‘We are living in the era of premeditation and the perfect crime. Our criminals are no longer helpless children who could plead love as their excuse. On the contrary, they are adults and they have the perfect alibi: philosophy, which can be used for any purpose - even for transforming murderers into judges.’
Albert Camus, The Rebel
Home again, short trip, we did learn more about Shadows, at least from one Shadow’s experience. We also introduced Zoe to the dark side.
The balance of the day is spent quietly, girls read, I do things that don’t require a lot of mental energy, change sheets, laundry, vacuum, scrub the shower in my bathroom. The girls take care of upstairs, on my random passes through their territory it’s always orderly and clean.
We ate on the plane, nobody wanted lunch, around three I lay on the bed and move to the zone between awake and asleep.
The bed wiggles slightly, then a body is next to mine. Zero.
‘The girls are upstairs napping, I thought we might relieve any leftover tension from the trip,’ I feel a soft hand on my cock, it does what fondled dicks do.
Zero slides over and down, her mouth replaces fingers, thought evaporates, now only sensation.
When she has me lubed to her satisfaction, she straddles and slides it in, I shiver, stare into Zero’s face, her eyes slits, tongue at the top corner of her lips. She moves slowly, her abs contract and release, ripples of muscle on her tummy.
She rolls off, I roll on, pleasure her with slow strokes until she’s frenzied, then pick up the pace, not the force. Her entire body tightens momentarily, then release. I’m rewarded with a low moan and shudders. CC comes down the stairs.
She climbs in, I move off Zero, then CC’s licking the soft and lapping up the creamy along with it. Zero huffs and goes off again.
CC kisses her way up the torso, licks Zero’s lips and inserts her tongue. I get up to refresh, I doubt they notice. Someone else notices, Zoe is standing halfway down the staircase, she’s nude.
After I’m done with ablutions, I slip on slacks and a shirt, return to the main room.
Zoe is between the girls; no, they aren’t doing anything sexual, CC is kissing freckles, Zoe giggling like mad. They ignore me, whispering, more giggles. I make black tea, the twins come down and sit on stools at the island counter.
Nikita looks over at the threesome, ‘Girls trying to make Zoe lazebian.’
‘You can’t make anyone lesbian, they is or they ain’t.’
Nikita steps over my comment, ‘Natasha ees fine, no swell, no red, she ees seesitive at injury only a leetle.’
‘Great, an infection would be troublesome.’
The three on the bed get up, CC and Zero go upstairs, Zoe comes to the island and climbs a stool, I hand her a cup of tea. She’s not shy, still clothing free, the twins are in only t-shirts that barely cover the lowers and don’t cover that when they sit.
Nobody is teasing, I’m not stirred, they simply don’t have inhibitions regarding bodies. I’ve adapted to the girls’ nonchalance regarding nudity, when either Zero or CC wants to engage, they make it plain, then I stir.
CC and Zero return in t-shirts and socks, CC has Zoe’s shirt, pulls it on, ‘Forgot socks.’
‘Zoe likes barefoot, she will trampoline now,’ hops off the stool and goes out the back door.
CC, ‘That girl would stay nude all day, and night.’
Zero laughs, ‘Said the girl that drops her clothes at the first opportunity.’
‘I am obliged to share my excellence, to inspire, to bring joy, bliss even.’
‘Fair enough, it works.’
‘Well yeah, seeing me, it is impossible to be unhappy.’
She has a point.
Nikita, ‘You are exhibiting girl, but you are anyway beautiful, sisters will enjoy later, then you will be also happy.’
CC turns to Zero, ‘See? If I’m happy, the universe is happy.’
Zero rolls her eyes, ‘No limit to your narcissism,’ her hand strokes CC’s thigh.
‘Limits are for losers.’
She has another point.
Zero, ‘We can return to hunting abusers, child rapists?’
‘Don’t see why not, Shadows are a challenge, it isn’t like they’re conveniently posted on the Shadow Offender Registry.’
‘We deal with them when we can, from a lucky sighting or like the recent bit, behavior strange enough to make the news.’
Nikita, ‘Sisters will return to murder for money, you do not haf to participate. Natasha will reopen website.’
I understand they are asking permission, if either Zero or I said no, they would drop it. But they’re asking for a reason, they need more kills, or maybe just want more kills, need, want, whatever.
Zero, ‘Go for it. If you think you need assistance, CC will go, particularly if it requires a distance kill.’
‘CC ees welcome, even if not long distance, sisters will keel target, CC will be handy for sex after.’
CC grins, ‘I’m good with that.’
Zero shakes her head, ‘Your self-infatuation and lust have no limits.’
‘To repeat myself, limits are for losers.’
Natasha pulls over a laptop, reopens the website, no point to adding an explanation why it went down then up a few months later. People searching for an assassin don’t ask a lot of questions.
‘CC, get the sprite in and cleaned up, she’s been pounding the trampoline for almost an hour and we need to put together dinner. She will want to help, I’m doing steaks on the grill, scalloped potatoes and creamed spinach.’
CC grins, ‘Yum, Third Person likes to grill, she’ll be all smiles.’
Nikita, ‘Zoe ees always smile, she ees most precious one.’
Our twins have feelings, limited to family, but they’re there.
Scruples are the death of action.
Whoever thinks about other people’s feelings is certain not to act.
Fernando Pessoa, The Education of a Stoic
It took a couple of weeks, then an inquiry appeared on the assassin site.
Nikita, ‘We haf project, someone wants judge out of the way. For a judge, we charge one hundred thousand. We Google him, he ees hardass, letter of law, always maximum sentence or death row.’
‘That might piss-off a few people, particularly if they believe the prisoner was innocent.’
‘Does not anyway matter, eef judge was most compassionate we would still take job.’
True, we don’t do morality, we do murder. We backed off the murder for hire thing because of Zoe. Now that she’s participated in the killing of a Shadow, that bit of child sensitivity is pointless. You didn’t expect a family of conscience-free psychos to offer lessons in ideals and society’s muddled morality…did you?
Zero and I decide not to revert to murder for hire, we have plenty of sad souls to process and we need not do anything for money, we’ll stick with pro bono murder.
I don’t know why the twins want a higher kill rate; too much psychology to contemplate. Humans tend to overcomplicate everything, right down to making a cup of coffee. Children can’t just go out and play, they have to be on a team, they can’t study matters of interest to them, instead force fed according to educator’s beliefs, taught not to challenge, question, just vomit up required answers to the questions, live according to a schedule, conform. Children are treated like geese, food shoved through a funnel until their liver practically explodes. For kids, facts and beliefs are funneled into their brains. In both cases, what’s produced is pâté, heavy, dense, and despite seasoning, all of it tastes the same.
In the words of Pessoa, ‘The Gods do to us what we do to animals and children.’
Which explains why nothing changes but things, never people.
Zero, ‘Did you get a reply, money in the bitcoin lockbox?’
‘When are you going?’
‘Tomorrow morning, sister ees researching social, judge haf personal website wiz history of rulings, ees an..um, sister, what ees pеклама?’
‘Da, advertising, he ees announce plan to run for governing.’
‘There will be rallies maybe, he’ll be open to the public, maybe a distance kill?’
‘CC will go wiz sniping rifle.’
‘Does she know she’s going?’
Zero, ‘The children are going out to play by themselves.’
Not exactly the children anymore. Zero and CC haven’t physically aged since they were twelve, CC was twelve sooner than Zero, so she’s technically two years older. Now Zero is fourteen and CC sixteen in years since birth. The twins waited until they were fourteen, maybe fifteen, birthdays are vague around here. Now they too are sixteen, just haven’t changed an inch up or out for the last year. As noted earlier in our story, the girls don’t age, but they mature intellectually, socially. CC is tall and languid, Zero is a couple inches shorter, and has more curvy muscle. Neither will ever need a bra, and even though the twins got to sixteen and topped out at five eleven, their breasts are apples, not melons.
‘Maybe Zero can find us an RSO to delete while you guys travel, nothing has shown up on the abuse site, although I haven’t checked it for a few days.’
Zero, ‘I check it every day, there was an inquiry this morning, the exploratory kind, is this site for real? Do you really help deal with abusers? I replied with the standard message, send details, will look into it. No reply yet. I’ll find a sex offender, they’re everywhere, nearly nine hundred thousand and counting.’
Zoe bounces down from upstairs, ‘What are we making for dinner Commandant?’
‘You trade today?’
‘Nothing came up, the market was flat. The best trades are when there’s more volatility.’
When I was eight I couldn’t spell volatility, never heard of it.
‘Bleu cheese burgers with tomato, pickle and onion. You can slice the tomato and onion, cover it and stick it in the refrigerator. I’ll fire up the grill, geez, it’s already seven, cocktails anyone?’
Zero, ‘I’ll do it, want nibbles?’
They decide to wait, burgers are filling and the girls refuse to gain weight, Zoe excluded, she’s still growing, and weed-like, based on her feet, she will be tall like the twins.
We do our bit, while enjoying wine, cocktails, and each other’s presence.
I hang with Zoe while she grills, uncover the big stand up fan that blows smoke away from us and into the yard. I like the scent of grilled beef, but don’t need smoke to stick my clothes and hair, call me prissy, real men stink of charcoal and grease.
Zoe, ‘That fan is a lifesaver, I can be smoke free,’ she squishes one of the burgers, done but not overdone, our crowd prefers the outside charred, inside to be reddish.
I hold the platter, she spatulas the burgers on. The grill has a timer, we let it run another ten minutes on melt steel, gets the grease turned to ash I can brush away later.
Zero, ‘Perfect job Zoe, you’re turning into a grill queen.’
‘Commandant got one of the best.’
‘Zero got one of the best, she bought it after her usual thorough research, I only found out when it was on the way.’
‘Zoe sees her looking up stuff all the time, shopping things.’
‘The internet makes shopping transparent. If I went to a store, I’d only see the grills they stock, the same for all our purchases, sheets, towels, the appliances.’
‘She was looking up electric toothbrushes one day, now Zoe has to brush a solid two minutes.’
‘You could turn it off.’
‘That would not be fair to her teeth, Zoe likes to be clean and shiny.’
CC, ‘How’s third person working out?’
‘Getting the hang of it, sometimes Zoe still uses I or me. Using third is like taking a step outside of herself.’
‘Who is the real Zoe?’
‘There is no real Zoe, a name is just a placeholder for the illusion of a person.’
I blink, what is this girl?
Zero, ‘Why I chose Zero, I almost went with Space, as in empty.’
I decide I’m living on another planet, in a galaxy circling around in an alternate universe.
The twins and CC go off to assassinate a judge four states to the northeast, Zero found one particularly egregious child rapist, liked to make sure his victims suffered. His idea of fun was sticking his dick in little boys. They got him on only one, another disappeared, two others were hospitalized, treated and released. Those parents refused cooperation due to publicity concerns.
The rapist was thought to have killed the disappeared boy, and while he had no solid alibi for the time the boy was abducted, there was no hard evidence it was him. Complicating matters was that no body was ever found. A deal, tell us where the body is and we’ll take that into account, wasn’t an alternative. If he confesses to the murder and directs them to the body he’s in worse trouble than getting tagged with kiddie rape. The cops had no playable cards, couldn’t even bluff.
At any rate, the rapist served his time and now walks the street, for a while, until we change his mobility to immobility.
The inquiry from the abuse site hasn’t responded with further information. Likely fear, it’s one thing to think about a vigilante swooping in to fix her problem, another to actually contact one with details of the abuse. If the abuser found out, thing could go from worse to terminal. They either gin up their courage or let him dominate her life, until he ends it anyway.
We decide to drive, it’s five hundred fifty miles, hardly worth opting for a private flight. Zero has us there by six thirty, checked in to the Hotel Pretentious, the logo a older woman peering through a lorgnette, nose upturned and a scowl on her wrinkled face.
Zoe giggles, ‘Funny glasses with a handle.’
‘A lorgnette, remember that, it will be on the test.’
‘Zero always asks Zoe about what she studied.’
‘And you always get it right, good memory.’
The suite is elegantly over-furnished, with a box of Godiva truffles, bottle of Dom on ice, smoked salmon and caviar in the refrigerator, bottle of Russian Standard in the freezer, table water crackers on a serving table with a can of mixed nuts.
‘You order all this stuff?’
Zero, ‘I asked for the vodka, the rest of it comes with the suite. Dinner will be delivered at seven thirty, grilled trout with meunière, Brabant potatoes, mixed greens and goddess dressing.’
‘Good, I’m for a shower. This is a nice alternative to the bag of fastie chicken sandwiches we got on the road.’
‘Zoe is hungry.’
Zero, ‘Let Commandant shower, then you and I will have ours. In the meantime, open the nuts, I’ll prep a salmon and caviar appetizer, we can have Champagne with it.’
Our refreshed selves sit at the mahogany dining table sipping Dom and plopping caviar on crackers, capers on the salmon.
I turn on the TV, a national news channel, after the daily recap of tension in the Middle East, those folks need to put Prozac in the water, at the least Valium.
Zoe, ‘Why can’t they figure out a way to get along?’
Zero, ‘If they wanted peace, they would be peaceful, but they don’t, they want only to obliterate their perceived enemies. Those tribes have been at war for the better part of two thousand years, eternal hatred kept alive by religious belief.’
‘Seems stupid to Zoe.’
‘It is colossally stupid, you remember what Pessoa said about stupidity in The Education of a Stoic?’
Zoe, ‘He said, the psychology of these people is beyond our grasp, but we’ve seen enough to conclude that stupidity is what predominates.’
‘There you go, smarty.’
Knock, room service, girls go to the bedroom, I get the door, sign the tab and give the guy an extra ten besides the auto-gratuity on the check, tell him I’ll take it in and ring when they can collect the cart. He goes away happy…I think, at the Hotel Pretentious, smiling is frowned on, the only behavior allowed staff is obsequious toadying.
The girls come out, Zoe uncovers and distributes the plates and utensils. I finish up my vodka, Zero pours more Champagne.
‘This is delicious, excellent meunière, the fish and potatoes hot, the salad properly chill.’
Zoe, ‘Are we going to watch a movie? I read the whole drive, enough reading for today.’
‘When we’re done with dinner, shuffle through the TV menu, play whatever you want.’
We wrap dinner, Zoe searches for entertainment, it’s pressing eight thirty, we aren’t a late night family, ten thirty usually finds us in bed, even asleep. The girls don’t have girl or boyfriends to text half the night about their dramas, which for teens are typically mundane. For that matter, adult texts are equally mundane, made more ridiculous by emoji or the little squiggles people make from the keyboard. ☺
I suppose mundane texts are better than murder….not really, murder is better.
Zoe has one of the endless NCIS episodes on. We laugh our way through the absurd characters, particularly the lab girl Abby in her ridiculous outfits, no woman alive keeps the identical hairstyle for fifteen years. Or the forty year old who never outgrew his college fraternity mindset, obsessed with every attractive woman he sees. The Israeli assassin has merit, ruthless and capable, pretty in an offhand way. The brightest spot for me was the character played by Emily Wickersham who took the Israeli’s place, gorgeous body. The darkest spots, the intro music which they are too cheap to change, and the military worship, although, to be fair, there are numerous plots with bad actors in the military, it isn’t all military glorification. NCIS is still the most watched TV series ever, sixteen seasons, three hundred seventy eight episodes. Mark Harmon, who play Gibbs, is allegedly worth a hundred million.
Enough with TV reviews, time to sleep.
I’m up with Zero, Zoe lingering in bed.
‘What’s the plan Commandant?’
‘I thought we’d take the target to lunch and ask him to please stop raping little boys.’
‘Then I shoot him?’
‘Or, since he’s going to be dead anyway, we skip the chat.’
‘The shortest distance between two points is a bullet.’
‘Get the sprite in gear.’
It’s a one bedroom suite, but with two queen beds. Zoe slept cuddled into Zero, I took the empty.
I have another coffee.
The girls appear, ‘Good morning Zoe, sleep well?’
‘Zoe always sleeps well, she has either Zero or CC to wrap her up.’
‘We’ll skip formal breakfast, instead pick up egg and whatever sandwiches from a fastie. Then we find our target. Take your stuff, we aren’t coming back here.’
He’s not hard to find, RSOs have to supply their address so neighbors can know there’s a predator in their midst. RSOs frequently move into enclaves of other RSOs. I don’t know the dynamics, some of these types were arrested for possession of child porn, others for fondling nieces, nephews or neighbor’s kids.
Others engaged in underage sex, we don’t care about twenty year old men having consensual sex with a sixteen year old girl. Yeah, I know, statutory rape. That’s a construct, a made up age-line in the sand. I could be charged with statutory rape for instance. In my case, cops would have to get a complaint, Zero and CC aren’t complaining, and they aren’t getting pregnant. While it’s true that they initiated, the court wouldn’t care, I’d be on the list.
My point is, we don’t know much about who might be acceptable in a pedophile enclave, but with nine hundred thousand of them out there, I’m sure there’s room for everyone someplace.
‘Zero, did you look up RSOs in our target’s neighborhood?’
‘One other within a three mile circle, that one was a twenty three year old convicted of playing hide the finger with a niece, I recall her being six or so. Not pretty, but hardly in the category of our target.’
‘So we don’t kill him as long as we’re here?’
‘There’s been no subsequent reports, no other arrest. I don’t have the whole story, I suppose the answer is no, death seems harsh for one time crappy behavior.’
We take the drive-thru at Burrito Blowout, egg, bacon, and potato burritos.
Zero, ‘These are quite good, not just a bit of egg, half slice of bacon and too much potato, appears to be equal amounts of each and the bacon is crisp, not half cooked.’
I take a bite, she’s right, they are good, a strip of chipotle sauce too, enough to taste, not so much as it runs all over the place. Blowout must be an independent, I’d never heard of it, there are none on our side of the country.
Zero, ‘To the interstate, three miles, exit B-15, then west for six.’
We get there as I slurp the last of my Coke Zero.
Not a shabby hood, or a trailer park, a standalone down a two lane shrouded by oaks. The drive in takes a turn left, house isn’t visible from the street, nothing next to or behind but trees.
‘That his car?’
‘Don’t know, and we need to be careful about the photo on the registry, these guys may change their appearance out of necessity. We’re looking for a tattoo on his upper arm, a hànzi, I don’t know of what, but it will look like a Chinese symbol.
He’s also big, six-six, shouldn’t be hard to spot.’
I’m thinking guy that size, presuming all the parts are proportionate, would have torn up those boys.
Zero hacked my brain, ‘I’m afraid you’re right.’
Zoe, ‘How can a man so big have sex with little boys?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Wouldn’t his penis be big, like the rest of him?’
‘Probable, and it would have been painful for his victims. Part of what he got off on, the cries, tears, screams are even better.’
‘Can Zoe shoot him?’
I start to ask if she’s up to it, then I realize that’s stupid, she wouldn’t have asked if she wasn’t.
‘Sure, take my Glock, we both brought the smaller ones, easy to conceal and deadly from the few feet we plan to use it,’ I take it from my holster and pass it over to her, curious to see if she remembers.
I watch her pull the slide, engage the slide catch, nothing in the chamber, release the slide catch, the bullet pops up from the magazine and into the chamber, ease the slide into place. Don’t chamber a round by sliding the bullet into the chamber first, let the gun do it from the magazine, that way it prevents undue wear on the hook inside the chamber. Then you can top off the magazine with an additional bullet.
While I watch an eight year old prepare for her first kill, Zero has been setting up and adjusting listening device. We’re not listening to collect data, he’s guilty and will be dead soon. We’re listening to see if anyone else is in there. If there is, who is he or she, are they child rapists, a friend who doesn’t know the target’s history, his mother?
We settle in to listen. I scan the windows with binoculars looking for movement,
Blinds are drawn on the windows we can see. No way to see the rear or far side without exposing ourselves.
We sit for an hour, nothing, not nothing, nothing, moving around noises, a door closing, dishes clatter, a vacuum runs briefly.
‘If there are two people in there, one of them is dead.’
Zero, ‘Come on Zoe, we can’t hang around all day. You stay behind me, I’m doing a sneak, see if we can find an open blind, even a crack along the side we can peek through. Commandant, I’ll text anything interesting.’
They slip out, Zero takes it tree to tree. We’re only forty or so yards away, she wants to get to the house without being spotted.
I see them cross the front, under the windows, turn right to the far side, I wait.
It’s only a few minutes, seems like an hour, a text, backyard come the way we came.
Must be important, but not an emergency, I scoot anyway, I’ve got a backup strapped to my ankle, but I don’t get the idea this is a firearms problem.
Halfway down the side, I see Zero and Zoe, backs to me, Zero’s standing, Zoe crouched, peering around the corner. There’s a yelp.
Zero and Zoe blast into the yard, I’m running full tilt…pop, pop, round the corner.
Zoe is kneeling next to a dog, a puppy for sure, but not a little one. Zero is kicking the target, testing to make sure he’s done. I walk up.
Two holes, one forehead, one neck, our rapist is staring at the sky. Zoe is cradling the dog, poor thing has a rope around her neck and about two feet of play, tied to a tree. She’s filthy, whining, in part because she’s no place to relieve herself but a tiny bit of ground. Dogs don’t wallow in their business, they aren’t pigs.
Zero’s blade cuts the rope, ‘Zoe, take the girl to the hose over there and clean her up, she won’t argue, they don’t like wearing their own waste,’ she looks at me, ‘sometimes I wish we could torture them, the dead fuck kicked the dog for being dirty, whose fault is that, the girl didn’t tie herself to the tree.’
‘He’s a sick fuck, hates, hated, himself and did what self-haters do, project their self-loathing on to someone or something else.’
I walk over and help Zoe rinse the dog, it’s not that bad, paws mostly, we rinse and scrub until the little, big, girl is clean.
Zero went inside and brought out towels, the pup gives herself a shake, then Zoe towels her dry.
‘Can you carry her?’
Zoe, ‘Watch,’ she picks up the animal like you might hold a baby, scratches her tummy, tail wags, a good sign.
I take a closer look, wrinkles, ‘You know what she is?’
Zoe shakes her head no, Zero says, ‘A Neapolitan Mastiff, this is not a mutt, she’s beautiful, reddish brown coat, our food bill is going up.’
Zoe, ‘Zoe can keep her?’
‘Of course, we can’t just leave the baby, we didn’t leave you did we?’
Zoe giggles, scratches the dog’s chest, ‘Zoe killed the man, nobody will ever hurt you again.’
As if she understands, the dog gives Zoe a lick and a humpff!
She puts the pup on the ground.
‘Be careful, we can’t be chasing her all over the place, we need to get gone.’
‘She’s not going anywhere, come on girl, come with Zoe.’
Damned if the dog doesn’t trot along behind her all the way to the car.
‘Zero, go with them, I’m doing a quickie through the house.’
I do a walk thru, spot a phone and a laptop, take them both, return to the car. Zero has driven it up to the front, I climb in, we’re gone.
A hundred miles on, Zero takes an exit, supermarket plainly visible from the highway. Zoe and Zero stay with the car and the dog, I go in, find a six pack of bottled water, plastic bowls, dry puppy food and chicken fingers from the deli, good enough for now.
When I return, the girls are just climbing back in the Mercedes, if we do two fifty or three hundred today, the drive in the morning will be another couple hundred, or we just press on to home.
Zero, ‘I put our license plate back on, tossed the one we stole.’
‘Good, if we had to hang around I’d have rented a car, our Mercedes isn’t that noticeable, but better to be cautious. Gloves dumped too?’
‘Of course, and we got the empty cartridges.’
I smile, girls got game.