Mermaid, Chapter 18, part 4

Wherein we find out how “good” Bob and Scott really are and Sal burns a house down.

Tom.

Saturday 12/19.

Mike was still sleeping in the other bed that had been brought in when I woke up and got dressed. I went out to the kitchen and Bill was there waiting. “Do you want to wait until Mike gets up?”

“There’s something we need to do first. Grab your coat.” We went out and over to the tool shed. “Grab that grain shovel. We’ll pull some people once the milking is done, but nobody’s getting to that barn until there’s at least a path. The bridge is still busted.”

We went and started to work the edge of the snow towards the barn. “I had forgotten about the bridge. Which was stupid because I was there when it broke.”

“Well I want to thank you for saving Andy and for not shooting Hilda. She’s special to me.”

“I know. People have said that about you two. Considering what the Manager wanted I have to assume that the howls I heard from time to time were not strictly wolves.”

“I’m not going to say. A lady is entitled to her privacy. Especially that one. Or your sister.”

“I can go with that. The sad part is that she went to the trouble of setting up a show for the Manager and he sort fell asleep during it. Was out for a day with a headache. They did a show for Sal’s party when the Manager was bothered by the band we had and sent some Twisted to tell us to stop.  The Twisted all sort of died very quickly.”

“I’ve seen that before. You’ve never seen those two shoot on the range. They went to the boys’ construct shoot once and Bob and Scott were rather put out by them. But it did encourage a bunch of Boris’ deputies to chase me down and start a class on shooting enhanced adversaries without specials. A class I want you to take at some point.  You can’t count on having specials available all the time. I’ve seen those pictures of you on the island. Still you did a good job out there. Especially keeping Chrissie alive, which was the important thing.  Chrissie is a wonderful lady and a welcome addition up here when she comes. You seem much better than you were, Tom. More complete, which is to be expected. Willing to share that burden we all saw, but didn’t know how to handle. By the way your father and I aren’t really angry about the stashes even though they do need to be dealt with.”

Some more people showed up to help with the shoveling, including Gregor and Andy. Athena and Hilda came out with hot coffee and cocoa as the shoveling got closer to the barn and Mike and Al showed up and pitched in and we finally reached the door. Bill and I pulled the wrecked door open and as we looked in light actually streamed in from the holes in the roof. “So where is it?”

“You know barns, what’s not right?”

He looked around, “I’m not seeing it.”

“Look closely at the loft.”

“It’s a wreck, like the rest of this place, except for the chute. That’s a nice chute for this wreck. I don’t remember Eric ever putting it in. And I didn’t. I see now. That’s not a hay chute, is it?”

He looked at the rusted sheet metal. “You pulled this off something and put this in here to wrap something else.”

“Yup, give me hand with this.”

Al and Mike came over and we lifted the chute up and away to reveal several steel boxes stacked neatly on top of another. I started to push the top one as Mike and Al grabbed it. “Careful it’s a bit heavy.” They grabbed it and set it down.

“there’s more than paper in these.” Al said. “Where did these come from?”

“The scrap bin at Pratt. They’re test cells for fuel injectors. Asbestos lined on the inside. I added liners and then filled them up with the documents. Even if you burned the barn down these would have survived. It’s breakfast time and I think that mother will be annoyed at us if we’re late.”

“You’re right about that,” Bill said. He looked around. “There are two more chutes. Are all of them loaded?”

“Yes. You’ll want a tractor and a trailer for all the boxes.”

“Ok, While you’re over at Lake Placid watching the parade and the dance run into the demon Murphy’s two apprentices I will make a show of pulling these. Not that there’s anybody to watch.”

“Don’t you want to come?”

We headed back to the house talking as we walked.

“Eric and I flipped for it last night after you left. He offered since he went down to the city and I said to flip for it. He won. Anyway, this likely to be the creators of chaos’ last act and the family should be there to bail them out if necessary. So Boris and I are staying this time. Boris thinks that being there while those two pulled something off might give Jacob ideas.”

“Jacob is an idiot. I even knew that as kid. All he has is money from when his grandfather got lucky.”

“You’re telling me? I’ve been running into him and his idiocy since before you were born. Anyway, Eric has all you visiting family and guests to look after. Especially Noro.”

“What about Noro?”

“Well he lost his bonded. I can tell. That tear on the soul doesn’t go away. But he has that other lady now, so he’ll get better, like I did. He also looks like he’s fun.”

“You have no idea. When we went back down to the Cape he ran the sharks ragged while he and his best friend just sat there in my boat and fished. Smiling at them. I’d inflict him on Jacob, but poor Jacob wouldn’t even provide mild entertainment. If Jacob got his money by his grandfather being in the right place at the right time, Noro got his money by playing against the best in the roughest time out there. I keep hoping for a competent opponent, but so far, the other side has been pathetic. We, as family have to keep him occupied. Well Stacey said that she is recruiting the agents of chaos to the cause.”

“From what Hilda said, they learned a lot from you down there on the island and poor Jacob set himself to be their first Guinea pig. I wonder what they are going to do?”

“Remember Tony.”

“When you were plowing and he got out. Along with a bunch of horses. If it had been Tony all by himself, well he did that. All of the hands knew that, but we could never quite convince Stephie because Tony would behave for her. But you pulled something big and Stephie’s been looking for the key piece ever since. We chased some wires when Eric got back before Thanksgiving and whatever it was was in the muck box.”

“Well I did it again to the Manager, several times, with the boys helping. We also went through my favorite supplier down there several times and I didn’t keep track of the leftovers. How are they at phone work?”

“Funny you should mention that. Ralph over at the phone company called and wanted to know if the boys needed any help. They had logged a truck out and hadn’t brought it back yet. I told him that it must be something for the Inn we were putting in as we didn’t have any problems.”

We went in to the kitchen and were recruited to take plates into the dining room where the crowd was gathered. Well most of it.  Practically all the family was going. Since we had guests, some families would be joining us later.  That didn’t include father’s brother’s and sister’s families. We ate breakfast and Nera said as we were leaving and getting into the various cars and trucks lined up to take us, “Tom, Trillia will love Andy’s present if he goes with breakfast. We’ll tell him later.”

I put Chrissie in the other seat of my truck and got in. As the engine started, she said, “I noticed the spares are on. And the engine sounds happy.”

“I don’t think we’ll need them, but I might need to loan the truck to Scott for a romantic getaway. He asked me to set it up. The wide tires were already on anyway as I never took them off and they are better in snow without having to put chains on.”

“A romantic getaway. That sounds wonderful.”

The parade of cars took two trips of the ferry and I was worried about parking. I had mentioned that to Noro and he said that it wasn’t going to be a problem. We drove along and after a long trip, we arrived at lake Placid. I asked Chrissie, “Are there going to be gill issues?”

“It’s been handled. Eric knows a spa over here with salt water. Antonio told him about it when Eric asked if there were any salt water pools in the area. When we were setting up the trip Eric told us about it. Noro rented it for the afternoon after the parade.”

When we got to Lake Placid the reason that the parking issue wasn’t a problem was that White’s had had a lot for construction supplies set up for the Olympics and were just about finished with the cleanup. The company had some construction trailers and somebody had arranged for a tent and catering for lunch. We needed it as a bunch of White’s supervisors and engineer’s had brought their families down too, so we had a party of 150 or more people all by ourselves as we lined up for the parade. We even had a banner that somebody had done up. The executives and other staff were pleased as ever to meet Mr. White at last and especially pleased to see his family, or part of it.  As the parade started, Bob showed up, went into a nearby phone booth, dropped a nickel, dialed a number, hung up the phone and took his nickel back. He saw me and Chrissie and said, “Well I made the call.”

As the parade went along the street there were sudden sparks, bangs, pops, electrical discharges, bells ringing, startled horses and general chaos. A bit later snow started to shoot out randomly. I said to Bob, “I hope you wore gloves.”

“Yes, and washed things down after we built them. Also most of the stuff destroys itself when it goes off. We used cardboard tubes. Actually found them in the garbage, so good luck tracing them to us. Aunt Chrissie, why don’t I roll you down toward the skating rink. The parade will catch up with us, eventually. Then it’s Scott’s turn.”

Al and Mike spotted us and brought Nera and Eltra along. They caught up with us and Eltra said, “that was amazing. What happens when they find the stuff.”

“Most of the active parts destroy themselves and we made them out of tubes that somebody threw in the trash. The timers are in behind the panels in the phone company boxes on the poles and look just like phone company equipment. Some of it is phone company equipment that we picked up right here in town. Father made us the official maintence people for Tom’s phone company as secretary so we just walked in and signed for it. We even had a phone company truck. We weren’t even the only people from our side working on the phone system and we even helped some guys out. The local phone company here has been borrowing people from ours to help them get ready for the Olympics.”

I spotted Doris just as she spotted us and came over. “This just got a lot more fun. Hello, Bob. So what did you do?”

“What do you mean? I’ve been right here with Uncle Tom and Chrissie. Before that I’ve been walking the street looking for my cousin. Have you seen him?”

“Down by the skating rink. He said that he wanted a good spot to watch the princess skate her dance.”

The parade got going again, looking a little more bedraggled with one exception. The parade princess and her float were still dry and intact. Bob said, “Well good, then we were heading in the right direction.”

The rest of the crowd from White’s caught up with us. Doris spotted Noro and went over as he said, “Hello Doris, Are you having fun?”

“I am now. I thought it was going to be a dull assignment until I saw Scott. What did somebody do?”

“Nothing,” Bob said. “After all, we are such good boys.”

“OH NO! Somebody didn’t. Who? It must be somebody important to rate this level of chaos.”

Father heard us as he and mother came up. “Jacob.”

“Jacob? That Jacob?” She pointed and there he was. I hadn’t seen him since I was fifteen when he came by to yell at father about some trivial issue. He had spotted father and was charging down the street toward us. “Eric, your boys did this, I know it! I demand that you punish them!”

“For what? They have been with us all the time we were here, Jacob. Have you met my new daughter in law, Christine?”

“Who cares about that. Some stupid girl that Tom found, down on the Cape, right.” “And her father and mother, Joshua and Mera Claytor and her father, Noro White. His company set up a tent for the family and the company employees. He came up to visit with us, meet with his people and take them to dinner. The company rented Antonio’s tonight.”

He blanched as the impact of the list of names hit. He looked around and said, “I have to go.” And left.

Josh smiled and said, “he has an absolute talent for putting his foot in it. Tom, how insulted are you feeling right now?”

“I don’t know. Chrissie married me and that must mean that she is pretty stupid.” Chrissie slapped me on the shoulder. “Ouch! That hurt, Chrissie. On the other hand he did insult her in public. So I’m feeling rather insulted. Bob and Scott have made an excellent start here, so I’m just going to watch and enjoy. I looked over at Noro, who was trying to hold laughter in and failing. “Grandfather are you insulted?”

He couldn’t say anything and just waggled his finger at me. “Ok, he’s insulted and as he is incapacitated, I have an obligation to avenge the insult. Father, do you have any ideas that you haven’t already done? Businesses to steal, fair maidens to kidnap?”

“Not at present. You could just punch Jacob, but that seems pretty crude.”

“Very. Barbaric and well, stupid as he would set Sheriff Jacobs on me. Then I would have to punch Sheriff Jacobs and I like Sheriff Jacobs. No businesses that you aren’t already stealing? I know. Doris, what do you think of Romeo and Juliet?”

She perked up. “So Scott is standing next to the rink for a reason? Jacob’s granddaughter is the parade princess and didn’t get wet. Scott has been run over by tails looking for bonds recently and they seemed to think that he was already bonded. A bunch of them were upset about that, especially after Linda’s sister nabbed Bob. This thing just got a whole lot more entertaining. How did they meet?”

“Over the hay wagon incident six months ago.” Greta said. “They brought her back and Scott quietly started seeing her.”

“So Scott is going to do some version of a Stephie dance with Elizabeth. After which they both disappear. I love it. I have to go and warn my photographer. It’s not Tim today as Tim has been told to take time off, but he is fae. He’ll love this.”

She left us and I went over to Bob as we reached the skating rink and handed him my keys. “You might need this. The truck still has the wide tires and I just filled it with high octane coincidently. I imagine that Jacob is going to be rather annoyed when Scott makes off with his granddaughter and Scott will probably use your car for the getaway. How were you planning to get away?”

“With the rest of the family, but I think you’re right and he’s likely to try to go after me even without evidence.”

Bob disappeared into the crowd as some flunky came over and tried to ingratiate and mollify the supposedly angry and insulted Mr. White with offering him prime seating along with us, his family. Of course by the time he managed to seat all of us, there was very little prime seating left and when Jacob’s family showed up, they were rather shut out. Mother was gracious enough to give Helen and Elizabeth’s mother seats next to Diana and Mera and they started to chat. I went to find Bob along with Josh. I found him halfway around the rink. “Are you going to need support? You’re handling the projection, I suspect.”

“I don’t think so. But we didn’t have much opportunity to practice and we had a pond and not a rink. I had more water to play with and I’m not a merfolk so, if you want to give me support, I’ll take it.”

“He just insulted Chrissie and walked away,” Josh said. “Of course you have our support. Though Chrissie is going to make him eat that “stupid girl” remark. Trust me on that. Tom is going to be busy all week, but she isn’t and her mother taught her the power of the telephone. She has the business office and the government account numbers as well and Daisy and Lou’s personal numbers. Stacey is here and the only reason that she isn’t talking and making plans with Chrissie right now is that she wants to be with her kids. Depending on how vindictive Chrissie’s feeling she may reduce poor Jacob’s net worth by a million or so by the end of the week.”

“By the time this is over, Jacob’s business manager is going to want to staple his mouth shut,” I said. “He goes around insulting people and doesn’t seem to consider consequences. Then he walks away rather than dealing with the mess he just created.”

“To be honest, he was right and we did create the chaos,” Bob said, grinning. “Though how good boys would think of doing things like that is beyond me.”

The band filed out into their seats, the conductor tapped the podium and the music started. The skaters filed out and started to dance as the music went on. As the show went on, Elizabeth came skating out for her solo performance and Bob quietly said, “Showtime.”

There was puff of mist and the rink was fogged over which quickly changed to a courtyard in some fairy castle as Elizabeth danced around as if seeking something beckoning to whatever she was seeking. Suddenly she sprouted wings as she went into her Change and went to the side of the rink where Scott suddenly appeared winged as a male version of his mother and they joined in a wonderful magical dance. I turned to Bob, but he seemed to be holding the projection just fine and then Scott and Elizabeth disappeared and Bob let the whole thing collapse into fog which rained down on the rink in small piles of snow. Bob looked around and said, “I better leave.”

He disappeared and Jacob came charging up. “Tom, where is your nephew!? I thought I saw him here?”

“Which nephew? All of them are good boys. They’ve been fine with me and I’ve been working with them off and on for the past month. Father told me you said so yourself.”

“Bob! He was here. Well I need to find Sheriff Jacobs. Scott has made off with my granddaughter. That’s kidnapping.”

“You have experience with kidnapping?” Josh quietly said. “Well maybe you should tell George about being an accessory. In the kidnapping of Tom’s nephew, in fact. We at the Cape provided water support for the recovery and my son Steve led a navy strike force that aided in the recovery of several kidnapped children including Tom’s nephew from the dark. Where were you? My granddaughter was kidnapped. I didn’t see you. What I just saw here was two young people forming a bond and sharing Change. Perfectly normal.”

“What? I need to go.”

As he left, Josh said, “I have only known him less than an hour, I’ve been around a fairly long time and I have never seen a man with such a great talent for putting his foot in it. Let’s go. I want to talk to Eric and then we need to take the ladies to the spa with the saltwater pool.”

We went back to the seating and joined the rest as they were leaving. We joined father and Josh said, “How do you put up with that idiot? I’ve known him less than an hour and he stepped in it every single time I saw him. He just did it again. Accused Scott of kidnapping Elizabeth.”

The lady next to mother giggled. Mother said, “Josh, this is Vivian, Elizabeth’s mother. She and Diana have been quietly talking for months since Elizabeth came back from that hunt concealed in a hay ride. If anybody was doing any kidnapping it was Elizabeth.”

“Pleased to meet you. So why was Elizabeth on the hunt?”

Vivian giggled a bit more and answered, “Well we have too many girls over here and not enough high fae boys. Greta has the opposite problem. I suppose that the girls could wait for the boys to show up, like they did in the past, but Elizabeth knew that the kingdom was right across the way, one of her skating friends convinced her to go over and visit to check out the “hunks” as she called them, over there and mentioned Bob and Scott, who for various reasons, are the top of the “hunk” heap over there in Vermont. So she decided to go over to check them out and my mother in law ordered George to give her a ride over and look after her. After an afternoon of girl talk and then Elizabeth having George drive around looking for hay wagons so that Elizabeth could give the boys a discreet look over, he was already annoyed by the time they actually ran into Bob and Scott fixing that wagon. So he acted like a jerk and was squelched for it. Elizabeth had a great ride back to ferry and when it was over came home and said that she thought that she had bonded and found a real “hunk” to boot. Then she ran up a fairly large phone bill with her friend over there evaluating Scott and having her friend tell Scott that Elizebeth would not turn him down if he called and made a date.

About a month later, Diana called and we’ve been talking ever since. This was wonderful. Greta said that you did the same thing for her and your sisters, Tom. Did you learn how after you bonded with Chrissie?”

“Yes, though most of it was learning how to use heat to trigger water magic so that I could drive it with electricity. I set that up to surprise Stephie. Diana and mother wanted me to do it for them too, without the whales. The whales were Chrissie’s little addition to the surprise. Bob and Scott were watching as I did the stuff for our wedding and some other things and well, your father in law set himself up for them.”

‘You used to do things to Stephie all the time. You had all the kids around in awe, especially the fae kids because you could do such things without magic or your abilities. You didn’t know it at the time, but Stephie gained in the social standings because all the girls were waiting for your latest surprise. Are you planning something for the holidays?”

“I don’t know. I need to get the boys set up in the shop, I have some other things going on and Stephie wants me to run the kids through the shop and teach them how to use the tools safely. On the other hand, Stephie did bring one of my gags home and a bunch of family members who haven’t seen it yet want to, so I may be on the hook anyway. If I can dragoon the boys to do some of the heavy lifting in the shop, I can free up some time.”

“Well if you do, let Elizabeth know and we will sneak over. We’ve missed you and I’m so happy that you found somebody at last.”

“I need to take Chrissie and get her wet before dinner, so I need to get going.”

Josh and I joined up with Al and Mike with the ladies and used Noro’s cars to take us over to the spa where we had an enjoyable hour Swimming in the pool. Then we drove to Antonio’s for dinner. As we were giving our coats to the coat check, Jacob showed up with a bunch of people and Antonio came out. Apparently Jacob hadn’t heard when father mentioned that we had rented the place or understood what that meant. Antonio said, “Mr. Martin, I told Mrs. Martin already that we were booked tonight. She at least called in first.”

“Booked? Why did you do that!”

“Because somebody called a month or so ago and made the booking.”

“Who! Throw them out!”

“I can’t do that. They made a large deposit.”

He saw us and charged into the dining room. “Eric!”

He turned around and came back out front. “Did Eric set this up with you!”

“No actually, he didn’t. He came with Mr. White’s family. The company set this up a month ago as their holiday party for the people that were working here on the Olympics. Mr. White and his family are here as guests of his company.”

“Well if you don’t throw them out, you are through. Your lease comes up and I will tell John that a renewal will not be accepted.”

“I have already told John that I will not be renewing the lease and handed him the bill for your tab. As soon as Christmas is over, I will put signs up that I am closing January first.”

“But, but, the Olympics. The committee was counting on you being here and open for meetings and meals.”

“John asked me and I had said that we could stay open through February. Apparently you did not speak to him and want me out earlier. Well, since I have already made the arrangements and signed the new lease, that is fine.”

“Who did you sign with? Not around here! I will break them!” “Not around here. I would tell you but I don’t think that you are in a state to listen right now. It’s best that you leave.” He wrote down an address. “I suggested this place to Helen when we talked.”

“I’ll call the Sheriff. He’ll throw them out!”

Mike had been rolling Nera in, handed their coats to the coat check and then turned around and said, “I’m Federal agent Mike Wendell, is there a problem?”

Al was right behind them with Eltra, handed their coats over and we were sort of starting to fill up the foyer. Josh and I rolled Mera and Chrissie into the dining room and found seats as Chrissie was giggling. “Stupid girl? How about stupid idiot.”

A rather familiar looking busboy filled our water glasses and dropped a set of keys on the table. “Thanks. Jimmy’s speed trap got a truck and a car going east at over 100 miles an hour and he chased them for about five miles before they disappeared. I expect that Sherriff Jacobs is going through the motions looking for us. He won’t find us, but he’s not really trying very hard.”

“He might show up here.”

“Not looking for us. He knows where we are, probably. Roger Jacobs is over there, pouring water for the White’s people. Bill was rather annoyed that Antonio is moving over to our side of the lake but he understands why. I need to get to work.”

Mike and Al rolled Nera and Eltra in “Well, that’s settled. He’s not coming back here tonight. I suspect that his business manager will call on Monday and try to smooth things over.  Was that Bob in the apron and uniform?”

“Yes, it was,” father said. “Elizabeth is sitting over there with Diana and George and their kids, minus Scott, who is also wearing an apron tonight. Antonio put them to work.”

“Well that is the perfect place to hide.”

A young man walked in with a young lady and walked over to the table where Hilda was with Athena and their boys. “Mrs. Benton. I can’t apologize because some things just can’t be apologized for. I called your office and they said that you were over here. I want to make an appointment with you and discuss what happened. I will call your office again on Monday. This is my bonded, Hazel.”

“This is a change, George,” father said. “Why the change?”

“I had a rather nasty talk with a nasty fellow with all sorts of connections who made some points about how things were going for me and how things were going to get unpleasant. Then I had a good talk with a truly wonderful person who said that I could correct my mistakes. He also pointed out that I was heading down a path that was not going to end well unless I changed it. I had a long talk with Hazel and a long time to think on the way back and wanted to come here so that I could start to fix my mistakes.”

“Was it Tony or Robert?”

“Robert. I haven’t met Tony yet as he watched Hazel to make sure that the dark didn’t take her. Robert is a wonderful guy. That Troubleshooter character, not so much. I think he has reasons, though.”

“He does,” Al said. “Who was the shoot for the trouble?”

“Some kid. He threatened to put my picture in the paper.” “He’s not supposed to!” Doris called out. “He’s supposed to be taking time off. I wouldn’t worry about that, this time. He’s not handing anything in until New Years unless a war starts on Long Island.”

“You can stay and eat if you like, George,” Father said.

“I don’t think so. Especially after grandfather. He’s not a total idiot all the time, but Bob, what did he do that made you cause all that today? I can understand the thing with Elizabeth, but the rest of it?”

“He called us “good boys” right here in this restaurant.”

“That’s just nuts. We don’t like each other, but I’m not that crazy. How did you find out about it?”

“We were here in the room, bussing the tables like we are now. I need to get back to work.”

George started to shake his head and Hazel dragged him out of the room before her giggles got away from her.

“I imagine that they will have a fun ride home,” I said. “It sounds as if Sal and Robert played bad cop, good cop and it worked. On the other hand, when it comes to common sense and reason, Tony and Robert are experts.”

Noro made a bit of a speech for his people, Mary was the perfect aide and the people from White’s started to have a good time with the rest of us. Dinner came and we ate. When it was over we all got in the cars and headed back to the farm. As we drove along, I asked Chrissie, “So what are you going to do about the “stupid girl,” quip?”

“I don’t know yet. You are going to be busy and I want to talk to Stacey and get some intelligence on Jacob. Whatever it is, it has to be sophisticated and smart. Not something a stupid girl would come up with. On the other hand, with Jacob, smart and sophisticated will just fly right past him. I think that I will talk to grandfather and Lou, before going any further. Jacob raises thickhead to a new level and he’s already bonded.”

“Well Bob and Scott raised their mayhem to a new level today. This was bigger than constructs and they did drive the cars fast, but that was a distraction.”

We had gotten a bit separated from the parade and suddenly there was a twirling light and a siren behind us, so I pulled over. A flashlight got out of the car and came toward us. As I rolled down the window, Sherriff Jacobs was behind the flashlight. “Hi Tom, I thought that this was your truck. You haven’t been speeding have you?”

“Hi Bill. In this wreck, not likely.”

“I didn’t think so. Who is this pretty lady?”

“This is my wife, Christine. We just got married down on the Cape last Saturday and we are visiting my parents with her parents.”

“Well nice to meet you ma’am. It’s about time that Tom found somebody. I would ask if you saw your nephews, but that would be pointless unless they were driving the truck and going over 100 miles an hour, which this truck can’t.”

“Which nephews?”

“Bob and Scott. Jacob is accusing them of kidnapping his granddaughter but Scott has been seeing the girl for months now and if anybody’s doing any kidnapping, it’s her. Apparently those two pulled a big thing over in Lake Placid, but I was over at the traffic circle watching over the extra traffic for the parade.”

“Well Bob and Scott were with us all day,” Chrissie said. “Bob didn’t do anything and Scott was watching his girl at the skating rink. Mr. Martin seemed to think that the problems at the parade were caused by them and he was upset by that wonderful end to the show at the skating rink. That was magic and she pulled Scott right out in costume. They obviously arranged it. Bob and Scott have been working for us on some things and learned a lot from Tom.”

“Ouch. Hopefully Jacob can keep from stepping in it and making things worse and keep those two Boris’ problem until they go off to college in the fall. Ma’am it was nice to meet you and Tom, you are a lucky guy. I have to go.”

He left and as we drove off, Chrissie said, “What does he know about this truck?”

“That it isn’t what it seems. I was running a bit late one year and pushed getting home, he pulled me over and I had had it over seventy. He knew who I was and let me go, just telling me to not push so hard next time. So he knows that this truck can go very fast when I want it to and as you heard, he knew about Scott and Elizabeth. But he’s not going to just run roughshod over people without evidence just on Jacob’s say so. On the other hand he knows me and when he heard that I had been working with the boys he probably got a little worried. He almost certainly knows about the “good boys,” quip by now. I don’t think he has the full rundown about all of Jacob’s activities today, but I suspect that Jacob’s business manager will be going over it with him. I suspect that you and Josh were not the only ones he managed to piss off today.”

“I will talk to Daisy tomorrow about talking with the business manager. It’s better that it not come directly from me. I think that I will spend most of the week being the stupid girl, at least in public. In private, well I get to be as smart as I want. How much money do you think I can cost Jacob in a week?”

“I don’t know. Money isn’t that big a deal with him because it comes from rents. It’s not like how father has always run things. So making him hurt with money won’t be easy. Status, on the other hand, that might be the way to go. Talk to father. He’s had to deal with the man since I was a kid.”

“I think that I need to talk to Doris.”

“Well she’s going to be at the farm a couple of days talking with Noro and Mary. My sister is taking her skiing on Monday, along with Athena and Gregor.”

“Are you going?”

“I can’t. I need to get the setups started with the boys. The problem is the first frame because that’s the one that eats the most empty time. The others can follow along and I can have multiple machines running with different steps. I have a production plan that I drew up and I will show it to the boys tomorrow. I will pull it from storage when Bill and I go around and look at my stashes.”

“Are you a bit annoyed that he asked you about them?”

“Not really. Bill is the hand that dad uses to keep things running. With dad it’s the farm first no matter how much he loves me. Dad has a lot of people he’s responsible for and people going around and burning our buildings and digging through stuff would be a disaster. I wanted to keep the farm out of it, but events worked against me.  Bill has a need to know where and what I have out there so that he can keep an eye on things that people might be looking for. One thing I am going to have to find a new place for is my contact list. I gave it to your sister and she and Mary are making copies, but putting the box back in the shop is probably not the best idea.”

“Put it on the boat. Right there in plain sight. Also, when we get back I will teach you string lettering and we will make a copy for our bower. For that matter, we could hang it right on the wall and nobody who doesn’t live under sea would know what it was. When we get back, let’s talk to mother and Stacey. Finally, sir, you are my husband and will share all the burdens and secrets from now on.”

As we drove onto the ferry, I thought about how lucky I was to have this very clever stupid girl as my wife. Two familiar white cars followed us onto the ferry along with other family cars. As the ferry pulled away from the slip into the night, Noro and my parents came up to the truck. Father said, “We noticed that you were pulled over, was it Bill?”

“Yes, but I think it was mostly to introduce himself to Chrissie more than anything. He missed the boys’ show and I think he knew that they had been driving my truck. He knows what it can really do because he pulled me over when I was over seventy coming up to the farm one night. I had made a quick trip into the city for some supplies and came up that way rather than our side one year.”

“Well he’s always been sharp and Boris has done some things with him in the past. He already knows Mike and Al. He’ll probably pop over and visit just before Christmas and talk to Helmut and Mary when they get here. He usually does.”

“Is he fae?” Chrissie asked. “I couldn’t tell for sure and I didn’t want to pry.”

“No, I don’t think so. But he has a fae community in his jurisdiction and like Jake and the rest of the communities near the Cape, that means that you start to know certain things and how to deal with them. He knows about Boris and has called in Hilda and Stephie for things that needed to be discreet. He also, as I said, checks in with Helmut and Mary when they come up and he has the office’s phone number if he needs it. He’ll also want to catch up on the Andy matter. He was not happy about that. He’s known Andy for a long time and was rather upset that George had been an accessory but it was Boris’ jurisdiction and Jacob handled it. He’ll call ahead when he comes.”

“So do you think that George has had a change of heart,” I said. “It looks as if Sal really shook him up and Robert told him the real deal.”

Josh heard me as he walked over. “Well you know how Sal is, especially when he goes into troubleshooter mode. Hard, fast and rough. When the Troubleshooter shows up, it’s bad news. So what happened when you got pulled over?”

The sheriff wanted to say hello and meet Chrissie. I wasn’t really speeding and he knew that Bob and Scott were probably not going to be using my truck very long anyway. He didn’t have anything on them anyway. It’s not as if Elizabeth was really kidnapped and he said so. As for the rest of it, Bob and Scott aren’t going to use my truck for anything nefarious or their car either.  It’s not as if they don’t have access to a lot of different vehicles if they need them. Like a phone company truck. This way Bill can say to Jacob that he pulled my truck over, I was driving it with Chrissie and Bob and Scott were nowhere to be found. Where they actually are is anybody’s guess.”

“Well actually not.” They walked up. “We just exited Sheriff Jacob’s jurisdiction. Chrissie, do you want our help?”

“Maybe later. I haven’t decided what I want to do. This stupid girl takes time to come up with things even though I was smart enough to pick a smart husband. I want to make this as fun as possible.”

Bob smiled and said, “We can help with that. We also have lots of tubes left. The big thing right now is that Scott and I need to clean all the snow off the pond and set up a rig there. George wants closer pictures of Scott and Elizabeth. Of course we have the tool work and Mike probably has something with Uncle Tom’s stuff to go through.”

“The tool work starts tomorrow. So you boys will be in the shop in the morning. We’re also going to have to do some digging through storage. I need to pull some things for you that I did a long time ago, but haven’t needed recently. We’re also going to have to go through it and see if I made any changes in the way I do things and never documented them.  You boys also need to do the fittings for the tank beds so that we can get them running.  So we have our work cut out for us. Also, I’m rather miffed at Jacob and want to give him a Christmas present.”

We exited the ferry and drove to the farm. When we arrived, there was a trailer with a tarp covering some boxes waiting beside the back door with a hand watching it under a light. “Hi Tom! Bill wasn’t sure where you wanted these.”

“Hi Vic. Well It’s too late to empty them now, so let’s put the trailer over there in the barn and keep it out of the weather. We can deal with it in the morning. Does Roger still live out in the barn?”

Roger was one of the farm dogs. He was also a mutt and mean as sin to most people. Strangely enough he liked Chrissie the second he saw her. He also would never come inside like the other dogs who were all probably surrounding the stove in the living room right now. He had a hutch in the barn and wandered around both day and night. We hadn’t had him back when Brad was here and the other dogs had been scared and on the porch trying to get inside that night when I went out looking for trouble.

“He’s still in the barn. Actually, no, here he comes.”

He must have heard us come up and was looking for Chrissie, because as I was getting her out of the truck, there he was. “Hello Roger. We had a nice dinner and here, this nice bone.”

Well that did it. He was all over her, tail wagging furiously until she gave him the bone and he ran off with it. She had put the bone in a bag for him after dinner.

Vic started the tractor and I walked beside it as it was rolled into the barn and backed into an old stall that just about the size of the trailer. Then we passed Roger’s hutch and turned out the lights. Vic said, “I hope that anybody that goes in there doesn’t try compulsions on him. The kids did that back a while back and now they just make him mad. You don’t want to see Roger mad.”

“I know. I doubt that he’s mellowed out in the last few months. He likes Chrissie though.”

“That’s a strange thing. Even before she gave him that bone. About the only other person that Roger likes even a little bit is Andy. Maybe you a bit.”

I went back to the truck to roll Chrissie inside, but somebody had already done that, so I went inside. She was waiting by the door. “So who brought you inside?”

“Eric, but that doesn’t matter. Will the stuff be ok in the barn?”

“Roger is in there. He likes you and tolerates most of us on the farm. Anybody else that goes in there is looking for a bad time.”

“Even fae?”

“You’d have to ask dad about that. But Vic said that the kids used compulsions on him so much that they just make him mad now and nobody wants Roger mad.”

We went into the living room and there were most of the rest of the dogs around the stove. I looked around and asked Noro, “Where’s Doris?”

“Still in Burlington. That way she can post her material this evening on the parade. We are a bit crowded here anyway. Still the parade and those two young troublemakers made it worth it. That idiot. Josh was going on about how often he stepped in it.  First the boys.  Even I would not insult those two lightly. Then you and Chrissie, where he took you both as beneath his notice because he was angered at the boys’ little fun and games.  Though at this point, I’m not sure how much was theirs and how much was that transformer that went at about the same time. The engineer we had with us pointed out that that’s where the electrical discharges were coming from and a lot of the sparks and whatnot. So when Jacob came over and started to scream at Eric for everything, it was hilarious.  Then he starts screaming in Josh’s face about kidnapping.  If George hadn’t shown up at the restaurant and been repentant, it’s likely that the Olympics would have been dry as a bone.

As for Antonio, that arrangement was made by the office in New York on the recommendation of Antonio’s brother, who the office frequently uses for catering and events. Eric didn’t know anything about it until I mentioned it. He was planning to use another place until I mentioned that the company had rented Antonio’s and suggested that we just join the company’s party. Which worked out just fine for everybody and our people actually are making some preliminary proposals with your brother in law for a skating rink and a large heated pool with salt water, coincidently.  So all Jacob managed to do was piss people off. Including some of my people, who had set the dinner up and had Jacob succeeded, would have been rather upset. The Olympics is a big business booster for the region with a lot of investment behind it and Jacob is just making things harder. I can see now why Lou wanted me up here. At first I thought it was just to keep me out of the bower, but I doubt that Lou would just tell me to come up here for that.  There’s also George and what he represents.  Jacob is making it easier for the dark to get a foothold here. Lou has some people he goes to for nosing around and I think that I will give him a call and see if they can do some discreet nosing around over there. There’s something that doesn’t smell right and after the Manager, somebody like Jacob is a real risk. When you unpack your material, make sure that you pull your material from over there. I know that Helmut and Mary are going through the material, but we have the documents right here and there’s no point in unpacking them if we don’t use them.”

“I was just going to pull the stuff out of the boxes and put it in lighter boxes to make it easier for Helmut to ship. But I think you’re right. I’ve been reluctant to actually use the material because of the risks involved but now that it is out, not looking at it and the current situation is even more risky. I won’t have a lot of time, but Chrissie, Stacey, Athena and Mary can go through it and see what’s relevant now. Also we can talk to Elizabeth, George and Hazel. Antonio too. Let me get Mike and have him call Helmut. I don’t know what they have been doing with the Manager’s stuff, but maybe we can point them at this as something that should be looked at. Jacob’s son was drafted like Brad was and I think that I will make discreet contact with some people and see where he ended up. If he was killed by werewolves or after a werewolf attack, or was in a dirty dozen, that will tell us a lot.”

Mike and Nera had just finished their session and I grabbed him and we got together with Noro before Noro left for Roger and Mary’s house where he was staying with Gull. We talked about our concerns and Mike said that he would talk to Helmut in the morning. Then we all went to bed.

Sal.

Saturday 12/19.

After my fun and games with George and a nice lunch we went back to my place. The house was sort of turning into a temporary headquarters for the bureau for a variety of reasons. First of all there were the growing number of Swimmers in the bureau. It was easier to set up in a house that was already setup for people like us. Second was that the compelled needed time to adjust and return to their lives. Or build new ones. Roger, for instance, was learning to shoot and working with Steve on darkroom work as well as driving. We even kept the Manager’s car around for odd jobs.  Third was that the house was proving to be more discreet for getting into and out of than the office in Manhattan. That may not have been an issue for our FBI neighbors, but with our increasing tempo lately and the fact that we were supposed to be clandestine, it was for us. There was also the problem of getting Big Jim, Dom or Noro when he was in town discreetly into the office. Mr. White hanging around anywhere near Wall St. attracted attention and people were likely to see Mr. White now no matter what Noro was wearing at any given time. It was easier to meet out here and just not worry about it. Nobody thought about a bunch of big cars out here or looked too closely at them anyway.  Then there was ease of which we could just get a boat and not use a car at all. Or Swim.  There was also the fact that nobody was going to just hang out at the Troubleshooter’s house. By this point, the underworld and the rest of the world knew that the troubleshooter had caused a Catholic mob boss to kill himself. Only Father Jones knew the truth outside the circle and he wasn’t telling. Confessors never did and I still felt a little bit sad about Al. At least that wasn’t going to happen again. Father Jones hadn’t been happy with the idea of putting compulsions on people and said that my penance was to remove any I found. Which I was going to do anyway.

Frank had been getting a stack of warrants and conducting a bunch of searches while we were at the wedding. Actually he hadn’t needed the warrants once Bill Elliott had started to call around. Frank did find one thing in John Sickles’ room, Vinnie’s gun. The Christmas after I made detective, Vinnie had had two custom .38 automatic pistols made by Colt with brooms on the ivory grips rather than the Colt logo and given one to me. I still had mine but hadn’t carried it after my run in with a construct. Now I had the other one of the set. The one place we were going to hit, but hadn’t yet, was Sylvia’s. She had been a madam in the worst possible way.  She was running exactly the kind of business that Vinnie and I wanted to shut down . In among the stuff we found at the clubhouse, along with some macabre trophies like shark’s teeth with the kids names on them, was a bunch of stuff about the sort of things that went on at Sylvia’s and some blackmail material on certain clients and outfit contacts. As well as some stuff about Vinnie.  He had been a target for a reason in addition to his high value bonding. Apparently when he was dating Ynthia, he got a whiff of what Sylvia’s was about and Sylvia had talked to her mob buddies and found out about Vinnies reputation. I called Big Jim and asked if Vinnie had talked to him and he said that Vinnie had asked to do some troubleshooting in his outfit just before he was killed. Since I didn’t know about Change at the time, I thought now that Vinnie was planning to close the deal, introduce me to some things and have us go on one last bust together. The sharks had spoiled that.

Well the people at that place were about to get some troubleshooting and I got lucky when Tim’s editor came by to make sure that his new star reporter was not working when he was supposed to be not working.  Doris had explained some things and he already knew quite a few merfolk so he laughed when I said that he was Swimming with the fish today. “The problem is going to be Monday, but I think I can keep it quiet until then.”

“What’s happening Monday?”

“A house of very ill repute is going to get troubleshot. If you can send somebody out the story is going to be worth it.”

“Why not do it now?”

“Well I want all the pieces in place and we want to do some discreet checking before we go in.”

“Checking for what?”

“Warehouse issues and spontanious combustion. I don’t want the place to go up in flames when we hit it. We should be ready Monday about two oclock. Have somebody at the station and we will pick them up. There shouldn’t be any weird and strange issues.”

“Ok, I’ll send Bill. He spends too much time in the newsroom having young stringers send in the copy anyway. I’ll send a photographer too. Are the cops going to be there?”

“I think that you can say that. The troubleshooter is going to make a statement on how willing he is to cooperate with law enforcement to close certain kinds of businesses. This is the Vincent Caliabierti memorial.”

“I remember when you and he would clean up places. It made Dom look better, which a bunch of phony law and order guys didn’t like and exposed some of those same guys for what they really were.  You also sold a lot of papers. This is going to be good.” “Probably better, if the hints about this place are true. I’ll bring Tim, but he leaves his camera at home.”

“Oh, let him bring it. We just won’t accept copy from him.  I hope that he and his lady are enjoying themselves.”

“She’s keeping him under as much as she can. After the wedding she had him out on a deserted island and managed to distract him from a little war the navy and army were having. Not that any of the parties involved were willing to risk the wrath of Suzy by letting him on a boat. After this thing I think he wants to go over to the library and look up shark stuff in Philly for the admiral and do that piece for White’s on the coffee business during the rest of the week. He was going to put together a little piece on Kay’s cookies but Doris set one of your other junior reporters on it and he already handled it.”

“We do want them to earn their paychecks. Tim doesn’t know it, but some of the other guys are going to keep an eye on him so that they can scoop him. Not that will be easy. I think that I will quietly mention when I get back about the Philly angle and that Tim is interested. There will be five guys down there Monday looking for kidnappers and shark attacks.”

“Tell them to look for fishing disputes and fish kills. That was what started us in on the sharks. Also strange poisonings and deaths by people who dump stuff.  Like the warehouse story.”

“I think I like it already. Just the thing to get some shoe wear from the guys I pay and generate some copy. Especially if the victims are the same kind we had with the kidnapping story. I can’t tell you how glad I am that you made an ending for that one. When this thing started George and I had to go around and talk to those families. The problem is that George knew what was going on, but he couldn’t prove it or figure out just how the sharks were being baited. Either way, those people were monsters.  Thank you for taking them out.”

“I didn’t do it by myself.” “I know, and Doris is telling the families.  I imagine that Doris’s sister has already talked to your mother about your Christmas party. Not that you need any help with a party.  Other than me trying to wrangle an invitation.”

“Well, talk to Sillia or my mother. They are handling that and Doris is already invited if she’s in the area. She may still be upstate.”

“She should be back. That parade was probably pretty boring. She has to cover the snobs but, for people with all that time, they just aren’t that much fun. Well I will talk to Sillia and get going. If I don’t show up at least a little bit at the office the place goes right to hell.”

Linda and Roscoe turned up in a car followed by Tony and some of the boys and the mechanic had the Duesie ready, so we were off to do some troubleshooting. As we drove out of the driveway, Tony asked, “How come you didn’t invite me for that that snot from upstate. Robert says that it was hilarious.”

“I would have, but you’re not fae and have never been compelled and George had some bad habits. I didn’t want you compelled and have to deal with that and George at the same time.  According to Greta and Roger, if you get compelled often enough or, by a very strong compulsion, when it’s removed, there’s a scarring that makes it harder to compel you again. But I didn’t want you to go through that if I could avoid it.  If me or Vinnie had known how to do compulsions and used them when we were kids, you would be immune now. Just about all the kids or everybody else up there in Vermont is immune. Any way I didn’t want to bother you.”

“For that, it wouldn’t have been a bother. Doing what he did so that a kid could be taken. Also for being an idiot. Do you think that he will smarten up and talk to Hilda?” “Robert had him after I did. Frankly I don’t want to shut down the booze for the Olympics to make a point. Josh will do that though to make his point.  And Andy is a great kid.” “They all are, actually.  My wife wants to put our two in with them at the school they are setting up next year. Along with your sister and Captain Farr’s two younger kids. They aren’t fae, but Albert and Mary think that that may be a good thing and our kids have the same kind of risk potential that the rest do. The school wasn’t a bad idea, the Management was. How do you think that Andy is going to handle Trillia?”

“Probably by having a gun modified.”

“That goes without saying. At least one.  Though how she is going to use it is another story.”

“Well Trillia doesn’t want to spend all her time underwater and this will be Andy saying that she doesn’t have to. Actually, if you look at all the mermaids of our aquaintance, none of them are strictly staying underwater all the time.”

“That’s for sure. I think we are at our first stop.”

We were, in one of those places that proved that the outfit wasn’t strictly an Italian thing as the boss was a guy by the name of Isaac Pressman. He wasn’t exactly from our neighborhood and his boys wore black suits and wide brimmed hats. He looked at me with more than a bit of fear in his eyes as I walked into his office and Tony leaned against the door. “What can I do for you gentlemen?”

I looked closely at him and he had the feeling of chains that a compulsion left, so I pulled it.

He looked at me and said, “Thank you, whatever you did. Now what can I do for you, just name it, anything at all.”

I handed him the car card and said, “Just call that number and ask if you can tell the lady on the other end what you know about the people that tied you up. Tell them that Sal sent you.”

“I’ll do that, Sal. I’ll do that.”

We walked out and I said, “That’s so much easier now that I can just pull the compulsions.”

We went to our next stop. Tony was keeping a list. “Why are you keeping a list?”

“Those guys are immune to compulsions now, right? I want a list of people that I know are immune to them and that know what they are. That way Dom and Jim can put them in the spots where they can be trusted when they might be at risk from the kinds of people that we are dealing with.”

We went down through the people that had been on the contact list, pulling compulsions as we went. I made a lot of friends.  We also checked the fire department and the police near Sylvia’s and cleaned those out. Then we quietly parked near Sylvia’s behind Linda’s car. After a bit, Roscoe and Linda emerged from the woods. Linda held up a cord and said, “We shut down the self destruct. It was the same as the Manager’s. We also pulled the suicide compulsions. We left the rest on the “residents” so that they don’t have to deal with what people are doing to them. They are fae, by the way.  The customers are both. What bunch of sick people. We’ll want Frank and a team from Homicide. There was a fresh grave in back. I wonder if this was the place that they were going to send Hilda. I wish we could go in today, but we need to get ready and do this right. The management was setting up for a big party Monday night. Why don’t we crash it.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Tony said. “I want to retract some booze shipments anyway. This kind of place doesn’t deserve our business.”

We drove back to the house for lunch and Linda and Roscoe made sketches of the interior and where everything was. They had gone in discreetly through the roof and walked through the house invisibly and the management had never realized that we were there. I called the boss and Albert and Frank and they came over with Tony, Robert, Bill and Frank’s people to go over what we were going to do. Mary showed up and was concerned about the kids that were being used there and how we handled them.  I asked if she had seen this sort of thing before and she said yes, over in Europe and that the kids that came out of places like that were easy to Turn and become Twisted themselves. “Children, especially fae children, at that level of abuse are very vulnerable to bad influences. I suspect that this was a Twisted factory as well as a place to recruit monsters.”

“Why didn’t they shut down,” Albert asked. “You would think that they would?” “They may not know yet that Sylvia and the Manager are dead,” Mary said. “The Manager never knew that Sylvia was dead before he was taken out and we took him out very quickly. These people were compelled and the dark fae probably don’t read the papers or pay attention to the news. We also kept things quiet and the final shark story hasn’t hit yet. Roger held most of it back to make a bigger impact when he had everything. Sylvia has probably gone away for periods of time and never explained before, so they are going along just as they always do.

The Manager’s boss evacuated very quickly after the call came in. We were not able to get people to the address before the office had been closed down. We did get some things, but most of it was gone by the time the people we sent got there. Still, whoever he is probably cut off his communications and hasn’t restored them, especially with operations that the Manager was responsible for.”

The compelled had been going through the stuff the Manager had had with motivated diligence and one of the maids found the addresses of all the people that had worked at the warehouse, including the address of the Chemist. She came into the room and said, “Helmut, we just found this and from what happened to the people there at the warehouse, I think that you want somebody to open that place with extreme care. The Chemist was more or less immune to his stuff, but somebody else could be hurt and he used to joke about cooking stuff up in his basement. It’s getting toward the end of the month and since the Chemist is dead, the rent hasn’t been paid.”

Considering Tony’s remark about the chemist being exposed to too much of his own stuff, that was more than a bit scary and she was right that this was something that needed to be dealt with immediately. Helmut looked at me and said, “I think that we need to get right on this. Is Bill still at the Manager’s?”

“I think so, He’s trying different ways to assault houses with Steve’s people. I’ll see if Roger can go over there.”

Roger could and brought Steve, Bill and Stelios back. He said, “They were all there and when I told Bill why you wanted him, they all came back.”

Steve said, “So what’s going on?”

“We just found the Chemist’s house. This is something we want to handle very carefully.” Bill said, “Ok, I’ll get the people we used on point last time. We won’t need a full team because the house should be empty.  We’ll do a sweep outside first and call in NYPD for evacuation and crowd control. I’ll have NYFD on call like last time. Have you called Jason yet?”

“Not yet, I’ll do that right now.”

Steve said, “I can get the people I have here and I’ll call the yard and get our Chemical decontamination team to put together a squad. We have some suits for that sort of thing.

As he turned to leave, Stelios said, “sir, we probably don’t have to tell them this, but make sure that they bring some gas and a torch. Torching the house may be the only option.”

“Will do.

Bill and Steve left.

Tim and Suzy had gotten back from their Swim and he rolled her in and said, “So what’s going on?”

“Vicky found the Chemist’s place. We want to take it out before it hurts somebody.” I handed him the address.

“I know this place. It’s not that far from where we used to live. It’s a house, not an apartment and it used to be one of those places that freaked you out. Let me call Mrs. MacDougal and see if she knows anything. Then I think that little Timmy will be in the neighborhood again.”

As he said that the Brooklyn accent had become pronounced. He went over to the phone and made the call. He talked for a bit and put the phone back down. Then he came back. “Mrs. MacDougal knows the place and the owner. The owner has the corner store down there and couple of other places. I know him too. He gives kids odd jobs so that they can help their families. She’s going to call him and tell him not to mess with the place until we get there. He’s been griping about the rent not being paid, but it wasn’t the first time and the guy always caught up after a couple of months. I let her know that we were coming down.”

Linda and Roscoe came in and I said, “We found where the Chemist lived. This is a bomb we want to defuse very carefully.”

“Did somebody say defuse a bomb,” Merlia asked. “Tim knows how to do that.”

Tim Kirk had just rolled his bonded in. I told him, “this is more like a firetrap than a bomb, but it could be a disaster if something leaks. This is the guy that did the stuff for the warehouse. He died when the warehouse went down and there could be bad stuff in the house. I need to get a hold of our expert from the warehouse.”

I looked up Jason’s phone number and called. “Jason, it’s Sal. We just found out where the guy who was responsible for the warehouse lived and some people that were involved seem to think that he was cooking up stuff in the basement.”

“Take care of that as fast as you can. Where is it? I’ll get some people and come right down. That guy was an idiot and if he was cooking stuff up in the basement it could kill a bunch of people if somebody opens the door and there was vapor trapped under it.”

I gave him the address. “Do you want us to send a car?”

“To the nearest subway station. I’ll make some fast calls and collect them on my way down. We’ll bring the suits again. We want to treat this with great care. Especially if it’s in a residential neighborhood.”

He hung up. I turned to the boss and said, “I just called Jason. He’s on his way down.”

“Good. Though I hope that we can keep this one from going up in flames.”

“Cut the power,” Roscoe said. “Every one of the self destructs he builds uses electricity. We’ve never even seen a battery backup.” He picked up the cord that was on the table. “You don’t need to pull the plug, just cut the power.”

Stelios said, “Going up in flames may be the best option. Especially if he left something cooking. Though by now it should have made its mess. The fact that the place hasn’t attracted attention is a good thing.”

Tim went over to his room to change into little Timmy and came back with his messenger satchel. My parents came in and mother said, “We came over for a Swim and Sillia said that you found something.”

“The Chemist’s house. We’re afraid that it could be a bad accident waiting to happen.”

Steve and Bill came back in.

“Boss we’re set up and good to go.”

“Ok, so let’s go. Sal, bring the Duesie.”

“Why?”

“We’ll park it away from the house. Get Tony and troubleshoot something down there. If the other side is looking at you, they won’t see us. Also, Mrs. MacDougal asked your mother if the troubleshooter could visit the neighborhood. Mary is going to call some reporters and if the troubleshooter is there, people won’t ask too many questions about what’s happening other than bad people being troubleshot.”

Mother said, “Sal, do it. Mrs. MacDougal did ask and we don’t really want people looking at how bad this could get. Also if you ask for the keys as the troubleshooter, the landlord will probably just turn them over and if the house has to be torched he won’t get that upset.”

I was stuck. Sillia would go along with it because it would keep me out of trouble. So I went to collect Tony from the room where he was talking to some of the compelled about the Manager and the outfit and off we went. As we drove out, I asked is there any of the jerks from the old neighborhood down there in Carnesie?”

“Not off hand. Jimmy and Vic were the worst and you already troubleshot them Dom and Tara are at Bennies, or under Bennies. Why don’t we stop and ask?”

We did and sure enough there was another one of Jimmy’s jerks that had an office and liked rousting small businesses for small change. When Tara mentioned that, Tony said, “I had forgotten about him. Anthony. Never Tony, Anthony as if he was special. Was always trying to push us kids who had it rough around. So we drove over there to Mrs. MacDougal’s place to get the straight scoop before taking on Anthony. When we knocked on her door she opened it and said, “Hi Sal, So what trouble are you going to shoot, other than Thomas’s?”

“Anthony.”

“Oh, yes. Likes to push insurance. Insurance from his boys. That might not be so bad if he would actually protect the people he rousts, but his boys are useless for that. Why don’t you go to Thomas, have him complain, Go to Anthony and troublesoot him a bit and then back to Thomas. I’ve already called him and he knows that somebody will be asking him for the keys to the house.  He’ll want somebody to explain, but he’s been leery about that place now for a long time. I noticed little Timmy outside and I have some ladies and girls visiting so I have to go.”

She opened the door a little bit so that we could see that the ladies visiting were mother, Sillia, Suzy and Merlia. She closed the door and we walked back down the stairs. I said to Tony, “I should have expected that they would show up.”

“Well Sillia wants to keep an eye on you and Tim, Tim and Mike won’t get off easy either, if you do anything stupid. Let’s have some fun.”

So we did. Poor Anthony essentially crapped in his pants when he was told that upstairs was upset about certain ways that he was conducting his business and that he should at least do what people were paying him to do. When he asked how, I pointed at the growing circus at the Chemist’s house. “By telling upstairs about things like that. I know that your boys are useless but that place has been freaking people out here for years and you never even arranged to have somebody come down and check it out. Ok, here’s the way it goes. You never collect a dime from these people until you earn it. Since they paid for protection, I’m giving it to them. But since you didn’t, you can’t charge for it anymore.”

“I’ll be out of business.”

“So, if the best thing you can come up is rousting small shop owners by threatening to break their windows and wreck the stuff that they are trying to sell that’s not business, that’s just small time stupid. You were going to be the big cheese back in the neighborhood and all you end up with is small time stupid? Tony, let’s go. I’ve had enough pathetic for one day.” “So have I, Sal, so have I.”

We went back to Thomas’s and told him the story. Bill had already been in and collected the keys and the power company cut the power to the house and we watched as they went in. Fortunately,while the chemist had indeed been playing around with stuff in the basement he hadn’t had a lot of the really nasty stuff and they put it in a barrel to be torched at a safe location. Tim came over and said, “Poor “Anthony.” That guy has been around here forever, always rousting people for 10% and saying what a big cheese he was with the outfit. Well I don’t think  that anybody’s going to pay him now. By the way, I didn’t see anybody who didn’t belong out there and none of my old friends did either. They did ask why I was dressed as a kid if I was putting stuff in the paper and why I wasn’t covering this. I told them that I had been put on vacation by my boss because I was putting too much good stuff out and the paper needed to catch up with me. I also said that there might be weird and strange people and I was providing cover for some friends.”

Jason came over and said, “Hi Sal, Tony, who’s this?”

“This is Tim Thomas. If you check Monday’s paper, you’ll see his name again. He’s been the driver behind the kidnapping case that just closed up.” “The sharks? That’s been around for some time. You just closed it up?”

“We think so,” Tim said. “At least the sharks that ate Brooklyn kids.”

Thomas came over and said, “Mr. Downes, Mr. Smith said that I should talk to you about whether the house is safe to occupy.”

“Yes. Based on the activity we saw at the warehouse and what we’ve seen so far in the house, there could possibly be a long term risk of poison from fumes in the house. I think that the house will have to be condemned and will state my expert opinion on that for your insurance adjuster. In writing I will send the letter down Monday.”

Thomas looked rather discouraged and I said, “We turned the power off and probably tripped the booby trap. What would happen if the power were turned back on?”

“Oops,” Jason said. “Thomas, how are you protected against tenant related damage.”

“I have insurance for most of that, why?”

“Well if what we have been seeing is the pattern, you’re former tenant booby trapped his house,” I said. “Is there a booby trap, Jason?”

“Yes, with thermite, like the warehouse had. I wish that we had known to cut the power at the warehouse.”

“Well we pulled the plug on two of them before going in, but Tim suggested that it might just be easier to just turn off the power. Since our former tenant was a known arsonist with a penchant for booby traps and torched buildings a little accident wouldn’t be out of the possibility. Also based on the experience we had with the warehouse, having the thermite take the house is actually the best way out. Let’s talk to the boss.”

We went over to where the boss was watching the people cart stuff out of the house. I said, “Thomas here is concerned with the insurance on the house and returning to occupancy.”

“I know, I sent him to Jason.”

“Jason thinks that the house should go.”

“He said that.” “Thomas is covered for tenant related damage.” The boss started to grin. “Thomas, your former tenant was an arsonist who liked to put booby traps in buildings. You shouldn’t have opened the door, but it was a good thing you left immediately and the fire department was close enough to protect the neighboring houses.”

“Why do you want to burn the house?”

“Well other than that is sure way to deal with the potential chemical issues, the people that paid the Chemist like to have their stuff go up in flames to destroy the evidence. That was what happened at the warehouse. We also prevented one place from going up in flames. But this house is doomed anyway and if we let it go up now, the people who paid your tenant will never know what we have on them. At this point, we aren’t going to burn the house, your former tenant is. We just interrupted the process, preventing his device from activating.  Had you opened the door without turning the power off , the device would have gone off and if you had been in the house, you would have been killed.”

“If these people use booby traps as a precaution, what are they really doing?”

“I can’t tell you that, but there will be a story about part of it in Monday’s paper. It’s bad. When we are done we will just leave the house and you can open the door.”

“Oh I wouldn’t want to deny you the show and the fire department is already here. And as you said, getting an occupancy certificate is unlikely, so well, let’s wait.”

We watched as the men in the suits stripped the house of everything and then the power went on and Thomas opened the door and then walked away. Shortly thereafter the flames started and the whole place went up like a volcano.

“Did I mention that the Chemist had used thermite floor coverings again,” Jason said. “He loved the stuff, but I’m not sure why he relied on electricity as his ignition source. At least electricity from outside.”

The ladies had come in the car as the house was burning and Sillia motioned me over. “Did you mean for that to happen?”

“It was the best resolution. The house was doomed anyway, Thomas was insured for tenant damage and his tenant was known arsonist with a taste for boobytraps and thermite and this way the other side will never know for sure what happened.”

The reporters came over and took my picture and asked what had happened and I said that I had been doing some cleanup, that some people upstairs had heard about the house and we got there just in time to prevent the owner from going inside before his tenant’s booby trap went off. Then Tony and I left. We all went to Bennies for dinner and Tara asked, “How did it go?”

“Well “Anthony got a talking to about what a small timer he was and we lost the house, but we figured that was going to happen and the owner accidently set off his tenant’s booby trap while looking into the house because the tenant hadn’t paid the rent on account of being toasted beyond recognition in the warehouse. We got a good haul that we will have to go through.”

I had to get up and bring Sillia in, we filled up the place and had a good dinner with good people. Then I took Tony home and went back to the house where Sillia was waiting at our pool. As I Changed she looked at me. “So that went well.  I think that I will have to make a jerk list for special occasions. The way those clowns used to sneer at us because mom and your mother would look out for the kids in bad places. Yet look where those kids are and look at where the clowns ended up. Tony runs the outfit for Dom and “Anthony” is a small time grifter who sells protection and lets rot like that into the neighborhood.”

“I know, it’s amazing how things turned out. Well the idiots will know that I’m coming now.”

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