Chapter Twenty Nine

Back now, Amaya asks, “No one else left the fourplex?”
“Nope. Doubt they know what’s happened yet, Eloise is flying the drone over there now. It’s got an hour or less of battery time left, but she can try and pick up conversation at their place, the other man is in a bugged apartment. Can’t believe they haven’t stumbled onto the bugs yet.”
Amaya, “How does she know if the drone runs out of juice?”
“Same way you know your phone needs recharging.”
Amaya, “Geez, what else does she have on it? If it writes books, I am going to crush it.”
“Well, it makes pretty good movies.”
Amaya, “I wonder if we could make a film entirely by drone?”
“Don’t see why not.”
Eloise, “Different kind of camera, but it could work.”
Amaya, “I shall mention it to Childers.”
Black, “Janah, how did you know the man was going to leave?”
Janah, “That would be his first reaction as a Shadow, these people aren’t pals, they are at best business associates. He also could have taken a deep breath, analyzed the situation and realized leaving was a bad idea. They’d already been interviewed by the police, people saw him with the woman, leaving would be a mistake. He also knows someone is out for them. Self preservation made him want to at least get in the car if not drive off . If he decided to leave, he could use the other deaths to justify getting gone. He couldn’t just stand around, only thing to do was get in the car.”
Black, “You figured all that out in a few seconds?”
Janah, “I have three brains, mine, Nikko’s and Daphne’s. We all went into scenario mode instantly, our brains saw the possibilities without us actually discussing them. Better that way, your brain works much faster if you don’t slow it down by thinking. It formulated the conclusion before I was even aware of it.”
Black, “So all that analysis happened in less time than it took you to tell it?”
Janah, “Milliseconds, nano-time.”
Black, “Gonna be meditating on that for a while.”
Eloise has the audio on, we see the fourplex, well, we see the exterior brick, the drone is nose to the wall. It must be in back, can’t have a drone hovering in plain sight of the street in the daytime. People miss a lot in their field of vision, but they don’t miss everything.
Man’s voice, “Where are Suleiman and Evert? They were just going to check the school and make sure they can control the cop.”
Second Voice, “Perhaps they decided to eat out.”
First Voice, “Idiots. We have planning to do. Get one of them on the phone. Martha and the others will be here this evening. We have to rearrange the assignments.”
Third Voice, “I told you last night, and I’m saying again, we need to get out of these apartments and into a hotel. You do what you want, but I’m checking in someplace until this is finished.”
First Voice, “You may be right, in any case it will keep the police off our backs. Patrol cars circle around here three times a day. Use the back door, don’t be seen carrying a suitcase to the car in front. And don’t check in under your current name.”
Third Voice, “You think I am an idiot like that asshole Indian? Hotheaded prick, got him killed.”
Second Voice, “Yeah, and whoever did it must have been fucking good. The Indian was a jerkoff, but he had tremendous power. Wait, Suleiman’s phone is ringing.”
Third Voice, “More reason to vacate for now.”
First Voice sneers, “Are you afraid?”
Third Voice, “No, just not stupid.”
Second Voice, “Fuck.”
First Voice, “What now?”
Second Voice, “Guess who answered Suleiman’s phone?”
Third Voice, “Who?”
Second Voice, “A fuckin’ cop. Suleiman and Evert are dead. The cops are on their way here…again.”
We hear a knock on the door.
Janah, “Eloise, pull out the drone, they will go around back.”
We watch the drone rise, see the entire building from above, an officer is just rounding the corner from the side. The police hadn’t come with sirens.
David Li, “That was close. Although I’m not sure what he would make of a drone, maybe he believes in aliens.”
We laugh.
Chloe, “What if he shot it?”
Janah, “Firing a gun in the air in a residential neighborhood? What if he missed? That’s a lot of report writing, and for all he knows it’s a kid’s toy. Since the drone may not have seen him, I suppose he could try and swat it out of the air with something. It was only at the first floor, maybe twelve feet up. They could reverse the GPS and find its home.”
“That’s not good.”
Daria, “It is okay, Eloise can destroy by entering a code, no backtracking, everything fried.”
“Dang, that’s slick. Is she the only one that knows the code?”
Dasha, “Dahfoney ees ridiculous, Daria know code, eef Daria know, I know. Code ees four, one, eighteen, nine, one.”
Chloe, “Is it random?”
Janah, “No, it’s Daria using the letters of her name corresponding to their numerical place in the alphabet.”
Black, “So they told you, too?”
Dasha, “Black ees now ridiculous one, eef Dahfoney does not know code, Janah does not know code.”
Black, “Duh…wait, she reels off numbers and you figure out where she got them?”
Janah, “The clue was eighteen in the middle. If she’d said one eight, might not have cracked it.”
The cop cars are still there, the drone watches another twenty minutes, then Eloise  brings it back for a charge, she and Daria are talking while it returns. It lands on the balcony, she goes out to retrieve it.
Daria, “Eloise has idea. We will add camera, to see both sides and rear as well as front, no more surprise. Also drone fire dart. Do not have to chase around in car with gun.”
“What if we need to fire twice, like today?”
Daria, “She will make four or five, like revolver pistol.”
Janah, “Splendid, we’ll be like today’s military, death by anonymous technology.”
“You will be able to use any drug, not only kill, to knock out, to make hallucination, confused. Safer to approach, no more shuriken, dart drone, dart pistol only, no drug on shuriken. Inside, use dart gun, use shuriken to maybe distract.”
“Why didn’t I think of that?”
Dasha, “You haf old way, Eloise haf new way, ees better.”
I kiss her forehead, “It is better, dear one. I’ll try to keep up.”
Dasha, “We will teach, no mahter.”
My family laughs at me, fond reminder of the old days.

Chapter Thirty

The drone is recharged, Eloise flies it to the fourplex, the police are gone, there’s another car on the street. She takes the drone around the car, it’s a rental. Has to be the visitor’s wheels. She circles the fourplex from above, nobody outside, she plants a tracker on the new wheels. Then up, over the apartments, sinks it down to the same spot as before, just over the rear window, the shade is drawn. That doesn’t matter except we can’t see the newcomers. The microphone drops down under the fuselage, like an upside down old style car antennae.
A woman is talking, “You still have no idea who’s picking you off? What the hell have you been doing? If they found us, we can find them.”
First Voice, “Martha, we looked, all the hotels, no trace, we even checked a B&B, there isn’t but one. They’ve holed up in a house or apartment someplace. Driving around randomly is no help.”
Martha, “Well they found you, didn’t they?”
First Voice, “I have no idea how, but, yes, they did. And now they are killing us.”
Second woman, “Why are you still here?”
Third Voice, “What I’m wondering.”
First Voice, “We decided to go today, but the police were here, then you came in. We are going to hotels tomorrow, different hotels.”
Martha, “We’re at the Hampton, don’t fucking go there. Let’s get on to business. Since you’ve been busy getting your asses kicked, I’m assuming you haven’t reorganized.”
First Voice, “We’ve been trying to stay alive long enough to carry out the plan. Devon and Evert went to check out the cop at the school, but they got themselves wasted so we don’t know if they succeeded in controlling him. Have to take another run at it tomorrow. We know the banks, there are only three with enough money for the effort, that’s settled. We were going to the second school in the morning, that’s not in the cards now.”
Martha, “Why not? Rashid and I will go. You drag your sorry ass over to the first school and see what’s what. I’m not going to stay in this shithole town any longer than I need to. We set this up for Monday and it is going down Monday. If I can take the cop’s mind at the school, I’ll do that Monday morning, then monitor until the shooting starts. Who’s going to the first school?”
First Voice, “I am.”
Martha, “Don’t be an idiot, you have to go to the bank, you can’t do both, what’s the point of you doing the practice run. Whoever is going to be there on Monday will have to be the one to do the practice run.”
First Voice, “We can all take minds.”
Martha, “So one of you is going to the school for the first time, doesn’t know the drill, then has to perform without knowing for sure, without knowing the distances? I’m in business with morons.”
Third Voice, “I’ll do the school. I want to be the guy who gets a fucking cop to kill children.”
First Voice, “You are a psychotic bastard, Donald.”
Third Voice is Donald, “McKenzie, we’re all psychotic bastards.”
Laughter, they’re getting off on this.
Martha, “We lost the chance to have all the banks covered right when kiddie kill starts. If we have two people in cars at the schools, that leaves only two for three banks. I want a backup at the schools, that’s essential, we may need more juice to insure absolute control. Once the shooting starts, it doesn’t matter if he kills two, five or twenty. The four at the schools will go immediately to the banks. Two go to the bank we don’t have covered, the other two go to the second school in two cars.
From there, one can go to one bank, one to the other. Am I clear?”
Second Voice, “Yeah, I got it, just need to decide who goes to the first school with Donald. I can’t stand his ass, don’t send me.”
Donald, “That ain’t friendly like, Escobar.”
Okay, we have all the names except the second woman. Not that it matters much, none of the names do us any good.
Escobar, “Fucking baby rapist.”
Donald laughs, “She was ten, nearly a grown woman. You shoulda seen the six year old, tender as prime filet, fresh. You use your thing to get broads.”
Escobar, “Grownups.”
Martha, “Fucking pigs.”
McKenzie, “Oh please. You get teen boys to fuck you.”
Martha, “In Spain the age of consent is thirteen.”
“And your teenagers all consented?”
Martha laughs, “They will tell you they did. They will tell you they raped me.”
Rashid, “We are all young flesh gourmets, an easy taste to acquire, and most enjoyable. When I have my money, I will travel the world and enjoy them in their very own cultures, I may write a best seller about it, rate the talent so to speak.”
More laughter, Second Voice, “Conscience is such an inconvenience, I am glad to be done with it.”
Martha, “You don’t even use kids yourself, Audra, just make them do each other and masturbate. Fucking waste.”
Audra, “We each have preferences, that is mine, I enjoy it immensely. Particularly when I can get a brother and sister.”
Donald, “If I believed in hell, we’d be meetin’ up there sooner or later.”
Martha, “Donald, we are hell.”
The laughs just keep coming, this crowd thinks they’re funnier than Louis CK.
“So who goes with Donald?”
Audra, “I’ll go, I don’t give a shit how whack he is.”
“Then you two go in two cars and to separate banks, Rashid and I will go to the third bank.”
McKenzie, “No reason to change the meeting place afterwards I assume.”
“None I can see, it’s near the airport and I get gone. I do have a little surprise for you, something I cooked up we hadn’t thought of.”
“We are all ears.”
“Suppose, before we get the cash, we make the manager wire funds out of his largest accounts to an account for us?”
Escobar, “That’s brilliant.”
“I have an account all set up, money will bounce around and find a resting place. Then we get our little manager bitches to fetch the cash in the vault, no point in fucking with tellers, they don’t have that much cash and we would have to control all of them. When you have your bag of goodies, walk out the door and go to the meet up.”
Donald, “How we get the wired money out of the account?”
“You set up an account wherever you are, send me the number, I’ll send you your cut.”
“None of us can be trusted beyond spittin’ distance, why am I gonna fall for that shit?”
“Because I’m taking a twenty five percent cut off the top plus my one sixth after that. I thought it up. Next time you can do the same thing on your own, and I don’t want you assholes looking for me because I cheated you. I’m running with my plan in the future, I don’t need to screw you.”
McKenzie, “You know, we don’t really have to kill kids to do this.”
Donald, “Where’s the fuckin’ fun in that? When I get my money, I’m gonna have a cop shoot some asshole just to watch them die.”
The psychotics find this hilarious.
Martha, “We went through that McKenzie, if any screw up happens at a bank, we don’t have the police all over us. Every fucker with a badge will be at the schools, the media will be at the schools, we have a lot easier time disappearing.
Nikko, “I want to watch them die, tonight.”
Good idea.

Chapter Thirty One

Janah, “Amaya, take Nikko and Chan to the Hampton. Daphne, you Black and Daria go in the other, Zi, you and I will take the sedan. They’re going to show up in the rental, we have it tracked. We’ll be waiting. David Li, we need birds, anything predatory. Ride with us in the sedan. Chloe, I need you to stay with Dasha and Eloise. A hint of a Shadow, Dasha can reach out to Daphne. We’ll leave an air rifle here. I seriously doubt they come looking, they’re going to hotels tomorrow and have assignments in the morning, but be on the safe side. Do any of you know how to handle the darts and rifle?”
Dasha, “I will shoot gun, Dahfoney show already me.”
Janah looks at me, I nod, “She can do it.”
Janah, “Get suited up, let’s get moving, hustle, they could leave any minute. If they get in the hotel, we’re screwed for tonight.”
Twenty minutes later we have the lot surrounded at the far corners, away from the entrance drive. Any car coming in we can spot, we’re far enough that they can’t sense us, that means we can’t sense them either, but we have them on GPS and know what their car looks like, they don’t know ours.
The tracker is stationary, then starts up, the green dot slides along the map, headed in our direction, what looks like halfway, it stops, makes a small slide left, they’ve stopped, crap.
“Looks like they’ve stopped.”
Janah, “I see that. I’m guessing they’re getting something to eat, or picking up takeout. There’s no dinner at Hampton.”
“Hang on…okay, location checks as a supermarket, a Chinese place next door.”

Nikko, “Should we go there?”
Janah, “Birds are here, we’d have to shift them, this place is quiet as death outside, I can see the lobby, no one roaming around in there either, the supermarket lot will be busier. Let’s stick to the plan.”
Fifteen minutes, then the dot gets active, headed right to us.
“Everyone set? The movie is about to begin.”
“Yes, yes, yes.”

The insane clown posse car, a Ford Taurus, bumps into the lot and pulls in a slot to the right of the entrance. There’s a grassy median separating a row of parking on the other side. Passenger side door opens first, then a rear driver’ side, then the driver’s door. We want them all out and the car doors closed and locked. They lean into the car to collect their bags from the grocery, the bags go on the roof and the trunk pops open.
“Cool, they haven’t checked in yet, have to mess with luggage.”
I hear Janah mental Nikko, “Tell David Li, when they are screwing with luggage, after it’s out and the trunk lid closes, send the birds. Then take the simplest shot.”
I’m in the Ford, Black pops the hatch, I have one of the women in my sights, I’m focused on my target, don’t know what else is happening, our companions are scanning the lot for innocents, cars pulling in, anything amiss.  
The trunk lid thunks down, roller suitcase handles slide up and snap into place, the three move to collect the bags on the roof of the car.
There is a blast of sound, I hear dozens of wings pushing air, I see blackbirds, big, with nasty sharp beaks swoop down on the three targets. Hands wave, bags of food flail back and forth to keep the birds at bay. One lands on a woman I have sighted and pecks the side of her face, I see blood, she stops to pull the big bird off, I fire. The dart hits her in the abdomen, as the bird takes an eye, she falls over backwards, her head splats the concrete wall surrounding the median.
I look up, the man is slumped over his suitcase by driver’s side door, he pitches forward, the suitcase underneath him. Somehow, the last woman has made it across the median and is bolting to the entrance. I hear tires screech and Amaya, in the Murano, cuts her off. I’m reloading, then look up to see Daria calmly exit our car and walk to the woman, she radiates a malevolence I don’t recall seeing on any Shadow. She raises her hand to the Murano, I am trying for a shot, the angle sucks, if I miss, I could hit Daria or someone in the car. I’m watching though the sight, praying for a shot, I see the woman straining, the roof of the Murano dents from the force of her energy, Daria stalks her prey as if nothing is happening. The woman turns to Daria, the birds are after her, they swoop and swerve, can’t make contact. I get out of the car, push all the qi I can muster into Daria. The woman has her hand raised, I see strain on her face, keeping the birds at bay and dealing with Daria are taxing her. Then, the most amazing thing happens, she melts. I blink, try to process, no flame, no smoke, she melts.
Daria comes back to the car, when her door closes Black nearly shoots me into the cargo area he stomps it so hard, we screech out of the lot, I see the sedan ahead of us, that’s Janah, Amaya on our bumper.
We slow, no point in messy traffic cop questions, return to the apartments. Janah is on the phone while we ride, arranging to swap cars. In the action, we can’t be certain people weren’t peering out of hotel windows or even in the lobby. It’s a cell phone world, pictures and videos are easy. They may have Daria, doesn’t matter, we always do these things disguised. Besides, they only saw her walking towards the woman, connecting Daria to the meltdown is a stretch.
At the apartment, Janah says, “Unload the equipment, drivers, take the cars a couple of blocks down the street, leave the keys under the mat. Fresh vehicles will be available in the morning.”
Dasha, “We watch on drone, Nikko and Dahfoney shoot, sister makes woman into zoup.”
Chloe, “How did you avoid her energy, Daria, she put a dent in the Murano?”
Daria, “Chan, Janah, Daphne add qi, I appreciate.”
Zi, “Ah, lots of trouble for her.”
Daria, “She has no chance.”
Chloe, “But how did you know they would add qi?”
Daria shrugs as if it’s a given, “Family always help.”
Janah, “Trust.”
“Remarkable.”

Chloe has tears in her eyes. She has patiently listed to and talked with Daria for seven years, seen her aura bloom from darkness to this moment, largely due to Chloe’s compassion. They say you can’t fix psychopaths, their amygdala doesn’t process emotion. Daria processed something.
Amaya, “It wasn’t just Chloe, Daphne. We taught them to fake it, then Daria practiced at the Village Diner and the reception she got from customers reinforced that training. Her mind may never be fully social, a little antisocial is not necessarily a bad thing.”
“Particularly in our line of work.”


Chapter Thirty Two

Janah, “I hadn’t thought of it either. Now I’m pondering the parallels between what people call mindfulness and psychopathy. Both are distanced from emotional judgment, for instance.”
“Glad I’m more easily amused, sounds like the heavy lifting you like.”

Janah, “When we clean up the remaining three and get home, I have a brand new subject for research, the sociopathic Buddhist.”
“Sounds like a book title.”

Janah giggles, “Sounds like us.”
I prefer to mindfully not dwell on it, that’s Janah’s department. We’re gathered around for breakfast, we had only a light dinner, murdering people, even Shadows is not appetite stimulating.
Nikko, “What happens today?”
Nikko can already read Janah’s thoughts, she asks questions that the others have on their minds.
Janah, “I want to go home. Eloise is keeping an eye on their movements. Soon enough they’re going to figure out the other three are toast, or soup. That screws up the plan to rob banks. Martha, however, has opened them up to the idea of wire transfers for their future financial planning. I wouldn’t put it past Donald to do the school thing just to do it, if not here, then wherever they move on to. Or even have Donald start mayhem at the school and the others take the big bank. We have to remember, these people don’t do fear and they don’t think in terms of consequences. Normal thieves would have split when their pals started getting picked off, these guys didn’t budge until attention from the police got annoying.”
Nikko, “Now that the three from out of town are dead, why do we need to talk to them at all?”
Janah, “We need to know how this came together, did they attend a Google Shadow hangout? Is there a network online? We haven’t dealt with twelve in total over the time we’ve been aware of them, and here there were a dozen with a common objective. How did that happen?”
Nikko, “Fair enough. They are going to be in three hotels if they stick to their plan, and we don’t have them bugged.”
Janah, “We know where the cars are, the only decision is do we wait for them to meet, or take them individually?”
Zi, “What if they don’t meet? Do it all by phone for instance.”
Black, “She’s right, we have to get to them soon, it’s Friday, their original plan was for Monday. Drop one school, go to one bank. They only have to split three ways now, not twelve.”
Janah, “One problem solved, now figure out how we get to them. They’re going to be on high alert. Just knocking on the door isn’t going to cut it.”
I pour coffee, others make a cup of tea, we sit across the apartment weighing scenarios. Do we wait for one to leave and try a snatch? David Li has tranquilizer darts, have a couple of us on one and overwhelm him with qi? We go to the room, they know we’re there, a fight in a hotel room makes a lot of noise. They are aware we won’t leave them alive, they have no reason to cooperate without pharmaceutical or physical coercion.
An hour and a half passes, Daria says, “Three hotels, Days Inn, Baymont Inn, next to each other, Comfort Inn six miles across city.”
Janah, “We know who drives what cars from the trackers.”
Nikko, “Do we really need to talk to all three?”
Janah, “No, two will do, I want to compare stories. It seems like Donald is the biggest of the lost causes, he can go. Nobody likes anybody in their world, but they seemed to like him the least. My bet is he’s staying across town. McKenzie and Escobar sounded like they got along okay.”
Chloe, “Zi or I can tell from their voices easily enough. Send the drone over and tap into his room.”
“What if he’s just sleeping or watching TV? We could sit there for two hours without him saying anything.”
Daria, “We have plan.”
Amaya, Chan and I are in an Escalade. We are at the Comfort Inn, it’s Friday, not quite noon. Guests have checked out and these places don’t do a lot of weekend business. His car is near lonely in the parking lot. The housekeeping cart is on the other side of the motel, our side is empty. Amaya has the Escalade forty yards down, facing away from his car, a blue ten year old Volvo sedan.
Chan sidles alongside the sidewalk passing rooms until he’s thirty feet from the Volvo, the car Donald drives. He stops, his back is to us, the passenger side window shatters and the horn goes off, usual annoying honk, honk, honk, honk that drives everyone nuts.
It’s hard to hear anyone speak with the racket, but Eloise has the drone over the edge of the roof, microphone extended.
The horn does it’s thing for twenty seconds, a door opens on the first floor and a man comes out with his keys, clicks the fob and the car shuts off, He walks to the car, looking around, the drone is twenty feet overhead, he spots the broken glass, “What the fuck!”
I ease back on the trigger and thwack a syringe in his back, we watch him die. Twenty minutes later we’re at the apartment.
Janah, “Good thinking to retrieve the tracker.”
“We couldn’t get to the others, got one back anyway.”
Janah, “We’ll get the ones still at the fourplex tonight. The ones from McKenzie and Escobar. Nothing to do about the others, cars are impounded. Eloise has them disabled. If they’re ever found, they require passwords to activate, and if that’s cracked all it tells anyone is where the car went.”
“Fingerprints?”
Daria, “No fingerprints.”
“Damn you’re good.”
Daria, “Da.”
I hear Eloise gurgle a tiny giggle.

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