Chapter Thirty Three XI

Lunch comes and goes, the afternoon passes, Janah, “They’ll go out for dinner, they’re in little more than motels with no restaurants. There’s a van downstairs, we’re going to grab them someplace. David Li, can you prepare darts with a tranquilizer, enough to overcome their ability, not enough to kill them.”
David Li, “Already done. If they don’t drop with the first shot, there are syringes with a second half dose. I combined two drugs, they will be paralyzed, then unconscious. Atracurium, a derivative of curare, will paralyze them for a half hour. The anesthetic is a version of  Fentanyl used to sedate patients for operations. They need to be unconscious. It is likely Shadows at their level could use energy even though their limbs do not function.”
“We have to wake them up eventually.”
David Li, “You will have to use enough Haloperidol to keep them obedient, it’s an antipsychotic. They may try for qi, but in their semi conscious condition, it should be mild and easily controlled. They will become cooperative soon enough.”
“Nikko, let’s gear up to shoot the whackos.”
Dasha, “Dahfoney, I will shoot one.”
“You sound like Nikko, she hates being left out.”
Nikko, “She’s practiced with the thing, she should get her shot.”
“Don’t miss.”
Dasha, “Dahfoney ridiculous, not shoot to mees, shoot to heet.”
Janah, “We have four rifles, she and Nikko will have backups, you and Black. Amaya, drive the Escalade, with Nikko and Black, Chloe will drive the van with Dasha and Daphne. I’m taking Chan, first we’ll pass by the fourplex and collect the trackers, then to the warehouse to finish this up. When you have them in the van, secure the crap out of them. I know they’ll be unconscious, I don’t care, immobilize them and do it thoroughly. We’ll be at the warehouse, I’ll have one of the trackers engaged, you can find it simply enough.”
She looks to Zi, “The rest of you can come with me, or stay here. There’s no benefit for you to sit around an empty warehouse, here there’s things to do and food in the refrigerator.”
Daria, “Eloise and I want to work on new idea, we will stay.”
Zi, “I’ll stay with them, it will be fun to watch them work. Eloise can monitor the capture from the drone, once you’re sealed up, she can fly it back here.”
David Li, “I would like to see how the drugs work in a real situation.”
Janah, “Then come with your dad and I. Take one of the IPads, we can tune into the drone and see what happens at the motels. My first choice is they simply go to dinner together, they’re right down the street from each other. If for any reason, you can only get to one, take him. Amaya’s group can stick around to see what happens and figure out a way to get to the other. Let me think, what else?”
She stares up at the ceiling, “Let’s not leave you here with no wheels. Daphne, ask Transportation to have a plain sedan delivered.”
I make the call, “Zi, it will be outside soon, don’t know what but it will have a rental tag, keys in the usual spot.”
Zi, “Good idea to be cautious, we’re so close to the end of this. I think we all just want to get home.”
Black, “Sure do, Zi, I love my big family, but I can love you just as much in New York.”
Janah, “If I have them in the warehouse tonight, I can get some of you back to New York tomorrow. We can’t all fly back at the same time anyway, and Chan needs to be there for Ning, two restaurants are a handful, Black has his martial arts school and Sonia stays up to her ears in work.”
Black, “I didn’t mean….”
Janah, “Black, I know you aren’t complaining. I’m tired of this, too. I’ll feel better when I get some of you on a plane and out of it.”
Daria, “Car is moving.”
Janah, “One car?”
Daria, “Da, going to second motel.”
Janah, “You have your assignments, get to it.”
We haul it as fast as sensible. In the movies, the good guy goes screeching through the streets as if the cops don’t exist. That’s not how it works, we have things to do without red lights flashing on our tail. Baymont Inn car travels a half block to Days Inn, the green dot is stationary then moves out of the lot onto the street. We move towards them.
They stop at Luigi’s Pizza, we’re a block back, first time I’ve seen these two. One man is tall and thin, takes a drag from a cigarette and flips the butt into the shrubbery, the other is smaller, not fat, stocky, black hair and obviously Hispanic. Doesn’t take Sherlock to figure out who is McKenzie and who is Escobar.
I mental Nikko, There’s nothing here, they’re going to eat and go back to the motels. Presuming McKenzie drops off Escobar, we can take them at the Days Inn, or we can let McKenzie drive off and do one at a time.
Nikko, I think it’s better to split up. What if they decide to go to one room or the other to talk? If we’re both at one and they choose the other we’re screwed.
You take Baymont, I’ll take Days.

Nikko, Got it.
We find spots far enough from where they would park, Escobar’s car is still in front of his room. Both of our cars are in position to fire darts to the driver’s side. Then it occurs to me, “Nikko, we can’t know if the target will pull in right in front of his room or decide to park across the lot, or even back into the space.”
Nikko, “Good point. I’ll go to the far side, Black can stay in the car and have a sightline from this side. I see a spot far enough out where I can blend in to the shadows.”
“Dasha, I’m going down the lot and get a line from the right, you take him if he gets out on the left. And aim for something soft, not a bone.”
Dasha blinks her blink, “Dahfoney, I will shoot him gud,” her hand waves like brushing away an insect, “you will find hiding place now, bye, bye, have a nice day, good to see you, thank you for coming, blah, blah.”
Janah, We have the trackers, heading to the warehouse.
Targets are having dinner…wait….,
 Dasha comes online, car ees moving, back to Janah, they’ve finished, you can follow through me.
Nikko, He’s dropping off Escobar, you see?
Yeah, hope he drives off before Escobar goes in his room.

The car backs up, turns left and begins to drive off, Escobar is at his door with the key card, slides in it the receiver, it clicks. I see a dart punch him in the back, he straightens up, flailing behind himself to find the source of the pain, the door opens and he falls face first across the threshold.
A minute later, the Mercury Marquis McKenzie is driving has come in sight. He makes a left into a slot in front of his room, I’m on the passenger side, his door opens, he exits and bends into the car as if to retrieve something and never comes out. Dasha stuck a dart in his left butt cheek, the paralytic does its job, then the anesthetic kicks in and our final Shadow is out. Good job David Li, nice shot Dasha.
Amaya comes around the corner in the van, Black hops out and one-hands McKenzie from his prone position across his front seat, through the air, onto the hard floor of the van.
“Remember to wrap them tight.”
Black, “Don’t worry, these bitches goin’ no place.”

Chapter Thirty Four

We’re having yet another drug session at an empty warehouse. I try to add up the number of warehouses I’ve been in over the years, they all seem to be the same. Not a lot of creativity involved in building an empty box to stack stuff.
Our boys have assumed the position, piano wire around ankles, clamped to chair legs, wrists the same on the chair arms. They can throw energy with their minds, but if they squirm around, they can throw out having functional limbs.
We’re behind the targets, one faces the west wall, the other the east. We leave west unconscious in the dark, Chan is right behind him. If he stirs, he touches the syringe stuck in the back of his hand and feeds him more anesthetic.
We do McKenzie first. Zi and Chloe agree that he’s the more powerful. I’m not sure how they know, Chloe says the auras are black, how much darker do you get than black?
Amaya and Daria are both watching Janah, they are our backup pharma dispensers, David Li is with them, checks the pulse. We probably ought to have a blood pressure cuff in case it drops like a stone, maybe next time.
Janah lets him come around, the paralytic is worn off, his head rocks as the anesthetic fades. She has a Luer-Lok attached to the needle in the back of his hand with a syringe of Haloperidol plugged in the Luer-Lok. We used to use sodium pentothal, David says this is better. There’s a snarl, his hand twitches but all he succeeds in doing is cutting into his skin, a line of blood, no more twitch.
Janah, “Keep at it McKenzie and you’ll lose the hand.”
It feels warm next to him, Janah, “Don’t start with the qi, it won’t go well for you.”
McKenzie, “We shall see.”
The syringe starts to back out of the Luer-Lok, all by itself, Daria reaches down and holds it in place, resets the syringe, pushes the plunger halfway. McKenzie is shaking, while doing his damnedest to fight her, she’s countering with a freak out of her own, his wrists are both bloody now.
Just before the drug kicks in, he mumbles, “Who are you?” Then his head rolls forward. He awake but slow, dreamy, his eyes unfocused.
Janah starts with questions, there is resistance, Daria gives him half of the half syringe that’s left. His torso rocks slowly, chin on his chest.
Janah, “Where did you learn McKenzie?”
“Asia, an old man. I paid him thousands and endured his torture for years.”
Janah, “Must have taken enormous effort.”
“Excruciating, wanted to quit, got better, stuck it out.”
“You have killed.”
“Not much, not like….”
“The others.”
“No, they are animals.”
“How did you meet them?”
“I met Escobar a long time ago, in Mexico, small village, a shaman, so the people believed.”
“When did you return to the states?”
“Took me a few months to convince him we could make a lot of money. And he’d used most of the pretty girls in the village. The idea of American girls in quantity opened his eyes. He spoke no English then, didn’t want to go to the States. I taught him English, he taught me Spanish, one version anyway, an Indian version.”
“You came to the States, to Wichita Falls?”
“No, we went everywhere, no place we couldn’t go. People give us money, places to stay, they gave us their cars, their wives and for Escobar, their daughters.”
 “The others came together along the way.”
“Yes, the women, then Devon and Evert, a couple. They met a nurse, mean bitch, made surgeons kill patients right on the operating table. We had a lot of laughs about that.”
“So one knew another one, eventually there were twelve.”
“Until you murdered them all. Escobar, too?”
“Nope, he’s right across the room, resting.”
David Li, “His heart rate is picking up, more Haloperidol is required.”
Daria empties the syringe, unplugs it, plugs in a full one.
Janah, “You know more of your kind.”
“A few, hard to work with, impossible. Our group didn’t play well together, but Martha had a good plan, Donald thought up the distraction, an amusing idea, cops killing school children.”
“Where are the others?”
“No idea, we move around, only stayed here to set up the plan. Martha owns the apartments, a gift from the former owner. She convinced the tenants to leave, we moved in.”
“Who are the others then?”
“I know who they were, we change names frequently.”
“So who were they, in what city did you know them, do they have jobs, professions they like?”
David Li, “A quarter syringe.”
Daria does her thing, he’s quiet for a while, listless, then, “If I tell you, what do I get?”
Janah, “A quick painless death versus a slow, excruciating one.”
“Not much of a deal.”
“It’s not a negotiation.”
He thinks things over, I guess he thinks things over, he’s groggy and slurs his words.
“Got something to write on?”
“All ready.”
Five names and the places where he knew them. Only one was working, a lawyer who dealt in fraud, the fraud side.
“I have a question.”
“Who are you?”
“You know Shaolin?”
“Figures, one of my, um, conquests was a priest. He tried to kill me, didn’t work out for him.”
“Worked out for us.”
“You know the real reason I told you the names?”
“You hope they come out better than you did.”
“And I hope you suffer like I made that priest suffer. Our kind likes no one, but we have a special hatred for Shaolin.”
“Your hatred makes you stupid, we read it pouring out of you, you may as well wear a sign.”
“It is your compassion that reveals you to us. We find it disgustingly weak.”
“Yet, here we are.”
He snarls, his head pops up, heat blasts from him like a shock wave and we are thrown back. Daria’s hair flies out straight behind her, despite the surge of energy she doesn’t release his arm, her thumb hits the syringe and she empties it into his vein. McKenzie settles, incoherent mumbling.
Janah injects the toxin in his neck and he is dead.

Chapter Thirty Five

Escobar was simpler, and he told essentially the same story. He doesn’t know any more Shadows, only those McKenzie and he had come across traveling the country. All of his now deceased associates had come in contact with others from whom they learned the skill of mind manipulation. Three were students of the same teacher, Devon and Evert had one teacher. Escobar learned partially from a now dead shaman in Mexico, taught himself the rest of it, with the aid of substantial quantities of peyote and other hallucinogens. Not everyone with drug induced insights turns out one with the universe. He claimed to have never killed himself, but knew McKenzie and the others had, confessed to feeling nothing one way or the other about the idea of school shootings.  
Janah has him near comatose with the antipsychotic, Nikko injects the toxin this time, he felt nothing.
We leave the bodies for Society cleaners to dispose of, there’s a lot of empty land outside Wichita Falls, they would be incinerated or buried, can’t leave a body full of David Li’s toxin for animals to find.
After a night's rest we pack up, a flight back to Manhattan in the afternoon, don’t get in until eight. Cocktails, wine and cold cuts, we gratefully collapse into our own beds, down and out by eleven, up at seven.
While Dasha and I prepare breakfast, Chloe, Amaya and Zi finish our unpacking, put away the tools of our trade and we enjoy poached eggs, smoked salmon, blini, caviar and sour cream. It’s Sunday, the day before we would have read about mass murders in Wichita Falls, except we showed up.
Susan is still overseas, from the series of IMs and photos, they added substantially to the economy of London, probably bailed them out of slow growth right into inflation. They’re going to inflate Paris next. She said they have to beat Euro males off with a stick, telling them they’re lesbians doesn’t make a dent. Probably encourages them with visions of threesomes, it isn’t going to happen.
Dasha comes online, Dahfoney, Daria and Eloise are een workshop making new eenvention, you will come here and make me feel gud.
I’m having no difficulty with her demand. I climb the stairs, she’s stretched out adorably in nothing with a toy between her legs.
Dasha, “I am ready now Dahfoney.”
She puts the toy aside and cocks one leg invitingly. I accept the invitation, don’t have to smack me on the head with a shovel. Firm smooth thighs around my ears, I do a tongue dance on her lovely dance floor, she makes tantalizingly appropriate noises and shudders adorably through a climax.
Just at that moment, the door to the workshop opens, Eloise comes though followed by Daria. I hadn’t undressed before taking on Dasha, but then I’m only wearing a t-shirt and panties. Eloise and Daria disrobe and before you can say lesbian lust, Eloise is between my legs relieving me of my underwear and doing for me what I’d done for Dasha. She’s good at it, too, oooohhhh, check that, she’s really good at it. To my left, Dasha is taking care of Daria’s physical needs, I clench into orgasm and relax back into the sheets. Eloise is kissing me, it would be impolite not to kiss back. My finger is playing her, then she slides up my body and straddles my face. I think I know what she wants. It’s like having a sprite on me, she’s whip slim, all of five feet tall, like the rest of us, smooth as a cue ball.
She’s peaking, has my hair locked in both hands, grinding her hips, then bang! Teeth over her lower lip, eyes half closed, looking down at me looking up at her.
With a soft ahhhh, she eases her body back down over mine and we tongue swap again. Then she’s just laying on top of me, head nuzzled in my neck, I feel soft kisses. I think she liked it.
A soft tiny voice, “Next time, I want to fuck you, right after I’ve kissed every inch of those legs.”
“I’m good with that.”
Dasha is on her tummy, chin resting on Daria’s tummy, “Eloise is gud for making sex.”
“Eloise is great for making sex.”
Dasha looks at Eloise, “Dahfoney makes sex with everyone, Janah, Eemaya, Vesnushki, Nikko, Zi, Daria, Dasha, she ees most sexy girl for everyone.”
Eloise, “Then we are all very lucky.”
My new BFF.
Janah, Another conquest?
I was conquested, most delightfully, I’m up for repeated conquestation, as frequently as required, the Mount Lesbian of lascivious lust.

I hear her giggle in my head, Daphinity.
Daria, “Back to work, we will make drone shoot darts, high resolution camera, best audio, better battery.”
“Girls, you did wonderfully, the drone made the work much easier and safer. And we have the five names McKenzie gave us to track down. I’m going to start looking tomorrow, maybe I get lucky. The rest of today is for nothing, but if you would rather work on the drone, that’s up to you.”
Daria, “Relaxing to work, find problem, figure out how to fix. Eloise shows me many electronic things, and mechanicals, soldering wire, what chip to use, where to connect. I ask many questions, Eloise always explain.”
“She’s sweet, I am glad she’s with us, part of our family.”
Eloise rewards me with a kiss, then they are up, refresh in the bathroom and back to the workshop.
Dasha rolls over to me, I snag a kiss, she sits up, “We will make plan for lunch, go to grocery shopping.”
“Good idea, I’ll get dressed and meet you downstairs.”
It takes a bit, we have to clean up from playtime, then dressed, makeup light, I’m downstairs having a cup of coffee with Amaya, when Dasha comes down the stairs. She’s in jeans, and sneakers, with a sweatshirt.
Amaya, “Do not even…..waif, street urchin, we do NOT do Euro-trash in this house. Back upstairs, I shall find you something suitable.”
Dasha blinks, turns back up the stairs followed by Amaya, I hear her mumbling, “Only grocery shopping store, not fahncy restaurant, Russian Tea Room, get all dress up.”
Amaya, “Seven years here, you ought to know better, Communist sympathizer.”
Dasha returns with a silk blouse, bangle bracelets, lip gloss, soft blue eye shadow.
She’s allowed the sneakers, her hair recombed with a single black ribbon over her head, tied underneath her long hair. She’s so cute.
“Looks much better, Amaya, adorable.”
Amaya, “Of course she does, anything would be an improvement over a faded sweatshirt and half combed hair. I am going to be training this ingrate for the rest of her life, which means forever” she kisses Dasha’s cheeks, then her forehead.
“Spasibo, Eemaya, I am looking beautiful now.”
Amaya, “You are welcome, dear one. Find us something delectable for lunch and dinner, I am doing Vesnushki’s nails next, she escaped good grooming while we were away. Then I am writing this afternoon until tea. Perhaps I shall entertain.”
She swirls off dramatically, Dasha looks at me and rolls her eyes, “Eemaya ees,” she stops, mentals Daria, “what ees перфекционист?”

Dasha, “Eemaya ees perfectionist, like Dahfoney, but worse.”
“Shall we visit Mini and Juju first?”
Dasha, “Da.”
We chat with the Jamaicans, they work seven days a week, with time off for hurricanes, scamming the tourists for twenty years at least. I wonder how much ganja they’ve consumed in all that time?
Juju, “De Seelk and Dasha. Child you get more beautiful every minute.”
Dasha, “Eemaya makes beautiful.”
Juju, “Amaya is a great treasure, stunning to behold, best taste in all of Manhattan. She has made us good money wit’ de Night Rain collection, always de best sellers.”
Dasha is fingering a necklace, holds it up, “Ees real Juju, or crap?”
Juju, “If it is on de Night Rain table, it is good. Amaya will make life hell if we don’ have de best dere.”
She picks up three tiny rings and a handful of carved silver bangle bracelets, “How much ees for all?”
Juju, “I would give it to you dear one, but it is not junk, you have a good eye. I could sell for hundred fifty easy”
Dasha, “Bahloney, you sell to sucker for hundred feefty, Dasha ees not sucker, feefty bucks, you make twice what you pay. Maybe don’t pay anything, Quiet Man find on back of truck someplace.”
Juju laughs, big teeth sparkle in the morning sun, “I got to get seventy five, child, we got children to feed.”
Dasha, “Children all haf real job, not selling knocking off to suckers, doctor, lawyer, baseball player. You and Mighty Jeem hanging out here now for fun, not money.”
Mighty Jim, “She got you in spades bro’, mus’ be losin’ you touch.”
Juju shakes his head, “Seelk, can neva get nothin’ over on your people.”
I hand him a hundred, “Keep it Juju, it was worth the show, throw in an extra ring.”
Juju is all smiles, “DeSeelk got class,” he looks at Dasha, “you do well to learn from her young one.”
She’s paying him zero attention, stuffing her purchases into a plastic bag, she turns and walks across to the Village Diner.
Juju laughs again, “Dat girl, I don’ wan’ to have to bargain wit’ her every day, she wear out a diamond.”
“Bullshit Juju, that’s the part you like the best. You got your hundred, have some tokes on me, and keep an eye on our little corner of town.”
Mighty Jim, “Don’ be worryin’ bout dat Miss Daphne, we watch, your people be okay round here.”
I join Dasha, she’s in a booth, Mini comes up, “Hey girls, been outta town, Dasha called and said she wasn’t gonna be in.”
“You know, I’m so out of it, we came over to say hi, but it’s Sunday, why are you here?”
“Guy’s out, wife having a kid. I don’t mind, my life is in here anyway, you hadda road trip?”
“A wilderness adventure.”
Mini, “Don’t suppose the wilderness was in Texas, around Wichita Falls?”
“Funny you should mention that. Susan said the same thing.”
Mini, “Come on, Daph. Serial killer, mass murderer, takes out everyone in the same apartment building, but does it all over town? With poison darts? That’s too stupid to believe. You guys outta town at the same time, that’s not close to coincidental. Must have been some serious assholes, Shadows you call ‘em, like the guy I put you on to.”
“Think darker, much, think twelve of them, think about reading how a cop patrolling an elementary school starts shooting the kids, then think about it happening at two elementary schools at the exact same time.”
Mini’ face, a face that’s seen a lot of shit, goes slack, “You are fuckin’….no, you’re not, this was going down?”
“Tomorrow morning, except it isn’t.”
Mini, “A cop? You have any idea how many lives you saved? Jesus.”
“At least a cop doesn’t carry an assault rifle, or a dozen thirty round clips. It was a diversion, tie up the police while a couple banks were getting cleaned out. Still, kids would have been killed. Couple of them wanted to hang around and get cops at the scene to start shooting each other.”
Mini, “I know I can’t know, and I know I can’t pass this along no place, but at least from me, thank you. I can’t take no more kids dead. I die a little every time I hear about it. I hope you made it painful.”
“They weren’t happy. The problem is, there are more of them out there. Ones we don’t know about.”
Mini sighs a big Mini sigh, “World’s a fucked up place.”
“Yeah, people could be better, but they aren’t.”
Mini looks at Dasha, “You were missed. We cranked out the food, stuck to your recipes, but the customers all asked about you and Daria. I told ‘em you’d be here next week.”
Dasha, “Eef we do not haf to keel Shadow, sister and Dasha will be work, Meeny. Most eemportant ees to keel Shadow.”
Mini, “I got no problem wit’ that.”

Chapter Thirty Six

We’re back from our grocery run, chicken and veg salad for lunch, chips, pickles.
Amaya, “What did you decide for dinner?”
“Dasha saw a stack of prime filets and that ended the meat discussion, Caesar salad, creamed spinach and baked potato, stuff Janah’s with grilled vegetables. Apple cherry cobbler for dessert, with or without vanilla bean ice cream.”
Chloe, “Yummy.”
Nikko, “Kendo anyone?”
Chloe, “Yes, Daphne?”
“I’m in, soon as I get lunch cleared.”
Zi, “Chicken salad was good, tasted like Mini’s.”
“It is Mini’s, we stopped to bat the breeze, got lunch from him, seemed simpler.”
While we swat each other with shinai, Daria and Eloise go back to their workshop, Janah, Zi and Dasha go up to the roof. By the time we’re finished, an hour and a half, I hear Zi coming down, she’s toweling off sweat.
Zi, “I did forms, watched Dasha do her gymnastics thing. Then she and Janah rolled and tumbled all over. Nice workout.”
Daria comes down, rolls out the qi dummies and starts whapping them with punches and kicks. She’s not a martial artist with a style like taekwondo or gung fu, but I’ve taught her proper technique, she’s gotten faster, which translates into more powerful. After twenty minutes, she sits on the floor, ten feet or so from the dummies and makes them buzz using her mind. Fun to watch, I see the bag take a hit for what looks like no reason, the buzzer goes off. Buzzers are placed at a dozen meridian points, which, when struck, will short out a nerve and cause muscle dysfunction. Anything from being unable to stand, catch a breath, right up to stopping a heart.
Nikko, “She is really something. Janah says she’s the next generation, moving to a level beyond us. You check her mind regularly?”
“Yes, there’s no shading of Shadow, no malice or animosity in it. Chloe says her aura is clean, lighter than it used to be. For her, having the skill is a reassurance that she will never be abused again. She has no desire to control people, except the obvious.”
Nikko, “Zi confirms Chloe’s observation. If she can control other’s from a distance, there’s no reason to think she couldn’t control how they see her aura, or even control the aura itself.”
“I hadn’t thought of that, a kind of mental double agent. It’s not that, though. If she were trying to control me, I’d know it, and Chloe and Zi, I think, would see duplicity in the aura. A mix of colors and shadings that shouldn’t be occurring together.”
Nikko, “And I hadn’t thought of that. So, collectively, we don’t think Daria’s headed the wrong way?”
“Things can change, so far, no, not at all.”
Nikko, “She’s been a whiz in our business, precise, even insightful. She’s still quiet as death in meetings, but she misses nothing. The accountants started triple checking everything after she found small errors in the bookkeeping and bank accounts. They are a little mystified, we don’t cut corners, take more deductions than we’re allowed, or create imaginary expenses to reduce taxes. Use the most conservative accounting methods and over reserve for maintenance.”
“And you make money hand over fist anyway.”
Nikko, “Mrs. Fong was always firm but fair with tenants, I followed her guidance. She was more aggressive on rents than we are, other than that, it’s the same. Daria runs rate reports every month, we are below market but only slightly, we make up for it on the property management end.”
“I don’t pay much attention to the business side, how do you get away with higher fees?”
Nikko, “The tenants. We are near instantaneous in response to problems, the buildings are pristine, in and out. Tenants leave for business reasons of their own, but not due to slack property management. And we keep prospective tenants on a list that Zi oversees. They are contacted on a regular schedule, staff members are assigned to each one. Their job is to get to know the prospect, feel out irritants. Satisfied tenants don’t leave, dissatisfied ones do. Those are the ones we’re looking for. They way we do it, we also find out if the complaint is real or we have a grouchy prospect that’s going to be a pain. Those get dropped from the list.”
“Does the owner have a say?”
Nikko, “Only whether they keep us or not. Occasionally an owner thinks he has a potential tenant that sounds like a good catch. We interview them, face to face, the staff  checks them out, financially, relationship with the current landlord, lawsuits. If it’s a no go, we’re able to tell the owner exactly why. I started having Daria read our report. Owners are there with a couple of lawyers, Daria recites the findings, not a piece of paper in her hand, no PowerPoint presentation. We don’t give them anything in writing. When she’s done she gives them the Daria Death Stare.”
“They don’t ask to see a written report?”
Nikko, “When they do, Daria blinks as if she’s dealing with a small child, I ask if they want a paper trail that can come back to haunt them later. That ends that.”
“They ever try to override you?”
Nikko, “Occasionally. It’s some bullshit like, ‘I know Harry is crusty, but I’ve known him since blah, blah and he won’t do that to me.’ I explain that he will do that to us and we aren’t interested in handling him. First time he doesn’t like something, he’s on the phone to the owner, the owner is calling me to appease him. We don’t do it that way. If we can’t deliver an acceptable bottom line, fire us, but I’m not getting fired over his bad decision.”
“And they go for it?”
Nikko, “Apart from terminating our contract, they have to, we have to approve the client, not them. Couple of the lawyers tried to hire Daria.”
“For what?”
Nikko, “To do the same thing for them she does for us. She can memorize a three page report with a fair amount of numbers in it and deliver it word for word, in a dead flat monotone. They ask her questions, she never answers, doesn’t get flustered, doesn’t care what they think. They like that, it’s intimidating.”
“So who answers the questions?”
Nikko, “Me, sometimes Zi. It takes them a few questions before they figure out the answers are identical, ‘Our conclusion is that the tenant is not suitable. If we don’t follow our own guidelines, we aren’t any good to ourselves or to you.’ They surrender.”
Daria stands, good thing, the qi dummies need a rest.
“Tea is at four today, pass along to the others please,” I go off to the kitchen to slice apples and open a couple of cans of pitted cherries. When the apples are done, I put them in water with lemon juice and stick them in the refrigerator, let the cherries sit in the colander. Nothing more to do now and a shower is in order, up to our room, Janah’s parked in front of the water rock in meditation.

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