Chapter Thirty Seven VI     

Chapman’s auditorium is packed with parents and students. If the program gets any bigger Lacy may need to rent Lincoln Center. The Pamela Andersons are here, a three girl band, two guitars and Zipper on drums. The twins that play guitar look like Pamela Anderson from the early Baywatch days before she had gynormous boobs installed.  There’s enough and there’s too much, Pamela went overboard. Zipper and I catch up. They’d been playing clubs along the East Coast, paying their way, not getting rich, but getting ahead. For them, it was more fun than a nine to five.
Zipper, “We love it, sometimes the travel gets to be a drag. We have a bus, set up and take down isn’t a big deal, it’s two guitars, my drum set, amps, speakers if the club doesn’t have what we want. A good soundboard guy. Sometimes drummers drown out the vocals, he adjusts for that really well and he’s a whiz at compensating for the acoustics in the room. I see all the honeys are still in place, where’s the kid you told me about?”
“Getting dressed. She added a Gangstagrass song, so she’s doing two. Try not to flip out, it’s almost out of body when you hear it.”
Zipper, “You guys pick up the craziest posse.”
“That’s Janah’s doing, you went to Chapmans, you meet whackos by default. Remember Joan Wayne?”
Zipper, “Yeah, who could forget? You keep in touch with the pint sized cowgirl?”
“Janah does, she’s doing forensics in California, we went out on a mini vacation, caught up with her. She’s still adorable, still in her own world, sort of morphed the cowgirl look to southern California cowgoth.”
The show is mostly pop rock, no heavy metal, too bad. A couple of ballads, electronica with a light show. A Mozart piano piece, each song followed by the frenzied applause of enthusiastic parents and more enthusiastic students.
One of the students, Halloween Franks, is MC. Halloween, a nickname awarded by the Chapmans students, is another Chapmans strange-o, a drama student, heavily into horror. Tonight she’s doing zombie, stringy hair, wearing a bloodstained wedding dress, a version of her everyday school attire. Chapman’s doesn’t have a dress code. She steps to the mike while Amaya’s backup singers get set for Long Hard Times To Come by Gangstagrass, mostly a rap bass beat with a banjo and guitar.
Halloween, "We have a special guest this evening, a freak called Amaya, who I accidentally had the privilege of seeing perform. I was fresh out of the grave, on my way to hell, when I floated past the music room, and there she was. Rather than explain the unexplainable, I’ll let you experience it firsthand, like I did. And before you leap to an unwarranted conclusion, she is not lip-synching. Suzanna Altermann does not allow lip-synch, the penalty is crucifixion."
Amaya steps on stage, auburn hair, snug leather pants, white long sleeve silk shirt, black leather vest. She wears calf high spike heel leather boots. The only bling is the silver chain the Jamaicans gave her and laminate multicolor bracelets. Janah put a touch of dark eye shadow on her lids, no other make-up. She’s ice hot cool.
The audience gives her a polite round of applause, Amaya announces the song, “If you’ve seen the TV series Justified, this is the opening theme song, Long Hard Times To Come, by Tone-Z.
She doesn’t waste any more words, just begins. She sounds exactly like Tone-Z, the ambiguity of the girl and the voice is both disconcerting and astounding. Her voice copies his deep resonance and pace. At the finish, a final plink from the banjo, there is a short stunned silence, then screams of a hundred young women and thunderous applause from mystified parents.
Zipper leans to my ear, “She’s not lip-synching, how the fuck does she do it?”
“Beats us. She’s not even sure. She says it’s just there. Even stranger, she picks up the lyrics after a couple of listens, we printed them out just so some of the vague phrases in the original were clear, but she had most of it just listening.”
“Damn and double damn.”
“Just wait, you like Joe Cocker?”
Zipper, “Who doesn’t? Don’t tell me…”
“Close your eyes, I think you’ll find it interesting.”
The band members swap around, the song calls for more instruments, keyboard, piano, trumpets, organ, and backup singers, two high school girls, one black, Magenta, one Latin American, MJ as I recall and the music director Suzanna Altermann herself..
Amaya’s matter of fact announcement, “A Little Help from My Friends, the cover version by Joe Cocker.”
The organ goes into the intro, the big guitar riff, then Amaya kicks in, Zipper closes her eyes, Amaya sings, “What would you do if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?”
A few lines later Zipper says, “I would swear under oath I’m at a Cocker concert.”
Her eyes pop open to confirm she isn’t, Amaya channels Joe, the backups singers catch every soulful note perfectly. When she’s done, five minute standing ovation.
Zipper, “My God. Do you have any idea how incredible that is? What is she, twelve?”
“Fuck you say.”
“Well, I didn’t say it, but I get your meaning.”
Zipper, “You have any idea what she could do on American Idol? There wouldn’t be a competition.”
I laugh, “She’s not going on any TV show. For her, it’s just something she has, she wouldn’t have done this, but Susanna pleaded.”
Zipper, “Where’s she in school, how do you know her?”
“Right now, she’s in the home school of Janah and Nikko. She’s someone we met, and Janah became her legal guardian. She lives with us.”
Zipper looks at me, she isn’t a dope, she’s a Chapmans alum, “No point in asking I presume?”
Zipper, “If she ever decides to go public, I want to produce her. Shit, I want to drum for her. Our sound guy would go apeshit.”
“Deal. First, school, then she decides. We’ll see.”
The Chapmans kids surround Amaya, high fives and hugs, it takes an hour for the gym to empty.
Amaya is only a little wound up, a couple of years of being in front of a camera in her underwear had given her a certain nonchalance, she appreciates the appreciation, takes it in stride, big grin on her flawless face. She’d found out early, being beautiful and talented have downsides, ones she’d lived. She has no intention of reliving them.

Chapter Thirty Eight VI

Discard all traditional standards, leave them to the hypocrites.
Only what liberates you from desire, fear and wrong ideas is good.
As long as you worry about sin and virtue, you will have no peace.
Nisargadatta, I Am That

Amaya has her moment in the spotlight, makes friends at Chapmans. She’s finding her footing, building her identity. Janah rehearsed her ‘story,’ conveniently making it such that her ‘parents’ traveled so much, she didn’t know them that well. She’d been in boarding schools, or had nannies ever since she could remember. If she’d gotten celebrity status at this point in her life, there would have been media searches for her place of birth, who the deceased parents were, where she’d gone to school, all the blather that would have led to more questions. The Society is establishing a credible, if vague, history up until the point Janah became her guardian.
We have other fish to fry, and decide it might be a good idea for Amaya to have a stay with the moms for a week, depending on how long it takes to get the subway matter cleared.
Janah tells Amaya at breakfast, “We’re going to be tied up for next week. You, lucky girl, are going to get spoiled by the moms. If you wish, Miyako can do sleepovers, or you may want to be spoiled all by yourself.”
Amaya, “You’re not leaving town or anything?”
“Not for this. There will be trips occasionally, another reason to make sure you’re familiar with the moms condo, the neighborhood, and who to call if there’s any problem. If you want to spend the night with Ning, that’s okay. You have lots of friends, all living in the same building, or two blocks away.”
Amaya, “What about my studies?”
Janah, “Sis won’t let you off the hook. I have lessons planned for the week. If we’re not out late, or working, we’ll stop by and check up. Don’t sweat, all of us have cell phones. Best to text, but if it’s an emergency, call right away. Do you understand?”
“Sure. Think I can con the moms into shopping?”
“Sis, no. Work on C-mom, she’s a sucker for her daughters, she’ll probably cut you more slack. K-mom is easy going, but she often lives in another place in her head, particularly when she’s painting. You’re not likely to have much luck there. If she’s not painting, she likes the occasional shopping trip.”
Janah, “And I expect you to work on the yoga we’ve started. Sis knows you have a program, so study, yoga, then worry about scamming them for clothes or whatever.”
Amaya looks to Nikko, “You’ll call me every day?”
Nikko cocks her head, no reply.
Amaya grins, “That means yes. I’m learning Nishiko’s non-language.”
Nikko strokes her hair, “Do well. Demonstrate diligence, as Mrs. Fong told you, don’t be lazy, be useful.”
Amaya, “I will…mom,” affirming the promise and sealing Nikko’s heart with one magic word.
Chris takes Amaya and a small bag of clothes, it’s not like she’s going out of town, we live two blocks over. Amaya is chatting away, Chris listening. James will have an opportunity to observe. There will be no therapy, if there are undercurrents, he’d pick them up. If not, leave well enough alone.
Janah, “Okay, so where are we?”
“I’m going to talk to Mini. I think we might get jumpstarted if you check with Mrs. Epstein and see what they’ve uncovered. Then we can see what matches up. Nikko goes with you know who.”
Janah, “I’m not going anywhere, Mrs. E and I can talk on the phone. Nikko stays with me to think things over, or in case I get a lust attack.”
“Good to think ahead, which is different from planning, consider possibilities, and understand that possibilities are infinite.”
Janah, “Don’t you have to see Mini?”
“I’m going. I just needed to toss out an insightful aphorism first.”
I stop to visit the Jamaicans, “Any conversation about dealing on the midtown subway, not drugs, kids?”
Juju, “Nuttin’ down dis’ way. Seelk, look, it don’ make it right, but dey sell kids all over the world.”
“Not when I find out about it they don’t.”
“Dat’s it. I got kids at home, so does all de’ boys. You want us to look into it, Mighty Jim, he fix.”
“Not yet, just keep your ears open, don’t ask. We have lines on these guys, I don’t want them on alert.”
Juju, “Keep in touch, Seelk. Bring us good news, or Mighty Jim and Quiet man, dey’ gonna make a mess on de subway. Ripping off tourists with our junk is one ting, selling kids, dat’s a different ting.”
I walk over to the diner, check with Mini and go to the back room.
Mini comes in with coffee, I sip; man I love the diner’s coffee. Chuck makes Starbucks look like a Dollar store. And, to his credit, he doesn’t sell skinny soy anything, or any crap faux coffee drinks ending in ‘iccino.’
“Tell Chuck, if I liked men, I do him just for the coffee.”
Mini laughs, “I can’t do that, he’d have a fuckin’ heart attack. Anyways, I have some news, uglier than me.”
“You aren’t ugly Mini, you’re unique, beautifully unique.”
Mini laughs again, “God, my girls, I wish you weren’t in such a dangerous business. You and Nikko could model, she could still come in here and not eat, Janah could be a flash drive for some Fortune 500. I could feed her, and not have to worry.”
“Waste of time, worry about Janah’s next omelet.”
“That’s what Chuck says, I’d be better off worrying about who you was lookin’ for.”
“There you go, see, Chuck’s all over it. So what do we have?”
Mini, “Shitsuckers called 57st St. Delivery, I suppose you can figure out why.”
“Yep. So who and where?”
“I know who, to a point. Problem is, where it stops don’t make sense. My guys know the gang. The boss is called Jimmy Chew, like the shoe guy, but c-h-e-w. Likes to eat, three twenty easy.”
“So, the problem is, he’s too busy stuffing his yap to be this creative, and he doesn’t have the connections to pull it off. They aren’t selling kids to poor people.”
Mini, “That’s it. Chew’s a putz, nobody in the upper class food chain would piss on him if he was lit up. Rich people buy drugs from them, but kids, too dicey. He was running a territory with kids delivering and dealing, oversight by a couple of pieces of muscle named Elegante and Francisco, both barrio losers. Pimping out the kids is coming from someplace else. Chew’s people deliver, otherwise he’s too close to street punk for the buyers. His crew doesn’t even collect the payment, that’s handled elsewhere. The kids aren’t being rented to guys in trench coats in an alley. They’re being cleaned and dressed, delivered to fashionable neighborhoods, mid East and West sides, mostly East.”
“So we don’t know who the contact is to rent a child. Chew’s involvement is limited to pickup and drop off. I have to report to the boss, and you have hungry mouths to feed. See you before long.”
Mini, “Something else.”
Mini, “And, you better friggin’ remember, just cause they deal with the white collars, Chew’s people are assholes. They got no morals, no conscience.”
“Sounds like our cup of tea.”
Mini shakes his head, rumbles back to his kitchen, barking orders to a staff that long ago quit paying attention. They have their thing down cold, Mini’s letting them know he’s back, like they could miss a three fifty mass of humanity in the tight space.
I return to the apartment, Janah’s in the meditation loft, Nikko is doing forms.
“Take a break, what did Janah find out?”
“That the Society might take a couple of days to find out who else is involved besides the guy Mini came up with.”
“We could always just go see Chew and extract the information ourselves.”
Janah appears, “I thought about that. I’m giving the Society time to find out so when we ask Chew questions, we already know the answers.”
“Wouldn’t it be more fun for Nikko to coerce the answers out of him?”
“Maybe, but tortured people will say anything. Nikko gets to put him down, I just want to see the expression on his face when he figures out we know more than he does.”
Janah’s speaking softly, which means she’s really pissed. She had all she could take of adults selling children. Amaya was the last straw. Then this in our own backyard.
Nikko, “We need to sharpen katana.”
We set to work, Nikko soaked the stones in water and baking soda. One hundred strokes pushing the entire blade up the stone, then one hundred on the other side. We use a Honyama Awasi (Brown Stone.) It isn’t to sharpen the blades, they’re already sharp. Just to refresh and remove any extraneous material. There really isn’t extraneous material, we do all this right after we use them. It’s a ritual, a meditation, preparing the mind for things to come. We dry the blades carefully, powder them with a powder ball, wipe them with rice paper. Finally, lightly coat the blades with acid free sword oil and wipe them again to remove any excess. Now they’re ready for their intended purpose, and so are we.
Janah kneels with us, sitting on our knees in front of a small shrine, under the spot the katana hang. It’s in honor of Hanshi, Nikko’s father, our teacher. A candle is lit, the room dark. We kneel in silence for a half hour.
Janah, “Light training only, bokken, if you do forms, then Tai Chi style.”
“Is Chan coming?”
Janah, “Depends on what I hear from Mrs. Epstein. There are thirty members of 57th St Delivery. We don’t know who’s running the kids. Could be a few guys only. The kids are provided by 57th St. The guys on top take control of the children and provide the clients. The fewer people in the loop, the better. Most of gang probably doesn’t know about the kids, perhaps just rumors.”
“Do we take them too?”
Janah, “Haven’t decided. A gang is complicated. Members who hear rumors might not like what’s going down, but if they complain, they suffer severe consequences. So, do we blame them? They have mothers, girlfriends, maybe kids that have no idea what daddy does. Gang members start out thinking they’re buying into a form of protection and money. Doesn’t take long for the smarter ones to realize they just sold their souls and there’s no simple way out.”
Nikko, “How are we going to sort it?”
Janah, “I’m working on it, short answer is, I don’t know yet.”
Given that we aren’t ready to take action, we take action and nap. Then I make, guess what, tea, and we watch one of my miraculous fly through the air martial arts movies. We call Amaya, put her on the speaker, she’s in spoiled child heaven.
“Everything is about me. This is great!!”
“Yeah, I used to hold that spot until you came along.”
Amaya giggles, “Not exactly, I have heard about a thousand Janah and Daphne stories. You guys have had an interesting life, the temple, all the martial arts, Chan, Black and David. All the old Masters, now gone. I finally got them to focus on me, so tomorrow, we shop….yaaaay! Tonight Chinese, and any movie I want. I am taking spoiled to a whole new level.”
Nikko, “Enjoy it while you can. When you return, it’s back to regular kid, and hard work.”
Amaya, “Have to go, time for class. I am going to watch C-mom and Sis teach taekwondo. I will text soon.”
Nikko hangs up, “Sounds like the moms are adding just the right amount of love and coddling. She deserves that.”
“Yes, she does. And speaking of spoiled, I’d like to spoil you both by letting you have your way with me.”
Janah, “It’s good, how you always think of us first.”
“Come and get it while it’s hot.”
I am deeply and sensitively ravished, and do my own ravishing, then batteries start to die so we decide to shower and eat, something besides each other. (Did I just say that!!)
While I wash Nikko’s hair, Janah calls Empire Szechuan, Amaya put ideas in our head. By the time the delivery comes, we’re wrapped in long cotton robes, wet hair up in towels.
We eat right out of the boxes, feeding each other on the mat and watching Deputy US Marshall Raylan Gibbons shoot people. Nourished, sexually sated and relaxing into a stimulatingly threatening Kentucky bluegrass crowd of murderers, dealers, prostitutes, oxy-heads and thieves. I throw away the boxes, we brush teeth and whatnot, collapse into the bliss of sleep and each other.

Chapter Thirty Nine VI

The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary;
he will come only on the day after his arrival;
he will come not on the last day, but on the very last.
 Franz Kafka, Parables and Paradoxes

Today we practice, Amaya texts every hour to tell us about a new store. We already know all the stores in Soho, but she doesn’t, it’s fun reading her enthusiasm.
Then, she calls, “Ohmygod!!! I got my first pair of Jimmy Choos. Sora Uggs!! I am sooo cool. And you should see my leather pants, and my skirts, and my…..”
Nikko, “We’ll see everything, you live here remember?”
Amaya, “I love New York. Tell Daphne, I am never, ever, leaving the city. Oh god, I will call later, going into Bliss!!!”
Nikko, “We’re going to need to have a chat with the moms.”
I laugh, “Did you really believe this was going some other way? The first grandchild, or whatever? They bring her to Nirvana, we bring her back to Earth. A few rounds on the parkour course will teach her about balance, fearlessness and good sense. And she hasn’t even met your parents yet.”
Nikko, “I hadn’t thought of that. They have grandchildren though, so not as big a deal as moms. Amaya may wind up working in stores.”
“That might be her best education.”
Nikko, “Once Ari discovers her singing voice, there will be further training. Amaya is Geisha.”
“Of course!!! Duh, Where is my brain? She’s perfect for the tea ceremony and the entertainment. She will eat up the whole extravaganza. We go to Hanshi’s Friday, shall we introduce her then?”
Nikko, “When 57th St. is finished. Today is Wednesday, if we wrap up this gang business by next week, then next Friday. We will go, just you and I, and practice day after tomorrow if there’s nothing on the gangs. I don’t want to get Amaya all pumped up and them have to bail out.”
We practice with bokken, get excited texts from Amaya, do tai chi forms, sit in qi meditation. That chews up the afternoon. I make light snacks, Janah had been in the meditation loft the entire time, comes down when she smells the strong green tea, cranberry-pomegranate. Not like a tea ceremony, but that isn’t the point. I drink espresso, a double, when would the flipping phone ring?
The phone rings, Janah clicks it on, it’s Mrs. Epstein, “Surveillance tracked down a contact, not with the gang. I didn’t realize that the gang is, well, what’s the word…?”
Janah, “Not minorities?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
Janah, “One of our local resources said they were skinhead wannabees. That eliminates Latinos, Afros and Asians. Mostly that leaves Euro-trash, Russians, Slavs of one variety or another. Not many Indian gangs, too busy studying for their SATs.”
Mrs. Epstein laughs, “You profiling?”
“I guess. We know Indian families, at least Daphne does. Their kids go to tutoring before school and tutoring after school. Doesn’t leave much time for selling dope on the subway.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Got a point. The gang boss, Jimmy Chew, met with a very nasty looking couple of Slavic types in, get this, the Russian Tea Room.”
Janah, “Jimmy Choos, Jimmy C-h-e-w-s, Russian gang bosses meeting in the Russian Tea Room. This is beginning to sound like a Dan Brown novel.”
“The protagonist is Vladimir Karpofsky. Is every Russian asshole called Vladimir?”
Janah laughed, “No, some are just Boris.”
“We have drifted far off the road of political correctness.”
Janah, “Right now, I don’t care. I am sick of child selling, child abuse and people whose ethical stance is, if it’s profitable, it’s moral. My girls are going to be unleashed. I also don't care how big Vlad's army is, or how tough they are.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Okay. One observation. This will go better in cold calculation, not hostility or vengeance.”
Janah, “This isn’t about vengeance, there’s hostility, I confess. This is about doing what needs to be done.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Have you decided on that? A plan?”
Janah, “Sort of, it’s pointless to plan to the millisecond, when the action starts, the game changes. We improvise as it unfolds.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Here’s Vladimir’s address,” a place in the East 80’s, posh enough neighborhood. 51st Floor, penthouse.
Janah, “Do you know if he’s the end of the line?”
Mrs. Epstein, “Good question. We’re tapping his phones and have hacked his e-mail. Give me a day before you start body part realignment. There may be bigger fish. Let’s deal with the whole lot.”
Janah, “Good. We’re waiting.”
Janah calls Chan, “I need to see you and David on the roof.”
Five minutes later Janah is passing David pictures of much of the 57th Street Delivery, Vladimir and his address.
“I need to know if Vladimir moves. If he does, where he goes and who he sees. Phones and computers are covered. If he’s dealing with people out of the country, we’ll soon find out. If he has local superiors, I need to know. Don’t worry about the time, we can all sleep later.”
Chan nods, Janah comes back to the apartment, “I left David Li surrounded by his friends, and the Peregrines and two barn owls. If Vladdie takes a pee in the park, we’re going to know. We go into meditation. We need to be rested, but I told David and Chan that I wanted to know if Vladimir moves an inch, whatever the time.”
Long experience has taught us how to rest and remain alert. We sit cross legged on the mat, go into no mind. There is only white noise in the apartment, a machine that provides a variety of relaxing sounds. We listen to rainfall and mild background thunder, the lights low. I hear Chan coming down the stairs, I nudge Nikko to answer the door, I go into coffee and tea mode.
If he has something, it’s going to be a long night; if he had nothing, it’s going to be a long night. Caffeine doesn’t matter, we won’t sleep anyway.
Chan, “The one called Vladimir went to an apartment on 75th St. Five stories, floors four and five are occupied like normal condos. The first floor has three retail shops, the second floor is empty. The third has several rooms, about a half dozen occupants. Men with guns. The one in charge lives on the fourth. The fifth is like a dormitory, ten bunk beds, each with a child. Twenty children. The birds call them fledglings. That means an age range of six to twelve.”
Janah, “Do you have any feel for who’s in charge, Vladimir or the occupant? I’m guessing Vladimir, the occupant is a guard.”
“Not that simple. Vladimir and he have a cordial exchange, drink, smoke, appear to be friendly. When Vladimir leaves, he is treated with courtesy by the men on the third floor, but not with extreme deference.”
“Then they are partners, but Vladimir has a bit of an upper hand, he doesn’t have to live with the product.”
Nikko, “Perhaps 4th floor likes it that way. He can sample the product before it is sold.”
Janah, “You have a nasty mind, likely accurate unfortunately.’”
“Can Nikko and I get busy? This is enough. If we sit on our butts waiting to catch every fish, another child gets sold. We can find out easily enough, with other means, if there’s anyone further up the line.”
Janah, “You’re right, of course.”
“I’m always right, even when I’m wrong.”
Janah, “Go for it. He’s alone, wait until you hear from me to go for the kids. I don’t want to try for the kids first and have someone calling him. Chan will take Vladimir to a quiet place for us to chat. Deal with the others, get the kids gone, then Chew, and the top dogs of 57th St.”
“You want to talk to Vladdie to see if there’s contacts out of the country.”
Janah, “Yes, and when you remove the rest, make the message clear, very clear.”
“Done, what else?”
“Call Black, tell him I need him here, now. I’ll fill him in.”
“It may take while for him to get here from Brooklyn. I’m calling C-mom to hang until he shows.”
I call Chris, “I need you, only you, here now. Make some excuse, Sis will catch on. Get Amaya back to the condo, the family stays home. Monks will be around. Order in.”
Chris doesn’t ask, I click off and call Black, Sonia picks up, “It’s Daph, Black around?”
Sonia, “I take it this isn’t a social call, hang on,” Black’s on, “I need you at the apartment. Janah will explain.”
He doesn’t even say goodbye. It’s getting dark, Nikko and I gear up, Chan already gone. Good old Vlad is in for a long night. Nikko and I finish face painting, braided hair down our shirts, a nice scar for me, and a hànzi tattoo Janah applied, it means nothing, just looks Chinese. Nikko goes with Geisha white and black head scarf, her death mask. We string katana across our backs, fill our pockets with shuriken and our sheathes with blades, both of us with stainless chains.
I call the temple, monks are dispatched to the condo in street clothes, then to the apartment on 75th to help remove the kids.
C-mom appears, Nikko and I evaporate. A black town car waits outside, driven by a monk. We don’t chat.
Half an hour later, Nikko and I are on top of the building. No mystery how we got there, a leap from a fire escape on the building next door.
Now, we’re fiddling with the roof exit door. My lock picking skills are pretty good, heightened sense of touch and hearing. Nikko oils the hinges while I play break and enter. The door will open as soon as I hear from Janah. I can hear kids talking, video games, a TV echoing up the stairs.
Twenty minutes passes, Target acquired.
Nikko and I creep down the stairway. The roof exit is at the end of the hall, the apartment door halfway down; only one apartment on each floor, there’s a storage closet near the roof stairway.
I step to the door, listen. There’s movement inside, I wait ten minutes, Nikko by the stairwell. Only one person inside, unless there’s a dead guy. No TV on, I can hear the clack of computer keys. I don’t know if I can bust the door before he can log off, or trash the computer.
Nishiko, we have three choices, hope I can get the door open before he sends any messages or destroys the computer. If we get the fire alarm to go off, it will start the sprinkler system and make another mess, maybe we cut the power to this floor. Any ideas?
He doesn’t know one kid from another, bang on the door and sound like a child. Say the toilet’s busted in their apartment. That will bring him to the door. Even if he doesn’t open it, he won’t be by his computer. Kick it, hard, and bust his head in the process.
I assume you can deal with one asshole. When you kick in the door, I’m going for the kids. They go to the roof and wait. Anyone but you comes through that door, they get sliced. When we’re done with the third floor, we take the kids downstairs and right out the door to a van.
Got it.

I knock on the door, squat down, he can’t see me through the peephole, I’m a little kid.
I raise my pitch, going for tentative and needy, mumbling, “The potty is broken on our floor.”
I hear him approach the door, close enough to look out, “What did you say, I can’t see you.”
“I’m Danielle, I’m too small. We need to pee-pee, and the toilet won’t flush. We don’t know what to do.”
“Fuck, I’ll call someone.”
I spring up, kick the door fast and hard. It slams into his back. He pitches forward, doesn’t fall, as he turns, I see he’s locked and loaded, so I take his wrist with my chain. Gun on the floor. Chump holding his hand watching the blood spurt.
My katana is unsheathed. He looks perplexed, then he looks dead. I take the hard drive from the computer, trash the rest, go to find Nikko.
In the hall a troop of kids is being shepherded up the steps, the oldest maybe twelve. They are past being scared. Nikko could have told them to jump off the roof, it would have been better than their prospects before we showed up.
C-mom is already on the roof.
“What in hell?”
“You didn’t seriously think I was going to sit around with Janah and Black with a building full of child sellers right in my town? I have two monks, a male and a female. Slight change of plan. They are taking the kids across to an apartment on the other side, the place is occupied, tenants are out of town. We’ll move the kids through, close up the apartment, they’ll never know anyone was there.”
“Geez, how’d the Society get that done so fast?”
C-mom, “They didn’t. I had a quiet chat with the building super, who is resting comfortably in a storage room behind the elevators. After some persuasion, he gave me the passkey and begged me to leave him alone.”
“He see you?”
“Do I look that stupid?”
I smile, C-mom is in her element.
“Let’s clean house.”
The monks start moving the kids through to the next building, talking softly, reassuring all would be well. Chris, Nikko and I start down the stairs to the fifth floor, then the stairwell to the third floor.
“Chris, you get to kick in the door, then get to the ground floor fire escape, there will be shots fired, Nikko and I will have them under control, but one or two may have the presence of mind to hit the fire escape. Don’t leave them in any state but persistent death. Can you do it?”
“Fuckin’ A I can do it, I hope they all come down the goddamn fire escape.”
She gives the door such a kick the whole thing flies off, deadbolts, hinges…the door sails into the room.
Nikko and I jump in, katana in one hand, shuriken in the other. Steel flies, sharp and deadly. Guns pulled, shots are fired, but we are everywhere and nowhere. I see guns moving in slow motion. Bullets take their time floating past me. Our katana, on the other hand, are barely visible, soon there are five dismembered bodies, and one broken window. I hear a muffled scream, scramble down the fire escape, Nikko behind me.
C-mom stands over a guy on the ground with his head facing his ass. Deader than a Congressman’s soul.
C-mom, “The rest?”
“Are resting in pieces.”
“Then we find Chew.”
I’m in no position to argue, she’d come up with a plan to get the kids gone, and she dealt with one target who might have escaped, at the least I would have had to chase him down 2nd avenue.
We move to a safe spot, away from this mess, Janah tells me where to look for Chew and crew. I know she wants this cleaned up in one night, not give the rats time to run. Right now, Chew doesn’t know anything is wrong. We don’t plan to let him find out, until it goes wrong for him.

Chapter Forty VI

I used to care, but… things have changed.
Things Have Changed, Bob Dylan

Janah is taking a break, Vladimir’s hallucinating. She’d loaded him up with an LSD and Ketamine combo she’s gotten quite skilled with. Right now he’s past Jupiter, on his way out of the galaxy. Strobes in his face, headphones blasting away screeching metal, not music, just grinding metal, deep bass thunder, the sound of a rocket leaving Earth, then more tearing, grinding. If there’s someone higher in the hierarchy, within a few hours he’ll be begging to give them up.
He initially tried to cut a deal, pay Janah a rather substantial sum of money. After she explained she’d already taken his money, down to the details of his accounts, he tried menacing. The usual threats, connections, how she would die.
Chan touches his neck, pain shoots through his brain, he starts to palpitate, sweat pours.
“Care to make further threats? He’s only playing around now. He can make it much worse.”
Vladimir says nothing, his agony shows, his eyes wide, trying to think his way out.
“There’s no exit. Quit racing your mind. You have nothing we want, you’re an empty drum. Here’s the only deal you get. I put you through hell, pharmaceutically speaking, and you tell me who you report to, or you can just tell me.”
Vlad, “What do I get, to just give it up?”
“A quick death versus a slow one. You see, you are not leaving this room alive, no matter which way it goes, I will have the information. You will die. It’s merely a matter of comfort.”
“Fuck you!”
“Not likely, I’m a lesbian,” she starts the IV drip and Vlad resumes his state of near madness.
While Vladimir’s mind hyperventilates, she mentals me, Chew and his top dogs are hanging at a private club in Brooklyn. It’s a two story affair, music, a bar on the ground, open warehouse style, private VIP rooms upstairs. There are half a dozen rooms, five are playrooms, and the sixth is half the floor, full bar, music can be piped in from the club, or shut down and they watch sports or porn on various flat screen TVs.
I wonder if they have any Jet Li movies?

Janah, Don’t dick around, they all carry.
C-mom, Nikko and I go in search of Jimmy Chew, same car that got us to the apartment materializes on 2nd Avenue, we head to the Brooklyn Bridge, over, then to the far edge. Somebody picked a pretty good spot. Near enough to subways, but not near to neighbors who would complain about noise and drugs. Young adults and near-young adults of every variety lined up outside. It isn’t a velvet rope joint. There’s a capacity of two hundred fifty, Chew has bouncers keep a careful count. Drug dealing in the club is prohibited, patrons brought their X or Coke with them, handy dealers in the two blocks around the club. Everyone except Jimmy’s people go through a metal detector. No knives, guns or brass knuckles allowed. It makes the crowd feel safe and keeps out serious troublemakers.
57th St. sells them their drug of choice, sells them tickets to get in, then sells them booze. Money flows, green and liquid. Cops take their cut, everybody’s happy.
We have no interest in the club itself, and no intention of going in the front door. Katana won’t do well at the metal detector, not to mention the knives Nikko and I carry. This is a roof grand entrance thing.
C-mom, “What’s the plan?”
“We go to the building next door, it’s two stories higher. Rappel down, open the roof exit and drop in a tear gas grenade, then another. The birds told David, that men are stationed on the roof. I brought along my tranquilizer rifle. We go up the fire escape, I take out the guys on the roof of the club, we rappel down and get busy.”
C-mom, “What do you want me to do?”
“Same as last time, except you watch for people trying to escape to the roof while Nikko and I are entertaining Chew’s people on the VIP floor. The stairwell to the roof  is at the back of the big room. I presume Chew arranged it that way if he has to make a quick exit. If a female comes out, clock her and leave it. If it’s a guy, he goes to Paradise, or whatever skinheads believe in. We don’t want to talk, we don’t want them to talk, ever. They will be gagging from gas, but still armed. Up for it?”
“Watch me.”
Pop, pop, two down, ropes dangling, three women bouncing down the thirty or so feet to the club roof.
The roof door isn’t locked, no point. Guys are supposed to be up here guarding, except I tranquilized them. Two monks, females in hot girl mode, entered the club two hours earlier. The bouncer who stands at the stairway to the second floor VIP area never knew what hit him. One minute he was chatting up a steamy Asian female with a miniskirt that gave new meaning to the word mini, the next he’s passed out and being ‘helped’ to the storage closet underneath the stairwell.
Two women in short skirts, stacked heels and halter tops going up to the VIP floor don’t merit much notice. Just VIPs ordering additional entertainment, happens all the time.
When the monks enter the hallway, they find the big room to the left, use L-shaped brass ball catches for an unusual purpose. The door opens inward. So, to barricade it, they screw the catches to the edge of the door, then the frame. They put in four, two top, two bottom. The door is sealed shut from the outside. They stuff a wet towel along the bottom of the door. They’d avoided the metal detector by a deceptively simple means. A monk replaced the liquor delivery man. A couple of cartons of booze, and the equipment, went into the storage area. The women simply retrieved the battery operated screwdrivers and catches when they dumped the bouncer. Nobody in the room heard anything over the blaring dance music.
When the door is sealed, one monk hits a cell message, it pops up on my phone, Done.
Nikko follows me down, a closed door, music pumping behind it. Good. If anyone inside could even hear the door open, it would be a guard coming to take a leak….wouldn’t it?
I toss in a tear gas canister, then a second. The fifteen men and half dozen ‘ladies’ bolt to the entrance door. Uh oh, door isn’t cooperating. Gasping and choking, those left with their senses head to the roof stairs. Nikko and I wait at the top, Chris off to one side. The men, cowards that they are, come stumbling out first, guns drawn. They can’t see jack, heads and hands come off like a slaughter house factory line.
I turn to see Chris taking on two men, one clocks her in the jaw, she smiles and wipes the blood from her lip. Then she stops his heart with one powerful blow, she isn’t a master for nothing. Number two pulls a pistol, Chris steps to the side, snatches the pistol with one hand, locks his elbow with the other and snaps it, the gun clatters to the roof. As the scream leaves his throat, she plants her knee deep into his vitals and crushes his windpipe. I doubt he has time to feel his balls crush before he asphyxiates.
Women pour out, if they aren’t armed, we shove them to the side.
I look over at Nikko, she’s bleeding from the top of her arm, Chris has a flesh wound on her side. I’m clean. Only speed and the teary eyed gassed state of the shooters kept us from much worse.
While we were getting shot at and mincing up the top dog Nazi wannabees of 57th St. Delivery, our two monks were kicking in doors in the VIP area, the other five rooms.
One minor celebrity nobody, the rest are average nobodies, just had the cash to pay for a blow job. The monks kick them down the hallway, then down the stairs. The women screeching after them. The music in the club overwhelms mere howling. One of the gang, trapped in the VIP room, has the presence of mind to phone the bouncers downstairs. As two bouncers pile up the stairway, they are met by two monks, who send them ass backwards down again. The monks walk down the steps as if they’d been freelancing in the VIP rooms, stroll though the club and out the front door.
The bouncer who checks ID’s and keeps a head count nods to them as they leave, “Night ladies, come again.”
A town car pulls up, the women roll into the night.
Nikko and C-mom have flesh wounds, they’re Dermabonded and Lidocained, ready to rock.
I see you’re okay.
I see the bullets, I see the finger start to squeeze, the eagle and the owl have prepared me well.
When this is over, we shall go and see them. Amaya has never seen the pristine lake, the great falls. She will sing for them, and they will be pleased.
I wonder if her ability to imitate voices extends to the animals?

Janah, I hadn’t thought of that until you just thought it. What a joy if possible.
We can use a little joy, we just killed a dozen people, and the two monks severely disabled four more.
I’ll speak to them, but they volunteered for this duty, even when I explained the likely scenarios. They are prepared to kill to protect the innocent. They didn't see the need, I will compliment their restraint.

In one night, we’d decimated 57th St. Delivery, their boss, and the partner, Vladimir. It only remains to see if Vladimir reports further up the line. It takes another two hours, but Vladdie is babbling like a rocky brook. The story is rather depressing, and all too familiar. Vlad is working the CIA, with information about Serbia, Russia and the Ukraine, while the spooks in our own government overlook his criminal US activities.
Janah calls Mrs. Epstein, “Thank you for your assistance. It’s over.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Glad to hear it. Your women okay?”
Janah, “Scrapes and bruises. There will be a mess in Brooklyn, must be some drug gang attempt at a takeover. 57th St. Delivery won’t be delivering anymore.”
Mrs. Epstein, “And the Russian?”
Janah, “He vanished.”
Mrs. Epstein is silent. She knew he hadn’t vanished, as in Janah didn’t know where he was. She decides vanished is good enough, “Well, sometimes they just disappear. It’s a big city and a bigger world.”
Janah, “And a bigger universe.”
“And did he leave anything useful behind?”
Janah, “We’ll take it from here.”
Mrs. Epstein, “I see. Let me know if we can be of further assistance.”
Janah, “Will do.”
She clicks off. The less Mrs. E knows, the safer she is, and her contacts won’t be compromised.
The reason is simple, the Society uses the intelligence agencies when they need them. Janah coerced the names of one middle and one senior management type at the CIA who gave Vladimir way too long a string. She intends to deal with them. Not with a press release, or compromising information. She intends to make an example that will make a fearsome indelible impression.

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