Chapter Fifty Seven

I spot one of the wait staff in a huddle with customers, they are glancing over at us, he comes over.
“Excuse me, my table asked me if you might be Chloe Sylk, the model? I can always say, no, but they seem pretty sure.”
Chloe, “I don’t mind.”
He says, “I think they would like to say hello, but they were careful to say they do not wish to inconvenience you.”
Chloe, “Shall I go over?”
“They would love it, one of the women was, um, enthusiastic.”
Chloe stands, “Back in a sec,” she walks off with the waiter.
Amaya, “Geez, next time we film on a desert island.”
Janah, “Gives me an excuse for another sparkling wine.”
Amaya, “And I shall have another vodka.”
Janah orders, Chloe is sitting with the table, there is laughter, heads turn towards us, I hear, “Amaya, the author?”
Daria takes a healthy sip of Amaya’s vodka, Amaya says, “Enough young lady, you are both pressing your limit tonight, and let Janah have her entire glass of wine.”
Dasha, “No more, we go now.”
“Chloe is about done, we’ll get the check and Chloe will know it’s time to go.”
We do, she does, a phone comes out and Chloe is snapped by the waiter seated with the two couples. She says goodbyes, joins us, we leave, walk the promenade to digest and enjoy the evening air. Every twenty feet I overhear  ‘Look, how stunning,’ or cute, adorable, even amazing.
“Enjoy the fans?”
Chloe, “Always, one of the men is hooked on Amaya’s books. He was really happy she’s going to be in the movie. I picked up from his aura that he is hooked on more than the books. He couldn’t say with his wife there. He’ll have a heart attack when he sees her dancing.”
“I nearly had one.”
Amaya, “Daphne says the most erudite things.”
Chloe, “That was nice, hardly erudite.”
 “Anything said favorably about me is automatically erudite.”
Dasha, “What ees ahrodite?”
Janah, “An example of deep broad learning.”
“Daria ees ahrodite. Dahfoney ees for making sex.”
Janah and Chloe have a giggle attack, Janah says, “She has you pegged.”
“You should know, lust bucket.”
Dasha, “What ees lusting bucket?”
“A girl who likes a lot of sex.”
Dasha thinks for a second, then, “Daria ees ahrodite lusting bucket.”
Passersby must think we’re high, we screech, laugh until tears come. We walk back to the hotel dabbing our eyes with tissue.
In our rooms we deconstruct to t-shirts. Chloe and Amaya are in their room doing nasty things, Janah and I are watching a movie with the twins, Kill Bill.
Dasha, “Movie ees like Vesnushki and Nikko. Go-Go ees not as beautiful as Nikko, same, Daria, what ees vyrazheniye litsa?”  
Daria, “Facial expression”
Dasha, “Face expressing.”
The movie ends, been a long fun day, Janah desires fun of her own, I help the girls fold out the couch, bring extra pillows and get them tucked in. Janah and I go off to the bedroom, where she takes aggressive advantage of me, lusting bucket.
Occupied, I didn’t go into Dasha’s mind, I check in now, they are asleep. Don’t know what they got up to, but it isn’t hard to guess, ahrodite lusting bucket.
During the night, I feel Dasha ease in behind me, then Daria on the other side of her, Janah is sharing my pillow, her leg over mine, I’m on my back. Dasha turns on her tummy, scrunches in close, one hand on my chest. Then they are asleep again. Our buckets runneth over.
This morning we decide enough laid back, time to return to our un-laid back city. Car to the airport, private flight home, car to the apartment. Long flight, lost time, it’s seven when we spill in to our place. Nikko and Zi are waiting with dinner.
“Thank you. We had something on the plane, but it seems like a thousand hours ago.”
Zi, “We figured, Nikko and I didn’t take time for lunch, we’re famished.”
“Then we can unpack and clean up later.”
While we enjoy Ning’s Chinese, Nikko tells us about the property progress, she was able to follow the highlights of our trip by tuning into me or Janah and has already passed along the stories to Zi.
Nikko, “The newest property in the Bronx is clicking along, paying the mortgage and throwing off cash, not gobs, but that’s to be expected this early on. I am applying half the income to the loan principal and using the rest to build up a maintenance fund.”
Nikko doesn’t pretend depreciation deductions are free money. It offsets taxes on the income, but it is granted because things wear out and need replacing. Many owners act like expenses will never occur, don’t build a reserve and when there are major repairs, don’t have the cash to fix or replace. They either do cheap work, cut every conceivable corner, or lose tenants, or both. People get their hands on cash, it goes to flashy cars, travel, expensive dinners. We do all that stuff, but not with money from the properties. Essentially, those owners are borrowing money from themselves to finance high end lifestyles. The uh-oh happens when repairs exceed their capacity to pay. We are allowed different depreciation percentages depending on the item depreciated. Something called useful life. Nikko puts money into a separate account for a portion of the depreciation. There’s another bogeyman in the depreciation allowance. It reduces the basis in the capital gain calculation. If you buy something for a hundred thousand, for example, and over the years take five percent depreciation, each year you are reducing the cost basis by five thousand dollars. In ten years, if you sell the building for what you paid originally, a hundred grand, the tax man says that the five thousand a year you took as depreciation means your new cost basis is fifty thousand. You have to pay capital gains tax on the difference between your selling price and the new cost basis. So you owe around eighteen percent on the fifty grand difference. You paid a hundred, sold for a hundred, but you pay nine thousand in capital gains tax. If you were able to extract income from the property greater than the nine thousand, great, you made out. Bear in mind, if you made, after property tax, loan interest and maintenance, five percent a year on your hundred grand, it means you made five thousand a year for ten years, or fifty thousand, then had to pay nine thousand in tax, so you made forty one thousand, averaging four grand a year on a hundred thousand dollar investment, four percent.
The reason people do it is buried in the numbers. Let’s say you put up ten percent of the hundred grand and borrowed the rest. Now the numbers are significantly improved. You have ten thousand at stake. On that, after the cost basis adjustment, you net four thousand a year, not on the hundred grand, but on the money you’re actually out of pocket, you are making forty percent a year on your ten thousand.
Sounds great, and it is, if you don’t have problems getting your property leased, if the tenants pay, if they don’t destroy stuff, if you don’t run into significant code violations, if you have the cash to pay for repairs, major and minor, along the way.
Suppose property values tank, as happened in 2008 and 2009. Your hundred grand property quits producing the same level of income, it’s a recession, tenants go bankrupt, they move out. Even if they don’t, property values go down, your hundred grand property is worth eighty. You owe the bank ninety, remember? You put up ten, the bank put up ninety. They want their ninety back, they don’t care if it’s worth eighty. You are underwater.
We do not have any of our property combined under one umbrella, each building is a separate corporation. If we bust on one, the whole pile doesn’t collapse.
Nikko, “I am considering mortgaging, some of our other property. Not a big percentage, fifty percent or less. Rates are dirt cheap, and we’re sitting on potential cash I can put to work elsewhere. I’ve run the numbers, we can easily get a hundred million, the mortgage interest is deductible, and I can put the money in the brokerage accounts. We should be able to earn an additional four or five percent without taking significant risk. Or I can put more into equities and keep stops under the index funds to limit losses. Any thoughts?”
“Not about managing money.”
Daria, “Stops do not guarantee price, and stop limits may trade through the limit and you get no execution of the order.”
Nikko, “That is all true.”
Amaya, “What on Earth is she talking about?”
“I think it was Russian that sounded like English.”
Daria, “Why not use out of the money puts, small cost, if market goes down, you are covered.”
Amaya, “What is putting?”
Janah, “An option, you can buy a put for an individual stock, or for indexes. If the market goes down enough, the put goes up, that’s the short explanation.”
Amaya, “Still too long, but thank you. How does Daria know this?”
Dasha, “Daria ees on eenternet studies stocks market.”
Nikko, “Daria, that’s a good idea. I’m going to try both. Buying put options is an expense, no different than insurance, stops don’t cost anything. We’ll give it a go for a few months, see what happens.”
Janah, Break in the ice, Daria is getting engaged.
Nikko said she’s been asking a few questions when they go to the office, or visit the buildings. She spends time on the spreadsheets as well.

Chapter Fifty Eight

We’ve chewed up much of the evening, I’ll deal with unpacking tomorrow, the stuff isn’t going anywhere.
We split to various bathrooms, clean up, Janah in bed reading, I go to the girl’s room, Chloe is there, I hear tooth brushing, a flush, then they come out to the bedroom.
Daria stands in front of Chloe, she takes Daria’s hands in hers, “Daria, I am happy you are helping with this, Nikko and Zi have the whole burden, the rest of us don’t have much interest, and certainly no expertise.”
Daria blinks at her, expressionless, Chloe smiles, stands, turns down the sheet. The girls slide in, Chloe kisses Daria, I ditto Dasha and we leave. We don’t have to sit while they fall asleep any longer, they stay in their beds most nights. Sometimes they go to Chloe’s in the middle of the night, sometimes to Janah and me, but it’s getting less frequent. The girls are in some ways adults, in others still adolescents. 
I ease into bed, Janah puts down her book, “I figure the twins come to our beds to reassure themselves that we haven’t suddenly abandoned them, just packed up and disappeared while they sleep.”
“Why would we go and leave them here? I can see them thinking that we might farm them off like their mother, or the grandparents, that was their experience.”
Janah, “I’m speculating. Their level of trust was nil when we got them, it has taken almost five years to get here.”
“It’s mostly Daria, Dasha seems more comfortable. People don’t see her playful side, retaining her accent when she can speak English as well as Daria. Her sly verbal jumble observations.”
“Thank God for Chloe, she can relate to Daria from personal experience.”
“Do you think Chloe has told her? About her abuse I mean?”
Janah, “Yes, Chloe told me she did.”
“What did Daria say, do you know?”
“Nothing, Chloe saw her reaction in her aura, it was black and grey, pain. She lay on the bed, pulled Chloe next to her, then pulled Chloe’s arms around her. The only way she has of showing empathy, it isn’t in her to comfort Chloe directly, she did the only thing she could.”
“She let Chloe find comfort in holding her.”
“Yes, she gave what she had. Chloe wept when she told me. Said she couldn’t imagine anything more selfless.”
“I can’t either. It’s easy to give when the well is full, but how many will give when there’s only a bit left?”
“Spoken like a good Shaolin priest. You inspire me, I will give a talk on sharing much from little.”
“Do I get a prize for inspiration?”
“Spoken like a bad Shaolin priest. Show me just how bad.”
I do my baddest, which Janah thinks deliciously bad indeed, then the bad Shaolin and her Abbess merge and drift into bliss and sleep.
No twins in bed this morning, I check in with Amaya, not there either, an entire week of staying put. We don’t mind them sneaking in with us, but it’s nice to see they’ve decided we aren’t vanishing in the dead of night.
I’m just finishing up in the bathroom when Dasha comes padding in, she’s not eye level, four inches below, she looks up at me, big icy blues staring, a blink, “We will make pahncake, Daria says, and creespy bacon. Then we make today ohnyon zoup wiz caramel ohnyon.”
“I need a bunch of onions, we need to go shopping, and sliced mozzarella, probably need more butter. What else with onion soup? What kind of meat do you want?”
Dasha, “Nikko and Eemaya like filet steak wiz pepper and marching sauce.”
“Marchand du vin, okay we’ll add that to the list, and the filets of course. Better write this down. Mashed potatoes?”
“Da, crush garlic.”
“I’ll make the list, you start coffee, tea, then bacon. I’ll finish frying it and you can do the pancakes.”
Dasha moves to the kitchen, I find my phone and type in a grocery list, by the time I finish, the smell of coffee and bacon frying is floating around, yummy. In nothing flat, the family is crunching crispy bacon, Dasha’s feather light pancakes, with butter, cane and maple syrup. Lacy opens the door.
“I was heading down to school and the most wonderful smells were in the hallway, can I barge in?”
Janah, “You know where stuff is, Dasha has made the most exquisitely light pancakes, we’re having a busy day breakfast.”
Lacy takes two pancakes, bacon is on a platter on the table, “Dasha, these are the very best pancakes I’ve ever tasted, what is your secret?”
Lacy laughs, “I mean, what do you put in?”
“Buhtermeelk today, oil, aig, and buhter in blending machine.”
“Daphne has always been a great chef, she was taught by Miss Alva, did she tell you?”
“I study Dahfoney’s computer een kitchen,” she points to the IPad on the kitchen counter, “she shows me Alva cooking pots, we make all of recipe, meatloaf, pot roast, green bean, cornbread, mahcahroney and chez, creamy speenich, porky beans, Barbie-cue ribs, roast toorkey, gravy, mashing potato wiz crush garlic, greets wiz cream chez, beeg biscuit, meeny things.”
Lacy, “Daph, you have an amazing protégé.”
“Tell me about it, with eight of us, Dasha is an enormous help, she has her routines down, I basically stock the refrigerator and help chop and slice.”
“May I ask, being in the education business I am curious about process, does she have a natural instinct, as you did?”
“I’m not sure how natural it was. My recipes are precise, step by step, how hot for this, how long for that, exact ingredients, how much, when they are added and in what order. That’s how I learn everything, cooking, martial arts, computer tech. Miss Alva used to tease me about writing down times, temperatures, ingredients in precise amounts. Eventually, I let go of the lists, the specific steps, it becomes one fluid performance, not a step by step recipe. In martial arts, it’s called ‘learn technique, forget technique.’ When Dasha is ready, she will naturally go from step one, step two, do her own interpretation. I don’t decide that for her, my job is to give her explicit, straightforward fundamentals. She will write her own symphony.”
Lacy, “At least someone has learned what a teacher should look like. In the education business, lots of teachers want little clones, which insures the student will never surpass the teacher. The best teachers want the student to shoot beyond them, carve out their own territory in an as yet unknown place.”
Janah, “Daphne fell into the best, Miss Alva, Susan, Master Kim, Master Kahn and Master Tan. They will haunt her forever if she doesn’t hold herself up to their example. Her job is to guide the student farther down the road than she is able to go herself.”
“In her case, that’s a very high bar.”
“Then she has a lot of work to do.”
Nikko, “Speaking of, I need to get going, I have meetings with three banks and two potential tenants.”
Zi, “Yes, you do, and I need to visit the new property and back over to Brooklyn for remodeling at the schools. Daria, are you coming?”
Daria, “Da. With Nikko for meetings.”
Zi, “Then be ready in fifteen.”
Daria pops up to get dressed, Amaya follows her up the stairs.
Back around the dining table, Lacy asks, “Daria has an interest in the business end?”
Janah, “Nikko calls her The Intimidator. She sits in on the meetings, says zero, stares at the lawyers, the tenant or prospective tenant, barely blinks. If she’s asked a question, she ignores it. If someone asks who she is, or why she’s there, Nikko says, ‘Because I want her here, she’s my consigliore and bullshit detector,’ that generally shuts everyone up.
Lacy laughs, “Can I borrow he for parent conferences?”
“Only the ones with lawyers. I know you too well Lacy, you don’t need Daria to keep parents in line.”
“I still use the bean bag cows, they think I’m completely bonkers. You have no idea how much the RSG’s cow catapults have simplified endowment funding. Parents figure it’s much easier to write a check than to deal with an insane head of school.”
Amaya comes down with Daria, Lacy says, “Oh my, she looks like a gorgeous attorney, or an investment banker.”
A sleek black business suit, straight skirt cut to her knee, black heels. Blond hair parted perfectly to one side, dark red lipstick, a hint of eyeliner and shadow. Black jacket over an ivory silk blouse with French cuffs. A scarf matching her blue eyes tucked around her neck. Nails are shiny maroon, a single sapphire ring, platinum tennis bracelet and earrings. She carries a Corio leather business woman’s bag with her phone, netbook and stash of touch up makeup and lipstick.
Nikko, “Excellent Daria, quite elegant.”
Daria, “We go for meeting now.”
And they do.

Chapter Fifty Nine

While Daria stares down bankers, Dasha and I have much more pleasant duty, wandering grocery aisles, schlepping it home, put things away until time to create dinner.
Janah is up in our room calling Society contacts, other Social Work teams and the people who coordinate Planning, Transportation, Surveillance, Minders, and Extraction and Cleaning.
She comes down to the kitchen, “Criminey, taking over from the Epsteins is going to resemble work.”
“You don’t do work, who are you going to delegate it to?”
Janah laughs, “Nobody just yet. I need to have a handle on all the players, then I’m giving you Social Work, Susan is already on Spider’s network, if something goes wrong with him, she has access.”
“Sis said she enjoyed meeting him, and the assistant, Eloise. She said Eloise is a Daria introvert. Once Spider got that Susan is an expert hacker, he couldn’t wait to show her around the system.”
Janah, “I’m going to let Sis handle him, they speak the same code, I don’t want to have to learn it. You likely know enough to backup the backup.”
“I’m not Sis, but I won’t lose any data. It’s getting into target bank and brokerage accounts that’s hard, FBI, NSA and CIA are easier.”
Janah, “Joke, isn’t it?”
“It’s not as simple as it used to be. The feds are slowly ratcheting up their game. It’s more that GSA pay grades don’t match what a skilled engineer can get elsewhere, so they play with the second string. Most of their systems suck too.”
Janah, “We don’t need much access to that, that’s the point of having personal contacts, they already have access. You have to find and recruit new Social Workers, that may be difficult.”
“I have a plan.”
“I haven’t tapped into it, what plan?”
“I just got the job, so I just thought of it.”
“Maybe, I’m going to prison.”
“You think Mini can help?”
“Yes. He knows guys who do collections and muscle now, or did until they went to the penalty box. This is better work, anonymous, we have their backs covered, pay is good, first class travel. One inconvenient detail, they have fingerprints on file, so they need to be more careful than we are.”
“We never leave prints now.”
“Even if we do inadvertently, we aren’t in anyone’s database, the cops have a print, but whose? Former inmates don’t have that luxury.”
“Any other sources?”
“Sure, retired cops, martial artists, bouncers tired of drunks and nightclubs. Same place they come from now. Sometimes current Social Skills teams refer people. I’m going to ask them to feel out others they think might be good.”
Janah, “Sounds like you have more rather than less.”
“Well, they have to be vetted, but that’s why we have Spider and Susan.”
For the record, sometimes I call the teams Social Work, sometimes Social Skills, it’s the same thing. The people that confront the target and explain their new reality, that they aren’t going to abuse anyone again, ever. That’s how we began, just Janah and me. Then we added to our team, and the nature of the jobs got more complicated. Most Social Skills personnel do simple refocusings of spousal or child abusers.
Dasha has been patiently listening to our conversation. She came to us as a consequence of our work, she knows what we’re about.
“Sister and Dasha will be sociable workers, Dahfoney.”
Janah, “I have to think that over, do you know what it means?”
“Da. We see bad man, after, he ees no anymore bad.”
“Janah means do you know what it takes to get the point across to him?”
“It isn’t as easy as it sounds, you have to not only decide how much is enough, you have to cause the pain. We don’t shoot people, it isn’t done from a distance.”
“If ees gud to break arm, enough. If he sells child, death.”
“And you think you and Daria can do that?”
“Da, just like that?”
“Dahfoney, da is da. You will take us on treep. You will see.”
Janah, Ask Chloe to talk it over with Daria, see what she thinks.
“It’s tea time, do you want to do the tea or snacks?”
“Need to chop ohnyon, make zoup.”
“Dang, I almost forgot. Okay, I’ll do tea and cookies, let’s get going.”
While I do my part, I watch her caramelize onions. She’s careful, looks over to me to see if they are done, I give her a thumbs up, “We don’t want them completely done, they will cook more in the soup and it’s better if the strands have a little crisp left, not mush.”
Since Janah is vegetarian, the soup stock, which is usually beef broth, is water, bay leaf, garlic, black pepper, soy and Worcestershire sauces. It includes carrots, bell pepper, celery, tomato and turnips. First, sauté or roast the ingredients, then bring to a boil and let simmer. Strain the stock, retain only the liquid. I make five gallons at a time, freeze it in one gallon containers.
When the stock is simmering, Dasha turns off the heat, adds the caramelized onions and lets it marinate. The onions won’t overcook, when ready to serve, heat, ladle in tureens, cover with a slice of mozzarella and under the broiler just enough to gooey up the cheese, it works great.
Chloe and Amaya appear, Chloe has been practicing kendo kata in the workout room, Amaya writing.
Amaya, “So ready for tea, my brain is fried from trying to think up new problems, mysteries, characters and different ways to write action scenes. Small wonder authors introduce aliens, chase scenes and futuristic worlds into books and scripts.”
“Saves them from thinking up complex plots. It always gives me more respect for Conan Doyle and Christie, no magic, no hackers that can break into the database in fifteen seconds, no Spiderman, Ironman, Hulk, or wizards and places or people with cutesy names, not a Dumbledore in the entire text. The best fantasy ever written was by Lewis Carroll, and even though it was Alice in Wonderland, with cakes and mushrooms to make her bigger or smaller and fantastic creatures, it was more about what the Cheshire Cat said than about him appearing out of nowhere.”
Amaya, “Exactly. Some days I struggle to produce a sensible paragraph.”
Janah, “It’s your method based on your temperament. Other authors write a couple of dozen pages at a sitting, then slice it up and pare it down. There’s no right way.”
“It is fun to complain about regardless. Chloe is doing endless repetitions of kata, she caught the perfection flu from Daphne. She does not possess Daphne’s innate physical skill. She works so hard, I am shamed into keeping up my standards of authorship.”
Nikko, Zi and Daria come in from work, Zi says, “Oh perfect, I was thinking I missed tea. I am famished, no time for a real lunch, I ate a hot dog from a food cart, acceptable, but not Mr. Vitale’s.”
“What is? He’s got more kinds of dogs, sausages and ingredients than most restaurants.”
Nikko, “Daria and I lunched at Fong’s. We saw Miyako. She’s finished medical school and is doing research. She mentioned she’s ready to do her thing on Janah and Daphne.”
We promised Miyako, Chan and Ning’s daughter, we would sit still for tests, fMRIs, and other prods and probes. The understanding is that it is for Miyako’s private research, not for publication.
Since Chan and Ning are set financially, Miyako has no need to earn a living as a physician. She is free to go about her interests wherever they lead, doesn’t require grants or equipment. Between access to dad’s hospital, the laboratory at the Shaolin Temple, and her own lab in one of our Chinatown buildings, she has an advanced research facility completely under the radar. Her brother, David Li, is a master at the temple, the new Master Hue, herbalist extraordinaire. We long ago expanded his gardens. We had no place to expand out, but in Manhattan, there’s always up. Part of that expanded space is a combination chemistry and botany lab. We have several monks absorbed in new and more potent herbal mixtures for heightened attention and focus, sedation, anesthetics. None of it is FDA approved, we never bothered to tell the FDA we exist.

Chapter Sixty

Janah and I are so busy, we don’t stay in each other’s heads much of the time. In our former slower world, we knew what each other was doing and thinking much of the time. Now we have to play catch up.
Janah, “Remember how we talked about slowing down? What happened?”
“We collected two more girls, at least our other girls help with those girls, then Nikko wanted to expand our real estate empire, then you wanted to set up another place for abused kids, then you agreed to take on running the Society. If you tell me you’re running for Mayor, I’m going to chain you to the bed.”
“No politics. That’s one thing you never have to worry about. We do, however, have Society work. I’ve farmed out three refocusings, there’s another, and team four is on hiatus from a nasty piece of work in West Virginia.”
“What happened?”
Janah, “The refocusing was simple enough, they just got there an hour after the target had worked over his kid. The boy was a mess, black eyes, broken ribs, broken jaw. Mom had threatened for the hundredth time to go to the cops, he decided to show her what would happen if she did.”
“The team took care of it?”
Janah, “They took him to a pop-up rehab center known as an empty warehouse. Extraction took the wife and two children, got the boy medical attention, that part went fine. The team took daddy apart.”
“How apart, like Nikko apart?
“No, he’s alive, but not much of him is going to work properly again. I didn’t mind that, it’s our policy not to send teams out again for at least a month, two if we can delay something.”
“So, what’s the job?”
“This one is a woman, crap mom, no husband, men over at night, she’s whoring. We wouldn’t care about that, but she’s has the kids involved. We have evidence she’s got them having sex with each other for certain of her customers. This isn’t a trailer park, she lives in a nice house, on a few acres outside city limits. The kids don’t go to school. The girl is ten, the boy is nine.”
“Surveillance must have audio, why not just turn her in?”
“It could be audio of anyone, anyplace. Surveillance can’t testify, they have to start answering questions, why are they there, how did they find out, were they customers? They can’t out anyone, Surveillance doesn’t know how we found out, they don’t know from the Society, they just collect evidence. But who’s going to believe that? And then what do they say? Someone we don’t know hired us to spy on this person and record activity in the house. That would get thrown out before it got thrown in.”
“Where are we going, and when?”
“Outside Kansas City Missouri, twenty miles east past Independence, near a town called Blue Springs. There’s a small airport nearby, we can be in and out in a day.”
“I know they’re too young to know much, particularly if they’ve been kept at home, but do we have any idea what the kids think about this?”
“You mean do they put up a fuss if we haul them away from mom.”
“How does that put them in a worse position? They may freak at first, but does that mean we just leave it? We can find that out when we barge in and front the woman. After she’s secured, we find out where the kids are coming from. What they tell us will give us a course of action.”
“Is this one for the twins?”
“They can observe, actually, this may be a good one. It’s not likely to be violent, knock on the door, sedate mom, corral the kids. They can watch me work on her. Unless there’s something we don’t know, I can rearrange her brain so she forgets she has kids. She can continue as a prostitute.”
“What will the customers who know about the kids say?”
“If I get it right, she’ll be ignorant of kids, if the customer thinks she’s lost it, what do we care?”
“Okay, then we have to remove all traces of children in the house. Lucky thing she didn’t enroll them in school, they’re pretty much off the radar.”
“If there are records, or even if we miss a toy or a photograph, it doesn’t matter. There won’t be any place to go with it.”
“What if, and I know there’s no good answer, the kids want to stay?”
“That’s not an option. They can go to our ranch, or they can get in the social services system.”
“Last question, customer insists she has kids, she denies, he’s going to think she’s done something with them, not a good thing.”
“That’s a point. We’ll extract her and relocate, different name, different city, customers will have no place to go, no phone number, nothing.”
We touch down at Harry S. Truman Regional Airport, a rental SUV is waiting. It’s just Janah, the girls and me, so I’m driving.
I explain that this is not the kind of target we need to go hard at. They are to observe the process, stay in the background. In reply, I get big blue eyed stares. Chloe said they were, excited is the wrong word, glad to be included. Dasha expressed their desire, we listened and acquiesced. We won’t sugarcoat anything, they would see straight through it. Their trust in us is based on doing what we say, our actions prove our words, that’s all they understand, all they respect.
We drive straight to the house, disguise along the way except for Janah’s hair, which she temp colored before we left Manhattan. I knock, mom answers. I spin her around, stick a needle in her neck, she collapses against me. Dasha takes one arm, me the other, and we haul mom to a bedroom.
The girl comes down a hall, stares at Janah and Daria, but only until Janah touches her neck and she’s napping.
I tell the twins, “Go find the boy.”
They move off separately to search rooms, Daria finds no boy, she comes back to the entrance hall, Dasha has him in an arm lock, her hand around his mouth.
Boy run, I stop.
I’m behind her, You did a good job. Take him to an empty room. Don’t hurt him, just don’t let him leave. Janah will be along to deal with him. And remember, never say our names out loud, not even travel names.
Nyet, and no accent,
 hauls him down the hall and left into a room.
Janah, When the boy is secure ask Daria to see if he will talk to her. I want to see if she can extract any information.
The girl is out, I don’t want to tie her, have her freak when she comes to. I take Daria to the boy.
Dasha, Daria will talk with him, let’s see if he’ll spill anything to someone closer to his age.
Dasha, No accent, no names.
Daria, Da.
Didn’t realize until this moment Daria can mental me as well as her sister. Man these girls can keep a tight lip.
I make sure the boy is okay, his eyes are big, frightened, but in control. I think he’s having trouble processing three females as bad guys.
“Andy, we’re not going to hurt you. We’ll let you ask questions, but if you start screaming, we have to put the bandanna around your mouth and you won’t find out anything. Got it?”
He nods a yes, “Who are you, what do you want? Are you, like, kidnappers?”
Dasha, Help Janah finish setting up, check on the girl.
She leaves, I tell the boy, “I don’t want you to say anything until I’m finished, then you can talk to her,” a nod to Daria, “or not, as you wish. Understand?”
“We know your mother is using you and your sister to entertain men,” he starts to deny, I hold up my hand, “not yet, just listen. We don’t care what she does with the men. Two children as part of her business is not acceptable. You and your sister didn’t invent this by yourselves, I don’t know what you think about it. We’re not here to send anyone to jail, we’re here to make sure it doesn’t continue. I’m leaving you with her, you can tell her whatever you want to, you don’t have to say anything.”
He looks at Daria, she’s softened her normal blood stare to neutral, guess we see what happens now. I leave and go to the sister, Tricia.
She’s stirring, I sit on the bed next to her, she isn’t muffled, she doesn’t scream, so far so good.
Tricia, “What’s going on? Is this some new game of my stupid mother’s?”
Ah hah! A clue.
“Nope. We found out about the sex thing, your mother’s business and how she has been using you and Andy in it. We have difficulty with that and decided to call her on it?”
Tricia, “How did you find out?”
“Things leak, Tricia, no matter what.”
“So everybody knows?!”
“No, but we do, the men you, um, entertained, of course. So, care to tell me how this began?”
“I can’t, I’ll get in trouble, you don’t know mother. She will… it won’t be good.”
“She’s never hitting you or your brother again. Let me come at this a different way. If you never have to perform for men again, and if your mother quits having them over, do you want to stay, or go?”
“Where would I go, where will Andy go?”
“Let’s not worry about that now, someplace nice, not a kid jail, not foster care.”
Tricia is weighing alternatives, then, “Will my brother go with me? If not, I can’t leave.”
“That’s not a problem.”
“What if she comes looking for us?”
“She won’t. She will be made to understand we have evidence of what she was doing. If she attempts to find you, we bust her and she goes to jail.”
“Put the bitch in jail now.”
“If we do, the social services people come, then you and Andy become part of the system and stuck in a facility someplace, or moved into foster care. When they find out what you two have been doing, they won’t leave you together.”
“No! They wouldn’t do that…would they?”
“Brother and sister having sex, what do you think?”
“But she made us!”
I can see she’s lying, I just don’t know how to handle it, drop it or press. I decide to probe around.
“How did she decide to throw you and Andy in the mix, it just pop in her head one day?”
Tricia is a bit older than we thought, eleven, maybe twelve, but who’s counting? The point is, she isn’t creative enough to lie all that efficiently.
Tricia shrugs, “She caught us.”
“Caught you playing around.”
“Yes. I had to take care of him, get his teeth brushed, ready for bed, bathe him. When we got older, we didn’t quit, I mean we’d seen each other forever, it wasn’t a big deal. Then one time, we were drying off and his thing poked up. We laughed about it. Then it happened again. I touched it, just to see how it felt, I didn’t mean for it….oh, man….”
“That’s enough, things moved along from there and she caught you playing around.”
She sighs, “Yes. We weren’t hurting anyone. She didn’t make a big deal about it, but then she started telling us to do it while she watched. It was creepy. Then it was just something she did once in a while. Then the other thing started.”
“Okay, I kind of figured it that way.”
“You don’t think we’re freaks?”
“No, I think you started out as curious kids and didn’t have anyone else to explore with, or even talk to about these feelings. Kids play ‘show me yours’ all the time, that doesn’t make them bad. What is bad is having mom put you on display.”
“We don’t know any other kids.”
“You will.”

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