Sixty Five

Daphne and Dasha join me in the kitchen, kids still asleep.
Zoe C comes in, “Heart rates steady, I listened to them breathe, soft and slow. I hope they get a few more hours, it’s past midnight already.
Daphne, “If they wake up, I’ll take over, we had long hours in the temple, five in the morning was the starting gun. My target gave me a name in Chicago. They drive the kids, obviously avoiding airports, and they go via I-80 to avoid border patrol searches common in New Mexico.”
Dasha, “San Diego to Chicago is two thousand miles, long stretch.”
“They meet up in Denver, which is halfway, a thousand miles is no big deal, three men, three hundred fifty miles each if they share the driving.”
Zoe C, “Do we go to Chicago?”
Dasha, “I haf name of contact, more Slavs, our targets aren’t Russian as such, they are Serbian. Chicago contact ees Sergei Đurić. Daria ees already researching.”
Daphne tells me on matters like this, Daria won’t go to bed until Dasha does. She says Janah is the same way, so is Nikko. Both of them can be in Daphne’s head, they’ve followed events from the start.
“In the past, Janah and I wouldn’t have separated overnight. After getting into the vigilante business, and the size of the family at home, it became impossible. Telepathy is even greater intimacy, but we enjoy physical proximity. Dasha and Daria don’t separate much, hardly ever. Life necessitates compromise.”
Dasha, “What else did Pavlov say?”
“Lots of threats, if he was killed the entire Serbian army would descend on me, demons would arise from hell and eat my soul, blah, blah. He got screwy at the end, sheer fear made him angry and his threats began to make no sense.”
Daphne, “Defeating the entire Serbian army might take some time.”
I grin, “They don’t know who we are, where we’re from, nothing, all empty threats. More importantly, I learned that they have bought and sold over thirty girls in the last twelve months. I got the names of two more suppliers but Pavlov couldn’t be sure the names were real. I accepted that, after I treated him to a few broken body parts, he didn’t change his story even though I assured him his demise was imminent. I promised him a quick death if I believed him, I did, third snapped neck of the day. I could qualify as a terminal chiropractor.”
Dasha, “My interview uncovered the fact that Serb Two, given name Radenko,  has a brother who works for the Chicago crew. Pavlov is actually Pavlović, he shortened it when he came to America. Radenko’s surname is Nikolić, his brother goes by Nick.”
Zoe C, “What’s with all the ić at the end?”
“It means son of, the son’s surname is from his father’s given name, so father was Nikola, Nicholas in English.”
Daphne, “My target said much the same thing about Chicago, he was most anxious to chat, after I gave him a bit of encouragement.”
“Yeah, Pavlov got cooperative after he heard you encouraging… what was your target’s name?”
Daphne, “Beats me, I never asked. Too late now, he’s joined the Choir Invisible.”
“First things first, we have a houseful of dead bodies. I told Pavlov I was going to torch it, but of course we can’t. All California needs is another fire.”
Dasha, “Leaf them, we do not anyway care about dead body. When girls are safe, I will call emergency people.”
“Where do we take the girls?”
“Hotel, they will be sleepy and we cannot talk wiz them until they are awake and drug has worn off.”
“It’s a plan, we can’t just start driving to Chicago anyway, or even to Denver.”
Daphne, “My new dead bestie said they were to deliver the girls Friday, it’s Tuesday. They get a text about where to meet two days before. We need to take phones and computers, I have his password.”
I shake my head, “You’ve done this before.”
She shrugs, “Sadly, yes.”
A search of the house uncovers forty eight thousand in cash, thankfully hundreds, plus an envelope with the twenty five thousand they thought they were paying for Dasha. Dasha grumbled while we searched, she thought twenty five thousand was insulting.
“I could make twenty five thousand with three or four dates as escorting girl, only man does not get to fuck and I would haf to keel him dead, except Dasha does not need twenty five thousand so no escorting for her.”
I grin, she does mumble to herself, I find it endearing. Dasha has zero inhibitions and one never has to guess what’s on her mind. It hits me then. Neither the girls in my family, nor Daphne’s do what some women do, that is, drop hints or say nothing and presume their friend, partner, will magically read her mind instead of just saying what she wants. Wonders of honest direct communication, what a concept.
There are gold Rolexes, but ugly bastards, the kind show offs like to flash. We take them anyway, might send the cops off on a robbery gone wrong chase. We intentionally trashed the place like a robber/burglar might. FYI, a robbery can happen anywhere, to call it a burglary it has to happen in a fixed dwelling where the burglar breaks in, grabs stuff and retreats.
Daphne, “Looks good, convincing, except for the other dead guys across town and one left in a van outside. Oh well, once they start looking into the victims they may decide it’s all gang related. Cops love gang related, they don’t have to do anything but deplore gangs.”
Zoe C, “I’ve got the car out front.”
I take the older girl, Dasha carries the younger, they barely move as we get them situated in the back of the Tahoe, then to the Pacific Terrace. There’s nobody around, it’s after one in the morning, carry the little girls to the big girls’ room and snuggle them in.
I go to my room, shower, get a large vodka, Zoe C shows up, I make her a drink.
“Kids good?”
“Might have done us a favor with the antihistamine, but two is one too many, the biggest girl might go seventy pounds, stupid fucks.”
“They don’t care about the kids, they care about the money, keep them quiet and obedient, hand them off to the Chicago crew and go home. I’m ambivalent about knowing what happened to the girls who came before, we can’t fix their situation.”
“No we can’t, it makes no sense to get caught up in what if. We got those two, sheer luck as we had no idea there were abducted girls there already.”
“Hope Daria has come up with leads, although I suppose our best lead will come when the girls wake up and tell us where and how they were taken and who their parents are.”
We finish off our drinks, she goes to her room. I’m zipped, collapse into bed and don’t move until Zoe C is shaking my shoulder.
“Wake up, we need to get on the road, brought you a coffee, ten minutes.”
I nod. One thing about being a man, I can pee, brush, water down my bed-head, get into my clothes and I’m done. The children are awake, not groggy awake, fully awake. We did a quick stop for breakfast burritos, coffee and a diet soda for the little ones. We don’t do juice, juice is a sugar bomb. 
Little talk, Zoe C didn’t say, but they must have talked to the girls earlier, for now they don’t ask questions, don’t cry for mommy. Daphne has her tablet out and plugged into the UBS port, I can hear the cartoon voices but have zero familiarity with kid TV shows.
Zoe C taps my mind, 'Taking them to our place, Daphne’s family is so gynormous it may overwhelm them.'
'I was overwhelmed the first time I went.'
'You were overwhelmed by so many hot women in one place.'
'Well…yeah, and I didn’t see you avoiding meeting all of them.'
'Do you take me for an idiot?'

Sixty Six

Daphne gets us home, Elle and Natalie take over the girls after they’re introduced to Zelda and Cilia, now entered into the friend scent part of the dog brain.
We did get names, Marissa, the young one, Beatrice the older, she goes by B. They were both with the same foster family that sold them to Larry. They are stepsisters.
Natalie, “How does a foster family explain two girls gone?”
Daphne, “That presumes the county or state actually follows up with foster families. B said Marissa’s dad was gone, mother overdosed, the father of B was killed in Iraq. She was maybe three then, she doesn’t know him.”
Zoe C and I look at each other, she says what I’m thinking, “We have room, they can stay with us. Eventually we’ll figure out how to get them documented as adoptions or wards.”
Daphne, “Daria and Janah have done that a dozen times with our kids, we travel under fake names with excellent fake documents. I’m guessing you do the same.”
“Sometimes, this time it wasn’t necessary, the targets were dead before we arrived, they just didn’t know it yet.”
“Pretty much how we do it, fake IDs when we deal with abusers, ourselves with Shadows since they aren’t going to live to tell anyone.”
“Nearing lunch, want a sandwich?”
Daphne, “We need to get home, but thanks.”
“Then thank you, and thank you Dasha, we’ll keep you updated. Give us a few days, then come over with Janah and one or two others. We can let them adapt to the multitudes at your place.”
“It’s a plan,” she and Dasha leave, I turn my attention to lunch only to discover McKenzie has taken care of it. Mac isn’t completely rigid about dining times, but she likes them to be in a half hour window to keep things orderly. I also discover that the girls are chatty and going a mile a minute. Akiko the Silent is the perfect audience, smiles while B and Marissa natter away.
Marissa, “Can we go in the pool?”
Natalie, “Of course, I’ll round up swimsuits, I think McKenzie’s old stuff is still in a drawer, have a sandwich first, then we’ll find swimsuits,” she makes one sandwich and cuts it in half, adds a handful of chips and glasses of iced tea.
Marissa whispers to B, who then says, “Marissa wants to know if you are sending us to another foster family?”
“If you wish, we would like you to live with us, but you don’t have to.”
B looks around, “We can live here, in this house? It’s magical, so big and everything is beautiful. The last place was dirty, the food smelled and we couldn’t go anyplace. They gave us coloring books and broken crayons, and the oldest daughter was mean. She called us useless orphans.”
Mickey and Zak having lunch as well, “Forget her, forget them. Zak and I were rescued by Chef, Natalie, Elle and Zoe C. We go to school here at home, we study what interests us, McKenzie helps if we get stuck, she’s a genius.”
B, “So you were adopted?”
“By the totally best people in the world,” Burma pokes her nose out of the top landing of the cat tree, disappears for a few seconds, races out and hops in Mickey’s lap.
Marissa, “A kitty, look B, she has golden eyes, she’s beautiful.”
Mickey lifts Burma and puts her in Marissa’s lap. The crazy cat does her thing, paws on the girl’s shoulder, a sniff that makes the little girl giggle, then the slowly raised paw waving back and forth until she taps Marissa on the nose. She’s still giggling when Burma curls up in her lap for a catnap.
Marissa, “Look B, she likes me, is it okay to pet her?”
Mickey, “Only if you want a friend for life, that girl can take unlimited amounts of affection. Always treat her like she treats you, gently, she will never scratch or bite, but she loves to play.”
Zak tells them about the cat tree, “One day Burma will fly off her hiding place and thump you on the back, then race back to one of her nooks in the tree, she expects you to look for her and give her a pat or two so she knows you aren’t mad.”
Marissa, “Who could get mad at Burma?”
B, “That middle boy at the foster place, he used to kick the cat for no reason. I let her out one day so she could run away but she just came back. I fixed it though.”
Zak, “How?”
“I took a kitchen knife, one of the big ones, one night I went to his bed and grabbed his little penis. He woke up when I poked it with the tip and I told him if he ever hurt the cat again, I’d cut it off. He wet the bed, but he never touched the cat after that.”
She is matter of fact as she tells the story, Zoe C gets on our private channel, ‘You realize she would do it, she’s not pretending to be brave.’
I want to ask about the men we found her with, but hesitate to bring up the subject as they show no interest in talking about it.
Marissa, “B was going to kill those foreign guys, but they gave us pills and we couldn’t think straight.”
B, “Right after the last time, I realized I could pretend to swallow the pills and spit them out, they never checked to see. But you guys showed up. What happened to them anyway?”
Zoe C, “We discouraged them, and made sure they would never buy or sell children again.”
Marissa, “You called the cops?”
B, “No silly, they killed them, all of them.”
Marissa grins, “Good.”
Zoe C, ‘Well, well, two animal and human rights advocates…with attitude.’
‘So it seems.’

They go outside to swim, Marissa is hesitant, the pool is big. Mickey pulls her along in the shallow end, telling her to kick her legs. Soon enough she’s paddling around on her own. Zelda and Cilia are in their spots, halfway down the steps in the water. Burma patrols the deck.
B, “Do the dogs swim?”
Zak, “Not much, Burma jumps in occasionally. The dogs know their job is to watch out for Mickey and me, and now you. We’ll teach you their commands, sit, stay, capture, hold,” she doesn’t mention the kill command, we don’t know the two kids well enough, “if they see us being hurt, they’ll chomp down on the bad guy.”
“They’re bigger than I am, do they eat a lot?”
“Oh yeah, but McKenzie is strict about their diet, she lets them have a treat now and again, like if Chef is grilling something, they like steak and chicken but only as a treat, not a whole dinner. You’ll see.”
The kids are in and out of the pool, water break, bathroom break, no pee in the pool, which made Marissa giggle.
“Who wants to swim in pee?”
Zak, “Nobody, use the bathroom over there next to the pool shower. Elle and Zoe C keep things spotless.”
“Tea time, out of pool, under the shower, towels are in the cabinet, just leave suits next to the shower.”
Mickey grabs a towel and heads to her room, she doesn’t want to freak the two girls. Mickey is a girl born with boy parts, we’re used to it but it needs to be discussed with the newbies. Natalie will have that discussion, then Mickey will be happy to answer questions if they have them, she’s not shy about it at all.
I stay inside, eventually the girls will grasp that swimming nude is fine and that I have zero interest in little girl parts.
McKenzie has tea prepped, one gunpowder green and one Assam, today with shortbread cookies.
Nat explains to the girls, “Every afternoon around four or four thirty, we have tea and gather together as a family. Anything you want to talk over with everyone is a fair topic. You can speak up or just listen, there’s no rule except to be polite and stay at the table until everyone is done. No phones, no tablets at any meal or at tea.”
Affirmative nods, B says, “This red tea is good, what is it?”
“Assam, an Indian variety, it’s strong, Mac likes it with breakfast too.”
“Can I have it at breakfast?”
“Of course, and after tea, Mickey will show you where stuff is in the kitchen and pantry. You live here now, you are part of the family, you can get what you want from the refrigerator or pantry. Be neat, you don’t have to be perfect, rinse glasses and any dishes and leave them in the sink. Wash your hands before fooling with food.”
B, “Got it, I’ll help with Marissa, but she’s pretty…what’s the word…anyway, she likes clean and neat. She hated the foster place, they were pigs.”
Daphne calls, Zoe C answers, “Hey girl, I had to find out how things were going, hope it’s not a bad time to call.”
“Never a bad time to hear from you. the girls are adjusting fine so far, Burma was a big hit, Marissa is learning to swim. We introduced them to afternoon tea, they didn’t say it directly, but I sense that being listened to is a new experience for them.”
“Did they discover Zak’s…condition?”
Zoe C, “Not so far, none of us said anything about blind, they don’t know about Mickey either. I figured they would either reveal themselves or the girls will just discover it. So much new and different, it isn’t surprising it hasn’t registered with them yet.”
“Janah said if I don’t arrange for her to meet the girls it will be big trouble for Daphne, and my mom is worse.”
Zoe C laughs, “Then come over, you can have dinner tonight or lunch tomorrow, anytime really. The three of you?”
“Five, Dasha will fuss if she doesn’t get to visit and Daria can meet them plus visit with McKenzie. Daria doesn’t bond much past her sister, but she’s fond of McKenzie in her own way. They text frequently, I have no clue about what.”
“Qi training is part of it.”
“Ah, yes, makes sense. Daria knows to go very slowly, it’s okay with you?”
“We don’t get much of a say, we don’t want much of a say, the children are doing well without our interference.”
“Funny how that works.”

Sixty Seven

The Daphne Five come over for lunch, Janah and Akiko resemble sisters, Akiko much younger of course, but both of them are white hair girls, white as in totally white, white eyebrows too. Akiko is albino-ish, like Janah with creamy pale skin, Janah’s eyes sapphire blue, Akiko smoky violet. While Akiko seldom says anything and then only to McKenzie, I notice her in the corner chairs with Janah, cups of tea on the side tables.
Zoe C, “A first, Akiko in chat mode, a mini-miracle.”
Dasha, “Every peerson ees talk to Janah, she ees expert listening girl.”
“So I see, good, I mean Akiko didn’t seem troubled by silence, we never saw it as a problem.”
“Ees no a problem, world would be a better place eef people keep quiet more often.
Akiko is smart girl, maybe smarter than we think.”
Daphne, “I appreciate her, she stays silent which means I get to talk more, and I am amazingly interesting and informed.”
“Dahfoney ees always making ridiculous, but she ees best peerson ever, so we let her haf her way wiz words.”
Elle, “High compliment for you Sylk.”
Daphne grins, “Dasha has been a cooking lifesaver, then Ellen came along and is really into it.”
“I recall someone saying she went to cooking school and to an extensive wine course.”
“She was a natural in the kitchen, courtesy of her grandmother, I learned from Miss Alva a few million years ago. As it turns out, we both got lessons in southern and New Orleans cooking. My dear, dear, friend passed away years ago, but she lives in my heart. Miss Alva may have saved our lives, took Sis and me, I was an infant then, off the street, gave us a room, fed us, took care of me while mom cleaned houses and went to computer science classes. My mom has the work ethic of a truckload of immigrants.”
Zoe C, “Broke your heart when she died I imagine.”
“Crushed it, I cried for days. I only knew Janah in my head, we hadn’t physically met then, but she comforted me in the dead of night.”
Natalie swipes a tear, “It’s all so beautiful, Miss Alva, your mom’s success, Janah’s compassion.”
“I had a lot of help getting this far, Masters in the temple, Black and Chan, you’ll meet them one day, probably in Canada or Arizona.”
Zak, “I want to see the Arizona place,” he laughs, “I’d like to see anything at all.”
Dasha, “Zak ees most amazing peerson, blind but nobody ever knows.”
B, “Blind? No way, I watched him dive off the board, race around the house, get stuff out of the refrigerator, things you need to see to do.”
Zoe C, “He’s blind but blind-sighted, his brain sees things, but the signal’s bypass the visual cortex, it doesn’t work due to lesions, but he sees movement and outlines in front of him.”
Daria comes along with McKenzie, “Blindsight shows that it isn’t necessary for perceptions to enter consciousness to affect our behavior. Our behavior can be guided by sensory information of which we have no conscious awareness. We perceive more than we are aware of and act out of those hidden perceptions.”
Elle, “Damn. There’s a whole lot more going on in our heads than we know.”
Dasha, “Except only in Dahfoney’s head, there is less going on than we know.”
Laughs all round.
Daphne, “I like to keep things simple, complexity is Janah’s area.”
I tap into Zoe C, ‘Got to love the ease with which these people operate, calm, serene even, and delightfully entangled.’
‘They are a good example, we don’t do so bad either, when was the last argument in our house?’
‘Never. In part because no one is in charge, there’s no hierarchy.’

Marissa, “Daria and Dasha look exactly alike."
Daphne, “Practically conjoined. When they first came to us they moved as one, turned as one, flipping blinked as one, it was like watching a mime in a mirror. As the family grew, they had to take of different roles, it’s not as evident now, I kind of miss it.”
Janah, “We did the same thing, dad used to comment on the fascination of it.”
“I miss that too, but like the twins, we had to adjust. We can still merge, that’s the best thing.”
Elle, “Merge what?”
“Into each other, we become one entity, we don’t, however, do demonstrations, you’ll have to take my word for it.”
Natalie, “That sounds…impossible.”
Dasha, “Sister and I have seen it, Nikko and some of the others. Ees most beautiful thing ever, one peerson wiz Dahfoney’s black hair, Janah’s blue eyes, or white hair but Dahfoney’s dark eyes, sometimes Janah’s body, sometimes Dahfoney’s.”
Zoe C, “Considering a young girl that levitates, Qi energy, a girl that can pick up a two fifty man like a suitcase and other weirdness with your tribe, I suppose this is just another day in the life.”
Daphne, “We don’t have a formula, Janah says everything is intention. She intended to find a certain kind of partner, she found me using her mind and intention. She didn’t conduct interviews, my resume at age eight wasn’t too fleshed out.”
Janah, “All I wanted was a babe with endless legs, the universe gave me Daphne, I have zero regrets.”
Elle, “I guess not, fortunately you’re willing to share.”
“We were never possessive, none of our tribe does jealousy, an ugly emotion and stupid to boot.”
McKenzie and Akiko come along, “Look what Daria taught us,” she’s carrying three tennis balls.
They sit on the floor in a small circle, Daria, Mac and Akiko, three feet apart from each other apart with a ball in front of each. Someone numbered them with a Sharpie, 1-2-3. Zelda and Cilia are curious, they park on either side of Akiko. Then Burma comes along and lays between Daria and McKenzie. The animals sense something different is going on and they don’t plan to be left out.
Janah, “The game is to get your ball past the others while they try to prevent it leaving the circle. They will do it slowly, McKenzie and Akiko are just learning.”
The girls are cross-legged, each raises an arm, palm forward. The balls begin to move, rolling towards an open spot directed by one hand while they try and keep the other balls in the circle with the other hand. Eventually Mac gets one past Akiko, Zelda snaps it up and drops it back into the circle.
Janah giggles, “Helping her pal.”
It goes that way until one shoots past Burma. Our sable show off has to get attention, she lets the ball go by, runs past it, turns and watches it come to her, then she leaps up and does a back flip, when she lands she noses the ball back, taps it with her paw and pushes it to the middle.
Janah is beside herself giggling, “That is definitely a Shaolin cat.”
Burma hops into Janah’s lap, turns and lays so she can watch the action.
They play for five more minutes, a ball escapes, Cilia returns it, another one for Zelda to snatch. We’re laughing so hard there are tears.
When we settle, I ask, “Can we keep the balls?”
Janah, “Of course, we keep a few cans around, our Qi girls play it all the time. It’s fun, but it also requires focus, almost trace-like concentration, particularly at first.”
“Do you do it?”
Daria throws Janah a ball, except she doesn’t catch it, she raises a hand and it flies back to Daria. We’re dumbfounded, it’s like pitch and catch but no catch, only pitch. After a dozen back and forth, Janah catches it and puts it on her knee in from of Burma. Burma sits upright and swats the thing straight to Daria. The she turns to look at Janah with a ‘meow’.
Janah strokes the fine fur, “Yes girl, you did it perfectly.”
Burma stretches and taps Janah on the nose. For her finale, she hops down and swats a ball at Zelda who catches it, steps over and drops it in front of the cat. We gather at the table, the animals keep playing, ignoring us.

Sixty Eight

Our visitors go home, we made plans to visit them in a week, Dasha promises white beans with ham accompanied by Ellen’s fried chicken. I wondered about frying enough chicken for the multitudes that live there, but she’s done it many times I was told, Dasha and Daphne assist.
The Sand Diego news reported on the ‘slaughter’ at the home of Arthur Pavlov, believed to be Alexi Pavlov with ties to a network of criminal activities in Southern California, rumored to include child selling. No mention of Chicago or the Serb Sergei Đurić. 
Zoe C, “How long do we wait to go to Chicago?”
“Give it a couple of weeks, Đurić will settle down when nothing happens, it’s not like there’s anyone left here to bring him into it.”
“What if he’s selling kids from other sources?”
“If we hadn’t stepped up in San Diego, we wouldn’t know him at all. Maybe we go to Chicago and put him under quiet surveillance. If we catch him in the act, then we act, presuming we can get to him.”
“He and whoever works with him could wind up on the sharp end of a dart, the one with Janah’s poison.”
“True. We can kill him easily enough, but we find out nothing about any other connections. We need to capture and interrogate. Talk to Janah and Daphne, see what they think, might have an approach we haven’t thought of.”
“Good, I’ll hop over tomorrow if they have time.”
I have to temper Zoe C, when it comes to child rape she’d get on a plane and go in blasting away. That only works in a Nicholas Cage action flick. I go in search of McKenzie, time to think up dinner. She’s in the kitchen already.
“What do we make for dinner?”
“Elle and Natalie are out getting Chinese, that’s what they wanted and everyone likes it. Good Chinese is not so easy to make from scratch at home, cheaper and easier to get it from the experts. They also ordered something from Louisa, I don’t know what.”
“Sounds great, an extended cocktail hour, chill, enjoy spicy sweet for dinner. Zoe C is going over to Daphne’s tomorrow if they’re available, looking for ideas about Chicago.”
Zoe C, “There are so many girls there, we haven’t even met them all. Janah said Daphne’s mom has been bugging them to meet the new children. I think Susan is like Natalie about children.”
“Maybe drop them off at Susan’s place, they won’t be overwhelmed by so many people.”
“Good, I’ll text Susan and see if she’s going to be around.”
The girls get back with the food, I take over and get things in dishes, then into a warm oven. They also brought Won Ton soup and egg rolls, soup goes in a pot on low, egg rolls out on the kitchen island for nibbles. Zoe C has wine open, I’m having a chilly Russian Standard over lots of crushed ice. 
Mickey, “Can Zak and I go with them tomorrow, to Daphne’s? We want to see what all the kids are up to, they’re magical.”
Zoe C will check with them, we don’t want to impose, and we’re all going over next week for dinner.”
“Oh, then never mind, we can wait a few days.”
Zoe C, “Most considerate, I’m only going to talk over business, it isn’t a social call. Marissa and B are going to Daphne’s mom’s for an hour while I talk to Daphne and Janah.”
Mickey tells Zak, “Tomorrow we should practice our version of kendo.”
The evening is quiet, McKenzie came across Prime Suspect so we watch two episodes. It’s the BBC, the characters are interesting, the crimes are horrific, everybody smokes. It’s off to bed with visions of serial killers in our heads.
When I wake up I realize nobody murdered me in the night, good, I want coffee.
Zoe C comes in with a cup, “Here you go, I felt you stirring in my head. After breakfast I head over to Daphne’s, drop Marissa and B on the way. We’ll only be an hour or so, back before lunch.”
She turns and heads down the hall, I sit up and sip, do morning ablutions and down to the kitchen, Mac is poaching eggs, she’s discovered grits, they simmer in the pot, Akiko pulls biscuits from the oven, then a platter of crisp bacon.
“Thank you girls, I see you have things under control, need me to do anything?”
McKenzie, “Sit and eat,” Elle and Nat come down the stairs together, Zoe C is already at the table with the four kids two dogs and a missing Burma.
I hear a screech then a giggle, Burma has leapt off the middle platform and bonked Natalie on the butt, victim of a stealth cat attack. She reaches in and gives the ninja cat a pat then comes over to the table.
“Mickey, your cat is insane.”
Zoe C pours them coffee, “I’m going over at ten.”
B, “We’re going to Miss Susan’s?”
“Yes, maybe she’ll teach you to code, she’s a tech whiz. I’m sure she’ll have something planned. Speaking of, McKenzie, are they current with lessons?”
Mac nods, she’s overseeing their basics, usually from Kahn Academy I think, there are several online options.
B, “We do arithmetic and write essays, or short stories. McKenzie makes us get the periods and commas right, and the spelling. She turns off the spell check, when we’re done we can turn it on and see our misspellings.”
“So you use the computer to write, not longhand.”
“We write longhand to practice our penmanship.”
I thank Mac for her efforts, she nods, “They are smart girls.”
“Do you have favorite subjects?”
Marissa, “I like science, oceans are so full of life, the creatures are amazing.”
B, “I like math, it’s neat.”
Impressive, children learning because they want to, overseen by a fifteen year old McKenzie, which is ridiculous, Mac is no more fifteen than I am.
Chloe calls on Zoe C’s phone, I hear her say, “Sure, they would love it,” then some other conversation then, “Yes, sounds super, see you soon,” she disconnects smiling.
“Chloe offered to work with Mickey and Zak on kendo, I accepted for them.”
Zak, “Great! When do we leave?”
“Still ten, an hour.”
Mickey, “Learning kendo from a movie star, did you know she’s a sixth dan, pretty advanced. It takes years to get to eighth. Nikko’s dad is a ninth dan, a level they don’t award anymore, he’s like, legendary.”
Natalie, “Where did you find out all this stuff?”
“Dasha, Zak and I text her, sometimes we call.”
“You aren’t interrupting her are you?”
Zak laughs, “Dasha? No, when she can’t talk she says so, if we text it might be a few hours before she replies or it might be a minute.”
“Okay then, you’re right, Dasha isn’t shy, she’ll lay it right out there.”
Mickey, “That’s what everyone loves about her. Daphne told me she never has to wonder what Dasha is thinking, no second guessing, no interpretation.”
Zak, “No, Dasha is so direct, it’s fun, she thinks you get it wrong she says ‘do not make ridiculous,’ or, ‘only Dahfoney is allowed to be ridiculous girl,’ I want to ask stupid questions just to listen to her grumble, but I don’t. She would figure it out anyway and ignore me.”
Elle and I clean up breakfast dishes, Zoe C needs to get ready to go.
“Marissa, B, are you ready, we need to leave in five.”
They appear, “You guys look adorable.”
Marissa, “B fixed me up,” her long ash blond in a ponytail, B is not quite a redhead, more dark auburn, they both have the rich lustrous hair of the young.
Zoe C and the kids drive off, it’s only a four or five mile trip to the Sylk compound. 
Natalie, “Seems a little empty in here, not too empty with dogs the size of Cape Buffalo.”
I laugh, “The kids adore the monsters, and the monsters adore the kids, not to mention the bodyguard aspect.”
She smiles, “It is good not to have to scan the cams every minute when they roam the property. And now the two younger ones roam with them.”
“It’s good exercise, good for the dogs too. I doubt Burma needs more exercise but she rides Zelda’s back when she gets tired.”
“I need to check the website, plus Zoe C and I go to Chicago next week, she’s not going to be satisfied until we check out the situation.”
“What situation? You know the situation, they sell children for sex.”
“We don’t know if Chicago is the top of the food chain, if we knew that we could fly over, find them, launch the drones or just put a bullet in their brains.”
“We appear to have time before lunch, how about Elle and I take advantage?”
I get an idiotic grin, Elle and Nat, Nat and Elle…the mind reels.

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