Chapter Forty Five

Second makes it to the east side of the house, he's surrounded by two drones, his energy is sapped, Janah steps outside and walks around the corner.
He goes for sneer, but his heart isn't in it, "Whyn't you shoot the fucking dart? Gonna kill me anyway."
"Curiosity. How did so many come together? You stumbled on us by accident."
He's wary, sits on the ground and leans against the house, "Fuck difference does it make?"
"Like I said, curiosity. Your type doesn't much care for groups. We've seen a few together, seldom twelve."
"That's changing. More juice in numbers, like covering for each other. It's got protective value, and some of us can combine power, that's harder, but when it works it's fucking awesome. Still, none of us like each other much."
"We've noticed."
"Those drones, ain't exactly a fair fight is it?"
"Like when you take someone's mind, then their money, their life, that kind of fair?"
He has no reply. Janah knows he's buying time to gather his resources. Won't help, Janah can blow him away in a heartbeat.
"So you decided to vacation, came to Canada and keep in practice by killing the animals."
He smiles, "Yeah, gotta work out on something."
"How about just blasting a rock?"
He looks at her like she's dense, "Can't watch a rock die."
Janah looks up at the drone, nods, there's a dart in his chest about heart level. He can watch himself die, at least for a second.
My bear pal comes lumbering out of the woods, I scratch behind his ears, "Can you haul them deep into the woods? Let the bodies rot, some have poison inside."
He huffs, we tie up the three in a bundle. The bear takes a length of rope in his mouth and drags one, we load up the others on two moose, they can shake them off a couple of miles in. The toxin isn't permanent, it deteriorates in a couple of hours. If birds or whatever get to them after that, it won't matter.
The eagle swoops down, "Enjoyed watching you work."
"Thanks for the assist."
“The two that are the same, they are powerful killers.”
“Fearless and talented, yes.”
 "I saw the one going for you, but your young ripped his throat out. It was a joy to see her hunt, the gray is proud of her, though he would never say so."

She takes off for her home in the cliffs, got young to look after.
Inside, I'm being tended to along with Nikko and Zi. Bruises, Zi's ankle is strained, not fractured. Nikko has a nasty bruise top left back. Ice, qi, and sleep will fix us up. It's seven in the morning, we go off to bedrooms for a few hours rest.
By the time we're mobile, it's past lunch and mid-afternoon. Dasha made herb and vegetable soup, we're all hungry, no breakfast, no lunch, our tea time becomes an early dinner. It's quiet while we eat, then we move to the porch to catch the sunset.
Amaya, "That was messy, Sloane comes in here dripping blood, headless Shadows all over the woods. And young lady, if you think you are going to start eating raw meat, you best think again. Nikko is bad enough with her seared blood steaks."
Sloane giggles, "No raw meat. I wasn't trying to eat the jerk, just kill him."
"What did he taste like?"
Amaya, "Daphne! Yuck, what a question, cannibal mom."
Sloane, "Blood is blood. I didn't taste him, I smelled him. He smelled of smoke, hot metal, like the scent of them when they're alive."
Amaya, "I suppose he did, he was alive until you ripped his throat out. You did well, you are a katana with teeth, a serrated katana."
"And I was having a heck of a time, he had talent and was closing in on me. Sloane didn't dither, she acted, exactly what she's supposed to do."
Amaya, "We would make for a bad horror movie. None of the girls cringes in the corner while her friends are getting beat up, nobody squeals, none of you run away and trip over your own feet. Nobody gets rescued by the man."
"Maybe you could role play the part when we meet up with Shadows, you know, so we'd be more normal."
Amaya, "I shall never stoop to screeching, cringing or stumbling around while my family fights for our lives. I have been known to run over and crush villains with whatever vehicle I am driving. My favorite weapon is a bumper. Nishiko is Master of Katana, I am Master of SUV, Accelerator of Death. I brake for no man."
Dasha, "Eemaya ees best driver. We will race again een Aryzona, this time I will win her."
"Not a chance, I do have to give you the nod when it comes to those dirt bikes. You and your comrade sister are insane on them."
"Ees excite. Next time, we will show Sloane, she will be dirty bike racing girl."
Sloane grins, "Cool. I'm already the go kart champ."
Amaya, "Of course, you weigh eighty five pounds, we should handicap you with twenty five pounds and see how you do."
Sloane, "You're on, next winter, five laps, winner take all."
Amaya, "Challenge accepted weirdwolf."
Sloane giggles behind her hand, "Just remember who has the balls in this family."
Amaya throws a pillow at her, "I need a large vodka."
The evening deteriorates from there. Having napped a few hours, girls go off to sex partners of choice, Nikko, Zi and I are recovering and opt to spend an extra hour stargazing on the porch with Sloane. We make it to bed for one, Sloane to her room, three wounded warriors lined up on the super king bed. I didn't peek, I think Janah was taken over by Eloise. I had the impression the twins were going to split Amaya and Chloe, but I'm too bushed to get into anyone's head.

Chapter Forty Six

We leave our forest friends, say goodbye to the monks who run the guide and guesthouse, catch two Blue Skys back to Teterboro. We're in our Village place by three.
Chloe, "Maybe we can go a few weeks without Shadows. I can't believe they stumbled on us in Canada."
"Blind bad luck, maybe good luck, we got to rid the world of a dozen putzes at the cost of a few bruises and a sprained ankle."
Janah, "We've also learned there are more of them than we thought. This group was pretty good, a few very good, as our martial artists discovered."
We have minimal unpacking, Canada clothes stay in Canada, mostly it's weapons, knives, katana. Daria and Eloise haul the drones up to the workshop for refurbishing. We used up all the Oblivion, there are a couple vials of tranquilizer left that go in the locked refrigerator. With our automated homes, we had the air conditioning running before we left Canada. Outside on the roof, the gardens have been watered, Oceane and I remove the pool cover. We ran it a few times from Canada to keep the water circulated and filtered. Before we go to Prescott in the winter, we'll drain and clean it.
Downstairs, it's tea time, we spread around the living area today, Chloe has tea prepared, Dasha went simple with plates of cookies.
"Thanks to Susan and Taylor, we have basics, milk, cheeses, eggs, fresh vegetables and fruit."
Chloe, "Do you think maybe Ultra Violet for dinner? You guys have been cooking for almost two months."
Nikko, "Yes, splendid idea, I'm in the mood for fried chicken."
So is everyone, we don't do chicken in Canada, it's all beef, burgers or fish. I text Mariella to let her know we'll be there for seven and that everyone wants fried chicken. I get a 'welcome home' in a couple of minutes.
"Okay, we're all set, seven o'clock."
Girls go off to shower and ease into the evening, it's near five, six or six thirty is generally when Amaya starts creating cocktails. Oceane and Sloane went for a swim, Janah opted to swim in the Jacuzzi while I showered. When I emerge, my honey is bubbling away, I decide to wash her hair for her.
Janah, "Been a while since you did that, it feels nice."
"Remember when we had time for this kind of thing? Just go to Chapmans, come home, moms had everything taken care of. We could goof, give each other manicures and hair washes?"
"We got rich, seems like we should have more time to goof, it hasn't worked out that way though."
"It's not just the money, we took on schools, the temple, our family went from Nikko, you and me to eleven. And six were kids when they came along. Chews up a lot of time"
I rinse her hair with the shower wand while the tub drains, then rinse the rest of her. By the time we dry hair, it's nearly six fifteen.
Downstairs, the drinkers have beverage of choice, the twins are suitably adorable, Oceane in a gauzy white slip dress, Sloane in skinny jeans, long sleeve pullover and ankle boots. Amaya is applying eye shadow to Eloise who, for all her ability to envision and construct complex circuits, has no eye for makeup.
Amaya, "There, you look splendid, much better than the plumber's rags and clunky boots you used to wear. Now, I have created the twinsations, esoteric Oceane and nymph-sprite Eloise. I am not a genius, I am genius, the thing itself."
Dasha, "Dahfoney, we haf beautiful diamond bracelet, see?"
"Perfect for both of you, those are the gifts from Gennaro?"
"Da, even better for being stolen from someplace, we are hot girls with hot accessory."
I laugh, "Guess after all this time it's a long shot someone recognizes their property."
Amaya, "I took the diamonds out of the original settings, which were gold, designed simple bracelets in platinum. They are good diamonds, but nothing so special that the jeweler who made the finished pieces for me would recognize them. I did a necklace for Chloe, and I have a few rings, something for Sloane when she's sixteen."
Sloane, "Really, can I see it?"
Amaya, "Sure, when you're sixteen, only a year and a bit. Considering your recent conversion, maybe I should get you a dog collar."
Sloane, "Very funny, should I sniff your butt now?"
Amaya, "Eeeww, you are as nasty as Daphne."
Nikko, "If you're done sparring, let's get to the restaurant, I can taste the chicken now."
Ultra Violet is its busy self, we go to our dining room, Dasha to the kitchen.
Mariella, "Dasha is so conscientious, she never comes without a kitchen visit."
"And she'll be dragging me to the Down Homes tomorrow or the next day. She's been gone for two months."
Mariella, "It's good for me. The staff knows the owner is paying close attention. Alice will be along shortly for drink orders. I took liberties and selected sides as well. Garlic mashed with brown gravy, veggie mac and cheese for Janah, fried mushrooms, cauliflower and zucchini for appetizers, creamed spinach."
"Perfect, thank you, there is cornbread?"
"On the way with the appetizers."
Alice comes along, she probably knows the drink orders by heart, vodkas, Gosset and the house red, a big Cabernet.
Alice, "Vodka rocks for Chloe and Amaya, dash of bitters for Amaya, shots for the twins, Eloise, vodka or wine?"
Eloise, "Vodka, soda and lime tonight."
"Everyone else, Gosset first, wine with dinner?"
Janah, "Perfect, thank you."
Off she goes, then the table is set with hot fried vegetables and buttery cornbread, followed by crisp spicy chicken and the accompaniments.
"They still got game Dasha."
"Da, keetchen ees sparkle, food ees fresh, I check freezer, utensils, glasses, upstairs The Lobby ees full wiz people."
Chloe managed to escape notice, we get through dinner without her being requested for a photo. The dining room we use is private and isn't visible from the main room. Mariella keeps it available for us, once in a while there's a request for a large party, she texts or calls Dasha to see if it's okay to use it. We don't eat in the main room because it takes up space for paying customers. We tend to go slowly, a half hour or more for drinks and appetizers, an hour for dinner. If there is coffee or, more likely, an after dinner drink, it runs over two hours. They can turn three or four tables in that time.
We escape with only glances from a few diners, walk back to our place. We used to call it an apartment, it's free space we got long ago from Lacy Chapman. Then we bought the school and building from her. It's not really a condo, we're the only residents. House is also incorrect. We're the fourth and fifth floor of what is Chapmans School for Girls. Janah and I went there, then Amaya, then Chloe. Oceane didn't do formal school, she's incapable of paying attention, neither did the twins, they were incapable of socialization, so we home schooled. Now Sloane goes to Chapmans. She's a good student, not a genius, diligent and persistent. She likes having friends, the twins don't do friends. For them, there's family and non-essential personnel. Amaya taught them social graces, they can pass acceptably. Strangely, people like them. They are direct, uncomplicated, nobody has to dance around talking to them, they cannot be insulted, or flattered. People's opinions or personal observations float right past. This is good, because they think nothing of moving a person from the column 'living' to the column 'dead.' We are exempt, their loyalty to the family is searingly intense.

Chapter Forty Seven

Mini and Chuck hit an age when they needed to retire from the grind of a busy diner. Chuck's wife is in decline, she needs full time attention. Mini has never been mini, over three hundred since we've known him, with occasional bursts to three fifty. Doesn't have the knee power to stand at a grill all day.
We made them an offer six months earlier, we'd finance the purchase of the grill, they have trained cooks and waiters, we would supply management. Not us, monks out in the world who wanted to live and work in New York.
To avoid the hassle of leases, Nikko bought the entire building. The diner and a retail electronics store are street level, a few undernourished offices on the second and third floors, that's as far up as it goes. For what we paid Chuck and Mini for the name and fixtures, we'd never make money from the diner, not for years anyway. Our lawyers thought we'd lost it. Nikko is buying out the leases upstairs, she's going to convert the space to apartments that regular people can afford.
The electronics shop downstairs doesn't meet Nikko's appearance standards. His lease is up in a month, she's not renewing.
At tea, Amaya asks, "What are you going to do with the space?"
Nikko, "Haven't decided. There's no rush, it needs renovation, we start in upstairs next week. Gut the place, build out six-fifty to thousand square foot apartments. They'll be mid-scale, nice, modern, but nothing elaborate.
We've got no shortage of prospects for the retail, some of our current tenants might want to open another location. The diner's on a hot corner, subway entrance right there, foot traffic is in the several thousands a day. I'd do something quaint, like a bookstore, but Barnes and Noble is down the street and Three Lives is a few blocks away. They have a hard enough time of it already."
"What does the area need, or lack?"
Zi, "That's the problem, there's two, three or four of everything. Shoes, clothing, sporting goods, drug stores."
"Your folks want to do another store?"
Nikko's parents have owned a string of fresh fruit and vegetable shops in the boroughs forever. Then we financed a Japanese grocery and deli for them on the upper west side where they live.
Zi, "The space is not the size of their grocery, but she could do a downsized version."
Nikko, "That's not a half bad idea. She's got staff to run it. All she does now is sit in an office overlooking the floor space. She's not forty anymore, but she's spry and active."
Janah, "I vote we give them a deal on rent and build it out. It's something different on this end of town, and we know the place will be pristine."
Chloe, "Sounds like a no brainer."
Nikko, "I'll call her tomorrow."
Later, after dinner, Zi comes up to the roof where I'm enjoying the cool evening with Janah and Oceane.
"I have to tell you guys, Nikko was incredibly touched that you thought of that, and wanted to be so generous with the terms. That's valuable real estate."
"Zi, Nikko is a part of us, literally, has been for years. Anything we give her, we give ourselves. Forget the fact that Hanshi taught Chloe and I kendo, and Ari made Amaya and Chloe geisha. Frankly, the rent should be zero, but the Murakamis would find that dishonorable, so we charge them something."
Zi smiles gently, "It is the way of you. Nikko is convinced a new project will add years to her mother's life, Ari's blood runs in Nikko's veins, busy and diligent is their nature."
"It sure is with Nishiko. She has to be on the phone or online everyday even when we're in Canada."
Zi, "It cannot be otherwise, the extent of our holdings demands full time attention. Daria is an enormous help, she retains everything in that brain of hers. Nikko and I rely on her more than the spreadsheets."
"Good, keep her busy, otherwise people may die."
Zi laughs, "Both the twins have mellowed some. They are only relentless when the situation calls for it, Shadows, dangers to the family. In all our business negotiations, Daria's never beaten up a single lawyer, well, not physically. She's withered a few egos."
"Amaya's doing. Daria's silent stare is enough to back down an NFL linebacker, Amaya drilled them on basic social graces, they play the role we expect of them."
Zi leans in for a kiss, then Janah and Oceane, she goes back downstairs.
Janah, "What are you feeling Oceane?"
"You wish to make love to me."
Janah turns to me, "True, catch up to you later."
Appears I'm free to enjoy the evening alone, then, "Dahfoney, you will make sex with me now."
Oooohhh, timing is everything.

Chapter Forty Eight

School starts, a blizzard of  high energy girls descends on Chapmans. Sloane is ahead of the language requirements, competent in Russian thanks to the twins, she's good with code thanks to Susan. Her Japanese is adequate, at least to speak, she's less capable with kanji but practices a few lines every day. She has to rein herself in for sports of any kind, don't want her demonstrating wolf speed and agility.
Sloane, "Mom, I have to keep my smile from smiling. I think they would freak at my teeth."
"A small smile will only show partial incisors, your front teeth look human, look at me, give it a go."
She grins, I say, "A little more, no too much, back it down a bit....there. That wide will work, you never really toothy smiled anyway, not like Chloe."
"Chloe has movie star teeth."
"She endured braces and retainers for a few years. You don't need braces. Like I said, if the wolf thing bothers you, we can have them fixed anytime."
"How would they do it?"
"File some down, or if it took off too much enamel, then put caps or take the teeth out and put implants. It's a tedious process, but caps or implants will last for years and you would have normal teeth, all bright white."
She looks in a mirror, grins, wide, less wide, "My back teeth hardly show at all. I'm keeping things they way they are now, they aren't that big and pointy."
"I don't think so either, I like wolf girl."
Sloane, "I'm a strange-o, trannie wolf, a whole new category. I need to run mom, like, it's a genetic necessity."
"You can't race down Bleeker, go swimming, that'll take the edge off. I'm getting you a treadmill. They don't make them as fast as you can go, maybe Eloise can jack up the speed."
Sloane, "Cool, thanks mom," she dashes up the circular staircase two at a time.
I go to find Eloise, in her workshop as usual, Daria's there, they're building a stealth drone, not invisible, but small, like mobile phone small.
"How's it going?"
Daria, "We will have sneaky drone, flies faster, takes clear video and records audio. No darts, for surveillance only."
"I need to get Sloane a treadmill, she can't run around the neighborhood, she's too fast and it will attract attention. But I need something faster than a common gym treadmill."
Daria, "We will look at professional options. If we need to, we can make it go faster, just a bigger motor. maybe some reinforcement. What about agility?"
"She can do that on the roof. Treadmills come with a variety of programs, not for agility, but hills, alternate fast and slower, flat out, they have varied incline settings. What I think she needs is sheer speed and a variety of incline adjustments. One with a steep incline might help, I'll leave it up to you."
Daria, "Da, okay," she goes back to the mini-drone, Eloise is adjusting a chip in the guts, I go downstairs to crank out dinner.
Dasha, "We will call Marconi Dahfoney, ees already five thirty, no time for making full dinner. I haf start slow cooker wiz chuck roast, beef stock bacon slice, chop garlic. Tomorrow I will add vegetable."
"I'll call Dom and tell him the usual for seven o'clock."
"No cannoli tonight, I haf brownie een oven wiz vanilla bean ice crim and fudge sauce hot."
I call, chat with Dom for a few, tell him to feed us, his choice, no cannoli.
"You losin' your taste for my cannoli?"
"No way, Dasha had brownies in the oven before we decided not to cook dinner ourselves. I'll send some over for you."
"Great, you're the best, food will be over at seven."
Cocktail hour brings the family around the table.
Nikko, "I have a contractor starting next month, the place will be empty except for the diner. Everyone is happy except the electronics store guy, but his lease was up anyway. There's so little reasonable space left, particularly ground floor. Long time restaurants and bars are being hit hardest, they can't pay Manhattan rates and it's gotten almost as bad in the other boroughs. They've gentrified Brooklyn and started in on Queens. Lucky we bought property when we did. I paid up for the diner building, it's going to be a loser for a while."
Daria, "We are cleaning up the house from our other property. Some of them are fifty percent or more than you paid, nothing is less."
Janah, "Amazing. The wealth around the world is exploding. I think the Chinese and Middle Easterners own half of Manhattan."
Nikko, "So much money chasing a limited amount of real estate. It's the same in San Francisco, speaking of which, we're flying out day after tomorrow for a couple of weeks. I need Daria."
"Dasha, do you want to go?"
"Nyet, I haf to look after Down Homes, cooking for fahmahley. Sister ees always een business meeting anyway."
Amaya, "Chloe and I are going to LA next week. Commercials and maybe a film deal. I am still reading the script."
"What's her role?"
"Her role as a damaged and recovered model got the attention of directors beyond the action crowd. This is a thriller, she plays a psychoanalyst. She's brought in to profile a political candidate, see if he can take the scrutiny of a rough campaign for President. Naturally, she uncovers buried secrets and a sociopathic personality. When she tells the candidate's handlers, they want her to bury them deeper. They don't care about the sociopath part. From there, she plays cat and mouse. She has to get the candidate to screw up and out himself, but appear to be helping the campaign."
"Sounds complicated."
Amaya, "Yes, which makes it interesting. Chloe plays a fake vulnerability, lets the campaign management think she’s their sucker, while she dances around the plan. It is a fit for her, and a major studio production. She was close to an Oscar nomination for her role as the damaged model. This could put her on the carpet and holding the gold statue on stage."
"You taking the script as it is?"
"Of course not, there are holes all over the place. Which is why we're going to LA. Either they hire me as script consultant or we enjoy a couple nights out and fly home."
Zi, "Think you can convince them?"
"Nothing to think about. It is raggedy, I am sewing it back together to make a cheap blanket into a brilliant handmade quilt. They will be slobbering all over themselves. Probably piss off a couple of screenwriters. Not my problem."

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