Mermaid, Chapter 20, Part 1

The Director meets with and associate, Doris and our mysterious friend discuss Tom and werewolves and Sal has a Christmas party. Stelios gets an assignment

Chapter 20.

The Director.

Thursday 12/24.

One of my associates requested a meeting to discuss some issues so I took the train up to Albany and waited at the station. “Snack?” He held a bag. I knew what he liked as a snack. Children’s livers were not my idea of a snack. Not that I hadn’t had to endure worse or was squeamish. “No thank you. So what do you want to discuss, Edward.”

“My father had an interesting conversation with the Bentons. Tom has apparently been very busy collecting all sorts of information about your activities and having fun and games with our people. Eric told father about them. There is more coming, but I ‘m not sure that it is safe for father to be in contact with the other side for very long.”

“I’m aware of Tom’s activities. A source gave me a summary from the meeting at the wedding. While the details would be useful I think that you are right and my source may provide the details at a later date. Is there anything else?”

“The games. It seems that they may go on.”

“What happened? We had made some arrangements.”

We had planned to mess up the Olympics by arranging for a permit in Indian affairs to be delayed until it was too late. We had thought that the Olympic bid was certain to fail because the previous two Olympics had been in Europe, but the ski club had been very determined and the local businesses had supported them. It had taken some time for Edward to get Jacob to insert himself and by then the bid had succeeded and things had been going forward. The water supply and the permit process had been an easy solution. We didn’t want the additional water and the development that it would allow anyway.

“The permit was expedited.” “How?”

“I don’t know. My father went down to his office and Tom was there, apparently talking to the White House. He threw my father out of his office and took the office over. Two hours later the permit showed up.”

“Why didn’t your father have him thrown out?”

“He tried. The committee had given Mr. White the authority to do what he needed to complete the Olympics and Tom had been delegated by his grandfather in law. So when father tried to have him tossed out of the building, father, office and all was tossed out. So any influence my father had with the committee is gone.”

“That means that there are going to be a bunch of people in your area looking around. There will even be additional fae.” “I am sure of that. Tom was talking to the Japanese prince yesterday. He actually had father arrested when father tried to have lunch at Antonio’s. Antonio’s has been taken over by the other side, father was trying to set up a lunch and when he refused to leave, Tom had his nephews arrest him and take him over to the sheriff’s office.”

“How could they do that?”

“The sheriff and Boris have an agreement where they can share people and Boris has his entire family deputized because of the need thanks to the Manager sending all those things looking for Tom.” “We could have sent you, but you refused.”

“For the reasons I told you. I don’t want to have an unnecessary fight with the hunter over there. There would be no way to keep it discreet, he has the full backing of Eric and I would probably fail. Especially after Tom killed his brother. Since Tom did not seem to have abilities we forgot that he has protections and one of those is an increased sensitivity to the things that might be a threat. It was a good thing that he was away for most of the time, because if he got whiff of me, they would hunt for me.” “Couldn’t your father stop them?”

“He might try, but he wouldn’t have any backing from the rest of my relatives. I’ve been able to corrupt some of my nephews, but not very deeply and I have had to be careful because Eric’s family might pick it up. Now with the people from White’s hanging around, it’s worse. The problem was that the committee thought they could use the old man to take the fall for the games’ failure and he brought his attack dog and Tom. Either one would be bad, both of them together are very bad news. If they discover my presence, this will be our last meeting unless I can manage to escape.”

“What about the school? Is it vulnerable?”

“Not at present. They don’t know to look for it and the school’s patrons would not want it revealed.” “That is good because we lost another facility in the aftermath of the Manager’s downfall. The young man in the car destroyed it on Monday. My usual sources have not made contact with me but they may be on another task. Right now my information resources are limited because of not being able to operate. The Philadelphia operation may have been compromised. There are reporters and navy people sniffing around. As you said, Tom apparently has collected a lot of information on our operations and handed it over to the other side. My source gave me the summary and that was bad enough. So I have locked things down until I can reevaluate.  I would recommend caution, especially where the Tom is concerned.”

“Is your source trustworthy?”

“As far as they go. They are purely mercenary and are not dark fae. The information is accurate and they have access to resources that I do not. They can go places that I cannot send resources and can pickup information in their other work and sell it to me.”

“Would they sell information about us?”

“Probably, but as far as I have been able to discover, they have not. The other side has its own resources and hasn’t been looking to pay for information. The other side also does not need to be as discreet as we do. On the other hand if they are paid to look into something, then they will give the clients what they are looking for, so if they should show up, be wary.”

“If they show up, I could hunt them.”

“That would not be easy and you might reveal yourself. You do not have a pack to work with.” “I scattered them to reduce exposure. They were found and destroyed. The Manager was supposed to provide me with the means to rebuild, but she is back home and the Manager is gone. She has actually been snooping around my neighborhood, but I didn’t get close. Taking her myself would just bring the hunt upon me. I will keep my eyes out for your mercenary spies and hold back unless the opportunity presents itself.”

“Well I would prefer to have you leave them alone as their value to me exceeds any damage they may do as a result of their work for another client. That is unless the school seems directly threatened.”

“Well my train back North is due to arrive, so I will take my leave.”

He left, taking with him the chill you have when you deal with a monster.

Ghost.

Thursday 12/24.

I had gone ahead after dropping off Eli off at Tom’s truck after our lunch had been so interestingly, but frustratingly interrupted. We were going to meet at the ferry slip and then do some poking around and go over, eat at that place that Eli discovered and meet with Doris at the hotel. About half an hour after I arrived at the ferry slip, Tom’s truck showed up and Eli appeared in the car. Well how did it go?”

“I’m impressed. Tom is full of surprises. I learned some things as well. Tom wants to hand over his entire document set if we can discover a way to ensure that it can’t be traced directly to him.”

“Did he say why?”

“Because acting on it would force the director to act and that would cause him to put his assets where the bureau and the rest of Tom’s friends could destroy them.”

“And the rest?”

“Well he told a rather amusing story about that failed ambush that the Manager had attempted and some other things. He played things very close to the vest and will probably talk at length about the Manager, but very little about what he is thinking and doing now.

On the other hand I think that he is sympathetic with our quest and will want to help. He’s also willing to trade for things he needs to know. He’s also rather blasé about people trying to kill him. The pair of Jacob’s grandsons tried to start a rock slide while we were driving by and he just drove on after he talked to the sheriff who was with us.”

“So what do you think he’s going to do about it?” “If he were typical fae, considering what happened in the restaurant, it would trip off a feud. With Tom, I have no clue because he’s already on his path of sacrifice and will not be distracted for very long. On the other hand, using those compulsions in the restaurant is a tangible evidence of the dark and it seems to be centered around Jacob’s family. George was using compulsions too. I think that we need to talk to Doris and see what Tom thinks once he stops getting distracted. I imagine that Jacob is in for a rough time anyway. Chrissie by herself will probably come up with something.”

“Doris will probably have some ideas of what Chrissie is doing too. I don’t know her at all, but saying she was stupid will not go over well. There’s also the rest of her family. Stacey alone could be bad enough, but Chrissie’s mother with the support of her sisters could be just as bad. They have been under sea all their lives, but one runs Josh’s security and the other probably has resources too.  Then there are their husbands. We’ve been watching Mike and Al, but not that closely and they haven’t been that busy other than looking at the same things we are.” We drove around, poking at things and not finding very much, returned to the ferry and crossed over so that we could eat at the excellent restaurant that Eli had found. Then we waited at the hotel for Doris. When she came in, Eli asked, “So how was it?”

“Fun. That family just sort of spills it off. Tom has interesting friends. The Japanese Prince helping the kids with their project with Tom and the boys is a perfect example. Chrissie has an incredible party working if all the indications are true. Invitations went out with the wedding announcements and Tom is being tasked to set up his stuff from the Manager. Bob and Scott are rigging up the dance for Elizabeth again with Tom’s help as well as setting up a shoot, with most of the gun industry invited. There will almost certainly be sleigh rides and skiing and I haven’t heard about a band, but they had one at the wedding, so Chrissie knows the number. We can take it for granted that the liquor will be top drawer and well, the food is almost certainly the same. Tom wants you to come. In fact he is rather insistent.” “Why?” I asked.

“Because after coming down off being pissed about his little incident with Jacob, not that Jacob is going to get off easy, he started to put some things together and did some checking. He’s not sure that Jacob’s son Edward is dead and is concerned that he is probably a royal fae werewolf, over there and has compelled Jacob.”

“We haven’t gotten a hint of something like that,” Eli said. “But Jacob has been acting stupidly and there were those two throwing compulsions around. If there is a monster like that, then it is very good at being discreet. Something like that should have a pack and leave a blood trail that can be traced. In fact there should be a blood trail around now as there is a full moon through yesterday and Christmas. This is the worst time to check for something like this. We can’t just call police departments and Sarah isn’t in the office”

“Tom thinks that you should stay at the farm tomorrow and Saturday. Since you have press credentials and the prince is here, you could be a reporter and her husband the photographer chasing a rumor and striking gold. Tochi is very approachable and we could get some stuff with him and the kids in Tom’s shop.”

“It’s Christmas day. Do you think that they will be there?” “In the morning, probably not. In the afternoon, almost certainly. They were working on a present for Jacob that Tom had cooked up as a project for them to work on. Then he gave them all copies of his book. You could also be interviewing Noro about his taking over the Olympics at the request of the committee. If the Director asks, you can always tell him that Roger asked you to get the story because he couldn’t send somebody else. I haven’t sent copy about it yet, but I will be. Tonight in fact, with pictures of Tom and his office. For that matter, the Director is unlikely to have anybody near the farm anyway. If he did, they would not last very long. In fact Boris’s people will probably do a discreet sweep through town tonight just to be sure.”

“That’s a very good point. We are used to the city where watchers could be hidden in a crowd. Here there are no crowds to hide in.”

“Noro also wants to talk with you about putting one over on his sister.”

“Meria?” I said. “That will not be easy. It sounds like fun. Eli, I think we need to see what Tom has anyway. Not just on the werewolf. I think that there is more going on than that. I keep thinking about that place that Sal shut down on Monday. If there was one, there are probably more and the one that Sal shut down was a potential breeding ground for Twisted. If the werewolf has been discreet for so long there must be a reason and compelling Jacob for so long has to carry with it the risk of exposure and I have to think that there is a compelling reason to take that risk.”

“I think that you’re right about that,” Eli said. “Again, this is the worst possible time, as Sarah is at her son’s and we don’t know the local police. Did you give that list Sarah had to Sal, yet?”

“Not yet. I was going to horse trade it for something juicy. Why don’t we stay here and see if we can arrange a discreet talk with Tom tomorrow. He has the connections and right now, I have this feeling that we are going to need them before poking around too much more.  We’ve all been sensing the dark and something wrong, we’ve all been stepping on each other’s toes looking at the same things, finding the same dead ends and all of us have come up empty. Right now we can either take some risk and talk to people that we normally wouldn’t or go home. I don’t want to have to tell Lou that we couldn’t find what we know is there just because we are afraid to talk to some people. That might work when we are where the dark is all over the place and we have our normal resources. Up here we have been just shooting blind.” “What if we run into Josh?”

“Well if I resonate, we hug him and cry. If I don’t, we say that he must be some sort of relation to you, Eli and we all keep looking. In any case, we need to stop being afraid of our own shadows to the point that we can’t do our jobs.”

“Josh doesn’t bite,” Doris said. “At least not without reason. He wants to talk with you and he understands your dilemma. Tom told him about you and I think that he understands that you left him to protect him. I also think that they need to know your story and Joe’s story. The other side has been taking advantage of the fact that we are all isolated. It’s time we stopped trying to do things all by ourselves.”

Sal.

Thursday 12/24.

Dad’s Christmas parties were sort of a tradition. He would invite some people from work and Mark and the rest of us would show up. Last year, I brought Helmut and Mary, along with Mike and Al because they were not going up to Vermont until after Christmas, along with Linda, Steve and Alex from the office. This year was entirely different. First of all, the party was at my place, second the party arrangements were made by Doris’s sister, who was all too happy to do it, and third, the guest list was rather larger, while Mike, Al, Helmut and Mary had all gone to up to Vermont this year as a result of the things that had happened.

As far as the business went, the bureau had actually ended the year on an upward note. We were actually seeing fewer Twisted and vampire incidents and more things like fae wanting to talk to us. Of course a bunch of us now had had Changes happen in our lives.

After the little scare over the potential for a chemical disaster over the weekend and the raid, things calmed down. We went through the list of the manager’s employees at the warehouse and visited the apartments. Some of the apartments had families wondering where their husbands and fathers had gone. At least I hadn’t had to be the ones to tell them, this time. The rest of it was tracking down the Twisted and dealing with their leftovers, fortunately there were no infected, this time. Dealing with a vampire or ghoul nest was not fun and not a good way to end the year. Tim was at the coffee company until Thursday when Suzy insisted that they come out to the house for the weekend. As the party was being put together, Doris’s sister said, “Sal, I’m going to have to take my sister to task for hiding Bennie from me.” “How did she do that?” “She never took me down and never let me know about him. She kept the place as her little secret until I talked to your mother about this party and she said that the catering had been arranged.  I have some people that I go to, but Bennie is a prize. Though the word has gone out in your neighborhood thanks to your last party. Which I wish that I had known about. Was it as fun as It looked?” “Yes. I don’t think that we will have any Twisted show up and the ladies who did the demonstration are not coming, but I think that there will still be some fun things going on.”

The pool already had some mermaids in it from the Sound bower and navy wives. The Rockaway girls hadn’t arrived yet. We had sent some cars down and Meria was coming with granddaughters and some nieces and still more navy wives. My parents showed up with my brother and sister followed shortly thereafter with the admiral, Bob Farr, Steve and Tim Kirk along with their wives, kids and bonded. Tim and Merlia’s parents were coming with the rest of the Rockaway crowd.  Dom and Tara came with Vinnie’s brother, who I hadn’t seen for some time. Jimmy showed up with his wife, actually looking rather staid, for him. I went over and said, “Dressing down today?”

“My wife wouldn’t let me be my true magnificence.” “Well you’re lucky. Your competition is up in Lake Placid dealing with the games. He’s coming for the wedding though, so plan to dress up for that.” Doris had sent down a piece from Lake Placid about Noro taking over the games to get them done.  Along with a story about the parade that looked as if it has Tom, Bob and Scott working their magic all over it.

“There’s no way I would not be at my best for that. We owe you and Tim.” “It wasn’t just me.” “I know, and I’m glad that you all came and figured things out.”

“Well have a good time.” Maurice had pulled in earlier with Aiden and Kay and made a rather large delivery of the cookies that mom had ordered. Their kids joined the growing bunch of kids that seemed to be running around the house and outside.

We didn’t manage to wrangle a band from a battleship this time, but Boonsri knew a jazz band that was looking for a gig and they came in for music. I started to make the rounds and the party got going. With a bunch of bangs from exploding boats. I found Tony and asked, “So who’s doing those?”

“Not our kids, yet. They’re drifting down from next door. The bunch here will get their chance when the tide turns. Anthony already took a bunch of kids over to the workroom. I don’t know who’s doing those.”

“So how did whoever figure out how to make those boats? Those were a Tom trick.” Maurice came over. “It looks as if somebody opened their present early this year.” “We were trying to figure that out. The guy who was responsible for things like that only gave copies to kids we know, most of whom are in Vermont.” “Neither of you have boys, or you would know.  Those boats came from a book that came out a couple of weeks ago and is the present that most boys want this year. I got a copy for my son before they sold out.”

“So somebody printed a book of those things?” Tony said. “We know the guy who came up with those boats and a bunch of other stuff.”

Steve came over. “So much for that stuff being a secret. I wonder what Tom thinks about this?”

“We’ll have to let him know,” I said. “We don’t want him coming into party wars unaware.”

Anthony was next to the pool talking to Trillia. I walked over. “So what did you find out?” “There’s a party next door and they are launching the boats from their dock,” Trillia said. “We never had any go that way, so how did they know how to make them?”

“Apparently Tom’s book got out.” “We have a bunch of boats at the school,” Anthony said. “ They were left over from the Manager.  Robert is getting them and we’re going to make more. I wish that Andy and Gregor were here. They are going to be annoyed that they missed this. It’s a good thing that Andy didn’t take the trouble pack with him. We’ll have more stuff ready for the wedding. We were planning to do a bunch of stuff for Tom anyway.”

As we walked back inside I said to Steve, “We should have set up the noisemakers.” Steve smiled and said, “We still could. But I think that the kids are on top of things. I also don’t have a boat here today. Not that we need one. Trillia and her friends can deal with that part.”

Trillia had brought several other kids that had been born under sea up to the party. So our kids had a tail advantage. Sarah came by, “Should we have a police officer look into this?”

“No, I’m not going to complain. Our turn will come soon enough. The boats don’t hurt anything and we had them before they did. The boats are fun anyway.”

“That’s what I thought that you would say. But I had to check. The majority of my clients would be demanding that I do something about them.” “I can’t, because I was part of the events that started all of this. And the creator of those things is a friend of mine and I would be laughed silly if I got upset over some exploding boats.  On the other hand, that friend is going to be here for the wedding and looking for fun. The tide will turn soon enough.”

The party went on with the usual mermaid dancing and other antics as Roger’s friends and the mermaids started shuttling back and forth from his party and ours.

After a couple of hours the tide turned and the kids started to launch all the boats they had. It wasn’t quite as much fun as the house warming and the Twisted, but at least the things sent over weren’t trying to eat any kids this time. I found Tono and asked, “is the house over there, part of the bower?”

“Not as far as I know.”

“Ok, if anybody comes around from over there, be a bit discreet.”

That turned out to be unnecessary as two young men, one fourteen and the other eighteen showed up so that the younger could apologize about the boats, saw Trillia and waved. I turned to the older and he said, “We came over to apologize for the boats. I’m John Campbell and I see that you already know our local seafolk troublemaker.” “You don’t seem to be fae.”

“We’re not. But around here, Trillia doesn’t care as long as there is a party. And she and Robert are into things all too often during the summer. You already know about the boats, so there isn’t a problem.” “The writer of the book is a friend of mine. He’s coming for my wedding next week.”

“Robert will want to see what he does. My dad made a mistake buying him that book. Not that he wouldn’t have found a copy soon enough.” “He would have, especially if he knows Trillia. She hooked up with the writer’s nephew when he had been kidnapped and brought over here.  So he has access to all sorts of things and his older cousins are pure trouble. And I can hardly complain about noise after my other party and the wedding is likely to be even more fun.”

Trillia was introducing Robert around to the enthusiastic bunch of kids. John said, “I think you will be seeing more of Robert. He seems to have found kindred spirits here.” “They don’t live here. Some are at a new school set up for kids that were kidnapped and their mothers have to work. There’s Trillia and her friends, some of my dad’s coworker’s kids, and some others.”

“I don’t think that will that big a problem. Robert will chase them down. He found Trillia without too much trouble. We need to get back. It was nice to meet you.”

He went and collect his younger brother, who looked rather disappointed. I went over to Trillia. “Is he one of the people that told you about me?”

“He may have been. We’ve known each other for a couple of years. We met when I flipped his boat by accident. I was obligated to help him get it righted and get his stuff back in the boat. He invited me to his birthday party a bit later and if you weren’t having your party, I would have gone to theirs. Though his mother makes me wear a dress, not that I mind. They are not fae and she’s doesn’t want to upset her friends. Robert is a good friend though.”

“That explains the party crashing stories.”

“Some of them. Now that Nera has shown me how to dance, I will dance for Robert and some of the people over there when it gets dark and most of the guests will stay inside.”

Trillia’s mother Swam over and said, “So the troublemaker number 2 showed up. I expect that we will see him at the school after Christmas. I should have expected that when the boats started to go off.”

“Does he know about bonding?”

“We’ve told him and I hope that he finds somebody else now that Andy and Trillia are happening. Of course he may have tail in his future. There are some low fae girls that go to the same school he does and they’ve been talking to Trillia about him.”

“She does seem to have a lot of contact up top.”

“I think that it has to do with looking for her father. We told her that he was from the land and around about the time she was eleven or so, she started to go up to the shore and look for people to talk to discreetly. Then she encountered Robert the summer before last and he sort of expanded her horizons. Now that Andy is around, I expect that she will be spending quite a bit of time up top, even though we know what happened to her father now. I still have that hole where her father was, but Trillia at least will not have to wait for a bond.”

Sillia waved at me and gave a circular motion with her hand. “I have to go and play host.”

The party went smoothly as I circulated. Kay Changed so that Tim could get pictures of her in her Change, went for a Swim and afterwords came over to me and said, “It’s good to have cleaner water. We can’t get to the beach as often as we would like and I don’t get that many opportunities to Swim. Sillia says that if I call ahead, we can come out weekends.” “I think that she’s trying to ensure that she has a cookie supply.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem, but I’ve had to finally use the ice cream company’s mixers and we still keep selling out.” “Somehow, I am not surprised.”

Sillia had given John and Robert two bags of the cookies to take home. Along with some loose cookies to make sure that the bags got home. Jim came over and wanted to hear the latest Troubleshooter stories from me. Alex was walking by and said, “Helmut checked in and do you know what that clown upstate did to Chrissie?” “What did George say to Chrissie?” “Not George, his uncle, the big cheese up there, Jacob Martin. You haven’t been up there, Sal, but he’s a huge SOB. We’ve had to deal with him from time to time and it hasn’t been fun. Since he’s the big cheese they had to put him on the committee for the Olympics and they are on the home stretch. So they are having this big parade coming up and this clown said that Bob and Scott were “Such good boys” at a meeting he was having with Eric to discuss things while the boys are in the room as bus boys because Eric sent them ahead, if you can believe it. So the boys do some stuff to make the parade more fun. The day of the parade comes and since Tom is up there, they go over to the parade to watch the fun and games. So there are Tom, Noro, Josh , Al, Mike, Nera, Eltra, Mera and Chrissie along with Eric and the rest of the family watching things and the character says that Chrissie is just some “stupid girl” that Tom picked up.”

“That’s going to cost him,” Jim said. “I don’t know Chrissie very well, but Ray does and I’ve known Noro and Josh for a very long time. None of that family is going to take something like that lying down and that may explain the rather odd phone call from Tom I had this week.” “What happened?” “An associate tried to shake Tom down and he called me to discuss it with him. The family has apparently taken over the Olympics for some reason. I’ll find out everything from Noro when he comes down. From what people were saying in the building, the company should have been out a long time ago, and there was some concern about the fact that things were not closed down. Since Josh went up there, I suspect that the concerns were fairly serious.”

“Did Tom settle things?” I asked.

“He must have. I haven’t heard any complaints from the people up there about me stepping on toes. There also haven’t been any more calls. Well, except from Chrissie regarding liquor shipments.”

“Let me guess,” Alex said. “The idiot’s house is cut off.” “Not entirely. Just the high end stuff. He will be able to buy, just not the high status bottles.”

“We’ll have to get the entire story when they come back down,” I said. “It sounds like they are having their usual fun and games. I wonder how George is dealing with things. If he’s smart, he’ll listen to what Robert told him and apologize to Hilda. Robert seems to think that he will. Frankly if he sees that family in action, he’ll probably want to get clear.”

“It gets even better,” Alex said. “The big cheese’s granddaughter was the girl who tripped off the whole thing with George in the first place and she was looking for Bob and Scott for bonding purposes and latched onto Scott. They did a magical dance like Tom set up for his sisters at the skating dance at the end of the parade and the clown accuses Bob and Scott of kidnapping the girl, to Tom and Josh.

Then Monday, the committee comes over and wants to give Noro the Olympics so that he can take credit for the failure. They get Josh instead and Tom throws the clown out of his own office after he tries to interfere with Tom’s rather delicate negotiations with the White House.”

“I will have to get the story from Noro, then,” Jim said. ‘It sounds as if Tom was doing some rather amazing things. What connection did Tom have with the White House?” “Helmut didn’t say, exactly, but the call ended with the President offering Tom congratulations on getting married. Mary called down and told us to forward calls to the farm and said not to get excited about anybody who called. Apparently Chrissie sent wedding announcements out after they found Tom’s address book from Washington and she’s putting together a shindig up there at Tom’s parents place.” “That explains why Doris isn’t here,” I said. “Along with the story about Noro, this thing is just the thing that makes for something that sells papers.  She was supposed to be covering the Troubleshooter’s Christmas party but stayed up there instead. She didn’t say why she stayed up there and it sounds like she’s on the trail of something big. I need to circulate.”

I moved on and found Roger from the paper talking to Frank and George Buckley. “I was just talking to Jim and Alex about events upstate. Apparently things heated up there.”

“Doris sent down some things about that parade that apparently Bob and Scott made improvements on, and some on White’s taking over and getting the Olympics over the top, There is more stuff coming about young Mr. Benton running operations for them. As well as dealing with international relations. Apparently Tom has the Japanese prince stashed at the farm. She must be on something hot or she would be handling the stringers hitting the parties like she usually does.”

“Tom threw the big cheese out of his office after the big cheese said that Chrissie was a “Stupid Girl.” “What did Josh do about that?”

“Took over the Olympics, apparently. Though there may have been business reasons for that. Jim said that there were some concerns about things not being finished and the company fully pulled out. I think that since Josh and Noro both went up there, they looked into things and didn’t like what they saw.”

“I think that I will send some more people up there. I’ll poke Tim a bit so that he asks some questions while they are all here. Though I really want him to take a vacation. Bill and Ray were grouching at me that he was sending them the coffee stuff. I told them that I had told him not to send copy to me until after the new year and since he was over there, he just did the write up.”

“I’ll talk to Suzy. I’ll see if she can keep him in the navy yard and on long Swims next week. They are also going to that Hotel Sillia and I found after the wedding.”

“It’s not going to be easy. He’s young and started out on the street working.” “Well, I will tell my sister to get creative.” I went over to the poolhouse where Sillia had a bunch of mermaids from the Rockaway bower looking to make deals with some party crashers from the neighborhood. Things seemed to be going well. I left and went over to the dock where the last few boats were being launched. Looking pleased with themselves, the kids went back inside for dinner and Trillia’s friends joined the rest of the mermaids in the pool house. Bennie and the staff had set up a buffet for the merfolk in the pool and Sillia was playing merfolk hostess duty while I was playing host at dinner with my parents. Not that that seemed to make a difference as there were plenty of mermaids at dinner and people with legs down at the pool for various discussions. I chased down Albert and Mary and they were talking with a bunch of the neighbors in the poolhouse about taking fae kids where the dad worked in the city and the moms were under sea. Cindy was not that unusual a case and several families did not have a pool or live on the water, so they had to make other arrangements. I told the mothers to talk to Tom when he came down and they already knew to do that. I said to Albert, “I was going warn you about Trillia’s friend, but it looks as if you have bigger concerns.” “About Robert. He bikes over to the school about every other day once Trillia told him about it. He wants to meet Andy and Gregor when they come back and really wants to meet Tom.”

“So the boats weren’t just an accident.”

“Not really, I suspect. Robert is still practicing though and I suspect that he was looking for an excuse to check you out.”

“I imagine that there will be more of that as time goes on. On the good side is that we are going to be a much better neighbor than the Manager.”

“I think that that’s already started. People were a bit surprised when we moved into Tono’s old place, but we just explained that we had been away and that we met up with Tono and moved in. Most of them remembered Ben and Telia. For that matter, most of the people on the water, fae or not, seem to know Trillia.”

“She seems to have wanted to find people who knew her father. So she peeked and talked to people. She and Andy are going to make an unusual team.”

“Certainly Andy will pull the bower more up top like my son would have. His loss was a deep blow to the bower as well as us.”

“Considering the steps taken to hit high value targets at most of the kingdoms and bowers around here, that may not have been an accident. I think that I will check with Tom when he gets down. Sillia is waving at me, so I need to circulate.” I went back into the house and went back into the kitchen to check on Bennie, who was talking to Doris’s sister, Sarah and Kay. Joe, Sarla and Boonsri were there as well and were apparently putting something together for Cunard. I went back out and ran into Tim and his camera. “I thought you weren’t supposed to be sending copy.” “I’m not, really. Suzy and Sillia recruited me and Roger will have the pictures developed discreetly and use the ones he thinks that are appropriate.”

Suzy rolled up with Tim’s other camera, “Sal, Sillia and mother made Tim the party photographer. Roger also has somebody else here and these are for us. I’m also keeping Tim in the water today and we are down at the bower all day tomorrow.”

I went into the drawing room where Bob Farr and my father had a sheet of paper on an easel and were showing Roger and Dom what had happened with the ship last week. The navy yard had already put out a request for bids to underwater demolition people to deal with the rock. Fortunately they were able to get ahead of the incoming water before the ship had settled enough to make a really big hole in the inner hull. They had managed to get the wreck to the dry dock and right after the new year, the ship was going to be making one last very short trip to New Jersey.

In the parlor, Steve and the admiral were telling stories about the recent exercise that they had conducted. Roscoe and Linda were being the voice of the other side. The crowd they collected seemed to be enjoying themselves, so I moved on. Tony and George Barnes were going on about my latest Troubleshooter. George said, “Those outfit characters must quake in their boots when they see you coming.” “The good ones like it when I show up. It’s the clowns that I have a problem with. They ape the talk, but can’t walk the walk. That last one was just pathetic wasn’t he, Tony.”

“Considering the crap that “Anthony” dished out when we were kids, very. Especially what he put Vinnie and you through because your moms cared about the kids who had it rough.”

“Especially when he could have done a lot of good with a phone call. He sat there for years with that house across the street, the house that could have killed everybody around, including himself and never even thought to ask upstairs, or the cops to look into it. It’s not as if the whole neighborhood, the neighborhood that was paying him to make sure that crap like that didn’t happen, didn’t know that there was something wrong with that house. That’s how pathetic he is. I need to circulate.”

Lieutenant Billings had brought a movie projector and set up a screen in the ballroom. Ever since it had gotten dark, he had been running the movies from the mermaid dancing, the wedding and a newsreel that had just been issued for distribution to the fleet including the parade and dance at Lake Placid with its rather dramatic ending I sidled up to him and said, “They make a wonderful couple, don’t they?”

“They do, and Bob and Scott must have had fun setting that all up. The talk I’ve been hearing all night is that the families don’t get along.” ‘I’ve been hearing the same things, but I think I will wait for Tom, Eric and Greta to tell us the whole story. Apparently the patriarch of the girl’s family said that Bob and Scott were “such good boys” to Eric when Eric went to talk to him about what we’ve been dealing with.” “And Eric told Bob and Scott about it?” “Bob and Scott were in the restaurant where they were holding the meeting apparently, as bus boys. Then when this cut loose, he told Chrissie that she was a stupid girl, right in front of Tom, Noro, Josh, Mera, Al, Eltra, Mike, Nera and Eric and his family.”

“Does that man have a death wish? I don’t know about Eltra and Nera very much, but Josh gets an automatic VIP treatment if he shows up at any of our installations, Noro has a lot of friends everywhere and when Tim and I checked out Tom, you wouldn’t want to know what happened at the Navy department. The word came down that if Tom wants just about anything, give it to him and don’t ask too many questions.” “He was apparently making calls to the White house. Telling the people there about Chrissie and doing things for the Olympics which Noro took over. Tom is also entertaining royalty at the farm.”

“Prince Tochimoro, probably. They are old friends and the prince has been making discreet contacts about merfolk and the possibility of some tails visiting the games. When Tom comes down I need to talk to him about that. The admiral is expected to be at the games and it’s sort of required that Mabel be there too, which as you can imagine has problems. I would go up and talk to Tom about this next week, but he’s coming down here.”

They had changed the reels and there were Sillia, my mother and my sister dancing in the flooded dry dock again. Tim had come in and said, “I should have snooped earlier. Think of all the things I missed.” “There will be more chances. The docks are still there.” “But the next time the ladies won’t let us sit on the sidelines. We’ll have to be in the dock with them.”

“That’s true. But we can create excuses and take pictures before we get wet.” “Not too many or we will be in trouble.”

“That’s true. Sillia was making plans for my tail when she was there with the rest of them. Of course had you snooped back then, Suzy would have just connected with you and been making the same sort of plans. And if you weren’t on your corner, you would have missed your chance with Mr. White.” “That’s a good thing? I’m glad I’m not up there with that poor guy in lake Placid with the talent for putting his foot in his mouth.”

“At least you get to see Suzy’s splashing before she met you.”

“If I had seen this, Suzy would have caught me for sure.”

Stelios.

Thursday 12/24

I had anticipated spending Christmas with Hali’s family as my platoon had settled into Newport and our new quarters. Unfortunately the war department had other ideas, Steve wanted me, my boss, Lieutenant Smith and the platoon to handle the war department’s orders because I knew the people up there and there wouldn’t be any issues with jurisdiction and things like having us step on people’s toes. Steve and the admiral didn’t want him too far away from the Philly situation in case it blew up. There were a bunch of high value people going up to Vermont and somebody wanted discreet security up on the lake for Chrissie’s big shindig. I joined up with the platoon in Providence, we drove up, stayed overnight at the hotel in White River junction and for breakfast, sat next to some Feds who were going in the same direction we were. When I told them that I knew Hilda they opened up and we had an interesting discussion about what was coming up. Apparently, since the Andy matter, the Feds in Boston were taking no chances that something like that happen again so soon. They had also heard about a monster shoot and most of them figured that it was their turn since other agents had had the enhanced target training. After breakfast we drove into Vermont and over to Burlington. Helmut and Mary were coming up on the train and I had arranged with Steve to meet with them, Mike and Al to coordinate. So the lieutenant and I booked the team into a hotel and then went down the street to the railroad station to wait for the train. Mike and Al showed up, and Mike said, “Stelios! So what brings you up here? I thought that you had leave and were spending it at the bower.” “I did too, but the war department wanted a platoon up here and Steve chose me because I know everybody and they know me. This is my boss, Lieutenant Smith.” “I’m Mike Wendell, Senior Federal Agent.”

“Nice to meet you and Al at last. Steve and the rest have had a fun time with you all and left a bunch of us out.”

“Well we didn’t have enough fun for everybody. So we found more.” “Other than the potential kidnapping of the young man, what’s going on up here?” “The short brief is that my nephew apparently knows everybody who is anybody and my niece found his address book and since they hadn’t been invited to the wedding last week, invited them up here for a party. Apparently somebody in Washington thinks that there may be security concerns.” “Who is likely to show up?”

“I have no idea. We already have the Japanese prince sitting here. I’ve seen the address book and if even a small group show up, the concern is justified. Then there’s also the possibility of a fae war being set off by the idiot across the lake and Tom.” “What happened?” “Well the two local troublemakers were insulted by the idiot and made the parade over there more fun. Which pissed off the idiot and he essentially accused Mr. Claytor of kidnapping. He also called my niece a “stupid girl,” which probably kicked off the party.”

“Josh and Chrissie?” I asked. “Was he that dumb? Who else was there?”

“Noro, Eric, Me, Nera, Al, Eltra, Stacey, George and Tom, along with Stephie and Hilda and pretty much the rest of Eric’s family. Of course, to make things even more fun, the idiot had messed up the Olympics so much that they were begging Noro to take over and that put Tom and Josh over there, where the idiot insists on being a punching bag. To cap it all off, Al and I, along with Hilda and Athena have all been looking around over there and something is really wrong but we haven’t been able to find it.”

Roger smiled, “So a lot of potential for fun. It also looks like we won’t be wasting our time.”

“No, you won’t, if the complaints our office got over Josh and his boat a couple of months ago are any indication. With what happened last month, Josh being a trouble magnet and Tom having collected all sorts of things, I can understand why somebody in Washington is a little nervous and I think that you are here because you are all fae and whoever knew that. With the kind of people showing up at that party, a little extra protection won’t hurt.”

“We ran into some Feds who were also on their way here.”

“I expect that they will be chasing down Boris or Hilda, which might be tough. Hilda and Athena should be joining us before my boss gets here and Boris is probably at the farm. There they are.”

Hilda and Athena had just walked in. Hilda said, “ Hello Stelios. Mike, have you heard the latest Jacob yet?”

‘Not yet. What happened this time?”

“Well, according to Josh, he and Noro were getting ready to go over to Antonio’s for lunch when Tom calls and says that there will be another fight with Jacob where he’s eating lunch.” “Jacob wasn’t at Antonio’s today. Neither was Tom. Josh and Noro never showed up and we were supposed to touch base with them.”     “This wasn’t at Antonio’s. Tom had an interview with Doris and she and her photographer took him to that steakhouse down the street to meet our mystery guest from the other day and his friend. Jacob sent two of his grandsons to clear out the place for one of his meetings and Tom stopped them from using compulsions, and when they tried to beat him up fae style, slammed one against the wall, flicked water magic at the other one and chased them both out. Jacob shows up and Tom tells him to leave.” “So what about our mystery guest and his friend?”

“They slip through the wall before Josh and Noro show up. Apparently they were sent up by Lou and were looking around at things looking for the same things we were. That’s why we kept running into them.”

“Hilda, this is Lieutenant Smith, Stelios’ boss.”

“Nice to meet you. Presumably you are here for the same reason that the Boston office sent those people up, Chrissie’s little get together.” “Well that’s what we thought. Now I’m not so sure. If somebody at the war office had wanted additional people up here for security, there are closer bases or some National Guard types. But if somebody down in Washington was concerned about something that was fae related, we would be a good choice. Somebody using compulsions like that is definitely a clue that something is going on over there.”

“A lot of things up here are fae related one way or another. There are two established fae communities right next to each other and a lot of independent fae move here. Especially on our side of the lake where it’s obvious that fae are welcome and people don’t care very much one way or another as long as they follow the basic rules.

On the other hand, we recently have had that incident with my son, all of the Twisted that came up and now there is something else that seems to be involved over there.”

The train arrived, Helmut and Mary saw us and she came over and hugged me. “Stelios! I’m surprised to see you up here.” “Not really, are you?”

“No, but I am glad to see you. I don’t think that Chrissie knew what she was doing when she sent out those invitations. She didn’t do anything wrong, and Eric is very good with things like security anyway. Still, with the Manager as a distraction and taking Andy, we weren’t as alert to things that we maybe should have been.”

“We’ve had a rather full plate with the thing with the bowers,” Helmut said. “We also haven’t digested all of Tom’s stuff or even started on it yet because of the left over cleanup from the Manager. The wedding was easy to secure because it was on an island essentially and Sal’s house was easy because it was on the water and we had people there. Up here, it’s a potentially different story and Chrissie just threw her thing together and mailed out those invitations. We had no warning because Tom had never shared his address books with us and we never considered just how he was establishing relationships. On the good side is the fact that it’s Eric’s place and it’s fairly secure already. Also Bill and Boris have had a lot of practice chasing down nasties. Still we are glad to see you and I owe somebody for being on the ball.”

“Mike, Where’s a good place to eat?” Roger asked “I think that we better skedaddle before Josh and Noro show up looking for Helmut. Our orders are not to make contact with them unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

“George’s is a great place and take the whole team there. We ate there when Josh took over the Olympics. We’ll come back with Boris after dinner and meet with you at the hotel.”

We walked out of the station just as a familiar white car showed up. Both the lieutenant and I went discreet and they didn’t notice us as the car stopped and the driver went to collect Helmut and Mary’s bags.

We took the team over to the place that Mike recommended and the steaks were as good as Mike said they were. After dinner the team went for a run up lake, a brief Swim and back to the hotel where Mike, Boris, Hilda and a man in Japanese uniform were waiting. Mike said, “Roger, Stelios this is Lieutenant Hideyo Murakami, who runs Prince Tochimoro’s security detachment. Tom raised some concerns tonight and we thought that you two should know.” “Concerns about what?” The lieutenant asked “Well there are the concerns about Jacob and his antics, which were raised to another level when the two goons that Tom beat up tried to drop a cliff on him on his way home, but after Tom cooled down and decided that he wasn’t going to pound Jacob into a pulp by every means at his disposal, he started to think about compulsions and another character we ran into down in the city, that PI that they were kicking around during the case with the sharks. Since Jacob was acting like Joe Buckley, Tom was thinking that Jacob was under compulsions as well.” “That shouldn’t be possible if Jacob is the king unless the compulsions are being placed by his heir.”

“That’s the strange part. According to Jacob his heir was killed in the war, yet none of his other sons or younger brothers has assumed the mantle and when Tom looked at Edward’s file, the file ended with a Missing In Action after a werewolf attack. Tom is concerned that Edward is alive, a werewolf and has been hiding for a very long time. As a royal fae monster.”

“That’s a very big thing to be speculating about. How strong was the information behind it?” “Tom pulled Edward’s military file and the daily report from his unit. Then he talked to Bill, the farm’s foreman about having destroyed his brother’s pack and me about whether the werewolf cases that I kept dealing with were actually from his brother’s pack. He hasn’t had a chance to talk to Bill Jacobs the sheriff over there or any of the other sheriff’s about strange murders.” “I’m going to do that first thing Monday,” Hilda said. “Since today was a full moon he should have needed to feed and it weren’t Christmas tomorrow I could call around and check for that. But with Christmas and the weekend, nobody’s going to be in the offices.

Tom was fairly persuasive and he’s been in this stuff for a very long time. Especially since thinking about this took his focus off Jacob and he looked into the werewolf as a possibility after he thought that Jacob was compelled and frankly after what I’ve seen from Jacob over the past week, I see the same things that Tom is. We went over to talk to Jacob last week on Wednesday with all the stuff from the Manager, Tom’s summary and the stuff about sharks on the island and mentioned Edward and the other draftees and on Saturday it was as if none of that ever happened.”

“That was when he said that Chrissie was a stupid girl, wasn’t it?” I said. “Sir, have you met Chrissie yet?”

“No, I haven’t. Other than the Commander I haven’t met any of his family yet. Frankly Steve would be scary enough even if he wasn’t my boss.”

“I can go with that and having met the family, they are all just as scary. In any case Chrissie could never be considered stupid and I’ve seen her play the stupid, then make things happen. This party she set up, for instance. I imagine that if she had considered the security she might have done things differently. On the other hand, here we are and we are just the right people that they need for handling a potential fae issue. This is the second time she’s been to the farm and she knows the family habits. So a quiet call and the hole is filled. They are all leaving Monday, so it doesn’t need to be filled for very long. I’ve bonded to the family and she knew where I was.”

“Tom was on the phone to the White House about an issue right before he threw Jacob out of his own office,” Hilda said. “Chrissie redecorates the office with among other things, swords. Tadeshi, why didn’t you worry about the prince?”

“Because we knew Tom and the prince trusts him with his life for good reason,” The lieutenant said. “It would be a minor dishonor on our part to not trust Tom and we know that we can trust Tom because he has earned that trust. Not that he would care and I am sure that he would submit gracefully to being disarmed if we asked but with him there is no reason to. The swords were a gift from the prince in the first place. We are glad that Chrissie saw fit to place them in a place of honor.”

“We’ve been talking and Chrissie was sure that Sumitomo would show up at some point and she had discovered that Tom knew the prince just before she redecorated the office. She was expecting him to show up at some point. Poor Jacob, he has no clue what he is up against.

Roger, you and your people are invited to dinner with me and the farm’s foreman tomorrow. You can eat with me and that way you won’t violate your orders.” “Won’t you be eating with the family?” “Not on Christmas. It’s a leftover from the days when Tom and I weren’t supposed to meet. I make Christmas dinner with the hands’ wives and we eat at Bill’s place. Then later in the week, I make dinner with Greta at the big house and have the hands’ dinner with Eric and Greta. This year Tom will be gone, unfortunately but if he weren’t, he would be eating with us. In any case, we can take care of you tomorrow.”

“Do it,” Boris said. “Stephie lost the contest this year and that was two years in a row. Did you have to push so hard to win, Hilda?”

“Don’t let Stephie hear you say that.”

“Stephie cooks for me most of the time. We don’t get your cooking very often. I would like something a bit different from time to time.”

“Well the woods are right there.”

“That’s work, and you know I’m lazy, like a bear.”

“Well since you are being a lazy bear we better get you home.”

We laughed as they left and we went to bed.

 

 

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