Mermaid Chapter 7, Part 2

Here’s part 2 of chapter 7.

Sal concocts nefarious schemes with the swells booze and Al and Eltra run into each other at last.

Tom.

We left White River Junction on Tuesday and headed toward the coast. We stopped by the same lake for lunch and a dip. Then we headed toward the beach camp. I took Chrissie down to the water. She Swam down and came back up and called out; “It feels so good to be in open water again. You get in here!”

I went back up to the beach where we had the blanket and a fire set up, undressed, picked up the net bag that my mother had brought down and walked back down the beach to Change.  Chrissie said; “Hurry up, thickhead, I want to Swim.”

I crawled into the water and we started our Swim. She was right. The water did feel good. She Swam off out into the water. I said; “Remember Chrissie, we need to find stuff for the bake.”

“We’ve got a couple of hours for that. Let’s Swim. We need to get you used to your new self.”

She led me on a long Swim along a reef and in and around the rock piles off shore, Moraines left from some long ago glacier. After an all too brief time in the water, Chrissie said; “Let’s roust up some eats.”

So we chased up two fairly large lobsters and some clams and put them in the net bag. I asked; “How do you know where the lobsters were?”

“I sensed their movements. You’ll learn to understand things like that in time. You haven’t been in the water long enough to feel those things yet. Daddy isn’t really very good at it either but that’s because he’s never stayed down long enough.”

We Swam back to the beach and the fire that father had lit. I was about to Change to take Chrissie out when father yelled; “Don’t Change, I’ll get you out.”

I crawled out as father picked Chrissie up and carried her over to the fire. I said; “I have some lobsters and clams for dinner.”

Mother put them in the pot to bake with the rest and we all was down and we talked while waiting for the food to cook. Chrissie asked; “Greta is Stephie’s walk through walls trick part of her Change or is it something we can learn?”

“You can learn it, though Stephie is exceptional at that skill and it might not be that useful for you as it only works while you are changed and you both have difficulty on land while Changed.” I said; “That little trick explains a lot of things from back when I lived up there. All those times when I was doing something that I didn’t want Stephie to know about  that she found out about anyway. Some of the other stuff too. All those little surprises that kept showing up.”

“You mean the incident with the skillet wasn’t a onetime thing?”

“Chrissie, Stephie sometimes made my life a nightmare. I don’t think that she meant the skillet to be as bad as it was, but she enjoyed doing things like that. That was one reason that I left the first time.” “Is that true Greta?”

“Some of it. But Tom, even without Change gave as good as he got. Especially with some firecrackers and Stephie’s horses. She was always having to chase them across the paddock at importune times, usually just before she needed them for a competition and had cleaned them up. Even though Tom had not been near the stable for a week.  If Stephie is good with spells, Tom is good with tools and very good at hiding the full extent of what he’s doing until it hits.”

“I had to be. It was as if there was somebody invisible watching sometimes. Mother, can Stephie do that too?”

“I’m not going to answer that, Tom.”

“Father?”

“The answer is that yes, there are ways that we can make ourselves invisible. Again they only work while we are Changed. As far as what Stephie can or can’t do, I’m not going to say.  It’s been an even battle between you two and if I give you an advantage, Stephie will make my life miserable and we have to live with her.”

“Well I have spies now, so she’s going to have to watch out. Andy will find things out for me.”

“Anyway we merfolk have our own little tricks and when Stephie gets near the water she’s going find out some of them.”

Mother said; “Are you sure that you want to get involved Chrissie? Tom and Stephie have been doing those sorts of things to each other since Stephie had to babysit Tom when he was little and there’s a sort of interplay involved and lines that they don’t cross.”

Chrissie said; “Well, I am part of Tom now and Stephie involved me when she did her little bit with the skillet. Actually my sister and I were almost as bad, but my brothers were the ones with the tools and stuff and they stayed out of our little games. As far as playing these sort of games though, nobody is as good at it as Steve.”

“Chrissie, I haven’t met him yet.”

“Well he’s been stationed out in Hawaii for the last year or so. He handles underwater stuff for the navy.  He likes making stuff go boom too, so you will like him. He learned everything from John and Noro.”

“The harbormaster and your grandfather?”

“When it comes to mischief nobody beats those two. They were the ones who managed to maroon daddy and get mother out there on that island.”

“Did they also plan to maroon us?”

“Well that was sort of a family conspiracy with all of us in on it. You didn’t seem to be too disappointed in what happened. The sharks were not part of the plan.”

“That’s what spoiled rich kids do, crash parties that they aren’t invited to.”

Father said; “What do you mean by that, Tom?”

“Father, those sharks were all swells, who had everything that anybody could ever want. Yet, somehow they turned themselves into monsters. Their pictures were in the paper because they never came back. In a way, when I shot them I was the last stop on a path I don’t even want to think about. They came out to that island to kill me and Chrissie mostly because, I suspect, that they got some sort sick kick out of eating people. People like that think that they can break all the rules. They wanted to be monsters.  They weren’t forced into it like my brother.  I ran into people like that in Washington, only they had access, dangerous access, to far more power.  I was lucky on that island, but a bunch of people, according to Boris’s book, weren’t.”

Chrissie said; “Well then they deserved what they got and when we get to the Cape tomorrow, you and I are going to talk to everybody else about this. We need to get a handle on what’s happening so that we stop running and start acting.”

“Chrissie?”

“These people want to be monsters. They have tried to ruin our lives and that must stop. They have already killed a bunch of people and hurt those people down in New York.  It’s time that they were stopped.”

“That’s fierce, Chrissie.” “Eric, my grandmother was killed by those sharks. As were other members of my family down in New York. They tried to kill Tom and me and we are lucky to be alive. So yes I’m fierce about them. I’m going to learn all I can from grandfather and John on how to deal with these kinds of people.”

Eric said; “Of course that will work with Stephie too.”

“Well there is that. I’m going to talk to some whale buddies when she comes down to the Cape.  She gets whale snot.”

We all laughed at her evil plan. After dinner Chrissie said; “Tom we need to get back in the water. Mother, father, we will see you in the morning.”

As we crawled back down the beach I asked; “What’s the rush?”

“Well we forgot to do something.”

As we went deep into the water she grabbed me, kissed me and things went on from there.

Al.

I could have taken the Saturday rather than the Friday train out, but going out Friday gave me a chance to talk to Bill before going in on Monday for the inspection. I liked Boston anyway and I could do some walking around and enjoying the city. The train left at ten and I slept through the trip up being woken up by the conductor when the train pulled into Boston. I checked my bag, ate breakfast in South Station and decided to take a walk along the waterfront toward the building where Bill had his office.  Bill and the rest of the Federal officers had been run out of their offices a couple of years ago because they wanted to build a new Federal building for Boston which still wasn’t finished.  At the moment, Bill’s people didn’t have their own range and shared the range with the Boston PD.  So it was Bill’s office and the Armory that I would have to inspect which would make things easy. Most of it would be checking paperwork and inventories anyway.

I stood and watched for a while as a ship was being unloaded at Long Wharf. Looking across the water I could see the SS Leviathan in the dry dock at the reserve wharf. The rest of the harbor was busy with ships and barges, especially after the storm as ships were loaded and unloaded. I felt a strange pulling out toward the water but when I walked out to the end of a pier there really wasn’t anything there so I watched the Italian fishing fleet men prepare for work and then turned around and headed back toward Post Office Square and Bill’s office.  The new Federal building was not much more than a hole in the ground. I walked into Bill’s building next door and walked upstairs to Bill’s office. He was there and said; “Al, you made it!”

“I’m a bit early, but I thought I would check in before the main event on Monday.” “Now that you are here we can get some range time this afternoon and you can tell me what’s been going on down there in New York. The grapevine has been crazy lately.”

I told him about the warehouse and how the raid went. I finished with; “The whole thing was crazy. They had the place rigged with thermite if you can believe it. When we broke down the doors everybody just killed themselves and the whole building went up in flames. We did get some pictures and some stuff from filing cabinets but it’s pretty difficult to make connections from ashes.  The fact that those people paid their bills with dummy companies and the companies all disappeared once the checks cleared, doesn’t make things easier.”

“Cleaning up after themselves has gotten more people off than anything else but that sounds ridiculous.”

“Well, tell your people to keep their eyes open for stuff like fish kills.”

“Why did they do it?”

“We never did find out. There were things that we just never really understood.”

Helmut would not like it if too much got out of the office. And frankly I wanted to protect Nera and Mike from some of the stuff that might come down if too many people knew what they were. Bill asked; “Do you think that that sort of thing could happen here? This area has a huge fishing industry.”

“That’s what led to us finding out about the thing in New York. A lady who had been an agent at fisheries over on Cape Cod had latched onto some fish tainting in fish from New York and started to investigate.  Then we found some people who were dumping stuff and keeling over right afterword.  One of our undercover people was talking to some mob types and he found a protection racket that seemed to be coordinating shark attacks which led directly back to that warehouse. The whole thing was just plain weird.”

“Anyway, let me take you out the range and then over to the Garden for a hockey game.” Bill was a big hockey fan and had season tickets. Unfortunately the Bruins lost that night. After the game, Bill drove me over to the station so that I could pick up my bag and then over to the hotel where I checked in and went to bed. The next morning. Bill picked me up and we went back up to the range. I said; “It’s good to get some shooting in where they don’t know and I’m not responsible for a bunch of fools.”

“I like this range for that. I don’t have to be in charge unless it’s people I bring up for training.  Of course I don’t have as many different offices as you do.  It’s just the Customs folks, some post office and the local FBI office.”

“So have you heard anything from upstate?”

“No it’s been quiet here in New England other than the usual stuff. Mostly it’s we chase the rum runners and catch some, who are bailed out by their bosses and right back on the water. I wish that we could get some kidnappers once in a while.”

Bill should have watched out for what he was wishing for. But there was no way to know that then. When it got close to lunch time Bill took me to a diner and then we went back into the city. He dropped me off at my hotel and I said; “I’ll be in first thing in the morning for the inspection.”

After lunch I walked down to the water again. For some reason something was drawing me and I could sense something out in the water. But it wasn’t something I could deal with now and whatever it was, was out on the Cape, where I was going anyway. I watched the fishing boats getting ready for tomorrow and then went over and found a place to eat. After that I went back to the hotel and read the paper in the lobby until bedtime.

The next morning I went back to Bill’s office and got started on the inspection. Everything was straight forward and Bill ran a tight ship so there was little to find. There were some inventory discrepancies and the usual paperwork mixups. Nothing was too serious an issue though and everything would be easy to straighten out. Mostly it was time consuming and it was late afternoon by the time  I was done. I took my notes and told Bill; “I’ll send in my report when I get back to the office next week.  There wasn’t anything that major.  I’ll send you a copy.”

I went back to the hotel to drop off my notes and then went for another walk on the shore. The pull was stronger. Well I was going to the Cape tomorrow so I could clear up what it was.  I went to dinner and back to the hotel to get ready to go out to the Cape the next day.

Eltra.

I felt the pull. And the hurt soul on the other side. I had been feeling it get stronger all weekend. I knew what it meant.  To tell the truth I had felt the first twitches of the bond a decade ago but they had disappeared shortly thereafter with occasional twinges that I had never been able to track down since. Most of the trails led to a familiar house on the water that was empty or had the sort of renters that always came with the summers these days.  This time though the pull was stronger.  Well I wasn’t going to be like my sisters, either one. I, at least could wait for him to come to me, at least halfway. But this could not have come at a worse time with all the other things that were going on.  There was no way to avoid it.  I needed to tell father.  So I went to find him. Fortunately he wasn’t playing hooky today. I said; “Father I think that I have a problem.” “What, Eltra?”

“I think that I have bonded.”

“Are you sure?”

“I can feel him, the hurt and the desire, he’s on land, but nearby.”

“Well however it works and, it will it’s a good thing. If he gets close to the water go and find him.”

“I think that he has a house on the Cape. I’ve felt the twinges before.”

“Well that makes things easier. Don’t waste time trying to avoid it. We already went through that with Mera.”

“On the other hand I don’t think that I want to be like Nera either. It did work out for Mike and her though.  They blew through all sorts of things and got right to the important part. On the other hand what happens if I have to go away?”

“We’ll cope. I think that I’ve been relying on you, your sisters, brothers and Josh too much lately anyway. It won’t be bad for some of your people to get in the habit of accepting more responsibility and we will have Tom and Chrissie and maybe some new people to help.  I can spare you and Nera for a while. The new alliances with the people that Mera and Nera met will help too.”

“On the other hand this couldn’t have come at a much worse time.”

“For a new bond it is always a good time. Never think that it isn’t”

“I’m going on a sweep. Josh is going to be coming back with his friend from New York and I want to make sure that if the nasties show up that we are ready.”

The sweep was normal but at least it made me tired and helped me sleep, though I might need to go for a long Swim if whoever it was didn’t show up. If he didn’t, I was going to ask John or Jake who owned that house and where he lived when he wasn’t at the house.

Sal.

After dinner was over I waited for the car to be brought around , tipped the smiling valet and set Sillia in her seat. Then we drove back to the Inn. I turned to Sillia and said; “Give me the necklace, I’m going to put it in the bag.”

Sillia handed me the necklace and I put it in the bag with the cartridges again and put the bag underneath the Thompson. Then I went inside. Since it was apparent that Hilda knew what we were that made things easier. I asked; “Hilda, where’s the cart? I want to take Sillia back down to the beach.”

“In the shed next door and we will see you in the morning for breakfast.”

“Thank you!”

I went into the room, changed my clothes to something more appropriate for the beach, collected the cart and took the blanket, Sillia and the shotgun down to the beach. Around the point from where I took the cart I could see the boats going out to the dark profiles of ship offshore and on the road overhead the trucks were waiting. We crawled down to the water. Sillia said; “It’s a lot busier than it was during the day. I’m thinking that we should just go for a Swim and then go up to the room to sleep.”

So that’s what we did. We got up early and we went down before breakfast to go for a Swim so that Sillia could wet her gills, put the shotgun back in the car’s trunk and the cart away. I went back to the room and changed into my nice suit. Then we went into breakfast. When I was checking out, Hilda asked; “How was your Swim last night?”

“Noisy. We decided to come up and sleep up top last night.”

“I should have told you about that. Most Swimmers don’t care very much. Of course most of the Swimmers we get are working out there already.”

“Well it worked out and all that noise and people made sure that the sharks stayed away.”

“You mean like the ones that went after Mera’s mother years ago and after Chrissie the other day?”

“Those are the ones. I was all set to give them what Tom had too. But I’m glad that they never showed up.”

“Well if they do show up I hope that you do what Tom did to them. Liltra was a good friend.”

I paid the bill and took Sillia over to the car and put her inside. Then I opened the trunk, took the necklace from the bag and put it on her neck. I said; “Josh wants you to sparkle and I want you to look like the queen of the water.”

“You say the nicest things.”

I walked around the car, started the engine and pointed its nose at the yacht club. When we go there Josh and two hard faced men in nice suits. Josh had a wheelchair for Sillia. He called out; “Sal, the boys here will take care of the car.  I’m having it lightered over. Give Jim the keys.” I handed the keys to Jim who smiled and said; “Sal, you just made my day.  Every one of the boys is going hate me for driving this.”

“Treat it gently. There’s a lot of power there. Have fun though.”

I hated to see the car go, but it’s not as if I could drive it across the water myself and big time mob troubleshooters don’t worry about small stuff like moving their cars. Josh pushed Sillia to a large power yacht and a crewman picked her up and took her below as I stepped aboard. Two more crewmembers worked the lines as Josh got aboard and said; “Go, Joe!”

The yacht pulled out of the harbor and once past the dock, opened up. I asked; “So where’s Mera, and Mike?’

“Mera’s down below. Mike and Nera are already on their way to where we are going.”

“Where ARE we going?”

“Tom’s island. Sal, meet my son Joe.”

He pointed to the crewman at the wheel. He added; “The rest are all people who work with Joe at the yard and all are Swimmers.”

“So who owns this boat?”

“I do. Or at least I own the charter company that owns it. These boats are used for fishing charters off the Cape. I’m borrowing it to make it look as if the family chartered it to transfer you over to the Cape. On the surface it’s just the Boston Mob doing a quiet favor for Big Jim’s troubleshooter and his fiancé the mob princess.”

“Which hides what we are really doing, which is getting together to figure out what the other side is really doing.” “And getting Tom under wraps, which may be the biggest thing of all.  He’s coming down tomorrow with his parents.”

“So why are we going out to the island today.”

“Mike thinks that you might see something that the rest of us haven’t and so that you have a chance to see the lay of the land before talking to Tom. You’ve been chasing these sharks from the start and you’ve been turning over all the right rocks.”

“You know, I’m surprised the Alopias didn’t have a boat like this already. Of course that would have meant either REALLY trusting somebody to run it while they Changed for their fun and games or running it themselves. They don’t have the mindset for that.”

“The Alopias? You mentioned that before.” “It’s what they call their little club. It’s Latin for “Shark’s Teeth. ”

“So they weren’t trying very hard to hide what they were.”

“Not really. But from what I’ve found out the people that they come from are, to some degree divorced from the consequences of their actions. They act as if they live in a cloud and none of reality can touch them.”

“Sort of like it was down below before I bonded with Mera. Well let’s get below and talk to Mera and Sillia. Joe! Have George take over and come below with us.”

We went below. Mera and Sillia were sitting at the table in the center of the cabin, talking. Mera said; “Sal, tell me about how Chrissie’s wedding affect what you have been doing.  Sillia doesn’t seem to know.”
“Mera, It isn’t so much Chrissies’s wedding as it is that it is the snobs and their competition to have only the best stuff. In this case Champagne for all their holiday parties. Specifically Vueve Cliquot ’27, which was a vintage year. That booze is a got to have for the “In” parties this year and the swells, or their people have been trying to get their hands on it every which they can so that they can stock up for the season.  Only the high end stuff comes down through Canada via the Boston Mob and they stopped shipping. They can’t get it for any price.”

“Why?”

“Well without talking to the boys and making sure, you have it. All of it, about 100 cases set aside for Chrissies wedding. Josh tipped me in when he said that it is likely that the Boston people were setting aside the best stuff. Which was exactly what they did.”

“I didn’t ask them to.”

“I think that the Boston people are making a statement about how much they appreciate what Josh and you mean to them. Weddings only come along once and they want to do what they can to let you know that they only think the best for you. At least that was the vibe I got yesterday on the Island.”

“I never meant for the wedding to mess up the business. I’ll tell Ray to swap out the champagne.”

“No, don’t. Or at least not through the normal channels. I talked to Tony and Dom’s people have another 25 cases or so just for the odd customer who wants some high end stuff. What I want is to set up a special channel that goes through Tony and me.”

“Why?”

“Leverage. This is going to be another power tool to see if we can open up the Sound bower and clean out the people and monsters that seem to be coming from there and the Gold Coast. I’m going to be their new best friend, the guy who has what nobody else does, the guy with the connections that nobody else has.”

“Isn’t that dangerous? What if they figure out that you are a cop?”

“Oh, they’ll already know, just like Jimmy did with my car. It won’t matter because they’ll take one look at me having the one thing that they want right now that they can’t get, my car, Sillia’s sparkle and they won’t be able to wrap their heads around me being a cop any more than Jimmy could. It’s like Josh and his captain’s uniform or for that matter, his boat.”

“My boat?”

“Josh, people see you on the water and they don’t see the big time power player with his fingers in just about every pie in Eastern Massachusetts. Yet, yesterday, your name kept coming up. Out on Montauk it was all how Fisher’s plans had all gone bust and how they wish that you would take over and do what you did for the Cape. Yet when most people see you, it’s just the waterman with the boat and his pots. Only the people who really know you see the real you.”

“I am just a waterman.” “And I’m the big flashy mob troubleshooter. With the beautiful mob princess moll wearing a necklace worth as much as small country.  That’s what people will see when they look at me now.  At least people won’t pay attention if you go off the map for a week or so.” “You might be surprised if last week is any indication.” “That was the real you interfering with waterman Josh. Waterman Josh needed to be set aside so that you could do your real work. At least you can go back to the water, Josh.  I’m afraid that I’m stuck.”

Sillia said; “Did I do that to you, Sal?”

“Sillia, it started before I even knew about our bond. It probably started about the time that I first started to wonder why Vinnie wasn’t around.”

“But I started to look for you weeks ago. Even when you didn’t know about it. I kept coming up to Manhattan to see if you would come down to the shore.”

“I did sometimes, though I could never quite figure out why. On the other hand there was a certain sense of being in a bubble in the office. As if we had to handle the dark all by ourselves.”

Mera said; “Fae can be like that. That was Helmut’s mistake.  In a way it was all our mistake.”

“Mera?”

“We were luckier than we all deserve. Helmut never made any contact with the merfolk down at the bower. Mary at least, should have known about your potential, Sal and sent you down there a long time ago. Or sent you to visit your parents when your mother Changed. They were so concerned with protecting you that they didn’t allow the good parts to join and grow. On the other hand if you hadn’t gone down to the bower to meet me, they were going to make other arrangements for you and Sillia to get together soon anyway.  Still without what we know now that would have been risky.”

“Knowing just who the sharks were took a lot of the chance out if it. On the other hand, I wonder if Mike’s and Nera’s bonding didn’t throw them off. They were probably looking out for Sillia and I to go the beach and then Mike and Nera show up and closed the deal right there on the dock where doing that made the stuff they were putting in the water obvious. They could get away with the sharks and the chemicals because they were separate.  It wasn’t until they were brought together that we picked up on it.  And once they killed Vinnie they had a clear shot at the outfit.  Of course they probably didn’t know that dad, the boss and Dom were all talking to each other already. I just wish that they had bothered to tell me about Vinnie.”

Sillia grabbed my hand and held it. She said; “Sal, Vinnie wasn’t your fault. He was my brother and he went his own way. I wish that he would have called on you to watch his back, but there was no way to know. I do know that even if you were on opposite sides in some things that he trusted you where it was important.”

“In any case we will not deal with this alone.” “Josh?”

“These people have decided to go to war on us all. If that’s the way they want to play, well we are all in this together. At least now they can’t pick us all off separately anymore. So what are your plans, Sal?”

“I think I’m going to play Detective del Vecchio and troubleshooter Sal. Troubleshooter Sal is the dangerous mob guy with the connections who can get you the good stuff. Detective del Vecchio is the nosey cop who hangs out with that pest Magelleno and is always asking questions about things that people don’t want others to know about. Detective del Vecchio is going to be asking about money issues that the missing people who made the papers might have had. Detective del Vecchio is going to drive around in the crummiest issue car from the NYPD motor pool and wear obviously off the rack suits. Troubleshooter Sal is going to be renting a big house on the coast and just coincidently having that best booze that everybody wants and is going to be everybody’s go to connection for the good stuff. Troubleshooter Sal drives a Duesie and wears only the best suits. Troubleshooter Sal is going to be Gatsby, only bigger, flashier and more obvious.

The real Sal is going to be chasing the monsters. I’m also going to talk to the other kind of sharks, the one who make loans and the gambling outfits that Big Jim runs. I’m going to have to work out with Frank how the tail works in all this. “Where do I fit into this, Sal?”

“Well, Sillia, a mob type of troubleshooter Sal’s stature needs a gorgeous mob princess and you fit the bill in every way because that’s what you are.  Also I’m going to go back to those families who lost those people who were closing the deal and having you and your tail will establish the real Sal with them. Especially wearing that necklace from Mera’s aunt.  Also, you can make social connections that none of the Sals can make on their own. In the long term those connections are going to be the important thing.”

“Sal, I’ll tell Ray to make the arrangements with you and Tony. I’ll let him know that it is family business, both kinds of family.”

“Thanks Josh.”

“Sal, If I may cut in, you’ve been talking about the sharks as if you knew who they were.” “Joe, I do, and when we talk to Tom tomorrow I will confirm that. I recognized one of the faces when it showed up in the papers the other day.” “Those missing people who left all their clothes in the car?”

“Those were the ones. One of them showed up in those photos that Tom took.”

“So what do these people want?”

“That’s what we, in our little shop, would all like to know. We’ve been chasing this for years but most of the time we just see bits and pieces.  A werewolf in Vermont, a vampire in New Haven, a construct in Brooklyn, some mad scientist project that goes boom, all of it seemingly disconnected.  Mera, you seem to have a handle on more.”

“Sal, I think that I’m just at the beginning. In a way it started with Josh.”

“With me?”

“Josh, when we bonded it was obvious when we bonded, to me anyway, that you were fae of the highest, probably royal. Yet there was nothing to connect you to anything or any other fae at all. That’s what threw so many in my family off for so long.  It was like Sal and his car.  They couldn’t wrap their heads around a simple guy on a boat being something more. That’s how tight your protections were. Finally father talked to John and they got things straight.

When I started to see the same sort of thing with Mike and the rest of people in Helmut’s shop I began to look around.  Somebody has been methodically killing the high fae that came over from Europe. There are too many coincidental accidents. Talking with Tom’s mother, who has had no contact with HER mother or father since she came over and was essentially shoved on a boat and sent over, whatever it is came over from Europe and has been doing this for some time.  Tom’s parents are coming down with him tomorrow and we will be able to talk to them about this.”

“I’ve never had the chance to meet Tom’s parents yet. I only joined the bureau two years ago with Linda and while Boris has come down a few times, it’s not as if we were all close. Mike handles that contact through Boris and somebody else that I don’t know.  When Tom went down to the Cape, Mike went out to see if anything fishy turned up. We figured that Tom might be a target.” “Something fishy did turn up, but it was a good kind of fish. The other fish turned up a little late.”

“Mera, we knew that Tom was an unbonded royal high fae and that letting him run around loose could have very dangerous consequences. Also, Mike wanted to open a channel with the Cape bower for reasons that should be obvious. I don’t think that he expected to marry into the family though.”

“That was a surprise all around, not least to my sister.”

“She doesn’t seem to be unhappy about it.”

“How can you be unhappy about being complete. Are you unhappy about Sillia?”

“Sal you better not be.”

“Sillia you are the most wonderful thing in my life.” “Don’t you forget that, buster.”

Josh went up to the wheelhouse and after we were talking for about an hour, he called down; “I think we’ll get off here! Sal, Joe, bring Mera and Sillia up!”

I carried Sillia up to the deck and Joe followed with Mera. Josh was taking his clothes off. He said;  “We’ll Swim to the island from here. The ladies need to wet their gills anyway. Sal, put Sillia in the deck chair so she can get undressed and get undressed so that you can Change.”

“We aren’t stopping the boat?”

“No reason to. If the other side has eyes that we can’t see, all they will see is the boat cruising along and coming into the harbor later tonight where you and Sillia will be seen back on the boat.”

“Sal just got his tail. Is he going to be up to this?”

“Sillia, we’ll all be with him and we’ll take it easy on the way in.”

Mera had already undressed and leapt right out of the deck chair and into the water. Joe Changed and followed. I finished taking off my clothes and picked up Sillia and took her over the gunwale and then sat down to Change. Then we both flipped into the water. Then Josh followed. Mera and Joe Swam up as Josh said;  “This way.”

We all followed him. The Swim was long but not as tiring as I expected. After about an hour, we reached the island.   Josh said; “Let’s do a loop around and then the guys can go up top and the ladies can go for a Swim. We can meet in Chrissie’s pool again.”

As we were Swimming around the island, Mike and Nera showed up with three merfolk that I didn’t know. Mike said; “Sal, this is Eltra and her sweep. Eltra handles the security and is Josh’s second if there’s war.”

Josh said; “Which we all hope never happens.”

Mera said; “Josh, I think we’re in one right now. The only thing we can do is figure how to handle it.”

I said; “Mike, have you figured out where the sharks put the constructs together? It can’t have been that far away considering what they looked like.”

The less a construct looked some real animal the less stable it was. Some of the thinking back at the office was that it had to with stable genetics, but what we did know is that the more things that went into the construct the shorter its lifespan. It was likely that the constructs that Tom shot were only a couple of hours old at best.

Mike asked; “Eltra have you checked the islands around for the signs of somebody doing a spell?”

“Mike, to tell you the truth I didn’t really think about it. I’ve been so busy and I don’t have any training in this sort of investigation.”

I said; “Eltra, don’t hit yourself. The only reason that I think about such things is that my first encounter with our world was a construct and I’ve taken an interest in how they work. Those fish things were probably about ready to fall apart by the time they reached Tom. Of course he had no way of knowing that. When we get up top we’ll check where they came ashore and which direction they came from.   Later, we can bring a boat out with Tom and check some of the nearby islands.”

“Won’t they have cleaned up?”

“Eltra, after Tom’s blowing the Alopias away, it really cut into their people. They only had about twenty in the beginning. And thirteen never came back.”

“That was about the number I came up with. Though I only counted twelve bodies at best. How did you come up with thirteen, Sal?”

“Because of who they were. The sharks turned out to be rich society types. At least their families were. They made the papers because their fancy cars were found all over Montauk and Sag Harbor. The New York State Police tracked them through their car registrations and a reporter picked up the story. ”

“Josh, you didn’t tell me about that.”

“We’ve all been busy dealing with Tom, other things , and running past each other. I keep forgetting that you don’t get up top very often and I figured that father would have told you. But father has been so busy with dealing with the leftovers from the storm that we haven’t had the chance to get a real sit down. Sal, Joe, Mike, let’s get up top. Velt,you were up first, why don’t you show us around.”

I said; “Velt,lets go over to that lean to that was in the pictures when Tom started shooting. I want to see where the constructs showed up.”

Velt took us over to the lean to made from driftwood and pieces of wreck buried in the beach. From Tom’s pictures it was obvious which way the constructs had come. From the dead spots in the grass if nothing else.

“It looks like the constructs all came this way.”

Velt asked; “Why didn’t they come around both sides of the lean to?” “Velt, a construct like these is VERY simple minded. It can’t really think for itself at all.  It’s a weapon that you point and release.  With no obvious path like a hallway in a building the construct will tend to go in a straight line until it reaches its target or something else. Then it attacks, even if the something else is a rock or a door or a wall.  That saved my life when I had my first encounter because the thing attacked a door in the hallway of the building that my partner and I were in.  It still managed to get my partner. I tried to shoot it and after I emptied my gun into it, I ran.  It dissolved shortly thereafter. From what I know now its clock ran out before it could get to me.”

“If they are invulnerable to guns why did these dissolve when Tom shot them.”

“Because Tom had the shotgun loaded with rounds where the shot was impregnated with silver. Silver causes Twist and constructs to fall apart.”

I walked back along the path where the constructs had come to the opposite shore of the island. Looking across the water there were two likely launch points for the constructs.  I said; “When we come back I want to check out those two islands.”

“We could check them out now.”

“No. When we do check them out I want to have the camera. That way I can compare the launch point to the others that I’ve collected. That’s one disadvantage of Swimming in. you can’t carry big and heavy things like Graflex cameras.”

Back at the bureau I was sort of an expert on constructs and I had learned what to look for when looking for launch points. We walked around and they showed me the various points where Tom had shot the sharks, where the boat had been and finally we ended up in the tide pool with the ladies. Mera asked; “Well what did you see?”

“I was looking at how the constructs were launched. Constructs like that are essentially weapons.  You launch them and they go where they go and attack. So when they showed up they all had to move in a straight line and you can track that line back to the origin.”

Sillia asked; “What does that do?”

“Sillia, knowing where a construct is launched from, you can sometimes find traces of how it was constructed and more importantly who launched it and just maybe who made it in the first place.”

“So the monsters make monsters.”

“That’s about right. In just about every way that we seem to run into them.”

Mera said; “Sal, you seem to know a lot about constructs.” “Mera, my first experience with our world was with a construct that killed my partner, who was a good friend of mine on its way to me.  That sort of thing concentrates your attention. Ever since then I’ve made it a practice to figure out how they work. At least as far as I could.”

Sillia kissed me.

Joe said; “Josh I need to go.”

Eltra said; “I’ll go with you.

Eltra and her sweep left with Joe. It was then that I learned about about mer hormones and what they truly meant as Sillia continued and Mike and Nera followed, with Josh and Mera joining right in. When it was over I said; “Josh I’m sorry.”

“What for? It’s Sillia’s fault, she can’t help it, and it’s not as if Nera wasn’t just a couple of weeks ahead of her.”

Mera said; “Actually Nera did the same thing to your parents the week before last in their pool.”

“Did she, Mera?”

“Yes during the storm your parents invited us to stay and well, things got a little out of hand in the pool. I left and listened to the radio with your sister for a while. From what your sister says it wasn’t the first time. At least this time Josh was here so I could play too.”

Josh said; “Well why don’t we forage for something to eat and then head back to the boat.”

“Ok Josh.”

We foraged for some clams and oysters which Sillia and I shared, which led to another lovemaking session before Josh called us and we headed for the boat which was cruising slowly along the islands. We clambered on. Once we were aboard the boat, Josh put his captain’s uniform back on, Mike put on the suit he had worn at the yacht club and the ladies put their dresses back on as I put my suit on. As we headed toward the harbor, Josh said; “It’s not as if we didn’t know what happened was going to happen. Mera and I could have left but at this point it was better to stay more or less together than for the sharks to show up, looking for a bite. That’s one reason that Eltra left.”

Mera said; “The other is that the rest didn’t want to be engaged in what we were doing. I enjoyed it even if Josh didn’t and frankly after what happened at your parents I deserved it.”

Josh said; “Mera, I always enjoy our sessions not matter how spontaneous they are.”

“Then I need to pull you under more.” We all laughed. The boat pulled slowly into the harbor. The harbor was one of those typical New England towns that look so picturesque in the travel photographs but are really places that are hard at work.  This time of year the harbor was quiet as the lobster season was over and the port didn’t have the large fishing fleet of other towns. We pulled up to the dock in the gathering twilight. At the end of the dock was a large Cadillac. In front of it were two men. A man strode up and said; “Josh, you didn’t tell me that your troubleshooter was hooked up with Dom’s daughter.”

“Sal, meet Ray Donatelli, my liaison and the guy runs the outfit down here. Ray, this Sal del Vecchio, he’s been doing some troubleshooting for Dom and this is Sillia Caliaberti.”

“I’m very pleased to meet you as Dom said that you were the guy going after Chrissie and Tom’s sharks. You look lovely, Sillia.”

“They aren’t just Chrissie’s and Tom’s sharks. They went after Sillia’s brother, Vinnie and some other people. Mera’s mother too, from what we’ve been able find out.”

“Mera, is this true?”

“Ray, Sal has made all the connections and was looking into even before Tom and Chrissie went to the beach. Let’s talk about this over dinner”

Ray’s people took Sillia, Mera and Nera to the car and we drove off to a steakhouse that Josh and Mera were familiar with. As we were waiting for our orders, Ray asked; “Sal you seem to have been on top of this, what exactly is going on?”

“Ok, it started when Mera, Josh and Nera went down to the Rockaways for reasons that were never quite clear by the time I was involved. Anyway, Josh contacted Mike for some reason, my boss and Mike went down to the place and Mike found Nera.”

“We did, didn’t we.”

“Yes we did, Mike.”

“Well, anyway Josh got an urgent telegram about a family emergency and left Mera to deal with Mike, Nera and everything else including the approaching hurricane.” “Ray, the family emergency was Noro and his playing with weather magic, just before the storm.”

“Anyway the boss went back to find out find out what had happened to Mike and Mera sort of recruited our bureau.”

“What does your bureau do?”

“Mike, Josh, what should I tell him?”

Mike said; “Josh, how much do you trust him?”

“With my life, and I have. And Jake gave him the briefing book yesterday.  I told him to.”

“Ok then, we deal in the dark and the strange, which seems to be the fae and things outside the normal realm. In this case, after Mike was Changed and well, occupied, my partner and I were brought in to help Mera track down the source of what was happening down with the merfolk off New York. Anyway I started snooping around and finally had to use my contacts with the outfit.  Which was easier than I expected.”

I told Ray the Jimmy story. He laughed as I continued; “Anyway I did some checking with the outfits that dealt with the Rockaway people and they had been the victims of a shakedown by shark attack. They were pissed and had done a bunch of legwork that tracked down a warehouse where they were brewing up the stuff that was making the water the merfolk were living as Mike put it, “Unhappy.”

We raided the place and the whole thing imploded, which was not unusual for the other side. With not much to go on I started to look into the shark attacks and the shakedowns. Then I found out about Sillia’s brother, Vinnie and a bunch of other people who had been killed by shark attacks, much to the mystification of the shark experts. Which led me to the conclusion that the sharks were not exactly sharks.” “What led you to think that?”

“Ray, When I first started to look into shark attacks I went over to the navy experts where my dad works. They said that shark attacks are rare, random, usually involve some sort of stimulus in the water and usually involve a single shark at first. These were happening with a pack of sharks and involved merfolk either closing the deal or involved in the business, with the exception of Mera’s mother.”

“The sharks were responsible for Lilli?”

“That attack fit the same pattern. Of course everything I had was speculation until the sharks attacked Tom. Tom’s pictures turned everything to certainty in a hurry.

Anyway, Big Jim called me over to his office where we interrupted by two NYPD officers who were no longer police officers anymore and who took special rounds before they stopped shooting. I still haven’t figured out why, which is part of the reason I’m out here.”

Just then Al came in with two men that I didn’t know. One of them said; “Josh, This man was looking f or Mike and Joe’s boys said that you had come here, so we brought him over.”

Mike said; “Al, good to see you.”

“Hello, Nera, Mike. Nera you must be doing something right for Mike because he looks great.”

“Well I’ve been making him Swim as much as possible.”

Josh said; “Father, John, this is Sal del Vecchio and Sillia Caliaberti. Sal, this is my father, Noro, and the harbormaster, John Warshowski.”

“Young man, we are very pleased to meet you. Your work precedes you.  You’ve done good work with the sharks.”

“What nobody has explained yet is just who these sharks are.”

I said; “Ray, as far as I’ve been able to determine the sharks are a little club of swells called the Alopias.”

“Why hasn’t Dom put the hit on them? I could loan you some shooters.”

“Well Tom already pretty much shot them to pieces and we don’t want the little club. We want the people behind the little club. We actually set up a rather nasty surprise for them when Sillia and I closed the deal, but they were a no show.”

Sillia said; “Frankly I’m glad that they were a no show and Sal and I could just get the deal done. On the other hand, that means that the sharks are still out there.”

I added; “Ray there are some politics involved here too. The sharks are all from wealthy families with all sorts of good connections.  Placing a random hit on them would probably be more trouble than it’s worth as there’s no way to prove the connection to what they did. Most people won’t believe in people who Change into sharks.”

I turned to Al and asked; “Al, so what brings you out here?”

“Well I was going to get Mike and Nera setup with pistols and I had to do the Boston spot inspection so I got that done and figured I’d come out for some R and R and get Mike and Nera set up. Your boss also wanted me to back you and Mike up if necessary.”

“I was going to ask you if I could borrow your place, but you were not available.”

Josh said; “I was planning to have us sleep on the boat or under it as the case may be. I still think that that’s the best plan.”

Al said; “Josh, I have a saltwater pool that has a water entrance that would work out for them.”

“That will work for tomorrow and beyond, but I think that we want Sal visible on the boat.  Remember that we are trying to play a bit of a shell game here, and the boat moves around.  In fact, when you get the car back tomorrow, show up at some of Ray’s outfits.”

“What for Josh?”

“Well, Ray, it has to do with Sal, and Chrissie’s wedding and how we’re planning to use leverage to crack the people responsible for the sharks open. It has to with the champagne that you boys set aside for the wedding.”

“Josh, only the best stuff for that. Trust us on that.”

“We do, Ray. In fact that’s the opportunity that’s presenting itself.  Tell him Sal.” “Ray, I started out checking into that protection racket in Dom’s outfit and just about every place had had the shakedown.  I was also starting to poke around on the Gold Coast because three cases of the shark attacks were reported that had families that lived there and I wanted to check them. Well anyway after I talked to Big Jim, I had the same kind of access to the outfits that handle that market and lo and behold they had never heard of the shakedown. What they did want troubleshooting for from “troubleshooter Sal” was getting a line on high class champagne, specifically Vueve Cliquot ’27 of which the only supply is the stuff you held back for the wedding. The outfits were willing to pay me big money to line them up with some. You have about 100 cases.”

“132 cases, we set aside 100 for the wedding and the rest for our normal customers. If the Gold Coast crowd were responsible for the sharks in any way they can piss on a rope as far as I’m concerned.”

“Me too, but we want you to release them to Tony for a special channel that goes through Dom, and me. Josh, you know his business and I don’t, so why don’t you explain what we talked about on the boat. ”

“Ray, we’ve been trying to get a connection with the people under sea on the Sound for some time and I’ve been rebuffed several times. There’s also the fact that we have no contacts with the Gold Coast people at all.  The problem is that these are the kind of people who make or break Presidents.  I can’t hit that kind of power directly.  Yet the source of all the crap we’ve been seeing seems to come from there.  Sal’s making connections with the bootleggers gives us control over something they want and we can use this to get in and find the people who attacked my daughter.  And Dom’s son Vinnie.  This isn’t just business any more, this is family business and well if the cost is a few cases of booze, well that’s the cost. We’re going to create a channel through Sal so that we can get eyes in places we haven’t before.” “Won’t they figure out that this is some sort of undercover operation?  I mean if I could find out that you were in the NYPD, they can and I had your background before you showed up. Several of my boys said to say hi, in fact.”

“Ray, this is Jimmy’s revenge. And I’m stuck with it now.  They won’t see the real Sal, whoever he is, they’ll see troubleshooter Sal, the big time Mob problem solver with the big car and mob princess wife and all the booze they are willing to pay just about any price for and they would line up to get their hands on the stuff even if the operation was run by uniformed NY State police officers and obvious FBI types.  On the other hand these people have been living in a bubble without real consequences for a long time.  That’s the sort of thing that creates monsters. In order to find the monsters I need to get inside the bubble and I need leverage to do that.”

“What’s going to happen when you do find the monsters?”

“Ray, with monsters, I’ve never been able to be a cop. These aren’t the kind of people you can just bust and let the system work out. Monsters, you have to kill.” “I can live with that. So how do we set this up.”

“I’ll have Tony get back with you on the details. Tony and I need to set up the other end.”

Al said; “It looks like I should have asked Larry for four frames. Sillia, we need to talk about guns and defending yourself.”

“Al your lecture isn’t necessary with Sillia. She does want to talk to you about some rework.”

Sillia opened her purse and said; “I need to have my little friend here modified for my current self. Since I was spending all my time down below I didn’t need it. Now I think that I do.”

After dinner Ray took us back to the boat and left. Noro, the harbormaster and Al  joined us in the deck chairs that were scattered around the deck. Al asked: “So Sal, what was the nasty surprise that you had set up on the beach for when you closed the deal?”

“Al, Sillia and I went up to Fire Island to close the deal and we had it set up so that my dad’s boss had a submarine offshore with a crew of Swimmers. Led by George.  I knew that the sharks had been decimated and I had brought a shotgun to deal with any constructs they launched.  I also planned to leave after a little Swimming and even had it set up with Dom that he would send me a telegram saying that I was urgently needed for some troubleshooting.  I was going to keep driving up Long Island, going for short Swims and end up here.  Which we did. The sharks never showed, we found an nice place for merfolk to stay at in  Patchogue and I slavered some towels with scent of Sillia and gave them to some fishing boat people to drop off shore. Between the towels, the car, the boat and whatnot trying to find us now will be rather difficult. Well at least on the water.”

Eltra’s head popped out of the water. It looked like she was looking for something or someone. Then she went back under and came leaping out of the water into the boat. Noro said; “Eltra, is something up?”

Al said; “You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” Mera said; “Looks like it’s going to be a triple wedding.”

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