Mermaid, Chapter 14, part 2.

Roger talks to his parents about toothy Bill, Tom has a misunderstanding with his sister and Tim takes precautions and takes some more pictures of Pigeons. Who’s the pigeon, this time? That’s what we will find out.

Roger.

Saturday 12/05

Bill wasn’t home, again. He had been out and seemed to spend more time away. He also seemed stranger when he was home. More than a little scary and he looked, hungry.  Anyway I was home late, so it was my turn on the carpet.  At least I had something to show for it. My parents were still up, so I walked into the parlor. “Hello, mother.”

“You stayed there a long time. Which is strange because they aren’t our set at all. I’m not sure what set they are.”

“The fun kind. The kind with connections. I got the champagne for Violets’s wedding.”

‘You did!! Wonderful. I was worried that we would have to settle. How did they get it?

“I don’t know. He just gave me the connection. From the vibes at that party they are so connected that they might as well BE the connection. It seemed like half the bosses were at the party.  As well as a bunch of mermaids.  I think I may have found somebody.  We’re planning summer next year at the Cape bower.  That’s where she’s from. The royals from the cape bower were there.  The Rockaway bower too, but something must have happened there as it seems like new families have taken over. The Vermont kingdom’s royals were there too.  Apparently the Vermont and Cape families had a royal bonding. They seem like very nice people.”

“How did the girls get down from the Cape? It’s a long Swim,” Father asked.

“One of the Cape people had an old yacht they are fixing up for cruises next year and he brought a bunch of girls down with it, along with his bonded and his brother’s bonded who the navy shipped from Hawaii.”

“Why are they all down here? Did they say?”

“They are going to tell me tomorrow. Apparently it’s very bad and it involves Bill and his friends. From the hints that I was getting, I want to check Friday’s paper and maybe make a trip to the library when I get to School on Monday. Bill has been into something very bad. I’ve been saying it for a long time now and Mera, the Cape royal wants to talk to you about it before Bill and his friends hit the papers.”

“Can we keep it out of the papers?”

“Honestly, I don’t think so. The young reporter who’s been chasing the story is royal fae, bonded and wants to make sure that the people responsible get what they deserve.  Do we still have Friday’s paper?”

“Which one?”

“The World, I think.” “I hadn’t read it yet. Let me look. This story, isn’t it?”

Father pointed to a story about kids having been kidnapped and the interviews with the families. “I think you’re right. If Bill is involved in this and it goes down there’s no way that the papers will keep it quiet no matter how much pressure we can bring.  The police must have more than they show here if the hints you were getting are true. Was the young reporter any good. Does he need money? Maybe we can buy him off?”

“You can check him out father, but I don’t think so. Mr. White was there and they were joking around how the reporter messed his own pictures up and shielded somebody else’s camera so that Mr. White was taken off the bounty list.  His father seems to have handled all the Rockaway bower’s businesses and had to go under sea. And he seems to freelance for White’s.”

“Which means he’s on the list. Does he have any vices?” “He’s bonded. I never saw him touch a glass and he doesn’t smoke. Frankly it doesn’t matter because things have gone too far and I had the feeling that if we pushed he would just say something to his brother in law and then it would go upstairs. Way upstairs, if you know what I mean.”

“I’ll talk to Leonard and see if he can find out what the police have. That is if it’s the police. Reading between the lines I see fae stuff all over it. Maybe he can talk to the detective here and get a feel for how soon things are going down.  If the lady wants to talk to us, I think we will need to. Even if it’s only to find out what we are really dealing with.  If it’s uglier than this story, then it’s very ugly indeed and I may ending up wishing that I shot Bill myself.”

“I’m going back tomorrow and they’re going to run me by the house of the guy in charge of all this.”

“So what was the fun part of the party?” Mother asked. “You were there long enough.”

“Well the food was great and while the wedding is set, we may want to use him for other things in the future. He’s fae and was the royal from the Rockaway bower until he was injured and has to stay up top. Not that he let’s that slow him down any. I think I’ll take some friends and hit his place for dinner sometime. The Rockaway bower seems to have extra tails too.

Then there were the people. There were a bunch of navy types, people from the outfit, people from the federal building, the Vermont family, who all like to shoot and stuff, people fromWhite’s, and the Cape bower people. Some Twisted showed up, but they were rude crashers who only provided entertainment.

There was a bunch of mermaid dancing with a band. They couldn’t put a construct shoot together this time and I’ve been invited to one in Vermont. A mermaid was selling bed tanks for mermaids as a new business, but I think that she only did that because mermaids were asking about it.”

“What did they do about the Twisted?” mother asked. “Weren’t they dangerous.”

“They had rifles set up and then two of the ladies from Vermont took out the smallest guns I have ever seen and shot them in seconds. While being discreet and in Change. Some of the ladies also had a raccoon hunt in their Change, just for fun.”

“You seemed to have had a very good time, indeed,” father said. “Not our kind of party, but maybe that’s been the problem. Quite a diverse group of people who just didn’t care about the things we think are important.”

“I want to find out more about them, father,” I said. “We are fae, yet we never went and talked to these people.  We don’t even spend time in our own bower, let alone another one.  I think that the biggest reason that these people are here is that they want to reach out, to us. I got the feeling that something in our area tried to hurt them very much and that they are going to deal with it.  This is at least three sets of royal fae, along with strong allies, having a party right on their enemy’s doorstep and laughing at what the enemy sent. An enemy that we never even knew was there, even though they may have come from our own family.  We talked about keeping Bill out of the papers. Protecting him. Has he ever taken steps to protect us? To let us know what might happen.  We don’t know why Bill went to the Cape a few weeks ago and got all those traffic tickets.  They told you that somebody there was very upset with him and we never asked who, and why. Then there were Bill’s friends who disappeared.  Nobody seems to know why. At least anything that anybody is saying.  We’ve been acting blind in the dark and that never works for very long.”

Tom.

Sunday. 12/06

It was time to start to work on the Manager. Unfortunately I had a small spot of trouble first. My sister had finally gone to talk to agent Gomez in the room that I had setup to listen to the phone and seen the setup, while it was working. I should have bought a new chassis and amplifier. She saw my old radio and suddenly figured out how I had been monitoring those calls to her friends and Boris. She immediately went to mother and father while we were at breakfast. “Mom, I caught Tom. I have really caught him.”

“What dear.”

“I know how he was listening to the telephone and why we never could catch him at it. The radio was the telephone.”

“The radio?” I tried to look innocent. “How did I use the radio?”

“I have some ideas. But those don’t matter because your old radio is right there, hooked up to the phone.”

“Yes it is. I needed a speaker fast and that old radio was in a box of telephone stuff I brought down and put in the boat so I wired it up and used it. That doesn’t prove that I did before.”

“Well it works real well. Agent Gomez commented about that. It wasn’t something you just wired up, it was something you wired up a long time ago.”

“Stephie I’ll admit that I can wire telephone equipment and build good radios. You already knew that. Just like I know that you can walk through walls. As well as the fact that you don’t know enough to look for telltales. So I knew about your little jaunts through my locked door long before I built the phone system.  After the first few times that I complained to mother and father and they said that you didn’t know how to pick locks, I stopped.  But I kept using telltales and started to make sure that the stuff I didn’t want you to see was not easy to find. Mother warned you about the phone and you kept using it. The fact is that if I had actually been punished for listening I simply would have ended your phone use by cutting the line and since I still own the phone system that was my perogative.

Yes, I used the phone system to my advantage. I had to. Nobody told me about fae, Change or abilities and you kept pushing.   You didn’t know when to stop. You never have. You messed up my things, sometimes things that I had spent months  trying to grow.  You confused me to mess me up and used the abilities you had and I didn’t and now you want to complain that it was unfair? I have never had it “fair.” Yet somehow I went on and overcame. Since there were things I couldn’t do, I did what I could.  Since you played to win, whatever winning meant, you can’t complain that I did too.  You played the information battle poorly and I played it well because it was the the only advantage I could have. I couldn’t fly or be invisible or any of the other things you could or can do. So rather than crying about it I pushed back in the ways I could.

I understand now, why things went the way they did. But none of that was under my control and you certainly knew more about what was really going on than I did, since I knew nothing.  Yes things went too far, but I wasn’t the one pushing and I was the person, fourteen, confused, scared and seemingly at war with my own family after a truly horrific event and you kept pushing and raising the stakes.”

I hadn’t meant to hit her with both barrels. But she opened up some old wounds. Wounds that I had thought were healing. I put my fork down and left. I had work to do.

I went and corralled Bob and Scott and we took the van over to the Manager’s house. When I had installed the tap the othe day, it was on the same side of the house as the guest house and the basement. That meant that I needed to put in another tap on the other side of the house for my distractions. Fortunately, I had a ladder already set up for that . I put the ladder against the pole and climbed up until I reached the rungs screwed into the pole and went up to the phone lines. I tied my line into the drop box that was alreadythere and made a note of the number nicely written in the drop box. While didn’t need it, because I had picked up a service map for the area when I picked up the rest of the equipment it was good to be sure. As I went down the pole, I quietly attached the wire with some staples and a hammer, making sure to make the job look up to telephone company standards so that the whole thing looked like it belonged there. Then I dug a shallow trench for about ten feet and buried the wire in it and covered the trench.

Meanwhile Bob and Scott were setting up my little noise makers. I had made them so that they behaved more or less like pistols and shotguns, along with one that would be a submachine gun. Since I didn’t want to waste some rifle cartridges and Neither Larry or I had thought to bring any rifle barrels from the scrap, there wouldn’t be any rifle fire.

I started pulling out the control boxes. The whole thing was a variant of  my gag in the stable and I had that box on the boat, but since I could buy new, I went ahead and built new boxes.  The batteries and motors were better now anyway. I more or less buried the box and the wires near it.  That way when somebody found the noise makers, they wouldn’t find the box.  I had washed everything inside and out  with denatured alchohol and worn gloves when I was handling it, so leaving traces shouldn’t be an issue if the stuff was looked at by police officers who weren’t in on the situation. I had given gloves to Bob and Scott as well and we were being careful to not leave footprints.

We had everything wired up in a couple of hours and I got my telephone service box and ran a check. Then we went over to the tap I had set up previously. We were starting to set up when a car stopped, Al got out and Chrissie yelled at me, “Tom, get in here. We’re going for a Swim. Al can finish this up.”

I turned to Al. “Are you ok with that?”

“Oh yes. I want to get a close look at setting this stuff up anyway, so the best way is to do it. I can figure it out and you have diagrams.”

I handed them to him. “So why did Chrissie do this?”

“Your sister talked to her. Apparently she was rather upset that you misunderstood and wanted Chrissie to give you some attention and get you away from the Manager for a while. Trillia and Telia came back and Trillia wants to take you, Chrissie, Suzy, Kathy and the rest down to the bower to introduce you all. So have your Swim, we will get this done and be ready for the show later.”

“Tom, you get in this car, RIGHT NOW!”

I got in the car and Bill drove off back to the house. Chrissie said, “Stephie apologized to me when I came in with the girls for breakfast.  You misunderstood why she was so happy and I don’t think she realized that you were still dealing with the issues from ten years ago.  We need a long talk with her and your parents, but right now, you need some attention, distraction and Swim time to get your mind off the bad. So Al and the boys can finish up. Especially since you aren’t going to need that setup today. So let’s get you on a nice Swim and a visit to the Sound bower, finally.  Maybe we can do some shopping there.” “How will we pay for things?” “I’m sure that we can work something out.  Through the Cape if nothing else. I hope that there are accounts up top like we have there, but we can figure out some sort of exchange or find out what they use already.  There must be some, because we aren’t that far apart. If we find things we like that work up top, I’ll ask Telia to broker the arrangements.”

We arrived back at the house and I rolled Chrissie over to the pool where a fairly large group of mermaids was waiting. Suzy called out, “Tom, you get to the poolhouse, leave your clothes and Change so we can get going!”

I went into the poolhouse and obeyed my marching orders.  Trillia wanted to know how Chrissie and I got together since I was from deep inland and had to come to the Cape. I answered, “Well there was a lot of stress in my family, some of which hasn’t resolved itself if this morning is any indication . So for the last ten years or so, I ‘ve been wandering off and on away from home.  I went and worked in Washington for a time as a Congressional staffer and got a machinist job at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft when Colt didn’t have any openings and recommended me to the people at Pratt.  Colt knew who I was because of the gun work I did for my brother and wanted me in the neighborhood if they were in a position to hire.  Anyway Pratt lost some business and had to close some of the plant, so I was laid off.  I bought a machine cheap and wanted to start up my own shop starting at the farm.  For various reasons the old stresses hadn’t gone away and during the middle of this year I went down to the Cape and started to look into starting a new shop.  Since I wanted to work anyway and I wanted something new, when Chrissie’s dad offered me a chance to work on his boat, I took it. I didn’t realize that there were nefarious schemes at work involving a certain tail and dragging me under.  So for the next four months or so that tail got increasingly more exasperated at me because I never caught on that she was chasing me as I got more comfortable on the water and finally decided to buy my own boat. After Chrissie’s dad and I got my boat  to the dock I went to get a drink or two and when I came back Chrissie was in the boat.”

“What happened then?”

“He’s a thickhead and pulled a boathook on me.” “I was a thickhead and didn’t know what she was or what I was.  See, the stress in my family was caused by the fact that they were all high fae, but for reasons involving my brother and his being a werewolf, along with the actions of the guy who likes to send Twisted at people, my family couldn’t show their Change to me. so the only Change I had ever seen was my brother, as a monster. So I had doubts right then about Chrissie catching me and I reached for the boathook, just to be safe.  She dived back in the water, called me a thickhead and went over to Josh’s boat to cry on his shoulder.  I went over there  because I thought Josh would know what was going on and Chrissie caught me on Josh’s boat.”

“Not at first. We spent a bunch of time on Tom’s boat, and when I got him on a beach we couldn’t close the deal. Which caused all sorts of other problems when my out of it grandfather misunderstood why I was crying and used weather magic in front of that hurricane a few weeks ago.”

“I heard some rumors about some of that,” Trillia said. “You obviously are together now and the storm wasn’t a huge disaster so what happened?”

“Well I went up to Vermont where my family finally explained about what I was and Change, Josh went back to the Cape from here , stopped Noro’s messing around with weather magic and took me out be marooned with Chrissie,” I said.   “Where upon the Manager sent out his toothy associates to spoil Chrissie’s and my Swim time, I shot most of them, left the island and took Chrissie up to Vermont to meet my parents.”

“Isn’t Vermont way inland? How did you keep your gills wet, Chrissie?”

“We stopped on the coast for a night, at some lakes and ponds on the drive, had a bath tub with saltwater at hotel over night and Tom’s parents had set up a bed tank for us,” Chrissie said. “That actually worked very well and we installed it in our new place on the Cape.”

Haruka said, “I didn’t get a chance for a look at the tanks yet, but Joe and Moira were saying how it made life better. Newport is ok, but if we get stationed in New York there may be issues.  Some of my ladies were not happy with being in the bower while their husbands were up in the navy yard all week. Newport has some nice waterfront barracks that we can use and still be under sea.”

“Mom and the rest of the ladies are working on that, Haruka,” Suzy said. “Especially since the Manager’s playing with the water.”

“The Manager played with the water?” Trillia asked. “I think that mom and my grandparents somehow missed a lot of stuff. We didn’t know anything about that.”

“Mom found out about it when she came down so that Mike and Nera could bond and Sal and the rest took care of that,” Chrissie said. “It could have been much worse. Your mom will probably get the full story from mom.”

“That explains why you all are suddenly so interested in things around here. You all just showed up and grandfather wasn’t sure what you wanted and you didn’t visit.” “We were waiting for an invitation,” I said.  “We were concentrating on the Manager and what he had done and didn’t want to risk a conflict right in the middle of that.  So we set the party up to attract attention.” “It worked. Especially when that yacht showed up, full of sea people. Grandfather went up top when they had mother so that she could have a better chance of finding a bonded. Which she did, right next door. Where the Manager is living now, in fact. But dad went away to the war and mom stayed under sea when she was pregnant to be safe. Dad never came back and mom never found out what happened. When I bond, we’re going to be up top when I have kids and we’re going to have a bunch.”

“It might be a while,” Chrissie said. “My sister and I were lucky. My mom and her sisters went for a very very long time before bonding. So long that my aunt Nera was certain that she never would.” “She must have,” Trillia said. “Because she has Mike now.”

“Mike just showed up one day and bam! There she was at the edge of the bower, trying to figure out who he was. I think that the only reason that she didn’t Swim right up then is that the Cape bower is a fairly long Swim from shore and Mike never stayed near the water for very long. When daddy told her about him, she chased him right down to New York and closed the deal right there on the Rockaway bower’s dock to make sure that he didn’t get away again.  Not that he wanted to from what I’ve seen.”

“Aren’t they wonderful together. They are so happy. I hope that they stay around so that I can learn to dance.” “Well they are planning to live in New York and work in Mike’s office so they will be around.”

“You could work in the navy yard when you are a bit older,” Suzy said. “We need more girls for projects. Kathy just started work in the science department. That way you get to see the world up top a bit.”

“I’ll have to ask mom,” Trillia said. “I didn’t know that mermaids could work up top when they had their tails.” “It’s a new thing. Daddy started me and mom in the yard when the shark attacks started to protect us and the navy keeps finding more work for us. We’re going to have some wives come up from the bower as soon as we can build some quarters for them. Other bases are doing the same things, aren’t they, Haruka?”

“Yes they are. Now that the navy has a growing number of sea folk they need to be provided for. And there is work. Sea folk can keep a ship out of the dock longer and go down see to what a problem is. The bowers are being tied more and more to the navy and we are adapting. I need to have a long talk with Mera soon about opportunities for my ladies. As well as establishing contact. That shouldn’t be a problem though I didn’t expect most of the family to be gone when I got there. Fortunately I had Joe’s number and Moira sent a boat for me. I got to the yard just in time to get aboard the yacht with the other ladies and surprise Steve.”

We entered the bower and the king was there waiting for us. “Welcome ladies and sir.”

“Grandfather, this is Tom and Chrissie of the Cape bower and their friends.”

“So you can explain why all the local royal fae are at my doorstep, Swimming around. Those that do Swim.”

“Those are Chrissie and Tom’s parents from the Cape bower and the Vermont kingdom, grandfather. Also the royal fae from the Rockaway bower and more high fae in the government. They say that we have very dark fae here. Living in the house where my daddy grew up.”

“That is a very dangerous accusation. Are you sure?” “I invite you to see for yourself this afternoon,” I said. “They took my nephew hostage and several other fae children as well. They have created Shark Change who came after Chrissie and I when we were bonding. I had to shoot most of them to escape. The sharks have also been taking fae children to facilitate their Change. The dark fae use Twisted as guards at their place. The fae in charge called in too many Twisted and they attacked our party last night looking to feed.”

“What happened?” “Trillia, you were there, you tell him.” “Two fae ladies shot the twisted as a show.”

“Those are my sister and sister in law. They started to compete with each other with guns and got carried away. My sister does that, and apparently my sister in law does too. We are planning another show at the Manager’s. That is if he doesn’t send all the Twisted to Sal’s house for my sisters to shoot. I went over to the Manager’s place and set up all sorts of interesting noisemakers and I hope that the Twisted are there to respond to them.”

“Wasn’t the house shielded?” the king asked. “If you need to learn I can show you.”

“It’s not my house and yes, it was. But we had so many high fae and high fae kids that the splash leaked though the shield from what people said and the Twisted smelled it. We had a fae flying above the Manager’s house, she told us the Twisted were coming and we took steps.”

“I think I need to see this for myself.”

“We’re going out in a boat later. We can come and pick you up. Or you can come up and visit. All the royal fae are sending an invitation and we really want to talk to you for a number of reasons.”

“Trillia apparently had a great time last night. She couldn’t stop talking about it and went right back up this morning dragging her mother along. Which was surprisingly not that hard. Why don’t I take you on a tour while the ladies do what I suspect that they are here for and then we all go back up and talk.” Trillia pulled the ladies in the direction of what must be the market as the king started to show me around. The sound bower was more serene than the Cape bower and a lot of the structure seemed to be older. There also seemed to be more couples and fewer kids than the Cape bower.  “Most of the men seem to work below.  At the Cape, they aggressively want fae to work up top.  At least they did until the king went into a fog when his wife was killed.Now that he’s out of the fog he went right back up.”

“We started to do the same thing and had Trillia’s mom up top. Then we had to come back and Trillia’s dad was killed in the war.  A lot of the fae associated with bower did well in business, built houses along the shore and then didn’t need the bower anymore, so they cut us off.  When Josh sent messages, nobody told me until Telia mentioned them last night. I owe him an apology. I also need to find out what happened with my communications. My orginal alliance was with Trillia’s dad’s parents, but after the war, they disappeared, and we were left down under with a single mom that I didn’t want to risk. When you all showed up I didn’t really have anybody to send and I didn’t want to take the risk myself unless you were obviously being hostile.”

We ended our tour at the market where the ladies had obviously solved the exchange issue considering the kelp bags that we were dragging back to the yacht. The king brought some smiling people to help as I said, “Joe brought too big a boat.”

We Swam back to the house and handed the bags to Joe’s people to stow on the yacht and then the king headed up toward the house with the girls. Chrissie pulled me back under and said, “There’s something Stephie told me to do to you!”

“What?”

“This!” She grabbed me, dragged me deeper and started to kiss me. Things went on from there.

Hilda.

Sunday. 12/06

When I went into the dining room, my sister was a mess. Mother and father weren’t much better. “What happened?”

“I found Tom’s radio and came in to tell mother and father about it and Tom let me have it with both barrels. I hadn’t realized that his pain hadn’t been healed and that he didn’t know what I really thought about what he does.”

“What radio?”

“The one that he used to use to listen to my phone calls with. The phone calls that we could never prove that he was listening too. We’ve been looking for that for years. And there it was.”

“And he thought that you were still upset over listening to your calls and didn’t know that you wanted it because you admired how he did it. Didn’t you tell him?”

“I never got the chance. All of the sudden he started talking about what happened and how he felt about it and how hurt he had been. Then he left.”

Chrissie rolled in with her friends. She looked around. “What happened? Where’s Tom? We were going to meet for breakfast.”

“I’m sorry, Chrissie,” Stephie said. “I screwed up and did something that I shouldn’t have done without thinking about it.”

“She went into the room where the FBI people are using Tom’s old radio to listen to telephone calls at the Manager’s,” I said. “She’s been trying to figure out for years exactly how he was listening to her phone calls. We knew it had to  be something that was connected to the phone, had been in his room and was probably in that box of phone equipment he had stashed out in the barn. But she never knew for certain.  Stephie has wanted that and the control box for the stables for her collection of Tom’s trick for years but couldn’t justify taking it until she knew for sure. See Stephie collects his tricks when they go off and has a cabinet full of them.  We’ve all dreaded visiting her house from time to time because she won’t stop talking about them, and Tom.”

Al walked in and sat down. He looked around. “What happened?”

“I screwed up,” Stephie said. “I found how how Tom was listening to the phones and trotted right in here to tell mother and father about it. Tom thought I was going to take him to task over it and let me have it. With both barrels. With all the pain he’s been holding back for ten years. I was so happy that I had actually seen the thing working that I didn’t think about the fact that Tom still had those issues from the years that we separated ourselves.”

“You have a collection of his tricks, Stephie?” Chrissie asked. “I would think that you wouldn’t want them.”

“I want them. Back at the time, when I couldn’t reach Tom as fae I started to realize his brilliance. He started out with toys he made with his friend over on the next farm and the things like the exploding boats.  I have those toys, the boats and all the other things in a cabinet.  And if  what Hilda is saying is true, I talk too much about them and how Tom just runs all over me.”

“Chrissie, you haven’t had dinner at Stephie’s house yet, so you don’t know how Tom tends to dominate dinner conversation,” Al said. “It’s a good thing that she and Hilda are such great cooks or Mike and I would never go near the place. And we all knew Tom.”

“That’s all true, Chrissie,” Eric said. “perhaps that may be the problem.  We all talked about the Tom that we thought we knew and not the real Tom because he had seperated himself. Then when he did visit he would go out in the shop and run stuff for Larry to keep the business going. I think he did that to avoid dealing with the pain because he didn’t know what the real issues were because we couldn’t tell him.”

“Where is Tom now?” Chrissie asked. “I think that he needs some attention and distraction.”

“Setting up for the Manager,” Stephie said. “I’m hoping that we can arrange to get those back after this is over.  Chrissie, take him and distract him. He needs to not be dealing with his pain and the Manager at the same time. He needs what I can’t give him.”

“Well Trillia is waiting in the pool and Telia is here, so we all are going down to the Sound bower for some introduction, exploration and maybe some shopping.”

Stacey came in and saw all the long faces. “What happened?”

“I made a mistake,” Stephie said. “I came in and was happy about catching Tom’s radio telephone trick in action and hadn’t realized that Tom was still holding in all the pain of the last ten years and he let me have it.”

“I think that we need to have a very long talk about this,” Eric said. “Tom has been holding this pain and anger over what happened for a very long time and we hadn’t considered that.”

“I want to plan something for Tom,” Stephie said. “I want to do something wonderful for him. During the wedding. Something that has nothing to do with the Manager. We’ve all been around him. Is there anything that he really wants.”

“His shop,” Al said. “We’ve all heard about how upset he is about not being able to set up his shop. But that’s not something we can just do.”

“Maybe not, but I think we can get pretty close,” Stacey said. “I was listening yesterday when you and he were talking about machines and he must have told you, Al, what he wanted. Nudge him a bit and I’ll talk to some companies. They all have machines that haven’t sold and that we can get quick.  Get me a list and I’ll make some calls. Make it a dream list because we have enough money for his dream shop and if all the things he keeps talking about happen, he, and the family are going to need it anyway. If Joe can pay what he did for that boat out there we can afford to give Tom the best shop we can.” “I already set aside money to start,” Eric said. “So we already have a start.”

“I think that the first thing we need to do is get Tom off the Manager,” Stephie said. “He went far too close to the path of sacrifice right after the sharks attacked and he might be headed that way again. Al could you finish up for Tom? He usually does diagrams of what he wants, so all you have to do is follow them.  He’ll probably have the far side noisemakers done anyway and those were the ones we were going to use. Chrissie, could you go out with Al bring him back and drag him under. He’s been so busy the last few days and we had that disappointment yesterday. Then when he’s back, why don’t we all nudge him toward what he wants in his shop and do it.”

“I just had a thought,” I said. How about we call George and tell him to take everything out of that cabinet at your house and take a photograph of it. Each toy and gag individually. Then we make an album up and give it to Tom.

Chrissie said, “Dragging Tom under is just what he needs. I think a big part of him being angry and upset this morning was not being able to get Andy and the rest of the kids out yesterday. I think that he wants to not have to restrain himself where the Manager is concerned and he knows that regardless of what happened in his battles with Stephie that the Manager is the real source of his hurting.  Still we need to clear the air about this. Tom needs to release his pain and understand that you all suffered with him. Al let’s eat, check on the rest of the girls, go get Tom and I’ll  drag him under while you get things ready. Then you all can sneak in and see what Andy wants.

That album sounds like a wonderful idea and I want to see what Tom has done. A lot of what he had out in the barn was the things he never finished like that old car that he gave to the boys.  I want to see his successes and triumphs.”

“You will, Chrissie, you will,” Stephie said.

“Another thing. I want to make some exploding boats. I want a lot of them. I want to float them all over to the Managers and keep him awake all night.”

“Chrissie, that sounds like a WONDERFUL idea after we get the kids out. We don’t want them to lose their sleep.”

“Of course. Also, they are going to be making their own exploding boats and I want to make sure that they can.”

Athena came in with Gregor and I said, “Gregor, Could you show us how to make those exploding boats?”

“Sure, but isn’t Tom here? He invented them.”

“Well he’s going to be busy and Chrissie is taking him out to the Sound bower, so I don’t want to bother him. And Bob and Scott are helping him. I thought we could get you and the rest of the kids started on the boats and make a whole bunch of them to drive Tony’s idiots just plain crazy.”

“They’re already crazy. Walking in here where you and Stephie can shoot them.  If I had seen you shoot before I wouldn’t have run the other night. That party last night made up for years of not having fun stuff.”

Chrissie and Al finished breakfast and left. Josh and Mera had gone for a Swim and he rolled her in to eat.  Mera said, “Chrissie says that you and Tom had a fight, Stephie. What happened?”

“It wasn’t a fight. It was misunderstanding. You know what happened with Tom and our battles. Well I discovered how Tom was listening to my phone calls and came in here full of glee about it and I think that Tom thought I was going to bring up that old fight and hit him over the head about it, so he took his best shot at me with both barrels of a full shot of the pain that he’s been carrying around for years.  What I was, was really happy about was catching Tom’s brilliance in action. In so many of his things you don’t see what’s happening until all you see is pieces and I was so happy to see something working that I never thought about the pain that was still surrounding it. I will talk to him about this later. I sent Chrissie to distract him for a while and Hilda and I are going to make a fleet of exploding boats and use them to make the Manager’s life miserable once we get the kids out.”

“Greta?”

“We underestimated how much pain Tom was still holding in. Frankly we just haven’t had the time we really need to address that pain now that we can.  I think though that we will need to address it soon or it could be bad. Chrissie can deal with some of it, but she needs to know the roots of the pain and we need to deal with the causes of that pain. At least it’s out in the air now.”

“So what are your plans?”

“We want to get Tom’s shop all ready to go before the wedding while he’s here,” Stephie said. “That way when the Manager is finished he can leap right into what he really wants to do and make more brilliant things.”

“I like that plan.”

Tim.

Saturday 12/05 – Sunday 12/06

 

I had said to Suzy and Kathy that I would stay, but Roger hanging around made me realize that I had been careless about something that needed to be dealt with and that the sooner I took care of it the less likely that a problem would show up and mess me up. So I started to look for a ride and  Noro gave me a ride back to Manhattan after the party. As we got in the car he asked me, “why are you going back in, Tim? Sillia would put you up and Suzy is going to be here.”

“That Roger guy made me think of something. I want to give you something to take up to the newsletter office.”

“What?”

“My pictures. Maybe Roger won’t tell his brother, but his dad might and at some point somebody’s going to realize that all my pictures are in my flop and want to see what I have. So I want to be ahead of them. I know that my important stuff is already at the office or the paper, but if they don’t find any pictures they don’t know what I’ve given Sal or what we have.” “Why give them to me?”

“Because I don’t think that anybody’s at the office right now or that I might have trouble getting in there this late on a Saturday night and nobody’s going to think of somebody like you when they start looking for my stuff.” “Do you think that they will?”

“I was talking to Frank and thinking about some of the things he said. These people want to protect themselves and if it were me, I’d come after some small fry like me if I knew they had little security. Even if they don’t come after me directly, they can see what I have. Before, it didn’t matter and now I think it does.”

“I used to play games with a rough crowd and you are right. In fact I would do things like that in a hearbeat if I felt I had to. You got dumped into this before you knew all the stakes, but I like your instincts. I’ll take your stuff over to the office in the morning. If nobody knows where it is, they can’t find out what you have or don’t have.”

“I’ll tell Vinnie to hide the map too when they aren’t using it. And have a kid take the update to the office everyday even if there’s nothing. What people don’t know about they can’t deal with.”

“Have Vinnie call the office. I was impressed by what he did and I want to find out more about him. He has a large gift for putting things together quickly. Hand him my card.”

He handed me a few of his cards. He was right about Vinnie and Vinnie was at the age where a new gig was a good thing. “If you run into any more likely talents, let me know.”

We arrived at my flop I went up, took one particular picture out of the photo box and put it on the shelf, dumped my albums in my photo box and brought the whole thing back down and handed it to George to put in the trunk. Then Noro left. The building manager saw me as I walked back in. “Tim, Roger at the paper called again. He has another check for you. Go over on Monday. Good job on that story and making the front page again. Do it again and you’ll be too good for this palace.”

“Well I think that I’ve got more coming. But I’m not in a hurry to move.”

For some reason the building felt as if it was shielded. I would have to talk to Eric in the morning and see if he could check that. I went up to my flop and bed.  It had been a long day  and I was tired.  Frankly I needed a break and towmorrow was a good excuse for one. A very good excuse as I would be in trouble with Suzy if I didn’t go back out tomorrow and take a break.

The next morning I got up, set up my satchel with a set of my kid’s clothes, the kidnap packet and my small camera before I went downstairs. I thought that I might have to play kid in front of the Manager’s place and I wanted to be ready for that. I also wanted to make sure that I had a briefing packet for the Elliotts if Mera wanted me to talk to them and I suspected she would. The admiral also wanted me to do an updated brief once I got done in the morgue and the library when we discussed the likelyhood of there having been more kidnappings in the past.

Vinnie was up and talking to some kids about the map. I gave him the Mr. White card and said that he caught the eye of a real heavyweight with the Grand Central business and to give the office a call. I also commented that people might come looking for the map and that it might be a good idea to keep it stashed when they weren’t using it. Also to send everything to Mary’s every day from now on.  He told me that the car hadn’t done much for the last few days and I said that the owner and his friends got very bad headaches and were recovering.

Since I didn’t have any plans I decided to just walk around. Suzy was going to the Sound bower this morning from the house and I really didn’t have much to do. I didn’t need to work, so I just took my camera and watched the city wake up. On Sundays it’s easy to do that because nothing opens until noon and you can walk around and watch places and people open or start up that you wouldn’t normally see. I dropped into a deli and picked up a breakfast roll and an orange juice and kept going. When I passed Washington Square I took a bunch of pictures of pigeons and in Union Square I did the same thing until the film pack was full and I changed it.  I was going to just leave that one in the flop.  I saw a trash man with his barrelwho was a real character with his broom and took his picture.  I went over and when he asked what is was for I told him about my people of the city series that I was doing and he said that he was around this area every Sunday and if the picture didn’t come out this I could try again.  I said I would and went on with my walk.  It was getting toward noon and I was pretty far up anyway so I wandered out toward Penn satation so that I could catch the train out to the house.  I had called ahead from the station and Sal was waiting for me in the Duesy. “Why the troubleshooter today?”

“The Elliotts are coming over to talk. I don’t think they are going to like what Mera has to say.”

“I don’t either. I gave all my pictures to Noro last night. Well except one. That’s why I went in. I also told Vinnie to stash the map if they weren’t using it. Roger seems like a nice guy but we know about Billy and the family might take steps to protect itself from the backsplash.”

“Good thinking. That way they can’t figure out exactly what you have. Which picture did you leave? They haven’t tried to contact me yet but I think that they will. ”

“The picture of the pigeons. Contacting you is going to be interesting. Especially if they want to find the desk that doesn’t exist.”

“It exists all right. We used a real one. But it’s behind records in the basement near the back of the evidence locker and almost impossible to get to. Just the Coventry for Detective del Vecchio who won’t get the hint and become a private dick or upscale consultant. He does like pigeons though.”

“So do you think that they will try to put levers on me?”

“Roger was around for a long time and talked to a lot of people. I think he was mostly having a good time, but he looked sharp too and we weren’t hiding anything. On the other hand if he was paying attention he would know that you are bonded to Suzy, don’t smoke, barely touch booze,  have a chunk of money already and live in a flop. Which reminds me. My old place still has time on the lease and it isn’t that far from the navy yard. Since you don’t need to be near your spot in the morning, why don’t you take it. I’ll even leave the furniture.”

“I’ll think about it. There are advantages to a simple lifestyle.”

“Well you don’t need to worry about money and I suspect that that won’t change.”

“The editor at the paper wanted to see me Monday and had another check. He might start making hints about a Wall St beat reporter full time.”

“When we get in, talk to Stacey about that.”

“We’ve already talked about it. Officially my subscription is in my guardian and business manager’s name until I’m 21. Of course the mere fact that I NEED a business manager might strike them as strange. One thing about my building. I think it’s shielded. I think I’ll ask Eric or Noro to check if they get the chance.”

I noticed that we weren’t heading directly toward the house. “Where are we going?”

“To make a quick stop to talk to somebody that Mike found yesterday and talk to Steve. Steve has quietly brought one of his platoons in and infiltrated in around the Manager’s House. Mike went around yesterday to the neighbors and talked to them and found some intresting stuff . We need to get Josh or Eric to talk ot the local ploice chief and his people. I suspect that the Manager’s been at them.” “That would make sense. From what everybody’s said and the fact that the Twisted showed up at the party last night there must have been incidents.”

“I think that I’ll talk to Frank about that.”

We pulled into a nondescript driveway that would though a bunch of woods and approached the back of the house. As we drove around the front of the house, the driveway went to a large stone fence with spikes on the top and a heavy gate facing the road. There was a dog run all along the side facing the street with a doghouse  that had a sort of shelter with windows on top.  The shelter peeked over the wall. Mike, Steve and another man were talking in the driveway. Mike saw us and called out. “Sal, you got him! I’m glad you found this place.”

Sal stopped the car and we got out. Mike said, “Sal, this is George Carpenter. He owns this house and he’s happy that somebody is paying attention to the neighbors here. Apparently he’s tried to complain about incidents and people trying to break in from across the street from time to time and the police ignore him. He’s also seen things.  Including what you did yesterday. Mr. Carpenter, this is Sal del Vecchio and Tim Thomas. Sal works for me undercover and Tim is a reporter for the World who’s good at being discreet when he needs to be.”

Mr. Carpenter shook our hands. “Why don’t we go up over the doghouse. We went into the dog run and over to the doghouse. The dogs didn’t bother us, but were obviously happy to see Mr. Carpenter. We climbed into the shelter where a man I  didn’t know and two of Steve’s people were looking through some small windows.  I could see the Manager’s gate and house across the street. Mr. Carpenter said, “I’m glad that somebody is dealing with this at last. I’ve tried to get the police interested for years and been ignored.  We’ve had people disappear on the street including one of my own staff and then we had those mob people show up yesterday.  I was here with Bill and we saw the whole thing, Sal. I hate to tell you this, but I think the story is going to get around.  We knew who you were when that car of yours showed up and those poor guys just sat there and I swear they were about to piss in their pants.  When it was over, we had to leave because we were laughing our selves silly and the dogs were going crazy.”

“It’s already going around anyway,” Sal said. “I had to tell my boss and these guy’s boss and Al who is the shoot for the trouble told my mom at my party and she told all sorts of people. When you have a mob boss and an FBI guy laughing at the story together there is something WRONG about that.”

“Well there’s something really wrong across the street. I’ve been telling Mike about some of it. My dad had an inside contract at Singer and the started a company to make bobbins. We did really well and about twenty years ago I built this house.  The neighbors were two nice couples who’s kids were going together and then one of the couples abandoned the house and later during the war, the other couple’s son died and they left.  Another guy, a Wall St. type bought the house and then suddenly about eleven years ago they built that gate and wall over there. The Wall St. guy won’t talk to anybody and he drives his own car with some other guy in the back seat. The house has had a stream of very strange people going in and out.  When the only normal people in the house are the bodyguards and they are green, there is something reallywrong.”

“Tony and Robert?”

“Yeah. At first they just seemed to be general guards, but for the last few years they seem to be guarding some kids. Though who would put kids in a place like that is beyond me.”

“We’re working on that.”

“Well you can use the doghouse and anything else you might need.”

“There is going to be noise over there across the street next to the house.”

“Steve here’s people?”

“I hope not,” Steve said. “We want the noise as a distraction, so it’s happening by itself and if some of the people go in to look, they may just find that there are strange things in the woods. You won’t see them though.”

“Well if they can make that guy’s life miserable that’s all to the good. Especially if you can get the kids out.”

“Why didn’t you move out?”

“Well I built this place and I’m damned if I’m going to let some wierdos chase us out. We have an apartment in the city and another place upstate if things get too dicey and I sent my wife into town when things started to heat up and my kids are grown, and don’t live here, so I can watch and enjoy this guy and the weird and strange going down.”

“Well Sal and Tim here need to get going and I have to talk to some people so we need to get going.”

We climbed out of the doghouse. And went to the cars. We all headed over to Sal’s place. I said to Sal, “He seems to be an interesting character. And he doesn’t scare easy. At least he doesn’t get scared away.”

“No he doesn’t and I think that we need to get a detailed talk from him. What’s in the satchel.”

“The briefing packet from the brief I gave the admiral and little Timmy.” “Little Timmy”

“The kid who’s always snooping around, taking pictures and getting himself in trouble. Wants to be a reporter, but always screws up and gets pictures of the wrong people.”

“Like mermaids dancing next to battleships? You know that when Suzy sees you in that getup that she’s going to tease the heck out of you.”

“I can live with that. The thing is that people look at a kid with a camera differently than they do a guy in a suit with a camera, especially a big camera. So I’m going to do what you did and bring little Timmy back around for a while if I need to. It won’t work for very long though,  because I won’t be a kid much longer, but I can use it now.”

I looked across the pool and it seemed to be empty. “Where are all the girls?”

“Trillia came and got them. Along with Tom. I think they all went shopping in the Sound bower.”

“How is that going to work?”

“I suspect that they will work something out. Stephie upset Tom this morning and Chrissie  went over to the Manager’s with Al, put Al to work setting up Tom’s noisemakers and took Tom under with the rest for a Swim.”

“What did Stephie do to upset Tom?”

Mike came over as we parked the car and heard me. “I wasn’t there because I went over to the Manager’s to spell Boris for a bit so he could have breakfast and came back later, but apparently Tom didn’t know what Stephie really thought of Tom and she found something of Tom’s that she had been trying to work out for a very long time. So she rushed right into the dining room to tell her parents and Tom was sitting there, reset himself to ten years ago and let all the pain he’s been holdng in for ten years on Stephie with both barrels. The problem is that the only person who doesn’t know how Stephie really feels about Tom, is Tom. So when she started talking about that radio, Tom thought that she was going to make a scene about him listening to her calls when she was just happy to actually see one of Tom’s things in action. He walked out and when Chrissie came in, Stephie sent her to him with instructions to drag him away from the Manager and under water for a while.”

“So how will things work out?”

“At least now, nobody has to hide anything anymore and they can all sit down for a long talk, address Tom’s pain and resolve things. Stephie, Stacey and Hilda are getting together with Al and quietly getting Tom’s shop set up on the Cape. They are going to surprise Tom with that and an album of pictures of all Tom’s stuff that Stephie has collected over the years. She’s wanted that radio and the control box for the stables for years and never knew for certain where they were.  I suspect that she will want some of the noise makers Tom planted this morning too. I think that she is probably going to shoot any Twisted that get near them once they go off to protect them. You will have noticed that everybody who knows Stephie can tell you about Tom. That’s because we have all heard about Tom and what he did, endlessly.  But Tom has been away and didn’t know. She’s going to pester you, Tim, for all your pictures of the stuff that Tom has been doing and those pictures of him working yesterday. Plus any more you take. You should get together with her and see what she wants.”

“I can do that. But Stacey has most of that stuff.”

We walked inside and into the parlor. Mera and Josh were there with Eric and Greta. I handed the briefing packet to Mera. “The navy did this up for a briefing I gave the Admiral the other day. It has most of my kidnapping stuff.” “Oh, perfect.  I was going to use the briefing book, but there are things in there that we may not want to reveal to the Elliots quite yet. I have the Tom on the island pictures and his brief here, along with your recent article in the paper and with this we can cover the kidnappings too.”

“Sal mentioned that you had a contact at the library. I want to check old newpapers and other stuff about the kidnappings. Some things that Tony and Robert said seemed to indicate that they went back longer than we know. I‘m going to the paper’s morgue tomorrow and the library too to check that out and over to the navy yard to give an updated brief to the admiral and his people in the afternoon when I get done.”

 

“Ok, talk to this person at the library and tell her I sent you.” She wrote down a name and phone number. “I’ll call ahead and let her know that you are coming and explain what you want and why.”

I took the number and put it in my notebook.

Sillia rolled in with Telia. “I can’t believe that we didn’t know about that place. What a nightmare.”

“I think it’s the fact that the Manager has brought in so many Twisted that makes it so obvious,” Eric said. “I don’t know what it was like before, but I doubt that there were that many Twisted. Maybe not more than three or four, at best. He probably started to increase his guard when things started to go wrong and the warehouse burned down.”

“What warehouse?” Telia asked.

“When Josh and I came down to visit and get Nera connected with Mike, the water near the Rockaway bower was tainted by chemicals designed to attack the keystone,” Mera said. “ That in combination with the shark attacks but the Rockaway bower on the point of dissolution. Fortunately Sal came in and busted the warehouse and his father dropped an old drydock to create a reef to protect the bower from the storm. Then Tom shot most of the sharks and Sal has been tracking the rest. The Manager was behind the whole thing.”

“Other than being an obvious dark fae, why is he doing all that.”

“Well when my husband Josh here showed up, he didn’t know what he was because his parents, who must have been royal fae, left him at an orphanage with nothing and the strongest shields I have ever seen to ensure that he would have no way of reaching into himself until he should bond. I have since found about 100 cases where fae have been murdered over the last 80 years or so. These are just the ones that I have found through reading between the lines in stuff that people I have been in contact with have been able to find.  I told them to send the documentation to Stacey, but I don’t think she has it yet and I have been busy the last few weeks and traveling. Mary’s little group has been collecting loose high fae that have been orphaned and she tries to get them bonded. That’s where Mike, Al and Linda came from.  Sal is local, though he was recruited, they hadn’t managed to send him down to connect to Sillia and he had the same sort of issues that Tom did. Though, in his case, he was older and it was a construct and not his brother.

It’s not likely that the construct was random,but without knowing more, it’s hard to tell just how the Manager knew about Sal. Sal’s brother in law Vinnie was killed by the sharks while closing the deal as well as several other high fae couples from the Sound and Rockaway bowers. We would still be in the dark if Tom had not brought a shotgun to his bonding.”

“A gun? My bonded liked guns but he wouldn’t have done something like that.”

“Tom was playing around with a flashlight and attached it to the gun. So when he thought he might need a flashlight when he and Chrissie made camp in their lean to, he didn’t want to waste time and brought the gun too. I think it was bond fuzz.”

“How did the Manager know about the Bonding?”

“One of his associates, Gull was eating in the diner next to Tom’s boat and when I took Tom out to maroon him with Chrissie after the storm, Gull looked out the window and saw us leave,” Josh said. “The real problem was that Chrissie is the most popular girl in town, every facet of Tom’s and Chrissie’s growing relationship had been talked around for months, Noro stirred up a fuss with his weather magic, Chrissie and Tom made heros of themselves in the storm and my bonding with Mera and how Noro marooned me was a story that had been going around up there since Mera and I bonded along with all the grief that everybody up on the Cape went through about that.  So when I took Tom’s boat out, what was happening was obvious.”

“You said that the sharks attacked people from our bower too. How did they know?”

“We don’t know for sure,” Mera said. “Some of that may have come from the society papers and the rest from gossip in their set. Tim, get together with Sal and then check the papers for more. Also a bunch of the bonded went to Fire island to close the deal and I think that we should check out a certain hotel again and see if there are any compulsions on the management.”

“So the Manager has been killing fae and attacking communities. Why haven’t you just taken him out? I know that you can. Stephie and Hilda could probably do that in a couple of minutes and nobody would even notice.”

“Other than the kids, you mean,” Josh said. “What we think is that the whole thing is bigger than the Manager. We’ve talked to Tony and Robert and we think that the Manager came over in the chaos during the war. He took that house he’s living in about ten years ago to house the werewolves that Tom’s brother was the boss of. Only Tom’s brother went home and Tom killed him with his own gun. Eric, what happened to the rest of werewolves, other than the ones that Mike had to collect.”

“Bill. My foreman. His wife was killed by a Twisted fifteen years ago and he’s insisted that Greta tell him whenever a monster is around. Then he takes some time off and goes hunting. They never last very long.” “He’s fae?”

“Not unless he’s royal and like you, Josh. Which, considering how he deals with things that he shouldn’t be able to deal with might actually be a possibility. I‘ve tried to convince him to stop, but he says that it’s his life and since he doesn’t have any kids, he can take any risks he likes.  He likes to kill monsters and the results speak for themselves.  Hilda sometimes helps by chasing the monsters out and there may be a relationship there, but neither of them talk about it and Andy likes Bill.  I don’t let Boris give Bill special shells, but he doesn’t need them. I left him up at the farm to watch out for the place because if he went into the Manager’s it would be noisy, fast and very deadly. He’s going to be upset with me when Bob and Scott tell him about this.”

A gaggle of mermaids rolled in, along with man wearing a robe.  Telia said, “Mera, Josh, Eric, Greta, this is my father, Tono, king of the sound bower.”

“Welcome, We have much to discuss,” Mera said. “We have been talking to your daughter about the things that have been happening.”

Suzy, saw me, rolled over and said, “Tim, what have you been snooping on today. Nothing dangerous?”

“No,just some pigeons.” ‘Not white ones.”

“No I haven’t seen Noro today yet. I needed some pictures of pigeons in case somebody snoops on me.” ‘Not that you don’t deserve to be snooped on,” Kathy said. “But who would want to bother.”

“Some sharks or their relatives. That Roger was hanging around all night last night and talking to a bunch of people.”

“He was chasing Vilia’s tail. I think she caught him too.”

“That not withstanding, from what Frank said they act to protect their families from scandal and I’ve been right there on the front page about the kidnappings. It won’t take much to find out about me and I didn’t want all my pictures messed up, especially my pictures of Suzy, so I gave them to somebody who’s about as devious as anybody to put in a safe place and left my pigeon picture to let anybody know what was happening. I shot a film pack of the poor innocent pigeons that I was snooping on and I’m going to leave that in my flop too, undeveloped.”

“Well we have to protect those pictures of me,” Suzy said. “We don’t want to disappoint our kids. Then there are those pictures of Sal. We will want those. So keeping your pictures in a safe place is a good thing even if you did ditch me last night. You said that you were going to stay and you didn’t tell me.”

“Noro was leaving and I wanted to go with him so that I could give him my pictures. The office was probably empty and I didn’t think that I could just waltz into the building and run up to drop the stuff off.”

“We’ll have to make sure that you have a pass, Tim,” Mike said. “You might have to leave something serious or simply being discreet by coming in at night.  At least no PI that somebody might hire will want to tail you for very long once you tell Mary. Though, I think that Roger already knows about some of those connections and would probably tell his parents that trying to do that sort of stuff would only result in a lot of pain. Between your buddies, Suzy’s family and Noro, hassling you is just stupid.”

“That doesn’t mean that somebody won’t try.”

Stephie, Hilda and Athena came in. Stephie said to me, “You can be discreet, Tim, can’t you?”

“A bit. I’m still new and I need practice.”

“Well let’s get you some. Al is just finishing up Tom’s installation and I want pictures before it goes off. So why don’t we do a quiet walk in the the woods before Al buries everything.”

“I’m a city boy, I don’t know how to handle the woods.”

“We’ll show you. You’ll be fine.”

“Ok, let me change my clothes. I’ll be right back. Sillia,is there a free room?”

“Just use the one at the top of the stairs on the right. You’re just changing your clothes, right?”

“Yes. I think I will introduce you to Little Timmy.” I went upstairs and changed. It was strange how the clothes still fit, but weren’t me anymore. I pulled the little camera out from the satchel and went back downstairs.  Suzy saw me and said, “now there’s a little snoop.  He chases poor innocent mermaids just dancing for sailors.”

“Well I have been requested to do some snooping so I need to do it.” I went out to where the ladies were waiting with a car.” “You look almost like you are fifteen,” Stephie said. “Is that the idea?”

“Yes. I figured I can pull it off for a while and nobdy takes a kid with a camera seriously where if I’m in a suit, carrying a Graflex, I’m obviously a reporter. Since we don’t want people thinking that the press is around, just seeing a kid won’t raise the alarm.”

When we drove up behind the van that looked more or less like a service truck for something, Boris and another kid was there. Boris saw me and said, “This is Victor Laeda. He’s been chasing your car and watching the house. Mike and I talked to his parents and he’s been showing us around.”

“Do you know about Mr. Carpenter, Victor? ” I said. “No.Why?”

“Well, after we get done here, why don’t we go see. He has a good place for watching the house. I was there earlier. Can you come down to the World on Wednesday? I have lunch coming for everybody and we need to get my spot sold.”

“I can do that. I work, but this is our slow time. I’ll take the train in and see you all. Though I don’t know what I will do with your spot if I win.”

“Sell it of course. I expect that most of the kids putting in the winning pictures of the car will be your age and older and ready to move on to other things. So they will sell the spot to some kid who needs it like I did. Anyway, what you did was a big help to the detective and some other people.  I have a great connection if you want to do something other than what you are doing now.” I handed him one of the “White” cards.  Stephie called out,”Tim, let’s get this done so that Al and the rest can close it up.”

Al came over with Bob and Scott looking a little dirty. “Tim! I’m glad to see you. Stephie caught you for the pictures. We have Tom’s noisemakers set up. Now we can close things up”

 

I followed them and used my shields to more or less disappear as the ladies critiqued them and we took pictures of Toms’ various gags.  I made sure to get good pictures of the control boxes before Al buried them. We also got close to the guest house and I took a close look at the fence.  Whoever built it was stupid because it was a wood fence. I turned to Al and said, “When we were kids my buddies and I used to get through fences in abandoned buildings and stuff so we could explore.  Chain link with a barbed wire on top was a pain because you couldn’t cut with the tools we had. Wood, even if you had something on top, was easy because all you had to do was knock a board out and if you did it right the board wouldn’t even look like it was loose. These people put up a wood fence. So you guys getting in should be a breeze. Then they let this vine grow all over it. That’s just stupid.”

I walked along the fence and looked where the vines were. Sure enough there were some loose boards already. I took some pictures and went back to Al. “Those people are idiots. You could just walk the kids right through the fence. The problem is the Twisted chasing you.”

“We’ll talk to Tony and Robert about that when we go in. We do want to make the exit as clean as we can, so we won’t push it. Let’s go.” We went back out to the street. Stephie and the rest were waiting and Athena asked, “what were you looking at?”

“The fence, it’s full of holes and they don’t even know it. Letting vines grow kills a fence because the vines get inside the cracks and pull the board out. I took some pictures.”

I took a few more pictures of the buried noisemakers to fill out the roll. I took Victor and went across the street with Bob and Scott and introduced them to Mr. Carpenter.  I  went back across the street with Bob and Scott so that they could finish up and Boris got in his car and ladies and I got in our car and we all went back to the house. When we got there, Noro’s car was there along with another black Cadillac. I guessed that the Elliotts had arrived. I handed Stephie the camera,  went  upstairs and changed back into my usual self. After changing I came back downstairs and into the parlor.Mera and Josh were there with Noro, a mer couple that must be Roger’s parents and a man with balding gray hair. Mera said, “There you are, Tim, why don’t you tell the Elliotts how you found out what you know.”

“Ok, about three weeks ago I was looking for a story that would get me into the paper as a reporter. I’m seventeen and pushing papers, much beyond that age unless you have better connections and management skill than I have, doesn’t work. And I like taking photos, talking to people and chasing stories. I started to talk to some people at the farm market next to the navy yard and the guy who handles labor mentioned some disappearances and a strange car. So I started  to look for that car. I caught it once in the neighborhood and then again where I got it’s picture.  I traded that picture for everything the police had on the kidnappings including the fact that one kid’s shoe had been found, shark eaten. I started keeping an eye in the market as more kids were taken and caught the car close up.  I connected with a Detective with that and we’ve been chasing the case since.”

“That’s Detective del Vecchio?” the gray haired man asked. “How did you find him? I certainly can’t.”

“We had a conection through a relative. He found me. Right after I caught the car.”

“Nothing in the papers seems to implicate William, but you seem to fairly certain that he’s involved. How do you know?”

“I’ve had several people identify him as the person sitting in the front seat of the car. They knew who he was as a result of the traffic incidents in Cape Cod recently.”

“That picture hasn’t appeared in the papers.”

“Detective del Vecchio asked me not to give it to the papers until he had more evidence. He didn’t want to taint the case by letting photos with that kind of evidence get loose to the public early.”

“Could we buy that photo and the negative?”

“For how much money. How much money would you ask for to betray all your friends.  The people you work with, your clients.  How much money would you want to give me to betray a little girl who I will never meet because it was likely that she was eaten right over there in that poolhouse where we found the button from her doll. How much money to let me face her mother, who trusts me to bring the monsters who ate her daughter to the light and see that they get what they deserve?  How much money before I have to face my friend Jimmy and tell him that the guy who is going around looking to eat the kids of the people who work for him might get away with it because I sold out?  How much money before I could live with myself for doing something like that? I don’t think that you have that much money. I don’t think there is enough money in the world to do that.  I wouldn’t take that money even if I didn’t have a dime and I suspect that you’ve done some checking and know that I have quite a few dimes. That photo is safe in a location, in fact in two locations that I doubt that you could get into.  As for Billy boy. I hope that if we ever meet face to face I have a shotgun and can do what what another relative did to his friends. I owe that to Claire.”

“Mera said that you would say something like that. I noticed that you didn’t say anything that involved fae other than the fact that the girl was shark eaten over there in the poolhouse.”

“What difference does fae or not fae matter? It was kids that got eaten. Good kids from good people. I sat through those interviews that showed up on Friday’s paper. Yes, I’ll get a nice check for that. But I didn’t do that for the check. I did that for the kids. As for the Shark Change, I don’t know what kind of sick person would even think of wanting something like that. Let alone eating people.”

“I want to apologize for asking that question. It had to be  asked even though we knew the anwer.  I don’t think that almost anybody could answer it differently.  I hadn’t had any experience with royal fae before and you are everything that defines a royal fae.  Young man, you have nothing to be ashamed of.  In fact I don’t know if you know just how rare light like yours is.”

“I’m nothing special. I’m not rich or powerful. I just do what I do, which is chase stories and bring little girls out and let people know who they were when somebody takes them away.”

“I think that you are more powerful than you know. The story made the front page twice and your paper had increased sales both times over the other stories on previous Fridays. In fact your street sales on Friday, which is a slow news day typically, were better than Thursday. Frankly I think that even if you had sold us the photo that it wouldn’t matter because there are probably others.”

“I do have other pictures of that car and others certainly do. With Billy inside too.  Quite a few, actually.  Mera, how much have you told them?”

“We hadn’t gotten to the Manager yet. Or the mass murder of all the fae.”

The other man said, “I’m William Elliott. You are obviously royal fae. How did that happen? You aren’t old enough for your own Change and must have bonded recently, yet here you are.”

“I ran into her taking a picture of a battleship in the navy yard. She says I was snooping, which was a lie then and if she hadn’t nailed me while I was reloading my camera, my life might have been normal. For another couple of hours. But then I got that telegram from my dad to go down to Coney Island so that I could discover that my family wasn’t what I thought it was. Including the fact that my sister and mother now have tails.  We went to this place to eat that I highly recommend, both for the food and the crowd and then she showed up and apologized for making me drop my camera in the drink.  She gave it back the next day and introduced me to the detective.”

Sal, Roger and Tom came in. “Father, that place is everything they said it was. We went by in the boat and looked it over with binoculars. I counted at least ten Twisted, just in the back.  As well as the construct guarding the kids.  He waved at us, but he didn’t look happy with all those Twisted. Sal says they have a place to watch the front and wants to run me over there.  Apparently they are planning to make some noise and rattle the place to see what drops out.”

Sal said,”Tim you come too. It’s a short ride and I want your camera there when this goes off.”

We went back out to the car. Al and Mike were in the hall and Tom stopped by the phone, dialed a number, put the phone back down and said, “We have half an hour.”

They got in a car and we got in the Duesie. It was a little cold, but we were only in the car for ten minutes until we arrived back at the Carpenter place. We parked next to the doghouse, walked through the dog run and up to the doghouse. George Carpenter, his guy Bill, Steve, two of his people, Bob, Scott and Victor were all looking out the window, Sal said to everybody in the doghouse, “The fun should start in about fifteen minutes.”

Roger asked, “How did Tom do that? All I saw him do was pick up the phone.”

“I think I know,” I answered. “But I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I have pictures of most of it, but I want to see if it actually works. This is a different kind of thing, but it’s going to be fun.”

Ten minutes later, it was. If you didn’t know it was just a clock timer running down, you would have thought that the house was being raided by somebody. I could even see windows broken by shot.  The Twisted came up to the fence and firing back at what they thought were people shooting from the woods.  The whole thing went on for ten minutes and then as the “Shooting” stopped the Twisted formed a group of ten or so to go over to the woods and see what they found.  I took pictures of the whole thing and then when the Twisted entered the woods, things got interesting.  As soon as one got out of sight of the others, it would quietly drop.  Then another one, then two together, then another one until the last two ran toward the gate where they were dropped. Neither Stephie or Hilda were visible. Roger said, “that was scary.  I knew that they must be there, someplace, but we never saw them or sensed them,for that matter and the Twisted just dropped.”

George asked, “What did we just see, or didn’t see, rather.”

“Two ladies who like to play with guns and are very very good at it,” I said.

About twenty minutes later, round two went off and the same sort of thing happened except that the people going out later were compelled and they wandered around with nothing shooting them, but not doing anything either until some Twisted went out and promptly dropped. More compelled went out and started to drag bodies back.

Roger said, “Well that was interesting but other than destroying a bunch of Twisted, what was the point?”

“We’ll have to find out. We needed to get somebody inside to talk to somebody and get them out again, so that was why the two sets of noisemakers. And it all started with a phone call.” I turned to Victor. “I wouldn’t go into those woods looking for the stuff that did it.  The lady who did the shooting wants it for her collection. And she can do what you just saw. Or didn’t see.”

Sal said, “Roger, how about we head back and see what they found.”

We all got in the car and went back to the house. As we went into the parlor, Leonard asked, “Roger, what did you see?”

“Twisted dying very quickly. On the other hand , I saw that yesterday. There were some things that sounded like guns to attract the Twisted’s attention. Other than dead Twisted, which is a good thing, I’m not sure what the goal was.”

Tom walked in. “Well we got in and out. It was an interesting if brief conversation and we got to tell a nice couple that they have a granddaughter. We also learned some more about the Manager and the werewolves. I think we need to talk to Roscoe about army records and the navy about their land actions in the war.”

Mera asked, “What did you learn?”

“Well Trillia’s dad was in the navy, attached to one of those land based guns they had and killed by werewolves. I want to know if there were any more fae observers.

Andy has a very nice shotgun and wants to use it to shoot some twisted the next time. He was also cooking up some trouble with the others, all of whom were rather upset that the Manager messed up them being with their mommys and missing the party. They heard the band. Al told them that there would be some more parties coming up soon and that we would get them out before they happened. I also told them that their mommies really wanted them and we would do everything we could to get them out.”

“Why didn’t you get the kids out?” Bill Elliott asked.

“Too risky right now. We’d have to take them through the woods to a car or a boat and a possible firefight. We nearly had an accident with Stephie and Hilda and none of us want to go through that again.  I’m going to draw the Twisted out and bleed them and we are going to start picking off the compelled until they don’t have enough people to cover the bases and then we go in and take the kids away from them. Hilda put compulsions on the Manager and his associate and they can’t even think of actually hurting the kids and he’s lost a bunch of Twisted in the last two days.  The kids are not exactly helpless and Tony and Robert can deal with almost anything that might want to feed on the kids. That not withstanding, getting the kids out is a priority.”

“I think that we need to go and digest this. Could I ask for a special cartridge, just one.”

“We can do that,” Josh said. “But why?”

“Because maybe I can convince Bill to do one right thing in his life.”

“I’ll go get one,” Tom said. “.45 all right, or .32?”

“.45 is fine.”

Tom left and came back with the cartridge. “Here. For your sakes I hope he uses it. You can tell him that it’s me, pulling the trigger I should have a month ago. I gave him a month of life and this is what he did with it.”

They left.

Mera said, “I wish that that hadn’t had to happen. They seem like nice people for the most part.  But they needed to know.  What about the rest of them?”

“Well I’m going to make up that list and match all the names to a kid. Then there’s the last two, that Changed after the Cape Cod traffic Tickets.  We’ll find out who they are.”

“I think it’s time to start looking at the shark’s new headquarters,” Tom said. “I have more fun and games to set up.”

Stephie came in and hugged Tom, “Tom, I’m sorry, really sorry. I just forgot that you didn’t know how I felt about those things.  When this is done I want to enshrine that radio. I’m going out there with Bob and Scott when we can and digging up your stuff that you did today so that I can add the pieces to my museum for your brilliance.  The next time you and Chrissie come up, I’m going to drag you over there too see it for yourself.  You’re the only family member, or for that matter most of the people in the county who hasn’t seen it and heard me talk about it endlessly.  I even talked about you to Athena when mother and father were delivering their ultimatum.

I know that I pushed and wrecked most of your vegetables. Along with the other things. But that was because I wanted you to do the things that you liked  and were truly great at rather than what other people expected. You only grew those in the first place because you thought mother wanted you to.  You thought that doing that was going to resolve what was happening, didn’t you? I left that pumpkin that won because I knew that it would. They never would award more than one award to a kid anyway at one time, no matter how good the stuff they grew was. They never did for me. I went through all of that twelve years before you did and realized how crooked the system was.   I tried to tell you that. Chrissie calls you a thickhead and she’s right. I always wanted you to be brilliant and when you came at me, you were. I wanted to bask in that brilliance as much as anything else and that’s why, like the kid trying to figure out what Santa is bringing them, I snuck into your room.  I couldn’t wait for your next thing, your next work of art. The only sad part is that they destroyed themselves.

Now we don’t have to hide anything from each other anymore. Hilda and I have agreed. We want to learn what you do, to take in your brilliance. But we are going to do everything in the open and when we show you our new gags, you have to show what you come up with. I think that you have already started, but we want you to find your true self and use your abilities to the fullest, so whatever you do for us has to use your abilities. That way we all start where we are weak and become strong.  We also make sure that we keep things in bounds and don’t allow the anger and fear to fester like it did.

We did what we did to protect you and we suffered right along with you.  But we had the joy of seeing you grow and triumph and we never let you see that.  Even if we never talked about Change, we should have let you know how we truly felt about the parts of you that you did reach. We shouldn’t have let you sit out there in your shop making all those parts. We let you do what you thought we wanted rather than what you wanted. We should have asked you to make the things that you really wanted, like those toys you made with Bill, the toys I still have. This isn’t going to be easy, but once this thing with the Manager is over we will address your pain and talk about how to go forward.  If it weren’t for the stakes involved, I would fly right over and shoot the Manager and all his Twisted and get it over with. Since I can’t, I want to watch you shine. I want to see you give the Manager your best and see the brilliance that I have missed for so long. The beauty of this is that there is no way I can lose. Dinner is served.”

She turned and left Tom bumshocked.

We followed her to dinner. As we walked out, I said to Noro, “you didn’t say very much.”

“I didn’t have to. You handled it very well.  Especially the question about the picture.  You knew that they would ask it and I know how you feel about such things.  You also insured that there was no way that they could get their hands on the picture even if they did discover the locations, which would be rather difficult because you don’t know where I put your box and walking into that office past Mary is just plain stupid.  I’ve heard stories. In any case you took their moral position away from them and put them in a very bad place.  For their sakes I hope that Bill will take the honorable way out, but I suspect that the shark has gotten deeper into him.  Before you came in, they discussed his rather odd behavior and impulses and he’s spending more time elsewhere.”

“I think that we need to start looking at their new clubhouse even though they havnen’t found a kid recently. For no other reason than to keep an eye on them. I also want a picture for each of the new club members. I want to know who is Changed because Steve and Claire are no longer around. As well as the rest of them.”

“So you’re going to snoop on them?”

“Yes.”

“Well don’t take any chances. Use the skills you have and be discreet. Don’t pop out in front of them. We need to teach you skills like driving and shooting.”

“I’ve never seen you drive.” “Mr. White doesn’t drive his own cars and Noro is out of practice. When I get back home I’ll buy a car and start using it.  Not something fancy like Sal’s but something I can use to get around in.  When I was under sea and in my funk I didn’t need a car, and like a lot of things I let it go.  I think my sons traded it in for a truck years ago.”

“Don’t your sons live under sea?”

“Yes, but Ilutra works for the weather department and Altris handles a lot of the up top direct business that Josh doesn’t. They also like to take their wives out up top. If Mera spends more time up top, I think they will buy their own houses.  They’ve been using Josh’s place to store their stuff because Josh likes to live on his boat so that he and Mera can be together.  But right before he left, he had some contracters start to put a pool in like the one here and I suspect that it will be ready for the wedding. There’s also the fact that Mera’s old boss at fisheries wants her to take over.”

“Tail and all?”

“Yes. From what John has said, George thinks that having a tail is an asset and not a liability and having a tail in charge means that fights don’t start when some idiot trawls in the bower’s gardens. That’s what got Mera in fisheries in the first place. There have been very longstanding agreements about that and suddenly they were being ignored so Mera went in to find out why and George hired her.”

 

Eric and Greta had been talking to the Sound bower people while Josh. Al and Mike had given them the news about the couple living right inside the Manager’s house. Trillia wanted to go right over and see if she could meet her grandparents. When they came in  for dinner she was rather upset that she had missed them all these years. Mike said that he would tell them when they went in again on Tuesday. She immediately put herself on Manager watch duty with the rest.  Eltra said to Telia that she would watch out for her and start to train her on how to watch things from the water.After dinner, Noro offered me a ride again. Suzy wanted me to stay, but I said that I needed to get some information for an updated report for the admiral and I wanted to get started on it early in the morning and we agreed to get together at the navy yard after.

When we started back, Noro asked, “What are you planning after this is over?”

“Well there is the coffee stuff and Ray over at the newsletter has been poking me about some of the other businesses over there. Sal wants me to take his place for a while and I might do that, but I don’t know how it’s going to work with Suzy in the future. From what Stacey said, the keystone might pressure us into closing the deal sooner than we really should.” “Closing the deal doesn’t mean that you will be having kids right away. It will be interesting to see what happens with Nera and Eltra. Josh and Mera didn’t start for four years and all their kids are spread out.  On the other hand your bower was attacked directly and the keystone will want a large family to protect it.  Look and see what happens with Sillia.

The thing is that you won’t be able to stop yourselves when the time is right. So be prepared to enjoy yourselves.  I imagine that your mother and Stella already are making arrangements for the party when it does happen, so tell them when you feel ready.  Sal has been recommending that hotel in Patchogue and you should probably discreetly check it out. Talk to Stacey. She and George went through the whole process amazingly quickly and I suspect that some of that was my fault.  That was right after Liltra was killed and it probably looked to the keystone as if I would follow her shortly, Steve and Joe were away from the bower and George was right there, so when Stacey bonded with George, the keystone pushed a bit and Stacey got legs and kids.”

“So the keystones control us?”

“Not so much control has nudge. If  you notice, bondings don’t happen unless they are a good fit, fae tend to be happy and there is a large sense of community. That’s what a keystone provides. In exchange we are expected to protect the keystone from threats.  Which is why all of us are going after the Manager. It’s likely that he and the other people we haven’t seen yet could have gone on forever killing random fae and only had to deal with Helmut’s people. When they came after the various communities the keystones started to notice and take action by creating powerful fae to fight back. As well as putting out stronger calls to strong fae that would respond, like Mike, Tom and Al. Josh too for that matter. Look how long my daughters remained unbonded and available.  Over two centuries. Then Josh comes along and Mera Swims right up to Boston to chase after him. Al was fostered in our own bower right from birth and Mike had been torn loose by the loss of his family, but when they showed up, the keystone went right into action and gave my daughters very strong nudges, not that they needed them.  I have been exasperated at Nera for a very long time.  Let’s just say that decorum and modesty were not her strong suits and she had no problem doing it on a dock even before she connected with Mike.”

“They seem so happy now.”

“I think that that’s a result of them being so unhappy for so long. Now that they are together, they take so much joy in being together that they can’t help themselves. It also helps that Mike is a go along to get along type and really needed somebody to take care of him and Nera, in spite  of her faults is actually good at taking care of people. She’s actually a very good teacher, for instance and you can see what she’s doing for Mike.”

“So what do I do now?”

“Enjoy being with Suzy as much as possible. Continue your work on the kidnapping story and working with the others to beat back the dark. As well as do what you did today. You did a lot more than you know because those people had isolated themselves and they had allowed the dark to infiltrate and taint them.  The sharks are not an accident.  When you check with your paper and the library tomorrow, go back to the turn of the century to start.  That was when the families on the gold coast started in on their extravigant lifestyle and the fae cut themselves off from their keystone.  Trillia’s bonding is going to be interesting.  It wouldn’t surprise me if it isn’t with Andy.” “Andy?”

“He’s a very strong fae from the Vermont kingdom, he has a strong character and an extreme willingness to defend. He’s slightly younger than Trillia, but by the time the bonding happens, that won’t matter.

It will be interesting to see how many bondings drop out from that tail market yesterday. The Sound people have realized that they won’t find enough tails in their “set” and that they can’t just pick up non fae girls. So now that they’ve found mine and Meria’s we won’t be able to get rid of them. I’m going to have to tell John that there will be an increase in people having marine accidents, stalled engines, busted masts and people falling in the drink.  They will be on the hunt for tail that can catch them and drag them to the nearest beach.  That is the tails that Haruka doesn’t grab.”

“Haruka? She’s new to the area.” “She’s also Steve’s bonded and you’ve seen her in action. You can bet that she will want her “boys” that aren’t already bonded hooked up as soon as possible.  Then there’s Mary. Now that her people are going down to Bennies, at least some of them are going to get wet sooner rather than later.”

“Well that is a good thing. At least when the alternative is more Billy boys.”

“You have point. The problem is that in the past, the unbonded would go wandering when I was young over in Europe, looking for a kingdom. Being fae was safer because our abilities gave us real advantages, some of which were abused and created a lot of dissension and distrust. That hurt the fae as we have always been few and when people start seeing people as not people then monsters enter the picture. I took a great chance when I was gifted with a keystone and came over here to make a new start with my bonded and some friends.  Which has worked out very well. The fae over here, are better generally than the fae over there were.  We are part of the communites we live in for the most part and we join together when the dark shows up. We adapt and learn.  The dark do not. The Sound people should have reached out. That’s one reason the inbalances happen and now that they are, we will all grow again. I can’t wait to have Roger up at the Cape and away from his rather stuffed shirt parents. Along with Bob and Scott. I do hope that both of them don’t collect tails, because Greta will be upset with me, at least for a while until Tom trains some people up and we send them up to Vermont.” “Do you think that that will happen?”

“Oh, yes. Some of my grandsons and great grandsons already want to be up top and a bunch of the people in the bower work in shipyards and whatnot. When the storm hit they rigged up an amazing weather buoy notification system from submarine parts.  They are giving me the first one if they can work with my people on developing it for the navy and the other bowers the navy has connections with.”

“So it’s like the tank bed?”

“Yes. Stacey talked to me a bit while you were out about setting up Tom in a dream shop and I talked to Eric about making it a real business.  He spins ideas off and we were going to do something along those lines when the Manager sprung up. We’re going to all keep it on the QT until we get it put together and spring it on Tom during the wedding. The only bad part is that I think that it will be impossible to  stop Tom from making money.”

“Do you think that he will?”

“He was doing it when he was fourteen. When the tank bed thing started and Josh rubbed my nose in the fact that Tom did indeed know quite a bit about production, Lou and I made some calls and took a real long look at what he could really do. For one thing we wanted to know just how an investment in the tank beds would work out and another is that I really didn’t know very much about my grandson in law and I wanted to.  He doesn’t know just how good he is.  Pratt, for instance, was rather annoyed at Lou for poaching and they were kicking themselves for letting him go in the first place.  When we said that Tom wanted to set up a shop on the Cape, Colt said that they would chip in if he would take some apprentices that they would pay for.  Tom leaks ideas and Stephie is right to want to encourage that. I’m so glad that she started right in to fix their misunderstanding this morning.”

“What happened there. I got some strange vibes, but I don’t know what tripped it it off.”

“Eric told me. Tom has been estranged essentially from the family for a long time while he was wandering and they never told him about Change. So a lot of the little things that were laying around from his battles with Stephie were sort of still festering in Tom and when Stephie discovered something she had wanted to know about for years, Tom let loose with all the unresolved issues and let Stephie have it with both barrels.  The problem is that this business with the Manager prevented some of those things from resolving themselves as they naturally would have now that the big issue no longer existed.”

“Well at least it seems to be resolving itself. I suspect that the wedding is going to be even more amazing than the party yesterday.”

“With Mera in charge? It will be. I can’t tell you how glad I am that all my daughters are bonded. I hope that Nera and Eltra’s kids turn out like Josh’s did.”

“Were you surprised by that boat full of mermaids that Joe turned up with?”

“Well I knew about the yacht because it was a big enough purchase that the whole family needed to vote on it. At least on starting the cruise business. That yacht wasn’t that large of an expense all by itself, but establishing the infrastructure and planning for growth was. We needed to plan for advertising, getting travel agencies interested and tie in with the railroads.  Then there’s the issue of what happens if we need a bigger boat or more than one boat.  So there was a lot more involved than Joe buying an old yacht. As for Joe bringing it down? Well, he does stuff like that and we have all those tails looking for legs and Joe has been spending more time down below lately and they likely pestered him into it.  Not that bringing the yacht was a big deal. Joe would have had to take it for a cruise before he pulled it anyway to discover any issues that he didn’t already know about.”

As we got to my flop I asked Noro, “I think my building is shielded. Could you show me how to check?”

“You have to do it from the outside. Try seeing with your sense inside. An unshielded place will be transparent. “

I tried and while the buildings next door were transparent, mine was not. “So it’s shielded.”

“Yes. Which leads to some interesting questions. Especially since the shield is strong and seemingly new. Somebody thinks that there is something to protect here.”

“The place mostly has newsboys and the like in it. Not a fae community.” “Talk to Mary about it tomorrow. We’ve been wondering about how many fae were amongst you newsboys and maybe somebody is keeping a discreet shield over you all to protect you.”

“Well I’ll be going. I’ll see you.”

“Perhaps, but Mr. White is mysterious.”

“Well I, and my camera will be watching.” I got out of the car and he left.

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