Chapter Eighty Five
We ride off into the sunset while they deal with the mess. Janah decides not to wait on the sheriff for permission to interview Defoe, she makes a call.
Late afternoon, Chief calls, "Went around me."
"Nothing personal, not a power play. We have lives, I don't want to hang around longer than necessary. I'll get him talking tonight, tomorrow you can pass the ball if you want."
"Come on then."
"We come in a back door, none of your people around. You point us to the interview room, no cameras, no audio, no two way window. Del is going in first to disable anything that records, if there's a window, it will be covered. That way you don't have to lie to me that's it's all been taken care of."
"Trusting aren't you?"
"Trust but verify."
It's going to be a long night. We knew we were coming for a problem, which is why we had the drone, air gun and the pharmaceuticals. David Li, our chemistry Ph.D. Shaolin, has developed four primary drugs. One we call Sleep is a quick acting anesthetic, like we used on Defoe. One is called Oblivion, which is for Shadows, guarantees virtually instant death. One is called Truth, enhanced sodium pentothal. Another is Trust, a kind of super-oxytocin, which gets the target relaxed and chatty. We used to torture, use hallucinogens and amphetamines to get targets disoriented and keep them awake, but that takes a long time. Physical violence works, but it's dehumanizing, to us; we don't care about the targets, they come pre-dehumanized.
They have Defoe in an interview room, hands chained to the table, feet in a second set. I enter, sweep the room, find the audio bug and disable it, disconnect the camera, tape sheets of parchment paper over the two way mirror. There's no other electrical device operating, I turn on a white noise machine anyway.
Defoe, "What's going on? Torture? Fuck that. I want a lawyer."
"Offer your victims a lawyer? Or tell them they had the right to remain silent before you smashed their skulls?"
Dasha takes one arm, pulls it straight and applies pressure to his elbow. If he moves he earns a snapped joint. While he's absorbed, I stick a needle in his vein and press a syringe full of Trust in him. Ten minutes later he's Janah's pal, a lying pal. Her questions are answered with unrelated stories, sidetracks, irrelevancies. That's common, Trust is to get them talking when they want to clam up.
Next is Truth. Sodium pentothal is a barbiturate, a large dose will anesthetize to unconsciousness. Since it decreases higher cortical brain function and lying is harder that telling the truth, subjects are inclined to take the simple route. It also gets them talkative. Mixed with Trust, you can see the advantage. David Li jacked up the concentration, the part that screws up cortical function, and reduced the barbiturate that makes subjects foggy.
Janah, "When did you first start consuming human flesh?"
Defoe, "Been years, got real good at it too. Lessee, I was in Montana. Cold as a bitch in Montana. Me and a buddy was snowed in, cabin out in nowhere. He got cabin fever, climbed the beams to the roof, busted a hole and went out. Found him two day later, froze solid. I was damn near starved, he kept me alive."
"You made it out, nobody asked about him?"
"Nobody to ask."
"So you had a reason, why continue?"
Defoe, "At first, I felt bad, I also felt powerful, done something most wouldn't. I read up on it. Found out that I'd taken his spirit, his soul. Lots of tribes do it, makes 'em great warriors."
"He needed a justification, so he went out and found one."
"But you didn't stay in Montana."
"Coupla months, got me some experience."
"How much experience?"
"Two others. Found out men, women, don't make no difference once the meat's cooked, woman's got a bit more fat, but I stick to the organs, thigh and calf, butt's good too."
"Why bash in skulls?"
He looks at her puzzled, "I'm a warrior, a soul hunter, no gun, no knife, plain old hammer. Quick and dirty. Does a bit of damage to the brain, but there's plenty left to fry."
"You moved on eventually."
"Acourse, they start lookin' when people go missin'. I high tailed it to Colorado. Lived there a year. Had 'em for dinner in damn near ever' city, then hadda bail, went to California. It's big, millions of people, lots of towns. I settled in, drove a big rig up and down the state. Never had to buy a meal."
"Why Lake Havasu?"
"Man gets a vacation, don't he?"
"Flanders, how many?"
"Morin' I can count, ain't like I keep a diary. I cook 'em, eat the organs first, freeze the meat if I'm at home. Got to be an artist. Carry my equipment in the truck, kill dinner, clean it. Got to find a quiet spot to fire 'em up, sometimes roast on a spit, or a barbecue grill, sometimes fry it in a pan."
It goes on almost all night, I jack him up occasionally, can't let him rest, we want him dazed and compliant. We're taping the conversation, but on our stuff, not the cop's. I'll doctor it, take out Janah's voice. If I need to, I'll insert a questioner, it just won't be her. Amaya does voices, she can sound like a grizzled male detective or anyone else.*
She'd drained him dry by four-thirty in the morning, wipes his memory of us, the conversation, he wouldn't know us if he saw us later today. We pack up and leave him in the room. Chief is asleep on a couch in his office, Janah gently shakes him awake.
"He's cooked. Investigations can start in Montana, Colorado and California. Most of it was California. He had no interest in names, all the ID is gone. If they had cash, he took it, disposed of everything else, even jewelry. Smart enough to know it might be traceable."
She fills him in on the beginning, his subsequent motivation, "Don't know how a court will see it, lawyer's going to go for insanity of course. But Dahmer went to prison, insanity isn't a get out of jail free card. I'm no lawyer, but Defoe's actions were clearly premeditated and carried out with a plan, not homicidal frenzy."
Chief, "Best give him to California I guess, he's going to be tried everywhere though, including Arizona. Be horrible for the relatives. Least he didn't live here."
"I have the conversation recorded, but first I'm taking Jane's voice out. They can use it to question him, it's pretty detailed as to method, references to cities, not so much on exact location. Like I said, he wasn't keeping records, it didn't matter to him where he found victims. There will be body parts in his freezer, but most of his victims are gone."
Chief, "Gonna be a mess, families with missing kin not knowing if Defoe ate ‘em. Still, I gotta thank you for getting this done."
"Just interrogate him, he won’t remember talking to us. Use our audio to make him think you have the whole story. It will be a day or so, I’d give it to you now, but I have to edit, nobody knows who we are."
"So Jane and Del don't exist."
"What's in a name?"
Chief, "I'll see about his memory, if you did that, I've never heard of it before."
"Nothing about an interview is going to come up. He was disoriented, you put him in a cell, he slept."
"How do I get in touch?"
"Deputies saw you, the ME people saw you. You talked to him in the mine, or Del did anyway."
"He doesn't remember that either. The others saw us at the cave by the lake, just tourists that stumbled on bones."
Chief, "Sergeant Franklin was in the evidence room, he knows you were more than tourists."
"Sergeant Franklin knows how to keep his peace, we were never there. If you don't ask, he's not going to tell. He's not going to tell even if you ask."
Chief, "Glad you aren't after me for anything."
Chapter Eighty Six
It's true, we have a life to get back to, and we will. One more night in Lake Havasu City, Oceane got a water fix this afternoon, we have dinner, enjoy the activity from our balcony. Janah, Zi and I get up to good no good with a couple of toys.
Our plane is waiting this morning at eight, five hours plus three crossing time zones, we're in New York for four, Amaya's waiting at Teterboro.
She sweeps up Oceane, kisses her, "You did so well, examining evidence, flying the drone, seizing Dasha's heart. You may not have her to yourself however, nor she you."
Oceane strokes Amaya's flawless face, traces her finger across soft lips, "My eyes dance."
Amaya grins, "You are going to get so lucky."
Oceane says to no one, "I am lucky."
Dasha, "Eemaya, you haf enough compliment, take us home now. We are meesing fahmely, no more time for telling Eemaya she ees most beautiful."
"Get in pushy Potemkin, I will take you to Daria. Geez, you can mental her whenever you want, it is not as if you have not spoken to her in a week."
"Ees not same. You don't leaf Vesnushki for a week, or a day, Dahfoney ees no leaf Janah."
True, Janah and I can mental from anyplace. Despite that, we have never spent a single day physically apart. Codependent-R-Us and I don't give a damn who knows it.
Amaya, "How could I? Chloe would be devastated."
Dasha, "Nyet, Eemaya ees devastate, no mahter. Oceane and I merge now, Eemaya."
"What! How splendid. Is Daria in there too?"
"Sister ees always in Dasha."
"What did you think, Oceane?"
"Merge is not thinking, only being. I am in her heart, she is in mine, then one heart."
"And Daria there too."
Oceane is looking at the city skyline, "Daria is Dasha, Dasha is Daria."
Amaya wipes a tear, "Daphne, a tissue please, something in my eye."
Everyone's home, Chloe has tea prepared.
We take spots around the low tea table, Chloe pours, "Amaya almost never left Daphne's head, she gave us updates every half hour. We stayed up the whole time Janah interrogated Defoe."
"I need to edit the audio tomorrow, I replayed it on the plane. Amaya, I'll need you to do a man's voice to insert the questions Janah asked."
Amaya, "Whenever you are ready, I shall go Midwestern, deep, not bass, like a radio announcer. Will you write out the questions? No, I will do it, I need to listen to the recording and get the flow of it."
"It will tie up the day, sorry, but I need to get it off asap."
"We will finish tomorrow, you can send it by the afternoon."
Eloise, "The drone performed well?"
Janah, "Perfectly, Oceane did a great job sensing the victims state of mind, Dasha tagged Defoe, Daphne pulled the dart and ditched it. I went around the Chief to insure I got to interview Defoe, cops can get territorial. I needed to delete Defoe's memory of Daphne's chat in the mine. Chief was so glad to have the case resolved, he didn't make a thing of it."
Nikko, "You handed him the cannibal and the case, he ought to be glad. That asshole gets out of town, he could have gone on for years."
"He isn't going on for years. He's dying."
Janah, "Daphne caught the scent when she removed the dart. Defoe has cancer. He doesn't know it, Daphne thinks it's stomach cancer, a kind of justice. We couldn't say anything, what would we say? Daphne smells sickness? They think we're strange enough already."
Nikko, "You think the deputy, Sergeant, is going to keep his mouth shut?"
"Oceane exposed something he'd done, minor stuff, chased a teen jerk out of town, but still, he's a cop."
"He did what needed doing, you wouldn't out him in any case."
"He doesn't know that, enough cannibal, what did you guys get up to?"
Daria, "We need to spend money. Chloe's movie is being released next week, she's been interviewed all week, morning TV and late night. Advance talk is a hundred million opening."
"Good Lord. Nikko's relieved I guess."
Nikko, "Hasn't opened yet, but we aren't losing anything, that's plain. Chloe's fan page overflows with messages and comments, the thing in Tokyo went everywhere. The point Daria is making is we are awash in cash. We need to start something as well as donate to the Sylk Trust. Flipping market is at all time highs. We're supposed to do stuff with the money, not sit on it."
Janah, "Lake Havasu is two hundred miles west, it's beautiful, lots of water, laid back. I want to tour smaller towns in Arizona, Havasu doesn’t have elevations so it’s hot in the summer. But other spots in Arizona do, Prescott and Flagstaff. Dirt a few miles out of town is cheap, there’s a lot of dirt. And we can always use another ranch for kids. What do you think?"
Nikko, "No reason we can't start on the ranch right away. I'll get on it. Usual arrangement, we buy the property and build it out, the Society and Shaolin handle operating expenses?"
Janah, "Yes. I have a waiting list of monks for the other ranches, they'll be happy to have a new one. "
"And cannibals, don't forget the cannibals."
Amaya, "Eeeww, please Daphne, there are gentlewomen present. Now I need something stronger than tea."
We've talked into the cocktail hour, while I help Chloe clear up, Amaya bartends. Soon drinkers have the libation of choice, Dasha makes nibbles and we spread around the big table. Oceane leans to Amaya, whispers, retires to her room, she's had lots of people contact and little Oceane time. She prefers it the other way round.
Amaya, "If it wasn't Oceane, I would be insulted, what could be better than having a drink with me?"
"Having sex with you for a start."
"You say the nicest things Daphne, I shall reward you, but later. Tonight, I am rewarding Oceane, she has made her demand, who am I to deny?"
Dasha, "Oceane haf no to demand. Who will say no to Oceane? Crazy person."
We laugh, she's right. On the other hand, none of us ever says no, that would be a sign of dementia, deteriorating judgment at the least.
Amaya, "You got your turn slutinsky, she is mine tonight."
Dasha, "Ees gud, I haf been away from sister and Eloise, we will make own sexy time, and Vesnushki, she will come to us also."
Chloe, "Ooooh, what's for dinner" I may need extra protein."
"Good thought, did you have Marconi's recently? We can get a good mix of protein and carbs."
Chloe, "No, Amaya had us on chicken and fish, she decided we would calorie restrict while our chefs were out of town."
Amaya is our resident fussbudget, dress, diet, decor, hair and makeup, she has firm opinions on all. She's always right. She's particularly particular about Chloe and the twins. Except for Eloise, the rest of us were never into sloppy casual. Eloise came to us with jeans and t-shirts, but she almost never went out when she lived with Spider. She caught on when Amaya dressed up her wardrobe, got her a cute hairstyle and demonstrated the advantages of light makeup. She realized how adorable she is; still a bit shy, nothing like before Amaya's makeover.
We welcome returning to our routines, Janah and I to the temple, while she administrates, I train and teach. The Shaolin temple is our favorite place next to home. It was our home for almost eight years, before Nikko or any of the others. We entered the temple with Black, Chan and David, our brothers. Now Chan lives with his wife Ning in Chinatown, his son is our Shaolin pharmacologist, his daughter Miyako an MD Ph.D. doing independent biological and neurological work in her own lab. Black married Sonia long ago, she's a social worker, he owns a dojo and oversees our Down Home restaurants in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Chan and Black occasionally do Society work, sometimes help in our independent investigations. All those years passed, and after we discovered our weird DNA, none of them get older.
Chapter Eighty Seven
Sheesh, Chloe's film opened, this time nationwide, to the tune of a hundred fifty million. Just snuck into the historical top ten of Friday through Sunday openings. We went PG-13, our audience weighted towards teen girls, which attracts teen boys, action on the screen and action in the seats.
Nikko, "Settles that, we could do four hundred million worldwide, incredible. Filming in three international cities, London, Beijing and Tokyo was a stroke of genius, Amaya."
"Thank you, Chloe's screen presence is a ticket magnet, Matt was glaze on the doughnut."
Matt and Claudia Skype, "Holy crap, congratulations Amaya, how's Chloe taking it?"
"She spent the last two days on the fan page, we had to enlist Mayumi and Satomi on her behalf, it has been nuts. Good thing we operate the site off our own server. Daphne's mom has enough server power to accommodate heavy traffic. We closed Facebook, it wasn't handling the stream of comments well after the first film. Have you seen it, you are all over the page as well."
Claudia, "Thank you for that, his agent says he's flooded with projects, Matt and I are going over tomorrow to sift. Because of you, we can pick and choose. Has Childers called?"
Amaya, "Yes, he is ecstatic. Studios are after him, figured out he's efficient, cost conscious and works on budget on time. I'm picking up my gay private eye again, the one Chris Fischer created. You want to be his arch enemy. Matt? He's straight, I want to put a gay actor in the other lead role. The bad guy gets equal screen time, you get to be ultra-smart, slick as graphite and will not be killed off in the end, it might be a recurring role. Think Moriarty and Sherlock, except my evil character is a hot hunk."
Matt's all grins, "Send us a script when you have something, you’re still doing the twins, yes?"
"Just beginning, you have time to make a film or two before I’m ready."
Matt, "What if my next film flops? These things can be critically applauded and do nothing at the box office."
"Then I will be the cause of your comeback."
They laugh, Matt says, "You don't have insecurity issues."
"Why on Earth would I? I'm smart, gorgeous and sleep with Chloe Sylk."
Matt, "There's that. Congratulations again, if you have reason to be in California, call us please."
"And if you guys do something in New York, same thing. We will take you to Ultra Violet, just think, dinner with eleven stunning women. And Claudia is safe, all of them are queer."
Claudia, "Sounds delightful, thank you for everything, congratulations again, kiss the star for me."
They click off, "Such a lovely couple, they lack the snippy Hollywood attitude."
Amaya, "Matt is a professional. He gets a role, plays it as written, shows up on time and ready, sans attitude. Claudia says he understands how incredibly fortunate he is. Dozens of attractive talented actors cannot score a role in a local theater mashup. Women have it worse. If they do not have a big scores by the time they are twenty five, it is curtains. Meryl Streep exceptions are minuscule."
Chloe comes along, "My fingers need a break, I'm leaving the rest of it to Mayumi and Satomi."
"You aren't replying to every comment?"
"No, impossible. If I see a photo attached, usually a selfie in front of a theater, I might say, 'cute shot, thanks,' something short. Comments with photos go to a moderating hold, that's what I'm sifting through."
"Get a lot of porn?"
"Surprisingly little, mostly guys who apparently think their dicks are irresistible. A few lesbian slut comments."
"I'm a lesbian slut."
"A slut is a woman who likes sex with variety, a whore is a woman who sells sex for money. I see no problem with either as long as the woman is acting voluntarily."
Nikko, "Lesbians, always sex."
"Said the Japanese who sleeps with a hot Chinese monk, and frequently with eight other women."
Zi, "How sweet, thank you Daphne."
"Nikko seduced me the second time we met."
"Daphne showered with me, I was helpless, we didn't have sex until later, after I'd moved in with them, it was respectfully proper."
Amaya, "What was it about her?"
"She beat me up, major turn on. When she undressed, devastating legs put me under her spell."
Janah, "Me too, I wonder how many times I've kissed them?"
Chloe, "Daphne has the most kissed legs on the planet."
"I wonder if that's a Guinness record? Unfortunately, I haven't kept count."
Amaya, "I am sure to catch up, Oceane is particularly good at it, Eloise cannot get enough, Chloe is impatient to get to other of my delicacies."
Eloise blushes, shoves her glasses up her nose.
Amaya, "It is a miracle you do not have a callused nose, you spend half your time pushing you glasses back. I have been negligent. We shall get you proper eyewear tomorrow. Do you want contacts? I am not a fan of laser surgery. You shall have both, glasses and contacts."
Eloise, "I only need them for distance."
"They make bifocal contacts, you are cute with your glasses though. At any rate, you can decide to use one or the other or both. It is also time for tooth whitening, I will make appointments tomorrow, for everyone."
When Amaya decides these things, nothing to do but go along. She has us at the dentist annually despite the fact that none of us has had so much as a cavity. Then she got on the tooth whitening kick, now we have to go for that. We don't complain, it works and we feel shiny new afterwards. Except for Chloe, no one needed braces. The dentist is the only doctor we go to, we're never sick and I can smell illness anyway. If someone comes up with something, I'll know it before they do.
Dasha, "Ees time for cocktail, I will make appetizer, Eemaya will make drinks. Dahfoney, we will have filet on grill, I haf already made marching sauce, bake potato, do you want stuff or regular?"
Marching sauce is Dasha-speak for marchand de vin, a steak staple around here, "What's the vegetable?"
Dasha is surfing the refrigerator, "Cauliflower au gratin, salad of mixed greens wiz our tomato, olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette."
We grow tomatoes on the roof in the spring and summer, a variety David Li developed from the famous Creole tomatoes down south.
"Regular baked then.”
Janah, "Yum, a glass of red Amaya please, while I anticipate."
Dasha coats water crackers with sour cream, a half teaspoon of caviar, also warm brie with agave and walnuts, toasted brioche rounds for the creamy cheese.
Janah, "Brie is excellent Dasha, just the right note of sweet and crunchy. You switched to agave."
“Da, you will let me know preference, I can do honey as well, Chloe likes agave in tea, ees healthy.”
I get the steaks out of the refrigerator, they've been lightly coated with cracked pepper, a sprinkling of Worcestershire and soy sauce, nutmeg and orange zest. The trick to keeping the pepper on is to dust the steaks with baking soda and salt. The beef has a chemical reaction that helps the marinade stick, the flavor is marvelous.
I go upstairs to fire up my grill, then to Oceane's room, she's at her drawing table, beautifully nude.
I kiss smooth shoulders, "Cocktails, dinner in thirty or so."
She smiles up at me, "You started the grill."
She stands, wraps her arms around me and gives me a lingering kiss, sweet tongue plays, "My silk shirt is on the chair, is that enough?"
"Plenty, everyone else is in t-shirts."
We go downstairs together.
Amaya, "Oceane, vodka or wine dear one?"
"White, I will taste flowers."
Amaya hands her a glass, earns a kiss for her trouble, "Amaya is vanilla and sugar."
Amaya, "Tahitian Gold vanilla and richly refined sugar."
Oceane licks Amaya's lips, "Liquid crystal."
Amaya sighs, "You are so spot on, willowy nymph."
Man I've got this steak thing cold, my grill does everything but bring them to the table. Tonight is twelve ounce filets, sometimes I do ribeye, they also like flank. Flank has the lowest fat, but properly marinated and nicely charred it's quite flavorful. Cut across the grain in strips, otherwise the low fat content makes it too chewy.
Janah, "Tomatoes are excellent, seem even better this year, you do something different Daria?"
Daria does much of the gardening, Janah when she has time.
Daria, "Nyet. Oceane talks to them now."
"They talk back?"
Oceane, "They are always talking, they love the home you built for them. They also like the bees."
Bees come around for the nectar from some of our flowering herbs. They incidentally help protect the tomatoes because they scare off caterpillars. Bees also help pollinate our fruit trees. We have a couple of orange trees, lime and lemon as well.
Amaya, "Do they sting you?"
Oceane, "No. Sometimes they tickle my hand. The little wings hum, like my vibrator, bzzzzzzzzz. I call mine honeybee."
"Ghirardelli brownies, vanilla bean ice cream, with or without hot fudge."
"With, tomorrow is a low calorie day."
Dasha and I clear up, let them settle in to the movie and digest. It’s The Counselor, a Ridley Scott flick, with Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz. Not a bad mix.
Half hour later, we start a brownie and ice cream production line, heat the fudge and put it in a separate bowl.
“Take a dessert prep break.”
I bring Janah hers, the others line up for the sweet treat. Some forego brownie for ice cream and hot fudge, others a chunk of each, Eloise brownie only.
About halfway through, Oceane, who's lying with her head in Dasha's lap not watching the movie, gets up, "Honeybee," she says to no one, then goes to her room.
As she goes up the stairs I hear, "bzzzzzzz, bzzzzzzz," she has a plan.
The rest of us hang until the end.
Amaya, "Not bad, not as good as No Country, but that's a tough film to top."
"The bad guy Javier Bardem was in both of them, what was the character's name in No Country?"
"Yeah, that guy, what a psychopath, he did a great job."
Dasha, "What ees No Country?"
"You haven't seen it? We'll find it streaming someplace. Catch it later this week."
Amaya, "Dasha and Daria could be Chigurh if we had not taken them in."
"We did take them in, they still kill people."
"They kill assholes who deserve it. And they have not killed us. I taught them social skills and made them almost empathetic, they can fake it anyway."
Dasha turns to her sister, "Eemaya and Dahfoney say we are not social keelers anymore, only gud keelers."
Daria doesn't reply.
Dasha, "We are still social keeler, only Eemaya and Dahfoney say nyet, so we do not. Fahmahley makes us reech American girls and Eemaya makes us also beautiful. So we keel only Shadowy person and anyone who ees to hurt fahmahley."
Chloe, "And they saved you from the Russian child sellers."
Dasha, "Da, Russians were to be anyway dead that night even eef fahmahley does not come for saving us."
What she means is, they were going to slit throats regardless. We just did it before the twins could get to them. The Russians weren't going to finish the day one way or the other.
Zi, "Better we did it than you. You would have been sent back to Russia or Belarus, they would have separated you and sent you to an orphan's home."
Dasha, "Da, ees better. Back to Russia, many people will die, sisters will not be separate."
Amaya, "Gruesome topic, you are here, reasonably socialized. You have a family that cares for you, no men to exploit you. Besides, what would we do without our chef and Daria's business and computer expertise? Unthinkable."
Dasha, "You do not haf to make compliment to slip wiz us, tonight we will come to you and Vesnushki for sexy time."
Chloe, "Oooohh, the twins, yay."
Amaya huffs, "As if I need to compliment anyone to get them in the sack, how preposterous."
Dasha, "Da, yes, okay, now we will go to your room and you may haf tweens for playing."
Amaya smiles slyly, "Time for rest....and recreation, goodnight people."
The four of them head to Chloe's room. Chloe and Amaya have individual bedrooms, but one of them always remains empty at night. Amaya's room is primarily her writing room, I'm not sure when the bed was last used for sleeping.
Eloise, "I'm going to Oceane, Janah, want to join us?"
Janah, "I need no encouragement, goodnight all."
Two more gone.
"I'm wanting to explore the mysteries of the orient, and what do you know, a Japanese girl and a Chinese girl, what can I do for you?"
Nikko, "We'll think of something."
It is so good to be me, in a houseful of willing lesbians, like living in a Godiva truffle box, yummy.
Chapter Eighty Eight
A few weeks pass, Nikko found two plots of land outside Flagstaff for the ranch. She and Zi fly off to take a look, can't really tell what's more suitable by photos or even Google Earth. She's also going to find a spot to build a house, probably in the near mountains.
Janah, "We have a job, Society work."
"Typical, but our other Social Workers are either just off a job or on one. We don't send them out for at least six weeks after a mission. This one is yours."
"What and where?"
"Small community in Missouri, near Branson, Walnut Shade part of the Branson municipality."
"Cripes, I don't have to go to Branson do I? It's the capital of hick entertainment."
"Nine miles north if it’s any consolation, we fly into Branson, probably best to stay there and look like tourists."
"Oh well, what's going on?"
"Same old, stepdad has wife firmly under thumb, eyes for the daughter. Wife is desperate for his support, has given up the kid. She is refusing to cooperate, the locals can't do anything, she won't press charges, insists everything is just dandy. We approached her, same story. She doesn't care about the girl."
"The girl won't speak up?"
"Surveillance says she's resigned to it, won't admit there's a problem. We have evidence of sexual activity, all the usual, none of which is admissible. He's not a redneck, he's an executive at one of the Branson attractions, some kind of
show, there are dozens. He's buying her silence. He's got a healthy income, nice house, BMW in the driveway."
"Think the kid is okay with it?"
"Doesn't matter, but no, she's cutting."
"Not a sign of a happy child."
"No, she knows it sucks, cutting is a signal but nobody is reading the tea leaves."
"She's going to a ranch?"
"If she wants, or to a better home."
"I don't know. Probably not. We have a full house now, she'll be better off at a ranch, the fallback is a regular family."
"When do we leave?"
"Tomorrow. It isn't necessary, but Dasha and Daria will enjoy the trip. Amaya, Chloe and Eloise are here for Oceane."
"What time's the flight?"
I pass by Amaya's room and ask her to take us to the airport, “Are you here for the next couple of days? It’s just you, Chloe, Eloise and Oceane. If you need to be out, the twins or one of them will stay here.”
Amaya, “We’re here, if something comes up I’ll call Chan or Black.”
“I’m texting them, make sure they’re available.”
They are, they don’t need to be here, but I know one or the other will come around anyway.
I go to see the twins, "Pack for three days, probably two, but just in case. We're going to fix a child abuse problem, Amaya will take us to the plane at eight thirty."
Dasha, "Da, we will be ready."
"Bring one nice outfit, maybe we'll have a dinner out. This is business, so disguises. I'm creating licenses this afternoon. No accents on the job, American girls, fix your disguise now for the license photos, don't look like twins."
The rest of my day is spent creating fake stuff. We keep an inventory of credit and debit cards in false names, I'll assign us one of them when I print the licenses. Janah comes along for her photo, the twins show up a few minutes later. I shift around my hair, temp color it with a white streak, add color contacts under glasses with clear lenses. By four thirty, we're ready to be other people.
Flight to Branson is about nine hundred air miles, we fly private. With no connections to make, it's under three hours. Best you could do otherwise is two stops in nine hours, apparently nobody in New York wants to go to Branson, including me. An Escalade is waiting. A rental with the GPS disabled and the plates changed from local to out of state. Fake registration and insurance card in the glove box matching the address on my fake license. In a world of illusion this is just one more.
Hilton Promenade, two one bed kings, it’s typical Hilton. We're here two nights at the most and not to luxuriate. They fed us on the plane, we skip lunch and drive to the target's house.
It's a mini-McMansion on a cul de sac, not the best place to front the target considering mom is a stay at home and the girl is likely to be there when her stepfather is. His name is John Taggart, wife changed her name to Taggart, the daughter is still Donaldson, Jenny.
"How do you want to do this?"
Janah, "Mom's not cooperating and doesn't care about the girl. I think we snatch Taggart someplace, refocus him, then talk to the girl."
"And if mom objects?"
"She doesn't get to object, Daria will put her to sleep, then I talk to Jenny."
"Surveillance says his routine keeps him in the office in the morning, which is in the same building as the venue. He troubleshoots issues, staging problems, talent snits. Taggart plays Jimmy Jovial around the talent, Harry Hardass around employees. He's got a favored couple of bars, upscale spots. Likes to pick up girls, no shortage in a tourist trap like Branson and he's a good looking guy, it's seldom a problem for him to score. Uses a couple of hotels where his contacts discount him a room in exchange for popular shows. You see where I'm heading?"
"Want to get picked up?"
"No, but I will, or we use Dasha, or both of us. Twins would be fun, but they aren't traveling as twins, too memorable."
Janah, "Both of you. Hooch up, be at the bar. If you can't get the guy to hit on two available hotties, he's gay, and he's not. When you're in the room, you know what to do."
"Yep.....on second thought, just me. When you and the twins come in, he'll be out and never see any you."
If he follows routine, this afternoon he golfs, then a drink at the club and home. Tomorrow night, Friday, he usually goes in search of outside entertainment. Surveillance will let us know if he stays on routine, in the meantime we tour Branson.
Dasha drives, twenty minutes into the ride, Daria says, "Lots of attractions, water park, shows everywhere."
"Big emphasis on country, all family friendly, nothing to antagonize the rubes. It's like C&W Disney. Surprised they let the Chinese acrobats in, token recognition of a world besides white America."
Janah, "They have Bill Cosby, or did until he got outed."
"He's a white black guy, conservative, no bad language, family values, they like that. How many rap acts you see, or even rock?"
We aren't looking to participate, no Ripley's museum, no water park, no celebrity car museum or Hanna's maze of mirrors. Instead, we find a coffee shop and I surf for dinner options on my phone.
"Found the mostly likely spot, Black Oak Grill, claims to be celebrating the great American tradition."
Janah, "Burgers and steaks."
"For the most part. But they have a couple of salads you'll like, spinach and cheese dip. Most entrees come with vegetables and mashed potatoes. Enough vegetarian to fill you up."
Janah, "Good enough. Let's go to the hotel, I'm going to meditate, you and the twins can do whatever."
Dasha, Daria and I walk the streets for a couple of hours, nice brisk pace. We pick up a bottle of vodka, red wine for Janah, return to our rooms for showers and dress for dinner.
Just after six, the twins come along, vodkas in hand. We park on the couch while Janah sips wine. Daria is on the phone with Chloe, I mental Nikko.
Nikko, "Spot for the ranch, it’s far from our first Flagstaff property, that one is east of the city, this is west, sixty miles between them. We're getting red carpet treatment, a hundred plus acres for the ranch. Larger houses here are on relatively small lots, a couple of acres maybe, and the houses only go up the hills a bit. We're going to have to buy a big parcel with as much mountain as we can get, then build. Next, we’re going from Flagstaff to Prescott and Prescott Valley, it’s got elevation, about a mile, but not as frozen as Flagstaff in the winter. It also puts distance between us and the ranches."
"We're in Branson Missouri, got a bad stepdad to fix. I'm going to get picked up tomorrow night and visit bad dad's hotel room."
I laugh, "I lead him on until we have him parked, then go to work."
Nikko, "Love to see his face when he finds out he's not getting laid, just refocused."
"I'll mental you, you can tune in."
We disconnect, time for dinner.
The place is fine, bit too Americana, but it's Branson, I think it's a county regulation to have an American flag. Steaks are good, vegetables not overdone, I have iron pan trout, fresh and cooked just right. Daria has baby back ribs, Dasha steak, we swap tastes as usual. Janah has a salad of greens, Fuji apple, blue cheese, smoked almonds and maple pecan vinaigrette. That, samples of our vegetables, and spinach dip suits her fine.
Janah, "This place is good."
Dasha, "Steak ees gud, ribs too."
It's sort of the south, Branson is a hairsbreadth from the Arkansas line, have to have pie. They do a great job, flaky crust, fresh filling, apple and cherry. We share bites of the two slices, skip the ala mode. It's near nine, the place closes at nine, is near empty. Tourists in Branson eat dinner at five thirty, then go to one or another show. I pay the check and we wander off to the hotel.
A nightcap in our room, Dasha says, "What happens tomorrow? Before the bar?"
Janah, "Stick around, Surveillance is monitoring. We may get a chance to snatch him earlier, there's an empty warehouse waiting if we do, Daphne can skip the pickup in a bar part. Usually, he leaves the venue on Friday around five thirty. He parks in the employee lot behind the building, we might be able to grab him there."