Mermaid, Chapter 18, part 3.

Tom picks up a present and George has a run in with the Troubleshooter. Will he pay attention.

Tom.

Thursday 12/17 – Friday 12/18

After I left the yacht at Provincetown I drove down the Cape to the boathouse where I made sure that the boat was inside and secure, packed a bag and started off to Connecticut.   I had made a stop at a stable that had been breeding horses for the ring since the colonial times to check out a certain horse’s granddaughter when I was doing the sweep looking for Andy.  After I had seen her, I had written a check.  They actually knew who my sister was and when I said who the young lady was for they were quite willing to give me a deal on Antonia, who just happened to be Tony’s granddaughter, was four years old and just out of training.

Tony had been to stud up until five years before my sister bought him, when the stable had had to sell off some horses and gelded him so that he would be easier to handle by the girls that typically rode the rings. Not that Tony was ever easy to handle, which lead to repeated sales by impatient girls until my sister bought him and accepted the challenge of working with him and Tony accepted the challenge of driving me crazy. Tony liked to work with Stephie and he loved driving me crazy, so for four years we all got along until Brad and everything fell apart. I hadn’t ridden Tony very often, but there had been times when Stephie was away and he needed exercise where I would take a rifle, saddle Tony up and we would just go out in the woods together for a day. Father never told Stephie about those trips and I made sure to groom Tony thoroughly after they were done.  I had suggested to Stephie that Tony would just love a day of just riding in the woods, but she hadn’t listened.  That was one reason why I went after her little get togethers when she started in on me. After Brad, when I was out of it, Tony had a habit of getting out of his stall, grabbing a saddle and dropping it next to me. I had to tell him that we couldn’t because Stephie would know. Frankly, considering how it all played out, I should have just saddled Tony up and gone.

I thought of that as I met with my friend Vic and we drove over to the stable to pick up ‘Nia. I met at his farm late Thursday night and he put me up for the night.  At dinner with his wife, I told him that I had just gotten married and showed some pictures of Chrissie that were for public consumption.  We had worked at Pratt together and he was happy that I found somebody. After staying overnight at his place, we got going early on Friday. He was picking two horses up from Vermont and bringing them back and I was going with him to use his trailor to deliver ‘Nia to the farm.  When we got to the stable, Claire, who was in charge said, “I’m glad she is going to a good home. There are horses that are special, that require love and attention to get the most out of them. Your sister did so well with Tony and I’m sure her daughter will do well with ‘Nia. This is a fine present for a girl.”

“Well my sister and I were estranged for a long time and we got together this year. So this is years of Christmas presents in one. I also liked Tony very much. He actually saved my life once in the woods, but I will never tell my sister about that.”

“How did that happen?”

“I was treed by a bear, my rifle was on the ground and Tony broke his halter and kicked the bear. I dropped back down to the ground and shot the bear and we brought it back so that I could have my sister Diana make a nice blanket out of it for Tony. Stephie never figured out why Tony had that bearskin as his blanket. Tony was the best horse in the woods that we ever had but I couldn’t take him out there very often and I couldn’t convince Stephie to take him back there either.”

“She probably only thought of him in terms of the competitions. Girls are like that. They sometimes never quite change their way of thinking and the horse and the competition go together. Did you take care of Tony outside the competitions, clean the stable and such?”

“Yes.”

“I thought so. So your sister never saw Tony outside practice, exercise and competition and you saw him every day and went for those long rides with him, probably when your sister was away.”

“Tony needed exercise and I didn’t see any reason why we both shouldn’t enjoy the ride. So a day in the woods and some duck or deer for dinner, which made my mother happy and Tony gets a nice long day out of the stable and paddock. As long as he got a thorough grooming, Stephie never noticed.”

“So what happened to Tony? We never found out other than your sister stopped competing, but girls do that.”

“I left home and Tony would escape from the stable, looking for me, more than likely. One day it was cold and he got out and died of exposure, just before I came home for Christmas. Nobody told me until recently. Knowing that now I wish that I had taken Tony out more often rather than arranging it so that I was to no longer be allowed in the stables. I should have told my sister to either take Tony out for long rides or that I would do it at times that were convenient to me and not her rather than doing what I did.”

“What did you do?”

“Rigged the stable up so that the doors would open by remote control and set off some firecrackers while I was plowing a field and hadn’t been near the stable for a week. My sister was rather upset about that, but it seems that she was mostly upset that I hadn’t arranged for her to be there when it went off. That got me banned from the stables, but I was about ready to leave home anyway because of all the other issues anyway. Tony died later that year.”

“Well he was hardly a young horse. He learned that trick of getting out of his stall when he was here and he certainly knew how to get out of the cold. He could have waited for you inside and been there when you came back. You probably thought of him as your sister’s horse and never thought of him as part of your life until he was gone.  That happens too in our circle. With ‘Nia, tell your sister that her daughter is to responsible for her in every way and explain why, now that you know. Perhaps there will be a horse for you, some day.”

“More likely a whale, but that’s another story.”

‘Nia seemed eager for her new life and marched right into the trailer and we headed up to Vermont. We drove through snow covered hills and arrive late Friday afternoon and put ‘Nia in the stable. She was sharing it with the four old draft horses that were the last remnents of the many horses that had worked the farm and a riding horse that my sister Mary used because she did a lot of trail work during the summer on our mountain. Vic wanted to get to the place he was picking up the horses so he left and mother and father came in to look at the newest addition to the stable as he was driving back up the driveway. “She’s lovely. How come your friend didn’t stay? We could have done dinner. Chrissie and her parents should be here shortly.”

“I offered, but he wanted to get going to the farm that had the horses he was picking up.”

“Is he fae?”

“I don’t think so, he just likes horses, buys old ones and has them around for a little farm that the kids go to. He says that before too long, kids won’t see horses anymore.”

“He may have a point,” father said. “Certainly they won’t be doing the work anymore.”

Stephie and Boris came into the stable. “We saw the lights and Tom’s truck. Is this your present for Katherine, Tom. She looks wonderful. Father said that you were looking at Tony’s papers. When did you find her?”

“Right after Andy was taken, when I was cruising around up there hoping to sense him. I was near the stables and dropped in. She’s not an easy horse and they were happy when they knew who I was and who I was giving her too. They did say one thing and I agree with it. Katherine is to do everything for ‘Nia, not just ride her like you did with Tony.  Katherine must muck her stable, groom her and get her grain. She must take the time to exercise her and take her out on long rides out in the world. You wouldn’t do that for Tony and that split your relationship with him with me.  In the end he was more my horse than yours and I never noticed until he was gone. So I just left him. You never knew this but Tony and I would take long rides together when you were off someplace and he needed exercise. We went up the trails and through the woods, did some  hunting and just had those long days together, that I kept telling you to do with him and you wouldn’t. With Katherine and ‘Nia, I want them out in the woods and not just in the ring.”

“That won’t be hard,” Stephie said. “She likes the woods more than I did. I was too focused on making a good impression on the snobs.  For which you punished me and I deserved it.  The funny thing was that the worse you got and the bigger your surprises the more friends I made. After you left and Tony was getting fractious, father told me that you used to take him out into the woods and that I should just go on a long ride from time to time.  But at that point I was too wrapped up in Boris to pay much attention to Tony and by the time I began to understand that I should, he was gone.”

“In the end we both let Tony down because we didn’t talk to each other. Rather than pulling that last gag I should have told you that either you took Tony out for his exercise or I would.  After Brad was killed, when I was depressed, Tony would get out of his stall, grab a saddle and drop it next to me, just to tell me that he wanted a ride. I would put him back in his stall and say that we couldn’t because I didn’t want to upset you.  At that point it probably wouldn’t have and Tony and could have had our long rides together and enjoy the woods in his last days.”

Several cars rolled into the driveway and we went out to see who they were.  The two white Cadillacs were obvious as Noro got out with Mary and Josh  and a chauffer got  wheelchairs for Chrissie and her mother. The second car had Al and Eltra, Mike and Nera. My sister Mary had George, Stacey and their kids. Chrissie called out, “Did you bring ‘Nia up? Let’s see her.”

We all went back into the stable where Stephie had already put the bearskin blanket on ‘Nia. Chrissie said. “Her picture doesn’t do her justice. She’s just lovely. What is the story of that blanket?”

“You know, Tom has never told me that,” Stephie said. “On the other hand he has said that he was treed by a bear once. Strange that a bearskin would be made into a horse blanket and that it was something that you had Diana do. Did you and Tony have a run in with a bear?”

I was caught. Especially since I had used being treed by a bear as the reason why I believed in firepower, to Stephie and Hilda in fact.

“I wasn’t going to tell you, but yes we did. Tony and I were on one of our jaunts and I halter tied him so that we could stop for lunch. I set my rifle aside and had to go away from it when the bear showed up and ran me up a tree with my pants down and the rifle on the ground. Tony got himself loose and kicked the bear in the head. I got the rifle, killed the bear and Tony got himself a nice warm blanket. I just dropped reined Tony from then on. He never ran, or if he did, I was running too.”

“So Tony saved your life.”

“Yes he did. He was the best woods horse that we ever had and you never knew it.”

Another car drove in and Hilda, Athena , Gregor and Andy came in. Hilda said, “we saw the lights and the crowd. Is she for Katherine, Tom? She is lovely.”

Stephie said, “let’s leave the lady to her grain and go to dinner.”

So we all went back to the house. Father said. “Tom, you and Mike are going to have to take your old room and Al and Josh one spare bed room. The pool is going to have to be ladies only for a couple of nights because the two troublemakers that were supposed to be doing the fittings for the two tanks that Bill found decided to make trouble instead.”

“What happened,” Al asked.

“That idiot across the lake said that Bob and Scott were “such good boys.””

“How did they find out?” Mike said. “He likes to have those meeting at Antonio’s and I don’t think that you would just tell them something like that.”

A rather low slung modified looking roadster drove up and the boys got out. “Hi everybody!”

Father said, “Why don’t you ask them yourselves.” As we all went inside.

“Ok, Boys, how did you find out what Jacob said about you?” Al looked at them with a twinkling in his eyes as he asked the question.

“We were in the room?” Scott said. “Grandfather has been sending us ahead for his meetings at Antonio’s and we sometimes go for other meetings too. We’re there as busboys and Jacob just sees us as part of the scenery.”

“That was just plain stupid,” Al said. “Especially now, with the Olympics coming up and everybody on pins and needles about making a good impression. Why did he do that?”

“We were discussing George and his construct behavior and he was arguing that Bob and Scott use them all the time,” father answered. “He couldn’t quite get it in his head that it wasn’t the constructs, but what happened with them.”

“We do use constructs all the time,” Bob said. “After Joe got hurt we don’t do things with them with things arranged so that they can hurt anybody and we certainly wouldn’t launch them at people’s houses. At least not unless we were doing using the constructs to help save lives or something similar, like we did at the Manager’s. Al, you and Mike have seen how we do it enough by now. We’ll get a shoot together in the Spring and you can see how we set things up when we just want them for fun and a little shooting. Grandfather told Jacob that and that’s when he spouted off about how we were such good boys. George thought that he could just launch all those constructs and we would get blamed because he knew that we did stuff with them. At least that’s what he told Jacob.”

“Where is George now?” Al asked.

“New York is what Jacob said,” Father answered with a bit of a smile. “I imagine that Sal is having a talk with him, or is setting it up. George does have that habit of using compulsions and Sal will probably want to use people who are either fae or resistant or both.”

“That leaves Tony out, probably. The other Tony and Robert will go for it. Some of Steve’s boys will. Roger and the other compelled. Dom if he wants a real big mob boss. Tim if he thinks that George is afraid of exposure.”

“Which he is,” Hilda said. “That was what he was most afraid of, that the other side would find out and deal with him. It was only after Greta said that he didn’t have any suicide compulsions that he spilled his guts. At least partially. Father made it clear that he’s not welcome in all sorts of places unless he comes over and comes clean completely.”

“Especially the Cape,” Chrissie said. “I made some calls and he will be turned back at the bridges. In fact Sal got his entire family’s registrations and all those cars are banned from the bridges or ferries. The business office also let it be known to everybody that we would be very happy if they denied service to anybody in that family. I won’t change that unless Hilda tells me too. Dom and Meria are telling their people the same thing. I haven’t talked to Big Jim yet because his business doesn’t cover the hot vacation spots but Matt up in Maine is in on this too.”

“I mentioned that to Jacob,” father said. “George was planning to honeymoon on the Cape and Jacob said that he would be rather upset that he couldn’t.”

“Well we didn’t cooperate with the dark so that his family’s kids could be taken and used to force his family to do things. He did.  Perhaps, now that it is over, he could convince mother or I to change our minds. Or his bonded could.  But if he tries I’m going to show him that picture of Claire and ask him to convince her. Andy was lucky because the Manager wanted Hilda for something.  Dori wasn’t because the Manager was setting his sharks on us and could have been eaten, like Claire was. I want to be able to go to Kay’s stand and buy her cookies and be able to look her in the eye and say that I will not compromise with the dark.”

Tim had been passing those cookies around. I hadn’t been able to get to her stand this year, but both Chrissie and I were planning on going next year to make an order. In order to quiet Chrissie down before George was swimming with the fishes without a tail, I turned to the boys and asked, “So what are you planning for the poor man across the lake?”

“Well the Olympics are coming to Lake Placid and they have a big parade set up to make a splash and get in the news, Bob said. “We’re going to rain on their parade a bit and make some noise and fireworks. You all are invited to see the show that they aren’t expecting. We think that Jacob probably expects that, if we do show up, it will be constructs or something with cars. So we borrowed the phone company’s truck, which we have done before when we needed to work on our system and drove across and did some work with the phones. We even went in over there and picked up some stuff right from their phone company.”

“We’re also stealing the the parade’s faery princess,” Scott said. “Actually she stole me a long time ago and we are just making it public. Elizabeth was the girl that George brought with him and we’ve been sort of meeting ever since.  They’re boy short over there, or at least boys that aren’t like George and she was looking to see if she could attract any attention. We’re planning to go to Boston for college starting next September.   I’ve already been accepted at MIT and she’s going to Boston College.”

“That’s wonderful, Scott,” Chrissie said. “A real Romeo and Juliet. Just don’t be stupid and commit suicide because your families disapprove.”

“I don’t and Greta doesn’t,” father said. “I don’t know if Diana has talked with Elizabeth’s mother yet. But I will not blame Elizabeth for the sins of others. We can all go over to the parade tomorrow and watch as Bob and Scott demonstrate that they are not, indeed, “Good boys.” And the best part is that I can honestly say that I didn’t tell the boys.”

I turned to Noro and asked, “So why did you come up? I hadn’t expected to see you until we got back to the cape.”

“Family and business conspired against me. Mary wanted to see the farm and talk with Athena. Stacey and George are here to talk to your sister and her husband about seafood sales in the area and make a discreet stop for dinner tomorrow at Eric’s friend Antonio’s place, Lou wants Mr. White to make the rounds before the Olympics to press the flesh since they used our pumps and other equipment for the skating rinks and other sites and my sons said that they don’t want to see me down below until after the new year and that they would be happy if I just had a good time. Since you all were going to be here anyway and Helmut and Mary are coming up just before Christmas, it just made sense for me to come up too. Lou had the cars arranged even before we got on our train car. I figured that if I was confused,our enemies would be even more so. So what’s happening with Antonio? His name keeps coming up.”

“We’re stealing him for the ski business,” father said. “Jacob is a poor landlord and has even worse business sense. He’s been running up a tab on Antonio for years and never paid it. He also forces Antonio to close down when he does business there, which is stupid, because Antonio is ten minutes from his house.  He also has never cultivated a relationship with Antonio. In fact I have a better relationship with him, which is why he’s moving over here and why I can just send the boys over to infiltrate his business meetings and Antonio will tell me if Jacob does anything very stupid.”

“So you’re building the business at his expense. He probably won’t like that, but from the sounds of it, he was asking for it. Is this typical of his business sense?”

“Unfortunately, yes. He sees the businesses on his land as something to be milked and pillaged and not as something to be grown, like a garden. The problem was that his grandfather was granted the land as a patroonship and used his keystone to create a community to fulfill the requirements of the king. They have been living off the rents and other people’s prosperity and hard work ever since. He likes to play the big cheese, but in reality he’s a real lightweight. When he asked why he was never attacked by the Manager, Athena gave him a rather scathing put down, but the fact is that she’s right. Athena said that he was ripe for subversion and takeover by the dark and George proves that she was right.”

Mother grabbed Chrissie, Athena, Hilda and Stephie for cooking, along with Nera and Eltra volunteering and the rest of us sat down to talk. Stacey came over to me and said, “Tom, is there a place where we can have a discreet talk?”

“Sure, why, Stacey?”

“This is a good opportunity and I want to get this out of the way.”

“Ok, since the boys aren’t in the shop, why don’t we go over there.”

“Perfect. Let’s go.”

We put our coats back on and I walked her over to the shop and turned on the lights. “So what is so important that you can’t talk to me in front of your sister?”

“I want your network. All of it. Mary does too.”

“That’s not an easy thing to just hand over. A lot of people trust me to be discreet about talking to them.”

“Which is why you need to have me handle it rather than you. I’ll give you my network in exchange, but frankly yours goes some places that I wouldn’t have expected.  That piece I did at Winchester was a case in point.  They were willing to talk to me as somebody who worked at White’s but when I mentioned that you were engaged to my sister, they opened up. Pratt and Colt were the same way when I talked to them, about you, actually.  The problem is that the bomb you dropped at the wedding is going to make it almost impossible for you to fade back into the background and be more or less anonymous anymore.  Lou talked to me after the meeting and he’s rather concerned that somebody might start coming after the business looking to see how they are connected.”

“The business isn’t, directly. I have some contacts because of the war stuff they did, but I have a lot of those.”

“I know. Your name opens all sorts of doors, which is my point. There’s also the problem of what happens if they actually get you.”

“I took precautions.” “Yes, you did. Anybody with any sense wouldn’t try to kill you right now, anyway simply because of who your wife is. If you go, Chrissie will follow and Dad will go on a rampage, the likes of which the world has never seen. But in all we’ve seen over the past month has there been anything that resembled sense or concern for the consequences? I haven’t.”

“That was the Manager. His boss seems to be a bit more careful about things. Otherwise I would know more than I do. On the other hand, he did order the Manager to kill me, right after I went to Washington.”

“Which is another reason why we need to know who you talk to. So that, when people contact us, we know that they are part of this already. This has become too big for you to handle all by yourself.”

“Why you, Stacey?”

“Because people look at me and see a ditzy lady for the most part. Not the people in business that I talk to, but people who don’t know me. Chrissie is the same way. Look at how she uses that boathook story at every opportunity. It’s embarrassing to you and it works. It opens people up to her and to you. Everybody sees her as a lightweight and never sees her doing what she is really doing. Mother taught us some of that, but she can’t be as ditzy as Grandfather said she was when she was chasing dad.  She was over two hundred years old and dad thought she was twenty and too young for him. The problem was that she had to project competency and power at fisheries and she still reflects that because she spent her time under sea as more or less the queen of the bower. I never spent that time under sea and I can still play the ditzy game and nobody pays too much attention to George. As for father or grandfather, they are far too public to make discreet connections very often even though they are both very good at being discreet when they want to be. But with grandfather, he’s done so much and been so many things that he just wears power as and mantle and dad, well you see what happens when he is around. This is a family matter, and Steve and Joe don’t deal with information and networking, so that leaves me. Also, I already have so many connections that people will assume I already have any connection they see me make.”

“Chrissie does tell the boathook story a lot. I do too, now, come to think about it. I think that she started me on the habit because if I don’t tell the story right up front, she does and it’s embarrassing when she does it. Frankly I saw her personality first. But then she springs things like she’s doing to poor George.  George doesn’t even know who she is and she’s about to make his life a living hell. Has she done that before?”

“Not like that. She’s been under sea and with mother and hasn’t really been in a position where anybody would make her as angry as George did. On the other hand, when mom went under sea with me and left her with dad when she was ten or so, dad would take her around to all his business meetings and she would sit in the office and charm people. She also read a lot of business books at the business office and listened as people did the family business. You were there when she made those phone calls and she had George banned in minutes.”

“She was rather ditzy when she showed up in my boat, but then that was bond fuzz and I wasn’t exactly the brightest bulb either. Ok, you’ve made your point and we came out here because I knew that you would ask for something like this. I doubted that you and Noro would have just come up for some small fish business and pressing some flesh.”

“Well, no, but George isn’t very busy right now anyway, I want to look at how the family does things and how the ski business works for the newsletter, we all want Noro as far away from the bower as possible and now that he is back as Mr. White, Lou is going to take advantage of that. So Mary, George and I are on the keep Noro occupied duty. Your nephews are going to be recruited for that.”

I went over to the grinder on its stand and moved it to uncover a floorboard. The grinder was big and heavy enough that most people would assume that it couldn’t be moved. The large bolt heads were in the slots on the base to reinforce that impression, but they were just heads, welded on. I popped up the floorboard and took out a box. I set it aside, replaced everything and then handed her the box. “You and Mary, when she gets here, make a copy of the books in here and hand it back. Most of the contacts should be current as of six months ago when I left for the Cape. I’ve been too busy and on the water to add any more recently, so any additional are contacts like Keith, Jake, John, Dom, Ray and Big Jim that you know already.”

“Thank you, Tom, for your trust. My uncle went on the path of sacrifice and mother still tells us about that. Your brother set you on this task which has probably been thankless and dangerous. I know that you did not give this to us lightly or casually. Let’s put this away for now. I will work on it when I can and only Mary and I will have copies unless you tell us to make a copy for somebody else.”

We walked back to the house and Chrissie nailed me when I went through the door into the living room. “Did you give her what she wanted?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Good. That means that we don’t have waste time while I weasel your contacts out of you, one by one. Not that that wouldn’t have been fun, but Grandfather, dad and Helmut might need those contacts fast and if we were out of contact that could be bad. Stacey and Mary are going to be the caretakers and the rest of us will not even know about any contacts that you don’t tell us about. So how was your trip to collect the pretty lady?”

“It was a great trip and the people at the stable are good people. They want me to have a horse, but I think its whales from now on.”

“Who knows what might happen. Your mother was telling us how you liked to go out in the woods with Tony. I won’t have this tail forever and there will be time to be on land like Stacey and George. Stephie never knew how close you and Tony became until Gregor pointed it out down at Sal’s. There are horses and horse places out on the Cape. Anyway, dinner is ready, so let’s eat.”

As I was rolling Chrissie in, Bill showed up and said, “Tom, is this Chrissie? You are one of the luckiest guys around.”

“Chrissie, this is Bill, our foreman.”

“Oh, I never met you the last time I was up here. I want to thank you for keeping Tom safe.”

“You’re welcome, Chrissie. That’s just a hobby really. At least the monster shooting is. A vampire took my wife years ago and I want to make sure that no one else gets taken or Turned. I missed your big show. Hilda said that you did lot of clean up, Tom.”

“Hilda did some. Stephie did some. The Manager made it easy.”

“Well I want to talk to you about something after dinner with Eric. It’s fairly important after that meeting you had at the wedding.”

“Ok, Bill, we’ll talk then.”

“What do you think that he wants?” Chrissie asked.

“I think I know. I would want to know and now that I dumped the stuff out for others to see, I think that I need to do some clean up anyway. I should have dealt with this, but events sort of intervened.”

“Well I want to be there.” “It doesn’t involve you directly.”

“That may be, but it might and I am part of you now. So I don’t want you hiding things away and I suspect that if I’m not there, you will, out of habit. So we deal with whatever it is together. Now let’s eat.”

We ate dinner and when it was over, Father’s office was rather crowded as not only were father and Bill there, but Mike and Al as well. Bill said, “Tom, how many stashes of material do you have out there and where are they. I’ve talked to Eric about this and there could be a security risk if somebody tries to burn the farm trying to get to the material. Mike and Al said that there is at least one stash of the original documents that you had reduced and shipped down to the Cape. Are there more?”

“Father, are you ok with this?”

“I think I have to be. I think that Bill’s points are valid. As long as it was your private life and you kept it secret the threat was minimal. Now that the material has been seen, the risk has become much greater.”

“I understand. I was hoping to quietly remove everything and leave no traces, but even if I did, people would still come up here looking. I just gave some material to Stacey, which she and Mary will have the only access to. There really is only one other large stash in the stone barn, which I have already mentioned. There are some other stashes, but they are not related to this.  The biggest problem that I see is convincing people that everything is already out there. Well the stone barn stash is large enough that it should convince anybody that I am transferring everything to Helmut for handling. I was planning to just burn it if I had to, but maybe we can use it to stir something up. The problem is that, as far as I know the other side doesn’t have a channel to dump the stuff into. Bill, I’ll show you the stash in the morning before we go over to Lake Placid and you can pull the boxes as visibly as possible.  When we get ready to leave, we can have Boris provide an escort to the train car and haul the stuff over there. Frankly except for the possibility of people getting killed to protect the material, I would love to have the other side make a play for it and get it, because that would force things into motion and we could take out all the Twisted and whatnot while they were trying to find new hides.

In any case, Bill, I will show you all the stashes. On Sunday and Monday we can go around and find everything. Frankly, the biggest person that’s going to be happy about that is Stephie as most of them are gag material that I stored away and related things that I hid for one reason or another over the years. For instance my office gags from Washington.”

“The stuff with classified stickers all over it. We know about that stuff. I want to go over that with you and have you tell me what it does.”

“Stephie will want to be there for that. The problem I have is that I’m already on a tight task list this week. I was planning to deal with this stuff over next year and take it slow. Unfortunately the Manager messed that up. Bill, we can get together first thing in the morning and go out to the stone barn.”

I rolled Chrissie back out and she said, “ That went well. Bill was right to be concerned, wasn’t he. How did that happen? You shipped the stuff down before Andy.”

“My original plan, was to just have a small family meeting, tell them the bare bones and hand the details right over to Helmut. And burn the originals. But with the wedding and the increase of interested parties it became more public than I had planned. When the navy and Noro’s people got involved, then keeping a tight lid on things became much harder. I also didn’t cover my tracks well enough. I should have used the document set that is in a safe deposit box rather than the set that was obviously from a stash here at the farm. But the safe deposit box is up here, I didn’t have a chance to make a run up here before the wedding and I felt that I had to tell Josh and father as well as the rest what might happen when the Manager went down.”

“Well it wasn’t too serious a mistake and we can fix it. We are each having a session in the pool before bed. We get it tonight, Mike and Nera tomorrow night, Al and Eltra the next. Josh and Mera last. So roll me over to the pool and we will have our session. Then it’s bed time for us both.”

We had our session and then I had to leave the pool so that the ladies could get to bed, so I went to bed in my room while Mike was still talking to Al and Josh. They were visitors and wouldn’t be pressured to get up the next morning. I, on the other hand, would be getting up and put to work.

 

 

George

Friday 12/18.

Hazel and I had come down to the city earlier in the week so that we could go over to the diamond district and buy our engagement ring. We also did some shopping for Christmas presents and visited the bid store. We were planning to visit some more stores and I had asked the door man for a cab when Hazel said, “That’s a fancy cab. Why didn’t you get one like this before. A huge man was standing there and said, “George Martin, somebody wants to talk to you.”

Hazel was looking scared and the man said, “Don’t worry missy, we’ll bring him back. But pack your bags because you and he will want to leave town.”

He sort of grabbed me and pushed me into the car. I thought of trying to compel him until I noticed that he had very greenish tinge to his skin. The car pulled out, he opened the center divider and he and the driver started to banter back and forth about stuff as we drove downtown and across the bridge over into Brooklyn. “Where are you taking me?”

“To talk to somebody. Then we bring you back, right Roger?”

“Hey, he’s been good, Robert, hasn’t even tried to compel me. Not that that would work anymore.”

He was right as I could sense the remains of some very strong compulsions that left edges too ragged for any compulsion to get a grip on. So he was immune. The big green guy was just a wall. I was in deep trouble. The car continued south through Brooklyn and Robert pulled out a large bag of cookies. “Here, have one. These are great. We picked them up on the way out.”

I took the cookie and it was great. Not that I really tasted it. It was about eleven o, clock when we pulled into a road down to a dock and pulled into a little place with Bennies on the sign. Of all things, there was a Duesie parked next to us, with a kid in a suit watching it. The kid was obviously high fae. And he nodded to Robert and walked in with us. There was a man seated at a table and Robert said, “Sit down, Mr. T. wants to talk to you.”

I sat down and asked, “Who are you?”

“I troubleshoot for people. You made yourself trouble.”

“How did I do that?”

“Some people upstate were upset that you didn’t come clean with them after the kid was taken. Their relatives were rather upset about that and called me in to let you know that certain restrictions have been placed on where you can go.”

“Like where?”

“The city. The next time you come back your parents and pretty lady are going to receive a rose and condolence card on their loss. The beaches on Long Island, the Maine coast. The Cape. Some other places. You annoyed some very serious people with your fun and games over Thanksgiving and they are not happy at all.”

“That was just some constructs. I’m guessing you know what they are.”

“Actually you can call me an expert on constructs. I’ve certainly been on the wrong end of attacks frequently. Without special shells. Have you? I have a nice collection of little glass bottles on a shelf.”

I looked at the kid. “So why is he here?”

The kid held up a big news camera and said in a Brooklyn accent. “I’m shoot for the trouble. You’re going to be in the papers. I’ll make you famous.”

I was frightened and I pushed a compulsion at him which did nothing. He said, “That was stupid. The last guy that tried that got a bad case of the dead.”

He hadn’t even seemed to be very fae at all. The troubleshooter slid a photo at me of a little girl. “You know that the constructs you launched were part of a scheme to arrange a young boy’s kidnapping. Do you know why they wanted the boy in the first place?”

“No, I wasn’t told anything other than that the constructs might get blamed on the two boys that roughed me up.”

“So you went out on Thanksgiving, drove over to Vermont and launched constructs all night just so that some boys, who anybody with sense would know would be eating with their family, a family which happens to include the local sherriff, could be blamed for it? It never occured for you to ask why they wanted you to do that on that particular night?

Anyway, I’m not the one that needs the answers. This little girl is the one. Unfortunately she was eaten by the same kind of monsters that the young man you arranged to have taken was taken to help create. Sharks in her case, but that doesn’t really matter. The same people were going to create monsters. Monsters that were probably going to be recruited from your family.”

“We have a good family.”

“So did the monsters. Buy a paper on Monday. The story is all going to be there. Tim here handed it in on his way down to his messenger. The fact is that you worked with the dark and cooperated with them. A bunch of people had to spend time cleaning up the mess and they are not happy with you at all. Now there is a lady who’s upstate and wants some answers. She got her boy back, but the dark is still out there. If you come clean and give her everything you know, and I do mean hold nothing back, she may forgive you and accept your apology. I would do that quickly because the longer you wait the more unhappy certain people are going to be.”

“How can they ban me from those places? We were planning to honeymoon at the Cape.”

“Avery nice place. My wife and I are going up next summer. We just attended a rather magical wedding up there. On the other hand we have a good relationship up there with our relatives. You spit on theirs and a certain young lady was rather miffed that the hairs on her young nephew’s head were mussed when he was taken and she made some calls. Your entire family can now no longer even get onto the Cape across the bridges or ferries. Nor can they buy train tickets. If they try, the train will be sold out. Then she got in contact with her other friends and relatives and well, you were banned at every spot they could get their hands on. I would talk to the lady before the second wave hits. By the way, that party your family is planning next month for the Olympics and the rest of the places up there might have supply issues. Tell your grandfather that. I would really talk to the lady as soon as you can, while you can. Now Roger and Robert will take you back to your hotel so that you can take the afternoon train back to Lake Placid. My wife will be here soon and I would like a nice lunch. By the way, if you report this to the police, Tim here will put your picture in the paper. Considering it’s with me, it will be on the front page with your name on it.”

Robert waved to me and we went back to the car. As we started to drive off I asked, “Can he really do all that?”

“Do what? Mr. T. didn’t do anything other than talk to you about things. Things that other people are doing or will do. If I were you, I would tell the lady I made a mistake and make an effort to let her know that you know you did. Where you’re heading is not a good place.  I’ve seen too many idiots like you think that it’s ok to play with the dark. That it’s only a little thing.  But it drags you deeper. You wanted to get even with those two boys and the dark used you as a tool. You can’t undo what happened, but if I were you, I would think about that little girl who’s mom makes the great cookies and say how can I be worthy of her? You have a nice lady and a nice life. That little girl got teeth and became dinner for monsters so that an idiot could become a monster. I’ve been around a long time and seen too many monsters being made. I see the monster in you and you have been given an opportunity to get rid of it before it becomes real. Yes, those people are mad at you. But they have reasons.  They don’t like monsters because they have had to deal with them and what they did. Also they are making a statement that they will not cooperate with the dark. You tainted yourself. You’re being given an opportunity to cleanse the taint, but your actions could have caused a lot of people to be hurt and some people’s patience has run out.”

“So what should I do now?”

“Arrange to meet with the lady. She has Andy back now and he wasn’t hurt. So she won’t be taking anything personally anymore. Tell her everything you know and hold nothing back. Then tell her that you want to do something to make amends. Just remember that none of this is about you. Ask about why the people took the kid.  She’ll tell you. It’s not pretty and I will tell you that you may not like yourself when it’s over. Look at it this way. You have choices. Roger and I didn’t. I was bound to an idiot by my creator when the idiot was a kid. Roger was compelled for ten years servitude in hell by that idiot.  We’ve watched people being killed, Turned and eaten. We’ve watched families and communities being destroyed. The only consolation that we both have now is that we are free and can fight back.  Go back to your home and talk to the lady.  But you won’t be able to escape the fight.”

We reached the hotel and I got out and watched as the car drove away. I was going to go up to our room, but Hazel was there with our bags. “Tony explained and carried the bags down after I packed. He’s a very nice guy, for a construct.”

“How did you know that he was a construct?”

“Tony told me when I asked.”

“Who’s Tony?”

“Robert’s brother. Robert drove off with you and Tony kept an eye on me. George, you got involved with some very bad people. Tony showed me pictures. That kid that was taken after you launched those constructs on Thanksgiving. He was kept as hostage with other kids so that their mothers would do stuff for dark fae. They killed the fathers. So anyway, Ton was here to make sure that the dark fae didn’t know that you were talking to them. He also arranged for our train tickets. I think that we need to go and talk with Hilda. You never meant for Andy to be taken. You made a mistake, but you know that, I think. You just needed a nudge.”

She was right. So was Robert. But this was more of a giant shove than a nudge. We went down with our bags and checked them in. After that, Hazel handed me a familiar bag. “Have a cookie. These are great. I’m glad we don’t live down here.”

 

Sal.

Friday 12/18.

I watched Robert escort George out. I got to play bad cop because Robert was the essence of good sense and reason. I could rough George up a bit, because after I did, Robert would be talking to him and Tony to his lady. I just hoped that he did the right thing. Tim sat down and said in that exaggerated Brooklyn accent, “so do we go for a Swim, Mr T.”

“Mr. T.? and since when did you want to sound like some stupid joker from Brooklyn?”

“When I was a kid?” The accent disappeared. “I sort of lost it when I started to work my spot and was talking to all the Wall St types. I figured that I would sell more papers if I sounded as if I belonged there. I don’t know if it did but it helped make certain contacts”

A giggle came from the corner and Boonsri stopped being discreet. “I’m glad I came down to see this. At least you didn’t need to take a picture with me in his lap, Tim.”

Suzy and Sillia became visible and Suzy started to giggle at that.

“We wouldn’t want to stoop to blackmail,” I said. “At least not unless we need to. After all his life is going to be complicated enough already.  I hope that he understands that I can cut off the booze supplies for the Olympics. Or Josh will. The biggest party up there and no booze. Hopefully we won’t have to do that to make our point.”

Dom carried Tara in and Tim went over to put his parents in chairs. “So how did it go?” Dom asked.

“It’s going to be hard to tell. I think we made our point. Then we sicced Robert and Tony on him.”

“They will make him see the light. Both of them are the essence of common sense and they’ve seen the worst.”

“I think that you are right.”

We were all being dressed today since we were going back to the house later. Suzy had plans for Tim that involved a long Swim this afternoon and she hadn’t wanted to spend too much time in the Rockaway bower’s water with her current condition.

Tim had spent the morning wrapping up the kidnapping story and making up a packet as a messenger waited for it in the kitchen. Roger at the paper had also sent a note out that Tim was to send no more copy or photographs until after the new year unless a war broke out on Long Island. Tim was rather crestfallen when he realized the he had just missed a war or at least an exercise by being stuck on a desert island until Suzy threatened to take him back and stick him back there with her. Joe asked, “Where is our reluctant navy officer and his bonded?”

“On the beach at Coney Island near his parent’s hotel with her parents, making arrangements. They will all be back here in a bit, but they didn’t want to be here when George was and maybe spoil the show.”

“Or laugh themselves silly,” Boonsri said. “Did he actually try to compel you, Tim.”

“Yes he did, actually. Which is bad, because I could kill him by accident now. Now I have to constantly think about not killing somebody I really don’t like.” “That won’t last very long,” Joe said. “Especially if he gets out of town. I suspect now that if you thought nasty thoughts about him he would just get a very bad headache. By the time lunch is over it won’t matter unless he walks back in here. In any case I hope he learned something about using compulsions willy nilly.  From what Hilda said, that is one of the bad habits up there. It doesn’t affect Eric’s place very much because the kids play with compulsions from about age ten or so and by the time the kids are thirteen, they are all immune, even the non fae. So they are pointless and nobody uses them.”

“So that’s one reason that the only thing that happened when George showed up was that he pissed off the boys,” I said. “Of course pissing them off is probably fairly stupid. Even without their abilities they would be hard to handle. With them, we all saw what they can do. They were with Tom a lot during the Manager and they were eager students. Al brought them down for a reason and he has a wicked sense for playing games.  So they will learn from him too. Poor George if he does anything to piss those two off again.”

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