Sixty Nine

Zero is reading the site message, ‘Target is female, thirty five, not married no children. A former Catholic nun, teacher at one of the schools, Our Lady of Hormonal Excess, all girls. Doesn’t say why she was put to pasture, never charged with anything, kiddie social media mentions witchcraft, an adolescent’s dream religion.’
CC, ‘Think she was bewitching high school girls?’
‘Kinda smells like teen spirit, luscious bits of youth in plaid skirts, waistlines rolled up to display as much leg as possible.’
‘My money is on a mad dad who thought Witchy turned his daughter into a lesbian. The unwashed still can’t grasp that lesbian isn’t a belief system, for all we know, Witchy matched up girls with boys and just enjoyed the performances. Doesn’t matter except as a curiosity, she’s dead, just doesn’t know it yet.’
Zero, ‘There’s no need for all of us to travel, girls are capable of being here alone, twins won’t travel separately anyway.’
CC, ‘I want to go, so do the twins, they like seeing different places, they like private flying, they like killing, in no particular order.’
Zero, ‘Commandant?’
‘I’m good with whatever girls decide. It occurred that you may want the place to yourselves for a couple of days.’
Nikita, ‘Sister ees best wiz all fahmahley, we will go.’
A small reveal, Natasha is quiet, not withdrawn, not introverted or self-contained. If she were, she wouldn’t care if family was there nor not.
‘Then book a flight, car, the usual, when the money shows in the bitcoin lockbox.’
She types in a message, now we wait to see if the inquiry is serious. 
Nobody wants lunch, we go to our workout routines of choice, I pound out five on the treadmill. I’m in sweats, cut off arms and pants above the knee. I don’t want to get overheated, sweat is good, dehydration isn’t. 
A show of amazing flexibility, young girls are like rubber bands, twisted up in positions that would dislocate my everything.
They go outside to trampoline, and they’re getting good, flips, back flips, double flips, twist in the air like a high dive. The twins synchronize like Cirque du Soleil. Matching jumps exactly, like a mirror. Then one flips forward, the other backward, takeoff and land at precisely the same moment. It’s fascinating to watch, they never speak, no gestures or signals as to what comes next.
Zero, ‘Truly one entity in two bodies.’
‘According to your ruminations, we’re all one entity, everyone everywhere.’
‘As flickers on the screen of consciousness, yes; as minds and bodies, there are multitudes.’
Her insights are above my pay grade, I’ll take her word for it.
Girls go upstairs to shower, I do my bit in the downstairs shower, dry and dress, I’m addicted to modal fiber pants and shirts. The pants are more like pajama pants in that they aren’t meant for wearing outside, there’s a small back pocket, no side pockets, no fly. The shirts are t-shirts, some with a crew, others with a v-neck. They are insanely comfortable.
The girls have their own collection, at home they don’t wear anything else but socks, the twins generally favor barefoot until the cold weather comes. Given the attention the four give to grooming, it’s not surprising the girls have elegant hands and lovely feet. No, I’m not a foot fetish guy, I just notice. No yellow leather stained soles; heels, toes and balls of feet pumiced, nails polished. A coven of gleeful conscience free girls grooming each other.
Who says psychopaths can’t share the love?
We fly off to do murder in a city a thousand miles east, not a major, not a mini, maybe two hundred thousand in and around the metro.
​We land and climb in the Nissan Solipsist, a vehicle loyal to no one, performs when it’s in the mood, questions weather or nor you exist. Carrying four devastating young sylphs, the Solipsist rises to the occasion, curvy young butts on its faux fabric seats give it focus, a sense of purpose, meaning. I can relate.
‘Where we going, Z?’
‘Take a left at the light, four miles, left again to highway 229-b, take the second exit, north on state road 13, past the Black Kat Bar and Grille, then…’
‘Hold up navigator, I don’t have your perfect memory, pick it up when we get to the cat thing.’
‘Black Kat, with a k, next door to the Stank Ho Gentlemen’s Klub, with a k.’
‘Jesus, with a J.’
Nikita, ‘Why ees men pay money to watch girl streep?’
CC, ‘Cause they’re too fat and ugly to actually fuck. Probably get hand jobs in the private area, eeewww.’
‘You play wiz Commandant.’
‘Commandant is squeaky clean, has the body of a God, hair only on his head, brushes the crap out of his teeth, even his boy thing is perfectly smooth, straight, and most important, circumcised.’
‘Why ees cut off top cover?’
‘It’s more sanitary, I want the mushroom visible, not hidden under a flap of skin.’
Zero, ‘There’s the Black Kat, three more miles to the turn off for Witchy.’
‘There really is a strip club called the Stank Ho. Wonder why they call it that?’
CC, ‘Lowers expectations. Besides, the men who go have no self-esteem, they could call it the Chlamydia Klub, with a k, and the chubs would still show up.’
CC is bizarre, in a most entertaining way. She’s entertaining me this very moment, in the passenger with one elegant slick leg crossed over the other. Most compassionate of her to wear snug little white shorts, bringing joy to all fortunate enough to be in her presence. Not sure where she’s going to carry her Glock.
Zero, ‘Take the dirt road, pay attention to something besides CC’s legs.’
‘He has priorities, if I’m not a priority, nothing is.’
‘Next time I’m going to dress you in baggy jeans and a head scarf. Pull over Commandant, see the house across the field, that’s Witchy.’
‘She works from home, right, website that sells magic dust, crystals, Wicca junk?’
‘We can see if she’s foretold our visit, or has spells to fend off assassins.’
‘Two cars, she’s single, must have a visitor.’
'The red one is hers, Saab Molester, decelerates when passing schoolyards, playgrounds and soccer fields, may overheat in the presence of girl scouts.'
‘CC, use the binoculars, Nikita, Natasha, one of you creep up on the right, the other on the left, text us what you see.’
They slip out, the place is surrounded by trees and shrubs, all the better for dancing naked in the moonlight. In fact, one area to the left has a clearing with stumps to sit on, and a fire pit. Do witches make s’mores at the end, before or after they’ve sacrificed the virgin?
The twins are at each front corner, working their way to the rear.
Zero, ‘Text says,’ she giggles, ‘get this, there’s a priest on his knees, she’s whacking him with a whip.’
‘How can she tell it’s a priest?’
‘Don’t know, maybe he left his collar on.’
CC, ‘Tell her to take video, I might learn something new, Commandant, you up for a taste of the lash?’
‘Too much like marriage.’
Text, priest getting dressed.
‘No point to a video then, can I interview her before we resolve the conflict?’
‘We get paid to kill, not get involved. You can search the house once she’s down.’
Father Flagellate appears, must not have been too bad, he can walk upright. He gets in the sedan, a vanilla Acura Altar Boy, you can imagine what the back end looks like. License plate, LUVCHLD. It cranks, he drives off.
I drive the Solipsist out from behind the shrubs, down her drive, park in front of the house. As we get out, there’s the familiar soft pop. The Wicked Witch is dead. I briefly wonder if we should charge more for witches, mystics, fortune tellers, Voodoo Mambas, or Gypsy Queens. 
Inside, Witchy is sprawled on the carpet, clean kill, no blood except a dribble from the entry wound in the back of her skull.
Nikita, ‘Sister makes gud shot. I got her attention, sister got her dead, we are best keeling sisters.’
Zero, ‘The very best angels, now let’s dig into closets, take the laptop and phone, I’ll crack them later.’
CC, ‘What are we looking for?’
‘Ex-nun witch stuff, or anything else interesting. Gloves on, we were never here.’
The place isn’t huge, maybe sixteen hundred square feet, bedroom, kitchen-living, bathroom. The bedroom closet has a stock of dominatrix lite, handcuffs, rope with soft cushion wrist restraints, ball gag, blindfolds, silk whip she was using on the priest, riding crop, pair of thigh high leather boots with a five inch heel.
Back in the living area, body remains comfortably expired on the floor.
Zero, ‘Looks more like fun stuff than any serious dom, no rings bolted into a wall to hold up a body, whoever wanted her dead didn’t pay fifty thousand because she hit him too hard with a riding crop. We do more damage to each other sparring.’
‘Let’s go before someone shows, you can check the laptop at the hotel.’
‘Want me to book a return for tonight?’
‘No, we could but I don’t like flying back from the same airport on the same day, my paranoia perhaps, but that’s how it is.’
‘There’s a municipal airport a hundred twenty down the interstate, let CC drive, I’ll make arrangements while we ride. Natasha, see if you can get into the laptop, the phone doesn’t require a password, I didn’t check the computer.’


When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose. 
So steal something already, life is boring without risk..

After a grocery run, I collect the key card from the clerk at Hotel Dépêche, dépêche is French for dispatch, what that has to do with a hotel is unclear, but the place is first rate. We dispatch targets, maybe the hotel is full of assassins. Our suite has a full kitchen with one bedroom and bath and a connecting room. One of our standard travel dinners, couple buckets of crispy fried chicken, quart of coleslaw, wine, vodka of course. After showering off the death, we gather around the dining table, Zero pours vodka shots for the twins, my regular over crushed ice, wine for CC and her.
Natasha had gotten into the laptop by guessing the password, solstice. A not too original witch, I’d guessed Halloween, even less original.
Zero is reviewing photos and video.
‘She must have had cooperation to take pictures and video, there were no secret cams in the place, I looked. It’s obvious these were done with her phone and downloaded to the laptop. I can hear people commenting, encouraging the kids with praise’
CC, ‘She’s got a few kids on here, no shots of physical abuse, just naked boys and girls, but it’s her house, she didn’t make any attempt to disguise the location.’
‘Who turns their kids over to a de-frocked nun that’s into witchcraft?’
‘Other members of the coven.’
‘Are the kids doing anything? I mean sex things?’
‘Yeah, same sex kissing, not just lips, she seems to get off on little boys sucking little boys and little girls licking little girls. If the girls and boys mixed, it’s not on the collection she has here.’
‘We have a dominatrix lite, who’s into witchcraft and child homosexuality. How many kids, can you tell?’
‘Half a dozen, no, eight, four of each. Appears five or six to eight years.’
‘She’s not participating?’
‘There were adult voices over the kids, likely didn’t want themselves on camera. No sign that the children were involved in the semi-sadism, must have been for adults only. I’m deleting this stuff unless you have a reason to keep it.’
‘None, wipe it, then destroy the drive, nothing left on the phone?’
‘Nope, I’ll flush the sim card and crush the phone.’
Nothing more we can do, we were hired to take out the woman. If other parents want to dance naked in the moonlight, chant and watch their kids diddle each other, it’s not our problem. Zero said the children weren’t being coerced, at least not on the video, they were laughing and giggling, looking into the camera and smiling. There was no reluctance, they went at it enthusiastically, no pouting, no tears, not even a blank look of confusion or withdrawal.
I serve the chicken and coleslaw, while we eat Nikita asks Zero to expand on her recent observations on consciousness.
‘Rupert Spira wrote in The Nature of Consciousness neither mind nor matter has its own separately existing, independent reality; both are temporary, finite modulations of infinite consciousness.’
Nikita, ‘How ees possible, I see Natasha, you, CC, Commandant, they are not real?’
‘We, as bodies and minds, are real manifestations of consciousness, as is everything we see, hear, smell, taste, touch. Nothing is real without the backdrop of eternal, infinite consciousness. Our imaginings and manifestations are temporary. The temporary is not ultimate reality.’
‘Natasha reads of these things in the books you buy, Nisargadatta, Krishnamurti, Spira, even Jung, the red book.’
‘Liber Novus, Latin for New Book. He had visions after he broke with Freud and took time away from his medical and psychological practice. Some say he had a psychotic break, that has been discounted as inaccurate. He even wrote an epilogue many years later, saying, to the superficial observer, the writings will appear like madness. Another time he said, who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.’
‘Sister says awakening brings compassion and love, eef you are awake, how ees you keel people?’
Zero grins, ‘I can’t argue with how others experience it, I’m not them. Perhaps the realization that we, and everything else, is the vibration of consciousness leads them to the kumbaya sense, we are all one. I interpret differently. A realized person has no obligation to society, she travels her own path, which may sometimes conform, and often not conform, to social expectations. Why would she conform? She is not of society. Society is corrupt, all conformity is corrupt, living a life according to made up rules is not freedom.’
‘Society thinks it is creating order, as opposed to chaos.’
Zero, ‘Yes Commandant, so they claim, but where, then, is the order? Life is chaotic, nature rules, not laws. They have to use force to gain compliance, everything from the threat of a traffic ticket to the government’s lies about spreading democracy. The alleged relationship only works because, like the animals, the nastiest beast rules, the rest fall in line. If they don’t they’re abandoned or killed.’
‘What then of good and evil?’
‘More made up constructs, be good, don’t be evil. See what happens, Google coined the phrase don’t be evil, then they started making money in vast gobs, don’t be evil was swiped left.’
‘Swiped…what am I missing?’
‘Tinder, originally you swipe left to reject, swipe right to accept, on Tinder it meant the photos and bio of the person being considered. It has come to mean accept or reject anything.’
Nikita, ‘Da, we swipe left targets, swipe right fahmahley.’
Laughter turns the heavy light.
‘I’ll clear up, somebody pick a movie, or do you want to read?’
‘There ees movie about cannibal Lecter, we watch already Quiet Lamb, this one ees before, how he became serial keeller cannibal peerson.’
None of us has seen it, girls refresh wine, I refresh vodka, we settle around the flat screen, my clean fetish has the girls covering the couch and chairs with spare blankets, I throw a spare sheet over the chair I’m going to park in. CC on one end of the couch, Zero the other, twin adorables stretched in between. Best that blanket has ever had it.
Nikita, ‘Moovey ees sad, starving Nazi soldiers eat little girl, Hannibal’s sister, who he adores.’
‘He was what, ten, twelve? Powerless to do anything.’
‘Sisters would keel all Nazi asshole peersons, they have to sleep sometime, we cut throat in the dark.’
‘No doubt, in this case, they are trying to show how Hannibal became the extreme psychopath he evolved into. Won’t work if he kills everyone halfway through.’
‘We will see how he takes revenge, first, break, pee, more wine.’

Seventy One

Zero is up before me, ‘Morning Z, sleep well?’
‘Always, it helps not to have a conscience, no regrets or recalled stupidities keep me awake and ruminating. Much the same with all the girls, we don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future, you must be the same, yes?’
‘Pretty much, we can shoot people we don’t know and never give it a moment’s thought. I don’t relive past encounters, the future means nothing; that may be because we’re stupid rich and don’t have to constantly worry about next month’s bills, or scheme about climbing the corporate ladder.’
She hands me a coffee, ‘CC and I found a crème brulée espresso grind, I added some to our regular medium roast. If we don’t care for it, I’ll toss it.’
‘I like it, what do you think?’
‘Give it a bit more exotic taste, like having a pastry with the coffee without the pastry.’
I smile, ‘Good analogy.’
CC comes down, today Zero is in a t-shirt, CC in nothing.
‘I decided you needed to get your hearts racing, start the day with a vision of me.’
‘Kind of you to think of our well being.’
‘I’m all about you guys, the twins, no sacrifice too great, my need to flaunt my succulence has nothing to do with it,’ she giggles.
Zero, ‘What about your need to stand in from of the mirror and kiss yourself while you finger your puss?’
‘Demonstrating my deep appreciation of flawless beauty. I notice two sets of eyes haven’t moved from me since I arrived, proving my point.’
‘What point?’
‘The point I just made, are you going to hoard the coffee or may I have a cup?’
She mounts a stool facing us, long legs extended to the floor, Zero bites her lower lip.
Having proved her point, CC grins and crosses one elegante over the other, why am I thinking in Spanish? I don’t speak Spanish, I don’t even like Spanish.
Zero hands her a cup, leans in for a kiss, ‘Feel free to remain unclothed the rest of the day, I promise to ogle, maybe even drool.’
‘Good girl, you too big boy, what’s in the coffee?’
‘Crème brulée flavored, just a bit.’
‘Ah, I forgot, you bought it yesterday. I had something else on my mind, me.’
Twins come down, present themselves to Zero and CC for double cheek kisses. 
‘Coffee or tea?’
Zero boils water, drops the bags in, passes the cups to the twins.
Nikita, ‘Do we haf any project on website?’
‘Nothing on conflict resolution, I didn’t check the abuse site yet.’
She takes one of the tablets, logs on, reads, ‘Some peerson says leetle girl, maybe four, ees always haf injury, burn, broken finger, cut on lip. She sees child in yard, panties only, no shoes, no top. Mother comes outside and yells, girl tries to hide. Message says she tried child welfare peerson, they say child is clumsy only. Ees bullsheeting. Also haf attachment, peecture of girl in yard, front of house ees a trash dump.’
CC, ‘We need to check this out before the kid is found buried in the backyard.’
‘Where is it?’
She taps, ‘Three hour flight, northeast.’
‘Want to go today?’
Zero, ‘I’ll book a flight. If we take off at noon, we can be at the site by five or so, two hour time zone difference.’
‘Pack us up, I’ll make scrambled and toast, have the airline include sandwiches, soft drinks and coffee.’
Day shoots by, it seems like we just ate breakfast and now we’re landing fifteen hundred miles from home.
The airline has our car, a GMC Prosaic, if any car lacks poetic beauty, this is it. It’s only claim to fame is that no one ever tries to steal one. Certain homeowner associations require members to buy one to discourage anything creative or interesting. The Prosaic is the favorite vehicle of guys who couldn’t get laid in a whorehouse. From a certain angle it resembles the hunched contortion of a dog taking a dump. Signs even say, Curb your Prosaic.
CC, ‘Commandant always draws the lamest cars, which is weird, at home he has a jet propelled pussy magnet.’
‘If I drive the NSX with four hot girls we’ll not only be memorable, we’ll be featured in Vice. Not the best way to hunt abusers. I want SUVs so plain they get delivered in brown paper tied with string.’
‘Mission accomplished.’
‘Where we going Zero?’
‘To a part of town where this may be the luxury vehicle in the hood.’
‘Get the listening doodad set up.’
Zero’s in the rear seat with the twins, ‘Done, find us a spot where we can spy undetected.’
‘Nikita, Natasha, hats, gloves and your phones. Creep around the house, if you see anything worth videoing, do it. I don’t think the messenger is lying, but whoever it is may be overreacting. We don’t kill people for sloppy parenting.’
I find a spot off street, not that it matters, there are cars parked everywhere.
Zero, ‘People buy more cars than they need, then live in this squalor. We’ve talked about it before, they can get car loans easier than home mortgages.’
‘It’s a bit of attempted self-respect, I’m not a total loser, see, I have a shiny pickup. Kids eat peanut butter and jelly, generic cereal, and can’t pay for their school lunch, but hey, they like pb&j and they don’t like the school lunch stuff anyway.’
Zero, ‘You sound like you used to live here.’
‘Army, I know the type.’
Twins get out and head to the house, it’s getting dark, twilight anyway, the time of day when colors disappear and everything outside is one or another shade of gray. They have a knack for stealth, and they can talk telepathically, watch each other’s back silently.
Zero tunes in the listening device, points the dish at the house. Doesn’t take long.
A woman’s voice, ‘Carmine, bring mommy a beer, and my cigarettes, and don’t take all fucking night.’
Male voice, ‘One for me too, MMA is about to start, gonna see some serious ass kick.’
We hear an announcer on the blaring TV, he’s introducing one of the fighters, then the other, muffled crowd noise, bunch of airheads wanting to see lots of blood, a broken arm or ankle is even better, particularly if the bone sticks out.
Zero, ‘I read that MMA is safer than boxing, more blood but less brain damage.’
‘We did some of that, you’re right, got lots of busted noses and dislocations, the professionals are not wimps, it’s hard training and harder fighting. Still, they can tap out before an elbow gets snapped.’
‘You introduced us to a version, even a hundred pound girl can put an opponent in an arm lock if she’s quick. Better to use a throat strike or take out an eyeball, which isn’t allowed in MMA. Our practice has made it second nature, poking our thumbs through an orange was a stroke of genius.’
‘If you can do that, you can gouge an eye, fighting a big man is not for the timid or the untrained.’
Male voice, ‘Come here Carmine, sit on daddy’s lap, watch the match.’
Little voice, ‘Can I go play in my room?’
Loud male voice, ‘Fucking Christ, what did I just say, cunt? Get over here…now!’
‘You aren’t my daddy.’
The slap comes through loud and clear, female voice, ‘You do what you’re told you little shit, Delroy is learnin’ you how to make money with that little pussy crack.’
Text from one of the twins, man pulls girl shirt off, she is naked, sitting on lap, he makes her drink beer…he spreads her legs, finger between legs
Zero, ‘The woman just sitting there?’
‘I guess.’
Woman’s voice, ‘Use the Vaseline, last time you made her bleed, iffin’ child welfare people come around and she’s got a torn up cunnie, we gonna lose our moneymaker.’
Text, we will kill now
I text a reply, not in front of the kid return to car
 The twins come back and get in, Nikita, ‘What now?’
‘I didn’t want to text the strategy, takes too long. CC is going to knock, you will be right and left of the door, out of sight, Zero too. CC, take out the man, don’t shoot, just drop him. Zero, go in and get the girl, when she’s out, terminate both. It isn’t perfect, try not to let the kid see much.’

Seventy Two

Don’t Dipshit…don’t even think about it

Sometimes plans play out, other times not.
CC knocks, mom comes to the door, not Delroy, ‘Whatcha wantin’ girl?’
‘You know those hot apple pie things they sell at McDonald’s? I want one of those.’
‘This look like a McDonald’s?’
CC smacks her in the throat with a knuckle punch, folded fingers at the middle knuckle, not a fist. Use it for a throat strike because it takes up less space than a full fist and hard knuckles on a soft throat makes a painful, even deadly, point.
Mom is jacked up on meth, her throat is damaged but the rest of her is wired. While she can’t speak, she can move, and she moves towards CC, arms flailing. CC takes a couple of glancing licks, in her hopped-up rage the woman has no control, Nikita steps alongside and clocks mom with the butt of her Glock. 
Zero looks to Natasha, 'Go around back, the noise will have put the man on alert.’
Natasha slips out, the three girls move past the lump on the floor and into the main room.
Delroy has dumped the child on the floor and is standing, facing CC and Nikita. Zero remains to one side out of sight of the man. He’s not particularly fearsome, not six two and two fifty, more like five eight and one fifty. He must own a gun, at the least a rifle or shotgun, it’s that kind of neighborhood, wherever it is, he isn’t armed now.
The thing that works for us is a simple misperception problem, people see and draw conclusions. He sees two girls that appear to be twelve or thirteen, he hasn’t seen their weapons, doesn’t feel particularly threatened.
‘Who the fuck are you?’
CC, ‘Pizza delivery? FedEx? Jehovah’s Whatnots? Elves? What would you like us to be?’
Delroy’s bulb is ten watts, ‘Fuck in hell you talkin’, where’s Maude?’
CC, ‘Maude? Who names their kid Maude? That’s child abuse. If Maude is a redhead with a meth habit, I passed her on the way in, she’s taking a nap.’
Nikita moves to the girl, ‘Get up, let’s take a walk, find you some clothes.’
She doesn’t know what’s going on, but she’s happy to be out of Delroy’s clutches. Nikita takes her as far as Zero, who picks her up and carries her outside to the Prosaic. She digs out a t-shirt from her luggage and slips it on the girl. They sit in the rear row, Zero holds her, she’s quiet, Zero can feel her tremble.
Inside, Delroy steps towards CC, he reaches for her, she slaps his hand away. Unfortunately for Del, she has her Folts Bowie in the slapping hand, held in proper fighting position, that is, cutting edge out, and the cutting edge on the Folts is like a surgical scalpel. She cuts through his palm, splits his hand from the middle of the palm then right through between the middle and ring finger. 
‘Won’t be raping children with that hand anytime soon.’
Delroy can’t process, he stares at his hand, he never saw the blade.
‘No point in wasting a bullet,’ she slices his carotid.
Blood spews over his Lazy Boy, on the TV one MMA fighter is prancing around the ring in victory, the other is being scraped off the mat. Delroy was looking for blood, he got it.
Natasha comes in the back door, he didn’t try for a rear escape, victim of the illusion that twelve year old girls are sugar, spice, and everything nice.
Meth-head Maude has awakened, she comes charging in and grabs Nikita from behind, wrapping her arms around, attempting to throw her. Maude has been watching too much MMA, this is a tag-team event, not singles. Nikita refuses to be lifted, as if she somehow made herself weigh a thousand pounds. Maude strains, despite meth and mean, she can’t move the girl. Nikita rolls backwards, more like jumps and back flips, Maude’s head hits the carpet, loses her grip, Nikita is standing over her, Natasha inserts a nine between Maudie’s eyes.
CC, ‘Time to disappear darlings.’
The three climb in the Prosaic, beat a hasty out of the lower classes just in time, I was starting to think about buying a pickup and a bass boat. The things is, you can’t elevate the masses, you can only be dragged down with them, something in the air, a virus that kills intelligence. 
We didn’t get around to a hotel room, I keep driving, find the interstate, head south. 
‘Zero, has she eaten recently, she looks drawn and drained.’
‘No, and it’s getting late, for her anyway. Stop at a fastie, we can get dinner on the fly. I’ll find a hotel along the way.’
Nikita, ‘I will look, you haf child.’
I order a half dozen hamburgers, standard, tomato, pickle, ketchup only. If the kid doesn’t like something Zero can pick it off. Five orders of large fries, six Cokes, Diet. CC wants the apple pie thing, I get five more.
‘What made you think of the hot apple pie?’
Nikita, ‘Woman asked CC what she wanted.’
‘Ah, and CC said a hot apple pie, unrelated answers confuse, a confused target is easier to deal with. Is she eating?’
Zero, ‘Like a wolf with a deer carcass. I’m watching, she’s been semi-starved. I won’t let her go too fast or too much.’
CC, ‘We need another room Commandant?’
She’s not asking about the hotel.
‘Up to Zero.’
Nikita, ‘Hundred ten miles, Smoke Hotel, two bed, two bath, no full kitchen but we are leaving tomorrow right?’
‘Right, speaking of which…’
‘I will arrange plane after hotel.’
The rest of the ride is quiet, the girl is asleep, our fast dine done. As we near the hotel, I find a market, bottle of red, vodka, ice. 
CC looks around the room, ‘Smoke Hotel, all rooms nonsmoking, must throw off the NASCAR crowd, or the people who frequent gun shows, rodeos, monster truck rallies, and wrestling matches.’
‘They voted for the sad fat clown psycho we have for a President, fuck ‘em.’
‘There are children present.’
I look over to Zero with the girl, she’s brought new meaning to asleep, ‘I doubt I can pollute her even when she’s awake, look who we took her from.’
‘I concede, you are correct-o mon Commandant.’
‘Get things settled, I’ll have the wine poured, Nikita, do you and sister want a vodka shot? I’ll have to chill it with crushed ice.’
‘Da,’ she goes off with the others to unpack a few things, just what they’ll wear tomorrow and toiletries.
When they return, without the child, we take our glasses over to the big couch, there’s a coffee table, I pull over the office style chair that’s under what passes for a desk.
‘She say much?’
‘Only asked, whispered, if she had to go back there. I said no way, earned a half grin, all the energy she could muster. She’s malnourished, that’s obvious, hard for her to even think. Underneath the skin and bones is a cutie, or a cutie to be, rich auburn hair, small spray of freckles across her nose. Give her a few weeks and she’ll be fine.’
‘After the asshole fingering her, and who knows what else?’
‘I was resilient, but I’m not…normal. CC was a high end escort at six, her only aftereffect is she’s a total slut, I consider that a positive; the twins were luckier, they didn’t have it easy but they had each other.’
‘We could send her to therapy, fuck her up royally, she could have a permanent excuse for bad behavior.’
Zero grins, ‘Cruel and unusual, it isn’t happening.’
‘Should I arrange an extension to the house?’
‘After we determine if her place is at our place or should we place her elsewhere. For the time being an extra twin bed upstairs, we can push it next to our super king until we decide.’
‘You have enough room for tonight?’
‘It’s two queen beds in our room, we can fit, or CC can sleep with you, there’s a king in there. Maybe you get lucky.’
CC, ‘It would be cruel to leave Commandant alone, he could get lost in a dream…no, wait, I am a dream, he can get lost in me.’
‘Thank you.’

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