Chapter Eighty Four

I move up the steps slowly, silent as a Shaolin priest, I feel him reaching out, he knows I'm coming, guess silence isn't that important. Still have to be careful, for all we know they have guns, be unusual for a Shadow, they generally rely on themselves.
I hear a click, oh well, the exception proves the rule.
"He's got a gun, pay attention."
Nikko, "I'll keep him distracted."
I tap his mind, even from a distance, it will confuse him. Shadows like certainty, to feel in control, no different than the garden variety psychopath. He thinks there's only one person in the house.
"Look, I'm armed, whatever that little rifle you carry is, it's not a three fifty seven. I know how to use it. If you walk away, you might live."
I feel him touching my brain, he's pretty good. I decide to freak him, I enter his mind through Nikko’s brain.
Then there's light from down the hall, he's kicking up the game. That level of qi takes a lot of energy, but it serves to protect him from us for a bit. He can't keep it up forever.
I feel a blast hit me in the back and I'm shoved forward into the hallway wall. I turn to see Faust at the bottom of the stair. Dang, she’s overcome the tranquilizer. I raise the air gun, fire a dart, it gets just to her, but takes a sharp angle and sticks in the wall instead. She's got a decent energy wall up.
I roll right, the gun carries two darts, still have one loaded, Faber comes out of a bedroom with a gun.
I follow his hand, he's trying to control me and shoot at the same time, I see the trigger pull, spin left, the bullet hits the floor next to me. There's a sharp blow to my jaw, this puke is aggravating.
I hop to my feet, we're like the old west standoffs. He's point a 357 at me, I have an air rifle with one shot in it. Sounds fair.
Blam! he fires again, I'm in deep, the bullet looks more like a bee than a bullet, I twist and it rockets past. I shoot him in the gut.
Faber looks down, then up at me, smiles, "The fuck is this?"
He raises the gun again, I'm out of darts, but I'm not out of qi. The gun quivers, he's fighting it, but while I approach, it's pointing to the side, then down to the floor. I'm on him and my front kick, extra qi back, sends him sailing. I move with him and by the time he hits the wall, I have the gun, he's bleary eyed from the drug. Butt of his revolver cracks his temple, he's in a heap on the floor.
Nikko, "She's wrapped, you good?"
"Faber is resting."
"Tie him anyway, picture wire hands behind his back and wire his ankles, don't skimp on the wire. Then come here and help me haul the fat bitch into a chair."

I have Faust in position, she's not fat like Agnes, our tanning slob from yesterday, but she's a big boned German. Reminds me of the ones you see in Viking helmets singing Wagner. Time to ammonia her back into sentience.
While she coughs and gags, I figure a good place for the 357 is the bottom of the pool, sans bullets and after a hard pounding on the concrete to screw with the barrel. Back upstairs, I check on Faber, still unconscious. I grab him by the belt and drag him down the hall.
Faust watches me thump his butt down the stairs and hook him up in the same position as she's wired in.
Faust, "You're the ones from yesterday. You got the money, got into our accounts, fuck you want now, nothing's left."
"You and he are left. McClain is being dealt with as we speak. The movies usually have one body in the trunk, you exceed yourselves."
She smirks, "So what, we didn't kill them, you did."
"True, and we will do the same to you shortly. But first, I want to know all there is about the girl you call girl."
"Why should I tell you anything? Think you can kill me, do it."
We feel her jacking up, the room gets warm, she gets off a blast at me, I see it like a big freight train, stand aside. Glasses and plates are blown off the table and smashed against the patio door, which also smashes.
Nikko, "Impressive, but never try to hurt my friend, that's not healthy," the woman sneers until Nikko’s fists have the woman's head snapping from side to side. Blood runs from her mangled mouth, a tooth flies.
Faust's head sags against her chest, I loads a syringe with David Li's Truth. A half hour later, we have what she knows, which tells us almost nothing.
They found kids to play with, Agnes and Jim made videos starring the kids and themselves. The other three sexually abused the kids, but as we already knew, there were no videos made.
Faust, "It was easy, kids. One of us would take their mind, make them think it was fun, the others took their turns. Once we'd used up one, Agnes took them off to a broker. Before you ask, we don't know who, we didn't want to know who, she knew, but you fixed that problem when you killed her. Obviously they paid cash, it isn't like there's a bank transfer."
"Where did they come from?"
"Same answer. She'd deliver a kid, come back with one, like a used book store. We traded them out at six or seven, get toddlers. Worked out for everyone. Someone else gets a trained sex toy, we get to do the training. All they ever knew was what we told 'em. They were obedient, didn't know from LA, California or the world. This was their world until we traded them in. Agnes said the buyers like that too. Take the kid off someplace, blank to everything but sex. And we trained them good. You try on Girl, she'll do any goddamn thing you want."
"Put her out of my misery, hard way."
Slicing a throat is really messy, and Faust is no different, Nikko has her resembling a blood fountain.
"Okay, a few words with Faber, but I doubt he knows much more. I'm curious about his therapy sessions."
I wake him up, one look at Faust and he's spilling as fast as he can. With Trust, I have him believing he's going to make it out of the room. Story onn the kids is the same, who and how he has no idea. Therapy with him is interesting.
Faber, "I specialize in athletes, men. You can imagine, a gay man, one who can take your mind, well not your mind, what is it with you? Where did you learn?"
"We might get to that later, first, therapy?"
"Yeah, well, there I am, alone in a room with a splendid young college athlete, swimmers, tennis players, football, basketball, you name it. Not only can I make them believe they're invincible, I can fondle, kiss, lick or suck anything I want. Imagine, taking it in the ass from a stud college basketball player. Some of those guys have cocks like fat salami. I was queer guy having the straight guy, and when the sessions over, they're thanking me for helping them and booking the next appointment. Some weeks I got fifteen different dicks. I didn't really care about the kids. I tried it a couple of times. I like my dicks with heft, not little kid stuff and I don't give it in the ass, I take it. Jim would fuck them everywhere, girl or boy."
He's quiet for a minute, drugged up, he has to think about things and those things come slowly, he says, "So, I told you, now you tell me, where did you learn? I've never been handled that way by anyone."
"You know Shaolin?"
He sighs, "Qi Masters, you guys are a pain in the ass, and I do not mean in a good way. I ran across one several years ago. He sensed me, gave it a go, but he had nothing. I crushed his shaved head against a wall," he stops, light bulb goes off, "McClain said Shaolin take a vow to kill us, is that right, I'm not dead."
"You are now."
Dueling blood fountains, although Faust is drained, guess I could hang her upside-down and finish the job, seems pointlessly gruesome.
Zi and Eloise pull up, come inside.
Zi, "Find out anything?"
"What we knew, Faber had sex therapy with college boys who didn't know it was sex therapy."
"I was in your head for that part. McClain picked a good spot, nothing for a mile or more. Eloise popped him when he got out of the car, I nabbed the darts, he joined his pals in the deep blue. Nothing to do about the car, we thought about driving it someplace else, it seemed pointless, the spot was so isolated it could be a while before someone sees it."
"Blood in the trunk?"
"No, visqeen, like Dexter uses on the TV show. There wasn't any blood, just holes from the darts, I didn't see the need to make a mess, couple days in the ocean, holes won't be recognizable. If they last a week, they won't be recognizable. Bodies were pounding rocks, at least until the tide turns. Left the car, took the plate and registration, no time to scrape the vin number."

Chapter Eighty Five

Back at Shutters, rough day, I'm a little beat up, par for the Shadow course. Dealing with them is never easy unless we catch them completely off guard. The reason most of our work goes relatively smoothly is that we do the stalking and the stalkees don't know we're stalking.
Dasha and Daria followed through my head, Amaya and Janah too, they don't need a recap, Oceane doesn't need to know anything, well, except.
"Oceane, we didn't find out anything about where you came from, we talked to the people who had you. The woman you call Agnes brought you to them. She's gone."
No reaction, then, "Dasha says we are going to a place called New York. On an airplane. I've never been on one, I used to see them over the house. That's what Dr. McClain called them. He said they only carried packages or were spying on people. Dasha says he's ridiculous."
"It is ridiculous, people fly on them all the time. You're going on one soon, that's how we get home."
She takes it in stride, no reply, just a vacant smile.
"She sure isn't curious."
Janah, "No, we need Zi to watch, see what she picks up."
Nikko, "I passed it along, Zi doesn't want to guess, she's seeing colors that don't register. What she does say is there's no animosity, she's neither anxious nor upset."
"Then we do what we do and see how it unfolds."

Amaya and Chloe are in, Amaya says, "This is going to be Chloe's breakout film. We are going to shatter the thirty million worldwide of the last one. The dialogue is superb, I know because I sweated it for months. Childers translates the action to the screen perfectly, it is tight, right and nothing extraneous to the plot. I am genius."
Dasha says while pouring Amaya a vodka, "Eemaya, haf cocktail drink and quit ridiculous. Fahmahley knows you weel make gud moovey, do not tooting your horny."
We laugh, Amaya huffs, "Impertinent ingrate,” kisses Dasha was she takes her drink, "Perfect cocktail, thank you Stalin. Where's your  buddy Lenin?"
Dasha, "Daria ees check drone wiz Eloise, now coming."
Knock, and here they are, Dasha has their drinks prepared, "I make cocktail today, Eemaya ees work to make fahmahley reech and Vesnushki famous. When we are home, she haf to make drink or I don't anymore cook."
Janah, "The twins can film soon? We need to get back to Manhattan."
Amaya, "Tomorrow. With luck, we can get their LA scenes in one day, most two. The rest of their work is in New York. He juggled the shots since it all takes place in the same location, doesn't matter if we do the twins first."
Janah, "Good, sooner we blow town the better."
Oceane is on the balcony, she's fascinated with the water, the sun is near set, red and gold bounce off the nothing evening ripples.
At dinner, I ask Amaya, "I read the book of course, the twins are what they are in the book I assume."
Amaya, "Yes, identical twin assassins who use it to confuse targets. Technically, only Daria's character is in LA, Dasha's is in New York, they are not revealed as twins until the change to New York. But it will help for Dasha to see how things work, she will be better prepared. Tomorrow, Daria kills an unnamed character to make it clear she's an assassin, then she is sent after Chloe. She gets taken by the yakuza, also after Chloe, Chloe bails her out and kills her captors. Daria is not completely transformed, part of the suspense is whether she will still try to kill Chloe, that is where we leave it. Dasha comes into the picture in New York, separate assassinations on the same day at the same time make it clear to Chloe that there are twins involved. The action gets tangled, the tensions is, in part, because the twins and Chloe never become pals, they are thrown together and cooperate out of necessity."
"I recall the book ending in a sort of standoff, not friends, not mortal enemies, a mutual respect."
"Exactly, which sets up the obvious."
"Another book, another movie."

Chapter Eighty Six

And so it went, Daria and Dasha go on location, Daria does her part. They did need one more day, which is fine, the twins were a hit, both with the cast and Chloe's fans, even managed to almost smile their way through it all. Let's not get carried away, almost only.
It gave us a chance to talk with and observe Oceane. Zi and Janah sat with her on the balcony, we took walks down to Venice. Nikko ahead of and me behind to keep an eye on things. Zip happened, better yet, no birds on the balcony.
We leave on an early flight, private, Oceane, Eloise, Nikko, Zi, the twins, Janah and me. If Oceane feels one way or the other, I can't tell. She smiles, accepts what she's told, eats what is put in front of her, although we notice a preference for lighter food. She'd tried burgers, ate part of one, but when she was offered choices, she went for salads, fruit and skipped red meat. They serve grilled fish on the flight, she eats it all.
On the way in, she sits quietly and takes in the massive landscape of New York City, blinking out the window, no questions, no comments.
Dasha takes her through the apartment, what room is whose, they forage in the refrigerator, she has apple slices. While I unpack and unpack the twins, Dasha makes tea, sets out cookies, we sit around the low table and unwind from the travel.
Oceane, "This is nice, I like tea, I never had a cookie, it's good."
"Want another?"
"No, enough. There is a rock in some of the rooms, water goes over it."
"Yes, simply called a water rock."
"Could I watch one? I like how it looks."
"Of course, Dasha, your room, ours, Chloe's, doesn't matter."
Dasha takes her off, she comes back, "She ees relax, does not say anything, but she likes. We will leaf her alone."
"What do you see, Zi?"
"She is as empty as anyone I've ever encountered. Not empty as in dull or dumb. Empty as a master in meditation. I detect no wanting, not that she has no desires or interests, that's not it. She has no...what is it?...the best I can say for now is, nothing is required."
While Dasha thinks up dinner, Janah and I walk to the parent's condo, the family is in, James and Kara are having drinks, Sis and Taylor wine.
Susan (I call my mom Sis or Susan), "Strangers from a strange land, how was Los Angeles?"
"Shutters splendid as always, you should hop a flight with Taylor and Lacy. You are guaranteed to be SoCal girls. Dad and K-mom should go as well."
Taylor, "You keep telling us, we're between overseas trips, I'm going to book us as soon as I can get available dates from the others."
James, "Kara and I were at the Canadian cabin, hardly a cabin anymore, the Canadian mansion you morphed it into. Your caretakers took great care of us."
Kara, "And I got inspired to do Crystal Lake, I have it in my mind, all I need to do is slap on the paint."
Sis, "You have that something's new look, spill. Nobody hurt I hope?"
"Nobody you care about. You all have another grandchild."
James laughs, Taylor is excited, Kara is always calm, Susan says, "How many rooms can you put on the roof?"
"There's lots of space, I'd ask you to let her live here until we have something ready, but I doubt you can get her away from Daria and Dasha."
Susan, "Well, when you need to travel, she is welcome here, how old?"
"Six we think."
James, "Daria and Dasha latched on to her? What brought that about? No, of course, she was in a similar situation as the twins when you rescued them."
Janah, "It was close. Give it a few days before you meet her. She has no experience in the world, she was a prisoner, held in a house with a high wall, locked in her room a great deal of the time. She had never seen the ocean, never seen anything she couldn't see from the backyard. Never watched television, had no internet access. Her entire world was the house and five adults. I don't need to explain the five adults other than to say she will never see them again."
We don't need to explain that nobody will ever see them again, it's understood.
"When she acclimates, we'll bring her over. We're not sure what she knows, seems to have a grasp of simple arithmetic, speaks well enough, understands us, can read. She's fascinated by water, loves the ocean, which simplified her name choice, Oceane, the French version."
Taylor, "How beautiful. Is she French?"
Janah, "We don't know, Caucasian, light brown hair, shoulder length like most of ours. She is reasonably healthy, thin. Her captors fed her minimally, but fruit, raw vegetables, cereal. Skin tone is good, bit of a tan, there was a pool, spent a lot of time swimming. They didn't let her get sun-baked."
James, "How is she otherwise?"
Janah, "We're taking our usual approach, if problems surface we deal with them then. I haven't had to do any interventions. She was observant when we traveled, but not excited, so far, she takes what comes along. If she hadn't chosen Oceane, we could have gone with Serena."
James, "Clear, tranquil, serene. I recall a child like that, I look forward to meeting her."
Kara smiles, "Our daughter has self replicated."
Janah, "Perhaps, with a difference, can you guess, dad?"
James, "You were curious from birth, had to know, loved complexity, loved difficult even unanswerable questions. Oceane, from your description, is not curious at all."
"Good call. We think it may be because she wasn't exposed to the books, internet, television, Kara's art that surrounded Janah. Not to mention the stimulation of the city itself. Oceane had none of that."
Janah, "We can only see what the world she now inhabits reveals in her."

We end Book XII here. Catch the development of Oceane and the rest of our strange crew in XIII.

Previous