Mermaid Chapter 22, Part 2

Sal’s wedding and the Director goes to Bennies again. he should have paid attention.


Thursday, 12/31. Sal and Sillia’s wedding

This was it. Sillia and I had closed the deal in the face of shark attacks and I couldn’t love her for her bravery more. The fact that she was willing to put up with a bum like me was amazing. After we got home from Bennies last night we actually slept in different rooms to keep up appearances. Sillia had breakfast in the pool with a bunch of women with tails and without while I had breakfast in the dining room with a rather eclectic collection of characters. We talked all morning until lunch. Tom told me about the big gag of the wedding, the fact that Josh’s parents were going to be there as part of Bennies staff and Meria was probably going to spend a large portion of the reception trying to put Josh and his parents together and they were going to arrange that every time she did, that the various people would go elsewhere until they would all meet for a family photograph, taken by Tim. “Does Doris know?”

“Oh, yes. Noro figures that we can get away with it for one more night or so, but since Meria has already found out that Theresa and Eli may be Josh’s parents, getting away with it once she realizes that we were all up at the same place wasn’t going to be possible. Noro just wants to get back at his sister for setting him up with Steve, the admiral, Dom and the rest. We think we can pull it off.”

If they could pull this off, it was going to be hilarious. In any case it promised to be a lot of fun. “So what went on with that clown upstate after you left.”

“He kicked Scott out of his stables. They found some interesting things about that we can talk about tomorrow. There may be some other fun and games tomorrow too.”

Tom had introduced prince Tochimoro and Sumitomo to me yesterday and Tochi came up to us with two young men. “Tom, the two boys were rather put out with me that I didn’t bring you over to the hotel last night.”

“Hello, boys.”

“Uncle Tom, where did you go? We missed you and then we went back to Japan.”

“I found another job and went there. The job was in Connecticut for an aircraft engine company then I went to the farm.”

“Father said you married a Ningyo princess.”

“True. You will meet her later. I think you’ll like her.”

“We always knew that you were Oni, but father wouldn’t let us tell you. Father said that you were hosting the Ningyo princess.” “We are planning to. This is Sal del Vecchio. He’s getting married today to a Ningyo princess ” “Hello, how did that happen? ”

“Hello boys. I was doing an investigation and she flashed her tail at me. See my family didn’t tell me about tails until it was too late. When we were kids we lived next door. She didn’t have a tail then and she moved away before her Change. Then I was working and away from my family and my sister and mother went through their Changes and they didn’t tell me.”

“What do you do?”

“I troubleshoot for people.”

“Gone upscale?”

“You knew who I was, didn’t you?” “Sal, you were in the paper earlier this week and your car was there in the driveway. The Jimmy story was all over the consulate and all our friends are going to be jealous when we get back to Washington. For that matter all our cousins will probably be jealous when we go back to Japan in April.”

“Well Al is here and Jimmy is coming. So I imagine that you will hear the full story.”

“We have already. Mom had it from Al and told us last night. Not that we hadn’t heard it already. The story doesn’t mention Sillia.”

“We hadn’t actually bonded then. Though Sillia was trying and caught me just a bit later.”

Tom said, “Boys, I don’t think that we can monopolize Sal today. Why don’t Tochi and I introduce you to my nephews and the rest of the kids.”

Tochi and Tom steered the boys towards Bob, Scott and Andy as I greeted more arriving guests. Mike came up and said, “Those two look like trouble. Just like the rest of them.”

“That remains to be seen. They aren’t freaked out by tails though.”

“Tochi explained that up in Vermont. The Imperial family has to know certain things and maintains a close relationship with the people there with tails for weather reasons. Nervous?”

“A little. Which is crazy because it’s not as if she will say no.”

“I was. I think that the guy is supposed to be. It’s time for lunch and then we get dressed.”

We went back to the dining room for lunch and then I changed into my tuxedo with Mike’s help. When we left my bedroom, Tim caught us and took a picture. He looked uncomfortable in a tux. “How did you get put in a monkey suit?”

“Mike, Sal’s mom, Sillia’s mom and my mom all insisted. It isn’t even a rental since they think that I will need it.” “For the awards ceremony, if nothing else.” “What awards ceremony?”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said. “But the kidnapping story has to be on everybody’s short list.”

Roger had let me know that the kidnapping story, with the picture of Dori being taken by Joe was already up for the AP’s big story of the year list and Tim was on the short list for a Pulitzer, but it wasn’t likely that he would get it because they probably wouldn’t want to give the award to a teenager. Still there would be awards for the story and the paper was glowing in the limelight.

We walked downstairs to the ballroom. Father Jones had arranged an altar at one end of the ballroom and I stood at the door and greeted the guests with Mike and my dad. The mermaids were rolled in by the staff or rolled themselves and everybody else came in and sat down. There was quite a crowd of family and friends, some of whom I hadn’t known that long. Finally everybody was here and Mike said, “it’s time we went up front.”

We walked up front, the music started and there she was, being rolled in by her father. She was even more precious than that little statue that Meria had given me and more beautiful than ever. I waited as she was rolled up and then questions were asked and answered and we exchanged armbands since Sillia’s hands could not bear a ring and it was over. She was mine and I was definitely hers. Once the ceremony was over, the mermaids all rolled back out into the pool, Sillia tossed the bouquet and Vilia caught it. Then the party started. Sillia insisted that I go to the pool house, put my tux in a locker and Change. When we came back out we danced and then some of the mermaids that Nera had been teaching had their dance, followed by Mike and Nera. Bob set up the projection and Scott and Elizabeth repeated their dance over the water skating without the ice. I spotted Stephie, Swam over and said “Not dancing?” “Not yet.” She pointed out over the water. There was a whale offshore. “I don’t know who told them about the wedding. I don’t think it was Al. I’ll wait until the pool clears out.”

Sillia and I had another dance and then she insisted that I go back inside and circulate. Josh came out of the parlor talking with Dom as a server went in with some canapés. Josh was grinning as they passed. I looked at the woman again. She was one of Bennie’s people and had been at the party. She also didn’t look as if she was older than 35. But then neither did Mera. I followed the server into the parlor and talked with Jimmy and the other Jimmy. Jimmy was wearing one of his normal suits today and I said, “Have you run into Mr. White yet?”

“Sal, I did, and he complimented me on my sartorial excellence. He also wanted to know who my tailor was. Jimmy here says that you boys closed down another one of those poison places.” “We did. I just hope there aren’t any more out there. The good thing is that we picked this one clean and know what to look for now.”

“Good. The last thing I want to have to read in the papers is how one of those places got loose and a bunch of kids were killed. Anything on that other bunch of sharks?” “Not yet. But Steve, my dad’s brother and some other people are going to bait them with a message from their New Jersey indentured and see if we can’t ruin their day. We do know that they were going after kids on barges. The people in Philly are staying off the beach and we figure that the sharks are getting hungry. I have to keep circulating.”

I kept circulating and as the server was leaving with her empty tray Tom rolled Chrissie in. I went over and said, “Did Meria send you in from the pool?”

Chrissie smiled and said, “She did in fact. She thought there was somebody I should meet in here, but they must have gone.”

I went back to the kitchen and Meria was sending another server down to the poolhouse. I didn’t know the man but somehow, he reminded me of Josh. I went behind the kitchen and a bunch of troublemakers were showing the newest members of their little group the fine details of making exploding boats. Steve and Joe were there giving the kids pointers. I walked back out and upstairs to the drawing room as Stacey and her kids headed to the workroom and the female server had another plate and walked into the drawing room with it. Noro and Eric were there and we talked a bit as more canapés were served. Both the server and Noro looked as if Butter would not melt in their mouths. Eric had that “I have a secret” grin. We talked for a bit about the events upstate and then I moved on. I went down to the poolhouse and Sillia asked, “Sal have you noticed Josh and his family avoiding some of Bennie’s people? It seems as soon as they bring something any of the family goes someplace else.” “Chrissie didn’t tell you? They are playing a game on their aunt. Let’s grab a chair.”

Sillia’s gown was just like the lady’s gowns at the Cape wedding and didn’t seem to get wet. So I put Sillia in a chair, handed her a shawl and we rolled up to the kitchen where Meria was sending “Eli” to yet another destination.”

Sillia asked, “Meria what are you doing?”

“Trying to set up a reunion. Eli and Theresa may be Josh’s parents. Unfortunately nobody sticks around long enough to be sure.”

She rolled out again, going off to look for members of Josh’s family. Sillia giggled. “I’m going to guess that they already know.”

“That’s what Tom said. They had it all set up. I think that we want to be there at the end.”

“I think that we do too. We should circulate and be good hosts.”

“I don’t think that anybody would mind us finding some quiet time together.”

“No, but I would feel guilty. Have you met Suki yet?”

“Who’s Suki?”

“Then we have to find her.”

I rolled her around and we poked into various rooms until we found a Japanese lady in a formal kimono talking to Al and Jimmy? She turned around, saw me, and said, “There he is. So which of you was spreading the story. All three of you were doing it, weren’t you?” “Ma’am, the story makes me look like an idiot,” Jimmy said. “Why would I spread it around?”

“Jimmy, I heard you tell it once tonight. Not to me. Al has done it twice tonight.”

She turned to me, “Sal, I’m Suki, Tochi’s wife. I want to know who was spreading the Jimmy story around the most.”

“Suki I haven’t told it once tonight.”

“You probably have told everyone you know already. So that means that you must have told the story more than these two. Also you told the story to your mom and that meant that your old neighborhood heard it. Sillia, that’s what you told me.”

“Not only the old neighborhood, but to everybody we ran into. He told me the night it happened. Of course Al was spreading it around that night too and Jimmy told Tony.” “After Sal and Al did,” Jimmy said. “Sal told Dom too the next day. Tara too, come to think about it. By end of the next two days I don’t think that there was anybody in the city who hadn’t heard it.”

“Well then Sal is worthy of his wedding present.”

“What is that?”

“You’ll find out. These two were involved, so they already know and they got together with the big troublemaker.” She giggled. “Tom has such fun friends. You all are so wonderful. Which is a good thing, considering his struggle. I think that I will go find my wayward husband.”

She left. “She’s strange,” Jimmy said. “But then that fits right in with this crowd.”

“Tochi said the same thing about her.” Al said. “On the other hand, he loves her very much considering it was an arranged marriage. He says that she keeps him on his toes.”

“I can see that,” I said. “She had our number all right. What are you two cooking up?”

Jimmy smiled, “You’ll see. Chrissie is handling delivery. It hasn’t turned up yet, so they must have the timing planned.”

“I have to circulate. I will see you at dinner.”

We left the room. I said to Sillia as we rolled out of the house, “Now there was a strange one.”

“Not really. You’ll find out what she was getting at soon enough. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

Tom and Chrissie went past us toward the room with Al and Jimmy. I thought about turning around, but decided that I would find out what was up soon enough. Steve Billings saw us and asked, “have you seen Tom and Chrissie?”

I pointed at the room. “They are in there with Al and Jimmy.” “Ok, I know what that was about. I just wanted to make an appointment with Tom before he goes back up to Lake Placid. I need to make some arrangements for Mabel and the Olympics.” He walked into the room and I rolled Sillia on outside and back to the poolhouse. The pool inside was getting rather crowded with Swimmers and potential bonds talking. Mera was there, talking with her brother and his wife. “Congratulations, Sal, Sillia,” Mera said. “It was a rocky road sometimes.”

“Yes it was, Mera. Burned warehouses and sharks notwithstanding, things worked out in the end.”

“Sillia, Steve said that you are letting Sal help with getting rid of the Philadelphia sharks.” “I figured that if they were gone, Sal wouldn’t be distracted by them. Since everybody and all the resources are already here we should just get the job over with.”

“That’s a good idea. These things have messed up our lives enough already.”

“Yes they have. A lot of other lives too. When I looked at that bower over in New Jersey and realized just how close we in the Rockaway came to suffering the same fate, it was chilling. I think that it is about time for dinner. Do you want to eat out here or inside.” “Josh is going to join me, Tom and Chrissie here.”

“Ok. So you all can entertain out here, then,” Sillia said. I rolled her back out to the pool. “How about another dance before dinner?”

We did and it was wonderful. Afterwords I dressed again and we went back into the house and rolled in for dinner. Doris and a cameraman caught us as were going through the door. “Well I have you two together at last.”

“We weren’t trying to hide, Doris. It just worked out that way,” Sillia said. “Get our pictures now. This has been a big party.”

“I know.”

“At least I don’t think that there will be any Twisted showing up,” I said. “The neighborhood has been twisted free since the Manager left us.”

Doris’s photographer took our picture. “Did you see Tim in a tuxedo?” Doris asked. “He seems to be a bit uncomfortable.”

He is, isn’t he,” I said. “Apparently my mother, his mother and Sillia’s mother insisted. “They think that he might need it.”

“I do too. The kidnapping story got a lot of attention. You need to get inside so that they can start serving.”

We went into the dining room and Sillia and I sat with our parents and families. Dad said, “Noro and his family are up to something.”

“Why do you say that,” Sillia said. “Other than the fact that they always seem to be up to something?”

“Well Meria has been trying to place two people in the same room with members of the family and hasn’t managed it. I see our two people helping with the serving, but while Mike, Nera, Al, Eltra and Noro are in here, the rest of the family isn’t.”

“Mera offered to be the outside hostess. Tom and the rest decided to eat dinner at the pool.”

“Tim and I could have done that, Sillia, Suzy said. Or Tim’s parents could.”

“They were there and wanted to do it, so I said yes,” Sillia said. “But they are up to something and I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

“They told me to be in the parlor after dinner with the camera and Suzy,” Tim said. “They also wanted my parents and Kathy.”

“So they have something to share with all of you and it involves what Meria has been up too.”

“What has Meria been up too?” Stella asked.

“Putting those two in the same room with Josh for some reason,” Dad said. “Or the same room with Josh’s kids. She hasn’t been concerned with Mera or Mera’s brother and sisters, so it’s something that involves Josh. After dinner is over, we will have to find out.”

We talked about the honeymoon plans and other things through dinner and when the time came, cut the cake. At some point our two servers had disappeared. Cake plates in hand we all started to gather in the parlor. Josh was there with Mera and all four of his kids and their spouses. Once Noro came in with Al, Mike, Nera, Eltra, Altris, Ralia and Joe, Maria and Kathy rolled in with Tim and Meria, Josh said, “The big mystery in my life has been that I never knew who my parents were. We tried to discover that and failed. Well last Christmas, I had the nicest Christmas present ever thanks to the efforts of Tom and Doris. After all too long, my parents found me. Eli, Theresa, we can drop the charade.”

Our two servers had been there, discreet and had changed their clothes to something more fashionable. Once they became visible the relationship was obvious. Meria was looking pleased and annoyed at the same time. Tim started to take pictures of the families and Joe looked immensely pleased. Also when he and Josh were together it was obvious that they were brothers. Meria said, “I’m losing my touch, brother. You could have continued the charade until Josh and the rest went home. Why didn’t you?”

“After tonight it would have been too easy to keep everybody apart and I wanted you to see the family together,” Noro said. “Also, we will need to be working on things together and the charade would have gotten in the way. For instance, Theresa has a lunch appointment with the Director tomorrow at Bennies and Tom and some of the rest of us would like to be there.” “I would too,” I said. “That sounds like an interesting meeting.”

“We were hoping that you and Dom would be there. Along with Steve and the admiral and whatever else we can come up with. The first time Theresa took him to Bennies, he was frightened. This time I want to scare him out of his wits.”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Sillia said. “I think that we can find things to scare him silly.”

Bob and Scott came over with a rather large binder of what appeared to be photographs. Bob said, “Mike said that you would want these, so we decided to give them to you as a wedding present.” I took the binder. “What are these?”

“Construct pictures from our shoots.”

“I’m surprised that you didn’t bring some down for the wedding.”

“We thought about it and wanted to, but after Chrissie’s party, we’re likely to be short.”

“Short, how?”

“Well, Hilda and Athena found forty from George’s supplier and we confiscated four from two clowns who were going to use them the same way that George did. Aunt Hilda sold us thirty of the jars after we begged and pointed out that she and Aunt Stephie had used most of the jars we had for demonstrations and she kept ten. They used two of those at the shoot and we used thirty four, so we went through thirty six in all and we could easily have used all of them as Bill had fifteen guys and Chrissie for his special training and not all of them had their own construct to practice with. We figure that we have our shoot after planting, a shoot for Josh and maybe more trainees. That may mean that we need 100 jars in all and our supplier can only get us seventy at best.”

“Did you tell your supplier that you are probably the only customers?”

“We told him right before we came down.” “I could troubleshoot him.” “We want to keep that in reserve. He is willing to get us to talk to the source. Maybe we can work something out. What we really need is to figure out how construct jars are made.”

“That’s something I would like to know. I do know one thing from trying to take jars apart. There is blood involved because when you open a jar without launching a construct, that’s what you get. Maybe we should talk to Tony and see what he knows.”

“We tried already. He says that that is not fun stuff and that we shouldn’t be messing with it. He was rather strict about that and said that he didn’t think that we were idiots. We’re not, but it’s not just fun and games for some teenagers any more. We tried to use our own blood and make some jars a long time ago and it didn’t work.”

“That’s Tony for you and he’s probably right. On the other hand if we don’t know how things work, we don’t know what to look for. Mera probably knows, but I don’t think that she will tell you either. We can ask.”

“They are sort of tied up right now.”

They were actually. “How did those two find you?”

“Theresa and Eli look into things for people and Lou called them in after Noro wanted them to look into the kingdom over the lake for the same reasons that we were all sensing something rotten over there. They were looking around and stepping on Hilda, Athena, Mike and Al’s toes but we couldn’t find anything specific. On Thursday Tom beats up the two clowns, they try to drop a cliff on him and he starts to think that Jacob is compelled. Since Jacob’s heir is the only one who could do that and Jacob’s heir is not obvious, Tom decides to check Jacob’s son, Edward’s service record and Ed was missing in action during a werewolf attack. Meanwhile Eli had spied on Josh during his meeting with the Committee and resonated. Then Theresa and Eli met with Tom and Doris to make a discreet contact. Tom was concerned and convinced Doris to bring Theresa and Eli over for Christmas and Theresa resonated and gave Josh his best Christmas present ever.”

“What took them so long? Josh has been around a long time.”

“They were looking at what the dark was doing and were tainted by that. They were afraid of how Josh would react.”

“That doesn’t seem to be an issue.” Josh looked pleased and as happy as I had ever seen him.

“That’s for sure. Theresa and Eli are fun to work with too. We can’t afford them or we would hire them to look into the construct situation. They are busy, so they don’t have any free time. Stephie and Hilda are trying to get Eli or Theresa to teach them their trick of being able to phase outside of Change. Eli is a bit scared to do that.”

“That’s understandable. Especially since he’s family. On the other hand, I imagine the rest will also badger him about that.”

“Or horse trade for it. That’s what Scott and I did. They wanted to know what Tom had been up to from the inside and since we were there for most of it, we could tell them. So we did in exchange for learning a discreet trick that we may need in the future.”

Chrissie rolled over. “Sal, Sillia, we’re sorry that we stole a bit of attention during your wedding.”

“That’s quite all right, Chrissie,” Sillia said. “Especially since you put one over on my great aunt and this is a good thing.”

“Apparently Aunt Meria put one over on grandfather a while back with Dom, the admiral, Steve, Sal’s dad and Stacey and grandfather wanted to show his sister that he wasn’t completely out of it.”

“How did she do that?”

“It was when we were first starting to work on the tank bed. She had been talking a bit with Steve and Stacey and sent Stacey to check things out. Meanwhile Mary arranged for the admiral and Dom, along with Sal’s dad, Captain Farr, and Steve to go down to Bennies to meet with grandfather with their wives. Steve spills the beans about the tank beds and Stacey calls back and also reveals the tank beds. Meanwhile daddy and Tom put together a business plan and send it over to Lou. Grandfather gets worried that the company might make him some money and tries to head the project off that the pass. Daddy fixed that.”

“If your dad was mostly responsible, how come your grandfather was blaming Meria?” I asked.

“He’s not blaming Aunt Meria for the tank beds. He’s blaming Meria for setting him up with your dad and the rest. He wanted to play his Mr. White shtick on them and now he couldn’t. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but that’s the way it is and Aunt Meria and grandfather have been doing that to each other for a very long time.”

“It wouldn’t have worked anyway. The admiral and Mabel knew him already and Steve is his grandson. Dom and my dad had already met Josh and Mera, I was right behind Noro and Sillia and I got into town right after he did. I do notice that he didn’t try to let this go on for very long.”

“We couldn’t, not that he didn’t want to. But today was the only day that we could do it and not mess up bigger things. We also didn’t want to have Eli and Theresa wait for very long before they told all their friends. They have wanted this for so long.”

Al came in and whispered something in Tom’s ear. Chrissie looked at them, grinned and said, “we have a surprise for you in the ballroom. Why don’t we all go over and see what it is.”

Tom came over and started to roll Chrissie in her chair and we all went into the ballroom. Steve Billings had set up the projector again, but wasn’t running it yet. There on the side of the ball room was a large wooden cabinet. Chrissie said, “Push the button.”

I did and the show started. It was the Troubleshooter story, with Sillia and the warehouse. Somehow, and I suspect that Tim was involved, they had managed to get pictures of me, Al, Jimmy, Sillia, Mike, Nera and my car as well as the warehouse burning. The thing ended with me and Sillia driving away in the car. When it was over, Sillia reached over to Chrissie and hugged her. “This was wonderful! How did you manage it so quickly?”

“Al started it at the party after Tom had built one for the Jacob story. Tim was taking the pictures during the thing in New Jersey which was a big help. Tom’s brother in law had the cabinet and Al arranged for some friends to make most of the parts at the party. Tom did some shopping after the warehouse burned down Tuesday and they worked late. They finished it yesterday.”

The kids all trooped in and they just loved it. Andy was explaining how he and the rest of the kids up at the farm helped with the Jacob show and telling the rest about Tom’s class. The kids wanted Tom to do a class down here but he had to tell them that he was going to be busy for a long time on other things, the Olympics being the big thing.

Trillia looked rather annoyed at that and I suspected that Jacob was going to have to plan to never have an oceanside vacation for a long time.

Lieutenant Billings started the projector and ran the movies again. Watching Sillia and the rest dance again I turned to her and said, “I think that this was when I was sure about you.”

“I already had you by that point.”

“I know. But that was when I realized that it was something I really wanted.” She reached up and kissed me. “You better believe it, buster. You take care of those sharks and then you are mine.”

Josh came over with Eli and Theresa. “Sal, Sillia these are my parents, Eli and Theresa.”

“I’ve met Theresa, actually. She was at my little show with the funhouse I shutdown, as a reporter. You were working for Bennie today, Theresa. Was that family or sneaking”

“We were playing games with Meria,” Theresa said. “I snuck into your previous party and she wanted us to sneak into this one and see if Josh was our son. She didn’t know that Tom and Doris had already worked on us to convince us to go over to the farm. Noro wanted to spring us and Josh as a surprise and it worked. It was a lot if effort though.”

“That explains Meria spending most of the day in the kitchen.” “Well that and she got a chance to keep things going for Bennie. Bennie is getting stretched with all the new business he’s getting. Joe and Josh are talking about loaning Bennie some of Josh’s people to help out. Bennie has another thing tomorrow as well.”

“So how did Tom and Doris convince you?” Sillia asked.

“Well we are information brokers and we have done some things for the Director over the years mostly so that we could see what the dark was up to and see if they had our son. We had to place him in that orphanage to protect him and by the time we could evade the Twisted and get back there, he was gone and we could not find him. We figured that the dark would pick up on him, but his shields were so strong that he slipped unnoticed until he bonded with Mera and then he was so strong that he was scary. We were more than a little afraid of him.” “Especially when I was listening discreetly to that meeting with the Committee,” Eli said. “He let them have it.”

“Eli, they deserved it,” Josh growled. “I’m not going to argue that. They were trying to take advantage of Noro and he just handed them to you.”

“They got off easy, trust me. I’m far more straightforward than Noro is. Noro would have played games until he had a better picture of what the real issues were. I also came prepared and Noro would have had to take a day or so to get set up. He didn’t know what was going on because he had been out of it and the business and I didn’t want to bother him with the issues. At least not until I was sure about the issues, which I was at the time of the meeting. So we tag teamed them. It wasn’t the first time we’ve done that to somebody and most people who have done business with us or have been around know better than to mess with us like that. Noro likes to play Mr, White and then I get to be the attack dog. Of course now I can play the elder businessman and use Tom. That was a bit of a surprise.”

“Was Tom that effective?” I asked.

“Ask Jacob. He was the one thrown out of his office and his building. Tom doesn’t like to wave his clout around, something that threw me off about him completely. It wasn’t until Stacey and Lou started to check up on him that we started to realize that he wasn’t just some farm boy who liked to play with tools. Chrissie got a winner there.”

“Yes I did,” she said. “Steve, these are wonderful. We didn’t have a projector at the party. You may get some requests for prints.”

“Other than the White House?” Steve asked.

“Ok, Miss Vicky got to you already then. I wasn’t sure. She said that the President would want to see the films and I told her to get in contact with you.”

“Tom’s mother wanted prints too. She should have had them in time for your party.”

“She did, but the inn doesn’t have its own projector yet and we couldn’t find one in time. Or rather we couldn’t find a bulb in time and the projector that uncle sent up broke the bulb in the move. We did have all the pictures from the wedding and people brought up a bunch of pictures of Tom’s days in Washington. I’m not going to let him hide himself anymore.”

“Don’t let him do that, Chrissie,” Suki said. “He likes to think that he is nobody. You don’t know how glad I am that somebody is taking charge of that for him.”

Tochi came over with his kids and said, “Sal, Sillia, it was wonderful to meet you. I think that we will take these three and return to our hotel before they get into too much trouble. They have had their exploding boat quota for the day. All the kids have. I hope that your neighbors don’t complain.”

“Well the neighbors on one side have their kid in amongst the rest of them, so they won’t and the other side doesn’t seem to be home. Further down the house is empty at the moment and the next is the school. It’s new year’s anyway.”

“That it is and we may watch some of the festivities. There is a temple at the Brooklyn Botanical gardens and we will visit tomorrow.”

They left and Doris caught up with us again. “You all did it again. Sal, you do know that the Troubleshooter is now accepted here on the gold coast and the people here are going to be inviting you and Sillia all year.”

“Sillia hasn’t said very much and I’ve been busy for the last few days. We didn’t have that many crashers tonight.” “Yes you did. But they were all chasing tail in the poolhouse. Something that will make certain mothers happy. Meria and Mera too. That’s one reason that Mera spent most of the time down at the pool.”

“That’s ok then,” Sillia said. “We want those boys to find tails. Telia was on pool duty as well. Ralia too.”

“I suspect that there will be announcements and strange girls showing up on the society pages next year. I had four mothers tell me discreetly that their sons would be closing the deal with ladies they met down at Bennies. The families aren’t going to make a big deal about it and all the couples are going up the Sound for a long Swim and staying over on the island for a couple of days.”

“That was already arranged. The mothers are supposed to give Sal some towels with a certain odor in the morning. We are baiting the sharks out of Philadelphia with a message of some people closing the deal in Monmouth.”

“So the sharks are going to get a surprise.”

“We hope so.”

Doris went on to her next target and Sillia said, “let’s go down and check the pool. I want to get wet anyway. I’ve been up top for a long time and I’m starting to itch. Why don’t you join me and we go for a quick Swim, I’ll tell mother and your mother that they can play hostess for a while.”

We found Tara and Dom inside doing that already and Tara said, “go! Just be back before midnight for the fireworks.”

So I rolled Sillia down to the pool and Tom and Chrissie caught up with us. “Getting wet?” I asked.

“Yes,” Chrissie said. “ We’re going under for a bit, then we’re spelling Aunt Ralia and Uncle Altris in the pool along with your parents.

“Your family isn’t really on host duty.”

“No, but your mother asked if we could keep an eye on things and help out some and we said yes. Also mom and Aunt Ralia want to make sure that the girls have a good time and get the boys to wander in the right direction.”

“That shouldn’t be hard,” Sillia said. “You caught a bunch already.”

We passed a strangely empty pool and went into the poolhouse that was not empty. Mother and dad were talking to Telia and her parents in a very crowded poolhouse with mermaids and young men in suits trying to attract each other’s attention. Mother said, “They are all danced out for the time being. Most of the couples are up at the house or in the water right now. Why don’t you Change, Sal and get wet for a bit and come back for a dance. Sillia, Tara and I can handle hostess duties.”

Tom and I undressed, put our suits in lockers along with our lady’s dressess and Changed. Sillia and Chrissie were waiting. Tom said, “We want to Swim up the Sound.” “Why?”

“Mike and Nera went a bit down the Sound earlier and had more fun and games than they really wanted. Not that they minded, but they were lost for a bit. With at least four couples in the water, certain things will happen. I do want to do one thing, though.”

“What?” Chrissie asked.

“Swim under some exploding boats.”

Some of the kids had just launched some and as we Swam under the dock beside the yacht, they went off. We stopped and Tom looked around. ‘Is anybody rattled by them?”

“No,” I answered. “Why would we be?”

“Meria took me to task over the exploding boats. We’ve had them going off all day and there are still plenty of fish and none of them seem especially frightened. That’s that as far as I’m concerned.”

We Swam around the yacht and Sillia said, “since it’s our wedding day, let’s indulge ourselves and go and have some fun and games.”

That sounded like a wonderful idea to me and we Swam down the sound until Sillia started to grab me and we kissed, which led to on to the inevitable. When our session was over, we Swam back toward the house and sensed Tom and Chrissie coming from the same direction. They Swam back with Al and Eltra and Sillia asked them, smiling, “you warned us about the water, yet didn’t pay attention to your own warning?”

“We are on our honeymoon,” Chrissie said. “I didn’t want Tom to forget that because of the clown we dealt with. Anyway, just about every mer couple has been out here already. Al and Eltra found some wonderful people who just closed the deal and introduced us. They are planning to self maroon themselves at the island after they Swim over there.”

“That sounds like a wonderful thing to do,” Sillia said. “If they stay under they won’t even be cold.”

We Swam back to the pool and into the poolhouse. Dad looked at us with a grin “Did you all have a good time?”

“Yes we did,” Sillia said. “We indulged ourselves and enjoyed it. It’s my wedding day and I’m going to enjoy it. It’s Chrissie and Eltra’s honeymoon and they should be enjoying it. These guys all work too hard.”

“It wasn’t all work,” Al said. “Except for Tom’s daily Jacob.”

“I told Mary to tell me if he comes down here. If he does, I’m staying at the Sound bower or the Rockaway bower. Telia and Meria have already offered us bowers.”

“If he shows up I will triple security,” I said. “I don’t want anything to do with him. Of course Noro is the one in trouble. He’s staying in Midtown. You and Josh are out here.”

“True. But so far, Jacob hasn’t tried to play with Noro for some strange reason, Nor Josh for that matter. Me, on the other hand, you’ve heard about.”

“Yes we have,” Dad said. “Sal, since Tom and Chrissie are here, your mother and I are going for a short Swim. Altris and Railia have already gone on theirs.”

They Swam out into the pool and Chrissie started to introduce Sillia and I around. The boys must have been telling the ladies about the New Jersey troubleshoot and everybody wanted the whole story, especially when they heard that a bower had almost fallen. That seemed to have scared just about everybody. When I went over the steps that had been taken and that we knew a lot more now, the girls wanted to know from Tom how the tank bed project was going. “We’re making progress,” Tom said. “I’m having some beds made up as prototypes for my sister’s inn in Vermont for some special guests and some more for the house here and my home at the Cape for testing. I want to have the problems worked out. The big problem about that is that I will unfortunately be up at Lake Placid for the company dealing with issues regarding the Olympic games. The good part about that is that Chrissie and I will be able to do the testing ourselves and I can deal with the problems by living them so that you ladies will not have to.”

Sillia turned to me and whispered, “I think that these two have things in hand, so let’s go back to the house.”

I Changed, dressed and put Sillia back in a chair after she put her gown back on and rolled her back to the house. We circulated around and talked to people. As we did I thought about how my life ahd changed in the last few months. Not least of which was this wonderful lady who had decided to share my life. As midnight approached the entire crowd went out to the poolhouse to get ready to watch the fireworks that would welcome in the new year. The people in the neighborhood set up a barge and hired a fireworks company every year to set off the new year. Sillia slipt into the water with some of the other mermaids and Stephie flew out while being discreet. Right on the dot the show went off. I hadn’t seen our mermaid dancers sneak out there until they leapt up and started to dance right in the light of the fireworks , which made the whole thing magical incuding the whales at the end with Stephie almost dancing on their noses. At least that was the opinion of the crowds at all the houses from the cheering noises that surrounded our shores. As Stephie fluttered back, I said, “You set that up. But you can’t talk to whales.”

“I can’t, but Trillia can. Since the whales would probably not leave me alone I just made the thing a bigger joke and they loved the idea.”

“Well everybody seemed to enjoy the whole thing.”

Sillia Swam back up and sat on the pool edge. “That was fun. I’m glad that Stephie suggested it to Nera. Nera wants Stephie to do a show with her at the Cape on the fourth. Sal, since it’s the new year, let’s declare this party over and enjoy our wedding night. Tell your parents and the rest and come right back here. I already have a cozy nook ready to go.”






The Director.

Friday 1/1, 1932.

Ghost sent me a message. I had sent a message to their drop saying that I wanted a meeting and had had no response for over a week. Then this message. The amount requested this time was ten thousand dollars in three envelopes. They had never asked for that much money before, so whatever it was, it was going to be important to me. The demand for three envelopes, two with 3500 dollars and one with 3000 dollars was interesting. The place was the same one that we had gone to before. My instinct was to let this one pass but there had been a disaster in New Jersey this week. Apparently the other side had discovered our operations and taken everything out in a day. The only people to escape were the school people and they had just sent a message that the school was being shut down as they departed. If they followed their instructions, they would reestablish contact in a month.

In any case I had few details and I was going to have to pay Ghost and Spirit to find out how the disaster happened anyway. So I went to the bank and withdrew the money. Money was starting to look short and my resources were beginning to get stretched. The masters were unlikely to wire more anytime soon. We did have some illicit sources for funds, but they were now at risk. I didn’t want to risk what the Manager had done and taking a resource, because the other side was alert to that now and a Wall Street type just dropping out would raise some flags and attract attention that I could no longer afford.

I had called ahead to the cab company and the same cab driver was waiting to take me down to the restaurant. We parked next to a limousine and a rather large roadster. I walked in and sat down. The roadster and limousine were explained by what appeared to be two mob types and another man discussing some sort of business and dealing with issues. There were three young mermaids with another girl who was apparently in her Change and another table with some navy people discussing an exercise apparently. At another table there were what appeared to be very high level business types discussing something involving a business deal. The rest of the place had a scattering of merfolk and seemingly non fae, but here, were probably not. As I sat there nervously, Spirit walked in with two other ladies. “Hello, D. I just thought that I would introduce you to some new sources of mine. I met them while working for another client. These ladies are Wolf and Sphinx. They used to be associates of the Manager.”

“Is that where you were for the last week and a half. I was trying to find you and couldn’t.”

They were probably indentured. Former indentured. Why they would want anything to do with what I was doing was problematic. “So what do they want with me?”

“We were busy. We ran into these ladies in the course of the work. They understand that you pay for information and they need money.” “Why?”

“We have acquired expensive tastes and habits,” Sphinx said. “The Manager never realized that we were taking money off the top for my little jaunts up state and other things. The problem is that I recently took some bad advice from a notorious character and lost some money in the market. I have a son to take care of with special security requirements that are rather expensive, just bought a new place upstate and have a mortgage. The Manager going away like that was a blow. Ghost here convinced me that you would be rather more generous than the Manager was.”

Wolf followed on. “I’m tired of not being treated like family and want my own place. I also have a son who will want to be going to college. And If I can get back at my brother in law, that is a bonus.”

“What did he do?”

“Basically said right to my face that I wasn’t family and wasn’t going to help with Andy. It wasn’t until he knew the Manager was involved that he took action. Then he put Andy at risk and used the big gun to shoot up the house. If I can get out of there and setup someplace else, it will not be too soon.”

The waitress came over and took our orders. “Let us conduct our business. What can you provide me?”

“What Tom is doing. What the Bureau is doing. I work part time in the sheriff’s office and have provided material to the Manager in the past. Sphinx was my go between. We struck gold recently when my boyfriend and Tom’s father made Tom pull out all his stashes. Tom thinks that these were burned with the boxes that they were in. We pulled the material once we realized that these boxes were like some others that Tom had taken down to the Cape”

She handed me a photoprint copy of a document. The document was a unit record for one of the units that had been filled with the fae. “This is a sample. The payment today is for three packets. Ghost’s people will handle the enlargement and transfer process. Sphinx and I don’t want to have a close contact with you. It might be risky for all of us.”

I handed the money envelopes over. They handed a large and full envelope back. “Now that this is concluded, Ghost, I would like to request that you and Spirit look into some matters that happened in New Jersey earlier this week.”

“Our standard rates and the typical retainer?”


“Ok, we’ll get you the details, but you really should read the papers.” She pulled a clipping out of her purse and handed it to me. “They were troubleshot.”

I looked at the paper and there he was, with his car, in front of our closed down chemical facility as it went up in flames. Apparently he and the bureau had acted very quickly to shut down all our operations once they knew about them. The only question is how much they learned and what was left.

Lunch came and the ladies discussed a party that they had all gone to up in Vermont. It didn’t seem to concern me, so I took a quick peek at the material they had given me. The summary had only begun to tell the story. It was going to be expensive, but I was going to need to see all of the material. After we finished, I paid the bill and left for the cab and the subway. As the subway rumbled its way back to Manhattan, I went through the material and it seemed that Tom had been very thorough in his search for clues as to what we had done. When I arrived at the office, Jaw had sent me a telegram. He had heard that some couples from the New Jersey bower were bonding and had taken the boat to feed. This was good news! Then I thought about it. If the school had been taken, then the other side had the indentured and control of the communications from the bower. Jaw was probably going right into a trap and there was no way that I could tell him.



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