Ed talks to people. Tim and Suzy go for a Swim.
I went down to 30th St Station in Philadelphia to meet with Jaw. He had sent a message that we needed to talk. I sat in a diner across from the station to wait and drank coffee until he arrived. He did and lit a cigarette. “That’s a dirty habit.”
“It’s part of my cover.”
He was dressed in a suit rather than his usual seaman’s apparel.
“The other side has my photograph, of me dressed as I usually dress, not smoking. If I smoke, that will throw them off, since they know that I am fae and smoking is not something the fae do. I’m not actually smoking the cigarette.” He wasn’t, just picking it up and putting it down from time to time.
“So what did you want to talk about?”
“We may have to move the boat.”
“We will probably not have prey to feed on. We can go without for one more month, but not two. The word has gone out and the prey is planning to join in groups at a hotel with a pool and the navy is offering to provide some protection offshore. The prey is planning to make a party of it late next month. And then no joinings until May and having another party. I think that somebody at the navy is planning for us to show up and will be ready to destroy us. Like they were at Montauk.”
“Where would you go?”
“No place near. We can take it for granted that all the bowers in the region know about us now and all the bowers with any connection with the navy. So we will have to go far south. Perhaps to the Bahamas or in the Caribbean.” “What about the operation?”
“That will need to be aborted. We are under surveillance anyway. They haven’t found the boat, but it is only a matter of time.” “The masters will not be pleased.”
“The die was cast when you sent us to Montauk. Once they knew we existed, it was inevitable that they would take action. The navy will wish to preserve the fae that it has come to rely on and that means ensuring that they have secure bowers. This was something that we never thought about over there. The navies over there did not have fae in their ranks and didn’t think about the advantages. So it was easy to destroy the bowers or their feeding areas. Here it is different.”
“I will consider what you said. The facility up to the north is also at risk, though I do not believe at present that it has been found and its protector is at risk as well. The Manager’s actions against the young man were costly and in the end futile and the removal of the Manager’s entire operation and the fact that it was taken intact is going to be very costly. We may need you in another role, so stay put for the time being.”
“It cannot be for very long. If we do not feed, the shark and the sea will take us. I will let you know if we get lucky, but it is likely that at the end of January the queen will order us to new feeding grounds and we cannot deny her.”
He stubbed the cigarette out and left. I would have to be sending the end of the year report to the masters and they would not be pleased. But we had not anticipated how the military would work with the fae and that the fae and the governments would behave differently here than they did over there. Nor did we anticipate the interleaved communities with relationships. I went over to the station to take the train back to New York. Right now the sharks were not a resource that I could afford to lose, but it appeared that one way or another they would be lost to me.
Saturday 12/26 – Sunday 12/27.
When we woke up in the bower, I hadn’t really thought about the weekend, but Suzy had. “Why don’t we go for a long Swim.”
“Where?” “The Cape, or at least as far as Montauk. We can meet up with Joe and the rest and take the yacht back. That way we can hear all about what they did. We can start from here and go up the south Coast and experience being mer. We find a place to snuggle and then go to the Wyanadotte on Sunday night.” “What if there’s a storm?”
“We go deep or we just experience it. It’s not as if we can drown. We should do this when we can. Let’s talk to your parents and set it up.”
My parents were up top at Bennies with Sal and Sillia’s parents finalizing the wedding preparations with Bennie. When I carried Suzy over to the table and she mentioned what she suggested, Mike said, “Now that the sharks are gone, it’s a wonderful idea. You need to get acquainted with yourself and Suzy has never been in the open water for a long period.”
“What if the sharks show up from Philly?”
“Suzy no longer puts the post bonding hormones in the water and if they did, you two could just go up top and make a call to Steve.”
“What if we get lost? I’m a city boy.”
“Haven’t you noticed yet? You can’t get lost in the water. You have senses that tell you what direction you are going.”
“I think that you need to experience the water, now that you can,” father said. “I made the same trip with Maria when we first bonded and we didn’t have the stop at the other end or the boat coming back.”
“Why don’t I have somebody bring down one of those kits that Steve’s people have set up and then off you two go,” Mike said. “Tim you spend too much time working and not enough for yourself.”
“I’ll have some clothes sent out to the lady at the inn,” Dom said. “I made the same trip with Tara. We may even have started Vinnie then, but it’s hard to tell.”
Mike made the call and Steve and Haruka showed up about an hour later. “Haruka wanted me to go on a long Swim and I need to be over there on Monday anyway.” “What happened?” I asked.
“Lieutenant Smith was killed in Vermont on Friday night. Stelios called in right after you went under last night. The platoon was assigned to provide discreet security for some party my sister set up. They were the closest when we got the orders from the navy department and I knew that Stelios knew everybody up there and could be discreet about making contact. Stelios is coming back down on Monday with the team and I want to debrief them. I also want to talk to my sister and Tom. It sounds as if we have a werewolf problem again. I’m hoping that we can keep my dad out of it, but he probably already knows and will know by the time they get back. By the way, keep this off the record for the time being. I don’t really know what happened yet. So let’s enjoy ourselves while we can.”
“Do you think that this has anything to do with that clown upstate?”
“I think that it has everything to do with that clown upstate. He was asking for it and managed to start my entire family off. They started in on their usual fun and games and that led to my sisters’ little party. I’m going to have to ask my sisters just how they managed to get so many heavyweights up to Vermont, but I suspect that it was Tom and his connections that he never told us about.”
Haruka looked at us with a rather hard expression and said, “Mike, Dom, I need to get these two in the water before they get carried away and take the train to Newport. Suzy, let’s get these two slugs wet and on our way.”
With that, we rolled them over to the warehouse, undressed and hit the water to start our Swims. The kits that Steve and I were dragging from our shoulders had some canned rations, a knife, a spear and a flare. Steve had a pistol as well. The rope pulled on the shoulders and dragged along my tail. It wasn’t a big deal, but it wasn’t especially comfortable. I turned to Steve and said, “These could use some improvement.” “I know. This is a good test for them on a long Swim. We really haven’t done as many as we should yet. A lot of this stuff is new and we are making it up as we go along. Tom mentioned some ideas and I want to get together with him when he isn’t busy.”
“Good luck with that.” “I know. It’s not as if he is even trying. People keep throwing him in the deep end and he keeps swimming.” The trip proved to be a wonderful mix of Swimming, exploring wrecks, experiencing a storm on the surface and then going deep to Swim against it and ending up at a pier next to that hotel that Sal liked where Steve had arranged for Seaman Lisowski to be there with some clothes for us. As we popped up and dressed, Steve said, “I thought that we should eat dinner and stay here. I need to check in anyway.”
Steve called into the navy, we had dinner, went to our rooms and discreetly returned to the water for some time with each other and sleep.
The next morning after breakfast we left our clothes with the seaman, who was going to drive out to the inn and continued our Swim. We reached the inn in the late afternoon and Steve said, “Expect to be up top tonight.”
“Why?” Suzy asked.
“Night work. They bring the stuff across the beach from the ships off shore. There are Swimmers in the water and boats. It’s very noisy if you are trying to find a way to sleep.”
Seaman Lisowski was there at the beach with a cart and we Changed, dressed and took the ladies up to the hotel. The lady at the desk said, “Steve! What brings you here?”
“My bonded, Haruka here. Tim and Suzy here wanted a Swim along the coast and Haruka insisted that we come too since I need to go out to Newport anyway. I’m meeting up with some of my people over something and dad tomorrow. This is Tim Thomas and Suzy del Vecchio.”
“A relation of Sal’s?”
“He’s my brother.”
“That explains some things. Like young Mr. Thomas and Sal working so closely to catch those kidnappers. So how are he and his lady doing ?”
“The wedding is this week. Sal has a new house and Dom’s people are very happy to have somebody cleaning things up again.”
“Steve, how did your sister’s honeymoon go? Your grandfather and father showed up at Lake Placid. Tom seems to be there too. They have been in the papers, especially today.” She handed us the paper and there it was. “Steve you sister really knows how to set up a party. How did she get all those people?” “I have no idea, Hilda,” Steve said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to mother this week and as far as I knew all of them were just going up to the farm for a family Christmas. Somebody lit them all off and they went right into the usual fun and games. Since Tom spent that time in Washington, I suspect that he was partly responsible for the high level people and it looks like the boys staged one of their monster shoots. The inn is the one that Tom’s family was talking about opening and it looks like they got ahead of the game. I’ll get the full story and tell it to you when I can, Hilda. Or I will arrange for mother to stop by when she can. This one is going to be huge. I feel sorry for the victim. He had no idea what could happen when he lit my family off. I hope that he understands that the only recourse at this point is to apologize to my sister and mean it. On the other hand, Haruka, I’m sorry that we missed this, but Eric is probably tight for space for mermaids.”
He hand her the paper and she said, “Definitely. I wouldn’t think that the wedding could be topped so quickly, but it looks as if Chrissie managed it. I wonder if the boys will hire out for our wedding.” “In Hawaii? That might be difficult. But we can look into it. That little show they pulled off in Lake Placid was wonderful, especially since water magic is difficult for land fae. Apparently they did it again at the party.”
We had dinner, went back down for a brief Swim and came back up top to sleep out of the noise.
Dad and Dom sent Tim and Suzy on their four day Swim and brought mother and Tara over to the house after they finished with the wedding stuff with Bennie and Sarah. I was tracking down the rest of the shark victims so that I could close up the report and see if the Philadelphia sharks had been coming up here. Since I had both dad and Dom available I sat down with them in the library to ask about something that kept getting pushed aside in the rush about the kidnappings and the Manager. “Dad, when I started to look into the shark attacks you said that you and Dom had looked into the attacks on high value targets. I never followed up with you and I should have. There must have been more than Vinnie and the Rockaway royals.”
“Ok, we have to go back to Vinnie. When Vinnie was found, he came to me, didn’t you, because he knew that the navy was doing shark research and something felt wrong about the attack.”
“They did,” Dom said. “One thing is that Vinnie wasn’t the first in my family lost to shark attacks. My sister lost a son about six years ago while he was bonding. Sillia had just gone under sea with Tara and she had some relatives that had been attacked as well. Then Mike and I talked and he did some checking with his family and the navy. We also talked with Meria and her husband and there were still more kids and joinings attacked. Most of them were high fae and the sort of bondings that you discovered.”
“Alliances that would improve the bower. Or new connections. I know about the Sound – Rockaway joinings, were there are more.”
“Between the Rockaway and Amboy, dad said. And Rockaway and navy officers.” “Amboy? I’ve never heard of an Amboy bower?”
“There is one. It’s not as strong or old as the Rockaway or the Cape. The joinings between our family and theirs would have strengthened both bowers, them more than us.”
“So by the time Suzy went through her Change you had good reason to be concerned.”
“Yes, but we didn’t have anything concrete to go on,” dad said. “Spiro and I talked back and forth on that. But Bob, the admiral and I decided that we would keep our daughters in the navy yard until we knew what was going on. Your investigation and Tom’s pictures answered a lot of questions.”
“Then Tim and the kidnappings gave us the path to destroy them.”
I got up and went over to the shelves. The library had become our document room since the shelves were already there and Sillia didn’t have very many books yet. She was working on that and I suspected that the wedding presents from my nontailed and even some tailed relatives and friends would include books. Dom had sent over her collection from home to give a start, but we ended up giving most of those to the school for the time being as they were more for young girls and not the things she was interested in now. She had pillaged her dad’s collection of business books and started some magazine subscriptions.
What the library did have was the stuff we got from the Manager and the prints that Tom had had made up from his documents. The compelled had been doing a very good job of matching things up. We also had the stuff from the shark’s clubhouse including the records from the first two Teeth. The first one had been rather professional as far as records and keeping reports and the second had continued the practice. Bill didn’t seem to have cared or the Manager hadn’t insisted on it. On the other hand the only attack that Bill had been in charge of was that total failure of an ambush. So I could pull the files on the various prey that the sharks had chewed on. I pulled the stack of the shelf and returned to my chair. “Here are the files.”
Each one was in a binder. “The earliest were from all three bowers and seemed to be focused on breaking alliances. That’s also when they went after Noro’s wife and some others. Then the first tooth died and the club attacked people on the Sound bower more frequently, probably because they could find out about them through gossip and other sources. They must have had a contact in the Rockaway bower or somebody related up top. Vinnie looks like part of that, but he may have been getting close to the sharks little fun house. They were looking into him. He did ask Jim for permission to troubleshoot in Jim’s territory. Dom, has Tara talked with Mrs. Stelleti yet?”
“Not for very long, We’ve been readjusting and spending more time down below. We wanted to get the house set up before having her visit. Tara and Stella did invite the Stelletis to the wedding.”
“Good. I won’t be able to talk very long, but as long as we aren’t staying away from each other, I can find out if they knew more about Vinnie. I doubt that they did because the sharks used other sources once Vinnie started to sniff around.”
Sillia rolled in. “So here’s where you were hiding. Why don’t we go for a long Swim. You can work next week until the wedding and it’s not as if the sharks are going to do anything because they are dead.”
I bowed to wisdom and rolled her down to the poolhouse where we undressed and I changed and we started our Swim. “So what were you talking our dads about?”
“Back when the shark thing started dad was saying how he put Suzy in the navy yard because of the fae leadership kids that were attacked and I wanted to get a better picture of what was going on than I already had. I was going to talk to them about the shark attacks but we had our bonding, the kidnapping was going on, Tom shot most of the sharks, we had them identified and just needed to get the goods on them, then the thing with the Manager and I never stopped to find out what dad and Dom knew. I was catching up and getting things ready for the final report. I was also looking for the patterns so that we can see what the other sharks are up to.” “Well let’s Swim around the islands, make a quick stop in the Sound bower and go over to the school.”
Sillia had been helping with the “residents” of the house that I had raided. From what she had been saying, they had come from a school upstate and that their parents had all been killed by dark fae. Usually the fathers first and then the mothers when the kids got older than thirteen or so and they were “transferred” to where they “work.” By the time they were fifteen they were ready for the Twist or dead. They didn’t know where the school upstate was other than the fact that it wasn’t near anything else and the kids that had tried to escape were always brought back and punished. Mom, Tara, Mabel and Ella had all gone into mothering mode and Sillia was helping out. The good thing was that the “residents” had been under compulsion and once the compulsions had been removed they were responding rapibly to the care and concern. Another good thing was that all the kids were taking Tony’s shooting programs.
We Swam around the island and stopped in the bower where Sillia had made arrangements for some small gifts for the wedding attendees. That looked like it was going well so we Swam over to the school. Bill’s team was practicing at Roger’s again, doing more damage to the house. Roger hadn’t found a contractor for demolition yet and wanted to sell the property anyway. Even after the Manager had been pillaging his accounts for ten years, he still was very well off and just wanted to move on to other things. As well as make sure that the dark knew what hell could do to motivate somebody to fight back.
Sillia had called ahead and when Robert sensed us approaching the school he waved us into the poolhouse where there was a wheelchair and some clothes waiting. I pulled Sillia out of the water and handed her a towel and then got dressed as she slipped on a dress. There were shots going off in the background and I said to Robert as we walked toward the house, “they really seem to be going at it.”
“They have been. The navy provided some .22s and Hilda is bringing some more from Eric along with some other guns. Tom sent down a bunch of those books of his.”
“Those were popular. I hope that Tom knows what’s going to happen when he gets here.”
“More fun stuff than you can imagine. All the kids will want to show off. Not just the kids here either. Little Robert has been talking at school. Have you heard from them?”
“Nothing big. Just what you’ve been hearing. The boss checked in last night and Chrissie is having a party today. Apparently a big one.”
“Probably because of that idiot upstate. The Manager could operate up there and he never noticed. That kingdom will need to be cleaned out or it could still go down.” “I know. The boss and everybody else has sensed something really bad, but nobody could lock it down. What do you know about the Jersey bower?”
“The sharks went after it for a while until the first idiot returned to the sea. They didn’t get very far and the fishing people wouldn’t trawl in the gardens because Mera had made some rather pointed examples up on the Cape and they were scared that Josh would show up. The sharks were too, for that matter. When they got wind of the queen of the Cape bower coming down, they decided to go after her so that Noro would crash and Josh would be forced to stay up there. It didn’t quite work the way they expected.” We went inside and Sillia was swamped by four or five kids wanting her for various things. They rolled her away to whatever it was and Robert and I continued towards the front of the house. “At least my sister got Tim wet for four days.”
“That’s a good thing. But he needs to learn to shoot.”
“I know. Still, the sharks are gone and I think that the local Twisted population has had a rather large bite taken out of it.”
In fact between the Manager and the rest of it, we hadn’t seen even a whiff of the darks’s activity in the city since the “house” had been shut down. Alex was worried about that. We walked into the parlor and mom was there with a bunch of the “residents” and said, “Sal, the people here want to know why you shut the place down.” I sat down and told them the stories about Vinnie and me and the Troubleshooter until dinner and then Sillia dragged me back under for another Swim and we found a nice spot for the night.
This was going to be our last day up here in Vermont. I looked out the window at the snow covered mountain and was sad that I really didn’t fit here anymore. After some snuggling together Chrissie and I got up out of the tank bed and dressed for breakfast. Chrissie had been talking with Stephie yesterday and they had both insisted that I wear the suit in the office today, so I took it off its hanger and put it on. Not that I had a choice as my other clothes were nowhere to be found. After breakfast, Noro and I got into the car with Mary and went over to the farm to pick up Josh. There were also two people up front today. “I see that the Director talked to you.”
“Yes he did. He made some very good points about how you and Josh pull in the monsters. Somebody already tried to kill you once. While you may be rather unmoved by that, I am not. George down at the office sent some discreet people anyway now that I’m going to be up here and Lou said the same thing the Director did. You can use these cars or Tochi’s car when you come back. Tochi’s sister is coming soon and while the merfolk may not come up here right away, Tochi and his sister will be entertaining their country’s team at the inn. They can practice here out of sight, with the exception of the bobsledders.”
“I’m not unmoved by it. It’s just that short of killing them, there isn’t much I can do about it. Bob and Scott will probably make their lives hell anyway. I think that the thing across the lake will too when he hears about it.”
“We also want you to leave your truck up here and take the train back with Chrissie. You won’t need it on the Cape or in the city anyway.”
“Ok, that saves me a drive anyway and I would have to bring it back when I came back up. So how do we handle Josh?”
“Keep him focused on work going in. Going out we are eating at George’s and you all are boarding the train.”
“Well Stelios will probably have discreet people on the ferry.”
“I hope so. We didn’t spot his people the other day, but every trip risks exposure.”
“Well spotting Stelios can be explained. The orders for not making contact came from Steve and not us and Steve’s orders came from the war department.”
Josh was waiting as we drove up and we got in. He noticed the other man up front. “So what’s going on?”
“Lou is a worry wart. Probably because of the zombie thing, among others. He may also have been talking to the Director or somebody at the New York office. So George sent some extra people up. We also have a bunch VIP’s still running around and Boris is probably stretched and talked to George too. So what do we need to get done today, Mary?”
Mary went over what we needed to see people about today and the agenda. My people had touched base with me yesterday at the party, so I gave a brief report. Josh followed with his and we had a weekly summary. Noro said, “Not a bad first week. Especially with the water problem resolved. Did any of your friends say anything about that, Tom?”
“Not specifically. The Embassy people were glad to see that somebody had taken charge and some people said some things about rumors. Miss Vicky lit off a rather large bomb at Indian Affairs, but they deserved it.”
We reached the ferry and the normal crew seemed to be operating this morning. At least nobody was wearing navy jackets. There was a car in the parking lot that didn’t seem to be getting on the ferry. We crossed and Bill Jacobs had provided an escort. Josh spotted the car and said, “So what’s going on here?” “I don’t know,” I said. “Bill might be practicing for next month and using us as the practice. He knew that Noro was coming this morning and he’s nervous about all the people coming. So running his routine with us allows him to get the bugs out. I called Miss Vicky about coordination. It’s possible he, the Director, some Secret Service people and Boris met discreetly yesterday. I didn’t see the Director at dinner, so they could have met at George’s.”
We got back to work, setting up the things that we would need to get done. After we arrived at Lake Placid, I was dropped off at the committee building where the staff was waiting for me, along with some committee people. We had a rather long meeting about our rapidly diminishing sticky points and quit a few things were moving up the list. When I came back next week, it looked as if some things would actually be moved to the done column. Once the meeting was over I went back to my office to look over the updated schedule and some details that could become problems. I was going to work until two, when the kids were supposed to show up and then take them to lunch and a tour before joining Josh and Noro for the trip back. Around about 1:30 or so, the door opened, but there didn’t seem to be anybody there, so I started to open the drawer to my desk pulled it open just enough and stopped before actually drawing the pistol. I could sense him and I said, “Hello, Edward. I’m surprised that you came here.” He became visible and didn’t look that different than the picture in his file.
“I think we need to talk.”
“Because you will talk first and shoot later. If I were to try to talk to your father in law, we would already be trying to kill each other and that is a fight I would lose regardless of what happened. You, on the other hand, are fighting a different fight. So you want something else other than my immediate demise.”
“That is as may be, though sending goons to try to kill me may make me change my mind.” “That wasn’t me. They pulled that act of stupidity all on their own.”
“I probably won’t have time to have fun and games with them. The boys will though. They sort of squelched your diversion last Friday.” “I wish that I had known what your lady had going on Saturday. Did she actually invite just about everybody from Washington?”
“Not everybody. I didn’t run into the President yesterday, but I expect that he couldn’t make it. She found my address book and wanted to meet everybody. She’s like that.” “She messed me up. I was hoping to get in and out, but they locked on to me.” “Why did you stop? You were almost to the County Line and not that far from the State line. Sheriff O’Reilly probably didn’t have his speed trap up and you could have had a clean getaway.”
“They were too close and the monster reacted. I think you know about the monster. I also think that Brad told you more than my boss’s know that he did. If they thought that you knew more, they would have insisted that I try to take you.”
“That probably would not have gone well for you. Even if you had succeeded, Bill would never have stopped until he had you and father would have torn your father and his kingdom apart if he tried to stop Bill.”
“I know. Which is what I told my masters at the time. The bureau people were also all over the place. We never anticipated how connected your father and they would become.”
“Staying here was a risk. Why didn’t they just pull you and send you someplace else. Your pack was scattered.” “I can’t leave. That’s where the masters’ plan fell apart. They wanted strong fae for soldiers and when Brad, I and some others were drafted they took us to be the leaders for their army here. What they never thought about was that Brad and I were the heirs and we were tied to keystones responding to threats. But we were the threats. Brad was lucky. He wasn’t supposed to go to the farm, but the keystone pulled him in and he had competing compulsions. Then the monster got out and you were powerful enough to kill it.”
“So you’re stuck. There are probably other reasons to stay. Reasons that you don’t want your masters to know.” “That’s why I am here.” “How many?” “You will find out soon enough. Your sisters know them already. My son actually enjoyed your thing yesterday. As well as meeting some mermaids. He’s never been to the sea. I called last night to apologize for having to leave him at his friend’s like that, but Boris’s man was right behind me. I hadn’t expected to encounter anything unusual and then there were fae in cars and Feds all over the place.” “That was my wife’s fault. She put together her little shindig, went through my address book and invited everybody. Then some people became rather concerned with the potential security issues and brought in my brother in law’s strike team of merfolk.” “I suspect that she was trying to rub my father’s nose in how small he was.”
“That was the goal, yes. She didn’t really think about the security concerns or if she did, she didn’t talk to me about them. But then she didn’t talk to me about anything regarding the party until it happened.
Did your father always run off his mouth like that or is it the compulsions.” “I wish that I could blame the compulsions. But he was like that, if not so stupid before I had to put the compulsions on him.”
“Those compulsions are going to cause me some trouble.” “Other than having my father all over you like glue?” “You’ve noticed. Is that you?”
“No actually, it isn’t. Nobody’s ever dared to just push him around like you have. Even the government people have been wary of the consequences of doing that. You don’t care. You’re about the first person ever to tell him NO and make it stick since my grandmother died.” He grinned. “It’s a new experience for him.
The Director did want to mess up the games and sticking father in to generally be himself helped that. The Director was counting on his contact at Indian Affairs to sit on that permit until it was too late. You messed that up within a couple of hours.”
“No thanks to your father. There I was in very delicate negotiations with a woman that nobody in their right mind wants to piss off and in he walks wanting to know why I am having a meeting in his empty office. Meanwhile my father in law is somewhere in the building and I did not want that explosion to be heard by Miss Vicky. I made the mistake of getting on her bad side once. Never again. Chrissie charmed her yesterday though and I’m safe for the time being.”
“That explains why you threw him out. Though why you redid the office escapes me. Not that the redecoration isn’t a great improvement.” “I married a stupid girl and she’s twisty. It’s a family trait. It’s part of rubbing your dad’s nose in how “stupid” she is by taking all his status and influence away from him. Meanwhile her grandfather dumps this mess on me during my honeymoon. The Director must have had a reason to mess up the games.” “I can’t say. My compulsions don’t allow certain things and even talking to you is straining them to the limit. I expect that the people that the Director uses for his information source will find it. Or the bureau people will.” “So you know about those two.” “The director told me about them. I told him that I was going to hunt them to shake him up a bit. I do that from time to time. I once brought some liver I picked up at a butcher shop and said that it was chopped child’s liver. If I have to be a monster the people that made me a monster can have the full effect. It makes him nervous. It’s amazing what you can do with a bag of peanuts. Then he doesn’t think to ask questions about things that I don’t want him to know.”
“The information source does the same thing. They take him to places where he would be uncomfortable like a restaurant full of fae. Apparently he is a very nervous fellow right now. He should be. By the way, leave those two alone, because right now, I’m trying to keep my father in law from wanting to hunt you down. Not for your sake, but because if something happens to him, all sorts of relationships that he maintains could go up in smoke and nobody wants that to happen. Your compulsions and your father being at the party created a very close call yesterday. You’ve never seen him when he senses a monster. When he heard about your father’s compulsions from your mother, he put what I already had with some other things.” “Are you planning to hunt me?” “Bill and I have discussed it, yes. For dumping your father on me if nothing else. It wasn’t something that I was going to rush into and frankly I want your boss a lot more than I want you. That’s become a moot point because of your encounter on Christmas and the fact that you killed one of my brother in law’s people. I don’t have the resources that he does and the fact that you killed one of my other brother in law’s people at the same time means that both of them are going to cooperate with Bill and be coming over here looking for you.”
“They nearly killed me. That deputy especially. One more shot and I was gone.”
“That was Bill’s class. Which raises another problem for you. But it’s almost two o’clock and I think that you will want to be out of here before my sister sees you or none of that will matter as she will just shoot you. That would make rather a mess and my wife will be annoyed.” “Is your sister that dangerous?”
“Worse. The Manager had his house full of Twisted and my sister and Hilda took them all out, with .22’s, without special rounds, in seconds. It was part of their competition to see who had to do the dinner before Christmas. Stephie lost again this year, but the difference was tiny. I am so glad that I didn’t know about that when I was setting up my sister for the gag at my wedding.” “Those were classic. My sisters used to talk about the things you tried to do to your sister. What did you do to her?” “We set up water magic for her dance and then Chrissie had two whales show up and splash her. If your son was at the thing yesterday he saw the replay. I suspect that somebody had an uncomfortable night last night. Since Chrissie and I were not running the replay we were off the hook, I hope.”
“Well I want one thing from you, your word that you will pull the people that the masters don’t know about out of this. I don’t want them involved.”
“You have it. That goes without saying. I had Noro put the two we were talking about earlier looking into them and I hope to ensure that they have no connection.”
“Well I will bid you good bye. I suspect that we will not be speaking again.”
He left and just a bit later Stephie, Hilda and the kids showed up. Along with Tochi, Suki and Chrissie. Lacey brought them in, I showed them the office and then we all got in the bus and as we were followed by Tochi’s car, toured the games as I explained what was going on and then we joined Josh and Noro for lunch at Antonio’s. The mayor and some press people joined us after lunch as we toured the indoor skating rink that that the state had built for the games. Then Jacob showed up with some other stuffed shirt types. Josh and Noro went discreet as he spotted us. He stayed away this time, but I suspected that it wasn’t over. After the kids got in their bus with Stephie and Chrissie, Tochi and Suki got in the car and Josh and Noro got in their car, there he was, coming through the press types. “Tom, I’m placing you under citizen’s arrest!” “What for?”
“Attempted murder.” “Of who?” “My grandsons. You set those two troublemakers on them.”
“I did? Why would I do that?”
“Because of the incident at the restaurant the other day.”
“Jacob, I don’t have to set Bob and Scott on anybody. They are perfectly capable of starting themselves up. Actually they are busy today and were busy all weekend running the outdoor part of my wife’s party. I invited you to stay, but you insisted in being a nuisance and I had far too many people there yesterday. So I had you sent home. As for your two grandsons, they are lucky that it was Bob and Scott and not a deputy who found them and confiscated the things they had. My brother in law’s deputies are still rather annoyed at George and they lost another one in something that your grandsons may have been involved in. Why they were over there, apparently looking for trouble is beyond me. I was at home all day with my wife, my parents, her parents and the rest of my family enjoying the first real Christmas that we have all had in a long time. It’s a good thing that Bob and Scott were able to stop your grandsons before that rock wall collapsed on them. You can go over to Sheriff Jacob’s office and file the complaint, but I don’t think that it will go over very well. I have a busy day and I am travelling tonight, so I will move on.” I turned to the press types and continued the interview as the cars were driving way and the widows closed. We walked off, I ended the interview and went back to my office in the car that was waiting for me. After we drove over to the office, we got some work done and it was about time to go, Josh came in and picked me up. Noro and Mary were in the car waiting for us and we drove off to the ferry. Noro and Josh were grinning about my daily Jacob and we laughed a bit about it and then started in on work. Noro and I kept things to business until we arrived at George’s and George wanted to hear about my daily Jacob. “The prince and his wife mentioned it, but they couldn’t hear everything. Did he really accuse you of attempted murder?” “Yes he did. Never mind the fact that I hadn’t been near the supposed victims since the restaurant the other day, Bob and Scott were being auxiliary deputies and the grandsons were nearly in a bad rockfall before they stopped them. As it was, I heard that their cars were badly damaged.”
“I think that if you had really wanted them dead, it wouldn’t be attempted, but nobody would be able to trace it to you. The fact is that those two can make trouble without you telling them to do it. But that clown can’t help himself. Steaks all around, right.”
“So tell us all of it, Tom” Suki said. “We heard most of it, but your parents weren’t there and we didn’t quite get all that you said.”
I went through my daily Jacob as they all laughed.
Al and Eltra were looking a bit tired when they came in and started to talk to Stephie. I asked father, “What did Stephie do?”
“The tank bed leaked, just a very tiny bit. Starting rather late at night. Al would deal with one place and the leak would start someplace else.” “I was afraid of that.”
“Our tank was fine, wasn’t it, Tom?” Chrissie said.
“Yes it was, but we didn’t have rust faery problems. Let me guess, she banged the tank too for breakfast.”
“No, she used a bell. The dinner bell outside.”
“The one that came from the railroad?” “Yes. Everyone else was awake when she rang it.”
“Well that would work.”
“At least we are out of it, this time,” Chrissie said.
“I hope so. Al’s big advantage is that he lives far away. On the other hand, Stephie has the shop now and eager minions. At least they are all on the same footing right now. I think that Al got the message.”
“He knew better,” father said. “It’s not as if it was the first time and Stephie sort of used Al as a test for the things that she never had a chance to do to you, Tom.”
“Then I am in real trouble. She wants to poke me for new gags anyway. Chrissie we may want to stay at the bower for a bit.”
“We can’t do that. You need to be up here and I promised Suki that I would entertain the princess and her aunt. So you are out of luck.”
“Ouch. Then we will have to do the Jacob thing. And make it splashy and get the kids to help.”
Al slid over. “Stephie and I made peace. The whales were over the top, not that she didn’t like it. I should have come up with something else. She expressed that rather well last night. It’s a good thing that we are leaving, though. Eric can toss that old tank anyway.
I came up with an idea yesterday and I want to go over it on the train.” “What?”
“Another puppet show for Sal as a wedding present. I want to make a troubleshooter show.” “That’s going to be tight.” “I know. George is sending another one of those cabinets to my shop in New York, Bob and Scott gave me a set of the drawings and I talked to some people yesterday about parts. When I told them who I was doing it for and why, they were all in. They were a bit concerned that the troubleshooter might pay them a visit until I told them that I had been there and was the shoot for the trouble. Bob and Scott are coming down with Noro, so they won’t be able to help very much.”
“Let’s set the script up on the train down and we can grab some time on the boat. It looks as if dinner is over.”
We couldn’t stay very long because we had to board the train car. We all said our goodbyes to my parents and the rest and boarded the train car with the porter helping the mermaids up the steps. The train arrived and the car was coupled on for its long journey to Boston. Chrissie and I watched the snowy landscape pass by and I asked, “did you have a good trip?”
“Oh, yes. The entire thing was a surprise.” “You created some surprises.”
“That worked better than I expected. The party was wonderful and everybody seemed to have a good time. It was fun to be with your whole family when none of us had to hide anything anymore. Also, I got to be a stupid girl.”
“Yes you did. A very scary girl too. Though that was partly my fault. I should have pulled my non scary book. It had a lot of surprise value and I just put it in with the rest.”
“Well I am glad you did. Especially since so many came and wanted to share your life. So when do we tell father about the werewolf?”
“That’s what I would like to know?” Josh had just entered the compartment. “I have this feeling that you aren’t telling me things. Thursday, you couldn’t stop talking about the werewolf across the way and now, you won’t talk about it at all for some reason.”
“Ok, Josh. The reason I clammed up is that Steve, through Stelios, asked me too until we were on the train South.”
“Why, unless something happened?”
“The werewolf poked its nose over on Christmas and on its way out, killed a deputy and one of Steve’s people.” “One of Steve’s people? What was he doing up here?”
“The war department wanted a discreet fae presence up here during Chrissie’s little party because of the security nightmare potential. I don’t know if Chrissie asked for the help or somebody just saw the potential and sent Steve’s people. Chrissie, did you ask for some more security?”
“Not directly. Boris seemed to have things pretty well in hand and I talked to Miss Vicky and she said the same thing. Helmut didn’t seem to be concerned either, so I didn’t worry too much. We were all sensing the same things over there and maybe somebody else was concerned.”
“It turns out that the werewolf isn’t the real problem. Edward was just seeing his kids and the deputy and the lieutenant were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.” “How do you know?” Josh asked.
“Ed came to my office early this afternoon and we talked for a bit. I think that he knows that the game is over and he wanted to know if I would make sure that his kids were kept out of it. The kids were the big reason that we didn’t want you, Josh, to start chasing after Ed. The kids, and Steve.”
“Why were the kids over here?”
“Because however it happened, the bosses don’t know that Ed has bonded and we know what the other side does with kids. We actually met the kid, Chrissie, remember? Jimmy and Andy brought him by to meet a mermaid.”
“Oh, yes, Bruce, with his questions,” Chrissie said. “I wonder if Trillia has any friends? We don’t have any his age under sea at the moment. All of them are up top in school.”
“How do you know that that is who it was?” Josh asked with a frown.
“Because Ed mentioned it and he was the only kid specifically looking for a mermaid. He also wasn’t in the class or he would have met Chrissie earlier. He and his father just missed each other today, which is probably a good thing.”
“If the wolf isn’t the real problem, what is?” “Ed couldn’t tell me. He’s trapped in a bunch of compulsions and obligations. The keystone over there wants him to protect it, but the compulsions that were put on him when he was Turned make him the threat that the keystone wants to defend against, at least partially. He can’t talk about certain things and even talking to me at all was stretching the compulsions to the limit. Still there is a lot more to this and rushing in right now to kill Ed won’t help.”
Mike and Al came in. “We are discussing our werewolf problem. Apparently he poked his nose over here and everybody neglected to tell me.”
“Steve wanted it discreet and to talk it over before going on a hunt, Josh.” Mike said. Boris and Helmut agreed with that and Steve asked everybody to keep you out if it, which was backed by Helmut, Steve’s boss and the Director, yesterday.”
“Does Bill know?”
“Yes, but Bill doesn’t have the entire East Coast scared every time he is going to go after another monster. Also, Bill is part of Boris’s troubleshooters on things like this and has been for a long time. Bill was also talking to me about this and we had agreed to take it slow. Also we all want the mother and kids to not become potential pawns to the other side.”
“Considering what happened, I see your point.” “There’s also some possibilities here,” I said. We can pull the kids and the mom from up here and then let the other side know that they exist. Though at this point I don’t know if knowing about the kids is going to matter for them. Ed said that the other side set up the permit and some of the other things at the games because they were concerned that there would be all those people around that they didn’t know about and that might find whatever it is that they are protecting.”
“That means that whatever it is, it’s pretty important to them. We were speculating about that and all the Twisted that came from up here that the Manager had put his hands on.”
The porter came in. “Mr. Benton Mrs. Benton, I would like to set up Mrs. Benton’s tank now. Why don’t I roll you to the observation lounge.”
“I can do that,” I said. I carried Chrissie out to the wheelchair in the passage and there was one of George’s chairs. I sat Chrissie into it and rolled her down the passage to the observation lounge where the other mermaids were waiting, followed by Josh and the rest.
Mera said, “Gentlemen, there are some things we ladies need to talk about so if you could take yourselves to the dining area for your discussions it would help us greatly.”
None of us wanted to argue, so we retreated to the table in the dining area. “What are they discussing?” Mike asked.
“The necklace that Chrissie was given,” Josh said. “Mera has never discussed hers with me, other than to tell me that there is more to it than it seems and I suspect that what they do is something that is passed down woman to woman. I do know that they are not gifted lightly. Anyway we need to be talking about our werewolf problem.”
“Mike, Al, Ed came into my office today to talk to me.” “How was he?” Mike asked. “You don’t seem to be nervous and you didn’t make a stink, so he must have been more or less normal.” “I think so. A lot like my brother. Resigned and hating the monster.”
“Most of them do. In the end they were glad to see me show up and deal with them.” “He also likes to shake up the Director. He acts as if the monster is always there. He does that so that the Director doesn’t think to ask too many questions about him or what he is doing. I expect that he has to answer any questions the Director asks. He was under compulsion and I didn’t try to pull them. I suspect that if I had tried the monster would have triggered.”
“So what did he want?”
“He wanted me to make sure the kids were out of it. He even told me who they were, or at least one of them. He also hinted that there was something worse than the monster over there.”
“What about Jacob?”
“He’s not responsible for my daily Jacob. Apparently, his father has never had somebody tell him no and push him around like I do. So he keeps coming back with his idiocy. I wish that Ed had been responsible because then he could tell Jacob to stop. At least I will be away and have a break.”
“So what do we do about Ed?” Josh asked.
“We take it slow,” Mike said. “The monster will be dormant for most of the month and I imagine that Ed is very good at hiding himself. We also get the wife and kids clear. Maybe down to the school on Long Island or someplace else. Whatever we do, we separate her from both us and him.”
“I also want to look for what else might be there and know what it is before we take Ed out,” I said. “One werewolf, no matter how powerful shouldn’t have raised all our senses like that. I’m still new at this, but we all felt it. The people at White’s did too and so did my family. Yet nobody seems to be able to lock on to where or what it is. Ed is very well shielded. I barely sensed him when he was in the office. Which make sense when you realize what he is. I also want to make sure that whatever it is doesn’t do something very unpleasant if Ed goes down. There could be some sort of trigger to raise some sort of chaos to cover the thing if Ed isn’t there to protect it. Mike you’ve run into that before, where I pointed you at a place, you started to poke around and suddenly, there you were in a vampire uprising.”
“Twice. The first time things were dicey until I could get the shooters there and it was still way too messy. The second time we were ready and took them out right away, but the place went up in flames after. You think it’s another one of those?”
“I need to go through the documents. And talk to Noro when he gets down to the city. Those Twisted had to come from someplace and we were never sure how they were spawned. We’ve always had too many for them to just be a random thing happening to fae. Look at how many the Manager had at the end, even after he had been sending them after me and the farm for years. They had to have come from someplace, maybe several places.”
“I’ve always dealt with these things on a monster by monster basis,” Josh said. I haven’t really considered where they came from mostly because I keep thinking about necromancers where they have to be independent. I’ve never considered the other things very much. Necromancers were the source of their spawns. But the others were the spawns and had to come from someplace. That place is worse than even the most powerful werewolf, Tom. I think you made your case for taking it slow again.” “Not too slow. I don’t want the other side unleashing something during the games or on people not involved. On the other hand, I doubt that The Director is going to be able to pay direct attention up there and to all the other things going on. I very much doubt that our friends have been idle and there must have been a reason that Steve didn’t show up.”
“Now that that’s decided,” Al said. “Tom how about you and I put together a funny script for Sal’s troubleshooter puppet show. Since you two were there, you can help with this.” “I was bouncing back and forth to the Cape for most of it,” Josh said. “I missed the full impact because I had to deal with some other foolishness.”
“Hey I was the foolishness and it wasn’t my fault.” I grinned. “Somebody liked his boat too much.”
“Not that much or I wouldn’t have been using the train back and forth. By the time it was over the conductors were all calling me by name.”
“Well if you hadn’t liked your boat so much, I would have pulled Chrissie up earlier and we wouldn’t have been in that mess. There probably would have been another mess, but not that one. On the other hand, considering the business tension, you wanting to be on the boat is understandable.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well Jacob was messing the work up and you were probably all stressed and needed Mera. Since the boat got you with Mera, you wanted to be on the boat and not in the office. So the whole thing is Jacob’s fault.” He laughed. “I never thought of it that way. I didn’t even know he existed and he was giving me grief. Ok, so how do we make Sal funny?”
George and the kids joined us and they were all too eager make suggestions. At least until Stacey grabbed the kids for bed. George got off the train briefly and bought an evening paper and rejoined us. “Chrissie’s party was a success.”
There was Doris’s article on the party, with pictures. I was a celebrity now. Or at least Chrissie was. George read the paper as the rest us of went over the script as the train wound its way South and East until the ladies wanted us for bed. I took the paper with me to our compartment where Chrissie was waiting not in the tank, but in the bed. “The tank is a bit cozy for both of us so I want to be with you for a while.”
I handed her the paper. “We’re big news now.”
“The pictures came out great. You are the big news. I’m just the stupid girl smart enough to marry a high status husband..”
I kissed her. “That makes you very smart indeed.”