Mermaid, Chapter 18 and end

Ghost and Spirit get work. Tom makes some rather amazing revelations.

Ghost.

Sunday, 12/20

I convinced Eli to go out with me for a Swim at Fire Island and a nice stay at a hotel that Meria had mentioned that Sal and Sillia had liked. I could see why they had liked it as it was very easy to get discreetly wet, which we did. After a wonderful breakfast we went back to the city where Sarah was waiting at the building’s door. “Hello, you two, we have work.”

“How did that happen?”

“Well Noro went up to Vermont with the rest because Lou sent him up there and he went over to the parade at Lake Placid. Where he ran into the king over there.”

“What happened?” Eli asked “I don’t have the details, but two of Tom’s nephew’s cut loose, the king put his foot in it every time he opened his mouth all day yesterday and Noro smelled something rotten. So he called Lou and wanted you to take a look. Retainer through Friday if you accept, our standard rates and the contract is on the desk.”

“So are we to contact Noro when we get up there?”

“I think that it’s at your discretion. Lou said that Noro wanted a discreet look around up there without having a connection to him directly. Most likely any connection will be through Tom or Stacey.   Doris was going up there on assignment but she told me that it was just going to be another boring ho hum and she would probably be right back. If things aren’t boring, she might stay up a bit. Since things don’t seem to be boring she may stay up there a bit.”

“Anything else in the news?” I asked.

“Sal burned down a house yesterday.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know yet. I imagine that Joe or Bennie does, but I haven’t been down there and they haven’t called. It’s probably related to the cleanup after the Manager. It was just a troubleshooter story in the paper this morning. Sal is getting good press and I think that Mary set it up. “

Eli asked, “so, who goes up and who stays?”

“I think that I should keep an eye on what Sal is doing and you should talk to Lou. If you go up right now, you can meet him for lunch and catch the afternoon train upstate. If it looks as if we both need to be upstate I can go up later.”

“That will work and if Noro is suspicious of something enough that he comes right out and tells Lou to have somebody come up and look, then it’s probably something we should be looking into anyway. In any case if Jacob is true to form, he managed to piss both Tom and Chrissie off and it’s going to be fun. Well I will attempt to stay far away from the center of that. I need to get going.”

He left to grab another bag. We always kept one ready so that we could leave at a moment’s notice. I turned to Sarah and said, “so where is Sal in the paper?”

She hauled out the paper and there he was with the car and the house going up behind him rather vigorously explain about how a tenant had rigged the house and upstairs had sent him down when they found out about it. I suspected that whatever had caused this had originated in his house because lately the house had become the bureau’s operations headquarters. From their standpoint that was a good thing. The bureau had also recently acquired new, motivated staff members with inside knowledge of the Manager’s operation and how that changed the game remained to be seen. In any case they didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave the house.   I turned to Sarah and said, “I won’t learn very much here, so I think that I will take the camera and look at what’s left of the house.”

“I figured you would do that.” She handed me the camera. “Sal isn’t in the habit of burning things down and it’s probably worth a look.”

I went down in the car and drove down to the neighborhood. The neighborhood seemed familiar and after a while I realized why. My son had lived here for a long time in the building on the corner. I parked the car around the corner and walked toward the house. Or rather what was left of the house, which wasn’t much. The fire must have been incredibly intense. I took some pictures and prepared to leave when I sensed somebody behind me. “Hello Theresa.”

“May.”

“I thought that this might attract your attention. We all slipped up on this one.” “So what happened here.”

“Well there was a dark fae living in the house for about ten years. We didn’t know what he was doing and since he wasn’t doing it here, left him alone. He apparently went up in that warehouse a couple of months ago and Helmut, Sal and a crew came down and did some cleanup. The house made a rather spectacular fire from the booby trap the dark fae had left.”

“Was anybody hurt?”

“No, they were very careful. The booby trap only went off when they wanted it to. Their expert said that the house had been rendered unsafe and they were making sure that Thomas collected on the insurance.”

“Unsafe how?”

“Poisons from the chemicals the dark fae was working with. That’s the big reason that they burned the house down. They seemed to be familiar with the boobytraps.”

“Anything else happen?”

“Tim and Suzy closed the deal and are probably getting married in June next year. They went up to a wonderful wedding with the rest of them and Tim and Sal closed the sharks down, but I suspect that you know about all that.”

“Yes. I did know about that. Did they have wonderful time at the wedding? They didn’t come straight back.”

“Yes they did and then Suzy marooned Tim with some other couples under a deserted island and they came back on the navy’s yacht. They hit shore on Thursday. Tim has been banned from sending copy into the paper until after the new year. So he couldn’t do the story about the fire. He was here, though, doing a sweep in the neighborhood in his kid’s clothes. They don’t have the wedding pictures yet as Chrissie isn’t going to collect and distribute them until after she gets back from upstate.”

“So they did have a wonderful time.”

“Well they rushed closing the deal because of Tim being taken by the sharks but since then Suzy has been keeping Tim under as much as possible to stop him from working. Which is almost impossible.”

“Well I think I need to talk to Joe so I will get going.”

“Tell him hello from me. The place is safe and Tim’s tail never showed up.” “The sharks ate him.”

“That’s too bad. Anybody I know?”

“I don’t think so. Joe Buckley. He was put under compulsion by the leader of the sharks.” “No, I didn’t know him. I will see you.”

She went back to her building as I went to the car and headed to Bennies. Apparently the bureau was doing cleanup on the Manager’s leftovers. I wondered what would get hit next. This one seemed like a rush job, but the end of the month was coming and the house sounded as if it was dangerous.  I would have to think about how I could sell the information to the Director. Tell him that the place went up in flames before they drained it dry or after?

I parked in front of Bennies and walked in. “Hi Theresa.” “Hi Sissy, is my son under or up top.”

“In the office.”

“Ok, I’ll go in.”

I ducked around the kitchen and down the hallway in back that actually led to the building behind Bennies where he kept his catering supplies and truck and there was a small office space that my son had taken over once he moved down here. I went into the office and Joe said, “Hi, mother, how was your day with father, yesterday.”

“Wonderful. We don’t do it often enough.” “So where is father now?”

“On his way North. Lou had a job for Noro that came up.”

“Did Lou say what it was?”

“Noro had a run in with Jacob and he thinks that there may be things that are not right up there.” “Other than Jacob, you mean?”

“Probably. One way or another it will probably be interesting. So what happened with that house last night?”

“I wasn’t here when they came in last night. Sissy will know more, but from what Bennie said, the place was a time bomb waiting to go off and they took care of it. The house had been leased by the Manager’s Chemist and they were concerned that there would be something there that would hurt a bunch of people.” “So they burned it down?” “Actually it burned itself down. Since the thing was set by the tenant, the owner could collect on the insurance.”

“I think that I’m beginning to see the picture now. Did they get everything that was in there?”

“You will have to ask Sissy about that, or Dom. I would guess that they did. After all, they had enough people here on the problem. And the house burned itself down after they left it.  Tom disabled the Manager’s self destruct and I would expect that they know how to do that. Apparently they have figured out how to do that so that the thing stops and then goes off again.”

“I think that I want to keep an eye on this. So how were Tim and Suzy?”

“Tim and Suzy. I’ve haven’t had a chance to talk since we got back from the wedding and Suzy hasn’t allowed Tim up very much. He apparently had an interesting day yesterday and something else coming up tomorrow. Talk to Sissy she might know more. Or stake out the house.”

“That’s not easy. There’s no good place to set up a stake out that won’t get noticed and there are a lot more people up there now.”

“Mother, we could go up and I could introduce you. Or I could have Tim come down here with Suzy to meet you. I’ve offered to do that and you’ve said no. Then you pry me for information I don’t have. I’ve made arrangements for them to meet Maria’s parents on Tuesday. So why don’t you come down.”

“I don’t think I can. I think that Noro wants both of us.”

“OK, after Christmas, then. We can make something work. It’s time to stop putting this off and hurting yourself. Look, the earlier you do it, the less likely it is that Meria will. You’re lucky that you came into lunch late. They were here with Mike, Stella, Dom, Tara and Dom’s pastor working on Sal and Sillia’s wedding. Sal was commenting how many compulsions he released yesterday.”

“Did he say why?”

“He said that he would tell us tomorrow night. They have a big clean up planned and they want to keep it quiet. He said that this is the memorial bust for Vincent Caliabeirti.  The troubleshooter is going after somebody big time.”

“I would love to see that.”

“Be at the station near the house. They are meeting the press at 2:00 PM. You could probably follow along and they wouldn’t notice. It’s something related to a fairly large party, so you might be able to figure it out on your own.”

“Ok, I will talk to Sarah and see what’s up. I think that I will go out and have some lunch and gossip with Sissy since you’re no fun.”

“Do that, so that I can get this done and have a nice Swim with my wife.”

I went back out front and sat down. It was quiet as the lunch crowd was long gone at the this point and Sissy said, “You’re usual?”

“Yes.”

She called out, “DAD, THERESA’S HAVING HER USUAL!” and sat down. “So why don’t we have all the gossip that the grouch back there didn’t want.”

“How did you know he was being a grouch?”

“He always is this time of year, when he has to close things up. Anyway, he wasn’t here for the fun last night and I think that’s what you want to know about. Did you have a nice swim yesterday?”

“Yes we did. Sarah nailed us with work the minute we got back. Noro wants something looked into upstate. Eli is going ahead”

“Did he say what?”

“Not specifically, but apparently he ran into the king up there and the man was his usual self.” “Entitled and a jerk. He came down to the city once and Grandmother invited him down here to say hello. He turned her down flat and was rude about it. Since I was the one delivering the message I had to put up with him.  Did Noro say what set him off?”

“Tom’s nephews, apparently.”

“Bob and Scott. Eric and Greta had stories. Boris had more stories. They were playing with Tom for two weeks. Just about all the navy guys have stories about Tom from when he was down in Washington.”

“I watched most of that from the sidelines. Tom played the poor Manager like a fish. So Bob and Scott can probably do things that they couldn’t before. I wonder what Jacob did to set them off to the level that Noro thought it worthy of comment. Well other than enjoying himself.

The strange thing is that Noro wasn’t going up there in the first place. Yet there he was. Lou apparently wanted him to be looking around and then Noro wanted an independent look by somebody more out of the public eye than he is.

So what happened with the House that Sal burned down yesterday? I went over there and it seems to have been a hotter fire than normal. It also seems that they conspired with the owner to ensure that the house burned rather than remained standing.”

“Well the house had been used by the guy that made all the stuff in the warehouse that they hit a while back. One of the compelled found the address and noticed that the rent was about to stop and Tony and some of the others had heard the Chemist say that he was cooking stuff up in the house. So they called in people and went through the house and since the expert said that the house would have to be condemned anyway they triggered the booby trap the Chemist had set to burn the house down. According to Jason, that was the safest thing to do if you didn’t know what the Chemist had been playing with anyway.”

“That’s what I thought. I rather suspected that they would pick the house clean. So what’s going on with Sal’s raid tomorrow?”

“He’s not saying other than he thinks that it will make a big splash. They did some setup yesterday and cleared some compulsions.  They want to wait for some big shindig and then the troubleshooter is going to show and hit the place for the cops, the cops being Sal’s friend Frank’s buddies. FBI types too probably. He’s calling it the Vincent Caliabierti memorial bust.”

“So it’s going to make noise. If Sarah can’t find it, I’ll just show up at the train station with the rest of the press people. I’ve done that before. That’s how I met Doris. You put a piece of cardboard in your hat, or attached to your purse and have a camera and nobody checks your actual credentials. Most of Tim’s paper knows me anyway and will vouch for me. It pays off when I send them something juicy. For that matter, Roger and have known each other for a very long time too.”

“Tim is going to be there. Not as a reporter. He can’t send copy until after the new year. But he will document for Helmut’s people.”

“Good, so I can see him in action.”

Bennie brought the lunches out. “Sissy is on her break and her dad, as you heard, is doing the cooking for the time being. I’m dealing with some business matters.”

“Along with the grouch in the back.”

“Along with Joe. At least he doesn’t have to live with the pain anymore. Now that we have Sal to look after things, we will be better off.”

 

“Sal’s been rather busy lately. He and the rest of the bureau. Burning houses down and big busts like he used to do.”

“He hasn’t said very much yet. But he and Roger got together to make sure that the bust goes in the papers. It’s related to the sharks, but exactly how, I don’t know. It doesn’t have a lot of weird and strange issues because he’s deliberately being noisy with it. I think that we will enjoy it, though.”

“I think that we will too. Now that it is just cleanup, he can relax. The director won’t, though.” “So what are you going to sell him and how much is it going to cost.”

“I was going to sell the burned down house and the fact that they stripped it clean, but with bigger thing I will wait and see what’s going on.”

“Well I will let you two ladies get back to your gossip and get back to work. Catering is picking up lately and so has business. There is a bit of pressure to move closer to Coney and I may think about a place up there. A place up there might work out during the season.”

He left and Sissy and I got back to our important gossip and lunch and after she had to get back to work so I left for our building. When I go back, I knocked on Sarah’s door and went in. “Hi Theresa. What did you find out?”

“That they stripped the place clean and used the Chemist’s own booby trap to destroy the evidence that they had. Sal is also doing a large bust tomorrow and from what Sissy said it was going to be of a party. I could just slip in with the press people, but I might want a more discreet look.”

“Well my contacts on the sleazyvine say that there’s a big thing coming up at a very nasty house, but the people that know about it that talk to me are being cagy about it for good reason. I don’t want to push very much and those people tend to be skittish about what they are doing or have so much clout that I don’t want to be seen as messing with them. I don’t really have a lot of time to dig something up and I wasn’t paying too much attention because the sharks were on their way out anyway and the thing with the Manager. When is the press supposed to meet?”

“Two PM at the station near Sal’s place. We will be met there.”

“Well I would just go with the press then. If I had a week to do some poking I might have something, but there are several different places that it could be and I don’t want to guess.” “Give me the list anyway. I may want to horse trade with the troubleshooter at some point and I suspect that he’s going to want to continue cleaning up those places. You can do it tomorrow morning. I think that we also need to pull the file on the east New York kingdom.”

“That’s already done.” She handed it to me. “It’s not fun reading.”

I went back to our apartment to look at it. It wasn’t. It was obvious that the term, ripe for the picking applied and had the dark tried in this case what they had tried in the Vermont kingdom, the results would have been a disaster. But Jacob’s son had died in the war and there were no werewolves in Jacob’s family. The Olympics had been a big project by the State of New York and various investors and businesses, White’s included, though Noro hadn’t been involved. The whole thing had been made much harder by Jacob’s stubbornness and stupidity, as well as his trying to squeeze everything out of it that he could.  From the looks of things, a fair amount of people were looking at Eric and how he did things and wishing that he was running the show. I suspected that now that he was involved, Noro would end up running the show, at least for a while. Since Eli was out and neither Sarah nor I felt like cooking and cleaning up, we went out to dinner and tore people we knew apart with gossip.

Tom.

Sunday, 12/20.

Chrissie was off to church with mother and the rest. How they were going to be discreet with all the tails was beyond me, but mother didn’t seem to be worried. I got up early again so that Bill and I could start going through my stashes and I could pull some things for the shop.  Since I needed those things, we started upstairs above the shop in the old mill. He looked at the two drawing cabinets when we climbed up the steep staircase and asked, “How did you get those up here?”

“There’s a big door and a beam for a hoist. They were also empty when I hoisted them up. The first one was the cabinet that Bill sold me with rest of the shop. The second came from Pratt when they downsized.” I went to the wooden older cabinet and started to pull some sheets of paper. “Stephie has dragooned me into doing a class for some of the kids on shop safety and using tools. Since the kids will probably be spending time in here, that’s a good idea. So I’m pulling some of the things I did when I first started making things. These are some good projects for the kids to start out on.”

I went a bit deeper and pulled out another set of drawings. “This is my original planner for the pistols and the rifle setups. I want to go over it with the boys.”

Bill looked around at the drawing cabinets, the desk and the shelves with tooling on them for various things. “You had this well set up. I’m surprised that you didn’t take this down with you.”

“I was going to. You know why I took that other stuff and getting the cabinets out of here was going to be a bigger job than I wanted to handle the last two times that I was here. When they set up the new shop for me they provided a drawing cabinet, board and desk, so I won’t need these.  As for the contents, I think that the boys and I will have to go over some things with Larry and father. That may have to wait, though.  I think that I will have most of it reproduced and take the copies. Let’s go downstairs.”

Bill went down the stairs and I followed. We went back into the shop, I put the drawings on the bench and I went over to the grinder and said, “Help me with this. This stash is empty, but you should know about it.”

“That grinder moves?” We slid it over. “With those big bolts, you wouldn’t think so.”

“That was the idea. Though, before I leave, I’m going to have to spill some oil and scuff up the floor a bit to mask the fact that I’ve been moving it.”I popped the floorboard and showed that the stash was empty.

“What was here won’t be coming back and Chrissie has some ideas.” I put the floor board back. “Let’s slide the grinder back.”

We did that and I said, “there’s one more thing here. The boys already found it and it was mostly being hidden from Stephie, but let’s check anyway”

I went back to the metals rack with its stock material and scraps and look for the small pocket on the wall behind it and the book was still there. I pulled it out and said, “This is probably the most dangerous thing in the stash, but there’s no point in hiding it back there anymore. Now I have to decide what to do with it.”

“That’s the book, isn’t it? Stephie’s been wanting to see that as long as I can remember.”

“This is my backup copy in case she found and had the main copy confiscated. Not that that would have done her any good as all the drawings were first done on vellum and those are upstairs and I have a safe deposit box with my drawings and other stuff in it reduced as a fire file. Maybe I will just give it to her for her museum. Though she is already getting something else for it this year and she did make off with one set the noisemakers I made.”

I took the book with me as we turned out the lights and closed the shop. “Let’s drop this by the house and head over to the old barn.”

As we were crossing the yard, the boys showed up. “Boys, Start getting the shop heated up and I will be right back.”

They went over to the shop and we continued over to the house. I dropped the book on my old desk and came right back out. “Why didn’t you start the stove while we were in the shop?”

“Because we weren’t staying in the shop. The easiest way to have a disaster is to have an unattended fire, even in a stove. Bill over next door had had one in the past and never let me forget it. So I just got in the habit of not having the stove lit or having somebody there when the stove was lit.”

“Good point. Also by the time we got the stove going the boys would have been the ones enjoying and this way you are.”

“Well, yes, there is something to that. But the boys were probably the ones who split the wood in the first place.”

“Yes they did. I wasn’t going to have the wood for the house used for the shop and if they are cutting wood, they aren’t out making Boris and his people nervous. Not that keeping Boris and his people on their toes is a bad thing. How did the boys do with Sheriff Jacobs yesterday?”

“Ran rings around him apparently. But he was busy doing his job, which is another thing that nitwit needs to be taken to task for. The man must have been on the phone trying to get Sheriff Jacobs to do things and just making his life miserable all day yesterday. I think that the sheriff never actually returned the calls because he was on the road all day handling traffic and crowd control for the parade. At least that’s what he told me when he pulled me over. Somebody apparently told him about Chrissie and he wanted to see what kind of girl would put up with me.”

“I can understand that. Chrissie’s special. Bill also probably knows that Jacob asked for it and I’m sure that he knows that Elizabeth and Scott are an item. I knew that and just about everybody else around here did. Was their little show amazing?”

“Yes it was.”

We opened the door to the barn. Somebody had been digging the snow out of the range. “Who was digging the range out?”

“Hilda asked us to. She wants to start Athena shooting as soon as she can. Gregor too. Nera and Eltra wanted some range time too with Al. Then there was Chrissie. Since they couldn’t do the clearing, we did it. Hilda promised the hands her brownies for our Christmas party. You haven’t had them yet, but just wait. It was a fair trade, believe me.”

“Hilda won the contest this year.”

“I know. Which means that we eat at Stephie’s rather than Hilda cooking at the main house. The food will be great, but the talk is going to have one subject, you.”

“Well I will try to fix that.”

“After this year. I’m not sure that you can. Ok, which boxes are the troublemakers, other than these.”

He pointed to the boxes left over from my days in Washington. None of those had anything in them other than my office gags and the stuff from my desk in Washington.”

“I’ll go through those with you and Stephie, but none of those are the real trouble. I went to some boxes with some random school stuff. “These, on the other hand should be noticed if they are moved. It’s a duplicate set of the reduced stuff I already shipped down. I think that we should just leave the boxes here and ignore them until father does a general cleanout or somebody wants picture frames or other stuff. The projects, I already gave to our two troublemakers, but they may hand them down soon anyway. They already have a better car than that Model T.”

“They do, but I imagine that they might come up with something creative with it. They already are pretty good with sheet metal and that Ford might surprise somebody if they play with it.” “Well I’m going to have bigger things to play with. When I gave them the car I thought it would be my boat, but the family had other ideas. I think that I need get back to the shop. Those are all the stashes except some that aren’t going to accessible, at least by me, until spring. I’ll point them out on the map and you can look for them. They’re in sheds and other buildings at the edges of the fields along with tools and stuff. All those sheds are under three feet of snow right now and out in the middle of nothing.”

“We can deal with those in the Spring. In fact we will make a big deal out of pulling those. With the tractor and a crew. Leaving the duplicate set alone is a good idea unless you come up with a better one.”

“Frankly, if I could, I would do the same thing that Boris did with the pictures and drop that duplicate set in the other side’s lap. With the stuff from the Manager’s we have, that stuff, by itself doesn’t tell the other side everything we know and having it will force them to shake things loose. I need to get to the shop. Let me pull some frames to get us started over there.”

I pulled ten frames, Bill and I closed up the barn and I went over to the shop, which was rapidly getting warmer. As I walked in, I said, “did you start both stoves?”

“No, we never could figure why you have two.”

“That is one of the secrets of my success. So let’s get it lit.”

That wasn’t too hard because the stove was still stoked from the last time that I had stoked it last April. “The reason for the second stove is to heat the shop more evenly. You wouldn’t think that that matters, but it does.” I went over to the shelf and picked up a red box and opened it. “See this indicator? It measures to tenths or one ten thousandths of an inch. Most indicators only measure in thousands of an inch.  Which is fine for most things.  When you want to be better than that though, you need to step up your game and that means having an evenly heated room. When was the last time you trammed the mill?”

“Trammed the mill?” Scott said. We were never sure why you did that?”

“Ok, well when you make parts, any inaccuracy in the machine can make it in the part. A machine will get out of alignment and need to returned to alignment or trammed. Preferably before every job.” I went on about accuracy and precision and showed them how to tram the mill and level the lathe.  After that I pulled the first fixture and its matching arbor from their slot and showed them how to set the first fixture up using the indicator. “All the steps have their arbors and fixtures matched. That reduces setup times, which was crucial when I only had a week. Let’s get the first frames started and I will talk you through how I documented the setups.”

We put the frames in and set up the first cut and Noro quietly slipped in to watch. “Just keep on with what you are doing. I just want to watch.”

I went over with the boys how each arbor was set up and pulled the job books where I pointed out how each arbor was documented as to things like the last time the cutter was replaced, the cutter size and where I purchased the cutter. “When I was just doing my own stuff, none of that was important, but when you have to make a batch, not having a cutter can mean several hours of not working when you don’t have the hours. All the cutters for the gun jobs have two spares and when I use one, I order its replacement the next day. Even if it’s the last day before I was leaving and I wasn’t going to be back for months.”

I showed them the drawing for each arbor, showing the setup and spacers on the arbor and we both checked the job books for changes on an arbor since I made the drawings. Then I went through the first setup on the shaper and how to set up the lathe as a mill and change the cross slide to the mill table I had made for the lathe. By that time the first cut was finished and I showed them how to start the parts in the shaper. While Bob was running the first ten frames in the shaper, Scott ran up to the barn and pulled ten more from the pile. We started those and as Bob was finishing the frames on the shaper, I put Scott on doing the first step on the lathe. Since the second batch was about done, I went back to the barn and came back with twenty more and started another batch. Noro said, “You have bottlenecks.”

“Normally it’s been just me and they don’t matter. Since I have these two I can stock ahead. The first steps are not all that critical and I want extra frames anyway. Church must have ended because Josh, Larry and Al came in. Larry asked, “How many frames are you planning to do?”

“Forty so far. I figure whatever I don’t get done, the boys can finish. Once we get the first batch of ten finished though, I will go through the rifle setups. Those are easier though.”

Scott had finished the first batch on the lathe and gone back and setup the last ten on the mill before going back to the lathe. Bob had started the second batch on the shaper. Hilda came in and called lunch, so we shut things down, damped the fires and went to lunch. Noro said, “I said to Lou that you didn’t know anything about production. You made me eat my words. Now I know why.”

“Well I had a good teacher, who taught me how to break down even the biggest thing into small steps. Then I started to do the gun work for extra money and got better at it. When I went down to Washington, Larry still needed the guns and was willing to pay me and I needed to get very fast to make the guns he needed. So I got very good at avoiding slowing things down. As long as all the things are the same, I can churn things out fairly quickly.”

“What if you have to do a special job?”

“That takes longer unless it’s something that I have done before.”

“A .38?”

“Colt frame. That’s not a problem. Who do you want it for?”

“Tim.”

“No problem. If you have the frame I’ll slip it in tomorrow. Do you have the frame?”

He handed me the stainless forging. “I assume that you will want it modified for a Swimmer?”

“Yes. Now that he has a tail. We were talking at the wedding and on the train about how he hadn’t had a gun or learned to shoot when Dori was taken.  What he did was heroic and we owe him. The fact that he is doing what he is doing and not carrying is dangerous to him and Suzy.”

“I assume you talked to Larry about the finish work?”

“Oh, yes. He even did a custom Grip design, though we are going with wood and not ivory grips.”

“Since he will be up top most of the time, that will work.”

When we went into lunch there were kids, a lot of kids. Stephie came over and said, “It’s Jimmy’s fault. He spilled the beans Friday that you were going to be showing kids stuff and well, they all asked at church. You have help though. She waved a man in his forties over. This is James Smith, he’s the shop teacher at school and he’s heard about you for a long time.”

“Ok, I think that we can make this work. I have Bob and Scott running guns right now and they have a tight time budget, so the kids will see the shop working. But I’m not doing bench work and while things might be tight I think we can all fit in. Who’s Jimmy?”

“Andy’s best friend and fellow troublemaker. He was rather miffed that he missed the show yesterday, but his parents couldn’t go to the parade and he didn’t make arrangements with Hilda. He’s right there with Gregor and Andy”

Jim said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you at last and your wife is wonderful. How did you meet her?”

“I was setup by the family and not aggressive enough with a boathook. I went down to the Cape, they put me on a boat and we kept missing each other until I had my own boat and she showed up. I wasn’t sure about that and pulled a boathook and she went over to her father to tell on me. I followed and she ended up running my boat for me and running me ragged. I lucked out.”

“I think that you did. I understand that you were giving our agents of chaos an education while dealing with the Andy issue.”

“Well, I showed them some things while we were working with the Feds to get Andy out of the problem he was in. They had me doing some stuff and we used my boat for things.”

“Is your boat like your truck?”

“It’s not a wreck like the truck, but it has its interesting features, yes.”

“I was at the parade yesterday. When things went rather wrong and then that rather magical show that Scott did with the parade princess before he made off with her, though from everything I’ve heard, she made off with him.”

“That’s what I heard and everything I’ve seen backs that up.”

“So what are you planning this afternoon? Also your sister says that you have what you call a trouble pack, with tools and whatnot or kids. If you have a list, I would like to see it. One problem we have is getting the kids started when the parents aren’t quite sure how to set things up. Most farm kids have access to tools but the town kids don’t and the parents may not know what to get.”

“Well I’ll give Stephie the list. The trouble pack has some things in it that aren’t really appropriate for kids that don’t know very much about tools, though we had some kids with no exposure to tools and whatnot dig right in. Still I would leave things like .22 cartridges and firecrackers out.”

“Those, the kids will get them themselves anyway. Certainly they show up often enough. Usually as a form of surprise.”

“How was I supposed to know that my sister’s popularity was based on the amount of trouble I could cause at her parties. I was trying to chase those snobby girls away. Instead they kept coming back. On the other hand I sort of figured out that I was doing it wrong when the Japanese military attaché and I were trying to spark a war off someplace and peace would always be declared. We were utter failures. Well I will just have to work with these kids and get it right this time.”

Stephie was giggling her heart out. Chrissie rolled over and said, “Are you Ok with the invasion?”

“Yes. We’ll be crowded today and I can make better arrangements tomorrow. I underestimated Andy and my pull effect.”

“They also want to help Bob and Scott. They heard the “good boy” story and a lot of them were at the parade yesterday. Watching Jacob stomp around as well as what Bob and Scott did.”

After lunch we all tromped back to the shop and I went over basic shop safety and in between running jobs on the lathe, did the same thing that my teacher had done with an old scarecrow and showed how the tools could catch on you and tear you apart. Then I had them all work with old files and some scrap metal to learn how to cut with a file along with using a saw. There were a few minor cuts and scratches and some work with iodine, but I said that that was part of learning and even I made mistakes. I showed them the bandage where I had cut my hand slamming against the mill cutter that morning. All in all is was a pleasant afternoon and I enjoyed myself. I was almost disappointed when the parents of the kids that were not relatives came and picked them up.

In the meantime I showed the boys how to push things ahead and we managed to get the fittings modified for the tank beds while we were waiting for all the parts to run the second mill cut. As we broke up, Stephie said, “If I had known that doing something like this would drag you out of your shell, I would have done it a long time ago.”

“You should have. That was fun. Of course with the boys, the shop was running faster. I can’t even blame you for sneaking the extra kids in, because that was Jimmy.”

“Along with Andy and Gregor. They all wanted to show you off and all the kids are certain that you are going to come up with something to make Jacob’s life a surprise.”

“I haven’t yet. But I haven’t talked to father about it. I don’t have the incentive that I did with the Manager because Jacob isn’t a real threat, hasn’t tried to kill me, isn’t stealing nephews and the only member of his family that did was apologetic and sincerely wants to make good for what he did. On the other hand, Jacob deserves a wake up before he hurts somebody. How is James on fae issues by the way?”

“Not fae, but knows. As a teacher here he has to, in case he runs into the random compulsion or something. He’s really wanted to meet you for some time because of the footprint you have with kids around here. I may be your biggest booster, but I’m not the only one. After today, there are a lot of kids who are going to be bragging to their older brothers and sisters who missed out.”

We went into the house and Chrissie was waiting. “Did your sister pull a fast one? Or was it a nice surprise?”

“A very nice surprise. The only problem now is that I am truly obligated to give Jacob a Christmas present and it has to be something like the press corps that the kids can participate in.”

“Now there’s an idea. Doris is going to the ski hill tomorrow with Athena, Stacey and Hilda Mother, Nera, Eltra and I are thinking about trying that sled I found in the barn the last time I was here. I also noticed that they cleared out the range so we can shoot.”

“I did too. Apparently Hilda traded brownies with the hands for that and they think they got the better part of the deal.”

“Then Hilda’s brownies must be fantastic.”

We went into dinner and afterword there was a plate of brownies made by Hilda. The hands had gotten the better part of the deal.

Bill had had two of the boxes from the trailer brought over and in the afternoon the ladies had started to work on them, sorting the documents by area. For the most part they had been put in the boxes in the order that the documents had been collected by me in the first place because I had gone over them and then put them away. Athena and Mary were going through some of the later documents and attaching notes for things that they had been involved in or knew about. Mera and the rest of the mermaids had been going through things like the draft records. So far nothing stuck out about Jacob’s kingdom other than the things we already knew about. After dinner I found father in his office and said, “I showed Bill all the stashes that I could get to. There are some more out in those tool sheds out there in the snow, but they aren’t important and nobody could get to the sheds anyway. Most of it’s my kid stuff anyway.”

“Good I’m glad that you resolved that. You don’t seem to be bothered that we asked.”

“I’m not. I didn’t want to involve the farm deeply and if I had had another option to keep the material safe I would have done so. As far as dragging it out now, well this is a good time. We are all here and looking at it. So we can work together on it.”

“So, how did it go with the children today? Other than everybody seemed to leave happy.”

“Very well. Stephie should have pulled this on me a long time ago. Though I hadn’t expected the level of invasion.”

“That was Andy, Gregor and Jimmy. Especially after yesterday. A lot of kids saw what the boys did and almost all of them know what Jacob said about them. By now they also know about the ‘stupid girl’ remark and expect you to do something.”

“That’s what I want to talk to you about. First of all, should I do something and second, how hard to hit him. This isn’t something like the Manager. I also don’t want whatever I do to splash all over you and the rest of the things we’re doing right now.”

“That’s a good way to think. On the other hand, Jacob insulted you in public and then did it again to Josh. Everybody in our area knows that and you. Frankly if I were Jacob, I would be wondering what you might come up with.” “The big problem is that he is too thickheaded to understand the joke, and I don’t want to hurt him. And what if he takes it out on you or messes up another operation.”

“Well I’ve been handling him for a long time and he’s already upset with me over other things. Before you arrived we had a discussion with him about the infiltration of the dark and I thought he understood until he went off the deep end yesterday. He doesn’t seem to understand that it was what he said that triggered the boys off.  They are, in fact, good boys, where it matters. They do act responsibly except in the things that won’t hurt anybody. On the other hand they have built a reputation of being able to create chaos and wreak havoc when they want to. Jacob attacked that reputation directly and should have expected that they would respond.  Everybody else did.  I’m sure that Bill was not surprised by it and where was he?”

“Down at the traffic circle watching traffic all day. Away from his phone. He also knew about Scott and Elizabeth. Bob and Scott are doing the show again with Elizabeth for George so he can get better pictures. Maybe we can arrange it so that it happens when he is here.”

“That’s an idea. He usually comes to dinner with Helmut and Mary.”

“Now what sort of approach would work best with Jacob? When I was a kid it was always him trying to be important, his status. Chrissie and I talked about this yesterday and I think that the big reason he got so upset last night was that he had a big group of bigwigs and wanted to show that he could push Antonio around even though I know that he had been told at least twice that Antonio’s was booked, once by you and once by his wife. Now I can understand not listening to you, but his wife?”

“I think that in his mind a high status guy doesn’t have to make reservations and can get people kicked out of places. So he does stuff like that. Most of the time, being the big fish in his small pond, he can get away with it.  But he doesn’t realize what can happen when he runs into a bigger fish. When I use Antonio for meetings, I will book ahead and if he’s already booked, make other arrangements.  It was only coincidence that we were there last night and suppose that it had been Lou instead of Noro.  Lou would probably not have been with us, not known about Jacob and raised hell across the area and in New York about it.  Jacob probably won’t understand just how lucky he was that Noro was there with family and isn’t the sort to just raise a scene, no matter how justified.

Jacob doesn’t know this, but there was a time about a year ago that the Olympic committee quietly came over here to see if we would host some events because they were concerned that they would not be able to get some venues constructed. Mostly because Jacob was holding out for money he doesn’t need. The county commission got together and put together a proposal that was still being considered up to six months ago. They managed to get somebody to get through to Jacob, but that should never have happened.  I actually talked to Lou about that when he complained that his people had been held up over there long past the completion dates at Sal’s party and that’s when he asked Josh to discreetly come up and take a look. Noro coming too is a bonus.”

“So, if I were to do something to Jacob what would be the best approach. I keep coming back to his treating Antonio the way he does and thinking that maybe I can do something there. On the other hand, Jacob is going to be family so I don’t want it to real messy.”

“You were in Washington. How many high status people do you know?”

“President Coolidge, but he’s ill right now. His son and I knew each other before he died of an infection. Some others.  Stacey is probably better to ask right now, because she has my address book. Washington isn’t that big a place and I was popular at parties. I was looking for answers and some other people were too.  A bunch used me to look into things because I was beneath most people’s notice. But they liked what I did and I could probably call on them without making an appointment

A bunch are probably going to be annoyed at me a bit because I didn’t tell them about the wedding, but everything happened so fast, we were trying to be discreet and there was way too much mermaid dancing for just about anybody to not notice it. Some of them will probably be pissed that they missed the mermaid dancing. I suspect that more than a few of them were fae and laughing at me because I didn’t know what I was or were helping because they knew what I was even if I didn’t.”

Stacey came into the office.

“Tom, how much of this address book is a joke?”

“None of it, why.”

“Well we should have sent a lot of people wedding announcements. The emperor of Japan?”

“Yes. His son was at the embassy for a while. We got along. I have an invitation to the palace if I ever go to Japan.”

“I think I’m beginning to understand why you kept this stashed away and were reluctant to share it.”

“Stacey, we were just discussing if Tom knew any high status people and he was a bit evasive. Just how many high status people are in the book?” “It would be easier to name the ones who weren’t. There aren’t too many people who have the President’s direct number. It’s in there.”

“That’s from when he was commerce secretary. If I needed to call him now I would just use the White House number.”

“And you would get through?”

“Probably. At least he would see my message and somebody would call me back.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Stacey asked.

“No, look, after the first few times your boss, the congressman tells you to just call whoever and you talk to them, it just doesn’t matter what their status is. I called just about everybody in Washington for things not related to the thing we are dealing with as part of my job. I’ve called the White House line enough times that you won’t find it in the book because I don’t need it. I have it memorized.  The same goes for the War Department and the Army and Navy Departments. That’s the secretary’s office number not the general number.  I was also fun at parties and that is a big thing down there.  So yes, I have a lot of very high status friends.  I could call around and find out who’s planning to go to the Olympics and fill Antonio’s with a guest list that Jacob wouldn’t believe without much of a sweat. It would be even easier because I have a direct connection to the booze and the Peacekeeper is my father in law.

Had I had time or even known a wedding was being planned I could have filled the guest list with people that would have blown Doris’s mind. As it is I think that when I have a break, I do indeed have to have a wedding announcement list set up and include apologies.

But status has never been that important to me and I have friends that most people would consider bums. One of them saved my life in one of the Managers’ little sendings.  On the other hand maybe we can work with this. Father, is there anybody that Jacob would really like to meet? Somebody that he feels beneath?”

“I don’t know, but we can find out. Why don’t I have Diana invite Elizabeth over for dinner. We should be having her over from time to time anyway.”

“Well, Tom, I’m going through this book and pulling the people I think that you and Chrissie should send wedding announcements to.” Stacey said. “Starting with the President and Ex President Coolidge. Along with the Emperor and his son. Actually can I just hand THIS book over to Chrissie, directly. There don’t seem to be any contacts that need to be discreet. They shouldn’t be waved around, but people will know who they are.  Frankly anybody who sees this book, won’t believe it. I almost don’t believe it except that I’ve seen other parts of your network.”

“That book is fine. It was my desk book while I was in Washington. And yes, add the president and President Coolidge. Though Mrs. Coolidge will probably want to meet Chrissie. Which might be a bit inconvenient.”

“Who wants to meet me?” Chrissie had just rolled by. “So what are you talking about?”

“Jacob and status,” father said. “We were just musing about Jacob and status and Stacey had been perusing your husband’s address book from Washington. The one none of us ever saw before the wedding. You and your mother have your work cut out for you.  Apparently it isn’t who on the who’s who list that Tom knows, it’s who isn’t.”

“Let me see.”

Stacey handed her the book. “Wow, wow, ooh, what!, them?, Japan? Tom, is this book some sort of joke?”

“No, it was my desk book from my time in Washington. Stacey apparently looked at it before my discreet book from Washington and it blew her mind.”

“Ok, Tom, since these people all know you , I will explain that when we were working up the wedding, that you had been a thickhead and forgotten the little detail that you knew everybody important in the country so we didn’t know to send wedding announcements. That will work and nobody will be offended. I think that I need to show this to mother and Greta.”

She rolled back out, taking the book with her. Stacey said, “That was the book that wasn’t scary? I’m afraid to open the others. I would ask if there are mob bosses, but you said that you hadn’t put them in yet.”

“I said that I hadn’t put Ray, Dom or Big Jim in yet. That doesn’t mean that you won’t find scary people in there.”

“Well back to work,” Stacey said. “As far as status goes, Tom you have too much already. I think I understand why all those people open up when I say that I’m related to you.”

She left.

“Do you have any more amazing surprises coming, Tom?” father asked. “The path of sacrifice I can understand, but this?”

“Father, it wasn’t something that was important to me. I was more concerned with who my friends were than what they were. I’m ashamed about not handing that book over to Chrissie not because all those people are famous, rich or important but because most of them are friends of mine and they will be glad to know that there is joy in my life. On the other hand Mera put the wedding together for her reasons and very quickly. So she can’t complain that I never handed over my address book because she never thought to ask for it. Now I think I have to go and face the music.”

I went back to the living room and there they all were looking at the book. Mother said, “You never told us about this, Tom. Why not?”

“I don’t know. It wasn’t a part of my life that was a lot of fun. Not that there wasn’t any fun. There was and I made some good friends. I think that I wanted to put it behind me. On the other hand I will have to send apologies to a lot of people, with pictures of Chrissie and I.”

“Yes we will,” Chrissie said. “On the other hand, we did rush the wedding and some nasty people did do things like kidnap relatives and eat people to distract you. I’m also glad that I have such a high status husband even if I am a stupid girl.”

“Considering the put down that Jacob did, I think that he would faint if he saw this,” Mera said. “Maybe we should arrange it. Greta, do you think that Elizabeth would be willing to help with the apologies. It’s going to be a big job. Tom, I’m ashamed of you, letting the announcements slip because of little things like nephews being kidnapped and sharks trying to eat you. Tsk, tsk. This may cost you the last brownie.” She put it in her mouth.

“You know, I think that she would be willing to help with this grueling task of sending announcements and apologies to all of Tom’s friends,” mother said. “Especially the emperor or his son, at least. The president, as well. This task has become rather urgent. It’s late tonight, but I will call in the morning.”

I went to bed and as I was getting ready Mike asked, “So what was all the fuss tonight?”

“The ladies were reading my address book, the one from Washington.”

“I thought that the agreement was to be discreet with those and that the books were only to be seen by Stacey.”

“This wasn’t my discreet book, it was my desk book from my office. So there were no contacts that were private, but a lot that were rather dramatic. Presidents, for instance. Department Secretaries, Japanese princes, unimportant people like that.”

“You were hot stuff with the Japanese thanks to you and Sumitomo and your games.”

“Yes, we were trying to spark off a war in two little countries and they were on to us. They kept trying to trap us with women and wine and they kept declaring peace just as we thought we had them. Anyway Chrissie and her mother were annoyed that I hadn’t handed them my address book so that they could send wedding announcements out and they are recruiting Elizabeth to help.”

“Jacob is going to hate that. He put you down as nobody important and you have the president’s direct number.”

“I don’t actually. I just call the White House line and they either take a message or put me through. Somebody gets back to me.  I haven’t used it in a long time.”

“Still that’s more clout than Jacob could ever dream of. I know that you have that open invitation to stay at the Imperial Palace because I’ve seen it. Where is it now?”

“Out there with the rest of my desk stuff from Washington. I should show it to Chrissie tomorrow. It’s pretty in its frame.”

“Do that. In fact when Elizabeth comes, Chrissie can make a big deal about it. Along with a bunch of those other things you have. And the people related to those things. Eric said that Jacob promised to come over here and talk to Helmut. ”

“Did he really? You know, Mary and Helmut are rather special to me, rather like second parents. My parents have known them for a long time too. A lot of my friends missed out at my wedding. I’ll ask father tomorrow if I can set up a party at the inn on Saturday. We can have some fun at the ski mountain and I can show Chrissie how I ski.”

“And show Chrissie off.”

“That too.”

We turned out the light and went to bed.

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