One Hundred Seventeen

After a day of swimming, two hours of martial arts battle and kendo, a light lunch and naptime, I start stirring around three. Down to the kitchen, I think a cup of coffee sounds right. I dozed, didn’t fall dead away, my gut is sore from Nikko and Dasha’s freewheeling punishment, I had a cut lip but Janah worked qi magic and it’s gone, not my lip, the cut.
Nikko is there, “Just made coffee.”
“Perfect, you feeling okay?”
“Ribs took a pounding, Dasha is insanely strong. Kendo went well I think, the children are progressing.”
“They’re so cute in their uniforms, they sure can screech.”
“Tell me about it, my ears rattle, but they’re supposed to yell, so they yell.”
Sloane comes in, “Coffee, yay, Sarah ran Cassie and I around the hills.”
“Anybody seen Zi?”
Sloane, “She went with Danika and Su to the cave, must be doing mystical Shaolin stuff.”
 “I have calls to make, it’s an hour before tea, I can wrap them up by then,” Janah goes off to schmooze our Society contacts.
There’s lots more surveillance now, people have adjusted to cameras everywhere, including in the sky. As annoying as it may be, becoming a public career criminal is more difficult. Assault on the streets, shoplifting, car theft, all down significantly, cars self track, and it’s almost impossible to get one started without the right identification, voiceprint, iris ID, fingerprint, even an alcohol breath test, individualized to the driver. Drug dealing is hardly even a boutique industry, citizens have access to a number of cheap pharmaceuticals, everything from chill pills to hallucinogens. Most of those crimes were never Society work anyway, virtual reality has reduced outright child sexual abuse, pedophiles can have the experience without raping a real kid. There is still too much of the real thing around though, as is domestic abuse, people still stalk, rape and murder.
Since regular employment is unnecessary, people entertain themselves with virtual reality, some do crafts, paint, sculpt. It’s more for personal entertainment, very little original art is sold anymore. You can get exact replicas of old masters or new art hologrammed right on your wall, or just hanging in the air. Half the world has Starry Night, the Scream and Mona Lisa stuck on their living room wall. Nobody trots to museums to view the originals. It’s nice, you can change the art with a few clicks.
The child wave comes rolling down the steps, Morshchiny comes to the kitchen, nose in the air.
I pat a head half again bigger than a basketball, “Nothing yet sweetie, we haven’t started dinner,” the massive mastiff huffs and goes to her spot behind the children.
Kota B serves tea and cakes, today petit fours, white cake with either vanilla or chocolate frosting.
Janah appears, “We also have a Society project, I’ll cover it after tea.”
Valeska, “Nishiko said we are Sandan now.”
Sloane, “Wow, 3rd dan, excellent.”
Nikko, “We bent the rules, since the children don’t age, we can’t wait until they are fourteen, they will never be fourteen biologically. They are in years on Earth, so that’s what we count. They passed the written easily as well.”
Tasia, “Kota B drilled us on it.”
Valeria, “Tomorrow we will have an all Japanese breakfast, Miso, Okayu, (rice porridge) with Umeboshi (pickled plum), Tamagoyaki (thin layers of egg rolled to create a thick fluffy omelet, then sliced into pieces) and Yakizakana (grilled fish).”
“When did you learn to make all that?”
“I didn’t yet, Dasha got all the ingredients delivered today.”
The children line up and give Valeria double cheek kisses, they love their stoic sister, who has grown into a Dasha clone without the accent.
We decided on burgers for dinner, Ellen and Dasha do homemade fries, fat slices of potato, skin on, fried crispy outside, fluffy in. Instead of a veg dish, we count the sliced tomato, onion, lettuce and pickle, some girls want cheese, we offer a choice of American slice, bleu or shredded cheddar and jalapeno.
Valeria and I are outside laying burgers on the grill, she’s done them before and knows how many need to be rare, medium, a bit more cooked for the children. I have buns lined up on the warming grill, we like the buns toasty.
I make a rare burger for Morshchiny, let it cool, slip it to her while Valeria flips burgers at the appropriate stage of done. We take three platters of beefy wonder inside.
“First platter rare, second medium, the children’s platter is third.”
Dasha, “Children sit, Kota B will bring burgher you haf already extras on your table. Dahfoney haf  already sneak Morshchiny one, do not anymore feed her.”
“Da, Mama.”
Emma B pours wine, a few girls have Sapporo in frosty glasses, we dig in.
Chloe, “Ellen, Dasha, these are the totally best fries, crunchy and light at the same time.”
Ellen, “Twice fried, the second fry makes them pop up, a secret from Antoine’s in New Orleans. We do ours a bit differently, theirs are almost all shell, ours are more like fat French fries, skins on give the extra crunch.”
Oceane gives Cassie a bite of fry, takes the other half for herself, they share a burger. Sloane will eat hers and the one Oceane and Cassie don’t eat. Sloane is essentially a human food processor.
Sarah, “Sloaney and I ran the grounds, then dirt biked with Cassie. She is a maniac on wheels.”
Cass has one speed, flat out. It’s the same with the karts. They’ll do sixty, but our track is both circular and Formula One, the interior is more turns, even one ninety degree. Cassie doesn’t brake, she does sixty on the straights, sixty in the curves. On the sharp turns she spins out every time, she thinks it’s hilarious. The karts are so low to the ground, they are near impossible to flip, and they have roll bars anyway. She spins around when she fails to make the turn, dust flies up, when the kart comes to a stop, she mashes the accelerator and zips back onto the track.
Uma, “Gids are taking us tonight Mama.”
“Where?”
“We never know,” they head up the stairs followed by Kota B and Morshchiny.
Britt, “Do they contact the Zycyryn or the other way around?”
“The children say they are always around, even around right now, here in the house, outside and every place else.”
Just then, a blast of sparking lights appears over the pool and disappears towards the children’s dorm.
“Guess that answers that.”
Amaya, “That was amazing, and I don’t easily amaze.”
Lauren, “Too occupied being amazed by yourself to be amazed by others.”
Amaya is primping in her cosmetic mirror, “I hear a scratchy annoying noise, Daphne, is there static on the sound system?”
Eloise, “The audio is in perfect order, you must be hearing those voices in your head Janah talked about.”
Amaya ignores her, she swipes lip gloss over her lusciousness, “There, shiny and sexy,” peering into her magic mirror.
Sloane, “What’s the movie?”
Amaya, “I have selected a new one, with those twin boys who are so pretty they could be Sloane.”
“One is transgender?”
“Yes, and she is transgender, she is not just faking it for the film.”
“Is it a teen movie? Like the angst of gender identity? I thought that business was over.”
“It is over, at least in most civilized places around the world. That includes the east and west coasts of America, the fly-overs are still ambivalent, but at least less hostile. Hundreds of pervs did not dress up like girls to get into the women’s restroom, despite the howls of the gender stupid. In the movie, these twins do adult private investigation even though they are thirteen. They even swap identities to keep the investigated off  balance. I have not seen it, but I know the director and she is no idiot. She would not take on a sloppy script.”
“What’s the title of the movie?”
“My Brother My Sister.”
“Cool.”
We settle into watch, the movie shows on four screens, including the kitchen where Valeria, Dasha and I are making hot fudge sundaes, sprinkle slivered almonds on top, no whip. Grace B and Emma B deliver the treats while the twin protagonists listen to a girl they know from school ask them to investigate her mother’s erratic behavior.
The plot is fast paced and interesting, the twins have three investigations going at once, and the director and screenwriters did a good job of making clear to the audience which job is being worked at any given point. There’s the additional benefit of not being drowned in characters of no consequence.
Amaya, “Fabulous, I could see how easy it would have been to get sloppy and confuse the audience as to what investigation was going on when. A little dialogue between the main characters avoided that, and, not a single gratuitous car chase or a multitude of bullets flying that never seem to hit anyone.”

One Hundred Eighteen

After a lovely evening, Eloise and Mani showed up for a foursome that got quite lively, then they went off to their respective bedrooms and Janah and I sank into blissful relaxed sleep. Now it’s Japanese breakfast morning, Valeria learned the mysteries of Miso and Tamagoyaki, Ellen and I grilled fish and made rice porridge.
Everyone eats with chopsticks and those porcelain soup spoons you get in oriental restaurants, except Morshchiny, who swallowed my grilled fish offering whole.
Numerous cups of green tea accompany.
Nikko, “Good job girls, most authentic, Valeria did a the egg roll omelet perfectly.”
Valeria, “Spasibo, Dasha shows me, I will make for breakfast more often. Maybe roll up something inside, cream cheese, smoked salmon, chopped onion or peppers.”
Chloe, “Yum, sounds delish, is there more Okayu and Umeboshi?”
Emma B delivers another bowl, “Anyone else?”
Sloane and Janah, “Yes please.”
“Didn’t realize that would be so popular, it’s easy to make, we can throw that into the breakfast mix from time to time.”
Zofia says out of the blue, “Today we are becoming witches.”
I look at Kota B, “What’s that about?”
“We have been studying the Salem witch trials, that led to a general study of witchcraft. Female shamen, sorceresses, Druids, Maleficarum, and the power of Ashé, which is the witchcraft version of Qi.”
Lauren, “What’s a Malefi…how do you say it?”
“Maleficarum, then Latin ecclesiastical word for witches, specifically females.”
Devona, “We will be a coven.”
“Sounds interesting, by the way, you went off with the Zycyryn, where did you wind up?”
Nadia, “Didn’t travel. They knew we were studying witchcraft, and the occult, they know all about it. They are going to observe, maybe help us learn.”
“You talked to them?”
“More of an understanding, not with words, they don’t speak any language.”
“If you don’t talk to them, how do you know they have heard of witchcraft, or the occult?”
“They have seen everything, everywhere. When we intend to communicate, we think our thoughts, the Gids reply by their light, many shades. It is talking with colors and light. Shades mean different things, the intensity of the light means different things. Bright blue is one meaning, darker blue another, the same with all the colors. And they have thousands of colors, we are learning them, it takes forever.”
Uma giggles, “Good thing we have forever. Kota B can record it on video and replay it for us, that helps a lot.”
Janah, “How does she record colors we don’t see?”
Eloise, “The bots have an unlimited ability to record wavelengths.”
“When did you add that feature?”
“I didn’t, they did, the bots are autodidactic, they teach themselves. When Kota B saw the Gids communicating to the children with light and color, she programmed herself to read all the wavelengths of light, that ability automatically transfers to Grace B and Emma B.”
“How do the children see the shades the rest of us can’t? Daphne sees in infrared and ultraviolet, but the rest of us don’t.”
Kota B, “Gids adjusted the children’s vision like the owl and eagle adjusted yours.”
Nikko, “Amazing, what else have the bots figured out?”
Eloise, “No idea, their knowledge base is near infinite, it’s not like I can print out their capabilities. Digital computing has data encoded into bits, each of which is always in one of two definite states, zero or one. Quantum computation is analog and uses quantum bits, qubits, which can be in an infinite number of states. Simply put, it means they can do multiple tasks at the speed of light, faster even, since quantum physics allows for spooky action at a distance.”
Nikko, “Like when we mental.”
“Exactly. You can be in Daphne’s head instantly, even when you are in San Francisco and she is in Malibu or Arizona. That communication must be faster than the speed of light.”
Janah, “Tell Nikko we have a Society project to discuss, let’s go to the office.”
“Nikko, let’s go to the office.”
It’s not a big secret, we don’t want to distract from the children’s latest project, they are playfully bouncing around what ifs and maybes with the others, no point in disrupting their enthusiasm with our dirty work.
We sit in a circle, office door closed, which means do not disturb unless there’s a nuclear attack.
Janah, “Different slant to this one, which is why I want us to take it. It seems a woman can’t take no for an answer and is stalking three different females who made the initial mistake of taking her tough talk as a sign of her intense love, and as protective. The three women are introverted, even child like, despite being in their twenties. They all have service worker jobs, waitress, call center, store clerk.”
Nikko, “The kind of jobs where thinking independently is frowned on.”
“Yes, lots of people want a job that’s routine, somebody else is in charge, they show up, get told what to do, do it, go home. Other than tedium, there’s little stress, maybe for a waitress in a busy café, but it’s bursts of activity and slack periods in between.”
“Who’s the target?”
“Roberta Clinton, no relation to the woman who failed to get elected to anything.”
Nikko, “I wonder how she felt? She loses to a black man, which is understandable, he was a Constitutional scholar who went to Harvard. Then she loses to a fascist white guy who thinks women are for his amusement. We don’t care about elections, it still seems bizarre.”
“I recall thinking she never seemed to have a calling, a mission, other than she just wanted to be President. I was never clear, the little attention I paid, what she was about.”
Janah, “Presidential candidates, politicians in general, either just want the title, or they have a cause. The ones with a cause can ignite believers. Then again, Obama didn’t have much of a cause, but he was an eloquent man with a nice family, and he was running as a Democrat after a disastrous eight years of a Republican President who couldn’t pronounce nuclear or America.”
I laugh, “It was nukuler and ‘murica. What a dope, he even looked dopey. Anyway, we got sidetracked.”
Nikko, “What is Roberta up to exactly? I suppose the three women haven’t considered joining up and fronting her.”
Janah, “The don’t know each other. Roberta has a lot of time on her hands, she’s a trust fund baby, not millions, but two and change. She’s a control freak, had a couple of jobs, which she played around at since money wasn’t an issue. Fired from both, one as a bookkeeper, the other was sales of accounting systems. Those are free on the net, it was a dead on arrival job. It is where she met the retail clerk. The women have names of course, but they’re just hapless victims, we don’t need to familiarize ourselves with their bios. The women are cowed, which is why she selected them. She has money, they don’t. The pattern is familiar, romanced in the beginning, nice evenings out, professions of love. Then suggestions that turn into demands, dress like this, don’t go there, come straight home, all the common control techniques.”
“And at first it seemed almost dreamy, someone cares so much.”
“Precisely, and once people decide person X is the right one, it’s near impossible to get them to admit they got it wrong. They justify, excuse, even blame themselves for not being everything the woman wants her to be. Like the victim is the one not good enough.
To answer Nikko’s question, the same things men do, it starts with verbal abuse, moves to physical abuse. Roberta is near six feet tall, played volleyball for a couple of years in college. Reports are she turned volleyball into a contact sport and was bounced for it. After two short stints of employment, she’s a gym rat mostly.”
Nikko, “So she’s strong, athletic.”
“Yep. One victim won’t let her come around anymore, even got a restraining order at one point, it was mysteriously lifted after a series of scary incidents. Her apartment was ransacked, Roberta appears at the store, some women’s clothing outlet. Just intimidation. I assume she likes the fear she generates by her presence. She still sees the other two, on her schedule. Surveillance has video, physical abuse dressed up as S&M, except from the footage, it’s clear it’s all sadism, the willing masochist doesn’t exist. Want to check out the video?”
Nikko, “I’ll take your word for it.”
“I saw some, Roberta had the woman outside on her knees, she pissed in her mouth and made her swallow a few times. Yuck.”
Janah, “One segment, the second woman, showed her tied up to a wall. Roberta threw softballs at her, chest, face, crotch, it was ugly. A mass of bruises, badly swollen eye, what must have been a broken nose, likely lost a few teeth.”
Nikko, “Enough. Followed by threats of worse if she goes to the cops or other authority.”
“Of course. She couldn’t even go to the ER. She fixed herself up as best she could and recovered at home. Surveillance couldn’t get in to remove the camera for three weeks.”
“Can’t we send the video to the DA, where is this happening anyway?”
“Oklahoma City, and, no, it wouldn’t help to call in the cops. The woman is scared, petrified. An argument could be made that the pissing incident was sex play, some people are into golden showers. The softball bit has her cold, if her victim presses charges and testifies. Our contact says that is highly unlikely, actually, he said it was not going to happen.”
Nikko, “So we ride in and deal.”
“That’s it. You want it?”
Nikko grins, “Absolutely.”

One Hundred Nineteen

Grace B will make travel arrangements to Oklahoma City. We don’t see any reason not to fly straight there. The booking will be in one of our corporate names, the hotel and car will be provided by Transportation, who rented either is unknown to us. We’ll be disguised when we meet up with Roberta Clinton.
I go to the pool, it’s full of naked children, and naked Oceane. Off in the distance I see Sloane with Sarah and Cassie, they’re hauling Morshchiny around for her daily run. The beast would otherwise be content to lie around all day and intimidate strangers if we ever had any strangers show up. Since she was a pup, the children and Sloane have kept her active, she doesn’t know anything different. 
She does, however, have limits, and before her three companions are done the mastiff comes bounding down the hill and settles herself onto the steps of the pool, half covered in water, the other half keeping an eye on her charges. Here in Arizona, our pool is Olympic size, huge, overkill even for swimming laps. In Malibu we went half size and it’s still substantial.
I strip off my t-shirt and dive in for a few laps that turn into a mile. Once I get a roll going I lose track, like lap meditation. I swim up and sit next to Morshchiny.
She sticks her snout on my cheek and licks. For reasons unexplained, I’m the only person she licks, she only does it once and not every time she looks for me, like when I’m cooking. It’s like a mood hits her and she’s up on her hind legs with her giant paws on my shoulders, sniffs my head, a tiny lick on the cheek, she just pokes her tongue out and that’s it. Fine by me, I’m not a dog kissy person.
I scratch her giant head, behind her ears a little, she isn’t an attention needy dog. As long as she’s around the kids, she doesn’t require a lot of pats. Uma hugs her, the Morshchiny more than twice her size, I keep wondering if Uma will get lost in a wrinkle.
Sloane, Sarah and Cassie show up, rinse off dust in the outdoor showers, Sloane joins me next to my giant pal.
“When do you travel?”
“Tomorrow, the woman needs to be dealt with before she kills someone. Apparently sadism requires more sadism, the next beating has to be more violent than the last. I suppose her dopamine doesn’t spike as high with a few slaps and occasional punch anymore.”
“Do you know how she got to this? You know, lousy childhood, her own child abuse, bad dad or mommy.”
“No. We appreciate the likelihood, that’s usually where this stuff originates, it doesn’t change the facts. Nikko will no doubt compassionately beat her into submission.”
“She have any skills, or just a world class bully bitch?”
“She’s tall, almost six feet, former volleyball player, too violent for her team though, they booted her. Now she’s in the gym much of the time.”
“How old is she?”
“Thirty or thereabouts. Trust fund, no need to work, couldn’t stay employed when she had a job. Surveillance caught her injecting herself, she’s not diabetic.”
“Steroids.”
“She makes Russian tennis players look petit.”
“I don’t want to commit sacrilege, can Nikko handle her alone?”
“She sees it as a challenge, our target outweighs her by sixty or seventy pounds.”
“You’ll intervene, if you need to?”
“It would only piss off Nikko. I’ll intervene if it’s life and death, none of this is worth dying over, taking punishment is part of it.”
“Want me to sink my teeth into her first, soften her up?”
“Nishiko isn’t going for that. Besides, we need you here, I know the others would keep a close eye on Oceane and Cassie, as would the bots. There are also the children, Lauren and Amaya aren’t fighters.”
“Mom, Katya and crew will blow away anyone coming around with bad intent. But I get it, I understand Oceane and Cass, their personalities, and they listen to me.”
“Yes, they do, the rest of us are mostly figments in their imagination. None of us has any idea what passes through their brains.”
Sloane laughs, “That’s because it just passes through, nothing stops and sticks. Some people live in a new world every day, they live in a new world every minute. I may be off by thirty seconds.”
Dasha comes out, “Lunch ees out for thirty minutes, then we put away and you can be hungry until tea. Dinner ees pot roasting wiz vegetable, mahcaroni chiz, Dahfoney ees to make brownie.”
“Did you tell the bots to spread the word, girls are all over the place.”
“No, I am keeping lunch secret from everyone but you and Sloane. What a question,” she turns and walks off taking to herself, ‘What ees Dahfoney think, we make lunch and not tell anyone? Anyway, I haf to check pot roasting, Valeria ees chop vegetable…we will cook potato later..Ellen can make mahcaroni chiz…,’
there’s more but she’s inside now and I can’t catch it.
Sloane laughs again, “You just got Dasha’d, mom.”
“I get that, mostly I get Grace B’d. I’m used to it. Let’s snag something to eat.”
Rinsed and re-shirted, I go inside. Girls are making sandwiches out of the selections of cold cuts and accompaniments.
Dasha, “Children will assemble their own sandwich today, we haf Crustini bun, multigrain bread, toorkey, roast bif, cheeken, ham.”
I slip Morshchiny a slice of turkey, then a slice of ham with instructions to find her spot next to the children’s table. We don’t make them sit at their own table, they like it that way. We almost never see one little girl without seeing the other seven. Valeria hangs with them sometimes but we spend so much time in food prep, she’s usually in the kitchen with Dasha. Zi and I teach her gung fu, sometimes one on one, she also joins the sessions we have with all the children. They aren’t fighters, we don’t do mixed sparring with them, they like the balletic aspects. It’s an extension of Amaya’s dance instruction, they are quite good actually.
Katya, “Traveling tomorrow I hear.”
“Yes, to beautiful Oklahoma City.”
“We did work there once, it’s okay, nothing special, too country for my taste.”
“Oil people, we’ve never been. This should be short work, Surveillance is keeping an eye on the target. We may take her at home, or snatch her when she leaves the gym.”
“Janah said she’s no lightweight, I offered to send Sarah and Mani to just put her down.”
“Sometimes I’d like to, this woman is just nasty. It’s no how we do it though.”
“Nikko going to do the job with a katana? I mean, the woman isn’t small, works out, steroided up Janah said.”
“No, no sword, she only uses the sword against someone with a weapon, or Shadows. An unarmed opponent against Nikko’s sword is a dead opponent, unless she decides to slice them up slowly. Nikko has an advantage that isn’t apparent just looking at her.”
“You mean snake speed.”
“Yes, from her pal in Canada, God that was years ago. In any case, Nikko can strike the woman a half dozen times before she blinks. It would be over in seconds, but Nishiko likes to play around first.”
“I understand your affinity for pain, Sarah has it, not my thing. Give me a sexy laser gun, zap, down, come home.”
“Nikko and I, Zi too, have gone at it for so long our pain tolerance is better than a yogi master. Mine started a million years ago at the temple, so did Zi. Danika and Su were different kinds of monks, although everyone has to demonstrate gung fu proficiency, not all monks are warrior monks.”
“Sister and I would like a visit this evening if you are available.”
“How delicious.”
Twinsex is a unique experience, both sets are ultra-identical, like clones. Katya and Katja are taller than Dasha and Daria, more Slavic blond and fairer skinned. And if you haven’t seen twins make out, you have missed one of the more erotic visuals around. We put it on one of our VR programs, it’s a best seller.

One Hundred Twenty

We thought about driving to Oklahoma City, but it’s nine hundred miles with little between here and there but I-40. So we arrive this morning at ten thirty on a simple private flight under two hours. We made no hotel reservations, in fact, our plane is going to hold until we return, making this a day trip.
Surveillance has Roberta at the gym, we decide to skip the hazard of nabbing her, then hauling her someplace to refocus. Today we’re doing a home intervention.
Roberta lives alone in an upscale but not ostentatious subdivision of little more than tract houses cranked out in a factory and assembled onsite. Hers is one of the new polymer designs, it looks like wood, but is in fact hard sheets, we used it on our Malibu home. Ours looks like white granite.
Janah, “One story, more than two thousand square feet, less than three. There’s a security system. Do we wait for her to show up and get her going in?”
“I’m doing a Shaolin sneak around the rear, Eloise gave me a jammer, systems run through phone lines and it will interrupt the signal.”
“Didn’t know she made one.”
“She tested it on our place and mom’s. You click it on outside, then walk right in. The security system doesn’t recognize a breech. I can disable it at the box inside once I’m in as a secondary precaution. We wait, if something goes wrong, the cops or fire department will appear in ten or fifteen minutes, we’ll be hunkered down someplace where we can observe. If they don’t show in fifteen, we go in and hang out until she returns.”
Nikko, “What if she returns with someone?”
“Surveillance is tracking her, they’ll give us a heads up. We leave and go to plan B, which we’ll figure out later.”
I go down the block, steal between Roberta’s and the place next door. It doesn’t appear that anyone is home, but I’m also a Shaolin priest. If someone is there, they won’t see me creeping around.
We’re reasonably disguised, Janah’s got temp hair dye, mine is under a watch cap, ponytail down my shirt, fat sunglasses, loose jeans and pullover. Hands will be gloved by the time I touch the exterior door.  Janah’s pretty much the same, Nikko is in crazy girl warrior dress. Braided hair, fake tattoo on her cheek, barb wire that runs down to her neck and around. Her oriental eyes hidden by sunglasses, an unbreakable kind. Her lipstick is black, as is her nail polish, black loose jeans, steel toe black ankle high boots, tight black nylon pullover, hard to grab and hold. She argued that it’s cheating, but I made her wear one of the protective shirts we use under her pullover, it’s bullet and knife proof. She also has my lobster tail knee guards. If Roberta is either talented or lucky, a hard kick to the knee will do nothing. We aren’t in this to prove our invincibility, we’re here to fix Roberta’s crappy attitude.
I click on Eloise’s newest, I open the back door with my handy instant pick, slide a blank shaft into the lock, twist and little bits pop up until it finds the pins, turn the handle walk in. Nothing screams, the key code pad on the wall says it’s armed. I return to the car and we wait to see if the cavalry arrives.
Fifteen, twenty, nothing. Surveillance dings Janah’s phone, Roberta is leaving the gym. We don’t know if she’s coming straight home, which is fine, she’ll be here sooner or later. Gives me a chance to snoop around her stuff.
“Well, there’s no secret dungeon, a few bondage toys in her closet. Don’t see any ball bats, wonder where she got the idea to throw softballs at her latest victim?”
Nikko, “Whack bitch.”
“She’s not spending her money on clothes, there’s an electric motorcycle in the garage that doesn’t appear to get much use.”
Janah’s flipping around a laptop, “No history of bondage porn, email is mostly junk, ah, here we go.”
Nikko and I walk over to take a look. She’s got photos and video files of little kid porn. Not an adult fucking a child, children on children. Janah clicks on a video. A little girl, maybe six or seven, is surrounded by four boys who appear to be ten to twelve, little dicks sticking out, she rotates sucking them.
Janah, “Boys can get erections as babies, ejaculation doesn’t usually appear until the onset of puberty, but that can happen as young as eight, or delay until they are teens.”
One of the boys squirts into the girl’s mouth.
“Geez, he looks maybe ten or eleven.”
She clicks on a different video. This one is two little girls, one is licking the other’s tush, then she flips over and gets her puss licked, she’s giggling. Okay, enough child porn, we hear the rumble of the garage door.
Janah and I are seated on Roberta’s couch, Nikko is leaning against the kitchen island which faces the living area.
Roberta enters from the garage, processes that people are in her house. Reflexively she turns to the wall mounted security panel.
“What the fuck, the system is on, how’d you get in here?”
“You left the back door open, or maybe I picked the lock.”
She looks around, the video on her laptop has changed, it must auto play them. I glance over, two little girls are licking a boy’s penis, sheesh.
“You like them young.”
“What turns me on isn’t any of your fucking business. This a bust of some sort?”
“Something like that. We aren’t here about your child sexual predilections, but it gives us my associate and extra incentive.”
She’s perplexed, but relatively calm, “Then what, and what extra incentive?”
“You’re into nonconsensual sadism, we take umbrage.”
“Take what the fuck you want, whatever umbr…whatever that is.”
“Umbrage, it means take exception, annoyance, an affront to our sensibilities. It means you are going to leave your stalking victims alone, and all other people alone…forever.”
“Stalking? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I pull out a phone, play the Surveillance video, Roberta hanging around the store, Roberta following the woman to the parking lot, the argument, the scared face, Roberta’s sneer. Then the softball video, another of her slapping a different woman until her lip bleeds, then pushing her to the floor and kicking her.
“And this was just last week.”
“Bitches asked for it.”
“And now, I just heard you ask for it.”
“Hah, I can take all three of you, you’ll need a gun and I don’t see any, but,” she pulls a kitchen knife out of the block on the counter, “I have this.”
Nikko smiles, pulls out her own blade, not her katana, that didn’t make the trip, this is her double edge serrated bit. It’s not as big as the butcher knife, but Roberta isn’t Nikko.
They face off, Roberta has it all wrong, knife in her hand pointing out, Nikko’s is blade down, knife fighting position. When Roberta pokes the knife at Nikko, the swift counter block earns her four decapitated fingers, the knife clatters to the floor. It takes a couple of beats until she realizes she’s missing digits.
“Godfuckingdamn,” she’s staring at her mangled right hand.
Then she looks up at Nikko, tries a hard left straight punch, Nikko jabs her knife into the fist. Two inches of blade sticks out of the back of Roberta’s hand. Nikko yanks the blade out, Roberta is cooked.
Nikko, “That was too easy.”
Roberta is shaking, she drops to her knees, speechless then sobbing. I suspect it really hurts now, the shock has come and gone.
“I’m going to bleed to death.”
Janah, “No, we’re going to do a bit of triage, then we call the EMTs.”
She takes a couple of kitchen towels and applies pressure to the stumps, I wrap the other towel around her punctured hand. Then she injects both hands with a version of Lidocaine, in a minute Roberta won’t be hurting.
“Hold your hands over your head. When the bleeding slows, I have something to put on the injuries. Meanwhile, there’s a short lecture.”
“A lect..”
Nikko, “Shut up and listen.”
Roberta cringes, I begin, “We weren’t hired or even contacted by the two women, they don’t know us from spit. You were outed by someone else, you don’t know them, but they know you. As you saw, we’ve been monitoring you. That will continue for the foreseeable future. We have resources to have you followed twenty four seven. Here’s how this goes down. If you try to blame our visit on your victims, we come back. No more sadism, don’t even get angry, don’t raise your voice, don’t glare at anyone, don’t think about it. If you do, we come again, my agent will remove more body parts. You’ve seen those poor folks with no legs riding round in electric carts, that will be you, except the cart won’t help, you’ll be blind as well.”
Even in her pain, Robert’s eyes widen, at least she’s paying attention.
“Do you understand?”
She nods, good enough.
Janah unwraps the punctured hand, applies Dermabond, wraps it in gauze. Then she deals with the stumps one by one. I pick up the digits and drop them into a plastic bag and add ice cubes.
“They can probably stick these back on, or you can get fake fingers, today’s medical replacement parts are really quite good.”
Janah pulls out another syringe, “This will help with the pain.”
Roberta’s beyond resisting, she doesn’t even ask what it is. What it is, is a sedative. She’ll be out maybe an hour. When the EMTs and cops arrive, they can watch the loop of child porn, which will tie Roberta up in the legal system for a while.
I mental Daria, “We’re done here, you have the money?”
“Two million three hundred seventy four dollars and forty nine cents, her cards have been cancelled. She will default on her mortgage, she took a loan on her home, there is no equity.”
“See you tonight.”

Dasha and Daria followed along in my head, they know exactly how it went. They won’t tell the others much, maybe about the kiddie porn.
We do another pass through the house, some knick knacks, nothing worth hauling away. We leave one by one, Janah and Nikko go out the back and through the yard to the next street. I collect the car, drive around the block, they climb in. If someone saw any of us it doesn’t matter, we could be anyone, and once Roberta’s outed nobody is going to gin up any sympathy for her.
On the drive to the airport, I stop and replace the original license plates, toss the fake into a dumpster along with our latex gloves. We didn’t leave a print on anything, we aren’t blood spattered, we didn’t step in any.
Janah’s typing into her phone, “Grace B is calling the emergency service, too bad we didn’t video monitor Roberta’s place. Be interesting to see the reaction to her kid-vid collection.”
Nikko, “That’s a strange combo, only child, child porn and a cruel sadistic streak.”
Janah, “I don’t want to wander too far down the psychological path, it could be as simple as self hatred for getting caught up in the porn, then projecting it onto other women. We don’t know her history, maybe she was in a kiddie porn video as a child, perhaps she even enjoyed it, but got dissonant about liking and hating it. If, for instance, a woman got her into it, now she takes out her anger on other women.”
Nikko, “It might come out when she’s tried. We’ll never know if it’s true, or a defense she made up to get cut some slack, not unless she can produce the stuff she was part of. She’s thirty, right? It would have been at least twenty years ago, not out of the question that it’s still floating around the dark web. Maybe it’s even on her own computer.”
“That would be interesting,” we weren’t going to sit and watch children having sex to find out.”
Janah, “Grace B could get inside her files, she knows what Roberta looks like, maybe she’ll come on them. No, never mind, it doesn’t change anything. We only have a made up hypothesis, if it’s true, it will come out.”
Our flight back to Arizona is quick and uncomplicated, you don’t want a plane ride to be complicated. Transportation will deal with the rental car, we didn’t need the panel van to abduct Roberta.
“This one was amazingly simple.”
Nikko, “She pulled the knife, made my job easier.”
I laugh, “Like you were going to have to strain to beat the crap out of her.”
“She was pretty big, but slow, she telegraphed those knife strikes, a blind woman could have dodged them.”
Janah, “Nasty as her injuries were, she would have been worse of going hand to hand. Like Daphne said, today’s surgical replacement parts are near lifelike. Her main problem is poverty and possession of child porn. Her jail time is going to be unpleasant, prisoners have children, so do prison guards.”

I’m never sure where to wrap these stories and begin a new book. I wonder how I got to seventeen, plus two Twice as Dead novels, one of which is not complete. I think, however, we’ll wrap now. I can start XVIII. Good gravy, where do all the words come from?

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