Chapter Eighty One
Janah, Eloise, and I are at the table, I took a picture of the girl, Eloise is going to surf around and see if she shows up anyplace. Her laptop is more revealing.
"She's got a child porn collection, I presume to help convince her that it's what kids do. There are a couple of her with the woman, fat slug, other pictures of her nude, showing it all, playing with a vibrator."
Janah, "Delete that crap. We don't need it for evidence, Shadows don't get to go to prison."
I surf round for other 'lessons,' not much, some math, reading, some of which is child porn. Apparently they were creating a future PhD in smut.
Eloise, "She doesn't show up anyplace, I'll take a shot on Tor, that's a favorite child porn alternate internet," she surfs for an hour.
"Lots of postings, none that look like the girl, some of them are made up, that just means if she's on here, nobody knows what she really looks like."
"I think we might be safe. The stuff on her computer was clearly her, she wasn't disguised. Maybe the other computers have something different."
We take one each, I take a quick dip into Dasha's head, see the inside of a shop, the girl is in front of Dasha, Daria is fiddling with shirts on a rack, I return to the computer.
Thirty minutes later, it's all common stuff, some downloaded adult porn, one has a bunch of naked women shots, the third has naked men. The volume says it's only a pastime, not an obsession.
Janah makes tea, Eloise and I hack the netbooks, nothing of significance. Time to get to e-mail. Another half hour, typical of Shadows, it's mostly spam, they don't socially network, they don't do Facebook, no Instagram or Tumblr. One of them reads the common list of online newspapers.
Eloise, "This one is a physician, Ellis McClain MD."
"Mine is a friggin psychologist, cognitive therapy, Michael Faber, he's the one with naked bodybuilders, therapy must be interesting."
Janah, "The other is Anna Faust, two Germans, Faust and Faber. She's running something called Creative Solutions, business consultant."
"What about the two we offed?"
Janah, "Mistress doesn't show up as anything, somebody has to stay with the kids. Swimmer is also a nobody. My guess is he does the filming and some of the porn, the girl had sex with a man didn't she?"
"Yes, her giving him oral, and the woman licking her."
Eloise, "Horrible people."
"It's all over the place, I was on Google + once and went to the page for a guy who commented on something I posted. It had a dozen child porn videos. I reported him, an hour later his page was still up, but it looked like a normal page. Since Google didn't take him down, I assume the poor guy was hacked. Who knows how many people think he's a pedophile?"
Janah's counting money, the girls return, the girl called Girl has a cute fedora and spiffy sunglasses, they have a couple bags.
Dasha, "We didn't buy much, Eemaya will complain and take her shopping anyway again. We haf also toothbrush, hair brush."
"Good thinking. Let her sit in the Jacuzzi, wash hair, I'll get rid of the clothes she has on and take the new stuff down to the concierge desk and ask them to rush launder it, clothes always smell crappy off the rack. She can wear one of our t-shirts until the clothes are done."
I take the bags of clothes, remove the tags, two pairs of jeans, two t-shirts and a blouse, a slip dress, socks, underpants. Don't need a bra for a six year old.
"I'm Daphne Sylk, I have a rush request, laundry. Lost luggage and we had to do a quickie shopping trip," I hand him a twenty, "be great to get back today," I smile my heart out.
He taps my name in his terminal, sees we're in a two grand a night suite and three ocean front rooms on the same billing, "Of course Ms. Sylk, always a pleasure to see you."
"The pleasure is ours, Shutters is our favorite vacation spot, always splendid."
"Two hours good?"
"Wow, just perfect, thank you."
Mission accomplished, there's nothing a top concierge can't do, court side tickets, table at a fully booked restaurant or laundry in two hours even at four o'clock in the afternoon.
Back to the room, our munchkin is having a Coke Zero and a plate of cut apple and banana. Dear thing is a rail, she could gain ten pounds and it would barely be noticeable.
Surprise, Amaya and Chloe show up.
Amaya, "We got most of it done on one take and all the scenes were in the same place. Childers is giddy, Chloe nailed everything right out of the box. God, it's good to get done at a decent hour. Who is this adorable creature, hi I am Amaya, this is my dear friend Chloe, who are you?"
"We're still sorting things out."
Amaya, I listened and watched, Chloe was working, I just hang around, I got most of the day. Are we adopting this one?
I guess. We can't find her anywhere, she doesn't know who she is, doesn't remember being anyplace but the house. Janah surfed her brain a bit, she's not faking anything. She doesn’t do a lot of thinking, but her senses are unusually active.
Chloe, "The good thing about not having a name is you get to pick one. When I came to this family, I picked my name, so did Amaya."
Girl, "I don't know what to pick, I don't know much, I love the ocean, Dasha says I can swim in it."
Chloe, "You don't need to decide right away. Do you like movies?"
"I never saw a movie, is it like a video, I've been in videos. Mistress Agnes and Master Jim play with me. It's on my computer if you want to see."
"It's not on there anymore, I got rid of it."
"Oh, you didn't like it, they said people would like it."
"What did you think about it?"
"I didn't think anything, they just did it. They made me watch them, other videos with kids. I was supposed to learn how to do it better."
Janah, "Do you care if they’re gone, the videos?"
Amaya, "Chloe and I are going to shower, then I will make you presentable."
They go to their room, Dasha finds a movie, the animated feel good about the lost fish.
Eloise and I do more intensive searches on our Shadows, where they work, verify credentials, Daria joins in.
The doctor, McClain, is real, so is the consultant, Faust. The psychologist, Faber is a fraud. The doc could have killed off a real Dr. McClain, co-opted his credentials and relocated. The difficulty with that is you have to know real doctor things. A Shadow who wasn't already a doc would take an easier route.
I don't see how a business consultant can steal an identity as a business consultant. That's a local face to face job, people know them. If you can control minds while you consult, you just make everyone think you're a genius. The therapist is simple. It's a vague job, hard to tell if it does any good, terminology runs from pseudo-scientific to psychobabble. Stick a diploma on the wall, certifications, if you work for yourself, nobody checks your bio. The Shadow convinces them they are getting better, but slowly enough to keep the appointment calendar full. Make them believe they are feeling better, but not cured. I assume lots of therapists use the same approach. People like to feel they're complicated, have many layers to unpeel and examine. It also helps if they love to babble endlessly about themselves.
Chapter Eighty Two
The laundry comes a half hour early, good hotels are good for a reason, killer service.
Amaya, "The twin communists did well, this is basic stuff, but not tacky, the sundress is cute, good job girls."
Janah, "A cocktail then dinner."
Amaya handles vodkas, Janah opens two beers from our bar, she and Eloise drink those. Girl and I split a Coke Zero.
Girl, "Do you get mad and yell at each other? When those people got drunk, that is all they did."
"There's no getting mad, no yelling. Generally, our drinkers drink only in the evening."
"Mistress Agnes drank all day, the man not so much. The others were gone most days, came home at night. Sometimes they forgot me in my room when they started yelling and I didn't get to eat."
Janah, "You won't be hungry, we like all kinds of food."
"Mine was only fruit, sometimes a sandwich, never had a Coke, only water or orange juice."
"We don't drink juice, too much sugar. Fruit is good for you, but you have to eat it, not just drink it."
"I'm tired of orange juice."
Janah, "And now for real food, what does everyone want?"
Amaya, "Can we skip going out? Chloe needs to take it easy. Coast is good."
We wade through roast beef sandwiches, cheeseburgers, lobster roll, vegetable burger, jumbo shrimp and fish and chips. Our newest charge has a taste of everything, a small taste, she's not used to so much rich food. Sated, we return to our room, gather around the television and watch Tom Cruise at five feet seven inches pretend to be Jack Reacher who, in the books, is six four. I think Lee Child sold out, it's his book, his decision, but the character didn't benefit from Cruise playing the part. It did eighty million at the box office, how much of it was Cruise is impossible to tell.
Our young lady is all eyes. It's an action flick, but PG, people get shot, beat up, there's no sex. She watches nestled between Dasha and Daria and is asleep before Reacher resolves all the problems. When he's back on the road with his thumb out everyone heads to their room, the little one sleeps with the twins, Eloise stays with us. Works for me, she jumps me, then Janah. I service her, reciprocity is not only fair, it’s selfish, she's a tasty dish. We conk out until seven.
I'm making coffee and tea, Eloise is with me, Janah's showering.
I check in with Dasha, Up yet? Tea is ready.
Da, Daria and girl are slip.
A minute later, there's a knock, Dasha, "They are waking, I will haf tea now, ees black?"
"Yep, that pot," I point to the black tea.
"What ees breakfast?"
"Coast is open, I know we ate there last night, but that was dinner. The breakfast choices are yummy. At some point we have to track the Shadows, Nikko and Zi come in today, we'll wait until they get here, someone has to stay with the girl."
"I like beach restaurant, we will go when Daria and girl come."
We have coffee and tea on the balcony, fifteen minutes later they join us, we head downstairs.
Breakfast at Coast is every possible thing imaginable. We have plates of pancakes, omelets, bacon and ham, oatmeal. Somehow we skip steak and eggs, which are really good, a protein power breakfast, maybe tomorrow.
Girl, "I never knew there was such food," she nibbles a bit of omelet, then a bigger bite.
Dasha, "We will haf pahncake, bacon, greets, aig at home. You will like."
Girl, "I am going home with you," it isn’t a question, she just accepts what we say.
Janah, "Only if you wish. We looked for you on the internet, I don't know how those people found you, they aren't your real parents."
"They said I belonged to them."
Janah, "We are going to talk to the others, they will tell us how you came to be with them. If we can find your real parents, and it seems like a good situation for you, we will. If not, then you can be with us or we will find you a loving home to grow up in, that will be up to you."
She's quiet, then, "The ocean is so beautiful, can I be called ocean? Is that a name?"
Janah, "There's a French version, Oceane (prn. oh-she-ahn), a lovely name."
The girl repeats, "Oh-she-ahn, how do I spell it?"
I write it out for her on my phone, show her a website where the name is posted and the meaning.
She asks, "What is French?"
Janah, "People speak different languages."
She says, "Oh, two of the people who kept me spoke in a way I didn't understand, it sounded mean."
"They were German, the language is harsh, French is more like a poem, gentler."
She says, "Oh-she-ahn, it sounds nice, can I be Oceane?"
Janah, "You sure can, Oceane."
She smiles gently, "I have a name."
I want to cry, then kill people.
Nikko’s in my head, Get in line behind me.
I sign the check, we head to the room, Oceane in between the twins, each holding a hand.
Nikko and Zi show up around ten, "We got a second car, I assume we need to find the rest of the Shadows."
Janah, "Yep, we've tracked down where they work, they aren't in Malibu, but all within ten or fifteen miles. The doctor is a plastic surgeon, the business consultant works at whatever business she's consulting or from home. The therapist has an office in Beverly Hills. Good spot, got to be as many prospective patients as Manhattan, maybe more."
Dasha comes in with Oceane, "Ees Nikko and Zi."
Zi, "Hello Oceane, you look so cute, jeans and a sparkly shirt."
Oceane, "Dasha got them."
Nikko looks to me, "Amaya hasn't gone on a shopping binge yet?"
"She's busy keeping after Chloe, filming is cracking along, Childers is obsessive about schedules."
"Good, then he's on budget."
Oceane, "Daria said you are making a movie, we watched a movie last night. I never saw a movie until yesterday. "
We'll get around to her education soon enough, right now she can watch movies, TV programs, Dasha will help her start to get caught up on the world.
I ask Zi on the side, "What do you see?"
Zi, "Blank, someone has wiped her memory or they got her as in infant and kept her locked away, there's little to have memory of. From what Nikko passed along, it's more likely the latter. You don't know where she is educationally?"
"There are math programs on her computer, I just glanced, looked like simple arithmetic. She's been talked to, has a good command of language. She doesn't know the outside world, but she knows everyday stuff. Reading consisted of child porn stories, there were a few regular kid books in her room, I didn't pay attention to what. We'll have to let it unfold, see what's in her mind about sex. She didn't mind that I deleted the videos and the literature. Hasn't brought up anything of a sexual nature."
Zi, "Lots of new things to occupy her. Keeping busy with learning the world and getting her started on real education is the best we can do to."
"If she starts with problems, Janah will intervene. Right now she's deciding whether deleting her memory of the sex is a better alternative. So far, she's inclined to let it play out. We didn't delete the twins, or Chloe, or Amaya. They've done fine, better than, splendidly."
"Janah always says not to look for problems, we have a way of imagining them, then they seem real."
"People can't help but imagine how they would react, conditioned to think this is bad, that is good. They transfer those imaginings to others and believe they must feel the same way. It's a lousy assumption, then all sorts of interventions and treatments start and turn a minor problem into a major one. In Oceane's case, nobody ever told her that what was happening wasn't supposed to happen. Why do we overlay our views on it to her, start telling it was horrible and she's been traumatized? That doesn't make any sense, how's it help her?"
Zi, "She's going to find out that most people have a different view. Chloe and Amaya knew something was wrong. What happens when Oceane realizes?"
"If she asks questions, we answer. In the meantime, lots of attention, nourishment, activity and hugs."
Nikko, "What's the plan?"
Janah, "You and Zi make the rounds of our targets, we have driver's license photos, which may or may not resemble them. Based on them finding the girl gone and two dead bodies, who knows what they'll do? They're Shadows, they aren't going to grieve, there won't be funerals. I've surfed the newspapers, no stories about murdered people in Malibu. It has to make them nervous, someone took their money and computers."
"We should drone the house again, see if they're hanging around. I can't see them just going back to work the next day."
"Kind of what I thought. Eloise, what's the range for the drone?"
"It's all battery life. It flies at twenty miles an hour give or take wind. The battery is good for a couple of hours, a little less if it's top speed all the way. It's better to fly it from someplace closer, no more than five miles; from here, we chew up battery just getting there, it's over an hour flight at full speed."
Janah, "Okay, if we get just off the Pacific Coast Highway, it's under five miles to the house, the drone doesn't have to use the winding road. Straight shot is probably under three miles. I have no doubt the others are Shadows, but we are obliged to find out directly."
Eloise, "It just occurred to me, if I get them on camera, I can switch to ultraviolet then to infrared. Maybe Shadows show up, I should have thought of it sooner, we could have found out yesterday."
Janah, "Never occurred to me either, the birds spot them, they see in ultraviolet or infrared."
"We need a remedial thinking course."
Zi laughs, "The drone could put Chloe and I out of work."
Janah, "The drone has to have them in sight, you can tell through a wall, and the drone can't sense intention. You aren't retiring yet."
Nikko, "Saddle up Eloise, let's take a ride. Daphne, you know where we need to go, the four of us can do reconnaissance. Janah can figure out where Oceane is educationally, she'll have Daria and Dasha to keep an eye out."
Janah, "It's a plan."
Dasha, we need you and Daria to stay with Janah and Oceane. We're going to check out the house. I don't know how long we'll be. You can follow me in your head, we may get a chance to corner one of them and ask questions.
Da, okay. What ees to tell Oceane?
If she asks, tell her we went on errands, skip the part about us killing anyone.
Chapter Eighty Three
An hour later, we're sitting in the Escalade watching the drone circle the house. Nobody's outside, bodies are gone, presume the others prefer not to get a poison dart out of nowhere. I didn't retrieve but one dart, when we left, one target was still at the bottom of the pool. The chlorine and water will dilute any poison residue and if they do find it in the wound or blood, it’s not any known substance.
The drone is over the back patio, the microphone drops down.
Eloise makes adjustments, then a female voice, has to be Anna Faust. "We need to get out of here, goddammit. Look, you fucks do what you want, I'm packing and gone."
Voice, "We had to clean up. Dispose of the girl's things, dispose of two bodies. Been up the whole fucking night and we have two stiffs in the trunk of a car outside. You can get gone when we have the place sanitized and the bodies disappeared. You're in this a deep as we are."
"Yeah, okay, but let's do it, we can sleep when we're dead, and I want out of here as soon as possible."
Voice Two, "I'll take care of the bodies. There's spots along the coast where I can dump them in the ocean. We don't care if they get found. We're the only ones with any identity, they have no ID, that's why they made the porn."
"We did the kids."
Two, "I did the girls, you and our faggot pal over there did the little boys, and it was sweet, but we didn't do any video."
That makes Voice One the therapist, Michael Faber, Two has to be Ellis McClain.
McClain, "When I have my stuff packed, I'm dumping the bodies and you won't see me again."
Faber, "We have more housecleaning to do."
McClain, "Look, I'm doing the disposal, and it needs to be done now. We can't just leave the bodies here, we discussed that. If they start collecting hair and fingernails, dust for prints, we could get dragged in. It's a long shot, but it's still better to make the bodies disappear. You two get a pass on it, you can do the rest of the house. It doesn't have to be perfect, nobody in the neighborhood knows who we are. Nobody knows we know each other. The house is rented to a name that doesn't exist and the agency could give a crap about how many people lived here. They got the rent on time, never came around. Agnes took care of all that anyway."
Faust, "Yeah, okay, fair enough, get your shit and go."
Nikko, "How do we handle this? He's going to leave soon, if we follow him, the others could get gone before we get back."
"You and I will front Faust and Faber while Zi and Eloise follow McClain. When he gets to wherever he plans to drop the bodies, dart him and leave. Cops will find him and two dead people in his trunk. He's a physician, they'll figure out who he is soon enough. Let them be confused, guy with a poison dart, dead with two bodies in his trunk. Better yet, if you can remove the dart, the poison decomposes in a few hours. It's not even a poison on anyone's list, it's unique to David Li. They'll have puncture wounds, can't help that."
Zi, "I can cut them, look like a knifing."
"If you can do it clean. Shadows are overconfident. He may be sloppy picking a spot. If there are cars or people in a thousand yards, skip retrieving the darts. Remember, those darts are dangerous, if you just shot him any residual poison is still active, be sure to pop the covers back on."
Nikko drives us within a half mile of the house, she and I get out to take a stroll. I'm packing a dart gun in a duffel bag, my usual couple of blades.
Zi turns, goes down the road and parks, waits for McClain to leave. Nikko and I get to within a hundred yards, I see McClain's car backing out.
We get off the road, I text Zi, ‘he's leaving now’.
She replies, ‘got it’.
Our Shadow drives past, we're off the road, too far for him to sense even if he's searching for anyone. With two bodies to get rid of, he's likely preoccupied.
"How to you want to deal with the house?"
"Knock on the door. I have tranquilizers in the gun, not poison. And I have the syringes with enough to drop the targets quickly."
"They will sense you, maybe a bit slow, they've been up all night."
"Whoever answers, step to the side, I'll be back far enough to escape detection, I'll shoot, then we find whoever's left."
Nikko walks to the front door, knocks, nothing, she knocks again. I see a curtain pulled upstairs, it's Faber, he can't see the door, I'm behind one of the two cars outside. I can only guess he's checking to see if there's a patrol car. The curtain closes, I'll have to be prepared to shoot, but I don't want to be visible until the last second. Hope I don't tranquilize Nikko by accident.
I hear the door crack open, I peer under the car, I can see her feet off to one side, the door is open a couple of inches. Going to be a tough shot with an air rifle.
Faust sees it's only a young woman, Nikko shifts left, I stand, get her sighted and pull. Pop! Stagger, collapse. Nikko’s in, I'm right behind her. I kick the door shut, from upstairs I hear Faber.
"Who the fuck is it?"
I say loud enough to be heard upstairs, "Jehovah's Witness, you’re in need of redemption."
I hear him come to the top of the stairs, "Faust, what's going on down there?"
We say nothing, he can't stand there forever. I feel him probe, he senses someone.
"Where's the woman?"
This is getting boring, move out of range.
Nikko steps back, across the hall, backs into the living room.
I dash to the bottom of the stairwell, he senses my motion, sees me and the gun, I hear him run down the hall.
Go outside, he might try for a window, I'm going up.