Chapter Sixty Five
I call Chan, “Appears we have another Sensitive.”
Chan, “So David tells me.”
“We want her in the temple weekly. Janah goes that often, but if we travel or Chloe’s schedule conflicts with Janah’s…”
“I will see she is there.”
“Check the website, her schedule is posted, if I post a time that’s a problem for you, let me know and I’ll make another arrangement.”
Chan hangs up, I guess I’d been clear, Janah giggles, “Chan decided he’d heard enough.”
“I can’t imagine anyone getting enough of me, I have no explanation for Chan. He doesn’t talk to anyone but you and Ning.”
“He talks to his children, and now Chloe. She’s entered his intimacy zone, captured his heart like she’s captured the rest of us. Chan perhaps more. An abused child is something he relates to.”
“Anyone who tries to hurt Chloe is in deep shit then, after Nikko kills them, Chan will kill their soul.”
Janah, “That’s about it.”
“Then I will kill their reincarnated soul, even if it’s a cockroach.”
“I think she’s covered.”
Life progresses, I rearrange Chloe’s schedule to include a weekly trip to the temple. Janah frequently goes on Friday, not a Murakami day for Chloe. Nikko and I resume a more intense practice schedule. We do something weekdays except Thursday, a rest day, and mixed fighting to the death on alternate Saturdays. That gives us Sunday to qi and recover.
I call Susan, “I know you’re up to your neck, I’ll be brief. Nikko and I have no more time to run the school. I want to keep the building and lease the premises to two 5th degrees who are doing all the work anyway. I’ll give them a good deal, they will make money. If you want a different model, or just to sell the building, that’s fine, but we have to back away from teaching.”
“Honey, those two have earned the business. Tell Nikko I back whatever she sets up.”
“I’ll work it out with her, let you know.”
Relieved of teaching at the dojang, Nikko and I have a little extra time, which Chloe quickly absorbs. We usually ride with her to the Murakami’s on Monday morning, visit with Hanshi and Ari for a bit, Chloe begins kendo and we go home.
Dear Master Kim. Three years ago, he retired at seventy five and moved back to Korea. I swap e-mails every so often. He’s getting forgetful, asks how Master Chris is doing. I tell him fine. Reminding him my other mom died a few years ago serves no purpose, and replying to his question like she’s still alive is actually refreshing. She’s still alive in me after all.
Masters Sung, Hue, Tan, Chu and Zhang, have all passed over. It was a remarkable time, my teen years in the temple with the good fortune to have teachers from the last of authentic Chinese Shaolin. Today in China, it’s part Disney and part being a monk. The Chinese government allows it because of substantial tourist dollars, not any honor of the old traditions. But then, the Shaolin always had to play to an ever changing cast of kings and warlords over the centuries. I suppose it’s just one more political accommodation.
Enough good old days, I’m living good new days now. We haven’t aged, Amaya still on hold at a biological fifteen. Nikko, Janah and I look like we did ten years ago, twenty five at thirty five. It does get tricky, dancing around observations from outside friends and acquaintances who age themselves but don’t see any signs of it in us. We make jokes about facials, antioxidants, plastic surgery and witchcraft. I think most of them believe the witchcraft part.
Chloe has adjusted to our lives, resilient youth, but more. She is definitely a Sensitive and Zi has taken over training. On walks, Zi listens as Chloe reads an aura, gets a vibe of happiness, sadness or anger in someone, Zi confirms or makes corrections. Young Sensitives frequently misread an aura, or attribute the emotion to a person standing close to the person experiencing it. Janah thinks mirror neurons have something to do with the confusion. If you see someone happy, you get happy along with them. Same for the other emotions, not always, but frequently. It’s not so simple at first to differentiate one person’s anger from another’s mirroring that anger.
They also practice counting the number of people in a room they can’t see inside. How many presences are there? It works pretty well up to ten bodies, beyond that, they know the room has many people, an actual count is difficult and not worth the energy it burns. Like qi, Sensitives use more battery power when their internal radar operates on high. After an hour or two’s walk with Zi, Chloe comes to me or Amaya to hold her while she naps. It’s a treat, skinny thing cuddled against us.
Chloe tries to alternate equally between Amaya and me, she knows how much we like it, her effort to be fair, how sweet. I think she favors me.
Amaya, “She favors me, but you are choice 1A.”
I smile, she adores herself, which is hardly enough, she requires my adoration in buckets.
“Come to me and appreciate my splendidosity.”
I go, she’s in front of her mirror, lusciously nude, kisses it, steps back away to explore her visual perfection.
“You may kneel, here,” she points to a spot next to her, “and pleasure yourself. I love the way your lust feels in my brain.”
While I’m busy following orders, tough duty, she twists and turns, the three way mirror affords full coverage, then I sense her looking at herself though my eyes. She really likes that and a creamy flush appears on her body, I’m about to get lucky.
“Do me while you finish yourself off.”
She turns and faces me, I work my way up and down the legs with kisses, my finger occupied between my legs, then kiss her soft beauty a few times and start in with my tongue. Yay! Another simu-gasm.
She collapses on the floor next to me, breathing hard, “Shimminey, when we go off together, it’s exponential, not two, two times two, a queergasmic quadrimax. My brain is rattling.”
We lay on the floor making out, thusly preoccupied, I miss Chloe at the bedroom door.
“You two are both so heated up there’s smoke in the air.”
Sensitives are good at sneaking up, I ask, “How long have you been there?”
“Just before Amaya sank to the floor like a ship going under.”
“Sneak. Ning’s going to wail on me for exposing you to lesbian lust.”
“Did you think someone like me doesn’t know what all of you get up to? I can feel you being intimate when I’m at Ning’s house. I can’t see it, I know what’s happening.”
Amaya, “Is there an aura?”
“Not when I can’t see you of course. I sense some color, but it’s not crisp or even clear. When I sense aura, I have to attend. You all have different auras, except when there’s merging, which is pure white light.”
“Normally, Daphne is green, Janah is blue, Nikko is red, Zi is blue as well, but darker than Janah, there’s a streak of red, like Nikko, Amaya is violet, like my eyes.”
Amaya, “Hah! Perfect, royalty. It is my destiny.”
I laugh, she plays outrageously self absorbed to perfection.
Chloe giggles, “When Amaya works, her violet intensifies. It intensifies one other time.”
“When you look at Daphne.”
“Busted how? As if I don’t know how you feel all the time?”
“Now Chloe knows.”
Chloe, “Come on, Amaya. Everyone in this family knows how everyone else feels. You guys can have no secrets. Zi and I can’t mental, but in a way, we don’t need to.”
Amaya, “Well, we could have secrets until you discovered your talent. I guess it does not natter, we would not have kept secrets from you in any case.”
Chloe undresses, “Since you are both in nothing already, let’s shower, I need to get squeaky clean. I’ve been hopping around the parkour course and I’m crummy. I got a twisted ankle, too.”
She step-hops to the shower and starts it up, we join her and enjoy the hot water and foamy soap, wash hair, dry.
While Amaya brushes my hair, I sit on the bed next to Chloe and apply qi to her ankle for fifteen minutes, then Amaya and I switch jobs. After that, Chloe sits between my legs and I brush her hair to shiny soft. Her orthodontics are in. She chose her eye color, violet, sooo cute when she smiles. Her teeth whitened to brilliant, now wait until they are perfectly lined up. The orthodontist says eighteen months, maybe less. We use qi to reduce mouth pain, she confounds the kids who had to endure weeks of sore mouth during their treatments. Braces require constant tightening and adjustment, which means more strain, until the things are set to the final point. Then wait.
Chapter Sixty Six
Janah answers her phone, she still gets a half dozen calls a day, another dozen texts from Chapmans girls we knew when we were in school, frequently monks at the temple, Lacy, Mini, and, of course, Mrs. Epstein.
She listens, “Sure, see you at six thirty,” she clicks off, “Listen up girls, dinner at Mrs. Epsteins, we need to be in the car for six-fifteen, it’s four thirty. Casual.”
Chloe, “Do I go?”
Janah, “Mrs. Epstein requested you specifically. Finish up your lessons and Daphne or Amaya can get you ready. You have another hour, French and algebra.”
“I’m too cute for math.”
Amaya, “I tried that, too. Forget it.”
“But I don’t care what X equals.”
Amaya laughs at her, “And Janah doesn’t care that you don’t care. You can start to care, or you can stay at Ning’s while we go to the Epsteins for a fabulous dinner and superb wine. It matters not to me. I conquered algebra like I conquer everything, I get to go.”
“Sheesh, extortion. At least I know what extortion is.”
“Good, now find out what X is, bony butt, so we can get ready.”
Chloe persists, solves the equation, Janah reviews her work. French is easier for her, she likes languages. Her Japanese is moving to fluent, her French just began, she’s in the ‘voulez-vous’ stage, but she’ll move along quickly enough. She’s half past twelve. Most kids can’t speak the Queen’s English by then. And when she came to us at nine, she couldn’t make change. That, dear reader, is called perseverance, self control, frequently misnamed willpower.
We’d been on several jobs in the last year, common wife beaters. Sometimes just Nikko and I went on the job itself, Janah and Amaya along for the ride. I don’t do jack without Janah near, we haven’t been apart a day since we’d met. Mentaling, being each other, doesn’t matter, physical proximity at some point during the day is how we are. Now that I think of it, I hadn’t been separated from Amaya for twenty four hours since we’d met. Maybe we’re all codependent, you know, since people love their labels and get fidgety when they can’t attach a name to something. So, we’re codependent, happy now?
Half the jobs had been take on the asshole, beat the crap out of him, deliver the sermon, the wife and kids get relocated. The other half , if it involved eliciting information, included Janah and Amaya doing the pharmaceutical dance and Janah either rearranging mental furniture or a personality delete. Chloe and Zi were on the last two for observation and training. Chloe is learning the aura and attitude of abusers. Attitude includes facial expression, tone of voice, pacing, eye movement, facial tics, change in body temperature. She’s also learning to play poker and chess. She’s only average online, just don’t play her face to face, even with your big hat, beard and sunglasses. You might as well be naked in the sunshine.
We are seated around the Epsteins massive living room, in a corner designed for conversation, a couch, loveseat, three comfortable leather chairs, coffee and end tables. They sip wine, Zi and I Coke Zero with a wedge of lemon to zing it up a tad.
Mrs. Epstein, “Do you wish me to discuss matters privately?”
Janah, “Chloe knows all there is to know.”
Mrs. Epstein, “The child sellers are still very much in business. We learned lessons from the big hunt in Los Angeles. First, one at a time, second, turn the locations of the girls over to the FBI or locals. It’s mostly federal, the children have usually crossed state lines, even countries, they want them in unfamiliar places, keeps them dependent.”
Janah, ‘Where are we going?”
Mrs. Epstein, “Back to the left coast, San Diego.”
Janah, “It’s been nearly two years, the Russians still at it?”
“Yes, so are Pakistanis, but these are Americans, white as they come, wealthy upper class.”
Nikko, “What’s the deal?”
Mrs. Epstein, “Youth is always in high demand. Class doesn’t matter. No country legalizes child prostitution, but many have found ways around it. Muslims can ‘marry’ nine year olds, then divorce them and the next husband steps up. In England it’s illegal to have sex with a girl under sixteen, but it is not illegal for a thirteen year old to engage in prostitution. The john is guilty, the girl is not. In the US, it’s estimated that there are a hundred thousand child prostitutes. These are guesstimates based on arrests, visits to drug abuse programs or treatment for STDs. Those tend to be street children, or just neglect at home. The number of children in this particular situation is unknown. This is an escort service, the escorts are young girls, occasionally young boys.”
Amaya, “I have some familiarity with that.”
“Yes, you do.”
“My parents pimped me, this sounds more elaborate.”
Janah, “I know there’s a reason, but why not just go to the authorities?”
Mrs. Epstein, “We will for the children themselves. The head of the operation is too well insulated. He and his wife have no contact with the kids, or with the men who guard and deliver them. It’s two layers deep, the second layer doesn’t know who’s on top, the first layer is two brothers. The brothers are the size of Black, just white.”
Black is one of the boys, men now, that started with us at the temple. Black is six-six and two hundred fifty pounds of alloy steel, the hard kind.
“And you don’t think they’d roll over on the husband and wife?”
“They have a problem of their own, they sample the goods. If they get busted, they go to jail as pedophiles and get to wear the sex offender tag forever. Now, they make a lot of money and get to fulfill their urges for free.”
“And the ground crew has the same problem.”
“Exactly. There is a provision for witness protection of a sex offender, he doesn’t have to register if he cooperates and testifies against others up the line. The problem is getting them to do it, then they have to be relocated, name changes, jobs, housing, the whole schmear. And the government is putting a sex offender back on the street with no registration and a different name. If he’s caught after that, he can be tried and made to register, but he has to be caught. The husband and wife have a tricky set up. A company they control but isn’t in their name. That company employs the brothers. It’s a landscaping business. Individuals and companies that employ them legitimately mostly pay with checks and cards, but a lot of individuals pay cash, as do all the individuals paying for children under the guise of getting their grass cut.”
Janah, “I’ll read the file for the rest.”
While we nibble on finger sandwiches, Janah reads, spends a half hour chatting with Dr. Epstein in his office, covering developments with Chloe and Amaya.
Mrs. Epstein makes small talk with Chloe, “Braces are working out?”
Chloe smiles her violet smile, “I kind of like them, but in two months, I’m done.”
“They’re cute, and your teeth are straightening perfectly. Bernie knows Dr. Francis casually, his rep is excellent. He’s made a good living straightening the teeth of Manhattan’s privileged.”
“Janah sent some of the kids at her schools to him. Their parents can’t afford it, so she worked out a deal with him. She pays and he knocks off twenty five percent.”
“Daphne, that’s the first I’ve heard of it, how many kids has she sent?”
“I don’t know, Nikko keeps the books.”
Nikko, “Fifty thousand dollars worth of wire and counting.”
Mrs. Epstein, “How splendid. I am certain it’s very much appreciated.”
“They want to send presents, food mostly. David, you remember David, he was at the temple with us, now he runs the school, anyway, he tells the parents that gifts are not necessary and he has no way to deliver perishables to Janah. She gets kids’ artwork or ceramics. We display it at the school, everybody’s happy. The kids who need dental work are sent to a Brooklyn dentist, and all of them get annual cleanings. David got a good price, the flow of patients is regular and there are new kids every year. The dentist is happy, the parents are happy, kids have healthy teeth and gums.”
Mrs. Epstein, “The things your family does, boundless generosity. Please give David my regards.”
Janah returns, Mrs. E and the doctor receive requisite hugs. Our car is waiting patiently, we climb into the Escalade, the driver slides over to the passenger seat and Amaya drives us home.
Chapter Sixty Seven
Amaya, “How does the high end child prostitution business work?”
Janah, “In this case, the landscaping business does legitimate landscaping. The children are delivered by two men in one of the company trucks. The child is introduced to the buyer as the ‘daughter’ of one of the men. They buyer invites her to wait inside while the work is done. We can guess what happens while grass is being cut. The children, ages run from eight to fifteen, are dressed to order, little girl dresses, maryjanes, pink socks, ribbons and bows, schoolgirl, Goth to high fashion, businesswoman, and everything you can imagine in between. Pedophile phantasy camp. The buyer can rent a girl for a couple of hours or the evening.”
“Doesn’t that create a problem if the child is found in a stranger’s house at midnight?”
“Miss Abigail was having so much fun she wanted to stay over. Her dad said it would be good for her.”
Nikko, “It’s pretty thin, but if the buyer gets caught, he sticks to the story and the fake dad gets the blame. The buyer can say he didn’t buy anyone, he was just entertaining the daughter or son of his landscape contractor.”
Chloe, “How did the Society find out how it works? I mean I know they have Surveillance.”
“Yes, and from Surveillance listening they picked up enough conversation to fill in the blanks. The file doesn’t say how the report came in. Perhaps somebody offered a child to someone before they’d expressed an interest, or just rumors. People say stuff to their friends when they’re high or drunk, sometimes too much, showing off how slick they are. One man sees a cute young girl strolling by, comments to his friend that he wishes he was fourteen again. The other says, ‘maybe you could be,’ drops a hint. Like that. Someone’s radar goes up.”
Janah, “A Sensitive for instance. She would see the intent behind the offhand comment, one guy is makes a perfectly normal comment about a cute girl, it’s not perverted, pretty girls are pretty, it’s not illegal or immoral to appreciate them from an appropriate distance. Personally, I don’t see that it’s wrong to fantasize. Physical contact crosses the line. The Japanese girl group AKB48 has a huge following, their shows are packed. Eighty percent of the audience are adult men.”
Amaya, “It is the grown men who deny it you have to worry about.”
Zi, “Do we do anything about the customers?”
Janah, “I don’t know, the Society wants us to deal with the organization. The owners are smart. They don’t want to know who the customers are, likely just a code number or name. I’ll look into it during the refocusing.”
Chloe, “Who recruits the girls? I mean many are either brought in from out of the country, or runaways. These must be at least a little more sophisticated.”
“Good question. Either there’s a source we don’t know about, or they do some kind of training. I suspect most of the kids are brought in from overseas, either Russia or the break off republics, India or the Far East. India has a huge child prostitution market, estimated at a million girls. English speakers demand a premium, but if they’re young, they pick up the language quickly.”
Nikko, “What if they take infants or toddlers, raise them to know nothing else?”
“Expensive, but the profit in this business is enormous. I wouldn’t rule out an inventory. And some of these beasts want to play with toddlers.”
“So, if no one ever told them it is wrong….”
“They become the perfect child prostitute, no guilt, no complaint, just perform and bring in the cash.”
“I was losing the urge to kill again, until now.”
“We’ll see. Perhaps I can make it even worse. Our mission is to get them out of business. If I deconstruct them, the price will be higher than death, even a slow painful one.”
Zi, “Who are these people?”
“John and Alexis Bell, the landscape operation is called Menudo Landscape and Horticulture. The brothers are Teddy and Travis Beaumont. The four that do deliveries are just Delivery 1-2-3-4, we don’t need to know who they are, it makes communication simpler.”
Chloe, “When do we leave?”
“You want to go? You’ll miss time with Hanshi.”
“I’ll gain experience with Zi.”
Janah, “Fair enough. Call Mrs. Murakami, just tell her we’re going on retreat, she knows the code.”
We are in the Palomar Hotel Luxury Penthouse, whoo-hoo. Two bedrooms and balconies, dining table for six, full kitchen, Italian linen sheets, rainforest showers, all the fancy hotel junk for a mere twenty seven hundred a night. To the restaurant for lunch, yum fun. Shrimp ceviche tacos with a crunchy tortilla and mango salsa, short rib grilled cheese, a fried chicken torta (a flatbread, no yeast) with spicy coleslaw, bread, butter pickles, and for Janah, snap pea kim chee and a veggie wrap with pepper hummus, feta, black olives and coleslaw.
We mix and match, sharing tastes until the food disappears. It’s really good. Thank you Chef Dolinky, who I don’t meet for obvious reasons, we aren’t us.
Over the years, we’d learned that most of our disguise was overkill. We have to do Janah’s white hair in a temp blandness and change her eye color from sapphire electric blue to less noticeable. Nikko and I just do ponytails or braids and facial temp tattoos, now Zi and Amaya when we need them disguised. Big sunglasses pretty much end the likelihood of anyone catching up to us. I do get Chloe’s violet braces changed to clear for this trip, violet is too memorable.
Chapter Sixty Eight
We tour the town, pass by the Bell house, mega mansion in a gated community. Not sure why they’re called communities, since nobody ever sees anyone else except on the golf course. Lots of guys named Julio, Juan and Manuel riding lawnmowers and blasting leaf blowers that sound like chainsaws. I prefer Manhattan noise, suppose it’s what you get used to.
“Where are we going to front the Bells?”
Janah, “In their gated community. We’re going to pluck them right off the golf course in broad daylight.”
Nikko, “How, we don’t play golf?”
“If Daphne can see a field mouse at a thousand yards, she can see a golf ball at four feet. Everything else is eye hand coordination. If she doesn’t have that, then she’s wasted a lot of years training.”
“So she’s on the course alone?”
“Nope, Amaya’s her caddy. The Bells’ play at ten every Wednesday, alone. The brothers Beaumont are pretend caddies. That’s where business is discussed. Daphne’s going to catch up to them once she gets past the first hole. You will be lurking wherever it is that samurais lurk, watching the Bells. When Daphne pulls up, she’s going to ask to play through, they will see it’s only her and her incredibly hot caddy. Daphne will brazenly tee it up, even if they haven’t granted permission, whack the little ball, then you and she will deal with the brothers and haul the Bells to wherever we have the car. Something on that order, adapt as necessary. Zi and I will be in the car as near to you as we can get. Plop them in the golf carts and haul them over, or improvise.”
Nikko likes this plan, she gets to whack one of the Beaumonts, maybe both if I’m occupied.
Today is Monday, golf Wednesday. We decide to spend Tuesday checking out homes where children were brought recently. We have a list, maybe an idea would develop, it’s happened before.
Tonight, we’re free. The penthouse is too much fun to leave, views are spectacular, it’s eighteen hundred square feet, bigger than the average house. It’s a room service and sex night, whoever sleeps with Chloe has to defer play and settle for her snuggled against them. Amaya volunteers.
We eat, they drink wine, not much, we’re working. We watch part of a movie, then Chloe gets sleepy. Amaya and I take her to one bedroom, do going to sleep things, and curl in together.
Chloe, “Don’t you want to play with the others?”
“Dear one, I could play twice a day if I wished. One thing my life doesn’t lack is sexual gratification. Amaya and I choose to hang with you for the night.”
Chloe smiles, kisses my cheek, “Hold me.”
I do and we fall away.
Amaya and I are up and in the shower, Chloe appears, brushes teeth, we’re just finishing, I get out, Chloe gets in and Amaya washes her hair, leaves Chloe to finish up. There’s a wind tunnel of hair drying, then off to find coffee.
After breakfast, Amaya gets the car, her favored Escalade, we tour a half dozen neighborhoods. Find four of the houses, two others are in gated subdivisions and it serves no purpose to try and get in now. We’d seen what we came to see, homes in the two million or more category, these aren’t trailer park ‘uncles’ abusing their girlfriend’s kid. There is no better or worse sexual abuse, there’s only the fact of it.
If this upscale form is more malicious, it’s because it’s more by design. It’s not a guy who sees a girl everyday and lets lust overcome sense, or a school teacher who gets caught up surrounded by hormonal youth. Those are, of course, not excuses, but at least they’re reasons. The people renting children were just well heeled reverse stalkers, a wealthier version of the pedophile who lurks around the schoolyard, surfs the internet for teen chat with the goal of setting up a date, or snatches a kid he doesn’t know off the street. The rich ones don’t need to stalk, they have their desires delivered, like pizza, with a choice of toppings.
We skip lunch, stop for coffee and tea. None of us is dressed to attract, braids, ponytails, big sunglasses, loose jeans and sneakers get us desired non-attention. Drive to La Jolla, walk, to the beach, the cliffs around the beach anyway. Sit on the sand, watch the ocean until the sun sets, back to the Palomar.
After deconstructing, showers, big terrycloth robes, I order dinner. Steaks and shrimp, fish and vegetables. Nobody wants wine, tomorrow we have a golf date with child sellers and two super size bodyguards.
Tonight, no physical intimacies, just rest. Amaya gets to hold Chloe, I hold Amaya and think lascivious thoughts.
Chloe giggles, “Daphne is all fiery red-orange.”
Amaya, “She’s next to me, what else could she be? Now be still while I kiss those freckles, all twenty three.”
I’m in a golf cart with rented clubs, a sleeve of Titleist and a few tees. The Society booked me and my caddy, I’m there a half hour before the Bells’ tee time and have a tee time twenty minutes after theirs. We’re at the practice range with a bucket of balls. I’ve never hit a golf ball before. I did pick tips up out of Janah’s head. Why she’d read about golf I’ve no idea.
Amaya is in dinky skirt and a golf shirt, I’m in black pants, a golf shirt and sneakers.
A few men are slogging away, most of them hit what I assume are good shots, the ball doesn’t sail left or right, just straight. I pick one of the better ones and watch him through my sunglasses. Like martial arts, I absorb the moves. The men are taking sly glances at Amaya, who is chattering away about the weather, if the greens are fast, reading the course brochure, babbling about the water on seven and the sand on ten, the dogleg on fifteen.
“Water and sand, it’s like the beach out there, what’s a dogleg?”
Amaya, “A turn in the fairway, hard right or left, so you can’t just plow the ball straight.”
“Ah, Janah read about intentional slices and hooks. You angle the club head, or twist it at the point of impact so the ball spins and curves in the air.”
I stick a ball on a tee, on the course I’m only going to hit one shot, it will be a tee shot, but then, maybe circumstances will change, better practice some off the ground too. I tee up a range ball, step up and hit it like I’d seen the golfer do, except I flip my wrists under at the last second. The ball flies straight for a hundred yards, then takes a hard right.
“Seems simple enough.”
I hit two more, one for longer, then right again, one shorter chip shot. The good golfer walks up.
“Need some help with that slice, Miss?”
He was talking to me, looking at you know who.
“Don’t know, I’m hitting for doglegs right.”
He looks suspicious, smarmy smile, “Is that so? What if there isn’t a dogleg, just four hundred yards straight out?”
I placed another ball on the tee, “Then I should probably hit it like this,” smack, two fifty right down the middle, “leave me with a seven iron to the green and one putt, birdie.”
He doesn’t, says, “Enjoy your round,” and slinks off.
I hit a few more, three off the tee, a dozen off the ground. It’s fun. The men watch, balls went straight, the nine iron sails the ball up and backspins when it hits the ground. I’d read that backspin comes in handy when you don’t want the ball rolling further after it hits the green.
Amaya, “Just for fun, pretend there’s a tree forty yards in front of you and you have to get the ball directly on the other side of the tree. You can’t go over it and get enough distance, you have to hit around it.”
I plop a ball on the ground, she hands me a five wood, I aim left, roll my hands over at contact, smack. The ball arches up and left, at forty yards it takes a soft right glide path and lands a hundred fifty yards directly in front of us.
“Dang, that’ s neat, but enough practice, we need to get going.”
The men stare, I hear one say, “Wouldn’t play her for money, but I’d play with the caddy for any damn thing she wanted.”
It’s a pretty astute observation.
We cart up, Amaya drives to the first tee. Nobody between us and the Bells, nice, a slow day on the course. I presume that’s why the Bells pick this time, weekday, too early for the take the afternoon off crowd. I whack off, the ball sails down the fairway, Amaya drives to it, I hit a second shot to the green. We drive there, I walk to the green and just for fun, sink the putt, one under. We scoot past the next three holes, spot the Bells finishing up on four. They aren’t hurrying. One brother spots us, says something to Bell. Bell glances briefly, two women, big deal.
They hit tee shots from five, I set up a tee shot on four and whack a ball so they can hear it. We climb into our carts at the same time.
“Nikko, one guy rides with Bell, the other with his wife. The guards sit in the carts while the couple takes their shot. You want me on the Bells, or on the brothers?”
“What do you think?”
I laugh mentally, “Make it quick.”
“Pull to the right of their carts as they finish five, let Amaya distract them, ask if you can play through. We’ll take them then.”
I explain the logistics to Amaya, she hits the accelerator, we’re fifty yards out from the Bells who are walking up to the green for their putts. When they head to their carts, Amaya pulls alongside, I step out. Look over the top of the cart.
“Mind if we play through on six?”
I can see the guards, they’re relaxed, it’s a common question on a golf course, not a cause for concern. That, and Amaya has crossed her legs off the side of her seat. They get a two second look at heaven when a golf club whacks one guard on the temple.
I’m in a dead run to the Bells, I say loud, not yelling, “Oh my God, what is this, what’s happening? Who is that?”
Of course the Bells don’t know, and they don’t know I have anything to do with the crazed person who cold cocked Teddy. Travis steps out of the front cart, his hand inside his windbreaker. Nikko breaks his hand with the club, the gun drops to his feet. She upswings, just like a katana and catches Travis clean under his jaw. The club snaps.
I’m with the Bells, my voice panicked, “We have to get out of here. The closest street is that way,” I point left, through the trees, “run.”
Amaya joins us, crying, ‘I’m scared, help me, God, she’s going to kill us,” nice bawling tone, but clear enough to be understood. It puts the right motivation into the Bells who start hauling it the way I’d pointed, followed by Amaya.
“Janah, I’m staying with Nikko, you and Zi will have to collect the Bells.”
I stay because Teddy is getting up, “Nikko, Teddy is mobile,” then to Amaya, “Keep them moving to the car.”
Now Teddy is reaching for his weapon, Nikko is too far from him, she dodges behind a cart, I pick up a golf ball and zing it. It catches him clean on the back of the head, but it’s a golf ball. Probably hurt, but it isn’t going to knock him out. I pull out shuriken, then there are two stuck in the back of his neck, Nikko plants one in his face, two in his chest. He raises the gun, I put one in his gun hand so deep the point sticks out his palm, he drops the Glock on the cart path, clank! then thump! Teddy on the cart path. Nikko collects the shuriken, both men are alive. She takes the guns, removes the clips and tosses them into the water at the end of the green as we cross it to the car.
She keeps the guns until we pass a dumpster, in they go, buried in a mound of bags and garbage. We’re driving to the refocusing site, John and Alexis resting comfortably unconscious in the aisle of the Escalade.
Chapter Sixty Nine
“I’m glad we didn’t have to fight those beasts on the golf course. Better to whack them with a driver and stick shuriken in them.”
Nikko, “We had to get rid of guns, no way to stand and fight, stealth and trickery was better.”
Zi, “Janah had the Bells down and out before they knew what hit them. They were high anxiety, and believed Daphne and Amaya were scared as well.”
Chloe, “It is cool watching Janah grab a shoulder then they collapse on the floor. Then Daphne picks up the man like he’s weightless tosses him in the truck, Janah tosses the other. You guys are strong.”
“Courtesy of the owl and eagle. Janah’s done so much gymnastics she’s all brick. If you can do a one hand handstand, I suppose hauling a body is fairly easy.”
Janah, “I wouldn’t want to haul one far. I recall carry Chan around the temple and nearly killing myself.”
Chloe, “You carried Chan around?”
“He was still growing, not the Chan you see today. I couldn’t carry him ten feet. Back then, he was half the size.”
“You could carry me for miles.”
We laugh, she clocks in at a hundred, and she’s spurted up to five seven, tall as Janah and catching Amaya.
Amaya, “You’re practically anorexic. I’m one twenty.”
Chloe, “Daphne, do I need to gain weight?”
“Nope, you eat well, you exercise, you aren’t having anxiety or digestive issues. You just melt calories. It will slow down and you’ll pick up pounds. Your growth spurt is early, your muscles haven’t caught up.”
“How tall will I get?”
Janah, “That’s a toughie. You could slow to almost nothing from here, or get to Daphne, Nikko or Zi, or even taller.”
“I suppose I’ll get as tall as I get.”
“Good attitude, dear one. Most people want to be something else.”
Amaya, “Not me, I’m perfect.”
Chloe pops her on the arm, “Not now, you have a red mark.”
Amaya puts her finger on it, applies Qi and wipes it away, sticks her tongue out at Chloe.
“Sheesh, you people are weird.”
“Look who’s talking, Sensitive.”
“Sensitives aren’t weird, we’re normal. It’s the people who get brainwashed into social conformity who are abnormal.”
Janah, “She caught on quickly.”
“She has me for a role model.”
Amaya looks at Chloe, “They’re talking about you, no doubt horrid secrets.”
“I can see their aura, remember? Janah said something kind, Daphne was being Daphne.”
Amaya, “Maybe a false positive, aura error, type two, failure to detect the false hypothesis that Janah complimented you.”
Zi, “Chloe is correct.”
Amaya shrugs, “What does one expect from Sensitives, naturally you are going to back each other up, confirmation bias.”
a type I error is the incorrect rejection of a true null hypothesis. A type II error is the failure to reject a false null hypothesis. A type I error is a false positive. Usually a type I error leads one to conclude that a thing or relationship exists when really it doesn't, for example, that a patient has a disease being tested for when really the patient does not have the disease, or that a medical treatment cures a disease when really it doesn't. A type II error is a false negative. Examples of type II errors would be a blood test failing to detect the disease it was designed to detect, in a patient who really has the disease; or a clinical trial of a medical treatment failing to show that the treatment works when really it does. When comparing two means, concluding the means were different when in reality they were not different would be a Type I error; concluding the means were not different when in reality they were different would be a Type II error.
All statistical hypothesis tests have a probability of making type I and type II errors. For example, all blood tests for a disease will falsely detect the disease in some proportion of people who don't have it, and will fail to detect the disease in some proportion of people who do have it. A test's probability of making a type I error is denoted by α. A test's probability of making a type II error is denoted by β.
Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. *****
Our guests are stirring, but we’re at the refocusing location, another warehouse in an industrial sprawl outside San Diego. I hop out and open the door, Amaya drives in, close the door. Amaya starts unloading equipment, Nikko and I do our strap down thing to John and Alexis, lights down, hallucinogens in the vein, they party like it’s the sixties.
Chloe and Zi observe, reading state of mind. It comes in handy, Janah doesn’t have to guess anymore about when to take them down or bring them back up. Zi reads them, explains to Chloe. Now, she’s going to see what Chloe can do.
Zi, “What color do you see?
Chloe, “Rusty, red-orange but with dark spots.”
“That’s the beginning of disassociation.”
Fifteen minutes passes, Chloe, “It’s turning more red around her, he’s still mostly rust.”
Amaya kicks up his dose.
Another quarter hour, “She’s getting red, not bright red, he’s gotten ahead of her, more red.”
Zi nods to Amaya, Chloe is right, Amaya gives Alexis more LSD, bumps it with a small dose of amphetamine.
Fifteen more, “Here comes the sun, orange as an…orange.”
Zi, “At this point they have left their brain behind, they don’t know themselves from a lamppost.”
Amaya puts headphones on them, they experience sheer terror, hearts race, sweat pours. She lets them freak for twenty. Then she leaves the phones on but switches the content. It’s a disassociated voice, suggesting they are dying, then offering help, a slow swim, back and forth, stirring the content of their brains.
They settle after four hours, a glaze haze. Amaya drips pentothal into John, lets Alexis drift for now.
Chloe, “His aura is reversing, red now.”
Twenty minutes to get to rust, another twenty it’s dark, then blue. More pentothal.
“Blue is in the mix,” the disembodied voice drones in his headphones, offering a glimmer of hope, the overhang of death.
“He’s sky blue,” Zi nods, “Well done.”
Amaya removes the headphones from John, flips on the halogen light, all John can see is nothing. Janah starts to chat through the synthesizer. She sounds like a man, not threatening, casual. She asks a dozen questions, slowly, making a new pal, a BFFN, best friend for now.
Two hours later, she’s chock full of information. The encrypted files and records, the encryption passwords and the code. We have his bank and brokerage accounts, his cash stashes, the keys to his house and the codes to get in the gate, and the code for his security system.
We don’t need Alexis except to reprogram. Janah rests for two hours. Amaya jacks them both up on amphetamines for the wait. Can’t have them getting any rest.
Janah disconnects them from their memories. In their minds, they don’t even know each other, where they live, who they were. Anything sexual relating to children will give them blinding migraines and the heaves.
Transportation will deliver one to a city far away, and the other to a city far away from that one. They’ll be left on the street with the clothes on their back, and nothing. By the time some agency decides to print them, or the very long shot of dental records, the stuff they own will be long gone. They won’t remember jack anyway. Mortgage records won’t show them as having owned a home, their current banks won’t know who they are. Menudo Landscaping and Horticulture will have disappeared.
If by chance some ancient records are uncovered, college records, houses bought and sold long ago, we don’t care. Even if someone recognizes them and tells them their names, they won’t remember. John and Alexis are the walking dead.
We disappear, back to the Palomar, deconstruct and sleep. We aren’t done yet. First, we have to refocus the brothers Beaumont. They were scooped up after we left and taken to another spot to await our visit. We didn’t want them getting to a hospital and we didn’t want golfers to stumble on them, call EMS and the cops and have them reported in the system. They wouldn’t tell the cops anything useful, just say it was a robbery. But it would leave a mess of records we don’t need. So, for now, they’ve been treated by Minders and kept in a drug haze until we can get around to them. In the process, they returned the carts and my rental clubs. The kids who collect the carts have no reason to ask about who returns them, they don’t know who rented them, just some golf dweebs. The Bells’ car evaporated from the lot. As far as the club knows, they came, they played golf, didn’t hang around.
Locally, there will be a story about insurance fraud implicating John Bell, now a fugitive and believed to have left the country with his wife. That will kill the curiosity of friends and neighbors who won’t want to be dragged into an investigation. Long time friends will swear they were only casual acquaintances and know little about their personal lives. Almost nothing, ‘Wasn’t his wife named Alexandra or something, honey, I don’t recall. We hardly knew them.’
We don’t get up until noon. I call room service and have breakfast delivered. A ton of protein and caffeine.
“Are you rested, Janah, you seem okay in my head.”
“I’m good, but let’s let the brothers stew another day. It’s been harder on Chloe and Amaya, we’re used to the violence and the long hours.”
“Tell you what, Nikko and I will refocus the brothers, we’re not taking their minds, just getting them gone and out of the kiddie business. You stay here, let Chloe and Amaya go to the pool, luxuriate in luxury. Nikko and I can be back by dinnertime. Tomorrow, we can start making social calls on the delivery guys, then the pervs if you want to take it all the way.”
Janah, “Good. I’m going to the SPA and get treated like royalty. Zi and the others can get treatments or dazzle anyone by the pool or just enjoy the penthouse. I don’t want them going out. None of them can mental me.”
“If any weirdness happens, Amaya can mental me and I’ll let you know. Make sure they take a phone, you keep one nearby.”
Janah books a few hours of facial, massage and pedicure. She doesn’t need any of that stuff, but it’s relaxing. Amaya, Chloe and Zi go bikini shopping via the Concierge who, in a fine hotel, can get whatever whenever. By the time they are delivered, Nikko and I are in a different Escalade, and headed towards a reunion with Travis and Teddy.
A nod to the Minders, they leave, we enter the part of the warehouse where the brothers are in storage. They’re both awake, one swollen jaw, a knot on the temple, scars where the shuriken hit. They’re on cots, hands and ankles tied.
“Hello boys, remember us?”
Heads snap around, we resemble yesterday, same facial tattoos, braided hair, big sunglasses. Today we have watch caps and refocusing gear.
Travis nods, Teddy decides on mouth, “Bitches crept up on us, if I wasn’t tied…”
“You’d do what, asshole? Play with your pecker?”
“Rip your heart out.”
“What you gonna do to her?” I nod towards Nikko.
“Feed it to her.”
“Tell you what. I’m going to cut you loose. If you can take my partner, I’ll let you and your brother do anything you’d like with me.”
Teddy smells a rat, “So you can cold cock me from behind, or stick me with one of those razors?”
“Teddy, I’ll keep my hands on my head, in plain sight of you the entire time. I can’t give you any more guarantees, I don’t need to. If I want to off you , all I need to do is off you, after all, I’m not tied up, you are. I don’t have all afternoon shitheel, you want your shot or not?”
I cut his bonds so fast he doesn’t grasp that he’s free. Then he stands, he’s stiff, probably needs the restroom.
“Loosen up. Get some water, go to the head and pee.”
“For somebody who is about to get her ass kicked, you’re at least obliging.”
“Well, you have to deal with her first, then you can kick my ass.”
Teddy takes a bottle of water from the cooler, downs it on the way to the bathroom. He can’t do anything but pee, it has no exterior windows, one way in, one way out.
He comes out with the porcelain lid to the tank in his hands. It’s actually stupid, it will restrict him and he’d as much as admitted he needs a weapon to carry out his threat.
Nikko, “Dumb fuck.”
He circles, I stay in sight, as promised. He swings the lid back and forth a few times, Nikko doesn’t move, she seems bored.
“Bitch is frozen stiff. No good without her toys, huh?”
“Practically dead already Teddy.”
He lifts the porcelain lid, up and right, as he swings it down, Nikko obliterates it with her right boot, the toes of which are covered in steel. She steps back a few steps while Teddy stares stupidly at the little piece still in his hand. He throws it at her, I catch it, crush it to powder.
Teddy stares, I smile, “Gosh, must be defective.”
He roars, charges, Nikko dodges and rearranges his nose with the same toe. Her second kick catches him in the nuts, he doubles over and her titanium covered knee squashes the remainder of his nose all over his fat face, dislodges his front teeth and cracks his jaw.
Teddy is face up on the concrete.
Travis is staring at his freshly demolished brother.
“Care to give her a go, Travis?”
“Some other time. Now what?”
“Ah, the intelligent one. Here’s the deal. We want to remove you from the living, my partner wants to do it slowly. She can stretch it out for two or three days. You will be awake the entire time,” I pull out ampoules, “see, I have enough drugs to keep you in any freak state I want, as long as I want.”
His pupils are saucer-wide, a sign of attentiveness, “Instead, we want you as living examples. You and Teddy will leave the state, you will leave the child prostitution and slavery business. I don’t care if you become greeters at Wal-Mart or circus sideshow freaks. But tread carefully, you will be monitored and you will reminded. And if you so much as get near children, or look at child internet porn, or even if I think you are thinking about fucking children, you will see her again. And if you do, it will take a week to die, and you won’t miss a moment of it. Are you catching my drift, Travis?”
“Can you handle stupid over here, or should I kill him now and be done with it?”
“If he steps out of line, I’ll kill him myself.”
“See that you do, as far as we’re concerned if he does it, you did it. I don’t care if you aren’t even in the same state. You die right after he does.”
He nods. I think if it wasn’t his brother, he’d tell us to kill him now.
“If he wasn’t my brother, I’d tell you to do him now.”
“Honey, leave stupid with a message even he can understand.”
She slices open his kakis, pulls out his pecker, Travis winces while she leaves enough cuts to make it a long while before it quits hurting, and never before the scars go away.
I look at Travis looking at his bleeding dumbass brother, he turns to me, sees my dead black eyes, “Travis, don’t screw up. Just to show good faith, you and Twinkle here,” I nod at unconscious Teddy, “can play with all the young men you want. They have to be twenty one, not eighteen. I know it’s the little boys that light your fire, that’s tough. Oh, by the way, you’ve both been registered as sex offenders, congratulations on your new status.”
“You can’t do that.”
I pull out my phone, let him watch while I tap in a website, he sees himself listed with a photo, I show him Teddy’s listing, “You’re famous Travis, not just for fifteen minutes, for the rest of your life.”
Travis’ eyes close, the grimace on his face warms my cold heart.
And you, favored reader, have slogged through another book in our saga. What will happen in Book IX?