One might reasonably wonder, why continue to take the risks if you have a hundred million dollars? They no longer need money, which is why the twins got started. A ball player with millions in the bank doesn't need to suit up anymore, no broken bones, no shoulder or knee surgery, no concussions, no snoop reporters poking around their personal life. They keep going for the challenge, maybe set a record, and of course the glory. Our girls don't continue for any of those reasons. They continue because they like it, and because they like it, they’re good at it.
Why not just randomly murder people?
Too easy. Like a pro running back playing for a high school team. No accomplishment in those touchdowns. The girls are killers, but they are professional killers. You’re a professional when someone pays you. It's no more complicated than that, do you get money for your services? You can be a professional janitor, or Circle K clerk, doctor, politician, or assassin.
Blue Sky lifts off promptly at nine left coast time, touches down promptly at three Houston time. They're home by quarter to four. Ellen unpacks the clothes, the twins unpack the weapons. Only one Glock was fired, Katya cleans it and returns the guns to their spot with the other children, locks the safe and shuts the hidden door.
Ellen, "Enough quickie food, I'm runnin' to the store for fat filets, scalloped potatoes and, let's see...yeah, creamed spinach, simple to make. Back in a bit," she's out again, garage door trundles down.
Katja, "Ellen ees best girl for us. She ees take care of everything."
"We also make her rich. Still, you are correct, she looks out for sisters first always. I know she likes for us to boss around, but I never think to do it much. She is sweet girl, and good with gun, even better with rifle."
"You haf decided, yes?"
"Da, we will buy place in New Orleans French Quarter. One with inside parking, courtyard, balcony two stories or maybe even three. We will skip most of winter and all summer, but fall and spring, when the weather is good. Easy flight over, we can do outside business from there as simple as here."
"We will keep Katya Donut?"
"For now, it is good for laundering the cash. We have good managers, and we will fly over from New Orleans maybe once a month to check stores, our house, fly back. Private Blue Sky makes it easy, small airports, no TSA line, just get on plane and go."
The evening news is full of the sudden brutal demise of Serge Brin, game developer and multi-millionaire. Found in his car at an underpass by a bread truck driver, a shaken Elmo Fedders. Fedders has a mike stuck in his face, all he says is, 'Look like nothin' I ever seen and somethin' I never wanna see again,' he shakes his head and walks off.
Reporter turns to the camera, "Police report three shots to the head in this tragic murder, Serge Brin, successful entrepreneur, dead at twenty nine. Police ask for anyone who may have been in the vicinity around ten last evening to call the number on the screen."
Cut to Lamborghini being loaded on a flatbed, cop car lights flashing red and blue against the half lit morning sky.
The girls don't see it, they don't watch the news. It was on the early morning local San Francisco stations when the girls were headed to the airport, quickly picked up by the networks, then on CNN the entire day.
Two days later the investigation is as dead as Serge. A call came in from an unnamed local resident that saw what night have been the car in question at a red light, but she turned a block behind to her apartment. She said the car looked like a race car, not so unusual in that toney part of the Bay area. Cops chalk it up to a random robbery gone bad. The expensive car attracted attention, someone saw what they thought was a quick opportunity. Nothing was taken, speculation is the woman's car comes along and the robber fled.
Penny calls, "I have something for you."
Katya rides over, Penny pours tea, "You got balls, right on the street."
"Dark, bushes, underpass. Not a freeway entrance or exit, just the road under a highway. I followed him to work and home, both were no good, took the next logical step, someplace in between."
She skips the part about going to the company, meeting Brin, fixing bad code. Penny doesn't know about her computer skills, and she doesn't need to know. She doesn’t know Vika is now Katya. Better for her to be in the dark. Katya also sent an e-mail to Mark and Marge declining the offer, mom in poor health, need to return to Yugoslavia immediately. Glad to help, blah, blah.
Katya has never been in Yugoslavia, the email address leads no place. The likelihood of anyone putting together Valeria with Brin's death is zero.
Penny, "Slick work, messy, but he's dead and that's what the client wanted, didn't specify dead and pretty. Since it's the girlfriend's dad, dead and ugly probably suits him fine. They've kept her out of the news, bunch of piranha circling Brin's mansion. She's probably back home and I don't think the press knows where dad lives. I guess the lawyers will sort out who gets what, Brin has a mom and dad living, a sister someplace."
Katya, "Good payday, lucky for us girl has rich daddy."
"And she has no idea he paid to get Brin out of her life. I wonder if she goes to the funeral?"
"Better to skip if it is public, press all over like a dog sniffing assholes."
Penny laughs, "I'll keep in touch. We may have something cooking, there have been tentative inquiries, nothing definite. Sometimes these things are false alarms, people think about hiring a hit, but price or cold feet keep them from following through."
Katya, "You know where to find me."
Ellen, "We gonna get what? No way, that is so cool."
Katja just informed her about the French Quarter home, "We still haf to find what we want. Good space, quiet part of Quarter, inside parking, private courtyard."
Ellen, "Wow, gonna cost I guess."
"We will get best place, maybe takes a while."
Life otherwise rotates around Katya Donut, the shooting range and workouts at home. The three girls put on the gloves once a week and get after it. They use headgear, brain damage doesn't seem like a good idea, and a full mouthpiece that protects both top and bottom teeth. They started with twelve ounce boxing gloves, then moved to Thai-style, less padding, good wrist support.
Ellen, "Damn, Thai gloves make a punch feel like a punch. The others felt like a pillow fight compared to these."
Katya, "Better, get used to being hit. Punches do not kill, people get scared when they feel pain. We learn to keep going with pain, not surrender. Maybe we will never have to fight, better to shoot. Anyway, good training. We will use big gloves one week, little ones the next."
Ellen, "I like it. The treadmill or the bikes are great, but nothing like having to stay on the move and attack while someone is trying to knock your head off. A whole different level of aerobics, flippin' fear aerobics."
They also practice standard arm locks, twist the wrist, break an elbow. Sidekick to the knee, kneecap to the groin. And while they can't practice it directly, they pseudo practice thumbs in eye sockets, knuckles to the throat, heel of palm hard against the bit just under your nose, crush the septum, the bone and cartilage that separates your two nasal cavities. It hurts when it's smushed; no, the bones don't go up in the brain and kill, that’s not possible, but the fight goes right out of the opponent.
Katya adds a few simple escapes, bear hug behind, raise your arms, stomp the guy's arch, drop down to slip the hold. In a choke, dip chin hard to chest, bite the crap out of any available body part, reach behind, get to his eyes. A thumb in an eye socket is going to make him let go instantly. If you think taking an attacker's eyes is too brutal, then you're free to get raped or murdered. The person who understands the only rule, a street fight has no rules, wins.
At the end of the fight sessions, there are bruises, sore ribs, sometimes a bloody nose. Over the months, they develop an immunity, a mental callus, they can go longer and harder. No street or bar fight lasts longer than a few minutes, somebody quits, people intervene. It isn't a marathon, it's a forty yard dash, a hundred at most. When the girls can go at it for ten minutes straight, no breaks, no rounds, just bob, weave, hit and get hit, Katya says enough.
"If we can go that hard for that long, it's three times longer than any real fight we might have. More punishment is not productive."
Ellen, "Don't hurt my feelings any. Katja's got a right cross that could flatten a full growed bull. I see stars when she connects and I'm wearin' headgear."
Katja, "You let left hand down, I get seemple shot to head. Protect yourself, keep hands up."
"Then I get nailed in the ribs."
"Da, better to keep moving, fighting ees anyway hard. We are tough girl now, keek ass."
Katya's looking at a text, "Maybe we have place in New Orleans. Three story, on corner with solid steel gate, parking and courtyard. Remodeled already, upgrade kitchen, bath, wood floors, slave quarter in back converted to two apartments."
Ellen, "How much?"
"Three million. It's over seven thousand square feet."
"Sheeyt, I never dreamed of livin' in a three million dollar anything. I'd kill everybody for that."
"We do not have to kill. We will buy and live there in fall and spring. Also maybe get someone to live in one of apartment, they will keep house and watch property when we are away."
Ellen, "Gotta find somebody trustworthy."
"We will have video monitors everywhere, house, courtyard, front. Housekeeping person will not be able to turn them off. Tomorrow, we fly to New Orleans, complete purchase, then furnish. Book a hotel."
In New Orleans, suite at the Ritz Carleton on Canal Street. It's under a mile to the new place. The agent takes them through the property, she's hard selling, uselessly.
Katya, "We will pay cash if we can close today or tomorrow. We have three other options, but I like this one.”
She doesn't have three other anythings, but the agent only knows Katya showed up in a Mercedes with a driver so hot she'd make your fillings melt.
Katya could get the place two or three hundred grand cheaper, she hardly cares about that. Give them a check and be done.
Two days later, they have the key. Ellen gets busy with a locksmith, Katya and Katja install video surveillance, code the system and double check camera angles. When they're satisfied, they program it to send an alert if it's shut down for any reason. Power outages don't matter, it's on battery backup.
Ellen hires a decorator, "The interior is beautifully old world, we want subtle, natural woods, new, not antique. Throw rugs next to the beds and one for the central living area, not the dining room or offices. No carpet anywhere. Window treatments should be functional and attractive, muted solid colors, not French whorehouse. This is a quiet refuge, not a party palace. We want the furnishings well crafted, but not so they weigh a thousand pounds each. I'll deal with the kitchen."
Decorator, "Know what you want, that makes it easier."
"And make sure we get value for money. I'm going to double check prices. I want you to get paid properly, but you work for me, not the furniture company. Are we agreed?"
The woman gets round eyed, "Yes, of course. It won't be a problem. Do you have, um....a budget?"
"I'll worry about that, bring photos of the furniture, a list of brands and specifics. If the prices are fair, good enough, I'm not going to negotiate you down. If I think I'm being jerked around, I fire you and move on to the next one. Isn't like I have to move in tomorrow."
She does the right thing, doesn't flinch, stands her ground, "I have a good idea what you want, I know what I'm doing. You won't be disappointed."
"Last thing, do not bring a dozen samples of drapes, furniture coverings, or rugs. I don't want to do your job, bring what you think works. If I don't like something, I'll tell you why and what I want instead. I have no time to flip through fabric samples. Oh, and the bedroom wall coverings are fine, so's the kitchen. The living room and dining room suck. Get it toned down to something more neutral. The crap on the dining room walls needs a volume control."
Decorator laughs, "So glad you said that. It is truly horrid, peach plum garish."
Ellen, "See you in a few, you have my number. If you need in, call me."
After the preliminaries are complete, the twins fly back to Houston, Ellen stays to oversee the work and buy kitchen equipment, utensils, plates, cups and glasses. There’s also the matter of linens and bath accessories, she’s a busy girl. She adds a refrigerated wine cellar, stocks the new Viking mega-refrigerator and has a professional ice maker and water purification system installed. In six weeks, it's complete.
Katya, "Ellen, you did perfect job, it is splendid."
Katja, "Da, cool place, where ees vodka?"
Ellen, "Russian Standard in the freezer, shot glasses too, shall we?"
Katya pours and toasts, "To Ellen!”
They down the shots, Ellen blushes a bit.
"Hell, I didn't do anything but spend our money."
Katja, "On beautiful furniture, ees comfort and practical. Bedrooms are elegant, top quality and sharp, not noisy. Decorator did good job, yes?"
"She stuck with my guidelines, I double checked the prices, we paid, didn't overpay. I spent a bundle on the fridge, but we cook at home a lot and the damn things last forever. One apartment is only basically furnished, I had in mind more of a workout area than an apartment. The other is mid-range, decent refrigerator, ordinary washer and dryer. Basic utensils and dishes, if we’re hiring a live in, they need to live."
Katya, "Good idea. Buy equipment and martial arts padded flooring."
Ellen, "Get started tomorrow. What about the apartment? I was busy with arrangements, I didn't go out for entertainment, only to shop."
Katya, "We will get to know city better, meet people in French Quarter, maybe college student wants free rent, but one who can be here in the summer. No hurry, we will see."
"I'm making dinner tonight, figured first night in our new place, we have lots of time to explore the city's restaurants. And I've been girl free for six weeks, plus we have new beds to break in."
Katja, "What ees lunch?"
"Let's take a walk, remember that coffee shop a couple blocks over?"
Two and a half blocks to Cafe EnVie on Decatur Street. They had coffee here on the last visit.
Katya looks over the choices, it's a breakfast and lunch place, variety of egg dishes and sandwiches, a half dozen panini choices. She gets Eggs Envie, scrambled with melted brie on a croissant with crispy hash browns, Katja a steak and cheese panini with sautéed pepper and onions, Ellen a Farmer's Omelet, quartered button mushrooms, onions, peppers, diced grilled ham, cheddar cheese, and tomatoes. Hash browns and a buttermilk biscuit.
Katya, "This is good Ellen, glad you remembered, and so close."
"Yeah, they have Cafe Fleur De Lis on Charters Street with a broader menu, I had a good po-boy there. They use that wonderful Leidenheimer’s French bread we like and can only get in New Orleans. I have a fresh loaf at home. Home...wow, we have a flippin' French Quarter mansion. I've been in a dream since we bought it."
Katja, "We will haf Keoki Coffee, brandy, coffee liquor, and hot drip coffee," she orders three.
Ellen sips, "Sheesh, that's potent, they aren't shy about the brandy."
Katya, "We never had brandy, buy some for after dinner drink, what is a good one?"
"Cognac, which is brandy but from a specific region in France, there's a town called Cognac. We covered it in the wine course I took, I know several good ones. And there's a good wine store on Magazine Street, Martin's Wine Cellar. Carries our Russian Standard too. I have us stocked up, but we can run by tomorrow and get the cognac. "
They walk off lunch exploring the Quarter, still full of tourists even on a weekday. They circle Jackson Square, stands of fortune tellers, tarot cards, mediocre artists, guys playing Dixieland Jazz. Everybody trying to hustle a few bucks from the visitors.
Katja buys a box of pralines, sole concession to tourist, they sample one sitting on a bench on the Moonwalk, which is the top of the Mississippi River levee.
Katja, "Maple flavor sugar, ees good, wiz pecan."
Ellen, "Man they got some big ass ships going up and down this river. Scary, the water level is higher than the land. That levee breaks, gonna be a big mess."
"We have flood insurance. Besides, the French Quarter is here because it was the highest ground along the river when New Orleans was founded. In Katrina, it didn't flood. But this levee wasn't the one that broke."
Katja, "They still haf boat to take people across. And paddle wheel boat for tourist treep. Where does it go?"
Ellen, "I asked, some just cruise up and down, one goes to the Audubon Zoo. I'm not interested in animals in cages. I don't get zoos."
Katya, "Nyet, no zoo. It is six, we will walk down Bourbon Street and back home."
They stroll along, Bourbon Street means nothing to them, they don't like crowded bars, strip clubs hold no interest. Galatoire's is on Bourbon, that's a good thing. And the Bourbon House oyster bar is too, another good thing. Before long they hit the residential section which is the back half of the French Quarter. There are condos and apartments in the nightlife front half, but it's harder to drive around and on weekends or during events it's insane.
They come to Ursulines, take a right to their new home.
Katya, "Time for shower. A good walk anyway."
Ellen's room is next to the twins, there are four full baths and a half just off the living area. Two bedrooms are empty, Ellen didn't see the point in furnishing them yet. She decided to see how, or if, they might be used in the future. For now, they store weapons in the closet safe of one bedroom.
Refreshed, in t-shirts and socks, Katya makes drinks while Ellen prepares the slow cook pot roast she has on tap for tonight. It's been eight hours, the meat is fall apart tender. Brown gravy from scratch, which is simple stuff, beef stock and flour slow stirred to a boil and cooked down to the consistency you want. She's going to make buttery garlic bread with the Leidenheimer's, garlic mashed potatoes and the twins favorite, creamed spinach, for a veg side.
"We'll have roast left, I made enough for po-boys. It'll keep in the fridge for a day or so, then we'll have it for lunch."
They toast the evening with vodka shots, then a second for good measure. Ellen opens a crispy tart Cabernet to enjoy with the roast. She serves at seven thirty, enjoys her girls enjoying her food. The twins, usually intense, particularly Katya, are different humans here. The laid back lassitude of New Orleans does what it does, lets its hair down, accepts, competition isn't a big deal. Getting down with life is more important than getting ahead. New Orleans doesn't microwave, New Orleans slow cooks.
Katya, "We will have drinks in courtyard."
Ellen's got citronella candles burning, keeps the bugs occupied, two separate bug zappers in corners away from the sitting area. New Orleans is wet, tropical, mosquitoes are a fact of life, but manageable.
Ellen, "If the candles don't do the job, I looked at a mosquito net tent. I can have it strung up across the courtyard, drop it when we want to be outside. So far, the candles seem to be working."
It's a pleasant fall evening, blue black sky above. The moon is half full and glows just above.
Katja can't resist, she kneels between Ellen's elegant smooth legs. Ellen slides forward, Katya stands over her sister and Ellen leans to her, double delight. Katja's tongue on her and her tongue on Katya, guess they'll break in the beds another time.
After two months, they've toured the city, including the suburbs. Most of what they like about New Orleans is the French Quarter, a few restaurants in the Garden District, including Commander's Palace. A drive further down Magazine is a quaint shopping and restaurant stretch they favor.
Lakeview and Metaire are ordinary mediocrities, like any suburb. They took a drive across Lake Pontchartrain, consensus is Mandeville and Covington are places they never need visit again.
Frequenting Cafe EnVie, they meet an older gentleman, Gerard Depardieu, who seems to be something of an expert on the occult. And they're on conversational terms with the wait staff and barista/bartenders.
Today, Michael is behind the bar, "Ah, les trois perfections, the usual? One medium roast, two English breakfast, double strength?"
Michael, like Gerard, is French, and calls the girls the three perfections, can't blame him for trying but he learned soon enough a date is out of the question. EnVie is off the tourist path, lot of locals and it has wifi, a few outdoor tables and doesn't bug people to move along
Ellen, "Yes, and for breakfast, one traditional, bacon ultra crisp, grits, eggs over easy, one French toast, and a Shepard's omelet."
Gerard strolls in. He's always in a suit and tie, nothing new or fashionable, always clean and pressed. Slim, unusual these days for a sixty something, he wears a fedora, carries a mild scent of pipe tobacco.
Ellen, "Gerard, good morning, just ordered, have a seat."
"How kind, thank you," he turns to Michael and nods, he always has almond liquor au lait, bagel and lox. He either comes every day or it's an incredible coincidence that they see him whenever they come for breakfast.
"And what have les trois perfections been up to?"
Katya, "We come to the French Quarter so we don't have to get up to anything."
Gerard, "Good point. I have myself been dabbling in the dark arts, as you know. Not true, far more than a dabble. People completely unaware of unseen mysteries. But they are there, not spirits, that's childish, energies operating out of normal human sensory capacity. The meaning of occult is ‘hidden from view’ after all."
His drink comes, followed shortly by breakfast.
Katja, "What ees going on then? Wiz eenergy?"
Gerard, "Such a delightful accent, your twin has none. Suppose it makes you easier to tell apart. If you dressed alike nobody would know one from another. I've known a few twins, none so identically identical. To your question, the energy can affect and create effects. There is such a thing as a negative, or violent atmosphere, and another benevolent one. Those atmospherics cause different behaviors in people, animals, anything, living or not. I am trying to direct the energies, cause them to act on things."
Ellen, "No luck?"
"Minor, a flutter of a candle, a shift in a bit of paper. I experienced the energy directly. I cannot yet change or make it do what I wish."
Katya, "How long are you doing this?"
"Thirty years, at first only casually, a hobby. I never married, personal relationships of that nature escape me. I did inherit a fair amount when my mother passed, I bought my place here, invested the rest. I live comfortably off those earnings. I have never had an actual job. I am a useless weirdo."
Ellen laughs, "Not hardly. You won the family lottery and do what interests you. Don't sound like it hurts anyone."
Gerard smiles, "No, in that regard, I am harmless. My personal needs are simple, I enjoy our New Orleans cuisine, not a gourmet, I enjoy wine or brandy, splurge on harder stuff occasionally. Don't eat lunch, have lots of dinner options in the vicinity if I want to get out, the rest of the time I have soup or a sandwich in the evening."
Katya, "You should come for dinner, Friday. Ellen is good chef, she will make something."
Gerard, "Oh my, how very considerate, I would be delighted. What time?"
"Come at six thirty, we have cocktails then, dinner afterwards."
Ellen, "Anything you don't eat?"
Gerard, "Not so far, although I can't say I'm a fan of Mexican or Indian food."
"Katja and Katya like Mexican once in a while, but we go out for it, don't make it at home. Just wanted to make sure you weren't a vegetarian or allergic to seafood. New Orleans would be a funny place to live for someone with seafood allergies but I suppose it happens."
"No, nothing like that, kind of you to ask though," breakfast finished, they settle the tabs and walk outside.
Ellen, "See you Friday, I'm thinking steak, whip up a nice Marchand de Vin."
"Splendid, I am all anticipation."
The girls go up to Ursulines and take a right, Gerard is further down on Barracks St.
Ellen, "You surprise me, inviting him to dinner."
"He is interesting. I do not know about mysterious energy or the occult. He believes it."
Ellen, "I used to get freaky about that stuff when I was little. My dope mother went to a fortune teller. I was young, she said the woman told her things nobody could know. When I got older I realized she was getting fed a line of crap, the predictions were so vague you could read anything into them. It was dumb."
Katja, "So you are not anymore freaky?"
"No, I had to quit being scared of the dark. My mother's boyfriends were around and I needed to keep away from 'em. One way was hiding in the dark. Dark was my pal, in our current line of work, dark is still my pal."
As they reach the house, Katya's phone rings, it's Penny.
"Where are you?"
"New Orleans, hanging out a couple of days."
"Want to work?"
"Next week is good, no mention of a rush job."
"Place called Destin, it's a resort area on the Florida panhandle. From New Orleans, looks like five hours on I-10."
"In bits and pieces."
That means she would send a photo to one e-mail, home address to another, work address to a third.
"It's light work, fifty cents worth, and interestingly, the client is a woman."
Katya, “Only woman to hire me was you.”
“Yep, a first for me, a second for you.”
Fifty thousand, good, it isn't a name, or a cop or politician.
Katya clicks off, "We go to Destin Florida next week."
Ellen, "I heard of it, right on the Gulf, bunch of those big high rise places with views of the beach and ocean. Too bad we can't hang around."
"If we like it, we can go again some other time."