Chapter Fifty Seven IV
It was like brushing lint off my suit…no big deal.
Tony “Tulips” Scarlatti
Janah, “I called Palumbo, he’s tried to stay away from the business, the old crowd still sees him as the Godfather Emeritus, so he has a finger in if not his whole hand.”
“She thinks college is boring, but she wants a business degree, so she’s kept after it. He says she’s got a taste for running the legitimate business.”
“I’ll bet she also has a taste for the life.”
“Palumbo said that too.”
Nikko, “So who whacked Smiley and Unhappy?’
“Scarlatti’s people. He didn’t need the grief, not for a dispensable Capo and an enforcer. That would have been stupid.”
Nikko, “And old man Scarlatti isn’t stupid.”
“That’s how he got to be an old man. Good genes, red wine and self control. You got that, you win.”
Nikko, “You good for a workout Daphne?”
“Let’s do it. Janah can chill here, we have to go to the dojang, school’s in session. I don’t want the RSG’s seeing blood sport.”
Janah, “Janah’s coming. I want to yoga. Then we’ll pick up something for a late lunch, come back, eat and chill.”
Walk to the dojang, I open up. Chris is in her office writing. Finding out the two Jersey boys were assassinated doesn’t seem to have affected her work ethic.
Chris, “Hi girls, going to pummel each other?”
“Yes. I presume knowing your new boyfriends won’t be bothering you made you okay with leaving Sis at home?”
“She practically threw me out. She’s got a project she’s finishing, then we’re going to get on a plane next Thursday and head to Kyoto, Shanghai and Bangkok. We’ll be gone a almost a month. You and Nishiko can handle things I hope?”
Janah, “Have you talked to Mr. Murakami? He can tell you places you will want to see in Kyoto.”
"Talked to him. He’s arranging five days in a Zen monastery near Kyoto, after we tour the city a couple of weeks, we fly to Shanghai for five days, board the Eastern and Oriental and go to Bangkok. We’re a few days in Bangkok, then back home.”
“That is so cool.”
“I have a few more details to sort out, hiring an interpreter for Shanghai and Bangkok. Can I join in the fighting fun later?”
“Great. Get started, I’ll be with you in thirty.”
Nikko and I warm up with taekwondo forms, then hapkido. We’re starting to spar when Chris comes in.
Janah’s in the weight room doing handstands and back bends, she has her legs around the back of her neck as she pushes herself off the floor. While she adopts impossible poses, we alternate rounds. Blood flows, hands and feet bruise and twist. Chris uses her power to kick Nikko across the floor, Nikko uses her cunning and speed to crack Chris’ nose then a hard shot to her thigh.
Chris, “Shit, hang on, I got to work some feeling back into my leg,” plops to the mat and massages the numb spot, “those qi dummies have made you both a pain in the ass.”
We alternate for an hour, with plenty of water breaks. Janah comes out dripping wet, unusual for her. It means she had done an extraordinary workout, she sits on the floor and downs two bottles of Evian.
We join her, we resemble a train wreck. Bruised, bloodied, totally exhausted. A good day.
Chapter Fifty Eight IV
It’s raining assholes
Ning’s daughter Miyako and I are on the roof, flying through the obstacle course Chan created. There are brick walls, a balance beam, a six foot step ladder he’d anchored to the roof, a long railing of three inch pipe, a rope to throw over the wall long enough to reach the alley in back of the school, assorted garbage cans full of sand. Chan moves things around every few weeks to change the variety, angles and distances.
We wear flat sneakers, Vans, elbow and knee pads. The idea is to learn balance, let fear wither and enhance overall proprioception, not to crush a joint. Rappelling down the rope is fairly easy, hauling ourselves back up is torture.
I pull myself over the edge of the roof, breathing like a steam engine, “Keeping up with that kid is killing me.”
Janah laughs, “You aren’t keeping up, she got up the rope in half the time you did.”
“She weighs, like, ten pounds. I gotta haul my one twenty up.”
Janah, “You’re the one who wanted to do it with ankle weights on. That’s an extra ten pounds you’re toting up four stories of brick wall.”
“Okay, one thirty. I’m adding a backpack with twenty pounds in it next time. I may never have your grip, but I’m getting better.”
Miyako leaps from the top of the ladder to the balance beam, cart wheels across the beam and does a back flip, landing in the middle of us sitting in a circle.
Ning, “I’ll prepare dinner. Everyone will be hungry tonight, about seven,” she goes downstairs.
David is chatting about who knows what with his birds. A new pigeon flies down and lands on David’s knee. The bird coos, David says nothing, the bird flies off. David walks to us, sitting together enjoying the evening.
David, “Bird says a man is beating a woman and a child, Bank Street and 10th, third floor.”
“How does the bird know the name of the streets?”
Chan, “They don’t, but they tell David so many streets, east, west, north, south, I’ve taken him on many walks and he’s studied the maps of Manhattan and the boroughs. He figures it out. If he says Bank and 10th, third floor, that’s where the problem is.”
Janah and David hustle down the steps just in front of Chan and me. She goes in the first door, Chan and I continue to the ground floor and out to the front. Nikko is there thirty seconds later, she hands me a waist chain, one of the ceramic flick knives and gloves. I don’t need to look to know Nikko is armed to the teeth. She hands us watch caps. She has two thick rubber bands, we pull our hair into ponytails and stuff the long hair underneath our shirts, slip on the caps, add dark glasses. It will have to do, no time for a load of makeup and disguise.
We run the four blocks, the building entrance requires a pass code, Chan blasts the door off its hinges. We skip the elevator and take the stairwell to the third floor.
I go straight to the apartment, hear soft whimpering, a child being comforted.
“Mother and child are alive, she’s holding him, weeping and whispering to him at the same time. I hear more noise in a different room.”
A drawer slams, a raised voice, “Where’s my fucking gun you slut?’
A woman’s voice, shaky, tense, “I…I put it up, I found Peter playing with it, loaded. He could hurt himself, he doesn’t know any better.”
The man yells, “I’ve told you not to fuck with it boy. Are you stupid, or planning to use it you little shit!”
I hear heavy feet stomp in the direction of the woman and child, “He’s going for them again, let’s get this done.”
Chan seems to barely touch the door, it flies open. Two deadbolts shatter the frame.
The man has the woman by the hair, his fist raised, he turns, shocked at the sight of his door turned into rubble, and three people in sunglasses, one of them as wide as the doorframe.
“Fucking fuck, who the fuck are you? How’d you….?”
“Let go of the woman, step to the side, you might avoid the hospital.”
“This is my fucking place, you’ve broken in. I’ll be forced to protect my property from thieves,” he’s big, six three, part way to seed, but thick, there’s a decent amount of muscle under the layer of fat.
He lets the woman go and takes a step towards us, pissed, but wary of the big guy.
“You fuck, I’m going to take the payment for that door out of your ass.”
Chan says nothing, Nikko steps in front of him, “I get first shot…let’s play.”
“Have it your way, bitch.”
Nikko smiles disconcertingly, “How did you know, fat boy?”
Enraged, the man comes hard. Delighted, Nikko kicks him just below the sternum, spins and back kicks him in the knee and smashes her heel under his jaw. He flips backwards and lands on his ass.
His knee isn’t totaled, blood drips from his mouth, he stands, wipes his hand across his face, stupidly tries again, with a limp and a lamp he’d pulled from the table.
Nikko is motionless, he raises the shaft of the brass lamp and swings, Nikko ducks, stretches out a long leg and sweeps his feet out from under him. Back again on his butt, except this time, Nikko has a knee on his chest and her flick knife at his throat.
His scared eyes peer into black glasses, he trembles, knee digs deep into his chest, her knife a quarter inch in his throat, “Don’t move, don’t breathe, or I’ll feel your blood running down my hand instead of your neck”
He lies silent, her knee presses harder into his sternum, Nikko leans and whispers, “And before I cut your throat, I’m going to crack your chest, just for fun.”
During Nikko’s minor workout, I moved the woman and child to the bedroom. They had seen nothing but Nikko’s first volley, not the knife.
“Come with us. We’ll get you relocated. He’s not going to bother you anymore. What’s your name?’
“Shawna, this is Mikey,”
“Hello Mikey, how would you like to live someplace where this man won’t ever see you again? Where you can go to school without worrying about mommy?”
Mikey blinks, his eyes still red, his lip swollen, I see bruises on his narrow chest, and what appear to be burns on his arms.
“Will you kill him? I want him dead.”
Shawna, “Don’t talk like that.”
Mikey, “I’ve heard you say it a hundred times. I took the gun because I was going to shoot him one day.”
Shawna begins to cry again, “I’ve let him down, I should have left a long time ago. My God, I’ve let my own child be beaten, burned. When I fought him, I got it too, I was so scared.”
“You’re both alive. We’re going to get you set up, he’s going to give you whatever money he has, are you married?’
“Not for long. The divorce will take a few days, but you’ll get all the property and sole custody.”
Shawna, “A few days? Sole custody, and his money? That’s….that’s not possible, it’s….is that possible?”
“I guarantee it. A man and a woman will be here in a few minutes. They’re going to take you to Brooklyn. There’s a furnished apartment. You will get treatment for your injuries. There will be people around to watch out for you, you won’t see them, but they’re there. They’ll give you a phone with our number on it. There won’t be any problems, but if you want to talk to us, call. Tomorrow is a rest day, a doctor will come, he will come tonight, at the safe place. Do you understand?”
Shawna, “No, I don’t understand how you knew we were in this mess. I’m grateful, but how did you know?”
“A little birdie told me.”
Mikey hugs me, “Are you going to kill him? I hope so.”
I frown, just a little, “We don’t work that way. I promise you, you will never see him again, and he won’t hurt anyone ever again.”
The boy turns to his mom, “Can we go? I hate this place.”
Shawna is still a bit overcome, but she sees her son feeling safe for the first time in a long time, she doesn’t need more motivation.
“Pack what clothes you want, any personal items you need. Everything else will be provided.”
The man, Daemon Wright, now neutralized and dragged by Chan to what looks like a small office, lies on the floor unconscious. The woman and boy pack a couple of suitcases a plastic trash bag full of clothes, her makeup and a few other toiletries. Two disciples appear, take them downstairs to a waiting van. Another van waits near the front of the apartment. As Chan slams the door on the second van, a squad car pulls up. We sit silently inside until the two officers enter the building, then the monk driving pulls away from the curb, with me, Nikko, Chan and Daemon on the flat floor in back. The two cops enter an empty apartment with blood on the floor but nobody home. While they question neighbors, we come to an empty warehouse in Chinatown. Daemon is tied up in a tight bundle of picture wire and duct tape. I inject him with a barbiturate, he’ll be out for a while. The monk will stay in the warehouse; we return to our condo and have dinner.
Janah followed events, explained to Ning what was going on while it happened. So dinner is about dinner, we watch House MD at nine.
Nikko whispers to David Li that he and his friends saved two lives that night.
David, “Then I must thank my friends tomorrow for their observant kindness. I only communicated what I was told, which is my duty, yes?”
Nikko, “You fulfilled your obligation to protect life.”
Next morning, the four of us enter the warehouse, greeted silently by bows from the two monks.
Janah, “You may return to the temple. I have spoken to Master Kahn, you are relieved from your duties today. Get something to eat and rest. We are most grateful for your vigilance.”
Kahn sent two trusted disciples, they sat cross-legged on the floor the entire night, watching a van. I told them there was a man inside we wanted to talk to. They had no idea why, it was what the Abbess had requested, that’s what they did.
Janah, “Chan, please help Wright sit up. He will be as comfortable as he needs to be on the edge of the back door.”
Chan drags the still unconscious man to the back of the van, props him up, his butt on the van floor, his legs hang down over the bumper. Chan unlocks the handcuffs, cuts the ties and reties each arm to the open doors of the van. He leaves the ankles tied, rips the tape from his mouth.
We’re in full disguise today. Good old Daemon won’t know us from squat, when Janah is done, he won’t know who he is.
I pop an ammonia cap under his nose, just after Janah fills his vein with a mild stimulant. A tad of epinephrine, a quick jolt back to consciousness.
His head snaps up, he blinks, a blinding halogen light is in his eyes. I pop another ammonia cap and wave it under his nose. He thrashes back and forth, there’s no place to go. He can’t stand. Chan has the straps on his arms pulled tightly around the van doors, he can’t slide back, or move forward.
He slurs, “Wha, wha’s going on?”
Janah sticks more epinephrine into his vein, he’s a big man, it takes a larger dose to get him clear. I pop a third cap. In a couple of minutes, he’s trying to be the glaring idiot we’d encountered the prior evening. The problem is, the light keeps him blinking, he can’t see anything, as if he’s staring at the sun.
Daemon, “What’s this about? You the people who busted in my apartment. Now you’ve kidnapped me. Going to be a world of shit when I’m done.”
His head twists from side to side, trying to escape the light, see anything, no dice. Janah has set up three lamps, one directly in front of him, one on each side. No matter how he shifts, all there is, is white, intense white. He shuts his eyes.
“Can’t fucking see, you’re going to blind me. What the fuck you want?”
Chan, behind him in the van, pulls his head back just enough to jam a tab of LSD under his tongue, then holds his mouth clamped shut.
He lets go, we wait. Fifteen minutes later the hallucinations start, Janah switches the lamps to strobe. Chan puts a set of headphones over Daemon’s ears.
Janah’s voice, converted by the voice scrambler, sounds as if she’s inside his head, “Soon there will be vampires, demons for Daemon. The police are looking, you will be arrested for the murder of your wife and child.”
She fills his mind with scenarios of raw terror and brutal mutilation. He screams, he cries, he freezes solid and trembles. He wets himself, groans in agony. She keeps it up for three hours, more epinephrine, his heart races. LSD wears off unpredictably, in a big man it might last for four or five hours, he’s panting to match his heart rate. She starts again with gruesome suggestions of prison life, gives him Propranolol, a small dose, he calms down.
She continues through the headphones, a disembodied gravelly voice, “You are tired, very tired aren’t you?’
He’s still hyper, another shot of Propranolol and a dose of sodium pentothal. She’s moving him to a highly suggestive state. She lets him stew for an hour, he can’t sleep from the light and a repetitive suggestion that he has incurable amnesia keeps feeding into his brain.
Janah recorded, “I don’t know who I am,” and set it on a loop. He’ll hear it a thousand times over the next three hours.
She shoots him up with the stimulant, another round of LSD, turns the strobes back on and off he’s in hallucination hell. She alternates this routine for the entire day and into the night. When she’s done, he’s convinced he’s Jefferson Willoughby, from Indiana. For three days, she pounds it into his head. When she naps, Chan takes up the qi work on Daemon’s brain. Tamping down memory, implanting new memory. We eat lightly, he gets nothing but water. We let him pee on himself and hose him down.
Janah, “Who are you?”
“Where do you live?’
“Muncie, Muncie Indiana.’
“What do you do?”
“I drive a garbage truck, recycle truck. I pick up the blue can, it dumps into the truck, I set it back down, drive to the next one.”
“I go home, eat a bowl of soup, watch television, go to bed.”
“Do you live with anyone?’
“No, oh no. I don’t like to be around people. That’s what I like about the job. Just me and the truck. I do my job, go home and be alone. I pay my rent, eat my soup, watch television.”
“What do you do on your day off?”
“Eat soup and watch television. I like television. I watch game shows, soap operas, comedies and commercials. That’s what I like best, commercials.”
“Do you go out? See people?’
“No, never. People scare me, they might be vampires, or zombies. I drive my truck, I go home. I live a few blocks from my job. I walk to work, walk home. I don’t have a car. I stop for groceries in my truck, my boss don’t mind. Then I walk home.”
“Have you ever been to New York?”
“I would never go there, too many people, most of them vampires or zombies. I want to watch television. Can I watch television now?”
Janah puts him to sleep. Transportation drives him to Muncie, lightly sedated mostly, parks him in his tiny apartment. They made his place look lived in, a cupboard full of soup cans, two bowls and two spoons, a manual can opener. He has a pot, a small stove to warm the soup. He eats soup for breakfast, a thermos of soup for lunch, eats soup for dinner. He has no interest in any other food, nothing to drink but water.
In his new mind, he’s a driver, that’s it. The owner of the company makes sure the other employees leave him alone, said he was doing a friend a favor. Considering who the owner is, a former Palumbo associate, nobody goes near Willoughby. He has no memory of a wife or child or New York.
Chapter Fifty Nine IV
Domain dependence is when one
acts in a certain way in one environment
and a different way in another.
Nassim Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes
Daphne points out, ‘The self, then, is influenced by environment, in that way we can say the self is variable depending on who it hangs out with. Which means everyone has multiple personalities.’
Janah spends the next day asleep, Nikko and I nap, play, and nap some more.
Chan is at home, happy to see his family after four days. Ning didn’t ask much, Chan said everything went smoothly. He gave her vague information about the wife and boy, no one had been killed, aside from Daemon, nobody has a scratch. He and Janah had long days, snatches of rest.
Ning feeds him and hustles him off to bed, “Don’t come out for twelve hours, no excuses.”
Chan nods and falls into a virtual coma. Both he and Janah burned enormous qi energy to rearrange the neural pathways in Willoughby’s head. Daemon Wright doesn’t exist anymore. His accounting practice will be sold, perfectly legal, signed by him, witnessed by a notary. How can a notary witness a guy who we changed into someone else? Simple, a man shows up, with our target’s social security number and a driver’s license saying he’s Daemon. The Society cranks out these things for us regularly. The notary has two forms if ID saying the person in front of him is who he claims to be. Our fake Daemon closes accounts, the Society wraps up his now non-existent life.
“Is what we did to our target the same as killing him? I mean, the old guy doesn’t exist. We gave his wife his savings, she got possession of his pension plan, proceeds from the sale of his practice, checking and brokerage accounts. What did it come to?”
Nikko, “Two point three million.”
Janah, “Yes. We killed off a dysfunctional brain, then we retrained it, tamed it, and now he has a new life. To put it bluntly, I killed his mind, left his body functional, installed a lesser mind, and a less violent one.”
“So we killed a personality, then took the parts and created a reverse Frankenstein?”
Janah, “Yep. You don’t care what we did to him anyway.”
“No, I just like to have the sequences in order in my head. Been okay with me to turn him over to Nishiko. Of course, then there would be no truck driver in Muncie.”
Nikko, “Instead of driving a recycling truck, I would have recycled him into fish food. There’s symmetry in there someplace.”
Janah, “See, there’s a simple explanation for everything. Things turned out exactly the way they should have. I know that, because that’s the way they turned out.”
“I don’t sense a plan on the menu today.”
Janah, “Not that involves leaving the apartment. I would like….”
“Well, you’re already not dressed for the part, so Nikko and I will take advantage of that.”
Janah, “I’m ready to be multiply orgasmed.”
I smile, Nikko’s eyes glitter, she’s familiar with that particular smile, off to the bedroom to follow the simple instructions.
“God, that was sooo good. I think I’ve resolved the mind body problem. You make me lose my mind and my body does the rest.”
Janah, "I seen my duty and I done it.”
Eventually Janah’s other appetite takes over, “I’m hungry.”
I go to the pantry, pull out a stack of menus, “We can surf these, or I can order Italian and go pick it up.
Janah, “I want you near me. Tell them to deliver, what does everyone want?”
Nikko calls, I plug in a movie, Kick-Ass. None of us had seen it, we don’t go to movie theaters, it’s a Netflix. The food comes thirty minutes later, I pause the flick and dress enough to go downstairs and collect it from the security people
We settle in to graze, and watch Chloe Moretz turn into Hit Girl. The movie ends, we watch the Daily Show and laugh our way through vanilla Hagen-Daz with hot fudge.
Janah looks around at the empty plates, bowls and saucers, “Where did all that food go?”
“We needed the calories. Even Nikko did her part, a manicotti, two slices of pizza and ice cream.”
Nikko, “Nishiko must rest,” we go to our own state of coma.
This morning, refreshed from sexual excess, Janah and I go to our respective jobs. Nikko goes to discuss business with Susan, then tend to building duties.
I’m in my natural habitat, oversee the kitchen, instructing, taking on disciples in combat, helping them learn when they lose focus, honing their skills. Teaching improves the teacher, I always learn more from my students than I teach them.
Nikko arrives, she spends the afternoon in Tan’s hut, focusing on qi.
I go to the kitchen, spotless after lunch cleanup, recall my first days, years ago. When I volunteered without being assigned, the ones already working there were happy to have a student to dump duties on. The food was tasteless, generally overcooked, such that it was hard to distinguish one vegetable from another, a pile of soy sauce drenched brown glop. Rice cold and stuck together, cheap black tea. The refrigerator was a mess, the floors swept only, never seen a mop.
I spent hours cleaning, sharpening dull knives, cleaning and scouring pots. Washed and repainted the walls, dingy and smoked stained from scorched food.
A bandana around my head, even though it was shaved then, made a point of carefully and frequently washing my hands. I had no authority, only a student. I could be a template, a demonstration of how things might be done. Throughout I kept a genial manner, chatting with the three others assigned to the kitchen. Learning about them personally, all the while working.
The dining hall tables had been the next project. Crisp white tablecloths covered worn old wooden tables, linen napkins placed under spotlessly clean spoons and knives, chopsticks still in their paper wrappers.
All the dining area and kitchen floors mopped and disinfected every day.
The change in the food was noticeable immediately, the atmosphere in the dining hall refreshing, the tea hot and varied, sometimes oolong, sometimes green, sometimes black. The rice steaming, cooked fresh, vegetables served warm, not cooked to mush, crispy and flavorful. Tofu and mock duck made for added protein, and I began serving what became the most popular dish, veggie hot and sour soup.
Monks repainted the entire dining hall the first spring, when tables could be moved outside while the work was completed. The tables were resurfaced and painted. It took nearly a week, the place was full of grime, and cobwebs, the ceilings high and hard to get to. Monks carried cans of paint up thirty feet on scaffolding to, first scrub clean, then carefully coat the ceilings, support beams and walls. It was all in light ivory, took three coats to cover the dark stained wood.
I reflect on those times with joy. A student, working to work. Future difficulties and challenges life would bring to me and my other only hints.
Reminiscing? Janah is in my mind.
Yes, a little. I know it’s in the past. Right now, I don’t care.
You spend far more of your time in the present than anyone, I know that because I’m you. A little gaze back, even if the hard labor is forgotten and only the laughter and results remembered, isn’t such a bad thing.
No, it was nice. It’s also time to repaint.
That’s my girl.
I organize a crew and for the next week, monks eat outside while students wash walls, clean every inch and paint it all again. I think this is the third or fourth time since the original freshening. I do a three foot high calligraphy of the word “Shaolin” on one wall, and “Gung Fu” on the other. It’s two hànzi for the word Shaolin, two for Gung Fu, black against the ivory walls.
I do it late at night, after the ivory paint dried. The next morning, the monks enter the dining hall after meditation, they silently stand and bow when I enter the hall, carrying trays of tea as if I were still a student.
I place the tea on the tables, bow in return and back to my kitchen. I weep. The compassion I feel in this place overwhelms me. Janah senses my joy, I walk to Hue’s gardens.
He’s sitting just outside his doorway, where he cooks and saturates his medicines and liniments. This is the place where Janah will spend her final years, presuming something else, like getting killed, doesn’t intervene. Of course, we aren’t aging, so who knows when final years might happen.
“It is good to cry here, tears of joy, or tears of sorrow. Your other has done it many times in this garden. Mostly joy, sometimes sorrow.”
“I was struck, deeply, by the reception to my little addition to the walls in the dining hall.”
Hue, “Of course, the monks instantly recognized the hand of Master Sylk, and of the beauty of Shaolin and Gung Fu hànzi you placed on the walls. I, too, was deeply touched by the perfection of the strokes.”
“It is a gift from the universe I am privileged to receive.”
Hue laughs, “What about the infinite hours of practice, the tedious repetition, learning the feel of the brush, the weight of the ink? This is not a gift, it is a hard won battle of mind over the simplicity of relying on a bit of innate talent, just like your gung fu.”
I smile, the old man hadn’t even seen the hànzi, yet he knew of it, and knew what brought me to his garden, “I do tend to over practice. Janah teases me about it, but she appreciates it when we are…..”
Hue, “Yes, I know about your challenges, I have many friends who love to tell stories about the adventures of the two as one, Master Li for one.”
“Then you know the Shaolin have helped as well.”
Hue, “Who do you think sends them? Sometimes the Abbess calls Master Kahn, sometimes I know before the call comes, my friends are very efficient.”
“Your friends have saved lives.”
Hue, “Yes, and they regret how stupid humans are, but we have the disadvantage of self consciousness, and mistakenly believe we have prescience and foresight.”
“Do you send them to David Li or do they just go to him?”
Hue, “They used to come here first. I told them to go to young Li if that was quicker and they were sure of their story. The child didn’t yet know to question the facts. In the most recent case, it was obvious, and they went to the boy. If they felt it might be beyond the boy’s comprehension, they would come to me for instruction. I helped them learn to explain to young Li in terms he can understand. Now, David is quite capable on his own.”
Chapter Sixty IV
For many, the investigation will stop there.
No need to explore personal motives,
out-of-control grievances or distorted political anger.
The mere mention of mental illness is explanation enough.
This presumed link between psychiatric disorders and violence
has become so entrenched in the public consciousness
that the entire weight of the medical evidence is unable to shift it.
Severe mental illness, on its own, is not an explanation for violence,
but don't expect to hear that from the media in the coming weeks.
Seena Fazel is an Oxford University psychiatrist
who has led the most extensive scientific studies to date
of the links between violence and two of the most serious psychiatric diagnoses
—schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, either of which can lead to delusions,
hallucinations, or some other loss of contact with reality.
Rather than looking at individual cases, or even single studies,
Fazel's team analyzed all the scientific findings they could find.
As a result, they can say with confidence that psychiatric diagnoses
tell us next to nothing about someone's propensity or motive for violence.
NY Times article in reference to the shooting of a politician and several others in Arizona.
We had two months off from Society duties. It isn’t that there are no projects, no targets to refocus. We could disinfect assholes three sixty five. The Society understands Social Workers need to attend to their lives, have time to regenerate their humanity, be with family and friends. Mrs. Epstein is particularly sensitive about us. We have numerous obligations, one refocusing after another would be counterproductive. We are never going to find all the abusers, never going to fix all the beatings, the anger, tamp down human hostility.
Janah answers the phone, it’s Mrs. Epstein, “Had enough time off?”
“You must be prescient, Nikko was just wondering if all the jerks in the world had taken the summer off.”
“Hardly, it’s just that you were due rehab, Nishiko is as bad as her two friends, many jobs, training, the schools, buildings, the Li children. Sometimes, I think social work is actually time off from day to day duties.”
Janah, “Shall we come over tomorrow?”
Mrs. Epstein, “Yes, Do you want to make it breakfast or lunch?”
Janah, “Breakfast. Once I tell Nikko, she’ll want to go tonight.”
Mrs. E laughed, “Daphne can distract her until morning, say eight-thirty?”
Janah joins Nikko on the mat, she’s working with Miyako, reading a poem Miyako created in Japanese, and Nikko is correcting character writing errors.
Teaching her yokogaki, a left to right style, like English.
“Feel like breakfast at Mrs. Epstein’s tomorrow?”
“Always,” Nikko is guiding Miyako’s hand over a few new characters, she doesn’t look up, Janah senses her pleasure.
Maybe I should jump her tonight, you know, so she doesn’t stay up all night thinking of new ways to refocus abusive dorks.
Good of you to look out for her best interests, particularly in a way that takes care of your interests as well.
I'm all about compassionate cooperation.
Nikko, “Mistress has decided to help me relax.”
“She always has your best interests at heart.”
Nikko remains focused on Miyako's lesson, “Hai.”
Later that night, we cooperatively and enthusiastically help each other take our minds off the pressures of work, or anything else. Then a lovely sleep.
We are sitting at The Epstein’s dining room table. Cantaloupe, strawberries and crème fraiche, crispy buttery wheat toast, scrambled eggs with Feta and spinach.
I help demolish the eggs and toast, Nikko eats a spoonful of egg and a quarter slice of toast. On her third cup of green tea to compensate.
Mrs. E is studying Nishiko’s miniscule breakfast, Nikko reads her thoughts, “Daphne adds Chia seeds to my tea, I may be a tub of lard soon. Is there work? I hope not just a visit for them to eat. Girls feed like hummingbirds, all day every day.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Girl diets are not my purview, you don’t eat, they do. As for work, there is no end. However, the Society has rules, one of which is to give the elite Social Work teams the most difficult jobs, the other is to give them fewer jobs for the same reason.”
Nobody says anything, I’m sipping a third coffee, Mrs. Epstein continues, “We’ve found another little nest of country boy idiots, who have worked themselves up over the usual crap.”
Janah, “That ‘real Americans’ are getting screwed over by immigrants, legal and illegal, and all the good paying jobs have gone overseas to people who look different and don’t believe in the real God.”
Mrs. Epstein, “This group, which is reasonably wide and deep, is into extortion of Indian families, Indian as in India, Latin Americans and Vietnamese, who have built up a significant seafood business along the Gulf Coast, Florida to Louisiana, a bit into Texas.”
“American Indians are called Indians because Columbus thought he’d landed in India.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Get out.”
“Columbus was a jerk, but on the Indian thing we have to cut the guy some slack. They knew India was there, sail west to the East. It’s easy to assume you sail for a long time and meet the only thing you know about.”
Nikko, “How could he screw up an Indian, Indian with an American Indian? They don’t look much alike. Dark skin, dark hair I guess, like gaijin everywhere, only see differences in each other.”
Mrs. Epstein, “God, it’s so true.”
I am indignant, “The India Indians, Latin Americans, Middle and Far Easterners, not to mention the vast numbers of other nationalities, have come to America, own businesses large and small, become professors, lawyers, accountants and everything in between. They are our country’s greatest asset. Look at Mrs. Fong, the Murakamis, Master Kim, a bunch of Shaolin.”
Janah, “How does working ninety hours a week in the US and paying taxes translate into taking all the ‘good’ jobs overseas?”
Mrs. Epstein, “You already know the answer.”
Janah, “They are pissed that people who work ten times harder than they do are making fair money, and they want to steal it from them. The local constabulary is either in on the deal or just doesn’t care.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Both, depends on which stretch of Coast. In Florida, the cops just don’t care. They’re busy protecting and serving by catching truckers and tourists going over the speed limit. Along the Mississippi coast, not much happens because the gambling industry doesn’t want any violence making the suckers nervous. They take care of the rednecks by pushing them out of the way, the hard way or the easy way. In Louisiana, the cops are part of the deal. They overlook the intimidation of the Vietnamese and Latin Americans, and take a cut of the extortion and drug dealing. The small tip of the Texas coast is the same. It just runs to Galveston, and Corpus Christi, after that you’re in Mexico.”
“Texas used to be Mexico until we stole it. I’m petitioning Congress to give it back to them, but they have to take all the Texans. I doubt Mexico is that stupid.”
“This must be organized in some way, or you wouldn’t be calling us in.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Oh, very. Bunch of Aryan skinhead biker types. They really don’t care about racial purity, that’s just a cover to placate the locals. These jokers have done jail time, for assault, robbery, drugs. They are connected in prison, and connected out of prison.”
“So, there’s a lot of babble about taking care of our own, watching each other’s back, that kind of crapola.”
“Exactly, it’s like you were there,” Mrs. Epstein smiled.
“I’ve seen the movie a thousand times. Writers get their ideas from some place. I think it started with James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Brando in The Wild One, things deteriorated from there. Alienated young men, full of hormones and bravado, not much in the way of intelligence, street smarts if any smarts at all.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Is there any movie you haven’t seen?”
“Tons. Nothing with Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day, Audrey Hepburn or anything having to do with romantic comedy, or any girl movies, like the Traveling Pants thing, no Sex in the City. Didn’t drive Miss Daisy, no Whoopi Goldberg, who was actually named Caryn Johnson. She’s hardly Jewish, she took on the name Goldberg because her mom convinced her Johnson wasn’t Jewish enough to make her a star. Speaking of which, no movies about the Holocaust, I mean once they did Anne Frank, everything else is repetition. Horrible thing, but we get the point already.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Yes, Bernie is Jewish, at least in heritage, and he’s said much the same thing. He’s hardly anti-Semitic, but he says it’s well past time to move on. I think a lot of Jews are rather embarrassed by the constant drone of holocaust, endless novels or movies. He thinks producers are just cashing in on people’s misery.”
“Doesn't matter to me. I pick on every religious group, an equal opportunity sarcanista. Or should that be sarcasmnista? Or judgmentalist? Don’t get me started on Mormons.”
Nikko, “It’s not a judgment, it’s an observation. You don’t care what beliefs people subscribe to, as long as they don’t start inflicting their crap on everyone else.”
Janah, “I have a problem with parents depositing their religious beliefs on children too young to consider it rationally. From my perspective, it's just as abusive to impose a belief system on your kid as it is to beat up other people because of their beliefs. In both cases, an adult with a misguided world view is imposing their idea on someone else. A child is neither a repository for daddy and mommy’s delusions nor their thought experiment.”
Nikko, “Good luck with that."
Janah, “You sound like Daphne."
“Can we get down to business?”
Mrs. Epstein, “I see philosophy is not Nishiko's métier. The files are on the computer, here’s the log-in.”
Janah breezes through the information. The gang is loosely run, an old style Mafia setup. Pay some tribute to the guys on top, get support when you needed it. Don’t pay the tribute, get cut out de minimis, or get dead, de maximus.
There is a group of three who run the show, one top dog, two Capos, I call them that for convenience, it isn’t an Italian gang. The two Capos run one side of the coast each. One Florida along the Gulf coast to the Louisiana line, the other Louisiana to Corpus.
Each Capo has lieutenants, responsible for either drugs or extortion. Drugs are profitable, but risky. Extortion is easier, but less volume, less money. They stay out of the prostitution business. Girls are harder to handle, frequently use drugs and try to rip off johns. Besides, on the Mississippi coast, prostitution is for all intents legal. Nobody gets busted for prostitution on the coast. The casinos provide girls to high rollers and there are plenty of free lancers.
In New Orleans, if you can’t find a drunk girl to play with your pecker, you have to be clinically dead, pretty much the same on the Florida coast. It simply isn’t worth trying to sell what girls give away for a few Jell-O shots, or whatever nasty concoction is popular now. There are high end escort services for the choosy, and those girls aren’t going to work for a bunch of peckerwoods.
Our boys are bikers on the working end, the ones in public relations. That is, the ones who deal with the drug buyer or extract fees from small business owners. BMWs, 450 SLs and Escalades don’t enter the picture until the lieutenant level.
The Society blueprinted the whole operation, where they live, who reports to who and when.
There are six lieutenants, three for drugs, three for extortion. The territories break down into drugs from Florida through Mississippi, then New Orleans and Baton Rouge, then west to Corpus. Extortion in Florida, then New Orleans and Baton Rouge, then the third leg from Lafayette to Corpus. Each lieutenant has his own group of bikers. Each lieutenant is responsible for keeping his bikers under control. The extortion bunch doesn’t infringe on the drug side. Rules are strictly enforced.
The lieutenants don’t have it easy. Bikers can get particularly stupid when it comes to macho, and every so often one would get it in his head he didn’t need the lieutenant. Sometimes they decide to skim too much. Capos understand there would be a certain amount of rake off the top. Drugs cut further, new businesses extortion payments collected but not reported. The lieutenant’s job is to prevent dipping too deep. Prevent means execute, even on suspicion, and a new leader appointed. The point is made ruthlessly and efficiently, the new leader is the leader. Anyone challenging the appointment mysteriously evaporates.
The end result, after a few false starts, was that even not so bright biker skinheads settled into an orderly chain of business. The bikers sell drugs, collect protection payments from terrorized immigrants, funnel half the money to the lieutenants, who funnel half the money to the Capos, who disappear it into legitimate businesses. Restaurants are a favorite, but dry cleaners, franchises and real estate allow for passing through a lot of cash. Profits are divided up between the two Capos and the boss, one third each. Profits are substantial.
When we return to the apartment Janah says, “I’m going to the meditation loft to think this over, aut viam inveniam aut faciam.”
Nikko, “What’s that?”
“Latin, ‘I’ll either find or make a way,’ it’s in reference to Hannibal getting elephants across the Alps.”
Nikko looks at me, “Sheesh, does it ever stop, that brain?”