Thirteen

We’re having cocktails, which for Zi and I is sparkling water, the others have more adult beverages, Elijah Craig bourbon, Russian Standard Vodka, wine drinkers a crispy cabernet.
Dasha and Daria came back about a half hour after we left them.
“Boat ees at bottom of lake. We took out everything that floats, dragged it and the men up the mountain. We took clothes, they are food for wolf, lynx, cougar, bobcat, birds will clean the rest. Een a few days, nothing but scattered bones.
We will go and make them disappear. Clothes, things from boat are een incinerator outside. Did you find out anything Dahfoney?”
“Katya and I researched them. Going to be interesting fallout. A few calls as Mrs. Pearson to our society contacts revealed they’re affiliated with traffickers, weapons and people, some drugs. Likely here to scope out places to park things or people, then to find fresh places to creep across the border. Card in one wallet from a place about five miles west, on the south side. They weren’t here to fish, not a rod or reel in the boat, not much of anything, just the guns.”
Daria, “Sounds right, we only found a couple of life vests and a beer cooler, all we had to remove before we sank it.”
Lacy, “Out of curiosity, how did you do it?”
“We pulled it out of the water and flipped it. Banged holes in the bottom and sides with rocks. It was a double hull, so we put holes in the deck as well, filled the space with rocks and pushed it out across the water.”
Kara, “How deep is it?”
Janah, “There’s a short shelf, but the lake exists because this used to be a canyon, ninety to a hundred twenty feet most places, deeper in spots. If they pushed it out twenty yards, the boat is gone. The motor alone will keep it down.”
Dasha, “Boat was feefty yards out when it went under, we made a beeg pushing. Good for bear.”
Mani, “What’s a bear got to do….ooohh, you mean your bear strength, duh Mani, got it.”
Daria, “Lake is always smooth, boat glides along until water fills the hull, it stops and sinks, nobody around.”
Ellen, “To the question, they disappear, is anyone coming to look for them?”
“Have to assume so, if we figured out where they were staying, their pals will, likely already know.”
“So, smuggling, people and guns. Guns are like candy corn in America, why smuggle?”
“Smuggle into Canada, lots of restrictions here. All the Colt AR-15s for instance, and a long list of short barrel pistols, carbines and shotguns. Restricting or prohibiting them makes them more attractive to the gun crazy crowd. Everyone craves what they can’t have.”
Ellen, “Ah, of course.”
Taylor, “I had the same question, glad you asked. I’m guessing they make both smuggling trips pay, guns into Canada, women out.”
“Not women, adult prostitutes are all over Canada and America, they want girls, fourteen and under, preferably under. The American market is insatiable, children and drugs.”
Nikko, “We’re not here on vacation. What if we get to work and monitor the place where they were staying? Maybe we find more asswipes and deal.”
Sarah pulls the slide on the Ruger, it makes the familiar lock and load sound, “And I have just the thing to deal with asswipes.”
Janah’s in my head, “Guess we have to let them run with it.”
“The children want to play, can’t think of a better play date than child sellers.” 
Nikko, “How many drones do we have?”
Eloise, “Four, all fully equipped, plus Grace B.”
“What can she do?”
“Hang out for a really long time and never be bored or lose attention, transmit everything she sees and hears, with GPS coordinates.”
“I’ll rephrase, what can she do the drone can’t?”
“Get herself captured.”
Nikko’s blank for a second, then, “That is brilliant, think she can pull it off?”
Grace B, “What am I, Nikko, a fucking potted plant? Of course I can pull it off, Amaya will have to dress me young, I will take care of the rest.”
We laugh, Nikko doesn’t laugh, but even she gets a sardonic grin.
Sarah, “This is going to be so cool. Grace B in the mix, Ellen and I in sniper mode, the twins and Mani locked and loaded. I hope they send a damn army.”
Janah, “I didn’t ask, you have your regular stuff, I’d hate to reply on a Savage 30-06 none of you has used.”
Ellen, “I’ll sight it in tomorrow, if it’s clean, we’ll keep it. We have to use our own rifles anyway, we have suppressors for those, none for this one.”
“What do you use now?”
“Mini-14s, .223s. We also have Mini-30s, bigger bullet, like a .308, they call it a 7.62X39. It’s dumb, the .308 is 0.308inches but the Russian 7.62x39mm is 0.310inchs in diameter, a miniscule difference. There’s a lot of opinion about .30-06 versus.308.  It’s the same diameter, the same bullet. Best we can tell, there’s not much difference for what we use them for, accurate kill at distance. but we don’t do over five hundred yards, usually a lot less.”
“Are all the calibers necessary? I mean, if the bullets and the casing are essentially the same size?”
Ellen, “Not for two hundredths of  millimeter like the .308 versus the Russian version. That’s dumb. Arguments about which bullet to use for what is nitpicking over nothing.”
A new day, we start early, drone in the air surveying the rented cabin, ten year old Tahoe parked out front. We have their phones, nobody’s called those. The sat phone has rung seven times. We didn’t answer, the voice mails were brief, ‘check in, where the fuck are you?’
Daria, “If anyone shows at the cabin, we will have Grace B dressed in our hiking clothes. Susan and Amaya are tweaking her to pretend she’s lost. To avoid having to engage in conversation, we thought she should use Russian. Her video cam will show us what she sees and hears. If her captors think she doesn’t understand English, they’ll talk openly.”
“Dang, that’s a good idea, why didn’t I think of it?”
“Grace B thought if it, she’s smarter than we are.”
We occupy ourselves the next couple of days keeping an eye on the drone video, nobody has shown up at the cabin. From time to time we follow the news in America. Life is still messy, people are on edge, the media stokes the flames as usual. Interviews with Muslims insisting they had nothing to do with the bombing, interviews with militias and posses asking ‘what did anyone think they would say?’ There does appear to be a lull in the killing, anyone caught on the street with a gun, other than law enforcement or the military is arrested. Naturally that creates an uproar on the freedom and liberty crowd, more interviews with hostile citizens.
Bills float through Congress, all gun and ammunitions sales are banned, creating a whole new black market. Nearly all mosques have been torched or bombed. Since carrying a gun is risky, Muslims are snatched off the street, even from their homes, beaten, tortured or simply hung.
After an hour, it gets repetitive, we move on to a semblance of normalcy. Girls berry and mushroom hunt, a trip to the falls. This morning we’re just finishing up breakfast.
Daria, “Car pulled up to the cabin.”

Fourteen

Four men get out of a Navigator, looks like a rental, it’s new. There’s a short grey hair military type that appears to issue orders, one skinny guy with a mustache, fat boy has on a ball cap, the forth guy is off the rack medium, walks with a slight limp.
“Tune in the parabolic, let’s listen.”
She taps the screen, Grey is at the door knocking, the others are looking through windows. Medium goes around back, there’s the sound of glass breaking.
The front door opens, Medium says, “Nobody here boss. There’s stuff, clothes, beer in the refrigerator, provisions, no sign of a disturbance.”
Skinny, “Might be in the boat looking for ways in or out.”
Grey, “They weren’t here for border crossings, it’s forty miles to the border idiot. They’re supposed to be looking for spots to store merchandise, away from prying eyes and nosy rangers. And they were to check in every day.”
“Engine trouble, stranded someplace?”
“They had a sat phone, something’s gone sideways, I gotta report.”
“Eloise, get the number he dials.”
Eloise zooms the drone cam, we watch him punch in the number.
Nikko, “Damn, the resolution on that thing, like I’m looking over his shoulder.”
Grey, “Nobody here, no sign of a problem at the cabin. They had a boat, nothing at the dock, nobody answers the phone….no, no point in calling their cells, there’s no service here, it’s the fucking wilderness.”
He listens for a minute, “Yeah, I suppose so, this place is pretty isolated, cabins are spread far enough apart you can’t see any of the others. Haven’t seen anyone but us, it’s not a hiking place, it’s a fishing place.”
More nothing while he listens, then, “Yeah, we can keep the product here for a few days, place is rented for the month. We only have provisions for us, we’ll need more to keep the product fresh.”
He listens again, then clicks off, “Bringing the product up here tonight. Offload our gear, we’re in the cabin for a few days.”
We watch them carry boxes from the SUV to the cabin. 
Janah, “Product can only mean one thing, they aren’t raising parakeets. If it was guns, they don’t need it so well hidden, any storage unit would do.”
“When do we insert Grace B?”
“Let them sit, see who else turns up.”
Taylor, “You guys are like machines, so different from the girls I’m used to seeing around the condo. Daphne is usually screwing around, being playful, now she’s like commander in chief.”
Susan, “Years of chasing around abusive assholes, not to mention Shadows. In their work, someone has to articulate strategy. Janah decides what projects to take, Daphne does the strategy part. It’s not commander, anyone can add, suggest alternatives, at some point there has to be a decision. Daphne decides.”
Lunch comes and goes, tea, then the cocktail hour. The cabin is dead, Fat Boy and Medium come out to smoke in the dusky onset of evening.
Oceane flies a second drone out, then Eloise brings the first in for recharging.
Eloise, “Think we need to monitor all night?”
“If they bring in girls, best time might be at night. We don’t know where they’re coming from though, might take until tomorrow or the next day. We’ll do shifts, I’ll take the first, Zi can do the second. After that, it’ll be morning.”
Dasha and Ellen are making fried fish tonight, a big production for so many people. I make up a salad of herbs and mushrooms, a light coating of olive oil and rice vinegar, we have bags of frozen dinner rolls, get those prepared. Dump a commercial size can of creamed corn in the pot to simmer, add a half stick of butter and a loosely filled cup of grated romano-asiago. I want a mild cheese flavor, not cheese goop.
Janah, “Yay, food.”
Girls fill plates from the buffet, condiments on the table, can’t have fried fish without ketchup and horseradish, powdered habanero for the fearless. Cold Sapporo instead of wine.
Katja, “Fish is perfect Ellen, Dasha, you make a good team.”
“Dasha is the most efficient kitchen person I know, never a wasted motion, she knows exactly what she wants to do, in what order and how long it will take.”
“Dahfoney and I are cooking for thirteen people everyday almost. Haf to be orderly. Emma and Grace B are beeg help now.”
Grace B is taking away empty Sapporo cans and refilling glasses with fresh brew.
Kara, “Grace B is incredible, she never spills a drop of anything.”
Grace B, “Thank you Kara, flattery will get you more fish.”
“God, I shouldn’t, but I will, just too good.”
Amaya, “And I will too, do you like your young girl look?”
“Miss Lauren says I am jailbait.”
We laugh, Lacy says, “Like Daphne in her miniscule skirts when she was at Chapmans.”
Lauren, “Were they really that short?”
Lacy, “By lunch, everyone knew what color panties she was wearing.”
“I was an attention hog, got a lot of mileage out of those skirts.”
Grace B, “Amaya gave me a blend of your legs and hers. You are racehorse and slim muscular, hers a bit more filled out, luscious as she says.”
“Amaya is luscious all over, I’m happy she included a bit of me in you.”
Amaya, “That will get you access to my lusciosity, as soon as we’ve dealt with the cabin boys.”
I’m wearing my best idiot grin.
Mani, “What’s Daphne staring at?”
Janah, “I suspect Amaya is being suggestive, Daphne foreplay.”
Mani giggles, “In the midst of America’s meltdown, wiping out two jerks this afternoon and the prospect of dealing with more tomorrow, she’s got time to lust after Amaya.”
Amaya, “Daphne has sensible priorities.”
Susan, “I surrender, time for Cognac on the porch, where is the bottle?”
Grace B, “Go out, I will bring the drinks. The temperature is forty seven degrees, it will be thirty nine in eighty seven minutes, fifty percent humidity, partly cloudy, blankets are by the door. A meteor shower in twenty two minutes, just to the southwest.”
Some find spots around the fire Nikko built in the fireplace, others park on the porch or just below around the concrete table we built a couple of years ago. Girls frequently like to eat outside, the table can accommodate fifteen. Seems like no matter how big we build stuff, we wind up needing bigger.
Everyone comes out for the shooting star show, it’s glorious, and precisely on time. We get a burst of brilliance for three or four minutes, then just the occasional blip.
Sarah, “How does she know the exact time?”
Eloise, “She’s always connected to the web. Doesn’t matter if she’s pouring wine, clearing dishes or cleaning bathrooms, information comes in and gets processed. People can’t really multitask, but our bots multitask all day and night. You have to remember, they don’t sleep. We programmed them to hibernate from two in the morning until five. But any data that requires attention will wake them up.”
Sarah, “They really are more than human.”
“Well, I can pull the batteries, or just shut them off with a remote or voice command. It’s a failsafe in the event of a corrupted program or file.”
“So Grace B won’t come and kill us in our sleep.”
“No, any move to violence to any family member shuts her down. Family includes our extended family, of which all of you are a part. Grace B knows who you are, visually, also infrared and ultraviolet. She knows your voice, how you move, all speech inflections.”
“How did you program all that?”
“She’s programmed to pick it up, she learns you while you’re just hanging out, she records your pheromones while she cleans your room. When you interact with us or her, she remembers it all. The bots know us better than we know us.”
Sarah shakes her head, “Amazing.”

Fifteen

Girls wander off to bed, Nikko sits with me for a while. She doesn’t drink much, two glasses of wine and she’s done. Zi and I don’t drink any alcohol. 
The fireplace crackles when Nikko adds a log, then plops next to me on the floor.
Around one, lights appear to the left of the screen, then two vehicles, an ordinary pickup and a van. The van is the two or two and a half ton panel variety, more than five years old but not ancient.
It’s dark around the cabin, they aren’t going to accommodate us with exterior lights. The moon and the interior lights in the van reveal a half dozen kids, girls. Guess work in the dim lighting about age, I switch the drone cam to infrared.
Nikko, “Six kids, three more men. How in hell do you get six children past the border?”
“They didn’t come across the border, they’re either going across the border or staying in Canada. I suspect them came in on a plane, a regular commercial flight.”
“Ah, of course, duh, they’re for the North American market. Why not just fly them into America? That’s what happened with both sets of twins.”
“I’m sure they would. Underage girls have been selling themselves on Craigslist in Vancouver. British Columbia cops don’t take it seriously I read. It’s also a big market in Toronto.”
Everyone is inside except three guys having a smoke.
Nikko, “Don’t know what we can do tonight, listen maybe.”
 I adjust the parabolic mike, it’s hard to make out who’s who in the dark, only cigarette butts glow from time to time.
One asks, “You know who the buyers are?”
“Vancouver, they go through girls like a fucking blender. Run ‘em from ten to fourteen, after that turn ‘em over to pimps at wholesale, damaged goods and all.”
Laughter, another voice, “Man they tear those girls up. No wonder they turn into junkies.”
“Pimps like ‘em that way, a junkie is easy to control, they don’t get ideas, they just want the next fix.”
The door opens, light from inside spills out, it’s Grey, “Get in here, if you need to smoke, there’s a porch out back, use that. We got to move early, whatever happened Jimmy and Rick, it isn’t good. If someone finds them and figures out where they were staying, we got problems.”
“We should have kept moving.”
“Maybe, but get caught with a van full of spaced out kids in the dead of night, fuck we going to tell the Mounties? We found them? If they found our guys, they’s have been here already. All they would know is they found two bodies. They sure as shit aren’t coming at two in the morning. They didn’t have any kids with them, just two guys cruising the lake, nothing illegal about that. The boat broke down, they were supposed to be looking for out of the way places. Chances are they’re dead, for exposure or worse.”
“Worse what?”
“Lot of critters in these mountains, snakes, wolves, pumas, bears.”
Nikko and I look at each other, he’s right, lot of critters, including us.
We wait until four, then get Dasha, Daria and Katya’s crew up and active. I have coffee brewed, they have Glocks and Rugers loaded.
Nikko, “We taking Grace B?”
“Might be interesting, use her as a distraction, she walks up out of the woods, let me get Amaya up.”
They busyness arouses the rest of the family, Amaya dresses Grace B in our hiking gear, then she makes her up to look like she’s been lost in the woods for a day or so. Face dirty, hair disheveled and damp, before dressing her, she dragged the clothes through the dirt outside.
Grace B, “I am a mess.”
“When you come on them, act disoriented, stumble. You can’t drink water, if you’re offered any, just splash it and pretend. You won’t be acting but a minute or less. We’ll be on them.”
“The rest of you can follow from the drone, put up two, we can monitor the feeds from our phones, it will be light enough in an hour.”
I turn to the others, “I can mental Nikko, Dasha and Daria, so we space ourselves around the cabin with one of each of us. I’ve got Sarah and Ellen , Katya with Dasha, Mani with Daria and Katja. Katja and Katya can mental each other, watch out for yourselves, between the mentalers and the drones, we have your backs.”
Katya, “I assume you have us for a reason.”
“Yep. They’re armed. It’s six men, we don’t know jack about them, they may be good with guns or just carrying for show.”
Lacy, “Why not just call the Mounties and get them busted?”
“Where’s the fun in that?”
“If you get hurt, I’m rescinding your diploma.”
I grin, “I’ll bear that in mind.”
Dasha pilots one boat, the Spyder, I have the other, a thirty four foot Sunsation. We’re approaching the cabins in twenty, I pull into shore about three hundred yards shy of the cabin, Dasha moves on a couple hundred yards past. It’s a lake, boats run by all the time and according to the drone feed, nobody at the cabin is outside yet. It’s the misty light time, easily a half hour before sunrise.
“Dasha, spread your people out behind and to your left. We’ll take the front and other side. Let’s not be dumb, if there’s gunfire, remember we’re in a circle, better not to shoot each other.”
“We do no anyway haf gun, Katya’s girls haf experience, I will remind.”

Ellen is next to me, “You’ll want to find a spot to cover us?”
“Got it already, top of the stack of boulders, I’m on high ground, they’re below.”
“Remember, we’re surrounding the place, know who you’re shooting.”
“Simple, whoever ain’t a girl.”
Back to Dasha, “Ellen has the front covered, where’s Sarah?”
“Up a tree, sighting in.”

I tell my crew, pass along the mental Dasha and Daria, “Find a spot, stay low and know where the others are. Look through each other’s eyes, be sure you’ve located everyone.”
I do a slow scan, stop on each girl I see, follow Dasha doing the same.
“Nikko, you know where everyone is now?”
“Yes.”

Nothing to do but wait. I can’t send Grace B along until someone comes outside, preferably two or three.
Lights blink on inside, one man comes out, lights a cigarette. He slides the side panel open, airing it out in the chilly morning air, leans against the passenger door and puffs.
“Nikko, get him under control, Daria, make your way to the front, when Nikko has him subdued, haul him off someplace.”
Our resident samurai creeps along silently, I’m watching the target, when she’s alongside the rear of the van, I toss a pine cone into the woods.
He does the inevitable, looks up and turns his head to the noise. While he’s trying to figure out if a bear is stalking him, Nikko comes from behind. Hand around his throat, a quick strike to his carotid halts blood flow to his brain, he sags against her.
Daria is there, she takes him by the belt, he folds over like a hanging bag and she drags him into the woods. I see Dasha wiring him up and a few circles of two inch Gorilla tape around his mouth. Toughest tape on the planet, be a bitch to unwind.
I see through Dasha’s eyes, the back door opens, two more cigarette smokers with cups of coffee. They lean against the porch rail, facing the cabin.
“Dasha, get the twins busy. Walk them to the woods and wrap them.”
Katya and Katja ease behind the men, one I recognize as Fat Boy, the other a new arrival from last night.
Glocks poke behind the ears, I hear, “Don’t move, don’t breathe unless you want brains in your coffee,” then the click of hammers cocked.
In perfect synchronicity, the men are pulled over the railing, splat! on their backs, now they’re wearing their coffee.
Two fat Glocks tap foreheads, “Not a sound, up, slowly, hands on your head.”
They pull the men’s weapons, appear to be revolvers. 
Fat Boy gets stupid, lunges for Katja, there’s a pop, dirt flies up at his feet, he freezes.
“Next time, sniper puts one between your eyes fat ass.”
They march off the two men, same treatment as the first. Hope we brought enough Gorilla tape.
Front door opens, Grey walks out, “Fuck is Hinson?”
He turns to the inside and tells someone, “Check out back and see if that asshole is with the others.”
Ten seconds later a voice, “Ain’t shit out here but two empty cups on the ground.”
Grey, “Get Benson and Wilkins out here for reconnaissance, if those assholes went in the woods to take a leak, I’m gonna make it the most painful piss they ever took.”
“More likely they went for a toke, boss.”
“Jesus, even fucking worse, find those pricks.”
Grey stays outside, he just handed us Benson and Wilkins. Mani, Katya and Daria will take care of them. 
“Grace B, do your thing honey.”
She appears out of nowhere, Grey squints, cocks his head. ‘What the fuck now?’ he thinks, a girl stumbling out of the woods, clothes beat to shit, looks dazed.
“Harvey, get out here, seriously strange shit going down.”
Harv, comes running, stops, “Jaysus, fuck happened to her? Like a gift, right age, clean her up, she’s saleable.”
Grey, “Gifts bother me. Take her inside, I got questions soon’s we find out where those three dopers got off to. Fuck and fuck, I need a new crew.”
Nikko, “Bring Dasha or Daria around, we get rid of Grey, the rest of these assholes can’t find their dicks with both hands and a GPS.”
“Dasha, come to this side, we have a cleanup on aisle one.”

Grey is scanning the perimeter, not drinking coffee or smoking. Nikko, good as she is, isn’t sneaking up on him. Instead, she stumbles our of the shadows, trips, falls face first. Grey approaches, she’s not armed, he is.
Nikko looks up, disoriented, as if he isn’t even there.
Still, he cautious, “What’s the deal honey? Bunch of girls got lost, drink too much, smoke too much?”
Dasha, behind him, nearly gives him a heart attack, “Not really, she is a good actor though, yes?”
She hits him so hard in the kidney he’s dead before he hits the dirt, some five feet from where he was standing.
Nikko, “Now that is a punch.”
“Do tell.”

Dasha drags him into the shadows, won’t need to use tape, Grey is staring dead-eyed at the moon.

Sixteen

I go through the count in my head. Six men, minus one in front of the house, minus two in back, and Grey. Two more someplace inside.
“Grace B, go in and give me a visual.”
I mental Dasha, Daria and Nikko, “Grace B going inside, check your phones and let’s see what’s what.”
Nikko slips next to me, we study the screen. Grace is in, the front door opens to a living area and kitchen off left, table for six. A hallway to the right, behind the living area. 
She enters the hallway, one man is leaning against the wall with a cup of coffee, his back to her. He’s talking to the last man inside the room.
“Get them in gear, we need to be on the road. Where the fuck is everyone?”
Grace B, “Three tied up, one dead fuckwad.”
The man startles, collects himself, turns and pulls his weapon, “Shit, a kid, who in hell are you, where you come from?”
“Irrelevant, you will leave now, I am taking the children.”
He grins, “Little old you, all by yourself. I got a better idea, how ‘bout you come here and join your new friends, we gettin’ ready to take a ride to the big city.”
Grace B walks towards him as if she’s acquiescing.
“Now that’s better honey, you gonna have fun in Vancouver, meet nice men, make money, how’s tha….”
She snatches the gun so fast he doesn’t grasp it’s gone, pull his hand up and stares blankly at the emptiness. She snaps the butt of the Ruger just over his ear, takes his hand in hers and crushes it. Yuck, squishy crackles, blood runs between her fingers. A high pitched squeal rings out the front door.
Last Man barges out the door, gun drawn, stalls, a teenage girl has a gun in her left hand and his buddy’s hand in her blood covered right. He raises the pistol, Grace B puts a round in his forehead. Girls in the bedroom screech.
She walks to the door, scans the room, “What language?”
Nothing, wide eyes and silence, they aren’t Asian, not black or Hispanic, blonde or light brown hair. She tries Russian, Swedish, German, scans her memory, Latvian. Girls smile and start with questions.
Grace B answers in their language, “Questions later, men were taking you to be sold.”
One of the older ones says in Latvian, “We are orphans, coming to live with rich families in Canada. They show us picture, big house, dog, new car.”
“Come with me.”
Six girls outside, three dead guys, three wired and wrapped.
Nikko, “What now?”
“Now we interrogate the living.”
Grace B collects details about the girls. In their native language they are well spoken and intelligent. They had been spirited away from an orphanage in Riga, the largest city in Latvia, maybe seven hundred thousand. The whole country is only two million.
Dasha and Daria drag the living into the cabin. Hinson, Benson and Wilkins sounds like a cracker law firm. Dasha rips the tape from one, she isn’t gentle. Clumps of hair come along with the tape. He tears up and groans.
Katya’s in front of him, Glock loosely held at her side, “Name.”
“Aunt fucking Jemima.”
She shoots him in the foot, blood fills his boot, leaks out the hole bottom and top, it went clean through. Wow he can howl, his breathing comes in gasps, sweat along his forehead.
She sticks the suppressor right in his ear, “Next one comes out the other side of your head.”
“Benson.”
“You a butler?”
“A what…., my foot is killing me.”
Katja pulls his wallet, “Roy Benson, says he lives in Quebec.”
Katya, “Find out who the others are.”
“Wilkins lives in Quebec as well, Hinson is from outside Toronto.”
I scan the IDs, Janah sees through my eyes, “I’ll dig around and get their details. Ask about people up the line.”
I tell Katya, “The network, up and down, everyone.”
Turns out she’s quite efficient, we used to take fingers with blades, she uses bullets on toes. It takes surprisingly few bullets, one or two per customer and their life story unfolds.
Grey recruited Fat Boy, Medium and the two dopes Dasha and Daria fed to the wolves. One of them knew Benson and Wilkins, Wilkins knew Hinson. We don’t waste time with how they met or what they were promised, they got in the game and here they are.
What we do find out are the names of the people who transport girls from overseas, which we can’t do much about. That they run twenty or thirty girls a month from all over Europe. These are specialty commodities, clean, pretty girls, while many are orphans, they aren’t street kids. There is one man up the line from Grey, Claude Leclerc, now in Vancouver. Grey dealt with him, our leftovers only know a name and a city. Grey is too dead for us to interrogate.
Janah, “I got all that, we’re done.”
Benson, “We gave it up, so, you leave, we put ourselves back together, right?”
“Sure thing,” I nod to Katya, Ellen is already outside with Mani. Sarah, Katya and Katja are still with the three men.
Three pops, the three girls come out.
Ellen, “What happens to the girls?”
“Society people are on the way, they’ll be back in Latvia by the end of the week, no customs, no questions. Cleaners will take care of bodies and blood. By tomorrow, won’t be any cars, no van, no bullet holes in the floor, the cabin is empty.”
“Damn.”
“We run an efficient organization. Take the Sunsation and get everyone to the house. Dasha, Grace B and I will wait on the people collecting the girls.”
They take off. While we wait Grace B explains what’s going to happen. On short notice, we couldn’t come up with a translator, but there will be one when they get to the airport. Private flight to Toronto, then commercial business class to Frankfurt on to Riga with two Latvian women to shepherd them.
Tearful smiles, we’re smothered in hugs, kisses to both cheeks, they hug each other, then us again. I’m teary eyed myself. An hour later, a van pulls up, one of those comfortable ones, a small tour bus. There are sodas, sandwiches, chips, apples and bananas. Pop music plays over the speakers. I don’t know the singer, but the girls do, and they know the words in English. They’re signing along and waving to us as the van pulls away. Resilience is nowhere more apparent than in children.

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