Chapter Forty Five
We wait on avian news the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, then Chan calls.
“Birds found a suite, the target was there, and a tall, slim Asian woman. The meeting lasted for a while, it was dark when then they left the room. Birds say they have not returned.”
Janah, “You have a general room location?”
“Top floor southwest corner.”
“Better than general, good work. Please tell David Li his friends have been most helpful. I suspect the Swiss and the woman are out dining someplace, it’s not important for the moment.”
“You don’t know what they are doing here?”
Janah, “Not a clue. Daphne heard enough conversation to know the Swiss has hired the men to kill a woman. We don’t know if the woman in the room is Min, we don’t know if Min is the woman he has in mind. We don’t know if they were in her room or his yet. If the Swiss has a separate agenda to off her, which is our working hypothesis, it’s either in his head or maybe clues in his room.”
She thinks for a moment, “The GPS is still on the car, let me check something. The car is near the hotel, a dozen blocks away, stationary. It will bring them back to the hotel. They have a driver, it may not stay parked at the hotel.”
Chan, “I’ll ask David. You want me to break into the room?”
Janah, “Maybe, not now.”
Chan hangs up.
Janah, “Food ready Daphne?”
“Almost, have a glass of champagne and relax. We can’t do squat until more data comes in.”
“We need to know if Min is the woman in the room. We need to know if the she who is to be murdered is the woman in the room or another unidentified woman. Tomorrow, take Chan and go to the hotel. If she goes out, the birds will let you know, or even better…” she calls Transportation.
“I need a room at the W hotel Union Square, at least two nights, use one of the names on our most recent passports. Top floor if possible, if not, close to. I need it now, check in tonight. And an SUV and driver on call for the duration.”
Things are moving along. We eat, silent, turning the situation over, the phone rings, Janah answers and listens.
“Suite across from her suite. Very good. Get us packed, someone will meet us downstairs in half an hour with the key.”
On the phone again, “Chan, go to the W at Union Square tomorrow, early, six a.m. We have to wait for a chance to get in her room, may need to install listening devices or a video camera, I’ll have them with me. We have to wait until she leaves the hotel, I doubt she goes down for breakfast, a suite assumes room service unless she has a breakfast meeting. Nikko or Daphne will follow her, they can mental me if she starts to return before we’re done.”
They disconnect, we’re packing, “Daph, collect the listening and video equipment, Amaya, the pharmaceutical case. Hopefully we don’t need them, but I don’t want to have to come back for anything. Twenty minutes, drop your cocks and grab your socks.”
An hour later we’re in a lovely suite a mile or so from home. Janah, Nikko and Amaya are sipping wine, me Diet Coke, fancy hotel, but no Coke Zero. The movie channel plays The Debt with Helen Mirren.
Janah, “Drugs set?”
Amaya, “I keep them in a hard side suitcase, Daphne got a monk to create an interior that holds everything in place. All I have to do is add the drugs, Ketamine doesn’t need refrigeration, pentothal does. It has a place for syringes, IV bottles, a collapsible IV stand, duct tape, adhesive tape, nylon ties, picture wire, the halogen light and the IPod with headphones . All the noise and music are stored there. I keep it charged, and the charging cord is in the suitcase. There is a separate smaller suitcase with the voice scrambler. We’re set if we need it.”
Janah, “Wow, good job. I didn’t know, how’d you scoot that past me?”
“Amaya came up with it, I’d like to claim she absorbed my organization genes, but it was all her.”
Nikko, “You did well.”
Check in, we opt for two rooms, the suites don’t offer two bedrooms, Janah and Nikko take one, Amaya and I the other.
“Shall I order room service?”
Janah, “Something simple, is that good for everyone?”
Amaya makes herself a vodka martini while I call, keep it basic, salads, club sandwiches, veg sandwich for J, she and Nikko kill off a half bottle of red. It’s getting late and tomorrow promises to be a long day.
Nikko, “I will defer your obligation to me until this is resolved, but I expect your undivided lust when it is over.”
“I’m sure Janah would find it relaxing to attend to you before sleep.”
Janah, “You’ve read my mind. Nikko, we need to retire.”
An hour later, both couples have taken full advantage of each other. We don’t have all night to play, always time for quick quiver though.
My brain alarm dings at five, I mental Janah awake, wake Amaya and we shower. I call room service at five thirty, order a pile of breakfast, coffee and tea. Chan rings, he’s in the lobby.
Janah, “Room service is almost done, come up in five,” she and Nikko come to our room, Chan a couple of minutes later.
We take our time, the food excellent, coffee rich and hot, scrambled eggs, pastry basket, smoked salmon, Brabant potatoes, essentially cubed French fries, mixed berries with crème fraiche.
Janah, “Family is good?”
Chan, “Yes. David is happy to be involved. The birds like his project. He sends them on other missions for practice. They have become adept at finding people, where they live, describing locations. He doesn’t exactly spy, he keeps no record of what they tell him. A fair number of New Yorkers are leading quiet ordinary home lives, others in constant turmoil, a smaller number have interesting sexual habits.”
“Life is normal then.”
“Yes. He tells me a bit of what they say, they have no opinions of course, just report what happens. They believe that men dressing up in elaborate women’s clothes are a way to preen like peacocks attracting mates. Although they don’t understand why the male does it when he is alone.”
We laugh, Amaya asks, “What does he tell them?”
“That they must be practicing.”
Chan, “The birds already think humans strange. They take it in stride, guess I should say, in flight.”
Janah, “I really must find a way to turn this into a talk for the monks. Give me something to think over after the current issue is resolved.”
Amaya, “I’m already thinking of a piece, ‘A bird’s eye view of the human condition.’”
Janah, “Brilliant. When you have it ready, perhaps I’ll steal portions for my address. I’m overdue to speak, it’s been several months. The other masters have been discoursing on Shaolin and Buddhism. I want to have a talk that gives examples of Shaolin in today’s world.”
“We can work on it together then. It will be fun, two versions, one for Shaolin, one for the public. I have a few ideas.”
Nikko, “And today?”
Janah, “Today, we wait. Starting now, you, Daphne and Chan watch the door. Chan, did they find out about the Swiss?”
“Ah, yes. He’s down two floors on our side of the hotel. Curtains not open when I came up.”
“Do the birds know Daphne?”
“Okay then. Daph, go downstairs and let them have a look at you. A couple will come to talk. Let them know what we want. Who gets door duty”
Nikko, “I’ll do it.”
I go downstairs, meet with my pigeon contacts, stool pigeons? I spot an owl on a shop sign across the street, I walk over and down an alley. The bird flies in and lands on a dumpster.
You are not one of the stupid ones.
I hope not. You are out early, you know why we are here?
A Dark One is plotting evil. You are going to prevent it.
Yes, with your help, if you will.
I mostly don’t care what humans do to each other, you and your flock are different. The boy has told me of you. Trained by the eagle and the owl in the north. Since you are not stupid, I have agreed to help. What are your skills, human.
There are cockroaches behind the dumpster, feeding on rotted meat. A mouse has gotten trapped in the dumpster, he is recently dead. I see a bit of paper blowing across the street. It is a flyer for a store two blocks over, a restaurant, Thai.
I leap and grab the lowest rung of a fire escape, ten feet above the street, hang one handed.
Thanks to my teacher’s training, I can hang her all day, chat with you and not get tired.
Owl, You have been well instructed. A few can transmit skills, most cannot. I cannot. How can I serve you?
I drop to the ground, We asked birds to watch a woman in the hotel across the street.
I have seen her.
Then, if she leaves, follow. Pigeons will follow as well, they cannot track as well as you, and it is easier for me to talk to you. The boy has more skill than I. But the owl and the eagle are more intelligent, you can help with my deficiencies.
Owl, If humans knew they were stupid, they wouldn’t be stupid anymore. At least you found out.
I smile, I wonder if he knows Mrs. Fong.
Chapter Forty Six
'…we all at some time grow unutterably weary of being who we are and who we were.'
Javier Marias, A Heart so White
I return to the room after letting the pigeons have a look, some know me from the roof at home, wings flap in greeting.
Nikko, Pickup an envelope from the front desk.
I turn right when I enter the building, smile at the desk clerk, give him my room number and flip open my passport, he hadn’t even put the envelope away, “Man just left Ms. Richards, here you are.”
A thick envelope, a housekeeping universal key card buried in a stack of blank paper, “Thank you,” then to the elevator.
Amaya, “I have the listening equipment set up. She has been quiet, does not talk to herself, small problem, the TV came on. After that, a phone call, the conversation was unclear although the snatch we picked up said ‘at eleven.’ The rest was garbled.”
“Are we ready to enter the room?”
Nikko, “Yes, camera, bugs to install, do you want video?”
“Skip it. Do an in and out. If this drags on we can install video later. I think we have a good idea of what’s going down. Evidence of her purpose here in the US would be helpful. We’re focusing on the wrong room. We need to access the Swiss’ room. He’s the one hiring hit men.”
“Well, we don’t know that she isn’t behind the hiring and the plan is to kill another woman. That may be clear after we check out her room.”
Amaya, “So both rooms are the right room based on what we do not know.”
Janah, “Good point.”
Amaya is at the door, peering through the peephole, “She’s leaving.”
I hear the door slam, even in upscale hotels, the doors always bang shut. Seems like there ought to be a way to have it close on its own without slamming, but every hotel I’ve been in, it’s the same. Some even rattle the walls.
Janah, “Daphne, go downstairs and verify she’s left.”
I don’t want to wait on an elevator, so zip down the stairwell. I catch her and Swiss exiting, She and the Swiss are getting into the car, click on the GPS, if it’s still there we can use that to find out when they are heading back.
Janah, Go to the second room, Amaya will meet you with the housekeeping key. She’s letting Chan and Nikko into the woman’s room now.
A minute later Amaya and I are poking around the man’s room. He’s Swiss, ultra-neat. There’s a laptop, off. Amaya boots it up and sticks in a thumb drive with a log-in bypass. It takes a minute, then she’s in.
Amaya, “Bad boy, fails to clear his history. He likes porn, but then, who doesn’t? Average stuff, no bondage, nothing weird, just common thumbnail sites. Wait, ah-hah! Links to what they call nonnude, the kind of stuff I used to do. Preadolescent girls in skimpy clothes, bikinis and underwear. Let me see, his photo collection, yes, there they are. He’s got dozens of files, hundreds of photos, wonder if he has my old stuff?”
She takes a quick look at the folders, “Too many, I’ll copy the photo files and check later.”
He’s still logged into his company mail, his e-mails are visible, nothing obvious regarding our mission, likely too careful for that simplistic a digital trail.
I find a briefcase, locked. No sweat, I pull off the latex gloves, roll the counters around until my fingers feel the jiggley spots on each number, the clasps flip open. I put the gloves back on, wipe the spots I’d touched, spread out the contents, photograph them and scan the pages for Janah to read in my head.
Janah, Go faster, I’m getting it all.
Sheesh, it’s a blur to me now, you’re a freak.
I finish, put things back in order, start to drop the document in, something doesn’t feel right. The outside is too thick for the inside. I pull at a corner, the false bottom comes away, underneath are another few sheets of paper. I flip through them, then replace everything, snap the case shut, twirl the lock to the original numbers. Don’t know if he’s anal enough to check the numbers when he locks it, may as well be cautious. We do a cursory check of the closets, the bathroom, open the all the drawers. Nice threads, nothing interesting. We aren’t going to tear the place apart, the point is to keep our visit anonymous.
Amaya, “Unless he has false heels on his shoes, there’s nothing interesting.”
“I doubt this is a matter of hidden thumb drives or microchips. Janah is digesting the documents.”
J, is there anything else you can think of?
Janah, Nope, come back, I think I’m getting the picture between what you have and what Nikko found.
I listen at the door, no sounds in the hallway, pull it open a crack, then more, scan the hallway, empty. Amaya goes out and punches the elevator button. If someone is in it, she’d get in and go to the next floor, I’d take a different elevator.
Empty, I come out, close his door as quietly as possible and join her. Then we’re back in the room.
Nikko and Chan are already there, I hear the housekeeper rolling her cart down the hall, timing is everything. Janah has the Do Not Disturb sign on our door, we have things to do.
Janah, “Good thing we broke in, when I had the Society call, there’s no Choi Min checked in, no Choi Group billing. We couldn’t have been sure who was in there. She’s here to see a psychiatrist, apparently ongoing therapy, her gender transformation is not going smoothly. She’s had the operations, a complete she physically. I don’t want to discourse on post-operative transition after what they call ‘sexual reassignment.’ A quick summary is it’s a very mixed bag, prior psychological problems, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety and addictive behavior don’t just disappear. If they had psychological issues before, a body reconstruction doesn’t wipe out the psychology. It must be difficult for them.”
Nikko, “Where did she have it done, here or in Korea, do you know?”
“Based on the documents in her suitcase it was in Thailand. Her original therapist is there as well. When problems persisted, she therapy shopped, the details are sketchy, just names of Dr. This or Psychologist That. Then she found a psychiatrist here. From her passport stamps, she’s seen this woman a half dozen times. Chan found a supply of antidepressants in her suitcase as well. She didn’t try to hide them, there’s a safe in every room.”
“Want me to open his safe?”
“Let’s wait. His name is Petrus Gantner. The Society is tracking him down now. Let me wrap up what I do know, then we can decide if it’s necessary to go back in. His papers and email are a litany of complaints from the Choi Group management about Min’s increasingly erratic behavior. She’s been absorbed with her personal problems, the papers don’t specify, but the upshot is money is being lost hand over fist, deals that are supposed to go through don’t, promises made and not kept, lawsuits in several countries. She has absolute voting control. Right now, she is the Choi Group.”
Chan, “Then they are opting for the removal of its head, by any means necessary.”
“Maybe not all of them, maybe nobody but Gantner wants to take it to murder. Obviously, he’s willing.”
“Any idea of who gains control?”
Janah, “I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s money, I’d say even board members not directly affected financially wouldn’t regret a fatal incident. Nobody wants to be on a sinking ship.”
Amaya, “And no fingers pointed at the other management?”
“No. Min doesn’t have a pal in the place. She’s in personal disarray to say the least, and she doesn’t see it, or doesn’t want to see it. She could remove herself from operating decisions, let someone else do the day to day. I can only guess she thinks she’ll be ousted. With her history, in a country like Korea, she likely isn’t held in high regard in the first place. The Korean government is relatively enlightened about homosexuality and transgender issue, the people less so. They could take a female in charge, but not a female who used to be a male. The fact that she never thought of herself as a man doesn’t enter into the equation.”
Janah, “I understand management’s frustration. They can’t get cooperation and they can’t override her. They have families and employees depending on one unstable woman. Still, we can’t let them kill her.”
Nikko, “So then what?”
“I presume they’ve tried to have a court declare her incompetent. It obviously hasn’t worked. I’ve got an idea. We may need the suitcase.”
“You going to fill Min with drugs?”
“No, Gantner, I’m going to change his mind, one way or the other.”
Chapter Forty Seven
The phone beeps, Janah answers, Mrs. Epstein, “Petrus Gantner is a Swiss banker and Chief Operating Officer of the Choi Group. He is not married, fancies himself an intellectual and is known to be ruthless in business dealings. He is shrewd, offers a patina of courtesy and charm, otherwise ice water frigid. Employees like him and hate him. He has been called a genius and a piranha, a lethal combination. He was questioned in the murder of a prostitute in France, no charges. He keeps a collection of escorts on call, and has an unverified reputation for rough sex and a taste for adolescent girls. In parts of Europe young girls are less of an issue than in the US. There are many teen prostitutes, other allegedly legitimate services offering girls or boys under the guise of foster children, au pairs or exchange students. Our definition and theirs is significantly different.”
Janah, “We have our own child sex problem. You are saying it is, at the least, overlooked.”
Mrs. Epstein, “It isn’t a blind eye, it’s no eye at all. With the influx of Eastern Europeans, surfeits of children in Asia and Africa, it’s a buyer’s market and business is brisk.”
“And he’s reputed to be a buyer.”
“Of the highest quality. He’s put several girls through exclusive private schools, a couple work in his personal business interests. None has even hinted at pressing charges, in fact, word is they appear quite happy. They are sophisticated, have married well. He even gave them away in the ceremony.”
“Crikey, he is slick.”
“As oil on glass.”
“Other girls he took under his wing are reputed to have returned to their home countries, except there is no documentation that they left Switzerland or entered their home country. He was questioned, he sticks to his story, they reached sixteen, were able to do as they wished. They told him they were going home. Nobody to say otherwise.”
“Thank you. I’m going to have a chat with Gantner. We’ll air this out one way or the other.”
“Bye dear, happy hunting.”
They click off.
Janah recounts the conversation, then, “Chan, get Greasy and Big Boy out of the picture. I’ll deal with them later, I haven’t decided to what degree yet. I need them out of action before any action starts. Gantner hasn’t any backup plan we’re aware of, and even if he does, I’ll be in front of him before he has any chance to implement it.”
She turns to me, “Call the temple, have Kahn arrange a car and a couple of monks to drive Chan to his targets. Get a place he can park the two men, the monks can babysit until I can get around to them.”
Chan, “I need a few things, have them pick me up at Chapmans in an hour.”
“I’ll have our car and driver out front,” I get on the phone, Janah, Nikko and Amaya began to plot how to get Gantner and Min under wraps without alerting anyone in the hotel. It has to be quick, we’re running out of time. Min is scheduled to leave day after next. Taking the hired hands out doesn’t change her situation, people will still want her dead.
Amaya, “Let me pick him up and go to his room. I will require something from room service, which will be delivered by Daphne or mom.”
Nikko, “I don’t know, let’s just front him when he goes in the room.”
Amaya, “It is a hotel, what if guests are in the hall, or there is noise and someone calls security? This will be a piece of cake. If I cannot get a man to invite me to his room, I am not much of a performance artist.”
Nikko looks at me, I say, “She isn’t going to be in there five minutes. Soon as she gets in, she’ll have him calling room service.”
Amaya, “Oh, I plan for the room service issue to be dealt with before we hit the room. Daphne, just be in uniform and ready to deliver. Mother can be a guest walking down the hall when Daphne knocks on the door. He will never know what hit him.”
Janah, “What do you need?”
Amaya, “I brought it. Short skirt, not so short as to be slutinsky, rather youthful elegance. Daphne will make me up to be a sophisticated young woman with a free afternoon while her parents are with business associates. I am going to be French, n’est pas?”
She is irresistible. If we weren’t on a job, I would…but we’re on a job, oh well.
Gantner and Min, according to the GPS, are returning to the hotel. Amaya goes downstairs, it’s early afternoon. The birds, and the GPS both report they’d driven to a location in midtown. Monks appeared, they watched Gantner alone in the car. Min emerged from her psychiatrist’s office and they were driven to Four Seasons. They had lunch, now returning.
Amaya catches them entering, She approaches from down the street, not from inside the hotel. Min walks straight in, Gantner is outside giving the driver instructions. Amaya stands between him and the hotel entrance, he turns, the driver takes off, Gantner stops and takes in the young girl looking puzzled.
Gantner, “May I help? You appear to be lost.”
Amaya looks perplexed, says in French, “I am taking a walk and seem to have gotten turned around, excuse me, I do not speak English.”
Gantner, in French, “Fortunately, miss, I speak French. May I assist you?”
Amaya looks relieved, smiles and bats her eyes, she touches his arm, “You are so kind, do you stay here? I am so thirsty, I have walked a long while,” Gantner’s fly is caught in Amaya’s web.
A drink in the lobby bar, and a charming conversation later, Amaya says, “Such a beautiful hotel, is the food good? I am starved. I have room service whenever we travel, I love the way they roll in the carts, set everything out. I can enjoy the TV or the view without people all around. It is so crowded in New York.”
Gantner nods, makes the obvious suggestion.
Amaya, “I would love to see the choices now, can we do that? It will be fun to discuss the selections with you, my savior,” she is seduction in action, “then I would love to able to refresh beforehand. May I borrow your…?”
She uncrosses her legs, leans towards him, touches his hand “You have been so kind, I presume, forgive me.”
“God she is smooth.”
Gantner, “I am delighted to be of assistance,” he flags the waiter, Amaya studies the menu, they chat, she asks for his advice, he provides it.
Amaya, “Perfect, I cannot believe I met you. It is fate, I am sure of it.”
Gantner’s mouth should be bleeding, the hook set so deep, “Shall we go up?”
Amaya rises, takes his hand, “I shall follow your lead, my new friend.”
“She could make a bulldog break its chain.”
Nikko, “Get to the kitchen and deliver the food, I don’t want her in there alone one second longer than necessary.”
“Geez Nikko, if we give her ten minutes, he’ll make her sole beneficiary of his will. She’s got it under control.”
Three minutes later I’m rolling a cart with chilled Dom Perignon, smoked salmon and caviar up to the door, I knock, “Room service.”
I roll the cart in, start to arrange things. Amaya is sitting at the table, skirt showing a hint of perfection, enough to be inviting without issuing an actual invitation. Gantner hasn’t even removed his jacket.
Gantner, “Thank you, miss. I’ll take it from here.”
“Yes, sir,” while he’s signing the check, I sweep his feet out from under him, plant my knee in his chest and my knife to his throat, “do anything but breathe and you bleed out on the carpet.”
His eyes narrow, I poke his throat with the pointed blade, draw blood, “Don’t.”
Amaya lets Nikko in, Gantner is strapped and wrapped, sitting straight up in the chair Amaya used. I pull the curtains, the pigeon looks disappointed.
Unplug the hotel phone and hang the DND tab on the door. Nikko frisks him, takes his ID and cell phone. She turns it off, opens it, yanks the SIM card. Amaya plugs in the halogen light, focuses it in Gantner’s face, we turn off the room lights.
Nikko opens the door, Janah comes in, suitcase of pharmaceutical wonders rolling obediently behind her.
For the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening, Gantner visits several alternate universes, the multiverse, and whatever verse Brian Greene has thought up recently. We open the champagne and give it to him when he gets thirsty. There will be an empty bottle, a glass with his prints on it, we feed him caviar and salmon. I open a selection of minis from the refrigerator and pour a couple down his throat, empty a half dozen more down the sink. I put his prints on the bottles and leave the empties lying around. Enough to lose track of what he’d done when, throw confusion into the mix.
By the time Janah gets to his third dose of Pentothal, Gantner is bragging about his prowess and the tender delights of young girls. While Janah works, Nikko, Amaya and I sample the remaining salmon and caviar, tasty.
Janah extracts a detailed confession and confessions regarding the missing girls. She has him on tape, and a signed document on the table. Four girls sold, two murdered. We have enough to lead the Swiss police to the remains. Whether the other four are alive the police can try and determine. Sex slaves don’t have a long shelf life. Janah has details of how the girls were acquired and names of other participants. Apparently international banking creates more than money predators. People say it’s a power trip, but I fail to see how control over a young girl with few options makes anyone powerful. It does make them assholes.
Janah has Gantner’s handwritten confession and his signature, we take his passport as well.
We clear our equipment, run a hotel vacuum over the carpet, Gantner and the table. I wipe down the table, I wore white gloves to deliver the food and champagne. Janah uses the Luer-Lok one last time, inserts a syringe with enough Phenobarbital to keep him out for hours.
From the time Nikko came in, everyone had on latex gloves, including Amaya. Janah and Nikko leave, Amaya and I wipe every flat surface she could have contacted before we joined her, bathroom included, flush the toilet twice more, run the faucet for a couple of minutes and return to our room. It’s overkill, it’s a hotel, they clean but they can’t remove every guest’s prints. Many can’t seem to get the former guests hair out of the bathtub.
Janah, “Have a courier leave a copy of the audio at the front desk for Min. There will be a stink. She’ll have to rearrange her travel plans. We can’t talk to her face to face, be rather obvious who organized Gantner’s demise. How she handles it is her problem. Let’s get out of here.”
Janah calls the Society. They would, in eight or nine hours, anonymously inform the police of a murder for hire and where to find the employer. He would be groggy and have no recollection of how he came to confess. Even if Gantner figures out he’d been drugged it would be difficult to prove, there are empty booze bottles lying around after all. It would seem to him he’d had a long, strange nightmare. He sure isn’t going to chat about having a fifteen year old girl in his room. The tiny hole where she’d stuck the needle wouldn’t be noticeable after a several hour nap, particularly in a whirlwind of handcuffs and Miranda warnings.
Chapter Forty Eight
An hour later, we’re in a warehouse in Queens, Greasy and Big Boy pouting, at least I think they’re pouting, hard to say with their mouths wrapped in duct tape.
Greasy is unmarked, Big Boy has a rather large knot on the top left of his skull.
Chan and two monks picked Greasy up leaving a bar. He was out and in the van, saw, heard or felt nothing.
Big Boy, getting out of his car, was more resistant, and Chan had to dent the Caddy’s roof with his head, thus the knot. Next time maybe he’ll go ragtop.
But, here they are, all ready to go tête-à-tête with Janah. Strapped down to straight chairs, facing a wall, black cloth bags over their heads.
Amaya grins, she’s all about the work, halogen lamp, insert needles, tape them in place. She has the suitcase open on a table near the targets, like a nurse anesthetist, ready to plug in at Janah’s direction.
When she’s ready, Chan douses the lights, Amaya flips on the halogen and whips off the bags like a waiter uncovering the entrée, voilà!
They blink in the blinding light, she rips the tape from Greasy’s mouth. He isn’t happy, “Fuck this about? You have no idea who you fuckin’ wit’.”
Janah is synthesized, “I have an exact idea with whom I am fucking, Anthony Marcella and Tiny Fanzine, collectors, bag men and wet work, for Gino Berlusconi and occasional freelance.”
Greasy, “If you know dat’ you got some idea what kina’ shit is goin’ rain down on you.”
Janah, “Rain down on who, exactly? You don’t know me, you don’t know how you got here, you don’t even know where here is. Save your voice, you’ll need it to scream.”
Greasy starts shaking his chair, flipping his curses between English and Italian, Nikko breaks his nose, blood drips down his shirt, sticks her knife in the side of his neck, whispers in his ear, “Keep it up and I take your tongue,” she pokes the blade deeper. Anthony shuts up.
Janah, “Tiny, you’re doing fine. I’m going to send Anthony off the planet for a couple of hours. You and I can chat, or I can send you out there to join him. Relax and listen.”
A quarter hour later, Greasy’s screams rattle the warehouse walls, then Amaya stuffs a rag in his mouth and tapes him shut.
Janah, “Getting the idea of what my drugs can do to a mind, Tiny? Kindly answer, please skip the threats.”
Tiny, “How can I help you?”
Janah, “Ah, the quiet one is the intelligent one. I’ll lay it out. You and Tony were hired to off woman, the job isn’t done yet, but it’s due to happen today or tomorrow. You have been speaking to a Swiss called Petrus Gantner, meeting him frequently in south Manhattan. Please don’t tell me you have no idea what I’m talking about, we have photos, we found you, we took you. Can we avoid more of Tony’s stupidity?”
Tiny, “I am certain of it. What do you want to know?”
Janah, “Nothing, we already know. What I want is for you and Tony to roll over on Gantner.”
Tiny, “Why should I do that?”
Janah, “Want me to play the Tony station again? It can be a twenty four hour channel, I can keep both of you up for days, singing to each other, soiling yourselves, you know, torture.”
Tiny, “It seems indecorous.”
Janah, “It is, Tiny, it truly is. Instead of that, you and Tony go to the cops with a story of how a foreigner approached you to kill a woman. You strung him out for a week, but he was pressing to get the job done. You want to turn him in.”
Tiny, “Just like that.”
Janah, “Why not? Better than sitting here with me and my pharmacy, losing your mind. What are they going to do, arrest you for being a good citizen? Besides, we already have his confession, you are the icing on his dried up cake.”
Tiny, “If you have him, what do you need us for?”
Janah, “Why, to put the spotlight on you of course. So you find something to do other than kill people. I don’t care if you collect for loan sharks, and I don’t care if you shuffle money around for your bosses. I don’t care if you murder other criminals. You just can’t murder people for no reason other than you are paid to.”
Tiny, “Let me get this straight. We go to the cops, tell them about Gantner, straight up and that’s it?”
Janah, “You may have to testify, but I’m going to make a recording of your role in this, and get a signed statement. You’ll have to do the same thing for the cops. If you do it straight, you never hear from me again. If you try and duck your civic duty, I make your life miserable, every day, in every way.”
Tiny sighs, “Once upon a time….”
And he does. And while he does, Amaya brings Tony down, levels him our and lets him listen to the audio version of Tiny’s story.
Janah, “Tiny, would you kindly tell Tony why he should be interested in cooperating, in addition to retaining his sanity.”
Tiny s remarkably persuasive. Not subtle, persuasive, “Tony, what do you think happens if Gino finds out our freelancing has come back on us? He already doesn’t like the side action. You will do this or you will become another piece of shit floating in the Hudson. This is an easy deal. We turn in this guy Gantner, we go home.”
Tony tries to flagellate his machismo, “I don’ like bein’ told I gotta do something. Particularly by people I never seen.”
Janah, “Tony, I don’t care what you like. Take the deal, or see me in your nightmares. Tiny, you need to find someone with more brains than bluster.”
Tiny, “You may be right. Look Tony, we are in photos with Gantner, they showed them to us. They have a written and taped confession from Gantner naming us, showed us that too. If we don’t move first, we come out as accomplices, and Gino gets unpleasant.”
Janah, “Speaking of moving first, Gantner is going to be arrested in under three hours. What’s it going to be gentlemen?”
Tiny, “Tony’s not such a bad guy, he just needs to blow off steam. I’m certain he understands the logic of your generous offer, don’t you Tony?”
Tony, “Whateva. I don’t want no more fuckin’ drugs, I gotta head like a lead balloon, my ears are still ringin’.”
Janah, “You’ll be fine tomorrow. Drink a lot of water. By a lot I mean so you slosh when you walk. The more you pee, the sooner the end of the balloon head. Booze doesn’t count, it will make it worse.”
Tiny, “I’ll fix him up, let’s go be good citizens, Tony. Tomorrow’s another day.”
We unstrap them, put the bags back over their heads, nylon ties around their wrists, behind them, not in front. If you know what you’re doing, you can bust out of nylon ties with your wrists tied in front of you. We switched to picture wire, except in this case. Wire leaves marks, sometimes cuts. Don’t need the police curious about sliced skin. We wait at the warehouse while monks take them to a police station, pull around the corner, clip the ties and leave them standing on the street. The van disappears, Gino and Tony blink in the light. Tony fumes for a minute, then reason and Tiny’s meat hook on his neck bring him clarity. They walk to the station.
The van returns, we’re packed and ready, shortly back in the hotel.
Janah, “Pack up and out. I don’t want to be around when the cops come up to talk to Min.”
An hour after that, we’re in our condo.
Only one thing left to do, Janah gets on the secure phone, calls the hotel and asks to be connected to Min’s room number. She picks up.
Janah, “Choi Min, you don’t know me, but you will be interested in what I have to say.”
Janah details Gantner’s activities, what he planned for her and how.
Min, “I can hardly believe it.”
Janah, “I’m sending over a copy of his confession. The police will want to talk to you. Feel free to pretend you didn’t have a clue until they told you. What led to this is more important. You have lost the confidence of your management, your company is losing money and opportunity while you are buried in your personal problems. I am sympathetic to your situation, but it is irresponsible to continue as CEO while your behavior is erratic and detrimental to the best interest of the company.”
Min, “They want to steal my company.”
Janah, “Our research says no, and your behavior is guaranteeing the loss of your company. There is no reason you can’t take a leave of absence for health reasons and turn over daily operations to someone else. Our investigations point to either your CFO or the director of European operations as particularly qualified. You need not cede voting control. Just stay out of the way until your house is in order. I should think your personal turmoil is more than enough for you right now. I can’t tell you what to do, only ask you to consider it. Good luck to you. ”
Janah, “If the idea one of her own people would go to this extreme doesn’t get her attention she’s lost. I don’t know what route she’ll take, she didn’t say anything substantive. Doesn’t matter, at least she’s not going to get murdered over it. Anything more we do risks putting us in the picture. That isn’t going to happen.”
“Amaya not only made things easier, she handled Gantner like a string puppet.”
Janah, “She was efficient and professional. Our little army gets more proficient every time we go into battle. Nikko even got to break a nose.”
Amaya is reorganizing the pharma suitcase, restocking, all the used material we’d dumpstered. I unpack us, hang up the unused clothes, put away our stage makeup kit.
We’re tired, been up all night, nap time. Our nap rolls on until three, I haven’t heard from J or Nikko. I make coffee and tea, put out snacks.
The troops roll in, quiet, awake but in that nap way when you slept too long out of sequence. It takes a half hour before we’re fully functional.
“I suggest we go for a rather long walk, try and get enough exercise to have a normal night’s sleep. Probably should have pushed on through the day instead of napping, but that’s a dead issue. Anyone up for it?”
Janah, “I’m going, I need to move.”
Fifteen minutes later we’re slogging east. We decide to walk to the East River, then back home, crosswise the city rather than up and down. It is blessedly uneventful, we circle south, then west, north to home, a square of six miles at a brisk, not crazed, pace. It feels good to unwind. I call Marconi’s for pizzas, we stop to collect them on the way to the apartment. Technology may have drawbacks, but ready access to pizza isn’t one of them.
We have to shower again, I don’t like going to bed grimy and walking that far left too much New York stuck to me. I love my town, but it is gritty with dust and exhaust grime that stays trapped by the buildings.
Slide the pizzas out of the box and into the oven to warm, cover the top with aluminum foil to keep from browning the cheese. We like the crust crusty, even crunchy, but if I don’t cover the top, I get dry where I don’t want it. Good old America, Reynolds makes foil that won’t stick to the cheese. It’s the little things.
We watch Bad Teacher, which I thought could have been hilarious, except they turned it into sappy and predictable. Around eleven thirty there are sleepy noises and we wander off to our spots.