Chapter Thirteen VI
I’m the archivist of your lesser self—you know, the side of you
that calls the shots between official engagements.
I’m the bastard that makes your secrets real.
Disciple Manning, Disciple of the Dog, R. Scott Baker
Mo leaves, the green light stays on. We collect Chan, or I should say he appears on the sidewalk as we leave the building. I think he was hiding in the concrete. One second, there’s a wall, the next, there’s Chan.
Back at the condo, no bad guys popped up on the walk, much to Nikko’s disappointment; Janah is on the phone to you know who, getting us licensed, with appropriate ID as inspectors for the Mega-Mammoth insurance company that insured the building. The project is so large that there is no single insurer, three took a piece, then a reinsurer covered losses over a specified amount, the number mentioned was two billion. The building might not cost that to replace, it was for the inevitable lawsuits that follow a major catastrophe.
Insurance is a simple game. Collect fast, pay slow. Take people’s money, invest it, hope it’s multiple years, better never, before any claim is made, make money on the ‘float,’ the time between collecting and paying. Insurance companies expect to eventually pay out claims. The money made while waiting is the gravy, the vig. If a brand new building goes down, and a ton of very wealthy and influential people go with it, the reinsurer would take a hit, big time.
We ‘represent’ the reinsurer. Naturally, they’d sent one set of drones out while the building was going up. The explanation for us is that we inspect the inspectors.
Although the building is, for all practical purposes, finished and functional, we’d wear hardhats, and carry around laptops with the building’s details, checklists of prior inspections, follow-up on any questionable construction, plumbing, electrical work, the glass in the windows, escalators and elevators, the fire prevention system, any damn thing we wanted to check.
We go in disguised, Janah’s hair is dark brown, mine in a braid, tucked down the back of my shirt. I wear clear glasses with a square black frame, Nikko has a thick red streak on one side, and parts her hair differently, not down the middle. With fat sunglasses, isn’t any particular ethnicity.
Chan is more of a challenge, so we don’t do much of anything. He wears slacks, a button down shirt and a sport coat, Ray-Bans that cover half his face. The sport coat has sleeves that hang to the middle of his hands, on purpose; we don’t want the sheer size of his thick, callused hands to be an object of discussion. It just looks like he’s a hand me down construction inspector.
Now, so close to completion, metal detectors are installed. To avoid problems, Nikko and I are carrying ceramic shuriken, and illegal hard rubber handle folding knives with ceramic blades. Steel toe boots are like hard hats on a construction site, they pass the magic wand. Chan is his own weapon, he doesn’t set off anything. He did have to go through the detector sideways, and it’s still a squeeze.
When you want to establish dominance, you do the opposite of whatever’s suggested. When the security people said we’d probably want to start in the basement and work our way up, Janah said we’d start on the roof and work our way down.
Jeff, the head of security starts to inset himself, Chan steps in between Jeff and Janah.
Then we’re on the roof.
It’s a mild spring day, the wind is fairly stiff, it’s on the river after all, and forty stories up.
Janah, “I sifted the inspector’s reports last night and this morning. Everything that’s supposed to be checked is checked and initialed. I don’t need you to read the reports because you’re not looking for anything in them. I want completely fresh eyes for anything that doesn’t feel right. Go into child-eye mode. What would you question if you were seven or eight. I don’t care how small, if it looks the wrong color, or there’s a scratch where there should be paint, or a dent where it should be smooth, look more deeply.”
Nikko, Chan and I start looking. There’s the roof, a basement and forty floors. We have twelve days, four floors a day.
Janah is counting on my eyesight and sense of touch to detect anything misaligned, out of order, even that doesn’t smell right. Obviously, there’s fresh paint, glue, varnish. All highly aromatic, not to mention the cleansers used in restrooms and kitchens. In one way it makes the job incredibly difficult, in another, it simplifies things. Anything that doesn’t smell like new construction needs examination.
Janah actually does inspect the inspector’s work, we don’t know who got paid off, but somebody always gets paid off. On the thirty-ninth floor, she finds faulty electrical wiring, and a toilet that doesn’t flush. Nothing of major interest came to me, Nikko spent her time running her hands across walls, looking for anything soft that ought to be hard, anything harder than it needed to be. We do the roof and three floors, night falls.
Janah reports the wiring problem and the toilet. The contractor’s supervisor doesn’t look happy, but he doesn’t make excuses.
Janah, “You’re an honest man, Mr. Gibbons, but we’re at least the third set of inspectors to go through this building. Whose initials signed off on the electrical work, and who on the plumbing?”
Gibbons, “Christ, these guys walk around, take a quick look and drink coffee. And we have to pay them to do it. I’m glad you found this stuff. The toilet is no major deal, at least I don’t think so. The wiring could create a fire hazard. Before you leave tomorrow, check them again. They’ll be fixed…and thanks. I’m under the gun here, and I take pride in the job. I take my kids to the buildings I’ve helped build, tell them their dad had a hand in it. I hate crap work.”
Janah sees he’s on the level (figured I’d throw in construction jargon.) He could be helpful if something stinks someplace, good to find she doesn’t have to go around or over to make things happen.
Janah, “I’ll check, I want to know who these guys are. If there’s a patterns to sloppy sign-offs, you’d want to know about it I presume. None of them your brother-in-law or…..”
Gibbons, “Miss, this is New York labor. Some of the guys on payroll are no show jobs. But the guys who do work, they work. If there’s sloppy stuff, somebody who ought to know better did it. Then somebody else who ought to know signed off on it. I’m gonna do what needs doing.”
Janah, “Let’s do this clean. I’ll come to you every day with problems, should there be any more. Don’t call anyone for now, don’t fix anything for now. Let’s see if there’s a pattern, you know, like detectives.”
Gibbons likes it. He might break open a whole scandal, at the least he’d get to ream a few asses.
“Okay Miss, uh, I’m sorry…”
Janah, “Barclay, Sarah Barclay.”
“Yeah, Miss Barclay, sorry, so many people, I forget.”
Janah, “Don’t worry about it, we never find a perfect building. This is not, so far, unusual. So let’s not get into a thing just yet. Like I said, we’re detectives, working on what may not be a case. If we have to point fingers, you can do the pointing. Good enough?”
He smiles, “You’ll keep me posted, everyday, right?”
Janah could have taken this two ways, sincere, or like he wants to cover somebody’s ass, but he doesn’t read like that. He does have kids, and grandkids, he does like to show them the things he’d worked on, he isn’t living above his means, and he isn’t being devious. Besides Janah’s highly reliable intuition, the Society had been up and down his life, his friends and his family. His idea of illegal is an occasional $50 bet on the Knicks. Otherwise he’s a working stiff from Jersey.
“Every day, Mr. Gibbons.”
We head for the condo, the moms ordered dinner. We’ll be up early, pick up something from the deli for breakfast on the way, then protein bars and coffee or tea for lunch in motion. There’s no time to restaurant sample the hood. Only work.
“Nothing substantial, some minor sloppy work, nothing to create a panic. Things get rushed, or a sub-contractor let’s a newbie do a piece of work and doesn’t check it. It gets overlooked by a harried or lazy inspector.”
Nikko, “But we have 37 floors, a basement and, it turns out, a sub-basement to check. So the twelve days should have been more like thirteen, but now we’re jammed into eleven more, with a floor more than expected.”
“We get up earlier, eat lunch while we work and work until we’re ahead of schedule. Compared to temple hours, this is like a rest stop.”
Janah, “I’m going to bring in David Li. He’s going to direct traffic from the rooftop. I’m also bringing in Black. He’s got a nose for bullshit. His job will be to roam the building, listen, pre-inspect each floor, along with two monks.”
K-mom, “I don’t mean to be insulting, but what can they do?”
Janah, “They’re what we call Sensitives. They’ll roam on their own. Their job is to detect a bad vibe.”
James, “This is new.”
Janah, “It’s something we’ve been training since the first Dark One popped up, the old man.”
Sis, “How do you train a…..never mind, you aren’t going to say anyway.”
‘It’s not a big secret, like the formula for Coca-Cola. You could do it. K-mom does a version of it. Anything can be learned.”
Sis, “I couldn’t do it, maybe C-mom, James probably has his version for years of intent listening.”
Lacy, “What the hell are you all talking about?”
Janah, “It’s the same kind of tedium that qi takes. In fact it is qi, different kind and use. Some is general, absorbing universal energy. Some is directed, Janah busts a rock, Chan pushes Nikko and I across the floor without touching us, or they get into a mind and make it see illusions, create memories or destroy them. There is the sensitivity of the birds to danger, changes in magnetic fields, like when all the animals head away from the tsunami before there’s a tsunami visible. David Li can communicate with the birds. It’s all qi, life force. Versions run through Buddhism, it’s variants, Castaneda’s don Juan, a Yaqui shaman, numerous native American beliefs and voodoo mambos. Each one references threads of energy that we can see, if we remove the cataracts of our conditioning .”
Lacy, “Ah, some of the monks have learned to tune into the bad vibe internet.”
Janah, “Yes, and they’re pretty good. Daphne’s worked with them, she has the animal sensitivity for it.”
Sis, “What about Nikko?”
Janah giggles, “Nikko assumes everyone’s a full of shit asshole until they prove otherwise. Her sensitivity is limited to Daphne and Miyako.”
Nishiko is busy staring at something in an alternate universe, she doesn’t respond.
Janah dials a number and walks to an empty bedroom.
“Well family, we need to rest. Thank you for supplying dinner. We’ll have late nights, don’t make plans for us to surface for a while.”
Susan, “Check in please. I know everyone’s grown up, just do it anyway.”
I kiss her, the others, “Got it.”
As we’re walking home, Janah makes another call and is still talking when we hit the front door of Chapmans. The first call had been to Black, then she called Mrs. Epstein for credentials for Black and two monks. When we get in the apartment, she’s dialing again.
Nikko, “Master J get a phone-jones or what?”
I tell her who Janah called, Nikko is on watch, not in Janah’s head. On watch is where she’s supposed to be.
Nikko clicks on the TV. We watch a TIVO’d replay of Medium, Janah joins us and we lay like three corpses on the big mat, heads on pillows, then we sleepily crawl into bed at ten.
Up at five, at six we’re chewing the last of our deli scrambled egg sandwiches, finish the take out coffee and enter the building. The guard is new, we are ID’d, Janah chats with him while Nikko and I walk the lobby perimeter, then we get on the elevator to the 37th floor.
Janah, “Daphne, take a quick run from the roof through 38, Nikko and I will start doing our thing on 37.”
They hop off at 37, I ride to 40, then take a stairwell to the roof, clear in the early light. I move around the perimeter, looking down over the sides, no Ninjas hanging from ropes, no planes, no drones flying in our direction.
Since there are two stairwells, one on each side of the building, I go down to 40 on the other stairwell. Repeat the walk though, all the lights work, even in the stairwells, make it back to 37 while Janah and Nikko are halfway down one wall of a hallway. The upper floors are condos. The top three floors are giant multi-room condos, easier to finish, essentially a big house.
Floors 36 and 35 are two condos, still huge, pricey, and more stuff to check. More walls, bathrooms, plumbing, electrical outlets, more corners.
Each subsequent floor from 34 to 20 are four condo floors, then the office space begins, which has its own set of problems. More open interior space, but more coveted ‘window’ offices, each with a wall, separate electrical outlets, ceiling panels instead of the solid ceilings in the condos.
Without drawing it out, there are lots of nooks and crannies. Every inch has to be looked at, touched and sniffed for anything that doesn't seem in order. Doing it through a child's eyes, always asking, 'why is it like this?'
Chapter Fourteen VI
Black appears at nine, the two disciples, Jade and Jeremy, with him. Everyone in street clothes, hard hats, inspector gear.
Janah asks Black, “How much did you explain?”
Black, “Just that Master J needed us.”
Janah, “Okay,” she turns to Jade and Jeremy, “here’s the problem.”
She covers the situation, the threat. They don’t ask questions. Why they are looking for signs of evil intent is immaterial, the what-ifs or whys irrelevant.
The Abbess instructs them to walk the building on full radar. If they hear a drip that doesn’t make sense, if they feel a vague uneasiness in some area, they are to call Janah or me.
To say we’re all over the building is to understate. We went places I believe the general contractor didn’t know existed, and inspectors never inspected. Hearing Gibbons say, “Aw Shee-yit,” is a daily occurrence.
Most if it is just general aggravation, incomplete or faulty wiring, Janah has become an electrical contractor in two days of Google. It takes more skill than flushing toilets and running sinks to look for crack and leaks. The building might not have turned into a rainforest, but it would have become a mold and mildew nightmare in a couple of years.
Naturally, the developer is livid. Some of the subs will simply declare bankruptcy, if they aren’t bonded, it means he has to hire new ones to make repairs on pipes and wiring he’d already paid for once.
The reinsurer we tangentially work for wants to pay us a bonus, as the inevitable lawsuits could have easily risen to their indemnity level. The subcontractors are bonded, but some are fraudulent bonds. That oversight arose from the general contractor not doing his homework, in part because the developer wanted everything yesterday.
Fortunately, the developer sent the contractor several threatening e-mails, which supported the case there was a lot of pressure to cut corners. The general replied, warning that some things just took time to do right. He’d kept a file of the correspondence, backing the developer into a corner.
The developer, one Jonathan Archaize, called a contact of his named Anthony Paretti, a labor racketeer in Brooklyn, whom Archaize had been paying to insure the union workers show up.
“I got a crew from the reinsurer snooping around, calling me out on sloppy work. Work performed by unions you control. This is costing me over a million on a project I paid you to see run smoothly.”
Paretti, “Who’s creating the problem? I know what you said, exactly who?”
“A woman named Sarah Barclay, (Janah), is in charge, a few assistants, (Nikko and I are Tasha and Masha Salinger, and Chan is Harold Chin.) Employees of Mammoth Insurance. Some black monster showed up name of Al Franklin.”
Paretti, “I’ll get back to you.”
The same night, Jade and Jeremy stay in the building, Black, the three of us and Chan are walking to the subway to wind our way to the Village.
A car pulls up at the 125th St. subway entrance, three guys exit in a hurry, three more come up the subway stairwell.
Janah, “Trouble. Deal with them, I’m tired, we all need to rest.”
I take the first guy out of the car, fat asshole is easy work, particularly after I wink at him, then pull out my ceramic tool and he loses use of his right arm. I cut the tendon at his elbow, punch him hard in the throat, crush his ankle for insurance.
Nikko is over the car, gets to the driver as he exits, elbows him right through the collarbone and crushes his sternum with her knee. A third guy, small and armed, comes out of the second door. He’s only armed for a second, then he’s….disarmed. I leave his gun in his hand, which is lying on the concrete a few feet from where he landed when I kicked him, which was back into the interior of the SUV.
Nikko leaps back over the car to help Chan and Black. She gets there in time to see three bodies in varying uncomfortable positions on the stairwell. They aren’t dead, they aren’t moaning in pain; they are seriously unconscious.
We go down the subway stairwell, nobody around, it’s near ten p.m. Black takes the train home to Sonia, Chan to Chinatown, we get off at 14th street, walk west to the apartment. On the way, Janah is on her cell.
“Adrianna, this is Janah.”
Adrianna Palumbo, “Well damn and be damn, I read about you every so often. And thanks for checking in once in a while. We owe you angel. And you didn’t call at nearly quarter to eleven to wish me happy birthday.”
Janah, “You’re birthday is six months away. How’s life, being a hot, uh, businesswoman?”
Adrianna, “Has it’s good days and it’s better days. You know, that thing you’re hottie says…”
“It’s good to be the Queen.”
Adrianna, “Yeah, God, Daphne makes me wish I was a lez. So, what’s up?”
“We’re doing some consulting through Mammoth, not under our own names. A person you know, Anthony Paretti, has been running labor for the developer, Jonathan Archaize.”
“He does all Archaize’s contract work.”
“Well, that’s nice, but I had to discourage several of his employees tonight and I’d very much appreciate it if I was left undisturbed, very undisturbed, to finish the job. It is extremely important, or I would never trouble you with six punks. It isn’t them, they’re just Paretti’s hired hands. Probably don’t even know why they were supposed to discourage us.”
“And I’m sure I don’t want to know why you’re working with Mammoth.”
“No, you don’t. And remember, we aren’t us, no names please. If there’s anything else you need to be clear on, you know I’ll call.”
Adrianna, “Soon as I hang up, I’ll call our friend. He’ll be most understanding, and you won’t hear from him, he is going to visit relatives in the old country, soon.”
Janah, “Another thing Daphne says, ‘It’s good to work with the best.’”
Adrianna, “Take care of yourself, Janah, give my best to your girls.”
The phone rings when we walk in the apartment, Janah clicks on, Marsconi says, “It ain’t my part of town, but six of Anthony Paretti’s men have incurred injuries that somewhat resemble injuries inflicted by people you may be familiar with.”
Janah, “How very unfortunate. Coincidences do happen however. Detective, do you seriously believe I would leave you or Jacquelyn twisting in the wind?”
Marsconi, “No, which is why I’m glad it’s not my turf. I’m calling to tell you that Anthony Paretti is a particularly vicious crime boss.”
Janah, “Thank you, Detective. I believe you will find, if you care to check, that Mr. Paretti is going on an extended vacation, relaxing. Extorting contractors can be stressful and exhausting. His friends and family have invited him to visit the old country, for the next month, maybe longer. He may have left already.”
Marsconi sighs, “Could I get a step ahead, just once?”
Janah, “You’re already a step ahead. You’re the first to know, at least in the ranks of the authorities, that Mr. Paretti is on extended leave. I came across the information quite by accident. You know I how much I like to keep my fingers on the pulse of our metropolis.”
Marsconi, “Jocelyn will be happy to hear you’re several steps ahead, as usual.”
Janah, “Thank you, and give Jocelyn our best. We may be busy for a couple more weeks. But we’ll be sure to call when we can hook up at the Village Diner and swap lies.”
Marsconi laughs, “Stay safe, I don’t want to have to deliver bad news to Jocelyn, she’ll shoot half the city. If something goes down, I best hear my phone ring first.”
They hang up.
Johnny Archaize had given it a shot, called in his ‘labor relations’ expert and we’d sent six of his guys to the hospital in far less than operating condition. When Paretti calls Johnny, it is from an Al Italia first class waiting room.
The conversation is short, “Certain people you don’t want to know gave me a call last night. You, my friend, will finish the job, right and on time, and they don’t give a shit how much it costs you. And, I’m sending you a bill for six of my acquaintances who are in the hospital.”
Archaize, “The fuck. Fuck I’m paying YOU for?”
Paretti, “To tell you those Mammoth inspectors are extremely well protected, not to mentioned remarkably skilled at self-protection, the understatement of the decade, maybe of all time. If you want to remain in a fully upright and locked position, you better bust your balls to get this done. The alternative is, you get to visit your balls in a jar of formaldehyde every day for the rest of your life.”
Archaize, “Is this a shakedown, you want more money?”
Paretti, “You are one stupid fuck. I’m out money now, with no way to get it back. I’m doing you a favor. You want proof, go to Lenox hill hospital on 77th. See what four inspectors from Mammoth did to my six very experienced guys. And, I’m told, one did nothing, it was six to four, my people were carrying and they still kicked our ass. Normally, I’d just ratchet up the action. But I got a call from people you do NOT want to fuck with and I do NOT want to piss off. Do what you’re told. Tonight, go to a club, get a private room, coupla’ bottles of Cristal, and get sucked off. Then get the fucking building in order.”
He hangs up.
Archaize looks at the dead phone, someone the size of three middle linebackers walks into his office. A black guy, with a do rag and big sunglasses. Archaize peers out the door, three of his men are resting uncomfortably on his twenty grand Persian rug, their blood making it instant junk.
Archaize reaches in his desk drawer, the drawer slams shut, his hand still in it, he screams.
Black opens the drawer, grabs the thirty-eight and whaps Archaize across the jaw with it. Black shoots him in his left kneecap, Archaize screams louder.
“Cryin’ like a bitch won’t help. Here’s what’ll help. You do your job, you stay out of my way, you stay out of everybody’s way, and I won’t take out your other knee."
Black cracks the gun under the edge of the desk, on the same side where Johnny’s knee might have been. He unloads it, presses it in Archaize's hand, “You just shot your shitheel ass playing with your gun. It was an accident, you heard a disturbance outside your office and pulled it out to protect yourself. It hit the edge of the desktop and went off. You called 911, they came and fixed you up, and sent you to Lenox Hill. You be in rehab for a while, so you can finish the building by giving your general contractor the authority to do whatever it takes. How you feelin’ ‘bout that?”
Archaize realizes he is dealing with people way over his pay grade, no matter how rich he is.
Black, “Goddamn right. I be fulla good ideas. You get the story wrong, by a syllable, and I’m back. You want me back?”
Johnny shakes his head, Black says, “You ain’t too stupid then. If I sniff your ass in the air, I’m coming…then you going. You got that shit down?”
“Don’t be noddin’ at me, asshole. What’s the fucking answer, in words, BIG LOUD FUCKING WORDS!”
“I’m off site, job is completed on time. Can I call 911 now?”
Black, “Already done. Let me help you relax.”
Black smacks his major league fist across Archaize’s temple. He would be found resting in his big league office chair, with his minor league goons bleeding all over his now worthless carpet.
Day nine, we’d found nothing but more crap construction work, which is miraculously being handled the instant it comes up.
Chapter Fifteen VI
It’s always darkest just before it turns pitch black.
Black, “We can’t find anything, a declining number of construction screw ups. Now what?”
Janah, “Something I’ve overlooked until last night. They aren’t going to blow up the building. They’re going to asphyxiate it, or at least all the people in it.”
Black, “The party’s on the roof, it’ll be all they can do to keep people from blowing off. The open air, even if it’s not that windy, will dissipate any gas.”
Janah, “A pallet of 155 mm artillery shells containing HD (distilled sulfur mustard agent) stored at Pueblo chemical weapons storage facility has disappeared.”
Nikko, “They’re going to drop mustard gas on the guests?”
Janah, “That’s my guess. There’s zero anything in the building, our best people, plus our best Sensitives, have been over every inch, twice now. Nothing currently inside the building is going to create a problem of the magnitude needed to get major attention. It’s not so easy now to hijack a plane big enough to do serious damage to a structure this big, and all flights around the city are far more closely monitored.”
Black, “You said it was missing, why do you think it’s here?”
Janah, “The disappearance of that much dangerous chemical material is too coincidental. Any reasonably equipped shoulder carried rocket launcher or bazooka can fill the roof with the gas, crack more through the windows of the next three floors so that escaping the gas entirely would be impossible. It’s been out of use for so long, it’s likely people at first might even think it part of the entertainment.”
Black, “But it’s still on the roof, open air.”
Janah, “That’s the point of mustard gas. It only takes quick exposure, sticks to clothing and hair. External effects don’t manifest for up to twenty four hours. By then, simple treatments, Betadine or bleach, are too late. Worse, inhalation is fatal in under an hour. Even if we get people off the roof quickly, they’ll have to go through three or more floors of gas to get to the street. The only bit of help is that the stairwells have doors. The gas will only penetrate minimally if they just bust through the office windows.”
Nikko, “Then you’ve just created another scenario.”
Janah, “Right. They’ll gas street level maybe not waste the product on the higher floors at all. Do the roof with a barrage, hit a couple of top floors, then ground level.”
Black, “Which means we have to check the west side of the building as well as the riverside.”
Janah, “I’m afraid so. Get moving, go to the roof and survey all the surrounding buildings. I’ll get the Society to identify any empty space across the west side street. Take Daphne, with her eyes and binoculars, we may get lucky.”
“The terrorists get another benefit. By the time word gets out that chemical warfare has reached Manhattan, all hell breaks loose. Even the idea that chemical warfare was so simple to unleash will create a panic.”
Black, “Don’t people understand that some form of this could happen at any moment anyway?”
Janah, “Nope, they think since it’s never happened, it won’t. Hell, they keep going to work in hundred story buildings after 9/11. In our heads, we know it can happen again, in our hearts, we don’t think it will happen to us.”
Nikko, “The world couldn’t function if every moment we dwelled on the worst possible outcome.”
“That’s essentially it. People deal with risk by assuming it will happen to the other guy. In a way, they’re right. It does happen mostly to the other guy.”
Black, “So, now what?”
“We start looking for likely shooting spots. They can’t fly over, not without drones, or balloons, which I’m ruling out. I need to research how far a hand held rocket launcher is accurate, whether there are any spots where the bad guys could be using something more sophisticated, but it would have to be in place, not portable. Black, you and Nikko start shopping the hood, after your surveillance from the roof, anyplace in sight of the roof top, then anything that could hit the lower floors. By the time you have spots picked out, you’ll have ID allowing you access to anyplace you need to go, no warrant necessary.
Nikko, “They’re going to shoot from the river.”
“Good call. While you guys are scouting buildings. I’ll call the Society to deal with the Port Authority and the City. No boats, ships or even kayaks will be in range of the building. I’ll have vacant spots all round in an hour.”
Nikko, “Across the river isn’t that far.”
“That, I did think of. I’m researching launch distances now. In the meantime, send Jade and Jeremy across the river to get the feel of potential buildings. Chan, please ask David Li to add bird patrols over there as well. We’re going to nail this down before they have a chance to launch anything.”
Black, Nikko and I go to the roof to eyeball possible launch points. The Society delivers three pairs of Fujinon 7X50 Poseidon MTRC-SX Rubber Armored Mil Spec Binoculars, each includes a calibrated compass. We thought about a telescope, but it seems like overkill.
Janah’s research makes it most likely they would use a grenade launcher, which has, at best, accuracy in the range of maybe six hundred yards. There are so many possibilities, missile guided systems, which can be fired from miles away.
If the attackers use a missile guided system, there’s not much we can do shy of canceling the event. And there’s no reason to think they won’t go ahead with a fallback target.
Nikko is looking at buildings through her binoculars, “Getting the venue changed, even at the last minute may not help with a missile guided system. We can cordon off a two hundred yard circle around the building, but not a five mile one.”
Janah’s on the ground floor, “Yeah, I know. I’m thinking it over while I hope we get some luck and help from research on local building vacancies. I don’t know where else to go with this.”
“They could just target Times Square, or someplace the Mayor was making a speech, or attending a game at Yankee Stadium.”
“We can’t help any of that. That could happen any day. We got asked to help with the threats at this event. I can’t do anymore speculating.”
I chime in, “I’ve got activity on the west side of the building, three floors up in an apartment. Guys staring out the window, boxes stacked around. We need listening devices aimed at the window, get the birds to take a look while it’s set-up. I can’t stand here and stare at them from the roof, they’ll spot me eventually.”
Janah explains what we need to her Society contact. Within an hour we’d know when these jokers take a pee.
Janah, “Can you give me a description, a nationality?”
“Do prayer rugs bring anything to mind? Asses in the air, facing west, faces on the floor, facing east?”
Chapter Sixteen VI
I am astonished always at the
stupidity of Humanity but
I shouldn’t be, it’s always
which, after all,
keeps giving me more
Charles Bukowski, Slouching Towards Nirvana
“Ah, where are the good old days of refocusing assholes in pool halls?”
Janah, “The Society has a list a mile long. When we finish this, if it doesn’t finish us, we go to work almost immediately. We’d be doing Social Work now except for this curveball.”
“I heard the phrase ‘grenade launcher’ from the room across the street.”
Janah, “Nikko, go with Chan and get these guys into the vacant room on the floor above them. Do not ask politely. There are four, do you want Black?”
Nikko, “What for?”
Janah, “Sheesh, okay, but I’m sending Daphne anyway, if something goes wrong, you or she can mental me information we might not get from the listening stuff. Wait until she gets there.”
Nikko, “There must be more. That vantage point is for shelling the lower floors, not the roof. Won’t taking them down alert the others?”
Janah, “That’s exactly right, which is why the Sensitives are across the river and Black is checking buildings on either side of us. I’m calling for more listening gear. We want to hear everything in every building within launch range. If we can see a building from the roof, someone in it can see us, Black is checking from the 39th floor. We have to stay off the roof for a time. Too suspicious, clearly the action has started, they’ll be doing their own surveillance.”
She continues, “Take these guys quickly, confiscate cell phones immediately. Maybe they have BlackBerrys or even simple pagers. Allow for no communication. We can’t let them fill an apartment with mustard gas shells, even if there are other people setting up elsewhere. Where are they, exactly?”
“Two are in the room unpacking, two are shuffling boxes from the delivery entrance to the service elevator.”
"Tell Chan to make sure the two downstairs are disabled and store them in their truck. I guess I don’t have to say it…”
“Little brother is not so stupid as to leave them able to reach anything in the truck. Daphne’s here. We need to get moving.”
“One last thing, they may try and off themselves, check for any pills, liquids and their teeth. It may be something they already have in a plastic tooth, they crack it and win the seventy-two virgins.”
“Ahou.” [Idiot(s), in Japanese.]
Janah thinks to herself, ‘Nothing else to do until these ahou are sewed up. Then I, oh yeah,’ she calls the Society again, “I need more listening gear, three more sets best quality, I need my pharmaceuticals in quantity. I’ve got some chatting to do, with people who don’t like to chat. I need them in fifteen minutes. I’m in the lobby of the building, go to the delivery bay.”
Mrs. Epstein rings, “Materials are on the way. Do you need additional Surveillance?
Janah, “Yes, just observers, we’re looking for the true believers. Anything unusual, even slightly out of kilter. They need to be wired for contact, we may need them to disappear suddenly.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Done, be a fair number of old people wandering around. What else?”
Janah, “I need to know every vacant apartment, office or storefront in a three, no four, block area. I need teams to go knock on doors of the vacancies. If someone answers the door, or they hear sounds inside, they are to call me directly. Do NOT attempt to enter the premises, act like it’s an old guy mixing up his addresses. Apologize, get the hell out and call me instantly.”
Mrs. Epstein, “We’re on it.”
They disconnect, a panel truck wheels into the delivery bay. Janah tells them to leave the drugs, IV drips and syringes. She gives them directions to the 25th floor, where listening equipment is to be installed. Monitors will stay and report on any conversations, particularly ones from allegedly vacant apartments.
“Mission accomplished. Two guys resting uncomfortably in the delivery truck, two guys resting, it’s hard to say what their comfort level is, they’re unconscious.”
Janah, “Are they moved to the next floor?”
“Set them up, the usual, I’m coming with my doctor bag. I’ll deal with the truck guys on the way in.”
“May I suggest, Chan’s got them sewn up. They aren’t going anywhere, they can’t move. He’ll watch the truck to see if any support appears. If they have to lay there awake, they’ll be more cooperative by the time you get around to them.”
Janah, “Point taken. Okay, I’m coming up the service elevator. Chan’s meditating on a truck. I asked him to navigate the block every thirty minutes as well. A monk will arrive for backup shortly.”
Janah comes down the fifth floor hall, I open the door as she arrives. The two men are wired to metal chairs chained to the radiator, facing away from each other. The room is dark, I’d sprayed the windows black, then taped black garbage bags over that. Two halogen spots stare directly into each man’s eyes. We’d stripped them, searched, checked the teeth, nothing. We re-dressed them, this isn’t an attempt at humiliation. Nikko and I would work on forgetting what we’d seen….eeeewwww.
Despite allowing for ‘cultural’ respect, Janah is not going to be tender. We’d found grenade launchers and mustard gas grenades in the apartment below.
Nikko and I print and photograph them, send a DNA sample back to the Society. We’d use their families as a threat if necessary. We won’t do anything to their families, but they don’t know that.
While we wait for ID, Janah loads them up on LSD and methamphetamine. Going to be a very unpleasant afternoon for who we’re calling Extreme One and Extreme Two. Three and Four are in the truck, they’ll be miserable, angry and scared.
Soon, there are moans, shudders and shaking. Janah turns the lamps to strobe, makes the hallucinations worse, might even get the thrill ride of an epileptic seizure out of one of them.
While Es One and Two are rocking and rolling, Janah goes downstairs to get a jumpstart on Three and Four. They resist taking the drugs until Chan drives a screwdriver in their mouths, yanks them open and Janah pops the tab and the meth in. Already blindfolded, he re-tapes their mouths, shuts the truck door. They go down the rabbit hole without a single virgin for comfort.
Strangely, the word for paradise in Arabic is Jannah, Jahannam is the word for hell. My girl is one extra ‘n’ from being their paradise. Of course, she is already paradise for me, and bad Nishiko, so an extra ‘n’ doesn’t matter to us. The part our Extremes need to worry about is Jahannam on Earth.
I hook up headphones to One and Two. They’re going to get a zillion replays of Bloodline by Slayer. It’s violent hard rock. It could be worse, just read the morning paper, or even worse, listen to Fairly Unbalanced Fox News.
Thinking about hell is one thing. Living it another.