“Gerard! Come on in, good to see you.”
“Ellen, you get lovelier every day, you’ve been traveling?”
“Went to Atlanta to shop property, spent most of the time dining and drinking. Buckhead is ritzy and full of upper class bars and restaurants. We did actually look at residential and commercial, Katya can’t get her mind around long distance leasing. But we had fun.”
The song and dance is for Sarah, Gerard knows they didn’t travel to Atlanta, but he doesn’t know details of what they did for the Society.
Gerard, “Katya, Katja, Mani, where is Sarah?”
“Clearing the courtyard, we thought of having cocktails out there, but the weather is iffy and we don’t need the cushions soaked. What’ll it be?”
“You have a bit of that amazing bourbon?”
“Comin’ up, on the rocks?”
“And a splash, just a splash, shame to water down perfection.”
“I drink mine with water too, it’s ninety proof and I prefer to level it out a bit before it levels me out.”
Mani hands him a twelve ounce crystal glass with three fingers of rich smooth Elijah Craig over a pile of ice and a dollop of water.
“Thank you,” he swirls the glass, sips, “magnificent.”
Ellen, “Be easier to get at the caviar if we just park around the table, have a seat.”
Toast points and two crystal dishes caviar, nestled in serving stands of crushed ice.
Katya takes spoons the eggs on a toast point, “Ah, Ossetra.”
Gerard takes a bite, “Oh Lord, this is easily the best caviar I have ever tasted, exquisite. The eggs are huge, the buttery briny sea bite just amazing.”
Katja, “You make good selection Ellen, caviar ees peerfect.”
“Thank you baby girl, worth it to see the almost smile on your face.”
Sarah tries it, “I’ve had caviar, dad likes it, but this is in some other caviar universe, I need to tell him about it.”
Ellen, “I’ll text you the name, just be prepared, it’s…um…”
Gerard, “Expensive, over a hundred an ounce if I’m not mistaken, and I rarely am.”
Sarah, “My dad spends a grand on a bottle of wine, he has cases in his cellar that go ten thousand per. Drives mom nuts, she can’t tell ten buck wine from fifty.”
Gerard, “The best wines take time to learn to appreciate, the differences are quite subtle. And the flavors are as much in the nose as in the mouth. We only taste sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami, which isn’t so much a taste as it is the feel of the thing in the mouth. The nose, however, is more discriminating, and it is the nose that must learn to differentiate between mediocre and fine wine.”
Ellen, “Exactly. All my dishes require me to catch the scent of them, to know what’s working and what needs fixing.”
Katja, “What haf you been doing Gerard? Maybe make pencil fly across room?”
“I made progress, not flying a pencil, but I did slide one of my pipes closer, about four inches. Surprised myself.”
Sarah, “Wait, you can do telekinesis?”
Gerard, “A tiny bit. The advantage of age and solitude is lots of time to fool around. I almost gave up, it is tedious in the extreme. There were times when I would swear something moved, but it was imagination. I began with a piece of paper, but a draft in the room might just as easily move it. I decided a paper clip had enough weight to avoid drafts and could easily slide on a tabletop. When I could make it go five or six inches, I moved on to my pipe. Breakthrough came just last evening.”
Mani, “A toast to persistence.”
The twins toast in Russian, “Nastoychivost',” Mani, Sarah and Ellen in Japanese, “Koshū.”
Gerard, “No language limitations here.”
Ellen, “We practice Russian and Japanese, Mani speaks French as well. We don’t use it outside the house. Showing off for a friend is acceptable.”
Gerard, “Nonetheless an accomplishment. I speak French, no doubt rusty by now.”
Mani, “On lazy afternoons we can get together at your place or here and chat in French. Help keep mine punched up as well.”
Gerard, “Thank you, my time is my own, call when you have a spare hour, we could even practice at EnVie, my French might improve with the help of almond liquor au lait.”
Drinks refill, Ellen stands, “Time to make fries and grill. Mani has fry duty, I’ll be outside burning beef. Stir the beans while you’re over there honey, make sure the water’s good. Let’s see, steaks here, ah the sauce,” she takes marchand de vin out of the refrigerator, “Mani, sauce over a low heat the last couple of minutes before we serve.”
Mani takes Sarah aside, “Before I forget, nothing about a shooting range in Houston, okay?”
Sarah, “I told my dad, but I just said you were going to teach me to shoot. I thought he would assume a public range, but he figured out you have your own, why go to Houston for what we could do in New Orleans.”
“That’s okay, just no one else. We think it best if nobody knows about our training. Guns put some people off, others, it’s all they want to talk about. We don’t want to be in either place.”
“I understand, what can I help with?”
“Entertain our guest.”
Sarah refills her wine, sits across from Gerard, next to Katya.
Katja is across from her sister, “We haf to see Lady Mary, she ees remodel venue?”
Gerard, “Yes, shows are packed. You had something to do with it I understand.”
“We bought building, refurbished, she pays us rent. Other tenants upstairs do not have evening office hours, but we anyway soundproofed everything. Building pays a small income. Good for everybody.”
“That was most generous, people talk about supporting the arts, but they usually mean attending a fund raiser, sipping Champagne, eating pâté and peeled shrimp. You made a direct donation. Her two consorts would kill for you if you asked them to.”
Katja, “We will not ask, do not want anyone dead, or if we do, we will do it ourselves.”
Gerard laughs. It’s to cover his almost certainty that the twins were responsible for the elimination of a deranged wannabe samurai serial killer. He was luring victims to rentals in the area, then removing heads with a katana. Katya didn’t remove his head, but she scrambled his brains with a bullet in the forehead. Gerard doesn’t know for a fact it was them, but Katya put the cops onto the way he lured his victims.
Cops Gerard knows might have their suspicions as well, but nobody was interested in looking for the person who took out a gruesome menace and more murder for a tourist town like New Orleans is not good for the economy. The twins get a respectful nod from the Quarter’s patrolmen whenever they’re spotted.
Sarah, “I was reading something in the paper this week. Some trust fund dork was caught molesting a three year old. The judge sentenced him to house arrest and counseling. Her explanation was that prison wouldn’t be the best place for him. I have a hard time with that. The rich and connected always get a pass.”
Gerard, “Frustratingly accurate. There is no such thing as equal justice. The poor get a fumbling attorney with little experience except in cutting plea deals. The rich hire the best and pay for a load of experts to blow smoke at jurors. Nothing equal in that.”
Sarah, “Somebody ought to take matters in their own hands then. Particularly in the case of a child rapist.”
“And what would be justice? And could you carry it out?”
Sarah, “In his case, a severe case of whipass, such that he is incapable of sex with anyone, even himself, the asshole. And yes, I’d love to administer the sentence.”
Gerard, “You may feel differently when it’s a fact, when the man is in front of you at the moment of truth. Beating or cutting or worse is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been in that position, I know.”
“Without going into details, justice was administered.”
“So you understand my point?”
“Precisely dear girl. Just know, it takes some bit of getting used to, at least for most people. We are generally conditioned to fear violence, and when the object of our displeasure starts to bleed and beg, it gives one pause, conscience kicks in. There are those who lack any sort of empathy,” he glances at Katya, “For them it isn’t a matter of conscience.”
Sarah doesn’t miss the tell, he knows something of the twins she doesn’t. She holds her poker face, but smiles inwardly.
Katya, “Is it just talk?”
Katja, “We will see.”
Ellen comes in, “Steaks, charred and not quite medium rare, I see Mani has the rest organized. Sarah, perhaps you can pour the cabernet, a particularly nice ninety eight I had a devil of a time finding.”
Gerard swirls the deep scarlet liquid in his glass, sniffs, “Dear girl, this is no ordinary cab, my congratulations.”
“Nothing but the best for my girls and our good friends. We will train Sarah in food and wine, Mani has developed an interest in cooking from working with me. And she’s thrown in some of her aunt’s Thai cuisine into a sort of fusion that we’re still developing.”
Gerard, “The filet is incredible, particularly with a nice coat of marchand de vin. I will drop my cultured pretense use the bread to enjoy the extra.”
“That’s what it’s there for, almost the best part. There’s plenty of sauce, don’t be shy.”
The rest of dinner is savored quietly. Fat crisp fries, Ellen made a mix of ketchup and Kewpie mayo, Tobasco and Tobasco Habanero to sprinkle in. Then country green beans with fall apart ham pieces, onion, potato and a healthy tablespoon of Steen’s cane sugar.
Sarah, “Ellen, incredible, what a piggy I am,” she drags a hunk of buttered Leidenheimer’s through her pool of marchand de vin, bites, “there is a God and her name is Ellen.”
Gerard laughs, “It really is remarkable, I say that every time I come over, must sound like a recording, but I truly mean it.”
Ellen, “Honey, compliments are welcome, I have no shame.”
Katja, “Ees true, none at all.”
They laugh. Of course the girls are thinking of Ellen nude all day, Gerard assumes it is a sexual innuendo, he wasn’t born in the dark.
Mani, “We don’t embarrass you I hope Gerard, it’s a bunch of shameless lesbians, please forgive us.”
Gerard laughs again, “Mani, in my…um…service, I have seen things that would make a psychopath blush. A little freewheeling innuendo is not even close to offensive. Americans are childish about sex, it’s okay to do whatever, just never talk about it, and by no means show a bit of breast. Despite the prudish talk, a quarter of all internet searches are for porn. Hypocrisy comes to mind.”
Ellen, “If we’re done, please relocate to the living area,” a few steps away. Cognac and time to digest, then on to almond cake. You can think over whether you want chocolate or buttercream frosting, or if you wish, a slice of each.”
Twins and Gerard find spots, Ellen and Mani clear, Sarah loads the dishwasher. They join the others, Mani pours Martell Creation Grand Extra, a mere four hundred per.
Drinkers swirl, sniff, sip.
Gerard, “I exhaust my superlatives, the finest Cognac to pass my lips. May I ask, what is it?”
Ellen tells him, Gerard says, “I never thought to taste such splendor, magnificent libation dear girl,” he sips again, holds it on his tongue and inhales, “nectar of the Goddesses.”
Katja, “Ellen ees always search eenternet for best, like her bourbon. She knows wines, and the people at Martin’s make also good recommend.”
Ellen, “They sure do, and they know I know and that I buy top of the top. Mani and I get real good service over there.”
Gerard smiles, “I should think so. On another subject, have you any travel plans?”
Katya, “We go to Houston this week or next. Time to visit shops. Sarah is out of school, she is coming with us.”
Gerard, “Need to check up on your home as well I imagine.”
Katya, “Yes, but it looks fine on the camera.”
Gerard, “Ah, you have a video feed from there.”
“Like the one we have here. Exterior front and back, all the common area rooms, no bedrooms.”
Gerard scans the ceiling, “I don’t see cameras.”
“No, but they aren’t on when we are home anyway. Dinner is not on video.”
“It’s a good idea, you have a security system as well?”
“No, if our house in Houston is broken into, we get a message. Same for this one when we are traveling. Mani was originally hired to be here when we are gone, but things changed, she often travels with us. I gave up on the house sitter idea.”
Ellen delivers plates, each with two slices of cake, one chocolate, the other vanilla buttercream frosting, “Save you the trouble of deciding. Just eat what you want, no obligation to clean your plate.”
Gerard, “Delicious Ellen, glad you brought both, I can’t decide which is better.”
Sarah, “Wow, sooo good, I’ll be all caloried up for training tomorrow.”
Gerard, “What are you training for?”
Katja, “We practice fighting, punch, keek, judo style holds, how to break away from someone, disable quick. Girls don’t think of doing the obvious when attacked. Like kick testicle, punch throat or gouge eye. Take an eye, fight ees over.”
“You can’t practice that in fact though.”
“Nyet, ees mindsetting, we go through motions, think of actually doing it, so ees reflex. We do hard punch and keek though, so we know how it feels and aren’t shocked in real fight.”
Gerard, “Only way to train seriously..”
Ellen, “We don’t walk around stupid, places where we don’t need to be, and we haven’t had to use any of it. It’s good exercise and, like Katja says, training makes it a reflex.”
Gerard, “Where does the time go? I’m close to overstaying my welcome. Can’t thank you enough girls.”
Katja, “Sister and I will take a walk wiz you.”
The rain came and went, just a typical passing shower they hadn’t even heard.
Gerard, “I shall be traveling myself next week, going to Italy for a month. Can I impose on you to check the house once in a while?”
“Da, of course, you haf spare key?”
He finds one, hands it to her, “You have my number if there’s anything I need to know. I’m visiting a friend from the old days. He’s getting on, not dying but he’s not young, near eighty I think. One of the Cosa Nostra, retired now. I think he consults, but he’s out of the day to day. Interesting life he led.”
Katja, “You will tell us his life when we haf again dinner, we are eenterest.”
They walk with Gerard to his home, exchanges goodnights, twins return to the Ursulines residence.
Katya and Katja threesome with Sarah tonight, Mani takes advantage of having incredible Ellen to herself.
After round one, Mani asks, “Do you think Sarah means what she says, about the pervert?”
“Sounded real enough. Gerard nailed it. Talking and doing aren’t the same. We made a mess of some people, killed others. But we’re not normal, we’re sociopaths, or at least that’s how the shrinks would label us. The twins are closer to the total package, you and I maybe less so. But then you see them helping Lady Mary, befriending Gerard, taking care of Maria and the girls at the shops, they can’t be all psycho.”
Mani, “No, they aren’t, I don’t believe it. They let us in on their deal, and they look out for us like we look out for them. My take is they can’t stand bullshit, and they really can’t stand abusive people. I don’t know what triggered it, I’m sure they have good reason.”
Ellen, “Don’t know either. Our policy is no past, we don’t ask, they don’t tell. They know more about my younger life, but I told them, they didn’t ask me about it.”
Ellen loses her mind for the next few, then reciprocates and Mani goes erotically orbital. She finishes off the fun by having another go at Ellen’s splendidosity, long glass slick legs against her cheeks, her tongue dancing on Ellen’s softness. She’s rewarded with a low soft moan, and Ellen breathlessly expressing her gratitude.
Then it’s deathly quiet in the House of Lesbiana. A soft rain falls, but there’s no one even close to conscious to hear it.
Morning, seven comes and goes, then Ellen stirs at seven thirty, warm shower and downstairs to get the day cranking. Shortly after eight the others have made an appearance, there is coffee, tea, and silence, except for clicking keys while they surf Sunday papers.
At nine, Ellen says, “Shall we breakfast at En Vie? We can skip lunch, train and I’ll figure out something for dinner, maybe just pizza.”
Katja, “Ees good, we will go now.”
Michael, “Ah, the cinq perfections. You girls keep going I’ll be in double digits.”
Katja, “No steak today Michael, we haf anyway for dinner last night. One Farmer omelet, one Shepherd, two orders of bacon creesp, three biscuit, regular drinks.”
“You got it.”
Mani looks around, “No Gerard this morning.”
“Maybe he is making arrangements for his trip to Italy.”
Mani, “Sarah and I want to go to France.”
Ellen, “Me too, let’s go, what do you think Katya?”
“No reason not to. Figure out when the weather is good, maybe next year during Sarah’s spring break.”
“I’ll do it, Sarah, can you find out when spring break is?”
“Sure, let you know.”
They share omelets, enjoy fluffy biscuits, Lady Mary makes her grand entrance.
“Girls, I’m a real girl now and loving it.”
Katja, “I hear shows are packed, new setting ees work?”
“The remodel was splendid, we have a bigger stage, better acoustics and more seats. Bar business is a license to steal. Guess I shouldn’t admit it, you might raise my rent.”
“Rent ees good, we do not raise. You will be rich girl maybe, hello Renaldo, Raymond.”
Renaldo and Raymond are Mary’s, what exactly? something between assistants, consorts, and bodyguards. Some people can’t get their head around transgender, even in a laid back place like New Orleans.
Raymond, “We are traveling to New York for five shows.”
Mary, “I’m thrilled. The club owner came to New Orleans to see me, after my show he invited us. His place is twice the size of mine, big bucks. He loves my take on New Orleans music and said I have some of the funniest trans patter he’s heard. I might go international, one never knows how the breaks will fall. My ensemble is gorgeous and diverse, black, Thai, a delicious Japanese, one Latin and three Caucasians. Thank you again dear ones, Mary is starving and the place is full, bit to warm to eat outside.”
Katja stands, “We haf feenish, they will clear table and you take this one,” she goes to the counter.
“Michael I will pay now, Mary ees take table.”
“Suzette, bus number five while I ring up Katja please.”
Katja, “Mary, when ees New York?”
Mary, “Two weeks, my place will close of course. The show needs all my people, not half here and half on the road, hardly fair to either audience. We close for August, the bar is open but the cast takes a month off to travel or just hang out.”
“Do, okay, haf a good treep, become famous star, then we will see about raising rent.”
Mary, “Bye Katja, girls, come and see us on stage soon, best seats for you.”
“Da, da, we will come, you will tell us about beeg success in New York.”
The girls exit, take a walk through the Quarter. It’s overcast, in New Orleans it’s frequently overcast. More dark clouds to the east.
They take a two mile tour, just as they approach home, a thunderclap followed by sprinkles. The downpour starts as Ellen shuts the door.
“Made it. Don’t suppose I’d die from getting wet, but it’s messy to be all drenched.”
Katja, “Sister and I have work een office. Sarah can stay tonight?”
Mani, “School’s out, Sarah can stay lots of nights, if that’s okay.”
"Sarah ees anyway welcome."
While Katya and Katja review numbers, Mani enjoys a personal sex show in her room. She watches Sarah on her knees servicing Ellen, kisses to perfect legs, tongue to target. Sarah is enthusiastic, Ellen is enthusiastically receptive. She stretches it out, but climax can’t be restrained forever, and Ellen shows a significant lack of restraint in response.
She sinks to the bed, “I love getting licked silly.”
Mani, “Act One, second act is you strap up and fuck Sarah blind. Go slow, make her beg for more.”
Ellen does, Sarah does, dildo disengages, Mani licks it, eau de Sarah.
Mani sits on the edge of the bed clothing free. She spreads her legs.
“Both of you, short my brain.”
Double tongued, Mani floats out of body, stratospheric, trembles and vibes, gasping for oxygen as she comes down from a hormone spike.
“I get the best ideas, that was one of my genius moments.”
Sarah, “I’ll say, you really like watching.”
“Gets me steamy, personal porn.”
“Anytime you care to watch me have sex, with one girl, a group or solo, I’m good. I looked me up, I’m a strum queen, a girl who likes to masturbate in front of other girls. I my case, it extends to being watched having sex with a girl.”
Mani, “One evening, we will have you strum for all of us.”
Sarah smiles, “Anytime.”
They refresh, go downstairs, Mani in a t-shirt, Ellen and Sarah in nothing. The twins are coming out of the office.
“Sisters haf to travel for beezness tomorrow. You will fly to Houston, Tuesday maybe, train Sarah in shooting, clean gun, whatever she needs to know. We will fly to Houston when beezness ees finish.”
Ellen, “Your flight arranged?”
“Da, we leaf tomorrow at nine. We cannot train hard today because of treep. Only practice judo, escapes, like that. Ellen and Sarah can fight, Mani ees still recover, no hard fighting for her.”
Sarah doesn’t ask, she’s learned, observant enough to see that Mani and Ellen don’t question the sisters' decisions, she won’t either.
Later, upstairs while they change into gis they use for fight training, Mani says, “Glad you caught on. Never ask why they do what they do, or why they want us to do something, or what business they are pursuing. It is all for our family benefit, if we need to know they’ll tell us. And I know you understand that whatever happens here, Houston or elsewhere, is never a matter of discussion with anyone else for any reason. Generalities are fine, we had steak, fine wine, Gerard came over. Vagaries, never details.”
Sarah, “I got that vibe early. Whatever goes on with them, they can tell me what they wish, or not. I’ve had a charmed life, wealthy supportive parents, luxuries, good schools. I’ve never been a curious person, what happens, happens. I stay out of controversy, don’t need to take a side.”
Mani, “Good, keep that objectivity. The sisters have taken us in, in part because we don’t require explanations and reasons.”
“And the other part is because you and Ellen are hot.”
Ellen drops the twins at Lakefront airport, short flight to Omaha where Lucas Everett is going to die in the next day or so. They could have waited, flown with the others to Houston, then on to Omaha, but it would have revealed where the twins were going. The others don’t need to know that. And it doesn’t save money, private flights are by the hour, not miles or number of passengers.
It’s a two hour flight, Omaha is central time like New Orleans, they’re in by eleven fifteen. They rent a black nondescript Toyota Camry, swap the plate for one from Arizona and drive to the target’s place of business, a hospital owned by a faith based nonprofit chain.
Katja, “Maybe ees religion problem, or doctor ees incompetent.”
Katya, “Could be, or one of a hundred reasons, wife wants to collect insurance, or he screwed up a patient, or he is an asshole.”
“Da, for sure some person thinks he ees asshole. He will be anyway be dead asshole soon.”
“What kind of doctor?”
“Pulmonary, lung doctor.”
They find the doc lot, he owns a Mercedes SLC, they have the plate number. Katya hops out and sticks a tracker under the bumper, the magnet thunks into place, she tugs on it to make sure it’s secure. Back in the car they pull away to wait.
By one, they decide he eats lunch at the hospital, not much point is hanging around. Killing him in an active parking lot won’t do. They drive to the hotel, a fairly new Doubletree on the southwest side of town. Katya checks in, Katja waits outside. While they don’t look like twins today, they still want to avoid being seen around the hotel together. They have a suite, more elbow room than a standard room with a small refrigerator and wet bar.
Unpack, only a change of clothes and the Glocks. They brought a Ruger .223 in case the kill has to be accomplished at a distance. Katja clicks on the TV, they sit on the bed together and watch CNN for an hour.
Katja clicks it off, “Same story, deeferent day. So much politics.”
“Easy reporting, politicians always have an agenda to sell, reporters do not have to put in a lot of effort, just show up. Plenty of controversial crap to keep old people sitting between commercials, nobody under sixty watches news all day.”
“We can take a drive, get tea, see some of town. Pick up vodka, something to eat in room later.”
Omaha proper is four hundred thousand people, but another eight hundred thousand live within fifty miles. Over a million warm bodies, it’s not a tiny town.
They tour downtown, stop for tea near the river.
Katja, “Ees nice, river going through, city looks well kept, clean, roads are good.”
“Five Omaha-based companies, Berkshire Hathaway, ConAgra Foods, Union Pacific Railroad, Mutual of Omaha, and Kiewit Corporation, a big construction company, are located here. All of them in the Fortune 500. They have to have good schools, cultural events, and the city has to work well to attract such corporations. Headquarters have good jobs with people making high salaries. They buy nice homes, expensive cars, spend money in restaurants. All of which the city and state tax.”
Katja, “Car ees move.”
Twenty minutes later, they’re trailing the Mercedes.
“Doctor is heading home. We have to figure out if anyone else is home. If wife wants him dead, she will not be around. She will create alibi by being someplace else.”
Katja, “We know where he lives, can you get there first?”
Katya guns the engine, passes the doc, in her rear view she sees him pull into a gas station.
“Good, he is getting gas, we can see if anyone is at home. Should have gone there in the first place.”
In ten minutes, they’re in front of a brown stucco mini-mansion, landscaped front yard. Front windows are shut, but the curtains are open. Katya is studying the windows through binoculars.
“No sign of movement, but the front is living room, entrance hall and the other side appears to be an office. I can’t see a dining room or kitchen, no doubt in the rear.”
Katja, “I will find out, go down street a half block, where ees his car?”
Katya checks the tracker GPS, “Moving, three miles away.”
Katja gets out, Katya drives down the street and parks. Katja knocks on the front door, nothing, then the doorbell, more nothing. She goes to the side of the house, creeps along until she gets to the rear. Nobody in the pool, nobody sitting outside. She peers in the windows, if anyone is at home, they’re upstairs and deaf.
“Okay, he is less than one mile. We need to see if he goes in garage or parks out front. Expensive car, probably garage, can you get to that side without being seen?”
In another minute, she hears the garage door grinding up, then the sound of the car making the turn into it. Katja is just outside, she can see the back end of the Mercedes, hears the door open, keys rattle, door close, she steps inside.
Everett’s back is to her, he’s opening the door to the house. Before he steps in he reaches to tap the button to lower the garage door. Katja puts a bullet in the back of his head, he freezes for a second, then falls forward into the house. She checks his pockets, takes his wallet and finds a money clip. Then she opens the car door, finds the fob that operates the garage door. Outside, she clicks it, the garage door starts down. She tosses the fob into the garage and returns the way she came, around the back, up the side and to the Toyota. She holsters the Glock and strips the latex gloves off on the way.
“I am ready for cocktail.”
“Maybe we buy vodka, find something to eat in room, skip complication of restaurant. We can have drinks, watch movie, sleep.”
Katya calls Blue Sky while her sister drives, arranges a nine o’clock flight to Houston for the next morning. Then calls Penny.
“Conflict resolved,” she clicks off, Penny stares at her dead phone and laughs.
They stop at a supermarket, get supplied, most supermarkets have delis with lots of prepared options. Tonight they go simple, eight pieces of fried chicken and baked beans. By seven, they are enjoying Russian Standard over ice, crackers and sharp cheddar. Then Katja finds a movie, Furious 7, a ridiculous action flick in an endless series. Propped on the bed with chicken and beans, relax into mental nothing while they eat and watch every kind of vehicle do absurdly impossible things.
Katja, “Moovey ees crazy. I read it makes millions, biggest ever.”
“People like fast cars to get smashed up, good looking girls, bad guys, tough talk.”
“Moovey haf all that, over the top but anyway entertaining.”
They wash up, brush, flush, Katya spends a half hour making Katja squirm, then sleep.
Plane is in the air at nine-oh-five, two hours later they land in Houston, Ellen there to collect them.
“Hey honeys, nice efficient trip, one night out and home. Eat anything?”
“Vegetable omelet on plane. We do not need lunch.”
“I didn’t buy a lot of stuff for the house, basics. We ate out, Mexican last night, got good and swizzled, came home and got up to bad girls things. Sarah isn’t a natural on the range, but she can hit something at twenty five yards. Do you want to go today?”
“Da, yes, we can be there by one or one thirty, two or three hours, come back. No, never mind, better to let Sarah have a break. We will visit shops today, go out for dinner later. Tomorrow the range all day. Enough for her first time.”
Ellen calls Mani, “Gonna swing by and pick you up, we’re doing a tour of the donut shops unless you have something else to do.”
“No, Sarah wants to see them, we’re ready.”
They go to the main store first, Maria there as always, “Katya!, Katja! So good to see you, Skype isn’t the same as in person. You fell in love with New Orleans and now it’s once a month. Mani, Ellen, and who is adorable girl?”
Ellen, “Our friend Sarah, this is Maria, the best manager in Houston.”
Maria, “Happy to meet you, the twins’ family grows.”
Mani, “She’s family, but lives at home with mom and dad. Going to Tulane in the fall.”
Maria turns to Sarah, “Decided on a course of study?”
“Good for you. I’m thoughtless, how about coffee, a pastry, lunch sandwich?”
Mani reads the menu over the counter, “Sarah and I are hungry, we’ll split a sandwich, turkey and cranberry on toast?”
Ellen, “Sugar twist and cup of coffee.”
Katya, “We will have tea only.”
Katja goes to the kitchen, the bakers are long gone, she’s inspecting. Gets a roll of paper towels, swipes counters, the fryers, searches the freezer and refrigerator for anything past its death date. Nothing.
She comes out and parks with the others at a table, “Maria, keechen ees good, always clean. Other shops are keeping up?”
“I go to one a day, not in a regular sequence, there's the occasional lapse, but not in the kitchen, it’s counter stuff. Nothing serious, no flies, no bugs, everything fresh every day. Maybe display is a little careless, it happens when we’re swamped. Bonuses keep them attentive.”
Sarah, “You pay bonuses?”
Maria, “Sisters are most generous. We pay for good grades, most of the girls are high school or college. We pay fifteen an hour, no tips. Bonuses are gifts from the twins. A clean well organized shop means more business, which means more money.”
Sarah says to Katya, “Geez, I’m not a financial person, I presume you make enough to cover all that.”
Katya, “Da, enough. Shops don’t net much, but they never lose.”
Sarah, “Why don’t more companies do it?”
“Many companies are public, on the stock market. They have a third party, the shareholders. Shareholders want profits, workers are not on their mind. Company executive must deliver profit, or he is fired. There is little incentive to pay unskilled labor, only jobs that require expertise are paid well.”
Sarah, “I see, things are stacked against the worker.”
“Da. Labor is a commodity, and there is a lot of it. When there is more supply than demand, price is cheap.”
They finish lunch, the store is busy, a wave to Maria and the girls, off to the three other locations, home in time for afternoon tea.
Sarah, “Cripes, you hire all the cute girls in Houston?”
Katja, “Nyet, plenty of cute girls. They bring in customer, smile, chitting chatting, make them feel good. Men come for breakfast, show up again at lunch or afternoon coffee wiz cookie or brownie. School kids like because girls are nice to them, give extra donut holes or a cookie. Ask about school, let them complain about homework or fussy teacher. Retired guys hang out and chew fat, but we only let them when ees slow, mid-morning or afternoon. Cannot tie up table for lunch. They are good about it, cute girl geeves them brownie, old men flirt, everyone ees happy.”
“Sounds like a fun place to work.”
“Girls like, Maria always haf more application than job.”
“Should you expand, open more stores?”
“Probably, someplace ees saturation point. Katya Donut is popular because it is scarce commodity. Too much and we water down beezness. We could maybe open two or three more, but sisters must take on more work for little money.”
Ellen, “Katya runs the numbers, Katja makes sure the product is the best and the stores are spotless. More stores is more to follow up on. Maria does a good job, but the twins are not satisfied unless they see for themselves.”
Sarah, “I get it. And you aren’t in Houston every day, more stores means more time here.”
“Da, and we move to New Orleans to be in French Quarter, not always going to Houston. We haf anyway enough money.”
Sarah isn’t dumb, their lifestyle oozes money, she just doesn’t know how much. She does know it isn’t just from selling sugar bread, sandwiches and coffee.
For dinner, they decide to revisit The Capitol Grille, it’s an upscale chain, consistently reliable. Five adorables create a mini murmur from other diners, elegant silk pants and ivory blouses on the twins, snug skirts on Ellen, Mani and Sarah. They are seated and order cocktails. The waiter is a bit embarrassed, but asks to see ID from Mani and Sarah. Neither is twenty one, but their ID says they are, good enough.
Vodka, bourbon and Champagne appear. Ellen has a discussion with the sommelier. When he figures out she knows what she’s talking about, suggestions become more realistic. They’re all having steak of one kind or another, so it will be cabernet or pinot noir. She goes with Honig Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for forty bucks, twice as much in the restaurant.
Appetizer is a seafood combo, two orders of Grand Plateau, jumbo lump crab, North Atlantic lobster, shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell, Champagne accompanies. Entrees will be two filets mignon, three steak au poivre with Courvoisier cream. Truffle fries and grilled asparagus for sides.
Sarah, “We go shooting again tomorrow?”
Katya, “Yes, sisters have also to practice.”
“Goody, I’m not so great, but it’s fun.”
Ellen, “You’ll get better, gotta learn to squeeze, not pull, and stick with a two hand stance until you get better about recoil.”
Sarah, “I like how it feels in my hand, they had me practice with the smaller Glock, a G, um, forty two. Ellen said the bullet, what is it? A three eighty has less kick than the forty five or nine millimeter. Is that enough to kill someone?”
Ellen, “More than, the smallest caliber, a twenty two, can kill. Needs a head or heart shot to guarantee, but it’ll do the job. Gun people talk about stopping power, a bigger caliber is more likely to discourage an enraged or hopped up man, a body shot with a twenty two won’t cut it, even several, at least until he starts to bleed out. In that time he could strangle or bludgeon you. Him dying later is no consolation for you dying first.”
Sarah takes a sip of wine, the wheels are turning, but she’s not going to ask about any personal experience they may have had. She knows one thing, they didn’t set up such an elaborate range or have such an arsenal just to have something to do.
Dinner comes to a close, taxis to the hotel, nobody needs a DUI. They have fake ID they can give the cop and the cars are all registered to non-existent people, but then the ID is no good anymore. A taxi is cheap and efficient by comparison.
Sarah, “I meant to tell you, your Houston home is nice, low key well kept neighborhood, Ellen said you remodeled, the kitchen is built for a chef. And the bathrooms were clearly upgraded.”
Katja, “We like the house, and the location. We did not know we would also want to be in French Quarter. We are here once a month, we can stay a few days, go to range, visit shops. We could sell and use hotel, but house ees paid for and more comfortable.”
It’s approaching ten, Sarah asks Katya, “Can I sleep with you guys? I’ll be happy to do whatever.”
The twins think of several kinds of whatever, the end of which is Sarah surrounded by sisters, Katya’s hand on a breast, Katja’s between her legs. As she starts to nod off, she smiles at her good fortune, gently kisses twin cheeks snuggled next to her.
They sleep deeply and well until the rays peek through the edges of curtains.
Sarah’s up, to the kitchen where Ellen is sipping coffee, “Get to do whatever?”
“Got to do a variety of whatever, then slept with one on each side, lovely night.”
“They are succulent intimates with connoisseur taste in girls. I know I’m flattering myself, but fuck it, I’m not blind, I’m scorching hot.”
Sarah kisses her, “True that.”
Ellen, “Not much for breakfast.”
“After last night, not sure I need breakfast.”
The rest come along and caffeinate, then to the range house, an hour drive. The day is warm, but overcast, they don’t have to stand around in the sun. Katya works with Sarah on the Glock, Katja, Ellen and Mani go to the barn where they’ve installed popup targets. The pop of gunfire goes on for an hour, muffled by earplugs, they don’t use silencers out here.
Break for coffee, Sarah says, “Coming along, I’m six for six in the head at twenty yards.”
Ellen, “I’m doing rifle next, for me, not Sarah. I think she needs to move up to the nine millimeter for a few rounds, get used to the more powerful gun. This afternoon we’ll give her time on the star.”
The star is spokes like on a wheel, just no rim. In this case, rods with metal plates on the end. Knocking the plate back causes the arms to rotate. Hitting the rotating plates is more complicated eye hand coordination than just point and shoot at a stationary target.
Back on the range, Sarah has a go with the nine, “Definitely got more kick, but you warned me, I hit the paper but not the target.”
Katya, “Another magazine, keep the nose pointed at the target, firm grip, squeeze.”
‘Pop!’ bullet to the chest.
“I overcompensated for the kick, I thought it would go in his head.”
“Control gun with your hand, do not guess how much recoil. Good grip will manage recoil. When you practice more, the gun won’t jump so much. One more round with the nine, then back to smaller gun. Glock forty two is the gun you would carry if you want to carry at all. One pound loaded, slim shape, not noticeable with shoulder holster or belt clip, but you have to wear long jacket every place.”
“Do you carry a gun at home?”
“Sometimes, if we go out at night. We only go to restaurant or maybe jazz club, stay at home most of the time. Home has everything we want, but Ellen should have a break from cooking and we like jazz.”
By noon, they’re ready for lunch. Ellen went high protein, cracked pepper turkey, roast beef, sharp cheddar and slice of crispy dill pickle, no bread. Coke Zero or distilled water to drink.
Katya, “Good plan, no carbs to slow us down. Maybe rest for an hour, then rifle range, I will take Sarah and work on the star.
Rest means cleaning the pistols they won’t use again today. Mani goes through the simple process.
“What’s the first step?”
Sarah, “Don’t point the gun at anyone I don't intend to kill, remove the magazine. Then slide the slide to eject any bullet and check to the that the chamber is empty.”
“Good, now, pointed at the wall, dry fire to triple check the gun isn’t loaded.”
“Now we disassemble the pistol into its four main parts: slide, barrel, recoil spring assembly, and frame receiver. Pull the slide back, click this button on the side. Let the slide back down like this, then pull the trigger. Slide comes right off.”
She removes the spring and barrel.
“Now it’s simple. We have a long lint free snake for the barrel. Drop the weight through the barrel, always back to front, like the bullet goes. Pull it through twice. Barrel is done. Unscented baby wipe cleans the slide and frame, get it good and clean. We use wooden diffuser stick to push wipe into narrow spaces sometimes, not necessary every time. Some people use a Q-Tip but it can leave bits of cotton lint, so we do it this way. Next add just a little line of gun lube at each end of the slide, just a half inch in the groove. Left side, right side. Now put the barrel in, then the spring, press down until it clicks. Put the slide on and rack it back and forth a few times to lube the whole groove. Wipe any excess off with the baby wipe, you’re done.”
Sarah, “It is simple, geez. I thought there would be brushes, gun oil and a bit of a mess.”
“Not for a Glock. The mechanisms are basic enough. The only time they need to be cleaned is after three or four hundred rounds. We do it every time we come to the range to stay in practice disassembling and assembling the gun, even if it’s only a couple hundred rounds.”
Ellen, “Done, time for rifle practice.”
A couple hours of demolishing targets at distance, fifty, a hundred, then one fifty.
Sarah and Katya show up from the barn as they shift to the targets out two hundred yards.
Sarah, “Can barely see it.”
Katya, “Scope brings it close. It also adjusts for drop, at a hundred there is almost none, but at two hundred the bullet will drop between three and one half to four inches. The scope is set, or zeroed, for one hundred yards. To reset for four inches of drop, you need to click the elevation knob up two minutes of angle. One click is one quarter minute.”
“So eight clicks.”
“Yes. We don’t practice at any longer range, we are not hunters trying for deer at five hundred yards. Ellen sometimes goes for three hundred, she is best with the rifle. There is also a left and right adjustment, but once the scope is zeroed at one hundred, it does not need resetting at two hundred. Wind and rain are a different problem and we have not tried to learn to adjust for that. We don’t get to practice enough to get good at that kind of shot.”
Sarah, “I understand the Glock training, if you don’t hunt, what are the rifles for? Just for fun I guess.”
“We thought to give it a try since we have such a good range and plenty of space.”
Ellen comes over, “Got two hundred nailed, Katja and Mani are right behind me. Mani fidgets a little and gets off target. Katja’s calm as pond water.”
Mani, “How’d the star go?”
Sarah giggles, “I usually hit the first one, when it wasn’t moving. Then I missed every shot with the arms rotating. Finally on the third round I got two more.”
Katya, “She is thinking, not shooting, trying to map out where the gun should be pointed. Better to take conscious mind out of it, subconscious is faster.”
Sarah, “I couldn’t get my head around that, then I watched Katya bang five shots dead on the five plates. I knew she couldn’t be thinking of angles and rotation speed that quickly. That’s when I got some small improvement.”
Ellen, “None of us hit much the first few times. We’ll come with the twins every month and get more practice. When school starts, we’ll have to work around your class schedule. It’s not like there’s a rush to become a crack shot.”
Sarah, “It’s fun, and a challenge. As long as I’m welcome to tag along, I’ll be there. There’s also a lot of assholes in the world, maybe I’ll get my chance to make one less.”
Mani, “You never know, honey, you never know.”
Katya, “Let’s pack up, close the house and barn. We fly to New Orleans at ten tomorrow.”
On the drive to Houston, Katja says, “You haf Mexican night before, we haf steak last night, maybe Italian place or Chinese.”
Ellen, “I’d like to stay home, can we get Chinese takeout or pizza?”
Pizza wins. After they’re back home and refreshed, Ellen and Mani go to Papa Murphy’s and get two large thin crust. One is just olive oil with garlic, onion, sliced Roma tomato and mushroom. The other has traditional sauce with pepperoni and salami.
Cocktails first, Mani and Sarah have graduated from just wine. Mani has vodka, club soda and a twist, Sarah joins Ellen in a bourbon, hers with more water than the splash Ellen adds to hers.
Pizzas are in the oven, Papa Murphy’s doesn’t cook it, they make up your order, you take it home and heat it. Thin crust is better, gets nice and crispy.
Mani opens Chianti, they take a slice and park around the TV to watch Furious 7, which the twins saw the night they spent in Omaha. They don’t care, the flick is a form of meditation, mind out of the day, in the moment, even if the moment is fictional fantasy.
It’s ten thirty, Katya says, “Sisters are for sleep now, goodnight girls.”
Ellen, “I second that emotion, goodnight dear ones, I’ll be up early, the caffeine will be prepped, make a run to Katya Donut for the good stuff.”
Mani, “You don’t need to do everything, wake us when you get up, we’ll get the fun food.”
Girls had a long day, everyone is tired. It isn’t that shooting is tiring, but they had to drive there, prep everything, practice all day, pack it up and drive home. It will be good to return to the slower pace in the Quarter.