Ninety Three

Home, Morshchiny lopes over, gets on her hind legs and sniffs Zero’s neck. Satisfied that Zero isn’t an alien terrorist, the mastiff turns her attention to me, big paws thunk my chest, I bend over so she can dig her snout in my neck. We’ve passed inspection, she trundles over to her bed and flops, duty done.
Zoe leaps in Zero’s arms, long hug and lots of kisses, I give her a double, one per soft cheek. Zoe follows Zero upstairs.
Nikita, ‘We haf seen news, some woman peerson haf child porn on computer, she ees dead. Police did not say anymore.’
‘They might put together the stalking complaint and visit the former girlfriend.’ ‘Not a problem, Zero messaged her on the website board before we left, told her to take a trip for a few days. She said she would, if she didn’t I hope she has a decent alibi.’
I check the site, a message, ‘Took my girl to Disney World. Kept hotel receipt and our flight details. We are so relieved, my stalker was making horrible threats. Thank you. One thing, she had child porn pictures and video, do you know that?’
I reply, ‘Yes,’ I start to write that her daughter wasn’t in them, but it occurs that I’ve never seen her daughter except in the Dyke’s collection and I wouldn’t have known it was the girl without Dyke telling me. So how would I know the kid wasn’t in the stuff? I do know it was her daughter, Dyke said as much when she thought she was talking to herself. If I admit it, then questions about what was on it, how many videos, anyone else involved? I don’t need to get into all of that, I’m not mom’s therapist and my answer would have been leave the girl alone and wait, not an answer an anxious mom wants to hear. I suspect she’s going to stupidly grill the kid, then the drama begins. We got rid of her pest. I hope she leaves the kid alone but momma-drama is a powerful attraction, aggrieved mother fiercely protecting her offspring, no matter how the self-designated protector is screwing up the kid.
I log off, nothing to do now, the child may spill the beans to her mother but she hadn’t so far. We don’t know when the video was made, but it had to be before the split that pissed off Dyke.
At tea, CC asks, ‘The girl was in a video being sexed by Dyke. At that point Dyke is still mom’s girl pal. She doesn’t tell her mother? And if not then, why not after Dyke is out of the scene?’
‘Possibly embarrassed, particularly the dog licking thing. Or the kid has a different view, for instance, her mother is a stripper and a lesbian, kids aren’t stupid, they can see and hear. She may have thought this is what lesbians do. Or Dyke may have threatened the child. Besides, let’s say the girl does tell her mother, what’s Dyke say?’
CC, ‘The kid’s delusional, her mom’s a lez, she’s fantasizing.’
‘Exactly.’
‘God, I’m so hot and smart, I should be Queen of…something, whatever even.’
Nikita, ‘Now who ees fantasy girl?’
We laugh, Morshchiny rolls to her back, goes to sleep with mega-paws in the air.
Zero, ‘Let’s hide out in Canada for a month.’
CC, ‘Yeah, want me to see when the cabin is available, or another with the same amenities and privacy?’
‘Something to accommodate Zoe and Morshchiny.’
She takes a tablet, starts to search, Zero says, ‘We have the name of the agent from last time, she got us a great spot, just call her.’
‘Tea time, Zoe, you have dinner ideas?’
‘We have lots of the battered frozen fish fillets, creamed corn for a side, fries…, no, baked. I can get the potatoes started in the microwave. Fish takes twenty minutes in the oven, creamed corn is simple.’
‘A plan,’ I’m dunking tea bags into the green pot, then Assam bags into another.
I get the cookie box and spread a selection on a plate, something to crunch with the tea.
CC clicks off her phone, ‘Week from today, one month, same cabin, they expanded it to another bedroom and bath. During ski season they get a bundle for rentals. She also said the kitchen has been upgraded, the appliances are all new, including an ice machine.’
Zero, ‘Great, I’ll call our airline tomorrow, maybe we should have two cars, what do you think Commandant?’
‘Good idea, a big SUV and a smaller one, no sedans, we have to make a grocery run right off, plus the beast and all the room Zoe takes up.’
Zoe giggles, ‘Morshchiny is three of me.’
‘And soon to be four, she’s expanding up and front to back.’
‘How’s the training going?’
‘Sit, stay, working on guard, attack will be last, we need something to attack, any volunteers?’
Zero, ‘There are videos, it’s not that hard, Commandant will need a protective glove and arm guard, then we’ll get a dummy and switch the attack target. First she needs to learn to only accept food when she’s given a command, you need to start that immediately, work on it this week and continue in Canada. Lots of repetition, plenty of good girl and pats. The mastiff is family oriented and wary of strangers, their protective disposition is built in, makes it easier for us.’

Ninety Four

Canada, just got to the cabin and already feel shoulders drop and mind floating free. We made a sizable grocery run, now we’re putting cold stuff in the refrigerator or freezer, other items in the pantry, beer, wine, vodka in the refrigerator as well. 
‘Zoe, there’s no fence like at home, take Morshchiny on the leash and walk her a bit, she was good about the plane and the drive but she couldn’t move much. Pay attention, there are critters our here, some bigger than your dog.’
Natasha, ‘I will walk with her.’
Zero, ‘All of you go, I’ll help Commandant with the rest of our things.’
Four girls and a monster dog go out to stretch, move, let the dog do its dog things. Fresh, crisp mountain air, a gorgeous blue lake and no nearby neighbors. 
‘I’m going to open wine, let’s take a glass to the porch and do zip with extra nothing.’
‘No short hike?’
‘We get more exercise than a warehouse full of gym rats, and we’ll be hiking the mountain a dozen times while we’re here.’
‘I’m convinced, the lake is calling, let’s get at it.’
We’re out a half hour, Morshchiny comes loping along, up the steps, plops down between us. The others come around the corner.
‘She slip the leash?’
CC, ‘We took a shot at letting her loose, she went in and out of the woods a few yards, but never out of sight of Zoe.’
‘Okay, but she can’t go out to do doggie things alone, like I said, critters, some of which hunt in packs. They won’t come around the cabin, but they’re still in the forest, and one of us should go, not just Zoe.’
‘Understood.’
Zero, ‘Wine is in the refrigerator, I’d get it for you but I’m busy being useless.’
CC, ‘I’ll do it. Zoe, Morshchiny needs a water bowl and I’m sure she’s hungry.’
CC brings the bottle, glasses for her and the twins, now the tribe is stretched along the porch, Morshchiny is next to Zoe, wiping out a bowl of dog food pebbles.
‘Any dinner preferences? Is someone going to fish tomorrow?’
CC, ‘I am, Zoe and I will catch those big guys, what are they?’
‘Walleye, there’s rainbow or lake trout, which are big, up to forty pounds. Look on the internet for pictures of bull trout, if you catch one, return it to the lake, it’s endangered.’
‘Got it.’
Why would a psycho like me care about endangered fish? Simple, I like fish, they aren’t people.
The sun is sinking, it isn’t that late, but the mountain to the west makes for an early sunset. When there’s only a red-orange glow over the mountaintop, we go inside.
I stack wood in the fireplace, shavings underneath the logs, soon enough there’s a crackling fire that Morshchiny finds irresistible. She flops down in front of the fireplace, a groan of contentment, she’s warm, her family is with her, her belly is full, Morshchiny heaven.
Zoe, ‘How about tacos? We have all the parts, I can use the fake meat Zero bought.’
I get up, ‘Good, You want to mix the not-meat and chili powder, or chop onion and tomato?’
‘You chop, I’ll mix.’
‘Remember the masa?’
‘Yep, add sparingly to give it consistency.’
We let the mix simmer for a half hour, I get the shells in the oven to crisp. I understand soft tortillas for burritos, I don’t understand them for tacos, no crunch, a nice part of the taco experience.
‘Okay, the parts are ready for you to assemble, onion, tomato and shredded cabbage,’ we prefer cabbage to lettuce, another little crunch lettuce doesn’t supply.
Beer for tacos, we don’t have our insulated tumblers, so revert to bottle babies.
Zero, ‘I want to explore telepathy and telekenesis while we’re not distracted by other projects, anyone game to give it a shot?’
CC, ‘The twins already talk mind to mind, but they have the advantage of being absurdly identical. I want to give it a go. How about you Commandant?’
‘Zero can read my thoughts already.’
‘That’s not telepathy in the sense I mean. She can get in your head without you knowing, interesting, but not telepathy in the two way sense. Telepathy is a mental conversation with intent, a silent conversation, not a capacity to read every thought.’
‘The twins do both, but they say it’s more like one mind, not two, as in telepathy.’
Zero, ‘I think they’re right, and it may not be anything we’re likely to accomplish, none of us swam in the same womb for nine months. However, assuming they are unique is a form of limitation for the rest of us. We don’t do limitation.’
‘How do you propose to proceed?’
‘Good question, any thoughts?’
CC closes her eyes, fingers on her temples, ‘I’m sending you a message...do you copy?’ she opens them, ‘guess not.’
Zoe giggles.
Nikita, ‘Sister and I will work on telekenesis, we already haf the other.’
CC, ‘Shadows can’t read minds as far as we know, but they can control them, some are telekinetic, as Natasha discovered when a fork stuck in her back.’
‘So we know both mental gymnastics can be done, telepathy and telekenesis.’
I add, ‘And we know that we can block Shadows from grabbing our minds, Zero thinks it’s part of our psychopathy.’
Zero, ‘Yes, I do think that. A psychopath is indifferent to what other people think, it may be that indifference that blocks the Shadow’s attempts. And Zoe beat one down with her mind, right?’
‘Yeah, she did, maybe not telepathy so much as her own mind control.’
Zoe, ‘Zoe felt him in her head, she didn’t want him in her head, so she didn’t allow it.’
‘His energy expenditure overheated and he broke, excellent technique, but not telepathy.’
‘Where are we? The twins will try to float things across the room, Zero and CC can work on telepathy. I suggest playing cards, don’t start with the whole deck, maybe four different face cards and a ten, concentrate on the rank, not the suit at first.’
‘Do we have any cards?’
‘I saw a deck in one of the kitchen drawers, left by a previous occupant. There’s also dice, maybe the twins can try to roll snake eyes or whatever. Probably better to start with one die, not two, one each I should say.’
Nikita, ‘Da, we will go to Vegas and clean up casino.’
CC, ‘Clean out, subversive immigrant.’
Nikita ignores her, CC gives it a try sometimes, but she cannot rattle the twins.
Dinner done, I collect plates and cups, rinse and load the dishwasher, Zero makes me a vodka, shots for the twins, white wine for her and CC, Zoe gets a half glass with an equal amount of club soda.
‘Did you feed Morshchiny?’
Zoe, ‘All done, she should go out.’
‘Zero.’
‘Yep, I’ll go with her, we can try her off-leash,’ she looks at the big mutt, ‘you going to be good?’
‘Huff!’
Zoe, ‘That means yes,’ she scratches behind the ears, ‘come on Morshchiny, time to do doggie biz.’
The rest of us follow to the porch, a gorgeously clear night, ink dark, the stars seem to have multiplied exponentially.
CC, ‘Look! A meteor shower, the sky sparkles to behold me.’

Ninety Five

This morning they’re absorbed in the new project, Nikita and Natasha on opposite ends of the porch trying to get the die to come up with the number they have in mind. Not together, each is rolling individually.
CC and Zero are on the dock cross legged, one facing east, one west, about a foot between them. Zoe shows one of the cards to Zero, CC can’t see it. Concentration, then a guess.
I’m taking a short hike with Morshchiny, find a promontory that overlooks the girls on the dock on the right, the twins left. Morshchiny can see everyone. Plopped next to me on her tummy, eyes shift left, right, back again. Once she’s convinced her tribe is safe, she falls asleep, ears twitch, maybe she’s listening, maybe dreaming.
They go at it for an hour, Zero looks up and spots me, I wave for them to join us.
The girls arrive, sit with us, the view is scrumptious, we can see almost the entire lake from here. Only one boat had zipped pass on the far side of the lake, now it’s much further west, headed away from us. I estimated it might be a twenty footer, but I’m not a boat guy. I see it has twin outboards, and they are cranked.
Zero, ‘See the boat? He was in a hurry about something, another man was sitting, facing the rear, fooling with something on the deck, it was blocked by the gunwale.’
Zoe, ‘What’s a gunwale?’
‘Top edge of the hull, the sides.’
‘What made you notice?’
‘The speed, the motors made less noise than I’d have thought but it was more towards the far shore.’
‘Let’s take a hike, exercise something besides your brain.’
We talk while we walk, ‘How were the sessions?’
Nikita, ‘We could not tell anything.’
Zero, ‘Same here, she got some right, some not, with five cards, she should hit it twenty percent of the time. Zoe kept count of correct guesses, it was about what you would expect.’
‘No point in looking for progress on the first day, you going again later?’
‘An hour in the morning, hour in the afternoon, we have no expectation, no time limit. We need to relax the conscious mind so it doesn’t crowd out the subconscious.’
‘The conscious compares what’s happening with the patterns it knows from memory.’
‘Yes, and what we’re attempting is something the conscious brain doesn’t have anything to compare to. The twins are already in harmony, on the same wavelength so to speak. CC and I not so much.’
Natasha, ‘Put both brains into alpha or gamma state, which you can do with meditation, the long way, or maybe faster with binaural beat program, they have them on YouTube. Not the ones with music, just the beat.’
Zero, ‘That is an excellent idea Natasha.’
‘You will need identical programs, use Bluetooth earbuds, two sets, binaural means one ear gets one frequency, the other ear gets a different one, the object is for one to cancel part of the other, leaving only a low level hertz frequency. If the left ear gets a two ten hertz frequency and the right two hundred, you hear a tone of ten hertz. Different frequencies are reported to be associated with different effects, sleep, creativity, relaxation, concentration, or alertness.’
Zero, ‘We’re starting with relaxation then, see if slowing the conscious mind opens the door to the subconscious, even if it’s just a peek.’
‘And you can try the others at some point.’
‘Yes, we aren’t going to assume all frequencies affect each listener in identical ways. This will be a long process.’
CC, ‘We’re immortal, remember?’
I laugh, ‘You do have a long time, excepting getting eaten by a bear, failing to look both ways before crossing the street, or the Zombie Apocalypse.’
‘How about you Commandant, want to explore your psychic powers?’
‘Maybe in a hundred years, for now I’ll be the control group.’
We continue up for a half hour, then back to the cabin.
‘Nobody went fishing, maybe tomorrow, we missed lunch learning to levitate or whatever. Tonight will be bread crumb battered chicken, fresh from the freezer. Let’s see, sides, creamed spinach is simple. If we have cheese, nuts and crackers for cocktail hour, it should be enough.’
CC, ‘Zoe and I will fish early, are we doing another psychic thing this afternoon?’
Zero, ‘It’s two thirty. I’m for a shower and a chill, how about four to five, up for another session today, or do you prefer to have tea like usual?’
CC, ‘Split the diff, half hour of practice at four, tea at four thirty or so.’
The others opt for that, the practice doesn’t involve anything physically strenuous, but I think it might be mentally tiring.
Zero, ‘Yes Commandant, it does use mental energy, probably more so for the twins trying to send energy to a die.’
Zoe, ‘Zero is sticking her nose in your brain Commandant.’
I smile, ‘I’m used to it, it’s painless, I don’t even know she’s reading my files.’
We go to rooms for showers and a lie down. I surprise myself, actually fall asleep for a blissful hour. Refreshed, I go to the kitchen and start tea, my comrades show up, Morshchiny hangs waiting for me to drop a hunk of cheese, snout pokes my thigh to remind me she’s there, like I could miss an eighty pound puppy.
She gets her treat, laps up half a bucket of water then drips across the floor to the door, turns at looks at Zoe.
‘Morshchiny needs a trip outside Zoe, one of you keep an eye on them.’
When they return, there’s something else.
Zero, ‘Got a patrol boat at the dock, asking about a boat.’
I go down, ‘What’s up guys?’
‘I’m Staff Sergeant Decker, this is Constable Fedders, there’s been an incident.’
‘Okay, what can I do?’
‘Did you see a boat on the lake today, powerboat, twin engines, nineteen footer, with two men and a girl?’
‘Yes, well, two men, but my daughter says one was fooling with something on the deck, but she couldn’t see what, it passed more to the far shore than our side. Traveling east to west, and at top speed.’
‘Has to be the one we’re looking for.’
‘What’s the incident?’
‘A ten year old girl was taken, not a domestic abduction, both parents were in the cabin, the girl was on the dock, then gone.’
‘Wearing?’
‘Not much, a bikini. The lake is too cold for swimming, she was tanning, earbuds in, listening to music they said.’
‘So she didn’t hear her abductors and the parents saw nothing, didn’t hear the boat?’
‘No, said they heard a boat, but it sounded off in the distance.’
‘Find the boat?’
‘Found a boat partially hidden, tied to a tree, we searched the area, no men, no girl. If it’s the boat it’s no use to them, we’re all over the lake and our patrols have a photo of it.’
‘Any roads near where they pulled in?’
‘That’s the mystery, no, only forest for miles. Although if they hiked further west they would come on an unused logging road eventually, it goes to a two lane then to the highway. We have it covered north and south, but if they’re on foot, it would take more than a day to get to it.’
‘And it’s cold at night, the girl is in a bikini. Doesn’t sound like an abduction for money, too complicated. That leaves one alternative.’
Decker looks at Zero, the rest of the tribe is inside, ‘Um…the young lady…’
‘I appreciate your concern, my daughter is far more mature than she appears, just lay it out.’
Zero, ‘They will use her then discard her. Likely dead since she’s seen them, although it isn’t out of the question that they managed to either cover their faces or hers. But if it’s a kidnapping, they have to keep her in the dark and alive, at least for a while. In a dense forest, I doubt it, how do they contact the parents? SAT phone? Are the parents rich?’
Decker, ‘How old are you, Miss?’
‘Fourteen.’
Fedders, ‘She looks…not fourteen.’
Zero, ‘Vitamins and exercise, thank you. Can you take us to the boat?’
Decker, ‘Why?’
I reply, ‘I don’t mean to sound mystical, but she senses things, you have search dogs?’
‘Could get one or two, but not for a few hours, be dark by then anyway.’
‘We have a mastiff, young, but intelligent, can’t hurt to have her sniff around, you have anything of the girl’s?’
‘We do, parents gave us her parka, not for dogs, to cover her up when we find her. I didn’t mention dogs, it scares people, they think cadaver dog.’
‘Smart, and most considerate. So, the boat?’
‘Can’t hurt, we got very little now, if they left tracks, we couldn’t find much, a few footprints near the shore, but they disappear.’
I turn to Zero, ‘get Morshchiny, tell the others what’s up but we don’t need to have more footprints at the scene for now.’
Decker, ‘Doesn’t matter, we’ve been through the scene and up and down the shoreline, can they help you think?’
‘Oh yeah, they can help.’
‘Didn’t get your name.’
‘Didn’t give it, I don’t mind telling you, but I expect to remain invisible, also the others. We don’t talk to the media, we don’t want our names used, we won’t testify if it comes to that, no big mystery, we’re simply private people, I’m not going to write a book. If you can spare an hour for us to look around…’
Decker, ‘Got nothing to lose, bring ‘em on.’
Zero goes up, a few minutes later the troops come down with the dog.
Fedders, ‘Jesus, this is a pup?’
‘Just crossing the line to adult, she’s got another forty or fifty pounds to go.’
Decker, ‘Neapolitan Mastiff, she…um…well behaved?’
‘Once the young one gives permission, she’s as calm as still water. Certain commands can change that, she’s also security.’
Zoe takes her to Fedders, Morshchiny sniffs, then Decker, ‘You’ve been approved.’
‘You have a job to do, if you want to search the cabin, it’s okay by us.’
Decker looks at Fedders, ‘I suppose we should, take a quick walk through, we need to get back to the site.’
Fedders goes and comes, ‘Nothing, except it’s far too neat for a houseful of young girls, everything is hung, folded and stowed.’
Zero, ‘We like things orderly, shall we get moving? It’s going to be dark in a couple hours.’
It’s a fifteen minute ride in the fast boat, Fedders pulls up next to the boat in question.
Decker, ‘They attempted to hide it in this inlet, there are dozens of nooks and crannies along the shore. Our people have cruised the lake a thousand times though, anything looks out of place, they notice. On this one, a glint off the windshield gave it away. Motors were still warm, not hot, but not like they’d been shut down for hours.’
‘Where’s the parka?’
Fedders opens a zip bag, starts to pull it out.
‘Just leave it, Zoe, let her sniff then release her to do her thing, and make sure she gets the scent from the inside of the jacket.’

Ninety Six

‘….we have had to lay waste to our own sanity. We begin with the children. It is imperative to catch them in time. Without the most thorough and rapid brainwashing their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks. Children are not yet fools, but we shall turn them into imbeciles like ourselves, with high IQ’s if possible.’
 RD Laing, The Politics of Experience

Zoe holds the bag open, flips the jacket so it’s showing the interior, Morshchiny sniffs, ‘Got it girl? Find the scent.’
The dog sniffs the ground as Zoe leads her in a zig zag up the slope. This is unmanaged territory, there are no trails.
Decker, ‘Dog been trained to follow a scent?’
‘Not finished yet, but yes, she’s tracked things around our property as an exercise, she always finds what the girl hides. I’ll add that the dog is familiar with every inch of our place, this is different, we haven’t gotten her to track on unfamiliar ground yet.’
Fedders, ‘Hell, can’t hurt, at least it feels like we’re doing something.’
‘Ready?’
Decker, ‘Let’s get at it.’
We’re a parade up the slope, gentle now, getting steep soon, it’s a mountain after all, the Canadian Rockies aren’t the Smokies which tend to roll up and down more like waves, if we have to keep going up, it’s going to be steep and slow. It will also be slow for the abductors.
‘Whose boat is it by the way?’
Fedders, ‘Not sure, I mean we’re checking out the registration but lots of people keep boats in boathouses when they aren’t here, nothing reported stolen so far.’
Decker, ‘Easy guess that it doesn’t belong to the abductors, that would be incredibly stupid.’
‘Not too bright snatching a girl up here, they have almost no place to go except the wilderness, anything else they would have been seen by someone when they docked. A boat just running the lake is pretty common and wouldn’t have drawn much attention.’
‘You have a point. Young girls are everywhere, this seems too complicated for an abduction, why not a mall parking lot for instance? Pull alongside in a van, grab the girl, drive off. This is strange, two guys passing in a boat see a young girl on a dock, pull in, snatch her and drive away? Must have been drunk or high.’
I don’t say what I’m thinking.
Zero comes alongside and whispers, ‘I’m thinking the same thing, this whole bit doesn’t smell right.’
I nod, we’re going to keep our partial theory to ourselves for now. 
Morshchiny is trailing something, nose to the dirt, occasional stops to sniff a tree, a rock, then back to the dirt.
The sun is setting, not good for us, but it’s not like we can stop it.
Decker, ‘Crap, we’re going to have to give it up soon, be dark enough just going back down.’
‘You have flashlights?’
‘Yeah,’ he pulls a maglite out of a pocket, so does Fedders, ‘these are more for lighting up a dark room, not hiking through wilderness.’
‘The dog doesn’t care about light, she’s working scent.’
‘True, but it’s going to get colder too.’
‘Particularly for a girl in a bikini.’
‘Okay, granted, we keep going until the dog finds something or loses the scent. What about your girls? Like I said, gonna get cold.’
‘Don’t be misled by youth or appearance, the girls are tough, martial arts tough, full contact, no pads, down in the dirt hard.’
We keep going, the slope steepening, Morshchiny stops, nose stuck to a softball sized rock.
‘Shine the light Decker.’
He does, ‘Blood, not a lot.’
‘The girl was barefoot, cut her foot, or slipped and cut something else.’
Zoe, ‘Good girl Morshchiny, keep going.’
No obvious blood, at least not to us, we’re losing light and the dirt is dirt, if there’s blood we can’t see it, but the dog stops every few feet, then charges up the slope, Zoe right behind. The rest of us make our way, trying to avoid roots and rocks in the looming dark.
Fedders, ‘Lost sight of the girl and the dog, and she doesn’t have a light.’
‘The dog won’t let anything happen to her, keep moving.’
Another hundred yards, Zoe and Morshchiny are waiting.
Zoe points up the mountain, ‘See the light?’
There’s a narrow strip of light thirty or forty yards up.
Fedders, ‘Let’s get up there.’
‘Hang on, let me think…if they have the girl there and we come crashing in…’
Decker, ‘Right, they have a hostage.’
‘Zero, take Nikita left, CC, you and Natasha go right, do your thing and find out what’s there.’
Decker, ‘They need the flashlights.’
‘Don’t worry about it, they know what to do, no, wait…give them the lights. Girls, don’t use them to get in place, use them if you see the girl. The flashlight has a laser function, point it towards us if she’s there, if the men are there as well, wiggle it a bit, then cut it off and wait.’
I lean down to Zoe, ‘When the girls are in place, you and Morshchiny creep up, slow and quiet, we’ll be right behind.’
Decker, ‘What about guns?’
‘You and Fedders are armed, Glocks. Shoot the assholes if they get pissy.’
He nods, tells Fedders, ‘Clean shot only, a can’t miss,’ he looks to me, ‘Fedders won the pistol competition three years running, I know range targets aren’t firing back, but still, he’s good.’
A red dot from up the slope, wiggles, second dot, another wiggle.
‘Got our answer, let’s go Zoe, slowly, it’s flat dark and we don’t want to spook them.’
Zero comes towards us, ‘They have a small fire inside a stack of boulders, one opening big enough to squeeze in, a second opening on top, and a smaller opening in the rear, like I could crawl in, not you.’
‘Where’s the girl?’
‘Sprawled next to the fire, naked, her eyes are open but nobody’s home.’
‘Frick, tell Nikita to get with her sister and go in, you or CC take the smaller opening in back, or one of you get to the top, drop in so to speak?’
‘Yep.’
She doesn’t wait for any objection from Decker, up the slope again melting into the black.
Decker, ‘What? They see the girl, the men?’
‘You and Fedders take positions either side of the entrance, this will be over in a minute.’
‘Wait, who’s going in, those kids? You can’t…’
A screech, then a wail loud enough to raise hackles on your neck, a man crawls out of the slot between boulders, there’s blood on his face.
Zoe says zakhvatit', Morshchiny leaps forward and has him by the throat.
Natasha appears, dragging the second man by his belt, he’s either unconscious or dead.
Decker, ‘What the…’
‘Collect your prisoners Staff Sergeant, it’s way past my cocktail hour.’

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