Chapter Forty Five

Janah calls Mrs. Epstein, “Hi Mrs. E.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Hello dear, you must be psychic along with everything else, I was just thinking of calling you.
Janah, “Good, who goes first?”
Mrs. Epstein, “We have work, and it may involve some of your Shadows, at least some of the behavior we are seeing is odd. When can you visit?”
Janah, “It’s nine thirty now, I’m at the temple, but I can wrap up anytime, Daphne is teaching, she’ll be another hour.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Perhaps lunch. I can have dishes delivered from Zabar’s, and what we’re you calling about?”
“It’ll keep until lunch, we’ll see you then, just Daphne and me, family is scattered all over today.”
They ring off, I’m directing traffic in the training ground, then take on a couple of talented disciples. I’m not in the mood for getting beat up, Nikko and Zi took care of that a couple of days ago. Today, I demonstrate how to handle a double attack, without getting clobbered, and I try to do it without kicking in any unique skills that the monks don’t possess.
The trick to dealing with two people is to take your best guess as to which one will be the most trouble. Like any task, better to get the hard stuff done while you’re fresh.
My students know that by now, and the two disciples I’ve chosen are equally talented, however one is smaller and more compact. My technique today is to keep circling Small and keep him between me and Big. Big is slower, I move quickly, but only half my top speed. I dodge a few strikes from Small, Big is looking for an opening. I have Small thinking he’s figured out my dodging, so when he comes in for an attack, I do the opposite and move to him. When his leg sails up, I duck, grab his ankle and propel him backwards, directly into Big. He sort of bounces, Big is only slightly staggered, but it’s all I need to leap into his chest with a front kick, spin and sweep his ankles. I go to one knee and do a throat strike, I don’t hit him of course, just make enough contact that it’s evident I could have crushed his windpipe. Small is bearing down on me from behind for what he thinks is a layup strike to my head, except I deliver a back kick with my free leg, catch him in the chest and he’s on his butt in the dirt. I’m on him with a heel to his jaw, again only a tap, game over.
They get up, bow, dust off, class dismissed. The monks have been up since five, it’s ten thirty. They have various studies until one, then lunch, two hours of either more study or maintenance depending on who’s assigned, then hard gung fu, a tea break with a light snack, evening meditation, then free time or bed. When Janah and I were first here, before I was a priest, there was no tea and snack before meditation. There were two meals, breakfast and lunch. The food was poorly made, tea thin, nutrition minimal, variety nonexistent.
I worked in the kitchen as a student and began to upgrade quality and variety. It wasn’t that the masters were mean, or grudging, it was that nobody wanted kitchen duty. I jumped at it, and fresh vegetables, fruit and bread delivered daily, new soups and noodle dishes, were well received. Magically, more monks wanted kitchen duty. Janah always thought that the hot student monk had a lot to do with willing workers. I thought maybe it was also due to being part of a clean, carefully made, delicious and nutritious new diet. People like to be part of successful, popular enterprises and distance themselves from mediocre ones. The best want to work for Google, Yahoo gets the also rans.
Over the years I’d remodeled the kitchen several times, brought in heavy duty commercial ovens, ranges, a professional pizza oven, walk in freezer and refrigerator. Tea and coffee are available all day, in a pristine dining hall. Sleeping quarters have been upgraded, no more thin mats and toilets with only a fold out panel for privacy and communal showers down the hall. Now, the bathroom is separate from the bedroom, there’s a shower, the toilet is a water closet, which means a separate door. Each room houses two monks, serviceable desks, laptop, and wireless. We want them doing some internet for enjoyment, or to keep up with what happens in the world, they can have Facebook or Google+ pages, we aren’t the police. We also provide a mobile phone, for use only in the three hour window after meditation and before ten pm, then only in their room. For their room, board and training, monks are required to maintain the temple themselves, it must be clean and orderly, their clothes have to be clean, personal hygiene a must. There is silence at all meals and Janah expects a quiet atmosphere otherwise. Noise while training is unavoidable, other than that, conversation should be low volume and discreet. Our temple is a place to not only train for gung fu, it is an educational, study and research center. We have a number of contemplative monks and a few mystics. They spend much of their day in silence, some all of their day. That is to be respected and honored.
With the improvements, Janah increased the academic requirements, many of our monks go to college at NYU or Columbia, well prepared for college level courses.
Sorry for the lengthy back history, you need to know that, since Janah became Abbess, she hasn’t just been sitting around getting bowed to. She works it.
Janah and I are in Mrs. Epstein’s Park Avenue condo. They’d bought it long ago, when human beings could still afford the things. Now, you have to be a psychopathic CEO or hedge fund manager, or us, to even think about it. Celebrities try to buy in, but the co-op board mostly turns them down. Nobody wants to wade through a gaggle of paparazzi assholes to get into their own building lobby. Only older celebrities have a shot, they generally don’t get drunk and high, they surely don’t invite a crowd of jerk off backup dancers to their condo to party until next week, they don’t have an entourage of airheads and ass licks, or slide into their rides with short skirts hiked up to display panty-free vaginas.
Mrs. Epstein, “Before we get to business, how are the twins, what have your other girls been up to?”
“Nishiko and Zi are increasing our net worth hourly, but Janah has insisted they add to the property management personnel, they try to do too much routine and we have monks with flipping MBAs who can handle it blindfolded. The problem with Nikko is, every job Janah relieves her of just gives her more time to find new ones. She is considering starting a property management company.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Well, if she does, tell her to call me. I can send her enough business to start two property management companies. Some of my acquaintances think buying real estate and managing it is simple until they buy it and mismanage it, or just don’t grasp the complexities. Nikko would clean up.”
Janah, “I’ll tell her. If she finds out there’s an opportunity for us and I fail to mention it she’ll do me grievous bodily harm.”
“Baloney, she wouldn’t do anything to you, she’d take it out on me.”
Janah, “I am you.”
Nikko, “And I am going to start a property management company. Tell Mrs. E I’ll be calling her. Calling Mrs. Walker now to start the legals.”
“Nikko is tuned in, she said she’ll be calling you soon. It appears we’re going in the property management business.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Twenty years and I still don’t understand you. An idea floats, and in seconds it’s a fact, good glory. To move on, let’s get our working lunch going. There’s health salad for Janah, seafood salad and Zabar’s wonderful gefilte fish, Daphne’s Coke Zero and bottled green tea.”
While we eat, Mrs. Epstein outlines the situation. There’s a small group in Florida, around Orlando that is snatching kids, the Society found out because four children reported missing turned up on the street, abandoned. Not all at once, over the course of several months. They were taken from near their homes, local playgrounds, one from a motel swimming pool, in the prior twelve months. They are all children, not adolescents, ages from six to eight, three girls and a boy. A van stops, they’re snatched and taken to a warehouse. They think four to six men, no useful description. The children report feeling numb, it’s hard for them to explain, they say something like ‘I didn’t feel anything, it was like I was somebody else,’ things of that nature.”
Janah, “They weren’t scared? At first anyway?”
“All four said they just went along, one said she was scared at the first moment, until the van pulled off, then said her head wouldn’t work.”
“A Shadow can take a child’s mind quickly. No reports of a drug?”
“No, no pills, no injections, of course they were fed over time, given water and food, perhaps laced with something. Nothing showed up in their blood tests or urine samples.”
“And do they recall sexual activity?”
“Quite clearly. Nudity, fondling, oral and intercourse.”
“And they went along willingly, at least at the time.”
“Yes. They were also photographed and filmed.”
“So these men are making videos.”
“Big market for them. The children said they made a lot of movies, made them every day, we think two men did the sexual part. Each child said a woman came sometimes. They performed oral sex on her, she on them.”
“Nikko is going to slaughter mode.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Can’t blame her. The children say it was like it wasn’t them, they described what happened, but used terms like ‘the boy had a man’s thing in his mouth, or the man put his penis in the girl.’ As if it had happened to someone else.”
“But the kids clearly had been violated.”
“Yes, there’s no doubt they had sexual activity.”
Janah, “Then released to the street.”
“After what they called a long time, they were brought to a place they didn’t know and left. Each child tells a similar story, and it’s not like they know each other, they weren’t picked up together, they weren’t together during their abduction, they weren’t dropped off at the same time, or at the same place. The targets grab a kid, use her, or him, cut them loose, grab another kid.”
“What’s the children’s status?”
“Back in a normal environment, they realize what happened. I don’t know what would have happened if parents had tried letting life return to normal, of course, that’s not how it went.”
Janah, “If they weren’t traumatized at the start, they were after frantic parents and therapists got hold of them. I suppose it’s natural, but I wish people would wait to see how the child adjusts before projecting their own fears on them and rushing into treatment. I suppose it’s too scary, parents want to be reassured by so called experts and never realize they may be feeding something better left to starve.”
Mrs. Epstein, “That’s not how people work, most people. You guys took four girls and, with loving affection, let them reset naturally and they’ve done splendidly.”
“One might say we got lucky, but that’s not it. We never fueled the fire, we treat it as a thing that happened. Our approach includes keeping them busy, and we are always there for whatever they need. We have the luxury of constant availability, they were reassured by that. Back to the issue, the children taken from the same general area?”
Mrs. Epstein, “A ragged hundred mile circle around Orlando, it’s a big place. Three were local, live in the Orlando area, one was taken from a motel pool.”
“Nobody saw it?”
Mrs. Epstein, “A few people remember the motel child, said she just walked off with a man like she knew him, didn’t think anything of it, it wasn’t like she was screaming. It’s a motel, everyone is from someplace else, they don’t know which child belongs to whom. Only description was a hat, sunglasses, he was stocky, thick. Eyewitness reports are virtually useless anyway.”
Janah, “Then the man is adept, grabs the child’s mind, the girl can’t do anything but go along.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Problem is, how do we find them?”
“At the moment, I have no clue. Is it possible to get everything the kids said that was documented, on paper or recorded? Any description of anything that hints of a location. I’m sure the police have taken the same approach, are there video interviews? Our Sensitives might spot something in their tone or expression, auras don’t show up on video accurately.”
“It’s all on the website.”
“The Society always anticipates well. We’ll review it at home and let you know if we have reason to go to Orlando. If I can get any idea of their whereabouts, within a mile even, Chloe and Zi can patrol the area, if there’s a Shadow around they will find him.”
“We can use birds if we’re there to instruct them, still need a general vicinity.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Okay, that will unfold as it does, now, you have something else on your mind.”
Janah, “I think we need to create another ranch. The first is full and there are other abused children with no family to return to. The Shaolin have the cash, we’re awash in money, I have more monks willing to help than I can fit into our current rotation. Reports from the monks in place are so touching, I’m getting calls from monks who were in our temple, now out in the world, who want to participate. Many of them female, and since there are far more girls than boys, it’s helpful to have women who understand girl things, hygiene, the onset of puberty for instance.”
“You want a separate location, not expand the current one?”
“Yes, I think the number is good at twenty. I know there are cost efficiencies to expansion, I don’t want this cost driven, I want it child driven.”
“Not a problem. The Society is flush, we just confiscated another twenty million from a former drug dealer in the southwest, suffice it to say, he won’t be needing it.”
“Okay, we’ll buy the land and build or renovate the facility, farm equipment, furnishings. The Society can handle operating expenses, if that works.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Not a problem. The first operation is less than a quarter million a year, not quite a thousand a month per child. We thought it might be higher, but they just don’t spend much.”
“Good thing Amaya doesn’t run it. She’d have them all over the city shopping, the first Juicy Couture farm kids.”
Janah, “We’re safe from that. We can’t go to the ranch, don’t want to have to explain ourselves.”
Mrs. Epstein, “I’ll get busy finding another location, more mountain sites?”
“We’ve had great response with the first one, so, yes.”

Chapter Forty Six X

As we stand to leave, I feel a spark in my head, then, “Dahfoney, you will come home now for painting fingers.”
“I’m going to have to get a switchboard installed.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Whatever are you talking about?”
Janah, “Don’t tell me.”
Mrs. Epstein, “What is going on, you are smiling like you’re swimming in moonbeams?”
“Dasha just ordered me home.”
Janah giggles, “Criminey cripes.”
Mrs. Epstein is struck dumb, staring at me as if I’d dropped in from Venus, then says, “It seems like yesterday when I met two young ladies who fit together hand in glove, charmed the socks off Chef Villaume. Then I am informed they have an uncanny ability to see into each other’s mind. Years flash by in only moments and now there’s a houseful of telepaths, Sensitives reading people’s auras, geishas and a girl who can imitate any voice and sing in any key. I’m almost afraid to tell Bernie.”
“On the way.”
“Gud.”
Janah, “You able to communicate back?”
“Just did. Thank you for lunch Mrs. E.”
Mrs. Epstein, “What an amazing life! My goodness. Back to the real world, after this job, we need to have you begin meeting our contacts. Bernie has to give up the hospital, he and I need to spend what time we have in a bit of travel. You refuse to age, whether a luxury or a curse remains to be discovered, but Bernie and I have. He’s been out of this business for the last year, I need to exit as well.”
Janah, “We will miss our director, I trust you will be available to consult.”
“Of course, I want to be kept apprised, I just can’t juggle the contacts, weave the threads any longer. It wasn’t so much when Bernie helped, but now, I’m afraid things might slip past me. I have to be realistic, I’m near eighty, Bernie closing in on ninety. We’ve gone on too long as it is, but you took on the twins, and have significant temple obligations, so I hung around.”
“And thank you for that. I promise, Daphne and I will absorb Society work soon. Nikko and Zi have enough on their plate, I can bring in Amaya. She is talented with people and has no trouble getting them to pay attention.”
Our car is waiting patiently, we are home in under twenty and I’m dabbing polish on Dasha’s fingers, three quarters Bastille My Heart, a rich purple, then a quarter to the tips, lacquer Black Onyx. While that dries, I do her toes in Just Suzi. The way it’s done is to paint the whole nail in the first color, then over paint that with the second. Then a clear top coat levels out the job, voila.
Daria comes along, Amaya did hers earlier, she likes the shatter colors and sparkles. It’s unclear why the slightly more outgoing Dasha likes darker colors and the far more introverted Daria like the brights, go figure.
I leave the twins in their room admiring their fingers and toes, Chloe stays brushing the girls hair in front of their water rock. She senses they are mentaling each other, but we are not on their private channel. Chloe can, however, can tell from their auras if they are just chatting, or if some other more intense discussion is happening. Right now, it’s relaxed, guess they aren’t going to dismember anyone soon.
Janah and the others are around the dining table, Janah’s filling them in on the new project.
“I want us all to watch the interviews, some are on video, we are looking for anything that that might point to a location. It’s clear what happened, and how events transpired, but unclear who these men are and where they operate from. We can’t just wander around a place the size of Orlando hoping to pick up a vibe.”
Amaya, “We have a dozen terminals, let’s play all the videos, audio, run through all the interviews and see what happens.”
Janah, “Is Chloe finished upstairs?”
Amaya goes up and returns, “Yes.”
“I’m going to log in, tell her to watch with the twins. I want their opinion, have her explain what they will be watching.”
Nikko, “Are they ready for this?”
“They don’t have feelings about this sort of thing, they don’t have feelings about much of anything. They are almost perfect observers, no emotional bias.”
We watch four children interviewed, all remarkably matter of fact, as if they really are relating a story that happened to some other kid. They detail sex acts, the number of times is vague, but a lot. Always in the ‘big room with lights and cameras.’
The interviewer did a good job, asked about everything, food, bathroom facilities, how they bathed, there were facilities for that in another room, where they slept.
Their meals were grocery items, apples, bananas, cereal, milk, McDonalds or other fast food for dinner, there was no place to cook anything, a small refrigerator.
They are asked to give as complete a description as they can of each room, colors on the wall, ‘kind of white,’ no carpet, concrete floor, except in the sex part. That consisted of a bed, a couple of brown chairs, there was a rug it all sat on. The set for the ‘movies.’ They said they were called movie stars.
How many people? Answers vary from three to five or six, two cameras, one man running each, the man or woman they had sex with, a man who told everyone what to do.
There are only vague descriptions, which no matter how many approaches the interviewer took, remained vague. Height, not big, not small, hair color, brown or black, one didn’t have much hair, the one who told everybody what to do. The men came and went, the children aren’t sure how long they were in the place, but from disappearance to release was around three months.
One girl mentioned an arrow on one wall, the arrow was pretty thick, pointed towards the side, they drew pictures, both similar.                                                     
She noticed because, even though the wall was ‘kind of white’ the arrow was whiter, and had a faded rusty red outline. Guessed it to be about  ‘this’ big, measuring on the video with her hands in the air, about a foot high and a foot wide.
What sounds did they hear? Inside or outside. Airplanes sometimes, trains. Close or far? Up in the sky. A lot? Sometimes. Any cars, or trucks outside, traffic sounds? Only when men left and when they came back. Two men were always there, not the same two all the time, they switched. These are six and eight year old children, the sequence of events, who came and went was pared down to a child’s ability to describe. ‘I don’t know’ was the number one answer.
It goes on like this through four interviews, six hours. We log off and read the reports, medical records and the psychologist’s evaluation. The psychologist talked to them separately about sexual activity, not the interviewer. His report summarized sexual specifics, oral, vaginal and anal sex, he noted that the children used phrases like, ‘he put his thing in the girl’s mouth, or she licked his thing, other times they said penis, sometimes they said dick, ‘that’s what the man said to the girl, suck my dick. They told the girl to tell the man she liked his dick, and that she liked it inside her and that she was supposed to smile when his stuff went in her mouth and look at the camera with her mouth open, then swallow it.’
The boy had similar lines. The children shifted between third person, ‘the girl played with the man’s dick,’ to first, ‘he put his penis in my mouth.’
The interviewer concluded, with the help of the psychologist, that the kids were so traumatized that they couldn’t recall more detail. The psychologist theorized, but make it sound like science, that their minds shut down to compensate for the terror, his word, of being taken from their families, put in a strange building with strange men and being forced to have sex daily for weeks on end. Using a third person, he claimed, was a way to distance themselves from the horror.
The interviewer bought it lock stock and barrel, clearly something had kept them from recalling even simple details, it must be as the psychologist said, terror and trauma. The arrow on the back wall of the big room, pointed towards a side wall that had a regular door, where the men came in and left. They decided it was an exit sign, faded to the point that only one of the four kids even noticed it.
The medical reports are graphically complete. The children had clearly been penetrated, vaginally and anally, but they had said that, the doctor also noted what we saw on the interview videos. The four kids were matter of fact about it, there was no sense of shame, humiliation or embarrassment. He, too, chalked it up to trauma and their mind’s attempt to separate itself from the experience.

Chapter Forty Seven

We gather around the dining table, it’s late afternoon, we’ve been watching a surreal ugly documentary all day. Dasha and I make tea and snacks, we hadn’t eaten lunch, not much appetite considering the subject matter.
Janah, “Any thoughts?”
Nikko, “Several, but not about the kids.”
“We can address that later, after we figure out who and where these people are.”
Zi, “Aura gets distorted on video, the colors aren’t true. What I can say is what seems obvious, the kids are completely calm about it.”
Chloe, “I agree, they are more happy it’s over than freaked.”
Janah, “I’m sure the parents will hyper-react, and therapists will manage to incite fear, shame and guilt in no time, likely already accomplished. The first child was found nine months ago, the latest three weeks. Unfortunate, but we can’t undo it.”
“Has to be Shadows. Kids calm almost immediately, one even walked off with the abductor without a thought. Then to go through all that and come out telling the story as if it was about some other child, only vague memories of the people involved.”
Janah, “Shadows remove the sense of self, of an actor who is in command, and substitute themselves as the control. Anyone under their influence for that long would only be loosely connected to themselves. For these children, it would be better to leave it that way. They did revert to first person occasionally, control must have been erratic from time to time. We also know that maintaining control over another takes energy, maybe less with a child, but still, it is tiring and eventually exhausting. That’s why I think the whole group was necessary. One man couldn’t keep a child under mental control the entire time, so they switched off, went someplace else to rest and sleep, like shifts on any job.”
“Likely why they only took one kid at a time.”
“Good point, controlling two or three would be almost impossible without drugs.”
Dasha and Daria have been silent, Dasha speaks up, “Sister will be quiet, we go to watery rock, gud for Daria.”
They go upstairs, “At least they don’t bore us with lengthy explanations.”
Amaya, “I wonder what is on her mind? Any idea, Chloe”
“She was intensely absorbed watching the interviews, I don’t know what hit her, the tone or affect of the kids, perhaps some body language. Daria notices almost everything, she’s as bad as Daphne or Nikko surveying the surroundings when we’re out.”
Zi, “She doesn’t react to much.”
Chloe, “Daria is like the eagle or the owl. If it isn’t a threat, or something they need, like prey for dinner, they don’t care about it. Everything has exceptions. Daria has strong feelings for her sister, and even some feeling for us. Everyone else is just out there, and what happens does not concern her.”
“We’re all in this alone.”
Chloe, “That sums her up as well as anything. It has its advantages, she can’t be insulted, or have her feelings hurt, she doesn’t care what people say, whether it’s about her or not. Just don’t try to physically hurt her.”
Amaya, “Then she would care, react?”
“No, Dasha would, and it won’t be pretty. It works the other way, Daria for Dasha.”
“Reminds me of a Japanese girl I know.”
Chloe, “They have similarities, but Nikko is practically Oprah compared to the twins. If we hadn’t caught up to Dmitri, the girls wouldn’t have been as kind as Nikko. He had no idea what he had on his hands.”
Nikko, “I’m liking them more every day.”
Amaya, “I shall think over what we have seen and heard. I will do it better if Chloe sits in the Jacuzzi with me so I can meditate on her. Come Chloe, you can free me and yourself of clothing. What time is dinner, Daphne?”
“Let’s see, it’s six, I have to make macaroni and cheese, that needs to bake forty five, then sit and firm up, tomato, walnut and feta salad , then grill sea bass while the mac rests. Call it seven thirty.”
Amaya, “I am all anticipation, Chloe is all anticipation to bathe with me, I sense her heart racing.”
“Maybe she’s having a heart attack.”
“Daphne dear, I am a heart attack.”
Nikko, “Sheesh.”
As I carefully observe Amaya’s lovely legs and firm round tush on their way to Chloe’s room, I decide heart attack is uncannily accurate.
“Thank you Daphne. For your clarity, I may have something for you later this evening.”
I feel my heart fibrillate, or maybe flutter, as Ms Alva would say, ‘what that girl don’t got ain’t worth gettin’.
Dasha appears at quarter to seven to help with dinner, Daria remains at the still flowing water. Our water rocks rock, a block of granite, black, rising from and surrounded by smaller round rocks, layered in the collection pool. A noiseless pump pushes the water up to the bowl carved into the top of the carved block of granite. The water collects in the bowl and overflows, but only so as to form the barest sheen on the top, then soundlessly and perfectly evenly down the four sides back into the collection pool. If you didn’t know water was flowing it looks like a polished black granite block. Needless to say, getting the thing that perfectly balanced is its own minor engineering feat, but the guys who install them know their business. The water rocks are perfect for meditation or contemplation, puts the mind in a nice alternate space, still and not still. After a time, drift into a serene state where the brain can process without ‘you’ interfering. It works far more efficiently that way.
The macaroni and cheese is bubbling away in the oven. Tonight, it’s a simple four cheese version, no vegetables or meats, pure comfort food without the distraction of healthy additions. We will have a salad to compensate.
“Cut the tomato into wedges, crumble feta over them, plastic wrap it and put it in the refrigerator. Dressing will be on the table, vinaigrette or tahini. Toast the walnuts, let them cool and add to the salad just before you serve it.”
Dasha slices tomato, crumbles feta, toasts walnuts and sets them aside. She pours the dressings into serving bowls, in the refrigerator to keep chilled. It’s seven fifteen, time to grill sea bass.
“Sea bass is best served to just done in the middle. Some say under done, I don’t care for it that way, if I wanted sashimi, I’d make it. The middle should be just going white, then take it off the grill. You ready?”
Dasha, “Da, watch, tell me if wrong.”
“Ready to flip, it’s fish, not blini, flip with two spatulas, one on top. The use one spatula to slide it back on the grill.”
Dasha, “Ees seemple.”
“Now, see from the side how the middle is not yet white, only opaque, not quite done.”
Dasha, “White now, turn off?”
“Give it one more minute, we can’t see inside, we want it to be just done all the way through.”
She sets a timer, that’s what I would do, I like precision.
Ding!
“Okay, on the platter, and take it to the table, I’ll deal with the salad, the macaroni is firmed up, we’re ready.
“Amaya, please open Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of champagne.”
“Dasha, the bass is perfect, see how it is white in dead center, but not dry, sea bass should be moist, not flaky like trout.”
Dasha pokes through her piece, cuts a piece out of the middle, tastes, “Gud. Dahfoney shows cooking sea fish.”
Janah, “Daphne, I am smitten by your creamy macaroni and cheese, and Dasha’s tomato salad is yummy, these are hothouse tomatoes, yes?”
“David Li is growing tomato plants, he managed to duplicate the Creole tomatoes popular in Louisiana. They are nothing like common tomatoes, even organic hothouse tomatoes.”
Zi, “Oh my, they are marvelous, they really don’t need dressing, salt and pepper only, I never knew tomatoes could be a gourmet food.”
“Miss Alva told me about them. Then I recalled it when I was talking with David Li about adding a vegetable garden and fruit trees. He researched, went through several varieties of seed, several types of controlled climate, and came up with these. If we hadn’t added our high rise garden a few years back, it would never have happened.”
Zi, “He should sell them to restaurants.”
“Not enough volume. The monks eat every tomato David produces. It’s not a year round crop, they don’t ripen until the summer, then we suffer until the next summer.”
Dasha, “Dahfoney, you will get plant from David Li, Daria will grow on roof.”
“Dang, that’s a good idea, I’ll do it. Would she like a flower or vegetable garden as well?”
Dasha, looks at her sister, turns to me, “Nyet, tomato only.”
Dasha puts another chunk of mac and cheese on Daria’s plate, we have another macaroni and cheese head. Janah could subsist on the stuff.
Janah, “I’m glad to find another macaroni and cheese gourmet in our family. I may have become S’Mac’s best customer.”
S’Mac is a local mac and cheese only restaurant, it’s good, and Janah has theirs for lunch occasionally, Daria became another fan.
Daria, “S’Mac is good, Daphne is better.”
“Thank you, how nice. Dasha and I are going to try Westville Market and Restaurant soon, reviews are good, we may have a new dine in or takeout place, and they deliver.”
Janah, “Dessert?”
“Hagen Daz, cones or cups, sprinkles or nuts, or both, there is hot fudge and whipped cream.”
“Knew I’d come to the right place. Chocolate vanilla cone with sprinkles after I am comfortably plopped on the couch, what’s the movie?”
“Something science fictiony called Looper.”
Janah didn’t ask if Daria had come up with whatever was on the edge of her mind. She would have said by now if she’d grasped it, things come when they do, not before. Dasha and I make ice cream requests, hot fudge sundae for Zi, cones, a small scoop of dark chocolate for Amaya and Nikko, not sweet eaters. Chloe and Daria share a hot fudge with whipped, Dasha and I share a triple scoop waffle cone of chocolate, vanilla bean and rocky road. I work one side, she the other until we meet in the middle, vanilla bean kisses.
The movie is good, convoluted, but well done. When it’s over, Chloe and I take the twins to their room, they like us to supervise tooth brushing and bedding down rituals, kisses for each of them, tucked and snuggled into each other.
I kiss Dasha on each cheek as usual, as I stroke her head, she lifts up and kisses me on the lips, I can’t resist a smile, in my head I hear, “Dahfoney likes Dasha to kiss.”
“Da.”
Dasha looks at me out of the corner of her eye, barest sly grin on her face. Daria turns to her, kisses both cheeks, her lips, takes her nightly place, head on Dasha’s shoulder. They like us to sit while they drift off, it only takes a few minutes, then I go to Chloe’s room with her, Amaya is tantalizingly stretched out in nothing.
Amaya, “Chloe may watch while Daphne makes love to me, her bonus for lusting after me.”
I ease between lean lovely legs, take my time appreciating them, then take a longer time appreciating the soft succulence. Chloe lies nude next to her, heightening Amaya’s libido, Chloe has the most amazing effect on Amaya. She climaxes like she does everything, splendidly, Chloe’s lips on hers. Before I leave, I take the opportunity to give soft kisses to the same spot on Chloe, priming her for Amaya’s certain attack. Before I’m out of their room, Amaya is between Chloe’s slender legs, Chloe smiling down on her gorgeous lover, fingers trailing through silky blond hair.
I climb the stairs to our room, another hot body is laying nude, Janah says, “Disrobe, I have a plan.”
Boy does she. Good thing I had dessert, I need the calories.

Chapter Forty Eight

We’re round the table again, breakfast, today pancakes with lots of crispy bacon, cut fruit, poached eggs. Does it seem like we eat a lot? Eating is the only thing you can do three times a day for a lifetime that won’t kill you.
Janah, “Poached, nice change.”
“It’s hard to make eggs to order for eight people, instead I got three sets of poachers that will do six eggs apiece. With Dasha to help, we can make everything come out at the same time. Scrambled is great for adding cream cheese, or vegetables, omelets work too, poached allows for liquid yolk, different taste and texture.”
Dasha is spooning caviar on her eggs, won’t need to supplement her with Omega 3s.
Nikko, “That looks good, pass the caviar please.”
Then everyone wants to try caviar on their egg. Dasha has created a larger caviar following. This could start running into money, good thing a little goes a long way and we have a lot of money.
Daria says in Russian, Dasha says, “Sister says arrow on wall ees Fade-echs.”
The family looks around at each other, we aren’t catching Daria’s reference, Janah drops her fork, clink! on her plate, “Daria, that’s brilliant….of course, how very stupid of me.”
Zi, “I’m lost.”
Janah, “Daria, do you want to explain?”
“I see company name on internet, you will see.”
She taps into her IPad, holds it up for us to see:
“Arrow, you see?”
Nikko, “Splendid Daria, brilliant association.”
Daria is unimpressed with herself, “More pancake.”
Dasha takes two more pancakes from the warm oven, butters them and gives the plate to her twin. She pours syrup carefully, they share bites.
Janah is on the phone to Mrs. Epstein, “You recall the arrow on the wall in the interviews? Daria figured out it is part of the FedEx logo. If you look at the logo, the space between the uppercase ‘E’ and the lowercase ‘x’ forms an arrow, the point being things are on the move. It’s a rather nice piece of near subliminal impact.”
Mrs. Epstein, “All the times I’ve seen it, the arrow never registered. Now that I’ve pulled up the logo, it is completely obvious. So the children were kept in what used to be a FedEx location of some sort.”
“Yes, abandoned for a better location. We need to track down leases of former FedEx terminals. The children said they heard planes, but not taking off and landing, in the air, and trains. So it isn’t a new terminal in or adjacent to an airport. But there is regular air and rail traffic.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Thank Daria for me, we’ll be back to you shortly.”
Janah disconnects, “Dasha, Daria, class time.”
The twins go online for their Kahn Academy courses. Given their limited ability to empathize, regular school is not going to make the antisocial social, and could very well have resulted in a fair amount of hurt feelings. The twins are brutally direct, that people with physical imperfections would prefer they be ignored wouldn’t occur to them. They live in a literal world of objective fact.
Today, they study finance and economics as a follow-up to the family finance discussion. Daria is into it, Dasha not so much, but she follows along. I’m delighted we have another up and coming young one interested, it sure isn’t me, Amaya or Chloe. Amaya likes to say her job is to spend it, somebody else has to make it.
She’s full of baloney, of course. She makes more money writing novels under Chris Fischer’s name than she spends. My non-birth mom, Chris, passed away a few years ago. She’d built up a following based on mysteries and thrillers. As she was a taekwondo master and a lesbian, her characters include mixtures of martial artists, homosexual men who aren’t interior decorators or hair stylists, hetero men and women, lesbians ranging from total femmes to diesel dykes. Amaya finished Chris’ last book. She came to us before Chris’ death and was able to talk at length with her about style, plot and character development. Her books were never intended to be lofty literature, they were intended to be interesting, entertaining, sometimes informative. Two of her books were made into movies, neither blockbusters, but they returned a profit, Susan still receives small royalty checks.
Amaya has written four more novels, all financial successes. She isn’t doing it fraudulently. The books note that Amaya is a protégé of Chris, that the final novel was a joint collaboration and the subsequent works are written by Amaya. Amaya doesn’t have a last name, I think it adds some flair to the covers. Her jacket photos show her from the side, we have kept her relatively anonymous for her protection. Her young life as a child web model is buried, but former ‘members’ downloaded her photos, of which there were hundreds. She doesn’t much look now like she did then, the pictures were all pre puberty, she filled out where women fill out, her youthful platinum hair is darker blond.  She isn’t ashamed of the stuff, she doesn’t need the bother of old fans stalking her. Then Nikko and I would have to disabuse them of the notion, better to avoid the problem.
Today, Janah goes off with Nikko and Zi, Janah to the temple, Nikko and Zi to the office. Since they’ll be gone most of the day, Nikko drives, she has parking in her office building and she may need to go across the river to Brooklyn or the Bronx to be on site for our other properties.
Dasha comes downstairs in a leotard, “Dahfoney, enough stocks market, ees for Daria. You will take me to roof.”
Sounds good, we go up and Dasha has me help her stretch, then we get the mats from the storage shed and spread them around the balance beam. While I do forms, she floats along the beam, goes for back flips, forward rolls, a full front split along the beam, then a full side split. She falls a couple of times, bounces back up and continues. She isn’t going to any competition, it’s her preferred form of exercise. To avoid an unnecessary busted skull, I have her in martial arts headgear, twisted ankles or sprained wrists are easy to heal.
I’m in horse riding stance for twenty minutes while she bounces around the parkour course, then she’s doing handsprings and front flips across the mats.
My legs are vibrating, enough muscle tension for one day, I fold to sitting on my knees and let my thigh muscles stretch. Dasha comes over with two bottles of water, kneels next to me and we rehydrate.
“We will do pooshing ups now, one hundred.”
So we do, she flows along effortlessly, strong triceps pumping like pistons, her shoulders and back tight with developing muscle.
“Cheen upping now.”
There’s a chin bar I can put in the shed’s doorjamb, I get it nice and tight, she goes first, twenty chins, then my turn. With our arms legs and backs nicely fried, we finish up with ab crunches and call it a day.
We go into her room, Daria is still doing something on the computer, I towel Dasha down, she takes off the leotard, turns to check herself out in the mirror Daria logs off and watches Dasha watch herself.
Dasha looks at me in the mirror, “Sister ees bath me now.”
“I’ll have lunch ready in an hour.”
I go downstairs, take off my shorts and t-shirt, add them, our towels and her leotard to the laundry pile. Then upstairs to our room for a shower. Amaya is with Chloe at a photo session, the twins and I have the apartment to ourselves.
While I shower, I feel Dasha in my head, she’s in the Jacuzzi, Daria is bathing her. I see through Dasha’s eyes as Daria leans in and kisses her on the lips, I sense Daria’s tongue in her mouth, Dasha’s warmth. The Jacuzzi drains, Dasha stands and Daria lathers her hair, then her body, rinses, towels her off. I’m not intentionally tuning in, Dasha is transmitting for me to see, such a tease.
Daria kneels to dry legs, feet, bottom, kisses Dasha’s legs. One finger traces between her legs, then a kiss there as well. I hear Dasha’s soft moan.
She drops off, obviously she wants me to know, I am also sure neither of them are worried about my opinion. It wouldn’t matter if they were, I don’t have one, at least not a negative one. The girls are not going to have intimate friends for the foreseeable future, boys or girls. Janah and I were like that in the beginning, it isn’t possessiveness, it’s a lack of interest in other physical relationships. We branched out eventually, neither of us is introverted, the twins are ultra introverts, they may never branch out. The only possible sexual outlet for them is each other in their post pubescent high hormone state. It isn’t hurting anyone. Besides the tease, it’s a tentative demonstration of her trust in me, and it’s not like they’re going to make retarded babies.

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