Chapter Twenty Nine
Arizona fun has to slide to a halt, time for Sloane to go to school. She's kept up her studies in Prescott, but she wants to be with her friends in Manhattan. Janah, Eloise, Sloane and I return. Nikko, Zi, Oceane, the twins, Amaya and Chloe are staying on. It's the cars, they're having too much fun racing to want to go home just yet, Oceane can have the pool a few weeks longer. The twins can dirt bike to their heart's content.
Dasha mentals me on the flight, "Dahfoney, you will get me Harley bike for New York. I am looking at one now, you see it?"
"Yes I do, nice ride."
"Da, I will take lesson, or maybe Black can show me."
"Either way, Black would be happy to do it."
"Okay, I am going to ride dirty bike now."
She clicks off, "Dasha wants a Harley for town."
Janah, "You mean Manhattan."
"Yes, she has one picked out. Looks manageable, it's not one of the big touring monsters."
"Daria is going to want one too."
"Maybe. I think they retail for around eight thousand, it's no big deal. They'll look awesome all tricked out, boots, gloves, cool helmet."
Janah, "We went from a couple of cars to a flipping motor vehicle warehouse."
"At least they can garage them, parking in our building is a Manhattan luxury."
Sloane, "A Harley, neat-o, good for Dasha, she can give me a ride. I like the dirt bike, not as much as my kart."
"You drove it well enough, no motorcycle rides for you in Manhattan though. I don't even know why Dasha wants one."
Janah, "Well don't buy it until they get back, she could change her mind once she thinks about the nightmare of traffic in town. A bike is more dangerous there than the open road."
"Actually Daria may talk her out of it, she tends to be more sensible."
Janah, "Speaking of sensible, I've been pondering less time in Manhattan. Not right away, when Sloane is older."
"We already spend four months someplace else, that doesn't include other traveling."
"Yeah, I know. Still, more left coast time might have its attractions. Amaya and Chloe already spend a lot of time there, Nikko has a big San Francisco operation now. I need to think it over, we'd have to decide whether to park north or south. There's also the obvious option of just going as tourists for a month, rent a house."
"If everyone goes we'd have to rent two, how many seven bedroom houses are for rent?"
Janah, "That's a point. I don't want to buy or build, not unless we vacate New York entirely and we can’t do that. Maybe I should shift to an advisory position at the temple, they aren't getting much of an abbess now."
"They have an abbot, and they don't grumble about your absences. You still do most of the admin, just from someplace else."
"Which is part of my thought process, if I am to do them proper service, I need to be on the grounds much more than I'm able to now. That can't happen, we're out of town too much. So I am retiring in a manner of speaking."
"Master Leonard is no spring chicken, he must be seventy at least."
"Seventy four, and he does a good job. There's no rule, but I would like to see someone Chinese in the role when Leonard wants to give it up. I don't think it's reverse bias, the temple needs to retain its roots. Over half the monks aren’t oriental now. We haven't had a Chinese abbot since Kahn passed away."
"Think it through, Janah. We get house parents for the ranches from the monks for instance. A new abbot might decide to do things differently. We also lose control of the substantial assets, assets we put in place. We've been deliberate about how the money is spent. You go and the money falls under the new abbot's purview. There's no board to keep him in line, only advice from other Master's, which he is free to ignore. With that kind of cash, it's easy to see how alliances form and fights start. You're rich already, you don't need a power trip from the temple."
Janah smiles, "You're right of course, wishful thinking. Still, we need to find someone who will be there all the time, Master Leonard isn't going to be around forever."
"Why not David? We may have to get him help to run the schools."
"David's not Chinese, but David Li is."
"Will he want to be away from his lab and gardens?"
Janah, "Come on, the abbot has a few meetings with Masters, decides who gets admitted and who gets dismissed. Other than that, it's ceremonial. Classes and schedules are organized by the masters that oversee them, gung fu, education, nutrition, maintenance, and qi gong. I do some administrative paperwork, no reason to change that. You keep the technology current. I'm going to talk it over with Leonard, make it plain he is abbot until he doesn't want to or can't. He will see the need for someone to be ready."
Glad we discussed it, Janah is revered at the temple, they would rather have her part time than no time at all. David Li is diligent, well educated, and he has no social life outside the temple. If he has a girlfriend inside, it hasn't come up, we're Shaolin monks, you don't find out what we don't volunteer.
Car is waiting at Teterboro, good old Angelo driving, "Hey girls, where's the crowd?"
"Still in Arizona, having too much fun to leave. Sloane wants to see her friends."
Angelo, "You gotta study hard Miss Sloane, get a solid education or you wind up in the joint like me."
Sloane giggles, "I don't plan on an orange jumpsuit anytime soon, not my color."
Angelo, "I gotta situation Miss Janah, I don't wanna impose, but...some, you know, advice."
Janah, "What is it?"
Angelo, "Maybe after we get Miss Sloane home."
"Unless it's something you don't her to know, don't worry about her tender psyche, she's tough as cheap steak."
Angelo, "Some of the old crowd, they been nosin' around. You set us up in the limo business, lotsa other guys in parking lots, dry cleaners, restaurants, construction subs."
"Yep, we use them too, do great work."
"Well, some of the guys who don't want outta the life, they start sniffing around for favors. Hold some goods, hire a relative they don't wanna hire, move money and drugs. Like that. Normally we tell 'em to fu...uh, buzz off. But this particular group, they don't accept that. They start with the intimidation, busted truck windows, graffiti, harass employees who have no idea why. They don't admit to it, but it's them. In the old days, we would front them, put some guys down if necessary, they go away."
Janah, "But you can't do that now, just get guys with records tangled up in street violence, they get a trip back to prison and their legit business tanks."
Angelo, "Yeah, it ain't good."
"Who and where are these people?"
Angelo sighs, he hates that he has to get us involved, has no choice but to get us involved. Former inmates don't get cut any slack with the system, even for trying to do the right thing.
Angelo, "It's a bunch of fake neo-nazis, Aryan types who did their time and jumped right back into the crap that sent them to prison in the first place. They aren't big in the IQ department. The thing is run by brothers, Nick and Christopher, goes by Razor, I don't know what that's about. I never knew 'em, not until this started. Some of the guys do, which is why they are bugging us. Like we were all prison buddies."
"Why do white boy Aryan nation types think you or other ethnicities are going to dance on their card?"
Angelo, "They know we don't want to risk going back in the joint. Some of the guys want to push back anyway, but the rest of us have talked them down for now. If the punks keep it up, I don't know how long before war breaks out."
Janah, "I didn't know everyone kept in contact."
Angelo, "It ain't like a Rotary club, but we all know where the money came from, who we owe. Nobody coulda started these businesses on their own. Most of us couldn't get legit jobs, much less own a business. We get together, the Italians, the blacks, the Hispanics, have some barbeque, a few beers, the families hang out. You created a little universe of world peace Janah. I got kids who went to college, grandkids with good lives, because you and your family took a chance on us. I feel bad, having to come to you wit' this. But we know you helped old man Palumbo, then fixed a problem for his daughter Adrianna. And took out two major drug dealers who was killing anyone who annoyed them. We also know who prevented a terrorist attack on the east side a few years back, among other things."
Janah, "This is exactly what you are supposed to come to us with. You think we made the investment so you could go back to prison? Tell the guys to keep at their day jobs and do not get into macho bullshit. You haven't talked to Mini I hope?"
Angelo, "No, he'd go take on the Nazi wannabes himself, which might have been fine twenty years ago, but he has no business doing that kind of thing now."
Janah, "Good. I'll tell him you came to me, he'll be pissed if he doesn't know at all. He thinks of himself as my eyes on the ground, he picked most of the guys we set up in business, he takes it personally."
"I know that Miss Janah, but we had good reason..."
"You had excellent reason, Mini would have created havoc out of good intention. I'll handle Mini, then we'll have a chat with the superior race."
We're home, Angelo says, "Thanks isn't enough."
Janah, "The guys' success is more than enough Angelo, this crap is a walk in the park for my people. Nikko would fly home early just to fix it, but I'm sending other assets. The play Nazis won't be bugging anyone by the end of the week. If anything comes up, even a threatening phone call, let me know immediately. And tell the guys to stay cool, it's being handled, got it?"
Angelo, "I'm on the phone as soon as you're inside."
Soon as we hit the condo, Janah calls Chan, puts him on hold and conferences in Black, "We have a small annoyance. Come over tonight for dinner, say six thirty, we need to clean it up in the next few days," she clicks off.
Black and Chan show up together, Shaolin punctuality, hugs around.
Black, "Been a while, talk to Dasha regularly, but she keeps it to business."
"The twins aren't much for social chat, Dasha's more outgoing, but she doesn't go out far."
Black smiles, "So I noticed. Sonia said hi, she just had lunch with Susan the other day, they went to Fong's."
"Yes, Sis gave me the recap, said Sonia is a happy girl, you haven't screwed up."
I look at Chan, "Ning well, business good?"
Chan shrugs, "Ning stays too busy, like old Fong, if restaurant is open, she's there, or at Asiana."
Asiana is the upscale east side place Ning opened several years ago. We've been a few times, but we like the more casual atmosphere at Fong's. Asiana gets couples on dates and business types, Fong's is more family, loads of Chinese family.
"We're having grilled sea bass, homemade French fries and warm spinach salad."
While I deal with dinner prep, Janah details the problem.
Black, "Any thoughts on how to approach it? I mean, we can go in and clean house. It's messy but doable."
Janah, "I don't want anyone dead, not unless they provoke it. I don't know squat about these guys, just what Angelo said, neo-nazi wannabes, maybe they're the real deal, but my guess is it's more cover than fact. It intimidates people, which is the point."
Chan, "There's always a leader, the boss, in this case two brothers. Fix them, the others fall in line."
Janah, "Good. Save beating up a bunch of people. Don't publicly humiliate them. Try for a quiet chat."
Black joins me at the stove, "Bacon smelling good, for the spinach right?"
"Yep, the other bowl is for Janah, she gets warm olive oil."
"I got it covered," he mixes the spinach in the pan with the bacon, dumps the second bowl of spinach into a pan with warm olive oil.
"I've got tofu fried, add that to Janah's. Fish is just about done, two more minutes."
I top the fish with seasoned breadcrumbs, then crabmeat and drizzle lemon butter over the filets.
Black, "That's good Daphne, fish is perfect, nice touch with the crab and breadcrumbs. That somebody's recipe?"
"I made it up while I cooked the fish. The filets looked lonesome."
Janah, "Royce doing well?" Sonia and Black adopted a boy a few years ago.
Black, "Teaching gung fu now, going to college."
Janah, "I knew he was in college, NYU. Sonia said he's undeclared."
"He's thinking English, but with a business minor. He got the literary jones from me and reading Amaya's books. But he likes instructing martial arts, and he wants to expand, figures the business courses will help."
"He's going to open more studios, or make the one bigger?"
"Expand the one we have. The demand is there. We're looking at a bigger place. A lease, I don't want to try and buy something, deal with maintenance, the city."
Janah, "I'll talk to Nikko, she may know of something, how big you need it?"
Black, "The place is just under thousand square feet, part of which is a small locker room and changing area. Another spot is a small office, most of it is open floor. If we could get to twenty five of practice floor, more locker room and an office, that would be good."
"Three thousand square feet then, or do you want a bigger office?"
"Maybe fifty percent bigger, Royce is good with it, but I take up a fair amount of space when it's both of us."
Black is six-six and two fifty, Royce is slim and my height, five ten.
I go online to Nikko, "Got a sec?"
I outline Black's need, she mentals, "Got thirty two hundred second floor about two miles from his current location in Brooklyn. I should say in a month, tenant relocating to one of our spots in Manhattan."
"What's the rent?"
Nikko, "For Black, a dollar a year."
"Thanks," we log off.
"Nikko has thirty two hundred about two miles from you, available in a month. The rent's steep, a buck a year, you cover the build out."
Black shakes his head, "You gonna make Sonia cry again."
"Where else am I going to get two goons to deal with Nazis?"
Chan, "You could send Daria and Dasha."
We laugh, Janah says, "True, but they're out of town and we'd like this cleared up soon."
Dinner over, I make hot fudge sundaes, sprinkle walnuts over the top.
Black, "You spoiling me Daph."
"You don't have dessert at home?"
"Banana pudding from the Down Homes, or some of the pie. I get to eat there, Sonia demands I bring meatloaf and macaroni and cheese once a week.. I do most of the cooking, but Sonia got into it when she retired from the social work business. She meets me for a roast beef po-boy on Fridays, Royce is a fried chicken junkie, Dasha's is the best."
"Those restaurants have been amazing, Daria says they just print money."
Black, "What happens when you pay employees well and let them share in the profits. The staff treats the restaurants like owners. Constant raves on Yelp. We get folks coming from Manhattan."
"Maybe we should open in Harlem. Right now it's Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. I'll ask Dasha, what do you think?"
Black, "I think yes, and downtown too."
"Dasha, Black thinks we should Down Home Harlem and downtown Manhattan."
Dasha, "Ees Black going to manage?"
"Dasha wants to know if you're going to manage them."
Black, "Wouldn't want anyone but me."
Dasha hears, "Da, okay, Daria will haf her people find gud space, bye now, I am racing Nikko in kart, she will lose."
I hear the kart kick in, tires screech, I log off.
Black, "All these years, I'm still amazed by mental conversation."
Chapter Thirty One
Sloane, "Black is the biggest human I've seen live, he and Chan take up one side of the table."
"An exaggeration, the table seats twelve."
"Well, they're still giants. Chan's not tall, but he's wide and thick."
"When he was seven or eight, and we entered the temple, he looked like any scrawny kid, except he had outsized hands and thick wrists. Janah thought he would grow into himself, even she underestimated."
She yawns, "I'm pooped, busy day at school."
I get her tucked in, I know, she's nearly fourteen, I don't do it every night anymore, I do it tonight.
"Mom, I'm pretty much decided to get the operation, kind of sucky that I have to wait until I'm eighteen."
"Janah and I talked about that. We created your current birth certificate, we can create another one and bump you up a couple of years. You have to wait until you're at least sixteen even if we fake the birth certificate. There are countries that will do the surgery at seventeen, but I don't want to go to any of them. If it was Thailand or Japan, I'd do it, but neither are options. In Thailand you have to wait a year after they examine you anyway."
"My doctor knows how old I am."
"We'd have to change docs, and do it soon, they have to monitor you, see you regularly. They don't approve these things with a couple of office visits."
"If we change doctors, I can still wait if I'm undecided."
"Yes, but understand, if you flip flop, it's not going down well with the transition doc. They want you to convince them you're certain. You change your physical sex, it's a one way trip. Lots of people in your situation don't do well psychologically. You got out of your bad dad situation, and have a family and friends that support you. Most don't get that. People with psych issues before surgery have them afterwards, the knife doesn't change anything but the organ. We'll bump back your birthday if you want, but it's a better decision to wait."
Sloane, "I like my transition doctor, and James would be in a bad position, he knows how old I am. I think I'll just quit aging at fifteen, like the twins or Oceane. Same difference."
I laugh, "If you get a boyfriend, he's going to age. After a while, he's going to get much older than you."
Sloane, "So far, I'm happy to be a girl. I don't think about girls in any sexual way, but I don't think about boys either. My penis gets hard, but it's not gender directed as far as I can tell."
"It will sort itself out. It's good that you can talk about it at all. I think that's one reason people have issues, family doesn't want to hear it, the girl or boy feels isolated. Nobody in this family is put off talking about anything. Dasha and Daria will give you an unvarnished, direct opinion, so if you tell them your thoughts, just understand, it's how they are."
Sloane giggles, "In a way, they're the best to talk to, I never have to interpret, they just lay it out there."
"Sleep, everything will happen exactly as it should when it should. It always does."
I kiss soft cheeks, the hormones she gets are doing what they do. Aside from the part between her legs, she's girl through and through. I go downstairs, Janah's channel surfing.
"Sloane's decided to wait, she's also decided fifteen is a good age to be on hold. Guess we see if it works for her."
Janah, "Yes, I caught the conversation. Dad would go along, but he would prefer she wait. Be interesting to see her sexual orientation develop. Right now, I don't have a sense of it one way or the other. She may not orient at all, it's not unheard of."
"I probably would have been neutral if you hadn't popped up in my brain."
Janah laughs, "You were girl crazy when I came along, I just focused your attention."
"Perhaps I should focus my attention right now."
"Exactly what I implanted in your head, get busy."
I do, she does, then she toys me with a vibrator, I vibrate decisively. Women who think diamonds are a girl's best friend don't own the right toys. We lay in sexual semi-stupor.
"It feels strange, the house so empty."
Janah, "Does a bit, no Dasha issuing orders, no Amaya dramatizing every moment, no Oceane drifting through the place bereft of clothing."
"I knew I was missing something."
"She's so lithe and lovely, not stunning like Amaya. Oceane is whip slim with just enough curve."
"Perky tight butt, too."
"You would know."
I grin, "I like it, she loves it. Besides, she gets herself worked up when we stare at her, I think she goes through the most batteries. For this crowd, that's no small achievement."
"Now you have me thinking about her, use that thing on me, I'm in need of a backup climax."
Chapter Thirty Two
Sloane goes to school right downstairs, that's handy. After she leaves, Black calls.
"We go today to figure an approach. It might take a few days, make sure Angelo and the others don't get stupid. It would put the boys from Brazil on alert."
Mini. "Hey girls, you guys go outta town, I think maybe your forget about me."
"Not a chance, we fed Sloane for school, saved up to come here for breakfast, can you think up something?"
"Be right back."
Chuck comes along with coffee, "Good thing you showed, Mini was going into withdrawal, he took an order already?"
"He's making it up. How's the family?"
"Good, Angela, she's getting up there, me too, so's Mini. We gotta think about cuttin' back. I need to think about selling even maybe."
"Aw geez, what about training someone? We have restaurants, there’s ex inmates, other people need work."
Chuck, "Where are inmates gonna get the cash to buy the place?"
Janah, "We'll buy the place, if you and Mini agree to train the people. They can pay us back over time, we have half a dozen set ups like that. Mini knows, surprised he didn't think of it."
Chuck, "You really willing to do that? Angela wants to travel more, she's not going to be able to in a coupla years."
"Sure, talk it over with your partner, Nikko and Daria will come around and discuss it. Daria did the books for a couple of years, she already knows the numbers. You can come and go as you like after you're satisfied the new people can handle it. Maybe you have staff here who can take it on if they were financed. If none of that works, I can find monks who would jump at the chance. You won't find any better work ethic."
Mini comes over with two mega omelets, biscuits and bacon for me, "Oughta hold you to lunch."
"Might hold me for the week, Janah will be hungry by lunch though. You have a minute to talk?"
He sits, Chuck goes off to handle refills.
Mini, "What's up?"
Janah's busy with her omelet, I give Mini a recap.
"Assholes, the guys shoulda come to me."
"No, they shouldn't. You aren't thirty anymore, you're not fifty anymore. You got reason to go after this crowd, but we have it covered"
Mini, "Flipping skinheads in prison always a pain in the ass. You get by in the joint by alliances, but you keep to your tribe, business is divided up, everybody stays healthy. Skinheads always got their prejudices in the way. Hadda start shit that didn't need starting."
Janah, "We aren't going to start a war, just have a word. They'll see reason, our friends go on with their lives."
"They don't see reason Janah."
"They will with Black and Chan."
Mini actually grins, "Yeah, that could work."
"We made Chuck a business proposition, he'll talk to you later, when the breakfast crowd slows."
Mini lumbers off, man he breaks good eggs.
We do a grocery run while we're out, the rest of the day is nice and slow, at least until Sloane comes blasting in at three thirty.
"Mom, I'm free to set my own course schedules now. I blew away the basics exam."
"You didn't even tell me you were taking it."
"I didn't know, they give it to students by surprise on purpose, so we don't cram."
Janah, "That's right, remember, Mattie put that in place a couple of years ago. Congratulations Sloane. You know what you want to focus on?"
Sloane, "Hadn't thought about it, I didn't think my chance would come up so soon. Mattie said it was evident I’ve been keeping up, even out of town. All the girls in my class were so happy for me, I cried."
"This is a big deal, we should celebrate, I think we wait until the rest of the family is back in town though. We can have a little celebration tonight. Call Susan, she's be as excited as your friends."
She's on the phone with Sis, I hear Sloane giggle, "Your programming class put me over the top. Mattie said she's never seen code run right on the initial test. The coding problem on the test was easy, make a simple maze game. Mine was so good, nobody got through the first try, well, except for Janice, she's a genius, and a senior. And her dad owns a computer graphics company."
Susan, "I know him, Don DeSalvo, I did his security when he was a start up. I made a couple million when the options were exercised. Janice wasn't even born, now she's a senior, where in hell does the time go? When's the party?"
Sloane, "We're waiting until the rest of the family returns, tonight mom said we'd have a small party, you should come over, Taylor, James and Kara too. I'll get mom to make something good."
Looks like I've got a new assignment.
"Sloane, put three bottles of champagne in the refrigerator, it's your party, what do you want?"
I look around, no ground meat and I need Oroweat Crustini buns, the best for burgers, light, toast perfectly.
"Janah, I need to make a quickie grocery run."
"I'll be here."
Sloane and I dash out for ground meat and the buns, then I decide to add baked beans to the mix, we're back home in thirty.
"Go for a swim or something, I'll make patties, the beans can slow heat. What else, French fries of course, need to slice potatoes. We can have frozen custard for dessert, sound good?"
"Perfect. I want to help, I can make the patties, you have to tell me what to add for seasoning."
We get busy, beans in the crock pot, burgers in the refrigerator, I'll slice the fries later.