Forty One   

Nikko and Sloane leave for San Francisco that afternoon. Nikko’s efficiency makes common efficiency resemble a snail race.
She keeps an apartment near the office, they picked up two hours flying in, it’s just five left coast time. 
Nikko, “Tonight Fumiko is meeting us for dinner, Boulevard on Mission St. It’s not that far, but it’s chilly and may rain, a car will be here at seven.”
“Good, I have time for a run.”
“There’s a gym on the second floor, tons of machines, including good treadmills. Running outside is messy and it’s rush hour, you won’t get much actual running in, mostly waiting for lights to change.”
Sloane changes, Nikko gives her the key card for the gym and she’s off for an half hour of max treadmill. The dozen people using various machines cast sidelong glances at a girl who maxed the speed from the start, kept at it a full thirty minutes and shut down without appearing to break a sweat.
A man approaches, “Excuse me Miss. You maxed the speed on that machine, yes?”
Sloane smiles, “Wouldn’t go any higher.”
“It runs at fourteen miles an hour, you ran just under five minute miles.”
“It said six miles and change, so that’s right, good machine. I have one at home that can do twenty five, but this was fine for a quickie run.”
“Nobody can run twenty five miles an hour.”
Sloane blinks, “Really? I need to tell my machine.”
She leaves the guy staring at the mileage meter and shaking his head.
His friend comes over, “She maxed that sucker, looks like a distance runner, if she’s got an ounce of fat she carries it in her purse.”
“Says her machine at home gets up to twenty five.”
“Yeah, they make those, pro models for ballplayers, sprinters. She didn’t look like a sprinter, cute as all get out though. Haven’t seen her before, she must know a resident. Like to see her again, big brown eyes make her look like innocence itself.”
“Geez Ned, she’s fifteen if she’s a day.”
“Just ‘cause the sign says keep off the grass doesn’t mean you can’t stand there and admire the pretty green color.”
“Jesus, teenage boys, so much luscious opportunity and barely a clue what to do with it. It’s a cruel world Tom, there’s no justice.”
Sloane soaks under a hot shower, then a cool one, blow dries, soft brown hair falls perfectly to her shoulders. Amaya insists on just so hairstyles, cut to favor our features, and she’s not a fan of curls. I have Asian blood, Nikko and Zi are pure Asian, our hair is black, thick and rail straight. 
The car is downstairs, Fumiko is there, picked up first. 
Nikko, “Fumiko, this is Sloane, Daphne’s daughter.”
“Pleasure, I’ve heard about the extended family, but have only met Nikko, Zi and Daria. Of course everyone has seen Chloe in the movies, and I’ve read Amaya’s books. They won’t let me put them down, I have to find out what happens next.”
Sloane smiles, “Amaya will be pleased to know she has another fan.”
“And you, you are in school, perhaps high school?”
“Finished, but thank you, I’m twenty two.”
Fumiko is taken aback, hides it well, “You appear to be much younger, I hope it isn’t an insult.”
“No girl is insulted by seeming young, I think it works the other way round.”
Fumiko laughs, hand over her mouth, “It won’t do to tell a woman she looks thirty when she’s twenty five. Big trouble then.”
The table is ready, they settle in, a glass of house red for Nikko and Sloane, white for Fumiko. They order appetizers, foie gras for Nikko, sea scallops for Sloane, Fumiko has a crab and avocado salad. 
Nikko doesn’t waste time, it’s a business meeting, Fumiko knows that.
“The family has decided to create a CEO position for the property management company. The job is in New York, obviously there will be frequent travel to San Francisco. The position is autonomous, the CEO will be CEO, reporting solely to me. Daria and Zi are of course available for any consultation. The position includes a condo in Manhattan, private car, our apartment in San Francisco has plenty of space to accommodate the executive when she is here. We would like you to consider the position.”
Fumiko doesn’t even try for oriental subtlety, she’s clearly surprised, her hand goes to her mouth once again, this time not to laugh.
“Before you answer, please understand, this is not a negotiation, I’m not quibbling about perks or bonuses. There is no offer of stock. Stock is privately held by the family, we will never go public with any of our operations. We have simply reached the point that three of us cannot run a business the size of Murakami Sylk without additional talent in a key position. All our employees sign a confidentiality agreement, they do not talk to the press, their friends, parents, priest or a therapist. Not about the operations of Murakami Sylk. Our lawyers say it is prudent to have you sign a new one, even though it says the same thing as the last one. You can think it over and let me know in a couple of days if you wish.”
Fumiko, “Nishiko, there is nothing to think over. I am stunned by the offer, and most gratified. Of course I accept.”
Wine glasses clink, Nikko says, “It’s a lot to shoulder. You are in charge, but never hesitate to consult me or the others. That will never be seen as weakness, it will be seen as sensible, particularly in the early going.”
Fumiko nods, “Understood.”
“A few housekeeping details. For now, there is a vacant apartment we keep for guests. Use that until you have settled on a condo. The condo will belong to Murakami Sylk, but it will be yours as long as you are with the company. Price is immaterial, I know you well enough to know you want to be comfortable, and you may need to entertain, have guests, the usual. We run some residential property of our own, they’re nice but inadequate for your needs. I know several places to point you to, when you get settled in the job, you can check them out. Keep the apartment you have here for now. No point in moving furniture only to move it again. Oh, moving expenses are covered.”
“As usual you are prepared, Nishiko.”
They order dinner, Fumiko has halibut, Nikko and Sloane the filet, while they wait, they have another glass of wine.
Nikko, “Let’s see, you will take over our office at the property management company. Three of us work in there now, so there’s plenty of room, and a private bath. In Manhattan and San Francisco, use our private car services, including going to and from home. You will have personal security, the business of vigilantes is making security companies rich. They will rotate shifts of course, but all are  highly trained woman from Paladin Security. They are there to protect you, not to be distracted, don’t pal up, they aren’t your friend. Any questions?”
Fumiko is trying for Japanese reticence, it isn’t working, she’s beaming like a halogen light. I’m naturally following through Nikko’s eyes, she has an amazing smile and perfect teeth.
“I suppose I’ll rack up a ton of frequent flyer miles.”
“Not exactly, you will fly private, the company Blue Sky account. When you’re ready to come to New York, call Zi and she’ll set you up.”
“My parents are going to flip, daughter has big job in New York, flies on a private jet and has private car service. My mother will wonder why a taxi isn’t good enough, even the subway. She goes everywhere on BART.”
“My parents are the same, Ari fusses but she’s secretly proud of her daughters’ success.”
“Daughters, you have sisters?”
“My parents think of Daphne, Amaya and Chloe as daughters.”
“Ah, how sweet, they must be extraordinary, Japanese moms are particular.”
She has no idea.
Dinner is over, they have Cognac, skip dessert. Nikko’s not much on sweets, Fumiko looks like she’s never eaten sugar. The tab is covered, Nikko doesn’t like the fussiness of checks at the table, they got a card when the reservation was made.
They stand to leave.
Fumiko, “You have afforded me a great honor Nishiko,” she bows low, Nikko returns a half bow.
Good, she’s got traditional values.
The car drops off Nikko and Sloane, moves on to take Fumiko home. Nikko and Fumiko, lots of ‘iko’ today.
This morning, Sloane and Nikko are at the Murakami Sylk office in San Francisco. Local management is gathered in the conference room, New York is on the flat screen in the back of the room, including Daria and Zi right up front, making it clear this is an important occasion.
Nikko stands at the head of the conference table, “I’ll be brief, you all have things to do. Murakami Sylk Property Management is creating a new position, Chief  Executive Officer, who will be responsible for all the operations of the company. The credit for this position goes to you. You have been so successful in the growth of our business that Daria, Zi and I need to hand over the reins to an executive whose full time job is running property management.
Starting today, senior management on both coasts will be reporting to Fumiko Izumi, your CEO, Fumiko?”
She stands to polite applause, Nikko doesn’t run the business with rah-rah sessions, it would be unseemly.
“I am greatly honored to be chosen for this important role. You are a select group, working as part of a private conglomerate, not a cog in the wheel of some publicly traded shop with uncrossable lines of authority. Communications will remain the same. Any employee could talk to Nikko, Daria or Zi directly, or if they choose, go through their manager. The system works, and I plan to continue the open door policy, with the obvious exception.”
A hand is raised, “To be clear, the exception is that we communicate with Fumiko, not you or the others?”
Nikko, “To be clear, Rafael, business related questions that come to me, Daria or Zi will be passed to Fumiko. We will take no action around her, she’s the boss, her decision is final. My family isn’t creating this position to micromanage it, that defeats the purpose.”
She nods to Fumiko.
“Good question Rafael. I am guessing that some of you are wondering about opportunities for new roles. Our CIO is the CIO for all of Murakami Sylk, I think a CIO for Property Management is prudent. I am also considering other opportunities. Since I haven’t decided on the structure, any comments I make now will likely be changed. In due course, I will meet with senior management collectively and individually, I am anxious to hear your thoughts. We all have full plates, let’s get busy.”

Forty Three

Meeting adjourned. Nikko and Sloane go to the airport, Nikko’s not going to hang around and tempt people to talk to her. Whether to congratulate her on a good decision or to complain doesn’t matter. It’s Fumiko’s baby now.
Amaya and I collect them at Teterboro and they’re back in the condo by four thirty. I know details of the Waco business, as does Janah, the rest don’t need or want to know. An abuser got refocused, everything else is details.
Nikko mentals me while she sips wine, “Hardly a workout, Sloane was invaluable, spotted a gun I didn’t know he had.”
“I didn’t either, I can see what you see, but not what she sees. By the way, Zi wasn’t expecting you back tonight, she went to Susan’s. She and her compadres concocted a plan involving Zi and an array of lesbian toys.”
“Zi likes to make Sis grovel while she plays with the others. When they’ve teased her into submission, she’ll do the most extraordinary things.”
“Janah has Sloane on her mind, leaving me to submit to any extraordinary things you might demand of me.”

Nikko grins, “I had time on the flight to think up various humiliations.”
Ooohhh, I’m warming, I do some of my best work on my knees.
I’m snuggling into Nishiko in a post coital flush when Janah slips into bed on the other side of me.
“Get what you went for?”
Janah, “The Stones are wrong, I can always get what I want.”
Nikko, “Cut the chatter, Nishiko must rest.”
Janah giggles, snags a kiss and we drift out of consciousness until the sun comes up.
I feel a presence, a presence other than the two lovelies I’m surrounded by, I open one eye.
My Russian doll is frowning down at me, “You will get up Dahfoney, ees time for breakfast making, not for lounging around wiz Nikko and Janah.”
I smile up at her, she’s so adorable, I just want to wrap her up.
“Not time for wrapping Dasha, I haf coffee and tea ready, do not be lazy peerson.”
I creep down the mattress and exit at the bottom of the bed, take care of morning ablutions and join Dasha and Emma B in the kitchen.
“Where’s Grace B?”
“Upstairs, she likes to keep an eye on Cassie and Oceane. She and Kota B play Go all night, or surf the web for fresh data.”
“You didn’t go up and participate?”
“I went to hibernate for a few hours, Grace B uploads whatever she comes across while I sleep.”
“You guys work more than Nikko. Dasha, have a menu planned or shall I make up something?”
She always has a menu planned, it was planned before she went to bed last night.
“You will make pahncake, children like pahncake, meex berries, wiz crème fraiche also. Big girls will haf aig to order, creespy bacon and grill sausage.”
Emma B, “I will set the table, the berries are in the refrigerator ready to serve. Do you need Grace B?”
“She can help Kota with the children, they come down for breakfast and dinner.”
Kota B brings lunch upstairs, the kids are generally in the midst of something, rehearsing a play, language lesson, drawing. Rather than interrupt the flow, we send up something light they can nibble on and keep going. After lunch, they settle on their own for an hour, then something active, dance, gymnastics or swimming.
This morning, family arrives out of sequence, Amaya, usually last up is at the table with coffee, then Eloise shows up followed by Sloane, Oceane and Cassie.
“What’s going on, the last shall be first day?”
Amaya, “I woke up with an idea for a screenplay. Once my brain gets churning, I cannot possibly sleep.”
Sloane, “Oceane and Cassie went to bed last night at nine.”
They do that, their hours aren’t always ours, which is why Grace B spends the nights upstairs. Oceane will decide to swim at two in the morning, Cassie joins her and they will go for at least thirty or forty minutes. Grace B says they sometimes park on the roof afterwards, other times go to one or the other’s room and make love. Those nights they don’t show for breakfast and may not get moving until noon. 
Pancakes made, resting comfortably in a warm oven. Bacon is grilled, stacked on paper towels under a warmer with the sausage. Dasha makes eggs as requested.
“What’s the movie about? Or is it too soon to ask?”
“Chloe is charged with destroying a network that resembles the Illuminati, or the alleged banking cabal that actually runs the world according to conspiracy theorists. In the course of her investigation, it turns out the conspiracy theory crowd is actually trying to take control. Their stories are designed to deflect attention from their real activities, which is the world domination they claim some other group is after, the Rothschild family, the Davos World Economic Forum, Skull and Bones, whatever.”
 I put her two poached in front of her, Dasha adds a plate of pancakes and three strips of bacon, “This is sounding like a comedy.”
Amaya, “God that smells good, I am ravenous, Eloise snuck in on Chloe and I last night and made the most disgusting demands.”
“So, a comedy?”
“Good catch Daphne, you are sharper than most girls with annoyingly spectacular legs. The idea, as yet only in my head, is to make all the groups look inane. The conspiracy crowd uses eight little girls they call Diviners to project the future. All the Diviners do is dance around and say absurd crap that the conspiracy people interpret as divine truth. The Davos forum spends all its time tasting wine, eating caviar and fucking prostitutes. They never discuss anything remotely economic. I’m thinking the Rothschild family is a bit like the dotty British Lords, too inbred to do any critical thinking, much less run the world. I cannot call them Rothschild, but Rothstein will serve. You recall the genius of Mel Brooks’ movie Blazing Saddles?”
“Of course.”
“That is where I’m headed. Instead of an idiot governor trying to get rich taking over Rock Ridge, I have a plethora of idiots trying to take over the world. Throw in a bit of Monty Python absurdity, I have the makings of the funniest movie ever made.”
Sloane, “That is funny, the whole idea, and your talent with snappy dialogue will put it over the top.”
“Thank you, Trannie Wolf. Most insightful. This will take me months, every line must be perfect, better than Spamalot, better than Carlin, Pryor or Chris Rock at their peak.”
“Amy Schumer or Tina Fey?”
Amaya laughs, “Oh please, amateur stuff for a television audience of morons, that bar is so low it is buried. Sarah Silverman and Paula Poundstone are only a thousand times better.”
While thousands of fans would disagree, in Amaya’s mind that only proves her right.
Janah is finishing her third pancake, “What’s for lunch…and dinner?”
Amaya, “Sheesh, you have the appetite of a wildebeest.”
“Tomato soup with garden burger, tonight is delivery from Fong’s, I’m feeling egg-rolly and hot and sour soupy. It may be their largest delivery ever, twenty one of us.”
Dasha, “The children like wanting zoup Dahfoney.”
“Emma B has our preferences in her memory, she’ll send an order after lunch for six thirty delivery.”
Janah, “I’m headed to Susan’s for a yoga session at ten.”
Dasha, “Sister and I will haf sparring wiz Dahfoney. Anyone else ees invite to get beat up also.”
Chloe, “I’ll watch, Amaya will be absorbed the bulk of the day.”
Nikko and Zi want in, it won’t be a brutal session, more ground fighting to retain muscle memory, alternating with sessions on the qi dummies.
Nikko, “Might want to put lunch back to twelve thirty.”
Dasha, “Da.”
She goes over to the girls’ table, sprites are wrapping breakfast, plates are clean. We don’t load them up, if they want more, they can ask Kota B, but they seldom do. Light eaters, slim as my little stick self at their age. 
Kota B says in Japanese, “Upstairs children, Grace B needs to clear the table, what do you want to do this morning?”
Nadia, “What is weather?”
“Partly cloudy, sixty eight degrees, thirty percent humidity, light wind at five miles per hour.”
“We will go to the roof.”
They stand as one, Nadia says, “Thank you for breakfast mama, Daphne,” then out and up, Kota B follows her charges.
Bots take care of dishes and cooking utensils, it’s so different these last few years. Dasha and I did the clean up, which could take a half hour or more, now we have nothing but time to fill before our sparring session. I go to our room to chill, Janah is suiting up for yoga.
“Nice togs, your form fills them out deliciously. Sure you’re going to get to the yoga part?”
“Thank you, that’s my intention, although the session can get rather hands on after a while,” she giggles, “now you’ve put a lascivious suggestion in my head.”
“Grace B will walk you over and wait to walk you home.”

Forty Four   

Sparring session goes well, no busted noses. All head strikes are half force, the twins have bear power and aren’t allowed head strikes at all. They start with their normal strength, then kick in their power as we progress, by the end they take on Nikko, Zi and I at the same time. We lose.
Zi, “Nothing like getting tossed across the mat like a stuffed toy.”
“At least we’re well versed on how to land without breaking a bone. It’s impossible to grab and hold Dasha, a bear hug on a bear doesn’t work at all.”
Nikko, “I need gel packs.”
Grace B fetches a stack from the freezer, “Here you go hoe, keep it cold and you won’t get old, least you bitches don’t need no stitches.”
Nikko shakes her head, “I’m going to kill Amaya.”
“Ain’t what you say when she’s in the hay, got your face in her private place.”
Zi and I laugh, the twins don’t laugh, ever, but they do grin occasionally, this is one of those occasions.
Nikko rolls her eyes, “Go away bot.”
Grace B, “Dump your nasty gis right where you are. I do not have time to chase around to everyone’s room, Miss Amaya needs coffee and she expects it promptly.”
She strides off.
Chloe giggles, “Amaya has her trained…but then, Amaya has me trained too.”
Dasha, “Eemaya haf all of fahmahley trained, everyone must do what she says or ees beeg production dramatic.”
Nikko, “She’s annoyingly correct about fashion, hair and makeup. I gave up buying my stuff long ago, she does it better. I shudder when I look at the labels, she’s luxury designers best friend.”
“Amaya is relatively conscientious about costs. Most of our clothes come from Chloe Couture. She dresses you, Zi and Daria more expensively, you’re the faces of Murakami Sylk.”
We strip, leave the stuff on the mat, five nude girls go off to clean our beaten bodies.
Janah’s home, she joins me in the shower, “Good session, we went hard and gentle.”
“All yoga?”
“Yep, no intimacies. Here, let me do that.”
She soaps me, I rinse under the rainfall shower, at least until Janah pushes me to the wall and has her way with me.
Janah, “Yummy.”
“Shall I reciprocate?”
“Let’s get lunch, Chloe made an appropriate inappropriate suggestion when I came in. She wants to explore me this afternoon, and she mentioned something about toys.”
“There are advantages to having Amaya occupied, leaves Chloe free to imagine alternatives.”
For reasons unknown, the sprites flood downstairs for lunch, Oceane and Cassie are with them. Probably been communing with the Pleiades and need a break from the exhilaration.
Kota B, “Our perfect wonders created a new dance, Oceane and Cass were the honorees, They sat in the middle of the circle, well, Cassie sat in the air, the children danced around them, long scarves fluttered around and above as they circled. It got quite frenzied.”
“Must have changed, their chemises look fresh.”
“Apart from scarves, the performance was clothing free.”
They do that sometimes, quite comfortable with their bodies, in their own skin so to speak.
“And in case you are wondering, it was not erotic or suggestive, their history has nothing to do with it.”
You will recall we rescued the children from a kiddie porn operation, one where patrons were allowed to fondle but nothing more. It’s inexcusable, at least they didn’t get raped repeatedly as happens to children all over the world. Don’t get righteous on me, I am well aware that what happened to them could be construed as rape. You know what kind of rape I mean.
Kota B has the kids’ history in her memory, it’s to help her keep an eye out for any reversionary behavior. So far, it’s as if it never happened.
Eloise, “When do we leave for Canada?”
Janah, “Fumiko flies in tomorrow, Zi will get her familiarized, the apartment, her security people. Daria will cover financials, most of which she is familiar with, Nikko is fairly transparent with operational details. Salaries are not disclosed, but they aren’t dissimilar for the same job responsibilities. Length of service is a factor, but not a major one. Nikko pays her people well and demands acceptable performance. Nikko’s idea of acceptable is most employers’ idea of superior.”
Eloise smiles, “She wouldn’t be Nikko otherwise. She’s the Amaya of the business side of the family, or perhaps I should say Amaya is the Nikko of the creative side.”
Chloe, “Great soup Dasha, you and Daphne are the Amaya and Nikko of the nutrition side of the family.”
“Spasibo Vesnushki.”
There’s a flutter of whispers from the children, I hear Zofia, “Mama calls Chloe freckles.”
Tasia, “She has a few freckles only, you have more than her, they make you beautiful.”
Zofia, “Can I be Vesnushki?”
“Ask Chloe.”
Nobody hears this exchange but me, my owl ears pickup everything.
Zofia approaches Chloe, “Mama calls you Vesnushki, I have vesnushki also, can I be Vesnushki too?”
Chloe blazes her Chloe smile, “Of course Dear One. Perhaps I will be Vesnushki the Elder and you will be Vesnushki the Younger.”
Zofia, “You are not old. You will be Vesnushki only, I will be Vesnushki the Younger,” she beams up at Chloe.
A tear drops down Chloe’s cheek, “Then we are sisters, Vesnushki Sisters.”
Zofia kisses her cheek, scoots back to her spot with the others, another burst of Russian whispering.
Chloe dabs at her eye, “I’ve never been so honored.”
Until tea that is, the child wave rolls down the steps, circles their table and sits. They have dabbed themselves with eyeliner pencils, all the girls have freckles. When Chloe and Amaya come into the room, the children smile up at Chloe. She breaks down, kneels next to Zofia and cries. It is one of the most touching moments any of us has ever witnessed, with the exception of the children, there’s not a dry eye in the place.

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