Mermaid, Chapter 21, part 3

Jimmy returns and Ed makes some revelations to Scott.

Ghost.

Monday 12/28.

Finding our potential bonded turned out to be amazingly easy. Stephie introduced us to her on Sunday afternoon when she came over to pick up her son after he had been staying with Andy, Gregor and Jimmy over night after the party. When Stephie introduced us to Gretchen, it was obvious that she was very high fae, bonded, her husband was nowhere to be found and she was from Germany. Monday morning I called Sarah to have her do some background checking. “Theresa, where have you been?”

“We’ll tell you everything when we come down with Noro on Wednesday.”

“I want to know everything. Especially everything about Jacob. He seems to have gone completely off the walls. Was that party as fun as it looked and why didn’t you invite me?” “It was and there wasn’t time. We weren’t sure that we were going ourselves until Tom invited us.” “Now I really want to know what’s been going on. So where do I send this stuff?”

I gave her the inn’s address. “Send it here or the Benton farm. Both should work.” “How did Chrissie get all those people to the party?”

“Tom’s address book and the promise of a very fun time. They delivered too.”

“We’ve never seen Tom’s address book. We’ve always speculated about it.” “Well whatever we thought, it’s bigger. I have to go now, bye.”

I was going to have to get together with Stacey and compare notes. My granddaughter must have inherited my networking skills. In fact both of them did. I also wanted to meet my two grandsons. They had only been my family for a couple of days, but I loved them so much already. Eli had taken the car and gone over with Noro to do some creative snooping. HeHee wanted to look more closely at the Martin family than we had been. Bob and Scott were going to help as well as being Noro’s errand boys for those things that Noro was going to want to keep out of the Committee’s eyes and hears.

Later in the morning, Hilda and Athena came over to the inn. Hilda saw me and said, “I thought we should go over and pull the rest of Tom’s duplicates. Bill is going to help. He wants to get rid of the stashes and we have been charged with letting the Director know that Tom no longer has anything hidden here.” “At least anything the Director is interested in,” Athena said. “Stephie, on the other hand is a bit annoyed that Tom never went over that stuff marked “classified.”” “I want to go through that with the book in hand and figure out things for ourselves,” Hilda said. “I think that we can, and we have all Tom’s old radio magazines too. We can get Andy and Gregor to help. Tom won’t be away that long anyway. But if we can discover things for ourselves we can surprise him more easily.”

“That’s not going to be easy,” I said. We’ve been watching him for a long time and he gives the Director fits. The Manager kept sending those things and Tom or the bureau just dealt with them. Then Tom manages to disappear for four years or so.”

“That was when he went to Connecticut,” Hilda said. “He was looking for work at Colt but found work at Pratt and Whitney instead.”

“That was evident from the stuff from his office. Apparently Pratt thought he was hot stuff.”

You’ll have to ask father. He was the one getting the telegrams and phone calls. Lou was complaining at the wedding that Pratt was upset at him for poaching. They also helped set up Tom’s shop and probably will be upset that Tom can’t be in the shop. Let’s get that stuff out of the boxes.”

We drove over to the farm. Bill was waiting with a rather large ugly dog. “This is Roger. He won’t bother us too much as long as Hilda and I are here. I’ll show you where Tom’s stuff is.”

We went in and found the boxes that Tom had left behind. We started to transfer the contents, frequently stopping to take a peek at one of Tom’s childhood memories. Roger watched us for a bit and then found a place and curled up. Greta came out and started to look into things with us. “Tom was supposed to go through this stuff this week. He put this stuff out here and essentially forgot about it. I’m going to set some things aside for Chrissie to take care of. I think that Tom was so focused on the boxes when he was here with Chrissie and discreetly getting the right boxes down to the Cape that he didn’t pay too much attention to what was in the boxes. Chrissie probably would have nudged him about that, but they were busy cleaning up Jacob’s mess for Noro.”

We put the stuff in other boxes and Bill started to gently take the boxes apart and remove the envelopes. I said, “he seemed to know what he was doing when he hid these.”

“He learned to do things like this during his battles with Stephie,” Greta said. “She had all those advantages and we couldn’t talk to him about them, so he had to go to extreme measures to protect himself. He also had the tools and skills to do things like this very quickly.”

“When we started to pull his various stashes, I was amazed,” Bill said. “I’ve been living and working on this farm for thirty years and been running it for Eric for the last fifteen and he still hid things so well that I never saw them until he pointed them out. He said that he showed me all the stashes, but short of tearing the place apart, there will never be a way to know for sure. The interesting thing is that even trying to burn all the buildings in the farm to the ground would probably not have affected Tom very much at all. He has multiple duplicate sets in different places and most of the important stuff was fireproofed one way or another. Of course we here at the farm are very sensitive to dark fae or people under compulsions, so any of the Director’s people trying to get close would have a real problem. Still he managed to hide all this under our noses and I doubt that the things that got sent here ever understood that Tom was not the target that they should have been looking for.”

“The director certainly doesn’t,” I said. “Until I handed him the summary after the wedding meeting, he had no clue what Tom had been doing in Washington and since. I think that we need to tell Tom that he’s not dealing competent adversaries and that he can go easy on things. Chrissie will like that.”

By the time we finished opening the boxes, transferring Tom’s early life and putting everything back away, it was time for lunch and we went in and had party leftovers. Greta said, “Poor Antonio. More people ended up eating in the barn than they did inside for lunch. It’s a good thing that it’s winter time and we can give the food out and keep it cold. We only have the one refrigerator here and iceboxes at most of the other houses. Of course between the boys and the skiing, the barn was the place where the fun was happening.”

“Especially when Jacob showed up,” I said “I’m sorry I missed that.”

“I wish I could say that the man was a victim of the compulsions that Edward placed on him, but he was like that even before the war. Maybe not so idiotic, but he behaved the same way. Most of us that weren’t affected just ignored him. We did try to help the victims when we could. His behavior regarding the Olympics was atrocious, but the dark being behind it explains some things.”

“I don’t think that Jacob understood that when he did his number on Chrissie that he wasn’t just dealing with us anymore,” Hilda said. “We’re in the habit of letting the small stuff slide because we needed to do business from time to time on bigger matters. As it turns out that was pointless and I hope that Bob and Scott go all out just so long as they don’t give Bill ulcers. They like Bill too, so they won’t do things that will run them up against Bill too much. On the other hand, Jacob had better plan to use pay phones for anything he wants to keep personal or discreet and those two clowns are in for some rather unpleasant times this week.”

“What will they do to them, you think? I asked. “Other than running them off the road again.”

“Well they tried to compel Tom, which just plain stupid on their part because if Tom had been as sensitive as Tim is, they risk burnout. Bob and Scott will probably try to get the two clowns to try to compel them and then use reflection to play the sort of games they liked to play in school. Stephie can tell you more, but poor George got it full bore after Andy was taken and it was rather painful for him. He suddenly had a massive allergic reaction to our jail. It was rather excruciating. If George hadn’t tried to compel Bob and Scott, they wouldn’t have had that leverage in the first place. That’s one thing the dark doesn’t understand. Fortunately for George, he’s been away from the boys long enough now that they won’t be able to do the kinds of fun and games that they did. As for the other two, I imagine that Bob and Scott will come up with a bunch of things.

So how do we convince the Director that Tom didn’t just hand this stuff over? I think it would stretch things just a bit to the unbelievable to just turn the material over.”

“We don’t say a thing,” I said. “He’s never questioned very much when I ask for money for what I give him. The fact that most of the time what I give him is stuff his own people should have been giving him is rather ridiculous, but there it is. The dark seems to be unable to see that they need to develop intelligence and information resources. I will just introduce you as former associates of the Manager that need money. This material will just be the material that establishes your legitimacy. How you got it, well this was material that you obtained while working for the Manager that he never thought to ask for. You found it after Tom’s last visit and the Manager never saw it. As for Hilda, Tom annoyed her and she needs money for her shooting habit. Guns are expensive and so is ammunition.”

“So what did Tom do to annoy me?” “He treated you like you weren’t a member of the family, of course. And he put Andy at risk and forced you to take action against the Manager by yourself, so you don’t trust him and want to get even. As long as you don’t make the lie too unbelievable or something that makes him think, he won’t look too deep. We’ve been dealing with him for a very long time and he never once thought to ask what our motives were other than the money. Not that we were cheap and you two won’t be either. We’ll set it up so that neither of you have a direct contact anyway and we broker everything. That first meeting will just to show you ladies that we are the real deal.”

“That will cost him more money, Athena said. “So how do we hand the material over?” “We take it to a film lab and have it enlarged for the first three envelopes. We will want to go through them first and once we start feeding them to him, I will just have my secretary have the enlargements made. The more clandestine we can make this look the more we can ask for it. We stretch things out and drip feed him the stuff.” “That is if he lasts that long,” Hilda said. “The Manager lasted about two weeks from the time that he had Tom’s full attention and Tom didn’t have as much on him as he does here. Now that the honeymoon is over, Tom is going to be looking into the Director’s operations. That is if Sal doesn’t get there first.” “That is a possibility. Just before I came up, Sal took down a leftover from the Manager. Two of them, in fact.” “What were they? I haven’t had time to read the New York papers the last week or so because of family and work related things.”

“He torched a house and had one of his old fashioned raids. He called it the Vincent Calibierti memorial raid. The raid was of a fae kid brothel run by the shark woman.”

“Why did he torch the house?”

“It was left over from the Chemist and the place was going to be condemned as unsafe anyway. Torching the place left the Director guessing whether they picked the place clean or not. In any case the Director’s self destructs are going to have problems from now on.”

School must have been let out as we were suddenly submerged in kids. Andy was apparently checking in with his mother before heading out to the shop with the rest with their books to cook up some trouble. “Uncle Tom won’t have much time and Bob and Scott are going to be busy with Noro, so we are going to make up some stuff for Jacob.”

“What are you going to make?” Hilda asked. “Nothing too dangerous, I hope.” “Some boats and those little wind up cars. Maybe some other stuff, but Uncle Tom told us to be careful with the machines and have Bob and Scott there the first few times. I wish we could have brought that little lathe up here from the basement at the school, but we can use the big one if we are careful. Uncle Tom is coming back next week anyway.”

The kids trooped out again. Stephie came in and said, “I have laundry to put up or I would watch the kids. Bill said that he will keep an eye on them. Tom made it pretty clear that using the tools can be dangerous and I think that Andy at least, will be careful at first. I’m not surprised that they want to show off to Tom now that he was giving those books away.” “I think that a lot of kids will be doing that,” Athena said. “Considering how many of those books sold, Tom is going to have real trouble for a while.” “At least his publisher will be waving around another contract for next year,” Stephie said “He’s going to have to work up some new stuff and we can help with that. Though he has enough on his plate right now. I’m going to check on the kids and then go home and put the laundry up.”

She left and we piled the packets up for later. Hilda said, “Why don’t we take some of Tom’s stuff and take it back to the inn for Tochi and Suki to look at? Eli too, when he gets back.”

We did that and Tochi and Suki , along with Sumitomo told us the stories behind the various things that Tom had come up with and why. Apparently, by the time Tom had left Washington, no office was safe from him. I wasn’t surprised that the various people were absolutely certain that he was doing something beyond the normal. We all went back to the farm and dinner, where we all went through Tom’s toys. Stephie joined us and we all had a great time. We also made plans for Jacob. All of which made for an amusing evening.

Sal.

Monday 12/28.

After my talk with the people over at the school I called Big Jim’s office to find out who was in charge over there in Jersey. If these characters were true to form, they had messed up the outfit’s connections with the Amboy bower the same way that they did with the Rockaway. The boss over there was Vincent Cambino and it was time to offer him some Troubleshooter consulting. It was an offer he could refuse, but probably wouldn’t if he knew what was good for him. So Sillia and I got dressed and started off in the Duesie with Roger, Tony and two of Bill’s shooters, Leroy and Daniel following along. Since we didn’t want to deal with Manhattan traffic, we took the ferry from Brooklyn to Staten Island and crossed over the Goethals bridge into New Jersey.

Cambino’s place was in Newark in a warehouse that he ran. We pulled up, Roger got out of the car and we walked up to the building. “Sal del Vecchio to see Mr. Cambino.”

The bully boy waved us in. “you’re expected. Office is on the right.”

We walked into the office and the guy in front buzzed and said, “Boss, he’s here.”

He turned to me and said, “Go right in.”

The guy behind the desk stood up. “Mr. del Vecchio, Big Jim suggested that I talk to you about some troubleshooting. What makes you think that I need your services?”

“Mr. Cambino-“

“Vinnie. I’m usually called Vinnie Cam, but not to my face.”

“Ok, Vinnie, It’s Sal, by the way. A while ago my buddy Vinnie and I used to deal with certain issues when I was a cop and he troubleshot for his dad, Dom. He was killed and when I, working for some people that I can’t talk about, started to look into the business, we found problems. Problems that nearly got Big Jim killed in his office. I think that you may have the same sorts of problems.”

“Who’s that with you, by the way?”

“The shoot for the trouble. In this case money trouble, among other things. Roger.”

“Mr. Cambino, I made some calls and looked into your business this morning. You are having supply issues and business is down year over year. That’s your legitmate businesses. The other businesses seem to have the same sort of issues, and according to Tony at Dom’s, some of your people have been coming to him for booze lately which says the same thing. You also seem to have had a lot of interceptions by the Feds for your stuff coming up through New Jersey. That’s what I could find this morning. If somebody were looking at your outfit as an investment they would walk away.”

“Ok, business is down. We’re in a depression. That doesn’t mean that something else is going on. On the other hand I did some checking too and you came recommended.”

He buzzed the front desk. “Send Jimmy in.”

The door opened and Jimmy walked in. “I was right, Sal. You weren’t a cop. At least a normal cop.”

“Hi, Jimmy, so what happened?”

“Well after it was clear that I was famous, for being an idiot, something that was more than a little deserved, I did some checking and found out what you had been doing the couple of days before you walked into my office. Frankly, if I had been paying attention I wouldn’t have given you that crap in the first place as I lost some people to the dumping and was yelling upstairs like everybody else. Anyway, I decide to come over here and get a new gig anyway. You may have to punch me in the nose, but I do learn eventually. You think that the same kind of crap going on in Brooklyn is going on over here?”

“Well I need to talk to some people, but I did some looking yesterday and all the signs were that you had some of the same things happening.” “Weird and strange things. That was part of the checking I did and a bunch of people said to not look too deep into things. Then there was all that stuff going on next to the Wallabout. Along with you playing cop for the papers. How you pulled that one off must be a story.”

“I can’t tell you that. You don’t need to know.”

“I know. I figured that out real fast the last time. Boss, this is the real deal and if Sal thinks that weird and strange stuff is going on in your outfit, pay him to clean it up or it can kill you.”

“Ok, Jimmy, you can go, but wait outside.”

Well that was a bit of a surprise. I was going to have to tell Sillia that even jerks grow up.

“Ok, Sal, we have a deal. I’ll put you on retainer for a couple of months. I think that I will have Jimmy as the go between.” “Why?”

“To teach you a bit about humility.” He grinned and put his hand out. “Even legends need that.”

“You’re right, Vinnie. And I can put up with Jimmy. My girl is not going to be happy with that though. She didn’t like him very much when we were kids.” I shook his hand and Roger and I left the office. Jimmy was waiting and said, “I saw Cec’e out in the car. Is she going to need to get wet?”

“It’s Sillia now and we are good until I go to my next stop. How did you know about that?”

“Everybody in Dom’s outfit knows. Did Tara finally get Dom to set her up at home?”

“Sillia made him do it. They also spend weekends at my new place.”

“So what’s your next stop?” “The guy who handles business for the local people like Tara and Sillia.”

“Good. I need to talk to that guy. The guy who handled that business had an accident. That’s how I got this gig.”

“What kind of accident?”

“He had an encounter with some cops and committed suicide. Which was stupid because they were only pulling him over because he had a busted tail light. I’ve tried to make a new connection and I can’t seem to talk to the people I need to talk to and the lady that was supposed to be the contact ignores me. I haven’t wanted to push and say things that they may not want certain things talked about to people they aren’t sure know what they are talking about. Like the fact that there are tails involved.”

“Ok, but you’ll have to ride in the other car. Sillia is with me in the Duesie. ”

“Darn. That was one perk that I was looking forward to.”

Tony must have transferred Sillia to the Cadillac as she wasn’t in the car. I walked back and checked. “I figured that you would have somebody with you, so I had Tony bring me in here. Is that Jimmy?”

“Yup. He seems to have changed a bit.”

“Ok, well we can talk about it later.”

I walked back and Jimmy and I got in the car. “Sillia thought that your boss would want to send somebody with me, so she switched cars.”

 

“She caught you finally. She was chasing after you even back in the old neighborhood just like the Steletti’s girl was chasing after Vinnie until they moved away. It looked like Vinnie and Cynthia caught each other and then they were killed on the beach. A bunch of the boys looked into that and talked to that cop, but we could never pin it on anybody. You apparently found out more.” “I did, which is why I brought the Detective back to life. A kid reporter found more. Frank and some other people had pieces and we put the thing together.”

“Well just before Vinnie and Cynthia were going to Fire Island for their little trip, Vinnie got a bunch of the boys together from the old neighborhood to watch a place that was the kind of place that you used to shut down for him. Only this place was for swells. Vinnie was going to call you and set up a huge bust to make a big splash, but he never came back from the island. Then you cut off the neighborhood and were on homicide anyway. So it fell apart.” “Tony didn’t say anything.” “Tony wasn’t part of it. Vinnie wasn’t sure who he could trust to keep things quiet, so he went back to people that most of the people that knew him wouldn’t think to look at. Somebody must have talked.”

“It might have been somebody on Big Jim’s side of things. The people that killed Vinnie had their connections through Big Jim. When I started to look into this, you and the rest of Dom’s people were being shaken down from that warehouse. I was trying to track that back through the shark attacks on the Rockaway people and figure out why the business shut down. Then some guy up in Massachusetts took care of most of the sharks when they tried to do the same thing that they did to Vinnie.”

“There was some strange stuff going on around that place. The clubhouse some swells had too. Vinnie said not to talk about it, especially to you. He did want to talk to you, but he couldn’t just call your desk at the police department.”

“I think that somebody thought that he had talked to me, because they sent a monster to kill me. They got my partner, but I managed to escape. Then I was recruited by some people that I can’t talk about and hired for this gig.”

“With Sillia and that big house that Vic told me about. The house that used to be the strange swell’s clubhouse.”

“The owner had retired from public life and because of the things going on, came back and found his tenants. He was not happy and his son in law was even less happy, so they set up this gig.”

“Vic said that you told him that the Peacekeeper was at your house. Is that who we’re talking about?”

“I did some work for them related to this thing. He is also related to the Rockaway people. The sharks tried to put the bite on his daughter on the beach and her boyfriend shot them to pieces.”

“The swells that never came back. With their cars all on the beach with the clothes still inside. They must have been swimming like fish. That explains some things. Like how come there was nobody around and there was no boat in the water. Also the weird stuff we saw at that clubhouse.”

“Swimming like fish is one way to put it. Toward the end, they were thinking like fish.” “Which is how that reporter tracked them. Gianni told me about him. He also locked onto your sister. How did that happen. If she’s like Sillia, she shouldn’t have been flashing that around.”

“Actually she was. She was dancing for the crew of a battleship at my dad’s job, the reporter saw her and she saw him and started to tease him a bit. She was flipping up and throwing water at him and dropping back under. Meanwhile he’s chasing that car that the club was using to take kids for their fun and games. Right after he caught the club in the car with a close up shot, my sister managed to drop his camera in the drink. Then they met at a place down in Brooklyn and she managed to drag him under about a week or so ago. They are going on a long swim around Long Island right now.”

“Sillia has probably managed to drag you under too, I suspect.” “Not has much as she would like. Our wedding is Thursday and I haven’t a clue what she is planning for a honeymoon. There may be some marooning involved.”

“Well better you than me. I just have a normal girl and she’s bad enough. We’re getting married next Summer. And going to Niagara Falls for the honeymoon, thank you very much.”

“Well it sounds like she’s keeping things focused on the important stuff. My life just went sideways and I’m not sure what normal is for me anymore.”

“Just don’t take it out on me anymore. Once was enough. Aren’t there more clowns to troubleshoot?”

“Well you know about Vic, but he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, dealing with the wrong people and he was just doing what his boss told him to do. But there was “Anthony.”

“Is he still doing that? Last I heard he was doing a small time protection racket.” “He was. And he was an idiot. The guy responsible for the warehouse was cooking up stuff across the street from his hangout for years. He was the last person in the neighborhood to notice and he never said anything about the place to upstairs. I went down with some specialists and we torched the place.”

“If what happened to my people was a clue, that place was bad news.”

“We got lucky and I was there with the fire department just before the owner went inside and tripped off the self destruct. Some of my dad’s chemical warfare people and the expert we brought in for the warehouse said that that was the best thing that could happen to it. If you run into that sort of thing again, call this number.”

I handed him one of the car cards. “Is this the car that Gianni was talking about? The car that the people taking kids were using?”

“You won’t see that car again. Or if you do, my people are using it. We ended up with it because the real owner didn’t want it anymore. He’s my money guy and does other things. He’s driving the other car right now. He’s also recovering from a bunch of weird and strange.”

“What did they do to him?”

“The same thing they did to Vic’s boss. That’s why he killed himself after I talked to him. At the time, I couldn’t fix that and I was hoping that I could get Al to go someplace where there were people who could, but he was triggered and killed himself instead. After this stop I want to go around to your people and make sure that they are cleared of the compulsions. No more traffic stop suicides.” “I can go with that. There’s more, isn’t there. Al was doing things for that character and having Vic guard the place wasn’t the first time.” “He was. He was also working with a very bad character to change the management. I dealt with the things that were involved and with the bad character a bit later. But we still are not sure that the hit on Big Jim was the bad character’s idea or Al’s. Since they are both dead, we will never know.”

We arrived at a place on the water that had a familiar vibe to it. There were the fishing boats and lobster pots, a seafood co-op and a grocery store and diner along with some other shacks and buildings of indeterminate purposes. The whole place had that feel of being put up quickly and not very permanently. We pulled in front of the diner and my dad and a man I didn’t know came out. Tony got Sillia’s chair out and Dad said, “come on inside. Is that Jimmy?”

As we walked inside, I said, “He works for the boss here now. He’s replacing the guy who had the contact down here. That guy shot himself.”

I rolled Sillia in and there was mother, Ella and Mabel with another mermaid, George Barnes and some of his people were eating lunch and talking with some mermen. Mom called out, “Jimmy! So why are you here?”

“A fresh start, Mrs. del Vecchio. After you and Tara told Sal’s story all over the neighborhood I had to get out of town. It worked out. Frankly what happened was as much my fault as Sal’s. If I had been paying any attention, I would have known that he was doing what he used to do. Where he got that ride didn’t matter. For that matter, I was screaming upstairs with the rest of them. I’m not a total idiot.” “How is it working out with your girl?”

“Wonderful and we are getting married in the summer. A perfectly normal honeymoon for us though.”

“Sal, Jimmy, this is Morris,” dad said. “He runs things up top for the bower here.”

“Dad, I checked for the kid and we don’t have him. There’s at least one more of those schools out there. It also looks like some of Jimmy’s people and the guy he replaced were compelled. What have you been up to?”

“Setting things up for the garden repair and protection program. We don’t have another floating drydock, but we do have quite a few anchors and a crane barge to sink them with. Frankly there’s a limit to how many decorative anchors you need and we’re going to sink some where it will hurt a trawler when they trawl through a garden.”

“The trawls were a near disaster for us,” Morris said. “Especially as they came right after that string of shark attacks. Then the chemicals hit. We also couldn’t get in contact with our up top contacts and figure out what was going on. We would have tried to contact you across the way, but none of our messages seemed to get through and we had lost too many to the sharks already.”

It hadn’t been just one thing, it had been the coordinated series of events that had nearly destroyed the bower. That and the panic and feeling helpless. We had been more or less acting as if the Manager had been a joke. For these people it hadn’t been. I handed Morris the car card. “Morris, here’s a number to call for help. The lady on the other end is fae and our bureau has been trying to get a handle on these attacks. But up until very recently we didn’t have any contacts with the merfolk in some of the bowers and those we did have were cut the same way you were. We got lucky though and stopped the attacks on the Rockaway bower and shut the chemical factory down.”

“How do you know that there isn’t another one?”

“Their guy who was responsible for building them died when the factory was taken out and we haven’t seen a trace since. We have more information and people looking into that. Fisheries is also going to look into trawls in gardens. The Cape bower had the same issues and Mera is taking over up there.” “You know them? We haven’t heard from Josh in some time.”

“His mother in law was killed by the sharks and he had to take over up there, along with all the other businesses. My boss married Mera’s sister, so under sea issues will get looked at. We are going to publish a book on all the stuff we have on this. These people have been hitting more than just the bowers. Morris, by the way, don’t let your old contact know that we are talking to you. The people responsible took her kid, more than likely and are holding him hostage. On the other hand, watch her closely. They may try to kill her. They’ve been doing some rather Twisted things with fae kids in every sense of the word.”

‘You seem to know a lot about the sharks. What can you tell us about them?”

“That will be in the book too. They attack bonding couples, usually right after they close the deal and are in the water for reasons that are not hard to imagine. If they lose members of a pod they recruit into the Change and use fae kids to stabilize it. They seem to need to feed on a bonding pair about every three months. Have you lost any in the last two months?”

“No. but we haven’t had any couples closing the deal for the last four months anyway.” “Good. Talk to my dad and we will try to arrange a bonding party and provide a surprise if they do show up. Call Bennie and Meria over at Rockaway and this number for the sound bower and maybe coordinate and rent a hotel. We destroyed one shark pod, but there’s another one that seems to be operating down near Philly and my dad’s brother and my brother in law think they have a boat.”

“Any idea what kind of boat?”

“An ocean fishing trawler. We may know more shortly.”

Tim Kirk rolled Merlia in from the back of the place. They had been in the water as neither one was wearing anything. “Mike, I talked to some people about the boat that was trawling through the gardens. The boats from here don’t bother to put nets out in here because there aren’t any fish worth the effort for a boat like that. It’s definitely a deep water trawler, though. I’m going to let the people down in Philly know when we get back. I got some call backs from my friends in Philly and they are planning a bonding party in late January. Who’s this?”

“This is Jimmy,” I said. “That Jimmy.”

“He must have changed then.”

“I did. Actually it was a bit faster once I realized what was happening. Not that I didn’t deserve to be laughed at.”

“Jimmy, actually, you were right. The joke turned out to be on me as much as it did you. On the other hand I did meet all sorts of interesting people because of it. The guy that’s probably going to get the biggest laugh in the end is Al.”

“Al?”

“Shoot for the trouble.”

“That guy, he’s scary. A lot scarier than your green friend over there.”

“Much scarier, but they both have twisted senses of humor and Al has been hanging out with the biggest gag guy around. I have this feeling that they will come up with something for my wedding. They may not have time to pull it off, though.” “Tom and Al,” Sillia said. “They can pull something off. Tom needs more stuff for his next book anyway, so you just know that those two are going to do something. At least Tom won’t have access to his shop.” “He’ll have access to Al’s”

That’s true. They are coming down tomorrow. At least Chrissie and Eltra will keep them under as much as possible.

“Unless they are in on it too. Chrissie, at least, will want to make up for spending all that money on that party.” “Chrissie has a tail, doesn’t she?” Jimmy asked. “You haven’t said that, but it’s fairly obvious from the way you are talking about her. How could she have a big party?” “She managed it. It was in the paper this morning.”

“That big party of Washington types and other swells? Real heavyweights?”

“That’s the one. We’ll get the story when they get here tomorrow, but she managed to pull it off. Because some clown said that she was a stupid girl.”

“That’s going to be a story I want to hear. I’ll call Tony and get him to tell me after. I expect that Sillia has a distraction planned for you for a couple of weeks.”

“I do too. It looks like Morris is going to be tied up with my dad, so why don’t we see your people and make sure that they aren’t working for somebody else. Now that we are finished with lunch, I’ll tell Sillia and we can get going.” “That works for me. I just started and I haven’t met all the boys anyway.”

I went over to Sillia. “I’m taking Jimmy and checking his people for compulsions. I’ll be back to pick you up.” “Good. We can Swim to Bennies after with your parents. Your mother wants me to help anyway. If you aren’t back here by six or so, I will figure that you went home. Take Tony, Roger and the boys with you. I will go to Bennies with your parents.”

“Ok. It looks like they are waiting for us.”

I introduced Tony and the boys to Jimmy and Tony said, “That Jimmy?”

“Yes, I was educated.” “That happens. At least if you aren’t a total idiot. I’ve seen way too many of those.”

We got in the cars and Jimmy asked, “He seems like a great guy, what’s his story? Other than being maybe not quite human.”

“I can’t say too much, but he was providing security involuntarily for the clown responsible for the mess in Brooklyn. He was also protecting some kids from the clown’s other security people.” “The ones that Vic said looked at him as if he was something to eat and they were getting hungry?”

“Those are the ones. For weird and strange reasons they thought of the kids as the best food they could want. So it was good thing that Tony and his brother were protection. They also are very good about having their heads on their shoulders.”

We went to the various places and I pulled compulsions. At one place we got lucky. After I pulled the compulsion and made yet another new friend, the guy said, “as far as this goes, the guy asked me to provide security for this place. There are some kids there and some people in charge that are just weird. I don’t think that the kids really want to be there.”

We checked it out and it was another “school.” We backed off and I called the office. They would be sending some people to Vinnie’s and we would hit the place later. Then we started to talk to the trucking outfits and we got the very bad news. We found another chemical plant in Bayonne. The trucking people had been screaming to the guy that Jimmy replaced about shipments and people dying, but nobody had been seemingly responded. This was very bad news.

I sent Roger over to the records office to find the owner of the place and the rest of us, along with some of Jimmy’s people went over to look at the place. It was essentially empty except for a security guard who worked for the outfit. We talked with him and it turned out that the place had shut down because the Chemist stopped paying for things. We went back to Vinnie’s and I called down to Morris’s and told dad and Sillia what was going on, called the office to tell them that we had a hot one and the house to let the people there know. About an hour later, Alex, Ray and Bill showed up from the office with the rest of our shooters and we decided to go ahead and take the school out and get the kids out of a potential shooting line. This time the dark fae must have sensed us coming and managed to discreetly get away and disappear into the city. We got the kids, though and I released still more compulsions. When we went back to Vinnie’s, Roger, dad and Sillia were there along with a bunch of navy people. Dad said, “I called the yard and they can’t have anybody from the chemical people until the morning. Steve and Stelios are going to be at your place in morning and we can get Jason too.”

“It turns out that the outfit owns the building,” Roger said. “So we don’t have the ticking time bomb issues that we had with the Chemist’s place.”

“We want this place intact, if we can do it safely,” Alex said. “Sal, check with the fire department and clear any compulsions there and with the police and then go back to the office and wait for the boss. They should be back about seven o’ clock. Ray and I will stay over here in Jersey to keep an eye on things. You bring Mike, Steve, Stelios and Jason, along with the rest of your people and we hit this place in the morning the right way.”

Sillia and I drove around to the local fire department and police and found and pulled still more compulsions. Roger and Tony took the kids, with the exception of Steven, who Morris was taking back to his mother, back over to Mary and Albert’s with the rest of the kids. After we were done we headed up to the Holland Tunnel. I said to Sillia, “I’m sorry we missed our Swim.”

“This was more important. We haven’t missed out entirely and there’s always the water at home.”

We arrived at the office and the boss was wondering why the place was empty. I told him. “We found another of the Chemist’s plants over in Jersey. Alex, Ray and Bill’s people are keeping an eye on it. We also shut down another school and Tony and Roger are taking the kids to Mary and Albert’s. We discovered the Amboy bower and it was a much closer call than it should have been. I will have a report tomorrow. Everybody else is at home or on vacation still.”

“Linda and Roscoe are on their way back. They left the farm this morning and are stopping overnight at her parents place. The rest of the people from the farm are on the boat coming to your place in the morning. It sounds as if you had a busy day, so go home. We can put this together in the morning.”

Scott

Monday 12/28.

I had Uncle Tom’s truck to run errands for Noro. Bob and I had finally taken a look under the hood and we still weren’t quite sure what we were looking at. We did know one thing. None of the engine ever came from Dodge. Everything there was something that came from a shop where it had been built just for this engine.

The truck was fun to drive and Lizzie and I had a ball as I took her home Monday morning. After I walked her to the door and got back in the truck, I wasn’t alone. I looked over and started to reach for the pistol under the dash.

“Don’t get touchy, Scott. I just need to talk with you.” “Edward, I’m not sure that I have anything to talk with you about.”

“Actually you do. In fact you are the only one that I can talk about certain things to.” “Why?” “Because you are my heir.”

“What!! Other than Lizzie, I don’t even like your family.”

“That doesn’t matter. The only thing the keystone cares about is protection and community.”

‘Most of your relatives fail in community.”

“That’s the problem. My family has failed its keystone. Look at my nephews, all of them are weak and some have been corrupted. You and Bob throw them around like they are nothing and you are younger than most of them. Your brothers and sisters along with the rest of your cousins will be able to do the same thing as they grow older. What happened to me is a big clue just how weak my family is. Tom killed his brother. None of my family has been able to kill me.”

“Is that what you want? It can be arranged.”

‘That’s the point. You can kill me. Tom could certainly kill me and probably will, in the end. That is if Bill or Boris doesn’t. I want to show you some things. Go where I tell you.”

I followed his directions to a farm that was just wrong. I wasn’t sure, but the place felt like a vampire nest, but it didn’t seem to be active. “This place is not what it seems.” “It’s part of the defenses for something else.” “What?” “I can’t tell you. My compulsions won’t let me. As long as it is not a direct threat to the keystone my bond with the keystone won’t let me override the compulsions But it’s worse than my monster and it’s been tearing me apart for a very long time now. Let’s go to our next stop.”

We drove around and there were more places with Twisted more or less inactive. Far too many Twisted. “This is where those Twisted the Manager had came from, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know about the Manager, but there was a call for aid a couple of weeks ago and some people were sent down. They never came back.”

“Tom and my sisters dealt with them.”

“Which brings me to my point. The keystone nudged my niece into looking for a strong heir to replace me because I am tainted. There has been a struggle and the keystone resists the taint. But it and we are weakening. So the strongest are looking for aid to remove the taint. If Tom had not bonded down on the Cape, Lizzie would probably have gone looking for him. All things considered that would have been a disaster for my masters. It likely still will be. Pull over here. Tell Tom about the things I showed you. Also be prepared the next full moon as the monster will probably want to hunt you. I don’t think that we will be able to talk again.”

He got out of the truck and left. I didn’t see him walk away as I started to drive over to the office. When I got there, Noro said, “Where were you?”

“Getting a guided tour by our werewolf. There’s some bad stuff over here. The werewolf also thinks that I am his heir. I don’t even like the family over here.”

“That doesn’t matter. Your family was able to rid itself of its taint, recover and fight back. Jacob’s family has not. That’s what we have all been sensing. So what did the werewolf show you?” “Twisted pestholes with Twisted just waiting for something. A lot of Twisted.”

“Tom was concerned about something like that. Apparently Mike and the bureau had run into that before. So whatever is here is something the dark feel they must defend.” “We could take the places out.” “We will, but we will want to make sure that we know where all of them are and hit them all at the same time or as close as possible. My son went into a dark fae kingdom and hit the defenses like this one by one and was forced to deal with an onrush of Turned and Twisted feeding. The history shows it as a minor plague of smallpox, but it was ugly and my son killed himself when it was over because of all the innocents that had been killed. We’ll want to have Josh, Tom, Mike and Steve here and take it slow. Fortunately we are at the beginning of the moon cycle.” “The werewolf said that the monster would probably hunt me.”

“If you are the heir and a threat, it probably will. The problem with that is that a hunt over near the farm would almost certainly end in the monster’s death and that might trigger the rest of the defenses to go active. Especially if you are still alive and you probably will be. If things are not resolved by the next moon cycle I think that you should take a trip down to the Cape. The trip should be arranged discreetly so that the monster would not be able to find you during the moon cycle.”

Eli came in and Noro said, “Eli, Scott here had a very interesting conversation with our werewolf this morning. Why don’t we go to lunch and discuss it.”

We went over to Angelo’s in one of the big cars and discussed my little trip and its implications. After lunch I ran errands for Noro with Bob in the truck. After I told him what happened he said, “From now on, we stay together until this is resolved. That way Ed has to deal with both of us.” “I don’t think that we will be dealing with Ed. I get the feeling that he wants to stay out of things and not take an active role unless he gets direct orders to go after somebody. That somebody would be Uncle Tom and he isn’t even here.”

“So all we have to deal with is the clowns and Jacob.”

Jacob must have discovered that Uncle Tom was away, because he was nowhere to be seen today. Hopefully he would stay home for the rest of the week. The idea of being his heir was not something that I was looking forward too.

On the way home, Eli shared the truck with me. “I looked into those places and Noro is right about taking it slow. What a bunch of pestholes. How could they not notice?” “They weren’t paying attention and weren’t attacked because the attacks all came our way. Thanks to the dark wanting Uncle Tom so much, we bled the Twisted. Those places were shielded and if Ed hadn’t taken me straight into the shields I wouldn’t have spotted them.”

“What I want to know is, if these are defenses, what are they defending?”

“Something very bad. I’m going to talk to my friends over here after the wedding and figure out if there’s something that’s been weird and strange for a very long time. We can also talk to Helmut and the rest. Whatever is here must be very important.”

“We’ve all been looking for it and not finding it, so it must have tight shields. When we go back tomorrow, why don’t we poke a bit for shields.” “That’s not going to be easy because the Martins use a lot of them and they are all over the place. We ran into that when we started to go over there a couple of years ago when we started to play fun and games with them over there. Their houses and even places they don’t use anymore like that old academy have shields.” “Old academy?” “A big private boarding school that the Martins had. They shut it down about ten years ago and the kids since then just went to the public school. For that matter, the Martins don’t have a lot of kids right now because most of the kids are a bit older like George and the two clowns. Our family is a bit more spread out and Uncle Tom’s will be the youngest. Not that we will see them very often.”

“You’ll probably see them more than you think. It’s not that unusual for a mermaid to go inland while her kids grow up for the experience. I suspect that Chrissie is looking forward to that.”

“That’s going to be interesting. Poor Uncle Tom is going to get stuck in suits from now on too. Now that he is a big wheel, he won’t be able to stop them from keeping him there. When he came back from Pratt last year and just set up the shop, I think he didn’t push for jobs because he was afraid that people would give him so much work that he would have to hire people and be out of the shop. He had plenty of work already. Bob and I will probably get some of that, at least Larry’s stuff in the beginning.”

“What about the other things. The bed tanks, for instance.”

“If what I saw going on about that is true, that’s going to be quite a business for a while. It’s a good thing that Bob and I live up here or we would never be let alone. The bed tanks probably came more from Chrissie than Tom. But Tom is going to have to carry the thing or he’s in real trouble. Every mermaid that even hears about the thing wants one. Which is weird for something we just threw together for Chrissie until we could get the pool finished.”

“Eltra might have changed her mind.”

“That was Aunt Stephie and her games. She and Al have been going at it for years and he should have come up with something other than whales after Tom did them. Dolphins or butterflies maybe.”

“They declared peace.”

“Only until the next time. Which more than likely will be at the wedding, though from what Chrissie said, the whales will show up on their own.”

“So what do you think that Tom is going to do to Jacob?”

“He was talking to us about a bigger Tony and Jacob’s stables. Lizzie and I are going over to look over her horse before we go down with you all to the wedding. I’m taking a camera. The academy isn’t that far away.”

“We missed Sal’s party. At least I did. Theresa snuck in by working for Bennie. From what she said, it was a riot and I am so glad that we didn’t miss your little shindig.”

“That was fun, even though for Bob and I it was a fair amount of work. We didn’t have to work very much for Sal’s party.”

“That shoot was very well put together.”

“We’ve been doing them for some time now. The only problem I have right now is that we will need constructs for May. Probably a lot of them. My contact doesn’t like to sell that many at one time, but we’re going to need at least thirty and maybe more for the May shoot. Josh said that he wants a shoot as well, so that could be even more about the same time. We don’t know how they are made, so we don’t know just how many we should expect from one source. Hilda and Athena cleaned out that other guy, but he was getting his jars from the same source.”

“Well you can tell your source now that you will be the only large buyers. I expect that the people that the Director had that used them are out of the picture or soon will be.”

We continued to talk about things as we crossed the ferry and I dropped him off at the house on my way home.

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