Twenty Five

A week passes, Zoe C says we can buy a lot of acreage on the uninhabited side of the lake, or we can buy a finished home on the side with access and far less land. 
“Let’s fly up and take a look.”
Arrangements take another week, then Zoe C and I fly to Banff Canada, an agent who knows the area well meets us. It’s straight to a helicopter that takes us in a circle around the nearby lakes. 
Agent, “Gorgeous isn’t it?”
Zoe C, “Delightful.”
She points us to areas where we can buy hundreds of acres, then homes, some quite elaborate but on the occupied side of the lake. None have as much ground as we want. She also points out that, on the unoccupied side, there is no power or sewer, all of that will be costly to do from scratch, not to mention the cost of construction since everything has to be hauled across the lake. From our point of view, cost isn’t an issue, but the sheer number of complications and permits is troublesome.
Agent, “I saved this property for last. Five hundred acres, one road in that’s almost untraveled since it only goes to the house. And that road is off a two lane that eventually leads to a highway. The house is empty and it needs work, mostly cosmetic, it isn’t falling apart or anything.”
We fly over, there’s room for the copter to land, we duck under rotors and walk around the house. She’s right, the structure appears sound, three thousand square feet, four beds upstairs, one down, an office, living area and kitchen. Zoe C takes pictures of everything.
“How much?”
Agent, “Two million three, but that’s negotiable, the people who own it inherited it and they never come up here. Point being I can talk them down.”
She’s prepared, shows us prices of undeveloped land, then prices for property with homes. 
“Based on this, I think a million nine is about right, things need updating, bathrooms and kitchen in particular. The land is worth a million and a half easy.”
“Okay, make the offer. We’re at the Moose Hotel, call Zoe C when you have a response.”
We return to Banff, our rental car is waiting, the agent takes off and we go to the hotel. Zoe C got us a two bedroom rooftop suite, the place is pristine. Primarily a ski resort, this is June, it’s not abandoned but it isn’t full either.
She sends the pictures to the family via Elle, then calls.
“Yes, gorgeous crystal blue lake, surrounded by heavily forested mountains. The place needs work, and we have to add rooms, but there’s a lot of land and none of it near anyone. We made an offer through the agent but haven’t heard back yet.”
Someone asks a question, she has the phone, I can’t hear it.
“Since we didn’t locate on the far side of the lake, we can hold off on a boat, worry about that later, a houseboat sounds fun.”
Another question.
“No, not tomorrow, if we buy the property I have to find an architect and a reliable contractor. We won’t be here to look over his shoulder. We will have a home warranty alongside the warranty the contractor provides. It will be fine, there’s nothing being done that money can’t fix.”
She listens, then, “Everybody says hello Chef,”
“Hello, and is everyone good, nothing I need to know?”
She asks, “It’s all good,” back to the phone, “okay, I’m guessing a few days, we’ll do Facetime or Skype next. Bye for now.”
She disconnects, “Elle may be the sweetest human on the planet. The kids are fine, Zelda and Cilia went to our rooms a couple of times, the kids assured them we were on a business trip, nothing horrible happened.”
“Think the dogs understood?”
“They didn’t go check our rooms again.”
“Sometimes I wonder about those two…they understand what the kids say, things they haven’t trained to understand.”
“I’m just happy we have them, they’d take a bullet for the children.”
“Any dinner ideas?”
“The hotel restaurant is Italian, they have a dinner for two that includes steak, sausage and garlic shrimp, I presume they throw potatoes in, if not there are a list of sides. Most importantly, they have a full service bar.”
“Sounds right, let’s have a drink and chill first.”
The food lives up to the promise, we wade through all the meat, leave most of the potato, finish the bottle of Chianti. Up to the room, cocktails on our balcony which overlooks an empty pool, the whole place backdroped by a full moon and mountains. I’m beginning to feel good about a place here. We yawn our way to our bedrooms and sleep.
I’m up before Zoe C, make coffee and enjoy it on the balcony. It’s chilly at this elevation, even in June, I have a spare blanket over my shoulders. Zoe C appears with coffee.
“Blanket is a good idea.”
“Pull a chair up, I’ll share it with you.”
“The views are lovely, more trees than Malibu.”
“Five trees would be more trees than Malibu.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, we have more than five on our property alone, nineteen to be exact, and shrubbery that almost counts as trees.”
“I know, but it’s not so dramatic if I say nineteen trees, and we’re unusual, lots of places don’t have any.”
Her phone dings, a Facetime call, it’s Zak.
“Hey mom, bet you never got a Facetime call from a blind kid.”
“True, this is a first, is Mickey there?”
Mickey, “Right here.”
“Let me turn the phone around so you can see what we’re suffering though this morning, Zak can watch through your eyes,” she pans the camera slowly across the horizon.
Mickey, “Gee, that’s amazing, see it Zak?”
“Yeah, big pool, major mountains, did you buy the house?”
“It’s early, waiting on the agent to get back to us and it’s a family thing, they may have to talk to more than one person. Circumstances are on our side, the house belonged to grandparents, nobody lives there and we were told the rest of the family never comes up here. They’ll want to unload the place.”
Natalie appears, “The photos you sent look good, set back from the lake, what, fifty yards?”
“Something like that, there may be a little boat traffic, if we want more privacy we’ll figure something out. But if we can see the lake, people going by can see the house. When we toured yesterday there were two or three boats, fishing only. The water is far too cold for swimming, rules out water or jet skis. I didn’t ask, they may not even be allowed.”
“Going to learn to snow ski?”
“I know how to ski, it’s been a few years though. The kids will want snowboards, we’ll get them lessons.”
“I’ve been a couple of times in Colorado, it was fun, never got around to more trips.”
“The house will be ready before ski season, again assuming we buy it.”
“I have calls to return, give us an update when you can.”
We ring off, I get up in search of more coffee. After last night we aren’t particularly hungry, decide to skip breakfast. Instead, we dress and take a walk, more like a hike.

Twenty Six

We settled on a million nine, Zoe C finds a Canadian architect, who refers us to a contractor with stellar references. Zoe C looks like a fitness model, don’t ever mistake that for an airhead or a pushover. And she learned a lot of building details during the expansion of our Malibu compound. 
We return to Malibu to wait on the plans, Zoe C was specific on size of the addition, the kitchen and bath remodels, down to appliances, showers and bathroom fixtures. The contractor said she knew her stuff, everything has to be first quality, top shelf, premiere, like Zoe C her own self.
Mickey, “How long before we can go?”
Zoe C, “Middle to end of September. You want your rooms to be just right don’t you?”
“We get our own rooms, like here?”
“Sure, everyone likes their private space don’t you think?”
“Yeah, but I wind up with Zak a lot of the time.”
“That’s up to you and Zak, you need to select the furnishings you want in your room, the sheets, comforters, do you want a desk or not. We’ll take online shopping trips and send your selections to Canada in time for us to move in. Take your time, we have three months before we can ship anything anyway.”
She and Elle will find us an SUV big enough for all of us and two monster dogs. While I doubt we’ll be need to take the dogs anyplace, if the kids take up skiing we need something to haul them and ski gear.
It’s past tea, Zoe C makes cocktails for she and me, wine for the rest, we’re parked around the patio table, Akiko climbs into Elle’s lap and leans against her shoulder. Elle beams like a zillion watt halogen lamp, kisses the soft cheek and wraps her arms around the sprite.
Elle, “This is my slice of heaven.”
Sentimental Natalie tears up, she’s all business shark one minute and a puddle of love the next. One of the many contrasts I adore about her. Natalie lives full bore, not full bore racing around doing crap, full bore emotionally. Another contrast, her adopted McKenzie seldom displays any emotion. Mac has learned to offer up a hug, not because she needs one, because she senses it makes the hugged happy. McKenzie is coming around at her own pace, she does have a special sensitivity to Akiko and, of course, her beloved Zelda.
Natalie, “McKenzie and I found an amazing tamale truck, we bought four dozen for dinner this evening. Then she decided to make nachos as well, we may be over tamale’d.”
“We’ll finish them tomorrow, appetizers before dinner.”
Zelda’s caught the scent, Cilia isn’t going to be left out, I’m surrounded by massive mutts. I test a tamale, warm not hot. I break it in half, one to each, chomp, swallow. Zelda looks up at me, groans her wish for more, I split a second and give it to them.
“That’s it Zelda, you and Cilia go find something to do,” I flap my hand in a go away gesture, damned if they don’t trot off and park next to McKenzie and Akiko playing Go on the cushy mat in front of the couches. 
We put the same interlocking martial arts mat as we have in the gym, sturdy but squishy soft, comfortable to walk or sit on. Swipe it with a wet cloth, cleans right up.
Zoe C, “Yay, nachos and tamales, if that doesn’t call for margaritas nothing does,” she pulls out the big blender and starts in with ingredients, pack it with ice and crank it up.
I salt rim the glasses, frozen insulated tumblers we use for almost everything. Virgin margaritas for the kids in blender two. Soon we’re scooping crispy corn chips through black beans, salsa, sour cream and guacamole.
Elle, “You like nachos Akiko?”
Redundant question, the kid’s a half dozen loaded chips into the treat, Elle gets an affirmative nod anyway. She makes another and hands it to the girl with a kiss to the top of her head. 
Our children are different, as you have noticed. They’re still children, we give lots of hugs and kisses, smiles and giggles are our reward. Our kids are not interruptions, if there’s a question, we stop whatever and listen. Listen as in look them in the face, attend as if they are the only other people on the planet. The consequence is another reward, they don’t act out, get temperamental or complain. No, we don’t do anything they want, no instant gratification, the flip side is we’re parents without agendas, the children have nothing to prove to us. We talk to them like adults, no singsong, certainly no baby talk. They’d think we lost our minds.
Zoe C drops in my head, ‘My phone says we have a message on the site, can you get to the office?’
‘In a minute.’

“McKenzie, steam the tamales, I have to check the website. Only be a minute but if I take longer, serve when they are ready.”
She nods, Akiko joins her. The tamales have been in a warm oven, a bit of steam will get them hot and moist.
Zoe C refreshes margaritas, they’ve pretty much destroyed the nachos. I take mine to the office to see what’s what.
Message reads, ‘Need intervention, 12 y/o daughter has changed from adorable loving child to someone I don’t recognize, violent but not angry, exhibitionist behavior but no sexuality. It is like she’s not in there. This deviance with increasing frequency, 3-4 times a week, then she’s herself. No recollection of what she did, at least that’s what she says. Did the neurology, nothing wrong in her brain. Therapist has never seen her in the other state, she’s always fine and chatty.
Therapist has obliquely implied that I’m the problem, like a mental health Munchkin by proxy looking to get my child on medication or psychiatric treatment. That is NOT the case. Her father is a specialist in international law and is overseas much of the time. He thinks she’s having an overactive passage to puberty. A social worker gave me this site address, is it real? Can you help?’
Zoe C comes in and reads over my shoulder, “Where is she?”
“Don’t know yet, most of our inquiries want a reply first, before they provide a location. Makes sense, that’s what I’d do.”
“Think it’s real? And if it is, what are we supposed to do?”
“I want to see if she coughs up more information.”
I type, ‘While this is not our normal case, I understand your concern about her violence and inappropriate behavior. Detail the violence, the other as well to the extent you are willing to say. Eventually need a name and location, it can wait until you send the additional information.’
Click the send, off it goes.
“Nothing to do now but see what she says.”
“Then shut down, come have a cocktail and watch whatever McKenzie thinks we should watch. Oh, we enticed Natalie to come and play tonight, you’re on your own.”
“No problem, she doesn’t sleep with me most nights, Nat likes her own bed.”
 I’m not hurting for intimacy outlets. She knows Elle and I play occasionally, maybe monthly. I’m not sure, I don’t keep a diary.

Twenty Seven

Akiko and McKenzie made us tamales and poached eggs for breakfast, side of Brabant potatoes with scallions and crushed red pepper. We gave them a round of applause, the dogs gave them satisfied grunts then curled up by the fireplace to rest and digest.
McKenzie is in the office with me, I’m not on her radar, she’s looking for stocks to trade. The message icon pops up, I log in and read.
‘It began with her going off for no reason, just yelling and name calling. Escalated to breaking things. The cat disappeared, her cat in fact, in her ‘normal’ state she was upset as any girl would be. I found the poor creature with its throat cut a few feet into the woods behind the house. I’m convinced she did it and doesn’t remember. Rather than accuse, I let it slide, my normal daughter would never do such a thing, and I didn’t want to plant the idea that she did. She attacked a girl at school, according to witnesses for no reason. I don’t believe she even knew the girl, that got her expelled. They could have hauled her off to jail. I’m not only baffled, now I’m scared.’
‘We’ll take a look, need a name and address.’
I lumber off for more coffee, get a message on my phone while I’m stirring. Back to the office.
‘Darla Jacobs, daughter Kayla. Address below, do you need a phone number?’ 
‘Phone number is good, is everyone in town this week?’
‘Kayla and me, husband in Europe someplace, I never know.’
She lives outside Denver, at least it isn’t a five hour flight, ‘Be in tomorrow, will call.’
‘Oh gosh, thank you, I can’t deal much longer, she’s going to hurt someone, maybe even me.’
‘Take a breath, don’t get into a thing with Kayla if she goes off again.’
‘One day, I can handle that, waiting on your call.’
I sign off.
“McKenzie, when you’re done for the day, come and see me.”
I detect a nod, she clicks the mouse, appears to have bought ten thousand shares of something at thirty eight and change. A three hundred eighty thousand dollar transaction. I watch, my desk chair is behind her and the Bloomberg. Three minutes later she sells for a thirty cent a share profit. Three grand in under three minutes…and she has no idea what she bought and sold, it’s just letters and numbers rolling by.
She turns to me, “McKenzie is done.’
“Take a look at this message exchange, I want to know what you think.”
She reads the messages, then silent, I shut up and let her brain cogitate, “Shadow.”
“You think? Of course you do, that’s why you said it. If you’re right, what in hell do I do with a Shadow?”
“Nothing, McKenzie will kill it,” she goes off, likely in search of Akiko.
Zoe C, ‘I tuned in, she has to go with…but then, what if she’s wrong?’
‘I’m more concerned about her being right. Our previous experience is that a Shadow needs to be physically present to drive aberrant behavior. What’s going on in this case?’

Zoe C comes in the office, “Only one way to find out.”
“Book a flight for tomorrow, include Zelda.”
She stays to call the airline, I go out to see what the world, my world, is doing. Mickey, Zak, Akiko, Mac and the dogs are just going out the door to hike the property.
I hear Zak say, “Blind boy first,” he laughs, “try to keep up.”
Natalie, “That kid has the best attitude, he may be as hugely happy as Elle.”
I smile, “You three are the best possible moms, and as we know, kids are happy when their parents are. McKenzie is happy, she shows it differently, mostly in what she doesn’t do.”
“What do you mean?”
“She never acted out, but her autism had her rocking back and forth, withdrawn and anxious, almost nil verbal communication. She’s not chatty now, but she’s not withdrawn or anxious either. And dispensing hugs, I never would have guessed.”
“She knows things, sees past the words, an almost uncanny sense of the future. Look at her stock trading. How’s that happen?”
“I hesitate to tell you what she said to me.”
“What?”
“She said the future has already happened, it just hasn’t arrived yet. Like starlight from distant galaxies, from as few as four years to millions of years ago, the time it takes light to travel across a vast universe, perhaps an infinite universe.”
“But how….I mean, that light happened whenever, but it had to travel to us which took a long, long time. I get that, the closest star besides the sun is four light years away, that’s twenty six trillion miles, trillion, with a ‘t’. What does that have to do with the future?”
“Nonduality. Everything is one thing. We see partially, only as bodies and brains, limited in perceptual capacity. Go beyond body and brain, beyond things, and as McKenzie says, all of it and all of us are one thing. Some call it the Absolute, Mac calls it Chi, life force, universal energy. Anything anywhere, here, the planet, the galaxy and all the other galaxies, dark matter and black holes are all Chi. All arises from the Chi, we are ripples in the energy, as are planets and stars. In the end, there is nothing but Chi.”
“Okay, I get that, still doesn’t explain how Mac sees pieces of the future.”
“The future is merely more ripples, McKenzie senses the ripples to come, how? Don’t have a clue, but she does, we’ve seen her do it, We see her do it almost every day when she trades stocks.”
“If she can sense small changes in minutes, like in stock prices, why can’t see sense next week, next year?”
“When you exercise, do you run a marathon the first day?”
Nat is quiet, processing, “How stupid of me, she’s got to work up to it.”
I kiss her, “And our future will be incredible, or to put it in Mac-speak, our future is already incredible, we just have to wait until it shows up.”

Twenty Eight

Our little entourage, Zoe C, Mac, Zelda and I, are in Denver. Maybe chasing nothing but badly mixed brain chemicals or even a tumor, although a neurologist said nothing was amiss in Kayla’s head, the squishy bit anyway.
I call Darla Jacobs, “We’re in, anything new?”
Jacobs, “Mercifully, nothing.”
“Outside of school, what are Kayla’s activities or interests?”
“Is that important?”
“I can’t know if they are until I know what they are.”
“Okay, let’s see…Monday is nothing, school and home, until she was expelled. She has a dance class on Tuesday and Thursday, four until six. She takes piano lessons on Wednesday. Nothing else regular, she practices dance and piano at home other days, maybe for an hour. Now she has online lessons since she can’t go to school.”
“Any blowups at either dance or piano?”
“No.”
“How long has she been taking them?”
“Dance forever, since she was five. Piano for two years, then a break because the teacher got ill and was unable to continue. Six months ago, she started with a new teacher.”
“Who is that?”
“Patricia Finnegan, she has solid credentials, Kayla seems to like her. I know they text back and forth sometimes. I check, it’s all harmless, just Finnegan following up, making sure Kayla got practice time in.”
“Anything else, usual or unusual.”
“Nothing comes to mind. It’s taken its toll, Kayla still doesn’t understand why she was expelled, she has no memory of a fight. I finally got her to grasp that it happened, a hallway full of kids saw it. Fortunately the school doesn’t allow cell phones during classes, it wasn’t on a video.”
“And she doesn’t recall the other, taking her clothes off.”
“Her last episode was three or four days ago in the backyard, not a stitch on, talking to the neighbor’s two boys. Kids themselves, ten and thirteen I think.”
“Nothing sexual.”
“Nope, no porn poses, the boys fully clothed and on the other side of the fence. I let it go on for a while, to verify that very thing. A few minutes later she came inside, went to her room and came out dressed as if nothing happened.”
“We’ll be observing, it’s Tuesday, she has dance today right?”
“Yes, four o’clock,” she gives me an address.
“And the address of the piano teacher.”
“Do you think either place has anything to do with this?”
I fudge, “I don’t see how, but there may be something before or after, how does she get to the classes?”
“I take her, a paranoid mom, I could call Uber but I don’t want my twelve year old alone in a car with a stranger. She’s pretty, and almost too friendly. Now, of course, I couldn’t possibly let her, she might undress in the taxi or start a fight with the driver.”
“You need to text me when she leaves the house, even if you are taking her.”
“Do you have any ideas about what’s going on?”
“Two or three, but I won’t speculate. You have a unique problem, we will help resolve it but you need to do your part, she goes out, you text me.”
I click off before she can fire off a string of more unanswerable questions.
McKenzie, “Piano teacher.”
Zoe C, “Why do you say that?”
McKenzie shrugs, I jump in, “The behavior started around the time the new piano teacher came on the scene. It’s the logical place to start.”
Zoe C, “Dance today at four, we should have McKenzie read the crowd there. Piano is tomorrow, but no reason we can’t pass by the teacher’s place and see what we can see.”
She drives us, I’m following the GPS.
“It’s a wealthy neighborhood, not upper middle, rich.”
Zoe C, “Why does a wealthy woman take kids for piano lessons? I mean, maybe she just likes it, so it’s a hobby, it can’t be for a few dollars.”
“Agreed, McKenzie may be right, she usually is.”
She asks McKenzie, “Do you have any sense of how this happens? See the future now for instance?”
McKenzie, “McKenzie can’t control the visions, they come to her when they do.”
Zoe C grins, “So much for my brilliant idea.”
We come to the neighborhood. In this case neighborhood is only a word, not a reality. The houses are on super-sized lots, surrounded by tall hedges and taller trees.
“At least it isn’t gated, we don’t have to sneak in behind a resident or figure out a way past a guard shack.”
“We have the drone.”
“Which is great, but Mac can’t identify a Shadow from a drone video, she has to see them. Screw it, drive up to the place, I’m going to knock on the door.”
Big house, big door, I clank the knocker and wait. There’s a cam over the door, I look up and wave.
Door opens. A man in a black suit and tie, not Patricia, stares at me for a moment, then a simple, “Yes?”
I go all sociable, “Hi, I’m Chuck Franklin, I was told a talented piano teacher lives here, my daughter wants to take lessons, do I have the right place?”
“You will need to call for an appointment and an evaluation,” he starts to close the door.
“Hang on, I’m here now, can you book the appointment…for the evaluation?”
His face reveals zip, “One moment,” he shuts the door, then Zoe C is in my head.
‘McKenzie says he’s a Shadow.’
‘She sure?’
‘Come on Chef…..’
‘Okay, got it, he’s a Shadow. Bring up Mac and Zelda.’
Black Suit returns, except this time Mac and the monster are next to me. 
Before it registers he says, “Ms. Finnegan is not...,” then he spots McKenzie, “Is this the girl?”
“Yes, the one with red hair, not the big one in black.”
He ignores my joke, staring at McKenzie, “Her kind is not welcome here.”
I push him hard, he staggers, heel clips the throw rug, he falls backwards, butt to floor.
Stands up, I feel my brain twitch, he’s trying to grab my mind, Zelda growls and he loses his concentration. I reach for his arm, a bolt of energy goes to my gut…ooofff, damn, that hurts, I fall against the door barely able to stand. 
Then, for no apparent reason, Black Coat is flying backwards, catches his elbow on the stair banister. Mac energy pasted him so hard he cracks the wood. A woman appears at the top of the stairs.
Finnegan begins to descend. If the scene bothers or frightens her it isn’t obvious, she’s calm as ocean depths.
“Well, well, a little girl and a big dog, let’s deal with the mutt,” she raises a hand, McKenzie steps in front of Zelda.
The Qi shot comes, I can see the air quiver like heat waves, Mac doesn’t move, the shot hits something invisible two feet in front of her, a flash of light, then a sound like a sonic boom. 
Zoe C has been following, she bursts through the door Glock in hand, “Who do I shoot first?”
“Nobody…yet, I want to have a chat.”
Black Coat has recovered, he’s staring at Zoe C’s gun, she drops it and shakes her hand, “Damn, it’s hot.”
Then her head whips around like she’s been punched and she falls. Oops, bad for him, he’s risen to Mac’s attention. I stare as his eyes bleed, look up to Finnegan.
She’s actually smiling, “I can use the girl, the rest of you I can’t, except for brief amusement.”
“You can’t begin to use the girl, your last strike should have told you that.”
“Getting warmed up,” another blast, this one at me, she gave away her intent just enough for me to launch myself sideways into the hall next to the stairs. the wall has a fresh new opening, smoke rises from the edges.
Mac’s had enough, I see her go up the steps, Finnegan is motionless. McKenzie has her mind and body. 
Zelda takes the woman’s arm in her mouth and pulls. Finnegan follows her down, docile, affect flat as Kansas. We step over Black Coat, he’s cooked, pool of blood around his head, eyes open but the light’s off.
Finnegan sits on the couch, Mac next to her, Zelda directly in front. If she’s faking compliance and moves anything but her lips, she’s going to lose half her face.
Zoe C has a bruised cheek, a circle of purple is forming.
“Go find ice and put it on the bruise, McKenzie will fix it later.”
She goes off, I sit back and study Finnegan. She’s studying the air in front of her, or perhaps Zelda, still as a stone, eyes never leave Finnegan’s face.
“Where did you and the butler learn?”
“Val learned in China, spent years in a backwater temple only a handful of people knew existed. He endured near starvation, which he says was easier than the adepts who taught him. Near death twice, once from training, once from food poisoning. We met in Beijing, both flying to the states. Small demonstration on the plane and I became his student. That was six years ago, I surpassed him, now I am the Master.”
“And your former Master has gone to his ancestors.”
She sneers, “Courtesy of this muppet,” she nods to McKenzie, “Where did she learn if I may ask?”
“YouTube.”
She lets my joke fly past her, probably doesn’t have a sense of humor, the Shadows we’ve met didn’t either.
“Don’t tell me she’s self taught, that kind of power must be transmitted from a Master, an extremely talented one.”
“Okay, I won’t tell you she’s self taught. I have more pressing questions. What’s the point with the girl, Kayla?”
Finnegan shrugs, “What’s the point of anything? I do it to amuse myself.”
“You don’t seem to mind your companion dying.”
“Our kind sees death all the time, it’s inevitable. I have powerful Chi, but I can’t prevent death. We aren’t sentimental about it, we aren’t sentimental about anything. We do as we will.”
I glance over to McKenzie, she’s used a ton of energy, I sense her weakening. Zoe C returns with a freezer bag full of ice, holds it to her cheek. I go to our private channel.
‘Mac is tired, hold the gun on the woman, if she starts any crap, shoot her.’
Zoe C moves behind Finnegan, barrel not quite touching the back of her head.
“Fair warning, if that gun gets warm, your brains go first. Any attempt of any kind, she pulls the trigger. It’s a nine millimeter hollow point, make a mess of the inside of your skull.”
A slight nod. I know she’s processing a plan, but I don’t need long, McKenzie is tired, but she can dial it down for now.
“Tell me, how do you control the girl from a distance?”
Her eyes brighten, Shadows love to tell you how good they are, “You mean your little bitch can’t do it?”
“Lady, she got to you, so skip the bullshit, I know how she would do it, I asked how you do it.”
As a reminder Zoe C taps the barrel of her Glock against Finnegan’s head, she winces, Zoe C’s silent message acknowledged.
“A cross between hypnotism and chi. I send her a text, one of the words is her anger button, the other makes her undress, wherever she is. I don’t get to see it, but I know it’s happening. Other times, when she’s here, she’s nude, a delightful tight body on the girl, she takes dance and it shows. Val gets his clock cleaned but only after she’s been on her knees servicing me. Before she leaves, I erase her memory. She thinks she’s been doing scales for an hour.”
I see her raise her hands to her neck, like it’s stiff and she wants to massage it. 
I jump in Zoe C’s head, “Jump Now!”
She leaps to her left, the energy  shoots past and blasts a hole in the far wall. If she’d made contact, Zoe C would be as dead as Black Coat. 
Zelda leaps, she has Finnegan by the throat, yanks her forward, well, yanks her throat forward, the rest of her stays put. I don’t recall ever seeing a woman with half her neck gone.
Finnegan slumps towards McKenzie who pushes her the other way, then she’s half laying on the couch, her head flops over a throw pillow. Blood seeps, she’s dead and her heart isn’t pumping, still a rather ugly mess. Zelda drops the savaged body part on the floor.
I’m glad I don’t have to clean the place.
“Let’s retreat girls, Mac, if you have the energy, work on Zoe C while I get us gone, I’ll get Zelda cleaned up first, bad idea to have the woman’s blood in the rental car.”
Take Zelda to a bathroom with a shower, good, a shower wand, crank it up, Zelda climbs in the tub and I spray her squeaky, use one of Finnegan’s towels to dry her. Fold the towel to take with us, I have no idea if forensics can put together anything from a wet towel but better to be cautious.

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