Chapter Thirty Seven

"Dasha, let's drag him to the boathouse, stick him on a tarp in the Stingray. We'll take him across the lake in the morning, too late to fool with it tonight."
When we have Shadow Four wrapped, we join the others in the guesthouse, besides Janah and Daria, all the others are asleep except Charles.
"Foot doing better?"
Charles, "Much, Daria has amazing qi, it was frozen, then she peeled away dead skin, look, only two abrasions now."
Which is what it looks like, two pink dots the size of quarters. Janah covers them with antibiotic, wraps gauze around his foot, he gets up and hobbles to the bathroom.
When he returns, he asks, "What happens now?"
"We're hanging until you're mobile, we can fill the day with repairs and finish straightening the residence, wash linens in here and clean the kitchen, go to the grocery. Two, three days. We have to dispose of the body first thing, get the others to the clinic."
Sleep, been a rather busy day.
First light, Dasha and I are skimming across the lake, it's not fishing season, the camps are closed for the winter. We've run maybe four miles, this time east, ease along the shoreline for as hidden a spot as practicable. The body is still in a tarp, rope around to make it easier to drag out of the boat onto the shore, thunk! It hits the dirt.
We drag it up the slope, gentle at this point, it doesn't get steep until further up. The poison has run its life, if anyone were to do a tox screen, they wouldn't find anything. Fifty or so yards up the hill, a tree has fallen, rotting away across a boulder. Now, there's a body to rot away under it. We'd stripped the Shadow last night, no clothes, no ID, a hole in his eye, that might be a clue, but if anyone found him, it would be chalked up to birds. Fold up the tarp, take the rope, back to the Stingray. Before we take off, I do an eagle eye across, up and down the lake, the mountain across the way is not close. I zip down the same side of the lake, don't cross until we pass the guesthouse, circle back, park it in the boathouse and close the door.
Janah and Daria have coffee, tea and a quickie breakfast prepared. The monks are asleep, we decide to work on the residence rather than make noise in the guesthouse.
"Janah, you stay here and do laundry, that won't wake anyone, the machines are in the basement. Be good to have someone here when they start moving. We'll work on the residence until time to go to the clinic."
"Okay, we need to get rid of the car they stole."
"Take them to the clinic in our SUV, while you and Daria do that, Dasha can drive the stolen car, I'll take the monk's Tahoe. We'll stash the stolen car and go to the grocery."
Dasha finds a logging road, drives up until the road veers left, makes the turn, and leaves the stolen SUV. I'd taken off the license plate, likely stolen from some other car, and removed everything from the glove box. There's no other paper or registration. The vin number will eventually reveal the owner, who will have reported it stolen however many months earlier. She walks back down and gets into the monk's car. We do a massive grocery trip, back past the guesthouse to the residence. Most of the groceries go there, we bring the rest to the guesthouse.
Janah, "Should be done in a bit. The usual, splints, for broken bones, nothing more to do about contusions. They reported a break in and attempted robbery, the men were masked, never saw the car they came in, blah, blah. The police tried for more, but getting a Shaolin monk to cough up what he doesn't want to cough up is impossible. The cops said there was little chance of catching anyone with what they had, Francois said, 'We regret their ignorance and can only hope the wheel of karma is kind.'"
"What'd the cops do?"
"Nothing, they know Francois and the others, they know the monks are far more observant than that. I suspect they think the monks know exactly where the men are, and they've been spared a lot of useless searching and paperwork."
"Compassion at its finest, helping ease the way for others."
"Like you demonstrated in the cave?"

"Precisely, just think, I could have turned them over to Daria and Dasha, you know, for interrogation. I took the compassionate road. I reek of compassion, certain to enter Nirvana any moment now."
Janah, "Maybe I'll take you to Nirvana tonight."
"See, it's already worked."


Chapter Thirty Eight

Nikko, "The twins did well, didn't know Dasha carried her qi so far."
"Didn't either. She surprises me with things. I didn't know back when that she'd started in on the qi dummies. She doesn't like to say what she's going to do, she prefers to show what she's done."
"When are you coming home, it's hard to tell, but I think Oceane's getting antsy."
"Really? I would have guessed she's forgotten our names by now."
"No, Amaya has to keep her updated on what's been going on, but this afternoon, she'd been in her room all day. Amaya went up and Oceane asked when Daphne and Dasha were coming home."
"Is she upset?"
"She doesn't do upset, at least it doesn't register. But she seldom asks questions, matter of fact, I don't recall hearing her ever ask a question, until today."

"Ask Zi to read her, see if she’s troubled, if she needs it, Amaya can reassure her. We best get home, from the looks of things, I'd say day after tomorrow. Could probably go tomorrow, but we don't want the monks moving around too much just yet. Charles is fully mobile though, and we have the places mostly cleaned up. Dasha and Daria are fueling the houseboats and will take each of them out, make sure they're in working order. I'm taking the Stingray over to the cabin, but just to do a quickie check, no point in opening it just to close it."
We sign off, curious about Oceane. Amaya and Chloe will give her extra attention now that they're on the alert. We know she's a delicate soul, but near impossible to read emotionally.
Janah, "I'm flying in two monks from the temple, they'll be here tomorrow, we can return on the same plane. They'll stay at least a week, they were happy to be called on, nice change in routine."
"Maybe we should rotate one or two in during the summer, be good for the four to see new faces, our monks can be out in nature for a couple of weeks, disciples I presume?"
Janah, "I think at first. But it might be good to have one or two of the kids included. I'm going to talk it over with the masters when we get home."
Jan, "I think it's a delightful idea. Thank you for looking out for us. I would welcome the children coming, there's so much to see and experience."
Janah, "We've sent monks to the cabin occasionally, don't know why the other didn't occur to me. David Li has come a few times, he likes the botany, a change from what he sees in New York. He's coming this trip to help you get back on your feet."
Su Lin brightens, "David Li! Really, such a wonderful master. So knowledgeable about the plants. He will bring medicines, we'll all be healthier and full of fresh energy."
"Suni Tan is also coming, she's a disciple, and quite a good chemist. She spends a good deal of time in our lab. Her specialty is nutrients, she's a PhD in pharmacology as well."
Francois, "It's a great treat Janah, I'm feeling energized already. You are vegetarian in the temple, if they wish, outside, can they eat fish? It's the only animal flesh we serve here."
"Out of the temple, they can eat whatever they wish. I'm vegetarian, but was even before the temple accepted us, Daphne's a carnivore but lived vegetarian in the temple. We don't want to be rigid about too much. A Shaolin eats what's put in front of him and grateful to have it."
David Li and Suni arrive at noon. Suni is Chinese-American, just lovely, soft spoken, intelligent, wide smile, short black hair. She's not a super talented gung fu fighter, but she's graceful, quick and knows her forms inside and out.
We do girl screech, "Suni!"
"Daphne!"
Hugs ensue, she says, "I'm so excited to be here, the mountains are stunning, not as stunning as Master Sylk, but then, what is?"
"And how many hearts did you break on the flight?"
She giggles, "We wore street clothes of course. It was fun, private plane, I felt like a big deal.
We have tea, bring the Canada monks up to speed on the temple, then the story of the Shadows. Suni gasps throughout, David Li is long used to our adventures. Dasha and I make dinner. David sticks to vegetarian, Suni is all over the fish, fresh from the lake.
The evening winds down, I'd bought wine and vodka for Janah and the twins. They get the four monks settled in the residence, return to the guesthouse, we have cups of chamomile while the fire settles. I detect a glint in Suni's eye, hmmmm.
We go to our rooms, do go to bed things, while Janah snuggles in, I decide to make sure Suni is comfortable. I tap on her door, she smiles, pulls me in and zips off my t-shirt. She's conveniently in nothing. Let your imagination run wild, that's how it went.

Chapter Thirty Nine

After a day of work projects, and an evening of relaxation, we're ready to go home. Tonight, however, Suni expands her horizons, or should I say, has them expanded. Daria snagged her. I'm up early and spot her leaving the twins' room.
She sees me, blushes, "I may need to go to rehab, twins....amazing."
"Kind of what I think, glad you found it, um, enlightening."
She grins, "I am the worst Shaolin on the planet."
"Sorry dear one, that job's taken and I don't plan to retire."
She laughs, hand over her mouth, "You all look so young, David says you don't age, none of your family of girls do. Miyako says she's worked on the genetics. She has theories, genes that quit doing their job don't breakdown in you. She doesn't know what qi has to do with it."
"I chalk it up to lots of sex, but I'm biased."
Suni, "The twins are identical, why does Dasha retain an accent and Daria not? We're they not raised together?"
"They were. Dasha isn't social, but she's more social than Daria. She figured out she could charm us by keeping her English-Russian jumble. Charms me in particular, I'm a sucker for it, she knows that. Besides sex, it's the closest thing she has for fun."
"Kind of sad, or is it?"
"They are serious to a fault, that's how they understand the world. We don't need them to be any other way than the way they are. Happiness, the way Americans understand it, is not a Russian character trait. Happiness is overrated, we're only happy until we realize we're happy, then we aren't happy anymore. They understand work, diligence, perseverance, do not respect foolishness and frivolity. We would never try and change that."
Suni nods, "It's actually rather Shaolin. I'm sorry you have to leave, but we will soon be back in Manhattan as well. This place is a wonderful treat, David Li can't wait to get to the forest."
"I'm going to get breakfast started, we have to get to the airport."
Suni goes to her room, Dasha comes padding down the hall, "We haf sex with Suni, she ees liking."
"Anyone would like to have sex with you."
Dasha, "Da, and Daria, she ees more sexy one."
She doesn't mean Daria is sexier, just that Daria is more active, Dasha generally sticks to me. She lets Eloise play mostly because Daria wants to, and I'm guessing that's what happened last night. It wouldn't occur to Dasha to invite Suni to bed, she only knows her sister wanted to and that's all she needed to know.
We're up and out, quick private flight home, Amaya's at Teterboro to pick us up, Chloe's along.
Chloe, "Amaya told me how Dasha and Daria dealt with dangerous Shadows and saved the monks. I'm so proud of you both."
Dasha, "Da, thanking you, we haf a nice visit, kill Shadow, feex monks, gud."
Daria says nothing, she's scrunched in next to Chloe, the closest thing to a mother she's had. She talks to Chloe about personal matters, everything with us is business. To her, killing is just business, what she talks over with Chloe is unknown. Chloe would never say, we would never ask.
Finally, home, I drop my luggage, go to Oceane's room, I think I see her brighten, but she's generally smiling anyway, maybe it's just wishful thinking. I do earn a long hug, kiss her face a hundred times, tell her I missed her.
"It was empty, Amaya was here, now it is full again with Daphne and Dasha."
I get misty, I don't ever want her empty, but it's not possible to have both Amaya and I around all the time. Amaya and Chloe have to spend time in LA and we can't always go with them.
"Oceane, even when we are gone, we are with you, you are always in our hearts."
She looks at me, beatific smile, "I am in your heart," she lays her hand on my heart, "yes, I feel me, in your heart."
She lays back on her pillow, I stroke her brow, "It feels good, in your heart."
I kiss her hand, a tear slides down my cheek, how can anything be more profoundly touching?
Amaya comes in, kneels next to the bed, kisses Oceane on the cheek, she lays her hand on Amaya's heart, "I feel me in your heart, I am in two hearts," she glows, we are a still silent tableau, she falls asleep, smiling in her slumber.
Amaya, "I tremble, we are blessed."

Chapter Forty

Downstairs, Dasha entertains herself with one way conversation while she cooks, "Shadows are for killing, sister kill two wiz dart drone, I kill two wiz beeg Dahfoney knife and chee. We will kill many Shadow, ees gud. Where ees soy sauce? Now to chop ohnyon for beans wiz hot sausage."
Then, "Dahfoney, you will come here, caramel ohnyon in maybe bacon dreep, also for Janah wiz only grapeseed oil."
Duty calls, I appear next to her and start frying bacon in the cast iron skillet, briefly wonder how many meals it's been a part of.
Dasha, "We will get beans start tonight, then refrigeratoring overnight, feenish wiz long slow cooking tomorrow."
"What's for dinner tonight?"
"Ordering out, maybe pizza, seemple."
Janah pours herself a glass of wine, "Yum, white beans, something to anticipate. Assume we're doing takeout tonight."
"Pizza."
"Something else to anticipate."
"You hungry now, I can whip up appetizers?"
"Rhetorical question."
We have spinach artichoke dip, I slice a couple of baguettes in rounds and toast them. Put out mixed nuts, girls appear, Amaya makes cocktails, wine poured, even Oceane makes an appearance. She's fond of spinach artichoke dip.
Chloe peers over Dasha's shoulder, "Yay, beans and sausage, what's Janah and Oceane get?"
Dasha, "Other pot, wiz mock duck and fry tofu, both will haf roast pepper, green, yellow, red, caramel ohnyon. Tomorrow make cornbreading wiz jalapeno."
Chloe, "Wow, looking forward to that."
Oceane says to no one in particular, "I am in two hearts," puts a hunk of spinach dip on a toasted round and takes a bite.
Nikko, "Anyone care to elaborate?"
Janah, "Oceane, you are in all our hearts, always."
She goes to each, lays her hand on their heart, sparkly smile, returns to her spot, "I am in everyone's heart," has another spinach appetizer.
She'd touched all the others, including Daria and Dasha, who could mistakenly appear to outsiders to have no heart at all, much less to carry feelings in them. Guess they're busted.
Dasha talks to her pot of beans, "What ees Oceane think, fahmahley ees always to look out for everyone, she will see."
We're quiet, Oceane takes a sip of white wine, "Fruit on my tongue," she sniffs, "and in my nose, light," she takes her glass and floats up the stairs.
Zi, "She has the most amazing capacity to be exactly in the moment, no worry, no concern for tomorrow, no dead weight of the past, a feather in a gentle breeze."
I breeze to the phone and call Marconi's, "Hey Dom, yeah, we were out of town but we're back and need a pizza fix, the usual combinations, everyone's home. Can you deliver, nobody wants to get dressed."
Dominic, "Nobody wants to get dressed, you're killing me here just picturing it. Be over in thirty. And somebody dress to collect it or I'll never get my delivery guy back."
I laugh, "Dasha and I will be presentable, add cannoli, okay?"
"You got it, be sure to come over one night, we don't see you guys enough, I got pictures of grandkids for you to compliment. One other thing, think you and Janah could pass by tomorrow, I could use some advice."
"Morning, afternoon?"
"Morning is good, ten, before the place opens, just take a minute."
"Dom's looking for...I don't know what, but he asked us to come by tomorrow, ten o'clock."
Janah, "Gennaro's gotten himself into a problem, a legal one. I saw it in the paper, small article in Metro. It didn't say what specifically, brought in for questioning regarding drug trafficking."
"Gennaro traffics in misplaced consumer goods, he wouldn't touch drugs."
"Beats me, we'll find out tomorrow."

We engage voracious appetites in pizza heaven, followed by cannoli heaven, while we watch Lie to Me on Netflix. HDMI cable sends it to our flat screen TV, very handy for our large group spread around on the mats, couches and chairs. The main floor has three bedrooms and baths. The kitchen, twelve seat dining table and the living room are all one room, about twenty five hundred square feet. Upstairs are four more bedrooms, altogether the apartment is around ten thousand square feet, not including the workshop and pool. We aren't crowded.
I call it an apartment for convenience sake. Janah and I got original space from Lacy Chapman, her apartment shares the fourth floor with ours. Chapmans School for Girls is the three floors and basement underneath us. As time went by, we kept expanding to accommodate the growing family. We got rich, then really rich, and the place got more elaborate. I have no idea how much we have in renovation and furnishings, it happened in bits and pieces. The kitchen has been remodeled twice, original baths once.
A few years ago, we bought the whole building from Lacy, which gave her more than enough money to retire as Headmaster. Now she travels with Susan, my birth mom, and Taylor, Susan’s live in girlfriend.
Chapmans pays us nominal rent, far below what it would cost for that much space in Greenwich Village. It's a triple net lease, meaning the school is responsible for maintenance, taxes, insurance and utilities. Lacy's assistant became Headmaster, Lacy is still the owner of the school. The real value for us is that we paid nothing in rent over the years, now we own the place courtesy of the Sylk Trust, which is tax exempt. Almost all the power for us and the school is generated by solar, which we paid for. Lacy still has her apartment, but is mostly with Susan and Taylor, either traveling or at Susan's condo. Janah's parents, James and Kara, own the condo over Susan's, have lived there since Janah and I met. I call James dad, we both call Susan and Kara mom, another mom was Chris Fischer, Susan's partner until she passed away nearly fifteen years ago. The entire saga is in previous books.

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