Chapter Fifty Three

We plan, put our schedules on the family website, although plans seldom go as planned, which, if you're over six and haven't learned by now, you are one of those folks who can't grasp why life is so confusing. Life is neither orderly nor reasonable.
A plan is fine if you’re building a house, flying to LA, doing heart surgery (although there are lots of nasty surprises in each.) But suppose you went to the airport and took the next plane? The unknowns you would encounter, the changes in perspective, like Jack Reacher in Lee Child novels, standing on the road with a toothbrush, the clothes on his back and his thumb out. What new levels of resourcefulness and creativity might emerge in you?
On the way to an evening of Italian, to be followed by Amaya's intimacy scheme, life happens.
Amaya is driving west on Canal St., turns and heads up 6th Avenue, traffic is moderate, which in Manhattan speak means congested but not gridlocked. Janah's in the passenger seat, I'm behind her staring at pedestrians flowing up and down.
“Stop Amaya, pull to the curb, Janah, sidewalk, one o'clock.”
Two men approach a woman holding the hand of a small boy. I’d spotted them focused on the boy, the man on my left has his hand balled into a fist. The one on my right has an empty cloth bag.
Right Man snatches up the boy, Left Man hits the woman in the jaw, she falls to the street. They take the boy to the curb, we are halfway between King St. and West Houston, Right Man pushes the boy into the back of a tan Honda Accord with a grimy license plate, Left Man gets in the passenger seat.
“Cut off the Honda.”
Amaya guns the Escalade into traffic, horns blare, brakes squeal, she pulls left of the Honda, angles in front of it and stops. He's trapped between the curb and our car. Janah and I jump out, Right Man is yelling something at the driver. His window shatters and Janah has him by the throat, pulls him halfway out and smashes his face with a hard knee, yanks him out to the street. I reach in, unlock the door and get in. Left Man has turned round, trying to figure out what’s happening, the driver is trying for reverse, the car backs up with me in the back seat. Amaya backs up too, keeping his front bumper blocked. He's got no place to go, traffic is jamming up nicely behind us, horns blare.
I poke a finger in Left Man’s eyeball, he screams, an eagle claw around his throat and squeeze, then clock him with a right cross. I hear his jaw break. I take the boy, around the waist and pull him out. He's got the cloth bag over his head, I pull it off and hand him over to Janah.
The driver decides to bolt, cracks open his door, is on the street next to the car. Amaya backs up further, pins him to his car with the front fender of the Escalade. He shifts, she inches closer. I see him reach inside his jacket, the grip of a gun appears, I stick two shuriken in his skull and leap over the top of the car, Amaya is half out of the passenger window of the Escalade, she bashes his wrist with a six cell flashlight, the gun clatters to the street. I hit the far side of the roof and plant my fist in his face. Blood streams, his right hand dangling at an awkward angle, his mouth is a mess.
Sirens, EMTs, Janah is talking to the boy and his mother, who has a swollen jaw and a scraped elbow.
Things might not have been as they appeared, the men might have been rescuing the boy from the woman. If that had been the case, they hardly needed to kidnap him, just confront the woman, call the cops; and why a hood? It wasn't a reverse retrieval either, a family dispute. The men are all Middle Eastern and swarthy, the woman and kid clearly Caucasian. Even if it was a family dispute, punching a woman and snatching a child off the street isn't how to handle it. My brain figured it out without me cogitating on it. Thinking would have slowed my reaction and the kid lost.
“Well, well, Daphne and Janah, I coulda figured,” I turn to see Junior, a cop we'd known forever.
I hug him, “Hey Junior, what's new?”
Junior shrugs, “Same old, hot chicks, wild nights, ride around in cop cars looking for perps, coffee and donuts.”
“Since you’re a Sergeant, you get first crack at the donuts, grab the chocolate with sprinkles?”
Junior, “Get one on my desk, everyday, got some suck up patrolmen looking for the easy assignments.”
“Uh huh. More like a cute admin taking care of her stud Sergeant.”
Junior grins, “You been sneakin' into the squad room?”
I laugh, “Bet she's all smiles.”
“Sometimes, she's a black woman though, got enough attitude to keep it spicy. Bad as Marsconi's partner, Jocelyn.”
“Stay in line, you'll be fine.”
“What she say. So, what's up?”
I run down the story, Junior rounds up the patrolman interviewing the woman while the EMT did what he could for a swollen jaw. He comes back to me.
“Lady has ID, lives in town, East Village. Summertime, no school, boy in some sort of music class down here. She doesn't know the men, assumes some kind of kidnapping for ransom.”
“Or the sex trade.”
Junior, “Or that, didn't bring it up to her. She already a wreck, Janah's talking to her.”
“Janah will talk her down, she needs to buck up for the boy. Reassure him it's a freak deal. You think they just picked them out cruising?”
Junior, “Lot of it go like that, random. Big city, summertime, plenty of women on the streets with kids and babies. Gonna depend on a ransom deal, or the other. Ransom mean somebody did some homework. No point in asking for ransom from poor folks.”
“Well, you got the punks, somebody will sort it out.”
“Oh, it gonna get sorted out. See, this is clearly an act of terrorism. Terrorists got no rights to this and that. We start talkin' about GITMO and water-boarding, they start talkin'. We like to give them the big picture. Help 'em on the path of righteousness.”
“Sounds like scientific social work in action.”
“Yeah, that too.”
“Look Junior, everybody knows where to find us. Media is going to show up, and quickly. Maybe we can be on our way.”
“Cell phones been snappin', probably got the license on your vehicle, too.”
“I love cop-speak. Our vehicle is owned by a taxi and limo service, they can check, but the guys run the service, they don't talk about us. Photos in cell phones, can't fix that.”
Junior, “Okay, we need you, we be in touch.”
Amaya had the sense to get back in the Escalade and roll up the windows, nobody got much of a look at her. The windows are privacy dark, people mill around, but they can’t get any reasonable look at her.
“Janah, we need to split, like now, before the press shows.”
Janah shakes the woman's hand, strokes the boy's hair and whispers to him, then we’re in the car and up 6th, pass a TV van along the way.

Chapter Fifty Four

Home by six thirty, guess we might salvage the evening after all. The phone rings, maybe not.
Susan, “You're on the news, Batgirl.”
“Crap.”
Susan, “You didn't think in today's YouTube world you'd escape notice rescuing a boy on 6th Avenue?”
“Live in hope, die in despair. How much, photos of Janah?”
“Hold up, first let me get this straight. The driver pulls a gun, so you leap over the car right at him?”
“I drilled two shuriken into his head, I didn't want the gun to go off in any direction, there were people everywhere. Anyway, before he got it clear, Amaya broke his wrist with a flashlight. So, picture of Janah?”
“Okay, I'll skip my mommy lecture about how you could have been shot, but you could have been shot. They only got Janah from the side and back, they tended to focus on the mom, who Janah was smart enough not to give a name. Lady said her son was rescued before she'd gotten off the ground. I understand you couldn't just hand her the boy and drive away. ”
“No, there still would have been someone with a camera, then I'd have to explain to the NYPD why we left the scene, blah, blah. I suppose the Society could have fixed it, but we could hardly abandon the woman and boy. She needed Janah to settle her anyway.”
“It’ll be news for a day or two, then something else will happen to distract the public.”
“I hope so.”
“Need anything?”
“I have them here, I'll come over in the morning.”
We disconnect, I call our Italian spot and order manicotti and lasagna, a few cannoli for desert.
Taylor is on the phone with Amaya, getting reassurances. She didn't show up on the news at all thank goodness. Lacy calls Janah, more reassurances, a call from Ning, then Sonia, then Adriana, then Mini. Good thing the Shaolin don’t have TV or we'd have been on the phone all night. Master Kahn calls. They do have internet.
While Janah fields calls, I fetch the food downstairs with a message from Dominic that it’s free and a thanks for saving the kid. I get a round of appreciation from the Paladin Security people and bring the stuff up.
Janah shut down her phone and mine, Chloe calls, “You and Daphne are super! The Murakamis send their congratulations. I'm about to burst with excitement. The news said a girl pulled one guy from a car window like he was made of balsa wood. They described how Daphne fearlessly jumped in the car and disabled one kidnapper and pulled the boy out. Then another girl trapped the driver with her car and broke his wrist with what looked like a big flashlight. It was cool, but Daphne could have been shot.”
Amaya, “Do you think I would let that happen?”
Chloe, “If something had happened to you, I would have been so mad.”
“You can show your appreciation when you get home.”
Chloe, “Count on it.”
Amaya, “Yay! I am a heroine and Chloe is going to jump me. It is good to be marvelous.”
Chloe, “Prepare yourself, it could take some time.”
Amaya, “As you wish Freckles, have dinner yet?”
Chloe, “Tempura, my favorite, with wasabi and a dipping sauce. We are just getting ready to fry, the news came on so we stopped preparations.”
“Then don't delay further, we'll see you tomorrow.”
Dominic's food only seems to get better, or maybe I’m just hungry. We take our time with it while I try to get Zi to talk about her day. I wasn't going to replay anything from Nikko's head, we aren't Facebook.
Zi, “Hard to recall exactly. I remember feeling quite splendid, that's it.”
“Never say I stick my nose into other people's business.”
Amaya sips her wine, “Something new?”
They laugh at me, we move on to my discussion with David about new herbs, and I show them the gallon bottle of new liniment and that it’s anesthetic as well as more deeply penetrating.
Nikko, “Does that mean I can hit you harder?”
I start to say yes, Amaya beats me, “You certainly may NOT. You are quite brutal enough, do not even think it.”
Nikko shrugs, “I hit her as hard as I can now, she's still standing.”
“Daphne is invincible.”
“Must be, she's put up with you long enough.”
Amaya gets a slight grin, “She worships my Worship, I am worship worthy.”
Zi leans over to kiss Nikko's cheek, “As are you.”
Nishiko is adjusting to being the focus of someone's attention besides Janah or me. If it disconcerts her she doesn't show it. In fact, the opposite. She takes Zi's hand, kisses it.
“What in heck will I see next?”
Janah, “Them mentaling, maybe not, Zi doesn’t appear to be interested in it.”
“Perhaps she prefers using her intuitive skills.”

Zi and I clean up, Janah and Amaya go off to their respective rooms to shower, Amaya’s done when I come in, I get in the shower, we dry hair. I try to recall how many dryers we've frazzled over the years.
After a couple of TV shows, one called Finder, which has its moments, we wander to bed. Amaya is feeling frisky. I frisk her, then she frisks me, hormones spike, then settle, we sleep.
Today is pick up Chloe, having her leap into my arms is a peak experience. All the sex between our girls is fun, even exhilarating. Some joys are, if not better than sexual intimacy, on par with. Merging with Janah and Amaya, or seeing Chloe's genuine joy. Chloe drags around joy in a sack and sprinkles it on everyone she meets.
This is not a skill we can learn, it is a state of mind. You can learn to be less obnoxious, you can't learn radiance, you got it or you not it. Chloe’s got it.
“Hey Daphne,” a kiss from an angel, she jumps to Amaya, “Hi gorgeous, miss me?”
Amaya, “Every second. How is training?”
Chloe, “Better ask my instructors.”
We look at Hanshi, “At least you didn't send her backwards on vacation,” that meant she'd progressed, nothing he’d admit to.
We turn to Mrs. Murakami, “She will be geisha, but I cannot say when. A few years maybe, if she is diligent. She does not possess Amaya's natural skill, but then, who does? She will be geisha eventually. Comparing her to a prodigy is not reasonable.”
Chloe, “See, I'm doing well for you, yes?”
“Chloe, you know better than that, you are doing well for who?”
She grins, “For me, I still want to do well for my family.”
“Doing well for yourself is doing well for your family, but I understand your heart, do for whoever suits you.”
Amaya drives us home, Chloe is on fire about our recent experience and peppers me with questions about how I knew to do what when. When did I realize there was a problem, when did I decide to tell Amaya to stop, how did Janah know what to do, how did I?
“These things grow out of experience. Do you think I stopped and thought everything over first?”
“No, then they would have gotten away or you would have to chase them through the streets and risk hurting the boy. The mom knew nothing, talking to her doesn't help.”
“So how did it have to go, to turn out as it did?”
Chloe thinks for a time, “You take it in, your brain takes it in, it reads the situation instantly, the response is there, you act.”
“My first teacher, Ms. Alva, used to say about hitting a fastball, 'you get muddied up in thinking, the ball gonna be in the catcher's mitt, you going to the bench,' you understand what she meant?”
“Sure, there's no time for thinking, it's too slow, just see and swing.”
“And that's what we did. I saw a situation, my voice told Amaya to stop, she didn't ask why or how, she stopped. From the time I took in the two men, to the end, was without conscious thought, mine, Janah's or Amaya's.”
Amaya, “The only thing I thought about was what I could use as a weapon, the flashlight popped in my brain. We keep it in the glove box. It was in my hand before I realized I'd opened the box. It was all that fast.”
Chloe, “I wish I'd been there, I could have read their intent, helped.”
“You will have many opportunities. Now, your job is to learn, observe and reflect.”
“I am going to be part of this, you know that?”
“Each of us in our time. From our beginning, just Janah and me, there was preparation, tests, training. We might have taken on work much earlier. There were assholes before we came together, and there will be an endless supply in the future.”
Chloe, “So my job is to prepare, when my time comes, it comes.”
“Exactly.”
Amaya, “Besides, you have a few zillion job offers to consider.”
“What?”
Amaya explains about the ad, the calls and emails to Phrenetic Fashion and the interview with Deanna Markov.
Chloe, “Gosh. Now what?”
“At least half of the inquiries will be turn downs. Take two or three you like and leave the rest. The interview, just answer questions.”
We’re home, I call the service so they can pick up the car, the others are here, we continue to discuss the interview.
“Taylor says Deanna tosses softball questions, there's no heavy thinking, movies and stars you like, music, school, hobbies, boyfriends.”
Chloe laughs, “So I change your names to Alexis and Dean?”
“That's good, names that could go either way. Unless she asks what they look like, you're safe.”
“Legs to die for would be a fun answer. But no, I'll say no time now, too busy for boys, which is true. When is the interview?”
“Tomorrow.”
Amaya and Chloe come out long enough to eat dinner, excuse themselves and return to Chloe's room.
An hour later, I hear Amaya, “I will sleep with Chloe tonight, you can take my room if you wish.”
As bedtime nears, I am on the mat cross legged, the other three on the couch. Nikko and Zi go to Janah’s room, Janah and I to Amaya’s.
From her nightstand, I pull out a black vibrator, knobby latex, wave it at Janah, “Spread ‘em. I have a plan.”

Chapter Fifty Five

After an afternoon and evening in Wonderland, I awake, do kitchen prep,
I hear Amaya, “Tea for us, I need to get Chloe dressed for her interview.”
I do, they are sitting in bed smiling at me, Amaya says, “Put the tea on the table and come and gives us hundreds of kisses.”
I do, Chloe is all soft giggles and smiles, Amaya has passion in her eye.
Amaya sighs, “Oh well, no time for more, off we go.”
Chloe is in one of Nikko's elegant black skirts, a tan crepe long sleeve blouse, no necklace. Two rings, filigree platinum, black distress platforms.
Amaya wants simple, she is not the focus of today's interview, she is accompanying only, as am I. She goes with black pants, espadrilles, a light grey silk t-shirt layered by a colorful blouse worn open. I need sleeves on the outside, don't need to be exposing tiger and dragon brands, it isn't Shaolin public decorum. I find a white tunic, slip it on to dress up my jeans.
Our car is waiting, we take the short drive to Deanna's Soho condo, up the elevator to the tenth floor. It's nice, too disorganized for me but it isn’t my place, fashion magazines everywhere, a mishmash of furniture styles, like she can't decide on a theme. She's dresses tastefully, nothing high end, I presume she is either frugal or spends her income on the condo. It's Soho, nothing is cheap.
Deanna, “Come in, come in, I know Chloe from her photos, you must be Amaya, and you are....?”
“Daphne Sylk.”
“Splendid, a threesome of fashion models, although I don't know you from modeling.”
Amaya, “That is Chloe's line. I am a friend of Taylor Darien, Daphne and I do not model. Somebody has to buy the clothes, that would be us.”
Deanna laughs, “And bless you, Chloe is as adorable in person as she is in print, she looks so professional, Dolce & Gabbana skirt, I don't recognize the blouse, it's a wonderful crepe.”
Amaya, “Yigal Azrouoel.”
“Oooh, nice, and Elizabeth and James platforms, how chic. I have a shoe fetish.”
Amaya, “Girl thing.”
“May I offer you anything? Tea, coffee?”
“No, thank you, I am sure you want to get to know Chloe, please, we will be wallpaper.”
“Good then. Chloe, I do this pretty quickly, it’s all standard stuff. My readers, the young ones particularly, don't want to look into your soul, just feel like they know something about the mystical girl with violet eyes.”
Chloe, “I'm set if you are.”
“Do you mind if I tape it? I don’t adjust your comments, except for editing redundancies, I hope Taylor explained, this is all peaches and cream.”
“She said you were well known, and that you weren't going for any of my sordid details.”
“Nope. I understand you were discovered visiting one of Taylor's shoots.”
“Yes, I found it all fascinating, the level of detail, the hustle, the skill of the photographer, makeup people, and they’re all so nice.”
“So you think you will make a career?”
“If anyone else wants me.”
“Of course they will, I'm sure other opportunities will arise, sometimes it takes a while.”
“I have a few other offers.”
“Oh, really? So soon? I suppose a couple of designers have seen the latest spread. Who is asking about you?”
“I don't know yet, Taylor is sifting through them.”
“Sifting through....how many?”
“Last count forty four.”
Deanna is momentarily at a loss for words, finds her voice, “My God! Honey, you are going to be a supermodel by the fall.”
Chloe laughs, “I doubt it.”
“I know it, a handful of girls a decade get any response close to that so early on. This is top of the page stuff, with ongoing updates, can I verify with Adeline?”
“Sure.”
“I’m getting an exclusive with a breakout teen model, Chloe, you could take this to the Times, not just me. Adeline hasn't suggested it?”
“Taylor handles that. I just dress in what they tell me to and try to give them the expressions and poses they want. I’m not looking to be the next big anything. Taylor and I will discuss any opportunities, then select a few, no more than a half dozen, probably not that.”
“I see, avoid overexposure, sounds like Taylor.”
“Yes, and I have other interests, I don't want work to take up too much time. I’m not flying to Paris, or anyplace else for that matter. I assume I'm out of the running for lots of jobs. I don’t plan on runway, there could be an exception I suppose, nobody’s asked anyway.”
“Wouldn't the travel be glamorous, meeting people from all over the world?”
Chloe, “I meet people from all over the world now, it's New York. My extended family is American, Japanese, Chinese, Scandinavian and Korean. My immediate family has taught me French and Japanese. I’m an incredibly lucky girl”
“Wait, you're what, fifteen? You speak three languages? What else do you have time for?”
“The Japanese side of my family is teaching me kendo, the art of the sword, and I am learning the formal tea ceremony. I take dance with Amaya and our friend Lacy.”
“The tea ceremony, I’ve seen video, it is precision and beauty. You enjoy it?”
“Absolutely. My Hanshi is a kendo master, his wife is a former geisha, she and Amaya teach me geisha as well.”
“Amaya is a geisha?”
“A splendid one, she plays the shamisen and flute, and sings like an angel. I am learning shamisen, my singing needs a few thousand years of practice, but I manage simple stuff.”
“So you wear the formal kimono, white makeup, the whole, um, thing?”
“Yes, but I am maiko, geisha in training, Amaya gets to do the whole thing. I get to wear a kimono and try to become half as gracious as she.”
“This is too wonderful. I am going to skip all the boyfriend, favorite movie star junk. I don't know how you have time for boys anyway.”
“None.”
“Perhaps someday, there will be time for boys.”
“Boys aren’t on my horizon.”
Deanna is struck silent again, smiles, “Ah, we don't need to explore that for this piece. Not relevant.”
“I’m happy you see it that way.”
Deanna fleshes out details about Chloe's non-model life, more about languages and kendo, she never asks how she came to be in our family, assumes she is somebody's kid I suppose. Never asks how parents feels about modeling, none of that angst stuff. It appeared to be as Taylor said, about the girl, not about the girl's friends or family.
Deanna stands, “This is my all time favorite interview, a new face on the scene, with many far reaching interests. A young girl who reads Balzac and Sartre, studies ancient Japanese martial arts and tea rituals is not the typical young model. The girls are not as dumb as the world likes to believe, I've interviewed many with excellent educations and advanced degrees. One of the things I like to do when I can, is point that out. Girls who don't have depth get the boyfriend, movie star, how did you like Paris questions. Thank you Chloe. I've got writing to do. I'm not sure when the piece will run, but soon.”
We shake hands and are off. Our car is at the curb.
“Well we're pretty well decked out, how about a fancy lunch?”
Chloe, “Yay!”
I call Mrs. Epstein, “Can you do lunch?”
Mrs. Epstein, “I was just thinking over if I felt like going out. It's twelve thirty. Where shall we go?”
“We are kind of dressed up and celebrating Chloe's interview with a fashion blog. It's just Chloe, Amaya and me. I was hoping you might pull your famous strings. We're in a car, can go anyplace.”
Mrs. Epstein, “And I know just the place. Tell your driver, Le Bernardin, 51st between 6th and 7th. Where are you now?”
“Soho, going up 6th, hang on.”
Mrs. Epstein, “See you there."

Chapter Fifty Six


“Ah, Mrs. Epstein, you have been very bad, it is over a month since we've seen you.”
Mrs. Epstein, “I know Eric, I know. I've thought of you often, Bernie and I were in Europe at some conference of his. I had to endure stuffy French waiters for a week.”
Eric, “Paris?”
“No, Toulouse.”
“Ah, Chez Michel Sarran.”
“Yes, of course, and Emile, Le 19, Le Colombier, the cassoulet was excellent, but I prefer Daphne's version, white beans and rice, southern style. At least Toulouse isn't as fussy as Paris. I told Bernie any Paris conference, count me out. I am glad to be here with you and the best seafood in New York.”
Eric, “Shall I make selections?”
“Girls, Eric will bring the best the house has to offer, but you are free to study the menu if you wish.”
“I’ll go with his recommendations.”
Amaya and Chloe are busy being scoped by the crowd, they simply nod agreement. Better this way, no endless discussion of what comes with this or that. Eric would describe the dish, we would eat it. The menu is extensive, if you care to review it, Google Le Bernardin and let your mouth water.
Mrs. Epstein orders a martini, Amaya wants a vodka, they card her, Eric is smart enough to say, 'I'm so sorry to ask, but you look like a teenager,' Chloe and I stick with Diet Coke.
“He neglected to tell me I look like a teenager.”
Amaya, “Don't be ridiculous, you look far too sophisticated to be a teenager. He would have asked if you ordered alcohol, you might swipe by as eighteen in different makeup.”
My ego restored, we move on to Mrs. Epstein's questions about Chloe's work and her interview.
Mrs. Epstein, “So busy, it keeps me young, following your accomplishments.”
Food starts coming, oysters, striped bass, scallops, shrimp, crab, red snapper, one thing tops the next. It’s a seafood restaurant, they serve seafood, not steaks, I think I saw one pasta dish with mushrooms, and for some fuzzy reason, they have roasted duck. Maybe because it sits on the water?
At any rate, the fish is done just to a turn, not broiled or grilled to dry flakes. If you're in the neighborhood, go.
As we wind down to coffee, Eric comes to the table, “Mrs. Epstein, one of our customers, whom I know well, has asked me if Miss Chloe is the Chloe Sylk that recently appeared in a magazine, a fashion magazine I take it.”
“Who is she Eric?”
“She has a quite well known line of clothing and accessories. Her husband is Bernard Melmann. She is Francesca Melmann.”
Amaya, “I know the line, she's trying for recognition. Her husband is a hedge fund manager, she fancies herself a designer. He makes zillions, she is a former tennis pro with better legs than fashion sense. Her stuff is okay, unoriginal, a lot of  color combinations, looks like bad graffiti.”
Eric smiles, “Miss Amaya appears to know a great deal more than I do.”
Mrs. Epstein, “What kind of customer is she?”
Eric coughs, leans in sotto voce, “Demands a great deal, minimally generous.”
“Typical of the entitled. Chloe, do you want to know this person?”
Chloe, “Doesn't sound like my type.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Tell her we are flattered, but no. Her name is Matilda and she is from Phoenix, just visiting New York. Any resemblance to a fashion model is coincidental.”
Eric nods, “Thank you, always a pleasure to serve you and your guests. Ladies, was everything acceptable?”
“More than, I will call soon for reservations for the rest of our family, a private room perhaps, chef's selection?”
Eric, “Just ask for me Miss Daphne.”
“We have a vegetarian, is it an inconvenience?”
Eric, “Mention that when you reserve, I will take care of it. Here is the private number, use this and there will be no confusion.”
“Thank you, is a week lead time sufficient?”
Eric, “On that line, couple of hours is sufficient. A pleasure to meet Miss Not Chloe and her friends, always delightful to see you Mrs. Epstein.”
He moves on to deliver the bad news he is relishing delivering. I sign the check, include a twenty five percent gratuity, generous, ostentatious.
On the way to Mrs. Epstein's, she leans into me, “Ask Janah to give me a call, we have something. I didn't want to bring up business for Chloe's celebration.”
I mental Janah, Mrs. Epstein's cell rings as she is exiting the car for her condo, “Hello Janah, just finished an exquisite lunch with your companions….”
We drive off, I don't tune in, Janah will have details when we arrive.
Home now, the refocusing is an unusual one, a gentleman jerk in Minnesota has done some role reorganization of his own. He’s decided his wife is the housekeeper, there's physical abuse for her and questionable activity with the daughter.
Janah, “We know he's wailing on his wife, Surveillance has the audio. How the Society came across the story is not from the abuse side, they stumbled on that in the course of another line of investigation on the family.”
I brings snacks and tea, the rest of our family hadn't had an elaborate lunch.
Janah continues, “Someone, we have no idea who, told a therapist her daughter's friend had been making innuendos about her father. Young girls frequently fixate on dad as the ideal man, even get flirtatious, then grow out of it.”
Amaya, “Uh oh.”
“Yes, the kinds of things she said are more than 'my dad's cool, he's a hunk, he's got such beautiful eyes, hair, smart,' whatever. It was more familiar, “he's really buff, he has a great ass, he's totally manscaped, like everyplace.”
Chloe, “What's manscaped?”
“When a guy shaves his body hair, legs, chest if he has hair, even his pubic area.”
Chloe, “We womanscape, down to Brazilian wax.”
We laugh, I say, “Yes, and if a man wants to be body hair free, that's his business. Doesn't make them gay, it got popular in porn movies, gay and straight. The problem here is, she knows a bit too much about daddy, hold old is she, Janah?”
“Just turned thirteen.”
Amaya, “Oops.”
“And if it stopped there, then maybe chalk it up to a girl peeking in on dad in the shower. It happens, kid curiosity.”
Chloe, “What else then, why did she tell someone?”
“The girl who spilled to the therapist, we don’t know who she is, but she’s in therapy because she’s an exhibitionist and nympho. She’s fifteen. I suspect that she was sharing her predilections with the girl. Our target’s daughter mentioned an eight inch hard on and she knows because she measured it.
Chloe, “Sheesh.”
 There's more, she claims they've showered together since she was little, she likes to soap him up and watch him get hard. Said it makes her feel sexy. She stopped short of saying things went further.”
Nikko, “Things have already gone too far if she's telling the truth.”
“Nobody looked in to this?”
“The therapist made a call to another therapist, it kicked up to the Society. We were told he chalked it up to teen girl fantasy or just trying to one up the older girl. He wasn't told anything about spousal abuse. Surveillance went looking into father daughter, came up with the abuse.”
“What now?”
“Surveillance continues to monitor the house, the usual, listening device, video. In the meantime, we go to Minneapolis. If they doesn't come up with anything definitive, we get dad, straighten him out about wife beating, then I find out if there is anything to the other.”
“Who's going?”
“Still thinking that over. We hardly need all the troops for this if it's straight up spousal abuse and the other is a dead end. If the girl is talking like that, she may need counseling, adolescent fantasy is not our purview. Chloe has things to do, it's Wednesday, she goes to the Murakami's Monday. We can travel Sunday, do the job and come home Tuesday. We don't need five people for one abuser. You, Amaya and I will make the trip unless something else comes up.”
Surprisingly, Nikko doesn't object. She's usually first in line to go on these jobs. She's also practical and sees the sense of it. She’s busy with property and investment management, I wonder if it might additionally have to do with her still adjusting to her relationship with Zi. Perhaps she likes the idea of a couple of days alone.
Janah, “Daphne, make arrangements to go Sunday and return Tuesday. Blue Sky private.”


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