Chapter Seventy Three

Once Nikko and Zi are safely back at their hotel, the rest of us wind down. Janah and I followed the action mentally, did the play by play for the rest.
Dasha, “Nikko and Zi make gud acting. When do they practice?”
“Good question, the disguise was Amaya’s idea, she bought the costumes and figured out the makeup. The only other full disguise alternative might have been Goth, or our standard refocusing gear. Amaya convinced them that it would work better to sneak up on the kids with the doll thing.”
Chloe, “Amaya taught them the doll movements, they went through a few routines together. It didn’t have to be great, just enough to get the audio played. It worked almost better than they planned, the kids got caught in the dichotomy of two cute girls doing grievous bodily harm to the targets. That was the effect Amaya predicted, she nailed it.”
Amaya, “A performance artist of my caliber, child’s play to distract and confuse teen airheads.”
Dasha, “Sister says Eemaya will teach us to act like normal girls. We do not understand seempathy or emotional behaving. We can be fake to help fahmahley on work.”
Amaya, “That is brilliant Daria, I will be delighted to coach, you have come to the exact perfect person. The problem is, how to get Daria to have an actual conversation.”
Dasha, “You will teach, Daria will learn, ees not problem. Daria decide, ees decide.”
Amaya, “And can you learn to drop your accent if the situation calls for it?”
Dasha, “Of course, I do not haf much achzent, Dahfoney likes.”
I laugh, we all laugh, we know she’s been doing a role, despite knowing, we like her word jumbles. It’s as close as she can get to play.
“Don’t lose it, or I will not be so easy to manipulate.”
Dasha, “Dahfoney ees not manipulate, she ees no idiot girl, only haf seentimeental for us, does not hurt any.”
She has me pegged, Janah says, “It appears they have us figured out, and they have themselves figured out, which is the important thing. Now, it is time for all the drama girls to find their way to bed and rest, there is much to do.”
We retire to our various rooms, I don’t know what the others get up to, Janah and I curl together, merge, and fall away until morning.
I sleep a bit longer than usual, after teeth and toilet, I slip in a t-shirt and go downstairs to the kitchen, Dasha has coffee and tea underway and is making eggs and toast.
I pour myself a cup, kiss Dasha on the top of her head, “Good morning angel, thank you for getting things going.”
Dasha puts eggs, bacon, cheese grits, toast and cut fruit on the table, “I make only scrahmbulled today, fahmahley haf beezness, Nikko and Zi coming home this afternoon.”
Chloe and Amaya join us, “Where’s Daria?”
Dasha, “Coming.”
Daria appears, Dasha hands her a plate, she eats while Dasha and I clear the table, I wash pans by hand while she loads the dishwasher and fires it up.
“What are you two going to do today?”
“Eemaya ees to teach. After lunch, maybe to roof and practice, you will bring Janah home in time.”
“We should be done after lunch, I’ll mention it to her.”
At the temple, Janah makes arrangements for visitors, a Chinese business delegation of three, and two embassy staffers. They’ll come for an hour on Thursday. Arrangements only means informing the monks who might be directly involved, we have visitors regularly, it doesn’t alter training routines. Armando will have tea, Chinese pastries and cookies, they are scheduled for three, so will see hard gung fu practice, visit the herb and vegetable garden, perhaps the meditation hall. Janah and I will escort them around, answer questions, other than that, it’s a normal day.
I spend the time helping with lunch preparation, tofu and veg stir fry today, won ton soup, won tons with mock duck instead of pork. French bread and butter. It feels good to be rattling pots and pans in our kitchen.
Janah finishes up calls to Society contacts, an FBI district office agent in California, a tech specialist in DC. A captain in the LA police department, an assistant deputy police commissioner in Chicago, an NSA analyst. These are simple touch base calls, no top secret or bottom secret information is exchanged.
The way the system works, and the reason it works, is that we only ask for expedited favors in emergencies. If one of our people gets tangled up with local authorities, their first call isn’t to an attorney, it’s to a Society operator. They call Janah, she talks to someone high in the food chain, or someone with contacts near to the snafu. Out of the blue, whatever problem our field people are having disappears.
Like when we rescued Amaya in Bermuda. Janah called Mrs. Epstein, within the hour Janah had the full cooperation of the Royal Bahamas Police superintendent handling the missing girl case. We solved the problem, Chief Superintendent Deleveaux got credit, Constable Timothy Pearce got a promotion, we got Amaya, who was Taylor Darien until she changed her name. (See Book VI for the whole story.)
What greases the skids is that any one of our contacts can call the Society, operators are standing by, in an emergency, call Janah directly. She’s not Janah to them, she’s Ms. Pearson. If they have a snag, red tape, or other complication, she can frequently cut it away by calling other contacts in the network. Contacts don’t know each other, the Society is the clearing house, everyone insulated from everyone else.
The network also includes people in state social service and health agencies or local police and judicial authorities who deal with abuse, spousal or child. When the problem is either being ignored, or is only suspect, it comes through the network and the Society investigates. We do it differently, we are not constrained by search warrants, legal wire taps, court orders, Miranda warnings or attorneys. Much simpler to collect evidence when the process is streamlined. Since the evidence we get is usually inadmissible in court, we send out Social Skills teams to rehabilitate the abuser. They use any level of pressure they deem necessary. We don’t read targets their rights, with us, they don’t have any. Court has already been in session, the verdict is guilty.
It’s rather amazing how quickly people become enlightened after a few broken bones or detached body parts. Compassion, or a reasonable semblance of same, can be taught, although the lesson can be hard. Usually, they heal to partial functionality and seldom revert to poor behavior patterns. A rare subsequent offense results in the inability to feed themselves, much less hurt someone.
After lunch, Janah and I walk back to the apartment, it’s only a couple of miles from our West Village home to the temple. Down Canal St. to Varick, take a right, up to Bleeker, there you are at 10th. Susan’s condo is on Perry St. a two and a half  blocks north.
We have a couple of hours until tea, I suit up for kendo, Nikko and Chloe are doing kata.
Dasha comes down, I’d forgotten to check with Janah, I go online, “J, I was supposed to tell you that Dasha would like to tumble and do gymnastics. We have the workout room in use, it has to be the roof.”
“Picked it up when you talked to her, I’m changing now.”
“Janah will be along in a sec, Dasha.”

She blinks, I giggle. She looks so cute, multicolor leotard, gymnastic shoes, ankles wrapped in tape. She hands me the tape, I do her wrists, she must be planning uneven bars today. Janah will spot her when she get around to that, she doesn’t miss the bars much, but it happens.
An hour and a half of kendo, I’m repeatedly poked and swatted by Nikko, hold my own against Chloe. We do free form, Nikko takes on the both of us. There is no free form as such in kendo, it’s all ritualized and the action stops with every point, then the contestants take the starting position again. Points only count when you strike a certain part of the body. We think it’s helpful to go at it, like a swordfight in the unpredictable world, without rules or referees.
It’s near impossible to get a point on Nikko one on one, and we don’t do much better two against one. If it was a real fight, with sharp objects, Chloe and I would be sashimi.
“Tea in a half hour, do you still plan on a ceremony?”
Chloe, “Yes, no time for kimono, but we will have it at the low table with entertainment.”
We part to our showers, Janah and Dasha came through fifteen minutes earlier, Dasha had a slight limp but at least isn’t unconscious, no bones stick out.
Janah’s bubbling in the tub, I strip and shower, we finish together, do a quickie blow dry and slip into light silk robes.
“You look tasty in that little robe, sheer enough to hint at the delectable parts underneath, not so sheer as to display them.”
Janah, “The silk feels so soft, I love these things. I’m also hungry, Dasha gave me a heck of a workout, her focus has focus.”
A few minutes later we’re sipping tea, Chloe and Amaya prepare thick tea first, we do our required admiration and compliments, then snack on sweets and have thin tea while Chloe plays shamisen and Amaya sings. They perform a duet of shamisen and flute, Nikko plays shamisen while Chloe and Amaya dance.
The unemotional twins retain their perpetual expressionless expressions, but they watch the performances entranced. Something about the music, Amaya’s singing, the beauty of the dance, relaxes their fact based, literal minds. I can see the tension subside, shoulders drop, faces soften. Feelings are in there somewhere, maybe buried deep, maybe not a lot, but something stirs.
Dasha, “Eemaya, Vesnushki and Nishiko are gud.”
Amaya flutters her fan, peeks out from behind it, bows, Chloe sits on her knees next to Daria, kisses her cheek and strokes her silky blond hair. We are silent, each of us still within, not thinking our own thoughts, not in thought at all, being.
A half hour passes as nothing, I get up and start to clear away cups and tea utensils, Chloe, “Amaya and I will take care of the things, I’m sure Dasha and you have dinner to arrange.”
Dasha and I move to the dining table to plot dinner, I have fresh trout, everyone loves macaroni and cheese, Dasha suggests a warm spinach salad, we have Hagen Daz, hot fudge if they want it, brownies and cookies. I think we’re covered.
“What part do you want tonight?”
Dasha, “I make mahcahroney, you will make spinach, feesh is to pan fry?”
“Suppose we deep fry it, seems to go better with mac and cheese.”
Dasha, “Then cut feesh into slices for fry, cornmeal and flour for bahter feesh?”
“You remember the mix?”
“Da.”
Cornmeal gives the batter more crunch, she adds my cayenne-habanero mix, a healthy dose of black pepper, onion and garlic powder, a touch of salt. We don’t add much salt during cooking, they can sprinkle on more to taste, if you start with too much you can’t unsalt it. For fried fish, I make tartar sauce, also catsup with a squeeze of lemon, hot horseradish and Japanese spicy mayo. We like our food spicy, even sizzling. For the fearless, there’s Tabasco habanero or habanero powder to sprinkle on.
Amaya makes cocktails, her vodka concoction, then two more for Chloe and Dasha, shaken cold with ice, and a fat pimento stuffed olive. She opens a bottle of Gosset for Janah, a simple Beaujolais for Nikko.
Daria fishes Russian Standard out of the freezer, fills a shot glass, her style of cocktail. Exciting Daphne and Zi have Coke Zero, Shaolin vow to refrain from intoxicants. We aren’t stupid about it, a sip of Janah’s champagne, or a taste of wine is not getting either of us plastered. At least we always have available designated drivers.
After cocktails, dinner is served, girls are ravenous, they wipe out the fish, there is one square of mac left, spinach salad no longer exists.
“Dang, where’d the food go? Did you guys get enough?”
Zi, “It was too good to quit eating, like Miss Alva used to say, ‘don’t eat ‘cause you’re hungry, eat ‘cause it tastes good,’ applicable to tonight’s offerings.”
“Always good to have satisfied customers.”
Amaya, “God I was such a pig, Dasha, thank you for the macaroni and cheese, I may have to kill you if I get fat.”
Chloe, “Is there dessert?”
Amaya, “How can you ask for dessert? You going for plus size model?”
Dasha holds a finger up, “Vesnushki ees steek, no mahter what, Eemaya get faht, not Vesnushki.”
Amaya, “Fat is not allowed anywhere in my vicinity. But you are correct, Chloe could eat a Humvee and not gain an ounce. Clearly there is something wrong with the universe. I am required to eat like Nikko, Chloe eats like Janah and Daphne and none of them gains an ounce. Where is justice?’
Dasha, “Eemaya ees beautiful, you must sacrifice. Get something,” her hand palm up, then palm down, “give something, no to complain.”
Amaya laughs, “I only complain to burn calories.”

Chapter Seventy Four

Thursday comes along, Janah, Zi and I are in full dress robes. The twins want time in Tan’s hut, they have zero interest in Chinese businessmen. They go off to sit, I take a peek in the kitchen, Armando has the simple offerings in order. I wait near the entrance, hear a car pull up, two disciples open the door and I greet four men in suits and a woman in a business suit, bows are exchanged.
Two are from the embassy, to simplify we’ll call them Embassy One and Two, E One introduces, Textiles, Automobiles and Electronics. Their English is reasonably fluent, Embassy One and Two practically native speakers, probably American  university grads. They look to be in their thirties, the visitors are all over sixty.
“Welcome to our temple, I am Daphne, this is Disciple Chin and Disciple Jensen. We are honored by your visit. I understand your time is short, I will take you to our Abbess.”
Along the way, I ask about their business, what province they are from, steer away from family talk, they aren’t here to make pals as far as I know. Janah was told they heard about a Shaolin temple in Chinatown and asked to see it.
“Abbess, may I introduce Mr. Textiles, Mr. Autos and Mr. Electronics, this is Ms. E One and Mr. E Two.”
Janah bows and offers welcome and greetings in Chinese, that she is honored by a visit from such distinguished leaders in their industries. She recites a short business biography of each, not them personally, but of the companies they represent, details of production, successes in employment and international trade. Nothing negative or unflattering.
Mr. Textiles, “You are well informed, did our embassy provide these details?”
E One and E Two are silent, I can see they are a little concerned, like they’ve been leaking state secrets.
Janah, “No, I only spoke to the embassy once, to arrange the time for your visit. I’m sure they do not offer up details of China’s business activities. My information comes from private resources, unrelated to the embassy, or to Shaolin. My family has its own small business interests, real estate and investment.”
The Embassies visibly relax, they’re off the hook.
Mr. Autos has been busy taking in the temple, “This is not like Shaolin temples I am familiar with. In China, they are full of tourists, and the monks perform stunts, it is all chatter and cameras.”
Janah, “Our monks do no performances, in or out of the temple, we have an annual visitors day only. Our Order is focused on Ch’an, gung fu and study. This is the practice area. Afternoons are devoted to hard gung fu, sparring and weapons practice. Morning practice is forms and technique.”
We watch the monks, disciples working with students, masters with disciples. It’s busy, not chaotic. Each waits their turn to spar, either empty hand, or long staff, nunchucks sing and shuriken fly into targets across the way.
Mr. Electronics, “I am unfamiliar with Shaolin myself. Do the monks live here?”
Janah, “Yes, everyone lives on site until it is time for them to go out in the world, usually after they are masters, sometimes disciples for sabbaticals, to study or work in other locations.”
Mr. Autos, “How are the financials handled? Do the monks pay fees?”
Janah, “No, we provide room and board, clothes, health care.”
Mr. Textiles, “So you receive donations, if you don’t earn money by performance or selling trinkets to visitors.”
“Yes, we are fortunate to have had a few substantial donors from the local community. We live simply, the Order has invested well, the community is happy the Shaolin are here. We provide some free health care in Chinese medicine.”
We take them through the housing, the rooms and common areas are always pristine, there are laptops and notebooks on the desks in rooms, extra clothes are hung up or put away.
Mr. Electronics, “Is is always so neat?”
Janah smiles, “Our gung fu is about order and discipline. There is joy in work. We find that external order encourages internal order. The monks would be uncomfortable in sloppy quarters. Students are taught from the time they enter about personal hygiene, they are responsible for cleaning and caring for the common rooms and grounds as well.”
On to the gardens, Janah introduces David Li and Manolo as the herbalists, David gives them the tour of his preparation rooms, more like labs now than when Master Hue had lines of burners and old pots. Then he takes them through the gardens, pointing out various herbs, a short talk on preparation and function, and finishes up with his vegetable gardens, our special tomatoes, organic carrots, kale, beets, spinach, a line of citrus trees, oranges, lemons, limes.
Mr. Autos, “Who thought of making it on different levels, it must have taken a lot of work to get that much soil up three levels.”
David, “We have willing workers, time and persistence overcome all difficulties.”
Mr. Textiles, “Very Chinese.”
David bows.
Janah, “Please, come this way, we will have tea and I will be happy to answer any questions I can.”
We’re seated around one of the dining tables after they took a peek in the kitchen, suitably impressed with the commercial equipment, Mr. Autos said it looked like a first class hotel kitchen.
Armando brings pots of tea and cups, along with a platter of pastries and cookies, plates and utensils are already on the table.
Armando, points to the various pots, “There is Huángshān máofēng, Yellow Mountain Fur Peak green, tiěguānyīn, Iron Goddess oolong, and
qímén hóngchá, Qi Men Red, a black tea. Please, enjoy your preference.”
Selections made, teas sipped with appropriate compliments and pleasantries, the Es have been quiet, more relaxed now, things going along smoothly. The only hot water they want is for tea, not for themselves to be steeped in later.
Mr. Textiles, “You mentioned your family has real estate, it is in New York?”
Janah, “Yes, all of it is in the city, Chinatown, Brooklyn and the Bronx, elsewhere in Manhattan. Commercial and residential. Not huge, maybe a two million square feet.”
Mr. Textiles is noticeably impressed, at least for a reserved Chinese businessman, his head pulls back an inch, eyebrows raise a quarter.
“Not so small. I have been considering investing in the States. One of the reasons I am here is to see if New York is as vibrant as advertised. I have people looking into it, but we do not know the market, it is a slow process.”
Janah, “Our property manager is quite good, she is part of our family. She will be happy to discuss the market with your people, there is no obligation. She will offer her observations, perhaps you will find them useful.”
He turns his head, very slightly, to the side, as if he is pondering the catch.
Janah picks up the vibe, “Nishiko understands that investors considering New York are good for the market overall. It does not matter to her if there is a direct business opportunity. And, in case you are wondering, we do not sell property, ours or anyone else’s. Nishiko and Zi manage our property and run the property management company that serves other owners. Currently, she handles an additional thirty million square feet around the city. If an owner wants to sell, we don’t get involved. Most of the new owners retain her to run the buildings, sometimes they have their own people .”
Mr. Textiles, “How shall we contact her?”
Janah, “I have the information in my office, ah, here is Zi now. Zi, can you get Mr. Textiles the Murakami-Sylk contact numbers, and make sure he has your and Nikko’s direct numbers please.”
Zi moves off to collect the cards, Armando comes along, “Everything satisfactory, can I get anything else?”
Mr. Autos, “Tea first rate, pastries very good, authentic.”
General agreement from the others, must have been okay, everyone had at least one pastry and cookie.
Armando, “The pastries and cookies are from a bakery in Chinatown, Mrs. Ling has been baking for forty years here. You don’t last forty years in Chinatown with a poor product.”
Mr. Electronics, “Nor anyplace else. Although some of our Chinese companies need a lesson in quality control.”
Janah, “That could also be said of companies in America. Considering the massive economic restructuring in China, and the speed at which your companies can adjust to new product specifications, the Chinese have done a remarkable job.”
Her comment is clearly well received, they have apparently taken some grief about Chinese corner cutting and patent rip-offs. Es One and Two are actually smiling and nodding.
Mr. Electronics, “Nice to see someone in America understands the complications of a billion people who were primarily uneducated farmers being trained and educated for high skill work.”
E One, “We have taken enough of your time, and must return our guests to their hotel.”
Mr. Textiles ignores her, “Impressive, and it might be good to have a Chinese contact for our property investment. The other, Nishiko, a Japanese name.”
Janah, “Yes, our family is somewhat international. Nishiko is Japanese, Daphne and two others are Caucasian, two teen girls are Russian.”
Mr. Textiles, “Good to see Japanese and Chinese getting along for once.”
“We embrace cultural differences. Out there,” she points to the training ground, “is a multitude of nationalities, brought together by Shaolin Ch’an. The Japanese learned Zen from Chinese Ch’an. Somebody must have gotten along with somebody back then.”
Mr. Textiles smiles, “It is so.”
Zi returns with cards and a brochure inside an envelope, hands it to Textiles with a bow, “We look forward to hearing from your representatives.”
We rise, exchange bows, I escort the group to the door, more bows and thank yous, their car is waiting and they’re off.
Dasha, “You will come to hut Dahfoney.”
Good not to have to think up something to do, I wind my way through the garden, through the bamboo to the twins.

Chapter Seventy Five

I look in the hut, the girls are cross legged on the floor, Dasha says, “Look Dahfoney,” she puts a rock the size of a…what? I don’t know, how big is a hockey puck? Like that.
Daria stares at it, it goes airborne, up about two feet, she holds her hand out, the rock drops into it. She points a finger at it, POP! splits the sucker in two. They stare up at me, blink, at the same instant.
“Dang, Daria, that’s good. This just happen today?”
“Da.”
Now we’re communicating.
Dasha, “Sister made tea yesterday with brain. Water in cup, she looks, it boils, we haf tea.”
“Sure, but is she faster than a microwave?”
“Sister better, no need to be plug in, punch button.”
“She’s plugged in alright, to the energy of the universe. It took Janah and me forever to learn that.”
Dasha, “Maybe Janah install in sister’s head from qi time.”
I’ll ask, “J, did you follow?”
“No, what is it?”

I relate the story.
“I tried a boost to what was already there, guess it worked out. Her energy meridians are wide open. I hope we don’t have to start dodging stuff at the apartment. You coming up soon? I’m hungry.”
“Sheesh, you just had tea and a cookie.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Try another cookie, I want to talk to the girls for a bit, be along soon.”

Dasha has one of the halves in her hand, she presses on it with the heel of her other hand and twists, it crumbles to dust.
I pick up the second half, just to see if Daria’s cracking it had also made it more brittle. I squeeze it, no give, I could crush it but it hadn’t been much weakened by breaking. I try to snap it in half, it’s retained both tensile and compressive strength.
I hand it to Dasha, “Snap it in half.”
She looks at it, figuring the best way to hold it, to use thumbs or the heels of her hands and her fingers, opts to put both hands around it and snap, SNAP! The half is in halves.
“Be careful if you hold someone’s hand or arm, you need to be aware of your strength before you injure them without realizing it.”
I get the Dasha stare, I hadn’t asked for a reply, so I wouldn’t get one. They’ll never make it on Letterman. I’ll ask Amaya to help them understand that not all questions are in question form, people expect some reply to their comment beyond yes or no. For now, she’s in charge of socialization, teaching them to act like they are interested or engaged or at least conscious.
Janah giggles, “I kind of like them as they are, simple to communicate with, always get a straightforward reply without useless elaboration, and seldom have to explain myself.”
“There’s that. I’ll let Amaya figure it out, she’s the acting coach. We’re coming up.”
“Good, I had the cookie, but I still feel faint, what’s for dinner?”
On the way up, it occurs to me that Fong’s is only a slight detour. When we get to Janah’s office, I make a call, we’ll walk over, collect dinner and grab a cab home.
Ning, “Hello! Where do the days go? It’s been a month since I’ve seen you.”
“I see the business hasn’t collapsed,” the place is packed.
“It’s crazy, the second restaurant is doing well, it’s not as big, but prices are higher, we sell much more wine and liquor, and we are setting up a separate takeout section. The lines were confusing, who is picking up, who is eating in. We do a splendid online business. I’m almost at the point of expanding the kitchen with a section for just preparing takeout.”
Chan sits at the table between the two registers where Ning hangs out like Mrs. Fong did when she was alive. There was only one register then, and she operated it. Now, both of them are busy during lunch and dinner hours and there’s a third counter and register for the endless stream of takeout and delivery.
The girls sit on either side, a waiter brings tea. Chan and the twins start playing push hands. Not like the sport, which involves physical contact, rather Chan holds up a palm to each girl, they hold up one to his, the idea is to move the other hand with qi only. If you looked at them, you’d think they were simply cooperating, one hand back, the other forward. But that’s not it. It’s like no contact arm wrestling.
There are no bulging veins or muscles, it isn’t something that requires muscle tension. In fact, that only impedes the flow. If you felt their palms or fingers, they would be warm.
Suddenly, both girls’ hands pop back, Chan’s still got it.
Dasha, “Chan ees too strong.”
Chan, “You have been working with Janah and Daphne, you are much better.”
“Sister break rock, no touch.”
“And Dasha pulverized half,” my palms rub together, “then she cracked the other half in half,” my wrists twist to exemplify.
Chan, “Dasha is physical, I see strong arms.”
Dasha, “Chan, you will come to work chee wiz us.”
Chan looks up at Janah, she says, “Looks like you’ve been recruited. We go slowly, don’t want to interfere with Daria’s other skills.”
Chan, “They are home tomorrow?”
“What’s on the schedule Daphne?”
“Day is open until three thirty. But they will be tired from qi training, so perhaps best in the morning if Chan is available.”
Chan, “Ning has lots of work for Chan in the afternoon, morning is better. I will come at nine.”
Dasha, “You will come early, I make breakfast, you will like.”
“She’s really good, it’s an offer you can’t refuse.”
Our food is ready, we hug Ning and Chan, hail a taxi and are back at home in ten.
Nikko, “Good, Fong’s, I was just thinking you might stop there.”
“Chan is coming in the morning for breakfast, then to work with the girls. They did push hands, he sees their improvement. They’ll use the meditation loft I suppose, maybe go to the roof if it’s pleasant.”
Nikko, “Heard from your new Chinese friend. Zi and I are meeting them for breakfast tomorrow. Tell Dasha not to include us, it’s early, seven thirty.”
“That was fast.”
Nikko, “Mr. Textile is Yuan Chang, extensive and profitable empire. He says textiles, and he has substantial holdings in both mills, clothing and specialty fabrics. Specialty means military. He’s not a rich lightweight. He was impressed by Janah’s research, and by the temple. He likes order, a simple straightforward approach, he doesn’t like double talk or obfuscation. I’m not sure how he qualifies as Chinese, that seems to be their specialty, but he is iconoclastic for a Chinese.”
“You did some quick digging.”
Nikko, “Zi made a few calls, I called my father and the Society. It was simple enough to piece together. Zi has contacts in China, and we have Fong’s Chinatown network, which is plugged into China better than the State Department. ”
It’s a pleasant evening, cocktails with crispy spring rolls for appetizers, then wine and Ning’s excellent entrees, jumbo shrimp, crabmeat, stir fry in the world’s best garlic sauce, Peking duck to die for, rolled in whisper thin crepes with tianmianjiang, sweet bean sauce made from fermented soybeans. God loves me, She created Mrs. Fong, then Ning.

Chapter Seventy Six

I’m asleep, curled in to Janah, my shoulder is moving, I open one eye, Dasha is poking me, “We make breakfast now, Dahfoney.”
I peek at the clock, it’s six thirty, she’s right, Chan will show up at seven thirty, he’s no doubt been up for two hours already.
“Get the coffee and tea started, have you figured out what we’re having?”
Dasha, “Da,” she turns and walks off, guess she has the menu under control.
I don’t know if Chan has ever had Beluga blini, but he seems quite taken with Dasha’s. I confess, they are splendid. There is smoked salmon, poached eggs with hollandaise, toasted bagels.
Since Chan is over, we’d invited Sis, Taylor and Lacy, they hadn’t seen him in ages. Dasha keeps producing food, the family keeps eating it.
Chan, “I don’t know if I should tell Ning what I was served, she’ll have Dasha teaching our cooks to make blini for Peking Duck.”
“Russian blini is a crepe, there are two kinds, like Ning makes, without yeast, and this kind, with yeast, that’s why they rise up a little like a thin pancake. Sometimes Dasha makes one, sometimes the other. Besides, the crepes Ning makes are too perfect, we went through every single one last night.”
Susan, “Wait a minute. You had Fong’s last night, and this spread this morning?”
“Peking Duck, the sauce and her crepes, jumbo shrimp, crab, God it was amazing.”
“Taylor, we’re going to dinner tonight, to Fong’s. I’m calling as soon as we get home. Lacy, want to come?”
Lacy, “Call me with a time.”
“Come over for cocktails at six, the evening will deteriorate from there.”
Chan and the twins go off to the roof, it’s a cool morning, sun’s out, no point in sitting in the loft. Downstairs, Dasha and I clean while the others move to the living room to catch up.
Susan, “So, Daria and Dasha have shown qi ability, must be at a high level for you to have Chan over.”
Janah, “They snuck up on us. Daphne and I worked with them after they developed the basics. We go carefully, the girls are barely social, a wrong turn could magnify that.”
Lacy, “I don’t mean to sound harsh, but are they, um…”
“Sociopaths?”
“Well, yeah, I feel horrible just saying it. Daria I see frequently, she has no temper, no hostility, she does our dance routines almost fanatically. She is technically proficient, as is Amaya, but with Amaya there is obvious emotional engagement, she smiles, shows fear, or anticipation, depending on what the dance calls for.”
Janah, “And Daria is expressionless.”
“Completely. And when we’re finished, and it must be one hour exactly, Amaya stays around to chat, Daria just leaves.”
“You should talk to Joan Wayne on the phone, when the conversation is over, she hangs up. No goodbye, no check you later, just dead air.”
“She used to do that at school, she’d come up and ask me a question, I’d answer, she would walk off. At first I thought her rude, then I realized she was being Joan Wayne. I got over myself.”
Janah, “To circle back to your question, yes, they’re someplace on the antisocial scale. I don’t get the sense of sociopath as much as Asperger’s, autism light. They don’t set out to use or hurt people, they just don’t care when bad stuff happens to people, nor are they happy when something good happens.”
Chloe, “Even that isn’t black and white. Daria has emotional ties to Amaya and me, Dasha to Daphne, it shows up in their aura. They also have a great deal of respect for Chan, which is saying a lot, they don’t like men in general. Even that is not right, they don’t like many women, they actively dislike men.”
Janah, “And it’s hard to say if they only see him as being able to transmit a skill they want to explore, Chloe sees respect, that’s something.”
Taylor, “How do they function? I mean, don’t they need other people, you guys?”
“Perhaps, and it’s best that they are here. They don’t have to ask, like people would expect, they can tell, with no please or thank you. We understand Dasha’s statements are actually asking, most people wouldn’t, they would hear orders being issued. The girls would turn people off and not understand why. They tend to just take what they need, and that would keep them in trouble.”
Amaya, “People would see them as obstinate, disobedient, stubborn. If the situation escalated to physical contact, people would get hurt.”
Susan, “Why didn’t they do it when they were younger, before coming here?”
Janah, “Too young. Mom got lucky, if she hadn’t handed them over to more flexible grandparents, Daria would have eventually done her in, or Dasha would have done it for her. The men they were sold to had to deal with us before the girls could deal with them. The end result for the men would have been the same, but the girls would have been tied up in social agencies forever, or sent back to Russia or Belarus. Anyone they wound up with wouldn’t have been able to get them to conform, it would have been an endless cycle of trouble.”
Taylor, “Lucky for them then.”
“Lucky for us. They’ve already traveled with us, and have contributed to successful outcomes.”
Susan, “You’re not concerned, putting them in harm’s way?”
“Always, but if we don’t, then we shouldn’t have started, Chloe and Amaya should have no role. You didn’t object to taking part in one activity I recall.”
Susan, “Nope, though I wasn’t fifteen, and I have significant martial arts skills.”
“The twins want to be included, we haven’t put them in dangerous situations, not yet. Actually, they’re more dangerous than most of the targets. Besides, they’re almost sixteen now.”
Susan, “Uh huh, like it’s a vast difference.”
Lacy stands, “Time for schoolmarm to oversee the education of wealthy weird adolescent females.”
Susan, “I have to get back to my labors as well. Thank Dasha for me please, and thank you for a splendid breakfast. Taylor, what are you up to today?”
“Spin at ten, back home, test shots this afternoon at three, then a fabulous dinner with you and Lacy tonight. We should ask Kara and James.”
“I thought you’d wound down the modeling.”
“I have. Occasionally a photographer asks for me, they’ve been so good over the years, I don’t like saying no. This is easy duty, face stuff. Someone will slap on makeup, I get my picture taken, remove makeup, some other makeup, hair up, hair down. Chloe knows the drill.”
Our guests leave, Janah goes off to her laptop to do administrative things, Amaya to write, Chloe and I go from one bedroom to the next, make up beds or change sheets. We have a two night max rule on sheets. Then we do bathrooms and a dust sweep with Swiffer cloths throughout the apartment and end up doing the floors as well. In two hours, it’s nice and tidy.
Janah is in the laundry room folding. “I needed a brain break and to move around a little. Think we might have tea?”
Chan comes down from the roof, I’d kind of lost track of how long they’d been up there, “Two hours, you must be tired,” transmissions are wearing, on the transmitter and the receiver.
Chan, “Yes. Girls are resting.”
“We’re just having tea, sit and have a cup before you go.”
We park around the table, Chan summarizes, “Today wasn’t too tiring, we went slowly, just that there are two of them. Keep an eye on Daria, she wants more.”
“Dasha wasn’t so aggressive?”
“No, her temperament is even, not passive, not as aggressive as Daria.”
Janah, “Daria faced more abuse from her mother. There’s no clear explanation why, the girls were too young to understand. Our only guess is that the mother felt over burdened by two children and took it out on the second to be born, Dasha was first. In her confused mind, mom blamed the second child. That’s only speculation, and she wasn’t nice to either of them. Daria caught the slaps, the screaming, kicks out of nowhere. Dasha started impersonating her sister so her sister could escape punishment.”
Chan, “Own mother couldn’t tell them apart?”
“No, I doubt she tried to, she was self absorbed and resentful. It cost her the love of two beautiful and talented daughters.”
“Bring them with you to the temple, I will work with them there, an hour at a time, no more.”
Chloe, “I’ll talk to Daria, I can see how she’s doing, coach her on patience. She won’t want to risk losing her other skills. We’ll help her understand going too quickly risks interfering with that.”
Chan, “What is color sensitivity, I know she sees auras, there is something else?”
Janah explains about her synesthesia, Chan understands that, then she explains our non explanation regarding time.
“She sees action, visual movement, in chunks, frames in a movie. But she also sees the frames in reverse?”
“Yes, that’s what she says. I suppose if she sees it in forward chunks, replaying it in reverse is no big deal. We aren’t sure if time is backing up, or it is just a replay, which is more likely. The question is, what happens to time when she sees in ultra slow motion?”
“Is she in time? I mean, is she seeing the separate frames behind the actuality? If the bird flies from the tree to the ground, does she catch up after it lands, or when it lands, like normal vision.”
Janah, “Good question. Of course, we all see a slight tape delay. The light has to get through the air to our eyes, be processed in the visual cortex, add our knowledge of what it is we’re seeing, then we ‘see’ the bird land on the ground. It happens in milliseconds, that’s the beauty of it. Technically, the bird lands just before we see it land. For her, it is the same, she loses only the milliseconds we all lose. Along the way, she sees it in discreet chunks. It doesn’t happen all the time, usually she sees like anyone else.”
“Does she miss parts? She is seeing a still, then another one, like a film frame by frame. Is there a blank spot in the transition from one frame to the next?”
“We don’t know. She doesn’t appear to be missing pieces. Lots of stuff happens in our field of vision, we didn’t miss it, our brains ignore it as irrelevant. Maybe that’s something to explore. What if she’s not missing the parts we would miss? If you have a still picture to study, you see more background than if it’s a moving picture.”
“So by seeing in chunks, perhaps she is registering more.”
“Could be. It didn’t occur to me until we talked about it. We’ve been busy, I haven’t had enough time to digest what her chunking of time might imply.”
“You have access to the family schedule, right?”
Chan, “Yes, the website.”
“I put up when we’re going to the temple. I’ll add the girls if they are going with us, they like to hang out in Tan’s hut. If you have time, just show up then.”
Chan nods, collects his hugs and returns to Chinatown.

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