Eighty Five

We make bleu cheese burgers for the final Canada dinner, tomorrow it’s close up and back to mother Manhattan.
I pass along the owl’s message, “Next summer Nikko will be venomous.”
Janah, “She said faster striking speed, nothing about venom.”
Sloane, “Will she have a forked tongue?”
“Didn’t think to ask, all I know is if Nishiko gets any faster with the katana it will be red hot from air friction. I’ll have to make her wear wrist weights to slow her down. I don’t know why she didn’t select me for training.”
Nikko, “You’re too fast already, don’t be greedy.”
Chloe, “Strange, Daphne is quicker than everyone, except with the sword, then Nikko is the fastest.”
“Exactly my point. If the snake was compassionate, it would train me so I could keep up with Nikko.”
Chloe, “It would train me, I’m slower than both of you.”
“False modesty, with the sword there is no measurable difference between you and me. You beat me to the striking points all too frequently.”
Chloe smiles, she knows it’s true, and she practices with Nikko more than I do. A fact Hanshi never fails to notice and berate me for.
Dasha, “Burghers are for grill now Dahfoney, I will hand them through window.”
I tend to my assignment, toast up the buns and pass everything back through the window.
We use up the last of the frozen French Fries, we like the steak fry kind. There’s no lettuce or onion left, Dasha fried crispy bacon to add to the burgers, they’ll make do with ketchup or mayo.
“Coffee, tea and biscuits only tomorrow, we wiped the eggs last week and we need to get the house closed, then to the plane.”
Janah, “Glad you thought to return the houseboat last week, it won’t take us an hour to get to the guesthouse. I ordered finger sandwiches and chips for the plane ride. Both jets leave at ten thirty, we won’t be in Manhattan until six with the time change.”
We spend the rest of the evening on the porch, enjoy the stars in the dark. There’s only a tiny crescent moon tonight, meteors and space stuff trail sparkles in the atmosphere. We have to be up early to shut down the house, a couple of the monks will come over before the snows and do a check. Our cams will run too, I check the interior every week. I get a text alert if something is wrong. In the densest snow periods, reception is iffy. It isn’t that important then. When the snow is over the elevated porch, there aren’t going to be people nosing around.
Even if there are, good luck breaking into titanium roll down window shutters. Titanium doors with four inch wide half inch thick steel plate deadbolts that slide into reinforced stainless steel frames. They might get in with C-4, but no amount of banging or even a crowbar is going to open anything.
Morning, five a.m., the place is a beehive of laundry and lockdown, Dasha has biscuits prepped and in the oven, coffee perked, tea steeped. By eight we’re in the two powerboats and scooting across the lake for the twenty minute run.
Francois and Jan deliver us to the Banff airport, four and a half to Teterboro, two lost hours in time zones, we land just shy of six.
Our car service collects us, home in a half hour.
When you fly, even private, it isn’t the journey, it’s the destination.
Yay, Susan has stocked the refrigerator, I call, “Thank you mommy, girls have fresh milk for coffee and eggs for breakfast, you’re the best.”
“I’ll tell Taylor and Lacy their efforts were appreciated. I stayed home working on software for Eloise’s nightmare project. I may need a month in St. Martin’s to recover, but I think the flipping bots just might work.”
“She’s anxious to get in the workshop, might not see her for a few weeks.”
“I told her I better get one of the first off the assembly line, housework is not my strong suit.”
“Be careful around the twins, they got a transmission from a grizzly bear.”
“To do what?”
“Think Olympic weightlifting, men’s superheavyweight division.”
“Good Lord, I trust it didn’t come with sumo guts and facial hair.”
“Not so far, and we haven’t actually seen them pick up anything out of the norm. I do know their bodies feel like granite.”]
“Never a dull moment with your crowd.”
“Next summer, a rattlesnake is going to make Nikko so fast you won’t see her, is that cool or what?”
“I’m not going to mention this to Taylor or Lacy, they have a hard enough time with Cassandra in the air.”
“The bear loved it, he’d wave his gigantic paws around so she would float up for him. He took her for a ride in the forest.”
“You’re no helicopter mom, your daughter rides off in the woods with a grizzly.”
“Sloane and her wolf pack went with them. Sloane isn’t going to let anything happen to Cass.”
“You realize what a bizarre conversation this is, your other daughter, and my granddaughter, roams the wilderness with wolves, following my other granddaughter on a grizzly’s back?”
“Riding bareback on a bear’s back, sounds like something Curly would say in a Three Stooges show.”
“You’re an idiot, take care of your tribe, we’ll come around in a day or so. I’m thinking brunch, Dasha’s blini, lots of Bloody Marys and Champagne, even that thing with the fried fish and poached egg.”
“Good idea, we’ll keep it simple, they have all that on Sunday at Ultra Violet. You and Lacy can second line around the restaurant. I’ll call Mariella and give her a heads up.”
Janah, “What’s for dinner?”
“Pizza, Dasha called Dom on the way in, be here at seven.”
Amaya, “I am feeling cocktaily, what will it be Janah?”
“I’m Champagned out for a few, how about a dense red something?”
Daria comes down, “What to do about Beckley.”
Chloe, “What’s Beckley?”
Janah, “We’ve been getting blips on Daria’s program tracking suspicious Shadow activity, in Beckley, a city of about eighteen thousand, I think the metro area is more like a hundred and a quarter.”
Nikko, “Why would you know that?”
“She was data mining for hicks.”
Janah giggles, “No, since we’ve been monitoring the area I looked it up.”
Zi, “What’s been going on to suspect Shadows?”
“Some of the lightweight stuff, clerks giving away money or merchandise, shows up right on the cameras. Someone in a hat and sunglasses walks up to the counter, holds out his hand, clerk hands him whatever’s in the register, bags up merchandise, few packs of Marlboros, the guy just leaves. When money is missing, the boss looks at the video, there it is. Clerks says they don’t remember, or have no idea why they did it. One said she felt compelled.”
“So some poor schmuck is arrested and tagged as an accomplice to a robbery.”
“Bad enough, it gets worse. A minister was busted having sex with his thirteen year old daughter. Two twelve year old girls were on a video in a motel room, sex with each other, then sucking a cock, only the dick visible. Six year old girl going down on her ten year old sister, mom in the video masturbating and encouraging them.”
Nikko, “And you have the video, or saw it?”
“It was posted on Facebook and PornHub, they dealt with it quickly but the damage was done. The videos hit the dark web in minutes. Daria dug them up.”
Daria, “The minister hung himself, no news on the twelve year olds, in the last case the mother is under attack from everywhere. She’s in isolation on suicide watch. Nothing on the sisters.”
Nikko, “I’m in, when do we leave?”
Janah, “Daphne and I are on a plane in the morning. We have to round up our feathered Shadow spotters. If they find anything, then we have to GPS them for a location. There’s no reason to stick more of you on a plane just yet, we just got off a plane.”
“Long as you call me before you do anything, I’m doing this one myself, no drones, no darts. Just tell me where he is.”
Janah, “Let us find him first, there may be others. The store videos appeared to be the same person, there’s no extra bodies in the porn stuff except the mystery cock, likely the Shadow.”
“Then who shot the video?”
“The camera was static, probably on a tripod, the girls’ faces, the cock, no useable background to figure out what kind of room. I’m only assuming a motel. The preacher was in his own home, so was the last, there was no effort to disguise those locations. That’s why I think it was our guy.”
Nikko, “Can you get the kids’ interviews? They must have talked to a social worker, therapist.”
“Probably, just not sure it’s necessary. I’ll call a contact if we need more information.”
Paladin calls, pizza delivery, I fetch with Sloane, toast up the crusts in the oven, refill wine, we’re set. They decide to graze slowly and watch the old Criminal Minds followed by NCIS. We never followed any of the series until a year ago, so far we’ve gotten past the Cate era, the character with no discernible personality. Ziva just appeared, she may be a bright spot. We universally find DiNozzo repugnant, Abby childish, but I think that’s the point of her character. They introduce a rebellious looking character who doesn’t rebel against anything. She’s boringly proletarian. The rest of the cast is equally forgettable, but the plots aren’t bad. So we slog through, usually on pizza night.
Pizza and streaming video does the trick, the trick being to take our minds off child porn and ruthlessly ruined lives.
Janah and I are cuddling to sleep, “I’m going to let Nikko have her shot, but make sure there are darts locked and loaded. Shadows aren’t worth severe injury or worse.”
“Nikko doesn’t care about proving anything J, she just wants the kill. I can traq the asshole into submission, we let him wake up long enough for Nikko to take his head. She’ll want to torture him first, but she knows the drill. If we’re going to kill, we do it quickly. Torture is for people we intend to let live uncomfortably for the rest of their lives.”
“Good enough, wrap me up, I’m bushed.”

Eighty Six

We’re in beautiful Beckley West VA. For reasons unclear, Sloane, Cass and Oceane wanted to come, we have two suites at the Courtyard Marriott, as upscale as it gets in Beckley. Not bad, there’s a separate sitting room and a balcony if we need to launch a drone.
I’m on our balcony intending to find an owl, falcon or eagle. A Peregrine pair show up. The others are with me, Cassie levitates railing high.
Peregrine male, “Who taught her to fly, her parents?”
“No, she taught herself.”

Peregrine female, “She cannot fly, only rise, still, an accomplishment for a human.”
“Thank you for coming.”

Owl, “You can speak with us, how?”
“Long story, lots of practice an intention. We need your help.”

They don’t reply, I haven’t asked them anything, “Do you know of Dark Ones?”
Peregrine M, “You are all dark, there are some who are malicious, evil. There are two infesting our territory now. We know where they nest.”
“They know of two in the area already.”
Janah, “Will they help?”
“We need to locate them. We have tiny machines that attach to your leg. It sends a signal to this,” I hold up my phone, “then we know where they are.”
Female, “You will kill them?”
“Yes. If you agree to carry the machine, you need only get near to the location, do not put yourselves at risk. Shadows kill animals for no reason, but they have to be reasonably close.”
“When do you want us to find them?”
“I have the machines now. If there are two, I want to bring in others from our flock. Then we will hunt down the Shadows, what you know as Dark Ones.

They appear to be conferring, then, “We will accept the machines.”
I attach one GPS, Sloane the other, they take a test flight around the hotel, then shoot off in a V. Obviously the Shadows don’t live together.
I get online to Nikko, “Fly in tomorrow, a rental will be waiting, you know what to do about the plate and if the car has GPS. Bring Zi, she can read the Shadows.”
Nikko, “Anyone else?”
“No, we have drones and trackers, with any luck they will be on the Shadow cars by the time you arrive. Room is already rented in the name of one of our shells, we have the key, don’t bother with the desk.”
“You work quick.”
“Got lucky, the birds already knew of  Shadows, they are locating them now.”
“See you in the morning.”

Sloane and Janah are monitoring the bird trackers, the Peregrine appears to be circling, then the dot on the screen is still.
We fix the location, the owl is still flying, she’s slower and may have farther to go.
The female is in Piney View, eight miles northeast. The male’s tracker stops in Kingston, seventeen miles northwest.
Janah, “Let’s get busy.”
“We need another car, you take Kingston with Sloane, drop me off at the car rental place, I’ll go to Piney View. With a bit of luck, we can have both cars tracked this afternoon.”
Under an hour I’m parked down the block from a older ranch style. Oceane and Cass are with me. No point in launching a drone, the falcon is sitting on the roof of the house. When I get out of the car, she flies over.
“Got it, great work, thank you. Let me get the device off,” I remove the tracker,  “you’ve earned a snack, I brought the freshest slab of meat I could find.”
It’s a pound cut of chuck, hope it’s to her taste.
“Kill him,” she takes the meat in her claws and is gone.
“I didn’t think to ask about the mate and kids.”
Oceane, “She has hungry fledglings, going home to feed now.”
I don’t ask, she knows what she knows, if I did ask all I’d get is an enigmatic smile.
“I don’t see a car but the garage door is down. A Shadow is unlikely to have a job, wish Zi was here, she could tell if anyone is inside.”
 The falcon said he knew where Shadow lived, not whether he’s there now.
“Time to launch the drone and fire up my listening device. What about your guy?”
Janah, “Appears my guy is a woman, she came out and got a box from her car. Sloane already has a tracker on it. We’re done for now.”
“Come here then, may help to swap surveillance cars. This is a common  residential neighborhood, not a lot of places to park and hide.”
“Be over in a bit.”

Oceane has the drone hovering from a distance, she zooms the camera looking for a window. He’s got things pretty well closed up. The drone circles to the rear, the patio door isn’t open but the blinds are parted. She zooms, we see a living area, pan left reveals a kitchen. Furniture, breakfast table, kitchen counter, no Shadow.
I have my listening device kicked in, not a creature stirs, by the time Janah arrives, it’s evident our boy is out.
“Bring the drone in Oceane.”
Janah, “I’m down the block, nobody home I guess.”
“Nada. Going to have to wait for him to show.”
“We’ll watch for now, need to move your car, maybe you can round up tea.”

I pull away, find a Starbucks, get everyone tea but me, I do coffee. Add some of their overpriced mediocre pastries for nibbles, drive the couple of miles back. I pass theirs through the window to Sloane.
“Don’t expect too much, it’s Starbuck’s.”
Sloane, “Doesn’t matter right now, I need to fill a hole, I was thinking of chasing down a mouse.”
“Yuck, bad enough when you draw blood biting bad guys.”
“It seems natural, I’ve been meaning to ask you and Dasha to make my burgers and steaks more rare.”
“Fine by us, like Nikko?”
“Even less, blood red.”
“Can’t go too rare, I don’t trust the food chain to keep it clean and bug free. I know we don’t get sick, at least we never have, but still.”
“Then like Nikko’s.
Everyone is medium rare leaning to rare, except Nishiko, she likes meat seared and off the flame.
Oceane, “The man is almost home.”
There are no cars on the street, we’re on a cross street with a view of the house. The only person we’ve seen was a jogger pushing a stroller. She passed in front of us a half hour ago and didn’t so much as glance our way.
Then a tan Nissan passes and turns into the Shadow’s driveway. Oceane’s radar has radar, or maybe she’s got a tractor beam, like Star Trek. Pencils fly to her, maybe people do as well. I can get birds to appear using intention, never tried it with people.
“Oceane, did you ask for the Shadow to return?”
“Yes.”
Janah, “Sheesh.”
“Make him leave the garage door open so I can get a tracker on the car.”
“He has a little girl, from a store, he will have sex with her.”
“Uh…no, he won’t.”
Janah, “If he gets her in the house, the drone is no good, and there’s no time to launch, he’s taking the girl out of the car now.”
“Sloane, grab the kid before he gets in the house, I’ll deal with the Shadow.”
Sloane races across the street at wolf speed, the Shadow has the passenger door open. A girl in a red dress, maybe six or seven, steps out.
I’ve run down the block, he’ll sense a Shaolin and maybe lose it. Sloane is alongside the garage door, just out of sight. I’m standing in his driveway.
He looks up, eyes widen, then a sneer, “A fucking monk, I get the stink of self righteousness even without the robes. What a happy day, young sweet flesh and a dead Shaolin.”
I start walking to him, he raises his hand, looks like I get to dodge a qi strike. Sloane zips in, snaps his wrist with her bite, grabs the girl and out to Janah’s car. Sloane takes the wheel, they evaporate from the scene, Janah holding the child in the passenger seat.
Shadow is bleeding nicely, he’s using his qi to slow it and relieve the pain. He won’t have much to direct at me. He gives it a go, it’s like being hit with a Wiffle bat, more of a sting than any damage.
“Not your day perv. I tap the garage door button on the wall, the door rolls down. He’s leaning against the car, blood on his pants and splattering on the floor. I figure a dart is a waste, he’s bleeding already. My serrated six inch blade across his carotid bleeds him dry.
I go inside, open the front door and wave in Oceane and Cass.
“Look around for computers, thumb drives, I have his phone.”
A search turns up a laptop and a few thumbs, doesn’t appear to be any other external storage drives. If he has money, it isn’t laying around the house, there’s a small safe that looks like it would take a penknife to open. He had six hundred in his wallet, now I have six hundred in my pocket.
“Let’s go girls.”

Eighty Seven

We return to the hotel, on the way Janah taps in, “Amber Alert out on the girl, red dress, dark hair, seven years old. We’re going to take her to a shopping center, call in a sighting and disappear into the background until the cops show up.”
“She’s seen both of you.”
“Can’t be helped. My hair is temp colored, my sunglasses are the size of pancakes and I’m dressed like a homeless person. Sloane is the same, the girl won’t recognize us standing in front of her tomorrow. She was dazed anyway, the Shadow had her mind, she thought he was her Uncle Teddy.”
“See you at the hotel, lose the clothes and the hats, sunglasses too.”
We keep a basic change of clothes in the cars. Oceane and Cass have swapped jeans and pullovers for a couple of chemises. Our hair was in ponytails, loose now. Watch caps disappear. I change the plates on our SUV to another state. Sloane will do the same on their car. Stuff we have to haul around to remain invisible.
Back at the hotel, showered and chilling, Janah and Sloane come in.
“Cops showed, they were smart enough to have a female in the pair, then mommy was there. We left. I assume she’s in for a fair number of interviews.”
“We have a collection of video, I checked a couple, it’s all kiddie porn, some of it has the Shadow full facial, you don’t need to know what he’s doing.”
Janah, “You know what to do, copy, send them to our FBI contact with the Shadow’s address.”
“Nikko will be disappointed.”
“We have another one, although I’m not sure what she’s been up to, we appear to have dispensed with the child porn Shadow. Could the birds mistake a hostile human for a Shadow?”
“They call them Dark Ones, angry people have dark auras, but they seemed pretty certain.”
“We’ll give Zi a look, I guess you could walk by, if she’s a Shadow, you’ll get her blood boiling.”
“Let Nikko and Zi handle it. I am curious as to what her game is. She must be the one doing convenience store thefts.”
“How I’m reading it, the two may not even know each other or, being Shadows, don’t like each other. From the apartment complex she lives in, she’s fairly basic. Her car was like the man’s, simple transportation, indistinguishable from a zillion older sedans on the road. It was a Ford Taurus, nothing recent, Sloane said it was full of empty cups and accumulated detritus, boxes, plastic bags. Was maybe washed a few years ago.”
“Our guy was neat, his car wasn’t much, but the interior of his digs were tidy, almost pristine. None of his furniture was particularly expensive, but it wasn’t beat to hell. No clothes laying around, the bathrooms were clean. If he knew the woman, he would have been put off by her pigsty lifestyle.”
“Ever get his name?”
“Theodore Swanson.”
“The woman goes by Christine Carlson, but Shadows change names frequently, she could be anyone.”
“What’s she look like?”
“Lumpy and frumpy, like a…what? A DMV clerk who’s passing time until she gets to retirement. Day job sitting on a plastic chair, typing the same stuff into a computer, hearing the same gripes from angry applicants. She goes home and kills a bottle of cheap red or a six pack, lives for the weekend, takes every sick day she’s paid for, even when she’s not sick, prays for more federal holidays.”
“Amaya would not be impressed.”
“Amaya would suggest she be put out of her misery.”
I laugh.
Janah, “Amaya listening in?”
“I have a vaudeville show in my head.”
Sloane comes in from her room, “I had to floss bone out of my teeth, what’s for dinner?”
“Pour yourself and Janah a glass of wine, where are the children?”
“Coming, they were getting dressed.”
“Go get them, if Oceane passes the elevator and it’s open, she’ll take it as a sign she’s supposed to get in.”
“Geez, we’re right next door.”
“Go, never leave them unattended for a second unless we’re at home, then still keep an eye on the exits.”
She goes next door.
Janah, “Guess I’ve got wine duty.”
Sloane comes back with our two adorables, “See, still here.”
“Stick to the rule, not for a second, got it?”
“Won’t happen again.”
Cass and Sloane go to the balcony and park, Sloane brings them a glass of wine.
Janah, “What’s for dinner?”
“We had pizza last night. I’ll round up some supermarket something. Stay here with the children.”
I search the listings, don’t know some of the names, opt for Kroger, the national chain. I come back in thirty with a couple of roasted chickens, hummus and pita crackers, potato salad, macaroni and cheese. Paper plates and plastic utensils, salt and pepper and an Asian sauce we can warm in the microwave for the chicken.
We’re hungrier than we thought, pretty much wipe out the food while we watch and NFL game on TV, something we never do ordinarily. It was the first channel Cassie clicked on and she doesn’t channel surf. I’m just happy it wasn’t one of the Jesus channels, or a Spanish soap opera.
“I bought Pepperidge Farm Milanos if you want something sweet. Forgot milk, you’ll have to have wine and cookies.”
We sort of half watch the game, endless replays followed by endless commercials, they’ve even maliciously figured out how to run commercials during the plays. What screen mess. Cass accidentally hits the remote, now it’s a TV  preacher. Apparently God wants everyone rich, particularly the preacher and his bottle blond wife.
We’re yawning, time for rest. I stick my head out the door until I hear the deadbolt and safety latch click on the girls’ room. Janah’s in the mood, which means I’m in for a real treat.

Eighty Eight

Nikko and Zi arrive for nine, I collect them at Raleigh County Memorial Airport.
“So you got to off the porn jerk.”
“He had a little girl, and keeping him around for a day so you could do it would have added complications, have to sedate and monitor him.”
“You did the only sensible thing, what’s the woman up to?”
“We are attempting to secure those details at this very moment. Oceane is droning her apartment and Janah’s on the listening device. We’re headed there now, there’s coffee and tea in the cup holders.”
Zi, “I’ll take the tea, thank you.”
Nikko and I have coffee, we drive and sip.
Nikko, “Nice enough area, a good place for Shadows to operate anonymously, big enough without big city hassles.”
“Shadows vary, some like the Seattle’s and Phoenixes, other want less frenzy. We don’t know if these two know each other, I think they must. Theodore was a neatnik, Christine is a slob. Might be enough to keep them on unfriendly terms.”
Zi, “Like Janah says, Shadows don’t like anyone, including each other.”
We ease to the curb a block from the apartment. I see our other rental a block farther on the other side.
Janah, “Carlson isn’t an early bird, her car’s here but the apartment is silent…wait, I hear early morning smoker’s choke. She’s starting to stir.”
Nikko got the message when I did, I tell Zi what’s up.
“We think the birds know what they’re doing, but we haven’t had our own confirmation that Carlson is a Shadow, she may be an unhappy fat woman angry at Oprah for not helping her lose weight.”
Zi, “What does that mean?”
“Oprah bought a chunk of Weight Watchers, and chunky people buy the food, some lose weight. But ninety seven percent of people who lose weight gain it all back and more within three years. So Weight Watchers is a scam, because people keep returning to buy more after diet one fails. Naturally Weight Watchers quotes losers after they drop weight on round one. They don’t follow up and confess that weight loss programs are basically money machines.”
Zi, “Oprah is a con artist?”
“One of the best. She started out doing a version of Jerry Springer, but figured out that junk spirituality had a bigger market and you don’t have to have bouncers separating the guests wailing on each other. So she glommed onto Eckhart Tolle, Depak, Dr Phil, one bullshit specialist after another. Ratings went through the roof, she made a billion. Now she’s shilling Weight Watchers. Oprah is on a par with TV evangelists.”
“I’ve heard of her, hard not to, but I’ve never seen any of her programs. And people keep buying in you say?”
“Everybody wants a magic cure, lose weight, find true love, overcome dysfunctional family, get a better job, bigger house. There is unlimited money in encouraging self absorption.”
Nikko, “Daphne, the jaded Buddhist.”
“Tell me I’m wrong.”
“Can’t.”
“I’d do my own show, The Jaded Buddhist, but nobody would watch.”
Zi, “Telling people what the need to hear isn’t telling people what they want to hear. Delusion trumps reality every time.”
“The Truth Sutra.”
Janah, “Is philosophy class over?”
Nikko laughs, repeats Janah’s question for Zi.
“Yes, what’s up?”
“Tubby Carlson, finished hacking up yesterday’s tar and nicotine, made coffee. I hear what sounds like bottles clinking. Tell Zi to keep an eye on the back door, she may be hauling trash to the dumpster. Zi can get a read.”

Nikko replays for Zi, I pull the SUV around towards the dumpster. It’s tricky, we have to get close enough for Zi to read her, not so close as Carlson is tipped off to a Shaolin.
“We need a short distraction.”
Nikko, “If she comes out, I’ll walk the take out cups to the dumpster. Better to do it from the other side, give them to me.”
Nikko takes our three paper cups, goes around the building and appears on the far side. Now we wait.
Janah, “She talks to herself, sound like a drunken Marine or a teenage boy, fuckin’ this, fuck that, motherfucker every third word. Then a bit of insight, how does ‘make those fuckin’ country club cunts lick my fuckin’ pussy’ translate?”
“Like a woman who hates wealthy trophy wives with svelt tennis playing bodies.”
“Kind of what I thought. I think I know the game.”

Nikko, “Blackmail.”
The rear door opens, Carlson, in a robe and pajamas, cigarette dangling from her thick lips, lumbers across the lot to the dumpster, Nikko approaches. The lid is already up, Carlson tosses the trash bag up and over, bottles clink and thunk as it hits bottom. Nikko tosses in the cups.
Carlson only glances at a disguised Nikko, flips her cigarette butt into the dumpster and shuffles back the her place. Nikko does a reverse trip and slips into the car with us.
Zi, “Wow.”
“A Shadow?’
“Her aura is like a black hole. I know Nikko wants the kill, but we should dart her and be done.”
“Janah, you catch that?”
 “Yep. And given Zi’s observation, we need to know what Carlson’s been up to, go to the hotel. We have a tracker on her car, Oceane  or Sloane can monitor from the drone as well.”

We meet in our room after Nikko and Zi have a chance to drop their stuff .
Sloane is recharging the drone, Oceane is on the balcony with Cassandra getting messages from Mars.
“Oceane, come inside for a minute,” she does, Cass is behind her, or floating just behind to be accurate, “you heard the woman talking to herself, any idea of what she’s got in mind?”
“She has video, women having sex, she gets money.”
“From the women, from who?”
“The women. She will show the video to their husbands if they don’t pay her.”
“The women have sex with her, she makes a video of it.”
“Sometimes, they also have sex with men, all of them are black.”
“The men are black.”
Oceane smiles, I’m being redundant.
“Thank you.”
She and my other strange-o return to the balcony, we’re lost to them for the time being.
Janah, “Wow, hot white trophy wives, lesbian sex with the chunk and black studs for the capper. I wonder how many?”
“Wives or how many black guys do then at a time?’
Janah, “I hadn’t thought of multiples, only how many women. Ask Daria to find out how many divorces in the last two years in Raleigh county, and who, why if it’s on record.”
I get online with Daria, tell her what we want, she doesn’t say hello or goodbye, just disconnects. Russian efficiency.

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