Mermaid Chapter 13, Part 2 and end

This is all  Athena’s very long day. I’m up over 500k words. There is a mermaid party and exciting stuff coming.


Friday 12/4

I woke up to a new day. I had Gregor and was free of the Manager at last.  That didn’t mean I was free of everything.  I needed to work and make sure that Gregor was protected from the Manager.  Preferably find a place where we could have a place together. Well at least that problem wasn’t immediate. I had tucked Gregor into bed in the room right next door to mine after that wonderful meeting.  Eric and Greta had the room on the other side and I had had experience with Greta’s ability to sniff out people and especially Twisted. Boris and Stephie had the room on the other side.  Bob and Scott were across the hall with Stacey’s kids sharing a room next door  and Larry on the other side of that. I didn’t think that the arrangement  was accidental. I went into Gregor’s room and woke him up. “Mommy! Am I going back to the school?”

“No Gregor, you are not going back. Not now.”

“How will I learn? How will I be safe?”

“I will make sure that you are safe and I will set you up so that you know how to do things for yourself.”

Al, Eric and Greta had shown me what “lessons” had consisted of in that “school.” I hadn’t really understood just what the Manager had been doing there. From Gregor’s behavior last night the entire thing had been a deliberate effort to make the kids easier to control and unable to interact with the real world. The fact that it may have worked was more than a bit terrifying. I said to Gregor, “After breakfast, we need to talk about monsters .”

That was made easier by the fact that just about everybody was in Change. Gregor  looked a little awestruck at the sight. Stephie fluttered over and said, “We thought it would reduce the impact of you showing Gregor your Change if we were all in Change as well.”

Stacey’s kids were being grandma’d by Mera who wasn’t wearing anything while Josh was sitting next to them in Change talking to Eric, Greta and Hilda, all of whom were in Change. Sal wasn’t in Change but Sillia wasn’t wearing anything to conceal what she was. Boris was sitting next to Bob and Scott discussing something while Mike and Nera were enjoying each other’s company. Stephie went on, “We wanted to show what we really are. Al and Eltra went out earlier to keep an eye on the kids and the Manager with Chrissie and  Tom is doing some work on the manager’s phone.”

Gregor looked around a little anxiously. “Where’s Tim and Suzy?”

“They went home last night. They both had work today. They should be back tomorrow.”

“And Cindy?”

“She has school today. She’ll be here tomorrow too.”

“Why don’t you come over here, Gregor”, Greta said.

Hilda was in Change and Gregor looked more than a little scared. On the other hand the other kids were right there with Hilda and there was an empty chair next to them. I pushed Gregor, “Go on, sit.”

He sat down nervously. Stephie said, “Gregor, your mother needs to show you something.”

I hadn’t bothered to dress and was still wearing  nothing more than a nightgown and robe over it, both of which I removed as I Changed.  Gregor’s eyes popped and he cried out, “Mommy, you’re a CAT!!”

“Well this is what I am,” I said. That’s part of being Fae, especially high fae.  We have Change and the Change is part of us.  Hilda is a Wolf, but not a monster. The rest are as you see.”

“Will I be a cat someday? What if I want to be with a mermaid.”

Greta said, “Chances are that if you should bond with a mermaid you will be mer, like Tom. If you should bond with somebody on land, you could gain a cat Change or something else. Whatever it is, it will be a truly wonderful part of your life. It’s part of what we are. Why don’t I tell you something about how we live.”

Stephie said to me, “Why don’t we sit down. We have much to discuss.” We sat down next to Hilda.  Hilda said, “This was Stephie’s idea. She likes to show off, but it clears the air a bit. Hopefully Gregor won’t be as liable to panic in the future.”

“Some of what happened may actually be Andy’s fault. From what Gregor said, he told a lot of stories about you.  The werewolf story and the story about J. Edger Hoover, for instance. Add to that the fact that Gregor picked up on how scared I was and what happened was almost inevitable when you Changed.” I shrugged, “Of course if the Manager hadn’t driven this whole mess or put Twisted out as guards where the kids were that wouldn’t have been an issue.”

“Ladies, I think that we need to talk about that.” Al had just rolled Eltra in, with Tom and Chrissie right behind. He looked rather annoyed at Stephie and Hilda. He rolled Eltra to the table across from Mera and sat down across from us.  Tom rolled Chrissie next to Eltra and Nera and sat down across from Bob and Scott. Al went on, “Hilda, Stephie, I know that you’ve been doing your matches for a very long time and you are very good at dealing with enhanced targets when things go right.  But why didn’t you arrange for cover fire?”

Hilda said, “I was trying to make a point to the Manager.”

“Who was on the ground, unconscious, before you even started. Both Tom and I had rifles and special rounds available and had we known what you were planning we would have made arrangements to find positions where we could provide cover fire if needed. And it was.”

Stephie said, “We did have backup. Boris, Mike, Linda Bob and Scott were all there with Tim and Sal. Then there were you, Tom, Nera and Eltra in the water.”

“None of whom were, with the exception of Linda, in a position to actually provide cover fire. Hilda, I know you carry a 1911 in your purse, Why didn’t you use it?”

“By the time I realized that I might need it there wasn’t time to get it.”

“Luckily Andy seemed to be thinking ahead and was ready. He shouldn’t have had to. Why didn’t you get in contact with Tom and I?”

“We set the whole thing up here and you were at the navy yard, working on the boat. To be honest, Stephie and I thought that we had taken adequate precautions.”

“For which Gregor almost paid for. It’s things that you can’t plan for that you sometime need firepower for. I can’t tell you how useless I felt sitting there in the water. Look, Tom didn’t start going after the Manager until he knew that he had the firepower to back up what he was doing.” I said, “We were pressed by events.  I wasn’t sure what the Manager would have done if Hilda hadn’t been in the car. It was Hilda’s idea to get in.”

“You could have waited, or called Tom and I. I missed Hilda and Stephie’s little dance or I would have insisted that Tom and I cover what you were doing, ladies. Not because you aren’t very good at what you do, but because screwups happen. We didn’t find out about what you were doing until  we got back and we missed your little dance yesterday.  We thought that you, at least, Hilda were going in properly armed.”

Hilda said, “We wanted to make and impression. It was also an opportunity to see what we could do for real.”

“THIS WASN”T A GAME!! When you took chances, it wasn’t with your lives, or Andy’s, it was with Sphinx’s or Gregor’s. The whole point of my lecture wasn’t that you and Stephie should indulge your extreme competitiveness. I gave that lecture so that you were better able to protect those you needed to protect. Somewhere in this that got lost.”

It was hard to tell with Hilda, but Stephie wasn’t glowing as much and her wings sort of wilted. Al went on. “I realize that neither of you have much experience with things like this and frankly Mike dropped the ball on this one, but when you are dealing with strictly hostiles, it’s one thing and when you have others involved it’s another. Athena wasn’t armed and the kids could show up in the middle. You needed to be able to take out the monsters when things had gone to hell and not just when things are controlled.”

Hilda barked back, “Al we didn’t have time to set things up perfectly.”

Al turned to me. “Athena, what would you have done if Hilda hadn’t called yesterday?”

“Reported to Tiger that the connection hadn’t happened yet,” I said.

“From what everybody has said, they weren’t monitoring you that closely.  In fact you were here, at Bennies and in Noro’s car all day yesterday.  So there was no way to know as far as they were concerned that anything had happened at all.”

Mera said, “Al don’t be too hard on them. They are all fae and how they did things is how I would have done things once. They haven’t been through what you have. They relied on their own skills.  They didn’t think to use the skills of the people they had at hand and they didn’t think ahead and work out the problem. I don’t think that they will make that sort of mistake again.”

“That’s good, because the Manager is going to be tougher from now on. That is if he doesn’t just bug out.”

“I don’t think that’s likely,” I said, adding, “If he had been ready to do that he would have done it already and since he never even actually saw Hilda’s dance, he won’t know what happened.”

“Won’t Tony or Robert tell him?”

“Only if he asks and he never has before. Even if they did, the Manager would ignore them.  He never asked about Tom and guns, he never asked why the warehouse went up in flames and even when I told him about Eric, the family and guns he didn’t seem to understand.”

“Then he doesn’t have a clue,” Stephie exclaimed. “At least when Tom was battling me, I knew that he wasn’t trying to really hurt me. All those things he did, were,in many ways, more than bit fun and even if I didn’t appreciate them at the time, I do now. If I was trying to get Tom to see the power in himself, you were trying to get me to  see things that I didn’t see in me, weren’t you, Tom?”

Tom grinned. “I’m not going to say entirely what I was doing, Stephie. Not right now.”

“So you do have something planned? With Chrissie too?”

“That’s for you to find out. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

“Well at least we both have Change now, and I don’t have to hide anymore.”

“I think that we will need to talk about that. A bunch of people have said that you and my other  sisters, along with Hilda went through a lot to protect me from myself.”

“We did. Though we didn’t really understand why we needed to until lately. Mother seemed to understand.”

I said, “Stephie, you don’t know what the Manager tried to do to Tom after Tom killed his brother. If Tom had even been the least bit less protected, it would have been a disaster.  The Manager really wanted Tom.”

Al turned to me. “Athena, you need to learn to shoot. Along with using your abilities to protect yourself better.  I’ll see if I can get you set up.”

“I’m the other side. Why would you want to do that.”

“Now that Gregor is free, you aren’t the other side and I don’t want the other side to tie you up again if we can help it. Eltra and I want to make sure that they can’t tie you up again so easily.”

I thought about how different that was from the way that the Manager did things. The Manager had never thought to provide resources to protect his people. Or anything else for that matter. Then he blamed others for his failures. Usually with fatal consequences as he “punished” them.  Breakfast was served and Al said as we ate, “Ladies, you have to understand that bad things can happen no matter how good you are.  I learned that the hard way when I first ran into the werewolves “over there.” I wasn’t ready for that and people were hurt because I hadn’t planned for an attack.  Please don’t put me or Helmut in that position again.”

Hilda looked at Stephie. “Stephie, I think that we need to find something else to compete with. Al, we got so caught up in our little competitions that we lost focus on why we did them in the first place.”

“It’s partly my fault. I enjoyed what you ladies were doing enough that I didn’t think about the fact that you may have gone too far the other way. Of course a big part of that was that most of the things you encountered were easy to take care of, like those constructs last week.”

Tom asked, “What constructs last week?”

Hilda answered, “Didn’t somebody tell you? When they took Andy, an idiot from across the lake came over and launched a bunch of constructs all over the place. He was trying to get revenge on Bob and Scott, along with their friends. That’s why Andy went to school in the first place.  We didn’t have the resources to deal with both the constructs and keep Andy at home.”

“Boris told me about him . Where were mother and father?”

“At the town meeting dealing with issues relating to the constructs. So, since there wasn’t anybody at home, we sent Andy to school. We had used deputies to pick him up on Wednesday to pick him up and the manger sent in a pair of dopplegangers to replace the deputies and pick him up.”


“Twisted fae who change into to other people. The change kills the other people. We found our deputies, but unfortunately, not soon enough. The dopplegangers hand already picked Andy up.  The constructs were a distraction. We should have been looking out for something else but things got so hectic.”

Breakfast was essentially over and Stephie said, “Hilda and I planned to meet up with Stacey to go shopping. Do you want to come?”

“I think that I need to spend time with Gregor this morning. To find out what’s been really going on at that house.”

Hilda said, “How do we get in contact with the rest of the indentured? I think that you and I need to get together with the rest and make plans, soon, while the Manager is still incapacitated. Is there a good time that we can all meet?”

“We share an apartment and we all work so, evening would be best except for Tiger, who has a show tonight. She’s a dancer. She’s also been closest to the Manager and been involved in this longest.”

“That’s Sarissa’s mom, isn’t it?”

“Yes. She”s Siamese and more likely to believe in authority. She also doesn’t work as often out independently in contact with you all, like Gull and I have.”

Greta said, “From what we saw at the beach, Gull wants out like you did. What would she do if she was freed?”

“Probably move up to the Cape. She liked it up there and the people.  I think she feels more than a little guilty about Tom and Chrissie.”

Mera said, “She obviously didn’t like what she was doing on the beach. Especially when it was obvious that the whole thing was going wrong.”

“Gull tried to make it just business as much as she could. We all did. It was the only way to stay sane. Of course none of us were actually forced to go over the line into the really nasty stuff.” Greta said, “I removed your compulsions for suicide and whatnot a long time ago and Gull’s when she was on the beach. We will have to be sure to keep the other two from being in a position where they believe that things are compromised to the point that they feel that they have been captured until we can remove the compulsions from the other two.”

“And the last of you, Najim’s mother?” Hilda looked questionally at me, “We’ve barely seen what she does.”

“That’s Naga. She works for Cunard in the travel office and handles international connections for the Manager as well as helping Tiger.  She’s from India.”

“So she helps get people into and out of the country if need be.”

“Along with other things. She also keeps an eye on shipping.”

Greta asked, “Would she be willing to talk?”

“I think I can persuade her. Especially if we can get Stacey involved. Both of them know about White’s.”

Hilda said, “We were planning to go shopping with Stacey this morning. She was getting together with Tim and Tom this afternoon and I think she and George had plans for the evening.”

Mera said, “Well we could always go to the top and get father. I’m taking Chrissie and my sisters in this afternoon to get their gowns setup and maybe we should get together after.”

Greta said, “Athena, why don’t you call later and we can arrange to meet someplace. The rest of the indentured at least need to know that we are working to free them.”

Hilda said, “Stephie and I need to go. We’ll call in after lunch and see how things went. Come on Stephie. We need to get dressed so we don’t scare people.”

Stephie pouted a bit, went over to Boris, hugged him and kissed him on the muzzle and went with Hilda out the door. Boris came over. “We’re going to be watching the Manager’s house in shifts. The kids, especially. Nera and Eltra this morning until Mera grabs them and Mike and Al in the water in back after. I’m going to be out front and Linda will fly overhead most of the time. If you need them, Bob and Scott can keep Gregor entertained.  They’ve promised to not make too much noise and I don’t think they’ve gotten access to too much trouble potential yet.  They’re going shopping with Tom this afternoon, so tomorrow’s a different story. They’ve offered to teach Gregor to shoot if you want.”

“They seem to like to play with constructs.”

“Well they’ve done a lot with them over the years. Those and cars.  Fortunately they came down in Al’s car and not their car or they would be giving the local cops fits.”

“Are they that bad?”

“Well my deputies have a 100 mile per hour club and chasing them is the initiation. Catching them is another story.”

“I missed a lot of things when I used to visit. Maybe if I had been more open and not trying to just keep to business, I would have had a lot more fun.”

“Well Hilda and her sisters all like you, so you won’t be a stranger.”

Sillia handed Sal some money and he left. She rolled over.  “I’m going to have to work Sal up to his new lifestyle gently.  He’s not used to having money. He’s also good with deals, but not with actually handling the numbers. Of course he and Tim were sort of dropped into the deep end just in the last few weeks or so. So I’ll handle the money.”

Gregor came over, sat in my lap and started to pet me. I actually started to purr about that.  “You ARE a cat, mommy!”

It actually felt good and I hugged him closer. “Don’t stop.”

Gregor stroked me as he asked, “How come Sal wears those ratty suits and drives that crummy car? Isn’t he royal fae?”

“For work,” Sillia answered. “He does that for work.”

“But why does he work. Doesn’t he have people to do that for him?”

“He does that so that he can help people,” I answered. “That’s his responsibility.”

“High fae don’t need to be responsible. They can just tell people what they want.”

“Who said that?”

“The lady.”

I looked around at a bunch of rather grim faces. Before I had left Greece for America, my parents had told me of the dark fae and how they thought.  The lack of responsibility and all that went with it were central to how the Twisted thought.  “Gregor dear, the lady was wrong, very wrong.  Being fae isn’t losing responsibility, but accepting it. Sal works to keep us safe because he is royal fae and that is part of what he is.  It’s part of what we all are. If we lose that we become less than ourselves. Let’s talk to Eric.”

I put Gregor down and took his hand and walked over to where Greta and Eric were sitting. “Gregor, has Andy said anything about his grandfather?”

“He said he did the milking and worked the farm.”  “Well here is, so you can ask him about the fae and why he does what he does. Eric, tell Gregor about why you live the way you do.”

“Athena, I haven’t had to explain that to my children, or theirs. They see it by living it.  Here, though, I think that it is different.  Like that stupid young man from across the lake and Bob and Scott.  Gregor, did Andy tell you about him and what he did?”

“Yes, he said a lot about how Bob and Scott took his car apart and how Bill, who works for you was unhappy about that and how Bob and Scott just took it even though they were fae and he wasn’t.  Did you tell Bob and Scott that they had to do that?”

“I didn’t have to. The boys knew that they made a mistake when Bill yelled at them about it.”

“Why didn’t Bob and Scott just put compulsions on Bill?”

“Because it would have been wrong and trying to compel everybody just ends up with everybody being unhappy. See compulsions are like rules and too many of either just makes things worse.  Now did you have a lot of rules at that school of yours?”

“Yes, lots and lots.”

“Did you spend a lot of time getting around them?”

“All the time.”

Eric went on, creating not just a story and commanding, but creating understanding and demonstrating the right way forward without compelling anything. The contrast between him and the Manager could not be more stark.  I looked over to Greta and said, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, dear. This is important too. It seems as if there were a lot of things we have to free you from. As well as many things the Manager has to answer for. There is a fair amount of property here, so why don’t you go for a short Run and let Eric talk to Gregor for a while.”

Tom had left. But Chrissie was talking to Mera about something as well as talking to Stacey’s kids. I decide to take Greta’s advice and get some time to rediscover myself. The house did have a large chunk of property, almost all forest off to one side and I wondered about that.  But the woods were fun and essentially empty. Greta had been right about the Run and just relaxing.  I decide that if they would let me that I would look for a place near them and the woods up in Vermont. I had actually saved quite a bit of money over the years and buying a second place to have for Runs and having Gregor up there might be a good thing.  After about an hour I decided to head back to the house and get dressed. When I got back, Eric was showing Gregor some pictures of the farm that Chrissie had taken when she had gone up there with Tom.  Mera and Greta were looking at what appeared to be wedding dress designs and I asked them, “Who’s wedding? We fae don’t typically do weddings.”

“Chrissie’s,” Mera answered. “Along with my sisters’. We are bringing as many fae as we can together so that we can talk. You need to be there as well, now that you are free.”

“What about the Manager?”

“I don’t think that he will be very much of an issue,” Greta said. “It’s likely that things are going to resolve themselves quickly now that he’s come out of the shadows. In any case we need some celebration.”

“When I started this, I realized that this was something we fae had been missing out on,” Mera continued. “Well at least some of us. According to the pastor holding the ceremony, our wedding was the tenth mer wedding this year. Two of which were high fae. He’s already got requests for two more next spring. When I started to talk to the hotel about the reception they already knew what to do, including setting up on the water. Stacey is going to be annoyed with me because we didn’t do anything for her.”

Gregor called out, “Mommy, come here and look at these!”

I sat down with him as he showed me the pictures of the farm that I had seen afar many times but never close up. We went through the pictures and I realized just what I had been missing.  Though I doubt that Chrissie dancing was part of normal Vermont farm life. I turned to Eric and he smiled. “Chrissie was everywhere with that camera.”

“She obviously enjoyed herself. I wish that I had been a little more open.”

“You were and are welcome to come anytime. Hilda has always liked you very much.”

“I have some money and I think I want a small place where I can take Gregor over the Summer for vacation.”

“I think that we can find you a place. Near the forest, I suspect.”

“I would like that. I would like that very much.”

“That would give Gregor an opportunity to be in a healthy fae community. I think that he’s going to need that.  To cleanse the taint that the dark has placed upon him. Also, Stephie can helphim catch up with the schooling. I think that all the indentured are going to need that.”

Gregor looked at me.”Mommy I want to learn how to work. To do normal stuff and be as good as Andy. Actually I want to be able to beat Andy and I can’t do that unless I get good at that stuff too.”

“Why do you want to beat Andy?”

“Because he beat me and said that I couldn’t beat him unless I learned real stuff. Then he showed us real stuff and shot the monster last night.”

Boys. We looked at the pictures some more. There were some pictures of Tom’s shop and Tom working on guns, both in his shop and his room. Along with another room with a large tank.  Gregor looked at that picture and said, “That’s the tank that they built for Chrissie.”

It actually looked like a nice setup for mermaids. Especially for something just thrown together. Tom rolled Chrissie in and 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.”

Tom bailed out again before Gregor could ask him any questions. I turned to Eric and asked, “Tom bothered by the wedding?”

“Not that I’ve seen, but he’s been kept busy by the Manager.”

“This tank looked like it worked out well for them.”

“It did actually. In more than one way.  They had it shipped down to the Cape and every mermaid in the bower that knows about it wants one now.  In fact every mermaid that hears about it wants one if they have to be, or are separated from their bonded.”

“That’s the business that Josh said to look out for, isn’t it?”

“Probably. Everybody will be at the party tomorrow, so you can ask around and get a feel for yourself.”

“Is Noro involved?” “One way or another.” Mera had overheard us and answered. “We haven’t decided how the money’s all going to work out, but he’s caught in the trap.  We did it during Thanksgiving, didn’t we, Chrissie.”

“Yes we did. Of course it helped that he gave daddy control of everything after grandmother died. Also my uncles are not going to vote against their wives, daughters and granddaughters, so he’s stuck.”

Considering how Noro seemed to be about not making money, that Josh was no slouch when it came to business, along with Stacey and the fact that these people seemed to be as sharp as Noro was, I thought I  would give George a quiet heads up about a hot quiet business plan that might be making the rounds.  Chrissie continued. “This business with the Manager is distracting Tom from the business. If there weren’t so much at stake I would tell Tom to just shoot him and get it over with. Or just put the word out.”

Considering who this young lady was, I had to imagine that if she mentioned that she wanted somebody to just disappear, that whoever it was would just disappear in a matter of hours. Just talking to this young lady you would never believe that she knew just how much clout she actually had until she said things like this. I had been worried about Tom’s side of the family.  Maybe I should have worried about The Cape people even more.

Looking down at the pictures Gregor asked, “What’s Tom doing here?”

“Looking into underwater guns.” Eric looked at a picture with a hoist next to the old mill that seemed to be Tom’s shop. “He had been chased by some Changed sharks and was trying to figure how to make guns work underwater.”

“Andy said that that was one of the things Tom did when he went up to Vermont. Along with make some more guns. How did he learn to make guns?”

“Well when he was about your age, his sister Stephie thought that he should be reaching into his abilities and tried to push him using hers. Now you have to understand that for the strongest fae, protections develop around their abilities to protect themselves and others. Tinkering with those can be dangerous to the fae or others or they can cause the shields to be almost impenetrable by anything other than  the strongest connections, like bonding. The fae involved can no longer see into themselves and their abilities and they become almost like non fae. That’s what happened with Tom.  We also had a neighbor who had a shop at his farm and he used to make the most amazing mechanical toys.  So Tom became interested and the neighbor encouraged him.  When Tom was twelve, the neighbor got very sick and sold his tools and lathe to Tom for a very good price.  Along with some books and hinting that taking corespondence courses would be a good thing. Tom followed up on that.

Meanwhile Stephie was trying various ways using her abilities to make Tom see his and essentially only making Tom’s life miserable.  So Tom started to return the favor with things like those boats. By that point he was good enough with the lathe that he was making money doing repairs and making replacement parts for most of the family and the farms around when they needed repairs quickly.  Money which he used to buy more correspondence courses. He was also subscribing to radio and mechanical magazines that showed how to make all sorts of things. Things which he could use fight back against Stephie’s abilities.

Anyway the war came and went. My other son, Larry, had trained to be a gunsmith so that he could take care of our guns and when the war ended there were a lot of canceled contracts and large piles of partially manufactured guns that suddenly became scrap.  We had a large barn that we used as storage more or less, so Larry bought a large quantity of that scrap with the idea that he could make the occasional gun and sell it.

In the beginning it was fairly easy for Larry to just hand finish a gun, but fairly quickly it was obvious that some machining would be a big help. So Larry went to Tom and they got together to see what they could do, first on the lathe and then on more machines that Tom bought to make things faster. Then Brad came back finally and you know what happened.”

“The werewolves.”

“Along with other things, yes. Other than Tom having to shoot his brother, the other things were probably more important. Boris came and bonded with Stephie, which raised the strain and the level of battle between Stephie and Tom to a new level because Stephie wanted to dance for Boris and share in their Change and she couldn’t because Greta had banned Change where Tom might pick it up.  So she pushed harder and Tom pushed back, especially after the phone company made that deal with Tom and he rebuilt our phones.

Before that, Stephie had had an information advantage thanks to her abilities and the fact that she could be invisible and walk though his locked door into his room. Not that that did her much good as Tom had a habit of making bits and pieces, buying some stuff from catalogs and never actually putting things together until he was ready. He had also learned to very careful about what he just left around. So even though Stephie could sneak around and see what Tom was doing she couldn’t puzzle out exactly what the end result was going to be. It didn’t help that Stephie is a typical fae by nature and not very good with puzzles.

Suddenly the information balance changed and the only thing we could say to Stephie was that she should stay off the phone. It’s not easy to demand that sombody not listen to calls when they own the phone system, he doesn’t actually do it where he where he can get caught and nobody actually knows exactly what the equipment and installation looks like. Tom still owns the system even now, actually.

Then there was the fact that we had to punish Tom about Stephie’s horse, Tony and Tom letting him out of the stables before one of Stephie’s competitions but we couldn’t visibly punish Stephie for the things she did to Tom’s vegetables and other things that he competed with at the county fair without revealing too much about things that we didn’t want Tom to find out about. So things just got worse until Tom finally pulled off his biggest gag ever and left shortly after.”

“How did he do that?” I asked. “Tony and Robert still talk about that, so it must have been something amazing to get their attention like that.”

“I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have been when Tom volunteered to do some repairs in the stable. So Tom replaced most of the stable door latches with latches altered to open by themselves using .22 cartridges as motors. We found the holes later. How he timed and controlled everything is still a mystery because we had banned him from the stable for a week before the competition, he had been plowing a field for hours and never went near the stables.  He’s admitted to using the phone and there is an extra line into the stable, which the phone man found when they came out to make some changes on our outside lines. We went through the stables again during Thanksgiving and found some more wires and the holes in the latches, along with some of the spent cartridges in a few of the holes. From where the wires seemed to go, the control box may have actually been hidden in the muck wagon and one of the hands dumped it into the manure pile where Tom probably picked it up later.”

Gregor asked, “Why did he do that?”

“You’ll have to ask him, but I’m guessing he wanted Stephie to get off Tony and on with other things. See by that time, Tony was getting old, and Stephie had dominated the competitions to the national level for a long time.  Tom went to school with some of the younger girls and they were upset that they never got a chance to shine. Tom hinted to Greta several times, didn’t he,that Stephie should drop the competitions and let some of the other girls shine before they got too old.”

“He did,” Greta answered, “At the time I thought it was just childish jealousy and there may have been some of that, but I also had some stress with the mothers too. Of course Boris had shown up and Stephie did move on to working on him about the same time.”

“The jealousy was one reason that we punished Tom when Tony got out, even though he kept saying it was Tony most of the time. Since Tony still got out after Tom was gone he was right about that.  The funny thing is that Tony would get out of his stall, out of the stable, trot across the barnyard, over to the road and stop, just waiting.  If one of the hands tried to collect him he would run away, then come back, wait for a couple of hours and then trot  right back to his stall. Even Stephie couldn’t deal with him when he was like that. Tony actually died, waiting, on a cold winter’s day just before Tom came up for Christmas from Washington.”

“So Tony wasTom’s horse?” Gregor asked. “Why was Stephie riding Tom’s horse.”

“Tony was Stephie’s horse. Tom didn’t have a horse of his own particuarly and Stephie had two that she used in competitions.  Tom did a lot of work in the stables as part of his chores and I guess that Tony and he developed a relationship.  As far as I know, Tom never took Tony for a ride because Stephie was very possessive. Because we kept Tom banned from the stables so much, he learned to drive and bought a car that he worked on for a while and a truck later that he still drives.”

“Was Tom responsible for the fiasco at Grand Central?” Now that I thought about it the whole thing seemed to be too well put together by somebody who was skilled at that sort of thing. Of course Noro had a reputation too, but he had been out of it and was probably not as good at using machines to mess things up. “It was his idea,” Greta answered.  “Josh, Noro, Tim and the rest all made contributions. As it turned out, it was probably a bit much as the train was late anyway and Hilda got in the car in the end.”

“If the purpose of the whole thing was to confuse us and get make us come to you, it worked. Until just now when you described the stable, I was sure that the whole thing had been our fault.”

Tom came in to get Chrissie and said, “they’re calling lunch.”

There were two men from the navy and Mera said as she rolled in, Athena, this is my son Steve and one of his people, Ensign Delios. They brought Tom’s boat back from the yard.”

“Where you set it up with that big gun,” I said. “Isn’t that going a bit far?”

“I’m not sure,” Tom replied. “I’m still new to this world and I don’t know it well enough to know exactly what I need yet.  You saw what happened last night. I’ve had to deal with constructs, sharks and werewolves.  But what if the Manager has something worse.”

“He’s never shown anything worse yet. On the other hand he’s never needed more than what you’ve seen already because he’s never really dealt with strong fae at all until recently.”

“Why did you let Tony out of the barn,” Gregor asked.

“Has father been telling stories about me?” Tom thought a little bit. “What did he say?”

“He said that Tony must have liked you a lot. That after you went away, Tony would escape from the stable and look for you.”

“Did he, father? He was gone by the time I came up for Christmas that year.”

“He got out and died of exposure just before you came up. He had been getting out frequently since you left and even Stephie couldn’t get him back in until he was sure that you were not around.”

“I never knew. Now as to why I let Tony out, what did father say?”

“That you wanted Stephie to drop out of her competitions. But why?”

“Because of the sort of thing that happened last night. See, I saw Stephie from the sidelines with other people as well as Tony after the meets, where he was getting really tired.  I went to school with some of the younger girls and they, and their older sisters didn’t like Stephie because she pushed so hard to win. So hard that she never noticed that she was hurting Tony and that the other girls just couldn’t keep up.  Some of them got hurt trying and there was a lot of grief. The thing is that Stephie was 26 at the time and really needed to move on to other things, but she was so focused on winning that she couldn’t see that.  Well at least until Boris showed up.

I also figured that if I was going to be punished letting Tony out when I wasn’t doing it, I might as well go ahead and really do it.”

“Now that you can reach into your abilities, how are you going to change how you do things,” I asked.

“Athena, I don’t know. When you come to the wedding, Chrissie and I have something we’re working on and then I think that my sister and I have to have a very long talk. As for the Manager, you’ll see fairly quickly.  I hope that he doesn’t go to sleep again when it hits. That was just rude. At least I won’t be using cheap tricks like compulsions.  In fact a bunch may go away fairly soon.”

“The Manager and the lady say that fae who use tools are weak,” Gregor said. “Yet I saw Stephie last night and she was real strong. So were the rest. Andy says that you almost ran right over your sister and your dad says the same thing.  How do you do that?”

“Because I learned. I had a good teacher when I started and bought books and learned how to do stuff. I didn’t have the shortcuts that my sisters did and I had to still be able to fight back.  So I did things in ways that they didn’t expect. Why don’t you come down to Al’s shop with me in the morning tomorrow and I will show you how I work.  Since Andy has one of my books, you, Nagim and Anthony should too. That is if your mother says ok.”

“I would say ok,” Greta said. “Especially if you want to live near us. The other boys have already had access to Tom’s stuff and it’s gone around a lot already. Tom, dear, you left more than you know behind. Most of the kids, especially Bob, Scott and Andy went through your various stashes rather thoroughly.”

“Grandmother, don’t say too much,” Bob said. “We don’t want to wreck our reputation with Uncle Tom quite yet. Uncle Tom, when we get Andy back, we want you to take us shopping in the city and show us your favorite places to find books.”

“I’m beginning to think that maybe I should have left more stuff up in the barn, Tom said. “Or at least talked with you kids before just pulling it. I didn’t realize that most of it was being used by other people. Sort of like the shop. If father hadn’t arranged it, I would have just pulled it and left you boys high and dry. Larry too, now that I think about it. During Christmas, I’ll come up and show you boys how to do a run of the setups for Larry.”

“I’ll come too,” Chrissie said.

“Chrissie the trip might not be as easy when it’s colder and all the ponds have ice on them.”

“We’ll work something out. I’ll talk to daddy, if necessary. Maybe we can rent a train. Mom, that way you and daddy can come too.”

I thought about how much that would cost and that maybe Chrissie was kidding. Then again, probably not. From what Gull had said, the family had big chunks of the economy both legal and illegal up there wrapped around their fingers. They didn’t flash money around or live it up all the time, but the house I was currently staying in said that when they wanted it, they had it. On the other hand, renting a business car wasn’t that unusual on the Street and we had actually done it once to take some clients from overseas on a business trip.  While the gun stuff was probably small stuff, it’s likely that other business would be conducted and it might not be as small as most people would think. For that matter, the fact that Hilda had said that the big gun had been a more or less a joint project, maybe the business with the guns wasn’t that small after all. I wondered how much Colt knew about Tom’s stuff and how he did things.

Mera had been talking to Nera and Eltra all through lunch along with Chrissie and Sillia.  The wedding dress book had been much in evidence.  Apparently Sillia and Sal were also planning a wedding. We finished the excellent lobster chowder that had been lunch and the staff nudged us all out of the dining room and back into the parlor.  Josh had been in the city all morning and came back out for lunch.  Mera said, “Josh dear, you watch the kids while I take my sisters and Chrissie into town. We’re going for a short Swim while the car takes Tom and the rest over to the railroad station and then Bill is taking us into town to the dressmakers.”

The mermaids went out for their Swim.

Sillia rolled in. “Athena, Hilda is on the phone and wants to talk to you.”

I went over to the phone. “Athena, why don’t you bring Gregor in and we can do some Christmas shopping together. We’ll call your place from Noro’s about 5:30 or so. Mera said that she was coming in and they can drop you off at Noro’s. Noro will give us the car later and we can take the other ladies to dinner down at Bennies. Mother and father can meet us there, along with Josh and Mera. I just talked to Mera about that. That way we can have dinner in a fae friendly environment and have a good talk.”

I thought about it and decided that doing the shopping was a good thing. Gregor really deserved a nice present since it had been made clear to me in the beginning that presents would not be accepted that the “school.” Another check on the Manager’s account.  I wondered if there were anything I could do to help Tom. “Ok, I’ll go with them. I will see you shortly.”

I went back into the parlor where Gregor was with the other two kids listening to the radio. He said, “Mommy, they didn’t have one of these in the school. This is great.”

“Gregor, how would you like to go shopping for a present?”

“For me? You never got me a present before.”

“The school wouldn’t let me give you one. What would you want?”

“I think a gun like Andy’s. I’m not sure that would work here and I think that that is something I need to learn before I get one. Andy takes guns seriously.”

“He does,” Eric said. “He’s very good about that, for the way he likes them so much. Since your mother is making plans for a place near where we live, we can set you up then. Larry can teach you how to be safe.”

“So can Andy.” Chrissie and the rest of the mermaids had come in, wearing dresses. Mera said, “We should get going.”

We all went out to the car and Bill the chauffer helped the mermaids in and then Gregor got in the front seat while I got in the back with the rest. Eltra said, “Gregor seems to be taking all this in stride. He seemed to be scared last night.”

“He has, actually. That place filled him with all sorts of nonsense and then Andy was dropped right into the middle of them with all those stories about his Uncle Tom and Hilda.  I think that Eric, Tom and the rest made a big impression on him. There’s also the fact that monsters weren’t coming out of the woodwork like that lady said they would.  In fact the only monsters he’s seen are the Twisted at the “school.”

“Now it’s been a very long time for Nera and I to have to worry about things like that.” Eltra looked at her sister. “Mera, how did you and my brothers deal with it.”

“Well in the beginning it was hard because Josh and I lived on that barge and we never had room for books and access to schools. On the other hand Josh made sure that Steve and Joe could read. Since then, we sent the kids to school once we moved to the Cape and Chrissie built up quite the library before she went under sea. In fact that was a problem with her, because she stayed up and didn’t get wet during her Change until I came up and dragged her under.  As far as Stacey goes, I don’t know what she has, but she works for the newsletter, so I doubt that her library is small.  When we get back, let’s visit and find out.”

“I’m taking my books from dad’s house as soon as we get back,” Chrissie said. “Plus any that dad or my uncles don’t really want. Now that I have my own place with Tom, I can have my books back.”

“Don’t you live underwater?” I asked. “In the bower? Gull said that you did.”

“You know about the tank bed? Well we brought it down and set it up in a boathouse so that Tom could run his boat and I can stay up top or right offshore if we want. It makes things so much easier.”

“The separation of bonded is a big under sea issue,” Mera said. “Especially with so many men now working up top and off the water. Having a tank bed means that Tom and Chrissie don’t have to live apart and that Tom can work on land on his projects and businesses without deserting Chrissie.  For that matter Tim and Suzy are going to have the same sort of issues soon.”

I hadn’t really thought about things that way. I needed to talk to George about this before it hit the Street.  In these Depression days, a product that really changed peoples’ lives like this seemed to could be a big thing.  It would also make doing business with underwater folk easier.  Not that that was a problem with this crowd. We arrived at Noro’s building and I got out of the car and took Gregor’s hand. We walked into the building and Gregor was rather overwhelmed by it all. The front deks clerk said, “Mrs. Terrel? Just go right ahead, the operator knows your floor. Mrs. Benton and Mrs. Ravitz are waiting for you in Mr. White’s office.”

I took Gregor into the elevator and we went up to the 20th floor and into about the fanciest lobby that I had ever seen. Noro was there with Stephie and Hilda and he said, “Hello, young man.  We didn’t have a chat to talk last evening. I am Mr. White.”

Considering how over the top his getup was I wasn’t surprised that Gregor was a little tongue tied. He finally took Noro’s hand and said, “Hello, I’m Gregor. Nice to meet you.”

“I hear that you are concerned with monsters. Well I can assure you, that while we have some interesting characters in this building, we don’t allow monsters. I need to be going now. I will leave you ladies to your shopping.”

He left and Hilda said, “He can’t help himself, can he?”

“At least we didn’t have Tim with a camera, this time,” I answered. I wonder that his bonded put up with it.”

“We’ll have to ask Mera and the rest. Let’s go.”

“Who was that man, mommy,” Gregor asked. “Other than a very powerful fae.”

“A real character if what mom and dad said about him at Thanksgiving is true and having seen him for real, I can believe it,” Stephie answered. “Stacey had stories. A lot of stories. Didn’t she, Hilda.”

“Yes she did, Hilda answered. “Gregor, ask around at the party tomorrow and you’ll get an earful. Of course, we may hand you and the rest of your friends over to him up at the Cape next year. Stacey says that he’s good for fun stuff.”

“He’s a bit scary,” Gregor said.

“Not really once you’re around him for awhile,” I said. “Unless you’re the press trying to get his picture and having all your film fog. At least Tim got him off the bounty list.”

“What’s the bounty list?” Stephie asked.

“The bounty list is the people that the press people will pay big money to get a photo of for whatever reason. Noro used to wear those outlandish suits and dare press people to get his picture. While messing with their cameras. While we were having our fun and games Wednesday, Tim managed to shield another reporter’s camera and get Noro off the list and on the front page. With Hilda walking right beside him, which I slammed in the Manager’s face.”

Hilda asked, “Where too?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never done this before.  And right now we don’t have a place.”

That was what we needed most. A place that was ours, where Gregor could be safe from the monsters and I could be with him.  A place away from our nightmare.

Hilda said, “We can help you with that. In fact I want to. I think that the whole family does, don’t we Stephie?”

“Yes we do. If for no other reason than nothing will hurt the Manager worse than to lose you all. But even more than that, mother and the rest of us have all liked you for some time. So let’s go over to Fifth Avenue and see what inspires us. Even if we don’t buy anything now, we can always come back later.”

We went over to Fifth Avenue and had an enjoyable afternoon cruising stores, especially FAO Schwartz, but Gregor and I just couldn’t get beyond not having a place right now and wanting to fill it so we settled on a pocket knife. It was after dark and we headed back to Noro’s building so that I could make the call. Mary picked up. “Athena, where have you been?  Boonsri is going crazy, the Manager is apparently completely out of it and you and Wolf seemed to have vanished along with Gregor from what Boonsri has said.  I haven’t talked to Tony or Robert yet, but it seems like Andy is still there.”

“That’s what we need to talk about. Hilda is with me, along with Gregor. Who’s there with you?”

“Sarla. Boonsri has a show tonight.”

Ok, I’m coming down in a car with Hilda, Mr. White and another lady so that we can talk about things over dinner.”

“Mr. White? The one on the paper? With Hilda? Is that who you have been with?”

“Among others. I’ll tell you the story when we get down there.”

“We’ll be at the door, waiting.”

Noro was there and said, “This will be fun. It was my goal to draw you ladies out and free you and your children and I haven’t been able to play as much of a part as I wanted to because all my friends and relatives got there first. So let’s go, ladies.”

We went downstairs and the big white Cadillac was there. I noticed something. “You must have a good mechanic. They replaced that fender fast enough.”

“This isn’t that car. That one is still in the shop. It will be ready tomorrow when we need it to bring all the relatives and friends who aren’t already at Sal’s place to the party.”

We got in and started downtown. Gregor looked around at all the people in curiosity.  Noro said quietly, “I told George to pick streets with lots of people on them on our way down. That way Gregor here can see that the streets aren’t filled with monsters. Also to get a good glimpse of the real world.”

We passed Herald Square and Macy’s and Hilda said, “We need to make a point to stop in there before we go back, Stephie. When we have Andy with us. Along with Stacey and her kids too.”

“My grandson in law and those two troublemakers corralled Stacey with the help of my other grandson in law, my grandson Steve with Tim taking pictures.  I imagine that they are doing a lot to cook up trouble.”

“Tom invited Gregor and I to Al’s shop to see him cook up the trouble. Gregor asked how he did it, didn’t you.”

“I did. And Eric and Tom said a lot.”

“Did they?” Stephie asked. “Do tell.”

“Well Eric told the story about your horse, who must have been Tom’s horse really, because he waited for Tom when he went away until he died and Tom explained that he got Tony out of the barn because he wanted you to spend your time with Boris and not compete so much.”

Hilda said, “Was that what they said, Athena?”

“Pretty much. Except for the part about Tony being Tom’s horse.”

“I never saw that,” Stephie said. “Even when Tony stood out there until he froze to death. I never understood  why he did that even though I could never get him to just go inside. Of course I blamed Tom more than a little bit for Tony even after he left. I just never understood that Tony was as much Tom’s as he was mine. I thought Tom was just trying to hurt me when he kept saying that I should stop, that Tony needed to stop.  Tony kept going for me and I never saw the hurt that doing that was doing to him.  Tom did though. I left them both in the cold.”

“Your father saw it,” I added. “He saw Tony out there waiting apparently often.”

“I had moved on to chasing Boris by that point. Especially once Tom was gone and we could share our Change at last. I was so tied up in that and my happiness and wanting to Tom to be what I knew what he could be rather than just being happy with what he was. I thought that he would find happiness while he was away and I didn’t have to make an effort to just accept him, even when he came back for a while and tried to make his shop work.”

“I wish that I had been paying more attention to Tom when he first showed up,” Noro said. “Of course I was so wrapped up in myself and my grief that I was no longer paying much attention to anything, really. It was so comfortable to just live down below in the water and with just my misery. Well at least we all know better now, somewhat. Of course you do know that he is planning something for that thing with the skillet you did.”

“Skillet?” I asked. “What did you do with a skillet, Stephie. I don’t think you would hit Tom over the head with one, no matter how much you might think that he deserved it.”

“That’s essentially what I did, but it was an accident, Stephie said. “Have you seen the tank bed pictures yet?”

“Some. Josh and Chrissie were pointing out that it might be a hot business prospect.”

“Ok,well, any of the merfolk can tell you that a mer’s head is filled with tiny little passages, filled with water. If they get it by a sharp striking noise in a confined space it is very painful and can actually cause a serious injury. I’ve had this explained to me now by just about all my new mer relatives by this point.  Anyway when Tom and Chrissie came up to the farm they slept in the tank bed and in fact overslept a bit. I went in to wake them up by bonging a skillet on the side of the tank. I think that I was lucky that Chrissie didn’t know water magic then and Tom didn’t either because they were rather miffed at me, though Chrissie hid it rather well other than telling all her relatives about it and by the rules of the little games we play, Tom now has a free shot at me.  Since I’ve been down here and he hasn’t taken it yet, I expect that it will hit during the wedding celebration, it will embarrass me terribly and be a whale of fun. From the things that Chrissie has let slip whales may be involved.”

“You sound as if you are almost looking forward too it.”

“I am, actually. Tom has finally come into himself, bonded with a wonderful girl and looks to be making a wonderful life for himself. None of the things he did were done because of hate or jealousy and this one won’t be either.”

“What about the Manager?”

“You heard what I said at our little meeting the other day. You’ve seen Tom operate for a couple days now. Consider that he was an effective Congressional staffer, production supervisor at a large aircraft company, that if the number of calls that father has gotten the last few weeks mean anything, really wants him back, did all those things when he was a kid and consider that he now has full access to the abilities he didn’t know he had. If the Manager were smart, he would already be on a fast ship to anywhere, hoping that Tom doesn’t phase himself through the bottom of the ship hunting for him.”

“Do you think he can phase?”

“He saw me do it. Somebody will teach him or he’ll figure it out soon enough. Of course it’s not as useful underwater as it is on land is it, Noro?”

“Not really, unless of course, you are trying enter a ship underwater,” Noro replied. “On the the other hand, it was useful for my wife when we came over and she had to keep up with the ship I was on and sneak into the hold. I was carrying the keystone to start us up and I didn’t want to risk dropping it in the deep dark. I think that we are here. I think that I will leave the back here to you ladies and Gregor and I can share the front seat and the city.”

The car pulled over, George opened the door, I got out and waved at Mary and Sarla. Noro took Gregor and they quietly sat up front while we got in back. Mary said, “How did you get your hands on this?”

“It’s Noro’s car. He has more than one. This is Hilda and her sister Stephie.  Hilda, this is Mary and Sarla, that is, Gull and Naga.”

Mary quietly said, “Hello.” Then she turned to me. “How did you get Gregor out and if Hilda is here, why is Andy still at the Manager’s place. Boonsri said that the Manager looked like he was almost dead, the gate had been smashed, the house attacked by constructs and all the outside guards destroyed,along with the dogs.”

“Andy is there because I trust Tony and Robert to do as much looking after as Andy needs and I can always get him later,” Hilda replied. “Stephie shot most of the Twisted because I was occupied trying to save Gregor, which is why we pulled him out and the Manager is still alive because I wanted Tom to have the chance even up for all the times that the Manager made his life miserable, starting with twisting my bonded. My nephews brought some of their construct toys to use for things like smashing gates and attracting attention and launched them when Gregor showed up in the midst of my meeting with the Manager where I was going to make the point that I was not going to go meekly to whatever dump he had setup for me so that I could entertain his slimy friends. At least uncle Noro gave me a suite at the Waldorf. Trying to coerce me was rather rude and the Manager is having a real headache right now.”

“Is that what happened?” Mary asked. “How did Stephie get the specials to shoot all those guards and their dogs.”

“We didn’t use specials,” Stephie said. “Larry doesn’t make .22 specials and we were trying not to bother the neighbors.  Tom might do that if the Manager makes too much of a fuss.”

“That big gun that Athena mentioned the other day.” Mary looked more than a little scared as she said that. “Tom has it, doesn’t he.”

“We mounted it on his boat yesterday. Tom believes in being prepared for little incidents like last night. On the other hand that gun is the least of the Manager’s worries right now. Our goal is to get the kids and you out of the line of fire. The gun is part of reducing the risk and Hilda and I were taken to task this morning because we didn’t take steps and Gregor was nearly taken.  Athena was there.”

“Yes I was,” I added, “They were taken to the carpet for that and they deserved it.”

“By who, Eric?” Mary asked.

“By Al. He was there at the beach and shot the necromancer,” Stephie said. “He bonded with a mermaid. He’s off the Manager’s seawall right now watching the kids.”

“I never saw who shot Pete. I did see the pictures after and I have to say he never looked better. It was recommended by two very powerful fae that I leave after launching the constructs. If your nephews think of them as toys I’m beginning to understand why they were never considered much more than entertainment. Neither of you were there, though.”

“No we weren’t, though we heard the stories. We’ve also seen the pictures, at Thanksgiving dinner. There were a lot of pictures between Chrissie and Sillia.”

“Was that who the mermaid with the big camera was? The black haired one who’s bonded with the guy with the Duesie.”

“That’s the one.”

“She’s really nice in person,” I said.

Noro slid the window open. “We’re here.”

The car parked and George opened the door. We all trooped into Bennies. Josh, Mera, Eric and Greta were sharing a big table waiting for us and Noro’s sister was with Tim’s parents in the corner. Mary stopped a little bit and then shrugged and went in. Sarla followed.  Greta said, “Welcome ladies, sit. You will like the food here. The owner is Bennie who is fae, his mother is over there. As you can see this place is fae friendly.”

There were some other mer folk as well as other people. Meria and  Tim’s parents weren’t wearing anything and some the others were not as well.  We all sat at the table. I said, “Mary, Sarla, meet Eric and Greta, the royal fae of the Vermont kingdom and Josh and Mera, the royal fae who handle the Cape bower for Noro here.  The mer in the corner is Meria, Noro’s sister, and those are that young reporter I know ’s parents, Joe and Maria.

Mera said, “Welcome ladies. We want to discuss your release. Now we aren’t trying to capture you and none of us, with the exception of Hilda here, are police officers, though I have worked in the Fisheries as a senior agent and I have been reactivated. That’s not why we are here though.  We want to secure the release of your sons, and by extension you, from the Manager.”

Sarla asked, “Why didn’t you just take them last night. You could have.”

“Because we hadn’t secured your permission,” Hilda said. “Last night was an accident. We were not planning to extract Gregor and Athena last night until Gregor panicked and we felt it was safer.  There are larger issues involving the Manager and what he  is involved in and we want to at least get a handle on those larger issues before removing the Manager from the game.” “He might hurt the children.”

“He can’t, now. When he attempted to coerce me last night, he laid himself open to my reflection and I used that to place compulsions that almost no fae can break. So he can’t even think of actually hurting the kids anymore. As for the rest, the house is under surveillance, Robert and Tony are competent,  we’ve provided special cartridges to them and we have powerful fae ready if they are needed.”

“Sarla, you know that Robert and Tony wouldn’t let anything with the exception of the Manager touch a kid they’ve been put in charge of,” I added.

Mera said, “What we really need is to know how Tiger will react if we contact her. From the way Sarla has been speaking, I’m taking her permission as granted.  Do we have yours as well, Mary.”

“Yes. If it’s clean. I think I understand, though what you are getting at. You can probably get away with Gregor and they won’t come after us when the manager wakes up, but leave one of the kids and the rest of us disappear, then the person who’s left is at risk, along with the kid. We also have compulsions on us that would force us to commit suicide if we were captured.”

“Not any more,” Greta said. “I removed yours on the beach and Sarla’s just now. That was one reason we wanted to meet. I also strengthened your shields somewhat so that it will be more difficult to put compusions on you again. Though it’s going to be harder anyway as you all have built up resistance to them. Still that leaves Sarissa’s mother.”

“Did she go to the Manager’s today?” I asked. “It sounds as if she went and came back.”

“She went to report and look for you when you didn’t come home last night.”

Mera said, “I’ll have ask Boris if he saw her. She didn’t talk to Robert apparently and certainly never checked the backyard of the school. Tony was there all day today with the kids, along with Mike, Al and my sisters working in shifts. With the exception of lunch, the kids were on the seawall all day today. I think that most of us went by at one point or another, didn’t we, Josh?”

“Tom and Chrissie this morning, Sal and Sillia this afternoon, I dropped by after lunch and you and I after you got back. Other than hearing the dark fae stuff that the “lady” was telling them, they seemed to be good kids.”

Sissy came by and took our orders. Mary asked, “How did all of you find this place? Noro was out of it until recently, Hilda and Stephie along with Eric and Greta are from Vermont and Josh and Mera are from the Cape, though I know that you two were down here recently.”

“That’s how we found this place,” Mera said. “Your associates were messing up the water and your toothy friends were terrorizing the locals so when we showed up I started to look into things and needed a phone. So we started to eat here and we haven’t stopped. It turns out that the place is run by my cousin who was gnawed on by your toothy friends and can’t Change anymore.  Of course I didn’t realize that at the time because I had my head back up at home dealing with some other messes, some of which you were a part of, and the rest dealing with somebody messing around with the water.”

“I was a part of the mess? I don’t even know Tom or Chrissie, though I think that I was the only person in town who didn’t. For somebody who lived under sea, it was amazing how popular she was. I just sent messages to the Manager.”

“Who sent the sharks out.” Josh said, “But that was as much my fault as yours. I could have waited a couple of days and set things up with Tom and Chrissie better.  At least a little better enough that security was represented better than somebody not looking out the window. It’s not as if, as you said, Tom’s and Chrissie’s romance was a big secret.”

“What was a secret was how Tom was with guns. I was flying overhead for the Manager and saw the whole thing. Tom just walked all over Tooth and his friends right from the start, with Chrissie right beside him shooting away with that camera. Tooth was expecting it to be as easy as the rest and Tom and Chrissie never played the game his way.”

“We should have been paying more attention and asking more questions,” I said. “Especially up at the farm. Tom has been making guns for Larry and others for years. The Manager never even guessed.”

“Not playing the game your way is a Tom specialty, trust me on that, ladies.” Stephie said. “I’ve been dealing with him since he was a child and used to babysit. I’m twelve years older and had my Change and abilities and he still walked all over me since he was about twelve or so.  I’ve seen Tom’s report about the island and after the constructs showed up and a bit of luck, the rest was all pure Tom. From what Athena, Tony and Robert said, the Manager has been after Tom for years and Tom never really noticed until he sent the sharks and messed up his date with Chrissie.

Now Tom went to his favorite toy store to shop today with real money and had a photographer and Mera’s daughter who as Athena, knows, works for White’s and She’s putting an article on how he does things in the newsletter when he gets finished. Tom was bad enough when he wasn’t trying to hurt me. Now the Manager has all his attention and Tom has reason to hurt the Manager.

Now the only good part about that for me is that as a result of a mistake I made when Tom came up to Vermont as a result of the Manager’s shenanigans, Tom gets a free shot at me and if he had not been distracted by the Manager I suspect that he would be working on that shot right now. On the other hand he probably has things in motion anyway and he does like to juggle his projects.”

“He’s been dropping hints,” Greta said. “Your boys are getting some interesting Christmas presents and I don’t know what he’s doing for Katherine, but it involved going and looking at something and he’s been talking about Tony.”

“Considering that kit he made up for Andy, I think I know what the boys are getting as presents. He put that together very quickly, so he must have been thinking along those lines already. I was going to look for a horse for Katherine soon anyway and it looks like Tom is already looking into that. Father, did you have Tony’s papers?”

“Actually, I did. You gave them to me because you were surprised that Tony had been sent to stud when he was younger and Tom did ask some questions.”

A man,who appeared to be a construct like Robert and Tony, a very regal fae woman and three other men walked through the door. The woman called out, “Eric, Greta! This is a surprise.  We didn’t expect you here tonight. Josh, Mera and Noro too.”

“So what brings you down here, tonight?” Eric said. “Other than Bennie’s cooking.”

“Well we were having our end of the year meeting and Bill mentioned that he, Steve and Alex had never had a chance to eat here during all the fuss, so we brought them down.”

I was tempted to run right out the door.  I could see that Mary and Sarla were too. While we hadn’t actually encountered Mary or Helmut before, Mary and I certainly knew who they were.  I hadn’t known that Helmut was a construct until Mike and Tony talked about him last night though.  He did have the same good feelings of capability, competence, strength and reliability that Tony and Robert did. As for Mary, it was easy to tell where all the stories came from and I figured that if we ran, it wouldn’t matter anyway as we lived in her neighborhood and Tim’s friends would have us lined up in front of her desk anyway. The other three were obvious high fae who had yet to bond, something else Tony had mentioned last night.  From the way Sillia and Tara had been talking, if they kept coming down here, that would probably change and they would all have Change coming into their lives. Mary asked, “I know Hilda and Stephie, so who are these ladies, along with this nice looking young man.”

Since Mike, Sal and probably Tim had all more than likely all sent in reports today, she already knew who I was and more than likely guessed who Mary and Sarla were. Still she wanted to be properly introduced and  above all be seen as somebody friendly.

Eric replied, “This is Athena and her son Gregor. The other two ladies are Mary and Sarla.  We are exploring removing their sons from a predicament that they were caught up in.”

“Yes, Mike sent a report. Ladies, we want nothing other than to free you from the captivity that has been placed upon you. Helmut, give them some of the cards and we will sit down.”

Helmut handed us cards with what appeared to be the Manager’s car on it and a number on the back. “Keep this for an emergency. I think it’s best that you don’t come into obvious contact with us until the Manager is taken out of the game. Josh, Mera, Eric, Greta, Noro, we will see you at Sal’s tomorrow. Ladies it was nice to meet you at last and I hope that we can release your children soon.”

He joined Mary and the rest at their table. Gregor asked, “Who is that, mommy? He’s like Robert and Tony.”

“He’s somebody the Manager would really like to beat,” I said. “He’s Mike and Sal’s boss.”

Mary and Sarla were looking at the door as if the Manager might walk in next. Of course if he did, considering who was sitting at our table and the rest of the room he wouldn’t have a pleasant time. For that matter, it was obvious that Sissy was not a weak fae herself and apparently Bennie was the former royal fae that the sharks had not managed to kill, so even if the Manager brought an entire horde of Twisted he would have a very unpleasant time. Mary said to Mera, “Is this usual for this place? You were down here the last few weeks.”

“The crowd is light tonight actually. Dom and Tara are more than likely at home because they are going to Sal’s new house tomorrow, Sal is at home for dinner tonight and Mike and Stella are at home too, probably.”

Meria called out from the next table, “Mera, where are Tom and Chrissie? Why didn’t you bring them down?”

“Tom is working on fun and games for the Manager and Chrissie is watching Andy and the rest of the kids. They are at Sal’s place for dinner tonight.” Josh said.

Dinner came and I said to Mary and Sarla, “Here’s why all these people keep coming back.” Sarla took a bite and said, “I think I need to talk to Bennie.  We always need to catering for things at the travel office and the last couple of times the food has been fairly dull. I wonder if he wants to trade recipes too.”

Sarla really liked to cook. Not just her Indian food either. She also liked to surprise us when it was her turn to cook. Boonsri, on the other hand, liked to take us out for dinner and was always looking for new places and adventures.  I said to Sarla, “We should tell Boonsri about this place.  I think that she would want to come down even if the place weren’t filled with all the local fae.”

“I think she will too. Coming here was a good idea, even if things are a bit exciting.”

“You should have been here for lunch yesterday, right Hilda? Those poor Feds you brought down. Did they recover? I didn’t run into them today even though I knew that they were around.”

“Feds? What happened?”

“Well Hilda had Noro here pick me up and we came down here with those people that I met on the train the other day. Now Hilda has some Fed connections and the local FBI attached some people to her for her case.  So when Hilda suggested that we meet down here for lunch, they came too.  Of course the problem was that Josh and two rather heavyweight local outfit types were here when we walked in, all sitting together. The poor guys couldn’t take their eyes off that table and were scared silly as well as trying to figure out why Dom and Big Jim were treating Josh as an equal. They sort of forgot that I even existed the entire time they were here.”

“They didn’t know who Josh was?” Mary asked. “Seriously, anybody who spends much time looking into things up there at the Cape sort of figures that out.  Are they going to hassle you, Josh?”

“Not more than the usual. Mike had them sit down with their boss yesterday and explained things. Anyway the people up where I live all keep things in bounds because we all went through one set of wars and in the end we got tired of picking up bodies. It helps that I run a tight ship up there and unlike some people I have an excellent accountant who keeps me out of trouble.”

Noro said, “An accountant who sicced her grandson on me. I don’t think that it was a coincidence that Vic showed up about the same time that I started to be active again up top. Josh, did you and Millie talk about that?”

“No father, we didn’t. I’ve been busy and haven’t really spent much time in the business office since you came up because of the Manager and his games.  But Millie has known you for a very long time and you don’t think that she doesn’t know perfectly well how you feel about taxes and how that will keep you occupied.”

“Father, Millie was on the Cape when you had that argument with the king over the stamp act.” Mera said, “You know what happened because of that. You don’t think that she wouldn’t remember?”

“The stamp act?” I said, “The king?”

“Yes, when we were younger, father had an argument with the king over some taxes and it stirred up quite a ruckus before it was over. Which led to bigger things later on when the king tried again.”

Mary said, “Noro, could we get together when this is over and have a very long talk? I think that a lot of people would want to know the story of the Revolution from somebody who was there.”

Josh said, “I get used to Mera and I think I have a grip on just how long she’s been around and then she goes and says things like this.”

“None of that time was really important, dear,” Mera said. “Until you showed up, it was existing, not really living. One day, just like the next for the most part, staying under sea and going along. Until the dark showed up and took my brother. Things were never quite the same after that. It did get better when you touched the water.”

She turned to us. “You ladies need to know what the Manager has been doing with your children. Athena has seen some of it and Gregor seems determined to cleanse himself and join the real world. We all could feel the taint though, when we visited today.”

Mary said, “We could feel shades of it, but we weren’t really allowed a long period of time with the children. Tony and Robert were constantly warning us that something was wrong weren’t they Athena?”

“Yes they were. That’s one reason that they were glad that Andy showed up.”

“Andy likes to be responsible and show people the right way by example, Hilda added. “I think he learned from you, father. You were very good with Gregor at breakfast this morning.”

“You were,” I added. “Gregor seemed to like his conversation with you and you didn’t’ tell him the right way, you showed it to him.”

Noro said, “Josh, Vic and I actually had an interesting talk this morning regarding some things that Sal found and something that Tim brought up and we looked into regarding the Manager’s house. Which he doesn’t own and as far as the official records go, he doesn’t have any right to be there. There’s also the fact that the owner hasn’t had any business activity for about ten years or so. Lou remembered the guy, but he disappeared about the same time. Also, Vic contacted his office about a certain toothy organization and handed a tip to contact Sal about them to some rather hungry junior IRS types.

Frankly Vic said that he was rather annoyed at me because I hadn’t tried to mess with the business and make his life interesting. He was also trying to push my buttons over getting the tank bed up and running faster.  We’re not the only ones with tailed female relatives and even though Vic is a lander, one of his sons bonded on the Cape to a tail and she’s pushing too.

I told him that it was the Manager and his bad habits that were keeping us all occupied right now and that he should talk to Mera once things settle down. I suspect that how that house is spending money is going to get a very thorough going over.”

Mary whispered to me, “He came back fast. Three weeks ago all you heard on the water was how out of it he was.  It looks like everybody is taking steps to make sure that he doesn’t go back. He’s fun. I hope that I can have a nice long chat with him.”

“Isn’t he though,” I quietly replied. “You should have been with us yesterday. Of course I was rather out of it too after my meeting with the Manager.”

“You’ll have to tell us about it when you get a chance. I suspect that you won’t be bringing Gregor home tonight.”

“No. I think that it’s better if I keep him away from all this. I think I’ll send him back with Mera and Greta.  Were they the two powerful fae that warned you off?” “Yes. Not that it mattered really.  I was getting out of there as fast as possible and they obviously wanted me out of there and out of harm’s way. Why don’t we take Hilda and Stephie in Noro’s car and see if we can convince Boonsri that we can get her girl out too.”

I turned to Gregor. “Mommy has to talk with her friends and see about getting Sarissa out. Could you go back to Sal’s place with Greta and Eric?”

“Sure, mommy. Eric had more stories he wanted to tell me.”

I turned to Greta and asked, “Could you take Gregor back? We’re going to be meeting with Boonsri and we might be late getting back.”

“That’s fine. That way Eric can play grandpa some more.”

We finished dinner and as we got up to leave, Helmut said, “This should work out. Eric and Josh have good people on this, Hilda and the rest are keeping a close eye out, we have tactical people if we need them, real firepower if we need that and good people near the kids. So we will get them out now that we know where they are.  Tell your other friend that.” Eric said, “beyond that, we can help you build new lives and we will. Athena has already asked to have a place near the farm and we know of some. Sarla, I don’t know what you might want, but something can be set up between us.”

“We especially want all the kids in an environment where fae interact with each other and non fae in a  more or less normal way.” Greta added. “Seperation only hurts us and we have always discouraged that.”

We got back in the car with Noro in the front seat again. Mary asked, “So what all happened yesterday? Boonsri called your office and they said that you went to lunch with Mr. White and then you disappeared all afternoon. Then Boonsri went over to the house to report and pick you up and you were gone and the place was a mess, along with the Manager almost dead.”

“Well I had my meeting with the Manager where he more or less said that he wasn’t going to kill me because the train was late the day before. I went to work to wait for Hilda’s call. She finally did and suggested that we go to lunch. I was a bit skeptical until she mentioned that Mr. White would be taking us to lunch along with the editor and photographer that I met on Tuesday. George, who you know, essentially booted me out of the office and into the car. We all got in the car and went down to Bennies for lunch. Mike, along with Sal and Linda from the office were there, along with three Feds who as we said, ignored me in the face of the rest of the lunch crowd.  That was a bit annoying, wasn’t it Hilda?”

“Yes it was,” She answered. “They were supposed to be dealing with a kidnapping, not chasing vague mob deals that weren’t happening in front of them. Dom and big Jim were being polite with Josh and not doing anything that could be construed as business. Just looking a pictures of the family and Chrissie dancing.”

“Crissie dancing?” Mary asked. “Up in Vermont? How did she manage that?”

“In our old mill pond,” Hilda answered. “She did it twice, once for most of the family that I didn’t see because I was still banned from contact with Tom by mother at that point and later for me and Andy after that changed. Andy managed to see her practice for the first one too. He also spent all day teaching Chrissie how to shoot.”

“It sounds like there was a lot going on that trip that you didn’t tell us, Athena.”

“I didn’t know at the time.” I sighed a bit. “Frankly I was so scared and just wanted to do what the Manager wanted and go, rather than just enjoying myself. Half the time I felt that if I wanted to be a true visitor, all I would have had to do was ask.” “We were waiting for you to ask,” Stephie said. “We all wanted you to. We respected and understood your concern though. When you come up again, we can have fun at last. We’ll take you shooting. You can Run all you want and Andy and Gregor can tromp around the woods with the rest of the kids. Bob and Scott can take you to a monster shoot.”

“A monster shoot?” Mary asked. “What’s that?”

“Well a few years ago, two of my nephews let a construct loose and one of my husband’s deputies was slightly injured. The deputy got together with the boys and said that if they were going to play with things like that that they should do it so that nobody could get hurt and they started construct shooting parties where they get a bunch of constructs and run them across a field while people shoot them. That way nobody gets hurt and just about everybody up there knows what a construct is and how to deal with them.  They won’t let Hilda and I play there because a construct just isn’t a challenge for us.”

“They aren’t?” Mary asked. “Aren’t they dangerous? Don’t you need special rounds to take them out?”

“Not if you them in the right place and both Hilda and I are very good at that. Maybe too good. Which is why Al chewed us out this morning.”

“He was right,” I said. “He seems to be very good at that. He seems to want everybody to be able to protect themselves. He certainly convinced me.”

“He is very good at what he does,” Stephie said. “I actually use his techniques with my husband’s deputies’ wives and bonded. Especially for the ones who are high fae and have alternatives. We sort of got lost ourselves a bit though and Gregor almost got hurt.”

“What happened?” Sarla asked. “Boonsri didn’t seem to ask Robert.”

“She should have. The Manager was there when Hilda and Athena drove up, along with another dark fae lady. I was up above ready to shoot Twisted guards and their dogs, we had another fae flying high cover, there were people in the water, my husband and some others were outside in a car like this and my nephews had constructs ready to  launch and attack the gate.

So anyway, the Manager says nasty things to Hilda and she wanted to show the Manager what she thought about that, so she Changed so that she and I could do a little show with the Twisted to demonstrate a bit of what he was dealing with.

What we didn’t know was Andy had been telling stories about us for the last three days and managing to scare the hell out of the other kids. While they all enjoyed being scared, the dark fae lady had apparently been filling their heads full of crap about how the world was filled with monsters.  Meanwhile Gregor was picking up Athena’s vibes from how she had to deal with the Manager while we were playing fun and games.  Knowing what I know now, Athena, I want to apologize.  We thought that we were sending a message to the Manager and all we were really doing was making your situation worse.”

“No apology necessary, Stephie,” I replied. “I never sat down and opened up to you about the Manager until our little car trip yesterday and you assumed up until I told you the truth that there was some intelligence, reason or sanity in your opposition.”

“Anyway Gregor was in a state by the time we showed up,” Stephie continued. “Adding to the problem was Andy had also told Gregor and the rest about Tom and werewolves and there may have been some hints from the lady about what they planned to do to Hilda and when Hilda Changed, Gregor thought that she was a werewolf and ran right out into the back yard past Tony and toward the Twisted that the Manager had put back there. I tried to kill it, but I was in Change and only had the .22 which meant that I had to get a very good shot which is almost impossible when you are in a hurry, our other flyer was new to her Change and didn’t really have practice shooting in flight, Tony and Robert didn’t have specials, the people in the water’s water magic couldn’t quite hit hard enough because the Twisted had gotten too deep into the yard and Hilda couldn’t get a good shot either with her little pistol”

“So who killed the Twisted?”

“Andy,” Hilda answered. “We had set him up with a pistol that we made to look like a cap pistol and special rounds. He used it to kill the twisted. Tom was right behind him though. Still we should have had somebody ready to shoot with a rifle in case something like that happened and both Al and Tom were there and could have brought rifles with special rounds. We screwed up.”

“The Manager was putting Twisted near the kids,” Sarla asked. “Why? Tony and Robert can stop just about anything if they have to.”

“Andy again,” Hilda answered. “See they never asked about Andy when they took him and the lady apparently just thought that he would be like the other kids. The problem with that is that rather than sheltering Andy from everything, we teach our kids how to be safe with things like guns and then let them more or less take care of things themselves.  If they do something bad we let them know and then make them responsible for dealing with the consequences.  My nephews and the construct is a case in point.  Boris could have told the boys to not play with them any more and then spent a lot of time chasing constructs and misbehaving boys.  Instead they handle them and nobody gets hurt.

So they took Andy and his school bag, which in addition to the various special rounds that we hid, had quite a few of the .22 cartridges that Andy and his friend Jimmy use to go shooting in the woods with. Cartridges that Andy probably thought would be taken away from him at the first opportunity by the lady.  So he got some waste paper, probably from the lady’s office considering that they were class worksheets of the worst kind, some kerosene and wax from the kitchen and made exploding boats. From what Tony and Robert said, the Twisted thought they were under some sort of attack and put guards out on the seawall. We found the boats, which is how we knew where Andy and the rest of the kids were.  The Twisted and the Manager never seemed to realize just how exposed they were even though we had people in the water literally Swimming under their noses.”

“How did Andy know how to make exploding boats?” Mary asked.

“When Tom left when he was fifteen, he had a book of all the things that he did in our battles,” Stephie answered. “I think he was afraid that I would find it and take it or mess with it and made a backup copy which he put in the shop.  My nephews found it.  It’s also likely that he showed some of the things he did when he was in school and that stuff spread around.  So either some other kid showed Andy how to make the boats, he learned from my nephews or has seen the book himself. By the way, he has already promised your kids and Gregor copies.”

“Will there be more of that?” Sarla asked.

“That’s why Tom went in last night,” Stephie answered. “He was leaving Andy an early Christmas present. My boys are probably getting the same present this year and I expect that the rest of the kids next year when they find out about it. He gave Andy a kit of tools, materials, firecrackers, more cartridges and a copy of the book. Mother also put in a note that Andy has permission to be as bad as he wants.  Hilda told him that shooting monsters was ok, but not the Manager or the lady and he can’t burn the houses down.”

Mary turned to Hilda and screamed, “Why did you do that!?”

“Because I had been helpless and through hell and I wasn’t going to let Andy be in the same position if I could help it. The best way to deal with something like this is experience and I’m giving Andy some.  He is surrounded by competent people, he’s  demonstrated that he can handle most of the things that the Manager could possibly throw at him and the world isn’t a safe place for fae.  I can’t make the world safe for Andy, but I can prepare him for that world. My parents didn’t and not being prepared got them killed and me bonded to a monster. Don’t you think that I would do just about anything to prevent Andy from having to go through the same thing?”

In all the years that I had known Hilda, I had never asked how she felt about what she went through. I don’t think that I wanted to know. Somehow the Manager hadn’t considered how going through that hell might change somebody.  What they would do to prevent the possibility of going through that again.  He never saw Hilda the person and so, didn’t understand what he was dealing with.

We arrived at the apartment, George opened the door and we all got out. With all the talk about guns I sidled up to Noro and asked, “In amongst your family everybody seems to be comfortable with guns. How are you with them?”

“Out of practice,” He answered. “I understand that Tom does good work and I may nudge him toward promising me a new piece for Christmas. Revolvers seem to have gone out of style.”

I wasn’t going to ask if he was carrying because I was sure that he was. He had been in a hard school years ago and firearms and shooting had not been out of the question back then. We went into the apartment and sat down to wait. Mary started to ask Noro about Ben Franklin, Sam Adams and Paul Revere, all of whom Noro had apparently known back in the day.  So I turned to Hilda and Stephie and asked them how the shopping went this morning.  They told me about the various places that they had visited and asked me for more suggestions for the future.  “So what did you do with your purchases?”

“We had them sent up to Stacey’s place on the Cape, except for the dresses for tomorrow.” Hilda said. “Those we had sent out to Sal’s. Make sure you bring something nice when we leave. I think that Sillia wants to make a splash.”

“I think she does too. She seems comfortable with the house. More so than Sal does actually.”

“Well, I think, from what mother said, that Sal has been growing into his new self in a lot of different ways,” Stephie said. “She talked to Mera and Meria about that. That may be why he did that “Detective del Vecchio getup. He’s reaching into his old self.”

“Who’s Detective del Vecchio,” Sarla asked. “I know about Sal and that car he latched onto.  He even drove past the office one day. But who’s that Detective guy?”

“The car was too obvious and when Sal needed to make a connection to a new relative that Athena knows, he didn’t want to get the new relative in too deep so he got out a ratty old suit and there was Detective del Vecchio.”

Sarla held up a paper. “This guy?”

Tim had made the front page again with yet another story about the kidnappings and the pictures of the families being interviewed by the intrepid detective. “That guy,” I said. “It looks like Tim did it again.”

Hilda looked through the story. “He did. I can see why they went with this. It’s a real heartbreaker and Tim didn’t pull any punches.  I almost feel sorry for the sharks when they get busted.”

“The sharks?” Sarla asked. “How are they involved in this?”

“They are the ones doing the kidnappings, to feed their Change, apparently,” Stephie said. “Since Tony and Robert said that the sharks had been around the Manager’s house, that’s all the more reason to get the kids out of there. When you come out to Sal’s tomorrow we will give you the details. Along with showing you where the sharks did their dirty and nasty things.”

Boonsri walked in and saw me. “Where were you? And what happened at the Manager’s?”

She looked a bit scared and quite a bit angry. “Who are these people?”

“This is Hilda, who the Manager wanted to put into a life of rape and terror, along with her sister in law and shooting partner Stephie,” I said, quietly. “The gentleman is Mr. White, who is a relative of theirs, among other things. Didn’t you talk to Robert?”

“No, just at the door, to the butler. He said that the Manager was incapacitated , that you had left with Gregor and some people had launched constructs and shot the guards. They said that you left with some people in a white car like the one out front. I didn’t want to risk the Twisted with the Manager out so I left. Roger and the butler brought the Manager and Mrs. Van Schalk into the house after Robert and Tony handed them over. You were there, so what happened?”

“Robert and Tony knew. You should have gone over and talked to them. You would have found some amazing things, especially in the back yard.”

“If Hilda is here, why is Andy still at the house?”

“Because Andy can probably handle anything the Manager has and we have the house under surveillance,” Hilda said. “Athena knew about some of my connections. She didn’t tell you about them?  The question I have right now is do we have permission to take Sarissa out with the rest of the children?”

“To do what?”

“To take you and her to a safe place until the Manager is dealt with and then you get to have your own lives,” Noro said. “We have the permissions of the other ladies and Gregor is already out.  We don’t want to leave you alone where the Manager can get at you.”

“How will you do that?”

“We have most of the local royal fae visiting at a house right now. I doubt that anything the Manager has could get within a mile of the place.  I also think that the manager will be rather busy next week and most of his friends as well. My grandson in law was rather miffed that the sharks spoiled his bonding and very miffed that the Manager took Andy and doesn’t want Andy to come to his wedding.  He went shopping and has access to all sorts of facilities now, so I imagine that the Manager is going to be in for a rather bad time.”

Stephie said, “I know that I told Athena that if he didn’t give Andy back before Tom got into town that Tom was going to come after the Manager. You are his messenger.  I know that Athena told you and told the Manager,  for that matter, didn’t you pay attention.”

“The Manager thinks that Tom is weak.”

“I’m right here in front of you. Am I a weak fae? Tom is my brother and I tried to break through his shields and only managed to make them even stronger. Didn’t you or the Manager ever have contact with royal fae.  Because they are so strong they have to be locked down ever harder and they may not look like a fae at all. Otherwise they could hurt themselves or somebody else without meaning to. Trust me, Tom is about as strong as it gets.  From what Robert and Athena have said, the Manager sent just about every kind of Twisted or dark fae he could find after Tom for years and all he ever got was disappointment. Did the Manager ever consider why that was?”

“Boonsri, did Athena warn you what was going to probably happen if I went to the Manager?” Hilda asked.

“She said that the whole family was coming. That Eric had declared war on us if we didn’t give Andy back.”

“What did you think would happen if I got in the car?”

“That the manager would talk to you and that you would go to where he sent you and do what he wanted.”

“Athena, I suppose this was my fault. I never showed you what we did with guns before yesterday. You don’t suppose the Manager has any more Twisted that I could just shoot someplace. I think that Boonsri needs to see to understand. I don’t think that the boys want to just give up any more of their constructs and Tom might want them for something.”

“Boonsri, Hilda and Stephie may be the most dangerous people alive with guns,” I said. “I was there last night. The only reason that the Manager is still alive right now is that neither one of them wanted to kill him. Those Twisted guards were killed last night in seconds by Stephie. The only reason that things got messy was Gregor getting into the middle of it. The Manager thought he was dealing with a lap dog and not a very dangerous deadly wolf.  One who has been through hell already.  The Manager’s plan was coming unglued even before Hilda got here.  Tom played games with the trains somehow to make me late on Tuesday.  Tim took my photograph and had been tracking the Manager’s car all week, since it took Andy. When I got in the car last night the car was photographed. When I picked Hilda up the car was photographed.  I imagine that it was tracked all the way to the Manager’s house.

The Manager could never figure out why all those Twisted he sent against Tom disappeared, why anything sent up to Vermont or the Cape did the same thing. He sent me up to learn what I could but never asked any questions or had me learn anything about the people we were dealing with.  He never thought to provide resources to complete our assignments or ensure that we had backup for screwups. Then if something went wrong he blamed the person involved for their failure.  I’m tired of playing in the dark. Let’s go to the light.”

“If we leave your daughter with the Manager, do you trust him with her?” Hilda asked. “I placed compulsions on the Manager when he tried to coerce me, which should tell you how weak he was. Rather pathetic, actually. In any case he can’t hurt the kids, or any kids, frankly, any more, directly.  But he does associate with some nasty types who do ugly things with kids.  Why don’t you give us your permission and come out with the rest of the ladies and we will show you some of what your associates have been doing to kids.  We were lucky.  The Manager and his friends wanted our kids alive so that he could control us.  There are more than a few families, fae families who the Manager’s associates have had the kids for dinner.  On the table, as food. Sarla showed us the story in the paper today,just now. You can talk to the young man who wrote the story and took the photographs tomorrow.  Let’s get your daughter out of the firing line so that we don’t have to worry about her when we take the Manager and his friends down.”

“I don’t have a choice, do I?” Boonsri cried. “How does that make you different from the Manager?”

“The Manager and you never gave me one.” Hilda replied. “You sent an idiot to distract us and doppelgangers to kill two of my deputies, both of whom were friends of mine, as well as a bunch of other people so that they could take Andy. They did that so that the Manager could turn my life into hell and force me to make monsters.  Yet here I am, giving you a choice. Yet choices have consequences and while we truly desire to free your daughter, we will leave her with the Manager when we take the others and you will have to live with your decision. The others have already made their choice and we want all of you because we want you in the light.  But I can’t force the others to continue to suffer because you want to stay in the dark.  Let’s take your children back to the light before it’s too late. If you say yes, we will make the pick up in the morning unless something changes drastically. If something does change and we have rethink, we won’t go in until we are absolutely certain that the kids won’t be hurt. We will also provide you with a secure and very nice place until this is over. Let’s get you free.”

She looked at the rest of us, her fellow indentured and said, “Is this what you want?”

All three of us said, “Yes.”

“Then I suppose I must. But I have compulsions against being captured.”

“Not any more,” Noro said. I cleared those right after you walked in.  You also have some taint, but there are others better equipped to help you with that. It’s getting late, Athena. You can stay here and come out tomorrow,  go with Stephie and Hilda back to the house or use the extra suite at my hotel.”

“I think I will go with Stephie and Hilda. Gregor probably isn’t quite ready to be left alone yet.”

“Ok, ladies, It was nice to meet you at last. Mary, you and I will have very long talk about my missed friends and what we did.  Along with going and meeting my other friends who haven’t gone yet. I will send the car in the morning.”

As Noro Stephie and Hilda left, Boonsri looked at me and said, “I hope this works. I hope this ends and I can stop doing things like I did to Hilda. I never had to face those I hurt before and tried to ignore what I was doing. I’ll tell Hilda I am sorry in the morning.”

“We all do. Come out and see for yourself. It will change you. It’s changed me already. I need to go. Gregor is expecting me.”

I went downstairs and to the car. Noro said, “George, just take me to the subway station and then take the ladies back to Sal’s.”

We all got in the car and after a brief stop we headed out across the bridge to the house. I said to Hilda, “I never quite realized what you went through. I should have asked.”

“Well it isn’t something I like to talk about.But I have always been determined that Andy would always be in a position where he could take care of himself if things went to hell the way it did for me when my parents were killed. I played the games with you so that I could get an idea about what the other side could do.  I also taught myself everything I could about defending myself.  Stephie now that we will have access to Tom’s books and Tom himself, why don’t we learn how to do things his way, especially the way he is going after the Manager.  Athena, you’ve been a good spy for the Manager, could you spy on Tom?  I know that Stacey is already, but the more eyeballs the better.”

“That’s going to be a challenge,” Stephie said. “I’ve been dealing with Tom and what he can do for along time and he still manages to surprise me sometimes. Though we have gotten hints lately and I want to get together again with Stacey and go over the trouble pack pictures again.  I think though, that the boys will be our biggest allies in this.  Once they realize just what Tom can do for them, they will be all over him and Chrissie.  If he does what I think he’s going to do with my boys and what he’s already done for Andy, the rest will want in on the fun.  Poking Tom with their latest tricks too.  So we come up with the best tricks and then when Christmas comes next year we hit Tom with them and see which one he likes best.”

“You know that he will come up with things himself and hit back,” Hilda said. “He won’t be able to help himself.”

“So we make rules. We get together with Tom and lay out guidelines that stretch all of us. Since he is so good at things that don’t require his abilities, whatever he does with a gag HAS to use his abilities, one way or another. On the other had what we do can’t use our abilities in any way. We’ll make up other rules to keep things from getting out of hand. That way we learn yet another way to defend ourselves and grow and Tom reaches further into himself and grows too.  In any case we’ve taken Al’s little missive about defending yourself and competion and  twisted it too far. But we will make sure, that you and Gregor learn to shoot, Athena. We also have a pistol for you and the other ladies already. Don’t we, Hilda.”

“Athena, When we set up Andy’s little gun it was an adventure.”

“How did you find that. It looked like a toy until Andy pulled the trigger.”

“It was a gun made in Germany during the war by a company using the machines they had. So they made frame out of stampings rather than forgings and built up the machined parts,” Stephie said. “Bob, Scott and Larry made some modifications and made it look more like a toy.  The hard part was finding it in the first place, because Larry didn’t have anything suitable and neither did we so went over to the evidence locker at the Sheriff’s department and nobody had cleared off the case docket for years.  Going through that stuff and getting rid of the dead cases took almost all day.  We did end up with the pistol, though. One thing we did find was that the women up where we live need to make it clear to the men that yet another “ladies gun” is not a good Christmas or Anniversery present.  We are giving one to Andy with the Winchester that Tom is handing down and we put the rest in Larry’s shop.  We don’t want them to stay in Larry’s shop and come right back in the armory so you, Athena, are getting equipped, along with the others. We also are looking into deserving ladies on the Cape. The problem there is that Nera and Eltra both live underwater right now though that’s going to change and Chrissie has Tom, which means that any gun she wants, Tom will do a custom one just for her. You don’t want to know what Colt pays Larry and Tom for some of the work on a special piece before it goes off to the engravers.” “I was wondering about that when Tom mentioned getting the boys set up so that they could run the guns for Larry. Especially since Chrissie mentioned renting a train. How much does Colt know about what Tom does?”

“If you see a piece presented by Colt to a head of state or high level general, and it’s an automatic, chances are that Tom did the frame.”

“He’s that good?”

“When he was running his shop up at the farm after he left Pratt they were putting a request in for a frame every week, usually two. That’s in addition to the guns that Larry did for Al and several other Federal offices and the custom rifles.”

“So Tom did a lot of gun work,” I said. “Why did he stop and go down to the Cape?”

“Well we were still stressed by the issues we had before, Tom was getting bored with the guns and wanted to be closer to Boston and New York with a shop and the keystone of the Cape bower probably started to put the pull on wandering High power fae for bonding since Noro had lost his wife and was out of it. That may be why Tom, Mike and Al all tied in about the same time. That was a good thing. Suppose that Tom didn’t bond for a very long time. The stress would have been unbearable and might have taken Tom to the dark.  It’s a good thing that Chrissie was there and they hooked up.”

“Considering that you all have a boy surplus up there in Vermont and Mera and Tara both mentioned a girl surplus at the bowers, there’s likely to be a bunch of lander and mer bondings soon.”

“Mom was a bit worried about that when Mera mentioned Chrissie’s friends on the beach. Bob and Scott are the eldest, will be ripe for Change for some time,  are our best mechanics and run the shop right now. It will be interesting to see if any unexpected tails show up at the party tomorrow.”

“The wedding will be the interesting party,” Hilda said. “That one was planned ahead of time and everybody knows that it’s coming.”

“How will the girls in Rockaway get up there?” I commented, “They can’t take the train.”

Stephie laughed. “If they really want to be there, I’m sure that they can make some sort of arrangements. I wonder if any will show up at the house tomorrow from the Cape. Chrissie and the rest didn’t have any troulble.”

“They had a boat.”

“There are a lot of boats up there. So I imagine that a boat isn’t really a problem. Of course now I have to prepare my boys for the fact that there may be tail in their future and that they should spend Summers down with Uncle Tom.  With their trouble kits of course. So they can keep Uncle Noro occupied.”

We smiled at that. The car turned into the familiar driveway. We were back.  As I went in to check on Gregor he said, “Go to your room, Change and come back, Mommy.”


“So that I can pet you while you tell me a story.”

I had snuggled him a bit when he was little. I don’t think I ever did it in Change but it worked now as I shared stories from old Greece until all I could do was purr and he finally fell asleep. I got out of his bed and I went to mine to purr myself to sleep.




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