Mermaid, Chapter 22, part 1.

Things are going to heat up from now on. The Olympics are coming and the other side is starting to fall apart and get desperate. For now though we have the folks going back to New York for Sal’s upcoming wedding.

Chapter 22.


Tuesday 12/29.

Bob and I had to do something that neither of us really liked to do. We had to talk to our construct supplier. We hadn’t told our aunts about him, not because we were afraid that they would bust him, but because he might piss them off and they would shoot him. Not that he wouldn’t deserve it, but as sleazy as he was, he was reliable when it came to getting the constructs we needed. At least until recently. The problem was that he would only sell us ten jars a month and we had just gone through over forty of them in the last few weeks. We hadn’t bought any from him this month yet, so we would probably get our ten, but it was looking like we would have two shoots coming in May and if Boris needed training he was going to be out of luck. We had tried Aunt Hilda’s source, but he was in the same boat. We did buy the six that the clowns hadn’t, but he wasn’t sure that he could get the jars we needed either. So it was back to Ronny and the sleazy girls joint that he ran. He saw us walk in and said, “I only have ten for you.”

“Ronny, you won’t have any other customers,” Bob said. “The Feds put them out of the picture.”

“How do I know that the Feds won’t put you out of the picture.”

“Ronny, here’s our shootlist for last Saturday.” I handed him the list. He started to read down the list and after a few seconds looked rather boggled.

“You’re kidding, right? You just made this list up.”

“Nope, the Director was there. Along with a bunch of his people for training. He wanted to check out Bill’s special training for enhanced adversaries. That’s part of the problem. We need 100 jars for the next six months. We have two shoots working in May so far, and the training. With the seventy jars you sell us we will be short. Even with some extra jars and the guy up the lake getting bought out, we went through over thirty jars for the shoot. We got lucky and the guy up the lake hadn’t sold any jars for four months, but we need to be able to know what we can plan for. If you won’t sell us more, tell us who your supplier is so we can talk to them. We won’t cut you out, but we need a better picture so that we can plan the shoots better. This isn’t some let the construct off and watch them run anymore. We had a hundred people as ticket payers and almost as many from my Aunt Chrissie’s party as well as fifteen people for Bill’s training. I want to be able to give all those guys a construct to shoot. We couldn’t do that this time.”

“I’ll talk to the guy. He doesn’t like to talk to new people. He’s been around a long time and even other fae bother him. So the answer might be no.”

Bob looked out the window. “Crap. Scott, the two clowns showed up with three of their friends. They’ve blocked the way out.”

“Ronny, call the Sheriff. I suspect that these boys are looking for trouble.”

He looked out the window. “Some of the Martin kids. Throwing their weight around again. You make the call. That way I can honestly say that I had nothing to do with it. They are my landlord and you know what they are like. I’d move across the lake, but the girls can’t leave their bondeds and they have their jobs over here.”

He handed me the phone and I told the operator to connect me to the sheriff’s office. “Mazie, this is Scott, is Bill available? Some of the Martin boys look as if they want to start a fight. Along with three of their friends. We’re at Ronnies.”

“I’ll send some people right down. Don’t start anything, but if they do start it, bring them back here. We may not hold them for long, but at least we can make their parents come down and pick them up, again.”

“Call the White’s office and tell them what’s happening. We may be a bit late for work.”

I hung up the phone. Bob said, “Let’s get outside so that they don’t come in here and break Ronnie’s place up.”

We walked out front. It was Victor and Adam, along with three of their friends. “Hi Victor. Would you mind moving your car so that we can go on with our business?” Bob said. “We don’t want to be late for work.”

“What will you do if we don’t?”

“Nothing. But my boss won’t like it and you don’t want to piss him off. Not if you like having something to drink other than soda pop. That is if you don’t like bathtub gin.”

“We’re here to make a citizen’s arrest, aren’t we boys. You’re dealing in contraband.”


“Construct jars. After all you confiscated them from us.”

“We did that to prevent you from causing a disturbance like your uncle George did. You know that’s why you came over. At that, you got off lightly. We lost another deputy and a navy officer and had you actually launched those constructs, the Feds would have come down on you like a ton of bricks. Trust me on this, we saved you two a ton of grief. Your grandfather can tell you who was at our little party last weekend. Stopping you and sending you back was doing you a favor.”

Adam said, “You can do us a favor, you can dance for us.”

Followed by all of them trying to compel Bob and I. Which was just stupid because George was stronger than they were. Bob looked at them. “Are all of you that stupid?”

They started to itch and scratch. Victor started to pull at something and I snapped off one the little tubes filled with water in my pocket. A hole appeared in the door of their car. Watching a place can get pretty boring and Nera had proven to be a willing teacher of water magic. We would never be as strong as mer, but we could still do certain things. “I think something messed up your car, Victor. Your parents might be upset if they have to buy another one so soon.”

The itching was getting worse and it looked excruciating. Bob said, “You two were lucky the other day that Uncle Tom can’t even feel you trying to compel him. If he had, you would be dead right now. There’s also the fact that you tried to kill him. That was really stupid, because pissing him off meant that he wasn’t going to come after you, but your grandfather and the rest of your family using everything he had. Considering who he had visiting on Saturday, what could have happened would have been very bad for you all. He calmed down when he realized certain things that I don’t think that a certain relative of yours wants to have spread around. Why don’t you go home before I tell your friends those things.”

“What are you talking about?” Adam said.

“You know what I’m talking about and if I keep going, he’s not going to be happy with you. Not that he is already. Or have you told your friends already?”

The friends were looking at Adam curiously. I said to them, ‘You three better just go ahead and leave before you hear something that can get you killed. Trust me, these two are not worth what you are risking right now. “

“You two would kill us?”

“If we wanted you dead, you already would be, just from reflecting the compulsions. What will kill you if you look much deeper into this is something that the boys here wouldn’t want us talking about out loud and you don’t want to be in a position where somebody might get the idea that you heard something that you shouldn’t have.” They looked more than a little scared and started to inch toward their car. Victor looked at them and said, “where are you three going?”

“We’ll see you two later. You didn’t say anything about getting killed.”

They got in their cars and left very quickly. That was a good thing for them as we could hear sirens approaching rapidly. Bob must have locked Victor and Adam as they stopped moving. “What a bunch of idiots. I thought we would have to work to convince you two to try to compel us and you just showed up and did it. Since you wanted us to dance, why don’t we see what you can do.”

They started to dance and frankly it was just pathetic in every way. Bill and two other cars from the sheriff’s department showed up along with a car from White’s and Bob let the two clowns go. Bill said, “We saw their three friends going the other way.”

“The talking was going in directions that were too hot for them,” I said. “So they left.”

“What about these two?”

“They were blathering about some sort of citizen’s arrest and confiscating property which was really stupid, because as far as I know, they are not deputized.”

“No they are not. If you boys want to push, we can go for obstruction.”

“We were not doing police work other than acquisition of training materials, so that doesn’t apply.” “Well we’ll use the obstruction charge to get them to the office so that their parents can pick them up, again. That way we don’t have to involve Ronny. I wish that their parents would tell them to get jobs, but they don’t. The White’s people said that they would have somebody keep an eye on them, if you know what I mean. Noro wants you two at the office, soonest.”

They left, taking the clown’s cars with them and we turned around and went back inside.

“Thanks boys. Take the jars and I will talk to my source.”

“If you need to have a convincing argument, point out that the constructs that we use aren’t going to have Feds looking for him. Right now, there are Feds who would very much like to know where constructs are coming from and are looking into that. We know them and they can be very good friends or very bad enemies. Those constructs have been used in the past to kill people and help with mass murder. If we hadn’t been buying and using constructs the only way the Feds would have seen the connection is in that light.”

“I’ll tell him. As I said, he’s been around for a very long time and he’s squirrely. But if you’re right about how the Feds see what he’s doing, then talking with you is probably a good choice.” “Look at it this way. The Feds treat liquor in different ways. But the people they go after the hardest are the people that make the booze that kills people. Right now he’s sitting with those guys. There’s also the fact that the people who have been using constructs use them to kill people like us. All of us. They want all the fae either Turned or dead. We need to get going.”

We got back in the car and went over to the office. When we walked in, Noro smiled at us and said, “I heard that you boys had a little altercation this morning.”

“We were talking to our construct jar supplier about the quantity that he was selling us and those two grandsons of Jacob’s showed up with some friends to try to push us around,” I said. “They made the mistake of trying to compel us and now they belong to us for a while. George was lucky that we didn’t care very much about him until Andy was taken. These two clowns are a different story.”

“Now that you have them, what are you going to do with them?”

I grinned “Any ideas?”

“Many, and we have that long train ride tomorrow to discuss them. I expect that we can use them to provide much entertainment if we do things correctly. I object to using compulsions a general rule, but reflection is a different story.”

“If we had tried to compel them, it probably wouldn’t have worked,” Bob said. Most of the fae around here are immune by the time we are thirteen or so. For that matter, so is everybody else. At least most of the people on our side of the lake are. On this side, maybe that’s not true. In any case, just whipping them out like that was just plain stupid. Especially since they knew who we were.”

“The dark tends to go toward the stupid. Probably because the dark prefers force over persuasion. Well we have tasks and little time, so let’s get started.”

Noro had us going around to the various people and getting his updated reports for Uncle Tom to go over on Friday and Saturday. The good thing was that Vinnie’s people had gone over the bobsleigh track and it was ready to go. We went over everything with Vinnie and a camera with Uncle Tom’s list. When we were done I looked at Vinnie and grinned. “This will make Uncle Tom happy. He was worried that somebody might get themselves killed and a lot of other people were worried that things weren’t going to be ready. You saw a bunch of them on Saturday.” “That got old real fast. That’s one reason that the boys and I wanted to make sure that this was done. I want to rub those snooty clown’s faces in the fact that we can be as good at things as they are. Better, because they’ve been doing this stuff for a very long time and we’re just starting out.”

“I know. If I heard yet another accent from over there saying how crude we were, I was going to puke. I have to go. I’ll see you.”

We went on to our next stop. We stopped at the office and dumped off our reports. After that we dropped into Antonio’s for lunch and went on to finish going around and collecting the reports and taking pictures, finishing a bit before three o, clock. Lizzie and I were going to drop by the stables and Bob and Eli were going to do a discreet poke around while we were there.

I picked up Lizzie and we went over to the Martin’s stables. On the way over we passed an electric company truck working on a line. There had been an ice storm over here and they were still patching things up. We drove into the stables and over to the stable that had Lizzie’s horse in it as Bob and Eli passed us in Uncle Tom’s truck. Jacob had three stables and a barn and while the paint looked good, if you knew what you were looking at, the buildings were not in good shape. With the exception of the stone barn we didn’t use, none of the buildings at our place were allowed to get in this shape. I took some pictures and more of Lizzie as she brought Trudy out. We had discussed taking Trudy over to the farm and had decided that we didn’t want to make that statement quite yet. Trudy was a very happy horse, if not as bright as ‘Nia. I took some more pictures and fell in love with Lizzie all over again. Then I was reminded of the downside of our relationship by, “Scott, what are you doing here!?”

“Grandfather, he drove me over to look at Trudy before we go down to the city and go to a wedding.” “Well get out, get out now!” “Ok, Mr. Martin, I’ll leave. Lizzie, I’ll be out front with the car.”

“Grandfather, you apologize to Scott right now! He is here as my guest and my bonded. You can’t treat your family that way!”

“This is my place and I can throw him out!”

I got in the car and drove back out front and parked the car to wait. I looked at the truck and recognized the guys on the pole and the ground. They were the guys that were working on the electric lines when Bob and I did the phone work in town. Since Lizzie was going to be a while, I decided to go over and talk with them. “Hey, Don, still chasing that storm?”

“Hi Scott. We still have a few customers out. Though why we’re doing this one is beyond me. But I don’t write the work orders, just fill them. We could have used you this week.” “ We got stuck with doing work for my new relatives. They got stuck with the games and the old man wanted family for certain things that he didn’t want certain people poking their noses into. What’s wrong with this line?”

“The only customer on this line is that old academy and that place has been abandoned for years. Who would call in a work order for a dead line? Let alone give it priority.”

“Jacob probably. It’s his place.”

“And he’s crazy enough to want the lights on in a place he doesn’t use. At least Tom isn’t taking any of his crap. Tom made a lot of friends last week.”

I took a picture of them to show where they were and a picture of the academy through the trees. I looked at the driveway into the academy. The driveway had been cleared by somebody. There were also a lot of car tracks for a place that was supposed to be empty. I took another picture. When I was done with that, Bob and Eli showed up and I walked over to the truck. “I just discovered something interesting.”

“What?” Eli asked.

“That line they are fixing is the power for the academy. A place that hasn’t been used supposedly for ten years. But look at the driveway.”

“That is very interesting indeed.”

“A lot of traffic for a place that’s empty,” Bob said. “We should check it out.”

“Not right now. Jacob is at the stables. That’s why I’m out here. Jacob threw me out. There’s Lizzie, so we can head back.”

I walked back to the car where Lizzie was waiting. “Grandmother is going to hear about this! That was just rude!”

I pulled the car onto the road behind Uncle Tom’s truck and drove off down the road. “I don’t mind. It’s not worth getting excited about and we did throw him out of our place on Saturday.” “Because he was being a nuisance in front of your uncle’s guests. Guests that were very important. Not that they seemed to be upset. The Director couldn’t stop laughing at grandfather and his blathering.”

“He didn’t did he. The only person that was upset was Suki and that was because she missed it. It’s a good thing that she and Tochi are going down with us. Or maybe not. Lizzie, does somebody use the academy for anything?”

“Not that I know of. It was supposed to be condemned and dangerous. That’s why we all started to go to public school. Grandfather insisted that we all stay away and put a strong aversion on the place to keep random people out. As far as I know, nobody goes near the place.”

Somebody was using the place for something. We wouldn’t get to it today, but I wanted to know who put in that request for a priority work order. I drove Lizzie back home so that we could pick up her suitcase and we drove over to the ferry and the farm. When I got back, I dropped into my dad’s darkroom. “Dad, could you develop this roll before we leave?”

“What’s on it?”

“Pictures of Jacob’s stables for Uncle Tom, pictures of Trudy and Lizzie and some pictures that Tom and everybody else will probably want to see. The stables are next door to the academy and for a place that is supposed to be abandoned there was a lot of activity going on.”

“That is interesting. Very interesting indeed. We’ve all noticed something very wrong over there and you had your little tour with Ed yesterday. I think that Tom and Helmut will be very interested in a place that’s supposed to be shut down, but isn’t. I’ll start on these right after dinner.”


Wednesday 12/30.

After breakfast, Bill took me into the city. I was dressed in my good suit and I had several stops to make. The first was White’s where I was meeting with some people about getting the tank beds started up. Josh came in with me to talk to Lou about the games and after I was done they called me in. When I walked into Lou’s office, Lou grinned and said, “Here’s the man that saved the Olympics.” “I didn’t save them. I just got that permit squared away. Miss Vicky did the work. Indian Affairs did not like what happened.” “Then you got rid of Mr. Martin.”

“Not like I wanted. The man was all over me with his craziness all week. I can’t even blame his compulsions for that. The problem is that I don’t want to shoot him, but the man keeps coming back for more. Noro and I are pursuing some ideas and Eli and Theresa will probably have more when they come down.” “Noro kept them up there longer than I expected.” “We found some things right before we left and I asked him to because they hadn’t been connected to us. There is something very wrong up there.”

“Noro said the same thing, which is why I called them in. Of course you know that they will have been looking at you operate and Noro too for their other clients.” “I gave them a big pile of stuff for one particular client. I want to shake that client up a bit. Though after yesterday, if he isn’t really shaken up, he’s an idiot. I also imagine that they did very well at Chrissie’s little party.”

“The party we couldn’t make it to. Was it as fun as it looked, Josh?”

“Don’t ask me. I was inside, doing deals and being made to circulate by my wife. Chrissie managed to get out there with the real party. Ask Tom. He was outside with the rest.”

“It was as fun as it looked, Lou. I don’t think that we will be doing another one, though. The boys are planning another shoot after planting is done in May and most of the people on the guest list are already planning to be there. You’ll have to talk to them about that. The limit, from the noises the boys were making seems to be constructs. They are at the limit of how many they can get their hands on. They are probably working to change that.”

“How was Noro? I hadn’t really planned to drop the games on him, but I’m glad that it happened.” “So am I,” Josh said. “We were struggling to keep him from relapse from time to time. Once he was involved, that changed in a hurry. Tom was a big help because he made such a good front and kept the busybodies out of our hair. That party went a longer way toward that than you realize, Tom.”

“I know. I kept getting questions about the games from embassy people who had heard the rumors and were glad that we seemed to have things under control. The fact that they also knew that they could come to me for certain discreet arrangements helped a lot. I’m not sure who told them that I was the go to guy for booze though.”

“Probably Big Jim. You make a more logical contact than I do at that level. Then there was the booze at the party that was all top shelf stuff.” “That was left over from the wedding.” “I know, but it was also the stuff that nobody else had. That told them that you had a connection. They didn’t know that the connection was me and I’m happy to keep it that way.”

“What if the Feds come after me?”

“For what? You were never in contact with the booze and they couldn’t push at the inn because it has diplomatic immunity, just like all the other places will. Frankly the Feds in our area won’t want to make a nuisance of themselves with Chrissie because of what Mera would do to them. To say nothing of Miss Vicky now.”

“Who’s Miss Vicky?” Lou asked.

“The White House office manager,” I said. “Nobody and I mean nobody wants to piss her off.”

“I think I can understand why. Is she fae?”

“I’m not sure. She has never said, but there are hints. She certainly has no problem relating with fae concerns and issues. I’m not about to come out and ask her.”

I looked at the clock. “I need to get going to my next appointment. My publisher wants to meet with me and take me to lunch. It will probably be a very expensive lunch not at Bennies, though I will suggest it.”

“I think you are right about that,” Lou said. “Are you going to need a car?”

“No. I’m just going down to the newsletter office to pick up the contract and then over to the publishers. The newsletter people vetted the contract, so I won’t worry about it too much. It’s found money as far as I’m concerned.”

“The way that book is everywhere, a big chunk of found money.”

“I know. At least I won’t get the check until next year.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Josh said. “Millie up at the Cape is handling your taxes. Frankly you haven’t been paid anything except for your shop work, which Millie contacted your dad about and the boat work you did with me and on your boat for those three weeks. Helmut and Noro will probably pay you a consulting fee for the business with the Manager and we will work out something for the Olympics. But since you haven’t seen any of the money yet, don’t worry about it. You can also write off your boat because that is a legitimate business expense. From what Millie said, you are a null as far as the IRS is concerned. Next year will be a different story. But you already had a corporation for your gun work and that will work for us.”

“I need to go. I will see you two tonight at Bennies.” I went down to the newsletter office and talked with Stacey and Bill about the contract. Stacey said, “since there was no advance, you start out straight with royalties. If they try to play any games, refer them to the business office at the Cape. Daisy and Millie will set them straight in a hurry. This looks good, though and you saved their butts from what Bill told me this morning.”

“You did, Tom,” Bill said. “They couldn’t afford a turkey and they had one. They had made several bad purchases last year and two or three this year. They needed a winner for Christmas and you gave them one. They will also want another book from you next year.” “I figured that. I also want to know who told them about the trouble kits.” “That was us, I’m afraid. When they knew to contact us, they wanted a tool list from you and we sent them the trouble kit list that Tim had given us. The toy company used it and made up the kits minus the explosives and the camera. The publishing company is handling the royalties from them pending a contract from you. It’s covered in your contract and that makes things easier for you.”

I put the contract in a folder, took the elevator downstairs and grabbed a cab to the publisher’s building. When I went up to the desk I took out one of my cards from my shop and said, “I’m Tom Benton. I have an appointment with Mr, Dennison. The introduction turned out to be unnecessary as she took one look and me and looked at the paper on her desk, which had my picture with Sal’s on the front page. “Mr. Benton, I will let him know that you are here, go right ahead to the tenth floor. My son will be upset that I didn’t tell him that you were coming. Are you planning a signing or bookstore visit?” “Not at present. I’ve been very busy recently working for my family.”

“Well, they are waiting so go right up.”

I went over to the elevator and the elevator operator took me up to the tenth floor. There were three men and a woman waiting for me. “Mr. Benton, I am Reginald Dennison, the publisher for childrens fiction and nonfiction, this is my editor, Laurie Stovers and my art director Donald Voture. I am so pleased to meet you at last. You were a hard person to get a hold of.”

“That was a bit of an accident. I was busy with something involving a relative when I had the books printed up. I also was between fixed addresses and getting involved with my wife’s family in various things. You were looking for me right when my life had gone sideways. It still is.”

“Mr. White is part of your family?”

“He’s my wife’s grandfather. Of course he was a recluse and being very private when I met my wife and I had no clue who he was. My future father in law was playing games too, playing a simple waterman, just giving me a job because I looked hungry while trying to hook me up with his daughter. That didn’t work until she took direct action and showed up in my boat.” “That sounds like a story. Why don’t we go to the conference room, so that you don’t start to attract attention.”

We went over into the conference room. “Do you think that I will attract attention?”

“You must have come by cab. Otherwise I doubt that you would have gotten here without attracting the attention of at least one reporter. Especially since you were with the Troubleshooter yesterday.”

“That was work, actually. My father in law again. He wanted somebody in the family that could get company resources on an emergency basis. Since I was already handling the Olympics, I was delegated. Though Sal and I are friends. We met during some things going on up at the Cape.”

“That was some party you put on,” Laurie said. ‘How did you arrange that?” “My wife did. I goofed and got involved with that kidnapping and extortion ring that took my sister in law’s son so I couldn’t correct the goof. What happened was that when my mother in law was setting up the wedding invitations, I forgot to give her my address book from my time as a congressional staffer and she didn’t know to invite a bunch of people that I should have known to invite. Then we were working with the FBI and others surrounding the kidnapping of my nephew, so I didn’t have time to go and get the book and it was so buried that I doubt that anybody else could find it. During our honeymoon, I took my wife up to my family’s farm and she found the book when I hauled out some things. Since the family is planning to open an inn anyway, she decided to send wedding announcements and party invitations.”

“How did she arrange things so fast?”

“That was one of the things that her family didn’t tell me until after we were engaged. They have been running a big chunk of the vacation and hospitality business up there at the Cape for a long time. Putting the party together was a case of a couple of phone calls to her uncle and some leftovers from our wedding. The other half was my family getting the chef and restaurant that they are opening at the inn they purchased and rebuilt earlier in the year to do the catering and my nephews putting together one of their shoots. That has apparently been a very good business for them. As for who’s paying for the whole thing, I have no clue as nobody will tell me. I suspect that it will come out of several business accounts considering how much business was done there. My nephews more than likely made money from their shoot.”

“When I first encountered the book, it almost seemed like it was written by a young man, but the drawings were very adult.”

“I started to learn to draw when I was young because I had a neighbor that insisted that I draft what I was going to make. He taught me a lot of things that made making things work. So drawing has always been a part of that. I also had to be careful with the tracings when I made the first book and its copy.” “You made a copy, why?”

“That goes into why I made the book in the first place. When I was about ten or so, my sister, who is ten years older than I am started to poke me to try to explore myself. But the things she was poking me about were things that I couldn’t do and I started to make tricks and gags to get back at her and scare her rather snooty friends. From what I know now that was an utter failure. It only made her poke me even more for yet more tricks and gags with her friends laughing along with her. But I wanted to make sure that the book and its contents were safe, so I hid a copy in the shop.”

“Why did you have those copies made in that print shop?” Reginald asked. “I don’t think that you were planning to publish.”

“When my wife and I visited the farm to introduce her to my parents, my sister started up our games again and gave us a rather brutal wake up one morning with a skillet. That warranted retaliation and since I was slightly injured I had a free shot. Since Christmas was coming, I thought that some presents would be appropriate. Since she has always been trying to get the book I figured that I would let her sons and other family members have the book. Along with some tools and whatnot to make sure that her boys could make use of the book. I figured that I could get hours of entertainment from that. It turned out that I ended up teaching her kids, my other nephews and all their friends how to make things. So I had hours of entertainment, just not the kind I expected.”

“That’s wonderful!” Laurie said. “Do you have pictures?”

“Oh, yes. I will put my wife in touch with your people. She took pictures of the whole thing.”

“The tools and whatnot, that was the trouble kits?” Donald asked. “That was a very clever way to put the whole thing together and get boys in trouble.”

“That was the idea. I had the idea for my sister’s boys and when my nephew was kidnapped, built one up so that he could do “fun stuff” with his kidnappers and managed to get it to him. He and some other kids they had taken drove the people holding them nuts. I don’t know what they are up to at the farm right now, but I expect that somebody up there will find out.”

“Let me guess, Mr Martin,” Reginald said. “The little war he kicked off has made the society pages. He’s losing badly after your little party.”

“I was not trying to do anything other than do the job that my father in law and his father in law dumped on me. After the parade the Saturday before last, my father in law made it very clear that the man was not to come near the games until they were over other than as a spectator. Yet there he was all over me like glue while I’m handling high level negotiations of a very delicate sort, labor negotiations, international relations and the press. It was supposed to be my honeymoon. So my wife, being rather annoyed at the man, has my address book and uses it to prove what small potatoes the man is.”

“You seem to do a lot with radio row, Laurie said, “Could we arrange a shopping trip with a photographer?”

“I did one yesterday with my sister in law and a reporter I know, Tim Thomas. He can provide you with pictures.”

“We’ll contact him. At the World, I expect. He’s made quite a splash lately.”

“We’re running out of time,” Reginald said. “Do you have any questions about the contract?”

“My sister in law and the people at White’s didn’t have any trouble with it. I’ll sign it right now.”

I pulled the contract out and signed it. “Send the checks to this address. It’s the business office on the Cape. I don’t think that I will be there for a while as much as I would like to be. My sisters gave me a new shop for a wedding present and I haven’t even set foot in it for longer than ten minutes.”

“Have you given any thoughts to another book?” Laurie asked. “We would love to work with you on a project. Especially since you are working with kids already.”

“I bought a trouble pack yesterday. I’m planning to use it for some ideas. I want to stay in bounds for stuff that might go into a book. I also want to do some things about setting up a small shop. Right now this is something that is going to have to be a “when I can” project because my time has been taken by other responsibilities.”

“I’ll talk with your business office,” Donald said. “I think I can find a draftsman and a part time artist to work with you and get things drawn up from your sketches. I have a feeling that your time is going to be tied up with the business more than you think.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of. I just wanted a little shop and to run my boat in the Summer. My wife’s family led me to believe that that was all there was to it. No big responsibilities, million dollar businesses and big jobs with staff. Then we get engaged and there it all was, one thing right after another.”

“Well it’s about lunch time, so why don’t we take you to lunch. Do you have a place you prefer in town?”

“I do, but it’s in South Brooklyn. So you pick the place.”

“We don’t really have time right now for a place like that,” Laurie said. “you have intrigued us though. Where is this place?” “It’s called Bennies. It’s down near Coney Island. The food there is magical.”

“Now you have really intrigued us. There are rumors going around about that place. When we talk again, we will make time.”

We went downstairs and went to a place that was about what I expected. The food was good, but it wasn’t up to the Bennies standard. After lunch I said my good byes and took a cab down to the bureau. I had arranged to meet with Al and Tim there to get the pictures for the Troubleshooter puppet show. Al asked, “How did it go?”

“I think I’m in trouble. They were concerned about people chasing after me. They said that if I hadn’t taken a cab, that a reporter would have locked on to me.”

Tim smiled and said, “one did.”

“I’m not sure that you count. They will be in touch with you about those pictures you took of me shopping. They will also be in touch with Chrissie about the pictures she took of me and the kids. Do you have the pictures?” “Yes I do, they came out very well indeed. I even have some of Jimmy.”

He handed me the pictures. They had come out very well. There was even a very nice picture with Sal in front of the building as it went up in flames. “These will do very well.”

We said good bye to Mary and went down and caught the subway to Al’s shop. There weren’t any reporters chasing us and when we arrived at the shop, we could get right to work. While Al made the modifications to the parts that had come in and Tim took yet more pictures I glued the pictures of Sal, Jimmy, Al and some mob types to the metal sheets and covered them with the lacquer left over from the Jacob show. Finally we ran the thing through its paces and tweaked it until it worked. That was when Chrissie showed up with Stacey, a truck, Tochi and Suki and Noro and Mary. After I ran it for them, some men that Noro had brought with him packed it into a truck and the rest of the guys took the cars that Noro had brought to Bennies for Sal’s batchelor party while the ladies went to Sal’s for the bride’s party. The party at Bennie’s was a riot, Joe had arranged for a giant paper cake and one of Sillia’s friends who had just bonded danced right out the top.

After the party, we went back to the house and when Chrissie and I slipped into the water there were some boats going off at the school. The fish did not seem to be very frightened at all. Chrissie said, “They apparently wanted to give Andy and Gregor a welcome back.”

“Apparently.” “How did it go today?”

“Busy. They will be contacting you for the pictures of the class. Try to keep Tochi out of it.” “That’s not going to be easy. After Wednesday, he was there more than you were.” “He didn’t have to deal with the daily Jacob.”

“Well Jacob isn’t here and we can enjoy the weekend.”


Wednesday 12/30.

It was time for us all to head back into the city. I arranged to have Scott and Elizabeth in the car with Mary and I for the trip to the railroad station. Scott was becoming rather anxious about the fact that he was Jacob’s heir. I didn’t want to tell him that he would likely be taking over the kingdom sooner than he might imagine. I wasn’t sure what would happen with Jacob’s compulsions, but the kinds of compulsions and what they did in the long run and the fact that Jacob was constantly fighting them were not going to be good for Jacob’s health and I wasn’t sure what his keystone would do once Edward was gone. So I needed to talk to them both. “Scott, do you think that Jacob had a reason to throw you out of the stables?”

“Other than being grandfather?” Elizabeth asked. “The strange thing is that the stables are more or less considered a common property like the academy was. The reason they are so close together was that at one time the students kept their horses at the stables. Grandfather has had them mostly to himself because most of us don’t bother with horses and just have cars.”

“It seems to be a strange coincidence that he shows up and throws Scott out right in front of the people working on the lines. For that matter, if he is compelled and fighting them, a lot of things he did make sense. Doing what he did in front of us attracted attention to things that his compulsions wouldn’t want us to look at. He couldn’t come out and tell Scott that the academy was active, but he could throw Scott out right in front of the place. Whatever else he is, Jacob is still a royal fae and even when we are compelled, we fight them. The problem is that that tends not to end well for the fae involved.” “Grandfather could die?”

“It’s possible that once the compulsions are gone that the keystone will sever and he could have a stroke.” “Like that butler at the Managers.” Scott grimaced. “Lizzie, when Sal pulled the butler’s compulsions, he died from a stroke.” “Yes. He probably wasn’t fae, but he was under very strong compulsions for a very long time and may have been fighting them for the whole time.”

“So if Edward goes then Jacob may follow,” Scott said. “Leaving me where? I may be the heir as far as the keystone is concerned but I imagine that the family won’t be happy with that.”

“I don’t think that it will be that big a problem. Or the keystone will sever all the people that can’t agree with it and drive them away. I imagine that it will drive away our two friends fairly quickly.”

“What about the money issues?”

“You and Bob are already better at that than most of Jacob’s family. I had Eli look into that and while they are not hurting they are not growing either. Had the Olympics actually failed they might have been in worse trouble than they realized. The thing with Antonio was not an isolated case. Of course some of that may come from the compulsions. Still Jacob’s lack of business sense has not helped the family.” “Why did this happen to us?” Elizabeth asked. “We never wanted trouble.” “The dark doesn’t care what you want. I wasn’t there when the dark started its march over there across the sea. The things that destroyed the fae over there killed all of them first so that they could stop the changes that were coming. They cannot adapt. We can and I think that that has been your family’s problem. Even before Edward went over sea, your family had stopped adapting. I’ve heard that commented about both by Scott’s family and yours. The fact that so many in your family are so fascinated with Tom’s tricks is a case in point. Bob and Scott want to learn what Tom knows and grow from that. None of your family seems to be wanting to as well, though that may just be a generational issue. I imagine that George and Hazel’s kids will be right there with the rest of the kids over at Eric’s. We are here at the station, so it is time to disembark and continue our journey. We will discuss this at length, later. Scott, talk to Mary and Helmut about this well.”

I hoped that I had them thinking in the correct directions. They were both very young. Unfortunately the circumstances were such that they were probably going to be forced fairly quickly into new roles. I didn’t imagine that my grandson was going to wait very long before dealing with Edward and he had the resources to deal with all the Twisted that we had seen and Boris, Bill and Hilda would be there as well. For that matter, Tom would be involved and he was no stranger to creating chaos and distraction.

Eli and Theresa were there waiting with Bob, Eric, Greta, Hilda, Bill, Andy, Athena, Gregor, Stephie and her kids, and Tochi, and Suki, along with his guards and Sumitomo. The railroad had attached a special car for the prince and we were going to use it since sleeping cars were not going to be required for our trip to the city. The train arrived and we all got onboard. Hilda said to Scott once we sat down, “I hear that you have some interesting photographs from yesterday.”

He handed them over. “Jacob threw me out of the stables and there was a crew working on the power for the academy.” “Were they just cleaning up after the storm or were there more customers on the line?”

“I asked. No and no. Then there was the drive. Somebody had plowed it and there were a lot of car tracks in and out for a place that was supposed to be abandoned and full of aversions. So I took some pictures.”

“You didn’t take a closer look?”

“Jacob was there. I didn’t want him seeing what I was looking as if I was serious. I figure that we can look more discreetly at the place later. I want to come into it from the woods anyway.”

“You’re not worried about Ed?”

“Somewhat. But he’s a known quantity and if I go in with Bill or Ralph along with Bob, I suspect that he won’t even know we were there. Or he’ll warn us off, which will be telling us what we really want to know anyway. I’m more worried about running into a Twisted nest than Ed.”

“Bob and I found some hints when we were driving around,” Eli said. “How we drove around for weeks and missed all that is beyond me. But all those places were shielded. The shields leaked, but until we knew what to look for, we were stymied. We’re lucky that Ed and Jacob are both unwilling servants of the dark.”

“If Bob and Scott’s little altercation yesterday morning is a clue, the next generation may have had some that were no longer unwilling,” I said.

“George seems to have reformed,” Greta said. ‘Maybe those two need to be troubleshot and then handed over to Tony and Robert for reeducation.”

“I don’t think that George was in as deep as those two. For instance he didn’t know about Edward. If he did, he would have been far less willing to talk even after Sal had worked on him. We could try, but I suspect that those two are a lost cause.”

“They were rather pathetic, actually,” Bob said. “They just showed up and tried to compel us. It’s as if they never learned about reflection. Then they tried that on Uncle Tom the other day and that was truly stupid. If Uncle Tom ever even feels a compulsion and plays with it, everybody who ever tries them again will be risking the same thing that happened when that guy tried to compel Tim. I hope George tells them to not even think of trying to do that to Tim, because he could kill them by accident.”

“We haven’t heard the full story from yesterday,” Hilda said. “Why don’t you two tell us?” “Ok, but please don’t look for constructs from the guy,” Bob said. “We didn’t want to tell you about him because he’s the sleaziest guy over there.”

“Let me guess, Ronny?”

“How did you know?”

“Bob, I work for Boris and have to take testimony. I know who the various characters in our neighborhood are. As far as that goes, Ronny isn’t actually all that sleazy. He just has fae girl shows and he doesn’t ask the girls to sleep with the customers. The unbonded might, but most of his girls are bonded and just picking up a bit of extra money. We keep getting hints of a real nasty place, but we haven’t found it. For that matter, Ronny wants the place out of business too. Ok, so you and Scott went to Ronny to talk about constructs. More than likely, from the way you and Scott are so stingy with them, trying to get a better supply.”

“We think we will need them. For that matter every construct we buy is one that Sal and the rest won’t have to deal with. Mary, when you launched the constructs at the ambush, where did they come from?”

“I don’t know. Pete got them. The Manager must have had a connection, but I don’t think that he ever trusted us with it. You could ask Boonsri, but she never mentioned buying them and she never seemed to be going out for them. It’s possible that Pete handled that. I think that the ten I launched so that Sal could shoot them were the most I ever saw at one time until your shoot. I can see why you have a problem. You don’t want them for some random attack on an unsuspecting victim, they are part of your business. Those forty that Athena and Hilda bought were probably a backstock from several months of nobody buying them.”

“We checked and yes, they were. He was getting the same ten a month that Ronny is. Which is fine, but with two shoots, one at the farm and one at the Cape and the FBI and Boris’s people wanting Bill’s training classes, we’re going to be short. Then we won’t be able to have shoots in June or July either. Even if we cleaned out both guys every month and we will, we’ll still be very tight and short if we need any for other things like dealing with the Manager.

Ronny says that the supplier is old fae and squirrely. He doesn’t like dealing with new people. But I don’t think that he understands that because of the way that the dark uses his constructs that he is in the same position with most Feds as a rotgut moonshiner. I hope that Ronny can make the point to this guy and he will talk to us before Sal has the spare time and decides to really look for him. I didn’t tell Ronny who would be looking for the supplier. Or that I would tell Sal about him even though we do business if Sal asks.”

“I hope that Ronny makes the point for you,” Hilda said. “So you are there and what happens?”

“I see Victor and Adam show up with three of the guys that hang around with them and they block the driveway so we can’t leave. Scott calls the sheriff’s office and we go out front so that Victor and Adam don’t start messing up Ronny’s place. Adam makes some noises about a citizen’s arrest because we have contraband and when we respond, all of them try to compel Scott and I, which was pathetic as all of them were weaker than George. I reflect and they suddenly have an allergy attack. There must be something in the air at Ronny’s. Scott convinces the three friends to leave before the discussion goes in directions that would not be good for their health and I lock the two up and make them dance a bit until Bill and some people from the company get there. They take the boys back to the office and we go back in, get our jars and leave.”

“They don’t seem to get it that they just gave themselves to you two for about three weeks or longer.”

“Longer if we care. We’re open to ideas. They did try to kill Uncle Tom so we don’t feel too limited. We don’t want to kill them though.” “Killing them is such a waste,” I said. “I think that we can have some fun with them. So what do they like and what do they hate? Lizzie, I expect that you know them better than any of us.”

“Well mostly they like being important and pushing people around. They like to be involved in things that they think are big deals like being at one of grandfather’s meetings. They like having a fancy car, but they don’t like it because they like cars, but because a fancy car shows how important they are. They also like to give parties with fancy booze.” “They may have a problem with that in the future. Jacob has already had supply issues, hasn’t he? That wasn’t an accident and pissing Josh off can have that effect. For that matter, Chrissie used to sit in Ray’s office while Josh and Ray were having meetings and most of the top bosses in the area know her and like her. At this point the fact that they tried to kill Tom could cause them to have a very bad end if Tom weren’t rather discreet to certain parties. So any hobbies other than being bullies?”

‘Nor really. They don’t seem to do very much except be there when grandfather needs them for one of his meetings. They went to college, but they don’t write or read, they don’t chase girls and they don’t have any relationships.” “Ok, what do they hate?” “Being made fools of. They were very upset that Tom just beat them up like that the other day. That may be why they tried to go after him. They will probably try to go after Bob and Scott too.” “I wouldn’t worry too much about that, Lizzie,” Scott said. “They were trying to go after us already because of what happened under the cliff. Because we stopped them from launching those constructs. When we get back, Hilda, tell their parents that had we not stopped them, they would have been talking to the Secret Service and the FBI. If Ed talks to me again, I will tell him that. I think, though, that he already knows.”

“So we make fools of them, again,” I said. “Do they dance?” “Not very well,” Bob said. “We tried to get them to dance a bit and it was just sad and pathetic.”

“Even better. Then they can use the practice. Maybe if they learned, they would be able to meet with young ladies and have relationships. They are both over 20, do they have Change?”

“Not that I have ever seen,” Elizabeth said. “Either the Change is ugly and they don’t want anybody to see it or they haven’t had the outlook that brings Change.”

“I suspect that it’s the latter,” Greta said. “Change is not something that you can force. Tom proved that. If you try, you end up like the sharks. Change is part of the acceptance of life and responsibility. Those two have not been expected to be responsible for anything.”

“Perhaps we can change that,” I said. “Or make their vanity work against them. So how do we make them grow up?”

The trip down was entertaining and useful. Even Gregor and Andy had suggestions. Gregor especially since he had been at that horrible school and competing with Andy. Getting them to milk cows had merit. So did dancing down the center of Lake Placid in skating dresses.

When we arrived at the Grand Central, Tochi, Suki, Mary and I went up to The Waldorf so that Toch and Suki could meet with their boys who had been at the hotel with Tochi’s staff and Mary and I were dropping our luggage at my suite. Chrissie and Stacey were waiting for us with a car. “Grandfather, we need to get down to Al’s shop and pick up Tom and Al. Then you boys go down to Bennies for Sal’s batchelor party and we ladies are at the mansion for our party.”

Tochi had two cars and Chrissie had the company bring a van and a crew to move something for Tom, so we made for quite a parade on our way to Al’s shop in Brooklyn. Tom and Al had managed to make up another of the puppet shows with the Troubleshooter as the star. The interesting thing was that Tim had apparently managed to get a bunch of pictures of Sal, Al, the car and Jimmy earlier in the week including a burning warehouse. The show wasn’t quite as fun as the one that Tom had made up for Jacob, but Suki nagged Al into doing the Troubleshooter skit again so that she could compare. Then Chrissie had the thing loaded into the truck, the ladies took Suki and went off to Sal’s and the rest of us headed to Bennies.

When we arrived at the party Josh walked over to me and quietly asked, “Did anything interesting happen?”

“Much, but we can discuss it on Friday and on the train up on Sunday. The most interesting thing is that Edward spoke to Scott and said that Scott was his heir.”

“That’s not that much of a surprise. Scott was probably dragged in for some of the same reasons that our keystone dragged me in along with the taint that has run through the family over there. The keystone probably wants better protection and a stronger community. Our keystone dragged me in for those reasons even though you were trying to solve those problems.”

“You did go a long way toward bringing clear water to us. Your kids even more so. We were stuck and they got us unstuck. Jacob’s family is stuck and they needed to get unstuck even before Edward and the dark. Scott is more than a little nervous about things.” “He should be. But we can all help him. Having Jacob and his kingdom so weak is a threat to the rest of us.” “More than we thought. Jacob threw Scott out of the stables right in front of a place that was supposed to be abandoned. A place that the power company was fixing the downed power lines and where the driveway was kept plowed. Scott took photographs. We can go over the pictures on Friday.”

“How are we doing otherwise?”

“Very well actually. With Tom gone, things were actually very quiet except for Bob and Scott running into werewolf in laws and beating up two clowns who deserved it. We did find more than a few things unrelated directly to the games that will have to be dealt with, preferably discreetly. But that is Helmut’s area more than ours and I imagine that Mike, Steve and Boris will make arrangements. What has Sal been up to in addition to burning down yet another building?”

“Saving the Amboy bower and cleaning up the mess surrounding that. He found out about the place, went over there for a look on Sunday and went over Monday and troubleshot the outfit and in the process found yet another chemical plant. The place had shut down because the Chemist had not been paying anybody anymore and they took it out yesterday.”

“Good, we can relax somewhat. I see that Al and Tom wasted no time with their gags.”

“That was Al’s idea. Once they built the show for Jacob doing another one was almost inevitable. Sal helped them, even though he didn’t know it, when he went after the warehouse over there in New Jersey. Tim even got pictures of Jimmy.”

Dom and Big Jim came over. “We saw the papers and Chrissie’s little party. Was there anybody that she didn’t invite? Other than us?”

“Lou wasn’t invited either. The party was Tom’s address book and the people in DC, with Chrissie wanting to rub Jacob’s nose in just how unimportant he was. Combined with my daughters being as annoyed as she was. As far as I know, all three of my daughters haven’t gone after anybody like that since General Gage. Nera did not like the man at all. Of course trying to make her a hostage for my good behavior did not go over well at all. That may be why she was so hard on landers for so long. At least my daughters are all bonded now and have other distractions. On the other hand they all have a lot more resources now. I just hope that Jacob doesn’t do his number on Haruka. Steve and Joe haven’t played any games other than work related things for some time.”

“Yes they have, father,” Josh said. “You were under sea and didn’t hear about it. It was a good thing that Steve was transferred to Hawaii in January so that we could have peace and quiet this year. What next year is going to be like is going to be interesting.”

Both Joe and Steve happened to come over. Steve said, “Hi dad. We’ve all been busy, but now that grandfather is here, we want to know more about that character upstate. By the way, Roger is bringing Tom’s boat, the boat that he used in the exercise and another rum runner that John picked up because the captain was being an idiot. We’re taking all three and fitting them out on Friday. Meria has arranged with some couples closing the deal to provide us with some of those loaded towels. We’ve also arranged with the Amboy bower’s indentured to send a message to the leader of the sharks saying that there will be some couples closing the deal in Monmouth Saturday night. We’re hoping to bait the sharks and take them out. Tim has already talked to the Coasties and the Philly people. We figured that taking the sharks out would make for a nice wedding present.”

Tom came over and introduced Tochi around and they went over the daily Jacobs with Steve, Joe and the rest. Jim said, “This is before that rather unusual call that you made to me. So there you are with the President and he’s standing there getting frustrated.” “Yes. I think that he didn’t want to start lighting into me in case it really WAS the President, but he wanted to throw his weight around. That call I made to you worked out much better. Vinnie was easy to negotiate with and great to work with once we got things straight. Jacob, on the other hand, seems determined to be a monkey wrench in the works.”

“The monkey wrench may not have been meant for us,” I said. “Jacob threw Scott out of his stables right in front of the academy where it was obvious that there was activity going on that shouldn’t have been. It was his actions, after all, that led to us checking him for compulsions in the first place. His actions may have more behind them than we know. If he’s fighting the compulsions, then he may be trying to get us looking at things that he can’t just tell us about.”

“I hope that there is some reason for the craziness. Then the last week would make sense.”

“Well if you are in the mood for some nonsense, the two clowns tried to compel Bob and Scott yesterday. So if you would like them to do something embarrassing, it can be arranged.” “How about buying everybody in that restaurant they rousted dinner, while wearing clown suits.”

“I like it, Uncle Tom,” Bob said. “The only change is that they are wearing skating dresses. Those will be easier to get than clown suits. Then they dance down to the rink and skate for an hour. We get pictures and then we make them forget the entire thing.”

“How do we keep Bill from taking them in?”

“We tell him beforehand. He’s as annoyed as the rest of us. We had a run in with those two yesterday and Bill seemed to know them all too well.”

Sissy demanded that we all sit down for dinner, so we did. In the process we were shuffled around and I ended up sitting with Sal’s father , his brother, Angelo and Tim Kirk. Mike wanted me to know about the measures that he had taken with the Amboy bower to prevent the gardens from being trawled through again. “They’re not perfect, but at least we can provide some protection. I want to talk to Mera about having fisheries tighten the enforcement of the no fishing zones. Of course I also want to talk to her about seeing about fisheries recruiting some seafolk here in the city. Still the anchors and other things will help. We are also dropping some rather large concrete blocks.”

“So how is it going with Tim and Suzy?” I asked. “He seems to be taking pictures tonight.”

He was busily going around and taking pictures. Mike said. “Suzy took him on a long Swim around Long Island last weekend. It was the first time that either of them had been in the open sea. They came back with the yacht. They have been spending their time at Sal’s since Tim can’t start work again until after the weekend at the earliest. He starts his apprenticeship the second week in January and college in the fall. Suzy is probably going to keep him underwater weekends for as long as she can.”

“That’s a good thing. Mera was a bit loose about that with Josh and Josh doesn’t spend as much time under as he should. Some of that lately has been my fault and we probably can’t correct it until Spring.”

“The games?” The admiral asked. “Why did you accept them?”

“I didn’t. Josh did. He wasn’t going to take the fall for the games being a fiasco. I didn’t even know that the company had been as involved as it was until we went up there. Nor did I know about the fact that we should not have still been renting that lot and the trailers. Josh did and started to ask questions. When the committee came and offered me the games he was ready and took advantage of being ready. Of course Jacob’s antics helped a bit. Josh does being pissed even when he really isn’t very well and Jacob was a good excuse for covering the things that Josh was really annoyed about. Which was the potential for being blamed for the delays. We could afford not getting paid, but taking the blame for the deliverables could really hurt our reputation and with business being the way it is these days, we could not afford to take that risk. Fortunately we will not have to. Tom did some good work with that at the party and he was rather amazing with people that I would not have expected.”

“He’s a bit of an enigma,” The admiral said. ‘Looking at him, you would never think that he has any clout, but when he needs it, it’s there.”

“That was one of the interesting discoveries of the last week. Eric was asking him who he knew down in Washington and then Stacey waves that book of his around and drops it right in Chrissie’s claws.”

“Thereby giving her the opportunity for her little shindig. I just wish that she had been more security conscious.” “She was. Eltra has been doing that sort of thing for a very long time and she’s handled all sorts of events on the Cape up to Presidential visits on the Presidential yacht. Chrissie and Eltra both talked to Boris and Helmut when Chrissie was setting things up and Chrissie talked to miss Vicky after the invitations were sent out. She also called the business office and the Boston Federal office to have them send some people up for training. The war department sent the lieutenant and his team up on their own, and they were probably concerned about the same things we were and working with just a feeling. The problem was that none of us guessed about Edward’s existence and Boris was short of cars for coverage and maintaining an internal perimeter. So the lieutenant and the deputy had no coverage. There was no way an army of Twisted, let alone Ed were going to get close to the party and if Ed had gotten close, he would have been shot very quickly. How much security do you really need when everybody already has a gun?”

“That’s true. I just feel guilty about losing somebody for security duty.”

“That was an accident, unfortunately. Ed had a reason for going over to Vermont discreetly without the Director knowing, decided to go over for Christmas and when the deputy and lieutenant ran into him, the monster took over. Both Tom and Scott have talked with Ed since and he didn’t like what happened any more than you did. He also knows that he is done, though he won’t make it easy. I want Scott down here during the next moon cycle.

The problem is that Ed is part of a bigger puzzle that we don’t have all the pieces for the picture yet. I’ll show you all what we found after the wedding. Most of what we just found was a result of Ed in fact, telling Scott, because Scott is Edward’s heir.”

“You think that the monster will want to kill Scott? Or that the other side will tell the monster to try to kill Scott?”

“Possibly. In any case I want him and Elizabeth away from temptation and on the water if I can during the next moon cycle if we haven’t resolved this.”

“I can take them,” Angelo said. “Since the Bentons have no direct connection with me, they won’t even think to look at my boat. Especially if the sharks are dead or even decimated.”

“Between what Steve and Roger have put together with Sal and Al, I doubt that any sharks will survive,” the admiral said. “I do know that the females will be the primary targets one way or another. They feed the Change and once they are gone, it’s over.”

“Should Sal be playing like this on his honeymoon?” That seemed a bit strange to me, but I thought I understood why. If the sharks were gone they would not be a distraction.

“Sillia wanted him to deal with the sharks before they head South to Virginia on the train . They are going to see Sal’s grandparents and then take the train down to Florida. The outfit setup a house for them down there for two weeks. It already has a pool.” Tim added, “Merlia and I are going down too. We want to search out bowers that we don’t know about and let them know what happened up here and see if there are any traces of activity down there. We didn’t see any at Savannah or Pensacola the last time we were there, but both those bowers have heavy navy involvement.”

“Well you can have Tom over the weekend if you want him. He’ll probably want in on the sharks, especially if he can get more information.”

“He does like to get his hand on things.” The admiral grinned at me. “He also makes those wonderful toys and surprises. I just hope that Stephie doesn’t find out about what we have already. Tim scored a lot of points with his friends in Washington because he could tell them how Tom did things. Apparently the only office that was safe from him and his gags was Miss Vicky’s.”

“I can understand that. As for the rest, they probably had to take their chances.”

“I imagine that once Tom settles down, some of his friends will want to play games now that the instruction book has been released.” “Once Tom is off the path of sacrifice, they better watch out,” I said. “He’s going to be looking for time to just make things. On the other hand both the Cape and the company are going to need him for things now that he’s proven that he is capable. I suppose that it should not have surprised me, considering that I know what he is, but his ability to take charge and get people to go in the directions that he wants them to go is remarkable. Josh and I will bring the games over the top, but Tom will take them to the next level and he dealt with the one thing that could have really hurt the games. I just hope that Chrissie doesn’t get mad at Lou for putting him there in the first place.”

“I’m hoping that I can keep Steve occupied. That can be a challenge.” “Please do, and it is a challenge. There was a collective sigh of relief when he went off to the academy and Joe no longer had his fellow troublemaker. Now that they both have bondeds and responsibilities they won’t be as much trouble. Well with some exceptions. It would not surprise me if there were suddenly some boat up there on the lake that Joe needs to look at. For that matter he may talk to George about the wood work for yacht. The yacht is going to need quite a bit of restoration in the next few months to return it to something that we can sell to our guests. So Joe will probably be talking to George about that work.”

“Especially at the same time that Steve is going up there to look into that werewolf. I’m a bit leery about him going up there, but I suspect that if he doesn’t my higher ups will not be happy. The war department did not borrow him by accident.”

“If what we found this week was an indication, no it wasn’t. If there is a discreet channel I have some people that they should talk to before going on much further.”

“I will let them know. So what is it with that Jacob character?”

“Being a total ass and getting away with it for a very long time. Along with compulsions and fighting them, I think. To come up and treat anybody, let alone my family, like he did, was just stupid. Most people know to treat my family with a certain degree of respect simply because of who I am. For that matter, who Josh is. I know that Eric told Jacob who Tom had bonded with and the fact that she was a royal fae. That alone should have resulted in a modicum of respect and caution. Yet there he was, spouting off about “some stupid girl from the Cape.” He was agitated by what happened to the parade, but even that was spreading accusations that were by and large unfounded. In any case the only one who was completely upset by the gags was Jacob. Everybody else was waiting to see what the boys would come up with and ecstatic over the fact that Scott and Elizabeth made off with each other. Jacob’s “such good boys” rant had made the rounds and everybody I talked to knew that Bob and Scott were going to come up with something, that it would be spectacular and embarrass Jacob. The water magic and dance surprised everybody but they are used to that and they knew that the boys had access to Tom for the previous two weeks. Of course accusing Scott of kidnapping to Josh and Tom after we had all spent two weeks dealing with the Andy matter and the trying to chase the company out of the restaurant didn’t help. Jacob did manage provide for comic relief even though Tom is rather annoyed at him.”

“What is Tom planning? Whatever it is, try to get him to wait until Mabel and I can be up there.” “I think that that can be arranged. Tom wants to go for maximum impact and the bigger the crowd when it goes down, the better. As for what Tom is planning, well he wants some horse types to talk about the stables and their condition. Apparently Elizabeth says that they need repairs.”

“Didn’t Tom do something with his sister’s horse and the family stables a long time ago?” Tim asked. “That story was going around Washington for a while. It was hard for intelligence to get in there and take a look because the dog would be all over them. They tried though, just to get a clue what Tom was doing to them. I’ll let them know that this is coming.”

“The dog would be Roger, I suspect. He likes Tom, Chrissie and Andy. The rest of the farm he tolerates. Everybody else he doesn’t like, just on general principles.”

“I know a bunch of people that will want to see one of Tom’s things from the inside. They were rather annoyed that Steve and I didn’t let them know in time that Tom was playing games with Andy’s kidnappers, but I was busy with shark stuff and my duties and Steve wasn’t part of the Washington or intelligence crowd and didn’t know to let them know that Tom was up to something. Steve did send diagrams and copies of the prints down. He was going to have a copy of the book sent down when they were suddenly everywhere anyway.”

“So how has life been with Merlia?”

“Different. Wonderful and strange too. She is making it clear to me in every way that I am worthy of her. She’s also dragging me under as much as she can. The best part is that we work well together. The only problem right now is separate quarters, but the ladies are working on that and that will be even less of a problem once we are officially married. As part of our tour south we are visiting both her and my grandparents.”

“That sounds like you are finally making adjustments with yourself. Sometimes that can be difficult. It was for Josh.” “That story has been going around forever,” Angelo said. “Along with the stories about your family all being stuck up snobs. Yet I’ve met Steve, Joe, Mike, Josh and you so far and none of them are anything like the rumors.”

“My granddaughters, especially Chrissie, pulled most of our stuffing out. That was a good thing. Then my daughter bonded with Mike and since she was the focus of much of the prejudices, they just became something that was no longer important. Then we ran into Eric’s family and we get along so well with them that things just happened. I haven’t had this much fun since my wife was killed. The good part is that things are just getting started.”

“Mera did come down here and turn things upside down,” Mike said. “How did you do without her for those two weeks?”

“Not as well as we should have considering I sent them down here to check into things. But then I was out of it and listening to some of those stick in the mud’s and not paying as close attention to my family up top as I should have been. Just think of the fun with Mike and Nera that I could have had, admittedly for a very brief time.”

“Once they met, it was instant connection,” The admiral said. “From what Mera said they didn’t even talk to each other and closed the deal right on the dock.” “It wouldn’t be the first time for Nera. Since she figured that there never would be a “right man” for her, she figured that she should just be as bad as she wanted. Then there was also the fact that a bad girl can makes some money being bad and money was handy for things. Then Josh came along and she was jealous. That’s where a bunch of the dirty lander stuff came from.

When Mike showed up, all that bounced. It was if she was a different person. Of course she’s going to play the poor little mermaid with Mike for as long as she can. At least until he has to have Millie do the taxes. I don’t think that Nera has told Mike just how much money he now has access to.”

“How much?”

“I have no idea. My family tends to squirrel bits and pieces away and since Nera has been around for very long time a small account may not be that small anymore. Since she hasn’t paid a lot of attention up top since her mother was killed and Lillia had her accident she probably doesn’t know herself.”

“From what the family has said, Nera didn’t have any ties up top at all,” Mike said. “Now you are saying that she did.”

“As I said, she has been around for a very long time and in the beginning had some relations with up top families that she wasn’t going to cut off. She did most of that stuck up nonsense as part of her bad girl persona. But she has some up top contacts that she thinks that her brothers, Josh and I don’t know about and does business with Ray running some dancing shows that I don’t think that Josh knew about until recently. She and some of the other girls dance for a select audience looking for something exotic. You’ve seen her dance. That’s something that requires practice and since dance goes better with an audience to appreciate it, she has one. When she moves down here with Mike it would not surprise me if somebody doesn’t make a discreet contact about it. At least until Nera has kids to keep her occupied.”

“What about Mera?” The admiral asked. “Josh doesn’t behave as if he has a lot of money and Mera doesn’t seem to have a lot either. They lived on a barge for years.”

“Mera never wanted to wave money in Josh’s face and has never really needed to. Josh is better at connections than money, but what you see is his protections in action. He had money from some discreet investments that he doesn’t say very much about and only lived on the barge to keep moving so that it would be harder for me to track him down. He insisted on the boat mostly to poke me in the eye and keep up that persona that right now he is the only one that still believes he has. If Tom hadn’t shown up, my great grandsons would have taken over the boat full time and he would have been spending his time in the business office and down here. I think that he wanted a break from business and that’s why he spent all that time on the boat with Tom. If the hints I’ve been getting from him are any indication, the last couple of years were rather rough. So I’m not surprised that he wanted some time with his boat and his wife. If you spent a lot of time up at the Cape, you would start to see how he operates.”

“Chrissie’s party,” Tim said. “That went together in less than week and most people would plan for months to do something like that.”

“Yes, but the hardest part for us was sending out the invitations. We had staff at the Cape and could pull the clams, oysters and lobsters right out of our gardens. The boys set up the shoot and Roger and Mary had the inn almost ready to go anyway.”

“So Chrissie could set up a world class party with just a few phone calls,” the admiral said. “That will make her a good friend to know. That poor Jacob. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into. I didn’t and Mabel is almost family.”

“Rachel is about to enter her Change. How is she dealing with that?”

“Very well so far. The fact that we have a pool and she won’t have to spend all her time at a bower is a big help. The fact is that we need more girls at the yard anyway.”

“What for?”

“The jobs that we didn’t realize that we needed. That wreck we had the week before last was a case in point.”

“What wreck the week before last?” “One of those old German confiscated ships that we used as a transport in the war sprung a sea cock and sank at the pier. Suzy usually watches out for those, this ship was docked when she was at the wedding and settled onto a rock that hadn’t been a big deal before. If there had been another Swimmer girl to check that we could have repaired the sea cock and not have had to pump out the ship, put it into the dock and patch it. All so that the ship could make one last trip across the harbor to be scrapped. The time wasted and the rest of it were worth ten Swimmer girls’ salaries. When Mike suggested that Suzy work in the yard I was skeptical. That has turned out to be wrong.”

“Admiral, when Suzy started, I was just looking to keep her occupied so she wouldn’t go wandering out into the harbor,” Mike said. “Since then she has made dockings faster, avoided some dockings and not a few accidents. She has an eye out for the little details and spares some of our regular Swimmers from the possibility of having to do two things at once or miss something. Frankly, I was as surprised as you were. We’re going to miss her when she goes to college.”

“We will. For that matter, Tim is going to be more important to her from now on. That little trip she took was a case in point.”

“That was a good thing for them both. Tim needs to get really acquainted with his Change and Suzy needs the open water more often.”

“Well they can come up to the Cape any time. In fact let us know if they do. The family owes them a great debt over Dori.”

“We do too,” The admiral said. “It was too close a call and I wish that she had just gone across to the post exchange like she was supposed to.”

“From what Steve and Stacey have said, it wasn’t your fault, your gate guard called Steve when he saw her, Kay and Jimmy knew who she was and were going to bring her right back to the gate when she saw Mike and Tim, Bill spotted her and sent Joe to grab her.”

“I wish that that had not been the only day I left the gun at home,” Mike said. “I want to talk to Tom and Larry about another one.” “This is a good time for that because Tom took the boys through his processes before we got stuck with the games. They made forty frames for Larry so he is stocked up at the moment. Tim is getting a gift tomorrow.”

“Good. While I can understand that carrying could cause trouble for him, being unarmed and in the dark’s eye is not a long term health plan and since my daughter is tied with him, the safer he is, the safer they both are.” “Josh and I are planning a monster shoot with Bob and Scott after they graduate, so we will set Tim up then. Suzy too.”

“One of the things that Suzy misses after her Change is her shooting. So you can bet that she will be dragging Tim up there.” Dinner was over and we went outside for a water show by some girls eager to show some tails to prospective young men. Unbonded men anyway. The dance ended with a girl leaping up through a giant paper cake on a raft. I put that idea away for future opportunities. If Chrissie had done something like that to Tom, who knows how it would have ended up. There were some girls in my bower, some of whom were relatives, that were flashing their tails too. The boys had their chance at inebriated stunts and some snowballs. Which started an entertaining snowball and water magic fight with a lot of drinking and laughter. It was a good thing that Sal hadn’t driven the Duesie down as some cars became rather wet. As the party broke up, Tochi offered me a ride back to the hotel and he, Sumitomo and I were in real trouble with his boys when we got back. Apparently they had assumed that Tochi was bringing Tom back and they hadn’t seen him for seven years when they were eight and seven. Tochi’s daughter was trying to be a dignified sixteen and pretending that she didn’t want to see “Uncle Tom.” They also wanted to know who I was. I didn’t understand all of it because most of it was in Japanese until the introductions. The kids were fairly good with their English and I told them that they should get together with the rest of the kids and see if they could get Tom to take them shopping on Saturday.

Mary and Suki arrived and Suki pushed them all into bed and we sat around for a chat until Mary dragged us back to our suite and into bed.

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