Chapter Forty One IV

Is this the party to whom I am speaking?
Lily Tomlin as Earnestine, the phone operator

A day later, the phone rings, Janah answers, “Yes.”
“Is this the white haired girl?”
“Do you know who I am?”
“And that doesn’t bother you?”
There is a pause, a deep breath, “I learned yesterday that you have talented resources. I got a guy in the hospital with a broken ankle, a cracked chest and dental work. One of your girls kicked the shit out of him, he’s not known for getting his ass whipped.”
“He is now.”
“Additionally, I got two guys who never saw nothing, found themselves in a room with their mouths full of napkin and duct tape. They swore they was standing on the corner and then tied to a chair in a room they never seen before. I find that hard to believe.”
“Believe whatever you want. You’re the one who figured out I have talented resources. Can we get to the point? Lunch is almost ready, and I’m a hungry girl, Mr. Palumbo.”
“You do know who I am.”
“For the third time, I have talented resources. More talented than you can possibly imagine. We’re going in circles. Let me help you. You’ve been trying to get out of La Familia. You’ve turned over your illegal businesses, you’ve paid very generous bonuses to other bosses. You’ve tried to do a Godfather, when Michael Corleone wanted to get his family into a legitimate life. He was tired of Senate hearings, lawyers, and murder. It was an interesting series of movies. But they are movies. Your life isn’t a movie. You still have connections within law enforcement, the judicial system and several pimp-ass politicians in your pocket, just like the Don. At least that’s what your enemies think. My research tells me you don’t have much in the way of connections any longer. Your political and judicial friends have retired or died, or they understand you aren’t the boss of bosses any longer. Your old friends believe it, it isn’t them you’re worried about. It’s the newer gangs. Their level of violence is far beyond what the old Sicilian crowd was used to. Bad guys murdered bad guys. It was business, family was off limits. The new crowd has been harassing your family. You no longer have the personnel to deal with them yourself.”
“Christ, is there anything you don’t know?”
“I don’t know how the brain creates the sense of self, but it does. I’m working on it.”
“I have no fucking idea, excuse me, I’m a crude man, no idea what you are talking about.”
“Don’t worry about it, nobody else knows how consciousness works either. Your problem, however, I am familiar with. So, I’ll come to you tomorrow at ten. We can discuss alternatives.”
“What’s it gonna cost me? I ain’t as rich as everyone thinks I am.”
“No, you’re richer. You have three accounts in Switzerland, one in Beijing and several Caribbean accounts. That doesn’t include the money stuffed in safes and the attic in your home.”
“Jesus, I surrender. So it’s gonna cost me plenty to buy some peace of mind for my family.’
“Cue the violins. If you wanted peace of mind for your family, you’d have opened a plumbing business, worked your ass off for years, sent your kids to college and retired into a nice quiet life spoiling the grandkids. You wanted to be the boss, sit on your ass and push people around. You got what you wanted. If your story rings true, my friends will fix your problem. I’ll suggest a donation you can make, but there’s no obligation on your part. I take things on because we help people who can’t help themselves, or, very occasionally, like your case, they interest me.”
“I take it you don’t need directions to my house.”
“I know which room you sleep in, who brings your espresso in the morning, what phone calls you make and how long you talk. I’ll see you at ten. My friend also loves espresso, I drink green tea, or oolong. The friend who explained the rules to your fat boys won’t touch anything you serve. The other gentleman will be there as well, he won’t require any refreshment. Don’t touch any of my people, I guarantee they won’t be armed, and I guaranteed if your bozos look at them sideways, you won’t have any more bozos. Do we have an understanding?”
“It will be just me and the valet. He carries trays, not weapons.”
Janah hangs up, calls Chan.
“Chan, please tell Black to round up a few monks and cover the Palumbo house tomorrow by eight a.m.. Don’t do anything, just watch. Tell them to report everything to you before we go in to visit. If there are any surprises, they’ll be Palumbo’s problem, not ours. My take is that he’s on the level. He’s hiding a ton of money from his former life. They probably know that and want to get in his pocket. I don’t like any of these people, but I really don’t like them harassing Palumbo’s family. It isn’t their fault their dad or uncle got into the businesses he did.”
Nikko, “Why help at all? He has money. Let him hire his own help and fight it out.”
“You’re smarter than that.”
“Janah doesn’t want any more bloodshed, not at that level. It would be a war. We can get in front of the right guys, do a version of refocusing and maybe nobody dies.”
“See, you already knew the answer.”
Nikko, “Maybe some gangbanger guy tries to get tough. Nikko can have more fun.”
“See, there’s always a bright side.”
We get Janah fed, Chan goes to make arrangements. Janah’s on the mat, curled into lotus to think it over. Nikko takes the opportunity to pull me into the bedroom and we amuse ourselves by making each other squirm and moan for an hour.
Janah comes in, “Anyone need another orgasm? ”
“I’m always ready to sacrifice my body for your pleasure.”
Part of what makes it so much fun for Janah to make love to me is that I have so much fun being ravished.
After Janah gives, we return the gift and double team her into submission, then we order Italian from Marconi’s. While we watch the third Godfather again, we enjoy Italian salad, veal ravioli and veg lasagna. We’ll be all set for our meeting with a former Godfather.

Chapter Forty Two IV

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 12:8

Genovese Palumbo, “I don’t do this much, it’s not a simple thing for me. All my life, most of it, I was the boss. I gave orders, people carried them out. In the early days, I was an under boss. In the early, early days, I was a punk. But I was pretty smart, street-wise and tough. Time went by, guys were, uh… downsized. I moved up, I took what I wanted. Then the whole thing got out of control. Latin gangs, blacks, skinheads, all got into the drug business, too much money, they was able to buy anything, get anyone murdered. The drug thing created an entire industry in the country. Gangs sold drugs, the government started wars on drugs, gun dealers sold guns so fast they hardly keep up with demand. The whole mess is a gigantic game, the DEA makes minor confiscations, even Noriega was a minor achievement. The Mexicans and Columbians have turned their countries into war zones, I wanted out. Removing a competitor who got out of line was one thing. Kidnapping and killing a judge’s family was not how it used to be.”
Janah, “It never occurs to people that once the line gets crossed, there is no line. Add to that the obvious need of politicians to keep the public afraid of some enemy, a handy way to stay in power, and here we are. Cheaper, more potent product with billions wasted on fighting a war that cannot be won.”
“Exactly. But sometimes a hunter gets weary of slaughter for slaughter’s sake. The murder of innocents has weighed on me.”
“Now your family, who has profited financially because of you, is at risk by the very thing you thought would protect them, money.”
Palumbo sighs, “There it is.”
“And you have realized that investing your own money in more murder is perpetrating the problem.”
“Right again. I don’t know how you figured this out, you’re a young women. But you have. I’m told that you find solutions to difficult problems. If you have a solution for me, it’s worth everything I have.”
“You don’t want your children to be rich?”
Palumbo thinks about it, “No. I don’t want them to live on the streets either. I want them to have enough to be comfortable, they are grown and have legitimate jobs. I have grandchildren. I want them provided for, but not trust fund punks. I got so-called friends who have set their kids up, now they fight all the time about who gets what. The grandchildren see it. They buy Prada bags like candy, some kind of stupidly expensive ugly shoes from Jimmy somebody or other. Just crap. I got a grandkid goes to Chapmans, she ain’t like those other kids. She could have anything she wanted, she don’t ask for hardly anything. She belongs to some group called Reform School Girls. Most expensive thing she owns is a long black leather coat. Got a necklace she showed me, stainless steel, three letters drop down, RSG. It’s her favorite thing. She takes some kind of martial arts from two women she talks about all the time. Then two other….wait, Jesus on the cross! These are the two others, the two you got with you! She told me she wanted to be half as good as them. If I would have known you three was from Chapmans, I would have come to you myself in the first place.”
The valet refills our cups, then silently disappears.
Janah, “You found us from a different source. How would you know?”
“Adrianna has talked about you. She kept telling me about the girl with mystical powers, a brain unlike any brain, like Einstein was retarded. That one, Daphne, she started the Reform School Girls, then this other one, she came along later, gave them all Japanese names. Adrianna calls herself Mizuki. She says it means beautiful moon. She loves that name. Everyone calls her that now, except old granddad, who is stuck in his Italian ways. She says she doesn’t mind, you know what she said?”
“That it made special bond between you and her.”
‘I’ll be damned, do you know her? You must.”
I’d mentaled Janah what Mizuki told me, “Never had the pleasure, she knows Nikko and Daphne of course, one of them must have mentioned it.”
Palumbo, “She doesn’t know about me, not much anyway. I’d like to keep it that way. She’s unspoiled, not touched by my past. That’s what I’m trying to prevent. I have other grandkids, good kids most of them. One is a druggie, in and out of rehab like a frickin’ revolving door. The others are just becoming adults. Adrianna holds my heart though. I got to see they’re protected. You said you saw the Godfather movies, you remember what happened to Corleone’s daughter?’
“Murdered on the steps leaving his son’s concert debut.”
“I don’t need to say it I guess, but you know what will happen if one of those kids is touched. I guarantee every dime I have will be used to massacre anyone who even knew the killers. I know I brought some of this on myself, being what I was. But I never once even thought to murder anyone’s kid, or any other member of the family. I killed, I ordered kills, it was the life it was.”
“You’ll be dead, your vengeance will only cause more death to your own family. You must forget these ideas. It’s what got you here, rich and afraid.”
Palumbo is taken aback, the old anger arises, Janah stares in his eyes calmly, his shoulders sink.
He sighs again, “I said I was giving up all this. Adrianna, what she knows, made me promise to do the right thing. She knows more than she lets on. She’s being kind to an old man, it’s her way. A way she learned from Chapmans,” he looked at Nikko and me, “and from these two. I owe you for that.”
“When this is done, make sure Chapmans has what it needs. You donation has to be anonymous.”
“You know my assets, most of them. If you looked deeper, there’s a bit more here and there, but you nailed most of it. If you pull this thing off, I’ll give Chapmans a substantial donation.”
Janah, “Do you know who the threats are? It’s not the leftover Sicilian crowd, too small now. They don’t operate this way. It’s Mexicans or Columbians, there’s a particularly vicious black gang called Dead Niggas. Operates out of Brooklyn.”
Palumbo, "If there’s Mexicans involved, I haven’t heard from them. The Columbian gang is run by a guy named Carlos Andres Toledo Vargas. The black guy is called Gamba.”
“It’s an African name, it means warrior.”
“You know him?”
“No, I’ve heard of him. Very polished, slick, mean. He does not forgive error. And he wants what he wants and will do whatever it takes to get it.”
“Then maybe I should just make him dead.”
“Then the next guy in line will make sure you pay for it, to protect himself. It will never end.”
“What can you do?”
“You don’t need to know. We’ll talk. Anyone can be persuaded.”
“You gonna talk just him out of this? You think you can do that?”
She looks at us, “I have talented resources.”
The old man glances across the room at Nikko, “I see her, I see nothing, an abyss. Still, it’s three girls and a couple of very violent gangs.”
Janah, “You have men outside, watching everything, yes?’
“Of course.”
“They’re good at what they do?’
“Better be.”
“Call one of them in, ask him what’s going on.”
Palumbo rings for the valet, he materializes, “Ask Pauli to come in for a minute.”
A few minutes later, a guy appears, he is, unlike the fat boys, tall and slim, jet black hair, combed straight back. His face a mask of impenetrability, narrow and expressionless.
“What’s going on outside. Nothing I assume, or you’d have been in here.”
“Silent as a tomb. There’s no one on the street, no one on the property but our men.”
“You’re sure?”
“On my life.”
Palumbo says to Janah, “Your point then?”
Janah smiles politely, “Pauli has more confidence than skill. Your house has been surrounded since eight this morning.”
Pauli, “Bullshit, that’s impossible.”
Janah, “Daphne, ask Black to step in please,” I pull out a cell phone, dial, speak a few words.”
Palumbo, “Tell the boys to let him through.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
Pauli shrugs, “He’s gonna get hurt.”
Janah doesn’t respond. A minute later Black appears.
Pauli’s eyes widen, he looks over at Palumbo, visibly shaken.
“Lot of frickin help you are. Get out of my sight, moron.”
Pauli starts to say something, Palumbo’s eyes tell him to slink off and shut up.
Janah, “Black, tell Mr. Palumbo what’s been happening outside.”
Black calmly runs through a narrative of the activities of the men guarding the house. He describes each, in detail, where they stand, when they smoked, when they spoke to each other.
Palumbo’s hands go to his face, then slip down slowly, “God in heaven. How did they miss this guy, he’s bigger than my Navigator. How many more you got out there?”
Janah looks at Black, he says, “Six, ten if you count the ones on the next two blocks.”
Palumbo stares at nothing, then, “Help me, not me, my family, Adrianna. I don’t deserve to die in peace, but they don’t deserve to be murdered.”
Janah rises, nods slightly to the old man. “You will die, so will I and everyone else, but not as a consequence of the gangs. When your problem is gone, I’ll be back with numbers for your donations. You will get no other information on how the problem was handled. Don’t bother to have us followed, you won’t have any more luck than you had knowing we were here today.”
Palumbo, “On my granddaughter’s honor, you have my word.”
Janah, “I expect no retaliation against your men. They have been humiliated enough. They cannot see what cannot be seen. They will argue that there was obviously one man, but will say there could not possibly have been six, or ten. You will recall that I know when you go to bed, where you sleep when you get up and how you take your breakfast.”
“I’ll read them the riot act. To do anything else would be a sign of weakness. I’ve had enough retribution. It’s why you’re here.”
“Good enough."
As we walk out the front door, several of Palumbo’s men, talking in a group, turn and glare. They know we are there at the boss’s invitation. How the huge black guy just walked in the front door is beyond their comprehension. It’s evident that Pauli had been reaming them out.
Chan pulls in the drive, he get out and opens the door for Janah. Pauli and his crew are surly but silent. First, there’s a black guy about the size of the Statue of Liberty, and a second guy who, though smaller in height, is wider and thicker than any human being they had ever seen.
There’s always one sap who can’t keep his mouth shut, he starts to mouth off, Pauli says, “Go ahead Freddie, see what he’s got tough guy. No guns, if you shoot him, he’ll just get pissed off.”
The man, big, only six feet but easily two fifty, walks up to Black, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall, spade.”
He shoots a hard right to Black’s jaw. Black turns his head, the blow loses most of its impact. Then he lets the goon shoot a left into his abdomen. He hits Black square, but nothing happens. Black doesn’t bend, he doesn’t react at all. The Italian tries a right cross. Black catches his fist in mid-strike and crushes it. When he releases the man’s hand, no bones stick out where fingers used to be, they’re in tiny pieces, part of the soggy lump that used to be a hand. The man passes out from pain and shock.
None of Palumbo’s men move, Nikko and I each have a hand full of shuriken. Anybody pulls a gun, they earn a face full of throwing stars. Nobody does.
Palumbo appears, “What the fuck did I fucking tell you? Take this asshole to the emergency room and leave him. He’s finished. If I hadn’t promised the girl, he’d be fucking dead. Any of you other assholes want to find new employment? Well, what’s it gonna to be? Get fucking moving!!”
Two men pick up one hand man and drag him to a car. They pour him in the back seat and shoot down the drive.
We get in our car and Chan drives us back to the apartment.

Chapter Forty Three IV

Eat with the devil, but give him a long spoon.
Jamaican proverb

“Who do you want to see first, Gamba, or Carlos?
Janah, “Call Mrs. E. Find out who the worst of the crews are, where the boss hangs out, his habits, who his top guys are. Ask her dig out what she can on both.”
Nikko, “Black and I can go to the Village Diner. Mini will know something.”
I call the moms.
Susan, “I was hoping for a dinner invitation, C-mom has been at the dojang all day,  then spent two hours on her latest book. I was programming for a new client. Need us to bring something?”
“We’re good, see you at seven.”
We ring off, Ning has a list, most of the ingredients we have in one apartment or the other. We need fresh fish, Ning calls the grocery and talks to her friend in the seafood section. Fresh sea bass and salmon delivered within the hour. I do like New York convenience.
During our lunch and the subsequent arrangements, Nikko and Black have sandwiches at the diner and a chat with Mini.
Mini, “I see we need privacy, meet up in a minute.”
Nikko goes to the ladies. Black slides out of the booth, across the street to the Jamaicans.
He pretends to be looking through the merchandise, “Quiet Man, I need to take a walk, I need to take a walk that nobody sees. If I get to the alley behind the diner, and you see anyone too interested, give me a nod. Otherwise, just come back to the corner and go about your business.”
Black drops the knock off Patek back on the table, strolls off. He goes down a block, turns left, walks two blocks, left again. As he approaches the alley he spots Quiet Man. No nod, Quiet Man rejoins his friends. Black enters the alley and through the door, a step down the hallway and into the storage room. Nikko and Mini are waiting.
“Nobody around.”
Nikko asks about Carlos Andres Toledo Vargas, then about Gamba.
Mini, “Jesus, you picked the nastiest of the ugly. One group runs the drug business in Brooklyn and Queens, the other in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. There ain’t as much on Staten Island, prices are higher though. The Columbians own much of Long Island, it stays in a bit of dispute with minor gangs. They settle differences most of the time because Long Island has a lot of rich people. They like their drugs, they don’t like drive-bys and murders.”
Black, “Sounds cooperative enough.”
Mini,  “Everyone cooperates because the lead dogs are vicious. They drove out the Italians who would handle drugs, most of  the Italians really didn’t care much for it. It rattled politicians, too many low level guys went to jail. What was left of the old Mafia bosses were afraid they would rat out the higher ups, which happened a coupla times. The Columbians and the Dead Niggas don’t have those concerns. They’ll just murder the rat’s family and his friends. The Italians weren’t equipped to go that far, the feds took down much of the mafia in the nineties, but the five families still operate. They stay quiet, budget cuts and terrorism have taken resources from the police and FBI. In a way, the mafia has it better now, they don’t shoot each other anymore, there’s more cooperation.”
Nikko, “Where do we find these guys?”
Mini, “I know better than to ask why you want to find them. Just be careful. I know Janah’s crew is good. These guys will kill your moms, your dad, Black’s wife, Chan’s kids, the whole temple if they have to.”
Black, “They won’t know they’re being hunted until they’re in the trap.”
Mini, “I’ll find out where they hang, you no doubt have other resources doing the same thing. Let’s do it like this. You come to me and tell me what they told you. If it’s accurate, I’ll confirm it. If I go asking around too directly, and your people have been asking around, it will create suspicion.”
Black, “Our people won’t ask anyone anything. They observe, report. There won’t be any duplication .”
Mini, “Good enough.’
Black, “Which one is the worst, or is that a stupid question?”
Mini, “It used to be the Columbians. Then Gamba got pissed, he was losing territory. He upped the ante big time, had his crew take a girl off the streets, Muslim kid. Turned her into a prostitute. Told the girl’s brother that Carlos had done it, convinced him to strap a bomb to his sister, who was now permanently damaged goods they way they saw it. She walked into a bar where Carlos’ people hang out. Blew up everybody in the place, six of Carlos’ men, bunch of girls, just evaporated them.
Gamba and Carlos met, settled on what piece of real estate belonged to who and have kept it under control ever since. Anyway, there is no worst, they’re all scum.”
Black, “So, if we do one before the other, there’s a war as the next in line steps up, while the one we don’t do tries to take territory. He sees a weak spot, wants to move in.”
Mini, “That’s the game. Right now, there’s no weak spot. Gamba and Carlos have agreed, that’s how it will be. At least until one of them is out of the picture. Then there’ll be a mess for a while, then some sorta peace settlement again.”
Nikko, “Sounds like the middle east.”
Black, “Maybe we just leave this one alone. If war breaks out, innocents are going to die. Master J isn’t going for that.”
Mini, “Look, I don’t need to know. I can see there’s more here than a couple of drug lords. I know enough about Janah that if they are selling drugs to grownups, she isn’t going to get into it. Gamba did use the girl and the brother to do his murder for him. That was a new low. That ain’t it, cause I don’t think you knew about that until I told you. I don’t care why you’re interested, must be a good reason. But do not think you’re going to have Janah chat up these pricks and settle things. Even if you send Daphne and Nikko in, AND you AND Chan, you are not going to get away with beating up a few guys and having everyone settle down and be good boys.”
Black, “I got the message, I’ll deliver it, see what Janah decides. We’ll have the territory scoped out by next week, maybe sooner. What we want from you is any information we don’t have, or may have overlooked.”
Mini, “Don’t fuck around. If these guys figure this out, they’ll be no discussion, no confabs, no mercy.”
Black leaves through the alley, Nikko out the front door, she glances at the Jamaicans on her way to the apartment.”
Juju, “Dat girl, she don’t even talk to herself. Daphne and Janah come round, Daphne talk, make a joke. Janah is sweet as a ripe mango. But Nikko, it’s like she someplace else entirely.”
Timothy, “Yeah mon, she don’t look at nothing, dead eyes out in the distance. Must be okay, White Angel and de Seelk, dey put up wit’ her.”
Quiet Man, “You two always running your head, don’t see what’s right in front of you.”
Juju, “What you talkin’ about, mon?”
Quiet Man, “She’s watching out for girls. she don’t give a damn about no jive with you. She don’t give a damn about the shit we sell, she don’t give a damn about nothing but one t’ing.”
Mighty Jim, “Dat’s right, Q. Her mind ain’t someplace else, it’s on the only t’ing she care about. White Angel and de Seelk. Somebody come along to trouble them, Nikko gonna make dem pay hard currency.”
Juju, “Ah, now I see it clear as day. Like Q say, my job is to run my mouth, sell shit to tourists. I miss de otha. Quiet Man, he don’t miss. Let’s pack it in for today, I tink time to chill. We go to the park, sell some smoke, smoke some smoke. What you tink?”
Timothy, "Bring the box, play music while I tink ova de girls, and de Japanese, de big black one, an dat Chinese, Shaolin too, like de Seelk. White Angel, she got some heavy posse, dat’s a natural fact.”

Chapter Forty Four IV

We try to make things different from the way they are,
and from how they appear,
we foolishly insist we liked someone we never liked much to begin with,
and insist on trusting someone who inspires our intense distrust,
it is as if we often went against our own knowledge,
because that is how we tend to experience it,
as knowledge rather than as intuition, or impression,
or hunch, this has nothing to do with premonitions,
there is nothing supernatural or mysterious about it,
what’s mysterious is that we pay no heed to it.
Javier Marias, Your Face Tomorrow, Fever and Spear

Black relays the message to Janah, Nikko says nothing. Janah sees her concern, not for herself, but that this is deep murky water, pulsating with life’s most deadly bacteria, humans with no conscience.
Investment bankers and politicians have no conscience either, but for the most part, they don’t kill each other’s families; although they love war, so killing families is fine, just not each others. I’m beginning to write endless sentences, like Javier Marias.
Janah excuses herself and goes to the meditation loft. Black hugs us, then home to Sonia.
Janah wants to be silent. We call Sis, dress in doboks, head downstairs and do forms until Susan shows up. Nikko and I go at it while Susan stretches. Then I fold myself to the floor while Nikko toys with Sis, takes a bit of a beating, then pulverizes my beautiful mother until she can’t stand.
Nikko let Sis wail on her first because hitting a target is different than just doing forms. It takes a lot more energy to whap a heavy bag, or a person. Nikko takes a lot of punishment from me, she can handle Susan’s punches and kicks. Susan gets a solid workout, Nikko doesn't get off lightly....then she attacks.
Sis kneels on the floor, breathing hard. Nikko had given her solid body shots and kicks, left her face intact, the family is coming over, no point in making Janah do a lot of extra work.
Susan, “Sheesh, I’m getting a shower and a hot Jacuzzi, good workout girls.”
Nikko, “Busted me good with body shots, you’ve been working with the guys again?”
Susan, “I go to Kim’s when I can. Two of his black belts spar with me. I can’t handle their direct power, but I can kick both of them in the head. Long as I keep moving, it’s good, if Morris gets me with a straight kick, I’m on the floor. Jimmy is smaller, he’s faster, not as powerful. I take my licks, give a few.”
We walk home, drop her at the condo and continue to the apartment. Time to clean up, then dinner prep.
It’s seven, our parents arrive, make drinks, Janah says, “We have to be at Mrs. E’s for nine in the morning. We have work near the city, unpleasant people. Please stay sharp until we’re done.”
Kara, “I’m in the middle of a painting. I won’t be leaving the condo for any reason. I’ve got a really great idea, but it’s taking all my attention.”
“Have you titled it yet?”
Dinner is served. Since we can’t talk about about the immediate problem, James keeps a flow of hospital stories, Susan tells us about her most recent hack, an allegedly impenetrable firewall of a medium sized law firm referred to her by Mrs. Walker. They immediately hired Susan to construct a new system. She installed a quickie fix for their problem and is writing a far more complex code than the off the shelf version they’d been overcharged for in the first place. She also changed their backup storage to a secure underground site in Montana. Every record, e-mail, anything done on a computer is stored in parallel. She’s hacked cloud storage services before.
We wind down, Chan and his family leave when James and Kara do. Lacy invites Sis and Chris over for a nightcap, no doubt leading to other adventures.
Today, we breakfast together on the bed, cut apple and pears, vanilla yogurt with Chia seeds.“You have a plan.”
Janah, “Yes. Let me go over it with Nikko and Chan since you already know. When we’re finished with breakfast, call Chan, just Chan, not the children or Ning. Ask Black too. Set it up over lunch. I’m going to do yoga for an hour, you two go for a walk, sit in the Village Diner or the park. Come back in time to make lunch. I’ll be ready to cover details when we eat. Don’t worry, I’m not leaving the apartment for any reason.”
It is still early, only eight thirty, she and I slip on jeans and pullovers, go out. We walk to the park, sit together on a bench, silent, observing. We hold hands, relax. Work will begin soon, a morning of nothing is welcome.
An hour later, we decide to visit the diner, Mini is having coffee at the counter, “Hey girls, where’s Janah?”
 “Working on the problem at home and wants to be alone with it.”
Mini, “So she sent you off to kill time. Glad you stopped here. Want something to eat, or just coffee and tea?”
“Drinks only, we’ll park in the booth, if you have a minute, finish your coffee with us.”
Chuck walks up, “Go and sit, I’ll bring the drinks.”
He pours more rich black coffee into Mini’s cup, Mini loads it with sugar at the table, no cream. Chuck brings a coffee for me and a pot of tea for Nikko, “It’s the jasmine green Janah likes, is that good?”
Nikko, “Domo.”
Mini, ‘She’s gonna take on Gamba and Carlos, both, isn’t she?’
“Sure, why not? Twice as much fun. We haven’t had much action lately. Janah’s been running the temple, Nikko her buildings. Chan and I are feeling left out.’
Mini, “Uh huh. You already know what I told Nikko. And, just so you know, if I had to call on some friends, it would require a very deep debt on my part. Even the ones still in the joint, got families or relatives outside. Carlos and Gamba, they don’t care about nobody’s kids, the family dog or granny. Everybody dies if they retaliate.”
“Janah has a plan. If their butt boys get in the way, they suffer the consequences. We’ve done our homework. We’re going to do the job, and Gamba and Carlos will get over it. It’s not an option for them.”
Mini, “Fuck, excuse my crude nature, but fuck. I know you guys long enough to know this isn’t some hope we get lucky thing. You got family right here in town, your folks, Nikko’s, the Fong woman, Chan’s wife and kid. This must be some kind of important.”
“Mini, it’s not the thing itself. We could buy the problem away. That’s not a solution for all the other people these guys will kill, people we don’t even know. Sure, some of them would be other punks, dealers looking for territory, gangs trying to make their mark. But they way they do it, too many innocents get caught in the crossfire. These two are the Hussein and Gaddafi of the boroughs. Sadaam didn’t have WMDs, but he terrorized half of his own country, and attempted to take over Kuwait. Both insane psychopaths. Our clowns are little psycho dictators. We don’t care who sells drugs to who, at least not if they’re adults. If people want to walk around with their heads messed up, we don’t care.”
Mini, “I get it. When the original dealers popped up, courtesy of a stupid American drug policy, they picked off each other, but they left innocents out of it. It’s different now. The five boroughs are close to becoming Mexico.”
“Yes. They’ve both crossed the line. Gamba really crossed it when he turned a twelve year old girl into a prostitute, then duped her brother into blowing her up to get even with Carlos. Janah’s had it with this mess. And she’s going to fix it.”
Mini, “You girls got bigger cojones than any shithook I’ve seen in the joint. And I’ve seen them all. If this goes wrong, I’m calling in every marker with everyone I know.”

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