Thirty Seven

Blue Sky touches down at Prescott Municipal for ten, Danika is there with the Escalade.
“Welcome to Arizona, be a bit crowded for the ride with eight of us, I had to make a grocery run when I found out you guys were coming in. Just stack the bags in the aisle.”
Daria, “We kind of sprung it on you, we did not decide until last night.”
“No worries, we had plenty of canned stuff, mostly needed perishable things. Better to get them in Prescott Valley than the smaller stores out this way.”
Ellen, “Much appreciated, good to see you again girl. Daria tell you what we’re here for?”
“Thinking about a gun range she said. A little surprised Janah went for it.”
Dasha, “Shadows.”
“What do you mean?”
“Shadows are getting more aggressive. Dahfoney was hurt, small fracture in breastbone, big bruise on chest.”
Danika, “I didn’t know, she’s okay now?”
“Da, but Shadows haf figured out someone is looking, that somebody knows how to find them. They do not know who we are, they are trying to figure it out. That ees problem, we haf to take care of problem. Not anymore a problem for now, but we are still monitoring web traffic for other Shadow activity.”
“I see, and Su and I are two more Shaolin they would try to kill if they knew where we are.”
Daria, “You are safe here, Shadow can find Shaolin everywhere, up here, away from any big city on a property with an eight foot wall. Shadows aren’t going to that much trouble. Pay attention when you are in Prescott maybe. You are a mystic priest, you will pick up on a Shadow and he cannot take your mind anyway, he would die in the attempt.”
“Have to keep an eye out when Su goes with me, she’s not prepared to deal with a powerful Shadow. Su is mostly cloistered at the house though.”
Danika presses the fob to open the main gate, drives through, it shuts behind her, down the long drive to the main house.
Mani, “Cripes, I’d forgotten how huge this place is. The wall practically disappears on the far side.”
“It was designed to blend into the landscape, Amaya thought of everything and everything else. The pool is uncovered and heated if you want a swim, Katya and Katja are in Janah and Daphne’s room, Ellen in Sloane’s room, Mani and Sarah in Nikko and Zi’s room.”
Ellen, “For sure there aren’t any bad rooms, only splendid and more splendid.”
Danika, “Amaya again, she went nuts for Oceane and Cassie, their rooms are like entering a vision of heaven or paradise.”
Daria, “Oceane and Cassandra are unique in a family of unique. Amaya created spaces for them to accommodate their special needs. Oceane feels everything, Cassandra feels nothing. Janah says it is why they are together a lot of the time, one adds to the other.”
Danika, “What do they talk about?”
“They do not talk, Vesnushki and Zi say they commune, Oceane tunes Cassandra up, Cassandra tunes Oceane down. They read it in the auras. Sloane is the glue, she looks out for them, keeps Cassandra active. They relate to Sloane because of it.”
Danika, “Then all is well between them, a little tribe inside the larger tribe. What a splendid thing that your family found them, one imagines what a miserable life they might have had otherwise.”
“Oceane and Cassandra would be in an institution, Sloane, who knows? Probably on the street.”
Su comes along from the guesthouse, “The whole New Orleans-Houston family, what a nice surprise. Daria, Janah called, asks you to check in with her when you get settled.”
“Okay,” she finds her phone and dials, walks to the office suite.
The rest park luggage then return to the big room and the dining table.
Daria comes in, “Janah wants to change up the gun range a bit. We will buy another property near here instead of having it on the family compound. Nikko made a few calls, checked permitting, an agent will be here tomorrow to take us to a couple of spots, one is five, the other about ten miles out.”
Katya, “Better, I should have thought of it myself. Even with the size of your compound, guns will make some noise.”
Daria, “And we never know where Sloane and Cassie might run or dirt bike on the grounds, a different location fixes both issues. Also, Eloise is designing the moving targets, stationary targets are simple.”
Danika, “I bought pre-made burgers from Sprouts, blue cheese and green pepper, toppings of tomato, onion and mushrooms. Sesame seed buns, plenty of chips but I also bought potatoes, Su and I will have baked, there’s a couple of boxes of chopped peppers for the potato. You may prefer to make fries with the burgers.”
Ellen looks to Dasha, “What do you think, just bake them and skip frying complications?”
“Da, wiz burger, half a potato ees plenty, we will make gud stuffed baked for Danika and Su.”
“I also bought a selection of cold cuts, Sprout’s carries Boar’s head, it’s what Daphne buys. There is roast beef, pastrami, chipotle chicken and Sausalito turkey breast. Also havarti and chipotle cheeses, crackers.”
Ellen’s unloading the groceries, “Sweet, you thought of caviar and sour cream, oh, smoked salmon. Good job, particularly for a vegetarian.”
Danika, “I cheat, fish sometimes, Su sticks to veg. Daphne always has caviar on the list for the twins, now we have two sets of Russian twins. I hope Dasha will crank out blini.”
“Da, tomorrow we will haf gud international breakfast, blini, Miso zoup, smoky salmon. Next day full English, you haf garden burger?”
“That’s always in stock, fake chicken also, mock duck and tofu.”
The afternoon juggles between swimming and go karts, girls are nicely relaxed by the time tea is served by the pool. It’s cool outside, maybe sixty five, but in the bright sun it seems warmer. When they finish, the sun is edging the top of the mountain, they stay long enough to see the brilliant orange streak over the mountains.
Su, “We get splendid sunsets when there are clouds, all sorts of streaks of color. Dani and I sit until we’re in the dark, and if we haven’t turned on exterior lights, it’s deathly dark. That means a superb star show, sometimes we’re entranced until midnight. Clear sky, tonight’s show will be wonderful.”
Ellen, “I gotta see that, first I need to get clean, then get dinner started.”
Girls go off to shower, by the time they wander back, it’s cocktails, tonight Sarah’s the bartender.
Ellen, “Everyone medium?”
Universal yes, “Good, that’s easy. Dasha, you’re familiar with the grill here, how ‘bout handling the burgers and I’ll deal with stuffed potatoes.”
“We will have potato cooked already, mush up and stuff, they have to go anyway back into warm oven. Then grill burger, maybe ten minutes, toast buns on grill warming rack, seemple. Oh, cut up tomato, ohnyon, we haf peeckle, mushroom in potato or for burger?”
“I’ll sauté enough for both, light in the potato, they can add to the burger. How about caramelized onion, sweeter and less onion breath.”
“Good idea,” she reaches for the vodka Sarah laid on the counter, Russian Standard from the freezer, two ice cubes, tonight garlic or anchovy olive, Dasha has anchovy.
“Drink ees good Sarah, you have touch, like Eemaya.”
“Thank you, my twins like their drinks pretty much like you and Daria, it’s hard to screw up Russian Standard.”
By seven thirty, they’re gathered around the table with burgers and stuffed potatoes.
Mani, “Yum grilled onion and mushroom, and Kewpie mayo, ketchup and Tonkatsu sauce, a dream burger.”
Both sets of twins are shaking habanero powder over stuffed potato, another sprinkle on the burger.
Danika, “They like it hot, Nikko is the champ though.”
Dasha, “Nikko haf no tasting bud, only Teflon tongue, crazy samurai.”
Laughter, they’ve all seen Nikko dump habanero sauce  on everything from breakfast eggs to burgers.
“She ees deeferent wiz filet steak, no hot sauce.”
Su, “That’s because you usually make marchand de vin with filet. She said she could never screw up such a wonderful sauce with hot spices.”
The evening closes with stargazing, Su is correct, there is light from those still burning, light from others likely long burned away. The nearest star to us besides the sun, Proxima Centauri, is forty trillion kilometers away. It takes four years for its light to reach us, so we see it as it was four years ago.

Thirty Eight

Next three days repeat with one exception, the twins have lines to learn. Amaya’s been on Skype a couple hours a day listening and refining, Chloe behind her smiling at the girls and laughing at the funnier lines.
Amaya, “You followed instructions, nobody banged up from dirt bikes?”
“Nyet Eemaya, we sweem, ride kart, nobody gets hurt in kart. We will go now, enough lines, tomorrow we will see you een LA, go and tell everyone how beautiful you are, bye-bye now, thank you for coming, we appreciate beezness, come again soon and geeve us more money, you will haf maybe nice day.”
Chloe is giggling like crazy, Danika and Su laugh. Ellen, Mani and Sarah have been watching the rehearsals but can’t figure out what’s so funny.
Amaya, “Just show up and be professional, four communists at once, I may have to alert Homeland,” she clicks off.
Ellen, “What in heck’s that about?”
Danika, “As I understand it, when Dasha and Daria were helping out at the Village Diner, Amaya taught them a few social graces. They weren’t much for chit chat, but Daria was working the register and needed to make small talk with customers. The twins got their revenge by using and abusing the phrases at home, with friends of the family, primarily to get a rise out of Amaya.”
“Ah, now it’s making sense.”
Dasha, “Eemaya works to make us social, we would not anyway talk wiz people outside fahmahley, maybe a few friends, Chan, Black, like that. She spends time wiz us, sister learns right away, I haf to repeat over and over, but we learn.
Eemaya does not haf to, but she anyway does, she haf been good to sisters, peeking out clothes, how to do making up so we are beautiful, always peerfect hairstyling, teaching us to chit and chat. She ees good person, but I anyway like to tease her.”
Ellen, “It’s all play.”
“Da, Eemaya likes to be big dramatic person and pretend everything ees about her. But she ees for Vesnushki always, makes homes peerfect, clothes peerfect for all of us. Bossy ees only to make beeg production, Eemaya does not do small production.”
Sarah, “I’ve seen all the movies and read the books, her talent has talent.”
Daria, “True, and while Nikko, Zi and I handle the businesses, Amaya spends hours on the part she runs, her books, films, Chloe Couture, not to mention all the household items for three sizable homes. Despite her schedule, nothing is overlooked or forgotten.”
Katya, “And now she adds sister and me to her film, almost sight unseen. We experienced what Daria said, you saw it in the rehearsals, how to stand, exactly what to say in exactly what tone, facial expression down to raise left eyebrow slightly, don’t pull the gun so fast, ease it out so the target has time to assimilate what is about to happen to him.”
Ellen, “So she’s the director.”
Daria, “Nyet, Harry Childers. But he knows whether it is Chloe or us, we are going to know our lines and know how to make our movement and expression conform to exactly what the character says. Amaya is a performance artist, she can transform herself into anything or anyone. When she says you should turn your wrist a certain way, or wait three beats before speaking, it is part of becoming the character. Chloe said in her last performance she became a psychologist turning the tables on the government agency that hired her. She credits Amaya with constructing her character so precisely.”
Dasha, “Da, reviewing critical person says Vesnushki ees female Marlon something, what ees name Daria?”
“Brando.”
Sarah, “Sheesh, I’ve seen the Godfather movies, he didn’t play the Godfather, he was the Godfather.”
Mani, “All this play has been fun, I’m not much of a diver, but I could live in that pool, now we go off to see a movie being made.”
Ellen, “We go off to see that the actors are safe, we aren’t watching who’s on the set, we’re watching everyone around it. Daphne’s gonna give us instructions, we follow them. We got fan crazies, terrorists and fucking Shadows, shit’s about to get weird, pay attention and laser focus. Starting tomorrow, nice is over until our people are safe at home.”
Mani and Sarah, “Got it.”
I add, “One fine point, there are people on the set we don’t know. Don’t worry about them too much, Janah and I will keep an eye on things. We’ll introduce ourselves during breaks, get a read on whether there’s anything requiring extra attention.”
We’re stuck on Shutters as the place to stay when we go to Los Angeles, but the Santa Monica-Venice Beach area is splendid and we know the ins and outs of the hotel. Even better, the staff knows us, we are generous and polite, they reciprocate. Dasha is a staff favorite.
Marcel, the concierge, “Miss Dasha, welcome, always a pleasure, Daria and Miss Sylk, Janah, our other film star Chloe Sylk, Amaya, and I see Miss Eloise behind you, a great day for Shutters. And who are these young ladies, twins doubled, lovely perfect copies.”
“Marcel, meet Katya and Katja, they are joining Dasha and Daria as assassins in Amaya’s newest Twice as Dead.”
“I read there was to be a sequel, I am all anticipation. I saw the first one twice, then got the DVD. I’ve loaned it to a half dozen friends. Guess I shouldn’t admit that, you do get royalties I presume.”
“Loan it as much as you wish, perhaps they will line up for a ticket to the next one.”
“Based on their comments, they can’t wait. You are checked in, your rooms are ready, four ocean view, one ocean front suite for Ms. Sylk, Ms. Svensson and Ms. Eloise.”
“Janah, Daphne and Eloise, Marcel, we don’t do much formality.”
Dasha, “Most eemportant question Marcel.”
“Yes Miss Dasha, there is Russian Standard in all the rooms, Heidsieck  Champagne and a selection of red and white wines.”
“Da, you are best concierge peerson. We will go to rooms now, thanking you.”
In a hotel like Shutters, you let the bellman deliver luggage. You give him a generous but not absurd tip. If you need things done and the concierge is occupied, the front desk, bellman or housekeeper can get lots of stuff in a jiffy. We’re staying a month, the tab is going to run around a hundred grand. Even at Shutters, that’s real money and a few hundred in various gratuities is hardly worth mentioning.
“When you’re unpacked, come to the suite and let’s sort out security. Filming begins tomorrow, Amaya has to meet Childers later, he’s also going to want to meet Katya and Katja as well. I think he’s bringing Dmitrievna, the girl who’s playing both roles as the young Katya and Katja.”
An hour later everyone is in our suite, I have a selection of teas, there’s a microwave for boiling water.
“If you want a snack, there’s a stack of stuff , the hotel left us fruit baskets and a ton of nuts, cheese and chocolate.”
Amaya, “I should think so, Murakami Sylk may be this year’s best customer.”
“When do Matt and Claudia arrive?”
“Second week, he’s got a couple days of filming. They live in LA, no reason to check them into a room. We will likely have dinner one evening depending on shooting schedule. I have already given the socialist darlings theirs. I thought to have cars collect us, but Daphne nixed unknown drivers, we shall self deliver.”
“Amaya, myself, Daria and Dasha have taken tactical driving from Bondurant. Should an unpleasant situation arise, we know what to do and when to do it.”
Katja, “What is tactical driving?”
“Executive protection, avoidance and escape from kidnappers, terrorists, fat ugly people. There are techniques to blasting through a roadblock, keeping the vehicle under control in high speed chases, tapping a pursuant off the road. We know what the cars can handle at what speed. We use SUVs with bulletproof glass dark tint windows and reinforced suspension. The insurance alone is outrageous but that’s tough, we need vehicles that are battle ready.”
Katya says something to Daria in Russian.
“Da Katya, we will go to Bondurant School in Phoenix, time for a refresher for us, you and Katja will learn tactical driving. Ellen Mani and Sarah if they wish. We will talk over later.”
I resume, “Tomorrow we’re up and out by six. We’ll be parked inside, the gates have guards, not so much for our security girls to do. The morning is spent in housekeeping details so everyone is on the same page. Then there are walkthroughs for the  scenes to be shot. Childers is a one take director, occasionally he does a second but that’s unusual. Things don’t work, a mechanical glitch, the scene doesn’t feel right when he sees it through the camera. There are drone operators for part of the filming, Eloise is here to run the drone for security. She will fly the area wherever they film and look for suspicious behavior, guys with backpacks, lurkers, baseball caps or hoodies. We aren’t politically correct, we’re profiling plain and simple.”
Sarah, “Are we more concerned about crazies, terrorists or Shadows?”
“Assume all three are a threat, but there’s not much you, Ellen or Mani can do to spot Shadows, let us worry about that. You are psychopathic, yes?”
“Crazy and heartless, family excepted.”
“Then if you sense one of your partners acting strangely, intervene and face down the threat. He will have the most difficulty taking your mind. Don’t get heroic, if you’re reasonably sure it’s a Shadow, the gun will keep him at bay unless he decides to use telekinesis. Things start flying at you, shoot him. When the cops come, put down your weapon, raise your hands and let them cuff you. Your ID will show you have a license for the gun and an employee of Murakami Sylk. There won’t be any problem if you don’t get cute with the cops.”
Ellen, “We have radio communication I assume.”
“Good for several miles, even in over-wireless LA. An earpiece and a small box on your belt, Eloise designed it, it’s crystal clear and the battery will run twenty four hours. Charge them when you return to the hotel. You will have sat phones, a taser, plus your personal weapon. The taser is dumb simple. Point and press the button, good for twenty yards, better at ten or less. Takes ten seconds to recharge if you need to give the target another reminder.”
I pause to finish my tea, “Let’s see, street locations, I’ll tell you where I want you, most of your attention should be away from the filming. Keep the chatter going, make sure you know where everyone is. You will have a camera pendant around your neck, designed to remain stable, the feed goes to a tablet that Janah will monitor. Four of us, four screens, she will know what each of you are seeing and can relay problems instantly to the rest of us. If there’s a difficulty, Eloise will route the drone, it’s armed with tranquilizer darts, she will neutralize the problem if there are more targets than you can reasonably handle.”
Ellen, “Dang, sounds thorough enough.”
Janah, “When the crap hits the propeller, the best laid plans go out the window. Do not hesitate to use your judgment and improvise. The best thing we have going for us is nobody is afraid of trouble.”

Thirty Nine

I arrange a light dinner in the suite, a mini buffet and an extra table. Harry, his assistant Amanda Allen and Dmitrievna are due in a few.
Amaya, “One drink girls, a glass of wine with dinner if you wish. Actors and security need to be fully functional tomorrow and for the duration. You can blow it out after the work is done.”
The phone rings, I answer, “Send them up, yes send dinner in a half hour.”
I’m in the hall when the elevator door opens, Harry, Amanda and a totes adorable young girl exit.
Amanda, “Daphne! Good gravy, you never get a minute older,” a hug, she turns to the others, “Oh Christ, neither does anyone else, Janah, you’re going to stay twenty five forever.”
“Moisturizer and genetics,” which is true, the genetics part, Amada has no way of knowing just how complex our genetics are.
“Baloney, some Shaolin thing you cannot reveal to anyone,” hugs for Amaya and Chloe, then introductions.
“First, let me introduce Dmitrievna, she likes Dmi,” she makes the rounds, finishing with her older selves, Katya and Katja.
Dmi, “Wow, I grew up beautiful.”
We laugh, Katya says, “You started out beautiful,” earns a blink.
“She’s Russian, they don’t do much silly grin.”
Amaya, “She is more outgoing normally, she is in character tonight. She watched the first Twice as Dead several times.”
“Dmi, a Coke Zero, sparkling water, tea?”
“There is tea? I will have.”
“Hot, black?”
“Da, no sugar.”
“Your character drinks hot black no sugar, are you practicing?”
“Da i nyet, I am trying out my character, but I drink tea like that anyway.”
“We have caviar appetizers, care for some?”
“Spasibo.”
Katya takes over, helps her fix a plate with crackers, and sour cream, they go to the balcony with Katja. I hear a burst of Russian. Dasha and Daria join them, bigger burst of Russian, then something unusual, laughter.
Harry, “I think we’re set, tomorrow at the studio, seven a.m. meeting. I’ll keep it brief, mostly introductions to the crew and actors playing Dmi’s mother, then the people who abduct her and her twin and take her to America. She has a few wardrobe changes playing both twins, miracle of digital video will allow us to have her as twins in the same scene.”
Amaya, “You still plan to do her bit in a few days?”
“Don’t see why not, mom does a lot of yelling, enough slaps for the audience to get the idea the twins are abused. Mom leaves the girls with an older couple for a day while she allegedly looks for a job, instead runs off with a man. The end result is the two being sold off to a woman who says the girls will be adopted by a rich couple in America.”
Amaya, “They get to America, but there is no rich couple, only child sellers. Dmi and Dmi cold bloodedly cuts their captors’ throats and learn to fend for themselves. There will be a lot of filming and a lot of editing. It will be clear how the grown twins wind up as professional assassins.”
Sarah, “How do you transition from a kid to teenage hitgirls?”
Childers, “It’s a movie, the audience will flow with the story. We make Dmi look older, then Katya and Katja look younger. It won’t take much, they only look twenty or so now.”
Amanda, “I know it involves standing around, but we think it gives both sets of twins a feel for the story if they are on set while Dmi is playing her part.”
Amaya, “Already covered, everyone will be around, including Chloe. Matt can’t come in sooner, but his part does not require an understanding of the young twins’ motivation. Besides, he has read the script and is a pro. His role is something between Godfather to Dasha and Daria and elder statesman to run interference when they come to the attention of the fumbling FBI.”
Childers, “And Chloe pops in to whack off a couple of heads when Katja and Katya get cornered by a gaggle of vicious gangbangers. About two thirds of the way along, Matt and Chloe meet for a drink and they do a very short reminiscence of former adventures. We slide in brief footage from Ultra Violet and the first Twice as Dead.”
I overhear most of the conversation, room service came along and I’ve been organizing the buffet.
“Food’s up, wine is open, help yourselves. I know we need to move things along, big day tomorrow and our new young star needs her rest.”
Dmi takes a plate, she’s only eight, but already tall, a long stick of legs and elbows. She’s done training someplace, her arms are graceful with a hint of muscle tone, can’t see her whole leg, just calves, she’s a dancer I think.
“You train at something, dance?”
“And gymnastics. I’m only okay at gymnastics, but my coach says it will help for acting, performance in front of an audience. I am a good dancer, I prefer it.”
She takes smoked fish, deviled egg, a slice of roast beef, no bread. She skips Ravioli Bolognese, adds a few peeled shrimp and a spoon of spinach. Also passes on mac and cheese.
“You stick to vegetable and protein.”
“Da, low carb, I have ice cream sometimes. Fat girls don’t get the best parts. This movie is a big chance for me and the camera is going to add pounds. I’m not anorexic, I eat well, my exercise routines require energy.”
“Surprised you know what anorexic is.”
“Girls at dance talk about it all the time. Some go off to throw up, ten year olds smoke cigarettes their parents buy for them. Stupid girls and greedy parents.”
“Your parents don’t pressure you?”
She smiles, “I pressure me, they don’t know what to make of it. Mother and father are good people, father is a professor of chemistry, mother stays at home and takes me to classes. I could have an easy life, but I like acting, not Disney child material, acting like Twice as Dead will allow me to do. Start out as a child, confused by an uncaring selfish mother, then hardening into a cold killer. Two killers. And Amaya wrote the work with subtle differences between Katja and Katya, I’m not just playing the same girl twice.”
“Geez, this kid is no slouch.”
Amaya, “Harry said he’d found just the right girl, appears he did. She’s slick for eight, what eight year old besides me knows exactly what they want to do and how to go about doing it?”
“Well, there was Janah.”
“And you, but at eight you were only interested in martial arts, it took Janah to give your skill a direction. Good thing, you would have would up a hot girl doing taekwondo forms on YouTube.”
“Master Kim had a hand in it.”
“Ah, true, see, you needed two firm hands because you are naturally screwy.”

She’s got a point.

Forty

The set is its usual conglomeration of moving parts. On first glance you wonder how anything like a movie gets made. The people, however, are professionals and know what they need to do when.
Our three armed security people were checked out by studio security. If there was resentment or attitude, it didn’t show. The studio head of security had been contacted by the FBI, which forwarded photos and credentials from Murakami Sylk Enterprises. A couple of their guys tried flirting with the girls, it earned them blank stares. They went away.
I gather my security team, “Park yourselves at exits, one of you take duty just outside, keep your eyes open. I know I told you to keep in contact, but during filming it’s quiet on the set. Don’t move around, that can be distracting to the actors. Eloise has the drone up, she’s going to circle the area around the lot, Janah will monitor the video feed.”
Ellen, Mani and Sarah wear loose black pants, black silk pullovers and black sports jackets. They have to, all of them have shoulder holsters with the smallest Glock, the 42 .380 auto. They have the standard clip holstered and two extended clips each. If they need that many rounds, we’re under attack by more than one whacko.
Janah is meeting the crew, her radar is fully tuned, if there’s anything out of synch, suspicious or a dark aura, I’ll know it when she does.
“You caught what I caught, nothing significant.”
“Good enough.”

The first scenes are in a low end apartment constructed on set, the dialogue in Russian, that stretch will be subtitled. It must have gone well, I didn’t notice any retakes, just a fair amount of yelling by the actor playing Dmi’s mother. The man she eventually takes off with makes some smarmy comments to the twins and does a bit too much touching. Nothing overtly sexual, stokes a cheek, lays an inappropriate hand on the child’s bare thigh. Dmi stares blankly and sticks a pencil in it. What actually happens is she sticks a pencil in a rubber hand with a blood bladder underneath.
First break, ten minutes for a pee and tea.
Amaya and Harry are talking to Dmi, there’s laughter, keeps her relaxed and reassured.
I chat with her real mom, “Dmi has real talent, she’s just gliding along.”
Mom, “She inherited my husband’s temperament, never rattled, we both have the wry Russian fatalistic outlook. Our family joke is no matter what happens in America, it could be worse, we could still be in Russia.”
“Perspective is important.”
“She is so thrilled to be part of this. If determination makes stars, she’s going to be one. And thank you for last night, she came home bubbling about the twins and a roomful of gorgeous girls.”
“She didn’t appear intimidated.”
“Dmi? Never, she knows she’s beautiful.”
“Like her mom.”
“Spasibo, my husband is tall and slim, that didn’t hurt either. Dmi is home schooled unfortunately, but she makes friends at dance and gymnastics, there is some little girl social life.”
“Our girls were mostly home schooled.”
“How many do you have?”
I explain a bit, we don’t have birth children, and not all our family are our children. Technically only Sloane and Cassandra. I give her enough to get the drift, and she’s no dummy, twelve women under one roof and no mention of men.
Busy until one, then a break for lunch which is outside, a food truck and a selection of sandwiches in plastic wrap. I take a deli sliced chicken to the security girls and Eloise, they and I have to continue to float around entrances and exits. Eloise has swapped one drone for recharging and is roaming the area with the second. Janah finds a veg quinoa on wheat, she joins Eloise and continues to monitor the drone video feed.
Janah, “The same car has passed the entrance three times in the last hour, a blue Taurus I didn’t make out the year, fairly new.”
Eloise, “I saw it too, I zoomed the plate last pass, you want to check it out?”
“I’ll make a call, if you spot it again, get a shot of the driver and any passengers.”
Janah dials one of her contacts, ten minutes later her sat phone dings, she answers, “Pearson here, you have a name for me?”
Janah’s Society name is Mrs. Pearson, I’m Mrs. Pearson too, keeps it simpler when we talk to contacts. They never meet us in person, nor we them.
Janah, “Timothy Fedders owns the car, occupation free lance photographer, translate paparazzi. Lives in West Covina. There’s no money in pics of Chloe, she’s in so many fan phones, all over her website and a bunch of YouTubes from late night TV. He must be after the twins, maybe even Dmi.”
Eloise, “Sounds harmless enough.”
Janah, “I’m going to sick my Rottweiler on him,” she tunes into me, “You following so far?”
“Woof. If you spot him again and he parks, I’ll have a chat. While you’re hanging out, maybe find out if he’s got a reputation of any kind. A bad guy or one who just sells pictures to whoever pays the most. Does he lurk around for nudes, sell to gossip blogs with malicious click bait?”
“On it, I’ll get back to you.”

Filming has resumed, I make the rounds of the troops, I got them to switch locations, at least they don’t have to stare at the same empty hallways and parking lots. I also pass along the paparazzi message, with the caveat that we don’t know he’s a problem. We don’t need Sarah shooting some slob for trying to make a living with his camera.
The afternoon passes, nice and slow for us, crazy busy for the actors and crew. Both sets of twins have been attentive to the filming, between takes, Dmi goes to Katya and Katja for discussions in Russian. Amaya is with them, Dasha translates. I presume they’re going back and forth on the characters Dmi is playing, but they might be chatting about caviar and blini for all I know.
Today’s shooting closes, Dmi is one pooped player. She collapses in a chair next to Katya, her mom hovers nearby. Mercifully, she’s not a stage mom, here for her daughter, not for herself.
The twins hug her, Dmi starts to walk off with her mother to their waiting car. We have a driver, vetted by the studio and double vetted by Murakami Sylk. I’m having a chat with him now.
“Samuel, there’s a paparazzi hanging around in a blue Taurus. We checked him out, he’s not evil, but he sells photos to whoever pays the most and he doesn’t care what headlines they stick on them. We don’t know if he is even aware of the girl, but under no circumstances will he follow her home, or take any photos. If you spot the car following, drive to Shutters and await further instruction.”
Samuel, “Yes ma’am. He follows me, I’ll spot him, done this bit before, more than a few times.”
“Do not evade, no high speed anything. Look out for other visitors, we only tracked the Taurus, these guys are like wolf packs and there may be others. If you even think someone is on you, go to Shutters. Not all the way, maybe a half mile down. Call me and we’ll fix the problem. Taurus is unlikely to be on your tail, he’s parked on the southwest corner adjacent to the studio now. I’m going to meet a paparazzi. Janah will tell you when to leave with Dmi and her mom.”
“Got it ma’am, don’t worry, nobody gonna disturb my passengers.”
I nod and move one, time to meet the sleaze.

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Reader note: I won’t be using different names for the film characters. I tried it and it’s confusing, too many Russian names. In the film the girls, Chloe and Matt Daman have different names, but not in the text of this book.

Dmi will have different looks in the movie to reduce audience confusion