Mermaid, Chapter 8, Part 1

Sorry about the light posting.  I was caught  up in writing the mermaid thing. I’m approaching 300k words.  It’s all been fun. Now today, Tom and Chrissie Swim through the canal and there is much discussion about the failed ambush.

Chapter 8.

Mermaids and Families.

Tom.

We were on the way home at last. I hoped that everybody on the beach was ok, but there was nothing I could do about it at any point. Joe, Noro, Moira and the Harbormaster picked us up out of the mouth of the canal and we crowded aboard my boat. The obviously Changed Moira turned the boat around and once we were out of the no wake zone, opened it up. Noro asked; “How did it go?”

“The party was fun, but I think that things broke up rather rapidly there at the end because of some party poopers wanted to spoil the fun. The sharks never showed.”

John said; “I’ll have to tell Jake that. I just hope that we didn’t upset too many people with our fun and games. Hopefully we got enough traffic tickets off the clowns that we have their ID’s and can track them down. What else showed up?”

“Josh said that there some zombies and that somebody was going to launch some constructs. They seemed to think that the person who was going to launch the constructs was some sort of hostage fae and Mera was going to help her escape. The guy with the zombies was twisted and Josh was going to make sure that he was toast.”

Stelios asked; “That was an elaborate ambush they setup. The problem I have with it was what would have happened if you had driven right on past that beach.” “That’s exactly what I was planning to do. It was too obvious a stopping place.  I used it going the other way and I wasn’t planning to use the same stops going in the other direction. We went for a long Swim at the motel up near Portsmouth last night and I took Chrissie for a Swim south of Salem.  You weren’t feeling dry yet were you Chrissie?”

“Not very. It was lunch time but I figured that we would find a place to stop further down near the bridge.”

I said; “In any case I wasn’t going to stop for hours at anyplace today to go Swimming until we were home. Especially where I knew they might show up.”

“So they caught themselves in their own trap. I’m beginning to see what Steve said about his father.”

Chrissie said; “I just hope that nobody was hurt. Other than the constructs, of course.”

I turned to Noro and asked; “So where to next?”

“We’ll drop the girls off at home and then the harbor. I think I want to wait until the rest of the crew gets back before making any plans.  The biggest thing we need to do is talk to you right now.  You stirred up one whale of a mess.”

“I know. They wouldn’t have set up such an elaborate ambush if they weren’t really pissed off by those pictures.”

Hali asked; “Why?”

“Because from everything that Mike and Boris have said, they go to great lengths to make sure that there is no evidence that they even exist. When they lose, they self destruct, zombies and constructs dissolve and anybody caught alive commits suicide.  When they went after us there we were with a camera, shooting away at everything that they sent at us.  The problem they had was that once I had the gun they were essentially guaranteed to be defeated because sharks don’t have hands so there was no way that they could bring any weapons. Also the sharks didn’t think tactically very well.”

Stelios asked; “What do you mean?”

“They didn’t really try to deny me the boat until it was nearly over. I had two spare guns and a bunch of other things that could have been used as weapons and they never looked to see what was there when Chissie and I were stuck at the tide pool. They were so focused on us doing exactly what they thought we would do that the things that Chrissie and I did threw them completely off their game.”

Hali said; “Tom what are Chrissie’s and your plans.”

“The first thing-“

Chrissie said; “The first thing is to drag Tom under for a while. He needs to learn about his new world and all these monsters are keeping him out. Then we need to find a place to live.” Joe said; “We’re working on that.  What’s in those two crates that arrived yesterday.”

Chrissie said; “I think that you will like it. The tank bed, the thing that makes mermaid life up top easy.”

Hali said; “What’s that? I want to see.” I said; “When we were going up to Vermont father and the boys converted an old sugaring tank into a water tank bed.”

“Sugaring?”

“It’s how you make maple syrup. You put the sap in a tank and slowly boil off the water. The water tank bed worked very well didn’t it Chrissie.”

“Yes it did. It kept us wet and was nice and cozy. And you can read in it. As well as other things.  All the comforts of up top and below at the same time.”

“Are you trying to sell tank beds, Chrissie?”

“Maybe. I really missed mom when she took Stacey under sea and left me with dad. Dad missed her too, but at least he could go down and be with her. If we had had a tank bed, mom could have visited from time to time.”

Stelios said; “The navy might be interested. Finding quarters for merwives is becoming an issue.  That is one reason that Steve was sent up here. If these people are attacking bowers the navy has a HUGE stake in stopping them. For that matter my parents might be interested.  Mom doesn’t like being separated from dad so much because she lives under sea. A handy tank in the bedroom could make things easier.”

I said; “When I get it put together, I’ll start making improvements and work it up to something that is usable.”

Joe said; We’ll both work on it. Moira isn’t used to being down below and I’m not either.” “How come Moira Changed and you didn’t”

“I don’t know. Grandfather, do you have any ideas?”

“Well, you Changed because Steve pushed you off your parent’s barge when you were five. When you bonded with Moira, she hadn’t come into Change yet so she adapted to you.  It happens that way sometimes, though it’s usually the other way around because of how mermaids come into Change.”

Moira said; “We’re coming up to the bower. All mermaids off that don’t want a long swim- Out!”

She didn’t even bother to slow down as Selia and Vilia jumped over the side and Hali grabbed Selios, kissed him and said; “See you later” and followed them.

I said; “That’s one you can bring home to mother.”

Sellios said; “Mom will like her. I do already.”

Joe asked; “So what did you do up at the farm, sis?”

“I have pictures coming so I’ll show everybody then. I learned to shoot, did some dancing for my in laws and had some battles with a faery with a skillet.”

“A skillet?”

I said; “on our first morning after we got up there my sister Stephie woke us up by banging a skillet on the side of the tank bed.”

“Ouch! Was it like your head exploding? I’ve dropped stuff underwater in boats and my head hurt for hours.”

Chrissie said; “That’s about right. Apparently it was part of a long time war between Tom and Stephie. She apparently made his life a nightmare when they were younger and she Changed and Tom hadn’t yet. She apparently has all SORTS of things we’re going to have to learn about.  That walking through doors and walls thing especially.”

Noro said; “Your aunt Nera wanted to teach you some of those things but you never seem interested enough to sit still long enough.”

“Well that’s changed. Not just for Stephie though.  I think that Tom and I are going to need some of those skills.”

“That may mean visiting in New York for a while. It looks like both your aunts are going to be living there.”

“Because of Mike and Al?”

“Yes. I think that Mike’s agency is going to need both of them.  The sharks were able to flourish, not because they were good at eating people, but because nobody was looking for them.  It’s as Tom said. They were no shows at the ambush probably because Jake was leading them through the nose and they drove right into John’s and my trap.  All we had to do was close the bridges and keep them off the beach.  While we were waiting for you I think we caught some of it, didn’t we John?”

“That guy in the Packard being pulled over for reckless driving?”

“I’ll bet he was a shark. We’ll have to check but it looked like he had New York plates.”

I asked; “How did you manage to close the bridges?”

“Tom, we were investors in the canal and John knows the bridge tenders. I did that with a phone call to close Sagamore for a few hours after Sal’s Duesy and Josh’s boat passed and I had engineering do some “emergency repair work” on Bourne.  Jake’s people handled traffic and just coincidently until you were on this boat and I waved them off they were letting inbound traffic run at about four times the rate of outbound. I just hope that we didn’t cause any real problems.  Those people were playing on our home ground and they should have accounted for that. What’s the advantage of being fae if all you need are some connections, a phone and signal flag? Like you said, these people were being tactically stupid.”

I said; “I’ll have to ask mother, but I wonder if Stephie showed her stuff to open us up to the possibilities. If that’s true, I owe her.  On the other hand she does like to show off. Especially with a new audience. Chrissie said that when it came to these sorts of games you two were the masters.  May Chrissie and I be your new apprentices?”

“Yes, grandfather.”

“On one condition. That you don’t do anything that would really hurt your sister.”

“My parents read us that riot act when we were kids and frankly we’ve been careful to keep it more or less in bounds. The skillet was an accident.”

“She didn’t act that way!”

“Chrissie, she’s not going to ADMIT it. On the other hand, by our rules we now have a free shot at her and I’m going make sure it’s a good one, magical faery with the ability to walk through walls, invisibility and who knows what all or not.”

Noro said; “That sounds like fun and your sister sounds like a truly worthy adversary. Not like those sharks. That was just too damn easy. I was sure that that they would try to go up the canal or jump right off the docks. I had tow trucks all ready to tow their cars and people with small bombs ready to throw into the water.”

John said; “It was wasn’t it. I mean, I drag you out of the hole you put yourself in and I can’t even provide a decent challenge. We didn’t even have to use the boats with the nets. I’d say we should do some rum running for fun, but all that would do would make Ray laugh at us. Why should we smuggle our own booze when all we have to do is pick up the phone and have it delivered?  And Chrissie’s already snagged Tom so we can’t play with that anymore.  For that matter, Eltra’s got Al now and they closed the deal right off in his pool.  No Swimming around mooning over each other like Josh and Mera.”

 

Noro said; “You don’t want to go through that again.”

“For most of it, yes and thank god we don’t have to deal with all that stuffiness down below any more. Still, trying to get Josh to admit that he was good enough for Mera was a challenge. Tom, we’ll have to open up our old shop and have you bring us up to date with stuff. Maybe Noro and I should build another boat.”

I said; “what do want to run in it?”

“Well we’ll have to look, but Miller is making some nice engines and there’s always Duesenberg. Did Pratt do much with supercharging?” “We did some, but it was just beginning. I’ve got some books coming down that I got from them on that stuff and I know some people still there.  So we can get together on this. What do want to do for the hull?”

“We’ve always used typical wooden hulls but I think we want to try plywood or Aluminum. Since this is going to be my last boat I want to break all the rules and make it as light and fast as we can.”

Ensign Stellios and the other navy people pitched in as we came up with ideas for our superboat on our way into the harbor in the gathering twilight. When we got there, Steve was waiting with our canal racers’ uniforms but Mike and Sal hadn’t gotten back from the beach yet and Josh hadn’t gotten back with the yacht. We dropped the harbormaster and Steve’s people off and Moira said; “Let’s park this at the new place for the night so that you two can get a look at it. I’ve got a spare dress for Chrissie and we can go out for dinner if Josh, Mera and your parents don’t show up.”

When we arrived at the yard, Moira said; “I’m feeling dry, why don’t we all go for a Swim for a while?”

Noro said; “I think that I want to talk to Alex. We haven’t had a real talk in a long time and I want to get caught up with what’s going on. You go for your Swim and come back in about an hour.”

After we dropped into the water I said; “How serious are your grandfather and John about the boat, Joe?”

“I don’t know yet. They haven’t built one for about twelve years, so I don’t know what the shop looks like. On the other hand, the last boat they built is the one the harbormaster uses for his personal boat and it’s still one of the best boats around. If they do, be involved, it’s going to be fun, especially if they go all out the way they say they want to.”

“I would ask if they could afford it, but I get the feeling that the money won’t be an issue.”

“For either one. John gave most of his money to his kids when Ellen died, but he still has enough for a boat. As for grandfather, I think you can guess. For that matter their boats are all power and speed and no fancy finish work so they don’t really cost that much. Dad has never shown me ALL the accounts and as far as that goes I don’t think that even he or Noro know about ALL the accounts as I know that mother has one or two with her sisters and brothers that are government accounts for different things and those are over seven figures. The family account usually holds mid six figures but that fluctuates as various businesses need the money. When I take the yard over from Alex it will make a dent,but not that large. When you get settled, mother will probably go over some of it in detail, but my advice is to just go the way you’re going on your own resources.  I expect that grandfather will pitch in toward your shop, but that will probably come from the boat building project and the whole thing will be treated as a business startup with the business not expected to make money. The general rule in our family is not to rely on that money unless you absolutely need it and if you want to do something frivolous, like the wedding it comes from your own resources. Or mother’s in this case, but it’s likely that it won’t be a huge hit out of pocket for her. Just get used to fact that you will never be poor unless you want to be.”

Chrissie said; “Mother said that it was better to build a life together and even when it seemed to be that we hit bottom they never just pillaged a wreck and spent the money. She said that you appreciate what you earn. Anyway a lot of people rely on that business money anyway and I don’t want to be responsible for somebody losing their job because of a bauble I don’t need.”

I said; “I was planning to build the business myself anyway and the boat, while it will be a good start, will only be a start. I want to chase some of the other stuff that’s come up like the pistols for Steve and Al and some things that I’m thinking about for Swimmers and search and rescue work. I want some sort of harness for a Swimmer like Chrissie that can have inflatable life jackets and signals so that we don’t have a close call like we did the week before last.”

“I like how you think, buster.”

Moira said; “You look like you know how you want to go from here, Tom. Of course it won’t be alone. None of us will be alone.”

We Swam for about an hour and then Joe and Moira showed us how the new place was setup. Chrissie said; “This looks wonderful. Soon though, we’re going to have to figure out how to fit the tank bed in.”

I said; “That’s going to be a project because I want to add some features. A toilet, for instance. There were some things that were just plain inconvenient for a few days at the farm.”

Father walked in and said; “That’s what happens when you do a surprise visit.”

Mother came in, followed by Josh pushing Mera in one of our chairs. Mera pulled my clothes from a satchel she was carrying and said; “Tom, Change, get dressed, go out to the truck and get Chrissie’s dress, your shoes and the other chair so that we can all go out for dinner.”

I Changed, dressed and went out to my truck to get my shoes, Chrissie’s dress and her wheel chair. As I went back in mother said; “This will be a nice place for a start. It will convenient for you and Moira, Chrissie.”

“Greta, I think so, especially when the alternative is Tom having to commute from the bower or living separately.”

“Where is Tom’s shop going to be?”

I handed the dress to Chrissie and said; “Across the street mother. I rented it before Chrissie and I met and it would have been small to live in, but it’s a good size for a shop.”

Noro and Mr. Georges came in. Noro Said; “Josh, you’re back. Are these Tom’s parents?”

Josh said; “Father, this is Greta and Eric Benton.”

“I’m so glad to meet you at last. We haven’t talked yet, but Tom has been a real treasure for Chrissie.”

Mother said; “Tom, why don’t you show us your shop?”

“Ok, mother. It’s right across the street.”

I pushed Chrissie over to the shack and unlocked the door. As we went in I said; “It’s a mess because of all the travelling up and down that I have been doing the last few weeks. I haven’t really had time to set up what I have, let alone shop for machines or get things squared away. I think I’ll move the pots over here first though. They need to get done before it starts to get very cold.”

Chrissie said; “I’ll help with those, Tom. I know that we are behind, but things just got away from us the last couple of weeks.”

I closed the shop up and said; “So how are we going to get to dinner?”

Josh said; “We’ll use Alex’s car for you two and Noro since your truck is still loaded and Moira’s car for Joe, Moira and your parents since they have the other half of your load and Mera and I will take my truck.  Sal, Sillia, Mike and Nera will join us at the steak house.  Al and Eltra went off on their trip around the Cape. We’ll see them on Monday.” “I wanted to deliver those pistols.”

“Already done, Al dropped them off at his shop on his way out. He wants to talk to you about gun work next week, but that can wait. Let’s go to dinner.”

Josh.

As usual, straightening things out took longer than the actual event. The Plymouth police showed up and Mike gave his story about a Federal investigation. Which was met with a certain degree of skepticism until Pat Merkel showed up and saw me and Eltra. He came over and said; “Josh, I don’t really want to know what went on here, do I?”

“Pat, it’s one of those.”

It wasn’t the first time some dark thing had shown up and we had had to deal with it. Usually in the time of year that made you think of H. P.Lovecraft’s Massachusetts. Not the sunny fun beach towns of the Summer. Pat said; “So what happened to my people in the beach patrol?”

He was looking at the dissolved patches of uniforms.

“The guy the feds shot. He turned them into monsters and set them loose on us. They killed Ray’s man and the feds and the navy people had to shoot them. They were already dead anyway. Then one of the feds spotted this character alongside the road and shot him to prevent him from escaping.  We were going over to talk to him when he shot himself. From what the feds say, the people that do this sort of thing do that when they are caught alive. That is when they aren’t burning themselves out while they were being raided like they were in New York two weeks ago.”

“This is part of that? A lot of people around here are worried about the same sort of thing happening here.”

“The same people were responsible for this.”

Mike came over. I said; “Special agent Mike Wendell, meet Pat Merkel, chief of police for Plymouth County. Pat, Mike is the agent who was handling the case down in New York with Mera.” “Mera was involved?”

“We went down to New York to handle some family business and I had to come back up and deal with a family crisis and Mera started to talk to family down there and they started talking about fish kills. Mike had come up here for an investigation and I got in contact with him before I left and Mera and Mike’s people tracked the source of the fish kills to that warehouse.”

“Was the family emergency Noro messing around with the weather just before the storm? He managed to scare the hell out of a lot of people.”

“That took me out of the picture for a week. That and dealing with the other family crisis.” “Chrissie. I hope you slapped some sense into those two.”

“I took then out and marooned them.”

Mike said; “Chief Merkel, this crime scene is classified.”

Pat said; “Mike, when Josh is involved, things get weird and I put my stupid hat on when other people start asking questions. In these sorts of things I’ve found that knowing too much leads to nightmares and I have enough of those already. As far as things go, whatever happened here is only involving my people as far as having to tell the families of my beach patrol people that they were killed in the line of duty and that we have the perpetrator on a slab.  Which is fine by me as it makes a nice clean and closed case.  As it is I have five closed casket funerals coming up and if you people can find the people behind this, I will be willing to provide assistance as necessary. So what do you want me to do with this body.”

After arranging for the body to be sent to the local morgue and collected by Mike’s people from New York later, Pat went over to say hi to Eltra who introduced him to Al and then Pat’s people took the bodies and left. Steve came over and said; “I found Tom’s keys. I’ll send somebody over to the boat and get Eric’s and we’ll take the trucks to the dock with us.”

I handed Steve Tom’s pistol and said; “Pack Tom’s stuff back up. He sort of had to leave in a hurry.”

Sal came back down the beach with Sillia, got out of the car and said; “Josh, could you give me Jake’s address. I want to take the pictures that Sillia took, get them developed and write up a report for the boss.”

‘Mike said; “I’ll go with you.”

“In the rumble seat this time. Sillia gets the cuddle seat”

Nera groaned and said; “Any seat with Mike in it is a cuddle seat.”

I said; “give me your pad and a pencil.”

I wrote down two addresses; “The first is Jake’s. The second is the steakhouse. We’ll meet you there for dinner.”

Al went over to where Steve was with Tom’s truck and said; “Steve, hand me those two boxes. Those are the pistols Tom was delivering to me. I’ll drop them at my shop on my way out with Eltra.”

Sal left leading a parade of cars as they drove up the beach. Al picked up Eltra, who was carrying the pistol boxes and we went down to the dinghy.  I rowed over to the boat and Al put Eltra aboard and went aboard himself.  I followed, Joe’s people tied the dinghy up, pulled the hook and I called out; “George, let’s go!”

We left the beach and headed back down the canal. I went below and Eric and Greta were talking to Mera, Al and Eltra. Eric said; “So is everything locked down?”

“Pretty much. I don’t think we’ll be seeing the opposition for some time now. We’re going to have to ask my father to know for sure but I suspect that the sharks never showed thanks to being neatly mouse trapped by my father’s fun and games. I hope that they provided a sufficient enough challenge to keep him distracted.”

“Why?”

“Because ten years ago we lost his wife and my much loved mother in law Liltra to a shark attack. Ever since he’s been wallowing in his grief and I think that he was using that weather magic just before the storm to commit suicide.” “What happened?”

“I came back up here, picked up a railroad spike and threatened to crash the spell with it and used the distraction to drag him up top where the harbormaster, who has been my father’s best friend and partner in crime for the last fifty years, read him the riot act and put him to work coordinating the Search and Rescue for the storm.” Mera said; “my biggest concern right now is what happens when John gets sick. That’s going to hit him almost as hard.”

“I’m hoping that we can distract him with more grandchildren and great grandchildren acting like fools. Or that he starts to take what’s happening seriously. Or not so seriously as the case may be.”

Eric asked; “Not seriously?”

“Noro is at his best at the indirect approach and he’s a genius at running you around until he gets what he want’s. That’s what he and John did with me until I ended on the same island we are all going out to tomorrow that I marooned Tom on and told Mera to go out and close the deal or I wasn’t leaving.  She came out, we closed the deal and she’s been my life ever since.”

Greta said; “That seems rough. Wasn’t your bond obvious? Didn’t your parents tell you what you were?”

“My parents, whoever they were, went to very great magical and physical efforts to make sure that I knew NOTHING or could find out NOTHING about my heritage or what I was. They left me at an orphanage with literally nothing but me.   Until I saw Mera on that pier in Boston I had NO inkling that the world outside the norm even existed. The only reason I can think to do something like that was to ensure that nobody could track me down and try to kill me for being what I was like the monsters here tried to do to Tom again today.

The problem was that Mera believed in what I was but I couldn’t, no matter how many times she tried. I couldn’t believe that I was in any way good enough for the vision that she was. Then some of Mera’s relatives, including Nera, unfortunately, popped up into my boat to try to convince me to be elsewhere and did things like demagnetize my compass and surround me in fog or other fun on the water. Finally Mera’s mother, Liltra put a stop to that sort of thing, came up top and told me that regardless of the rest of the family, she considered me her son and that I was to call her mother from then on.  Mera and I started to work together in my boat as a way to be together and finally after six months Noro and John marooned me and we closed the deal.”

Mera reached over and squeezed my hand.

Eltra said; “Mother and I believed Mera from the first. The problem was that your protections were so tight and they are tight even now that it was almost impossible to believe that you were what you were. Frankly I think that Nera was more than a little jealous.” “I’ve never said this, but Noro and John didn’t maroon me any more than I marooned Tom. By the time they marooned me, I had discovered enough of myself that I could have gotten myself out of there regardless of Noro’s special effects. Of course by that time I had discovered enough of myself to know that I didn’t want to.”

Greta said; “What happened then?”

“Well by that point Mera and I were so pissed with most of the bower that we didn’t want anything to do with them. So we went down to New York and I got a job as a barge captain and we lived in a deckhouse on a barge that went up and down the coast.  Then Al’s family had their accident and Noro tracked me down and dragged me back up here.  There’s still some ill feeling from some of the family and Joe doesn’t like to go under sea because of some of that, Steve went to the academy and into the navy as a career essentially to get away and see the world and Stacey has been more or less a housewife up top since she bonded with George who she locked on to very early so it’s been Chrissie down below with Mera.  To say that Chrissie has been a huge help in tieing the family back together cannot be overstated can it Mera?”

“She’s amazing. She naturally wants to bring people together. Those girls today are an example. Ten years ago their parents were barely civil to Josh and I because they thought that I had bonded beneath myself and brought taint on the family.  Now they couldn’t wait to hand their girls over to me to meet those nice navy boys. Of course the fact that Chrissie bonded first might have had something to do with that and that Tom was an obvious first rate catch only made things better for me. Of course Tom and being a first rate catch caused Chrissie some anxiety. Which wasn’t helped by the fact that Tom didn’t know what he was.” Greta said; “We’re sorry about that somewhat.  You have to understand that there were issues involved and Tom went into some dark waters after he killed his brother.  Going down to Washington when he did was a mistake and he dived deeper into the dark than he should have.  There were also other people involved, especially Brad’s bonded Hilda and her son, Andy.  Fortunately that has been resolved, though not resolving that earlier almost led to a very bad accident. Tom was rather upset with us about that. The good part about the resolution is that he likes Hilda and Andy very much.”

Mera said; “Brad was Tom’s brother? He’s never mentioned his name to me that I know of. Has he mentioned it to you, Josh? “No. In fact he said right out to Mike and I that he never would.”

Greta said; “Fortunately Andy has gone a long way toward healing that wound as he ran into Chrissie outside Tom’s shop. As far as Hilda is concerned you can imagine what her Change looks like and as we’ve said, she is the last survivor of the pack and the conduit for when Boris’s friends want to let the other side know something.”

“Like telling them that Tom had been at the farm and that he had left?”

“Yes, Tom told Boris and Hilda to do that. We gave them copies of the pictures so that they could see first hand just how dangerous Tom was and let them know what they were trying to kill him for.” “Did Tom tell you what his plans were if we hadn’t shown up and put him right in the middle of that ambush.”

“More or less. We weren’t going to be stopping on that beach because he knew it was an obvious place to stop and had in fact used it on the way out. We were going to stop and eat near the bridge and if necessary take a very short Swim next to the canal.  We had already stopped just South of Salem to wet Chrissie’s gills.” “So we messed up his plans and he didn’t say anything. I wonder why?”

Al said; “He thought that we had a good plan and a lot more firepower?” “Al, as far as escaping an ambush his plan was better.”

“He had no way of knowing just how much we knew about the other side and his plan was a good one if he was operating in the dark but it left him vulnerable if the enemy was tracking him. You showing up allowed him to have options and he took them. Considering what happened, it was the right call.”

“I just wish that six people hadn’t had to die.”

“Josh, five of them were dead before we even got there, you know that. As for Ray’s man, he was in a risky business and sometimes your people get hurt. At least your caring separates you from the bastards on the other side.  I’ve been handling guns and the like for Helmut’s little operation for some time now and the other side considers people, both theirs and everybody else as expendible cartridges. They put compulsions on them so that they commit suicide and they never provide backup, a fallback position or a failure option.  That ambush went off the rails the second we showed up and still they tried to pull it off. In fact that young girl up North felt compelled to launch her constructs, didn’t she Greta, Mera.”

Mera said; “Al, you’ve only been Changed for a couple of days yet you seem to be knowledgeable about your senses. More than Mike or Sal. Why?”

“Mother and Eltra. I learned to be able to sense when they were together and what they were talking about.  So I would know if I was in trouble or not for sailing my boat when I wasn’t supposed to.”

Eltra said; “I didn’t always tell her, you know.” “I know, but between the two of you I needed some breathing room sometimes.  And those expanded senses stood me in good stead in the war and sensing things like werewolves on the other side.”

I asked; “So you dealt with them too?”

“Not with the dirty dozens on our side, those poor bastards, but the Sturmtrups, yes. Twice. My people were too late to be able to make an impact and we had the wrong kind of ammo the first time. I made sure to scrounge up some specials and that saved most of us the second time. I also had to shoot four of my people, all of whom had become good friends, to keep them out of the dirty dozens. They asked me to because they knew that there was no cure and the only way out was through that hell.”

Eltra reached around and hugged him. We were approaching the dock at Woods Hole and Eltra said; “Carry me to the car, Al and let’s find a beach. We need some together time.”

Al carried her out of the cabin, over to the dock and into the car, handed her the pistol boxes and we could see them leave as the boat turned around and George called out; Where to next, Josh!”

“The dock at home!”

And we were off. Greta asked; “Are Al and Eltra newly bonded?”

Mera answered; “Yes, but they’ve known each other for Al’s entire life. Al’s mother was my sister’s best friend. I suspect that Lillia fostered the bond in Al almost from birth. Unfortunately Lillia was killed in an accident, something of which we need to talk about and I suspect that our opposition may have been responsible.”

Eric asked; “What about?”

“Well there have been far too many accidents that involved fae. There have been far too many outright murders as well. In fact that is what the opposition has been doing for for at least fifty years that I as able to track them.”

Eric said; “That’s an extraordinary statement. What leads you to believe that?”

“Well we’ve just told you Josh’s story. Al’s as well.  The thing is that the rest of Mike and Sal’s little bureau have the same sort of stories.  I also had some friends at the library of congress and the national archives do some checking and we found about 100 cases of lethal accidents and mysterious fires that had fae inolvement written all over them.  There were the series of shark attacks that Sal started to look into. We now know or will know exactly who was responsible for those, thanks to dad and John’s fun and games.  Then there is your son and the werewolves.  I haven’t had anybody look at his draft records yet, but he was sent to Europe, twisted and came back. Mike mentioned how the werewolve’s little group would popup and disappear over there and I wondered if somebody was helping them.  I think I want to talk to Hilda when she comes, but I want to treat this gently in her case because of the horror surrounding it.  I think it’s part of the picture. A picture of the opposition and how they operate that we need to have.”

I said; “In any case I think we should all go out with Tom tomorrow and see the island. You know him better than we do and was what happened out there typical of him?”

Greta said; “Other than starting down the path of sacrifice, yes. He tends to have guns at hand, pretty much at all times.  So even though he just wanted the flashlight he didn’t think very hard about taking it off because he liked having the gun, “just in case” anyway.  He’s been like that since his brother, so it’s understandable. By the way where is that gun now? I think he’s going to be looking for it even though he’s already replaced it.” “I’m not sure at the moment. I think that Jake has it, but John might have it too. I don’t think that Al has it. Noro might know. We’ll ask John when we get into the harbor.

And what about the rest? How he planned the escape and took actions to make things go his way regardless of what the other side tried?”

“Oh yes! He learned in a hard school, in his battles with his sister Stephie, because she had the advantage of Change and he didn’t. She’s also twelve years older than he is. So from about age ten he’s been in a conflict with somebody who has powers he didn’t even know about and he had to match those with ability, skill and deviousness and he does. Fortunately they love each other very much and they set boundaries over their fun and games so things never got too out of hand. I expect though that Stephie’s actions with a skillet will bring a strong rebuke from Tom that Stephie won’t see coming.” “What happened with the skillet?”

“Mera, we made a sort of bed with water in it for them out of an old sugaring tank, they overslept, Stephie went in with a skillet and bonged it on the tank to wake them up.” Mera said; “Oh no! She should never have done that. Other than the possibility of serious injury it probably felt like their heads exploded.  A mer’s head is filled with little cavities for dealing with sound and water doesn’t compress.  You could ask my brother Altris for all the gory medical details but Stephie could have done serious damage to their heads. In any case it was more than likely excruciatingly painful.”

Eric said; “I’ll make sure that Stephie knows that. It was an accident but I think that Stephie will not like what Tom comes up with and when something like that happens their rules say that Tom gets a free shot at her. I think that I will recommend that Stephie apologize and that they stop their fun and games. They are getting a little old for them.”

Mera said; “What, 24 and 36? How about over three hundred and the other one seventy? I imagine even as we speak, Chrissie is using her massive persuasive skills get her grandfather to teach her his massive skills in deviousness and unfair play. Along with his drinking buddy, the harbormaster. For whom the games with the sharks they just played with probably only whetted their appetites.   I suspect that the opposition got their first taste of father and they probably didn’t like it very much.”

Eric said; “The sharks never did show up. What did they do?”

I said; “From what they told me, the plan was make them think that they could just drive onto the Cape and then mousetrap them by closing all the beaches to car traffic and then essentially shutting the bridges down. Sagamore had an opening failure just after we went under it and Bourne was going to need emergency repair work and a lane closure that the traffic cops couldn’t manage to get the outbound traffic to flow out of very well. Then the traffic cops were going to be looking very closely at cars with New York plates.  They probably had some other things planned but the idea was to tie them in knots as they tried to find a beach that they could Change on. Meanwhile the pair of them were waiting on Tom’s boat with fishing poles out and watching the action until Tom, Chrissie and her friends showed up.”

Eric said; “Why didn’t he come up with a plan that would end up with the sharks dead. He has reasons.”

“He doesn’t think that way. Anyway I’ve said, and Mera’s said repeatedly that we didn’t want the sharks, we want the people behind the sharks. If he had wanted them dead they would have disappeared quietly or noisily. Frankly if I had wanted them dead it would just have taken a couple of phone calls. In fact the only reason they are still alive coming out here is that I told certain parties to keep their hands off them. Chrissie has a lot of friends and some of them are not nice at all to somebody who would do the thing that they tried to do to her. When we get into the harbor I’m going to have to make a call to one of those friends and tell him that we lost one today.”

Greta said; “That man who was killed by the zombies. From the mob?”

“Yes. I wanted him to keep his people out of it but he insisted. He said he was making a statement, that going after mine was going after his. Unfortunately the other side had already been going after his for some time now.” Eric said; “Are they nuts?”

“Eric, everybody involved on our side has been asking that question. Look at the enemies that they have made so far.  The Rockaway bower, the Brooklyn mob, almost every agency in New York that has anything to do with the water, the Messimo Crime family, of which the Brooklyn mob is a part, the US Navy, me and the Cape bower, you and your family, the Boston mob and the feds with Helmut’s little agency but I’m sure that Boris has shown you the book and you’ve seen the distribution list. I’m sure that there are more people that they have pissed off, but we haven’t run into them yet.”

Mera said; “When I started to look into their dumping into the water down in New York you wouldn’t believe all the friends that I made when I said I had a lead on things. When I started I had almost no resources in New York. Josh did, but all of mine were up here and sort of rusty because I had been living under sea. After that warehouse, you want something done, somebody disappeared, business shut down, building put up, you name it, mention that you know me and it will happen. I’m on a first name basis with both the mob and the feds. I’ve eaten dinner with the head of the navy in New York and his wife is a friend of mine.   Right now the only one with more clout in that city than me is Mary, Helmut’s office mom and that’s because of her long standing relationships and the fact that she was also involved in the warehouse.

Sal’s bonding was protected by a submarine and if I felt I needed one I could get one with a phone call. That’s the level of mess that these people created. Which was just stupid.  Then they came up here and started to play their sick games where they had it all hanging out. Josh, tell father that if the sharks show up again, just  let Ray know and have them just disappear. In fact, when you call Ray to tell him about his man, tell him that I said that if the sharks show up they disappear.  I’m tired of people getting hurt because of their sick games.

Greta, How did Tom learn to be so good with tools?”

“Well the farmer next door had a shop and encouraged him when he was about twelve. About that time he realized that if he was making something that Stephie wouldn’t figure out what he was doing until after he was finished because even if he drew things up Stephie couldn’t really understand what he was doing. She’s not very good at puzzles and machines are puzzles. Then the farmer next door became ill and sold him his lathe and that toolbox he still uses.  Tom got better and started to buy those correspondence courses on electricity, motors and engines along with more machining.  He became good enough that first Eric and then other farmers in the neighborhood started to bring quick repair jobs for him to do.  Then the war ended and Larry started to buy all that scrap.  He thought that he would hand finish the guns but Tom started to do them in the shop.  That’s when they bought first the shaper and then the milling machine.  Then there was the incident with his brother and we sort of had to retreat and take a hands off  from him and he piled himself into the work trying to forget. He bought an old car to work on but finally he just couldn’t take the things tearing at him, the feeling of separating from us and Mike got him that job in Washington.”

Mera said; “He doesn’t have much to say about then. We ran into a fae that knew him then and he had some things to say about what they found. The fae was looking for him and you gave him the brush off. He found Mike and I expect we will see him after he finishes giving one of Helmut’s people flying lessons. Their Change is a lot like Gull’s.”

I said; “About Gull, could you tell us more about what’s going on there. I’m guessing that they hold the kids of those poor fae hostage to ensure that they don’t run off the reservation.  The interesting thing to me is that the indentured seem to be the most competent of the opposition that we’ve seen.

Greta said; “From what we’ve seen of Sphinx that seems to be the case. Of course I haven’t approached her directly and she only comes up to contact Hilda, or Wolf as she calls her.  I think that because they are not monsters they are more rational and able to deal with changes than say, the sharks could. Gull today could obviously see that the plan was going to fail and I think that had it been left to her, the ambush would have never gone off at all.  Unfortunately the thing in control launched the zombies and she felt compelled to make sure her part worked even as the whole thing came apart. I wonder who set that up in the first place. The plan was complicated, required too many things to function perfectly in order to work, needed Tom to just walk right into the ambush, not be alert for things that might attack and apparently not have any guns with specials. The fact is that before we left this morning I saw Tom load both of the pistol magazines he had with specials and the shotgun as well.  There wasn’t any special ammunition for the rifle but if a round from that hits something, most things are going to take damage and I’ve seen Tom win competitions with that rifle at 400 yards or more. Al said that rifle was better than Tom said it was, but I think that Tom was trying not to oversell himself.”

Eric said; “Unless he hesitated about shooting the beach patrol zombies I would expect that Tom would have been as fast as the people on the beach by himself. I think that he would have used the pistol to kill the zombies, the shotgun to deal with the constructs and taken the same shot that Al did if he sensed the necromancer. If the sharks had shown up they would ended up just like the other sharks he shot. Expecting anything to come out differently after the island was just plain stupid.”

Mera said; “We’ve never been able to convince Chrissie, or for that matter any of our children to reach into their abilities very much. I think that was mostly the fact that Josh doesn’t and I haven’t really needed to. Also because of the estrangement, my sisters and brothers didn’t really hang around when Steve and Joe were young. Both of them spent more time with John and Noro who either don’t have the abilities or prefer to do things in other ways and when they played the same games that Tom and Stephie did they did it with small charges of explosives, misdirection, traps  and later, cars and boats. It didn’t hurt that both of them have been Swimmers since they were very young thanks to Steve falling in the water when he was seven and Steve tossing Joe into the water when Joe was five.  Of course their fun and games sort of ended when Steve entered the Academy other than Steve sending Joe copies of his textbooks and manuals. Joe started to work in the yard and it’s likely that he will officially acquire the yard from Alex in a year or so.  He and Moira have essentially taken over the yard already.  If this thing goes on much longer it’s going to be interesting to see how those two get together and deal with this though.  I think, that since both of them are out there and bonded I will insist that they sit down with their uncles, find a good spot underwater and learn what they are.  If Stephie convinced Chrissie and Tom to reach into that part of themselves then I will consider her a true friend no matter how much mischief she gets into. Unless it involves a whoopie cushion.”

Eric asked; “Why haven’t you done things with your abilities, Josh.  I could tell that you know how today. I think that you thought about crushing that car full of zombies and decided to use the guns instead.” I said; “I think it comes from my protections. You’re right that I could have crushed that car easily. But it would have been in front of witnesses, some of whom I didn’t know and at least some, like the gull girl and the necromancer who were hostile.  I had an army available so I used that instead which made things easier to explain and hide.   I suspect that you grew up knowing about your abilities and knowing when and how to use them is second nature, but for me, I didn’t have a clue about any of it until Mera showed up on that dock and other places until she ended up in my boat. Of course she played that mermaid of mystery thing to the hilt, you know.  In the beginning I didn’t know if I was seeing things or not. The dance, though was fairly convincing.”

Greta said; “Chrissie danced for us in our old mill pond and it was amazing, so I could believe that. Whoopie cushion?”

Mera said; “John and father gave Joe and Steve whoopie cushions and other things like that for Christmas one year. For them it was a fun year. For the rest of us until those things broke, not so much. The one thing that Steve and Joe do use their abilities for is to make things invisible.  They became very good at that and misdirection. Having my friends over for planning a church social and having the room suddenly fill with brapping noises and smell was not fun.  I couldn’t even prove that they did it because they were out on the boat working with Josh.

I’m going to put Josh and Tom on an exercise program so that we can all dance together for the wedding. Nera has been working Mike up and I suspect that Eltra will be running Al out on the sweeps for the next little bit if he can get away from work.”

I said; “I’m going to have to call Helmut and tell him that I’m not poaching and that if Nera and Eltra stay in his shop that I won’t mind. He’s given Mike two months with Nera up here and I don’t know how Al plans to work things out, but he doesn’t seem to be acting as if he’s in a hurry to leave. Noro said that he wants to go down to talk to Helmut and I’ll set that up too.”

We pulled into the harbor and docked the boat. I said to Joe’s people; “I’ll see you guys in the morning.” “We’ll be there, have a good night, Josh.”

They left. Steve was next to the dock with Tom and Eric’s trucks and a car that he was using to pick up his people from Tom’s boat. Tom had already gone ahead and I said to Steve; “Bring your people over to the steakhouse for dinner.”

“Sure dad, I’ll get my people set up at the hotel and meet you there.”

I went over to John’s office.John had gone home to pick up his car so that he could join us for dinner later and I said to Jennie; “I need the phone.”

“Sure Josh.”

I called Ray and said; “We lost one.”

“My people? How.”

“The other side set up a firefight with zombies, your guy was right in front and I couldn’t warn them in time. They made the zombies from five of Pat’s people. Pat has your guy’s body.”

“Did you get the guy responsible?”

“Al nailed him with a rifle. Blew his knee off so that we could have a discussion with him, but he blew his head off rather than talk. Sillia took pictures of the whole thing.”

“When you find these people’s boss I want to have a discussion with him.”

“We all do. By the way, Mera says that if the sharks show up on the Cape again, they disappear.”

I hung up the phone and headed over to the house to pick up my truck. I went back to the dock and took Mera over to my truck as Eric got into Tom’s truck and Greta into theirs and we all drove over to the yard and parked in front of the shed where Joe had been modifying the place into apartments.  The lights were on so we walked in. I put Mera in the Wheelchair that looked like it had been made from the designs for Chrissie’s helm chair, Mera grabbed the satchel that we had put Tom’s clothes in and as I rolled her in to the shed, Eric said; “That’s what happens when you do a surprise visit.”

We went inside and Mera said; “Tom, Change, get dressed, go out to the truck and get Chrissie’s dress, your shoes and the other chair so that we can all go out for dinner.”

Tom did that and Eric and Greta took a quick look around and then Greta wanted to see Tom’s shop so we all went across the street and took a look at that. Noro and Alex came by and I said to Tom; “We’ll use Alex’s car for you two and Noro since your truck is still loaded and Moira’s car for Joe, Moira and your parents since they have the other  half of your load and Mera and I will take my truck.  Sal, Sillia, Mike and Nera will join us at the steak house.  Al and Eltra went off on their trip around the Cape. We’ll see them on Monday.” Tom said; “I wanted to deliver those pistols.”

“Already done, Al dropped them off at his shop on his way out. He wants to talk to you about gun work next week, but that can wait. Let’s go to dinner.”

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