Mermaids, Chapter 25, Part 1

The Colonel’s plot unfolds.

Chapter 25.

Suki.

Friday 1/22, 1932.

“Tochi, where are Taki and Hidimoto with the car? I went down to the lobby and the car wasn’t there. Did Tadeshi forget that I was taking Misako and Nanami shopping with Chrissie and Haruka?”

“Suki, let me check.”

My not so worthless husband checked with our security chief. They came out and Tadeshi said, “They took the car out some time ago. They said that you were feelling ill today and that they would take the princess and her aunt.”

“Tochi, were you playing some sort of game?”

“No. I did not know anything of this.”

“Then what could they be up to? Tadeshi, call Bennies and see if Chrissie is up top yet. Tell them to wait until I get there.”

“Dear, if they are coming back here, why don’t you just have them pick you up?”

“There’s something smelly here, and it isn’t the fish. Those two went out last night to a show and were strange when they got back. It was almost as if they didn’t know me. They haven’t called me “princess” for years and they were all so strict and polite. Not like them at all.”

“I didn’t run into them last night. Nor this morning, which is rather strange. Tadeshi, did they seem ready for duty?”

“Yes they did. A bit too ready, for them, but I didn’t think very much about it.”

He started to talk on the phone. “Sissy this is Tochi’s security chief. Did my people pick up the Princess and the rest yet? – They did? Ok, well we’ll connect with them back here.”

He put down the phone again and it rang right away. He picked it up. “Yes, we do. They were here this morning. The consulate identified them? You want me to send somebody with fingerprints? I will, let me get back to you.” He turned to us and said, “the police found Taki and Hidimoto’s bodies on the river. They have been dead for twelve hours approximatly. I’m calling the bureau. From the sound of things, we may have been hit with dopplegangers after the princess or Chrissie.”

“Chrissie, more likely,” Tochi said. “Call the bureau right away. I just hope that they don’t kill the princess and the others as incidentals.”

Tadeshi called the bureau. “Mary, Chrissie and the other mermaids may have been just been taken by doppelgangers replacing two of my security people. They were picked up at Bennies. They would be in a consulate car with the imperial mons on the doors if they haven’t disposed of the car.”

After answering some questions he put the phone back down. “Mike and Nera are on their way up.”

“Interesting choices,” Tochi said. “Mike I can understand, but Nera?”

“They were probably both there at work and she volunteered,” I said. “It’s not as if they are not partners in any case.”

“What can she do?”

“We will find out. Not least of which is that she can handle her father, sister and brother in law. To say nothing about Tom. What do you think that Tom is going to do about this?”

“Be Tom. Make sure that they don’t kill her. Of if they do, make sure that doing that will be the last mistake they ever make. At that point we lose them both.”

“I know. For that matter what will Nanami’s parents and the rest of their family do when they find out. We were responsible for her.”

Mike and Nera arrived about ten minutes later. Nera said, “Mary put the word out. The paperboys are thin on the ground in that section of Brooklyn, but we should have at least some coverage of the car. They probably won’t keep the car for very long. Where they intend to take the ladies and how they intend to transport them is going to be a mystery. It’s very hard to shield a boat in the water from seafolk and as far as we know they no longer have a boat. I called Mike at the navy yard and the Coast Guard, so any strange boat movements should be discovered. The compelled are calling metal fabrication shops to see if any fabricated a tank system for a truck but that will take some time. I am going to call the Cape as soon as we are finished here. I have already called my sister at the farm.” “Mike, do you think that they will kill the other ladies,” I asked.

“Not if they are smart. Between one connection or another killing any of them is very bad news. On the other hand, kidnapping any of them was very bad news to begin with. When the Manager thing started, we all started to have nightmares about what Tom might do if Chrissie was killed and even worse nightmares about Josh. Noro was out of it, so we didn’t worry too much about that except when he almost pulled in a hurricane. My guess is that they took the ladies to try to get Tom in a position where he would be easy to kill. They should know better than that by now.”

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

“Suki, you’ve known him almost as long as I have. How does Tom do things?”

I smiled. “The other side isn’t going to know what hit them.” “Another thing to think about. I doubt that the people who took Chrissie and the others know merfolk very well and I suspect that Chrissie and the others will work out ways to take advantage of that. We’ll look for requests for tank cars of seawater and something like say, sea urchins that are not usually served.”

“Sea urchins can be delicious.”

“In Japan, they can be found. Here not so easily. Or kelp, for instance. It might be something else for that matter. Horseshoe crabs. I’m sure that the ladies will come up with things that we can track back to.”

“How did things change so fast? They seemed to be going your way and there were fewer monsters?”

“They still are. I haven’t seen everything yet, but at a guess, the Director sent in a report about the end of last year and what happened and the people over there sent what appears to be a werewolf pack, some other things and maybe a shark pod seed, though they haven’t started up and we are looking very closely for that to start up again.

We discovered some very strange entry papers the other day. For the Yugoslavian Olympic team, in fact. A bunch of people that haven’t shown up at Lake Placid as far as the people we have up there know. At least at the Games. They did show up at the academy. If they go back there, we will know. Then there is the Colonel. We haven’t confirmed that he’s here yet, but it looks as if this is one of his classic diversions. Somebody’s playing phone games at the farm, which is just stupid. In any case these new people are being more aggressive. They made a mistake already. They went right after Tom.”

“They had to jump right to the top ranks and play with the big boys. But they will be like the little skinny guys in Sumo. Thrown straight out of the ring.”

Chrissie.

Friday 1/22, 1932.

Misako and Nanami joined Haruka and I at the dock in the morning as we had been doing for the last week. Suki and Ayoko had been bringing the car down and we all went places that would not normally see mermaids. Of course sometimes we did things that involved mermaids in unusual ways. All of which was followed by the press who for some reason had fallen in love with us. After yesterday’s trip to the stock exchange and the hustle and bustle of Wall St as well as visit to the fish market, we were taking the press shopping, visiting the dressmaker for the final fitting and some driving around the city as the weekend weather looked to be bad.

We nagged Silvio to get us into Bennies from the dock for breakfast. After breakfast we waited at our table chatting away until the car showed up with Taki and Hidimoto. They had been taking us to see the sights, the various events that we had been to and shopping with Suki and Ayoko, which meant that we spent the trips joking about Tom and Tochi. Ayoko had a “stuffed shirt” event at the consulate today,but said that she didn’t need our moral support so it was just going to be Suki today. Or at least that’s what we thought until the car pulled up and as Silvio, Taki and Hidimoto got us inside, Suki wasn’t there. Since I had the jump seat today I slid the window open and was about to ask where Suki was when there was a puff of sweet smell and everything went black.

The Director.

Friday 1/22, 1932.

My doubts about this operation were chewing me up. It was bold where I had always been discreet. I also had my doubts about the werewolves and their commander. He had said to call him the Captain. Apparently that was his rank in the war. That was before he became a werewolf, probably. As the doppelgangers pulled the car up beside the truck designed to transport live fish upstate, he and his team prepared the truck to take the unconscious mermaids. I tried again to at least keep this from being a total disaster. “We should leave the other three.”

“No, this way we don’t have any loose ends. It’s orders anyway.”

“They have connections. Two of them are guests of the Japanese prince and his sister and the other is the bonded of the girl’s brother, a navy officer. It would be better to leave them here and even better to toss them into the water. Killing them or hurting them is not something I recommend.”

“Don’t worry, we won’t. At least not until things are over.”

“I didn’t think any of this is a good idea, but it was not my decision to make. Killing any of them before all of the connections are dead will be signing our death warrants. Also, if you think that you can turn Tom into a cooperative lap dog and both his families into sheep, you are fooling yourselves. I made that mistake already.”

As they finished the transfer, the captain gave me a rather sloppy salute and they drove off. The doppelgangers had already left with the car. They had their own problems as they were now wearing the faces of two men that would be sought after with great vigor and they would not be able to Change again for some time.

I walked toward the subway station. At least I was away from this reckless operation. As I entered the station a street kid ran past me. He must have been running a messenger delivery as he was heading toward a Western Union office.

Tom.

Friday 1/22, 1932.

Noro and Josh had just dropped me off at the office and Lacey said to call the farm. Chrissie was entertaining the Japanese Ningyo and had a great time all week while we were having our fun and games with the people messing with the phones. Theresa was rather annoyed that we hadn’t actually caught them yesterday. I wondered if playing that record in the jail cell constituted cruel and unusual punishment. I would have to ask Tochi about that.

I hadn’t gone down to the city for the weekend because they were all coming up on Monday anyway. The tank beds had all been installed at the inn and the pool was almost ready. We even had two tank cars of salt water waiting. So I was going to do some cross country skiing at the farm this weekend with Namami’s brother and the rest of the team. We were planning to do an obvious and very public sweep through the hills and play beater for Boris and Ralph. That was until I called the farm and mother answered. “Chrissie has been taken. I was just going to call you.” “Taken, how?”

“Mary and Helmut said that the doppelgangers took two of Tochi’s people and used the car to take all four of the ladies”

“Have you called Josh yet?”

“Not yet.” “Ok, I will do that. At least they took them alive. I expect that I will hear from them soon. They must have demands. I will listen and string them along. I suspect that Chrissie will make her location known. Both she and Haruka have guns in their purses. I’m going to make up a couple more anyway. I don’t think that the other side knows that we all played around with Eli’s “phase while not in Change” trick. I’m going to hang up now and call Josh, bye.”

I called Josh. “Josh, the other side just took Chrissie. Mary called the farm.”

“That was stupid. Especially if they hurt her.”

“They also took Haruka, Misako and Nanami.”

“That was VERY stupid. I will call Steve. He’s probably right on top of this”

“Tell him that the hunt is on.”

“Definitely.” He hung up.

The phone rang. Lacey said, “Tom, it’s Miss Vicky on the line.” “Hello Miss Vicky. I’m guessing that Mary called you.” “Yes she did. Now don’t do anything stupid or go off on your own. And don’t let your father in law do that either. I already called the Director, but he already knew because of the international implications.”

“I don’t plan to do anything stupid. These people want something from me and will keep Chrissie and the other ladies alive until they get it. But I will refuse to play the game the way they think I would.”

“Well it doesn’t sound as if you cutting loose and going all on your own.” “Have I ever done that?” “Tom, you know better than to start with me. Yes you have, with all of us scared out of our wits. You have responsibilities now. Especially to your lady. The best thing is to get both of you through this alive. I need to go, bye.”

Noro came into the office. “Josh just told me. What do you think triggered this? We haven’t exactly been visibly active the last few weeks.” “I don’t know. The Director has been riding Eli and Theresa pretty hard wanting more about the Manager going down, me and the material I gave her. The Director actually paid 100 thousand dollars for all the material right away. Theresa didn’t think he would pay that much when she demanded it. She wanted to make sure that I was ok with them selling some more stuff about me. I was.

Then there is all the fun and games that somebody has been playing at Gretchen’s and the farm. Somebody is trying to ge a look at what is going on over there at the farm and not over here where we have all been working away.”

“How did they pick up on Chrissie and the Ningyo?”

“Noro, we will have to find out. There has always been that connection to the Rockaway bower that we couldn’t quite put our finger on. We never did figure out how they found out about your wife and Vinnie, along with what happened to the king and Bennie that we have never really looked into. Once the sharks were gone I just figured that Sal and Tim would look into it when Sal got back from his honeymoon. On the other hand, the fact that Chrissie and I know Tochi and his family is hardly a secret and Tochi’s people and the car have been going up and down the street at Bennies and making a pickup for a couple of weeks now. It would’t take much thinking to just have somebody hang out in that speakeasy next to Bennies and Theresa has taken the Director to Bennies. They had to know that if we were entertaining Japanese mermaids that we would put them up somewhere. Just because everybody on the other side has been an idiot doesn’t mean that they all are. Tim, Sal and Steve probably know more, but that will have to wait until we talk to them.” “Taking Chrissie and the other ladies hardly makes me think that they are very intelligent.” “Intelligent enough to set something like that up in the first place. Not smart enough to understand why you wouldn’t want to.”

“That seems to be rather stupid. They should know by now that you have the goods on them to a large extent and yet they came right after you. But this is the way the dark is. They fixate on something and keep coming after it even when they fail. That was what allowed us to overcome in our little war at the beginning of the country. Do you want to go back to the farm. I’ll call a car.” “No, I think I will sit it out today. I don’t think that they will attempt to make contact until Monday. But we will see. Anyway I want to talk to Vinnie about our little project. It may just have become more important. Could I ask you for some production?”

“Of what?”

“Noisemakers. I have this feeling that I will want a bunch and while I could and will get the boys making some up here at the shop, I want to have a lot to play with.”

He smiled “I can go with that without a problem. Any other ideas?”

“Yes, but I want to pull the drawings from my cabinet and have somebody at the farm make prints. For that matter some of my other nephews may want to get in on the action. Along with some other kids.” “Oh, I’m sure of that. Chrissie is very popular up here and Tochi is too. Ok, I will meet you for lunch.”

He left again I worked up some things until lunch. Noro and Josh took me over to Antonio’s for lunch so that we could have a discreet conversation. Josh said, “You don’t seem to be frightened by what happened.” “I am. I can’t let it shut me down or that would be letting Chrissie down. These people want me to panic and do something stupid. So I can’t afford to do that. They will play hardball to get what they want, which is presumably me, dead. I can’t think that they want money and they can get the information that I know more easily than kidnapping my wife.” “You didn’t mention the Director.”

“Being this direct isn’t his style. While I never knew who he was and had never actually seen him until his little chit chat at Bennies the other day, I’ve been watching how he operates for a long time. While he is not adverse to kidnapping, it’s kids for the most part to use to extort something from their parents. To take four mermaids, especially mermaids as well connected as these were is something that he would not consider worth the risk.

You’ve seen how he operates when you had that run in with the Necromancer on the barges. A nice tight and small operation that gets inside and bleeds things. Accidents, house fires and infiltration and corruption. Keeping things as discreet as he can and having a low profile. That is his style. This is more like how a military guy operates.

This was bold and expensive. This operation was put together and they were willing to spend a huge chunk of money for intelligence about me and then use resources that can’t be replaced easily to get at the objective. The Director uses minimal resources and doesn’t want to make waves. These people don’t care.

Even taking Chrissie at this point is incredibly stupid and he knows that. If Chrissie is killed, he would know that I will not rest until everything he is and has is utterly destroyed as quickly as possible. All of that ending with me shooting him. At this point when he thinks of me, he knows he’s looking down the barrel of a gun. As for you two, I think that he knows just how much clout you have. One thing is that I have this feeling that Chrissie is being brought up here. I don’t know why other than that is the sort of thing that I would do if I were in the habit of kidnapping mermaids.” “So you don’t think that they will take her somewhere along the coast?”

“That carries a lot of risk for them. If Chrissie, or any of the mermaids gets into open water, they can be gone. Deep and discreet, completely hidden from the surface. Unless the bottom has nothing on it and there is very little bottom around here that doesn’t, a mermaid can just find a nook and hide.”

“Stelios didn’t manage to,” Josh said. “On the other hand, he was playing against Roger who is mer and Roscoe and Linda who are sensitive. He was also trying to attack something and working to a deadline. You’re right that most land fae would lose her very quickly.”

“There’s also the problem that if she was anywhere near the water, she could attract a porpoise and have them carry a message to me. Being near the water is not that great an idea. Then there is the problem of having a safe place to house her in the first place. After we took out the Manager, New Jersey and Philadelphia, what’s left?”

We finished lunch and went back to work. Lacey buzzed me and said, “Tim Kirk from the navy is on the line.”

“I’ll take the call.”

“Tom, Merlia and I just heard. I do have something from some of your old friends in Washington. Whatever you need, you get. They just want a look see before whatever happens goes off.”

“I will take that under advisement. I think that I will actually use the radios this time. Running miles of phone cable might get a little conspicuous.” “You think that she is up there?” “Not yet. I think that she will be though. You can run down the potential lists of safe places to put a mermaid and keep her alive while not letting her escape just like I did. Also, there have been a lot of fun and games with the family phones this week. By people that I didn’t know. How did the Philly setup shut down?”

“Once the sharks were gone, the whole thing collapsed as some navy people along with people from the bower chased things down and started to pull compulsions. They even avoided burning any buildings down.” “They probably didn’t have any chemistry sets to deal with either.”

‘Not an operating one. Somebody had started to put some pieces together and shut down when the money stopped. This time they did find some pissed off vendors and we have prints for just about everything as well as a vendor’s list. I turned everything over to Roger yesterday when I got back. Merlia and I were cleaning up after we got back and Tochi, Suki and Chrissie were going to bring the ladies over to Sal’s place tonight after they went shopping so that we could all have a Swim together. Merlia is rather disappointed that we won’t get a chance to meet them. I need to go and look into some things. The compelled and Sarla ran into an unusual entry the other day. The Yugoslav Olympic team.” “They aren’t sending one. They don’t have any cross country skiers and they can’t afford it. Very interesting. Bye.”

That was interesting. An Olympic team as a cover was good way to infiltrate a bunch of young men and women, most of whom would be soldier types. With all the other teams coming in, it was likely that nobody would pay much attention. Somebody on our side had apparently noticed.

Just as it was getting time to get ready to leave, Bob and his brother showed up. I hadn’t wanted to attract attention to what they were up to and hadn’t talked to them about the extrcurricualar activities they had been up to while I had been visible in the office all week. We had been planning going to go over it tomorrow and I was going to make a discreet visit to the blind on Monday.

“We’re going camping again.” “Who are you taking as backup?”

“Brian and Daniel this time. Since it’s the full moon, we wanted it to be just family. We heard about Chrissie. I think that they might bring her up here. That academy has been hopping even during the day the last weekend.” “Be careful. It’s likely that there is more than one werewolf now. The Yugoslavian Olympic team” “We know. They all showed up in some cars and a bus last Friday. All twenty of them along with some other people. There were thirty in all. Vinnie’s crew has been doing that contractor work on Jacob’s stables after your friends convinced Jacob that his place was a dump. They saw them get here and pull in last Friday and we’ve seen them running and training in the school yard. They don’t seem to be going into the woods yet. There may be some things with wings too. We’ve sensed things in the air at night but they haven’t come out in the daytime yet. At least not in Change.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Steve asked us not to unless it looked as if they were coming after you or the farm. He didn’t want you acting differently. Since it was obvious that they were looking at you and not us, we wanted to keep things looking normal as long as possible.

Then there was all the fun and games with the people near the farm and the taps. We had people watching the werewolves and since they weren’t coming after you, we concentrated on these new people. The thing with Chrissie was just stupid. But so are these werewolves. We’ve had people watching them and they haven’t even bothered to check out the area and look around.

That hunting blind we use has an old shield that some Martin kids put on it a long time ago and we haven’t messed with that. We figure that if they look at it they will see the old shield and not see us shielding inside. We’ll keep an eye on the place for more strange things showing up. The hunt still on for next weekend?”

“Yes it is. We need to clear those pestholes out before the games and the possibility of somebody tripping them off by accident.”

Steve was coming up next week and bringing all of his people and maybe some other surprises. Bob Vickers was also bring in some of his people, all of whom were fae and with Boris’s people along with Hilda and Bill up for the weekend we were going to clean up some pestholes.

“I wish we had Scott up here,”

“What, I’m not good enough, Bob,” Tony said. “I’m better in the woods than you are.”

“Yes you are. But Scott has been my partner for a couple of years now and we’ve both been involved in this for over a month now. We know how these people think. Also, mom will make my life hell if you get hurt even if it’s your own fault.”

“That’s true. So we will have to be extra careful. Frankly though, I’m more concerned with Ed than I am about these characters. If Ed had been in the habit of being stupid, we would have picked up on him a long time ago. I talked with Uncle Boris about Ed after you did and Uncle Boris said that if Ed had been letting the monster hit families anywhere in a one hundred mile radius of the academy none of the sheriff’s around here could find it. At least not once a month. There were some missing campers and bums lost in the woods, but that happens anyway.”

“Don’t play games either way,” I said. “Have a shotgun loaded with specials next to the hide entrance and have tripwires. Be ready to shoot. Especially tonight.”

“We already have, Uncle Tom. Tony, we need to get going if we want to be at the hide and in before the party crowd shows up. Uncle Tom, We will see you Monday night unless you come out.” “I may, especially if I sense Chrissie close. In fact I will come out tomorrow regardless.”

“You know where to start from. Ski in from there and you’ll see where the deer trail starts. See you tomorrow.”

I would rather have had the boys in the shop, but they had been keeping an eye on the academy the last two weekends after the wedding. We could do the shop work after school anyway the two days they weren’t over here. Since we has managed to get the first list for the games cleared and were well into the second list I wasn’t going to be as busy. So I was going to take next week’s afternoons and start to work on these characters. When the hunt went off, I didn’t want them to know just what was going on.

I called Bob Vickers. He was going to need to be updated anyway and I wanted to let him know that the hunt was still on. “Bob, our old friends that came back are starting some fun and games. They took my wife this morning.” “Does that mean that you will be looking for her along the coast?”

“I don’t think so. It would be almost impossible to keep somebody with a tail confined near the water and once she was in the water, it would be almost impossible to find her. We destroyed all the people who could do that and if they brought any with them, they haven’t started to chew on kids yet. So she will be on the land in a pool someplace. They will be looking for me anyway. In any case the hunt is on up here. We can give the things we know about a bloody nose and shake them up a bit.”

“I like that idea. We’ve already started to infiltrate people. I will see you later.”

He hung up. I went back to work until four o’clock rolled in and Noro came by to pick me up. Somebody must have told Bill Jacobs because he was waiting beside the car. “Director Hoover called me and said that we would be seeing a bunch of his people regarding your wife and the other ladies. Considering what they are, that was a bit of a surprise. He also said to keep an eye on you. I’ll do anything I can to help. Chrissie is a wonderful lady. Mazie would make my life hell if I didn’t anyway. I already told Boris.”

“Thanks, Bill. Just keep Jacob out of my sight for the next couple of weeks.”

“I’ll try. He’s been good this week though.”

“That’s been a bit of a surprise actually. Two weeks ago I almost had Sal come up and Troubleshoot him. The only reason I didn’t was that he was down in Florida on his honeymoon. The two clowns have been good too.”

“Well I need to get this show on the road.”

We started off in a bit of a parade, with a car with people from White’s, Noro’s White Cadillac and Bill’s car trailing behind. There wasn’t a peep from anything and we crossed the ferry without incident. When we arrived at the farm, mother came outside and hugged me. “Tom I’m so sorry.” “For what, mother? You didn’t do anything.”

“Well not about this. We will do something about this, though. The people that did this reached into all our hearts and tried to rip them out. Mera and I have had a very long talk and this time, we have decided that regardless of what they say or do, we will only negotiate to break Chrissie and the others free and then we will really pull out all the stops on them. Mera has already called her brothers and her sons. She has also talked to the Maine bower about this. We have messages out to all the bowers as far South as Georgia to look out for strange activity. So it’s likely that they will have no safe place on the coast if they try.” “Mother, I think they are bringing the mermaids here, to across the lake.” “Are they that stupid? This is our home ground.”

“We will see. But there has been an increase of activity at the academy the last couple of weeks.”

“Bob and Scott were talking about that. I wish that Scott and Lizzie were not down in the city on the boat.” “I don’t, mother. Something changed and whoever is in charge now may go after Scott and Lizzie simply because they are the heirs over there the same way that the Manager went after me. If nobody knows where they are, they can’t be hit. We’ve also taken Gretchen and her kids out of the picture.”

That had worked out well since she was a teacher and the school on Long Island needed teachers that understood fae issues. It had taken some quiet persuasion and a discreet meetup with Ed to pull it off though. That meeting at George’s was paying dividends in many ways.

“Well dinner is ready, so let’s eat.”

Josh went over to Mera and she actually started to cry a bit on his shoulder. Josh hugged her and looked at me. “We will get her back, alive. That means that you don’t do anything foolish and get yourself killed. We are all in this together. I won’t go haring off after the monsters and you will not either. We do this the same way that you did the Manager. You got everybody out then and we will do that again. Then when everybody is out, we go on a hunt.”

“Josh, I’ve already started. Stephie is going to hate me.” “Why would I do that, Tom?” She was putting stuff on the table in front of a bunch of kids that looked a bit dirty, still. They had apparently all been out at the shop because James was with them

“Because I am going to be using stuff like I never have before and you will need a bigger house just for the museum.” “We have a barn. That old wreck behind the shop. The boys and I were talking and we might want to do something with that anyway. The kids heard the news and were over in your shop cooking up trouble. We also drilled a lot of holes in metal blocks and James drove over and had a stack of prints for the noisemaker drawings made up. So you will have as many as you need.”

I hugged her. “Thank you, sis, thank you so much.”

I had an idea and turned to Noro. “Could you call down to the office and have them send up thirty or so trouble kits? They can get them directly from the company.”

He smiled and said, “So who’s going to be cooking up trouble?”

“I don’t know yet. But I imagine that we can find somebody that will want to cause trouble near the Martins. I think a little gift over there to the school will go a long way. Maybe I will even arrange it with the publisher as a photo op.”

‘I’ll call Ray. This has potential.”

James said, “You already gave us thirty, so it’s only fair that the kids over there get the access. We wouldn’t want them to feel deprived.”

After dinner the kids went home and I was going to go out to the shop, but Stephie said that the kids had things still working and that we would be better off making plans. So that’s what we did.

Steve.

Friday 1/22, 1932.

Mary called me at my office in the navy yard at about nine o,clock. “Steve, they took Haruka, Chrissie and the other two ladies.”

“How?”

“We’re still working things out, but it appears as if they used the doppelgangers to switch with two of Tochi’s people and they just went down and picked them up.”

I had failed. The Colonel had walked through everything that I had set up and gotten what he wanted. Well at least what he though he wanted. If they kept Chrissie alive, I would give it a week before the diversion sent her back. Especially the clowns up at the academy.

“Mary, could you check with the aquarium and see how they transport fish?”

“I already sent somebody down and the company they use had a truck and drivers come up missing. Boonsri called in last night. She also called the police, but they didn’t get to Tochi’s people in time. From what Tochi said they called just after the doppelganger made the pickup. We sent somebody to the trucking outfit to find out if they have a picture of the truck.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Stay put and go to you grandmother’s little meeting. If this is the Colonel and it probably is, we need to collect as much as we can and you need to know what you are facing.”

“Should I call Tom and faher?”

“I already called the farm and Greta will call Tom;s office and have them call her. She will also call Josh and Noro.”

“Ok, I’ll go to the meeting and then go on up to Newport tomorrow with Joe.We’ll both plan to go up to the farm with my people. I’ll let Roger and the general know that the Colonel is in the area. Al too.”

“Don’t tell Al yet. They may be watching him, or they may not know where Al is. I’ll let Al know by Wednesday when we have more. Josh and Noro will tell him if they get a whiff of the colonel. I need to go. It’s going to be a very busy day.”

She hung up and I went over to Tim’s office. He was making a call and handed the phone to Merlia who started to right things down. He turned to me and said, “We’re calling bowers. They’re putting the word out.”

“I don’t think that they are going near a bower. The werewolves based themselves out of the academy and took a truck for transporting fish. I think that the Colonel is setting up the academy for a fall, taking the clowns that went up with it. I bet that the werewolves have an escape plan for when the academy gets hit.”

“So how do we play it?”

“I’m going up there with my brother and we will play fun and games with the werewolves with Tom and my people and Boris will look out for the real attack. How it plays out will probably change, but Joe and I have a bunch of gags that we have to get rid of before our wives discover them so that they continue to think of us as responsible.”

Tim smiled. “I can see that that might be an issue. Since Haruka is there, you can provide entertainment.”

“We will make an effort to make sure that the ladies are entertained.”

“What do you think that the Colonel wants from Tom?”

“We’ve had two intelligence people from Washington both wanting Brad’s diary. I suspect that the Colonel does too. If Tom should bring it out, and he will if the Colonel actually shows himself the Colonel will probably try to ramp up the stakes. Of course if the Colonel actually shows up, my people pull the ladies and shoot any werewolf in our way. We also discreetly make sure that the ladies can defend themselves. Not that they won’t be able to.”

“Well I’ll call Tom in a bit. My bosses in Washington already called and want a chance to see Tom in action with the Colonel as a bonus.”

“Don’t tell Tom about the Colonel. I’ll let him know when it’s appropriate. I don’t want him going off on the road of sacrifice and taking my sister with him.”

“That makes sense. From what the Commander said yesterday, we want to paly things quietly anyway.”

“Yes we do. I’ll let Aunt Eltra know and tell her to not let Al know until I call. I want a better read on what’s going on anyway. I’m going back to my office and doing some reading.” I wanted a look at the Colonel’s book. I had read some of it last night and it had not been all that pleasant. I knew that I was in a profession where thigs got messy. But this man reveled in the mess, suggesting that you should deliberately make things as messy as possible. Tim had been absolutely right when he had discussed the book last night. This was a monster even without Change. The Admiral showed up in my door again. I stood up and saluted. “I just heard. A couple things. First, we go slow and get the ladies out alive. As well as any other victims that may be in the academy. Second, if you can do it without risking the other lives and you get a shot at the Colonel, take it. Third use what resources you thk appropriate. I’ve already called Parris island and they are discreetly sending two companies on winter training. I’ve called my boss and he’s notifying the East coast commands to be alert for things. Also the Argonaut is sitting in the Sound if you take Gretchen away on the boat. We’ll make her and the kids disappear for a while. Maybe that will throw the bastard off. That’s all.”

I saluted and he left. I continued to read. The Colonel was big on deception and diversions. On the other hand I came from a family where playing those games were second nature and Tom had too. I don’t think that the Colonel understood yet what he had done when he lit us off. Then I called Sal’s place and talked to Roger. The big five cartons were made from Tom’s reduced files, the files that he had recuced while he was at Pratt and Whitney. But there was another set of files that Tom had collected after he left Pratt, the battle files and related material that he had stashed in the phone stuff and added to the big file later. That wasn’t in the the material that the Director had had and the Colonel was probably looking for it. I also needed to call my sister, so I dialed the business office number. “Hi Daisy, is Stacey there?”

“Hi Steve! She’s here. What’s going on?”

“I’ll let her tell you.”

“Well I will put her on.”

“Steve, what is going on?”

“Has mother called yet?”

“No. Is she going too?”

“Almost certainly. Chrissie, Haruka and the other two ladies were kidnapped this morning.”

“How?”

“We had beefed up security at Bennies and so they used the doppelgangers and replace two of Tochi’s people.”

“Do you need me and George in New York?” “No. Stay there and keep an eye on things. Joe is already down here and we are coming back tomorrow so that I can take my people and Joe up to the farm. I’ll tell you more, but if any of your contacts know anything about a guy they call the Colonel get what you can from them. Theresa and Eli are holding a meeting this afternoon where a bunch of us are going to pool what we know. I’ll bring everything with me.”

“Ok, I will call the farm and talk to Greta and mother. Bye.”

I decided to get together with my people and make some changes. I had originally planned to take the two platoons here in the city up to Newport with me and brief and stage everything from there. But I didn’t want to leave the Admiral and the bowers bereft and I wanted shuffle things around. The two platoons here in the city would take the train to White river junction and meet up with cars and a truck. I would go up to Newport and the Cape with Joe, collect some things and go up to the farm. Joe and I would get together with Tom and make sure that the ladies were provided for while my people started to get ready to give the Colonel a bloody nose. By the time that was done and a late lunch I was time to go to my grandmother’s meeting, so I collected Tim and Commander LaFarge and took them to my grandparents building. I introduced Tim and the Commander to George and Sarah and then we went into the office. Sal, Bill and Hilda were already there with the Colonel, Albert and a lady I did not know. Theresa introduced everyblyd including Ethel from the Associated press who had apparently lost her husband to the werewolves and had been collecting material ever since. She finished with, “Tim, Mike, Nera and Steve couldn’t make it for obvious reasons because of the events. So why don’t we get started. First of all, I contacted the Colonel’s wife at their estate in East Prussia and she does not have a picture of the man since she destroyed them all when they separated. She is glad that Gretchen is doing well and wants to visit at some point. She has not seen her husband in ten years. The Colonel was apparently rather upset that Helga let Gretchen and young Bruce go to America to be with their father.” “Where is Gretchen now?” The Colonel asked.

“My place,” Sal said. “Andy and Trillia are having an after school pool party with the school kids, navy kids and bower kids.”

“A pool party in January?”

“Not really. But they said it was to encourage the more skittish bower kids to come up top. Gretchen, Tony and Robert are there with Sillia. The bower kids would go into the poolhouse, but not come up to the mainhouse. At least at first.” Joe rolled Moira in, followed by Scott and Lizzie. He was smiling as he said, “look who I found.” “Sorry we’re late,” Scott said. “Lizzie was shopping for a dress for the parties and the Games and the subway took longer than I expected.”

“That’s fine,” Theresa said. “We were just getting started. Why don’t you fill us in on what’s going on up there at the academy.”

Scott did. He went over how Jacob had chased him out of the stables right in front of the academy, how the bully boys had tried to chase them away and how Tom discovered the blind and how they had set it up.

“The people inside don’t know that it’s there?” The Colonel asked. “It must be shielded then, but still it must be somewhat visible to fae. The shield alone should attract attention.”

“The staff there may know about it and not care. As far as they are concerned, it’s just ther and the fact that if overlooks the academy and everything else is not something they concern themselves with. The werewolves, I don’t understand, though. We’ve been watching them since they arrived and they haven’t even bothered to look. They just did their exercises and went back inside.”

“What about the visitors.”

“With the exception of three or four, we knew who they were. We’ve put names on their pictures.”

I pulled Tim’s picture from Wednesday and said, “What can you tell me about the other two in this picture?”

“Well the Director is on the right and the boss werewolf is on the left. The middle guy I don’t know about, but let me check something.”

He started to got through the stack of pictures. “Here he is, going in with the other visitors. Then we got him coming out the next day in the late morning. So he probably wasn’t a visitor.”

He set the daylight photo aside. “When we go back up, I’ll see if he came back.”

“So he was there when the Director was there?” Theresa asked.

“About the same time. Also about the time that the werewolves arrived.”

“Ed and the Director brought Tom’s material in, did you see it leave?” I asked.

“Bob and I weren’t there when this character left. We were running the phones with you.”

“So none of us saw him leave. We’ll have to ask General Vickers when we get back. Or Brian and Dan. Has there been anything else going on?”

“Somebody was playing with the phones. Bob’s mom is rather annoyed.” “It wasn’t us!” both Commander LaFarge and Colonel Decker said. The colonel added, “she didn’t ues the record, did she?”

“Yes she did.”

All three of them seemed to be sympathetic for the guys monitoring the phones. I asked, “What’s the record?”

“Bob’s brother Jeremy’s favorite song. He’s seven and grandmother gave it to him when was four. The record is scratched and the song is painful even without the scratch. When the phone was tapped and Aunt Theresa spent an entire week chasing down a click in the system before realizing what it was, the next time somebody tapped the phone, she cut that line out and had Bob tie in the record. Those guys don’t realize how lucky they are. At least they could stop listening. That’s when Bob started to hang out with me. We could actually get things done at my place.”

“Did you run plots to destroy the record?” the colonel asked. “We could provide assistance.”

“Not against a five year old and the grief involved. We tried, but Jeremy hides the record most of the time. Bob and I were hoping that the werewolves would attack the phone exchange trying to find the record and we could arrange for an accident, but they ran away when the owner of their safe house called and wanted Boris to check out the house. Jeremy has probably hidden the record again.”

“How bad could the record be?” Eli asked.

All three of them shivered. “Bad,” Scott said.

I thought that I would ask Greta for the record title. For the future. Theresa gave a summary of what we had found out about the effort to kill the fae and the actions at the warehouse and the Manager’s. Sal went through the sharks and tking down the “House” that the sharks had been running as well as what the New jersey operation had looked like. Tim Kirk had a the material from the Philadelphia operation. Ethel went down the list of things that the Colonel had been involved in. The Commander had a good file and outlook on the monster and how he operated. He had vistited some towns where the Colonel had hit and spoken with survivors and witnesses. One thing that he liked to use was going to be a bit harder for him. I turned to Scott and said, ‘Make sure that you and Bob keep your construct jars in a secure place.

“We do. We also haven’t told anybody where it is. Doug is alert and he has both Noro’s and Mary’s number as well as the farm’s. Mera made sure that Vera had everything.”

“Who’s Doug?”

“Our local construct Creator. He has a place over there near Lake Placid. It’s actually a village. He also keeps his ears to the ground and knows what’s going on.”

‘He sounds like a good resource to cultivate,” Theresa said. The meeting broke up and Sarah went to make reproductions for Ethel, Colonels Decker, Commander LaFarge, Roger, Tim, me and Hilda. Scott was taking a set back for Eric, but wouldn’t pick it up until he got back from His little trip on the boat tomorrow.

Joe and I went up to Theresa’s apartment with Moira, Lizzie and Scott and I started to break down a bit. Suppose this monster killed Haruka and my sister?

Well I was going to take steps to make sure that he couldn’t and that if he did, it was going to be his last mistake.

 

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