Chapter Twenty One

While we play bug the baddies, Zi and Chloe tour the workplaces. Accountant is simple, they walk either side of the office building, he’s in a corner office, no sign of any others. As they pull away, he comes outside looking around, picked up a vibe, lost now.
Nurse is a bit more difficult, she’s a surgical nurse and is in the operating room when they arrive. It gives them a chance to survey the hospital, no one shows up at the level of a Shadow. It’s a hospital, lots of people in bad moods.
Chloe is hanging down the hall from the OR, near the elevator. The target comes out the OR door, one glance and Chloe steps into the elevator, she feels the woman look after her, but the door closes and Chloe hustles her way outside. Zi is in the car with Amaya and Black. Nurse runs out a stairwell exit to the parking lot.
Zi, “That’s her, she’s locked in on Chloe.”
Chloe is halfway to them when she feels a push, stumbles, catches herself on the rear fender of a Toyota. Black is out the door, strides past Chloe, ignoring her, now he’s in between Nurse and Chloe, he stoops, pretends to tie his shoe. Nurse is focused on Chloe and fails to sense Black as anything other than a visitor. Just as she gets to him, he stands suddenly, bangs into her and she’s flat on her back.
Amaya has the car next to Chloe, she gets in, Black keeps moving in the other direction. The idea is to keep Nurse off balance, she may have sensed Black, no way to tell, if she did, she isn’t reaching out to his mind.
Black turns at the corner of the building and hauls it to the far end, Amaya is waiting, he gets in and she exits the parking lot on the back side of the hospital. Nurse is nowhere to be seen.
Chloe, “Close, thank you Black, good driving Amaya. She felt something as I was entering the elevator, enough to chase me. She’s evil in brand new ways. I felt a push, if I hadn’t fallen towards the Toyota, I’d have collapsed on the pavement. If they’re all like her, we’re going to need a super sneaky plan.”
Black, “Or David’s latest toxin.”
Amaya, “I wanted to back straight over her, been done with one of them.”
Zi, “You used good sense. There were people in the area, big guy, then a hit and run, big guy gets in the same car. We can swap the car easily enough, but it’s a small town and Black stands out, sunglasses and hat don’t disguise his size.”
Amaya looks in the rearview at Chloe, “I do not sense any aftereffects, you good?”
Chloe smiles, Amaya is trying for casual but Chloe senses her concern, “Yes, sweet, I’m fine, thanks to Black and your quick thinking.”
Amaya says to no one in particular, “I am going to kill that bitch myself.”
They return to the Homewood, we meet in Black’s room.
Janah, “Got the pot stirring I see. One of us was going to get sniffed out eventually. Between the bugs and the drone, should be an interesting discussion tonight on the psychotic channel. Daphne, we’ll need to eat dinner in, can you find something this afternoon?”
“Sure.”
Dasha, “Ees time for lunch.”
“Yes, it is. We don’t need to be seen roaming around tiny town together. Suppose Dasha and I round up lunch and dinner now and haul it back. We have five kitchens, we can heat up dinner later.”
Janah, “Good, Amaya, will you drive them? They can hop out do a quick in and out.”
“There’s a restaurant called Pasqual, I’ll order on the way, we’ll stop at a grocery and get frozen pizzas while they make up the order, we can cook those later, everyone good with that?”
No objections, we get going and are back in under an hour.
Lunch is two orders of everything, vegetable pasta, enchiladas, meatloaf with mashed potatoes and asparagus, turkey and pepper jack on Focaccia, chicken salad, pulled pork with coleslaw, chicken wraps with mixed cheeses, red onion, lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayo in a flour tortilla. Fourteen orders, twelve of us, Black and Chan count double, Eloise counts as half.
They dig in, it disappears.
Dasha and I fill up a garbage bag with Styrofoam containers, empty drink bottles, and plastic utensils. Chan hauls it to the dumpster.
Janah, “We’re on hold until this evening, Eloise, please check and see if any additional information has come in, everyone take a break, digest, hang in your room or whatever until, say, five. We’ll meet in my room, give Black a break.”
We disperse, Daria and Eloise come with Dasha and me, we decide to take a drive, I mention it to Chloe, she and Amaya come along. We aren’t going anyplace, just seeing the minimal sights, pass by the Sheppard base. Not much to see, it’s a huge facility, a flight, maintenance and medical training facility. No point in stopping, it’s hardly scenic.
Amaya, “I am going to pass by the apartment, just to see what Chloe vibes.”
Amaya creeps the car to the corner of the cross street, Chloe rolls down her window, surveys the fourplex. There are more cars, a man and woman outside smoking. I’m taking photos of the two and the cars I can see, catch a couple of license plates. I’ve got the numbers in my head and pass them along to Eloise, she can track the plates.
Chloe, “Seen enough, and with them outside, they can sense us easier.”
Amaya backs down the street, nobody comes running around the corner. We head back to the Homewood.
Chloe, “These people are something, like a gathering of evil. Whatever they’re up to isn’t good, and with five of them working at a huge military base, it may be very not good.”
Daria, “Eloise says plates are registered to a Tompkins and Friedlander, address same as the apartment. She will find out who they are and use the photos of the two outside to search licenses and passports.”
“Best we’ve got, I suspect they’re dead end names, maybe the photos turn up something.”
Amaya, “If they work at the base, they must have something of a record under those names.”
“Good point, we need to find out what they do there.”
We arrive at the hotel, go to our various rooms for a chill, we have two hours until five.
Dasha, “We will make chee, Dahfoney.”
Good idea. We plop crossed legged on the couch and go into qi meditation for an hour, then Dasha makes tea. We sit at the table and sip, quiet, I’m trying to think over scenarios for dealing with the targets, hope that Eloise can start narrowing down what the two do at the base. If she can, we may get some insight as to what this is about. Don’t know if it was the qi or tea, but Dasha is feeling stimulated by something
She gets up from her chair and moves next to mine, she raises the hem of her skirt, tiny white panties appear, “Dahfoney, you will make feel gud.”
I can do that, slip to my knees, steal a dozen kisses to tight thighs while I look up at her staring down at me. I hook the waistband and slide them down to her knees, kiss the soft spot, take the panties off. Then I get to do my thing, kiss and tongue, let her simmer, her hips move gently, hands on her thighs. I quicken the pace, feel her fingers though my hair, she presses me closer, I’m in her mind, feel the steam, move my tongue from inside to the firing pin. She moans softly, a quick intake of breath, launch, liftoff, the booster rocket kicks in and she’s through the atmosphere into space. Mission accomplished.
Dasha, “You will kiss me now, Dahfoney.”
I stand, we do a gentle tongue swap, I kiss her face, back to her lips, she says, “I taste me on you, ees gud.”
“Complete agreement, I love tasting your taste.”
It’s near five, we freshen and go down the hall to Janah’s room, most of the others are there, Chan and David Li arrive and it’s a full house. Crowded in the suite, twelve of us, four on chairs around the table, three on the couch, another chair from the bedroom, four cross-legged on the floor.
Janah, “Tompkins and Friedlander do electronics maintenance on the planes. Except for Accountant and Nurse, we still don’t know what the others do yet. Nurse is a registered surgical nurse, originally with a hospital in Denver. She left under suspicious circumstances, surgeons she worked with had three screw-ups in the operating room, different docs, all resulting in nasty legal action. Until she started working there, the docs had good records. Nothing was proven, but none of the surgeons would work with her after the third strike. Her time here has been ordinary, no reported problems.”
Nikko, “What next?”
“Tonight some of us are going to the apartment and Eloise will fly the drone. The ones that remain here will monitor the bugs in the house. Given the events of the day with Accountant and Nurse, there is bound to be discussion. I’d like Chan to go with Daphne and Eloise to the apartment, one Sensitive needs to go.”
Black, “Might pay to have more firepower at the apartment, just in case, I’ll take a ride.”
Amaya, “I will drive. If we have to make haste, I am the haste maker.”
Zi, “Chloe’s already had contact, they will have their antennae up for her, I should go to the apartment.”
Nikko, “I want to be there.”
Janah, “Good enough, the rest of us stay…wait, no, David Li needs to go. He can make the acquaintance of the animals in the area, particularly birds, they will come in handy for ongoing surveillance, I must be slipping.”
“I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t want to load up on pizza then go out, I’ll eat when we get back.”
Janah, “Mental me, we’ll have the things ready when you get here, I’ve got a stack of  granola and candy bars, take some of the water bottles. Should hold you. And take weapons, including the toxin. If this goes wrong, take them down. I want to know what they’re up to, but if that has to be sacrificed for safety, I’m good with it. No heroes, these people are volatile and dangerous, don’t screw around.”
We go off to our rooms to gear up, Dasha comes with me, “Dahfoney, ees dangerous?”
She is wondering if she should come, to look out for her sister and me, “I don’t think so, this is just a surveillance trip. Chan and Black are there, me, Zi, Daria is her own weapon. We are taking the deadly darts, shuriken, and four Shaolin Masters. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the three staying, you, Janah and Chloe. You have to be here, Janah is also her own weapon, Chloe is a kendo expert, you are trained in qi and ground fighting. Still, it’s only three of you. If the Shadows have somehow discovered our location, you need to be here.”
Dasha thinks this over, blinks, “Da. Chloe will seensiteev trouble, we will leessen to microphone in apartment. There will be no problem. I will keep in sister’s mind and your mind.”
“Just check in and check out, I need you to be attentive to what’s happening here, Chloe will check the halls, the stairwells, go to the lobby and snoop around. You stay close to the room, okay?”
“Okay, Dahfoney. Time now to go.”

Chapter Twenty Two

We decide to stakeout the apartment by surrounding it. Daria and Eloise operate the drone from the tailgate, three blocks away. The targets have no capacity to pick us up at that distance. That assumes they stay at the apartments. Chan stays with the girls and David Li in case there’s a problem. Amaya is behind the wheel.
To counter the possibility of roaming psychos, Black, Zi, Nikko and I take quadrants of the neighborhood in proximity to the apartment. If anyone leaves the complex, Black and Zi have a mike earpiece, so do I. If they needs to know something, or need to communicate, we’re set.
I test the device, “Black, Zi, give me a check.”
“Hear you, yes, it’s good,” the system is functional, now we patrol our quadrant and wait.
I hear a soft whoosh, the drone sails over my head, from my post down the street, I see it slowly circle the building, there are lights on in all the apartments. Like a curious hummingbird, the drone zips from one window to the next, settles over the bottom right front. Must be the Tupperware party. Maybe I’ve stumbled on it, if Shadows can’t sell Tupperware, no one can. They eventually bankrupt Wichita Falls, everyone will have thousands invested in plastic storage. Or maybe it’s life insurance, good God, regular life insurance salesmen are bad enough, what about ones that can take your mind, make you buy anything they sell?
Nikko, “You want to quit screwing around?”
I hear Janah giggle, then, “They aren’t plotting insurance hell, it’s far worse than whole life policies or annuities.”
“What could be worse than whole life?”

Janah, “Dead children.”
“That’s worse.”

Nikko, “Let’s kill them now. We have them together.”
Janah, “We start a war in the neighborhood it gets noisy, we can’t be sure of getting all of them before the cops show up. If that happens and they take a cop’s mind, he’s going to start shooting. Let the party play out for now.”
A couple comes jogging down the street, I step into the shadows, after they pass I talk to the air, “Two joggers headed east, same street as the apartment.”
Black, “Copy that,” Nikko and Zi verify as well, other than the occasional car, it’s quiet….oops, spoke too soon.
Zi, “Car drove past and stopped, there’s a Shadow inside, he’s focused in my direction, he’s backing up…I feel dizzy.”
I go online, “Nikko, Janah, David Li needs to get a bird, a big one, to Zi.”
Janah, “On it.”
I get Black on the mike, “Zi’s in trouble.”
I split for Zi’s quadrant, two blocks down and three over, I see Black ahead of me, can see through Nikko’s eyes that she’s coming up on the car. Then I see the man, smallish guy in a suit. I see him raise his hand and Nikko is bowls over like she’s stumbled. Instead of hitting the concrete, she uses her momentum to go into a forward roll and is up going at him again.
Black is almost there, the man hasn’t registered him yet, busy with whatever he’s doing to Zi and dealing with an oncoming Nikko.
Black starts zipping shuriken, still on the run, The man turns, shuriken sticking out of the back of his coat, Black catches him with one in the chest before he’s blown backwards, I’m a half block away. He sees me on the move, raises his hand just as Nikko smashes into him from behind, she’s thrown off like Styrofoam and bangs onto the hood of his car. Black is trying to stand, gets pasted with another shot of energy that knocks him down again.
Now I’m on him, flying side kick to his head, thunk! He staggers back, tough little bastard, looks at me and grins, “That gets you dead.”
He stares, I feel the heat of his energy, using every ounce of qi I can muster to keep my heart from exploding. He’s puzzled, I’m supposed to be in severe pain at the least, more likely dead. He’s got the pain part right.
I feel him power up, I stagger, Janah kicks in, then Chan, better, as I start for him, I hear the sound of wings. My pal the lady owl drops out of the sky and claws sink into his face, beak takes eyes, the man is clawing at the bird, my blade slits his throat, he sinks to his knees.
Owl, “Kill them all, human.”
“Thank you for your help.”

The owl screeches, a thrust of her five foot wingspan and she’s up in the night sky.
Black comes alongside, “Hope he’s the big dog, the others are like him, this could get problematical.”
“Find Zi, Amaya’s coming, let’s get gone,” I’m digging through his pockets for wallet, phone and any other ID, then open the glove box in his car and pull out the registration.
Nikko is functional, she’s in the SUV first, Black is helping her into the back, my chest hurts, I see Black grimace, took two hard shots that would have broken bones in someone else.
Back at the Homewood, Janah, Chan and Daria are tending to injuries. We have enough experience to have freezers filled with gel packs, David Li is applying his latest balm to the banged up spots.
Black, “That stuff is great, how’s it get so deep so quick?”
David Li, “DMSO, a solvent, they use it on horses. Lets the herbs pass through the skin. I am working on an injectible version, won’t need the solvent. Be careful though, the herbs deaden the nerves sending the pain signal, it isn’t healing the injury. Qi will help with that.”
Zi, “He got in my head instantly, it felt like a concussion, I got a shuriken in him, then I was out.”
Janah, “Plain shuriken aren’t going to cut it unless you hit an eye or throat. We could apply poison to the shuriken, but if you cut yourself handling them, you’re screwed. Not to mention if one misses a target and, like tonight, we’re all coming from different directions. We wind up with one stuck in us. If everyone is feeling better, we’ve got some audio to make you feel worse, ready?”

Chapter Twenty Three

The sum of the audio, collected from bugs and the drone, is nightmarish. Nikko’s fond of saying ‘if you can think of it, somebody has already done it.’ I suppose the corollary is, or thinking of doing it.
They are planning a school shooting as a distraction. In fact, they are planning two school shootings to happen at the same time. They aren’t going into schools with assault rifles, they are going to take the minds of the armed cops patrolling the halls, and the cops are going to do the shooting. They don’t need twenty kids dead, they just need several somebodys dead. When all the cops in town are at the schools trying to sort it out, our Shadows are going to start robbing banks. Two go into a bank, quietly take the mind of the manager, fill up a bag with cash, fat cash, from the vault, walk out the door. There were twelve of them, eleven now. A couple to deal with cops at the schools, the rest to fan out and make bank withdrawals. Isn’t clear from the recordings how many banks.
“Why create mayhem in schools? Why not just hit six banks at the same time and accomplish the same thing?”
Janah, “We’re dealing with diseased minds. I can only assume they think such a horrific distraction makes it safer for them. School shootings have been in the news, they just glommed onto the idea. If there had been a recent bombing someplace, like Oklahoma City a few years ago, they might have picked that.”
Chloe, “Wonder why more Shadows don’t do banks in the first place?”
Nikko, “Good question, most of them do small time things, money from a convenience store clerk or just a citizen on the street. It takes skill just for that, I presume most don’t have the ability for more ambitious work.”
“They tend to work alone, can’t control a whole bank, and there are cameras. Less risk in small time, one witness who isn’t a witness at all, doesn’t even remember giving anyone money. Our perv with the video camera let the father remember giving him money, he wanted the family to remember what he planned. We got there before much happened, but he was enjoying the idea that a father, mother and daughter were going to have sex with each other. If he’d been able to finish recording, he could have posted it and the family is tattooed with incest, mom and dad maybe to go to prison, maybe he even takes the girl.”
Amaya, “Well, this crowd is thinking bigger. Must be what happens when they congregate, bizarre people are bad enough, bizarre people in groups is like..what?”
“Congress.”
Amaya, “Exactly, thinking up ways to make bigger wars and collect people’s money. Can all of Congress be Shadows?”
“Maybe just the Tea Party, or all Republicans, although they all like making convoluted tax laws, so you may be onto something.”
Nikko, “When is this supposed to happen?”
Janah, “A date didn’t come up, school is in session here for three more weeks. We aren’t waiting, I just don’t have a plan yet.”
Black, “I don’t think we want to take them on en mass. One short man gave us a handful.”
“Look, do we really care about the bank robberies? They don’t sound like they’re going in armed, the whole idea is to be invisible. Can we find out who’s going to the schools? If we deal with that, doesn’t it at least slow them down? Cops won’t be going en masse to schools if nothing happens.”
Janah, “I’m more concerned that tonight’s events speed them up. Eloise have anything on tonight’s kill, Alfred Atkins?”
Daria, “Name of a dead person in Atlanta. The Atkins man tonight does not look Caucasian, his photo is on driver’s license. He had an ID for the military base, the hospital there.”
“He looks vaguely Indian, maybe mixed race parents.”
Janah, “Daphne, see if there’s anything on the news yet.”
I click on the TV, shuffle around to find something local. Leave it on a local channel, it’s not time for the ten o’clock news. I find a IPad and do a search for Wichita Falls news events, nothing.
“It hasn’t hit yet, wait….there’s a scroll, ‘man murdered in Wichita Falls residential neighborhood, appears to be a robbery and brutal assault.’”
Janah, “Can’t go near the apartment for a while, police will be all over the place. Amaya, did you call for someone to pick up the SUV and replace it?”
“On the way back, probably gone by now.”
David Li, “How do you get that done quickly, in Wichita Falls?”
Janah, “Transportation knows we’re working here. Any town a Social Skills team works is kept on the active list. Our people have replacements and backups ready. A diligent citizen may have noted the plate. It’s standard procedure to replace vehicles every couple of days, right away if it is part of an incident, any contact with the targets.”
Amaya, “The one we used when Chloe was stalked by Nurse was swapped the same day.”
“Didn’t notice the difference.”
“Black Lincoln to Black Lincoln, different plate, the swapped car is sanitized and returned to the rental company.”
“But if they have a plate number, won’t they trace it to the rental company?”
“No, the plates on the car are not the plates on the rental, the registration is different, plate is from a different state. They change it back before returning it. The cars sometimes come with GPS systems, or OnStar for GM vehicles. Those are disabled, all you have to do is unplug the power to the module in the trunk and it’s not sending any signals, before they return it, they plug it back in. Nobody knows where the car went, names on the rental records are meaningless.”
David Li, “Very thorough.”
“Too many cell phones with cameras, cameras all over cities now, at every busy intersection, parking lots. I’m waiting for them to install tracking devices in people. So they can know where everyone is all the time. Although, if you have an android phone, you’re being tracked all the time now.”
Janah, “Back to the problem. Daphne has a point about the schools versus the banks. We just don’t know enough to wait around on that.”
Nikko, “We aren’t going to let them get away regardless of whether they rob a bank or turn a cop into a killer. I do understand, particularly after tonight, doing them all at once at the apartment is out. We have the toxin darts, track them and fire the dart.”
“You don’t want to go one on one, hand to hand?”
“After what happened tonight, I don’t want to go three on one. No point in getting busted up being macho when the purpose is to kill them anyway.”
Janah, “I do need one, preferably two, we need to find out what else is out there, and who the three out of towners are.”
Chan, “I will get them, with Janah if necessary. Individually, they can’t handle the two of us.”
Black, “Be careful, that little Indian packed a punch.”
Chan nods, “Maybe take Daria.”
Black, “Daria? Why? What is she going to do against these people?”
Chan gets up, “Daphne, let me see your knife.”
I hand it to him, he flicks the blade open, “Daria, a small demonstration.”
He throws it up in the air, as the blade propellers up, it stops in mid air and shoots to the wall, buried to the hilt.
Black, “I withdraw my question.”
Chan retrieves the knife, folds it and hands it to me, takes his seat on the floor.
Dasha, “At home, sister melt steel ball into puddle on roof.”
“Hope she didn’t put a hole in it.”
Dasha rolls her eyes, “Dahfoney, she melt on concrete wall around roof, no make hole in roof, ridiculous.”
“Glad she didn’t melt my knife.”
Dasha shrugs, “You haf seex of knife already now, one not mahter.”
Janah, “I’m ready for pizza.”
I found a Papa Murphy’s, we didn’t need to go frozen. They make up what you want, then you take it home and cook it fresh. We get the ovens going in three apartments and cook nine pizzas, couple of veg, couple of everythings, the rest pepperoni. Dasha and I slice them up, we have a pizza party and plot murder.

Chapter Twenty Four

Janah, “Enough plot, is everyone clear on their role?”
General agreement. We conclude the obvious. With Stay at Homes getting a vibe early on, Accountant having a feeling, Nurse spotting Chloe, followed by the dead Indian, our presence is a fact. One of two, maybe three, things will happen. They speed up their plan, or they abandon it for now and/or come in search of us. They can figure out we aren’t from around here, which means we are likely in a hotel. That one of our vehicles is a Navigator pretty much rules out Motel 6. Hilton Homewood and the Marriott Courtyard are as upscale as Wichita Falls can bear. We decide not to wait for option three.
In the meantime, the city is digesting a guy on a residential street with no ID, holes in him from shuriken; the coroner will have a heck of a time figuring out what made the punctures, eyes gouged out, claw marks in his face and his throat slit. A robber-assassin with a homicidal bird?
We can’t, even given the circumstances, send the audio to the local and state police. The problem is the targets talked in generalities, ‘What if an armed cop starts shooting up a school? That would be a great opportunity for someone to rob a bank on the other side of town.’
If they were talking hypothetically, fine, which is what it sounds like, unless you know what we know, the conversation continued, ‘Why would a cop start killing kids? You’d have to have a crazy cop or someone who could take his mind,’ followed by general laughter, then ‘and robbing banks is not so simple, what with dye bombs and hidden alarms, you would have to have an inside job, or have control over the bank manager, he’d let you right into the vault and even help you stack up the bills, no teller pressing any alarms because they don’t have a clue anything is wrong,’ followed by more laughter.
They can do all of the above, left handed, in the dark, blindfolded. But the conversation could also just be kicking around ideas for a movie script. It’s not like we can waltz in and start chatting about Shadows with the constabulary. Finally, we are obliged to kill Shadows, not get them arrested. They create more havoc in the courtroom, if the system can even hold them that long. In prison, they could create a massacre.
We’re up early, we know where Nurse and Accountant work, we are waiting for them. One car has Nishiko, Zi and Black, the other, me and Amaya. When Accountant parks, Black pulls the SUV within thirty yards, like he’s waiting on a space. Accountant gets out, Nikko plugs him with a dart from our custom air rifles, he’s dead before Zi gets to him to retrieve the dart.
Nurse pulls into her reserved space at the hospital, I’m twenty five yards downwind, as she exits her Chevy Tahoe, she’s in my sight like she’s standing in front of me. I fire a dart into her neck. She falls back on the seat, her keys drop on the driver’s side floorboard. Man, David Li’s stuff is frickin’ amazing. The beauty of the air rifle is no bang, only a small pop, less than the average champagne cork, swoosh, strike.
I power up my window, Amaya cruises to nurse’s car, I hop out and grab the dart, she pulls out of the lot. At the local mall, we swap cars and return to the hotel. Black has done the same swap in a small strip center across town, they come in a few minutes after us. Chan, Janah and Daria are out.
“Two down today, one yesterday, nine to go.”
Janah, “Eight, when the birds told David Li one of the air force base employees had a flat on her way to work. Her heart attacked her.”
“Good decision to have the spare sedan.”

"I didn’t want some of us at the hotel without transportation.”
“You think the rest are going to ground?”

"Not yet, they don’t know, everything happened in the last half hour, but they will know soon. My guess is they figure out our most likely location and start hunting.”
“We should check out, go downscale. If they come to the hotel, it’s going to be a problem, messy and we’re guests with rooms full of martial arts weapons, air rifles and deadly pharmaceuticals.”

“I’ll call Transportation and find , no wait, better an apartment, three of them in a complex on the other side of town. I’ll get on it, round up the troops and get packed.”
It takes us until lunchtime, we have everything and us in the three vehicles, two SUVs and a used Ford Taurus. We’d swapped out the Navigators and gotten a used Ford Edge and a used Nissan Murano. Bypassed the rental companies which have only newer cars. After a quick lunch from the McDonalds drive through, they go to the complex and move in. Dasha, Daria and I hit the grocery, then to the apartment.
Transportation did great, one three bedroom and a couple of two bedrooms. Black, Chan and David Li in the three bedroom, Dasha, Daria, Eloise, Janah and me in one two, Nikko, Zi, Chloe and Amaya in the other. None of them rented to us.
Nikko, “Good idea to relocate, Daphne’s right, it would get sticky if they found us in the hotel.”
Black, “Gonna miss that buffet.”
Dasha, “We haf many things to feex.”
“It will be basic, but I looked around, they have a decent supply of pots and pans, we’re good for breakfast, have to forage for other meals.”
Nikko, “Since we can’t go back to their apartment, what now?”
Janah, “Good question. I was going to front the Stay at Homes at their place. The Indian popping up put a wrench in that plan. The police have no doubt searched his apartment and have the rest of them on edge. I hope the good news is that they put a hold on the school-bank plan since three of their people are gone. Since we took Nurse and Accountant at their jobs, the six left may not go back to work for a while. My guess is they get busy looking for us.”
Daria, “Drone will attach tracking device to car, then we follow.”
Janah, “You can do that?”
Daria, “Eloise will modify, tracking device will have magnet. She will fly it under car, attach someplace.”
“The simplest place is the rear or front bumper, behind the plastic bumper cover is the actual bumper, a magnet will stick to that.”
Amaya, “Is there a weight problem, I mean it has a magnet.”
Daria, “Spark Nano 3.0, two ounces, comes with magnet case, another ounce maybe. No problem. Can track from phone or IPad.”
“How many cars?”
Janah, “There were six in the lot, including the Indian’s. The out of town crew is a wild card. It’s why I need a couple alive, so I can find out who and where they are.”
Daria, “Need to order device.”
“Daphne, get the website to Transportation, they’ll get the things delivered overnight.”
Daria shows me what they want, I make the call, nothing to do but wait until delivery tomorrow.
“Transportation said they got it on a before ten a.m. delivery, the cars may not all be there during the day anyway. Tell you what, tomorrow morning, Chan and I will go out early and scout. We can’t use the drone, Eloise will be modifying it. I can see from down the block, read license numbers, get them back to Eloise.”
Janah, “If you have any idea they are sensing you, split, Chan will feel them if they are searching too close, but he can’t hold them off very long, and if it’s more than one, the interference goes to under a minute.”
“All I have to do is glance at the plates, you’ll be in my head, you get the numbers when I do.”
Janah, “Then we’re done for this evening. May we have tea and we can think about something besides Shadows and dead children.”
A grand idea. Dasha and I make preparations, no place to get Japanese and Chinese pastries, Pepperidge Farm will suffice. We spread around the living room in our place, fresh tea and cookies, things could be worse.
Black, “Bring me up to speed on developments at the Society, Janah’s the center now, how’s it working out?”
Janah, “I have lots of help. Eloise and Daria handle the tech work along with Susan. We have talented people in Transportation, Placement, Surveillance, Extraction, Minders, Daphne recruits Social Workers, or they are recommended by our people around the country.”
Black, “Is that difficult?”
“Not really. There are a lot of skilled people who like refocusing jerks. They agree to our guidelines, make the point as hard as it needs to be made, but no harder. We are the court and the enforcers, but not murderers. We kill Shadows, that’s a separate issue, they won’t be scared off, they’re insane and beyond threats or intimidation. Even if we sent them to prison, inmates would die along with guards.”
Black, “Understood, Master Khan reminded us of the necessity to cut off a finger to save the hand, the last resort is not forbidden, even required. Social Skills all working out?”
“I had to drop one team, too aggressive.”
Black, “They get pissed, make threats?”
“Nobody to threaten. When I bring them on, they have no clue who or where I am. They can contact our other departments, Transportation or Surveillance, but they don’t know where those people are, or any real names. If they go off the reservation, those contacts evaporate. The whole structure of the Society is to insure nobody knows anybody. It’s safety for the people in our support areas. Most of them don’t know squat except for the jobs they are assigned. Problems filter through us. Janah is there as Mrs. Epstein was, to use our contacts around the country to make the problem disappear. Most of Janah’s job is keeping in touch. And our contacts don’t know her as Janah. Since Daphne recruits, some of them know her, but not as Daphne, or where she lives.”
Daria comes along with Eloise in tow, they have the drone, Daria says, “We have to test,” she points to a plastic box on top of the unit, “same size as tracker.”
Amaya, “I’ll take them someplace quiet, she can play with her toy, we’ll be back before dinner.”
“Black, maybe you and Nikko take a ride, Daria is dangerous but she’s only one.”
The five of them go to check out the drone, if there’s trouble, Nikko can tap into me, so can Amaya, Daria can mental Dasha and me as well.
“We have two hours before dinner, I’m looking at seven, Chan and I have an early date tomorrow, we need to be out of here at daylight.”
Dasha, “We will peek up dinner Dahfoney, I find Burreetoe Shop on eenternet, many kinds, vegetable for Janah, gud rating by customer.”
“Splendido, let’s get a move on, we can keep them warm in the oven until dinner.”
We make a run, load up two dozen burritos, bags of tortilla chips and guacamole, cups of various sauces. It’s a busy spot, good sign. We ordered so many it takes a while, Dasha and I take a walk just to move around, return in twenty, our order is ready.
Janah, “Dang, those things smell good.”
“The place is clean, efficient, busy. You can dig into yours now, we have four veg, twenty with various combos of meat, cheese, beans, I’m sticking them in the oven, there are lots of chips and guacamole, it looks good.”
Janah, “I’ll warm up with chips and guacamole, sample sauces.”
Dasha comes over with a bottle of wine, Chianti, bringing cultures together, she has a vodka on the rocks with a slice of jalapeno, hands me a Coke Zero, I have to find my disinhibitors elsewhere.
Janah, “Daph, this is good guacamole, creamy, nice bite, chunks of avocado, is that pico de gallo?”
“Yep.”
Janah, “Yum, nice kick, not for the tender crowd.”
“We got the action kind, they had kiddie choices, we skipped those.”
The family begins to wander in, chips and guacamole are disappearing, Amaya and crew come in, chips and guacamole disappear entirely. Drinks are made for the drinkers, Dasha and I pull burritos out of the oven, unwrap and spread them along the counter.
“The four on the right are vegetarian, everything else is a combo of this and that. Sauces are on the table, left is milder, moving right scalding, jalapeno and habanero slices in a bowl on the end. Fire it up.”
And they do. We’re not shy about eating. Even our recent addition, the sprite Eloise downs a couple of shots of tequila, two beers and a pulled pork burrito, they aren’t small.
“To subdue gastric volcanoes, Dasha made sure we have tons of Hagen Daz. Since we’re roughing it, we skipped hot fudge and whipped cream, you have to suffer with only ice cream.”
A few pints of creamy HD later, everyone wanders off to their apartment. Janah and I are in our room.
Janah, “It was good to see everyone chow down. It means they’re relaxed, despite the danger ahead.”
“I expected that from Chan and Black, naturally our refocusing crew, but it is good to see the girls and Eloise taking it in stride. Eloise barely speaks, but she’s cool with this, and she’s good for Daria.”
Janah, “And Daria is good for her. Dasha doesn’t seem to be having a problem with it.”
“Dasha is only concerned with her sister’s happiness. Maybe happiness is too simplistic. Her sister’s well being. She doesn’t care what Daria does, as long as she’s not coerced or doing anything against her will. Dasha is happy if Daria is content.”

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