Sixty Nine

Elle, “What in heck? Is she alright?”
Natalie, “Yeah, I mean really…saw the man in Daniela’s head?”
“Zoe C can see in my head…or at least she knows what I’m thinking. And we can silently talk if it stays short. Go too long and the call drops so to speak.”
Natalie, “Weren’t you two going to work on better…um, transmission?”
“Yes, but life keeps getting in the way. Maybe we can pick it up now.”
“Something that amazing, you have to make time. Carve out an hour and do it.”
Zoe C, “Good point. We could get up earlier, but I’m the late sleeper already, bad idea. Maybe better to go someplace after tea and before cocktails, that’s an hour and a half window.”
“We’ll do it starting tomorrow.”
Natalie, “We haven’t done tea yet, don’t procrastinate, start today.”
“As I was saying, starting today is the best idea.”
The girls giggle.
Elle, “None of my biz Nat, if you don’t want to answer tell me to buzz off. Does it bug you, Zoe C in Chef’s head, and vice versa?”
Natalie smiles, “No, not in the least. This isn’t the only reason, but remember, I’m an ex-call girl, escort, high end prostitute, pick your label. Chef accepted me for what I was. I easily accept what he and Zoe C can do, and accept that I can’t know what they discuss unless they choose to tell me, which is not required.”
Elle, “Well put.”
McKenzie appears, hands me a drawing on standard letter size paper. He’s average, not a fat face, not emaciated, no facial hair. He is white, she’s shaded in an aura surrounding his face imitating the ‘black’ she mentioned earlier.
She points to his ear, there’s a small cross earring. Then she points to his brow, right side, a wavy line.
“What’s that?”
“This is amazing McKenzie, is there a reason nothing is in color?”
She stares off towards the ocean, “No color in her head.”
“Duh, of course, you didn’t look through her eyes, you looked in her mind, her brain.”
McKenzie, “The human brain is the central organ of the human nervous system, and with the spinal cord makes up the central nervous system. The brain consists of the cerebrum, the brainstem and the cerebellum. It controls most of the activities of the body, processing, integrating, and coordinating the information it receives from the sense organs, and making decisions as to the instructions sent to the rest of the body. The brain is contained in, and protected by, the skull bones of the head. The cerebrum is the largest part of the human brain. It is divided into two cerebral hemispheres. The cerebral cortex is an outer layer of grey matter, covering the core of white matter. The cortex is split into the neocortex and the much smaller allocortex.
The cells of the brain include neurons and supportive glial cells. There are more than 86 billion neurons in the brain, and a more or less equal number of other cells. Brain activity is made possible by the interconnections of neurons and their release of neurotransmitters in response to nerve impulses. Neurons form elaborate neural networks of neural pathways and circuits. The whole circuitry is driven by the process of neurotransmission.”
Elle, “How in…”
Natalie, “Where did you see that honey?”
“Wikipedia, there’s a lot more if you want to know.”
“And you memorized it?”
“It’s just there,” she walks inside, might need a break from all this human interaction.
Kid’s on to something, we might all need a break from too much human interaction.
Ten minutes later she brings out a pot, cups for tea, sugar cookies perfectly aligned in a semicircle.
She takes a seat, I pour. Zelda is on her haunches next to McKenzie, now they’re head to head. Zelda looks at the serving tray, apparently gets that it doesn’t have anything she’s allowed to eat. She flops down on her belly and sighs.
Zoe C giggles, “That dog is a circus of emotions, what a drama queen.”
We laugh, except McKenzie, not out of any insult to Zelda, McKenzie doesn’t laugh, she doesn’t smile…our beautiful mini-Stoic.
We finish, Zoe C says, “Get off it buster, time to hide away and brain talk.”
“Elle, Nat, maybe you can figure out how we use the drawing. It’s not like we can drive around SoCal looking for him.”
McKenzie, “McKenzie will draw his house,” she goes back inside, Zelda must feel like a yo-yo.
We look at each other, mystified yet again.
Zoe C and I go to the office, slide the door shut. There’s a couch big enough to stretch out on along with two desk chairs, the fancy kind, Herman something I think. Zoe C got them and they are good, particularly for a couple of hours at the desks. 
We go at it for an hour, mental chit chat back and forth, nothing philosophically insightful. Every couple of minutes the communication muddied up, but overall we did pretty well.
Zoe C, “I have a mild headache.”
“Me too, let’s find the aspirin and chill.”
Big glass of cold water, down the aspirin, join the others. McKenzie is back, another sheet of paper lies on the patio table.
Elle, “How’d it go?”
Zoe C recaps, “We may be going too hard, towards the end we got headaches. The conversation is strange, it’s instantaneous, like a thought that pops in your head.”
Nat, “Next time a half hour, it’s exercising the brain, maybe you have to build up to it.”
“Good point,” I reach for the drawing.
No color here either, but the house is common ranch, fenced, there’s a number on it, 235, no street address.
“McKenzie, this is excellent. I have a question though. If Daniela can’t remember, how can you see these things?”
McKenzie rocks back and forth, “When you delete files from a computer, and empty the recycle bin, the data disappears but is not erased.”
Elle, “She’s right, the data isn’t really gone until something overwrites it. To completely wipe the disc, you have to run a deep cleaning program, like what’s available on Ccleaner. It can take hours to erase the entire drive.”
Zoe C, “Doesn’t that wipe out everything?”
“No, files are untouched, just leftover strands of not quite deleted data. I run it on my laptop about once a month.”
“So Daniela still has the information, just unable to bring it to consciousness.”
“Something like that.”
“And McKenzie does something like Zoe C and I do, reach into each other’s brains.”
“Except you two can’t call up memories, at least as far as you’ve taken it.”
“Ah, yes, that’s a major difference.”
“While we’re on the subject, tonight set the cleaning programs to run while we sleep. I doubt there’s any national security issues on them, but I can’t see how it hurts to have them scoured.”
Elle, “I’ll do it, yours, Zoe C’s, Natalie’s and the two in the office. By tomorrow, you’ll all be clean and shiny.”
“Wish I could do that to my head, I’ve got tones of useless memories dancing around in there.”
“One day in the not too distant future, you will be able to do exactly that, maybe implant memories as well.”
Natalie, “Sounds creepy, not the forget part, we all have memories we’d like to dump, the implanted part. What kind of memory would anyone want added to their brain? Plus, memories aren’t stored in one spot, pieces and bits are spread around in there.”
Elle, “Agreed, I didn’t say I wanted any, just that I think that sort of brain alteration will be possible. What if, for instance, you could get a calculus implant, or an AI chip?”
“Be nice if we could permanently remove the memories from Daniela’s brain.”
Natalie, “Speaking of which, McKenzie, did you see what actually happened to her? You saw the man, and his house, what happened in the house?”
McKenzie rocks, “Bad man, bad man, bad man,” Zelda knows rocking means McKenzie is upset. She pokes McKenzie’s chest with her snout, then pushes her against the back of the char so she will quit rocking.
The girl settles, hugs the mastiff. Zelda takes McKenzie’s forearm in her mouth, gently, barely touching, pulls her up. She takes a few steps towards the hills, pulling McKenzie along. She lets go, McKenzie follows her down the mountain.
Natalie weeps silently, we’re all quiet, then she says, “I don’t know what we’d do without the wonder dog.”
“We’d do what we do now, hold her, listen to her, love her. Zelda is better at reading her emotions, dogs are always better at reading human emotion.”
Natalie, “A glass of wine would work right now.”


This morning Elle writes an algorithm to collect the street address and zip code of every house in metro San Diego with a 2-3-5 number. If it doesn’t come up with anything useful, she’ll expand out in quadrants until it does. 
It churns away the day, in the end she has seventy six addresses. Now it’s a matter of fiddling with Google Earth and Street View to see if she can spot a house resembling McKenzie’s drawing.
McKenzie and I are making pot roast with brown gravy and steamed vegetables. The roast has been in the crock pot all day, I take it out and put it on a platter.
Show McKenzie how to pull it apart with two forks. Slow cookers are great but they tend to dry out meat. To compensate we added three strips of bacon, let the fat dissolve out into the meat. My gravy isn’t the full of flour kind, that dampens the taste. Mine is something between au jus and traditional gravy made from the beef broth we used to cook the pot roast. Bit of soy, another bit of Worcestershire, black pepper, flour goes in when the meat comes out to be pulled apart. She does the pulled, I stir the flour in the pot and make sure it’s completely dissolved. She scrapes the shredded meat back into the pot and covers it to finish up.
Cauliflower, broccoli, carrots steam on the stove. 
“Make caviar appetizers McKenzie, you know how to slice the baguette into rounds, toast them lightly. Caviar and sour cream in the refrigerator, I’ll pop a Champagne and we can enjoy the early evening by the pool.”
She’s graduated to a half glass of Champagne, half cranberry, I’m violating one of my rules by using Gosset and mixing in cranberry, but she drinks one glass, it amounts to three tablespoons of Champagne. I doubt she’ll start a drunken brawl.
Zelda’s sniffing around the stove, McKenzie has a golf ball sized hunk of roast cooling on the side. She pokes it with a finger, saisfied, she hands it to Zelda, the big girl swallows it whole and flops to the floor.
I bring Champagne to the girls, the sun is almost gone, the bit of chill offset by our outdoor heaters. McKenzie comes along with caviar in the stainless bowl sitting on a bed of crushed ice, toasted rounds and caviar spoons. She sets the platter down, sour cream in a dish, she and Zelda take off for a hike.
Natalie, “She’s found her niche, or niches, I’m so happy for her, you have all been terrific.”
“Hell, she’s more help than anything else, wind her up, point her in the right direction and she carries out assignments splendidly.”
Nat smiles, “Nobody makes her do anything and she still rises to the occasion.”
Elle, “I think we found the house, there’s a primary and a secondary. The primary looks more like McKenzie’s drawing, but the secondary has some of the same attributes. The other places don’t resemble the drawing at all.”
“That’s good work Elle.”
“Zoe C helped, or I should say we both worked the computers, she found the primary.”
“Then good work to both of you, what now?”
Zoe C, “We need to go back to San Diego and snoop. All we need to see is which place the man she drew lives. It it’s neither, okay, we have to think of plan B.”
“Or get lucky, like he abducts another kid but screws up and she gets away, or worse.”
Nat, “What’s worse?”
“Let’s not go there now, McKenzie is ready for us to eat. Let’s enjoy pot roast and put aside assholes for the evening.  Tomorrow we go to San Diego.”
We buffet style, take what we want and eat at the dining table inside, during which we wipe a second bottle of Gosset. Fed and watered, Elle and Zoe C clean up, Natalie and McKenzie opt for one of the endless NCIS series, the one with Gibbs and the Israeli assassin Ziva David. Nobody likes the childish forty year old frat boy DiNozzo, but we endure him anyway. And Abby, ‘Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs’, is just …silly. The better female member comes along after Ziva disappears, hottie Emily Wickersham who plays Ellie Bishop. I looked her up on Google. Wow, nice bod, although I’ve never understood the blond hair black eyebrows thing, it looks weird…fake.
Natalie, “Honey, this pot roast is amazing, perfectly steamed vegetables, thank you.”
McKenzie is on the mat, using Zelda as a headrest, she ignores us. We’re used to it, she ignores us most of the time. NCIS finds the murderer, it’s only nine, we watch an episode of Wire in the Blood, which can be violent. It doesn’t matter, McKenzie is tapping her tablet and ignores the TV.
Then she hears something that shifts her attention, put the tablet down and watches the TV show.
Natalie, “Should we turn it off?”
“Let’s see what happens, if she turns into a serial killer we may have to resort to Sesame Street.”
She punches my arm, “Don’t even think it.”
“Serial killer or Sesame Street?”
McKenzie, “McKenzie finds bad people,” Zelda turns her head and looks at the girl, she strokes the mastiff’s head, “Yes, Zelda too.”
The dog huffs, lays her head down.
Zoe C, “Don’t even….”
Elle giggles, “Do you think…?”
Natalie, “What? My daughter can get in Zelda’s head?”
“Or Zelda can get in hers.”
McKenzie, “Talk later, watch now.”
We drop it, it’s too bizarre to contemplate anyway.
Nat snuggles in next to me, “Tired?”
“Not if you’re asking what I think you’re asking.”
She grins.
The show ends, McKenzie and Zelda go out, return in a couple of minutes, then upstairs. We all go up, I hear the faucet running in McKenzie’s room, I peer in, she’s brushing her teeth. Good enough, Nat and I go off to engage in adult intimacies, more than once.
I’m up by seven, Natalie is out for the count, after morning prep I go downstairs. McKenzie is fiddling with the coffee pot, she presses the button, coffee is brewing.
She’s made herself a cup of tea.
“Good morning angel, what shall we make for breakfast?”
“Pancakes, scrambled with cream cheese, sausage.”
“Sounds delightful, what’s my job?”
“Mix batter,” she points to the bowl with her spatula.
I get on it, pancake batter mixes simply, just make sure any lumps are smoothed out. I find sausage patties, take them out. She has a carton of eggs and the cream cheese already.
McKenzie, “What is first?”
“First is I get a cup of your coffee. Then pancakes and sausage, both of which can sit in a warm oven until we want them. Eggs at the end.”
She sprinkles a bit of water on the griddle surface, it fizzes and evaporates, “Ready.”
“A little grapeseed oil, spread it around with the spatula then pour out pancakes in whatever size you prefer.”
She transfers the batter to a quart Pyrex measuring cup marked with half cup increments. Pours out the grapeseed and spreads it over a bit of the griddle. Each cake is exactly one half cup, when she’s turned the first eight, she carefully examines the underside for the right color. Satisfied, she takes them off the griddle and puts them on the baking pan. It goes in the oven. She makes eight more.
While she’s examining pancakes, I stick a dozen sausage patties on the griddle, to the left of her pancake production. I flip them, grill the other side, now both are in the oven.
I break the carton of eggs in another bowl and whip, “Okay, maybe we make enough for us, the rest when the others get up.”
She takes a sausage out of the oven and sets it aside, Zelda’s treat when it cools.
“You feed Zelda yet?”
She means Zelda gets her morning bowl at eight o’clock, it’s ten to. I fix a second cup of coffee, Zoe C appears, I pour her a cup.
“Smells lovely in here.”
“Pancakes, sausage, scrambled with cream cheese.”
“Yum, I’m ready when you are.”
“Eggs for three McKenzie.”
We’re wrapping up when Natalie and Elle appear.
Elle, “Did we miss breakfast?”
“Of course not, McKenzie did the pancakes and our eggs. She’s got Zelda duty now, I’ll do the eggs for you guys. We need to get to San Diego, maybe an hour, enough time?”
Natalie, “Sure, who’s going?”
“We have the two houses to check out and no guarantee the target is in one of them, or if he is, is even home.”
“So we’re doing surveillance and may be longer than today.”
“Maybe pack a few things, don’t go crazy.”
They eat, McKenzie returns with her pal.
Natalie, “Morning sweet, pancakes were splendid, thank you,” she looks at me, “who goes today? I can stay with McKenzie and Zelda.”
McKenzie, “McKenzie is going, and Zelda.”
“Oh… is that a good idea?”
“McKenzie and Zelda go.”
“Settles that. Okay, Zoe C, you and Elle take you car, I’ll drive the Hyundai with the others.”
In sixty we’re on the road. Sheesh, we went to San Diego for some other abuse thing. If this keeps up I may have to buy a condo there to keep an eye on the citizens.
McKenzie is in the second row, Zelda in the space behind, she takes up most of it. Right now she has her neck resting on the seat back watching McKenzie diddle with her tablet.
Natalie is in the passenger, Elle and Zoe C in front of us in her NSX. We hit town just after one. A pancake breakfast with two proteins keep us from the hungries.
“Anyone want food, coffee, a Coke?”
McKenzie, “Coke, Zelda needs out.”
I go in Zoe C’s brain, ‘Pit stop for refreshments.’
‘Good, not hungry but a coffee would work.’

She blinkers off the highway to a convenience store, we part and unload ourselves.
McKenzie starts to go off with Zelda, “Nat, go with, I know Zelda will protect her, but still…”
She smiles, “Spoken like a good dad,” she follows our girl and our other girl around the side to the field of nothing next door.
Zoe C, “What do you want, stay out here to keep an eye on things, Elle and I will handle it.”
I gas up the cars, Natalie, McKenzie and the monster baby return. I’ve poured a couple bottles of water in a bowl, Zelda slurps it up, then McKenzie sits on the floor under the hatch and holds her hand over the mastiff’s head so she doesn’t bonk it on the roof as she takes her place.
Zelda turns around a few times and makes herself comfortable, McKenzie sits with her, Zelda plops her head in McKenzie’s tiny lap.
Natalie, “Think it’s okay to let her ride back there?”
“We won’t be doing seventy down an intestate, and she put the dog’s bed in back, it’s pretty padded. But if it bugs you, tell her she needs to be belted in the second row.”
“Maybe if we leave the seats up…no, can’t go with that, “McKenzie, the law is that all passengers have to wear seat belts, you need to sit in a seat with belts. Look, I can fold down the other seat, it will give Zelda more room and you can wear your seat belt.”
She complies, Zelda catches on and shifts so her head is next to her pal, I hand McKenzie her Diet Coke and a beef jerky stick, “Zelda can nibble on this, break it in pieces, one bite at a time.”
Coffee in the holder, I wheel out behind Zoe C. We’re headed to the unlikely house first, an east side subdivision of cookie cutters. Zoe C is off to the house in a more southern part of town that we believe to be the primary target’s.
Natalie, “All the houses resemble each other, good thing she got an address.”
It’s two thirty, we’ve hung around to no avail, nobody comes or goes, I call Zoe C, we’re likely too far to do a mind to mind. 
As tap the screen with her number I hear, ‘Read me at this distance?’
I smile, ‘Yes, remarkable, what’s up?’
‘Car pulling in drive, hang on, I’ll send video, show it to McKenzie.’
“McKenzie, take a look with us, do you think this is the man?”
At first, he’s a side profile, then he opens the passenger door. A girl of, I’m guessing, ten or eleven gets out. He turns to face the street, looking up and down as if he’s checking for unwanted intruders. He can’t see us, and his house is set back from the street and surrounded by hedges along both sides and the front, except for the driveway..
McKenzie, “Bad man, bad man, bad man,” she’s rocking again.
“Nat, get in back and reassure her.”
She does, Zelda is poking her snout in McKenzie’s chest, then a long sniff of her neck. Natalie scoots in, McKenzie on her lap, Zelda’s head on McKenzie’s lap, like a McKenzie sandwich. She settles, Natalie kisses soft cheeks and mumbles soothing something, I can’t hear.

Seventy One

Natalie is using binoculars, “That’s not his child, look, she has no clue where she is, just standing. Her affect is entirely blank.”
“McKenzie confirmed the target, but what now?”
“We can’t just wait until he has his fun then drops her someplace.”
I hear the car door open, hear Natalie, “McKenzie…wait”
McKenzie doesn’t wait, she and Zelda approach the target, he’s got the girl by the arm, something between guiding her and pushing her along. Their backs are to us, he doesn’t see them yet, but them he stops and turns, says something and reaches out for McKenzie who says, “kōgeki,” Zelda’s command to attack
Bad idea, for him anyway, Zelda clamps his wrist and pulls him away from both McKenzie and the girl. A few feet, then she yanks hard and the man falls down. Zelda straddles him, her snout in his face. 
Zoe C is out, dashing for the girl, I’m watching Zelda and McKenzie, the mastiff over the man, McKenzie alongside. He raises his hand to Zelda’s chest, doesn’t touch it. Zelda yelps, pops back like she’s been hit with…nothing? Doesn’t matter, if the target thought he could get Zelda to move with McKenzie vulnerable, he’s sadly mistaken. 
He reaches for Zelda again, I’m hauling it over the sidewalk, I see McKenzie put her hand over the target’s face, Zelda, irritated now, chomps his wrist. Then blood seeps from his eyes….how in hell?
‘take the girl and disappear.’
Zoe C, 'text location later,’ then she, Elle and the girl are gone.
I go to McKenzie, tell Zelda to kaihō, release. The dog lets go the bloody wrist, the arm drops to his chest.
“Nat, help me drag him inside.”
We drag him to the door, I fish around for his keys, Natalie tries the knob, the door’s open. Forget keys, drag him inside, shut the door.
“Quick look around, two minutes.”
I find a laptop, open the lid, he’s left it running, the screen lights up. Images of young girls, you can guess how they’re dressed. They appear to be actively engaged, even smiles as they spread their legs for the camera, touch themselves. 
Natalie comes in, “Nothing much out…what the fuck is that?”
“Photos and video of prior abductions I presume, notice all the pictures have the same background and bed.”
“That’s the bed down the hall, I was wondering why the room was empty, he didn’t want it to be recognizable.”
“Do we leave the laptop running? Cops will figure out he’s a pedo.”
“But who are the girls? What if the computer is misplaced, or stolen?”
“I don’t know, if we leave no evidence…”
“Chef, the guy is dead, cops finding out he’s a perv doesn’t help anything, particularly if they go off looking for the children in the photos.”
“Okay, take it, we need to get moving…wait, find bleach, soak a washcloth and wipe his arm, Zelda’s DNA will be on it, while you’re at it, wipe his face and any exposed skin. Put the cloth in a plastic bag, we’ll take it with us. I need to make a wound adjustment.”
While she searches out bleach and a rag, I make the bite marks disappear, a few swipes with a kitchen knife, maybe they’ll think suicide, maybe not, but they won’t think dog.
Natalie washes the arm, wipes his dead face, thoughtfully brought another wet cloth to remove much of the bleach smell. Not perfect, but better than nothing.
We pack it in. As far as I can tell, we were shielded from the street for the short time we were in front of the house. Now to find Zoe C.
I try mind to mind, get no reply, she’s too far away. Our personal cell towers aren’t strong enough yet. I go old fashioned.
“Nat, text Zoe C and find out where they are.”
She taps away on her phone, a few second later she reads the reply, “We’re at a Sonic, you know, the places with the intercom boxes, pull up and order, some kid brings the food. Casey wanted a chocolate malt, which sounded good, so we got three and an order of onion rings.”
Natalie skips the typing and calls, “How is she?”
Zoe C, “Fine, a little blank on how she got with the target. She was walking through an open air mall on the way to a movie, then she is blank until we rescued her.”
Nat, “I’ll call back, we need to figure out how to get her safe without getting involved. She’s seen our cars, McKenzie, and most of all Zelda, who is pretty unforgettable.”
“Wait, put it on speaker.”
She does, I lay out the plan, “She knows a little girl and a big dog. We altered our plates just enough to create confusion if anyone took a plate number. Everyone had light disguise, hats, long sleeves, non-descript clothing and sunglasses. McKenzie’s auburn was stuffed under a watch cap. The only identifiable not-person was Zelda. I think we took care of that with bleach.”
Zoe C, “Good, still better if you stay away. Let me question her a bit, then we find a place to drop her and evaporate.”
“Can’t leave her alone.”
“Chef, please, of course we’ll watch from a distance until parents show up, but you don’t need to be there.”
“Alright, but we return to Malibu tonight, there’s no percentage in hanging around once she’s safe. We’ll find a burger joint, call when it’s done.”
A McDonald’s. We don’t go in, from the drive-thru I collect a twenty piece nuggets, Diet Cokes, a couple of large fries and a chicken sandwich for Natalie. My phone dings.
Zoe C, “She called her parents, we’re at the mall she was lifted from. Casey is in the food court, I gave her a ten to order whatever and tried to explain why we couldn’t hang around. I didn’t tell her the abductor was dead, just that she would never see him again. At the moment, Elle is in the mall keeping her under watch at a distance.”
“We’ll do a slow drive towards Malibu, call when you’re on the road.”
“Will do,” we click off.
We cruise up the I-5, Zoe checks in, “Parents showed, hugs and tears, Elle split, we’re getting on the 5 now.”
“Keep to the limit, we’ll poke along, we’re about fifteen miles ahead of you, should we pull off and wait?”
“No, let’s get home…how’s McKenzie?”
“She has an ice pack on Zelda’s chest, eats a McNugget, feeds one to Zelda, she’s talking to her pal, soothing her. I don’t think it’s much beyond a bruise, I looked, no blood, nothing obviously injured. I think the big girl is just sore.”
“If she doesn’t improve, we’ll take her to the vet for an x-ray, but if she has something broken, we’d know.”

Seventy Two

After so much driving, the tension of the kill and particularly McKenzie’s part in it, we’re thick headed with fatigue. While mental fatigue isn’t physical fatigue, it can feel that way. The way around mental fatigue is to exercise, get blood flowing, suck in more oxygen.
We’ll skip tea today, girls strip and get in the pool, McKenzie, Zelda and I take a twice hike around the property, a couple miles of ups and downs. Halfway, I check on Zelda. The spot on her chest is tender, she’s unwilling to give into it. When I gently press, she does nothing. If I add a little pressure I get a grunt, a short ‘huff!’.
I stroke her head, “You are a brave girl Zelda, took the pain that might have fallen on McKenzie.”
After a rest, the sun sinking. We make the second tour then return to the patio, girls have finished laps and are in the big Jacuzzi.
“McKenzie, give Zelda her shower, go carefully around her chest, okay?”
Probably didn’t need to caution, McKenzie would never hurt her guardian. I watch, she’s not using the pulse at all, just the spray. I bring giant beach towels to help dry, maybe she won’t need to shake like crazy, how she usually ends her shower. 
McKenzie protectively covers the mastiff with the towel, ‘Suwaru’, Zelda sits, doesn’t shake. She dries with soft strokes, only touches the towel to the sore spot.
“We forgot to feed her,” five o’clock has come and gone, it’s near six thirty.
McKenzie, “Zelda does not eat.”
I take her word for it, they know what’s going on with each other better than we do. Which makes me realize there’s nothing ready for dinner. I walk over and ask the girls.
“I’ll fetch dinner, what do you want?”
Zoe C, “Call the Chinese place, the usual. I’ll have your drink ready.”
Simple solution, half an hour and I’m having a Russian Standard rocks, garlic olive marinating at the bottom of the glass. Elle and McKenzie handle arranging the food, entrees in the oven while we sip hot and sour, enjoy egg rolls. McKenzie eats, a good sign, her experience hasn’t stuck with her, the bad man was hurting her BFF, so she killed him.
I want to ask her how she did it but I’ll wait until tomorrow, enough mystery crap for one day.
Dinner is easy, we take our time, Elle brings us up to speed on the trading program, which doesn’t trade that much.
“We’re staying ahead of the indexes, not way ahead, but ahead by a couple percent. It’s only six months, way too early to know if the thing is really viable or just luck, another six, more like another year before we see if it’s for real.”
Natalie, “I have my eye on two privately held companies, one is tech. I suspect the principals are too young to want to sell at a price I find attractive, but I won’t know until I make an offer. They make bots, good ones, some with ordinary lift and move, like warehouse bots. What’s really interesting are their companion bots, still under development. Think of a housekeeper, health care worker that knows all the meds, the routines of the patient, how to help him or her into or out of the bath. Doesn’t make meals yet, but they’re working on it.”
Zoe C, “Why would they want to sell at this point? If the bots work, the market is unlimited.”
“Exactly, I have to convince them they don’t give up control of their product, and that I have the resources to help fund the development without the scandalous percentages or number of shares a VC would demand. In effect, some of those guys wind up with total control without adding anything but money. Ultimately they want the company public so they can cash out with gigantic profits. My way lets the company continue without all the complications of a stock listing and a gaggle of analysts giving opinions only designed to get the company to buy crap they don’t need. And in the process diverting attention of the owners from product development.”
“What’s the second company?”
“They make snacks, top quality organic chips are the main business, but they are adding other lines in the general area, melba toast, flatbreads, in other words crisps and breads that have a long shelf life. They might be easier, their sales volume is good, but not yet takeover worthy. They wouldn’t attract the attention of any investment banks. I said two, but there’s a candy company I’m interested in. Perfect for my fund, privately held, papa isn’t getting any younger and while the sales volume is okay, he’s limited by production capability and kids that have no interest continuing in the business.”
Elle, “Damn girl, you’ve been busy, how’d you even find these people?”
“One thing they’re all on in one way or another, the internet. The other way is to roam around restaurants, stores, outlets selling somebody else’s stuff. I ask the clerks and salespeople, purely out of innocent curiosity, how this or that sells, what’s the most popular, who buys it. Sales clerks are an underappreciated fountain of information. Then I buy the popular items to try myself, if I like it, I look up who makes it. That’s how I got onto the candy company.”
Zoe C, “Sounds like you have fund raising to do, after Chef’s twenty five million.”
“Of course, but what I did for Goldman was essentially fund raising, I call it gold digging, find fresh money and put it to work.”
“Then there’s the matter of our evening entertainment, any preferences?”
Our killer sprite, appearing to pay us not mind, “McKenzie will watch Wire in the Blood.”
Natalie, “Sheesh, we created a fan of s serial killer hunter.”
“With a form of Asperger’s, like our favorite young lady.”
McKenzie, “Henry Ford Mark Twain Michael Jackson Gary McKinnon Woody Allen Thomas Edison Ludwig van Beethoven Dan Aykroyd George Orwell Wolfgang Mozart Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni Thomas Jefferson Charles Monroe Schultz Satoshi Tajiri Charles Robert Darwin Hans Christian Andersen Albert Einstein Jane Austin Sir Isaac Newton  Alfred Joseph Hitchcock Michael Palin William Henry Gates.”
Natalie, “What’s that about Chef?”
“They all were, or are, thought to have Asperger’s to one degree or another.”
“Get out!”
“Who is Satoshi Taj…what’s the name?”
“Tajiri, he invented Pokeman.”
“Why do you even know that?”
“Beats me, read it someplace. McKenzie is pointing out that some of the most creative intelligences on the planet had it. It’s not a disease in any formal sense, just a diagnosis of people who are reclusive, shy or otherwise less engaged in society.”
Zoe C, “So less engaged allows them to do truly independent thinking.”
“Exactly, the ability to focus without social constraints or biases.”
“Is McKenzie a genius, a prodigy?”
“Who knows? Actually I think she may bring other skills to the table as well.”
“Other skills?”
“Yes, like how did she kill the target by not doing anything but sticking her palm in his face.”
Zoe C, “There’s that.”

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