Chapter Forty One

The other good news is, the Shadow we stumbled across was the only one around, for now. Zi returned to the temple after three more weeks of assisting Taylor.
We expand the apartment to use up the rest of the floor space, leaving only the hallway to Lacy’s and Chan’s. Now we have a third full bedroom and bath, expand both closet space and the living-dining room. The area under the meditation loft becomes a sparring, kendo, practice room, the floor covered with a martial arts mat. The Qi dummies hang on chains with pulleys, a heavy bag in one corner. Five thousand square feet of girl power heaven.
Zi tests the week after the apartment remodel is complete. She’s banged up, nothing fatal, earns her brands and recovers in the apartment with her new family. Janah’s happy, two Shaolin priests, a samurai, and incredible Amaya under one roof. Four women to pad around the apartment in her next to nothing for.
Janah, “I’m a collection of hot girl fingerprints, I may never let anyone leave the apartment.”
Wishful thinking, the phone rings, it’s Mrs. Epstein.
Janah, “Hello, there.”
“Can you stop by?”
“I’ve nothing on.”
Mrs. Epstein is quick, “Not busy, or nude?”
“Both.”
“How about a buffet dinner, a glass or two of wine, say, seven?”
Janah, “There are five of us now.”
“How did the remodeling go?”
“The place is huge, Daphne and Nishiko love having an expanded workout area, Amaya needed the closet space, we have our own boutique. Actually our own department store. Daphne made her swear that if she buys anything else, she has to bring something to the thrift store.”
“She listens to Daphne?”
“She gets it. In all fairness, the four girls are generally the same size, I’m the only one who can’t share clothes or shoes. Daphne and Nikko need longer pants. The closets are available for any of them, we did away with my stuff, your stuff a long time ago. For four women, the amount of outfits and shoes isn’t really that bad.”
“The dry-cleaning bill must be interesting.”
“I use the sheets that go in the dryer for some of it. Things that need pressing have to go to the cleaners. We decided some time ago to solve that problem. We put a couple of Mini’s parolees into the dry cleaning business, and opened up the store a couple of blocks from here. We don’t pay for dry-cleaning, they have legit jobs, and the place is making a profit. Dry-cleaning is a license to steal.”
“So you make money in the laundry business, too?”
“No, the guys have an interest free loan, they pay Nikko monthly. When it’s repaid, it’s theirs, with the free cleaning caveat.”
“Trust you to think that up. How many parolee businesses do you have now?”
“Five or six. A taxi company, auto body shop in Brooklyn, a parking lot, the cleaners, a painting crew, a remodeling company and a moving company. The cleaners is only a few months old, all the others have expanded, except the parking lot. I think the parking company is looking at other locations. Nikko is doing the math on property cost and fix up.”
“And all of them got free money?”
“Yep. She bought three town cars for the taxi company for private hire. If we need a car, they provide it at no cost to us. The painters did the work here, they’re really good. Nothing went missing, they were very respectful, in and out right on time.”
“Nice of you to trust them.”
“Nick, one of the owners, told me Mini called when they took the job. He told Nick that if so much as a piece of our toilet paper got stuck to their shoe, they better leave it here, or he would visit them personally. Daphne did keep up a steady stream of coffee and snacks. Nick wanted to know if she would cater his other jobs. First question when they arrived every day was, what’s the menu?”
We use our former inmate affiliates to take us to the Epsteins, it would have taken two cabs. One of the cars Nikko bought is an Escalade, we need the room. The driver, Angelo, accepts that Amaya will do the actual driving, she wants to keep in practice and if anything goes sideways, she has the skill to deal with it. Angelo is a talker, he doesn’t mind sitting in the passenger seat admiring Amaya’s legs while he relates stories of his former life.
Angelo was formerly in the same business Mini was when he got his incarceration vacation. He collected and enforced. Angelo doesn’t resemble Mini, who is six four and three fifty. Angelo is five nine and built like a stick. Mini enforced with his fists and bulk, Angelo with a Glock. Like Mini, however, he woke up to the fact that his life was becoming a revolving door, in for questioning, sometimes a trip to the joint. He’d gotten married, had a couple of kids and his no nonsense Italian wife made it clear that there would be no guns, no Big Weasel, or Harry the Horse in his future. When Angelo left prison the final time, Angela Palumbo, no relation and their names are coincidental, called Weasel and Horse and explained that Angelo was out of the business and she would take it personally if he was bothered by any former associates. Angela’s father, now deceased, was Don Palumbo. We saved him from threats against his family, and we earned, stole, over a hundred million from his enemies. Horse and Weasel wisely decided they could live without Angelo.
Angelo, “How’s Ms. Palumbo?”
Janah, “Doing well. Bit of trouble with the Justice Department you may have heard. Her lawyers have lawyers, her insulation is deep. They got no place and moved on to easier targets.”
“Beautiful woman. Tough as a boa constrictor. She puts the squeeze, the game don’t get away.”
“We call each other once in a while, no business discussions, she’s a fashion plate, Amaya talks to her most of the time, goes shopping with her occasionally. It’s all girl stuff, except for a couple of bodyguards hanging around.”
“They hit on Amaya?”
“Maybe they fantasize, anything else and Angela would have them neutered.”
Angelo laughs, Amaya says, “They are perfect gentlemen. You spend more time looking at my legs than they do.”
Angelo, “Honey, I do it with the greatest respect, but I’m not made of stone. I’m gonna start wearing sunglasses.”
“Don’t worry about it. If I didn’t want them noticed, I’d wear baggy jeans.”
Angelo sighs, “That would break my heart.”
We exit the Escalade laughing, Angelo takes the wheel and pulls into a space down the block to read his novel and wait. He’d been in prison, waiting in freedom is a luxury.

Chapter Forty Two

Mrs. Epstein, “Welcome, hugs please.”
Dr. Epstein emerges from his office, he’s getting along in years, Mrs. E is ten years younger, he’s eighty. Fortunately, she makes him take care of himself, his vices consist of a cigar at night and wine. He still runs the Psychiatry unit at the hospital, James, our collective dad, has taken on some of the unit’s administrative duties. Dad’s still technically a consultant, not on staff. He refuses to attend hospital admin meetings, nor will he fiddle with the inanities of the hospital Board of Directors.
“Hello Doctor, you are looking well.”
Dr. Epstein, “Martha and your father are responsible for that. James has taken on some of the daily administration, and we’re polishing up one of the on staff shrinks to become Chief. I offered to retire and hand the seat to James, he wisely refused. Martha still requires I watch my diet and see my own physician, unlike most of my colleagues. They’d rather die than accept another doctor’s opinion about their health. Feel free to do you sniff test.”
“Already did, you and Mrs. E are fine. Don’t let your doc start testing you into a disease.”
He laughs, “We are surely good at that. No, I refuse prostate exams, I got one colonoscopy at seventy, another at seventy five. I’m not doing another. Eighty is a good long life. Anytime the reaper wants me, I’m ready.”
I’ve been able to smell illness since I was a kid. I usually keep it turned down, too depressing knowing who in a crowd has cancer or heart disease. I’d caught the scent of cancer in Ms. Alva when I was a child, a woman in Chris’ taekwondo class, and Chris herself. The only people I check now are our extended family. Janah and I have never been sick, not a head cold. Our protein marker family hasn’t caught any common bugs since we transferred the DNA. It isn’t perfect, Chris had the gene and died of cancer anyway.
Dr. Epstein, “Can you describe the scents?”
“To me, cancer is bitter burned sugar. The amount of acrid smell and the texture is an indicator of the disease, extensive cancer is strong, charcoal like, less so if it’s early stage. Heart disease is almost cloyingly sweet, with a hint of clove. The onset of Alzheimer’s is like decaying grass, eye problems, cataracts or macular degeneration are licorice, general good health has the slight metallic scent of healthy blood.”
 I’m the bloodhound of death, it isn’t a job I’d apply for.
Dr. Epstein, “Dogs do a version, I am certain other animals have capabilities, no reason to think humans can’t catch the scents. We already know pheromones cause varied fear reactions in humans. A human who breathes in sweat scent from a frightened someone else gets an elevated heart rate as well. So much we barely understand, more we don’t understand at all.”
Wine is poured, we graze a beautiful buffet, smoked salmon, capers, chopped onion, caviar, chewy al dente lasagna, creamed spinach, romaine salad, add your own ingredients, anchovies, hardboiled egg, shredded cheese and vinaigrette, bleu cheese or tahini, petit fours and Godiva Truffles.
Over dessert, Mrs. E does details, “Target is a plain vanilla abuser. More upscale. Lives about twenty miles from town, he’s a farmer, big farm, soybeans. Didn’t the preacher you refocused in Arkansas grow soybeans?”
Janah, “He rented the land to real farmers, lived off a trust fund and the money he and his brother made laundering money through their church.”
“Maybe soybeans cause abuse. Perhaps I’ll set up a research project.”
Mrs. Epstein, “I see Daphne is still thinking outside the box.”
Nikko, “Daphne thinks outside the planet.”
“Some mortals think locally, others globally, I’m more galactic, infinite even.”
Nikko, “Most of space is empty, you’re personality is beginning to make sense.”
Dr. E. is laughs, Mrs. E whoops, she says, “Daphne, dear, don’t change a thing. You are an inspiration.”
Nikko, “Daphne in Wonderland.”
“I am the Red Queen. To the point, however. Who’s our boy abusing?”
Mrs. Epstein’s demeanor darkens, “His two daughters, one sexually, one physically. It’s more complicated, the sexually abused girls is physically abusing the younger one.”
Everyone’s demeanor darkens, soon we’ll need a flashlight.
Janah, “Facts in the file, yes?”
“Normal site,” she reels off a password, Janah’s at the computer.
We visit a bit, then it’s ten, we leave for the condo.
Angelo is waiting, “Good visit?”
I can’t go into the purpose of our meeting, “Always a pleasure to see our friends. They are in business with us, a building in the city, and our family bounces investment ideas around with them. She used to be on Wall St.”
Angelo, “My wife said I’d better express my gratitude for your investment in me, and the others. She thinks Janah should rule the universe. She wants everyone to come over some Sunday and do an Italian extravaganza. The five of you, the other guys in the businesses you set up, the ones who can make it. It’s not exactly a polished crowd, so she understands if you decline.”
“I like my friends unrefined, diamonds in the rough. Running legitimate businesses, dealing honestly with customers, gives them all the luster they need as far as I’m concerned. Please tell her we accept. Maybe a month’s lead time, everyone is busy.”
Angelo smiles broadly, “She’s gonna love it. The girls who made a real life possible for us. Be hungry.”
Janah, “No problem.”
We arrive at the condo, Angelo bids us good evening. We head upstairs.
Amaya, “What’s the story?”
Janah, “Farm, the target grew the business, now he’s doing mostly paperwork, overseeing the planting and harvesting. Soybeans aren’t like cattle, no need for a lot of people, no veterinarian bills, feed, the other complications of live animals. Put the crop in the ground, fertilize, water, wait. With beans, you plant by machine in May, keep the weeds down, insecticide for the bugs and worms, water them if the rain doesn’t do it, in the fall a machine harvests them. Then they get trucked to a granary and sold. Repeat cycle next year.”
Zi, “How do they  know he’s abusing his daughters?”
“Mom disappeared when the eldest was only eight. There are suspicions around that, nothing proven. He says she ran off with a mystery man, took a couple hundred thousand out of the bank and evaporated. That large cash withdrawals were made over a couple of months isn’t in dispute. She did the books. That doesn’t mean she took it, he could have set it up to look like she did.”
Nikko, “So he could have killed her.”
“No evidence, anything is possible.”
Amaya, “How did we get it, and, like Zi said, how does anyone know the abuse is real?”
“These things come through the Society. I don’t know the trail. Somebody saw or suspected something, the Society found it plausible and investigated. Abuse was reported, a social services investigation followed, nothing turned up. The girls did not complain, no charges were filed.”
“Sometimes a doctor or health care provider has suspicions, sometimes a family member, a cousin or nephew, says something. The girls are, allegedly, home schooled, dad plays the Christian card for that, but he’s no churchgoer, the girls don’t leave the farm.”
Zi, “The Society’s evidence?”
Janah, “They monitored the house. Highly sensitive listening devices, movements with heat sensors. The girls have individual rooms, dad the big room. The eldest looks to be fourteen or fifteen, the youngest is something between eight and ten. There has been movement from one of the girl’s rooms to dad’s room at night. Two bodies, separate, then together. Later, the smaller body returns to a different bedroom.”
“It’s unlikely they’re playing Twister at midnight.”
“The listening devices recorded sounds of bullying, between two girls, like sisters fighting. That’s not abnormal, but the drift of what they got is that older sister is playing mom to the younger. That’s not necessarily abnormal either. The interaction appears to be more physical than older sister just playing mom, verbal and physical abuse. We’re going to find out what’s what.”
Amaya, “Like they are in prison.”
“Yes. Dad goes to town for groceries, other necessities. The girls don’t go anywhere. Again, I’m guessing, but if they don’t know anything is wrong, they have no reason to try and escape.”
“Wouldn’t TV give them a clue?”
“Interesting question. He probably has narrow restrictions on what they can watch, but even common news channels report child abuse. Beats me. Perhaps he doesn’t let them watch it.”
“So, how do we do this? Never mind, I see you have a plan.”
Nikko, “This doesn’t sound like a five person refocusing.”
Janah, “I didn’t think so at first either. But we don’t have girls trying to escape. Theoretically, they could get to the neighbors while dad is in town. There are also farm workers around from time to time, truck drivers. Stealing dad’s cell while he’s asleep is an option, but they don’t use any of them. Why not? And I say ‘they’ but the evidence is the sisters aren’t sisterly.”
Amaya, “So where do Zi and I come in?”
“You look fifteen. You may be able to relate to them quickly. Normally we’re dealing with kids that know life isn’t right, I don’t see that here. Zi may help us establish that dad is a bad guy. We get her around him when he’s in town, she may read something, either from him, or from the girls.”
Zi, “You think the older girl is alright with this.”
“That occurred to me.”
 
Chapter Forty Three

Off to Champaign, we decide to drive, near nine hundred miles, we have a chance to get Zi out of New York. She can see the world on the ground. If we crank out six hundred miles on day one, we have a short drive on day two.
It isn’t hard, take I-70 west and there you are. We commandeer the Escalade, pack up, Amaya thankfully takes the wheel. I used to be the driver and I’d rather ride anytime. The car is a dream, Platinum interior, six individual seats, an aisle down the middle, V-8 engine with 403 horses, DVD players on the backs of the seats, GPS and satellite radio.
Zi has the passenger, I sit in back, Nikko and Janah in the middle row. Amaya in driving heaven. The miles fly by, we stop for a pickup lunch, cut fruit, water, Coke Zero, tea and coffee, keep moving.
Check into the Hampton in Dayton Ohio, off I-70, the McDonald’s of hotels, we know what we’d get. We are lightly disguised, room keys waiting in an envelope outside under exactly the floor mat of the tan Honda the Society’s text described. Janah takes a key, Amaya the other. Nikko, Zi and I go in separately after they’d gotten to the room. Two rooms, five girls in a room is too dorm. We’re tired and road stiff, it’s going on eight thirty. They shower, I round up pizza and drinks, they eat while I shower, then I have a slice and we do go to bed things. Zi stays with Janah and Nikko, Amaya and me in the other room, out in moments.
There’s no rush to Champaign, two hundred fifty miles, three and a half hours. We do the Hampton breakfast, which is pretty good, cheese omelets this morning, sausage, oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, toast. We aren’t cereal eaters, but they have several choices if you are. Serve yourself, pack up and float away.
The Escalade has different plates, Virginia, Amaya’s driver’s license, the registration and insurance all Virginia. The rest of us have varied licenses, none from New York. We hadn’t arrived dressed to kill, hadn’t left that way. Between jeans, oversize pullovers, hats and sunglasses, we’re just flotsam on the anonymous interstate ocean.
In Champaign, another Hampton, another two rooms. The only upscale hotel is a conference center connected to the University of Illinois, too busy, we don’t want to attract attention. We aren’t looking to be here long, just get the target someplace on the road from his farm to wherever he shops for groceries.
His name is Drew, Drew Macmillan. The eldest daughter is Ashley, the youngest Annie. While it should be simple work, experience has taught us that should and reality frequently conflict. First, good old Drew decides to hang at home on the day he usually goes to town. We’d arrived on a Tuesday, he usually goes Wednesday. The Society has a GPS tracker on his truck, it doesn’t leave the farm.
Janah, “Got to improvise. I’m thinking over whether to wait, or go to the farm.”
“Maybe going to the farm is best anyway. On the road, we have to intercept him, he’s a farmer with a rifle in the truck. Then we have to haul him off and play twenty questions until you or Zi figure out how many of his answers are lies. If I can get definitive information, hear the conversations in the house, we can go in and know the answers before you ask the questions.”
Janah, “It’s surrounded by nothing, a barn, a couple of small outbuildings and soybeans, which grow to a foot high.”
“We’re Shaolin priests, nobody sees anything, nobody hears anything, not until we want them to.”
Janah thinks it over, “May as well put your stealth skills to the test. Try not to get shot.”
Nikko, “I’m going. Someone needs to watch the watchers. Zi is a priest, but she’s new at this.”
Zi, “When do we leave?”
“Night time is the right time. Soybeans grow low, so in the dark we go.”
Nikko, “Jesus on a jump stick, what is with that mind of yours?”
“It’s poetical, what can I say?”
“Less.”
Janah laughs, “I like her bullshit. I’ve loved it since we were ten years old. Not as much as I fancy her legs, but her nonsense is my music.”
Nikko, “She likes my abuse. The worse I treat her, the hotter she gets for me.”
Zi, “Your complications keep you vibrant. I hope none of you ever becomes normal.”
Amaya, “Not a problem. Janah and Daphne talk about sitting around, being in the bliss with each other. That has the same odds as me getting ugly, probability zero.”
Janah, “You going tonight, Daphne?”
“I can’t see hanging around a minor college town for the laughs. College towns are annoying. They are frequently the biggest employer. The locals kiss ass, the college thinks it’s entitled. Bunch of tenured professors lording it over students who are too dumb to know the guy has been giving the same lame lecture for twenty years. Like the world stopped when he got his PhD. The administration hands out bribery tickets to the football and basketball games to politicians, the state money keeps rolling in. College is the most overrated experience on the planet.”
Janah, “Spoken like a girl who never went.”
“Nope, and I’m part of a several hundred million dollar conglomerate, can walk through walls and kill people with a single touch, maybe a single glance if they’re tenured.”
“That’s a point.”
“Gates, Jobs and Zuckerman, didn’t finish college, they managed to get day jobs.”
“That’s another point.”
Amaya, “And I’m the hottest girl on the planet, with a degree from Chapmans and I don’t age.”
“That’s a third point. Why do we have college at all?”
“So the mediocre have some sliver of self esteem.”
Even Nikko laughs, she didn’t go to college either and she’s a flipping samurai.

Chapter Forty Four VIII

Zi and I spend until eleven surfing the soybeans, Nikko twenty yards behind us. We begin to inch forward until we’re practically under the house. It’s built old style, off the ground two feet, no slab, easier to get to plumbing, a problem with a slab and twenty miles from town. Farmers are a resourceful lot, they have to fix equipment, plumbing, do electrical repairs themselves. Waiting for a professional to show up is costly. It’s a DIY life.
I make my way to the master bedroom, then hear what I’d rather not hear. Janah, Nikko and Amaya hear as I do. Zi is next to me.
Zi, “The sense of this place is dark.”
“So, daddy is not a good guy?”
“Not just that, he’s darker, a Shadow.”
“Cripes, Janah, Nikko, you get that?”
Janah, “Then do what you need to do…wait, can she sense the kids?”
“Hang on,” I whisper to Zi, “Any sense of the kids?”
“Darkness pervades this place, one is innocent, the younger, not gone over.”
Janah, “Nikko, you on this?”
Nikko, “Katana is on this. I take daddy. Daphne and Zi control the kids until you can get here.”
Janah sighs, “Is Zi sure?”
“Zi, this is important, are you sure?”
“Daphne, it is not maybe or perhaps, it is certain.”
Janah, “Get busy.”
Amaya, “I got the ugly part. If you get killed, I shall never forgive you nor ever allow you the pleasure of my body.”
“You won’t have to not forgive me.”
“Promise me.”
“I promise, do you think I’m going to trade sex with you for death?”
“Remember your promise, if you die, no more Amaya.”
“Hell will freeze over, there will be Middle East peace, men will cease to love war.”
“Then think of what I have for you, and return to receive it.”
“I am, as they say, incentivized, now stay offline, I have work to do, and a girl to devour later.”

Macmillan is confident, the door is open, saves me from having to pick locks or kick it in. Nishiko joins me, hands me my katana. We walk in the back door. Nishiko, me, Zi behind us.
A voice out of the darkness, a man’s voice, “Leave this house, death awaits.”
“I bring death, she is with me, make your peace, Shadow.”
Macmillan, “Only a priest would make such a stupid demand. Come to me, I’ve been expecting you.”
Dark inside, but not black, my owl eyes see details. The doorway to the hall from which the voice came. I hear a door squeak open further down, a small figure peeks out, the door closes. It must be the younger girl, the older is in the room with Macmillan. Nikko and I step cautiously down the hallway, katana at the ready.
I stop Nikko, listen. There are night sounds, crickets, the flutter of flying insects around the light on the front porch. Still, I let my mind settle fully on my owl sense. We aren’t scaring him to death, guess we’ll have to do it the hard way.
“The girl doesn’t have to be in this Macmillan. She leaves now, she lives.”
Ashley, “You leave now, you live, and the priest, and the other.”
“And what of Annie?”
“She is my property. Come ahead if you dare, my husband alone is too strong for you, with me, you have no hope.”
“Husband, when did you convert from daughter?”
“I am wife, not daughter.”
“He’s taken her mind, doesn’t see herself as his daughter.”
Janah, “I’m coming.”
“Hang on, follow the action. With Amaya driving you’re only moments away. When we have them busy, then get moving, save the little one. I’m not holding out hope for the eldest.”

I nod to Nikko, “To the other side of the door, it’s open, don’t go slow, I expect things to start flying.”
Nikko zips past the open door, an empty bottle flies out, smashes against the wall. Whiskey bottle. I can’t decide if that’s a good or bad thing, but he doesn’t sound drunk.
“I’m lighting the room, it’s going to take a lot of his energy to counteract, Janah, add some confusion. We’ll see if his batteries run down.”
In a few minutes, the room starts to glow, not from heat, light. The glow intensifies, it spills out to the hall, blinding white light. I’m working hard, Janah must be in full throttle.
I hear Ashley cry out, the intensity of the light ebbs and flows, Macmillan’s fighting it. We do dark-light battle for another five minutes, the strain enormous, sweat pours.
I whisper to Zi, “Go to the younger girl’s room, keep her there,” she floats silently down the hall.
“Janah on my count of three, turn it off. The room will be dark, they will not be able to see clearly, Nikko and I will go in, you get on the move. Everyone clear?”
I get an affirmative from both of them, “One…two…three.”
Darkness again, before I can move, there’s a hiss from behind me, crap. At the speed of Daphne I step to block the object from getting to Nikko, a kitchen knife spears my shoulder.
Nikko is doing battle with knickknacks, her katana cuts through a vase, then an entire drawer, then bottles of whatever from the bathroom. I hear things flying, dodge most of them, catch a couple of small things on the side and chest. A bar of soap cracks Nikko on the jaw, she ignores it, step by step towards the bed.
I sense an enormous push, like a wall of tornado, Nikko flies backwards against a chest of drawers, I’m too far to one side to feel it, he’d concentrated on the immediate threat. Then Ashley kicks in and I get a blow to the gut that lifts me off my feet, she’s good.
“Nikko, take the girl, stand your ground and wear her down, she’s not as strong as you are. I’m going to take out daddy soon. Janah, give me a distraction.”
Macmillan slams against the window, breaking it, he seems shocked
Nikko and Ashley are locked in neutral, “She’s weakening, make her unconscious, she must be neutralized.”
Macmillan is recovering, Janah makes it difficult to breath, he likely feels as if he’s swimming in tar, but he breaks away, focused on me. He comes in a rush, I see the energy leave him, a final explosive effort directed at my heart. My speed saves me, I shift left, a noise like a shotgun blast when the wall tears apart.
Three feet from me, I take his head. Ashley screams and faints.
I flip on the lights, the room is a mess, crap everywhere. It looks like they’d sailed anything not nailed down, and a fair amount of it had bashed Nikko. She has blood running from her forehead, a shard of vase stuck in her shoulder, her jaw swelling from the hard bar of soap, a black eye from who knows what. She’s limping. I feel various cuts and bruises, but I’m mobile enough.
I pull Ashley from the bed, she’s naked. I wrap her in the sheet and use my owl claw to hold it, like a gym bag, I carry her out of the house.
Amaya is there, eyes wide, she hasn’t seen us so beat up even in our training battles. I let my package ease to the ground, that’s when Amaya sees the knife stuck in my shoulder.
Amaya, “Janah, quickly! I will fetch the medical bag.”
I lay on my stomach, Janah rips away the shirt, Amaya there with the bag, already breaking out the antiseptic, then a vial of Lidocaine and a syringe, then another vial of Dermabond.
Janah, “No Dermabond, pressure wrap it, I’m going to suture her when we get where we’re going.”
Amaya pours Betadine on the wound while Janah numbs me up, presses two fingers alongside the blade and eases it out. Amaya dabs more antiseptic, then a string of butterfly bandages, tapes gauze over that. Janah turns her attention to Nikko. Zi has the child.
After triage, we climb into the Escalade and drive. Janah is on the sat phone to the Society. Fifty miles down I-70, we pull off, follow the GPS fix to an empty warehouse. Zi opens the metal pull down door, we drive in, she shuts it. The lights and water work.
There are cots and blankets, bottled water, two large thermoses of coffee and tea, food, prepared sandwiches, granola, a small refrigerator, a chest of ice, gel packs buried in the ice.
Amaya, “The Society is good, this place is invisible.”
Janah, “It was set up when we arrived. There was the possibility we’d be hauling someone someplace, or dealing with injuries. We can’t go back to the hotel with the package, or with wounded for that matter. Okay, get Daphne prepped.”
Sutures get the skin sealed better than the Dermabond would have with less scaring. She sews me up, painless, the wound is deep but the cut itself is clean, maybe an inch and a half. She has me zipped up in no time.

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