Here’s the first part of Chapter 6
Tom and Chrissie go on a trip and the people in New York get the pictures from the island
Mermaid On The Farm.
It was a good thing that I had made the run up to Vermont recently. I pulled the map out.
“Chrissie, When I went up to the farm I drove up for two days. We can’t do that and I want to drive up the coast and stop at a beachside hotel for a Swim before crossing over to White River junction and putting you in a tub for the night.”
“That will work. I won’t get much air from the water but it will keep my gills wet.”
“There are some big washtubs that my mom used to use at the farm if they don’t have something better set up. I have some ideas for a setup once I get up there, but We’ll have to see what dad has done already.”
That’s the way things worked out. As long as the last drive seemed this one seemed to end all too quickly. I had found the secret to the short trip. Take it with someone you love. We drove up the coast through Boston to just south of Portsmouth where we stayed in one of the endless series of roadside cabin camps along the beach. I borrowed a pot and bought some potatoes and vegetables and we went for a Swim for clams and a lobster for chowder. Then we went and Swam until we found a cove to sleep in.
The next day we drove across New Hampshire toward the hotel that I had stayed at before. She took out the camera and started to take pictures along the road.
“What are you doing that for?”
“This is our first trip together, thickhead and I want pictures to remember.”
We stopped for lunch at a place that had a small lake nearby where Chrissie had a short Swim to wet her gills. She actually got a little giddy from the fresh water, something that grandfather hadn’t told me about. She also took more pictures. And had me take some of her.
“I think I like this camera. Daddy never had a good one.”
“I never saw Josh with a camera at all.”
“He doesn’t take pictures. At home all the pictures never have mom in them because she’s always taking the picture. Well, when they get back, you better believe that I’m taking pictures of mom. You sir, are going to make sure that you take pictures of me.”
I signed out a car when I left the office on Friday and drove it to my apartment. The next morning Roscoe buzzed my apartment and I went downstairs and we were off. Roscoe explained flying as we drove up the west side of the Hudson.
“Linda we’re going to start the same way I learned to fly. I’m going to go over some of the stuff that I learned in flight school.”
“You learned to fly before your Change?”
“Yes. I actually went to flight school before my Change. I didn’t Change until I got to France and fell out of airplane. They didn’t issue us parachutes and my restraint broke as I put the plane into a roll. I Changed on the way down and managed to figure out how to fly on the way down. At least somewhat. I was rather badly injured. Fortunately it was a check flight and my observer wasn’t on board.”
“Why didn’t they issue parachutes?”
“Because pilots were supposed to be dashing and brave. Maybe that made some crazy kind of sense for the pursuit boys but I was an observer pilot. Our job was to fly level for as long as possible while our back seaters got the pictures they needed on the ground. They tell stories about the bravest in the air being pursuit boys but as far as I’m concerned the bravest were the back seaters. They had to point their heads down to get their shots and knew that if they didn’t somebody else would have to do it the next day we were flying. The bravest man I ever knew was my back seater. He knew about my Change, called it “our insurance policy. Well we were flying a mission and the red bastard Von Richthoffen showed up. The Red Baron may have been considered a hero but amongst observer pilots he was known as a ruthless killer. Anyway were flying a run and he jumped us. George, my back seater was hit twice, I was hit, the engine was hit and the wings were torn to shreds. I Changed and grabbed George as he grabbed the film magazine off the camera. We fell because I could get enough air speed with both him and the film magazine. George put the magazine in my claw and let go. I never saw where his body landed. I tried to transfer to pursuit so that I could chase after the bloody Baron, but he got it from ground fire a couple of weeks later. ”
I was loving him even more. We reached Doodletown and turned into the park away from the river to find some secluded spot behind the mountain where we could Change. And then Roscoe got us started.
“The important thing is to remember to keep moving forward. Otherwise like the other day you enter into what pilots call a stall. In order to produce lift the wing has to have air flowing over it.”
I was learning to fly.
Moira and I went over to pick up Tom’s boat and there was a police officer sitting on it. Apparently Jake O’Malley had seen the pictures and he, my grandfather, the harbormaster and some detectives had gone back out to the island to see what they could find. And if some sort of murder investigation was justified. One way or another would work for me. In order to impound the boat they would have to bring the boat by the yard anyway. I walked over to the harbormaster’s office and gave Jennie the keys to Tom’s boat.
“Jennie, when they get back and decide what to do with Tom’s boat, give them the keys and tell them to bring it over to the yard. Tom has ordered it pulled anyway.”
I went back to the yard and about six hours later my Grandfather showed up on the boat with my Aunt Eltra.
“So is the boat going to be impounded or not?”
“Not. They came back and got the bodies like Tom figured. Your aunt is rather annoyed at that.”
Mermaid or not, Aunt Eltra had “Cop” written all over her. She even had a real badge that she had neglected to tell Josh about.
“Aunt Eltra, were you able to get a better feel for what went on out there.”
“Other than the fact that Tom fired about twenty five rounds from one shotgun or another, and it was a good thing that he had that second gun, there really wasn’t much to investigate. We did find one thing from the cases and some pellets near the lean to, as well as the box and a half of shells still on the boat. Most of the pellets were impregnated with silver. I don’t like that somebody starts a minor war on my turf and nobody tells me. Especially some sort of monster. ”
The local rum runners knew better than to start turf wars on the water. Aunt Eltra was known to be a terror on the water when the shootings started and innocent people could get hurt.
“Without any bodies though there’s nothing to investigate. We can’t prove anything other than Tom was firing expensive rounds all over the place. Your grandfather and I want to talk to you and Moira about Tom before we send something down to Josh. I wish that Tom had known enough to wait to talk to me before leaving, but considering what he knew I can’t really fault his judgment.”
“Grandfather, bring aunt up. I’ll have the boys pull Tom’s boat. He asked for it to disappear for a while.”
Grandfather brought Aunt Eltra up to the office and put her on the sofa.
“So what did Tom say?”
“Well the first thing he said was that it was only sheer luck that he had the gun at all. Or that they were up top. Apparently the gun had Tom’s flashlight attached to it because he dropped his other flashlight trying to handle both it and the boathook in the storm. So he was thinking about bayonet attachments for his boathook and attached the flashlight on the bayonet lug of the Model 10 to test the idea and then put it back on the rack loaded with five of those special shells. Then he was in a hurry to get back to Chrissie as he was collecting his lantern and some other stuff and thought he might need a flashlight, so he brought the light, gun and all down to the beach. Tom’s mother had said that she wanted pictures of Chrissie and had given Tom the camera, so Tom took pictures of Chrissie before they closed the deal. Then Chrissie decided that she wanted pictures of Tom after he Changed for Tom’s mother and they went back up top. So that’s how they had both the camera and the gun on hand when they needed them. Does the gun still have the flashlight attached?”
“Yes, Jake was wondering about that.”
“The rest of it was using a tide pool to keep Chrissie’s gills wet and timing everything so that the bad guys couldn’t know exactly when they were planning to get back on the boat. From what Tom said, once Tom stocked up on ammunition there really wasn’t much the other side could do to really stop him. I think that they were counting on him not having a second gun.”
“That was a mistake.”
Silvio took Mike and Nera for a short Swim and brought Sillia in. Shortly after that Helmut and Mary came in.
“Mary, this is my Husband Josh. Josh, This is Mary Cionetti who has been helping me with the wedding plans among other things .”
“Welcome Mary. Mr. Smith, I want to apologize. I should have warned you about my wife’s tendency pull anybody and anything in once she got started. I was hoping that she would be distracted by Mike and Nera, but they got the deal done so fast that it never had the chance to slow her down.”
I poked Josh.
“Now dear, it all worked out. Didn’t it. ”
We all laughed.
Just then a huge packet came in from Western Union for Josh. I had been expecting this ever since Tom’s telegram. My sister was not a slouch and neither was Jake O’Malley so I had been expecting that one or the other would send an update on something like a shooting involving Chrissie.
Josh opened the packet and started pulling facsimile images from the envelope.
“It looks like my sister in law was on the ball. I imagine that Tom’s packet will show up on Monday, but this way we get at least a look at the pictures and Tom’s report sooner.”
He handed me the sheets. As I read them I handed them to Helmut.
“It looks like Sal was right about the sharks. And that Tom and Chrissie were very lucky. We all were.”
“Helmut, because Tom and Chrissie getting together were the first royal Fae Alliance in about a Century. If they had been killed there was good chance that Tom’s family might have blamed mine to an extent for what happened and started a feud that could last Centuries and spread a miasma of the same kind that Roscoe saw in Europe with fae using their talents without constraint to attack each other. That may have been what they were trying to do when they killed my mother, but Josh doesn’t work that way. As I told you Josh is the most unfae like fae you will meet. That may be why they had to go to other methods. When Sal gets back I want to find out what’s going on with those other families. Sillia we are going to have to get you a dress.”
“So that Sal can take you back around as representing your families. It’s fairly obvious that with the death of the king that your families represent the new fae royalty in the area. You future father in law’s little stunt with that large piece of steel proved that. Probably your brother Vinnie’s death was to forestall some of that. ”
“Mera, that is a lot of speculation.”
“Mary, some of it is. Sillia, I know that we’ve all seen Sal almost all the time, but when you were delivering messages, did Sal do anything that might be construed as taking over the business.”
“Yes, Mera, he did, just before the warehouse. He wanted to talk to Al about reopening the smuggling. But he’s never gotten back to Al about that.”
“I thought so. I started to feel the change about the time he started driving that car. That car, which more than anything else is a power tool. I’ve been watching him grow into the power that car represents over the last few days. Mary, you said that like or not he’s marrying the mob. I think that is exactly what is happening to him. At this point he probably won’t make the contact himself. He’s become too big a wheel to handle a little thing like that himself any more than your dad would. But somebody will show up and quietly handle it.”
Sillia got an ashen look on her face.
“Is this my fault? A result of our bond? He hates the business.”
“Some of it. But more of it is his fierce desire to make things right. That’s part of who we are, like it or not. For that matter, as Tara said, he was already family and they needed him after Vinnie was killed.”
“What can I do?”
“Be there for him. Like you were there for the warehouse and worrying. Help him carry the burden, like your mother does with your father. And pull him under as much as possible. Take him dancing.
Helmut, what do you think?”
“I want to recruit Tom even more now. Not only did he get the pictures that we have been fighting for years to get, he did an after action report that was clear and to the point. Add to that the fact that even taken by surprise he managed to control the situation and extract himself and Chrissie using the minimum resources necessary to get the job done. Followed by taking steps to ensure that the information he acquired that the enemy very much wants suppressed got to where it was needed. Your sister is no slouch either. Neither is Jake O’Malley. One of the things I noticed is that your sister doesn’t hesitate to say that she screwed up and then learns from it. You’ve got good people up there, Josh.”
“They aren’t really my people. Well Eltra is, I suppose, but Jake is local police.”
“Who was working with Eltra right from the start and didn’t insist on a time vacuum investigation or try to lock up Tom up on a shaky murder charge. Most cops I know would have wasted a huge amount of effort and time doing exactly that. He’s your people even if there’s no official org chart.”
Silvio brought Mike and Nera back in.
“Mike, Nera, we have the pictures that Tom and Chrissie took. My sister in law sent them down by facsimile.”
“That must have cost a bundle.”
“We have an account set up for things like this, Mike. What do you think has been paying for all the phone calls we’ve been making all week. Let’s just say that the Wydah has lost some of her cargo.”
“What Nera is saying is the Captain Kidd’s ship is missing some of the gold coin that she was carrying when she sank. We don’t make a habit of it, but the bower is a city government and there are occasions when we do need resources. We also spread some Wydah coin on the beach in the spring for the tourists to find. It’s good for business and that way when Wydah coin appears on the market nobody thinks too much about it.”
“Josh if you could get money like this, why do you still live on the boat?”
“Because flashy money attracts attention, Mike. People judge by appearances. For instance, Sal’s car makes him an instant boss. People judge by what they see. And the boat lets me get close to my wife.”
“Not close enough, but we’re going to work on that.”
Dom had told us the Jimmy story last night. He also complained about the flipside of that and the pool for his wife. From what Tony had told me though, all of Dom’s top people already knew what Tara was and wanted her there with him anyway.
“Mera, we will reimburse you for the phone charges.”
“Why, the Wydah isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And if somebody up top does discover the Wydah there are a couple of Spanish Galleons that went down in deep water that no one else knows about. With gold and silver as bulk cargo. There have been hundreds of ships wrecked off Cape Cod. And we can sense coin right through the silt. So money isn’t that big an issue. It’s not like we need it down below anyway. ”
I had never done a road trip before. Dad had never had a car or truck when we were kids and Mom went under sea when I was little and later dad had had to struggle with me and the boat and we didn’t have time for things like trips. So this trip was something new and wonderful for me even if it was a pain in the gills. I didn’t complain because Tom was doing everything he could to make things as easy on me as possible. Taking pictures was a welcome distraction. The hotel in White River was a nice place, but the tub and salty water that Tom mixed up was at best a poor compromise. I did make plans to have Tom take me there when I had legs again. Mostly I was concerned about the stress that Tom was under. That battle had been brutal and Tom wasn’t by nature the ruthless killer that he had had to be on that island to keep us alive. The two nights we had had were not enough. Tom needed time and knowing that he could rely on me before he really BECAME a ruthless killer. I needed to learn to be there and to be ready to stand with him the next time they came for us. After a long day we finally arrived at the farm. Tom parked us next to a row of trucks including one with a county Sherriff’s seal on the side of the door. Tom picked me up and as we walked up the steps a golden vision opened the door.
“Tom, Bring her in. We’ve been expecting you. Let me show you to your temporary new room.”
“Chrissie this is-“
“Tom, introductions can wait until Chrissie gets wet.”
Butterfly wings led us down the hall to the back of the house to a room that looked like a bedroom with a large steel tank in it. The tank had a wooden platform around it and looked to be piped to a pump leading somewhere else.
“Tom put Chrissie here so that she can get undressed and drop in.”
The tank was full of water and I unbuttoned my dress and dropped in. The water filled my gills and me with warmth.
“Tom get undressed, Change and get in too. “Why sis.”
“Because we want to see your true self. And we want to know if this is going to work for you both. I’m going to get Boris, mom and dad and I want you in that tank when I get back.”
She left and as Tom started to get undressed I asked;
“Is she always this pushy?”
“Yes, but I’m the baby in the family.”
He Changed and dropped into the tank beside me.
“They set this up for us?”
“Yes, it looks like the old sugaring tank and some plumbing with a pump to circulate and aerate the water.”
“Yes, in the early spring they tap maple trees for the sap and turn it into syrup. Part of the process requires that you boil the water off and you need a tank to do that so they had this on hand. The rest was just plumbing and a pump.”
“I like it. It’s a bed tank.”
“I see the rest of my stuff here but they didn’t bring my bed in here.”
“Thickhead, you sleep with me from now on. When we leave, this comes with us. No more cot for you.”
Tom’s vision of a sister returned with a gloriously handsome bearded man with hoofed feet, an elegant vision of a lady with pointed ears and dragon fly wings and what appeared to be a bear walking on two legs.
“Welcome Christine, to our home. We were a little rushed in creating accommodations for you.”
“Chrissie, this is my father, Eric Benton, my mother Greta, My sister Stephie and her husband, Boris.”
“Nice to meet you all. And the bed tank looks like it will work out fine.”
“Tom, Boris brought this rather disturbing mail out this morning. Is it as bad as it looks.”
“Yes. Josh took me out to the island and sort of marooned me there with Chrissie so that we could get together and the shark things showed up. I do know one thing. They wanted Chrissie and me, dead.”
“Did Josh taking you out the island create the situation?”
“No father. I was going out anyway to look for Chrissie and find a nice spot where we could be together. Apparently, when a bond is made by merfolk the lady puts hormones in the water to make the guy happy and ardent. The shark things were tracking us from that and would have found us wherever we were. In fact, there was a scout following us around for the two days that Chrissie and I were in the water together. The fact that it was the same shark keyed us on to the fact that something wasn’t right and Chrissie suggested we go up top. It was sheer luck that I had brought the gun onto the beach.”
“Where is the gun now.” “Boris, it’s still out there unless somebody else has gone out and collected it. Chrissie’s grandfather or the harbormaster might have by now. I had my everyday gun so I left it behind. As far as I was concerned my goal at that point was to get Chrissie and me out of there. I didn’t know what resources they might have had other than the shark things and the monsters that dissolved. I did know that fighting the fight they wanted me to fight would not end well for us. It was unlikely that we could escape by Swimming and that meant that we had to wait for the tide and that meant that I had to manage how Chrissie could get her gills wet.”
“How did you do that?”
“Tom had seen some tide pools on the island that the sharks couldn’t really get to me in and used them to allow me to get some short Swims to keep my gills wet. When the sharks tried to get into the pool Tom shot them.”
“By the way, Boris I fired both regular and special rounds into the sharks and only the specials were effective.”
“Are you sure that you hit the targets.”
“Yes. I needed to unload the everyday gun and I fired into some of the sharks as an experiment. I saw the rounds hit and the sharks only bleed for a little bit. The specials were lethal both on the water and on land.”
“Tom dear, it sounds as if things were terrible!” “Mother they were. Worse than my brother because some of them came on land looking like naked men and I had to kill them. I knew that they were monsters but a part of me was telling me that I was shooting the helpless. Especially at the end where they tried to rush the boat and I killed three of them and wounded two more, one of which was attacking Chrissie.”
“What happened?” I held up my hand.
“He got a little cut up.”
The chapters so far.
Chapter 4, part 1(Now chapter 5.)
Chapter 5, part 2.
Chapter 5, part 3.