Chapter Twenty Five IV

Humanity,
the terror,

the horror,
the waste of it and
you and
me
through and
through and
through.
Slouching Towards Nirvana, Charles Bukowski


A knock, Janah clicks off the computer.
I open the door, a short wide police officer in the Royal Bahamas Police Force black uniform, tie, white shirt, black visor cap, leather strap across his chest.
“I’m Chief Superintendant Deleveaux, you know Inspector Outten.”
Janah, “Yes, we do, please, come in. Let’s sit at the table, tea, coffee?”
Deleveaux, “Nothing, thank you. I apologize for my brusque manner earlier. I want to assure you every resource at our disposal is being used to locate Miss Darien.”
“Is that why a low ranking Inspector has been assigned to the case?”
Janah wants to see Outten’s reaction, she isn’t disappointed, he doesn’t flinch. That’s good, he’s not ego inflated.
“Inspector Outten is one of our finest officers. The first thing to do is to collect information. He is particularly diligent on these matters, that’s why he’s in charge of the initial investigation. For all we know, the girl got lost, or went someplace voluntarily. We have to rule out the obvious. He’s the first line.”
“Good enough, so what have you ruled out?”
“You understand that in the normal course of such an investigation we do not reveal details to an unknown third party? Breach of policy.”
Janah, “Except now we’re not an unknown third party. So can we cut to the chase. Time’s of the essence.”
The Chief Superintendant is momentarily nonplussed, catches himself, “I have been instructed to offer every assistance.”
“So, get on with it man. Anything other than complete and comprehensive cooperation will be painful…career-wise.”
Deleveaux sighs, “That has been made quite clear. So, shall we begin with a sharing of information?”
“What do you know about the Dariens?”
He reiterates much of what Janah already knows, like the way Mrs. Darien flaunted her daughter. They had spoken to a number of staff who confirmed. The girl is older than her years, has an appearance of self assurance that may be warranted, maybe not. Janah and I were unusually self possessed at ten, no reason we’re unique in that.
Janah, “Then I grant you have done your homework. However, I know all that, what else do you have, if anything?”
Deleveaux is chagrined, “Precious little.”
“Do you know if anyone else on the island was in contact with the Dariens, or the girl?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Well, it’s early yet. You can’t be faulted for not knowing what you can’t know.”
Deleveaux relaxes a bit, “I appreciate that, ma’am. As I said, this is not being taken lightly. We’ve been in a full out search, stopping cars, watching the airport, cruise lines, including any private transportation off the island. All the boats and planes, public and private are being monitored to the fullest extent possible, anything questionable searched from stem to stern. We believe she is still in Nassau.”
“As do I.”
“I’ve given you what we know. Can you add anything?”
“I am exploring several lines. Any person who knew the family, and also knew they were in Nassau-Paradise Island. What they have been up to, either in the States or if they are here. If any of them made any calls, texts or e-mails to anyone on the Island. If that’s a dead end, I have my own bloodhound with me. If the girl doesn’t turn up, we will find her.”
“I don’t suppose you’re inclined to tell me how you accomplished all that in a day?”
"Resources, some of which are the reason you decided to speak with us. Rest assured, sir, any useful information will go directly to you. When she is found credit will go to the Bahamas Police, and no blame will be attached…unless….”
Deleveaux’s eyes widen, just enough to be a tell, “Unless what, ma’am?”
“I am convinced you are withholding little. However, you have not been completely forthright. Best to come clean now, or I will not be obliged to keep my end of the bargain. So, what’s it to be Chief Superintendant, full cooperation, or you continuing to hope for good luck?”
Deleveaux starts to protest, Janah cocks her head, her eyes narrow, “Chief, don’t even think about it, I don’t have time, nor does the girl.”
He surrenders, “Miss Taylor’s father was allegedly golfing all afternoon, came back to the hotel and showered, ate dinner with his golf companions, returned about the time the girl was supposed to be in her room. He was due to meet the dinner companions at the casino, which he did, but not for an hour and a half later.”
Janah, “And, so far, his whereabouts during that interlude are unknown.”
“They are. He claims the girl was never in the room, he went back to the suite after dinner, smoked a cigar on the balcony, says he rented a movie on the hotel pay per view.”
“And the record shows there was a movie rented at 8:30, one of those bad porn things hotels sell as adult entertainment.”
“Good guess.”
“Not a guess. I know what movie. Once it’s rented, the hotel has no way of knowing if he sat there watching it.”
Deleveaux, “How did you find out….?”
“Chief Superintendant, I’m not the enemy. This isn’t a television show where a private detective, former cop that can’t abide the rules, comes barging into a case and exchanges snappy barbs with the stuffy Chief of Detectives. I want no publicity, I don’t want our names to appear anyplace. We looked into your background, and Outten’s. Outten is a bit of protégé, as he came from the same neighborhood you did, and has, as you have, fought his way up the chain of a typically politicized police department. He is, in fact, your sister’s son. You took a small risk, putting him on what will become a high profile case. On the other hand, you have little to lose. The girl is not a citizen of the Bahamas. You find her, you’re a hero, you don’t find her, or find her dead, it’s Jon Benet all over, not your fault some parents decided to tart-up their beautiful daughter and let her stroll around the beach in next to nothing.”
Deleveaux almost smiles, “You’ve done your homework.”
“Then let’s get on with finding the girl. I am certain dad went to a prostitute before going to the casino. I’m not doing anything spectacular, it’s his habit when he’s in Connecticut, he’s just taking advantage of the splendid native habitat of Nassau. His wife could give a damn. She’s glad he’s found a way to occupy himself. For her, it’s all about her fantasy lived out through the girl. Take his photo around to the higher end services, you know them, they know you. Escort services are a popular and profitable business in Nassau. Just verify the story. My guess is Taylor’s dad is clueless. Not a part of this. But it won’t hurt if you break down his story. He goes to prostitutes, we don't care. I also haven’t ruled out the possibility that this is a publicity play by mom.”
Deleveaux is surprised, “Do you think it a real possibility?”
“This family? I don’t rule out anything. The story is all over CNN. Charming, pretty, private school white girl, missing in the Bahamas.”
“I’ll have his story out of him soon enough.”
“It’s nearly ten now, have it out of him before three. And I’ll need access to the girl’s room, and her clothes. I hope your men haven’t trampled over or tossed around things in the suite.”
“No, it’s been carefully examined, but nothing has been removed.”
“We’ll go there next. Keep the parents out of the way. I may want to talk to them, but not now. I want my bloodhound to sniff out the room.”
“That’s the second mention of a bloodhound. You don’t really mean a dog?”
Janah smiles, “I should say just one of my bitches, but I doubt Deleveaux is in the mood for puns, or that he would even get it.”
“No, he wouldn’t, just get him gone and get us immediate access to the room.”

“No, no dog. Let me worry about that. You will be kept informed of  relevant developments. And please don’t make me come ask you about the interviews with the escort services and Daddy Darien.”
Deleveaux, “You have a cell?”
Janah gives him the number, gets his and Outten’s. They rise to leave, Nikko and I had been standing near Janah the whole time.
Deleveaux looks at us, “Your companions don’t have much to say.”
“I told you the media would get nothing from us. If you play your cards right, they won’t know about us at all. If there’s a screw-up, we still won’t give them anything. We’re just concerned tourists. We don’t know the family, we don’t know the girl, just staying at the same hotel.”
“Excuse me for being cautious. This is a dicey bit, as I’m sure you understand.”
“I’d have been resistant to any outsiders as well Chief Superintendant. I don’t blame you for looking after your turf. I took a hard line only to avoid delay. I trust we’re all on the same page now and can bring this to a successful, even happy, conclusion.”
They shake hands, he assures Janah she would have access to the room immediately. Outten is on his phone as they leave. We go to the Darien’s rooms.

Chapter Twenty Six IV

 A constable is at the door, “I was given names of three women who would show up and to let them in the room. Please identify yourselves.”
Janah introduces herself, then Nishiko and me. The constable opens the door to the suite, we go in, he stands in the open doorway.
Janah, “Close the door Constable, with you on the other side of it. I don’t want to be interrupted, and I don’t need you looking over my shoulder. If you feel the need, call Outten. However, if you can add useful information, then add it.”
He’d clearly been given instruction to offer every assistance, he starts to close the door, then stops.
“If ma’am doesn’t mind. I’ve got a young one myself. This case cuts me to the quick. I was on the scene with the initial investigation of the room. Something seemed out of sorts as it were, ma’am.”
Janah, “And did you report your impression to Outten?”
Constable, “No ma’am. He’s a good Inspector, but he has his meticulous ways. Don’t go much for any ordinary copper throwin’ in his opinions. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.”
“Outten is a plodder. He might be bright, but he doesn’t strike me as one who plays well with others. So what is it you felt, or saw?”
“Like I said Miss, I have a daughter bit older than Miss Darien. Now I’ve been given to understand that she is a different sort of girl, more, uh, sophisticated perhaps. A bit out in the world more than a typical girl her age.”
I can feel Janah’s interest, this policeman is no idiot.
“And you would be correct. So, back to my question.”
“Well ma’am, the room, the young girl had her own room. See for yourself. It’s not like any room I’ve seen a young girl stay in. Everything neat as a pin. Now, the young lady went missing at around eight p.m., housekeeping was long gone. The shower was wet, there was a wet towel, and the bathing suit, such as it is, hung over the towel rack. So the girl was up here before she disappeared.”
Janah, “What is it that troubles you exactly?”
Constable, “It’s too neat ma’am. I was in here as soon as she was reported missing, along with Inspector Outten of course. The shower was wet, the bathing suit damp, but there were no drips of water in the sink, the toothbrush dry as dust. Make up on the vanity, but all neatly closed and orderly. The toilet roll still had the little point that the maid does when she cleans up, there was nothing in the wastebasket.”
Janah, “Ah, very good. So the room was quickly made to look as if the girl had been here, but it’s entirely possible she was never here at all.”
Constable, “As I said ma’am, too neat.”
Janah, “And the parent’s room?”
Constable, “Typical, towels on the floor, some clothing hung up, other things still in suitcases, make up across the counter, bed used. And a ten year old girl gets her own room, I could see a suite, not a separate room, parents rather too trusting.”
Janah, “Or just don’t care,” then to the officer, “What is your name?”
“Pearce ma’am, Constable Timothy Pearce.”
“You have done well, Constable Pearce.”
“Well, ma’am, as I said, I’m a father. Hopefully better one than is coming out about the father of Miss Darien. But the girl, no matter what she thought she knew of the world, it’s not nearly enough. She’s needing help, and I mean to give it as much as if it were my own little girl.”
Janah, “Then I expect you will be of some use. When we are done with the room, I’ll give you what we have, as you have been so kind to do for us.”
Pearce hesitates, "Um, the Chief Super might not take kindly to..."
"There will be no remonstration, Constable. Perhaps a commendation. Keep your ears open, wide open. Take this number, call with anything."
"Thank you, ma'am."
He closes the door, and leaves us on our own.
I go to work, Janah’s mystery bloodhound. I sniff every article of clothing, shoes, sandals, jewelry, mousse, and deodorant. Not just the girl’s, mom and dad’s as well.
If there is a trace of those scents, on or off the hotel grounds, I’ll know.
Janah agrees with Pearce. The girl’s room is too neat. Either she’d been taken someplace, changed clothes or been disrobed, then the bikini and sandals brought to the room, or she came in only briefly and someone else tried to make it appear she'd been here. Whoever it was did a quickie job, fortunately not a through one.
I spot a few flakes of glitter on the counter, more on the floor under the vanity, “Nikko, see this?”
“Yep, glitter.”
“Check the stairwell.”
Nishiko goes to the fire escape stairs, walks very carefully up and down. She spots something, leaves it where it is, then down to the ground floor, identifying two more things, and three fibers of fine blond hair. We are leaving the room when she comes through the stair well door.
“The girl went or was taken down the stairwell. There are bits of silver glitter and hair fibers. I took one,” she hands it to me.
I sniff, it’s Taylor Darien’s hair.
Janah turns to Pearce, “Was the stairwell examined?”
“Yes ma’am. Just a cursory look through, they saw nothing obvious, and the stair exits are open all the time.”
Janah, “But the stairwell doors only open from the hallway, for fire purposes, they don’t open from the stairwell.”
Constable, “No, not normally. But of course, your friend here had the sense to block the door open when she went down. Nothing would prevent anyone else from doing the same thing. Security makes it’s rounds promptly, but it is entirely possible the exit door was blocked and overlooked, a piece of sturdy tape over the catch could do it.”
Nikko, “The lock on this floor is sticky around the edges.”
Janah, “Constable Pearce, my friend has something to show you.”
Nikko takes Pearce over to the exit door, suggests he examine the frame around the lock.
“Well, there’s a piece of interesting evidence.”
“Report it, Constable Pearce. Don’t mention us, just say you got to thinking. You didn’t touch the handle, we have latex gloves on. You will find the fingerprints of the girl, an abductor may have worn gloves. Every spot on the door near the handle, the handle and all the railings of the stairwell should be dusted for prints. Then tell them you heard the girl liked glitter around her eyes, maybe, if she was taken down the stairs, maybe some of the glitter fell off. Just a suggestion. Also look for hair fibers,” she hands him the strand Nikko found, “like this one, and don’t let them vacuum anything until they’ve searched.”
“And I’m not to say you had anything to do with it?”
“No, these things just occurred to you. You had all this time, watching the door, to think about scenarios. And a scenario that the girl went down the steps, as a way to avoid running into her parents rather than taking the elevator, popped into your head.”
“I don’t want to be taking credit…”
Janah’s head snaps up, “Pearce, this isn’t about you. You take the credit because we need to be distanced from this. If it’s the parents themselves, or even an snatch and grab, we don’t want it around that we are looking into things. We work better invisibly.”
“Yes. What about Outten? He won’t like being upstaged about the set-up in the suite. His story is, the girl was here.”
“And she was, but for a few moments only. It’s one reason to rule out an unknown abductor. The washed suit, and a few splashes in the shower point to an ten year old girl’s plan, not a kidnapper’s plan. The maid came in the early afternoon, cleaned up, the girl was at the beach all day. So the room is tidy. Not a kid’s room, it’s a fancy hotel. I suspect she showered at the beach, there's several public showers so the hotel avoids guests tracking in sand. A girl sneaking out would shower, wash her hair, change quickly and split.”
“She doesn’t brush her teeth?”
“Kids think gum is toothpaste. There’s two used towels, girls usually wrap their hair in one, and dry off with another. These are beach towels, not room towels. Lends credence to the beach shower. There’s no lipstick or blush, she took it with her. If she got caught sneaking out, she wouldn’t want to be all hoochied up. She’d want to say she was just talking a walk, looking for mom, whatever. It’s an island resort, she doesn’t need to dress up. A skirt, light top, sandals, maybe something with a heel, make her taller, espadrilles. For now, some of this is guesswork.”
Pearce, “Espa-what?”
“A sandal kind of shoe, with a thick heel. It gives more curve to the calf, makes her taller, thus older, tightens the thighs. In short, gives a girl sexier legs.”
“So much about young women I don’t know. My daughter wears sneakers or sandals.”
Janah thinks, ‘Your daughter isn’t posing for a thousand or more digital web photos to suck money from subscribers into young girls.’
She continues , “We’re going to find her, bring her back and stay out of the picture. Call in your report. If Outten doesn’t run with it, call me. And forget worrying about pissing him off. He won’t get in the way, I guarantee it.”
Pearce pulls his phone.
“Think he’ll carry through?"
“Of course. All he sees is his own daughter. No career decision will stop him. He’s going to get Outten to grasp the implications, or I’ll have Outten reporting to Pearce in thirty days.”

Nikko, “If we’re done being big shots, perhaps we should locate the girl?”
Janah, “Daphne, follow the scent down the stairs, and out the door. Nikko and I are going to interview people. The police did a cursory interview, I’m going to find out who’s lying.”
I hit the door and the stairwell. The girl’s scent lingers, straight down to ground level. The door exits to the lobby, the going gets slower, a lot of bodies had passed through.
I sniff the push bar handle on the ground floor exit. The girl’s hand had opened it. I nose the surrounding door jam, inside the stairwell, then lobby side.
I mental Janah and Nikko, “Guess who was leaning against the lobby wall, right by the stairwell exit?”
Janah, “Mom. Nice work, took you all of five minutes. Any feel for time? I mean, is it remotely possible that mom leaned against the wall some time prior to, or well after, Taylor’s exit?”
“That would be a stretch, look through my eyes, the exit isn’t near the elevator bank. What in hell would mom be doing here? Now, follow me just for a bit.”

I move to the nearest exit, a side door off the lobby out to the beach, not only is the girl’s scent on the door , as if she’d brushed against it, mom’s was on the door handle. Mom had let her daughter out to the beach in the night, and returned to her spot on the veranda for another cocktail.
Janah, “I’m going to arrange a chat with mom. Keep following the trail as far as it takes you. Nikko and I will stay out of your mind, you can tap us if you find something.”
“Got it.”


Chapter Twenty Seven VI

As soon as we ziplock something into memory, it becomes static,
something that we can run circles around.
Considered from this standpoint, it really does seem that
everything we do is fraught with decisions, as if every moment
were a window onto thousands of future possibilities, instead of automatic and obscure.
Which is what they are—pretty much.
You can sooner fish water back out of a flushing toilet.
This is why I do so much of my work downstream, so to speak.
Disciple Manning, Disciple of the Dog, R. Scott Bake
r

I’m busy smelling the roses, the ground actually. Taylor walked down the beach for less than fifty yards, then drifted up through the trees to the road. The scent stops at the edge of the road, on the left side. She crossed the street, driving in Nassau is like Britain, left side forward. I kneel down and study the roadside. Piece of chewing gum. I pick it up and sniff, Taylor. Janah nailed the toothbrush theory. A car pulled over, the roadside grime is disrupted. I take a mental snapshot of the scene. The car, it looks like car tires, screeched off, left a short streak of rubber. I scrape up a sample and put it in a plastic bag. Cars and motorcycles are passing. I must look rather peculiar, my nose to the ground, sniffing. I’m catching the scent of the rubber. A thousand or more cars, trucks and motorcycles had passed. I’d have to be on my knees sniffing a busy road. Only one thing to do.
I mental Janah, who is waiting for Mrs. Darien, “She was picked up by a car or light truck thirty or so yards from the hotel west. If the traffic is rerouted, there’s a chance I can follow the scent of the tires. Don’t count on much. A lot of vehicles have passed.”
Janah, “I’m on it. Hang on.”
“I have a sample of the tire. Send Pearce to pick it up and deliver it directly to you. Get it to the Society. It’s a very long shot, but it’s the shot we’ve got.”

Pearce shows up in ten, takes the bag, I’m direct, “This is to go to my associate, no stops in between. You don’t open it, you don’t give it up to anyone else. Am I clear?”
Pearce, “As day ma’am. Not to worry.”
“Go, and hurry.”
He starts down the road, then into the hotel to Janah.
Janah, “I have the bag, the road will be closed in a few minutes. Hope your jeans hold out.”
“I hope my nose holds out.”

I sit on the curb and five minutes later there is no traffic headed west. I follow the scent down the road. My head is swimming in images, garbage, dead animals, exhaust, dripping radiators, even brake and transmission fluid. Then it hits me. There’s transmission fluid every thirty yards.
“Forget follow the money, follow the transmission fluid.”
Nikko, “Janah is interviewing mommy. She’s offline but asked me to stay tuned in. So you think the car is leaking transmission fluid?”
“Good thing, too. I’m losing the scent of the tires, too much traffic went by. The luck is, I can see the drop of fluid, it glistens a bit, a black-pink shimmer in the sunlight. We can speed this up. Send Pearce down here in a car, not a police car, I have a feel for the distance between drops, and the eagle’s work let’s me spot the spot from a distance. I don’t need to walk along, I can see it from a car.”

Nikko, “Time well spent in Canada. David Li will delight in the story.”
Pearce shows up in a beige VW Passant, his personal car.
Pearce, “May I ask, how’s it you are able to track the girl?”
“You may ask, but I can’t tell. It’s very complicated and I need to concentrate. Maybe one day I’ll write a book. Slow down.”
I look at the passing drop of fluid on the road, “Drive slowly twenty meters, same line, stay to the left of the road, close to edge.”
“Yes, Miss.”
The cars leaks for another mile, then no more for a hundred meters.
“Back up please.”
He does, keeps to the edge of the road, we come to the last spatter.
Now, I’m looking for a spot to turn off. The problem is simple, the car could have turned left, or right. Stop at every possible turn, I’ll walk the area. There are hotel entrances, entrances to public beaches, private homes and shopping centers, but it can’t be too far, the next one should be within twenty meters of the last one. After several unproductive detours, finally, a drop, a boutique hotel on the beach side. Outside the entrance, in the drive, another drop.
I’m on my knees sniffing concrete, Pearce tells the few gawkers to clear the doorway and move on. The manager comes out.
“What’s this all about. What are you doing?”
“Constable Pearce, Royal Bahamas Police. Just stay clear of the area, sir. We’ll be done in a bit.”
His name tag said, ‘Glenn.'
“Is it Mr. Glenn or is that a first name?”
Glenn, “First name. Who are you, what do you want? Maybe I can help. This disturbance with no explanation is going to frighten guests. Guests who are paying a lot of money.”
I beam him a smile, “Won’t be a sec, Glenn. Add a bit of mystery to the place is how I’d see it. Tell them we’re rehearsing for a film shot, new movie starring whoever you like.”
Pearce adds sharply, “And be off now, your hovering isn’t going to make the job move faster.”
Glenn shuffles off to an office behind the check-in counter and shuts the door. I’m busy sniffing carpet and finally the elevator doors, there are two, then the inside of each elevator.
I push the stop button, “Don’t let anyone use this elevator, direct them to the other. I’m going to each floor and find out what room she went to.”
Pearce, “Should I call for additional forces?”
“Under no circumstances. Just stand in the lobby and make sure no little girls that look older than they ought leave the building. If she’s had her hair colored or cut since she was taken, you will miss her. Any adult attempting to leave with a young girl is to be questioned. Mind the beach side as well. My own back-up will be here shortly.”
“Nikko, tell Janah I think the girl is in a room, Janah should tell mom we know she was with her daughter when she left our hotel and that she walked down the beach, then to the street. I suspect what happened, Janah will get her to come clean with the story. Then I need you and Sis here at warp speed, C-mom stays with Janah. Pearce will have a car and driver at the entrance for you. Weapons lite, I have my knife and chain. I hope we don't need anything.”
“Constable, have my associates brought here, they’ll be outside the hotel waiting, no sirens, but do it quickly.”
Susan and Nikko meet me in the lobby in minutes.
“The girl’s on the second floor, room 212. It has a balcony facing the ocean. Sis, I need you under that balcony. When Constable Pearce unlocks the door, I’ll have to kick in the rest. The people inside will have the safety catch on unless they’re really stupid. It’s a card key lock, with an interior deadbolt and a safety catch. Shortly after the racket, I expect someone to be on the balcony. It’s only ten or twelve feet. When they hit the sand, lay them out. It might be the girl, but I doubt it, it will be an adult or a couple of adults.”
Sis, “My pleasure.”
Susan zips off to take up her place, Nikko and I to the elevator. I change plans and convince Pearce he is needed near the lobby exit in case things go wrong and the perv gets to the elevator or stairwell. Having listened at the door before Nikko and Sis came, I’m convinced that this isn’t an abduction.
“Nikko, there are three people in the room. Two females and one male. The kid is one. I’ve never heard the other two, not from our hotel. I smell gun oil in the room. From my eavesdrop, it’s stranger than we guessed. The woman is using the girl. The guy does nothing. I wouldn’t have known he was there at all except the woman told him she was going to be a while, then a door closed. The only door is to the bedroom, she’s got Taylor in there. I’m guessing he’s paid help. Probably the guy who picked the girl up on the highway. There’ll be a car in the lot leaking transmission fluid.”
Nikko, “So he’s going to protect his asset, the woman may take the balcony leap.”
“Right, and you are going to make him wish he’d been right behind her. He may even try, it’s kind of dumb for him to stay there with the girl unless he thinks he can handle it, with a story or his gun. Under no circumstances is he to get to the girl. He’ll use her as a hostage. You have shuriken?"

Nikko pulls out a half dozen, “Perfect. If he does anything but surrender, particularly if he pulls a gun or heads to the bedroom door, fill him full of stars.”
“Showtime,”
Nikko slides the passkey in the lock, it clicks green, turns the handle, nothing. I’m ready, kick the crap out of the door, right at the lock point, fast and hard. The frame splinters and the door slams against the wall. Nikko flies in, a big man, solid, running two forty easy, is already standing with a gun drawn. Nikko rolls, I pull back from the door and let the shots come, flash into the room, opposite the angle from Nikko, I hear the thwip of shuriken and a cry from the man. Nikko got him right in the back of his gun hand, and three more, one in his neck, two in his face. He turns with the gun towards her. My chain wraps around his gun hand, I yank it to the floor. The gun doesn’t fire, his hand is sliced half through. Nikko’s foot passes over my head, smashes his face. He staggers back, he’s a big bastard, doesn’t fall.
I move to the bedroom, door’s locked, another hard kick, smash, bang!
Nikko, pulls the gun from his mangled hand, cracks him with the butt hard on the side of his head. He’s face first in the plush carpet.
I hear a sliding door slam shut, Taylor is on the bed, naked as the day she was born, in a twilight fugue. A body goes over the balcony. I look over the edge, there’s a woman on the sand, flat on her back and cold as a mackerel. Susan is looking down at her.
“Having fun, Sis?”
“Been more fun if she’d been a little work. She hit the sand, I caught her with my heel square in the face. She went out like a blown fuse.”
“Keep an eye on her, Pearce will be around to cuff her and we’ll see what happens next. Everyone’s okay here. The girl has been drugged, weed, I smell it. Maybe  GHB, Ketamine or Rohypnol, the date rape big three. She’s kind of woozy. Nikko is dressing her. We’re bringing her to our suite. Janah will talk with her after she’s slept. She doesn’t know where she is; right now, she doesn’t know who she is.”



Chapter Twenty Eight VI

A Little Help From My Friends

An announcement is made that the girl has been located, details not released due to the child's age. The woman and her bodyguard are in custody and being questioned.
Taylor is examined by a female physician, then to bed in her room. The parents are arrested and brought to the district HQ. Janah leaves the Royal Bahamas Police and the FBI to sort out who did what when. We used our contacts to get the authorities to steer clear of the girl until Janah talked to her. The Society did its thing, the Bahamas police were subdued before they got a chance to cop cop attitude.
The parents naturally deny everything. The girl went out alone, was due back at bedtime, supposed to be in the hotel or on the hotel stretch of beach. Mom went to the room and to bed, she thought Taylor was in her room. Dad came in later, he assumed everyone was asleep, went to bed himself. When he got up, the girl wasn’t there, that’s when he started his search. The police aren’t buying it. The industrious press has discovered ‘Angel’s’ website and is having a field day. The Dariens had sold their pretty little girl for money, at least videos and photos, even if they were technically non sexual. Whatever parent cred they had is shot all to hell.
Janah tells James, “I suggest I talk to her alone, I’ll replay the conversation when I’m done, and if you have any suggestions, let me know. I don’t know the girl. Having a psychiatrist in the room initially seems dicey.”
James, “It is dicey. You won’t want to make her think she’s in the wrong in any way. Even, particularly if, she puts on a show at first, like she was cool with it. Based on her website, she’s no doubt more world-wise, but it’s a faux wisdom. The real world didn’t hit her until recently.”
Janah, “Good. I’m going to sit with her when she starts to stir. Right now, Chris and Sis are taking turns. The girl is asleep, we’re going to let her wake naturally, then deal with whatever comes up.”
James, “She may wake up frightened and in tears, or full of attitude. Play the cards you’re dealt.”
Janah, “Okay. I’m going to rest. Let’s get a late lunch, then I’m going to shower and lie down. I think the girl will be out for a few hours. I’m guessing she had a busy night.”
The family is eating, except Sis who is with Taylor. Then Chris goes up to the  room and Sis comes down for lunch.
“She’s still out of it. Sleeping as only the young can sleep.”
Nikko, “Had yourself some fun, sticking the balcony bitch.”
Susan laughs, “I sure did. She came sailing down, turned and saw me, then saw nothing. She didn’t have time to register surprise.”
“Got any idea what she’s about?”
Sis, “Well, she came down in slacks she’d obviously just pulled on, they were unzipped, no bra, a t-shirt. Just the first things she grabbed when she figured out she needed to disappear. Do we know who she is?”
Janah, “That’s being sorted out. She’s not the person who rented the room. She probably doesn’t have much personal in there. My guess is she’s staying someplace else and the room was to do her bit with the girl and disappear. There’s a very good chance she’d have pulled it off if the bloodhound had been slower.”
“Yes, checkout is noon, Nikko and I showed at ten. If the room had been in a fake name and she’d evaporated early this morning, we’d have found the girl alone in the room. As it was, I presume she was trying to maximize her investment by going at Taylor one more time before leaving.”
Kara, “So that’s why Taylor was drugged?’
Janah, “Hard to say until I’ve talked to her. The woman might have done what she wanted, drugged Taylor to keep her quiet until she and bodyguard left. Several things aren’t clear yet. The mom’s story about the previous night we know is bullshit, she saw the girl off.”
Kara, “What about the father?”
Janah, “He comes in late, assumes everyone’s asleep. Did he know she was off with someone? Can’t say yet. If he knew, then something is strange about him looking around for the girl the next morning.”
Nikko, “I think the child was supposed to be returned early this morning and the woman decided to keep her around until checkout.”
Janah, “That might be. Daphne said the room was empty of female clothes, toiletries, travel stuff. There was a vibrator and a digital camera. So what she came over the balcony with was what she had on when Taylor was delivered to her last night. She gets high, Taylor is drugged, whatever happened, happened, she sleeps in or decides to have another go. She’s late returning Taylor, father gets anxious.”
“Besides the fact that the girl is alive, the other little bit of good news is that the woman had no time to deal with fingerprints, hair, stuff on sheets. She’s going to be pinned to the room whether she actually rented it or not. Most damning is the camera. Daphne reviewed the pictures, girl’s nude, splayed out all over the place, and video of the woman doing her thing. Now, if you’ll excuse us, Nikko and I are taking Janah to rest.”
C-mom has had time to think things over and is sorely pissed, “You know these motherfuckers sold their daughter to the woman for the evening. Janah, just get me a ten minute private interview with Taylor’s so-called mother. Just ten minutes.”
Nikko, “C-mom, I asked for the same thing. We aren’t going to get it. If I’d have been at the bottom of the balcony instead of Sis, that bitch would be shark food. Daphne needed me in case the guy turned out to be a pain in the ass. He was armed and had the gun out, it’s best we both went in. The woman got lucky it was Susan waiting for her.”
Janah, “Ladies, we’re going to make sure this woman has a far more miserable life than the pleasure of a quick death. Find solace in that. Let’s wrap this and enjoy another bit of surf, sun, sand and sex between consenting adults.”
Chris, “Right on. You guys just came off a major terrorist threat to Manhattan and wound up in this shit. I’m gonna have a few tequila shots and chill. Do what you can for the kid and I’ll move on.”
Janah, “Good. The girl isn’t going to get fixed overnight. I’m going to empathize then get her to start dealing with reality. I think I can get her to avoid becoming permanently unstable as a consequence of her manipulation. That’s what I’m going for. I'm not going for any deep brain work, she's too young.”
After a short nap, Janah sits with the sleeping child, Nikko and I shower, play find the g-spot, nap on the sofa in front of the TV turned to practically inaudible. We get going at four. Taylor is stirring.
Janah gets her in a shower, her clothes has been moved to our room. We have a snack from the fruit and cheese the hotel stocks in suites, Janah and Nikko have tea, me coffee, black and strong, Taylor a coke, nibbling on an apple I’d cut up, then her appetite kicks in, she has cheese and crackers, then a bag of pretzels.
Janah, “Good sign. She’s not protesting, and she’s hungry. Bad sign, she’s not asking any questions.”
“Nikko and I will be on the balcony, observing nature and watching for a tsunami. You get her going, then maybe a session with the moms?”
Janah, “Good idea. Let’s see what happens when she begins to talk.”
I go downstairs long enough to bring the family up to speed, then Nishiko and I stake out places on the balcony. The sun is not quite setting to the west, the ocean is streaked with late afternoon sun, still, barely a ripple in the water. Apparently tsunami watch is overkill.
Janah has intentionally not asked questions. She hadn’t attempted to explain why she was in this room, or who we were. Taylor finishes her tea, looks around the room, sees Nikko and I on the balcony.
Taylor watches us holding hands, the balcony door is closed, we can hear the conversation in Janah’s head, “Are they lezzies?”
Janah, “All three of us, yes.”
Taylor, “So that’s why I’m here. Mother rented me to another lesbian, this time three lesbians?”
“No, Taylor. We don’t want anything from you. The two on the balcony found you at the hotel from last night. You appeared drugged. They brought you here, to rest, to be on your own for a bit. Your parents are in trouble, for pandering, pimping their daughter out for money.”
Taylor rolls her eyes, “Oh. That shit just started. They have me on a website, I went along, I kind of liked the attention. Bunch of e-mails from old pervs, some women, telling me I was a star, beautiful. I soaked it up at first. Then it was boring, nothing but photo shoot, change clothes, video, change clothes, show my bikini, show my panties. By the end of the day, I was exhausted.”
Janah, “So you were going through the motions, playing to the audience so to speak?”
Taylor, “I guess. Mother used to say modeling is like that, all sitting around, wardrobe changes, more poses, smile, pout, show disdain, tease. She said it was training for acting and modeling. It was bullshit, just about money. I was a piece of meat that looked hot in not very much. I may not the brightest bulb on the tree, but I started visiting some of the other girls’ sites. I got the idea.”
Janah, “When did it turn into something more?”
Taylor, “Mom said the site money was okay, but not going to make us millionaires. She said there were people who liked beautiful young girls, girls who would do more than just play undress in front of a camera. And that’s where there was lots of money to be made. I could buy almost anything on some dope’s card, just for letting him play around with me.”
“And what did you think?”
“I gamed them into giving me anything I wanted. I could smoke, take drugs, buy expensive crap, go places. I could do and spend almost anything. A princess, with someone else’s no limit card.”
“I can see the attraction. You stand around and look hot, they play a bit, you take a shower and go home with nicer stuff than you showed up with.”
“Yeah. I mean it has only been four times. But these people have unlimited money. All I had to do was say ‘I would like…’ and whatever it was would show up. I felt hot, wanted, rich, almost famous. Afterwards I felt weird, surrounded by more clothes and trinkets.”
“I’m reading that as you saying it wasn’t what you dreamed of, more like a nightmare.”
Taylor tries for casual, “Not scared, it was creepy. Two guys, then a married couple, then the lez. I know I am beautiful, I know I can dress it up to pick up a couple of years. I can dance, I can shut up, I can make the dopes feel handsome, pretty or important. It is easy. They could not do anything but touch, kiss my body. No sex, as in penetration. One guy wanted me to play with him, use my hands. The other wanted a blow job, so did the married guy, I only did them with my hand though. His wife did her thing with me. Like the woman last night.”
Janah is struck by how matter of fact she is about it, in a way, she thinks it better. There are no hysterics, the girl didn’t like what happened, but wasn’t confusing it with love or affection. Maybe something would blow up later, Janah sees no reason to get into a frenzy of reassurance, the girl doesn’t appear to need it.
“Your parents are in serious trouble. Whether you can handle these things or not, it’s considered child abuse. You can’t consent, even if you consent, not legally. There’s a significant chance you’ll never see your parents again, except on the TV news.”
“They do not give a fuck about me, the feeling is mutual.”
Janah doesn’t think it’s funny, she thinks Taylor might relax if she laughs at the comment, so she does.
Taylor actually smiles, then serious, “What the fuck happens to me? Do I have to go to some home for kid whores or what?”
Janah smiles again, “You really do have a kind of macabre sense of humor about all of this, I think that’s a good sign. You’re not as hard as you sound, still a little game playing going on. The other side is, you’re not playing ‘pity me’ either. Parents come in all sizes, some great, some just there, some users and abusers. You drew bad cards.”
Taylor looks out at the blue water, a tear rolls down her cheek; she looks at Janah, then sobs, holds on to Janah, shakes and trembles, “I feel like a thing, not a person, and I have nothing now.”
“Did you think we rescued you to let you waste away? Or become a child prostitute?”
Taylor sniffles, “Well, you are all lesbians," she is still teary, but cracks a small grin at the same time.
“So young, so cynical.”
Taylor actually laughs out loud, then cries again, then just lets Janah hold her.
“Can I have tea, it smells good.”
I come in and make a fresh pot of green-pomegranate, with cane sugar, bring everyone a cup. It doesn’t occur to Taylor how I’d know to do it.
Taylor smiles up at me, “Christ, you are all annoyingly gorgeous.”
“Thank you, my new very best friend.”
“Never had any friends.”
Nishiko sits next to her, no smile, her eyes solid black, no nonsense, “You have three friends now, and will make more soon. Don’t fuck it up.”
Taylor is shocked, then catches something in Nikko’s eyes and smiles, “I do not suppose I can jerk you guys around much."
Nikko says blankly, "Not even a little."
Taylor looks at Nishiko out of the corner of her eye, I see respect, appreciation, even relief.
Janah, “Enjoy the tea, later we’ll get dressed for dinner. You’re going to meet the moms.”
Taylor scrunches her nose, “Your mothers are here? No lectures please.”
Janah laughs, “They don’t do lecture. Just chill, and let’s begin to find our who Taylor is, not what someone else wants her to be.”
“Here’s how we do it.”
I play a YouTube of Joe Cocker's cover of A Little Help From My Friends on Janah’s laptop. The McCartney version is hokey sing-song, the Cocker cover is raw.
Taylor stares out of the balcony door, to the sea, one tear rolls down her cheek. I wipe it away and we sit on the couch, Taylor curls in, head on my chest. Perfect silence for the next half hour.

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