Twenty One

Phryne B has been incredible, I’m not easily amazed but I am when I see, hear, or talk to her. She’s as human as titanium encased wires and metal can be. What she lacks in facial expression she makes up for with Amaya’s version of Aussie accent, although Phryne B says good day, not g’day, never calls anyone mate, even Aussie’s don’t refer to a woman as Sheila anymore.
She pours me a second cup, ‘Nothing Shadowy to report, an abuse referral though.’
‘What and where?’
‘Brother and sister, he is twenty, she is eighteen. They are believed to be, or were, intimate. Brother became possessive, typical control issues, she can do this, can’t do that, he tells her what to wear, who she can talk to, every minute of her day must be accounted for, she has to wear a GPS.’
‘That’s stupid-ugly, but if she’s compliant she’s agreeable.’
‘Contact didn’t know detail on the history, people said they were always together in school, when he left high school she didn’t return. People saw them from time to time, common things, grocery, mall, movie, restaurant, always together. Nothing to indicate she was under any pressure until recently.’
‘What changed?’
‘Contact said they started seeing brother but not sister. Contact did not know if anyone asked him about her, he never volunteered an explanation.’
‘What do you think?’
‘Based on the evidence, the girl left or is being held prisoner, the former is unlikely, no one saw brother upset or concerned, no missing person was filed. Logically she’s a prisoner or she’s dead.’
‘He wants total control, which may have been spurred by her wanting out, at eighteen she may want less control, more freedom. Protective brother turns into prison warden, unless she’s submissive she’s going to resent the chains.’
‘Sounds right, shall I arrange a flight?’
‘To where?’
‘Outside Taos New Mexico.’
‘You have details, description of both, does he work? Vehicle?’
‘On the tablet, I sent it to Zero, you don’t check the tablet much.’
Zero comes from upstairs, ‘Alice’s book is released next week, she’s remarkably calm, maybe she’ll get more buzzed on release day. I read Phryne’s report, good job by the way, as thorough as messaging an anonymous contact can get.’
‘Thank you.’
‘Let’s zip over to Taos tomorrow, snoop around. We’ll need a drone, fully equipped, just handguns, I don’t see where a rifle helps here, I doubt we need the guns but still. Usual takeoff time Phryne B, how long is the flight?’
‘Just shy of two hours, lose and hour in time zone, leave at nine, in by noon.’
‘And a car, one SUV, nothing monstrous. And maybe a couple of veg omelets, a bit of pastry or croissant. Don’t worry about a hotel, we’ll find something.’
‘Right-O,’ she’s still for a minute, ‘Done.’
She walks off to do whatever is next on her list.
Zero, ‘Flipping convenient to have Phryne B and the cleaning bots, I haven’t changed sheets or done laundry on two or three months. What’s dinner?’
She reads the board, ‘Meatloaf brown gravy, mashed and all day green beans with ham and onion.’
Zero lifts the lid on the bean pot, ‘Ah, these turn out so good, she’s got bacon slices in there as well as ham chunks, we could have just the beans for dinner.’
‘Feel free, I look forward to meat, gravy and a hunk of crusty French to dip.’
‘I invited Susan over for dinner, in fact she should be here in a couple.’
‘What inspired that?’
‘I called her to chat, check in, Lacy and Taylor went to New York to visit friends, Susan opted to stay at home. And I suspect she has an ulterior motive, so you may be in for an evening with Daphne’s striking mom. Unlike Daphne who doesn’t do men, Susan gets together with Sloane occasionally, don’t know about Misha. She’s coming with us tomorrow so she’ll be here tonight.’
‘What if she wants one of the girls?’
‘She lives a half mile from Daphne’s mansion with no shortage of willing girls.’
‘Time for a shower, then cocktails.’
I get shaved and showered, As you may recall, the shower is open, no door or curtain because it’s wide and deep, water doesn’t splash past the shower floor. When I finish rinsing and shut it off, I turn to see Susan, who Daphne calls Sis, with a towel.
‘Step out, I haven’t dried off a body besides my own in ages.’
This is nice, she works it until I’m dry, ‘Thank you, um…think you might stay the evening? Zero and I fly out in the morning, but not until nine.’
Susan, ‘Zero told me when she called, you have company for the trip, me. If you aren’t otherwise engaged,’ she wraps my cock with her hand, ‘perhaps I can make use of this later.’
She’s in snug white shorts, barefoot since she got inside, a clingy t-shirt and legs so much like Daphne’s it’s uncanny, ‘You can make use of it whenever you want, think I can get after those legs first?’
She grins, ‘I’m counting on it.’
Susan may be forty, but if she told you she was twenty nine, you’d never doubt it.
She starts to take the towels, ‘Don’t worry about it, leave them on the vanity, the cleaning bots will be in here two seconds after we leave.’
We have cocktails, the twins and I vodka, the rest have Champagne, we’ll have red with dinner.
Susan, ‘Alice, Amaya told me you’re famous next week.’
Alice laughs, ‘I’ll be something, maybe forgotten in the remainder bin.’
‘If Amaya agreed to publish, and I understand had a hand in the writing process, there is no chance of remainder bin.’
‘She was great, Natasha and Zero too, I had three primo editors.’
‘You did, and I got the galleys, I stayed up half the night a few evenings ago reading, I didn’t want to quit. You going to do any shows, readings?’
‘Amaya flatly refused, she doesn’t do promotions of any kind, and I want to remain anonymous, which is why a pseudonym.’
‘Curious Girl called Curiosity in the collection, I love the characters, particularly Flippant. Black girl with attitude, you got the tone just right, snappy, not nasty.’
‘I wanted the book to be read by girls too, I mean pre and teen, as well as an adult audience. There’s no raw language, but plenty of murder and mystery, dark alleys and creepy mansions. I suppose some may take issue with calling the girl Flippant, Amaya drilled me, never worry about critics, it’s your book, it it’s interesting, informative and entertaining, it will find an audience. Besides the name, Flippant, the girl is otherwise got herself together, people should be happy to have a strong black voice. As the stories progress she becomes Flip for short, which was a stroke of genius, checkmating any criticism of the name Flippant.’
‘That was Zero’s doing, I jumped at the idea of a nickname. Oh, guess what.’
Susan, ‘I can’t play, I already know.’
‘Know what? Cough it up Alice.’
‘Amaya and Chloe are doing an audio book, can you imagine, Curious Girl as read by famous author Amaya and famous movie star Chloe Sylk?’
Zero, ‘Get out! That’s beyond awesome, how’d you manage that?’
‘I didn’t, Amaya decided it would be good for the book and good for Chloe who will have a role in the video production, Miss Butler.’
We toast Alice, then Chloe and Amaya in absentia.
‘And, I want Fin and Phaedra to have roles, there is a nemesis developed in the third story, a character that is not unlike Professor Moriarty in the Sherlock stories. That character, Draven, no last name , and Dr. Whisper Wolfhart, her factotum. I thought it would be interesting to have a twelve year old girl, played by Phaedra, be the boss of a criminal enterprise and the older girl, Fin, be the companion.’
Phaedra, ‘Wow me, wow Fin, can we do it Goth? Those are Goth names.’
‘Yes, full Goth, Amaya is already considering wardrobe, you’ll both be awesome.’ 
Fin, ‘I’m pumped, um…who plays Curiosity?’
‘Micha I think, she’s the right age, if she wants it.’
Micha, ‘Want it? Try and keep me away, when do we start?’
‘I likely spoke a bit soon, we want a year on the shelves, but it will take some time to do all the stories so production would begin in six months perhaps. She’s going to release each story one at a time, each story has some of the same sets, like Curiosity’s huge mansion, and new sets based on who gets murdered where.’


Twenty Two

Dinner came and went, then we canoodled for a couple of hours, Susan hadn’t seen Alice’s colorful outfits, but she had seen some of the character who inspired them on the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries. Then we got Phryne B, the bot also wears variations of the same styles.
Susan, ‘Both you and the bot could walk on the set and substitute for the character, I assume Amaya had a hand in it.’
Alice, ‘She sent designs to Chloe Couture, left it up to them to put together, they did a super job, my silks are silk, not rayon, hats are all originals but kept in the Cloche style, several kimonos, long jackets, shoes came from someplace else, Chloe Couture doesn’t do footwear.’
Susan, ‘I have no idea how Amaya keeps ten projects in the air, but she’s done it for years, and the creativity keeps on coming, she never seems to run out of ideas.’
Alice, ‘She told me she thinks of ideas as bridges, connections between projects, she might be working on a screenplay but take something she dreamed up and tagged it for a future novel. For her, having a lot of balls in the air generates creativity, not distractions.’
‘Sort of free range creation.’
‘Yes, exactly, she doesn’t know where a thing may fit, often she simply makes a note, or a voice memo and lets it marinate, if it’s a good idea, it finds a place in one of her projects.’
The evening winds down, Phryne B and her bot troops have cleared and cleaned, Zero, Susan, and I have a flight in the morning. Zero goes upstairs to someone’s room, Susan and I to mine. I’m skipping intimacy details, suffice it to say we had more than a bit of fun.
Our flight is seamless, land, a Hyundai Histrionic is waiting, it believes passengers have a deep connection to the vehicle then says ‘you don’t really love me.’ If you don’t give it lots of attention and praise, it shuts down and pouts. At startup, it demands you check the oil and water, make sure the windshield water tank is full and the tire pressure is exact. For a small additional charge, they will cut off the histrionics, but the car will still whine from time to time. To get it to shut up you have to pet the dashboard and say, ‘there, there, mommy will make it better,’ then a small squirt from the washer hits the windshield meaning it’s crying and apologizing.
Susan, ‘You always get weird cars?’
Zero, ‘Makes the ride if not enjoyable at least different, even challenging.
‘I’ll say, what happens if you yell at it?’
‘It dies and has to be towed to the dealer so they can reboot the software.’
‘I’ll keep my voice down.’
I’m driving, ‘Where am I going?’
Zero, ‘I got an early check in, thought it better to fly the drone from the hotel rather than try and get in striking distance of the house. Take the interstate to exit four, Taos, then a right on Cactus Gulch, three miles along is the Prairie Lizard Inn. Taos has a long list of reptiles, especially varieties of lizard. I asked, there are no actual lizards in the rooms, they’re available on request for lonely people, quadriplegics, or the blind, specially trained seeing-eye lizards, no help for negotiating sidewalks but none better for crossing the Mohave desert.’
Susan, ‘You’re starting to sound like Daphne.’
‘Babbling stream of consciousness, she’s my shaman and I’m hers, reciprocal mysticism with a dose of hallucination.’
The suite is sizable, with a sitting room, dining area, two baths and bedrooms. I’m guessing Zero got two bedrooms so she could snuggle up with Susan, I don’t recall her ever being with Susan for an assignation.
Zero unpacks the drone, I take it to the balcony, she launches and we watch the tablet to follow along, an aerial view of Taos and surrounds.
Susan, ‘Nice area, never been here before.’
‘I passed through years ago, some Army business, don’t recall what, likely desert training, we were always shipped around to different environments and climates. In any case it wasn’t a tourist visit.’
Susan, ‘Target have a name?’
Zero, ‘Gerald Jacobsen, his sister is Cornelia, parents must have had a thing for old fashioned. I kind of like Cornelia, Gerald sounds like a car salesman, or an assistant principal who used to be a car salesman or whose brother is a car salesman who would be either George or Harry.’
‘What is his job anyway, does sis work?’
Zero, ‘It’s in the data Phryne B uploaded.’
Susan, ‘Here we go, hey, he is a car salesman, sister didn’t finish high school, a stay at home apparently.’
The drone has the GPS coordinates for Gerald’s house, it flies directly there, then Zero has it circle at five hundred feet. Zooms the camera, the place looks like we’re just outside.
Susan, ‘Small ranch, eight foot board fence all round with a double wooden gate for the driveway. No car visible, Gerald must be at work, what dealership?’
I look at the detail, ‘Friendly Fred’s Ford, New and Pre-Owned. Does the drone have a tracker?’
Zero, ‘Yep, sticking it under Gerald’s car will be tricky in daytime.’
‘Be helpful to know if he’s there.’
She flies the drone to the lot, a vast ocean of new cars, a smaller lake of used abuts the new. Circling, we’re looking for a Ford Persuader, it plays motivational audio, everything from whispered encouragement to screaming Drill Sergeant.
‘There it is, a purple minivan, takes a butt-load of persuasion to drive a car that ugly.’
‘If his sister has to ride around in that thing, small wonder she wants out, it’s a miracle she hasn’t killed him for public humiliation, ego abuse, first degree bad taste.’
‘If he’s here, and she’s got no car, maybe she’s at the house.’
Susan, ‘How do you find out?’
Zero, ‘We go there, I knock on the door.’
‘Want to bring the drone in?’
‘No, while you drive us to Gerald’s, I’ll fly the drone there, maybe we take a closer look.’
Which is what we do, down the block from the house we watch the screen. Zero takes the drone down to just under a hundred feet, then zooms in looking for open windows. Everything is closed, either blinds or curtains.
‘I’m going closer, see if there’s any sound,’ now the drone is perhaps fifty yards with a direct line of sight just over the wooden fence.
Susan, ‘Television.’
‘Worse than just TV, Fox News, news for old white people who don’t want news, they want their prejudices confirmed, there’s no news anymore, just a lot of opinions.’
‘Opinions are more entertaining than facts, and opinions free the oldies from having to think for themselves, a support group for the creeping dementia crowd.’
Zero, ‘If sister is trapped inside, she’s being water boarded by pontificating pundits, clear abuse any way you slice it.’
She brings the drone in, there’s nothing else it can tell us and should someone see it, we don’t want it connected to the house. She gets out and goes to the front door.

Twenty Three

Sister doesn’t answer Zero’s knock, not that we expected her to. If she could answer the door she could leave, Zero returns to the car.
‘I’m going to pick the lock, I’ll leave the gate open so you can see when I go in.’
‘Susan, go with, I’ll stay here and make sure we know if Gerald shows up before he shows up inside.’
Susan, ‘And if he does?’
‘I neutralize him.’
I can see Zero working the pick, the door opens, she and Susan disappear inside.
Ten minutes, fifteen. Must have found something, Susan appears and comes to the car.
‘The good news is, she isn’t physically injured, the other good news is we released her from a makeshift cage, chain link fencing that allows for a bed and access to one bathroom, small refrigerator with bottled water, a dozen books, nothing else. Cornelia was rattled, us showing up, but Zero and I managed to calm her enough to get an abbreviated story. Gerald keeps her prisoner because she wanted to go to school again, which is only partially true, just what she told him. What she wanted is to be gone.’
‘She talk about their relationship?’
‘Not yet, even in her state she’s unwilling to admit to incest, the best she could do is admit he is infatuated with her. Zero is helping her collect a few things, we park her in a motel until brother shows up.’
‘Okay, we can put her at the nearest until we have a chance to help Gerald get over himself.’
Thirty later she’s in a common room in a common motel.
Zero, ‘I’ll stay here, out of that home-prison and away from her brother she may be more forthcoming.’
‘Good, Susan and I will park at the house, when Gerald shows we’ll have a surprise party.’ 
At the house we close the gate, go inside and lock the door behind us, need Gerald to think he’s coming home to a normal evening. 
‘I’ll keep an eye on the drive, you can snoop around and see if there’s anything we need to know.’
Susan goes off, I lean next to the front window, the curtain pulled just enough to see when the gate opens. I did time as a sniper, waiting is part of it, most of it in fact. I also learned not to daydream, fiddle with the equipment, fight with mosquitoes or other wildlife, nothing other than watching for my target.
I hear drawers and doors open and close, Susan is being thorough, no surprise, she’s a 5th degree taekwondo master, she may not have Daphne’s additional Shaolin skills, but she’s not a novice.
She joins me at the window, ‘Nothing too weird, I cracked a laptop with our version of Ophcrack.’
‘What’s that?’
‘Password bypass, it’s on a memory stick,’ she hold up a thumb drive, ‘it catches the boot up and redirects the operating system, then I’m in. Daria and I put together an expanded system, most passwords crackers are for Windows, the most common system, ours will also hack Mac OS, we even have a Bluetooth that can get into their phones. Iphones and pads don’t have USB ports.’
‘I’m glad you know all that magic, my idea of cracking a phone is to stomp it.’
‘He’s got a girlfriend, at least he sends flirty emails to someone called Gloria, she responds in kind. Could be why he and sis fell out, Zero will find out. No clue why, if he has a girlfriend, he has to keep sis in a cage, maybe Cornelia threatened to tell her, but why? She outs herself by outing him.’
‘People frequently do stuff against their own best interests, even when they know it’s stupid, even dangerous.’
‘There’s that.’
‘And here comes Gerry.’
Like most of our abuser encounters, they have no idea we’re on to them, or that we’ve staked out near or even inside their house or apartment. Gerald is no different, and says what they all say.
‘Who are you, what are you doing in my house?’
In this case, he stupidly adds, ‘I’m calling the cops.’
Susan laughs, ‘You plan on explaining a prisoner, you own sister, locked in a cage?’
‘It is for her benefit, she can’t function out there,’ waves his arm indicating the world at large.
‘Not your decision to make Gerald, in any case she’s gone and won’t be back.’
‘You kidnapped her?’
‘In a manner of speaking, if you include her willingness to leave under the umbrella of kidnapping.’
‘You drugged her, brainwashed her.’
I decide enough chat, grab him by the shirtfront, he’s also wearing a plaid sport coat, who wears plaid sport coats?
A healthy yank, ‘Follow along Gerry,’ I pull him down the hall to the living area, stand him in front of the couch.
‘This is assault, I’ll see you arrested.’
I sink a fist into his solar plexus, he groans, sinks backwards and sits, head between his knees.
‘That is assault, Gerry, see the difference?’
Mumble.
My phone vibes, it’s Zero.
‘Cornelia spilled, not convinced it’s everything, but enough. She admitted to fooling around as kids, she was maybe eight or nine. Typical kid curiosity. Gerald would have been eleven or thereabouts, it got more purposeful when he hit thirteen and hormones ruled his world. Side note, mom apparently knew and if she didn’t exactly encourage she did ignore. Short version, Cornelia thought she was in love and Gerald justified it by claiming to be only a step brother, ignoring the fact that they had the same mother. Brother even talked marriage. Mom died, dad was gone, the house you’re in is the house they grew up in. She subsequently discovered there was no step, he is her brother.’
‘So he wanted things to continue, she wanted out.’
‘More or less. Still, she was ambivalent, she admits things went on until she wanted to go back to school, or at least get a job. I didn’t try to get a clear chronology, just the outline.’
‘He panicked and caged her.’
‘Yep.’
‘You have any sense of her, is she dependant, submissive?’
‘Both. Gerald’s error was assuming if she got out she would leave and maybe even reveal their real relationship. No predicting what would have happened, she says she was never able to convince him otherwise. Despite her compliance, even cooperation, she simply couldn’t stand being stuck at home day after day, no trips out, not even a car ride. When she attempted to split, he built the cage.’
‘What now?’
‘She wants out, whatever trust she had, or any feelings, is gone. She’s a reverse Stockholm Syndrome, the longer she was imprisoned the less she connected.’ 
‘We’ll finish up here, then figure out what to do with her.’
We disconnect, I turn to Gerald.
‘Gerry, let me explain what happens, and don’t argue or I use physical explanation, not only verbal.’
Gerry’s eyes are shifting right and left, cripes, he’s going to try and run.
He stands and bolts, well, a two step bolt, Susan’s steel toe introduces itself to his nose and he’s back on the couch, blood drips.
‘She bromuhnos,’ hard to speak clearly, looks like she got a couple of teeth as well.
‘Gerry, look at me,’ he looks up, a tooth dribbles from his lower lip, ‘that didn’t have to happen, you got shit scared and it did, too bad. I have an infinite capacity not to care what happens to insecure assholes. Here’s how this goes, you will forget the existence of a sister, you will drop out of Gloria’s life. My friend here took photos, the exterior of the house, the interior, capped by photos of sis-in-a-cage. Screw up, it goes viral, you know viral? It means the whole world.’

Twenty Four

We didn’t actually photograph anything, let Gerald think we did. We aren’t the legal system, and the complexities of the brother-sister thing muddies the water. Cornelia admits going along, she didn’t quite confess to being happy with it, but that’s relative, she wasn’t unhappy until she was made captive.
We also have no quarrel with incest, it happens. Incest is when two biologically related people have sex; the concern, or moral prohibition, has mostly to do with cranking out idiot babies. Lesbian sisters, or mother daughter playtime have no particular consequences if it’s consensual. If there’s protection, male female incest is the same; clearly, making babies has an ugly downside. Any non-consensual incest, or between an adult and a child, is rape. We are more flexible in our definition of child, the idea that a fourteen or fifteen year old can’t consent to sex is ridiculous. Why, instead, don’t the moralists do something about twelve to sixteen year old girls and boys being pimped or prostituting themselves?
Thus a dilemma, Cornelia was fine with it, to a point. Breaking away is no different than breaking up any relationship, if one party won’t let go, that’s a problem, stalking, violence, imprisoning, aren’t acceptable.
But beating down brother beyond a busted nose seems extreme, we wouldn’t have smashed his face if he’d sat there and paid attention. Remove the sister, threaten the release of nonexistent photos, ask the anonymous contact to keep an eye on him if possible, and let it go. Oh well.
Susan and I chat with Zero outside the motel, we don’t want Cornelia to be a part of the discussion.
‘What do you think?’
Zero, ‘I had more time to listen to her. She’s not an idiot, she is slow and appears submissive.’
‘Appears?’
‘I suspect it’s something between actual and act, submissive is how people appear when they comply to almost any suggestion, order or request. Some people like humiliation, others simply don’t have the will or the smarts to do anything else. My uninformed guess is that Cornelia is in the middle.’
Susan, ‘Zero has seen me at home with my friends and with Janah and Daphne. I fall into the humiliation category. I don’t want to be yelled at or whipped, I do like the titillation of….what do I call it?’
Zero, ‘Psychological submission and humiliation.’
Susan blushes but smiles, ‘Yes. Starting when Daphne was eight or so, she never asked me to do things, she told me. Back then it was our default mode, I told her, she told me, not in any domineering way, we just skipped the please and thank you. Janah and Daphne could communicate with mentally around age eight. When Janah came along in person, both girls were twelve, she already knew about our communication style, she adopted the same style with us. She and her parents had moved to the condo upstairs from ours. Daphne and I didn’t much dress at home, a t-shirt, socks, I wore a short silk robe or a chemise which didn’t hide much. Janah would come from her place wearing something similar, short shirt, chemise. She’d catch me…looking. One day she came nude. She took pleasure in teasing the crap out of me. When Janah went home, Daphne would find me in bed pleasuring myself.’
‘She knew why?’
‘She’d grin, tell me she got off thinking about Janah as well, we even laughed about it. It worked for us, Janah admits to exhibitionist tendencies, I admit to a minor obsession with young girls. Never did anything, but I wanted to.’
‘Daphne’s gorgeous, you are her near twin.’
Susan bites her lip, ‘Yes, she is.’
‘She’s inherited your personality as well.’
‘She’s not as bad as me on the submissive scale, but yes, particularly with Janah. The difference is Janah doesn’t humiliate her, only expects compliance, obedience is a better word. Janah doesn’t mind humiliating me in the least, she read me right off, knew it made me squirmy. Time passed, Janah and Daphne went to the temple to live, I knew Lacy already, Taylor came along later. Lacy took over where Janah left off, Taylor jumped in too. I became a willing servant, for them I had to be nude all the time. Serving drinks nude while everyone else is dressed, even if just lightly…’
Zero, ‘Feels powerless, vulnerable.’
‘Yes, got me flushed and tingly, still does. It gives them permission to touch, fondle, grope, I’m a professional fondlette. Just confessing has me warm.’
‘The girls at Janah’s know of course.’
‘I like that too, they call me the slave, Janah’s bitch, Daphne’s doormat, Amaya says my name should be Submissa.’
Zero, ‘Doesn’t keep several of them from jumping you.’
‘No, they don’t smirk or tease to be mean, they do it because I respond, blush, look at the floor, bite my lip, they know it gets me off.’  
Zero, ‘I’ll sizzle you later.’
Susan, ‘Promise?’
‘If you grovel, it will happens sooner rather than later.’
‘So, now that we’ve established what everyone knows, what about the girl?’
Susan, ‘We can get her set up elsewhere, it isn’t like she has a career here. Ask her where she wants to go, if she wants to finish school and get a job, or just get a job, or perhaps consider college after she’s caught up. Money isn’t an issue.’
‘No, but she knows who we are, sort of.’
Zero, ‘She doesn’t know names, or where we live. They way Janah’s people handle it she won’t know any Janah or Daphne, somebody will come along and drive her to a new town, someone else will arrange an apartment, get a used car, give her starter capital. If, as I think, she’s slow, perhaps a relatively simple job.’
As close to settled as we can get, Zero and Susan go in the room to talk to her, I find coffee and wait. An hour later they come out.
Zero, ‘I’ll talk to Janah, she’s delighted to have help moving, finding a job, to the extent she knows what she wants, that’s good with her. Anything is better than a chain link cage. Let’s find a better hotel, something near a supermarket, give her a bit of cash, it will do for a few days until people can put the other parts in place. I asked if she can drive, she can, one minor hurdle eliminated.’
‘Good, but we need to get to some other city, Taos isn’t huge, if Gerald goes off the reservation we could have another problem. Santa Fe is seventy miles south, much bigger city, easy to find a hotel near shopping. Then we find another hotel for tonight and get a flight in the morning.’
Simple enough. For the ride down the woman is quiet, she’s in the back row with Susan, occasional quiet talking but I’m not paying attention.
Zero, ‘Take the next exit, left, down a few blocks is the Olé Inn, I’ll get her checked in, you have cash?’
I always carry about a thousand, seldom use it, it’s a card world, I give it to Zero.
‘More than enough, here, keep five hundred, she’ll get money when the people show up to relocate her.’
They go in, Cornelia brought a few things from the house, enough to change into something clean for two days. The hotel is next to an open air mall, which includes a supermarket, give her something to do besides sit in the room watching TV.
Zero returns in fifteen, ‘She’s practically beaming, low beam but a beam. Was most appreciative, even hugged me. She’ll be okay now, if anyone is made for an invisible quiet life, it’s Cornelia. Now, let me see…, back to the interstate, continue south five miles, exit forty two, then right, look for a giant sombrero, seems politically incorrect but that’s the name, Sombrero Suites, there’s a steakhouse next door, let’s eat out and skip the market.’
A good plan. We check in, two bed suite, shower is refreshing, clean clothes equally refreshing, then to the restaurant. 

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