Chapter Twenty One
They pass the afternoon watching the compound from a drone’s eye view. Guards still out, men move from houses to the main house. Women and children are either in lockdown or moved elsewhere.
Ellen, “Why move the women and children? If someone was going for them, it seems safer at the compound, he’s got a small army there.”
Katya, “He may want to do interrogations there and does not want them around. No, not right, he is not going to bring dealers to his home. He would do what we do, find a place, empty warehouse, spill the blood there. It makes no sense to move children, they are inside for the duration.”
Mani, “Considering all the satellite dishes, they have lots to do. I imagine school is taught at home. He’s killed families, got to be people looking for revenge and hauling children to a private school surrounded by bodyguards draws a lot of attention.”
Katja, “Likely correct. Five houses, maybe fifteen children.”
The sat phone dings, Katya answers, “551389.”
Mrs. Pearson, “I’m the second Mrs. Pearson, calling with a financial update. Fifty on the nose. Where do you want your end to go?”
Katya reels off numbers, Pearson confirms them back to her, “On its way, check your account.”
Katya taps off.
Daphne grins at Janah, “She’s a piece of work, no questions, no love ya see ya bye, just dead air.”
Katya goes to a laptop, clicks in a code, Cayman’s shell account opens up, she goes to recent activity. Twenty five million more than the day before.
“Twenty five million payday.”
Ellen, “How’d they get it laundered so fast?”
Katya, “Money is still in boxes, they pay from money they already have. Cash will go like ours, transfers between companies and nonexistent individuals. Society must have many business interests, or Mrs. Pearson does.”
They have no way of knowing the extent of Murakami Sylk, they’ve never heard of Murakami Sylk. If they had, they still wouldn’t connect it with Mrs. Pearson.
Janah, Daphne, Nishiko and the rest of the family have created a real estate, film, and investment empire with a net worth in the four billion area. The Sylk Trust is several hundred million more on its own.
Ellen, “Geez, be interesting to know who they are.”
Katja, “Dangerous also. Our business interests conform, they haf been honest, efficient and reliable. We could haf stolen money without them, but now we do not haf to laundry twenty five million.”
Ellen, “Maybe they would do it for us.”
Katya, “Good idea, when we are home, I will ask.”
Katja, “Ees for cocktail. We haf to get up early, maybe order something from room service.”
Mani, “I’ll call and get steaks or fish if that’s good, veg sides, leave it at that.”
Which becomes the plan. By ten, girls are cuddled and nodding off.
Ellen’s up at five, caffeine prep, then double check the drone battery is fully loaded.
Katya comes in, Ellen says, “Tea’s in the pot honey, black as coal.”
Ellen, “I assume we are doing room service for breakfast.”
Katya, “Da, no hurry, too early, tea is enough. Drone is ready?”
“Our new baby can’t wait to get to work. You want me to load it?”
“I will fill the darts, you get them loaded, wear latex gloves, no prints on dart. We are not going to be able to retrieve them.”
“Then you shoot me with antidote and I’ll return the favor.”
Two syringes, only two ccs each, stick, shove the plunger, done.
Katya, “Pearson’s note said no side effect, maybe some flushing feeling.”
Ten minutes, Katya has no reaction, Ellen’s cheeks and neck are mild pink.
Ellen, “Doesn’t hurt, feels warm,” she looks in the wall mirror, “looks like I’m embarrassed, Mani would like that,” she laughs.
Katja comes from the bedroom, “Ellen ees blush.”
“We took the antidote, it causes a flush in some people, I’m one. Katya had no reaction at all.”
Katja, “When does drone fly?”
Katya is sucking Oblivion out of the vial and injecting it into the five darts, “I think six, Calderon was at the patio table with coffee by seven thirty, food came at exactly eight. He has breakfast alone, flips through something on laptop, probably online newspaper, Miami, Columbia, maybe he even New York Times.”
Ellen inserts the filled darts into the circular chambers, “Just like loading a revolver. I can get five guys dead in a minute. Which raises a question, after Calderon, who am I killing?”
Katya, “First five you see. We can’t wait around, after the initial confusion, they will figure out what happened. Then everyone goes inside to deep lockdown.”
“Got it. Then what?”
“Then we go home. Maybe not today, I have not called Blue Sky, we do not know if we get to Calderon today. Maybe he doesn’t swim, maybe he instead goes to interrogate dealers. I think he probably sent his associates first though, so he does not stick out his head so soon. Someone willing to take fifty million from such a violent man will make him think twice.”
Mani, “What do you mean?”
“If I want to kill Calderon, I steal a lot of his money. He gets angry, out of control, he hits the streets, brings in dealers one by one to ask hard questions. Now he is out of the compound, maybe guarded but still open. A good sniper and he’s dead. This will occur to him, he will stay put until there is a confession or his anger gets the best of him.”
Mani, “Yes, I see it. Still, like you say, he may be so pissed his routine changes.”
“We will find out. Ellen, fly it to the compound. Keep your distance, use the zoon until we know what is what.”
They sip coffee and tea for fifteen and look at the drone’s view of Miami. Traffic is light, it’s early, the sky is partly overcast, which means nothing to the drone. It flies to a GPS latitude and longitude, Ellen is just monitoring, not flying. She’ll take control at the moment of truth.
Ellen, “Flippin’ amazing, I’m sitting here doing zip and the machine is cruising along like it knows exactly what to do.”
Katya, “It does know what to do, we feed an address, it coordinates, you set it on auto, it goes where it is programmed to go. This is military grade equipment, but privately constructed. Someone in Society built it from scratch.”
“Weren’t you talking to one of their tech people?”
“Da, girl with tiny voice, like a mouse. I got impression she was on top of drone operation, Pearson would not put lightweight in charge of such technology. If I had to make bet, tech girl built it herself.”
“Well, she did a damn fine job, the software must have been a bitch.”
The drone is a quarter mile from the compound, the camera zooms. It’s quiet, only six thirty. Quiet except for the guards. Now that it’s light, the Humvees are gone, but men are spaced every fifty yards around the walls. Some smoking, all with AR-15s slung over shoulders. They pace up and down, get bored, lean against the wall, then straighten up and look around. Tedious work, particularly since there hasn’t been, or is, or will be any activity. Not any they can deal with.
Katya, “Focus on the door of the big house by the pool.”
The camera zooms again, Ellen says, “Damn, if a mouse came out that door we’d see it. The resolution on this thing is…I don’t know what it is, crystal clear.”
Katja, “Da, ees like sitting outside the door, how ees possible?”
Katya, “Military has satellite than can pick up license plate from space. Still, whoever did this work is good, better than good, genius.”
At seven, the door opens, the man is in a swimsuit, his back is turned, he’s saying something to someone inside, then he clears the door. It’s Calderon.
Katya, “Let him get in pool, take him while he swims.”
Calderon dives in, wastes no time, starts laps.
Ellen takes control of the drone. She flies it around the big house, over the top. The pool is directly behind. The indicator says fifty yards, but the target is moving, she eases it forward, switches to copter mode, drops it down alongside the house. It hovers almost silently. Calderon is at the far end of the pool, he touches, flips and swims toward the near end. She sights the laser, the drone is left of Calderon at the side of the house. He touches and turns, his back facing her, thirty yards. She taps the screen.
Five seconds later, Calderon is floating face down.
Ellen, “Goddamn, look the fuck at that. I’m a friggin’ auto killing machine.”
Katya, “Back off, wait for him to be found. Don’t waste darts on guys guarding perimeter, they are hired help. Any men who show up around the pool, take four and go.”
A few minutes go by, a woman comes from the house, sees the body, starts to gesticulate. One man on a cell phone comes from the big house, others show up from houses in the compound. The man from the big house dives in and starts dragging the body to the side of the pool.
Katya, “Take him.”
Before he gets two more strokes, he’s floating face up.
Katya, “Man near the umbrella, he came from a house, so did the one next to him.”
Thwip, thwip, two bodies drop to the concrete. One shot left.
“Just pick one.”
Fifth shot, fifth dead man. The drone rises, it can vertical or drop as quickly as it flies forward, she’s up two hundred feet in seconds, does a one eighty and it’s returning to the hotel.
Katya’s on the phone with Blue Sky, then “Let’s go down for breakfast, we leave at noon.”
Sarah’s on the phone, “Glad you’re back, missed you guys. Find any property?”
Mani, “Nothing interesting, Atlanta is huge, and Katya decided what she normally does, it’s too much hassle to manage from a distance. She’d have to hire a property manager and, so far, she’s been reluctant to do that.”
Sarah, “We on for the weekend?”
“Sure, or come Friday night, you can walk to the boutique Saturday, give you three nights instead of two if it works for you.”
“Great, you will pick me up?”
“Yes, maybe, what, five thirty?”
“I’ll be ready.”
Mani goes to the kitchen, “She’s coming Friday too, five thirty.”
Ellen, “I’ll make us something good, think we can threesome?”
“She’ll love it.”
Ellen, “I gotta pick up a few things, let’s take a trip to Whole Foods and Martin’s.”
Mani and Ellen go off to shop, Katja’s on the couch searching for something to watch after dinner.
Katya comes from the office, “Numbers from donut shops look good, sales are up, Maria is getting bigger orders from companies, meetings, even social events. Brownies and cookies are popular, particularly the flourless chocolate.”
Katja, “She ees good manager, always pleasant.”
“One day maybe we sell the shops to her. If Society will launder money, we don’t need shops and we can cash out. Maybe not, I kind of like shops.”
“It ees not the same when we go to Houston, better to have shops, talk to girls. Maria anyway makes good money from us.”
Katya, “I need to call Pearson, where is sat phone, oh, on my dresser.”
She goes up to the bedroom, retrieves the phone and dials, “551389.”
“Machine performed perfectly. How much to buy?”
“Just keep them. We can supply tranquilizer only though, unless circumstances require something stronger. You know our rules.”
“Da, we do not want it for anything else. It simplifies social work, tracking, video.”
“It does that.”
“Thank you. I have another question. We have twenty million sourced from a circumstance similar to the recent work.”
“You need it freshened up.”
“Yes, we will pay reasonable fee.”
“No need, box and ship to this address,” she gives Katya the location, “do it a couple boxes at a time, twice a week.”
“Thank you again.”
“You’re welcome, seen the Miami Herald?”
“No, I will take a look.”
They click off, Katya returns to the living room, “Pearson says we can keep drone, and she will launder money, two boxes a week, twice a week. Then we are finished. We will keep two million here, better to pay for some things in cash.”
“We are still paid in cash from Penny.”
“Yes, but it’s relatively small, easy to deposit, three or four banks on the same day and Ellen is done. Look up Miami Herald online.”
Katja clicks the keys, “Beeg story, reputed drug lord slain while swimming.”
She reads the article, Katya gets it telepathically as she reads.
“Some attorney calls it terrible tragedy of local entrepreneur, that is a joke. He owns a few restaurants he never goes to, some hotel, a car dealership and a chain of movie theaters. Nobody asks where money came from.”
“DEA refuses comment, local police say he ees investigated two years earlier, no charges were brought. Many people een community laugh at police, they say he was left alone because he paid bribe. Nobody ever proves anything.”
“Looks like they just want it to go away.”
“Da, it leaked that five men are dead from poison dart, no dart gun was found at the scene. Police say it was probably disposed of. Nobody mentions drone.”
“Nobody thinks of drone that fires darts, drone ees sometimes used to make moovey, or they think of drone from military. Those are big though, we haf bird size drone.”
“The story also connects to a link, click it…ah, story the day before about five men killed, two on a road to the ocean, three more at the beach, identical SUVs. Men reputed to work for Calderon.”
“Now they will make it a gang war, ees good, nobody thinks of twins and lazebians.”
Ellen and Mani return, Katja recaps the Miami news.
Ellen, “We got away clean, too bad we couldn’t get another shot at more cash. Guess I don’t need to get greedy.”
Mani, “Even if there was more at the house, we had no way in. And if we’d have figured out there was cash when they went to the airport and took it, they wouldn’t have sent the cash to the beach. If the count is right, we got the bigger shipment.”
Ellen, “All true, not like we need the money, seems wrong to leave it to the drug guys. I imagine they family isn’t going to run out anytime soon.”
Katya, “No, they are set, grown children and nephews run legitimate businesses, and if they are smart they all go on to a more legitimate life, which would make the women happy. I think, though, that some of the men will not be able to resist continuing. They still have Colombian connections, still have dealers. It will be confusing for a while, trying to figure out who did it. Five men dead at the compound, they are going to start pointing fingers at the hired help. Or maybe there was ambitious family member. Many men will die while they search for answers to unanswerable questions.”
Katja, “Drug dealers, who cares? Let them keel each other.”
Mani, “Exactly, DEA and cops will get bribes from new dealers, people are going to buy drugs, and other people are going to sell it to them. Maybe we can go down in a few years and rob them again.”
Katya, “We can clean cash through the Society, or Mrs. Pearson. Two boxes twice a week, I have the address.”
Mani, “Where? Maybe we find out where they live?”
“San Francisco. Which means they don’t live in San Francisco, Person is not so dumb.”
Mani, “Good point. Don’t know why it matters anyway.”
Katja, “You are curious girl, ees okay but sometimes curious ees a dead cat.”
Katya, “And we can keep drones, but only tranquilizer dart.”
Ellen, “Cool, make following around targets simple for both ends of our conflict resolution business, the merely mauled or the totally dead. I’m doing veal lasagna, I need to get going if we’re gonna have it tonight. Come one Mani, we have to get the sauce going, chop onions and mushrooms, brown the veal. Let me get things started, then I’ll make tea.”
Katja, “I will make, you haf run around to store and now cook. I sat on couch. We need to haf fighting this weekend. Mani ees still recover, she will referee or something.”
Mani, “I’m fine.”
Katja, “No mahter, no fighting, eef you want exercise, run on treadmill or ride stationary bike, no fight for you for at least another month. I am also getting better chest protector for you, not thin ones like we use. No argue, go make dinner.”
Mani, “Katja is looking out for me, I should show her my appreciation.”
Katja, “Tonight sister will slip wiz Ellen, you will come to me and I will feel good.”
Mani smiles, “You sure will.”
Tea comes and goes, the twins go to the slave quarters to work on the heavy bags and tumble. Then up to showers and down to cocktails.
Ellen, “Get in a workout?”
Katja, “Heavy bag, tumble across mat, front flipping, back flipping, walk on hands.”
Mani, “You two are so strong.”
“We haf done a long time. It was harder when we leev in deeferent house every night, but we practice anyway. Now we haf good mats, lots of room, easy.”
Katya, “Lasagna smells good.”
“I’m letting it rest so it doesn’t slop out on the plate, gonna shower before dinner, I smell like a pizza parlor.”
Mani and Ellen go upstairs, back down in fifteen, hair air drying. Ellen tests the dish.
“Almost there, Mani put out the Italian salads, we can work on those, then the entrée will be set.”
After rich veal lasagna accompanied by crusty warm Leidenheimer’s and tart Chianti, the girls settle in front of the flat screen with Cognac to watch Ex Machina. It’s a sci-fi about artificial intelligence, decently brainy and entertaining.
Ellen, “Sarah! Hey honey girl, good to see you,” hugs around.
Sarah, “I reek of high school, covered it up with a spritz of perfume. I need a hot shower.”
Mani, “Go on up, you know where everything is, you don’t get to be a guest any longer, now you’re a part time roommate.”
Sarah scoots up the steps, she doesn’t have to bring much, she keeps clothes, shoes and makeup in Mani’s room. Sarah comes from uptown wealth, but she’s not a fashion plate, her school clothes are uniforms. If her mom didn’t own a boutique, she’d be in jeans and sneakers the rest of the time.
Mani, “I told her your plot for a threesome, she said we might need to get to bed early.”
Ellen grins, “You do her, her you, I’ll join in later. I’m thinking two girls going down on me sounds delicious.”
Mani kisses her, “Oh, I forgot, need to tell her to skip clothes, she’s the living art tonight. Tomorrow morning, it’s you, at least until fight practice.”
“That won’t happen until the afternoon, yummy, Katja gets all hands on when I’m in nothing.”
Mani dashes up the steps, when she comes down Sarah is with her, dressed as required.
Katja, “Ah, Sarah, you will come here for me to see.”
Sarah blushes, goes to Katja seated on the couch, stands close, legs slightly spread, hands on her thighs, “You like?”
Katja’s fingers brush the soft tender spot, Sarah quivers, Katja leans in and kisses it, a shudder of pleasure.
“God I love coming here,” she bends forward and they kiss, tongues entwine.
Katja, “Enough or I will take you back upstairs and nobody sees you until morning, go to sister.”
A twin performance, Sarah has an idiot grin on her lovely face, “Can I go out and come in again?”
Katya, “No. You must please Mani and Ellen tonight, sister is for me. Tomorrow, we will see.”
Sarah goes to sit next to Mani at the table, whispers, “Those two together, the thought makes me sizzle.”
“They keep us sizzling. Katja is all over Ellen, Katya has taken to me, she nearly killed me in the hotel.”
“Be a nice way to die, but I’d rather you stayed around so I can be nasty with you.”
Ellen, “Cocktails babies, got smoked salmon, cream cheese and crackers. Dinner is grilled fish with lemon butter, creamed spinach and baked potato. Dessert is me, but I also have a variety of Godiva truffles and Enstrom almond toffee. Tomorrow, I’m making a cake I haven’t thought up yet.”
Mani pours Champagne for she and Sarah, the twins vodka, Ellen’s drinking Elijah Craig on the rocks.
Ellen, “We haven’t seen Gerard in a while, spose I get him over for dinner tomorrow or Sunday?”
Katya, “Da, he ees good company.”
Sarah, “He’s such a gentleman, it’s like having a spare grandfather. One of mine is dead, the other lives in Seattle.”
Mani, “Good for all of us, mine lives in Thailand, haven’t seen him in years. The twins never knew grandparents, I don’t know about Ellen.”
Ellen, “Since I’m not sure who’s daddy, I have no idea who’s granddaddy. My mother’s father is usually in prison when he’s not drunk. Don’t see him, don’t want to see his ass. I’d probably shoot him.”
Sarah, “You think you could, hypothetically, shoot him? Or you making a joke?”
Ellen, “Honey, I could pop his sorry ass and walk away with a smile. He didn’t support anybody, didn’t give a shit about anybody but him and did a crappy job of that.”
“I think I’d like to try shooting a gun. Didn’t you say you knew how to shoot, yes, we talked about it once.”
Mani, “We know how. You asked us to take you, we never got around to it, too busy eating and having sex.”
Sarah, “Well, it the opportunity comes up, please include me.”
Ellen glances at Katya, who is mentaling Katja, “We will maybe take her to Houston. It is almost the end of school, she will graduate and have the summer off.”
Katja, “Does no hurt anything, we can see if she has any talent, maybe she will not like and that will be the end of it.”
Katja says to Sarah, “We practice in Houston. On summer vacation you may come wiz us to Houston and try gun. Ees okay wiz parents?”
Sarah, “Sure, dad will think it’s great. Mom thinks everything I do is great.”
Ellen calls Gerard, “Hey there, it’s Ellen. Dinner here Saturday or Sunday, your choice. No, Saturday works, come for maybe six, six thirty? Good, see you then.”
She clicks off, “Tomorrow, okay, I gotta grill fish, Mani, how ‘bout putting out the condiments for potatoes, set the table, I’m ready for another drink, a glass of Champagne. My bourbon is ninety proof, four fingers over ice is enough.”
Sarah, “I’ll set the table,” she reloads her Champagne glass, refills Mani, pours one for Ellen.
Katja hands her sister a fresh vodka, one for herself, sit at the table to enjoy three lovely girls arranging dinner, two in only t-shirts, one in only nothing.
Katja, “We haf collect three good girls, beautiful Ellen, cute Mani, sexy Sarah.”
Katya, “Enough for me, anyway, first girl for Katya is sister.”
Sarah is laying out utensils, the twins are kissing, she turns to Mani and whispers, “I may have an orgasm right here, God they’re splendid.”
Mani’s hand reaches between her legs, “You’re getting warm,” she licks her finger, “yum.”
Sarah sighs, “I love being a girl slut.”
Ellen, “Here you go ladies, last night’s veal lasagna is tonight’s appetizer.”
While they enjoy, Ellen’s adding the lemon butter over fish, Mani puts out spinach and baked, they settle in to dinner.
Sarah, “Compliments as always Ellen, fish is nice and tangy.”
Katja sprinkles powdered Habanero over hers, passes it to Katya.
Ellen, “Twins could eat molten lava.”
Katja, “Ees good Ellen, we are for extra spice, and Habanero anyway only a tiny sprinkle. I haf also add teaspoon of Trinidad Moruga to Habanero jar.”
Sarah, “What is that?”
“Red scorpion powder from pepper, the hottest pepper in the world. I thought Habanero was deadly, it’s like table salt compared to red scorpion.”
The evening deteriorates nicely. Girls are slightly swizzled after wine that accompanied dinner, then Cognac and chocolate while they watch a BBC series called Death in Paradise. It’s light mystery with enough interesting characters to overcome the dubious plot twists. There’s the overused gathering of suspects in a room at the end so the brilliant detective can explain who might have done it and why, ending with the arrest of the least obvious person who did.
Katja clicks off the flat screen, “Sisters are going to bed, we will see everyone in the morning, thanking you Ellen and Mani for good dinner. Goodnight Sarah, you make live nude art for us to enjoy.”
Sarah, “My pleasure.”
When twins are upstairs, Sarah says, “They sit together, the sit in the same position, stand at the same moment, they blink together. It’s like they read the other’s mind.”
Ellen, “That’s cause they do.”
Sarah, “No, you’re joking with me of course, but it seems like it.”
Mani, “Keep paying attention, watch them, then decide.”
Girl follies ensue for the duration of the evening, Ellen gives Mani and Sarah an hour alone before joining in, they double team her. Sarah straps up and deep dives with the medical grade silicon dildo, expensively realistic. Near midnight, Ellen wanders off to her room mumbling incoherently. It’s a great night for sleep, first, a thunderstorm, followed by heavy rainfall tapering off to a gentle shower.
Ellen’s up and chipper by seven, the others are still in bed, she’d peeked in on the twins. So cute, curled in together, one toy on the bed, another on the floor, must have gotten interesting.
Over coffee, she reads online newspapers, checks the Miami Herald. A story about increased drug violence. With the king gone, factions are battling for territory.
She moves on to more mundane matters of political jabberwocky, climate change and a few opinion columnists in the New York Times. Ellen’s only a high school grad, but she’s not dumb. She would have done well in college, meeting the twins made college irrelevant.
Mani is much the same. She has an affinity for languages, and she was studying them at the university. But languages courses are multitude online, and the twins speak Russian, plus they’d all learned Japanese. Some days only those languages are spoken at home. Mani might ask a question in Russian and Katya would answer in Japanese. The sudden shifts and tricky mental gymnastics made for quick minds.
Sarah comes along, kisses Ellen, “Your day to be on display?”
“Yep, little Thai Hitler has her rules, and they must be obeyed.”
Sarah grins, “I like to be obedient.”
“So I’ve surmised. Me, too, but Mani is harder on you.”
Sarah leans over and licks Ellen’s lips, “Because I’m so special.”
They laugh together. Sarah sits between Ellen’s legs, they surf newspapers.
Sarah stands, “Need coffee, want another cup?”
Katja comes down the stairs, “Ees tea?”
Ellen, “Pot on the left Sarah, need to warm it in the microwave.”
Katja sits in front of the laptop Ellen was using, clicks the history and sees the Miami story, then moves on to the Times.
Katya, “Mani is in the shower, what is for breakfast?”
Ellen, “Today is pancakes, poached eggs and grilled ham. Berries and crème fraiche coming up.”
Sarah, “Coming here is like floating in a dream, beautiful home, beautiful girls, amazing food and the best booze.”
Ellen, “Not much point in bein’ rich and livin’ poor.”
Sarah, “Not hardly. I need to be at the shop for ten.”
Ellen, “I forgot all about that. We gotta put off fight training until tomorrow.”
Katja, “Beat up today, beat up tomorrow, no deeference.”
“Just as well, we got Gerard comin’ over tonight, we’re always pretty flagged after training.”
Mani joins them, “What a splendid night, sex, thunder and rain for sleeping.”
They have berries, then Ellen lays out plates of pancakes and poached eggs, slabs of ham glazed with warm cherry pie filling.
“Tomorrow we’ll go to En Vie for breakfast.”
Katja, “Keep lunch light, what ees dinner?”
“I’m in a nicely charred just near medium rare filet mood. Gonna make hand cut fries and, let’s see, how do green beans cooked all day with bacon and ham pieces sound?”
Sarah, “Like heaven.”
“And another almond cake, you want chocolate or buttercream frosting? Wait, I know, half and half.”
Sarah, “I may orgasm.”
Katja, “You will make climatic wiz sisters tonight, after Gerard ees leaf.”
“I may orgasm just thinking about it.”
Ellen looks at Mani, “Looks like you’re stuck with me honey.”
Mani grins, “I’ll manage.”
Mani and Ellen clear breakfast plates, Sarah up to dress for a day in her mother’s French Quarter boutique.
Ellen, “I’ve got the filets marinating, need to buy fresh green beans, onion, ham pieces, we have bacon. And I need powdered sugar for the frosting.”
Mani, “We’ll make a run when Sarah leaves.”
“I’m gonna make the cake soon as we get back, then frost it just before. If I start the green beans now, by seven they’ll be limp and full of ham and onion flavor.”
Mani, “What’s the appetizer?”
“I ordered Petrossian Royal Ossetra caviar online, don’t ask how much for six to eight servings.”
“Eleven hundred for nine ounces.”
“Fuck you say?”
They go to dress, Sarah’s just finishing, “Hey cutie, what are you doing today, besides anticipating my return?”
Mani, “Something pleasant to think about while Ellen and I make a short grocery run. We’re going to have caviar appetizers, Ellen got the best.”
“Oooh, something else to anticipate. School’s out next week, I don’t particularly care about a graduation ceremony, I negotiated with mom to skip it and presents.”
“Is it a big deal with her?”
“She talks about memories, photos, some parents video the thing. I asked her to show me her graduation pictures and reminded her she’d never once mentioned high school graduation.”
“She doesn’t have them, no yearbooks, no diploma, nada. She laughed, said maybe she’s trying to relive hers through me. Mom is practical, she puts up with a laser focused husband. I think she may have married him, in part, because she knew he would be working a lot. She got bored with the lunch and tennis crowd, opened the boutique.”
“So you can pass on the ceremony?”
“Yep. I’m not an in girl at school, it’s all about boys, hair, boys, shoes, boys. I managed to float by unnoticed. Not many girls do track, and my specialty isn’t a team thing. I don’t do relays, the coach bitched but it didn’t change my mind.”
“Kiss me, or do you want us to drop you off?”
“We can kiss now and again when you drop me off, if Audra’s there, she’ll like a kiss too.”
Ellen pulls to the curb, “See you later angel,” Sarah hops out, Mani follows.
“Just going to tell Audra hi, back in a sec.”
And she is, they continue on to the Garden District.
The twins occupy the rest of the morning tumbling in the slave quarter gym, keep after it until muscles quiver. They shower together, slip on slinky silk t-shirts, brush hair straight and let it air dry. Mani and Ellen returned while they were showering.
Ellen, “Another shower, you must have worked out.”
“I gotta get the cake made, then hit the rowing machine.”
Mani puts things up, seasons and marinates the filets, covers the Pyrex dish with cling wrap.
Ellen, “No, you have other things to do anyway.”
“True, change all the sheets, laundry, clean bathrooms while the washer washes. And before you get going on cake, strip. I’m doing nude housekeeping, you can do naked cake and rowing.”
Ellen undresses, Mani takes her things upstairs, strips herself, then the beds. Her phone dings, a text from Sarah, ‘just got the strangest vibe, are you nude?’
‘how did i know that, maybe just coincidentally fantasizing, weird.’
‘glad ur thinking about me, ellen is in nothing too.’
‘figured, but I got this thing in my head, like a pop-up note, that you were naked… oh…dad’s going to a conference a couple days next week, mom was wondering about a visit.’
‘fun, we will figure out later, kisses’
Mani takes the sheets downstairs, passes Ellen, “Got a text from Sarah, it popped in her head that I was nude, just after I got that way.”
“That’s what she said, but it wasn’t a daydream, it was like an IM, suppose it must be coincidental. She’s become a sex machine, lucky us.”
She moves on to the laundry room. It’s behind the downstairs bathroom at the end of a closed pantry. Keeps the machine noise to nothing in the rest of the house.
Back upstairs to replace sheets, Ellen comes up.
“Cake needs forty or forty five, green beans are simmering, I’ll take your bathroom and bed, do mine and we’ll both do the twins.”
Why clean the other’s room instead of their own? Ellen figures they’ll do a better job if it’s for someone else, we’re more casual about our own stuff. Skip the dusty corners, a quick swipe of the toilet brush, bed made good enough instead of sharp and squared away. It works, the whole place stays pristine.