Chapter Forty One

The week passes uneventfully, we attend to our numerous activities. Amaya stays close to the apartment, I do walk with her to Susan’s again.
Sis has advance notice this time, she’s in her trademark short silk robe, looking delicious as always. She and Amaya kiss, intimately.
Amaya, loosens the sash, then slips the robe off and drapes it on a chair. I turn to leave them to it.
“No, Daphne. You get to observe while I do for your mother what I have not done for you.”
Sis smirks at me, I’m not a blusher, but I feel warmth in my face now.
We go to the bedroom, “Undress me Daphne.”
Short work, she’s in panty free cotton shorts and a half t-shirt. They remain standing, kissing, hands roam. Then Amaya takes a half step back, her fingers between Susan’s legs, sliding slowly. Susan’s eyes close, she bites her lower lip.
Amaya kisses her way down, all the way to one knee, then up the taut thigh. Then to the sensitive spot, kisses first, Susan spreads her legs, Amaya gets busy.
My hand finds its way up my skirt, then down my panties, I self stim while Amaya makes Susan lose sentience.
A few minutes, then a gasp and groan of release, Susan’s legs stiffen, the muscles in her flat abs ripple. She’s watching me do me, one hand on the back of Amaya’s head strokes silken hair.
I climax climactically.
Amaya stands, goes to the bed, the covers already turned. She lays on her back, one knee cocked out.
“Both of you share me.”
Ooohh, how lovely. Lose my dress, panties and top. Sis and I take turns making Amaya squirm, then double tongue until she is near levitated.
“Gaaahhh, holy moley, oxygen…,” she trembles in aftershock, melts into the sheets.
Sis and I, lost in the moment and still head to head, turn and kiss, tasting our delight on each other. Surprisingly get off again simultaneously. Amaya catches the double-o and giggles.
“Perverts,” Sis and I giggle.
We kiss our way up Amaya, then a long intimate kiss from each of us. We lay in post-o stupor.
“I bring families together.”
Sis, “Well, we didn’t actually have sex.”
Amaya, “I would pay money to watch, you are not the only pervs.”
Susan, “She’s getting her going down game perfected. I recommend a few more sessions first.”
“And next time, Daphne has to leave, you may have me to yourself. I want the toy, front and back, up to the challenge?”
“Prepare yourself, you will see visions.”
Amaya’s smiling at the ceiling.
Chris comes home, three nude women on the bed, “Expanded training?”
Susan, “Yes, and Daphne’s still a virgin to Amaya’s tongue.”
“You and Daphne are the most tease-able women on the planet. I do Taylor on the couch, she makes Sis watch but she can’t participate. They we make her vibrator herself for our entertainment.”
“I love both parts, I get so squishy. Humiliation heats me up.”
Amaya, “Daphne has to put on a show for me as well, Janah likes to make her do it for all of us.”
Chris, “A pervert party, wets my whistle.”
Sis, “Tea before you leave?”
The three naked girls go to the kitchen. I make tea and serve, we sit around the table, Amaya on the end Sis and I face the living area, our backs to the bedroom. I hear the closet door, then Chris’ steps around the bed to the bathroom. Amaya is looking at me, but, no, she’s looking over my shoulder, her tongue on the tip of her upper lip. I look through her eyes, Chris is nude in front of the vanity brushing her hair. It was still damp when she came in, meaning she’d showered at the dojang.
Amaya stands, rinses her cup and goes down the short hall to the bedroom. I hear the door close. She walks to the vanity, watching Chris, watching the muscles work. C-mom isn’t bodybuilder big, but she’s done martial arts and weight training for years, she isn’t sleek like Sis or me, there’s bulk in the muscle, strong legs, brick hard tummy, biceps bulge when the brush strokes.
She turns to Amaya, puts down the brush, “See something you like.”
Amaya’s hands free range, the arms, down the back, to the tush, then up hard thighs and on to the tummy and chest.
“Only everything,” she kisses Chris, geez, I’ve created a nympho, maybe it was Sis.
“I’m wanting further training, experience, Master Chris,” she drops to her knees, lasers directly to the  body part of focus.
Sis, “Where did Amaya go, the restroom?”
I straddle Susan’s legs, lean in for a kiss, her hands trail my legs. I lay my head on her shoulder.
“She’s exploring the more muscular female form.”
Susan, “Explor…oh…ooohhh, what have we done?”
“Released the angel of lust. I’m in her mind, her tongue is absorbed in you know what, her hands absorbed in tight muscle under smooth skin. Girl has a racing everything at the moment.”
“I’m sure Chris is racing right along.
Ten minutes later, Amaya bounces out of the bedroom, Chris behind her, sort of staggering slowly.
“Coffee, now.”
Now there are four nude nymphos at the table, Three on chairs with coffee, Amaya straddling one of C-moms legs laying back against her chest.
Chris, “Susan’s not a master instructor for nothing,” I see Amaya squeezer her legs together grinning, she turns and kisses Chris on the cheek.
“Now I’ve had two women Daphne hasn’t, how precocious of me. I am assuming Sis and Daphnes flirting have not moved beyond.”
Chris, “No, they’ve done that stuff for years. It got Janah worked up when she discovered, her solution was to take Susan for herself under the pretense of learning great lesbian sex.”
“Then she shipped Daphne off for her own training.”
Susan giggles, “Lacy took advantage of her innocence.”
Chris, “Hah! Daph was all over the fine little thing. She only quit when Janah gave it up for her.”
“We quit for a while, then the temple came along, we hook up now and again.”
Chris, “Lucky Lacy, you and Janah.”
“Nikko goes over there sometimes, she likes it one on one.”
“Jesus, did you know Lacy was having it all Susan?”
“Yes, they aren’t there once a month even, Lacy calls and asks if she might have a girl delivery. She doesn’t want to know which one, a little surprise when she answers the door. Very handy having willing sluts right down the hall.”
We reluctantly dress, kisses around, I walk my turned out slut home.
“I turned myself out.”
“I just thought turned out, didn’t say I had anything to do with it.”
The rest of the week Amaya works on languages, tea ceremony, short and long version, spends time in front of the mirror. Not staring at herself, not focusing, gaze towards what some call the third eye, just above the space between eyebrows. She is trying to catch her aura, which is good practice for seeing other’s. It’s not so simple to stare at people in public. Sometimes I stand against the wall, bland background, and she stares at me, seeing if she can pick up energy fields. They show up in various colors. Some colors indicate vitality, or focus, or intensity, temperament; darker colors, browns, grays and black, illness, anger or anxiety.
Amaya, “I see white, just a little.”
“That’s the beginning, it will color with practice. Don’t spend more than a half hour at a time, you’ll start imagining and see false auras. Want to review meridians?”
We spend an hour going over my body and hers, learning acupressure points, what part of the foot reflected which part of the body. I’m not going to bore readers with a meridian lecture. There’s a ton of stuff on YouTube and websites if you’re interested.
At first, I was skeptical of the claims. I’m still skeptical about junk like astral projection, past lives, fortune telling. There’s too much ‘me’ involved in all that. I suspect it’s wishful thinking. I doubted auras until I started seeing them, that pretty much shut down doubt. It’s a lesson, if a thing happens even when you doubt it, it’s real. Auras are part of the reason I can see who is going to shoot and when, where the next kick or punch is coming from.
The rest is sensory ability, I can see what others can’t, hear what can’t be heard, catch the scent of fear or disease. I’ve been able to do it since before Janah. I turn that volume down most of the time. I don’t want to know who has cancer or heart disease every time I’m out. In a packed city like ours, it would be overwhelming.
On a brighter note, last night we had bad girl playtime, a healthy release of dopamine and serotonin, followed by sleep. We awake at the same moment, Amaya grins, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”
“Mae West.”
“Very good. What time is it?”
“Yikes, we slept hard. I wish we could stay wound together, I suppose we must rise eventually.”
“Tonight there will be another night.”
“Not all anticipation is bad.”
We untangle, flush and brush, hit the shower, have fun with soap, dry and go to the kitchen. Janah and Nikko are up, drinking tea.
“I see my others had a rather late evening.”
Nikko turns up her cheek for Amaya to kiss, “And you two were up early doing yoga or Japanese lessons?”
“I must protect Amaya’s honor.”
Nikko, “Since when?”
“Something new I may begin. It’s still in the exploratory stages.”
Nikko, “You are a shameless lez.”
Amaya giggles, which starts Janah, who says, “Nishiko was all propriety last night.”
“Propriety? So you two were up late meditating?”
Janah, “Depends on how you define propriety, and there are many forms of meditation. We choose the more active form. Besides, it’s morning and I still respect her.”
I look to the schedule, then recall there is no schedule, “The day is a black hole. I have grocery shopping to do, perhaps the samurai will accompany me.”
I’m dressed by nine, Nikko is coming out just as I appear.
Amaya hits Janah up for French practice. They are taking turns reading Le Figaro and I spot a copy of La Comédie Humaine, by Balzac. After reading, they have a discussion in French on the subjects, I shut down after the first vous.
We hit the door, detour to the Village Diner for coffee.
Mini, “Hey girls, where’s the other half?”
“Discussing the human comedy. I have grocery duty and asked Nikko to accompany, first we thought extra caffeine would be in order. I could use a couple of scrambled eggs and toast, nothing else today. Nikko?”
“Bacon, burned.”
Mini, “Coming up.”
He slides into the booth after he sets down our plates and, “I don’t know if this means anything. A coupla toads crawled in here four, five days ago. One guy big, looked strong as an ox and half as bright. The other a wormy looking putz, greased back hair, little half a beard, long hair. I think the big one was carrying, not sure and I didn’t see anything obvious on the weasel. At first I thought they were going to try a holdup and I told Chuck. But they finished their coffee, paid the check and walked. We didn’t call the cops, they didn’t do anything but drink coffee, the big one ate a piece of pie.”
“You obviously hadn’t seen them before.”
“No, but I seen ‘em since, every other day, three o’clock, coffee, pie, leave. Here about half an hour. They leave a tip, don’t hassle anyone, don’t really talk to each other. Order, no wise mouth, no jive, no complaints. I don’t like the smell, I got no cause to hassle ‘em though.”
“Is this the other day?”
Mini, “Yeah, they should be in today less they relocated to Brazil.”
“Suppose we show up around three, it’s a good time for afternoon coffee, some relaxing conversation. Janah will take a look.”
Mini, “Thanks. See you later. Nikko, it was good not talking to you.”
She continues to stare out the window, looking for murderous aliens, zombies, or the other living dead that passes for much of humanity.
We leave for the grocery, get provisioned and walk home. It isn’t so much I need it delivered. I schlep two bags, Nikko the remaining one.
Janah is asking Amaya a question in French, something to do with Napoleon, “Took a while to get three bags of groceries. Nikko stop to kill someone?”
Amaya replies in fast French gibberish, she sounds like Maurice Chevalier and looks like a teen Bridgett Bardot.
“We need to check out two guys at the diner at three.”
Janah, “I’ll replay Mini’s conversation, I caught that you were talking to him, but I was in the middle of the French Revolution.”
“Let ‘em eat cake.”
Amaya, “Is Daphne making fun of the French?”
Janah, “Yes.”
“Comment bourgeoise.” (how bourgeois)
“Prend un pour connaître un.” (takes one to know one)
Amaya, “You don’t speak French.”
Janah, “She gets it out of my head, maybe out of yours now.”
“Merde! Mes pensées ne sont plus mes propres.” (damn, my thoughts are no longer my thoughts)
“C’est vrai, tellement vrai.” (it’s true, so true)
Amaya rises, the back of her hand dramatically to her forehead, “I feel faint, fetch my salts!”
Nikko, “DQ.”
We laugh, Amaya is finished with French for today, I ask, “What’s next?”
Janah, “Next you fix us something to eat. You abandoned your breakfast duties, we got tied up with Napoleon.”
“Late breakfast or early lunch?”
Janah looks at Amaya, “I am showing restraint, just fruit and yogurt. My public demands perfection. Noblesse oblige.”
Janah, “The same.”
“That was easy,” I cut fruit, banana, cantaloupe, an apple, red grapes and spoon vanilla yogurt into bowls, sprinkle in Chia seeds. I make fresh tea and serve them both. Nikko puts away the groceries and watches Amaya eat, left hand tucked on her lap, delicately selects her fruit, small spoons of yogurt between bites of apple and banana. Chapmans has done its job with table manners. She could have breakfasted at Buckingham Palace, and spoken the Queen’s English as well as the Queen. In the Queen’s own voice. That would be interesting.

Chapter Forty Two

I call K-mom, “I’ve got a surplus of calligraphy, think some of it might sell?”
“Only all of it. How many do you want to put up?”
“I could use advice on that. Can I impose on you to call Sarah at the gallery? This time is for profit, so I expect her to get paid
Next day Sarah calls, “Hi Daphne, you want to show some work I’m told.”
“Yes. It isn’t a donation, you can actually make money.”
“I’ll e-mail you the agreement.”
“Good. Is there still a market for calligraphy?”
“A very good one, particularly for the quality of work you demonstrated last time out. Is this one anonymous?”
“Doesn’t need to be.”
Sarah, “Better for you then. Collectors of contemporary work like to tell their pals how they know the artist, it drives up prices splendidly. Bring the pieces by when you can, the sooner the better, I have prep work to do.”
“How many?”
“How many do you have?”
“Fifty or sixty in Kara’s vault. I only keep the best examples. There are no practice works around.”
“And they are of the quality of the first work we sold?”
“Kara says they’re better.”
“Gee, please bring at least five or six representative samples. I’m going to have our old friend take a look, the one who gave me an appraisal the first time. If he’s enthusiastic, then I’m getting a second. I want to be sure of what I’m doing, and price the work accordingly.”
We hang up, “Let’s let Amaya pick the paintings to bring to Sarah. Might be fun for her.”
Janah, “What if they don’t sell?”
“Then I have someone to blame.”
Janah laughs, “Okay, when do you want to go?”
“Tomorrow afternoon, we have a casual appointment today at three. Amaya should stay here. If these people are trouble, I don’t want them to have a look at her.”
“Good thought. Let’s you and I go, Nikko can stay and they can have mom and daughter time.”
“Leave for the diner, say two forty?”
“Got it.”
At quarter to three Janah and I start to a booth, “I’ve got an idea.”
“Do it.”
Instead of sitting together, she takes counter stool near the end, at an angle to the window booth the two men typically take. She pulls out a phone and starts texting nobody, I go across the street to the Jamaicans.
Juju, “Hey mon, it’s DeSeelk. Where is Night Rain, we have new items in for her appraisal.”
“I’ll bring her around soon. Right now, I need to know about two guys, visit the diner around three, last few days.”
Juju, “We ponderin’ on dem ourselves. Dey don’ do nuttin’ to make a problem, Quiet Man, he say dey bad news. He don’ say why, he don’ know. You got business wit’ dem’?”
“Don’t know yet. Mini asked us to take a look, got the same vibe as Quiet Man.”
“You want Mighty Jim run dem’ off? Mini, he usually take care of his side of de street, but maybe he got him reasons.”
“No. He’s had no reason to deal with them, they haven’t done anything. They may never appear again. Oops, strike that.”
The two walk up from the south and enter the diner. From the size of the one, and the greased hair of the other, it doesn’t take a lot of brain power to see these are the guys, Mighty Jim confirms, “Dat’s dem.”
“Anything new in the neighborhood? Anyone else around you don’t recognize, but doesn’t smell like a tourist or temp?”
Tourist is self evident, temp means someone who might be from the city but doesn’t live or work in the Village. It would be impossible to guess about everyone. But after all the time we’ve lived here, we have a sense of who’s a Villager and who’s just soaking up a little atmosphere. Temps are college students, others have a girl or boyfriend who lives here, come and go. Like I said, it isn’t science, they don’t wear a nametag.
Mighty Jim, “Only dese two. Dere’s a third one someplace, dese two are workers, not management. Dey always come from de north, subway exit a block up. You want I follow dem?”
“No, they’ve spotted you by now. I can have them followed by monks, or me, or Chan.”
Juju, “We keep an eye on dem’ maybe someone else come along.”
I move down the block, cross the street out of the line of sight of the diner, circle the block and use service entrance.
From the kitchen I can see the back of Greasy, the front of Big Boy. He’s carrying alright, or he has an orange under his left arm. Can’t tell about Greasy. Janah’s texting to beat the band, to a casual observer she’s oblivious to the world. She has tea and a stack of fries. Big glasses, light rosy lenses let her peer around as if she’s contemplating the next insignificant insight she could send to Twitter Hell.
They pay the tab, drop a couple of bucks on the table and leave.
Chan materializes, across the street behind the Jamaicans, who studiously ignore him, then he’s gone.
“Good call to mental Nikko and get Chan over here.”
Janah, “I saw what you saw, Big Boy is carrying, Greasy either has a small one, or no weapon at all.”
“I’m guessing he has a small one, it explains why he has to look so tough and have a big one follow him around. It’s the street punk version of plain girl hanging out with pretty girl.”
“Who’s the plain girl in our tribe?”
“We don’t do plain girls. We don’t have the insecurities of pretty girls who need a plain girl to either dump on, or make themselves feel prettier by comparison.”
Janah, “So you don’t need any reassurances that you’re beautiful?”
“Only the ones I get from you.”
 Mini ambles over, “Any ideas?”
“Mighty Jim doesn’t like the vibe either. Big Boy is carrying, Chan is following them to wherever they go when they leave here. Janah’s read is they have issues. We’re going to find out what they are.”
I don’t get into auras with him, the two newbies are dark as dirt. We’re strange enough without getting into reading auras with Mini. The Jamaicans already think of us as voodoo mambos, they’d be surprised if we didn’t read energy fields.
Mini, “Knew I’d come to the right place.”
“I’ll let you know what comes along. You can always have a couple of cops inquire about the weapon.”
Mini, “Maybe. I’ll wait and see what you turn up.”
We leave, no reason not to be seen together now. The two targets, if they even noticed, saw only a dressed down, cap and glasses Janah, maybe saw my back at the Jamaicans’ table. Nothing to do until Chan returns.
It’s five when he knocks, “They went to a town car six blocks south, smaller man got in, car idles, small man gets out. They go to the subway at 4th street, J train to Queens.
“I presume the birds will follow them home.”
Chan, “Yes. David Li will bring information.”
Janah, “Very good. You got the license of the town car?”
Chan holds out a scrap of paper, “Couldn’t see who was in the car, could have been a man or a woman. The driver was a man, forty or so, not a hire car.”
Janah, “Ah, good. Then the Society can find out who it belongs to. Excellent.”
Chan goes home, one door down. Janah calls the Society line, reads off the license number, hangs up.
We’re off to our respective showers, then the four of us reunite at the big table. I dispense appetizers and wine. While they nibble and speculate about our targets, if they are targets, I pan fry trout, drizzle butter and herbs over the top, get a tomato and avocado salad from the refrigerator, tangy vinaigrette, steamed vegetables and French bread.
Janah, “Nice work, chef. Vegetables are delicious, I like the parmesan you grated over them, new shopping place?”
“New cheese. We went upscale.”
Janah, “How far up?”
Nikko, “Don’t ask.”
Amaya, “It tastes splendid. Daphne has upgraded all the cheeses, she is becoming a cheese whiz.”
I laugh, Nikko even smiles, Janah giggles.
Janah, “Nicely done, mixing a cheese connoisseur with a can of processed crap, a paronomasia.  ”
“Child’s play, I am an artist, unique.”
Nikko, “What is a paronomasia?”
Janah looks at Amaya, who says, “A pun.”
“When did you pick that up?”
“Janah and I don’t spend all our time on math and French. She finds arcane words and I have to learn to spell, pronounce and define them.”
“Ah. Janah is surreptitiously creating a Scrabble clone.”
Janah, “Very good. Only a sneaky oriental would have figured it out. I’m going to spring her on the moms soon.”
“You must do this when Daphne and I are offline.”
Janah, “Mostly you’re out practicing or something, you aren’t paying attention. I doubt you want arcane words roaming around your head while you’re fighting with Daphne.”
“One time when we were fighting, I checked in with Amaya and she was singing. I got caught up in her voice and Nikko clocked me.”
Nikko, “New strategy emerges, while we fight, Amaya pesters you with questions. I win every time.”
“Very funny. You’re quite enough of a handful already. Leave Amaya to French, Japanese and Scrabble.”
The phone rings, Janah answers, listens, clicks off.
“The car is registered to a Korean firm, Choi Group. Property holdings in several countries, a favorite is the US. Closely held, they estimate the company is worth forty to fifty billion US. Nice piece of change for a closely held company.”
“Who holds it close?”
“Choi is a family name in Korea, but family names aren’t that extensive, under three hundred. Choi is not the most common, but it’s five percent. The clan name, which is derived from the city where the family originates, is part of it, but not important to us. The name that appears to be on the top of the corporate pile is interesting, the given name is Min, which in Korean can be either ‘clever’ for a girl, or ‘cleverness’ for a boy. They don’t know if Min is male or female, still researching. Chan couldn’t see in the car, and the occupant didn’t have to be Min anyway.”
Nikko, “Is Choi Min even in the US?”
“Society is finding out. They wanted us to give us what they have so far. It will take longer to dig out who the players are, and where they are. On that note, I’m tired.”
Amaya, “Me too. I’ll help Daphne clean up.”
Nikko and Janah wander into the bedroom. Amaya and I make everything clean, shiny and dry, then go to deconstruct.
Amaya, “Shall we sleep with Janah and mom?”
“They would like that. Tonight, take the spot between Nikko and Janah, I’ll get J from the other side. You mother will never say it, but she would like to wrap you up once in a while.”
“Then that is what we will do. Um, we are not interrupting anything, are we?”
I check in, “No. Usually when Janah says she’s tired, she means it. We can plop right in.”
I give Nikko a heads up that Amaya would be crawling in, we show up five minutes later and settle in our spots. Nikko doesn’t say anything, doesn’t have to, the tenderness she feels for Amaya floods right through to me. I curl around Janah, kiss her creamy soft shoulder. Sleep.

Chapter Forty Three

I’m up when Chan calls, “Birds came last night, I didn’t see the point in disturbing you. The men went to Queens, separated to houses a couple of miles from each other. Nothing of interest, birds watched, the men have families, one has no children, the other two. They ate dinner, watched television, went to bed.”
I tell him about the Korean company, that the Society is still digging into who’s who, then ask, “Do you know anything about the houses, how we can figure out who these two men are?”
“Birds can’t read numbers. I have a good approximation of location though.”
“No sweat. If we need to find out who they are, we have two possibilities, follow them home, search out owners names, get car licenses. I don’t see doing all that just yet. We have a company name from the car, Choi Group, let’s see where that leads.”
Chan hangs up, when he’s done, he’s done, no ‘have a nice days,’ or ‘catch you later,’ just dead air.
I hear Janah laughing, Chan do one of his quick check outs?
Always. You heard then.
Yes. Those two don’t matter right now. Other than looking slimy and a gun, we have no clue what they’re about. Obviously they’re on the Choi Group’s leash.
I’ll come to you. Nishiko and the fairy princess are snuggled in.

Janah joins me, we tea and coffee, are quiet, appreciating each other and the stillness of morning. At least until the phone goes off again.
Mrs. Epstein, “Not waking anyone up I hope”
Janah, “Nope, having breakfast with my honey, Amaya and Nikko are still sacked out, mother-daughter bonding.”
“The Choi Group is a real estate holding company overseen by Choi Min. Min was a him.”
“Was. Not now?”
“Not now.”
“A transsexual, interesting.”
Mrs. Epstein, “He…um, she…dresses like a woman, not girly, but feminine. I thought that was a transvestite.”
 “Transvestites aren’t necessarily transsexual. I won’t bore you with detail, the whole issue has more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel, transgender, transsexual, androgynous, cross dressers, transvestite, drag queens, drag kings. To further confuse the issue, reverse gender roles do not necessarily define sexual orientation. Any specifics about Min?”
“I didn’t realize it was that complicated, I’ll have to quiz Bernie. Of all the things we’ve discussed over many years, that never came up. To your question, Min was a male, now a female, sexual preference is unidentified. She appears to be forty, but that’s vague. No live-ins we can identify, there are staff at her home in Seoul, but they appear to be staff, not partners. She goes out with friends who are in the entertainment business in Korea, actors and actresses, singers, or with business associates. We are still investigating but no sign she brings home dates, or that she dates at all.”
“What else? Is she in New York? It isn’t her in the car.”
“How do you know?”
Janah, “The chief executive of a multibillion dollar business empire is not going to chat with two goons from Queens on the street, even from the confines of a town car.”
“Pretty good bet. Yes, Min is in the US, staying at a hotel on the upper east side. A suite, top floor, big one.”
“Every time we do one of these gigs involving wealth, the targets are up in the air, private elevators, stairwells to negotiate. I wish the ground floor would become the new display of having it all.”
Mrs. Epstein laughs, “I live in the middle, you, however, live on the top floor.”
Janah groans, “Oh please, the top of a four story building. If we’re social climbing, we have a lot of floors to go. Although everything in the place is top drawer, so maybe I am being hypocritical. Blame Daphne, she likes the best.”
“That, dear, includes you, Nikko and Amaya. She has premium taste in women and food. To the matter, the problem is, so far there isn’t a problem. We have no clue why representatives of Choi Group, much less Min, would have regular meetings with those two. We really do need more on the men. Do you want us to track them?”
“Not now, Daphne is capable of getting photos of Greasy and Big Boy. We lifted their prints yesterday. Whatever they’re doing, they aren’t hiding. They drank coffee, Big Boy ate his pie, we have prints from the utensils and cups. They’ve been sent to the Society, but I don’t need humans on the ground at this point. If the boys are in a file, we’ll know soon enough. If they show again, we’ll be attaching photos.”
“Take care. We’re doing more digging on Choi Group, but it is closely held and has a lot of tentacles, different companies incorporated in different countries. It’s smart business. If you want construction business in Yemen, you don’t want your company registered in the United States, nor the other way around. The worst we could say about them is they do business with countries not friendly to the US.”
Janah, “You could say that about France, Israel, China, or the US for that matter.”
“Exactly,” Janah hears an elevator ding, the sound of Mrs. Epstein getting into a car, the driver shuts the door, “I have a board meeting in thirty two minutes. Can’t say what board, but tomorrow you will be reading about the search for a new CEO, to replace the one we are going to oust today.”
“He or she have a clue?”
“Poor dear thinks we are seriously considering the outrageous proposal the compensation consultant made at the last meeting. Performance was barely acceptable, the Board listened in stony silence, which he or she apparently took to mean we were cowed. Martha Epstein does not sit on Boards that can be intimidated, I’ve even said so in public. I subtracted points for not doing that rather obvious bit of homework.”
“Heck, I’d read that in the Times, it’s on Google. If a CEO wants to full court press a Board, it might pay to know if they are susceptible.”
“He/she didn’t do their homework, and didn’t even have enough sense to have someone else do it. It added up to casual in a tough business. This particular company doesn’t have enough cool to be casual. It demands rigor.”
“Sounds like it needs Nikko.”
“That’s exactly what it needs. That would shake up some weenie analysts, a samurai in charge. She wouldn’t do it, but we’d have a hell of a lot of fun if she did.”
Janah, “No, she wouldn’t. She is co-CEO with Sis of Svensson-Sylk, and our representative for Epstein, Murakami and Fong. Our little partnership is doing quite nicely, her other time is spoken for.”
They disconnect, but not before Mrs. Epstein’s driver verbally confirms the address with her, Janah figures out the company. It’s production setbacks and cash flow problems are not a secret. The news could be received either way, the stock is down, but hardly demolished, not so simple to tell if it’s best to buy or sell on the news of a CEO replacement. It’s a mental exercise only, Janah wouldn’t do anything even if it was a lock, some things just aren’t done. Yeah, I know. We kill people, or screw with their brains, but we don’t do insider trading. If you’ve read this far, you understand our life isn’t that black and white. And you must have understood that what gets targets in trouble with us seldom has to do with just making money, even if they make it illegitimately. We don’t give a rats about legitimate. Lots of what corporations do is legitimate, not moral, just legal. It has everything to do with our targets causing innocents pain, or some other gratification, sex, power, or sheer badass evil.
“I’ll get the camera, we’ll have shots to add to the fingerprints. Find out if our boys are just sideliners or mainstreamers. It’s only approaching nine now, what’s on the plate until three?”
Janah, “Amaya is in creative time, we disappear and allow her space. An hour for lunch, then she’s with Sis until three.”
“We can extend that until four so I can get the pictures. She is also supposed to select calligraphy from the vault.”
Janah, “I’ll stay with her here, you and Nikko go and select paintings this morning. If she has opinions she can pick from those. You can walk us to the condo after lunch, then go sneak up on Greasy and Big Boy.”
“Got it.”
The day shoots by, Nikko is in the diner to observe, I stay hidden in the kitchen, snap a good shot of Big Boy, then leave through the rear and to the Jamaicans’ table. Mighty Jim pretends to be taking my picture, gets three clears shots of Greasy, and I take another of Big Boy after we’d followed them down Broadway to Bayard St. and the town car. Nikko has a half dozen pictures of the car, still nothing of the occupant.
I upload to the Society, although the fingerprint reports are back and had pretty much nailed our boys. Hoodlums Without Portfolio, unaffiliated mob. Their capo was part of a rather nasty misunderstanding between rivals and subsequently de-capo-tated. These things happen in the netherworld of gangland. In the meantime, our two miscreants are lying low and putting out feelers regarding their availability in the still valuable collections and soon to be missing persons business. They have extensive experience in both collecting debts from those disinclined to pay, and in disappearing persons somebody wants downsized.
Janah, “We can proceed under the reasonable assumption the Choi Group thing is something they picked up while in limbo. Somebody asks about guys who can get things done, Big Boy and Greasy have a favorable rep, here we are. What we don’t know is, what is that thing they can do? We know what they do when employed full time. No doubt this is similar. The Choi Group is not likely in need of collections people. That leaves the other job skill on their resumé.”
Nikko, “Life separation.”
“Yep. So, if we’re on the right planet, who does the Choi Group want missing? Who do they want missing such that it, first, needs to be done in the US, and second, needs to be done distancing themselves so far from the job they employ unaffiliated mob guys?”
Amaya, “I know I’m new to this, but if I may suggest. If I want to get someone higher up on the food chain out of the way, and that person is from an insular and close knit society, I might want to get them out of the way off the home turf. Then I could blame a notoriously violent society, America, specifically New York. I might be able to make the whole thing seem like an accident or a mugging gone bad, without much scrutiny from the home team half a world away.”
Janah, “That’s good, that’s very good. Remind me not to go out of the country with you. Okay ladies, we need to think of a way to find out who’s in the car.”
“I’ve got a couple of ideas, we’ll find out who our mystery rider is.”

Chapter Forty Four

We don’t go in the diner, instead hang behind the Jamaicans.
“Juju, we aren’t here. We’re potted plants.”
Juju doesn’t say anything, if you talk to potted plants in New York, they pick you up and take you in for questioning about the Twin Towers. They don’t think you had anything to do with it, but once you’re caught in the potential terrorist threat net, you have no rights. Saves the city the expense of lawyers, and they get to wail on you without consequences. Police are nothing if not resourceful.
Greasy and Big Boy show up. We move down the block. Nikko to a vegetable stand, me to one of the Starbucks that litter every half block in Manhattan.
I used to like Starbucks, and I don’t hate them now. But they’ve morphed from a neat, trend-setting coffee emporium into, if not a Coffee Wal-Mart, at least a Fake Italian Target. Bad music you can’t escape blares from speakers, pastries are bland and insultingly overpriced, baristas blabber loudly and endlessly over screaming espresso machines in faux friendliness. Management apparently demands excessive exuberance at the very sight of a customer, or even another employee. I guess if you slurp the caffeine all day, you get hyper and run your head. Maybe it gets inhaled just working there, like secondhand smoke. My suggestion is, based on no expertise, if you own the stock, sell it. Starbucks started out hip and smooth, then went public. Then the suits started getting stroked by Wall Street analysts, who never actually ran companies, instead offered bad self serving advice, like armchair quarterbacks trying to improve their odds with the bookies. It’s designed to get the company to pay outrageous fees for investment banking services that eventually overextend it and drive it into bankruptcy. Then the analysts turn on you like rabid hyenas and eat your young. Followed by more investment bankers with buyout offers from other CEOs they’ve convinced to make the same stupid decisions yours did.
But I digress.
We diddle around, the targets start to their rendezvous spot, we follow, the black town car eases to the curb.
I’m strategically located behind shrubbery lining the steps up to a condo. Even if they spot me, I’m just a partial view of someone sitting on steps. My camera is a Canon EOS 5D, Mark II. No, I’m not a camera buff. I use it because it has a silent mode, almost no sound when I snap a picture, and it will video and let me shoot a still at the same time. The things today’s gadgets can do is amazing and I’m a geeky girl.
I’m filming a man inside the car, rich black suit, Patek Philippe on his wrist, dark red silk tie, French cuffs, diamond links. He has short, expensively cut hair, long pointed nose, not Asian. He speaks with a French accent, then says something to the driver in German…. Janah, can you see? He’s said something in German, but has a slight French accent in his English.
Swiss. They have four national languages, French and German are two of them.
It’s good to have a brainiac in the family.
Swiss, “I’ll have a final schedule by tomorrow.”
Greasy, “You coulda told us this on the phone.”
Swiss, “No phone calls. You are being well compensated, you can deal with a subway ride. Or perhaps I have the wrong individuals.”
Greasy, “No, no, it’s good. Just griping, the subway was a mess today. Forget it, okay?”
Swiss appears placated, he wants them under his thumb, the pointless complaint gave him a chance to put them there.
Swiss, “It’s almost time. Two days, three at most. Make final preparations. The woman can be unpredictable, she is a woman after all.”
“I’m familiar. All right, it’s good on our end.”
“And it will look like a mugging gone bad, an unfortunate death as she tried to resist a common robbery?”
Greasy attempts to regain some dignity, “We know our business. The cops will be looking for a druggie or a gang member. Nobody the wiser, leave that to me.”
Swiss, “I shall.”
I want to hear more detail, but the conversation is clearly drawing to a close, I hope I haven’t waited too long.
Nikko, move, they’re finishing up, I need them stalled, twenty seconds.
Greasy, “The final payment on delivery, right?”
I’m scooting up the street towards the car.
Swiss ignores him, distracted, “Lovely young things in New York,” eyes on Nikko, short skirt swaying, longs legs beckon attention.
She strolls adorably down the sidewalk towards me, a mobile plugged in her ear, hips in time with music that isn’t playing. She’s listening to nothing but they don’t know that. Five feet the front of the car, she drops the phone, the plug comes out, it bounces on the sidewalk, protected by an Otterbox Defender just for that contingency.
She curses in Japanese, grabbing closer attention from the men. She turns her back to them and bends over straight legged to pick up the device, the backpack slips off and hits the concrete. Now she has two things to gather up, while she takes her time mumbling to herself, the men take their time staring at the endless legs and slip of panty exposed for their viewing pleasure.
Swiss, “Remarkable.”
Greasy, “What a piece.”
Big Boy, “I gotta tool for her kit.”
Greasy, “Look all you want, but shut up, don’t give her a memory. We ain’t here.”
Enough time for me to scoot into the street behind the car and stick a tracking device under the rear bumper. I have to be careful the powerful magnet doesn’t ‘clonk’ when I attach it. I also have to reach deep, bumpers are actually bumper covers, made of plastic. I’m across the street and down the block before Nikko finishes gathering up her goods, the men still admiring her goodies. She plugs in, continues past them as if they don’t exist and meets me around the corner.
“Good job, I was momentarily distracted myself. I even started to get the camera back out, but I figured it would interfere with the flow of the mission.”
Nikko, “You can enjoy ogling me at home for as long as you want. Then you can service me.”
“I am all anticipation.”
“Got what you needed I see. Let’s go.”
We head back, don’t make it for four, get there at quarter to five. We walked slowly, held hands, got tea and sat on a bench arm in arm. I noticed a few passersby noticing, then got caught up in being with Nishiko, the world evaporated.
Duty calls, we hike the few more blocks to the apartment.
Amaya “Is it okay if I’m in your head while you work? Does it distract?”
“No, with one rule. It’s fine to follow, and it’s fine to reach out if you are involved in the job. One of the benefits is that we can tell our other what we see, if there are problems or dangers. If you are following like today, keeping tabs from home, then don’t ask questions or interrupt. There’s no distraction if you are in my head, only if there is mental conversation.”
“Got it.”
“There’s a caveat to the caveat. If you feel strongly that something helps with the job, for instance, I’m asking someone questions and you think of a question that I should ask, then say so. If I’m in a duel to the death with a bad guy, then stay on the sidelines. If we wind up like Janah, Nikko and I, communication will be instantaneous. Then it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, my brain catches it but I’m not diverted from the matter at hand. Regardless, if you think it’s important, jump in, don’t dawdle in second guessing.”
“Got that too.”
I upload the photos, send them to the Society, Janah already has an address from the tracking device.
“Do you want a monk or someone from the Society to retrieve the GPS?”
Janah, “Leave it for now, we may want to know where else the car goes. If they find it, I don’t care. It might make them paranoid enough to foul up. The car is in a hotel lot, the W at Union Square. Let’s see what happens. Call Chan and ask David Li to send the birds to scope out rooms.”
“The man’s aura was near black. They are clearly plotting a murder. The murder of a she.”
“I heard, not good, but it tells us what a Swiss hotshot is doing with two mugs from Queens. ‘She’ may be Min, if it is, he wouldn’t want them to know she used to be he. It uselessly muddies the water. We need to find out if Min is the target. I sense you have a plan, do it.”

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