Mermaid Chapter 6, Part 3

Sorry about the lack of posts but I can’t stop myself from writing the mermaid story.  I’m over 150 thousand words now and while I can see the end, I’m not there yet.

In this post Chrissie discovers some of the downsides of farm life, sisters and skillets, Josh and rest take the boat back to the Cape, Sal sees the big Boss and they have an encounter with the not quite dead, Chrissie dances for the family and more .

Al.

I thought that I would likely need the house up at the Cape for a couple of weeks so I sent telegram up to Dick, my agent and caretaker. I usually rented it out during the summer and spent a couple of weeks of my mandatory vacation in late September working up stuff in my shop. Then Dick and I shut it down for the winter. I had enough income from patent licenses from most of the companies in New England for one gun improvement or another that money wasn’t that big an issue. For that matter I had a shop here at the building and a rental in Brooklyn near my apartment so I’m not sure why I kept the place.  I had inherited it from my parents who were killed in a train wreck in 1905. For some reason my dad had preferred the old style wooden cars and when the train wrecked the cars telescoped, killing my parents, my brother and sister. I had gone on a hunting trip up in NY and so hadn’t been with them. Not knowing what to do I joined the army and was a sharpshooter and instructor until the war and then led a sniper unit that, as I told Josh, ran from pillar to post trying to deal with fires that were over by the time we got there.

Nera was a joy. I had cut the bottom of the trigger guards off on an aging S&W .38 and a rather beaten up 1911 to see how she would handle the grips and she took to handling the pieces as if they were made for her.  Even better she respected the weapon for what it was. She was always disciplined, always treated as if it was loaded even after she had just unloaded it and never pointed it anyplace where a round could hurt anything that she didn’t want to hurt. When it came to sending rounds down the range she was a natural and as she had said before , her control was remarkable. Mike was a very lucky man.

“My shooting isn’t very good.”

“You’re groups are small, you just need to learn how to adjust for recoil. Truth to tell you’re better than a lot of people already.”

“But I’m not as good as Mike.”

“Mike was in the army and has fired the 1911 since it was first issued and service revolvers before that. It would be incredible if you were that good.  You just need practice.”

I took prints both for Nera’s and Mike’s new hands before they went upstairs and made arrangements to meet once they got back up to the Cape. Hopefully I could get into contact with Sal’s new girl and do all the modifications at the same time. And get back to Tony about Sal’s future mother in law.

Sal.

Monday was easy. When I went into the office Mary said that Josh and Mera were coming up to the office so I didn’t have to check in at Bennies.  I checked in with Tony and then with the businesses that had had shakedown attempts to see if anybody had come back, but it was if the whole thing had gone up in smoke with the warehouse.  Then I went down and had lunch with Sillia at Bennies.

“Tell your dad that things seem to be getting back to normal at the outfit. I’ve been around a couple of times now and the shakedown people haven’t shown up again.”

“What about the business down here? Al was asking.”

“Tony said that he would send somebody down to make the connection. I just sort of lost the time to handle it myself.”

“Mera said that you would do something like that.”

“Sillia, you’ve been afraid of something for the last few days now.”

“I’m afraid that you will become what you hate. That you will think it’s my fault, because of dad.”

“Sillia I’ve known your dad for my entire life. Even though I knew what business he was in I admired him because he didn’t let the business define who he was. In fact, your dad was one reason I hated the rest of those clowns.  Your dad was the example that the rest of the idiots like Jimmy could never understand.

Do you know where I got my first busts in vice? Vinnie called me in on some very bad people. They were running a “house” with kids that some very sick people used in very sick ways.  Vinnie couldn’t just feed them to the fishes because by the rules back then they weren’t out of line and some of the johns had clout.  So he called me in and I played junior cop with my first big bust.  Made all the papers. That was just the first time. When Vinnie wanted to make a public statement about something like a kid brothel he would drop me a line.  We called it, “inside outside.” There were things he could do and things I could do to keep crime from becoming CRIME. To keep idiots from hurting lost kids or worse because they could.”

After lunch I went up to the navy yard to see dad.

“You were right about those pictures. They answer a lot of the questions that we’ve been having about sharks.  Or things that look like sharks.”

“The problem is that we don’t have anything to ID. So any sharks that don’t die can just disappear again and strike again.  The good news is that they seem to have backed off on the outfit for the time being.  But that’s bad news because I haven’t been able to find any leads that got anywhere else.”

“Well we have one of our top operators coming in from Hawaii, Mera’s son, Steve in fact and The Admiral wants one of your boss’s people with him when he talks to Tom.”

“Well Mike is already going to be up there, but since Nera is likely to keep Mike occupied I’ll see if he wants to send somebody else. I’ll see you at dinner.”

I went up to the office and found Nera and Mera working with Mary at the desk and Mike catching up with the boss. Mera said;

“Josh wants to check out the boat and talk to Dom and Al about communications so could you run him back. Helmut’s going to bring the rest of us down in a bit. Make sure that you bring the camera.”

I went and requisitioned some more film for the camera and then rolled Josh down to the car.

“So why didn’t you Change?”

“It’s a pain, my wife was watching and I would just have to Change again when we got down there.”

“I think it’s mostly your wife.”

“you’re right. I was lucky when she mostly stayed down below. Of course the only reason she did that was that she expected me to be down below with her. When I decided that I might need to stay up, she came right back up in a hurry. I think the deal of living separate under and over sea is over and that you are going to have to make arrangements.”

“We’re working on that. Mom and dad’s set up seems to work for them. “

“I know and as soon as I get back I’m going to have to call some contractors.”

“Can you afford it?”

“Not a problem. Just because I don’t flash the money around doesn’t mean that I don’t have any.”

“So the boat is a front.”

“Yes, more or less, but it keeps me visible and in the community. It also keeps me busy and near my wife.  On the Cape being seen as a waterman gives you an aura of respect.  People know that it’s hard work and having a boat takes money, so nobody looks too askance when I show up with cash. Most people know that a boat is a money sink, so they don’t question very much if I spend some. And if it looks like I’m spending a bit more than they think I should have, well I would hardly be the only boat owner with some under the table business. There’s also the fact that I’ve been the front for Noro’s economy boosting projects for 39 years now and some of those have done very well.”

“Sounds a bit like the outfit without all the bang, bang and flashy clothes.”

“Well we did have some bang, bang when the rum runners got started until my sister in law tore the bottoms off a few boats and some others lost their wheels while they were being chased by the coasties. Things sort of quieted down after that and I sort made it clear that I didn’t care what they transshipped over the water so long as there was no blood in the water and sort of divided the business amongst them.”

“Do they give you a cut?”

“I’m not going to say, but let’s just say that Mera’s little party is going to have the best stuff once certain people find out about it.”

I was going to have to ask Tony what the Boston Mob really thought of Josh. For somebody who said he was a simple waterman, he seemed to pull a lot of weight.

I dropped Josh off at the boat where he said;

“You know this boat is in great shape for a boat that was here at the dock during a storm. It’s almost as if it wasn’t here for the hurricane. I was afraid that I might have to deal with a wreck. Yet it wasn’t even scratched.”

“It wasn’t. Dad used it for the breakwater and had it taken up to the yard that night and put in a shed. They brought it down the next day.”

Sillia came up and we had some quiet companionship until my parents and the Admiral and his wife showed up and Sillia’s parents popped up. Then the boss brought Mera and the rest down. As the boss set Mera down on the boat she said;

“Sal, get the camera. I’m going to dance.”

Then she ditched the blanket and jacket she was wearing and dove into the water. I ran over to the car and grabbed the camera as Mera came back up and it was wonderful. Mera gave us a performance for twenty minutes or so and after about ten minutes Nera and Sillia joined in. The rest of us were stunned by the wonder of it all and when Mera took her final bows we all clapped. Then using the Rickshaw we all went into Bennies for dinner.

Chrissie.

I discovered the downsides of the tank bed and farm life at the same time when a golden vision walked into the room and started hammering on the side of the tank with a large cast iron skillet.

“Breakfast!! Up and at em!!’

I popped out of the water.

“Stephie, never do that again.”

Water magnifies sound and the mer aural cavities and sense organs for things like echolocation are amazingly sensitive. It felt like my head was about to explode.

“Unnngh”

Tom sort of groggily popped his head out.

“Unnngh, what was that?”

“That was your sister waking us up.”

“It feels like my head is going to explode.”

“In water sound behaves differently and your sister’s antics with the skillet were like an explosion.”

“Well if you had gotten up on time I wouldn’t had to wake you up.”

“Water time is not dairy time, sis. We’re not used to getting up at the crack of doom.”

“Well get up.”

“Clothed or Changed?”

Dinner had been brought in last night and we had eaten while we were resting in the tank and talking to Tom’s parents. During the dinner last night, one of Tom’s brothers in laws had brought in two wheelchairs whose design looked a lot like my helmsman’s chair. Tom had explained that he had had sent the drawings for the chair to his brother in law to have the wood parts made. Obviously they started from those designs for the chairs.

“Changed, of course.”

We rolled into the kitchen where Tom’s mother was making some eggs and sausage for us. I was looking forward to the farm food as fish and seafood tastes, well, like fish and seafood. Greta was dressed and looked like the perfect mother in law rather than the perfect fairy queen in law.

“Well you are up finally. Chrissie dear, you look wonderful. And Tom, your Change suits you.”

“Mother, so how are we going to handle Change. I’ve never had to deal with it before here. What are the rules.”

“Well each of the families has their own rules with their children, but by and large we don’t wear our Changes when the children are present. Also when there are visitors coming that we do not know. Also out on the farm where people can see. Frankly much of the time, Change can be a nuisance if you are doing work. Chrissie of course is a special case. By the way you are going to have get back to the farm schedule and eat with the family from now on while you are here.”

“Chrissie the downside of farm life is that they get up at the crack of doom.”

“We’ll just go to bed early. And set an alarm clock. No more skillets.”

Tom’s parents had left to go to bed early. Unfortunately for us, we went to bed early but we didn’t exactly go to sleep early.

“So what did Stephie do to wake you up?”

“Mother, it wasn’t so much what she did, but what we are and where we were. Hitting the side of the tank was like putting a hammer to our ears. Our heads felt like they were about to explode when she hit the side of the tank with that skillet.”

Stephie came back in looking rather less golden and more like the teacher that she was when she wasn’t taking care of her kids.

“Well it worked didn’t it? I’m off to work. I’ll be back in the afternoon.”

Tom’s father walked in.

“Well the milking is done. So I can take a break. Tom, while you talked about what happened out on the island we haven’t talked about your plans.”

“Well right now, I mostly wanted to break contact until I heard from Mike’s and Boris’s people and wait until Josh gets back. And show Chrissie the farm.”

“I want to learn to shoot!”

“Why, Chrissie?”

“Because when I was there with Tom I have never felt so helpless! The next time some monster comes into view I don’t want it to be lens of a camera that is sees, but the barrel of my gun and the grin on my face as the thing realizes that that is the last thing it will see. Those things were willing to walk right up to me because they saw me as being weak and helpless. Well I want that to be the last time.  Before, I didn’t really believe in monsters even after Tom and the werewolf. Now I know that there are monsters and that I need to be ready to fight them.”

“Those pictures you took may be as important as any shot you could have taken, Chrissie. They proved what happened out there.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that if something happened to you, I would have been unable to help.”

“We will need to adjust for your hands. For Tom’s as well, come to that.”

“Father I could compensate but it was not easy. Do we have another Model 10 or should I drive down to the gunshop?”

“I will talk to Lawrence. He manages the inventory. He will also want to see your hands and plan how to make the adjustments. Do you have a specific reason for a Model 10?”

“Its closed receiver makes it a good beach gun and I think that that’s where I’m going to be seeing action, if any. Also, my life was saved by one twice now and I don’t want to change my luck.”

We ate breakfast and we went back to the room where Tom Changed and I got dressed.

“Why don’t you show me around. I want to see your old room.”

I picked up the camera

“And get pictures.”

“Why, I expect that there’s not much there except my bed and the bookcases.”

“You have books? I want to see. I haven’t been able to have books recently and daddy hasn’t been letting me at mine because he won’t let me on land. To try to keep the secret.”

“What secret? The only thing that they haven’t done is put up signs for mermaid dancing. I haven’t run into anybody on the Cape who didn’t already know.”

“I know. But that’s daddy.”

Tom pushed me to his old room. The room was empty except for the bed, a desk and two bookcases. They were full of adventure books and some radio and strange fiction magazines, some of what appeared to be tool catalogs and some heavily bound books that more or less seemed to the same size and looked like they covered machining, electricity and engines.

“What are these?”

Correspondence school textbooks. You buy them and send in the exams and get certification. That’s how I started with tools and engines.  The material is good in them for dealing with shop stuff.”

“You took all these courses?”

“Most of them. Some of the books were given to me when I was first starting out by the guy who sold me my first lathe cheap when I was 12.”

“Well, when we go back, the shelves and their contents go back with us.”

“Why?”

“For our kids. I was lucky because by the time mom had me they had settled down and dad and my uncles had filled the house up with books. Joe and Steve weren’t and they don’t really read. ”

“Your uncles? Aren’t they high fae? And mer?”

“That’s why they keep their books in dad’s house. Though frankly at this point they should just break down and buy their own houses. It’s not as if both of them don’t spend a big chunk of their time up top. If there’s anything I missed having this tail, it was the books.”

Tom pushed me around the warren of the house. We discovered yet another new room under construction with a pool that almost looked finished. Tom’s father was supervising some masons that were working on the pool.

“Chrissie this was supposed to be the accommodation for you but we weren’t able to finish it before you came up.”

“That’s ok, the bed tank is working out fine. That is if certain people refrain from using skillets to wake people up.”

“Now Chrissie.” “Tom, doesn’t your head still hurt?”

“Yes, but I’m going to suffer in silence until I figure how to return the favor. I was thinking of giving her kids toy pans and spoons for Christmas and teaching them that they can make music with them.”

“Ooh, I like that idea.”

“Tom, do you think that that’s appropriate?”

“Father, mer senses in water are different than sound above the water. We use sound for long range detection and echolocation to aid a bunch of different senses that I don’t really understand yet. So what Stephie did was excruciatingly painful. So yes, it’s appropriate.  I’ve always let Stephie get away with her little jokes, but this time it’s my turn. Anyway I’ll have Moira and Joe give the presents to the kids for deniability.  Or better yet, Mera and Josh.”

“Eric, has it always been like this?”

“Well Chrissie, it was worse until Tom moved away the first time and Stephie lost her plaything. I’m also going to say that in spite of what Tom is saying it wasn’t COMPLETELY one sided. Of course you could have gotten up earlier.”

“We got distracted last night, it’s Chrissie’s fault and she can’t help it. Right now she oozes stuff that makes you want to have fun and games in bed. Or in the water as the case may be.  That was how the sharks were tracking us.  That’s one reason that we came up here.  To break the scent trail. Chrissie will probably be like this for another four or five days so that when we go into the tank we will probably be occupied fairly quickly.”

“Then you’ll probably want to keep the door locked.”

“As if that would slow Stephie down. It never has before.”

“You do know that Stephie is likely to make sure that the kids are constantly showing Uncle Tom and Aunt Chrissie their new found talents.”

“I plan to be deep underwater by the time the presents get there.”

Steve.

I was giving the morning brief when the new orders came in. We had been expecting to transfer operations to Newport Rhode Island after the new year but apparently somebody had other ideas. After the brief I met with my number 2 and handed him the orders.

“New York? And why the hurry? So, how do we handle the move?”

“I think that the team goes to New York. The rest still goes to Newport. I’m going to HQ to see if I can find out anything more. And start the process for transport on the next ship.”

I drove over to HQ and The N3’s office.

“Bill what’s up with these orders?”

“I don’t know. The orders just came from CINCANT as requesting your unit soonest with no details.”

“Ok, what about transport.”

“Well the Malolo departs tomorrow and gets into San Francisco on Saturday. You can get the Overland on Sunday and that should put you in New York by Tuesday. I’ll arrange pickup at Grand Central to take you down to the Yard.”

“OK, We’ll get packed on the dock by morning.”

Now came the hard part. Telling Haruka, the Ningyo that I had just bonded with, that we would be separated for a while and that she would be responsible for getting us to quarters in Newport. Fortunately the move had been planned for some time and this would hardly be the first time that the navy had deal with wives that had tails.

Then I composed a telegram to mother about Haruka. Since she had been after me to find somebody that would make her happy.

Tom.

For most of the morning I pushed Chrissie around the farm showing her the dairy, the barns, the stables and the new sheds where they kept the tractors and other machinery.  As we went around Chrissie took pictures.

“What are the pictures for.”

“Dad and mom. So they can see what the place is like.”

“The farm is in a transition right now. When I was growing up almost everything was done by hand or horsepower. That’s changing.”

“I know. I couldn’t drag you under because you kept using the winch.”

“Well that explains some of those days.”

“You had no respect for tradition. You made me work for our fun.”

“You worked too hard. Do you know how much crap I got over all those pots you stuffed? And why didn’t you use a gauge?  Too many of the lobsters you put in were shorts. Your dad was pissed about that.”

“Well if you hadn’t been such a thickhead I wouldn’t have had to do that. If you believed in mermaids it would have been so much easier.”

“How was I supposed to know about mermaids. Nobody has started the mermaid dancing show yet.”

She laughed.

“When we get back to the Cape I’ll show you mermaid dancing.”

Just before lunch mother caught up with us and took Chrissie into the kitchen so that she could learn to cook. Surprisingly Chrissie was rather enthusiastic about that.

I went and found my father, who was in his office. I wanted to talk about what I had gone through.

“Father I think I need to talk about what happened.”

“You protected Chrissie and yourself. If you hadn’t they would have killed you both.  You really had no other choice.”

“Father I killed at least ten people. How come I don’t feel any remorse or pain about doing that. Am I turning into some sort of monster? I know that they were monsters, but some of them were completely naked when I shot them.”

“You killed to protect yourself and Chrissie. I really don’t think that you could become a monster like your brother did. What could happen is if in the course of fighting a battle you go into a war footing and don’t return to normal.  We high fae, under severe stress and attack can do that, becoming unstoppable ruthless killing machines. But that ends when the target is killed and the sacrifice is over.  I suspect that whatever worked to Change your brother was twisting his sacrifice into something without boundaries. One reason that we didn’t tell you about Change was to help to avoid you going into sacrifice without boundaries and the possibility of getting twisted.  Now that you are bound to Chrissie you have boundaries and she is part of you as you are part of her. For now, focus on that. And remember that you are not alone.  You have two large families now that love and want you. ”

Mother called lunch and after lunch I took Chrissie into the bed tank so that she could wet her gills.

“Lock the door, Change, and get in here, mister.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s no fun alone.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

After our little session in the tank I took Chrissie out to my shop in the truck. The shop was empty because Bill and Scott weren’t back from school yet. There was some work in progress though and it looked good.

“So this is where you made things.”

Chrissie took a picture.

“Not very fancy.”

“It got the job done for the kind of work that I got.”

“Why did you leave?”

“Well there was this tension with my family over what happened with my brother. I kept feeling that they were avoiding me. It just never felt as if they were telling me everything and that they kept tiptoeing around me like I was a bomb. Outside of farm repair work and other stuff for the family, the jobs just weren’t coming in.  Finally I decided that I would try something new and went down to the Cape to meet a pretty mermaid that I didn’t even know that I had to meet.”

“So if you were planning a shop, why work on a boat.”

“I don’t know. I needed a job and Josh offered. And working with him sort of felt comfortable. As if there was something waiting for me on the water.”

“There was, thickhead. Me. You just never looked. It’s not as if I wasn’t trying. Do you know how many pots I stuck myself in?”

“So THAT”S why all those pots had to be repaired. I guess that I was unlucky and it was Josh that was catching you all the time.”

“What a waste. Being caught by daddy when I was trying to catch you.”

“Well you caught me in the end and that’s what matters.”

“Well yes.”

“HI Uncle Tom!”

“Hi boys, this is my fiancé, Chrissie. I brought her up to meet the family.”

Mom had told us some of Mera’s wedding plans. I felt it politic to go along.

“Hello, miss. Welcome to the family. We’re not all crazy, just some of us.”

“You boys don’t play with skillets, do you?”

“No, why?”

“Then you aren’t the crazy part of the family.”

“What happened?”

“Let’s just say that there was a combination of late sleeping, farm life and your aunt Stephie with a skillet this morning and my fiancé has delicate hearing. So how are you boys working out? ”

“Great so far. Our parts keep getting better. But it’s hard work.”

“Keep at it. It will pay off.”

“How come Chrissie is in a wheelchair?”

“She had the polio when she was young and her legs don’t work very well. I think that we will get going. I want to show Chrissie the rest of the farm before dinner.”

I put Chrissie back in the truck and we drove around the rest of the farm.

As we headed back for dinner she said;

“This seems like a nice place to have made you.”

“It is, but I’ve Changed and now I have a new place.”

When we went into dinner my oldest brother, Larry was there with another shotgun.

“Hi Tom, we had another Model 10.”

“Good. Larry, this is my bonded, Chrissie. Chrissie, this is my brother, Lawrence, or more frequently, Larry. Larry handles most of the gun matters for the family and firearms training for the kids. Chrissie show Larry your hands.”

Chrissie lifted her right hand.

“Larry have you seen the photos I sent up yet.”

“The ones of you blowing monsters, sharks and presumably bad people, away? Yes. Father showed them to me yesterday, but we decided that we didn’t want a crowd when you and Chrissie came in.”

“Well Chrissie needs to learn how to shoot and I want a model 10 modified so that I can use it Changed without worrying about the webbing getting caught up in something. If that second monster had showed up closer to the first one while I was struggling to rack the second shell things might have gotten dicey. At the very least we’re going to need to cut the bottom off the trigger guard.”

“What was with the flashlight?”

“That was sort of an accident. I was playing around with bayonet mounting a flashlight to a boathook and I used the bayonet lug on the gun to test the idea.”

“Well don’t be ashamed of it. Out here on the farm we sometimes get things that get into things that we would rather they not at night and having a light on a gun isn’t necessarily a bad idea. If you make up a mount for a flashlight that fits on a bayonet lug make two and send one up.”

‘It might be a while. I need to get a new shop set up first. Anyway I think that we will want to at least modify a .22 for Chrissie’s hands so she can learn, some sort of pistol, a shotgun and maybe a long gun. Boris might have a good handle on what will be needed. The .22 for sure.”

“Are you expecting a war?”

“No, but I wasn’t exactly expecting that our island getaway would be rudely interrupted by strange monsters and a pack of sharks either.”

Josh.

Dinner last night had been one of those affairs that start’s off as work and end up being an enjoyable meeting of friends new and old. I felt though that getting those people together was important for the Fae of  New York. Considering the near disaster for the Rockaway bower we needed to be more on the ball. In any case it was a fine evening that had ended a more than chaotic week and a half. The best news was that Tom’s pictures had given everybody a wakeup call.

“So what are you going to do about Tom?”

“Admiral, try to get him back to the Cape. He’s a lone wolf loose cannon right now and I want him to know that he’s not all by himself. I feel like a fool for just running him out there like that. The problem is that I thought that between one connection or another that I, John, Noro or Eltra would get at least a whisper of people heading toward that island with ill intent. With these shark things there was nothing.”

“The shakedown racket seems to have evaporated as well. The thing is that these people knew the water. They had at least a feel for who the people on the water are and how they operate.”

“There’s something we’re missing here, but between the outfit, the navy and the watermen who’s left on the water?”

We chewed that over, but we didn’t have any answers. All we knew was that somebody or something was coming after our kids and that that needed to be stopped.

The next morning we got started back to the Cape. We had one last breakfast at Bennies and Mera, knowing that Bennie was a coin collector gave him a Whydah gold piece, one of several that she quietly kept in her purse. Then Silvio brought us down to the dock and the boat.

Sillia came up with us and with Mike and Nera Swam alongside  up to the navy yard.  Sillia and Tara had made arrangements with Stella and The Admiral’s wife for Sillia to pick up the contractor’s contacts and plans for the pool bedrooms that they had had set up and for Sal to take Sillia back down to Bennies after work. Mera kept the boat away from anything that could get a good look at what was in the water.  I kept an eye out for strange fins.

As we approached the yard I waved at our Swimming merfolk and yelled: “Come up on the boat, we’re heading in.”

They Swam up to the boat and got on board. Mera turned us into the yard. When we pulled up to the dock There was a petty officer with a car waiting for us.

“Miss Calieberti, Mrs. Wendall, Mrs. Claytor, the Admiral’s wife and Mrs. delVecchio are expecting you. Mr. Claytor, Mr. Wendall, the Admiral, Captain Farr, Mr. del Vecchio and our N2 want to touch base before you go back up to the Cape.”

“Ok. Dear, let’s plan to meet back at the boat in an hour.”

The petty officer drove us over to Where the Admiral’s wife and some other ladies had offices and some ratings were waiting with wheelchairs and then over to the HQ building where I pushed Mike upstairs into a room where Sal’s dad and the rest were waiting. The admiral handed me the latest book but there really wasn’t anything new in it.

“Mike, what’s Sal looking at? He seems to have a nose for these things. ”

“Admiral, He’s been looking into the victims of those Gold Coast families. And you’re right about that. I just wish that we had some insight into that crowd.  When we started into all this we thought that the High fae were opaque, but compared to that crowd the fae have proven to be clear as glass. Of course being the victims of the attacks might have something to do with that.”

I was thinking that being opaque and fae might not be a good thing. We hide too much and perhaps take too much on ourselves.

“Josh by the way, I’ve called your son Steve and his unit and his unit in. They should be here by next Tuesday.”

“I thought you might, Admiral. If you hadn’t mentioned it I was going to suggest it. To speak to Tom, if nothing else. More and more, Tom and what he knows is at the center of things. So far he’s the only one to face the weresharks and live that we know of.

May I take the book. I want to alert my sister in law and some other people up on the Cape to the full scope of this.  I know that most of the activity has been here in New York, but the attack on Tom may mean that they are expanding their activities or moved them because things got too hot for them here.”

“Take the book. At this point it’s better to not keep people in the dark than it is to worry about security. The fact is that from our point of view there’s just too little to go on right now. Keep us informed on what you find.”

After some more rather grim planning, Mike and I were driven back to the boat to wait for our wives. When they showed up we untied and got on our way. As we passed by Manhattan up the east river Mera continued Nera’s education in cooking by making steaks for lunch. As the afternoon passed we passed along the North Shore. Mera insisted that Mike take over so that we could Swim ahead of the boat. Then she made me chase her until dinner where we dived down and grabbed some lobsters to go with the potatoes and salad that Nera made. Then it was Mike’s and Nera’s turn to Swim until  we dropped the hook in a cove and bedded down under the boat for the night. As we passed the mansions on the shore I asked Mera;

“What are they doing, what are they thinking?”

“I suspect in some ways it’s a lot like my life before you came along and changed everything. An endless meaningless dance with little or no real change. Living with no life. Taking joy in stupid petty slights and pitiful fights. I like my life better know.  I liked it better even when we were at our poorest because whatever happened we were building something.  It would have been so easy to scrape up some coin, but that would not have built a life.”

“You do have an effect. Like a hurricane. When you showed up on that pier, my life was Changed forever. The hardest part was convincing myself that I could live up to being your partner. You and that island fixed that.”

“Josh I don’t think you realize just what you did for our family. Instead of  looking into ourselves we look out.  I suspect that Nera will be a true New Yorker, in a city that she had never even thought of two weeks ago. My brothers already spend as much time up top as below and are better for it. As for my youngest sister, as well as working for you, she not only keeps order “under sea” but up top as well.”

“So what do we do about Tom?”

“Make sure that he knows everything. No more hiding anything. If he had known about Eltra I’m certain that he would have used some sort of signal and maybe he wouldn’t have felt that he needed to be the ruthless killer.  I lost a brother because of that and I know what father told you when he made you his general.  I want to make it clear to you that neither you nor Tom will make the sacrifice alone. We have family and lots and lots of friends now and we don’t need to fight alone.”

I found a cove and dropped the hook and we joined Mike and Nera under the water.

 

 

Sal.

 

I drove over to the outfit and walked up to Tony’s desk.

“I think that between us we’ve convinced Dom to put in a pool, or at least told him that he has no choice. Sillia may have had something to do with that. She didn’t give him any choice.  Which is a good thing. Things had gotten too messed up because Dom wasn’t paying attention.

At least every place I’ve checked seems to have had their shark issues go away. All I’ve seen lately is just regular business and the usual stuff. Who handles the booze for the swells? None of the outfits I’ve been talking to seem to handle that business.”

“You’ll have to ask Big Jim, his people handle the top floor stuff. He wants to see you.”

I had been dreading that. Big Jim Messimo was Dom’s boss and it was inevitable that he would want to see me. He was also old school from the old country, while Dom was first generation. I knew that this was coming though and that there really was no way to avoid it.

“Ok Tony, I’ll go right over.”

I drove up to Big Jim’s office on Park Avenue and parked the car and walked in. In most ways the office looked like what is was, the headquarters for a large company, even though most of the businesses happened to be illegal one way or another.  The office was pretty much like the ones next door.  And they shared the same security at the front desk.

“Sal del Vecchio to see Mr. Messimo.”

I didn’t bother flashing my badge. They knew who I was and any real raid had better come with warrants and lawyers in tow.

“Go right on up, Detective.”

I thought of that as I walked to the elevator with the operator with the conspicuous bulge in his uniform. Of course there were some Jewish diamond merchants with large amount of stones and some Wall St. clearance firms that had large amounts of financial instruments that kept security in the building so the guard was a shared resource and legitimate. I got out of the elevator and walked over to the office and in through the door. There was a pretty receptionist and a not so pretty guy who stood up as I walked in. I knew him.

“Hi Johnny.”

“Hey Sal.”

He put his hand out.

I handed him my gun.

“Take care of this for me.”

Dom was one thing. We’d known each other for my entire life. Big Jim was another and there was no way that I was walking into that office carrying.

“Detective, Mr. Messimo will see you now.”

I walked into the office.

“Mr. del Vecchio, I’m Jim Messimo. I just wanted to personally thank you for what you did the other day. If you hadn’t it would have been a stain on the whole business.”

“I didn’t do it for the business.” “I know.  That doesn’t change the fact that we let a bunch of our people down both on land and under sea and that we owe you for fixing that. And for the stuff you’ve done since.”

“I did it for Dom, and Vinnie.”

“How’s Tara taking care of him. Dom handles most operations and I would hate to lose him.”

“We went out to dinner yesterday. He’s better, but as far as I know Tara hasn’t let Tony send down some clothes yet. Tara and Sillia are pushing for a pool. ”

Jim laughed.

“I can get behind that.

“Bang!”

That shot was a lot closer than it should have been able to get. More shots rang out. But whatever it was, it was getting closer and didn’t seem to slowing down. I ran to the door as Messimo pulled a large pistol from his desk drawer.

“Occupational hazard.”

I opened the door as what appeared to be two cops smashed in through the door. Their uniforms had bullet holes up and down their chests, but that didn’t seem to slow them down any. Johnny fired and added some more holes. They ignored the shots and kept walking forward.

“Johnny! Use my gun!”

I reached down for my holdout gun as Johnny dropped his gun and grabbed mine getting a round off at one of the fake policemen and dropping him as the other fired and hit Johnny. Johnny fell as his next shot went wild. Jim fired, which the other fake policeman ignored and then I emptied the .32 ACP specials into him and he fell, twitching. I quickly went over and picked up my .45 and put two rounds into each of the still twitching bodies’ heads.  They stopped twitching.

“Mr. Messimo do you have a camera? Or can you get one fast?”

“Not right away, why? What’s that smell?”

“Business as usual.” The bodies had started to dissolve, leaving empty uniforms.

“Mr. Messimo, I need to use your phone to call downtown and get my bureau’s forensic team up here. And we’re going to need some ambulances.”

“I take it that those are not real police officers.” “I don’t know. They may have been police officers at one time. Until something put the bite on them and they became what we call zombies. Probably fairly recently as they could still function, mostly.”

“Why did your guns work when none of the others did.”

“We use special silver jackets in our rounds. Otherwise, as you saw it takes a lot more to stop them.”

I picked up the phone and called the hospital and the office. The receptionist put down her gun and started to give Johnny first aid.

The forensic team, one of our shooter teams and the boss showed up in about ten minutes.

“Sal, what’s going on?”

“I’m not sure. Either somebody was willing to go to great lengths to ensure that Mr. Messimo was out of the picture or the opposition was afraid of what Mr. Messimo and I might talk to each other about.”

“What were you going to talk to him about?”

“I called him in to thank him for the warehouse. Was there something else, Sal?”

“Mr. Messimo, the only thing I was going to ask you for was a connection to the outfit that handled the North Shore swells’ booze. I just wanted to ask them about the protection racket that I’ve been trying to follow up on. It was just going to be a “hi, just checking in, have you been harassed and is there anything you need from upstairs” stop, just like I’ve been doing for Tony off and on for the last few days. This is just crazy.”

Tom.

The alarm clock worked. No more skillet. And our heads were intact. Not a small thing. Since it was likely that at least some of the boys would be around for milking I released my Change and Chrissie got dressed. Then I pushed her out into the kitchen. The typical crowd was there as breakfast was just getting started. Stephie and Boris were not there as they had gone home last night and it was just the family and some of the kids who worked the farm. Actually the crowd was light as the farm was more or less in winter mode with all the harvest and silage brought in.

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, mother.”

“So what are your plans for today?”

So mother and father were looking at ways to take advantage of me being here. Not that I really minded.

“I’m not sure. Go over to Larry’s shop and start to see about the gun modifications and talk to Boris about an update from his friends in the city.  This afternoon should be empty unless father has something.  Do the boys down in the shop have any sticking points that I could clear up?”

Chrissie, as a guest, was immune to be put to work. I, on the other hand, was not. On the other hand the harvest was in and all the fieldwork done so there weren’t any real big jobs left. And making sure that the new farm mechanics were up to the job was in my best interest.

“One thing is to go through your stuff in the barn and decide what you still want.”

“I was planning to get to that.”

With barns it gets easy to just push stuff to the back and it was time I went through that stuff and handed down what I no longer needed. I would have done some of that the last time I was here, but events intervened.

“What stuff is that? I like stuff.”

“You’ll see, Chrissie.”

“Any more books?”

“Yes. Most of them are hand me downs, but some other stuff too.”

Pratt had been fairly generous in handing books out to people who wanted them when they downsized and I had brought some up, but I didn’t really have a lot of need for aircraft engine books when I was just doing farm shop work. Considering what my ex rum runner boat was using as a power plant and some ideas I had for tuning said power plant, those books had suddenly become relevant again.

After breakfast, I rolled Chrissie out to my truck and put her in. I then drove down to Larry’s home and gun shop. His shop was on the border of the farm on to the side of the road next door to the farm stand where we sell produce during the summer. I pulled into the driveway and got Chrissie out and rolled her into the shop.

“Hi Larry, so what have you got?”

There was a .22 rifle partially dismantled on the bench.

“I’ve taken the trigger guard off this Savage-Stevens. It’s nothing more than a piece of wire. Here Chrissie, hold the stock.”

Larry took a pencil and marked where the heel of Chrissie’s hand on the stock.

“I’m going to make a new trigger guard that’s the same length as Chrissie’s hand so that she can grip the stock properly.”

“This gun seems very simple.”

“It is Chrissie. It’s a single shot .22. This is a gun to learn on. Tom did. I did.  The first thing is to learn how to aim and hold the gun. Also, because I can make modifications easily I can figure out the best way to handle your and Tom’s  special requirements before we actually cut real metal.”

“So how soon do you think we can start Chrissie shooting?”

“I should be ready this afternoon. Why don’t we plan to meet at the range at three or so.”

“Ok, I want to check in with Boris, so we’ll get going.”

I took Chrissie back to the truck and we were off to the county sheriff’s office. The County Sheriff’s office was in the next town over and we drove down the street to the sheriff’s office. I parked the truck and rolled Chrissie in.

“Hi Tom! We haven’t seen you in some time.” “I’ve been living down on the Cape.”

“Who’s this?”

“This is my fiancé, Christine”

“Call me Chrissie, everybody does.”

“Well Tom, what can we do for you?”

“I’m looking for Boris.”

“He’s on patrol- Oh there he is.”

Boris walked in

“Tom, what brings you down here. Other than showing Chrissie off, of course.”

“Well I was hoping that you might have something from Mike in New York about those pictures that I sent down.”

“About those, well come into my office.”

We went back to Boris’ office.

“Those pictures created a bigger stir than you know about.”

He handed me a rather thick book. I opened it and there the pictures were, both the set I had mailed and another set that looked as if they had been wired. There were also some additional pictures that looked like they were taken by a crime scene photographer and a picture of the Model 10, still with flashlight attached along with pictures of shell casings and an unfired casing from the boat. There were also copies of my letter and a follow up report by an officer Jake O’Malley and Eltra? Who was Eltra?

“When Josh went down to New York it was to deal with some issues with the merfolk off the Rockaways and Coney Island. Well Mike brought down my former boss and then Mike bonded with Chrissie’s aunt in a rather spectacular fashion right there on the dock. Then Josh left and that left Mera to deal with it.”

“Mom and government? That can be bad.”

“Why Chrissie?”

“With mom it isn’t that she has problems with dealing with government, it’s that she takes it over. When I was a kid she went into the fisheries office to complain about fishing and was there as an agent for ten years. The only reason that she left was that her Change happened and she had to go “under sea” with Stacey. If daddy isn’t there to restrain her who knows what could happen.”

I started flipping through the book which actually had Mera’s government employee record, some information on the merfolk down in that part of New York and a bunch of stuff on chemical dumping which ended in rather dramatic raid and fire.

“Thermite? Isn’t that overkill?”

The book also contained pictures of some rather exotic looking chemical refining equipment and some follow up for some transactions for chemicals and components. Then things got interesting.

“Shark attacks?”

“Grandmother was attacked by sharks.”

“She wasn’t the only one. A bunch of people were. We weren’t the only ones hit while we were having fun and games on the beach and underwater.  There are four more cases that they know of.”

“That’s why your pictures created such a stir. People connected to the sharks were shaking down the bootleggers and shortly thereafter the connections to the Rockaway people were killed, by sharks. The people who doing the shakedown were operating from the warehouse that was torched.”

“So the whole thing was connected.”

“Yes, unfortunately the bad guys have a habit of destroying the evidence. Which makes figuring out the connections rather more difficult.”

“May I take this? I want to go through it thoroughly.”

“I was hoping you would. So far you are the only person to see these sharks in action and live.”

“That’s one reason I came up here.”

We left Boris’ office and headed back to the farm as lunch was approaching and Chrissie was feeling a little dry.

On the way back I asked;

“Chrissie, who is Eltra?”

“Oh that’s my other aunt, mom’s youngest sister. She handles security for daddy and would be the captain if dad had to go to war.”

“Oh, if I had known that there was somebody like that I wouldn’t have come up here so quickly.”

“Well then we would have never met the bed tank.”

“Some ladies have a dirty one track mind.”

We drove back to the farm, lunch and a session in the tank.

After lunch I took Chrissie out the range to meet Larry and then went over into the shop. Every so often I heard the sharp crack of a shot so I figured that Chrissie was having fun.

After the war, Colt and the other firearms manufacturers had tons of partially manufactured guns that were suddenly scrap.  This made bits and pieces of guns very cheap and one of Larry’s businesses was to take gun scrap that he had bought in 1922 and do enough finishing and adding stocks to make complete guns for the buyers over in Lake Placid who wanted a custom rifle or shotgun.  He also made custom pistols which were not as big a seller, though he did do fairly well from some of Boris’ friends and the other people in their building.

In any case, since I might be fighting monsters while Changed I wanted to at least modify a 1911 frame to make a boat gun and start looking into the shotgun modifications. I started to sketch out the new trigger guard for the 1911. I was tempted to Change to get my hand measurements but the shop stove fire hadn’t really started going yet and I was concerned about the boys and what they knew. As it turned out I should have been concerned about questions that I wasn’t really authorized to answer. The problem was that while their parents’ Changes could be concealed, Chrissie’s Change was rather more difficult to hide. Especially when they involved projects like the bed tank.  The Boys walked in.

“Hi uncle Tom! Where’s Chrissie?”

“Listen.”

Another shot went off

“Bill, your dad is teaching her how to shoot.”

“You mean she didn’t already know how?”

“She couldn’t learn where she lived.”

“We wanted to ask you about that.”

“Why?”

“Well last week, just before you came up we had to modify some fittings for that tank that was put into the spare room. Dad and grandpa wouldn’t tell us what the tank was for. Then we helped move your stuff into that room, but no bed. There’s the new pool they are building next to the dining room. When we were talking to Chrissie yesterday we noticed that her hands didn’t seem right. And her legs were really strange, almost as if she didn’t have legs at all.”

“Boys, I can’t talk about this without permission from your parents and my father. If I could, I would. Trust me I would.  In fact I will ask for the permission and tell my father about your questions.  I would really prefer that you don’t find out certain things about our family the hard way like I did, but most of this is for your own protection. Though from what I’m seeing lately, that protection is hurting rather than helping and I will tell father that. The events of the last couple of weeks have proved that to me.  One thing.  If you get any strange feelings, let your parents and father know. Thank you for your work on the tank.  I can’t tell you why yet, but Chrissie and I really appreciate it.  Now is there anything that you are stuck with that I can help you with?”

We got to work with the occasional shot going off in the background. After a couple of hours I drove over to the range and picked Chrissie up and then back to the house, where mom corralled her for more cooking lessons. I walked into father’s office.

“Tom?”

“I think that we have a problem. The boys are asking questions.  I told them that I would ask you about telling them. Frankly at this point I think that we would be better off telling the teenagers, at least, but I have my reasons.”

“We didn’t tell them so that they wouldn’t stand out in the crowd. Once you know that you are different it is easy to isolate yourselves into your own little group. That’s what happened in Europe and that made it all too easy for the fae to separate themselves. When Greta bonded with me, she made me promise that our children would be Americans first and fae second.”

“I think though, that the time has come to tell them. For one thing the attempt on my life was not an isolated incident.”

I handed father the book. He thumbed through it.

“There’s something strange and hostile going on and I think that the boys, at least should be alerted to the Change that’s coming in their lives. The fact is that it’s impossible to hide what Chrissie is for very long and trying to is only going raise more questions. It’s one thing when we are travelling, but now that Chrissie is here for several days there isn’t much point to trying to hide it.”

“How do they keep the secret down on the Cape?”

“For the most part they can because the merfolk live below the water. Plus the fact that everybody I’ve run into that lives year around on the Cape is in on the joke and wants to keep it their own little secret. Once it was known that Chrissie had latched on to me they were trying to pass little hints for weeks that I didn’t pick up on.”

“That’s because you were a thickhead!”

“Chrissie!”

“Well anyway, dinner is ready, so get a move on.”

She rolled back out.

“What it comes down to though, is that the kids could be in trouble that they don’t know to look out for. I’m going to talk to Mike when I get back to the Cape and see if I can’t find out more about these monsters. When it was a werewolf pack it was one thing, but between those things that dissolved and the sharks there’s a bigger picture that we need to keep an eye out for.”

“Well, let’s go to dinner before we get into trouble.”

After dinner, while sitting in the tank I was thumbing through the book and talking to Chrissie about things. We talked about her mom and dad and I pointed to the picture of Chrissie with her dad at the front of the book.

“I’m going to have to ask Mike if I could get a print of this.” “It’s embarrassing!  And it was your fault.  If you hadn’t been working on your boat, I wouldn’t have been where he could take that picture. You would have caught me and I would have had you right where I wanted you.  I even picked a pot near the beach to make it easy.”

“Should we tell the boys about you?”

“I think so. When they come down to the Cape there’s a good chance that there will be some tail in their future if they haven’t already Changed. There are too many girls down in the bower right now. Not enough high fae boys to bond with. If they start swimming on the beach there’s a good chance that some girl will want to pull them under. Like this!”

She pulled me under and we were kept occupied for some time.

Josh.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We stopped off at Montauk again to refuel and Nera and Mera relented and let Mike release his Change and have his clothes back so that we could eat ashore. Of course as we approached the bower Nera turned right around and forced Mike to Change again so that she could take him under and show him off.

“We’ll see you in the harbor in a couple of days!”

“Let father and your sister know that we are back.”

Mera and I completed the run into the harbor. We were home.

“So now what?”

“I think that you should check in with the Harbormaster. Then we check in with Joe and Moira so that we can all go out for that excellent steak and then we take a quiet Swim. We’re going to sleep on the boat or under it until you get the bed pool set up. No more of this being separated all the time.”

“What about Tom?”

“I’ll call Greta tomorrow and find out how they are doing. I think I’ll invite Eric and Greta down for a week or so.  We need to talk about the wedding anyway. You sir, will get started on the bed pool, along with all the other stuff.”

I walked over to the harbormaster’s office.

“Hi Jennie, Is John around?”

“He’s across the street with Noro.”

“At the diner?”

“Yes.”

I walked across the street

“Josh! You’re back. ”

“Hi Helen. Where is father and the harbormaster. ”

“Over there. Do you want anything?”

“Not right now. Mera has plans. I just need to talk to father.”

I walked over to the table with the two men who were obviously plotting something.

“Josh! You’re back.”

“So what happened?”

“Pretty much what Tom said. Some annoying fish and rude monsters ruined his fun and games on the beach and he shot them. The monsters dissolved and the fish and bodies seem to have disappeared by the time we could get out there to check up on things.”

“I’ll be right back with Mera and the big picture.”

I walked back to the boat.

“Mera, grab the book. I want to take you into the diner to talk to John and father.”

She grabbed the briefing book and then I picked her up and walked back to the diner and then over to the table.

“When we were in the city we found out that there was a lot more to this.”

I handed the briefing book over to father.

“When Mike bonded with Nera, the backsplash put Mera in contact with Mike’s boss and they started to turn over rocks. What they found was pretty ugly. I’m going to let my contacts in Boston know that they need to keep their eyes open for people dumping weird crap in the water. Among other things. I don’t know if the reason that they hadn’t gotten around to us is that our contacts on land were stronger or because they were taking out fae kingdoms one at a time.”

“Mera?”

“Father, whoever these people were, they were able to use subtle means to corrupt the lower river bower and isolate them. It’s all there in the book. The problem with their method was that doing the kind of thing that they were doing in a city that lives on the water starts to attract all sorts of attention. Which made if very easy to get support when I needed it.

Also, Mike’s boss and his office manager have managed to staff their organization with fae that have been more or less orphaned because their parents were killed in a series of accidents. Mary and Helmut have made a good team of people who are motivated to fight monsters. They missed the big picture though because there were too many monsters and the big picture wasn’t obvious in each individual inident.

These people are playing a deep game. They hide themselves very well.  But the actions have caught up with them.  There have been too many like mother’s shark attack and the other shark attack.  And the attack on the New York bower.  Then we have the case of Tom’s brother being drafted They’ve moved from attacking isolated families to attacking strong ones.

Fortunately for us and unfortunately for the enemy, one of Mike’s people’s family is a power in the navy, which seems to be collecting fae as well and that same agent just bonded with another fae who is the daughter of a leader of the other kind of family. Other than Tom’s and Chrissie’s bonding , Sal and Sillia’s bonding is probably the most important high fae alliance in the region right now and we can take it as a given that these people are working very hard to break up such alliances considering that we now know of at four murders by sharks that were not sharks.

We also had a talk with an army officer who is fae and tried to look for his family over there and found that essentially all the fae in Europe have disappeared as a result of the war or before the war.

I’ve decided that Chrissie along with my sister are going to have a big real wedding next month. Mary, Mike’s boss’s partner, and I have already started the arrangements. Hopefully I can get Greta and Eric down here to get some details squared away.”

“How did you get a hotel and catering so fast?”

“Father, the bower has been quietly boosting the economy here on the Cape for the last thirty nine years. We already own the hotel and trust me, for Chrissie’s wedding, I had caterers lined up and the Boston Mob has already set aside the liquor.  The only hard part is the dresses at this point.”

What had my wife been up to while I was bouncing back and forth between the Cape and New York? Fae don’t DO weddings. I could just imagine what Tara and Stella were planning. I decide that I would have to follow up before I got in too deep. I wasn’t too worried about the money because I remembered the flack I got from people upset that they couldn’t provide for Stacey and George’s wedding.  And we did own the hotel through a dummy corporation.  We set it up that way when the place had difficulties back in ’83 and really had no reason to sell it.  Father should have remembered.

“Mera, maybe I should call Joe and Moira and have them come over here for dinner tonight? That way we can all talk about this. Eltra will probably be on her way in anyway. ”

“Let’s do that.”

I went over to the desk.

“Helen, may I use the phone? I want to call Joe and invite him here for dinner. We changed our plans.”

“Sure Josh.”

I called Joe and told him that we were back and talking to father. He said that he would come right over with Moira. About twenty minutes later they showed up.

“Dad, mom, you’re back! How was New York?”

“Rather more exciting than we thought.”

Helen came over and took our orders.

“Mera, do you want to tell them what is going on? You were there for more of it than I was.”

“Well it started with Mike and Nera, who managed to close the deal in about six minutes right there on the dock.”

She then went on about the water tainting, the burning warehouse and the shark attacks.

“An exciting week. So the attack on Tom and Chrissie wasn’t an isolated incident.”

“No it wasn’t. In fact Tom’s little missive created quite as stir. Some people want to talk to Tom about what happened and how he survived.”

Sal.

The attack on Big Jim didn’t make much sense. If it was a result of a mob war, why use supernatural creatures to do it. What were some of the bosses connecting themselves with? As usual there wasn’t much more than goo left when the forensics team got there.  Johnny was going to survive as he got hit in the shoulder.  The front desk clerk and elevator operator were killed as well as a guard from one of the diamond merchants who backed up the front desk clerk when the shooting started. From what witnesses said, at the first sign of resistance from the front desk clerk, the officers drew and opened fire. The badge numbers matched those of officers who had disappeared and not reported in about a week ago. Zombies, plain and simple. Humans turned into stupid killing machines.

Jim’s people gave me the connections I wanted and I walked downstairs toward the car. If the attempted hit was related to my activities, why now? Why at the office of a Don. Was this an attempt at a hit on me? What was I missing?  Then as I was walking back to the car I saw a newspaper.

“Missing socialites! Thirteen missing socialites! Cars found in Montauk abandoned! Clothes inside! No trace of bodies! Read all about it!”

I flipped the newsboy a nickel and took the paper to the car. I had just found a lead.  Because one of the faces was the same as the face of one of the people that Tom had shot.  The question now was how to follow it up without creating a stir or pointing people in the wrong direction.  Because this could start a war if not handled the right way. I drove down to the office to type my report on what happened at Big Jim’s. As I was finishing up, the boss and the rest came back and I walked into office to drop off the report.

“Boss have you seen the papers? I think our sharks turned up or didn’t, as the case may be.”

“The story about the people all missing over on Montauk? Yes. ”

“Well one of them was on the beach after Tom shot him. I’m guessing that all the young people that went out on the beach were sharks and didn’t come back because Tom shot them.”

“Yes, I know. The problem is that this could open a whole can of worms that we can’t handle right now. If somebody puts two and two together and starts looking at a murder investigation this might get messy all around. ”

“I know, but this case keeps going back up there to the Gold Coast. The shark attacks, the attempt on big Jim, the attacks on the bower.  They never seemed to pay much attention to me directly until Big Jim called me in. He handles all the business up there directly and the rest goes through Dom.  One thing though, I’m going to look real hard at how things are done in that part of the outfit.”

“Jim said that he would back you up on that. We talked some about our business and he asked for a source for the special rounds. I said that they weren’t cheap and he said that not having them just got real expensive. I couldn’t argue with that.”

“Well I’m going down to Al’s for ammo and then down to the yard to take Sillia back down to the dock and talk to Dom about this. And Tara about clothes.  If a mob war kicks off I want to know that Dom knows what’s coming. Where’s Linda by the way?” “Off for a week so that she can go flying with Roscoe.”

On the way out I stopped by the desk.

“Mary put the word out your irregulars. Anybody tailing me, I want to know about it. But don’t try to engage. The opposition could be enhanced.”

“Ok, Sal. Why?”

“Because somebody seems to know where I am who shouldn’t.”
I explained what happened at Big Jim’s office. Then I went down to the armory to see Al. I was going to need more ammo for both my guns.

“Hey Al I want a box of specials in .45 and .32. and a spare mag for both.”

“Why did you use the .32?”

“No choice.”

I explained about seeing Big Jim and handing over my gun.

“Actually it was a good thing I did because it improved the tactical situation. On the other hand I had to empty the .32 before the zomb dropped.”

“That’s the problem with those little guns unless you are a very good shot and a good shot takes control. Not easy when the other side is shooting.”

“That’s why I’m carrying a spare mag from now on. Also, no matter how good you are the more rounds you can put into a zombie the better.”

I went into the garage and got the car and drove down to the navy yard, through gate 1 as the guard waved me through. Apparently George had already shown pictures of the car around. I stopped.

“Where is my mom’s office?”

“Over by building 4. Nice car.”

And I was off to where Sillia was waiting for me. As I pulled up there she was sitting in a wheelchair Holding a folder of papers and a box. I kissed her.

“Hi dear, what is that?”

“Plans and contractor’s information for Daddy’s pool. Plus your mother gave me a dress.”

“Where are you going to keep that?”

“I have a box and storage near the dock. A lot of people who live under sea have them.  So how was your day?”

“Busy, and rather more exciting than I planned.”

I told her about going to Big Jim’s office.

“Big Jim isn’t so bad.”

“I know, and he’s a member of the having Tara at home club. But some police officers that had been bitten by a bug that didn’t agree with them showed up and made a fuss.”

“Somebody put the hit on Big Jim?”

“It was worse than that. These were zombies.”

“Zombies?”

“In our line of work zombies happen when something takes over somebody and infects them. Usually they are stupid, but very hard to kill.  When they die they melt like a construct does. They are essentially killing machines. I think that I’m going to have to take you in to Al to talk about guns.”

“So why did they come up to Big Jim’s office?”

“That’s what I would like to know.” I explained to her about the missing people who were our sharks.

“When we get down to the dock I want to talk with your dad, and your mom too. Why don’t we all get together for dinner.”

“That sounds fine.”

Sillia.

“That sounds fine.”

It wasn’t fine. It wasn’t fine at all. What was wrong with Big Jim’s security.  As Sal took me over to the warehouse that the bower used for storage and files and set me down in the wheel chair that the warehouse provided for merfolk I did everything I could to hold the fear and tears back.  For the short distance between the car and the warehouse I held him as tight as I could until I had to let him go. Then I wheeled over to the desk,

“Sillia!”

“Here Isaac, put this stuff in my box and the dress on the shelf in my locker.”

“Who’s the guy, Sillia? I’ve seen him around lately, but he doesn’t seem to be connected here. He must be a big cheese with that car.”

“That’s my bonded, Sal. The car is for work. Well I have to get going.”

I rolled over to the water port and splashed in, Swimming down to the bower to look for mom and dad.

“Daddy, what’s wrong with Big Jim’s security?” “Why? What happened?”

“Sal went to his office and was almost killed.”

“In Jim’s office? Last I heard was that Jim wanted to talk to Sal because of the warehouse. I sort of told him to let me handle it, but there wasn’t anything bad that Jim wanted to talk to Sal about.”

“Somebody sent monsters to kill Jim and Sal!”

“WHAT! I think that I need to talk to Sal about this.”

“He’s up top waiting to take us to dinner.”

“Can you calm down.”

“Yes, but I’m so worried.”

“Dear, I don’t think that Sal would do anything to hurt you. But the other side doesn’t care about the rules. ”

“Daddy, after Sal leaves tonight, I want the word put out. Any outfit that takes a shot at him is going to war with our family. If they want blood we’re going to give them blood.”

“Sillia, isn’t that a little extreme.”

“These people have killed my brother, attacked your business and attacked my bonded. It’s time that they learned that that is a very bad thing to do.”

“Let’s talk to Sal before we start any wars.”

We Swam up to where Sal was waiting. Sal used the rickshaw to take us over to Bennies and got us chairs. Daddy started the conversation.

“Sillia tells us that there was some excitement in Jim’s office today.”

“Somebody sent what we in the Bureau call zombies into kill Jim and perhaps me. Johnny and I stopped them with the special rounds in my guns.”

“What changed recently?”

“I think that it was that I started to look into the North Shore People. I was going to start looking into those businesses.”

“That’s not part of my business.”

“I know, Tony told me. That’s one reason that I went to talk to Big Jim. He called me in first because of the warehouse and then we were rudely interrupted. I’ve told Mary’s people to make sure that that if somebody is tailing me to let me know.” “Maybe you should stop driving the car for a few days.”

“Sillia, I thought about that and decided that doing that could cause problems going forward. I’m going to have to go into places where appearances will be even more import than the clowns from the neighborhood. Places where I will be tiptoeing through a minefield and a single misstep could squash not just me but all of us. The car goes a long way toward establishing an appearance that says that I have the kind of clout to move and function in their world.  That could be important. I’m going to deal with this very carefully and with help from everybody I can get.” “Does that include me?”

“That especially includes you.”

“Ok, what’s the plan?”

“Well How about I take you up to talk to Al about guns. There is no way that I’m letting you deeper into this if you can’t defend yourself. Then we need to see about setting you up so that I can take you to those families on the Gold Coast that have mer connections.”

“I want to talk to Al, but only to fix me up. Tony taught me to how shoot a long time ago. I’m just out of practice. And Mera and Nera seemed to think that he had good ideas when he was here.

That reminds me, mother.  When I was talking to the Admiral’s wife today she mentioned that when meeting with those kind of people that wearing a little jewelry is a big thing for them. She mentioned that it was better to have pieces with real value than something over the top and gaudy. Understated was better she said. Do you have anything at home?”

“Sillia, I can do better than that. Some ladies down below like to wear pieces that have dropped down below on wrecks and whatnot. I think that I can trade for some pieces that will be understated, but stunning.”

“Stunning. I like that. They will be so busy looking at me that they won’t even see Sal. Until it’s too late.”

“I want to talk to Lt. Magelleno. He plays that game very well. I also want to talk to him about some “missing persons.”

“Missing persons?” Sal handed a newspaper over to dad.

”Dom, one of the faces on these strange disappearance cases showed up in Tom’s photo set. The people that never came back were, more than likely, the sharks that Tom killed the other day.”

 

Tom.

The alarm clock worked again. As we got ready for the morning I asked Chrissie;

“The range again this morning? It sounded like you were having fun.”

“Yes, and your brother left three more boxes of cartridges. I just love the target that’s set up.”

“What?”

Usually the targets set up were old pieces of junk and whatnot.

“When you drop me off, you’ll see. You may even want to take some shots yourself.”

We went out to breakfast.

“Father, Mother, Chrissie and I have decided that we would tell the boys about her Change. It’s just going to too hard to try to keep her Change a secret when we are in such close contact for a long period of time. There’s also the problem that it’s likely that the boys might come down to the Cape for vacation next year and that Chrissie has a bunch of tailed relatives looking for bond mates. I don’t want them going through what I did. As for the rest that’s up to you all.”

“Chrissie are you sure about this?”

“Yes. My father and mother have been concerned with an oncoming sense of darkness for a long time now. They feel that letting kids know what they are can avoid some of the grief that they went through and what Tom and I just went through on much smaller scale sort of demonstrates that they are right.   If you had told Tom that there was the potential for wonder in his life as well as monsters I don’t think that he would have entered our bond with such a taint of fear.  I had never had to deal with something like that and I pushed things harder than I should have. Which had the potential to cause big problems for a lot of people.  There were a lot of misunderstandings by Tom and myself that would not have happened had Tom known the potential for what he would become.”

“Tom?”

“Father, I just killed at least ten and probably more as a result of a series of misunderstandings. Yes, those people were trying to kill me and Chrissie.  But had Chrissie and I finished our party before the storm on the beach at the Cape rather than out at the island it’s possible that the sharks would not have shown up. All the other attacks were further up on Long Island. On the other hand, I think that I’m also going to tell the boys to have a shotgun and special shells at hand if they do have fun with a tail on the beach and to come up top if they see something they don’t like. I also think that we will make sure to tell Chrissie’s relatives the same thing. This is a war and they are attacking us when we are most vulnerable. That needs to stop.”

“And if I insist that you don’t.”

“Chrissie?”

“I think, yes. When I first met Tom, the first thing he did was reach for the boathook because he thought I was some kind of monster.  I could feel the pain and anguish behind it and I ran.  The good part is that I ran to daddy and Tom followed me right over and we could at least talk a little. I would like to think that the boys’ first exposure to Change wasn’t an encounter with a monster. ”

“Father, I also want to add this. The boys are going to be the point in this fight.  They, and I, will have to build the tools that help us deal with enemies that come at us with probably more power than we have. I prevailed on that island because I had the tools and knew how to use them.  You taught me how to shoot and I learned how to use the tools that will change the game if the enemy continues the way they have.”

“I can’t really stop you from telling the boys and frankly I think that you are both right that if Chrissie stays here for any length of time that hiding what she was isn’t going to be possible. As for the rest, I think for the moment, that we need to keep the protections and secrecy in place. On the other hand, Bill is the oldest and Scott next, so their Changes are going to be coming soon anyway. And yes we are planning a vacation on the Cape next summer.”

“Goody, I’ll tell my cousins. They’ve been jealous of me lately for some reason. I need to take Tom down and show him off when we get back.”

After breakfast I took Chrissie out the range. The range was stand with both seated and prone firing position and small shed next to the barn where we mostly stored stuff where the range guns and some ammo were stored. The range guns were two trap door Springfields that just sort of ended up on the range,  five .22s in addition to Chrissie’s and a couple of old Smith and Wesson .38 revolvers. When I went into the shack to pick up Chrissie’s gun, next to it were three fresh boxes of .22 and a bucket for spent brass.  I dumped the bucket into the barrel that we used to keep brass in that we didn’t plan to reload and put the boxes of cartridges in the bucket and took the bucket and Chrissie’s rifle back out.  Larry had provided a stool and Chrissie had seated herself on it.

“Look Tom, see.”

She pointed down range. There, next to a plow blade, the old car door that Boris used to make the point to his deputies that a car door is NOT cover, some cinder blocks and other stuff was an old skillet set up to swing like a gong.

“I can get revenge.” I handed her the rifle and the bucket. She took the boxes of cartridges out, pointed the rifle down range, opened the bolt and loaded a cartridge. She looked around to check for anything, closed the bolt, took aim and;

“Crack!” “Tink.”

“Crack!” “Tink.”

I went into the barn to start to sort out my stuff. The left behinds of a lifetime. The county fair trophy for a pumpkin. The school stuff. The books that I had cleared out to make room on my shelves for the tool stuff, the unfinished projects including the old Model T that I had acquired when I was fourteen to try to learn how build engines. At this point it wasn’t much more than the frame and the engine as the doors and body had ended as Boris’ targets including the one that was out there on the range. I thought that I would give the car and the rest of the projects to the boys. Most of the books could be given around to the other nieces and nephews.  The Pratt books would go down with the rest to my machining and tool books and some of the fiction.

“So this is your stuff?”

Chrissie had rolled up behind me.

“Yeah. I think that the car and the rest should just get handed over the boys or anybody else that wants it. Any books that you don’t think you want right now we’ll give away to my nephews and nieces. When we have kids I imagine that they will come back.”

“Planning ahead already? Well anyway, it’s almost lunch time, so let’s go.”

We headed back to the house.

“Did you have fun?”

“That skillet never knew what hit it.”

I drove us back up to the house.

“So how much stuff goes back with us?” “Well I’ve separated the Pratt and machine tool books for the shop. Some shelves and my bureau if we can make it fit.  I’ll ask mom for a spare rug for the shack.” “About the bed tank?”

“That’s going to take some arranging. It’s not just the tank, but the pump and all the filters too.  That won’t fit in my truck. So we will have to arrange to have it shipped.”

“When my dad gets back from New York I’ll talk to him. He has all sorts of connections with shipping companies and railroads. And all sorts of other businesses.”

“He does? I thought he was just a lobsterman.”

“That’s what he wanted you to think. Especially since he was trying to hook you up with me. When we get back, ask my grandfather just how much my dad really does. Of course grandfather probably has jobs lined up for you too.”

“Joe’s people were acting as if I worked for the yard already. And he sold me that boat.”

“What’s wrong with that boat?”

“Nothing at all if you like boats that have nefarious pasts and big engines.”

“Well that boat got you out to me quicker. And don’t lie.  There were those times that you got out there fast so that you didn’t keep me waiting.”

“Twice. Only twice. That engine scared me.”

“Does it scare you anymore?”

“With you running it? Never.”

I stopped the truck and rolled Chrissie’s chair around. As she got on she asked;

“How deep is the pond behind the shop?”

“About twelve or fifteen feet, why?”

“Well I thought that I would give the boys a little show.”

“Is it deep enough?”

“I think that I can make it work.”

“Should we invite my parents?”

“Yes, lets.”

We went in for lunch. After lunch I said;

“Mother, Father, Chrissie wants to do a little show at the pond for the boys and you’re invited.”

“What is the show going to be?”

“Mermaid dancing, though I’m not as good as mom and Aunt Nera and the water isn’t going to be deep enough to get really going.”

“We will be there.”

“Well, Tom, I want to get wet so, let’s get into the tank.”

After our session in the tank, I asked Chrissie;

“So how do we do this?”

“Make sure that you bring the camera with us. Why don’t you take me down to the pond so that I can practice for a while. Then you go into the shop. No peeking.”

“Why not?”

“Because I want this to be surprise for you, too.”

I grabbed the camera, put Chrissie in the truck and drove us over to the shop. I brought the wheel chair around put her in it.

“Now scoot! I want to get a feel for this pond and what I can do in it.”

I went into the shop and got to work. Larry had a stack of leftovers from Colt that included some partially machined frames of Army issue M1911 pistols. These were part of the scrap left over from the war and Larry had done good business making guns from the frames, but the rifles had gone better and as time went on the frames required ever more work to finish.  The extra machining required was why I had purchased the horizontal mill in the first place. I used the mill to cut the various machined surfaces that Colt had not done themselves before the frames became scrap with the cancelled contracts. I had built a set of fixtures to essentially replicate what Colt did and ran the frames through in batches of twenty or so as Larry needed them.  Fortunately there were still ten frames left from the last double batch that I ran before I left. That had been about a year ago.

I pulled one of the frames from the box that they were in and set it in the vice. Then I pulled a hack saw off the wall and started to cut the trigger guard off. I was going to replace it with a guard that would allow my Changed hand’s webs to slide around the grip properly while still keeping the trigger protected. After cutting the guard off the frame I carefully filed the lower part of the guard smooth and the upper relief flat and the lower part of the grip flat to provide welding flats for the new guard. When I was finished I pulled a piece of bar stock from the stock rack. I cut a piece off and set it up in the milling vise. I then cut out the profile of the new trigger guard on the mill.

Every so often I heard a splash in the pond as I worked. After about an hour the splashing stopped and shortly thereafter Chrissie rolled in.

“How did it work out?”

“If I stayed in the pond much longer I might have gotten a little drunk. Otherwise I think it will work out even if it’s a little tight. Anyway I want to see you work.”

“All right. I won’t be very exciting though.”

“What are you doing?”

“Modifying a pistol so that I can handle it while Changed. I want a gun that I can use easily while Changed.” “We could learn water magic.”

“We will, but I don’t want to do what the enemy expects us to do. Then there’s you. I can Change, but you can’t. The next time I don’t want you helpless up top.”

“Can you use a gun underwater?”

“I don’t know, I ‘m not sure that anybody’s ever tried. Though bullets don’t move very well in water. The guns themselves won’t last very long in salt water though.”

Chrissie watched as I cut the new trigger guard on the mill and then put it into the vise and started to file the edges off. I then filed the end of the new guard square and started to fit the guard to the frame.  I wanted a good joint for the braze so I cut slots both on the bottom and the top for the new guard. Once I cut slots I clamped the frame carefully into the vise and got out the torch and my goggles.

“Watch out, the light is going to be bright.”

I lit the torch and started to heat the frame and the guard, slowly heating them to braze temperature. As I worked the torch I touched the frame with the flux watching the temperature until the flux melted into the joint.  Then I picked up the brazing stick and melted the compound into the joints. Once the joint was filled I turned the torch off and put it away. Just then the boys came in.

“Hi Uncle Tom! Hi Chrissie. What are you doing, Uncle Tom?”

“Building a custom 1911”

“Why?”

I could feel my parents arriving. Along with some other people. Most of my brothers and sisters it seemed.  Apparently mother had been doing some calling.

“As to that, well you asked some questions yesterday and well, Chrissie and I decided to give you some answers. Ready, Chrissie?”

“Yes, roll me out.”

“Follow us boys.”  I rolled Chrissie out to the pond.

“Hello, mother, father. I see that you invited some more people.” “Yes dear, for one thing it’s time that Chrissie met some more of the family and I thought that Chrissie would give a good show.”

“Mother, I’m not that good.”

So it was “mother” now. I was in trouble.  I got the camera out as Chrissie started to unbutton her dress.  Then she sprang into the water so quickly that nobody could really get a good look at her as she dived into the pond on only to come leaping up out of the water and splashing back down In what was the start of the most amazing thing I have ever seen.  I fell in love with her all over again as the show went on.  I lifted the camera after the first few jumps and tripped the shutter again and again as she danced on the water, finally catching her bow as she ended her performance in what was the most remarkable thing in my life. I walked over to the shore of the pond to pick her up and turned as she waved to her smiling and clapping audience and put her back in the chair. I rolled her up to the boys. They somehow didn’t seem to be as surprised as they should have been.

“I’m guessing that you knew about Change.”

“Our moms and dads told us when we were fifteen. So how did you meet Chrissie, she’s wonderful!!”

“She sort of showed up in my boat one day. Chrissie, how come you didn’t try dancing to get my attention? It would have worked.”

“Daddy wouldn’t let me and since you were working his boat, I couldn’t get away with it. By time you had your boat in the water, it wasn’t really necessary.”

“What did you do when she showed up in the boat?”

“Reached for the boathook, which caused all sorts of misunderstandings.”

“Boys, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, your Uncle Tom is sort of a thickhead and I had to work very hard to convince him that I was a good thing. If you should run into mermaids, don’t reach for sharp pointed things.” “Chrissie!”

“Well, I did. All those pots I stuffed. Some of the pots with me. The incident with the boathook. Being left on the beach. Having daddy maroon us on an island.  The things I went through.”

Father and mother came up.

“Father, if you knew that the boys already knew, why didn’t you just tell me.”

I was sensing a conspiracy by my relatives

“I wanted to test your willingness to stand by your convictions, I wanted to steer some your anger and darkness to something that we and Chrissie could deal with and Greta said that Chrissie had wanted to dance for you but she never got the chance.”

“Also, we were looking for an opportunity for Chrissie to meet the rest of the family and this seemed like the perfect time.”

“Mother, why didn’t you tell me?”

“We didn’t want to ruin Chrissie’s surprise. She and I have been planning this since she got here. Come Chrissie, why don’t I roll you around so that you can meet everybody. ”

I turned to the boys.

“So the pistol is for Chrissie?”

“For both of us. My Change is a lot like hers, but I can Change back and forth and she can’t. I want some guns that I can use Changed.”

“Why?”

“I’ll tell you tomorrow. When you get down to the Cape next year you will probably need to know. Even if you don’t come down to the Cape you need to know.”

“Tom! You need to Change!”

“Why, mother?” “George wants pictures of you and Chrissie on the dam, so you get undressed and Change right now.”

“Tom, you get in the water with me right now!”

Mother had taken the wheelchair next to the dam and Chrissie was back in the pond. I reached for the buttons on my shirt and started to get undressed. Then I went to the shore, Changed and joined Chrissie on the dam, posing while George got his pictures . A conspiracy indeed.

Sal.

After the dinner at Bennies I went home to my increasingly empty apartment. Somehow without Sillia it just seemed like an empty space. In many ways, like my life for the last two years. The next morning I drove over to the office to check in. After that I drove over to the outfits that handled the swells’ booze to see if there had been any attempts at a shakedown. The surprising part was none of them had. Or perhaps it wasn’t. Everything that I had been looking at kept coming back to the Gold Coast one way or another. I think that I needed to speak to Lt. Magelleno again. Before that I wanted to go out to Jones Beach and check on the details of the missing persons case.

“Detective del Vecchio, you’re back again.”

“Yeah well, chasing leads and dead ends takes you round and round. I was hoping that I could get an update on the missing persons case that was in the papers.”

“There really isn’t very much. It’s as if they all went out there and vanished.” “The papers were not very clear. Were they together or did they show up separately.” “Separately. And the cars were all parked in isolated spots near the beach. Which is why it took some time for the cars to get noticed.  Even though all of them were expensive. We had to track back through the registrations to contact the families.”

The state police Corporal got out a map and showed me where all the cars had been found. The locations were scattered all around Montauk and Sag Harbor.

“Did any of the people make any stops out there before they disappeared.” “Not that we’ve found so far but, we’re still looking when we can. The manpower for a case like this just doesn’t exist out here.  And we’re stumped. It’s as if they all parked the cars, took off their clothes and walked into the water.  But who would do that in November? And if they had, where did the bodies go?”

I couldn’t tell him where I thought the bodies went. He wouldn’t have believed me anyway. The corporal made a transfer copy on their reflex copier of what they had and along with the map and my notes I was on my way. I had called ahead from Jones Beach to check on Lt. Magelleno and make an appointment. I then drove down to Magelleno’s office.

“Sal, what brings you out here?”

“Frank, I need some advice and I want to know something about those missing people out on Montauk.”

“Do you think that has any relationship to your case?”

“Well they were out on the beach. I figured that since the missing persons all came from your beat that you might know if these people had any relationship to each other. “

“How could the cases be related? Your cases all involved guys on the beach chasing tail to close the deal and getting attacked by sharks. These people just up and disappeared.”

He knew. That was going to make things easier.

“Are you a Swimmer?”

“Are you asking if I have a tail at home? Yes. Frankly I couldn’t function on this beat if I didn’t. Too many connections down in the Sound. ”

“Ok. I’ll be right back.”

I went out to the car and got my latest book. I handed it over to Frank.

“The reason that those people disappeared wasn’t that they were attacked by sharks but because they WERE the sharks. And the reason they didn’t come back was that they were trying to put the bite on yet another couple closing the deal and this couple was nastier than they were.”

Frank started to thumb through the book.

“Who’s the couple?”

“Tom Benton and Christine Claytor. Perhaps it’s more important to say that it’s more important what they are, rather than who they are. Tom is the youngest son of the king of the Northern New England Fae and Chrissie is the granddaughter of the king of the Cape Cod bower.  Their bonding is making waves all over the region. When my boss heard about what happened, he was scared spitless because if the shark attack had gone as planned, there could have been a fae war in New England that could have gone on for centuries.”

“So they got lucky up there.”

“We all did. I need a line on the Sound bower and these people because all the evidence keeps pointing here and if things keep going the way they are they could explode in a bunch of different directions.  There was that attempt to kill Big Jim Messimo, with zombies, for crying out loud.” “That didn’t make the news.” “The bureau where I hang my hat works this kind of case.  And I happened to be in Jim’s office when it happened.  Which was a good thing as I stopped the attack by what appeared to be NYPD officers.  What’s stupid with these people is that they don’t seem to understand the number of people they’ve pissed off as collateral damage.  I mean it takes real talent to piss off just about everybody in town, but that’s exactly what these people have done with their messing around with the water.  When you have the Feds, the NYPD and the families all show up against you, you’ve really been stupid and yet that’s exactly what these clowns did. Then there was the protection racket and shark attacks against the Rockaway bower.  The same place that they were poisoning the water.  Which at present has a large contingent of navy wives living there.  Let’s just say that my dad and his friends are VERY interested in my case right now.

I need to make contact with the people on your beat in order to find the source of all this corruption and just how far it’s spread. The problem is that this is growing beyond some fae war and into the rest of the world. Also it’s like a disease, an infection. What happens here is trying to spread.  That’s the message of out there on that island. I need to know about these people so that we can separate and destroy this infection before a bunch of people get hurt.”

 

Eltra.

I had just come in from a sweep when my sister dropped into the bower and started introducing her bonded around.

“Sister come and meet my bonded! Mike, this is Eltra. Eltra handles security for Josh, among other things.”

“So you were the one who sent the report from Tom down. You created quite a stir.”

“Actually Jake sent it, but yes.   Nera, is Josh back?”

“Josh and Mera went into the harbor to speak to the harbormaster. Where’s father?”

“Up top, with the harbormaster.”

“So Josh and Mera are more than likely already talking to them. Has there been any additional strange shark activity? ”

“No, actually. Why?”

Mike and Nera told me about the chemicals in the water, the warehouse suicides, the shark attacks on the Rockaway bower leadership and the further attacks on newly bonded merfolk.

“You had a busy week. And it looks like Mera got to play with the government again.” “She and my boss were going around for a while.  She ended up of giving him what he wanted.”

“What did he want?”

“Her picture as she really is. She hid herself under a dress for the better part of a week. My sister had a lot of fun with that. We also met some very interesting people in the navy and related to some of Josh’s friends.”

One of my jobs was keeping the peace on the water. One of Josh’s jobs was letting some people know what the rules were on the water.  Josh’s emphasis on the “order” part of the law and order made it easier for certain families to conduct business and that was rather appreciated by those families.  There was very little that went on around the Cape that Josh or I didn’t know about and the fact that the shark things were able to slip in bothered me.

“So should I go in tonight? I just got off a sweep and I’m sort of drained.”

“Since father is already talking to Josh, I don’t think that you need to rush in. Send a message and see.”

“If you send a message, ask Josh if he wants to go out and check the island again. I want to go out there and maybe talk to your friend Jake. Tom as well, as soon as we can get him back.”

I went over to the messenger desk with a bit of an empty feeling as Nera Swam on showing Mike around. I could see already that they would be good for each other. I picked up one of the grease wax pencils and started to write the message for Josh. After I finished I took to the desk.

“Hi Eltra, What can we do for you?”

“Hi Ray, I have a message up top, for Josh.”

“Is it urgent?”

“I suppose not, just send it in the next packet”

I turned and went to my bower for some rest. Four hours later my father showed up.

“You got my message?”

“Yes. John, Josh and I decided that John will bring Jake, Josh and Mera out tomorrow in his boat to meet up with you, Mike, Nera and I for a quiet little talk about what’s going on out on that little island.  This is bigger than we knew.”

Tom.

After Chrissie’s show we all went inside. Mother wouldn’t let me release my Change so I had to ride in with Bob as Scott took Chrissie back to the house in my truck.

“Uncle Tom, did something really bad happen down there on the Cape? Ever since you came back with Chrissie you’ve been angry about something. And all this work you’ve been doing with guns.  Is it something with Chrissie’s family?  Grandmother seemed to like them when she talks. ”

“It’s not Chrissie’s family. At least not any more than the problem is your grandparents and their games. It’s a big story and I want to treat it properly, so when you come in tomorrow I’ll go over it thoroughly.  The family will probably be discussing it when we get inside, but you and Scott need to be prepared for what might be coming. And yes it was bad.”

We came up to the house and Larry went and brought out the other wheelchair so that I wouldn’t have to Change to go inside. As well as the bed tank, my parents had added ramps to the front and back of the house. I rolled up into the house following my brothers and sisters. When we got inside, there was a mass disrobing and Change as my family was showing their true selves to the newest member, Chrissie.  At the same time some rather familiar photos were being passed around to those who hadn’t seen them.  My eldest sister, all pixy ears and gossamer wings came over.

“Tom, I think you have a winner there. But those pictures were awful.”

“Thanks Di. I think so too. Somebody out there really didn’t want Chrissie and me to happen.”

“Are you comfortable with your Change? We were sort of worried for a while.”

“I would be if we hadn’t been so rudely interrupted. I haven’t really had the opportunity to really experience my Change yet in the water. Chrissie was the great Change in my life.”

“You must know that we are all happy for you both.”

All in all it was a wonderful evening. We talked about many things until dinner. After dinner father said;

“Tom, Chrissie, the pool is about ready, do you want to take a look?”

We went in.

“What’s that slot?”

“The toilet.”

The bed tank had had one little problem. Chrissie and I had made do, mostly by using the discharge pipe. When we got the tank to the Cape I was going to have to work on a better solution.

“This is bigger than bed tank and we can move in it. When will there be water?” “Chrissie, that’s probably the biggest issue as there isn’t much seawater around here. We made our own salt water for the bed tank but after reading the briefing book I’m concerned about the water composition. Tom, have either you or Chrissie felt any ill effects from the tank?”

“Chrissie, I haven’t, but you would be more sensitive to water changes than I would. Have you felt anything?”

“Not really, but we haven’t actually been spending too much time actually in the tank except at night. I do think that I need to get back to the ocean fairly soon though.  And Tom needs to spend more time down below to get acclimated.  Daddy doesn’t and he needs to.”

“Well Josh should be back soon, so I will work to get things ready. Why don’t we set the pool up with what we have and give it a dry run? ”

After all it wasn’t likely that we would be up here for much longer anyway. Chrissie was right. We needed to get back.

Josh.

After talking to Noro, Joe, Moira and John, for a while, we got a message from Eltra asking if she should come in.  We discussed it and at this point there really wasn’t much that she could add so we decided to all troop out to the island in the morning.  Dinner was over so Joe and Moira went home and Noro went out to the bower.  I took Mera back to the boat.

“Mera, I want to send a message to Tom and Chrissie in Vermont telling him that we were back. Is there anything you want to add?”

“No, not something that I want to send over the wire.”

“Ok, I’ll be back.”

I went over to the Western Union office and filled out the form with the message.

“Hello, Josh. Back from the city?”

“Finally. I need to send a message up to the Benton farm in Vermont.” I gave them the form.

“For Tom?”

“Yes I just wanted him to know that we were back.”

They took the message and I went back to the boat. Mera had taken off her dress.

“Now dear, get undressed and change so that we can have a Swim.” “Yes dear.”

We went under for a Swim and found a nice spot to sleep. The next morning I was going to Change for the ride in John’s boat but Mera insisted that we Swim out. I told John that we were Swimming and told him to get the briefing book from my boat and follow us out when Jake showed up. Then Mera and I headed out for the bower.

When we got there, Noro, Mike, Nera, Eltra and Eltra’s sweep were all waiting.

“Let’s wait for the boat. So, Eltra, what happened?”

“Josh, you’ve seen my report. Those monsters got in between my sweeps.  Frankly I wished that that you had waited a couple of days to maroon Tom out there. We were shorthanded after the storm and a lot of the people up top were recovering.  But honestly there was no way to know that anything strange was going on. Those things moved in and there was no trace of them until they showed up out there.”

“How many do you think there were?”

“At a guess no more than twenty. I counted 10 bodies and there may have been a couple more. What I can’t understand is that final rush. Up until then they had only lost three or four. The massacre happened at the end. And it was pointless. They basically walked right into the barrel of Tom’s shotgun.   By the time that Tom was ready to leave there really wasn’t any way to stop him.”

“The pictures.” “Mike?”

“Whenever we’ve been dealing with these monsters they, by and large have been very good at destroying any real evidence of their existence. They don’t leave bodies behind, the constructs and zombies fall apart, the mad scientist stuff blows up or burns like that warehouse and the Changed, well, you saw. This time Chrissie and Tom got pictures of the whole thing and they HAD to destroy them regardless of the consequences. So that final desperate attempt was to try to get those pictures.”

John and Jake came up in the boat and we all got on for the trip to the island. I handed the book to Eltra.

“How much did Mike tell you about this?”

“Some of it. There’s a lot here that I don’t understand.”

“There’s a lot of it that nobody understands. Those chemicals and how they were made, for instance.” “Mike?”

“This is the way it’s been all along. Bits and pieces that don’t seem to fit together.” “Somebody’s playing a deep and very dark game.”

Mera explained the fae coming over from Europe and hiding and how many were killed in rather suspicious accidents.

“I knew about Josh. Then I heard Mike’s story. Once I started looking I kept finding more. The families that came over from Europe seemed to get hit the hardest, with accidents like Mike’s parents. Some families, like ours and Tom’s were too strong to take on directly. The assault on the Rockaway bower was probably one of the first attempts at attacking a strong family, but there was the attack on my mother and the twisting of Tom’s brother was yet another assault. They didn’t anticipate Mary and Helmut’s collecting the orphans or just how attached the navy is becoming to the fae. Still, far too many fae coming over from Europe were killed in strange accidents.

When I first heard about Mike’s and the rest of Helmut’s little bureau’s histories I made some contacts at the library and they started to look for newspaper stories of unexplained accidents. From about 1870 there seemed to be about 100 or more that were fae related in one way or another. And there are likely thousands of fae in hiding. It seems though that the center is around New York.  Which makes sense as that is where most of the immigrants came in. I wonder about the immigration law.  Was that to close the door?”

We reached the island and since it was low tide anchored the boat and most of us Swam in while John and Jake used his dinghy. The ladies were going to look around the island in the water while those of us with legs looked around up top.

“Let’s meet at Chrissie’s tide pool.”

The island was pretty much as I remembered it from the time that Noro had marooned Mera and I there. John, Jake and Noro pointed out where Tom had killed the monsters and the naked man. Once you knew what to look for, the drag marks were still visible back to the water. The places where the monsters had been shot there had dead spots in the dune grasses already. Mike said;

“They dragged the body back. Considering what happened that was a bit risky. Suppose that we had had more people out here earlier than we did.” “That’s been typical of how they operate over here. In Europe it was a different story. It’s as if they didn’t care about some things over there. Or weren’t too concerned that anybody would act on what they were doing.  Over here though, they go to great lengths to hide what they are doing. Lately though, it’s been the sheer level of activity that’s been making it harder to hide. One shark attack very infrequently and I doubt that anybody would have noticed.  A bunch of them and they started to attract attention. The protection racket was just stupid though. Which is strange, because by and large they haven’t typically acted as if money was an issue.  Which was one of the problems because when people get paid for job work for something they tend to close things up and do things like toss the prints for the hardware.”

There really wasn’t much to see on the island and we all met at Chrissie’s tide pool. I asked;

“Did you ladies find anything?”

“Only some more shotgun shells where the boat was and this.”

Nera held up a rather bedraggled towel.

“It still smells of Chrissie, just a bit.”

“I think that Tom was trying to decoy the sharks so that Chrissie could rest here in the pool.”

“You know, with all the sharks around the boat they probably could have gotten away if they Swam from the other side of the island.”

I answered my sister in law.

“Eltra, that side faces the ocean. Too much open water and no place to hide, at least on the surface. Tom is like I was, a lander and isn’t used to “under sea” yet. He used the approach that he knew how get the job done. I suspect that the sharks took advantage of that inexperience in the other cases. By going after newly bonded where the guy is inexperienced under water and both them are more than a little out if it, the sharks had an advantage.  We’ll have to ask Tom to be sure of what he was thinking.” “So why did he run up to Vermont?”

“Mike, you’ve known him longer than anybody. Any guesses?”

“I think he had a few things on his mind. One was that staying in one place was probably risky when he didn’t know very much about the opposition.  And he knew that Boris was a direct link to my outfit and its resources. Then there was his family and making sure that he forestalled any anger or ill feeling from them toward Josh and the people down here. Taking Chrissie up there squelched that right off the bat.”

Noro added;

“He also wanted to pull any pressure off us and give us the freedom to act. He was concerned that if he stayed in or around the bower that the other side would take extreme actions to suppress the fact that they had escaped and the pictures he took. Mike, he knew the lengths that the other side had gone to in the past and wanted to make sure that A. the word got out, and B. that the other side had to work to get a shot at him again.” “Wasn’t he even in the least bit concerned about the consequences of just having shot a bunch of people?”

“Jake, as far as consequences to him personally, as far as I can tell, no. He made no effort to hide what had happened and didn’t even seem to care that there was a possibility that he could be considered a mass murderer. He just wanted to put a wrench in the enemy’s gears and make sure that Chrissie got out safe. On the other hand who would believe that a bunch of people would just show up on a more or less deserted island naked without a boat in November?”

“So now what?”

“John, I think we go back to business as usual. At least until we have more.  Helmut’s people are going to  be working on that and I’m going to put the word out on the water and other places that strange stuff is messing around and to keep an eye out for it.  And we wait for Tom to get back. Right now the only bonding is Sal’s and Sillia’s” “Sal’s?”

“Noro, Sal is probably the matchup of a number of various family connections. Sillia even more as she is connected to the mob and the rockaway bower royal family and frankly ours too. Mera said that they were the potential new royalty for the Rockaway bower. Which, makes them a inevitable target. Add what he’s been doing to them lately and if they can put the bite on him, they will.

If the sharks show up I want to know. Eltra put, the word out about this.”

“Josh, I already did. If anything starts to show up like it did down in New York I want to know about it before hand.”

Mera insisted that she and I Swim to the bower with the rest to touch base with Ilutra and Altris and then into the harbor. Then things got busy.

As I was pulling Mera into the boat, John came over with a New York paper with a splash about thirteen missing socialites.

“One of those faces looks familiar. I think that we just found our sharks.” The face was the same as the naked man that Tom had shot.

“Do you think that Mike’s people know about this?”

“Probably, there’s no way to know for sure right now. When Noro comes in I’ll check, but until we can talk to Tom, there’s not much we can add anyway.”

Mera and I went into the cabin to get dressed and I took her across the street for lunch. After lunch, I asked;

“So now what?”

“Well why don’t you drop me by fisheries so that I can catch up with George and then talk to your people about what happened. We need to be more on the ball.”

I drove by the house to pick up the wheelchair that I had bought for Mera when she first started her Change and Mrs. MacDougal came out.

“Mera, it’s so good to see you up top. Chrissie was just miserable about Tom the other day.”

“Mildred, it’s good to see you too. Josh and I had to go to New York for family business. Tom and Chrissie got together and he’s taken her to meet his Family.” “Inland? How did they manage that?”

“I don’t know for sure, but from what Tom’s mother said to me they had it more or less handled, at least for short visits.”

“Hi Mildred, thanks for looking out for the place. We’ve got to go. We’ll talk later.”

I dropped Mera off with George and then went to talk to my liaison with the Boston Mob. We had a good working relationship because we kept it on a strictly business level and neither of us paid too much attention to posers.

The boys outside waved me in and I stopped at the desk.

“Hi Josh! Where have you been? We haven’t seen you around lately. ”

“Ray, I went to New York to deal with some family business.”

“Our kind of family? You should have told us.”

“Around the edges. It sort of blew up bigger than I expected.”

I explained about the chemicals in the water, the sharks, the protection racket and the warehouse.

“Have you gotten anything down the grapevine about this yet?”

“Some. The Brooklyn boys have been pissed about somebody messing up with their business and they’ve hired some high powered troubleshooter to deal with it.  Said to take care of him if he ever shows up in our territory.  Drives a Duesie.”

“We’ve met. Great guy. He’s a not so ex cop if you can believe it. But he shut those people in the warehouse down and really got things straight down there. He might show up our way. We’ve been working together on this cleanup.”

“Does it involve your family?”

“It’s connected both under sea and up top. So I want you to keep an eye out for anything out of whack. Some weird stuff went down in New York and they attacked my daughter.” “Chrissie?”

“Yes, she and Tom were having fun on the beach and the sharks showed up and spoiled the party.”

“The wedding still on isn’t it?”

“Unless Mera says no, it’s still on. The wedding has been her project and you know that I don’t mess with that. You know what can happen if you get involved in Mera’s projects.”

We both remembered some rather interesting things that we really hadn’t wanted to get involved with at the time.

“Ok, Josh, We’ll keep an eye out.”

I made couple of more stops and then went over to pick up Mera at Fisheries. I went in. Mera was in a conference room with George and couple of senior people. I was going to wait but George came to the door and waved me in.

“Josh, I want your input on this. What’s really going on here? This is bigger than somebody messing up the water and killing the fish.”

“George, yes it is, but what these people’s goals are, none of us have been able to figure out yet. When Mike comes up top, I’ll run him by. On the other hand the fish kills could be a form of economic warfare. I’ve talked to just about everybody on the water down in the city and this thing raised a storm like you wouldn’t believe. And these people go to great lengths to do what they do and disappear. They had their HQ ready to burn if somebody showed up to shut them down. All I can say is to keep an eye out for strange and weird stuff. And keep your eye on the water.”

As we left I asked Mera;

“Has he convinced you to go back yet?”

“I’m not sure yet. I think that I want to know how Tom and Chrissie are going to work out and just what’s going on. On the other hand if this is a real war we are going to need resources.”

When we got back to the boat there were two telegrams, one for Mera and one for me.

“Oh good, Steve’s going to New York. He should be in Tuesday. And he’s found someone.”

“This doesn’t surprise me. The Admiral said that he was putting the call out. Tom and Chrissie just sent this one.  They are starting back Monday and Eric and Greta will be coming down with them. They also want to arrange to ship down some stuff and they want me to arrange for a tank of sea water to get shipped up.”

“A tank of sea water?”

“I’m guessing for a pool like Mike has.”

“Oh yes, Greta mentioned that they were building one. That sounds like Chrissie.”

“Ok, well I’ll talk to Bill over at the railroad to make the freight arrangements and see it there’s an empty tank car or two going in that direction.”

 

Tom.

The next morning I took Chrissie out the range and then went down to the shop to finish the 1911 frame so that Larry could build the pistol. He could mail it down to me once it was done. The joints on the new trigger guard looked good so I filed the square edges and smoothed the new trigger guard.  Then I took it over to the grinder and ground the outside of the guard. I finished it off with some emery paper on the inside of the guard.  By then it was nearly lunch time so I drove back to the range.

“Did you have fun dear?”

The skillet had taken a rather grey color in the middle.

“Yes. I’ve shot two boxes of the cartridges. By the way, Boris mentioned last night that he was bringing deputies by this afternoon so I’m going to be with you at the shop.” “Good, bring your rifle.  I want to go for a Swim and try something.  Let’s run this frame by Larry and then we’ll go to lunch.”

We drove over to Larry’s

“So how much will I owe you to finish this?”

“Well normally I charge about $100 for one of my custom jobs but you did about half the work on this one. I wish that I had known that you were doing this as Al down in New York just asked me to send a quote out for two more frames done just the way you did this one. How about I do the pistol for you and you do the other two frames and we call it even. I think that would get it done quicker for Al as the boys aren’t as fast as you are yet.”

“Who’s Al?”

“Chrissie, he worked with Boris and Mike and came up here to talk to Stephie about guns. He’s the bureau’s gun manager. I’ve been doing special guns for him for some time now for Mike’s outfit and the rest of the agencies in his building.”

“Ok, I’ll do the other two frames and the shotgun this afternoon. Also, could I have a couple boxes of .38s, some more .22s for Chrissie and an old .38? Long barrel preferably.  I want to try something and I don’t want to mess up the range pistols and I think that I’m going to be modifying it.”

“Why?”

“Well Chrissie asked if what happens if you shoot a gun underwater and I thought that I would try to find out. I also think that Chrissie could graduate up a step and I want to modify the pistol to our Change for her.”

“Be careful.”

Larry went into the locker and came back with a rather woebegone looking .38 and the boxes of cartridges.

“Chrissie, make sure that Tom is careful.”

“I will, Larry.”

We got back in the truck and drove back to the house for lunch and our session with the tank. After that we got back in the truck and went over to the shop. The stove was still warm and I pulled two more frames and got started working on the two additional frames for Larry.  A bit later father walked in with a telegram for me.

“Josh is back from New York.”

“Good. So what are our plans?” I could head back over the weekend or start back on Monday, It’s up to you, father.”

“Why don’t we start Monday. Greta and I want to go down with you to meet Josh and Mera anyway and Monday gives me a chance to make sure that the farm business is managed.”

“That makes more sense to me. I want to finish up the shotgun and these frames for Larry. Is anybody going into town? I want to send a reply. Chrissie, is there anything you want to add?”

“Only to ask dad who to talk to about shipping the tank bed. And maybe some of the other things. It might be easier to ship than carry everything ourselves. And maybe see about a tanker full of seawater.”

“Write it out. I’m going into town in a bit anyway”

I wrote out a reply telling Josh that we planned to be back Wednesday and asking him who I should talk to about shipping arrangements up here in Vermont.

“Here you go, father.”

“I’m going to get moving then. Chrissie, do you want to go up to the range?”

“Eric, Boris is bringing his people out so I decided to leave the range to them today.”

“Well if you want more practice, just shoot the old stone barn across the pond. That’s what the boys all did. I’ll go over and set up a board for you to shoot at.”

“Really? Won’t that hurt the building?”

“The barn is a wreck anyway and if it weren’t stone we would have gotten rid of it a long time ago. And it’s not as if there’s any glass in the windows, is there Tom.”

“Chrissie, by the time I ever had the opportunity to shoot at that barn the glass was long gone. I had four older brothers. So, don’t let father try to make me look guilty. And I had to do SOMETHING to relieve the stress from Stephie and my other two sisters and their little jokes. Father, I think that there was an old camp skillet with a broken handle out there in that barn next to the door. There’s Chrissie’s target.”

“Oh yes, perfect.”

Chrissie and dad left and shortly thereafter I heard the crack of Chrissie’s rifle as dad’s truck drove off. I got back to work, essentially repeating what I had done yesterday, only for two frames rather than one. Once the trigger guards were cut off the rest went quickly as I had already done the first one and the mill was still set up for the new guards as I hadn’t had time to tear it down last night. I was just finishing the brazing on the second frame when the boys brought Chrissie in.

“I was getting a little cold.”

“Well go over to the stove and warm up, Chrissie. Was the target another skillet?”

“Yes, it never knew what hit it.”

“Ok, boys since you are here and these frames need to cool down I want to try something. Chrissie, may I borrow your skillet and rifle?  It shouldn’t hurt the rifle and you mentioned something that I wanted to try. I want to try to fire it underwater.”

“Tom what happens if it blows up? Larry mentioned checking the barrel for stuff in it. Water is stuff.”

“I don’t think that it will be an issue but wait here.”

Yesterday, when I was cleaning up I had run into the sawhorse with the vice attached to it that I made to work on the car. It was steel and wouldn’t float. So I could take it to the bottom of the pond.

“Boys, come with me, we need to bring something down from the old barn.”

“Sure, Uncle Tom.”

We got in the truck.

“By the way, that old project car, it’s yours now. I don’t think that I’ll need any more projects for some time. I own a boat now and if you know anything about boats you know that they are a perpetual project. Of course your Uncle Boris and his deputies have sort of shot the doors to pieces.”

“Thanks, Uncle Tom! And who needs doors!”

When we got up the barn Boris was there with two of his deputies firing at said car door. When we drove up they turned around and carefully put their guns down.

“Hey, Boris, are these the new guys. I don’t think we’ve met.”

“Tom, This Rich and this is Don. They are fresh out of the academy. Boys, this is Tom, my youngest brother in law.  He lives down on the Cape, so we won’t see too much of him. And Bob and Scott, two of my nephews who you will probably being far too much of.”

 

“Welcome to the county boys.”

“Hey uncle Boris it isn’t fair that you warn them. How can we raise hell if all the deputies know us.” “You’ll manage, you always do.”

We all laughed

“Boris, you said that there would be a pretty lady up here at the range. Where did she go?”

“Boys, that’s my fiancé, Chrissie and she decided to practice down by the shop so that she could keep warm. I came up to get something out of the barn. If you boys lend me a hand we can get it into the truck. ”

We all went into the barn and picked up the sawhorse. We then carried it over to the truck.

“Ok, that should do it.”

We got in the truck.

“Boys where is that hoist we used a couple of weeks ago? I don’t mind getting wet, but it might not be so pleasant for you.”

We went over to the tractor shed and got a tractor and the hoist that I had used a couple of weeks ago to load the truck.  Bob followed me in the tractor as we went back the shop.  We set up the hoist next to the dam. And I backed the truck up. Then I went in to the shop and got the same lines that I had used to lift the little lathe and attached them to the sawhorse.

“Ok, Hoist it up.”

The sawhorse lifted out of the truck.

“Ok, Scott, lets rotate it around.”

The frame hung over the water next to the dam.

“Lower is slowly toward the water.”

I started to take my clothes off. Then I Changed and dropped into the water.

“Ok, keep lowering it.”

I followed it down until the sawhorse rested in the mud more or less pointed at the old barn. I disconnected the lines and went to the surface.

“That’s good. Take it away.”

Then I got out of the pond, Changed and put my clothes back on.

“Ok, Chrissie, step one is done.”

The boys got to work as I grabbed two pieces of channel scrap and started to measure along the rifle. I marked two places and used the mill and vise to cut two slots in the channel and cut a slot in the bottom of the channel. Then I went over to the welding table, started up the electric welder and welded the second piece of scrap to the first one. With the part welded I used the saw to cut the sides of the channel off so that the vise down below could grip the channel. This made a fixture that I could use mount guns into the vise without damaging them.  After I made the fixture I got out two strap clamps and some leather strap stock, strapped the rifle into the fixture and attached a string to the trigger.

“Step two is done, now the guns can be held in the vise. Step three is to go out and get the skillet and go down under. But before I do that I want to make sure of Boris and his deputies.”

I walked over to the barn and picked up the skillet. Then I walked back.  As I walked into the shop I realized that the shooting over at the range had stopped. Just then Boris and his deputies walked in.

“Boys, this is the newest addition to the family, my soon to be sister in law, Chrissie. She can’t walk very well right now, but makes up for it in other ways.”

“Chrissie, these are my two newest deputies, Rich and Don.”

“Hi, nice to meet you. I would have been up at the range but the stove is down here and I have that broad side of a barn to shoot at. I can hit that, at least.”

We laughed at that.

“Boys, I need to talk to Tom about some things so go back to the office. I’ll be right behind you.”

“Ok, well it was nice to meet you, miss.”

The two deputies left.

“So Tom, what are you up to? When I was picking ammo up from Larry he mentioned guns under water.”

“That’s why I came and got that old steel sawhorse. I’m going to clamp the guns in it for the first few shots at least to see what happens when you fire a gun underwater.”

“What do you think will happen?”

“Honestly, from the times where I’ve fired guns into the water in the past, probably not much.   I want to test for any shock effects for mer senses though. And see what happens.”

“So, why the rig?”

“Well what you expect and what you get can be two different things and I thought that being right next to a gun where you don’t know what can happen can be very stupid. And Chrissie insisted that I play it safe.

But as long as you are here, I wanted to talk to you and the boys about what’s going on.  You know most of it, but the boys don’t and they might be in the middle of it.”

I went out and grabbed the briefing book and handed it to the boys.

“Boys, this is going to be a big responsibility. I don’t know if you saw the pictures that were being handed around last night.” “The pictures of you and Chrissie, with you blowing stuff away? We saw them.”

“It wasn’t stuff. With the exception of the monster things, which handily dissolved once they were shot, the rest were people.”

“Even the sharks?”

“Yes, the sharks were people who changed into sharks so that they could kill people. They were trying to kill Chrissie and I when we went to that island to complete our bond.” “So why did they want to kill you, Uncle Tom?”

“Boris, you’ve been around this longer than I have.”

“Well, see Tom’s and Chrissie’s bond isn’t just the bond of a random fae coming into the orbit of a fae family like my bond with Stephie is. That makes this family stronger but doesn’t create a new family. Tom and Chrissie’s bond is the joining and alignment of two strong fae families with the potential to create a new family.  This is a very rare event and I suspect that that alignment is something that the people we have been fighting would like to prevent. Also it’s likely that had the people behind the sharks succeeded, the possibility is that our family and Chrissie’s family would have started to go to war with each other.”

I added;

“Then there’s all the stuff happening down in New York. From what you and Mike have told me these people have been at this for longer than Chrissie and I have been bonded. This is bigger than any one family and that’s why I made sure that the pictures got to where they were needed.”

Bob was thumbing through the book.

“Hey wait, this guy was in the paper.”

He ran out and came back with the newspaper which had a story about thirteen missing persons from the gold coast with their pictures. Apparently their cars had been found near Montauk. I recognized five of the faces including the woman’s. I had killed all of them. And eight more apparently, though I could only remember seven of them.

“I think that we found our sharks, Chrissie. And they will really be after us now.”

The missing people all had families on the social register with the kinds of connections that were always asking things and getting them from Congress people. The kind of people who thought nothing of buying and selling people and influence.  This was not a good thing.

“Boris, just how big is this thing? I mean it just keeps getting bigger. We had the burning warehouse full of people that kill themselves and the weird stuff in the water and now swells who Change into sharks so that they can kill people. Where does it end?”

“I don’t know, Tom. I started in the old country fighting monsters and now over there the country is run by the monsters.  I think it’s trying to spread over here.”

“Well boys now you know what’s up. At least up to where Boris and I are.  Bob you go through that book tonight and give it to Scott tomorrow.  Scott you go over the book Saturday night and give it back to me after church on Sunday.”

“They are going to church? I want to go too.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea Chrissie. We might give too much away. Talk to mother about it. She knows Pastor Brown.”

Frankly I had hated church and its pretensions, but mother insisted and doted on the Pastor.

“I want to try this underwater gun out.”

We trooped outside. I took my clothes off again.

“Chrissie stay up here but be ready in case something bad happens.

I picked up the fixture with Chrissie’s rifle in it, Changed and slipped under the water.   I attached the fixture to the vise and then came back up.

“Hand me a cartridge.”

Boris handed me a cartridge. I went back down and loaded the cartridge in the rifle. Then I Swam away and pulled the string attached to the trigger. The gun went off but as I thought, the results were rather unspectactular. I went back up.

“Hand me the skillet and that strap clamp.”

Boris handed me the skillet and the clamp and I attached the skillet to the rail of the work from on the opposite end of the frame from the rifle on the opposite side from the one that Chrissie had been shooting at, which put it about four feet away from the rifle muzzle. Then I went back up.

“Boris, hand me another cartridge.”

I went down and loaded the cartridge in the rifle again and this time just pulled the trigger, which caused my head to hurt a little bit, but wasn’t nearly as bad as the skillet on the side of the tank. I looked at the skillet. It was unmarked. I unclamped the skillet and moved it to about three feet away from the rifle. Then I went back up.

“So how is it working?”

“Well Boris, from four feet away the skillet is untouched by any bullets other than Chrissie’s. Hand me five cartridges so that I don’t have to keep coming up after every shot.”

He handed me the cartridges, I loaded the rifle again and pulled the trigger. This time the skillet had a very small mark on it. I put the cartridges in my teeth and moved the skillet to two feet away and loaded another cartridge. I pulled the trigger. This time there was a significant ding in the skillet, but not as deep as the shots that Chrissie had put in it earlier. I moved the skillet six inches or so closer, reloaded and fired. This time the ding was about the same as the ones on the other side. I moved it to one foot away, reloaded and fired again. No real change. I reloaded and fired the last cartridge. Then I detached the fixture, the rifle, the skillet and went back up top.

“Well?”

I handed the skillet to Boris.

“From anything more than a foot and a half or so the effects are pretty minimal. You basically have to put the gun right up to what you are shooting at. I’m going to try the .38 tomorrow, but I don’t expect much different results.

Let’s go in where it’s warm.”

I Changed, put my clothes back on and rolled Chrissie back into the shop. Then I went back out and brought the fixture back in. I removed the strap clamps and took Chrissie’s rifle out.

“Chrissie, when we get back tonight I will clean this for you and show you how to clean it yourself.”

“Why?’

“Because when a gun gets wet it’s always necessary to make sure that you get it dry and oiled again to avoid rust. And any gun you take care of can take care of you when you need it. I hope that somebody has cleaned my shotgun or it’s going to be a real mess.”

“Well I have to get back.” “Boris, if you have any more specials I would like at least half a box.  I don’t know if the police down at the Cape confiscated those shells you gave me and I would prefer not to find out the hard way.”

“I’ll bring them by tomorrow.”

“Boys, it’s almost dinner so why don’t we close up the shop, put the tractor away and go in for dinner.”

We took the tractor and the hoist back and then I drove back to the shop, dropped Bob off and took Chrissie into dinner. Chrissie mentioned church and mother was all for it. I was doomed. I was going to have to wear a suit again.

After dinner, Chrissie and I went to my old room. When we entered the room I went into the closet and got the cleaning kit out. Then I put Chrissie’s rifle and the cleaning kit on the desk.  I showed Chrissie how to take the bolt off and use the cleaning rod and solvent to lean the barrel and then how to oil everything down.

“You don’t really have to do this with a .22 very often, but its good practice and especially if a gun gets wet. I hope that somebody has cleaned my shotgun, but I will have to deal with that, one way or another when we get back. We’ll take this kit with us when we go.

Do you want to go out into the living room with mother and father for a while? I want to work some more on these frames for Larry.”

I had brought the two frames, and a file in from the shop. The underwater gun project had taken more time than I planned and I needed to get the frames ready for Larry in the morning.

“I think I’ll just sit here on your bed and read. I haven’t been able to do that in so long.”

She rolled over to the bookcase, picked out one of my textbooks and rolled over to the bed to lie on it. I went into the closet to get my clamp vise, some leather for the vise jaws and some emery from the box of tools that I kept in the closet.

“It’s a good thing I forgot this box last time.”

“It seems as if you forgot a lot of stuff. It’s almost as if you were distracted.” “Well that distraction needs to be quiet so that I can get this done.”

As I walked past the bed she reached out, grabbed me and kissed me. Then she let me go.

“Some distraction for later.”

I started work on the frames doing the same filing that I had done on the frame that I had made for me that morning. By the time it was time for bed I was essentially done with both frames.

“Bed time!! Time to get me in the tank.”

“I could stay up later and finish these.”

“No you don’t! Tomorrow’s Saturday and that means that Stephie is free. I’m not risking the skillet again! It’s distraction time anyway.”

I rolled Chrissie back to the tank.

“Change and get in here buster! Distract me!”

The chapters so far.

Chapter 1.

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

Chapter 2.

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

Chapter 3.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2017/07/09/mermaid-chapter-3/

Chapter 4, part 1(Now chapter 5.)

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/mermaid-chapter-4-part-1nsfw/

Chapter 5, part 2.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/mermaid-chapter-5-part-2nsfw/

Chapter 5, part 3.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/mermaid-chapter-5-part-3/

Chapter 6 part 1.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/mermaid-chapter6-part/

Chapter 6, part 2.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/mermaid-chapter-6-part-2/

 

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