One Hundred Seventeen

I went with Best Western Plus, king suites. We have two Hyundai Santa Fes for wheels. Two cars may be one too many, but I don’t want to need a second and have to trot back to Enterprise. Flying private put us at Tallahassee Regional, not the big airport, we’re down and out in minutes.
Sloane looks around the hotel room, “Where’s my Penthouse Suite?”
“We left it in the French Quarter, the Royal Orleans wanted to keep it.”
“Sheesh, bet they don’t have a single sandwich with debris, no turtle soup either. Dinner last night was spectacular.”
“It’s a college town, you know, burgers and chicken fingers.”
Janah, “We need to tour the campus. If anyone asks, we’re considering enrolling Sloane.”
Sloane, “Not sure FSU would welcome a girl with a penis.”
“They would if they knew you can run a hundred meters in six seconds. Even give you a full ride.”
We take one car for now, Sloane likes to drive, I’m neutral on it, she takes the wheel and we visit FSU. It’s a whopping four miles to the campus.
“Big place.”
Janah, “Over forty one thousand students. And at sixteen thousand a year for tuition, room and board and books, it’s a bargain for Florida residents. Women are fifty five percent of the students.”
“I wonder how many lesbians?”
“These days, who knows, girls try it on in college while they wait on Mr. Right." 
Janah, “Okay, don’t know what we learned, find someplace for lunch.”
“I need to find birds to start the search, let’s stop and round up pigeons, I’ll get something sharper while you get the pigeons going.”
We’re at the rear edge of the hotel lot, rear, nobody around. Janah soon has a dozen pigeons surrounding her. Anyone watching from a window will think she’s feeding them. After fifteen, a Barn Owl arrives and lands on the tree branch over my head.
We have a familiar conversation, how I came to talk to birds, that I can two seventy my head and hear the snow fall. Not in Tallahassee, but where it snows.
She agrees to hunt, if she finds a Shadow, she returns to the hotel. I attach the GPS to track her movements, off she goes. 
When pigeons fly, the smartest bird leads the way. Janah asks for that bird, but there isn’t a one, there’s a two, and a three. Turns out pigeons change leaders depending on who knows a given area best, that’s pretty smart. We attach a GPS to each of the three, there’s a fluttering swirl, they circle the hotel and shoot off in the direction of the campus.
“Now for lunch.”
Tap around the phone, Wells Brothers is a mile away, good rating, lots of variety. 
It’s after one, lunch crowd dwindled, we decide on a variety of burgers. Garden for Janah and Cassie, Chicken for Oceane, Sloane and I have standard, there are a few zillion add-ons for the burgers. We share two orders of onion rings.
Sloane, “These are good, see why it’s the number four rated place on Trip Advisor.”
Janah, Sloane and I heated each other up on the drive in from the airport, take the girls to one suite, she and I will take the other. An after lunch nap sounds cozy.
With a creamy dessert?
She grins, licks her lips, Follow in my head while I give her head. She likes knowing she gets you squirmy.
I’m getting squirmy thinking about it.

Sloane is between me and Janah. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Janah’s hand resting on the sweet spot, she squeezes gently. Sloane looks at me, sly smile on her lips.
Oceane, Cass, and I are lined up on the couch, CNN is on the TV, the sound is off.
Oceane and Cass aren’t watching anyway, they’re making out, then they’re up and into the bedroom. I stretch out on the couch, lose my jeans and self stimulate while I get in Janah’s head.
Ooohhh, so bad, Janah’s licking the stick, then in her mouth for a slow suck. Through her eyes I see Sloane watching the performance, I feel Janah’s excitement building. She eases up Sloane’s torso, rolls over to her back, “I’m so ready, slide it in and make me crazy.”
Seems to be working, I sense her building to climax, Sloane takes her time, Janah moans. Deep breathing is good for you, Janah’s getting oxygen pumped by the second, then she’s over the top with a lovely squeal and shudder.
Sloane slides up, straddles her chest, Janah takes the shaft in her mouth again, works it until Sloane can’t hold out any longer. She pulls out, Janah pumps her cock until creamy dream shoots in her mouth. Then she squeezes the shaft for one more sample, licks it off.
Yummy dessert, bring us wine.
I deliver two glasses, Sloane is stretched out, eyes closed, sunk into the sheets. 
She manages, “God I love to fuck.”
Janah and I laugh, “Really, who knew? I mean besides Oceane, Cass, Janah, the twins, Sarah and Ellen.”
Sloane takes her glass, sips, “The twins don’t come around much, I’m their occasional variety.”
“People would kill to have sex with the girls you do.”
Sloane rolls her eyes, “Like you have a shortage of girls.”
Janah, “Daphne will crash elsewhere, I may need a second dessert during the night.”
Sloane smiles, “I can do that.”
Sheesh, when Janah gets in a mood.
I leave them to sleep, or whatever, go to the girls’ room. If they played, they’re done now, snuggled together and out for the count.
Back on the couch, I finish what I hadn’t finished when Janah wanted wine. Shake and shudder to a lovely climax, do go to bed things and slip in next to Oceane, gone in minutes.

One Hundred Eighteen

I’m up early checking the GPS, no birds returned during the night. I go downstairs for cups of coffee and return to the room with them. Nobody up yet, I click on the TV, the news is reporting on the dead girl, a student at FSU, the usual shock and tears. I say usual because people in America shoot each other every day, the tears and lamentations of family and friends adds to the drama, and to the relief of viewers that it’s nobody they know.
Sloane comes along, “I got an extra coffee, you might need to nuke it a bit, but it should still be warm.”
“Thanks, I need it, Janah, wow, she is a sensualist’s sensualist.”
“Dead girl found in a drainage canal, no comments on her condition. She was a tennis player at FSU though.
“Oceane called it, now what?”
“We wait, the birds will find a Shadow or they won’t. Oceane says a Shadow, but this is unusual. Shadows have been serial fraudsters, serial thieves, serial perverts but not serial killers. They prefer people to suffer psychologically more than physically. There were Shadows in Wichita Falls prepared to have police kill children, but they weren’t doing any actual killing themselves.”
Sloane, “You may have just answered your question.”
“How did I…wait, you mean a Shadow is making someone into a serial killer? Cripes, go get Janah, we need to think about this.”
“Maybe you get Janah, if I have to perform again I may not be capable of leaving the hotel.”
Janah comes in, “You’re safe, I followed in Daphne’s head, good call, you may be onto something. I’m starved, they have breakfast here, yes?”
“Yes, Sloane, take her down, I’ll wait on the girls. If I don’t show, bring something back when you’re done.”
While they go to feed, I keep one eye on the trackers, the other on the news. Nothing new on either. Twenty minutes later, Oceane and Cass appear.
“Sloane and J went to eat, they’ll bring back plates for us, I’ll make tea, watch the news. Oceane was right, there’s a dead girl.”
They sit on the couch, I bring them cups of tea, a few minutes later Sloane and Janah return carrying styrofoam plates covered with styrofoam plates. Eggs, bacon, sausage patties, hash browns, pancakes and the accompaniments, a plate of cut cantaloupe.
“This isn’t bad.” 
Janah, “No, they do a nice job, and it isn’t twenty bucks for the buffet like the Royal Orleans. It isn’t anything.”
Oceane and Cass attack the cantaloupe after I sprinkle salt on it.
Sloane, “Save some for Daphne, eat eggs and pancakes, we have work to do today, you need to feed.”
They shift focus, we finish off most of what they brought, I was hungrier than I thought.
I check the phone, “Owl is downstairs, be back in a bit.”
For reasons unknown, Cassie wants to go with me, we get to the rear lot, the owl is in the same spot as yesterday.
“Who is the girl, she is not human, I should say, more than human.”
“Yes, we do not completely understand her, she completely understands us but does not speak of it.”

Owl, “You would only be shamed by your limitations, she is being considerate in her silence.”
“Good to know.”
“You are at least less limited than most of your kind.”
“Also good to know.”
“The one you seek is not in my territory, others know of him. They took me to the Dark One’s nest. He is more than evil. You will not kill him easily.”
“We cheat, we have weapons, poisons he cannot defeat, we don’t even need to confront him.”
“Lucky for you, he could kill with a glance, but he does not. He uses others to do his killing, like the vulture or hyena, nasty creatures, not as bad a humans.”
“We are a filthy, vulgar species, I do not deny it.”
“Knowing what you are, you can fix it, most humans know nothing and believe they are the greatest of all.”
“If you will, locate the Shadow, what you call the Dark One, circle the spot. The device you carry will tell us where he is. We want the Shadow, the one he controls is less important. Once the Shadow is dead, the person he controls will be free of him.”
“ I will go to the nest now.”
“Just circle it, we know how to read a Shadow, do not put yourself in danger. If you get too close, he will kill you for his own amusement. They seldom kill humans, but they kill other animals for no reason other than they can.”
“Humans kill animals for no reason all the time, we pity your ignorance. Better when you kill each other.”

She goes airborne, guess the chat is over, Cass and I return to the room.
“We’re mobile in a few, grab your socks and don’t think about the other bit.”
Sloane, “What is mom talking about?”
Janah, “It’s an old military thing she picked up, drop your cocks and grab your socks, in other words quit screwing around and get moving.”
“Mom’s weird.”
“Said the girl with a free range dick.”
We take both cars, Sloane and J in one, our drone pilot Oceane, Cass, and me in the other. Janah and I are the only ones who can mental, instant communication is faster than phones. Actually, we think Oceane and Cass mental, but they don’t talk about it. If I asked, Oceane would tell me, but the mystery is more fun.
The owl is waiting, I remove the GPS and thank her. The pigeons haven’t returned to the hotel yet, we know they’re out there, the dots are on the screen. They’re on the other side of town.
If he’s a Shadow, he’s an outlier, upscale neighborhood, big house, lots of expensive landscaping.
Janah, The house belongs to a physician, a gynecologist named Spence, Gerald Spence. Has his own clinic, employs three other docs. Good looking stud, no wife, no kids, known to be a man about town, hunted by squads of single women and not single women. Nobody’s captured the prince so far.
How’d you get all that?
Local paper social section, he donates to this and that, throws parties, has a taste for college girls, athletic college girls.
Why isn’t he a suspect?
Been interviewed as a person of interest, no longer a person of interest. They didn’t say so, but his rep is too good, excellent even. He’s got to be staining his shorts though. Fat income, lots of ladies, could all go down the drain if his DNA shows up on the wrong body.
He’s not the Shadow.
No. I might except the big house, but dating, the social scene, donations to charity? Doesn’t fit.
Owl got the wrong place?
No, the Shadow is controlling the doc.

I pass along our conversation to the girls, more to revisit it than communicate it to them. The complications have no meaning for Cassie, Oceane doesn’t think in linear terms, I don’t know what she thinks in. Integral calculus is about approximation of curves, cones and odd shapes, differential calculus is about rates of change, maybe she thinks in calculus. What if she and Cass communicate in calculus?
Janah, Computers talk to each other in binary. Likely too precise for Oceane.
She’s precise about drawing, swimming and diving.
Good point, maybe they’re AI without the A.
Wish somebody would show, we need to confirm a Shadow or continue the search. Nothing from the pigeons.

 A man comes around from the rear of the house, he’s short, scruffy, in baggy pants and a plain white shirt.
Oceane, “Dark One.”
Janah, you see him?
Yep, Oceane’s right, that’s our boy.

One Hundred Nineteen

Do we take him here, now? I’ve got a dart gun loaded, Oceane can launch the drone easily enough.
Janah, That brings the doc into it. Our hypothesis is shaky, that he’s getting the doc to kill. And the girls who went missing showed up with amnesia, what of them? That wouldn’t be the doctor, he has girls calling him. He doesn’t need to blackmail them for chump change.
Did you call your sources on the dead girl?
Yes, ruptured brain aneurysm, nobody killed her, she had a weak spot in an artery, it burst, she died. I can only assume she was getting the same treatment as the other girls, photos, video and it happened coincidentally. If the Shadow had her, he dumped the body or coerced the Spence to do it.
Geez, this is getting convoluted.
Which is why I want to capture the Shadow and have a chat.

“Oceane, Janah wants to talk to him. Remove the Oblivion, carefully, change the darts in the drone to Sleep. I’m going to wander around the place until he senses me. He won’t be able to resist a confrontation. You get a clean shot, take it.”
This is the flip side of Oceane, the laser focused like when she paints or dives. I get out of the car, Cassie follows me, she’s holding a dart gun.
“Cass, this could be dangerous.”
She smiles, we continue on. At the rear of the place, there’s a smaller guesthouse. Makes more sense, he’s living in a nice place courtesy of Spence, who no doubt thinks there’s a good reason to let him live there.
Cassie breaks off and goes to the corner of the guesthouse, then levitates level with the roof of the one story building, what’s she up to? My dim light flickers, she’s perfectly hidden in plain sight.
He must be in the back, doesn’t come charging out full of threats regarding my imminent demise. I knock, technically I kick the door open, is that like a hard knock?
Step back a few feet, Shadow comes waddling from some room in the rear, maybe the kitchen, he’s wearing an apron.
“It’s Girl Scout Cookie season, I’m not with the Girl Scouts, it just seemed like something to say. You don’t look like cookies are something you need, or I should say something you’ve eaten way to many of already, tubby.”
I feel him trying for my mind, I qi up, this could get ugly, Janah’s backing me, he’s not going to have an easy time of it.
I see his frustration, I should be crawling in agony, he’s chewing up energy, then again, so am I. C-mom trained me in martial arts, her training secret was simple, how much pain can you stand and how long can you stand it? I can stand it for a good long time.
“Shaolin bitch, you are better than most, what do you want? To kill me? Hah! Not happening. We can standoff all day if you wish.”
He’s still far enough inside that the drone over my head doesn’t have an angle. I start to step to the side, but Cass floats down just behind me.
The Shadow blinks, there’s a teenage girl floating in the air over my shoulder, he cocks his head, like an owl trying to cipher what he’s seeing.
The rifle appears over my right shoulder, Cass sticks a dart in his chest.
The fat Shadow stares at it, grabs it, which doesn’t matter, the drug is in, he’s cooked.
He yanks the dart, sneers at me, then his eyes roll up and his tubbiness rolls down to the carpet.
“Janah, bring the car around, we need to load the lump.”
I turn to Cass, “Perfect angle, just perfect.”
She smiles, walks off to find Oceane who is landing the drone in the back of the Hyundai.
Sloane backs their car up to the doorway.
“We could have used the twins to haul this sack of slop around.”
“No sweat mom, Janah and I will get him stowed. She has a room for us to interview him, a Motel Something with a number.”
Janah, “Motel 6, just follow us, it’s only a few miles.”
“I’ll find it, you and Sloane go, the girls and I need to check the premises, see if he’s doing his media work here.”
They go off, “Oceane, Cass, wander the place, see what you pick up.”
Inside it’s rather pristinely neat, Shadow didn’t care about his appearance, but he cared about the house. Ah, two video cams, king bed, girl toys, S&M toys, digital camera, laptop. A fairly professional lighting system, full frontal isn’t the same if it’s poorly lit, you want to see that toy going in and sliding around.
I don’t recall any mention of S&M in the reports. It occurs that those might be girls who didn’t come forward.
I collect everything that might have film or photos, search the closet for external drives, find none. He probably sticks the stuff in the cloud, iCloud is encrypted, Apple can’t even get into it. Maybe Daria can crack his password, or he’s got it in a file someplace. It isn’t that important, he’s already sent the videos to his victims or posted the ones who refused to pay.
I have the stuff in a duffle I found in a closet, Oceane and Cassie are in the living room.
Oceane, “Many girls have been here, I felt more than twenty presences in things they touched. All the things in the bedroom had many hands on them.”
A lot more victims than the few we know about.
We move to Motel 6, they have Tubbs wired and have stored any objects he could use to fly around the room and smash us. We don’t know if he can use telekinesis, some can and some can’t, but we don’t need to find out the painful way.
“Oceane said there are at least twenty victims, no way to tell over what time period. I might get that from the videos if we hack his files.”
Janah, “Fool with it while I work this guy, the room next door is also rented, here’s the key card. I need Sloane and Oceane, she can learn the system. Take Cass with you.”
We move to the room next door, like being transported to a mirror universe. Remember the Stephen Wright bit? ‘This morning I woke up and found that someone broke in during the night and replaced everything in my apartment with an identical copy.’
I hit on an idea.
“Cass, can you go back to a time when this man next door was using this computer? Can you see what he types in to open the files?”
She holds the machine like a tray, then sits at the desk and opens the lid, puts her hands on the keys. Ten minutes, fifteen, she’s still as a stone, then her fingers start typing, boom she’s in. Good thing I was paying attention, she types pretty fast. His password is dumb, superfreak, on the other hand, it’s accurate.
“Now stay with it, he will enter another password to get into his iCloud account. Apple requires the password must have 8 or more characters, include upper and lowercase letters, at least one number. 
“Cripes, he also has two factor authentication, good thing I took his phone, here’s the code,” she types it in.
He has his own mini porn site, must be thirty videos and hundreds of photos. He can share links to individual files by first sending them to an anonymous account, then from there to the victim.
We watch a few, they’re fairly short, five or six minutes. Enough to have blackmail value. Then there are lengthier ones, usually S&M. Whips, nipple clips that draw blood, ball gag, the whole schmear. Whoever is applying the devices is off camera, he wears latex gloves, but the same stubby hands as Tubbs, and the shirtsleeve that’s visible is the same kind of white dress shirt he has on now.
There are none with third parties, which makes sense. Controlling two people is almost impossible, only the most talented Shadows can pull it off.
He did a good job of controlling one though. The girls smile, appear to enjoy putting on the show, wouldn’t have much blackmail value if they looked coerced. The ones on the business end of the S&M gear beg for more even as blood drips down their nude bodies.
“Enough porn,” I note the passwords instead of parking them in Janah’s brain, she’s occupied with Tubbs.

One Hundred Twenty

I pack up the equipment and stick it in the car, we’ll discuss what to do with the video later, most likely destroy it. What was sent to victims was sent, it can’t be unsent. It’s not Snapchat, crap doesn’t disappear in a few seconds.
I peek in Janah’s head, she’s occupied listening to the Shadow’s story.
Tubby, “…the girls are simple to pick up, they get in the car like we’re old pals. I make the video, get a blowjob, wipe their memory and drop them off. I send them the copy, they send me money.”
“You can get money just by asking for it, I assume the cruelty of blackmail is more entertaining.”
“I’m a Shadow, as you call us. We’re all freaks, we like it.”
“One died.”
“Not my fault, she was good as dead anyway, and she wasn’t one of the ball and gag girls, just a quickie video.”
“How’d you dispose of the body.”
“Come on, you saw the news. Stuck her in the trunk, dumped her in the drainage canal. I could hardly take her to the morgue could I?”
“What about Spence, what’s he in this?”
“Nothing. I make him believe he wants me in the guesthouse to look after his shit. I get a cool place to live for nothing, he works all the time, then goes to society gigs, or has a girl over. I stay out of the way, don’t grab girls he knows, that would be stupid. If they think he’s involved, I lose my free house in the fancy neighborhood. It got worrisome when they came around, but the cops only wanted to know if he’d treated any of the girls. He hadn’t, that was that.”
Janah, “You know others like you?”
“A few, you know the drill, we keep to ourselves. I heard rumors about you, never thought a bullshit blackmail scam would attract your attention. Shadows out there doing a whole lot worse shit than me.”
“Like who, and where?”
“Why should I tell you? You gonna kill me anyway, you came with the Shaolin, she’s gotta kill me.”
“It’s not whether you will die, it’s how. You can go slow or fast for instance. I’ve got a drug that will do it instantly, no pain, no nothing, you’re here, then you’re not. Or, I’ve got a pal who will keep you alive for days, one razor cut at a time.”
“So the samurai thing is true?”
“Truer than you want to know, and she can be here in a few hours.”
“Fuck it, I’ll give you names I know, which may not be their names now. I’ll tell you where I last saw them, which may not be where they are now. We’re more mobile than fuckin’ gypsies.”
“Understood. And understand this, the girl there, she can sense a lie faster than a katana can take your head. The samurai hopes you try and wing it.”
Tubbs comes up with three names, three cities, three descriptions, three preferences, one does plain theft, one is a pervert’s perv, the third more sophisticated, a financial planner. We’ve dealt with Shadow accountants, brokers, real estate and insurance agents. Just think how they can wipe you out once they take your mind. I text Daria the details, if they exist, she’ll find them.
Janah, “My associate says you’ve been a good boy, she also says you’re dry, so we have no further use for you.”
He gives it a final go, the room heats, his chair shakes, but he’s wired in and mostly succeeds in cutting into his wrists and hands. Sloane bats him hard on the side of his head.
She growls, snaps hr jaws just shy of his nose, wolf teeth bared in a snarl, Tubb’s head snaps back.
“Jesus, what kind of mutants do you collect, fuck, she’s vicious.”
Janah, “You have no idea, you lack the imagination to even guess,” she nods to Sloane who swaps the syringe in the Luer-Lok for a fresh one with five cc’s of Oblivion. 
Tubbs is no more.
I back the Hyundai to the door. Janah, Sloane and I push and pull his body into the SUV.
“Cripes, next time I’m getting a Tahoe, he barely fits.”
Janah, “The girls and I are going to the hotel, I’ll call for a flight on the way. You and Sloane dump this chump and hustle back.”
Forty minutes later, Tubbs is in the Wacissa Swamp and Sloane and I are headed to the Best Western.
Janah checks in, Just go to Tallahassee Regional, there was a Blue Sky jet and crew sitting around, I’ve got our stuff, see you shortly.
Neat, an hour later we’re a half hour into the flight to Manhattan. It’s a four hour trip, we won’t get home until eight or nine. The rest of our crew flies in day after. It will give me time to shop, replenish the refrigerator, Oceane and Cassie can return to their haven of endless pool and silence.
Nikko, “f I didn’t know better I’d think you were intentionally trying to keep me from offing Shadows.
But you do know better, besides, we have three names to chase down. If Daria finds them, one is bound to need a samurai’s gentle touch.
She’s found two. Daria’s amazing, give her a project and she’s relentless, she recruited Susan to find number three. If they exist and don’t live in a cave, they will be found.
Good to have a mom that doesn’t age, she can spoil me forever.
Got to go, Sarah is making concentration difficult, see you soon.

I look through Nikko’s eyes, Sarah is nude, straddling Nikko’s legs, I tune out as she leans forward for a kiss.
Janah, “Nikko having fun?”
“She got lithe lovely Sarah taking control, I’d say she’s near ecstatic.”
Oceane and Cass are playing push hands, not sure what the crew makes of it. Of course they don’t know that, despite making no contact, there is qi keeping their hands in synch. Janah is on a second cup of green, Sloane is occupied with a movie. I get a cup of coffee and chill. If Daria’s located two more Shadows and on the hunt for a third, we’re going to need all the R&R we can get.
Angelo awaits at Teterboro, “Hey girls, and still girls. I’m fat and fifty five, I met you when I was fat and forty, you never age a minute.”
“Yeah. Looka Sloane, how are ya little lady?”
She bares her teeth, Angelo laughs, “Oceane and Cassandra, angeli perfetti. Welcome home.”
“What’s angeli perfetti, some kind of pasta?”
Oceane, “Perfect angels.”
Angelo, “She speaks Italian?”
“News to me, she picks up languages like a magnet, the conversation part. Doesn’t read a word of any of them except English.”
Angelo, "Dove hai imparato italiano?"
Oceane, "YouTube."
"Lezioni di italiano?"
"Film italiani."
Angelo laughs, “She learned Italian by watching movies, amazing.”
Ah, home. With the luxury of remote control, we’re able to turn on air or heat and adjust temps from anywhere in the world. The condo air is fresh, not stuffy, courtesy of an air filtration system that also minimizes dust.
The girls get showered and settled, I bring them glasses of white wine. They can sip and drift off to sleep.
Sloane has already showered, I hear the shower in our room going, I step in as Janah steps out.
“Whew, that’s better. Even on private, something about air travel gets me sticky.”
“Better that two hundred bodies breathing recirculated air for four hours. I have no idea why flight attendants do it.”
“I’m bushed, talking to Shadows is always a grind. Glass of wine and I’m down.”

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