Mermaid Chapter 10,part 3 And End

Linda meets with Eric and Greta, The Managers dopplegangers get ready to do a dirty deed, Andy is kidnapped and the story continues.

Linda.

As part of my week with Roscoe, I had made contact with my parents in Northern Connecticut and they were glad that I had bonded and we all shared our Change, including my younger sister, which was more than a bit of a surprise. Especially as she raced around, all blond hair and hooves. On Monday I put Roscoe on the train to Washington and Virgina. Roscoe was going to check in with his office before coming back up, touching base with Tom on the Cape and setting up the office the Army wanted on Long Island. I called in before heading back to New York and the boss said; “Stay there! It’s a short week anyway and we may have a developing situation up at the Bentons. I want you to be in a position to back up Boris and Hilda if they need it.”

“What happened?”

“Hilda gave Sphinx the Tom pictures, they tried to put the bite on Tom again and Sphinx sent the message that she’s coming back up today. They want something and I want to be ready to give them something they don’t want. How did the flying lessons go?”

“Wonderful, and during the wedding I’ll show everybody my flying. I have also learned to be discrete inside and outside Change.”

“Good, we may need that.”

“How’s Sal doing?”

“He and Sillia got together,no real surprise there and had some fun and games up at the Cape with our toothy friends and their friends when they went after Tom. The necromancer made a fatal mistake and Sillia took pictures of the whole thing.  The people up at the cape gave the sharks the run around and sent them home after getting their names and addresses.  Sal is looking into their activities.”

I had an enjoyable evening with my parents and very nice flight in the hills before bed. The next morning the boss called and said; “The Manager wants to meet with Hilda in New York.”

“That’s not happening. Mike and Boris agreed to that when Hilda was contacted.”

“We’re afraid that they may go after Andy. Drive up to White River Junction. Eric and Greta should be coming through there and it’s possible that you can hook up with them. Even if you don’t, I want a set of eyes with a badge ready to act.  If nothing happens Wednesday, go home for the holiday, it’s not likely that they will try something in front of the entire family, but be ready.”

I made the drive up to White River Junction and met with Eric and Greta to make the connection. We had an enjoyable dinner where they told me what Mike and Sal had been up to and that Al had bonded to Mera’s other sister which was a surprise. I spent Wednesday learning the thermals of the valley, while keeping an eye out for twist. Since there was no call to the hotel that evening, I returned home, but neither Eric, Greta or I had been able to convince ourselves that the opposition was not out there and planning something. They were planning to take Andy and Hilda down to the Cape with them when they returned Monday, but that left Friday. I resolved to go back up to the Junction on Friday morning, early.

Stephie.

Tuesday became an expedition. I decided to take a day away from the school to help get Andy fixed up. Finding a pistol for Andy’s “Toy” proved to be a bigger problem than I thought.  Hilda and I had gone through just about every kind of gun over the years as confidence in the guns, combined with our abilities meant that we racked up too many perfect scores in our competitions and we started switching to ever more exotic pieces to make it challenging enough to seperate each other. The problem was that Hilda and I both wanted Andy to have special cartridges for this and Larry had only made the bullets for the .32s,   9mm’s and .45s that Helmut’s people used. 9mm and .45 were too large for a toy, so that meant that the gun had to be .32 ACP. When we started to go through the armory, there were twenty five of the little pistols, but they were all well made American guns that somebody had given as a Christmas or birthday present and then somebody else had put away and forgotten. The only one in the family that went over there in the war was Brad and he hadn’t brought any trophies back, so that left other resources. I turned to Hilda and said;  “I think that we need to come up with something else as Christmas presents.  There are just too many of these around already.”

“I think you’re right. Too many of the men gave them to wives and relatives, who already had one, because it was easy. So they ended up here. These all look just a little too good to be believable for what we want. Let’s pack these up in a box anyway and take them over to Larry’s.  I doubt that anybody even remembers who they belong to and we might as well sell them. Not back to the family, I hope.”

“Well not to us, anyway. Maybe we should send them down to the Cape for Stacey, Joe and Steve. Tom and Chrissie might get suspicious.”

“Let’s save one for Andy, to go along with the rifle that Tom is giving him.”

We put one next to Tom’s rifle, put the rest in a box and drove over to Larry’s. We walked in with the box and Larry asked; “What’s in the box?”

Hilda said; “Cleanup. We started to go through the armory looking for a pocket pistol to turn into a toy for Andy and there were just too many of these that nobody’s going to want, so we thought that we would bring them over here for you to sell.”

“Toy for Andy? He’s not likely to want a toy gun.”

I said; “It’s not going to be a toy gun, it’s going to be a gun that people who don’t know guns will think is a toy, especially if we glue the slide and add something like a roll cap holder and some caps. The idea is that if something happens to Andy he can be armed without the people who have him knowing about it. We’ll put it with his school things and some other of his toys and nobody will think very much about it, until Andy decides to load it and use it.”

“Andy isn’t big on toys either. The biggest thing he likes to do is shoot.”

“We know that, but they don’t.”

“You think that they will go for Andy?”

Hilda said; “They have the others’ children and they want me for something. Frankly taking Andy would be really stupid since as well as a deputy I am the Federal Auxilary officer and FBI agent for the County and the FBI takes a very strong stance against people who hurt the bureau’s kids, but they don’t know that. I didn’t want to frighten Sphinx into cutting me off so I never told her what I actually did in the office. But it’s not like I tried to hide it and I’ve been in the papers more than once.  I get the feeling that they live in a bubble and don’t think rationally.  Otherwise, why would they have gone after Tom like that.  If they do take Andy,we don’t want him to be helpless.”

I added; “I don’t think that these people have the mindset to understand guns. They don’t know them and what they can do.  Or that with a gun, a small and seemingly helpless person, isn’t.  Let’s go through what you have in .32 ACP and see if there’s anything with possibilities.”

Larry’s stock was a little more eclectic as people sold him guns and there was a little Walther that had possibilities, but it only had one magazine and I really wanted at least one spare with only seven shots or so. I said; “Let’s set this one aside for the time being. It might work out, but I want more than one magazine. Let’s go over to the office.”

We drove over to the Sherriff’s office and Don was at the desk. He said; “Stephie, Hilda, what can we do for you ladies?”

Hilda said; “We’re looking for a pistol for a special conversion and we don’t have one that will work so we’re checking the locker.”

I took one look at the evidence locker and said; “We’re doing cleanup. We’re going to go through the confiscated and evidence locker and get rid of all those old pistols that have been hanging around here forever.  We’ll take the lot over to Larry’s and sell them for charity.”

Don said; “Does Boris know?”

“Yes. Maybe not as much as we’re going to do, but we did some cleanup at home, realized that there’s just too much old hardware just sitting around and we decided to do the same thing here.”

When we started in on what turned out to be a bigger job than either of us anticipated. There were open cases that still had guns going back to the 1880’s.  Hilda said; “I’m going to call the county courthouse and have them send a clerk over and declare any case over seven years old, dead. We’ll take some pictures of the gun and get rid of it. There’s no point in keeping those.  We can just keep a small case file in case something turns up. Which it won’t.”

She left the evidence room and went over to her desk to make the call. Boris came in and asked; “What motivated this? Not that it’ s a bad thing, but this is sort of sudden.”

“We went through the armory looking for a pistol for Andy and there were a bunch that had been just put in there after being given as presents and forgotten. So we took them over to Larry’s to sell. We didn’t find anything over at Larry’s either and came here and encountered this mess.”

Estelle from the county court came over and said; “It’s about time somebody took this on. I’ve been wanting to clear this stuff off the docket for years.”

We had some deputies set up a table out front and started in, case by case starting with the oldest and taking pictures of everything relevant and throwing the rotten remains of clothing in the trash, along with other trash , putting the guns in a box , when the first box filled up, a second box and the money and valuables in another box. Then we went into the confiscated area and did the same thing for anything held by the court in lieu of cash for fines or confiscated over three years old. The whole thing took six hours, but Hilda did finally find a good candidate for Andy’s toy, a Jager pistol that somebody had brought back from the war. I looked at it and said; “Perfect. It looks sort of like a toy and even has a spare magazine. Somebody has even filed the numbers off.”

Boris had a couple of deputies put our haul into the truck and we went back to Larry’s. Bob had just driven up so we recruited him to bring the boxes in. Hilda then went over to the house to check on Andy who was back from school. I walked in with the Jager and said; “Let’s see what we can do with this.”

Larry looked at it and said; “ I have a cap pistol from the stock I keep for the people that bring their kids in. I think that we can make this work.’

He held up the toy pistol; “They even look a bit alike.”

Bob came in with the second box and Larry said; “Bob, can we recruit you for a little project. I want to put the guts of this cap pistol in the magazine well of this automatic.”

Bob said; “Why?”

I said; “Insurance. I want to make this real gun into a “toy” gun for Andy so that if Sphinx’s people manage to grab him, they won’t take it and Andy will be armed if he needs to be.”

He smiled and said; “I think that we can do that.”

“Well I need to get dinner, so I will head over to the house.”

Since mother was gone, Hilda and I had been working on preparing for Thanksgiving and preparing dinner every day for the farm hands and the family working on the farm. I drove over to the house to get started. I also had a craft project in mind and wanted to get started on it. I was going to convince the other side that there were no cartridges in a cartridge box.  They may get some marbles though. Since they had apparently lost theirs.

After dinner I worked on my little craft project and Hilda made a little pocket in the bottom of Andy’s school bag for one of the magazines. She also sewed some specials into the seam of the bag and dropped a few more into the bottom amongst the surprising amount of .22LR already there. I put the loaded magazine and some extra  rounds in the false bottom of that cartridge box that I had made and loaded the box with marbles from my eight year old’s collection. Then I put the box in the bag. I said; “None of this would hold up against a rigorous search, but I suspect that they won’t bother.”

Larry, Bob and Scott, along with Andy, came into the kitchen and Larry said; “Behold our masterpiece.”

It was. They had carefully reworked the toy’s grips to fit the pistol and one grip even opened and had a roll of caps inside.  The caps even worked when you pulled the trigger.  They cut the cap pistol in half and milled the backof the castings off until they were paper thin and then soldered them to the frame sides and blended the tops, reaasembled the gun and glued the slide so that it didn’t move.  It looked even more like a toy, now. I said; “Can Andy operate it if he as to?”

Larry replied; “The cap mechanism slides right out when you work the magazine release and Andy can pull the slide hard enough for the first round. After that it doesn’t matter. We fired three magazines through it before gluing the slide back.”

“So Andy, do you like your new toy?”

“Aunt Stephie, no I don’t. But if I get in trouble, I may need it. These people are coming after mom and me. I need to be ready, like Uncle Tom was.”

Larry handed the magazine to Hilda, who put it into it’s rather hidden pocket and Hilda and I went over where all the rounds were hidden with Andy. Then we dropped the cap gun into the bag. I said; “You do know, Andy, that you don’t show this to anybody at school.”

“I know, Aunt Stephie. In fact, if this gun comes out, it’s because I need to use it.  I hope that I never do.”

“We do too. We do too.”

Andy and Hilda went home and Boris came and took me home. As we were driving home he said; “Did you fix Andy up?”

“Yes we did. The best part is that nobody else knows that we did it and that gun looks exactly like a toy now. I just hope that Andy doesn’t need it.”

“Well if we can get Andy through tomorrow and Friday, then we won’t have to worry because Andy is going to be elsewhere.”

“I think Friday is the hot day if they rush. Sphinx won’t get back until today and I doubt that they can set up what they plan in one day.”

“Should we pull Andy from school Friday?”

“I’ll be there and so will Joe. We’ll ask mother and father tomorrow when they get back, but there’s no place that’s absolutely safe and it’s hard for them to even get close to anywhere we are without us noticing.”

Wednesday proved to be as dull and unexciting as I expected other than mother and father showing up. Thanksgiving was the typical family get together and any Twisted stupid enough to get close to that would learn why that was just plain stupid. Noro.

Introducing myself to my potential new associate carried a bit of a risk, especially as he was an aspiring photojournalist. Of course that was a bit of a test. I figured as I turned the corner that three things could happen. The first was that he wouldn’t notice me until I was close enough to make his use of the camera obvious and he wouldn’t go for the shot. The second was that he would go for the shot anyway. I had ways of dealing with that which had driven newsies crazy for years. The third was that he would get the shot and I wouldn’t notice.  Which  I hadn’t as he was taking a shot of something else and put down the camera when he saw me. I had figured that he would go for the shot anyway, but as far as I could tell he hadn’t.  Now it was possible that he had no clue who I was, but since he had been hanging around friends and relatives for the last few days that was highly unlikely. It was far more likely that he had heard about me and was good enough with a camera to get me without me noticing that he did it.  Jonney the shoe shine man who had been around almost as long as I have, called out; “Hello, Mr. White, I haven’t seen you in a long time, what brings you down here.”

I answered Jonney and turned to the young man; “Business with this young man, I think. Mr. Thomas, I am Mr. White. I’m afraid that I need to leave town today, but if you call this number on Monday, I would like to make an appointment to discuss your work with you.”

I handed him my card and he said; “Hello, Mr. White. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

He knew who I was and had been talking to various friends and family. Starting with my sister considering that I knew he had been to Bennies with her. He had gotten me, I was certain of that now. Now that he had the picture it would be interesting to see what he did with it.  If he was just smart he would take it to his paper.  If he was REALLY smart he would take it and spread it around my friends and relatives to provide entertainment for all. If it didn’t show up in the papers I would know. If it what happened was the latter, I really wanted to recruit him. In any case before catching the Knickerbocker to Boston I wanted to make a quick check in and get message out to Josh so that somebody could pick me up in Plymouth, so I went back up to my building. I sent the message to Josh,  checked in with Lou to tell him I was leaving and told Bill about Tim and to make sure to ask him for a portfolio when he called.  If he did make one up it would be interesting to see the content he put in it.  I hoped that he would put in the picture of me even though I suspected that it would be part of the entertainment for our little family get together.  Bill said; “I did some checking when you first told me about him and it’s likely that we would have been talking to him soon anyway.  John D.’s office had already pointed him out and when I called the World about him they said to look at Friday’s paper if war doesn’t start in Europe.  He must have passed them a fairly hot story.”

“I think I know what it is. It should be interesting to see how it plays out. I need to go.”

I went back down to Grand Central and boarded my train. I wasn’t able to reserve a drawing room this time but the parlor car chair was comfortable and I took advantage of the opportunity to catch up on the business. As the train started to to get close to Boston I went into the men’s washroom and put Mr. White away and became plain old Noro again.

I took the commuter train to Plymouth where Josh was waiting. As I got into the truck he asked; “How did it go?”

“You know how it went. You were tracking my every move.”

“Not entirely, and something’s come up. The other side might be going after one of Eric’s and Greta’s grandkids, Andy. Tom is heading toward the warpath again and this time the whole family is backing him up. Ours too, more than likely.”

“Why?”

“Because the kid’s mother is the last survivor of Tom’s brother’s pack and we think that the other side might want to use the mother to make werewolves. The Manager has requested that she come down to the city. We’ve made some contingency plans we hope we don’t need, but if the kid is taken, things could heat up real fast. The good thing is that Tom’s playing sneaky. He’s also talking about using resources that the other side doesn’t even know about.  If the other side thinks that Tom with guns is bad, they should have considered what he could do with the “toy store” and a big chunk of cash. He’s never spent that money the government gave him for taking care of his brother, but push comes to shove, I don’t think that he would hesitate to use it to save his brother’s son’s life.”

“What’s the toy store?”

“That’s what he calls radio row. Apparently he went down there for stuff involving his battles with his sister.”

“If Tom is going after that thing, I’ll help. There have been some events concerning our sharks that you need to know about.  I think that Steve is bringing a packet out when he comes out later and I’m looking to hire a young man who just bonded with Suzy del Vecchio because of the related work he’s been doing.”

“She’s in the navy yard. How did that happen?”

“Sal said over a battleship, a camera and Bennies. He’s very good, especially at getting pictures that some of us would rather not have taken.”

“He got you, didn’t he. Probably in your Mr. White getup. What happened, you come up to him to hand him your card?”

“I think so. I never actually saw him point the camera in my direction, but I teased Mary about Mr. White,  my sister has always wanted a picture of me as Mr. White and both of them were talking to the young man recently, along with the Admiral and Steve too, probably. When I came up to him, he knew who I was.  If he did get me I want to hire him. Especially if he doesn’t just run off with it to the papers for the easy money.”

“Well you did introduce the Admiral to Mabel by dropping him into the drink right in front of her.”

“It was for his own good. I didn’t want to go through that again, like I did with you and Mera. By the way, why didn’t you do that with Tom?”

“Didn’t need to. By the time it got to that point, Tom had already bought his boat and Chrissie was running it with him. It was taking things to the next level where things got messed up.”

“Which was my fault, to a certain extent.”

“Well Stacey has a plan to keep you from going in that direction again.”

“What?”

“Her kids.”

“Does she want to risk leaving them with me? Look how Joe and Steve turned out.”

“We’re all willing to risk it. Of course if Andy isn’t taken, we’re dumping him on you too. If he is taken we want you and his mother to play some games at Grand Central and some delayed trains with some police activity added.”

“Do tell?”

“I’ll let Tom explain it, but the idea is to have helpless Hilda show up at Grand Central and get lost in all the confusion and kindly Uncle Noro whisk her up to his building while the other side is forced to look for her in a huge crowd with a bunch of women wearing the same dress and hat going through the station. From what Eric and Greta have said, the hard part might be getting Hilda playing the helpless lady that the other side thinks she is rather than the very dangerous police and Federal officer that she really is. If they do take Andy, we have more plans to mess them up.”

“That sounds like fun. I hope we don’t need them, but if we do, I’m in.”

Doppleganger.

When the Manager gave us this assignment we had been sent up well before our messenger. Regardless of what the target said, we were to take the boy and bring her into indenture.  The problem was getting close enough to the boy in the first place.  The area of the kingdom and the several related farms,the entire county in fact, was more or less inimical to twist and being there for any period of time had resulted in efficient hunts and the Twist never being heard from again. We had managed to at least get an idea of the situation by taking several people and driving through back and forth.  After the messenger delivered her message we checked Wednesday and steps had been taken to protect the boy. They had no way of knowing that those steps would actually make the operation possible.  That and a convenient distraction that we had arranged. Everything was in place for Friday.

Tim.

Suzy showed me around the yard, including the pool that was her room. The yard was fairly quiet before the holiday and most people had left early.  There was still some activity and I took pictures of the massive machines and even more massive ships.  Then we went back to Suzy’s office and Mike took us over to their house to pick up Cindy and down to Bennies.  Meria was there when we arrived with Sal, Sillia, Dom and Tara and I said; “I got Mr. White” and handed her the envelope.

She looked at it and said; “You certainly did. And did he know that you did it.”

“I don’t think so, I sort of accidently tripped the shutter while putting the camera down after taking a photo of some very interesting pigeons. He offered me a job right after.”

“He’s probably guessed. Did you hint that you knew who he was?”

“Yes.”

“Then he knows. He’s probably chagrined that somebody played the game better then he did.  He likes popping out at people in those outlandish getups and then turning a corner and making himself invisible.”

“Steve told me. He also said that he would teach me to do that too.” Suzy said; “I can too. It’s a useful skill and you might need it when you are dealing with the sharks.”

I pulled out the picture of Detective del Vecchio and Jimmy; “Well I know somebody who wears even more outlandish suits, but at least he has a reason.”

Dom said; “Who’s that rather ratty looking character with your outlandish friend.”

“That’s Detective del Vecchio. The saddest detective in the NYPD.”

Sal said; “He’s a real obnoxious character. He wants to go over my new house because the former tenants may have been doing something fishy.”

Dom asked; “What happened?”

“Noro found out that his house was being rented out to a certain toothy charity organization. Frank and I are taking a forensics team through as soon as they move out and looking to see what we find. Tim caught the leader of the Alopias in a car implicated in Detective del Vecchio’s kidnap case.”

“You didn’t know about this the day before yesterday?”

“I hadn’t seen the picture yet. There was Billy boy, right there in the front seat.”

Dad said; “So they were more than likely responsible for the kids. Do you think that that was why they were after the kids.”

“That’s why I was talking to you about figuring out how to sense fae kids. I think that the problem is that since we don’t intend to eat the kids it was never important to select them out. We don’t want to have a predatory relationship with our neighbors, so we don’t think to use our abilities that way. The Twisted do want that kind of relationship and they do think that way.”

I said; “I wonder if it would be possible to draw one of the sharks out and talk with them in way where they don’t know that it’s the other side. When I get the book back from Jimmy I’ll make a list and go over to the paper.  If these are society types, maybe the social columnist has stuff on them.  Weddings, events and whatnot.”

Sal said; “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Well I read the paper every morning and that stuff shows up. Like the stuff about Dom did.” Dom said; “What stuff about me?”

“Dom, they don’t want to piss you off so they won’t print anything unless it’s solid, but the newsrooms are wondering what happened to Tara and Sillia, or Cecilia, rather. The rumors are there and they will color how they cover you. The fact that Tara and Cecilia are gone is fairly obvious and is leading to questions in a bad direction.”

Tara said; “Sal brought this up yesterday and it’s fairly important.”

Stella said; “Mabel, Ella and I are in the public eye fairly often and people just don’t notice what we are, or know and don’t care. Dom, stop acting as if what you are is something to be ashamed of . We can’t change what we are, but we can look people in the eye and let them know that we are not afraid of it.”

Dom said; “Maybe you are right. I’d been so focused on the freak aspects that I hadn’t really thought about what people would think about why you weren’t there.”

Sal said; “You know Tim, when you start looking into the society pages, look into the shark attack victims. Other than Vinnie. They were all society types and had tails.  I wonder how they dealt with the issues Dom’s having.”

Mike said; “Tim, we have a copy of the book at home, so tomorrow you can just sit down and read it. That way, when Sal and Sillia come up for dinner, you can ask your questions.  Your insights about the society pages might be important.”

Sal said; “Dad, that’s true. I’ve been spending so much time chasing after what the clowns have done and not enough time figuring out who they are. I’ve gotten glimpses, but I’ve never taken a real look into their world. Tim, go through the book tomorrow and write down your questions. We need to know who these people are.”

Meria said; “We should ask Noro when he gets back about those people. He may not have had much to do with the current crowd, but he knew their grandparents, the people without the pretensions and abililty to hide what they were.”

Sillia said; “Sal brought down the pictures from our trip.”

She hauled out a huge stack of pictures and started to pass them around. It was obvious that they had a good time. Sal said; “Tim, when the time comes to close the deal, this place is a nice and comfortable place to go. We liked it, didn’t we, Sillia.”

“Yes we did.”

I said; “this would make a wonderful happy ending to the warehouse story, but nobody would believe it.”

Dom asked; “Who’s yacht was this?”

Sal replied; “It’s one of Josh’s charter boats. He chartered himself. There he is in his captain’s suit.”

“Your point about him and not recognizing him is well taken. We both know the man, yet wearing this, he seems entirely different. More authoritative.”

“The thing I noticed was that, with the people who knew him, no matter who they were, he was able to carry that authority, no matter what he wore. Was he always that way Meria?”

“Not when he was down here on that barge. At least not until you dropped a monster down on him. But he built a reputation with the barge folks and that’s not easy. Of course we kept a discrete eye on him, because he was a monster magnet.  They could sense that he was there, but not just how powerful he was until he killed them.  Sort of like you, Sal, in a way.  You don’t have Josh’s shields though.  Those were a major frustration with Noro. Somebody must have truly loved him to wrap such protections on him and then give him up.”

Dad said; “So Noro offered you a job. Are you going to take it?”

“Should I? Jonney at the battery says it was the big time.”

Meria said; “I would. He won’t hurt you and you can learn a lot from him. The mere fact that he recruited you says a lot about you.  Of course he will try to drag you into his twisty schemes. But he doesn’t leave people stuck in those schemes even when they go sour. Though you may end up in the drink.”

Mike said; “Like the Admiral did. Not that I’ve ever notice him really complain about that. I do think that he will like that picture you took.  Is a copy on it’s way to the Cape?”

I said; “Steve said there was a copy in that packet of other stuff. Do you know anybody who will want another one?”

Meria said; “You could make quite a bit of money with that picture with all the papers. They’ve wanted a picture of the “Mysterious Mr. White” for decades.”

“I know about the bounty list and who tops the list. I think I’ll keep it in my special stuff that doesn’t go to the paper file for the time being. Like my mermaid dancing pictures. I don’t want to screw things up for a quick buck I don’t really need right now.”

“That’s a good policy.”

Tara said; “That was quite a party you had on that beach. I see Josh, Mera,Mike and Nera, Sal and Steve’s people. Who are those two?”

“That’s Al and Mera’s sister, Eltra. Al is holding Tom’s rifle that he used to shoot the necromancer.”

“So that must be Tom and Chrissie. Then the two with legs are Tom’s parents. What are they like?”

“Sal and I didn’t get as much opportunity to talk with them, but they seemed like nice people, didn’t they Sal.”

“Considering the stories about them going around the office, much nicer in person. On the other hand Boris and Stephie came down from time to time with their kids and they were ok too.”

I looked at the picture of Sal and Sillia in front of the car with Sillia wearing a necklace that looked like it could buy a small country and thought about how well they looked like that. “Gone upscale” Indeed.

Stella said; “Other than that ambush, it looks like you had a wonderful time.”

Sillia said; “Even the ambush wasn’t so bad,except for that guy from the outfit who was in front of the zombies before anybody could warn him. We had so many guns on that beach that a small army would have hesitated to take us on and the people on the other side didn’t even seem to have a clue about what might show up.  The funny thing is that just about everything on that beach should have been more or less predictable if you knew about us. Maybe Steve’s people should have been a surprise, but why didn’t they ask any questions about Josh before going after his daughter, twice.  Seriously, up there on the Cape, the overriding goal of everybody, both the outfit and cops was one thing, don’t do anything that would piss him off.”

Sal said; “When Mike and I were talking with Jake and Nera they said that if the other side had actually succeeded in killing Tom and Chrissie, it was likely that Josh , in order to get to the people responsible, could shut down the city. This city, New York.”

Dom said; “He’s the Peacekeeper. The one rule up there, is don’t do anything to piss off the Peacekeeper. Talk about playing with fire.”

Mom said; “Tim, what have you been up to?”

“Aside from job offers from strange characters and interviewing woebegone detectives you mean. Well I posted the kidnap story to the paper and took some pictures of a cute mermaid dancing.”

“I want to see those the next time you come.”

Katy said; “I want to try that.”

“Well we’ll have to train you up. We also need to teach you how to be discrete so that you don’t scare people.”

I said; “You want to do that. An indiscrete mermaid got me in trouble in the first place.”

Suzy said. I wasn’t indiscrete, you were snooping.”

“From a dock across the water? If you had been making bigger splashes they would have seen them over that battleship.”

“I wasn’t making big splashes, you just were snooping too hard. That’s why I had to come over and get you wet.”

“It didn’t work, did it.”

“See, I told you I didn’t make big splashes.”

“Only in relation to Jimmy’s suits.”

“Nobody makes splashes that big. You can see Jimmy from across the yard sometimes.”

“Suzy, I’ve been able to see Jimmy from the bridge on my way over. At least I’ve never seen you. On the other hand I wasn’t looking for splashes either.”

The rest of the dinner went like that and then we took most of the merfolk down to the water, went to the house and we talked until Suzy got dry and we went to bed. The next morning Mike handed me a copy of the briefing book and I started to look at it, starting with a rather ridiculous picture of a mermaid in a lobster pot being carried by a man who I recognized from all the pictures of him last night. I recognized the mermaid too in fact. I asked Mike; “Why was Chrissie in a lobster pot?”

“I think that she was trying to catch Tom at that point. He didn’t have a camera until later and there wasn’t a place like Bennies up there as far as I know. Anyway Josh caught her instead and Sal’s coworker, Mike took the photo.  Of course Mike was caught by Nera then at the same time, but didn’t realize it. She chased him down here, which started a lot of what’s happening now off. Read on.”

I looked at some stuff about the Rockaway bower that seemed rather sketchy from what I knew. Where was Bennie as a contact? I said; “I hope they update this stuff about the bower.  They should have Bennie as point of contact.”

“The book probably hasn’t caught up with what we know now.”

The book had a government employee file for a Mera Claytor that seemed to end about ten years ago and then the stuff about the warehouse which I didn’t understand, but looked like mad scientist stuff, then a series of pictures of Chrissie again, a merman who must be Tom, Tom using a shotgun to shoot “things,” More of the things, sharks and then bodies where the sharks were, then a body with more pictures apparently taken later where the bodies were gone and Tom’s report about what happened followed by Sal’s report on shark attacks on Sillia’s brother and some society types and the missing persons report on the socialites who disappeared one of whom’s face was the same as that as the person that Tom had shot. I looked up and said; “Wow. This is strange stuff.”

“Very strange. Until Sal and Tom came up with the idea of Twisted sharks and proved their existence, nobody could make sense of any of it. That’s why the other side was so desperate to try to kill Tom.  They go to great lengths to destroy evidence of their existence, or at least keep it out of people’s knowledge.”

I thought about all those little ethnic papers in the city and said; “How come the fae don’t have a paper? Everybody else does in this town.”

“You know, Tim, I doubt that anybody’s ever thought of that. We fae just don’t think that way generally. We like to keep things hidden and private. Mera’s been asking the same sorts of questions, but nobody’s quite asked that question. When you talk to Noro, ask him.”

“I will.”

Even if everything in it was rather unbelievable something like that would probably sell. In act the more unbelievable the better the paper would sell.

A man in a navy uniform came through the door. He said; “Mom, I made it.”

Stella said; “Mark, you did. Meet Suzy’s bonded, Tim.”

“How did that happen?”

Suzy rolled out; “Mark, you’re here! Come, meet Tim. I met him over a camera and a battleship.”

“That must be a story, do tell.”

“Tim, show him the pictures.”

The battleship and dancing pictures were on the table. We had been showing them to Cindy earlier. I handed the battleship picture over and said; “I took a picture of the Pennsylvania here and your sister was caught in the picture. She spotted me taking it and started to chase after me from the water.”

“Why were you taking the picture, other than the scenery, which I admit is rather cute,what little you see.”

“Well I push papers, but I want to be a photographer and reporter. I’ve been going down to the market there chasing a story about some kidnapped kids.   I had a couple of pictures left on the roll and decided that I would take a picture of Manhattan and the battleship was right there. A certain mermaid who shall remain nameless because she’s in the room thought that I was snooping on her and started to chase me every time I was down on that pier, nailing me with water magic.  Anyway earlier this week I had a rather exciting day where I encountered the kidnappers and took their photograph and I emptied the camera to get the film developed for the police and some others.”

Mike said; “The others were Dom’s people.”

“Anyway I went to then end of that pier again and that certain mermaid zinged me and caused me to drop my camera. I heard; “Oh no! and looked down to see no mermaid or camera either and went back rather dejectedly to my friends who assured me that losing the camera was not the end of the world and that they would make arrangements to get me another camera.  Anyway I went to my flop, where there was a telegram telling me to go down to Coney Island where my dad took me to a restaurant called Bennies where I discovered that my mother was a mermaid, my sister was a mermaid and that my father was a merman and was joining them under sea. We then went into Bennies for a farewell dinner where who should be there, but the most famous man in the city, Troubleshooter, “Gone upscale,” Sal, along with his mergirl and mob father and mother in law. Shortly thereafter, your sister arrived and the mystery of what had happened to my camera was solved. Of course my world was turned sideways in the process, but at least it was a good sideways.”

Mark said; “Who’s this “Gone upscale” guy that I’m related to.”

I heard a familiar rumble and said; “He just got here.”

Mike said; “I better let him in. Suzy, sit in a chair so that I can bring Sillia in.”

Suzy transferred to a kitchen chair and Mike said; “I think you’ll want to see this, Mark.”

They went over to the garage and Mike pushed the button that opened the door. I heard Sal’s car rumble in and the engine stop. Shortly thereafter they came back with Sal pushing Sillia. Sal said; “Since Andy couldn’t get leave, Tara dragged Dom under again.”

Mark said; “So what’s the story with that car?”

Sal said; “ A few weeks ago, my partner thought she had a tail, so I pulled it out the clandestine vehicle pool and I’ve sort of been stuck with it.”

“How did that happen?”

“You remember Jimmy?”

“The jerk? Sure.”

“Anyway, we were looking for a connection involving a case and I went over to Jimmy’s office and-“

I said; “I’ll do Jimmy: Hey, Sal. I thought you were a cop, but no cop drives a Duesie.”

We went on and did the whole thing and Mark just laughed and laughed. He said; “Who’s the shoot for the trouble?”

“Our range officer, Al. So anyway, Vinnie was killed, so I’ve been undercover doing his job and building a mob reputation so that I can get the people we are really after.”

“I heard about Vinnie, but I thought it was a shark attack.”

“It was, but the sharks weren’t really sharks, they were Changed.”

“How did you find out about all this. I mean I knew about Change because mom told me about hers and Suzy’s and the Academy quietly pulled those of us who came from fae backgrounds and told us, but as far as I knew you didn’t really know about it. We sort of knew that Sillia was chasing you, it didn’t seem that you had picked up on it.”

“Well my superior, Mike Wendell went down to the Rockaways with my boss and had a life Changing event. That’s when I had one of my own with Sillia.”

“Mike bonded with somebody? When he came to Dad’s Christmas party none of the ladies could get him interested and they tried.”

“He went up to the Cape and she latched right on to him and chased him down here and closed the deal right off the bat. According to the police reports they heard the noise for six blocks. They are up at the Cape right now having a great time.

Anyway as result of my run in with Jimmy I was able to track down the warehouse that went up in smoke a few weeks ago and a couple newly bonded up on the Cape had a run in with the sharks where most of the sharks got sort of dead, Real Sal closed the deal with Sillia, troubleshooter Sal has control of the high end booze market with some rather interesting characters and Detective del Vecchio and our intrepid young reporter here are chasing strange events down on the docks.”

“Other than my sister, who even without a tail was pretty strange.”

Suzy said; “I just found Tim, don’t scare him away.”

I said; “Suzy, after all the stuff I‘ve gone through this week, you’re the most normal thing  that’s happened.”

Stella called dinner and we had enjoyable meal and then I said; “I need to get to bed. Sal wanted me to go over to Fulton St tomorrow and I need to do that before I pick up the papers.”

Mike and Suzy took me back to my flop and I went to bed. The next morning I went over to the market and talked to some people and showed my picture around. Nobody had seen the car yet, but I told them to call Mary’s number if they did and that the car had been implicated in the kidnappings across the river. I took some pictures of the market so I could do a story about it.

Then I went over to the paper to pick up my papers, the foreman saw me and said; “Tim! The editor wants to see you, We’ll hold your papers until you get back. I went upstairs to the newssroom and George at the desk said; “The boss wants to see you, go on back.”

I passed the newsoom pool over to the editors office and knocked.  I opened the door and gravelly voiced man chomping a cigar called past me; “Bill get in here!”

He sat back down and said; “Tim, I’m Roger Bennet and I run this paper, here. He handed me a Graflex and an envelope.  Bill came in and he said; “Bill did the writeup but that was good work you did with the kidnap story.  Have you looked at the paper yet?”

“Nn-o?”

He handed me a copy. There was my stuff on Detective del Vecchio and an article about the five kids that had been kidnapped on the front page with a large splash headline. The only thing it didn’t have was my close up picture of the car which I hadn’t given the paper yet. The inside of the paper had my story about the farm kids being kept home and how that made the work harder and the stuff on Sal’s former cases. He said; “Open the envelope.”

Inside was a check for the same amount that I would make with the papers in three months, and a set of press credentials in my name. “Buy a suit, sell your spot, stop selling papers and get me more stuff like this. I don’t want to see you here Monday unless you’re dropping copy off. Now get out there and get the rest of the story. Bill set things up.”

Bill took me back out to his desk. He said; “You did good work with this. Welcome to the big time. When you see Detective del Vecchio, see if you can arrange for him, me and you to meet.  He doesn’t seem to have a desk at the PD that I’ve been able to find.”

“I’ll do that. He was detached to somebody else for a while for some undercover work out of town. That’s why he disappeared for a while.  He just picked up this case. I’ll get his number for you.”

“Ok, well, bring your copy to me and I’ll handle the stuff here at the paper. Bring your film into the darkroom here and we’ll take care of developing and lab from here on.  Go down and get some film packs for your camera on your way out.

I put the camera in my satchel, went down and picked up the film and my papers and went over to my corner. I told Jonney; “Jonney, I’ll be around, but you’ll have to watch some new boy here. This is my last day. I made the front page.”

I handed him the paper and he said; “You aren’t the first young man I’ve seen grow up on this corner, but you’re one of the best. Come by and see me and bring your girl by someday.”

I pushed papers and told my regulars including Mr. Rockefeller that it was my last day and showing them the byline on the front page. Mr. Rockefeller smiled and said; “So now you have to write the news you sell? Just don’t make the news.”

It was getting up toward lunch time, Sal drove by and Jimmy showed up, so I grabbed a couple copies of the paper and headed over to the office. I walked in and Mary already had a copy and said; “Tim. Good work. You look a little sad?”

“Well today was my last day on my corner. I knew it was coming, but it’s a little hard to give up. On the other hand I’m full time at the paper as a stringer now.”

“Excellent! I love it when our young men grow up.”

“I want to talk about something with Sal.”

I walked into the office and Alex held up the paper and said; “Tim!, you made the big time! We’ve seen the paper.”

“Yes I did. Which was bit of a surprise. The boss over there told me to buy a suit, stop selling papers and get more stories. So I’m off my spot for good now.”

I walked over to Sal’s desk and said; “Sal, do you have somebody over at the PD who can create a desk for Detective del Vecchio?”

“Why?”

I handed him the paper; “Because people are going to want to talk to him and they might get suspicious if they can’t find him at the PD. I told my reporter that you had been on detached undercover duty, but now that you’re back in the public eye, people are going to want to know how to reach you.”

“I think that we can arrange that. Let’s talk to Mary and set it up. By the way congratulations on making the front page.”

“Well now I’m going to have to buy a suit. They did give me a new camera.”

I held up the Graflex. “A bit of a load. By the way, I checked out the fishmarket this morning and they hadn’t seen the car. I did give them Mary’s number in case they do, but that may be another reason to have a number for Detective del Vecchio.”

“We do want to give Detective del Vecchio more work don’t we? Of course nobody’s actually ever going to see his desk at the PD because it’s so far down in the basement that it’s easier for him to just meet people at places rather than have them come down and find his desk.”

Boris.

The Andy at school decision was made for us by some mu’dak who was launching constructs all over the place starting late Thursday night. I needed Hilda and most of my people to get to them and find out where they were being launched from. Fortunately, other than scaring the hell out of people and killing some cows, the damage was light. Still I had people driving around dealing with scared people usually after the construct had been shot to pieces, because while the people were scared they didn’t tend to be unarmed and even without specials a shotgun will pretty much destroy a construct If you unload the gun into it. The hardest part was convincing people that we believed them when they said that they were attacked by monsters and that the monsters weren’t going to be a constant threat. A surprising amount of the people knew what a construct was and just wanted the person responsible so that they knew where to send the bill for the damage. So by Friday morning, I needed Hilda to be nosing around in more ways than one and taking testimony,  and the rest of my family and my people out on the roads looking for said Mu’dak, so we sent Andy to school with the rest of the kids. Hilda did some checking with the neighbors of the farms that had been attacked and somebody had seen a Cadillac roadster with New York plates. We caught the guy as he was getting ready to use the Lake Champlain ferry and return to New York.

He turned out to be a high fae from the kingdom over there in New York who had had a run in with Bob and Scott about six months ago over a hay wagon that Bob and Scott had been trying to fix the wheel on so that they could get it off the road it was blocking. The boys hadn’t wanted to move the wagon with the broken wheel and the idiot was trying to make them move the wagon to impress his girl. The high fae had tried to use his abilities to coerce the boys, only to find out that that didn’t work when the boys were both much stronger than he was and they used the tools they were using to fix the wagon to take his fancy car apart and sent it back across the lake in pieces.   Eric had gone over to the New York Kingdom and had a rather strong talk with the king over there about misuse of abilities and general behavior.

This was mid afternoon and we managed to lock the character up, but he wouldn’t tell us where he got the construct seeds. I told Bob and Scott to sit on him so that he couldn’t use his abilities to escape. Sheriff Douglas in Lamoille County called about some people who had been found dead with no marks on them where the only thing that seemed to be stolen was their car.  I said that we would keep an eye out for the car, but that Hilda and I had already had a long day and we would get back to him tomorrow.  Then Cal George called and said that a strange car had turned up and his dog had found two bodies, so would we send somebody up. Hilda looked at me and we went out to the  truck and started up to his farm. When we got there, he said; “Hi, Boris, Hilda. The car’s on the side of the road here and the bodies are over here.”

Hilda got out and started to take pictures of the car and the man and women’s clothing that had been left on the side of the road while Cal took me over to the bodies that had been dragged under some bushes. They were face down and as I turned one over it was Ray. The other was Don.  Somebody had just killed two of my deputies and I thought I knew why. I called out; “Hilda, come over!”

She came over and said; “Andy.”

I turned to Cal and said; “I need to use your phone, right now.”

We went over to his house. It was just after 3:00 pm. I dialed the school, hoping that I wasn’t too late. Mildred the secretary answered.  “Mildred, could you get Stephie on the phone, right now. It’s an emergency.”

“She’s watching the kids getting on to the busses, but I will get her.”

A couple of minutes later, Stephie picked up the phone; “Boris?”

“Is Andy still there?”

“Ray and Don just picked him up, what’s wrong.”

“Ray and Don are up here, dead. They got Andy, I think. I need to call father.”

I hung up and called the farm. Mother answered. “Mother, get father, right now, I think that they have Andy.”

“How?”

“I think that they replaced two of my deputies and just picked him up. If  he does show up in the next few minutes call me back here.” I gave then Cal’s number.

Mother called out and father appeared on the line; “Boris, What’s going on.”

“Father, take whoever you can find and look on the road for one of my cars with two of my deputies. If Andy is in the car, stop it at all costs. The other side has probably replaced two of my deputies and taken Andy. There may be a chance that they haven’t gone past the farm yet and they have to to get to the main road.  I need to get to my office.”

I turned to Cal and said; “Could you wait by the phone for the next little while, I need to talk to Hilda. Let me know if my father calls back.”

I went back outside. Hilda was taking photographs of the bodies. I said; “I just called Stephie. Ray and Don just picked Andy up. I called father and told him to stop the car if he could, but it’s likely that they were already past the farm by the time I called.”

I could almost see her start to Change; “They got him. I should have told Sphinx that I would come down as instructed.”

“I don’t think that would have mattered. This was too elaborate and took too long to set up. They set it up before Sphinx even started up this week. They were going to do this regardless of what you said you were going to do. Get some photos of everything, I’ll have Vic come up for the bodies and we’ll head back to the office. We need to start making calls.”

Noro.

Dumping Stacey’s kids on me actually worked, especially little Dori, who had me wrapped around her little finger in minutes. I hadn’t realized just what I had missing by staying down below.  Of course Josh, “better you than me” didn’t fully escape either.  Altris and Ilutra stayed down below, this year, but I suspected that they would be up top next year. All three of my daughters had bonded now and I couldn’t wait to see how Nera’s and Eltras’ kids turned out.  If Josh’s kids were any indication the word would be; amazing.  Both Stacey and Moira were amazing cooks and the Thanksgiving meal was probably intended to help convince me to stay up top more.  If that was true, it worked. Stacey especially surprised Tom with his favorite fudge. Chrissie took Tom out to start to teach him to dance, which was good for some laughs all around and Nera and Eltra did the same thing for Mike and Al.   Mike and Al had had time for longer Swims than Tom had, so at least they were in better shape.

The pictures came out starting with Chrissie’s pictures of her trip to the farm, then some pictures that Mary had sent Stacey including a very funny picture of Josh carrying Chrissie around in a pot, some more of Mike and Nera, the ladies dancing at the navy yard and next to Bennies and at the end, a picture of me, in my Mr. White suit. Leaving no doubt that young Mr. Thomas had indeed, gotten me, for the entertainment of all in the room.

I went out to the bower Thursday night with Josh and Mera, but things seemed to be fine. Friday, Josh, Joe and Tom went over the Bed tank business plan with me and frankly, even if it were a loser it would be a lot of fun and the potential customer response we had already said it wouldn’t be a loser. Tom was worried about some details, but that was his engineer sense talking and he had been around these things longer than I realized when I spouted off to Lou about him not knowing about production. He also had a good knowledge of how government operated and how to make it work for you and keep the paperwork straight.  In any case we all sort of agreed that the tank bed needed development anyway and we didn’t really want to rush in blindly.

Friday had been another day with the kids at Alex’s when about 3:30, Eric and Greta called. Andy had been taken. Al and Tom took Chrissie’s negative over to the film lab to have a stack of prints made for the people in Boston while Mike wired a photo down to Helmut. Stacey started to call all her contacts and let them know what was coming. Josh went over to the office and called Ray, Jake and then everybody else that he could.  Steve went over to his hotel and called the Admiral, gave him the heads up and filled him in on Mike and Al’s speculation about werewolves.  I went to John’s and gave him the heads up and then I called Lou and George at home and told them to be ready on Monday for some crisis activity and that I would be down to discuss it tomorrow. When we were more or less done Josh said; “There’s a good chance that they will make it back to New York with Andy even though we got the word out. There are just too many roads and ways to get there. Especially if they change cars and drivers.”

Doppleganger.

The retrieval had gone well. We took the two deputies as we planned by replacing a couple and then faking car trouble.  The child got in the car and started to make small talk about guns and I put him to sleep while my partner continued quickly past the farm that was the most likely danger point.  As soon as we could, we used our police car to pull a couple over, replaced them, put the sleeping boy in the car and moved on to the rendevous. Tiger was there and said “Hand the boy and his things over to me. He didn’t have a gun on him, did he?”

“Just this cap pistol. “

I snapped the trigger, popped off a couple caps and dropped it back in the bag. Kid’s toys were very well made these days.

Hilda.

I needed to be professional, for Andy. Now that the thing we had all feared most had happened I couldn’t let my fear or anger capture me. We went back to the office and started to make calls. First to the neighboring counties to alert them that one of our cars had been stolen. Then I called the Federal office in Boston to report that my child had been kidnapped and told them that a photograph would be coming shortly.  George had made copies of the negatives and photos that Chrissie had taken of Andy and me and that meant that we had very recent photos of Andy to wire. Boris called New York and reported what had happened and that it looked like we had a doppleganger, more than likely, two.

I had the photos I had taken of the car this afternoon developed and called Sheriff Douglas to tell him that we had probably found the car and that I would be up to check on the bodies first thing in the morning.   Then I went into the lock up where Bob was taking his shift with our prisoner. He put down the paper he was reading as I walked in.  I said; “Bob dear, now I know that you are always the best behaved, but his young man has misused his abilities and we can’t bring him to trial for crimes that normals don’t know about, so this is fae justice.  He’s also part of somebody taking Andy today. I need to know who gave him those construct seeds that he used last night and this morning and I don’t have a lot of time right now to ask him nicely.”

Bob smiled and said; “You know, Uncle Tom was really looking forward to Andy being at his wedding the week after next wasn’t he?”

“Yes he was.”

“Well Uncle Tom has done some very nice things for me recently and there’s no way I would disappoint him.”

He looked at the prisoner, who started to look as if he had a bunch of itches that he needed to scratch; “Why don’t you just make it easy on yourself and tell my aunt what she needs to know. There’s no way I’m going to disappoint her, Tom and especially Chrissie.  Andy is my cousin and Uncle Tom’s favorite nephew and I’m NOT going to disappoint Uncle Tom where his wedding is concerned. Aunt Hilda, why don’t you check in in a bit.”

The prisoner looked like he was developing the worst case of poison ivy ever and Bob just picked up his paper again. I closed the door and a short while later the screams started. I made some more calls and then went back with a pad and paper and said; “Bob, dear, how is he doing.”

“I don’t know Aunt Hilda, he seems to have suddenly become allergic to our jail. You know, we could transfer him across the lake if we had that information you wanted.”

The prisoner looked like he’d developed a SEVERE rash all over his body. A rash that looked excruciatingly painful. I said; “I could really use a name and address for those seeds, it would help the investigation tremendously.  I don’t think you realize just how much trouble you are in.  Kidnapping is a Federal Crime and being an accessory to kidnapping a Federal officers kid is a good way to get a nice vacation on the Rock.”

“They’ll kill me.”

“Well whoever they are, they are not here and we are. I’m afraid that your prospects don’t look that shiny right now. Your friends, whoever they are, set you up for the long fall while they got away. They probably told you that this was just fun and games and a little bit of revenge on us.  They used you and then threw you out.  At some point my father is going to have to talk to your king again and with his grandson taken, he’s not going to be in a good mood when he does it.  He may even ask for your head and considering that there are several other kingdoms allied with us in this and this is a Federal matter, he’ll likely get it.  Now I would like to tell my father that you cooperated and to let you go back, on the provisio that we never see you on this side of the lake again, ever.  I can’t do that unless you actually do cooperate. Or you can stay here in our jail that you are obviously allergic to until we have time to deal with you.  That might take several months if we can’t get Andy back and I’m occupied with resolving that.”

Bob said; “Maybe we should just let him go, period. Chrissie likes Andy and Grandfather said that the outfit essentially likes to give her little presents and do her little favors. Sometimes they don’t even wait for her to ask for them. When the outfit hears about this, and they probably already have, I wouldn’t want to be anybody that in any way refused to cooperate.”

Greta came in; “I wanted to check our prisoner for those compulsions that the other side is so fond of. Of course if he had had those he would already be dead. He’s clean though. They must not have considered what he might have important enough to protect.”

“See, they don’t even think that you know anything worth killing you over. So why don’t you give us what you do have and save yourself a lot of grief.”

With that, he started to spill his guts and I wanted to have a talk with Sal about the construct ring that seemed to be out there as he was our bureau’s resident expert on the things. In this case they were obviously just used as a distraction.  Unfortunately it worked.  Other than the source for construct seeds, he didn’t know very much. The other side was just taking advantage of his desire for petty revenge.  I would talk to Eric, but I thought that dumping this loser back where he came from with the provisio that he never come back here was the best solution if we wanted him alive.

A call came in. The Washington County Sheriff’s department had found our car alongside the road on Route 2 and the bodies of a couple along with two discarded deputy uniforms. I turned to Boris and said; “It looks like our dopplegangers don’t look like Ray and Don anymore.”

“They probably transferred Andy to somebody else by now anyway. The other side knows enough to keep Twist away from young fae that they might see as prey and they have to know that if they actually hurt Andy, we pull out all the stops. We can’t do anything more tonight, let’s go home.”

Helmut.

Mary and I had our usual Thanksgiving with those of our orphans who didn’t have families. Fortunately this year that was a smaller crowd, by four. We all shared in the happiness of Mike, Sal, Linda and Al. We also looked forward to the light that they would bring into our little world. This had been a good day in a good week.  Then Friday became Monday. For most of the day things were fine. Tim had been kicked off his corner and onto the front page, but that was just growing pains. The sharks seemed to be staying away from the markets or at least not looking for new hunting grounds.  Then the other side managed to take Andy.  It takes a lot to truly upset Mary, but first Boris’s call and then the call to Greta did. Eric and Greta had become old friends over the years and Mary actually had an album of pictures of Andy growing up.  Andy had been our one great victory in the debacle that the werewolves in the war represented.

We did have one good thing going for us. Thanks to Al and Mike being up at the Cape and Linda being up at White River Junction we had people, all of whom were strong fae, almost right where we needed them. When Mike checked in I told him to take Al and Al’s car and head up to the farm.  Tom was making a sweep hoping to pick up Andy over across Massachusetts and down the river toward New Haven. Unfortunately our doppelganger guy was still trying to stake that vampire up on the upper West side. Also Greta mentioned that Andy was not exactly unarmed and helpless unless the opposition was really paying attention. The situation was not hopeless.

Al.

Helmut told Mike and I to head up to the farm to be more or less the senior Feds up there and avoid certain things that might scare some people. Eltra wanted to go, but we couldn’t take the extra day to make the extra stops like Tom did. In fact, other than to make a quick stop in Boston to drop off the pictures and another in White River Junction to touch base with Linda, we were driving right through.  We dropped off the photos in Boston and went over to White River Junction, where we arrived early Saturday morning. We had breakfast with Linda who in addition to  practicing her flying, had looked at the hotel’s register and made an amazing discovery. Because the train that Sphinx left Vermont on terminated at White River junction she usually stayed there overnight and caught the train the next morning.  She had even been staying at the hotel at the same time that Tom, Chrissie, Eric and Greta had on their trip down.  Of course Sphinx had no way of knowing that we knew her real name.

We left White River Junction and drove onto the farm, where we arrived at about mid afternoon. Stephie came out on the porch and said; “Al! Mike! You got up here quick.”

She also did this in her Change, which was new.  I said; “New look, Stephie?”

‘No, just one I never showed you before. I can’t wait to meet Nera and Eltra.”

Mike said; “I think you’ll like them.”

“I think I will too. Come on in.”

Eric, Greta, Boris and Hilda were there. Eric said; “You didn’t waste any time.”

I said; “We wanted to get up here as soon as we could and before any other Feds show up and tried to take things over. Mike and I have enough seniority to make sure that doesn’t happen and there certain issues that we don’t want just fluttering around and scaring somebody.”

Boris said; “We had some of that. There was an idiot launching constructs all over the place on Thanksgiving and Friday. We finally caught him. He’s over at the jail right now. He’s a high fae from across the lake who had a run in with two of our boys and found out the hard way that just because you wear farm clothes you can still be very powerful fae when he tried to use coercion on them.”

“What happened?”

“All the coercion did was piss them off.  Either one was much stronger than he was. The two boys are our mechanics and they took his fancy Cadillac apart and sent the car back across the lake in pieces.”

Eric said; “I went over and had a firm talk with the king over there about the proper use of abilities and proper behavior in general. Bob and Scott may be natural troublemakers but they never use their abilities to force somebody to do something and they don’t take real advantage of others other than on the track with their driving skills. Apparently the idiot didn’t take the lesson to heart and came over here with those constructs to perform some sort of bizarre revenge. I’m going to have to take him back over and demand restitution for some dead cows and property damage.  And make the point that I really don’t like having my neighbors scared out of their wits.  Though most of the constructs ended up being shot to pieces. Anyway the idiot is in the jail.”

Mike said; “Should we give him the scary Fed?” Hilda said; “I already did. He didn’t have much.  Apparently the other side set him up. Then while were distracted by the cleanup they sent a pair of dopplegangers,  replaced two of our deputies, just drove up to the school and Andy got in with them.”

“Why was Andy at the school in the first place?”

“The construct cleanup. We had so many family members and deputies going all over the place that we felt that Andy would be safer there.”

Mike said; “I hate to say this, but we think that we know why they want you. They want werewolves.”

“I suspected something like that. Certain Change must be easier to Twist, to make monsters.”

“We can’t let you go down.”

“Can you stop me, deny me my child?”

“No, but we have a plan. You go down, but you don’t get in their car because you’re  helpless Hilda, lost in Grand Central and your wealthy great uncle, Noro, takes you out of there and over to his building, which concidently is filled with fae and mob headquarters.”

“Who?”

“Noro is Chrissie’s grandfather.  He made too much money a while back and really likes playing games. In the meantime Grand Central is filled with police officers and Feds looking for some notorious criminal and some other ideas if we can come up with them.  We’re also going to delay your train, so that the other side is driving around trying to find a parking spot, which they can’t because all the pick up and taxi stands are filled with police cars. The idea is that rather than putting you in their car, if they want you, they have to come to us.”

Greta said; “A lot of this is Tom’s idea. Apparently he went through Grand Central, got lost and he remembered it.  One problem that he didn’t consider is that I’m not sure that Sphinx knows what you really look like. She’s only seen you in Change.”

Mike said; “They gave you a ticket. Did they write down a number or anything to call if things got screwed up?”

Hilda said; “No, they just said that they would send a car.”

I said; “I was afraid of that. They don’t know what you look like, they are trying to pick you up in a place with about ten different places to do that and they don’t even think to give you something if things go bust. They are assuming that you will know what to do in a huge place that you have never been. This is their typical screwup. Well one thing we can do is make sure that Sphinx knows what you look like. You don’t go to your meeting in Change.”

“But won’t she suspect something?”

Greta said; “we were going to make a statement with this meeting anyway, so I don’t think that one additional element will make a difference.”

I said; “I think I have the perfect way to make a statement. When I knew I was coming up here I brought some cartridges for Larry and I to play with.”

Eric said; “What kind of cartridges? We have everything except for-“

“Yes, that big Browning that the Army can’t seem to make it’s mind up about. Well they did finally, and I know that Larry keeps one and another receiver in the armory because Colt and he did a bunch of development on it. In fact I was part of that. But buying ammo is a pain and expensive, so Larry doesn’t keep a lot. I brought two boxes up, just in case. On belts. We haul out an old car and shred it while Sphinx is watching and I can almost guarantee that she won’t even think to ask why Hilda wasn’t in Change.”

Hilda pouted and said; “But if we’re meeting with Sphinx, Stephie and I won’t get a chance to play with it. It’s the only gun we haven’t had a chance to play with.”

“I thought of that and brought a second box, for the ladies.”

Larry came in with two young men and said; “Al, Mike, you came up quick! Meet Bob and Scott.”

I said; “I’ve heard a lot about you from Tom, and now Boris.” Bob said; “Don’t believe everything you hear.” Scott said; “Except what Uncle Tom says.  He hasn’t been around enough to get our true glory yet.”

“So what happened with our idiot over at the jail?”

“Well about six months ago Bob and I were dealing with a stuck wheel on a loaded hay wagon that was blocking a road. Now this wasn’t a busy road so we just jacked up the wheel and started to grease the bearing and get it unstuck. There was enough room to get around us for  most cars and around here people expect the sort of thing that happened to us. This clown in a big Cadillac drives up and starts honking. Then he starts yelling at us to move the wagon.  Remember that at this point we’ve chocked the wheels, the wagon is jacked,  untied the tractor because it was in the way and we had the truck in front of the wagon with our tools and the wheel is off the axle on the ground.  So it’s about the same amount of time to take the wagon off the jacks and move it either way and there was no way we were putting a loaded wagon in the ditch anyway.  So we start to feel that push that comes with a compulsion.  It didn’t affect us very much, but it was rude and an annoyance, so Bob goes over and tells him to knock it off. The idiot ups the pressure and Bob squelches him.  Then we took his car off the road and since we had our toolbox right there in the truck, we took the thing apart, then went back, fixed the wagon, offered his girl a ride, which she accepted and off we went. We did stop at a neighbors and call a tow truck. Once we had the wagon back at the barn, we drove her over to the ferry. I hope that she isn’t bonded with him. Once he woke up and the tow showed up, he had the tow take him over to the sheriff’s office in Burlington, they called Boris, who came over and asked us what happened.  When we told him, he took it up with grandfather who went over across the lake and had a rather sharp discussion about the proper use of  one’s abilities.  Apparently he got somebody to put his car back together and he came back the night before last to cause havoc.”

“Typical clueless idiot then.”

“With the belief that having abilities makes him somehow special. Maybe it does over there.  Over here, by the time you go through grandpa’s grand kids, his brother’s and sisters grand kids, and just the random fae that  live in the county, having abilities is just pretty normal. And the people who don’t have abilities can do other stuff, like work with tools or cars, run a good business or are really good shots. So nobody uses their abilities to do much more than fun and games, trying coercion is right out and will get you a Russian talking to from Boris. Using constructs would probably not if it was a shooting party and they were just launched so that we could shoot them.  But launching them at people who didn’t know? That’s not something we would do.”

“So you launch constructs to shoot them? Doesn’t that get expensive with specials?”

“Oh, we don’t use specials. Then the constructs don’t last long enough.  We just start them at one end of a field and start shooting and by the time they reach halfway, they usually sort of fall apart. A construct that is shot with specials disolves too fast and we want to get a picture so we can keep score.”

Mike said; “So you have a lot of pictures of constructs.”

“Tons, but they aren’t all that interesting. Just constructs, filled with holes. We’re thinking of doing an archery party next year so that the construct lasts longer.”

“Where do you get the seeds? It’s not something you can just go out and get.”

“It’s sort of like booze, for fae. There are people out there selling the stuff if you want it and some friend has a connection. As long as we don’t use the construct to hurt anything other than an old barn that’s falling down anyway, Boris looks the other way. Sort of like car races, but we  built a regular track for that.”

“I think I know some people who might want to visit for your next party. When we have new recruits, usually their first encounter with a construct is right up front and they are alone.  So they aren’t able to deal with them.  That’s what happened with Sal.  He took it to heart, though and became a construct expert.  I think he will want copies of your photos and we will want to bring new agents to your next shooting party. That way they won’t panic when they see one out on the  ground.”

“Boris does the same thing with deputies. “Shoot the monster” parties are a good way to introduce them to the weird and strange without them getting hurt. Also to get them to shoot the monster in the first place. And understand just how much you have to shoot them if you don’t have specials. The fact that we have those parties is why nobody was hurt this week. Almost all the people the idiot launched constructs at had been to one of the parties. We’re inviting the ones that haven’t to the next one.”

A call came in from town that Sphinx had indeed arrived and on Sunday, Stephie’s sisters kept an eye on her as she had her Run and the we prepared our dog and pony show. I did know one thing. I should have requisitioned three boxes of cartridges because this gun looked like it was going to be LOT of fun. On Monday we dragged a wrecked car out on a field that was mostly rock and set the gun up while Eric and Greta had their little talk with Sphinx above us. Then Larry loaded the belt and offered me the first burst.  We traded off firing bursts until the box was empty and after it was over, Stephie, Hilda and Greta showed up with Boris and Eric.  I had sort sensed some of what was going on up there and what Sphinx felt like. I hadn’t been able to listen in thanks to the dog and pony show so I asked; “How did it go?”

Eric said; “I think we made our point.”

“I’m not sure that they will listen. These people haven’t been paying attention and between us we’ve been hitting them with massive hammers for some time. You mentioned that Andy is not unarmed. What does he have?”

Stephie said; “A .32ACP that Larry made to look like a cap gun and we hid the magazines and a bunch of loose rounds in his school bag. He has two magazines.”

“So not enough to deal with a lot of people, but if he’s with one or two, he may get an opportunity to escape. Do you think he will take it?”

Hilda said; “I think he will, especially if things seem to be going wrong for the other side. If they make promises,  say of meeting me, and they can’t deliver, then I think that he will look for a chance. On the other hand if they do arrange to meet me and they are not careful they won’t have to.”

She reached into her purse, came out with a 1911, pulled the slide, pointed the gun at one of the wheels of the car and shot out all of the lugnuts. She dropped the gun back in her purse and said; “If they think that I’m harmless, I’ll play harmless, right up until I’m not. If they put me and Andy together, anything between me and the exit, dies.”

The Browning had cooled so I brought out the second box and Hilda,Maria and Stephie had their chance shooting bursts off until Diana came back, said that Sphinx was on her train and wanted her her chance too. I was right, I should have brought a third box.

Boris’s brother in law had been taking pictures of the whole thing and I made a note not to show them to Eltra until we could come up and she could get her chance. We had dinner and Mike called in to report. Helmut wanted us in the city for the big dog and pony show at Grand Central. Helmut said that the people at the Cape were taking Tom’s boat to a place in Greenwich so I sent a telegram to Eltra telling her and Nera  that we were coming and saying that we would meet up with them there.   I had a thought, turned to Bob and Scott and said; “So far the other side has had a construct monopoly.  How many seeds  do you have?”

“About ten I think, maybe some more. Why?”

“Well the other side has become used to launching constructs, but maybe they don’t have practice dealing with them. Would you be willing to make a trip to New York and bring the seeds.”

The boys smiled, turned to Eric and said; “Can you do without us for a week or so?”

Eric said; “That shouldn’t be a problem. That should give Boris and Hilda some piece of mind while they are gone. Having you gone too will make life easier for them and for the deputies they leave behind. For that matter Greta and I are going with you so we can keep an eye on you. Make sure you boys take guns. Tom is giving you some nice rifles for Christmas, but I don’t think he’ll mind you having them early for this. Bring your shotguns and pistols too.  I suspect that we will need them.”

I smiled and said; “I think we can cover for the guns with any snoopy police.”

Tom.

I drove off toward Vermont starting Friday, thinking I could do a sweep and maybe pick up Andy. I knew the roads between the farm and Northern Connecticut from my time at Pratt and family visits so I covered the most probable routes South from the farm.  I touched base with some police departments that Josh knew and left pictures.  In the end I returned to the Cape Saturday night exhausted and feeling that I hadn’t accomplished very much. By the time of the last stops at police departments the word had already gotten out through official channels and they were already on the look out.

Josh had gone through the stuff that Steve had brought out. Sal and a young reporter had been tracking some kidnappings, including photographing our friend, Billy boy, in a car that had been implicated in some of the kidnappings.  The report also had stuff about what happened to the kids that were taken. The more I saw of Billy boy, the more I regretted not pulling the trigger on him and the rest of his friends. We gathered together on my boat at the boathouse.  I handed the picture to Chrissie and said; “I’m a little sorry that I hadn’t dropped him right there when he turned to run from me.”

“There was no way you could know.”

“At the time I was concerned with him not eating us. I never considered that he would eat somebody else, especially a kid.”

Nera said; “None of us knew. There was no way to know. Sal is on the case and I imagine that he feels the same way you do. Tara said that he has a very strong sense about what is right. ”

Josh said; “If you feel bad about that, how do you think that Noro feels.  They were using his house as their dinner table. Pissing off Noro is not a very smart thing to do.  Especially when he’s looking for fun.”

I asked; “Should we take the boat or drive to New York?”

Steve said; “The boat. Go up the sound and drop off in Greenwich or Port Chester near the railroad station. That way you can make quick trips into the city and back if you need to. Your boat is anonymous, more or less and that way I can run people out and we can make a quick trip across the Sound if we need to. From everything Sal has said, the enemy has their headquarters on the Gold Coast. That’s where grandfather’s house is and that’s where the sharks all live.  We can also move the boat to grandfather’s if we need to and operate from there. If we need cars, grandfather’s people can provide them and drivers, or I can get them from the navy.  It might take longer for them to provide a clandestine boat already set up for that sort of thing. I’m going back tomorrow and you head down Monday and Tuesday.”

Mera said; “The boat means that we all go and we might need all of us. Especially if we need contact with the Sound bower and perhaps at father’s house. We can Swim across the Sound essentially unseen and make contacts that the other side doesn’t know about.”

Chrissie said; “We can also see if we can find merfolk over there and make contact. We never did find out how they know so much about us.”

Josh said; “There’s a little waterfront hotel in Greenwich. We can use it as a headquarters. It’s next door to the yacht club. I’ll make a reservation.”

 

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