Chapter Seventy Three

Jeremy comes out the door, trots to a Lexus 350, fires up and heads to his place. Housekeeper called him no doubt. We trail along well out of range, we know where he's going.
I drive around to avoid notice, then swap off with Amaya who drives off while I watch the house.
Janah, "Let's use the drone instead."
Amaya drives to a secluded enough spot for Oceane to launch the drone. When I see the house on my android, I drive to meet up with the others.
The housekeeper leaves, Oceane zooms in, the woman is wiping her eyes. Dickey must have blasted her, worried someone went in the guest house. The secret closet door was locked when I left, he must think he's safe, just annoyed at being dragged home.
Now he's alone, we see him come from the rear of the main house and cross over to the guest house.
Janah, "He's paranoid. I'm sure he checked the guesthouse first, but he couldn't check the kiddie closet until the housekeeper left."
"Let's zap him on his return to the house, we can question him here as well as anyplace else. Amaya, call and cancel the motel thing."
Twenty minutes later, we have Jeremy Dickey all strapped in, head covered in a pillowcase, picture wire around wrists strapped to an armchair. Ankles wired too. He might be the King of Shadows, but he isn't going anyplace without shredding his limbs.
While Amaya brings him around, a hit of ephedrine does the trick, I close the bedroom door, shut the bathroom door. Closet is closed, no loose things he can use as weapons. Shadows advanced enough for telekinesis love to show off by making things fly across the room, preferably hard or sharp enough to injure an antagonist, in this case, us. Don't know if Dickey can, no point in finding out the hard way.
Oceane and Sloane are monitoring the neighborhood with the drone.
Jeremy comes to, still a little queasy. I help with an ammonia cap under his pillowcase, earn a nice head snap for my trouble.
"What's the deal? Kidnap? That's stupid, I'm in my own guesthouse," he goes silent, his head twists and tilts, "shit all, a fucking priest."
The room heats, he can't make anything fly, we are immune, so he's going with the only thing left in his arsenal.
Janah, "Cut the crap, all you're doing is wasting energy, you going for self immolation? Cause it isn't doing anything to us."
"Shaolin is going to kill me regardless."
"That's right, so pour all the juice you have, maybe you off yourself, explode your heart for instance."
Dickey, "Look, you want something, if you didn't I'd be dead already."
Janah, "Good catch. What's with the kiddie porn clothes?"
"Broke in did you? So much for Shaolin self righteousness."
Janah, "She's not a very good Shaolin, but she does keep her vows, one of which concerns you."
He sighs, "How much experience do you have with us?"
"Too much. I know you like out of bounds sex, Shadows generally go for young, or enjoy making families humiliate themselves. You seem to prefer youth."
"I heard someone was calling us Shadows, good name, we used to be people, now just shadows of human, the dark part. You should try it, lack of conscience is total freedom."
"I understand that, I also understand that actions have consequences. In your case, us. So, back to kiddie porn."
"Why do I explain to you? I'm dead either way. I should give you satisfaction?"
Janah, "Think of it this way, I can give you dissatisfaction, lots of it. You come clean, you go quick. If you screw around, you go slow, very slow, days even. I have a bag of goodies here that can keep you in any state I want, none of which you will enjoy."
Dickey, "Persuasive, if I am to believe a priest will use torture."
Janah, "I told you, she's a bad priest, and the vows don't address how to kill, just kill. And I'm not a priest, so it's irrelevant. This isn't a negotiation, you tell me quietly, or you tell me in agony, which is it?"
Dickey, "Fuck it, what do you want to know?"
"All of it. And I have a Sensitive with me, you know what that is?"
"Yeah, sees us like we see Shaolin....ah, that's where Shadow comes in, we read as dark."
Janah, "Yes, but your explanation works too. Point is, you lie, I’ll know. So give us the straight story, not toned down or juiced up, what happens with the kids?"
"No rough stuff, not with the kids. Some of the participants like the kids to play rough with them. One woman likes the whip, a guy the paddle, another participant wants a couple of the kids to beat him up, punches and kicks. The rest is just sex play with the little sluts. Children learn so quickly."
"How did it start?"
"Strangely. I met a man, single father, with a beautiful eight year old daughter. Ten years ago it was. I was thinking of making him have sex with her, or make him watch while she sucked me off and I fucked her. She was quite the little tease, short dress barely covered anything. We're at his house having drinks, she's prancing around the room, evident she's wearing fuck all underneath. I'm enjoying the show, as I'm about to grab his mind, he does the strange thing."
"He offers her to you."
Jeremy, "Yes, if he can watch."
"So you took him up on it."
"Fuckin' A I did. I'm in a chair, she loses the dress, on her knees with my cock in her mouth, daddy jerking off."
"Not that it matters, but she was willing?"
"More than, smiling, kissing and licking, then a pro level blow job. When I'm done, she opens her mouth so I can see the cum, swallows and opens again so I can see it's gone. Like a common porn flick. Then she turns to her father and he finishes off in her mouth too. She's eighteen now, doing escort work on her own, but when she was with us, she took on five or six dicks a session, guys rotated, one fucked while she sucked another, next guy steps up. She ate a lot of pussy too. Anything sexual, she was ready and willing. I never took her mind, not once."
"How frequent are the kiddie parties?"
"Monthly, admission by bringing a kid. Ten or eleven adults, plus the kids. It's a porn farmer's market of organic youth. Something for everyone, young boys so pretty they could be girls. Three or four of them, the rest girls. We like them older than six, thirteen or younger. Puberty kicks in, they move on."
"Where do they come from?"
"Half from their own parents, the rest are bought. I don't buy, I don't know where they get them, never wanted to know. You can figure out where mine come from."
"You snatch them."
"Yeah. It's easy, kid just gets in the car, docile as a sleepy kitten. I break them in for a few days, then the group gets them. They like that, I bring fresh talent. Some of the others do too, but not every month."
"The ones you take, what happens to them?"
"One of the others buys them. They aren't like me, just run of the mill pedophiles."
"Who are these people?"
"Don't know, we don't name swap, do social media or exchange Christmas presents. Obviously some know each other, after I got the taste for youth, bad daddy brought around people he knew. They brought others. Some fly in from out of town. The mix changes, kids get too old, people get busted or the kid turns on them."
"Nobody fingered you though."
"Like I said, I'm popular, bring new delicacies to the baby buffet."
Janah changes course, "Okay, enough child abuse, let's talk about your Shadow pals. We know you're in contact with fourteen others. We know there is talk of mayhem in some small town. What's the point?"
Jeremy, "You are amazingly well informed. You going to kill us all?"
"Three down already, two here, one in Atlanta. Then you, the second in Atlanta soon. So, what's the point?"
"To do it. We aren't very organized. Some of us think that works against us, more power in numbers. We will never be pals, it's not possible, but we can do joint projects. If we can collectively take over a town, make people obey, do anything we want, it's a demonstration to others like us. Enough of us in one place, we could clean out a casino, banks, nobody knows who did it or how it was done. There's a blank space in time, we shut down their minds, they do what we want, we do what we want, we leave."
"All the cameras around, I presume you disguise."
"Sure, but we make people think we're someone else, white guy like me is black, woman is a man, the camera will show someone the cashier doesn't recognize. A few of us can disturb the field of view, he camera records a blur."
Janah, "And the plan for the town, what's that look like?"
"We go, rent a few hotel rooms, see what we can do as a group. We're still in the planning stage. Start small, take over a coffee shop, or a diner, see if we get everyone to give up cash, like a robbery no one can remember. Do something at a school, get the teachers to fuck the kids, get the kids to fuck each other. No money in it, but it has its own appeal. We know what society thinks, we're all despicable pervs," he laughs, "they're right."
Janah nods to Amaya, insert syringe, press plunger. Dickey slumps, can't slump far with his wrists wired. I cut the wires, we dump him on the floor.
Chloe, "What do we do with him?"
"Anonymous call to 911 when we're out of town. We need to clean out his accounts, house like this speaks of money. I guess it's his, we didn't check. If it is, we'll transfer ownership to one of our offshores, then sell it."
Janah, "Let's search the place while we have time, when do we need to be at the airport?"
"Two hours."
I've already searched the guest house, there's nothing of value. I reopen the kiddie closet with Dickey's key, the cops can figure out what the costumes are about. In the main house there's a safe, big one, in an office on the ground floor. Time to put my fingers to work and listen for the clicks with my sensitive owl hearing. Still takes me five minutes, but the thing is open.
Janah, "Geez, must be a million dollars in there."
"At least it's all nicely wrapped, Sloane, find us a gym bag or something."
Sloane comes back with a travel bag, nylon with a sturdy shoulder strap. I fill it with the bundles, a hundred twenty of them, a million two. A million in hundreds weighs about twenty two pounds, feels right, around twenty five when I heft it.
"Take the laptop, fish around the desk and see if anything looks like passwords."
She comes up with a thumb drive and a paper notebook.
Amaya and Chloe come from upstairs, "Nothing significant, man's jewelry we don't need to fool with. You found some cash though, enough to cover expenses for the whole saga."
"More than. Let's get to the plane."

Chapter Seventy Four

In the air, I check in with Nikko, "Done here, added a million two in cash, a donation from the last."
"We got the woman leaving the health club. Dasha made a great shot, just as she got in her car before closing the door. Daria snatched the dart, shut the car door. She looks like she's sitting in the car waiting."
"Good job Dasha."
"Ees seemple wiz Eloise tracking system. Dart goes exactly where laser points. You haf paid for all treep."
"Yep, last target had a million two in cash in a safe. There may be much more, we have to get into his accounts, Sloane is fishing around in his laptop now."
"We are flying to St. Louis, two more Shadow to keel, you are going now to Milwaukee?"
"Yes, that will make nine, then we have s
ix in different cities. We'll figure out who goes where after the next stop."
I feel her blink offline, when the twins are done talking, they're done, not even a 'catch you later.'
It's a quickie flight from Chicago to Milwaukee, under an hour, we rent two SUVs. Drive to a Hampton, rent three rooms in travel names.
After a quickie unpack, we meet in our room,
"I think we can split up tomorrow and go after the Shadows at the same time. The Indian, Raj Gupta, lives in a small house in the south of town, Hong Lee, Chinese, to the west. To the east is Lake Michigan. Lee has a martial arts studio, one of the mixed martial arts places that popped up around the country in the late nineties. Gupta doesn't have a day job, or a night one, not that came up on our search anyway."
Amaya, "Who takes who?"
"Janah, Sloane and I will take Lee. You, Chloe and Oceane can locate Gupta. If the job isn't clean and simple, hold until we can revisit it. You guys take the mini and a drone, I'll take one of the dart guns and a drone. I'll connect with Amaya along the way."
Milwaukee is a big city and it's unlikely anyone will connect us with dead Shadows, we still don't want to create a presence. Sloane and I fetch Chinese takeout.
"I bought a couple bottles of wine and sparkling water, plastic plates and utensils. We only got three entrees, Chinese takeout generally goes a long way, and there are spring rolls. Skipped soup."
Amaya opens wine, Chloe unpacks the food, "Sheesh, there's more than enough, smells good too."
"I figured if I'm going to kill a Chinese guy tomorrow, Chinese takeout is inspirational."
Amaya, "Sloane, your mother makes no sense, try not to be unduly influenced. I am a role model, she is the anti-role model."
Sloane, "She's not that weird, she has a complex world view."
"Complex? You mean chaotic."
Sloane giggles.
I pack up the empty boxes, plates and utensils, take the bags to the dumpster outside. Don't want to wake up to leftover garlic sauce. The girls go to their rooms, Sloane and Oceane holding hands, cute. Oceane has introduced Sloane to sexual intimacy, they don't physically sleep together at home, but they get up to all the other things sleeping together implies.
Oceane hasn't gone exclusive, thankfully. She's impossibly lovely, a visual treat right up there with our house perfection confection, Amaya.
Amaya, "Bonus points for you Daphne. When we get home, you shall be allowed the privilege of making love to me."
"I am all anticipation."
"Of course you are."

Lee's studio is a standalone building, from the size the place it’s successful. There's no class now, it's nine in the morning, but it's open. It includes a small gym, machines, no free weights. I see a couple of treadmills, stationary bikes. Two guys leave, neither are Lee, too young, and Caucasian, a clue they aren't Chinese. A lone woman is peddling, no sign of Lee.
Janah, "Looks to be an office to the left, two cars out here, the woman isn't driving both of them."
"If he's in, he isn't going anywhere while she's here, suppose he must have assistants though. Place this big, he must have help."
A woman comes out of the office, big woman, thick, wearing a gi with a black belt.
"So much for Lee, where's he live?"
"Less than a mile."
We leave to check the house. It's in a standard cottage style neighborhood, not old, not so new as to be cookie cutter.
"Sloane, do a dash around and see if there's activity inside."
She darts off, circles the place at wolf speed. Even if Lee feels a presence, he's not going to relate it to human. With her senses, she can tell if there's movement or sound, a TV, radio playing. She zooms back to the car.
"TV on, someone in the kitchen, someone else in the shower."
Janah, "He's not married, he's a Shadow, they don't spouse."
"Maybe a cook, housekeeper, play toy?"
"We wait, what's Amaya's crew doing?"
I mental-in, I see through her eyes, she's looking at a house, not exactly ramshackle, but getting there. An old Toyota out front. It's not in a neighborhood, the lot looks to be at least four acres, a few trees, lot of chaotic growth. Whatever Gupta is into, it isn't displays of wealth, or even neatness.
Amaya, "What a dump-puh!"
"Elizabeth Taylor, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
"Yes, but who did she think said it?"
"Um, wait....Bette Davis, they never could figure out the movie she said it in, Taylor thought it was with Joseph Cotton."
"It was, a King Vidor film called Beyond the Forest. They say it's a famous line, but seems made famous by Taylor, who delivered the line with much more umph."
"You have made quite a study of film."
"Something to do on my IPad while Chloe makes commercials. I get a few good ideas to steal, a lot of bad ones to avoid."

Amaya looks down at her IPad, the drone is circling the house. A small Indian man walks up from someplace in the back of the property, it's Gupta. Then the tail of a dart waves from just over his heart.
Amaya, "Nice shot Eloise," then hear, "Thanks," in the background.
"If nobody's home, you might do a search, just in case there's money around, or a computer. We're waiting on Lee to move, he's at home but so is someone else."
Amaya, "Got it."
We disconnect, I update Janah and Sloane.
Janah, "At least somebody's getting something done."
The garage door opens, motorcycle growls, a teen boy on it. He tears out of the driveway and down the street.
"Wonder if that means what I think it might?"
Janah, "It means Lee is home alone and the garage door is up. Unlikely the boy locked the door to the house."
She's right, and we're inside. I don't hear a shower running, there's no one in the kitchen, which is the first room past the laundry room that connects to the garage. We go to the living area. A thick chested Chinese, shorter than me, is standing at the window, back to us, I raise the dart gun.
"So, priest. You stoop to kill a fellow martial artist with poison?"
"Doesn't matter to me how you die. Shadows have interesting backgrounds, if you tell us about yours, you and I will do it the old fashioned way. You may get to kill a priest."
He turns, face impassive, close cropped black hair, dead eyes, skin like worn leather, "I will kill you priest, you have no chance. Better to have your friends shoot me, your death will not be quick."
"Uh huh. You going to tell us a story, or do I pop you right now and go home?"
He sits, crosses his legs, calm as a spring breeze, I'll credit him that.
"I learned in China, from a hermit, formerly a priest. Your order banned him, tried to kill him. He took several Shaolin vermin before they gave up. When I met him, he was old, I was young. For years, did everything he asked precisely as instructed. Hot hand, cold hand, wound healing took a long time. Then many more years to move objects, break them with my mind, more painful years to take a mind. I began when I was eight, it took over thirty years of daily practice. I died twice, he revived me, fell ill many times, I persisted."
"Then you decided to live the American dream."
"My teacher died, the Chinese government began another of its endless purges. I was running a business, selling herbs," he sneers, "the peasants thought they were herbs, I made them believe. Surprised me how many got well with fake herbs, you have heard of the placebo effect, it is quite real. The government harassed me, with my skill I put them off for a while, but it became a constant annoyance. I emigrated to Canada, then to Milwaukee. The old man taught me martial arts when he was not torturing me with tests and transmissions. I got start up money from the good people of Milwaukee, they opened their wallets and cash registers with no questions. I started the school, the money is good. I don't have to spend energy controlling anyone."
"What about hobbies? Like the boy on the motorcycle."
Lee blinks, "Personal entertainment. My teacher made me pay my way by lending me to customers who paid him for the use of my body for an hour. In America, I discovered young men appeal. He's one of the older ones, my true preference is eight to ten, still baby smooth, beautiful boys."
Janah, "What of the others, you have teamed up with fourteen, what do you want from it?"
Lee, "Change of pace, experimentation. It isn't easy, our kind are not good at cooperation. We find each other as disgusting as we find normals dull. Some of them think we can be stronger as a collective, and they may be right. I do not care about that, I have what I want. Like I said, just curiosity. As a matter of fact, if they cannot get their act together soon, I am pulling out. All they do is argue."
"We've noticed that about Shadows."
"Shadows...yes, I've heard the term mentioned, so it was you that came up with it."
"Yes."
"You do understand, they are hunting you. One slip and the priest, her family and friends are all dead. We despise everyone, particularly the Shaolin. You, priest, are despised beyond even that."
"It's good to be top of the charts. You did well, shall we dance?"

Chapter Seventy Five

Lee, "For one about to suffer, you have a casual attitude. Does it mean your friends will intervene and save you?"
"I offered an alternative, you met the criteria, I am bound by my word."
He sneers, "Self righteous priest, tied to meaningless tradition," he raises a hand.
I qi up, see his finger twitch, shift left. A vase on a high table behind me pulverizes.
"You are quick."
I have a couple of options. Let him drain his qi battery trying to pop me with energy shots, then we go hand to hand, or foot to face as it were. Or leap in now, keep him too busy to direct qi and fight me off at the same time. I decide to dodge first. We practice this, Janah or Chan fire qi shots, Nikko and I work on dodging. Let's see if the practice helps.
A second and a third shot only succeed in breaking stuff, not me. He's hesitating, which means his battery is down. I let him clock me in the gut with the forth, it's a good one, I'm flying backwards into the wall....slam.
I hear Sloane growl, reassure her with, "I'm good, it's not as bad as the samurai’s bony heel," then I'm on him.
Airborne in two steps, a clean flying side kick to his sternum. He falls back, bangs against the window frame, glass breaks. I follow up with a right crescent kick to his jaw and a left front snap kick to his groin. I credit his balls for having balls, he grimaces, doesn't bend over and puke.
I do believe, however, I've struck a nerve, he gives a credible martial arts scream and comes hard. He's thick, not as dense as Chan, but like Chan, none of it is fat. A palm heel to my chest, I shoot back and up, ouch, that's gonna leave a mark. He's also annoyingly fast, I see a flat callused foot about to disfigure me. Roll left, foot smashes the floor next to my head. I sweep the back of his ankles, no good, nothing happens.
He turns, looks down on me, dispassionate, empty, thick leg in the air over me. Bad decision Odd Job, now all his weight is on one leg, I spin to my side, shoot out a foot and dislocate his knee, crack, snap. He falls like a rotten oak.
I'm up, he's down, going for another qi shot. I feel energy bash my hip just as my knee meets his skillet face just under the jaw. Head flips back, teeth crunch.
He's partially cooked, not quite done. I press my middle finger, index and thumb together, they look like a duck's bill, juice up. Eyes wide, he stares up at me, knows what's coming. Fingertips strike center chest, heart level, the blow and the qi that flows from it will stall his heart in due course.
He is shocked, incredulous, "Death Touch from a young priest. You learned ancient techniques...from whom?"
"Master Tan."
"Impossible. He died when you were at most a child."
"We forgot to age."
He's not sure what to make of it, but it doesn't matter, he shudders, heart jumps one terminal time, falls face down.
Sloane, "Geez mom, you're awesome. Are you okay? He clocked you a couple of times."
"Gut and chest will be sore, hip feels like a scrape. Nothing ice and qi won't fix. Collect any records, a computer, let's get to the plane."
En route, Janah checks in with Nikko, "Status."
"The woman is the size of Daphne's black bear pal in Canada. Six feet, must go three twenty. Her hobby is teenage girls. We watched her roll up on two in a mall parking lot, they got in her car no questions. At first we thought they knew her. Eloise flew the drone around her house, surveillance mike picked up conversation that made it apparent they were under her control. She's got high skills. Mind grab two people for that long is unusual."

Janah, "In our experience, now we know the bad news. Chan and I never tried to take a mind for any extended time. Our interrogations usually involve drugs, less wear and tear on us. What are you going to do?"
"We can't let this continue, there's no drone shot, she's inside with the girls, not visible from any window. They are just getting to the take off your clothes part. We need to get busy, if I have to see Fat Bitch naked, I may lose the will to live."

Nikko and Zi are following the twins to the house, Nikko goes left, Zi right, cover the rear and side entrances.
Daria tries the door, locked, she steps back, jams a heel lock high. Frame shatters, door swings hard to the wall, they're in.
Two girls, maybe fifteen, are nude, standing in the middle of the room. Fat Bitch has her hands between their legs, the noise registers, her head snaps to the twins. Surprisingly, she smiles.
"Well, well, two more tasties. If you wanted to join the party, all you had to do was knock."
Daria is in arm's reach, she gives Fat Bitch a left hook, blubber cheeks wobbly.
"Fuck, are you crazy?"
She lays a hand on Daria's chest, she's transmitting energy, her face is red, sweat trickles, Daria is unfazed.
"Appears she never came up against a Daria before."
Nikko, "I hope Daria doesn't melt her like the other one, where were we, Wichita Falls?"
"Yeah, that much lard will make a lot of nasty smoke."

The two girls come out of the spell, look at each other, screech.
Dasha, "Get dressed, you were hypnotized, you will be okay. Go outside, wait in car."
The brunette starts with questions while she pulls on her shorts, "This is weird, I don't even remember getting here. How'd she hypnotize us both? What kind of freakazoid bitch is she? Who are you?"
Dasha, "No questions, you are safe, nothing happened," Nikko and Zi are in, they take the girls outside.
Fat Bitch, "Never met anyone who I couldn't juice, who the fuck are you?"
Daria, "Supergirl," Dasha sticks her with a dart, in the neck, she wants to make sure it penetrates.
"Fuck's that shit?"
"Oblivion."
"Why's it called Obli...."
I wonder if she knows or will never find out. Can't ask her now.
To keep contact minimal, Nikko called Transportation to return the girls to the mall. They are disguised, but lightly, caps, sunglasses, casual jeans, nondescript pullovers. The twins aren't identifiable as twins, Daria wears platforms, a couple inches taller than Dasha in sneakers. Baggy clothes don't reveal much about build.
While they wait on Transportation, Dasha and Daria search the house. Naturally the kids have questions.
"What happened, what's this about, who are you guys?"
Zi, "Private investigators. We were hired to investigate suspicious behavior. Her house is bugged, that's how we knew you were in there. It didn't seem like a good idea to call cops."
"But shouldn't she be arrested? Like, for kidnapping, underage perv stuff?"
"She's finished, we will make sure of it. We know she has video on her computer of children, she'll be busted for that. If we involve cops, you both have to be questioned, and tell a story that you were both hypnotized by one woman at the same instant. Who's going to believe that? Mom and dad will freak, you have to testify, kids at school will find out, parents will assume you are traumatized and will stick you in therapy forever. Is that what you want?"
They look at each other, shake heads, one says, "No way."
"Then when you get to the mall, shop, do whatever, shut up and go on with your lives. I can't make you do anything, but that's what I would do. Anybody going to ask where you've been?"
"No, not for a while, we were supposed to be going to a movie, mom doesn't pick us up for another hour."
"Then you have to figure out what to say."
"No problem, half the time we never make the movie, just sit in the food court, talk and get checked out. She knows that."
Nikko tells them, "A man and a woman are going to come and take you to the mall, they don't know why, they don't know what went on here, they can't answer any questions, they won't ask you any. Got it?'
"Yes, I suppose we should at least thank you."
"You're welcome, just glad we were watching when we were."
Zi's story wouldn't hold up under scrutiny, but the two teens don't do scrutiny unless it involves scrutinizing their selfies. A car comes, elder man and woman assigned to take the girls to the mall, drop them off and go. Like Nikko said, they can't answer questions, they don't know anything but take two girls to the mall. They can't ask questions, that's part of being paid a thousand dollars for twenty minutes.
How do we pull two people out of the air in a city we know nothing about? We don't, that's what Transportation does. In every major city, there are people on call, paid a five thousand dollar annual retainer. If a job comes along, they are paid extra to fulfill it. A thousand dollars a day, minimum payment one day regardless of time spent. All payments are cash and a rental car is provided. Nobody asks questions.
There's no serious amount of cash in the house, a few thousand, take the laptop and a netbook, pull the busted door to and leave.
Nikko, "Good job girls, must have given Fats quite a shock to get no response."
Daria pulls up her shirt, there's a fist sized purple bruise, "Maybe ice."
Zi, "Cripes, Dasha find a drug store, we can get instant cold packs."
Walgreens on the next corner, Zi buys a half dozen. Daria lays in the back of the Tahoe and Zi piles a couple of packs on her chest.
Dasha, "We are thirty minutes from next target."
Nikko, "Enough damage and exposure for today, we'll find a way to stick a dart in him and get gone. I have cleaners making the woman disappear. Those girls are going to go crazy if they see news about her dead."
Zi, "And we can't know if they decide to shut up or run to parents or pals about their experience."
Nikko, "Talking about it would be stupid. It stretches belief that they were instantly hypnotized by one person. They don't have drugs in their system and the woman they claim abducted them is gone."
Daria is asleep, exhausted fighting off the Shadow's attempt to send her flying. Nikko is determined to finish up St. Louis efficiently and disappear.

Chapter Seventy Six

Janah, "Let's fly back to Manhattan and work out what to do with the six remaining."
Amaya, "Good by me, a break from the chase is welcome and I didn't do anything but drive."
Chloe, "Give the hackers a chance to get to any money, right now we mostly have a collection of computers."
"Nikko, we're flying home. Do the same when you wrap there."
"Wrapped. Target was on his patio. Woman from next door filming her daughter giving him a blowjob. Kid was maybe eight. We waited until they left, Eloise popped him with a dart while he was reviewing the video."
"You got the camera."
"Of course, and six hundred thousand in cash, a laptop, two thumb drives and his phone. suspect there's a ton of video."
"See you in a few."

Back in Manhattan for a day, girls and Susan busy fiddling with hacks. Video Man had nearly a hundred kiddie porn videos, mostly kids doing him filmed by a third party. Sometimes mom does kid, boys or girls, no dads for some reason. I surfed enough to get the nasty idea, deleted it all. No evidence it was uploaded, no e-mails or texts sent. Shadows don't share unless it's to cause pain.
Susan, "They don't have brokerage accounts, five have bank accounts, but only one has a safe deposit box. The Indian kept his money in a sock apparently. I don't know how he functioned with no bank but he did.
Janah, "They can get money at will, some don't see the need to save. Shadows aren't planners, they're impulsive. We've come across a few that stack up money, it's not so much for the money, just another form of obsession."
"We stack up money."
Janah laughs, "Can't argue the obvious. I won't admit to obsessed, can't speak for Nikko and Daria."
Susan, "They are obsessed with operating successful businesses and investments. The money is just a way to keep track."
Janah, "Good point. Daphne's obsessed with martial arts, Dasha and Daphne with cooking, Amaya with Amaya, Chloe with happiness."
Susan, "What's your obsession?"
Janah, "Daphne."
I smile a mile.
Susan, "She has spoiled you since the day you met, before you met."
"Whatever makes her happy, if it's me, even better."
Daria, "We net a million three hundred forty one thousand, five hundred sixty two."
"No change?"
Daria likes to be precise, "Nyet."
Susan, "Gotta run along, Taylor, Lacy and the Svenssons are waiting on me, we're going to Ultra Violet to celebrate leaving for Greece tomorrow. Two weeks of great food, wine and pristine blue water beaches...and sex, travel sex feels more salacious. Kara is particularly fond of Greece."
"Salaciosity is essential, enjoy, send some selfies, go easy on the Ouzo and opa."
Mom leaves, off on another trip tomorrow, she is enjoying the crap out of life, I turn to Janah, "We raised our parents well."
Janah, "I'm not sure that's how it went."
"Dasha, what's for dinner?"
"Pizza from Marconi. We will haf night off, tomorrow we must make a plan to keel more Shadowy person."
Amaya, "We have to stand down, Chloe and I need to be in LA Thursday, fly back Sunday."
"A movie?"
Amaya, "Maybe, it is the prenuptial dance. Director want to meet Chloe," she laughs, "fool wanted her to do a screen test. I told him to watch her other movies, Chloe Sylk does not 'read' for parts."
"Chloe wouldn't mind."
"Chloe does not mind anything, my job is minding for both of us. I read the script, the idea is good, but the dialogue needs punching up and more needs to happen. From the length of the script, short, it is going to need a lot of scene filler. That means long shots of brooding, or scenes of nothing that have no meaning, don't move the plot forward. My favorite is when they show the character getting dressed, leave the house, film every inch of the trip to the destination. None of it informs the plot or the character, it is just a cheap way to fill up minutes."
"So Chloe won't be doing any Bergman remakes."
"God no. Gray light and insufferable tedious silences. Chloe is about grace in action, emphasis on action and snappy dialogue."
Chloe, "I've been known to sit silently."
Amaya, "For as long as it takes me to polish your toes."
Chloe giggles, "Most of the time you make me recite lines."
"Chloe Sylk does not go to the set unprepared. In any case, we are going to LA to tell the director what to fix and, if he wants Chloe, he pays me to rewrite."
"What's the plot, must be something in it that caught your attention."
"Yes, a female psychotherapist is inserted as a patient in an asylum. Nefarious clandestine spooks want her to get information they believe one of the patients has. They believe the patient is faking psychosis to avoid interrogation. The truth is the patient is loony as a Tea Party Republican, but Chloe finds out she does have valuable details buried in the illusions. And the information is just the opposite of what the spooks want to hear. It is in one way an overused story line, blow the lid off secret government screw up. I like the idea of it happening in an asylum, which needs to be creepier but that’s not too difficult, and the prospect of double triple agents shifting and shuffling to avoid being outed. As written, it is too simplistic, some of the dialogue is fine, too much is just action spy boilerplate from a hundred other films."
"You mean phrases like plausible deniability, you have no evidence, we have to go NOW Mr. President, and my favorite, move! move! move!"
Amaya, "Exactly."
"Sounds like a fair sized project."
"It is, which is why they will pay me half a million to fix it and Chloe ten million and points to make it."
They just going to roll over?"
Chloe, "Hah! Amaya makes me leave the room when the negotiations start. I can hear the screams from the outer office. Then Amaya comes out with a contract for me to sign, one written by our attorney. I still can't demand only red almond M&Ms and fresh lilies of the field flown in every day."
Amaya, "You do not eat candy and cannot tell a lily from a weed."
Janah, "One of our targets is near LA, closer to San Diego. Dasha and Daria will fly out with you and deal with him. If it works in your schedule, there's another in Lake Tahoe. Catch him on the way back."
Amaya, "Good with me, always feel more secure with twin psychopaths in tow."
Dasha, "We will keel two Shadow, and make sex with Vesnushki and Eemaya."
Chloe laughs, Amaya says, "Do not leap to conclusions brat. I must be appropriately seduced."
Chloe, "That means the twins take their clothes off, then Amaya's."
Amaya, "That is entirely appropriate seduction, along with a cocktail, everything goes better with vodka."

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