Chapter Seventy Three IV
The rest of our night was rest, up early, on the road at seven. Tallahassee is the closest big airport. Two and a half hour drive, US Air at eleven, short layover in Charlotte, into Newark at three. We check no luggage, carried bags with a couple of books and air snacks. Our clothes, the swords, additional shuriken and dart gun are driven by Transportation, in relays, just like they were delivered to Houston at the start.
Chapmans security calls, “Boxes for you,” Nikko and I retrieve them.
Janah, “Everything okay?”
We’re examining our swords, “Need polishing, and the edge honed and dusted. Nothing they weren’t designed to handle. The rest of the stuff is here too. What we put in is what arrived. Good old Transportation.”
Janah, “If those katana had gone missing….but it’s not like you could carry them on the plane, and we can’t run the risk of TSA people rifling through checked bags and stumbling on swords, shuriken and a heavy duty air gun.
“The box didn’t stop moving from New Orleans until it arrived here. We trust Transportation with our identities, to clean the vehicles, make sure what we need is where we need it. This was tracked every step of the way with a GPS in the box. Two transfers and it’s here.”
Janah, “I ordered new sets of working clothes today, I got you four of everything, gloves, kneecaps, new hair extensions, face paint, contacts, the whole schmear.”
Mrs. Epstein calls, “Dear girls. What did you do? The entire Gulf Coast is in an uproar. Traffic, phone and internet is buzzing between police departments from Corpus to Florida.”
Janah giggles, “I sat around, provided a bit of distraction in Texas and Louisiana in a mousey brown outfit, with mousey brown hair. Up against the garish locals, I might as well have been invisible. Man, they have some slowpokes in south Louisiana. If they aren’t dumb as algae, they are so full of shit it bubbles out their ears. And the women. Ugly blonde with brown roots is the state color, followed by red so horrid I doubt there’s a name for it.”
Mrs. Epstein and her husband burst out in laughter.
Dr. Epstein, “They must have been in a class by themselves, I rarely hear you so disparaging of a whole group of people.”
“They are in a class by themselves alright, low. Randy Newman wrote a song called Rednecks. One line is, ‘college men from LSU, went in dumb, come out dumb too,’ he pegged that crowd.”
Dr. Epstein, “As I recall, the song went on to talk about some bad northern behavior as well.”
“Oh, we have our share of the trash heap. It was just unusual to see it all heaped up in one place, a swampy spot in the road called Madisonville. We’ve seen dopes in Montana, other dopes, and dope heads, in Tennessee, the body building boys, but this was a mixed bag. It wasn’t that the locals were malicious. They were just so….nothing. Like a roomful of zombie vampire leeches, all sucking the blood out of each other, then eating what’s left.”
Mrs. Epstein, “You do have a way with words.”
I shrug, “Is there any suggestion of us in the cop traffic, in any recognizable way?”
Dr. Epstein, “The swords left the impression of an Asian gang. The Louisiana crowd is generally glad to be done with the bikers, there’s nothing being investigated in any serious way. No complaints, nothing to investigate. Somebody torched the motorcycles, but the bikers aren’t complaining and the few witnesses they managed to round up claimed they were so drunk as to be unsure of anything. Probably true. The Texas Rangers are being a bit more persistent, but they have spit to go on and they aren’t real upset about a beat up biker gang, a dead Asian with a sword or a demolished BMW.”
Mrs. Epstein, “If any of the locals, or even the staties get too interested, we’ll intervene with a Homeland Security investigation. This is just aftermath gossip. It will be forgotten in a week. Other solvable cases will come up. Cops aren’t looking for long fruitless investigations. Relentless detectives spending private time to satisfy their curiosity, see justice done, is stuff for novels. There were two bikers, one from Houston, one from Louisiana, who knew each other. They wheeled around trying to put pieces together, stirred the pot a bit. We sent in another team. Bikers decided they needed to see friends on the West coast.”
Janah, “Nothing to look over our shoulders about then.”
Mrs. Epstein, “No. And there won’t be. The volume of interested parties is keeping us busy for the time being. It will all be gone soon. Take a month, no, two, to enjoy your temple and schools. We are investigating a project, but it’s at least two months from verification. Not as spread out as the last one, more contained, but….”
“Perhaps more dangerous?”
“Can’t say just yet.”
Dr. Epstein, “Black and Chan have a partner and a wife, how are they with this?”
“Sonia and Ning understand there are limits to questions. They accept that it’s for their own safety.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Then it’s not like a common television show, where the woman is perpetually nagging her man because he spends time away from home and doesn’t slather her in attention all day?”
“Ning and Sonia must have forgotten the needy woman code. Maybe I’ll remind them to whine more often.”
Janah, “Better start with our parents. They don’t ask nearly enough questions, and never complain about not being told much.”
“Looks like I have my two months planned out for me. Let’s see…I’ll need a course title, ‘How to be Clingy and Bitch about Inattention.’ Maybe I’ll write a book.”
Nikko, “Women already living that book.”
I laugh, “Good point. Maybe, ‘How to Manipulate Your Man.’”
Nikko stares at me.
“Okay, I get it. Everything on the subject is already in Cosmopolitan for the fifty millionth time.”
Nikko, “Or that absurd sadness of a television show.’
Mrs. Epstein, “What television show?’
Janah, “Sex in the City. Nishiko despises it from every possible angle. And we only watched it twice. Once to see what it was about, then once again to make sure we just hadn’t stumbled on a particularly bad episode. We hadn’t, they’re all bad episodes.”
Mrs. Epstein laughs, Dr. Epstein asks what’s so funny.
“I have acquaintances who love that program, went to see the subsequent movie. They are, to a woman, the most senseless twits in Manhattan, maybe the world.”
Nikko, “Explains why they like the show.”
“Next I plan on making Nishiko suffer through the Twilight series. How many soap operas can you write about vampires? If Nikko meets Anne Rice, she’s going to personally put a stake through her heart.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Rice didn’t write the Twilight series, Daphne.”
“No, but she resurrected a genre that should have stayed buried. In Interview with a Vampire, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt look like two gay guys going to a crappy costume party.”
Janah, “Okay, you’ve trashed enough stupid entertainment for one evening. Time to go. Mrs. E, thanks for the quick response, the locals cops didn’t know what hit them when the mystery Feds showed up.”
“That’s what we do dear, remove obstacles before they become obstacles. Our network was delighted to have this cleared up so efficiently. No arrests, no court, no plea bargains no cost to imprison.”
They ring off.
“Daphne, please get Nikko and I a glass of red, I need to work on her arm before we go to bed.”
Chapter Seventy Four IV
“Death twitches my ear. ‘Live,’ he says, ‘I am coming.’”
I walk into the bedroom after hair drying, “I thought you were going to work on Nikko’s arm?”
Janah’s head is buried between Nikko’s elegant legs, “Figured it would be best to relax her first.”
Janah and Nikko lay panting, Janah gasps, “Jagger was wrong, I can always get what I want.”
I am using a most delightful toy on myself, “Maybe you’re just getting what you need….hang on, I’ll be back after a short commercial message,” I squirm and moan though my own version of a self help program. I like it when the girls watch. However, being alone doesn’t stop me either. I like getting done, and I like DIY. I decide what I like is orgasms, no need to complicate things. Occam wouldn't, why should I?
Nishiko murmurs in Janah’s ear, “I love to watch Daphne get herself off. Her turn on is one of my favorite turn ons.”
Janah giggles, “I know the feeling. Only one thing is better.”
Nikko, “Yes. And tomorrow I will make sure she gets what else she needs. Want to help?”
Janah, “You betcha.”
Soft kisses around for a time, a deep dreamless sleep.
Nikko is with Mrs. Fong, Janah and I at the temple, Chan at home with his family. This evening to the condo to check in with the moms and James before we’re disinherited.
Janah visits with Master Sung, not entirely bedridden now, but not able to move far or fast.
“The temple is in good order, I’ve reviewed the books, and the investments. For impoverished monks, you have a very healthy investment account.”
Sung, “Due to you and Master Sylk. Take me to watch practice, then go see Master Hue. He asks for you now, he is ready to go beyond. He waits only for his beloved Master J to visit.”
I feel Janah feel the sorrow of his imminent passing. He taught her so much, had been the solid ground of her time here. Tan opened and strengthened her mind, Sung had slowly given her responsibility and authority, Chu and Zhang put she and me on the road to extraordinary qi skills. Hue, however, had been the rock. He and his garden, his birds and insects. He opened to her a world she never imagined.
She makes her way around the meditation hall to the gardens. Hue is on a cot, in the room where he taught her to make innumerable potions, liniments and medications. The room, a covered three walled shed really, where he worked for over sixty years before we showed up. David is there, she hugs him tightly. David has taken over the gardens and preparations, as well as generally overseeing Janah’s two schools. He has a busy life, still a contemplative, spends hours in study, or alone in no mind.
Hue’s eyes brighten, “My student turned my Abbess. It warms my heart to see you well. So many to protect, to defend. Your lot in life has taken a different turn from my simple gardening. My hope is that you will one day be relieved of the burden.”
Janah, “My work is light with the help of many hands. My main job is to use your medicines to heal the workers.”
Hue, “You know as well as I that medicine without love is poison.”
Janah, “As you have taught.”
Hue, “Some water please, for the journey.”
Janah gives him a cup, helps him hold it while he drinks. She puts the cup on a shelf, holds the old one’s hand and strokes his brow. His skin is cold, he is leaving her. She is silent, David cross legged on the floor across from her.
Hue does not open his eyes, says only as he passes on, “The chatter of the garden, the universe in a single flower. Are you listening?”
She waits a minute, then two, not wanting to do what she has to do. She presses her fingertips against the side of his neck, nothing. Hue is no longer bound by a body and a mind.
Janah weeps, as she had when Tan passed, she hears his voice, cranky and compassionate, “Do not weep for the dead, girl; weep for the living.”
She cries, not for Hue, but for her loss, she knows that. She cries just the same.
I wait outside the shed. Janah emerges, we hug, I wipe her tears, kiss her, my heart aches Janah’s pain.
“We need to tell Sung, make arrangements.”
Janah, “I will tell him what he no doubt knows. Will you organize the schedules?”
I leave with David to inform Khan, call Black and Chan. There will be three days of silent meditation in shifts, no practice. Everyone in the temple has at one time or another been healed, soothed or relieved of the endless aches and pains of practice, illness and accidents because of Hue’s potions and care.
Janah sits next to Sung, he stares at the gung fu training, “If you are here, then Hue is not. He was older than I, but, after my injuries, I thought he might linger beyond me. He has trained your David well, and now David trains his namesake, David Li. They will be formidable healers.”
Sung is quiet for another minute, then, “You know, I never knew David’s surname, did he ever tell you?”
Janah, “No, we never asked. Black has always just been Black, I don’t have any idea if it’s his real, last or first name. Same with David. Chan told me his last name was Li a long time ago, he was a child then. Their family is the temple, names don’t much matter here.”
Sung, “Here, we all have the same name.”
I call the moms, Sis answers, I give her the news.
I hear my mother’s soft weeping, “I’m so sorry. That man was a blessing. We worked to create his book, his infinite patience, and all he taught Janah, then David. I know you have to stay. I’ll tell the others. May I come and sit for a while. I feel as if I lost a beloved grandfather.”
“He would be pleased to have you here. I’m pretty well connected with the Abbess, I think I can swing it.”
Susan smiles, her daughter is hurting, still, maintains her sense of proportion. I recall Ms. Alva’s words, ‘we live, then we die, that’s how it is.’
Nikko stays at the temple, Chan and Black are here. Ning comes with Susan. They sit with the monks for the day, then return to their families.
Susan and Ning visit Ning’s family and take Miyako with them to see Mrs. Fong,
“I heard old Hue died. Sad, one of the best Masters. A true Shaolin, compassionate, kind, radiating love, like White Angel, the Shaolin Abbess who is not even a Shaolin priest. Crazy Shaolin, make rules then ignore them.”
Ning, “When a bodhisattva walks among us, what are rules?”
Mrs. Fong, “Of course, you are right. White Angel is beyond Shaolin, beyond a name. Foolish old lady losing it. Where is my Nishiko? Tending to her mistress, of course. I am blessed by the company of Ning, Miss Susan and Miyako. Old lady does nothing but complain, I am getting tired of myself.”
Susan, “Daphne and Janah are not tired of you, neither are your great grandchildren. So you are obliged to live many more years and guide them with your wisdom.”
Mrs. Fong, “You are kind to say so. Besides, I have to look out for old Sung now. Master Hue is gone, Master Chu is very old, soon to join ancestors as well. Sung has cared for grouchy old lady many, many years, before the two as one. Now I will care for him. It is my duty and my privilege.”
Susan, “Janah is most grateful for it. Your help with Sung is much appreciated.”
Fong, “They will have work again, two months, three at the longest. Hopefully not very long.”
Susan, “How do you….?”
Then she lets the question die away. There is nothing Mrs. Fong does not know, at least nothing of any consequence.
Mrs. Fong is singing Miyako a song in Chinese, the waiter brings soup and vegetables with brown rice and garlic sauce. Ning and Susan enjoy the best food in Chinatown in silence and gratitude.
The week passes quietly. For three days we’re in eight hour shifts of meditation. Off hours are spent in study, then sleep. I’m busy in the kitchen, there are off hour meals due to the varied schedule. Cooking or cleaning between naps. Beginning the fourth day, there are two days of silent study, then routine temple life starts on the sixth. Hue’s ashes are spread in the garden by Janah, in the silence of the night. The plants weep quietly, then silent joy when his ashes join them in the earth.
Chapter Seventy Five IV
Nikko goes to see Mrs. Fong on business. Chan joins her, after inspecting recent repairs, she has a meeting with a prospective tenant for warehouse space.
Nikko’s radar twitches when only the lawyer for the client shows up.
Nikko, “Our policy is to meet the tenant and to discuss the nature of the materials to be stored. I’m sure you understand in these difficult times.”
The lawyer says, “Not really. I could say it was anything, and just put crates in the warehouse. Why be difficult? Is it the rent? We can perhaps discuss a more profitable arrangement.”
Nikko’s trouble radar blips, “Not interested. Thank you and your client for considering us,” she rises, “good day.”
The lawyer ignores her dismissal, “My client will be disappointed, and he’s not a man who takes disappointment easily.”
Her short fuse burns out, “How he handles his feelings is irrelevant.”
The man opens his mouth, sees Nikko’s eyes, shuts it and leaves.
Nikko, “Follow him. Find out who his client is.”
Chan exits, calls me on his cell, “I need three monks to tail a lawyer. I know who the lawyer is, don’t know who the client is. Nikko wants to find out.”
“Where are you? Never mind, leave the phone on. We’ll GPS you, the monks will be there in a few minutes.”
Ten minutes later, Chan is joined by two men and a woman in street clothes. He gives them the lawyer’s business card, describes the man and shows them a profile shot on his cell phone They disappear into the crowd of Mott Street, head to mid-town.
I call Mrs. Epstein, give her an abbreviated version, the lawyer’s name and his firm.
Mrs. Epstein, “We’ll check up on him. I agree with Nishiko, this smells and we don’t want tenants that bring in their stink. Hopefully, it’s minor.”
“Never a dull moment,” Janah’s absorbing information coming in from monks and Mrs. Epstein’s research.
The monks watch the building, infiltrate it and wait for the lawyer to move. They have a listening device, sound amplifiers they can set up across the room or across the street. It’s hand held, portable. Meanwhile, the Society has his phones monitored, he arranges to meet a nameless client at a local Indian restaurant. The monks sit two tables over, have lunch. The three linger another few minutes until the man leaves, then one monk follows the lawyer back to his office, the other two tail the second man. Two blocks from the restaurant, he gets into a waiting black car, heads uptown.
The monks turn the equipment over to Chan, he says they should return to the temple, warning them to be sure they aren’t followed. They walk off in the opposite direction of Chinatown, text their brother tailing the lawyer. It vibrates silently in his pocket. He reads the message, returns to the temple
Mrs. Epstein correlates the listening devices with the earlier phone call. Same voices. The client grouses, ‘why does the Japanese care what goes into her warehouse as long as the rent is paid?’
The lawyer tries to placate him, “She’s actually following the regulations. After 911, Homeland Security and every other agency wants to know what’s being stored where. Particularly in Manhattan.”
The client, a fat, broad shouldered man, over forty, but otherwise age indeterminate, declines to ask more questions, “I’ve got other options.”
The lawyer asks, wanting to retain the fat fees that come along with the fat man, ‘Why does it have to be Manhattan, we can get space in Jersey, or Brooklyn, cheaper even.’
Lawyers are trained to ask questions. Sometimes they ask one too many. He tries to backpedal, ‘I know, it’s not my business. I don’t want to know. Do you want me to search for more, uh, cooperative space in the city?’
‘No, we no longer require your services.’
We hear a chair scrape, no more conversation.
Janah, “Find the fat man. He’s going to have grievous bodily harm done to the attorney. We need to know who his hired help is, and we need to get to the attorney before his body parts are spread around the Hudson.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Paid him a lot of money just to kill him.”
Janah, “He was going to die either way. The fat guy is on the wrong side. I don’t know what he’s up to, but being in the city is important to him. The next move is obvious.”
“Perhaps to you.”
“Think about it. He wanted less than two thousand square feet. He wanted it on a lower floor, if not the ground, second level. Didn’t need restrooms, stoves or refrigerators. He went for a densely populated area. Chinatown is packed with residents and tourists from morning until late at night. It doesn’t slow down until after ten. If you can’t rent warehouse space without a fair number of questions, what’s being stored, is it toxic, or flammable, what kind of access do you need, just daytime or twenty four hours? What’s the next alternative?”
Mrs. Epstein, “Rent an apartment.”
Janah, “We have a winner.”
Dr. Epstein, “Wonder why he didn’t just do that in the first place?”
“I can only guess. Price, leases asking for more information, harder to move in bulk items, harder to have different people coming and going, leads to more questions. Plus he wants open space, not a bunch of rooms.”
Nikko, “So why don’t we give him what he wants?”
“That’s brilliant. Then we can creep in and find out what he’s doing with it. One detail.”
“How do we get him interested in the space without giving away our game.”
“Yeah, what’s the plan?”
Nikko, “He’s going to use his other options. He won’t try the lawyer route again. When we figure out who he assigns the job, we follow that person and intercept his phone calls. They will be routed to Daphne Real Estate. You ask what they are looking for, what kind of space. Whatever apartment they call about, you tell them it’s not suited to their purposes, you know a better spot.”
“Dang, can we do that?” I look at Mrs. Epstein.
“Piece of cake. When he dials a number, we are listening. If it’s a leasing agent they’ll answer with the name of the company. We cut that line, you’re on the line instead. If he gets through to a landlord, or his representative, we still have the number. We do our Homeland Security thing and the landlord gets to help protect his country from a potential terrorist threat.”
Janah, “Once we know what he’s up to, the Society can pass along the information to the right department, they catch the bad guy, get the credit and fat boy never knows what hit him.”
I kiss Nikko, “Sly Japanese. I’m going to keep a close eye on you when we get home.”
Nikko whispers in my ear, “When we get home, your eyes will be closed and your thoughts far from a devious plan. You won’t have any thoughts at all.”
I, suddenly quite cheerful, say to the group, “Well, enough planning for one night. I think Nishiko needs to rest. I hop up, so, unless there’s anything else….”
Mrs. Epstein laughs, hand over her mouth, says to no one in particular, “Is there no limit to the amount of attention she can take?”
Janah, “Not that we’ve been able to find. And, boy, we’ve tried.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Well then, I see you have plans, I’ll get our people on the fat man and his buddies. Tomorrow may be an early start, so Daphne Real Estate needs to be ready.”
“I’ll put on my best New York accent, and slather myself in makeup. I’ll need to add about ten years and a layer of extra girth.”
Janah, “I can get you twenty pounds heavier, and stuffed into a business suit. You don’t have enough cleavage, but we can’t fix everything. You’ll be fine”
She turns to Mrs. Epstein, “We’ll need a three year old Cadillac, not trashed, but not exactly freshly detailed either. Can you get that by ten tomorrow?”
Mrs. Epstein, “It’ll be parked in the Chapman’s garage, be sure to tell security it’s coming, we’ll leave the keys with them.”
As we leave, I practice my accent, “Whateva, and Lonkiland, a regular cawfee, no suga. Let’s go down the Battry, I know a guy. He’s got moichindize you can’t get at no price, da real stuff, not no knockoff crap. Gimmie ya phone, hon, I’ll cawl ahead.”
Mrs. Epstein is laughing when we close the door. She looks at her husband, “Those girls have no fear. The trust they have in each other, my God.”
Dr. Epstein, “And we have to honor the trust they have in us. You realize the places we put them, how they just take on faith we’ll deliver what they need, when they need it?”
Mrs. Epstein shifts to serious, “Oh, that’s a given. If there’s ever a problem, it will NOT be something we failed them on. We’ve spent years building markers on markers. Very rich and powerful people owe us, other very rich and powerful people want us to succeed, even overachieve. No matter what, we will come through.”
Chapter Seventy Six IV
The plan goes according to plan. Two days later, I’m showing an apartment on the second floor of a thirty story complex on 3rd Avenue uptown, in the eighties. It’s going to be rehabbed, the place is virtually gutted, the rooms are there, but no appliances. Originally a three bedroom, with a large kitchen and dining area, a wall had been removed between two bedrooms, making another bigger room.
The man I’m showing it to is a reed thin oily haired Turk. His English is good. I look the part of the quintessential New York real estate saleswoman, bleach blond wig, globs of makeup, Janah made me chunky with two pairs of adult diapers and a Kevlar vest. My arms are in a suit jacket that stretches over three bulky sweaters. Hands are difficult to make fat, so I covered them in fake diamond rings with thick bands. My legs filled the suit pants from three sets of bulk knit thigh highs I wear under a pair of sweatpants.
“Qi comes in handy when I’m layered in enough crap to be my own sweat lodge.”
“Well, the good news is that you look late thirties and chunky. Hope the client doesn’t have a thing for overweight middle age women.”
I tell the client, “So hea’s the thing. The owna’s property rich and cash poor. He was remodeling this place when real estate prices took a dive. So he’s just lettin’ it sit. Some cash flow for a rental of an unlivable place isn’t going to break his greedy heart, if you catch my meaning. He won’t lease it for more than six months. He’s optimistic. Thinks everything will be back to normal by then. I have a lot of experience honey, this market ain’t recovering for a while. You can likely get another six months out of him, even cheaper, when the lease is up.”
Reedy asks, “He wants three thousand a month for a place that has no place?”
“Let me handle it. Whatcha willing to pay? Don’t try for no song, make a reasonable offer. I gotta convince him you just want some storage while your new place is being finished.”
Reedy, “A song, what so you mean?’
“Sorry hon, I forget you aren’t local. A song means too cheap. He’ll turn it down flat. He’s got cash flow problems, but he’s not broke. If he can pick up cash on an unlivable place for a few months, it’s gravy for him.”
Reedy, “Why does gravy have to do with it?”
I smile, “Sorry again, I mean extra, as in extra cash he wouldn’t get othawise, like free money, you know?”
Reedy, “English is very different all over your country. Of course, in many parts of the world, one country has many different languages, or dialects.”
“Yeah, dialects. Like here in the States, down south, you can’t undastand a thing they say. It’s like a different country.”
Reedy is smiling now, I’d loosened him up, don’t appear suspicious, had planted the seed that my client is just the sort of person he’s looking for. Someone who wants his money, with no interest in what the apartment is used for.
Reedy, “What do you think I should offer? So I don’t appear to be playing a song for him?”
“Ya getting’ the idea hon. Can you handle twenny six hundred? I know it’s overpriced for a nothing space, but he’ll think I put one over on a foreign sucker. Besides, the place is clean, just not painted. If you got somebody livin’ here to watch your stuff, you can rent a refrigerator and a couple of beds for the six months. It’s a good deal for the location, even if it’s just for storage. And there’s a loading dock with a service elevator. You bring up your goods, nobody knows, just a move in. Any neighbors ask, tell them you wanted to do the rehab yourself and are in negotiations with a couple of contractors. They probably won’t even ask.”
Reedy licks his lips, “We can live with that arrangement.”
He doesn’t add he has no intention of either moving in beds or refrigerators, or renewing the lease. I don’t press, I already know what he hadn’t said. These guys are going to build a very big explosive device in the apartment, and set it off with a cell phone far away from Manhattan. No martyrs, no bomb strapped to a kid. Just enough nitroglycerin, dynamite and C-4 to turn half the block into a pile of rubble at rush hour. With any luck, they would kill more people than died on 911.
“We have a dilemma.”
Janah, “Only if we let them finish loading the apartment. I have no intention of doing that. The place will have video in all the rooms, considering it’s under renovation, they’ll never notice cracks in walls or a hole poked in the sheetrock. Once we’ve confirmed our information, the Society takes the whole package to the NYPD. They get a warrant, clear the apartment, arrest the bad guys and get medals”
“Good. I really don’t want to have to enter an apartment full of who knows what and duke it out. One of them might get the idea to blow up what he can, including us.”
Janah, “Isn’t going down that way. We won’t ever be in that apartment again.”
“Why don’t we just tell them in the first place? Why risk loading an apartment with high intensity explosives?”
“Because we only think that’s what they’re doing. Maybe it’s drugs, or stolen art. We really only know they have terrorist connections, we don’t know if this is a violent terrorist attack, or simply their version of fund raising. Once we verify explosives and the location they came from, we get all the stash before much gets in the apartment.”
“A lot can go wrong.”
“If Nikko hadn’t been so careful, a lot would have gone wrong, in our own building. This is better than that.”
“How do we stay out of it? What if it comes out that they looked at our warehouse as a potential spot?”
Janah, “I didn’t say the plan was perfect. Just better.”
Boxes start moving the second day after the lease is signed. By the fourth day the men in the apartment are unloading what is clearly dynamite, fuses, very carefully handling a box that, when opened, reveals a number of glass bottles with a clear oily liquid. Nitroglycerin is also a prime ingredient in dynamite, but far more volatile in its liquid state. Then a box of what looks like bricks of pale clay, C4. They begin molding it around the windows and baseboards.
We follow the men to a house in New Jersey, surrounded by hedges, with a long gated drive. I snap photos of each going to and from the SUV, while Nikko videos. We record everything said at the house and at the apartment in Manhattan.
There is almost no talk at the house. More conversation at the apartment, most of it details about the location of the explosives, setting fuses and detonators. Based on the audio, translated from Turkish, the plan is to pack it in every room. The place is going to become a two thousand square foot bomb.
Janah calculates damage potential, “The entire building will come down, thirty stories. The collapse will kill anyone on the block outside, and it will take the adjacent buildings, one of which is twenty five stories of condos. The first floor is retail, so my guess is just before noon, or between seven and eight at night, but on a Saturday either way.
Nikko, “How powerful is C4?”
Janah, “Fifteen pounds evaporated a bus.”
Later, the phone rings, I answer, Janah is busy playing Scrabble with Miyako and Nikko, in Japanese. Miyako is winning.
I hang up, “The Turks go down tomorrow. We’re out of it, thank God. They don’t have the fuses connected, too dangerous. So a SWAT team will come in from the door and all the windows at the apartment. At the same moment, the military is going to take the house in Jersey. It would have been simpler if there was no liquid nitroglycerine, but there is. If operations don’t go smoothly, there’s going to be a hell of a bang, even with the relatively small amount moved into the apartment.”
Operations do go smoothly, not so much as a loud pop, except for the click of handcuffs and a few pleas to Allah. I go to Nikko in the living room.
"The President wants to meet the people responsible for uncovering the plot and award the Medal of Freedom. The Society declined. Mrs. Epstein said they were told to pass along the thanks of a grateful nation. But I can call her back and say that Nishiko can be available to meet the President for her medal if you wish.”
Nikko doesn’t even look up from the board, “Nikko is occupied with trying to defeat young Miyako in my native language. No time for Presidents.”
I kiss her, tell Miyako, “Aunt Nikko saved many lives. Listen to her, and you, too, will serve others by being observant….and sly.”
Miyako looks up at me, expressionless, I decide Miyako must be thinking her Aunt Daphne is losing it. She already absorbs every word her beloved Aunt Nishiko says, copies her every move. She looks back down at the board, lays out tiles of a word I can’t translate.
I ask Janah, “What did she spell?”