Chapter Seventeen

Nice night, better morning, Amaya stands still long enough to let me ogle her thoroughly, then we kiss, I do free roaming hands for a bit.
“Okay, get dressed before we miss our first day,” Amaya sighs, licks my lips.
I feel Janah, “Time to go Daph, you can play later.”
I stare at Amaya slipping on her jeans,“Maybe we could just read Nikko’s class notes, and start tomorrow.”
Janah laughs, looking through my eyes, “Geez, she makes putting on jeans look like a pole dance, Nikko’s getting the car, move it.”
“Janah says you have turned pulling up your jeans into erotica.”
Amaya swipes lip gloss over her lips, looks into the mirror at me studying her derriere, “She should see how you take them off.”
As we are getting in the car, Amaya asks, “Where is Janah?”
“Remember, she’s taking the days for intensive yoga, reading, meditation and adventures in Spa treatments.”
Amaya, “Ah, I had forgotten, she will not need the car.”
The bulk of the morning at Bondurant is in a classroom, details of the program, an overview of basics. We have a light lunch and spend the afternoon testing the cars at speed, braking, moving through a rigorous course of cones set up to get a feel for handling. There are a number of videos of protection and tactical driving on YouTube. It’s nothing mysterious, there’s an accelerator and brakes. The course is designed to help drivers understand the capabilities and limitations of the car, and, more importantly, to overcome the fear of speed and maneuvering; particularly under attack, to keep you and your principal alive.
There are instructors for every three participants, we got Dan, he’s professional, a little rigid at first but considering his profession I can forgive him that. We’re the only women I’m disappointed to discover. I ask him about it.
Dan, “We’d love to have more women. They don’t apply. The only all female security company we know of is Paladin, they operate out of  New York and use a good training company in Rhode Island. We get women for our racing classes, not so much tactical security.”
Dan, “Why did you guys sign up? I mean, you aren’t obliged to give me details, we are sensitive to security after all.”
“We occasionally are asked to escort principals who prefer female bodyguards, I suppose like Paladin. We don’t take work involving men. Some high profile women prefer female security.”
It’s a meaningless explanation, Dan is used to vague replies.
Dan, “Fair enough. I have to say, you guys bring an extraordinary level of reflex and understanding to this. Have you taken training before? Are you trying to build an agency like Paladin?”
I smile, “Nikko and I have martial arts backgrounds, Amaya just loves to drive. No, no big company plans. We have a lot of projects other than the occasional security detail, we work very selectively”
Dan, “Ah, the martial arts makes sense. I need to discuss a sensitive subject. The men who sign up tend to be macho, perhaps too macho. You are three extraordinarily attractive women. If anything comes up that is, um, offensive, please let me know. We operate a clean business. We will not tolerate any…”
I help him, “Dan, I appreciate the professionalism. I can relieve your concerns. We’re used to it. Men who cross the line, and we allow a fair amount of slack, soon discover crossing the line is a painful idea. We don’t mind being checked out, we don’t mind respectful flirtation, it’s human nature. Beyond that, the Japanese will react. They will not want the Japanese to react. By the way, it doesn’t matter which one of us they get out of line with, the Japanese will react. It won’t be pretty. Am I being clear?”
“Don’t have to hit me on the head twice.”
“Today nobody did anything but look. If something comes up, I’ll come to you. If they ignore you, they play at their own risk. Fair enough?”
“Got it. I’ll pass around your comments to the instructors. They’ll shut down any locker room comments they hear. Like I said, we run a clean business, our integrity is everything. Management wants happy clients who tell good stories. Stories about harassment are not good business.”
“Glad to hear it. We would never tattoo your company because of the stupidity of your clients.”
“Okay, the ugly junk is out of the way. Tomorrow I’m putting you to the test. I’ve seen you can handle more than speed and common skids and corners. Be prepared to have some serious fun.”
“Dan, if I wasn’t queer as all get out, you’d be my man.”
“I’m safe, I’m queer as the other get out, probably why they put me with you.”
We laugh, even Nikko smiles, we high five.

Chapter Eighteen

Janah, “Your instructor is queer? What a stroke.”
“We were pretty well checked out by the men in class. They don’t get many women, and they sure don’t get women that look like Nikko and Amaya. The school wanted to be sure they covered their bases.”
Janah, “Speaks well of them, and speaks well of them that they have no biases about their employees.”
“My impression is that Bondurant is about doing what they do, teach people how to handle a performance vehicle under pressure.”
We’re in a restaurant called Chelsea’s Kitchen, Janah’s got veg tacos, I have rotisserie pork, Amaya fried chicken and Nikko is doing short ribs. Good spot, we may be back, there’s a veg burger on the menu and Janah’s take on the tacos is excellent. Nikko shares a rib with me, it’s tender and tasty, Amaya and I swap a piece of chicken for a chunk of ribeye, no complaints on either side.
“How’d you kill your day?”
“Read by the pool in a shameless bikini, lunch light, massage, meditation, masturbation. I like the newest toy, little nubs all over, vibrates like a chain saw. Then bubbled in the tub, it was great, tomorrow I repeat, different kind of massage.”
We split desserts, key lime pie with a pecan graham cracker crust and a hot fudge sundae with peanut butter chips. Nice job Chelsea. We’re tired, excitement all day, big dinner, time to wind it up.
Back at Bondurant, the day looks busy and exciting. We spend it skidding around cones, then hydroplaning, turning into the skid, resisting the urge to hit the brakes, downshifting instead. We follow each other in separate cars at bumper to bumper range through a tricky course. Lots of sharp turns, weaving around cones at speed. I’ve never heard tires in such pain. By the end of the day we’re doing 180s backwards and forwards. Amaya is giddy. Clearly she’s found a new delight.
Dan, “You guys are incredible, most students, even the machos are tentative at first. Amaya is made for this. You and Nikko take it in stride, she can hardly wait to go to the next level.”
“She was pumped about coming. The nature of our work requires the ability to stay calm under pressure. She does more excited calm, the excitement makes her calm.”
Dan, “I’ll say. Does she want to take up racing?”
“Not as a profession. However, seeing how she is with this, I think if you suggest the race driving course, you’ll get an enthusiastic answer.”
Dan, “Man, I wish I could be her instructor, it’s a bit different skill set. Our racing instructors are really good. If she takes the course, I’ll be around to watch. I want to see the expression on the speed guys’ faces.”
“Ask her yourself. She makes her own decisions.”
Dan does, I hear Amaya screech, “When is the course?”
She makes a note, maybe we’re coming back to Phoenix in a month.
The next days are spent skidding, turn into the skid, don’t over steer. We do more 180s, then Amaya amazes the instructors by doing a 360. It’s just putting the front 180 together with the rear one, but it takes extraordinary timing. She’s mobbed by the students.
Dan, “I’ve never seen anyone do that in five days of training. A few months and she could work here.”
“I learned from my girlfriend martial artists to keep my brain out of it and follow instructions. You trained me, I’m your fault.”
She kisses his cheek, “Thank you,” Dan’s easy smile goes high watt, he even blushes a little.
While we zip around concrete Janah is busy getting treatments. She had the Minerale Ritual which begins on a warmed table with Vichy shower and the nourishing minerals from a European thermal spring. A bath therapy in Acqua Giardino, Alvadora’s outdoor water garden. A light massage complements the treatment.
One day she suffered through Royal Treasure, according to the brochure, a body treatment including a massage for relaxation, detoxification, and remineralization. Relaxing, draining elixirs, and a seawater concentrate of trace elements and minerals alleged to restore the mind and body.
Another day, she was in Wrapture, an aromatic experience beginning exfoliation of dead skin cells using natural olive oil and seed granules, followed by a wrap in extracts of olive leaf, cilantro, juniper and lavender. Must have been tough, all that treatment. Her skin is amazing.
Janah, “It was all lovely, but I wanted to see what you guys get up to.”
She was with us the last two days, sees Amaya’s 360, watches us tap the rear fenders of cars to get them to spin out, how to get through roadblocks (you don’t bash full speed like a movie, thirty is more than enough.) Essentially, hit the rear side of the blocking vehicle behind the tire; then hit the gas pedal to push the car out of the way and move past. The mechanics are logical and simple, it’s overcoming the natural resistance to speed, skids and crashes that makes the difference.
Janah, “Criminey, girls, coming out here was one of our better ideas. I can’t wait to report to Mrs. Epstein that the Society’s money was well spent.”
They paid for the course, we paid for private flying, luxury hotel and meals. Have to be fair, we wanted the luxuries.
“Next time is our nickel. The new course is high performance driving and its almost eight grand a head. If the three of us sign up I guess we’ll be twenty five grand lighter .”
Janah, “No, we’ll be thirty two grand lighter, I’m taking it, too.”
Nikko, “Bondurant should name a wing after us. We don’t even own a car.”
Amaya, “You might if the racing class is as good as the Tactical class.”
“You want to race?”
“I mostly want to drive fast. Not an oval course, a road course, where I have to make different turns. More like real driving. Given where we live and our time constraints, it is more sensible to go to various racing schools and use the cars already there. Buying a great car, storage and maintenance is a ton of money for something I may only do once or twice a year.”
“Sensible.”
Class is over, we chat briefly with some of the other drivers and the instructors. They guys had been polite, flirted a little, came around to check us out, which didn’t hurt my feelings. I don’t know what they know about us, Dan obviously hadn’t said anything about lesbians; there were no dyke comments. The men seemed to be into their jobs, most are in security someplace.
Janah, “In their line of work, decorum is expected. Whatever they might think of some CEOs hot daughter or trophy wife, they keep it to themselves.”
 “Good point. Maybe the race drivers are more aggressive. I don’t know, might be as gentlemanly as the security types. Guess we’ll find out.”
We have a nice evening out, go to an upscale restaurant in Scottsdale called Razz’s. We sit at the tasting bar, the chefs do their magic right in front of us, sample whatever the chef came up with, sort of elaborate tapas. I chat about ingredients, oooh’d and aaah’d on cue. The food is high quality with prices to match. Janah is treated to a vegetarian extravaganza, my three girls enjoy a bottle of wine and I drive us back to the Springhill. I don’t do any high speed spins.
Janah checked the lesbian nightlife, best she can tell, Phoenix is basically lesbian lowlife. There wasn’t anything interesting, a sports bars, C&W.…yuck…and a place that shall remain unnamed that catered to, based on the few web photos, moderately to highly unattractive women.
Janah, “I have my own lesbian nightlife right here, I plan to stay in our villa and enjoy it.”
She enjoys Nishiko while I enjoy Amaya. I don’t get into Janah’s head, no time. Amaya’s adrenaline rush week has shifted to her libido. She’s so all over me I barely have enough time to be all over her.
As we settle into each other, she says, “I love strapping you up and getting butted. Are you putting thoughts into my head?”
“Of course.”
She kisses my neck, “Keep it up.”

Chapter Nineteen

We fly privately, but even skipping TSA and check in, it’s a day of travel. First, it’s a five hour plus flight, then, because Arizona doesn’t have daylight savings time, in the spring-summer there’s a three hour time difference instead of the regular two. Eight hours goes by on the plane ride.
Amaya’s on the phone to Taylor as we are driven home, going a mile a minute about the trip, Taylor and Sis are waiting at the apartment when we arrive.
Susan has dinner from Empire Szechuan, we dump the luggage and shower the travel grime away. They empty the baggage, stack clothes in the laundry room, put our cosmetic bags in the respective bedrooms.
“Dang, nice to get the unpacking done, thanks.”
Sis, “We didn’t start any laundry, just left it in the laundry room.”
“No sweat. Janah likes doing it. Tomorrow is Sunday, goof off day. And we’re three hours earlier than New York time, won’t want to go to bed until later than normal.”
We enjoy dinner, conversation light, Sis is remodeling the condo, new bath fixtures, replacing bedroom carpets, painting most of the rooms. She and Taylor head home around ten. We noodle around until midnight, then manage to get to sleep.
This morning, Nikko, Janah and I dress and go to the Village Diner. Amaya wants to stay in and write up her notes on driving school, it will show up in a book eventually.
Danny, the weekend guy, comes around for the order, “Hey girls, Mini was askin’ me the other day if I’d seen you. I hadn’t, he said you must be off on a meditation retreat.”
“He’s right, and Susan was busy, guess she didn’t get around to coming by and letting him know. We’ll check in tomorrow.”
Danny, “Real breakfast, or just coffee and tea?”
“Real food.”
Danny, “I’ll be back.”
And he is, fluffy mega omelet full of vegetables, crispy hash browns, wheat toast and waffles, Nishiko’s bacon nice crispy crunchy. A bowl of cut cantaloupe, strawberries and raspberries. Haven’t heard from Amaya, we pay the bill and stroll to Washington Square Park, sit on benches, taking in the Sunday morning. The crowd is growing, it’s near ten thirty.
Janah, “Uh-oh.”
I feel the darkness.
“Nikko, call Chan.”
Chan appears in ten, I say, “Take Janah to the apartment, someone will try and follow you. No, away from the apartment and the Village, Nikko and I will discourage them.”
He and Janah walk south, towards Canal St. and away from the apartment. Nikko and I sit, as if we intend to stay put. I’m watching everything that moves, Nikko is watching everything else that moves.
Nikko, “Two men, nine o’clock, one dark coat, the other light grey watch cap.”
“Got ‘em.”
The men are still, eyes following Janah and Chan, they begin to ease their way out of the park in the same path.
“Two men are following you, dark coat, tall, bald, one with a light grey watch cap, five eight or nine, stocky. Go to the private office in our building. If nothing happens before then, lock down.”
Janah, “We aren’t going to get that far. A black SUV is creeping along the upcoming cross street. Both Chan and I are getting the vibe. You deal with dark coat and watch cap. Chan will take care of the SUV. Don’t screw around.”
I look at Nikko.
Nikko, “I’ll take dark coat.”
We are not the focus of their attention, still, as we approach they both turn, they’d felt us, Shadows.
Dark Coat tries for Darth Vader, “Do not interfere, you cannot….”
That’s as much as he’s able to verbalize, Nikko shoots four stiff fingers into his throat, I kick chunk the chest and keep coming. He staggers back, I feel an energy, like a kick. I’d taken a lot of kicks, if Chunk thinks that’s going to stop me, he hasn’t done his homework. He looks confused when I fail to collapse, doesn’t stop him though. I catch another to the jaw, snaps my head around. He’s good. I go mental, qi up, move towards him, block his energy with mine. We are irresistible force and immovable object.
Dark Coat is the lead dog. Nikko is thrown to the concrete, he’d never touched her. She rolls, stands, takes another blow to the abdomen. Dark Coat is five feet away. He’s better, that’s bad. Unfortunately, he fails to understand that he’s just pissing her off.
Five shuriken fly, two hit him, then she has her blade out. He stands his ground, Nikko swipes, can’t hit anything, she’s blasted back to the concrete, he’s moving towards her. I shift my focus, turn from Chunk, time to pull out all the stops. I catch Dark Coat with a flying side kick to his ear. The heel of my foot cracks his skull hard. Distracted, Nikko’s blade sails through the air and into his upper thigh.
Chunk nails me from behind with his own kick, sends me rolling forward on the concrete. I wonder if it would be better to have left the streets dirt, like the old days. I turn over, Chunk is going to stomp me; not today, as he raises his foot, mine catches him in the groin, then my other foot sweeps behind his, and his butt meets concrete. A car screeches to a stop, Chunk stumbles inside. Just before Dark Coat gets in, he yanks the knife from his leg and hurls it at Nikko, still on the ground. I catch it an inch from her neck. Dark Coat blinks his surprise, jumps in the passenger seat. The car shoots forward, tires squeal around the corner.
“Nice of him to return your knife.”
Nikko, “Next time, he eats it.”
A crowd gathers, we pick ourselves up, limp away stiff and sore.
“Let’s find Janah.”
I tune in, they’re headed west, “I see you’re okay, just meet at the apartment?”
Janah, “Not yet. Java Joe’s.”
We don’t want anything, it’s just a place to connect, Joe’s is a zoo on Sunday morning. We stand outside, recapping, I tell them what went down with Nikko and me.
Janah, “The SUV pulled up to the curb. Two men tried to get out, but Chan wouldn’t let them. If it hadn’t been so serious, it would have been funny. They’re trying to open doors that won’t open. I kept one door closed while Chan put his fist through the window of the other and snatched the guy out, clean through the window.”
“Then what?”
“Chan’s guy tried to get tough, Chan had to dispose of him. I climbed into the SUV with the one left. He made a qi effort, not bad, not good enough, I pinned him to the door and got a grip on his wrist. I hoped he’d get chatty. I could feel his energy, we were in a mental and physical standoff until Chan’s arm was around his neck.”
“And….?”
“He offed himself.”
“Crikes, how?”
“I suspect he exploded his own heart. Hard to say. Qi can be directed within to heal, it can be directed to hurt. Whoever sent him made his only choice to get me or die. Since it was clear getting me wasn’t an option, he took the only one left.”
“So our suspicions are confirmed.”
“Yep, no suspicions any more. We’re being targeted.”
Nikko, “Has Amaya checked in?”
I reach out for her, “What’s up?”
Amaya, “I followed you, that was scary”
“Okay, stay put. We’ll be home in a few.”

Amaya, “Hurry, might be follow up.”
As we walk to the apartment, Janah is on the phone with Mrs. Epstein.

Chapter Twenty

I have a bruised jaw, Nikko and I moving slow, Amaya jumps up, hugs me gently, “Who did this,” she strokes my chin softly,” I’ll get the gel packs, lie down.”
Janah, “Unfortunately, we were not in disguise, we had no reason to think we needed to be. Two men got away, two died. The NYPD is going to want to know what happened near Washington Square Park, descriptions of Daphne, Nikko, Chan and I aren’t going to take Marsconi and Jocelyn two seconds to figure out. We’re probably on someone’s cell phone.”
Amaya, “What are you going to do?”
“Part one is already in effect. Our connections will concoct a story around the attackers.”
“We’ll explain that we didn’t know if there were more potential assailants, that we were concerned for our family. Janah will contact Marsconi we’ll meet him at the precinct. There’ll be some blather about leaving the scene of the crime. The NYPD will announce that a kidnapping was averted by capable citizens being attentive and responding to the threat accordingly. Names are being withheld to protect families, blah, blah, blah.”
“I need to call Susan, the family is under lockdown until further notice. Since today’s attackers didn’t know about Daphne and Nikko, I suspect they don’t know anything about the family, still, better to be cautious.”
Amaya, “What do we do?”
“Chapmans isn’t invulnerable, but it’s tightly secured. Lots of daughters from notable families, diplomats, the ordinary rich. It’s got to protect them from kidnappers and who knows what else, powerful people make powerful enemies. Chan is on alert and he lives next door. Black is coming in from Brooklyn, David Li is on the roof now instructing the birds. They will be at the condo and here. The birds see the Shadows for what they are. If they approach, David’s friends will alert us.”
Janah calls Marsconi.
“Daphne and I will be in, about an hour, maybe less. We’ll supply a full statement. If you need a statement from Chan or Nikko, fine, but we can’t all leave here, there’s still the potential for retaliation,” she listens, then disconnects.
“Chan, you and Nikko write down what happened and sign it. Be direct, don’t embellish, facts. Men followed us, tried to accost us, we defended ourselves. We don’t know why, we don’t know them. Our friends will provide evidence these men are suspected terrorists and wanted to kidnap New Yorkers to hold hostage for unspecified demands. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for New York, they took on the wrong people and two paid the ultimate price.”
We take the statements and ourselves to the precinct.
Marsconi, “Daphne looks worse for the wear, never seen her with an injury. Is everyone okay?”
Janah, “Nikko and Daphne took the brunt of the punishment, they’re fine, a little knocked around. They were attacked out of the blue, the guys got in a couple of licks before Nikko and Daphne took care of business. The two got in a waiting car and split. Chan was with me.”
Marsconi, “Good. He was defending himself and you, you’re off the hook for now. I believe you, just know if anything else emerges, we may have more questions.”
We’d been with Marsconi and Jocelyn for the last two hours. We expected them to do a thorough interview, and they did. We get off light, they only repeat their questions two or three times, they know better than to think our story would change, but they have to go through the motions.
Janah, “Any idea who they are?”
It’s an attorney question. A good lawyer generally only asks questions to which she already knows the answer. Janah had lifted the wallets of the dead men and has names and addresses. Whether they were real or fake remains to be seen. She’d also returned the ID to their pockets, fingerprint free of course
Marsconi, “Since they’re dead, I guess it won’t hurt to tell you.”
Marsconi isn’t stupid, he knows Janah would have searched them, but he plays the game, “Daniel Talent and an illegal, from India. The ID said Kal Gosam, but we doubt it’s a real name.”
Janah, “Try Kahlil Goswamy, it’s the closest contraction of an Indian name. If he changed it completely, then it’s meaningless.”
Marsconi, “You know the strangest things.”
Jocelyn, “What you expect, Marsconi. She leave here, she can tell you everything in the room, the station, all the people here and how many phones we got. Even the shade of puke green paint on the walls.”
Marsconi frowns, “What shade is it, Janah?”
“Puke green.”
Jocelyn cackles, “Shit, girl just got accosted, her honeys took a lick and Chan offed a couple of dopes, she act like it just another day in the city.”
We don’t bother to explain that Daniel offed himself, it seems superfluous and will only complicate things. Whatever killed him will show up in the autopsy.
They let us go, I stop to chat up the constabulary, feeling better that, even with a bruised jaw, New York cops still have an appreciation of hot girls with long legs.
Marsconi comes out of the interview room, “Okay girls, go home. Nothing will get done while Daphne’s charming the troops.”
I smile, “See you gentlemen on the streets of New York.”
A patrolman I know, Eddie Schaeffer, who is one of my very favorite admirers, says, “Could you go back to miniskirts, Daphne? You know, brighten up the day?”
“Anything for my friends.”
Joe Vitali, “Good, uh, in case we have questions, where you gonna be tomorrow, around ten or eleven?”
The squad room laughs, cries of, “Harassment, sexist, Neanderthal.”
“I don’t consider genuine appreciation to be harassment. I don’t know what other girls think.”
I earn a round of applause.
Jocelyn, “Now we gonna have to have to sit through another harassment education session to settle down their hormones.”
“I could come teach it, in a miniskirt, you know, as an example.”
More applause.
Marsconi, “Christ, go.”
We leave, I’m grinning like an idiot.
On the street, Janah mentals, “You are too much. Then again, I wouldn’t mind the reappearance of the skirts once in a while. I can be very appreciative.”
“I wonder how short is still legal?”

Janah, “Only one way to find out.”
Back at the apartment, Susan asks, “How’d it go?”
“We were questioned and released when I promised to start wearing outrageous miniskirts again. In fact I was applauded.”
Amaya, “Yay!”
Susan rolls her eyes, “Janah, how did it go?”
“They spent two hours grilling us, as they should. Our story held up and conformed to the facts at the scene. Marsconi gave us a lecture about leaving the scene of a crime. Accepted that I’d called him as soon as possible and volunteered to give a statement. Besides, two men escaped and a driver, we could still have been in danger hanging around. He saw the logic and let it slide.”
Nikko is finished being treated, she’s mostly mobile, I’m still stiff and two hours in an interview room hadn’t helped much.
Amaya, “Time for a hot shower and treatment, get undressed, I’ll get the shower going.”
I am under the hot water, the door opens, Amaya joins me, “I think it will go better if I bathe you, go better for me anyway.”
Not going to argue with that. Her hands feel good, I might be completely healed by the time she’s finished. We don’t sex, she washes, applies qi to the tender knots. They begin to release. We dry, then she has me on the massage table, gel pack on my jaw, her hands working on me. Janah assists. Maybe I’ll get beat up again tomorrow.

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