Chapter Twenty Five

Tonight we try Brio Tuscan Grille, lots of pasta, steaks, veal marsala, lobster and shrimp fettuccine, ravioli, the works plus. It’s a chain, but then, so is much of everything else these days. This one seems to work quite well.
Amaya has the girls in new outfits, “You do not want any of these old clothes?”
Dasha, “Nyet, already from someone before us.”
“Good, they are horrid.”
Daria is eyeballing her new self in the mirror, Amaya says, “Okay, we are eating close by, just a short walk.”
I used to be the big deal when we went out, then Amaya came along, then Chloe, my deal seemed to shrink daily, now the twins and my deal is no deal at all. Maybe I could go back to micro minis. Every eye in the place turns to see the identical angels, overhear, ‘adorable, how perfect, oh my,’ a plethora of other superlatives.
Dasha and Daria stay absorbed in the menu, and Janah’s Russian explanations, they get one order of shrimp and lobster fettuccine, then sample everything on our plates. I think we’re being served by every waitperson in the joint, the water guy keeps replacing full glasses with full glasses.
She allows them to split a Torta Di Cioccolata, chocolate cake with a warm gooey center topped with vanilla gelato and chocolate syrup. Daria even spoons up a bite and feds it to Chloe, who she wanted to sit next to her, her sister on her other side.
After finishing up a second bottle of Chianti, it’s time to get girls to the room and bed. Amaya and Chloe get them arranged, teeth brushed, clothes hung up, nightshirts that are t-shirts we brought along, they are snuggled into bed.
Janah comes in and tells them if they get up during the night and want company, to come get us, Dasha says, “Daria says Chloe ees slip wiz us.”
Chloe, “Sure thing,” she slides in next to Daria, Janah and Amaya leave the door cracked open.
We sit around the table, the lights are low, “I take it we have children again.”
Janah, “More like you and Chloe have children, Dasha stayed intent everything you said after the manicure.”
“They didn’t ask me to sleep with them.”
Just then Dasha peeks out the door, “Dahfoney, you will come slip now.”
Nikko, “Amazing.”
Janah, “I suppose we can fit four in our bed.”
Amaya, “The sofa folds out, you need rest; technically, you and Daphne were up all night, remember?”
Janah yawns, “Good point.”
ZI, “Nikko and I will take the sofa, we goofed off all afternoon.”
Janah, “I have to call the Society, the twins will need backgrounds and identification.”
She finds the SAT phone, talks for ten minutes, hangs up, Nikko and Zi make up the couch, I’m scrunched in next to Dasha. I hear Janah.
“Private plane tomorrow at noon, we lose an hour, should be home by six thirty.”
“I’m happy. Have a plan for the girls?”
“We can’t push them elsewhere, we’re the only people they know. I don’t know how much school they’ve had and they both need English lessons. I’d put them at our school, but it’s too far away. For now, they’re with us, they can use the language lab at Chapmans and I’ll work with them on the other stuff.”
“Once the Chapmans girls discover them, you may not get them back.”
“Being smothered in affection didn’t hurt Amaya or Chloe any. I was concerned about Daria, her latching on to Chloe is a good sign, I thought she might withdraw entirely, she was on the edge. Dasha is more outgoing, we don’t know what happened to create that, there can be innate temperamental differences in twins, but I think it’s something more, something that affected her more than Dasha. We’ll see when we see.”

The twins are all eyes, car and driver to the airport, a flight attendant to serve juice, soda, coffee and tea, a light lunch including shrimp cocktail appetizer, grilled fish, a vegetarian mix, brownies and cookies. The girls watch a movie and we are landing at Teterboro in no time. Car and driver wait, we’re home in thirty five. So nice not to deal with boarding two hundred bodies weighted down with carry-ons.
More big eyes as Chloe takes then through the apartment, Amaya offers to unpack, it’s six thirty, time to rustle up dinner.
We had Italian last night, I go for Chinese from Empire Szechuan, it’s delivered by seven fifteen and the girls are tasting their first ever Chinese food. I opted for spring rolls, a common dish of orange chicken, figured something sweet might be a good introduction, standard fried rice, triple order of vegetables in garlic sauce, which turns out to be a hit with the twins, go figure. They are Russian, black tea works for them, I give them Splenda instead of sugar, they don’t seem to care. I try to keep sugar to a minimum. We have an affinity for ice cream and chocolate, but we live extremely active lives. What the twins will be like remains to be seen, one thing they won’t be is fat.
Daria knocks over her cup, teas spreads across the table, not a lot, it was only half full, but she looks petrified, panicked, she says, “Ya sozhaleyu! Ya sozhaleyu!” (I am sorry.)
Dasha, “Don’t hit sister, mistake only.”
Janah answers in Russian, “You will never be hit here, it is a little spilt tea.”
Dasha hugs Daria, “Mother slap her for anything, even no thing.”
Chloe leans to Daria and kisses her forehead, wipes up the tea and pours her another cup.
Janah, “But not you.”
Dasha, “No so much. I am born first, she say Daria ees curse, one child bad, two ees punishment.”
Janah, “Guess we stumbled on the difference.”
“I think Chloe has it under control. She is too familiar with being beaten as a child.”

Chloe asks Janah to translate, “I was also beaten as a child, then these people showed up for me just like they did for you, and here I am, in a wonderful life.”
Chloe’s arms around her, she lays her head tentatively against Chloe’s chest. It’s one of those moments, Amaya dabs her eyes with a napkin. My heart hurts, I run my fingers through Dasha’s hair, she blinks at me, I kiss her smooth forehead.
After we eat, I call Sis, “Hello gorgeous, we’re back, things went well, not a bump, not on us anyway.”
Susan, “Glad to hear it, I was wondering, we hadn’t heard from you.”
“It was longer than anticipated, it happens. We also came home with double delights.”
“Amaya buy more jewelry?”
“Nope, we were gifted two jewels though, you have granddaughters.”
“Criminey cripes, who, how?”
“Long story, you can see them tomorrow. I’ll call when we’re up and about, come over for breakfast.”
“How old?”
“Eight or nine, we aren’t sure.”
“Same age, that’s coincidental.”
“Not if they’re twins.”
“Oh my, too precious, what do they look like?”
“Think blond blue eyed perfection.”
“Sheesh, I imagine how long it took to wrap you around their fingers.”
“I held them off for four, maybe five seconds, Chloe is also thoroughly under control.”
Sis laughs, “I can’t wait to see them, don’t sleep late. Taylor will be in a frenzy.”
“That’ll give you a reason to settle her down.”
“Already an upside to this.”
“They are from Belarus, but the language is close enough to Russian, Janah has no trouble talking to them, and one of the girls speaks passable English. I think the other speaks more than she lets on, more cautious than her sister.”
“Can I call Lacy?”
“I hear her at the door now, Chapmans security must have told her we’re back, she comes by to do a visual when we travel, no doubt so she can call you to verify our state of health.”
Susan, “You’re on to us.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Lacy is being introduced to the twins, I bring her a glass of wine, “More family.”
Lacy, “So I see, are they…?”
“Coming around, Chloe and Amaya have been great, they were introduced to nail polish and shopping, instant bonding.”
Lacy, “Nothing builds relationship like manicures and fashion.”
“And Amaya is the Goddess of both.”
Amaya, “Amaya is the goddess of everything.”
Dasha, “Eemaya theenk she ees royal peerson.”
Lacy laughs, “You have gotten to know her quickly.”
Dasha rolls her hand around, “Deesney, Seendorella.”
Amaya, “Cinderella wilts in my presence.”
Dasha, “Khoroshiy tovar sam sebya khvalit.”
“What’s Miss Know-It-All saying now?”
Janah, “Quality goods advertise themselves.”
Amaya giggles, “She has a point, I am self evidently spectacular, no reason to self promote.”
Chloe, “So you’re going to quit telling us how wonderful you are?”
“Do not be ridiculous, beanpole. I love hearing how wonderful I am, particularly from me, and it is required from my friends.”
Dasha gets a translation from Daria, then says to Amaya, “Eef you haf eeny.”
We laugh, Amaya kisses her, “Sharp tongue on the little witch, I like you better already.”
Dasha, “You will slip wiz me, Eemaya.”
Amaya, “We shall sleep in my room.”
“And sister, and Chloe?”
“Until you get accustomed, then you and Daria will have your own room.”
More translate, Dasha, “We never haf own room.”
Amaya, “You will now. Speaking of which, young ladies need to get in the bath, then ready for bed.”
Daria is yawning, it’s still early, eight fifteen, but they’ve had a travel day and a million new sights and sounds in just three days. Chloe takes them off to Amaya’s bathroom and fills the Jacuzzi, the girls bubble away in the warm relaxing water. When she goes in to check, two girls are resting against the back of the tub, Daria almost asleep. She drains it and uses the shower wand to rinse them off, dried, teeth brushed, gets them under the covers.
Chloe, “We’ll be in later, promise,” she kisses them both, leaves the door half open.
She joins us at the table, Lacy finishes her wine, “I need to call Susan and relay her good fortune. I’m assuming you need the language lab, do you want tutoring volunteers, the girls at school will love it.”
Janah, “Yes, but let me find out where they are. I have no idea. Literacy is high in Belarus, but their circumstances may be the exception. They speak some English, I don’t think they read anything but the simplest stuff.”
“Let me know. When you travel, I’ll fight Susan over them.”
“The best thing we can do for them is obvious, lots of affection.”

Chapter Twenty Six

We’re in bed by ten, Janah and I take Chloe’s room, then I’m up early, coffee, and tea underway, I start thinking about breakfast, dig around the refrigerator for bacon, ham, a dozen and a half eggs, geez, I’m going to need a cook if this keeps up.
I hear soft feet, then Dasha is beside me, “Want tea?”
She nods a yes, I ask, “Teeth brushed?”
She nods a no, “Go take care of it and your tea will be ready when you get back, you see how beautiful Chloe’s teeth are, that’s what you can have if you brush well.”
She ambles off, is back in a few, I set her cup on the table, “I’m making blinis in your honor.”
Dasha, “You know blini?”
“Yep, what do you like them with?”
“Buhter, jam.”
“Butter on the table, jelly and jam in the refrigerator.”
She opens the door, “Beeg refrigerating.”
“We have a big family, bigger now.”
Dasha turns from her explorations, “We are fahmahley?”
“You are our family, yes.”
“Ees gud, all girl fahmahley.”
“We think so too. Although we have a dad, he’s Janah’s father, but I call him dad.”
“What ees father?”
“Where is my father? Never knew him, got my mom pregnant, disappeared.”
“Me too. I see peekture, beeg man, leave for war, we are born, no come back.”
She has three kinds of preserves and a jar of Mayhaw jelly, I keep butter in a watertight contraption that lets it stay fresh, but not cold so it’s nice and soft, she spots a jar of caviar.
“You haf caviar.”
“Yes, want some, some folks eat blini with sour cream and caviar.”
“Da, you haf sour?”
“White plastic bowl, take it out so it can warm up a little.”
I start frying bacon, call Sis, back to the bacon, mix the blini batter, start making them on the griddle.
Dasha is alongside me, “I cook.”
I pull over a stool, hand her the spatula, I avoid instructions, just wait to see what she does, go back to flattening bacon and grilling half inch ham slices.
I do a quick blini check, the edges are crisping, she should be flipping, I start to say something, the spatula shoots out and the blini flips over as well as I could have done. There are four on the griddle, she does the next three, pop, pop, pop, when they’re done, she lifts them off to a paper towel on a plate.
Dasha, “How much?”
“Blini is popular and we have two guests, my mom and her friend, just keep going until the batter is gone.”
Coffee, frying bacon and ham have Janah, Nikko and Zi up, then I spot Amaya answering the door, it’s Sis and Taylor.
Amaya, “Chloe is dressing Daria, be in soon.”
Dasha is still in her long t-shirt, I don’t want to stop the blini queenie, Sis comes up and kisses me on the cheek, she sees Dasha intent, “I’ll be introduced later, I see you have skilled assistance.”
“It’s blini, she’s Russian, in the genetic code.”
Chloe arrives with Daria, in her new jeans, sneakers and Juicy Couture top.
Chloe, “Daria, this is Daphne’s mom Susan, Janah’s mom Kara, Susan’s friend Taylor, and Janah’s dad, James, everyone meet Daria.”
The parents know to keep it bone simple and smiley, Daria is polite, no smile, Chloe says, “Let’s get tea, or would you prefer juice?”
Daria, “Chay.”
Chloe, “There are cups on the table, black tea is in this pot. This is your home now, you are not a guest, you know how you like your tea, fix it for yourself, if you want something, ask for it.”
Janah translates along, Daria says clear as day, “I understand Chloe.”
Janah giggles, “Well at least I got to practice my Russian a bit.”
“I think she may have a few surprises for us, Dasha has a feel for blini making, I’m going to see what she can do with scrambled eggs, she also opted for caviar and sour cream.”
Janah, “Well, well, well.”
“Dasha, you want to cook the eggs?”
“Yes, hard or soft?”
“Very soft.”
She focuses on the big skillet of eggs, starts stirring. Then we eat.
Kara, “Dasha, these eggs are as good as Daphne’s.”
Dasha, “Easy, do no burn, cooking slow.”
“Cool, my exact technique.”
Dasha looks at me, “You cook here for all?”
“I’m the cook, yes, when we are at home, I like it.”
Dasha, “I luf cook, gud.”
“You have the touch for blini, these are excellent.”
Dasha, “Daria likes buhter, jam, I like caviar and, um, Daria, what ees smetana?”
Daria, “Sour cream.”
“Da, sour crim. Only not much, no caviar for poor peersons.”
James is observing, it’s his nature, a psychiatrist, a premiere diagnostician. Taylor is being unusually quiet, she is sensitive to the girls, not to overwhelm them with questions.
Daria is studying James, Chloe leans to Amaya, “Daria is curious about James, her aura was anger when she first saw him, a reaction to a man I suppose, but it’s softened, there is pale blue and white, curiosity.”
Daria asks Janah in Russian, “Father does not talk, all men talk, boss around everyone.”
Janah answers in Russian, “Not James, he listens mostly.”
Daria looks at James again, returns to her blini.

Chapter Twenty Seven

The parents know this is an introduction, not a family gathering, we finish breakfast, everyone has things to do. It’s Friday, James is going to the hospital, Susan has contracts to fulfill, Kara has a showing soon, Taylor and Amaya need to catch up on fashion class, Chloe has a photo session next week.
Nikko and Zi dress and head for the office in Chinatown, Janah goes with them, the car will drop her off at the temple. We have a new building under construction, Black has been following progress and forwarding photos but Nikko won’t be satisfied until she sees things for herself.
“We may walk down later with the girls and collect you, I’m going to explore where they are academically, let you know what I find out.”
Janah, “Good, I was going to get into it tomorrow, I really need to check in at the temple.”
“Of course, please pass along my hellos, see you later.”

“Chloe, Amaya, ask the girls what they studied in school, then get them on different laptops and see what they know about navigating computers, if they can read any English, know anything about dollars and cents, add and subtract.”
I go to the meditation loft and drop into no mind, pop up two hours later and go back to the living room, it’s empty, I spot Amaya and Dasha in Amaya’s room.
“Bring them to the living room, let’s see where we are.”
We sit around the dining table, have a cup of tea, Amaya says, “Dasha doesn’t read English, she can do math, some difficulty with fractions, but not bad. She can read and write in Cyrillic, knows her way around the computer, the buttons are the same, just not in Russian. They learned both Belarusian and Russian in school, as Janah noted, they are not much different conversationally. They were taught general nature, a fair amount of Belarusian history and current political philosophy. They have excellent self care skills, brushing teeth, personal cleanliness, a solid physical education program. Apparently Dasha has gymnastic skill.”
Chloe, “The same. Daria can read some English, has excellent math ability.”
“How did they diverge so young?”
Chloe, “According to Daria, Dasha is the more outgoing and active, Daria more studious and introverted, keeps to herself is how she put it. As Janah suspected, her English is far better than she lets on.”
Dasha, “Seester remember everything, does math in head, no paper. Een school, paper, so they no know. Eef they find out she ees gud, send her to other school. Daria no leef sister.”
“Remember everything? Would you show me Daria?”
She recaps the menu from Brio in Houston, after she works her way down to entrees, I get the idea, “Excellent, Janah has the same kind of memory, I’m glad to know. I suggest another hour on the computer, but something interesting, you can point out English words, go to Chloe’s fan page maybe.”
Amaya, “That is a good idea, Daphne.”
Dasha, “For what ees Chloe fahn page?”
“We will take a look.”
They move to Amaya’s room, she has the desk, I pull in a couple more chairs and evaporate. I need to move, I go to the workout room, stretch and do forms for an hour, just loose and relaxed, flexibility, not power.
On my last couple of forms, Dasha is at the door watching, when I finish she says, “What are they for?”
“Nikko, Zi and I are martial artists, you know what that is?”
Dasha, “Karate.”
“Yes, that’s one kind, we do gung fu, Chinese, and taekwondo, Korean and a few other things. It is our exercise. What is your exercise?”
“Geemnastic.”
“Show me.”
She’s in shorts, barefoot with a t-shirt, she slides her foot forward and sinks effortlessly into a front split, twists until she is in a full side split, leans forward until her torso is flat on the floor. I can do these things, in training since I was five, you can be limber as all get out if you start young.
She stands, does a set of handsprings across the floor, then back handsprings, stands on one foot, holds the other straight over her head, replicates with the other foot, then a back flip, sticks it, then a running front flip, sticks that too.
I applaud, “Super! You are really good. You like gymnastics?”
“Da, I practice, but they do not allow time, then we move weeth old people, no to do much with old people, we go school, school free in Belarus.”
“We have a balance beam on the roof,” I make like I’m walking the beam.
Her eyes widen, “I will see.”
Up to the roof, I pull the tarp off the beam, it doesn’t get much use since Miyako grew up and Chan and Ning moved to Chinatown. I come up occasionally, just for balance practice.
Dasha springs to the beam, hands first, then flips over to a standing position. She walks it back and forth, then a handstand. Legs split forward and back, rolls over to a standing position, spins one eighty, repeats the move the other way. She runs to the end, handsprings off, flips and sticks a landing.
Her audience applauds, Amaya says, “Ten, perfect performance, gold medal.”
Daria mounts the bar, gracefully up and down, slides into a split, the straddles the bar and pushes herself into a handstand. She walks back and forth, doesn’t attempt anything else, a wobble here and there. She dismounts from a handstand, rolls over, lands too far forward, I catch her before she tumbles.
More applause, Daria says, “Dasha better.”
Chloe, “I think it’s splendid, both of you do you want to take classes?”
Daria explains in Russian.
Dasha, “Da! Ees possible?”
Chloe, “Of course, and Daria?”
Daria, “I like the dance, they do not teach in our school. Only for special school.”
Amaya, “You are in luck. Lacy, you remember from last night? She and I dance every week, even freckles does it.”
Daria glares, “Be nice! Chloe vesnushki, her fans love, I am also now fan.”
“That’s why she does not mind that I call her freckles, I kiss them all the time, she likes that. What are they in Russian, vez..?”
Daria, “Vesnushki,” (pron. vez-nosh-key-uh)
“Vesnushki, I shall switch to that, what do you think, Vesnushki?”
Chloe, “I like it, but freckles is good too.”
Daria, “No, Vesnushki is better, you will be Vesnushki.”
“Should we put that on the fan page, introduce a little Russian to the people? We have a lot of Japanese up there now.”
“No for fans, fahmahley only.”
“How very sweet,” she gives Daria the blazing Chloe smile, violet eyes captivate.
Daria hugs her, then takes her sister’s hand, I put the tarp back over the beam, we go downstairs. I wonder how many layers our identical flowers have, and how they will unfold.

Chapter Twenty Eight

We have a light lunch, cut up apples, banana, yogurt, cheddar and havarti cheese, warm French bread and butter. If the girls are particular about food, it hasn’t shown up yet, while they eat, I mental Janah.
“They need to learn to read English, math is good, Daria speaks better English than Dasha, she was cautious because in Belarus they would be separated. Where to begin? Daria has a photographic memory, Dasha is a gymnast, and quite good, took her to the balance beam, she’s all over it, wants to go to gym class. They have been taught good hygiene practices. They have not been out of school, third or fourth grade. Computer is second nature, just English navigation things. Not so bad really.”
Janah, “Very good I’d say, and they know not to go around babbling about things. Sooner or later, they will discover us, finding out they can keep things to themselves is a relief. Are you coming here?”
“Yes, they need to get out of the apartment and into the grit and grime of New York. Don’t know when exactly, I’ll keep you posted.”

Janah, “We had Chinese last night, so don’t need Fong’s tonight, you have something in mind, pizza maybe?”
“Sure, keeps it simple.”

We disconnect, “Amaya, Chloe, let’s get out of here and beat the streets. Eventually we’ll meet Janah at the temple.”
Twenty minutes later we’re standing in front of Juju’s knickknack table of knockoffs, under which is a collection of not knockoffs that mysteriously fell off trucks and found their way to the Jamaicans.
Juju, “An who is dis? I see double, maybe less ganja for Juju,” his brilliant white teeth grinning down on the girls.
“This is Dasha, and this is Daria, they are from elsewhere, live with us now.”
The girls are staring at the huge men behind Juju, I introduce Mighty Jim and Quiet Man, then Timothy, who is normal size, sort of, five ten, maybe a hundred forty pounds, I may be shading it high.
Dasha, “What ees, um, speaking?”
“They are from Jamaica, in the Caribbean.”
Daria whispers to her, Dasha says, “Oh, beach, blue water.”
Juju, “Yes, plenty beach, plenty water.”
Dasha is looking over the table, “This ees store?”
Juju, “Our store, yes, we sell de finest merchandise at big deescount.”
“What ees deescount?”
Juju laughs, “She make good Jamaican girl.”
“In our English, it is discount, it means less than the regular price.”
Juju points, “And dat merchandise is called de Night Rain collection, Amaya’s favorites. De tings she select, dey sell de best.”
Dasha points to herself, “Eemaya decides clothes. What ees Night Rain?”
I explain that Amaya has a Japanese name, and that is what it means.
Dasha thinks this over, “Sister ees correct.”
“About what?”
Dasha, “Eemaya.”
She doesn’t elaborate, I let it drop.
Juju, “Do you see somethin’ you like young ones?”
Dasha looks at Amaya, she selects a couple of rings, slides them on Dasha’s fingers, then a necklace, colorful laminate beads with alternating glass stones, asks Daria if she likes it, gets an affirmative nod, slips it over her head. Daria feels it, Juju holds up a mirror, she studies herself, neutral expression never changes.
Juju, “Beautiful, you make de jewelry look better, take it, a gift from me.”
Amaya, “Thank you, Juju. The girls are just learning English, I am certain they are most appreciative.”
Juju grins, “Don’ tink of it, dey are learning trust. Janah has de’ sight for de’ special, dees girls, like all her collection, got a special talent. Soon we see, always mystical, how de White Angel do dees t’ings.”
Amaya grins, “It is so.”
“Let’s meet our friends across the street.”
Chloe and I shepherd them across, Amaya stays to look though a box of Juju’s new additions.
Mini, “Hey girls, who’s the bookends, geez, identical, good thing you dress ‘em different.”
“They prefer it that way,” I introduce the girls to Chuck and Mini, they are reserved, but polite, still not warm towards men, comfortable enough if we know them.
Amaya comes in, Mini says, “Ah, the rare beauty,” snags her cheek, “What’ll it be?”
“Coffee, black tea for the girls, they can have something sweet if they wish, they will share it.”
Chuck brings the drinks, Chloe lets them look over the dessert case, piece of chocolate cake, we sit and enjoy Chuck’s strong coffee, the girls share bites of cake. I’m just finishing my cup when I see Mini nod towards the back room.
“Excuse me, I need a word with Mini,” I join him in the storage room used for private meetings between people who need a neutral site and zero visibility.
Mini, “More family?”
“We came across them in the usual way, left a few child sellers strewn around in bad to terminal condition. The girls have nothing to go home to, no place to go in America. They would have been sent back overseas and recycled. We aren’t having that.”
Mini, “You guys gotta buy a hotel or something.”
I laugh, “Don’t give Nikko ideas, she’s already building something in the Bronx.”
“Yeah, that’s why I wanted to talk. Plenny guys who could never have gotten decent work except for you and Janah are very appreciative. If they could afford it, they would do the work they got on the new place free.”
“Thank them, and you can tell them Nikko doesn’t do free, or discount, she wants the very best they have, they will be properly paid for it.”
Mini, “I’ll do it.”
“We’re going to need to put something on the roof of Chapmans. The girls need a room, I don’t want to give up our workout room. I have to talk to Lacy, but I don’t think she’ll care. Nikko will decide with an architect whether to move the workout room up there, or the new bedroom and bath up there. We’ll use your guys as much as possible. It’s not major stuff, but it’s work if they want it.”
Mini, “They’ll jump at the chance to work with the Daphne snack bar around, they still talk about the first renovation you did, then it was just painters. Now we got plumbers, electrical, cabinets, bunch of other construction subs. You gonna get the best.”
“Nikko will give them a heads up on timing.”
“Those kids fell into a good life with the best people. Gotta cook, you need anything, my phone better ring first.”
“Always, big man.”
I collect the crew, we head to Chinatown, intermediate stops in Soho when the girls discover more shops. Two pairs of skinny jeans, and a pair of shoes each, we make our way across Canal and into Chinatown. Near the temple, I run into a group of kids I’d known for years, since they were younger than the twins, now they are nearly eighteen.
We jabber away in Chinese, I introduce Dasha and Daria, the boys are men, Chinese and streetwise, the girls are a little intimidated, but don’t cling to us. We talk of Mrs. Fong, stories of the herb shop and how we hung out while Janah treated the old ones.
“Got to go guys, good seeing you, I’m not going to tell you to stay out of trouble, just don’t get caught. Chan will only tolerate so much.”
They laugh, these kids could take your wallet and your watch and disappear before you took two steps. We use them for information, if it’s going on in Chinatown, they have it covered, and they keep an eye on things around our Chinatown property. Nikko pays cash, they like cash. There is no trouble at Fong’s, if anyone gets too drunk or stupid and Chan isn’t around, the boys appear out of nowhere and trouble goes away. They know martial arts and they know knife and chain. Our Chinatown property is the safest in the city.
We leave them to whatever illegality they’ve decided to get up to next.

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