and they always did.
Maggie only takes the afternoon through evening shift at the call centre. Victimizing the elderly, shut ins and the vulnerable in the early hours of each day is something that she has long lost any enthusiasm for.
The same can’t be said for Jane. For her every call made is a mark, the easier the better. Hook ’em and reel ’em in; is how she describes her efforts and the older, the more frail, the better. They can’t remember shit, Jane would brag tossing the list of the fallen at Maggie as they exchange places in the booth.
On this night, a cold, blustery, and thoroughly miserable time, Maggie was down to her last two calls. She glanced again at the text of her hustle script, “Good evening, my name is Margaret and I am calling about a carpet cleaning service unlike any other. Could I…” and she would drone on.
The collision against the back of her chair startled Maggie.
“The fucker is monitoring all the calls.” Jane was leaning against the partition, she was drunk. Maggie’s anger at Jane’s dissolute state faded quickly. Jane’s coat was unbuttoned, her blouse, untucked had a dark stain down the front. The partition seemed all that was holding her upright.
Maggie looked about quickly. No one seemed to notice Jane. Pulling a chair from the next booth she pushed it toward Jane who fell into it heavily. She belched, the sour stench of liquor wafted between them.
She looked at Maggie with watery unfocussed eyes.
“You knew that didn’t you?” Jane slurred the words, struggling to tuck in her blouse. She stops for a moment looking at the stain before unbuttoning the last two buttons pulling the shirt open revealing her abdomen. She lays her open hand upon her whiter than white belly flesh.
Maggie glances toward the supervisors office and between the cubicles, no one cares as the others at their phones engage, enrage and disturb the anonymous at the end of the phone lists.
“Yeah,” Maggie snaps, “so the asshole listens, so what.” Maggie just wants the night over with and glances again at the two remaining calls she has to make.
“You don’t understand.” Jane undoes a third button revealing more of herself. “It’s you he listens to, the things you say that’s what he listens to whenever you’re working.” Jane leans toward Maggie, drawing her closer, “He showed me that call you made two days ago, the man in the apartment, remember, the guy with no carpets. Maggie, we listened to it as we were…”
Jane pulls back into the chair, a lascivious grin distorting her face.
“Shit, Maggie you called the guy three times.”
Maggie removes the headset. “They all like listening, all the supers, they like to sit in their offices and if something gets interesting they… listen.”
As she finishes the sentence she rests her open hand on her crotch. She pauses watching Jane sitting slumped in the chair her belly exposed.
“They fired you.”
Jane doesn’t need to say anything.
“Even after you slept with that little prick, he fired you, right?” Maggie’s tone is unsympathetic.
“I don’t feel good.” Is the best Jane can muster in response.
Maggie leans over and begins buttoning Jane’s blouse. “It’s going to be ok. Go home and I’ll call you later.”
Jane seems to have froze, not refusing, just failing to respond, to even look up.
“Fuck it. Here’s the key to my place,” Maggie shoves her apartment key into Jane’s coat pocket, “you know where it is two streets over three down, left side, groundfloor, 101. You got that?”
Jane nods and pulls herself to her feet.
“He likes to listen,” Maggie glances toward the closed supervisor’s door. “and he thinks he’s safe in there.”
She gives the door the finger.
“Go.” She gives Jane a gentle nudge toward the exit.
Jane takes a step, her feet leaden from the liquor, stops, drifting in place and turns to Maggie, shaking her head, holding the key out.
“I don’t want to go there.” Jane is frightened. “Here”, she tries pushing the key back to Maggie.
“Whoa.” Maggie pushes Jane’s hand with the key aside. “Why don’t you want to go?”
“She’s there. That… that beast.”
Maggie laughs, leaning back in her chair.
Jane stamps her foot, angry. “Don’t laugh. She’d dangerous.”
Maggie laughs again. “She’s dead. Janey its a, a photograph. She’s not real.”
Stepping back toward Maggie, Jane leans against the desk and into the woman still smiling up at her. “She’s fucking real to you Maggie. She’s real to you.”
The key to Maggie’s apartment is set firmly on the table. Jane still stands idling, drunk and waiting in front of Maggie who has not taken her eyes off Jane.
“Sit down,” Maggie pulls at Jane’s sleeve and the woman drops into the chair, legs akimbo, arms dangling over the side of the chair as if she had passed out.
“Then sit here.” Maggie glances toward the supervisors door. Nothing.
Jane suddenly shifts, pulling herself close to Maggie and whispers, conspiratorially, “I think your full of shit, Maggie. Those aren’t really her boots, the one’s you keep locked up in that closet. Come on, tell me the truth.”
Maggie turned ever so slowly toward the woman in the chair beside her, the expression that met Jane was one of controlled ferocity at being challenged, questioned, suspected.
“You’ll go to my place and you’ll go right now.” Maggie takes the key from the desk, opens Jane’s left hand and pushes it firmly into her. “I’ll be home later. “
Jane says nothing, staring blankly at Maggie.
“I want to wear them. The boots.” Jane’s voice has gone cold, “Irma’s boots, I want to wear them.”
“You?! You little snot! Not you or anyone like you!” Maggie snaps, angered. “And you know why, don’t you?”
Jane starts to shift herself with the intent of getting up only to slump back in place.
It had been a long night of drinking. Maggie tended to do everything with an over the top aggressiveness, including Darlene’s 40th birthday party. As Maggie stumbled to a halt in front of her building, searching for the key to her apartment with Jane in tow she continually mumbled that she didn’t even like Darlene, her friends, her family or her little fucking dog. Jane needed to use the bathroom, that’s all, just let me take a leak and I’ll be on my way. If she said it once, she said it half a dozen times, dancing from one foot to the other.
Maggie, key in hand, straightened, and with both arms around Jane’s shoulder whispered quietly, “I’ve something to show you. You’ll be….” She laughs stupidly, “fucking blown away.”
Inside the ground floor apartment Jane was struck by the spartan appearance of the place, almost like no one actually lived in it. She wanted to but didn’t comment on the fact that she could practically count on one hand everything in the room; cot, small table, two chairs, and floor lamp. There was only two other doors, bathroom and one with a heavy padlock. There was no bedroom. On the wall next to the window, framed behind glass were the embroidered words in a language Jane didn’t recognize, at first: Tode durch den strang. On the faded wall beneath were the words written in a black hand: Death by the rope. Jane took the latter to be the translation of the former. She pretended not to notice.
On her way to the bathroom Jane couldn’t resist an observation, “You really need a raise Magg’s. I mean look at the place.” She stops at the bathroom door, snaps on the light. “Furniture baby, ambiance. You need ambiance.” Jane hikes up her coat and dress, pulling her nylons and underwear down and with a sigh of serious relief, settles onto the toilet.
Maggie says nothing, locking and latching her door. The blinds are down and secured against intrusion.
On the peg behind the door she carefully hangs her coat.
Jane hasn’t closed the bathroom door as she noisily relieves herself. She farts heavily into the bowl, giggles, and closes the door.
It took some effort but Jane finally managed to work the warped bathroom door free finding Maggie sitting crosslegged on the floor next to the open closet door. She was polishing a heavy black boot with a red and black rag, the mate of the boot sat upright next to her. The padlock was hanging on the lasp on the door.
“Feel better,” Maggie kept working the rag over the boot without looking up from her labours.
“Yeah,” Jane pulled her coat off and was about to toss it over the back of one of the chairs.
Maggie pointed quickly toward the door, “There’s a hook on the door.”
Jane followed instructions.
The closet door was ajar and inside hanging on the single rail were a short sleeved white blouse, a sleeveless dark sweatervest and a plaited checkered skirt. On the back of the door was a black and white photograph of a woman dressed in the clothes on the rail.
For a moment Jane looked at the photograph. The woman in the oversized photograph was not pleasant to look at and did not appear to be enjoying the fact of having been photographed. The woman, Jane noted, wasn’t looking at the camera, she stood as if stopping to observe an incident which clearly displeased her. Her left hand, almost formed into a clenched fist. The expression she wore told of a woman who smiled rarely. Everything about the photograph was belligerent, hateful.
“Irma Grese.” Maggie said, setting aside the first and picking up the second boot. “Ever hear of her?”
Jane slid down next to Maggie, “God no.”
“You have heard of the Stanley Milgram?”
“That him in drag?” Jane giggled.
Maggie ignored her as she got to her feet and set the two boots down inside the closet directly beneath the clothes on the rail.
“Come on, you know, Milgrim and his experiments in violence?” Maggie stood before the photograph. “If you haven’t heard of him, well, forget it.”
Maggie stood silent for a moment. Jane weaved without moving. Both women were looking at Irma Grese not looking back.
“Irma, dear Irma.” Maggie seemed happier at that instant.
“Milgrim spent his career devising little experiments to prove that if you had an authority figure taking responsibility you could turn anyone into a killer. But Irma, she was ahead of Stan, way ahead of Stan and she’d have scared the shit out of him.”
Maggie slipped her left hand under the skirt, her fingers skittering over the fabric.
Jane finds a spot on the floor where Maggie had been working on the boots and sits down, relieved and dizzy.
“They hanged Irma for what she did,” Maggie turned as she pressed into the clothes on the rail, “and for getting off on it. She was Auschwitz’s blond bitch. The quintessential angel of fucking death.”
Maggie glances down at Jane against the wall as she nervously smoothes the creases of her dress.
“Irma,” Maggie sighs the name, “healthy, Aryan Irma had the license Milgrim only got paid to confirm in little boxed labs grinning his way into journals of academia. Irma, sweat and muscle Irma, she could live what most of us are too terrified to even entertain as nightmares. She revelled in her sadism, her the perversions, they weren’t curbed, they weren’t left unslaked, they were approved, fucking well licensed by everything that was legitimate in her world.”
Maggie steps to one side of the closet, leaning against the wall, gazing reverently into the woman on the door.
“She had free reign to inflict, she could be the extreme of herself, she could live her own exaggeration as few people let alone women anywhere at any time can.”
“What’d they do to the bitch again?” Jane sounded foggy but had had enough of looking at this malignant woman.
“What’d the cowards do to Joan of Arc?” Maggie pushed herself from the wall, proud before her Aryan love. “They hanged the wench, with her grinnin’ back at them.”
“Fuck, Maggs!” Jane wanted to laugh, thought better of it, “Joan and Irma, where the fuck is that lineage at? You…”
Maggie, turned toward from inside the closet. “Fear is what happened to both women. The fucking bed wetters and pant pissers, that’s what happened to both of them.
One talked to God, the other was Satan herself, walking among us, free and powerful. Janey, you gotta kill ’em both, they knew that and they still know that.”
At that moment Jane makes a mistake, she is afraid and its as palpable as heavy traffic that for the first time she’s afraid of being alone with this woman whose last name she has never heard. Maggie inhales now refusing to take her eyes off Jane, refusing to release her.
“You can despise everything this fucking creature did,” Maggie waits to see if this might placate Jane, but doesn’t really care if it does. “But baby you have to envy her. I mean think of the things, think of the weirdest, most bizarre things you ever wanted to try, to inflict, to get off on and she could do them, any fucking time, and she did. “
Maggie giggles, he hand under the skirt again. “There are some who said she didn’t do anything, just watched. Just watched.”
Maggie is quiet for a moment.
“Betcha she creamed this skirt right down to her fucking boots.” She pulls the fabric of the skirt to her face and sniffs. “Lucky bitch.”
“They hanged her, fucking right they had to. She’d get off on beating them, putting her fucking dogs on them, and all the time jerking herself, right there, right in front of them as they got ripped to shit.”
“Opportunity, that’s what this fucking beast had. Opportunity. All any of us need, require, desire, you dig this shit!!? Oppor-fucking-tunity!”
Maggie is out of the closet, hand on the door knob.
“Opportunity gives you a face like hers, don’t you think? Perpetural scowl, greased hair, heh what you say she used, sure as shit weren’t any mousse we ever heard of, right. And those eyes, ain’t nobody smiling back at those.”
Jane was on her feet and looking toward the door. Her lower lip trembled, slightly, obviously, and Maggie was on her, grabbing her, pulling her toward the closet door.
“Come on baby, tell me, would you make love to her, would you be the girl to wait for Irma? Would you lie on her cot watching this beast prepare herself to have you? Would you be hungry enough to press yourself into her Swastica pussy? Would you have the courage?”
Maggie pushes Jane aside.
Maggie steps to the photograph, kisses the dead lips if Irma Grese, Oberaufseherin of Auschwitz.
She kisses Irma’s breasts, both of them.
She kisses Irma’s plaited skirt beneath which Irma’s sex flushed only for the cries of pain and terror.
She kisses the heavy dark boots.
It is only then that Jane notices Maggie having unfastened her jeans had slipped her left hand inside as her right arm in rigid extension rose above her.
“I want to.” Maggie is crying, barely audible.
“Tode durch den strang.” Maggie weeps the utterance, slowly until her left hand triggers a vicious body wrenching shudder. “Tode durch den strang.” The right arm drops, lifeless and Maggie is quiet.
At that instant Jane knew Maggie for something she had never imagined. Knew her to be both terror and passion and knew she could not pull herself free of Maggie, who could not pull herself from making love to Irma.
In spite of a fear beyond any she’d felt before Jane could not and would even if she could, break free from Maggie.
Even on this night when she returned to Maggie, in desperate trouble, knowing how she feared facing the beast again, she knew in the end she would do as Maggie ordered. She knew she would wait for Maggie, she would polish Maggie’s boots as Maggie stood above her in white blouse, sleeveless sweater and plaited skirt, her hands coiled in tight fists. And Jane knew that even then, on her knees beneath the beast, she would wait for Maggie.
With the key to Maggie’s apartment she stood in the aisle between the booths, letting Maggie fasten her coat.
“Now go,” Maggie gave Jane, for the second time a gentle nudge toward the exit.
As she watches Jane’s progress she feels nothing toward the defeated woman, now hopelessly pregnant and terrified.
Maggie is at her best when she feels nothing, not fear, not anger, not loss and not need. Just as she does at this moment, as she dials up the last call of the night. The supervisor’s door closed and waiting.
The phone rings a couple of times, it rings past the usual point voicemail kicks in and Maggie lets it ring.
A woman answers, breathless, abrupt. Maggie smiles to herself, a hard ass case, on a night like this she looks forward to pissing somebody off.
“Hello!?” The woman is genuinely angered.
In the background, another room it seems an argument between a man and a woman can be heard building. The words they are saying have failed to negotiate their way into the phone, but the tone is exciting.
Maggie says nothing, listening past the woman on the phone into the room beyond.
“Hello!?” The woman demands an answer.
In the other room, the shouting has coalesced, both voices melding into a singular malignant energy. Something crashes to the floor, a small table Maggie imagines, pushed over, not thrown down, someone was pushed into it.
“I’m looking for…” Maggie, eyes closed pushes the script aside as a male voice, saying something about “that bitch…” is heard rising from the room beyond the woman on the phone.
The woman on the phone has turned toward the voices behind her, Maggie can feel her shift toward them.
“What?” The woman yells into the phone, above the rising violence.
The voices, the man and the woman, are moving closer to the woman and phone, closer to Maggie, vicariously involved.
“How many times I gotta tell you,” His is a bully voice, the voice of a man who dominates through bluster and bullshit. Maggie knows him as a typology, the coward who creates an aura without substance. But in that place with those women he is apparently terrible, “the bitch,” he thunders, “your fucking worthless sister, the bitch is outta here and right fucking now!”
The woman on the phone, stays on the phone, “Heh,” she yells past the receiver and Maggie’s ear, “I’m on the phone!”
“I don’t give a shit,” he zeroes in on the phone woman although still in the other room he has moved closer and is moving in, “I don’t care what you are on and…”
“Come on man,” the other woman, phone woman’s sister intervenes verbally and then, from the sounds of shuffling feet and angry grunts, physically by putting herself between the man and his target. “One more night ok.” She is pleading her sister’s case. “Just let her stay until…”
Phone woman retaliates, “Fuck you Roger. You want me out, fine you miserable little bastard!”
Maggie senses the woman’s anger has over come her fear.
“Your sister loves you.” Maggie carefully enunciates each word, recognizing that the nuance of each word has incredible meaning.
A scuffling is heard across the room, the man grapples with the woman.
“What’s your sister’s name?” Maggie draws the woman on the phone back.
The scuffling dies down, Maggie feels the woman’s attention is on the phone again.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” The woman is after Maggie.
“She loves you,” Maggie replies, pushing the script into the garbage pail next to her cubicle, “your sister loves you. What’s her name?”
“Come on, Roger!” Phone woman’s sister pleads.
“Denise,” the woman on the phone replies, “my sister’s name is Denise.”
A lamp shatters, a picture frame is dislodged from the wall.
Phone woman wheels around facing the other room, phone in hand, “Asshole! Leave my shit alone, I’m gone, satisfied, I’m leaving and…”
“Damn right,” Roger blusters, sensing victory, “and I’ll help pack your worthless crap.” The remnants of the lamp are kicked from the room, shattered porcelain skitters across the floor toward the woman on the phone.
Maggie holds headset close to her mouth, “Denise is fighting for you. Listen to her.”
Drawers are pulled free of the dresser in the other room and they fall one after the other onto the floor, the contents scattering over the floor. The voices of Denise and Roger are lost in incoherency again, their voices rising and falling among the sounds of breaking furniture and rifled clothes. Words are irrelevant to the tone of violence and the physicality of their expression.
A window is pulled open and Roger is in front of it.
“Heh, bitch,” he is shouting past Denise to phone woman, “consider yourself packed and gone, out your shit goes…”
Denise is grabbing at Roger, “Stop it! Stop it! What the fuck are you…” The sound of tearing fabric overrides voices and violence.
“Denise loves you,” Maggie is holding the woman to the phone, “you’re sister loves you and you aren’t going anywhere.”
The room goes silent for a split second as if Maggie’s voice had carried beyond the woman holding the phone.
“What did you say?” the woman is surprised, “What the fuck are you talking about…” the woman is annoyed, “who are you and…”
Maggie leans into her cubicle, her every fibre focussed on the woman on the other end of the phone.
“Listen to me,” Maggie’s voice, cold and fierce in its certainty, “Denise is fighting for you. She is fighting to keep you. Fight him. Don’t hang up, put the phone down and fight him. She wants you to, your sister, she wants you to fight him. Listen to her, she’s fighting him, she’s fighting him and she is doing it for you.”
The supervisors door opens just a crack.
Maggie doesn’t pause, knowing the supervisor’s fear has caused him to zip up.
From the room beyond the struggle continues. Denise says nothing as Roger attempts to further destroy her sister’s life. Defeat is the third presence in that room and is crippling Denise.
Maggie whispers into the phone in a tone barely audible, “Put the phone down, don’t hang up and fight him.”
The receiver is gently placed on the table and the woman’s footsteps can be heard receding into the room beyond. Maggie sits back in her chair, pressing the headset closer. She closes her eyes.
Suddenly Roger’s voice rises above the fray, “Heh, you tore my fucking shirt, you stupid…”
Denise cries out as Roger’s fist connects with her cheek.
At that instant Roger is heard to cry out as the phone woman flails into him with fists and feet. In the fury of violence Roger topples over a small table, breaking it as the woman follows him down.
Denise joins the attack on Roger who can be heard pleading, crying out that he’s been cut, that he’s bleeding.
The supervisor is peering from the crack in the door, staring at Maggie. From inside his office Roger’s defeat can be heard and Maggie watches the supervisor watch.
Facing him in her chair as they listen together she leans back and slips her left hand into her pants, between her legs, and closes her eyes concentrating on the sound of Irma’s victory.
The room around her is filled with the sounds of two women kicking and punching into soft tissue. Listen, listen she thinks as Roger makes no sound and Irma smiles at the end of a rope.