One

Katja and Katya take the few blocks walk to Gerard’s Barrack’s Street home. It’s roomy, two stories, courtyard behind shared with two adjacent owners. His walls are lined with books, if it concerns the occult, he has a copy. Otherwise, it’s scholarly messy. Big desk full of papers, open books around, he must like candles, there are half a dozen fat ones in various states of meltdown.
His furniture is solid, might be antique, Katya is no expert on furniture. It has the warm scent of many pipes.
Katya, “Home of a scholar, smells of rich tobacco.”
“Hope it doesn’t offend.”
“No, we do not offend so easy. It smells nice. Maybe I will start smoking pipe.”
Gerard, “That would be interesting. I have tea prepared, please, take a seat.”
The twins drink tea without additives, no sugar, lemon or milk, Gerard pours a dash of milk in his and begins.
“It must have occurred to your active minds that I have certain connections. As when I got persistent detectives to drop further inquiry after you saved a woman’s life and disabled the serial killer.”
The twins remain silent and sip rich black tea.
“Some time ago, several years now, I was contacted by people I’d never heard of. But the contact arose from someone I knew in the FBI. I can make what must be a complicated story simple, simply because I don’t know much about how the operation works. A group was formed someplace unknown and long ago. The purpose is to deal with abusers, pedophiles, spousal abuse, anything that puts the helpless under the control of the perverted and sadistic. That they are usually men goes without saying. These cases frequently run under the radar of authorities or, when they are known, the abuser manages to scare victims into silence. You have any familiarity with it?
Katya, “Da, yes.”
She isn’t getting into the abuse she and Katja experienced at the hand of their mother, or the subsequent attempt to turn them into child sex slaves.
“The group, which calls itself the Society, tracks down and deals with abusers. It was originally called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to People, but whittled down to the Society. They also developed a significant list of contacts in all sorts of agencies, federal, state and local. The FBI, Homeland Security, Attorney General’s office, even the CIA. Same for the states, police, state prosecutors, social service agencies. The Society fosters back door communication between jurisdictions, which is how I came to their attention. Rules and paranoia over turf too frequently keep agencies from openly cooperating. But they can go to the Society, which serves as a clearing house, information flows through it with no formal requests, documentation or meetings. It has proven to be secure, requires no payment other than cooperation when the Society needs assistance. Like when I got the detectives to go away.”
“So Franks knew you could make things disappear, Sullivan isn’t in the loop.”
“Exactly. And I have been able to help Franks and others via my Society contact.”
Katya, “How do we come in?”
“One of the arms of the Society, the one that deals with abusers, are called Social Workers. Don’t confuse it with traditional social work. They call it attitude adjustment, sometimes refocusing. Social Workers confront the abuser and coerce him to mind his manners, to refocus his attention so to speak. Physically coerce, if you get my meaning.”
Katja, “Abuse abuser.”
“One way to put it. They are allowed to use as much forces as necessary, but not to kill. Killing is only permitted when they or an innocent is under immediate threat of harm. I can’t say why they do it that way, it’s their way and they don’t make exceptions.”
“Ah, and abuser comes to their attention from the same agencies they do other things for.”
“Right again. My contact tells me there are more cases than they can get to. But they have expanded as much as they think is safe, to stay out of public view.”
“Then they have an opening.”
“Yes, occasionally a team, Social Workers operate with two person teams, will move on, or is let go, usually involving an unauthorized death. Let go is inaccurate. Social Workers don’t know who hires them, they don’t know other teams, the Society simply offers no new contracts. Let’s see, what else, oh yes, compensation. Social Workers are paid by the job. All expenses, first class air, car rentals, hotels, meals, everything. And they are paid an additional ten thousand dollars each for the job itself. More if it is heightened risk, say two abusers, or a gang of sex traffickers. My next question is obvious.”
Katya looks to Katja, “Do we want to do this?”
“Da, we are good person for this work.”
Gerard, “Excellent. I will give you a number to call. You have throwaway phones?”
Katya nods.
“Call with that one. You will speak with a woman called Ms. Pearson, no doubt a pseudonym. She will explain operations in greater detail. You now know all I know, oh, I should say, I didn’t mention names, she doesn’t want to know your names.”
“Thank you for tea, we will talk to Pearson woman.”
“Then thank you as well. And by the way, we didn’t have this conversation, nor will we ever again speak of the Society or any work you may perform for them. Normally, I would never be involved, I would pass you along to my contact, she would contact you or not. But I explained to Ms. Pearson that we knew each other already, and that I had some small experience with how you resolved a couple of local issues. She agreed it would be acceptable for me to approach you.”
“Do not be concerned, we came here only to visit, have tea, talk of the occult and New Orleans restaurants.”

Two

Katya goes to her office, calls the number, a woman picks up, “Pearson.”
“I have been referred by a gentleman. He suggested I call you.”
“Thank you. If you will give me an address, tomorrow you will receive a package, an encrypted Iridium satellite phone. I will call at ten a.m. your time, day after. Is that satisfactory?”
“Yes,” she gives her the mail drop, the line goes dead.
Credit cards, driver’s licenses, Amazon, all have the address of a private mailbox. They get no mail at home, there is no slot or box for the post office to clutter up with junk. A second mailbox is for a pseudonym, this is the one Penny mails the contract payments to, and the one Katya gave Mrs. Pearson.
Katya returns to the others, Katja has filled them in on Gerard’s proposal.
Katya, “Nothing to say, I will get encrypted phone, then she will call day after tomorrow. I do not know who she is, she does not know our name.”
Mani, “Gee, mysterious. But she knows Gerard?”
Katya, “Gerard doesn’t do anything illegal, he does not need same level of protection. Woman is careful. Like our work with Penny, the less anyone knows, the safer everyone is. Anonymous caution is protection for them, also protection for us. Sister and I would probably do the work for nothing, but they want to pay, so okay.”
Mani, “Do Ellen and I get to play?”
Katya, “They don’t know who actually goes on the job, I do not see why it matters. Just remember, this is not killing.”
Ellen, “Killing is fun, but we get paid well for following their rules, got no problem with just beating shit out of some asshole.”
Mani, “How do they know the target is actually turned around?”
Katya, “I assume that will be explained, we do not speculate, I will speak to Pearson Wednesday, then we will know.”
The twins spend part of the afternoon in the home gym. Ellen and Mani are getting enough workout sanitizing the house. By four, everyone is ready for showers and tea.
Katja, “House ees sparkle, you haf done excellent cleaning.”
Ellen, “Every six months we do a deep clean. Because Mani keeps the place relatively spotless, it’s not horrible, but I’m always amazed at how much dust accumulates, and everywhere. Inside closed closets, kitchen cabinets, doorframes, it’s as bad as a water leak, just trickles all over the place, every crack and crevice.”
Mani, “Despite our air filters. We are religious about replacing filters, there is one in every room, and dust still accumulates. I suppose it would be worse without them.”
Katja, “House ees always smell crisp and clean, air filters do top job.”
Ellen, “They better, filters cost a damn arm and leg. Anyway, we breathe the purest air you can get, at home anyway. I gotta figure out dinner.”
Katja, “We will go to Bon Ton restaurant. Sister ees wanting turtle zoup, I am for crawfeesh bisque.”
Mani, “Yay, leave at what, six thirty?”
“Call for reserving, see eef seven or seven thirty ees good.”
Seven thirty works, it’s a clear night, not summer swelter, they take the fifteen minute walk, enjoy some of the best fried seafood on the planet. Fried trout, oysters, soft shell crab, a Katja favorite.
Pleasantly full and buzzed, they walk down Magazine, cross Canal St. left a block to Chartres and on to Ursulines, home and sleep.
Tuesday morning, breakfast light after last night’s seafood extravaganza, Ellen has cut fruit with crème fraiche and plain yogurt.
She asks Katya, “What’s up for today?”
“Just to mailbox for phone, sisters will stay home otherwise.”
Mani, “Can we speak Russian today?”
Katja, “Da.”
If you had a mike installed in the house, the rest of the day sounds like St. Petersburg, not New Orleans.
Katya collects the phone, reads the instructions, plugs in the charger. Then she’s off to read spreadsheets from Katya Donut, Katja is on Skype with Maria.
Tea comes and goes, then dinner, Ellen has been cooking white beans with hot sausage and ham pieces. She discovered a technique for cutting the calories in starchy rice in half. Cook it with a couple tablespoons of coconut oil, then when it’s drained and cooled, put it in the refrigerator overnight. The chemical mix of coconut oil on the starches and the subsequent chill makes much of the starch indigestible, it passes right on through. Doesn’t affect the taste or texture, reheating doesn’t matter either.
Mani, “Soul food, yay, and cornbread. Life is splendid with Ellen around.”
They’ve had pre dinner cocktail hour, wine tonight is a dark earthy chilled Cabernet.
Mani continues, “I can’t decide what I like better, the ham or sausage. Ham pieces pick up the spices in the beans, and the sausage has a bite of heat.”
Ellen, “Katja still adds habanero powder.”
“I am spicy girl.”
“True, tonight perhaps I will bring you my own spice.”
“Ellen ees welcome to spice up Katja anytime.”
Mani, “Then I get Katya, I hope.”
Katya, “I will come to your room and we will make heat together.”
“Better have more cornbread, I’ll need the calories.”
Cognac, an episode of Criminal Minds, and bedroom intimacies later, Katya is asleep with Mani, Katja in her room enveloped by Ellen.
Morning creeps in, Ellen’s got coffee and tea going, decides it’s a pancake day, bacon, eggs to order.
Katja, “Sister and I will haf egg over easy, bacon ees creespy,” she crunches a piece, “good.”
Ellen, “Comin’ up, Mani?”
“Same please, I love pancakes, cane syrup blended with maple is the best idea ever, better than the internet and quantum physics.”
“Ees Sarah over Saturday?”
Sarah Stevens is a sixteen year old Mani met at a boutique in the Quarter her mom owns. Dad is a neurosurgeon, at the hospital always, mom opened the place to keep busy. Sarah helps on Saturdays. She’s visited, a sleepover, had had her first actual lesbian intimacy. She knew she was lesbian, but had never had a play buddy. A bit of practice kissing with a friend at twelve doesn’t count. Her parents do know she’s into girls, her mother is kind of relieved, no ‘oops’ pregnancy, less STD risk.
Mani, “I need to invite her, she won’t just assume, even though you told her anytime. We’ve texted back and forth, but the weekend didn’t come up. She’s training for a race, not sure when it is, but soon.”
“Ees in town?”
“Yes, that I know. She doesn’t travel much to races, she went to Baton Rouge once, LSU. Women’s track coach talked scholarship but Sarah wouldn’t go to LSU if it was the only university on the planet.”
Katja, “What ees problem wiz it?”
“She said it’s too hick. She doesn’t like Baton Rouge, and LSU students primarily come from Louisiana, which is an anti-recommendation.”
Katja, “We do not know anything about Louisiana, only New Orleans and mostly French Quarter. It haf people from everywhere, not only state. We do not like suburb any, Mardi Gras ees a pain wiz drunk people, and stupid men with wanting women to show teets. Like teen boy who haf never seen breast except for eenternet porn.”
Ellen, “Could say that about all of America, silly nonsense, as if a nipple is going to drive the children insane. Women stick their nipples in the kid’s mouth, then act as if they should never see a titty again until they’re twenty one.”
Katja, “Probably jealous, other teet ees better than mommy teet.”
Breakfast over, the twins go to their laptops for online newspapers, Mani cleans up while Ellen plots lunch and dinner.
At ten the sat phone rings, Katya takes the call in her office, she puts it on speaker, Katja is sitting in.
“Good morning, our mutual contact has expressed his views, we’re happy you’re considering working with us. If I may, I’ll cover general information, ground rules, then answer any questions. Is that good?”
“Da.”
“He said he explained the Society in a broad way. I’ll be more detailed. You will be what we call Social Workers, as in teaching targets to find the self discipline they need to quit being assholes. Targets don’t understand suggestions, requests or demands, don’t believe restraining orders apply to them. Targets understand pain. Social Workers speak to them in the language they understand. Am I being clear?”
“Da.”
“Social Workers may inflict any level of pain necessary. Enough to insure compliance, up to and including wheelchair jockey. Some examples, a general beating doesn’t do it, many of them fight all the time, sometimes they lose. A few bruises or even a broken nose doesn’t create behavior change, it makes it worse. They are all angry to start with, now they’re angrier. Our teams find things like a finger gone missing, a shattered elbow, inverted knee, begins to approach the level where the abuser begins to comprehend. Do you think you can deliver that level of punishment? It isn’t for the timid.”
“We will make target understand.”
Pearson, “People sometimes ask why we don’t just kill him? The answer is because we don’t. The target may have ruined lives, or made people miserable, but he didn’t take lives. Social Work requires a certain level of distance. You will see abused children, you will hear audio, even video of spousal or child abuse. Your first reaction is to eliminate the abuser. Our approach is to make life hard for them. Death is clean and simple, they’re out of it. A life of handicap is better punishment in our view and for people who know them, an object lesson. Any questions so far?”
Katya, “What happens to victim?”
“Victims are approached in advance. They have to agree to relocate, never be in contact with their abuser, bring along kids, no contact with the target for any reason. If they can’t or won’t, we drop it. We have far too many cases to concern ourselves over a victim who dithers. We’re sorry about the children, but some women just won’t be helped. They don’t turn us down often, we have many former victims who tell them how it works, how they never saw or heard from the abuser again, how their lives are infinitely better.”
Katya, “Who pays for it?”
“We have significant resources, moeny isn’t a problem. And as to your personal safety, you may have gotten a glimpse from our mutual friend, you will not be bothered by police, investigated or questioned. If law enforcement shows up, call me immediately, day or night. You will be released before you are processed. Obviously, never work under real names. Your air travel, hotel rooms, car rentals will all be made in pseudonyms, you will be provided documents, licenses and cards under those names. Never use phones that can be tracked, if the rental car has GPS, unplug it. The sat phone has better GPS anyway and it is untraceable. You know how to disconnect the GPS, the box is usually in the trunk.”
“Da.”
Pearson, “You can make travel arrangements through our Transportation people. They don’t know why you’re going where you’re going, they make reservations. If you need a private place to deal with the target, tell them, just never tell them why you need it. They will find an empty warehouse, rent a cheap motel room, whatever suits. Details and keys will be provided. We have people everywhere. If you need to relocate targets after you’re done with them, Cleaners will deal with the site and Minders will relocate the target. While you’re learning the ropes, just call me and tell me what you need. Ms. Pearson is actually two women, myself and my companion. Either one of us may answer the phone. Our friend said he discussed compensation.”
“Da, ten thousand each per job, more if it is complicated.”
“Yes, or if it requires more than a day or two, your travel will be first class, hotels vary but nothing less than a Hampton, we find them nicely anonymous, clean and reliable.”
“Hampton is no problem.”
“I’ll explain the process. Social Workers go in fully briefed. This isn’t detective work, you don’t have to locate the target or figure out his habits. Our Surveillance teams have all that done before you get on the plane. You will not be assigned to New Orleans, no team works where they live. Do you have another home?”
“Houston.”
“Then you won’t work there either. For details, you log into an encrypted site, target details will be there for ten minutes, then it disappears. I understand one of you is an eidetiker?”
“Yes.”
“Good, then ten minutes is more than adequate, make notes or memorize, the site will not allow printing, screen shots or copies of links, if you try, it blanks. The pixels have been altered, if you try and photograph the screen, you get a mishmash of colored nothing. All these precautions are for your safety and ours, it isn’t a matter of trust. We will deliver any equipment necessary. For instance, you may see the need for two cars, or a quick change of hotel, just call Transportation. We do not question Social Workers on the ground judgment, you’re on the firing line, your first job is to get home safely. Any time you think the situation has gone bad or has put you at risk, bail out. There is no penalty for sensible caution. On our end, you will come to trust that we do everything we promise and more.”
Katya, “You have work now?”
“Always. Ever been to Cleveland?”
“Nyet.”
“Can’t blame you, doesn’t sound interesting. You will receive a text on the phone, link to the site. Details are there, all the contact information you need. All contact information for Transportation changes at the completion of each job. A new assignment will come with its own contacts. Keep this number in your head, 551389. It doesn’t mean anything, it is your team reference number. When you call Transportation or need Cleaners or Minders, use that code. The person on the other end will already know where you are working. ”
“What are Minders, just to follow target?”
“Minders can be available to watch the area around the site of the attitude adjustment. They keep the curious away. Up to you to decide if that’s needed. They will also follow the target afterwards, for instance, you may have arranged a junk motel for him if you need him out of the way for a while. Minders insure he stays there.
Other people you may see are with Extraction. They take the victim and children to their new home. Social Workers occasionally cross paths with Surveillance, Minders, Cleaners and Extraction. You don’t see them, they don’t see you. Do not talk, do not even acknowledge them. Nobody is insulted. ”
“You are careful, it is good.”
“We’ve never lost a team, never been arrested, any authority sticks his nose in, they go away quickly. Oh, and in case you are wondering. Minders also monitor targets for at least a year after you deal with them. We call that part Compliance. Any recidivist behavior, we send in a specialty Social Skills team, the target will require no further monitoring.”
“You kill?”
“Occasionally, primarily it’s severe physical incapacitation, hard to beat people with no hands, hard to kick children with no feet or knees that won’t work. Blind people almost never abuse anyone. We prefer not to go extreme, but this is a second offense, and the first attitude adjustment didn’t take. It doesn’t happen often. Anything else?”
Katya, “We will wait for text.”
She clicks off, Ms. Pearson stares at the phone and laughs, “Daphne, she’s just like Joan Wayne, when the conversation’s done, it’s done.”
Daphne, “They’re in then.”
Janah, “Yep, and eventually they’re going to be the team we send for the second attitude adjustment. My sense is that they have already killed.”
“Gee, Gerard said they’re like, eighteen.”
“Doesn’t matter, the girl I talked to is a sociopath, don’t doubt her twin is the same. Works for me, long as they stay within the rules.”
Daphne, “Perhaps they can be useful with Shadows.”
Janah, “We’ll see, that’s far more dangerous work.”

Three

Katya surfs the site, memorizes details, over her shoulder the others view the accompanying photos.
Mani, “His wife, black eye and split lip, kids with dark red welts and bruises, clear down their backs to butts. That’s ugly. How does he stay out of prison?”
“Some big deal lawyer, very aggressive. Also big religious person. What do they call most crazy Christian?”
Ellen, “Fundamentalist, evangelical?”
“Da, yes, he is lawyer for big evangelical church. Always lawsuits about abortion, pushing religious freedom so they can discriminate. He is also punishing children for this and that, beating with stick or belt. Wife put up with because of religious belief, but she has finally had it with asshole husband.”
Mani, “Penny should get in touch, maybe she hires us to kill him.”
Katya, “Penny does not solicit business, people come to her through network of contacts.”
Mani, “I see, that makes sense, make the client come to you.”
The only time Katya ever did what might be called solicitation was when she asked the then prostitute Penny, who said she wanted the pimp dead, if she would pay Katya to kill him. Penny did, Katya did, actually Katja did, Katya distracted him. He never saw twins. For that matter, Penny never saw twins, still doesn’t know there’s a duplicate.
Katya, “Sister and I will go to Cleveland, fix target, woman and children get better life.”
Mani, “Is he rich? What do they do for money?”
Katya, “Society handles details, we only adjust attitude.”
Ellen, “That’s a slick operation.”
“Seems to be, Gerard would not fool around with incompetent or careless people. I can hear in voice of Pearson, she is no fool, and will not tolerate foolish people. She has been doing this a long time, still sounds young anyway. We will never see her, so we will never know.”
Katya calls Transportation, they fly out Friday. Target is usually at home Friday nights, at his office or in court during the day. Chester Wilkins is the church lawyer. Katya briefly wonders why Christians file so many lawsuits, but it passes through her brain as irrelevant to the task.
Ellen, “You taking weapons?”
“Nyet, we are flying commercial and we don’t kill target anyway. Pack knife for both of us, duct tape, piano wire, blindfold, latex gloves. We know where he will be, if he changes routine, Surveillance will tell us. Society thinks of everything. They want us in and out, not chasing around target for a week.”
Ellen, “We need something like that for our other work, except it means bringing in somebody else.”
“We have to do our own Surveillance. If you and Mani need to go and track the target for a week, then we do it. Our work is different. We don’t talk to the target, just shoot him.”
Mani, “You have disguises down?”
“Yes, we disguise for contract killing. Same thing. Target will not know twins, if we can make it work, he will not see us at all.”
Katja is surfing flights, “We will fly from Houston. Tomorrow we fly private to Houston early, check Katya Donut. You and Mani can take care of house, make a trip to the shooting range.”
Mani, “Great! I need to get on the rifles.”
Ellen, “You coming back Saturday?”
Katya, “Yes, unless we miss target Friday night or Saturday morning.”
“I asked because Sarah is supposed to come over Saturday.”
Katya, “Book Blue Sky for afternoon, maybe four o’clock. If we can get back, okay, if not, we will stay in Houston and fly back Sunday.”
“Suppose we just fly Southwest Saturday morning, it’s an hour with only a bit of wasted time in TSA lines. No baggage to check or even carry on.”
Ellen, “Good idea.”
“Do not contact us while we work unless it is an emergency.”
The evening passes quietly, this morning they land at Hobby, private car collects them and they’re at the Houston residence in a half hour. Ellen and Mani deal with the house and a small grocery trip. The twins make the rounds of Katya Donut, there are four about five miles from each other in a lopsided square.
Maria is the lead manager for all the shops, each place has someone in charge, she is additionally responsible for the smooth operation of them all. She does a good job of it.
“Katja, Katya! Good to see you, didn’t know you were coming this time.”
“Sudden trip for other business. Shops are orderly, girls happy, we are glad for seeing them, and you.”
Katya has an unspoken policy, she understands that cute, personable girls are customer magnets. Is it discriminatory? Yes. Does she care? No. The twins are high functioning sociopaths, they don’t care what anyone thinks. They have no racial bias, girls are Latin, a couple black, the others Caucasian. Cute girls behind the counter at Katya Donut is a calculated business decision, not a lifestyle one.
Maria, “We’ve pretty much maxed out the volume we can do. Retail sales are restricted by the space available, and except for this shop, which has more seating, the business is set up more for take away than stay.”
Katya, “What do you propose?”
Maria, “I would love to do a test, one store I believe has growth potential, but we need to expand. There is space coming up next door, a bike shop and he’s too small to compete well, and he’s not young. He’s not going to sell the store, just retire.”
Katya, “Get me lease numbers, is the whole property for sale?”
“I don’t know, you want me to ask?”
“There is a Verizon store there, the bike shop, small Chinese restaurant and a hair styling salon. Parking is satisfactory. I will call them. If they want to sell, maybe we buy. If not, we can still take space on a lease.”
Maria, “Great! I am certain we’ll justify the expense over time. We may have to add kitchen equipment.”
“They will offer a build out allowance. We will see. It will be maybe next week before I can explore.”
“No rush, I wanted to run it past you. You may not have wanted to take on more space.”
“After I talk with them, the answer will be obvious, the numbers work or they don’t.”

Four

The twins land in Cleveland, Hopkins International, not sure how many actual international flights they have but it makes the airport sound important. One presumes they count Canada. At just under four hundred thousand people, the city isn’t huge, but if you count Cleveland metro, the number jumps past two million. It’s on Lake Erie with the accompanying appeal of a large body of water.
It’s about thirty miles east to the Village of Chagrin Falls. Calling yourself a village is quaint and jacks up home prices, many of which are in the million and up category.
They have a reservation in their travel names at Hampton Inn Beachwood, seven miles from Chagrin Falls. It’s a bit early for check in, and the target’s office isn’t in Chagrin Falls anyway, rather in between downtown Cleveland and his home.
They drive to the target’s office, spot his car, new BMW 5 series, a fifty grand set of wheels.
Katja, “BMW, ees nice car, pull up behind and I will attach tracking device.”
Katya’s driving a nondescript panel van with a sliding door on the passenger side. Katja is out long enough to stick a Nano Spark GPS under his rear bumper, hears the magnetic box clunk into place. She checks the signal, good to go. It will send her a text when the car is in motion.
Despite the device, they wait, the twins are good at waiting. Long days of bus rides around Houston, looking for libraries, Barnes and Noble, anyplace where they could read or log on. Young autodidacts, Katya memorized English, practiced with her sister. They taught themselves math from Khan Academy online lessons. At night, find an empty house, break in, one slept while the other remained awake. They got used to carrying everything they owned. For Sale homes were good, usually had running water and power. Although they couldn’t turn on lights at night, the otherwise empty places generally left a couple of lights burning. From age eight until they were teens, they lived like urban nomads. Occasionally they would break into an occupied home when no one was around. There was frequently stashed cash, then they found guns and ammunition. They buried those in metal boxes until they were able to rent a house.
Killing Penny’s pimp started the assassination business, and Penny opened a bank account and got a debit card for them. Eventually, Katya taught herself to hack and create fake ID. When they were just fifteen, they had licenses that said they were twenty one. Then they were able to open their own bank account, get their own credit cards, buy Vespas to get around. Murder and theft paid for it all.
They opened Katya Donut, subsequently, they bought the house they were renting, remodeled, bought a second house in the middle of nothing. It wasn’t much, but structurally sound and more importantly, fifty miles out of town, down a dirt road, no neighbors for miles. That became the shooting range.
At lunchtime, Chester Wilkins, all hundred and fifty pounds of scrawny mean self, comes out of the building and drives to a restaurant a mile away. To protect his shiny luxury car from inadvertent dings, he parks on the far side of the half empty lot, under a tree and on the side away from the restaurant.
Katya, “He may just have handed himself to us.”
She drives the van to the near side of the tree. Now Chester’s car is blocked from view of the parking lot. More waiting.
A half hour later, “He’s coming.”
They stretch on latex gloves. Katja hops out, slides the van door open. She faces the interior, like she’s looking for something.
Chester rounds the rear of the van, spots a cute tush in snug jeans leaning into the van. He takes his time with keys, strolls slowly to his car, clicks the key fob, the door locks click open. There’s a knife at his neck.
He freezes, Katja turns and while still in motion clocks him in the throat. Only a small gagging sound. Katya plants a foot on his lower back and kicks him into the van. Katja kneels on him, a length of duct tape over his mouth, all the way around his head. Meanwhile Katya is wrapping his hands behind him with picture wire. He’s gagging but trying to roll over. Katja bangs him on the temple with the butt of her blade, sticks the knife next to his eye. He’s quiet quick.
Katya exits, slams the sliding door shut, retrieves the tracker from his car. She slides in the driver’s seat of the van. Katja keeps a coughing Chester company.
During the drive, Katya calls a number on the satellite phone, a woman answers, “Pearson.”
Katya says in Japanese, “551389, target acquired.”
The phone goes dead. Ms. Pearson will put the rest of the plan in motion.
Transportation located a warehouse in a small near empty industrial park. Katya gets out, rolls up the door and drives the van inside. She rolls the door down and locks it while Katja walks Chester to a plain wooden armchair. She unties his hands after Katya keeps him still with the blade on his Adam’s apple. Then Katja fastens his arms to the arms of the chair with more picture wire and wraps his ankles together. Chester isn’t going anyplace without shredding a tendon.
Katja rips off the tape. Chester coughs, still gagged from the punch.
Katya opens a bottle of water and puts it to his mouth. He’s finally able to talk, croak is more like it
“What’s this,” cough hack, a raspy, “about? Kidnapping? Terrorism?”
Katya, “Terrorism, personal terrorism, one asshole at a time.”
“You with some kind of group?”
It’s a believable scenario. The twins resemble terrorists. They wear khimars,
a cape-like veil that hangs down to the waist and covers hair, neck and shoulders completely. Over the lower half of the face is a niqab, a face veil that leaves the eyes visible, except they also wear sunglasses.
Katya takes his wallet, “Chester Wilkins, you have been found guilty of child and spousal abuse by our court.”
“What court, some Arab court?”
Katya says something in Farsi, there are advantages to having a photographic memory.
Chester, “Thought so. What do you mean abuse? That’s crazy.”
“Beating your wife and children with belts and sticks. You terrorize them, we terrorize you.”
“I have a God given right to discipline my kids and my wife.”
Katya, “And now it is time for you to be disciplined. In America it is said what goes around comes around, this is the comes around.”
Katja sticks a rag in his mouth, a strip of duct tape over it, then takes his forefinger. The serrated blade is efficient, one quick swipe and his digit is next to his foot. Blood drips from the stump.
Chester is screaming into the rag.
She slips leather gloves over the latex ones, then brass knuckles on her right hand. Hard metal straight to his mouth, teeth crunch. A flat palm to his ear breaks an eardrum. Chester’s a mess.
They let him sit, he’s wheezing, scared, his new reality is dawning. Piss stains appear on expensive tan slacks.
Katya, “Your wife and kids are gone, your money is gone. You have sold your house and you are divorced, you have no custody of your children, you will never see them again.”
Katja rips off the tape, pulls the rag and leaves it in his lap.
He speech is mushy, he’s in pain and sobbing, “You can’t do all that inna hour. Imma lawya. Imma thue you,” hard to talk with several teeth crushed.
“Sue who exactly? We aren’t leaving you a business card. If you make any attempt to find your wife or kids, we come along again. Next time will be terminal. You will crawl out of here, get medical attention and go back to being a shyster attorney. You will be monitored and reminded frequently. Raise your hand to anyone, anywhere, I will take the hand and watch you bleed out.”
Katja cuts a line from his ear, not deep, but straight across his nose to the other ear. She does it so quickly, it’s few seconds before Wilkins realizes what’s happened. Katja has the rag over his mouth before the wail of pain comes.
Katya, “Not going to be too pretty, but you aren’t much to look at anyway. We don’t ask you to promise or agree. Live quietly and live. Or face the alternative.”
Chester is hyperventilating, tears stream, he’s one broke dick dog.
After Katya backs the van out, Katja closes the roll down. She takes his mobile and the cash he’s got. She cuts Wilkins loose, goes out the entrance door and leaves the key in the lock. He’ll have to figure out how to get to the hospital. Every few weeks, he gets a note on his car, an email, something stuck on his door, a reminder that people are paying attention.
They never check into the Hampton, instead drive straight to the airport. As instructed, leave the van in the short term parking lot, key in the glove box. Someone will come around to return it and change the plate back to the rental plate.
Katya texts their arrival time to Ellen, she will meet their flight at eight.

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