Chapter Twenty Five V

The window is the absence of the wall and it gives air and light because it is empty. Be empty of all mental content, of all imagination and effort, and the very absence of obstacles will cause reality to rush in.
Nisargadatta, I Am That


Fire blazing, cups of Chamomile, chilled Chardonnay; stillness fills the room, only the sound of a crackling log, the flickering flame. Chan adds two more logs, then settles into his spot behind Ning, she leans back against him. Miyako is curled against Nikko,
Janah, “Time to liniment up I see, looking at some of the red spots on Chris’ feet.”
We spend the next hour massaging Susan, Chris and Lacy’s feet. The children want outside, it’s fun exploring in the dark. Chan and Ning watch from the porch, it’s mysterious, night nature sounds, moon over the lake, a nocturnal adventure for city kids. Then time for bed.
We go to our bedroom, the moms and Lacy to theirs. It gets quiet quickly, a good kind of tired, we melt into the bed, don’t stir until well past sunrise.
Today is spent quietly, as if we’d collectively decided to keep conversation minimal. Nikko and I, along with Chan, are on the porch and big mugs of strong coffee. I sense Janah stirring, bring tea to the bedroom. We merge, sitting as one.
Nikko feels a sensation on the porch, she comes to the bedroom, the two are one. Her eyes close. When she opens them, she sees a reflection in the mirror,  her eyes are Janah’s sapphire blue, her hair is black and white.
She senses a voice, not Janah’s exactly, nor mine, “It is good to be you with us.”
There is a vibration, not chills, not a physical movement, but in and through her entire being. Then are were three again.
Nikko weeps, I kiss her tears, “All is as it should be. For now, say nothing to the moms. This is a retreat for them to discover, not to get caught up in what cannot be explained.”
She goes to the dock, sits staring out to the lake and the mountains beyond.
Ning and I walk into kitchen at the same moment, then Chris and Lacy, “Get outside. I’m making breakfast. Go enjoy your other and the lake. After breakfast, Sis and I are going to fish, we’re hooked, punily speaking. It’s so beautiful standing in the cold water, playing the line. It’s been years since I’ve fished, Sis never. Although I think she likes snagging the minnows best. She thanks them before she puts them on the hook.”
Janah, “Sounds like Susan, appreciative as always.”
Chris, “Go, I’m busy. Lacy can you crack the eggs please?”
Outside, Chan joins Nikko on the dock, he says, “I felt it. Don’t worry, I will say nothing. Master J will not want the family distracted by such a thing. all the talk would revolve around the unexplainable.”
Janah and I hear the conversation of course, “Chan is highly sensitive, the consequence of many years with Tan. He’s letting you know if you care to talk about it, he can listen. If not, he can listen to that silence as well.”
Nikko, “Ah so.”
We giggle at Nikko’s sly joke, a good sign. She’s letting it go, which is the only way it would come again. She has learned.
Susan joins us with a mug of coffee, “What’s so funny?”
“Nikko was making fun of the gaijin earlier. We’re still laughing about it. It wouldn’t make sense to try and explain, it was one of those you have to have been theres.”
Susan walks to Nikko and Chan, “Breakfast is ready.”
Chan pops up, he doesn’t need to be told twice, Susan pulls Nikko up, “You too young lady. No skipping meals on retreat. We’ll take a hike after breakfast so you don’t gain the extra half pound.”
She and Sis walk hand in hand back to the cabin. Susan feels a gentle vibration she had only previously felt from Janah or me. She starts to ask Nikko, then lets it go. If Nikko wants to share, she will do it in her own time.
It’s lunchtime before Sis, Lacy, Chris and Nikko return from their walk.
Susan, “We fished, there’s a string in the water. Shall I get them for lunch or save them for dinner?”
“Lunch is ready, I figured you guys would be hungry. I’ll pull them out later and filet them.”
David Li is in his mom’s lap, “Can we go up to the waterfall again?’
Janah, “You want to make the hike again today? We thought about taking it easy today.”
Nikko, “I’ll take him.”
Ning, “I want to go, what about you Miyako?’
Miyako nods enthusiastically.
Chan, “As long as Nikko goes. I would like to sit with Master J today.”
“I’m going with Nikko.”
Janah, “Sounds like a plan. What are the rest of you up for?”
Chris, “I’m taking the hike.”
Susan, “I’m taking it easy. I can piddle around the dock and pretend to fish, or not.”
Lacy, “I’ll help her not fish.”
Janah, “That didn’t take much organization. See everyone at five or so.”
She and Chan move to the big rock. It isn’t so big with Chan on it, but there is room enough in case the animals decide to visit.
The hikers pack a couple of backpacks, we don’t need much but water and chocolate. We’re gone in five minutes.
Sis and Lacy are on the porch, Lacy says, “It’s occurred to me that we have the afternoon free. I’m thinking white wine, nasty sex and a nap. Susan opens a bottle, puts it in an ice chest with two tumblers and takes it to the porch.   
“This way we don’t have to keep getting up.”
Lacy smiles, “I love your incredible…..” takes a lingering look at long elegant bare legs, “sense of organization.”
Janah and Chan are off to the left, nearer the lake and thirty yards away. A gentle breeze, enough to rustle the leaves, not even a ripple on the lake. Susan and Lacy are in that stillness, the crystal blue, and the forest and mountain beyond, sipping wine, even it seems to be alive. Time slips away, the bottle is empty.
Lacy thinks, ‘The only thing smoother than this wine is….’
Susan whispers, “Shall we finish up inside?”
They slip into the cabin. Soft moans, loving caresses in the big bed, then a nuzzling nap. Lacy enveloped by Susan’s exquisite legs, her face covered in long silken black hair. She can’t conceive of anything more heavenly.
Chan and Janah have walked into the woods someplace.
Shortly after five thirty, the hikers come spilling in, then Janah and Chan with a basket of mushrooms, berries and a bag of leaves and roots.
The hikers shower, Sis and Lacy on the porch with a beer, Chris joins them, then everyone’s on the porch. No one feels compelled to recount their day.
I collect and fillet the fish, Ning batters them in flour and crushed cornflakes. I sauté mushrooms and leafy plants, then grate the roots into the mixture. I use olive oil with only a little heat, olive oil is not for frying, for that I use grapeseed oil.  Cheese and berries for dessert.
Chris, “Daphne, Ning, the fish is unbelievable, there’s no oil in the batter it’s so crispy, and the fish white and flaky. God this is soooo good.”
Lacy, “Superb, girls, thank you.”
I hand out bowls of berries lightly coated in cane sugar and half and half. Nikko builds a fire and the family gathers around the hearth eating berries and slices of cheddar, the conversation perfect, total silence.

Chapter Twenty Six V

Pleasure is readily accepted, while the powers of the self reject pain. As the acceptance of pain is the denial of the self, and the self stands in the way of true happiness, the wholehearted acceptance of pain releases the springs of happiness.
Nisargadatta, I Am That


Today everyone heads up the mountain. After we reach the falls, Janah decides to climb farther, explore the river. Nikko and I make the climb with her, the rest find spots around the pool, and settle into quiet reverie. Even Miyako is content to sit against a bolder and draw in the dirt.
The three of us have to rock climb a stretch of cliff. For a time, the others can see us, then Janah finds a less treacherous route out of their line of sight. Not quite an hour later, Susan looks up to see us waving from the top of the falls. We begin to follow the river, a healthy creek really, farther up the mountain. We walk another hour. There is no trail, but we are past the tree line, it’s just dirt and rock, a no path that runs from steep to steeper.
Janah, “Enough for today. Perhaps we’ll come back early one day and do the whole mountain.”
“Doesn’t hurt my feelings. This is great, a different kind of exercise. Didn’t do much for my nails, but life is tough. Maybe we should rock climb at home.”
Nikko, “You’re going to fit that in around teaching classes, sparring, running the buildings, kendo, gung fu, cooking, meditation and refocusings?”
“Reality check.”
Janah, “It’s still fun, and we have lots of days left. We need to get back, Daphne has an appointment tonight.”
Nikko, “Third night, the owl.”
Getting down the cliff proves as interesting as getting up, we make it with only minor scrapes and cuts,
Lacy, “Geez, I thought we were on a retreat. You look like you been having sparring sessions.”
Janah, “Yeah, I know. But it’s just not the kind of thing we get to do in Manhattan, too good to pass up.
Chris, “Let’s come early one day, I want to make the climb.”
Daphne, “We were just thinking that as we followed the creek up the mountain. We didn’t get close to the top. But we got past the tree line, the hike is straightforward, it’s all up, steep in spots.”
Chris, “Even better. This is Wednesday, maybe Friday or Saturday? ”
Janah, “It’s a plan.”
We hike down, eat and chill. At ten, Janah and I are in the woods. Chan follows along a few yards behind, the kids are asleep, the rest of the group on the porch. It’s chilly, but the ink black sky is matched equally by a full moon to the east, stars and more stars.
I hear the owl, we turn north for a hundred yards, he speaks again, a few feet east.
“You’ve grown.
Owl, “A bit. The hunting is easy here. You can hear the small ones waiting to find out who will be tonight’s dinner.”
I attend to the forest, “There are a dozen mice, sounds like a troop of heavy footed soldiers stomping around under the leaves.”
Owl, “Not so much work as last time. After tonight, you’re hearing will be perfected, I taught you to see in the dark, I will make night vision adjustments. Do you still practice turning your head?”
I demonstrate by turning my back to him, then turning only my head to look him straight in the eye.
“Better than when I left you. Besides hearing adjustments, only one thing left.”
“That would be….?”
“Your grip. The one who is with you has a grip of iron. You, not so good.”
“May I ask, will there be a trade off? I have unique reflexes. It is for my other’s protection, and my family’s. If a stronger grip affects the speed….”
“No problem. Your hand speed is not in your hands. There will some work in your lower arms and shoulders, but they will be stronger. The transmission will make your hands ache painfully for a time. Your choice.”
“Pain is part of all training.”

A shot of which courses through my head, I gasp and sink to my knees. Blinding light in my head such I want to keep my eyes closed, but I have no control over them, they open wide, the pupils dilate until my entire eye is the pupil. I remain this way for an hour, the pain comes and goes, never gone, just intense then less so.
“A short while only.”
 My pupils begin to return to normal, the pain eases until my eyes only ache, and I feel throbbing, like intense blood flow. If Janah had been able to see my eyes in the darkness, she would see entirely red.
“Rest for a moment.”
“Phew, that was fun, you having fun too?”

Owl, “Do you think you are the only one working here? The rest is not just for you, human.”
I smile, “Tan used to say the same thing.”
“He is your human instructor?”
“Was, he’s gone over. He taught my other many things, transmitted many more, as you are doing for me.”

“Ah, I’ve heard there are more humans like yourself, not all insane. Some have learned to channel energy.”
“And some have misused the transmissions.”
“How so?”
“They are not strong enough, in their mind. The transmission, as you know, is painful, and rearranges the brain. Something goes wrong, they use the skill for self indulgence.”
“Then you must kill them. It cannot be undone.”
“We have done that.”
“Do you kill many?”
“Fortunately, the skill is difficult for humans to acquire. And the ones who use it to relieve suffering, and have learned to transmit, are careful about who is trained, but it’s not so simple to predict how these things will turn out. You know I take a risk accepting your instruction. A wrong mental turn and I’m a hopeless idiot, or dead.”
“Everything has consequences, nothing is guaranteed. I’m rested, shall we continue? Adjustment to hearing.”

There’s a hum in my ears, my eardrums vibrating, not painful. It almost tickles, I feel like scratching my ears, but the itch is too deep. Blood rushes in my head, now more pain, a flood of energy to the auditory cortex, then an electric shock. I leap from my knees to my feet with the jolt, taking Janah by surprise. Chan comes forward, I hold out my hand, let him know I’m okay. He melts back into the darkness.
“Easy, now you can hear snow fall through the air.”
“Thank you.”
“Accepted. Do you want the final transmission?”
“Let’s do it.”
“Fly up and grab that branch, you need your feet well off the ground.”

I leap up and hang from the branch.
“Just relax. You will not be able to let go, even if you try. Test it.”
I try to release my grip. It’s like I’m glued.
“Now, completely relax your shoulders and arms.”
I’m amazed, with what appears to be no effort, I’m dangling from the branch. Then my hands begin to ache.
“Now it will get harder. Again, it doesn’t matter, you cannot let go. I am strengthening the sinew and the muscle in your claws.”
I giggle, “We call them fingers.”
“As you wish. When I am done, they will be claws.”

I hang for half an hour. My hands feel hot, they burn, sting, ache. I make no effort to hold on, I cannot let go.
“The big one, in the woods. Tell him to come forward.
“Chan, the owl has asked you to come to us.”
Chan materializes.
“He is almost silent. Amazing for one his size. He has been taught by your Tan, yes?”
“Yes, and my other as well. They can move matter with the mind only.”
“As I am doing with you.”
“Yes.”
“Tell him to climb on your back. Keep your shoulders relaxed.”

“Chan, I want you to grab the branch next to my hands, then wrap your legs around my waist. Then let go of the branch and wrap your arms around my chest. We’re going to hang out.”
Chan jumps and snags the branch inside of my hands, then wraps himself around me.
I feel my hands gripping the branch, there is pain in my hands, not in my arms or shoulders. I know there ought to be, Chan is two twenty, maybe more, but there isn’t. My hands sink into the wood. We stay like that for twenty minutes.
“He can let go.”
“Okay Chan, you can drop off now.”
Chan floats silently to the ground.
“This one is skilled, Barely a sound. Compliment him for me.”
“Am I done hanging around?’
“Yes.”

I drop to my feet. I can’t move my hands, they remain claw like.
“The owl says you are skilled, silent.”
Chan bows to the owl.
“And he doesn’t jabber away like you.”
“I got the same complaint from Master Tan.”
“I’m liking Tan even more. Too bad he’s dead. I should have enjoyed meeting him.”
“And he you. He sat silent as an owl for most of his life, and had great wisdom.”
“Silence is wisdom. Your other and the big one have learned that. You have more to learn. I like you anyway. You have a strong nature and no fear.”

I bow.
“Your hands will regain feeling soon enough. You needn’t do anything further. You may practice, but you won’t lose the skill, don’t concern yourself. The change is permanent.”
There is nothing to say, the owl senses my gratitude. He is pleased that there are a few humans who aren’t completely insane. Who are open to learn. Good enough he thinks, and flies off into the night.
“Well, at least Chan doesn’t have to carry me back like the last time.”
It is nearly two when we come out of the forest, everyone except the children up.
Susan, “I see you’re alive, are you in pain, what can I do?”
“I’m exhausted, I’m going to catch a field mouse, then bed.”
Susan says to Janah, “I’m glad you’re the one who has to put up with her.”
Janah smiles, “Me, too.”
I drink two glasses of milk, Janah feeds me a banana and I collapse into bed. Everyone follows suit, and even Nikko sleeps in the next morning. It’s near ten when we start stirring.
Ning, “I’m glad the kids slept, they had such an active day. Everyone was tired, then waiting up for the girls and my husband, I was totally out of gas.”
Chris, “We have fish left to fry, and I’m going to make about a thousand eggs, toast and potatoes. We’ll have an early lunch then get busy doing nothing.”
We’re all ravenous, even Nikko chows down. Janah works on my hands with our liniment. My fingers are regaining flexibility, still swollen. She gets four gel packs out of the freezer and wraps my hands, uses Ace bandages to keep them snug.
“Only you would think to bring gel packs on a retreat.”
“There was no doubt somebody was going to strain something. It’s not in anyone’s nature to sit and do nothing for a month. Maybe mine, but I’m fudging. I was the one who wanted to climb the cliff after all. This won’t be the last use of those packs on this trip. We’re only four days into it, almost three and a half weeks to go.”


Chapter Twenty Seven V

After lunch, Susan, C-mom and Lacy trek off to fish. Since it’s the early afternoon, the fish aren’t as active, they catch a string of crappie, nothing else. Janah has been off picking mushrooms and leafy greens, she found fresh mint for tea, and burdock, which has to be boiled into submission, but good for the liver.   
I’d brought along confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, Dutch cocoa, almond pieces. Ning makes flourless chocolate cookies for dessert. My hands are working better, I alternate liniment and gel packs, let them rest. I stretch my fingers occasionally, it hurts, but they’re loosening.
Ning and Chan walk down the lake, David stops to chat with two squirrels, then a pair of Mourning doves. Miyako climbs every tree she can skinny up. Ning and Chan sit at the edge of the lake, David Li behind them visiting with two fat marmots. They whistle to each other to communicate. Ning rests her head against Chan’s massive chest.
Chan, “We are fortunate to have such friends. Their influence on our children is beyond any possible thank you.”
Ning, “You have chosen well to serve Ange Blanc.”
Chan, “There was never a choice. It was obvious to me from the beginning. Choice implies confusion, do I do this or that? I was never obligated, nor in doubt. She looks after all of us, without interfering, only from love. To deny her anything is to deny love. I could no more do that than to deny my wife.”
I hear a ‘pop’ then nothing, then another; it’s in the distance, barely audible.
I get up and go to the kitchen to make tea and coffee. I start, noise on the porch, a struggling animal.
“Janah! Get up, there’s a problem. Nikko, find Chan and David Li. I’m going to get the moms.”
Out on the porch, a hawk flutters in a circle. He’d been shot, the bullet broke a wing. The noise I’d heard was not close. How he’d even managed to sail this far a mystery.
Janah caresses the big bird. She lays her hand on its head and lets her energy relax it, his heart is racing, there is little blood, but the wing is broken, he can’t fly. He must have glided painfully to the only place he knew he might find relief.
Nikko, “Which way did they go?”
“I hear Ning talking down the lake, the opposite of where the moms fish. Go! Bring them now.”
Nikko flashes down the edge of the lake, I hustle off to the moms. As soon as Chris sees me, she knows there’s a problem.
“Leave the fish on the line, leave everything and haul it to the cabin!”
Susan looks up she’s confused, but too well trained a martial artist to stand frozen in doubt. She leaves the pole on the bank, pulls Lacy up and they run to me.
“Someone shot a hawk. He made his way to the cabin. The men with guns can’t be that far. Back to the cabin.”
Sis, “Where are the children?”
“Nikko is collecting them. Just go.”
Two minutes later, everyone’s in the house. I serve coffee and tea, while Janah and David Li tend to the hawk in front of the fire. Janah has calmed it, using qi to relieve the pain. David Li talks softly to the wounded animal, the bird nestles against his chest as he lay on the floor.
“The shot was from the east. I’m going into the woods and find the assholes before they murder another animal.”
Janah, “Settle down a sec. Chan, go to the edge of the woods, you to the roof. C-mom will watch the front and Sis to the west. I’m going to the rock. One of the birds will come and tell me where the men are. Then we’ll decide what to do. David Li can take care of the hawk. He has to be kept still.”
Nikko turns to me, “If there’s a rustle in the leaves, let me know.”
A minute later, everyone’s in position. A minute after that, a second hawk settles in next to Janah.
“How is he?”
Janah, “He’ll mend, but it will be a while. We are caring for him in the cabin.”
“The young boy, he is there?”
“Yes.”
“Then all that can be done is being done.”
“Where are the men?”
“Approaching towards the sun. Yesterday, they killed three crows, then nearly got an eagle. Too many squirrels have died to count. They aren’t using them for food, Just killing. They killed a rattlesnake, no great loss, but still, there was no point.”

Janah, “Their killing is done. We will find them.”
“You will kill them?”
“No, it is not our way, unless they try to kill again. We will take away their guns, my friends will demonstrate the consequences of their behavior. After today, you won’t see them again.”

The hawk looks at her, senses her intensity. He ducks his head in acknowledgement and flies off to the west, away from the guns.
“Four hundred yards east and north. There are three. They were stalking a moose. But it appears they’ve taken a break.”
Nikko, “Let’s take out the trash.”
Janah calls out to Chan, he comes out of the woods, “Go with Daphne and Nikko. Circle them and do what needs to be done.”
Nikko, Chan and I stalk.
“We know where they are, and we will have them soon.”
Chris, “I’m going with them.”
Janah starts to object, then thought it might make sense, she mentals “Stop and wait for C-mom. She’s got that look in her eye, there'll be no arguing with her.”
Chris finds us fifty yards into the woods.
“Go with Nikko, don’t ask questions for now. She can mental Janah and me. Chan will come with me. We’re going to circle the men. We’ll be on them before they take their heads out of their asses. Absolute silence.”
Chris, “Got it.”
I’m thankful that Chris isn’t the type to start with questions. She grasps that Nikko has learned to mental, good enough.
I hear the men before I spot them, “Come up fifty yards and stop, we’ll decide what to do when we all have them in sight.”
Nikko, “Hai.”
We creep towards them, “In place?”
“Hai.”
They’re sitting in a circle, passing a flask around, rifles lay across their laps. I throw a rock over them, it bounces off a tree, thuds to the ground. They look up simultaneously, in just the direction I want them to.
“Go,” and our group is on them.
I kick the one nearest me on the side of his head and pluck his rifle from his lap. A second reaches for his gun, his hand won’t move.
Chris has the third by the neck and Nikko snatches his rifle. Chan takes the second man’s weapon, he’s frozen, he can only watch as a huge person lifts his rifle right out of his hands and bends the barrel back on itself, then does the same with the others and throws them in a pile.
“What the fuck? Do you have any idea what you’ve just destroyed? That’s three thousand dollars worth of hardware. You gonna pay for that, boy.”
The one I’d kicked is still disoriented. The other two stand, angry, gaming for a fight. C-mom gives one a shot to the midsection, he doubles over, she sticks her knee hard into his face. He flips over backwards unconscious. The third man takes a swing at Nikko, she her head shifts an inch, his fist sails by harmlessly. She sticks four stiff fingers in his throat. Chan puts his hand on the man’s chest and he stumbles backward into a tree.
The first finds his feet and tries to tackle me. I smile as he flies past, C-mom clocks him with a right to his cheekbone, he bangs the dirt face first. I put my heel hard and deep in his neck.
“Game over, fat boy.”
“Janah, send Ning and the others for a hike, we don’t need these guys to see them.”
Janah, “Already gone. I’m with them, we’re on the trail to the falls, a couple hundred yards out. Give me their licenses, passports if they have them, I’m going to find out who they are. I’ve called the Society and asked for rangers.”
I collect the wallets, dig out driver’s licenses, credit card numbers, Janah gets the data as I read it. Chris slaps the unconscious one into reality. Tied, hands behind their backs, we march them to the cabin. Janah makes another call on the Iridium phone, we wait. The men try questions, we ignore them. The phone beeps, she talks for a while, hangs up.
Janah, “Did you get that?”
“Yep.”

I download details to our guests, “We have your personal information, driver’s licenses, credit card numbers,” I rattle off social security numbers, “you are Americans. I know your cell phone numbers, who your kids are and where you work.”
I tell them the license plate numbers on their cars and how much money each has and where it’s kept.
“I found out that in an hour without breaking a sweat. It’s cost each of you ten thousand dollars, two of you from bank accounts, you,” I’m talking to the fat one, “I had to get cash off your credit card. A crummy six hundred bucks. You need to start saving. You’re fifty three and don’t have a dime of assets.”
The men are speechless, then one gets up his nerve, “That’s bullshit. You can’t just swipe money out of a bank account.”
I give him his account number and password.
“It doesn’t matter what you do when you get back. Change all your accounts if you wish. If you do, I’ll take more money from the new accounts, then you’ll both be as broke as the chunk over there.”
“Fuck you want? You think I’m gonna sit still for this? I’ll drag your ass into court soon as I get to my lawyer. Trust me, he’s a total asshole.”
I try to be helpful, “Who do you plan to subpoena? Who is he going to depose? What city do we live in? Are you sure we’re even Americans? Do you think we have this cabin in our names? Or that anyone in the vicinity has a clue who we are? Remember who’s tied up and who’s not. I know it’s hard, but try not to be an idiot.”
He’s angry, he also realizes he doesn’t know jack about us, and there are Asians, only Chris looks Caucasian.
“Good. See you don’t have to be stupid, you just have to pay attention and understand who’s in control. I only want a couple of things. No more hunting, of any kind, for any reason. You will dispose, as in throw away, all the weapons you have at home.”
To their amazement, I read off a list of rifles, shotguns and handguns.
“All of them, into Lake Erie, off that thirty foot cruiser you own. You can’t sell them, you can’t promise to keep them locked up. If you don’t comply, here’s what will happen. You will find yourself on a terrorist watch list. Your homes will be ransacked, all the weapons seized. By the way, this includes any unregistered guns you own. If you don’t, there will be compromising e-mails, with your IP address on them. You will lose your jobs, all your assets. Or, you can go back to your lives, get rid of the guns, play poker or go to Vegas. No more hunting. Do we have a deal, or do I pick up the phone again?”
Of course the men agree and of course we don’t believe them. But a little monitoring, mystery phone calls, notes on their cars and untraceable e-mails would soon convince them. They had clearly stumbled on the wrong people at the wrong time. They’d huff and puff, but it wouldn’t be a month before the remaining guns are at the bottom of Erie and they’re making plans for a trip to Las Vegas. Well, two of them. Fat boy is out of cash and out of credit. He’ll watch TV.
A boat motors to the dock, two park rangers hop off. I fill them in on what I know about the bird, but can’t prove.
The tallest ranger says, “Doesn’t matter, there’s no hunting up here. They shouldn’t even have the guns. It’s a wildlife preserve, not even bow and arrow is allowed.”
The shorter ranger asks, “Who bent hell out these barrels?”
I nod in Chan’s direction.
The ranger looks at the massive man standing impassively to my right, “Okay, I buy that.”
“Where’s the wounded hawk?”
“Inside. We’ll care for the hawk. By the time we leave, he’ll be flying on his own.”
The ranger goes in and looks at the wounded bird, “You sure about that? We can take him,”
“He’s happier here, in his element. We have resources you don’t.”
I touch his arm, he feels a vibration, then his arm goes numb, it is cold.
“How in heck?”
He is suddenly calm, “I see. Okay, the bird stays. But I need a picture, for evidence. It’ll be touch and go prosecuting these guys, there’s no bullet, nothing to prove he was shot by these men. They’ll be fined for the rifles, that’s about it. I can keep them locked up for a day or so while the investigation continues, but they’ll get a lawyer eventually. I need to take your names and where we can find you.”
“We know who they are. I think they’ll pay their fine and be happy never to see us, or Canada,  again.”
Ranger Two, “We still need to file a report. You have ID, passports? We need to know who is filing a complaint?”
“We aren’t filing a complaint, I suggest you call this number,” we assumed the rangers would want to know who we are.
The ranger looks at the number, it’s his own HQ, with the name of his boss’ boss, he calls.
“Sir, I have a situation….yes, I’m with them now…..but sir….,” there’s a pause while he listens, “I understand sir, thank you.”
Ranger Two, “Sorry to trouble you Miss. I just…”
I smile, “You’re doing your job. There’s nothing to apologize for. We came here to be left alone, to enjoy your beautiful country. Unfortunately, these three stumbled into our quiet retreat. We have certain resources, we aren’t charging them with anything anyway.”
Fat Boy is distraught, the other men try to cool it out, but it’s easy to see they’d been badly shaken, and experienced a fair amount of physical pain. Noses busted, a broken cheekbone, one still can’t stand up straight.
Fat Boy has enough, “Get us out of here, these people are crazy, and they can do things, they know stuff, things they shouldn’t never know.”
What the three men don’t know is that the ranger had called someone high in the food chain. He was instructed to take the men, give them a jail scare, stick them in front of a judge, let them pay a fine and disappear back to the American side of Lake Erie. They wouldn’t ever be in Canada again. They were also instructed that the people who found the men don’t exist. That someone had called to report shooting, and these men had been found with rifles in a wildlife preserve.
The lead ranger says, “Ma’am, I don’t know how you did what you did, it isn’t close to my pay grade. Thank you for your help.”
Trust a Canadian to be polite, even if they are mystified. I like Canada.
Their boat turns into a speck, then nothing. Sis, Ning, Lacy, Janah and the kids return as the boat disappears.

Chapter Twenty Eight V
 
Chris, “Dang, that was fun. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t say it that way, the bird could’ve died, killed a bunch of small creatures and were stalking a moose.”
Susan, “If you hadn’t had your fun, they would have killed everything that moved. The girls do what they do, not out of malice, but to relieve pointless suffering of innocents. In this case, the beautiful creatures of this magnificent forest.”
Lacy, “Craphead hunters, completely taken by surprise by four far better hunters.”
Janah, “The Society’s resources are amazing. Television and movies like to portray invading someone’s private files as a few clicks on a computer by some kid with NCIS or MI-5. It doesn’t work that way. But, the information is there, if you know who to call; the Society knows who to call.”
Sis, “I’m still not sure I understand. Do you use Homeland Security, or the FBI, don’t they require warrants? How do you get such immediate information without the delays of warrants and subpoenas?”
Janah, “I haven’t been told directly, only by implication. But it isn’t too hard to figure out. Think about it. Everybody has something they’d rather not be known. Everybody. What might that imply?”
Sis, “Oh, that’s too cool. It’s so simple.”
Lacy, ‘Duh me. What’s so simple?”
Sis, “The people who supposedly have access to, but are paid to keep personal information private, corporate security, government security, any company with allegedly secured personal financial information, purchase transactions, web surfing history, all those people have personal lives. All of them have personal information they would rather be kept private.”
Lacy, “Ahhh, duh. The Society gives them a choice, cough up the data, or be exposed, to your spouse, to your employer, to some government agency.”
Janah, “It seldom gets to that level of hardball. The Society’s network is such that it is a seemingly innocuous request from a credit agency, or corporate HR department doing a credit check, or government agency claiming that the person is being considered for a security clearance. They also have friends in the NSA, they don’t have rules, we take advantage of that.”
Susan, “And people supply any information requested if it’s from someone further up in the organization.”
Janah, “Of course. The Society makes information requests look like normal business practice. There is almost never any pressure. No one supplying the data thinks they are doing anything other than their job. If you know the right people, it’s almost embarrassingly easy. There’s seldom arm twisting, or threat of any kind.”
Susan, “God, that’s brilliant. I don’t suppose you can explain how this comes together?’
Janah, “We get the information we need, quickly and efficiently. The less I know about where it came from, the better off we are. I don’t ask.”
Janah’s not going to explain more. Not in the family’s best interest. What happens is really rather simple. Everyone needs favors done. The Society is the favor clearinghouse. A department head in one agency needs data that another agency would normally require a ton of paper to access. She goes to the Society, finds out what she needs to know. It reciprocates the other way. Since the Society doesn’t exist, there’s no paper trail, nothing to subpoena, everything is verbal, no e-mail, no memo, no text. Essentially, the Society is a welcome bureaucratic shortcut.
Susan, “Then shall we drink wine and play Scrabble on the porch?”
Chris, “Now we’re getting somewhere. Who’s paring up with who? I want Janah to play, we’ll learn more if she can dig up arcane words. I get to partner with her. Daphne and Sis, Ning and Lacy, Chan and Nikko. I have the prime partner, so we’ll take a fifty point handicap.”
David Li is showing Miyako how to play Gin Rummy. We spread out the tiles and the game begins. We play the first game and keep score, then decide the fun is making the words and creating lesbrain words, that aren’t official words, the meaning implied by the spelling. It’s actually better, eliminating the competitive aspect loosens up people’s minds, they get more creative since there’s no way to make a mistake.
Lacy finds a way to use ‘craphead,’ adding head onto Sis’ crap. Craphead isn’t a Scrabble word, Janah uses the ‘c’ and a ‘y’ two spaces underneath, to spell ‘crayoner,’ which is in the Scrabble Dictionary as ‘one who crayons.’
I spell ‘nukular’ since a former idiot President had repeatedly used it idiotically for nuclear. Can also be spelled newkulur or nukulur. If you can pronounce it in any version of Dubya’s dumbness, it counts.
Which leads to Lacy and Ning spelling skull, then Janah has an amazing draw and uses all her letters to make it ‘skullandbone,’ I turn that into ‘skullandbonehead.’  I decide it’s code for Cheney and Dubya.
Somewhere in there, owl turns into ‘owlerator,’ an owl that helps one learn owl skills. Then Chan adds ‘izer’ to Lacy’s hunter, and the word ‘hunterizer’ comes into the lexicon, one who removes hunters.
There are four empty bottles of wine. It’s one a.m. before we realize we’d been playing over four hours. The kids are asleep on the rug in front of the fire. Time for bed.

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