During the biggest deprogression period the United States of America has ever experienced, Men are held with little consequences. Years of assualt laws written were abolished in a hostile take over of women's liberties. Fed up with the "fake" and "unfair" #metoo movement, the country was thrown backwards into Patriarchy.
Stephanie, a Senior Editor at the Chicago Sun Times has tracked this integral part of history. She is a mid-30's woman married to her career. Until one day when she meets Maggie, a 23 year old college student who has found herself at the mercy of one of Chicago's richest young men. Luke Walters, a 25 year old billionaire and a vicious cunning predator.
Maggie and Stephanie dont know how entwined their lives are about to become because of Luke. Unrated and chilling, this book takes the imagination to a very far dark place where the possibilities of political consequences live.
4am. The light from my cable box displays as I painfully blink my eyes open to a rainy Monday morning in Chicago. I sit myself higher on my pillows and check my phone. There is about 1000 news notifications, every single one of them trying to find a different angle on the same story that has been happening for the last 2 years.
November 9th, 2020, the day Donald Trump won his 2nd term as President of the United States was also an integral part to the beginning of the delimitation of women's liberties. It was the boldest move any administration has ever made. Men were faced with more accusations of sexual assault than the world could keep up with. The Trump administration completely fed up with all the so called "lies", extorted the American people into changing the laws and due process of how these accusations get handled. Now, unless the man accused confesses to law enforcement there was nothing they could do. No trial, no refiling of another complaint, no restraining order, no investigation, end of story, cased closed. They eliminated the national sexual offender’s list as well calling it fake and unfair.
I could not tell you how those changes within the government even started but over time that is how it concluded. Politics was never my strong suit. I knew enough, but I certainly was no expert. I have a Bachelor's in Journalism and a PHD in Women’s Studies.
As a woman in America these days we have to rely on a man's moral compass rather than the law. Men with no punishments for their actions are able to act on their whims. As an upper middle-class citizen of the United States, I am "ok". I pay to live in a secure building in a good neighborhood. I avoid situations and areas where crime is high. I cut out alcohol because most I don’t like feeling out of control and I mostly stick to myself. I have no real friends and my family is 700 miles away in Denver.
The rain pours strongly across the glass windows adjacent from my bed. I am so thankful to be on this 20th floor, high above the world where no one can reach me. My place is modern yet cozy. One bathroom, one kitchen, one closet, one bed, one small patio, and one locked door. That is all I need. I stretch my arms and yawn super loud as I reach for the remote to turn on the TV. It’s so early, the news isn't even on yet.
So, I force my heavy limbs to stand up and make my way to the shower. After I feel less sleepy I craft my usual almond milk cappuccino. My Williams Sonoma espresso machine was my Christmas present from my mom last year. I think she overspends because she feels bad that I am 34 and have never had a serious relationship. If she had it her way, I would be married with 2 kids already. I don't blame her, I feel really guilty that I will probably never give her grandchildren. But honestly, how could I now? Why would I want to expose children to this patriarchal world? I married my career, and the union between us has worked out quite nicely.
I toast an everything bagel and top it with nova lox cream cheese from this amazing bakery down the street. I sit down on my bed with my bagel and cappuccino and wonder what hysteria the news is going to create today. I see a photo of Trump and Mohammed bin Salman the "great" crowned prince of Saudi Arabia. “Great” is the very last word I would use for that man. They are shaking hands and smiling as if they are the happiest people on earth. Another arms deal with a blatant domestic terrorist.
My brain starts to hurt. I don't even want to think about these things until I get to work today. I am already tired from not sleeping a full 8 hours. I would just like to enjoy the rainy morning and start my week. So I turn the TV off and start getting ready for the day. I blow dry through my long brown hair thinking I really should get a haircut this week so this process would be less time consuming. I apply my concealer and mascara under my long bangs and smile in the mirror to myself. Grateful. In these moments I don't have to worry about anything at all except how I look and I always took pride in that.
I walk to my closet while deciding that this was going to be the best week ever (little did I know what fate was about to bring my way) and pull my favorite black Guess jeans out. I pull a navy-blue cropped sweater to go with it and my sleek Steve Madden vinyl black booties to match. It’s raining, so I am going to need my long olive raincoat and my clear umbrella (yes, I am basic like that), and then I am good to head out the door.
My booties click on the lobby floor as I head towards the entrance of my building. “Good morning Ms. Larkin” I hear from the security guard sitting at the front desk. “Good Morning” I smile back and reach to open my umbrella.
“They say its bad luck to open your umbrella inside Ms. Larkin.” The guard points out to me. “Oh, who the hell cares anymore?” I laugh. I just spent an hour styling my stupid long hair, so I am not about to have it go to waste. “Haha alright. Have a good day.” He laughs back. “Thanks, you too.”
I grab my phone from my pocket and request an Uber to my office. My place of chaotic comfort; The Chicago Sun Times. I have been their Senior Editor in Chief for almost 5 years now. I hear a ding on my phone, ride confirmed. 1 minute until arrival. And for that 1 minute I close my eyes under my umbrella, exhale a peaceful breath, and entertain the sounds of the weather drenching this beautiful city. I hold on to a wish for some relief in this crazy revolving world.
“Shit!” I say out loud as I drop my spoon full of milk and cereal on my new scrubs. The couple in the apartment next to me are fighting again and I hear loud thuds and yelling through these thin walls. This man is such a scumbag, he throws around that poor girl after a night spent in the bar. And he spends a lot of his nights in the bar. I am in no position to judge so I block out the sounds and finish my cold breakfast. I pick up my coat and backpack from the floor and head for the bus to the hospital.
12 hours later I am on the bus headed home. I still have homework to do before my class tomorrow. I shimmy my old creaky door open and shove myself into the apartment. I head straight for a hot shower, it was freezing out today and I just can’t seem to feel warm. I put on my sweats and sit down to do my homework. The couple next door start screaming at each other again, so I reach for headphones. My headphones lend me no help to the screaming and banging going, so I decide to head to the coffee shop by my school. At least it’s quiet and they have caffeine, I am dreadfully tired.
I find a spot in a snug booth and order a piping hot cup of coffee. Nothing but black for me, I need all the energy I can possibly drink. The only other person in this cafe is a beautiful woman with long brown hair reading a book in the booth directly across from me. I am envied by her. She sits up so properly in the booth with one ankle gently crossed over the other. She has a fancy green and white drink in front of her, matcha latte maybe? She delicately holds her book in one hand and the other hand gripping the handle of the white coffee cup in front of her. Her long hair flows down perfectly over her shoulders. She is tiny like me. If I had to guess she is the same height as me, a measly 5'1". She seems like she has everything so together.
Total and literal opposites of each other right now; I sit with books spread everywhere and crossed legged on the booth. My bright blond hair does not even reach my shoulders. I am in a hoody and sweats, and I probably look as tired as I feel. I exchange a kind smile with the woman when she looks up and then throw my gaze back into my books to finish my assignment.
Around 11pm I notice some drunk college kids walking out of the bar from across the street. They are laughing and taking pics for what I can assume to be amazing social media accounts. #ThirstyThursday #ChicagoNights. My life is empty, and I can barely support myself as an MA at the hospital while I attend classes. My hashtags would be more like #Loner #WeirdGirlWhoNeverTalks.
As they walk out of my view, I see a truly sickening silhouette in the windows behind them. My stomach churns as I see the face of a guy that attends classes with me at The University. His name is Luke Walters. As in the Walters that own half of Chicago and sit on the board of trustees at the University. He harasses me almost every chance he gets. I'm not sure if it’s just me he’s engrossed with or if there are others but I absolutely loath him. I've been at his mercy all semester. There he is drinking a beer with his other stupid friends without a care in the world.
He turns around and looks out the window right over into the cafe where I am sitting. Our eyes meet, and he gives me an evil grin. Shit, Fuck, Shit. I have to get out of here like right now. I start shoving papers and books into my backpack frantically. I think to myself please Luke just keep drinking your beer and leave me be tonight. Then I hear the cafe door open.
This week has been crazy at the office, not like there is ever a slow week but this whole anti-progression movement that has slowly been consuming our country has definitely made things more hectic for journalism.
A few years ago, I would have loved to sit with a friend at a swanky bar and enjoy a big glass of wine after a week like this, but now I am too cautious. Men and drinking do not mix well together I have learned. So, I grab a book and head down to a little cafe I like that has a great matcha latte and macarons.
It is getting late, and there is no one left in this cafe except me and this young cute girl with short blond curls. I decide, one more chapter then I am calling it a night.
I see the girl stand straight up in one swift movement and start slamming everything into her bag. She is clearly upset; her face is red and her eyes wide like she is alarmed and alert. What just happened in the last minute that got to her? I watch a young very handsome man walk into the cafe like he’s walking on a cloud. This kid is clearly rich, he has that Ivy and elitist vibe to him and I can tell by what he is wearing that money is not an issue.
He looks at nothing else but the girl as he smiles and walks over to her. She immediately stops trying to gather her things and stands with her side to the boy and stares down at her tennis shoes with slumped shoulders. He walks over with both hands in his khaki pants and gets so close to the girl he completely overshadows her. I can’t even see her anymore over his backside, so I curiously lean to the right to observe their interaction. He whispers something into her ear and she nods but never looks at him. He swivels around and walks to the door of the cafe. He opens the door, turns around and says "Maggie, you have 5 minutes."
She looks at him for the first time and nods. When he exits, she sighs, and I can tell she is extremely upset about this. She has tears welling in her eyes. I am magnetically connected to this moment for some reason and I can’t help myself. This is such a strange interaction, I need to know more. I get up and go over to her. What would she have 5 minutes for?
"Hi, I am sorry to bother you, but I couldn't help but notice how upset you seem about that young man that just left. Are you alright?"
"No, but I will be just fine thank you" She replies hastily.
"Forgive me, but what did he say to you?" Her tear stained blue eyes look up at me and she says "thank you for being concerned, but it doesn't matter. I have to do whatever he says."
I found that a rather curious statement, so I push the subject a little more. "Well, what did he ask you to do?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you" She would be shocked at what I have seen this world be capable of. "Why don't you try me."
"I have to go" she says. She starts heading for the door and I reach my hand out for her "Maggie" and she turns around to face me. "I don’t know what is going, but there is always a way, and no one can have power over you unless you let them."
"Thanks" she says shyly and exits the cafe. I watch her stand outside for a moment and for some reason I just cannot let this go. I must know what is going on with this poor girl. What did that boy want? Why is she so upset? I notice that she is starting to walk away, so I grab my coat and hurry after her. I follow her slowly without her being aware. She walks down the mezzanine and into the back of an alley. I suddenly have a sick feeling in my stomach. Down the alley is an entrance to a brothel. My overly cautious side is signaling warning signs, but my curiosity and concern silence the alerts going off in my head.
Maggie walks into the brothel under a red dimmed light. I always carry my pepper spray, so I reach into my satchel and pull it out to have ready to use. I follow into the brothel. It is very dark with some old men sitting at a bar drinking down their booze, they turn and stare at me like wolves. I already feel violated and exposed. I look around for Maggie but there is no sign of her. There does not seem to be a lot of people on staff at an establishment like this, so I decide to take a look around. I still have a disgusting feeling plummeting down into the pit of my stomach. I find a hallway that smells of body odor and cigars, and the walls are a tacky red velvet. I see some figures moving towards the very end of the hall and I see light blonde curls. Its Maggie, and she is with that boy from the cafe.
I watch the boy put his hands-on Maggie's face and I hear him demand that she look at him. I stand in the shadow of the light and grip my pepper spray in my palm making sure I have it properly pointed outwardly. He keeps one hand squeezed on Maggie's cheeks and unbuttons his pants with the other.
I know exactly how this about to play out and that feeling I had in the pit of my stomach is now turning into white hot anger. He pulls down Maggie's sweatpants and underwear and pushes her legs up over his hips and I hear her crying as he thrusts her roughly against the gross red wall.
Rage has now overcome me and before I know it I have made my way across the hallway to them and pulled the boy by his shirt and thrown him as hard as I could off of Maggie. She quickly pulls her pants up and is looking at me astounded that I had just thrown him.
The boy cradles his neck that just hit the wall. I sternly look at him, and say with a force I did not know I had "Stop it, can’t you see she does not want to be doing this with you? What is wrong with you, you disgusting pig?"
He smirks as he looks from Maggie over to me. He walks over to me and I notice just how strong he is, he has a big built stern frame and is at least 6' tall. His steps are calm and collected, he does not seem like the type of person that doesn't think things through which makes this even worst. He looks down at me and says with complete concentration "Listen bitch, you better mind your own business, or you'll get fucked too."
I stared back up at him with angry eyes and said, "You can't hurt me." Probably not the smartest thing to say because in this very moment he probably could, even if Maggie and I teamed up against him he would still win. He smirked again and raised a hand as if to slap me, and I brought my pepper spray right to his face, closed my eyes, and pressed down on the nozzle.
"Ahhh you fucking bitch!" he cried out as he stumbled back. I grabbed Maggie's hand and started running for the door.
We reached the openness of the Mezzanine and I breathed in the chilly air as a relief that we were able to get away. "Are you crazy?" Maggie asked. "To be honest, a little sometimes" I said and for some reason we both chuckled at that. Maybe it was nerves, or adrenaline but we both laughed. For the first time in a long time I did not feel like being alone, and I had a good feeling about Maggie so I asked, "Do you want to come over to my place, I live across the street in a secure building, maybe have some hot tea?"
"Why are you being so nice to me?" Maggie asked. "Us girls got to stick together" I told her. "Ok, well do you have any wine at your place?" I usually don't drink anymore but I did remember an expensive bottle of Pinot that my team at work had given me for Christmas. "Yes, I actually think for once this night calls for some wine."
"I am Stephanie by the way" as I held my hand out to shake hers. For the first time in the night she smiled, took my hand in hers and said, "Thank you Stephanie."