Seventy Three

I’ll gloss over the details of last night, suffice it to say…, no, not say, it would only be diminished by cliché.
Sprite is up with Zero, it’s not particularly early, eight thirty, twins come from their bedroom. CC still lingers in my room, our morning rattling will get her moving.
Zero asks the girl, ‘Any questions?’
She’s sipping cranberry juice I got for last evening’s vodka, ‘What happens now, you said I don’t ever have to go back there?’
‘Right. Today we’re flying home, we live on the other side of the country. You can think over how it feels to be with us over the next few days. If you wish, you are welcome to live with us. You don’t have to decide now.’
Geez, a real smile.
Girl, ‘Okay,’ another sip of juice.
‘Good, and if you have more questions, ask.’
‘My mother and that man didn’t like me to ask questions, they hit me.’
‘You will never see those people again, and nobody here is ever going to hit you.’
Another smile, ‘Okay.’
‘We need to pack it up, there will be food on the plane.’
CC gets up, heads to the bathroom, comes along in a few, ‘Time for coffee?’
I hand her a cup.
We didn’t take much out, simple to throw stuff in luggage and get moving. The airline will deal with the rental car, luggage in the cargo hold, up the steps, takeoff. 
The girl is all eyes. Since she’s never flown, she doesn’t know the turmoil of commercial airports, and there’s all the neat stuff on our plane. Movies, food, soda, an internet connection. I see her talking with Zero, if she’s worried about the flight she doesn’t show it, genuine smiles are not compatible with fear.
For now, the others leave the girl to chat with Zero, then a kid movie about a fish. Seems better to have her occupied with that than peppering her with questions.
I read one of my junk detective novels, the twins are playing chess on a tablet. CC is in the seat next to mine. Unfortunately she’s in jeans, skinny jeans to be sure, but not the same as her butt hugging shorts. Fortunately she’s in jeans, if she’d worn shorts the pilot might hijack us to someplace horrible, like Disneyland.
CC, ‘Bit of adventure yesterday, we’ve never had to deal with two while spiriting away a kid. Lucky he didn’t try and use her as a shield, like those endlessly repeated scenes where the bad guy holds a gun to the victim’s head threatening to shoot.’
‘They see a girl that looks twelve, can’t comprehend that you’re a threat. You didn’t show a gun and he didn’t see the blade. The meth’d up woman recovered faster than she would have normally. Something to remember if we deal with hopheads in the future.’
‘You okay with the new addition?’
‘Sure, she gets four nannies and me, for whatever I can do.’
‘Just being with a man who, rather than rape her, will respect her. Still, she may be tentative with you at first.’
‘I’ll stay more in the background. Strangely, she seems happy in spite of her experience. She too young for it to be fake.’
‘From her perspective, someone has fed, bathed, and put her in a cozy, clean bed. It must feel like heaven to her.’
We land, my Mercedes SUV, a Bankruptor, is waiting. I let Zero drive, she knows more about the car than I do. I’m in the passenger, the others in the second row, which is obvious, where else would they ride? 
(As an author, I’m constantly having to decide how much detail is enough versus just becoming page filler. As I’ve mentioned, I read pulp fiction, I don’t really care how the woman was dressed, down to her Jimmy Choos, or what’s on every wall of a room, no matter how colorfully the author has painted the scene.)
Home, Zero shows the girl around, I tell Nikita to leave the guns in the case and put the case in the storage vault while the girl is upstairs. 
They deal with luggage and laundry, Zero comes down from their bedroom.
‘Don’t worry about another bed, she’s so slight I doubt we’ll notice. She’s not going to ask to be relocated, I talked with her enough to know she’s happy to be out of it.’
‘She tell you that?’
‘Didn’t have to, she radiates joy, her aura was weak when I got her, lacked color, gray clouds. After last night and today, the sun is peeking out. We will need another room, bath, not the size of ours, but space enough for a growing girl.’
‘I’ll call the contractor and architect. And she needs a name, then I can get a birth certificate, eventually a passport.’
‘We’ll home school her, she’s only five, she’s not sure, it wasn’t like 
meth-mom was having birthday parties. And due to dicey nutrition, she may be older than she looks, but she’s not past six in any case.’
‘There is room on the roof, reinforced before we built up there, adding another room and bath won’t affect the structure.’
‘Give it a connecting door to ours, she’s going to need access to the stairs. I suppose we lose our rooftop patio.’
‘I’ll extend the outside staircase, your current roof can be your new patio.’
The girl comes over from the couch, ‘What’s the thing outside?’
Zero, ‘A trampoline, it’s fun, want to try?’
The twins come down, Nikita, ‘We are going to haf exercise on trampoline.’
Zero, ‘Perfect, she wants to see how it works.’
CC, ‘You’re a brand new girl now, and you get to choose a brand new name.’
A smile, ‘I can decide, really?’
‘Really. After you play, we can go through a list, or you can make one up, how about Miggleplix?’
An actual giggle, ‘You’re funny.’
‘I’m a laugh a minute little one, how about Nozzle, or Acrimony?’
More giggles, ‘Nobody is named Nozzle or Acri…what is it?’
‘Acrimony, but it doesn’t suit you, it means anger or bitterness, you aren’t either.’
They go out to bounce, I take the opportunity to put away the guns. She’ll know we own them eventually, she doesn’t need to know now.
It’s an hour and a half before they reappear, clearly ready for a stretch of nothing. The little one is beaming.
Zero, ‘All girls upstairs for showers, we’ll stink up the place if we don’t get power washed.’
‘Leave the clothes in the laundry room, I’ll get things started. And we won’t cook tonight, I’ll get pizza, or chicken or Chinese, any preference?’
I see Zero lean over and whisper to the girl, then she says, ‘Fried chicken, she was always getting cold pizza…before.’
They go in the garage/laundry room, come out naked, they just took off their clothes, how else would they come out? If the girl is ambivalent about me potentially seeing her nude, she doesn’t act like it. I turn to the sink anyway, fiddle with cups until they’re upstairs.
Load in the washer, Zero got a big one, commercial, four girls and me, now a fifth, fair amount of laundry. Towels, hand towels, sheets, pillowcases, on top of clothes. I separate colors, wash them first, the few white things can wait until I do sheets. I get in the NSX and fetch dinner.
When I return, the perfections are on the couch or the cushiony mats on the floor, Zero’s collected an assortment of big throw pillows, most scattered around on the mat, one in each corner of the couch, one in the middle the sprite is leaning against. 
‘Fried, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, ice cream, rocky road, plain chocolate or vanilla bean. Cone or cup, even hot fudge if you wish.’
Zero, ‘We have a name Commandant, meet Zoe, z-o-e, no y, no little dots above the letter o.’
‘What are those, umlauts?’
Natasha, ‘Umlaut is German and the two dots, diaeresis, are placed differently depending on pronunciation. In German they are used to denote pronunciation of two vowels together, the diaeresis are over the first vowel since it is a diphthong indicating the two vowels are pronounced as a single sound. When the diaeresis is over the second vowel, it isn’t an umlaut, it indicates the two vowels are pronounced separately, like Zo-e. We aren’t using the diaeresis for simplicity’s sake.’
‘Most impressive Natasha, I doubt one out of a thousand people knows the difference, maybe if they speak German.’
Nikita, ‘Natasha haf all sort of things in head, she ees deekshunary girl.’
‘I got us sidetracked, welcome Zoe, beautiful name.’
Zoe, ‘CC said it means life.’
Zero, ‘And she will have a long one. Right now, wine to toast Zoe.’
I pour vodka shots, not for Zoe, she gets cranberry.
We do ‘To Zoe, To Life!’
Zoe’s smile lights our psycho hearts. She has violet eyes, I don’t think I’ve ever seen violet eyes and don’t know why I’m just noticing, but she’s been glued to the girls and I’ve been occupied.
‘Those eyes are amazing, captivating.’
Zero, ‘So we found, the beautiful girl with electric eyes.’
Zoe, ‘Nobody ever called me beautiful.’
Nikita, ‘You are, you will be famous fashion model or moovey starring girl. Good title already, Girl Wiz Electrical Eye.’
CC giggles, ‘Close, The Girl With Electric Eyes, she does have two.’
Nikita, ‘Da, electric eyes, ees better.’
Zoe, ‘Nikita is funny, except I can’t tell who is Nikita and who is Natasha.’
CC, ‘Natasha is quiet, and doesn’t have an accent.’
‘Why does Nikita have an accent?’
‘We love her accent, it’s charming, which she knows. The real reason is they can’t tell each other apart either.’
‘That’s silly.’
Zero, ‘CC loves silly.’
Zoe hops in CC’s lap, ‘Then I love silly too,’ CC kisses the glossy auburn, Zoe grins up at her.’
CC, ‘Princess Zoe the Adorable. And you must be hungry, Can you fix her something Commandant, I’m occupied.’

Seventy Four

We didn’t take any new work for two months, Zero replied to the inquiries saying traveling on business, out of the country, will contact on return.
We enjoy stalking and deleting abusers, but that list is endless, there’s no asshole shortage. The conflict resolutions don’t matter, they can find other murder mercenaries elsewhere, or they can wait. One thing we aren’t running out of is money, just dividends and interest on the accounts are far more than we spend, it keeps stacking up. I’d start a charitable foundation, hah, like I care enough, or at all.
During that time, Zoe is the center of attention for the girls, the sweetie has even warmed up to me. Center of attention doesn’t mean complimenting everything she does, it means paying attention. Zero makes sure she does a couple hours of simple math and reads from one or another book, out loud so girls can work with pronunciation and difficult words.
CC is turning her into a mini fashion plate, skirts and dresses, skinny jeans, tops, sneakers and a bit of jewelry lite. Got her ears pierced, now she sports little diamonds on her lobes, laminate bracelets and two platinum filigree rings. Her hands and feet are always mani’d and pedi’d, gorgeous auburn brushed to silky shiny. Too soon to tell about future height, when her feet start to grow disproportionately to the rest of her, we’ll have an idea.
I’m hardly sentimental, but when she asked if she could call me Dad I thought my heart would explode. Zero laughed at me, she knows me best, sometimes I think better than I do. Despite what people like to believe, they don’t know themselves, they are merely a conglomeration of biases and shift personalities depending on the situation. They’re one person at work, another at home, another with parents, another with friends, adrift on an ocean of thought that is neither complex nor complete. Add jumble of erratic hormones on top of that and it’s surprising they can remember their names.
Zoe isn’t beautiful in the beautiful child model sense, she’s not the Pimenova girl, with perfect features, alleged to be the most beautiful girl on the planet. I’ve seen photos, they have a point, like Zero, it’s hard to find a flaw in either face. 
Zoe, I think, only think because she’s so young, will be one of those girls that isn’t perfect in any one feature, but together they add up to stunning. We shall see.
The addition is complete, CC was restrained in the furniture and fixtures, it’s not a fairy princess palace. It is roomy, big walk in closet, the closet door is a full mirror on both sides. Super king bed, she gets lost in it, but our other beds are super kings and it keeps buying sheets and pillowcases simple, we don’t have to separate bedding laundry by bed, all white. She has a study desk, flat screen, her own laptop and another tablet.
The bath has a Jacuzzi and the shower stall is like the others, deep enough so that no curtain or door is necessary. Rainfall showerhead and a separate wand. Lots of white, no pink in sight.
So far, no repercussions from her former life. Zero pulls this off using the same methods I did with her and, subsequently, CC and the twins. Lots of structure, plenty of physical activity, study, she doesn’t have time to dwell on the bad old days. We never treat her as traumatized so she doesn’t act traumatized. She may not be the most beautiful girl on the planet, but she might be the happiest.
She calls Zero mommy, CC and the twins, her sisters. Resilient is an understatement.
Her magic has caused us to get out of the murder for money business. We continue to maintain the abuse site, it’s how we found Zoe after all, and Zero researches the most egregious sexual predators. What the system won’t fix, we will.
Zero slept with me last night. Before we got to fun, she said she found a snake. A child modeling photographer who couldn’t stick to legitimate photography, his sideline was photographing them nude. Just taking nude photos of children doesn’t rise to our standard of abuse.
This morning I’m reading what she uncovered. The photographer gained the trust of greedy parents, convincing them that he could bring along the child by having her, always a girl, spend the weekend with him. The assurance was an assistant, a woman who would be with the girl at all times. The pitch was he and his assistant would teach the girl poise, etiquette, how to move in elevated circles, make conversation, impress the important.
Why didn’t the girls speak up? Or did the parents of the select know exactly what was going on? It’s reminiscent of the Michael Jackson thing, parents deluded by fame and the attention of the famous, my son was a guest at Neverland. In this case, a bit of alcohol, a drug or two, girls likely didn’t remember what was done to them.
One might ask, hold up bubby, you have intimacies with twelve year old girls, what’s the difference between you and any other pervert?
I’ve addressed this before, but to readdress, Zero was never twelve really. She’s an ancient in a twelve year old disguise. CC was a child ‘escort’ for two or three years, Zero and I rescued her from that. Now, CC is immortal, with Zero’s help. I started with her, at her invitation, when she was fourteen in years, but hadn’t aged physically since she was twelve. From American society’s point of view, she was still underage. In other countries the age of consent is thirteen. Justification? Justify to whom exactly? Neither girl was drugged or coerced. Yes, they have a glass of wine, hardly intoxicated. And yes, the twins drink vodka, I don’t have intimate relations with them. They’re Russian, vodka is mother’s milk. In sum, I coerce nobody, don’t tell them what to do or when to do it, our outside activity excepted.
Our photographer’s ‘models’ were six to nine, and lured into child porn with the assistant. It’s not clear which kid got them the attention of the system, names withheld. It was difficult to prove anything, they had sex with a female, no sperm or vaginal tearing, not so much as a bruise. It seems the one girl started acting out sexually, opening her legs and inviting other kids and adults to lick her puss. The report didn’t say it that way, I think the phrase was inappropriate behavior.
The photographer and the assistant naturally denied everything, by the time a couple of other girls were tested any drugs were long flushed. No nude photographs or videos were ever located. With no hard evidence, the couple walked.
Zero, ‘Seems vague, and likely no point in our own surveillance, the two will tread carefully, at least for a while, may have moved elsewhere. I can try to track them, but they weren’t required to register as offenders, they weren’t even charged.’
‘See what you can find anyway. Moving isn’t a sign of guilt, their names got out, his modeling website disappeared. Two possibilities, we can stake out and see if any conversation between them reveals anything, we could torture them into confession, and a third possibility, get their equipment, it’s bound to be digital, maybe there’s remnants on the drive. Do you think it’s worth a shot?’
‘Aside from Zoe, it’s not like we’re doing anything. Suppose you and I do a sneaky and see what turns up, presuming I can find them.’
‘Get Natasha on it, she’s good at searches and hacks, between you and her, I’d be surprised if you can’t locate the pair.’

Seventy Five

Natasha finds them in a day. The moved, but they dropped utilities and internet service at the old location and started it again in a different state with, naturally, different carriers. They didn’t change their phone company and, rather stupidly, didn’t change phone numbers. They moved closer to us, by that I mean two states closer, our flight is only a bit over an hour. I ordered a full size sedan, two of us don’t need an SUV. They got us a Cadillac Enchilada, made in Mexico by little brown people. The seat belt reminder is the first line of Cielito Lindo, Zero says it means heavenly sweet one, or lovely sweetheart.
Ay, ay, ay, ay, every time I crank up the Caddy, now I want tacos.
Zero, ‘Get your head in the game Commandant. Get on the Macarena Expressway, six miles south, exit thirty two A.’
Out of nowhere the radio plays Macarena. A Spanish song about a woman named Macarena, a hit in the 90s. It’s catchy, but it’s the only song the radio plays, and it plays whether or not I actually turn the radio on. The only solution is to turn the volume down to mute.
Zero, ‘Maybe the girls will dance to it when we get home.’
‘We aren’t in Mexico.’
‘The car doesn’t know that.’
She accidentally hits the button that opens the glove box. It’s full of mini bottles of Jose Cuervo and Hornitos. 
Bizarre.
‘Are there any chalupas in there?’
‘Just drive, and look out for the border patrol.’
‘Sheesh, we’re five hundred miles from the border.’
‘And don’t speed, Paco.’
We find the hacienda in twenty minutes. The couple worked out of their home, maybe they do the same now. There’s a closed garage, no cars parked out front.
Zero directs the dish, we’re going to listen, if there’s anything to listen to.
Zero, ‘Lots of quiet, but someone is moving around in there.’
‘Maybe the other one is out, running errands, picking up tamales and cerveza.’
Zero giggles, ‘You have salsa on the brain. Feeling the urge to swim the Rio Grande?’
‘I’m already in America, nobody swims the other way, and I’m not Hispanic.’
‘You might set a precedent, Caucasians swimming to Mexico, like one of those desert festivals. I’m not sure how much rio is left, nor how grande it is. You might be able to wade through.’
‘Is that…yes, mamacita has returned,’ garage door rolls up, she’s driving a Peugeot Pedo, low to the ground, easier to toss a kid in if you’re lurking at the playground.
Zero, ‘You’re becoming as bizarre as CC.’
‘That’s a high bar.’
We listen to ordinary things people say when they return from the grocery. 
Woman, ‘I couldn’t find mole sauce, probably need to go to one of the spic stores.’
Man, ‘You can make it, got to be recipes on the net.’
Woman, ‘Chilies, chocolate, cinnamon and garlic, some other spices, I’d rather get it in a jar. Next time I’m out.’
Zero, ‘Boring.’
‘What do you do with mo-lay sauce?’
‘Dump on anything bland, like chicken, even scrambled eggs or omelets. But it can be used on any meat really, even shrimp.’
‘If it’s blessed by a priest, does it become Holy Mole?’
‘I swear you’re channeling CC.’
We sit, listen to the typical inanities of couples, not new couples, ones together for a while. The kind that say pretty much the same shit, having talked so much over the years the exchanges are predictable.
Zero, ‘I’m getting surveillance butt.’
‘I’ll mind the store, take a walk around the block, when you get back, I’ll go.’
Nothing much while she’s gone. When she returns I get out and stroll around. It’s a common ranch home neighborhood, most people off at work or kids in school. Nothing remarkable, houses dull, but maintained, the grass is cut, flower beds flower, Suburbia the Same.
I get back in, start to say something, Zero holds her hand up in the not now position, Woman, ‘We need to figure out what happens next. I’m getting stir crazy, the fantasies and our video collection helps a little.’
Man, ‘Yeah, I get it, you need the taste of youth on your tongue. I miss our sessions, you tongue lashing the tots, getting your pussy attended to by young Lolitas. She was, what, twelve in the book?’
‘My uppermost age, I prefer six to nine or ten. Or five, remember the one five year old? Fucking tender. We may have to resort to capture.’
‘That has advantages, we don’t need to return them, no parents to con. Frankly I don’t see the risk changing. If one of the girls remembers any details, or starts that stuff the kid did, sticking her little cunnie in everyone’s face, nearly got us a trip to prison. Picking up a cutie off the street, there’s another risk.’
‘I know, she’s not drugged and will remember things that happened up until we get the roofie in her.’
‘Like the car, like our faces. No, we gotta come up with something foolproof. What if we snatch one but don’t let her go? Keep her caged so to speak. I can train her, turn her into an obedient little gem. Get her young enough, she’ll Stockholm Syndrome in no time.’
‘And if we tire of her, she can always disappear.’
‘I can find buyers for a broken in ten year old.’
Zero, ‘I think we have enough. I’ll knock, get in, take them both and we can go home to Zoe.’
‘You think they just let you inside?’
‘I think if I lose everything but my t-shirt and shoes they’ll practically drag me in. You heard the woman, she’s like a junkie with no fix.’
‘Okay, but you have no weapon, no jacket, just a t-shirt. I’m going to be off to the side, you act like you’re high, disoriented, got the wrong house, like that.’
We get out, I let her lead and stay a few paces behind checking the street as we go. At the door, I stand to the side, Zero knocks. She’s in front of the peephole, swaying from side to side.
Man answers, I can’t see him, but I know he’s staring at his gift from heaven, the shirt barely covers the puss, long tight legs lighted from the interior room.
‘What’s the matter honey, you look out of it.’
Zero, ‘Wha…wha...this Jasper’s house?’ she stumbles against the jamb, giggles, ‘Jasper has my stash, he home?’
Got to credit the man for thinking on his feet, ‘Sure honey, he’s right in back, come on, I’ll take you.’
An arm reaches over her shoulder, he steps aside, ‘That’s it sweetie, right in here.’
Woman, ‘Wow, who is that little slice of cherry pie?’
‘She’s looking for Jasper,’ I can almost hear him wink, ‘he’s in back, right?’
‘Right, right along here baby, he’s in the shower, let me get you something to drink.’
Zero steps in further, the door starts to close, party time.
I push the door, the man is so focused on the magical gift it takes him a couple of seconds to figure out something’s blocking it.
The woman has an arm around Zero, dying to run her hand down over the curvy butt but not wanting to freak the girl, not just yet. The man looks at the door, there’s a big person holding it open. The big person steps in and shuts the door behind him.
‘Fuck are you?’
Zero turns, acts like she’s stumbling back towards me. She catches herself shoulder hits my chest. I feel her take the Glock from the back of my waistband, my Glock is in my hand, now pointed at the woman. Zero steps away and points her at the man.
Simultaneous soft pops, bodies simultaneously fall like cut trees and simultaneously thump on the carpeted floor.
‘You take the bedrooms, I’ll take the rest,’ we snap on gloves and get busy.
We’re looking for anything that could store data, laptop, tablet, phones, external drives, thumbs. I go through his pockets, take his wallet, find the woman’s purse and take her’s. Two phones are on the kitchen counter. Ten minutes later we’re out the door, got a laptop, two phones, three thumb drives and a standalone storage drive, no doubt encrypted. All in plastic grocery bags.
In the car, headed someplace other than this town, pickup the Interstate north.
Zero, ‘Encrypted drives are going to be a bitch.’
‘I found a small notebook in a desk where the laptop sat, maybe passwords are in there. We get in the computer, he’ll have a password file, everything takes a password, Netflix, Amazon, subscription sites like newspapers, even the phones if they’re locked. Only stupid people use the same password for everything, and even smart people tend to use things they think they’ll remember until they have so many they can’t keep it in their heads.’
She flips through the notebook, ‘Yeah, they’re partials, you know, Axxx1xxx, like that. Natasha and I will have fun trying the combinations. Puzzles requiring our superior intelligence.’
She’s joking, but not, their brain power is turbo charged.
Following our routine, we drive a couple hundred, it’s quarter to six when we get to a town with an executive airport. On the way she called our airline, flight in the morning at nine. 
Zero, ‘Just pull in to the first decent hotel, we don’t need a suite or kitchen.’
Run through the grocery first, no lunch, we need to eat. Go for simple, a roast chicken, beet salad, bottle of red.
‘You don’t want vodka?’
‘Bottle of wine seems adequate, did you want vodka?’
‘No, wine is fine.’
Checked in, give Zero the key card, she goes up, with a bag of electronics and the food. I follow in five with our bit of luggage, wine and the gun case. While I prep the dinner stuff, she texts CC our arrival time tomorrow. That’s all she needs, that we’re coming home means we’re done. No phone call, no Facetime, we can’t have Zoe asking questions and we can’t talk about where we are or what we did.
CC’s reply is a happy face.

Seventy Six

My evening goes splendidly. We shower together, just shower, no frolic, wash hair, dry and dress lite. Me in a lightweight shirt and slacks, Zero in zero.
‘How considerate, your outfit is my hands down favorite.’
‘And when we get in bed, it will be your hands on favorite. I’m warm from our adventure, not even going to work the codes tonight, it’ll keep until tomorrow.’ ‘You have me trained.’
She smiles her bad girl smile, ‘I do. Keep thinking those salacious thoughts, I want the fun stick hard and happy.’
‘You command, I obey.’
‘And isn’t it worth it,’ not a question.
My eyes roam the territory, ‘Priceless.’ 
We watch a movie curled together lengthwise on the couch, something forgettable so I forgot it. My hands occupied wandering over the so smooth sylph. Then to bed where Zero took out her passion on me, I must have serviced to her satisfaction, when we were through her third orgasm she was incoherent and if I could have spoken, it would have been babble.
Up early, caffeine heart jumpstart, then to the small airport where our ride is resting. Load and go.
It’s a short ninety, then we’re met by CC in the Bankruptor, she kisses Z, hugs me, hustles us home to the twins and Fairy Princess.
Zoe jumps into Zero’s open arms, big hug, gets her face coated with kisses. When she unwinds from Zero, I’m treated to a hug, she’s delightful, smiles and giggles, thin as a sheet of paper.
CC, ‘She eats like a starved cougar but is going up faster than going out. Nikita calls her a lollipop without the pop, just the stick, it makes her giggle.’
‘If she giggles any more she’s going to get hiccups.’
Zero, ‘Okay precious, mommy’s home, time to study. What do you want first, math or reading?’
Sly smile, ‘Trampoline?’
‘If you can do multiplication tables or read Dickens while you bounce, fine.’
‘Math first, can I do the money part?’
‘Sure, a hundred shares at twenty nine fifty is how much?’
‘Twenty nine hundred and fifty.’
‘Criminey, she’s not even seven yet. At six I was using my fingers.’
CC, ‘She’s smarter than you Commandant, smarter than me too. Fortunately for us, you’re a hunk and I’m hotter than a nuclear meltdown.’
‘I’m going to crank out five on the treadmill, you’ve inspired me.’
‘I am inspiration, the actual thing, I even inspire myself.’
Nikita, ‘Is that why you kiss mirror?’
‘Yes.’
Zoe laughs, ‘CC is funny.’
Zero, ‘Come on genius, up to your room, we’ll build a stock portfolio, then you can figure out how much money it will take to buy it.’
‘Can I pick the stocks?’
‘It’s your portfolio. We will track it every day and see if you make or lose.’
Zero follows our mini-mutual fund manager up the spiral, Natasha takes the electronics we lifted from our targets. CC and Nikita spar on the mat, which works for me, I can study them from the treadmill. With Zoe here, they wear clothes, leotards that fit like they were airbrushed. I take my inspiration where I find it.
Our day winds down, at least a far as afternoon tea, the twins hooked on Assam, a malty black tea, today the rest of us have Gunpowder Green, appropriate to our family of assassins.
I ask Zero, ‘The twins can communicate telepathically, you can read my mind, but that’s a one way street. You have any insight, observations, why can’t anyone do it?’
‘Anyone can, if they drop preconceptions. Spira wrote, Telepathy, synchronicity, and intuition are all examples of the normal boundaries of the waking state becoming relaxed and the boundaries between finite minds becoming correspondingly looser. I find that to be true.’
CC, ‘But how, are there mental exercises, sit for hours in meditation?’
‘That’s effort, effort restricts the mind, you can’t unrestrict by restricting. We are the screen of consciousness on which the movie of life plays. The screen makes no effort, it just is, this universe and all other universes arise and fall on the screen of consciousness, temporary movement on the unchanging screen of you, the real you, not the body in the mirror.’
‘Dang, you mean there’s an even better me? I find that difficult to conceptualize.’
Zoe giggles.
‘No better or worse, consciousness, the screen, doesn’t have opinions any more than a movie screen has opinions about the projections on it. You can’t think your way around this, consciousness has no rewards or punishments, there is nothing to gain, it is complete in itself.’
Nikita, ‘Sister ees read someplace that eef you talk about yourself in third peerson you may see what you do not see in first, ees call illeism.’
Zero, ‘Interesting yes I recall the word was coined by Coleridge, it’s Latin meaning he, that. I think novels are the author talking to herself using characters as a proxy.’
‘So a novel is autobiography?’
‘In some way it has to be. The author writes what she knows, either from her own experience, her fantasized experience or research she has conducted.’
‘Research wouldn’t be autobiographical, would it?’
‘Not always, but think of it this way. The author searches for information, but she searches from what she knows, believes, or wants, she can’t search for data or concepts she didn’t know.’
‘You’re back to limitation, tunnel vision.’
‘Yes, which is why so many novels, scripts for TV or movies, have versions of the same stuff. Hormonal teens, family dysfunction, with minor changes of essentially the same scenarios, bad cop, serial killer, passion, melancholy, guilt, revenge, the premises have all been written about before. The characters and times change, but the plots are all the same. My view is that all novels are plagiarism of Greek epics and Shakespeare. Authors don’t intend to copy, but it can’t be helped. Few people could read a truly original work, they wouldn’t understand it.’
Natasha, ‘So authors resort to tricks, like science fiction, where places and characters have strange names, but the underlying conflicts and their resolution are the same as ancient or contemporary literature.’
Zero, ‘Or they fill pages with descriptions, of things, of people, of places. None of which moves the story forward. In some cases, it may be necessary to create atmospherics, the alley was dark, damp and stank of rot, but there’s always a rat running along the wall, how original is that?’
CC, ‘Or teen scream flicks, stupid girl, smart girl, hot girl, boys who are either nerds or jocks, the woods or old houses full of one kind of slasher or another.’
‘Yes. It seems new to young people, they don’t know Freddy Krueger from Jason Voorhees. But the new slasher is essentially the old slasher.’
Nikita, ‘Who ees Freddy and Jason?’
‘See what I mean?’
CC taps her tablet, ‘Here we go, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, both made long before we were born, before Commandant was born. Maybe Zero saw them in one of her past lives.’
Zero, ‘Not recalling, I don’t remember much of anything about the journey through my slice of eternity.’
‘So which one of us is going to refer to themselves in the third?’
Zoe, ‘Zoe will, she thinks it might be fun.’
We all look at her, she’s six…we think, and she was absorbed with something on her tablet. I doubt any of us thought she was listening. Little pitchers.

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