I’m sorry about the light posting of late. A week or so I ran into this picture and for some reason decided to write a story about it.
This tripped off one of my creative binges and the story now has 65,000 odd words so far and doesn’t seem to want to stop. The working title is mermaid in the pot.
If people like this chapter I’ll post more. It’s urban fantasy with mermaids, mobsters, secret agents, big projects and hurricanes. And the bad guys are just starting to show up.
Mermaid In The Pot, Again.
There was a mermaid in one of the pots, again. Specifically my daughter Chrissie, who’s supposed to know better. Thank god it’s October and not September with the summer folk still here on the Cape. That could cause real trouble. The full timers and watermen are used to the fae and their antics somewhat, but that Big City crowd might get a little start.
“Chrissie, you know better than this. Now what do I tell this stranger.”
“What do you need to tell him? He can see what I am.”
“So how did Chrissie here get in the pot?”
“I know what she was doing of course. Pot stuffing. The sea people around here have been doing for as long as pots have been put out. Well the sea girls have. Sea girls have to chase land boys because there aren’t any sea boys. Well at least not at first. So they need to get the boy’s attention. ‘round here a good way to do that is full pots. “
“See, lobsters don’t just crawl in the pots on their own. You got to bait the pots and hope a lobster shows up and crawls in. Which can be chancy. You have to trust the lobsters to find the pot. A lobster isn’t known for being the smartest thing around. Sometimes they need a little helping hand to find where they need to go. A helping hand that the sea lasses are all too willing to give. Let me get the young lady out of her predicament and back into the water and you can help my thirst while I tell you the whole story.”
“Now young lady, you know you aren’t supposed to get caught in the pots. Suppose it was young Tom pulling the pots today. If he hadn’t had to go up Cape it would have been.”
“Daddy that was the poiiint!!!”
“So you were going to wave your tail around in front of him. And everybody else.”
“He’s such a thickhead.”
“Why didn’t you pull him in so that you could “save” him?”
Being “saved” by mermaids and being dragged to secluded coves for mutual entertainment was a common courtship ritual here.
“I tried!! He’s too careful! He uses the winch and I can’t pull against that.”
That was true. Tom’s a lander, from Vermont trying to get away from the farm and he’s always careful on the boat. Most watermen around here just pull the pots by hand most of the time. But then most of the watermen around here don’t have to worry too much about drowning or cold water either. Most of the young men around here also know how the game goes. After all they know the girls already. They went to school with them until fae blood and puberty mixed. Of course by that time a good portion of the boys were working the water already.
“He’s afraid of drowning. Most landers are.”
“I could fix that!!”
“He doesn’t know that.”
“Well if we can’t talk, how will he find out?”
“Well, work on it, use your siren song.”
“He doesn’t listen!!!”
“He’s new, to here and the boat, trying to make it work. Give it time.”
“Then some stupid land girl like Missy O’Doul will grab him!! I’ve seen her making eyes.”
“Well, there are other boys.”
“They are all slugs!! Why did I have to be a mermaid!!”
“Well I’ll help you get Chrissie here, and the pot to the beach.”
“Thanks, stranger, new here? Most people freak out at mermaids.”
“I’m used to dealing with the unusual.”
“So what do you do?”
“This and that. Mostly what people need done.”
“’bout a week.”
Strangers could be bad and they could be good. Once the season’s over, not too many people want to stay around. Once fog rolls in, people get wierded out. On the other hand he saw Chrissie as what she is and not what most people see. Most people ignore the obvious and wouldn’t take a close look. They tend to see a big fish stuck in the pot.
“Here’s the beach. So now what.”
“It’s simple really. Chrissie can’t go back the way she go in, the scales on her tail tear off and I don’t want to have to deal with that again. She won’t fit through the door, so we’re going to have to take some slats off.”
I pulled a screwdriver out of my pocket and got to work. With the stranger helping it went fast. Then I’ve had practice with this. Too much practice lately. With my first daughter it was much easier.
“Young lady, it’s a good thing that I doing this and not Tom on the boat. I’m going to unscrew the slats and the pot won’t get torn. Tom would have used the pry bar and ripped the slats off. Trying to “save” you, young lady. Which meant that the pot would either have been damaged or wrecked. Old man Georges charges for repairs and more for a new pot. Those pots put food on the table and don’t you forget it.”
“Daddy it’s an old pot, you know that. All Tom’s pots are.”
“Yes they are, which is how he could afford them. He knows how to start out. Let’s cut the rope on your hands and get you out”
“why was Chrissie tied to the slat?”
“Because daddy’s a meanie.”
“You know better than that young lady!”
“ I tie her hands so that she doesn’t try to slip out of the pot and hurt herself. Or fall out if she loses her grip. If her scales scratch the wrong way they can get torn off.”
“You don’t need to tie me.”
“And who has to deal with a hurt mermaid if you get torn up? Anyway you’re out now, get into the water. And stay out of the pots!!”
“Come, stranger, lets get this pot back on the boat and get you to that drink.”
“So, do you think that she will stay out of the pots?”
“For a while, after I talk to her mother. She’s right, Tom is a bit thickheaded on the water. I may have to arrange an accident so that Chrissie can “save” him. Or sneak Chrissie on the boat and then have to be off the boat. I’ll work on something. By the way I haven’t caught your name.”
“Wendell, Mike Wendell.”
It was so frustrating. She could FEEL Tom, well at least when he was on the water, but somehow she couldn’t get to him. He was so RIGHT. And daddy had caught her. Daddy wasn’t supposed to catch her, Tom was. Well at least he wasn’t too upset about it other than about that stupid pot. Well back to the waters of the fae. At least she could stuff some pots along the way. As if Tom would notice, the thickhead. And she could talk to mother. Maybe she would have ideas. After all she caught daddy and daddy had apparently been a thickhead lander too. If she only had legs so that she could chase Tom properly. Or Tom would stay on the water long enough to be caught. Tom NEEDED to be caught, she could FEEL it. She would get him to eat her fish or else.
Near the border of the sea kingdom she saw her aunt Nera. Nera had been the “old maid” of the family, at least as much as anybody in the free wheeling sex lives of high fae could be said to be “maid” for very long. Nera’s joinings were short, almost none more than a single night and the idea that she would be pining, like Chrissie or a low fae over a man, let alone some human was ludicrous. Yet there she was.
“He’s gone again.”
“Who, Aunt Nera?”
“I don’t know, but I could feel him. Oh he’s been so tortured.”
“You’ve seen, Chrissie?”
“Talk about insulting, or at least exasperating, the Sea King of the Western Seas’ daughters all playing The Little Mermaid. Well at least two of them. Some god is having the last laugh. Well at least they are smarter about it and letting the young men know they exist. Remember, Chrissie, when it comes to love work hard to make sure they don’t get away. If I’ve learned anything from my daughters, I’ve learned that. I’ve also learned from your mother to not stand in the way. I don’t want to replay that horrible little play.“
Grandfather had seen The Little Mermaid once as a play by some theatre company on a boat and was rather upset by it. He had a habit of bringing it up every time there was a family argument.
“Daddy worked out OK, didn’t he?”
“Yes he did, better than you know. By the way, how are things working with your young man, my dear?”
“frustrating. He’s such a thickhead.”
“Well be forward, don’t hesitate. Force feed him the fish if you have to.”
Was grandfather saying that I should RAPE Tom if necessary?
Old man Claytor was handling the pots today, his and mine. I had just bought a boat and got it cheap because the shaft was sprung and the wheel had a broken blade. Along with some legal issues involving liquor and transshipping without tax stamps. The wheel was a lost cause though the blade was still attached and maybe I could use an electric welder. Anyway the yard ordered an new wheel from the foundry, but I was going to need the shaft straightened and the wheel finished so I needed to make the arrangements. Joe, though at the yard told me about a shaft wizard in West Dennis, so I took the truck and looked for Turnwright machine works and Mr. Fenner.
“Hi, my name is Keith and welcome to Turnwright Machine”
“You Mr. Fenner?”
“Yup, what can I do for you?”
The shop was smaller than I expected, little more than a shed. It was amazingly well equipped. I had a shop back up at the farm in Vermont, but it was little more than a South Bend lathe and small P&W horizontal driven from the old wheel on the flour mill.
This shop, though, was different. It was in one of those wooden shacks that seem to be the standard Cape building, but the floor had been laid with heavy timbers. Everything was electrically driven, the lathe from shaft and a large motor, the mill from its own motor. There was another lathe, a refitted drill press and a shaper in the back as well as a welding table and a new Lincoln welder. As well as a large press. The office was a mess, but the tools were all in order and shelved. The walls were littered with parts and patterns from old jobs, all showing excellent workmanship and great skill. I had been sent to the right place.
“I’ve got a shaft that needs straightening and a wheel coming in to be matched.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem, when do you need it?”
“Well the wheel won’t be back from the foundry for about three weeks so, about a month for the whole thing.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem. We’ll get’er done. By the way, do you have the old wheel?’
“Yes, but why, the blade hit a rock and is pretty much sheared through.”
“Well I’m a bit of a magician with a welder. Maybe we can fix up the screw and get you on the water before things get much colder.”
“That would work out. I’ve been working my pots off old man Clayor’s boat and I want to start working off my own boat.”
“Yup, why? He’s been my mentor on the boat.”
“Well it’s not Josh, It’s his daughter. She’s at the husband hunting age and you might not want to get caught eating the fish.”
“Well I’ve got to run by boat registration over in Hyannis, I’ll swing by the yard and pick up the wheel and drop it off on my way back. I’ll call you in a week or so about the shaft.”
“We’ll get’er done.”
Wait a minute, Josh had one daughter, and she’s married with kids up near P’town. And what was “eating the fish?”
What I said to old man Claytor was true. I was used to dealing with the unusual. And did do this and that. Mostly in relation to things that most people would rather not know about. Dangerous things that my employer, whatever they called themselves this week, would rather not have people thinking about. In my line of work, husband hunting mermaids were normal. Well at least if they kept it in bounds and didn’t start drowning the ones that said no, or their girlfriends. Actually I was in town checking up on an old case, as we were closing the case up. Now that one was a bloody mess. Across two continents, five countries, a long trail of victims and far too many deaths going back to the war.
“Mr. Claytor, you were going to explain about Chrissie.”
“Well that’s a long story, it actually starts with the first watermen, back in the 1630’s. They came over, chasing the fish and the sea people followed on, for the same reasons that the sea people attach themselves now.
“Low fae need fresh blood and the way it works is that the girls when they reach that age, go to the sea, the boys stay on land and tend to marry landers. Boys can change when they want but the change is very painful, so they don’t do it very often.
“Girls though are different. They change at puberty and live in the sea until they find a mate, get pregnant, get legs, and live on land until their daughters reach puberty and then return to the sea with them. The advantage for the boy is that he will never drown. Usually the mate follows after the children get married and they live in the sea kingdoms thereafter. So there are a lot of “deaths at sea” for waterfolk.
“Now the high fae, don’t come to the surface that often. They live in their sea kingdoms and don’t need the contact that the low fae do with landers.
“ To make a long story short, I was a lander come down to the water, back in ’92, like young Tom. I had been booming around on the rails for a while and was looking for something new before I lost any fingers. So I hitched up on the Cape.
“I started working boats, sail back then, pulling pots and deck work. I also worked the car floats in Boston harbor and the barges up and down the sound.
“And then I saw a vision. There she was, sitting on a pier, looking at me as if she was waiting for me to shout out as I floated by. That was the first time I saw Chrissie’s mom, the high blood fae princess, as far above a bum like me as possible. Or at least I thought. She had other ideas. She kept after me until we ate the fish about six months later.
“Things went the usual way and 39 years and four kids here we are.
There was a lot in that story that old man Claytor wasn’t saying. High fae can be touchy about insult and making up with a daughter typically counts as an insult unless there are mitigating circumstances. And they can make life hell for anybody they feel insulted about. And everybody around them. That didn’t seem to be happening in this little town.
“Well that was my story, Mike, what about yours?”
“I’m actually here about Tom, and considering Chrissie’s intentions you should probably know why.
“See I do do this and that, dealing with the unsual and the strange. I do it for the government, in agency nobody is ever supposed to know about. I ran into Tom during a case.
“How much do you know about Sturmtrups, during the war?
“Heard a few things, from the papers and people who came back. Hell in the trenches. Papers used to call them werewolves back in the day.”
“Some of them were, werewolves I mean. Does Tom still have that shotgun?”
“The pump action? Yes. And one of those German helmets. I’ve asked why he didn’t sell them even when he was real short and he said he never would.”
“He’s got good reasons. Back in ’21 his brother came back from the war a bit more changed than most, with that helmet, shotgun and some “special” shells. See, Tom’s brother was assigned to a special unit, set up to stop the sturmtrups and fight them in the trenches. Now trench fighting is a mess under the best circumstances, really bad when dealing with Sturmtrups with their grenades, knives and machine guns and pure hell when the sturmtrups sent in werewolves first. Inevitably, some troopers get bit. At first command liked that for balance.
“The problem is that as a werewolf ages they become more of a monster. The very strongest restrain themselves and can have somewhat normal and long lives. But most don’t bother. They begin to ruin everything around them. In an army that can be a disaster. Pershing’s people wanted to cover the problems up, so they created special units, the dirty dozens, which when not in combat during the full moon were kept locked up and separate from everybody else. In combat they were backed by BAR’s and Lewis guns with special rounds loaded and troops that knew exactly what they were, what could happen if the dirty dozen turned on them and were rated “expert” on the range. One way or another the troops were expected to die.
“After the Armistance was signed the dirty dozens that were left, were packed off to Russia with the idea that they would never be heard from again, caught up and disappeared in the Russian civil war. For at least one pack it didn’t work out that way.
“I first got involved as an MP and liason with the White Russians. I was a young lieutenant who spoke French and German because of my family and I was assigned to work with the local White Russians on police matters, the usual stuff involving drunken soldiers and recreational facilities. I had been in the NYPD before the war, which helped with the Russians thanks to the immigrant community in New York.
“Things started out routine, but they didn’t stay that way. Boris, my other side and I started to get reports of heavily armed squads of US and Allied troopers seemingly running rampant down the streets. We pulled one of the squads in and Command came down and got them released, but wouldn’t tell me why. The Russians were pissed. So was I. This went on until just after one of the squads went on rampage we got to the scene and found an American soldier, nude, shot with, when we extracted the bullet, was a .30-06 round, with a silver jacket.
“Werewolves and dealing with them are an old tradition in Russia and Boris knew what that meant. He kicked it upstairs to his people and that’s when they told us about the bodies. Boris and I were brought into a pair of the scariest people you ever want to meet, sworn to silence and told we had been drafted into a special unit. A unit that officially didn’t exist. A unit that was chasing a werewolf pack that had broken loose. A pack that had already piled up an impressive body count.
“We chased that pack through Russia, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France for six months. With a trail of bodies the whole way. We started out with two squads, one American and one Russian, but by the time it was over on the continent we had members from at least six different countries and probably 100 people working on it for one thing or another. The pack was down to six members at one point but they recruited new members, of both sexes, from among the AEF and local populations.
“We almost had them at Cherbourg, but they got on a ship bound for Halifax. The ship never made it to Halifax and was later found by the Canadian Coast Guard drifting offshore filled with the half eaten remains of the crew and a missing lifeboat.
“Tom’s brother was a member of that pack and wore that Stahlhelm and carried that Model Ten all the way across Europe. Loaded with special rounds. Which was his last mistake when he went home to Vermont. Now my unit had gotten back to the US first and met up with some government people I can’t talk about. Now we had the ID’s of the pack in the beginning, but we weren’t sure who was still alive and if they would make contact with relatives or friends. So when Tom’s brother took the pack to Northern Vermont we had no way of knowing.
“Tom’s family kept some of it’s guns in a rack on right hand side of the hallway near the back door. The rack was made to hold ten rifles or shotguns but only had nine in it, so Tom’s brother put that shotgun in the empty slot. The slot nearest to the door.
“Seemingly things returned to normal, with Tom’s brother being a little edgy, but all over Northern Vermont strange killings and cow slaughtering started. Most of the murders were drunks or transients that didn’t attract notice at first, but the cows sure did. Cows are money up there and the farmers watch out for them. The word went out to keep the cows in the barn at night and keep a watch out for what people thought was a wolf pack come down from the north.
“That’s when we got wind of things and quietly started moving people up North. Boris and I went up first as NYPD officers working a case, which to some extent we were.
“The full moon comes around and Tom hears scared cows in the barn. He went to the door, grabbed the nearest gun on the rack and walks straight into a nightmare. Most people confronted with a werewolf freeze. Tom didn’t. He slam fired all five rounds of that shotgun into the charging monster he was facing and after it went down, collapsed.
“When he came to, there was his brother, dead, the empty shotgun in his hand and the rest of the family trying to come to an understanding about what had just happened. Tom was fourteen at the time.
“Boris and I were in Burlington at the time and got the call when the message came into state police HQ. The full moon was prime time for the pack and we were tracing activity across Franklin, Orleans and Essex Counties.
“Why go after cows and people at all? I’m sure that there are deer all over the place up there.”
“You know, Mr. Claytor-“
“Call me Josh, Mike.”
“I don’t know, Josh. I tracked those monsters across a continent for six months and just when we thought we had lost the trail, the bodies would start showing up and give us leads. They had to know that we were tracking them, they tortured and killed four of my best people. Doing the things they did, even in the chaos that was going on as the war wound down was in most cases, stupid. They could probably have gotten away with it in the cities, but they did the same sort of things in farming villages where they were the only strangers. Tearing up inns is stupid in a small town, yet that is exactly what they did, leaving a trail of blood, body parts and horror a blind man could follow. Much of the time they did horrible and terrible things even when they were not transformed. It was if they wanted to be monsters. Look at Tom’s brother-
“You know, you’ve never mentioned his name.”
“I’m not going to. What was left was a monster, with no name. The thing only looked like Tom’s brother. Maybe Tom’s brother had a monster inside before he was changed. Maybe the war created the monster. We’ll never know. I do know what I saw at the end in no way resembled anything human even when it wore human form.
“Chrissie might not be considered human either.”
“It’s obvious that Chrissie loves and lives. Monsters don’t do that. She’s more human even with the tail than many who look pure human.”
“You know that if Tom eats the fish with Chrissie, he’s going to be Changed.”
“I hope so, he needs it. Blowing your brother in half isn’t exactly a nice peaceful event.”
“So what happened after?”
“Well the Sheriff’s Department arrested him. Which was good thing because it got him out of the fuss. Then Boris and I arrived with the state police and had a talk. You wouldn’t believe how relieved Tom was that somebody believed him. Boris went out to collect the shotgun and talk to the family.”
“What happened to him?”
“He’s still talking to the family. He married Tom’s sister. He’s actually county sheriff up there.”
“Any way things go rough for Tom even after Boris and I explained that is brother was a serial killer and he moved out at fifteen, taking the shotgun and that helmet with him along with that truck he drives. I got him a job, but he left and has been bouncing around ever since. The government gave him 10,000 dollars for killing his brother, but to my knowledge he’s never spent a dime. Calls it blood money.”