Chapter Fifty Three
I'm sitting in the kitchen plotting lunch with Dasha over coffee.
Dasha, "We haf gud breakfast, maybe only seemple lunch. I will make fingering sandwich wiz cheeps," she digging through the refrigerator, "we haf red cabbage for coleslaw, cheekin and tuna salad for sandwich, what for Janah?"
"Vegetable soup, there's a couple of cartons of veg stock, mushroom, cauliflower, water chestnuts, broccoli, red and yellow pepper, onion."
"Da, okay. I am making zoup, you will make tuna and cheekin salad both. We need roast cheekin and bread, everything else already here."
"I'll make a quickie grocery run, let me check the website, see what they've asked for. Let's see, vodka, we need more nuts and crackers. I'll be back shortly."
Dasha, "Aig, only one carton left."
Off I go with the large nylon bag, buy a prepared chicken, couple loaves of multigrain bread, collect the rest of the groceries. Then schlep it back to the apartment. The liquor store will deliver vodka, a case of 750 milliliter, half Tito's Handmade, half Russian Standard. I add six bottles of Gosset and six Charles Heidsieck, Janah's upscale preferred. We have a dozen bottles of everyday sparkling wine, enough for a while.
Dasha has eggs boiling for the tuna salad, add sweet relish to that, celery and chopped onion to the chicken. She's also got soup simmering.
Janah comes along, "Starting to smell good in here, vegetable soup and coleslaw, you going to make tahini? I'm getting addicted to that dressing."
"It's Chloe's favorite too, sesame, sweet with a slight vinegar bite, they named it after me."
"Goddess, I can go with that."
Amaya, Clearly they named it after me, they would have called yours Lesser Goddess, I laugh.
Janah, "Must be Amaya, she takes issue with who they named it after?"
"Naturally, it's difficult elevating myself with all the people wandering around in my head, Amaya, you, Dasha, Daria, Nikko, how am I supposed to fabricate? I have five brains calling me on it."
Dasha, "You haf most girlfriends for making sex, except now Eloise is worse even."
Janah, "Eloise is fun, it's like a girl is there, but a fairy sprite, she's got the most delicate touch."
Dasha, "Da, Daria likes delicacy, she ees to make sex gentle, no rough, even wiz strapping toy, easy. Already rough wiz stupid mother hit and scream."
"Does it still trouble her?"
"No trouble, but she remember. Vesnushki take away pain, Daria ees gud now, but she ees not forgetting."
Janah's eyes are moist, we're not criers, but Janah is sensitive to these things, it's why we do what we do, why we confront, refocus and terrorize bullies and abusers, why we kill Shadows.
Daria comes downstairs, "We haf money, twelve million four hundred thirty six thousand, five hundred sixty five dollars and twenty seven cents."
Janah, "Sheesh, nice work for a couple of hours. How do we get the money to the families?"
"We know names, address, we know what they lost. There is more money than Shadows stole from them. Older money has been transferred many times."
"How much can we account for?"
Daria, "Nine million two hundred forty three thousand five hundred twenty four and forty eight cents."
Daria likes accuracy.
Janah, "Do we pay the four families what they lost and some extra? What about the house?"
Daria, "One of our shell corporations will buy house and sell it, maybe a million more.
House proceeds to the Sylk Trust, use the rest to pay the families. Lawyer will contact families, all he knows is to return money, we are anonymous."
Finger sandwiches on a platter, coleslaw in a bowl, soup in the pot on the stove, serve yourself when you're ready.
Dasha mentals Daria, she and Eloise come down from the workshop, Amaya's picked up hers and carted it back to her laptop. Dasha and I sampled sandwiches while we made them, we sit down with a bowl of soup. Everyone's home today, soon the rest have made selections and either gone back to computers or remain with us at the table.
Daria, "Voice activation is ready. We need your pendants and rings to replace chip."
Zi, "How's it work."
"You say, photo. You can say photo repeat and it will take constant pictures while you change direction, one every two seconds. If you want video, say video or audio video for sound. Stop means stop. No other command will do anything. Do not need to carry extra device like now, it works from your phone, the app is on family site. Phone will show you what camera sees like camera on phone does now."
Chloe, "Amazing, Daria, Eloise, you've done it again."
"Did you make one for Susan and Taylor? They could use it on their travels, better than holding the phone in the air."
Daria, "They already have it. We give them first ones because they travel to Brazil."
"How very nice, thank you, they must have been delighted."
Daria, "Susan cry, Taylor takes photos, we made one for Kara also."
Janah, "That was most thoughtful, thank you."
Eloise, "She gave us her techgirls painting."
That was a stunner, two shadowy female images floating over a motherboard encased in a neural network. It hangs in the workshop of course.
Chapter Fifty Four
Janah calls Sonia, "Haven’t seen you in too long. Suppose you come in Friday afternoon, we’ll book a room, you can enjoy it and each other. We'll meet for dinner Saturday night. I'm certain you can find interesting ways to kill time in between.”
Sonia, “What’s the occasion?”
“Seeing our friends. I'll send a car to collect you Friday and will get you home Sunday, how's that? Check in is usually three, suppose they get you at two thirty?"
Sonia, "How splendid, of course, thank you again Janah."
They disconnect, Janah says, "I'll make a call, we can get them a suite at the Pierre. If I know Black, they won't leave until time for dinner Saturday. You and I can ride with Amaya to pick them up and return them."
I call Mariella and give her a heads up for eleven, seven thirty. We've added a private dining room at Ultra Violet, mostly for us since we spring ourselves on our booked restaurant frequently. It seats twelve, can add four in a pinch.
Nikko sends employees for dinners; the rationale is for meetings, but there's no meeting agenda. She just wants them to have fun and bond a bit. Our lawyers use it sometimes, private dining at a popular venue makes clients feel special. It was Amaya's idea and it's paid off big time.
The week slides along, it's Friday and Amaya is driving Sonia, Black, Janah and I to the St. Pierre. We're just dropping them off, we aren't going to horn in on a bit of luxury private time.
Janah reminds Black, "Order what you want, the bill is covered by Murakami Sylk, expenses for valued employee."
We get warm hugs, the best part for us, Sonia says, "There is no thank you big enough, Janah."
Janah smiles, "Sure there is, have a great time with your honey, that's the best thanks. If you want to get around tomorrow, call this number, someone will pick you up and drive you. If you decide to hang close to the hotel, then at least use them to get to Ultra Violet."
Sonia, "Will do, I peeked at the hotel website, I doubt we'll find a reason to leave and lots of reasons to stay in," she glances over at Black, "I've got him alone in a plush hotel for the next twenty four hours, then dinner, then back for another twelve. He's going to need a vacation when I'm done."
I'm hugging Black, "You can carry Sonia and the luggage by yourself, but let the bellman handle the bags coming and going. And give him twenty each way. Add cash to the room service delivery, even if the gratuity is included, and tip the housekeeper as well. Doesn't hurt to give the check-in person twenty, people usually do it for upgrades but we do it for nothing, just say you appreciate the service."
Black, "Got to get some bills, we mostly carry cards."
"Here's five twenties, that'll get you jump-started. The staff all talk to each other, who's nice, who's generous, who's a jerk. Hotel work isn't easy and the pay is marginal, better here I suppose, but still."
They follow the bellman in, we pile into the Escalade and Amaya takes us home. Before we get there, Janah's phone dings, it's Sonia.
"Good God, you should see the suite! Black said he's stayed here once, when he did a job with a professor from Stony Brook. That was a standard room and he raved about that. This is like an alternate universe. Everything is perfect, there's a tray of beautiful fruit, cheeses, bottles of wine and champagne, box of Godiva truffles."
Janah, "All you need do is enjoy it, we figured you might want extra hydration in case your discussions with Black get intense."
"Oh, it's going to be intense, just no discussion. He's pouring me a glass of bubbles and I'm headed to the Jacuzzi to luxuriate. After that, all hell breaks loose, see you tomorrow honey."
Chapter Fifty Five
As predicted, we don't hear from Black and Sonia until Saturday afternoon, Black calls, "We never got around to asking what time tonight."
"Oh, duh, it's for seven thirty but we have a private room, you can show up anytime. Tell you what, why don't you come here first? I don't think you’ve ever seen the complete remodel. We can show off a bit, then walk to the restaurant, it's not a half mile from here. Skip the car service, Amaya will pick you up at six."
"Great, see you then."
We're just starting tea, everyone's home, I sit and Chloe pours the cups. This isn't a ceremony, just our standard late afternoon gathering.
"Black and Sonia will be here at six thirty. They've not seen the remodel or the workshop. Amaya, will you collect them at six please?"
We redid Amaya's and Chloe's rooms, they became one giant room and a luxury bath area, also expanded Nikko and Zi's bedroom. It was formerly Janah and mine, Nikko shared it since we wound up sleeping together all the time. That was before Zi, or Amaya or Chloe, way before the twins and Eloise. Now Nikko has room with desks for her and Zi, expanded bathroom, the closet was already huge.
It happened in bits and pieces, after we'd added two bedrooms on the roof and the workshop.
We go off to bathe and dress, Ultra Violet is casual in the sense no jacket required for men, but many wear them anyway. Women tend to dress a bit up, we allow jeans, no flip flops, no shorts, no t-shirts unless worn under a jacket. The website addresses all of that, photos of the restaurant show patrons appropriately dressed. Our wait staff is in black pants with violet or ivory long sleeve dress shirts with French cuffs. The customers say the staff is so elegant, they want to measure up.
You get what you require and exemplify.
Black and Sonya come in, we do hugs, Sonia hasn't seen the twins in a while, I don't think she's ever met Eloise.
Sonia, "This is the hardware genius Black keeps talking about, I'm happy to meet you," she turns to Black, "such a delicate lovely young lady."
Eloise does her standard blush, Sonia says, "Gee, look at Daria and Dasha, how on Earth do you get hair cut so perfectly straight, you look like a magazine cover."
Dasha, "Eemaya has to haf perfect or she make production drama and we can no leaf house."
Sonia looks baffled, I say, "Amaya is a bit obsessive, and particularly about the twins, Chloe doesn't escape her eye either."
Black, "Speaking of which, I've followed your career, you may be the world's most photogenic woman, and the movies, great stuff."
Chloe smiles, "All Amaya's doing. As for modeling, I go, they put clothes and makeup on me, I only give them the pose they want."
Sonia looks up at Chloe, Chloe's north of five eleven, Sonia's near six inches shorter, "I am so jealous of those eyes, I'm tempted to get violet contacts."
"What's to drink, we have wine and champagne open, or vodka if you prefer something stronger."
Sonia, "Black observes his vows, I am the drinker, I see Janah has champagne, that would be nice. I had nearly a bottle last night at the hotel. We did room service, the food there is splendid, perfect grilled fish, Black had a great steak. Today we couldn't bring ourselves to leave the room. Lovely breakfast, we just nibbled the fruit and cheese for lunch," she giggles, "spent the bulk of the day in bed or the Jacuzzi, Black watched football."
"I'll give you a quick tour of our updates, then we can walk to the restaurant."
The others spread around the living room, which is also the kitchen and dining table, they follow me to Nikko and Zi's room, then to Amaya and Chloe's.
Sonia, "Wow, double wow, I thought Nikko's room was splendid, this is magical, Black look at this bathroom. That's it, I'm going to upgrade ours, who did the work?"
"I'll e-mail you names and tell them to take care of you. They've done all our stuff, you'll get a fair price and great results."
We go up the steps to Janah's and my room, then the twins, Sonia gasps, "Just exquisite, what a place to live. I don't see why anyone would ever want to leave."
"Kind of how we feel, but we have obligations. Still, the house gets used, nine women, we try to give everyone space. I know it's a bit over the top," I laugh, "okay it's a lot over the top."
Black, "Matches your over the top life, I know houses that are the size of these bedrooms. Our apartment is big, three bedrooms for two people. The kitchen you put in it brings out my inner chef."
"Man your size can't be living in a cracker box, all those years in our little rooms at the temple, you were overdue for elbow room."
Black, "Can't say I was unhappy to get a place with a bathroom I can actually walk around in."
"And this is Eloise and Daria's workshop."
Black, "Geez, never seen so much tech, she must have a dozen computers in here on top of the bench, grinders, lathe, soldering irons and a wall of tools. Everything hung in its place too."
"Not Eloise's style, Amaya comes in here every day and puts things away, if it was up to Eloise we'd be walking over wires, metal shavings and tiny screws. It's a dichotomy, she knows where every wire, chip and connector is in every piece of equipment, but she'll leave a half dozen chips spread on the bench, and the wiring would be all over the place. Daria's not much better. It's okay, they make us the neatest toys. Look."
I take out my phone, tap the screen, get a live shot of the girls downstairs, a shot of the building exterior and the roof, "We can turn on or off any TV, change the temperature, the plants are automatically watered, all the electrical devices are monitored for energy efficiency. And we can do it all from anywhere on the planet. You can buy these systems now, but Eloise and Daria did ours from scratch."
Sonia, "What fun."
"You want one? Keep an eye on Black while you work."
Sonia, "Is it expensive?"
"I have connections, how's free?"
She look at Black, "This is so cool."
Black, "Don't have to hit me upside the head, let me know when they need to get in."
Sonia, "You guys do so much for us, I can't...."
"All the years Black helped at the temple, our training, he never turned me down when I wanted to go at it. Then his work in our uglier side of life, he puts himself at risk for us, bailed out me, Nikko, and Zi more than once. There's no possibility of adequate repayment. Let's go enjoy a great dinner."
Chapter Fifty Six
We're seated, order cocktails, study digital menus. Dasha can't resist going to the kitchen to observe, she comes back ten minutes later.
"All is well?"
Dasha, "Da, gud, no problems. I do no interfere, chefs busy, wait staff in and out. Just say hello, walk keechen, clean, orderly, you haf order me vodka?"
The waiter puts her drink down, "Hello Miss Dasha, Russian Standard, fresh from the freezer, good to see you and your family, can I get anything else?"
I look around, lots of conversations about what to order, everyone has the beverage of choice, "We're good Jeff, thank you. We'll start tapping the screen shortly, we aren't in a hurry. Probably order appetizers, dinner later."
"Yes ma'am, may I say, the staff is appreciative of the bonuses, this is the best place to work I can imagine, thank you."
"You are most welcome."
He hustles off. On a Saturday night, the place runs like an express train until closing. Then there's a burst of cleanup. After that's done, staff gets to eat and have a glass of wine or beer if they wish. Since they don't open until eleven, table prep for the new day happens in the morning.
I suggest we get fried vegetables for an appetizer, cauliflower, mushrooms, broccoli florets, okra with seasoned batter and Parmesan to sprinkle on top.
A tap on the screen, ten minutes later platters appear, drinks refreshed. After a bit, we order dinner, fried chicken and catfish, pot roast, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, vegetarian red beans and rice, side of hot or smoked sausage for carnivores, creamed spinach, cornbread, French bread. It's served family style, pass around bowls and platters until everyone has what they want.
Black, "This is food, my minority genes kick in over fried chicken and catfish. How they get the batter so crispy?"
Dasha, "We steal recipe from New Orleans, Zatarain's Fish Fry. Best frying seafood, no oily, creesp only, lots of season, meex wiz creole mustard, leemon juice, blahck pepper, habanero powder a leetle, very hot."
Black is dragging a hunk of catfish through ketchup and horseradish, "This is perfectly fried fish, Piece of chicken lookin' lonely on the platter, may I?"
I pass him the chicken, that's the final bit of everything. We'd wiped the table.
Jeff appears, "Appears the food went over well."
We laugh, "We're going to walk to Central Park and back to digest, that still might not do it."
Jeff starts collecting empty plates, another waiter comes in to help, "Fresh apple pie tonight, bread pudding, banana pudding, berry cobbler, with or without vanilla bean ice cream or crème fraîche. Oh, Dasha put marshmallow chocolate cake on the menu, she said it is Miss Daphne's favorite. Turns out to be a customer favorite, it's certainly mine."
Janah, "Perhaps one of each, but three slices of the cake. We'll share around if that works for everyone."
It does and we do.
Sonia, "That was the finest meal I've ever had. Black is a good cook, we eat splendidly at home, he says Daphne shared her recipes, this food has an uncanny resemblance."
Dasha, "We make Miss Alva recipe, she ees teach Dahfoney, then we take to Ultra Violet, Veelage Diner and Down Home."
"Not all of it is Miss Alva's, Dasha added her own touches, most of the desserts are things she figured out with help from Google, Emeril and the Food Network."
Jeff returns, "Thank you, if there's nothing else, have a great evening. You really going to walk to Central Park?"
"It's only three miles to the hotel, we can scoot down 6th Avenue if everyone's up for it."
Sonia, "I vote yes, nice night, offload a few calories."
And we do, casual stroll pace, we're all New Yorkers, walking is the town sport. We arrive at the St. Pierre, say our goodnights to Black and Sonia.
"Walk back or taxi?"
Amaya, "Three miles is enough for this girl."
General agreement, and the hotel is a good spot to get a taxi, it takes three with nine of us, but we're home in fifteen. Janah and I to bed, we leave Dasha, Daria, Eloise, Amaya and Chloe to have a nightcap. My girl and I get up to bad girl goodness for an hour then black out for the duration.