Chapter Forty Five
Amaya, Chloe and Daria are in Los Angeles, working it, it isn’t a pleasure trip. Amaya does her scene, a nightclub singer, whacked the bad guy with her mike stand and is done. Chloe is in a lot of scenes, almost all, her schedule is crazy. There’s no time for LA diddling around, Amaya drives her to locations around town, Daria watches the crowds. It’s LA, people have seen filming and stars walking around. The only buzz is Chloe’s fans, who somehow figure out everyday where the scenes are being shot and show up like swarms of gnats. Chloe takes every break and visits the girls, gets photo’d a few zillion times, smiles her way through it all.
Amaya, Chloe is a dream for her fans. Hardly has a chance to eat lunch and is exhausted at the end of the day. You were right to skip the trip, there is no time for anything.
We’d decided not to do even the week, the library project is underway, Janah and I are over there much of the day, or online or on the phone with book dealers. Nikko and Zi are up to their ears in property management, thank goodness Dasha is keeping us fed.
Amaya, Eloise is a hit. She flew the drone, the plain version, no death darts. Childers said I had to write in a drone for the next book. We had what we thought was a snag, a girl who had a few scenes as the daughter of mobster got sick and had to bail. Childers took a look at Daria and convinced us to let her take a shot at the role. He was concerned about her learning her lines, the character has several conversations. I had to laugh, she read her part once and handed him the script. We did not mention her memory. I thought he would faint when she got every line exactly as written, one take. He was flabbergasted.
“hat’s too funny, I’ll have fun telling the family, How’d she do with the acting part?
Amaya, At first, he thought she was wooden, you know how she is. Then, he realized it gave the character something different, a menacing presence in the part of a fifteen year old girl. They did a quick rewrite, which I approved, and the character went from a typical angst ridden teen to a psychopathic adolescent that beats the crap out of an abusive classmate. The crew gave her a standing ovation.
Cool, what did she do? Hope she didn’t just blink and walk off the set.
Amaya laughs, No, she became the other Daria.
Get out! Don’t tell me.
Amaya, Yes, ‘have a nice day, thank you for coming, we appreciate your business, come again soon, bye now,’ then she blinked and walked off the set. Chloe and I were hysterical.
Sounds like Daria, you’re home day after tomorrow?
Amaya, Yes, Childers is on plan, even with the small change, he is a most efficient director, things happen on schedule, it is LA, not much adjustment for bad weather, it is always sunny when you need it to be.
Take care, we’re looking forward tour movie stars coming home.
And two days later, they arrive, tired, long days over they are more than ready for down time. After drinks and dinner, they pile up in bed for twelve hours.
Dasha and I make mega breakfast, I followed enough of their trip to know most of the meals were quickies.
Chloe, “It’s been weeks since we’ve had real breakfast, every morning, yogurt and an apple or banana, we ate protein lunch light to avoid getting sleepy, room service saved us at night, but it was almost always late evening, so we stuck to sandwiches. Shutters was delightful, but we never even made it to the restaurant.”
Amaya, “Daria was super, I never thought to make the character psychopathic, and when she did her lines, it made perfect sense.”
“Daria, how did you know to take the character in a different direction?”
Daria, “When I read script, I think, girl’s line could be read with the same words, different attitude. Turn fear into nothing, so I don’t make a squeaky voice, I make it flat, even, speak more slowly, enunciate each word, manipulate. Soon as I read it, I thought of Alice in TV program Luther.”
Amaya, “Yes! Exactly, a young Alice.”
“What if they wanted you to go to the original?”
Daria, “Childers is smart director, he caught on right away, saw the potential to get away from scared screaming girl in every movie, cliché.”
Amaya, “I would be insulted, but she is simply right. So instead I am grateful. The character is going to have an ongoing role in the books. I did not rework the character from Luther, Daria made the connection on her own.”
Nikko, “I imagine after all the books and movies, all characters resemble some other character. It’s hardly any kind of plagiarism even if you intentionally modeled the girl on Alice. There are plenty of female psychopaths, Alice is modeled on one of them.”
Amaya, “And I have to get back to work, I shall be invisible until lunch, something light Daphne if you please, teas is four, four thirty?”
Nikko, “Make it four thirty, Zi and I have four appointments, one is a working lunch with the staff, we will be done at four.”
“Good enough, Janah will be on the library business most of the day, I’ll do the travel laundry, Chloe probably wants to chill.”
Chloe, “Yes. The morning is zip, after lunch kendo kata and more zip until tea.”
Dasha and I clean up, sort laundry and get things in motion, spend an hour on the qi dummies, finish up the laundry and it’s time to make lunch. We settle on turkey and cranberry on toast with chips. I deliver Amaya’s sandwich, Dasha takes Daria and Eloise theirs in the workshop, Chloe, Janah, Dasha and I eat at the table. Chloe decides on nap first, kendo later.
Chloe, “Daph, if I’m not up in an hour or so, will you wake me please?”
She goes off to her room, I ask Dasha, “What’s for dinner?”
“I haf ingredients for meatloaf wiz brown gravy, mahcahroney and chizz, maybe add vegetables. We haf Italian salad before, I make gud Ghirardelli brownies wiz walnut, also vanilla bean ice crim”
Chapter Forty Six
Renovations complete, the Bernard and Martha Epstein Library is ready to launch. We invited the owners of rare book stores in Manhattan, there are seven or eight, a representative from the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, our esteemed Mayor, who knew he was a bookaholic? Academics from Fordham, Columbia, NYU and CCNY. A reporter from the New York Times, who turned out to be a fan of Amaya’s.
Space permits only a couple dozen people, we already have appointment requests from over two hundred academics.
Lacy and David are basking in compliments on the selections and arrangement. The library has first editions of works published in English from the eighteenth century to present day, both fiction and nonfiction. A separate section is devoted to Buddhist texts and Shaolin. They are shelved by date and subject. Each text lays on a slanted shelf to make it easy to see covers, you don’t stack rare books like a common library or bookstore. There are five hundred titles.
The curator from the New York Public Library does a thirty minute presentation on several of our first editions. We flew in two abbots whose temples loaned us texts from their collections. They spoke about the texts, most from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, copies of earlier long lost originals.
Our library either buys books outright or we accept them on loan. Individuals and organizations retain ownership, but have the comfort of knowing the books are secure and are being shared with knowledgeable people who otherwise might never get to read them.
If people wish to donate the books, we supply an independent market appraisal, they get both a tax deduction and their name as donor is inscribed on a brass plate attached to the shelf. People seem to donate as much for that as the tax deduction.
We kept much of the furniture Mrs. Epstein had in the main room, the two other bedrooms were converted to reading and study space, long well lit tables. The master bedroom is closed off and remains private.
The reception includes food and drink, available in the kitchen and dining area, no food or beverages in the library for obvious reasons. The Times reporter does brief interviews, photographs, the mayor makes a short speech. Nothing political, a thanks to the Sylk Trust for funding such a wonderful cultural project and to Mrs. Epstein for donating the space.
For the opening, only Janah and I, Amaya, Chloe, Dasha and Daria attend. Eloise too, but she spends time in the private bedroom monitoring the cooling and humidity system, a test run for when the place is crowded.
On a regular day, we can have up to perhaps twenty visitors at a time, then the spaces for seating are filled. It’s not a problem as we work by appointment. We will have to feel our way along, we are told that most visitors will have a specific volume or subject in mind, they won’t want to browse the entire collection. Some will want to more thoroughly examine the collection and may take more than a six hour day to do it. We accept requests for multiple day visits. Two monks will serve as hosts, both contemplatives and both were sent to Rare Book School. Yes, there is such a thing, each course is a week long, held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. There are also courses in Manhattan, they cost about a thousand dollars each. Both monks signed up for the basic certification program, a course of study in required basics, which they completed. Now they can earn an additional certification for a specific area of study. Out of the blue, four more monks asked to participate, in the basics program now, we’ll have a crowd of rare book experts. When they complete the program we may expand hours if there’s a call for it.
Given our own background, more interested in content than binding, typesetting or paper, our collection is oriented towards the arcane and unusual, or first editions of either unusually high quality, regardless of age, or with additional material from the author, including books where the author made notes in the book itself. Several authors contributed original manuscripts, a happy gift we hadn’t thought of pursuing. Turns out to be a lot of interest in those.
Naturally there are books in languages other than English, our general thrust is oriental, but we have texts in French and Spanish, both Spain and Latin America, many out of print.
Of special note is our scientific collection. What’s interesting about out of date scientific works? For academics, it is invaluable to compare thinking in the eighteen and nineteen hundreds versus current day. What led scientists to the conclusions then, right or wrong, versus current scientific discoveries. There are lots of science historians in all the fields, chemistry, biology, botany, physics is particularly popular.
The Times reporter is interviewing Amaya, “Do you have an interest in rare books yourself?”
Amaya, “If you mean what’s written in them, yes, not so much the physical book. I am surely no expert, or even knowledgeable amateur. My family wanted to do this as a way to use the space Mrs. Epstein offered to create a comfortable academic setting. Dr. Epstein was an academic highly regarded in his field, his personal academic interests were eclectic. His library is extensive on its own. We think the interaction of visitors may be as useful as the books themselves.”
Times, “It’s a library, isn’t it supposed to be quiet?”
Amaya smiles, “The kitchen and dining room are available for discussion. If our guests want to read or study in quiet, we have separate rooms for that. The people interested in this collection aren’t likely to have noisy conversations. We think scholars who may not have occasion to meet might come upon each other here. Our library is about content, not wrapping, although many of our books have older forms of binding of interest to those who study that sort of thing.”
Times, “Topic change, your movie is coming out soon I hear.”
Amaya, “Yes, Chloe did stellar work, did you read the book?”
Times, “Sure did, you have a great blend of humor and action, a light touch on the sexual scenes and you’ve never used the word ‘throbbing’ once.”
Amaya, “I am hardly an expert on what men’s penises do in heat. I have to ask my gay friends; fortunately, they are not shy about telling me.”
Times, “You have a few lesbian moments as well.”
Amaya, “Yes, more my area. But the books are not about sex, or much about intimate relationships, they are action, mystery and adventure, something fun for a rainy afternoon or bedtime reading.”
Times, “Please keep cranking them out, I finish them in a few days, looking for the next funny line or head bang. Don’t suppose you could write faster?”
Amaya grins, “Thank you, I wish I could. You are no doubt aware, as a reporter and a reader, thinking up new dialogue, trying to avoid cliché, keeping the reader engaged, is a lot like actual work. A book a year would be too much. I can handle about every eighteen months. I try to avoid formula, if I used one, I could crank our romance crap by the bucket load.”
Times laughs, “Please don’t degenerate to that, I’ll just read more slowly. I’m more fortunate, as a journalist I don’t have to make up dialogue, my job is to get somebody else’s dialogue right.”
Amaya, “That has its own challenges, to report accurately, with little interpretation, is its own art. I’ve read your work, you are kind to your interviewees, no ‘gotcha’ journalism.”
Times, “They have a way of providing their own rope, I often wonder why they tell me the things they do. I’ve even asked them if they would prefer to have a dicey comment off the record, after they’ve made it on record. Most of the time they say ‘no.’ I find it baffling.”
Amaya thinks to herself, ‘People think emotionally, not rationally. Wonder why he hasn’t caught on to that?’
Chapter Forty Seven
Holey moley. One article in the Times and it’s the Great Flood all over again. Who knew? Maybe kids can’t read at grade level, but somebody is reading something, we had months of requests in days. To access our library now, you have to plan ahead eight months, then only if you can finish in three days. People are people, even weird book people, so they tried to book a week or ten days at a time. We were prepared for that and maintain a three day maximum. Didn’t stop the calls. We shifted the calls to online registration only, freeing our monks to focus on guests, not answering the phone.
We added a website, listed all the texts available, a panorama view of the library.
Having the titles online saves a million questions and we get regular offers to purchase new material, even a fair number of donated books. Obviously we don’t take all the offers, many are duplicates, others don’t fall within our purview.
We also expanded hours ahead of schedule. That was great, but the rare book crowd taking certificate courses with our people found out about our library which only increased demand. Anyone who says the print industry is dead hasn’t met these folks, they can’t get enough.
We’re having a family meeting on the topic.
Janah, “The library is at the six month anniversary and there is no end in sight for visitors, we are booked until the end of the first quarter next year. I have dozens of e-mails and letters thanking us, stories of meetings, new friendships and academic collaborations as a result of happenstance meetings at our library. The guests tell their friends, new appointments show up. The comments page on the website is loaded with compliments and positive reviews.”
Amaya, “How do we expand?”
Nikko, “The owners in the building are happy with the arrangement. We have a private elevator. Doesn’t affect their lobby, we lessen lobby traffic. A condo is coming available on the floor above us. The owners want us to take it. From their point of view, fewer residential condos means higher prices, and they get zero disturbance, no nasty surprises from a new owner. The seller knew that, so the price was high for the market, I spoke to them, we can get it at fair market value.”
Amaya, “How did you do that?”
Nikko, “Explained to them that if they tried to jack up the price thinking we were desperate for the space, they were wrong. I said the alternative was for us to vacate our place, expand elsewhere and there would be two condos on the market, which would only reduce their price. They rolled over on the spot when I offered them appraised value.”
Janah, “We are paying fairly, we will add a stairwell to the new space and a floor to the elevator. The other owners are ecstatic, their places went up ten percent or more for doing nothing. These are multi-million dollar condos. I wanted to run it by everyone, it’s our money, you all have a say.”
Dasha, “Ees gud for owners, library, guests, and gud for fahmahley, what ees question?”
“Out of curiosity, what’s the renovation cost?”
Nikko, “It’s only been minimally maintained, another reason we were able to secure it. It needs work. Our friends will fix the place, I plan to gut it, then rebuild to suit our needs. It will run maybe a million, million and a half, we don’t need marble baths or a top shelf kitchen. The real cost is additional books, Lacy and David think that’s another million, but we get superb material. The science collection is very popular, as are the foreign language books. Tons of French and Spanish works are out of print, out of print first editions are in demand. We will pay top dollar, but they are available.”
Zi, “What’s the bottom line?”
Nikko, “The condo, access work, renovation and additional books, eight million tops, and we will have a premiere library, perhaps unique for the specialty market we serve.”
“From a Shaolin point of view, it’s cheap.”
That ended that discussion, now we have another six million dollar piece of a Park Avenue building, a million buck renovation, a million in new texts. Hardly a dent in the Sylk Trust, considering the assets we are buying, likely a profit if we had any intention to sell.
Every time we give stuff away, we get richer. Two schools are free, but the property values keep going up. The tuition school, our starter Chapman's, makes money and that property was recently appraised at significantly more than Susan’s original cost plus the improvements we made. Our net worth is creeping up on a billion dollars. Dang, we’re like moguls or whatever.
We’re home, having tea, Janah, “There’s work, since we’ve been tied up with the library and out other project flow, I’ve been farming out refocusings to the other teams. A project has surfaced that is beyond their capability. Doesn’t appear to be Shadows, thank goodness,”
“I thought we were tracking the ones we got from the twelve bank robbers in Wichita Falls.”
Janah, “Dead ends. Shadows move around, use stolen identities, change them frequently. I am certain we got as much information as the Wichita Falls people had, but it was old. I told Eloise to quit looking, whoever they were then, they aren’t now.”
“What the current deal?”
Janah, “A group of weirdoes has recreated a version of Lord of the Flies. The short take is a group of men rounded up ten to eighteen year old boys to fight. Like underground fights between grown men going at it in a garage or warehouse. That stuff is voluntary, if guys want to prove their manhood in bare knuckle fight, we don’t care. These are children, coerced to fight for the entertainment of whoever finds that sort of thing entertaining.”
“There’s money in it?”
Janah, “Surveillance says it isn’t like dealing drugs, not millions. Weirdoes pay a fat ticket price, then the sponsors take bets. An evening might bring in thirty grand in tickets, another thirty or more in vig on the bets. Bigger city, more than that.”
“Where do they get the kids?”
Janah, “Off the street. You give a twelve year old boy living hand to mouth a place to stay, train, three meals a day, it’s better than a cardboard box and perverts. The kids practically line up. It appears this has nothing to do with child sex. The crowd comes, makes their bets, watch kids beat the crap out of each other, go home.”
“And once we put them out of business, what happens to the kids?”
Janah, “That’s one reason we’ve been sitting on it. Fine to think we’ll just stop the fights, but the kids will still be there, no place to go, trained to be violent. Do we turn them over to social service agencies that have kids they can’t place now?”
“How many kids are there?”
Janah, “It’s a traveling road show. Kids fight in one city, then move someplace else to take on a different crew. Five or six in each group. We’ve identified seven groups, maybe forty boys. Not all the fighters are part of the traveling groups, sometimes there are local kids who want to try their stuff.”
“How long has it been going on? What happens when they’re fifteen or sixteen?”
Janah, “Moved up in class, an evening’s entertainment will have ten to twelve year olds, thirteen to fifteen, sixteen to eighteen. There aren’t that many older ones, they get out, tired of getting beat up I suppose, maybe too injured to continue. Ages are only guesswork, but that’s the general idea.”
“Is there any indication the kids want out?”
Janah, “Good question, given their alternatives, they don’t try to run away. It’s boys, they likely think they’re tough guys, or at least carry on the pretense.”
“Guess it doesn’t matter. Adults are profiting off captive child labor, no doubt some kids are getting injured beyond repair, up to and including brain damage.”
Janah, “Yep, and reason enough to be stopped.”
“How do you want to handle it?”
Janah, “Seven groups, but half that many cities since one group fights another if there aren’t enough local takers. Fights are Friday nights, Surveillance is following each team. The odd group gets to skip a Friday to recover. They will be in three cities across the country. The plan I’ve got in mind is to confront the handlers while they’re on the road between fights.”
“Hope we don’t have to fight the kids, too.”
Janah, “That occurred to me, I have a plan.”
Chapter Forty Eight
Surveillance attended a couple of fights, got surreptitious video from a nifty little device we got from Amazon, a pen that takes video or photos.
The thing is rather amazing, sixty bucks, takes great video from a pinhole lens that loads right into our computer or IPad. There’s no audio, but for this, we don’t need audio. Eloise is working on a version that records audio. They’re available commercially, but each version seems to have drawbacks, too large, poor picture quality, malfunction regularly.
Daria, “We will make secret video and audio recording machine, maybe pen or necklace. A few weeks to design only.”
Nikko, “Let’s watch this stuff and see what’s going on.”
Half of us plug into one laptop, half another, we watch fights in different cities. The pens record an hour and a half, it doesn’t take that long to get the idea. It looks like you would expect, bunch of people surround a makeshift ring, just some ropes strung around in a square. There are no gloves, no headgear, no canvas floor, just dirt and sawdust. There are rules, no throat punch, eye gouge, kicking is allowed, ground fighting is allowed. The kids do have mouthpieces and protective cups, they fight in shorts, most wear sneakers, no hard sole shoes.
Considering the light weight of the younger ones, it is remarkably brutal. A body shot to a twelve year old gut by a twelve year old may not be like a shot from a two hundred pound man, but it still has an effect. Some of the kids have enough sense to wear half gloves, like weightlifting gloves. There’s little lost in the punch but it saves scraped knuckles.
The first fight, two young boys, ends when the loser takes a shot to the jaw, then the winner jumps him, rides him to the ground and manages a choke hold. Loser taps out, he was done anyway, the winner bloodied his face to the point he could barely see much less defend himself.
The second fight has two older boys, maybe fifteen. One is bulky, the other whip thin. Bulky is announced as a local kid, not part of the traveling crew. He apparently lives under the delusion that his size is intimidating, and perhaps it is to kids around his neighborhood. But the traveling boys have too much experience. Whip thin dances around, throws regular jabs, backs off while the heavy kid tries to punch but only hits air. He makes half hearted attempts to kick, earns a front kick to his gut for his trouble, then a snap kick to his fat chin. He’s done in two minutes.
After a half hour, we join up at the big table, “Everyone got the idea?”
Chloe, “One fight we watched was awful, poor boy got his leg broken after his face was so messed up he couldn’t see out of one eye. When he fell, the winner stomped his shin, you could see it snap. The crowd high fived and laughed.”
Amaya, “Fair number of women in the audience, seemed to be into it.”
“I noticed, depressing, not just the women, the whole thing.”
Zi, “We have to get this fixed.”
Nikko, “We have a problem Daphne mentioned to Janah earlier, what do we do with the boys?”
Janah, “I can’t figure a ranch is a solution, just collects all the fighters in one place. We can’t spread them out over our other places, that’s asking for more trouble. We’re going to have to involve the agencies, we can pay for treatment, but treatment only works if the treated thinks they need it. We don’t know enough about the attitude of these kids to know who might benefit and who likes things the way they are.”
Chloe, “Still, it has to be stopped, Janah. From the little we watched, these kids are going to be brain damaged, some must already have significant problems, not to mention the other physical injuries.”
Janah, “Yeah, I get it. But we have us, and seven groups of boys. And once we take down the first one or two, the others are going to get either testy or disappear. I can see the men just abandoning the boys and getting out until they think things are settled down.”
“Why chase them around at all? We have nothing to do with the boys once this is over. Let’s let Surveillance get a ton of video, make sure the principals are on it, both in fight situations and traveling. Then make sure they get plenty of audience shots, draw in the people paying to attend, and, oh yeah, get photos of cars and license plates. People coming in and going out.”
Nikko, “Good, we don’t have to fly around, chase down each group and call anyone out. We hand DAs and the Feds too much evidence to ignore. They have the resources to bust the event while it’s happening and they look like they’ve actually done some work. The Society can pick up a ton of favors, they get credit.”
Janah, “What does everyone think?”
Dasha, “Ees seemple way, best to include perverts in audience, put them in news program on TV.”
Amaya, “Dasha is right, make a movie. We can even do our own license plate and facial recognition work, if the authorities fail to out the audience, we do it.”
Janah, “Then it’s settled, this is better all around. I’ll give Surveillance instructions tomorrow.”
Eloise says something to Daria, “Eloise wants to take a drone to one location, take video of cars coming in, going out, follow the boys to the fight, then follow them back to wherever they stay. Maybe not necessary to do the job, anyway good practice for us.”
Janah, “I can see that, okay, we’ll find one or two fights, you do your thing. We have lots going on, Dasha, can you go with them? I know Daria can handle problems, but she will be absorbed in the project, better to have you keeping an eye on everything else. ”
Dasha, “Da, I will go.”
“There’s a fight in Kansas City on Friday, another in a suburb of Atlanta, pick one, then I’ll call Transportation. Go early enough Friday to get video of the boys at their motel, be sure to get cars and license plates, as much face contact as possible.”
Janah, “Send them in Thursday to scope out the area, then back Saturday morning, doesn’t matter which city, Kansas City may be easier to navigate than Atlanta.”
Dasha, “We will do easy city.”
It’s Tuesday, I get to the phone and make arrangements.
“There’s a Hampton fifteen or so miles from the site, you are booked there. Car will be ready when your plane lands.”
Nikko, “Be interested to see how this works, have fun girls.”
This is their first trip out without us. While they are biologically fifteen, they are in fact eighteen and their licenses will say twenty one or two. Eloise is already twenty five, she does not have the luxury, or curse, of not aging. We’re not sure which it is; so far, not aging is mostly benefit. The cost is watching our other family and friends grow older. It’s hard to describe. We mature, build new memories and collect a wider range of experiences, but we don’t age. Like being on a slow train and everyone else is speeding by on a faster one.
"We need to offer Eloise the proteins Janah."
I explain the process, she grins, her whisper voice, "Absolutely."