Chapter Forty Nine

Janah, "Let's go to the roof, we will hear from the birds perhaps."
There are a dozen pigeons, the news is nothing new. Tomorrow night is a gathering at the ashram, today it's open, no formal program.
"Is Ramanu around?"
Janah asks the pigeon, then, "He's inside, what they describe sounds like meeting with subordinates, tea, people on the phone, questions for him, administrative things. His ashram is pretty big, it could accommodate three or four hundred people. Guess we'll find out tomorrow who's left around."
Janah sends the birds back to surveillance, just as they leave, one of the owls swoops down and lands on the wall around the roof.
"Good morning."
"And to you, human. The pigeons have been well instructed, they don't all congregate at once, observe in shifts. The one who trains them has done well."
"He works with them regularly, they like the novelty and they have learned the city, not just magnetic coordination, but places, buildings. Can't give us street addresses yet, maybe one day."

I get the owl stare, wonder if he knows Dasha?
"We caught the scent of what you call Shadows. We have not seen him, but his corruption lingers in the meeting place, what do they call it?"
"An ashram."
"We are not sure, there may be more than one."
"Why do you think so?"
"The stain of his presence is powerful. It either means the one is powerful or there is more than one, we cannot say yet."
"There is a meeting tomorrow night, he may show up then, but there is no reason he couldn't show up beforehand, today or tomorrow during the day."
"Which is why I am here without my mate, she remains watching."
"Thank you, you are ahead of me."
"You are only a human, not so hard to stay ahead. You must kill these Shadows."
"That's what we do, as soon as we get them in our sights."

He blinks, flaps his wings and is aloft.
"You followed?"
Janah, "Yes, it resolves one issue at least. Do we send Chloe and Zi?"
"Let's let our friends get a head count, I almost hope there are two heads, if it's only one, it's a nasty one."
"Then I'm on the phone with other Society projects, I need you to go to the temple and collect drugs. Get some of the tranquilizer and hypnotic just in case, the poison of course. I don't need to chat with a Shadow, and I have no intention of dealing face to face. We'll send up the drone and stick him, he goes away permanently, we go back to whatever it is we call normal."
Sounds good to me. We never find out much from talking to them, maybe how they learned but that's not all that helpful. Some got transmissions from others, some trained, a few learn on their own. How they get to be abusive or murdering assholes doesn't matter, we aren't in the Shadow rehab business. It's like Buffy, you don't therapy vampires, you eliminate them, thus Sylk the Shadow Slayer.
At the temple I'm talking with David Li, his sister Miyako and Manolo. Miyako is an MD PhD. She does independent research, her parents benefited from Mrs. Fong's generosity, we inherited a ton of money and property from her, we turned the restaurant over to Chan and Ning. Chan is on call for our work, he’s a qi master, who learned from Master Tan, as did Janah and I. They’re far ahead of me in energy skills.
Miyako, "David says there are Shadows."
"One or maybe more than, we haven't nailed it down yet. The owl picked up the residue but since the Shadow wasn't physically present we're waiting on a visual."
David Li, "You must be here to pick up the drugs."
"Yes, a vial each of anesthetic, the strongest, the hypnotic and the poison. Janah doesn't plan on using anything but the poison, but circumstances change, we want the others handy."
Manolo, "Let me collect them, they are labeled Sleep, Truth and Oblivion, also a bottle of antidote," he goes off to the lab.
David Li, "I know you know, just to remind, the antidote is almost useless with the strongest poison, it has to be administered almost instantly. Have a filled syringe handy when you use the drug, you won't have time to draw it from the vial. The antidote includes epinephrine, best to get it directly into the heart."
Miyako, "We think we have a preventative antidote. We don't test on animals, can't test on humans, it's computer modeled and we believe it to be efficacious. There's no guarantee."
"Can you test the antidote on me?"
Miyako, "David and Manolo took some, they said it made them sleepy, a bit foggy for a few minutes. That's a problem if you take it beforehand, reaction time slips, but the feeling doesn't last long. The antidote we tested remains in the blood for a couple of hours before it deteriorates. I would only count on it for an hour."
"Got it, I'll pass it along to the others. Sounds like we should have the preventative antidote with us as well. If we accidentally hit the wrong person, we use the after, for the ones of us handling the poison, take the before. We only need it until the darts are loaded in the air guns or the drone, maybe we give it to the person who loads the darts. Let's do this, give me enough to pretest on everyone. If we have a bad reaction, we need to know."
Miyako, "A tiny amount, a cc only. That's enough to gauge a potential reaction, the actual dose is 5ccs, doesn't take much. Again, this is modeled on average human body weights and doesn't account for drug interactions."
"None of us take any medications or supplements or even vitamins."

Chapter Fifty

Back at the apartment, our illegal pharmaceuticals are locked away in the small refrigerator we use for such things. Janah is on the phone, it's getting on to lunch.
"Want to go to the diner?"
"Sounds good, need to get out for a bit."

I find Amaya, she and Chloe are working on lines from the book, "Going to the diner, take a break."
Chloe, "Good, my head is full of murdering yakuza and Russian mobsters, ready now?"
"Rounding up Eloise, back in a sec."
Eloise is peering down on a piece of plastic, silicon chips are laid out to one side.
"Join us for lunch, going to the Village Diner."
She pulls the goggles off her hear, "Just as well, I can't get the configuration I want, it's taking up too much space."
"What are you building?"
"A card like in movies, slide it in, it generates millions of passwords until it finds one that allows access to whatever it is you want to open. I got Susan to use a form of the code she put in thumb drives that unlocks computers. I have to get the chips on something credit card size. One chip won't process fast enough. I want to see if I can get the code cracked in five seconds."
"Dang, a universal digital key, cool."
Eloise blushes, "Um, after lunch, could we...you know?"
"We could definitely you know, be thinking over what you know will include."
"I've already been thinking it, like, maybe start with that thing you do...from behind?"
She's staring at the floor, slight blush, I take her chin, raise it so she's looking at me, "One of my favorites," lean in for a lingering kiss.
Janah, "Getting your afternoon planned?"
"Maybe we can eat quickly."

We pile in the Village Diner, five of us park in a booth. Eloise is so tiny she can fit between Janah and me. I'm wearing rather small shorts, her hand decides it need to rest on my thigh. She has the most delicate touch. Eloise has made the rounds of all of us, her fingers are like feathers, it feels delicious.
Chuck takes orders, we go simple, salads, two turkey cranberry sandwiches that four of us will split, Janah's a veg, she'll make do with one of Dasha's contributions to the menu, tahini coleslaw.
Mini comes along, "Girls eating light today."
"We may have a couple of long days, and we don't know when we'll have to jump into gear, better not to be sleepy."
Mini nods, "Must be in town."
"Yes, appears one of our dark friends is active, maybe more than one."
Mini, "Christ, don't screw around, every time you deal with that crowd one or two of you comes up with an injury."
"We developed a new strategy that should minimize or eliminate that part. Guess we'll see."
Mini, "If it's in town, you got people lookin' after you mom, Janah's folks, Miss Lacy?"
"If we need to. The target doesn't know from us yet. If it goes well, they won't know from us ever."
"Good, I know you gotta take out those assholes, you don't gotta get crippled doing it, food'll be up in a second," Mini rumbles off to his kitchen, I hear his thunder, "You got the turkeys done yet, don't burn the toast, where's the salads, you guys asleep?"
Amaya, "Mini's his amiable self."
The plates plop down, the food was ready and right, Mini just likes his cooks to know he's paying attention.
We eat, despite my coming attraction, we take our time and enjoy. Eloise manages to have her half turkey and stroke my leg at the same time, I'm warming nicely, hope no Shadows pop up in the next couple of hours.
As we wrap, Eloise whispers something to Janah, I'm listening to Chloe explain her next photo session, evening gowns in the several thousand dollar range. Another for her fan page, Mayumi wants to do a YouTube of Chloe performing a tea ceremony. She'll serve Amaya, Katsumi and Mayumi. It has the benefit of letting fans see Chloe in full kimono, performing and having Amaya and the two girls who handle the web page in the video. Last time Mayumi followed around Chloe on a fashion shoot and posted the edited version there were a half million playbacks.
Back home, Chloe and Amaya disappear, I suspect sex is involved, Amaya had her game face on.
Janah, "I've been included in the freestyle follies, we'll play in our room."
Our room is on the roof, next door to Dasha and Daria. Eloise mostly sleeps with them, but she has a bed in the workshop. She frequently gets up at night to toke her electronic cigarette and work. She doesn't like disturbing the twins if she's fidgety.
Janah and I are in nothing, Eloise opens the door that connects to the twins' room, she's in nothing, so far everyone's on the same empty page.
Eloise slinks between us, we double make out, play with the parts, then she rolls between Janah's legs, kneels and starts the engine. She knows what she likes and where she likes it, I move behind her and provide the tush tingle she requested, get a mewing moan for my trouble. Licking tush doesn't take much talent, but for girls who love anal stimulation it's heaven. A major part of great sex is pleasing your partner, or partners as the case may be. First time I did analstim to Eloise she left the planet, now it's a staple in our intimacy pantry.
Janah ignites, Eloise had an orgasm from my ministrations, moments later I'm being double teamed, they share licks while I quiver and moan, then Eloise straddles my head while Janah continues to tongue tease my clit and surrounds. We go off together in a series of gasps and trembles. God loves me, she gave me eight women to please with food and sex, it is good to be me.

Chapter Fifty One

Last evening and the bulk of today pass uneventfully, tonight is a gathering at the ashram. Pigeons will seek enlightenment, or perhaps like the owls, already enlightened. If mindfulness is being fully present every minute, animals are way ahead of us.
Tea has come and gone, girls are having drink of preference, dinner is pot roast, mashed potatoes and green beans from the Village Diner. After we eat, it's up to the roof to await developments.
Around ten, a few pigeons and the barn owl pair alight on the ledge. Janah feeds the pigeons while I chat with the owls.
Mr. O, "Two Shadows, male and female. They went off together to a nest the north."
I pull up Google Earth on an IPad, a pointer moves north from the ashram in Brooklyn, guided by the bird's yes or no, through the western tip of Queens, into the Bronx, then a place in New Rochelle near Long Island Sound.
I zoom in, pointer goes from housetop to housetop, Mrs. O says, "That one is their nest."
"
Bingo."
Janah, "Pigeons say Shadows."
"Yep, the owls have pinpointed their house."
I turn to the pair, "Thank you, you have been splendid."
The birds stare, they can't do anything else, Mr. O says, "Kill them," they wing off the ledge in simultaneous flight, going to hunt for a late snack I suppose, plenty of rats around, couple less soon.
The rest of our bird friends take off, Janah and I go downstairs to the others.
"We have two, the owls located their house in New Rochelle."
Nikko, "That's a rich town."
Janah, "Average income is two hundred thousand, average home is three quarters of a million, places along the Sound are two million and up, way up."
"I wonder if they know it's going to be under water in a couple hundred years? Maybe less, wouldn't that bring down housing prices?"
Nikko, "You could say that about Manhattan, water rises in Long Island Sound, it rises here too."
"Maybe we should dump our real estate before Manhattan becomes Atlantis."
"The thought occurred, we have a couple of places I wouldn't mind letting go, primarily office commercial, warehouse space. Property we did major renovation or built ourselves we keep. Besides, the management business is getting as profitable as the real estate we own."
Janah, "What do we do with the money?"
Nikko, "Land in the Rockies, Colorado, Utah, perhaps Nevada. Not because of rising sea levels, although that would raise property prices in the mountains, just to spread the money elsewhere. Apart from the ranches, we're tied to New York, money is pouring into New York from Asia it's spiked prices."
Janah, "What does everyone think?"
Amaya, "Whatever Nikko thinks."
Chloe, "Same here."
Daria, "It makes sense. We can travel, find land, maybe develop."
"Sounds like a go ahead."
Nikko, "We can go slowly, I don't want it to look like we're exiting the city, we aren't. If we take two or three years it shouldn't matter much. Selling off a hundred million in Manhattan real estate doesn't really make a blip."
Janah, "Okay, what's the plan for the Shadows?"
"We need to see the targets first, make our own determination that they're Shadows. After verification, we have six drones, all battle ready."
"Early tomorrow, Amaya takes Chloe and Zi to see what's what. A drone can follow them. Daphne will go along, bring a dart rifle just in case. If they are what the birds report, don't do a face down. When a drone sees them outside and has a shot, take it and be done."

Chapter Fifty Two

The four of us are in the Escalade, easy drive to New Rochelle at five in the morning. Amaya parks us a block and a half down the street, Chloe and I get out, Amaya takes Zi a block and a half to the other side. I want them as close to the house as possible, but not at the same time. Chloe approaches first, I wait. She strolls past with a backpack, jeans, sneakers, a knit cap. She could pass for a student with an early bus to catch.
When she's past Zi, she gets in the SUV with Amaya, they ride around the block and pull in behind me while Zi comes towards me, looks like she talking on a cell. She stops just right of the house, pretends to text, stares at the phone, pockets it and continues down the street. Nobody rushes out of the house, if they sensed a vibe they aren't doing anything about it. I hear the drone overhead as Zi and I climb in the car.
Zi, "Birds have it right. There are two, nobody else in the place, is that what you got Chloe?"
"Yep."
"How bad?"
Zi, "More than dark enough to qualify."
"Janah, you getting this?"
"Yes, come home, we have a bit of hacking to do, then we'll deal."
"Let's wait a bit, I can follow the drone, maybe we catch a break."

Amaya, "Is the drone staying here?"
"Long enough to put a tracker on the car in the drive. If one is in the garage, we can't fix that now. Eloise can fly it around until the battery gets low, then she'll fly another one over. Maybe we get some conversation, maybe she gets a chance to track the second car. We don't even know if there is a second car, maybe they use the garage for storage."
Nothing to do yet, we drive to a diner and get breakfast.
Dasha's on the case at home, there's fresh coffee, biscuits in the oven, a bowl of eggs scrambled ready to be put in the skillet.
Nikko comes in, "What else do you need?"
Dasha, "We will haf chop pepper for scrahmbul aig, greets are already cook. Ees enough, maybe slice ham."
"I'll do it, sear the ham, with a bit of clove and a tad of cane syrup over it."
Chloe, "Yay! Biscuits, I'm starved."
Amaya, "You ate like a horse last night, and had dessert."
Chloe, "The past is a faded memory, although I recall being mauled by some kind of sex toy, must have chewed up the calories."
"You may have a point, I shall have an entire biscuit myself, and eggs, and grits and a slice of Nikko's candied ham."
"A drizzle of cane syrup hardly qualifies as candied, but it is pure sugar, so candied it is."
"Where is Eloise?"
Daria, "Fly drone."
"Duh, of course."
Nikko, "I want a shot with it. When I finish, I'll relieve her and she can eat."
Ten minutes later, Nikko's up and Eloise is down and digging into a fresh batch of eggs and buttering a biscuit, "These things are so good, thank you Dasha."
Troops fed, Dasha cleans up, everyone else is on the roof watching Nikko or watching what the drone sees on their phones or IPads. The four of us have finished our diner breakfast and return to the house.
Nikko flies the drone around the rear of the house, the microphone drops down over what looks like a kitchen window. There's a patio in back, the morning is cool, a door opens and a man comes out with a cup of coffee. She eases the drone up.
The man is in slacks, a button down shirt, loafers, he's got a copy of the Times and opens it on the patio table. A woman joins him with a platter of pastries and her own coffee. They are middle age, appear to be American, at least Caucasian.
Woman, "Anything in the paper?"
Man, "Happy things, politicians arguing, war, poverty, disease and death. I don't follow sports, don't read the opinions, the arts section has merit."
Woman, "We have to pull out of the ashram, we've milked that cow, the rich ones have already abandoned ship. We don't care about the poor ones."
"No, but it was unexpectedly pleasant watching that pompous spiritual ass have his easy source of income evaporate. We were smart to come across as poor, he needs bodies, but he pays little attention to his less wealthy disciples. I'm going to enjoy taking his money."
"When do we do it?"
"Last night, while you were faking sympathy with the remaining disciples, I had a chance to talk to Ramanu. Didn't say anything meaningful, just suggested I may have ideas on how to rebuild his congregation. I meet with him tomorrow. When I mentioned wealthy donors, I thought he would wet his diaper."
"It's a loincloth, supposed to make him look humble."
"Looks like a diaper, ridiculous little man. Anyway, once I have him alone, I get him to forward his cash to our nameless accounts, when I'm done with him, he won't remember us meeting, much less how his wealth disappeared."
"Good. He's got the gift of spiritual malarkey, he can find new suckers easily enough."
"No, he won't. I'm going to leave him in agony over the loss of his money, he'll make a big production of it, how his wealth was richly deserved, how the insane decisions of rich people who never understood his teaching took their own lives. I considered having him kill himself in front of a crowd, but I decided a rant about the stupidity of the rich, on the news with lots of YouTube posts would be far more fun. He's going to self annihilate, back to accounting in India for him."
Woman smiles, "Stroke of evil genius, this will be fun, and we'll be a couple of million richer."
Nikko, "Darts are locked and loaded."
Janah, "No time like the present."
Pop! Pop! Two Shadows down, one slumped over the patio table, the other back in his chair staring at the morning sky he can no longer see. The four of us are watching on the IPad.
"Dang, David Li's stuff is friggin' deadly plus."
Eloise, "Good shots Nikko, your practice paid off."
"Eloise, the way you have this set up, I'd have to be blind to miss, laser the target, tap the screen. You and Daria have done an amazing job. This is so much better than going to the target, getting banged up or worse, and the possibility of getting caught in a face-off with the cops."
Janah, "Daria, before someone finds them, we need in their accounts. Families of the suicides need to be repaid, bad enough they killed themselves, their heirs don't deserve to lose the money too."
"Janah, Daria, I'm going in the house, collect their technology, we can save a lot of hacking if I have the computers."
Janah, "Make it quick."
"Amaya, wait here, if anything looks dicey, mental me, I'm breaking and entering."

I'm dressed vaguely enough, borrow Chloe's knit cap, big sunglasses and backpack. The house next door is separated by a thick hedge. I move down the side to the back of the place, two bodies resting, spilled coffee. The rear door is open, I pull on latex gloves. A pass through the place takes a bit, it's a two story. There's a laptop, two thumbs, another pc upstairs.
“Geez, who has a tower anymore?”
Janah, “Shadows aren’t geeks, certainly not early adopters, more like late arrivals. Open it and snatch the drive, don't want to be seen carrying a tower out the door.” Out comes my Swiss Army, remove the casing and pluck the hard drive. Outside, I take the darts, back through the house, peer out the front windows, empty street. Exit through the front door and to their car. I pull the tracker and slip it in my pocket.
Down the block, left up a block I'm in the Escalade and Amaya takes us home.
"Any social activity while I was inside?"
Zi, "We watched through the drone, couple of cars drove off, we didn't spot anyone who saw you going in or coming out. Could have been somebody looking through a window I suppose."
"There's no prints, black jeans and sneakers, sweatshirt, knit cap and sunglasses, not much to start a search. I have the darts and tracker."
Amaya, "Cripes, don't stick yourself."
"The syringes are empty, doesn't mean there isn't residue though, I was careful. When we get home I'll dump them in bleach and hammer the suckers into submission."

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