One Hundred Nine

Children enjoy mini grilled cheese and tomato bisque at their table, then the rest of our crowd lines up to serve themselves a bowl, we put platters of sandwiches on the table.
Lauren, “This soup is great, which chef do I compliment?”
“Valeria did soup, she and Dasha did sandwich assembly and grilling.”
“What’s tomato bisque in Russian?”
Valeria, “Tomatnyy sup.”
“Tomahney zup.”
“Da.”
“With zharenyy syr.”
“Grilled cheese?”
“Da.”
“You are so smart Valeria, most impressive.”
No reply, she’s like Dasha, not a please and thank you sort.
Morshchiny’s snout is bonking my leg, almost my hip, she’s gotten gigantic.
I slip her a mini grilled cheese.
Kota B, “I saw that.”
“Saw what?”
“You know what.”
Morshchiny bonks me again, “Sorry girl, we’ve been busted, lay down someplace, it’s been twenty minutes since your last nap.”
She lumbers over to Kota B, looks up, cocks her head. She’s still not sure why there’s a girl who looks human but has no pheromone she can register. She moves on to the children’s table and plops down behind Uma and Zofia.
Kota B, “No more sneaky treats for her, children.”
Valeska, “We do not give Morshchiny table food, only Tetya Dafna, she is the bad girl.”
“Maybe Eloise should give Kota B a scent, can you do that?”
Eloise, ‘I don’t see why not, it would have to be something light, fairly neutral.”
Amaya, “I can find something, it cannot be Filigree, that is my scent.”
Amaya always smells divine, my scent is whatever bath soap I used last, Janah has stacks of various flavors.
Sloane, “When do we go to Arizona? Danika and Su are going to think we abandoned them?”
“The parents return in a few days, they will want to meet Valeria. We can go a week later, give them some granny time. There’s no reason anyone who wants to go can’t just go, I know there are more toys there, race track, karts, dirt bikes, the gun range and Oceane’s high board.”
Sloane, “I like the three meter too, I can fly halfway across the pool.”
“Then get Grace B to book you. If Oceane and Cassie go, you need more bodies though.”
Katya, “We will go, Ellen will be there to cook, Sarah will help. It will be good to get on the practice range.”
“Good enough then, take off when you’re ready, we’ll be along in ten days or so, anyone else, so Grace B can get the right size plane?”
Amaya, “Chloe and I will stay, I can get on the track later and the children have kendo, Valeria needs my expert fashion guidance.”
The rest of the crew opts to hang. I need Dasha to help with food, we’ll be down eight girls, still be twenty one to feed.
Britt, “I’ll help with cooking, and we have Valeria.”
“Good point, and thank you. In fact, tonight Valeria is going to grill filets, Dasha will show her marchand du vin and the joys of garlic mashed. Ellen can deal with mixed vegetables baked with ghee and Tonkatsu sauce. We’ll send our travelers off tomorrow well fed.”
Tea comes and goes, an hour and a half later, it’s cocktails, Dasha is watching Valeria prep marchand du vin, which requires some slow simmer and a fair amount of stirring. From start to done it’s a bit over an hour. I mash up new potatoes, skin on, cover and let it sit in a warm oven, then roast garlic in ghee, I’ll add hot milk just before serving and a hefty plop of more ghee.
“Time to grill, do you want to give it a go?”
She nods, we cart pans of marinated filets out to the grill. 
“The grill is hot, very. Lay each steak out separated by a couple of inches. By the time we get the last one on, it will be close to time for turning the first one. Tetya Nishiko like hers bloody, the rest of us are medium rare, do you know what that means?”
“Nyet.”
“Normally a warm pink center, we prefer it a bit less cooked, kind of almost medium rare I guess. In any case, I use a test filet, and cut into it when I think it’s ready. Morshchiny likes my method, she gets the test cut.”
They are all pre-cut eight ounce filets, perhaps a bit more than the kids will eat, Sloane and Janah are happy to clear up any leftover.
“This one is Nikko’s, turn it early, use the spatula, good. I don’t like poking them with a fork. We’ll wait a minute, then flip the rest.”
“Da.”
“See how they’re nice and charred? That’s what you want, too long and they get black and then there’s a problem. From past experience, four minutes after the flip is about right, so turn the timer to four and wait.”
Ninety seconds in, “Take Nikko’s off and stack it on the warming ledge.”
Ding!
“Pull off that one, cut it in the middle, excellent, see how it is just red but not bloody?”
“Da.”
“Let’s get them on the platters,” I turn to the kitchen, “Emma B, we’re ready.”
she comes out and takes one of the platters, I take the other, Valeria has our two spatulas.
“Should I turn off grill?”
“No, let it sear off the juices, Grace B will turn it off in a few minutes. One of the cleaning bots will wire brush it tomorrow.”
Ellen had selected a crispy Cabernet, and a Syrah, the children get a glass of Beaujolais, lighter, more to their taste.
Dasha, “Valeria makes peerfect marching sauce. Look, it glistens and ees exact viscosity, leaves a leetle on the spoon, like syrup.”
Amaya, “I could live on French bread and marchand du vin,” she plops a buttery chunk into the sauce and bites. 
Amaya makes eating bread an erotic experience, she makes breathing an erotic experience.
“And if you come to me tonight, I shall allow you an erotic experience.”
I’m grinning like a schoolgirl who made the cheerleading squad.
Janah, “Getting a go at Amaya?”
“I have been invited, it would be rude to decline.”
“It would be insane to decline.”

Girls demolish dinner, it’s one of our favorites, a monthly combo at the least, right up there will osso bucco and veal marsala. 
The sprites line up and double cheek kiss Valeria, then the other chefs, Dasha, Ellen and moi. What a lovely treat.
Dasha, “Now everyone must go someplace, so bots can clean. Emma B will be around for after dinner drinks, Cognac, or your preference. We haf also crème brûlée, Valeria will help wiz toasting glaze on top.”
Chloe, “Yummy, I’m for another Russian Standard please Emma B, no additives.”
Emma B gets the rest of the orders, Amaya will pour, Emma B will deliver. They pulled out the ramekins of brûlée from the refrigerator just before we sat down to eat, give them time to lose the chill. Dasha and Valeria spoon the vanilla sugar over the brûlée, then Dasha fires up the propane torch and demonstrates crisping the topping.
Valeria, her face total concentration, tip of her tongue in its place at the corner of her mouth, does the rest, forty in all. Someone might want to split a second.
Dasha, “Peerfect, just brown and crunchy,” she kisses Valeria’s cheek and strokes her soft hair.
Emma B and Grace B deliver the porcelain ramekins with a silver demitasse spoon.
Zi, “That was yet another remarkable meal and splendid dessert. Our chefs spoil us, and now a brand new chef, Valeria.”
The best part of the meal for the chef is the delight of her diners. Although, I must say in a complete lack of humility, our stuff is good, amazing actually.
Amaya delivers on her promise, Chloe is off with Janah, I have the silken sylph to myself. I bring my long game, Amaya is to be savored, not chugged. I spend a solid hour covering the territory, got three separate squeals for my effort.
Amaya, “Splendido Daphne, I vibed like the gong at the temple, thrice.”
“And I got off getting you off, thank you very much.”
We kiss, nuzzle, then, “And now lay back legs, I am going to make you sizzle.”
And she does, her blondness looking up at me while she tongues me dizzy is so…..ohhhhyeaaaahhh. 

One Hundred Ten

Travelers to Arizona left a few days ago, parents arrived from Greece after a three day stopover in New York, they hadn’t seen Black, Sonia, Chan or Ning in a year. Although we stay connected via video calls every few weeks and they and the parents use the home in Canada for a stretch over the summers.
Sis calls, face pops up on the screen, “We’re in, when can I see the kids?”
“When you’re up to walking over, it’s three now, suppose you come for cocktails and dinner.”
“Where are you going to put everyone?”
“Katya’s crew, Sloane, Oceane and Cassie flew to Arizona the other day, they want their toys, The rest of us are going soon, but we wanted you guys to get back first. It works out, eight of them out and five of you in.”
“See you around six.”
We click off.
Janah, “Parents are going to meet Valeria. You know, we keep wondering if she’s Hispanic or Arabic, I think neither, I think she’s Jewish.”
“Oy vay, what makes you think that?”
“Actually, it’s a little better than a guess, she told Chloe the Shadow used to claim he saved her from being an Israelite. Jewish families wouldn’t just give up a child, which means he took her.”
“Do we look for them?”
“Look where? America, Israel, Germany, Russia? The Shadow was a Slav, but Slavic covers a lot of ground. Even if we find relatives, we stick her back in a group she’s never seen, knows nothing about, in potentially a foreign country. I’m guessing, again, that she’s got some Russian Jewish blood, but not strictly Jewish, she’s going to be too tall to be a full blooded Hebrew. How she wound up with the Shadow we’ll never know, stolen or bought, most likely he took the mother’s mind and just walked off with the infant. Chloe told me in confidence, she knows I’ll mention it to you, it goes no further. She didn’t say anything to Amaya.”
“I suppose Valeria could bring it up, she did to Chloe.”
“If she does, she does, that’s out of our hands.”
“The parents are coming for cocktails, I need to see if Dasha has figured out dinner.”
Janah, “And I have Society calls to make, we’re sending a team of Social Workers to adjust a poor attitude in Florida. Another domestic abuser who just can’t get his mind right. If I’m not at tea, you know where I am.”
“I’ll have Grace B bring you something.”
She goes to the office, I go to the kitchen where I’ll no doubt find Dasha. And I’m right, Valeria is here too.
“We have the parents coming for dinner.”
“Ees okay, we make meatball and rotini pasta. Also Italian salad and Ciabatta. Valeria is baking brownie, we haf also vanilla bean ice crim.”
“Meatballs ready?”
“Ground chuck ees ready, meatball will be ready when you make them.”
I get to work, lay out the ingredients, ground meat, parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, salt, pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, milk, diced onion. I don’t add Italian seasoning, that will be in the tomato sauce Dasha is stirring. Valeria climbs on a stool, I put two bowls out, half of each ingredient in the bowls.
“Okay girl, we make meatballs by hand, your hands clean? Wash thoroughly then come back.”
She does, a timer dings, she takes a potholder and removes her brownies from the oven and puts the pan on a cooling rack, then returns to the stool.
“Mush up everything together until it’s well blended.”
When I see the job is complete, “Now, take a handful and roll it into a ball, this size. I roll one about an inch and a half across. Put them on the baking trays with a little space in between.”
Soon, we have three large trays filled with ninety meatballs.
“Now into the oven, four hundred degrees, twenty minutes. After cooking, we let them sit patiently marinating in a just warm oven. We make pasta right before we’re ready to serve, or in this case, before the family lines up and serves themselves.”
Dasha, “Salad ingredient ees in refrigerating.”
While the bots cleans up our meatball factory, I take out the romaine, radicchio, Boscoli olive salad, cherry tomatoes, anchovies, olive oil and red wine vinegar.
“Chop the romaine and radicchio fairly fine, then stir in the olive salad, I’ll dice the anchovies and crush garlic.”
When it’s done, we plug all the ingredients in, sprinkle the big bowl with cherry tomatoes.
“We add olive oil and a bit of vinegar just before serving, enough to get the ingredients slicky but not drowned, and a little vinegar goes a long way.”
She meticulously measures the dressing, table spoon of vinegar for every half cup of olive oil, puts the Pyrex measuring cup in the refrigerator.
“We don’t add salt or pepper, there are salty anchovies in the mix, people can add seasoning to their taste. There’s also parmesan, asiago, romano to sprinkle over the salad and entrée if they want an extra cheese hit.”
Dasha, “We have not made Muffuletta pizza een a long time, maybe when we are een Arizona.”
Valeria is looking up at Dasha exactly like Dasha used to look up at me when she was small. Dead serious, blinks, waiting for the obvious.
Dasha, “Muffuletta ees New Orleans sandwich, wiz olive salad, salami, mortadella and ham, also provolone and mozzarella chiz. For sandwich, use Italian bread, a round loaf wiz sesame seed on top, not ciabatta. For pizza, put ingredients on pizza crust and bake, no tomato sauce. Tomato sauce wiz olive salad ees a tragedy.”
Valeria, “Da Mama,” she twists her head to one side, Dasha kisses her cheek, then the other, she heads upstairs, probably to shower, we’re all meatbally and garlic infused.
I do the same, better, return to the kitchen to make tea. Lay out a tray of thin, crunchy oatmeal cookies, steep a big pot of green, another of  black. Dasha reappears, she must have gone to shower as well, she’s lavender scented and her hair is damp.
The children arrive, preceded by our giant mastiff, they take their places, Morshchiny heads straight to me, stops at the table and sniffs. I give her an oatmeal cookie, this time one crunch and gulp. She looks from the table to me and back. I decode the message.
“One more then go away, Kota B will fuss.”
I toss her another, she trots off and settles behind Valeska and Karol, crunches her cookie in an attempt to stretch the treat out. The children won’t feed her extras, only her high protein dog food and Kota B approved beefy treats. I’m designated sucker.
Nikko, “Parents coming for dinner?”
‘Yep, meatballs with rotini, Italian salad, ciabatta and brownies with vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge if you please.”
We use rotini because the corkscrew shape holds sauce better than common spaghetti, and long strings of spaghetti are cumbersome to eat, not to mention messy.
Chloe, “Sounds scrumptious.”
“We’ll keep it simple for cocktail appetizers, crackers and mixed nuts. It’s a pretty heavy dinner, rich sauce, pasta.”
Lauren, “I’ll think about pushups and ab crunches while I eat, visualization is half the battle.”
Britt, “We spent two hours swimming, you could eat a cow.”
“True, but my standard of perfection must be maintained, give you something to aspire to.”
Britt, “Uh huh.”
I can’t prove it, I suspect Britt has more than aspired to intimacies with Lauren. I’m long accustomed to the flicker of a smile, sidelong glances, fingers laid momentarily on an arm, or thigh, quiet whispers. Lauren took her sweet time before giving it up, she still gets off when some of us look and lust, she knows her tease is titillating. 
We have an hour and a half after tea before cocktails and company. 
Janah, “Eloise wants me to take a look at something in the workshop.”
“I imagine she does.”

Janah smiles, they go upstairs. What Eloise wants Janah to look at is her tush while Janah tingles it with her tongue. They’ll arrive for cocktails nicely flushed, or not make it to cocktails at all. Often, their play extends to Eloise with a strap on or two, doing Janah front and rear.
Anyway, I am going to lay down, maybe I’ll…in the bedroom, I pull out a toy and get in Janah’s head. She likes me to voyeur, my private lesbian porn channel. I’m buzzing away for a few, Britt sticks her head in, brazenly walks in, shuts the door and strips off her t-shirt. I like brazen. While I work the toy, she straddles my head.
“Get busy, I’m ready to sizzle.”
Lucky me.


One Hundred Eleven

The parents show up, everything must be good, the look the same as they did when they left. Lacy and Taylor technically aren’t parents, but we call the group collectively the parents. Lacy was the owner and  Head of School at Chapmans. Taylor was only twenty nine when she took our protein markers, she’s been twenty nine for nearly twenty years. 
Susan, “Where are kids? Up in the dorm I presume.”
“Not for long,” the soft thuds of bare feet led by the thunks of Morshchiny’s massive paws, the children flood the living area.
Susan kisses soft cheeks, then she gets to a new cheek.
“How adorable, nine children now. And what is your name angel?”
Uma, “Our new sister Valeria, she is also chef in training.”
Susan, “Then you are learning from the best. When you want to learn what not to do, come over and watch me microwave water.”
Valeria looks from Sis to me, then back, “Ona vyglyadit, kak tetya Dafna, Mama.”
Susan looks to Dasha, “What?”
Dasha, “Valeria says you look like Aunt Daphne.”
Susan grins, “Thank you, turns to me, she is Russian?”
“She is learning Russian from her sisters, Kota B and the Mamas. It was her choice. I didn’t realize she’d taken it so far so soon.”
Dasha, “Valeria ees like Daria and Janah, photographing brain.”
Lacy, “Get out, how splendid, I’m Lacy, Susan’s friend. Janah and Daphne used to go to my school.”
Valeria blinks, then is introduced to Taylor, James and Kara. She is polite but not talkative, goes with Dasha to the kitchen section of the living area. It’s all one giant room. Kitchen, commercially equipped for obvious reasons, then a four by twelve foot island, then a huge dining table, it seats twenty five. Next the children’s table, which is low, Japanese style. It also serves as one of two low tables for tea ceremony. After that is the maze of chairs and couches that make up the living room. The whole shebang is five thousand square feet, not counting a couple of downstairs bedrooms and a large office with three desks and enough electronics to run a nuclear submarine.
The parents understand our collection of girls. With the exception of Nikko, Zi, Eloise, Janah and me, they all were rescues from abusers, mostly Shadows. They have watched girls grow, get educated, find their thing, then stop aging at their chosen time. They are used to kids who started out minimally responsive, some who had almost zero education or socialization. They’ve seen us make that work. The twins came dangerously psychopathic and turned into stalwart and caring Russian Mamas. Others almost automatons, and subsequently became unique and uniquely talented girls and women. It isn’t anything we do, it’s what we don’t do. We don’t assume they are fatally damaged, in need of therapy or counseling, or pills. We give them stuff to do, we let them find their preference in physical activity, languages and educational pursuits, we feed them nourishing food that is neither bland nor boring. They thrive. They thrive because they are never force fed beliefs and ideas. We don’t think we know what’s best for them.
We appreciate that we also have the luxury of enormous wealth, we’re filthy rich, insanely rich, we didn’t have to raise these children with minimal resources and stick them in mediocre public schools or stupidly rigid private ones. Fortunately, much of that early twenty first century stuff is changing. Now most education is in virtual classrooms, with hands on experience, not regurgitated blather from instructors who say the same things year after year as if no new knowledge is relevant.
Enough philosophy, time for cocktails, meatballs and rotini.
I take a chair next to James, “Thirty girls and one guy, feeling lonely?”
“Never. We had a marvelous time in Greece, I was the envy of every man in the country. Tell me about the new one.”
I summarize Valeria, at least as far as we’ve seen so far.
“So if there are problems, they haven’t manifested yet. Follows the pattern of the others, there were no significant issues with any of them, products of your hands off child rearing strategy.”
“They pretty much raise themselves, of course they are spoiled relentlessly, but so were Janah and I and we turned out okay.”
“I wouldn’t call years of training in a Shaolin monastery spoiling.”
“Well, no, they did spoil Janah most of the time, except Tan, who tortured her at her request.”
He smiles, “You both learned remarkable things, things I still can’t explain, like qi. You were mentaling before you even met, I can’t explain that either. Decades of psychiatry and neuroscience and I still know less than I know.”
“Keeps it interesting. And I need to get to the kitchen, need another Scotch?”
“I’m good, there’ll be wine with dinner.”
I go off, Valeria is stirring simmering sauce, Dasha gets the bowl of salad and the dressing from the refrigerator.
“Bread in the oven?”
Valeria, “Yes.”
I take it out, get the bread knife and slice it crosswise, Grace B puts the platters on the tables.
I call in the diners, “Excuse me for interrupting, dinner is self-served, queue up. Children please be seated, Kota B will fix you up.”
I feel a nudge on my hip, Morshchiny is poking me, I see her looking up at the trays of meatballs. I had taken two out earlier to cool off, I figured the beast would be  first in line.
“Here,” I toss one to her, Gulp!
“Now take this one to the children’s table and try to savor it a little first.”
I take the second between my fingers and put it up to her mouth, our signal that she is to take it and move to her spot by the kids. She always lays down in the same place next to the low table, the kids sit in different seats depending on who is talking with whom, this time she’s behind Karol and Valeska.
Kota B is placing plates of the entrée and a side plate of salad, “Naslazhdat'sya.”
“Spasibo Kota B.”
Susan is piling rotini on a plate, “What’s nazlash-datsa”
Valeria, “Enjoy.”
Susan, “I’m going to nazlash-datsa your cooking, angel.”
“Daphne and Dasha show me.”
When Valeria talks to Dasha, it’s Mama, when she’s talking about her it’s Dasha. There’s no explanation, it’s just what she does.
After everyone is seated, the chefs fill their plates minimally and join the others. I sit next to Taylor.
“You aren’t eating much.”
“We nibbled along the way, to make sure things taste like they’re supposed to.”
“Ah, of course. Valeria has the makings of a model, Amaya tells me she’s into fashion.”
“I’m not sure how much of that is Valeria or Amaya’s influence. The other children were in different outfits all the time, in their role play for the customers. Now they stick to basic chemises. Valeria was only allowed a few basics, so she gravitates to variety. As soon as Amaya got her to take a look at Chloe Couture, a fashionista was born. Lauren’s the same, Britt sticks with basics, but she’ll dress up from time to time.”
“Valeria has the look, she’s not smiley, which is what photographers want. A beautiful smile distracts from the rags and accessories, it’s not supposed to be about the model, it only gets that way for a handful of superstars.”
“You were there.”
“I was part of the way, in between, not exactly a name brand, and I had none of the stuff up top for sports magazines or Victoria’s Secret.”
“You had a great career, but you had to walk away.”
“I chose the protein markers and your super genes. If I’d stayed I’d have a hell of a time explaining why I look like I did twenty years ago. There’s only so many times you can blow it off to lotions and hydration. I suppose I could have copped to cosmetic surgery, now they can do stuff to women without making them look like their skin is stretched across their face. The real reason is we just have too much fun. Susan drags us to damn near every place on the planet, we fly up front, we stay five star, I live the supermodel life without having to show up for photo shoots. Not to mention with the rise of VR, the live model population has been sliced in half. They only need living girls for shows. Who knew modeling would get downsized by technology.”
“Which brings us back to Valeria, there’s just not enough work to make it worth her while. She will never need money, Amaya is thinking of putting her on Chloe Couture, show off the latest kid and teen stuff. Something she might do for fun. Maybe have her do makeup and accessory tutorials. She’s thinking it over, hasn’t brought it up to Valeria yet. Lauren’s done a few spots, they went over well, the comments ask her to do more.”
“Is she?”
“I don’t know. Amaya said Lauren isn’t convinced she wants a following. I think she’s leaning to an occasional demo, right now she even uses a made up name, Zoe.”
“Funny, I thought Lauren was an attentionista.”
“She is, but with us, she has no interest in what outsiders think. The nature of our family breeds it into us, our immediate family is big, our extended family is small, our list of other acquaintances is miniscule. Nikko and Zi had a lot of contacts when they ran the property companies, but she sold the whole thing off.”
“That amazed me, a real estate empire, then gone.”
“New York is too dicey, the water’s rising, it floods more. San Francisco got so pricey it made sense to take the money and walk. Nikko enjoys the VR business, and the drones, Amaya does films from time to time. We finance the Society, the ranches and several domestic abuse centers and still have money stacking up. I can’t even give it to my mom, she has her own financial empire. All we’d do is give her money she has no use for.”
Taylor laughs, “I’m such a kept hoe, I don’t pay for squat, all the money I saved from modeling Susan handles. It was two million twenty years ago, I confess I have no idea what it is today. If I buy anything, it’s on her company’s black American Express card, she says it has no limit.”
“It doesn’t, you could buy a million buck diamond and it wouldn’t bat an eye. You won’t be panhandling anytime soon, or anytime at all.”
“What would I do with a million dollar diamond? I did buy a few Versace bits, that ran into money, twenty thousand.”
“The card sees that as chump change.”
After Cognac and dessert, James and Kara take off for home a quarter mile or so across the mountain. Sis, Lacy and Taylor hang, the children go upstairs. I make a salacious suggestion to Taylor after I see Janah leading Susan and Lacy to our bedroom.
With eight girls gone to Arizona, there are spare bedrooms, we take Ellen’s. I don’t get as much Taylor as I’d like, she’s kept busy with my mom and Lacy after her. Now that she lives across the hill, she can pop over and play more often. Amaya likes to huddle with her, she also likes to give Sloane’s boy part a workout occasionally. Fortunately for me, Sloane is gone and Amaya hooked up with Oceane this evening. I don’t know what other combos are happening, I’m busy working over Taylor’s fashion model legs on my way to the soft spot.

One Hundred Twelve

Dasha and Valeria are already in the kitchen when I show up, Sis hasn’t appeared, she’s usually an early riser. I peeked in Janah’s head when I did morning ablutions, she was in the shower with Lacy doing lesbian things. Sis must still be recovering.
“What’s my assignment?”
Valeria, “You and I will do eggs, today to order whenever girls show up. I made biscuits, Dasha will do bacon and sausage.”
I pour coffee and sit at the table waiting for our first customers. Just as I’m finishing, the sprite crowd comes down the steps with you know who in front. 
Morshchiny thuds to the kitchen, frying meat doesn’t escape her despite our powerful commercial vents. 
She looks at me, since I’m seated she’s near eye to eye, then sees Dasha at the grill, steps over and nudges her in the butt.
Dasha, “I am not Dahfoney soft touching, go someplace, you take up entire keechen.”
Undeterred, the mastiff pokes Dasha again, I come to the rescue, take a sausage patty and lure Morshchiny outside by the pool. The patty is warm, but not hot, I hand it to her. She gets the message and takes it gently from my fingers, flops down and licks it first. I turn to go back inside, Kota B is at the door frowning at me.
“Just one, we had to get her to move.”
“If you did not feed her from the counter, she would not go in the kitchen in the first place.”
“Guilty, I felt it necessary to buy her loyalty. And look, she’s learned to savor,” I turn my head to the beast, the patty has disappeared, “well, a little savor is better than a gulp.”
Kota B rolls her eyes, “You are incorrigible,” she goes inside and starts taking plates to the children.
Morshchiny is laying flat, beach ball size head between her paws, she yawns.
“You just got up, how can you be tired?”
She rises, pushes past me through the door and lays in her spot. Today it’s behind Nadia and Zofia.
Valeria, “You are neglecting egg duty.”
Girls are slowly filing in, Chloe, Eloise, Susan, first. Eggs over easy for all. Then Nikko, Zi and Daria, two more over easy, one cheese omelet. Britt, Amaya and Lauren, three poached, Lacy and Janah, two more omelets, Oceane and Cassie the same as the children, soft scrambled with cream cheese. I make poached for the chefs, then we’re done until lunch rolls around.
Dasha, “Beeg breakfast and ees already nine, zoup for lunch only, twelve thirty.”
“What kind of soup?”
“Blahk wiz chop ohnyon and zour crim, maybe also brown rice. We haf already zoup, only to chop ohnyon and make rice. Seemple.”
Valeria, “Dinner is pot roast, which I need to get in the oven.”
We spiked the roasts with garlic and seasoned them yesterday. There will be rich brown gravy , you can’t have pot roast without buttery mashed potatoes. We’ll add vegetables to the roasts about an hour before we take them out, save them from getting mushy. Carrots, onion, broccoli, cauliflower ought to do it, maybe water chestnuts. 
“I’m feeling cornbready, plain, jalapeno or cheese, or both?”
Dasha, “Chiz and jalapeno, plain for children.”
My day is set, we have kendo and gung fu with the kids this afternoon, think I’ll get in a swim and a bit of springboard before lunch.
The day rolls along as planned, up to and through a well received pot roast and mashed. The kids go upstairs, some of us watch the Netflix series we’d been following, a reversion to old style private eye mystery. No gadgetry, no mystical powers, just hard boiled noir, everybody has an angle, everyone’s a tough guy, our heroine is tough too. She persists her way through a veil of lies and misdirection to solve the mystery. We like it because it’s dialogue, not car chases, and each episode is complete in itself, not a dragged out story with lots of fillers to stretch the clock. Time for bed, it’s been an active day, lots of exercise. I’m cooked in minutes.
Morning shows up, we go to Arizona today, breakfast is simple and fast, then everyone’s loaded up in the cars, to the airport and an hour and a half flight to Prescott Municipal. We have a self driving small bus that Danika sent to the airport, pile in, about a half hour to our place.
Su is at the door, “Welcome home, good gracious, Morshchiny is enormous. And where is the newest family member? Ah, with Dasha, hello Valeria, I’m Su, Danika will be along in a bit.”
Valeria nods, “Good morning, almost lunch, where is the kitchen?”
Su smiles, “Daphne tells me you are becoming quite the chef, let’s go check it out.”
Ellen is pouring coffee, “Valeria, howdy girl, nice threads, you, Amaya and Lauren hold up the fashion standards for us,” Ellen’s in stretchy cotton shorts that give new meaning to snug.
Valeria holds one cheek up for the requisite double kiss, looks around, “Kitchen is almost exact to California.”
“We thought it would be simpler this way, things in spots we’re familiar with. There are differences in the rest of the layout, but not much. The Canada house is different though.”
Amaya wheels in a suitcase, “She does not have clothes here, I brought outfits that can stay come along when we go wherever we go next, Canada I suppose. Not too much, she’s growing weed-like, nothing she has today will fit in six months. Kota B, take this to the dorm and unpack please.”
Janah’s Society phone dings, she moves of to the office to take the call. Some of us might not be hanging here long.
I get a mental, “Daph, come in with me, you need to listen, ask Nikko too.”
“Nikko, we’re needed in the office.”

We join Janah, shut the door, Janah puts her phone on speaker, “Agent Gibbs, I have two others joining, you’re on speaker, we’re in a private office, soundproofed and secure.”
“Thank you Mrs. Pearson, hello to your associates, who I assume have no names.”
“They don’t even know who they are. How can we help?”
“We appear to be in need of your unique investigative skills, perhaps I should also add technological capabilities. We wonder if you aren’t plugged into the NSA, but that’s irrelevant. The things you’ve put us onto in the past have been gold, tied in a bow and handed to us on a silver platter.”
I decline to tell him that the NSA is sometimes a source for us, and that the Society is sometimes a source for them. 
“Always willing to help.”
“A few Pentagon personnel and handful of Congressmen wish you’d been far less help, which they no doubt ruminate on while they sit in federal prison.”
“They cross the line, they do the time, I’m happy to put them there. So, what’s up Agent Gibbs?”
“We think we may have a serial killer that’s defying behavioral analysis. As is commonly known, SKs tend to have either a type of victim, or a ritual, frequently both. Loner, vaguely employed, sexually incompetent male with a domineering mother, you know the profile as well as I. We have a series of murders running back three years that cross ages, cross genders, with no pattern or ritual. He, or maybe she, doesn’t leave calling cards, doesn’t take trophies, or if he does, it isn’t obvious. Not so much as a lock of hair appears to be missing. In fact, until three weeks ago we had no reason to connect any of the murders, which cross three states we know of.”
“He contacted you, or someone in the FBI.”
“How did you…”
“You can’t put together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces from different sets. But three weeks ago something changed. You couldn’t have known that several murders with different kill methods, over different ages and genders were connected until somebody raised their hand. The only credible source would have to be someone who either knows the killer intimately or is the killer.”
“And that’s what happened. We got a communication with what you already know we’d need for cred, details.”
“Details only the perpetrator would know, stuff that didn’t leak out of your agency. Although local police departments are notoriously leaky, you have done your homework on that issue?”
“We have, and since we only took over after the contact, it isn’t out of the question that details got our prior to that. As you are aware, our people are required to submit to interviews that don’t rely on outmoded crap like polygraph tests and the nonsense of lies detection by shifty eye movements or agitation. We use advanced neuroimaging and instant blood testing. If an agent is lying, they are cornered by their own brains and hormones. Locals don’t have that level of sophistication.”
“It couldn’t have been your people anyway, you didn’t know there was a single killer until he told you.”
“Yeah, there’s that.”
“Before I dump a pile of resources into this, run your tests on every cop who had access to the details.  How many dead people are there?”
“Well, see, that’s the problem, sixteen we know of, know of in the sense the contact has demonstrated intimate knowledge of the murders, description of the vic, the method, the location and time.”
“Sheesh, and how many police departments?”
“Eight.”
“Ah, then never mind. An imposter wouldn’t have parsed so much detail out of eight different departments in three states. You have everything digitized?”
“Every cop’s report, every detective’s follow up, every crime scene photo, all the forensic reports, the interviews with family and friends. It’s a lot of stuff.”
“Where is it?”
“On our server where everything is, including my performance reports for the last twenty years.”
“Your performance reports are excellent, that’s why we contacted you several years ago.”
“How did you know my…, never mind, I’m afraid to ask, how do I get the data to you?”
“What’s the master file number?”
Gibbs reads off a string of letters and numbers, “Why do you need that?”
“I’m collecting the files now.”
“You’re coll…they’re encrypted, on a server with encrypted access, with three levels of permissions to get to.”
“Ah, Agent Gibbs, faith in encryption is like all faith, it frequently has nothing to do with reality. We shall look into the matter and get back to you, only you. It may be necessary for me to have people do some in situ investigation. We will attempt to tread lightly on local tender spots, but should they attempt to impede or stonewall our efforts….”
“Not a problem, these guys want distance, dumping it in our lap is a relief for them. But, how do I explain you having all the files without me sending them to you?”
“By telling them you sent them, I used your access codes, it will be the truth, sort of. By the way, you sent them at eleven hundred hours on the dot.”
“As an aside, do I have any secrets from you?”
“I’ll never tell, and your neuroimaging and hormone level tests wouldn’t find a thing if I submitted to them. Go have lunch, relax, we’re going to find this puke and you’re going to be the man of the hour. Would you like a promotion, go into management?”
“Not a chance, Special Agent in Charge is my playground, they wanted to kick me up last year, I politely declined. I like being in the game, not watching from the sidelines. And I sure as shit don’t need the politics.”
“Good man, maybe a commendation, photo with the President, something to show the grandkids.”
“I can go with that.”
“We’ll be in touch Gibbs.”
She clicks off.

Previous     Next