One Hundred Twenty One
Next day was spent restocking perishables, Oceane and Cass swam all afternoon, Sloane raced around the parkour course. I managed to get in an hour of forms, Janah yoga’d after three hours of phone calls. We had a pizza night, watched The Vice, an old BBC murder, prostitution, rape and pedophilia cop show with a cast that looks like real people, nobody is attractive. Not to be confused with the HBO series called Vice.
Today the rest of our menagerie arrives, Sloane and I collect them in both our SUVs. Like Katya, we’d switched to Mercedes GLCs, we have a backup Escalade for big stuff, but even that doesn’t cart ten people and luggage.
Lauren leaps into my arms, “Miss me mom?”
“Always, did they take care of you?”
“I was appropriately spoiled by Amaya, we went boutiquing, I got cool jewelry and two funky outfits. Sarah’s mom has a store in the Quarter.”
“Good for you, we’ll get them to the dry cleaners this afternoon.”
Amaya, “I’ll drive one car, I need a fix.”
It’s past lunch, they ate on the plane, by the time we get home and traveler’s unpack and refresh, it’s tea time.
Chloe, “I may have forgotten how to do tea ceremony. We should have one in the next few days.”
“Nikko said you hitIrene’s Cuisine last night.”
“That place is so good. Naturally Katja and Ellen know everyone on the staff, we were treated like royalty. Half got veal marsala, I went with duck, the seafood entrees were splendid. Lauren is a meunière amandine junkie, her fish was topped with jumbo lump crab and toasted almonds. Dasha’s soft shell crab was so good we ordered four more to share. I’ll need to do twenty four hours of kata just to even out the calories.”
Tea is served, today is just tea and light accompaniment, cookies and crackers, I have a stack of filets marinating to grill later.
Eloise, “Lauren, we can work on the robot until dinner if you want.”
They go up the circular staircase, then to the workshop, one of our rooftop additions.
“Cassie did her part in the recent excitement, she killed her first Shadow, and she figured out his password to the laptop and his iCloud account.”
Zi, “Good job Cass, how did you figure the passwords?”
Cassie looks at me, she’s not chatty, I explain, “She went back in time to when he used it last, typed in the passwords he typed in. It was neat.”
Amaya, “Such a strange creature, Cassie, have you given any thought to joining the rest of us in reality?”
Cass is, of course, paying her no attention, she’s having a shortbread cookie courtesy of Oceane.
Amaya huffs, “Child cannot even be bothered to feed herself.”
“If you had the option, wouldn’t you prefer Oceane to feed you?”
“You have point. Do you realize that Oceane’s index and ring fingers are longer than the palms of her hands? Her hands are like two spiders.”
“Sure sign of genius, I read that someplace.”
“Sure sign of arachnid, at least the spider version. At least she’s not a scorpion, nasty creatures. Oceane, you are Spidergirl.”
Oceane creeps her fingers up Amaya’s arms, wiggles them in her hair, “I am Spidergirl.”
“You are so creepy.”
Cassie floats up, Oceane takes her hand, Cass can’t fly, only hover, but Oceane can pull her along. They go up the second staircase to their room, looks like Oceane is holding a girl shaped balloon.
Amaya, “This family is weirder than the Addams Family.”
Dasha, “You are also weird girl Eemaya, singing in shower like Joe Cocking peerson, or shaking you all night long band.”
“Brian Johnson of AC/DC, I do sound precisely like him. And it’s Joe Cocker, you can mangle English better than anyone I know.”
“How come you do not anyway do Taylor Sweeft or Adelaide?”
Amaya laughs, “Adele. No current poppettes, no Rihanna or Beyoncé, no country and western anything. None of us listen to that music, most of it is about boys, broken hearts and bad relationships, not subjects having anything to do with us.”
Daria, “What do we do about Shadows?”
“You have two located?”
“Da, financial planner was easy. He works out of Ventura California. The thief drifts here and there but hasn’t changed her name, currently in Nevada, Lake Tahoe. I think Susan is onto the pervert, she found an account on the dark web particularly active in child porn, with hints that there was even more graphic stuff available for a price.”
Chloe, “How do people pay for stuff like that? It’s not like they put it on a credit card.”
“Oh yeah, that came up once before, I’d forgotten. What do they charge, for a kiddie porn video, or pictures?”
“It’s a slow screw. Sixty nine to ninety nine bucks for a few pictures, maybe one or two short videos, teaser stuff with promises of more. People can end up spending thousands.”
Janah, “They’re addicted. The old videos get stale, they want new faces, higher quality, no different than cocaine or alcohol. Once they’re milked of their money, it’s back to the cheap vodka, but they can’t just quit drinking.”
“Susan said they search the web endlessly, collect the samples, previews, if they can’t afford to pay, like Janah said, always in search of the next fix.”
Chloe, “I see articles about child sex almost every day now, is the availability of child porn making it more epidemic?”
Janah, “Maybe, it’s hard to tell. There were pedophiles since there were people. At some point long ago, you had to get the girl pregnant around puberty, people didn’t live long enough to wait, lots of infants never made it past infancy. Sex with young boys was considered part of life in ancient Greece and elsewhere. Doubtless child slave girls were used for entertainment as well. I can understand the attraction, children are beautiful, adults still have to draw the line and if they fail to stay in bounds, then they go to jail.”
“Or get a visit from the Society.”
“Neither prospect is pleasant, but they do it anyway. Consequences don’t register until it’s too late.”
Nikko, “So we have two thieves, calling one a financial planner doesn’t pretty him up any.”
“Nope. We all just got home though.”
“Most of us just got home from goofing off in New Orleans. I can get on a plane tomorrow for one or the other, or do LA and fly back through Lake Tahoe.”
“Use the darts, these people are Shadows, but it’s only money, not child porn.”
“Fair enough, I won’t even take a katana.”
One Hundred Twenty Two
The twins go with Nikko and Zi, we like more firepower than less. Amaya gets them to Teterboro, you might think Blue Sky must believe we do nothing but fly around the country. Actually they don’t know who’s who. Planes are booked through shell corporations, of which we have a dozen. No Shadow or Society work has Murakami Sylk’s name on it. The shells have meaningless names, Cytek, Xeron, Dashell Group, Teletrix, Janah makes them up.
Also, girls travel disguised, under fake IDs. Nobody would recognized twins, sometimes color contacts, always sunglasses and caps of one kind or another. We dress down, not up, everything can be bought at any Target, Walmart or H&M. No distinctive jewelry, no rings in sight, little or no makeup, or just the opposite, bordering on Goth. Steel toe sneakers are the exception, but we don’t wear them on the plane.
Dasha loses her accent, Nikko hardly talks at all, they don’t use Russian, Japanese or Chinese when they do.
The sole commonality is flying out of Teterboro, but it’s a huge metropolitan area, hundreds of private flights, constant change of crews.
They fly into Oxnard, eight mile drive to Ventura. A suite at the Ventura Beach Marriott with a connecting room and bath.
Dasha is on our private line, “We haf check in, hotel is fine, lots of room. Going to check Shadow’s office and home now.”
She’s off, told me what I needed to know, I tell the others.
We have a three hour time difference, they left at nine, six hour flight, gain three, arrive at noon. It’s three here in NYC.
I get on the intercom, “Dasha gave me the short version, they’re checked in, going to scope out the Shadow. You’ll know more when I do.”
Lauren is occupied with Eloise putting what they hope will be final touches on robot 1.0. Amaya and Chloe are rehearsing lines for Chloe’s latest Chloe Couture spiel on the website. Janah’s on the phone. I have no clue where Sloane, Cass and Oceane are.
Sloane comes racing down the stairs, she leaps halfway and nearly makes it to the kitchen counter.
“Mom! Oceans says the California Shadow has a companion Shadow, Nikko needs to know, right now.”
“Nikko, what’s up?”
“Just leaving for the Shadow’s office.”
“Oceane says there a second Shadow, companion to the one you’re after.”
“Companion? Didn’t know Shadows did companions.”
“Not clear if it’s a companion or an associate, but there are two if she’s right. Go slow. Let Zi or Daria figure out who’s on what team.”
“Will do, thank Oceane.”
“I will, although the whole business might be out of her mind by now. Good thing Sloane was with her or we may not have found out at all.”
“Her predictions come when family is involved, I’m betting she would have found a way to let you know. She knows Sloane will tell you, she went the simple route.”
“You’re on to something, I’m going to run it by Janah, actually, she’s on with us.”
Janah, “The things she’s predicted either involve the family, or are things we would want to look into. Nikko discovered the rationale, Oceane is detached from the world, but not from us.”
Nikko, “Got to go, I need to run this by the others and sort out a plan of attack.”
I go upstairs, Oceane is drawing something, I can’t make out where she’s headed, but she knows, that’s all that matters.
“Nikko said thank you for letting them know about the second Shadow. Two are more dangerous than one plus one, you may have saved them serious injury or worse.”
She smiles up at me, “The Shadows know they are hunted, they are setting a trap,” she turns to her art as if it was merely a casual observation.
Back on the private channel, “Nikko, it’s worse than we think.”
“What the flip now?”
“They know you’re coming after them.”
“Oceane does just in time message delivery. I understand, she knows when she knows, not before. We’re going back to the hotel. This is drone work.”
“Bear in mind, Shadows have tuned into the fact that someone is after them. Oceane’s idea of a trap may just be their extra caution and a bit of extra surveillance, cameras around their property for instance. We shouldn’t assume one way or the other, I agree, use the drones and don’t approach until you’re on more solid ground."
Janah comes in, “What now?”
I fill her in, “Nikko is defaulting to drone surveillance until she gets a handle on it. When they figure out what’s next, she’ll check in.”
“Should you and I fly out?”
“There are two Shadows, but they have to deal with Nikko, Zi and the twins, particularly Daria. I think we wait. I don’t know how they found out, or if it’s just the fact that Shadows have become aware of us. Oceane’s receptions can be vague.”
“True, she may not hit the bullseye, but she’s not wrong. If there are two, and they are paying closer attention, that ‘s valuable information. Nikko could have walked into a mess thinking she was the hunter, not the hunted.”
At the hotel, our hunters discuss over coffee.
Nikko, “Considering the targets are, at the least, on guard. How do we best employ the drones?”
Dasha, “Fly them from here, or some quiet location. We put up one, take at look at the house and office. The man will travel from one to another, start with the office this afternoon, when he leaves, track him to the house.”
Daria, “We have his license plate number, add a tracker to the drone, if we spot his car we can stick in on. Then we’ll know when he leaves for the house without tying up the drone just sitting in the air burning battery life.”
Nikko, “We can’t just tag him with a dart until we know it’s him. We have a name, a place of business, his car and home, but we’ve never seen him. All we have is Oceane’s prediction that there’s another one, we have no idea what she or he looks like. Companion or associate could be male or female.”
Zi, “He’ll show up with someone, that’s the dicey part. It could be a client, or another business associate, or a vendor. I’ll have to get within range to find out who the second Shadow is.”
Daria, “True, so do I, we can’t pick up Shadow auras on video feeds.”
Nikko, “Alright, get the GPS location into one of the drones and let’s take a look at his office.”
Daria types in the address, they decide not to launch from the hotel window, instead drive to a spot a mile from the office, a closed filling station. Around the back it’s dead.
Dasha launches the machine and a minute later it’s hovering a couple hundred yards from the office entrance, three hundred feet up. She zooms the lens looking for the car, a 2010 Nissan Altima, black, like a Shadow’s aura.
The office is in a house, a strip of houses converted to commercial space. A lawyer has the ground floor space, our Shadow, Douglas Farmer, is on the second floor.
Zi, “I think that’s it, in the driveway to the left.”
The camera zooms to the plate, “Da, how to get tracker on, ees busy spot, cars, pedestrian traffic.”
“We need to do it manually, keep the drone up, it’s only a mile. I can get the thing on the car, Shadows don’t sense me like they would Zi.”
Daria drives within a block and a half, he can’t pick up Zi from this distance. Nikko takes the tracker and heads down the street.
I’m looking at the video feed on my tablet, “Dasha, zoom in above the entrance,” she does.
“Nikko, hold on, there are video cams on the entrance and the driveway, probably the other side and rear.”
Nikko, “Shite, now what?”
“Wait a minute.”
“Dasha, use the laser to blind the camera covering the driveway.”
“Da, one minute, haf to be closer for accurate.”
“Hang on Nikko, Dasha’s going to blind the cam with the drone’s laser, but she needs to get the position right, I’ll give you a go when she has it.”
Dasha, “Lower, to the left, there, tell her it’s dead.”
She scoots up the drive, slips her hand under the rear bumper and clicks the tracker in place. She gives it a tug to make sure the connection is tight. Then returns to the car, Dasha turns off the laser, back to the empty filling station. The drone flies in a straight line, it’s already overhead. Into the open hatch of the SUV, Daria drives back to the Marriott.
Nikko, “That was close, glad Daphne caught the cameras. I was stupid, Oceane warned us, Farmer is on guard alright.”
Zi, “None of us thought of it, the things are so ubiquitous we don’t notice them anymore.”
Dasha fetches tea from the hotel shop, Zi looks around for places to get dinner.
“Fiore’s is a mile away, Italian, pizza or various pasta dishes.”
Nikko, “Just get a mix, Dasha, can you drive her over?”
They’re back in half an hour with chicken and spinach ravioli, linguine with clams, scallops, calamari, shrimp & mussels in a peppercorn sauce, and two orders of osso bucco, veal shank in a vegetable red wine sauce.
“The place was busy, must be okay, they’ve been in business a long time. Dasha bought red wine and a bottle of vodka.”
Nikko, “Go slow, we may be busy tonight.”
Dasha, “Sisters will haf only one cocktail, then wine. Zi does not anyway drink.”
Nikko, “Glass of wine sounds good.”
With nothing to do but wait, they take their time over dinner, CNN is on low, mostly they catch the scroll, nobody is interested in election politics or what lies the latest front runner told recently.
Daria, “Car is on the move, must have worked late, it’s seven o’clock.”
Nikko, “See if it goes to the house, Dasha, get the drone up, launch it from here, it’s dark enough, I’ll turn the lights off.”
The sun’s down, just a light grey outside, the suite overlooks the ocean, hardly anyone on the beach.
One Hundred Twenty Three
Nikko, “Wonder if the woman in the car with him is the companion Oceane referred to?”
Zi, “She didn’t specify man or woman, we’ve encountered female Shadows before. One of them was the most powerful we’ve dealt with. Janah made her explode. Another powerful one was a woman, Daria melted her in a Hampton parking lot. Where was it? Wichita Falls.”
Dasha, “We did not haf dart then, no drone, better to kill wiz drone.”
Nikko, “I don’t miss getting beat to crap.”
Zi, “We need to follow them, we need to determine if they are our two Shadows.”
I’m listening in Nikko’s head, “What if the Shadow we offed in Florida was part of the setup. Intentionally gave us this Farmer knowing he had a pal? What if Oceane’s premonition is more real than we even imagined? That there are more Shadows lurking, keeping an eye out for people following him.”
Nikko relays my thought to the rest.
Daria, “Then you might have been spotted at the office.”
“And we might have been followed to the hotel.”
I chime in, “All possible. I doubt they’ll try for you at the hotel, too busy, just don’t get any room service. Fly the drone around the hotel and see if there are people sitting in cars doing zip. If you spot someone, or someones, get Daria and Dasha to walk the area. Daria can spot Shadows, but she’s not Shaolin, they won’t spot her. They should re-disguise, if you were followed to the hotel, they will recognize them.”
Nikko, “If all this is true, wonder why they didn’t go for Zi when she went to the restaurant?”
“Good question. Ventura’s a busy place, there’s nothing quiet between the hotel and the restaurant. Still, Shadows can take minds, and they’re arrogant, they might have gone for it anyway. We could also be getting overly paranoid and there are no extra bad guys.”
Nikko drops off to get the drone launched.
Dasha’s flying it over the lot, the hotel is near full and the parking lot is covered in cars.
Nikko checks the tracker on Farmer’s Altima, “It’s still operational, maybe they didn’t see me plant it after all.”
Zi, “It could also mean they want you to follow them.”
“That too. In any case, the car is at his house. If they don’t know about the drone, we have some advantage left.”
Zi, “I think all Shadows know is we might be using darts, we frequently use dart guns and we collect the darts afterwards. They wouldn’t know about the angles, straight on or overhead. And the poison suggests heart attack, no poison shows up in subsequent drug tests.”
“I think she’s supposed to say ‘tox screen,’ that’s what they say on all the forensic cops shows.”
Nikko, “Daphne says you’re not being hip enough, you’re supposed to say tox screen, not drug test.”
Zi laughs, “Daphne refuses to say intel or chopper, she would be the last person to uses tox screen. Amaya is even worse, she never uses cop or military slang in her work. She says it shows a failure of imagination.”
“Busted. Hey, maybe we could call the Shadows we don’t know about unsubs, that’s a favorite on Criminal Minds, they say it fifteen times an episode.”
Nikko grins, Zi asks, “What now?”
“Daphne says we need to call the mystery Shadows unsubs.’
Zi giggles, “Criminal Minds, featuring Agent Hotchner, who never had a happy day in his life, and wears a Kevlar vest to bed.”
My turn to laugh, “Zi’s outing her sense of humor.”
Nikko, “Enough screwing around, Zi, fly the second drone to the Shadows house, let’s see what he and Companion Shadow are up to.”
Daria’s following the drone feed, “Car in the far corner with a view of the hotel entrance. Two bodies doing nothing, cigarette smoke out one window. Dasha, focus the listening device.”
Zi launches the second drone, good thing it’s dark or guests might think there are terrorists up there. They have all the room lights off, the second bedroom has one lamp on, they leave the door cracked to let a bit of light in the dark suite.
Voice from the car, it’s a standard sedan, looks like one of the big butt cars, Mercury or Ford.
“Bitches must be in the room for the evening. Their Hyundai is in the same spot, what do they call it?”
Second Voice, “Santa Fe.”
Nikko, “Good, they don’t know about the second one parked next to the side entrance. Bad, there are more Shadows.”
Zi, “We need to confirm that before we blast darts into them.”
Voice One, “Fucking Shaolin have teamed up with some killer cunts. Call us Shadows, I don’t know whether to be insulted or feel complimented.”
Two, “I like it, we do live in the Shadows, they probably mean we’re Shadow humans, partially human, but I like that too. Most humans are lame ass doormats.”
Nikko, “Answers that. Daria, you and Dasha take those two out. Don’t capture, don’t chat, if there are more, we’ll find out soon enough, just wipe them.”
Dasha, lands the drone, shuts the window. The Death Sisters head for the elevator, out the side entrance. One circles the lot from the west, the other from the east.
Dasha, “You see them?”
Daria, “Da, woman smokes, man stares at entrance.”
The twins are always in harmony, tonight is no different, one steps, the other steps, they don’t need to mental, every motion is precisely coordinated.
The driver’s side window explodes at the instant as the passenger side. They could have used qi, but bear strength made burning that energy unnecessary.
Voice One and Two have snapped necks, heads loll to the side, cigarette burns in the woman’s lap. They open the doors, yank the two out of their seats and drag them to the trunk. It’s a big ass Mercury Marquis, favorite of old people everywhere. Stuff the bodies in. Dasha takes the man’s wallet, the woman’s purse, rifles through pockets, finds a phone.
Daria drives the Mercury while Dasha retrieves the Hyundai, they take the Mercury to a side street five miles down 101, park it, toss the keys in a storm drain. Daria joins her sister, they strip off latex gloves and return to the hotel.
Dasha, “Two are anyway dead. What ees happen at house?”
Nikko, “Gloating over how they have us under surveillance at the hotel. From the conversation, the two outside are it, should be no more surprises. We need to relocate tonight. Zi booked us at the Crowne Plaza down the street. I’m leaving the car they know about here. We don’t think there are more unknowns, but we don’t need to get stupid either. If we need a second car, we’ll pick up something.”
They’ll check out of the Marriott tomorrow, Nikko left DND tags on the doors to avoid unwanted housekeeping. They relocate to the Crowne Plaza, two executive suites.
Dasha’s been monitoring the drone still circling Farmer’s house, “Lights on, time to leeseen,” she flies the machine within forty yards of the house, up a hundred feet.
She points the parabolic disk to a lighted window, nobody talking, shifts the drone and focuses the disk on a rear patio door, zooms the video, kitchen to the right. Half a body is visible standing next to a counter, a drink to the left, something brown, scotch or bourbon maybe.
Companion, “Haven’t heard from our associates, what the fuck are they doing? Where’s my phone, I’m gonna call that bitch.”
A phone rings in the purse Dasha took, Nikko takes it out, empties the contents on the coffee table. Dasha goes through the recent calls on the man’s phone, then to voicemail.
Companion, “She’s not picking up.”
Farmer, “Probably doing a mind fuck on the sluts Stella, or killing them outright.”
Dasha, “Stella, we haf a name for Companion.”
Daria, “Dead man is Toby Prescott, what his license says anyway.”
Nikko, “The woman is Pat Murphy, surely fake, it’s plain enough, typical Shadow, completely forgettable.”
Farmer comes over the speaker, “Be nice to get rid of those assholes, quit looking over my shoulder and go back to fucking with clients,” he laughs, “I had Stone’s daughter give me a blow job while he watched.”
“Jesus, she’s what, six?”
“That’s the best part.”
“You are a sick fuck.”
“Said the woman who ate out her young pussy afterwards.”
Stella, “While she watched her daddy jerk off. We are such slime.”
Hysterical laughter comes through the speaker.
Nikko, “They don’t get the courtesy of a dart, or even a snapped neck.”
One Hundred Twenty Four
Dasha, “When do we visit?”
“Soon as I do a bit of makeup.”
“Dasha bring the drone in.”
Fifteen minutes later, Nikko looks like oriental death. Ghostly white face, black lips, black goth eyes, crimson contact lenses.
She promised no katana, a chain whip wasn’t mentioned however. Everyone is suited up in fighting gear. My custom knee braces, based on a lobster tail, kick the titanium plates, nothing bad happens. Leather gloves with titanium knuckle caps sewn inside and a piece that covers the heel of the palm. Smash it into a face, broken face.
Zi has nunchaka, the twins are their own weapon.
Farmer’s house is in a relatively upscale neighborhood, single level ranch, Farmer’s Altima is in the drive. It’s pressing nine thirty, the street is dead.
Zi walks to the rear of the place with Dasha, the Shadows might pick up on her, which will create confusion. She’s supposed to be under surveillance or dead.
Nikko rings the front doorbell, she hears voices but can’t make out what’s being said, it doesn’t sound pleasant.
The door opens, it’s the woman, taken aback by the strange sight in front of her. Nikko kicks her hard in the gut, she staggers, Daria is on her, hand to throat. Picks her up and carries her by the neck to the back of the house, Nikko closes the front door and locks it.
Farmer is on the floor, conscious but hurting, his face is a mess, Dasha’s wiping his blood off her glove onto his shirt.
The woman is fighting Daria, her hands on the single arm holding her in the air, she kicks ineffectually. Kicking Daria is like kicking a fireplug. Daria drops her to the floor and steps on her chest.
Stella is reasonably powerful, she’s slamming her arms and legs against the floor , things start to fly around the room. Zi uses her nunchaka to smash the cups and plates. A kitchen knife sails towards Daria, Nikko chain whips it, snaps it in two and it falls on Farmer.
Daria steps harder, “Cut the crap Stella, or I crush your chest.”
Farmer and Stella try a different tactic, they join forces and direct qi, first at Daria, which is pointless, they give a go at Dasha, equally futile.
Farmer sneers, “Kill the fucking Shaolin.”
Zi is blown back against the wall, which irritates an already irritated Nishiko. Chain whip shoots out, the pointed tip sinks into Farmers gut, he howls. Dasha jams her foot on his throat, he switches to gag.
“Break him up Dasha.”
While Dasha is methodically crushing bones, starting with feet and working her way up, Nikko’s serrated blade removes a few fingers. Stella tries to scream, Daria covers her mouth with one hand, looks into dimming eyes. One swipe of the blade across her throat, all the light disappears.
Dasha’s reached Farmer’s neck, doesn’t matter, he passed out when she crushed his pelvis, his nuts with it. She gives his head a quick twist, crack, gone.
Nikko is checking Zi, nothing’s broken, her chest hurts from the qi shot.
“That will be a lovely bruise, better than a broken rib.”
“We take a lot of punishment when we practice, our ribs have ribs by now.”
Zi laughs, “Ouch, never thought I’d say it hurts to laugh.”
“This is my fault, I should have darted both of them. I let anger decide, it won’t happen again.”
“Nikko, if I thought we should have done something different I would have said so. Still, my chest agrees, next time we use darts.”
Daria, “Let’s go, we can qi her up and add ice.”
Zi is on the couch, stack of freezer bags full of ice on her chest. When she good and frozen, Daria spends an hour flowing qi energy into the spot. It’s late, everyone is pooped, particularly Daria. Off to bedrooms to rejuvenate.
In the morning, Dasha goes to the Marriott and checks out, by the time she’s back they’re checked out of the Crowne Plaza, drive the two SUVs to Oxnard and get on the jet. Six hours to Teterboro, three lost hours in time zones, Amaya collects them at six thirty, back in the condo for seven.
While drinkers have a drink, we revisit.
Janah, “Lesson learned, Shadows die quickly, regardless of what they did. If you want physical action, we’ll take on more Society work.”
Nikko, “Good by me, sometimes I have to learn the hard way. And I wasn’t the one popped in the chest. I’m done being hard headed.”
“We want you hard headed, in business, in pointing out our personal stupidities. Just not with Shadows.”
Nikko shrugs, “Got it.”
Amaya, “How far do you think the Shadow network extends, I suppose it is an impossible question.”
Janah, “We know that there is one, we thought it was loose, porous. We learned that some are willing to work together, in part because of us. Which creates a dilemma.”
Sloane, “What dilemma?”
“If they learn to work together, they get stronger. A lesson factions in the Middle East never grasp. They all have varying degrees of hatred for the West. But their religious schisms keep them vying for power among themselves, distracting them from their common enemy. Shadows don’t have religious sects, they can focus on their common enemy, us.”
Sloane, “So you’re saying we’re making it worse?”
Amaya, “Depends on what you mean by worse. Worse for us, yes, but now they are distracted looking for us, guarding against us, trying to lure us into a trap. Less time and energy to screw over regular people.”
Janah, “We won’t keep them from petty stuff, getting store clerks to hand them money, giving them a car the victim believes was sold for money. The pervert behavior won’t quit, but it will give them second thoughts, it’s the kind of thing we go after hard. The brutality of the trip will filter out, they are going to be paranoid.”
Sloane, “That’s good then, right?”
“Paranoid people are scared, scared people get angry, angry people get violent.”
“Oh, that’s not good.”
No, it’s not, we’re in a moral, or maybe immoral, dilemma. We will explore dilemmas and morality in Book XVI.