Chapter Fifty Seven
Amaya, Janah and I are in Minneapolis at a standard Hampton Inn. We aren't here for long, two nights and we are likely to be too busy to appreciate a luxury hotel.
Our target is Harris Reed, an architect. His wife is Rita, daughter Barbara, nicknamed Bebe, pronounced BB, like the chain store. The Society has relevant audio and video up on the site. We become familiar with the entirety of the family degeneracy.
Harris works out of his home, wife does the cooking and housekeeping, Bebe mostly runs the show. Surveillance sent up video files of Harris and Bebe by the pool behind his McMansion, in one of those suburban enclaves where the houses look alike enough to have a theme but enough exterior design difference to avoid cookie cutter. They are close together, with painted concrete block walls separating for privacy. Dad and daughter swim and sunbathe nude, mom serves drinks and sandwiches and wears a maid's uniform, yeah, really.
Conversation is minimal between mom and the other two, she gets orders, she carries them out. Nothing abusive, more like addressing the help.
Bebe goes inside, then calls out, ‘Reed, Rita's doing my nails now, what time are we going out?’
Reed, ‘Reservation's for seven thirty, angel, dress up.’
Then video of Reed and the girl entering an upscale restaurant. He's in a jacket and slacks, she's in a black skirt, platforms and a simple white blouse. She's lightly made up, not trying to look older particularly, her hair is short, cut in a flattering style close to her head almost like the old Sassoon five point. Her skirt is short but mid thigh, she has nice legs, and a curve of muscle in her calf. The only concession to flair is a black choker around her neck. She looks cute, an air of sophistication. They hold hands as they walk to the entrance.
The video picks up when they leave an hour and half later. At home the audio gets interesting.
Bebe, ‘Rita, have my skirt and blouse cleaned.’
‘Yes, Miss Bebe.’
That's her mother. The Society did its research. Harris is married to Rita, Bebe is their daughter, not adopted. Rita is a legal immigrant via marriage. Things are starting to add up.
The next voice is Rita, ‘Shall I undress you, sir?’
It's quiet for a while, then Rita says, ‘Do you wish me dressed or undressed?’
The next sound is a slap and a body hits the floor, then Rita's voice, ‘Do I stay on my knees sir?’
‘No, get up, I want the pleasure of knocking you down again,’ another slap, another thump.
‘Hand me the belt.’
The sound of a belt smacking skin, then Rita, ‘Again, sir, please.’
More smacks, whimpering, ‘Thank you, sir. May I get you your drink now?’
‘Do you want more?’
‘After your drink, may Miss Bebe tie me?’
There's the sound of ice in a glass, Bebe says, ‘I have Rita ready, I want to do it this time.’
What sound like punches and slaps, leather on skin, cries from Rita, then ‘please, please Miss Bebe.’
More slaps, Reed's voice, ‘Enough, she doesn't get everything she wants, always withhold. Put the dildo in her, make her squirm.’
Sounds of pleasure, ‘Thank you Miss Bebe, deeper please, turn it up please.’
The show ends, Reed says, ‘Let her down, she's had her fun, come to bed.’
The next sounds are a mix of Rita's crying, she seems to be applying something astringent to her welts and cuts, there are pain sounds but she's alone. The audio shifts to another location.
Bebe, ‘Rita the masochist, what fun, I like the whip, but I like punching her the best. I busted her lip good.’
‘You do it so well. Come and lay down, it's all ready for you, see?’
Bebe, ‘I love your cock in my mouth.’
There are vague sex sounds.
‘Do you want to come in my mouth, or fuck me?’
‘That's the best.’
‘You tan is perfect, tomorrow I'm going to make more video and take advantage of it.’
Then more sex sounds, then quiet.
“I'll second that. What in hell do we do with this Janah?”
Janah, “I haven't thought that up yet. This is all voluntary. I can hardly refocus Harris for his wife's predilections.”
“No unless you refocus me, and I don't want Nikko to lighten up.”
“She doesn’t tie you up, you swap punishment. The woman is not so unusual, it's the daughter, what do we do with her? Did Harris train her to be what she is, or was Bebe exposed to mom's desire for pain and got into it? Children can be cruel, particularly if the cruelty is encouraged.”
“So if she grew up in this atmosphere, it all seems normal to her.”
Janah, “She doesn't go to school, she's home schooled, don’t know where she met the girl she dropped part of her story on. She sounds intelligent, at least well spoken. Even if we fix Harris, what do we do with her? She's in for a long stretch of therapy at the least. And first, she has to be convinced something's wrong.”
Amaya, “Janah, we have to rearrange her mind, his too, and Rita's.”
“Appears the only option The girl has said enough to start somebody thinking. If she doesn’t think anything is wrong, she’s likely to blurt out even more to whoever. I want to think it over tonight, in the morning we'll take action of one kind or another.”
Chapter Fifty Eight
Morning, decision's made.
Janah, “We're going to the house, get them corralled. Daphne will take the video collection while I get details out of Reed. We'll video my chat, take photos of Rita's wounds while they're fresh. Then I'll get Bebe to fess up on video. We turn the whole mess over to the Society and they decide what to do. What will happen is that Reed will get busted, then the social workers and psychologists will take over.”
Amaya, “Rearranging the minds won't work?”
“Yes and no. First, we'd have to delete all the weird stuff, then implant a normal family life. This has clearly been going on for some time. It's deeply ingrained. Trying to undo all that and reset could take days. I'd need to pull Chan in for a project that size, plus use both of you. With that extensive level of brain work, things could go south and we're left with an incomplete job. It’s different than making them nothings. I could deal with that for the adults, not the kid.”
“We're left with doing the best we can.”
“Yep. The family is going to get outed one way or the other, with us, it can be handled quietly. We surely don't need to take the girl with us. It's different from Amaya, she knew something wasn't right and wanted out. Chloe was abused by her sister, not asking for it. Bebe is a different story. She’s certainly a sadist, and if she's not a psychopath already, she’s on the border, dad’s already deep country.”
We pack up equipment and go visit the Family Strange. Getting in is child's play. While I scale the rear wall, Amaya rings the bell. When Rita answers, she asks for a phone, her cell is out of juice, she waves it in front of Rita, and her car is stalled, she points vaguely to a spot down the street.
As Rita turns to get her cell, Amaya wraps a cloth of chloroform around her face while Janah enters the house. Rita's resting comfortably on the entrance hall floor, Amaya zip ties her, likely becoming a new BFF given Rita's preferences.
Bebe comes out her room, Janah gives her brain a blast and she's cold on the carpet. I come in the back door and go find daddy while Janah's getting Bebe restricted. Dad's just getting out of the shower. I have to admit, it appears Bebe's boast of eight inches is accurate.
Before he can mouth, “What...,” I have owl claws around his mouth and hit a pressure point under his ear, now everybody is out on the floor, all over the house.
While Janah and Amaya make true confessions videos, I find the digital files, don’t even have to unencrypt anything. It's stored right on the drive. I guess he and Bebe watch it often enough. I download everything, and there's a ton. I search the office and find two more stand alone storage drives. Cripes, he must have videos of her in the womb.
Bebe's room is all young girl stuff, pinks and purples, stuffed animals. There's a video playing on a flat screen monitor. It's Bebe, about six or seven, cavorting her little ass off, buck naked, then she's playing with dad's ding dong and they are laughing. She starts kissing it. I crack the external storage drives, load a few videos, taking only a glance at the content, most of which is Bebe at different ages, mostly nude, frequently with dad, frequently with dad’s manhood in her hands or mouth. Then I hit gold.
The dopes recorded Rita's abuse, which isn't illegal, but there were clearly times when Reed did it himself and other times when Bebe did it with Reed's encouragement. One cute scene of many includes Rita strung up, watching Bebe give daddy a blow job, complete with the common porn shot of him jizzing in her mouth, which she holds open to the camera, swallows and with a contented grin, licks the last drop from his penis. This will send shrinks running for prescription pads, then figuring out what 'syndrome' to call it for insurance coverage. Ah, medicine, the docs try to suck as much out of the insurance as they can, the insurance companies try to pay as little as they can, the big pharmas make miniscule molecular changes to drugs to create new patents and keep prices artificially high. Somewhere along the way, the patient either gets well on her own or dies. Enough already, I upload the whole mess to the Society, verify the files are there, it takes two hours. That’s a bunch of material.
While I'm watching files upload, Janah finishes up Reed, starts in on Bebe. She’s young, a little Pentothal and Oxytocin and she's jabbering away. I send Reed's confessional to the Society, then Bebe's. Confession only in the sense they talked about it, there is no guilt or remorse, it’s a story they enjoy telling, Bebe is particularly enthusiastic. Janah and Amaya get video of Rita's body, lots of red welts, bruises and a smashed lip. Just current evidence on top of the pile of video. I leave the belt, whip and restraints in plain sight, along with the external drives, conveniently unlocked for the DA.
We leave them tied and mildly sedated in separate rooms, we have at least three hours. By then, there will be investigators swarming.
We pack up, obviously used latex gloves, we have on caps. I vacuum anyway, remove the bag and replace it, off we go. Our exercise took most of the day, it's seven when we get to the room.
We eat, channel surf, skip sex, I’d watched enough incest and S&M porn. Janah and Amaya are particularly tired, they did a lot of mental work on our targets. I qi relax them both. Then sleep.
We don’t begin moving until after eight, I fetch food from the Hampton buffet, we fiddle around until noon, check out and go to the airport. Our jet is waiting. The Society managed to get our flight time bumped up, two and a half hours to fly, lose an hour in time zone changes, we get to our condo by five thirty.
Zi has thoughtfully ordered from Fong's and Violet Princess is all grins when we hit the door. Drinkers have cocktails or wine, we nibble crispy spring roll appetizers, then dig in. Life is good.
Two days later, Janah's on the phone with Mrs. Epstein, she disconnects, “The DA is having fun untangling the knots in the Reed case.”
We are around the big table for afternoon tea, Amaya, “We left Tuesday, it's only Thursday. I know they busted everyone that night, it's pretty quick work.”
Janah, “The DA got a call directly, they jumped all over it. Harris Reed isn't any big deal, he's got no strings to pull. They got lawyered up of course, but the only thing he can do is cut a deal. He's dead in the water, so's mom. Her masochism was voluntary, that doesn't mean anything when it comes to her knowledge of Reed and their daughter. I suppose she'll try and say she was afraid, the videos say otherwise. Plus, for the time Surveillance followed her, she went to the grocery, drug store, she had a car and went alone. Hardly a prisoner.”
Chloe, “What about the girl? What happens to her?”
“Temporarily a ward of the state. I didn't look up details of what that means in Minnesota. The Society is monitoring the situation to make sure she doesn't end up in some backwater social services department.”
Chloe, “Did she seduce him?”
“That happens, but the girl is generally older. A six or seven year old is only vaguely aware of sexuality. In this case, dad started with them in the shower, he's bathes her, from toddler on up. She was taught to hit mom when she was young. Since mom wanted it, the girl thought it was fun. She watched mom give dad blowjobs, then she wanted to. A possessiveness for dad kicked in. Mom is competition, Bebe makes sure Rita is out of daddy's sex life, she has him to herself. Dad clearly started the process, and since the girl was at home all the time, he had control. According to Bebe, Reed would say that mom wanted to have sex with him and he didn't want to, she should be punished. Bebe gets all over that, whips mom, does dad in the flush of excitement. I think, to her, she was staking out her territory and dad knew the buttons to push.”
Nikko, “So she was manipulated and became a manipulator.”
“Best guess. Maybe more comes out in the investigation, but Bebe was free with information when I talked to her. I stitched together my opinion based on what she told me. Reed didn't say anything that contradicted what the girl said.”
Chloe, “How did the father get like that? How did the mother?”
“I didn't get deeply enough into him to decide. He only kept saying 'we are a perfect fit for each other.' Clearly he form fitted her. This wasn't Bebe setting out to seduce dad. He put the pieces in place and conducted the orchestra, I suppose trio is a better word, hardly an orchestra. Mom is a masochist, how that happened is anybody’s guess.”
Nikko, “Should have just blotted him out. Taken his mind, or his life.”
“Thought occurred, but the girl was there and knew people had broken in the house. Right now, she doesn't hate her father. Him dead or detached from his personality might have become an excuse to defend him.”
Zi, “Isn't she going to do that anyway?”
“Certainly, for a time. Maybe a long time, maybe forever. With him out of the picture, she can more easily cling to the delusion, her memories of all the fun she had. With him being prosecuted and jailed, she's got to deal with the fact that a whole lot of people don't see it that way.”
Nikko, “I can kill him when he gets out, or Mini can arrange it while he’s in.”
We laugh, she's making a joke with an edge of truth, which is why it's funny. There's nothing to do, the girl's life will play out. The Society will see to it she is given the best possible treatment. Sometimes the best you can do is duct tape.
Chloe has a shoot tomorrow, I'll be tied up, oops, my brain still influenced by recent events, I’ll be busy in the morning with her.
We spend the remainder of the afternoon housekeeping, two hours later the place is all shined up, six hands can get a lot of corners clean, floors mopped, tables polished and bathrooms spotless. I'm putting away mops, washing rags, the after clean up, clean up. Janah's bubbling away in her Jacuzzi.
Amaya and Chloe are engaged with bathing and dissing each other. Like two kittens at play, verbally swatting, no claws, just paws. Accusations of self absorption from Chloe, statements of entitlement from Amaya, poking at Chloe's small spray of freckles, her wiry legs and nothing breasts.
They rinse, dry off, then sit on the edge of the bed.
Amaya, “You have a neck like a giraffe,” she licks up one side.
Chloe giggles, “You don't seem to mind sticking your face in it at night to sleep.”
“I am merely protecting you from drafts so you do not get strep, the longest sore throat in history.”
Chloe kisses her, “Thank you.”
“And cut the sweet stuff. You wrap Daphne around your long toes, batting you lashes at her, crooked grin. You are like a twelve year old learning how to be manipulative.”
“I like her aura when she's thinking about me. At least I play with her nicely, not your arrogance.”
Amaya smiles, “She is putty in our hands.”
“You forget I see what you feel when she is attending to you,” Chloe bats her eyes at Amaya, it works with her, too.
Amaya sighs, “Lay down or you will spend the evening pouting.”
Chloe grins, she hasn't a pout in her persona.
They crawl under the sheets, intimacies ensue.
Chapter Fifty Nine
I go to Chloe's room to tell them dinner is ready, I could have mentaled, but then deprive myself of the pleasure of seeing them together.
Chloe is vibrant, “We did it!”
“You do it all the time now.”
“No, merged, just for minute, but we did it.”
“Feels good, yes?”
Amaya has nothing to say, her dreamy stare says what she can’t.
I smile, “And you can say the same thing about dinner, which is ready.”
The others are seated, I have pan fried fish, mixed vegetables, baked potatoes and a mixed green salad with a choice of vinaigrette or bleu cheese.
Janah, “Where are the girls?”
Nikko, “Geez, more sex?”
Janah, “Ah, they can have the joy of telling us.”
Chloe and Amaya pad in, take seats, Chloe is bubbling, “Score one for us, we merged.”
Janah smiles gently, “Rather nice isn't it?”
Chloe, “Rather nice doesn't begin to cover it. I feel new.”
“You are new.”
“Is it new every time?”
Janah looks at her.
Chloe waits for an answer, figures out none is coming, “Duh, find out for myself.”
Janah nods, we have dinner, talk is minimal, a few arrangements for tomorrow, progress on the Murakami's grocery still in early construction stage. Amaya is unusually quiet.
After dinner, Zi helps clean up, the others hit the couch and mat, turn on the most recent Sherlock Holmes I recorded, a modern day one from the BBC.
We join everyone and watch a mediocre remake of the Hound of the Baskerville's. The first season of this series was interesting and fun. They took the old Sherlock stories and kept the structure, but made it modern day. I don't know if the idea got tired in season two, or writers changed, but the invincible supremely intelligent Sherlock makes dreadful misjudgments, and the banter between him and Watson seems forced. Disappointing if I got disappointed over TV shows. This from a girl that watches ridiculous kung fu movies with dumb dialogue and actors flying through the air doing triple flips. I wanted to take Sherlock more seriously, the lame dialogue and lame revised plot makes it impossible. Oh, well.
We shut down for the evening, Zi and I are in Amaya's room, Amaya has been bonded to Chloe since dinner, Janah and Nikko spent the last stretch of Sherlock fondling.
Long legs silken satin skin Zi is all over me, she ultimately lands on the most sensitive spot and provides me with one of those peak experiences you hear about. I cover her body with kisses, touch the magic button, start to zero in.
Zi, “This time, I crave something else, Nishiko likes me to do this, perhaps you will as well.”
She mounts my thigh and rides herself into an orgasm, slides down to lick her wetness from my leg. Danged if she isn't right, if you haven't had a hot Chinese girl get herself off on you, what are you waiting for? We snuggle in.
“Your aura says I was right.”
“Quite right, it's very erotically flattering to have a woman want to pleasure herself on a body part she likes.”
“Why do you allow Nikko to be so violent with you?”
“Nikko releases by wailing on me, I release by letting her, it's therapeutic. If she didn't get to bludgeon on me, she would kill all our targets.”
“So you sacrifice yourself to keep her sane.”
“And keep myself sane in the process.”
“And Janah, what does she do?”
“Janah doesn't need outlets, she provides them.”
Zi thinks this over, “How dense I am. All of us, here together, are because she sees our needs and arranges ways to meet them.”
“Now you know.”
Zi snuggles into my shoulder, “I thought I might remain exclusive to Nishiko, but too many lovely girls for that and Nishiko wanted Janah to herself.”
“Happy you changed your mind.”
She flops a long slim leg over me, her arm across my chest, luscious, we sleep.
Today, Chloe and I are at her next assignment, a fashion shoot for a spring collection. Of course, it's just the beginning of fall, but that's the time to advertise for spring. It’s a study in lavender, one presumes her violet eyes became more relevant although they could have Photoshopped the eyes of any model.
During a short break, I asked the photographer about it, his name is Douglas, tiny guy with a goatee, works like a hummingbird.
“The camera loves Chloe, the eyes are gorgeous, but irrelevant. In her case, it works because they highlight the color we are using. But if she didn't make the dress look good, we wouldn't use her. The angularity of her face, big eyes a tad too far apart, comes out on the page as striking. The clothes hang on her perfectly and thank god she doesn't have tits. I hate working with busty women and, please don’t out me but I will never do plus size. The focus shifts from the clothes to tits. If we need a bit of cleavage, we can do it with inserts. Chloe has splendid facial adaptability, she can be smiling bright, intense, pouty or sensual in sequence. I tell her what I want and the look appears. She's magical.”
He streaks off, “No, no, no, no, that blush won't work in the shot, get it off and tone it down, use plum, and lightly. And I want cheekbone, don't soften them.”
And that's why these things take so long.
Today Chloe is in a lavender chiffon silk midi, very sheer, sleeveless with a v-neckline. There are three other outfits featuring lavender, either the skirt, or the top, lots of shots, front, side, back with head turned to the camera, look at the camera, look away. I'm getting tired just watching.
Finally, it's a wrap, or whatever fashionese they use when the shoot is finished, lots of 'thank you everybody,' Chloe is chatting with the makeup artist, typical of the plumber whose pipes leak at home, she wears no makeup herself, Chloe introduces her as Matilda.
“Pleased to meet you, Matilda.”
Chloe, “Didn't she make me splendid?”
Matilda, “You came in splendid dear, I added a touch of color here and there,” she turns to me, “I wish everyone took the paint as easily as Chloe.”
“You are quite necessary, most girls require your expertise, Douglas seems pretty particular, he must like your work.”
Matilda brightens, “Thank you, he does. I'm pretty much in tune with what he likes, but he wants his input, can't blame him, he gets the rap if the shots don't work.”
“Sometimes, if the client's stuff sucks they blame the photographer or the model or the makeup. We can only deal with the model, if the rags are crappy, nobody can fix that but the designer. I'm convinced some people who design clothes hate women.”
“Like whoever invented stiletto heels with pointy toes.”
Matilda laughs, “Yeah, like that putz.”
“You don't wear makeup?”
“I put makeup on women all day, men too, it seems like an extra job I don't get paid for. Nobody cares what I look like, they only care how I make them look.”
“Or if you come in with a look that doesn't appeal to them, they think you're going to mess them up.”
“That used to happen. Another reason to skip it for work.”
We say our goodbyes, Chloe gives Douglas a hug, part of her routine on these things, “Thanks, I hope I help sell the clothes.”
“You know, I'm never quite sure what make one thing go crazy and another that I find equally attractive go no place. A fashion mystery. Anyway, it's a pleasure working with you Chloe and I'll be sure to tell Adeline.”
Chloe grins, “You are the best Douglas, see you.”
Always leave 'em feeling appreciated. Never enough of that.
We are driven home, Angelo asks Chloe how it went.
“Super. I liked the outfits, being made up. It's a fair amount of changing, then adjustments, then the photography. He wanted lots of different expressions, my face feels stretched.”
Angelo, “My wife got that last magazine, the one with the teen spread, you looked fabulous, she shows it to everyone who comes over. She likes to tell them you're her girl. She thinks you're a star.”
Chloe giggles, “Star is Amaya's job, but give her a kiss from me, I'll call her. I have a lot of photos in my portfolio, you think she'd want me to send her some? Does she use a computer at all?”
Angelo, “She'd love it. Yeah, she's got a Facebook page thing, two hundred friends. She'll have you featured in her picture section if you let her, she always asks before she puts anyone up. Some of our friends, their only pictures are mug shots. They don't want no more pictures,” he laughs, “and don't worry Daphne, we ain't gettin' back in the old business.”
“Not worried about you Angelo, your wife will have your privates altered first.”
“Sheesh, you tellin' me. I go have drinks with a coupla guys, she says 'don't come back here with no crazy ideas Angelo or I'm gonna get Miss Nikko to start removing things.'
“You don't want that Angelo. Don't forget, Chloe takes kendo lessons from Nikko's dad.”
Angelo looks at Chloe, “Don't be gettin' no ideas Miss Chloe.”
“Same for you, I like you to drive me, you can’t do that from prison.”
Angelo laughs, “I gotta tell the Mrs. you said that, she knows I ain’t givin’ up no chauffeuring Miss Chloe for a heist.”
He drops us off, we go to the apartment, Nikko and Zi are still out, Janah and Amaya are reading a French newspaper and discussing the articles in Japanese. I’m feeling semi-literate.
Chloe plops on Amaya's lap, kisses and hugs, then Janah, “Angela thinks I'm a star, she tells all her friends about me.”
Angelo's wife is Angela, coincidence.
Amaya, “There is room for only one star in this family, the position is filled, permanently.”
“That's what she told Angelo.”
“She is reasonably smart, for a model.”
Chloe ignores her, “I have to call her.”
She finds a cell and dials, wanders off to her room.
Janah, “Appears things went well, we've been busy I didn't follow.”
“She's total pro. When she works she turns into everything they ask for. The clothes were nice, nothing unique, they fell right on her with minimal adjustment. She did cute, demure, sexy, a couple of those model pouts I never understand why they want.”
Amaya, “It is near time for tea, I shall do tea ceremony to celebrate her day.”
Janah, “Great idea. Daphne will prepare something yummy.”
I don't have time to do Japanese sweets, so I make tea sandwiches instead, Godiva truffles to finish. By the time I'm done, Amaya and Chloe are set, we sit around the low table, Amaya performs the tea ritual, we pass the cup, make the required compliments. She serves the sandwiches, we wait until the second round of weak tea, a cup each. Amaya plays the flute, Chloe dances and sings. Amaya sings. Both happy songs, this is a mini celebration after all. Nikko and Zi show up at the end, Amaya makes more tea and serves them while Chloe plays shamisen.
We bow to their skill with many compliments, fans flutter, hiding their mouths, eyes low in respectful appreciation.
We like the formality, the ritual order, it’s quite intimate, extraordinarily considerate and polite. Maybe Congress ought to have tea ceremonies…. no, they’d just want to fuck the geishas.
“I'll deal with cleanup girls,” they go off to shower, soon I hear them in my head swapping insults.
Amaya, “I think you are gaining weight.”
Chloe, “When I get as big as you, I'll start worrying about it. Are you losing muscle tone?”
“Do not be preposterous, if you spent as much time in dance as I, you would have a small portion of my luscious limbs.”
“Speaking of, lather up my skinny legs you find so fascinating.”
I drop off, they'll be at it until they're dressed.
Nikko recaps her property visit, “The relocated tenants are happy, Fong's is ready to reopen, next week Ning says. There's a lot of finishing, but it goes quickly. Customers call to check the progress, everyone is excited and everyone asks for reassurance the food won't change. She had new menus made, but the items are identical and there's no price increase. She'd nudged up prices six months ago, the ingredients were costing more, it had to be done or reduce quality, which isn't happening.”
Janah, “Cash flow?”
“We're ninety four percent occupied, the money rolls in. I reserve for major repair and replacement, but the account is overstuffed so I'm not adding to it for now. I'm going to remodel the lower floors on the Brooklyn property and bump up rents when leases renew.”
“You letting leases lapse, or relocating tenants?”
“Neither. I'm doing the work around them so they can stay open. To help out, I'm not charging them rent for the remodel time. We don't have any ground floor retail space available for them to relocate.”
“Yes. The last thing is a chain retailer, women's wear, wants to take half the block in Queens. The usual blather about how they'll draw customers for the other stores, and they want rent concessions and build out for their wonderfulness. Since I fail to see how having a big chain retailer helps the two boutiques we have, I told them no thanks. They said they have other property manager anxious to have them.”
Zi, “Nikko asked, 'then why are you here?’ they fumbled around and left.”
Janah laughs, “We've had national chains approach us before. I like your policy of New York businesses. Gristedes is a chain, but it's a New York chain. If you decide to change that though, it's your baby.”
“The tenants like that we cater to locals. Although Gristedes is becoming a problem, their standards are dropping. The delis are popular, restaurants do well, employees come from the neighborhoods and don't have to commute. For retail workers, subway rides are expensive. If Gristedes doesn’t get it together, we aren’t offering them a new lease.”
Zi, “A medical clinic with free rent in the Brooklyn property is one of the best ideas Nikko had. They can charge lower prices for visits and the tenants are delighted the clinic is right there. The main problem is too much business.”
Janah, “You want to expand it?”
Nikko, “Let's put one in Queens first, there's space on the fifth floor and I can get a separate elevator so we don't have sick people riding up and down. The regular building elevator won't go there. We have space coming up two floors higher in Brooklyn that will allow for expansion. I can build out and keep the clinic open until it's completed. There's no room to expand where it is now. No, wait....I'll do the same thing I did for Fong's. I'll move current tenants up two floors and expand the clinic space. I won't have to install another elevator.”
Janah, “Good. I assume none of this can start until we return from Kyoto."
We're off to Kyoto, first class, it’s a fourteen hour flight to Kansai International, about an hour or so to Kyoto. China Air nonstop from JFK to Kansai. Kyoto doesn't have an airport, the nearest is Osaka, but Kansai isn't much further. I've never traveled overseas, but I've been told by those who have that more than five or six hours in coach on a fully loaded 747 is like two years in a Turkish prison. China Air first class is great. The seats recline flat to a roomy bed, it's easy to sleep. There are a bunch of movies, a screen for each seat, you pick the flick, music, a SAT phone if you need to call mommy. They keep offering food and drinks, or you can sleep, which I did. I parked next to Janah, Chloe and Amaya giggled their way through movies, Mr. and Mrs. Murakami slept, Nikko and Zi sat across the aisle from us. Janah read, we watched a movie, ate, went to sleep. I woke in five or six hours, they fed me, I went into no mind, cross legged on my flattened seat. Janah the same next to me.
I had my arms lying on my knees, palms up, somewhere along the way the brands on my arms were partially exposed. It’s China Air, I'm Shaolin, the rest of the flight we got the most amazing service. The hostess asked me to bless the flight, and the Captain came by for a personal visit. Then passengers from coach started showing up at the entrance to business class asking if the priest could offer blessings. Health and wealth are popular, I couch it in terms of good luck and long life with many children. I spent the rest of the flight in coach talking with Chinese visitors connecting to China, and two Zen monks. Janah visited with the monks, they spent the whole time laughing. Somebody in first recognized Chloe and she had to get her picture taken with half the passengers. A party started, as the attendants prepared for the descent into Kansai, Amaya sang for everyone in Japanese.
None of the passengers would leave the plane until we left, with many bows from the flight crew. Mysteriously, we were whisked through customs, our passports stamped immediately and were in our car like diplomats. I wondered how they got the luggage so fast, it reminded me of the Village Diner, the food out before they had time to cook it. Japan might have its economic problems, but stuff works, and everything is spotless.
We’re going into town for now, then moving around Kyoto. The Murakamis go to a brother's home, we go to Kizashi The Suite, a superb hotel. The rooms are large, giant beds bigger than king, tatami mats on one section of floor with a small inset for meditation, two tubs, a dining area with a kotatsu, the low table for meals and tea.
The plan is to stay active until bedtime, it’s around five thirty in the afternoon Kyoto time. We unpack and hit the streets. We’re in downtown Kyoto, in the Goin district. Not far is the Yasaka Shrine, built in the seventeenth century and a popular tourist destination. It is also a popular Japanese destination judging from the number of people.
We enter through the Ro-mon, a two-story gate with bright red posts and white walls at the top of the steps. The entrance is protected from evil spirits by flanking Shinto guardians. Just past the gate are stone Korean lion-dogs, Janah says they’re called komainu, protecting the stairs that lead to the main area.
To the left of that is the Haiden, for offerings, and opposite it is a ceremonial stage decorated with lanterns for religious ceremonies. We come to the Honden, the spirit hall. Here worshipers wake up the god with a rattle of the pan shaped bells at the front of the Honden, then pray before the altar. Apparently the gods need to be constantly awakened, narcoleptic maybe?
We walk through the adjoining park, pristine and orderly. The leaves haven't begun to turn, everything is green. Chloe and Amaya are wide eyed, even living in Manhattan the last few years, studying Japanese and Geisha haven't quite prepared them for total immersion. They’re deciphering signs, the sound of gaijin talking in fluent Japanese draws notice from the normally reticent locals.
Nikko is quiet, taking in her birth city, Zi comes alongside, “Nishiko is the color of still blue water, she is at home here.”
Nikko left Kyoto as a toddler, the only city she knew as home was New York. Still, she is pure Japanese, the atmosphere in her blood. I go in her mind, she is as Zi said, tranquil.
Being here is good for you I think.
Nikko, “Thought it would feel strange, like being a tourist, it isn't. My parents kept a lot of Kyoto in our New York home, our customs, the house itself, small things, dishes, always chopsticks, tea ceremony, and my mother's geisha. My brothers thought it all anachronistic, I never did. My parents came back several times, but I was always in school or working in the business."
"I'm glad we came, I'm glad I got to come with you."
Nikko, "As am I. In one way it's a big city with signs in a different language. The way shops are arranged, the small streets and alleys, the faces, how people walk, that's the real difference, it's all Japanese. A bit like Chinatown in Manhattan, but you cross Canal St. and it's gone. Here it is never gone.”
We find a restaurant, which isn’t hard, they're everywhere. Miso, sashimi, ramen with tofu, and grilled trout. Nikko, Janah, Amaya, and Chloe have sake, Zi and I manage with water and lemon. The dishes are remarkable and prices quite reasonable.
Travel and time zone tired, the hotel is a welcome sight, Nikko, Zi and Janah go their suite, we go to ours. Amaya and Chloe are in a rectangular tub that fills with carbonated water, cool. I’m in the standard bath. Standard is understatement, it's large oval and deliciously hot. In an hour we are oblivious, piled into the king plus bed and snuggled under a cozy comforter. Nothing moves until morning.
After a splendid traditional Japanese breakfast, called asa-gohan. Miso soup, served with every meal, Natto, fermented soy beans, Nori, dried seaweed, Tamagoyaki, grilled egg, a type of Japanese omelet, which is made by rolling together several layers of cooked egg, rice vinegar, sugar or soy sauce. It's prepared in a rectangular omelet pan and served in square chunks. There is also dried mackerel, rice and fish are staples.
Nikko, “Chloe, how do you like it?”
Chloe, “This is like some of the things your mom makes, I never tasted seaweed, it has its own flavor. We had dried fish, but I hadn't had the omelet, it's good. I hope Daphne's making a menu list.”
“I'll get the equipment, you can bring home the ingredients from Ari's new grocery. If you're going to be geisha, you and Amaya can make us traditional Japanese breakfast.”
Chloe, “Amaya doesn't cook.”
Amaya, “Excuse me, Daphne and I make the sweets we serve at tea.”
“I recall you leaning on the counter while Daphne prepared everything, you carried some of it to the table.”
“I was in training. Amaya can do anything she sets her mind to. We will make breakfasts such that the Murakamis will think they are in Kyoto.”
“You heard her.”
Janah, “I made a mental note. I look forward to continued Japanese treats when we return.”
Amaya, “So there, skinny, Janah understands the depths of my talent.”
“And I understand the depths of your baloney.”
“Finish your fish, it's bad manners in Japan to leave food on your plate.”
Chloe picks up the remaining bit of fish with her chopsticks and feeds it to me, “All gone.”
Janah, “Shall we see a Zen Temple?”
We walk to the famous Kenninji Temple, the oldest Zen Temple in Kyoto, founded in 1202. It is splendid, with a dry garden of white rock, another garden behind the Abbott's Quarters. We view the Thunder God and Wind God replicas, the originals are designated national treasures and are at the Kyoto Museum, then the circle triangle square garden in front of the priest's quarters, and the Twin Dragons installed in 2002 on the ceiling of the meditation hall.
Janah, “Yousai, also called Eisai, originally studied the Tendai tradition, then went to China where he encountered Chinese Ch'an, which is Zen. He returned and founded this Temple. He brought Ch’an and tea back to Japan. He is also said to be the founder of the tea ceremony.”
For Chloe and Amaya, that makes Yousai a rock star.
Amaya, “That is interesting, I am going to look him up, better yet Janah can fill Chloe and me in when we practice Japanese.”
The temple opens at ten, we spend three hours walking the grounds or enjoying the gardens. This afternoon we roam the Gion, poke through shops, chat with the locals. Chloe is a bit of a wonder to them, violet eyes, a teenage girl taller than all the women and most of the men she meets. And she speaks Japanese, if not like a native, far better than most gaijin.
This is not a travelogue, nor is it a restaurant guide. If you want to know more about the places mentioned, or Japanese food, there's deeper information on the web than me doing a dish by dish meal analysis or details of temples and shrines. If we come across something interesting, I’ll give it more coverage, but a lot of what passes for descriptive narrative in some books is just filler cribbed from the web.
It’s getting on to evening and we’re a bit jet lagged. Back in our suites, we bubble up again and order dinner. There is no hotel restaurant, it is served in room from select restaurants in the area, and it is splendido. A variety of sashimi, soup, we ask for steak and vegetarian dishes, there is also Tilefish and an almond pudding for dessert. It isn't cheap, about a hundred eighty bucks per, an eight hundred dollar dinner, at least it includes the tax and gratuity. Oh well, we’re rich, I guess we can do our bit to punch up a flat Japanese economy.