Mermaid, Chapter 20, Part 3 and end

Stelios has a very bad day and Chrissie throws a party.

Tim.

Friday, 12/25, Christmas.

If last year’s Christmas was the same old thing, that could hardly be said for this year’s. For one thing, I spent the whole day underwater, at the Rockaway bower. Where I met not only my mother’s sisters and brothers and their bonded, those who weren’t up top right now, but Mike’s sisters and his brother as well. Two of Mike’s sisters had not bonded and looked a lot younger than they really were. Mike’s brother, Angelo was a captain on a fishing boat and his wife had gone through Change and was down below, but she was talking to Stella and thinking about arrangements and apparently was not reluctant to sneak aboard her husband’s boat. We went up to Bennies for lunch with Cindy, Sal and Sillia, along with Dom, Tara and Sillia’s brother. We went over the stories of the past few weeks and all the pictures. The pictures of Suzy and I out at the island and Sillia’s picnic pictures were especially popular.

“Wasn’t that romantic?” Angelo’s wife, Cynthia said. “We just closed the deal out at Fire Island. That island sounds a lot more fun.” “Well except for the potential for the sharks to show up,” Suzy said.  “But they would have been in real trouble long before they showed up at the island. And we had a gun if we needed it. The mine was fun and we enjoyed ourselves.”

“Tim you put yourself at risk, trying to save that child, and Suzy, you were so brave, to sneak in there.”

“It happened so fast,” I said. “I was trying to get the kid and they grabbed me too. But that was the shark’s last act. At that point we knew who they were and could come down on them when they got back. Suzy came and got me and Dori and then we took care of them. Sal had the case ready to send to the DA anyway.”

“This was a fae matter, Sal,” Angelo said. “Why were you involving the DA?”

“Because I could. In most of the things we deal with, Twisted and whatnot, we have to destroy the monsters and keep things quiet. This time we could make noise and shine the light on these people because what they were doing was a crime in the real world. The kidnappings and murders were something that could be taken to the DA. In the end it was unnecessary, but I wanted to make it clear both to the Sound bower people and the fae community at large just what had been going on. Making a public case did that. The same thing goes for the place we busted on Monday. Hopefully showing what the bureau can do will bring fae to us before something gets as bad as what happened here at the bower. The warehouse and what happened was too close a call to think about.”

Sal went on to talk about the dark conspiracy and what they wanted until Sillia and Stella stopped him and we talked about the wedding. After lunch, Meria took, Suzy, Stella, Sillia, Sal, Mike and I on a tour of the bower and everything around it. When the tour was over she handed Suzy a small package and said, “The battle is not done yet and while you are very young, you have proven yourself worthy. I hope that you never need this, but, you should have it anyway. Sillia and Stella already have gifts and Kathy and Cindy are still too young.”

She turned to me and said, “I don’t have anything for you other than my thanks for helping deal with the killers of my husband and son. I suspect that things will be coming to you soon, anyway and anything that I did give you that would be worthy of you would only confuse some issues. Since you are up top and will be there for a long time, I will let my brother and son reward you. Here, though, is a small token of my love and esteem for you. I suspect that you are not somebody who places a great deal of value in superficial.”

She handed me a small, rather heavy package. We went back to Bennies for dinner and Stella said, “Suzy, you will understand your gift when you need it. Open It and let’s see.” Suzy’s package was a necklace that could buy a small country. Something that had probably been on its way to buy a chunk of Spanish America at some point and been diverted. Stella said, “Don’t show this to anyone and unless it is a special occasion it will help you hide itself. Nera and Mera can explain some of its other properties. This is both a gift and a burden, but I can agree with Meria that you may need it before this is done. Sillia and I have already received such gifts. What did she give you, Tim?” I opened the package. It was a small figure of Suzy dancing. It looked to be about five pounds and was solid gold. The scales seemed to be cut from pearl and it was the most beautiful thing that I had even seen other than the real girl. “Wow. This is something that shouldn’t be shown around.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Sal said. “Nobody will see it for what it really is for the most part. It will be just another odd piece of art to most people and they won’t look too closely at it. She gave me one too, of Sillia.”

After we were at Bennies for a while we were joined by the admiral, Captain Farr, their wives, along with Steve and Haruka. Steve said, “Haruka and I stayed here since most of the family went up to Vermont and they were short of space up there. We may be going up for the Olympics though as Mary asked Haruka if she could act as a local guide and interpreter for some special foreign guests with tails. It’s a good thing that Tom is coming back because it looks like the tank beds are going to have to be expedited. Dad took over things up there and I’m glad that I’m down here and in the service. Otherwise I would be dragged up there and put to work.”

“Anything from Philly yet?” I asked.

“You’ll have to ask Tim when he gets here. He and the navy people have been looking at things down there. Along with your friends in the press and some of Sal’s friends. The sharks seem to have quieted down, but I’m hoping that they didn’t just pull up and move someplace else. If they try to come up here, they will get a rough time. There are some bonded couples coming up, but we’re setting up a bonding party and arranging it so that they close the deal at the hotel that Sal likes in the Spring. The wedding worked quite well for that and the fact that all those couples were together with you made the shark’s feeding impossible. By the way, when Al and Eltra get back we are training you to shoot at Mary and Albert’s place. Grandfather has arranged with Tom and Larry to have a custom piece made for your Change and we expect you to carry it from now on.”

“What about the gun laws?” “Just refer any people that try to bust you to Mary. We’ll arrange a Federal permit anyway. You’ve been too deep in this and Dori was too close a call.”

Suzy said, “Tim, you need to learn to shoot. I know how to shoot. We will also contact Larry soon too for a gun for me. But I don’t want you taking a risk again because you are unarmed and getting yourself killed. I want you to be able to defend yourself before you are out there working again even if we have alternatives.”

“Speaking about Tom, have you heard anything else about what’s going on upstate?” I asked.

“Other than my mother and sisters planning some sort of shindig up there, no I haven’t. The war department actually wanted one of my platoons up there for discreet security in the lake if necessary, so whatever they are up to, it’s going to make a splash. I sent Roger and Stelios with a platoon on Thursday. They should be back Monday. Stelios knows Boris, Mike and Hilda and can contact them. I told him not to contact my father or the rest unless absolutely necessary.”

“I’ve been getting calls from people asking why I didn’t tell them that Tom was getting married and what was the wedding like,” Mabel said. “People I would not have thought about when I think about Tom. Steve, I think your mother should have asked more questions about him.” “Tim Kirk told me the same thing. Apparently, when this thing blew up and Tom was involved, the word came down that whatever Tom wanted, give it to him. I could have brought a battalion of marines to that beach ambush and just mentioned Tom’s name and it would have been approved.” “Apparently he has the Japanese prince up there at the farm, if what we heard at the party yesterday is true,” I said. “Some clown up there called Chrissie a “Stupid Girl” and everybody thought that your family was going to respond.”

“They haven’t called me yet. I figured I would wait until they came to the wedding and ask questions then. If Haruka and I go up anyway, I want to know what I’m getting into before I start playing around. On the other hand that character just made a big mistake when he pissed off grandfather, dad, mother, Aunt Nera, Aunt Eltra and my sisters all at the same time.” “His nephew, George was here last week. We gave him a troubleshooter and told him that he was banned just about every place, but I think that he paid attention,” Sal said. “Still, Josh by himself would be bad enough.” “Noro by himself could be worse,” The admiral said. “The man won’t do anything straight if there’s a sneaky way to do it. He’s been out of it since Liltra was killed and now that he’s back, I imagine that the family is looking for ways to keep him up top and occupied. On the other hand, both Josh and Noro went up to Vermont and at your party, Sal, Lou was poking for any connections for the Olympics. Then, yesterday we hear that they have taken over up there.”

“When grandfather went under sea, dad had to take over everything up top both at the Cape and New York,” Steve said. “I was enjoying my Hawaiian vacation for the last eight months while this lady was chasing me, so I wasn’t sure what was happening other than Chrissie chasing Tom from the telegrams that mother was sending. If dad was his usual self, he used that as an excuse to be on the boat and closer to mother and things slid, especially in New York. Stacey was complaining about that when they were down here and all during the Manager, dad was going into the city. So I’m not surprised that there was an explosion up at Lake Placid and better Tom than me. Though I will have to talk to Roger and Stelios when they get back on Monday and find out what was going on.”

Tim Kirk rolled Merlia in with their parents. I was going to ask Tim about Philly, but Suzy and the rest wanted to ask about Tom and what was going on upstate. Tim said, “When lieutenant Billings and I did some checking down in Washington after the thing with the Manager started, we asked about Tom, because I had run into him briefly while I was stationed there at the navy yard. The word came back that he would probably not ask for anything from us, but if he did, we would be advised to give it to him and not ask any questions. Apparently he made a bunch of very high level connections who may not want a lot of attention and noise surrounding what he was doing. Knowing what I know now, I think that I can understand why. As to what’s happening upstate, That’s Sal’s people more than ours, though I want to know what happened when it’s over and I hope that Stelios and Roger are getting the whole picture. After that exercise with Stelios, Hali and the rest, it’s going to be fun to watch. I have some of my friends owing me favors after I sent them the report on how Tom handled the Manager. They’ve been wanting to know how his stuff worked for years. They never thought to look at the phones.”

After dinner was over, Sal packed my stuff up to take it back to my place and Suzy dragged me under for a Swim and Meria found an empty bower for us.

 

Stelios.

Friday, 12/25, Christmas.

When the lieutenant and I started to look at the security concerns, one thing stood out, the ferry across the lake. The easiest thing to do was just take it over. Taking over the ferry proved remarkably easy with me flashing my ID and masters license at the captain and saying that we would be willing to give his crew a day off and that I could handle the boat under his command. I had conned the Mississippi into port during a storm as part of my midshipman’s cruise. After a battleship, the ferry wasn’t much trouble and by the third round trip the captain was in the back of the wheelhouse, asleep. Which was a good thing as on the fifth round trip, a powerful fae crossed the lake in a car going east. As the cars were unloading, I waved to the man at the dock and pointed. He discreetly took a picture as the car went by and on the next trip there was another one. I waved again and after taking the photo this time, guy on the dock went to a phone booth and made a call. After a few hours, both cars were back in the lot, but they were both tows looking rather wrecked. The drivers were looking rather frightened as the tow trucks and cars were hauled back across the lake. The captain was awake by that point and said, “two more idiots taking on the masters of chaos. I don’t know what they did, or why Bob and Scott were on the prowl today, but you would think that they would learn.”

“We called them in to the Sheriff because they looked like they were looking for trouble.”

“They found it. You boys did a good job today, but why?”

“Orders. We’re supposed to keep a discreet eye on the lake for a couple of days and taking the ferry over seemed like a good way to do that. It seems to have worked.”

We tied up the ferry for the night and that’s when we got the bad news. Hilda came over and said, “Stelios, Roger is dead.” “What happened?”

“He was watching the south end of the lake and apparently he and one of our deputies found something and it killed them. They were taken by clawing through the neck.” “And the other two, that we called in?”

“They were the two that went after Tom. Bob and Scott dealt with them. They were supposed to launch constructs again, but they only had four jars between them and they never had a chance to. Bob and Scott just messed up their cars and called tow trucks. We didn’t find Roger or our deputy until they made it back to the ferry.”

“I need to call this in. At least the lieutenant hadn’t bonded yet and I won’t have to explain to his wife what happened.”

“Let’s go to the office and then take your people over to Bill’s place for dinner. I think that you will need to talk to him anyway.”

I found petty officer Costa and told him what Hilda had told me. “Steve isn’t going to like this.”

“I know. I have tell him. Get the people together and go here.” I handed him a map with Bill’s place, the farm, the inn and some other places marked on it “We’ll meet there for dinner after I talk to Steve. He’ll want to come up and take over, but he can’t get here from New York in time to do anything.” “I know, sir. We’re on our own. At least I don’t think that thing will come back after we squelched the diversion. The ferry was a good idea, but a little too obvious. On the other hand, the werewolf question is answered. I just wish that the lieutenant hadn’t found out the hard way.”

“So do I. I’m going with officer Benton and I will meet you there.”

I got into Hilda’s car and said, “Let’s go.”

“Was he one of the good ones?”

“Yes he was. He was going to be up for promotion soon. We kept trying to find bonds for him, but none of the tails we ran into connected. On the other hand, until Haruka ran into Steve, he didn’t either. I should have taken the cars and the roads he should have had the ferry. But he was senior and figured that since I was bonded that the risk should be his. We’ll have to change our strategy tomorrow. I think two cars working in pairs with shooters in the other car. This thing is either very good at being discreet or compelled the lieutenant. He was never that careless.”

“Well we sent our photographer out and I have people watching the bodies and the car and checking around. Boris and Stephie will be out when they can separate themselves discreetly from the party. Father is not going to be happy about this. We probably shouldn’t have let those two go, but keeping high fae in jail means that we have to use people we won’t have available tomorrow and it’s too late to cancel the party.”

“If they show up tomorrow, I hope they know how to swim. If they show up at the ferry, I hope they can swim across the lake.”

“Let’s not do anything like that. I don’t think that they will show up again so soon. They don’t have any constructs anyway. We bought the seller out and it looks like he gets four a week or so. Or that was how many he bought. That just gives us four more for the shoot anyway.”

“I wonder if Jacob will show up tomorrow?”

“We can make the effort to force him to. Frankly father should have had him come over here for our confrontations.”

We discussed ways to get Jacob to show up until we arrived at a rather busy office for a rural sheriff’s department on Christmas.

Hilda pointed me at her desk and I dialed the navy yard in New York. The desk said that Steve, Captain Farr and the admiral were all out. I asked if there was a forwarding number and she said that she didn’t have it handy, but that they went to Bennies. “I know the number, it’s important and I will call there.”

I dialed Bennies and Sissy picked up. “Sissy, this is Stelios, is Steve or the admiral still there?”

“They both are. Do you want to talk to Steve?” “Yes. It’s rather important.”

“Stelios? What happened?” “Sir, the lieutenant was killed.” “How?”

“We think by a werewolf. Tom picked up on the possibility and we were watching the ferry and the roads. I took command of the ferry and the lieutenant had people paired with the deputies up here watching the roads. But Tom thinks that this is a royal fae werewolf and it probably overpowered the lieutenant and clawed their necks out.” “Ok. First thing. My father is not to know about this until he is on the train heading South on Monday. Second, where are you now?” “The sheriff’s office with Mrs. Benton. We are going to dinner at the foreman’s house.”

“Good. If you can, stay away from father. If he gets a whiff of this he’s going to go after that thing. The admiral looks rather unhappy at that prospect and I double that.”

“Third, if you can find a way to discreetly talk to Tom, without my father knowing, do that. Tom seems to be on top of this. Put Hilda on.”

I turned to Hilda, “Steve wants to talk to you.” She grimaced and said, “I’m not surprised.” I handed her the phone and heard her give a succinct account of what happened,  agreement to send what she had and an agreement that Josh shouldn’t be told. Then she handed the phone back to me. “I’m sorry sir.” “For what?”

“For not being more assertive about taking precautions. I don’t think that the lieutenant really believed Tom about the werewolf when he was told.” “Roger had the information and came up with a plan to use his limited resources as best he could. I can understand not really believing that the thing was out there. I doubt that Tom was even sure or we would have heard more about it. I would come up myself, but the party will be over by the time I could get there. So you have to be in charge and carry out assignment. Which leads me to my fourth instruction. Carry out the assignment. Do not, under any circumstances, go on a wild wolf hunt. If he shows up again, take him out. But don’t take my people over there and go looking for him. We will complete this assignment, go home and when the time comes, go back up there and do the hunt properly. You and I will talk to Tom, Mike and Helmut at the wedding, but this character is ours. I need to give a report to the admiral and the rest of the people here at the table. Bye.”

I put the phone back on the hook and Hilda said, “let’s go to dinner.”

We went over to Bill’s house, which was rather large and had a bunkroom for the harvest workers attached. It also had a large dining room with a big table for said workers which was a good thing as between the fourteen of us and the hands, their families and Athena and Gregor there were a lot of us. It was fairly obvious that Bill and Hilda had a long term relationship and that Andy more or less thought of Bill as his dad. Which explained some things that he had been doing during the Manager. Everybody wanted to know the story of what happened and what Tom and Andy had done along with the rest of us. I got kudos for being the one that shot the shark lady and forcing their final change. It was apparent that nobody here liked the dark, or the monsters it created, at all. As dinner was winding down to a large plate of wonderful brownies I asked Bill, “Is there a way you could get me close to Tom early tomorrow without Josh being around?” “Why?”

“We lost my lieutenant to that werewolf that Tom deduced existed and my orders from Steve are that his father is not to know that the werewolf exists until he is on the train again, heading south.” “Tom and I were going to do that hunt slow and sneaky. Apparently he poked his nose over here. I wonder why?”

“I don’t know,” Hilda said. “But he sent the same two goons over to launch constructs as a diversion and then must have run into the lieutenant and George and killed them. If he was smart after he did, he headed right back home.”

“What happened to the goons? I’ve been busy setting up for the shindig and coordinating with your Feds and Tochi’s people on security.”

“Stelios caught them on the ferry. We set Bob and Scott on them this morning while Tom was inside with the kids. Bob and Scott ran them off the road, trashed their cars and confiscated the constructs.” “We saw them go back across on the ferry, I said. “The captain said that he wasn’t surprised other than wondering why Bob and Scott were on the prowl today.”

“Are you willing to do some digging? The boys need to set up the noisemakers for the party.”

“I can do that. In fact I can help wire them up. I did it on an island in the dark.”

“Why?”

“We needed a diversion and Roscoe and Linda were flying around so I didn’t want to do it in daylight. I didn’t want to make it obvious where we were. As it was, Tom’s boat became a “casualty. I also “lost” some people to a fishing boat that wasn’t.”

“That sounds like fun,” Hilda said.

“It was. I was the junior officer, so I got first shot at an exercise. Then it was going to be Roger next and then down the platoons.”

Hilda, Bill and I put together a plan with Art Costa. Boris and Stephie showed up Hilda gave them a full report and we went over our plans with them. When I mentioned that I wasn’t supposed to talk to Josh if I could avoid it, Boris said, “That won’t be too hard. He’s going over there tomorrow morning with Noro. They are coming back for the party after lunch. Tom has to be here to set up, so you can take advantage of that. I’ll give Eric a full report about this in the morning.”

“Stelios, why don’t most of your people stay in the bunkhouse tonight,” Bill said. “That way you don’t have to run all the way to town and back in the morning.” “Ok, I’ll stay here with you and Art and four more people can handle the ferry tomorrow.”

I sent Art and four people back to Burlington and the rest of us bunked down for the night.

 

 

 

Tom.

Saturday, 12/26

I hadn’t had a chance to see the inn yet. At least after my family had bought it and recreated it. The original building dated back to the late 18th Century and the original front door still had some scars from Indian attacks and the revolution. The place had had its ups and downs ever since. When the Olympics came around and the inn right there, my sister and brother in law seized the opportunity.

Thanks to the place being adjacent to the family’s ski area the place represented a good way to provide for people to stay at the ski area and even in the summer, enjoy the hiking and riding trails. Mary and Roger had bought the inn last May, tripled the number of rooms and added things like indoor plumbing. So the inn now had forty rooms as well as the chalet that Mary and Roger had previously built when they cut the trails for the ski area two years ago.

They had gone to Switzerland for their honeymoon years ago and had caught the ski bug and brought it back. For the longest time, the trails had been mostly a family thing and some ardent enthusiasts, but that had been changing and the ski area was a growing business. We weren’t that far from the train station and the trains could make a nice weekend out of the city for some fun on the mountain possible. The Olympics and the ski club had raised awareness of the potential of skiing as a sport for the people who had never seen it before.

When I arrived at the inn, Bob and Scott were already there with rather more people setting up the noisemakers. They also seemed to know what they were doing with them. Then I recognized Stelios and he saw me and came over. “I need to talk to you about werewolves.”

“I think that there’s a monster across the lake. I’m not sure though because I haven’t been able to check with the local sheriffs. All the markers are there though.” “Your monster showed up over here yesterday. The war department wanted some fae up here to keep an eye on things and Steve sent my lieutenant, me and one of his platoons to provide some additional security for Chrissie’s party and keep a discreet eye on things. It looks like whoever it was, they were on the ball. The lieutenant and one of Boris’ people were killed yesterday. Their necks were clawed out.”

“Nobody told me yesterday.” “You were with Josh. Steve and the admiral gave me direct orders not contact Josh unless it couldn’t be avoided and not to tell him about the thing across the lake. On the other hand, I need intelligence and you have it.” “So what happened yesterday?” Bob and Scott came over as Stelios said, “We split things up yesterday so that we could cover the roads on the south side of the lake and the ferry. I and some of our people took the ferry over and ran it and when two powerful fae crossed over, got their pictures and called it in. Hilda apparently set these two on them for fun and games and we saw what was left of their cars coming back.”

“We used the car to run one of them off the road as the other one was following on, Bob said. “Right under a cliff. A rather unstable cliff, as some rocks fell off and hit their cars. We took the construct jars they had, said that we would call tow trucks and that they should watch out and maybe stay away from here, because our road department didn’t have the money theirs did and the next time they came over they might be found buried under some rocks. Then we went over to the Tolland place, called the tow trucks, did a sweep up North since Hilda said that the South was covered and then went to the shop with you and Tochi for the afternoon.”

“Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?” “Because Aunt Hilda asked us not to. She didn’t want to spoil the first real Christmas you’ve had with the family in a long time. She was also concerned what you might do. Those two were just a diversion anyway and we didn’t find out for what until last night after dinner.”

“Don’t go looking for that thing by yourselves,” Stelios said. “The lieutenant was no slouch and it still got him. Tom, let’s get this stuff all set up and then we can talk about this.” “You seem to be rather familiar with this.” “Not the water magic, though Hali has been teaching me that and we’re making progress. But we borrowed some of your noisemakers and fabricated some more for the exercise that we were having while you were on your cruise. We snuck onto Fisher’s Island using your boat the night before the exercise and set them up in the dark for a diversion. It almost worked, but Roger had apparently either been talking to Joe, or getting reports and you weren’t the only one who got his hands on a rum runner and is using it for other purposes. We saw the “fishing boat,” nets and all, well away from Fort Michie as we were infiltrating. We thought we were clear and undetected when the boat suddenly moves much faster than it should, comes charging in and I “lose” an entire platoon to “grenades.” Then a destroyer shows up, spots your boat that we were planning to use for a getaway and “sinks” it.”

“How did they spot you?”

“Roscoe or Linda, probably. Airplanes make noise, they don’t. I still managed to get “bombs” in two of the other magazines, but without the gun on Fort Michie shut down, an invading fleet would have a rather bad time.”

With Stelios and his people, the setup went much faster than I expected. As we were setting up, a pair of trucks from the co-op on the Cape showed up with two of Altris’s grandsons driving and two other people from the co-op riding shotgun. Chrissie had mentioned one truck. Apparently another one had come too. George came out of the inn and pointed where he wanted them to go. I went over and asked, “A bit much for one party, isn’t it?” “Not really, and there’s a bit more than the party here.”

“Ok, well you know what’s going on and I don’t, so let me get Bob and Scott set up and we need to do a pick up back at the house.”

Bob, Scott and I, along with Stelios and his people helping out, got the water magic for Scott’s show with Elizabeth set up, as George and a crew set up a bake in a trench that had been dug where some trails were set up in the snow. “Is that where you boys are setting up the shoot?”

“Yes, Uncle Tom. We did most of it Thursday. Bill is bringing some cider kegs and Chrissie is having the outfit send some beer. We are setting up in the barn next to a stove. Bill and the boys did some patch up on it while we were over there working.”

“Well let’s go over to the house and pick up the puppet show.”

Stelios joined me in my truck. “I thought that we could ride over to the farm and discuss things, I could help you out and find out what’s going on.” “Well it started last week when father had a meeting with Jacob and brought over  my stuff.” “The stuff that shows the dark conspiracy to kill all of us?” “That stuff, yes and the pictures of my adventure on the island, the briefing book and some other things. Things that would make a rather compelling argument that I wasn’t just imagining things regardless of what Jacob thinks of me. So father, mother, Hilda and Athena go over there for a meeting and in the course of the meeting, Jacob rather sarcastically says that Bob and Scott are “such good boys.””

“Mike told us about that. While they were in the room, no less.”

“Yes, which represents idiocy raised to a high art. Still you would think that what they showed him would be rather compelling arguments against keeping up with petty and stupid disputes and getting together. Yet we all go over to the parade last Saturday and there Jacob was, insulting Chrissie and worrying about the things that Bob and Scott set off. The stuff that just about everybody else laughed about especially when Scott and Elizabeth had their dance to end the show.

After the parade, the company invites us to their Christmas party at Antonio’s, the same place that Jacob used for his meeting and Jacob shows up and tries to throw the party out. This party wasn’t something that Noro or my father set up. It was a thank you for the White’s people who’ve been up here far past the time they were supposed to be because of the screwups. The company people invited Noro and his family. So Jacob pissed off a bunch of people, not just Josh and Noro that time.

We get a nice easy Sunday and then the committee wants to meet with Noro and ask him to take things over, without Jacob. We go over to a place in Burlington, Josh reads the committee the terms under which Noro will take over, a key term being that Jacob is to be not present while we are there.”

“Josh was probably really pissed off.”

“For a bunch of reasons, not least of which is that the company had not been paid and the work had not been done. The stupid threat to blame the company didn’t make him any happier either.

Anyway, we roll into town and I start to track down why the rest rooms and food concessions were not open during the parade or even being readied for the games. Since the people involved had started to pile up as I went through things trying to discover what the issue was, we get together around a table in an empty office that I was grabbing for a few minutes. I find out that the new water main had not been finished because of a stupid permit issue with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and call one of my old contacts at the White house to resolve that and incidently tell the White House office mom about Chrissie when Jacob walks in and wants to know why I am in his office.” “The White House office mom? That explains a lot. I have friends over at the Navy Department and there are certain people you don’t even think about messing with down there. She tops the list.” “She does, and I made the mistake of annoying her once. I suspect that she is coming to the party to meet Chrissie. So anyway I am conducting important and delicate negotiations and apologizing for not telling her that I had gotten married, when in walks Jacob, yelling and screaming. Since he wasn’t supposed be even in the building, let alone the office and I don’t want to have the games go down in flames because Jacob can’t get it into his thick head that pissing off Josh is really stupid, I throw him out of the office and the building. To make it stick I take over the office.

On Wednesday, Tochi shows up and wants to resolve some issues over some ladies with tails and we go over to the restaurant, which Noro has booked for his employees and our guests and there is Jacob again, demanding that Antonio seat him and his friends. He starts insulting Tochi and his people and since Josh and Noro are on their way over, I call Bob and Scott, who Noro sent over as bus boys for Jacob reasons, as well as the fact that they will be discreet about what we were talking about and have them drive Jacob over to the sheriff’s office so that his wife can pick him up.

That brings us to Thursday, where I am dealing with yet more issues, international relations and Doris and her photographer.”

“Tim is up here?” “No, he’s with Suzy and his editor told him to take time off.”

“He won’t like that.”

‘He’ll find something, I’m sure unless Suzy can keep him under.”

“She’s going to try. I expected him to show up at our exercise, but apparently he wasn’t told about it until it was over and Suzy kept him out there at the island. Hali and I are planning a little get together out there in the Spring.”

“At least you can Swim and they can’t maroon you out there like they did Tim Kirk.”

“He deserved it. Poor Merlia, chasing him through all those transfers. So what happened on Thursday?”

“Well, the start of a very good thing. I met with Josh’s parents, who in the process of looking for him, sell information and are very good at finding things out, sometimes for the other side.

I was having a discreet conversation with them and Doris, when we noticed that the other people in the restaurant are being compelled so that they leave. I see two of Jacob’s grandsons and realize that they are clearing out the place so that Jacob can have yet another of his little meetings and when I object to that, they try to strong arm me and I throw them out. Jacob shows up and I tell him to leave. He goes over to the sheriff’s office, the sheriff comes over and talks to me and after lunch we head over to the lake. On the way over, the two goons start to drop a cliff on us and we run. We take the ferry across the lake and I think about going all out on Jacob and then I think about Joe Buckley, compulsions and who could compel Jacob. Then I look his heir’s service records and came up werewolf. I’ll give them to you and you can make copies for Steve.”

“Why, other than the fact that it looks like we have one, did you come up with werewolf.” “Because Jacob has always said that Edward is dead, but when I checked his service record Thursday night, it came up as Missing rather than dead and there was no artillery barrage recorded for that day, but there was a werewolf attack. Then my brother was sent down to New York rather than being kept up here where he would have influence and be able to destabilize my father. I talked with Bill and he said that he thought that he had destroyed my brother’s pack, but Mike kept chasing down the occasional werewolf until recently. Then they took Andy to indenture Hilda and Andy said that if the Manager had actually managed to make werewolf soldiers, that Bill would just take them over and use them for Twisted hunts.” “I thought that there was some sort of thing going on there.” “They had a little accident and Bill got his Change at last. They both had previous bonds, who are dead and share tragedies. So unless there were another strong and I mean royal level strong, because I have my suspicions about Bill, werewolf, any werewolves that Hilda creates would just become Bill’s war dogs. Yet the Manager took Andy with the results that we saw.” “Why didn’t Bill go down with the rest of them?” “Because father wanted him up here in case the Manager sent a bunch of Twisted and Hilda wanted to make the point that messing with her was not going to end well.” “She did a very good job with that. With Stephie’s help. By the way, do me a favor and don’t tell your sister that we have the noisemakers.” “She has enough toys already. I’m not sure where the one we built this week is going to end up, but since it was a group effort with the kids, it will probably end up at the school.

In any case the puzzle pieces just kept fitting and I started to tell people about them. So far nobody has been able to shoot them down either.” “I wish that Roger had talked to you about this, but Steve wanted us to be as discreet as possible and not contact you unless it was absolutely necessary.  Roger had never met you because Steve took my platoon up to the Cape with him and then swapped out until we got things back together. So he didn’t clue into just how serious this was.” “I didn’t either. I didn’t expect that Edward would risk showing himself like that. Whoever had you come up was on the ball and right about being discreet. Especially where Josh is concerned. When we get back to the inn, I will have you find a discreet corner to talk to Eli and Theresa.” “Who are they?” “Josh’s parents. Joe Thomas’s too. They lost most of their kids in Europe before they could make it over here, had a loose keystone and had to hide Josh to protect him. They lost track of him and couldn’t find him and started looking inside the dark trying to see if they could find him that way. They did, but they didn’t know it. Anyway, they are very good at tracking things down and being discreet.” “Things just got a lot more interesting, didn’t they? The commander is going to be upset that he couldn’t come up with us.”

We pulled into the barnyard and apparently, Chrissie had been one step ahead of me, as there was the puppet show, wrapped in a thick blanket, being loaded onto one of the farm trucks while she watched from the porch. She saw us and waved as we drove up. As we parked and got out she called out, “Stelios, good to see you! Now that father will not be back until after lunch, Eric and Helmut want to see you both, so I thought that I would take care of this for you. Bob, Scott, we’re done here. They want you back at the inn. Tom, give your keys to the boys over there. We are going in one of the cars.”

There were three more white Cadillacs with drivers lined up. I walked over to Chrissie and kissed her. “I hope that none of this is coming out of my paycheck. Though right now, I’m not even sure that I am getting paid, or how much.”

“Don’t worry about that. We can afford it and we will work things out when it’s over. High status people have other people to worry about their paychecks for them. And trust me, buster, you are going to be paid plenty. Let’s go inside.”

I handed my keys to one of my smiling nephews and we went inside. I rolled Chrissie over to father’s office where Mike, Boris, Hilda and Helmut were waiting. Helmut said, “here are the pictures from the scene.”

Stelios and I looked at them. Stelios asked, “where were their guns?”

“On the ground,” Boris said. “The lieutenant got one shot off, George two. Neither of them had special rounds in their gun. George had the magazine with specials that we issue, but apparently couldn’t change magazines. He also had had the course that Bill teaches and probably was trying to aim for lethal shots rather than trying to change a magazine. There were some blood spots that didn’t come from the lieutenant or George, so whatever it was, it was hit. If it was a werewolf, he regenerated almost immediately more than likely. We got some samples and are having the blood type matched.”

“I’ll be right back,” I said. I went over to the workroom where Edward’s file and the unit file were still sitting in their own pile and brought the pile back. “Here’s Edward’s files.”

“When you have a report I will send this all down to the commander,” Stellios said. “It looks like whoever went for the lieutenant first, probably because he was fae and the deputy, second.”

“We haven’t found any witnesses and there weren’t any houses visible,” Hilda said. “The thing picked that stretch of the road to stop for that reason. He probably spotted the lieutenant and the deputy following him and pulled over, Changed and came around to kill them. Ralph, senior and junior, are over there, looking at the woods with our photographer, looking for sign.”

“We don’t tell my father about this, yet,” Chrissie said. “Now that his parents have met him and he has them I don’t want him taking those stupid chances. This monster made a mistake, though. It came over here and showed itself to us.”

“Chrissie, is Bob Vickers on the guest list?” I asked.

“General Vickers? I think that his wife RSVP’d. Why?”

“Because his regiment was one of the heaviest hit by the werewolves and he knows them backwards and forwards. He also might know if anybody around knew Edward.”

“What are you thinking Tom?” Mike said.

“Where George’s car was parked. If I remember that stretch of road, the car is facing west, not east. If they were following Edward, he was already on his way out and the only reason I can think for that is that he already had finished what he was doing, had turned around when things got dicey or he was going to meet somebody and turned around rather than give the person away.” “Who, Tom?” father asked. “I don’t know. It can’t be family, because he never bonded, or at least if he did, nobody knows about it and his parents don’t know about him, at least his mother doesn’t. She’s spent enough time with you and mother over the years for various things that if there were a bit of compulsion, you would have picked up on it.” “Suppose he had bonded?” Hilda said. “Before he left, or like me, over there. But unlike me, who had not gone into Change, she already had and the wolf Change could not be forced on her. So they are separated and he is taken prisoner and Turned or they bond while he is a prisoner. She moves over here in amongst the other fae and he meets with her from time to time.”

“So why come over now?” father asked. “He would have to know about the things going on and the fact that we are at a raised level of alertness.”

“Because of what has been going on, especially if there are children. He has to know that the Olympics and taking me attracted attention over there. With Noro and the rest working over there, he is at risk anyway and if we find him, he’s done. I suspect that he knows that his father’s antics attracted attention and that Tom is likely to put two and two together. So he sent the boys over to create a diversion and pull us up to the ferry while he goes in and out to the south. He had no way of knowing about Chrissie’s party and the extra people here for that. Or how we had taken over the ferry and intercepted the diversion. So instead of the one car that he can just evade, he runs into the four or five we had down there with the lieutenant’s people, all of whom are high fae and he either retreats or is caught when he leaves. Considering the timing, I think that he was retreating when George and the lieutenant picked up on him.”

“So why didn’t he just keep going?” I asked. “He wasn’t that far from the county line and George would have stopped and the lieutenant would have let him.”

“Maybe he had to stop someplace and didn’t want to risk that he was still being followed. Or there was somebody he was protecting. Brad did take risks to protect me and Andy.”

“You think that he had a kid?”

“That would be a logical conclusion. The funny thing is that if there are kids we probably know them. Stephie almost certainly does and it’s likely that Ivan, Katherine, Leonard, Jimmy and Andy will as well as Diana and Larry’s kids.” “Has there been any werewolf bragging other than Andy?”

“Not that Andy has said anything about. On the other hand, Andy didn’t exactly brag about it up here either and the kid may not even know that his or her dad is one or even that they are fae if it’s a royal bonding, which it probably is.”

“That would explain some things,” father said. “Brad would probably have been more or less tamed if Hilda had been here. Still, the monster would have gotten out, regardless. I wonder if what happened here isn’t even a little bit the result of the moon cycle. The monster may be closer to the surface and helped Edward to make a flawed decision.”

“I want to know for sure who the child and the mother are before Bill and I go on a serious hunt,” I said. “Especially if it’s more than one child. They will need to be protected and I, at least don’t want them to potential pawns in this. That’s the way the other side plays the game.”

“I second that,” Mike said. “For no other reason than the other side might attempt to use the bonded and children to manipulate Edward. I wonder if the other side even suspects that Edward has a bonded. That may be why she lives over here in the first place.”

Chrissie said, “Tom, we need to get dressed for the party so take me over to our room.”

I was about to argue, but I had the feeling that I would end up doing it anyway. So I rolled her over to our room, where my best suit from my last days at Pratt was hanging along with a dress that I had never seen before. “Where did this come from?”

“We had them made by the same designer that did our wedding gowns. They were done for Sal’s wedding and we had them brought up. Now get dressed.”

“Are there any gill issues?”

“No. we went in to get wet just before you got here and we moved a tank bed over to the inn this morning for that. We can always make quick trips to the pool anyway if we have to.”

I undressed and started to put the suit on as she slipped out of one dress and took the other one off its hanger. “Does that dress have the same properties as your wedding gown?”

“Oh, yes, which will make it useful in the future.”

I finished putting on the shirt and started to tie the tie. “Here, let me do that.”

I bent over so that she could. “How do you know how?”

“Daddy and business meetings. I was always having to tie or straighten his tie. He is worse about suits than you are.”

After I put the jacket on, Chrissie held up a small suitcase and said, “put your other clothes and my dress in here.”

“What for?”

“The construct shoot. Wearing a suit might be inappropriate and we can change at the inn.”

I did as she told me, put the suitcase in her lap and rolled her out to where my father and Mike had also changed. Helmut had already been wearing a suit and Hilda was on duty, so she wasn’t going to be there and in fact had already left with Stelios. Well at least to the porch, where a truck was backed up and racks of guns were being transferred. The whole thing was being managed by Larry and my sisters with Stelios looking a little boggled. I rolled Chrissie over to the car and the chauffer helped me put her inside and Mike, Helmut and father joined us as the chauffer put the wheelchair and the suitcase in the trunk, got in and drove us back to the inn.

Al, Eltra, Nera and Mera were there in the common, with the ladies looking resplendent. All three of them were wearing necklaces that were more or less the same as the one that Sillia had at the party. Mera had a box in her hand. “Chrissie dear, your great aunt had a gift for you and they brought it up with ours. I think that this is a good time to show it.”

She handed the box to me. “Tom, why don’t you put this on your wife.”

I opened the box and there was another of the necklaces. I opened the clasp and put it on my wife’s neck. “Not that this changes you in my eyes, Chrissie, but you look wonderful in this.” I kissed her and basked in her joy.

My brother in law, George came around with a camera and wanted our picture so I stood next to Chrissie and he took the picture. Mera said, “Chrissie, we will teach you the mysteries of these gifts when we go back down on the train. But for the time being, join us to welcome our guests.”

“Mera, before the crowd starts arriving, I need to talk to Eli and Theresa. We had a werewolf kill one of Steve’s people. Steve does not want his father to know.” “I think I know why, considering the speculation on who the werewolf probably is. Who was killed?” “Stelios’ lieutenant, Roger Smith. Stelios is in charge of the platoon that Steve sent up because somebody in the war department was concerned about Chrissie’s party, my address book and potential fae issues. It turned out that they were right to be concerned.” “Does Steve know?”

“Yes. Stelios was supposed to avoid contact with us, but has been in contact with Mike and Helmut and talked to me after the lieutenant was killed because he wanted what I had and some first hand intelligence about what was going on. I want to have a quiet talk with Eli and Theresa before I get wrapped up in the party.”

“We’ve setup the bar at the end of the hall in a lounge that has a balcony overlooking the ski area. They are there with Doris and Tochi. Come right back though.”

“I will.”

I walked down the new carpet and fresh paint to the lounge Doris, Eli, Tochi and Theresa were talking. Tochi took one look at me and said, “The real Tom has emerged. This is the Tom he prefers to hide.”

“I can’t imagine why,” Doris said. He looks good in a suit.”

“Now that I’m wearing it, Chrissie won’t let me escape.”

“She shouldn’t,” Tochi said. “She won’t want you to be less than yourself.”

“Eli, there is somebody that I want you or Theresa to talk to if we can arrange it discreetly.” “Who?”

“Ensign Stelios. He has a small detachment of fae from the navy and is keeping an eye on things. His boss ran into a werewolf yesterday and paid the price for it. I also want all of you to not mention that to my father in law. At least until he is far enough away that he can’t come running right back.”

“I think we know why,” Theresa said. “We may not have known that Josh was our son, but we did know what he did to any monsters in his vicinity. That was one reason we avoided contact for so long. Which makes our werewolf coming over here and poking us rather strange as I would have to be certain that he would know Josh’s reputation as well. I suspect that Josh may be why the dark has been spending so much effort laying low over there.”

“The orders that Steve gave Stelios after the lieutenant were pretty clear and according to Stelios, were given him by Steve, with the admiral, Captain Farr and the others sitting next to Steve when he gave the order.” “At Bennies, probably,” Doris said. “They probably all went there for dinner so that Tim and Suzy could meet their under sea relatives.”

“I can’t stay very long, so I need to get to the point,” I said. “Eli, are you and Theresa going to be here with Noro next week?”

“We hadn’t asked, actually. We should, because the retainer was only through yesterday. I don’t see a problem on our end.” “I’ll talk to Noro when he gets here then. While the rest of us are gone, I want you to do a discreet search for a single mother in this area, probably coming over from Germany or Austria right after the war and with at least one child.” “You think that was why Edward came over here?” Tochi said. “But why now, when security was intensified.”

“Because he was concerned that he would be exposed and destroyed, probably by me once I started poking around while working on the Olympics. Especially with Josh around. Hilda suggested it and also suggested that the Director may not know that Edward has a bonded and children. If that is the case, I want them protected before we go after Edward. I think that Edward has to be aware of the way the dark uses children.

I don’t think that he knew about the party, you, Tochi, other than you being at Lake Placid or Steve’s people coming up. I also think that he expected that the constructs his nephews were supposed to launch would attract attention and that Boris would have his people more or less pulled in for Christmas. Instead he got us at a heightened level of alertness and more, not fewer people cruising around. So he pulled back, the Lieutenant and George picked up on him and he reacted by killing them. I need to go before Mera sends somebody.”

I went back to old inn’s common room which was more or less serving as a lobby and get together room, with the new restaurant behind it. The guests had started to arrive and I was immediately forced to make introductions over and over to Chrissie and the rest. A bunch had come up on the overnight train from Washington and the white cars and some others were being used to bring them over. Then the gun people and the people from Pratt started to show up. Miss Vicky, did indeed show up with her husband and some other people from the White House, hugged Chrissie and started to chat with her and her mother. She turned to me when I had a break and said, “Tom, I was a bit concerned about you, but it looks like you found a wonderful girl. How did you meet.”

“Over a boathook,” Chrissie said. “You know Tom and it was not as if I could walk up to him, so I was trying to find ways to introduce myself until my brother convinced him to buy a boat and I could just slip aboard. He saw me and pulled the boathook on me.”

“Why did you do that, Tom.” “Instinct. I could see trouble coming and I wasn’t sure that Chrissie was what I wanted. It turned out that I was already caught, she flipped out of the boat and Swam right over to her father to tell on me and when I went over to find out what was going on, there she was crying in daddy’s shoulder. He left us to talk and she was running my boat the next day.” “If the reports I received from Mary and others are true, you’ve been having remarkable adventures and doing amazing things since then.”

“Yes we have,” Chrissie said. “When we come down to Washington next Spring we will tell you everything.” “I see more people arriving, so I will take Herb here and look this place over. It looks like it’s going to be a wonderful place.” “I will tell my sister and her husband. Since the business with the Olympics came up and Chrissie’s grandfather was recruited, I have had to be busy resolving things over there. I’ve also been having fun giving my sisters’kids and their friends lessons.” “Lessons in what? Never mind. I will find Tochi and ask him. He probably knows everything anyway. I know that he and your other troublemaker from Japan are here. If all three of you are involved I’m surprised anything is left over there.”

As she left, Mera said, “She seems to know you,Tom. I think that your mother and I will have to arrange a very long talk with her.”

“Tochi will proclaim total ignorance and then hide behind diplomatic immunity and deny everything. So we are safe. Until he points miss Vicky at my sisters. Then I’m in trouble as Stephie is willing to trade everything I did this week for hearing about what I did in Washington and maybe tracking down my gags and things and Hilda is a government employee and would probably tell miss Vicky everything that’s going on anyway just to amuse her.” “Don’t forget us, Tom,” Nera said. “We want to know about you and Washington too and we have been there for everything too, so there is no way you can escape. For that matter we’ve been talking to Tochi too.”

Bob Vickers came in with his wife and I introduced them to the ladies, Mike and Al. I asked him to find me later and mentioned that I had some new things relating to his old furry friends. The guest stopped arriving so quickly and Mera said, “Tom, you and Chrissie take the outside with Al and Eltra for the shoot. So change your clothes and be in the barn while Nera and I handle in here.” I rolled Chrissie over to the room where they had set up the tank bed and we changed clothes. I looked around and said, “It look as if they were planning for tank beds.” “Mary said they were, when they had your drawings. They set up four rooms that way so that tank beds could be set up quickly. This is our first test.”

“I suppose that they were planning for relatives.”

“Not just ours. There will be Trillia and her mother and others from the other bowers.”

I rolled Chrissie back out front, Al and Etra went back to change and we all went out to the barn where Bob and Scott had already gotten things started. The racks of rifles and shotguns were there under Larry’s supervision and Andy was watching the range with the help of Jimmy and Gregor. I looked around and BOTH the big Brownings were in the barn. I turned to Al and asked, “how much ammo did you have shipped in?”

He smiled “Enough. Your friends brought more when I mentioned that we were running the gun and Altris’s boys brought the other one back when they came up. Joe took it and the mount off your boat and put the mount in storage. We even have constructs to shoot, thanks to your friends from over there and their generous donation yesterday. Bob and Scott had some old cars dragged out and set up some other things. We set it up as a charity shoot and the Colt people are helping out. It’s going to be fun.”

The pit not only had the bake from the Cape, but an entire pig roasting away, cooking over a charcoal and wood fire. People from Whites, Vinnie’s crew and the locals were all starting to show up. I noticed Elizabeth and her parents as they spotted Chrissie and I and walked over. Elizabeth said, “We’ll get dolled up later for dinner. This looks like it’s going to be fun.”

Roscoe and Linda showed up with Linda’s parents, sister and brother. “Bob invited my sister and the rest of my family up for the shoot, so we came too, which made things a bit crazy as we took the overnight train to my parents straight from Sal’s party,” Linda said.

“So how did things go with the exercise with Roger, Hali, Stelios and Steve?” Chrissie asked. “We haven’t heard yet.”

‘It was a lot of fun and the general recruited Roscoe at the wedding. So why are you doing this?” “It’s Tom’s fault. There were a whole bunch of people that he knows that he forgot to tell us about and we never sent wedding invitations to. So, since Mary wants to open the inn, Bob and Scott wanted a shoot and we wanted to apologize to all sorts of people, we set this up.” “Roscoe, don’t believe that for a minute,” I said. “The clown over across the lake insulted Chrissie, she found my address book from Washington and wanted to rub his nose in just how small a guy he was, so she pulls the wedding leftovers, sends some people down below for those lobsters and really fresh fish and sends the invitations to all our friends down in Washington who were probably bored anyway and kicks this off.”

“So how did he insult you, Chrissie,” Roscoe said. “Other than saying that you are a stupid girl.”

“So you know.” “It was going around Sal’s party. I take it that this is Chrissie’s opening salvo. A hit right in the status. Along with what Bob and Scott pulled off at that parade. Steve Billings was running the newsreels at Sal’s party.”

“Well Jacob has a true talent for things like that. He follows up insulting Chrissie by accusing Bob and Scott of kidnapping after Scott and Lizzie have their dance to Josh and I and trying to force Noro’s company’s Christmas party out of restaurant in front of Noro. The clown has made such a mess of the Olympics that they wanted Noro to take over after Josh read them the riot act and when Josh makes it absolutely clear that the clown is to not get close to the games, there he is, all over me like glue all week trying to get me in trouble with miss Vicky, insulting Tochi and interfering with a discreet meeting with Josh’s parents.”

“Who was trying to get you in trouble with me, Tom?” miss Vicky said. “Well other than that pimple across the lake.”

She and Tochi had come up behind us.

“That’s the one.”

“Was it as amusing as Tochi said it was?” “Not while I was talking to you and trying to get things cleared up for those people. He wasn’t even supposed to be in the building and there he was, messing things up. Afterwords, yes it was funny. Of course Tochi got the experience the next day. The man cannot help himself. Talk to my mother. She’s been complaining about the man for years. He got worse after his son went missing during the war.”

“Missing, or killed? The man is the leader of a fae community. That could be important.” “Missing, and there have been things that none of us have been able to track down.” “Along the lines of the things that you were looking for?”

“Yes. Mary will be sending a report when the party is over. Was it you who suggested that the war department send the navy people up?”

“No, but Chrissie did send invitations and those letters over there and somebody probably put two and two together.”

“Tell whoever it was, thank you. Though we lost one of my brother in law’s people and a local deputy yesterday. Still, if it’s what I think it is, having it run around and us not watching for it could have been very bad.”

“One of Steve’s people was lost?” Roscoe asked. “How?”

“He and the deputy were checking the roads on the south end of the lake and must have picked up on the thing’s shields and started to follow it. It stopped alongside the road and when they stopped to check it out, ripped their throats out. Hilda and Stelios know more. My father and Boris have the pictures. The big question is why he came over here in the first place.”

“Do you want more people?” miss Vicky asked. “I could make some calls.”

“I don’t think so. This place becomes less of a security concern once the party is over and everybody leaves. The Boston office already sent some people. Helmut and Mary are already here. Most of us are leaving Sunday night for another wedding down on Long Island and when we come back, I’m hoping that we know more. We have some people looking into things.”

“Tom, you have grown so much. I was concerned about you. You haven’t just taken everything on yourself like you used to. Herb and I are going after that wonderful smelling lunch that Chrissie seems to have come up with.”

It was smelling wonderful and the shooting seemed to have started as well. I rolled Chrissie over to the table with Tochi, Roscoe and Linda, who Roscoe was introducing to Tochi who said, “So how does she fly, Roscoe?”

“She flies me into the ground, even though she’s only been in the air a few weeks. We had fun at the exercise right after Tom’s wedding putting his brother in law’s people in their place.”

“I haven’t heard about that from Steve, yet,” Chrissie said. “Hali hasn’t gone toe to toe against Roger before. How did it work?” “Well Stelios reached into some of Tom’s bag of tricks with some success. Roger had a rumrunner rigged up as a fishing boat and we caught Tom’s boat and “sank” it. It wasn’t a real victory for either side, but we all learned a lot, which was the point. I noticed that you didn’t come out and say werewolf to miss Vicky.” “I didn’t need to. She knows what I was looking for down there and lost a son to them. I imagine that she will find a quiet corner and talk to Mary and Mera too, probably.”

“She will also want to go over the wedding pictures with Chrissie as some point,” Tochi said. “And any other pictures as well.”

“We have lots,” Chrissie said. I took pictures out on the island, here at the farm, on the beach, at Sal’s party and all through the thing with the manager.”

“As well as all those pictures of me and the kids, along with Tochi, building the puppet show.”

“Those too.”

Hilda came over with a man who I knew who he was, but had not yet met. “Tom. This is Mr. Hoover, he wants to thank you for your assistance in the Andy affair.”

“Director, it is a pleasure to meet you.”

“We will overlook the consumption of alcoholic beverages today.”

“You couldn’t do anything about it anyway, Director,” Tochi said. “This is my residence through the games and as such, the soil of Japan. You would not want to spark off an international incident.”

“Of course not. Nor would I want to get on miss Vicky’s bad side.”

“Neither of us would want to do that.”

“By the way, Tom, where is your father in law?”

“He should be arriving soon. He and Chrissie’s grandfather went over to Lake Placid this morning.”

“Has he had any problems?”

“Not that I know of. He’s been with Noro going and coming for the most part.”

“Good. I want you to start doing that too, or arrange for a car with a driver. Ask Noro if he will have an armed man in the shotgun seat for both of you.’ “I’m not important.”

“That was last week. Now you are the peacekeeper’s son in law and right out front in all sorts of dangerous things. I know that you are alert and good with guns. With a long trail of dead things to prove it. Before it was only you at risk. Now it could be a war all over the east coast. Then there was that bomb you dropped at the wedding. I wish that it had been just a little more covert, but it wasn’t.”

“I was trying to keep the exposure as small as possible. Unfortunately my families were involved and that drew in the others.” “I know. But a bunch of people, most of whom are rather nasty were probably concerned about what you had. After the thing with the young man and how it hit the news, those people are probably nervous.” “I’ve been talking to some people. Those people are nervous and wondering what I have. I think that I am going to give it to them if I can make the channel covert and watch them try to cover up or move things. I’m working with Helmut on this and there are some opportunities here.” “I know. But be careful and think of Christine here.”

“I will Director. Enjoy the party.”

“I will. This is quite a spread and I get to shoot a monster.” He moved on into the crowd.

“That was interesting,” Tochi said. “Not that he was going to conduct a raid when all the local people are either here, or providing security. That would raise some difficulties. He’s right though, about you taking measures.”

“We have the cars and drivers, Tom. We should use them.”

We grabbed plates and I rolled Chrissie over to the table so that we could eat. Hilda joined us with Andy, Gregor and Jimmy along with a kid I didn’t know. “Who’s this, Andy?”

“This is Bruce. He wanted to meet a mermaid and so here he is. He didn’t believe us.” “Well Chrissie is certainly a mermaid.”

“Then how come she is up here?” Bruce asked. “How can she live so far away from the water?” “We made arrangements,” Chrissie said. “This is for only a week or so and it’s worked out well, though I want to be back in the real water soon. As for why I am up here, well we wanted to share Christmas up here with Eric and his family, Tom needed to get Bob and Scott up to speed for Larry’s guns and we wanted to experience snow.”

“That doesn’t seem to be a big reason.”

“It was for us. We all just got together and we wanted to learn about our new family. So we came up.”

“What’s it like underwater?”

“You can’t understand it unless you are a merfolk,” I said. “I didn’t before my Change and I can’t really explain or describe it above water now. It’s an entirely different way of experiencing things.”

“You are from here, how did you meet Chrissie.”

“I went down there, acted like a fool for two months and bought a boat. She must have liked the boat because there she was, the first day I put it in my dock. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be caught and reached for my boathook and she Swam right over to daddy to tell on me. Little did I know that her mom and my mom had been conspiring over the phone and that she had been doing various things to set me up for the entire time. She had also closed the bridges and removed the nut on my boat’s propeller so that I could not escape. I was set up right from the start.”

“How could you Change? You never seemed to be fae. All the kids used to wonder about that.”

“Well there are reasons and just because somebody may not look to be fae does not mean that they aren’t. I could never reach that part of me for reasons that I have come to understand until I bonded. So until I met Chrissie, my family didn’t tell me about anything related to the fae. Which made meeting Chrissie a big surprise.” “Bruce, when you are around him, you see just how much a thickhead he is,” Chrissie said. “He never even dreamed that somebody like me could exist until I showed up in his boat. Then he reaches for that boathook.”

“Chrissie, I have apologized for that. In fact I apologized right there in your dad’s boat. It wasn’t my fault that Josh or Joe never took me to the mermaid dancing shows. And it was your dad’s fault that he liked to run the boat so much and Jacob’s fault that your dad got so much grief that he needed to run the boat and get close to your mom.” “It was Jacob’s fault? I can go with that.” We all laughed at that.

We were about done with lunch when Bill came over. “Tom, we have a problem.” “What is it?” “Jacob is here.” “So, father can deal with it.”

“He’s over at the dairy with the Secretary of Agriculture and some other people giving a tour.” “Is Boris available?”

“He’s on his way. But I’m hoping that you can keep Jacob from making a scene.”

“Ok, is mother available?”

“Yes, I’ll get her. What for?”

“I want to see if Jacob is compelled and if mother can remove them.” “Good thinking. She’s better at that than anybody.” “Chrissie, Tochi, Roscoe, Linda, I have to deal with this.”

I followed Bill to where Jacob was arguing with two of Boris’s people while holding a beer can. After I walked up to him, I said, “Jacob, what is the problem?” “You are all breaking the law! I will have the FBI come and bust this party up!”

“Jacob, if you want the FBI, the Director is right over there. I think that the attorney general is on the firing line, but I’m not sure. Even if the Director wanted to break up this party there is nobody that he could use to do it with because all the available resources are already either here for Bill’s special training class for enhanced adversaries or out on the roads providing security for all the VIP’s here. Any way the inn is the temporary current residence of the Japanese emperor’s son and as such is the soil of Japan. We arranged it that way for Tochi’s sister and her special friends when they come. Please, Jacob, why don’t you just stay here in the barn and enjoy the party. I will make sure that Josh stays in the inn and you two are kept separate.”

Helen came up with mother. “Helen, how did this start?”

“Well we couldn’t seem to get our party put together and Vivian and Roger came over here with Elizabeth yesterday. We checked around and a lot of people were coming over here for the shoot. Then Jacob became convinced that Eric had stolen Antonio and insisted on coming over here to see what was going on. He see’s Antonio’s son outside and starts talking about breaking up the party. The officers won’t let him in the inn without an invitation, so he comes over here, grabs that beer can and tries to convince the deputy to break up the party.”

“Mother?”

“He’s being compelled, and has been for a long time. The compulsions are too strong for me to remove without severe risk of damage or death. The only way to remove them safely is for the person responsible to remove them or that person to die so that the compulsions fade away. I was afraid of this.”

Jacob seemed to be absorbing what I had said as Tochi and Hideyo came over. I turned to the deputy, “Ray, why don’t you take Mr. Martin down to the ferry. I will have Bill pick him up on the other side and take him home.”

Ray grabbed Jacob and towed him toward a car. I turned to Helen. She said, “How could anybody compel Jacob? It shouldn’t even be possible.” Greta said, “We think we know, and unfortunately we can’t tell you without telling you things that it is unsafe for you to know right now. Helen, while we have not been friends, we’ve known each other for a very long time and if I thought that it was safe, I would tell you. I think that Jacob knows that it is not safe and that is why he does certain things outside the house. It’s not that I don’t want you to know things, but the fact that if I tell you, it will not only put you at risk but potentially some unknown others as well.” Mother took Helen inside the inn and Tochi said, “The man can’t help himself.” “I think that part of it is him and the rest is the compulsions. Coming over here was him and the stupid was the compulsions and not realizing what was going on here. He hasn’t managed to wrap his head around the fact that somebody could put a party like this together.”

Bill said, “now that I have you three I want you all to join me and some other people in a corner of the barn where we go over the fine points of killing enhanced adversaries with regular firearms.” “Me too?” Tochi asked.

“You too, prince. I’ve been talking with your people and we agreed that there could be a time when your guards may be destroyed or not present and you have to deal with adversaries that are not completely what they seem. Look at it this way, you two. Stephie and Hilda are going to be shooting today. Do you want them to make you all look totally ridiculous?”

“Let’s do this, Tochi. I’ve seen my sisters shoot and they will make us look ridiculous, but maybe we can be kept from looking like total fools.” “By the way, I did some hunting for something special last night and we have a special treat for those constructs we confiscated from those fools,” Bill said. “I think that you will like it and it might save your life.”

“Ok, let me call Sheriff Jacobs and tell him that Jacob is on the way.”

“I’ll deal with that, Tom,” Hilda said. “This is important and you might get distracted.”

Bill and Hideo dragged Tochi and I over into a corner with a table that already had some FBI types, Stelios, Roscoe, Linda and Chrissie. I sat down next to Chrissie and asked, “you are just learning to shoot, so why this?”

“So that I know it when I can shoot and even if I can’t shoot once I may get enough shots in to do the job if I know what to shoot at.”

Bill went into a lecture about what a twisted was and regeneration and why a typical shot would not be as effective as they would be on a normal person. Then he went into things like tissue that doesn’t regenerate as fast, such as nerve tissue. “With and enhanced adversary the best shot is near the base of the skull of you can get that shot. Then down the center of the body. If you can hit the spine the adversary may be crippled for some time, which will give you time to get the shot at the base of the skull.”

One of the FBI types asked about volume of fire. “Great if you can get it, but even repeated shots from a shotgun or a submachine gun may not be effective if none of them hit things that will not regenerate or do enough damage. Bob and Scott are allowing Al to run the Browning on some constructs today and you can see what it can take to destroy an enhanced target with volume fire.”

He had a board painted up in the form of a construct and showed us the vulnerable areas and then he handed around a packet of photographs that had been taken at previous shoots.

“The important thing to remember is that shots that would put most things into shock, will not even slow down an enhanced adversary. Don’t just blast away at the center of mass and expect the shots to be effective. Take the second, aim the shot and target vulnerable areas. Otherwise the adversary will be at your throat. We lost one of our deputies and another man to an enhanced yesterday. I think though, that the enhanced did not enjoy the experience and the deputy probably got close shots in the brief time he had. Which brings me to my most important point. When dealing with an enhanced adversary, be wary. If there are two of you have one covering the other at all times. Have covering fire if you can. Pick places with long sight lines to give yourself time to plan your shots. Be prepared to retreat and have exits prepared. Above all, make sure that you plan for the unexpected and take precautions. If you even think that you are dealing with an enhanced keep your guns drawn and ready to fire, look for things to not be right and kick things up. Somebody trying to hide or be invisible will have a much harder time in a dust cloud or pile of leaves, let alone get at you through a kicked over can of nails or screws. Take advantage of the leverage that you have by being able to reach out and kill it while it has to come to you to kill you. Now go out and get some practice.”

“I’ve heard how good these sessions are. I can see why.” I turned and the Director had been standing there, apparently for the whole thing.

“He has had a lot of practice thanks to some people sending things to annoy us. He’s probably going to take Boris’s people apart once the report comes in from those two guys that they lost yesterday. I think it will depend on how close George parked the car to the target. He and Hilda will probably work something up from this for your people. She’s going to be rather busy at your next training conference after the Andy matter.”

“I’ve started to hear stories. Did that character actually allow Andy to keep a gun?” “My sisters disguised it as a cap pistol, but yes. It didn’t really matter as the house they were keeping the kids in had the previous owner’s playroom in the basement with a gun cabinet in it. Apparently nobody ever looked closely at the basement except the staff. The only competent guards in the place were making sure that Andy was kept stocked with .22 cartridges for his fun and amusement.”

“That explains why the lady left him there.” “If it weren’t for the fact that the Manager was using the kids for their hostage value and the teacher lady was incompetent and filling the kids with head mush, it’s a great place to park a kid. Helmut stole the whole thing for the other kids that turned up.”

“And the tail? The report that came in was rather unbelievable.”

“I was there and it was. The target of the tail was our photographer for our little shopping trip downtown and we had the two boys and one of your people tailing the PI that was supposed be tailing us. When you have to work hard to not break a tail, there is something wrong. The photographer was taking the tail’s picture through the whole thing. Hilda will probably show the whole thing with the pictures at her presentation.”

“Some of the people at Army and Navy are looking pleased with themselves lately because they figured out how your stuff works.”

“Only after the instruction manual was published. I needed copies, so I had some run off and a publishing executive saw it and had it published. I have a very nice check coming from them and they sold out. Plus, I had my brother in law, his people, his boss, and his boss’s people looking over my shoulder all through the Manager thing and my sister in law had a photographer with her as she went shopping with me. I’m not on the list, so I don’t know what she sent in.” “Yes you are, Tom,” Chrissie said.  “But since it’s sent to the business office, you haven’t seen your copies yet. Director, Tom is running a show tonight, so you can see for yourself.”

“So if they can’t figure things out by now, they are in real trouble. I see Bob waving at me, so let me take Chrissie over and see what he wants.”

I took Chrissie over and Bob said, “Chrissie your dad and granddad are back. They are eating lunch inside with Mera and the rest. Which is probably a good thing as almost nobody else did. I told Stelios and he skedaddled.” “Ok, pass the word around to not let dad know that Jacob was here,” Chrissie said. “Also no loose talk about werewolves. Are you going to need us for the dance?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I think that it’s too late to not talk to Josh about Jacob,” I said, grimacing. “I guess that Helen hadn’t left yet because here he comes.” Josh was heading toward us. “I think he’s seen us,” Chrissie said. “Don’t volunteer anything but don’t try to give him a snow job either.”

Josh walked up. “Greta said that you handled Jacob. What was he trying this time?”

“To get the FBI to break up the party, which is ridiculous. Director Hoover was just here going through Bill’s lecture on enhanced adversaries. He’s going to be with us during the shoot as well. As far as Jacob goes, I had Ray drive him over to the ferry and Hilda called Sheriff Jacobs. Typical Jacob.”

“Greta mentioned compulsions.” “Mother knows more than I do. I asked her to look him over because of the way he had been behaving.” “She also said that they had been on him for a long time and that she could not lift him. I think that makes the case for your werewolf.”

“It probably does. It also means that we shouldn’t dive into this, Josh. I’ve talked to Bill and we will work on this. We’ve got too much on our plate right now to go chasing after a monster where we don’t know for sure what’s out there. I want more information before I go chasing after this thing.” “What if it comes over here?” “Bill and I talked about that and if it does, the family has dealt with the things before. As far as we know it doesn’t have a pack. It’s been around a long time and as far as the family has known, it never came over here before. This isn’t a good time to discuss this. It can wait. At least Jacob saw the party.”

Josh smiled. “He did, didn’t he? Ok we will talk about this tomorrow on the drive over. You go in with us tomorrow and come back with us. Stephie wants to bring the kids over after church to see your office. I need to get back to lunch with my wife, though it looks like we all should have come out here. This seems to be where the real party is for the time being.”

He went back inside, Chrissie breathed a sigh of relief and said, “That was close. You handled it well. Told him what he asked for and not everything that he didn’t need to know right now.”

“Tomorrow is going to be tough. He’s put two and two together and I talked with him about compulsions so he knows what my line of thinking was. So I will have to make an effort to keep it still on the speculative level and not tell him that we already know. On the other hand, we are going to be busy tomorrow, setting up for the week that we are not going to be here. Hello, General Vickers.”

He had come looking for us. “Hi Tom. You wanted to talk about some furry monsters?” “We are fairly sure that we found one. Please do not mention that that to my father in law.”

“Mr. Claytor? I can understand that. He has a reputation going way back and I’m guessing that you don’t want him to go on a wild monster hunt.” “Not just me, the entire family, White’s, the government and everybody else that I’ve talked to. In any case we had an incident yesterday that pretty well confirmed our suspicions. But we are concerned about the potential for collateral damage.” “Why?” “Well, my brother bonded and some people brought her here. She lives next door to my shop and it was her kid that was taken last month, which was an utterly stupid thing for the people that did to do. Watch the shoot and you will see why.”

Scott came over. “Chrissie, why don’t we set you up. We’re about ready to start.”

“Ok, did somebody bring my little rifle from the rack.”

“Andy is bringing it for you.”

We followed Scott, who was pushing Chrissie to a shooting stand at the edge of the barn. Andy came over with Chrissie’s rifle. She did a quick check and then set it down. She said, “General, this is Andy, Brad’s son.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Andy. I understand you had some adventures last month.”

“Yes. Some bad people took me down to New York and mom, Uncle Tom and the rest came down to find me. I got a nice shotgun out of it though. And some new friends including a very special one. Aunt Crissie, are you all set up. I need to make sure that the range is safed.”

“Yes Andy, I’m ready.”

“He seems to be very disciplined and good with firearms. I need to pull a rifle and a shotgun. I will be right back.”

“I need to do the same, so I will go with you,” the general said.

As we walked over the general asked. “His mother has a wolf Change, doesn’t she? That’s why Andy was taken.” “Yes. She can also seed the Change, which she is fairly discreet about for obvious reasons.” “You also know about a lot of things that you didn’t before. As well as Chrissie having a tail. That’s a good thing.” “Once I attached to Chrissie, a lot of things were revealed.” We walked up to the rack. “Any preference?”

“A 1903 Springfield should be fine. Iron sights to make things challenging.”

I pulled the rifle from the rack and handed it to him. Then turned to make my own choice when Larry said, “Tom, they brought your rifle and the shotgun you modified up from the Cape in the truck. I have them here.”

He handed me the rifle’s case and then the shotgun. I slung the shotgun on my shoulder and he handed me a box of cartridges and box of shells. As we walked back to Chrissie the general asked, “Do you think that your furry friend may have bonded?”

“Hilda raised the possibility after he came over here yesterday, ran into some of our people and killed them. She figured that he wasn’t telling the other side that he had bonded to protect her and any kids he may have. When we started poking around over there this week, Hilda figured that he came over for one last Christmas and either had the kid in the car and pulled over and dropped it off before turning on our people or was going to meet somebody and dropped right into the extra security discreetly arranged for my wife’s little wedding apology party.”

“I think that I want to talk to the lady, for a variety of reasons. One thing we never had was a look at a pack from the inside. Where has she been all this time?”

“Here. As part of the things that my parents neglected to tell me in order to protect me, they never told me that Mike and Boris rescued her from Brad and brought her here after I left. Since I was gone except for vacations, most of the time that was easy to get away with and last year when I was living here, she was living at Stephie’s so that they could shoot together. Nobody told me who she was until Andy had an accident and I had to save him and she went into wolf change to get to him faster. Since then I have found out all sorts of interesting things about my sisters.”

“What about us, Tom?”

There they both were, next to Chrissie. There were two more .22s on the shooting stand.

“Hilda, Stephie, This is my old friend, General Robert Vickers. His regiment in the war had a lot of the fae in it, including Brad and created most of the dirty dozens, though they were not under his command. I met him when I started to look into the werewolves. General, since Hilda won their little contest, Hilda is the most dangerous woman with a gun. Next year it might be Stephie.”

“Pleased to meet you both.”

“Tom, we decided to move on to gags, now that you published that book of yours,” Stephie said. “We were going through too much ammunition anyway.” “Too much ammunition, how did that happen?” “Because we were getting too many perfect scores on the range to differentiate each other. By the end of this year, we were separated by six points before Andy and our fun and games with the Manager. That was on a base of almost 30,000 total points. Running five thousand or more rounds a year adds up even when you reload and Larry likes fudge and brownies too much.”

I set the rifle case on the shooting stand and took the rifle out. Then I closed the case and loaded the rifle. Scott came by and said, “Uncle Tom, since this is your first time, you and the general need to come with me for the safety orientation. Since Chrissie and the other ladies can’t walk we gave them the orientation on Thursday.”

He went along collecting party guests and other apparent first time attendees and took us back into the barn where Bob had a painted panel set up showing a field and lines across it. Scott pointed things out like the first aid station and range safety officer, the lines where the construct would run on and where various people were allowed to shoot from. He also blew a steam whistle that had been attached to a compressed air tank showing the various signals and explaining what they meant.

Bob put a little wooden monster on a hook and explained where shooting could occur and who was allowed to shoot and what point along the track. The small rifles and beginners got the first shots and then it went on as the ranges got longer. Then Scott explained the paths and their difficulties and which were good for shotgun and which were good for rifle. The final four constructs were reserved for pistol shooters, but this time, there would be a show with the Brownings for charity and after them there would be two for Hilda and Stephie and the four that Bill was making up as a surprise. When it was over, Bob handed out a mimeographed booklet with the rules and Scott said, “Here’s our rule book. On the first violation, you can’t shoot until after you have been through this orientation again. On the second violation, you only shoot while under supervision until you show that you understand the rules. On the third violation you pack up and go home and we never want to see you again. We keep things safe here and so far we have never had a fatality. We work very hard to keep things fun and safe. We are going to be handing out the badges now. The only people allowed on the firing lines must have badges showing at all times. Thank you for coming.”

The Director joined the general and I as Bob and Scott were checking for tickets or invitations and handing out round cardboard colored badges. They gave badges to the general and the Director, but skipped me. The Director said, “They have this well organized.” “I know. This is my first time, but they really have their act together. This explains some of the things that I saw during the thing with the Manager. Father says that it is a business for them and they treat it like one.” Al came by. “Tom, here’s your family badge since the boys never got a chance to give it to you.”

He handed me a badge like the others, except that it was wood and white, not colored. “What do the colors mean?”

“Your level of experience. White is family, staff or local sheriff’s department and some others like Mike and I, Green is kids and beginners, Yellow is kids and experienced, like Jimmy or Bruce over there, Blue is adult and first time and red is adult and experienced at a shoot. I have to give Eltra her badge, so I will meet you on the line.”

Both the general and the Director had blue badges. The badges were large enough to be seen from a long distance and had today’s date stamped on them under a monster shoot printed logo. The director went to the pistol line and the general and I rejoined Chrissie at the beginner’s line. The general went to find a stand with a more appropriate difficulty. Hilda and Stephie were still with Chrissie and we were chatting as the whistle blew three long blasts, Chrissie picked up her rifle and waited as there was another blast,  the construct appeared and the kids started to shoot at it. Chrissie took careful aim and fired. The construct immediately dropped and the short whistle blast for cease fire went off. Chrissie said, “Oops.”

“Somebody has been practicing.”

“While you were with the kids. At Sal’s place too. I wasn’t sure if I could hit the place that Bill was talking about.”

Bob came over, but Hilda and Stephie had their hands up. “It wasn’t us, Bob,” Hilda said. “Chrissie took that shot. Apparently she was listening to Bill’s lecture.”

“I’m sorry, Bob, I just wanted to try the things that Bill was talking about. I’ll change to another stand.”

Bob was shaking his head, “Try another gun, too. On second thought, just stay here and don’t fire until the construct goes through the second loop. It was probably a lucky shot anyway.”

He went back to the starting station. Stephie and Hilda laughed. “He said the same thing after Hilda fired that time,” Stephie said. “Then I did it too and he realized it wasn’t. At least Nera and Eltra are at the pistol stand. Tom, since you are the host, why don’t we circulate. Bring your rifle and we can find you a high difficulty stand so that you can show it off.”

I slung the rifle over my shoulder and we started to walk along the various shooting positions and I chatted with people that knew me both from the party and the locals. The stands were marked with difficulty ratings and each stand had somebody with a family badge there who was watching things over. We reached the stand with the highest difficulty rating and one of my second cousins said, “Hi Tom! You know about these now.”

“Hi Brian. I wish that the boys had told me about these things when I was up here earlier. But I must have had my head someplace else to miss something like this.”

“They just sort of grew. With Chrissie’s little party, this is the biggest, but the one coming in May will probably be bigger. Bob and Scott will have more time to set it up and most folks around here know the shoot is coming. This was a nice surprise and a great thing for this weekend. This was a great suggestion of Chrissie’s.”

“Chrissie suggested it?”

“She said she wanted to see one and Bob said that it wouldn’t be that hard to set up. We had all the setups here anyway because they’ve been using this barn for storage since Mary and Roger bought the inn and it was closer than the other barn they used. They exchanged the rent for getting the barn fixed up.”

The whistle blew again and this time the construct lasted long enough to make it to where I could legitimately take a shot at it, which I did and nicked the side of the head at 200 yards, which was bad for me, but I hadn’t had had a chance to shoot in months. I worked the bolt and the cartridge stuck. I started to clear it and Brian said, “Not here. Use the clearing station next to the first aid. We don’t want people messing around with their guns out on the stands and we have tools and the range right next door so that any problems get dealt with at the range instead of the firing line.”

I closed the bolt and Hilda, Stephie and I went down to the clearing station. “I wish that I had known about these shoots before I went out on the island with Chrissie. They make constructs fun. Everything is well put together too. The way they deal with problem guns makes sense.”

After several stops to talk to people and watch construct launches, we reached the clearing station and I cleared the cartridge, lubricated the chamber and went over to the range where the young range tyrant checked me in and read me the range rules. “Uncle Tom, we don’t take chances here. Just keep to the rules and be safe.”

“Ok Andy.”

I got my range chit, waited for the command to commence firing and fired through the magazine without any more jams or sticking. I then turned my range chit back over and rejoined my sisters and Chrissie. “I should have realized that Andy had already run a range when he was showing Chrissie how to shoot.”

“He started helping the boys out a couple of years ago while Bill was doing the range,” Hilda said. “During the shoots last summer, we had extra deputies from the neighboring counties for training so Bill was busy and Andy just took over. Bill had the FBI people and you all today, so Andy handled the range.”

“So what happened to your rifle, Tom?” Chrissie asked.

“Me, and not checking it out before I started shooting. I built it for competition and the chamber is tighter than a normal rifle. So I have to make sure that the chamber is cleaned and oiled before using it. The rifle has been sitting on the boat and I didn’t check the chamber before going to the stands, so a stuck cartridge was inevitable. Now that the rifle is warm, I shouldn’t have any more trouble.”

I reloaded and went up the firing line to the stand I had been firing from before. The next two constructs didn’t make it far enough and I said to Brian, “Is that a problem at these things?”

“Yes, actually. Especially for the long shooters. Which is why you are the only one out this far.”

The next one lasted long enough and this time I managed to hit and kill. I turned to Brian and said, “Well I got what I wanted. Bill probably saw that and knows that I was practicing what I told him.” “You were,” Bill said from behind me. “But you need to be on the shotgun and pistol stands entertaining. Chrissie can’t do it all by herself. Of course Bob and Scott just put her in the same category as Stephie and Hilda.” “What happened?”

“Some idiot, namely me, said that it was just a lucky shot because she had been shooting and none of the other constructs had gone down while she was firing. So she waits until the construct is right at the edge of the beginner’s area and the construct is starting to run into the serious shooters and takes her shot. She does it again. Apparently she had been using the other side of my lecture and choosing places to shoot at so that the construct would not go down. Bob and Scott said that I should have kept my mouth shut and said that Chrissie had just put herself in the bring her own constructs club.”

“A club with three members now.”

“There should be more, but most of the shooters here do the same thing Chrissie was doing for the same reason. If you had been shooting like you normally do, you would be in the club today too.”

“I’ve been too busy to shoot. Especially this week.”

“True, and you were taking long shots. Let’s go down and circulate a bit. Hilda wants me too and I have to keep an eye on the rest of the students.”

We said goodbye to Brian who was there by himself now and started back down the firing line. After talking to people who were having fun, we reached the stand where Chrissie was holding court. “Tom, take me inside for a bit. Hilda is giving me a construct for pistol practice, but until then, Bob and Scott won’t let me shoot.”

“Bill told me. It was a good thing I missed my first shot or I would have been in the same boat.”

I put the rifle back in its case and handed the case and the shotgun to Bill and Chrissie picked up her little rifle and we went back into the barn. Father came over and said, “I’m sorry, Chrissie. Bob and Scott run these things and they have to keep them fun for the paying customers.” “There’s nothing to apologize about. I was interested to see if what Bill said made sense and took the shot the first time. Then Bill was saying how it was a lucky shot and I had to prove that it wasn’t. I waited until all the kids and other beginners had their shots before taking mine.”

“Chrissie, welcome to the family. Most of us are in the same boat as you, but since we are either too busy with other things, up until recently keeping Tom distracted if necessary so that he doesn’t want to come to one of these things or involved ourselves, we don’t get the chance to shoot very much anyway. Then there’s the fact that when we do shoot, it’s a real Twisted or other monster usually. Now that Tom is aware of things we can be easy about these things.”

“I have to take the blame for this one, Eric,” Bill said. “I did tease Chrissie about that shot. I knew that she had been practicing too. I’ll take the range over in penance and Andy can get a chance with his new shotgun.”

I put the rifle away and Chrissie picked up the pistols that I had modified for her hands. “When did you have these sent up?”

“With some other things in the truck. Since there was the shoot coming up anyway and Larry and Al wanted the big Browning back, it made sense to have the rest. So I had Uncle Altris collect the shotgun and the pistols, along with your rifle from the boathouse and send them up.”

Noro came over. “Chrissie, this party is working out wonderfully. The company may already have some new deals set up from things started here. Josh is being kept busy, anyway.” “They haven’t been bothering me,” I said. “I’ve been out here at the shoot.” “And dealing with the Jacob issues. Eli said that you wanted to talk to me about having them here to do a discreet investigation. I was about to tell them that they should go home since none of us found anything concrete, but you seem to have a reason for them to look for something.” “This is something that we don’t want to tell Josh until we are on our way back to the Cape. The werewolf came over here yesterday and killed one of Boris’s deputies and one of Steve’s people.” “One of Steve’s people. Why are they up here?”

“Chrissie’s party and who all is here. I’ve run into three ambassadors and some more senior embassy people today mostly wanting to use the party to reassure themselves about across the lake and there are a bunch of other VIP’s here. So somebody at the war department became concerned, probably about the same things we’ve been not seeing and sent some of Steve’s people up, probably because it was the easiest and fastest way to send a bunch of fae up that Boris and Hilda knew already. Steve sent Stelios’s boss and his platoon up here for the same reasons and their availability. Anyway, Stelios takes over the ferry and the lieutenant has people join up with Boris’s people to cover the south roads and the lieutenant and a deputy are killed by being clawed through the neck after the two clowns that tried to kill me come over with constructs as a diversion. Stelios and Hilda sic Bob and Scott on the clowns and the diversion fizzles, so rather than dealing with nobody being down there, our furry friend had all sorts of people looking around.”

“I can understand that you don’t want Josh playing around, but why Eli and Theresa looking into things while you are gone.” “Because Hilda thinks that the reason that our furry friend came over here in the first place is that he has a bonded over here and probably kids. The kids could even be here today.”

Noro looked at all the kids at the firing line waiting for the next monster and said, “You could be right. But why would he come over now? It’s very close to the full moon. That’s’ probably why he made that poor decision.” “Because we’ve all been looking into things over there and it was all too likely that we would be looking closely at Jacob and finding what mother did today. I think he felt that it was worth the risk to see his wife and kids one last time and he had no way of knowing what Chrissie had stirred up because the invitations didn’t go out over there and Doris hadn’t sent the stuff about Tochi yet. So instead of Boris being diverted by constructs, he ran into the fae navy types and the Feds that were sent over from the Boston office.

I also think that the other side does not know that Edward has a bonded. That’s why I want Eli and Theresa to handle finding the lady and getting her clear of this before we go after Ed. We’ve had enough of a mess because the other side uses kids and I want to remove that pawn from the game before it can be played. If the other side does think to ask what Eli and Theresa were doing they can just sell them my stuff and say that they were robbing me. By suborning Hilda or something. She needs to make the money to pay for all that ammunition that she buys somehow.”

Hilda had seen us and walked over with Athena. “I never thought of that. Athena, you could have said that I needed the money for the stuff I was giving the Manager and you could have taken some off the top for your trouble. You know, maybe we could still make this work. I imagine that the Director doesn’t know exactly what happened and Theresa charges, so she can just say that she bought Tom’s stuff from us. You needed the money and Theresa has convinced you that being a mercenary pays off and I need the money for my ammunition habit.”

“That would probably have worked. I was too frightened to actually ask for money and you never did. We should talk to Theresa and Eli about how they work it. Now that they can’t get at our kids I have no problem robbing them blind. Needing money is always a good excuse and it’s just too bad that I took the advice of that strange character, Mr. White and lost all my money on bad investments. So now I have to get even and sell the dirt I know.” “Did somebody mention dirt,” Doris said. “Where, where?”

“We were discussing selling Tom’s stuff and some other dirt to the Director to conceal things that we would rather the Director not know.”

“Not Mr. Hoover, probably.”

“No, our dark friend.” “Theresa has made a mint off him over the years. We’re not sure where the money comes from.”

“That would be good to know,” Noro said. “Actually rather important. We knew where the Manager stole his money from, though he was actually fairly frugal with Roger’s money and Roger actually weathered the market crash because the investments were not active. I will have to look into that. Another reason to retain Eli for the time being. Tom, I think that you are right and I will retain Eli and Theresa until I go back for the wedding.”

“Bob is waving at us and pointing to the firing line,” Chrissie said. “I think he wants us out there, Tom.”

I rolled Chrissie over and Bob said, “I’m taking a chance with this, but Bill wants you on the pistol line for the shoot with Nera and Eltra. I have my suspicions about your aunts and pistols and you too, Chrissie. So hold fire for the first construct until it’s more or less off the pistol line. Uncle Tom, you can shoot, but don’t aim for the vulnerable points until the end.”

In the end it didn’t matter as the volume of fire guy went through a magazine through the center of mass in rapid shots that almost sounded like a submachine gun, which the construct shrugged off and then dropped the magazine and repeated the performance shooting at the lower head and dropping the construct. That made Bill’s point for him and the other three were all taken by rapid fire through the lower head and jaws by other students before we got a chance to fire. When Bill came over, I said, “I guess they get a passing grade. The volume of fire guy was putting his shots where is mouth is. He did make your point for you though.” The long blast for cease fire went off and then another one for guns down and all the guys that had been monitoring the stands were making people stand back from  the guns as two tractors towing wrecks went out into the field and dropped the wrecks and returned to beside the barn. Bob called out, “ladies and gentlemen, the Colt Company has provided ammunition for a charity shoot with the new M2 Browning machine gun. We are selling tickets for a chance to fire this gun and providing suitable targets. The school needs a skating rink, there are some people that need wood for heat and some kids that need clothes, so the local Rotary is handling the money from the tickets.”

Al, Larry and a bunch of guys I didn’t know were setting up the guns as some of Bill’s people rolled out with a tractor and trailer and started to drop off barrels with wooden monsters attached. The line at the ticket booth had already started as the tractor retreated. Some people were already handing tickets over and getting ready. Noro came over and handed Chrissie and I tickets. “I bought a bunch of these for our people and handed them out on Thursday to people that wanted them. Just about everybody did. Including a bunch of people that might have ended up at Jacob’s party.”

“That explains how Jacob ended up here.”

“Well that and Elizabeth going around all week about what a great time she was going to have over here with Scott. Along with the fact that the ski area was free today and some other things. Your little puppet show has been very popular there in the common room.”

“So how do Chrissie and the other ladies get setup for the shoot?”

“That’s been arranged. Mera is already there, Al is giving her the first shots.”

So she was, on a platform perfect for wheel chairs and kids. She fired off a burst at one of the cars and then rolled back off with a smile as the next participant fired off the other gun. Each gun took its turn and I rolled Chrissie into the line to wait our turns as the guns thundered in the valley. When I rolled Chrissie up the ramp, I noticed Doug from Colt, who I had dealt with for years on the custom frames I made for them. “Doug, meet my wife, Chrissie.”

“Pleased to meet you. I understand that you are responsible for all this.” “Not just me. Both families contributed. Are you having fun?”

“Oh, yes. And an excuse to give these things a real workout. Al said that you had one out on the water and the navy liked it.” “My brother, Steve couldn’t keep his hands off it. He runs the navy special troop.”

“That’s a good thing. This is too. Let’s get you locked down and you take your shots. We have a lot of customers.”

She did, at a barrel that conveniently exploded and then I took my shot at a construct that seemingly was running around in circles, looking more than a bit worse for wear. The person behind me finished the poor construct in a blaze of fire.

At that point Mera had found us and we went back to the barn to talk to somebody from the local paper who had been wandering around the shoot rather boggled at who had shown up. “It’s my wife’s fault. My mother in law set up the wedding and then the thing with Andy happened and we were distracted, so I never got a chance to come up here and get my address book from my time in Washington. After we came up here as part of my honeymoon, I dug it up and she invited everybody to what is a second wedding reception, with my nephews running the shoot and my brother in law running the ski area. Washington is rather dead this time of year so more people came.”

“And the Olympics?” “That was my wife’s grandfather’s company. He came with us for rest and relaxation far away from New York and the committee wanted assistance in expediting the games to completion.”

“Why did you throw Mr. Martin out of his office.” “What have you heard?”

“That you were talking to the White House while using his office and he came in and got very upset.”

“That’s about right. There’s also the fact that Mr. Martin had in the course of about two hours, insulted my wife, my father in law, and Mr. White and his company at the parade last Saturday and my father in law had made it very clear to the committee that Mr. Martin was not to be seen around the work until the games were over.”

“The dance on Saturday was wonderful. Can you say how it was done?”

“A new experimental device that White’s is working on. I can’t say very much about it for obvious reasons. We are running it again here tonight.”

“We haven’t seen you at these shoots before, Tom. Why not?”

“Bob and Scott didn’t tell me about them until recently. I had been buried in trying to build my business and they probably didn’t think that I would be interested. Then I went down to Cape Cod and met my wife and we were figuring each other out for the last six months.”

“There are rumors that you have come up with some new tricks and gags.” “I’m going to have to. My publisher will want a book next year. The book was a big success this year.”

“I know, I bought my son a copy after he missed out on your class. Mrs. Ravitz never told us about it.”

“I have pictures,” Chrissie said. “I’ll have a set sent to you at the paper.”

“How does the Japanese prince know you, Tom?” “About ten years ago, when I was a young, very junior congressional staff member I was sent over to the Japanese embassy for doing some minor constituent service, I don’t even remember what it was. The military attaché, Sumitomo Tadeyoshi and I share a love of doing the sort of things that I used to do to my sister and we were very popular at parties. About a year later, this stuffed shirt, prince Tochimoru shows up and Sumitomo recruits me to help pull the stuffing out.”

“I was never a stuffed shirt, Tom.” Tochi had obviously been watching me deal with the reporter. “Sir, Tom will spin an elaborate tale, none of which will have a shred of truth. There were no strange people, speakeasies or other illegal establishments involved. Nor strange women other than my wife. Who just finished her chance at the gun.”

He was right. There Suki was, in a formal kimono no less, after taking her chance at the gun. She walked over and said, “Found you at last, Tom. You and your wonderful bride. You’ve been hiding the real party out here the whole time haven’t you?”

“Not deliberately, Suki. This is Chrissie, by the way. We met at Cape Cod. We’ll tell you the full story later.”

“Your mother in law already did. With pictures. I want a tour of the place, especially your little factory, in the morning. I need to get Tochi in trouble, so I will see you two later after you finish talking to this gentleman from the press.”

She towed Tochi away.

“I can see that you are busy, so just give me a little bit and I can go with that.”

“We met at the embassy and hit it off. Some things happened that I can’t talk about and we’ve been friends ever since. And he said that Suki was strange, I didn’t. In any case he came up here to ask me to help deal with some issues involving the Olympics and I did.”

“I’ve been going around tonight and there seem to be quite a few people from foreign countries concerned about the games. Are they right to be concerned?” “If Mr. White hadn’t brought his people in, probably. But that’s why the committee wanted Mr. White. I’m just an in law, filling a slot to get things done. So far though, the company has brought top people in and it looks like we should get enough things done to make the games successful and fun. I see Bob waving at me, so I need to go.”

I rolled Chrissie over to where Bob was waiting. “Chrissie, Aunt Hilda and Stephie are letting you and Tom have their constructs because you never a chance to take your pistol shots. I can’t really complain about those guys as they were here for training and the quicker they drop them here, the safer they, and us , will be.” “The volume of fire guy was impressive.”

“Yes he was, and a good shot too. Ok, take you place at the pistol stand and we will launch the two off and then we spring Bill’s surprise on everybody.”

I had already changed the magazine in my every day pistol from the special rounds that I currently kept it loaded with so I just drew it and looked over to see that Chrissie was ready. She was holding the 1911 that I had modified and not the .38 that she had practiced with, which was in front of her on the stand. “Are you sure that you want to go with that?”

“I’ve been practicing.” I wasn’t going to have to worry then. The first construct launched and she fired one shot. I didn’t need to worry except that I had to do as well, so I did and then the whistle went off and then shortly thereafter, as people lined up and got ready to shoot, the whistle went off on the long ready blast and then the launch blast and four constructs that looked like werewolves and moved very fast came out.  Meanwhile the noisemakers went off in the background, which was more than a bit of a distraction.  We all took shots at them and most missed and they lasted far longer than they should have until I got lucky and took one down and Chrissie got another, the volume of fire guy got a third and Tochi took one out with a rifle at a range far closer than I imagined that he was comfortable with. Bill was there smiling and I put my gun down and walked over and said, “That last bit was scary.”

“We try. The last ones are always as bad as we can make them. That way when you encounter them in the wild, or the real thing, you think, act and shoot rather than panic. It’s panic that makes the dark dangerous.” “You also set off the noisemakers. I thought that we were going to do that after.”

“We had them and why not use them the way they were intended.”

Some the noisemakers were still going off, shooting off and banging away. I went over to put the pistol away and roll Chrissie back into the barn. Suki saw us and said, “Tom, that last bit had you written all over it.”

“The werewolves, no, though I know why Bill did them that way. The noisemakers I will have to take credit for. I did them up when I needed a distraction that sounded like somebody was starting a war.”

“That would have been useful to you and Sumitomo. Unlike rigging that teletype machine or some of those other things you two did.”

“What did they do?” Chrissie asked.

‘They were trying to mess up some communications machines. And they did. But the two embassies pulled a fast one by running another line and making the one the boys were playing with a dummy. Along with using trustworthy telephone installers who did not look like a certain farm boy and Japanese fellow wearing Bell system uniforms. How they got those nobody could ever figure out.” “Tom is a phone company. The system here is set up that way when Tom installed it. He can get whatever he wants, right from the offices. He was using that in New York.”

“Chrissie, are you sure you want to give all my secrets away?”

“Why not? If I don’t, you won’t have any incentive to do anything new. The other side has seen your stuff now and you’ve taught it to the boys and you printed a book, so we need to poke you to get started on new things.”

“I see you plan to keep Tom in trouble, Chrissie. Good. He’s been dealing with bad things and not giving them enough trouble.” “That’s changed, Suki,” I said. “Mike and I gave those people a lot of trouble last month.”

“Is that how Mike found his wife, the lady with the tail?”

“No, he was looking in on Tom, who I was chasing at the time and my aunt locked on to him,” Chrissie said. “He was spying on us for Mary and Greta and got more than he bargained for.”

“They are so happy together, unlike the old Mike, who was so sad.”

Bob, Al and Bill were pointing people at the pond. “Scott and Elizabeth are doing the show they did at the parade over in Lake Placid for my brother in law George. I don’t think that we want to miss it.”

Bob came over and said, “It’s Elizabeth’s dance before it gets dark and then it’s Aunt Stephie’s turn.”

“Do you want me to do Stephie?”

“Al is going to do it. He wants the practice and was doing the run throughs the day before yesterday.”

“You boys did a very good job, today,” Tochi said.

“We tried, Tochi. Doing these is a learning experience every time we do one. The trick has always been to match the training with the entertainment. And make it as fun as possible. Go out and enjoy the dance.”

I rolled Chrissie out toward the pond and Suki asked, “So what’s behind the dance, other than all the strange things I’ve been hearing today?”

“Romeo and Juliet, but Scott isn’t likely to commit love struck suicide and Lizzie isn’t either, Father approves and I don’t think Jacob knows yet.”

“The two families don’t get along.”

“It’s an attitude issue mostly. They came over and got a big land grant from the king about 250 years ago and we came over a bit later and bought the first farm. We’ve always worked ever since for what we have while they have collected the rents. Right now we are looking for new things and finding them, along with new relationships like mine and Chrissie’s. They seem to be stuck, but they look down on us because we don’t wave money around.”

“So they are big on how important they are. Then Chrissie has her wonderful party.”

“Tochi can tell you about Jacob.”

“He has, he has. That was why I came up. Then I missed the daily Jacob because I was talking with your mother and Chrissie’s mother about Sumitomo’s relatives. What did he do? Tochi hasn’t told me yet.”

“Well I assume you know about Antonio’s then?” “Well what happened there, yes.”

“Did mother tell you that we are stealing him to make the restaurant for the inn?”

“She mentioned that as we were eating lunch. While it was good, things looked far more fun out here and I didn’t have a place to change because Tochi was out here and I didn’t want to interrupt my discussion and nobody else would interrupt his fun. So you are stealing the business.”

“My sister needs a restaurant and his lease was running out. They got in touch with Chrissie’s uncle for seafood and some local people for steak and Antonio is great with noodles and my sister in law has connections with other places that we will probably be visiting for under sea reasons and they put the thing together with the help of our two troublemakers”

“So why did Jacob show up here?

“Jacob couldn’t find another caterer or put his party together because Noro had been spreading those charity shots at the big machine gun tickets and Lizzie had been telling people in the sly about the bake in the barn, the shoot and the fact that skiing was free over here today. Then there were Stephie’s old friends and they wanted to see what I was up to and maybe do something fun with their husbands and kids, so they came to the shoot and the party. Jacob hears about the party and comes over to check it out. He sees one of Antonio’s sons and figures out that Antonio is catering over here and thinks that he can break the party up by getting the FBI to raid and break up the place.” “That would be rather difficult and they don’t usually go after parties.”

“It wouldn’t have happened. The Director is here, any people that he could use for the raid are my brother in law’s deputies, here for the shoot and Bill’s training or out on the roads providing security for the various VIP’s here. Then there’s the little fact that we rented the Inn to your husband as a temporary residence for his sister and as such is a temporary Imperial residence and Japanese soil and raiding it would be an international incident.

So any way, there’s Jacob screaming that he’s going to call the FBI while the Director is over there laughing his face off and in the end I just send him home.”

“So the Director knew about the party and was here.”

“I think he wanted to see how Bill’s enhanced target training worked and wanted a break. Plus Chrissie had attracted a bunch of important people and he wanted to discreetly let me know that I should enhance my security because I am no longer a nobody and have the security available. I imagine that he’s talked to Chrissie’s grandfather about that and my days as a free man are numbered as long as I am exposed. I think he’s rather worried about the consequences of my being killed. He’s also very concerned about what would happen if I do something foolish, get myself killed, Chrissie follows me and Josh and Noro light wars off to find my killers. Then there are the other people who will have stuff dropping that will not be happy. He was also annoyed that I made some things visible that some nasties want hidden and concerned that the nasties would be looking to get at me to get what I have.”

“So your search is coming to an end? Your ronin is almost over.”

“I hope so, Suki, I hope so. It looks as if the show is about to start.”

The show was, as the band that Chrissie had brought up came out on the balcony at the end of the inn across the pond and started the music and Lizzie skated out onto the pond and started the same routine that she had at the parade. George started to take pictures and then the fairy castle appeared. Lizzie danced around looking for Scott, Changed and drew him out as they rose into the air and disappeared.

Then it was my sister’s turn. She came out and did the same dance to the same music that she had at the wedding as there was a picture of the field. This time the picture slowly changed to the cove behind the hotel in Cape Cod and when the dance ended there were two giant splashes as the ice shattered and two seeming whales breached and splashed seeming water all over my sister. She saw me and pointed as I shook my head and then she disappeared. Suki said, “What was that with the whales at the end?”

“When my sister danced at the wedding, Chrissie and I had arranged for the dance to end with two whales splashing her. I think that Al wanted her to remember them.”

“They are going to remember her,” Chrissie said. “Whenever she goes down to the water, some whale is going to look to get her wet again.” “Tom, how come you never told us how fun your family was. I can understand not telling us about Chrissie because you hadn’t met, but your family?”

“I didn’t know, Suki. Until recently they hid most of the fun stuff from me. I even thought that my sister hated my gags when she laughed herself silly over them. It’s no wonder I was such a failure that I had to leave Washington in disgrace. I was trying to drive all those snooty friends of my sisters back across the lake where they came from and they kept coming back for more. In fact I bet that most of them were here today hoping to see what I was going to do about Jacob.”

“We need to change, Tochi,” Chrissie said. “So we will meet you inside.”

Chrissie forced me to roll her back to the inn where Mera saw us and said, “Chrissie, get wet in the tank for a bit and then Tom can collect you. Tom, you change and come right back out. People have been looking for you.” “I was right there, in the barn, or at the shoot the whole time. Suki found me easily enough. Miss Vicky, the general and a bunch of other people found me. Jacob was making a nuisance of himself briefly. You found me easily enough to get me talking to that reporter.”

“You were supposed to come back in after.”

“We had our pistol shoot and I was with Tochi and Suki for the dance. Chrissie brought me in right after.”

“Well, get dressed, Tom and be the host.”

I did the reasonable thing and did as she wanted. The party outside was breaking up anyway as it was getting dark and the shoot went home for dinner. The shoot staff and some select invitees would be eating in the barn.

I changed into the suit, Chrissie popped up in the tank and made me let her do my tie and I went back to the common room where Mera sprung her surprise. “So who was looking for me?”

“Mrs. Coolidge wants to say hello.” I turned and there she was. When I had first went down to Washington she had been the Vice President’s wife and glad to welcome a young man from Vermont. I visited frequently and she had taken me under my wing when they showed up in Washington right after I did. Calvin junior had been a friend and we shared that loss. She had also been the shoulder that I needed when my friends had been killed by the necromancer that was going for me. “Hello, miss Grace.”

“Hello, Tom, how come you didn’t invite me to the wedding. It wasn’t that far from Northampton.”

“I wasn’t responsible for the guest list and there was too much going on all of the sudden with family and I couldn’t break off and get my address book .”

“Your mother said that you never told them about your life with us.”

“It didn’t seem to be something I wanted to share. That was a mistake. They couldn’t share things with me and there were things that I couldn’t share things with them and it became easier to not share anything. Then I met Chrissie and everything fell away. I’m sorry, I should have said something earlier.”

“I understand. There were things that your family could not tell you to protect you. Sometimes family secrets are hard. There was that matter with the young man as well. Has that been resolved? The Director is here, I saw him.”

“That was resolved and the Director has met our young range tyrant already.”

“John was out there briefly, but he couldn’t shoot because the briefing had already ended and they don’t allow people to just shoot at these things apparently. He’s already on the mailing list for the next one with your nephews. How did that happen?” “I don’t know. This is my first one. They didn’t tell me about them until recently and apparently I was too caught up in work to read the paper, because they were not trying very hard to hide them. I expected a little ad in the classifieds at most, not a half page ad and an article attached. I’ve been busy across the lake.”

“Getting your daily Jacob? He’s enough to make people crazy.”

“Tochi has been talking, hasn’t he.” “Only to Suki, who told me the stories. There’s also that wonderful little puppet show you did with the kids. Is the man truly that foolish?”

“Miss Grace, he was yelling at me when I was talking to miss Vicky about finding somebody to resolve a permit issue at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and then the President wants to congratulate me for Chrissie. I try to explain and he keeps yelling after my father in law said that he would pull his people if he even saw the man. So I had our two young troublemakers throw him out and took the office mainly to make sure that he could not come back.” “Your father in law being the Peacekeeper. He’s easy to get along with, but not somebody you want to anger lightly. Cal got along fine with him and he made things easier by not allowing those people to shoot up the water. Did Jacob not know who he was?” “I think that father told him in a meeting the week before last. I’m sure the committee told him after the meeting where they begged Chrissie’s grandfather to take over and Josh read them the realities and put his deal on the table. Frankly, I’m supposed to be on my honeymoon and I just came up here to be with family, formally hand over the shop and the work to the boys and teach my sister’s school kids how to use tools to make fun stuff.” “You didn’t! Infecting young minds in your craziness.”

Chrissie rolled in. I don’t know how she managed it, but she was perfect and not a drop looking as if she had spent ten minutes in a tank. “Miss Grace, this is my wife, Christine.”

“Call me Chrissie, Mrs Coolidge, everybody does. We met once before when you came to my school when I was about twelve or so.”

“You probably looked a bit different. But then you have a shared problem with the other girls in that school. How many of your class ended up in the water?” “About twelve or so. Some of them are already back up top. We also have some of my cousins who have never been up top probably coming up top soon as they found husbands. Of course both my aunts have too.”

“I’ve met them today. They are both wonderful ladies and their husbands are very lucky.” My sister came in. “I’ve been looking for you two. So what was the deal with the whales?” “Stephie that was Al, not us,” Chrissie said. “Have you met Mrs. Coolidge?

“Yes. Hello Mrs. Coolidge, it’s nice to see you again.”

“Hello Stephanie. You showed a side of yourself today that you hadn’t before. It explains some things about you and the ring.”

“Not entirely. Most of my competition had the same sort of advantages. I had a very good horse. Even better than I knew at the time. Tom gave his granddaughter to my daughter for Christmas.” “Did he really? That’s a wonderful gift, Tom.” Grace said. “Is she as good a horse as Tony was?”

“It seems so,” I said. “She’s already in Katherine’s heart. They were riding around here this morning when we were setting up.”

“What happened to Tony, Stephanie, you married Boris and stopped riding about the time that we were involved in other things and were not participating any longer.”

“There were some misunderstandings surrounding the death of my brother and Tom, Tony turned out to be closer to Tom than any of us realized and he got out to look for him and died of exposure.” “This was my first year down in Washington with the Congressman,” I said. “Tony had this habit of getting out of his stall and the stable. He apparently went looking for me since I wasn’t working in the stable anymore and I wasn’t there.”

“Because of what happened with your brother and him attacking you due to his illness. An illness created by the war. Have you found out more about that?”

“Yes, and we had to deal with some related things in New York City recently and we made a great deal of progress.”

“Good, now try to keep your father in law from chasing monsters. He’s good at it, but every time he does, the governor nearly gets a heart attack.” “Mike and I, along with my sister and the sister in law I didn’t know I had, made a big bite in the monster supply.” “The sister in law you didn’t know you had? How did that happen?”

“She was Brad’s wife from over there in Europe and Mike and Boris brought her up after I left and my parents didn’t want to share. My young nephew had other ideas and when Chrissie and I came up to introduce her to my parents, he was teaching her to shoot. I met his mother after Andy had a small accident.” “Is that the boy that was kidnapped recently?”

“Yes. My brother’s wife was infected with the same disease he had, but not the downsides and some people wanted to use her to infect others with all the bad effects and do what they had originally planned.”

“The thing you were looking into. The reason why those things kept showing up and trying to kill you. For a while there, it was about once a month, one would show up in town and have to be discreetly dealt with. It sounds as if you dealt with the source of the problem. I’m going to let you two go and circulate like good hosts. Chrissie, keep him under as much as you can. I think he will need a nice vacation after cleaning up the mess over there.”

She moved on and Stephie said, “So what was the deal with the whales?” “That was Al, not us,” Chrissie said. “You know how he is. It worked and it was funny. At least the water wasn’t real.” “Some of it was and it was cold out there. I’m going to have to come up with something to surprise Al and that’s not going to be easy.”

She walked off and I pushed Chrissie over to the common room. The puppet show was running and there were some ladies I recognized from Stephie’s parties laughing at it. One of them spotted me and said, “Tom, this was not a nice thing to do.”

“Dorcas, this is my wife Chrissie. And since when have I ever been a nice boy. Which says some weird things about you all since you kept coming back for my latest gag.” “I know, they were so much fun. Like this. Though I would have thought that whatever you came up with would rather more spectacular.”

“What makes you think that this is all of it? Your uncle didn’t just insult ME. He also said that two young men were “good boys.”

“We know about that. And we all saw what happened. Plus the rocks on Victor and Adam yesterday, though why they came over here on Christmas is something none of us could figure out. Their mothers were rather put out by the fact that they made a public spectacle of themselves. Especially after the thing with the restaurant. What did they do to make you beat them up like that, though you can do it in ways that you couldn’t before?”

“They were compelling people to get them to leave the place and I was having a discreet interview with some reporters regarding the games and they messed that up. Your uncle may not care about bad press, but my wife’s grandfather certainly does and it was a good thing that I was able to smooth the whole thing over and invite them here for the party. You will probably see them. In fact, there’s one now. I need to go.”

Eli had just walked in and I took advantage of the opportunity and took Chrissie over to chat. “Enjoying yourself?”

“Oh, yes. My clients will too when I send the reports about various discussions. Noro talked with us about looking into your wife and child, so we will go down with him. That will make my other clients happy too as I can tell them about talking with him about what he was doing. Athena and Hilda are talking to Theresa out in the barn about robbing the Director blind. They may set up a meet at Bennies with the Director to discuss passing information to him, for money.” “I think I want to be in the corner for that. Just to watch. After all, he doesn’t know what I look like.”

“Joe and Doris did that the last time.”

“I wonder if we could have Dom and Sal doing some sort of outfit business at the same time.”

“I haven’t met those two yet. Was the Troubleshooter that funny?”

“You’ll have to ask Al, he just walked in.” I waved him over. “Al, was the troubleshooter that funny? Eli wants to know.”

“I’ll tell it and you can judge, Eli, though I need to keep an eye out for Tom’s sister. Apparently she wants to get me for my little surprise.”

“I think that she has bigger plans, Al. We will have to be careful at Sal’s wedding though.”

“Ok, Eli, you know how things went just before that hurricane last month. Now Nera had just bonded with Mike and I went down to Bennies to have the little discussion that I have with the wives of the various agency people that I handle guns for. By the way we will need to talk about that at some point. So afterwords I ask Sal for a ride back to the subway station and he asks if I could spare about an hour. This was just after he started driving the Duesie. I say yes and we go to the establishment of this character, Jimmy the Nose, called that because Sal broke his nose when they were ten and Jimmy was hassling Sal and his friend Vinnie. We pull up to the office, go upstairs and Jimmy goes, “I thought you were a cop, Sal, but no cop drives a Duesie.”

“I’ve got a new gig, gone upscale, I troubleshoot for people.”

“What people.” “You don’t need to know. Upstairs, way upstairs.”

Jimmy and his buddies look at me and Jimmy says, “Who’s that?”

“The shoot for the trouble.”

“So what do you want?”

Sal tells him. At this point Sal could have asked for anything and Jimmy would have given it him. Jimmy could not wrap his head around the fact that Sal could be some sort of police officer because Sal had that car.”

Eli started to laugh, “and so a legend is born. What does Sal think about it?”

“Well I think he’s a bit confused. He’s always thought of himself as a cop chasing the bad outfit types. Never mind that a bunch of them came from the same neighborhood and his best friend was the mob troubleshooter and he helped close some really bad places. Which helped a lot at our next stop.”

“Which was?

“We went to the outfit where they were dealing with the bower and the transshipments of an illegal nature and we did it again. We were trying to track why the outfit had cut the connection. It turned out that the connection had been cut from the bower end because the guy in charge didn’t know who to call about the business. At this point we didn’t know about Bennie and neither did they, so they were rather pissed when some clowns had tried to shake them down with shark insurance and they had done all the legwork for some troubleshooter to deal with. So when we showed up they were very pleased to see us and said, here’s everything you should need, go shoot the trouble.

Sal even flashes his NYPD badge and they hand us fifty grand and a bunch of stuff on the dumping and say go shoot the trouble. Which we did.”

“Why did they do that.”

“It turns out, that Sal, in his NYPD days, used to bust places up that Vinnie, who’s dad is the local mob boss, wanted run out of business because the businesses were not only illegal, but criminal. Then Vinnie was killed on a beach by sharks and Sal was shifted from vice to homicide until somebody threw a construct at him and he was recruited by Helmut’s people. So Vinnie’s dad lost his troubleshooter and the other side was able to infiltrate the operation and use it to attack the bower. They were also shaking down the outfit operations. The people in the outfit knew that Sal had worked with Vinnie before, so when he showed up, they were glad to see that somebody was taking over the troubleshooting again. Then Vinnie’s sister starts flashing her tail at Sal because they bonded and well now he’s sort of stuck with the troubleshooter. It does have its compensations, though. He gets a big house, the Duesie and a wonderful lady. I need to be a moving target. I’m sorry, Tom, I just couldn’t help myself.”

“Al we all loved it,” Chrissie said. “Actually Stephie did too. That doesn’t mean that you’re safe, though.”

He left and I had a thought. “Is he using the tank bed or the pool tonight?”

“I don’t know. We and grandfather are here tonight with the guests. When you go into Lake Placid, Tochi and I are taking Suki with Andy as our guide around so she can see the place. Why don’t we get dinner. Eli, Tom and I need to circulate, so we will see you later.”

I rolled Chrissie over to the restaurant where some buffet tables had been set up, presided over by Antonio. Chrissie and I were served some veal and pasta with a sauce with vegetables in it that smelled wonderful. Antonio said, “I heard you got your daily Jacob.”

“Yes, I did. I even made Director Hoover laugh. Jacob came over here and tried to push us around. If he couldn’t push me around over there, what made him think that he could push me around over here?”

“He’s so used to pushing people around and everybody giving in because he threatens them that he can’t wrap his head around anybody who won’t put up with it. Your father doesn’t, at least not more than being polite and reasonable in order to conduct business. You push him around instead.”

“He seems to like it. He keeps coming back for more. I wish he would stop. At least I can go away for a while.”

Chrissie rolled over to a table and I set our plates down and we started to eat, with occasional interruptions as people sat and talked with us. Mother came in and said, “Tom, when you and Chrissie are finished eating, we want you in the common room so that you can talk about the pictures with various people.”

After we finished eating and went around a bit, we ended up in the common room. Somebody must have mentioned that we didn’t have any pictures of my time in Washington because everybody had brought some. There were pictures of me in my office, at embassy parties, at the White House, down at Langley with Roscoe, at various offices, Sumitomo and I in the Samurai and Texas Ranger outfits. Tochi and I, along with Mike and Mrs. Coolidge and people that came in explained all the pictures to Chrissie, Noro, Josh, Mera, and my parents. Then we went through all my pictures from the farm, the picnic, island with the sharks absent and Sal’s party. In all it was a wonderful time until we went to bed or home.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s