Chapter Sixty Nine
Practice over, Eloise comes along, time to go home.
Black, "I need to come more often. I teach gung fu at my school, but I'm the only master. Coming here keeps my game up. Gonna fit a day a week in, at least the afternoon session."
Chan, "I'm here frequently, send me a text when you plan to come, it will be good for us to work together."
"Just don't be throwing out that killer qi."
"No point in unnecessary injury. Janah will have us on some job sooner or later. Shadows roaming around, seems like more than ever, but she says we're more alert for them now."
"I can't spot them as easily as you and Janah, so far none have taken a surprise shot at me."
"Stay alert, if they get serious, you'll notice a dark heat radiating around them."
We leave together, Black to Brooklyn, Chan to Fong’s, the three of us to the apartment.
"Make progress, Eloise?"
"Yes, the wiring is simple enough, I got a couple of things connected, the lights, one vat. Manolo made me promise to bring the drone but I told him it had to wait until the project is finished. If I have to demonstrate the drone, then watch while they play with it, it will delay the job."
"Save it for when we return from Los Angeles, you have less than two weeks to get the system installed, the new vats, spectrometer and diffusion equipment will be in soon as well."
Janah, "Guess we'll skip tea, what's for dinner?"
"Good question, let's pass by Empire Szechuan, better yet, let's go home and clean up, you can have cocktails and I'll call them later for delivery."
And we do, Janah takes a long Jacuzzi, Eloise and I shower, then she's in the workshop doing a bit more work on the automated system, I'm downstairs, pull out a bottle of wine and open it for Janah. Bring her a glass while she bubbles, get a kiss for my trouble.
"I'm going to surf movies for later, any preferences?"
"Mental me some options."
I flip around Amazon, "There's the sequel to the first Riddick flick, more monsters in outer space, and a highly rated one called Prisoners."
"Let's wait on Prisoners until the whole family is here, I read the reviews, everyone will want to see it. Riddick is nice and mindless, right up your alley."
"I'm a Buddhist, mindless is what we're all about."
"I think it's mindful."
"I double check the dharma."
Janah giggles, Eloise comes down the stairs in a delightfully nothing silk t-shirt, watches me stare, lifts the hem up just enough to show me the t-shirt is all there is.
"Am I horrible?"
"Yes, just how we like you. Do you want wine or a drink?"
"Vodka, stay there, I'll do it, what can I get you?"
"Sparking water, a little ice, squish of lime, as close to sparkling wine as I'm allowed."
Eloise, "Do you sometimes wish you could drink wine or liquor?"
"Sure, and I'm not beyond a sip or two of Janah's. I took a vow. I know I don't seem serious, but I take my Shaolin vows seriously. I might be a superficial Shaolin, but Shaolin I am."
She hands me the water, scoots in next to me, "A kiss?"
We tongue swap, not a passion party, just a sweet kiss, her hand is tracing my thigh, "You're hard and soft at the same time."
I'm dialing Empire Szechuan, "Moisturizer and gung fu. All our girls stay tight one way or another, yoga, dance, gymnastics, parkour, martial arts, you do tai chi and a variety of calisthenics. I see you on the roof, jumping jacks, pushups, lunges, you're as limber as any of us."
"I have to do something to loosen up after a day of digging in machines. Dasha helps me with a few gymnastic moves, she's really good."
Janah comes along, finds the wine bottle in the refrigerator, "Hope you've ordered, I'm a hungry girl."
"Be here in fifteen or twenty, I got a load of food so don't snack. Egg rolls, plain fried rice, double order vegetables in garlic sauce, Eloise and I are having Szechuan shrimp. I skipped soup. I have brownies in the oven," the timer dings, "speaking of which."
Eloise freshens her vodka, for a sprite of ninety pounds, she can near match Daria in capacity. Eloise takes her on the rocks with olives, pimento, anchovy, garlic or jalapeno stuffed. Maybe the olive oil keeps her skin silky.
Security calls, I slip on sweatpants and go down to collect the food, pay the delivery guy, over-tip, he doesn't object.
"I got you guys a couple orders of egg rolls, enjoy."
"Gee, thanks Daphne, always thoughtful."
"Hey, you and Janine are guarding Chapmans and guarding us by default, we're happy you're here."
I haul dinner upstairs, run the egg rolls under the broiler for a bit of crisping, pour out the main courses into various pans and stick them in the second oven.
We start the movie while we crunch egg roll, let that settle, pause the flick and clear the table.
"Food's set, come get what you want and we'll get back to galactic death and destruction."
While we savor quite good Chinese takeout, Vin Diesel does ugly things to ugly aliens who are doing ugly things to him. Vin isn't pretty to start with.
It's three hours earlier in California, I check in with Dasha, "Just watched Vin Diesel beat up aliens, what's going on?"
"Vodka, then dinner, hotel restaurant."
They're at the Mandarin Oriental, "How are the rooms?"
"We haf view of bridge and bay, no suite, beeg room anyway, Daria likes, we make sex."
"Good, helps to keep her relaxed. Eloise and Janah say hi, we all miss you and it's only a few days."
"Da, sister ees talk to Vesnushki and Eemaya on Skype. Daria ees sad a leetle, not like home, Vesnushki ees too far, Dahfoney ees too far."
"Make sure Daria is occupied then, take care of your sister, okay, she needs you close right now."
"Da, da, Dasha takes care of Daria, she ees feeling better after Skype, Vesnushki tells her all about making movie, Eemaya dramatic, no more two weeks away Dahfoney, you will be sad like sister."
She's telling me she's sad, it stabs my heart, "Maybe it would be better to spend a few more days in San Francisco, but go to Los Angeles five days sooner."
"Sister will be happy eef we can go soon, Dahfoney will come to Los Angeles also."
"Yes, I will come to Los Angeles. Relax and enjoy dinner, and remember, you do have to learn about the San Francisco operation, so the trade off to leaving early is you dig in and get familiar with the people and property there, okay?"
"Da, da, ees easy part, Daria memorize, I make friendly wiz employee, clients luf Dasha, I tell them we appreciate, they will haf best building, we geev top service, call anytime, haf a nice day, bye-bye now."
I laugh, "Perfect, I'll check in tomorrow."
I mental Nikko, "You tuned into the twins?"
"Yeah, they need a Chloe and Daphne fix, you want to send them to LA sooner?"
"We tried to stretch it too far for their first time away, live and learn. We'll be in LA the day before, Shutters is going to think we can't make up our minds, Blue Sky is used to flight adjustments. I'll take care of our end and the twins' room, just let me know when they travel. I told Dasha they were obliged to make the most of the shortened time, I don't want to let them off the hook too easy."
Nikko, "We have a ton of appointments, they won't have much time to get homesick, what they will be is bone tired when we get back to the hotel."
"Good, you're ahead to the problem as usual."
"I have Zi, she could see the strain on day two. Straining them a little won't hurt, but we missed our guess on two weeks. They're knocking, we're going to dinner, talk to you later."
Since we leave in a few days, Janah and I pitch in and help Eloise where we can. It's a matter of installing the electronics that will send and receive signals, a hub, where everything connects to the phone or computer, controllers for the various electrical devices and appliances, low voltage interface to handle small stuff without frying it, a separate high voltage controller and a security keypad.
The lab is automated in three days, except for the spectrometer and liquid chromatographer. David can learn how to operate them on his own, if he wants them as part of the automated system, Eloise can hook that up when we return.
Manolo, "This is neat. We can open and close the doors, lock or unlock them, lights on, off, brighter, dimmer, start or stop equipment. Does it deliver pizza?"
"You could have it delivered from the same phone that runs the system."
David Li, "I can monitor the whole place from anywhere, and it tells me if something's wrong, too hot or cold, any malfunction. This is a lot simpler than tracing problems with step by step elimination. A whole lot simpler than when Hue used to have to stand over the pots, add water before the liquid boiled off and the whole mixture burned. The automated sprinklers we put in when we expanded the gardens saved hours of walking round with hoses. Now this magical system, thank you Eloise."
Eloise blushes, stares at the floor, glasses do their thing down her nose, "I like electronics, they do what you tell them to do."
"My circuits are fried and I didn't do the complicated stuff. Enjoy the toys, we're off to Los Angeles tomorrow, need to pack."
At the apartment, I'm filling suitcases for Janah and me, go to check on Eloise. She's stuffing clothes into a duffle bag.
"No good, Eloise. You're going to need more than jeans and t-shirts, I'll get a proper suitcase, then we'll pick out what to put in it."
I get her appropriately packed, she needs a couple of dresses, nice shoes, blouses, then the jeans and t-shirts she wears most days.
"There. If Amaya had seen a duffle full of jeans, she would have a heart attack. We don't have to work like Amaya and Chloe, we get to go to nice restaurants as well as slum down the Ocean Walk."
Eloise smiles, "She buys me such nice things, I'm almost afraid to wear them."
"You'll adapt. If something gets messed up, there's dry cleaning for that. Did you pack makeup?"
That means not at all. Amaya makes her up when we go out, otherwise lipstick never touches lips, eyeliner never lines eyes, eye shadow stays in the shadows.
"Put the things Amaya uses in ziplock bags, make sure all the caps are on snugly, then put the ziplock bags in this bag, add the bag to the suitcase."
Eloise is twenty four going on twelve. She has a two track mind, silicon and sex. Fortunately, she's really good at both.
In our room, Janah says, "Get our sprite set up?"
"Yes, she is who she is, fashion is lost on her. Although she's also enjoying someone looking after her, so maybe it's intentional inattention."
"I like you looking after me, Dasha insists on it, indirectly, but she gets the job done. We demonstrate caring by our actions, not saying 'I love you' ten times a day."
"Eloise has a system. She like to be nude, so when Amaya applies makeup and thinks over how to dress her, she gets to put it out there. She frequently does her workshop thing naked, a display for Daria."
Janah, "I like her nude, I like me nude, as a matter of fact...," she shrugs off her t-shirt and shorts, "I'm spending the rest of the day buff."
Suits me, I head downstairs to conjure up tea. Turns out Eloise has decided to remain clothing free. She's stretched out on the couch, takes up less than a third of it. I lean over for a kiss."
"You and Janah are feeling the same vibe."
I remain in my t-shirt and knee socks, someone has to do the voyeur part. I can shamelessly ogle the exhibitionistas, they can shamelessly enjoy it.
We're sitting at the low table, tea and sugar cookies.
"I'll make turkey sandwiches tonight, use up the rest from the deli. Janah, do you want egg salad?"
"Sure. Car picks us up at nine tomorrow, ten o'clock flight, we should be in LA for noon or so California time."
"Do we take pharmaceuticals, darts?"
Janah, "Good question. We aren't on the hunt, this isn't work or Shadows. I suppose the answer is obvious, if we take them we won't need them, if we don't we will."
"I'll pack a tranq gun, a vial of everything, darts, syringes. Oh, and a drone."
Evening, we have our sandwich dinner, Eloise her cocktail, Janah wine. A forgettable TV program, we keep trying Homeland, but the characters are way too annoying.
Janah, "I surrender, if these people are our homeland, we need to change countries."
Eloise laughs, then decides Janah needs make her feel good. They play on the mat while I observe from the couch. Homepornland, maybe I can sell the concept to Showtime.
Dasha, "Eloise lufs making sexy, you are watching them."
"And now you are too," Eloise is mounting Janah with a strap-on, "how did the day go?"
"Meeny client meeting, also new tenants. We are tired. Nikko ees even more busy wiz new employee eenterview. We will haf beeg business now een San Francisco, haf to expand space. We go to Los Angeles day after tomorrow, you will be there."
"We fly out in the morning, you and Daria get there the evening next. You have two more full days of work."
"Da, we are occupy all day, ees better. We haf drink in room, dinner also, everyone ees to bed early. You will stay on couch so I can watch Janah and Eloise be sexy girls."
And we do, they go at it another half hour, assume all the possible positions, then stretch and hold each other, smile up at me.
Janah, "Enjoy the show?"
"Oh yeah, so did Dasha."
Eloise does the Eloise blush, hand to mouth, "Dasha watched us?"
"Da, she says you and Janah are sexy girls, wave at her, she can hear you."
Waves, "Hey Dasha, we'll see you soon."
Dasha, "I will make sex wiz Eloise when she comes, Daria also, she will feel gud. Bye now Dahfoney."
"Dasha said she and Daria are going to double team Eloise."
Eloise, "Double t....oh....oooohh."
Janah and I laugh, "Okay sexy girls, time for rest, up we go."
They go upstairs to refresh, I stack and run the dishwasher then join them. Eloise takes the middle, kisses around and sleep.
Chapter Seventy One
Ah Shutters, a cool place located in a cool place. I'm a Manhattan girl, but I love the left coast. I have to get out here more often, maybe we can get birds to find Shadows, then we fly out and kill them. It's California, has to be a pot-load of whack psychopaths around.
Janah, "Find an owl and get them started. It's not like we have anything going on other than goofing off."
I sit and intend for an owl to appear on our balcony, nothing to do now but unpack and wait.
Eloise will stay with us tonight, then shift over to the twins' room when they check in tomorrow. I'll have Janah to myself most nights, I plan on taking nasty advantage.
Janah, "I expect Dasha has plans for you."
"And I for her, it's SoCal, uninhibited sex is a state law, I looked it up."
I check in with Amaya, "We're here, don't let me distract, see you soon."
Don't get a reply, means she's occupied, I tap into Dasha, "At the hotel, see you tomorrow."
At least some people in our family are busy. We had breakfast-lunch on the plane, decide to walk Ocean Walk, maybe chat with a few locals. There are vendors all along the walk in Venice Beach. Most of them like to share stories, shoot the breeze. Another reason I'm in my element.
Just as we're heading out the door, a Western Screech Owl plops down on the balcony railing.
"Welcome, thank you for coming."
Screech, "Where did you learn?"
"The Canadian Rockies, a Great Horned taught me."
I turn my head around, the around the other way, "He gave me his grip, and his sight."
He blinks at me, "I never met a human who knew. Heard of them, I thought it was only a story."
"My friend can talk to the animals, another in our home nest can talk to them as well. I've met the eagle, my friend the bear, moose, marmoset, wolf. They have beautiful stories."
"You reached out, what do you wish?"
"There are humans who carry a shadow of evil, we hunt them."
Screech, "All humans carry a shadow of evil."
"Yes, but the ones I mean we call Shadows, uniquely nasty."
"The ones that take minds."
"Exactly, we see their absence of color, the magnetic field that surrounds all living creatures. For them it is black."
"And what do you do about it?"
"We kill them."
He lifts one leg, then the other, rocking from side to side, like he's digesting what I've said.
"What do you want from me?"
"To inform the others. If you or other birds spot them, come and tell us. We can't cover the distances you do, we have to be close to sense them. We know they are out there, when they sense us, they come to kill us. We aren't concerned about that, they are abusing humans who cannot resist their control, frequently the young."
"They are not your young, why care?"
"We see all the young as our young. It isn't your way, it is ours."
"Killing them is better, they sometimes kill us for pleasure. I will deliver the message. How do we find you?"
"Come here and wait. We will be around from time to time each day, almost always at night. Best to send an owl, an eagle if one is around. I don’t communicate as well with pigeons, jays, or sparrows. Crows are okay."
"Crafty, but more intelligent. There are many of what you call Shadows, you going to kill them all? If you kill one with every new sun, it will take ten thousand suns."
"Then we need to get busy."
I earn a fresh blink, he flaps his wings, off to the sky. We don't flap, so we walk down to Venice Beach. Shutters is in Santa Monica, a mile plus to Venice. It's all Los Angeles.
"Look, it's José and Jimmy. Let's see if our disguises were good enough last time. I was in a robe when we were trying to get people to open up about the Rose murder. You had dyed hair and contacts, we both kept on sunglasses."
We walk up to their table, still selling one of a kind Hollywood memorabilia, which when it's sold is replaced by an identical one of a kind piece the next day.
José, "Ladies, you like movies, Hollywood. Got some items from movie sets and stars. Sweaters, bracelets, cups, ashtrays all authentic. My pal Jimmy," he points to Jimmy in his wheelchair, "used to be a stunt man, had an accident, but he's got friends in the business who supply us."
Last time, Jimmy told me he was in Vietnam and earned his paralysis in the war. Stuntman is a much better story, more Hollywoody.
"We have friends making a movie, never been to Venice and Santa Monica before, so we came to see what southern California is all about. So far, it's all about beautiful."
Jimmy, "What's the movie?"
"A squeal to one called Ultra Violet."
"We saw that, girl with a katana, she's really good. She's a model too, right?"
José, "Yeah dude, that's Chloe Sylk, she's hot. We saw that other flick, she got her start with a bit part. Gay detective, I remember a girl doing a pole dance, man, I wanted to be the pole. Then a dressing room scene that melted my brain."
Jimmy, "You know the girl, Chloe?"
"I guess so, she lives with us."
"Get outta town. Who's the other babe, the dancer? Wait...didn't she write the book?"
"Yep. She wrote Ultra Violet too, as a vehicle for Chloe."
Jimmy, "You know her too?"
"I guess so, she lives with us," I'm feeling redundant.
"How many people hate you?"
I laugh, "More than a few, my girlfriends help me get over it."
José, "Don't be tellin' me, these two," points to Janah and Eloise, "they live with you?"
"Damn. Hol' up....the writer, she writes gay crime novels, then does an action film with Chloe where she has a short lesbian scene. Am I stacking the blocks right?"
"We are queer as queer gets."
Jimmy, "So there's," he does a quick calc, "five gorgeous lesbians living together?"
Jimmy chokes, José says, "Tell me the other four are regular people."
"The other four are regular people, two are twins, but they're regular twins as far as I know."
Jimmy, "Let me sneak up on this from another angle, are you a regular person?"
"José, her idea of regular is not your idea of regular."
Chapter Seventy Two
We continue our sojourn, José and Jimmy have no clue who we are. Last time, we were disguised because we were hunting a killer at the behest of Joan Wayne, our forensic expert friend. A sociopathic puke trust fund baby skinned a girl, yes, skinned as in flayed, because he thought the dancer he wanted should want him, not Rose. Rose is the dead girl.
This time we're here as ourselves, to enjoy the place while Amaya gets her movie filmed.
Janah, "Time for a break, I'm feeling snacky."
"Let's go to James' Beach, we can have appetizers or dessert."
It's near four o'clock, the place is half empty. Eloise and I share shrimp cocktails and fried calamari, there's a mac and cheese appetizer for Janah. Eloise has a pale ale from Hawaii called Fire Rock, Janah a glass of house red.
Eloise, "This beer is really good, has a citrus flavor, take a sip Janah."
Janah, "Wow, that's nice, I'm going to have one, you up for another?"
They get two more, we don't have much beer at home, sometimes Asahi or Sapporo with Mexican. Japanese beer with fajitas, that’s us, we are the world.
"Didn't know you were a beer girl Eloise."
"Daria got me started on vodka, I used to drink beer all the time. I'm going to try out some of the new ones when we get home, Fire Rock has renewed my interest."
Janah, "Good, I'll join your beer sampling, be fun."
We settle up, brisk walk back, it's near five thirty, just as we climb the steps I hear Amaya in my head, "Pulling up to the hotel, we are bushed, I need vodka, immediately."
"Meet us in the Living Room, I'll snag a table."
The Living Room is Shutters lobby casual restaurant. We have breakfast here if we don't do room service, sometimes dinner, or at their upscale One Pico restaurant.
"Daphne!, Janah!, Eloise!" Chloe is feeling enthusiastic, she always feels enthusiastic, Chloe is the happiest person on the planet.
Amaya, "She has me to sleep with, of course she is the happiest person on the planet."
"Hello gorgeous, how's the movie business?"
The waiter has a tray of drinks, vodkas for three, champagne for Janah, I'm the Diet Coke, woohoo, I do add a wedge of lime to spice up my life.
Amaya sips, "God I need that. What a day, on the set at daybreak, nonstop racing around town. lunch in the car on the way to the next location. Chloe was a champ, nailed her lines, chopped up bad guys and I made her look devastating doing it."
Janah, "You're off tonight? I know there are some evening shoots."
Amaya, "Childers does a super job of organization. Movies are not made in the sequence you see them, I suppose everyone knows that. He has a crew setting up the next location while we shoot the current one. By the time we arrive at the new spot, it is get out of the car, film the scene. There is little waiting to change the set, very little take one, two and three. There is take one, maybe two. He does not do take three. His actors are expected to know what they are supposed to do when the camera rolls."
"Nikko will be happy to know there's no waste."
"It is why I stick with Harry, he gets it. He loves working with Chloe. She has her stuff down, she is not on time, she is ahead of time, cheerful, the cast and crew adore her. They cannot help themselves, I created her from the ground up, I do not create less than perfection."
Chloe, "The people have been splendid, the crew says it's more like fun than work."
Janah, "You're shooting on the street a lot, not in a studio, attracting a crowd?"
"It's LA, people see this stuff all the time."
Amaya, "Chloe's fans must have an underground network. They show up at every location. She must have had her picture taken a thousand times."
"Doesn't that interfere with the schedule?"
Amaya, "She visits while something else is being filmed. I must have handled hundreds of cell phone cameras, it is a miracle I do not catch some obscure disease."
"We don't get sick."
"Only fair, I am sure to get carpal tunnel finger from taking all the pictures. And I have to repeatedly say do not mug for the camera, just look natural, like whoever and Chloe are besties having a chat. I will not have her in typical teen shots doing stupid faces, no tongues hanging out. Who in hell thought that was a good idea?"
"They're teenage girls, they do what everyone else does, like an idiot virus."
"Well, Chloe is not getting infected. The best part is the absence of paparazzi. Chloe has so many photos published there is zero money in another shot. Mayumi sends Huffington and Daily Beast photos fornothing. The LA times came around, interviewed Childers and Chloe. They tried for me, no dice."
Eloise, "Wouldn't it help to interview the author?"
"First, this was written for Chloe. Second, me as a reclusive mystery is more of a draw than doing a bunch of vapid interviews. Third, I risk getting written off as a babe with a babe girlfriend. The quality of the writing is overshadowed by the hot girl thing. I get all the attention I need from our family. If you start to slack, I shall be forced to do another nude scene. I'll do it with Daphne and millions of women will dump men and become lesbians."
Eloise giggles, I hear Dasha in my head, "Eemaya ees making ridiculous. You will tell her."
"Dasha says Eemaya ees making ridiculous."
"And you tell that communist brat that Ah-my-ya is making a movie that will flood us with money and put Chloe on the A-list."
I mental Dasha, "Shall I tell her how you are expanding our real estate empire in San Francisco?"
"Nyet, Nikko will like to tell story to fahmahley. She ees work hard, Daria says we will be even more expanding. Let Eemaya haf her fun. Moovey ees gud for Vesnushki, but ees small tomato compared to Murakami Sylk."
"Dasha says it makes Daria happy that you are doing such a good thing for Vesnushki and the family."
Amaya, "How sweet. Chloe is having Daria withdrawal, when do they get in?"
"I have to get Chloe fed and rested. We're here, shall we have dinner?"
Simplest thing to do, we order, get a further update on the filming while we eat. I can see Chloe and Amaya are tired. After dinner they escape to their room, another early call tomorrow. Janah, Eloise and I are still on New York time, going to bed at nine is like midnight on our body clock. In our room, we deconstruct, refresh and collapse into bed.