Mermaid, Chapter 14, Part 1.

Tom has a disappointment, the Troubleshooter strikes again and it’s the mermaid party!

Tom.

Saturday 12/05

 

Yesterday, Mike and Tony had arranged for Chrissie and I, along with Al and Mike to take the boat over and pick the kids up if things stayed the way they were in the morning. Now that we had secured the indentured’s permissions we could go ahead and get the kids out. With the Manager out of it as a result of the blowback from trying to compel Hilda. If he was still unconscious getting in and out shouldn’t be a problem.

I was going to have to learn how to reflect compulsions. When I said that to Josh last night he said that he couldn’t and I would probably never learn because there would never be a lot of people stupid enough to try to compel us in the first place. There was also the problem that I might not notice if somebody was trying to compel me because  it just wouldn’t have any  effect. There had been those times down in Washington where I felt a few things. From what Tony and Robert had said, the Manager had  sent people down and they tried just about every which way to compel or Twist me and none of those things actually worked.  From what they said, I must have not even noticed most of it. Though I do remember the strange attack on me and having to shoot the guy.  Along with dealing with the cops. Though Larry still got orders from the DC police from time to time after they saw my piece.

Mike, Eltra and Nera went on ahead with Boris and Stephie. Nera and Eltra in the water and Mike in a car to drop off Boris and Stephie near the Manager’s place, Chrissie and I ran the boat while Sal and Al brought  a Thompson and a shotgun in case things got screwed up when we got too close.  It turned out that things had already gotten a little screwed up.

When we were getting close to the Manager’s place I was looking through my binoculars when Nera suddenly sprang out of the water, dropping with a huge splash. I could see Tony near the house waving me away and some people, that is if they were people, in the back yard. Chrissie turned the boat slowly around and took it outside the view of the house. When Nera leapt up I could see movement  in the bushes on the edge of the fence near the seawall. Sal said. “The manager must have woken up and either put more people out or called in more people. I don’t think we can pick up the kids without making a lot more noise.”

“It looks as if they were thinking that they might surprise us a bit. I think that Nera and Eltra spotted them and when we showed up, Nera wanted to make sure we did too.”

When we were out of sight of the house and near the wooded shore Nera and Eltra climbed aboard. “They had more Twisted and the compelled in the back yard again,” Eltra said. As well as a couple people in the bushes with guns. Nera attracted their attention so that you knew that they were there. Tony couldn’t  come down and talk without giving the game away.”

“We were afraid that that might happen,” Sal said. “There was no real way to predict when the Manager would wake up and if he weren’t going to just bug out it was inevitable that he would call in more resources. He must have sent messages and not used the phone because none of the people on the phone noticed anything unusual.”

“Chrissie, bring us up near the woods.” I said. “I want to make a discreet trip through the woods. I’ll be right back.”

I went into the cabin and took the jacket that Diana had made for me for those times when the family went on hunts for things that weren’t animals out of the closet that I had stowed it in when I was packing for this little jaunt. While I had sat down with Steve and he had shown me some things during Thanksgiving, I knew that using the jacket would work almost as well and having the combination would work even better. I came up out of the cabin. Al said, “I  like that jacket. Did Diana make it? She made a jacket for me, but it wasn’t as well done for the woods as that one because we wanted it to fit in in town.” “Yes she did. I thought that I would make a discreet look around and maybe try to attact Tony’s attention and have a quiet chat.”

“I’ll come with you. We need to talk to Mike and see if we can figure out what’s going on before trying to get the kids out. Sal,you stay here with the boat. You’ve never spent time in the woods and I think that we want to be very careful to not attract attention to the woods quite yet.”

I checked my pistol and put the binoculars around my neck as Chrissie ran the boat near some rocks and we jumped off. I said, “We’ll be back soon.”

Chrissie quietly backed the boat off the shore, turned it around and opened it up towards the house. “I think she wants to attract attention,” Al said.

“I think you’re right. That way the eyeballs are on the water and not toward the woods.”

“Let’s go and talk to Mike. Then we’ll get close and you can see if you can talk to Tony. I think I’ll bring out some of my old army stuff after we go to my shop. It looks as if we’re going to be in these woods for a while.”

“I’ve been quiet camping before. That’s why Diana made this jacket. I was hoping we could get the kids out before the Manager got his act together, but it looks as if he acted before we could.”

“The one good thing is that you can’t really concentrate a bunch of twisted for very long before they attract attention because they need to feed on people. That’s helped Helmut’s people frequently when they could go after a bunch of Twisted because all the deaths were noticed.”

We walked out onto the road and over to Mike’s car. Mike and Boris were talking to Stephie who was in Change. Mike looked up, saw us and said, “Things just got more complicated. That kid that was hanging around here saw the car leave late last night. He was here on his bicycle this moring and saw a bunch of people in cabs get dropped off earlier.   He said that they felt strange and that they sort of looked at him as if they were hungry. Boris told the kid to stay away for a while until we could talk to him and his parents.  He’s fae and with all the Twisted around, he could get taken. Then some mob people showed up and are outside the front of the house.  Those we can send Sal to talk to. You go with him later, Al, in the car. Make sure that you ask who their boss is and let them know that upstairs, way upstairs wants them gone from what they are doing.”

“Shoot for the trouble. Could we borrow the boys? With these woods I might want a couple of extra shooters to make a point if I need to.”

“I think the boys can handle that,” Boris said. “As long as you aren’t asking them to kill anybody. I’ll have to deal with their moms if they shoot somebody. Unless,of course, things get messy. Their moms understand that and it’s happened before when we had some bad characters through the County.”

“I think that Sal and I can keep things from getting too messy. Tony is coming to the party and I imagine that Tara and Sillia will quietly have people on hand. So when Sal and I go out talk to the boys about providing services to certain people we will make it clear that we are backed up by upstairs, way upstairs.”

“The good thing is that this drawing in most of the local Twisted,” Mike said. “So we have them all in one place. Tom, you get your stuff put together and ready to go, so that when we are ready to send people in, you mess the other side up. I’ve spent years listening to your sister and father telling me what you did to her and I want to see it for myself. I also want you and Boris to start putting an action plan to get the kids out as soon as we can. I was hoping that we could pull them today, but I don’t want to charge in and have a screwup like we did the night before last.  That means that we watch the house, we set things up, we take advantage of the fact that people inside want to cooperate with us and we don’t rush in and make more mistakes.”

“I want to see if I can get close enough to talk to Tony before we go,” I said. “That way we know what’s going on.  Then I’ll take the boat over and get to work. At least Andy will now get a chance to play with his trouble pack, now that he’s going to be there for a few days. On the other hand I was sort of hoping to have him in the shop with me this morning.”

“Why don’t Sal and I come over and talk to the mob people after lunch?” Al said. “That way it will look like the troubleshooter was brought in and it took some time for the word to get in that these guys were here. I think that Dom and Jim will be interested in them anyway.”

“I think that Jim will be interested in who their boss is and why the boss is making deals with the Manager,” Mike said. “Especially if Pete was involved.”

We walked back into the woods and shielded ourselves. I walked over to the fence near the guest house and before I could think very much about climbing over, there was a tinkling sound and Tony quietly said, “He brought in more idiots. Put some of the compelled out there too.” “Who were the people in the bushes?”

“Mob types with guns. The Manager got in contact with one of Pete’s buddies who doesn’t like how the current bosses run things.”

“Those people should have stayed out of it. The current boss was rather miffed when Pete sent zombies into the office and Sal had to shoot them.  So was the current boss’s landlord.”

“So now what?”

“Mike pulled the plug for today. We’re going to pull back and watch how things shake out.”

“That’s the right call for the kids. If you don’t know what you are in for, things could get messy.”

“I’ve got some fun stuff I’m brewing up and Sal will come over and have a chat with the mob types about who they should be making connections with.”

“Shoot for the trouble?”

“That’s about the size if it. One way or another.”

“Andy wants Mike, you or Al to slip in and talk to some of the staff here. Down in the basement if you can manage it. Where you dropped off Andy’s present. He says that the people need to be talking to you. I know them and Andy’s right.”

“Does the Manager know about them?”

“Only that they are compelled. He doesn’t know who they really are.  They told Andy though and I’ve known for some time. Their son left the stuff in the basement. He bonded with a mermaid, went to the war and was killed by werewolves.”

“Ok, I’ll talk to Mike and Al and set it up so we sneak in tomorrow. I think I’ll make something special up for the occasion. There may be noise in the woods tomorrow.”

“I’ll tell Robert. Ask Stephie and Andy’s mom to take care of any idiots who go in the woods.”

“I’ll do that. They were rather disappointed that the Manager slept through their show after they went to the trouble to set it up. Keep an eye on the woods, though if they are involved you probably won’t see anything. I want to see them dance, because I missed the show they did the day before yesterday. I have to go.”

“Well tell your lady out there, “Hi” and we will see you again. I wish that we could have gotten the kids out, but right now things are too messy. Bye.”

I heard him walk back around the house, turned and went back to where Al was waiting. We started back toward the water. “So what did he say?”

“About what we figured. He called in people. Apparently Pete made a better connection than Athena knew about. Those were mob shooters in the bushes. You can talk about that when you two talk to the mob types about things. Tony suggested that if I make some noise in the woods and the Twisted go in that Hilda and Stephie make sure that they don’t go back out.”

“I like that idea. That way they can do their show and have their fun without anybody else being around. The only sad part is that nobody will be able to see what they are doing.  Are you planning to use any constructs?”

“I want to talk to Sal, Bob and Scott about that. I think that I should return the favor since they sent them after me. Maybe from the woods and the water this time. Andy want us to sneak into the house and talk to some people. He said that it might be important and Tony agreed.  I wonder if I can put a construct launch spell in a container and set it off using a timer.”

“Steve might know. He used to set whoopie cushions up so that they were invisible and delayed to bug his mom and Stacey. Eltra wanted to make sure that I knew just what kind of family I had. Of course she didn’t do that until after we closed the deal and I was stuck with you all.”

“Hey, I was in the same boat. Josh had me out on his boat with Chrissie chasing me for months and never said a word until she showed up in my boat.  Then Chrissie, while we were out on the water, never says anything about anybody other than Joe, who I already knew and Joe is probably the least likely to spring a surprise on somebody.”

“Don’t be too sure of that. Eltra has stories and both Steve and Joe spent a lot of time with Noro before Liltra died.”

We reached the shore and Chrissie must have sensed us because she was right nearby and came up along shore to pick us up. We got on the boat and she backed off again. Nera and Eltra had apparently gone back in the water. “How did it go?” Sal asked.

“About like we figured,” Al answered. The Manager woke up last night and called in the troops. You and I are going to have to shoot some trouble right after lunch because some people from somebody’s outfit didn’t check with Jim or Dom before providing services. Mike wants to know who their boss is. I imagine that Jim and Dom will too.  I’m going to talk to Bob and Scott about being in the woods so that we can have some good shooters they don’t even know are there if we need them.

Tom talked to Tony and when Tom suggested that he was going to make noise in the woods, Tony asked us to have Stephie and Hilda quietly shoot any Twisted that went in the woods. He also wants me, Tom and Mike to sneak into the basement and talk somebody on the staff.  Andy and Tony seemed to think that what they said would be important.”

Chrissie asked, “So where too, captain?”

“Sal’s,” I answered. “There’s nothing we can do here right now. Mike pulled the plug.”

Athena was on the dock with Gregor and three other ladies, waiting for us. She looked at the boat and called out. “What happened?”

“The Manager woke up and called in the troops,” Sal said. “They had shooters set up, compelled and twisted on the seawall and Tony waved us off. Tom talked to Tony and Mike pulled the plug.”

The asian lady looked rather scared and said, “You’re giving up? Just like that?”

“No,” Sal answered. “We’re just not taking chances with the kids or the compelled’s lives.   There are too many things we don’t know and they are alert right now. We’re going to watch what they do, mess them up as much as possible and then set it up so that we get the kids out safe.  When Mike gets back, you can talk to him, but we need to get people in place and the other side out of being set up. Then we go in fast and hard.  Tony and Robert are guarding the kids and we all think that they won’t let anything hurt the kids.  Tom talked to Tony discreetly and Tony agreed with Mike’s call.  He also had some suggestions and Mike, Al and Tom are going in to talk to some people on the inside. So no, we are not giving up.  We had a window of opportunity to do a simple extraction with the boat and that window passed sooner than we expected.  If we had had your permissions yesterday the kids would already be here, but we didn’t, so we went over today as early as we could.”

Mike came down from the house. “Ladies, I want to apologize. It was my call that we not try to get the kids out today. The only reason we didn’t try was that I had a concern that injury or death to the children was likely if something went wrong. We nearly had an accident with Gregor and I don’t want to make that mistake again. I can only say that it has been one of my goals to free both your children and yourselves for a long time now and if I were not concerned with the risk to the children we would go in.  But I can’t go in under circumstances where that risk is present unless the danger is immediate.”

The lady, who I guessed was Gull, said, “may I take a look?”

Mike said, “I trust you to be discreet, so go ahead. The house is down the coast a bit. Nera and Eltra are off the shore and Boris and Stephie are inland. Why don’t the rest of you ladies come back inside and we will talk.”

Sal went with them as they headed back toward the house. Al and I secured the boat and made sure that the fenders were out.

Gull went over to the poolhouse to Change, came out and launched herself in the air and promptly disappeared. As she rose a large yacht appeared on the horizon. The yacht was one of those wonderful looking boats from about twenty years ago with a long clipper bow and long deckhouse. The grey hull said that it had been in the navy recently. As the yacht got closer the gun mounts were still visible. I wondered why it was here until Joe popped out of the wheelhouse. “Tom! Look what we brought.”

“So how did you get your hands on that?”

“The navy had it during the war and sold it at auction. We bought it to run cruises up the coast next summer. Since we had a bunch of tails that wanted to come down and see Sal’s new house, a bunch of tails that are invited to the wedding and I wanted to check it out before I pulled it, I brought it down.”

Al said, “You were saying about Joe and surprises?”

“I take back what I said.”

Joe’s people tied the yacht up and as people started to come down from the house to figure out what was going on,the yacht started to disgorge mermaids off the deck. They were Moira along with Chrissie’s friends. Sillia waved and the mermaids Swam into the pool. Chrissie had gone below to dress, came up, saw the girls and waved. “Hi, girls! Joe, you bought it, finally!”

“Chrissie, you knew about this?” I asked. “You were under sea.”

“Well, it was a big enough purchase that the family had to approve it so we had a meeting before you showed up. We knew it was coming up for auction,but not when, and setting up the cruise business took some time. Joe can get it fixed up before the season next year and we should do very well with cruises up the coast. Why don’t you take me over so that we can get a look?”

I carried her over and we went up the gangplank that a smiling George and Lavrides were setting up. Joe was waiting at the top with one of the chairs that I had designed and were made by my brother in law. The yacht was a bit seedy and worn out with some things still having a navy character that would need to be spruced up for cruising. Still, it was a wonderful boat and I expected that when the season ended next year that the family would have it’s chance for our own cruise. I turned to Joe and said, “We have our work cut out on this one. Now if  I can just finish this current thing so I can do the things I want to do.”

“What happened?”

“We were going to take the kids away from the Manager today, for his own good, because Andy hasn’t even started yet and the Manager seemed to think that he should bring in additional friends to make sure that he keeps the kids. We just got back.”

Chrissie said, “Tom, take me down so that I can talk and then get the chair so that we can go back to the house.” I took Chrissie down and set her beside the pool and went back for the chair. I carried it down and put it next to her. “I need to talk to Al  and get going if I’m going to get my shop time.”

As I started back to the house, Gull swooped down beside me. “I hate to say it, but Mike was right to pull the plug.  There a bunch of Twisted both in the front and the back. A bunch of mob types and the coerced mixed in as well. Tony and Robert knew I was there,but the rest of them didn’t. Where did that come from? Is it Noro’s?”

“The charter company’s. Joe bought it for cruises next year.”

“Well I will get dressed, though I suspect that this crowd doesn’t really care and tell the other ladies that Mike was right to make the call.”

She went back to the poolhouse and I continued up to the house to get Al, Bob,Scott, Athena and Gregor. I found them all talking to Mike, my parents, Josh and Mera and the other two indentured, who seemed to be much better about the fact that we hadn’t gotten the kids out. I caught Al’s eye and he got the rest out so that we could get a car and get taken to the railroad station for the trip into the city where we went to Al’s shop. Tim and Stacey were waiting for us. Tim said, “You’re a lttle late. Did something happen.”

“The Manager woke up and called in the troops. We couldn’t get the kids out. Joe brought a large yacht over. The indentured were upset.”

“That’s understandable,” Stacey said. “They are at risk if things go bad.”

“Well Gull flew over the house and when she got back she said that we made the right call. Everything was going so well yesterday. We were all hoping. Let’s get started.”

Al turned on the lights and I was amazed how well equipped the shop was. I hadn’t had a chance for more than brief glimpse when I dropped the stuff off last night. I turned to Al and said, “This is even better than your Cape shop. I’m going to have to take notes so that I get my shop set up right when I get to it. I think that I will make the Manager’s life miserable for every day that I haven’t been able to do that, starting from the Island and Chrissie.”

I pulled out the book and turned to Gregor. “Now Gregor, the first thing you need to know in these things is what the end goal is. You talked to everybody including my sister about my gag with Tony. What was my goal there?”

“To get Stephie to stop riding Tony.”

“Close. It was actually to get Stephie to see Tony the way I did. For that she needed to spend more time in the stable and as long as I did the chores, she didn’t have to. So I needed to be kicked out of the stables. Not that that wasn’t happening anyway, but it needed to be final and more or less permanent. Though I should have realized what Tony would have thought about that. Now was what I did effective?”

“I don’t know. You were kicked out of the stable but Stephie said that she never realized that Tony liked you until I told her. So, no.”

“Since nothing changed and I left to go work in Washington, I have to agree. I wasn’t very old at the time and perhaps a bit more self centered. But it did get Stephie off Tony and me out of the stables. Ok, so what is our goal now?” “To beat the Manager.”

“No, actually. If I wanted to just beat the Manager I could have shot him when I was at the house when we brought you out. The thing is that beating the Manager would cover some things up and break some connections. What we want is to force the Manager to collect his strength like he has right now and contact any bosses or support that he may have and then beat the Manager. We want to force the Manager to use his connections to get them to respond. I don’t want the Manager, I want his boss. Otherwise his boss will still be killing people and making the dark. In order to do that I need to make the Manager afraid.”

“I’ve seen him. He never seems to be afraid.”

“He isn’t? He has that big house and masses of bodyguards and monsters. He puts coercion on all his staff. He took you so that your mommy would work for him rather than offering her money to work for him. Why would he do that if he wasn’t afraid of just about everything?”

“Mommy, the Manager didn’t give you money?”

“Not very much. Only to do the work. He never actually paid me for the work.”

“Now Gregor, do you think that the Manager is afraid of me?” I asked. “I think he is. I think he’s so afraid of me that he refuses to see me as I am. He thinks of me all the time, has sent a ton of monsters after me for years and tried to kill me while I was bonding with Chrissie. All the while I never even knew he existed. I think he’s been afraid of me ever since I shot my brother. So how do I turn that to my advantage?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well what happened with the exploding boats? Were they anything to be really afraid of?”

“No.”

“Yet the Manager was afraid of them. So I’m going to make more exploding boats. Only they won’t be boats. So let’s get started.”

I didn’t tell Gregor how I planned to use the manager’s fear of me to my advantage. The Manager didn’t know it yet, but the way he was doing things was playing into exactly the way I wanted. I had learned in my battles with Stephie how to work an information balance and use bits and pieces to my advantage. Also misdirection. I suspected though, that she had already figured out that her boys were getting trouble packs for Christmas as well as Andy getting his a bit early. If we had gotten Andy out this morning that would have been a mistake. This way he probably had a chance to play with it.  That is if he wasn’t chasing other ideas. Having us sneak in and talk to those people must be pretty important because he kept mentioning it to us after his mother’s dance and to Tony today.

By bringing in his Twisted and the mob people, he was putting them right where we could get at them and we could deal with them. His fear was forcing him to make mistakes. That is if the whole thing wasn’t a diversion to cover his bugging out. That’s why I wanted to talk to Andy’s friends. Another thing was to start removing his ability to communicate so that he had to use the ones that I already controlled.  Stephie never did figure out that she should have stayed off the phone.  I put a piece of metal and started to drill holes.  The holes were for firecrackers that I had picked up in Chinatown, since cartridges were a pain to get  in the city if you didn’t have some sort of police ID.  While I could use the County Sheriff’s deputy ID that all the family members had when it was necessary, I didn’t want to have some busybody bugging Doris at the office up in Vermont. Large firecrackers in tubes would work just fine for what I wanted. I even loaded some of the tubes with shot. Shot you could get without a problem.  Powder, too if you wanted.  I had Bob and Scott start brazing tubes to a plate.  Stacey asked, “What is this for?”

“Making noise as a distraction, with some actually being a bit dangerous. I want to be able to break into the house and I want the guards looking somewhere else when I do it. I also want to bait a trap for Hilda and Stephie.  So I’m making some things that will sound like guns and break some windows. If the people and I use that term loosely, behave the  same way that they did for Andy’s boats, they will all go out into the woods looking for the shooters that aren’t there and never even see the real shooters. I’ll rig up timers later and when I tapped the Manager’s phone I also tapped off a line that I will hook up later.”

“Won’t the phone company notice?”

“Probably not. Everything I use is official phone company equipment from Western Electric. I even picked it up right here at the main office.”

“I thought only phone companies could get that stuff.”

“I am a phone company. All registered, part of the ATT family and everything. When I was fifteen I traded a phone system from our local phone company for some machine work they needed almost immediately and wired up all the family farms and houses, the houses for the hands, the barns, the shops and everything else into the system. Since trying to handle the billing through the local phone company just wouldn’t work, we set the system up as it’s own phone company where only outside calls are billed.  So I have a phone company service ID and can get whatever I want. The phone system was one way that I could balance Stephie’s abilities. All I had to do was listen to her calls.”

“Didn’t your mom punish you for that?”

“For what? Listening to the radio? The radio I built from a kit? For that matter I owned the phone sytem outright and if Stephie got too nasty about it I could just cut her line. Since they didn’t know how I was doing it and they never actually caught me doing it, Stephie could never actually prove I was doing it. Just like I could never prove that she was entering my room through a locked door.”

“That’s a bit brutal.”

“It got that way toward the end. The big problem was that the central issue was one I didn’t know anything about and the rest of the family wouldn’t tell me.”

“It was a good thing that they didn’t,” Athena said. “Not knowing about Change was one of the greatest protections that they could give you.”

“So you are going to use the phones, Tom?” Stacey said. “What else?”

“You saw some of it. I bought those little radio receivers.  I talked to Steve and I can use one of their transmitters for what I want. That’s for later, when they may have found some of my stuff and the wires connected.  I’m also going to put something in the water that goes bang at some point. Maybe a fairly large bang.

All of this is a distraction though. The main thing is to get the kids out and the indentured out of his reach. As long as he can convince himself that he had people that can handle things he won’t feel lost and I want him to feel lost.”

I turned to Scott, who was watching a job work on the mill. “Scott, how does the construct launching spell work. Can you put it in a container or is is like shields.”

“We’ve never tried. Why?”

I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out the spent special shell that had been rattling around the boat this morning. “Well suppose that you could put the launch spell in something like this and release it by remote control. That way you could have constructs launched by remote control.”

I had already been playing around with water magic in tubes in preparation for Stephie’s surprise. I was wonder if other spells could be contained and released by say, a small discharge of heat or shock. After all, what was the point of having abilities if you couldn’t have fun with them. Another thing for another day.  I had set Gregor to filing a tube and was obviously enjoying himself and getting better too.  I went over and said, “So using tools makes you weak? Are you stronger thatn the metal, all by yourself?”

“No, but using this I can make the metal what I want, can’t I? So that’s how come you all are strong. You work against strong stuff, not weak stuff. That’s what Andy said when he beat me.”

“Did that school you were going to deal with weak or strong things?”

“Weak. We didn’t know it but it was the same thing over and over. The lady had told us that we were strong, but never allowed us anything other than really weak stuff. No stuff like this. Nothing hard.”

My teacher, the old man who was gone now, had never given me easy stuff either. It was get the metal right and learn how to do it right. Practice and grow. I wanted to take all the kids away from the Manager, but Gregor, at least was a start.  We were about finished and I closed up the control box. It was time to go.  Stacey said, “I called the office and a car is coming shortly. Along with a van for this stuff.  Tim and I were going to take the train out, but why don’t we just all go out together.”

Tim had been taking photographs occasionally and I suspected that Chrissie would after him for prints. As for Al he had been more or less quiet through the whole thing and I asked him about that was we cleaned upthe shop. “I wanted to see how you did with the kids. I knew about you, because even though we had only met briefly when you shot our brother, I’ve known Larry, Eric and Stephie for a very long time now. So I’ve been hearing stories about you for years and as for your work, well it speaks for itself when the chips are down and one of your pieces keeps shooting.  So I wanted to see how you handled Bob, Scott and Gregor especially.  Which you’ve done very well.  Frankly you’ve grown too the last couple of weeks. We all have. Along with having our world turned sideways.”

The van and the car showed up and we loaded up the van and Bob got in the front seat with the driver and the rest of us got in yet another of Noro’s big white Cadillac’s. Noro was actually waiting inside. “I decided that since I was going out anyway, I would join you all. How did it go. Did we rescue the kids from durance vile?”

“The Manager woke up, called in more friends and Mike pulled the plug. I just made some stuff to make noise in the woods, Andy wants us to talk to some people in the house and Sal is going with Al to have a discussion and shoot some trouble with an outfit that needs to instructed as to who they should be associating with.”

“Do tell.” “Tony said, when I had discreet talk with him, that they were a bunch who’s management was displeased about how the current management handled business and made a deal with the Manager’s friend Pete to remove the current Management. The Manager apparently had a connection and the connection sent some people.”

Stacey said, “The zombies in Jim’s office? Athena, you told us that that was Pete moonlighting.”

“I thought it was.”

“Well, they showed up at the Manager’s place. Tony said that the Manager made the connection through Pete. After my talk with Tony, we pulled the boat out.”

“What did the other ladies say?” Noro asked.

“The asian lady, who must be Sarissa’s mom was upset and Gull flew over to check out what we said. Joe came by in a rather large yacht filled with Chrissie’s friends and Chrissie made me take her on a tour. Gull came back when we were done and said that Mike made the right call. The other two were looking much better when I got up to the house.”

“It was evident from what he said that Mike was as upset about the kids still being there as we were,” Athena said. “That made Boonsri especially, much happier. She wasn’t happy at all that the Manager had just brought in more monsters to guard the place. We all had a good comparison with Mike who had been our adversary for years,but still cared for the kids’ welfare and the Manager who only increased the risk by bringing in the worst of the worst.”

“Tony suggested that Stephie and Hilda have a dance in the woods after all the Twisted chase in there after my toys.”

“That’s a WONDERFUL idea, Athena cried. “The only sad part is that nobody will actually see the dance, only the bodies.”

“What dance?” Tim asked. “Did I miss something?”

“Well, the other day when we went on our ride, after we ate at Bennies and you left with Sal, Hilda and Stephie took me over to Sal’s place and used some of Bob and Scott’s constructs to show me what they could do.” Athena said. “They used the smallest little guns you can imagine and destroyed all the constructs in seconds. They would have done the same thing at the Manager’s but Gregor ran right into the middle of it and almost had an accident. In the woods with no kids around in daylight should work so much better.”

“I’m sorry mommy,” Gregor said. “I was so scared that I just ran.”

“It wasn’t your fault, dear, I was scared because the Manager was using is using his typical brilliant management skills by threatenting to kill me, the lady was filling your head full wrong things and Andy told you stories that were harmless in themselves, which added to your fears. There was also the fact that you were surrounded by monsters.”

Gregor asked, “Tom, I know that you shot your brother, but what happened to the rest of the werewolves. Robert said that they couldn’t find them.”

“I don’t know, actually,” I replied. “I was going a little crazy, Boris and Mike were taking care of me through the system and my family was taking a hands off approach in regards to me.  Ask my mother or Stephie.  As for the pack members that escaped Vermont, Mike tracked most of them down one way or another.  They all died in the end. Mike wrapped the last one up just before I bonded with Chrissie. He never told me what happened and I didn’t ask. The werewolves, as horrible as they were, were victims too.  I think that my brother left that gun, the gun that could kill him, where he did, for a reason.  He was hoping that somebody would pick it up and use it if they needed to. To shoot the monster he had become.”

“Where is that gun now?”Athena asked.

“Jake still has it. He offered it back before we left and I told him that I would pick it up after I got it back and send it home. Though I may just plug it and hang it in our place.  It’s done enough.”

“Sometimes the monster needs to be shot,” Tim said. “Every one of those sharks that you shot had gotten that way by eating a kid. A fae kid. I had to sit through a bunch of interviews with the families and my story made the front page again yesterday.  I haven’t had the chance to check with the morgue yet, but for the last five kids I can probably name each of the sharks who had them for dinner.  I’m going to  make a matched list for all the sharks still alive. I’ll hand it to you, along with the list for the sharks you shot. I bet that I can match each one to a kid. I would keep that gun loaded and ready, for the next monster.”

“I hadn’t really thought of it that way, Tim,” I said. “I didn’t know what the sharks had done to others at the time, only that they were trying to eat me. Then I knew about the other couples because Sal and the rest told me about them. It never occurred to me that each shark represented a kid that was eaten. You make that list. I will keep that gun loaded and ready with the list next to it. As a reminder.”

I had known about the kidnapped kids and even knew that the sharks were responsible. But somehow they had never been real until Tim said that he had sat down with the families. I would ask the staff if there was a copy of Tim’s story from yesterday. I expected that even if the staff didn’t have a copy that Sal’s mom would. I would read the story. Along with making sure that the monster gun was ready when it would be needed.

Vic.

Saturday 12/05

The gig seemed simple at first. Just provide some security and some shooters for some guy the boss wanted protected. The guy had obviously been hit with something, because his gate was smashed and the front of his house was too.  But he wanted my best shooters out in back so I set them up in some bushes.  The guy seemed to have lots of people already, but they didn’t seem to be shooters.  Still it seemed to an easy gig.  Jonny, as usual didn’t like it.  “Vic there’s something wrong with this place.  Those people out there, there’s something not right. I swear they look at me as if I’m dinner and the only thing stopping them is their boss. Why is the boss providing protection for this guy anyway?”

“The boss didn’t tell me. He’s the boss. He doesn’t have to.”

“Vinnie out back swears he saw a fish with arms jump up this morning. A fish with brown hair and arms.”

“Find out what rotgut he drank last night and close them up. We don’t want crap that bad.”

“He said that he was on the wagon. Hadn’t touched a drop for weeks. His girl was making him stop.”

Jonny was always nervous. The thing was he was all too often right and this time I could feel the same thing he did. Still this gig was only supposed to be for about a week or so. Until the client dealt with his problem. We should be fine. Then I checked the rear view mirror. “Oh crap!”

Jonny looked around. “What is it, a cop?”

“Maybe he was, once. But look behind us.”

Jonny looked back. “A Duesie? Do you think it’s him? This is a nice neighborhood, maybe it’s somebody else.”

The car door opened and he got out. It was him. He walked past Tony’s car and I could see Tony and his boys just sitting there, looking scared.  Which was understandable as there was another man standing on the sidewalk holding a Tommy gun.  Just standing there he looked like the most dangerous guy I had ever seen. I had talked to Jimmy after it happened and I hadn’t understood. Now I did. He came up and knocked on my window. I rolled it down. “Hi, Sal, what do you want?”

“Your boss, for one thing. I think I need to have a discussion with him.  I also want to give you a warning. But why don’t you tell me who your boss is first.”

“Why should I tell you?”

“To save yourself a lot of grief. You’ve attracted the attention of some people that you don’t really want to have an eye on you. They called me in on this and I’ve got better things to do than deal with small time crap. I’ve got my girl and our new house with a bunch of guests to take care of. So if you tell me who your boss is I can get out of your hair and you can go on your merry way.”

“Who?”

“You don’t want to know. You’re better off not knowing. If you knew who was at my house right now you would not want to be within 1,000 miles of this place when he’s pissed off. Trust me with that.  So just tell me who your boss is and I’ll give you some advice for your health.”

Jonny panicked and went for his gun. The glass in the windshield suddenly shattered and I heard the crack of a rifle. Both of Jonny’s hands went straight up in the air. The guy on the sidewalk didn’t even move. Sal looked at Jonny. “Now that was stupid. If I wanted you boys dead, I wouldn’t be standing out here talking to you. Vic, why don’t you just give me what I want before somebody who does want you dead gives me the nod. Trust me, this guy over there is bad news and there are some real heavyweights who want him and anybody associated with him, dead. So give me your boss and take yourself off that list.”

“Gianelli, Al Gianelli.”

“Good. And you didn’t even try to lie. Now my advice? Take all your people and leave. Go right now and don’t look back.  If you’re smart you’ll get a train and hit Chicago and see if you can tie up there. Don’t even think of trying Boston. Just being where you are right now makes you poison to them and the heavyweight at my house right now? That guy over there REALLY pissed off his wife. You can figure out who that is if you think about it. We have people watching and if you aren’t gone in an hour, the word goes out with all your names on the list.”

He turned and left. The car drove away. Jonny turned and said, “We gotta split. Let me tell the boys to pack it up and we get out of here. He wasn’t kidding. My cousin up in Boston said that he did some troubleshooting up there. For the Peacekeeper. My cousin didn’t know what he did, but one of my cousin’s buddies was killed in the crossfire and five cops were melted if you can believe it.  The word also went out on some society types right from the Peacekeeper’s wife and nobody, but nobody wants to be on that list. If that guy over there did something to piss off the Peacekeeper that much, then Sal is right. We don’t want to be anywhere near it. The Peacekeeper doesn’t come after you, he shuts down your boss’s business until your boss hands you over or  just takes you out.  My cousin knew some boys that had been around a long time and they said that the Peacekeeper shut the entire business down to make his point. We leave and tell the boss that the troubleshooter told us to go and that he should get himself out of trouble before it finds him.”

Jonny was a nervous wreck, but this time, if everything Sal and Jonny said was true, he was right. If what Jonny said was true then the boss wasn’t going to be the boss for very much longer. If the boss was still the boss tomorrow he could order us back, but we were splitting for today.  There are limits to what you can be paid for and messing in that heavweight class was not something that I would want to do unless I were paid a lot more money.  A lot more. Along with backup from somebody with a lot more clout than Al had.  “Ok, Jonny, pull our people.  I’ll tell Al that we left for health reasons and that he’s on a list that he wants off of.  If he is still alive tomorrow and he wants us back we’ll come back, but somehow I don’t see that happening.”

Sal.

Saturday 12/05

We got back in the car. Dealing with Vic reminded me why I hated those idiots. I had been dealing with Dom’s people along with Josh and Ray’s people and I had forgotten how stupid most of the people were. Al said, “That was almost as fun as Jimmy. If that guy in the shotgun seat had been any more scared he would have pissed his pants.” “Vic used to run with Jimmy’s little gang of bullies when we were kids. They used to hassle Vinnie and me because our moms liked having the kids in rather rough houses over for  mothering.  The funny thing is that those kids all turned out like Tony and work for Dom while the rest turned into idiots like Vic and Jimmy.  Well now we have a discussion with Vic’s boss.”

“So what do we do?”

“That’s a good thing to think about. He did go after Jim, or at least Pete did as a favor and he was in contact with the Manager. If the Manager went with his usual habits he put compulsions on Al and that’s why Al is doing favors. The thing is that neither you or I know how to remove compulsions yet, I don’t want to play around with that until I know how and if we say we’re taking him in, He’ll kill himself.  Since he was hanging out with Pete, I think we’ll take a look and rattle his cage a bit. I’ll tell him that it would be a good thing to show up at Bennies for lunch on Monday and  they can deal with it. I’ll also say that once he apologizes to Dom that he should leave town, permanently. If he shoots himself, well that just saves us some trouble.”

I was a bit pissed that we couldn’t get the kids out this morning and I wanted to share my new home with all my numerous friends. I stopped in at the office and got Al’s hangout. Andy said, “Tony’s at your place. So why do you want this guy?”

“He made some bad connections with the people that were responsible for Big Jim. I want to see if it was voluntary or if he was persuaded before I tell Jim about it. He sent some people to a house some friends of mine were watching and I want to know that he’s going to stay out of it. I’ve got to go. I need to get this cleared up and back to my place before I piss off Sillia.”

We headed over to Al’s hangout. He was at a one of his places, a small restaurant the size of Bennies where he apparently liked to deal rather than  having an office.

I parked the car and walked in with Al past the boys that were out front. Al was sitting in a booth in the back corner looking at some papers with some of his boys, who looked up as I walked in and whispered to their boss. I could tell that he was indeed, under compulsion. He said, “You must be Sal. I’m Al Gianelli. What can I do for you?”

“It’s what I can do for you. Take a late lunch and go down to this place right now.” I handed him Bennie’s address. “Then some people want to talk to you next week. Also don’t even think about sending any more people to that place you sent people to this morning. Some people from upstairs didn’t like it that you messed in something that was their business. Plus, I’m going to have to tell certain individuals about your connections with the guy who sent some things to put the hit on them, so why don’t you tell me all about it so that I can tell them that you are keeping your nose clean from now on.”

“Why should I do that?”

“Because upstairs is miffed with your method of complaining about how the business is run. I want to tell them that it was an honest mistake and that you didn’t really understand what you were messing with. I’m doing you a favor by not taking this right upstairs.”

“I, I can’t.”

“Ok then. Your boy Vic and his friends should be back soon. We’re keeping an eye on that place and if any more of your boys show up, some people you really don’t want to piss off will want to talk to you. I’m going to talk to upstairs, but as of now, you are out of business.”

“You can’t do that.”

“I just did. Tell your people that upstairs will be sending somebody to take over. Now get yourself down to that place I gave you and talk to those people or things become permanent.  I have other business to deal with. Come on Al.”

We left. As we got in the car, a shot rang out. Al said, “They always do that.”

“I’ll tell Tony to send somebody down. Let’s get to the party before we get in trouble with Eltra and Sillia.”

When we got back, the party was starting to crank up. Bennie was there with his people setting up tables in the ballroom and down in the poolhouse. Some people in the outfit had set the bar up in the poolhouse and in the house. When mother and dad showed up with Suzy, Kathy and Cindy, along with The admiral and Captain Farr with their wives and kids, they brought along a bus with the band from the Pennsylvania. I asked Mabel, “Did the admiral tell them to come?”

“No, actually. The band leader saw Suzy dancing the other day and composed music for a mermaid to dance to. They want to have Suzy and all the other mermaids here dance to music.”

“There are a lot of them. Joe brought a bunch down in that big yacht this morning and we  have a lot coming up from Bennies. Well we have Steve’s people and my office, so there are guys here too.”

The band people had brought some ratings and a big awning from the Pennsylvania that they set up as a tent right next to the pool. They set themselves up and Bennie put some tables in the tent. The house staff had gotten some lights and Tom, Bob and Scott, along with some more navy types started to rig up the lights all over the place.  Tim, Steve from the office and a navy guy were all wandering around taking pictures.  Sillia had the camera out early, but put it away and said to me, “I need to play hostess.  Tim and the others agreed to pool the pictures.  The navy will handle all the developing so that we don’t let things out that might scare people.”

I went inside. Mary had managed to get Noro started on stories about the Revolution and the kids were all sitting there listening to what Paul Revere and Ben Franklin were really like from somebody who knew them. Noro seemed to be having a good time. Josh smiled as he said, “Mary really grabbed onto Noro from the minute he walked in. Apparently they started this when they were waiting last night and Mary is taking advantage of the opportunity. When we get the kids free, I suspect that she will move up to the Cape and work on keeping Noro telling stories as much as possible.”

The party had gone on for some time when I noticed a young man that I didn’t know looking at the champagne bottles and picking up a glass and tasting it. I didn’t think very much about it until I ran into him again with mother.  “Sal, dear, I think you should talk to this young man.”

“Mr. del Vecchio, I’m Roger Elliott. Your mother says that you have connection for the champagne. I apologize for crashing your party, but I’m on a mission for mother and we’ve been at wits end with my sister’s wedding coming up so I’ve been crashing every party in the neighborhood hoping that somebody has a connection. Perhaps even more importantly, where did all those wonderful tails come from?”

“The girls, why?”

“Because my set doesn’t have very many. Especially the high fae. May I call some friends and have them come?”

“As long as they are not friends with your brother.”

“No, none of those. I’ve tried to convince mother that Bill is into very bad stuff but I don’t know enough to actually make my case. Your mother said that you know more.”

“I do. But I can’t talk right now.  I think though, that your parents should know before Bill’s name hits the paper and a Detective is very close to putting him there.”

“Father gave Bill a one way ticket to France right after the turn of the year. But the way he’s been acting, I’m not sure that he will go or that it’s going to last that long.”

“Well your friends are welcome and enjoy the party. Do you have a card? I’ll have somebody call you about the champagne.”

He handed me a card and headed for the phone. Mother said, “He looked like the contact that you were trying to make and a bit lost in our crowd. Also both the Rockaway and Cape bowers have too many girls. So, I’m not surprised that the Sound people have a boy surplus like Eric and Greta do.”

“I think that a lot of things are becoming clear. We were all out of balance. I need to go.”

I continued to walk around, keeping an eye on things. Hali had Ensign Delios in the poolhouse and was apparently making plans to have him visit the Cape bower and meet her parents over Christmas. Sillia was resplendent in her new dress and necklace and was stationed as the princess she was. A bunch of Steve’s people along with Bill and his people from my office had corralled Bob and Scott, and were looking into going up for the next construct shoot. Maybe even setting one up here if they got the chance. Nera and Eltra came back from the Manager’s house and Eltra said, “Linda is flying over right now to give us and Boris a break. Mary will spell her in a bit. Athena is watching from the woods for a while.”

“How did that happen.”

“They asked to do it. The others did too.”

They Swam into the poolhouse. The party was in full swing and I ran into Frank and met his wife in the poolhouse. She had found Chrissie and was talking about bed tanks.  Chrissie had quietly set up some pictures on the yacht and had been talking about the tanks with all the mermaids that hadn’t already seen the pictures once Hali and her friends started to talk about it. I went back to Sillia. “Did our party crasher show up?”

“Yes she did, actually. She connected with your sister and Kathy.”

I looked over and there she was, with Suzy and Kathy. “Did you let her know that she had been invited?”

“I did. She seems to be having a good time and enjoying herself. I think that we will see her here often.”

I went over and said to my sister, “Who’s your new friend?”

“This is Trillia. She lives in the Sound bower. She came up when she saw the party.”

“Trillia,I’m-“ “I know who you are, Mr. Gone Upscale.”

“Ok, which of you told her that story?”

“We didn’t Sal.”

“Ok, Trillia, as far as I know you’ve never been up top at all, so how did you hear about me?”

“Well I was at a party and they were telling stories. That one was funny.  Then some friends out near Montauk saw you and your car when you were taking Sillia around after you bonded and closed the deal.”

“Have you run into Al yet?”

“No. Is he the shoot for the trouble?”

“I think I’m going to shut up before you girls go look for him and pester him about the story. I need to keep circulating. Trillia you are welcome in our pool anytime.”

Suzy waved Tim over and had him take their picture. Then she had him sit down so that all three of them could tease him over being a snoop.

Perhaps they had had a bit too much champagne or maybe they thought they just needed a Run, but when Athena came back she and Hilda started a hunting competition to see who could bring back the most raccoons out of the  woods. Boonsri joined them as a bunch of people watched.

Since the whole family was there, along with Steve’s bonded, who had dragooned the navy into bringing his peoples’ families out early, got them all setup in Newport and tracked down Joe to find out where everybody was, Mera collected them all for a picture. Tim, Steve and the navy guy all took pictures of the whole family. Then Haruka grabbed Steve and wanted to know if he was taking care of himself. Mera didn’t seem too surprised that Haruka had shown up early and I suspect that she and Haruka had quietly arranged it with Mabel. Meria was rolled in by Noro and finally met Tom and Chrissie along with Moira, George and Haruka. Mary and the boss walked in. Mary said, “This party is wonderful. Everybody is having a great time. All sorts of things are happening.”

“I just wish that we had gotten the kids out this morning.”

“I talked to Mike and Gull about that already,” the boss said. Mike had to pull the plug when things went screwy. Gull agreed once she flew over and saw the place. At least the mob guys seem to have gone.”

“I troubleshot them after lunch. The guys in the cars were all small timers and their boss was put under compulsion by the Manager when he connected with the Necromancer to put the hit on Big Jim. I visited him and he shot himself. I told him to go down to Bennies to get his compulsions pulled and he didn’t listen. I need to have somebody teach me how to pull compulsions.”

Dom and Tony came in. “I understand that there was a small issue at the Manager’s this morning,” Dom said. “At least it was small regarding the outfit.”

“I shot that trouble right after lunch. The Manager had put compulsions on Al Gianneli when Al connected with the Necromancer about the hit on Big Jim.  I talked to Al and he shot himself. I need to learn how to pull compulsions.”

“How did you find out about the connection?”

“Tony talked to Tom when we went to get the kids. Tom asked why the mob people showed up at the Manager’s place and Tony said that the Manager had made the connection when Pete did his thing with Big Jim. I talked to the people outside the Manager’s house and got their boss’s name and went to have a talk with him. Tony, you’re going to need to replace him. Not that he was much to begin with.” “And the kids?”

“We went over to the house to do a quick pickup that we had arranged with Tony and Robert, the Manager woke up and pulled in every nasty he could get his hands on in and we pulled the plug. Tom is planning to do some stuff and sneak into the house tomorrow to talk to some people that Tony and Andy want us to talk to.”

“We could shoot the nasties.”

“We’re going to work on that. You should see Tom’s sisters.  When it comes to shooting they may be the deadliest shooters on the planet. Both high fae, very competitive and Al got them starting to shoot when he went up there after Tom shot the werewolf.  They messed up because Gregor got in the middle, but Tom is going to make noise in the woods and they get to dance.”

Sillia rolled in. “Sal dear, Mary reported that ten of the Manager’s Twisted left the house and are heading in our direction. I’m guessing that the house’s shields are old and the party attracted attention. Anyway Hilda and Stephie want everybody outside to see them dance when the Twisted get here. I also want to talk to Noro about teaching you to update the shield. I can do that, but you should learn too.”

We went outside. Eric and Greta had quietly taken the kids to the pool house and all the mermaids were in the pool. Tom and Al had stationed themselves on the poolhouse roof with their rifles and I could see Bob and Scott with rifles as well next to the garage. Hilda and Stephie were both in Change with their little guns and waiting. The first Twisted entered the driveway and when it got underneath the shield looked hungrily toward the poolhouse and started to move torward it, sniffing as it went. Two more entered and then another. Al whistled and Hilda disappeared and all four Twisted suddenly collapsed. Hilda reappeared and as the then next two entered into the yard, Stephie fluttered up in the air. Waiting. As two more entered, Al blew the whistle and Stephie disappeared and the Twisted collapsed. We had barely heard the shots. Tim went out and took photographs of the dead Twisted and then waited as the last two showed up and he took photographs of them alive as Hilda and Stephie each shot one. Eric said, “Hilda, two.”

“Remind me to never make either of those ladies pissed at me,” Tony quietly said.

“I can go with that,” I replied. Bob and Scott started to help the garden staff deal with the bodies. It was obvious that they had dealt with dead Twisted before. I walked toward where Eric and Greta were letting the kids out. “I get the feeling that you all have had practice with this sort of thing before.”

“Too much.” Greta said. “Usually with Athena following up so that we knew it wasn’t a random event. Though why he kept doing the same things over and over is beyond me.  We just got faster at removing them before they could hurt anybody.”

I went over to where Mike was talking to Noro. Mike said, “I’m new at this, but I think that the shield leaked a bit and the Manager’s Twisted sensed a food source but not the fact that most of the local high fae were here today.”

Noro said, “Sillia commented about the shields too and wants me to show Sal how to renew. Which is probably a good thing with the wedding coming up.”

Bob and Scott came over with a box. “Here’s all their wallets and other stuff, Mike. So that you can track them down and make sure that there aren’t any more where they came from.”

The party returned to normal and as I walked around everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. I ran into my mother talking to a mermaid that I didn’t know who seemed a bit anxous. “Sal, dear.  This is Telia. Her daughter Swam up here and she’s looking for her.”

“Oh, she was with Suzy and Kathy last time I saw them. Telia, we were told to expect you and you are welcome here. Mother, why don’t you introduce her around.”

“Was she causing trouble?” Telia asked.

“Not unless teasing me about the Jimmy story counts. I hope that they haven’t found Al yet.”

“Sal, what did you do today when you went out in the car? Never mind. I’ll find Al and ask him. Come on Telia.”

I was in trouble. Al would probably tell Tony the Vic story the minute he saw him. Dom too more than likely. Plus the fact that Vic was going to spread it around. Along with what happened to his boss.  While I hadn’t run into him yet, Jim was here too. The band seemed to be more enthusiastic than usual, if that was even possible and I went out to see.  The six mermaids that had danced back when this all got started were doing it again, to the tune of the mermaid dancing music. With just about everybody watching and our photographers getting pictures. Still it was one of the most amazing things that I had ever seen and even better than the dance at the yard because all the dancers had been practicing. When Nera took her bows and they finshed I went to Tim and said, “that is something for your album. People will want prints.  Starting with Sillia and I.”

“Oh, yes. Your dad,  Mary, and the Admiral already put in for prints when they started. Lieutenant Billings is upset that he didn’t have a film crew this time.”

Roger came over and said, “It’s a good thing that mother isn’t here or my sister would have to make some new friends. I’m going to suggest that she Swim over here anyway. Mother can come in the car more discreetly, or Swim if she wants. You people seem to take things in stride and have fun. I’m not sure what the deal with the guns was.”

“Well why don’t we ask. I know some of it, but I want to know more. And you should meet those people too.”

We went over to where Boris was talking to Eric and Greta. “Boris, the young man here would like to know about Stephie, Hilda and guns.”

“Yes. Why use guns at all. I can tell that both the ladies are powerful fae, so why guns?”

“Blame Al for some of that. He has a speech he does about guns and he’s amazingly persuasive with it.  Then there is the fact that my wife has always been incredibly competitive in everything she get involved in  and Hilda is the same way. Neither of them hold back once they get going.  As for why guns when things are serious? We’ve had, as a result of the actions of your neighbor, a lot of experience with Twisted and monsters. Frequently in situations where using abilities might create a fuss that could be worse than the monster. So we use discreet guns and our abilities to remain discreet and not create a situation where things can get worse if we didn’t. For instance, a vampire in crowded ski lodge at the top of the run where if people panicked they would all fall down the slope and hurt themselves. If we can get a discreet shot and take out the Twisted, then we can just handle the body as a heart attack or something and nobody gets hurt.  So we use those special guns to keep things from going where we don’t want them to go.”

“You have that many monsters? We never seem to have a problem, except those that showed up today?”

“You have a bigger problem than you know,” I said. “Why don’t you come back tomorrow and I will give you a looksee at the pesthole that’s been living in your backyard for a long time. That’s the big reason we are all here. But let’s save that for tomorrow. Let’s let the pesthole wonder what’s going on and go on to better things. I have to circulate.”

I left the young man with Eric and Greta to ask his questions and looked for Sillia. I found her with Telia, Suzy, Mother, Trillia and Kathy talking to Al and Eltra in the poolroom. I was in trouble. “Sal, dear, why were you risking yourself like that?”

“I wasn’t, mother. I had Bob and Scott in the woods for Vic and Al backing me up both times. The risk with Al was low because he knew how much grief would fall down on him if he tried to kill me.  He knew that if he tried something like that with me, that if Al didn’t kill him. Dom would. So I was safe. Jonny just panicked.”

“Now I know that Vic was one of that bunch that hung out with Jimmy and used to bully you and Vinnie, but who is Jonny?”

“I don’t know. I think he’s fae, but I don’t know who he was. Not from our neighborhood.”

“Well you shouldn’t have scared him that much.”

“I don’t think I did. I think that he picked up on the Twisted and the rest at that house.”

“Twisted? What house? Near here?” Telia asked.

“When you leave Swim along the coast a few miles. There will be a house with Twisted in the back yard. They also had some mob people who’s boss had been compelled by the thing living in that house. I dealt with those this afternoon, which is why my mother is upset at me. The thing living in that house is keeping some kids, including Hilda’s, hostage there and he’s done some very bad things to the Rockaway bower, attacked the Cape bower including Al’s parents and the queen and has been conducting a series of attacks on the Vermont kingdom. That’s why we all ended up here.  Come back here tomorrow and have a long talk with Mera. She’s figured out most of it out.”

“I didn’t know anything about this. Neither did my father. Nobody told us that something was seriously wrong up here.”

“I had a contact tell me what happened in your bower. The fact is that the Cape bower did try to get in contact with you and the Rockaway bower had several incidents involving the royal family when attempting to conduct business with your bower.  We only found out where the pesthole was recently thanks to the efforts of Tim and Andy, who even as a hostage, managed to let us know where he was. The fact is that there are some people here who would really like to talk to your parents and the only reason that we haven’t made a stink yet is that we’re dealing with the pesthole and the splashback from it.”

“Why haven’t you dealt with it.”

“We are. But we want to make sure that when we take it out that that is all there is to it.  There is evidence that it may not be.  For one thing some of the activity came over from Europe including werewolves.”

“We had werewolves here?”

“We’ll share everything. Can you send messages down below?”

“No. we never set something like that up.”

“You have a LOT to talk about with Mera then. Why don’t we go up and you indroduce yourself around before you leave with your daughter. Or your daughter could stay the night with my sister here.”

“That could be trouble.”

“In this crowd? I seriously doubt that yet another mermaid will make much difference. Let’s find you a chair.”

That wasn’t that hard. Between the wheel chairs that were in the house, the chairs that the navy brought with them and the chairs that Joe brought down on his boat, we had plenty even for the crowd of mermaids that we had. I grabbed a chair and put in the pool in the place obviously designed for one. Telia got on and I started to roll her up to the house. “This house feels like it was designed by merfolk,” Telia said.

“It was. One of my relatives built it a long time ago for his bonded when he made too much money on Wall Street.”

“He made too much money?”

“That’s what he said. You’ll run into him, I’m sure.”

I rolled her through the door and into the parlor. “Brrrr. It’s cold out of the water.”

Mera and Meria were there, talking to Chrissie. Josh and Big Jim were over in the corner discussing something that didn’t seem to be business because they were discussing it with Agent Jacobs. It seemed to involve trains. On the other hand there must have been some business because they turned to me and Jim said, “Agent Jacobs said that you dealt with the problem resulting in the zombies in my office.” “Agent Jacobs, how did you hear about that?”

“Al, via your mother.”

“Why did you tell Big Jim.”

“Because I thought he would want to know.”

“Don’t you think your boss will be upset about things like that?”

“Not really. He was with your mother when she told me and was in the room telling the story to Dom and Tony.”

There was just something WRONG about this conversation.

“Yes Jim, I did deal with the problem that caused the zombies in your office. Rather it solved itself after I made it clear to Al that he was in deep. I triggered his compulsions and he did what they do when you do that.  The Manager must have had him as a reserve. I need introduce this lady to Mera.”

It turned out that I didn’t need to as the ladies were already talking to each other. I left to continue my host duties and circulation. I checked in with Bennie in the kitchen where he and the cook were working on something and swapping recipes. “How are things holding up?”

“Good. It’s a big help that you have this big kitchen. We’re doing fine. This has been a fun party and that helps.”

“Well I have to go be the host and circulate.”

It was Tom’s turn at the Tank bed pictures as he talked to some of Roger’s friends about it. Their families could afford pools, but that didn’t always work for guests and having something that could be installed on a boat or train might make travel possible for people who couldn’t travel now. In any case it looked like some of the young men were looking at working in businesses rather than law and just being a drone.

I ran into Frank again. “I hear you had a run in with some mob types today in the neighborhood here.”

“Nothing too serious. They were strictly small time. The boss had been compelled by the Manager. He messed in something he shouldn’t have and paid for it. Where’s your wife?”

“Out there, learning mermaid dancing with the rest of them. Your pool is going to be full for the next few days as long as Nera is around.”

That’s the way it went until people had to leave and the rest went to the various places we had set up or to their boat. Teria and Trillia said their goodbyes, but Suzy and Kathy had convinced Tim to stay so, Trillia, at least, was coming back first thing in the morning. Telia wanted to talk to her parents first and then they were all coming back up to talk to us.

As things wound down, Sillia dragged me to the water for our Swim. As we Swam out into the gloom I asked, “did you have a good time today?”

“Yes I did. More importantly we made contact with two of the people we wanted to contact and showed that we were friendly. The Manager actually contributed too, though I don’t think that he was happy with it.” “I don’t think so either.”

We Swam past the house that was dark, though the Twisted were still in the yard. Tony must have sensed us because he waved when the Twisted were looking in our direction. We dived and continued our Swim past the Sound bower. It didn’t seem to be as strange a place as it had been but it wasn’t welcoming yet.

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