Chapter Nine

Home now, while I appreciate the pristine beaches and crystal clear water,  given the choice of our Canadian retreat or sun and sand, I vote mountains, forest creatures and a skyload of stars. I must admit, Chloe and Amaya in dime sized bikini’s has its appeal.
We returned on Friday, spent Saturday sorting laundry and grocery shopping, order pizza Saturday night, enough fish for a while, I’m growing gills.
Today is a nice dreamy Sunday, we’ve vacationed, sort of, Chloe and Taylor worked. I make an enormous mid morning breakfast of poached eggs, seared ham slices with honey and pineapple, creamy grits, biscuits the size of hockey pucks, a bowl of red caviar, blinis, sour cream and cut cantaloupe.
Janah, “Thank you, Daphne, totally fabulous.”
Amaya, “Even Nikko chowed down, an entire egg, a biscuit and two slices of that marvelous ham, the grilled pineapple on top was a juicy addition. I am becoming a caviar addict.”
“It’s the cheap stuff, I figure once it’s in a blini with sour cream, Beluga is overkill.”
Chloe, “I like that salty little pop when I bite into it.”
Janah, “I like the blini itself, with pureed fruit and a dab of butter.”
“They’re easy to make, essentially watery pancakes so they cook very thin, they’re really no different than a crepe, traditional blini has yeasted batter, a bit more pancakey. These are more like crepes. We had Crepe Suzette at Le Pressoir, which is merely a warm crepe, drenched in Grand Marnier, a bit of sugar and flamed.”
Chloe worked at the villa during that dinner, missed the Suzette, “That’s sounds good, can you make it sometime?”
“Simple, sometime this week.”
The day deteriorates splendidly, football on, no sound, jazz fusion playing, Amaya appears with the manicure, pedicure cart and we spend two hours on pamper and paint, nap in total uselessness for another hour.
Chloe, “It’s three, how about a casual tea ceremony? I’ll skip kimono, cut to the chase.”
It takes two hours, thick tea complimented by sweets, music and song, Nikko plays shamisen, Chloe and Amaya dance for us. Amaya plays flute. Chloe prepares thin tea, Amaya tells a story of an unlikely band of women who rescue two young girls, one incredibly beautiful, the other resembling a broomstick with freckles, until the beautiful girl applies her mystical skills and the broomstick becomes most attractive in an angular sort of way. She subsequently casts a spell, causing the women to provide each other anything their hearts desire and many other things they didn’t even know they desired until they were provided, then they desired them. One of the women, however, is a crafty samurai, not susceptible to spells and witchcraft, and constantly demands the girls meet ridiculously high expectations. To the consternation of the samurai, they exceed every challenge. The samurai is placated, yet remains on perpetual watch against attempts to slide into complacency. The end.
“You’ve captured the setting precisely, hilariously, and in a twenty minute narrative. Storytelling at its finest.”
Nikko, “I see no reason to further flood her self esteem, she’s drowning in it now.”
Chloe, “I like her full of her, she makes the best demands of Daphne and me when she’s feeling particularly all that.”
“How can she feel better than her perception of self perfection?”
Amaya, “Simplicity itself, I am always superb, that is a given. There are times when I exceed the merely superb and rise to the sublime, this is to what Chloe refers and which she is privileged to witness.”
“Uh huh.”
Zi, “I understand, Nishiko is superb, frequently sublime, to my benefit. She doesn’t roll around it as you do, I get the pleasure of reminding her.”
Amaya, “Hah! I knew it! Nikko’s observations about me are self reflections, you are so busted.”
Nikko’s eye has a glint, I decide it’s more of a gleam, I tap into her, I’m right.
Janah, “If we’re done deciding who has the highest opinion of themselves, has Daphne concocted a dinner plan?”
“I have, we are taking a trip south of the border, nachos, guacamole, sour cream, black bean soup, chicken and beef fajitas, with grilled tomatoes, onion, yellow and orange peppers. Nachos and cold Asahi at seven, the rest at some point afterwards. I’ve called Sis, she and Taylor are due shortly along with Joan Wayne.”
Joan Wayne, if you don’t know from previous accounts, is a sawed off Korean honey we’ve known since Chapmans. She has a thing for Janah, which she finally got to fulfill on a visit we made to Santa Monica. Our second visit resulted in Joan Wayne’s decision to move back to Manhattan, to her parents zillion square foot condo in Central park West. Joan Wayne is Joan Wayne Moon, she adopted the name from her affinity for John Wayne and things cowboy. No one know why a Korean doll decided she was into cowboy stuff, she has no idea which end of a horse is forward and had likely never seen a live cow. She is a forensic genius, and has far more interest in dead people than living ones, we somehow wound up as exceptions.
During her stay in California, she moved towards a more Goth cowgirl motif. Instead of little strips of fabric around her waist so short that only fringe covered three inches of her thighs, snakeskin boots up to her knees, she now tends to leather strips of fabric around her waist, still too short to cover much, and no fringe. She sort of makes up for it with denim or leather vests that hang lower than the skirt. The boots are ankle high now, in a variety of vivid colors, with chunky platform heels, accessories an assortment of dog collars and chains, nails are usually black with glitter, but other dark blues, greens and deep reds find their way to fingertips. Hair short, to her chin, with bangs the last time I saw her, and might be any color of the rainbow, or the entire rainbow. She got our DNA injection, she’s a perpetual twenty six unless the effect wears off.
We don’t see her as much as we’d like, she ‘s incredibly busy, it’s New York, there’s never not a body to slice.
“We’ve all got a busy week, I need to update the family website before I get going on dinner.”
Janah, “Amaya and I will do it, the menu you described has me anxious. You can bring us an Asahi while we fill in the calendar, please.”
Chloe, “I’ll get it.”
Sis and Taylor show up, then Joan Wayne, then Lacy, drinkers pop bottles of beer and the fun begins.

Chapter Ten

Ten women manage to have twenty conversations going, recap of the Caribbean trip, Joan Wayne’s adventures in death, Chapmans girls decided to have a dress like your parents day.
Lacy, “They came in men’s suits, ridiculous golf outfits, moms tailored yoga wear, dad’s Rolex, mom’s clunky bracelets and thick big buckle belts, one girl wore her father’s boxer shorts, a beat to hell t-shirt and flip flops, another in mom’s deteriorated bathrobe and ridiculous fuzzy slippers. We took pictures and put them on the Chapman’s website. Boy did I get calls from parents, all their friends logged on and posted hilarious comments. The girls thought it was great. The ones with high fashion moms came in what mom wore around the house, outing her so to speak.”
Nikko, “Almost surprising you didn’t get a lawsuit.”
“They aren’t going to make it worse by suing, they’d get laughed out of the city. Besides, the girls were smart enough to add comments to their posts about how much they love it when their folks let their hair down, how funny dad is, or how mom helicopters them in love. Many parents called to say the never realized how affectionately their girls felt about them, they were quite touched.”
Janah, “They got to see themselves as their children see them, must have been most insightful.”
Lacy, “That’s exactly what one mom said, she posted it in comments. She said all kids should feel safe enough to have a little fun poking parents, and that she’d seen a view of herself she needed to see.”
Amaya, “That was a cool idea.”
Joan Wayne, “Maybe you should have the moms come to school dressed like their daughters.”
Lacy, “I hadn’t thought of that, maybe I’ll check with a few parents, see if they’d like a little turnabout.”
Janah, “It’s fall, perhaps near the end of the school year, let the dust settle a bit.”
“I see what you mean, that’s good, we have a end of term party at the school since we don’t do formal graduation. Maybe then.”
During the conversation, I lay out dinner on the counter, fajitas buffet style, they line up and fill plates, back to the table, fresh beers and off we go.
Chloe, “Daphne, the black bean soup is yummy.”
“Stir in a little sour cream, see how you like it.”
Chloe stirs and tastes, “Even better, I need hot sauce too.”
“I have regular Tabasco and Habanero.”
“Habanero, please.”
Chloe is like Nikko, hot is good, hotter is better. With the exception of Scorpion powder, made from Trinidad Moruga peppers, habanero is as hot as it comes, use sparingly until you know what you’ve gotten into. Only Nishiko sprinkles a trace amount of Scorpion on food, it will blow your head off and ruin your dish if you go overboard.
A joint effort speeds cleanup and on the last remodel we’d installed a second dishwasher, a commercial one. I offer wine or cocktails, ice cream in four or five flavors. The family calms its collective spicy tummy with Hagen Daz, vanilla bean, chocolate, dark chocolate, crème brulée and rocky road, the multi-option is popular.
Too soon, it’s going on ten, our guests bid goodnights, Joan Wayne hangs with Janah’s encouragement. They take Amaya’s room, Nikko and Zi off to theirs, Chloe Amaya and I refresh and find our spots, Chloe surrounded by her two lovers,  we sleep like the innocents we aren’t.
The week goes by on hyper drive, Chloe is out and back from Hanshi, only there a day this time as they are enmeshed with details on their new store. We decide to let Nikko take over kendo training, and Amaya is already geisha, she will continue Chloe’s training. Chloe’s happy, no days away. After the new Japanese market is up and running, perhaps the occasional review of her progress. Amaya can’t make Chloe geisha, that comes from the Okaasan, Ari Murakami.
All of a sudden, it’s Friday, sheesh, the more we slow down, the faster we go.
Janah’s on the phone with Mrs. Epstein, then at the table with us, “We’re starting back to work, Nikko and Zi are going to Florida to deal with a trailer trash wife beater and child abuser, similar to our very first job a few million years ago.
“Ah, dear old Mason.”
Amaya, “And what did Mason get up to?”
“He was training his kid in the art of perverted dad while frequently rearranging his wife’s face. Mother and daughter were relocated, Mason was given specific instructions regarding his future; I recall smashing his privates, his throat, nose and jaw, broke a few bones in one hand.”
Amaya, “What happened to him?”
Janah, “We don’t know. The Society monitored him for a while, if he needed further guidance, it would have come from another Social Work team. I remember Mrs. E telling me the mom and daughter were plugging along. They got the child extra help with school, mom had a little job. After a year, they drop off the Society monitor, can’t follow around everyone forever. Up until then, they were making it. The little girl had more on the ball than mom, I thought she’d be okay.”
A short recap, the Society is the organization we’ve worked with since I’d left the temple. All my martial arts work is perfect for the purpose of helping abusers refocus their lives on something besides abuse. That’s what we called the jobs then, refocusing. The Society calls us, and teams like us, Social Workers, you know, to help people stay on the path, offer guidance and counseling via tough love. We abuse abusers so they don’t abuse the abused anymore. You know that therapy where they put people who hate spiders in a room with spiders? That’s us, with a twist. We put abusers in a room with people who can’t tolerate abusers. It doesn’t make us tolerate abusers, it makes abusers cease to abuse. It’s popular to say torture doesn’t work, I have news for those who say it, you can get anyone to do damn near anything with the application of pain and fear.
The Society has lots of departments, Transportation for vehicles, flights, hotels, delivery of our equipment. Surveillance does the initial legwork, detailing target habits, capturing evidence of their misbehavior. Minders, if needed, keep an eye on the area while the refocusing is underway, keep inadvertent visitors from visiting while we deal with the task at hand. Minders also check up on refocused targets to insure they are minding their newly acquired manners. Placement finds new locations to relocate innocents, abused children or spouses, gets them jobs if necessary, helps find tutors for kids behind in school, any job that needs to be done to resettle them in their new abuse-free life.
Transportation and Placement personnel generally work alone, don’t know anyone else in our structure. All they know is get a car or a hotel room in a certain name, book a flight, or find a house to rent, find a job for someone, enroll a kid in school.
As is obvious, it is a logistical challenge, particularly since they don’t want one department aware of the activities of another, or even the people in a department to know much about the others in the same department. It isn’t a corporation, they don’t have meetings or offices. Personnel work from home through encrypted servers. The Society pays everyone in cash, bitcoins if they prefer.
Most of Surveillance and Minders are retired folks, people who can stroll the streets observing without any need to explain why they are wandering around or in any particular neighborhood. They’re seniors, out for a healthy walk, it’s America, seniors are invisible, nobody pays then any attention. Watchers are frequently retired military or police, they sometimes have to deal more directly with people, convince them they don’t want to take this road, or go down that drive, or that Mr. X isn’t home.
Extraction relocates the innocents. We cross paths with Extraction occasionally, they show up to remove innocents and we often have to remain until they appear.
The last crews are Cleaners. Simple enough to explain, we often leave a mess, blood, body parts, sometimes dead people. They make dead things disappear and sanitize. Like all the other departments, they have no idea why there’s a mess, or who made it. They don’t want to know, they don’t do forensics, they make it impossible for forensics to figure out what, if anything, happened.
If support folks do well, they continue to be highly compensated and earn bonuses for particularly quick or complicated work. Cash is a universal language, they do a splendid job, often on no notice, and they keep their mouths shut.
That’s the quick and dirty on the Society. Our jobs ratcheted up in complication because we are the most extensive Social Work team. Nikko came into our lives, then Amaya, Zi and Chloe. We use Chan Li frequently, and Black occasionally, both entered the temple with us, then priests out in the world a couple of years after me.

****
An aside, the temple has students, monks learning basics and going to school, we teach all the courses they need. If they progress, at some point they become disciples. This isn’t a religious designation, just a term. Disciples have to earn their discipleship annually, if they slack, they are invited to leave. Unlike some places, we expect disciples to set the example, by working as hard as students, not pushing them around or giving orders.
A disciple who is fully prepared, understands the Buddhism we teach, has demonstrated expert gung fu and is willing to live with the vows they must take, may be invited to test for the priesthood and become a master. If completed successfully, they leave the temple and live in the world for at least three years. After that, they may return to the temple or stay in the world. Some return, most find lives outside, it doesn’t affect their status any, unless they break the vows. If that happens and we find out, they are removed from the Order of Shaolin.
***

Janah, “Details are on the site, go down to Tampa and get this guy’s mind right. This isn’t his death notice, Nikko. His name is Teddy Crenshaw. They call him TC. He’s a big ugly bastard and he has guns. Catch him away from his trailer, Surveillance says he hangs at a local dive, take him there.”
The Society’s approach has morphed. Spouses or girlfriends are now approached ahead of the refocusing and they have to agree to leave. They sometimes found out the abused was either part of the problem, or just too boneheaded to leave. We’ve done enough successful relocations that there’s a group of prior victims who are happy to lay out how it works. Once current victims understand it’s been done successfully, they usually jump on board. That’s the case here, or you wouldn’t be going.”
Nikko, “Do we need to deal with the wife?”
Janah, “No, someone else will collect her while you’re playing with TC.”

Chapter Eleven

Nikko and Zi get check in to a Hampton’s, low key, anonymous, reliable. Then check on the trailer, wife and kids home. Surveillance has TC at his hangout. Unlike Mason’s tornado magnet set back down a dirt road with no neighbors nearby, this trailer is visible from the street. There are others in the area, it’s not a trailer park as such, they aren’t stacked on top of one another, but close enough to make it hard to snatch TC outside and we don’t do the work with family around except as a necessity. She’ll front him at the bar.
The bar is called Gators, it’s Florida, must be dozens of  bars named Gators, this one looks pretty much like a swamp. Dirt parking lot, out past the suburbs of Tampa on a two lane blacktop road. It’s four in the afternoon, a few trucks and a half dozen motorcycles out front.
Nikko and Zi are geared up, loose fitting denims to allow for kicking. I’d discovered something else online that added great lightweight protection, Evoshield shirts. They’re made for football and baseball. The shields out of the package are flexible. Slide them into the inside pockets of the shirt, which fits  snug, like Under Armor. After thirty minutes or so it hardens, molded to fit your ribs, chest and back. If you get hit, nothing happens, no busted ribs, no cracked sternum. We also use a knee brace I’d devised years ago. Titanium plates, light and thin, stronger than steel. Slipped into a custom elastic knee wrap, they are hinged. You can bend your knee like normal, but it won’t bend backwards, provides protection from a blow to the knee, and inflict serious damage if we use a knee strike. I figured out the design from boiling lobster, think of how a lobster’s tail curls down and back, it works like that.
I see the dive through Nikko’s eyes, Zi is there, I can’t see her, must be alongside or behind. Nikko enters, some country crap song playing, just going to irritate her even more than she’s already irritated about the abusive asshole.
She spots him, I hear her mentally groan, he’s wearing a cowboy hat. Nikko don’t do country, he’s in for a hard afternoon.
Her hair is braided, tucked into her shirt. She and Zi are reasonably disguised, Zi has a watch cap, light tint sunglasses, Nikko’s hair is striped in red, she has a fake tattoo on her cheek, looks like a hànzi but doesn’t mean anything. They both wear snug gloves with titanium covered knuckles, pockets full of shuriken coated in David Li’s fast acting anesthetic. Maybe we get to see how the new formula works. Nikko stands next to TC, he’s leaning on the bar by himself. Surveillance reported his lack of buddies, he’s nasty mean, always ready to fight. No good for bonding with the boys, good for entertainment if you aren’t the one in his sights.
Nikko, “TC, you want to fight?”
TC, “Fuck you askin’?
“Question too hard?”
TC turns to face her, “Fuck, bitch. Fight who, not you? You got a death wish?”
Nikko ice black eyes never blink, “I am a death wish.”
He’s six four, got a starter beer gut, overall a fair amount of muscle, “I ain’t fightin’ no bitch. Move along ‘fore you get hurt, bad hurt.”
The music stops, talk too, after a murmur from a couple of the men who’d caught the drift of the conversation floats through the small crowd.
The bartender comes down, older guy, scruffy, “Don’t need no fights in here, and ma’am, TC here is real good at it and don’t have no patience for foolishness. You best run along afore things get out of hand.”
Nikko sees a sawed off in his hand still under the counter, barely reflected in the grimy mirror behind the bar, “Bartender has a gun.”
The bartender opens his mouth again, but before any words come out, a shuriken is planted in his chest. He looks at Nikko, then at TC, then falls smack on the wooden slats behind the bar, the sawed off on top of him.
“Unload and bust it.”
Zi is over the bar while the others process what happened, must be a slow bandwidth, finally one says, “She stuck one of them ninja stars in his face.”
One man starts to leave, Zi zaps him, he makes one more step and falls face first, she says, “Everybody still as stone. Anybody moves for any reason, I have lots more,” she holds up a handful of shuriken.
No movement. Two men are still at the bar, a table of four, the rest circle a beat to hell pool table.
TC, “Wyn’t you just stick me with one of them stars, save yourself a whole heap of pain?”
“Cause I have instructions for you shithead, I need you conscious enough to understand them.”
TC shakes his head, “You’re batshi….”
Nikko sticks her knuckles in his throat, his hand goes up, he chokes, tries to say something, can’t.
Nikko, “Shut up,” she knees him in the groin, then a second shot to his thigh just above his kneecap, nasty popping sound
Now he can’t talk, can’t walk. He reaches for her, his other hand balled in a fist, he punches, bad idea, her pointed serrated blade is now inserted into the middle finger of his fist. She yanks it out with a twist, his finger falls off, she pokes the knife into the hand holding her arm. He decides to let go. TC looks at his beer bottle, grabs it and breaks it on the bar. He’s at the point where endorphins are masking pain and adrenaline kicks in. People can function after gunshot wounds unless they’re in the heart, head or blew out a knee, right now his body is in fight or flight, he can’t run, his leg doesn’t work.
TC swipes the bottle back and forth, Nikko’s foot flashes and her steel toe smashes into the back of his bloody hand, she leaps in the air and front kicks him hard in the sternum, he staggers back, he’s a big boy, she doesn’t send him off his feet. She spins and the heel of her boot catches him square on the jaw, his head spins to the side, blood runs from his mouth, shy a couple of teeth.
Knee hard on the outside of his thigh, nice little pressure point, the titanium and Nikko’s speed do the job, TC’s leg goes numb, his other leg is already useless, TC visits the floor, thump de thump thump!
In the small knot of guys, one offers his observation, “Shee-yit, did you see that shit? Damn girl done wiped the floor with that big bastard, didn’t break no sweat neither.”
Zi pulls the shuriken out of the bartender, vaults the bar and faces them. Apparently, nobody wants one for a souvenir.
Nikko has a knee in TC’s sternum, her knife point in his throat just enough to draw blood, “Listen up fucker, I’m going to say this once. You are done beating the wife and kids. If you touch anyone, if you look at anyone in anger, if you think angry thoughts, I’m coming back….in a really crappy mood.”
She doesn’t take her eyes off TC, says to the gawking rednecks, “TC is a wife beater, slaps his kids around and is working on turning his daughter into his girlfriend. We found out, we are correcting the problem. We will be monitoring this slug for a long time. You punks knew he beat his wife, didn’t raise a hand to help. You might want to revisit your manhood, scum suckers.”
She says to TC, “I hope you fuck up.”
She sticks a shuriken in his neck, he passes out, she severs his Achilles tendon. When she stands, her boot finishes off the injured knee, it’s not going to work again, not in this lifetime.
I’m in her head, “Good enough, if he has a phone take it, his truck keys and ID.”
Nikko fishes around, he’s got a mobile, takes his keys and his wallet, Zi collects the other shuriken, watches the men while Nikko leaves, then backs out the door.
They walk around the side of the bar to the white nondescript panel van they’d come in, drive to a parking lot, switch back to the car.
While Nikko was refocusing TC, the Society picked up the wife and kids, they’re fifty miles down the road by the time Nikko swaps the van for the car.
Nikko, “We’re done, can we shift the flight to tomorrow?”
“Sure, better to be gone, hang on,”
I call Transportation, “There’s a seven thirty JetBlue back to JFK tonight, or eleven in the morning.”
Nikko, “No point in hanging around here, I’m going to grab our stuff at the hotel and go to the airport.”
They arrive at ten thirty, a car and driver waiting, back home in under an hour. No need to recap anything, Janah and I watched the whole show and filled in Amaya and Chloe. They went to bed at ten, Janah and I wait up.
Janah, “Pretty simple, and no laundry to speak of, long day flying around though.”
Zi, “Not so bad, JetBlue is roomy, I watched a movie, we had soft drinks and sandwiches, Nikko read a book. We’re airplane sticky, need to shower.”
“Want a snack?”
Zi, “I’m fine.”
Nikko, “Glass of wine would be nice.”
Janah, “Go shower, I’ll bring it.”
We leave them to clean up and chill, Janah and I go to bed in Amaya’s room, she’s with Chloe.
“Zi did a good job watching Nikko’s back.”
Janah, “And Nikko didn’t actually kill the guy, all in all, a quick clean trip.”

Chapter Twelve

Nikko and Zi sleep in, I move a bit later than usual, Janah is still asleep. I hear Chloe and Amaya in the kitchen, go to find coffee.
Amaya, “Coffee’s made, Janah awake?”
“Nope, didn’t stir when I got up, let them sleep, we don’t have a pile of stuff on for today, didn’t expect the trip to be a one day in and out.”
Chloe, “Glad you’re up, I was facing the prospect of making Queenie’s breakfast.”
Amaya, “You don’t mind cooking.”
“No, but it tastes better when Daphne makes it, can we have biscuits?”
“Sure, how do you want your eggs?”
Amaya, “Scrambled with cream cheese.”
Chloe, “Good for me, Amaya, would you like some of this cantaloupe?”
“A couple of chunks of yours.”
Chloe sprinkles salt , feeds Amaya a piece, I’ve got the oven heating and stirring Bisquick into batter. By the time I’ve squished it and cut out the biscuits, the oven’s ready, in they go. Bacon is frying, glad we installed a commercial vent, I pour the eggs into my splendid Cruset skillet.
Janah appears, “Yum, timing is everything.”
“Right on the money, tea is there, biscuits coming out of the oven, eggs are finishing. Feed your need ladies.”
Must be starvation molecules in the air, they wade through plates and butter up second biscuits, Chloe, “Man I love these things, coating them in butter before you cook them is sheer genius.”
“Makes them rise better, they’re fluffier.”
Amaya, “Something you can relate to, fluff brain. Daphne must butter your head at night.”
Chloe, “Your Worship didn’t seem to mind where my fluffy head was last night.”
“Was that you? You’re so skinny, I hardly noticed.”
“I noticed your aura flaming into iridescent lavender, and I noticed you wanted me to do it again five minutes later.”
“You missed a spot, I merely insured you did a thorough job,” she takes a bite of Chloe’s biscuit.
“Would you like another biscuit?”
 “No, yours is better, you have your long Violet Princess fingers on it, give me another bite.”
Chloe sticks it out, Amaya lops off a piece, “You may finish the rest.”
Chloe looks at the part that’s left, “I suppose half is better than none.”
“You may kiss me, I am going to indulge my creative talents and I do not wish to be disturbed until tea, no lunch for me.”
Chloe snags her cheek, Amaya turns her head, Chloe kisses the other one, Amaya kisses her nose, “I am still undecided on my favorite freckle, but I favor your long pointy nose, now, everyone stay far away, I am feeling quite geniusy and require silent solitude.”
She gets up, “Excellent, Daphne. You may retain your role as primary, secondary and tertiary chef.”
“That’s reassuring.”
Amaya doesn’t deign to reply, crosses the living room to her bedroom and shuts the door as the door opens to Janah’s room and Nikko and Zi emerge.
“You must be hungry, crummy airport sandwich for dinner. There’s coffee and tea, biscuits, bacon, how would you like your eggs?”
Nikko, “Bacon is fine, maybe a biscuit.”
Zi, “Is there fruit? I would love a couple of eggs basted, shall I do it?”
“There’s more fruit in the fridge, cantaloupe, strawberries, blackberries and pineapple, also crème fraiche. Eggs up in a minute.”
I pour a bit of grapeseed oil in the skillet, crack two eggs and flip the oil over them with the spatula until the whites firm and yellows aren’t. Eggs will continue to cook in their own heat, which is why you turn off the flame before they’re where you want them.
Zi, “These are God’s biscuits, I could pig a half dozen.”
“They’re embarrassingly simple. Chloe hit the trick, butter all before you stick them in the oven. There is no dish butter cannot improve, if you add melted butter to your Cheerios, they become gourmet breakfast cereal.”
Nikko, “We’re off to the office, it will be the bulk of the day.”
Zi, “Yes, we have a fair number of lease renewals, and new tenant applications.”
Nikko, “Janah, since we can’t seem to reallocate our funds into much of anything else, there’s a property coming up I can get reasonably. It’s a structural disaster. I want to raze it and build ground floor retail and upper floor residential. The numbers work. Apartment rents will pay for the rebuilding in five years, it vastly improves the neighborhood. We’ll use our usual strategy of offering retail space to locals, their rents are pure tax free cash flow. What do you think?”
Janah, “You don’t want to condo it and sell it off?”
“Regular people can’t afford condos, they would cost a minimum of a million, plus monthly maintenance fees. We get our money out quicker, but at the cost of another New York gentrified neighborhood.”
“Good, the condo thing has ruined the Village. The ambiance has disappeared. It’s all rich people with too many dogs, or students living six or eight to an apartment. Now they’ve screwed up Brooklyn.”
“This property is in the Bronx, we create a fresh new apartment complex, local retail, I’m allowing green space and a clinic. It will take longer to get positive, but it’s much better for the neighborhood.”
 “I say do it. Daphne, any opinion?”
“I think Nikko just wants to wear a hard hat and bust union guys’ balls.”
Nikko, “We can give work to some of the former inmate companies, we have painters, custom cabinet makers, electricians and plumbers.”
Janah, “Even better, but aren’t some of them kind of small for a major project?”
“I’m thinking of them for specialty work, apartments on the top two floors with more pizzazz.”
“You have time for this?”
“I’ll make it. I’m thinking of hiring Black to oversee the day to day and a professional inspector, of course. I know the right architect and you can call your pal the Mayor, he can have the pleasure of announcing a redevelopment in the city for regular people.”
“Which speaks to a different issue, do we have our names in it?”
“Mine, it’s unavoidable. I’m listed as CEO of  Murakami-Sylk. Nobody bugs us about the things we already own, this is just a new project.”
“I think it works for us. How can such a busy development and management company be run by people whose main job is refocusing jerks and chasing around Shadows?”
Janah, “Then it’s settled. It sounds expensive, do we have enough cash?”
Nikko, “Yes, but I don’t want to tie up that much. I’ll obtain a construction loan, then a permanent mortgage. Rates are too low to pass up, it’s almost free money and the city will give us tax relief for a few years for such an improvement project.”

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