Mermaid Chapter 3

Sorry about the lack of posts recently.  I’ve been so locked up in the mermaid story that I haven’t taken the time to set up the digest posts or work on regular posts.  On the other hand writing the mermaid story is heading toward 140k words or so and an ending. I’ve written 100k words so here’s chapter 3.

Chapter 1.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/a-snippet/

Chapter 2.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/mermaid-chapter-2-nsfw/

 

We meet Mikes boss, the office mom from hell, the sea king, some of Mike’s coworkers, a magic car and the navy moves a rather large object.

Chapter 3.

Mermaid In The Tempest.

National Weather Bureau Station, Key West Florida

This a general radio message to all ships at sea. Shipping traffic and the weather station here at Key West are reporting signs of a tropical depression that may become a category 1 hurricane in the next 24 hours.  All ships are advised to keep weather watch  from 60 to 70 degrees West longitude and 10 to 40 degrees north latitude.  Ships ported at Miami, Savannah, Charleston and other ports in the South United States are recommended to depart as soon as possible. This bulletin will be on continuous repeat and will be updated as things develop.  National Weather Bureau, Key West out.

“Put this on the repeat, George.”

“It begins again.”

“Yes it does.”

It was frustrating, working blind trying to fish out what was coming from almost random ship weather reports and knowing what could happen if they missed one. At least it was November and they could relax for a few months.

The tropical Depression was already a category 1 hurricane, heading right through a category 2 hurricane on its way to monster status.

Chrissie.

Bill and Bob drove over to Dad’s dock and carried me down to his slip.

“You should have covered me up more. “

“Why, there’s nobody here and even if there was, nobody would care.”

Dad’s boat was not in his slip, which was strange as the season was over and all his pots were on the dock.

“That’s strange. He’s not here. Let’s try the house.”

Dad had bought the house for mom back when mom had legs. He still lived there when he wasn’t on the boat, which was most of the time.  The lights were out, but his truck was there.

“Bob, could you check in with Mrs. Macdougal while I wait in the truck.”

“Sure.”

He walked over and knocked on the door.

“Hi Mrs. Macdougal, have you seen Josh around?”

“Hi Bob, Josh said that he was taking the boat out for a week or so. Is that Chrissie in the truck? Hi Chrissie, catch your man yet.  We missed you when went “under the sea.”

I’ve always thought that Mrs. Macdougal was the most self interested blind to anything outside her circle woman on the Cape. Was there anybody in town who didn’t know?

“Ok, let’s check Tom’s boat.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. At least I owe him an apology.”

“Ok We’ll run you over.”

Tom’s boat was locked and dark.

“Leave me here, I’ll wait.”

I crawled over to the helmsman’s chair that Tom had made me and sat. Bill and Bob left and I waited. An hour went by and I started to worry.  Then I REALLY started to worry as the night went on.  What if he wasn’t coming back?  What if he was NEVER coming back.  I cried myself to sleep.

The seagulls woke me up at dawn. Tom had never come back.  I looked around in the wheelhouse found the pad and pencil Tom kept in the coaming and wrote a note, saying simply, “I’m sorry, C.”

Then I slipped into the water and home. Maybe mother would have some way to straighten things out.  She and dad had had it pretty rough sometimes.

Joe.

The weather Bureau was posting a hurricane bulletin. That was a wake up call at the yard. We had to get the landed boats tied down and the boats we hadn’t landed ashore and battened down as well.  There were ten boats that the yard was responsible as well as Tom’s so Moira and I drove around to make sure that they were tight and the pumps were running.  Two of them were large excursion boats mostly used during the summer, One was a large sailing yacht and the rest were working boats for various things.  All in all getting things battened down took the better part of the day and we got to Tom’s boat in the late afternoon. Moira saw the note first as I was opening the cabin.

“I think Chrissie was here.”

“That’s her writing.”

“She’s looking for Tom.”

“And mother too probably.”

“This is hard for them.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

I explained about high fae and soul touching.

“Steve and I seem to have escaped it and Stacey did too as far as we know, but George is a local so he knew the score and he and Stacey had been hooking up since they were fourteen, so how could anybody tell for sure. Chrissie, though got the whole thing though. The thing is that the longer they are apart the worse it’s going to get. There’s a lot that went on when dad and mom were getting together in that six months that they don’t talk about. When you meet grandpa ask him about what happened when he tried to keep mother “under.”

“I’m going to meet the local “king of the sea?” Is that a proposal?”

“I think so and we can’t keep your Change under wraps forever once you lose your legs.”

Moira and I had found a new twist in the lander/ high fae relationship when we started dating and she started to Change. We hadn’t told anybody yet.

“Pin that note to Tom’s board and let’s get Tom’s wheel over to Turnwright so we can get on to other things.”

Tom.

It was the longest drive I had ever had. Even the drive across country and back that I took in ’28 along the not quite finished Lincoln Highway hadn’t been like this.  I kept thinking the trip was a mistake and if I hadn’t promised I would have turned around and driven back to the Cape. But a promise was a promise and I wanted my tools and the new start that they would give me. I drove across New Hampshire in the new US-4 and stopped off in White River Junction for the night.

“Room?”

“For one night.”

“That will be a dollar, two if you want a bath.”

“Room is fine.”

“Third floor, on your right.”

I hadn’t even brought a change of clothes with me.

The clerk handed me the key and I walked up to my room and trying to sleep. The problem was that I kept thinking about Chrissie and my “little man” was REALLY upset about being denied.  The pain was excruciating and the heartbreak worse. There are ways to deal with the pain.  The heartbreak was harder. Finally I fell asleep.

Chrissie.

I got back to under sea, but mom wasn’t there. But then mom was ALWAYS there.  Then I went to my bower and cried some more.  I reached out for Tom and there was nothing, not even a hole.  Had he shut me out? I swam back to the boat and pulled myself up.  My note was gone.  Tom had been there and not waited.  Where was he.  Daddy was gone, mother was gone, who could I talk to about this.  Grandfather might know where dad and mother were, I would talk to grandfather.

In retrospect talking to grandfather, as obviously emotionally distraught as I was about the worst thing I could have done. Of course normally even the high fae couldn’t do enough of a curse to hurt things before dad got back, soothed the ruffled feathers and get things back to normal.  Add to that the fact that grandfather was looking for monsters from the land with a certain degree of justification and nobody knew about the monster coming from the sea and disaster was inevitable.

Tom.

I went down to breakfast, paid the bill and got back on the road. I crossed over the ridge and into familiar cow country.  Finally I was at the last turn of the road.

The Benton farm is more like a small village. The farm has been there since the 1720’s and has been added to and had buildings demolished for the whole time as fortunes grew or diminished. The whole thing was connected with covered walkways to protect from the snow that would soon show up.  The house was rambling bunch of additions around the original house, the whole thing painted white.  In back was the cow barn and the dairy.  The old mill that was my shop was along the right, next to the dam and pond.

I pulled into the big cleared area next to the house and parked. There were two newish looking tractors that hadn’t been on the farm when I left and too many trucks including one marked County Sheriff’s department.

I walked up the porch toward the door and started to knock, but the door opened before I could.

“Tom, you got here fast.”

It was my sister Stephanie. She had a habit of knowing where people were and doing things like opening the door before people knock.  Apparently marriage hadn’t cured her of that.

“So sis, what’s the emergency?”

“Dinner’s about ready so we’ll tell you after.”

Dinner was about ready and apparently the whole clan was there, which was strange.

“Tom, you made it!!”

“Hello mother.”

I had kept in touch but hadn’t visited for several years. Strangely enough I missed it now that I was here.

“How are you doing? Do you have somebody?  Is it hard work on a boat?”

Mother had come over from Germany in the “90’s and caught father while in New York. Forty years and she still had a light accent.  I think that was what my dad loved about her.

“I’m fine, yes, no maybe, and yes the work is hard”

“So you have somebody?”

“Mother I don’t know. There is a girl, but things are hard.”

“With the best it always is. I’m sure that you will work it out and tell her that she will always have a home here if she needs it.”

I blanched at that. I was not about to tell mother that I was going out with a mermaid.

“Well sit down and eat, We’ll talk later.’

“Where’s dad?”

“He should be in shortly. There’s a storm coming and he wanted check some back fences.”

In this house the farm came first. Always.

I sat down and started to pack in. The feed was huge and from the talk around me the year had been good.  I talked to my brothers and they went on about the new tractors and how much work that they were saving.  They had four already and were looking at a fifth.  I explained about buying a boat and my plans for a shop down on the Cape.  They were all for that, especially if they wanted vacations.  One of my brother in laws was thinking about opening an inn and wanted to know about lobsters.  I explained that we sold through a Coop and had good contracts with places in Boston and New York.  Strangely enough there didn’t seem to be an emergency.  And I wanted to get back to the water, and Chrissie.

Chrissie.

I swam back to under sea and looked for grandfather. He was in his big room with a bunch other high fae talking about something coming up from the deeps and things happening across the sea and what they could do about it.  I listened but none of it made much sense to me. But then I had been caught up about Tom and events had sort of swirled around me for the last couple of months. So I waited.

The meeting was over and I went to grandfather.

“Chrissie, dear what’s wrong?”

“Where is mother?”

“She’s with your father. I sent them to the south to talk to the Fae of the big river. They should be back in a week.”

The biggest city in the world and grandfather didn’t even know it existed. Even I had been there on a school field trip before I Changed. This is where I made the mistake that turned things into a disaster. In my defense I had no way of knowing about the monster wending its way across the Florida Keys and Had forgotten about grandfather and the Little Mermaid. Of course I was hardly thinking straight anyway.

“He’s gone.”

“Who?”

“Tom. He left me on the beach and went away. He went away and I don’t know where.”

“The cad, the monster, the cuckhold.”

Actually if things had gotten that far I wouldn’t have gone through what I was going through now.

“I will declare war with the land over this.”

Even in my currently distraught state I could see that war was over the top.

“Grandfather before war, maybe you should wait for father to get back?”

“Yes quite right, can’t go to war without my general.”

Another one of daddy’s little jobs. Of course daddy was very good at being a total pacifist when it came to war and even better at convincing grandfather to just stay home.

“Still I’ll bring rain down upon them.”

That shouldn’t be that bad. It was November in New England.  A day without rain was a good and unusual day.  It’s likely that nobody would even notice grandfather’s weather magic.

Joe.

I could feel it. Somebody was using weather magic, dropping the air pressure to create a front. Somebody from under sea. Making rain, probably to make someone’s life miserable. They had no way of knowing about the monster that the weather bureau was saying was a category 4 and passing Bermuda.

Moira, tell your dad that I need to go “under sea.”

“Why, we’ve got big problems here.”

“And they are going to get worse if I don’t get down there. Some idiot’s playing with weather magic trying to rain on somebody’s day.”

“Oh god, no. They could be creating a storm magnet with a Category 4 on the way. Go, go”

I stripped and hit the water, Changing as I went. I didn’t even feel the Change or the cold as I Swam down and out toward “under sea.” I used all my power to get there as fast as possible. The first person I ran into, Feeling out for Tom obviously, was Chrissie.

“Joe, why are you here? You never come to “under sea.”

She was right. I hated the constant backbiting and especially the way they treated mother.

“Some idiot is playing with weather magic.”

“Why is that bad? It’s November. It rains all the time anyway.”

“What with all the stuff with Tom and the rest, you obviously haven’t heard about the weather.”

“What about the weather? And what do you know about Tom?”

“There’s a monster storm coming up the coast. And Tom went off to Vermont to deal with a family emergency.”

“He didn’t tell me.”

“He didn’t have a chance. He left a message and his keys with mom and dad before your little party and they brought it to me with the keys to the boat before they left. Tom checked in with me on his way out. He said to say he was sorry and that he would be back in a week or two with his tools. ”

“But he came back to the boat. He took my note. What tools?”

“That was Moira and I battening down the boat. For somebody who’s as deeply in love with him as you obviously are, you aren’t paying enough attention. He’s setting up a small shop for the off season.  He rented a place near the yard before he met you.”

“Oh, so that’s where he went that night that he never came back.”

Tom.

Dinner was over and we were all sitting with cider making small talk along with the drinks. Finally I was just too tired and decided to go to bed.

“I think it’s time for me to pack it in. Is my room still open?”

“Yes it is, I’ll take you.”

Stephie led me to the room, following me in.

“Stephie, what’s the emergency? So far nobody has said.”

“Actually, Tom, the emergency is you.”

I turned around and Stephie dropped her dress. Before I could get much of a glance at a body that looked far too young for a 36 year old woman with three kids she Changed into something that could only be said to be something glorious, glowing golden with spreading butterflylike wings, a creature of field and air.

“We are fae, high fae, all of us. This is the real me.”

“Does Boris know?”

“How could he not, we are soul touched. Like calls to like.”

“How come nobody told me.”

“When you killed your brother you were too young and then we had to wait until your soul healed enough to understand.”

“What happened to my brother?”

“He was touched by great evil, evil that his soul could not defend against. By the time he returned he was so twisted that there was very little left but a monster.  We could not save him, even though we tried. Your shooting him was a mercy.”

“That’s not how you acted at the time.”

“There were too many strangers and we needed to protect.”

The farm first, always. I was beginning to understand.

“So I went through all that pain.”

“From the moment you fired that shotgun there was little we could do. Events had to run their course. Come, meet the true family that has been kept from you.”

She grabbed my hand and we went back to a room completely changed.

My mother was there as the true image of the Faery Queen, surrounded by my brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins looking nothing like just moments before. I found out why my eldest sister had always called herself Tinker Bell and why they called Boris “the bear.” And on and on. Clothing was definitely optional with this crowd.

My father stood up, grand and glorious.

“Welcome, at last, our prodigal son Tom, come to us as himself. May he soon bring his merwife to strengthen and grow our family.”

I turned to mother.

“You knew.”

“Of course we did.”

“It might not happen.”

“You mean that little quarrel? That is already over. As you will find when you next are together. You and Christine are soul bound and that will not change.”

I missed her already.

“We will come down soon, to meet the family. There are arrangements to make and alliances to create.”

I wondered how that that was going to be arranged and had the scary feeling that mother and Mera had already made arrangements somehow.

The next morning at breakfast my brother in law George came in to the kitchen with a small camera. He was an avid amateur photographer and always seemed to be using one, but this time he handed the camera to me and several rolls of film to me.

“Here, Tom, we’ve been given our marching orders, Mother wants pictures of Chrissie, Soonest. This a Kodak VPK, it’s easy to use. Let me show you how to load it and shoot.” As George was showing me how to work the camera neither of us would imagine just how important that that would turn out to be.

I walked out to the shop. Everything was pretty much as I left it though I could see that the lathe had seen some use.  The little Hardinge hadn’t and that was the one I was worried about.  The small lathe was a miracle of precision, but touchy and fragile as well.

My father walked up to the shop door. It was strange, from yesterday, I knew where everyone was.  It was as if a door had opened.  Perhaps one had.

“You know Tom, as much as you want your tools, I’m not sure that it makes much sense to haul all this iron down to the Cape.”

“What are you saying, father?”

“Well now that you have come into your own, you will have a legacy. And these machines have proved their value even when you were not here. To be productive in farming is going to mean more machines and knowing machines.  I’m willing to buy these and fund the rest of your new shop.”

“As a loan?”

I was leery about debt, even from family in these times. I could sense the uncertainty and I used to work with the clowns in Washington.

“No, as a preapayment and to set up a new branch of the family. Also to help build alliances.  We fae grew far too weak because we were afraid to dilute our blood and not build alliances.  We need to change as the world does.”

“Who are you? Are you really my father?”

In all my early years there had been anybody more conservative than my father. I had heard about the battle over the first tractor, back in ’28.

“Let us just say that your brother’s death was the beginning of an awakening that has grown over time.”

“Ok, let’s do things that way. I’m taking the little Hardinge with me.”

“I expected that. That little machine is too much art and not enough work for a farm anyway.”

Chrissie.

There comes those times when you realize that you have made a terrible mistake. Listening to Joe, I realized that this was possibly worse than any mistake that I had ever made or could make.

“We need to get to the making chamber”

“Lead the way”

Under sea didn’t so much have walls as barriers made from live woven kelp and coral.   I never swam through the halls and even through some  walls as fast I was right now, dragging Joe right behind me, we reached the chamber where great magics were created and spun. Grandfather was there with two of my uncles, surrounding a glowing disk.

“Grandfather, you must stop!!”

“No, we will punish the landers for their insult.”

“I was the one who was supposed to be insulted and it was a misunderstanding. Stop now.” “Never you mind, this insult will be avenged.”

“Grandfather there is a hurricane coming. A big one.”

“So that will pound the landers.”

“Joe, tell him.”

“He never listens to me.”

“Tell HIM!!”

“Grandfather, the National Weather Bureau is sending constant broadcast reports to everything at sea concerning what they call a Category 4 hurricane with reported 110 mile per hour winds outside Bermuda as of when I left the yard. The entire coast has battened down.  This storm’s edge has already caused significant damage in Florida. This is the worst storm we have seen in some time and you are creating a storm magnet that is going cause it to pass right over under sea and the Cape.”

“How dare you spout lander twaddle at me!!”

“Grandfather if you keep going, there won’t be an under sea when the storm is over. To say nothing of all the relatives of under sea that live up there in the Cape.”

“Leave, they matter not to me!”

“I told you, Chrissie.”

“He’s stuck on the Little Mermaid. If mother or dad was here they could stop this.  Where are you going?”

“Western Union. I need to send a message to New York. Maybe I can get a hold of dad.”

“What do you want me to do?”

Talk to everyone who will listen and get them ready to start helping people. Something tells me that we are going to need them.

Joe.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, when I swam up to the dock and walked right into the Western Union Office not wearing a stitch nobody batted an eye.

“What can we do for you Mr. Claytor?”

“I need to send an urgent telegram. Charge it to the Georges dockyard’s account. Telegram is to be sent to Joshua Claytor, c/o Rockaway Sea Estate, Brooklyn New York.”

Rockaway Sea Estate was the land address of convenience for the sea kingdom south of Long Island near New York City.

Text.

Father must return soonest. stop Grandfather performing weather magic. stop. Needs to be stopped. Stop.”

“Weather magic? You’re kidding, right?”

“I wish I was.”

“Key this in NOW. Set it HIGHEST priority. Did you tell him?”

Got it, It’s already gone. Weather magic? Is the old man crazy?”

“I tried. He’s on high dudgeon over Chrissie.”

“About Tom?”

“Yeah.”

“Bob told me some of it. About the not loving and leaving. And how broken up she was about it.”

“Chrissie was pushing too hard and Tom had some issues.”

“Where is Tom?”

“Had a family emergency up in Vermont.”

“Does Chrissie know?”

“I told her.”

“Good, this needs to end. This stuff with high fae and soul bonding has a habit of running away if it’s not closed up.”

“you’re telling me?”

“I’ve been getting reports from the AP all day. If this thing hits though the Cape, there may not be a Cape left by the time it’s over.”

Small town. Everybody knows everybody else.

Josh.

The trip down the Sound was actually pleasant. Nera didn’t spend much time in the boat and it was just Mera and I in the wheelhouse.  Nera seemed to take joy from swimming ahead of the boat like a dolphin and sometimes with the dolphins.  When she was on the boat she wrapped a blanket around herself and perched on the forecastle looking out.

“I need to have Tom make me up a Helmsman’s chair like he did for Chrissie.”

I had shown Mera Tom’s boat on the way to dinner. She was much taken by that chair.

“That would work for both of us.”

I had had to work the boat Changed in the past and it was not fun. I’m not sure how Mera put up with it.

“I’ll take the boat, why don’t you go for a Swim?”

“I want to Swim with you.”

“Give Nera my boat? No thank you.”

“She could learn. I did.”

“You had time. This trip is going to be over in a couple of days.”

“She’s going to have to learn things when she stays with Mike.”

“They haven’t even met and you are acting as if it’s settled already.”

“It is, just like it was with us.”

“Hopefully goes easier than we had it.”

“Easy doesn’t make strength.”

We came up the North Shore of Long Island, stopping at Montauk for fuel and dinner the first night. Mera and I tried to get Nera to come to dinner, but she insisted on staying with the boat. Offered to bring something back and she said she would catch something until Mera pointed out that if she was going to be with Mike she was going to have to get used to cooked food.  That had been a sticking point with Mera and I, as I couldn’t stomach raw fish at first and still was not much taken with it.

The second day we got to Port Jefferson and I stopped for groceries while we refueled. We got going again and Mera cooked while I watched the wheel.  Steaks, which Mera does very well.  I had been looking forward to some of Mera’s steaks and  set it up so that she could get some cooking in. She rarely get’s the chance anymore. It helps that Mera truly likes her steak. Along with butter, lot’s of butter.

We dropped anchor in some cove to wait for morning. When Mera woke me to the smell of pancakes.  With Butter.

“Nera, you’re going to want to be aboard for this next bit.”

We had reached the Port of New York.

Tom.

I watched my sister dance across the top of the fence poles, A glory of gold and butterfly wings as she floated across the field in the mist.

Finally she alighted beside me.

“Sis, when did you first Change?’

“When I was eighteen.”

“Before you met Boris?”

“Yes.”

“How come I haven’t Changed?”

“You were not ready to accept.”

“I still haven’t, Chrissie and I-“

“You were frightened.”

“Did you think you were becoming a monster?”

“So that’s where you are going. No, I was who I was.  Do you think that Boris is a monster?”

“He fights monsters. But he is so different than you. How did you bond?”

“How could we not? He is earth and ground as I am air and light.  We are perfect complements.  He grounds me and I bring light to his darkness when he needs it.”

“How will I complement Chrissie?”

“You will discover that for yourselves. I think that you have already started. I can see the difference in you.” “I need to get going soon.”

I thought back to yesterday.

Father had assigned two farm hunks in the form of nephews to help me move the tools into the truck.

I was starting to sort things out when they arrived with a tractor and a hoist.

“Hi Uncle Tom!”

“Hi Uncle Tom!”

They were Bill and Scott. Off hand I couldn’t remember who’s kids they were, there were so many and sort ran in a pack. I think that Bill was my eldest brother’s and Scott was my sisters, but they both had the family resemblance. I started to wonder what they would become when they Changed. Since they both looked about seventeen that probably wasn’t too far away.

“I’m glad to see you with that. Let’s get the lathe in the truck first”

I was going to take the little lathe, the small tool grinder, my Gerstner box and the smaller drill bits, reamers and end mills that I had accumulated. I was going to leave the horizontal cutters as I was thinking about getting one of those new Bridgeport vertical mills rather than another horizontal.

We strapped up the lathe and gently hoisted it up.

“Hold it there while I back the truck up. We don’t want to drop this.”

Pratt had paid a pretty penny for that lathe when it was new. Unfortunately for Pratt and fortunately for me the bottom had dropped out of the machine tool market just as they had to cut production and leave the building.

“Good easy, that’s got it.”

We lifted the tool grinder and my Gerstner box in the truck after I strapped the lathe in.

Then we stated to go through the bits.

From time to time I started to see winces at some of the selections as I move up the larger sizes. I thought about it and then I understood.

“You boys are the ones who’ve been using the shop aren’t you?”

“Yes, Uncle Tom.”

“I see.”

I did actually. When I came in the shop had been well kept and I could tell that they had tried to be careful even though there had been some scars from a couple of crashes. Those were sort of inevitable.

“Ok, what drill bits, reamers and end mills do you use the most?”

We went through them and except for some common sizes, most were the bigger ones that I wasn’t going to need immediately anyway. “I’ll leave these and any duplicates.” “Thanks Uncle Tom!!”

We packed the bits I was taking into boxes. I would have to sort them later.  Then we packed everything in the truck and covered it up with a tarp and tied it down.

 

“Do you boys have your own toolboxes yet?

“No.”

“No, not yet.”

“We’ll have to fix that. Let’s go for a ride.”

We couldn’t use my truck, but that wasn’t a real problem. We went over to the house and I pulled a set of keys off the rack. Each of the farm trucks had their own place on the rack and this time of year most of them weren’t needed anyway.

“Flip for the back!!”

“No, we all ride up front. I don’t want to have to explain to your mothers why one of you fell out all over the road.”

That was true, but the real reason was that I wanted to feel them out about tools. After all I was handing over the machines that I had done a lot with and I wanted to be sure that the hands were as willing as mine had been.

 

I started down the road toward Burlington and the machinery shop that I had gone to for years in the past.

As we drove down toward we talked and I liked what I was hearing. They really liked working with machines and had started building engines for cars as well as keeping the farm stuff running.

At last I parked the truck in front of the shop.

“Tom! We haven’t seen you for a while.”

“Hi Rob. I moved down to the Cape. I’m working on boats now.”

“Well what’s up.”

“I’m turning over the farm shop to these two young men and they need to get set up.”

“So two boxes, two mikes, two Vernier calipers, two rules and two Machinery’s.”

Rob and the boys here in the shop had been preaching the gospel of Machinery’s Handbook for as long as I could remember.  Considering the number of jams that the book had gotten out of, I was a true convert.

“Six or twelve on the Verniers?”

“Twelve, they are doing farm work. Throw in two sets of twelve inch inside and outside calipers too.”

Rob ran up the total. It wasn’t going to be cheap but the lobsters did well last year.  With Chrissie stuffing so many of my pots I did very well last year.

“That will be $42.50 all told.”

“Uncle Tom, that’s too much!!”

“Uncle Tom, you shouldn’t do this.”

“Boys, this is paying it forward. People have helped me over the years and This is my chance to get you started down the right path.  The better you start the better your work. Also my dad will kill me if you guys can’t keep the shop going well enough. Do you want to put up with grandpa’s grouching?”

“No sir!!”

“No way!!”

“I thought not.”

We stopped off for lunch and then drove back up to the farm. We dropped the toolboxes off at the shop and the boys left.

I went into the kitchen to put the keys back and my father was sitting there.

“I see that you set the boys up. I thought you would. They have been doing some good work, but they have been using your tools and I was worried that they might get left in the cold.”

“You should know me better than that, father.”

“Did you put it on the account?” “No.”

“How much do I owe you?”

Father was big on debts and payment. So was I, come to that. I suspected that it came with high fae blood.

“Nothing father, it was my gift to the boys, my way of paying it forward for the people who did it for me. In a way it was a debt that I already owed, to the the craft.”

I thought of that as I pulled out toward the road and South.

Josh.

I ran the boat through the Hell Gate and down the East River. I could see that Nera was awed by the massive steel structures of the bridges as we passed under them and the huge towers on Manhattan.  That was understandable. By the water, not so much.

“What’s that smell?”

“Six million people. As much as they try, they can’t keep up with the trash and the sewage.”

That was true. I had worked some of the barges that tried to deal with that issue. There was also the problem of people dumping right into the water.

“I need to pull over at this dock and make a call.”

There was a pay phone on the police dock next to the Battery that you could tie up to for a short period of time.

I dropped a nickel and told the operator the number of Mike’s Office. “Bureau of animal husbandry, Southern Manhattan Office.”

Since the only animals South of Canal St were Wall St. sharks the office was sort of redundant. If you had a real animal issue the office would transfer you to the real office uptown.

“This is Joshua Claytor, I need to speak with agent Mike Welland.”

“Hello Mr. Claytor, I will see if Agent Welland can speak with you.

“Josh, good to hear from you, are you in Manhattan?”

“For the moment, but I’m heading to the Rockaways. Is there any chance you could meet me? There’s somebody I think you have to meet.”

I gave him the address of the Rockaway sea estate dock.

“I’m going there on family business, could you meet me there in about four or six hours?”

“I think so. What is this about?”

“I don’t want to discuss this over the phone.”

“Please drop five cents for more time.”

“Gotta go, see you there.”

This way we could figure out if it was Mike that Nera had soul bonded with. She was certainly looking at the island as if she sensed something. I needed to get on the boat and get us headed down river.

Mike.

Josh’s call was a surprise. I hadn’t had much business lately, which was good thing in my line of work and I sensed an opportunity.  The address that Josh had given me was the address of the dock of the local mer community.  Who were even more closed mouth and standoffish than the other local business community that they frequently associated with.  There was more to “sleeping with the fishes” than concrete overshoes and being able work underwater was an asset if you were a smuggler.

Our bureau wasn’t concerned with that, but sometimes smuggling merged into things we were concerned with. We had been trying to get a line into Rockaway for years with no success.

I walked into my boss’s office.

“Chief, you know that case that I wrapped up last month.”

“The one where you said more than a little too much.”

The chief was big on security. Since our bureau wasn’t even supposed to exist that was understandable. On the other hand if you didn’t relate to the communities you served how would you know what was going on.  I had the feeling that everybody keeping everything in the dark was helping the dark.

“I just got a call from Josh, the future father in law of our boy, Tom. He wants to meet me on Rockaway dock. He’s there on family business”

The chief had seen my report. He didn’t need think very hard about what family business meant. La Casa Nostra has nothing on the high fae when it comes to family business.

“I’m coming with you.”

That could be good, bad, or very bad, for the other guy.

Josh.

About four hours from the phone call, I brought the boat into the dock that the telegrams that I had been sending back forth for the last six months said to stop at. I tied up and looked around.  There was a young mer sitting on the pier. I knew he was high fae because young males from low fae grew up human.  High fae were like my two sons, mer.  This one was in Change form and not even trying to hide what he was.

“You Claytor?” “Yes.”

“I’ll take care of the boat. You need to be over there, first door on the right.”

I walked into what appeared to be a speakeasy though all of the customers were not wearing any clothes and the radio was running on the weather bulletin. They all looked scared, very scared.

“You must be Josh! I’m Alvertis, call me Al.”

“It’s nice to see your face after all those cables. But what’s wrong?”

I liked the bar and radio setup. I needed to think about setting something like that up.

“There’s a category 4 hurricane off Bermuda coming up the coast.”

If you live underwater that is a huge concern.

“Can you go deep?”

“That’s what we were talking about. There’s been a lot of weird shark activity lately and I’m worried about our people out in the open. I’ve already sent all the people with lander relatives ashore, along with everybody I could squeeze along. Setting up some sort of shelter is going to be hard.”

These people were exposed. The mers of Cape Cod were lucky that way.

“I’m Looking for Mr. Claytor, Josh Claytor.”

It was Western Union, but who knew where I was and how did they know to send here?

“I’m Claytor.”

“Sign here.”

I had never seen a telegram like this. It practically glowed red and there was urgent around the border and highest priority on the top and bottom.

Then I looked at who sent it and read it.

“Al, I have to go.”

I handed him the telegram.

“Weather magic, now? Is he crazy?”

“No, out of touch, has lost half his soul and his soulmate to those sharks you were just talking about, loves his daughters, two of which are right outside and dotes on his granddaughter who is having high fae teenage issues right now and is probably at the center of this, somehow. I’ve got to get back to the Cape before this disaster turns into a real catastrophe. Can you call a cab?”

I took the telegram back from Al’s shaking hands and walked out the door and back to the dock.

“Dear, we have a real emergency, you are going to have to handle the boat.”

I handed her the telegram.

“Chrissie.”

“Probably.”

“What’s a little rain for a few days while we clear this up.”

“I would agree with you except there’s a monster storm, a Category four coming up the coast. Father’s weather magic could be a storm magnet for the biggest thing that the coast has seen for years. The people here are diving for cover and I can’t blame them.  I need to get back to the Cape, soonest.”

“Josh!!”

“Hi Mike, do you have a car?”

‘Josh, this my boss-“

“Smith, Mr. Smith.”

He was great block of a man, the kind that you definitely did not want to mess with.

“Mike we have a real emergency working its way toward a catastrophe.

And then Nera poked her head around the wheelhouse and what I had been afraid of became obvious.

“You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”

Soul bonding. It was the worst possible time.

“Mr. Smith, Mike is going to be out his head for a while and we really need to get going.”

‘Mera, take care of them! I’ve got to go.”

Smith was looking at Mike’s dumbfounded face trying to figure out what was going on and probably who or what he should kill. I handed him the telegram and while it was like trying to move a mountain, tried to get him moving in the right direction. He looked at the telegram.

“Weather magic, is he crazy?”

“No, this is what happens if soul bonding starts to get messed up. I need to get up to Grand Central or Penn and on the next train to Boston before a lot of people get hurt.”

“Let’s go. I think you are right. And what were you going to explain about Mike on the way”

Smith got in the car and we drove off. Smith didn’t seem to pay much attention to speed limits and traffic laws.  I guess there were advantages to being a government agent for an organization that doesn’t exist.

“Mike told me some about your outfit. What do you know about the high fae?  “Some. Mostly that they can be very clannish and they can be a pain to deal with.  Also that it helps to be a member of the family.  We were trying to recruit Tom. His entire family is high fae.  Boris married a sister instead. We want to keep an eye on the dark up there and having a line from the high fae could help us greatly.  I just wish them that we could convince them that we could help them too.  I think that Tom’s brother was a wake up call.  The old man wanted to know if Tom’s brother being drafted was random and frankly, so do I. A high fae monster has a great deal of power and somebody seems to have gone to a great deal of trouble to make one.”

“Did you know that Mike was high fae?”

“He is?”

“What happened back there is proof. My wife’s sister picked up on him as prime mate in the few seconds that Mike and I were putting my daughter back in the water because Chrissie had picked up on Tom as prime mate and was frustrated about it. There’s a fish in his future whether he likes it or not.”

“Did Tom know?”

“About Chrissie or that he was high fae?”

“Either, both?”

“Not at first. I’m not sure that he knows that he’s high fae even now. Or that he really has no choice as far as Chrissie is concerned. As far as I know his family hasn’t told him. Considering what happened when he was fourteen I can understand why. They did call him home just before we left. Chrissie has made her intentions fully known to Tom at this point.  She was dragging him to the beach for recreation and copulation as we left to come down here. I suspect that the recreation and copulation did not go as she planned, thus the mess we have right now.”

“About Mike.”

“If we’re lucky, Mera can convince them to find a beach tonight and let them go at it. At least they are both adults and Mike seems to know the score. Mike being able to do his job and be on the water is your problem. I definitely don’t want a repeat of what happened between Mera and I.”

“What happened?”

“I dragged my feet for six months because I was trying to be noble and thinking that Mera was far too good for me. With a good deal of help from Mera’s relatives including the lady that just got attached to Mike. It got to be a real mess. In the end Mera’s father marooned me on an island, told Mera about it and said that no boat would be able get to the island until we closed the deal. That worked and we’ve been married ever since.”

“You didn’t know that you were high fae?”

“I had been left at an orphanage with NO distinguishing marks, no clothes, jewelry or even a basket. The nuns named me Joshua because of that. There was NOTHING to tie me to anything, or anybody in my past even by the deepest magical probes. Somebody went to great lengths to keep me alive by rendering me completely unattached to anything.”

“You have a last name.”

“I was adopted later. When my foster parents told me at age fifteen I left to protect them. That’s part of being high fae even if you don’t know what you are. I still love them and miss them even though they have been gone a long time now.”

“How old are you?”

“seventy eight.”

“I wouldn’t have thought you over fifty, fifty five at most.”

“How old do you think my wife is?”

“Thirty five or forty.”

“My oldest son is 35. Mera is 268 years old. I had to wrap my head around that one too during those six months.  The more time you spend in Changed form the less you age and indeed aging tends to go backward to a point. Mera keeps trying to get me to stay in Changed form and if I didn’t have so much work to do topside I would.”

“So running the boat isn’t your real job?”

“It pays the bills. And it allows me to do my real work without attracting too much attention.” “Which is?”

“Talking to people like you, or those mers down on Rockaway. I really need to talk to Tom’s family soonest. Look at what’s happening right now. We’ve got a potential catastrophe coming because a stupid old man who dotes on his beloved granddaughter cooks up a little weather magic to rain on somebody’s parade during the worst hurricane in ten years. All because Tom’s family never told him what he was and what soul bonding meant.  If they had, those two would have done the nasty on the beach, I could help those poor people down on the Rockaways and maybe be ready when and trust me, it’s when some real monsters show up.”

“You think so too?”

“Mr. Smith, or whatever your real name is, that war was nothing more than a monster breeding ground and I don’t think we have seen the worst of it yet, not by a long shot.”

Mera.

“You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”

Oh dear, not now. Mike stepped forward with a blank look on his face as Nera reached out and touched Mike’s face.

“Mera, take care of them! I’ve got to go.”

Thereby dumping the whole thing on her. Of course she couldn’t blame Josh for that. He had to run off to deal with yet another mess that shouldn’t have happened.  Mera wished that she could reach out and slap some sense into both Tom and Chrissie. Well that would happen soon enough.  Maybe she and Josh could maroon them.  That had worked out so well for Josh and her.  Oh so well.  Now to the task at hand.

Nera had grabbed Mike and was kissing him all over his face.

“You poor dear, Oh you poor dear.”

“Nera, you need to let go of Mike so that we can talk.”

“Why do we need to talk?”

“Mike needs to know who you are”

“Mike already knows who I am.”

Mike was reaching up and touching Nera’s face, total bewilderment in his eyes.

She turned to the young mer sitting on the pier.

“What’s your name.”

“Silvio.”

“You see what’s happening here?”

“Soul touching. I’ve never seen it like this.”

“I know.”

“My husband says that the most tortured souls form the tightest bonds. But this, this.  I’m not sure how to deal with it.”

A mer walked down the pier.

“Lady Mera? I’m Alvertis, the boss, king, mayor, whatever here.”

The Rockaway mers seem to be less formal than home.

“Yes?”

If the expression on his face was any indication there was more trouble brewing.

Nera had lost the jacket she had been wearing and was picking at Mike’s clothes. Mike was kissing between Nera’s breasts on his way down. Unlike Tom, It was unlikely that Mike was going to stop.

“Is there a quiet beach somewhere VERY near by. Or any reasonably flat surface near the water?”

“There’s a float at the end of the pier.” “Mike, dear, why don’t you take Nera over there to that nice float.”

Mike picked Nera up and staggered over to the float and set Nera down. The last thing Mera saw of them was Nera’s webbed hands pulling Mike’s head below the pier and the shreds of Mike’s clothes and his gun flying all over the place.

“Oh dear, I hope that there are some spare clothes available. Not that Mike’s going to need any for some time.”

Then Nera started to scream like foghorn, over and over until she reached a chreshendo and stopped, followed shortly thereafter by moaning climbing to yet another screaming creshendo and then an anguished cry of pain from Mike and concerned noises from Nera and a final splash. It had taken Mera six months to get Josh to that point. Nera had managed it in less than six minutes.  And hadn’t even said a word to Mike to boot.  Mera crawled to the end of the pier and looked down. There was nothing there but a few shreds of clothing and a puddle of water.

Smith.

He Dropped Claytor off at Grand Central and then drove far more slowly back the Rockaway pier in the growing darkness. A woman in a long dress was sitting on a bollard next to Claytor’s boat under a light.

“Where’s the agent that was here?”

“Mike? He’s sleeping with the fishes.”

Smith drew his handgun and looked around.

“Sorry about my little joke. Mike is sleeping, that is if they have gotten tired by now, with one fish, my sister.”

The woman pulled up her dress, showing what appeared to be a fish’s tail.

“Josh explained to you about soul bonding didn’t he?”

“Yes he did.”

“Well, it took me six months of anguish and pain to get Josh to close the deal. My sister managed it in less than six minutes. And she didn’t even say anything to do it.”

“Will they come back up?”

“Who knows. Mike has Changed so they don’t have to.”

“Mike NEVER goes out with women.”

“That may have been part of the problem. They say that opposites attract. Well Nera liked to play the field.  I’m Mera, by the way, Josh’s wife. As well as Chrissie’s mother and Tom’s future mother in law so I want to know about you and your agency now that Mike is family.”

“Mike is one of my best people.”

“Well Mike has new relationships now and it’s going be up to us, his family to make them work.”

“You’re high fae aren’t you.”

“You know that.”

“You’re also dangerous.”

“Yes, very.”

“As dangerous as that woman upstate.”

“Tom’s mother?”

“Yes.”

“We are just starting to feel out the relationship. Again they are family, so things need to develop”

I was standing there with the gun and all my strength and she apparently had none of that. She could not even walk. Yet somehow I knew that if it came to direct conflict I would disappear and she would be there as if nothing had happened.

“Do you want to wait for Mike?”

“No, when Mike surfaces, tell him that he has a mandatory week off. No, make it two.”

“With pay?”

High fae and their debts.

“Yes, he’s earned it.”

“All of it. He’s gone through enough hell already.”

She was right about that, we all had. But somebody had to.

“By the way could you have somebody send some fresh clothes for Mike. Nera sort of tore them off.”

She held up what appeared to be a small piece of Mike’s trousers.

 

Josh.

Smith dropped me off at Grand Central at about 6:00 PM.

“I need a ticket to Cape Cod on the next train to Boston”

“That will be the Night Express, leaving at 10:30 PM. Do you want a berth?”

“Coach is fine. I probably wouldn’t sleep very well in a berth anyway.”

An overnight train, leaving in four and half hours. Well that would be the best that I could do.

“Josh?”

I turned around. They say that you could run into anybody in Grand Central. In this case he did work there some of the time.

“Mr. Droege. I haven’t seen you since ‘91”

There are good bosses and bad bosses and Droege was the best when I was booming the rails before my Change. He looked almost as well as did, which was remarkable since I didn’t think that he was fae.

“Josh you were the best clerk I had when I was yardmaster on the Valley, What have you been doing since.”

“I got married and my family is on the water so I’ve been on boats. I’ve got string of pots up in Cape Cod now.”

“That’s great, we all used to get worried that you had nobody in your life. They say that being single makes you careless.”

We had all lost friends because of that.

“So what are doing now Mr. Droege.”

“I’m superintendant.”

“Of the Western division?”

I knew that he was working the New Haven. I had even bought his books for recreation, which mystified the hell out of my wife.

“The whole thing now.”

“I’ve got an emergency. Any chance you could find an extra out to the Cape?”

“If it were any other time, it probably wouldn’t be a problem, but tonight if it doesn’t HAVE to move and isn’t on the timetable it isn’t moving.”

The New Haven had its mains right along the shore. They probably had every hand getting ready for the storm or resting for when it was over.

“The storm.”

“We need to be ready. I’m busy or I would take you to dinner. Here, eat on the New Haven.”

“You didn’t need to do that.”

“Yes I did, it’s marketing. The New Haven moves a lot of seafood off the Cape and I imagine that you have a voice with the shippers.”

He was more right than he knew.

“Mr. Droege, you need to see this.”

“I see that they caught you again.”

Back in the day he was always dodging obnoxious people with paperwork. That had apparently not changed. I went down to the Oyster Bar to eat on the New Haven’s meal ticket,  then I went to the newsstand for the paper and over to Western Union to send a telegram to Joe to pick me up at Yarmouth in the morning. Then I walked around for a couple of hours savoring the city before finding my seat and stretching out.

Mera.

After the loving couple dropped in to the water I turned to the mer behind me.

“Mr. Alvertis?”

“Call me Al.”

“You seem to have some issues that you were going to discuss with my husband.”

“Yes, it’s about the sharks.”

Sharks had killed my mother and her guards as she was swimming down the coast to the Rockaway kingdom in fact to visit her sister.

“Is my aunt still around?”

Yes, but she lost her husband, who was our king, to sharks as a matter of fact.”

Once was happenstance, twice was coincidence.

“So that’s how you got the job?”

“Yes. The royal sons have also been attacked and one killed and the other badly injured.”

Very badly injured from the sound of it. It also looked as if the Rockaway mers had been badly weakened.

“Three times is enemy action.”

“Yes, but we can’t find the enemy.” Most of the time the sharks behave as normal.”

Running away from mers. Sharks tend not to choose prey almost as large or larger then they were.

“Is the bower still safe?”

Mer bowers were surrounded with magic inaudible sound generators that made things uncomfortable for fish so that they didn’t enter them.

“Yes, but if we have to collapse the field to move it the sharks and anything else would be free to attack.”

Therein lay the problem. That was one of the reasons for contacting Mike.  And why the distraction came at the worst possible time. She was all alone with nothing but the boat. Josh was the one with the lander contacts and resources.  She was going to have to work on that.

“It’s getting dark. Al, why don’t you go home and get some rest. Mike’s boss will be back and I will have a talk.”

I crawled back onto the boat, pulled out my blue dress and put it on. Mike’s boss hadn’t really seen what I and Nera were and being mysterious gave me an advantage.  Not that any lander would be a problem on the water if a fight started.  When you could use water as a hammer or a gun you didn’t really NEED weapons.

I crawled over to a bollard and sat down to wait.

“Where’s the agent that was here?”

“Mike? He’s sleeping with the fishes.”

The gun was rather silly actually on the dock. He was strong and tough, but the dock was my territory and he should have known that.

“Sorry about my little joke. Mike is sleeping, that is if they have gotten tired by now, with one fish, my sister.”

I pulled up my dress to show him what I was.

When he started to go on about how Mike never went to women I began to understand the love bird’s explosion.  Neither Nera or Mike had had much real affection so once the bond set it was like the strongest magnets drawn to each other.  They literally  couldn’t help it.  I sensed some familiar movements below me.

“Do you want to wait for Mike?”

“No, when Mike surfaces, tell him that he has a mandatory week off. No, make it two.”

“With pay?”

“Yes, he’s earned it.”

“All of it. He’s gone through enough hell already.”

 

I distracted him with that little shred of pants and he left

“you heard?”

“hee hee.”

I couldn’t be sure which one of them giggled or if they both did.

“Well it’s going to be a working vacation. Come over to the boat. There’s a problem developing.”

I crawled over to the boat as Mike climbed up and then pulled Nera up.

“Why did you come back so soon? I didn’t expect to see you for at least another day.”

“The water here isn’t happy.”

“It’s hard to stay in the mood if everything around you is unhappy.”

They were a pair of childish lovebirds all right. Considering that Mike was at least forty and Nera was well over 200 that was rather ridiculous.

“You noticed.”

Actually they couldn’t help it. Merfolk were very sensitive to chemical cues.

“Let’s go to bed then. You two bunk in the wheelhouse.

The next morning I decided to give the lovebirds their marching orders. The skies were starting to get cloudy, warning of what was coming.

“Mike, do you think that your boss could spare a minion or two. Somebody young who could be a runner and not freak out at merfolk?’

“I could do it-“

“Actually you are going to be too busy. I also think that your bureau is going to need liaison people with merfolk and other high fae and they need to start somewhere.  Your boss’s top down approach didn’t really go over very well.  If Boris hadn’t been working so hard to keep things smoothed over, it could have gone badly. The problem is that the normals stop seeing the Changed as people in some cases and that causes frictions and opens up holes for monsters and other bad things.  We need to start working to close those holes and if nobody talks to each other it won’t work.”

“I can think of a couple that might fit the bill.”

“Nera, take Mike down and practice Swimming He needs to learn his new self.”

“I would say that he already has.”

“Other than that part. This is work. I also don’t want you on the surface when somebody comes around from the bureau with Mike’s clothes. Which we will put away for a while.”

“Why?”

“Because you need to get the feeling of bare scales or skin. If you have clothes the temptation will be to wear them. And to keep releasing your Change to do that.  You need to be comfortable with your Change. I learned that the hard way with Josh.”

“Let’s go Mike, sis is being bossy.”

“Damn straight.”

That should keep them down when Mike’s boss came back today with the clothes. I didn’t want Mike and his boss getting ideas about returning to work quite yet. They were those kind of men and I was going need Mike. And minions, yes, minions.

I swam down and searched out Al.

“Mike has recovered from his Change.”

“I’m surprised. The way they were going, I thought they would never stop.”

“The waters here had rather a chilling effect.”

“I know. It’s part of the overall malaise.”

“Has this been a recent occurrence?”

“You think that somebody has put something in the water?”

“You mean in addition to all the other crap?”

“Yes.”

“It’s going to be hard to tell?”

I swam around watching as people tried to get prepared for the hurricane as best they could both over and under the sea and wondered if it was all going to be futile.

Minions. I needed minions, minions that I could turn into passionate and willing ones.

Smith.

I took Mike’s spare keys and went over to his apartment and picked up some spare clothes. I could have had an agent do this but I felt that it was better to do this myself. I also wondered if Mike would ever return to the apartment. He was too good at his job and I hated to lose him.  Time to cross swords with HER again.

There she was, on the deck of the boat this time. In the same blue dress.

“I thought that you would do this yourself.”

“Loyalty works both ways.”

“Yes it does.”

She was good, but then she had had a couple of centuries of practice. She also wanted something. I could tell.

“Have you seen Mike yet?”

“Yes actually. He and Nera got a chill on their little parade.”

“They did?”

From what little I saw, the sparks were going to be seen in Albany and there were police reports from all over this area complaining of loud sexual activity. I had figured that they wouldn’t come up for air even through the hurricane. I suspect that Mera felt the same way. That anything would chill on that was more than a little scary. And needed be investigated.

“What happened?”

“We think that there was something in the water.”

This was new information. Though it made sense when I thought about it. Fish were sensitive to chemical changes too.

“Where are they now?”

“I sent them Swimming. Mike needs to get used to his new self. Hand those clothes over, I want to hide them before they get back.”

“Why?”

I handed the clothes over and she disappeared into the deckhouse emerging shortly after.

“Clothes can be a crutch and a shield, hiding your true self. But Change won’t let you hide your true self.”

“You’re wearing a dress.”

“Why yes I am.”

With that she pulled it over her head and then leaped into the water, giving me just a glimpse of a glorious vision.

I considered just how lucky Joshua Clayton was. And Mike, considering what had happened with Mera’s sister.

There was a splash behind me.

“Would you consider sending two junior agents over? I could use some legs.”

“Why?”

“We have some desperate people here, it would show some good will on you people’s part, you would make good friends with some high fae and merfolk and it would be good training for the future for them.”

All of those were very good points that I could use when I put in the requisition for the case. Which I would. Had she worked for the government?

“I think I can send a couple down. They’ll be here in the morning about ten.”

“Make sure that you brief them thoroughly. I’m going to attach some locals and I want to keep the tension down to a minimum.”

She MUST have worked in the government. She was good. I had forgotten how much fun it was to have a smart and talented adversary. One that I didn’t have deal with as a monster. Or who thought of me as one.

Josh.

I mostly slept through the ride. Stress was wearing me out.  I needed to do more Swimming.  If I could get Tom up to speed, that would take some of the load off.  He was good at making things easier for people. Building stuff too.  I was beginning to think that that might be important.

I woke up through the engine change in New Haven and the stop in New London. All in all I got a pretty good rest when the train pulled into South Station and the crew chased everybody off.

The train to the Cape left South Station at 7:30 and we pulled into Yarmouth at Ten.  Joe was waiting. As I walked to his truck I picked up an old spike.

 

“That was quick.”

“Not quick enough. I ran into an old friend at Grand Central.  He runs the railroad and they are battening down.  Do you have a spare boat, a quick one?

“Even better, I have Tom’s. It was a rum runner.”

“Chrissie said it was light on the throttle.”

 

“She’ll pull 25 knots without a sweat. She’s running a Liberty. The only reason that Tom never pushed it is that he didn’t trust the wheel. Of course he was also concerned about wasting gas.”

War surplus Liberty engines had a habit of showing up in rum runners. The only way to tell a rum runner from a regular boat for sure was when they opened up.  On the Cape it was hard to sell confiscated rum runners to anybody other than putative smugglers because if you opened up you were immediately suspect and if you didn’t the engine didn’t run as lean as it should.  Tom had made some adjustments based on his experience at Pratt, but it remained to be seen how effective they were.

“Why did you convince him to buy it?”

“Well I figured that before too long he would be doing family work for you and having a fast boat would come in handy from time to time.”

“What’s the spike for?”

“You know what iron does to spells. If I have to I’m going to toss this in the middle.”

“That could be dangerous.”

“I know, but we may be running out of Time for “safe. Speaking of Chrissie I’m going to have a talk with that girl.”

“I don’t think that you need to. This whole thing has put a pretty good scare into her.”

“I think that I’m going to maroon Tom and Chrissie on that Island that dad marooned Mera and I on.”

“Now THERE’s an idea and I think that Chrissie will be all for it. You’re going to have to surprise Tom though.”

“When’s he getting back?”

“I don’t know. It shouldn’t be long, Tom was just planning to grab his tools and come back and he hasn’t sent any messages.”

“Mera has been making noises about inviting the family over for Christmas.”

“That might be fun. Do they know?”

“Actually I suspect that they do.”

Mera.

It was time to let her fingers do the walking. In her last days at the fisheries office, when her legs were starting to get weak as Stacey was starting Her Change, she learned just what a powerful weapon the telephone was.

“Al dear, is there a place where I could sit that has a telephone nearby?”

“Up the street about half a block.”

“Will they have any issues with what I am?”

“Around here, no.”

“Could you carry me over to the boat and then wait a second as I get something and then take me over?”

“Sure.”

I got on the boat, put my dress back on and dropped down into the cabin to get something I almost never got a chance to use, my purse. Which had my phone book in it.

The place Al took me to was a nice little restaurant with some interesting chairs with slots up the back that rolled around. The place wasn’t very full and the atmosphere was low key with families of mixed people eating together.

“Al, this perfect.”

She rolled on her chair and sat down at a table next the phone.

“Can I take your order?”

“What are the specials today?”

“There’s a homemade beef pie and veal with our special sauce.”

“Let’s try the pie, that sounds interesting.”

“And to drink?”

“Just some tea, thank you.”

She had forgotten just how wonderful it was to have normal food in a normal place. She picked up the phone and didn’t even bother with the nickel.

“Operator I want to charge the next calls to this government account.”

Father didn’t know it but he was a legally registered government with a bank account who’s sole function was to manage telephone and other communications, A bank account that she, Nera, Eltra and her two brothers kept with a large chunk of money from wreck pillage for potential emergencies and diplomatic work. As an official government account the account was nontaxeable and the bank didn’t care that the account was owned by a mermaid as long as none of the charges bounced.  With over a million dollars they wouldn’t for quite some time. She had learned about the accounts while working at the fisheries and when her Change started she decided to set it up.

“Operator I want to make a call to –“

It was time to get to work.

Chrissie.

When Joe left I went into the central hall and started to tell people about the storm. The word was coming from other people too as just everybody with relatives up top were repeating the radio message.  Somebody had brought down a copy from the Western Union teletype printed on celluloid and it was being passed around. Several families had already started assembling work crews to start tying things and tearing things down and fold them up. Many of the men were going up and out, some heading for emergency jobs like the Beach Patrol. Even high fae sometimes needed jobs and the volunteer  rescue didn’t care what you were as long as you could save lives. Even if grandfather didn’t believe in the storm, just about everyone else did. The bower was getting ready to batten down.

I felt a little useless and wondered about Tom. Was he doing the same sort of thing with his family up in Vermont? Did they even know?

I went past the making room. My uncle Ilutra came out.

“Uncle how could you?”

“Look Chrissie, when we started it was just to humor the old man. Altris and I were just going to let him spin up the spell and then let it wind down on its own. All it would have done is make a little rain which, considering it was a little dry this year we sort of needed.”

“You didn’t check the weather report.”

“I did, that morning. I always check in. I went into the harbor and over to the payphone and called in just like I do every morning. The Key West bulletin didn’t come in until the afternoon. By the time the messenger got to the bower we were already in the middle of it. With grandpa watching and upset it was sort of hard to sneak out and into town to hit the Western Union office. The problem with hurricanes is that there’s no eye in the sky watching the mid Atlantic when they spin up.  If there were some of camera way high up to tell us we would have much better information sooner.  I work for the Woods Hole weather station as their Swimmer and I talk to those guys.  Trust me we don’t just play with the weather.”

The brothers shared a truck that grandfather didn’t know about. They often used it take their wives to dinner among other things. Raw seafood gets old after a while.

Ilutra was more than a little bit of a science geek and had a bunch of Scientific Americans stashed at dad’s house. He was also well known over there in Woods Hole. I really didn’t think that he was so stupid to let what happened run on purpose.

“So now what?”

“We’re trying to accelerate the spindown when grandfather isn’t looking. The problem is that he keeps coming back and dumping more energy in and spinning it back up. It’s killing him and that may be what he wants.”

High fae who lost their bond partners had a very high suicide rate.

“If we could just get him out of the room, or even better out of the bower for a day, we could get it spundown and shutdown. I wish mother were alive.”

They all did.

Now there was an idea. Get grandpa up top where he could see things for himself. But how?

Josh.

Joe and I got to Tom’s boat and Joe worked the lines as I cranked her over. She started on the third time she went over and I started to reverse her out of the slip as Joe pulled the fenders in and stowed them. Once the boat was out of the slip I turned the wheel over and put her in forward. I started up the row and towards the harbormaster’s office at no wake speed when the harbormaster came out of his office, saw us and started making punching motions with his fist and then he reached for his loudspeaker and then the next thing I heard was;

“Josh, punch that damn boat, get the hell out there and shut the old man down. When you do, bring him back here, we need to talk. I need him. That’s an order.”

NOBODY disobeyed an order from the harbormaster in this port.

I pushed the throttle all the way forward and the engine roared in the sweetest sound that I had ever heard. I had been on Tom’s boat when we brought her over to the harbor  and had it sort been put put put. This was a whole ‘nother animal. This thing wanted run and run fast.  The big engine screamed as we flew out of the harbor and the boat started skipping across the growing waves. A Liberty could get 400 horsepower and we were getting all of it and maybe a bit more.

“Has Tom done anything to this engine other than carburetor adjustment?”

“I don’t know. If he did he didn’t tell me about it. On the other hand I’ve never heard an engine this sweet.  No wonder this boat gave the Coast Guard fits until they ran her over those rocks.  What do you think, 24 Knots.”

“25 easy, maybe 26.”

The engine just kept running flat out never weeping, never missing, never even slowing down. We just kept running until we were near the bower. I could sense it and pulled the throttle back. The engine seemed to give a cry as it slowed down to idle and I shut it down.

“Joe, strip and then get the hook ready.”

I was reaching for my shirt

“Do we have time for the hook?”

“I don’t want to lose this boat. I think that we are going to need it again soon.”

Other than the smugglers, the sea rescue people needed fast boats.

I finished stripping and we both slipped into the water. I tied a line to the spike and put it around my neck. We swam down the line so that we could set the hook and then headed to the bower.

The place was in a frenzy a people swam to and fro, obviously getting things ready for the storm. Maybe father didn’t believe in the storm but the rest of his kingdom certainly did.  Then I heard a booming weather bulletin update.

“hydrophone off a sub, attached to a radio buoy.”

“How did they get that?”

“Dad, there are least thirty people from here, including at least two high fae who work at Electric Boat. They fabbed it in the shop. Probably took them about an hour. I’m surprised  whoever put it in took this long.”

Merfolk working at a place that built submarines. Made sense. And weather was always a big deal when you live on or under the sea.

“Dad!!” There she was with her two uncles.

“Young lady, we need to talk.”

“I’m sorry, it got out of hand.” “You two, I KNOW you both know better than to screw around with the weather.”

“Josh, we screwed up. I should have made sure about the forecast before letting the old man play. It’s just that he was in such high fae dudgeon and ready to go war with SOMETHING and I was going to run a rain spell anyway. Haven’t you noticed how dry it’s been since October? He just kept dumping energy into the spell and I couldn’t shut it down.”

“We need to shut it down NOW. If you don’t I’ll use THIS.” I held up the spike.

“That’s not a good idea, at least right now. The backsplash could be worse than letting it go on.” Ilutra was right. He was the expert in weather magic, he had been at it for over 200 years and he was usually very careful with it.  In a way that was I why I was so pissed.  But apparently the hurricane had sprung up between forecasts.

“So what do we do?”

“The best thing to is get Father out of here so Altris and his boys can get it shut down properly. I need to get up to the weather station and pick up my gear. We’ve got weather buoys that we can’t afford to go down right now and I’m their Swimmer.”

Ilutra handled the buoys for the weather station when weather was too bad for a boat to be out without risking a crew. It helped that he could not drown

“OK I have an idea for this spike.”

“You’re going to drop it in the spell?”

“No, I’m going to make father THINK I’M going to drop it into the spell and then while he’s scared and off his center I’m going to drag him back to the boat and back to town, harbormaster’s orders.”

“Good, father listens to him. They’ve known each other for fifty years.”

I knew that. For some reason we had all sort of fell apart after Liltra was killed.

Mera.

It had been a VERY productive two hours. She would also have to get the recipe for that pie. It may have been an aphrodisiac.

She had called her replacement at fisheries to find out about who to talk to about chemicals in the water, who the NY water safety people were and who to contact about getting a quiet series of samples and her old boss had cut in and went on about how he was ready to retire and could she please come back and take over and that the tail thing didn’t matter. She could understand that. She and her boss had been fighting the overfishing battle with the fishermen for a decade and he probably wanted somebody he KNEW was going to keep up the fight to take over.

Dear George had gone back to his office and expedited all sorts of things across several departments. I don’t think that “Smith” knew that once money was involved you weren’t as clandestine as you think you are and that with the right connections anybody can find out what they needed.

By the end of the first hour she had the number of a chemistry professor at Fordham who had been doing saltwater studies for the last ten years, an agent of the water board who was concerned with dumping and chemical pollution, the office of the Port Authority which was concerned with taking salinity samples. The Water Board agent happened to be a mer, which probably shouldn’t have surprised her.

She also had Smith’s budget, who his agency reported to and a roster of his entire staff. She wondered who he was going to send.  That young attorney that had had the vampire encounter and her partner the Italian ex NYPD detective who had that encounter with something that had disappeared before anybody could get any pictures after it was dead.  They did get some weird chemical samples off the floor. Those two would be good choices for this. They probably played “good cop, bad cop” very well.

The second hour was almost as productive, but it was time to leave and get back to the boat. With the number of mers in this place there must be way to get customers back to the water.

“Miss, my bill please and is there some way to get to my boat at the dock?”

The waitress lifted her blouse. There were scales the around edges of her belly.

“Milady, the bill is on us and we have a rickshaw that can take you back to your boat.”

High fae NEEDED strong leadership. Another flaw when somebody took that leadership out.

“By the way, could I have the recipe of that wonderful pie?”

A VERY productive afternoon.

Al was waiting at the dock, looking nervous.

“Al does Silvio have clothes. If not we need to get him fixed up.”

Now the fun could begin.

Tom.

As I was going down the driveway toward the road, Boris’s truck pulled up and blocked me. He was wearing his Sheriff’s uniform and looking the very model of the perfect cop. He got out of the truck carrying two boxes of shells.

“Tom, take these and keep them next to the gun”

Between the various members of the family we probably owned at least 200 firearms of various types including some that we didn’t talk about, but “the gun” only meant one thing to our family, the Model Ten trench broom that my brother had brought back from the war and that I had killed him with. The gun that was racked on my boat right now.

“Why?”

I looked down at the boxes. They were military issue, the issue with all brass cases.  These had an “S” after the case number.

“These are the “special” rounds that we used to use in our work. I have this feeling that you may need them. Also, be careful when you get down toward the Cape, there’s a big storm brewing up.”

I was learning to trust high fae feeling. Boris, got back in his truck, turned around and I followed him down the road. I had been hearing about the storm on the radio in the kitchen and maybe I could have helped, but I wanted to get back to the Cape, and Chrissie.

Linda.

I was running few minutes late as I got into the office from the subway. I walked through the door that said “Bureau of Animal Husbandry” though the only animals we dealt with were supernatural and my partner, Sal was waiting. Sal had been a NYPD street cop and detective before he ran into the weird and the strange that had almost killed him while I had been a student at Yale law until that encounter with that man who was more toothy than he should have been and needed to be staked.  We were something different now.

“Linda, the boss wants us, We’ve got new case.”

Another dive into the deep and dark corners of the city and the area looking into things that most people didn’t know about and didn’t WANT to know about.

We walked into the boss’s office and he handed us two briefing books.

“This is an extension of a case that Mike was working on.”

“Where is Mike?”

Mike had been the senior agent in the office for a long time and I and the rest of the ladies here in the office had long thought that he needed someone to take care of him as he just looked terrible. Somehow we could never get him interested even though we tried.

“That’s part of it. Open the books.”

I opened the book and there was a photograph of an aging waterman with a lobster pot on his back and a mermaid in the pot.

“Is that a composited picture.”

Joke photos were not uncommon, though the mermaid in this one looked real. In our business you could never tell.

“No, Mike took that picture about three weeks ago. The man is Joshua Claytor, who you may be working with. The young lady in the pot is his daughter, Christine Claytor. Your assignment is to meet with Mera Claytor, at the Rockaway sea estates. The address is in the book.”

“Is Mrs. Claytor-“

That was Sal.

“Yes.”

“So what are we going to be doing?”

“Legwork. She requested assistance from the bureau and I approved it. Also keep an eye out. Get a picture of the lady if you can. And watch your step with her, she’s very dangerous.”

“Monster?”

“Worse, she’s been in the government.”

“A mermaid?”

“Trust me, watch your step with her.”

The boss was nervous? The boss was NEVER nervous.

Working with a mermaid? That was new, but in this job you never knew who you would be working with.

“Is Mike involved in this case?”

Mike and the boss had left together two days ago, going down to the Rockaways, in fact. Mike hadn’t come back but that wasn’t that unusual when there was case working.

“You may encounter Mike, but he’s officially on leave dealing with some life changes. Read the books and then take a car and get down there.”

The book was actually fairly thorough, discussing possible organized crime connections, the strange community down there on the Rockaways and a government employee file for a Mera Claytor who had been a senior case officer at the Fisheries office on Cape Cod until ten years ago.

We went down to the garage and checked out a car from the pool used by various government agencies.

“The boss was spooked. I’ve never seen the boss spooked.”

“Neither have I, we need to watch our step with this one.”

“At least we aren’t dealing with monsters.”

“I don’t know. The boss can smell monsters and he wouldn’t have sent us down if he didn’t have at least a scent.  So we need to be on our toes and keep an eye out for the stuff that isn’t being waved around.”

I kept that thought as Sal drove us through Brooklyn and down to what appeared to be a rundown fishing harbor down on its luck. Of course in NY appearances could be deceiving and you could never take things for granted.

Sal parked the car and we got out.

An attractive young man came up and asked;

“Are you from the bureau?”

“Yes.”

“The lady is waiting, follow me.”

We went not toward the dock and the boat like we expected but toward a small restaurant. When we walked in there was woman in a blue dress sitting at a table talking on the telephone with papers and coffee on the table. The woman gave off the feeling that you get from one of those senior government types.  The rare ones that know their jobs and really know how to get things done.  No wonder the boss was so spooked. She hung up the phone.

“Good, you are here. I’m Mera Claytor.”

“Linda Renton.”

“Salvatore Delvecchio.”

“I thought that your boss would send good people. I see that I was right. Do you have badges?”

Several of them actually from various agencies and departments, with ID’s to match. But I wasn’t going to tell her that.

“Yes.”

“Make sure that you remember to use only one for this case. I think that consistency is going to be important and we don’t want to get confused about who we are.”

She was VERY good. No wonder the boss was spooked.

“Hand me one of your briefing books, I want to see what you already know so that I can bring you up to speed.”

I handed her my book and she flipped through it quickly.

“Adequate but patchy. Before you leave today I’ll have Mike type up an update on what we know and we need to keep it up to date from now on.

“Are you really a-“

That was Sal.

“Yes.”

She lifted the hem of her dress to show a fin and scales

“Where is Mike and what happened to him?”

“I think that you need to see something. Silvio, dear could you give me a lift to out front. I think that Mike and Nera are back from their Swim.”

Silvio picked her up and took her out front where there was a rickshaw from Chinatown. Then he picked up the rails and we all went down the street toward the dock

“How much do you know about the fae?”

“That they are strange and sometime powerful creatures that live in clannish communities that can be difficult to deal with.”

We frequently had to deal with fae in our work. Like right now.

“Actually that’s wrong. Wait a minute and I will explain.”

We got to the dock and there were two heads at the end of the pier apparently sitting on something as the woman’s head leaned on the man’s. The man’s head turned around and –

“Mike?”

“Oh hi Linda, Sal.”

Mike pulled himself up on to the dock and that’s when things went really strange. There was no doubt that it was Mike and there was no doubt as to what he was from the scale pattern all over his body, the dorsal fin on his back, the gill flaps under his ribs, two small fins where his legs should have been and that tail the glorious powerful looking tail.

The woman pulled herself up and it was obvious what she was, as wonderful as she was, the obvious love she had for Mike was perhaps the most wonderful thing of all. I heard the lady’s voice behind me and for the first time I understood.

“The fae are just humans that have Changed.”

“How did this happen?”

That was Sal.

“I came down here, there was Nera, right dear, and it just happened.”

That was COMPLETELY not the Mike that I knew. I knew at least a dozen women that had tried to drag Mike into a bed and failed miserably. Mike had left a trail of tears and frustration that he didn’t even know about. I turned to Mera.

“High Fae don’t really have a choice once a bond is made. Mike barely touched the water when he was putting Chrissie in the water with Josh and Nera, who had never been interested in anything other than a one night stand for the over two centuries that we have been sisters, was pining over him as if he was only thing in her life, ever.  When she heard that Mike was from New York, she, who had never been interested in anything topside couldn’t stop pestering dad and Josh to let her come on this mission.  It seems the more tortured the souls the stronger and faster the bond forms. In Mike’s and Nera’s case it was over in less than six minutes from the time that Mike reached the end of the dock over there and they first saw each other. Right here on the pier. From what your boss says, people heard them for six blocks around according to the police reports. I was here and I could believe that. Mike  and Nera, come over to the boat, we need to get to work.”

Work was good. Work kept me from having to deal with the confusing thought about what had happened to Mike and what it meant. I had noticed that Mike had been acting strange and going down the water the last two weeks. The way Mike was it was really hard to see the differences though.

We got together on the boat, sitting around the engine deck and Mera started handing out assignments. There were a lot of them all over the city. And under the water, but that was Mike and Nera’s department.

It seemed that the problem was the that the Rockaway mers needed protection from the storm, but that they could not move their “bower” to deeper water because of random, or maybe not so random shark attacks. I could see why the boss wanted our bureau involved.  The whole thing smelled like a rotten fish and then there was the possibility of something in the water. I asked Mike about that.

“Linda, I’m still learning about this, but from what I understand the first instances of sexual activity that happen once “the deal is closed” are usually incredibly intense and frequent, with the frequent activity sometimes lasting as much as a week.  Nera and I were completely out of our heads when we “closed the deal” trust me on that. I barely remember more than wanting to make Nera VERY happy and being VERY happy to do that. I barely felt my Change which can be very painful and we hit the water ready and willing to go at it again, which we did, once, twice and then we just couldn’t seem to maintain the interest. So we came back to the surface and heard the boss tell Mera that I had two weeks off. From what I’ve been hearing “under sea” that’s not normal” If Nera could keep Mike out of the office for two weeks, tail or no, she would be my best friend.  The man would NOT take a vacation and you could see it on his face.  His suffering was a strain in the office. We all felt it.   From the looks of it Nera was working on that. At least, tail or not he was still being Mike.

Sal and I drove around talking to the Port Authority, the merman on the water board checking for changes in dumping patterns and fishermen about shark attacks. All the while the clouds were developing.   We went back to the restaurant for diner, reporting in as Mike typed up updated briefing sheets and then headed back to the office to turn in the car and report to the boss.

“How did it go?”

Sal said;

“Boss, you were right about her. She’s scary. And competent.  Also something smells down there under sea. In more ways than one. Even if she weren’t involved we should have been. Mike typed up an updated briefing book.”

“You saw Mike? How is he?”

“Changed, but I think you knew that. He’s better and I suspect that Nera is the best thing that ever happened to him.  If Nera can keep him out of the office for two weeks, tail or not,  Nera will be my best friend for life.”

“It’s about time that Mike found somebody. And he can walk if wants. Josh Claytor told me about that”

We had all been worried about Mike and the hole in his life.

“Mera and the rest don’t seem to be too hurried to tell Mike that.”

“I know. I took some clothes down for Mike and Mera hid them.”

“I don’t think that we should be in hurry to tell Mike either.”

“Are you kidding? I gave Mike two weeks and if he could walk he would be right back here at work and that would be pointless. He needs the break and I think time with Nera to get their life straightened out even more. I’m going to make it an order that nobody tell Mike that he can release his Change unless it’s a life and death emergency.  ”

“We can go with that.”

“Did you get a picture?”

“She never took her clothes off or went near the water while we were there and I didn’t think you wanted just a picture of a woman in a long blue dress.”

“Take one anyway, for the file.”

“Why, she doesn’t look any different than the one on file already.”

“By the way, boss, why didn’t you tell us about Mike?”

“I wasn’t sure that you would believe, realize it was a GOOD thing for Mike and I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for Mera. I also didn’t want you thinking of them as monsters who had Changed a friend involuntarily, which knowing Mike as well as you did, might have happened.”

Mera.

“Smith” had sent the two she expected. She wasn’t quite sure about Sal, but Linda was definitely high fae. The vampire attack was a clue.  Vampires were twisted  fae and while they attacked normals for food they were fairly careful when seeking prey. They wouldn’t normally attack right out in the open.   An unbonded high fae that could be twisted was prey that they could not stop themselves over, which led to an unfortunate incident with a pool cue on the New Haven green for one vampire. Linda had been carrying the cue as a Christmas present for her then boyfriend and the vampire had impaled himself on it and then “Smith” had recruited the woman.

Mera wondered when she should tell Linda. Well there was one resource right there in the restaurant eating as he typed up the day’s activities for tomorrow’s update. Tail and all and nobody batted an eye. It was that kind of place. Mike insisted on keeping things up to date because if things “went south” and the “team” became casualties, there was information for the next people to use to keep going.  That was one quirk she could live with even if the adversaries in this case didn’t seem to want to engage in open combat.  At least not yet.

“Mike you realize that Linda is high fae? Sal too, probably.”

“I’m not used to sensing things like that yet but I think that you are right.”

“Mike, you’ve never said much about your parents.”

“There’s not much to say. They came over in ’66 went out and homesteaded in Nebraska and grew wheat. I was born in ’71.  The house burned down in’86.  I was 15 and away from the house checking the fences, but my brothers and sisters as well as my parents all died in the fire.  I was broken up about that and bummed around for a few years until I joined the Army. I left the army in 1912 and joined the NYPD until the war.”

Sort of the same story as Josh. High fae were coming over from Europe and then hiding, only to be killed. This was MUCH bigger than she realized. Bigger than the Rockaway mers. Something was fighting a clandestine war against the fae in Europe and now here.

“Mike, between, Boris, you, and now Linda and Sal, your office seems to be a fae magnet. Are there any others with your sort of backgrounds?”

“Except for the boss, who is his own story that I am not cleared to tell, I’d say that we all do. It’s almost a requirement for our work. After all if you don’t believe in your work, how can you do it.”

Good, a larger sample size. That way she could get better idea of the scope of the problem. She was also going to need to talk to Josh, her father and Tom’s parents about this. As quietly as possible.

“Mike, when Josh gets back, and the storm is over, I want your boss to bring your entire staff down here. I think it’s crucially important.

Josh.

It’s difficult act as if you are really angry at somebody when you are not. Fortunately, in this case I was still fairly pissed at father and I could work with that.  Joe, Chrissie, Ilutra and I swam toward the making chamber where there was father dumping energy into the thing again draining, himself to do it. That may have actually been the point as it wasn’t unusual for one half of a soul bonded pair to suicide if the other was killed. Yet another reason to stop him as we who lived him still needed him even if Liltra had been taken from us all.

“Old man, what are you doing!!”

“Josh, I will have my revenge on the landers for Chrissie!!”

“There’s nothing to take revenge over, Chrissie is fine.”

“Tom left her!!”

That Damn Little Mermaid

That was the core of it probably. Not that Tom had left Chrissie, but that Liltra had left him.  This was more of his grief than anything.

“Tom can’t leave her, they are bonded, you know that!!”

“Then why did he go upland!!”

“Idiot, Tom had a telegram from his parents to come up to the farm. He wanted to  bring some of his things back so up he went!!”

“How could he leave Chrissie!!”

“Dad remember, what you went through with Mera and I!! Tom didn’t understand about Change any more than I did!!

“He should have!!”

I couldn’t really argue with that. I really wanted to have a talk with his parents about that. “Dad do you have any idea what’s going on upside? The weather reports?”

The hydrophone had just finished booming an update. The prognosis was not good. I’m certain that everybody in the bower heard it.

“Lander twaddle. I don’t believe it”

I held up the spike

“I’m going to end this right now!!”

“No, stop!! It could be a catastrophe!!”

“If I don’t there’s going to be a bigger one.”

“I’ll stop the spell, just don’t drop that spike and shatter the spell!!”

We got what we wanted, he wasn’t completely crazy.

“Dad, come up top with me, the harbormaster wants to have a talk.” “John Warshowski?”

“Yes, I think he wants your help. You remember that storm in ’16?  This one is bigger and he wants all hands on deck.”

“Let’s go.”

When the harbormaster calls, even the king of under sea responds. The whole lot of us left the room as Altris and his sons charged into the room toward the disk. The crisis was over. Now to keep it from happening again.

We all Swan up to the boat and piled in. Joe lifted the hook and I cranked the engine over. She turned over and started right up. I opened her and engine started it’s joyful scream.

“I didn’t know you had a boat like this.”

“I don’t father, it’s Tom’s”

“It’s a good boat, what’s it running?”

“A Liberty.”

“A bit much for a lobster boat.”

I had forgotten just how much father knew about boats. Before mother was killed he and John Warshowski had spent a fair amount of time together with fast boats. That sort of fell apart When John’s wife Ellen got cancer and then mother was killed

“Ask Joe about it.” Joe walked into the wheel house.

“Ask Joe about what?”

“About why you sold Tom this boat. Chrissie come up and take over so that I can talk without worrying about the boat.”

Chrissie climbed into her chair and took over.

“So THAT’s what that seat was for”

“Tom’s idea. Mera has already asked for one for our boat.”

“So what did you want to talk about?”

“Marooning Tom on some Islet, with Chrissie.

“Ooh, I like that idea.”

“Keep your eyes on the water and your nasty thoughts to yourself, young lady!” “But they were your nasty thoughts daddy. I just like them.”

“Silence, young lady.”

Chrissie’s giggles filled the wheelhouse as we hatched our nefarious schemes.

We pulled back into the harbor and there was the harbormaster with a bunch of men and women were various uniforms and all too frequently, no uniforms. There were also a bunch of heads in the water. The harbormaster waved.

“Noro, I need you over here to help get the search and rescue teams coordinated. Half the people are from under sea and you know who hasn’t shown up yet. Get over here!”

We tied up at Tom’s slip and father got off as Joe and I got the fenders out and battened down the boat for the storm. Ilutra left, heading for his truck and Woods Hole.

 

“Mr. Warshowski I’ll help too, I’ve had rescue training.”

“Hi Chrissie. I was expecting you. You’re on the list.”

He did want all hands on deck.

“Joe when we are done here, take me back to the railroad station. I need to get back to New York, Mera and my boat.  I think that Mera needs me.”

“Josh, stay here!! I need you here coordinating the boats and Mera can handle herself. If your boat wrecks, I’ll find a rum runner for you.  That boat of Tom is a sweet ride.”

When harbormaster of this port gives orders you obey. He was right anyway.

 

 

Tom.

The ride back was much better than the ride up even with the rain. I stopped at the same hotel and slept with the rain making music on the window.

The next morning I went down and sat on as stool for breakfast.

“Big Blow comin up, You goin fah?”

“The Cape.”

“That’s likely to be in the middle of it, watch your step. Maybe you should stay up here for a couple of days until its ovah.”

“I’ve got a boat to watch out for and people that I care about.” “Thaat’s the way it aalways is.”

I got going on, driving in the increasing rain toward the Cape. I drove across the bridge over the canal towards town. I decided to drop the tools at the shack and dropped by the yard to see if I could borrow an engine hoist.

“Hi Moira, I need to lift a small lathe out of my truck and I was hoping that I could use the hoist.” “Tom! You’re back!”

Me being back shouldn’t have caused this much excitement. What had been going on while I was up at the farm.

“What’s been going on?”

“Chrissie was very upset when she couldn’t find you.”

“I sort of knew that.”

“Well Josh left the keys to your boat here because he was going down to New York on business and Mera was going with him.”

So Josh wasn’t here and neither was Josh’s mother when Chrissie really needed a shoulder to cry on.

“Well she sort got into her grandfather and he went into high fae dudgeon, declaring war on the land and cooking up weather magic.”

That didn’t sound like the old man I had been hearing about. Especially when people knew that Chrissie and I were an item, which seemed to very fast once she started to show up on my boat.  I kept hearing about the stuff the old man would get into with the harbormaster and the boat they both built. A lot of people were telling me how much they missed him now that he spent all his time “under sea.” As if I could change that.

“Weather magic? Wasn’t that crazy?”

“Under most circumstances not really. Joe’s uncle has been doing it for a couple of centuries, mostly to make sure that the crops don’t dry out.  He also works over there at the weather station. From what Joe said, the hurricane showed up between forecasts and weather magic is like a big flywheel, you can’t just stop it without very bad things happening.”

“The problem was that Chrissie’s grandfather keeps dumping energy in the thing so that Joe’s uncle can’t just shut it down and Josh is about the only one who can drag the man out of the bower. Joe went to pick up Josh and they were going to take your boat out.”

“My boat, why?”

“Because of its nefarious past and that big engine it still has.”

That was true. Up till now I had been more than a little scared to take all the way up for very long.  There were a couple times when I had been late for meeting with Chrissie though and I had goosed it up to make time and not keep the mermaid waiting.  The poor engine had sounded disappointed every time I brought it back down.

“Why did Joe sell me that boat in the first place?” “Because of its nefarious past. He thought that you, and we might need it and wanted to keep it in the family.”

High fae again. Like the shells still sitting on the front seat of his truck.  Like the farm first, always.

“Well let’s get my truck unloaded so that I can get back to my boat. There’s a storm coming.”

Linda.

As I walked toward the office I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being followed. I did the usual things to break a tail and there was nothing there.  Still I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched.

I walked in to the office and stopped at the guard’s desk. At least that’s what we called it.  Most people would call it a receptionists desk but our receptionist was the meanest nastiest old lady you would ever want to meet. She could make the most pushy busybody or reporter run back out the door with a glance. If you got physical then you were lucky if you got out with just one broken limb and if you tried to draw a gun she would have at least three rounds through the center of mass and another through the center of your head by the time the barrel of your gun cleared the holster.

“Mary, I may have picked up a tail. Keep an eye out.”

“Do you want me put my irregulars on it?”

Mary’s most powerful weapon wasn’t the gun she kept under the desk but the generous snack and fruit bowl she kept above it. Every messenger and newsboy was a perpetually hungry teenage boy and those in Southern Manhattan wanted to stay on her good side. So if she wanted something it typically took less than half an hour from the time that the first young man made a delivery or newspaper in the office for the information, item or even person to show up at her desk. The boys also were the perfect clandestine survailance network as they were everywhere and essentially completely invisible in plain sight. And all it cost was a snack bowl.  Mike had suggested that they install a refrigerator too, but the boss had balked at the budget so far.  Maybe once the storm was over she would talk to Mera about it.

“Not yet. We’re working a case in Brooklyn and we’ll be busy with the storm.”

“What you could do is check with people down in the Rockaways to see if they would take unusual refugees if necessary. We might need them. Check with the boss if you can make the arrangements.”

Mary lived in Brooklyn and she was known as “Mother Mary” in some communities and helped to make connections with some of the more unusual communities that existed in New York.

“Have you seen Mike? He hasn’t been in the last few days?” “Yes I have, actually. He was starting to work on our current case and a miracle happened.  He’s found somebody and will probably be out for at least two weeks after we finish up.”

“He DID!!! Wonderful. Young lady, I want pictures.”

Now there was a thought. Telling Mera that they were taking pictures for the office mom would probably work. Mera had worked for the government and understood things like that. And Mike would not disobey. It would even be true.  Actually getting pictures now was crucial.  They could disappoint the boss and just get reprimanded.  Disappoint Mary and they would have to request a transfer before life became total hell and there was no guarantee that that would work.  Office moms had a network. She walked into the office and over to Sal’s desk.

“We now have our marching orders. Bring the Graflex today.”

“Why?”

“I told Mary about Mike. She wants pictures.”

“Why did you stop?”

It was well known that stopping at the front desk and chatting could be costly and require difficult assigned tasks.

“I think that I may have picked up a tail. A very good one”

Sal went over to requisition the big Graflex and they went down to the garage.

“Use a different car today.”

“I’ll use a clandestine car”

He went into the garage and drove back with a huge roaster that was all chrome and exhaust with huge spare tires on each side.

“What is this thing?”

“A Duesenberg. They confiscated it from a crime boss last week.”

“You couldn’t pick a more obvious car? Like a parade float?”

“That’s the point. You see the car, not us. If they do see us it’s going to be the Italian made man and his beautiful moll. There’s nothing about this car that says government work and everything that says movie star or crime boss.  Plus it will outrun anything if we need to.”

We got going and after a few minutes Sal said;

“I’m going to hate giving this back.”

He had a point but what is it with men and cars.

Mera looked out the window of the restaurant as we drove up.

“So it begins. And why the big camera. I think that you would be a little more subtle about it if you were trying to get a picture of me.”

“We have our marching orders and Mike will obey. Mary, our office mom wants pictures of Mike and the lucky woman, unnamed and there is NO way that we, or Mike will disappoint her.”

“How did she find out?”

“I stopped and told her that I thought I was being tailed. She asked about Mike and I told her.”

“The truth?”

“Mera, I don’t think that Mary is fae but if you are ever in our lobby and talking to her, don’t ever try to lie to her. She has the interrogation skills of one of those Russian Cheka types that the Czar used to have and doesn’t even need torture you to trickle out every little bit of information that you may have. Furthermore if she wants you and you are this city you will be in front of her desk in a day. Anywhere in the US, a week.  We don’t mess with Mary.”

“Sal is what she saying true?”

“Every word. I’ve seen full blooded high fae walk into the office, try to bully her and within ten minutes leave screaming.  I’ve seen men that could beat up gorillas get carried out on stretchers.  She teaches the FBI trainees shooting and I’ve personally seen her run fifty rounds through a 1911 in under a minute and every single round was in the ten ring. The 1911 isn’t even her favorite gun. All of the crime families send a single rose on different days of the week out of respect. Nobody and I mean nobody in this city messes with Mary.”

“Ok. Sal, Mike and Nera are on the dock. Get your pictures.  When your darkroom develops them have them make two copies.  Mike’s family isn’t the only one that will want pictures. Linda, stay, I want to have little talk.”

Sal left.

“Linda, are you aware that you are high fae?”

“No, how could I be.”

“I don’t know. You will have to ask your parents. I’m guessing that they are hiding something.  Probably with good reason. Something is killing high fae. Or twisting them. You know the story of Tom’s brother. Tom’s family was fairly protected, or so they thought.  Had Tom not killed his brother, it’s possible that the entire family would have been twisted as they tried to heal him.  They kept Tom away for ten years and didn’t tell him what he was probably to protect him so that he only Changed after he bonded. ”

“So what does that have to do with me?”

“Are you sure that your parents are your real parents?”

“Yes.”

“Are they still alive.”

“Yes.” “Have you ever seen any trace of Change?”

“No”

“When did you last visit them.”

“About two years ago.”

“Before the vampire attack.”

“Yes.”

“Were you going to visit your parents the Christmas that you were attacked?”

“Yes.”

“I was afraid of that. We high fae are most vulnerable through our children. I don’t think that the vampire attack was as random as I had thought it was.”

“This is going to have to be kept as quiet as possible, but I think that I am going to have to ask that we have your parents over. I know, we will make it Mike and Tom’s wedding. High fae are usually pretty informal about weddings since bonding sort of deals with that but as a mom and a sister I want my daughter and younger sister to get the biggest send off ever.”

“What about me?”

“Well you do have the bureau to protect you if possible. If you start to feel the stirrings of change while I am still here, let me know. I will do everything in my power to give you a life. I risked the protection that your parents tried to give you and I owe them that debt. Unless you come into direct personal contact and are sure that your parents are not twisted do not say anything of this. They may already be suffering to save you.”

I had faced a vampire with nothing more than a stick and felt no fear and far worse things since, but what this woman had said, chilled me to the bone.

“Are you going to be able to plan a wedding in less than a month?”

“I think so, will you help?”

“Oh, yes, Nera is a friend already. Better yet, I will bring Mary tomorrow.”

“Can the office do without her.”

“They will have to suffer.”

Mike.

When Sal showed up with the big Graflex I knew what it meant.

“Mary knows, doesn’t she?”

“Linda told her.”

“Why did she stop?”

Everybody in the office knew that stopping to talk to Mary could have consequences.

“She thought that she had been tailed.” “SOP then.”

Standard operating procedure in our office was that you even thought you picked up a tail on the way to the office, you reported it to Mary on the way in. She then put a quiet word out on the street.   If the tail happened more than once or twice a week, you had her put the word to her “irregulars” that war were declared and that it was open season on the tails. None of the wars lasted very long and there weren’t too many bodies in the river after.  Still every PI and most of the reporters knew to stay away from our building.  All for the price of a bowl of fruit.  Boris had suggested a refrigerator the last time he was down, but the boss said that the budget wasn’t there for it. I had thought of setting up a pool, but my life sort of changed before that could happen.

“Nera dear, Sal has to take our picture.”

“Why?”

I explained about Mary.

“Oh, yes, definitely. She is one person we need to please.”

I was beginning to realize that underneath that seeming naivite and innocence was a very sharp and cutting mind.  Mera was formidable and Nera, as the younger sister had been dealing with her for over 200 years and not been squashed.  There was more to my wife, there I said it my wife, than what was on the surface and I was just beginning to plumb those depths.

We posed in different positions on the dock and Sal snapped away.

“Sal, you will have to come up to the Cape when Mike is strong enough to dance.”

“Dance?”

“Yes dear, Josh is too attached to his legs to develop tail muscles for dancing and Mera puts up with it. I will not.  Even if we live on land here in the city and after I am pregnant and staying on land you will Swim every day. Around the island if possible.”

“What island?”

“Manhattan.”

Depths indeed. Married less than a week and she was already planning exercise programs to get me in shape.

Mera and Linda showed up

“Sal, are you done? We need to get to work.”

 

Sal.

Today was a lot like yesterday, running around chasing leads. We needed to work fast and I took advantage of the car to try a slightly different approach. I had grown up watching the clowns that wore fancy suits so it wasn’t too hard to ape their behavior and the car made up for any deficiencies that my suit might have exposed.

After the dinner at that place that more and more seemed like HQ for our little endevour Mike handed me some rather waterlogged objects. His everyday badge, gun, watch and wallet.

“These got a little wet. Ask Al to clean the gun, but try to explain what happened.”

“What did happen?”

“On our way to joy and happiness Nera tore my clothes and everything else off and it ended up in the drink.”

I looked at the water. It looked as murky as soup.

“You found that stuff?”

“Mer senses work differently. In a way I feel almost blind here on the surface.”

That explained a LOT. All those NYPD divers in the papers going down clanking in those suits and finding stuff in water where it should have been impossible.  I had actually had stuff found in a couple of cases before I was recruited and had always wondered how they found the stuff in the murk wearing suits of armor.  Now I think I knew.

“Al isn’t going to be happy when I turn this in.”

“I know, but at the time there was nothing I could do about it. Show him those pictures you took.”

We got in the car and drove back to the office.

I walked past Mary’s desk. She never left until the last agent checked in, was accounted for by the boss or was definitely reported dead. I held up the camera.

“I have pictures. I’m off to the darkroom. You are in for a surprise.”

Linda stopped and said to Mary.

“Mary , the woman who is working on the case with us needs to plan Mike’s and Nera’s wedding. She needs help with that and I said that I would ask you.

“Mike’s wedding? I will go with you tomorrow to start things up.”

I blanched at that. Walking down the hall I handed the Graflex to Steve, our developer.

“Steve, pics.”

“What are they?”

“Mike and his new fiancé, naked.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Print them and you will understand. Right now we are going to want four sets, one for somebody outside, one for the boss, one for the case file and one for Mary.”

“What size?”

“Oh hell, make them 8X10’s. And by the way if any of these get outside other than through me, the boss will have your head. When you see the prints you will see why.”

I then walked back out of the office and took the elevator to the armory and range that we shared with the FBI and other agencies.

“Al, I need to turn in a gun.”

“Who’s?”

“Mike’s. He won’t be needing it for a while and he needs it cleaned.”

“That’s a surprise, he usually cleans it himself.”

“He can’t do that right now.”

I put the gun on the desk.

“What the hell did he do to this? It looks like it was grabbed by something with claws made from steel, thrown in the drink and stuck in the mud. I’m going to have to replace the grips and do some file work on the grip and slide. This can’t be Mike’s gun.”

“Check the numbers for yourself. Come up to my desk in a couple of hours and I should have pics to explain this.”

I went by my desk and about 45 minutes later Steve showed up.

“You’re kidding right? Mike brings in that mermaid picture and dumps a print into a briefing book as a joke and this is your way to get even, right. I want to know who your friend the compositing genius is. With the exception of the poor picture of the crippled lady in the blue dress there is no way that they could be real. Yet I’m familiar with every compositing technique out there, I’ve worked in Hollywood and I couldn’t do this.”

“Nope that is Mike and that is what he looks like now.”

“At least the lady with Mike looks wonderful and Mike looks very happy.”

“By the way, could you reverse composite one of the prints and make it look fake? We may need to fake up mermaid stories.”

We had done that in the past. Created pictures just the wrong side of fake to cast doubt on the real.

I walked over to the boss’s office.

“Boss I got some pics. I used the Graflex”

“How did you manage that?”

“Mary wanted pics.”

The boss flipped through the pictures.

“You got her. It’s not very good though.”

“Linda’s taking Mary with us tomorrow, to plan Mike’s wedding.”

“High fae don’t do weddings. As far as they are concerned it’s done the minute they “close the deal.” She’s planning something. I think I need to talk to her anyway.  I’ll take Mary down. You and Linda use the Duesy again.”

“You spotted that?”

“I heard it leave. Nothing else sounds like Duesy.  Good thinking by the way.  That car, your Italian good looks and instant Crime Boss.”

“It worked too. I was talking to garbage collectors all day who were complaining about somebody muscling into the action. They were real glad that upstairs finally sent a troubleshooter to look into it. Somebody’s getting real sloppy upstairs in the outfit. Now they are all looking for people dumping strange stuff and reporting it to Mary. For some reason they didn’t even blink at that.”

I hated those idiots with a passion and did everything I could to escape that scene and lock up as many as I could and there I was helping them keep their own business straight. Karma, it had to be karma. Where was Vinnie? Dealing with that stuff  was supposed to be his job.

I left the boss’s office and went out to Mary’s desk.

“Here are your pics.”

She started to flip through them

“How wonderful. Mike is so happy. And she is so beautiful. What is the lady’s name? Who is the lady in the dress where you messed up the picture”

“Nera and the lady is her sister is Mera.”

“That explains it then, Mera is hiding what she is to function where all eyes can see.”

Did anything phase Mary?

Al showed up with Mike’s gun a bit later. The claw marks had been smoothed over and it had new  rubber grips.

“If Mike is going to be dealing with stuff that can do things like this I want to issue him a bigger gun. This Browning isn’t going to slow something that nasty down one bit.”

Mike was an investigator type and didn’t like guns that were too conspicuous and that said “cop” right off the bat. He felt that using his gun was an emergency situation and if he needed firepower he would call in the shooters. I went with a bigger piece on the theory that sometimes you never got the chance to call in the shooters.

“You said that you had pictures of the thing that did this. What did it do to Mike?”

I handed the pics over

“The lady is Nera. As far as I know all she did is screw his eyeballs off.  The gun and his clothes got in the way and she was in a big hurry to make Mike VERRY happy so everything got shredded.” “And Mike?”

“As far as I know, not a scratch. Though the Change might have fixed that. Which is strange because from what Mike said they were completely out of their gourd.  Some high fae thing.”

“I want to see her on the range. That kind of control is incredible. Completely loaded up and still she only destroys what she wanted to get the job done. Did she make Mike very happy.”

“I think that it made up for all the times that he wasn’t. Though they wanted more and were upset that something in the water made them stop. The boss gave Mike two weeks and I suspect Nera is going to try to make them the happiest two weeks that anybody has ever had.”

“Great. Mike deserves it. I can see that there might be problems getting her here into the building, but if you can find a place, I want to have a quiet talk with her, about Mike and guns. ”

Al had been after Mike about firepower for years and I think he saw Nera as another angle. Did he even care what Nera was?

Noro.

I followed John into his office. He was a normal and the years were catching up with him.  We had known each other for fifty years, ever since he gotten me out of a stupid incident with a net.

“Noro, what the hell are you doing to yourself?”

“I I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking straight.” “Didn’t you think that if Chrissie were having real trouble with Tom that I wouldn’t have gotten the word to you. Or that if Tom had REALLY hurt Chrissie that half the young men in town and probably the Cape wouldn’t be after his hide.”

“She’s been under sea.”

“And just about every young waterman around here was hoping that she would show in their pots to be rescued. And half the young ladies both over and under sea were hoping that she would show up in SOMEBODY’s pot so that they could resolve things. Chrissie is one of the most popular girls around here.”

“She is?”

“Didn’t Josh tell you.”

“I wasn’t paying attention.”

‘I suspected something like that so I had Josh drag you up here.”

“I miss Lilly. And Elly too, come to that”

“We all do.”

“There’s this huge hole in me. I feel like I want to die.”

“Was that what you were doing with that with that stupid weather spell. Do you know how much hurt you could have caused with that?”

“I didn’t know, I just didn’t seem to care.”

He hadn’t. He had been sitting in pot of depression just going on and thinking about his little mermaid, Lilly and how she had gone away. And then Chrissie had come in about Tom and he needed to lash out at SOMETHING.  John was right.

“Noro, I think I’m going to say the same thing you said to me when I was in that pit of depression and you came up out of the water, walked over to my house, blew through the door and read me the riot act. Something for which I have never thanked you for.

Noro, you have responsibilities and people that need you. You can’t just give up because we’ve lost the thing we love the most.  You need to go on, for them, because they would want us to, for the people we are responsible for and to face life with courage and know that when the time comes that they will be waiting for us, with love.”

“Yes I did that for you because I needed you.”

“And I need you.”

“What do you need.”

“For right now, hold the fort here so that I can check the docks to make sure that they are battened down and check Search and rescue people in and coordinating the sweeps.  I’ll have Josh feed you boats as they become available.”

Noro got to work. It was good to have REAL work to do. It had been too long. He had been letting Josh, and the boys do too much and he had gotten out of touch. Though from everything he had seen in this emergency they were doing an incredible job.  The weather radio? He would have to find out who put that together.  He probably owed somebody a check and while he hadn’t really been thinking straight that radio was something the bower needed.

Tom.

Moira came out with me to talk to one of the yard hands about the lift.

We took the lift and got the stuff in, but it was getting late.

“Tell Moira that I’m going to go up to the Diner for a bite. And I’ll bunk at the shack tonight.”

I went up to the diner and got a bite. The wind was picking up. I hoped that Chrissie was all right.

After dinner I checked into the yard office. Joe was there with two of his people scheduling the duty roster for the big blow tomorrow.

“Joe, you’re back. How did things work out.”

“Give me a minute to get this squared away. Bill, Lavrides, do you see anything that gives you any problems.”

“I wish we had a Swimmer for the last couple of hours, but I think we’re good.”

“I’ll handle those last hours.”

“That’s pushing it Joe.”

“Well unless we have any big problems, go easy on me for the rest of it.” “Joe remember to stay here this time and not go out trying to rescue people. Old man Georges can’t Swim and if something comes loose and you’re tired we could have a real mess”

“I need to talk to Tom so could you guys get this posted.”

“Tom, you need to get with Chrissie soonest and get your Change so that we aren’t so short handed.”

That was Lavrides and how the hell did he know about Chrissie and my love life? He wasn’t a mer as far as I knew. And I didn’t even work at the yard. They left.

“So what happened?”

“I picked up Josh at the train and we took your boat out, got the spell wound down and we brought the old man up to the harbormaster’s office so that he could get a talking to.”

“The harbormaster?”

As far as I knew, Chrissie’s grandfather never came up top.

“He and grandfather go way back. Before your time they used to run the fastest boats around. Gave the Coast guard fits. Gave some of the rum runners even bigger fits.”

“What happened?”

“The harbormaster’s wife caught cancer and he had to stop being on the water so much to deal with that and then after she passed, Grandmother was killed.”

From what I had learned from my family losing a soul mate was a severe strain and it wasn’t unusual for the other partner to suicide.

“Do you think that your grandfather was trying to commit suicide with the weather magic?”

“I think that was a big part of it. What happened up in Vermont?”

“I learned a lot of things that I wish that I had known before Chrissie and I had that picnic. About what my family is, what I am and what we are.”

“Good, so you won’t screw up the screwing again.”

“Do you have to be that blunt about it?”

“From what’s happened this week, yes. Go over to your shack and get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day.”

Butterflies.

The weather spell did have an effect. Weather satellites were 30 years in the future, the first computer was fourteen years in the future and chaos mathematics were not even an idea in 1931. So Ilutra had no way of guessing how the slight low pressure region created an attractor. The attractor pulled a cold front down from the North that set up a counter clockwise pressure flow that slowly nudged the monster East and sapped its energy. Where the storm had been a category four with the eye landing somewhere near Montauk, the storm was now category three and dropping and passing East of the Cape and out to sea. The people on the Cape had no way of knowing it but the crisis had passed.

Linda.

I dreamed of flying. Not in a plane, but as a bird, a bird of prey.  I flew over the city seeing everything with my incredible vision.  I soared higher and higher reveling in the lights and glory of the city. It was the most wonderful dream that I had ever had.  Then my alarm went off and I woke up. As I got out of bed there was a feather. The wing tip feather from some sort of hawk.

I picked it up and put it on my kitchen counter as went into the bath, showered and got dressed for the day.

I dropped by the deli for a roll on my way to the subway. Today I didn’t sense the tail that I had yesterday.  Maybe somebody had already delivered a quiet message.  Mary’s boys knew who we were from previous incidents and were not above preemptive action.

I got into the office. There was Mary.

“Have you seen the wonderful pictures of Mike and Nera yet?”

She waved the pictures of the happy couple.

By now I suspect that everybody in the office knew that Mike was now a merman and that he had a girlfriend. Most likely everybody on our floor. I couldn’t be sure what that meant for security, but our floor was all essentially clandestine ops and FBI anyway, so that wasn’t that big an issue and we shared some resources like the range and shooters if necessary  Everybody on the floor was tightlipped to people on the “outside” anyway.

I looked at the pictures, with a little sadness for some reason. Not for envy over what Mike had, but for the empty space in my heart that needed to be filled.

“Are you ready to go?”

“Oh, yes, Helmut is bringing me down while you take that great big car.”

The Duesenberg had actually been a great ice breaking tool. Especially when talking to the mob types.

Al walked in.

“Hey Linda, Mary said that she and the boss are going down to the Rockaways. Make sure that he drops by so that he can give me a lift. I need to talk to Nera about guns.”

Al was a true believer in that it was better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it. Now that Nera was a member of their little family, mermaid or not, Al was going to make sure that she was never unarmed.

I walked into the boss’s office.

“Al was just out front. He wants to talk to Nera about guns.”

“That will be an interesting discussion.”

“Well he said to pick him up on your way out.”

“Good, I think that things are about to break open. Sal and talking to the garbagemen was inspired.”

Sal picked me up and we went down to the car.

The ride was fast, but for some reason I wanted to fly.

We stopped in front of the restaurant and there was Mera on the phone and mer Mike typing away and Nera going through some papers and writing a list. Considering that Mike and Nera were wearing no clothing, let alone making any effort to hide what they were and nobody at the place even seemed to notice she had to wonder about it. In any case the food was always wonderful.

“Mera I have pics!!”

“You do, Sal? Show me.”

Sal handed over the envelope with the pictures

“You even got me and I hadn’t noticed. I’m impressed.”

“Sal, why did you put that in the envelope?”

“Linda, Mary is on her way here and she would have mentioned the picture in the first few moments and this way any questions are out of the way before it becomes a problem.” “Is it a problem, Mera?”

“Not really. I expected that your boss would want a picture and that either Sal or you would go out of your way to get one.  I do say that, Sal you needed to work harder as it just isn’t very good.”

“You what, Mera, you and everybody else has said that about that pic and I was the one trying to keep it on the sly, which turned out to be pointless. If you want a better one, the camera is out in the car. I’m going out, I need to talk to Al.”

“Linda, why is he so touchy today.”

“I don’t know but I think it was dealing with all those mob types yesterday having to play being one. He hates them with a passion.”

“He did so well and it’s paid off handsomely. When your boss and Mary get here I will brief everybody”

“Mera I has a strange dream about flying and when I woke up this morning this was in the bed.”

I handed her the feather.

“This was from a large bird. VERY large. Or it was something else.”

“What?”

“I think that you are starting to Change.”

Sal.

I was a bit ticked about the commentary about that picture, but that wasn’t the reason I went out. I wanted to have a quiet talk to Alvertis without ruffling any feathers.

“Hey Al, could I talk to you about something?”

“Sure what about?”

“For years those in the know have been hearing about how well connected you people were with the other families and how you would sometimes conduct private business together. Now I grew up with those guys and I can smell them when they are around. I’ve been coming down here for three days now and haven’t smelled a whiff, not one.  The only that’s slightly family connected on this street is my car.

When I was checking around yesterday with the boys I dropped your name in what I thought were the right places and all I got was a who? What gives?”

“You know about how I got this job?”

“The people who had it were bumped off?”

“That’s about it. I’m sure you know how connections and business is done in the families. It’s all on a personal level and on a handshake with you scratch my back I scratch yours. Well when the king and my cousins were taken out of the picture those connections were severed and I don’t even know who to talk to start to reestablish something like that.”

“By the way, what’s the name of that brunette you’ve been using to send messages?”

“Sillia?”

She was gorgeous in a fishy way and somehow the fishy part didn’t even bother me. I wondered what would happen if I brought her home to mother.

What Al said bothered me. Somebody was working to isolate these people and then twist them with poison. If these people had still had their connections nobody would have wanted to play around with them. Nobody sane.

Al.

I followed “Smith” and Mary into nice little place about half a block from the fishing pier that had just one boat tied up. I suspected that the rest had all gone up the river to weather out the storm.

“Mera, this is Mary Cionetti and Albert Macdougal. Mary is our receptionist and office manager and Al is the Southern New York City Federal District Firearms Administrator. He would like to talk to Nera about guns.”

“Al, not again.”

“Mike, I’ll get back to you at some other time. This time I need to talk to your wife about her special needs so that I can start making adjustments. Mrs. Wendall may I take you to that table over there so that we can talk quietly.”

“Yes.”

I picked her up and she wrapped her arms around me as I carried her over to a chair that seemed made for people like her. I could feel the claws at the end of her fingers just touching my skin and thought about the grooves on Mike’s gun. I sat down across from her next to the wall.

“Mrs. Wendall I need to set you up in case that you need to protect yourself.”

SNAP

A water glass that had been half full of water had shattered and when I turned around there was a small hole in the brick wall about an inch from my ear.

“Yes. I expected something like this. I had the same conversation with Mrs. Ravitz after she married Boris. Fortunately she doesn’t have your special characteristics and her family is very well armed with a compound that would stand well as a fortress if need be.  While I understand that you are well protected now if you choose to live with Mike you may not be.”

“I can protect myself as you saw.”

“Mrs-“

“Nera, please.”

‘Nera the adversaries that Mike’s bureau fights are ruthless and smart. They won’t come at you one at a time.”

SNAP

SNAP

SNAP

SNAP

In rapid succession four more glasses broke and four more holes appeared next to the first one in a group that had a spread of less than an inch.

“Nera, that’s water. This only works if there is water available.”

“There is always water available. I could even drain your blood if necessary.”

“I know. Have Mike tell you about the things he’s dealt with in the past.  The problem is that doing that drains you too and that’s exactly what your opponents will try to do if they are smart.  They would fire from behind cover like steel plates that your water won’t have enough energy to penetrate and wear you down. They will attack you in places where water is hard to get to.  You need to learn to go beyond yourself and use tools. To use machines to beat the people who turn people into machines. To use firearms and anything else that you can tactically, to use yourself last. The reason  for that is that you may need to keep yourself strong, for Mike and for any children that you may have.  Mike’s agency hasn’t had very many marriages, but everybody there is of that age and I’ve given variations of this talk to dozens of wives and husbands in other agencies. You need a gun if for no other reason that almost anybody and anything will recognize it as a threat. They will look at the gun and not the water glasses or your hands”

“My hands?”

“I saw what you did to Mike’s gun. Yes, your hands. I also heard what you didn’t do to Mike when, you were engaged in from what I understand was unrestrained sexual activity in state a total lack of self control. Theoretically you should have ripped him to shreds and you didn’t even scratch him.”

“I never lose control.”

“After seeing you in person, I believe it. Anyway, if we can arrange it I want to bring some handgun grips so that I can see what can be done to adjust the pistol to your hands. I want to get to that as soon as possible after you and Mike get back from his vacation.  Here’s my card. I realize that you are busy now, but I would like you to drop by or make arrangements before you leave New York. I have to get back to my office now. Do you want me to carry you back to your table?”

“Yes please.”

I carried her back to the table and just as I set her in her seat she scratched me lightly with her claw. Mike was a very lucky man and I hope he realized that.

“Chief, I need to get back to the range before some idiot shoots himself.”

I walked out the door.

“Sal, I need you to run me up to the Subway Station.”

Back to the range and the fools who played with guns.

Sal.

Al and I got in the car. I had an idea. Linda made a great Moll but was useless as heavy or a shooter. Al on the other hand, looked like a very dangerous shooter because he was one. I had heard that he was almost second to York back in the war in the sniper count, but he never talked about it. When talking tough, it paid to have tough back up.

“Al could I borrow you for about an hour?”

What for?” “I want somebody behind me who looks very dangerous and you fit the bill perfectly because you are very dangerous. We’re going to beard Jimmy the Nose in his den.”

Jimmy the Nose was called that because of the broken nose that he had acquired in some brutal mob conflict. That was a lie. I broke it when we  were ten.

We pulled up to his office. There were two bully boys in nice suits trying to look tough.

“Tell Jimmy that Sal wants to talk to him.”

One of them went inside. Apparently they were impressed by the car. What is it about a 10,000 dollar car that makes people’s mind’s go blank.

“Jimmy says come on up.”

“Hey Sal, what’s up, I thought you were a cop, but no cop drives a Duesy.”

See what I mean.

“I’ve got a new gig, gone upscale. I troubleshoot for people.”

“What people?”

“You don’t need to know. Upstairs. Way upstairs.”

“Who’s that with you?”

“The shoot for the trouble.”

One look at Al and they got the message. One wrong move and all of them were on a slab.

“So what do you want?”

“Some people upstairs were concerned that about some business that fell apart recently and since it’s your territory I thought you might know who had been handling it. That little rum running operation down there in the Rockaways.”

Jimmy gave me some names and off we went.

“This car is amazing.”

“Isn’t it? Jimmy’s known me since we were kids and knew that I was a cop. Yet the minute I drove up in this he couldn’t wrap his head around those facts and come with something that ended up with me being able to drive this car. I didn’t even have to tell a single lie. And you never had to say a word. He just snitched on himself.”

“That was fun, more fun than I’ve had in a long time. Where’s our next stop?”

Mera.

So there she was. There was no doubt that she was high fae and probably royalty yet there was no other family other the than poor orphans and other misfits that she surrounded herself with.

“Hello Mary, I am so glad to meet you.”

I was too. Here was a power in this city, A city where somebody was draining and twisting it’s fae and I wanted to know why.

Nera and Al were over there having an intimate conversation, probably involving defending oneself from the water snaps going off. Nera liked those. I don’t think she realized the advantages and disadvantages of guns.  It looked like Al was making his points and Nera was listening    Since Nera was likely to be living with Mike I hoped that she understood why she was going to have be capable with firearms.

“I see that Nera is in good hands with Al.

“He’s the best at what he does. He keeps trying get me to carry a larger piece. I bet that when I get issued a new piece for my new hands it’s going to be a 1911 at least.

Mike waved his webbed hand up.

“He’s going to be making a piece to fit your Change?’

“Bet on it. For the challenge if nothing else. He probably put in for at least a dozen bare frames in stainless steel from Colt right after he saw my picture.”

“Colt makes stainless pistols?”

“For the navy Underwater people.”

She would have to talk to Steve about those. He was a Lieutenant Commander in the Underwater Demolition experiment group out in Hawaii.

“To get back to business. Mary I wanted to talk to you about those orphans you collected and what happened to your family. What destroyed it?”

“What?”

“Mike, you realize that Mary is the highest of fae, certainly royalty. Yet here she is alone where a royal fae is typically surrounded by family, relatives and retainers like Tom’s family up in Vermont. By the way Mary, you hide yourself very well.” “Mary, is this true?”

“Yes Mike.”

“It must have been a tragedy of the highest order for a high fae to connect with a monster like Mr. Smith here, or should I say Helmut Schmidt if you take the last name of your creator.”

“What?”

“Mike, don’t you remember when you told Josh that you worked for Frankenstein’s monster.”

“I was joking. I would have never expected that to be taken seriously.”

“How did you know?”

“Once you have a budget you are linked into the system. It’s almost impossible to keep anything clandestine from inside and you had to know that I am at least partially still inside. It also helped that I have been around for a long time and that Josh is a packrat when it comes to books and magazines and my brother is a science geek and has loaded up our house with books for as long as we’ve owned it. I tracked you and your little group from the war department and through commerce to Agriculture within an hour and for the rest of it, it pays to have friends at the national archives and Library of Congress. It did help that my old boss at fisheries is trying to butter me up so that I want to come back and take his job when he retires. I was partially inside.  He’s one of the cogs that drives the system.

As to what you are, it’s really impossible to hide that from a high fae once they start looking for it. Though for a construct to have lasted as long as you have is amazing. Your creator was a genius, twisted, but a genius. Constructs are usually very crude, incredibly heartless and stupid.  I’ve been crossing swords with you, playing bureaucratic games  for four days now and you’ve been in the game the whole time which means that you far from stupid. As for heartless, the people here speak for that. I’ve been near you and your people long enough to know that you really are the “monster with the heart of gold.”

You take too good care of your people, these high fae lost souls to not be a truly good person no matter how you were created. The evil that created you was your creator’s not yours and I am truly glad that you killed the twisted bastard.”

“How was it done?”

“I’m not going to tell you, Mike. There is certain knowledge that should be lost. Herr Schmidt was trying to create a better human being and to his misfortune he succeeded in doing exactly that.  Certainly better than himself. And that damned woman Shelley and the rest of the romantics with their self indulgence, Narcicism  and willingness to put potentially millions in bondage for their egos.”

Al brought Nera back. I could tell that even though he didn’t work directly with Smith’s little group he was another of Mary’s orphans. Then he talked to Sal and they drove off in that big fancy roadster that Sal had been using for the last few days.

“Nera, that looked like an interesting conversation.”

“It was, on many levels. Mike we are going to have to start you on water training, soonest. Guns run out of ammunition and I don’t want you stuck dry somewhere. Mera, I think that we are going to want a private range somewhere  on the Cape, even if Mike and I live here in New York.”

Who was this and what happened to my self interested, self indulgent sister?

“Nera, to my knowledge you have never even seen a gun. Why the sudden switch?”

“Because Al was right. You can’t fight a machine or constructs with your own power forever. I’ve been watching this and seeing how the power and life is being drained from these people and that they are completely helpless. We need to change or be destroyed.”

Linda came back in. She had taken the car Smith had driven in on and gone back out to talk to some of the garbagemen.

“Boss I think that I have a very hot tip.”

“Some people who were dumping up in Jamaica Bay have been keeling over and dying.”

“Mera, Jamaica bay flows into the estuary here. If somebody was tainting the water that would be the place to do it. Hand me the phone, I want to get the FBI and our shooters started. I think that this case just blew up.”

“Linda I want you to start heading up toward Fordham University. As soon as your boss is off the phone I’m making a call to a Professor Charlie Brownowski of the chemistry department. Bring him and anybody he wants back here.  These people are dumping toxins and I think we need experts.”

Smith.

She was incredible. In less than an hour, just using the phone she had felt out my deepest darkest secrets, put her knife on my budget and I hadn’t even caught on until she told me. I must be getting tired.   Thank god Mike had Nera now. Working as a team and I could already see that they would be a good one when they took over.   When we were done watching our orphans get truly bonded Mary and I could move on to something else.  We had been playing this game for too long. And I still didn’t have the picture  I wanted. I got on the horn to the office and Bill the chief of our shooter team.

“Bill, this the Boss. I want you get together with  Leslie at the FBI and set up a shooter scenario for industrial buildings in Brooklyn with possible enhanced hostiles.”

“What’s coming down?”

“I’m not sure yet, but it could be bad. Set it up so that NYPD and NYFD are on standby and figure out who handles hazardous chemical fires and have them ready as well.”

“That bad?”

“It could be even worse.”

“On it boss.”

“Hand me the phone. I contacted a professor at Fordham and sent some seawater samples up by messenger. I sent Linda up to pick him up.”

She went through the operator and got the professor on the phone.

“Professor Brownowski? This is Mera Claytor at The US Fisheries again. We may have had a break on our ocean tainting case and I am sending an FBI agent from our Joint Task Force to pick up expert help because we may be dealing with large quantities of unknown toxic chemicals.   Could you put together a task force ASAP.

Oh, you will come yourself. I expected that, bring whoever you think that you need. Fisheries will cover your costs. Thank you very much. Bye, I need to make some more calls.” “I called him earlier this week about seawater samples and he was pissed at the possibilities of potential random dumping of who knows what.”

“Fisheries will cover his costs?” “Yes. My old boss called the office down here and they were happy that somebody had a lead on their fish kills. I’ve also got the Port Authority and now NYPD on tap thanks to the recent deaths. These people have managed to piss off just about every agency on the water with their toxic games down here and this city LIVES on the water.  I suspect that by the time this is over, some Italian people will dump the people responsible for this alive in the Gowanus Canal with the staff of every single agency having a party on the quay and nobody will admit that they were a witness in court.  Not that it would GO to court because the mayor and city council would be there too.”

The Gowanus Canal was well known as a chemical sewage pit because of the industries along it’s shores. It’s said that if you were dropped alive into the Gowanus alive your body would slowly dissolve.  If things had gone this bad, his agency had really slipped up.

“I gave Mike two weeks. Would you be willing to keep Mike and Nera for two months? To be honest the bureau and I slipped up.  We were so busy chasing monsters that we never saw the hidden hand.”

“Mary?”

“Helmut’s right. We got so focused on the monsters that we could see that we never saw the hidden hand behind it. These people are playing  a very deep game.”

“The problem is that the fae don’t talk to each other. We are so certain that we can handle things on our own that we don’t watch what’s happening to other people. Josh and I came down here because Josh thought to send some telegrams and open up a line of communication. Josh is the most unfae like fae because he still thinks like a normal. Look how quickly I was able to get normals to respond and take action. They talk to each other and get things done.  We need to learn from that. I thought up the wedding on lark, but I think we need to go through with it.  We need to bring enough fae together and, Al was right, we fae need to be better at using tools.”

Sal came in, followed by Al.

“We got a break. We were talking to some of the boys about operations down here and one of the smuggling offices that lost the business said that somebody had tried to put the muscle on them by saying that they could kill their “under sea” connection and make it look like an Accident while making jaw motions with their fingers.  The business kicked them out and shouted upstairs that somebody was trying to run an unauthorized protection racket on their turf but they hadn’t gotten a response yet.  Then the shark attacks happened and they had to make other arrangements for their booze. They were pissed and they sent boys out looking for the people responsible and they found them.  I gave them my troubleshooter routine that Al and I cooked up and boy were they happy to see us.  They gave us everything they had and said, shoot the trouble.  They even gave us 50 grand to close the deal and are going to give us another 50 grand when the trouble is shot.  I told them that we would take care of it and to send the money to Mary when they read about it in the papers. I even flashed my NYPD badge and they said it was about time that somebody showed up, that if you need an army, you get an army and that they had been screaming to the local precinct to send somebody down and why were they making all those payoffs if we didn’t show up when they needed a cop.  Mary, here’s the money, take care of it.  Boss, Mera, here’s everything they had. By the way, put the car on our permanent roster.  That thing is magical.”

Somebody had obviously been pissed because they had gone to extreme lengths to get all the legwork done. They had a run of the deliveries, what the schedule was, How many people there were in shipping and receiving, how many guards outside, how many lunches sold from the cart, number of people going up the street from 4:00 to 6:00, how many cars and what kind, registrations for the most expensive cars and photographs from all sides of the building and even the floor plans from the city. Somebody did a very thorough job. I grabbed the phone again.

“Bill, I think we have a target. Come down here to the Rockaways and bring the team leaders.”

Sal.

I walked down the street to the dock where Sillia was waiting. She was gorgeous, but that wasn’t why I was here.

“Sillia, gorgeous, could you get Al please. I think I’ve got a proposition for him.”

I didn’t really want to play mob expeditor but so far it was just booze and the best way to keep an eye on something was to run it yourself. And these people needed the help. If it took an insider to keep this from happening again I could play the insider. Speaking of keeping an eye on something, Sillia was doing a fine job of showing me her tail as she dove down.

I walked back into the restaurant.

Sillia.

I Swam down to the bower. Everybody was getting ready to move if the sharks could be kept at bay and the chemicals stopped. Everybody was counting on Mera and the people she had brought down. Swimming over to Alvertis’s bower the fear in the water was palpable.

“Sal wants to talk to you. It sounds like business proposition.”

“What about?”

“I don’t know but he was talking to family yesterday and today, so I think it’s about the old business.”

Even if I couldn’t actually be in the restaurant I could get a good look at what was going on. Now it was time to talk to mother. I Swam over to her Bower.

“I think I found him.”

“Your soul mate.”

I had started to feel the first stirrings about six weeks ago, but I couldn’t be sure because the bond was still weak. I had Swum up to Southern Manhattan but it was not as if I could walk into his building.  Once I knew which building it was I set daddy’s boys on the problem but they were reluctant to make any overt moves like tailing people anywhere NEAR that building.  When they said why, I understood.  The Mother of South Manhattan had a reputation and a LARGE family downtown.

“Yes.”

“Who is it?”

“The police officer, Salvatore Delvecchio.”

I wanted to get the police officer part out of the way as fast as possible. Mother would not care but daddy might have issues with it.

“Sal? Isn’t he a Federal agent now?”

“I think so, but it’s not been made clear which agency. Mary’s office is the Bureau Of Animal Husbandry but there are no animals to be regulated or looked over in Southern Manhattan so I suspect that the name is some sort cover.”

“Do you want your father to make himself known?”

“Not quite yet. I don’t want to frighten him. I think that I will just let things go naturally. I can tell that he’s desperate to ask me for a date. He’s just been so busy. He also just sent a message to Uncle Alvertis about a business proposition.”

Smith.

There’s sort of a rythmn to a building assault. You tried to get the best information about what was inside, you got there and maybe there was a fight outside or maybe there was not and after some time you either smashed way in through doors or windows or they surrendered.

“Mera, do you want to go?”

No I think that Mary and I will stay here and keep planning, Mike you go. Take Nera with you.” “Like this.”

Mike was currently not wearing a stitch and still had his tail.

“Right, we wouldn’t want to scare people yet. Silvio, go get the spare jacket, a blanket and my spare dress from the boat. Mike we will cover your lack of legs with a blanket.”

“I could release my Change-“

“NO!!!”

That was all of us.

Mike had been pestering us about that since yesterday and Nera insisted that he didn’t do that and the rest of us backed her up. None of us wanted Mike walking until he was a long way from the office.

“Mike, I gave you a direct order that you would not release your Change unless there was a life threatening emergency. I’m sticking to that. Frankly you and Nera haven’t been together long enough that I want you even thinking of going into a building full of hostiles. I don’t want to lose you both.”

The minute Mike had legs he would be charging in to make sure that his people were as safe as possible and that had gotten him into sticky situations in the past.  That might have been fine, well not really, when it was just him, but with the likelyhood of Nera suiciding probably being 100% if Mike should die in action I wanted to get him in the habit of thinking about both of them when going into action.

We manage to get Mike and Nera clothed up with Mike wearing a towel with some red sauce just as the boys walked in. It turned out to be pointless. They had seen the pictures.

“Hi Mike, you look great. I didn’t think you had been hurt. This must be your lady. Nera we are pleased to meet you, very pleased and we hope that you will be around, often brightening our day and keeping Mike straight.”

“Nera, this Bill Johansen and Leslie Abrams as well as Tom, Dick and Harry.” They are our tactical agents from our bureau and the FBI. Tom, Dick and Harry were FBI on our floor and we worked with them frequently on joint cases.

“Pleased to meet you all. And yes, Mary and I are making plans for me at the office.”

She pulled up the hem of her dress showing what she was.

“As you can see I have some special needs, but Mary said they would work on that while I take Mike up to the Cape for our wedding, honeymoon and some special training.”

Linda walked in with four people, two of whom were obviously professors and two who looked to be graduate students.

“Mrs. Clayton, it’s so good to meet you at last. George spoke so well of you and he was rather upset when you left and he lost his top troubleshooter. This is Jason Downes, our expert on dealing with hazardous materials in the lab, Allen Dennis, graduate student who’s managing the labs and is responsible for cleanup and disposal and Anton Shinn, our Swimmer. I’ve got more on the way but this is the best team I could put together on short notice.”

“Call me Mera, professor” “Charlie.”

“Charlie, I see that you brought a good team. We have plentiful Swimmers already but having somebody who knows how and what samples to take will be an asset.”

“Mr.-“ “Smith.”

“Right. Well Mr. Smith, the samples Mera sent up had some rather nasty stuff in it. I’ll send you the full report later. There are compounds that you only compound under very careful conditions and are incredibly dangerous to transport or even cannot be transported at all and we found traces of a number of them in them as well as some organic compounds that we have never seen before. I’m not surprised that the people doing the dumping have died.  What worries me is what happens during the assault.  I brought some three stage gas masks and rubber covered suits that we use for dealing with some of the war nerve agents when we have to but the first people in are going to be in a very high risk situation.

I also think that we might want to evacuate the area.”

“Leslie?”

As FBI Leslie ran coordination with NYFD and NYPD.

“The area is mostly industrial and warehouses so we’ve been quietly going around and telling the outfits that there might be a chemical incident and they should evacuate in case a fire breaks out. So far they’ve all cooperated.”

The area near the navy yard had a bunch of those companies and it was not infrequent that an evacuation was required.

“Professor, how many of those suits and masks did you bring?

“Nine suits and 20 masks.”

That was light for a first assault. But we had gone in with less.

“Bill can you work with that or do you want me to send someone out for more suits.” “I get the feeling that time is of the essence here so we will go with nine.” “Sal and Al I want you in the second wave.”

“I’ll go too.”

“Professor Downes, I’m not authorized to put you a risk.” “You’re not. I’m diminishing the risk. I can indentify chemicals from the box labels.  We don’t know what we are getting into or what NYFD might need to do in a fire situation.  There are some chemicals that you don’t want water on and I want to stop the fire department from squirting and creating disaster.  I’ve been through two of those because nobody was authorized to put me at risk and I don’t want to be at a third one.”

“Ok. Sal and Al, you stick to the professor like glue.”

I want my best shooters keeping my expert alive. That way the expert can do his job and keep us all alive.

“Mary, could you put out the word to a cub reporter looking for a big scoop?”

“I think I know just who I want for this.”

Mary’s teenagers grew up and it paid to give young reporters a boost to their careers. They get some great stories from us and they adjust some stories for us when we need it. It had worked out very well for both sides.

Two trucks loaded with men showed up and off we all went.

Sal.

For some reason he looked at Sillia still waiting the dock and decided to talk to her.

“Sillia, we’re going now, I will be back to talk to Al.”

“Where are you going?”

“To end this. We know where the people are that are poisoning your people and we are going to shut them down.”

“Will it be dangerous?”

“Probably, but that goes with this job. If things go as I expect I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Could I take you to dinner over there at Bennies? You’ve been so patient with us these last two days.”

“Sal!!”

“I’ve got to go.”

For some reason, as I walked toward Al and the car I felt as if my heart was being left on the dock and I had barely met the girl.

Sillia.

This was terrible.

He was putting himself in danger and they hadn’t even had a chance to talk, kiss or go out, let alone a nice ride to Jones beach to close the deal.

She watched the caravan leave with her heart on it. Well there was something she could do.  She really didn’t like relying on daddy but sometimes it was necessary.

“Silvio! Could you bring me the rickshaw and take me over to Bennies please. I need to make a call.

Silvio carried her into Bennies and put her in one the rolling chairs. The arms had levers the allowed you to push yourself across the restaurant. There were Mary and Mera.  Mary was making a call as Mera was typing up a list of some sort.

“Hello Sillia, welcome.”

“Mrs. Cionetti, when you are done I need to use the phone.”

“What’s the problem?” Mera looked at me with a knowing look.

“Sal, isn’t it.”

“Yes. I’m so worried and want to help.”

Mary finished her call and handed me the phone

“Operator I need to place a call to-“

“Tony get daddy on the line, it’s urgent!”

“Daddy, you screwed up. I want you to send your best people over to this address and help the people cleaning up your mess.” She gave the address of the warehouse.

“Mother is fine, she wants to have dinner with you after the storm and she might have some good news if we can make it work. Bye now.”

Mary laughed.

“Sillia you haven’t told Sal yet have you?”

“Told Sal what?”

“Mera, Daddy in this case is Dominic Caliaberti if the number she just used is right. “Daddy” is number two in the Bonano crime family. Sal is marrying into the mob and he has no choice in the matter.”

“Daddy hasn’t been spending enough time in the water. That’s one reason that this all happened. He didn’t like Alvertis when they were kids and Alvertis doesn’t know who daddy is up top.  Daddy is supposed to keep an eye on the mob.  That’s why he’s there. He slipped up because he didn’t keep in touch.”

“Mary this is exactly what I have been talking about. Sillia, can we recruit you for our nefarious schemes.  You are wasted out there on the dock.”

“Do they involve Sal and me.”

“Oh yes.”

“Good. I want to get Sal on a beach someplace before he does something stupid and get’s himself killed.”

“You seem to know Sal better than he knows you. Why?”

“Because I’m 19 and he’s 28 and mom had two sons and a daughter, me after, while Sal’s mom had Sal, his brother and two sisters, one of which is just now fifteen and the other 13. Sal’s dad is manager of ship placement in the drydock at the navy yard.”

“So Sal’s mother is in the midst of Change and they probably never told Sal what he is.”

“We were neighbors growing up but daddy kept getting pushed up in the business because he was so good at running it smoothly and we had to move to a big house out of the neighborhood to keep up appearances. When we were kids I was the geeky little girl in pigtails that liked Sal but that Sal never saw before he left the neighborhood and went to the academy.”

“Does Sal’s mother know yet? You should call and tell her that Sal is likely to be bringing you “home to mother.” “She’ll like that. She and mother were good friends before she went under sea.”

“Mary, I think we need to arrange so that Sal keeps that car. It looks like he’s going to need it.”

“Mera, I was thinking about that. He’s grown attached to it.” “Ooh, that Duesey that Sal has been driving? I want him to take me to the beach in it.”

Smith.

Leslie had requisitioned an empty warehouse about two blocks away from our target. Our caravan pulled in and joined the NYPD and NYFD people already there running the evacuation and the FBI’s flying squad’s armored truck that they used for booze raids.

“Boys, get Mike and Nera out of the car and set them next to the table over there.”

“Mike I want you coordinating and working any evidence we get early. Nera, can you handle the radio and the phones?”

“Yes, of course.”

That was a bit of a surprise because she had apparently spent her entire life “under sea.” On the other hand she had been handling communications at Bennies for four days now and she had a knack of clear and short communication. As well as getting advice when she needed it and using that advice.

“Mike what happened to you?”

“Got nailed in the leg and lost some blood. I can’t walk very well for a couple of weeks but I should recover.”

“Who’s the lady?”

“My fiancee Nera. She had the polio as a child and can’t walk. The rest of her is Ok.”

“Ok, boys settle down and I will do the briefing“

I went to the blackboard that Leslie set up.

Two large Packards drove up and bunch of very tough looking men got out.

One of them came over to me and said,

“You Smith?”

“Yes.”

“Mr. Caliaberti’s compliments and he told me to tell you that he’s given me orders to take your orders for anything that needs doing. He also said to tell you that he sorry that this mess was created and that it was, as far as he was concerned a family issue and that we were to take any measures to resolve it to your satisfaction.”

These men had been told to hand themselves over to law enforcement and to do anything we asked them to up to and including cold blooded murder. This case must be a truly massive screwup on the part of the families.

“Ok, I was just starting the briefing.”

“Listen up people!” “I’m Helmut Smith, officer in charge of a joint task force of the FBI, US Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Agriculture.  For six months a branch of the fish and wildlife at Cape Cod has been following up on some tainted fish that showed up on the Cape. They tracked the issue to New York City and the investigation led in the last week to discovery of dumping in Jamaica Bay and possible deliberate attempts to change the water chemistry and damage the fisheries in and around New York City.  This morning we got a break and information from a local business that the warehouse here(pointing at the map) was the source of the dumping.

We have also discovered that the people hired by this company to do the dumping have died as result of toxic poisoning from the chemicals they dumped. NYPD has evacuated a six block area and NYFD is on standby put are not to spray water until authorized by Mr. Downes our hazardous materials expert. We want perpetrators alive but don’t take any chances. If you even think that they are making any kind of movement that’s anything other than surrender do not hesitate to shoot. There is no such thing as a bad shooting in this case. Consider this a war zone.

Mr. Caliaberti’s people, since you are late to this party and I have a very limited amount of protective gear, I want you boys quietly policing the neighborhood for anybody that shouldn’t be there. Which, this case, since we ordered an evacuation, is anybody not NYPD, NYFD or in this room right now. I want eyes looking for eyes. So check through buildings and get some of your people up on the roofs.  Somebody has been one step ahead of us on this thing and I want to find out who is responsible for this.” I set up the tactical arrangements and off we went.

Sal.

I was amazed when the people from Caliaberti’s outfit showed up. Why were they here and what was up.

I went over to talk to Big Tony from the neighborhood.

“Hey Tony, why did Dom send you boys to this shindig?”

“I don’t know, I was just on duty at the boss’s office when his daughter called and immediately after he comes out yelling at me to get our best shooters together and get down here. Are things in as deep in the crapper as they look?”

“Probably worse. How did this happen? I’ve known Dom Caliaberti since I was a kid and if there was one of the “boys” that was on top of things it was him.  But I’ve just spent the last two days putting chunks of his business back together so that I could get what I needed to close this up.  You boys should have been all over the top of this long before the fisheries lady from Cape Cod of all places got wind of it.”

“I don’t know, lately we just seemed to be running on business as usual mode. We weren’t paying attention. How did you fix things up. I mean most of the old neighborhood knows that you are a cop?”

“See that car over there?”

“The Deusie?”

“Yup.”

“Who’s is it”

“Mine, for now. One of the agencies confiscated it and we used it in the investigation. It has amazing properties. Hey Al, come on over, there’s somebody I want you to meet.”

Tony was a gun nut from way back and he and Al would get along fine even if they were on opposite side of things some of time.

“Al this is Tony Donano from the neighborhood.”

“Tony, Al is our expert gun nut for the whole Federal Building. He was playing heavy for this, was there and can back me up. You know Jimmy The Nose?”

“You mean Jimmy The Jerk?”

Jimmy had NOT been popular when we were kids.

“Yup.”

“Do you think that he would ever snitch to a cop he knew was a cop?”

“Are you crazy? Nobody would do that.”

“How long have we all known each other?”

“Since we were kids.”

“Now how many of the old crowd knew that I had gone to the academy?”

“Everybody, we gave you a send off, remember?”

“So, we can take it as settled that Jimmy knew that I was a cop?”

“I guess”

“And that just giving me information, ie snitching was not in Jimmy’s interest?”

“Where are you going with this?”

“Well this morning I needed a connection for the investigation and I thought that Jimmy would have line on it so I drove up in that car. Within ten minutes he gave me exactly what I wanted and I didn’t even have play tough cop to get it. He could not put two and two together and come up with cop drives a Duesie and thus, even though he has known me for most of his life, and knew I was a cop, I was not a cop. He didn’t know what I was, but I could not have been a cop.”

“Al is this true?”

“Tony, cross my heart, we walked into that office and honest to god it was the most amazing thing you have ever seen. All Sal had to do was drive up in that car and make some noises about “troubleshooting from upstairs” and Jimmy couldn’t give us what we wanted fast enough.”

Tony started to chuckle and thought about it and laughed some and then really started laughing. When he stopped he asked?

“What did you get from him?” “Don’t give Jimmy a hard time, I wasn’t pressing for business details, just some connections that led to this place. If he hadn’t been such a jerk in the first place I wouldn’t even have bothered to play that game.”

“I won’t give Jimmy a hard time, but boy is this story going to get around.”

It was time to get to work.

As we pulled up there was some shooting and a couple people got hit and then a bunch of shooting inside as we charged the building behind the armored truck. I was in the second wave with Jason and Al, carrying the Graflex so that we could document as we went in. In our bureau we had learned the hard way that constructs and complicated magic had a way of dissolving, not leaving any evidence to follow up on.

As we broke through the doors there didn’t seem to be any opposition. And then things got weird.  All we could find were bodies.  As far as the stuff we had had  from the bootleggers there should have been 25 people in the building as we broke in.  Every single one committed suicide the second we broke through the door and escape or victory was no longer an option

I followed Jason shooting what he pointed to as he started cataloging the boxes and bins. We reached the third floor and the office and I asked Jason when we stopped for a minute: “What is this red stuff they’ve covered the floor with?”

He looked down, really seeing it for the first time.

“Oh god, it’s Thermite. I think we need to go. They had the whole building rigged to burn.”

Jason ran down the stairs yelling for people to evacuate I ran over to the bar locking the freight door that these old warehouses had, yanked it out and pulled the doors open. Then I grabbed the first filing cabinet I could get my hands on.

“Al help with me this.”

We pulled it out to the door.

“Look out below!!”

We pushed it out the door

“Al let’s grab another one”

We got two more out the door and out before we heard crackling on the ceiling.

“Sal we need to go!!”

We chased down after Jason as the ceiling glowed red and chunks red glowing goo fell and started to ignite the Thermite in the floor.

Al and I went through the lower two floors as we left making a last second check as we drove toward the front door and the exit.

“Last two out. We can withdraw.”

That was Bill, as tactical leader, checking everybody out that went in.

As we withdrew I could see some of our people carrying the smashed filing cabinets. We’d been through this before, though not on this scale.  The other side destroys the evidence to keep from leaving a trail. That’s why I had carried the Graflex in.

Bill came up to Jason:

“Mr. Downes, douse or let it burn.” “Let it burn, I doubt that there will be anything left to investigate. They were set up to self destruct if necessary.”

Jason was being introduced to our world.

We watched as the old warehouse went up in a volcanic eruption and collapsed in on itself.

Tony.

`I got back to the office and the boss was still up. He works too hard. Maybe that’s the problem.

“Boss why don’t you fix something up so that Tara can spend some time up top. How hard would it be to setup a pool you two could use as a bedroom.  You look terrible.”

“The word would get out and they would treat her as some kind of freak. Worse they would treat me as a kind of freak and you know how much appearances can be in the business. By the way, how bad was it?”

“It couldn’t get much worse. You now owe a lot to a lot of people. Quite a bit to Sal, in fact.”

“To Sal? He hates the business.”

“That’s sad because he played trouble shooter yesterday and this morning and did a lot of cleanup that we should have been on top of.”

“How did he do that? I mean we all know who he is and who he works for. Who’s going to talk to him about business matters?”

“Just about everybody it seems. He has a magic car. You were talking about appearances.  One nice car and the range officer from the Federal building and Sal the cop becomes Sal the mob problem solver.”

I related the story about Jimmy.

He chuckled.

“Did you check with Jimmy about it?”

“Yup and Jimmy confirmed the story. I didn’t rough him up about it. I just said that there was no chance that he would ever live it down.”

“What did Sal want?”

“Just some connections like he said. He was trying to find out what happened to the Rockaway smuggling outfit.”

“Where Tara is?”

“Yeah, but from the sounds of what happened today, he’s more concerned with the health of that place than he is about some smuggling operation. I checked in at the operation and would you believe that Sal had done it again. Only this time the outfit was pissed about a protection racket and the shark attacks on your relatives.”

“WHAT?”

“That’s what cracked Sal’s case open for him. They gave him everything they had on those characters and fifty grand AFTER he flashed his NYPD detectives badge at them. They wanted to know what WE were doing to help and I told them that it had already been dealt with and that they could read about it in the papers in the morning. They said that the rest of the payment would be on Mary’s desk first thing in the morning and they wanted reimbursement from us for having to pay Sal to do our job. I couldn’t argue with that and said that the money would be on the way. They told me that if Sal wasn’t on retainer they would have to reconsider their business relationship with us.

I can’t blame them. We screwed up. We’ve screwed up on so many levels that it beggars the imagination. Not only that we may have screwed up with family.”

“Sillia’s call was right on the money. We screwed up. If you can, go down and bring her up.  We need to find out what she knows and what the hell is going on down there. And I’m beginning to think that freak or not we may need that pool you talked about.”

Sal.

As things wound down the outfit sent a truck with kegs and some deli sandwiches and set up tables on one end and a sort of party started. It looked like fun, but for some reason I kept seeing a black hair framed face and wanted to get back to the dock and Bennies.

“Boss as soon as Mike has the report typed up I want to run it by Mera and pick up Mary and take her home.”

“Mike’s about done. Why don’t you take them with you. ”

“In the rumble seat?”

“Upfront. They’ll fit.”

“Ok, I need to put the top up, the rain has started.”

I got the top put up and drove the car to where Mike and Nera were sitting with sandwiches and two paper cups.

“Mike, are you about done with that? The boss wants me to run, it, you and Nera down to Bennies.”

He pulled the last sheets out separated the carbons and handed them to Nera who piled them on three piles. She handed one pile to a waiting agent and said.

“George, run this by the office, I have the Boss’s and Mera’s copy here and I will drop the boss’s copy off on our way out.”

“Sure Nera. By the way when do you start at the office?”

“Probably not until after the new year. There are a lot of things that Mike and I still have to work out.”

Barely three hours and she seemed to be on a first name basis with just about everybody here and already had them eating out of her hand. Amazing woman.

“Bill! Help Mike into the car while Sal carries me.”

And gets obeyed.

Bill put Mike in the car and then I dropped Nera in.

“Ooh a cuddle seat!!”

“Hey boss, here’s the report.!!” Well it was going to be fun ride for SOMEBODY. I wanted Sillia in that seat.

I got in and off we went.

It was dark and raining as I pulled in front of Bennies and got the rickshaw out.

“OK lovebirds, end of the line.”

Let’s just say that I had had to keep my eyes on the road.

They got in and I pulled it over to Bennies. I didn’t think that Sillia would be there and I hadn’t seen her on the dock so she probably went home.

I dragged Mike and Nera in and rolled two chairs over.

As I walked in there she was sitting with Mera and Mary.

“We shut the place down!! Here’s the preliminary report.”

I handed the report to Mera as Mike and Nera rolled in.

I leaned over Sillia’s head;

“So what have you been up to while I was gone?”

“Oh you’ll find out.”

“Shall we go to dinner?”

“Yes please.”

I rolled her over to another table so that we wouldn’t interrupt the high level conference at Mera’s table.

“Sillia, what would you like for dinner?”

“The pie, please.” “Sissy, two pies over here!!”

“Right, Sal.”

“So how did it go?”

“We got in and they toasted the place.” “toasted the place?”

“Yes, they had lined the floors with a material called thermite that is made from aluminum and rust. Thermite burns hot enough to melt steel and when we smashed in everybody in the building suicided and they must have had some sort of ignition system to start the burn.  Fortunately thermite starts slowly so Al and were able to toss some file cabinets out and then get out ourselves.  We were the last ones out and everybody was safe. A couple of the guys were hit in the opening firefight but they weren’t injured too severely. We were lucky this time. If they had used explosives it would have been ugly.  On the other hand between the thermite and the fire there’s going to be nothing to investigate.”

“How did you find this place?”

I told her about Jimmy.

“Jimmy The Jerk?”

“How did you know?”

“Don’t ask, I will tell you later.”

I told her about the magic car and what had happened at Jimmy’s and she laughed and laughed. Then I told her what happened at the bootlegger warehouse and how that had led to the people that were poisoning their water.

Dinner came and we ate, just enjoying each other’s company. We had just finished and I was just being happy looking at her face when Mike called out,

“Sal, it’s been a long day and Mary needs to get home and you are the only one with legs available, so make two trips to the boat and then drive Mary home.”

The evening was over. I took Mike and Nera and then Mera and Sillia down to the dock and as I dropped her in the water she reached around me and kissed me;

“For later, I promise.”

She let go and dropped into the water.

I drove Mary home and then drove to my lonely apartment. Tomorrow the storm was going to hit and it looked like it was going to be a long day.

Sillia.

The waiting was intense. Having to sit there, not knowing as the man you love puts himself in harm’s way eats at you. My call to daddy made me feel a little better but from what I saw there was pretty much an army going up there anyway.  Tony and the boys would almost be bystanders because this wasn’t their fight.

I helped with the wedding plans for wedding that was something else while waiting for the big rumble of Sal’s car, that wonderful magical car. I couldn’t wait for the ride to the beach and the fun that would come after.

It got darker and rainier. The rain blew on the window and you could hear the wind rumble through the awning. Almost like the rumble of a Duesenberg. No that WAS the rumble of a Duesenberg. He was back.

I acted as if I hadn’t just spent the last three hours anxiously waiting and hoping, frightened that he would be injured or killed.

I listened while he told me about the fierce battle and the effort to toss the filing cabinets out before they were destroyed. I didn’t know what thermite was but it sounded dangerous. My heart in my chest almost burst. How could he risk himself over unknown papers when I needed him. My head told me a different story, a story of a bower under threat and the need for information.  But my heart and soul weren’t listening to my head, they wanted Sal safe, with me or at least facing fierce battles together.  I needed to talk to Mera about how Mera dealt with  her separation from Josh, tomorrow. For some reason she never seemed to be concerned about what Josh would be getting himself into.

Then he went into his story about Jimmy.

“Jimmy The jerk?”

That was a mistake. I didn’t want to spoil the surprise quite yet. The call to Sal’s mother had been enlightening on several levels including the fact that she was rather upset that Sal never visited. I was definitely going to have to arrange the trip in that car, which would raise the Delvecchio stock enormously in the neighborhood.  Sal’s mother and elder sister had completed Their Changes but Mr. Delvecchio and his shipyard friends had made arrangements in the massive pools and docks of the navy yard because of the danger down here in the Rockaways and Mrs. Delvecchio was living at home in the evening until her youngest daughter Changed. I was thinking that when the time came for Sal and me to find a place, that the Navy Yard would be a better place to live. It would certainly make Sal’s commute shorter. And Swimmers were always needed for the massive ships.  In any case, I  kissed Sal in a promise for another day.

I swam toward the Bower, and my mother’s place.

“You were up late. With Sal?”

“Yes, he took me to dinner after he came back from work. He had a long and stressful but successful day. I think that they resolved the chemical and shark issues for the moment.”

I told mom the Jimmy story and mom broke down laughing.

”Those mob people and their reliance on appearances. I’m coming up tomorrow. I want to talk to Mera and call Stella. I think that I will have Dom send a car and visit. We haven’t talked to each other in some time.”

Stella.

I had just gotten off the phone with my best friend’s daughter and she said something that worried me. They hadn’t been able to take the bower to deep water to get out of the way of the hurricane.  The problem was that for some reason sharks had been attacking.  The suspicion down in the Rockaways was that some sort chemical dumping was tainting the water. Apparently there was a joint task force on it. That was good and about time. Mike had been keeping her at the navy yard during the day, but that meant that she didn’t have very many women to talk to as navy Swimmers were men because of the advantages of Change. After the storm was over she was going to look into seeing about building a little place for  merfolk in a corner of the yard but that would be a long term job of the wives of the navy auxilary.  She was by no means the only merwife of a navy officer or contractor working at the yard and it was about time that they did something to provide for their special needs.   She thought about seeing if the entire bower could be moved to the navy yard and she didn’t think that they could make the transfer quickly enough. That might be something the navy could exercise but it wasn’t something you wanted to try in a crisis. It was time to call her husband. It was good to have somebody who was used to moving multi thousand ton floating pieces of steel and putting them exactly where he wanted.

“Operator I want to make a call to the navy yard extension–.

“Mike, Sillia and I have good news. It looks as if she’s bonded with Sal.

“Does Sal know that yet?”

“Sillia is sort of keeping it a secret. You know how Sal is. Anyway Sillia is sort of making it romantic with dinner and rides in Sal’s car.”

“Car? Sal doesn’t have a car.”

“His office managed to get it’s hand on a Duesenberg for undercover work and it’s more or less become his personal use vehicle.”

“I want to see that. Hell I want to ride that.”

‘Mike, the reason I called is that according to Sillia the people that Mike and Sal were chasing in their last case dumped something in the water and caused massive shark attacks. By the way Mike has found somebody. A nice merlady from Massachusetts. According to Sillia the sharks have managed to prevent the bower from being moved and I’m afraid of what will happen to Tara and Sillia and the rest.  Is there a ship you can sink and protect them.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the navy had sunk a random ship. For practice, of course.

“I don’t know. I’ll talk to Captain Farr and I’ll call you back.”

Mike D.

“Captain, can I talk to you.?”

“Hi Mike, what’s up.”

“The community, down in Rockaway. They couldn’t go deep like we figured they would.

“Damn, why didn’t they send somebody to tell us. Yesterday I had two BB’s,

the Lexington, two cruisers, five destroyers and five transports that we could have used for lift. They all left last night.”

It was safer for ships to weather storms at sea. So anything that could leave, did. Looking out across the harbor the waterfront was essentially empty except for a couple of ships apparently closing hatches after battening down the hoists even though they had partially unloaded cargos. It’s likely that they would be gone by the next tide. Then Mike saw something that had been staring him in the face, a massive rusty wall. The floating dock that was too small, small being a relative in this case as it was 700ft long and too old to continue to be used.

“Captain, remember how we were discussing some sort of exercise to see if we can move a dock in rough weather and we didn’t want to risk one and lose it. Well there’s a dock that’s heading for scrap anyway, Rockaway is right outside the harbor and we’ve got rough weather coming so this might be the time to try our ideas out right here, with the people we know and get some of those procedures written  for the forward base flotilla.”

The forward base flotilla, a repair and maintenance facility built around a floating dock that could be moved forward with the fleet to better provide fleet availability was something that the navy wanted for the next war but some of the bugs like maneuvering the very large floating docks still needed the guidelines that only experience could teach to clean them out. The problem was that the navy, for good reasons was reluctant to let bases play with expensive things like floating docks in bad weather.

“They say that when opportunity knocks-“ “Don’t knock the opportunity”

“What’s the tide table timing?”

“We should have an outgoing tide in six hours.”

“I’ll kick it upstairs but you know how gung ho the Admiral is about forward base so start pulling resources together.”

The red marks underneath the Captain’s ribs didn’t show through his uniform but the Swimmer’s ribbon was there in his salad and he had a tail at home.

Six hours later, with the outgoing tide a great rusty steel wall moved down through NY harbor.

Sal.

I woke up early in a bit of a daze, showered and got dressed.

I left my building and walked across to the deli to pick up an egg sandwich on my way to the subway and as I was paying for the sandwich, Sally asked,

“Sal did you see that big car out front? Do you know if there’s some movie being filmed around here? That’s got to be some movie star’s car.”

“Oh, that’s mine.” “????” I walked over, got in and drove off, bemused at myself that I been in such a daze that I had forgotten I had the car. I drove through town toward the office and parked the car in the Garage.

“George fill it up, I’m taking Mary back out later.”

George doted on Mary and would think that the Duesenberg would only be her just due. That way I keep the car. And it happened to be true.

“Hey Mary, ready to go. I’ll check in and then we can be off.”

I walked into the boss’s office.

“Hey boss I’m checking in on my way to Bennies. Did we get anything from those filing cabinets?”

“Lot’s of little stuff, nothing concrete. They were filled with PO’s mostly and we’re following up with the vendors.  The pictures you took were rather interesting according to Brownowski and Downes. They have graduate students tracking through catalogs to see if they can find the pieces.”

That’s why you took pictures of what you encountered. Frequently even in the weirdest mad scientist stuff 90% was straight out of somebody’s catalog and the rest wasn’t that hard to figure out by the right people. The bureau shared a catalog library and rolodex of experts with the rest of the building for that reason.

“Ok, I’ll get the updated book and I’ll run it down to Mera.”

The book was now being kept updated and printed for all the various agencies and agents in the growing list of people involved. Mera was officially fisheries and had actually been reactivated as their agent in charge. Or mermaid in charge as the case may be.

I went down to the printshop and signed out Mera’s and my copies and put them in a brown paper bag. Then I collected Mary and off we went.

As we parked in front of Bennies I thought I saw a familiar figure in amongst some navy vehicles and uniforms on the end of the street.

“Dad?

“Oh, hi Sal. Hey Mary!!”

“What are you doing here?”

Some ratings were building a small shed and bringing various pieces of equipment out. Inside the truck I could see Dad’s theodolite case.  That instrument cost as much as our house did and as far as I know the only time it left his office was when he was dropping a ship, usually one that was badly damaged so that the dry dock blocks had to be exactly in the right position. The trick with dry docking a ship is that you use a surveyor’s transit to position the blocks and then you position the ship from the same bearing points. Dad was one of the best at putting a ship exactly where it needed to be.  He and his boss have a running contest between them to see who can drop a ship on the smallest circle and so far dad was ahead with a penny but both had tried dimes and just gotten close and neither one had been able to repeat the penny.

“Instant breakwater, over there.”

He pointed out just over the bower.

“With what?”

“Wait and you will see.”

“I need to check in with the agent in charge, so I will see you.”

“Is that the car?”

“You heard about it?”

“Stella told me.”

But who told my mom?

I walked into Bennies. Mera was there.

“We’ve been invaded.”

“My dad has a project. His projects tend to run in the tens of thousands of tons. He said he was building a breakwater so I expect some rather large object to appear on the horizon shortly.  Since he’s sinking it will probably not be moving again.”

“Why here, why now?”

“If he knew about merfolk I would say that he’s dropping it to protect the bower. Otherwise, I don’t know.”

“Do you think that he would be willing to talk to me? I don’t want our respective operations to get in the way of each other.”

“He’s been a navy contractor for years. He understands things like that so I will tell him on my way out. Here’s the updated book. What’s today’s assignment.”

“Since yesterday was a dead end, unfortunately, go and see if you can find any leads amongst the teamsters and garbagemen,”

“Ok, on my way.”

I walked back out of Bennies, upset that dad had spoiled my chance with Sillia today.

“Dad, my agent in charge is in that restaurant and wants to make sure that you aren’t stepping on each other’s toes today. Could you check in with her?”

“I suspected that something like that when you showed up. I’ll check in right away. We’re not at a delicate stage right now.”

“I gotta go.”

“Bye Sal.”

Mera.

A middle aged man walked into the restaurant.

“Hi, I’m Mike Delvecchio. I’m the ship placement and dry dock administrator for the Brooklyn Navy Yard and senior drydock and facilities administrator for the Atlantic Fleet. You are-“

Getting his clout out of the way right off the bat and letting me know that if I gave him any grief it would probably end up on the Assistant Secretary of the Navy’s desk in about ten minutes. Very heavy clout indeed.

“Agent Mera Claytor of the US fisheries and apparently you are about to drop a very large something into the middle of my investigation.”

“The navy is conducting an experiment involving the maneuvering of floating drydocks in adverse conditions. We decided to take advantage of the weather to use an old floating drydock to create an artificial reef and breakwater.”

“Why here?.”

“The site was selected because of the potential benefits to the local fisheries and wildlife.”

“Then why don’t I have the permit in my briefing book.”

“It probably hasn’t caught up with you yet. We put this together as an operation quickly to take advantage of the weather but it is a part of a long term plan.”

He was good. He had no way of knowing what I knew and thus couldn’t tell me what their real reason was.

“Ok, I’m going to tell you the truth Mr. Delvecchio because we could spend all day at this and we really don’t have time for this. Sillia Cailiberti called your wife yesterday and amongst other things happened to mention that the merfolk bower out there was endangered. Mary and I were here when she made the call. Strangely enough you show up with one of your large and impressive pieces of steel planning to drop it in the best place to protect said bower before the peak of the storm hits. I’m impressed.  The navy put a massive effort together with an apparently massive piece of junk in less than a day. Now why haven’t you told Sal what you are?  With your wife Changed it’s not as if you’ll be able to hide it. Considering that Sillia and he are bonded, it’s rather pointless at this point.”

“It’s complicated. At first it was because Sal was too young, and then Sillia Changed, but the bond there was obvious to everybody but Sal. We were going to tell Sal but then Sillia’s brother Vincent was attacked by a shark, swimming on the beach  with his girlfriend and they were both killed. Dom and I got together and did some checking and it was obvious that whatever was responsible for this was going after the kids of high fae leadership.  Which meant that Dom’s, mine and some other’s I’m not going to name right now’s kids were at risk and we needed to take some steps to protect them.  Sal was in  the NYPD and his brother, Mark is about to graduate from Annapolis so they have a measure of protection.  I’m keeping my eldest daughter down at the Yard with Stella because of the shark attacks after she Changed. Then Sal was attacked two years ago and joined Mary’s group. We talked to Mary and decided that it was better to let nature take it’s course with Sillia and Sal. I think, Mary that we need to tell Sal anyway.”

“Don’t you dare!!”

“Thank you boys and thank the Chief for us.”

“No problem maam.”

“Tara!!”

Two ratings had just pulled the rickshaw up and put Sillia and another mermaid in the rolling chairs.

“Mike, nice to see you. We sort of held back until we recognized Chief Barnes and realized who this crew was.”

“ I was wondering how we were going to arrange to get our people in here right in front of all those navy people.”

“Don’t you dare tell Sal, dad, I’ve been trying to get him on a beach for a long time and I don’t want anybody to screw up our screwing.”

“You shouldn’t talk that way, young lady!! Dad, I like the sound of that.” “I get Sal on that beach and there won’t be any talking. Anybody squeals about this to Sal and I’ll have daddy put the hit on them. Even my future father in law!”

We all laughed at that.

“Mera, is the food here as good as it smells.”

“Oh yes, I may lose my girlish figure.”

I pulled up the hem of my dress to show Mike what I was, though I was certain he already knew.

“Good, who do I talk to to set up a canteen. I was going to check out the places after we got set up, but it looks like I won’t have to. You’ve obviously been set up here for some time and it’s obvious that they won’t be bothered by Swimmers. I’m also going to need catering for lunch. The admiral is coming down with people for the show.”

“In the rain?”

“For this, yes. We’ve been trying to get a dock to play with for years.”

That was how the game should be played. Hide the bigger truth in a small one.

“Talk to Bennie in the back.”

Bennie had been essentially loaning us his business for the last few days. This would go a long way toward making up for that.

“Sillia, is this your mother?”

“Yes, Mother meet Mera Claytor, Mera, this is my mother, Tara.”

Sal.

I thought about it as I drove away and while I could drive around and talk to people all day, I really needed to get to the heart of the problem. I needed to talk to Dom. He and my dad had been tight for a long time, but they sort broke apart after Dom left the neighborhood. Dom had always run a tight ship. He knew there was crime and there were CRIMES. When he sold booze it was the real labeled stuff and not adulterated. His girls were clean and his pimps ran their business and never ever abused the girls.  The numbers in his area were honest and he paid promptly. He did payday loans and  made loans that were high rated, but not so high that they ruined you.  His businesses were run the way they should be because it was good business.  That’s why this thing just didn’t seem to be right. I pulled up to his office and got out.

“I’m Sal, I want to speak to Tony.”

The car was good, but not enough to get me directly into Dom’s office. Tony though, would be more than good enough.

“Tony says come on up.”

“Sal, good to see you, why are you here?”

“I think that I need to talk to Dom.”

“He wants to talk to you too. You pulled us out of a real mess yesterday.”

“I know. The thing is that I shouldn’t have had to. Where’s Vinnie? This should have been his job.”

Vinnie had gone into the business while his brother Andy was admitted to West Point. He had been Dom’s trouble shooter and we had had some encounters where we dealt with mutual trouble and he needed somebody busted, which considering the slimeballs involved I was glad to do. But I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years. Then again I was working a different beat and I hadn’t really thought about it for a couple of years.

“Vinnie got it three years ago.”

“I hadn’t heard.”

“It wasn’t business related.”

I hadn’t realized that I had grown that out of touch. Vinnie had been my best friend when we were kids. Several ashen faced men in nice suits left Dom’s office and Tony picked up the phone.

”Dom, Sal’s here and he want’s to talk to you.”

“Good I want to talk to him.”

“By the way, Tony how did you guys know where to show up yesterday? You got there right after we did.”

“I told you, Dom’s daughter called.”

That was strange because everybody who knew where we were going had been in Bennies and none of those people looked like anything like Cecilia, aka Cece Cailiberti.

“Dom, how did this happen?”

“What did happen, especially with those people under sea down there at the rockaways.”

He knew. That was going to make it easier.

“Some people were putting stuff in the water to make it, to quote somebody who lives there, “unhappy.” They were using your people to do some of the dumping, trying to shakedown still others of your people and attacking your business especially those people off the dock down there in the Rockaways. I’ve spent the last few days cleaning up your business messes rather than chasing the very bad people who were able to move in and around your business apparently without upstair’s knowledge even though most of the businesses I’ve been talking to had been screaming upstairs for weeks.”

“I know. Tony checked back with Jimmy and your other stops and with the exception of Jimmy, who is an idiot, the only reason that you got the reception you got was that you were the only one who showed up and wanted to help them deal with the issues that we should have been dealing with. We screwed up and we owe you, big time. Is the car really that magical?”

“Dom you had to have been there. I peeled Jimmy like a grape. If I had wanted to, with just our range officer, who admittedly is a VERY dangerous man and that car I could have gotten Jimmy to squeal everything he had ever done. Of course it probably won’t work much longer since the word will go out that I have it. And the other people were mostly just pissed.”

“Could you put a line to your boss. We owe him too.”

“Talk to Mary. She can set you up. I think that you also need to talk to Mera.”

“Who?”

“She’s the lady who put this all together. We all owe her.”

“Where is she?”

“Down at that dock in the Rockaways. You want to get there anyway. Dad’s putting on a show building a breakwater for the people down there.”

“With what?”

“I don’t know, but you know with dad it’s going to be impressive.”

“Ok, I’ll be there”

“How did Vinnie die?”

“Shark attack. He and his girlfriend were swimming up at Jones Beach and somehow a frenzy got started with them in the middle of it.”

I was tired of this. I wanted to get back to Sillia. And then it hit me. Sillia, Cecelia, sex on the beach, shark attack. Jimmy The Jerk and a hundred little hints. I had been hanging around merfolk for days now and somehow how Change could change people hadn’t penetrated.  The geeky little girl wasn’t exactly what she was when we were kids.

“That little minx. That little sneaky little minx.” “Who?”

“Your daughter, Sillia. She’s Changed hasn’t she. That means that Tara has too.”

“How did you know?”

“I just figured it out.”

“How?”

“Tony showed up at our little shindig yesterday right after we did. We were moving fast, doing things on the fly and there was no way anybody could know where we were going except down there on the dock. There was only one girl who fit the bill and she has a tail, which means that you do too. And some other people that I’m related to who didn’t tell me that I was in line for one too after some fun and games with a certain little minx. I wonder what would have happened if the boss hadn’t sent me down there.”

“So what are you going to do now.”

“Let things take their natural course. I’m thinking though, considering what happened to Vinnie that we may not want to close the deal on the beach. I think I’ll find a spa or salt water pool at a hotel somewhere upstate and Sillia and I will take a nice ride in the car. There have been far too many of those “convenient” shark attacks. I’m going to tell Mera and the rest the same thing.”

“About the case?”

“Talk to people.”

“Do you need help?”

“I don’t think so. You could put the word out, that it’s Ok to talk to me.” “Ok, but take Tony anyway.”

“Why?”

“I think he wants to see the magic car for himself. And I want to get a line on just what’s going on here and you seem to have the nose for it.”

Dom picked up the phone: “Tony, put Andy on the desk, I want you got out with Sal and nose around. Something stinks and I want to find out just who’s been messing with our business.” “In the car? Ooh fun.”

What was it about that car.

“Consider it a bonus.”

Mike D.

I was glad that Sal had left before Sillia had put her head up and saw George. George, or more precisely Senior Chief Petty Officer George Barnes was one my best Swimmers and his wife lived down there, so Sillia had brought Tara, a very Changed Mike and his charming new wife that Stella had mentioned up to the dock and George had sent a couple of ratings to take Sillia and Tara into Bennies.

I talked to Bennie and got the canteen set up and he said that he had done catering for small parties and wanted to know how many tables to rent. I didn’t know how much brass the Admiral was bringing down and that I would bring our staff liason, Lt. Billings to get things arranged.

“Are any of the brass coming going to have problems with people in our condition?”

“No, Mera, it’s going to be navy people for the most part on this street. Bob Farr, my CO at the yard is doing the public show about four blocks over  and duplicating me on the survey so the press and prying eyes are going to be up there.”

“For something you threw together you seem to be well prepared.” “Moving the dock itself wasn’t that big a deal.  It’s been moved up and down the coast even in some pretty sour weather for decades.  A lot of the rest is patching stuff that we do already into the procedure.  It’s going to be getting it exactly where want it to be that what we are testing and in this case if it drifts too far from where we want it to be it’s not a big deal unless it heads over the bower. If that happens we’ve rigged it with scuttling charges and it drops then and there.  But the point of this exercise is to moor it exactly where we want it without any shore support in adverse conditions.” “Why are you doing this? At least other than to protect the bower.”

“When you are operating a navy things work better the closer you are to your bases. The closer you are, the faster you can repair battle damage, maintain ships, rearm and refuel. That means that an attacking fleet is at a disadvantage as it gets further away from its bases and needs more ships to compensate for the time it takes for ships go to the bases and return.  The idea we’re working on is to create a portable base system that comes up behind the fleet and provides the same kind of support that say Pearl where your son Steve is stationed, provides. What we want is to be able to turn just about any protected waters into an instant base.”

“You know Steve?”

“He went through a course I was teaching in underwater ship maintenence about a year ago.”

“So that’s where I thought that I heard your name before. So you knew what I was the minute you heard my name. Why didn’t you come out and say so?”

“Mary was there and I wasn’t sure what you had told her. You can’t unsay something that has come out and you weren’t exactly flashing what you were.”

“Are you going to go on with Sillia’s little charade?”

“If Sal had seen Tara in her current condition and knew that Tara was Sillia’s mother it would have been all over right there. Sal and Sillia or should I say Cece have known each other since they were kids and it’s going to be fun to see how long it goes before he realizes that he’s been had. On the other hand Sal is sharp and Sillia has probably made a mistake already. I’m guessing that he already knows.”

There was a tapping on the glass.

“I think that they want me. Come out for the show.”

The ratings had built the shed for the theodelite table and tamped in the anchors. It was time I got my baselines and get this show on the road.  The rusty steel wall had appeared on the horizon.

Steve Billings was on the field telephone we had set up talking upstairs to somebody. When he hung up I went over to him.

“Lt., get together with Bennie and the admiral’s people about lunch. I didn’t know how many the Admiral is bringing down.”

“I just got off the horn with them. I’ll get right over and talk to Bennie. Mike and Nera have been waxing ecstatic about the food here.”

I wasn’t surprised that Steve had latched onto Mike. They both had attended Christmas parties at my place and they got on well together

“George, who’s boat is that?”

“I don’t know, I’ll ask Mike.”

Mike had stayed on the dock with his new wife Nera to keep an eye out for anybody that his boss might send down and what we were doing when Sillia and Tara had gone into Bennies.

“I’ll do it. I want to talk to him anyway.”

I walked down to the dock.

“ Hi Mike Who’s the lady.”

“This is Nera.”

“Mike, this is wonderful. You look happy. Nera, thank you very much for getting Mike out of his rut.

“You’re welcome.”

“Hey Mike, do you happen to know who’s boat this is. I figured that there would be a bunch of boats for my baselines but this is the only one here and nobody seems to know who owns it.”

An ensign had already checked with the dockmaster and the local establishments and come up empty. Actually under the circumstances that one boat was here was rather amazing as anything that could float was either pulled from the water or sent up the river some time ago. The JG keeping the book on the project had already made a note about making sure to have boats.

“Oh that’s Josh’s boat, we came down from the Cape on it. I think that Mera would let you use it.”

“I’ll check with her.”

I walked back into Bennies.

“Mera, the only boat readily available for my base lines is yours. Can we requisition it?”

“I think so, what is a baseline?”

“What we are doing right now is a matter if triangulation. Right now my theodolite and Bob’s, Captain Farr’s, don’t know where they are. We are going to put two poles out in the water and then from known points I have people who will triangulate the poles, finding their exact positions. Then Jimmy and I will use those positions to triangulate where the theodolites are and use that to determine where the drydock is. Don’t be concerned if the boat is lost. The navy will replace it. I have a lot of boats, just not here and the tide doesn’t wait. I need good surveys of everything to make sure that I don’t drop old rusty out there right on top of bower.”

“I don’t think that Josh will mind for something like this, so go ahead.”

“Thank you. When were done I’ll have it trucked up to the yard if you want me to until you need to go back.”

I walked back out.

“Chief we got the boat.”

Linda.

I had the flying dream again. This time it was even more vivid than before. And he was there flying around me as we danced through the air.

The alarm clock woke me. In the bed was another feather and some down.

I went through my usual routine and went down to the office. I walked by Mary’s desk as she was on the phone about hotels on the Cape.

I walked into the Boss’s office.

“So what’s up, do go back down to the dock or do you need something else.”

“Sal’s taking Mary out there in the car and I want you to play accounts receivables on some of these PO’s that we got from the raid yesterday.”

Playing the misfiled accounts receivables was an old trick to track down information about a company as people get nervous if they think that they won’t get paid. It wasn’t exciting but it was a way to build the picture.

She started to go through the purchase orders looking for companies that might have interesting stories to tell and thought of flying as the rain picked up.

Sal.

“Wait here Tony, I want to bring the book up”

I ran down and brought up the book. We went over to Tony’s desk and opened the book.

“What do you want me to look out for?”

“You tell me. You know the business. I got lucky because I made some connections with the Rockaway people.  But that had to have hurt business. These people must have a pattern and one thing is that seem they to try to take an indirect approach.  Are there any businesses that have suddenly stopped producing or even started producing more.  I’m trying to get my head around what these people are really after. It’s not to take over, at least the businesses because they were more intent on wrecking the businesses they have played with. And their methods are operationally stupid. It’s as if, they never thought of the idea that their operation could be compromised. The bootleggers had their whole business mapped out in a week.  They didn’t seem to take any precautions.” “They burned themselves to the ground.”

“That’s the point. You’ve had booze operations busted up. Did that mean you stopped shipping booze or did you have enough to reestablish and rebuild.” “We had backups.”

“Exactly. Another thing, your boys were looking for lookouts when we went in. Were there any?”

“We never found anybody.”

“I know. We had total surprise right when we showed up out front. Frankly because of the chemical stuff we were sloppy. But it didn’t matter because they didn’t take any precautions.”

Tony flipped through the book.

“What’s with this food coloring outfit that keeps showing up. How much booze can they drink? That place is a cover.”

“I think that you weren’t the only one using that place as a cover. Lets go talk to some truckers.”

We got in the car and off we went to Alberti’s trucking.

“Hey Tony why’s Sal with you and where did he get that car.?”

“Sal’s doing some moonlighting and troubleshooting for Dom.”

“Does his boss know?”

“What do you think?”

And off we went. After checking with Alberti’s we checked in with three more trucking outfits about strange deliveries and as noon approached I said,

“Tony have you ever eaten at Bennies? You’ll like it, trust me.”

I had no idea of the circus that my dad had produced.

Mera.

Mary and I went over to the window as the show started. The great iron block that Mike Delvecchio had made so light of was moved slowly to it’s final resting place by a herd of tiny grey and red tugs, the movement almost imperceptible. The ratings had set up a tent like covered awning and some benches for the dignitaries that would soon be arriving and an increasing number of merfolk were sitting on the dock, many being the wives of the Swimmers working on the project. Lt. Billings had been in and out of the restaurant all morning and came over and said,

“Ladies can I offer you a front row seat?”

“Lt. do you do this often.”

“Dealing with VIP’s? It’s my job to keep them out of Mike’s and Captain Farr’s hair on these things. It’s not really that hard. It’s mostly being polite and watering the beer when it’s time to close shop. I’ll have some ratings bring over the rickshaw and take you, Miss Calibierti and Mrs. Calibierti over to the tent.”

“You don’t seem at all phased by what we are and the fact that some of us are not wearing clothes.”

“Maam if that bothered me at the yard there would be no way that I could do my job. The admiral’s wife, Mrs. Farr and lately Mrs. Delvecchio do not wear clothes either when they Swim and I see them every day.” Lets get you over and seated before the Admiral and his wife get here so that I can sit her next to you along with Mrs. Farr and Mrs. Delvecchio when they arrive.”

A large Packard drove up and a tough looking man in a nice suit got out and opened the door and rather tired looking middle age man got out. Delvecchio shouted out from the theodolite’s shed

“Hi, Dom, I’m busy, I’ll talk to you once the show’s over. Lt., Mr. Calibierti is my guest, so take good care of him.”

“Hi Daddy!!”

“Dear!! You look terrible. You need a Swim.”

On the water a dive barge was attached to the drydock as Divers and Swimmers performed some last minute chores and set the scuttling charges. As the dock slowly moved to its final resting place four tugs dropped anchors in response to a signal from the theodolite shed.

A bunch of staff cars showed up loaded with men in khaki uniforms and women and girls, some in long dresses that waited for wheel chairs pushed by ratings.

“Stella!!”

“Tara!!”

As the rating pushed the chair over the two women hugged. And then Stella turned and hugged Sillia

“Hello dear, or should I say daughter.”

A man with stars on his collar walked up and said,

“Young lady, I understand that you are responsible for this. Thank you.  A lot of us had friends and relatives down there and we didn’t know. That will not happen again.”

There was a familiar rumble as a big roadster pulled up. Everybody looked as the big car turned to park.

Sal.

“Tony, I’m doomed.”

“Why, I see Dom, your dad, his crew and Tara.”

“And mom, Susy and Sillia. ”

“Sal, just play it straight. They’ve been the ones playing the games.”

“Ok.”

We got out of the car.

“Hello mother, I see that you have Changed.”

“Yes and you never visited so we couldn’t tell you. Why haven’t you visited? Why did it take Sillia to tell me about your new car.”

“It’s not mine, mother it’s a company car.”

“No government car looks like that. Have you and Sillia set the date yet?”

“Not yet mother.”

“Can I get a ride?”

“Susy, I’ll take you right after dad sinks his dock.”

“BRRRRNT!!!!”

“Ok people, here we go.”

The dock hissed clouds of water as the ballast tanks filled for the last time and the dock settled slowly until hit the bottom. Then shortly thereafter a loud WHUMP was heard as the scuttling charges went off and then all the horns on the various tugs and watercraft went off and then the tugs and their charges skittered off to the navy yard and tug dock out of the gathering storm.

“Good job, Mike, you put it right where you wanted.”

“Thank you Admiral. I should have a preliminary report by the end the week once I talk to the tow master and the divemaster. It looks to me as if we’ve taken a big step forward toward proving forward base can work. Bennie’s put out a spread, so let’s eat and then go home and get out of the rain.”

I went over to dad who was packing the theodolite back in it case.

“Dad, why didn’t you tell me? About you, about Vinnie.”

“We wanted to protect you. And then you sort of fell out of contact.”

“You didn’t protect me, you left me in the dark. Vinnie was my best friend. If I had known what happened to him I would have started looking around and maybe a bunch of this stuff could have been shut down.”

“I’m sorry, we should have told you.”

Tara hugged her husband and said;

“Tony come over here. Tony, you are in charge until I finish taking Dom for his Swim. That might be three days but I’m going to try for a week. I don’t want to see any of the boys until I call you. Sal you help him out. ”

“Tara, I’m a cop, I can’t do that.”

“Sal, you’ve been doing that for the last three days. You’re family and we need you. You can do it until I can get Dom Well. Mary, will Helmut put Sal on detached duty?”

“I think that that can be arranged.”

“Tell Helmut that the car is Sal’s, I’ll buy it if I have to, but it might better to keep things the way they are for the time being.”

“Tara, what are you doing?”

“Something I should have done a long time ago. Now will you get undressed and Change or do I have to shred your clothes off.

“Tara I can’t do that in front of everybody.”

“Here? Look around, nobody will care. Now carry me over to the side of this quay.”

Dom lifted his wife to the side of the quay and set her down

“Well are you coming?”

“I-I”

“RIIIIP.”

Tara leaped up, tore Dom’s suit into shreds and pulled him into the water as everybody laughed.

“See Tony, doomed. Sillia, how about I take you to the table and grab you some lunch?”

“That’s a great idea.”

I took Sillia over to a table and went to grab some lunch. When I came back Sillia and my mom were talking about the raid yesterday.

“Sal, what were you doing putting yourself in danger like that?”

“It’s part of the job, like a fireman. We were careful and had an expert with us to make sure that things didn’t get out of hand. It did get hotter than we liked because we didn’t expect them to use thermite. The good part is that we got the toxins out of the bower’s water.”

“Sillia says that you have a story about that bratty Jimmy and she didn’t want to spoil it, so tell it.”

I told mom the Jimmy story and she laughed and laughed. Poor Jimmy, by the time the gossip mongers in the neighborhood got through with this he would have to go over to the Vegas Mob and sit out there in the desert running small time craps for cowboys.

Susy was rolled over.

“Hi Sillia!! I just got my Change, Why don’t you visit the navy yard soon. In fact why don’t you have daddy bring you by tonight and sleep over. That way you can test things out. So when is Sal taking you to the beach?”

“We haven’t made the arrangements yet.” “About that, Sillia, I was thinking that we could find a spa upstate.  There are too many sharks not acting like sharks.” “You noticed that too?”

Dad had just walked up.

“I know about the people down below here, Mera’s mom and Vinnie. That may be just the tip of the iceberg. And then there was that protection racket that was trying to hit on Dom’s businesses. Now maybe you could say the attacks are random, but you can’t run a protection racket on random accidents. Something’s fishy with the fish and I don’t think it was just chemicals in the water. There’s somebody behind this and I want them, for Vinnie.”

God I was even talking like a mobster. On the other hand Vinnie had been a good friend even we were supposed to be on opposite sides and I owed Vinnie for not knowing. I owed him for him being family and me not being there when I should have been. Tara was right about that.

“Suzy, is there anything you need at home?”

“Why, Sal?”

“I was thinking that I would run you by and then over to the Navy Yard after lunch.”

“In the car?”

“That’s the point.”

It would be sending signals that messing with my family would now be messing with the outfit as well as NYPD, the feds and the Navy. On the other hand these clowns were already messing with the outfit, the Feds, NYPD and the Navy. So I don’t think that they would get a cluebat no matter how big an hammer I used to send the signals. On the other hand I was getting the feeling that war were declared and I don’t think that the other side was going to like the hammer we could drop on them. Dad’s little project today should have made that perfectly clear.

I finished lunch and got behind Suzy’s wheelchair.

“Suzy I need make a stop over there with my Agent in Charge and tell her where going and I want to introduce you to her.”

“That lady hiding the tail under the blue dress?”

“Yes.”

“Ok.”

I rolled Suzy over to Mera.

“Mera this is my sister Susan.”

“Suzy, Mera is the person who discovered all the things that are wrong down here. Or at least started the ball rolling. “Hello Suzy, Sillia told Mary and I that you had just gone through your Change. How do you like your new world?”

“It hasn’t been very exciting. Right now daddy keeps me at the Navy yard and mostly I Swim in the docks and then do my work in the office. He’s afraid of sharks. Daddy got me a job doing final checklists for the Swimmers before they let a ship leave. I make sure that aren’t any obstructions in underwater doors that need to be closed. I have an underwater clipboard and check things off as they get done. I want to explore the real sea.”

“Sal those sharks seem to keep popping up.”

“That’s one of the things I want to talk to you about. I want to run Suzy home and then over to the Navy Yard and while I’m dropping her off, maybe talk to some people about sharks.”

“Did you get anything this morning?”

“Tony took the notes. I’ll have him come over.  I think that he needs to talk to you anyway.”

I went over to where Tony was just finishing a piece of Bennie’s pie. He had been back twice.

“Tony what did I tell you about Bennie’s. Was I right?”

“Sal this pie is almost sexy.”

“I know, it did amazing things with Sillia last night. Anyway since Dom is Occupied I want to take you to meet Mera, the lady that we all owe a debt for pointing us at this mess.”

I walked with Tony to where Mera was sitting.

“Tony, this is Mera Claytor. Among other things she is a mermaid princess, a Federal agent and Nera’s elder sister. She’s the one who discovered this mess, more or less by accident.”

“Mera this is Tony Donano. As you just heard he’s now in charge of the outfit. He’s also got the notes we took this morning”

“Tony, it’s nice to meet you, Nera said good things about the job you people did going through the buildings yesterday.”

“We didn’t find anything. Sal and I talked about that this morning.”

“Mera, I want to take Suzy for her ride, so I’ll be going. Tony, are you going to have Andy run you back to the office or do you want me to pick you up?”

“I think I’ll use Andy.”

“Ok, let’s go Suzy.

I took Suzy over to the car and put her in.

“Ooh leather!”

“Careful with my upholstery! And watch your feet!”

“I don’t have feet!”

We laughed because dirty feet and upholstery had been one of mom’s pet peeves and she gave us grief over it all the time.

“What’s it like being Changed?”

“I can’t really explain it. You’ll have to take Sillia to a beach or something and find out for yourself” “About that, if you get somebody, it’s going to be, or something, until we get the people behind the sharks. These people are going after people like us and we need to be careful.”

“How fast can this car go?”

“You know I don’t really know. Let’s find out!”

“Brrrrroom”

“Rrrrrr”

I suppose the motorcycle cop was inevitable. I could have run but Suzy was in the car so I pulled over.

As the officer came up to my window I flashed my badge.

“Detective Delvecchio, do you know fast you were going?”

“I think I got up to 65 or so. I’m sorry, officer O’brien, we’ve been using this car in undercover work and I wanted to goose it on a straight road before I got into real trouble. I’ve only been driving it for a couple of days.”

“Would you be willing to wait as I got a picture? Over at the precinct they won’t believe that I pulled over a Deusy unless I can prove it.”

“Sure officer, just so long as it doesn’t get spread around. I am working undercover.”

The magic of this car.

Mera.

“Congratulations, Tony on your promotion.” “You know, Mera, I just a big load dumped on me and if you’ve been reading that book you have some idea what a mess it’s become. On the other hand I’m glad that Tara finally got Dom to go Swimming. I’ve been after Dom to put a pool in and he’s resisted.  I’m glad that Tara finally took him in hand.  If they come up for air, talk to Tara. Maybe she can push while I pull.  What’s your place like up at the Cape.  I think that I’ll talk to Tara about Dom taking an underwater vacation next year.

Here’s what Sal and I found this morning. Somebody’s been slipping stuff into the shipments. I noticed a “food coloring” outfit was getting a lot more booze than we could account for on the other end.”

“The food coloring was a cover?”

“Yeah, but we didn’t transship that much booze through there because that would have blown the cover. So when I saw how much stuff was going through it didn’t make any sense. So we talked to the trucking company we found out where the stuff was going and guess where it ended up.”

“The toasted warehouse.” “Yup. We went to three more companies and it was the same sort of deal. It’s all in the notes.”

Mike Delvecchio sat down.

“Hey Tony, congrats on the promotion. It’s about time Tara took action. Why didn’t you set up a pool or something? We put one in for Stella. Mera, do you people have a daily brief set up.”

“Yes.”

“Is the Navy Dept. on the list? I think they should be.”

“I don’t remember off hand, there’s a distribution list in the book.”

“Is it still there in Bennie’s”

“It was on the table.”

“Seaman, could you go into Bennies and bring back the book on the table next to the phone.”

“I’ll get right over.”

“It must be wonderful to have unlimited minions.” “The problem is that they have disadvantages.”

“Mera, I think that Dom, or Tony should be on the list too. I know it’s crazy, but so is this thing and the more people in play and knowing the score the more likely that these people will make a mistake.”

“I’ll talk to Helmut about it.”

“Hey Mike, Nera.”

Mike and Nera had borrowed two wheelchairs and a pair of ratings wheeled them over to the table. The seaman came back with the book and handed it to Delvecchio.

“Here it is, Mike.”

“Thanks seaman.”

Delvecchio flipped to the distribution list and started down the list.

“I don’t see any Navy people here. Hey, Mary! ”

“Yes Mike.”

“Are going into the office before you come down here tomorrow?”

“Yes Mike.”

“Ok, could you make sure that the NY Navy Dept. is on the updated briefing book list. The Admiral asked me to make sure that we were kept up to date so that we wouldn’t be stepping on your toes in the investigation. He’s also going to call naval intelligence when he gets back to the office this afternoon so expect a call from them as well.”

“Ok, Mike.”

“Why did the admiral ask you to do that, Mike? That seems like some staff officer’s job?”

“Mera, the admiral, is as should be fairly obvious, an interested party in this investigation. And he knew that I knew you people.”

“He has a tail. He’s one of the people you mentioned earlier.”

“Yes, and his younger daughter is fifteen. She should be joining Suzy in the yard any time now. By the way, Mera, what would you like done with the boat? It proved very useful this morning and I want to thank you for letting us use it. I’ve got a crane barge available. And unlimited shed space. How about I put it up for the night and we’ll bring it back down in the morning. Or later if you don’t think that you will be using it.”

Just then Stella and Sillia rolled by.

“Dear, why don’t we put them up at our place tonight. Mera and Nera can be with me in the pool and Mike can use Sal’s room. We’ll come down to Bennies for dinner and pick them up. Could you run Sillia by the Yard. She was wondering about how Suzy was set up and wanted to see what could be done for her after she and Sal closed the deal. Suzy said that she could stay the night.”

“You heard that. We’ve got our marching orders. Mera, Nera, Mike, We’ll be back about seven to have dinner and pick you up. I have to get back to closing this circus down. George! Mera’s boat goes with us.”

“Mera, I’ll keep in touch. Keep an eye on Dom and Tara ,would you. I imagine that Tara will keep him occupied tonight, but he might come up in a couple of days or so. On the other hand he doesn’t have any clothes and I don’t think he’s like most of the guys here who don’t have much of a problem not wearing any.  Tell Tara that I’m not going to send any clothes until SHE says so.” “Nera did the same thing with Mike and you may have noticed that Mike STILL isn’t wearing any. Or legs for that matter.”

I watched as Tony went over to the car and was driven away.

“Bob, could you have a seaman come over and take me back to Bennies.”

Mary and I needed to get back to work too.

Sal.

We were approaching the old neighborhood.

“So, Suzy, how do you want to handle this.”

“You’ll see when get there.”

We got to the house and the garage seemed to be bigger and there was what appeared to be a greenhouse out back.

“Here’s the key. See that lock? Put it in and turn it and drive the car forward slowly.”

I turned the key and then took it out and drove the car forward. The garage door started to open slowly.

“The door has a motor. There’s a pressure plate, but it only works if the key has been turned.”

I drove the car inside. The door closed once the rear wheels had gone over another pressure plate. There was a chair on a rail next to the passenger side door.

“That’s for mom and me.”

“I think that I am going to have to bring Sillia by soon. Is everything this well arranged?”

“Yes, the navy did the admiral’s house and then Captain Farr’s house before they did ours. I think that there some others too in other bases. Let’s go to the back. I want to get wet. My gills are drying out and they are starting to hurt.”

At the top of the stairs there was a wheelchair and Suzy transferred herself over to it. She rolled it toward the back of the house.

“You men have it lucky. You can Change and not put up with dry gills.”

“This is new.”

Underneath the greenhouse roof was a small inground pool with a ramp for the wheelchair and a flat area about six feet deep.

Suzy unzipped her dress and pulled herself out of it and then splashed into the pool.

“No modesty?”

“This is me now Sal. I hate having to hide it.”

She swam around, pumping her gills.

“Oh that is so much better. Going dry is a pain.”

“Why didn’t you Swim when you were down at the dock.”

“You, dummy! I haven’t seen you since my Change and I wanted to talk to you. And I wanted a ride in your car.”

“Do you miss your old life?”

“Sometimes, but not as much as you might think. This me now. I’m going deep, why don’t you check out the rest of the house and come back in ten minutes or so.”

She dived down to the bottom of the pool and floated, gills and fins moving slightly.

I walked back into the house.

With four kids the house was a bit tight though as time and resources grew we all ended with our own rooms. Mark’s was in the attic, Cindy’s and Suzy’s were on the second floor with mom and dad’s and mine was on the first floor next to dad’s shop behind the garage. I looked into my old room and there at my old desk was a picture of Vinnie and me when we were 18. I suddenly realized how much I missed him and sat there with the picture and my memories. Suddenly I heard the key in the lock of the front door. I took the picture and put it in my pocket.

I walked out, it was my sister Cindy, home from school.

“Sal!! You’re home!!”

“Just for a bit. I brought Suzy by.”

“Where is she?”

“She got dry at dad’s shindig, she’s in the pool.”

Cindy ran back;

“Hi Suzy!!”

“Hi Cindy, Check out the garage!!”

Cindy tended to be tomboyish and loved cars. She had pictures on her wall of her favorites.

She ran through the kitchen and into the garage.

“Is that what I think it is?”

“A Duesy? Yes.”

“Who’s is it?”

“Mine, for now. It’s a company car for undercover work and I’m going to be doing cleanup for Uncle Dom.”

“Cleanup? You hate the outfit.”

“Well I do, but since Vinnie died some very bad people and maybe things that are not people got in and messed up the outfit and the people down in the Rockaways. My agency got put in charge of cleanup. Did you see the story about the fire?”

The fire and the drydock had been the two front page stories today. Of course me being the intrepid detective I had ignored the papers until Tony and I had stopped for coffee. But then I had forgotten a Duesenberg this morning too.

“Yes.”

“That was the start of the cleanup. We had a raid and rather than surrender and use lawyers like Uncle Dom’s people would, they killed themselves and burned their building down.”

“Why?”

“Because dead men can’t talk and buildings burned like that one was don’t have anything we can track and catch the boss with.”

“That’s crazy.”

Suzy rolled in. She had dried herself off and put her dress back on.

“Cindy could you go and get my hairbrush and the schoolbooks from the desk. I think that Sal wants to go.”

She ran up the stairs. And came back down.

“Can I get a ride to the end of the street?”

“Sure.”

We all got back in the car and I slowly backed out of the garage. At the end of the street Cindy got out and said;

“Wait a second, Sal.”

She pulled out a small camera, unfolded it and pulled the shutter.

“Now I can prove that I rode a Duesy.”

“I’ll be back and give you a real ride as soon as I can.”

Suzy and I drove off. Mission accomplished.

“How long can you go without wetting your gills? I want to plan a trip for Sillia and I and that might be important.”

“About four or six hours like today if I don’t give them a good wash. Seven or eight if really flush them before starting.  More than that it can get really painful, or worse they could start to bleed.”

Shortly thereafter we arrived at Gate 2 of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The gate guard left the booth as I drove by and I reached for my ID. Then he saw Suzy and waved us on. I stopped anyway.

“Hi Suzy. How did you convince somebody with a car like this to drive you up.”

“Hi George, this is my brother Sal. It’s his.”

I flashed my badge.

“Which building has the oceanographic research people? I need information about shark behavior. ”

“Building 23 just past dock 2.”

“Ok that’s near Dad’s office.”

“Sal, could you wait a second?”

He went back to the guard shed and pulled out a camera.

“We have a contest every year for the fanciest car through each gate and I think I just won it, hand’s down.”

“Ok Suzy, where’s your place?”

“The service pool by dock 1”

I drove her over and picked her up.

“Which door?”

“The first one on the right.”

I opened the door to a girl’s room with a large pool in it. There was a desk next to the pool.

“Let me put these books down, take off my dress and then you can drop me in.”

“Why do you need those books anyway?”

“School dummy! Just because I Changed doesn’t mean that I stop. I want my High School diploma so that I can go to college.”

I dropped her into the pool.

“I’ll see you later.”

As I walked out to the car there was a splash in the dock and she leaped out of the water and waved as I drove by. The yard was busy as I passed the docks and sheds on my way to building 23 making last minute preparations for the blow expected that night. I parked next to the building and went to the front desk. I flashed my badge.

“I’m looking for the oceanographic office.” “Third floor on the left. Is that a-“

“Yes.”

I walked upstairs and opened the door. Flashing my badge I asked: “Who’s the best person for shark behavior?”

“Sal! We haven’t seen you down here for a while.” “Hi Greg. I got busy at work. Who’s the best person to talk to about sharks. I need some stuff for an investigation.”

“That Kialedes, Spiro Kialedes. Here, I’ll take you down to his office.”

“Thanks Greg.”

“Spiro, this here is Sal Delvecchio, Mike’s kid. He’s with the NYPD and wants some information about sharks.”

“Hi Sal, what can I do for you?”

“Mr.-“

“Spiro.”

“Spiro I’m with the task force that was investigating the toxic dumping.”

“The warehouse fire yesterday?”

“Yes, the people responsible burned it to destroy the evidence, with thermite. The thing is that during the investigation we keep running into lethal shark attacks and that seems unusual.”

“It is, typically unless there are extenuating circumstances, in the navy’s experience sharks don’t attack people. While there have been some wild stories shark attacks are extremely rare.”

“Wild stories like Vincent Calibierti?”

“You heard about that?”

“I knew him, we grew up in the same neighborhood. ”

“I was called in on that case. Because there were things that just didn’t add up.”

“Like what?”

“Well typically you don’t see sharks together unless they’ve been all attracted by stimulus like a food source. Yet there was no large carcasses anywhere near Jones beach that night. In fact the only thing in the water were the young man and young lady. Also the sharks doing the attacking were white tip sharks, not white or great white, who are the typical sharks for attacks. And they attacked in a pack, while the typical shark is a solitary hunter. And the attack was in shallow water”

“Spiro, do you know my sister Suzy?”

“Oh, yes she’s been doing some work for us.”

“Then you probably have a pretty good idea what was happening with Vinnie on that night. Can you think of any way of controlling sharks to make them do what they did?”

“I can’t think of any way of controlling a shark, period.”

I explained to him about the protection racket.

“I don’t see how that is possible.”

“Yet it happened.”

 

Spiro gave me a bunch of information about shark attacks and pointed me at some references but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something I just wasn’t seeing. It was getting time to pick up Mary and take her home so I decided to head back to Bennies to check in.

On the way out I checked in at Dad’s office. He was just getting ready to leave.

“Hi Sal, I was just going to go get your mom and drop down to Bennies.”

“I’ll meet you there then.”

Sillia was up here tonight with Suzy, looking for a place. For us. We hadn’t even closed the deal and she was house hunting. I headed out and down to Bennies.

“I’m back, Mera.”

“What did you find out?”

“Dad’s on his way, so I think that I’ll wait so that I don’t go through it twice. Suffice to say that there were a bunch of things that didn’t make sense. Mike, you hunted those werewolves. Did you see any possibility of maybe weresomething other than wolves during the war?”

“No, but then we weren’t sure how the werewolves were made in the first place and LOT of weird stuff went down.”

“You went to your old house, what do you think?”

“Mera I will let you judge for yourself. I thought it was well set up, but I haven’t Changed yet, so I can’t really judge.”

My dad opened the door and got one of the rolling chairs, putting my mom in it. He rolled it up to the table and then sat down. Sissy came out and took our orders.

“Ok Sal, what did you find out?”

“After dropping Suzy off I went over and talked to Spiro Kialedes about shark attacks and Vinnie’s in particular.”

“Spiro has been doing shark research for about ten years now for the navy. I talked to him right after Vinnie.”

“He had been called in on the case as an expert because shark attacks like that just don’t happen. The typical shark attack is a the shark mistaking a human being for something else that it thinks is food like a dying fish or in the case of white sharks, seals. Much of the time the shark won’t even bite down.  Instead they release and look for something they like to eat.  It’s only when under a strong response like blood in the water that they attack like they say in news stories.

Sharks don’t hunt in packs. They are attracted by a food source, like a large dead carcass and that’s when you see bunches of sharks all together. But typically they don’t group together and attack. They don’t form packs. Yet Spiro said that that was exactly what he found when he studied Vinnie’s remains. He also said that he knew of no way to control sharks. Yet it looks like somebody’s doing that. Or they Change and ARE the sharks.”

“Do you think that’s possible?”

“Mike, we know about werewolves. They exist and we know that they are Changed twisted, but Changed. On the other hand nobody knows enough about sharks to have even the first inkling about how to control them.  Yet we know that sharks are apparently being controlled. That they are acting as they know what targets to attack. And that they are acting more like a pack animal, a mammal, rather than a fish. Also Spiro said that the sharks were whitetip sharks, about the size and mass if a human being, not a white or great white which are much bigger than a human being.  It’s usually the bigger sharks that attack humans in the water because, being bigger, they are less afraid. If you were given the choice between weresharks acting like werewolves or some sort of shark control technique which would you choose?”

Mera.

As we ate I wished that I could run Sal’s speculation by Josh. Or even better, my youngest sister Eltra. Eltra had been the spell master for security and ever since mother’s death had been studying shark behavior. One advantage normals had is that they could accumulate and store enormous amounts of information.  High fae, even on land didn’t seem to get much further than an oral tradition, though most of her family seemed to have moved beyond it. Nera had been the most backward before she bonded with Mike, but considering what had happened this week she was catching up quickly.

Sal’s dad took us over to his place and Sal had been right. In the end we all ended up in the pool, the ladies wetting their gills as the men kept company. I had to ask a question I almost never had to think about.

“Mike how do you use the toilet.”

“Oh! Slip over this side and put yourself over the trough and let go. The flush is that lever.”

“I like it. When I first got my legs you wouldn’t believe how hard it was for Josh to stop me from just stopping and letting go. Does the navy have plans for this pool? I want to set one up at Josh’s place.”

Mike’s daughter Cindy came by to say hi before going out to listen to the radio. Soon an apparently exciting drama could be heard.

We talked about Sal’s speculation and his logic seemed to be pretty sound but we really didn’t have much to go on. Then Nera started to nuzzle Mike followed shortly thereafter by Stella following suit on the other Mike and I decided to get out of the pool. Newly bonded tend to have heightened sexual hormone levels and Mike and Nera were exceptional on that score. In the small pool an orgy was almost inevitable.  I didn’t have any problem with that, but I didn’t have anybody to have an orgy with.

“Hi Cindy, may I listen with you a bit? I had to get out of the pool for a while.”

“Why?”

Then she heard the splashing

“Oh, that.”

Modesty and privacy were not mer strong suits.

“Has it happened before?”

“Yes. Sometimes Captain Farr and daddy work here late and mommy and Mrs. Farr Swim in the pool.”

“Are you looking forward to your Change?”

“I’m a little bit nervous. Suzy seems to be almost a different person.”

“She’s the same person, just a different outlook. You shouldn’t be afraid of the Change.  It’s part of your growth.  Poor Sal, he has to face it a bit harder than you do.  He never even knew until Sillia came along.”

“Well that’s his fault. She’s been after him forever.”

“Well Sal was a bit if a thickhead, Not as much as my soon to be son in law, Tom.”

I told her about Tom and Chrissie’s troubles and stories about boats until, from the poolroom;

“Cindy, young lady, time for bed. Sorry about that Mera.”

“Why, Stella? It was my sister’s fault and she can’t help it right now.”

I slipped into the pool to sleep.

Chrissie.

I wish I had a boat. I couldn’t drown, but I couldn’t go deep either.  For rescue work you have to see, to use just your eyes and not all the senses that merfolk had that were useless on the surface. I used the breaching and dive technique that they taught us in rescue class to get above the waves and then fall back to save energy, but still I was getting tired.

And then I saw them. Two children in yellow oilskins on the point of a quay, watching the storm.  I tried to wave them off but they didn’t see me in the waves and the dark so I Swam toward the quay to get them back off it. And then it happened, a wave swept them off. I dove and Swam as fact I as I could toward them. I found first one and then the other and held them in my arms as I tried to get back to shore. But with the children I couldn’t swim fast enough to overcome the current and we were being swept out to sea.  The children cried in my arms.

“It will be all right, It will be all right. I will save you.”

But who would save me.

Tom.

I went down to the harbor to check my boat and see what I could do to help. I parked my truck in the lot and did a quick check of the boat. I didn’t want to search Josh up, so I used my spare keys.” Everything seemed to be ship shape so I headed over toward the harbormaster’s office.

“Josh!! What are you doing here.”

“Among other things, cleaning up your mess.”

“About that, I’m sorry and when I see Chrissie I will tell her that. Anyway, you had my boat last, do I need to refuel.”

“We topped it up last night so you’re good to go.”

“Where?”

“Check in at the office.”

In the office was a man I didn’t know apparently wearing just a jacket.

“Tom Benton, with boat, checking in.”

“Chrissie’s Tom?”

“Yes, who are you?”

“Noro, Chrissie’s grandfather and between the two of us we almost created a huge and deadly mess for a lot of people.”

“I didn’t know what I was. My family only told me last week when I went up. We can’t talk about this right now. We have work to do. Where do you need a boat?”

“Chrissie’s sector doesn’t have one, we were short and she’s near port. The wind kicked up and I want to make sure she has back up.”

“Ok I’m on it. Hand me the chart.”

I was starting to have this feeling that Chrissie needed me. Badly. When I got past the dock I did something that I had been afraid to do, but now I was more afraid not to. I opened her up. The boat sped up, pounding on the waves as started to almost fly over the water rather than through it. In about ten minutes I lined up on the two lights that told me that I was in the right place. I look shoreward but my senses said to look in the other direction and there, about a mile away was a yellow spot. I gave the boat the gas and put the wheel over. As I got closer I saw Chrissie struggling to keep two children above water. I slowed the boat and reached for the boathook.

Chrissie.

And there he was. The boat that he had named after me loomed up and brought my heart and my strength back to me. The hook swung over and I put first one child and then the other into the boat and then it swung for me and I grabbed it with all my strength and he pulled me up into the boat and into his arms.

“Am I glad to see you sailor!!”

“Chrissie I’m sorry. Here, you take the boat.”

And he put me in that chair. The chair that he had made for me out of love.

“So where to, captain?”

“Let’s get these two back to safety and then you know the territory better than I do. You run the boat. When we get in I’ll see if Noro has another Swimmer but if he doesn’t, it’s row and throw and you stay in the boat. You nearly died out there and I don’t think anything could hurt me worse.”

“The things you say captain.”

I skipped the boat toward town.

Tom.

Chrissie brought us in and I handed the kids off to the dock and then ran into the harbormaster’s office.

“Noro, if you have another Swimmer on tap I could use them. Chrissie exhausted herself with those kids.”

“I’m tapped out, Tom.”

“Ok we’ll go with no go, then and I’ll use a life jacket and tie myself into the boat. You know right now I wish that I had screwed Chrissie’s Eyeballs out.”

“We all do.”

“Well we’re going out again.”

“Mommy, mommy we were saved by a mermaid!! That one!!”

“Really!! Chrissie, thank you, thank you so much!!”

“Chrissie grab the lifejacket from under there and hand it to me.”

I put it on and tied a line to a cleat.

“Good, I don’t want to risk losing you. After this you better be ready mister because I’m going make some Changes in your life. ”

I kissed her.

“I like the sound of that.”

The rest of the day was strenuous but unexciting. We rescued two idiots in a rowboat, an exhausted Swimmer and towed a disabled boat back to harbor. The most exciting thing that happened was that I dropped the flashlight into the water when I was trying to handle both the light and the boathook at the same time.  The wind had died down as we pulled into the harbor in the gathering darkness. I walked into the harbormaster’s office.

“John, I need to get back.”

“Noro it’s still rough out there. It’s too long to Swim. I’ll put you up and run you out in the morning.”

“I’m checking in. What’s the status.”

It looked to me as if things were winding down.

“Tom, I think that I can let you go. I have relief for you and it looks as if the storm is winding down so you can tie up and get some rest. You and Chrissie did a good job out there today with those kids”

“It’s not that long a Swim, and I need to see what’s happening out the in the bower.”

“Noro, if either Altris or Letra had needed you they would have sent a message. If they can’t handle things then you would have known about it. We’ve both had a long day. And I have that spare room.”

“I’ll take him. I was going to run Chrissie out anyway.”

We walked back to my boat. I untied the moorings as Chrissie backed slowly out.

“Young man, we need to talk.”

“Don’t be rough on him grandpa.”

“I’m sorry, there were a bunch of misunderstandings and things got out of hand.”

“Yes there were, but a bunch of them weren’t yours.” “I was afraid. Afraid of monsters.” I told Noro about my brother.

“I was afraid that I would become some sort of monster. That I would hurt people, hurt Chrissie and I stopped.”

“Part of this is my fault. I was so locked up in my grief that I wasn’t paying attention and I should have been. After Josh, I should have been. If I had been paying attention I would have quietly pulled you aside  someplace and tried to address these issues before they became a fiasco.” “With Josh?”

“You wouldn’t believe what we went through with Josh and him putting Mera on a pedestal. With the help of a bunch of people that should have known better. For six months of endless grief and stupidity. I ended up marooning them out there on an islet and said that unless they closed the deal they weren’t getting off. Young man, you find a beach someplace and take Chrissie there as soon as possible. I don’t want to go through what I did with Josh again. By the way I really like this boat.  When the weather gets better I want you and Chrissie to take me and John out for some fishing.”

Noro told Chrissie and I the stories of how he had met the harbormaster due to an incident with a net, the things that he and the harbormaster got into, the various boats they had over years and about Josh and Mera. Then we were over the bower. Noro Changed and said;

“I will keep in touch. And you will always be welcome under sea.”

He slipped into the water and I turned to pick Chrissie up. As I held her over the water she reached around me and kissed me and said,

“Soon, sailor.”

She let go and dropped into the water. I headed back to the harbor, moored the boat and started to straighten up. My back up flashlight was resting on the deck and I took it into the cabin with me and put it back in its slot.  I made note to get a new replacement for the one that fell overboard in the morning. Then I went over to the Diner to grab a bite.

“Tom! Thank you so much for saving Timmy and Carol this morning.”

“Helen, Chrissie saved them, I just saved Chrissie.”

“Where’s the mermaid!?”

“Where’s Chrissie, we want to say thank you?!!”

‘Kids, calm down!” “Chrissie can’t come on land. She’s a mermaid.”

“Why not?! All the other mermaids do.”

The diner was right across from the dock. Why was I not surprised.

“Ok, I’ll have a burger.”

I ate and as I went to pay my check. Joe Mavrides came out and said,

“Tom, your money’s no longer any good here, and bring Chrissie by. Josh and Mera too.”

Did everybody in this town know? I walked back to the boats and thought about the flashlight and the boat hook. If only the boat hook had a bayonet lug on it so that I could attach a light. Could that work?  I couldn’t make a bayonet lug for the pole tonight, but I could at least play around with the bayonet lug on the shotgun and see if could attach the flashlight to it. I got the gun and racked the shells out.  Then I got the flashlight and some hose clamps from the engine supplies and screwed the clamps around the flashlight and the bayonet lug. There were possibilities there.  I started to put the gun back on its rack and looked at the boxes of special shells next to it and thought about what Boris had said.  Taking out five of the shells, I slid them through the loading gate. Then I put the gun back on the rack, turned out the light and went to bed.

The Manager.

It was irksome. Things had been going so well, and the storm had looked like the perfect opportunity to push things forward and take advantage of the chaos.

Looking at the waves crashing over the rusty steel wall, I could see that I perhaps had pushed too hard. I had thought the alliances weakened enough to allow the corruption that I had been creating to spread without any resistance. Instead that woman had come in and rebuilt everything in less than a week. She also had guided the enemy to the center of my workings and they had destroyed them. And the fae were alert and even more strangely, working together. That was the danger that the steel wall represented. And the young man with the car who was so vigorously going around cleaning up my carefully created corruption. Perhaps it was time to retreat and seek new opportunities.  The king of the Cape Cod fae was old and weak and if his daughter was here, she could hardly be there. I also needed to attend to yet another dangerous alliance. Perhaps even turn it into a high fae war.  In any case there was Tooth with a report.

“Any chance. On any of the targets?”

“No, not without giving everything away. The mob boss and his wife have too many eyes on them and eating them would probably make the young man with the car even more destructive to our ambitions. The daughter is attached to the young man with the car and under the navy’s protection. The navy took the woman’s boat with them and are protecting her and her associates.”

“Perhaps it is time to seek new opportunities. Proceed to Montauk. You will get to feed in new waters.”

Tooth grinned at that. The pointed bloody teeth smiled at the idea of new food.

“Home, slave.”

The barely conscious thing that had once been an aggressive and successful Wall St. financier and had owned the car the Manager was using turned around and drove the car toward the house that he had once owned, but was now a place more like a hell on earth.

 

 

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