"It poses the question, 'maybe we should rethink about this sixth sense,'" Steven Reppert, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told LiveScience. "It is thought to be very important for how animals migrate. Perhaps this protein is also fulfilling an important function for sensing magnetic fields in humans."
Chapter Twenty Nine
Back in the car, sure doing more driving these days, well riding, Amaya is driving. Chloe wanted a ride, she's in the passenger seat, me behind her. Amaya passes Alexis' apartment complex. It's not one of the huge mega-plexes, but it’s a luxury complex, looks to be fifty sizable apartments. His is conveniently on a corner.
I check in with Janah, “In case we can't get close enough, can you see if there are vacancies near his apartment?”
Amaya pulls in range, parking is open, the Escalade we drive has dark tinted windows, the lot is people free anyway. She backs in to a spot in case we have to leave in a hurry. I open the laptop, find his SSL on the wireless network list and run Susan's hack. Danged if he isn't on it. While he's checking internet porn sites, gay male sites nonetheless, I'm downloading his spreadsheets. A private security patrol car rounds the corner from the rear of the building, driving slowly.
Amaya, “I am on this, keep going.”
She gets out of the car, locks it, starts walking across the path of the car, waves when it stops for her. Of course, it's going to stop for her, she has on a skirt that barely qualifies as cloth. When she gets to the curb, the car still hasn't moved, she drops her keys and stretches down to retrieve them. Long length of luscious leg, topped by miniscule strip of panty. She misses the first snag, stretches farther and slowly picks them up. She turns and smiles at the driver stands there for a few seconds, idiot grin on her face. She picks up the front of her skirt and flashes the dope, waggles one finger at him, turns quickly so the skirt flares up, and walks into the complex.
Security Sam doesn't even look in our direction. He drives to the street, takes a left away from the complex. Hope nobody's killing someone, Sam isn't going to be paying attention to anything but the vision in his brain for a while.
Amaya unlocks the door and hops in, “That was fun, skinny white guy with a face like a ferret, mouth hung open for the whole show.”
“I'm done, let's rock.”
Chloe, “You’re all rosy, you had fun.”
“I used versions of the same distraction on a couple of jobs. Guard watching a private elevator, dopes at a motel. Men are highly distractible.”
“You distract Daphne all the time.”
“Even more fun.”
“And now you distract me, slutinsky.”
We return to the apartment, traffic is heavy and it takes forever, just when I'm anxious to get the data downloaded to the Society. Oh well, take a Buddhist approach and concentrate on what is. I spend the time being in the now, admiring Amaya's legs.
Finally home. I get the data uploaded, save for Janah and Nikko to study. They like spreadsheets, I glaze over.
Janah, “That was a stroke of luck.”
“Well, we know Alexis has an interest in nicely endowed muscular men. It's good to learn about people's personal interests. For instance, if Amaya tried her tease on Alexis, it might not be so effective. And I doubt Black would slip on a thong for the job.”
Nikko, “Go away, we need to surf these spreadsheets.”
Amaya and Zi want to go to Juju's and grab a snack at the diner, “Daphne, want to go?”
Chloe is yawning, “I'm going to nap with the fairy princess.”
With Amaya in that skirt, Zi may have to kill a few people to fight their way back. Zi is only in a t-shirt, so to counter distract she goes in the bedroom and returns in a pair of Nikko's little stretchy cotton shorts.
“Wow, city beautification at work.”
They kiss me and leave, I go to Chloe's room, she’s already stretched out on the bed, her clothes on the chair. I hang things up that need hanging, take off my jeans and shirt and lay next to her. She flips the covers over us and I cover her again under the sheets.
I oblige with enthusiasm, then she's asleep, I doze off. I wake in an hour, long enough to relax, not so long as to feel groggy, rather refreshed. I nudge Chloe, don't want her to sleep too long, she blinks at me, smiles, “Tea?”
I’m in the kitchen, Amaya and Zi come in.
She has a plastic bag, dumps out a stack of laminate bracelets and necklaces, three rings.
“The rings will fit Miss Toothpick Fingers. She is going to use the other stuff I got for Zi and myself anyway. So I suppose I will say they are for her, then Zi and I can borrow them.”
She gets a wet cloth and starts wiping down the pieces.
Chloe comes in, “Hey.”
Amaya, “Hey yourself. We got things for you, come see.”
She sits on the chair between Amaya's legs, “Wow, this is cool,” she holds her hand up for me to see her rings as I slide a cup of tea in front of her.
“Nice, one is violet, one of the necklaces is, too. Thank you Amaya,” she turns and snags Amaya on the cheek, “I know you bought some of this for you guys, these pieces fit Zi's aura, and these yours.”
“You saw through my plan. I figured you would be using them as well, so you could generously let us borrow them.”
Chloe giggles, “I'll store them for you then. I have the most space anyway. The skinniest girl gets the biggest room. I expect all of you to visit frequently. The water rock is so beautiful, a perfect place to be quiet.”
Zi, “And if I may, I would like to go be quiet right now, is it okay?”
“My room is everyone's room.”
Janah, “The dear girl is a fountain of tenderness, so genuinely simple about it.”
“Her Shadow family from hell had no idea what they missed.”
Janah and Nikko appear, I pour more tea, I wonder how many thousands of cups I’ve poured, “Snacks?”
I ask redundantly of course, Janah always wants a snack, Nishiko seldom. I open brie, warm it in the microwave just enough to get soft, not gooey. Add a layer of Steen’s cane syrup to it, put it out with crackers and a bowl of cut apples, pears and walnuts.
“Amaya, Mrs. Murakami said to work on Chloe's singing and she should do at least one tea ceremony while she's here so there are more people to serve. She is pleased with Chloe's work, and she knows Chloe doesn't have your voice, she wants her competent, I'm sure you know how to best go about it.”
“Chloe can carry a tune. She does not have much range. She needs to learn simple songs. Mrs. M say anything else?”
“Well she fussed because I neglected to show her Chloe's photos first thing, I am apparently not an exemplary Japanese mom.”
“Anyway, we start calligraphy, she told me to go slowly. She is sensitive to Chloe's schedule.”
Nikko, “I also spoke with her today. Hanshi says she can come two days a week if we work with her on the sword here. They talked about it and want Chloe to have more of her own time. My father was delighted to see her photos.”
Chloe, “Wow. Another day at home, neat-o.”
Janah, “Good thing. I was thinking you might start sleeping at the Murakami's when Chloe was there.”
“In twenty years, when have I ever left you for a day?”
“Everyone here is my first priority, you are first plus.”
Janah smiles her 'for Daphne' smile. Still has its magic.
“And soon, Violet Princess, calligraphy.”
“When?” her eyes sparkle.
“Got to wait until this work is done, but soon. Janah's thinking it will be finished in two or three days. Before you get back from Hanshi on Tuesday. You don't have a shoot until next Friday, so we can spend some time Wednesday or Thursday.”
Janah, “I'm calling Mrs. Epstein. I don’t want them raiding accounts until we're in front of Rojas.”
She finds a phone, I clean up while she chats with Mrs. Epstein, she disconnects, “Rojas has three hundred fifty million in cash and securities. That doesn't count real estate. He had more cash until recently, spent fifty million on more property.”
“Can we get to the property?”
“The things in the States, out of the country is a pain. We don't have any good way to dispose of it. They’re looking into it. A lot of it is swaths of jungle to hide coke production. This isn’t a Society job, but it’s a lot of money to support other work. They aren't complaining. Actually, between confiscations we've supplied and other Social Work teams, the Society no longer needs the financial support it had from the original backers. Mrs. E says there is four hundred million in the bank. It's been stacked up in Treasuries, they need to diversify.”
Chloe, “I never know so much money was possible.”
Janah, “I didn't either, we've found out differently over the years. And when you have it, it just keeps stacking up. We hardly scrimp, and we wind up every year with more. I may open another school if I can find people to run it. All the money Nikko loans to parolees comes back to us in time. Our home is gigantic, None of us wants other houses, it's too simple to rent hotel rooms.”
Nikko, “Susan and I have been looking at property near the Taekwondo school. The owner has it fully occupied, he's old and is shedding property for cash. Mrs. Epstein says it isn't cheap, but the numbers work well enough. I want to let leases expire, remodel and sell the apartments as condos. NYU wants to expand in the Village, I'm not selling to them. We want residents, owners, not transients and not more classroom space.”
Janah, “How much?”
“Forty eight million. We can bounce that down a bit.”
“Mini says he knows parolees with construction skills, more than just our remodeling guys. We could help them start a company.”
“Even better. Get the company underway, it will be a while before the leases expire. They can get set up and gain more experience, by the time we need them, they'll be ready.”
Nikko nods, “Always nice to give Mini a present for his pals.”
“Maybe we should start a criminal organization.”
“We are a criminal organization.”
Chloe, “Good thing for me.”
Amaya, “No lie,” she high fives Chloe.
Nikko, “Horrible influence on young minds.”
Chloe giggles, she hops in Nikko's lap, “Yakuza samurai,” she kisses Nikko.
Nikko stares at her blankly, “Very funny, maiko. Don't you have things to do?”
“Yes, I'm doing them,” but I catch your drift, so you can spend an hour with me on kendo?’
They go off to whack each other with bokken, Zi joins them to watch, Janah is making arrangements with Mrs. Epstein, then on her laptop for temple admin.
Amaya, “Let's see, everyone is occupied except you and I. I think a shower is in order while the children play.”
Chloe has the biggest shower, we are soon in it, doing fun stuff with shampoo and soap. Then under the rainfall shower, a Kohler Watertile system, I’m on my knees servicing Amaya. Then Amaya reciprocates. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Chloe. I look at her, Amaya hits a good spot, my eyes half close, mouth open breathing deeply, I bite my lip and go off. I see Chloe grin.
We dry and dry hair, Chloe comes in, she's looking at me, silly grin on her face.
“That was fun, a pure accident. I needed to pee and automatically came in here. Sorry to stare, but it was too much fun.”
“I suppose we should have shut the door, just thought you were going to be a while.”
“Glad you didn't. It made me feel all tingly.”
“In the tub, bub.”
I wash her hair, pumice her feet. When she's all shiny, I dry her and her hair.
“How'd the kendo go?”
“The usual, Nikko lets me get a few strikes, then beats me to death. Good thing we don't use swords, I'd be confetti. Hanshi Nikko is a splendid teacher. I could probably learn just from her, but I would miss Hanshi Murakami, he likes me. He acts all stern and growls, but his aura is soft blue.”
How do Chloe and Zi read auras? I'm okay at it, but I get mixed signals, it's pretty useless to me. Amaya gave it a go, she never got the hang of it. She claims her own aura is a clear perfect diamond and that's all she needs to know.
It turns out, according to my resident Wiki Janah, that birds have a way of reading the Earth's magnetic currents, and use them as a GPS system. Some species use them for migratory patterns, others use them to remember where they stored seeds for wintertime food. That's pretty slick. They think the capacity is in bird neurons, which can't be all that complicated, it's a bird. It also turns out that plants can send signals to other plants, mostly through their roots. I read an article in the Times about it.
When Master Hue first put Janah on to talking plants, he wasn't jerking her chain. And when David talks to his birds, there is reason to believe it isn't magic.
The point is, we are all, every living thing, and technically every other thing, an operating electro-chemical system. There is no particular reason why, if birds talk to each other and sense magnetic currents, and plants send signals to other plants, that humans can't pick up on these signals. It's called magnetoception, sometimes magneto-reception.
Humans may have a sixth sense after all suggests a new study finding that a protein in the human retina, when placed into fruit flies, has the ability to detect magnetic fields.
The researchers caution that the results suggest this human protein has the capability to work as a magnetosensor; however, whether or not humans use it in that way is not known.
To the original question. Electro means electric signals, changes in the flow of protons and electrons. Magnetism is essentially the same process, attractors and repellants. If a person, David Li, or Zi or Chloe, can catch the flow, that’s a form of communication. If you add synesthesia to the mix, the brain cross wiring numbers or names into colors, then you have Chloe and Zi. Their sensitive brain tunes into electric signals pulsing through someone's neurons, and turns those signals into colors. They see the colors as an aura around the person's head, sometimes down their spine and tummy.
Janah says the magnetic and electrical part has been scientifically demonstrated in several species, and the synesthesia part has been amply demonstrated in humans. It really isn't such a crazy stretch to think a human might be magnetoceptic and a synesthete at the same time.
Janah thinks they might be, in part, the product of a closed circuit environment. Zi was raised in a Chinese Shaolin Temple, Chloe in the mess we know about. Neither was raised in a place with a constant flow of new information. They had plenty of time to zero in on environmental and emotional cues. She wonders if it's possible that we do children a huge disservice by sticking every 'learning opportunity' under their noses from the time they are age zero, some people start when the kid's still in the cooker for God's sake. There's little or no unstructured time to simply sit in the dirt and observe life unfold. The panic to give kids an artificial edge takes away their natural edge.
What's weird in our case is having two of them in the same family and they aren't even biologically related, can't even credit genetics. The odds against must be astronomical. But that's where Janah comes in. She has always been the mystery factor. How she collects the people she collects is a mystery even I, who am her, don't understand.
Janah tells me it’s intention. She intends to find unique people, starting with me when we were children. She says the difference between her intention and what people say is intention, as that she intends it until it happens. In other words, the average person says 'I intend to make a million dollars, or I intend to lose ten pounds.' But they don't revisit that intention hourly or even daily. It sort of floats out there, passes through their brain as yet another failed attempt and they drop it. Or they come up with some rationalization about why it didn't work, an external factor they couldn't help, 'I was busy, my life got crazy.'
Janah doesn't do that. She wakes up in the morning with a list of intentions, she revisits it during the day, she ticks them off when she goes to sleep. She takes no specific action to make it happen. When the opportunity, or some relevant piece of it, presents itself, she moves towards it or opens herself to let it come to her. There is no effort, no striving, no wasted energy blocking the free flow of natural communication.
All the motivational pimps tell you to expend enormous amounts of valuable energy on something the universe will freely give you if you will get all your striving out of the way. You can strive and get something, that’s true. But to go beyond, to find the creative, the unknown, you cannot start with assumptions of what can and cannot be done. Goals are, paradoxically, self limiting.
Now that we have the edge, Eduardo's money, it's time to visit. Janah decides a stealth attack is pointless and may get people injured or killed that have nothing to do with the matter at hand.
“Think of it this way,” she explains, “Eduardo is casting about for a way to clean his coke cash. If he doesn't have any, there's no point in pressing the bikers to loan their services to him.”
Zi, “So why not just take the money and let him sort it out?”
“First, he goes berserk and starts murdering people looking for answers he can never get. Second, he still has land and cocaine. After his murder spree, he just goes back into business. We can't assume we clear out all his cash, nor can we sell his property with him around. He could stay in full time coke production and distribution. Third, others will quickly sense his temporary weakness, he knows that. He'll be out to kill the competition before they can use his weakness against him. That might happen in any case, these guys slaughter each other all the time. I can't fix that.”
“So how do we get to him?”
“Take his money while we're sitting in front of him.”
“And you sit in front of him how?”
“Offer to launder his cash.”
Amaya, “Devious, dangerous.”
Janah, “Quite dangerous. That's why we have us, to mitigate the danger.”
Janah wasn’t going to further involve Black, but she decides on a different approach to get to Eduardo.
Black is on the phone with his new friend Voice, “Change of plan. I think we can take this whole mess off your hands if you will make a call.”
Voice, “To who about what?”
“Whoever you deal with. Tell them a guy shows at your place out of the blue. He's with the former Satin Knights, a small club in upstate New York. You know them vaguely. He tells you he's visiting a couple of clubs because the people who help them with cash flow are looking to expand in a big way. That the former Satin Knights are a small family operation leftover from a disbanded club. They make enough to need help cleaning money, but nothing like their contacts are capable of working with. You have a number if he wants it.”
Voice, “Sounds better.”
“Don't get your tit in a wringer. You don't know us, knew of the Knights, but heard they'd broken up. You had no idea anyone was left around, you never saw me before I popped up at your place.”
“What makes you think they'll call?”
“Greed and arrogance.”
Voice laughs, “I may owe you one.”
They disconnect, Voice calls Paco and relays the story.
Paco, “So you don't vouch for them?”
Voice, “Hell, no. I thought the whole club disappeared. The guy says they did, but a few stayed around selling weed. They do moderate distribution, don't even have their own production. He said the business kept coming in and they wound up with a familiar cash problem. Who they clear with, I have no idea, but that who is looking to clean more cash, a lot of it.”
Paco, “Any progress on your contact?”
“They said they could ramp up a little, nothing like you need. If they start creating companies out of thin air and dumping cash into them, it's gonna raise flags all over the place. None of us needs that. I'm still shopping for you. I don't trust gifts that fall out of the sky either, but I thought you should at least be informed.”
“Why don't you take our cash and deal with them yourself?”
“Because I don't want it and you want to know who you're doing business with. You only gonna give me money for a little while to see how it works out. Then you gonna cut costs by cutting me out of the middle. Let's just skip all the aggravation.”
“Why you think I cut you out?”
“Cause if the situation was reversed, that's what I would do. It's just good business.”
Paco, “Give me the number.”
Chapter Thirty One
Two days pass, Black gets a call.
Paco, “I understand from an associate you may have resources to help with cash flow problems.”
Black, “I don't. My contact says they are looking to improve cash flow. I'm passing the message along.”
“When would be a good time for us to meet you?”
“Never. I either give you a number or you give me a number for their people to call. No disrespect, Mr. Smith, I got a small family operation. We don't live in the rarefied atmosphere some folks do. We glad for them, hope they prosper. My contact helped us, they say the lookin' for volume, I don't have it. If you do, then maybe you will want a meeting. Once we exchange numbers, I'm out of it.”
Paco, “Seems to be my week to collect phone numbers.”
Black reads off a number for one of Janah's throwaways. Chan has it.
Two hours go by, the phone rings, Chan picks up, says hello in Chinese.
“Fine. How may I help you?”
“A mutual acquaintance said you may be helpful with cash flow difficulties.”
Chan says nothing.
“You going to answer my question?”
“Perhaps, when you ask one.”
Paco thinks this over, “Let me rephrase, can you help with cash difficulties?”
“In what volume?”
“I think we ought to meet. When will be convenient?”
“Who will attend this meeting?”
Paco, “For now, me.”
“That is my preference as well,” if Paco had said twenty, Chan's response would have been the same.
“I am currently visiting Washington DC. Tomorrow I go to Caesar's in Atlantic City for two days, then I fly back to my country.”
“Then, even if we are in agreement, how do we do business?”
“I have associates across the United States and internationally. There is no difficulty.”
“I can be there tomorrow.”
“I welcome your call.”
We park Chloe with Susan and Taylor, girl heaven, she'll clean up. We pile stuff in the Escalade and Amaya gets us to Atlantic City, one hundred thirty miles, mostly I-95 and the Garden State Parkway.
I trot out the old saw about why we drive on a parkway but park in a driveway. Everybody groans.
We are disguised and fake licensed, the rooms are ready, Chan is in some sort of mega-suite, bells are going off across the sweep of slots. The casino business in Atlantic City is dying, the place is half full, or empty, like the glass of water thing. We unpack and walk the casino. Janah gets ten thousand in chips and heads off to the hundred dollar blackjack table with Chan. She's going to card count while Chan dribbles away money, keep the dealer from getting too much crap from the pit boss.
Zi finds a poker game, hold ‘em. She got the basics off the web and studied the game on the way down.
I get five thousand, give half to Amaya, we find a half empty craps table. She's betting don't pass against my pass, and I bet the six and eight. You can't win like that, it just kills time and money dribbles out more slowly.
The guy next to Amaya is having a heart attack at his good fortune, not at the table, but that Amaya is standing next to him. He continues to lose, but he isn't going to move until there’s an earthquake, Amaya goes or he’s bankrupt. He's losing, she's treading water but he still gives her advice. She's got on her kill you smile, charming him senseless.
I'm standing in between two guys who both want to take me to dinner. I chat amicably, this is supposed to be fun, I'm having it, being polite. I tell them I'm having dinner with a Senator and his wife from California in for some sort of convention. They settle down and we chat, commiserate at each other’s bad luck, congratulate each other on good. An hour passes, then two. Amaya and I are about even, I've made five hundred, she's out about that.
Janah comes by, just passes, doesn't stop, “Blackjack is easy, I made ten thousand and decided to quit before they caught on. I played ditzy idiot girl, whoohooing my lucky cards. They even brought me champagne. Chan is still playing, I think he's even, we didn't want to get up together. I'm going to the room and sit in the Jacuzzi.”
“Be along shortly.”
“Amaya, time to move on, you want to leave first, or me?”
Amaya, “You go, I'll be up in ten.”
I pick up my chips, tell my buddies to have a great evening, they’re getting more pickled, but they've been perfectly pleasant, nothing obnoxious.
During our gambling, I lost track of Nikko. I'm sure she cruised the casino and knows every entrance and exit by now, probably circled the entire building. I have no idea how Zi is doing. Before I go up, I decide to find out. First, security.
“Nikko, Amaya is at a craps table, keep an eye on things, she’s only going to be a few more minutes.”
“I see her, it’s good.”
I spot Zi from a distance, I don't approach the table, with eagle eyes, I can see her stack of chips. I don't know what she started with, but what she has seems healthy. She's in a hand with one other guy, he goes all in. Zi hesitates, her hand shakes just a fraction, her opponent smiles, thinks she’s going to fold. She shoves in her chips, he frowns. He's got nothing but the two jacks flopped on the table. Zi has two queens, she beats him straight from her hold, the two jacks a humiliating kicker. He sighs, shakes his head. Looks professional, resigned to his fate.
Zi rakes, asks for the chips to go to the cashier. A gopher comes along and stacks her pile and they go to the cashier, she'd made twenty thousand.
We're sitting around Chan's suite, he comes in from the casino.
“How'd you do China Slim?”
“Made sure to lose it all. I want them to think they have a crazed Chinese gambler. I played some of the worst bets in blackjack.”
Janah, “That was our strategy. He's creating a minor persona. When I started winning, they changed dealers, then they went to four decks, then six. The pit boss started hanging around, I could feel the cameras. They'd never seen me, never heard of me. And I spent half the time looking around the casino blabbering about how fancy everything is and how come there weren’t more people. A card counter would spend far more time looking at the hands dealt. The pit boss eventually moved on. I'm sure they chalked it up to dumb luck.”
Zi, “It took me the first hour to get a handle on what color aura went with what kind of hand a player had. The guy I took at the end had been consistent throughout, then when he went all in, he changed completely, the aura went to burnt orange, he was frustrated and afraid, bluffing. He was good though, his face showed little. If I hadn't read him, I could have easily thought he had a third Jack and folded.”
“Nikko, discover anything?”
“I walked the place, went through the shops, know all the exits. The casino is crawling with security, it's the last place you want to start trouble, if you do, they will quickly help you finish it.”
Janah, “The gamblers have enough problems without being intimidated by jerks. The casino likes them intimidated by security, not other guests. Fights and macho are bad for business. Although business in Atlantic City is evaporating, fights or no. Daphne, can you get room service up here with dinner? Enough casino, anyone who wants to go to one of the restaurants is welcome of course.”
Nobody wants to go down and have to dodge guys looking to score. It's that kind of environment, we don't need the aggravation.
Janah, “Have it delivered to our suite, Chan's got a meeting in here tomorrow.”
I order, we move over to Janah's. I don't try for high end, we have shrimp cocktails, steak, several vegetable sides and baked potatoes. No dessert. If anyone wants something sweet, there's pile of Toblerone and Ghirardelli squares around.
Chapter Thirty Two
Despite the Mayan apocalypse, tomorrow comes. We breakfast in one of the restaurants, sit separately. I skip it, get a coffee and wander the hotel, take a walk outside, confirm the things in Nikko's head, putting them in Janah's. The only point is if something goes weird and we need to get out of the hotel someplace besides the front door. Casinos left, casinos right. Nothing interesting, until.
“Nikko, there's an SUV full of Colombian nationals. Either it's Colombia Day at Caesar's or the scout team has just arrived.”
“Janah, the party’s starting. You and Zi to the room, hang out the Do Not Disturb and meditate on the Second Coming.”
Change channels, “Amaya, to the room, Janah's already on the way up.”
“On the way.”
Zi sees Janah leave, she senses the urgency, then a text, ‘room, now.’ She goes to a different elevator and up to the suite.
Nikko follows the Colombians inside. They don't check in, two go to the restaurant, two for a stroll. She takes the restaurant, me the stroll.
“What do you think?”
Nikko, “Guys used to guns and controlling the situation. This is different. They can't run around being macho assholes here. They're no big deal.”
Nikko doesn't think anything short of a Navy Seal team is a big deal, and only if there are more than six Seals, “My guys are just crapping around pretending they are actually doing something. I presume they’re looking for a Chinese guy. They don't know anything else.”
“Then they think the Chinese guy is so stupid as to be walking around the casino so he can be spotted by Colombian gangsters. Plus, the place has a bunch of Chinese guys.”
“Well, they want to look good for Paco. Paco's mirror neurons are defective. He's not the type to feel their pain if they screw up.”
“Then let them play. Two in here are ordering breakfast.”
“My two are taking a walk around the casino. They aren't paying much attention, they stopped for coffee and pastry. More interested in eating and jiving than taking a serious look at the surroundings. I can take them out of the picture right now and no one would know they ever came to Atlantic City.”
“The two in here might miss them. Might even be bright enough to think it's a clue about future events. Can you make it look like a random mugging?”
Nikko and I are just screwing around, we don’t take this crew seriously enough to worry about them. They blew in, gave the car to the valet, strolled in like they owned the joint, proceeded to eat breakfast and jerk around. Real scouts would have come in separately, not driven up at all. They would have done their surveillance, then checked in with each other. Then they would find strategic locations to observe the comings and goings of guests. If a Chinese guy appeared, he would be photographed and followed. If he returned to his room, the room number would be noted. These jerks couldn't do surveillance on a kid's soccer team. As Nikko figured out in less than a heartbeat, the Colombians are used to pushing people around until they get what they wanted. If they didn't get what they wanted, they killed whoever wasn't giving it to them. What makes them ugly, really ugly, not just common criminal ugly, is that they don't care if the person they’re mauling even knows what the right answer is. If he or she makes the Colombians unhappy, they die, frequently slowly.
We don't care about criminals killing competitors. We get irritable about assholes killing anyone they feel inconvenienced them. Our research into these men is clear. They would do what they wished, to whomever they wished, innocent family, children of competitors, anyone they think will make people fear them.
Unfortunately, they'd stumbled onto a problem they don't yet know they have. We don't fear them, they don't raise our heart rate or our blood pressure. In fact, when we come across these types, it's just the opposite, we get calm, like a crane that’s spotted a lizard warming itself in the sun. In time, the lizard is in the crane's beak, wondering how things went so wrong.
“Can you see?”
Janah, “Yep. They don't matter. They relax Paco. They aren't going to do anything but wander around checking out cocktail waitresses.”
“Nikko and I will keep an eye on them. Paco will show up soon enough.”
Which he does. Paco is doubly arrogant. First, he presumes his men can find out something useful. Second, he thinks his Chinese contact has nothing to do but sit around waiting on him.”
Chan's cell phone rings, “Hello.”
Paco, “I'm here, where are you?”
“I have a prior engagement. I hoped you would call to set a time, regrettably, I am not free now. If you wish to have lunch, please take advantage of the excellent restaurant in the hotel.”
Paco is getting steamed, “Look, I came down here to offer you a very lucrative proposition. If you aren't available, I can take my business elsewhere.”
“Of course, if that is what you wish, then by all means do so. I can see you at three this afternoon. If that suits your schedule, then call me at five until and I will tell you the room number. I hope to hear from you later, if not, I wish you every success in your search.”
Chan clicks off. I see the steam pouring from Paco's ears. He starts punching numbers into his phone, which I forward to Janah, then I listen. I'm about fifty yards from Paco, with my sight and hearing I may as well be standing next to him.
Paco, “Jeffe, this Chinese is insufferable. He wants me to wait around for three hours.”
Eduardo, “Paco, you need more exposure to international business dealings. The Asians either make you wait like a schoolboy in the principal's office, or they flatter you with all kinds of compliments but tell you nothing of value. You are better off. When they make you wait, they intend to do business, they just want you irritated and using poor judgment. If he'd seen you right away, it would take perhaps months to get a deal, if ever. Settle down, this is good news. I was concerned about the other, not this.”
“Si, Jeffe. I wish you would have explained earlier, now I understand.”
“Better to let you understand how getting irritated is bad for business. I am not disappointed, I could have warned you, but this lesson you will remember, si?”
“Now, you are smarter. Have a nice lunch, take a stroll, enjoy the beautiful women, make some bets. Then go to the meeting and see what this Chinese can do for us. If he is who he says he is, we have the contact we need, and you negotiated the deal. Don't get caught up in the posturing, Paco. It is the result that matters, ¿Comprende?”
Paco clicks off, I can see he's feeling better, he thinks he understands the game which gives him an element of control. He walks to the restaurant, orders a glass of wine, just one, no wandering out of control. I watch him order, a steak, medium rare, nothing else. He wants to be proteined up, not stuffy. After his steak, he gets coffee, which the waiter refills twice. He's managed to kill an hour and half. He leaves the restaurant and spends an hour playing blackjack, no booze, club soda. He's playing small stakes, killing time. A half hour before his appointment he gets up, goes to the restroom. Since I can't follow him, I presume he freshening his face, using the toilet, combing his hair. He comes out and paces around. The last few minutes until he can call seem endless to him.
Finally, it's five to three, he dials Chan's cell, Chan answers. Paco rounds up his crew, they get in the elevator. Nikko and I are already on Chan's floor, in the room across the hall from his suite. We have the key to his room, we are dressed like room service. We have a cart of coffee, tea, Coke, Sprite, juices, ice and a pile of snacks.
I watch through the peephole in the door, three men. Chan opens the door, bows ever so slightly and they go in.
We have the room bugged, but not from inside. If they look for microphones or cameras, they find zilch. Janah has one listening device, I am the other. The balcony doors are open, the suite is on the top of the hotel. We have cameras zoomed in from the Trump Hotel across the way. It's far enough to discount the possibility that anyone could be observing from there. Paco's men search the suite, it never occurs to them to close the curtains. Janah is watching the video, relaying it to Nikko, Amaya to me. It’s as if we’re in the suite with Chan.
Let's say our technology is so cutting edge, even the leading edge doesn't know what our edge is. When Google Glass can see though your eyes over any distance, they might be near our neighborhood, still on the fuzzy side of the tracks. We not only see what each other sees, but we feel what each other feels. Even if they get to the visual, they can't get to the emotional, the nuances from one person to the next are way too complicated for mere algorithms. The strength of math is that it isn't subject to messy emotions. The weakness of math is that it can't calculate messy emotions.