One Hundred Nine
After a schlep around ‘historic’ downtown Helena, which is historically dead on a Wednesday, we stop at the Fire Tower Coffee Roasters for a caffeine kick, then a couple more miles. Return to the hotel at five for showers.
Janah, “Any dinner ideas?”
“Fusion Grille has a lot of everything, it’s in the mall next door. Lots of veg options and local brews, or wine, nobody here much drinks hard liquor but they have that too.”
“Good enough, are the children ready?”
I walk to the next room, the connecting door is open. Sloane is drying Lauren’s hair, Oceane and Cass are enjoying politicians arguing on CNN.
“Just going down the block, place similar to last night, Fusion Grille. I saw some fish dishes that looked appealing, there’s veg lasagna rolls, margherita or Mediterranean pizza, a bleu cheese filet Sloane might like. Coconut shrimp and marsala chicken, lots more.”
We’re seated immediately, order wine, everyone gets carded, but the ID says they’re twenty one or two, Janah’s says twenty five, good enough.
While the wine breathes, there’s a round of Tumbleweed India Pale Ale, brewed right in Helena, they tell me it’s good, I’m not a beer girl.
Janah goes for veg lasagna rolls, Oceane and Cass share coconut shrimp and baked mahi-mahi. Sloane demolishes the filet.
I do seafood mac and cheese, shrimp, scallops and lobster with large shell pasta, it’s quite good. Lauren loves it, she goes through half but shares her Asian noodle bowl, full of chicken, shrimp and pork with vegetables.
We skip dessert, pleasantly full, a short stroll to the hotel and an hour of TV. We’re crashed by ten thirty, have to be at the airport for six thirty.
The flight home is nice, comfort of a private jet, further comfort of soft cheese omelets, crispy bacon, cut fruit and hash browns. A steady flow of coffee and tea, we’re at Teterboro for two, welcomed by splendid Amaya in her favored Mercedes GLC. At the condo in twenty five.
Janah, “I read what you found, you’re right, there’s enough there to create a stink, along with our video and audio we can shut down one nasty CIA program. How many they have overseas one can only imagine.”
Daria, “I have a separate list of the others I found. Locations, names, there were hundreds of subjects, victims, whatever you want to call them.”
Janah’s paging through the reports, “Criminey, all over the world. Some are like the tests here, others use different chemical combos. All of which appear to be in test to be used on large populations. Some to make people paranoid, even hallucinate, some to dope them to a trance or tranquilize them altogether, some to kill. The goal is to make the chemical undetectable.”
“So no one can trace it to the US.”
Daria, “Or they can label canisters in the name of some other country or regime, then blame it for using chemical warfare.”
“Or use it in America, things like the Waco standoff or the recent Bundy business come to mind. Get the occupiers zoned out enough the FBI could just walk in and haul them out.”
Janah, “Daphne, get it packaged up and the video cleaned up then send it off to the Times.”
“Any other media?”
“Let’s see what the Times does with it. If they foot drag then CNN and Washington Post.”
My day is planned, my afternoon anyway, it doesn’t take that long to tighten up the video footage and designate the coordinates. The material Daria collected is couched in doublespeak and psychological jargon, but it won’t take a decent reporter a half a day to find an interpreter. We turn it over as it printed out, don’t make any attempt to pre-interpret or draw conclusions. The pages are stamped Classified, but nothing was redacted.
Tea time, girls circle the low table today, there is music courtesy of Chloe and Nikko, Amaya sings a song in Japanese about a hungry ghost who tells creepy stories to children if they give him treats to eat. If they don’t, then the ghost eats the children. Lauren loves it.
“Our foray into spookville was fairly easy duty, nobody had to get beat up, soldiers didn’t haul us in at gunpoint. Just a little surveillance, Daria and Sis did most of the real work.”
Nikko, “Action is fine, better to be sneaky. Taking over the installation would have been pointless, you couldn’t help the prisoners.”
Zi, “I wonder what happens to them? Up in the hills with near nothing and no clue who they are.”
Janah, “I called Dauten, my alter ego Janette called anyway, he’s going to arrange to bring them down and get the state to deal. How long it takes to put them back together is unknown, but they’re on the video. Nobody can pretend they don’t exist or weren’t victims of the operation.”
“What is my dinner duty Dasha?”
“Order pizza from Marconi.”
Lauren, “I’m going to swim mom.”
“I’m on it.”
I want someone up there when she swims. I’m worrying uselessly, Oceane and Cass go up with them.
Nikko, “We fly to San Francisco tomorrow, five days, I only need you for two Daria, you can come back early if you wish.”
Daria, “Business is important, we will see, Daphne is here now.”
Eloise, “Glad Lauren is back, I’ve fiddled around on the robot so she wouldn’t miss steps the process.”
“How close to a beta model?”
“If we spend a few hours a day, maybe a week, ten days. Susan and Daria had to drop coding to find out what our government was doing in secret. We can get back on track tomorrow.”
Amaya, “I think the thing should have an exoskeleton, not just titanium.”
Eloise, “No reason it can’t, what do you have in mind?”
“Let’s make it look like Emma Watson, she’s adorable. And just think, Emma bringing me coffee and cleaning my room. You will program her to compliment me in a dozen different languages.”
“It will be a while before it delivers coffee. I’ll have to find someone to design the exoskeleton.”
Amaya, “I shall create various looks, a maid’s costume, a tuxedo, maybe a long slinky dress with a slit up the leg. In the meantime I can mental Daphne to fetch coffee.”
Cocktail hour, Amaya bartends, I go to the roof to see if the children have drowned, no one has. Sloane is a sweaty mess, she’s been running the parkour course. Lauren abandoned the pool for the trampoline and is doing forward and back somersaults . Oceane is just exiting, I bring a towel, criminey she’s supple sensuality. I put the towel to good use, drying slowly is better for the skin. I read that someplace.
Janah, “Drying slowly is better for your libido.”
“I knew it was better for something, I try not to make it all about me.”
“Is the pizza on the way?”
“I told Dom seven, it’s quarter to.”
“I’m reading the twins want Dahfoney to play with tonight, before Daria goes off.”
“I’ll do my duty, got plans?”
“Sloane made a salacious suggestion before she went up, I am going to bend to her will. We didn’t play while we traveled, I’m feeling warm for her add on.”
One Hundred Ten
Up at the crack of, Amaya and I take Nikko, Zi and Daria to the airport. Blue shy loves us, we burn through a minimum half million a year in flight fees, more often a million. We’re not Jack Reacher, don’t travel with a toothbrush and a thumb out.
The return trip is a bit slow, it’s morning rush into Manhattan, but we’re home and Dasha has breakfast waiting.
“Nobody else up yet?”
“Nyet, only travelers and us, except Oceane went to Chloe’s room earlier.”
Amaya, “Sneaking in on my film star while I’m out bussing the family.”
“She’s got high standards.”
“Somebody’s got to set the bar low enough for the others to vault it.”
Dasha, “Like when Eemaya takes strapping on device in ass?”
Amaya, “I have no idea to what you refer subversive. Are there more eggs?”
Dasha replaces the plate with a fresh one, “You want more toast, pahncake?”
“Single slice please, lightly buttered.”
“Chloe used strapping on device last night.”
“And this morning she has Oceane to snuggle, Chloe has a rather charmed life.”
Amaya grins, “She deserves it, almost as much as I do.”
Eloise appears with Lauren, “She got me up at six thirty to work on the robot, I thought kids were supposed to sleep until noon.”
Lauren, “It’s coming along, there’s a body now, it just stands there, but we can talk to it.”
“Oceane is with Chloe, Sloane is with Janah, where’s Cass?”
Lauren, “She slept in my room, her former room, but we both use it. I love Cassie. Anyway, I checked before we came down, she’s asleep.”
I decide to see for myself. If she gets it in her head to go on the roof, or down the elevator, she could be anywhere. And the likelihood that she has on her GPS is nil.
Turns out she’s not MIA, just blinking awake. She smiles at me, heart melter.
“Ready to get up?”
She throws back the sheet and blanket, invites me to snuggle. We curl in under the sheet and comforter, the bed is warm with her. I’m on my back, she scrunches in next to me, head on my shoulder. Her leg flops across mine. Despite morning coffee, I fall asleep until quarter to ten.
I wake surprisingly refreshed, the busyness of recent travel had me ready for a little extra down time. Cass is blinking up at me.
“Good morning angel girl. You missed breakfast, hungry, want to wait for lunch?”
“I’ll round up tea for you,” kiss her soft cheek, she kisses me on the lips.
Cass is sexually active, has been for a couple of years. She’s not an initiator, she’s in psy-synch with Oceane, and knows when she wants intimacy. Sometimes Oceane includes Sloane, other times not. I’ve been with Oceane and Cass on a few occasions, the intimacy is soft and gentle, we go slow, their style is less active passion, more simmer.
Today’s kiss is not an intimacy signal, it’s simple sweet affection. For good measure I kiss her again, then get up to fetch tea.
When I return Cass is coming out of the shower, she sips tea while I blow dry her rich brown highlighted hair. Then into a curve hugging chemise, sooo cute, and down to the living room. She clicks on CNN.
Janah, “Glad you got a chance to shut down a couple extra hours.”
“Eloise and Lauren in the workshop, Dasha got Amaya to take her on a tour of the Down Homes. They’re meeting Black and will eat lunch at one of the restaurants. Chloe went along to get out for a while.”
“Hope she doesn’t attract crowd.”
“Amaya has her suitably covered, she looks like a tall slim girl with mega sunglasses and a funky fedora.”
“Anything on the news?”
“Not yet, I did find out the Times is fact checking. Since the facts are, in fact, facts, I expect the story to show up in the next few days.”
“Any lunch requests?”
“No, Sloane and I showed up in time for Dasha to feed us, but it was after nine. Sloane woke up with an erection, seemed a shame to waste it, so we hung out in bed for another go.”
“Oceane in the pool?”
“Maybe, she and Sloane are on the roof.”
“I’ll fix something light for them and Cass and take it up later.”
I see Dasha’s started a pot of beans, two actually, one veg, one carnivore. Check the refrigerator, yep, hot sausage and ham pieces. I add those to the big pot, bay leaf, wait until later for onion, I like to sauté them first. Check the brown rice supply, Dasha’s got it under control. I’ll go for French bread…no, I’ll make cornbread.
Check in with my co-conspirator, “See you started the beans, I added the meat, thought we’d have cornbread.”
“Da, gud. We are at Bronx, going to Queens, then Brooklyn, be home before tea. Blahck ees doing usual gud job.”
“Tell him hi for me.”
“He ees going wiz Chan to Arizona next week.”
“Great, Sonia and Ning love it there, go karts will get a workout. And we’re going to New Orleans in a couple of days. Daria and the others will fly there from San Fran.”
“Sister likes tweens, we will have gud sexy time.”
“And there’s Ellen, Sarah and Mani, Eloise is all up into Mani.”
“They are the same size…um...what ees word?”
“Da. Anyway, we haf more stores to check,” she clicks off.
“We leave for New Orleans in three days.”
Janah, “Yep, and I need to get in a yoga session, think I’ll do it on the roof, the wildlife is no doubt in nothing, better to have nice scenery.”
We go up, she’s right, three nude girls and a bikini bottom on Sloane. She’s not self conscious about her boy part, but considerate of Lauren. Lauren knows Sloane is trans, and she’s seen Sloane nude, we never tiptoed around the condition. When she asked me about it, it was a clue. Her father, if he was her father, had sexually abused her. She’d seen a penis before, but her memory of the abuse was blanked by the Shadow, not to protect her, to protect him.
Janah, “All the lovely flowers,” she starts in to her session.
Lauren, “Spot me mom.”
She hops to the balance beam, traverses back and forth, she has the spinning turn down, and can do a walkover. It’s tentative but she completes it without a wobble. Then she surprises me with a handstand and folds to a full side split.
“Wow, good job, when have you had time to work on that?”
“Dasha takes me for quick sessions, she thinks more short sessions is best early on. I’m getting stronger though.”
A few twirls on the uneven bars, she makes the transition from the high bar to the lower, doesn’t have enough momentum to return to the high bar and plops to the mat, thunk!
“Some spotter you are.”
“You were too low to spot, you’re going to have to hit the low bar with more speed.”
“I’ll work on it, now for the trampoline.”
Kid bundle of energy, this part she has cold. Flips, gets pretty high for a lightweight body. When she dismounts, her legs are quivering.
“Getting a nice curve of muscle girl, going to have hot legs to go with that cute butt.”
She giggles, “Work on me with the smelly stuff.”
We keep liniment, dit da jow, in the storage locker, I return with a bottle, slather her and massage away the tightness in shoulders, torso, legs and feet. Finish up on her slender arms.
She stands and stretches, “That feels only a thousand time better, phew, I need a shower.”
She hops over to the shower next to the pool, lathers up and rinses, snags a towel from the stack.
“I’m hungry mom.”
“Deli stuff in the refrigerator. I was going to bring it up here, but girls need to go in now, enough sun.”
“I like being tan all over.”
“And you look adorable, but enough is enough, keep a little tone is okay, sun is tough on skin.”
One Hundred Eleven
Days do shoot by, we’re about to land at Lakefront Airport in New Orleans. I spot two cars, The twins must have decided on a second GLC, they really are a dream ride.
Down the steps. Luggage is already lined up, after hugs around, we’re in the cars and off to the Quarter.
Katya, “I hear the robot is almost finished.”
Eloise, “Just about, Emma is walking now, she can dust the workshop and run the vacuum. We haven’t tried stairs yet.”
Ellen, “Named it Emma?”
“Amaya’s idea, she wanted an Emma Watson clone to serve her coffee and clean her room. I’m having an exoskeleton made that looks like her.”
“Get out! Leave it to Amaya. When we get ours, let’s see, who should we get Sarah?”
“The girl with the dragon tattoo. The Swedish version.”
“Noomi Rapace? You want her to look like the girl in the movie?”
“Da, Goth robot. Or maybe Chloe Moretz, when she was Hit Girl.”
“That would be cool.”
Eloise, “When you decide, let me know. First I have to get it functional, then Susan gets the next one, she did a bunch of the software. You guys get number three, which is a plus, we’ll have more bugs worked out. The one point oh version will be minimally functional. It will be a couple of years before we have it washing the laundry and doing dishes.”
“How do you get the voice to sound like the character?”
“Oh yeah, Amaya can do any voice in any range. She’s amazing. I like the Hit Girl idea, a robot that curses like a Marine.”
Eloise giggles, “We can arrange that.”
Katya, “You are booked at the Royal Orleans, Penthouse Suite, Royal Suite and Pontchartrain Suite, six bedrooms in all, plenty of baths.”
“Thank you, we’ll figure out who crashes where later, I’m thinking Penthouse Suite sounds like Amaya.”
“That one is expanded to three bedrooms, the Royal has two, Pontchartrain one, there is plenty of room in all of them. You won’t be crowded.”
We stop at their place first, walk over to Café Envie for coffee.
Michael, “Le Cinq Perfections, and what! More perfections from New York, welcome Daphne, Janah, everyone. Let’s rearrange a few tables.”
Katja, “Don’t worry about it Michael, we can sit separately, it’s just coffee and tea today.”
He takes orders, I’m feeling café au lait-ish now that we’re in the French Quarter, the others get a variety of espresso and cappuccino.
When he returns he notices Lauren, “And who is this precious gem? Hello dear one, I am Michael.”
Lauren grins up at him, “Lauren, Daphne’s daughter.”
“A charming young lady with a charming mom, you shall be le petit perfection.”
Post coffee, we take a walk, Lauren is taken with the old world atmosphere, then we pass Café du Monde and make the requisite stop for beignets.
“Mom, these are great!”
Her nose is covered in powdered sugar, I dip a napkin in water and freshen her up.
“Dasha makes them at home sometimes, it’s a fair amount of prep and a messy process. They have them at Ultra Violet.”
Amaya, “You will be a blimp if Dasha starts making them at home. Enough with pancakes, waffles and French toast.”
Lauren is ignoring her, pulling apart the warm dough and dunking it in the pile of powdered sugar. She hands Amaya a piece.
“These are addictive, one bite, no more,” Lauren hands her a second, “well maybe a small one.”
We wander the Quarter top to bottom, side to side, antique shops alongside boutiques, bars and restaurants. Then back to the twins’ house.
Lauren, “This place is so cool, a courtyard of your own, the plants are beautiful. Sarah’s room looks like a movie.”
Sarah has various bits of S&M gear on the walls, and chains that hang from the ceiling with wrist restraints on the ends.
Amaya, “Sarah is a weirdo, not like Oceane’s pleasant weird, like a psycho. With us though, she is sweet as a candied apple, so you need not worry. She only gets strange after midnight, when precious angels are safe in bed.”
Lauren, “Nobody will hurt me. Mom and Sloane would kill them.”
Janah, “Let’s haul ourselves to the hotel and get settled.’
Katya, “Ellen and Sarah will drive you, easier than rolling luggage around.
“Great, when shall we meet for dinner?”
“Come here for six, we will have cocktails, then to Bon Ton for dinner. Ready for some super seafood?”
“Always, Lauren, they make the best fried seafood, and crawfish bisque, a dream dish, Dasha’s favorite.”
Amaya and Chloe take the Penthouse along with Oceane and Cass, Eloise and Sloane in the third bedroom.
Janah and I are in the Pontchartrain with Lauren, Nikko, Zi and the twins have the two bedroom Royal Suite. It doesn’t matter technically, I expect girls will find themselves waking up in other rooms.
I get us unpacked, Janah’s bubbling away in the tub, Lauren’s a shower girl like me.
Dasha comes along, “Our rooms are nice, ees first class hotel. You haf balcony wiz view of Royal Street.”
“Lauren’s out there now, you want a glass of Champagne? Lauren’s having a Mimosa.”
“Just only Champagne.”
I pour her one, she goes out to sit with Lauren, It’s quite pleasant, early spring, the sweltering heat and humidity of the city is a couple months away.
Dasha, “You haf already Champagne, Dahfoney ees liberal mom.”
“It’s mixed with orange juice, a Mimosa, I’m feeling quite sophisticated.”
Not that liberal, there’s maybe a half ounce of sparkling wine in it. You don’t mix real Champagne with orange juice, the French have a law I think.
At Katya’s, we’re in the courtyard having cocktails, Lauren and I are having a Coke Zero with lime, our cocktail of choice.
Katja, “Dasha said you were in Montana, Congress announced hearings on illegal chemical weapon tests. The world news is filled with speculation about America the lying hypocrites.”
Janah, “They’ll paint it as a rogue operation, but the names on several of the communications say otherwise.”
“And you let the snake out of the bag.”
“We went to find a group of disappeared people nobody much cared about. It was the size that sparked our interest. Twenty three people just evaporating didn’t make sense. I’m not into alien abduction, the X-files notwithstanding.”
Dasha, “That ees dumb program, alien meesterie wiz no alien.”
Ellen laughs, “Mani and Sarah got all into it for a while.”
Mani, “It got repetitive, the same arguments between the same two misfits, Scully dressed like an old lady librarian.”
Lauren, “What are X-files?”
“TV program from the nineties. There was a running debate between agents Scully and Mulder on whether mysterious occurrences were signs of alien activity or could be explained by natural events. It was popular with the conspiracy theory crowd. Like the government or some super agency is doing stuff they don’t want anyone knowing about.”
Lauren, “Like chemical testing on humans.”
We laugh, she’s right, we did our own mini X-files.
“Good catch dear one, yes our government and most others creep around in the dark playing secret games. They’re paranoid of other governments getting something first and paranoid that other governments will catch on to their own illicit activities. You already know how we feel about nations, borders and religion. All of it is designed to separate people, make their group the in group and everyone else the out group. It begins with families, my family, my blood, then my school, my city, my church, my football team, my state, my nation. People say they want to be inclusive, they don’t act like it.”
Lauren, “Like you told me, never believe what people say, watch what they do.”
Katya, “Time to include ourselves in the patrons of Bon Ton. It’s a pleasant evening, do you want to walk, or we can drive.”
“Walking’s good, a nice stroll to whet the appetite, a stroll back to digest.”
Katya’s crew wears jackets, not because it’s particularly cold, but they hide the small Glocks. A gun in a purse a waste, a purse snatcher hopes you have a gun in it.
They never filed for concealed carry permits, they’re in the murder for hire business, contact killers don’t register anyplace. It’s New Orleans, despite a relatively heavy police presence, there are too many gangs looking to shoot to claim territory or revenge a prior murder. And there are too many punks looking to mug and rob drunken tourists. Katya’s crew doesn’t go anywhere unarmed. It’s not an endorsement of Joe Citizen carrying, most people have no idea of a facedown, they would freak, all the paper popping at a range is no match for having a gun pointed at you. Nor does it make anyone better at drawing and firing at another human being. Katya’s people have, and on many occasions. Shooting someone means nothing to them, they like it.
On a more sanguine note, Lauren becomes another crawfish bisque aficionadess, everyone has a cup of that or gumbo. Then shared platters of fried everything, soft shell crab, oysters, shrimp, catfish, hush puppies and coleslaw.
Lauren, “Mom, the fried crab thingy is amazing, eat the whole crab, claw to claw.”
Dasha, “Ees best seafood next to bisque, we do not anyway get at home, I haf to wait for treep to New Orleans.”
“I like the anticipation, if we had it all the time at home, it wouldn’t be such a big deal here.”
Lauren, “I thought Buddhists lived in the moment, not anticipating.”
“Buddhists appreciate joy, a part of which is the anticipation of something good. If the anticipated thing doesn’t happen, we don’t wallow in regret, or regret at all.”
On the return trip we detour to the Moonwalk and watch the Mississippi ease by, the crowds still out enjoying the evening. Many of them will enjoy it all night, they’ll enjoy the next morning and afternoon substantially less.
Lauren, “So many people out, music everywhere, New Orleans is fun.”
“We love to visit, we came before we knew Katya and her tribe, with them it’s even better.”
“Katya, in the morning come over to the hotel, they can handle a large group for breakfast.”
Amaya, “Some will already be at the hotel.”
Apparently I missed several assignation plans while enjoying seafood with Lauren.
Mani and Eloise have a late date, Sarah has co-opted Sloane, they’re all going back to the house on Ursulines.
The twins appear to be joining Janah and I in our suite.
“Dasha, do you want to join us?”
“Oceane has plan for Dasha, Cass will watch Lauren, they will be anyway in the suite with us, she will be safe.”
“Lauren, tonight you’re in the big suite,” I’ve already discussed the potential for girl play and that accommodations will be flexible.
She peers at me slyly sideways, “Cool, can I watch girls have sex?”
“Nope, you can watch TV until you fall asleep.”
One Hundred Twelve
Geez, what a night, girls get frenzied in luxury hotels. In a good way, trust me. Katya and Katja were just delightful, Janah and I mixed and matched several times, and Katya provided her with one of her favs, strap-on in the butt. I had the pleasure of multigasming Katja, she’s soooo cute. She exploded when I tongue tingled her tush.
We’re in a tangle of sheets when Lauren comes in, “I’m starving mom, had enough girl play?”
“I’ll say, you shower yet?”
We take care of that and other wake up items, dress, then down to the restaurant.
We go to the Rib Room, lovely ambiance, an extensive buffet and menu.
“Gee mom, what do I get?"
“Tell you what, your surf the buffet, I’ll order Eggs Sardou, poached eggs with artichoke hearts, creamed spinach and béarnaise. You can try that as well. Take what you want from the buffet, don’t overload, you can go back for more.”
She goes off, I order with the waiter. New Orleans has the friendliest wait staff in the world, nobody is ever snobby, your name is always honey or baby, how can you not love it?
“That one precious child you got there honey.”
“It’s her first visit to New Orleans, it won’t be her last. Dinner at the Bon Ton last night, breakfast in the Rib Room.”
“And stayin’ in the Penthouse, child got the good life, bless her.”
I don’t know how she knows, but I do. Good hotels inform staff of high end guests, make sure they become high end regulars, or at least tell their high end friends. When we walked through the lobby to the restaurant, I’m sure the maitre’d got a call.
Lauren comes back with buttermilk pancakes, crispy bacon, blueberry maple sausage and grits.
“This is like what you and Dasha make at home.”
“It’s our cooking culture, courtesy of Ms. Alva and Dasha’s obsession with southern cooking.”
Janah and the twins join us.
“We started, I’m getting Eggs Sardou and sampling Lauren’s buffet.
Janah, “Eggs Sardou sounds good, I’m for that.”
The twins start with smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, capers and shaved red onions. Then Katya does the buffet, Katja orders the Rib room omelet, prime beef debris, fontina cheese, horseradish crème fraiche.
Lauren does half my Sardou, I get her back to the buffet for more blueberry maple sausage and fruit. Then she samples Katja’s omelet.
“What is debris?”
“When you cook a roast, there’s tasty tidbits of roast left floating around. It’s the best tasting part, they call it debris, which means fragments.”
“I like debris, Sloane should get this, she’ll love it.”
And she and Sarah show up, Sloane goes for the same omelet, Sarah opts for the buffet. Eventually everyone appears, Eggs Sardou is popular, so are more orders of smoked salmon.
“What’s on the menu for today?”
Katya, “This has turned into more like brunch than breakfast, I suggest we take Lauren on a tour of the rest of the city, we can make coffee shop stops and introduce Lauren to snowballs.
One of the premier local legends in the snowball biz is Hansen’s Sno Bliz, opened in 1939 by Ernest Hansen himself. The store has been open in the same location since 1944 and today is run by the Ashley Hansen, granddaughter of Ernest and Mary Hansen. Mary created her own line of syrups, sweetened with cane sugar, and the stand currently serves more than 40 house-made flavors. Expect a good 20-30 minute wait in line at Hansen’s – it’s sort of a G-rated local happy hour scene, where neighbors catch up and socialize.
Ellen wants to stay home and plot dinner, Gerard is coming over for cocktails later. Dasha, Sarah and Mani stick with her to help. Janah stays to make and return phone calls, the Society never sleeps.
That leaves eight of us to pile in the Mercedes and tour. First down Canal Street to the cemeteries, Lauren and Sloane baffled by the practice of burying people above ground. We cruise to Pontchartrain Lake, take a look at the twenty four mile Causeway that ends up in Mandeville.
Lauren, “What’s in Mandeville?”
“White Republicans and Christians who are afraid of black people.”
“Doesn’t sound like anyplace we need to go.”
Katya reverses course until we hit Carrollton Avenue, up St. Charles through the Garden District.
“This is more like it, beautiful old homes. Didn’t it all flood?”
“This is higher ground, like the French Quarter, it’s why it was settled first. New Orleans is three hundred years old. Founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville and named after a French Regent, the Duke of Orléans. They pushed out the Chitimacha tribe who were here first. They were all over southern Louisiana, which wasn’t Louisiana at the time. A war started when the Catholics tried to convert everyone. In the twelve years of conflict, many Chitimacha were forced into slavery and were the most enslaved of any population in Louisiana during that time period. I understand they still have a reservation in one parish. The French were some of the first illegal aliens in the deep south.”
“So they stole the land from the Chitimacha?”
“Basically, they sure didn’t buy any of it.”
Katya takes a right, we wind up on Tchoupitoulas Street, and there’s Hansen’s Sno-Bliz.
There’s always a line, we make it longer. It takes about twenty, then we order. I go simple, half orange, half wild cherry topped with evaporated milk. You can get triple or quadruple flavors if you want. Our group runs from satsuma to chocolate, Katja gets hers with ice cream, Sloane decides that’s a great idea.
Oceane has honey lavender, Cass cream of nectar, although she has no idea what it tastes like. Turn out it’s delish.
Lauren, “What’s yours taste like mom?”
I give her a spoon of mixed orange and cherry, “Ooohhhh, that’s good, can we come here again, Nikko, Zi and Daria should have a chance.”
“Of course, Janah’s going to be bummed she missed out.”
Janah, “Geez, those things look scrumptious, we’re going when Nikko gets in.”
“Janah said we’re coming back when Nikko and the others get in. I’d bring some back, but they don’t hold up well, it would be slush by the time we got there.”
We all share a taste of the others, it’s impossible to tell what’s best, honey lavender surprised me, Janah will like that one.
Nicely refreshed, we pile back in the car, Katya got a call from Ellen, we pass by Whole Foods for veg dumplings and crab cakes she ordered for appetizers. From the size of the order, it could be dinner, then again, there will be sixteen people to feed.
At the house, girls gather in the courtyard and chatter. Sloane and I take the appetizers to the kitchen.
Ellen, “You brought the starters, how do they look?”
I open the containers, she peers in, “Good, Whole Foods generally gets it right. We’ll heat up this stuff later. There’s tomato and mozzarella salad, entrée is
Veal Marsala, with rotini. Simple enough and easy to make in large quantities. We have Leidenheimer’s of course. I figured it would be sufficient.”
“The appetizers would be sufficient.”
“If there are leftovers we can have them for nibbles tomorrow,” she turns to Sarah, “open Champagne, we can have it now, also the white, it can breathe a bit, but stick it back in the refrigerator. Warm white isn’t the same. I found a splendid Graves at Martin’s last month, stocked up.”
Knock on the door, Katja answers, “Gerard, right on time, we are having Champagne.”
“Always the best restaurant in the city, hello Ellen, do I smell marsala?”
“You do, and it’s fall apart tender. Join the others in the courtyard, appetizers in a bit.”
“Hello Daphne, I understand there’s a new daughter, may I be introduced?”
We know Gerard from past visits. He’s a trust fund baby, not a baby, he was sixty-ish when the twins met him a few years ago. Gerard has a not so mysterious past, he did clandestine work, posing as a bon vivant in various spots around the world. Sidling up to diplomats and other unscrupulous characters. He quit the game when he realized nobody told the truth, in fact, telling the truth was anathema. The CIA frequently lied to its own people. He does remain connected and is one of the few people in the Society network who knows who we are.
“Lauren, this is Mr. Depardieu, Gerard, Lauren Sylk.”
“Gerard please, I know convention says old man young person defaults to Mr. but we defy convention, it is boring.”
“Gerard then, Miss Sylk sounds weird anyway. We had the best thing today, a snowball.”
“If I know Katya, it was Hansen’s Sno-Bliz.”
“It was, they are so good, they make all their own flavors, I guess you knew that.”
“Yes, I know the Hansen’s, Mary. New Orleans is a pretty small place, at least when it comes to the Quarter and Garden District, Treme and Faubourg Marigny.”
“What does Faubourg Marigny mean?”
“Faubourg means false town, a suburb. Marigny came from Bernard Marigny de Mandeville, who owned the land as a plantation then broke it up into parcels and sold them for development.”
“Daphne said there is a Mandeville across the lake.”
“Also founded by him.”
“He must have been rich.”
“His father was, he inherited land and cash when his father died, he was never a millionaire, but legend falsely says he was. He was never dead broke either.’
“New Orleans has an interesting history.”
“Quite, including what people call Voodoo, which was never Voodoo in the real sense. It got mixed with Hoodoo, which is less a religion than Voodoo which has rituals like any religion. Most of it is herbal potions to attract love, wealth, and gris-gris dolls. Hoodoo dolls are usually used to bless or attract people or release them from a curse. Sticking pins in the doll is not to cause pain in the associated person, but rather to pin a picture of a person or a name to the doll, which traditionally represents a spirit. I got much of that from Wiki and talking to locals.”
“Does any of it work?”
“As you no doubt discovered from observing your family, the mind is a powerful entity. In the case of Hoodoo, it’s more of a placebo, the belief that it does something often creates the circumstances for that something to happen. You know what a placebo is?”
“Yes, a fake pill that can cure things despite it being nothing. Like people believe it will help and their symptoms disappear.”
“You are well informed for one so young.”
“Janah is full of arcane details, it’s impossible not to be informed around my family. They talk about, and do, things that I don’t think other people even imagine.”
“All true,” Sarah hands him an Elijah Craig on the rocks, “here’s your favorite magic potion.”