Two Mounties in red serge stood before their commanding officer in her commanding office, ready to receive her orders.
“Fraser, Turnbull, I’m sending the two of you to the Elysian Fields,” she stated calmly.
Neither of her subordinates was calm at this news. Not daring to actually move out of their stances at attention, Turnbull swayed slightly on his solidly planted feet and Fraser shuddered and clenched his hands tightly. Both their faces took on expressions of alarm and Thatcher noticed this.
“Is there a problem, men?”
Her appeal was in the plural but it was Fraser who spoke up, as he was permitted to do since she had posed a question.
“Um, Sir, I don’t believe the regulations permit you to do that,” he said, cautiously.
“I admit it is out of the ordinary, but I didn’t think the two of you would object. Most men would welcome being sent to the Elysian Fields.”
“Permission to speak freely, Sir?”
“Oh course, Fraser.”
“Well, Sir, speaking for myself, I don’t think I’d be particularly happy about it.”
“That’s just silly, Fraser. I knew you’d be afraid to go there, so that’s why I’m sending Turnbull along.”
Turnbull drew a deep breath and stretched even taller upright. “Sir, I am willing to stand by my fellow officer.”
Thatcher was a little baffled but said only, “That’s fine, Turnbull, but I don’t see what the fuss is about.”
Fraser summoned his courage. “Sir, Constable Turnbull’s gallantry notwithstanding, I must respectfully protest. You are not authorized to execute us. There’s absolutely no provision for it in the regulations.”
“Execute you? Have you lost your mind? Who said anything about executing you?”
“You did, Sir. Did you not say you were sending us to the Elysian Fields?”
Thatcher laughed with relief. “You two are really something else!”
Turnbull found the inner strength to speak up. “Whatever we are, it is no excuse to murder us,” he proclaimed righteously.
“I don’t mean the final resting place of ancient Greek heroes. I mean the strip club downtown.”
Fraser and Turnbull didn’t bother to even try to hide their relief.
“Sir, I believe the error stems from your mistaking the name of the establishment. Which, I may add, is no reflection on you since I’m sure you’re entirely unfamiliar with such places. The club is actually named “The Blessed Realm” and all the performers use stage names taken from mythology. The star performer goes by the name of ‘Elysian Fields’.
Turnbull and Thatcher both regarded him with interest. The Inspector spoke for them both. “And, how would you even know something like that, Constable.”
“It’s common knowledge, Sir. Well, among my Chicago friends, at any rate.”
“Yes, well, to continue with your assignment. You men remember Superintendent Moffatt, the chief liaison officer before me. He’s returning for an official visit and I’ve had a confidential request from his aide, to arrange an evening’s, um, entertainment there. His aide says he’d doesn’t wish to go alone, he’d like an escort.”
Both Turnbull and Fraser became alarmed again.
“No, I don’t mean that kind of escort, I mean a detail of officers to accompany him. Any other kind of escort would he his own responsibility to find, naturally.”
“I think it would be wise for Constable Turnbull and me to check the place out ahead of time,” Fraser said. “Make sure the building is conforms to fire safety code, find the points of egress in case of trouble, check out the quality of the food, drink and entertainment.”
“Very well, but you can only put the cover-charge, one drink, and parking on your expense account. Anything more is out of your own pockets.”
Thatcher went on to outline the itinerary for Superintendent Moffatt’s visit and then dismissed them.
Fraser asked Ray to come along and to invite any other of the detectives to join them, provided they understood it would be at their own expense. Huey and Guardino didn’t see the advantage of going to The Blessed Realm together with the Mounties compared to going there on any other night until Ray reminded them of the effect the red uniform and particularly Fraser inside of it, had on comely women. He assured them they’d be guaranteed a table in the front and that the beautiful women, perhaps the strippers themselves, would gravitate right to them.
The other two detectives signed on and the bi-national group of cops headed out together the next night. Ray picked up Jack and Louis at the station, then they drove around to the Consulate where the Mounties were waiting.
Fraser and Turnbull had street clothes on, Fraser in his usual jeans and Turnbull in a business suit. Upon seeing the two men so clad, the detectives howled in protest and insisted on taking the time to drive to first Fraser’s apartment and then Turnbull’s cardboard box, so that the men could change into uniform. The Mounties hadn’t wanted to go in uniform but Ray persuaded Fraser that this was an official RCMP excursion. Turnbull went along with Fraser as he did in most things.
The Blessed Realm was decorated all in white with columns and pilasters to suggest a classical scene. Waitresses wore white gowns vaguely in the style of ancient Greece but their dresses were slit up the sides as far as the thigh and lower over the cleavage than a respectable Grecian woman probably wore on the street. The tables and chairs were also all white, melamine or painted plywood.
As the cops came in, the bright red tunics of the Canadians stood out against the white surrounding like ketchup on clean snow. (Normally the simile would be like blood on snow but this is a light-hearted fic.)
A wispy young woman in a similarly wispy outfit came towards them, silky white material floating out from her arms and shoulders as she moved. “Table for five? Right this way, I have a free table right in front,” she said, eyeing the Mounties. “You guys in some kind of show? Those are great costumes.”
“Yeah, they’re doing a re-make of Dudley Do-Right. They’re pretending to be Canadians.”
The hostess tittered “Oh, you poor guys. Well, follow me.” She led them to a table right under the stage and bade them settle in. “A Vestal Virgin will be over to take your orders in a jiff.”
“It would be illegal in Canada to make virginity a condition of employment,” Turnbull commented. That drew a round of shouted laughter from his American companions and they all sat down.
“We’re in a foreign country, Turnbull. Their laws are different from ours,” Fraser said seriously.
“Yup, you got to follow the Prime Directive,” Huey joked, “When you’re in our country you got to do what we do. And we’re going to teach you to drink beer like an American.”
Turnbull sighed. “You mean drink uninteresting beer and much less of it than a Canadian can hold? Is this true, Constable Fraser?” He appealed to his colleague who had spent more times among Americans.
“No Turnbull. I’m sure they must have some brand of palatable beer here and you can feel free to drink as much as you like. You don’t need to hold yourself back to American standards.”
“Whoa! I thought Canadians didn’t drink?” Huey protested.
“I personally don’t indulge often but that’s abnormal. You frightened poor Turnbull. Please don’t tease him about beer again. Canadians take that subject very seriously.”
“Well, I’ll be . . .” The appearance of a Vestal Virgin prevented Guardino from elaborating on what he would be. They placed their orders for their first round and the party officially began.
While they were starting on their drinks, bright lights came up on the stage just above them. The background music, generic rock and roll, ceased and a woman, middle-aged but still trim of figure, came out on the stage. She was dressed in a costume similar to that worn by the waitresses but covered with sequins. She introduced herself as the Chief Vestal and Mistress of Ceremonies. She told the crowd that they would be witness that night to a series of sacred, erotic mysteries. This assurance brought roars of appreciation from the crowd.
A series of exotic dance acts followed. Most were standard for the genre, with the women gyrating disinterestedly. Classical references were in fact minimal but one act depicted a female sacrifice fleeing from a Minotaur and then being caught by him, followed by some rather explicit, if non-historically accurate, demonstrations.
Ray’s prediction that the uniformed men would attract attention proved true and their table was approached time and time again by off-duty dancers. But Fraser was uninterested and Turnbull too shy to get much conversation going so the women tended to lose interest and drift away despite the Americans’ attempts to get them to stay at the table. The detectives were, to the girls, just ordinary marks and not worth their time.
Ray and the detectives did end up being impressed by Turnbull’s capacity to hold alcohol. He poured beer after beer into himself, always a different brand to see if there were any American beer that he might like. Jack, Louis and Ray encouraged this quest and contributed by buying a good many of the samples for the seemingly hollow Mountie.
They didn’t press Fraser to drink after he declined to take part in the first round. The waitress assumed he was the designated driver and, as was the policy of the establishment, kept him supplied with cola for free.
“These are the warm up acts,” Huey explained during a lull in the activity. “They don’t bring out Elysian Fields right away. Man, she’s something. Wait’ll you see her.”
They had to wait a little longer. The Mistress of Ceremonies announced a short break before the main attraction would be introduced. The generic rock music returned, and at a volume so high that the patrons had to shout to hear one another.
“Has Ms. Fields been the headliner here for long?” Fraser shouted to make conversation.
“She’s more than the headliner. She owns a good chunk of the place,” Jack yelled back, “Seems she made a pile of money on the side and bought up most of the shares. It was her idea to do all this ancient Greek stuff. Sure has paid off. Makes the place kind of high class.”
It wasn’t Fraser’s idea of high class but rather than scream a response that Huey wouldn’t appreciate anyhow, he remained silent.
But Turnbull, still to all appearances stone cold sober, wanted to pursue the line of conversation.
“You say she made money on the side. Which side?”
That brought a round of laughter from the Americans and so increased their already good disposition that it led to another round of drinks, including more beer for Turnbull. But the Mountie still wanted his information.
“What do they mean, Constable Fraser?” he appealed to his comrade.
Fraser explained they meant prostitution and Turnbull was outraged.
“What? If they know she’s guilty of solicitation, why don’t they arrest her?”
Fraser had no reasonable answer, so Turnbull returned to his drinking, sampling another two brands of beer and finding neither one to his liking.
At last the Chief Vestal came back to the stage. Her introduction of Elysian Fields was fulsome and had a classical flavour. She spoke of a section of the mythical paradise where were fields of lovely asphodel and poplars grew. Then she paused significantly. “Any man would be happy to lie down in . . . Elysian Fields!” Lights lowered until the stage was almost in darkness. Then a follow-spot picked out a woman on the stage, standing motionless in a tight circle of light.
Silky, shimmering silver material was draped about her, hanging in graceful folds. Her music began and she moved back and forth along the stage, her walk slow and tantalizing. She was in no hurry and the crowd was willing to await her pleasure before she got down to business. All waited in hushed silence as she walked along to her music.
All but one, that is. Turnbull first stared quietly with the others. Then as Elysian walked close to their table he jumped out of his chair and shouted at her, “Lissy! Lissy Fields! What are you doing here?”
The stripper stopped dead in her tracks. The stage lighting was such that she couldn’t see the crowd but she peered around herself anyway, instinctively trying to see the source of that voice.
“Ren? Ren Turnbull? Is that you? Where are you?”
The crowd was not pleased at this disruption. Elysian called offstage “Bring up the house lights up and kill the music!” All of the audience squinted at the sudden increase of light and some of the audience quickly hid a hat, handkerchief or some other receptacle under their tables. With the room now evenly lit, Elysian peered out over the crowd and her eyes lit on the table of the Mounties and their friends.
“Ren! It is you! Don’t go away. I’ll talk to you after the show.” She waved offstage “Charlie, lights. Andrew, music.”
These two unseen men returned the hall to its former condition and Elysian a.k.a. Lissy went on with her act. In the darkened hall, the friends could not see Turnbull blushing but they all knew he must be very red. The strip number was boring for Fraser and his mind wandered. He considered the following philosophical problem: if a Mountie blushes in the dark where no one can see him, is he still red? Then he dismissed the thought as silly and forced his attention back on the show.
The strip act of Elysian Fields was too mesmerizing for any of the group except Fraser to want to break their concentration to discuss what they had witnessed between her and Turnbull. But when her part of the show wound up and she left the stage, the Americans pounced, figuratively, on the tall Mountie. They all demanded an explanation of how Elysian Fields knew him, and he knew her.
Over the raucous music, Turnbull shouted his explanation. They had been friends in elementary and middle school, at a time when she went by the name Lissy, not Elysian. But they had lost touch when her family moved away.
“My guess is that when she became involved in the entertainment field, she adapted her name to something more exotic.”
Fraser was just saying this when a couple of burly types, most likely bouncers, appeared at their table. They stood one on each side of Turnbull.
“Come with us,” one of them said.
Believing that Turnbull was going to be thrown out for causing a disturbance, the other four men got to their feet to defend him.
“If Turnbull goes, we all go,” declared Louis gallantly, causing Ray and Jack to groan and Fraser to be amused at the underlying supposition that Louis and his friends were so desirable that their leaving should be any kind of a threat.
The bouncer’s reply surprised them. “You’re not going. Elysian only wants this one. I’ve got orders to bring him to her dressing room.”
“Well, I’ll be . . .”
Again Louis was prevented from enlightening the group on what he would be, because the bouncer interrupted him with a curt “You’re coming with us.” To make clear his intention, he took Turnbull by the crook of his arm and yanked the Mountie to his feet.
The second one, who had not spoken yet, broke his silence with a confirming, “Yeah,” and took Turnbull’s other arm. Each man was at least as tall as Turnbull and twice again as wide. They marched him off and Turnbull didn’t protest. Fraser and the others sat down and tried to come to grips with what had just happened. Turnbull had been unceremoniously taken away, and that was undignified for sure. But the delights that most likely awaited him easily made up for the momentary discomfiture. Each of the three Americans declared in their own particular way that Turnbull was one lucky dog. Fraser agreed, saying it that this chance meeting with a childhood friend was a fortunate happenstance indeed.
“Just one problem, though. He’s had more beers than I’ve ever seen a man drink, and I’ve seen a lot of beer-drinking in my day.” Jack said.
Fraser pursed his lips in consideration. “True, but he hasn’t yet shown any signs of inebriation.”
“Yeah, and he doesn’t act drunk either,” Louis put in.
“It’ll probably hit him later. Madonn’, he’ll probably throw up all over her just as they’re getting to the good stuff,” was Ray’s prediction.
Attractive women continued to approach their table and after some prodding by Ray, Fraser finally was persuaded to show these women some encouragement. Seeing this as a chance to spread goodwill for his country, he invited the next four women that came to see him to join them at their table. Four became eight: Fraser, the three Americans, two off-duty Vestals and two off-duty dancers. The women were able to get them drinks at employee prices. Very soon after, Fraser could see that his friends were indeed in a Blessed Realm. They were, in fact, in Seventh Heaven. He was pleased to have been able to accomplish this for his friends.
It was three in the morning and the establishment was closing for the night (night?) before any of them mentioned Turnbull again. He hadn’t come back but nobody found that particularly astonishing. Elysian Fields had another performance. They imagined Turnbull in her dressing room luxuriating against frilly pillows while waiting for her to return.
“I think we’d better check on Constable Turnbull. He’ll need a ride home,” Fraser said.
“Naw, he’s fine where he is,” protested Ray.
“No, Ray. I’m the superior on this detail. I’m responsible for his safety.”
Fraser got up from the table and circled the room looking for one of the two bouncers that had taken Turnbull hours before. He found one, the more voluble one in fact, standing with his feet apart and his arms akimbo, supervising the ushering out of the patrons.
“Excuse me, sir. I’m looking for the gentleman you took away earlier.”
The bouncer rolled his eyes. “I took away a lot of people, Mac. Can’t say they were all gentleman. And I wouldn’t know where they go after they leave here.” But he responded to Fraser’s courtesy, a novelty in that place, saying, “Do you need help, pal? I know people who can find people.”
So do I, mused Fraser, thinking that he had spent the evening with three detectives. But all were in no condition to be of any help.
“My colleague was dressed like I am. You and another gentleman took him to see Ms. Fields.”
“Oh yeah. He’s one lucky dude. I don’t think Elysian Fields would like to be disturbed, though. And I’m pretty sure your friend would rather be with her than with you.”
“Perhaps so, but I have to ascertain whether he’s safe.”
“Well, okay. Say, what kind of get up is that anyway? You an usher?”
“Um, no, as a matter of fact, we’re . . . “
“I know – doormen.”
“Well, as it happens both Constable Turnbull and I are sometimes called upon to be doormen.” It occurred to Fraser that this bouncer was also a sort of doorman and hoped that having this task in common would make the man even better disposed to want to help him. Still, to mislead the man that this was their regular job would be a lie. “We’re actually policemen. From Canada. Royal Canadian Mounted Policemen.”
“Get out of town! You’re a Mountie,” responded the bouncer and from his pleased tone Fraser was able to gather that this was not an order to leave Chicago, particularly since this fellow would have no authority to issue such an order. Furthermore, his being a Mountie wouldn’t make sense as a reason for expulsion.
Fraser appreciated the man’s continuing good will, but he wasn’t getting any closer to his object of finding Turnbull. He decided to try flattery. “Sir, you seem to be part of Ms. Fields’ inner circle. Surely she’d be willing to allow a brief interruption from you. Just please find out if my friend is okay. I’ll wait here for her answer.”
The bouncer waved a muscular arm in the air and another man made his way through the exiting crowds to where they stood.
“Take over for me here, Jake. I got an errand to run. Be back in a few minutes.”
The bouncer was as good as his word. A few minutes later he returned. “Elysian’s gone home and she took the Mountie with her. Her maid says he threw up all over her couch. Sarah should know – she had to clean it all up. Then he got all sleepy and nearly passed out. Sarah called a cab and she helped Elysian put the Mountie in it. Then - get this – Elsyian told Sarah she was taking the Mountie home to put him to bed. Lucky bugger.”
Fraser took in this information. “I guess she’ll take good care of him,” he ventured.
The bouncer gave him a huge wink. “Oh, she’ll take care of him all right. She’s an expert. Yes-sir-ee. He’s going to be one well-took-care-of Mountie.”
Satisfied, Fraser thanked the man and returned to his table. The night was a success on all fronts. He had enjoyed a pleasant evening with his friends. Said friends seemed to have achieved whatever success with the opposite sex they had in mind. Turnbull had been reunited with a long lost friend from his childhood. Fraser could confidently relate to the Inspector that this establishment was appropriate for the Superintendent, being run by a fellow Canadian whose employees were courteous and helpful. Yes, all was well.
Fraser made his way through the room, his view obscured by people paying their cheques, putting on coats, butting out the last of their cigarettes, downing the butts of their drinks all in preparation to leave. Freed from the need to worry about Turnbull he turned his thoughts to concerns of his own. If his friends and the ladies at their table paired off and went away together there would be one left that would designated as his. This could prove to be a problem for the modest Mountie.
At least he got close enough to see his own table. There were Ray, Jack and Louis seated in their chairs but with their heads down on the table. The ladies were gone. Fraser reached the table to confirm that they had all three detectives had passed out and were sound asleep. Relieved as he was at not being placed in an embarrassing situation, he still had the task before him of getting all these men home safely. That wasn’t going to be easy.
“Oh dear,” he said to himself.