Mermaid, Chapter 13, part 1.

Here’s  first part of chapter 13.

Tom rigs the Manager’s phone, Tim buys cookies and the ladies plan shopping trips.

Chapter 13. Mermaids Go Shopping

 

Tom.

Friday 12/4

As part of my battles with Stephie, I learned quite a bit about phones. I didn’t have access to senses that I didn’t know I had,  couldn’t just walk through walls and doors or become invisible.  I needed other ways to gather information.  Tapping a phone is easy when you build your own system and frankly not that much harder when you know how The Bell System sets things up and have access to Western Electric equipment to work with.  Western Electric didn’t sell stuff to the general public and only to the phone companies, but that wasn’t a problem because officially the farm WAS a phone company.  The local phone company and I set it up that way so that every single internal call throughout all the family farms and businesses wouldn’t have to be billed through their system. So the morning after Hilda had her encounter with the Manager, it wasn’t that difficult to turn the Manager’s house into a party line. I even used official Western Electric equipment to set it up. The difference was that at the other end, instead of a phone instrument, there was the setup I had made a long time ago to listen to Stephie make dates with Boris and her other activities. While I had told her about the setup with Tony, there was no way that I was going to tell her about my little setup to listen in to her calls.  I had pulled a  particular box from the barn with some of the rest of the stuff when Josh’s people showed up and I shipped stuff down fron the farm and had put it in the boat along with some other potentially useful things when we came down from the Cape.

I went back to Sal’s, met with Al, Eltra and Chrissie coming in from the water, took Chrissie to breakfast and afterwords left her with her mother and walked over to where I had set up the new party line make sure that everything worked before Chrissie corralled me for a promised Swim.

Agent’s Jacobs and Gomez were in the room and I asked, “Anything yet?”

Agent Jacobs shrugged, “It works and if you want to know how many eggs they want for tomorrow, then that’s what they have. All the calls seem to come from the kitchen.”

“Actually, I’m not surprised. The Manager probably doesn’t think of the phone at all.  He probably uses messengers. He was around before the telephone was.”

“How did you get involved in all this? You seem more like Mike or Sal than your parents. There’s that distinct difference where they reach for the weird and you don’t. Your sister doesn’t hesitate.”

“Because my brother was a werewolf and they didn’t tell me what I was. I shot my brother when I was fourteen because he attacked me while Twisted, I had his own gun loaded with specials in it in my hands and slamfired the gun into him. The first round probably killed him, but all five hit. Because of the backsplash of that and the fact that I didn’t reach into my abilities at all, I never learned the way they did. Josh, Mike and Sal are sort of the same way.

My mother, in order to protect me, forbid the rest of the family from revealing Change to me. That led to all sorts of family stress and I left and went to Washington and Pratt to work before returing home and seeing if I could make my shop work.

Anyway, about a year ago, my shop wasn’t really working out for the kind of work I really wanted and I went down to Cape to get out of the stress that my family was having and get a fresh start.  About six months ago Josh hired me onto his boat for reasons that became apparent later.” “That’s because he’s a thickhead!”

Chrissie had rolled in. “Tom it’s time for our Swim.”

Agent Jacobs said, “I think I see the reason.”

“Agent Jacobs, you don’t know what it took to drag him under. All those pots I stuffed. All those times daddy caught me instead of Tom, the incident with the boathook.”

“What was the incident with the boathook”

“Well Tom bought his boat and he and daddy brought it over to his slip. They went for some drinks and I climbed aboard to introduce myself. After being gone all too long, the thickhead finally shows up, thinks that I’m some sort of monster and reaches for his boathook. I dodged into the water to avoid getting poked.  I caught him later at daddy’s boat.”

I said, “Agent Jacobs, its not my fault. For months the hints had been going around about how careful I had to be to avoid getting caught by a “Chrissie” and hints about fish eating. What was I supposed to think? I have to go, she’s dragging me under again.”

I rolled Chrissie out as Mike walked up. “Are they set up in there?”

“Yes, but so far all it’s all kitchen stuff.”

“It ‘s like that with these things. Especially with fae. With some exceptions. Chrissie’s mom, for instance. She uses the phone as a lethal weapon.”

We went down to the pool house where there were some lockers for clothes and undressed. Chrissie leapt into the pool, popped up and called out, “What are you waiting for!”

I Changed and splashed in. “So where to first?”

“Let’s check the Manager’s house and then head over those islands across the Sound and back.”

As we Swam toward the Manager’s house I heard a boat pass in the other direction. I popped up and it was my boat. I said to Chrissie; “They brought the boat back.”

“Good, but we don’t need it right now, I want to check on Andy and meet Tony and Robert.”

“What makes you think that they will be able to meet?”

“After yesterday? They’ll have all the security at the front. The Manager won’t be good for much anyway. Trying to compel Hilda was just plain stupid.”

“Why, I don’t understand?”

“Well, Hilda is a very strong fae with very strong shields. Probably helped by the fact that you were incredibly strong and they had to keep their Change hidden from you. That’s one reason our bonding was such a mess.  I couldn’t reach out to you and draw you closer. Finally I took direct action and dropped myself in your boat. Still, that thickheadedness saved you a lot of trouble.  Remember what Hilda said last night about the Manager and his obsession with you?

Anyway trying to coerce somebody like Hilda opens the person trying the compulsion to a reflection from the person they are trying to coerce. If the power level is like Tim’s for instance, that refection could kill you. With Hilda, it probably almost killed them because Hilda has experience and restrained herself. She did add some coercions of her own to the reflection.”

“Do you know how to do that?”

“No. I haven’t really sat still long enough to really practice my abilities until you showed up and changed my rather care free life. There’s also the problem that teaching me to reflect runs right up against the same issues.”

Sure enough, when we arrived, the kids were sitting on the sea wall with Tony watching and Nera was offshore dancing for them. Andy actually had the Brownie camera that I had included in the trouble pack. We Swam over to the wall and Andy saw us and called out, “Aunt Chrissie, Uncle Tom!”

Chrissie answered, “Hi Andy. Why don’t you introduce me to your friends. As Chrissie was doing that I pulled up next to Tony and said, “I see they found my package.”

“Yes. All that fun stuff. We’re leaving most of it in the cellar for the time being.”

“What happened with the Manager?”

“We took him over to the main house and left him with the staff. The lady too. My guess is that they won’t wake up for the rest of the day.”

“Chrissie says that the blowback is painfull.”

“For Andy’s mom, yes. If you know how to reflect, they have a very high risk of burnout.  For those young men that were with you yesterday, 100 percent risk if they figure out how to reflect. Of course only an idiot would even think of trying to compel them.”

“I’m new at this, but did the Manager ever try to compel me?”

“Are you kidding? He wanted you Turned or Twisted because of your brother. He sent the necromancer to Turn you and it didn’t work. The first necromancer as you thought he was a weird crook and shot him. He sent other Twisted and Helmut’s people took care of them quietly when you were down in DC.  Talk to Athena. She had to go down and figure out what happened. But he tried every which way to Twist you and nothing worked.  He was not happy that you killed his monster.”

“If he couldn’t compel me what made him think that he could compel Brad?”

“Brad was Twisted and Twisted don’t have the shields that a fae does. That’s why he went for the indentured in the first place.”

“What’s going to happen when he loses the indentured?”

“He’s back to where he started.”

“He doesn’t seem to influence you or Robert very much.”

“We are a shield, not a sword. A shield for a kid. Too good a shield because he never had to face the consequences of what he did when it involved fae stuff. We can absorb most of that, so he’s never gets the short end of the stick.  So he could be with the Twisted and the like and never be in danger.”

“He’s stronger than the Twisted, but weaker than almost all of the high fae I know. How did he get so far?”

“Luck and the fact that he never tried to take on a kingdom until Brad went home and Brad wasn’t supposed to do that. The Manager thought that the werewolves would just come down here.  That’s when he took this house. Instead they never showed up and we went up to figure out why. We encountered you and he couldn’t stand it. You were the fae that was so weak that you didn’t even know what you were.  What he never understood was that you were so strong that nobody could bring out what you were until you bonded. Which was your greatest protection.  Anyway, we got to see some of the stuff you did with your sister. The horse getting out was a classic.  How long did it take you to set up?”

“About a month, but there were a lot of things I had to sneak in and install without anybody noticing. The latches on the stable doors and rigging them to so that a .22 can shoot them open. Those had to be perfect and I had to convince father that the stable needed new latches so that I could replace them with my  rigged ones. Running the wires took time too. Building the timer box took time too. It all had to be done while I was doing regular work too, so that Stephie didn’t pick up on it beforehand.”

“So what you have planned for the Manager is going to take some time?”

“Not as much. I have access to a real budget, very large facilities and loyal nephews who can share in the heavy lifting. Also from what other people are saying, the Manager is going to have real world issues drop in on him.” “The sharks and the car?”

“Yes. How did the manager get to where he is and be so sloppy? I’ll give him me shooting most of the sharks to pieces because it was just luck that I took the gun to that beach, but the protection racket was just stupid. Sal wants to talk to you about that. Then there was the beach ambush. How did that happen?” “Well Gull saw you stop there and messaged it in. Then you disappeared.  She had also seen the cops take your guns off your boat.  So the Manager and Pete didn’t think that you had any.”

“Sphinx was going up to the farm and talking to Hilda for years. She never asked what I did when I was at the farm for the holidays and vacations every year? I kept Larry stocked with thirty finished rifle locks and ten or twenty 1911 frames every time I went up. I learned a lot about doing production setups and getting the parts out because I was working in a limited time frame most of the time.  Still, for eight years or so, I made a lot of guns.  Did nobody here know that that was what I was doing?”

“Gull said that you didn’t have any on the way up.”

“I wasn’t moving any around, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have one in the truck. I build 1911’s.  I had to learn how and make them good enough that people pay Larry more than they would Colt. So that Colt would buy my frames for their custom guns.  Do you think that I wouldn’t have a couple just rattling around.  Especially when I was planning to start up a shop and those pistols were my work samples.

Then there was the fact that I knew that somebody was after me and that I might need guns. Even if I didn’t make guns to suit my Change I had guns and Special shells and cartridges if I needed them.  In any case there was no way I was just going to show up unprotected on a beach and wait for constructs or zombies to chase me into the water so some idiots could chomp on me.”

Chrissie said, “Tom, come over here and tell the kids about the farm.”

I said to Tony, “I think I’ve been grabbed, I’ll see you later.” and sidled over to the kids, “So what do want to know that Andy can’t tell you?”

“How you got Chrissie up there!!”

“We drove up. We made stops and my father made a bed tank so we could stay.”

“Why did you go!”

“Well some monsters chased us and I had to shoot some of them and I took their pictures. We wanted to make sure that my parents knew that Chrissie and I were ok and I wanted to make sure that the monsters didn’t get us so I went up to the farm. We also met Andy and his mom then, didn’t we Andy?”

“Yes, I showed Chrissie how to shoot. You also did underwater guns.”

The girl said, “I’m Sarissa and why did you do underwater guns? Do guns work underwater?”

“Not very well. Which is what we were trying to find out.”

“You’re fae though, you don’t need guns.”

“Nobody needs a gun all the time. The problem comes when you do. If I hadn’t had a gun when Chrissie and I were getting together we would have been eaten by monsters and some very strong fae have been eaten by those same monsters. I had a gun and I could shoot the monsters so that they wouldn’t eat me.”

“Couldn’t you use your abilities?”

“I was still learning them. And there were a lot of monsters.  With a gun I could shoot as many as I needed to.”

“Like Tooth and his friends?”

“Who?”

“The sharks. They all disappeared one day. Andy says that you shot them and took pictures.”

“Chrissie and I had completed our bond and they showed up, launched constructs at us to force us to go into the water so that they could eat us. They came around where I had Chrissie and my boat so I had to shoot them. Chrissie had the camera and took most of the pictures. They were the monsters I shot. My boat just passed. Did you see it?”

“It’s not very big.”

“It’s a work boat. I use it to fish for lobsters.”

“Why do you do that?”

“Because I can work on the water with Chrissie. So that we share the work.” “Why do you work at all? You’re royal fae, I can tell.” “Because I don’t feel right not working. If people just gave me stuff, I wouldn’t appreciate it. If I work for things then I see that work in it and I appreciate what I have.” Chrissie handed the camera back to Andy and said, “Kids, I need to keep Tom Swimming so that we can dance at our wedding next week, so we need to go.”

We left and Swam offshore. I asked Chrissie, “What was that about royal fae not working? We always work at the farm.”

“We should talk to your mother and Athena about that. I think I know, and Nera might know more. I don’t want to talk about it until we find out more.”

We Swam past the bower. As we passes it I said to Chrissie, “I’m tempted to just drop in, but I’m not familiar with the rules of the fae and I don’t want to start something where I don’t know the rules. If they don’t know that we are here by now, well I’m not going to make any waves right now. Hopefully Sal can make a connection and we can show them the pesthole that the Manager’s place is right on their doorstep.”

We rounded the islands and started back, “Why don’t we fetch a big lobster for the cook?”

“Not here. I Think that this is somebody’s garden. The patterns look a bit too regular.”

We Swam on and I could almost feel somebody’s eyes on us. We went further out and deeper and found a nice lobster in a hole and carried it back with us. I pulled Chrissie from the water, we dressed, she got in the chair, I handed her the lobster and we went back to the house.  I rolled Chrissie inside to the kitchen, she handed the lobster to the cook and said, “Just something we caught on our Swim.”

“The cook smiled and said, “It’s always better when you can pick your own. Nera and Mera brought one in too and we can make a very nice chowder for lunch.”

I rolled Chrissie over to the parlor where mother and Mera were talking. Mera said, “Chrissie dear,  Stella and Mabel recommended a discreet dressmaker and we need to have your and my sisters’ gowns done, so we are taking a car into Manhattan after lunch.  Why don’t we look at some styles.”

I left them to what they were doing and headed back to where we had the tap for the phone. “Anything else?”

Agent Gomez said, “Not yet.”

“It might be a while. Apparently trying certain things on certain people can have a severe backlash, the Manager won’t be waking up for a while and when he does, he’s going to have the world’s worst headache.”

I went outside to the dock. Steve and Ensign Delios were there raising and lowering the big gun. The whole thing had been a sort of jury rig,but it worked very well and the gun was concealed from every angle when lowered, yet could raised using the winch in about a minute.  We had thought about using air cylinders, but without massive refitting of the boat, which was not something that I really wanted to do, there wasn’t room for them and a compressor, or the power takeoff for said compressor. Steve said, “For what we need right now, this will work. For our boats we won’t need to hide the gun.”

“Hopefully we won’t need the gun at all, but if you’ve ever been caught by a bear, you sort of learn to not bet on hope. We got a lot closer to a real screwup last night than I like.”

“What happened?”

“My sister and Hilda were trying to impress the Manager and Gregor ran right into their show and toward a Twisted. Fortunately Andy had a gun loaded with specials and took the Twisted out.  Al gave my sister and Hilda a chewing out this morning. I hadn’t seen their pretty dance yesterday afternoon or I would have insisted on finding a spot where I could set up with a rifle and provide cover fire. Al hadn’t seen the dance either because he was with me and the rest of us, setting up the gun. He said the same thing.  Neither of us were doing anything that we couldn’t drop and we both had rifles available.

Apparently my sister and Hilda took Al’s gun speech to heart and started to compete with each other. With my sister’s typical enthusiasm.  Using their abilities and getting better and better at shooting.  They may be incredible shots, better than I am, but I’ve been treed by a bear and I know that when you need firepower, you need it. I’m setting up to give the Manager a bunch of “fun stuff.” If I need it, though, I want to have as much firepower between him, his Twisted and anything else that he might come up with and the kids as I can get.”

“Why didn’t they tell you?”

“I didn’t find out exactly what they planned until it was over. I knew that Hilda was going in and that she had a 1911 with specials and I thought that if she needed to, she would use them. She was in the car by the time we got back to the house and they told us that she was going in. Al and I Swam over with my trouble package, I went over the fence with the trouble package when the car  came in and left it in the yard. I was about to make a discreet exit when the kid comes charging out the back door followed by Tony, Robert, Hilda and Andy.  I could sense Stephie up above shooting at the Twisted but she had been shooting the other twisted and the construct  dogs, Linda wasn’t used to shooting while flying and I was around the corner. At least setting up Andy with a pistol worked out. We were lucky.”

We finished checking the gun out and went back up to the house for lunch.

After lunch Steve, Bob, Scott and I were driven over to the railroad station by so that we could  go on our shopping trip.  We met up with Stacey, George and Tim at Noro’s building and went downtown on the subway.  Not as conspicuous as the Cadillac. I did a lot of shopping and  afterwords we we loaded up our purchases and  took our haul out to Al’s shop so that we could get to work tomorrow.  As we  finishing up Tim asked, “Why are you doing all this? Wouldn’t it be easier to just take the Manager out?”

“We could do that, but it would leave a lot of questions unanswered. I want to know where the Manager’s support comes from and what it’s going to take to clean up the whole mess. I also want to make it absolutely clear what kind of pesthole the Sound bower has been letting fester in their neighborhood for a long time.  For that I need to make noise and excitement.  Fortunately I have had a lot of practice with that.”

 

It was time to make the Manager’s life miserable.

Tim.

Friday 12/4

I went downstairs and Vinnie had left me a packet for Mary and Sal, so I put that in my satchel and went up to the the paper and handed my notes and the two film packs off to George. “More on the kidnappings, Tim?”

“Detective del Vecchio took me to the victim’s families for interviews and pictures. That’s them there.”

“Anything new on why the kidnappings happened?”

“Not here, but the Detective is getting hot. He had some evidence that I can’t run with yet, but it was the icebreaker with the families that got the interviews. I’ve got to go.”

I went down, picked up more film and headed over to Mary’s office. She was there and looked much happier. “Hi Tim. Mike called in a report.  Good work with Andy.”

“I didn’t do very much. I’ve got some more stuff from Tony and I want to do a report for that and the Athena stuff while it’s still fresh. Does Helmut know that he has brothers?”

“Oh, yes. But we lost them a long time ago. When the Manager is dealt with we will get back together.”

“They seemed to know what they were doing. Unlike the Manager. His partner too. She tried to put compulsions on Sal and I. They tickled.”

“I’m not surprised. Noro said that when Sal went into his building the other day that he blinded out everything and you are much the same. Though you and he are coming along amazingly quickly.”

“I think that we got dumped in the deep end.  It was adapt or we were in real trouble.  Along with the fact that our worlds got turned sideways.”

“It wasn’t all bad was it. Suzy, for instance.” “No, it wasn’t. I don’t think that I would go back now, but it’s been a lot to take on in a very short time. At least I haven’t had to deal with it all by myself. Anyway, why don’t I find a typewriter and write  my report up.”

I went back into the office and went up to Alex’s desk. “Alex, I have some new material, do you have my material from yesterday and I want to do up a full report.”

“It’s on Sal’s desk. Go ahead and write it up. That will save him some time.” I went over to Sal’s desk, pulled out my note book from last night, pulled a typewriter over and started to type. Typing was one of the things that I had learned before I left school and for what I wanted to do, it paid off.  I even had a typewriter in my flop, but they complained when I typed at night. I filled four sheets of paper with the stuff  From Athena and another two more of the stuff from Tony and Robert and when I was done, took them over and knocked on Helmut’s door. “Helmut, I have the report from Athena and your brothers.”

“I don’t have any brothers!”

“That’s not what they said. Anyway they are keeping an eye on the kids and spilling stuff about their boss.”

“Those two could never keep their mouths shut. Good with kids though. Too good with one kid.”

“I think they want to change that. They seemed rather disloyal to their boss and wanted Tom to make his day miserable. They said that they weren’t going to protect him against accidents. Anyway here’s the report.  I have a date at the navy yard with a ship. ”

“With a mermaid too, I think.”

“That too, and she gets upset when I don’t show up, so I have to get going.”

I walked over to my flop, but nothing seemed to be happening with the car today. Then I walked across the bridge. Looking over the navy yard I could see the ship, a transport, being lined up for the the dock. As I walked along the docks, some of the barge kids were on the deck of a barge, saw me and waved. The barge was moored far out on the pier with a bunch of large stevedores and other guys on the pier.  I walked past the coffee factories toward the navy yard. I walked up to the gate and George called out, “Hi, Tim! Here to see Suzy?” “That and get the last ship of the year for her dad and Captain Farr.”

“You won’t be the only one. A crowd’s starting up already.”

As I went over I could see that he was right. Suzy, her mother, Mabel and Captain Farr’s wife along with my sister, all had a front row seat because they were in chairs next to the dock. As I sidled up to them next to the navy cameramen, Kathy spotted me “Tim! You came.”

Suzy turned and said, “Tim, come over here.”

I went over, she grabbed me and gave me a kiss. “No adventures today?”

“Not really. I turned in my kidnapping update and wrote up a report about Athena and the rest.”

“Well I’m glad you showed up. After yesterday, you take it easy.” “I’m just planning a meeting with Stacey after lunch with you and a shopping trip with Tom and Stacey. When this is done I’m going to make a quick stop over at the market and bring back some cookies.”

Stella heard us and said, “Tim, make sure you bring a good amount so that we can have some for dinner. You’re invited if you don’t have other plans.”

“I’m not sure how that’s going to turn out today. I will try to be here.”

I started to take pictures as Captain Farr did much the same as Mike had with the cruiser. Once the ship was settled, George came up and said, “Nickel again, but Bob is just a hair closer to the penny, so he gets it. George got dressed and held up the plate as I took the picture and the Admiral handed the bottle to Captain Farr.  Mike came over shook Captain Farr’s hand and said, “Well There’s always next year.”

I took the photo and another one with the ship in the background. Mike said, “I hope you got good pictures.” “I think so.”

I turned to Suzy and said, “I need to go before the cookies run out.”

Fortunately Dock 3 was near the gate at the corner and I went over to the market. Mr’s O’ Sullivan had a little booth at one end of the market and it was almost empty of the bags of cookies. Mrs. O’ Sullivan saw me and called out, “Hello young Tim, How many bags should I set aside?”

“Four, Mrs. O’ Sullivan. Two for lunch and two for dinner. I’m sharing with my bonded and her family.”

“So who is the young lady?” “She lives in navy yard.”

“Oh, I think I’ve sensed her, the young mermaid. Though there seems to be two of them lately.”

“The other is my sister. She just went through her Change recently and started to work at the yard.”

“So she isn’t letting her tail drag her under. Good for her. I knew some selkie relatives that just lolled around the beach and it never did them any good.”

“Selkies?”

“Seal Change, I am a selkie. Aiden is more of a leprechaun. More blarney than touch of gold unfortunately.  My family was not pleased with our bonding, but we have worked things out here.”

“I need to talk to Jimmy, so hold my bags and I will be back.” I handed her 20 cents for the cookies and looked around for Jimmy. I found him and walked over.  He looked up, saw me and said, “Timmy, your ratty friend was checking up over here earlier.”

“I haven’t seem him yet today. I’ve been over in Manhattan, doing other things. I just wanted to check in with you and let you know that  its likely that the car will still be hunting here.”

“Your buddy said the same thing. Are they that stupid?”

“Infected by their Change is more like it. Apparently when a Change is that deep, it gets into your head. So now they think like sharks. They also have other problems. Anyway, it’s unlikely that they will be able to get the car for a couple of days. What happened with the car on Tuesday? I was busy on an assignment.”

“We saw it, they drove around and left. The paperboys were all keeping notes, if they didn’t have cameras.”

“I started that. I’m buying a lot of lunches at the paper Wednesday.” “You need somebody for that?”

“I have a relative with a place. It’s handled. I have to go.”

I walked back to Mr’s O’Sullivan’s stand and she handed me my bags and amother one. “This one fell and I can’t sell it, give them to your sister and your bonded. That is if any make it through the gate.”

“I’m not that greedy and if they don’t, I’m in trouble.”

I walked in through the gate and as I walked through I said to Bob who was on duty, “Want a cookie?”

“Not one of those. When Mrs. O’Sullivan started to sell those we would sneak over and buy a bag.  Until the petty officer started to put us on extra calisthentics.  So we ration and only get a bag about once a week.”

I walked across to the Suzy’s office the ladies were there with a car waiting with George  in the front seat.  Stella said, “Leave the cookies here.  We’ll have them after lunch. We’re eating at the offcer’s club today in celebration of the last ship.”

“Where’s Suzy and my sister?”

“They went ahead with Mike and Bob. We had a bit more work to do, so we waited. You brought the cookies. Take them into the office. There really isn’t enough for the officer’s club today, though Mabel has been talking to Kay for some orders for special occasions. We didn’t have time for today, so we will just have to suffer.”

I went and put the cookie bags in the office. Returning to the car I got in the front seat while George put the ladies and their wheelchairs in the back. He got in and we drove off to the officer’s club. When we arrived I helped George get the ladies back in the chairs and we went inside. Mike was there with Suzy who said, “So where are my cookies?”

“We left them at the office for dinner because there weren’t enough.”

“Well there’s plenty of other things anyway. Why don’t we sit down.”

We sat down and the Admiral gave a little speech where he went over the year and what they had done with the ships. I was going to take notes when Lieutenant Billings handed me a cheat sheet for the press that covered it all. Then we ate and after lunch there was an amazing film with mermaids dancing, with Suzy, Stella. Sillia, Mabel, Ella, and Nera. Suzy said, “Nera was showing us how and Lieutenant Billings brought over a film crew. This is the first time I’ve seen it.”

I turned and kissed her for a change and said, “It’s wonderful.”

“Well I needed to give you a reason to snoop.”

“It worked.” I looked at the clock on the wall “I need to get to going or I’ll miss my meeting with Stacey.”

Mike said, “Why don’t I have George run you up to the subway station.”

George took me over to the subway station and I went into Manhattan and up to Noro’s office. After checking in with security, I went up to Stacey’s office. She looked up when I walked in, “Tim! How did it go over there?”

“No new news on the car and the navy yard had a lunch to celebrate the end of the year. They showed a movie with mermaid dancing that Nera had started.”

“Aunt Nera likes to dance and teach people how. I think that’s one reason she was annoyed when I had kids so fast. Of course her attitude towards mom and dad didn’t help back then.  Was the film fun?” “It was wonderful.”

“Well, I’ll have to talk to Stella about getting a showing at the wedding. So what else happened.”

“I brought cookies. One of the kidnap victims’ mom makes them and they are fantastic.”

I handed her the bag. She took one, took a bite and said, “I hope that she sells these a long ways away. So let’s go over these pictures before Tom and the rest show up.”

We went over the pictures and she did a quick write up. When she was finished she said, “When we go through with Tom, make an effort to grab catalogs and whatnot. I want to know where the stuff comes from and who makes the parts.  Those are the people we want to look at.”

George and Steve showed up together. George went over and kissed his wife. “We met at the railroad station. Tom, Bob and Scott are right behind us. Steve and I both want to see what Tom can do. Not that we weren’t impressed by him over the bed tank thing and how he did on the island. Dad and Joe have a good impression of him, but we want to see for ourselves.”

I handed the bag over, “Have a cookie.”

They each took one and Steve said, “These didn’t come from that lady at the market did they? I was warned about those.”

“Yes. I picked them up today while I was there talking to Jimmy.”

Steve took a bite. “Now I know why.”

Tom, Bob and Scott came in and I said, “have a cookie.”

They took some and I took the last cookie out of the bag. As I tossed the bag in the wastebasket Stacey said, “I’m glad to see that go.  The lady who makes these is fae, isn’t she?”

“Yes. She’s the mother of one of the kidnap victims.”

“Since there are so many of us why don’t we take the subway down?”

Tom said, “I was planning on that. I’ve got these two for heavy lifting and I’m taking everything to Al’s shop, so we can hire a cab when we get done.”

We trooped down to Grand Central and caught the crosstown shuttle to Times Square. Tom commented, “This would have worked better for Helpless Hilda.”

“I know, it’s all too easy to get lost down here. Especially if you are in a hurry and looking for a particular exit. Then there’s upstairs.”

We got on the Southbound IRT and took the train to Rector St. and radio row. What followed was a repeat of Wednesday on a longer and broader scale. Tom took his time and showed how different things could be used  as we went from place to place.  I grabbed catalogs and bought some of the magazines too. Meanwhile Tom loaded down Bob and Scott and then a smiling George and Steve with parts. Stacey was rapidly taking notes throughout until it was about four o clock and we dumped everything in a cab and Tom, Bob and Scott headed over to Al’s shop.

As we were finishing up I asked Tom, “Why are you doing all this? Wouldn’t it be easier to just take the Manager out?”

“We could do that, but it would leave a lot of questions unanswered. I want to know where the Manager’s support comes from and what it’s going to take to clean up the whole mess. I also want to make it absolutely clear what kind of pesthole the Sound bower has been letting fester in their neighborhood for a long time.  For that I need to make noise and excitement.  Fortunately I have had a lot of practice with that.”

 

As they were getting in the cab, Stacey said, “Tom, let’s meet tomorrow morning at Al’s shop so that you can show us what you are doing.”

 

“Ok, we’re heading out to Sal’s after dropping the stuff off as Chrissie is not going easy on me and wants a Swim before dinner. Her mom took her, Nera and Eltra shopping for the wedding gowns this afternoon.”

Steve asked, “Who’s minding the store?”

“Mike, Boris, Linda and Al. They figured that we would get them thinking if we came from land and air as well as in the water.  That is if they had a clue, which as of this morning , they didn’t.”

They left and I handed Stacey the film from the camera. “Wow, that was an experience.”

“Wasn’t it though. I can hardly wait to see what he does. He did buy some things at random, things he obviously hadn’t seen before, but it was obvious he knew what he was planning for  most of it.”

Steve said, “I was going through that book of his and I think he’s got some ideas that he hasn’t done before and a lot of stuff that he has done before. I like the way he thinks when it comes to backing up what he’s doing with firepower if he can get it. Like that beach. Tim, I think that we should be heading back to the yard. A certain mermaid pigeonholed me after lunch and made me promise to bring you back when she heard me talking to Mike and the Admiral. Let me get a cab.”

Stacey said, “Ok, George and I have dinner and a show tonight, so we will be going.”

Steve and I took the cab over to the navy yard. As we were riding, Steve asked, “How did it go yesterday?”

“Ok, I think. Things got a little exciting toward the end when Sphinx’s, or Athena’s son rather, Gregor ran right out toward a twisted.”

“In the back yard? Al and Tom mentioned them.”

“Yes. Between the lies they were feeding him, picking up on his mother’s fear and Andy’s werewolf stories, he panicked when Hilda went into her Change and Andy was the only one there that had a gun with specials.”

“You need to get some range time, soonest.”

“That’s what everybody tells me. Things have been screwy lately and before I didn’t have to worry about needing to shoot somebody.”

“I think you did and didn’t know it. Suppose the sharks had grabbed you three weeks ago? Or any of a number of the things out there.  Before you bonded you were about the most desirable thing a Twisted could want.  That’s one reason that we lived on a barge when we were kids. Of course Joe and I came into our Change when we were kids and we knew about that stuff, so we weren’t in the kind of danger that you might have been in.”

“My spot was right down underneath Helmut’s office. I don’t think a Twisted could get close to that area.”

“That was true, but what about your building?”

“You know, I’ve never thought about that, but it’s never felt unsafe either.”

We arrived at the gate and Steve paid the fare. We walked into the navy yard and over to the office. A car was waiting and Stella was inside the office with Mike, Suzy and Mabel. Steve said to Stella, “ Ma’am, turning Tim over to you.”

I said, “Steve you said that Suzy told you to bring me over.”

“Actually, no I didn’t. It was Stella with Mike who insisted. Not that Suzy wasn’t right there too. But Suzy can’t cause me as much trouble as Stella can. I don’t think she has mom’s phone number.”

“Steve, she has Sal’s which is where your mom is right now.”

“So either way I was in trouble if I didn’t bring you back and now I’m not. See you.”

He left. Stella said, “Now why don’t we take these cookies and go get dinner.”

I put Suzy in the back seat as Mike put Stella in the front and off we went. When we arrived and Stella was making dinner, Mike said, “So what are your plans for the weekend?”

“Stacey and I are meeting with Tom at Al’s shop tomorrow to watch him set up the manager. I want to take some time at the paper’s morgue.  Some things that Tony said make me think that the sharks were playing their games for a longer time than we know and I want to check it out.  Then maybe hit the library and do the same thing.”

Stella said, “Tomorrow’s Sal’s housewarming and you need to be there. We need a discreet member of the press there to cover the Troubleshooter’s housewarming and the engagement notice. That way it makes the paper the way we want.”

“How are we going to make that play? Wouldn’t the Troubleshooter throw out a pest like me?”

“That Detective brought you, dumped you and the Troubleshooter wanted some good press.”

Suzy said, “The Troubleshooter’s little sister kept trying to get you in trouble. She wouldn’t let her nasty brother kick you out.”

I whined, “I think I’m doomed.”

“Not yet. We need to work on that. That’s what you get for being a snoop.”

“Hey, I will let you know that I did no snooping today. None. Just taking pictures of poor innocent stuff and collecting catalogs.”

“So you were snooping on the stuff?”

“You can’t snoop on stuff.”

“Daddy says that that’s why spies do.”

Mike said, “Leave me out of this. I’m just an innocent civilian.”

Stella said, “That’s not what you said on the beach, dear. You were going be the big cheese in the navy.”

“Well, some mermaid grabbed my tail and diverted me off course.”

“Of course, dear. Right onto a beach. Not that you have ever complained.”

Mike kissed his wife, “I knew when to surrender.”

“The measure of true wisdom. So Tim, why don’t you plan to take a midday train out and we will send the Detective to pick you up.”

Suzy said, “So you can snoop and party at the same time.”

“Ok, I can check the library and the paper on Monday.” Mike said, “Mera has been doing some work along the lines you’re thinking about already. She probably already knows who to contact at the library.”

Stella asked, “Tim, what do you like do for fun? You always seem to be working.”

“Well, that’s what I felt I had to do” I replied, “Sometimes I’ll catch a movie, but for the most part, I find something to do. I was saving for my camera and sending money to mom. I’m not very good at pool and the sharks in my flop can eat me alive anytime we play, so I don’t play seriously. I like to take walks in the city and take picures.”

“So you snoop for fun.” Suzy was full of glee when she said that.

“Well, I didn’t know about the secret mermaid movies, so what else was I supposed to do?”

That’s the way it went until dinner ended and Mike and Suzy took me back to my flop. As I got out of the car, Suzy grabbed me, kissed me and said, “You be careful, buster. Now that I have your tail, you don’t take risks.”

I walked into my flop and to bed.

Sal.

Friday 12/4

Now it was time to get to work. Or party as the case may be.  Sillia and Tara had set things up with Bennie for the housewarming on Saturday. When I asked about the money Sillia said, “Sal, I’ll handle the money.  You don’t need to worry about it. Just let me handle things and you keep doing what you need to do.  If you need money, just ask me and I will give it to you. Here’s some money for the week.”

She handed me two twenties, four tens and some fives and singles. “Since we are just starting out, let me know if you need more.”

I put the money in my wallet and thought about that. The 100 dollars was over twice what I made at the office. I got in the wreck and drove over to Frank’s. As I walked in he said, “There was some noise over by your new place but nobody filed any complaints. What was really going on?”

“Somebody took on a lady they shouldn’t have. Some monsters had a bad day.”

“This is part of your cases, isn’t it.”

“All of them probably. Along with some other things.  There may be a lot of noise shortly.  Which is sort of what I want to talk about.  What’s going on under sea with the Sound bower? It’s as if nobody there is paying any attention.  A bunch of my friends and relatives have been Swimming around and none of them have received so much as a whiff of attention from there. If the people were some random fae, we could understand it, but I have the Royal fae of two separate kingdoms and significant members of the families visiting and we’ve seen nothing.”

 

“That’s complicated. The big problem is that the royal fae of the Sound bower has had a series of family tragedies and they don’t have the kids that the Cape Royals have. The Sound bower royals only had a daughter and she lost her bonded during the war.  She had a daughter, but she stayed under sea when her bonded was killed and the daughter was born into Change.”

“So they really have nobody to look into things. Along with no cousins or relatives to take up the slack.”

“There might be, but the keystone hasn’t been threatened like the Rockaway was when it pulled you in. So there’s been no pressure to change.”

“That’s caused problems that the people down there probably don’t know about. The sharks for one thing and the noise yesterday too. We’ve been a bit leery of just Swimming into the bower, but I’m having my engagement party and housewarming tomorrow and you’re invited. If the royals at the Sound bower would like to visit, they are welcome and they probably should.”

“If it’s obvious that it’s a mer friendly party, the daughter might crash. It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“How old is she?”

“Thirteen, trying for twenty.”

“Well there will be other kids there, so that’s not a problem.”

“Along with boys?”

“Yes, at least some. Tim you know, but he’s taken by my sister. Two from Vermont. Both high fae. Some people from the navy.”

“I think that you can almost guarantee that she will show up. With her mother soon after to bring her home.”

“Well, let the mother know that she and her daughter are welcome.”

“I will.”

Well that cleared part of that mystery up and perhaps opened a channel. I talked to Frank and a detective in vice about some of the potential bad characters that the sharks could recruit. The lack of authority in the Sound bower and the wealth along the coast made for some interesting circumstances.

After that I went down to the office to write up a report about last night, but Mike and Tim had already submitted reports which meant that my report was easy and quick. When I was done I went out to talk to Mary. “Mary, I ‘ve been dealing with various kinds of Twisted for some time and none of them have ever tried to compel me. Was it that it wouldn’t have worked before?”

“That was part of it. The other part was that your shields are too strong. Plus the fact that even trying for a Twisted to coerce even a weak fae can be dangerous for them and with you, if you knew how to reflect, lethal. It would be safer for a Twisted to just try to kill you. I think that Noro might know more.”

I left the office and headed down to Bennies for lunch. Sillia had arranged with Tony to have a car pick up Meria, Joe and Maria tomorrow, so they were coming tomorrow. I wanted to talk to Bennie about the Royal family in the Sound bower. It being Friday he was busy and there were fishermen there.  Joe and Meria were not, so I just grabbed a stool at the small counter at the back. Sissy came over and said, “Hi Sal, your usual?”

“Yes. So where is everybody?”

“Under sea for the most part. Dom and Tara finally got the pool set up at their place and she moved up there more or less, though you’ll probably see both of them at your pool on weekends for longer Swims. As for Meria and the rest, well they are going to your place tomorrow, so Meria doesn’t need to talk to Stacey and Joe is being dragged under by Maria.”

“So I need to go for a Swim to talk to them. That can wait until tomorrow. I found some interesting stuff about the Sound bower that I want to talk to Bennie about when he can grab a minute or so.”

“Ok, I’ll let him know.”

Lunch came out and bit later, Bennie did. “Sissy says that you want to talk.”

“Yeah, I got some stuff about the Royals up at the Sound bower. Apparently the family had single kids and a bonded was killed in the war.”

“Do you know if the bonded was land or mer?”

“I think land, because Frank mentioned that the lady stayed under sea. There’s a daughter who Frank said might show up at the house tomorrow, so I wanted to let you know so that you can tell your people to look out for her. If she does turn up, let me know.”

“Good thinking. She’s what, thirteen?”

“That’s right. The dad never came back and the mom never came up top, so she was born into Change. Frank said that she crashes parties. Unless the sharks show up, party crashers are ok.”

“Who’s handling security at your place tomorrow.”

“Mike and Eltra. I didn’t ask what arrangements they made, but Eltra was talking to Steve on the phone and some of his people are invited anyway, so I suspect it’s handled. I think that Tom has some stuff cooked up as well.”

“So no problems for Swimmers.”

“I hope not. The sharks seem more interested in recruitment right now anyway.” “What happens if they try again?”

“If they use that car and go to the same places, Tim buys more lunches. If they actually manage to find a kid, I’ll dump a raid on them so fast that they won’t know what hit them.  In fact I’ll have them pulled over and busted.”

“It looks like you have it handled.”

“I hope so.” Some customers came in and sat down. Bennie looked at them and said, “I’ve got to go.”

I finished lunch, paid Sissy and left. I had a thought as I went past officer O’Brian and pulled over and stopped. I walked over to him and he called out, “Detective, you’re looking for me now!”

I handed him a stack of the car cards. “Officer, if you or any of your friends see this car tomorrow, give this number a call. If it’s going East and acts squirrely, get backup and pull it over. If you need more cards, call that number and they will be sent.”

“I think I’ve seen this picture in the papers recently. Something to do with kidnapping kids wasn’t it?”

“That’s right. I’ve been working this case and I don’t have something to send to the DA yet, but this car seems to be involved. But get backup before pulling it over.”

“We’ll keep an eye out, Detective.”

I handed him my everyday card. “Here’s my NYPD card, too. Let me know if anything turns up.”

I got back in the car and drove on. Since I was in the area, I drove past the Manager’s place. Boris was out front quietly talking to a kid. He looked up as I drove up and said, “Sal, this kid has been on the ball.  Apparently this place has been weird as long as he can remember and when he got the registration for the car from his brother he knew that something was up.”

The kid looked about fifteen or so and out of place for this neighborhood. I looked at him and said, “So what’s the story here?”

“Well my dad works as a gardener for some of these places over the years and contracts people for houses that don’t want full time staff or need extra work done. About ten years ago the guy who owns this place suddenly cancelled his contract with my dad. He had bought the place recently and it seemed to be a good contract but the work just stopped suddenly. My dad was pissed at the time, but what can you do.  Then we saw the guy driving around somebody in his own car.  That’s still the same car.  He was a big Wall St guy and when my dad asked some of his clients to check out what happened, it’s as if he just shutdown his business and stopped. Then there are the guards all over the place. At least until last night. When the call came out to track the car, I got the address from my brother who’s a local cop and started to take pictures with our camera. Are you a cop?”

“I’m Detective del Vecchio. I’m investigating a series of kidnappings that seem to involve that car. Have you ever seen it go to another house?”

“That place a few miles away. It used to be some sort of snob’s club. They moved out though.”

“Could I have your name and address? I think that I want to get back to you with more and see if you can help me with this.”

“I’m Victor Laeda, I live over there in the village.”

He gave me his address and phone number. I gave him a card and said, “If you see the car making any stops other than here, let me know, especially  if it looks as if it’s got club members in it. And be careful.  These people could be dangerous.”

He got on his bicycle and left. When he was gone I turned to Boris and said, “You were right about that one. I think he’s fae too.”

“He is, though how much is hard to tell. He’s pretty good at being discreet out here. He needs more practice with his abilities though. I might try to hook him up with Bob and Scott. One of my brothers in law is looking into tree farming anyway and his dad might be a good contact.”

“So, anything else happen today?”

“They haven’t fixed the gate yet and they don’t have any more construct dogs. There are some more Twisted up front in the gate house.  Mike and Al are looking after the kids out back and so far the Twisted haven’t been out back. Linda has been cruising around since lunch. None of the Twisted seem to have noticed that she is even up there.”

“Well, from what everything everybody has said, the Manager was out of it today and won’t be good for much tomorrow. Let’s see what he does.  If he’s smart, he’ll bug out.  Take that car of his and go straight to a boat.  But if he was smart he wouldn’t have done the things he did in the first place. I’m heading back.”

I drove back to the house and hid the car in the garage. I went into the house and Sillia was there in the parlor. She turned and said, “Sal! Let’s go for a nice long Swim. You look like you need it before dinner. Anyway, I want to get you in shape and check out the kids.”

“Ok, I can tell you about our potential royal party crasher as we Swim.”

I rolled her down to the lockers and we undressed. She splashed in popped up and said, “What are you waiting for?”

I changed and followed her into the water. We Swam through the gate and out into the Sound. As we Swam back the way I had just driven Sillia asked, “what party crasher?”

“Well Frank explained that the royal fae had two generations of single daughters and that the younger daughter likes to crash parties. Especially parties with fae boys.”

“Between Steve, the navy yard, Bob and Scott, we will have some of those. How old is she?”

“Frank said thirteen ,going on twenty. She was born into Change.”

“So she’s pushing to bond so that she can come up top where it’s more exciting. What happened with her parents?”

“Her dad was killed in the war before she was born and her mother stays under sea for the most part. That’s why we haven’t had any contact from the Sound Bower.”

“So there was nobody at our level who could come out and talk with us really. The king probably didn’t want to expose himself to the risk of something happening without a direct reason.  We’ll have to see if the party gets crashed tomorrow.”

As we approached I heard Al say, “Gone upscale” and I know I was in trouble. Al must have sensed me because he said, “Here he is now, ask him yourself.”

The little girl said, “We’ve SEEN his car and that car looks like a car for a crummy cop. Nobody would believe he isn’t one in that car.”

I said, “You must have seen the Detective yesterday then.  He gets those cars because the police department people don’t like him because he solves cases and makes people look bad.”

“He was you, though. I sensed you both times.”

“Let’s not let everybody know.”

“Well who’s the guy with the fancy car?”

“That’s the troubleshooter. He does cleanup for the outfit. He’s bonded to the mermaid princess.”

“You mean this lady? She’s a royal fae. I can tell.”

Sillia said, “Yes. I had to work very hard to catch him.”

“Why? You’re so pretty.”

“Well, he didn’t notice me at first because he was busy saving my bower. I caught him right after that, though, didn’t I.”

“Yes you did, though I was pretty well caught by then, even though you were trying to hide who you were.” I pointed at her and whispered to the girl, “Our families were having a little conspiracy to keep me in the dark about our bonding and my forthcoming tail. I figured it out though.”

Sillia whispered back, “It worked for a bit. He’s supposed to be a great Detective, so he figured things out eventually. After I had been parading my tail around for days.”

“Well I did have other things going on. Dealing with Jimmy, for instance and shutting people down doing bad stuff.  Finding out where the bad stuff was coming from.  Dealing with mysterious shark attacks and other nasty characters.  Talking to people in strange businesses.  Chasing down toothy protection rackets.”

“Why did you do those things?”

“To keep people safe. To help protect people. It’s my job.”

“So they serve you?”

“No, I serve them. I do my job so that little girls don’t get eaten.”

“Little girls get eaten?”

“Yes, bad monsters do bad things.”

“So you stop them?”

“I try.”

One of the boys said, “I’m Andy and I’m glad to meet you at last, Sal. Mommy and Uncle Boris talk about you a lot.”

“Hi Andy. You did very well last night.”

“I didn’t like it very much.”

“You never do.”

Sillia said, “So kids, are you doing ok?”

One of the other boys said, “We’re fine. It’s been fun today and the lady isn’t here.”

“It sounds like you’re ok, for now. We’re going to talk to your mommies soon. We need to go now. Sal, come on.”

We Swam away. Once we were a bit into the sound I asked Sillia, “What was that about?”

“Some things Gregor said today to Athena. The kids were learning some twisted things. I wanted to check things out while the Manager and his companion were still out of it.”

“That stuff about “serving” and work, wasn’t it?”

“Yes. From what Aunt Meria said there was a lot of that stuff going on with the dark fae on the Long Island Kingdom that was destroyed by her brother when the country was new. That’s why my father and Joe went up top.  To figure out what what was really going on and be a part of the world rather than  be separate and aloof.”

“And my dad joined the navy.”

“Along with others. Of course his grandparents on one side of the family came over from Italy. By the way your grandmother wants you to visit from time to time now that you can.”

“I’ve never met her.”

“She went under with your aunt along time ago.”

“All those tails my family never told me about.”

“Well if you had gone home from time to time they wouldn’t have had much choice.”

“I wonder if any new relationships will start at our place?”

“I think we will be surprised. Especially when the rest of your office starts showing up. Along with some of the girls from the bower.”

“What girls from the bower? I’m not sure that the boss wants the entire office to get wet.”

“You’ll have to ask mom about that, but Suzy was lucky that she caught Tim up at the navy yard.”

We Swam North across the Sound with the bower glowing to our senses in the distance. I looked around and said, “Any sign of our expected young hellion?”

“No, but just about everybody has been through here and she hasn’t turned up. That doesn’t mean that she won’t show up at the party.”

“Well let’s be ready.”

“Well there’s one thing that we need to do before we go back.”

She grabbed me, kissed me and things went on from there.

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