Fifty Seven

Girls paired or threesomed, or in the case of the two sets of twins, foursomed off for bedtime frolics. I frolicked with Eloise and Mani, our two tiniest tidbits that make up in demands and enthusiasm what they lack in stature. The last thing I recall is Eloise straddling my head while Mani’s head was between my legs. It was a good night.
Morning finds me in the kitchen with Ellen and Dasha, Ellen has a dreamy idiot grin on her flawless face.
“You on drugs, or recalling a pleasant evening?”
Ellen, “Oceane is…amazing is too small a word, then there’s Cassie. And me under attack by both. I showed them though, when they were done with me, I made them pay, multiple times. Lauren didn’t participate, but she enjoyed watching, and being watched, she has her toy technique down. Sorry, am I trash talking your daughter?”
“No, she’s a relentless tease, she likes it, getting girls hot for her. What do we want the most?”
Ellen, “What we can’t have. Damn, she’s a sly thing.”
Dasha, “What ees breakfast? Dahfoney, you will make omelet wiz herbs. Ellen, you will fry bacon, I will make beeskit. Children will haf fruit also, just only scrahmbulled aig, maybe wiz crim chiz.”
“Children first? I can make omelets when girls show up.”
Dasha, “Grace B, are children up yet?”
She checks in with Kota B, “No, little ones are asleep, big day of hiking and they stayed up until nearly ten. Another hour, then Kota B will get them moving.”
“Let’s make breakfast for us, bacon and biscuits will keep in the oven, it takes two minutes to crank out an omelet. I’ll crack a few dozen eggs and we’ll be set.”
Janah pads in, “Tea, Grace B, black this morning.”
“Coming up, Your Whiteness.”
Janah giggles, her hair is pure white, been that way from birth. Her mom’s hair is blond, but not white like Janah. Nobody knows why, she’s not albino.
The rest of the crowd filters in, caffeinates and eats herb omelets with a slice of American cheese melted inside, just as the latecomers finish, the hive swarms down the steps and refills the table.
Dasha, “Gud marning children.”
A chorus, “Dobroye utro, Mama, i tetya Dafna, i Ellen, i Greys B.”
Grace B hands around cups, then pours rich black tea for them.
“Spasibo.”
“Pozhaluysta.”
Cups of berries with crème fraiche, then I pass a platter of biscuits, another of bacon, Ellen spoons out soft scrambled. We have another cup of coffee while the girls eat.
Sloane calls from the porch, “Dasha, Daria, your pal is out here.”
I hear the huff of a grizzly through the door.
Outside is seven hundred pounds of bear, sniffing the wind looking for the twins. Dasha and Daria go up to him, he rises on his hind legs, towers over the twins. He must be near eight feet tall.
He’s annoyed, really annoyed, when he drops back to all fours, the ground shakes.
Dasha strokes one side of his massive head, Daria the other. He lets loose what I can only describe as a groan, something ugly has happened.
He turns and moves to the forest, looks back at the twins and huffs again, then takes a few steps closer to the woods and repeats.
“Dasha, he wants you to follow, something isn’t right, I’ll go with, Sloane, you too. Everyone else stay here, inside. Tell Grace B to launch two drones and survey the area, one of them should follow us.”
Janah comes out with our trackers, we all wear a GPS tracker when we go out, out anywhere.
“The drone can follow you better with this, it might lose you under the tree canopy.”
Grace B has our jeans and boots, we jump into them and follow the distraught bear into the woods and up the mountain. A bear can make twenty five miles an hour, we can’t, except Sloane, she stays with him, we plow on behind. Janah can see our the GPS points on her tablet, she mentals me when I need a course correction, Dasha and Daria follow my lead.
It takes nearly twenty minutes but I spot Sloane up ahead, the bear is impossible to miss. Oh cripes, a second bear is lying on the ground, trying to get up, but having a difficult time of it. I can see blood on her rear haunch, then I’m right next to her, it’s a gunshot.
Janah’s in my head, “The drone is zeroed in, I see the problem. I’m on my way with Nikko.”
“Tell Grace B to go to lockdown, Kota B should have the children upstairs and all the exits sealed. Eloise operates a drone around the perimeter of the house, plus the exterior cams. Everyone inside monitor the screens, and get Oceane and Cassie safe, Chloe and Zi should monitor for any human activity outside the house.”
“Zi is outside patrolling, Chloe is moving from window to window, there’s nobody out there for now.”
“Zi is outside alone?”
“She’s a Shaolin priest, like you, or did you forget? Besides, Katya, Katja, Ellen, Sarah and Mani are armed and on the roof checking the territory with binoculars and rifle scopes."

We aren’t wasting time, our mental conversation is instantaneous. I want to know the place is secure. We have an armed someone or someones on our property and the female likely took a bullet trying to get them to move on. Her cubs appear, sniffing around mom and nuzzling her. They are near the end of their first two years, but haven’t left the family yet.
All I can do is qi the injury, which in this case means make it cold and staunch the bleeding. In ten minutes Daria and I have a nicely bloodied hands, there’s a lot of heavy fur to get through, but the site is chilled and the blood only a trickle. Daria moves to the bear’s head, lays her hand on the crown. I can see the energy flow in infrared, the wounded female falls asleep, or maybe unconscious is more accurate. 
Papa Grizzly watches every move we make, his huge head waves back and forth, I can hear his heavy breathing. 
Janah arrives with the pharma kit. 
“Daria has the poor thing unconscious, I don’t know if digging around for the bullet will arouse her.”
Janah, “I’m going to anesthetize her, plus a local anesthetic. She injects the first syringe in the animals shoulder, she doesn’t need a vein, the drug will shut down her brain regardless. We wait fifteen, then she uses Lidocaine to numb the injury site, another fifteen to make sure it’s dead. She pokes the wound with a scalpel, nothing. 
We don’t have anything but my fingers to hold the hole open, Janah sticks the blade in, not to cut, just to find the bullet. I hear the blade tap against something hard. She takes a pair of common tweezers, eases it in and pulls the bullet. She drops it in my hand.
Janah, “We could have left it in maybe. Out here, with no way to know, it could also have been too close to a joint and impaired her movement or screwed the joint entirely. I’m going to pump it full of antibiotic, then suture it. If we can get her to chill for a couple of days, she will be fine.”
“How do we communicate bed rest to a bear?”
“Beats me, I can keep her drugged up and sluggish I suppose. Other predators are going to see an opportunity, even with the mate around.”
“Must be a den someplace, they don’t sleep in the open, or we could just find a space between boulders.”
“How do we get her there?”
“The twins. She’s maybe four hundred pounds, put her on a tarp and drag. Grace B could likely handle it herself. Papa Bear would be more comfortable with the twins though.”
Nikko comes online to Janah and me, “Got them, two men with rifles, all camo’d up.”
“Nikko says they have the shooters, no details yet. We need to search the area, find the den or someplace the bear can hole up for a couple of days. Sloane, cruise the area and see what’s what.”
She takes off, making widening circles on the run.
I get back to Nikko, “We need a tarp, maybe two, they’re in the boathouse. Send Grace B out here with them. Then call Jan and tell her what happened, we need rangers to collect the men.”
“Already done, I have their ID and phones. We’re on the shoreline about five hundred yards from the house. I didn’t want to take them there. You need to get Amaya to tell Grace B about the tarps.”
“Good, we’ll be a while, got to drag the injured female to a safe house until she’s mobile.”
“Amaya, there are tarps in the boathouse, I need two, tell Grace B to bring them to me.”
“Will do.”

 Another twenty, Grace B comes running just as Sloane shows up.
“Found a spot mom, dead east maybe a hundred yards. Might even be their den. Nobody in it now.
“Perfect, Grace B, help the twins get the bear on the tarp, gently as possible.”
The bear is still unconscious, lying on her side. They get the tarps laid out next to her back. We don’t want to roll her over, which would be easier, but then the wound is on the tarp, which we’re going to drag over rough terrain. Instead, it’s a matter of getting one end lifted and sliding her partly on the tarp, then her shoulders and head, back to the haunch and repeat. With each lift, I yank the tarp further underneath. A half dozen lift and pulls and she’s in the middle.
Dasha, “We do not haf to drag. We can instead carry.”
Janah and I take one corner, Daria, Dasha and Grace B the others. Sloane on the rear side in the middle.
We lift, two tarps was a fortunate call, one would be dicey with this weight. Off we go. It takes almost twenty minutes to make the hundred yards, then Dasha and Daria go in the den to pull the bear the rest of the way. We have her to one side so there is passage to the rear where the cubs would sleep. Papa will remain on guard next to her.

Fifty Eight

“Janah, I’m going to find Nikko, the rangers and the men don’t need to see you or the twins or Grace B. Sloane, go with them, the less they know about us the better.”
They head for the house, I drop down the mountain to the lake and start backtracking until I come across Nikko, Sarah and Ellen. The men are sitting on a rock, bound, our trusty picture wire around their wrists. I wonder how many packs of it I’ve bought over the years, we’re always tying up somebody.
They look up at me, one has a beard, tall and lanky, camouflage outfit and military style boots. The second is clean shaven, thick chest, thighs strain against his camo pants. Same boots, boys must shop together.
Lanky is unmarked, Thick has a fat lip and dried blood down his chin.
“Put up resistance?”
Nikko, “Tried to, he pointed his rifle at me, I took umbrage, and his rifle. Somehow the butt clipped his jaw.”
Thick is mumbling, best he can do, appears his tongue is still bleeding, which means a tooth jabbed it good.   
Lanky, “Somehow? Hah! She swiped his weapon so fast I barely saw it, then cracked him hard, all quick as a snake.”
Little does he know.
I hear a powerboat, look across the lake, a dot getting bigger, three minutes later two rangers step off the patrol boat.
“These two shot a grizzly up the mountain.”
Lanky, “Didn’t shoot shit, she don’t know what she’s talkin’ about.”
I pull the bullet out of my pocket, “I think you’ll find this matches the caliber of the ammunition they have, I think they call it .30-06. I’m no expert.”
I’ve got two experts standing next to me, but the rangers don’t need to know that.
Janah’s in my head, “Called a contact, the ranger’s will be hearing from them in a minute.”
Ranger Dan, name’s on his tag, “We’ll need a statement, your name, your friends too. Where’s the bear by the way?”
“Healing in her den with her husband and their two cubs. Here, I took a photo of the wound.”
“Where is the bear?”
“I’m bad with directions, I fixed her, she’s fine, see, there’s the bullet.”
Ranger Jack, “We need to find her, and we need names and statements. Four young women capture two armed men? How’d that happen?”
“Three young women, I was fixing the bear, remember?”
Lanky, “One of ‘em put a gun to my head, the Asian snatched his rifle and hit him with it.”
Ranger Dan, “The rifles are illegal, hunting is illegal up here, it’s a national park.”
“Wasn’t huntin’, bear went on the attack.”
“You said you didn’t shoot her, now you did, and in the left haunch? That would just piss her off,” he turns to Ellen, “where’s your gun?”
“It was a stick I pressed against his neck, tell him it’s a gun, he thinks it’s a gun. I don’t know one end of a gun from the other. My friend,” she nods to Sarah, “took his rifle, wired him and the other one up. And here we are.”
Lanky, “Wasn’t no stick, it was metal, cold metal.”
Sarah laughs, “It was a stick, the cold you felt was fear asshole.”
Ranger Jack, “We can get this sorted out down the station. Everyone on the boat, we got a half hour ride. Someone will bring your ladies wherever you’re staying after we’re done.”
Poor Ranger Jack, he’s still in the delusion we’re going to cooperate. It’s a badge and uniform thing, they can’t help themselves.
“You mean to say you and these dopes have a half hour ride, and that we are free to go.”
“No ma’am, isn’t how it works. Now come along, it’s gonna be a long afternoon.”
Ranger Dan’s sat phone chirps, He clicks it, “Yep?”
He listens, “But sir, we have…, no sir, no sir, not really sir, but the bear sir….yes sir, yes sir, I understand completely sir. And a good day to you too sir.”
He turns to me, his face is an interesting shade of crimson, “As I was saying, thank you for your assistance in this matter. We’ll deal with the criminals, you ladies enjoy the rest of your stay in Canada.”
“Been a pleasure Sergeant, Officer Jack. You’ll need this,” I hand him the bullet, “sorry about prints, but I dug it out of a bear’s haunch.”
“Ma’am, you did just fine. Even if we don’t get ‘em for hunting, we got ‘em with illegal weapons.”
Nikko, “You will also want this,” she hands over the ID, wallets and phones.
Jack looks at the driver’s licenses, “Americans, figures. Well, you won’t be back in Canada when we’re done, and good riddance.”
One problem averted, we head back to the house.
When we get there, Janah and Sloane are there, the twins are missing.
Janah, “They wanted to stay with the bears, Grace B is returning with a few provisions and sleeping bags.”
“Grace B can stay here and help Ellen with dinner, I’m going to stick with the twins tonight.”
Sloane, “Not without me you aren’t.”
Ellen, “I have dinner covered, Dasha had flank marinating before all the shit started. Baked potatoes and creamed spinach, I’ll do a couple garden burgers for Janah and Oceane.”
The children flood downstairs, Nadia, “Mamas are with an injured animal, a medved', symbol of Russia and Mamas’ spirit guide.”
“Okay, Kota B must have been doing research.”
Kota B, “I did nothing, they know somehow. They have been agitated all day.”
“Nadia, what do you want to know?”
“We know, we will go to Mamas now.”
Doesn’t sound like she’s going to be told no, not by me anyway, I mental Dasha, “Your children want to come to you, they know about the bear, they call it your spirit guide.”
Dasha, “Bring them with you.”
I expected her to tell the children no, so much for my expertise.
“Kota B, get them layered, and warm hats, boots, the whole deal. Sloane, they will need to sleep on something.”
Tasia, “No need, we will not sleep, we must go now tetya Dafna.”
“When Kota B has you dressed, we still have to prepare provisions, fifteen minutes, then we go.”
The swarm swarms upstairs, Ellen and Mani help us fill backpacks with water, beef jerky and protein bars, four sleeping bags rolled up over the packs.
Grace B, “The drone will be patrolling all night, keep your sat phone on, but I will also be in constant contact with Kota B.”
Saran, “You want Mani and I to stand guard?”
“Thanks, but no, everyone should try and rest. The shooters are gone, we have drones on patrol and the forest creatures looking out for us. We’ll be surrounded by so many of our friends it may turn into a party. Have cocktails, enjoy Ellen’s dinner, get up to whatever after, go to sleep.”
They will, while watching the flat screen and the tablets for the drone feed. My admonition to get some sleep will be ignored by Nikko, Janah and Zi. They’ll promise to wake the others if anything develops.
We troop off through the forest, halogen flashlights at the ready, it’s not quite dark yet, but when the sun disappears, it’ll be black dark. We arrive in time to organize a couple of campfires and stack extra wood to feed them during the night. This isn’t dry timber country, it’s all lakes, streams and rich green forest. We won’t start a conflagration. There are piles of rocks around the fires and a wide circle of dirt around that.
“Have you checked on the bear?”
Daria, “Da, she ees fine, we qi her, then put her to sleep. Cubs even came out to play until Papa pushed them back inside.”
“They eat anything?”
“We collect berries and mushrooms, food ees everywhere here. They haf plenty.”
“Water for the female?”
“Nyet, you bring water?”
“Yes, feed her a couple bottles, we can refill them from the stream, we’re going to need the rest for us.”
Nothing to do but wait, enjoy what sky we can see through the canopy, as the darkness deepens, dozens of eyes glow around our encampment. Wolves, cougars, elk, eight or ten owls, yellow eyes blinking. Tonight there are no predators or prey, only curiosity at humans caring for one of them, the humans who understand.
When a huge full moon rolls up to the west, the children shed most of their clothes, take off shoes and socks, and begin to dance. I guess it’s a dance, it isn’t frenzied, rather slow, almost tai chi. They move identically to one another, in a circle around one of the fires, then snake around the second fire in a figure eight.
Then one of the stranger things I’ve seen, and in my life I’ve seen more than my share, animals come to the edge of the light and lie down. The elk next to wolves, next to cougars, next to marmoset, next to mountain goats next to brown bears. Crows, eagles, falcons and owls fill the trees, all silent. Not so much as an insect buzz. The fire crackles, the soft sound of bare feet on the Earth, and nothing.
Janah’s in my head, “Incredible, we have lots of tears here.”
“Here too.”


Fifty Nine

Aside from adding logs and the perpetual dance, nothing moves clean through the night until the line of red haze to the east. The children’s dance ends, the animals pass by as if on parade and nuzzle each girl, earn a soft stroke from each then head off in different directions. Time to hunt breakfast.
Birds blast out of the trees as if a starting signal sounded, one owl remains, I walk over.
Great Horned, ‘Humans have done something good, the whole forest will have heard by dark.’
‘They have accepted us, gifted some of us with incredible skills, we could do no less.’
‘The young ones performance tempered our hate. Most of the time, we are predator and prey, all understand it is the nature of things. We do not accept that humans come to prey for no reason other than pleasure of killing. And they do it with machines designed for no other purpose. When we kill, it is for food or to protect our young, and we do the job ourselves, directly, not from a long distance.’
‘It is so, I make no excuse for my kind, they disgust me like they anger you. The children will be glad to know they were helpful in calming the residents.’
‘They already know, they came because of it. They felt the negative energy, what you call stress I think. You have many skills, but do not sense as well as they do. Your job is to protect them.’
‘They are never alone, we have many safeguards and backups to those.’
‘Then all that can be done is being done, good enough,’ there’s a whoot, whoot, whoot in the distance.
‘Mate looking for his girl?’
‘Yes, and it is time to feed, perhaps he has already hunted,’ wings up then down stroke, she’s aloft and flying in the direction of the male’s alert.
Daria does a check of the bear, she’s been good, lying still. Dasha gives her water and feeds her a few handfuls of berries, then mushrooms. We make another foray for both, bring them back to the den. Fire’s out and covered with dirt, we pack it in and head for the house.
The rest of the day is quiet, the campers get hot showers, we were up all night and everyone is ready for a nap, particularly dancing girls. 
Kota B, “I asked if they were hungry, but they said no.”
Dasha, “Ees early, only maybe seven, let them sleep until lunch, they will be hungry then. Sister and I are for sleeping also, wake us at noon Grace B.”
Sounds good, soon I’m dead out, fresh and clean under warm sheets, yum.
When I wake, Ellen has lunch ready, spicy tomato bisque, cheese board and warm buttery rolls. Kota B got the girls up, they file past and get a bowl of soup, then out to the porch. She brings a plate of rolls and cheese, must be hungry, in ten minutes she’s back out with more soup.
“You soup is a hit with the kids,” I look around at our empty bowls, “us too.”
Janah, “I’ll have another if there’s enough, half bowl.”
Ellen, “Made plenty, tomorrow I can use anything left and add it to tomorrow’s lasagna. Garden burger, vegetables and three cheeses.”
Janah, “Is it tomorrow yet?”
Amaya, “Criminey, you’re still sucking soup and do not even know what is for dinner this evening.”
Ellen, “Fried fish, flour and cornmeal, lots of black pepper, we’re out of fresh potatoes, but there’s plenty of frozen steak fries to bake. I’m thinking sautéed mushrooms as well, should be enough…well, maybe cornbread.”
Janah, “Is it dinner yet?”
Nikko, “I need to burn up the sluggishness, Zi and I are going up the hill, if anyone else wants a walk you’re welcome.”
“A good idea.”
Dasha, “I am taking boat out, the houseboat, Oceane ees want to sweem.”
Chloe, “Great, that’s for me, Amaya, you must come too.”
“Do I have to watch you fiddle with fish?”
“No, no fishing, we’re having fish tonight. Maybe in a couple of days. Dasha said there are steaks, sausage and pork shoulder to go through before we leave and our friends are leaving day after tomorrow. They won’t be here to help us use it all up.”
“When did Dasha start discussing the larder with you? You usually have no idea what’s in there in any of our homes.”
Chloe grins, “She wasn’t discussing it with me, she was discussing it with herself. I just happened to be at the table.”
“That makes more sense. You don’t know which end of the butter knife the butter goes on.”
Chloe giggles, it’s all nonsense of course. Chloe went to etiquette classes at Chapmans when she first came to us, as did Amaya before her. She trained as Maiko then Geisha with Ari Murakami. Chloe’s manners have manners.
Plans laid for the afternoon, the kids will go on the houseboat with Oceane, Cassie, Dasha, Daria, Kota B, Katya, Katja, Amaya and Chloe. 
The rest of us will hike to the falls, take a bit to hydrate and come back down. About a two hour round trip except for Sloane, Sarah and Lauren, they will run most of it.
The runners are off, I see a wolf join the fun, the rest of us climb the trail at a steady but not rushed pace. We just want to wear ourselves out a bit. Up all night, then four hours of sleep, up just past noon. We’ll be better off with a bit of exercise this afternoon and a normal bedtime around eleven.
At the top, I check into Dasha’s brain. She’s watching Oceane do a front flip off the roof of the houseboat into the lake. The water’s cold, but it doesn’t faze Oceane, it’s water, all water looks out for her. At least, that’s what she says. I know she spends hours in it and never a moment’s trouble, even with complicated dives off the high board in Arizona. She does the acrobatics and slips into the pool with barely a ripple. 
Dasha’s gaze shifts, eight nymphs naked as naked gets are sunning themselves, well, nine, Amaya’s on one end as bare as the kids. Dasha climbs down the ladder to the deck, I see Daria, Chloe and our visiting twins having a glass of wine…no, it’s Champagne. 
I check out, we’re just up here long enough to down a bottle of water, two wolves have joined the first. The three of them and Sloane are playing on logs that cross one end of the pool at the bottom of the falls. There are also a series of boulders sticking out of the water, they hop from log to rock, back to log. Sloane comes in, drinks her bottle of water while the wolves take theirs from the pool.
She, Lauren and Sarah start the run down, their furry friends alongside.
Nikko, “I recall a long legged martial artist seducing me in the Chapmans locker room a few thousand years ago. Next thing I know, we’re hanging with wolves in the Canadian Rockies.”
“Best move I ever made,” I kiss her for emphasis.
Janah, “And the best move I ever made was reaching out for a leggy martial artist to look out for me and accommodate my intense sexual needs.”
“I made out splendidly both ways, it is so good to be me.”
Ellen, “Looks like rain to the south, maybe get moving. Anyone needing assistance with their intense sexual needs, I’m available.”
Nikko, “I’m up, Zi and I will provide all the intensity you can stand.”
Ellen, “Dang girl, one minute I was looking for a job in a donut shop in Houston, now I’m down with two Asian delicacies on a luxury villa on a gorgeous lake. Life is grand.”
Janah, “There’s lightening Daphne, tap into Dasha and see if she’s registered it.”
“Dasha, thunderstorm from the south, lightening, do you see?”
“Da, I did not take the boat far. Oceane ees feenish, we will dock in ten minute. Kota B says storm ees an hour away. You will get down mountain now.”

“Weather report, the storm is headed our way and it’s about an hour out. The boat will dock ten minutes, but we have an hour walk, I suggest we double time and jog it.”
Ellen, “Hell yeah, I got no heart to be caught in the woods with lightening, look, you can see it now.”
We get moving, we might not age, but we aren’t impervious to accidents, natural or otherwise. Halfway down, it’s a light mist, by the time the house is in sight, it’s raining and the wind has picked up. We dash onto the porch, lose our boots and stack wet clothes. Then inside for hot showers.
“Grace B, are the boats secured?”
“Do you think Dasha an idiot? Go get a shower and quit trying to control the universe, it can do quite well without your meddling.”
Janah giggles, “Let’s bathe and play with soap.”

Sixty

Our New Orleans pals have a plane to catch, Dasha and I scoot them across the lake to the lodge. After hugs and a smooch, they set off to Banff, we load perishables Jan and Don got for us. Gallons of milk, half and half, bags of fresh vegetables.
“Thank you so much. Frozen vegetables do in a pinch, but fresh is better.”
Francois, “We heard the two hunters you captured paid a substantial fine, their weapons were confiscated and they were kicked back over the border. How is the bear?”
“Recovering, she’s mobile at least. The animals have enough sense not to press an injury, she won’t be running for a while. Dasha and Daria went up yesterday, Papa gave them both a bear hug. They played rough and tumble with the cubs for a while.”
Don, “An amazing story, a bear coming for you to help, the children dancing all night. Nikko, Sarah and Ellen facing armed men.”
“Best not to aggravate Nikko, I was a little surprised she let them off so easily.”
Jan, “One of them didn’t look let off easy, his jaw was a mess.”
“That’s what Nikko considers getting off easy for pointing a rifle at her. You’re busy, season’s full bore, we need to let you get back to it, thanks again.”
We scream across the lake, Dasha runs the Spyder flat out, we’re unloading at the dock in fifteen.
Inside family is occupied, Nikko, Daria and Zi are making business calls. Then a conference call with Fumiko Izumi, our new President of Murakami Sylk Property Management.
I’m noodling in the kitchen with Dasha, need a light lunch and a fun dinner. 
Dasha, “Sandwiches will do, we need to feenish the deli meats we haf frozen. I am making pulled pork in slow cooking for tomorrow, tonight, filet steak, fresh potato for baking, deep fry cauliflower, broccoli and mushroom.”
I start in on lunch, simple duty, lay out deli meats, condiments and bread. I’ll make finger sandwiches for the children, dainty, like they are. Bowl of chips and iced tea, they’re set.
“Grace B, take the sandwiches and chips please, they have tea upstairs.”
“You spoil those kids.”
Dasha, “Dahfoney spoils everyone Grace B, just do what you are told or I will haf sister turn you into idiot bot.”
“Geez, touchy little Communist.”
“And tell the others lunch ees ready for one half hour only, after that they can forage for berries.”
“If Daria makes me an idiot bot, can I run for Congress?”
“Even idiot bot ees too smart for Congress, she would haf to make you brain dead, now go.”
Grace B winks at me, she’s a delightful irritant, Amaya did her job well.
Amaya comes along, “Amaya does everything well, perfectly one might venture, unless one is an idiot bot.”
“And what have you been up to doing well?”
“A new vehicle for Chloe, Geisha Assassin, my screenplay is brilliant, or will be as soon as I finish it. Chloe becomes quite vicious after being raped by a well insulated American, a corporate psychopath with deep ties to the State Department and loads of international connections. All of whom are intent on getting her gone to avoid any public outcry that might interrupt their profitable ventures which mainly involve massive government contracts.”
“Wow, how’s she going to deal with that?”
“By searching for her own assassins and persuading them to train her in the art. Ellen and Sarah will be her teachers. They disappear Chloe to a mountain hideaway, lots of training action sequences, audiences love those. In this case, gentle talented Geisha becomes gentle talented killer. They emerge two years later and dismantle the entire operation.”
Janah, “You going to disguise Ellen and Sarah? I mean, they’re in the conflict resolution business already.”
“I asked them. Their take is that nobody knows what they do, and the idea that professional killers would stick themselves onscreen as professional killers is too absurd to be believed. In a way, it is camouflage by hiding in plain sight.”
Janah, “They have a point. You get clearance from the twins? It’s their show.”
“Of course, I talked to all five. The twins do not want a role, I am writing a bit part for Mani, she plays a techie who they hire to track the movement of the rapist and document their payoffs to US congressmen and politicians in a dozen countries. Sarah’s character is into obedience, Mani also provides discipline. It’s a fun way to flesh out her character, not just a nerd whose fingers zip over a keyboard and gets instant data gratification.”
“You might as well write it as a biography.”
Amaya grins, “My ideas have to come from someplace. Sarah likes it rough, Mani is the only one who will dish it out. Their stuff is S&M lite, the movie will be more brutal. It is a movie, Mani has one scene beating crap out of Sarah, the next scene Sarah is in she has a bruise and a band-aid, the next all better. Audiences are used to instant healing, besides, I will have so much action, they will not remember that Sarah should still be recovering.”
“How far along?”
“Halfway. Screenplays are simpler, and harder. I do not have to write much descriptive scenery or how the character looks, that’s on the screen. We do fights based on who is fighting, I do not need to write out the sequences, we have stunt people and consultants who choreograph that. My job is to make the story line make sense and write slick snappy dialogue. I even get help with that from the cast and director as we rehearse.”
“Sounds like you get paid for having fun.”
“Well, yes, and we create lots of paychecks for the people who make the film theaters, and the subsequent streaming services. We quit using distributors and created our own distribution company, that dumped a huge expense. On top of jobs, we create a delightful experience for the audience. I should be paid more, but we finance our own films now. I get nothing until box office receipts roll in, which they will, by the millions.”
“You filming in the States?”
“No, Japan. The plot is Japan friendly, the bad guys are everyone but Japanese. It will show bad gaijin behavior, and elevate the Geisha tradition, reinforcing the correct view that Geisha are sophisticated and skilled entertainers, not prostitutes.”
“And Chloe’s following in Japan will push box office there and the rest of Asia.”
“Of course, we make more internationally than we do in America. Chloe Couture always gets a boost, she will be offered another series of Japanese commercials. Ellen and Sarah have learned conversational Japanese with Mani and the twins. Ellen is ultra gorgeous, she may wind up with her own Japanese commercial.”
We pass the next week quietly, no hunters, no Shadows, no calls to fix abusers. If we weren’t connected to the web, I’d suspect humanity had been obliterated, blown up in nuclear war or wiped out by a virus.
Time to shut up the place. Nikko, Daria and Zi are going to New York for a week. The rest of us are headed to Arizona. Normally we leave Canada in early September and go to Manhattan for the fall, check out for Arizona in the winter.
This year we decide the kids will be more active in Arizona than Manhattan. Amaya is almost done with the screenplay, it’s a shorter hop from Prescott Municipal to Los Angeles than from New York.
The plan is to rehearse in LA, then do any scenes that don’t need to be in Japan. The rape scene, for instance, takes place inside, any set can be made to look like a Japanese room with low tables, shoji and fusuma panels for walls. 
Flight is simple, three hours, and since Arizona doesn’t recognized daylight savings time, Pacific time is also Arizona time. We leave at noon, arrive at three. With eight children, two bots and ten adults, Danika and Su have our latest addition, a Mercedes mini bus that has twenty two seats plus the driver, and Amaya’s Corvette at Prescott Municipal waiting.
Danika, “Welcome home to Arizona.”
“How’s the bus working out?”
“Splendidly, when your guests come, we pick them up in this, even if it’s only five or six. It’s great for touring, we take them to Flagstaff or Jerome, or down to Phoenix if there is something going on of interest. It’s been to the Grand Canyon, we even drove the parents to Las Vegas for an overnight. Your casino friends gave us first class accommodations and tickets to a terrific show, the latest Houdini type thing and another act of amazing balance on a slackline.” 
“I have to try that, I’m going to look up kits and set up a line.”
Sloane, “Cool, I’m in, what if we run it over the pool? It’s fifty meters long, over a hundred sixty feet, if we fall it’s into water.”
Janah, “That would work. We can have the line end five or six feet from the edge of  the pool, just build an arched ladder on both ends and a platform to wind up on. If you fall from the platform or anyplace on the line, you only go in the water.”
“Oceane will use it as a new high dive.”
“The pool runs from almost seven feet at the shallow end to twelve halfway. We can color the line red up to the twelve foot mark, nobody dives from the shallower side. Falling in is falling in, it’s not a dive, nobody will hit bottom at even seven feet.”
“How high should the line be, say at the low point over the pool?”
“The high board is three meters, two inches under ten feet. If you do the line at fifteen center it will maybe drop two or three feet from the contact points. Not a dangerous fall into water.”
“Eloise, will you look into the mechanics?”
That’s an easy yes, she’s a computer hardware genius, extending to her, Lauren and Daria working on our cars, dirt bikes and karts. If it’s mechanical, they figure it out. It’s even easier now, they have Grace B or Emma B to flash through the web and find answers and fixes almost instantly.

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