Chapter Seventeen

Eloise, "Oceane wants to learn about the drone."
"Then she should. If you want, take a break, let's get one out and show her."
Eloise goes over the machine, Oceane touches the fuselage, the rotors, every exposed millimeter, then watches it take off and land, first the drone itself, then on the IPad screen. Eloise does basic things, it lifts like a helicopter, swipe your finger to fly forward, finger makes a small arc, the drone turns, where your finger moves, the drone goes. It can also fly on autopilot. Locate the target on GPS, tap a tab, it tracks the target. We can set the range, twenty yards behind, up fifty feet, directly overhead, alongside. If there's an obstacle, the drone flies around, under or over it, then gets back on track.
She lands it, "Okay, give it go."
Oceane lifts off, the drone flies straight thirty or forty feet, she makes a slow turn, then another, heads it back to us, goes into hover, sets it down gently on the roof.
Nikko, "Must have missed Daphne's crash course."
They laugh, "Very punny."
Oceane takes off again, lets it ride out further, then up, figures out that if she draws a circle while it's flying straight up, it makes a loop de loop, a circle while it flies straight makes for right or left turns. Eloise shows her the battery life indicator, when it blinks yellow you have a half hour left, depending on speed and maneuvering, red is ten minutes, bring it in. Oceane walks to the ledge, swoops and circles the machine, we enjoy her enjoying it.
Amaya, "She picked it up quickly, I wonder if it talks to her like pencils?"
The drone sinks lower, she lands it on the ledge, puts down the IPad and picks up the drone, exploring it with her fingers again, then walks over with it.
"It likes to fly."
Eloise, "Keep that one, remember to charge the battery, it plugs in here," she points to the slot, "then to any wall socket. Make sure your IPad is charged too. You can work it with your phone as well."
She takes them off to her room to plug things in, while she's gone Eloise asks, "Do you want her to learn the rest of it, audio and video, how to place the tracker, shoot darts?"
"See if she fools with the one you gave her, she may lose interest. If not, show her audio and video, leave the other business for now."
We resume our extended brunch. Stacks of peeled shrimp, crab claws, hummus, Greek salad, crusty garlic bread, veg hot and sour soup. Since crab claws require extra utensils and manipulation, we eat at the dining table. I'm showing Oceane how to get the crab out of the claw. There's melted butter to dip it in, or ketchup with or without grated horseradish. Janah and Eloise switch to Blue Moon pale ale, the rest are doing a tangy Pinot Grigio. I'm told wine snobs look down on it, one more reason to like it.
I ask Oceane, "Would you like a sip of wine?"
She smiles, I pour a quarter glass, she tastes, "Flowers."
I guess that's good, everybody likes flowers, I spring for a half glass. She eats slowly, makes a nice dent in shrimp and crab, tastes her Greek salad, spears a piece of olive lets it sit on her tongue before she chews. She tastes each bit, mortadella, provolone, mozzarella, tomato, all covered in olive oil.
"Smooth, slippery."
Amaya, "I doubt a restaurant would suggest 'try our smooth slippery Greek salad,' but her description, if a bit literal, is accurate."
Oceane runs her index finger through the olive oil, rubs it against her thumb, stares at the glistening oil. Wonder if it talks to her too? She doesn't say, wipes her fingers on a napkin and goes for another shrimp.
We'd spent a couple of hours grazing, it's pressing two thirty. Girls drift off to whatever they've a mind to do, I'm sure it includes a nap.
Dasha, "What ees to do wiz shrimp and crab?"
“I'll crack the rest of the claws and collect the crabmeat, then mix it with the shrimp and make seafood salad. There's a head of red cabbage, shred that with carrots, celery, parsley and onion, mix it all a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar. We have a variety of crackers to go with it.”
Salad in the refrigerator, dishes washing, table cleared, time for zip. Dasha goes up to her room, me to mine, Janah's already napping, I slide in and join her.

Chapter Eighteen

We hear from Candace Silverman, "Daphne, I've run the works by three qualified experts. You have a prodigy on your hands. What do you want to do?"
"They give you a price range?"
"Fifteen to twenty thousand, each."
"Cripes."
"I guessed around ten, but pencil drawings aren't my strong point, and I've never see ones like hers, my eyes keep saying photograph."
"We decided, we don't want her at the auction, but we have a second option that may work even better," I explain Amaya's idea, a video of her actually drawing.
Candace, "That's great, she's unknown, there could be second guessing about whether it was really a ten year old."
"And as you saw, it's not like she's good at answering questions, people wouldn't understand her answers. She won't explain anything on the video, we plan a side shot of her, not a full facial, then over her shoulder while she starts a drawing, a time lapse to the middle, then the finish. We know how to shoot and edit it, it will look professional, not like a bad YouTube. I think if we do ten minutes, maybe twelve, it will demonstrate her talent and hold attention."
"I'll have the drawings displayed, no frames, buyers can have us frame it afterwards, or take it someplace themselves. It's better not to have them under glass until they've been examined. Glass will make the detail even sharper, I don't want prospective buyers to think the glass is doing the work."
"Who gets an invitation?"
Candace, "Our list is long, longer than we need by far. What I would like is to invite some of my top collectors to a select showing. I'll tell them I need to hear by a certain date, if I don't, they drop off the list and I move up someone else. I'll likely invite forty, we’ll get twenty five, people are always out of town or engaged elsewhere."
"Make sure some of them are Kara's fans."
"Of course, the invitations will include short comments by the experts I had review the works. Getting people won't be a problem. How many do I put up?"
"You have twelve, Oceane doesn't care if you sell all of them."
"How many does she have, of this quality?"
"Maybe forty."
"Good Lord, perfect. We give them a dozen and get the buzz going. By the time she gets to oils, who knows?"
"Oh, Candace, don't know what you plan to say on the invitation, but we don't use the word prodigy. If one of your experts said it, take it out. And our discussion about her method is for you only, we do not want to read about talking pencils."
Candace, "No, of course not. Then the work doesn't sell on merit but on quirky behavior. We will leave that to Salvador Dali and Warhol. Eventually, someone is going to use the word prodigy, but it won't be from me. Kara made this gallery, Oceane is a delightful bonus, we aren't going to screw it up."
We set a date, she does everything except the video, I find Amaya.
"We need to have a quality video in a month, the showing is in six weeks. It will all be shrouded in mystery, 'brilliant young artist, exclusive showing,' blah, blah.
Over the next two weeks we collect a couple of hours of video. Oceane works for an hour or so, returns to them the next day. It's meticulous work, her hand flits like a gnat or often seems as if it isn't moving at all. Tai Chi Gnat art?
It also helps that we have her in different outfits, simple dresses, to reinforce that she doesn't crank these out in a day. It takes her a fair amount of time. This one is on 18x24 inch drawing paper and she fills everything but an inch or two border.
Video delivered, fifteen minutes from blank page to finished work. Fade in and out transition, smooth all the way through. Amaya gave me great video, Susan and I ground out the clean edit. It's show time.
Candace has white glove wait staff hauling around champagne and wine, she winds up with thirty in attendance, many of her best clients. Toss out brilliant young artist, on top of three gushing critical comments and exclusive showing to Silverman patrons is all she needed to do. I'm here with Amaya, the twins and Janah. Chloe would have created a whole new distraction, she stays home. I've met some of the patrons, several own Kiersteds. Kara, Janah's mom, uses her maiden name on her three dimensional paintings.
Candace takes the floor, "Please find a seat, before you see the drawings, you should see the process. We have a time lapse video of hours of work over days compressed into just under fifteen minutes. How often do you get to see the artist as they create? Prepare to be amazed."
The lights go down, video plays, there is no sound but pencil on paper. A side view of Oceane, clearly a young girl, then a hand so delicate the fingers could be filigree. The first five minutes it's impossible to tell what's being drawn. Sometimes the pencil flits back and forth, then a change to softer graphite, thicker, and much slower application. Then gasps as it takes shape, even on video the image appears to leave the page, almost shimmer. It's the entrance to the Silverman Gallery, and Candace standing next to the door. The video closes by panning back, all of Oceane from the side and for the last five seconds, her head turns and she's smiling into the camera.
A woman says, "She's absolutely adorable, an angel."
Mort Zalinsky, one of Kara's huge fans, in every way you care to describe huge, says, "The video was impressive, can we see the art now Candace?"
We'd uncovered it while they watched, she says, "Right behind you."
Each piece is lighted by a separate spot, spaced three or four feet apart. This is a sophisticated art crowd, nobody is going to finger the work, nobody takes any cell phone shots. There is a brochure with thumbnails of the drawings, a vague bit about Oceane, a short description of the drawing. These are birds and skylines, everyone recognizes their hometown. Two are of Washington Square Park, with people, one is somebody's handsome boxer pair. They are all black, grey, white, but boxers look like boxers even when they aren't fawn.
The crowd studies each work, the comments range from amazing to stunning.
"Well Mort, was Kara right?"
He looks at me, jowls quiver when he turns, "All I hadda hear was Kara Kiersted said she was an impressive talent. Kara's always nice when she talks about other artists, but never compliments inferior work. It ain't like she needs the money or the pals."
I laugh, "The worst thing I ever heard her say about an artist is 'perhaps his strength lies in a different medium.'"
Mort, "Yeah, like making cappuccinos at Starbucks."
I laugh again, Mort doesn't dance around, "You going to bid?"
"Of course I'm gonna bid, this kid has talent dripping out them fingers, the video was a brilliant idea, I got pumped just watchin', you think of that?"
"Eloise, Amaya did the video, Susan and I the edit."
Mort, "Christ, your family reeks of talent, all I got is a nose for art, can't paint jack, don't play no music. My talent lies in food and making money. By the way, Ultra Violet is gonna put me in my grave, not the food, Mariella. She won't relent on a reservation. I gotta call three weeks ahead at least."
"You're one of the preferred customers, three weeks is near the top Mort. Regular people have to go out more than a month, usually two."
"You're kiddin'."
"Nope, she keeps a list, when a great friend calls, she rearranges tables to squeeze in a couple more. Tell you what, next time you call, you're on the two week list."
"What I gotta do to get on the one week list?"
"There is no one week list, you're at the top big man."
He grins, "I ate there two nights ago, now I only gotta wait two weeks, you ain't gonna forget?"
"I'm calling while the bidding happens, which it appears Candace is ready to begin."
She doesn't do them individually. Bidders turn in a numbered card corresponding to the number on the drawing. They check off what they want and what they will offer. Each card identifies the bidder and they sign at the bottom, a silent auction. Since there is a minimum, we don't need to do the finger in the air thing and verbal repeat of the bids.
They hand in cards, everyone bid on something. We do a quick sort, all have acceptable bids. One buyer gets two, the other ten are spread out. That's preferable, but it goes like it goes. Theoretically one person could have outbid everyone for the lot, but it didn't happen that way. Mort got one, I'm glad for him
Eleven people go away happy, nineteen live to try another day, the obvious question comes up, "When will she have more to sell?"
Candace, "I'm told there are other pieces, some are for family only."
"Will she do a commission, a portrait?"
Candace, "I have no idea, Daphne, will she consider it?"
"We'll get back to you, these are family discussions, the whole family isn't here."
A woman asks, "She's part of your family, you’re Daphne Sylk, Murakami Sylk, yes?"
"That would be us."
She says, "I mean it as a high compliment, but is there anything your family doesn't do?"
The small crowd laughs, Mort says, "They ain't into brain surgery or murder."
I feel Janah cringe, he's half right.

Chapter Nineteen

Time does its thing, without us, still, the years slide by, Oceane is the only one of us to get older. We don't know if she'll decide to stop, but getting to thirteen seems better than remaining ten. Can't tell if she has any thoughts on the subject, she's never said. I doubt it will occur to her, if there’s no decision by fifteen, I’ll ask her about it.
She's gotten taller of course, lean as flank steak from swimming. She doesn't swim for speed, like a racer, hasn't bulked up at the shoulders, just long muscle in legs, taut arms. Made it to five four, keeps her light brown sun-highlighted hair short since she's in the water so much.
She's become rather well known in art circles. The first auction brought her an average of twenty thousand, near a quarter million total. Our deal with Silverman is twenty percent, far under normal gallery rates. Kara made Sarah Silverman rich, and had given her three or four Kiersteds as gifts, Now they bump a million each, plus the several million she made at Kara's auctions and the expanded number of artists who wanted to be affiliated with her gallery.
Since the first auction, Oceane had three more, two more pencil black and white, then a blockbuster color that netted a half million dollars. We decided against portraits until she perfected her color work. When a few people inquired again, we declined entirely. She has to feel the subject in whatever way that happens with her, her art isn’t something she can create because someone else wants it.
She did a couple of chess players in the park, titled it Willie and Nathan. Normally her work is titled only by Oceane 1, 2, she's up to 76. She also did the Jamaicans, Juju, Mighty Jim, Quiet Man and Timothy. They sell knock offs to tourists across the street from the Village Diner. They also sell genuine at a steep discount, luxury watches, handbags, things that fell off a delivery truck which Timothy and Quiet Man happened to come across by accident. If you know your stuff, you can get a really great deal. If you don't, they will happily sell you fake for genuine any day.
That's an aside, the point is, we told Juju that he could have the drawing, or we would sell it and he and his guys could split the proceeds. After some discussion, they surprise me, they want to keep it, hang it on the rail fence behind them.
"Keep an eye on it, it's worth a lot of money, sun or rain, it's worthless."
Juju, "We keep it shaded, sealed. Maybe it is our retirement plan. We quit de beezness, den sell."
We did sell the chess players, Willie and Nathan are astounded when we showed up with almost a hundred grand for them. Didn't seem right to keep the proceeds. When we told Candace what we planned to do, she refused her commission.
Willie is Willie, "Maybe she could show up once a week, I'll even change my shirt."
Nathan, "You ain't got but one shirt."
Willie, "I got near fifty grand, maybe I'll buy another, checkmate dope."
Nathan looks at the board, "You ain't that smart, just lucky."
"Lucky? You made a stupid move when Sylk showed up in that skirt and you couldn't take your eyes off them long legs. Daphne, can you come around when I'm playin' the suckers for money? I clean up."
"See what I can do Willie, I imagine you clean up okay without me flashing the chumps."
Willie smiles, gold tooth sparkles.
We jumped some years, they were spent much like we spend all our time, running businesses, the odd abuser. Janah sent other Social Skills teams out whenever she could. We practice martial arts, go to the temple, kendo. Amaya writes, took a hiatus from Ultra Violet after the third and last of that series. Chloe did two movies in other parts, one as a private investigator, one as an independent contractor who exposes a CIA mash-up with former KGB from the old Soviet Union. She was paid well, five and seven million, she does her own stunts, guess that saves them a few bucks. She's begged off other projects, too much time away. Amaya travels with her, but the last flick included overseas and they were gone four weeks. Chloe said no more away from the family that long.
Back to the present, we're at tea, Amaya, "Chloe has been offered a part, action flick, missing brother in Columbia, she goes through various Latin America spots to find him. It is at least a month. If the family can make intermittent visits, we want to take it, a big budget major production, Chloe has equal billing with the male lead."
"Does she have to have sex with the star?"
Amaya, "Chloe does not do sex scenes. This is an R, but it's mostly because of violence and language, the sex is somebody else. We go to Rio, then Bogota, the rest of the Latin American locations are sets in LA. We're in Rio for not quite two weeks, Bogota another two. If you can't do it, we decline."
"Of course you should do it. A change of scene will be good, interesting for the twins and Oceane. Give me dates, I'll arrange our travel, you want to fly with us, or the studio?"
Amaya, "The family. I assume we do it the new way."
What she means is, the whole family never flies together. Things go wrong on airplanes, that's how it is. So we chop up into at least two flights if everyone is going. We reek of money, cost isn't a consideration.

Chapter Twenty

Chloe takes the part, we book at the Copacabana Palace in Rio. Our two flights leave within minutes of each other. Flying private is super, no hanging around for hours for an international flight, the customs guy comes to us, don't have to wait in line on either end. Catered food, home to airport to hotel car service. New York is west of Rio, we lose three hours. It's a ten hour flight, we leave at six, have to make a fuel stop in Miami, our medium jets don't have a forty eight hundred mile range. The lost three hours hour gets us to Rio at eight. Now we unpack, reunite in our suite, open wine and champagne and discuss the schedule. We have four suites, rooms run about a thousand US a night, four grand a day, ten nights, forty thousand. With the flights at thirty thousand each, this could run into money. We have a half million dollar card with Blue Sky, buys us lower hourly rates, they deduct payment from our upfront, when it dwindles Nikko fills it up again.
Amaya, "Tomorrow is mostly meeting and scheduling. A car will collect us, take us to the location, then it's hurry up and wait while scenes are set. When the shootings done, they bring us to the hotel. My suggestion is to make no plans involving us. What I read about our director was favorable, the male lead is a professional lacking temper tantrums and attitude. Still, there are night scenes, we'll take care of dinner on our own. I'll keep in touch with Daphne, when we shoot someplace interesting, perhaps you can show up and check it out."
"Sounds busy."
Amaya, "It will be, but Chloe and I feel better knowing you guys are around."
"Tell the studio that Dasha and I are personal assistants. That will get us on the set. One or both of us will show up and keep an eye on things."
Chloe, "Won't it spoil your vacation?"
"No, it will enhance it, let us worry about that. Nikko can sub for me, Daria for Dasha, they can't tell the difference."
Amaya, "I'll take care of it, they get us in the morning at seven, better get some rest."
Don't have to tell me twice, long travel day, sleep comes easy.
This morning, Dasha and I are set to go at six thirty, we meet Chloe and Amaya in the lobby, SUV pulls up at seven sharp and off we go.
I check in with Janah and Nikko, "We're off. I read up on safe and not safe Rio. There is no safe. Use credit cards or get small amounts of cash from ATMs. Keep your phones put away, stay in sight of each other, skip purses, no jewelry. I know we are our own bodyguards, but we don't need the hassle. Oceane stays in another world, make sure Daria is glued to her and watch out for Eloise, she knows tai chi, but she weighs ninety pounds. it won't help much against a man."
Nikko, "Zi and I are on it, Daria is her own death machine and Janah's hardly helpless. Eloise and Oceane will be fine."
Janah, "We're going to do tourist stuff in the hotel areas, Oceane is going to want to spend the bulk of the day at the beach and we aren't bringing jack down there but towels and chairs, a few reals to buy water and whatnot. I'm fine with hanging on a gorgeous beach in a near nothing bikini, and, yes, we have sunscreen. You take care of Chloe and Amaya, the rest of us are going to have fun being beach candy."
Oceane is all sparkles, an ocean, right out the window. While Dasha and I hang out and watch Chloe, our vacationing family has an elaborate breakfast, then change into Brazilian bikinis, which reveals three quarters of butt. Only gringos, which we are, wear regular bikinis in Rio, but when in Brazil, wear Brazilian. They park on beach towels and watch Oceane paddle around, dive under, pop up a few yards away. I look through Janah's eyes, beach is filling with lovely women with little on. Women in Rio don't go topless, they consider it vulgar and leave it to the French.
Meanwhile, Dasha, Amaya and I drink coffee and watch scene set up, director's instructions and Chloe being pursued by two Latin types trying to do her grievous bodily harm. Then the lead takes his place, he and Chloe do battle with the Latin bad guys who wind up groaning on the street while Chloe and Matt run down an alley and turn the corner.
The tedious process runs through the day, Chloe is flawless, Amaya has coached and re-coached her, she can do her lines in her sleep. There are the inevitable retakes, somebody drops something they shouldn't, missed cue. Chloe is used to it, from fashion photography to movies, lots of the same thing over and over. Dasha and I may die of caffeine overdose, after lunch we switch to tea.

Previous     Next