Thirteen

A fresh morning, breakfast is over, children must be in the dorm, they aren’t swimming, Oceane has the pool to herself. Not quite, I see Cassie floating above, then she straightens and dives in.
Lauren, “No matter how many times I see Cassie in the air, it’s always a mind freak. And she comes out of the water and floats right back up. I keep looking for the wires.”
“What’s on your menu today, luscious?”
“Eloise and I are making the hotel room gadgets, if we get them done, we’ll rent a couple of hotel rooms and see how they work.”
“Let me know, I want to come along, I need to learn the manipulation.”
She turns to go upstairs to the workroom. I’m happy she found her thing. Eloise taught her hardware and Lauren discovered a knack for it. She can see the design in her head, excellent spatial acuity. Then they bang out a design on the computer and build it. The magnet on a shim and what amounts to a reverse coat hanger hardly requires an Eloise and Lauren, or a computer, still, they like to have projects.
Amaya must be reviewing the children’s stories, I go to the dorm for a listen. Kota B is replaying the series. Each time the kids go off through space, to whatever distant planet in a distant galaxy, or alternate universe, they recap what they saw. Like all our bots, Kota B is her own video cam, thus there’s a projection on the flat screen of children sitting in a semi-circle talking.
I sit cross legged on the floor and watch.
Nadia is describing an underground world of creatures that produce their own light, like fireflies, “The inhabitants are much bigger than fireflies, maybe three feet tall. They appear to move upright, but have no arms or legs. I thought of eggs, except more oval than an egg, not fat bottom with a narrow top, just an oval. They talk with light flashes. There was no sound. There were so many, the underground caverns and tunnels were lit up all the time. Since they blinked a lot, there was a background effect like a strobe light.”
Tasia, “And they were all the same exact size, not little ovals, like children, no tall or short. They must tell one from another by the light, even though we could see no difference in color or intensity.”
Karol, “They did die though. A light would dim, then blink out. The little round thing would disappear.”
Amaya, “So, at least as far as you could tell, the whole body was the light, not a light inside a body.”
Valeska, “Yes. Then one of them would cut in half and make two lights, and they would be the same size, not two half sizes. We watched for hours, I guess it was hours, there is no time when we travel. We noticed that one of the creatures would halve just after one of them blinked out.”
“So the population remained static, the same number all the time?”
Nadia, “We think so. Like I said, there were many of them, we could not tell if it was one dying and one born.”
“Did there seem to be any purpose? Common activity, a social structure, or hierarchy? An oval in an Oval office?”
The children giggle, Uma says, “No, they appeared to be happy to blink at each other. We didn’t see them eat, or anything that looked like eating, none of them joined together to make one light.”
Devona, “In fact, they kind of bounced off each other, not a collision, a tap. Then the two lights blinked more rapidly. After a time, they moved on in different directions.”
Amaya, “Fascinating, although I am not yet clear on how to bring dramatic action into it, I have to think it over. Perhaps I can mix the light creatures into another story. Our screenplay will be fiction, based on your adventures but not limited to only what you saw. I have to work you in so you are interacting with the creatures you come across.”
Zofia, “Eloise can make us a light that blinks with our thoughts, we can talk to each other like that. Like Tetya Dafna and you talk in your heads, but with light instead.”
Amaya, “Genius, I can work with that, even if it cannot be done for real we can do it in our screenplay, we can do anything we can make up.”
It will definitely give Eloise and Lauren something more challenging than opening hotel room flip locks.
The next video was recorded after a trip to a planet that much resembles Earth. I get the impression from their description that it must be a little further away from its sun, it was a cold place year round, warm enough to support life.
Devona, “There was water, much of it frozen over but a band of liquid water around the middle, the part that got the most sun. The creatures that live there are like fish that breathe air.”
“Like porpoises and whales.”
“Yes, except they had arms and legs, not flippers. Their feet were, what is the word Nadia?”
“Webbed, almost like fins, but they could walk on land, had hands that could grasp things, but no thumbs. To hold something they used both hands.”
Amaya, “Excellent. I do not suppose they went to war or otherwise killed each other off.”
Nadia, “No, they seemed communal, well fed. Whatever they fed on, it must have been in the water, we did not observe them feeding on land. They lived on land though, not in the water.”
“In dwellings, houses?”
Valeska, “Ice caves. With no thumbs, they could not manipulate tools, but they were strong, strong enough to dig into the ice with their hands, paws may be a better word. They would dig like any animal that borrows.”
Amaya, “Good, very good. I can create an adversary, one that attacks them for food or territory. Or out of fear, like the predators made out the water mammals to be terrorists. A play on our typically human trait of inventing threats so leaders can promise to save us from the threats they invent.”
“I recall that minor film twenty years ago, Arrival. Aliens came to Earth to help us learn to live in harmony and despite the fact that the aliens did nothing threatening, the first response of all governments was to haul out the military and point weapons at them.”
Amaya, “Fear makes people stupid, I use that in my work all the time.”
I ask, “In the places you visit, do the inhabitants ever go to other planets, do they know there are other life forms?”
Jesica, “We’ve never seen any, but we don’t necessarily see the whole planet and every life form so far has been on a planet.”
“So if there are, what’s the old series, Star Wars going on, you haven’t encountered them.”
“Nyet, no spaceships. There haven’t even been any satellites, like for phones or the internet. We’ve seen big cities, what look like cities anyway, with life forms populating them.”
Tasia, “We don’t know how they get their energy, or much about how they communicate, none of them walk around with cell phones. Maybe that kind of thing is built into them, like some of the implants they have today on Earth.”
Amaya, “That would make sense, good observation. I can use that in the screenplay as well. You guys are coming up with interesting bits, the thing might write itself.”
Zofia, “Maybe the next one should be in VR, not a theater, the viewer would be with us, in the show.”
Amaya, “Geez, brilliant, the children are out imagining me today. I will talk to our VR people and get them dreaming up how it would work.”
“I’ve got to show up in the kitchen and dream up lunch,” I stand and head downstairs.
Valeria and Dasha are already in the kitchen, it looks more like dinner prep, they’re banging on chicken breasts with wooden mallets.
“What’s doing?”
Dasha, “Valeria ees for cheeken Kiev, so we are flattening breast to roll up.”
“Yum, breaded breast rolled up with herbed butter inside, fried then baked.”
Valeria, “Da, and we haf to refrigerate for the afternoon, thirty chicken breast in plastic wrap ready to coat with flour and Panko, then fry, then bake.”
“I’ll make a light lunch then, finger sandwiches, let’s see, we had eggs for breakfast, no egg salad, I know, tuna, cold roast beef and ham with s sliver of mild cheddar, sound good?”
Dasha, “Da, okay, Ellen ees coming for helping, there are cheeps to haf wiz sandwich.”
Ellen appears, “What am I doing?”
“Helping me make finger sandwiches, what do we have with chicken Kiev?”
“I know what to have for dessert, chocolate cake ala Kiev.”
“What’s that?”
“Filo dough quarters, with melted bittersweet chocolate, butter and sugar in the middle. Sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar on top. Easy.”
“Appetizers, sides?”
“Sides of mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes to pour the sauce left over from baking the Kiev, all buttery and herbal. Alternatively we could use rice instead of potatoes, but we don’t rice much around here.”
“Potatoes, now, appetizers? Or do we have a cheese board with cocktails and let it go at that?”
“What do you think Valeria?”
She whaps a chicken breast into submission, “Cheese board with maybe a little cut fruit or grapes, light crackers, soft cheese, nothing heavy. Dinner is rich with butter, also dessert.”
“That takes care of that. I’ll do the cheese board just before cocktails, maybe roast Yukon Golds they can self mash or just cut them in two and add the sauce. I think I’ll cook green beans all day with bacon and ham bits. We’ll have Southern Russian.”
Valeria and Dasha are absorbed in torturing chicken breasts and pay me no mind.
Ellen has the bread de-crusted, I whip up tuna salad, she paints bread slices with Kewpie mayo and lays a thin slice of roast beef on one slice, covers it with another and makes three finger sandwiches out of each slice of bread. I do the same for tuna salad, then we do the ham, decide to skip the cheese since we’re having a cheese board this evening.
“There, lunch is set,” I pour a couple of bags of chips into bowls just as girls start wandering in, hungry as usual. Most of them have been active much of the morning, yoga, swimming, Chloe and Nikko were banging each other with bokken. 
Morshchiny’s poking my hip, I hand her a piece of ham, which she doesn’t bother to chew.
“And here’s a slice of roast beef, take it to your spot and pretend to enjoy it for at least a couple of chomps.”
She takes the slice gently, good thing, she could lop off my entire hand with those jaws, trots over to her spot next to the children’s table. Kota B is stacking sandwiches on a tray, the kids places are already set thanks to Emma B. A small roar of chatter rises, I assume they are enthused about Amaya’s screenplay.
Girls pick up plates, select sandwiches of choice and a handful of chips. Grace B and Emma B will deliver iced tea, sodas or water when girls find a spot.
Janah is eyeballing the Kiev prep, “Chicken Cordon Bleu?”
“Kiev, herbed butter in the middle, refrigerate to harden the butter, fry then bake to finish. Potatoes to dump the sauce on, all day green beans with bacon and ham, touch of Steen’s cane syrup. Lovely surprise for dessert.”
She take a bite of ham sandwich, “I don’t know why something as simple as a finger sandwich tastes so good.”
“Maybe it’s the Kewpie, it’s in all three. Actually, there’s something fun about miniature food, like canapés and finger sandwiches.”
Janah, “I’m going to have more fun,” she stacks two of each on a plate and heads out to join girls around the pool.”
Oceane and Cassie show up, Cassie is actually walking, not floating. They take one plate, a couple of sandwiches each, a few chips and move to the couch. Emma B brings them iced tea, sets it on the coffee table and makes the circuit to check on the others. Oceane feeds Cass a bite of sandwich, then eats the second bite herself. If it registers that the rest of us are here, you couldn’t tell from looking at them. It isn’t like ‘only have eyes for you’, they simply don’t register much of the world. If Dasha hadn’t trained them to show up for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we’d have to go looking for them. Even Oceane can’t ignore a Dasha demand.

Fourteen

Dinner is always a success, we put care and attention into the prep, ingredients and recipes. The luxury of a commercial kitchen top shelf appliances, four dedicated chefs and bots to speed cleanup. 
Amaya, “Wonderful work ladies, who thought of chicken Kiev, Valeria or Dasha?”
Ellen, “Valeria, her interest in the internet consists of recipe surfing.”
Dasha, “Valeria ees first class chef already,” she double cheek kisses the thirteen year old.
Lauren, “Do you guys have assigned days, you know, Daphne thinks up dinner on Thursday, or Dasha figures out breakfast?”
“Nope. We bat around ideas, or one of us says how about this or that, then we go for it. Dasha plans ahead for dinner most of the time, Valeria thinks up different menus sometimes. I used to plan more when there were fewer cooks, me on my own. Then Dasha took an interest, the family grew, Ellen came along, then Valeria. If it wasn’t for the bots, even the four of us would have trouble with thirty girls three times a day.”
Grace B, “Glad to hear you acknowledge our contribution, this menagerie of humans would fall into chaos without us.”
Not much of an exaggeration, think of thirty people showering, changing clothes, laundry, bed making. Could we do it all ourselves? Sure, but all that takes away from time to pursue other interests and challenges. Our bots are freedom expanders.
“Dessert in a half hour, go someplace so they can clear the dishes, Emma B will deliver aperitif of choice. For TV watchers, we will continue with a female detective series, Spontaneous Combustion. Amaya previewed and rates it ‘watchable’.”
Watchable for Amaya is high praise. She will tolerate no common plot contrivances, wife of cop who married him knowing full well what the job entailed, then nagging the crap out of him when he actually has to go out and do it. Or the tired, exhausted actually, bit where the male and female leads meet, argue constantly, then ultimately fall into the sack. It was fine the first couple hundred times it showed up in books, movies and TV. But enough already, over-enough. It’s hard to escape all car chases, or foot chases, or boat chases, but she will not react favorably massive chunks of screen time filled with screeching tires, smashed vehicles and near misses of pedestrians. Nor can there be hundreds of rounds fired from automatic weapons that never seem to hit anyone, or leads who get shot and bludgeoned only to appear in the next scene with a Band-Aid over one eyebrow. 
Sex has become the go to filler of the last couple of decades, first playful or suggestive banter over cocktails, then nude woman, lately there’s more male nudity, then either intense passion or simulated slow screw with dramatic musical crescendos suggesting the Earth moved. A line from Hemmingway, For Whom the Bell tolls, which may have been his most maudlin, and the principles weren’t even drunk.
Janah’s in my head, “Come to the office, maybe Nikko and Dasha too.”
I mental each, “To the office, we must have a project on.”
A minute later, the four of us have circled wagons.
Janah, “We have an easy one, I think, in Louisiana. A nothing place called Slidell, we’ve passed through it on I-10, job on the Florida coast a long time ago.”
“East of Mandeville, Covington? We did a refocus of bikers outside Mandeville, what was the place?”
Nikko, “Madisonville, nasty little place, bar on the river.”
“That’s it. I recall middle age pot belly men and fatter women, big hair, big tits, boats.”
Dasha, “Does not anyway sound like someplace to be.”
“It isn’t, but that’s where the bikers hung out and we had to disabuse them of the idea they could extort money from whoever they could intimidate. So we went. Enough memory lane, what’s up?”
Janah, “This is only one guy, trailer park west of Slidell, which isn’t far from Covington. One of those neighborhood nasties, big fence, keep out, even has booby traps in his yard, stupid stuff, nail studded boards laying around the yard for instance. Nothing explosive, he appears too stupid for anything complicated.”
Nikko, “Extreme privacy isn’t a crime, even ugly privacy, what else?”
“Intimidation, guns, sits on the roof of his tin castle to binocular the neighbors. Doesn’t appear it’s a perv thing, just paranoia. He’s wailed on a couple of locals, he’s a big rough guy. A Rottweiler patrols the fence, which is slatted, can’t see the dog, only hear the beast growl and bark whenever anyone passes too close.”
“How’d things get to this point? Guess you don’t know.”
“ I can only assume one of those escalating things that nobody can remember why it began. The thing is, it’s constant, just short of arrest stuff. He doesn’t stalk, no cause for a restraining order. He’s not after the neighborhood kids, except to yell threats. My question is, do we want to have a chat with him?”
Nikko, “Obviously no one in the hood is going to take him on.”
“No one in the hood wants to get that close to a guy with a Glock on his hip and a big dog in the yard. It’s Louisiana, mean white guy shoots a neighbor and claims he was being threatened or intimidated, no problem, Louisiana has a stand your ground law. It applies in all cases except in drug deals. Our boy doesn’t sell drugs, he’s just an asshole.”
Dasha, “Why can’t some other person shoot him while they are also standing on the ground?”
“Most gun owners don’t want to shoot anyone. They want the gun to make potential threats think twice. And most gun owners couldn’t hit a body with a pistol from more than five yards anyway.”
“Sarah will keel him for no reason at all, then she will haf orgasm.”
Janah giggles, “This is Society work, not a hit. I could have a drone nail him with no risk. What we will do is face him down, in public.”
Nikko, “Cops?”
“Cops will be busy that day.”
That means Mrs. Pearson will use our network to tell the locals to find someplace other than the area of the tornado magnet community to hang out for a couple of hours. Should anyone call 911 to report an altercation, the police will have a list of reasons they couldn’t immediately respond. No doubt they are weary of listening to complaints about the man, they also don’t want to goad him into a shootout.
“What’s his name, not that it matters, but I’ll need to call him something, although asshole will likely do.”
“Randy, Randy Schacter,” she taps the keyboard, Randy pops up.
Nikko, “Looks to be six three or four, thick, not stocky. Been hit in the face more than once.”
“Which means he knows that a bloody nose won’t kill him. I’m thinking his trigger finger is a good start.”
Janah, “More like it. This kind of dork is run of the mill bully boy, one that doesn’t back off of scrapes, his altered features haven’t made him less violent. He’ll need more than a pounding.”
“I can give him knee problems along with a missing digit, probably has an abundance of testosterone calling for a bit of hard attention to his groin.”
Janah, “Good enough. Surveillance is on him, getting his routines down. He has to go to the grocery, buy gas, fresh ammunition. We’ll figure out a public place, alert the constabulary to avoid it, then deal.”
Nikko, “Who goes?”
Janah, “What do you think, my initial thought is Daphne and me, I watch any observers, maybe two more. Four is plenty and we can take a small jet.”
Dasha, “Sloane will want to go with mom. Take a gun girl, Sarah or Ellen.”
“If I’m going, you’ll need Ellen here, Sarah doesn’t cook.”
“Da, okay, take Sarah wiz laser gun only for emergency. You will only need a day, fly over in the morning, fly back in the afternoon or evening.”
“Presuming everything goes well. We should front him in his neighborhood, let all the residents enjoy the show.”
Nikko, “There will be kids around, do we want them to see that, using violence to fix violence?”
“It will be a fair fight, I call him out, do a smackdown, we come home.”
“He’s armed.”
“Not for long.”

Fifteen

We fly into Lakefront airport in New Orleans, jump on I-10, to Slidell in a half hour. Before we get to I-12, we head west on Hwy 190, the old road to Mandeville and Covington, before the interstates took over.
We pass strip malls, subdivisions, a mish mash of shops and stores, then nothing, then something, approaching a town called Lacombe.
Janah, “Right on 434, before we get into Lacombe. It connects to I-12, but we aren’t going that far, a mile up and the mobile home park is on the left.”
“I didn’t ask, Schacter have a job?”
“Disability. Doesn’t stop him from fishing and hunting, getting into fights and otherwise annoying his neighbors. He was a truck driver in the days when trucks had drivers.”
Like the SUV we’re in now, cars are electric, all vehicles are primarily electric, there are a few hybrids, mostly gasoline is disappearing as a fuel source. And cars can drive themselves, or a driver can take over. Now when you look at other cars there might be a person in the passenger seat and no one in the driver’s seat.
Janah, “Left here.”
I turn onto an asphalt road, it winds through the homes, not an upscale place, not a wreck either. Lower income working people, those who still work. Jobs have been automated, people get paid a basic income today, a lot of them make do and hang around the house watching VR programs. 
The advent of basic income and the sheer level of technological entertainment sources unleased a barrage of creative activity in many people. It unleashed a barrage of do nothing in many others. Still lots of people around who need to be told what to do, left to themselves, trouble starts.
“That one, on the right. Surveillance says he went out early, before dawn, boat in tow. They tracked him to a boat launch,” her phone dings, she listens, clicks off, “headed home now.”
“Any fish?”
“Our man didn’t say. He did say there was an exchange of heated verbiage at the dock. Schacter shoved a teenage boy trying to collect the launch fee. Shoved him to the ground, went to kick him but the kid ran off, which Randy found funny. He drove off. It’s about twenty minutes from here.”
We’re down the block, all gussied up in our protective gear. We aren’t after a fair fight, I can take out Randy naked, but people get lucky and Schacter carries.
Janah, “That’s him.”
An aged blue pickup with a boat trailer and an aluminum skiff sitting on it. Small outboard, I don’t know from outboards, I just know it’s not a monster.
He pulls to the gate, I can see a carport to one side. Gate opens, the dog is there but doesn’t go past the gate.
Schacter, “Porch.”
The dog scampers back, I’m guessing to the porch.
“Well trained anyway.”
He’s got the trailer in position to back into the yard, obvious he’s done this a few zillion times. As he goes to get in his truck, I walk up.
“Randy, need a word.”
He’s wary, I suppose I look a bit threatening, black lipstick, Goth eyes, my hair is in a braid down one side, spiked dog collar around my neck. Sarah painted a fake scar down one cheek, a fake tattoo of meaningless kanji around my neck. My hands are gloved, unfortunately for him, knuckles covered with titanium caps as is the palm heel of each hand. Since Randy booby traps his yard with spiked boards, we slid titanium insoles into our steel toe boots. All nails will do is bend.
“Fuck are you? Word about what?”
“I’m the Archangel of Pain. You are a nuisance, a loud, vicious, ugly asshole. I have issues with loud, vicious assholes, ugly is relative, you can’t much help that.”
He spits tobacco juice between my boots, “Fuck you.”
To warm him up, I slip a quick left jab to his previously busted nose. As a courtesy, I hit it just the opposite way it’s already bent, maybe I can straighten it out. Blood drips.
Randy puts his thumb on one nostril, snots out blood from the other, repeats the process in reverse, laughs, “Nose been busted so many times, I don’t feel it no more, he turns towards the house, raises his voice, “Blackie, capture.”
I hear the scratch of nails on the wooden porch, something moving across the yard, then the Rottweiler in the air coming at me.
Another growl, Sloane catches the dog by the back of its neck, in her jaws. She takes the beast down, lands on all fours, the dog yelps beneath her. Sloane’s growl is loud, louder than the yelping dog. She shakes her head, like a wolf with a rabbit, a crack, the big Rot is still. 
Sloane looks up, she didn’t even break the dog’s skin, there’s no blood, just whipped her neck until it snapped.
Schacter is stunned, a lanky body flew out of nowhere, snatched his mutt by the neck and killed him, just like that.
“What kind of…how’s she…,” he glowers, I see his hand twitch, he’s inching it to the gun on his right hip, which means he’s right handed.
I introduce my steel toe to his tender part, a gasp as he realizes his nuts are exploding. As he bends, Sloane snaps the gun from the holster, pops the magazine and clears the chamber. A nine millimeter clinks on the asphalt.
“Deep breaths Randy, you can ice up the family jewels later, first we have to talk.”
I didn’t do a crush, only an attention getter. It serves a dual purpose, he’s wary of my speed, but dubious about my power. I want him to think I’m vulnerable.
His eyes go dead, he’s pissed and confused. There’s a girl who can take down a Rottweiler with her teeth, and another girl he figures he can take with ease.
“I can read your mind Randy. Here’s the deal. My associate backs off, just you and me. You take me out, we go home, you’re back to asshole of the trailer park. I take you down, you do things my way. How about it? I guess I mean get prepped, because there isn’t a third option. You fight me, or I beat you senseless anyway.”
The neighbors have caught on to a reality that isn’t virtual, we have a small crowd along the other side of the street. Janah and Sarah have moved to the edges, just in front of the crowd. They keep an eye out for any potential interference.
I hear one woman, “That girl called him out, she’s got brass, he’s least twice her weight, she kicked him in the nuts though.”
A man next to her, “That kid killed his dog too, took his gun, they’s not just off the rack people, something else.”
Schacter looks at the assembled audience, “You heard her, I didn’t pick the fight. She gets hurt, s’on her.”
Mumbling, but nobody’s anxious to jump on a side. Don’t blame them, he beats me, they’re no better off.
“Randy, we’re not having a debate, geez,” I backfist him hard on the jaw, the caps on my knuckles do their job.
I must have caught a tooth, he spits blood, hand to his cheek. They all do the same thing, lose it, start flailing punches, always to the head. I duck, his first punch sails over me. I outblock his second with my right forearm, shoot my left elbow across his jaw, this time the other side. He staggers, saved from falling by the door of his truck.
He reaches for something behind the seat, oh goody, a tire iron.
He comes swinging, I dance around the first two swipes, then do what people attacked with a weapon generally don’t. I step in, grab his arm at the elbow and stick my straightened fingers into his throat.
Schacter gags, hand to his neck, the tire iron forgotten. I take it and twist. He’s got two choices, let it go or break his wrist. Now I have the iron, I toss it into the yard.
A man, “Got-tam, she’s quick, shoulda kept the iron though.”
A woman, “She don’t need it.”
Schacter hacks, trying to get his breath, I didn’t go for a crush, don’t want to kill him. He steps towards me, bad idea, now his weight is full on the front leg. I side kick it into reverse, a wet snap tells me Randy isn’t going to be standing soon.
He collapses to asphalt, screaming like a newborn.
“Had enough Randy?”
No answer, still groaning, not in a happy sex way. I wait while he settles and can pay attention.
“Here’s the thing Randy boy. You have butched and bullied your way through life, intimidated and brutalized. Those days are over. I’m here to refocus you, give you a fresh perspective. You rose to my attention, my people will continue to keep an eye on you. Any nastiness, I come again, with bad intent. For now, the fence comes down, no more binoculars on the roof, no dog, not even a cute Pekinese puppy.”
I flick open my blade, step on his right hand and detach his trigger finger. Wow, can Schacter screech.
Voice, “Christ, she cut off his freakin’ finger.”
I turn to the voice, “Trigger finger,” turn to Randy, “You won’t need it, you’re not allowed guns, your right to bear arms has been revoked.”
Sloane and Sarah go explore his mobile nightmare, Sloane already has his Glock, I’ll search his truck before we leave.
I step on his mangled knee, more screech.
“Shut up cracker. Nod if you understand, no nod, more pain.”
He nods.
“Just lay there and suffer, we’re gone shortly, maybe someone will call 911 if you ask nicely, or beg.”
Sloane and Sarah come out, two shotguns, a rifle with a scope, a revolver, a few boxes of ammunition.
Sloane, “Appears to be it.”
“Put them in the car, we’ll dispose of them later, then disconnect the trailer, I need his truck.”
While she’s doing it, I search the truck, small semi-auto in the glove box, I take it. Then I crank the truck, drive it straight across the street, get a good angle and back it hard into the fence and keep moving. Boards shatter, the support pipes clank against the bed and fall.  I make the corner and take out half the left fence, drive across the yard. I hear tires hiss, must have rolled over his booby trap boards. The truck rams the other side, I run it through fence until the truck stops, grinding flat tires in the dirt.
I get out and walk to the SUV, my audience applauds, I don’t acknowledge them. 

Sixteen

We’re driving back to Lakefront airport.
“That was relatively simple.”
Janah, “Good thing Sloane was on alert.”
Sarah, “Sloaney is always on alert. Wolf Girl heard the command and the dog leave the porch. That Rottie was bound to hurt somebody sooner or later, find a weak spot in the fence, he’s on a kid in seconds.”
Sarah, “Schacter didn’t have a friend in the place, the whole pile of them was grinning. I thought I might have to discourage at least one neighbor, but they hated that guy.”
“Still, we needed eyes on the crowd, he might have a drinking buddy in the hood. Surveillance didn’t report any pals coming around, but they only followed him a few days.”
Sloane, “Who reported him?”
Janah, “Local cop passed him along, it got to a Society contact. They knew Schacter was a potential problem, but they had nothing to bust him on. His physical altercations all came down to he said-he said, and Schacter did take a bit of punishment, we saw that in his misaligned face. He wasn’t invincible. Some of his perceived enemies didn’t get a chance to fight back. He wasn’t above a ball bat from behind, but nothing was ever proven.”
Sloane, “Mom gave him something to think about, he’ll be thinking about a wrecked knee and a missing finger for a long time.”
“They can fix him, which is why he needs monitoring. His leg will work, maybe even better, whether he wants a fake finger, who knows? If he buys a gun, if he’s ever seen with a gun, if he gets into anymore altercations, if he gets a dog, we send another team and they make him wheelchair accessible.”
The return flight leaves at three, gain two hours in time zones, home by five. 
Dasha, “I followed in your head, also Eemaya and Nishiko.”
“It felt busy in there.”
Actually, I know they’re there, but it isn’t distracting after all these years. It’s rather like having an audience of supporters.
Amaya, “Hey sweet, one day trip, nice.”
“What’s doing?”
“Spent the day working on the script, with a break to watch the follies. Nikko filled in the others, not the children. They know what we go off to do, we rescued them after all. They do not know details, at least I do not think so, who knows what the Zycyryn reveal to them.”
Speaking of, the child flock comes down the stairs, Morshchiny does her usual, thumps massive paws on my shoulders and sniffs. I scratch her ears and neck, fingers get lost in folds of fur. Satisfied, she thuds down and ambles over to her spot by the children’s table. Children line up for kisses, that we just flew out this morning doesn’t matter, we went off and came home safe.
Janah, “What’s for dinner? We skipped lunch, had only tea and coffee on the plane.”
Ellen, “Roast chicken, mashed and gravy, creamed spinach, nothing complicated.”
“Sounds great, and right now it sounds great to get into a hot shower and chill for an hour.”
Janah joins me, we shower together, platonically this time, wind up snuggled on the bed until cocktails. We dress, if you called a silk t-shirt dressed, they do hit mid thigh. Knee socks complete the low fashion look.
Amaya’s at her post behind the bar, “Club soda and lime for Daphne, what are you having Janah?”
“White or Champagne, no preference.”
“Ellen decanted a crispy light Graves a couple hours ago, Clos Marsalette Blanc.”
“Sounds perfect.”
I take a sip, my Shaolin vows prohibit intoxicants, but a sip of wine is hardly intoxicating. It’s a lovely light flavor, hint of lemon and vanilla.
Janah gives it a taste, “Nice, just tart, smoothed out by something…”
“Vanilla.”
“That’s it, geez that nose, you could have been a sommelier.”
“Ellen is more than enough sommelier, she has excellent taste.”
“And superb legs.”
She goes out to the pool to enjoy the sunset. We don’t get the star show here that we do in Arizona, SoCal is highly populated, lots of lights, our compound in Arizona is isolated. Nothing matches the show at our Canadian Rockies home, pitch black at night, particularly when the moon is off duty.
I turn to Dasha, “What do I do?”
“You haf done already today, go away and relax, dinner ees ready, everything just warming. Valeria made mushroom gravy, dark and reech. Mashed are full wiz gharlic and ghee, also reech, creamy speenach ees always reech,” she walks over to the refrigerator, talking to herself as usual, “fahmahley ees reech wiz money, dinner ees reech with tasting, now I am for getting reech wiz vodka.”
Russian Standard of course, kept in the freezer, served to our sets of Russian twins in frozen shot glasses, for the first drink, which isn’t so much drunk as inhaled. Then on the rocks with a cocktail onion and an olive, Amaya’s rotation of garlic stuffed, pimento, bleu cheese, almond or anchovy. Chloe and Amaya skip the shot and stick with on the rocks. The rest of the drinkers favor wine or Champagne, except Ellen, she likes Elijah Craig, the oldest she can find. Usually it’s twelve year, but occasionally they come up with an eighteen, even a twenty one. Those run from a two hundred for the eighteen to three or more for the twenty one. No discount for the case, twelve bottles can run over three grand. But Dasha’s right, we’re reech, feelthy stinking reech. 
I implant a thought in Dasha’s head, that I’m willing and anxious to sex her to insensibility if she’s game.
“You will make Dasha feel gud tonight Dahfoney. We will come to your room, Daria ees to makes sex wiz Janah.”
Cool, “Janah, you’re giving it up for Daria tonight.”
“Ooohhh, a hardbody smoothie. I’ll have another glass of this superb wine.”
I bring it to her, lean in for a kiss, return to the kitchen to study Dasha’s form in her form fitting chemise. My kind of relaxation.
Kota B serves the children, then the rest of us spread around the table for platters of roast chicken and bowls of the accompaniments. Emma B pours wine while we take our portions.
Chloe, “Okay, who’s responsible for the gravy?”
Ellen, “Valeria.”
“Gee Valeria, this is so silky it shimmers, how do you do that?”
Valeria, “First, make a roux, everything else falls into place.”
Ellen, “It takes forever to get a perfect roux, heating flour and fat ever so slowly, it’s perfect at an exact moment, a moment you can only tell from experience and standing over it stirring the entire time. One moment too long, it’s burned.”
Dasha, “She made a big batch, we will use it tomorrow for seafood gumbo, crab, shreemp, oyster, okra, spice, also wiz hot French bread for deeping.”
Janah, “Can I have tomorrow’s dinner for dessert tonight?”
Sloane, “Yeah!”
Ellen, “No, it isn’t made yet, just the roux. We’re having the seafood delivered fresh tomorrow. I may get inspired to make crab cakes for an appetizer.”
Amaya, “Come to me later and I will inspire you to make ultimate crab cakes.”
“You’re on honey.”
Nikko, “Sluts.”
Zi laughs, “What was the samurai up to this afternoon?”
“Chloe and I did kendo.”
“After that.”
“Nobody’s business.”
Britt, “What’s for dessert?”
Ellen, “Apple cherry pie, with or without vanilla bean ice cream.”
Amaya, “Girl, you are going to be so inspired.”
Ellen grins.
Chicken disappears, as does spinach and mashed potatoes. Girls spread out to digest, gather in small knots to chat, Amaya flips though TV options, Chloe’s first Ultra Violet is playing on one of the streaming sites.
“Have the children seen Ultra Violet?”
Kota B, “No. Not sure how it escaped us.”
Amaya, “It was twenty years ago, maybe more. Does anyone mind if we run it for the kids?”
Zi, “Of course not, I don’t think any of us has seen it in years, remember how it played as part of a loop at the restaurant?”
Chloe’s movie, written by Amaya, was titled Ultra Violet. Chloe has naturally violet eyes, incredibly striking. She was quite well known in the fashion business for those eyes. Then the film came out, there were two more sequels, all big box office, then DVD and streaming sales. Since they were shot in China, Japan and the US, they garnered an international audience. It’s what led Chloe to become a bit of an icon in Japan.
Chloe’s character plays a girl whose parents were murdered by yakuza, she escapes and makes her way to a kendo master in his spare mountain hermitage. A talented young actor played the child role and went on to a successful career as a result. Naturally, she becomes a kendo master and as a teenager returns to wreak havoc on the people who murdered her parents. That led to gangsters chasing her around for the next level of revenge, you see where this is headed. It was, back in the mid twenty teens, a billion dollar franchise.
The movie inspired us to open a restaurant in Manhattan called Ultra Violet.  Not far from our 10th Street condo, just over the line from the West Village into the old meat packing district. By then it was, of course, gentrified out the whazoo. Dasha created the menu, southern cooking basics, along with New Orleans style seafood. Fried catfish was amazingly popular. Amaya did the décor in contrast to the food, ultra modern and sleek. Chloe’s movies played on a loop in the bar upstairs interspersed martial arts films, no sound of course, subtitles. It wasn’t for watching, it was in lieu of pictures which tend to get stale.
We were one of the first restaurants to use tablets for ordering, customers tapped in their selections, at the bottom was a running total of the tab. Enter card information yourself, no cash, no tipping. Open for lunch and dinner. We didn’t take lunch reservations, dinner reservations were at the least a month out, usually two. Customers could reserve online, saving our staff the weary job of telling callers the place was booked for the next six weeks. When we sold our properties, we sold the place to management and self financed it for them. It’s still there, the loan is paid, the original owners retired and their children run it now. 
The movie runs just under two hours, a halfway break for cherry apple pie, Janah and I retire to frolic with the twins.

Previous     Next