Chapter Five III
When two people have the extraordinary quality of this state,
words are not necessary.
Where that quality of love exists, there is instant communication.
I set the tray on the night stand, pour Janah’s tea and begin to arrange the fruit, hand her a napkin. Janah sips, we kiss. I tasted the warm tea in her mouth, Janah’s parted lips over mine.
Daphne, "Yum, Janah flavored green tea, now that’s my second favorite flavor.”
I run my hand down Janah bare thigh, nuzzling the softness between her legs, “First favorite flavor.”
“Do you think you might want a taste after breakfast? I’ve been busy fantasizing while I showered and I’m, uh, you know…..”
“I felt you while I was scrambling eggs and my brain at the same time, it was fun; added a new dimension to cooking.”
The unspoken conversation instantaneous, Janah giggles softly, looking into my eyes. My heart races with the smile.
As my fingers gently explore, Janah’s breath quickens, soft moan as exquisite pleasure flows, head back on the pillow, eyes half closed. I wonder how anything could be so astonishingly beautiful as my other. I slide my knees between Janah’s, my hands over the smooth curves of her thighs, lower my head. Janah’s angelic face, responding to my lovemaking, heart-stoppingly erotic. Janah spoons behind me, I feel her tremble, an orgasmic aftershock.
If people could experience each other like we do, world peace would be a given.
Janah nuzzles, and lets her hands wander down my legs. She scoots down to kiss them, and slowly begins to stir fry my brain. Janah gets volcanic when she kisses my legs and knowing that, feeling her excitement, makes me sizzle. Janah’s tongue works it’s magic….there is no space where I leave off and my other begins.
I should write an article on the Bigger Big Bang.
I take her in my arms, kiss her deeply, kiss her again and again, finally holding her close, my face buried in her neck.
We nap for a while, I hit the shower. Afterwards, she covers me with a light lotion and coats my brands with antibiotic ointment, “I think you missed a spot, but I don’t know where. Maybe you should just start all over again.”
Janah kisses me once, her lips feathery soft, lingering between my legs.
“Ah, you found it.”
We dress in street clothes, not robes. We discussed what to do, clothes-wise. Shaolin in America have largely adopted western dress, not to present as monks. I decided I wouldn’t be more or less of a priest either way and outside of temple business, the robes can be disconcerting. We might wear them to work in the herb shop in Chinatown, there, it’s more natural.
“What do you want to do?”
“We should see Lacy.”
Lacy Chapman is the owner and head of school for Chapman’s School for Girls. Janah and I were students before we went to the temple. Chapmans is for girls with unusual gifts, that might not thrive as well in a common school. It starts at seventh grade and goes through high school. Some of the girls, like Janah, start seventh grade much younger than normal. And once a girl demonstrates a command of required basics, they are free to study whatever they wish. Requirements are stiff, statistics and probability, interest rates, present and future value. They offer algebra to calculus, but those are optional. Chapmans teaches things students can use. Everyone takes a second language. Some of the girls are Asian or Hispanic, they already know two, so they take a third. French is popular, so is Chinese and Japanese. The cafeteria sounds like the United Nations, a few are daughters of diplomats. Regardless of pedigree, they have to bring something unique, an interest or a skill that sets them apart. It can be brain power, musical ability, physical prowess, dance or drama. That kind of flexibility and the resources Chapmans provides isn’t cheap. It costs upwards of forty thousand a year, plus a commitment to the endowment. It’s New York, she has a waiting list for all grades. After seventh grade though, slots are almost impossible to get. Girls who start at Chapmans want to stay. There are no legacies, each girl is evaluated individually for the spark of unique the school requires. Just because big sis is a math wizard or talented artist doesn’t mean little sis can count to ten or draw a straight line.
Ten minutes later, we’re on Lacy’s couch.
She looks over my brands, “Bet that stung.”
“Never felt anything like it, don’t mind not having to do it again. I’ve never had a baby, that must be worse.”
Lacy, “Wouldn’t know either, that was Susan and Kara’s department.”
Janah, “Would it help for Daphne to spend time with the taekwondo class?”
“Of course, come whenever you can. Chris or Susan stop in regularly, they also handle our rank tests. I wondered when you started the class if it would catch on. Now it cranks out over a dozen black belts a year.”
A black belt takes five years in our program. A girl who starts in seventh could be a black belt by her junior year.
Lacy, “I think black silk uniforms were a stroke of genius. Most schools use white heavy cotton. The ones you selected are elegant, when we have matches with visiting schools, they all hate us,” she laughs, “hate’s too strong, but you can see a faint green of jealousy.”
As much as I love Master Kim, he’s a traditionalist. I outgrew or wore out a dozen of those cotton things. When Chris opened he school, I switched. I got the idea from tai chi pants, which are silk noil, not shiny, soft and washable. And no big school name across the back, a small sliver embroidered Chapmans and the girl’s name on the left arm, in kanji.
Chapter Six III
You will come to them in the house of their disgrace,
and will become known to them in what they hate, fear and abhor.
Carl Jung, Liber Novus
Susan, “Where’ve you guys been? We need to get to the Epstein’s in an hour.”
“Visiting Lacy mostly.”
“Do you have enough time to get ready? Should I call Mrs. E and say we’ll be late?”
“No way. We’re dying to see them, we’ll be ready in thirty. I’ll just levitate my way to the shower and get a flying start on Janah.”
Twenty-eight minutes later we are showered, dressed and sitting with Susan. Chris comes out exactly as Kara shows up. James is watching the news on the couch, nursing a Glenlivet and water. We leave for the Epstein’s ten minutes later.
Mrs. Epstein glows as she makes me explain my new role; she must have looked at the tiger and dragon a dozen times, “I’ve known a fair number of accomplished people, and a fair number more that, accomplished or not, believe they very hot stuff indeed. None of them hold a candle to my girls. The social pages are full of people full of themselves, while the really useful people work in virtual anonymity.”
The table is quiet.
The loving grandmother is now deadly serious, “We knew it was coming didn’t we?”
She continues, “Dr. Epstein and I have talked at length with Dr. Svensson. Janah has made her intention known, to solve problems for people unable to solve them for themselves.”
“Systems in place?”
Mrs. Epstein, “We’ve been waiting, dear. You can get going anytime you wish. We have two items to put in front of you now. There are many more, too many more. Any progress is better than none.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Will be downloaded momentarily. When you’ve read them, they’ll be destroyed. No paperwork, nothing to trace, everything in your head.”
“In Janah’s head. I only go into that maze when I need something, or to clean up. We’ve divided things up, so that as one, I hear what she hears, I see what she sees, she retains details, I don’t need to think about it until show time .”
Mrs. Epstein, “Are you worried, concerned?”
Mrs. Epstein, “I should have known.”
Dr. Epstein and Janah go to his office, he taps the keyboard, a site opens with nothing but an unspecified file, he inputs a series of numbers, the file opens.
Janah pages through the notes, the screen a blur, then she hits delete and the whole site evaporates.
Dr. Epstein, “We started with a warm-up case. The first target is a general nuisance to everyone he meets with the exception of his drinking buddies, and he occasionally even fights with them. He’s been arrested for assault twice, plus lesser petty theft charges. He bullies immigrants and, most disgustingly, beats his wife. The woman is afraid of him, afraid for her daughter. He verbally abuses the child, we haven’t been able to pin him for physical abuse, yet. The woman is frozen, if she speaks up, she risks worse for her daughter. The girl is going on twelve and nasty daddy is starting to get more than paternally fond of her. Right now it’s just, we think, bathing her, making her sit with him while he showers, that sort of slime. It’s only a matter of time.”
Janah, “To my way of thinking, his behavior is already abusive, but no matter, who finds this stuff, and how do they find us?”
Dr. Epstein, “Cases generally come through channels in the mental health or social services network. The referrers don’t know it’s routed to us. The Society staff sends me a copy labeled ‘For psychiatric consultation,’ which automatically becomes confidential. Obviously there are people in the social work, mental health and child protection services that are fed up with the inaction. There are others in the justice system that are equally frustrated by the slow grind of the courts, plea bargains, overwhelmed agencies, lack of prison space and the ongoing pain of the victims.”
“Good question. There’s no guesswork, everything is verified, quietly confirmed. We haven’t had any cases where people are simply out to get someone and are using the Society to do it. We know for a simple reason. The people who bring the matters up in the first place don’t know they’re talking to someone who would or could do anything about it. They’re usually friends of the victims, or social workers who suspect abuse but can’t prove it, emergency room docs who have suspicions, school counselors, that sort of thing. The Society has an informal and growing network or eyes and ears, they note a difficulty, a name, location. We take it from there. The problem for agencies is obvious. The victim has to be badly abused enough to come forward, and if they’re that badly abused, they are frequently too scared to complain. By the time an agency is able to make a case, it may be too late.”
Janah, “That’s always been my concern. The authorities have to wait until the victim is an actual victim. Even then, like the young boy and his mother I saw so long ago, there are abusers who get away with it even when they are identified. I can’t sit around creating algorithms or doing neuroscience research while there are children being tortured in America.”
Dr. Epstein, “So, we developed a partial solution. It’s slow, it surely doesn’t solve all the problems. Review is thorough, if the evidence isn’t clear, we pass, we don’t revisit the issue later. There are deep financial resources, just limited personnel. Enough to do without trying to make vague cases into clear ones. We’re not trying to save the world, each Social Skills team takes on one project at a time. There are a couple teams already in place, lots of problems to solve, but we don’t send teams out on one project after another. We require a break in between.”
Dr. Epstein sips his drink, “This may all sound a little spy novel-ish. We did it for a year to try out the system, no action, just to follow the cases. Once scrubbed from the computers and our servers, we couldn’t trace our own files, they no longer exist. Anything you do will be far from Manhattan. Local work is handled by teams from someplace else. We’ll give you legitimate driver’s licenses, credit cards that say you are whoever we say you are. Obviously use disguises. Have fun with fake hair color and makeup. We can’t have that white hair on display.”
Janah, “We’ve sent the moms shopping for wigs, temporary hair color, stage make-up, fake nails, even temp tattoos.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Don’t screw around. These people are dangerous and without conscience. You can reject any job you wish, you should absolutely quit in the middle if you think it’s either getting too dicey, we missed something, or it otherwise doesn’t smell right. We aren’t on a holy mission, you aren’t expendable assets. You need no excuse to bail, just do it and don’t look back. The Society doesn’t question its Social Skills teams’ on-the-ground judgment. Two rules, first, don’t kill unless yours or an innocents’ life is in mortal danger. Second, come home safe.”
What are we getting into? Dr. Epstein had, several years earlier, discussed the possibility of doing something on the edge of society’s rules, a step past the edge. He found himself having a discussion with a half dozen substantial citizens about a class of people who were perpetually making life miserable for those around them. Men, they are overwhelmingly men, who fall under the radar or capabilities of law enforcement. Abusers, child molesters, who never seem to get caught, the abusive dads, pimps, general bullies at work or at home. HA’s, Humanity’s Assholes.
One of the original group said, only partially joking, there should be an Asshole Court, where jerks would find themselves on the receiving end for a change. As often happens when a thing rises to consciousness, examples kept coming up, our brains are primed to look for them. The final straw came when one of them lost a niece to exactly the kind of abusive punk they’d been talking about.
Three men and a woman became the Asshole Court. Except they call it the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to People. Using contacts across the country, indirectly, nobody has a name, they began collecting information. Situations where getting one prick’s very focused attention on the consequences of his bad behavior would relieve those around him of unnecessary fear and misery. They call it refocusing, or attitude adjustment.
A few people with certain talents were recruited. They became Social Skills teams, also known a Social Workers, two to a team. Their job is to help targets understand that the old rules no longer apply, and to refocus their attention on new ones. The depth of explanation is directly proportional the density of the target. These men are irrational sub-humans who see pleas for mercy as weakness, helplessness as an opportunity to exploit. They do not speak compassion, kind words don’t register. They only comprehend the language of pain. Social Skills talks to them in the language they understand.
Dr. Epstein mentioned the project to Janah years before. She thought it over for a long time, discussed it with me off and on. She revisited it with him several times while we were in the temple. During those years, the SPCP very slowly became a reality. Identifying targets was fairly easy, helping wives, kids, other innocents disappear afterwards, more complicated. The support groups for travel, extraction of innocents, follow up on the targets is in place, some personnel are prior victims. Finding qualified Social Skills teams is essential. The people who deal with the target, explain the rules directly enough to make a distinct, unforgettable, impression. The Society isn’t in the business of hits. They aren’t creating death squads. They need people with physical persuasive skills, not shooters. People who could conduct interactive empathy training sessions. Let the target experience the pain and humiliation their victims felt, and finally discover that bad behavior has unpleasant consequences.
That’s where I come in. I’m like Domino’s, except I don’t deliver pizza. I deliver consequences.
Chapter Seven III
Our inward power, when it obeys nature,
reacts to events by accommodating itself
to what it faces-
to what is possible.
It needs no specific material.
It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow;
it turns obstacles into fuel.
What’s thrown on top of a fire is absorbed,
consumed by it, makes it burn still higher.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
By the time we get home, we’re ready for bed. Janah tells me a mind melting bedtime story then puts me to sleep. We pack in the morning and leave in an SUV leased by the Society in a name that doesn’t apply to any actual person. I drive while Janah reads from the New York Times. She translates it into Chinese, a fun way to practice the language. Janah mentals the text in Chinese, I speak it aloud in English. I don’t look though Janah’s eyes at the English, no point in driving off the road just to cheat at Chinese lessons.
We hit the south side of Virginia and decide to call it a day, stop at a Hampton Inn. The place isn’t glamorous, it’s a dressed up motel. It’s advantage is anonymity. The primary customers are nomadic business ghosts, appearing for a night or two, disappearing, reappearing at another Hampton someplace else. They work for cost obsessed companies or are self employed and as bland as the rooms they occupy. No one pays attention, the girl at the desk is past the point of seeing actual faces. Her own mother could have checked in, it wouldn’t have registered in her consciousness.
The room is paid for. Janah collects the key, shows a driver’s license in a fictitious name, the picture of a woman with brown nondescript hair, green eyes and overly made up, an approximation of how she looks at the moment. You don't want to look exactly like your driver's license photo, you just want to resemble it. Janah couldn’t figure out why they asked for the license, the clerk never so much as glanced at it. Then she sees the camera. For this job, it doesn't matter, we aren't doing anything near the hotel, not even the same state. Still, she makes a mental note to change check in procedures. We’d picked up a pizza, water, Diet Coke, we shower and settle in for a movie in the room, which we sort of watch. Somewhere in the middle, I turn Janah’s brain to mush, then finish the movie while Janah snuggles against me and falls asleep.
We’re headed to northern Georgia. We need to make a quick entrance, get our business done, a quick exit. It’s a small sawmill town, a damp spot on the asphalt. We would surely be noticed if we hung out for any length of time.
The unhappy home is a trailer up a short stretch of dirt off the blacktop. Even though the place has no marked address, we have clear directions, a picture in Janah’s infallible memory of the aluminum love box and the target’s used-to-be green truck, the man himself, his wife and daughter. The mission is simple, wait for him to get home then knock on the door.
We get up early and make our way to the Georgia line then down a state road towards town, the occasional timber hauler slows progress. Before we hit the town itself, we find the dirt road to the trailer. I turn and drive far enough to be out of sight of the main road, pull the SUV into a stand of trees, walk through the woods to scope out the trailer, verify it’s the right spot. Our boy’s truck isn’t there. I return to the car, reverse deeper into the trees, make sure there are no distinctive tire tracks, and throw loose branches and dirt around where I’d entered. Sufficient until the target comes home. If he doesn’t show, we’ll settle in for the night, sleep in the SUV and check the trailer again the next day. We have water, food and blankets. Just rest and wait. We’d spent years sleeping on a thin mat, the back of a plush SUV with blankets and pillows is a significant step up.
As fortune would have it, he drives up at four thirty. Surveillance report said no one locally will hire him, he spends his time either hunting or fishing and drinking; his wife collects what welfare she can and does various menial jobs around town. Lover boy spends the cash on booze and cigarettes, does the odd easy break and enter in towns around the area. Comes home to blame his miserable existence on his wife, often with his open hand. If he’s really drunk, with his fists. Her job is to provide sex on demand, fix food when he wants it, and, in his words, ‘shut the fuck up.’ He likes humiliating the woman in front of the child because, in his sub-human illogic, ‘the little bitch needs to learn what women are good for.’
We let him get inside, drive out onto the dirt road and pull up to the trailer. I hear him yelling before we get out of the truck.
As we walk up to the door, his voice is clear, loud, country hard edge, “Get over here cunt; Raye, bring daddy a beer. Mommy’s going to show you how she makes daddy happy. You want mommy to make daddy happy, don’t you?”
I hear a tiny “I want to go outside.”
Mason, that’s the asshole’s name, says, “Sit right there and shut up. You’ll do what I damn well tell you or I’ll give you what I give your worthless ass momma.”
Janah bangs on the door with the butt of a six cell metal flashlight. She’s wearing a vaguely uniform looking outfit, identical to mine, her badge out and a search warrant to stick under Mason’s nose. The search warrant is real enough, it just hadn’t actually been signed by any real judge. It will do for the time we need. Mason isn't going to call his attorney, Mason can't spell attorney.
He swings open the door yelling, “Who the fuck do you think...”
She flashes a badge. It says State of Georgia, Department of Child Welfare, whatever that is.
Janah says, loudly and authoritatively, “Department of Child Welfare. We have a search warrant, are you Mason Hicks?” surprising me, ‘That’s different, where’s my soft spoken Ange Blanc?’
“You got no cause to come here, lemme see that shit,” Mason yanks the paper from Janah’s hand.
Janah lets him read it. She wonders if he can. It has a state seal and legal looking signatures and it clearly says we can search the premises. Mason looks angry as hell, baffled as well. He seldom gets challenged, never in front of his wife and certainly not by two youngish looking women. We have military style baseball caps and dark khaki pants with green shirts. The shirt sleeves have the state seal and Dept. of Child Welfare embroidered underneath. We both wear dark aviator sunglasses.
Mason grimaces, trying to look tough, says to his wife, “Bitch, if you had anything to do with this…”
“Step outside please, Mr. Hicks. We need to do our jobs, I’m sure everything will be fine. Sorry to inconvenience you.”
I look through the dark shades into his eyes and smile politely. Hicks can see I’m tall and attractive, even with the cap and sunglasses. I have a fake jagged scar down one cheek, which makes me more interesting. He is cocky confident his wife and kid will keep their mouths shut, playing along seems the easiest thing to do. He’d find out why we’re hassling him, then somebody would pay.
“Sure baby, I’ll come out. You a tall lanky thing ain’t you? Where’d you get that scar baby, you been hanging with the wrong people?”
“Happens sometimes in our business. You should see the one on my gut,” I add offhandedly.
“Well I’d like that real fine, baby. You gonna show Mason your war wounds right now?”
I look around, Janah enters the house and shuts the door. Mason licks his lips, leering.
I smile at him, slowly bite my lower lip like I’m flirting, “Won’t hurt to let you have a little peek will it, maybe around the side, away from the door?”
Mason follows me, his eyes taking in the shape in front of him. I swing my butt just enough to keep him stupid while I lead him to the side of the trailer.
I turn and stick four stiff fingers into his throat. While Mason is trying to figure out why he can’t breathe, I treat him to a hard knee in the groin. All six feet of asshole falls to his knees and he throws up. When he’s done, I kick him in the side of his head, unfortunately for Mason, my boots have steel toes. I stick one foot on his neck, the other I use to hold down one hand, his other one is busy trying to find his nuts.
He’s wheezing, I take my foot off his neck, use the toe of my boot to tap his nose hard enough to bleed, “Do I have your undivided attention, Mason? Just nod yes or no. No means I kick something else until we get to yes.”
Mason nods, tries hard to look mean. It isn’t working. I smell the fear, he reeks of it.
My voice low, slow, dead even, “Mason, skip the drama. You’re scared shitless and I know it, you stink scared, and you should be scared. See, you’re an asshole. A disgusting, nasty, infected asshole. But I’m putting my personal feelings aside to be here for you, Mason. I’m going to give you a fresh perspective, to refocus your energies, to de-asshole you. Are you down with me, Mason?”
Mason is as disturbed by my placid demeanor and calm tone as he is by my foot embedded in his neck. Still, he can’t yet fathom that trying me out is an exercise in lousy judgment. His free hand reaches for my leg, trying to punch the back of my knee. It isn’t a terrible strategy I think, as I jam my heel into his arm at the elbow. I’m standing over him with one foot on his left hand, the other on his right arm. I twist hard into the crook of his elbow.
Mason screams, “All right, all right, I get it. What the fuck do you want?”
“A crispy waffle and a three cheese omelet, maybe some fries. Before I get them, I need to deal with you, Mason. So let’s get to it, shall we? You’re done being a husband and father. You do a really crappy job and we’re all totally tired of you. You’ll never know how we found you, and you’ll never know how long we’re going to watch you. It may even have sunk into to your lizard brain that we don’t have anything to do with the State of Georgia. See, I didn’t read you your rights. That’s because, in my world, you don’t have any. You’ve been convicted on numerous counts of being an asshole. What you want from this moment until you rot in your grave is immaterial. We are requiring you to be a better member of society, starting now. We know that, with the proper therapy, you can begin the journey to mental health and lose that nasty antisocial personality. I’m your therapist, Mason. Your own personal Dr. Laura. I’m kind of a physical and psychological therapist all rolled into one. Let’s begin. It’s only a two step program; you’re way too stupid for twelve. First step, get in your puke green truck. Second step, drive away. Here’s where you will go,” I throw a map on his chest, “You will wait as instructed. Divorce papers will arrive, you will no longer be married and you will lose custody of the child. In a week or so you can come back to your country estate if you wish, or just keep moving. It doesn’t matter to us, your former wife and child will be gone. Is this sinking in? If I have to repeat myself, well…,” I raise my leg.
Mason is staring up, he’s comprehending, but not quite believing, he wants to rip me open.
“As I mentioned, we won’t just abandon you, Mason. We’re committed, in for a penny, in for a pound…of your flesh. I’m your therapist after all. So we’ll be looking over your shoulder for an undefined period of time, we have friends," I raise my hands and spread them wide, smiling at my quarry....."everywhere. They’re anxious to keep an eye on you and more anxious to report bad behavior. If we hear anything that suggests you haven’t been responding to therapy, you get to see me again. Next time, for far more…intensive…counseling.”
I put one finger on my lips, like I’m thinking, then, "Do you understand the rules?”
I break a few teeth with my foot, “I’m sorry, wrong answer, but thank you for playing our game. Bob, what do we have as a parting gift for today’s contestant?”
Mason is trying to figure out how he’d gotten so far on the wrong side of the insane woman. He looks confused, particularly with a bloody tooth hanging out of his mouth.
“I know you aren’t too bright, Mason. I’ll go very slowly. Do…you…understand …the …," I stomp on his elbow, eliciting a heartwarming howl, "rules?”
Mason nods yes, his eyes bright with pain and fear. I take his wallet, remove the few dollars and give him his driver’s license.
“Gee Mason, good boy, your license is even current. You don’t have any car insurance though. Regrettable, you are one of the reasons insurance premiums are high. I don’t find that responsible. I’ll be reporting your lapse to the appropriate authorities. Inconveniencing you is my life’s work. Oh, and my partner has been searching your truck, so the gun is gone.”
Janah had mentaled me, Mason is in no condition to register how I know about the gun,
“You have no money, you sure as heck don’t have any credit cards, your only choice is to drive to the place on the map. It’s a cheap motel, better than this piece of crap tornado magnet you call home. The room is paid for a week. Someone else, not us, will be on your tail until you get to the motel. I don’t know them personally. They’re called Minders, and they are much less charming and patient than I am. Are you clear, Mason?”
Mason glares up at me, I pull my foot back slowly. He spits a mouthful of blood on the ground and makes his first intelligent decision, “Yeah, yeah, I got it.”
“Get in your truck and head down the road. Don’t stop for cigarettes, to take a leak, to throw up, nothing. The motel is 40 miles away, there’s food, a case of beer and a carton of cigarettes, drink water from the tap or toilet, but do not leave the room. Plan to make it last at least a week, nothing else will go in or out. If you set fire to the place, the Minders will make sure you burn in it. If you create any disturbance, it will become a worse disturbance for you. There’s aspirin and a chest full of ice. That’s all you get. They wanted to include a toothbrush, I figured you wouldn’t know how to use it. If you hadn’t been so incredibly stupid, you wouldn’t have needed much of anything. Now, you get to suffer. You know, suffer, like your wife and child. See, I’ve already taught you empathy. If you stop on the way, the Minders won’t let your foot hit the highway. You’ll see the headlights behind you when you leave. If you try to outrun them, or draw any attention to yourself, they’ll set off the explosive we’ve put in your truck. Feel free to look under the driver’s seat, don’t touch it if you value the use of your fingers. The phone in the motel room has been removed, the front windows are bolted shut, there are no windows in the rear. The only way out is the front door. If you use it they will drop you before your flat cracker ass crosses the threshold. No one will come to clean, shower frequently, you’ll be on those sheets for a while. Got it…..Mason?”
Mason’s mouth is swelling, blood dribbling down, he spits out a second tooth. “If I ever see...”
I shrug, break his nose, “Mason, goldfish are smarter than you. Do you seriously think you can scare me? I thought we were coming to understand each other, to bond, patient and therapist. Mason, trust me, if there’s a next time, you’ll never see me, you’ll experience me. You won’t recover from the experience. If I don’t kill you, you’ll wish I had. Now go Mason, before I have to get serious. And take this, it will relieve the pain.”
Actually it wouldn’t. It’s a mild stimulant and would keep him functional enough to make it to the room. He doesn’t know that. He greedily shoves it in his bleeding mouth. After he swallows, he rolls to his side to get up, I kick ribs hard enough to crack. Mason won’t breathe right for a while, maybe never. He finds his feet, wheezing heavily as he staggers to his truck. He peers under the seat and sees a black box with a red blinking light. He gets in slowly, cranks the engine, pulls out to the road and turns right, as instructed. I see lights come on, can’t see the car. Mason sees a black Mustang pull in behind him. He would get one chance to go directly to the motel. There would be no more conversation. Any variation from the plan and the truck would mysteriously explode.
While I had Mason in therapy, Janah sat with the woman in the trailer, convinced she was willing, in this case anxious, to leave her current hell far behind. Then she examined the truck, found the gun and meth, took both, and put the rigged explosive under the driver’s seat. It’s designed to send the force downward, put a dent in the floor, mostly create a lot of smoke and noise. The Society doesn’t want civilians injured by a target’s intransigence. When good old Mason gets to the motel, it will be removed and the truck disabled. All they need is time to get the woman and child out. The team would watch him for a day, then evaporate. With no money, in the sub-boondocks, if Mason leaves after that, nobody cares.
The woman is crying from tension. Despite that, she listened to Janah’s explanation of what was happening. Janah knows she’s scared Mason will find them; can’t be helped for now. Once she has her divorce papers and the money the Society arranged, she’ll begin to relax. After a year in a new town, with a job, her kid in school, her tensions will subside. To the extent she made a major mistake in choosing a mate, perhaps tension is a good thing. Once she’s relocated, she’ll be left alone. Mason will be loosely monitored until the Society is sure he’s minding his manners. If he screws up, he gets the benefit of additional therapy, perhaps by me, or another Social Skills agent. The woman is being given a chance to get a real life for her and her daughter. Mason will never come around again. If she seeks out another abusive relationship, then that’s how it will be. No further help will be forthcoming.
Janah carefully explained all of it. We wait until she and child are picked up by an older couple, grandparent types. They’ll be driven across four states to Oklahoma. Questioning the escorts is useless. They have instructions to do what they do. They know nothing else. Mother and daughter will be dropped at a small apartment and the woman told where to show up for work. Her daughter will be home schooled by a tutor for a time, until she catches up to her grade and adjusts to her new name. Mom will get two thousand a month wired to an account in her name and a mechanically sound used car. She’ll get the money for a year. She could blow the cash or keep it for a rainy day. The job will pay the rent, the first six months are already paid, buy food and other necessities, light years from what she’d left. Janah and I begin the drive to Manhattan as soon as the couple pull up to the trailer.
“That went pretty well, I was busy with our target, how’d mom and kid do?”
“Naturally they were confused, I had to tell the story slowly and let it sink in that they were really being helped. The mother was scared to stay and scared to leave. The girl was more help than mom.”
“What did she do?”
“She told her mother she didn’t want her father around, she hated him for what he was doing. She assured her mother at least a half dozen times that anyplace they wound up was better than this place. Once mom grasped it, she settled down. The kid’s got more going for her than mom does, she’s a pretty tough little thing.”
“So you’re satisfied they’ll be okay?”
“I’m satisfied they’ll be better off for a while. The mother can only relate to abuse, the daughter has seen her mother abused and has taken serious psychological abuse. Apparently the target hadn’t moved into anything physical. To that extent, she’s not as bad off as could have been. Another year and she’d be lost once Mason got his hands on her.”
“What’d you tell her?”
“While mom was busy hand ringing and crying, I got a chance to talk to her. I gave her names and phone numbers she could call in Oklahoma for counseling and made sure she understood how 911 worked, basics. Living like they live, she had no access to any of that. She’s a grade behind in school, the tutor will fix that, the girl’s not dumb, she can’t concentrate on school in a home like that. If mom fouls up again, there’s no reason the girl has to be sucked in with her. We talked about her alternatives, the importance of keeping the numbers handy. Raye is more together than mom at this point. I explained that she needed to help her mother and the best way to do it was to be sure she took care of herself.”
“What do you think?”
“She’s going to pull it off, I’m giving it a better than even chance of a much better life versus the one hundred percent misery she has right now. If mom makes progress with her dependency mentality, it’s a significantly better life. We opened the door, gave them a jumpstart. Where they were was guaranteed pain. Mason wasn’t going to get religion on his own, there is no miracle pill for him.”
“He doesn’t get it yet. He’d have beaten and raped me on the spot if he’d gotten the chance. He’s going to find another victim if he can. I didn’t make him like women any better.”
“The Society will keep tabs on him for a time. He’ll get a mysterious note on his truck, the odd reminder he’s being watched. He has no choice but to mind his manners, plus his mouth and nose aren’t going to look to appealing for a long time.”
“He could have avoided all that, I didn’t break his face until he got all macho on me. If he’d paid attention, he’d have a sore windpipe and his balls would be sensitive for a couple of days. I would have been happy to leave it at that.”
“Instead, he tried to attack after he was down.”
“Plus all the ‘bitch’ this and ‘I’m gonna blah, blah’ that. As long as he thought he could scare me, he wasn’t going to cooperate. He took on a fair amount of pain before he started getting agreeable.”
“I wonder if this is torture, can we do it differently?”
“Torture is when the guy is tied to a chair and can’t fight back, or having to listen to a Jehovah’s Witness, stuff like that. I was getting Mason’s attention in the only way he’d understand. You didn’t think we were going to sit him down and chat about the virtues of fatherhood, supporting your spouse and joining the Rotary did you?”
“I know, we’ve been over it a thousand times. I want to make sure we do what we do with enough force to get the job done and no more.”
“That’s too vague, Janah. I have no way of telling what’s enough. I have to protect any innocents, not to mention us.”
“Do what you have to do. It’s only wishful thinking on my part, I should know better.”
“Ange, it’s our first go out of the blocks, you’re sensitive about it. Nobody died, there’s a better than even probability that we saved two lives, in a way, maybe even Mason’s. He was bound to bite off more than he could chew sooner or later, kill someone or get killed himself. As far as I’m concerned, this is entirely within the confines of the vows I took. To have an opportunity to relieve suffering and walking away is not acceptable. I’m not going to kill anyone, not unless there’s an innocent life at stake. Mason will get over his hurts and he has his life. The woman and child speak for themselves. I fail to see how I uphold my vows by sitting in meditation while the building burns. That’s all the navel gazing I’m doing on it.”
Janah smiles, “That’s enough. Master Tan would ask me if I thought talking to the flowers was going to help anyone.”
We’re back late the next day, leave a note for the moms that everything is fine and go to bed. By the time we get up, the rest of the family is out. I make a light breakfast and take it to the bedroom. We are quiet, no mentaling, just the pure pleasure of each other, eating, sharing bites, I stop to kiss Janah’s shoulder, scoot to the middle of the bed and pull her foot into my lap. I begin slowly massaging.
“I’m getting the vibe you’d like something else massaged.”
Janah slips down and envelops me with her legs. I softly stroke and play, Janah’s eyes half closed, her lips slightly parted, then biting her lower lip as the waves of pleasure ripple through her. I tease a while longer, Janah cooing low mmmm’s and oohs. I shift and sit on my knees, lower my head. I go very slowly, drive her into a frenzy. The mmmm’s and oohs turn into gasps and aaah’s, Janah’s hands clutching my hair as she sails over the edge.
“My brain sparkled, I’ve supernovaed, I’m my own thousand points of light; geez girl, you keep getting better. I’m running out of adjectives and adverbs.”
I’m busy kissing her satiny legs, “You’re such a creamy dream, I love this hardbody, and you taste all cherry vanilla sensuality.”
After a time, we curl up together and drift dreamily, Janah enveloped by my arms and legs, her perfect cocoon.
Chapter Eight III
In the present moment, when your mind remains in its own condition without constructing anything, Awareness at that moment is itself quite ordinary.
And when you look into yourself this way with no descriptive thought, since there is only this pure observing, there will be found a lucid clarity without anyone being there who is the observer; only a naked manifest awareness is present, which is empty and immaculately pure, not being created by anything whatsoever.
It is authentic and unadulterated, without any duality of clarity and emptiness.
It is not permanent yet it is not created by anything.
However, it is not mere nothingness or something annihilated, because it is lucid and present.
It does not exist as a single entity because it is present and clear in terms of being many.
Yet, it is not created as a multiplicity of things because it is inseparable and of a single flavor.
This inherent self awareness does not derive from anything outside itself.
This is the real introduction to the actual condition of things.
Padmasambhava, aka guru rinpoche (precious Master), said to have lived in the 8th century around 750, thought to have brought Tantric (Vajrayana) Buddhism to Tibet. Tantric Buddhism is a version that believes enlightenment can come with the help of a guru, rituals and mantras, in this life. Sort of assisted enlightenment.
“Janah, do you think that a Master or guru is necessary to realize?”
“No. Except to the extent all life is connected, including consciousness, then we could also say the guidance is there regardless.”
“You’re saying that whether or not someone learns directly from another, as in sitting face to face, doesn’t matter. That insight is floating around as a consequence of life itself. The whole of life.”
“Yes. It doesn’t matter what is or isn’t said or what we read or don’t read. It matters that we are open to receive. I’ve wondered if enlightenment is something we are born with, then we lose it along the way to selfhood. Realization is less something we can get than something we find again, or that finds us. Even that’s not right. Let’s see. It’s that the authentic being is always there, just hidden under the illusion of thought.”
“Everyone is realized and doesn’t realize they’re realized?”
Janah giggles, “Yes, I think it may be just that. Nisargadatta said he realized from trust in his guru, then he goes on to tell people to be their own guru. Krishnamurti constantly said he was nobody’s guru, but the people closest to him treated him like one, and they still do today, thirty plus years after his death. Master Tan was our qi guru, along with Hue and Zhang, Master Kahn was your gung fu guru and Master Kin was your taekwondo guru. We were blessed with many excellent teachers.”
“Miss Alva was my first guru, mom’s too.”
Janah, “There it is, and all your gurus looked after your well being with compassion and love.”
We like to browse through bookstores, sipping tea, sharing our mind, being together. We attract attention, Janah’s pure white hair an anomaly even in Manhattan.
Once in a while an enthusiastic teenager asks me the ‘Aren’t you on TV or something?’ question. I always smile, tell him he’d made my day and say, ‘nope just a local girl,’ then find a way to compliment the kid so he wouldn’t be embarrassed.
Janah says they’re always alternately staring at my legs then back up at my eyes, trying to figure out how to grow up faster. Doesn’t hurt my feelings any, I don’t mind being objectified in the least. When you cut through the political correctness, which is incorrect, there is a physical body, an object. So being ‘objectified,’ which gets some women frantic with righteous indignation, is inevitable. If you eliminate the label, you eliminate the screeching whine of PC. Some people are determined to be offended. Why self stress?
I also notice that it never stops women from objectifying men, gossiping about their cars, their paychecks and their butts. When women do it, they claim it’s just having fun, but when men do it, it’s rude and dehumanizing. What’s up with that?
It happens again today, three minutes after we’d hit the bookstore. Janah continues down the aisle as I start up a conversation, wanders back a few minutes later as I’m wrapping it up.
“Jason, it’s been fun talking to you. Sissy is a lucky girl, it sounds like you really appreciate her.”
“Thanks Daphne, it’s been cool meeting you, see you around maybe.”
“I hope so, bye now.”
Janah, “Breaking hearts again?”
“He’s so sweet, he was trying to figure out how to compliment me without sounding dorky, he did okay.”
“After you lightened him up some.”
“Well, I wanted my compliment after all. He said I was gorgeous. I thought him quite perceptive.
“Good eyesight anyway.”
“Since we had never met he couldn’t say gorgeous and brilliant without making it sound fake.”
“Now he could?”
“Yes, now it would be genuine.”
“You sure don’t need any of these books.”
We’re passing the self help section, there’s a whole shelf on self esteem.
“Hey, I’m only a humble monk, gorgeous and brilliant according to Jason.”
“He only said gorgeous.”
“I’m only paraphrasing his revised opinion, he was sweet and I liked him.”
“You like everybody.”
“Particularly when they’re as perceptive as Jason.”
Janah looks at the titles, there is something for every variant of self obsession, to feed every neurosis, or to be PC, personality disorder. Apparently tons of people are complete idiots with no self esteem, trapped in unfulfilling relationships, meaningless jobs and having bad or no sex. They have a point. It’s unclear whether the bad sex is a consequence or a cause of relationship, job and self esteem issues. The titles imply the contents provide easy solutions for all that and more. Nirvana for twenty five bucks.
“If I start at the top left and read my way through the entire section, at the end will I be Supergirl or what?”
“You’d be poorer, confused, and have eyestrain, that’s about it. Self help authors are generally trying to get high paying corporate speaking gigs, an appearance on TV, radio interviews; having a book published provides credibility and reassures the meeting planner who hires them.”
“So it’s about what sells, not what works?”
Janah, “Of course, most career success is simply showing up and luck. Showing up is a given, failure to appear will get you fired. If you’re lucky, you get more with less work, if you work hard and have bad luck, showing up is moot. Showing up may result in bad or good luck, no way to tell. Self help tinkers with the work ethic, perhaps attitude, but it can’t fix the luck part. The idea you can create luck is a myth of the self help authors, who would only aggravate corporate executives by suggesting much of their success was just luck.”
“So they have skin in the game and are looking to get paid?”
Janah, “Sure, and that alone clouds the advice. I’m still waiting on the self help book written anonymously, might even read it.”