It did not surprise Sasha the next day to find that she was on the front page of the local section of the New York papers. An enterprising reporter had bribed a bank employee to copy the bank security tapes. They had extracted a shot of her disarming one robber and shooting the second. Thankfully no enterprising citizen outside the bank had photographed her killing the third robber. Though there was no guarantee that such a photo would not turn up.
The old “Deadliest Woman on the Planet” title had been resurrected and used by more than one writer.
She spent a good deal of time talking to her family and friends on the phone and via email, mostly reassuring them she was all right. She also contacted Judy, her agent at Felice, and they worked out a brief press relief which said that she was home recuperating from the shock of her experience.
She stayed home that day and Friday and Saturday and only went out for groceries on Sunday afternoon, wearing a baggy sweat suit and her skin a nice toasty brown. No one recognized her, of course.
On Monday she arrived at the Felice Modeling Agency after calling to be sure her agent would be available. The woman had bad news and good news. Some upcoming appointments had been canceled, but several clients wanted her specifically. Taking Judy’s advice Sasha accepted only two of them. The rejected ones all were trying to exploit her newly sensational reputation.
Judy and she also discussed Sasha taking up residence in Paris for a month or two. The French were not as plugged in to American sensationalism as Americans were. But finally Sasha decided to weather the storm in New York.
She was glad she had done so mid-week when she got an invitation from Detective Alicia Love to participate in a hand-to-hand class.
“Today we have a distinguished guest. Sasha Canaro as some of you know is the reigning World and Olympic Judo Champion. Here is her final competition in the Paris Olympics.”
The image was projected onto a smooth white wall of the downtown Brooklyn gym used by the Martial Arts Club twice a month. The room was an old ballroom with padded exercise mats laid out on the floor and tied together. The room was long enough that only half of it was in use. The other half was unlit, so the white exercise mats seemed to glow in the bright overhead lights.
About three dozen women and men stood or sat facing the image. They were mostly in their twenties and thirties with a sprinkling of those over forty. Their clothing ranged from martial-arts gis from several disciplines and levels to exercise clothes both decorative and utilitarian to jeans and t-shirts.
Some students had stared at her when she had come into the room with Alicia Love. Some had glanced at her and kept on chatting or bending and twisting and doing sit-ups and the like. Sasha had stared right back, studying them. At her regard a few had shot back hostile glances and a few others had nodded or smiled briefly.
Now Sasha turned her attention to the makeshift screen. This was the first time she had ever seen a video of the match. It was strange watching herself from the outside, remembering some of the decisions she had made. It had been a real challenge to exactly match her opponent’s level of ability so that her very last match ever balanced on a knife edge of win or lose. In the end she had won the gold medal by only a tiny margin. She would have been just as happy to have taken a silver.
Most of the class watched intently. All of them were here voluntarily, having passed the minimal qualifications the Brooklyn PD required them to have in this activity. Some were long-time practitioners of a martial art. A very few appeared bored.
When the video was done there was a brief smattering of applause.
Alicia turned to Sasha and spoke loudly enough for everyone to hear her. “Would you like to say something, Sasha?” Everyone in the class was supposed to use first names or nicknames to de-emphasize the differences in rank, which were considerable.
Sasha came forward. She was dressed in sky-blue exercise shorts and a matching sports bra and was barefoot. Her platinum hair was caught up in a pony tail.
“Thank you, Alicia.” She turned toward the class. “And thank you for having me. I am honored to be here. I have an idea of what a hard job you have to do, day in and day out, no matter what.
“A few comments. First, I am the winner of only one of seven Judo weight classes. So I am not THE reigning champ. Second, I won that last match by only three points.” She held up a hand showing three fingers. “So I am NOT the Deadliest Woman on the Planet, pleasant as it is to be called that.” Her voice was conspicuously sarcastic.
There was a smattering of laughter. Sasha smiled with them. She could see most of the class relaxing, beginning to accept her as one of them.
“Third, there’s not much I can teach you. For one thing, Judo competition has a lot of rules and conditions to make it a sport rather than a practical activity. Not that it doesn’t have some practical applications.” She caught the eye of three students in turn who were wearing Judo gis. The belts were all plain black, which Alicia told her was part of the practice to de-emphasize ranks. But at least one of them was a fifth dan, which was fairly high.
“A fourth and final point. As many of you know, after you master the basics you begin to learn advanced techniques and subtleties. Then there comes a point when you have pretty much learned it all. You discover there are no more secrets or subtleties or more advanced techniques.
“That’s when you begin to be really good. You start over, focus on what you already learned. You refine it and trim away excess motion and excess E-motion and thought. You approach pure art.”
She stopped. She had said all she wanted to say.
There was silence. Some students were nodding, a few even in what she believed was real understanding. Some were frowning. Some merely waited for whatever would come next.
And as always there was a doubter or maybe just a trouble maker.
“Yeah, but we’re here to learn practical stuff. Not all this art garbage.”
Sasha bowed her head in fake humility.
Alicia had foreseen this and spoke, as the two of them had planned.
“Fine, Ferris. Come up here. And you, Georgie.” She mentioned three more names. The ones sitting down stood up, and all five wandered warily over to Alicia. She handed three of them a rubber knife, a second a purple plastic baseball bat, and the last a plastic chain weighted at one end.
As planned Sasha moved into the center of the exercise area and stood, feet a bit apart and her hands raised almost in prayer in front of her, finger tips together, head slightly bowed. She did not bother to go to slow-time.
The five students came and gathered around Sasha. They stood staring. Finally Ferris focused his eyes on the person behind Sasha, whom she could not see.
She did not need to. She heard the slight scrape of feet behind her and pivoted out of the way, turning toward the large man rushing toward her raising the purple bat. She spun her arm closest to him so that it wrapped around the bat arm and slid her cupped hand down to his wrist, capturing it.
At the same time she was continuing her turn so that she came up behind him. Her free hand pushed him in the direction of his rush, straight into Ferris who was leaping to stab Sasha in her back. Ferris tried to side-step but it was too late. He was knocked flat on his back and the big man fell on top of him.
As the big man went by her Sasha had applied enough pressure on his elbow that he let go of the bat. She snatched it and stepped backward. The three other “attackers” were standing in front of her now.
She grinned at them and faked a downward strike at one of them. He ducked aside but she continued her movement to extend like a sword fighter and poke another in his belly. He doubled over; she had not been gentle, merely judicious.
Nor was she done. She advanced in a skating motion on the last opponent, captured the chain with a corkscrew motion of her bat, jerked it out of his hand, and slung it skittering off into a corner of the room. She spun in a circle, dropping to the floor onto her free hand, pivoted on it, and thrust her feet out to capture the weapon-bereft man’s ankles with hers. She dumped him onto the floor, skipped by him, rapping him lightly on his head, and took out the man who had ducked aside and was returning to attack with a knife.
Then it was time to lightly strike Ferris over the head and the big man in his belly.
Then she spun the bat like a baton to rest under an arm and stopped dead and froze.
The five men began to pick themselves up and stand, hands pressed to various parts of their anatomy.
“That wasn’t fair!” said Ferris. “She didn’t use Judo.”
“There was a little kendo in there, too.” Said the Judoka Sasha took for the fifth dan. “Perfectly fair. And if that stick had been a sword you’d be dead right now.”
“We demand a re-match!”
Alicia cut in. “On the street you don’t get re-matches. You just get hospitalized. Or ‘morgued’.” And on the heels of her words the Judoka said, “The results would be the same. Except this time she would not be gentle.”
“Gentle!” Ferris’s words were drowned out by scattered laughter and words of praise for Sasha. Apparently Ferris was not very popular in this group.
Alicia called the class to order. “Now that we’ve had a little entertainment it’s time we got the class on track. I hope Sasha will stick around and give a few pointers here and there. For now, please join me in thanking Sasha Canaro for her time.”
With that she began to applaud. First a few and then more joined her, then more, finally Ferris and his cohorts, grinning as if they and Sasha had conspired to put on a show. Which was, in a way, the truth.
Sasha did indeed stick around. But first she approached the Judoka who had spoken out. She bowed.
“Sensei, thank you for what you said.”
He returned her bow. “It was only the truth.”
“Is it possible we know some of the same people?” She mentioned a few, as did he, and they chatted for a short time. Then they turned to the class and joined in.
Sasha came to the next class, then skipped a few, and returned now and again. It became an irregular part of her life and she made a number of friends.
She met with David Trent at the Brooklyn PD firing range and he introduced her to a few other officers. A couple were not happy with her for dealing with the bank robbers rather than leaving that to police. Most however approved or did not care.
Of course, even dressed roughly she was still gorgeous. She could be forgiven much by the men and the one Lesbian police officer.
Her beauty might have stirred the jealousy of some of the women, but her ability with firearms and the fact that she was on good terms with Alicia Love was good enough for most of the other women shooters. By the time the evening was over she was invited to a bar with Trent and some of the others. Where she had to drink soft drinks, not having reached 21 years of age.
A couple of months later Trent, Love, and a couple dozen other officers and their families drove 30 miles or so northwest of Newark, New Jersey, west across the Hudson River from Manhattan, into the moderate uplands there. They had a barbecue and informal pistol contests at an outdoor firing range. And during one contest Sasha demonstrated she was not bragging about hitting a dozen quarters thrown into the air.
Months passed. The fashion world forgot that Sasha was anything but a model. Her business returned to normal levels and a little beyond. She was becoming a dependable commodity.
In the fall she was chosen by the Felice agency to participate in the semi-annual Paris world fashion show where the top fashion designer houses exhibited their outfits for the coming season. She took a week off afterward and spent some time exploring Paris and its surroundings. This included the Village Olympique. It was now a going concern, had almost doubled in size, and was so changed that it seemed very different than when she had competed there.
Back in Brooklyn she got several shoots where she had to travel to warmer climes than East Coast winters. But it was during time back in New York on the tail-end of a snowy winter that she got her next taste of crime busting.
Continued in Chapter Nineteen.