Chapter Thirty Seven

Ning, “Hello, and hello Dasha and Daria, the new fashion stars of New York, these outfits are Amaya’s doing no doubt.”
Amaya, “Thank you, Ning.”
Dasha, “Ees aig zoup?”
Ning, “Egg drop soup is every day, do you want to start with that?”
“Da. Wanting zoup for sister.”
Ning is puzzled, I say, “Won Ton.”
“Of course, hot and sour Daphne?”
“Yes.”
While the rest are ordering, Dasha looks up at me, “Say zoup again.”
“Won…Ton.”
She processes in her emotionless way, “Won…Ton.”
“Now say it together, Won Ton.”
“Won Ton.”
“Now yours, “Egg drop.”
“Aig drup.”
“Da, egg drop.”
Dasha, “Won Ton, aig drup, I am remembering.”
“Let’s look at the menu,” I pick one up and we study it together.
She points to shrimp with garlic sauce. I say, “Good choice, shrimp with garlic sauce.”
Dasha, “Shreemp wiz gahrlik sos.”
“Now, tell Ning.”
She looks at Ning, “Shreemp wiz gahrlik sos.”
Ning, “Got it, and Daria?”
Daria, “We share, also springtime roll.”
“Spring rolls,” Ning nods.
She gets the rest of the orders, soup arrives, I warn Dasha it’s hot, to stir it and let it sit for a bit. She plucks an ice cube from her water glass and plops it in. Shortcut.
Stirs until the cube is melted and tastes, “Ees gud,” I’m about halfway down when she finishes hers.
“Do you want to taste hot and sour?”
She takes a sip from my spoon, “More,” she finishes off mine too.
Ning comes by, “Soup good?”
“Gud, I eat Dahfoney’s.”
Ning, “Want another cup Daph?”
“I’m good, looking forward to crispy duck and vegetables, did they order fried rice?”
Ning, “One shrimp, one vegetable.”
“That’s it then.”
She brings sampler plates of dumplings, I show Dasha how to mix up the sauce, dunk the dumpling, she eats one and pronounces them ‘gud.’ So far, so gud.
They’ve eaten lots of Chinese being with us. Dasha is a foodie, she’s pretty eclectic and will try anything, eats vegetables and fruit, they aren’t candy junkies, not particularly pastry or snack food oriented.
Entrees arrive, lined up in the middle of the table so we can take ours or sample other’s, Daria sticks to shrimp, vegetables and a spoon of vegetable fried rice, Dasha takes a serving spoon of everything.
The duck is delicious, licorice flavor of anise hinted at, not overwhelming, skin crisp, flavor of rice wine, soy sauce and honey, shrimp are jumbo fat crescents, tangy garlic sauce, crunchy stir fried vegetables accompany. There’s also Szechuan beef, flavors of carrot, peppercorn for bite, chili sauce for tang, sweet bean sauce to level out the spice. Yummy. Dasha eats almost half, with a couple of slices of duck for her sister.
Janah, “Ning, it was all marvelous, and it’s all gone.”
Ning, “Mrs. Fong left me extraordinary cooks, and Daphne had the recipes on computer long ago. The customers expect high quality, everything fresh, other than that, follow the recipe and make a nice presentation. Duck is popular, lot of roasting and steaming, then fry, expensive to make so the price reflects that. Customer favorite though.”
It’s Saturday night, Ning has little time to chat and scurries off to make sure the flow flows. The trick is to get the food our right, with minimal delay, turning tables without rushing customers. She expanded a few years ago, upstairs is usually closed evenings, but runs full Friday through Sunday, and most lunchtimes. Ning is like Mrs. Fong was when she was alive, if the restaurant is open, Ning is there.
Dasha, “Where ees Chan?”
“Probably at the temple.”
“Chan ees gud, for a man.”
“Not all men are jerks.”
“Daria no trust eeny men, no girls also, only fahmahley.”
“She’s coming around a little, it’s okay for her to be cautious.”
“What ees cautious?”
“Careful.”
Dasha, “Da, sister is careful, me no so careful.”
“No, you are more open.”
“What ees open?”
“To talk, meet people.”
“Okay to talk, not to be, um, friends. I see girls talk of friends, never say gud things.”
“Girls can be mean, gossip, tell stories.”
“Da, no friends for us, sister ees top friend, you are gud friend, fahmahley is friend. Other people, no friend.”
The girls have no foundation on which to build trust, everyone who was supposed to take care of them either abandoned or used them. Because we rescued them, we got a pass, but it wasn’t immediate, in their world there is no trust then verify, there is verify and then maybe trust. In a world where integrity is a vanishing commodity it is, regrettably, the only rational way to be.
Dinner concludes, we decide to walk back to the apartment, meander, let dinner settle rather than flag cabs on a busy Saturday night. I take point, Nikko and Zi left and right rear, as I said, verify, then trust. It’s pretty simple tonight, Canal to Hudson, up to 10th, home. To Nikko’s disappointment, and my relief, ninjas didn’t fly down from the rooftops and attempt to assassinate us.
The twins go to their room, ready to be alone, I hear the TV come on, then a movie start up. They hadn’t seen many movies until they came to us, they are working their way through the more famous ones in an attempt to get a video history of American culture. They’ve watched WC Fields, who they love, Chaplin, which they found stupid, the Stooges, Bugs Bunny another favorite, classics, Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, John Wayne, the early Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns up to Dirty Harry are favorites. They sit enthralled by James Cagney, Hitchcock, Twilight Zone, I did have to spend time trying to explain Monty Python. They watched Ken Burns on the Civil War, WWII and Jazz, which got them into jazz, then Dixieland Jazz, then Woody Allen. I thought deconstructing Love and Death to twelve year old girls from Belarus would be a challenge, but it’s Russian, they understood it from the start.
Then Janah took on what I initially thought to be the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest nude, she bought copies of Crime and Punishment in Cyrillic and English and painstakingly started the girls on it. It was painstaking for about a day. Daria ingested it, then patiently explained it to Dasha. It was as if someone flipped a cosmic light switch, they went through The Brothers Karamazov and Anna Karenina like a bowl of borscht. Janah created the link between Russian and English. A stroke of genius.
We take them to Brighton Beach, Russian Chinatown, plays, music, exhibits, the girls are no longer lost in America. It is revelatory. They get to speak their native language, and their English improves exponentially. Daria already had little difficulty, she can memorize anything, but Dasha is transformed.
The girls had not lost their culture, history or background, it was there all the time, and our trips to Brighton Beach released them. They are free to be Russian, and free to be American. It is near amazing.

Chapter Thirty Eight

Discovering Brighton Beach is, for the girls, a connection. For us, a community that in all the time we lived here we’d never explored. It can be difficult to navigate if you have no Russian speaker, Janah knows enough to be conversational, but the girls fell right in and the normally matter of fact and frequently harsh Russian community softened at the sight of two identical Russian dolls. As a result, we are able to wind our way though the shops and restaurants as if we are from Odessa itself.
Little touches help, they buy fox fur hats, warm for cold New York winters, Café Glechik, ‘food for the soul,’ is a must stop for lunch or dinner, the sheer number of pastry, fresh food markets, delis and restaurants parallels Chinatown.
Clothes are clothes, apart from fox fur hats, they are happy to have Amaya structure their wardrobe, we’d already added blini to our regular menu rotation, and while there are a multitude of Russian pastries and cakes, they aren’t into sweets so much. They are content to add a few Russian touches to their room and accessories, hand painted hair slides and barrettes, lacquer boxes, inexpensive Faberge style pendants, set of traditional nesting dolls.
I ask Dasha one afternoon about her thoughts on Russia, would they like more of the culture in their lives.
“We are Russian girls from Belarus, and we leef now America. We haf books, a few Russian things, enough. We like America life, old life ees part of us, not all. Many thoughts of old life better to forget. We are safe here, have so much things. We learn to be American.”
“Daria feels the same, yes?”
“Dahfoney, Daria is happy to be with sister, Vesnushki, fahmahley. Sister is inside, even more than me. Daria ees for study, dance, be with sister.”
“Seems simple enough, Chloe is terribly fond of her.”
“Daria ees close for Vesnushki, they talk of people and their colors and what it means. She enjoy to listen Eemaya, when Eemaya ees making ridiculous, she ees all colors, like colors in sky after rain.”
“A rainbow.”
“Da, a rainbow. Enough of girls, we are for cooking.”
“Have any preferences?”
“Steak cut in streeps, mushed up potato and buhter.”
“Great, good idea, what vegetable?”
“Speenich crim.”
“Then it’s flank steak with au jus, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. I’ll make a mixed green salad for Janah, with potatoes and spinach, she’ll be fine, maybe sautéed apples with brown sugar and a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg. She likes that.”
Dasha looks off in the distance, Daria is online for her, “Daria wants sister now. We cook after.”
“Enjoy, I’m going to pick up flank steak, see what else we need, I’ll check in when I get back.”
She runs up the stairs to her room.
Janah, “Dinner plan sounds yummy, do you want help at the store?”
“Yes, I may find other stuff, then have more to haul back, but if you have things to do, I can have it delivered.”
“I need to move around, let’s walk to the diner and chill, then hit the grocery.”

Chloe and Amaya are up to no good in Chloe’s room, Nikko and Zi are still at Nikko’s office, I check in with Amaya briefly, “Sorry to interrupt the festivities, Janah and I are going to the store, the girls are napping, stay here until we get back.”
“No problem, we are in between things. Chloe is strapping up, nasty girl. Oooh, she’s ready, have to go, bye.”

I’m tempted to follow the action, but I might walk into traffic lost in the moment, I go offline instead.”
Janah comes from her room, “Amaya getting her desires met?”
“When doesn’t she?”
We find a booth in the diner, Chuck comes over, “Hey girls, what’ll it be, coffee for Daphne, green or black for Janah?”
He’s already filling my cup, Janah says, “Green today please. Could I get a plain cheesecake?”
Chuck, “Sure thing, Daphne?”
“Any doughnut you have left.”
He goes off, returns with a pot of tea for Janah, the cheesecake and a chocolate cake doughnut. We sip and eat, I break off a piece of doughnut and feed it to Janah, take a forkful of cheesecake. Chuck refills my coffee, Mini comes over.
“How’s the addition working out?”
“The girls love it, Amaya complains that she’s been relegated to a shoebox in comparison. Her room is nearly the size of Janah’s, and she share’s. Next is another rooftop room for Janah.”
Janah, “When did you decide that, first I’ve heard of it.”
“Just now. Want a water rock?”
Janah, “Sure do.”
I look at Mini, “Guess the guys will be getting more work, suppose I should have done it in the first place, it never occurred to me until just now.”
Mini, “Keep it up an you’ll have another whole roof on the place.”
“If Janah keeps picking up strays, you may be right.”
Mini slides into the booth next to Janah, “On another matter. I heard about a guy lives in Queens, regular civilian, told a guy I know about a man moved into the apartment across the hall. He said for no reason at all, he gave the new neighbor a hundred bucks.”
Janah, “Exactly what happened, your man say?”
“Story I got, he’s coming home from work, guy’s in the hall. Like he’s waiting. He don’t say nothin’ just stands there. The guy coming home, he says he pulled out his wallet, handed him the bills, went inside.”
“And he has no idea why.”
“None.”
“Your friend who heard the story, he see the donor regularly?”
“Yeah, they work at the same place, warehouse jockeys, just working stiffs.”
“Keep in touch with him, say you have a friend who is interested, don’t bring us up directly, if he asks, wing it. Let me know if anything else happens, no matter what, any interaction. Does the man have a family, wife, kids?”
“Don’t know, I’ll find out. Why would somebody do that, hand a hundred to somebody out of the blue, for no reason?”
“There’s always a reason. Be interesting to find out what it is. You know his address?”
Mini gets up, “I’ll find out and let you know.”
We walk to Associated Supermarket on 14th street, “You think there’s a Shadow.”
Janah, “Too soon to tell, but how many times does a working man hand over a hundred bucks to someone he doesn’t know?”
“You’re going to send the birds.”
“Why not? They find something, we’re ahead of the curve, they find nothing, we’re no worse off.”
Send the birds means just what it says. If you have been noodling around prior books, you already know David Li, Chan’s son, trains birds, pigeons mostly, but he uses Peregrine falcons and owls occasionally, to scope out persons of interest to us. The animals are far more sensitive than humans, and they can detect Shadows. Chloe and Zi can do it by reading the aura, the same thing the birds do. It’s a skill that some of our monks have, Chloe was never a monk, she just has it, but then Chloe is Bosatsu, the Japanese version of Bodhisattva. There’s nothing particularly mystical about the description, one who opens the door to enlightenment, it’s more a state of mind, perpetual compassion.
Chloe didn’t know she was Bosatsu, it arose from her mistreatment as a child, and her intention not to let that horror guide her future. It isn’t something you get by meditating, chanting or lighting incense, you is or you ain’t.
Shadows come in all shapes and sizes, some are former monks who tried to learn advanced qi skills too quickly, greed generally breaks the mind. They learn the skills, but use it to coerce people, for money, for power, sex. All Shadows are evil, some have it down to an art form. There are others that have a purely evil nature, sociopaths, psychopaths, and they can be extraordinarily manipulative. A Shadow can take the mind, his victim powerless to resist. This is what we suspect is going on with hundred dollar man, and it is part of Shaolin obligation to remove Shadows from society, permanently. They cannot be fixed, coerced, punished or refocused into compliance. We kill them, sometimes they kill us, they hate Shaolin.
We finish shopping, back to the apartment, Nikko and Zi are home, having tea with Chloe and Amaya.
“Girls upstairs?”
Chloe, “Haven’t heard a peep.”
I go up the staircase, I’m not being particularly stealthy, if they’re asleep they need to get up, I hear them, not asleep, good. When I get to the top, their door is open, they’re on the bed. Dasha is nude, on her tummy, head on a pillow, she spots me but doesn’t move, Daria on her side next to Dasha, her back to me, also in nothing. Her head is on Dasha’s shoulder, her fingers are trailing up and down Dasha’s back, over her tush, down one leg, back up the other, up to her shoulder, return trip in an oval.
“Time to organize dinner Dasha, whenever you are ready come down.”
“Come here Dahfoney, you haf steak?”
I sit behind Daria, “Yes, everything we planned, you look relaxed.”
“What is relaxed?”
Daria, “Rasslabilasʹ.”
“Ah, da, relaxed,” Daria’s hand is making small slow circles on Dasha’s bottom, “I feel to gud to sister.”
Daria kisses her shoulder, “Time for cooking, I will stay here, is Vesnushki  home?”
“Yes, would you like her to come up?”
“Da.”
“Amaya, please tell Chloe her presence is requested.”
Dasha turns over and sits up, one leg cocked out, Daria’s hand slides up the inside of her thigh, all the way, she leans in and kisses Dasha on each cheek, then on the lips, not for long, not a peck either.
Dasha strokes her sister’s cheek, looks at me, “Ees like I kiss me.”
She slides off the bed, pulls on a t-shirt, slips into panties. Chloe pops up on the stairs.
“Just in time, we’re going to cook.”
I don’t dwell on what this development is about, it will sort out.
Janah, “It’s not like they tried to hide anything. I didn’t get the sense either of them are worried about it. Neither of them is very touchy, Daria even less than Dasha,  they feel affection towards us, but they aren’t going to display it much.”
“Daria will snuggle with Chloe, or Dasha, other than that, she keeps to herself.”

Janah, “No point in making a thing. It’s about time for a hormone rush, menstruation will start soon. More importantly, start dinner, Nikko and Zi worked though lunch, at least we had a snack.”
I microwave potatoes, start spinach boiling, Dasha watches while I season the flank steaks, drizzle soy and Worcestershire sauce over them. They sit and soak.
“I like to crisp the potato skins after they’re cooked in the microwave, when that’s done, cut them into small chunks and mash them, add warm milk and softened butter, a little salt. Here, chop up the parsley leaves, add them in with the milk and butter. I have garlic cloves here, chop fine, put them in this foil with grapeseed oil, and into the toaster oven for ten minutes, three fifty. Leave two or three cloves for the spinach.”
While she’s dealing with mashed potatoes, I open the au jus, pour it in a ceramic gravy boat and put it in the microwave for twenty seconds, just to get it active and the chill off. Spinach is drained, I chop it fine, toss it in the pan. Dasha is mostly done with the potatoes, except for the garlic, which needs to cool.
“Okay Dasha, creamed spinach. Melt butter in the sauté pan medium heat. Add the shallots and the remaining garlic, stir until it’s soft and fragrant, maybe two minutes.”
She does that, “Add the spinach and stir until the liquid appears,” takes a couple of minutes, “now add the cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook it until the cream is reduced by half, four minutes or so.”
While she’s working spinach, I have the steaks on, flip them, nice and charred on one side. While they grill, I add the garlic to the potatoes.
“Put the spinach in this bowl, then everything on the table, salad is in the refrigerator,” turn to the others, “dinner is served.”
I use an electric knife to slice the flanks into strips, cut against the grain, put the steaks on a platter and that’s that.
Wow, is everyone hungry, all of everything is gone, yay, nice feeling.
Zi, “Dasha, you are becoming a food artist like Daphne, the very best creamed spinach I have ever tasted, and the potatoes were just right, I like it that you leave the skins on.”
Dasha, “Dahfoney makes creesp. We make new spinach recipe, with… um, Daria, muskatnyy orekh…”
“Nutmeg.”
“Da, nootmaig.”
Zi, “Who thought of that?”
“Emeril, on the Food Network.”
Janah, “Well it was a great idea, there’s not a shred left.”

Chapter Thirty Nine

We spread out on the couch and mats, Amaya has her vodka rocks, dash of bitters, wine is poured, Chloe is having white, Daria wants a sip, then Dasha has to try, Chloe asks, “What do you think?”
Daria, “It is nice.”
“Janah has champagne, want to try that?”
Chloe reaches over, Janah hands her the flute, Daria sips, hands it to Dasha, who actually smiles, “Bubbles.”
Daria sips, “Champagne.”
“One glass each.”
While Sherlock comes up with answers, the girls enjoy champagne. Occasionally Dasha asks for an explanation of the movie, Daria answers, both girls are fluent in English, but Russia will be corruption free before Dasha gives up her accent. Whether she’s figured out how much people love hearing it, or whether it’s just that the positive response works on her subconsciously, I don’t know, but I suspect she is quite aware of it. Not much escapes our young intensities.
Dasha, “Now Sheerluk Home solve meesterie.”
This one is the BBC series, which stay true to the books, almost verbatim, nice period pieces, the girls like the carriages, old English manor homes, the clutter of 221B Baker street, Mrs. Hudson’s fluster, Watson’s frustration, and foremost, the consulting detective’s cold calculation
Sherlock prevails, Dasha announces, “Sister is tired, Dahfoney and Vesnushki will arrange for sleeping.”
I tell Chloe, “I think the instructions are clear.”
“As Sherlock’s explanations.”
We follow our nesting dolls up the staircase, freshen the bedclothes while they brush and flush. They are already in t-shirts, they can sleep in those.
“Do you want the ceiling fan on?”
Dasha, “Da, sister like air on her.”
“Not too cold?”
“Sister ees warming.”
Makes sense to me, I find Janah warming. They get scrunched in, pillows arranged, yawns, Chloe kisses Daria, I kiss Dasha, we start to leave, Daria grabs Chloe’s wrist.
Dasha says, “Sit Dahfoney, we slip soon, then go.”
Follow the simple directions. We sit, Chloe next to Daria, me by Dasha, they hold our hands, then begin to nod. Daria rolls left to her side, Dasha lets go of my hand and holds her. It is heart melting, I see Chloe brush a tear away, we stay a few more minutes until it’s clear they are asleep. We ease off the bed and make our way down the staircase to the others.
Zi and Nikko have gone to the bedroom, Amaya and Janah are on the couch, a final glass of wine, the TV off, a soothing silence permeates the apartment.
Chloe, “Those girls, if one loses the other, I don’t know what ….”
Janah, “Unless a fatal illness comes along, it’s our job to make sure one never loses the other. They have endured because of each other, they had nothing else. Maybe they appear dependant, but Daphne and I are hardly independent, our family is not really, why do they need to be different?”
“No, of course, I only want to try and see if they can allow us, even if one or two, enough space to be there in case the sister isn’t. I hope I’m concerned about nothing.”
“Your concern speaks of your compassion. If the girls can’t be protected by us, they can’t be protected by anybody. They haven’t warmed up to Nikko, but do you think she would allow a hair of their head to be harmed?”
Chloe smiles, “No more than yours, or Daphne’s.”
“Or yours or Amaya’s. Daphne watches, Nikko watches, you and Zi are Sensitives, the girls are as bulletproof as life allows.”
Amaya, “We are safer than the President, safer than Daphne’s pal Catherine.”
Chloe, “You have heard from her?”
“Daphne gets the odd email, she checks out your fan page. Janah talks to William about education, keeps him updated on the schools. They are such a genuine couple.”
Chloe, “Too bad she got caught with the top down, people made such a thing of it.”
“People will titter about anything the famous do. As if a glimpse of breast is so fascinating.”
Amaya, “Spoken like a girl who has limited resources up top.”
I laugh, Chloe says, “Like you’re Pamela Anderson.”
Amaya, “Eeeewwww, that is just nasty, in her prime such a pretty girl, tight body, great legs, then she has to stack her boobs up so they jiggle more on that stupid TV program.”
“Baywatch.”
Amaya, “Boobwatch.”
Janah, “I am retiring, Daphne has promised me a treat.”
Amaya, “Chloe was privileged to get her treat earlier, but she may hold me tonight as well. I shall recount vesnushki, in case a new one has appeared.”
“I wonder if she could lose one, how do freckles work?”
Janah, “They can fade or increase, most people have them diminish or disappear as the age.”
Amaya, “Then it is a good thing we do not age, hers will not alter, I want them just where they are.”
We find our way to bed, Janah and I take Amaya’s room, I find the appropriate toy and lube it, Janah is soon lip biting, sheet clenching and either making little mewing sounds or there’s a kitten in the room someplace.

Chapter Forty

Two days go by, normal, Daria to dance, Dasha to gymnastics, Janah at the temple, the three martial artists spar with monks while Chloe and Amaya keep an eye on the girls’ lessons. Daria is hardly worth keeping an eye on, she gets everything cold, Dasha is less attentive to lessons. She can focus about an hour at a go, then has to do something active, usually tumbling around the workout room or up on the balance beam. In class, she has uneven bars, she’s pretty good, not going to the junior Olympics or anything, but flies around from one to the other adequately, bangs herself to the mat, gets up and gives it another go. I spend a fair amount of time with qi and massaging liniment into her. Her body is brick hard, Daria is more lean dance muscle, but they are twelve, the difference is hardly noticeable.
Mini calls with an address, the birds surveyed the apartment, the reports are bleak, hundred dollar man is rotten neighbor.
Mini calls again, Janah and I are at the temple, “Janah, the guy is Mitchell Morrison, Mitch, wife, Peggy, daughter Kylie, fifteen. Mitch came home one day and his wife and daughter weren’t home, they showed up an hour later. This is where it goes weird. She says they were at Peter’s. Mitch didn’t know his name, his wife used it like they were pals. Says what a great guy he is, an artist.
Then she tells him, like it’s the most natural thing in the world, that Peter is going to do nude photos of Kylie.
Janah, “I imagine that got his attention.”
“He told my friend he was about to go ballistic, but held his temper, in part because his normally protective wife was so calm about the whole thing.”
“But he objected, of course.”
“Yeah, sure. He didn’t want to get into a blow up with the girl there, so he’s trying to keep it civil, then the girl says she wants very much to do it and proceeds to tell her father that Peter had already taken a few test shots.”
“That’s what they were doing earlier.”
“Yeah.”
“Sheesh, did dad lose it?”
“It gets even stranger. He goes straight to the guy, when he returns, he tells his wife and daughter he likes the idea.”
“Then he must have said so to your friend.”
“Acts like it’s the coolest thing ever happened to her. My guy was floored. He knows Mitch well enough to know they kept a tight leash on the daughter, she don’t even date. Now he’s bragging about her taking her clothes off for a guy they never heard of a few days earlier. My friend had to peel the whole story I out of him, he started out just bragging about his daughter’s big break. When Hank started asking questions, that’s when he got details. He tried to talk him down, Mitch never blinked, didn’t get pissed, kept saying it was a big break for the girl. You got any idea what’s going on?”
“You recall us mentioning Shadows?”
“Sure, that woman uptown. You think this is one of those assholes?”
“Has all the markings.”
“What now?”
“Peter gets a visit.”
“Good, there’s no way this is legit, even if the parents think it’s great.”
“They think they think it’s great, they think it because he’s got their minds. He doesn’t want to just photograph the girl, he’s going to go for more, sex, with her or maybe both her and mom. If he’s good, he’ll do it while dad watches. He’ll even get paid for it, by Mitch and by whoever he sells the photos to. All kinds of combinations here, nudes of a fifteen year old, sex with a fifteen year old, mother daughter sex, father daughter sex. He can use the same family for different levels of perv. He may not even sell them, just post them on the web for the hell of it.”
“Jesus! I could just send some guys over, or go myself. The only pictures will be the ones the coroner takes.”
“They could wind up badly hurt, remember dad went over to straighten him out, came back convinced. This guy has excellent control, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a digital inventory of other girls. He can’t stay in one place too long, people talk, like Mitch to his friend. If he senses that, he moves on.”
“How’s he know somebody talked? Wait, no, that’s stupid, he just asks them if they mentioned it to anyone else, they can’t lie to him.”
“You got it.”
“How many of these pukes out there, whattaya call ‘em, Shadows?”
“Yes, it’s just a reference term, pukes will do. We have no idea, but they seem to turn up more frequently than we’d like.”
So the number is growing?”
“Can’t say, more likely it’s that we’re aware of them, looking for them, like when you start thinking of red cars, you see more red cars. They were there all along, you just didn’t have red cars on your mind and didn’t notice.”
“Ah, yeah, yeah, I get it. So we stay back, you gonna deal, right?”
“We are going to deal, I’ll let you know how it unfolds.”
“One thing I’m not clear on. You fix this guy Peter, what happens with the family?”
“That’s the more difficult part actually. Once his control is gone, reality is going to come crashing in.”
“So he’s already fucked up this family.”
“We’ll see. If I can get to them, I may be able to wipe the whole thing.”
“You can do that, how?”
Janah, “It’s complicated, and if you don’t know it’s better than if you do, I have to leave it there, you understand? And none of this conversation ever happened.”
“Let me know, thanks for this, your markers keep stacking up, I’m gonna owe you my soul.”
“Nope, every time you feed us, if there ever was a marker, it’s cleared. Not to mention how I’ve called on you more than a few times.
“Keep your people safe.”
“Count on it, see you later.”
“Guess we’ll be going to Queens.”
“As in now, hopefully before he gets another round, he’s not going to waste time. It takes energy to keep the family in control, once he has what he wants, he will enjoy releasing them to suffer, it’s part of it for him, creating degradation, then watching disintegration. I’m not waiting for Surveillance, ours or the Society’s. Take Chan and Nikko. Verify he’s a Shadow, I’m certain he is, then obliterate him. The Society will send cleaners. I’ll be along with Chloe, we’ll handle the family tonight. Ask Chloe to get ready, a car will collect her.”
I get online with Amaya, “There is work, in Queens, just Chloe, you need to stay with the girls, Zi stays too. I’m getting Nikko from her office, Chan is with me, we’re going to deal with a Shadow. Chloe needs to be disguised, and prepare the pharmaceuticals, just Ketamine and sodium pentothal, we don’t need anyone hopped up, Janah may not use them at all.”
Amaya, “On it.”
Chan, Nikko and I are at a red brick apartment building in Queens, Chan and I go to the third floor, Nikko takes the drop down fire escape up to Peter’s bedroom window.
Chan waits at the door, getting a sense of inside, then he goes to the door across the way, back to Peter’s door.
Chan, “Family is inside with him. Do you want to go in now, or wait until they leave?”
I listen at the door, my ultra sensitive hearing detects the soft click of a digital camera, then a woman, ‘See, Kylie this is how you do it, he has a big one doesn’t he? Just take in your mouth, like this…’
I hear a man say, ‘Give Kylie a turn honey.’
I turn to Chan, Nikko is in my mind, “Bust the door.”
Bang! The door splinters off and slams against the wall, I hear glass break in the rear, Nikko’s in.
The scene is, well, a scene. A woman is still dressed, on her knees holding a hard on, a nude teenager is kneeling next to her. There’s a second man on a couch with a digital camera. The guy, who must be Peter, is standing with his pants open, no shirt.
Peter is caught, um, with his pants down, and is mentally tied up keeping control over the family. He’s got nothing to fight off Chan. Pete the Perv sails backwards, blasted against the wall.
The girl screams, but Nikko has her hand over Kylie’s mouth and a shuriken out, Kylie passes out on the floor. Mitch is standing, the shock has him immobilized and my shuriken to his camera hand has him cold in seconds. Peggy is leaning over Kylie, Nikko takes a second swipe of the narcotic laced shuriken to the back of her neck and she joins Kylie, unconscious.
I drag Mitch to his apartment, the door is unlocked.
Back in Peter’s apartment, he’s regrouped, things are flying around the room at Chan, which I suppose sounds like a good idea, but it’s got all the impact of hitting sheet steel. Nikko and I haul mom and daughter to the apartment, I shut the door, Nikko goes back, I hear the thwip of her serrated blade opening. It won’t be long before cops appear, banging the door and slamming bad Pete made a racket. Fortunately, the neighbors in this floor either aren’t at home or aren’t about to stick their noses out until things settle down.
Pete flies, not literally, but he’s quick, across the room , trying to get past Chan. When he slams into Chan, he realizes he’s not going out the front door and bolts for the bedroom. No way out, Nikko buries her blade in his neck and slices. He’s half decapitated, fully dead.
Janah and Chloe are at the doorway, “That one,” I point to Mitch’s door, they’re inside, shut the door behind them.
“I’m going to keep an eye on Janah and Chloe, use the fire escape, we can’t send Cleaners, there was too much noise and there will be cops here soon. Grab the cameras, I’ll deal with his computer. Take the broken glass inside and throw it on the fire escape. Maybe the cops will think whoever busted in the front door went out the bedroom window.”
Nikko collects the equipment, “We’ll go over a few blocks and wait. If there’s any confusion with cops, you might need help getting clear.”
The escape drops to an alley, they can get to the street and gone before the turmoil starts. I nod, grab the laptop and Kylie’s clothes, do a quick eyeball for any other digital stuff, nothing laying out and I don’t have time to be thorough. If he has external drives, so be it.
Inside Mitch’s apartment, Chloe has the girl covered in a robe, mom and dad are in the bedroom, everyone is still out. I secure the parents with nylon ties and duct tape their mouths. We move the girl to her bedroom. If the cops bang on the door, nobody’s home.
Chloe prepares a Ketamine syringe, Janah injects the girl, Chloe pops an ammonia cap under her nose. We need her awake, but sedate, not in a panic.
Janah begins. The process will be the same for all, Janah’s not going to have a chat, she’s going directly in their minds and clear recent history, like your computer. There will be no Peter, no hundred dollar man, Mitch won’t have to explain anything, he can’t, he won’t remember. Mini will tell his friend to drop it before Mitch shows up at work, that it was all bullshit. The guy may or may not believe it, it doesn’t matter, when Mini says drop it, it gets dropped.
It takes four hours to wipe the past few days, they are as empty as Lindsey Lohan’s mind in meltdown. The cops knocked earlier, announced themselves, our activity doesn’t require sound, they assume nobody home. There are sounds of a gurney being hauled up the steps, then down, cops talking, conclude the perpetrator broke in the front door, killed Peter and escaped through the bedroom window. While Janah is deleting, I go through Pete’s computer, there are a few files dating back six months. In case we need them, I pop the hard drive and stick it in my pocket, I’ll trash the machine someplace on the way home.
It gets quiet around midnight, I peek through the peephole to the hallway, yellow crime scene tape, I listen, if there’s a cop on the floor he isn’t breathing. Doors had opened and closed to other apartments, now nothing.
I check in with Nikko, “Drive around the block and let me know if there are cops, look for unmarked cars, anyone inside, or hanging on the street.”
Ten minutes goes by, Nikko pops in my head, “One cop car cruising the neighborhood, nobody sitting in cars, couple of people walked down the street but gave the building no notice.”
“Move off a few blocks, I’ll ride with Janah and Chloe, she’s parked three blocks over. We need to get gone.”

Janah puts the three under sedation, I cut the ties, lay mom and dad on their bed, turn on the TV, sound low. It isn’t perfect, but they can only conclude they fell asleep with it on. Janah does a good job dulling the puncture wounds, they’ll be groggy when they wake up. I put a t-shirt on the girl, get her under her covers, only her bathroom light is on.
I give Chloe the laptop, I take the small pharmaceutical case and peer out to the alley under the fire escape, it’s dark, but I have owl eyes. To me, it’s bright enough to see papers on the ground, a rat nosing around the base of the dumpster, nothing else around. I ease out onto the fire escape, motion Janah and Chloe to follow.
“Nikko, we’re headed home, see you shortly.”
“I’m dropping Chan, be along in a while.”

I lose the laptop in a dumpster on the way to the apartment, make sure it finds its way to the middle of the pile. It’s useless, I’d popped out chips and crushed them, the hard drive is in my pocket, it’s just a plastic box with a keyboard now.

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