Chapter Fifty Seven
By ten thirty we’re at the target’s house. Surveillance reports he and two bodyguards on site along with two young girls they don’t know. Sounds in the house from the listening post indicated that the men are testing the ‘product.’
There are a few alternating screams and slaps.
Janah, “Get a move on, it’s ugly in there. Once the girls are safe, disconnect the guards from sentience and strap up Frisco.”
“Nikko, get to the rear door, take Zi. If you set off an internal alarm, it doesn’t matter, they won’t have it connected to a security company, the last thing they want is the police. It may actually help, they’ll be distracted. In any case, I’m not knocking, I’m kicking in the front door, stay in my head and do the back at the same time. Think guns.”
Nikko and Zi evaporate in the darkness, the house is off the street, eight foot hedge all around and lots of yard. A three car garage, shut. It’s a McMansion, two story, the action is upstairs, one guard is downstairs watching TV.
When Nikko is set, I mental, “Go,” fire up a boatload of qi and kick the oak door clean off its hinges, dang I’m good.
By the time I get to the living room, Nikko has three shuriken sticking out of couch potato’s face, he’s slumped over, Glock next to him on the sofa. She slices the carotid, he can comfortably bleed out on the couch.
Noise upstairs, I hear Frisco. “Devon! Find out what the fuck is going on down there! Anybody you don’t know, fuckin’ shoot.”
A few seconds later Devon treads carefully down the steps, t-shirt, pants, no shoes, another Glock waving from one spot to the other. I hear the thwip of Nikko’s blade the same moment I throw mine. Body makes nice thumps bouncing headfirst down the stairs. His gun is under his gut, good enough, he can’t use it, so it’s effectively hidden. I roll him over enough to extract Nikko’s knife, mine is in his neck, I wipe the blades on his shirt.
It’s quiet, Frisco is smart enough not to reveal his location by asking idiot questions. He might be calling someone, but he will find cell access jammed, he can dial forever and talk to air.
“Nikko, can you get up the balcony in back? we can come in from both sides.”
Nikko leaves, I wait, she mentals me, “Asshole tried to escape, jumped the balcony. He’s unconscious, and he’s big. Want to bring those claws of yours here to haul him inside?”
“Sit on him for a bit. I want to get the girls gone.”
“Amaya, alert Extraction.”
Zi and I climb the stairs, she steps around Devon, I step on him, hard sole boots, hard step, I hear his back snap, if he wasn’t dead, his walking days would be over.
“Girls, we are here to free you. You will not be hurt, you will not be given to any pimp, it’s all over, so you understand? Do you speak English?”
It is quiet for a minute, I hear them whispering in Spanish, I repeat in Spanish. I don’t know Spanish, but I have access to Janah’s brain, which does know Spanish. A small head cautiously peeks out, sees an unarmed Zi, her arms out. The child rushes to her, followed by the second, both girls are naked.
I hear a car roll up, “Get them in clothes, then take them to the Extraction team, they’re in the driveway.”
I wait to make sure there are no more upstairs surprises, Zi comes from the bedroom, the girls dressed, she takes them downstairs past good old dead Devon, one girl spits on him.
I go to Nikko, grab Frisco’s belt and carry him like a sack to the living room. There aren’t many lights on, Nikko turns off the TV, we douse the hallway light, the house is dark.
Amaya sets up while Nikko and I park Frisco in a kitchen chair, wire his arms and legs, face him to a dark wall. Amaya points the halogen in his eyes, the only thing lit in the room, he looks like a floating head. I hold a pocket light on his hand while she inserts a needle, snaps on the Luer-Lok. Janah is watching the process.
Amaya, “What drug?”
“Pentothal, I’m not going to freak him, then bring him down, I don’t want to take the time. He’s not leaving alive anyway.”
Amaya fills the syringe with sodium pentothal, inserts it in the Luer-Lok, presses the plunger. She waives ammonia caps under his nose ten minutes later. Janah isn’t going to have a long chat, what the pentothal doesn’t release, she’ll loosen with her mind. Janah doesn’t make nice, he starts out testy, she snaps his brain with something resembling an electric charge. Nikko’s serrated knife to his eyeball helps him focus. It’s so close to blinding him, when he blinks his eyelid touches the blade. Now that is precision.
Soon as I get the safe combination, I relieve it of its burden into one of Frisco’s gym bags, when it’s full, I take a small suitcase from his closet. It’s heavy. I open it, already preloaded with more cash. I find another suitcase full. I take the bags to the front room, Zi is searching the others, finds a second safe, I join her.
“Janah, there’s another safe, in an office, I’m going to toss it.”
Janah extracts the combination for the second safe, Zi is loading money into a trash bag, and, what do you know, there’s a wall safe in the office. She mentals me the combination, it isn’t that big, but it is half full of wrapped hundreds and bags. I open one, diamonds. Bingo and Bingo!
Janah presses hard, there’s another cache of diamonds, six bars of gold and a half dozen spots in the yard. She presses harder. Geez, a safe in the floor of the living room, I’m practically standing on it.
Nikko and I pull the rug back, open it, I shine the light inside. Guns and ammunition, all neatly stacked, and shiny bars of gold. Six more bags of diamonds. It takes us a half hour to unload, we start to leave the guns, then Nikko has an idea. We remove them, bash the guns until the barrels are bent and take them to the pool, splash! Guns and ammo swimming in chlorinated water.
Zi, Amaya and Janah are in the car. Nikko finds an ice pick in a kitchen drawer and gives it a new home at the base of Frisco’s brain. I undo the restraints, kick his chair over.
We join the others, Amaya takes us back to a life of luxury, it’s twelve thirty. On the way, we call the Society, explain that the car needs to be picked up, that it contains a substantial amount of greenery and other non-organic matter. While we sleep, the car will be taken, a new one left behind. Mrs. E gets an encrypted message describing what we’d found , the number and contents of each bag and suitcase. We have no time to count the money, and we can’t be hauling it to the rooms. Zi and I know how many stacks of cash we’d put in, how many gold bars and how many bags of diamonds. Society employees are vetted thoroughly. Still, if they open up things and find bags of diamonds, and stacks of cash, the temptation is enormous. To make sure there’s no missteps, I have a note on the bags, ‘Complete inventory of contents sent to principals, to be confirmed on arrival.’
Chapter Fifty Eight
The excitement leaves Amaya randy as a goat, I take pleasure in derandifying her, then sleep the sleep of killer lesbians.
We have breakfast at the Roof Garden, standard American, then to the room to disguise again and on to break children out of prison.
An industrial section of eastern San Bernardino, low end motel, three rooms around back, upper floor. Amaya eases the Tahoe past, parks on the street a half block down. There’s a man leaning on the motel wall in front, watching traffic. According to Surveillance there are two more. One outside in a van, the other in a fourth room. Whoever is in that room checks the girls’ rooms every hour. No exit other than the door to each room. If the kids try to bolt, there are two men downstairs they have to deal with and the subsequent punishment.
This is almost too simple. I have a bag and a key. While I walk to a room in the direction of Front Man, Amaya sashays across the lot in what passes for a short dress and platforms, but is just her t-shirt minus the jeans she’d worn. Front man isn’t bored any longer, she takes out a cigarette from her purse, and a lighter. She’s fifteen yards from Front Man. She drops the lighter, bends over straight legged to retrieve it, Front Man gets a two second view of feminine perfection, then I darken his lights, hook my hand under his belt and throw him to the ground on the vacant side of the motel. I picture wire him tight, wrists and ankles, duct tape his mouth and wrap it around his head a half dozen times.
Meanwhile, Amaya continues past me and to the rear of the motel, midway across the lot, she turns her back to the van and reenacts the scene she’d played out in front. It’s easy to assume Van Man is paying close attention. She straightens up, her t-shirt caught at the top of her bare butt. She flicks the lighter, no flame.
As predicted, the door of the van opens, Van Man eye’s never leave the prize as he asks, “Need a light, honey?”
She turns, raises the front of her shirt, licks her lip, “I need more than a light, baby.”
Van Man couldn’t have been happier if he’d won the Powerball. Happiness, however, is fleeting, his lasts a half second, then Nikko is leading him, knife to throat back to the van.
Amaya pulls down the shirt, back to the Tahoe.
I’m on the balcony, waiting on the other side of Motel Man’s door, hear a TV inside. Fifteen minutes later, it flips off, Nikko is behind me. The door opens, he checks the lot before stepping out, I whap him hard in the throat, he gags, kick his sternum, crack! He sails backwards to the floor. The room keys are still in his hand, I give them to Nikko, Janah calls in the Extraction team. I snap Motel Man’s neck, Van Man is extinct courtesy of Nikko, I leave the keys in front of the rooms, we leave. On the way out, Nikko gives Front man’s neck a hard twist, may as well make a pair. I drag his body to the van in back and toss him on top of his pal. Nikko takes the route behind the motel to the Tahoe, I walk though the lot, we return to our hotel.
Zi, “It went smoothly?”
“Water flowing, Amaya’s strutting made it even simpler, the two guards lost their minds, I could have walked right in front of my guy and he’d never have noticed me.”
Amaya, “I made myself very prostituty. I had not thought of a price though, how much do women get?”
“In a sleazebag joint like that, a hundred is about it, and that’s for more than a blow job. Girl of your quality gets in the escort business. Price goes up to three grand just to have dinner.”
“No price is worth it,” she mentals, “Sheesh, my former parents used to get that for renting me out to walk around naked and let pervs feel me. The woman you rescued me from paid five to go down on me. She got greedy and kept me for the night.”
“Children, particularly well kept ones, get substantially higher prices.”
“Still not worth it. I’d rather have lived in a trailer. I never minded the photography, it was even fun for a while. Then my parents got greedy. In a way, I’m glad they did. Look at me now.”
“Think of the Heart Sutra.”
Amaya, “Also, there is no truth of suffering,
Of the cause of suffering,
Of the cessation of suffering, nor of the path.
There is no wisdom, and there is no attainment whatsoever.
Because there is nothing to be attained…”
A block from the hotel, Amaya pulls to the curb, we get out, go separately to the rooms. Amaya drives on to the valet. We’d been seen in the hotel together, it’s just diversionary, we don’t want to be seen leaving and arriving together. Nothing happened in the SUV, it’s clean, smells like the squirt of vanilla Amaya spritzed in it.
We eat fresh fruit that comes with the rooms, have tea and coffee, shower.
When we gather in Janah’s room for the afternoon plan, Amaya sings the Heart Sutra for Zi. She weeps. Our life is challenging for a Sensitive, she is seeing the other side of Shaolin, different from stylized fighting in the temple, where nobody is killed as a consequence.
Chapter Fifty Nine
Janah, “I’ve been checking out Rodeo Drive, we need to take the walk and buy a few things, make it appear we’re rich girls on a shopping trip. Jump into something and let’s waste money.”
Amaya, “My other life calling.”
The hotel provides us a Lincoln Navigator and a driver, he takes us to Yves St. Laurent for starters. Strangely, Nikko, who shops little, finds black cashmere pants she likes, and a lovely nylon woven back skirt in magenta. Amaya adds a long sleeve silk sateen top. Three items, two grand, this could start running into money.
Amaya gets Chloe a lace trim skirt, a ruffle skirt and a smocked tank dress from Juicy Couture. All these stores are in Manhattan, but we have to keep up appearances, we aren’t supposed to be from Manhattan.
Valentino is fruitless, too over the top for our taste. We skip jewelry stores, Miu Miu is rather plain. We drop by Patisserie Aristique for espresso and pastry, quite good. Espresso is a tad lame for my taste, I prefer it to bite my tongue, this one only nips.
Caffeinated, we go to Fendi. If Valentino is over the top, Fendi is way over the top, we are in and out. The rest of the stores are more New York duplicates, Amaya knows what’s on the racks better than the employees. We stroll around window shopping then return to the Peninsula.
Amaya, “I need not do Rodeo Drive again, I am happy with Chloe’s dresses though, she will be even more adorable. Nikko did well, that skirt is curve hugging hot.”
We are resting, another pimp hunt tonight. As we gather at six for dinner, Janah recaps Mrs. Epstein’s call.
“Nearly half a million in cash, an estimated two hundred thousand in diamonds, and three hundred thousand in gold at today’s prices. The hard stuff is being liquidated, the money goes into the Society fund for relocation of innocents.”
Zi, “Amazing, and we don’t yet know what’s buried in the back yard or in the safe deposit box.”
“Sealed PVC pipe is waterproof and lasts longer than a natural lifespan.”
“Too bad we couldn’t tap that too.”
“Too risky to have our people in the backyard with shovels.”
Zi, “The child selling business must be remarkably profitable.”
“There were twelve girls in two rooms, plus the two at the house. There’s no way to know how many he sold outright. I questioned Frisco about it, he said a dozen, there are obviously no records, he didn’t know names, he didn’t track to whom they were sold. He wouldn’t want to know. Some of the buyers would have been brokers, middlemen. He only knew first names, fake anyway.”
Amaya, “Who’s up tonight?”
“A Russian named Tarkov. He’s got a bigger operation, runs girls up and down the coast. Tarkov is a big, tough bastard. And he’s surrounded by other big tough bastards, three with him all the time.”
Nikko’s eyes glitter.
Amaya, “Nishiko is almost giddy.”
Zi, “The only time I’ve sensed her this happy is when she’s playing with Daphne.”
“And I’m not even a big bastard, I am tough though.”
Janah, “Tarkov is all business. Movies tend to show these types as party hounds, always in a club surrounded by hot girls. I presume it makes for more excitement for the audience, loud music, men in leather jackets with two girls each, dancers gyrating in cages. Tarkov must have missed the flicks. He’s high fashion, tailored suits, handmade shoes, expensive watch, no tacky jewelry. Somebody forgot to tell him about heavy gold chains and shirts unbuttoned halfway down his chest. He eats in fine restaurants, high end wine, Russian girlfriend, former tennis player and model.”
“She’s a sizzler, but I only do gold star lesbians. It’s not a thing with me, I just prefer my queers to stay on my side of the fence.”
Nikko, “You don’t do anything but Lipsticks.”
“I’m a girl who likes girls, not a girl who likes girls who want to be boys. I’m not dissing them, they can be whatever they want, as can I.”
Nikko, “Where do we get Tarkov?”
Janah, “I’m waiting on a call from Surveillance. Tonight is generally a restaurant night. He takes his trophy to one of three places, the heavies tag along, but don’t eat. One goes to the bar and sips club soda, one outside, one stays in the car. When they’re done, everybody goes back to the condo.”
Zi, “The restaurant is public, his guards are spread out. He lives in a penthouse, with gates and alarms. Where’s the opening?”
“I’ll explain on the way.”
We prep, Amaya retrieves the car, drives us to Wilshire Boulevard, restaurant called Melisse, prix fixe at one fifteen per, caviar an extra one eighty five. With a bottle of wine, assuming Tarkov steps down to two hundred a bottle, he’s dropping in the neighborhood of seven hundred with tax and tip. No wonder his bodyguards don’t eat. I check the website wine list, actually the wines are moderately priced, he could easily get away with a hundred.
His reservation is for eight, we locate the car. Amaya does a toned down version of her hooker act from yesterday. A mid-thigh snug skirt, heels and a blouse so sheer it’s more like mist than fabric. She wanders around the street, like she’s lost, looking up and down, a few passersby, not many, LA is a driving town.
After a couple of minutes, she pulls out a cell and pretends to text. Then she leans against the front fender of Tarkov’s Escalade and stares at the phone like she’s waiting for a reply. The driver’s side window winds down.
Amaya starts, like she’s surprised, looks at the man and giggles, “Sorry, didn’t know anyone was in there.”
He smiles, “No problem, you lost?”
Amaya, “Not now.”
Before he can respond, a shuriken is planted between his eyes. He tries to process what happened, his eyes glaze and he falls forward. Before he hits the horn, Amaya pushes him to the side. She clicks open all the doors. I get in and pull the big beast out of the driver’s seat and down onto the floor between the seats. Amaya starts up the car, we drive to an empty side street, a dumpster is open in a vacant lot. I take his phone, wallet, cash and a Rolex. Nikko and I haul him out, wire him up, wrists and ankles, tape his mouth and throw him in the dumpster. The lid bangs shut. One down.
Nikko takes our Tahoe, I stay with Amaya in Tarkov’s Escalade. Nikko and Janah drive to a spot a half block from the restaurant, park on the corner of the cross street, they wait.
Guard One’s phone chirps, a text from the guard at the bar, Tarkov is leaving. Amaya drives us to the front of the restaurant, Tarkov and his honey emerge, two guards surrounding them. She is quite the thing, must be six feet, blond hair pulled up stylishly, fat diamond necklace. Legs to the sky, calves more muscular than I like on a woman, like a bicycle rider, or a tennis player, which she was. There’s a fair number of people waiting on the valet. Before the guard can open the door, a beat to hell pickup truck screeches around the corner and slams into a light post. The driver hops out and runs the opposite way, leaves the truck door open.
At the same moment, the guard opens the door, I stick a needle in his neck, press the plunger, Nikko dittos the second man. They simultaneously hit the sidewalk. Everyone is looking at the wrecked truck, cell phones come out and photos click, no one seems to be interested in reporting the accident.
Zi bumps into Tarkov’s babe, another needle, the girlfriend drops, Zi unhooks the necklace and palms it. Nikko gives Tarkov a syringe full of Propofol, an anesthetic. She pushes him towards me, I get my hand around his throat and pull. A second later, he’s dead weight on the floor of his Escalade. Nikko shuts the door, Amaya pulls away.
Most people are starting at the wrecked truck, one couple is looking at Nikko, she says, “drunks,” the couple frowns and nods, Nikko evaporates, Zi is already in the car with Janah.
I get out at the back door of a warehouse, go in and open the receiving door in front. Amaya drives in followed by Janah. I pull the door down and lock it, then lock the back door. We use the car’s lights to set up, Amaya busy with the pharma bag and lamp. Nikko and I strap Tarkov into a wooden chair, there’s a second chair for Janah. Same setup as usual, Luer-Lok in the back of the hand, syringe of sodium pentothal. We wait an hour, Tarkov starts to stir. I give him enough ammonia to pop his head back, consciousness returns, then fades into a haze. Pentothal in proper doses leaves subjects conscious, but weak willed and chatty. Tarkov is no wonder boy, not a Shadow, he follows the pattern.
Six hours later, between the drug and Janah playing with his mind, we have what we need. He isn’t like Frisco, doesn’t keep wads of cash lying around, no diamonds or gold stacked in his penthouse. Tarkov has brokerage and bank accounts. Now, Janah has access to those accounts.
We pack up, leave Tarkov in a state of radical deadness, unwrap him from the chair and leave him lying on the floor. Society Cleaners will sanitize the scene, dispose of the body, deliver his Escalade to a chop shop. In a week, it will belong to a grey market buyer someplace.
On the way back to the Peninsula, Janah uses the SAT phone to call in the account numbers and passwords. Zi pulls out the necklace.
Janah, “Dang, if it’s real it’s a ton of carats.”
“Let me see.”
Zi hands it to me, I hold it up to the light, eagle eyes peering in, “Yep, it’s real, actual flaws, not artificially pressed. Although I’m not sure why it matters. I guess DeBeers cares, Harry Winston. The fact is, diamonds are as plentiful as sand and ought to be thirty percent of the current retail at best. Many times, even dealers can’t tell the difference between nature pressed diamonds and machine pressed ones.”
Janah, “The Society will break it up and sell the diamonds. The piece might be traceable.”
Zi, “I should have thought of that when I took it.”
“Why? It doesn’t matter. The Society will get something from the diamonds, if we didn’t take it, nobody gets anything except the tennis player.”
“But, suppose she paid for it, not Tarkov?”
“Price of shacking up with a child seller. She’s lucky to be alive. Given her looks, I don’t think she’s going to find herself homeless anytime soon. Proceeds from her expensive accessory will go to relocating the children her asshole boyfriend bought and sold.”
Nikko, “Fuck her.”
Zi, “Nishiko has a way with words.”
We are whipped, I wrap up Amaya, Janah behind me. Nikko and Zi cozyed up in their suite.
Tarkov has stashes of girls up and down the California coast. Since we’d removed the head, Social Work teams like ours will deal with locals, Extraction will free the girls and relocate them. The operations take place tomorrow at the same time. There are six locations, our assignment is up 101, in between LA and Santa Barbara. As you might expect, since premium young girls come at premium prices, they aren’t rented or sold in ghettos. Trailer parks and ghettos have their own underage market, but it’s usually friends and family. So-called family is responsible for a significant amount of damage to kids.
Our girl scout troop is parked in a rented building on a dead end road near Moorpark, a small city near enough to the 101 to facilitate deliveries to Ventura and Santa Barbara to the north and the fringes of Los Angles to the south. Hard to say what the place used to be, maybe a small manufacturing facility out of business for some time. Perfect spot to get an anxious owner revenue without many questions. There’s a chain link fence surrounding the building, which is surrounded by nothing much. The fence is teen feet high, padlocked at the gate.
Few women, like the one we found Amaya with, rent young girls. There are lots of young girls who offer themselves to, or are seduced by, older women. There’s even slang for them, poppas. I don’t know where it originated, although there’s a physician named Poppas who performs clitoral reduction on young girls he determines have ‘too big’ a clitoris, it’s called clitoroplasty. He uses vibrators called ‘medical vibratory devices’ to test their vaginal sensitivity. The joke is that the only difference between a vibrator on the nightstand and a medical vibratory device is the hospital billing code. Clitoroplasty is legal by the way.
Since the clitoris is a female version of a cock, one might conclude that anyone licking a clitoris, male or female, has also sucked dick. That’s not likely to encourage me to do it, there’s also the matter of hairy balls and sperm to consider, no thank you. Now that you’ve been clitorally enhanced, back to the moment.
Driving a truck through the fence has risks, the most concerning is that one of the guards decides to use the girls as hostages. The second alternative is to dart the guard on the outside, cut the lock and go in. If no one sees the guard down, we have a shot, if they do, we have the same hostage potential.
Janah, “We need to go in and clear the guards. We need to do it in a way that they aren’t suspicious. Then we do our surprise thing quickly enough to avoid hostage taking.”
Zi, “How do we do that?”
“I have a plan.”
A call to the Society, then we suit up in working gear. Janah doesn’t intend to use Amaya as a distraction, but she also doesn’t assume. So Amaya is once again in a t-shirt and jeans. If we need men unfocused on their job and focused on her, she could slip out of the jeans and make the t-shirt a fuck me dress.
Amaya drives us to Thousand Oaks, we pick up an electrical utility bucket truck. On the way, Janah, Nikko and I pull on jumpsuits and hardhats. As we near the site, power goes out to the building.
We stop at the nearest pole, I’m in the bucket, Janah lifts to the transformer where I diddle around touching nothing for fifteen minutes. I hold a meter of some sort in my hand to look like I’m measuring something. The flashers on the truck blink amber, Nikko’s on the ground looking up at me. Goggles on our faces, hard hats, jump suits and boots. Utility belts around our waists, heavy gloves. From a distance, we could be skinny men.
Janah lowers me, we climb back in and drive two blocks to the gate. The outside guard is standing with another guard. Good.
G1 walks to the gate, “What’s the deal? When’s the juice coming back on?”
Janah, “Problem’s up there,” pointing to the line leading to the building, “You get power as soon as we fix it.”
“What kind of problem?”
“Could be anything, breaker, busbar, faulty pigtail, defective meter. Most likely it’s inadequate wire. This is an old building, out of use for a long time. Now that it’s running, the lines may not be adequate for the juice going though. Most times it sets off the breaker and the power goes. Sometimes is not just a matter of resetting the breaker, low load line will just set it off again. We can get you running, but I gotta get in to do it.”
“Inside the building?”
“Probably not, usually it’s something outside, like I said.”
He didn’t know what she’d said, it was electricity jargon to him. He goes back to G2. They talk a minute, G1 returns and opens the gate. We drive in, Amaya and Zi are waiting down the block, backed into a stand of trees.
Janah drives up to the side where the line connects to the building, Nikko heads around the building to ‘inspect.’ G2 follows her, a decision he has to make and one he will regret. I disempower G1 with a sharp knee to the groin and an elbow to his temple. I wondered if that should be considered DC or AC, direct contact or alternating contact.
Nikko, “G2 down, I have keys.”
There is no point to riding the bucket again, the windows are covered, I can’t see inside.
Janah, “There are two more guards. Daphne, tell Amaya to bring Zi up. Between you and her, we may be able to locate them before we have to walk the building.”
A lone window faces the front. It’s open, no one visible but G3 or 4 could come along at any point and spot the second vehicle. Janah backs the utility truck in front of the window.
Zi and I walk the perimeter in different directions, then back to Janah, “There’s a man downstairs walking around. I can’t tell exactly, there are a lot of people upstairs, other than Daphne’s man, the first floor is empty.”
Janah, “Is there a basement?”
“I doubt it. Old building, middle of nowhere when it was built, nothing but land, why spend money making a hole in the ground in earthquake country?”
Nikko, “Door isn’t locked, G2 was planning to go back in, let’s get this done.”
We go in, Zi with Nikko, Janah stays outside near the door, Amaya is in the Tahoe.
It’s dark, no power. Nikko follows Zi, I blip on my owl eyes. The light from the door and the front window is enough to get to the stairs, the other windows are covered. It’s a two story building, no elevator. It gets darker up the stairwell, I hear noise from the first floor, then a body hitting the floor, then Zi and Nikko are behind me.
Nikko, “G3 is toast.”
Janah, “I’ve got G1 wrapped, I presume there’s no reason to wrap G2.”
Nikko, “Don’t waste wire on a dead man.”
I’m at the top of the stairs, I hear whispering down the hall, then ‘shut up.’ Ah, the stupidity of tough guys.
“He’s in the first room, there are girls in there, others in rooms along the hall. Amaya, I need you here.”
Only Amaya can hear my mental, Janah says, “Amaya’s going in, you must have asked for her.”
“Amaya, come up here, knock on the door, from the side, not directly in front. G4 will be armed and he may get stupid and shoot through the door. Do a man’s voice, Russian accent and tell him Tarkov has new girls coming and that he’s needed downstairs with the others.”
Amaya and I go up. She knocks on the door and in a thick guttural accent says, “I see power problem. Boss has sent girls. You need to come with me to get truck now, not leave parked outside.”
G4, “What about the others, why can’t they go? ”
Amaya, “I want to say ‘Following utility people, make sure they are not a problem. Come on, don’t have all fucking day.’ Feed it to me in Russian.”
I get the translation from Janah, park it in milliseconds in Amaya’s mind, she says it in Russian.
G4, in Russian, “Why can’t you just wait?”
Janah zips me the answer in Russian and as she says it I pass it to Amaya, “Brilliant. Drive around with girls in truck for who knows how long? I have to get back, boss has other deliveries. I can tell him you held me up if you like. We transfer girls now.”
We continue to translate and reply:
G4, “I don’t recognize you, who are you?”
“Don’t be stupid, we don’t know each other for a reason, even if we do, we don’t. Follow protocol or I can mention the breech to the boss as well as your pigheadedness. Look, I’m going downstairs, if you are not down in two minutes, I leave with girls. You can explain to boss’s enforcer.”
Amaya clonks off, heavy foots it down the stairs, I wait. Grumbling, then the door cracks open, he’s looking into black.
He turns to the girls, in accented English, “Silence. We are right downstairs.
He steps out, locks the door, I get a claw hand on his throat and haul him to the top of the stairs, throw him down to Nikko. Nikko collects his keys, Janah is on the SAT phone, as we climb into the Escalade, the power comes on. The Society is nothing if not efficient.
As we turn off the single lane road to the highway, we pass three vans and two Ambulances. The Society decided after our first mission it was too big a job for Extraction, too many girls. There is no simple place to put them and no simple way to return them to their families. When our illegal Social Services teams gets rid of the guards, the Society anonymously calls the authorities about young girls being held for prostitution and slavery. The locals can say they’d uncovered a ring and freed children from a life of misery and abuse. Isn’t like we want recognition, invisibility works for us.