Chapter One Hundred Thirteen

Our travelers arrived, checked in at the Sundance Resort, a house called Pine Haven.
Amaya, "It is as advertised, if you guys have to come out, there is a ton of room."
"It's why we grabbed the place. Janah and I may have to come along, we didn't want to relocate everyone. Suppose we could have just rented a second regular room, but she went with the house."
"We are headed to the farm in a minute, just unpacked first. You can follow in my head or I will update later, leaving now."

I decide to wait for an update, pass along the news to the others, then to Sloane's room to tell her what's going on.
Sloane, "When you talk mentally, is it weird?"
"At first. Janah and I met mentally, that was weird. Then we got better at it and it seems natural now. The others who mental caught on faster. It's a little headachy in the beginning, tiring, but we adapted. Also have to accept that another person is going to be able to know what we're thinking. We can dial it down, I don't have to be in Janah's mind all the time."
"How come everyone doesn't mental with everyone?"
"They have their reasons, a bit more privacy. Zi and Chloe don't mental, they have other ways to read intention. Eloise and Oceane don't mental with any of us either. I can mental Janah, Nikko, Amaya, Dasha and Daria. The twins mental each other. Nikko and Janah can mental each other and me at the same time. If Dasha mentals me, Janah and Nikko don't get it, saves confusion."
"How do you decide who to mental?"
"How does any skill start?"
She thinks it over, "Oh, you mean intention."
"Yes, nothing happens without intention. You can even have unconscious intent. You discover your intention when you take action."
She look perplexed, "What do you mean?"
"If you say you intend to exercise, but you don't, that's not intention. At least it's not the way we think of intention. Inaction means it was just a desire, a wish, not true intent. If you start exercising, even if you didn't consciously say 'I intend to exercise,' or even, 'I'm going to exercise,' we say the intention arose in your brain without you being consciously aware of it. Much of what we do takes place behind the screen of consciousness."
Sloane yawns, enough psychology for now. I sit on the bed while she starts to drift off, kiss her cheek.
One eye pops open, "I intend to sleep now mom."
I smile, go off to my room, Janah's reading, "All tucked in? She excited about school?"
"Didn't say, we talked about intention and mentaling."
"She wants to mental?"
"She didn't say so. I warned her privacy goes out the window. She may prefer to keep her thoughts to herself."
"I'm putting the thought in your head that you want to give me an orgasm."
So I do. Next thing I know, it's six a.m. and time to get breakfast cranking.
Nikko and Zi are up first, "Just eggs and toast today, I have to get Sloane ready for school."
Zi, "That's fine, we need to get to the office."
Nobody else shows by seven, I go upstairs to get Sloane in gear. She's buried under the covers.
I pull back the comforter, touch her shoulder gently, "Time for the princess to wake up, first day of school."
A blink, another, slowly rejoining the living.
"What time is it?"
"Seven, school starts at eight thirty. Probably best to be a little early today. Clarissa will be there."
"I am so glad there's another girl like me," she sits up, "I want to shower, first I really have to pee."
"I'll have breakfast ready."
Downstairs, Janah is up with a cup of tea, "Eggs and toast only, there's cut fruit and yogurt in the refrigerator, want that too?"
"A small cup, just stick the fruit in the yogurt, no eggs, a slice of toast please."
A few minutes later Sloane comes down. Oceane is unpredictable, she may show up early, late or not at all.
"Have a cup of coffee," Sloane likes coffee, unusual for an nine year old, "I'll have your breakfast in a minute."
Breakfast wraps, no sign of Oceane, it's time to walk over.
Janah, "I'll stay here, somebody needs to be around if Oceane wakes up."
Not only do we not go out alone, we don't stay in alone. Sometimes one of the adults does, but never Oceane or Sloane. We don't think Shadows know much of us, or where we live, and despite our security measures, we also don't make assumptions.
Village School is a bustle of activity. Cars lined up, other parents with their girls. Today it's okay for parents to tour the building, tomorrow the rule is go as far as the lobby, we can't have mommies wandering the halls.
Clarissa is already here, "Sloane! Come on, we have an assembly this morning, Maddie always talks to the kids and parents on the first day."
Everyone goes to the gym. It's not a gym with a basketball court or exercise machines, just a large room they call the gym. It's where the girls do morning tai chi, stretch a bit, burn off some kid energy and get their minds engaged for class. There are no chairs, we aren't going to be here long.
Maddie, "Welcome parents and students. Today you can see your child's class, look over the school if you wish. We refurbished over the summer but it's essentially the same place it was last year. After the girls are in their classes, we have a short reception in the dining hall for parents. You'll see familiar faces and new ones, introduce yourselves to the new ones please."
They may or may not, people tend to glom on to people they already know. We know that, so there's a small cadre of parents assigned to meet new parents. Everyone has been directed to the school website, most questions are answered there already. They can also leave messages for instructors or Maddie. We don't assign homework as such. The lessons are online, girls are expected to read the next day's assignments in advance, then bring their questions to class. It's more or less the upside down method. Teacher's don't lecture in class, they answer questions, lead discussion or work with girls who need help. Any student can move ahead in the material if they wish, quite a few do. We see no reason that the faster ones have to be bored waiting for the rest to catch up. They are also encouraged to help the slower ones, a good way to internalize material is to explain it to someone else.
Maddie, "Starting tomorrow, please drop your child in the lobby and go away," parents who know Maddie laugh, she's not much for double talk or obfuscation, "we have full schedules and it's better to keep to them. You have all been online, that's the best way to connect to teachers or to me. As you know, your child's progress is posted on her page every day. You can know exactly what she's done and see what needs doing. Of course, if you need a face to face, that can be arranged."
She introduces the instructors, including the female monk that holds the tai chi session. It's mostly tai chi with a bit of gung fu light. No sparring, just the motions and stances. It's primarily to settle active minds and fidgety bodies, not meant to be a martial arts class. A second female monk is in charge of the roof garden. Each girl will have plants to take care of, learn about herbs, the light and nutrition they need. They love it, give their plants names, watch for blooms and new growth, take pictures and post them on the site.
Maddie, "Girls, take your parents to your class for a quick look, then send them to the dining hall. I trust you have reviewed day one lessons, let's get busy."
A shuffle of bodies off in different directions. Our school is first through sixth only, no kindergarten or preschool. We do have after school care, lots of parents both work. Others have nannies who bring and collect the kids, the parents aren't poor.
I take Sloane to class, she's technically in third grade, but Janah has her farther along than that. In our school, lots of girls are in higher grade level courses, by the time they are ready for seventh grade, some will be ready for high school. Many will go to Chapmans.
Sloane, "Neat place mom, no kid desks, just tables and chairs...and couches...and pillows on the floor!"
"Not for napping, but if you want to work your IPad sitting on a couch or pillow, it's fine. Much of the time you will be in discussion."
A girl comes up to Sloane, "I'm Ginger," she is too, sparkly ginger hair, cute freckles, bright sky blue eyes.
"I'm Sloane."
The teacher announces that class is beginning, a signal for us to move along, I hug Sloane, Ginger whispers, "Daphne is your mom? You know Chloe Sylk? She's famous!"
"She's one of my moms. I have six."
"Six moms? How can you have six moms?"
"Daphne is my mom, but we live with the others, and four sisters besides. It's pretty crazy, but crazy fun."
Ginger, "I only have one mom, a cat."
Sloane laughs, "I bet it's a cool one."
So far so good, on to the dining hall.
Maddie introduces me, "Most of you know Daphne. She and her family trust own the school and now she has a daughter here, Sloane Sylk."
There's a bit of applause, nice I think, " Janah has to be at home today, she sends her regards. Thank you for choosing Village School. With Maddie at the helm, your daughters are in excellent hands. No more speech, visit friends and meet new ones."
Jeff Havens walks over, it's one of the few days men are allowed on the premises, "Hi Daphne, I'm insanely jealous, you never get older. What supplements are you on?"
I laugh, "Moisturizer Jeff, lots of it."
"Whatever it is, it works. I was on the phone earlier with Nikko, I have a referral for her. Made her promise that my own service wouldn't slip if she took on another client."
"If you thought that, you wouldn't make the referral."
"Exactly what Nikko said. Masters is a good guy, terrible at managing his own building. Too much fly off to wherever his wife thinks is the latest in spot. No way to manage property."
"Then you did him a favor. Tessa have a good summer?"
"I took her to the west coast, now she's officially a California girl, it's all she talks about. We went to Shutters in Santa Monica, great spot."
"Amaya and Chloe just got back from there, Chloe did another film."
"Another Ultra Violet I hope, love those movies."
"This one isn't Amaya's, it's a studio production. Amaya liked the script, so they took it."
"Great, guess I have to wait a year to see it then."
"Not that long, but there’s no release date yet. Doesn't even have an official title. It's sort of Black Swan, except the character is a model. Drama, creepy people, bit of action, not like Ultra Violet action. Chloe doesn't chop anyone's head off."
"Too bad, I love watching the sword scenes. Amaya doing another Ultra Violet?"
"She's taking a break, said it was over, but maybe. She has another project right now. It's for the twins."
Jeff, "The two girl assassins in Ultra Violet?"
"Yes, a bit of prequel, how they got to be what they became, then a storyline just for them. Although Matt, the lead male in Ultra Violet three, asked Amaya to write him a role."
"You got Matt Damond? Must be expensive, but a surefire box office booster. The audience when I saw the movie loved the twins, so perfectly psychotic. Where did you find them?"
"They live with us."
Jeff does a blink and slack jaw, "Wait, they're in your family? I have to take inventory, I know Daphne, Janah, Amaya, Chloe, Nikko and her business partner, um...Zi. All gorgeous. And you're telling me the heart stopping twins live there as well."
"And Sloane, Oceane and Eloise."
"Tell me Oceane and Eloise are just sort of....normal."
"I can tell you anything you wish, but it's not the case, they use the same moisturizer."
Jeff laughs, "Good Lord. I can't wait to tell Vicky, she thinks you have too many hot women there already. We had no idea the twins were yours."
"Not ours, they are theirs, but I get the point, and thank you. Compliments always welcome and encouraged."
Jeff moves along, I visit with other parents, I make a point of finding the new ones. Many of the parents, dad, mom, or both, are in key positions in law firms, major corporations, banking and Wall Street. Despite Nikko's low key profile, they also know Murakami Sylk. It folds into the reason we are vigilant. We've become more public than we'd prefer. Aside from Oceane or Eloise, Janah, our first among equals, is probably the least well known. She has no public role in our businesses, isn't a published author, actress or the face of Murakami Sylk. Besides family and a few friends, only monks at the Shaolin Temple have any idea who she is.
Parents begin to filter out, I hang around, seems rude to vacate before everyone else. Besides, the parents are generally nice. People who want our style of education tend to be progressive and socially liberal, at least when it comes to their children, even the corporate types.
I spot Candace Silverman. She's Sarah Silverman's daughter, Sarah started the gallery that handles Kara's art. She semi-retired and Candace took over.
"Daphne! You have a daughter now, congratulations. My girl loves Village School, this is her last year though, I'm applying to Chapmans and a couple of second choices in case. Chapmans is a bear to get into."
"How is Tracy? Still a math whiz?"
"Isn't it strange? I deal with artists, have no unusual math skills, didn't press the subject on her. She just started counting on her own, her first word was three. I thought she was saying free," she laughs, "wasn't until she said one, two, free that I caught on. After that, it was how many, how much, her numbers have colors. She has synesthesia, they make it sound like a disease."
"Grapheme then."
"Yes, you are familiar with it?"
"Janah talked about it," I don't say that Daria has a variation of number form, or that Oceane has an odd version of mirror touch synesthesia.
"Anyway, she gets absorbed in the numbers, calculus in fifth grade. I can barely spell calculus. But enough of that, when am I going to see more calligraphy, and Ocean's work?"
"I've been lax on calligraphy, I do something once a week but don't keep much of it, just staying in practice. Oceane's been doing personal things. You sold the bulk of what I had in storage, we're sort of dry for the market just now."
"When that changes please let me know."
"We aren't inclined to use another gallery, Kara has been selling hasn't she?"
"Yes, three pieces last year, market was good, only wish she painted faster."
"Speed was never her strong point."
Candace, "And I need to get to work, having a show in a week. Good to see you Daphne."
I look around, only us and the kitchen staff preparing lunch, time for home.

A note: Daria is a combo number form and spatial sequence synesthete. A spreadsheet looks like a picture and errors show up a distortions in the picture. It’s part of why she has a memory like Janah. She also knows the exact time of day, sees a digital clock in her head, one that also displays seconds.   
Oceane is an altered version of mirror touch synesthete. Altered because she doesn’t feel someone else being touched, she feels what they are feeling when she touches them. It isn’t empathy, she doesn’t feel that way herself, nor does she sympathize. In a way it’s why it works, she has no personal involvement.

Chapter One Hundred Fourteen

Janah, "Got Sloane squared away?"
"She saw Clarissa, met a new girl in her class, Ginger. It's preadolescent girls, they're all squishy about being in school, new ones with big eyes wondering who all the strange people are. The older ones jabbered about their summer, then class began. I talked to Jeff Havens and Candace, quick chat with a other parents. I felt like I should hang around until everyone left."
The phone rings, it's Amaya, Janah puts it on speaker, "We were out late, the news is not good."
"Shadows."
"All of them. Chloe says the house is black. Eloise flew the drone around and peeked in windows. There are two teens, look to be sixteen or seventeen. Two somewhere around nine or ten, and three infants. One apparently new just yesterday."
"And Surveillance said the travel couple returned yesterday early."
"Yes, there was a kind of celebration going on. Drinks, champagne. Lots of crude comments, made no difference that the kids were there. The teens were as drunk as everyone else. Daria is sending the file now."
Janah, "Let me get this straight, everyone is a Shadow, the younger kids?"
"Chloe said there is so much darkness, it is difficult to tell. The teens walked outside to smoke, they are Shadows. The younger ones stayed inside, they were always with the others."
Janah, "Any ideas?"
"We have to find out is what condition the younger kids are in. then figure out who to kill."
Janah, "They are training Shadows. Has to be it. The teens got snatched a long time ago, then the tweens, now they're replenishing with infants. The training is difficult, I'm certain they lost children along the way. But if they start them young, and go slowly, they wind up with Shadow teens. Teens that made it through and have a lifetime to refine their skills. By the time they're thirty....I don't want to think about it."
The others are listening on their end, Dasha says, "They will not be thirty, not twenty, sister and I will kill everyone, come home."
"Soon as we figure out the tweens. Infants don't know what's going on, Shadows we drop with darts doesn't affect them. If the younger aren't Shadows, we can't kill them. Okay, immediate objective is to get a read on the two unknowns. Next objective will be plain when we know if they are Shadows. I really doubt it, not full blown. It just takes too long. Kids are pliable, but training is extreme. I'm surprised the teens are as far along as Chloe says they are."
"Janah, if they got them as infants, they got them almost perfectly malleable. It's easier to believe they screwed up some training them. To Shadows, even children are disposable. A few dead kids don't mean anything in their world, like the tribes that smash babies against the wall for being in a different tribe."
Amaya, "I agree. Still, we need to know. What I am more concerned about is what we do if they are not fully formed. Do we kill almost Shadows or halfway Shadows?"
"That's a job for me and pharmaceuticals to figure out. If we can treat them successfully, good. Chloe and Zi can tell if they're faking. Oceane too, maybe even better. One thing at a time though. If the younger ones are in between, then we'll come out. If they are Shadows, kill everyone. I'll get the infants picked up and returned to their parents."
Daria, "We will go now, fly drone, see about children. Enough of talking."
Janah, "Keep me posted," she clicks off.
"Nothing to do but wait. Oceane ever make an appearance?"
"Yes, she had a chat with a cup of fruit, discussed the relative merits of being a strawberry, blueberry or raspberry. Apparently cantaloupe is the worst thing to be, the color is bland."
"Gee, I like cantaloupe, I never knew it was depressed. Next time I eat it, I'll be sure to mention how much it's appreciated."
"This is ugly business. I can live with the teens dying. Nine and ten though."
"Age is only a number, a Shadow is a Shadow. Just because a rabid dog is a year old doesn't make it any less rabid."
"Most Shadows just do petty stuff, do we kill them for theft? Ah, never mind, I already know the answer."
"Yes, Shadows deteriorate, and pretty quickly. Just stealing money or getting free stuff loses its appeal. Like a junkie needs more drugs, Shadows inevitably turn to abuse, human degradation and ultimately, deadly violence."
Janah has her face in her hands, "We pay a high price for eternal youth."
"No, it isn't a trade. We are rewarded with eternal youth because we perform a valuable ugly service for the rest of humanity. And we are destined to the role because we are uniquely qualified to carry it out. That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
Janah smiles, "Your spin is better than mine, we'll go with that."
I go to find Oceane, she's just climbing out of the pool in her best no swimsuit. She parks on a lounge chair in the sun. I pull up a chair and admire the view.
Oceane, "I make you warm."
"You make everybody warm. We may have to travel soon."
"To Utah, for Shadows."
Not sure how she knows, Janah may have said something, "Yes. Did Janah mention it?"
"I kissed her, felt concern. So I asked her to make me feel good, it relaxes her."
I must be slipping, didn't pick up the lust vibe from Janah, but it happened while I was at the school.
"We have a potential problem. There are two children, nine or ten, we aren't sure if they are Shadows. It's been hard for Chloe to tell, she hasn't seen them alone. If we need to go, it means they are not full Shadows. First we have to get them separated from the others. That's the tricky part. We don't want to start killing in front of them if they aren't damaged. If Janah works on them, you can help determine if the treatment worked, or they're faking."
"You must kill Shadows."
"That's the way of it. If they're somewhere in between maybe Janah can undo it. It's new territory for us, we don't know. You can decide not to participate, it isn't an obligation."
She touches my arm, smiles, "Tonight you will come to me," she drifts off in a reverie.
I lean over, rest a hand on smooth thigh and kiss her tummy, warm from the sun, stand and go off to put something together for lunch. Only three today, what to do?
Janah, "I'm calorie restricting, a small plate of grilled vegetables."
Simple, I'll make enough for all of us. Start chopping red, yellow and orange peppers, red cabbage, a little onion, broccoli, water chestnuts, carrots. Sizzle it all in grapeseed oil, add a light coat of garlic sauce at the end.
Oceane comes down, hair wet from a shower, still in nothing. Lunch gets more appealing.
Janah, "Such a lovely creature, I took advantage this morning while you were at school."
"So she said. Felt your concern and decided to distract you, thoughtful. She's distracting me tonight."

Oceane's chatting with broccoli, "Janah made me feel good, tonight Daphne, warm."
Amaya, "I am out here plotting murder, you plot the end of innocence."
"Oceane hasn't been innocent for a long time."
"Thanks to you. I would be jealous, but of what? She shows up while I am writing and whole plots are lost. Impossible to write while she is kneeling between my legs. Our space cadet tart, absolutely gloriously shameless."
"What are you doing besides peering into my lust?"
"Eloise is flying the drone, we are dead in the water unless Chloe can get a bead on the children. Three cars left the house, Daria stuck trackers on them. One had the two teens, they drove to school. The others are just in town, appear to be running errands. If we could get a couple more to leave, she might be able to separate out the kids."
"The younger ones don't go to school?"
"Not so far, and Surveillance said they didn't go before, only the teens. Wait....the two children went out the back door, headed to the barn. Maybe Chloe can close in on them long enough to get a read."


Chapter One Hundred Fifteen

I see what Amaya sees, and can shift to Dasha or Daria if I want a different angle. Chloe is edging the property, there's a lot of nothing between her, the house and the barn. She needs to get thirty or forty yards closer to catch their vibe.
"Amaya, create a distraction that brings the remaining adults to the front of the house, something simple, can you set off one of the car alarms?"
I hear her tell Dasha my suggestion. Then I'm seeing Dasha walking up to one of the vehicles, looks like a fairly new Camry. She picks up a grapefruit sized rock along the way. From behind a tree, about twenty yards from the car, she hurls the thing at the windshield. It's doesn't just shatter the glass, it goes clean through. Girl's got an arm on her.
I hear a horn blast...blast....blast. Dasha beats a retreat, two male adults come out the front door.
"Hey kid, you! Ingrate bitch. You come here, now!"
He's trying his Shadow qi, but Dasha is too far away and it's not making a dent. Amaya's focus shifts to Chloe, she's ten yards from the barn, the two kids come out.
"Hey lady, who are you, what you doin' here?"
Chloe, "Hiking, I'm lost as lost can get. Which way is the main road? My car’s parked there."
They eye her suspiciously, but it's only one woman. The younger one, a girl, points behind Chloe.
"Back that way, just keep going, you'll see it."
Chloe smiles, "Thank you! Just like me to be going exactly the wrong way."
She turns and retreats, a woman comes out the back door, Chloe's long strides have her far enough that the woman can't tell much. The drone picks up conversation.
"Who was that?"
"Just some lost lady, got turnt round s'all. Sent her back the way she come."
"She ask any questions, ask about us?"
"No. Looking for the main road s'all. Junie set her straight, she din't ask about nuthin'."
The woman looks around, she's no fool. Rock through a car window, mystery woman lost. But the kids didn't know why the car alarm went off, which is what drew them out of the barn.
Woman, "You done in the barn?"
"Not yet, we heard the honk, came out to see. Got more stuff to stack up, what's in all them boxes anyway?"
"Nothing for you two. Just do what you're told and get back inside. You got sessions this afternoon."
Junie, "Oh Tilda, my head's still sore from the last time."
Tilda, "It's a easy one, finish up your chores, I'll have sandwiches for you, then we get to it. Go on now, nothing but trouble today, some brat bitch destroying property for no reason but to do it. Lucky for her she hightailed it, be in serious trouble we'da caught up to her."
Tilda trundles back to the house, the kids go back in the barn, the drone returns to Eloise.
Amaya's back online, "Kids are dark, not black, grey."
I pass it along to Janah, she says, "Get us on a plane tomorrow."
I mental Nikko, "We have to go to Provo, you can take care of Sloane?"
Nikko, "Ten Shadows, Zi and I are coming. Get Susan to take Sloane for a few days."
I call Sis, "We have to travel, all of us. Can Sloane stay with you? Get her to school, pick her up?"
Susan, "Sure, love to have her. Must be trouble, how much do I have to worry?"
"Worry about Sloane. We think three, maybe four days."
Susan knows not to ask questions, she can spoil Sloane instead.
"Okay, you're getting her today?"
"Yes, I may need you to take her in the morning, I still have to arrange a flight."
"Then bring her and a few things after school today. I have a key, we'll get more stuff tomorrow if we need it."
"I want to visit with her, the others will want to see her before we go. I'll bring her after dinner."
That done, call Blue Sky, then arrange for a car, then pack. While I'm pulling things together, Nikko and Zi show up.
"Flight's at nine, Angelo will pick us up at eight."
Nikko, "Got it."
Where does the time go, have to collect the princess. I walk over to Village School, parents and nannies are congregated, Paladin Security is monitoring the traffic. We use the same service that's been at Chapmans forever, an all female security team. Besides building security, they do protective services for women who don't want a guy hanging around when they have to use the ladies, or need to make clothing changes while they're in a car. Our staff is all female. It's not a bias against male instructors. The problem is that girls can get clingy, affectionate. Things get misinterpreted, or just messy.
It could happen with a female, but the odds are significantly smaller, men don't need the grief, neither do we. No men is how we avoid the issue.
Sloane runs up, "I'm well ahead thanks to Janah. It is so great to be in school finally. Nobody asked about my...condition."
"We want to let them get to know you, know you as the girl you are. We don't see why there has to be an announcement. If you are invited to a sleepover, we will talk to the parents. If they have a problem, then you don't go. It's too bad, but we can't put you in that position, or the parents. I'm afraid it's just one of the trials you have to endure."
Sloane thinks about this, "As long as I can have friends at school, it's okay. I'm not sure I want to come out right away. Clarissa said she was like in third grade, then a few kids knew, then everyone. She's not telling anyone. I mean Maddie knows, right, what about Kendra, my teacher?"
"Yes, they know, so do the monks, for tai chi and the garden. Maddie told the other teachers, they need to know."
"Good, so I'm not alone in it at school?"
"No. The kids will find out over time, if an issue comes up we will deal with it. You shouldn't expect everyone to just understand. You are different, some people can't take different. Everyone in your family is different, lots of people can't handle lesbians. That's their problem, not ours, not yours."
Sloane, "Can I go swimming?"
"Sure. We have to travel tomorrow, you're going to your grandmother's tonight. Make sure you keep up with lessons."
"How long will you be gone?"
"Three or four days, it's our other business. We have to go. You don't talk about it with Susan or anyone else, she won't ask. Grandmothers are for spoiling their grandchildren, you have it made."
Sloane smiles, "I have projects to do, I'll just study, maybe watch TV. You will call me?"
"Of course."

Chapter One Hundred Sixteen

We're in Provo, decided to fly direct under travel ID we used in Prescott before we built a home there. Flight is typical Blue Sky efficiency, we asked for breakfast and got a variety of omelets, croissants and the additives. Four and a half hours, pick up two, it's eleven thirty MST when we arrive. Stack luggage in the Escalade and head to Sundance twenty three miles north.
Janah, "Wow, nice place, you were right, it does look like the website."
Amaya, "Too bad we do not have time to enjoy much. The town is lovely and they have a ton of luxury homes. Winter is too cold and snowy, if we want to freeze we can do it in New York. Better to winter in Prescott."
"Maybe we'll come in the summer, home rentals must be favorable then."
Nikko doesn't care to screw around with small talk, "Where are we with the Shadows?"
Amaya, "The kids will have to be taken and adults are always at the house. If we can go on a school day, the teens will be out, we can deal with them when they return. Four adults have jobs, maybe get them going to or from. Still have to take on four at the house."
"Lot of people in one house, like us."
"It is a sizeable place. I'm guessing the teens are in one room, the tweens in another. If the men and women are paired up, that's six bedrooms. Infants in one or the other adult bedrooms. Still, it's an expensive proposition. Where are they employed?"
Surveillance has them three places, two are accountants in private practice. One a stockbroker, the last an insurance agent, they share an office together. Two men and two women stay at home."
"What happens during the day?"
Daria, "Lots of housework, cooking for all those people. The stay-at-homes do that, grocery shopping, general errands. If they go out for dinner, it is only one or two of the couples, they don't go in a group. During the day, we pick up little conversation. At night they talk about work, mostly to brag about people they've ripped off. From what we heard, the accountants, the broker and the insurance agent make a lot of money."
Janah, "No doubt the broker and the insurance agent have a big customer base, they can make people buy things. The accountants could easily siphon off money from wealthy clients and the clients would never suspect. At least four of them aren't dummies. They have education in their history. I assume the housekeepers get a fair amount of supplies and groceries free."
Zi, "I wonder. They live and shop here, how do you get out of a supermarket with a cartload of stuff for nothing?"
"Maybe they don't. Shadows can get somebody to just give them cash or a credit card. They take it to the store, load up, swipe the card and off they go. Poor sap they took the card from thinks she lost it someplace, doesn't even remember talking to the Shadow. Go to the gas pump, tell the clerk you want forty bucks worth, he sets the pump, he thinks the Shadow handed him two twenties. Shadow buys a pack of gum, hands the clerk a ten, gets change for a hundred. It's a game with them. The home Shadows may actually contribute significantly, or maybe they don’t tell the workers how they rip off  clerks. Shadows aren’t pals, or trustworthy even to each other."
Janah, "How did this crew come together?"
Daria, "I dug around in their files, the broker and insurance agent were simple, they have to be registered. The CPAs are for real, at least listed with appropriate credentials. All of them lived in Seattle first, moved here the same time. Eloise and I will hack the home computers next."
Janah, "A clue, at least four knew each other before Provo and they have been here eight years. That's a lot of togetherness."
Chloe, "Something else. They appear to be coupled up. Four men, four women, boy and girl teens, boy and girl ten year olds."
Janah, "And the three infants are two girls and one boy. Are they on the hunt for another boy? Daria, start in on the others and trace the history of everyone you can. The teens are in school, they have records."
"That's a load of hack, I'm calling Susan, she'll take the teens. Then I'll see what I can do to dig further back on the employed. Eloise and Daria can focus on the stay at homes."
Janah, "Nikko, you, Zi and Dasha go to the house. Take the drone for a spin. Let's see if anything turns up."
Off we go to engage in illegal snooping, I call Susan.
"Sis, I'm sending a file, two teenagers and the school records we have. I need you to take it back to birth if you can."
Susan, "Goody, it's three here, I'm on the way to collect Sloane, then to your place. She probably wants to swim and I need outfits for the next couple of days. I'll work off your stuff and dig into the teens while she's occupied."
"Guess school went okay, no frantic calls from the nurse or Maddie."
"No, her friend Ginger was hovering at the door waiting on her, so was Clarissa," I hear Sis say, "Hey Sloane, your mom's on the phone."
Sloane, "Hi mom. Great day at school, the kids are really nice. They found out I'm learning Russian so I taught the class to say hello, goodbye, thank you and their birthdays. Tell the twins they will have a whole class of kids to talk to."
I laugh, "Good for them, and you. What else did you do?"
"Tai chi this morning, then a couple of gung fu stances that I can already do. Then math, we each read part of a story out loud, went to the garden. Lunch was chicken grilled with vegetables, macaroni and cheese, they have apples and bananas all day. We make compost for our plants with the cores and skins."
"Busy day. Sis is taking you home so you can swim, I don't know what's planned for dinner."
"Pizza!"
"Good, enjoy, I'll call or text tomorrow, give yourself a hug for me."
I park at a laptop and start the search for deeper history on the employed adults. Janah brings around cups of tea while we surf for openings. Three hours whiz by, I hear Amaya and the others returning.
Amaya, "We picked up dinner, roast chickens, baked beans, veg pasta salad, loaf of French bread. I want a drink."
She sets to making cocktails, Janah opens wine. While Dasha heats the chicken and beans, they recap.
Nikko, "Eloise has the drone so quiet I could have flown it into the living room. Our guess about another boy is right on, they target specific kids. I should say specific parents. Attractive, young, well educated. The teens and younger two were stolen children. They call it replenishing stock. The ten year olds had a qi training session, the girl complained about headaches. Teens came home from school and went to a bedroom. It's a boy and girl but they share a room. From the sounds in the room, they also share bodily fluids. The rest of it was snarky remarks, Shadows interact with sarcasm, they don't seem to mind, nobody got angry, just sharp and direct. When one got in a good zinger, the others laughed, appears 'fuck you' is a term of endearment."
Janah, "We saw a version of that in Killeen, the Shadows who were going to rob banks using dead schoolchildren as a distraction. There was less good nature there than you are describing."
Zi, "If this is a put together family of sorts, that's different from the crew in Killeen. They came together for that one project and planned to split far and wide when it was over."
Daria, "It fits with our research. The stay at homes were also in Seattle, moved here with the others. For the time we had, all we found out is they had Washington State driver's licenses, owned a home there that sold for two million plus. The home was in the name of The Fellowship, bought for cash, when it was sold it went to an account that subsequently was emptied. The house they own here cost four million. They have significantly more land, and it's near Provo, prices are high. We can assume they came here for the wealth and to check out of Seattle. Probably when they acquired the two kids that are now nine or ten. If that's right, they will be looking to move from Provo soon."
Nikko, "There was some general talk about good places to live this afternoon. One said he'd had enough snow, another wanted to move to the beach, they talked about San Diego, Palm Beach and Hawaii, all wealthy communities."
Janah, "Daphne, anything?"
"The employed had similar jobs in Seattle. Brokers, accountants and insurance agents have to license with the state. They were all there. None of them have any complaints, nobody filed a suit, which makes sense. If you control the client's mind, suing won't occur to him. With their mobility and skill, setting up shop elsewhere is child's play. I haven't heard from Sis on the teens, it's late in New York and she had Sloane. I'll talk to her tomorrow."
Janah, "Good enough for now. Let's have dinner and relax. Let the subconscious spin on the problem and we'll figure out next steps tomorrow."
During dinner I remember to pass along Sloane's message about Russian lessons.
Dasha, "Sloane ees sweet girl who got bad deal. Now she ees wiz us, good deal for her. Sister and I also haf bad deal, then fahmahley saves us and we are good deal girls now. Chloe and Eemaya, Oceane also. We will teach Sloane Russian, Eemaya will make her beautiful, fahmahley will protect and she will be also reech. She ees win jackpot lottery."
We laugh, our hearts are touched. Our adorable psychopaths have learned to function appropriately, even with affection. Their empathy doesn't spread far, but they have some when they had none. I doubt it will extend much beyond us. They get satisfaction from vengeance. Nikko does as well, her genetic samurai disposition. The rest of us see it as a necessary evil.

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