Chapter Twenty One VI
Human rationality is a myth.
I walk in the entrance to the mosque. If anyone can sense a problem instantly, it’s me. Of course I have help, Sensitives walked the circumference of the mosque, there’s a hotspot, a volcano of anger and fear inside. Like that’s a surprise.
I walked the gauntlet to become a priest several years ago, surprises are my thing. I briefly wonder what the karma collision is when a Shaolin priest enters a Muslim mosque.
Janah is behind me, then Nikko. We are armed and dangerous, katana, chain whip, shuriken and knives no one with the brains of a goat ever wants us to use.
“Goat’s Head Soup, wasn’t that a Stones album?”
“1972, Angie, Dancing with Mr. D, Heartbreaker, about a police shooting right here in New York.”
Nishiko, “It’s only rock and roll, but I like it.”
“That was later, but that’s not what you meant.”
The lights come on, Janah enters the main chamber with Nikko and me on either side. There are carpeted floors, a lot of arches and domes, marble pillars holding up the roof. Apart from the multi-colored carpets, I have to say it’s no more, even less bizarre that the inside of some Catholic churches, at least there’s no Virgin Mary, Muslims have different uses for their virgins, no Jesus hanging on a cross.
Still, it isn’t to our taste, it resembles the lobby of a Vegas hotel, without the slot machines and cocktail waitresses.
“Do Muslims play bingo?”
Janah, “Don’t make me laugh, people will be dead soon.”
“Might as well laugh, I wouldn’t put it past these buttheads to blow us and themselves up right here, then have the Islamists try to blame it on the US.”
Janah, “Then put your nose instead of your mouth to work and sniff out any explosives.”
“Already did, nothing here but old socks and unwashed hair.”
Nikko, “Our targets are up ahead, having a circle jerk, can I kill them now?”
Janah, “In a minute.”
“There are others, hidden, have shuriken ready, I smell gun oil.”
A semi-circle of men, Farzam in the middle, with his Mullah crap on. But then I wear robes sometimes, let’s not judge.
A man on the end jumps up, “You bring weapons into a mosque? Wear shoes? Women in the men’s area, and do not cover your heads! Three reasons to stone you!”
Janah, “That’s four reasons, idiot, and you have guns in here already. She waves her hand and the man is thrown against a concrete pillar to one side, he crumples to the floor, blood drips from his ear and mouth.
“Going to need someone else to kill me Farzam, that one’s gone to fetch his virgins.”
Farzam, “You are Shaytan’s whore, and a blasphemer. It will cost you, more than you can know.”
Janah, “I’m a lesbian, Farzam. I won’t sleep with a man for money or anything else, whore is extreme. But, you’re an extremist, so there it is.”
Six men step out of the shadows, they are pointing rather large guns at us, Nikko and I hit four with shuriken before they can pull the trigger, the other two drop theirs, that’s because they are, in fact, burning their hands. They glow near red.
Katanas flash, the men give it a go, but they are helpless against Nishiko, and my own skills don’t fail me. In less than a minute it’s impossible to tell which head belongs to which body.
Farzam isn’t processing, the three alongside him appear to be frozen solid, paralyzed.
Janah focuses on Farzam, he is nonplussed, clueless. He tries for indifference, but Janah is already in his mind, her eyes closed. Then something really interesting happens, he becomes his own campfire.
Farzam goes up in smoke but not like Cheech and Chong. Actually, there is no smoke, he’s ablaze, then ashes.
“Must have been a really hot fire.”
Janah, “Think of the Terminator sinking into the molten iron. Then think hotter.”
That leaves a dead guy by the pillar, six headless assholes, and one guy who can fit in a mayonnaise jar. The three paralyzed men are released. They saw what happened, conscious through it, just unable to move. That’s what she wanted, witnesses, who could not interfere, but who would live to tell the tale.
That level of qi, even for Janah, is exhausting. She’d thrown a man across a room, caused two more to feel their guns burning their hands, kept three others paralyzed and caused the remaining one to self immolate, all in the course of a few minutes. She’s weak, but there is one more conversation coming. Nikko and I add our own qi to reinforce hers.
Janah rallies, “Do I have your undivided attention?”
Eyes shift from Nikko to me, our hands on katana in head removal stance, they nod in the affirmative, quite attentive.
Janah, left to right, “You are Mehrak, Nku, and Shahrukh. I know where you live, I know where your families live, here and in Afghanistan.”
She reels off addresses, names and for those still in Afghanistan, the cities and streets, “Shahrukh is a PhD. Mehrak a chemist whose family sold their daughter into the slave trade so he could get a degree and Nku is just an asshole pedophile who also happens to have an MD.”
The men are clearly shocked. They thought themselves invisible, their reputations inviolate, their families safe.
Shahrukh, “What do you wish us to do? We have valuable information, we can help you, you Americans that is.”
Janah laughs, “Don’t be stupider. We claim no country, no country has a claim on us, no religion, no mercenary group, no cause, nothing. My friends and I are apathyists, we don’t know if there’s a God, and we don’t care. So you have a problem. That problem is us. I don’t need your information. You can discuss that with your new friends in Guantanamo. The military will be here shortly to escort you. There will be no deals. You will download everything you know in the first three days. If you do, and I’m convinced, then no harm will come to your families, IF they make no attempt at retaliation. I am weary of who did what to who first. What I do know is that your days as jihadists are over. Are we communicating?’
Shahrukh, “Most clearly.”
Janah looks at the other two, “Yes, yes, we understand.”
Back to Shahrukh, “Two of you are telling the truth, one is lying,” she keeps her eyes on Shahrukh, “Nikko, take the liar.”
Faster than the eye can process, Mehrak loses all attachment.…to his head, or would it be that his head loses all attachment to his body? Is that the same as detachment? Well, whatever.
“Have I made my point?”
The men shake as they gaze on the scene, Mehrak’s head has simply fallen into his crossed legs, like he’s holding his head upside down in his hands, which, in fact, he is.
Janah, “Speak up!”
Shahrukh and Nku both say ‘yes,’ they say it a lot and are, subsequently, most agreeable.
“You will waive all your rights, in writing. Still, you will have a lawyer present, you will tell him unequivocally that you wish to confess the plot to maim or kill the Mayor of New York, several congressmen, the people at the party and anyone in the vicinity of the building. You will explain how the gas was obtained, through the Russian, and how and where you deployed your men. Every detail, nothing left out or obscured. I can get to you anywhere, and even more easily, your families. If I’m not convinced you’ve come clean in three days, there will be no further discussion. This is not a negotiation, you have nothing to offer. I don’t care about more intelligence or future information. Do you understand?”
The two remaining are bobbing their heads so fast it’s creating a draft. She reads them, they’re done, no lies, no prevarications, just done.
Janah, “Call in the troops and have them deliver these chumps to the military. I’m tired, let’s go home.”
I go to the exit, waive Mini over, “We’ve got two of the scum left that need to be delivered to the military. They will be expected. Bring them to Battery Park quietly. No further damage, just hand them over to Colonel Parks. He’s six four, lean, short grey hair, no sense of humor. He will have ID and a pot full of MPs. He will not ask any questions, in fact he won’t say anything, not even thank you. Then you’re done. Tell your guys to go home, and that we very much appreciate the cover. Take four of Adrianne’s men with you to Battery Park. They are very locked and loaded. No one will ask them any questions.”
Mini, “What if we get some lip from our deliveries?’
“They aren’t going to say diddly. This will go down quietly. If some unknown third party attempts to interfere with the delivery, and we don’t think there will be, then take out these two and anyone who gets in your way. There won’t be any blowback, I guarantee it.”
“I almost hope there’s interference.”
“I know, but when you check out conditions inside, I think you’ll be satisfied with the outcome. There were ten men in there, now there are two still breathing. Seven will be obvious, the pile of ashes is eight. Thank you big guy. We’re done, need to get Janah home.”
Chapter Twenty Two VI
''It's very good jam,' said the Queen.
‘We’ll, I don't want any TO-DAY, at any rate.'
'You couldn't have it if you DID want it,' the Queen said. 'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday--but never jam to-day.'
'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected.
'No, it can't,' said the Queen. 'It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know.'
'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'
'That's the effect of living backwards,' the Queen said kindly: 'it always makes one a little giddy at first--'
'Living backwards!' Alice repeated in great astonishment. 'I never heard of such a thing!'
'--but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways.'
'I'm sure MINE only works one way,' Alice remarked. 'I can't remember things before they happen.'
'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked.
White Queen to Alice, Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
Janah is sleeping, I'll wake her soon. It’s mid afternoon, not time for her to sleep twelve hours. Nikko and I make the requisite calls while Janah naps. The moms, Mrs. Fong, Mrs. Epstein, Chan.
I tell Sis, “You need to stay down there for the duration. It appears this mess is cleaned up, but we may easily have blowback from the Islamist insane. Mini’s people are dealing with the Islam crowd in prison, the Mayor is going to make a big deal of how this is an extremist group, not an example of a legitimate and honored religion. He’s visiting mosques, talking to moderates, explaining that neither the City of New York, nor the State, nor the US government views this as anything other than individuals who do not represent the Muslim community. The President is sending the Veep down to do his thing.”
Sis, “So you’re hoping the thing blows over?”
“We don’t hope, we watch. The Shaolin are watching, Mini’s crew is watching, Adrianna’s people are watching, that doesn’t even include the NYPD and the NYFD, Homeland Security and the kid on the corner. Mrs. E has spoken to everyone, everywhere. Probably overkill. I don’t imagine you’re having a problem enjoying Paradise Island in the meantime.”
Sis, “I may move here. Christ, it’s exquisite. Kara and James have been on perpetual honeymoon, C-mom and I have been shitfaced, danced, bought a few things, eat, walk the beach, rode mopeds all over, did I say eat? We’re so worn out at the end of the day that ten a.m. is getting to be breakfast time. We went snorkeling, windsurfing, parasailing, swam and swam and swam. I thought I’d gain ten pounds, I’ve lost three. And is Kara a party animal! She has James exhausted, in that good way, where your head is in a completely different universe.”
“Heck, I want to come down.”
Sis, “Come ahead.”
“We’ll see. Janah isn’t going to be satisfied until she’s had everything triple checked, then checked again.”
Sis, “You guys managed to stay out of the limelight?’
“The great NY public doesn’t know but what the press tells them. The insiders know who cleaned house, but they aren’t talking. We want Homeland, the FBI and NYPD to get credit for closely working together to uncover a conspiracy. That they were all over it from the beginning. We just want to evaporate. Coming to Nassau might serve just the purpose, I’ll let you know.”
Sis rings off, seconds later the phone rings, Nikko picks it up, sees it’s her mom on the caller ID.
Mrs. Murakami, “Can you come tomorrow afternoon for tea ceremony?”
Nikko, “Good idea, very relaxing, focused formalities. Thank you for suggesting it.”
“I heard, good suggestion. She understands the stress, I presume she’s dealt with it due to Hanshi’s work.”
Nikko, “Many times. It eases the mind, a much slower pace. This will be the full formal ceremony you understand? Four hours, tea, food, music.”
I hug my student, no longer my student, “I wish it was tomorrow now, except it’s not, so that means you have time to make love to me, then we’ll wake Janah and take a walk. Perhaps to Fong’s for dinner. Then home, a piece of movie, then we put Ange Blanc to bed. Her mind and body need healing time.”
Nikko brightens…..well, she raises one eyebrow a millimeter, I take that for brightening. She does her thing to me, then on me with the most adorable strap-on, then we wake Janah, shower and hit the street.
Fong fusses about exposing White Angel to such danger and how Nishiko might have been seriously injured, any danger to me is overlooked. We have the most exquisite Chinese dinner, and Mrs. Fong wouldn’t hear of us walking back. She gives us all a hug, fussing in rapid fire Chinese. I draw the most vehement exclamations, but also get the last, and longest tightest hug, when I glance down at her, her eyes are wet. I pretend not to notice. A town car is at the curb, short ride back to the apartment in silence, chock full of oriental delight.
Janah, “I’m dead. I’m giving it another to finish surveillance, then we’re going to Nassau. Can I please get surrounded by my bookends, I really need to sleep.”
Easy duty. We undress, slip into clean sheets, Janah in the middle. Nikko and I kiss her shoulder and cheeks gently, she is gone in minutes.
Chapter Twenty Three VI
The story they told me sounded like something cribbed from the Biography Channel. Flattering and negativity-free. You see, people always make cases. Always. Rather than simply describe things, they pitch them this way and that.
Disciple Manning, Disciple of the Dog, R. Scott Baker
Yay! Nothing happens, that means we land in Nassau two days later. Janah decided she needn’t answer questions, and it’s particularly easy if we aren’t in Manhattan to be asked any.
We bikini, sun screen, and are soon planted firmly on a pristine beach staring at crystal blue water. James is in the room on a Skype call with the hospital, the moms and us are busy being appreciative of the stares of the male tourists and laughing about the glares of their spouses and girlfriends. Although, I must say, several of the young ladies are quite the thing. Janah hasn’t missed a single hardbody bikini.
Janah, “Dang, there are some lovely young ladies lounging around. This place is girl slut heaven.”
James comes wandering down from the room, “It’s kind of hard to leave that suite, so much Scotch, so little time. I don’t drink in the middle of the day at home. Here, it seems natural.”
Kara, “It’s good to relax. I know you too well to think you carry around the burdens of your patients, still, when you work you work. That’s why this is called play. We pay them, they don’t pay us. That’s how you can tell.”
James, “I guess there are exceptions, some people tell themselves their work is play, but I find that to be more of a pose than fact.”
“Nikko likes to pretend our work is play.”
Chris, “Bullshit. The hours you two put in training would kill most people. Although the fact you don’t do it for money is the exception to Kara’s rule.”
Nikko, “Money isn’t the only currency.”
Janah, “There’s a point.”
Chris, “Yeah, but it’s something you pay yourself, satisfaction, not something someone else pays you.”
Janah, “There’s another point. We’ve done both, copped multi millions in illegal money and plowed them into the schools, the temple, victims and ourselves. It was self comp, we just took it from assholes.”
Susan, “I’m taking a long walk down the beach and absorb tourist admiration, would anyone care to join me?”
Nikko, “I could use a stretch.”
They head off, the rest of us lounge comfortably under a lovely tree at the edge of the beach.
James, “Janah, have you come any closer to a theory of the three as one?”
“No, I have no explanation, I intended to find someone like Daphne, then Nikko came along and here we are.”
James, “I’ve been thinking over synchronicity. Then there’s what might be called synchronicity in the merging. There were two, then three women, who are one, but not one. There appears to be no cause-effect, it just happened.”
Kara, “Could synchronicity have anything to do with you three?”
Janah, “It leads to a dead end. We can stick the label on us, but it doesn’t describe the relationship.”
Chris, “What do you mean?”
“To say that we are the result of synchronicity is fine, but it doesn’t tell us anything, how it works, why it’s there at all. You might as well say it’s God’s plan. It has no meaning. Jung’s synchronicity attempts to explain shared meaning by some action, or energy, out in the universe. To say synchronicity explains shared meaning because of synchronicity is no explanation at all.”
Kara, “Where does qi come into this?”
“That is a very good question.”
Chris, “So do you have a very good answer?”
“No. I have another useless theory. Qi is at least demonstrable. All of you have seen it in action. It is testable, there is a cause-effect on the physical level. Now the difficulty is, what is the cause beyond the observable? Qi is energy, life force, made visible in action. Mostly it’s unseen, just there. Some people have the ability to gather it. Wrong way of putting it. The ability to be in harmony with the energy all around us. It doesn’t have meaning necessarily, it’s there if someone has the tenacity and intent to allow it to be used through them. And, as we’ve said, that tenacity is tedious. I don’t go get it, it comes and I can use it at will. I don't know why I can. Like Daphne said, there’s no synchronicity test. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
James, “Meaning is vague, opaque. One person’s meaning is different from another’s even for the same event. Synchronicity as a form of collective unconscious sharing meaning would be difficult to test, perhaps impossible.”
“Exactly. So while there is tangential evidence for a collective conscious, it could just as easily be called collective habituation.”
Chris, “Jesus! Now you throw in another new term.”
“Everybody is dancing at a rave, the music is pounding, the strobes are on, a large part of the crowd is on ecstasy, LSD or a combo. It has no collective ‘meaning,’ just people partying at the same place at the same time. Or, groups of people go to one church or another. They’ve read the same books, listened to the preacher, rabbi, imam, tell versions of stories, they perform the rituals. For most, it’s nothing but comforting habit. It’s where their parents went, it’s where their friends are, they may even feel it has meaning. But it’s repeated meaning, which means it is merely habituation, neither creative nor insightful.”
Chris, “So we know what synchronicity is not, we don’t know what it is.”
“Probably wouldn’t matter, as Chuck Klosterman said, ‘Everyone is wrong about almost everything.’”
Chris, “Christ! Where’s the tequila?”
Chapter Twenty Four VI
I am wrestling with non-duality as is currently generally described.
That is, I often hear/read the ‘we are not separate, or we are all one.'
As if I am you and you me, or the tree.
The view I am more disposed to is that we are all interconnected,
which is different from all one.
Now, I’m sure someone will chime in with their ‘experience,’ of oneness.
(And I can’t argue with what they underwent. I wasn’t in that dream, so to speak.)
If we agree that thought itself is a consequence of material interaction, and, for the sake of argument, that anything outside of thought is also material, then I quote Dr. Richard Feynman:
“You can’t say A is made of B
Or vice versa
All mass is interaction.”
Therefore, everything that happens is the result and the cause of everything that happens.
That is different from saying everything is everyone and everyone is everything.
A relaxed afternoon becomes a night of dance and dissipation, then we retire to our rooms. Nikko, Janah and I collapse on the king sized bed, snuggle, kiss and fly to fairyland for eight hours.
This morning, all hell breaks loose.
We’d gotten up, a little later than usual, around eight thirty. We hadn’t gone to bed until shortly after midnight, but none of us drank much. Me, not at all, Janah had a couple of glasses of champagne and Nishiko red wine. It isn’t like we’re hung-over.
The moms are a different story, Lacy and the moms partied pretty hard and are sleeping in. Our threesome decides to breakfast on the veranda, but when we get downstairs, there are police and a gaggle of hotel staff in chaos.
I spot Jacques, one of the bellmen I’d made pals with on check in.
“What’s the constabulary out for, Jacques?”
“Girl gone, ma’am. Guest of hotel, here last night, nowhere this morning. Parents frantic, rich people, calling everyone, demanding action. Their own kicking getting in the way of investigation. But they don’ see it.”
“So they think by shouting a lot and blaming everyone in Nassau their daughter will mysteriously appear out of a secret closet?”
“Yes, Miss Daphne, that’s about it. They rich, claim to be connected, like that will make everything right. But everything not gonna be right.”
“And you know that, how?”
“Miss Daphne, Jacques has a family, makes a little money here, gets by. These white people, they bring this down on themselves. What can a poor man do?”
“You can start by talking to me and my friend. Can you get to an empty room, or to our suite for ten minutes?”
Jacques, “The conference rooms are being used to interview every guest and employee. But the kitchen, it’s cooking food as usual. There’s a storage room, back of the kitchen.”
“Be there in five minutes, my friend is on the way, the white haired girl. Tell her what you know, only what you know, don’t elaborate, be straight. She will know what to do.”
“I need this job Miss, you are sure I don’t have no involvement?”
I nod, “Nobody will know you talked to us.”
“But what can you do the police can’t do?”
“You have children Jacques?”
“Yes, Miss Daphne, one the same age as the missing girl.”
“If she disappeared, would you want her found?”
“Of course, on my life.”
“That’s what we’re going to do, find this little girl, just like we’d find your little girl if she went missing. You never talked to my friend. She will deny it ever happened.”
Jacques hesitates looks in my eyes, he sees beyond serious, sees the abyss, he decides, “I’ll be there when she arrives,” he slips through the kitchen doors. He’s wrong about one thing, Janah is waiting for him.
Jacques, “How did you know to….never mind. There are things Jacques doesn’t need to know,” he feels relaxed, warm, he knows what to do.
Janah leans against the wall, I stand near the door, no prying ears about, Jacques starts, “I was on duty until eight last night. I see the little girl, sitting on the beach until dark. Her mother is on the veranda, been drinking with friends for two, three hours. She wasn’t ugly drunk, but tipsy, it’s a vacation resort, people let loose.”
Janah, “Tell me about the girl, any detail.”
“Police say she is ten, to me, tall for her age, looked a little older, not thirteen or fourteen, but she might have been twelve. I thought it unusual, she was made up, lipstick, light pink color. Her eyes had color on the lids, what do girls call it?”
Jacques, “Yes, that’s it, eye shadow. She has unusually light blue eyes, and dark eye shadow, with something that sparkled on the edge of her eyes.”
Janah, “Yes, some kids put a smudge of glitter on their faces, often around the eyes. It’s considered cool, fashionable. Can’t swim with it.”
“Girl don’t go in water. Lay on a beach chair, sheen of lotion, nice tan. A swimsuit...” he gets embarrassed.
“It was tiny, yes?”
“Ma’am, the whole thing wouldn’t make a small hankie.”
“Some parents think that’s fashionable too. What’s she look like?”
“Girl is beautiful, not just pretty, exceptional, tall, long legs, a hint of muscle, like a dancer.”
“Fingernail, toenail polish?”
“That’s right, red, but like coal, reddish black.”
“Same color as her eye shadow.”
Jacques brightens, “Yes, that’s it! How did you know?”
“Daphne saw her, briefly. Had the same description, older than her age, nothing bikini. She only glanced, the girl got up and walked in the other direction, just strolling down the beach, showing off a bit. We were in a fairly deep conversation, Daphne gave the girl little more than a passing glance, but she has a good memory.”
“Yes, Miss Daphne here a day and already know most of the staff, and all the cooks. I think maybe you and she, the same.”
Janah smiles, “We think much alike, although Daphne is far more outgoing. It’s her way.”
“Beautiful girl like that, most don’t give staff a second thought. Here comes Miss Daphne, it’s like we’re family. Everybody like her.”
“She likes everybody, mostly. Whoever took the girl, she won’t like him at all, presuming it’s a him. So, what happened when the mother called the girl up?”
“Strange. At that age, they generally come running when momma calls. But this one act like she don’t hear at first. Then get up slowly, wrap a bit of cloth around her waist and went up to the deck.”
“Talk to her mother?”
“Her mother said something, I didn’t hear. She handed the girl the room key, girl went to elevator.”
“And this morning? When did you find out the girl was missing?”
“I didn’t see myself, desk clerk told me the father came down from the room, started looking around, then out to the beach. He come back, ask if anyone had seen the girl. Nobody had, not this morning. The manager was called, we do a run though the hotel, up and down the beach, then call police.”
Janah, “I wonder if she made it to the room last night, after talking to her mother? Any way to find out, without going to the police? I may talk to them, they’re going to interview us eventually anyway. They won’t want to say what they know. If you can find out, discreetly, good. If not, I have other ways, so don’t get yourself in trouble over it. Okay?”
“I ask a couple of people I trust, just conversation, ‘I wonder if the kid made it to the room?’ like that”
“Perfect, only people you know, only a kind of vague curiosity. Don’t show any real interest. Like I said, it’s a shortcut. We can find out. Daphne will pass by at noon. You say ‘Hello, Miss,’ if the girl was in the room, you say, ‘Good day Miss,’ if she wasn’t. If you don’t know, couldn’t find out, then just nod, say nothing.”
Jacques, “‘Hello’ in, ‘good day’ never made it, nothing is nothing.”
Janah, “We’ll disappear, do what you need to do. Remember, nothing is an okay answer.”
We slip out the side door, Jacques sits by a stack of unfolded napkins and begins folding. The police get around to him about eleven, he told them what he told us, girl on the beach, mother calls, sees the girl go to her mother. He is usually off at six, only still there covering for a sick employee by pulling an extra shift, and delivered rolling carts of food until ten. None of them to the girl’s room. When the mom went up he doesn’t know, where dad was he doesn’t know. The police cut him loose in ten minutes, he’d been seen by lots of people, he isn’t a suspect.
At noon, I pass him near the restaurant, Jacques says nothing, gives me a friendly nod and we keep moving in opposite directions.
“I guess we go to plan B.”
Janah, “I’m on the phone with Mrs. Epstein now, come to the room when you’re done being interviewed.”
I chat with one of the officers for five minutes, Inspector Outten of the Royal Bahamas Police. Outten is tall, six four maybe, rail thin, black and speaks the King’s English. The Bahamas have the British system of police rank, with constables, inspectors, chief inspectors, superintendants and chief supers. An inspector is fourth from the bottom and far from the top. It could mean that I’m not a serious suspect or even witness, or that they aren’t taking the case seriously yet.
He trails through a perfunctory list of questions. I don’t mention seeing her, there’s no point, I didn’t see her do anything but start up the beach. She’d obviously returned and was back in her chair when her mom called to her. We were in our room then, I’d seen her much earlier in the day, and she had spoken to no one I witnessed.
Our family is eventually interviewed. They’d been in the restaurant, then the dance floor. They hadn’t noticed the girl at all.
Nikko and I are in the room with Janah, she says, “I called in our crew. The police will diddle around until everything is cold. I need to know stuff, was she in the room, changed clothes, into what? Mrs. Epstein is going to make calls. The local cops will see it our way. I may have somebody contact the parents, they’ll have to talk to me, they just don’t know it yet. Then we’ll see what’s what.”
Two hours later Janah gets a call from a Chief Superintendant Deleveaux, “Could you be kind enough to come to the station, perhaps we can discuss the case. I’m told you may be able to help.”
Janah, “No, I couldn’t, unless you have the girl at the station, and you don’t. You can haul yourself over here, with everything you have. She gives him our suite number.”
Deleveaux, “I assure you ma’am, everything is being handled with all due diligence and care. No assistance is required from a third party.”
Janah hears assistance, knows he means interference, “Not in the mood, Chief. Be here in an hour,” she hangs up while he blusters something about his schedule, which he pronounces shed-chule, in the British manner.
She calls Mrs. Epstein, “We’re being blown off, something smells funny. Pull out all the stops, ALL the stops. The news has released the name of the family and girl, have you heard any of it in Manhattan?”
Mrs. Epstein, “Family is from Connecticut, upper middle social status. Name is Darien, John and Mattie Darien, the girl is Taylor. She wants to be a movie star, fashion model, typical girl thing.”
Janah, “She has the looks, at that age they can morph, hits a growth spurt, nose gets too long or wide, chin either outpaces or under paces the rest of the face. Can we get photos, lifestyle, the usual?”
Mrs. Epstein, “On the site. In a nutshell, dad is a golf freak, a trust fund baby, but not so much as he can just lounge around. He buys and sells real estate, small time, calm temperament, good natured, slim, handsome. No legal problems. Mom was an unsuccessful actress and model, nice to look at, but isn’t competing with Gwyneth or Cameron. Spends her time social climbing, small ladder, her major interest is in showing off her daughter. Taylor is an only child, upscale private school, very ‘all that’ as Daphne would say. Mom has her in the beauty and talent contest racket, won more than her share.”
Janah, “So we have a stage mom, hoping to overcome her limitations through her daughter.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Yes. But the girl doesn’t just sit still and obey. Bright, good student, smokes at age ten, to avoid weight gain I presume. Mom buys her cigarettes, she’s not sneaking around. Other than that, no bad habits, takes endless dance and modeling classes, sings beautifully. Wants to be eighteen, not ten, she doesn’t have either the time or inclination to hang much with girls her age. One thing is more questionable. Mom has her on a child modeling site. The link is with the other information we put on our site.”
Janah gets a password in her e-mail and we are soon looking at a few zillion photos of Taylor, called Angel on the site. It’s not explicit. No nudes, no overt sexual content, pictures of her in various outfits, bikinis, underwear, short skirts. Some are suggestive, coquettish looks, bent over or seated such that the panties show, raising her skirt to display a miniscule patch of thong. If five hundred people are signed up at forty nine ninety five a month to view the entire collection, she’s drawing twenty five thousand a month in revenue. There’s video of her, dancing, singing, sometimes in slinky dresses and costumes, frequently in shorts, short skirts, lots of underwear, bikinis similar to what she wore at the beach. From the history, she’d been doing this for some time, couldn’t have been but seven or eight when the first pictures were posted.
“Kid’s very pretty. Wonder if she takes much heat at school?”
Nikko, “You mean snipes that’s she pandering to pedophiles, men getting off on photos of a young girl. Must be. Of course, she’s an attention seeker, so even the catty comments might just be more attention for her. I imagine she’s collected a few snappy comebacks.”
Janah, “I don’t know squat about the world she inhabits. On the one hand, she’s too young to have thought this up herself, on the other, she’s clearly fascinated with herself. Sure as heck photographs well. Everything is done professionally, the videos are well lighted, sound quality is good, the photos crisp and clear. She does the whole range of poses, smiles, laughs, the ‘I don’t give a shit’ model look, some demure and sensual, others playful.”
“Won’t this stuff come back to haunt her, socially and professionally?”
“Right now, it doesn’t occur to her. From her young perspective, she’s hot, admired and the center of the universe.”
Nikko, “Sounds like Daphne.”
I laugh, it does in a way. But I was never on my own website at age seven with my panties peeking out from under a too short dress, or coyly turned looking back into the camera in a thong and heels. She looks ten or twelve in lots of pictures, then back to little girl eight in others. Most lean to the older look she seems to prefer.
“When she’s eighteen, she’ll want to look twelve again, maybe not. How would I know? I don't want to look twelve, I'm babbling.”
Nikko, “Twenty five a month? Think she has five hundred subscribers?”
Janah, “I’m out of my element, I presume members lose interest, or collect enough photos and move on to a new girl. There are expenses, video and photography costs, clothing, or lack of it costs. After expenses, I doubt she clears half of that. I’d label mom and the photographer bloodsuckers, but the fact is, the girl is enjoying her notoriety, so it’s hard to say who the vampire is. Still, she’s a kid. She has no sense of consequences. Right now, it must seem like fun, teasing, singing and acting. Shirley Temple made a career from essentially the same thing. Not to the extent of this website, but Temple’s panties showed up onscreen more than a few times.”
“More importantly, right now, she’s missing. She may get more insight on consequences than she wants.”
“Or she may get what she and mom want most, lots more attention.”
Nikko, “Ah, I hadn’t thought of that. You think this may be another stage performance.”
Janah, “Can’t rule it out. You want TV time, free press coverage, get a beautiful young girl MIA.”
Nikko, “Man, that’s cold calculation.”
“You’re always saying, if you can think if it, someone has already done it.”
“Yeah, yeah I do.”
Janah, “Given the other possibilities, I hope that’s what this is. Taylor pops up, some concocted story, took a walk, got lost, or a man picked her up then cut her loose, some dramatic conclusion, lots of press.”
“And all the blowback of bad mom, young girl used, may seem like free advertising. Mom and dad aren’t going to be up for parents of the year.”
Janah, “They missed that train soon as they stuck their seven year old on a website in her underwear. For all we know the website won’t even come out publically. If the parents don’t bring it up, how would the police even know she’s got one? I Googled her, there are minor mentions of Taylor Darien in this contest or that, no reference to the site. Her web url says nothing about a Taylor, only Angel. They don’t get access to income tax and bank records like the Society. That’s how we found out and why we have a general idea of how much it brings in.”
“So the point, if it’s publicity, wouldn’t be for the website.”
Janah, “Who knows, maybe the parents will say she has one. It would bring in a boatload of business. Or they keep quiet about that part and just try for a lot of TV time. These kind of people, who knows what goes on in their heads?”