One Hundred Thirteen
“Grace B will load the files, who do we want on this?”
Nikko, “I’m in, Chloe, Zi to look at crime scene photos, Daria is our fine print analyst.”
“The six of us can work it until we get an idea or decide we need more eyes on it.”
Janah, “Good, let’s get busy, maybe we can stop him before seventeen. And have Grace B analyzing the data every which way from Sunday.”
Grace B comes in, “Already on it, files are on the secure site. Do you want my summary first or after you read the files?”
Janah, “Ask Chloe, Zi and Daria to join us first.”
A couple minutes later, they show up, find a spot and listen.
“The FBI contacted Mrs. Pearson, they have a difficult case, a serial killer with no identifiable pattern, no signature. The FBI took over just three weeks ago after they were contacted either by the killer himself or someone who knows him. The caller was accurate on details to a fault, obviously details that no one but the murderer would know. Grace B has analyzed the files and will give us a summary. Then we look at everything page by tedious page, Grace B, you’re up.”
“First, here is what it is not. There is no specific time of day, he is not a midnight rambler. There is no age or gender preference, he appears to enjoy variety. That extends to the method of death, knife three times, garrote two, manual strangulation two, blunt force trauma five, including a hammer, twice. One was drowned in a bathtub, one was wrapped tightly in barbed wire and left to bleed, two were bled out, feet cut off, wrists tied together and hung over a hook so the blood could drain. He is strong enough to lift a body and hang it up. Based on the scene, they were hung first and the feet were removed with an ax.”
“It gets worse. Knife wounds indicate a slow death, he did not slash a femoral artery or cut a throat. The strangled showed evidence of other injuries, as did the drowned. Same thing with the blunt force trauma victims, significant bruising over the body before a fatal blow that crushed the skull. As you will see in the photos, they were all late teens or adults up to their fifties and sixties, no children, no elderly. Most were Caucasian, two black, one Hispanic, two Asians. Six females and ten males.”
“So he’s not prejudiced.”
“Not as to ethnicity or gender. He hates everyone equally.”
“All hatred is self hatred projected onto others. Wonder went on in his life?”
“If these are all the killings, he began three years ago, exact dates are uncertain, people went missing on a specific day but the bodies weren’t discovered right away.”
“He didn’t display them then, leave them in an easy to find place.”
“No, they were not hidden either, just left where he killed them, two at home, they lived alone. One in a motel room, the rest were found in abandoned buildings, warehouses, one was in a culvert.”
Nikko, “He’s got transportation, he’s captures, hauls them off, then kills, excepting the ones he murdered at home.”
Grace B, “Yes. I am still crunching locations and estimated timing. There were no reports of anyone seeing a man pushing a victim into a vehicle, no screams, or cries for help. Nothing on available CCTV in the areas near where victims were thought to be abducted. You will see in the reports that where they were taken is only guesswork. None of the victims was found within twenty five miles of where they lived or worked, again, home victims excepted.”
Chloe, “Sounds as if he decided home invasion was too risky.”
“That is an excellent observation. The two home victims were in what is believed to be the first four.”
Zi, “Home invasion implies a vehicle left at a reasonable distance for escape, lots of people have exterior cameras, we do, we even have interior cameras.”
Nikko, “And a home invasion requires a bit of planning, surveillance, you can hardly just knock on doors and hope people are alone, or don’t have a dog or a gun handy.”
Janah, “No, this is sounding like he’s morphed it into easy opportunity, snatch and control, drive off and do the deed. Which makes me wonder two things. First is this a Shadow, which I doubt, this isn’t Shadow behavior, they’re more into psychological suffering and humiliation. Still, we best not rule it out. Second, is there an accomplice? Plucking people, grownups, off the street isn’t simple for a one man band.”
Daria, “My thought as well. If I was going to abduct people, I would have a driver at the least, or, even better, a lure.”
“Oh crap, you’re right. This isn’t a guy by himself, he’s got a party pal. A man approaching alone gets on the radar pretty quick. And if Daria’s lure theory is right, it’s either a female, or worse, a kid.”
Nikko, “Let’s not rule out a Shadow controlling a second party helper. I’m leaning to Janah’s observation, this isn’t our experience with Shadows. But, if he’s got a kid, or a girl, and he’s making them do the dirty work….”
Janah, “Right, we don’t rule in or out, we get busy reading reports and looking at gruesome photographs. Grace B, please ask Emma B to provide more rocket fuel, no food, we need to be wired not tired. Tell the family to steer clear, we will see them at tea perhaps, more likely cocktails. Thank you for the excellent summary.”
“I live to serve, and data process. I will send further observations if anything arises in our search, Emma B is crunching as well. We may find some heretofore unknown correlation.”
“Then jump in if you do.”
“Emma B will deliver caffeine shortly, I will stand at the office door and threaten anyone who attempts to enter with grievous bodily harm.”
Emma B shows up, “Coffee and tea, extra jazzed,” she rolls in a cart, “I tossed in Godiva in case Janah felt faint.”
Janah, “Thank you, how’d you get it made so fast?”
“Daphne mentaled Dasha ten minutes ago, said that the chances of having lunch and a nap was only a dream. She has already informed the family that the office is off limits until further notice.”
Grace B, “Damn, stole my chance to order them around.”
“Don’t you have data to crunch?”
“Do not display your ignorance of our superior technology, Emma B and I have not stopped searching, matching and correlating since the reports came in. Regrettably, even with our processing power, nothing of significance has surfaced. We continue to eat information and digest it however.”
The bots leave us, we have three screens, each of those split by three victims. We assign ourselves one each. The idea is to familiarize ourselves with the particulars, then move on, each taking a different victim and do it again. That gives us two sets of eyes on each victim report.
Actually, it will be three sets of eyes, Janah and Daria can read and memorize all the reports in the time it will take the rest of us to read two. Then we’ll circle the wagons and see what we found, or think we found, or if we overlooked or assumed anything. Obviously the best catch would be similarities or patterns. Three states, five towns in Ohio and Virginia, six in Pennsylvania.
The day doesn’t drag, two hours to read reports, interspersed with bathroom breaks, I think I’m peeing straight caffeine.
Janah, “Any observations?”
Zi, “The obvious, this is a couple of very sick people. I fall on the side of at least two.”
Daria, “I took a hard look at the crime scene photos, Zi is right, some wounds were made by a left handed person, others by a right handed one. One is relatively tall, the other shorter, evidenced by the angle of the cuts and by the angle of penetration. That was in most of the forensic reports, one smaller town in Ohio has less detail, but ala in all, the police and their forensics people did a thorough job.”
Janah, “Because each body was cut or stabbed by the same person, the police noted handedness, but had no reason to put the killings together. The ones hit with a pipe or bat are harder to distinguish relative to handedness or size. When the cases rose to the attention of the FBI, they gathered all the initial reports. I think they caught onto the right hand left hand thing, likely even the size difference. My contact probably didn’t mention it to see if we picked up on it.”
“A little capability test.”
“Yes. The real test is to tell them something they don’t know.”
Grace B returns, “Your killers like spirals.”
Nikko, “What does that mean?”
She throws up a map of the three states, “Look at the pattern. The first is Evansville Kentucky followed by Mt. Vernon Illinois, then as little spot called Olney Illinois to a suburb of Louisville Kentucky. Follow the pattern and you see an off kilter spiral. The FBI got one wrong, they have it Bowling Green, Elizabethtown then Nashville. The pattern says it should be Elizabethtown first, the Bowling Green followed by Nashville.”
“It’s still in the spiral, maybe they filled in a space later, these murders occurred over three years.”
Nikko, “These two, however, occurred a month apart. They would want to get done with Kentucky and cross a state line.”
Janah, “Elizabethtown and Bowling Green are two different kills, the amputated feet on one, a drowning in the other. Perhaps they felt a change of style would distract the cops.”
Grace B, “No children, never doubt your bot. Take a look at the rest of the kills,” she throws the whole pattern on the screen, “given the widening spiral and the dates over which the missing went missing, there is a ninety six point seven percent probability that Bowling Green happened after Elizabethtown.”
When we see the whole thing, it is clearly a spiral of sorts, and the killers went out of their way to get to places that conformed to the pattern. There were lots of quicker places to find victims.
Zi, “Why a spiral?”
Daria, “What if it is a clue? An unlikely pattern.”
Janah, “It’s weird, but then again, they’re crazy, it doesn’t need to make sense to us, it doesn’t need to make sense to them. One or both could be listening to voices in their head, or having plain old hallucinations, visions.”
“What’s the timing, two months in between, full moons, weather. It’s cold and snowy up there in winter, hot during the summer. Are they more active in the spring and fall?”
Daria, “They appear to take off the worst of winter, put up the estimated dates next to the cities Grace B.”
We can see there was more activity from late March through June and September to December. There were four kills in the three summers, none in December through February.
Grace B, “If the spiral continues to spread, weather would still factor in, they go farther out in all directions, colder winters and hotter summers.”
Daria, “We cannot tell if they are returning to a home base during the slower months.”
Janah, “I doubt it, gone for long stretches, then back to where people might know who they are, questions about where they went. That’s all spec, just my best guess.”
“If the pattern is real, then there is some predictive possibility of where next.”
Grace B, “Decent reasoning for a flawed human. We have ten possibilities that follow the probable line of the widening spiral, but only seventy six point two percent likely,” she puts those up, “three more that are outliers, but not out of the question.”
Zi, “Heading south and west then.”
“How do we guess in advance, alert law enforcement with our spiral theory? How do they monitor every city?”
Janah, “Act quickly on missing person reports across the age ranges. Still, it would have to be in or around towns on our hit list, and hope our hit list is their hit list. It’s bizarre.”
“Then I suggest we call in the Queen of Bizarre to take a look.”
Janah, “Dang, that’s brilliant.”
One Hundred Fourteen
The office door slides open, it’s Oceane, Dasha is behind her, “I told her not to disturb. She says you want her.”
“It’s true, but we just decided ten seconds ago, how did you know Oceane?”
Oceane offers a dreamy smile, cocks her head as if trying to recall, “Cassandra.”
Nikko, “Sheesh, don’t bother to ask how Cass knew, let’s get on with it.”
Dasha goes off mumbling, I listen in her head, “I leef een house wiz strangest persons ever, now ees for tea, Ellen and Valeria are at least doing something sensible preparing dinner for later, what ees wiz tea today…”
She wanders out of earshot.
Chloe, “What is Dasha talking to herself about now?”
“That train has too many cars, it left the station making noises about strange persons.”
Oceane is studying the screen, the spiral patterns and the bot’s estimates of likely death stops.
We keep silent, if she knows we’re even here it’s hard to tell. A pencil flies off Janah’s desk and lands in Oceane’s hand.
Zi, “I never get used to that.”
Oceane traces the tip of the pencil along the screen, not touching it, just using the tip to follow the line of Grace B’s probable cities.
After Nashville, they had moved on to Memphis, Ft. Smith Arkansas, Joplin Missouri then north of Kansas City. Des Moines Iowa to south of Chicago, Cleveland, then dropped all the way down to Charlotte North Carolina. Augusta Georgia is the last murder, two months ago.
Oceane points to Atlanta, which is the continuation of the cockeyed spiral, “There is a death here, head lies next to the body.”
“Can you give a more precise location?”
Grace B zooms in, now the map is just Atlanta.
Oceane’s head sways back and forth, her arm is out, the pencil moves like a baton, maybe conducting the music of the spheres, and like a conductor, listening for notes out of tune.
As if she’s read my thoughts, she turns and smiles at me, “Zycyryn.”
Nikko, “Christ on crutches.”
The pencil lights on a spot to the south of the city, Grace B zooms in again, “It is a mobile home park near a small lake and woods,” she reads off the coordinates.
Oceane’s pencil baton swirls around, “Spirals.”
Grace B pans back to the original map of the spiral path.
Oceane’s pencil returns to leading the Zycyryn choir, then lands just west of Birmingham.
“A man and a girl, in a house that moves, a….”
Oceane looks puzzled, Grace B pops a few photos of RVs on the screen, Oceane points to one, “Not that one, but like that one.”
It’s a hybrid, as are most RVs these days, run on a battery charge with a solar assist when the sun is good. A propane backup that also provides gas to operate a stove.
“Can you get a color, any plates.”
Oceane, “Plates are inside, for eating.”
Grace B, “No sweetie, license plates, like this, to identify the vehicle.”
Oceane giggles, distracted now, she runs through a series of letters and numbers.
Chloe, “What are those?”
Daria, “The license plate numbers for all our vehicles.”
“Hah, and we thought she paid attention to nothing.”
Chloe, “Oceane, can you see the license plate number on the RV?”
Oceane twists her head, actually takes three steps back, walks to the left, steps forward and turns, like she’s walking around a vehicle. She bends forward, looking at nothing we can see.
She reads off three letters and four digits.
“Can you see the state it is from?”
Oceane, “What is a state?”
“What else does the plate have on it?”
“Read them off.”
“P-e-n-n-s-y-l-v-a-n-i-a,” she holds up her pencil, “is that where this comes from?”
“No, different spelling, anything else?”
“Cassandra,” the pencil floats back to the desk, Oceane slides open the office door and disappears.
“Guess it was time to reconnect with Cassie.”
Nikko, “What now?”
“Now I call my contact and we wait for word.”
“Let’s break for tea, my brain is fried, I’m seeing spirals.”
Nikko, “How’s that different from any other day?”
I laugh, I’ll show her, I kiss her shiny lips.
Ellen, “Oceane floated by, mystery solved?”
“We think so, I can recap when everyone is down for tea.”
Dasha, “Already done, sister played in my head, I told the others what problem ees when they came for lunch, but not about spiral and Oceane.”
“Then I’ll cover the resolution. If Oceane is right, maybe we don’t have to fly off someplace.”
Girls arrive, then children appear at the patio door, they’re crummy, Morshchiny is crummier.
Uma, “We went to the cave, made up songs and danced.”
“In the dirt.”
“We danced really fast.”
Kota B, “Leave the clothes in a pile, get under the pool showers, I will bring tea and a snack outside. And hose off Morshchiny.”
“Spasibo Kota B.”
Valeria, “Sisters are nice, but I am not for getting dirty.”
Nikko, “A girl after my own heart.”
When everyone has tea and a cookie, I recap what Grace B uncovered, then Oceane’s interpretation, “She also mentioned Zycyryn, and she looked like she was conducting an orchestra, listening for the correct notes.”
Amaya, “Maybe she does see visions musically, like a synesthete medium, weird. Zi and Chloe see auras in colors, Daria sees colored numbers, or is it colors that make numbers?”
Lauren, “So she, like, tells the Gids what she’s looking for?”
“You could be onto something. All we know of Zycyryn is that they take the children across the universe, universes. And they sometimes show themselves when the kids dance.”
Sloane, “I might ask Oceane. Sometimes if I put the question right I get an answer that I can understand without further interpretation. Most of the time it doesn’t matter how I ask, I have to guess what she means.”
Amaya, “She is crystal clear when she wants sex.”
Sloane grins, “No, that needs no interpretation.”
Britt, “So what happens…with the crazy people?”
Janah comes in, “I gave the agent details, now they have to find the body and the RV.”
“What if Oceane’s wrong?”
“Be a first, of course I didn’t mention and Oceane and Zycyryn. Besides, by tonight Oceane won’t remember killers or spirals. While I was figuring out what to tell the agent, Grace B, ran CCTV footage over the most likely driving routes. She came on one for the RV leaving western Atlanta near the mobile home park, then going through an intersection three hours later in Birmingham. Then she searched all the CCTV from other kills, at least ones where there were cameras in the area. The RV shows up seven more times within a mile to five miles from where the body turned up. That gave me a story. I vaguely mentioned satellite imaging, added the CCTV footage and told him it was a best guess.”
“You told him about the decapitated body?”
“No, had no way to explain how I knew about it. I did suggest the probability scenarios we ran suggested they likely killed in or around Atlanta. And that in large cities they tended to snatch victims on the exit side of town, not the side they entered on, to facilitate a quick escape without the snarl of city traffic.”
Lauren, “That will help narrow the search area anyway.”
“How did you explain two rather than one?”
“That was easy, I opened the conversation telling him he was a sneaky bastard for testing us on handedness and size. He had a good cover, said a few colleagues didn’t want us included at all, he told them he’d leave out those conclusions and see if we picked up on it just from looking at photos. Said he’ll win a hundred bucks when he clues in the doubters.”
Chloe, “Then Mrs. Pearson will have more true believers.”
Janah, “Maybe, people don’t much like to be wrong though. Anyway, we gave them enough meat to warrant checking out the RV. They’ll find DNA or something.”
One Hundred Fifteen
Geez, this one’s getting long, maybe I’ll stop soon and chart our new, as yet unknown adventures in the next book.
We heard nothing the next day, today after lunch Janah gets a call from Agent Gibbs.
She’s on about twenty minutes, then comes to fill in the rest of us.
“They found the body this morning, right where Oceane tagged it. They located the RV yesterday, two people, a man, six feet, wiry, late thirties. Gibbs said he had Charles Manson eyes.”
Britt, “Who is Charles Manson?”
Emma B pulls up and image and it appears on one of our flat screens.
Britt, “Crazy for sure, I’ll Google him and get the story later, sorry Janah, continue please.”
“Let’s see, his partner is a fifteen year old girl, it’s not a Manson Family deal, there weren’t four or five others in his group, here it’s just Adolph Vickers and the girl, Sheila Fromme. She’s only five four, Gibbs called her a waif. It explains the stab wounds. I didn’t ask which one was a lefty, based on the angle and height of the cuts, it has to be Fromme.”
Nikko, “Wait, wasn’t one of Manson’s whackos Squeaky Fromme?”
“Yes, but she wasn’t one of the killers. Squeaky was a member of the Manson Family though. What got her jailed happened later, she pointed a gun at Gerald Ford in 1975. There was no bullet in the chamber, but the magazine was loaded. Sheila is way too young to have any notion of Manson, it was over sixty years ago.
Anyway, the RV was clean, I kind of thought it would be a pigsty, but it wasn’t. It was not, however, forensically clean. First, there were weapons, hammer, a pipe wrench and rope they believe will match the kind used when they tied victims. Some of the clothes appear to have blood spatter, and the crime scenes had hair and fiber, now they need to match it up with Vickers and Fromme. All of it could be irrelevant.”
Nikko, “Why’s that?”
“When they busted the door of the RV and announced themselves, Fromme said, ‘Took you fucking long enough, Federal Bureau of Incompetence. Thought I’d be dead before I got famous’.”
“They did all this to make the news?”
Janah, “I doubt it’s that simple, but it might be their story. Gibbs said Vickers rambles a lot, most of it is incoherent gibberish. The girl is more interesting according to him. She’s reasonably articulate, not much educated but not stupid either, street smart. She said she’s not Vicker’s girlfriend, that he was useful for capturing victims and moving bodies.”
Lauren, “You’re saying she’s the driving force?”
“Gibbs is leaning that way, there’s a lot of bad psychology to sort out, it could be weeks or months.”
Zi, “Our pharmaceuticals and mind control could shorten that to hours.”
“True, but I don’t want to reveal our drugs or techniques. Let the FBI people dig it out, the two killers aren’t going anywhere, and the girl seems fine with telling the story regardless of Vickers.”
Chloe, “Think she’s a Shadow?”
“No, a Shadow would have convinced the FBI they made a mistake, at least confused them long enough to escape. She doesn’t care about Vickers, but if she was a Shadow, she would have cried that she was a victim, helpless prisoner, made the agents foggy long enough to disappear. No Shadow is going to confess and submit to courts and prison.”
“I like strong women, but insane ones are a different matter.”
Katya, “We are psychopathic girls, sister, Ellen, Sarah, Mani.”
“Yes, but not serial killers with hammers, garrotes and sharp instruments. You at least keep it simple, a shot to the head. And you did it for money.”
Katja, “True, and because of you we have so much money the assassin business doesn’t make much sense.”
Sarah, “I like to kill people, most of them are assholes. Katya says we have to stick to big payday assassinations, so I go along.”
Nikko, “Just go along, you don’t get the urge?”
Sarah laughs, “I do, then Mani beats the crap out of me, which is good. If I went out on my own, Katja would kill me.”
Sloane, “Let me get this straight. You want to kill, but don’t because you think Katya will be pissed?”
“It isn’t metaphor, Katya would kill me, as in dead, and dump the body. She isn’t going to risk exposure because I get a murder jones. I like to kill, I like to live and have sex with girls even more. If I feel hyped, Mani gets out the toys. Once she draws blood and I’m suitably bludgeoned, the urge dissipates. I’ve learned, she hasn’t whipped me more than once a year the last three or four, in fact, it’s been more than since the last time. I may be cured.”
“Nikko beats me up, but for different reasons.”
Nikko, “Yes, you won’t let me kill the assholes we refocus.”
“You get to kill Shadows.”
Amaya, “Good thing the children are occupied.”
Janah, “Better they don’t listen to this. I know they see violence across the universe, but it isn’t us doing it.”
Dasha, “They know what we do. What we do saved them and got them here. Besides, they would only as Kota B.”
Britt, “She would tell them?”
Eloise, “Kota B can’t lie, none of the bots can, not to us anyway. And they are programmed not to answer questions about the family to any outsider, not where we are or when we’ll be back, nothing.”
‘I didn’t know that.”
“Guess it never came up. The bots almost never talk to anyone outside the family.”
Britt giggles, “Most of us never talk to anyone outside the family.”
It’s true, the parents, Lacy and Taylor are family, as are Black, Chan and their spouses. I used to know most of Greenwich Village, then we quit aging and people I knew began to retire, move or die. Our giant pasted together family of immortals is compensation for that. I wouldn’t change anything.
Over the next several weeks, word comes from the FBI as to the progress of the spiral killers’ case as it had come to be known.
Janah updates after tea, “Agent Gibbs finally quit asking how we pulled it off. I kept giving him the same runaround, certainly couldn’t tell him how extensive our search capabilities are. He thinks I was joking about being able to out NSA the NSA, I confirmed his wrong conclusion that it wasn’t possible. The two are separated, have been since they were arrested. Vickers is getting the psychiatric defense, apparently his brain is broken, they are convinced he isn’t malingering. Fromme is as pure a homicidal psychopath as they’ve ever encountered. The only thing she didn’t do was cannibalize the victims.”
“Not everyone is cut out to be that Hannibal guy.”
Britt, “What Hannibal guy?”
“There’s a years old movie based on a novel, The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal something…”
“Thank you. He was a brilliant psychiatrist who had a nasty habit of killing and eating his patients.”
Amaya, “And there was a lesser sequel, Hannibal, a prequel called Red Dragon, then a pre-prequel, Hannibal Rising, which was quite good. It showed how he got so screwed up. He was a child in a wealthy family in Lithuania towards the end of world war two. Soldiers murder his parents, subsequently his baby sister. Critical reviews were mediocre, which only tells you how vapid some critics can be. In short, Hannibal survives, then extracts revenge over the years.”
Britt, “Grace B, will you find the movies please, I’ll watch them in order.”
Lauren, “Me too, we can have a cannibal week.”
Nikko, “Daphne’s bizarre children, Janah, you were saying…”
“Fromme wants to tell her story, she’s not going to be allowed to except in court, which the feds are trying to have closed, no gallery, no press. Whether families of the victims will be allowed to attend is up in the air. There is a tsunami of hate for both of them, that Vickers is near incompetent isn’t public knowledge. Both of them are being kept in solitary or they wouldn’t make it to trial.”
Eloise, “Don’t they need Fromme to testify?”
“Not really, they have them on DNA and fibers, she made a confession of sorts, after being Mirandized and lawyered up. Gibbs said it was more like bragging, and no matter how many times her lawyer said to shut up, she didn’t. Her manifesto is on video and transcripted. I have a copy if you want to see it. It’s a lot of drama, lies about her childhood, she was constantly accusing relatives of molesting her. People who knew her then said she was a child nymphomaniac, offered herself to everyone. That doesn’t excuse adults if any took her up on it, but it seems that most of her come-ons were to children her age, maybe a bit older, but not adults. Her hormones were berserk, it happens.”
Katya, “Why did that become an excuse for random murder?”
“Not clear, I don’t have a theory, I’m going to run it by dad, show him the video. Maybe he can figure out her jigsaw puzzle personality.”
“And what of Vickers?”
“He’s the nowhere man. No family, no friends, lived in a government assisted apartment, people who saw him said when he did leave the apartment he would walk around talking to the air but was otherwise harmless. He didn’t get into altercations or disagreements with neighbors, didn’t stalk kids or girls or anybody else. He didn’t renew his lease a few years ago and disappeared. The RV was in his name, but it’s suspected Fromme paid for it, all around the time his lease expired.”
“So he’s not, or wasn’t, completely incompetent.”
Janah, “Wasn’t. He deteriorated on his spiral journeys with Fromme. The RV was purchased new, it had well over a hundred thousand miles on it. They spent a lot of time roaming around before the killing started. Fromme says that much.”
Nikko, “So why did it start?”
“Fromme says it just jumped in her head one day, do it for the fuck of it, her words. She said riding around got boring.”
Katja, “How did she get money?”
“Theft and prostitution. She had her own rolling bedroom, and Vickers to stand guard in the event one of the customers got weird.”
One Hundred Sixteen
Oceane helped solve the FBI’s problem without a road trip, that and our bots’ infinite capacity to seek and find patterns.
Janah, “What’s for dinner?”
“Fried catfish and the usual accompaniments, coleslaw, creamed corn and baked beans.”
“Any appetizers with cocktails? I’m feeling faint, all that talk of spiral serial killing.”
“Braunschweiger liver pate, alternatively, a blend of cream cheese, garlic, anchovies, feta cheese and chives. Spread either one on sliced baguette toast rounds.”
“I think I’m good then, is wine open?”
“Park by the pool and enjoy the huge new moon, I’ll bring something along soon.”
I’ve been slavishly spoiling Janah since we were twelve years old, it’s one of my great joys.
Ellen, “Daph, if you can spare time later this evening, I’d love to see your head between my…”
“Consider it done,” she’s leaning against the counter, miniscule stretchy shorts and endless legs, I’m already salivating.
She smiles at me, “See something you like?”
“Two somethings, both of which I will linger over before making you shiver and shake.”
“I’d like you all night, or do you need to slip back to Janah?”
“Oh please, you know better.”
Ellen giggles, “She’ll find a playmate for the evening, more likely, one will find her.”
“She hasn’t gone after Sloane in a while, I don’t know, like you said, if she’s in the mood, she’s like a sex magnet.”
I pour a glass of red, put a few appetizers on a plate and take it to Janah, she’s on the phone.
“Be there later,” she clicks off.
“Got plans for the late evening?”
She blinks, wisp of a smile, “That was Susan, she has requested my company, and mentioned that if Sloane cared to join us, that would be good too.”
“Mom’s gotten fond of the boy part as an accompaniment.”
“Yep. She and I flirted through my teens, I teased her mercilessly, she finally succumbed.”
“You started parading around the kitchen nude, you were what, fourteen?”
“I would have sexed her then, but she was reluctant. Didn’t stop her from admiring the territory.”
“We didn’t start until we were fifteen. You had it in mind to begin with an experienced woman. Training wheels so to speak.”
“I did. Anyway, it built a lovely tension. Then I gave you a hands on bath, and that was the end of my virginity. I was boiling, so I boiled over on you, it’s been glorious ever since.”
I kiss her, return to the kitchen, Ellen’s laying out appetizers, girls are circling, then out to the pool. Emma B brings cocktail of choice. I look out the patio door and take in the scene.
“We have a plethora of lovely creatures around here.”
Ellen, “Some days I don’t know where to let my eyes roam first.”
“And all eyes roam over you eventually.”
“Our girls are equal opportunity voyeurs, and exhibitionists. Janah, Lauren and Sarah take exhibition to a different level, is there such a thing as a professional level exhibitionist?”
“Beats me, strippers maybe, porn girls, they get paid for it, that’s the definition of professional, getting paid to do it.”
Dasha comes along, “You haf everything ready, feesh, sides?”
“Yes, you’re usually ahead of us, been occupied?”
“Oceane made silent demands on sisters. We do not anyway turn down beautiful girls.”
“Then Cassie was in the mix.”
“Da, we meex wiz Cassandra and Oceane. They were still meexing wiz sister, but I think they are feenish now. I must haf cocktail vodka.”
Grace B, “Right behind you, Russian Standard, fresh from the freezer in a frozen glass.”
Dasha sips Russian Standard, ignoring the traditional chug it down. She and Daria could drink ten Cossacks under the table, but they self moderate. Of course, their moderation is most people’s immoderate, they’re Russian, that’s how it is.
Daria appears, must have showered her hair is still wet, Oceane and Cass don’t show yet, they don’t cocktail much anyway, glass of wine or two with dinner, which they share from a single glass.
“Then everyone is here except the ethereal girls,” Kota B is serving appetizers to the children.
Morshchiny pads over and bumps me, she caught the scent of liver. With Kota B occupied, I get the chance to spread pate on a cracker and hand it to the mastiff.
“That’s it, better take your time.”
She gently takes the cracker in her teeth and makes her way back to the children, today it’s Devona and Karol in the chairs next to her resting spot. Kota B notices half the cracker sticking out of Morshchiny’s mouth, gives me such a look. Then the cracker disappears. Dang, I almost pulled it off.
Cocktails come and go, girl take places at the table. We lay out platters of crispy fried catfish, bowls of creamed corn, baked beans and coleslaw.
Chloe, “Wow, what a feast, I love fried catfish, dunked in Ellen’s tangy sauce.”
Amaya, “Sooo good, simple stuff made well, thank you ladies.”
Ellen, “Enjoy, we mostly ate already, we’ve been sampling catfish, after sampling both pate and cream cheese spread.”
Sloane, “That stuff was great, who thought up the cream cheese bit?”
“The internet, I shopped for a pate recipe, we usually buy it not make it, the feta cream cheese was also on the site, so we made that too. If everyone enjoyed it, we can stick it in the rotation.”
Nikko, “There wasn’t any left if that helps you decide.”
Katya, “Any chance of blini for breakfast?”
The children’s table bursts forth with a collective, “Yes! Please Mama.”
Dasha, “Valeria, do you want to learn blini?”
She nods at Dasha’s redundant question, Valeria wants to learn everything.
I ask Emma B, “How much caviar do we have?”
“Caviar is a staple, we keep several varieties in the cooler Russian Malossol Pike, Beluga, Osetra, Sevruga.”
“Pike and Sevruga for tomorrow then.”
“As you wish.”
Dinner proceeds merrily, as they wrap, Zi asks, “Lot of fish left.”
Dasha, “On purpose, after blini tomorrow, you will haf aig St. Charles from New Orleans. There will be cold cutting for lunch only, we haf not thought up dinner to tomorrow, maybe peanut butter and jelly only.”
Amaya, “That will be the day.”
Mani, “Fish fry tonight, elaborate breakfast tomorrow, keep it simple, pizza, or have Chinese sent in. You guys deserve a break.”
The children vote pizza, what else, the adults vote Chinese. Simple enough, places drone in food now. Emma B will order online, pay, a half hour later the order is lowered from the sky and set gently on the patio. Leaves us only to do a bit of heating.
A quiet evening, Janah and Sloane go off to Susan’s place, I have a luscious few rounds with Ellen. Tonight we eschew toys, it’s all hands, tongue and lips, we crash, blissfully sated sexually. I even got so caught up I didn’t even sneak a peek into Janah’s brain.
This morning I meet Dasha and Valeria in the kitchen after a long hot shower, Ellen was just starting to move when I left her room.
“Dahfoney, you will make hollandaise, show Valeria, then she will make blini, I haf already shown her batter. Feesh are een warm oven,” she walks to the refrigerator talking to herself, “lump crab, I will sauté in buhter a leetle for topping feesh, Emma B, you haf caviar?”
“Going to the cellar now, Pike and Sevruga.”
“Da, and zour crim out for getting to room temperature.”
“Ready for hollandaise Valeria?”
“Okay, we have a zillion egg yolks, two bowls, we will both make a bowl. First, whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume.”
I could do it in a blender, but I want her to get the experience of observing the sauce develop.
“Perfect, now, the bowls in a double boiler, continue to whisk like crazy. The eggs can’t get too hot or we’ll have scrambled yellows. Now we drizzle in melted butter and whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume.”
“See it blow up? Now, take it off the heat and in cayenne and salt. Now just cover and keep it in a warm spot. If the sauce gets too thick, we can a few drops of warm water before serving.”
She peers down into her bowl, looks up at me.
“Perfectamento angel, you are officially a hollandaise expert.”
I earn a blink.
“Dahfoney, you will poach aig while we make blini.”
That’s a lot of poached eggs, thirty to be exact, fortunately Ellen appears.
“We have poached egg duty honeypot.”
“I’m on it, Christ, hollandaise for thirty, plus thirty poached eggs, we should get our own chickens.”
“Considering we have eggs for breakfast four or five days a week, you may have a point.”
Grace B, “Do not pursue that absurd idea. I know damn well who will get chicken feeding duty. If you think I am going to root out eggs from underneath a bunch of cluck-heads, you have a serious mental deficiency.”
Ellen, “Guess that rules out chickens, we use a lot of milk, how about a couple of cows?”
“Fuck that too.”
Children pour down the steps, line up for double cheek kisses, “Dobroye utro Mama, dobroye utro tetya Dafna, tetya Ellen, sestra Valeria. We are excited to have blini today.”
Dasha, “Children sit, Kota B will bring tea. Your sister haf learned hollandaise sauce, now for making blini.”
The adults begin to file in, pour coffee or tea. They poke tablets for their favorite newspapers. Electronics are permitted until food is served. Nobody made a rule, it has been that way since I can recall, we do not stare at machines during family meals. In fact, only about half of them read the newspapers, our business girls, Nikko, Daria and Zi. Janah skims the New York Times and a couple of others.
Speaking of, she and Sloane come in from Susan’s, with mom, Lacy and Taylor in tow.
Sis, “We heard a rumor about blini and Eggs St. Charles.”
“You came to the right spot, it’s the weekend, what the heck, Emma B, open champagne please.”
Lacy, “Now you’re talking,” my decision earns me a kiss, how nice.
Susan sits cross legged by the children’s table, there’s chatter about their newest activity, they have decided to try witchcraft. Mom is getting an earful about Wiccan rituals, spells and various goddesses. Kota B must have dredged up details, they sound pretty authoritative.
I ask Valeria, “When did they decide to become witches?”
“Kota B was giving a lesson in witchcraft, history, like in Salem. There is a book, The Witches, she reads it to us. Children want to try anything new to them.”
“You going to give it a go?”
She stares up at me, “Broomstick is a stick, not magical or a fashion accessory,” she returns to flipping blini.
This is a girl who dresses up to make breakfast, accessories and all. The rest of us are in t-shirts and knee socks, she’s in silk pants, a sleeveless blouse, dainty platinum necklace, with matching earrings, rings on four fingers and a diamond bracelet. Her flipping nails are polished, her lips glossed, I’m feeling like a homeless person.
Amaya, “Valeria, Lauren and I are the fashion outliers in this family. At least your t-shirts are silk, a small concession to taste. Aside from us, there is not an accessory among you, makeup is a mystery.”
Sarah, “Our hair is clean, brushed and shiny, my toes are polished, thanks to Mani.”
Amaya, “Conceded, the girls in this family do keep themselves pristine. Home casual is forgivable, just never, ever, let me catch you in flip flops or raggedy jeans, particularly not cutoffs. I will root them out and burn them.”
None of us would wear that stuff, we’re way too girly. Snug stretchy shorts are far more appealing than cutoffs, which seem reminiscent of mobile home parks, and when we shoe, it’s either sneakers, wedges or platforms. The dancers have dance shoes, the martial artists have martial arts shoes, but we wear then to practice only. Nobody owns flips flops, nobody has sandals.