Mermaid, Chapter 20, Part 2

Tom  has a the first real Christmas with the family that he has had in a long time.

Tom.

Friday, 12/25, Christmas.

This would be the first Christmas actually with my family instead of being just there in a very long time. In previous years I would arrive late the night before, give gifts out, get my gifts, head out to the shop and start work on the guns in the afternoon and stop in for dinner, some chitchat where I didn’t seem to be a part of things and to bed and more shopwork until vacation was over. This year was different. First of all we weren’t hiding things and I was part of the big family secret. Second was that the events of the last few weeks had brought us all so much closer. I had to give Boris an enlarged picture of Stephie dancing because the artist would not have the commission done for another week. He actually had several commissions and it was likely that we would all be waiting. Stephie had found a wonderful early 19th Century book on automata and gave it to me. Just thumbing through gave me some ideas. Mary and Roger gave Chrissie a large selection of their preserves and several quarts of our maple syrup.  We gave them an art piece we found in the Sound bower and an old cookbook for 18th Century cooking. Of course I gave all the kids the copies of the books and some other things we found in our travels. With the exception of Andy, Gregor, and Athena, guns were conspicuous by their absence this year. Apparently the word had gone out from mother.  Diana and George gave Chrissie a darkroom set up in a cabinet and me a leather coat. In the end we mostly gave ourselves to the rest of us. Even Tochi’s guards were not strangers any more.

Josh got the biggest present of all. Eli and Theresa were apparently concerned enough about what I had said about the possibility of a royal fae werewolf to allow Doris to bring them over and Theresa came into the room and broke down. The affinity between Josh and Theresa was obvious and Theresa ran over and started to hug Josh and cry in joy with Josh being totally embarrassed and bemused . Tochi asked, “So what’s the story there?”

“Eli and Theresa lost their newborn son a very long time ago and have been looking for him ever since. That son was Josh and they finally found him.”

“They’ve been dancing around this for the last two weeks,” Doris said. “They’ve been so afraid to reveal themselves and scared that Josh would drive them away. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

It was obvious that that wasn’t going to happen. Mera, with an expression of happiness and joy over what was happening, wouldn’t let Josh make a mistake like that happen. I went over to Noro and said, “I wonder what’s that going to do to my workload.” “Not much. They will all be back to normal soon enough.” He smiled. “Still this was something that I would never have imagined that I would see. Josh has always been alone, except for us. Now I have to share. That may not be easy. Josh has been my support since my wife was killed.”

Eli came over, “This might be awkward. Josh is heir to two keystones and you can’t move yours and ours is buried under our building.”

“Not as awkward as all that. Josh had the beginnings of a community down there in the city and still has ties there. The company could also use a sense of community. Also young Tim has been raised up and I imagine that once he develops, that your keystone will diminish its ties to Josh. I am a bit surprised to see you both here.”

“Well you are our current client and we want to see how Tom came to the conclusion that Edward is not dead.”

“Did you find anything?”

“No, and I don’t think that Mike, Al, Hilda and Athena did either.”

“They didn’t, other than sensing you two and cleaning out the construct seller. Which was probably a good thing for him as the other buyers are out of the picture and apparently he is not Bob and Scott’s source. Yet we all know that something is out there and the attack on Tom seems to prove it.”

“I think that Jacob’s actions are more telling, I said. “Father dumped my stuff and some stuff from the bureau as well as the circumstances behind Andy’s kidnapping on Jacob and yet on Saturday, it was if he had been told nothing. He was supposed to show up here on Thursday and discuss issues that should have been overwhelming. This is in contrast with our visit to the Maine bower where we had full cooperation and a desire to coordinate.

After the encounter with Jacob and his goons who so poorly interrupted our lunch and conducted that rather poor attempt to kill us, I thought about our encounters with Joe Buckley and what he was doing and how Jacob was acting the same way.”

“Who’s Joe Buckley?” Eli asked.

“He was a private investigator hired by one of the sharks families briefly to investigate Tim and then compelled by the head shark to look into Tim and retrieve a photo that Tim had taken of the head shark in a car that they were using.” “Did he get the photo?” “There was no way that he could,” Noro said. “I had Tim’s material and I put it into the baggage check at Grand Central since I was planning to use the train to go to the wedding anyway. I figured that if that trick worked for the Commodore it was still a good one. We actually ended up with quite a bit there by the time all the family wedding and Christmas shopping was done. The other copies of the photo were in Sal’s custody. Joe broke into Tim’s flop and found some pictures, of pigeons. In any case Tim had put the word out to the kids on the street that any photos of the car would be worth a Bennie’s lunch. Doris, how many lunches did Tim have to provide?”

“Over a hundred,” Doris said. “I don’t think that anybody had an exact count, but there were a lot of young men there and about 300 pictures of the car. For about a week the car couldn’t move from the Manager’s garage without it being tracked.” “Robert was rather annoyed by that by the time it was over,” I said.  “He doesn’t like being out in the open for obvious reasons and there he was, like a movie star. Not that Robert will ever tell the kids that. He likes to see intelligence and diligence.

In any case, I could see Jacob pushing and coming into that office he has but never works in on that first day, but the rest of it? There’s also the stupidity before that. I had the committee and most of the town behind me after I threw him out because of his bull headed stupidity. Then I did some checking in my files last night and things made sense.”

“Why?”

“How much do you know about what happened over there in the war?”

“Some things. It wasn’t an area of interest for us except tangentially. We left Europe a long time ago, as I told you.” “Well Mike is probably the best one here now to tell you, and there will probably be some others coming tomorrow, but when Brad told me about werewolves before he died, he said that special people in special units were thrown into battle in front of the werewolf Sturmtrups and then when they Turned, put in squads they called the dirty dozens. Then they were sent repeatedly into battle against the werewolves. At the time I thought it was to ensure that they died. But now I’m not so sure. Anyway I pulled Edward’s service record and his unit’s record and he was listed as missing in action during a werewolf attack. I already knew the fact that Brad was told to go to New York City. I found out recently from Robert and Tony that the Manager set up his big house to accept Brad and the pack. The Manager came up here looking for them and didn’t find them because I killed Brad and the rest were killed by Bill. The thing is that up until recently Mike kept finding and dealing with werewolves. We had always assumed that they were from my brother’s pack, but when it comes to Turned or Twisted, Bill is relentless and he said that he thinks that he had killed all of Brad’s pack.

There’s also the fact that the Manager was ordered to kill me. Which he sent proxies to do for years. Now up until the last few weeks, I’ve always thought that it was random and then when I found the Manager, a sort of obsession. If it was, it was an expensive one for him, to the point that it almost crippled his ability to do anything else and attracted my attention. The whole attack on the Rockaway bower started after I had apparently disappeared when I was in Connecticut. There were still the attacks up here, looking for me. The only reason I can think of to expend those resources was to ensure that I couldn’t sense something up here. Since the only abilities I have had was to sense things that had been threats that I had run into before like Twisted, zombies or werewolves, they must be protecting a werewolf.

Then there’s Jacob. He’s said for years that his son was dead. But the army doesn’t say they are definitely dead unless they are sure and Edward had the missing in action and not the missing in action and presumed dead that goes with a heavy artillery attack and no such bombardment was mentioned in the report for that day when I checked the report. Jacob has been acting like a compelled and there would be only one person that could do that, his heir, who is not obviously present. I’ve known that Larry was father’s heir since Brad was killed and it’s obvious that Josh is Noro’s. Yet Jacob’s heir should be obvious and keeping an eye out for things like the way Jacob’s grandsons and his brothers and sisters sons and grandsons are using compulsions. Yet no such heir has taken Edward’s place. So there may be a royal fae who is likely a monster. It’s also likely that he is hiding very deep rather than attacking for some reason.”

“A werewolf in the area should be obvious, especially this time of the month when they must feed. The obvious thing would be to look for murders or other such things. There should be blood.”

Mike came over. “I talked with Sheriff Jacobs about that and some of the other tells that you have Twisted and other manifestations and there had been some cases, but he had always attributed them to usual husband goes crazy, kills family and then themselves. You’re right about the blood trail. On the other hand I’ve been tracking down those werewolves that I assumed were part of Brad’s pack as they revealed themselves. The last few had gotten cagy about containing their feedings. The last few went wild toward the end and I think just wanted out of their monster. But if there is only one, he could be moving around and just randomly killing people. If he’s been really cagy he could select families that are already troubled and have a reputation as being troubled.  If he goes away from the area to feed, and spreads the feedings around, there might not be more than one or two a year in any one county. With a car, he could travel a long distance.”

“If he gets caught he probably simply compels or kills the person and covers up the fact that he was there. Or whoever sees him, simply sees another animal,” I said. For that matter, if he goes after campers over there in New York, well there are disappearances every year. Bill went home last night before I could ask him any questions about this and he’s not going to be in the office.”

“Theresa thinks that there may be more to it than a werewolf,” Eli said. “Sal conducted a raid on a house of very ill repute that had been run by the lady that had been the seed for the sharks. Theresa is thinking that there might be a place like that up here.”

“That would explain some things.” Mike looked at Bob and Scott. “Boys, those wallets you found on those Twisted at the Managers. As far as I know, the bureau hasn’t had the resources to follow up yet, but some of those Twisted came from up over near the lake.”

“We were going to talk to you about that, Mike,” Bob said. “The wallets from the party had come from up over there, but we figured that the Manager was pulling his people in from everywhere.”

Chrissie rolled over. “Grandfather, Grandfather, Tom, you are talking a bit too much about work. This can wait. The werewolf is over there and he’s been there a long time. We can afford to work slowly.”

“What about Jacob?”

“What about him? We can deal with him, the same way we have been. This stupid girl will continue as she has been.”

“So what are your plans, Chrissie?” Eli asked. “Theresa and I have been sort of curious.” “Well I don’t want to say at the moment. You will see it all happen tomorrow.”

“So why did you redecorate Tom’s office?”

“To make it obvious that it was his and not Jacob’s anymore. If the committee had just seen an empty office there would have been a void. Now when they look, they see Tom working on the games even when he isn’t there. That might be important when we are gone for a week. If the office had remained empty, then Jacob would have tried to reassert himself and then we would have had to go through that all over again.”

“What if Tom doesn’t go back?”

“Well then we have his office moved, just like any other high status man. High status people don’t bother with trivia like that. In any case I don’t see Tom moving out of that office until the games are done and more likely until the games are over, even if he’s doing other things. Even though he has other appointments for other business after Sal’s wedding, he will be using that office as his primary one through the games. Once the games are over we just move the stuff to the business office on the Cape.”

“So it wasn’t just an impulse?”

“Well having the stuff was. But I could have pulled stuff from White’s and had the business office send pictures up and whatnot. The important thing was to assert Tom’s presence and authority.”

“You seem awfully confident that that would happen, Chrissie,” I said. “What if I hadn’t thrown Jacob out?” “Well that was going to happen. I sensed father and grandfather there in that back corner after they came out of that meeting with the committee. You probably did too, but weren’t paying attention and once Jacob came in, there was no way you were going to let the games fail because of the man’s idiocy. So you would have chased him out some way.”

“But I just picked the office because it had a table? How did you know that I would be using Jacob’s office?”

“Because I noticed the table and pointed it out after the mayor and building inspector showed up.”

My wife had set that all up and I hadn’t even noticed. Of course Jacob was the one who should have been paying attention. But then he didn’t know Noro’s well established reputation for unfair play. Or how the family did things.

“That was more devious than I expected,” Noro said. “I knew that there was more to you doing that than just wanting Tom’s stuff on the wall.”

“If I wanted that I would have just taken it home and set it up in the business office. But Tom is going to be your and father’s front and I wanted him to look as if he had the clout to handle the job.” “Chrissie, Tom did that with one phone call.” “Yes he did, but nobody will remember that phone call in a week, but they will remember Tom taking over the office.”

“But I didn’t want the office,” I said.

“Yes you did, but you didn’t know it. You could have just let Jacob push you around just like everybody else did.”

“And let the whole games come down around his ears? I don’t think so. There were too many people involved, some of whom were sitting at that table. People who had invested and risked to make the games happen. I was just the guy who came along and was told to make sure their dream happened. Something that I have been glad to do.”

“The office was part of that. Not that you had it, but that Jacob didn’t. You were going to need an office of some kind and you couldn’t just take one at White’s and be the man you needed to be. So you took Jacob’s. It’s not as if he used it for anything other than a hat rack.” “Who told you that?”

“Cordelia, the Committee’s secretary. I had quite a chat with her when you were out. She hasn’t been pleased with how Jacob never seemed to be around to deal with the things that he was supposed to. If he had been using the office it wouldn’t have looked that way anyway. You thought it was an empty office because it was. Anyway, enough about this today. We are celebrating today. Now, I’m going to talk to grandmother, now that I have one again.”

Stacey came over. “Hello grandfather. Steve and Joe are going to be surprised. We all assumed that father’s parents were dead. The interesting thing is that I’ve been talking with your secretary, as a connection.  Though I don’t think that I even thought of it as a family connection.” “So you were talking to Sarah?”

“Well, off and on to maintain the connection. Lou tied me into her some time ago. I’ve horse traded some things back and forth. She’s probably wondering where I am.” “Why?”

“Because a bunch of New York people want to know what my other grandfather is up to. Athena and I will be making quite a few stops after Sal’s wedding.”

“So they want to know what I’m up to.” Noro said. “I’m not surprised. Especially when I haven’t been around. Being up here will make me even more visible. Good luck figuring anything out when it’s been my family playing all the games. Up until the Committee wanting me for a patsy, I’ve been going along for the ride.  It’s been Tom and Chrissie driving the opportunity and I was outmaneuvered by Josh right from the start.”

“How did that happen?” Eli asked.

“My sister and Stacey, here, were responsible. I went down to New York to talk to Helmut and Mary and look into my building and a recent zombie incursion. While I was down there, I visited Bennies where there was my sister, talking to Stacey, asking me to wait and then Steve and some other people come in and start talking about a business development that the family is working on. When lunch is over, Stacey calls back and has all sort of news that my sister tells me. Now I am adverse to making money, or rather the trouble that goes with making money, not least of which is my accountant’s grandson who works for the IRS and is ensconced in the company. So anyway I take this information and walk into the office to talk to Lou and head things off at the pass. What I didn’t realize was that Josh was ahead of me, had already sent the business plan to Lou and called into the office and did what he did to the committee. I also spouted off to Lou about Tom and production when I had no clue what I was talking about. You’ve rubbed my nose in that one, Tom.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have,” I said. “But then, we’ve all been distracted lately.”

“No, you should have. Or at least I should have checked you out. I did the same thing with Josh and it would have saved a lot of grief when Mera bonded if I had taken the time to send Lou a telegram and have him check Josh out.  We only saw him on the water and never thought to look into his history someplace else.  So we thought he was just a bum.  It turned that he was just changing his life, probably as a result of the bond with Mera growing. But when you showed up, I was still below and not paying attention. Then when things started happening we were all too busy for me to catch up.”

Mother called lunch and we all went in to eat. Tochi kept my sisters amused with stories of our adventures in Washington and Theresa couldn’t seem to separate herself from poor Josh, who was looking rather bemused about the whole thing. Stephie’s boys couldn’t wait to start making trouble and went outside and made some exploding boats and then Ivan and Andy went into the shop, cut some sheet metal and made little exploding sleds that they sailed across the pond. Bob, Scott and I started the stoves in the shop and then the kids started to show up and we got started on finishing the puppet show. There were only a few parts left and then we started to put things together. Tochi and Sumitomo joined us and Eli brought Chrissie over and she took pictures. She had been doing that all week and I hadn’t thought very much of it as father had brought her over, she had taken pictures of me with the kids and then went back into the house. This time she stayed and watched as various bits and pieces went into the cabinet, taking a picture from time to time. She had apparently grabbed a load of flashbulbs leftover from my travels through the toy store and wasn’t afraid to use them in a good cause. Or she had asked her grandfather to send them up with the rest of the stuff I had asked for.  In any case she had a lot of flash bulbs and was taking advantage of that. As we were playing around with the gears and bit by bit, running the machine through its paces, she took several photographs. Finally we got the thing to work three times running. Eli looked at the show and laughed. “From what I heard going around, everybody around here will get the point. So where are you going to put it?” “Father had some ideas. Noro might too. I’m sure we can find a place for it.”

“The problem will be what will happen when Jacob sees it.”

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Chrissie said. “By the time he does see it, a lot of very high status people will have too and certain actions might have consequences. Anyway, Tom, you have made Jacob the fool that he is.”

“Jacob did that to himself,” I said. “If he had been the least bit clever, none of this week would have happened. For that matter, if he had been even a bit willing to listen to reason, he would have saved himself a lot of grief.”

“Still this rubs his nose in his foolishness,” Tochi said. “It’s mild for you, though.”

“Unlike Jacob, I don’t have unlimited free time. I had to make do with the time I had and more importantly I wanted to do something that the kids could help with and see work.  That doesn’t mean that Jacob isn’t getting the full treatment.  Bob and Scott have apparently secured some supplies and I haven’t asked them about timers and whatnot, but we can work something out. There’s also our friend’s Sal’s wedding coming up in New York and after. I have some meetings in Manhattan coming  up and I can divert a bit of time for the toy store. There’s also the fact that I can draw on White’s resources and the committee did ask me about setting something up for the closing ceremonies. So there will be opportunities.” “Uncle Tom, we can help and even if you are gone for a week, we won’t be,” Bob said. “While Scott may have to get along eventually with his in laws, I don’t. As for those two clowns who tried to kill you, well, we are such good boys.”

“Don’t hurt them. Above all be careful over there. There is a possibility of a royal fae werewolf. Don’t get so involved that you don’t keep an eye out for the monster.”

“We’ll be careful and take specials for both our pistols and shotguns. We’ll also be working with the White’s people and helping Antonio most of the time anyway. But we can sniff around and be discreet. Also, those two clowns may come over here, looking for you or Lizzie and if they do, it’s fair game.”

“Coming over here, looking for me, would be stupid on a lot of levels. If they do, they are all yours.” “Do you know which two it was, Uncle Tom?”  Scott asked.

“No. I didn’t recognize them. There’s a bunch of possibilities, but I’ve never paid too much attention to things going on over there.”

“That’s ok. Lizzie will know by now. Sheriff Jacobs will too. Since Jacob filed a report, their names will be on it.”

“We also have a lot of friends on both sides of the lake,” Bob said. The family over there doesn’t outside their little social clubs. Those kids all went to their “Academy” and they don’t get together with even the rest of the fae kids over there. While we do things like the car races and the monster shoots. They don’t realize what their clubs look like to just about everybody else around here.”

“Aunt Stephie used to go on about most of the people over there, but she made friends with a big chunk of the horse set because they liked her parties and her younger brother and his games,” Scott said. “If you were trying to chase them away, it didn’t work.”

“I know,” I said. “I screwed up. I was trying to chase them away and they kept coming back. Now that we have this thing, what do we do with it?”

“We put it in a truck and take it over to the inn,” Chrissie said. “But that can wait until tomorrow. I think that they will want us all for dinner soon and you all should wash up.”

She was right as father drove up and got out of the truck. “Chrissie, Greta wants you inside. The rest of you should clean up, I think that Greta is about ready to serve.”

He rolled Chrissie into the truck and as Tochi and the rest headed in I waved Eli over and said, “Why don’t we make a quiet diversion.”
We walked over to the barn and I turned on the light. “There’s something here I want to discuss.”

I went in the shadows to the boxes and using a screwdriver, removed one side from a box and then one of the boards. Then I put the side back on and we left the barn. “We can pull the rest later.” As we walked toward the house I pried the board apart and pulled the envelope out. “If we can find a discreet way to have you get your hands on these that the director might think is legitimate, then we could get these to him without him knowing that they came from me. I would see if I could arrange for some of Jacob’s goons to get into the barn, but that wouldn’t work.”

“Why not?”

I pointed to where Roger was playing with Andy, Gregor and a stick as Andy and Gregor made their way to the house. “Roger. If he hadn’t been playing with Andy, he would have been watching us. I talked with father about fae and animals and a fae can’t affect animals like they can an inanimate object and if you try to compel Roger, you just make him mad, according to the hands and family. Roger essentially tolerates us on the farm. Anybody else trying to sneak in and they won’t like the experience. He likes Chrissie and Andy though, and me just a bit. The rest of the farm he tolerates. Anybody else and he’s going to be rather upset that they woke him up. We’ve had some bums try to sleep in a barn. They left very fast.”

“So even people being discreet would probably have a rough time. Roger would probably smell them, if nothing else. And make noise, even if he couldn’t attack. I see your point. I, or Theresa could possibly get around the dog. We’ve had to deal with them in the past and they can be bribed, if nothing else, but even that has problems. Those two grandsons of Jacob’s wouldn’t be able to deal with Roger and the other dogs that would inevitably show up once Roger started making noise.”

“And they are not my sisters, who can shoot quietly. In fact, Jacob’s family doesn’t deal with guns at all. Do you shoot?”

“No. We’ve always relied on other things.” “Well you will be getting the lecture from Al or Stephie about that. I’ve never needed it, but I heard it when Al gave the lecture to Stephie and you’ve probably seen how that turned out.” “Not directly, but Theresa was impressed.”

“That was a bit of a surprise. Stephie had always been the one who was gun shy when I was growing up. The rest of us just had them. It may have been the influence of across the lake. Anyway, I will let Al deal with it the way he usually does.”

“I will be waiting.”

We entered the house and I went to the washroom to wash up. After washing up I went into the rather crowded living room. Chrissie was there with her parents and Eli, Theresa and Noro. I went over and asked, “so what are you all cooking up?”

“A surprise for my sister,” Noro said. I’m hoping that she doesn’t find out that we have discovered who Josh’s parents are when we go down for the wedding. We are arranging things so that we just “spontaneously” show up at Bennies.”

“Are Stacey and George in on this?”

“Oh, yes,” Chrissie said. “It wouldn’t work if they weren’t.”

“So why are we doing this?”

“Well back when I first went down to New York Mary and Meria set up a neat little trap for me regarding the tank beds, along with Josh,” Noro said. “Since she sprang one surprise on me, I think that I should return the favor.” “Does she already know that Eli and Theresa are Josh’s parents?” “Probably, but she doesn’t know that we’ve discovered it and that’s where it’s going to be fun. I think that she will try to play games with Eli and Theresa when Josh is around and we can turn that on her.”

What kind of family had I married into? On the other hand it sounded like fun. “So what do you want from me?”

“Just keep quiet and let us handle it,” Chrissie said. “And enjoy the fun if we can pull it off.” “Does Meria know that Eli and Theresa are up here?”

“Probably,” Theresa said. “She knows that Lou hired us for an assignment. On the other hand we’ve been awfully skittish about getting too close to you all and she had to work hard to get us together with Joe. If we can keep Doris from spilling the beans, we may have a chance.” “Did I hear my name?” Doris asked. “So what kind of schemes are you all cooking up and how do we pull it off?” “Making my sister jump through the hoops to get Josh and Eli and Theresa together.” “That’s going to be fun. It’s also going to be tricky.”

“Very,” Noro said. “My sister has been around a long time and she’s probably on the lookout for something from me. On the other hand there are some opportunities here and we are far away from her at the moment.”

Mother called dinner and I rolled Chrissie into the dining room. The surprise was Elizabeth and her parents. “We made arrangements with mother to eat lunch there and dinner here,” Vivian said. “We’re staying at the inn overnight. Father was rather annoyed that Antonio was not available to cater his party this year, but he asked for it. Apparently he had made arrangements with somebody else for a party.” You could almost see the feathers in Chrissie’s mouth. Which was remarkable as she was hardly a cat. Stacey and my sisters, along with Athena sort of had the same expressions on their faces. Father said grace, which he did at every Christmas. I was recruited by my mother along with Bob, Scott and some of their brothers and sisters to start bringing the food out. Apparently Sumitomo had been contributing this year and Chrissie’s mom had had something delivered as there were some delicacies in raw fish and seaweed.  When I asked Chrissie about that she said, “Mom talked to Uncle Altris about sending some stuff from mom and dad’s garden. Dad doesn’t eat under sea that often and mom takes good care of things. It’s also bigger than our garden. They also picked some fish. There will be more tomorrow.”

“So there will be a bake tomorrow?”

“For lunch. Bill’s people already made a pit for the construct shoot. Uncle Altris sent a truck up yesterday with the stuff from the garden and the leftovers from the wedding. Antonio looked very happy.”

“So things are coming together?” “Well, yes. You will need to set some things up early tomorrow with Bob and Scott. They built their part yesterday as well as working on the puppet show.”

“There’s a lot of stuff going on.”

“Just some things a stupid girl would come up with.” “You are not stupid. Well, other than marrying me. I don’t deserve you.” “Yes you do. With you I don’t have to be stupid. So what were you doing with Eli?”

“Setting up the Director’s Christmas present. I haven’t quite worked out the details with Eli yet, but I want to hand the documents to him to make his day.”

“I expect that having those documents will, at least at first.”

“There’s nothing there that gives away what we are doing and having the documents only tells part of the story. He won’t know what else we have or what others might send me or the bureau. So he will have to poke and move things around.”

“Enough about this today. Are you going to do a set up for Sal’s wedding?”

“If I can make the time. We have the setup for our wedding and we can make up tubes fast enough on the cruise. If we can get your aunts to help, we should have something rigged up.”

“What about Jacob?”

“What about him? Other than what we are already doing? If you have ideas, I would like to know.”

“Maybe we should talk to Stephie.”

“Stephie? Why?” “Because she competed with them and in their world. Why don’t we talk to her a bit after dinner.”

Stephie and Boris were down the table with Helmut and Mary. Since Tochi and Sumitomo were across from us looking rather bemused at our scheming, we drew them in for ideas. Tochi had an insight that I didn’t really think about when I had been in Jacob’s office. “Horses. How is Jacob with horses?”

“Big on them, now that I think about it. He has a fairly large stable. Back in the day he was rather annoyed that Stephie and Tony were always beating his daughter. Especially when Tony was one of his discards.” Stephie had given me several pictures of her and Tony going over jumps, along with a picture of Tony and me that she had taken while I held him.

“You played with Stephie and the stable. Could you do that again?”

“Now there’s a question. I would need minions, but I have those. The problem would be getting access to the place. Of course I may have already won that battle with Katherine and ‘Nia.” ‘Nia and Katherine had gone on a ride this morning and Katherine had spent all day in the stable with ‘Nia, taking care of her.  Two things were apparent already. One was that ‘Nia was as good a trail horse as her grandfather and the other was that Katherine didn’t need my insistence that she take care of her horse.

“They did get out together this morning, didn’t they. There is a difference between a rider and a partner and I think that your niece is going to be a partner.”

Sumitomo said, “You did something with Tony. How would you do it with Jacob?”

“Well it would be bigger scale and I need intelligence.”

Noro was on the other side of Chrissie and switched from talking to Eli and Theresa along with Josh and Mera. “So what are you thinking, Tom?”

“A bigger Tony, with all Jacob’s prize horses all over the place. Well most of them anyway. I want to talk to Stephie before we start. It also may need to have some way of having something break at the stable. The problem is that Jacob doesn’t like smart horses.”

“Why is that a problem?”

“Because, it was Tony getting out that I used to convince father that we needed new stable latches. That allowed me to rig them to open. With Jacob, if he doesn’t have any horses that can open latches, then he won’t have a problem. I suspect that you can use abilities to make things rust, but I haven’t tried that and doing that will probably leave traces.”

“You can, but you are right. Doing that does leave traces, as does rotting wood or any of a number of things.”

Hilda must have made a huge batch of brownies because there were enough for us and the hands’ dinner at Bill’s place where she had done dinner. That was apparently a tradition left over from when the family couldn’t let me know about her. She played hostess with Bill and ate with the hands and their families on Christmas. Father and mother would have a dinner for the hands later in the week. Athena and Gregor were Hilda’s guests at the dinner. Once dinner was over Chrissie and I went over to Stephie to talk to her about Jacob and horses. When I rolled Chrissie over and sat down, Chrissie asked, “Stephie, we were talking about Jacob and his horses.” “Don’t get me started. He goes for looks and not quality. Tony was the best horse he ever had and Jenny wasn’t patient enough to work with him, so they were going to get rid of him and I bought him, at first to keep him out of the glue factory.  He turned out to a real prize once you got him to work with you.”

“I want to give Jacob a Tony,” I said. “But I don’t know how easy it’s going to be to pull off.”

“Maybe easier than you think. Jacob treats his head grooms like he does everybody else and gets the kind of people that you would expect. Down on their luck or ambitious types who are looking to get established and then move on. Maintaining the stable tends to get neglected. If we could find some horse people to point things out and recommend a contractor he might bite.”

“Does Jacob spend any time in the stables?” Chrissie asked.

“No, not really. Unless he’s showing his horses off. Now there’s an idea. He’s going to have important people around that he is going to want to impress. If things fall apart on him, that will hit him where it hurts.”

Noro came over with a bit of a smile. “It looks as if you are cooking something up.”

“Well grandfather, Jacob likes to be seen as being a big wheel horse person, but like everything we see when we run into him, he doesn’t want to do the work,” Chrissie said. “Tom was thinking that he could pull the same sort of gag that he did with Stephie and create chaos in the stables. It has possibilities. The only thing is that neither Tom nor I would be able to see it.”

“I think that you can, actually. By the time you set this off, Tom will be a VIP and somebody that Jacob will have to invite as much as he would rather not. In fact I think that I can guarantee that Tom will be there along with you as well.”

Elizabeth and Scott came over. “So what are you all plotting against grandfather?”

“Why would we be doing that?” I asked.

“Other than the fact that my cousins tried to kill you and you ran grandfather out of that restaurant? I have no idea.”

“Well those might be reasons. Has Scott told you about some of the other things we are concerned with over there?”

“Yes. I’m not sure I believe it about Uncle Edward, but there have been strange things going on for a long time now. Along with my cousins and their friends playing their games on people. Using compulsions like that is wrong and worse, leaves a stink on all of us. Especially with the people in our town and where we live. Great grandmother used to tell stories before she went into the woods and never came back.”

“Went into the woods and never came back?” Noro asked.

“Yes. Great grandfather was killed by a horse when he fell off and broke his neck and great grandmother went along for a long time and then one day, just left into the woods with her Change and never came back. We kids went looking from time to time, but there was never a trace. She either went far away or was swept away in a river or something.”

“That happens with people that have been bonded for a long time and lose their bonded. It nearly happened to me. Fortunately for me, I made a big enough splash that my family and friends feel compelled to engage me in life again.”

Stacey must have sensed something because Dori and Allen came over and wanted a story from great grandpa. As he started to talk about his friends of the long ago, a bunch of my nieces and nephews joined us, along with their parents. We sort of backed away and Elizabeth said, “You all get on top of that fairly quickly. Great grandmother was the same way.”

“Well we had a close call with him and weather magic,” Chrissie said. “Most of the time he was fine, but we never challenged him and then he went and played with that weather magic, right in front of that hurricane. So we are all working to engage him in the world again. Your grandfather did us a big favor with the games. Still, we need to find a better solution. We value him too much.”

Stacey came over. “The kids wanted to see great grandpa. It looks as if he needed it. In any case this is their first Christmas with him. They deserve some time with him and this is a good way to keep him off business for a day. You two are going to have to take a bigger load in the business and letting him focus on the center of what’s going on with the dark. I wish I could have helped more this week, but George and I have been working on your contacts and all that that entailed and helping mother with your stuff, Tom. Thank you for diving right in and being the front on the Olympics. Dad and I ran into some things while we were down in New York, which is one reason we came up. It looks as if you got in front of things in time.”

“I didn’t have much choice after Chrissie maneuvered me into Jacob’s office. I didn’t want the office and now I have it.”

“Well you have another one waiting on the Cape. You just haven’t seen it yet. At least Chrissie got this one all set up. I took a peek yesterday and wow, how did you fit it all in?”

“It just sort of happened. I started to work for the Congressman and there was some constituent service that required me to go over to the Japanese Embassy and I talked to some people. Sumitomo and I hit it off, Tochi came over about a year later and we hit it off and then things happened. Then I had to leave and went to Pratt and they kicked me upstairs and into an office and here we are.”

Chrissie hugged me. “Yes here we are. I agree with Stephie. I want to see you shine, as my soul mate and husband.”

Stephie said, “Now that the kids are distracted, and I am so glad that Mary is taking notes about your grandfather. Chrissie, because he seems to have been right there when things happened, we can get back to making Jacob’s life miserable.”

“So what were you planning and how can I help?” Stacey said. “The man insulted you, Chrissie in front of the family. Just wait until Moira, Joe, Haruka and Steve hear about this. To say nothing of the rest of the family. You and mother have a good start with tomorrow, but it’s only a start. So what’s the idea?”

We told her. “I like it. Let me talk to Ray and Bill when we go back down next week. I think we can get somebody in the horse set to show Jacob how rundown his stable is.”

“Please do,” Elizabeth said. “If I weren’t forced to, I wouldn’t keep Tracy in the house stables. Grandfather treats his head groom and the rest like  low level servants and expects that they will turn out good work.  The place is drafty and if I didn’t drop in and keep an eye on Tracy, along with doing a big chunk of my own stable work, things would be a mess. The good thing is that doing my own stable work means that I can see any problems with Tracy before they become real problems. I think though, that when I go to college next year, that I will either put Tracy over here and have Katherine watch her or I will sell her.”

“Katherine does seem to do well with ‘Nia,” Stephie said. “Tom, your thinking on how Katherine was to take care of her may have been right on the money. I wish that father had insisted that I take care of my horses more directly. But at the time we had so many horses that it was easier for the hands or the younger kids to do the work. Elizabeth, that may not be a bad idea. Even if Katherine is not interested, one of the other girls may be. Two or three are that age and we have stable space and no horses.”

“That would probably be a good thing. There is a riding team at the college, but having Tracy here is closer anyway. I may not want to keep riding anyway. With the Cape so close, Scott and I may find other things to do.”

“There are riding clubs in the area too Elizabeth,” Chrissie said. “We can also find places for you and Scott to have discreet dances too.”

“A certain Island comes to mind,” I said. “But you may have to deal with marooned merfolk.”

“Were you marooned, Tom?” Elizabeth asked.

“Josh did it. Chrissie will say it was because I am a thickhead, and I am. Around June, I decided to look around for something different. My family, hadn’t told me about anything related to fae and as you probably know, I didn’t reach into my abilities in the conventional way and wouldn’t until I bonded. So I went down to the Cape on Al’s suggestion and while I was looking for shop space, went down to a boatyard and ran into Chrissie’s brother, Joe. At some point about then, I must have been near or touched the water, probably after I ate at the diner down near the harbor and Chrissie picked up on me, unbeknownst to me. So I was looking for work and Joe suggested that I talk to his father Josh about working on his boat. It turned out that I liked the work, probably because of my bond with Chrissie and being near her, even though I didn’t even know that she existed because I was the only person around who did not figure out that there were merfolk on the Cape and everybody I ran into was trying to get me to take walks on the beach or arranging ways to drop me in the water. This went on for a couple of months and I decide to buy my own boat. Meanwhile Chrissie is getting rather frustrated with me and her father who wasn’t helping things very much by trying to keep merfolk a secret, spending so much time on the boat that Chrissie can’t just jump in and introduce herself and letting me off the boat to work on my own boat. So Chrissie, her uncles and brother are talking to everybody on the Cape and everybody is trying to get me and Chrissie together while not making Josh unhappy and the whole thing was becoming a fiasco worthy of your grandfather until, with my boat on the water, finally, Chrissie slips on board, we have an encounter over a boathook, she jumps right back in the water, Swims over to daddy and is crying on his shoulder as clueless me shows up to ask what is going on.

So Josh leaves us to get acquainted , we talk for a bit, Chrissie jumps back into the water and the next morning, jumps into my boat. We run the boat together until the end of the season. When the season is over, Chrissie arranges a little get together, we don’t and all sorts other things happen.” “Didn’t you know about bonds and Change?” “That was the problem. Until I bonded my family couldn’t tell me, especially after I shot my brother. So I was more or less ignorant and when we were on that beach, afraid of Change and what might happen. So I stopped.” “We had help,” Chrissie said. “Two clowns from the beach patrol who should have known better than to mess things up, showed up. Considering they and Uncle Altris were the only two left in the pool at that point, dropping in like that was expensive for them. Anyway they ticked me off and I was a bit fuzzy, so I didn’t pick up on certain things and the use of certain bits of slang that might be off putting to those who were not from around where we live. So when Tom stopped, rather than kissing him some more and saying, “ok, we can just snuggle,” I said something incredibly stupid, we had a fight and I went into the water to have a cry. What I didn’t know at the time was that Tom had a telegram to come up here for an urgent family emergency.” “What was that?” “To tell me everything about what I was and what it meant. Which was nice, but the timing was a little bit off. Anyway Chrissie’s dad and mom went to New York to talk to the Rockaway bower people and take Nera to track down Mike because she picked up on him when he came to the Cape to talk to me, so when Chrissie needed a shoulder to cry on, she went to her grandfather, who immediately declared war on the land and cranked up the weather magic. He was out of it for the same reason that your great grandmother was. This wouldn’t be that big a deal, but a hurricane was coming up the coast and there was quite a bit of concern that the weather magic would cause the storm to go where nobody wanted it to. Joe and Chrissie tried to convince Chrissie’s grandfather to shut things down and when that failed, sent a message to Josh to come back to the Cape and shut the old man down, Josh, as heir, being the only person who could do that. So Josh comes back, shuts Chrissie’s grandfather down, and after, drags him up top to help  set up for the hurricane. Meanwhile, I stay up here, trying to make some discreet arrangements and when they don’t work out, head back to the Cape where I find the storm approaching, Chrissie in trouble rescuing some kids and Josh more than a little annoyed at me. Chrissie and I have a strenuous day in my boat, I take her and her grandfather out to the bower and the next morning, Josh is running my boat out to the same island that Chrissie’s grandfather marooned Josh and Mera when they had bonding issues. He beaches the boat, takes the ignition coil and leaves me there with Chrissie and we close the deal.”

“At least your families get along.” “They were working together behind my back even before I met Chrissie. Chrissie’s mom was talking to mine for about two months before we met. If it hadn’t been for all the misunderstandings we could have been together in the summer. But then, I am a thickhead.”

“So what happened with the boathook?” “Funny you should mention that. When Chrissie showed up in my boat, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into and reached for the boathook, just to be safe. Chrissie flipped back into the water, told me I was a thickhead and ran over to her father to tell on me. I had no way of knowing that I was doomed already and that had I tried to run, the bridges would have closed up and if I had used my boat, Chrissie would have torn my propeller off, since she knew I had a new one coming anyway.”

“Actually I had already removed the cotter pin and the nut,” Chrissie said. “I had to put them back after we talked. It was a good thing you never pushed the boat too much until Joe could discreetly get a wrench on it. Of course getting stuck out there might have been fun. It wouldn’t be the first time the deal had been closed on a boat.”

Elizabeth giggled. “It sounds as if you will have a fun story to tell your kids.” “Well the fun didn’t really start until after we closed the deal and the constructs and toothy visitors showed up.” “I know what constructs are, and they are pretty scary if you don’t know very much about them, but toothy?” “Shark Change. The guy who had done more to make me skittish about monsters than anybody, sent a bunch of degenerate rich kids with shark Change to eat Chrissie and I. When Chrissie and I set up camp, I thought we might need a flashlight and since my shotgun was attached, brought that along too. When the constructs showed up, I shot them and they sort of dissolved and when Chrissie was getting wet in a tidepool the sharks tried to eat her and I shot them too. Since Chrissie and I were taking pictures of the whole thing, the sharks tried to charge the boat as we were getting ready to leave and I was forced to shoot a bunch more of them.”

“Constructs don’t go down that easy, did you have lots of shells?”

“I had some special shells that Boris had given me as a precaution. I loaded them into that gun because I never used it for normal things, like well, shooting the occasional real shark that showed up in a pot instead of Chrissie.” “Chrissie was in pots?” “I started to run my own strings of pots and after a while, Chrissie stuffed herself in some of my pots. The problem was that Josh and I were switching off running all the pots and she picked days that I was working on my boat and Josh was running the pots, so Josh caught her and not me. Mike even took a picture when Josh pulled her out one day.” “That picture is classified,” Chrissie said. “You need government clearance to see it.” “I have a copy, Elizabeth,” Stacey said. “The only reason that the picture is classified is that it has substantial Chrissie embarrassment value and if somebody like Tochi saw it, who knows what might happen.”

“This picture?” Tochi held it up. “Chrissie, I’m sure there is a perfectly good reason you were stuffing yourself in pots, but to let Mike get your photograph like this, well you deserve to be embarrassed. I know that fae have ways to avoid things like that.”

“I didn’t at the time,” Chrissie said. “I didn’t think I needed them and mother and Aunt Nera didn’t get along, so I put off going to her for lessons. Anyway, Mike had a protected camera. A little thing I didn’t know when he was taking the picture and I was trying to let him know that he shouldn’t tell daddy that we knew each other already. As for reasons for being in the pot in the first place, it was supposed to be Tom’s work day and he was supposed to pull me up and daddy was supposed to be at the business office.”

“Then it makes sense,” Tochi said. “Tom was supposed to pull you up so that you could catch him.”

“Yes. The problem was that daddy would tell Tom that he would handle the boat and to go ahead and work on his own boat and Joe hadn’t told me that Tom had the boat until after it was in the water. That’s when I decided to just show up in Tom’s boat.”

“What if you hadn’t bought a boat, Tom?” Elizabeth asked. “They are expensive and most people don’t have that kind of money.” “They had plans,” I said, “George and Joe, along with most of the rest of the watermen had planned an end of the season party on a barge and during the party, going to throw me overboard into Chrissie’s lap. That had been tried before, but I was too good a swimmer and got out of the water fast enough that Chrissie never had a chance to drag me to the beach. Josh didn’t do that either because he was afraid that I would hit my head or something.  He also wouldn’t let Chrissie dance, because she might be seen, as if that was a big deal. Once Chrissie was in my boat, just about everybody stopped worrying about being all that discreet.”

“Most people were just glad that you and Chrissie were in the boat together,” Stacey said. “They didn’t want a repeat of mother and father. Also, when you knew about Chrissie, dad could be with mom and that made him happier. Even with the Manager, I’m so glad that they are working together again. And that mom won’t hide underwater because she thinks she’s supposed to. Meanwhile all the people who made a stink about that were sneaking up top all the time and eating in mom’s favorite steakhouse. Though it was hardly sneaking when the place knew what they were and makes special arrangements for regular customers.”

“I guess that Sumitomo’s relatives won’t have any real problems when they show up in a week or so?”

“No,” Chrissie said. “Since Tom and I will be up here, they can have my bower if they want to stay in a bower, I imagine that Sal could have them if they want to visit New York and other arrangements can be made.”

“I’m hoping that we can get some tank beds built up before the games,” I said. “I’m taking my preliminary drawings down to Lou and talking with some engineering types after the wedding next week to get things started. I will talk to my sister about installations up here at the inn and Chrissie and I will use them when they become available. We also have the pool as well.”

“Sumitomo has already talked to the embassy about this and they have Mary’s number. My sister will be pleased and my family will as well. We have always maintained a good relation with the undersea people and we need to when we rely so much on the sea and the weather. In fact long ago, the sea people brought the Kamikaze upon the invading Mongols and saved our country. So doing this small favor is something significant to us.”

“We are pleased to help, Tochi,” Chrissie said. “Because you have been a good friend to Tom and because we want to open our horizons. We fae here have been spending too much time in our little shells and we almost let the dark in because of that. In any case, this is an opportunity to grow and meet new friends. Something this stupid girl likes to do.”

“What is that going to cost Jacob?”

“I’m not going to spoil the surprises. It’s also not just me. I don’t know what other members of my family might do.”

“So Jacob is in trouble? Well other than his generally being cursed.”

“What? From a stupid girl like me?”

“Big trouble, Tochi,” I said. “I’ve been with Chrissie for the last few months and she runs rings around me and the rest of the family, well, you’ve seen. They got me in that office without me knowing. I’m just going along for the ride.”

“Tochi, You’ve known my husband for longer than I have,” Chrissie said. “Do you believe that for a minute?”

“No I don’t, Chrissie. I’ve seen what he can do. All by himself. It’s good thing that your grandfather dumped all those responsibilities on him or who knows what might have happened.”

“There’s all those things out there in the barn, marked “Classified,”” Stephie said. “Nobody knows what they do.”

“I would have told you, Stephie, but things happened,” I said. “You don’t think the government would allow anything really dangerous loose.” “They didn’t,” Tochi said. “They banned most of your stuff under all sorts of international treaties and deep dark declarations of secrecy to even admit that such things were even possible.”

“Oh, those things. Pay no mind to what Tochi said. Those things never existed. I will deny everything. It’s bad enough having the likes of Jacob’s grandsons try to kill me, but THOSE people, no, there are certain things that we don’t discuss.”

Mike came over. “Tochi, you know better. All the embassies swore us all to secrecy after THOSE events. Nobody is even supposed to know about them. That poor city, lost forever.”

“So Tom, playing the innocent doesn’t work.” Chrissie giggled as she said that. “We know the truth now. Tochi, Tom didn’t seem to have a lot of pictures out in the barn from his time in Washington. Are there more?”

“Oh, yes, there are. You can contact my embassy, his former boss and miss Vicky. They can lead you to others.”

I sighed. “Chrissie, my Washington album is down in the boathouse right now Along with my Pratt album. They were in the truck when we went down from the last trip. We can go through them on the yacht when we go to Sal’s. There isn’t much wall space left in the office anyway.”

“No, but I want to see your life and what it was like. Not just the dark parts you’ve told us about, but the things you did with the friends you met. The friends that called yesterday and were so happy that you found somebody.” “Who called?”

“You’ll find out, tomorrow. In the next couple of weeks too. I used the business office as our address and I expect that the most amazing things are going to show up.”

“How did they know to call here?”

“I suspect that Miss Vicky told them. Or the business office did. They both know where you are. The bureau too, for that matter.”

“That’s true. Miss Vicky certainly knows where I am and if people are looking for me that she trusts, she will tell them the number. For that matter, most of the crowd down there knows about the farm. At least the people that know me.”

“Miss Vicky sent Sumitomo to the bureau,” Tochi said. “You hadn’t called by that point, though. Once you did, she probably just told them the number for here.”

“So much for my discreet and hidden life. Of course I was doomed either way once miss Vicky knew that I was getting married. I think that I was the scalp that she really wanted hitched. Chrissie, she isn’t coming up here, is she?”

“I’m not going to say. There may be some people from the White house showing up.”

“Now I’m in trouble, Tochi. I’m going to have to be wearing a suit tomorrow when she shows up or I will never hear the end of it. I knew that there would be a suit in there somehow.” Mother heard that and said, “Tom, whether miss Vicky shows up or not, you have a bunch of special friends showing up and it’s only right that you look your best for them. You have a bunch of very nice suits from your time in Connecticut that are still here in the closet. You can wear one tomorrow and Chrissie, make sure that all of them go with you back to the Cape.”

“I will, Greta. Lou already made arrangements for a tailor after the wedding, but having suits will make things easier.”

“I’m doomed, Tochi.” I sort of visibly shivered. “Even worse, I did it to myself. I went down to the Cape and attached myself to a very smart girl.”

“Just so that you know that,” Chrissie said. Then she reached over and kissed me. “So, tell me more stories about your time in Washington.”

Tochi and I shared stories and the wedding pictures as they went around with the rest until it was time to send the kids to bed and follow along ourselves. This had been the best Christmas that I had had in a very long time.

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