Mermaid, Chapter 26, part 1.

Things are going to heat up as the Colonel put his scheme together.

Chapter 26.

Chrissie

Wednesday 1/27, 1932

We were sitting at the table when the compelled brought breakfast and the papers in. Doris was apparently covering something in Washington and Tim was the front for both my family and the Japanese prince IE, Tochi. They had all come up here, which meant that most of the rest were here too.

Namani said, “My brother and his friends just went past again. They dropped some things, but I don’t think they noticed here.”

“Steve and Joe were across the road with Bob and Scott,” Haruka said. “They weren’t even trying to hide. They were probably planting noisemakers.”

“I guess my husband is getting ready.” I giggled. “He’s going to go all out, I suspect.” The kids came in. Terry said, “There’s a Necromancer here, and a Chemist. They came in on a taxi last night. But they aren’t Pete and Heinrich.”

“Pete and Heinrich are dead.” I smiled when I thought about that and what they had done to my friends and relatives. “Pete was shot when he tried to ambush my husband and me and Heinrich must have been in the warehouse that burned down.”

“Well Millie said that they were planning something about Tom and the Chemist needed equipment and wasn’t quite sure how to get it. He didn’t really like coming up here and the places that he had tried to buy things from wouldn’t sell them to foreigners.”

“Who’s Millie?”

“One of the maids, she delivers your food.”

“So she can talk to you?”

“Yes, doesn’t she talk to you?”

“No, none of the staff does.”

“They must have been told not to.” “But they will talk to you.”

“Oh, yes. We talk about things all the time.” “What do they think about us?”

“They like you all. Especially how you push the werewolves and the rest around.”

“Terry, would Millie talk to you if I’m there?”

“I don’t know. But I could ask.”

She ran back out and came back, with Millie. “Millie says that she can talk with me with you in the room and as long as she is talking to me, you can be there.”

“Wonderful! Well Millie, I and the other ladies would like to thank you all for taking such good care of us.”

Millie said, “Terry, Tell Chrissie that we appreciate that.”

That worked, and off we went. As long as Terry was there, Millie’s compulsions would not kick in and we could discuss everything. This was going to make life easier. Millie had to get back to work and Terry and I went over to talk to Bill. With a Chemist in the building I wanted to make sure that he couldn’t tamper with our water supply without us knowing about it first. Bill had already locked the pool’s fill and drains, so that was taken care of. He had also locked the cleaning supplies and other things that the building used a long time ago. So far the dark fae in charge had not ordered him to provide the Chemist with anything. So the Chemist was stuck for the time being. Bill, Terry and I looked at the the pool’s pumps and filter system and the furnace and there was no evidence that the Chemist had been downstairs at all. We went back upstairs and Millie brought in lunch for us. After lunch we got the kids started on doing things with the books that Tom delivered. At four o’clock, the kids left and after a while, Jacob showed up. We were in the water and I popped up. “Your husband is hard to get in contact with for a discreet chat. He had a reporter with him all day and the reporter didn’t leave until he did. On the other hand, I’m not somebody he wants me near him any way. If Ed comes back maybe he can present the demands. He gets along with Tom.”

“What are the demands? That he show up someplace so that they can kill him. That’s not going to be easy. Then what happens? Since I will figure that you want to kill me after that part, there’s nothing stopping me from going all out. Then there is my father and mother, who are certainly not lightweights and my grandfather who really needs something to live for and will not be happy if something happens to me. Then there are the other ladies here, who the Japanese Emperor promised personal protection and who’s son is probably looking for them with the help of the government.”

“I can’t say. I have told the board what you said.”

“And they are still keeping me here? They have already lost the best chance to kill us. Now if they try, it’s likely to be costly. As for the tiger they are riding, did they have a plan for getting off? Or did they just expect everything to work out as they wanted like the Manager did?”

“I can’t talk about the board’s decisions with you. For that matter I don’t even know what they were. I am just supposed to be the intermediary. As for the rest of it, I can’t say. I only do these things because I must.”

He turned around and left. Millie came in with dinner and sat with us while we ate. She couldn’t talk with us, but that didn’t mean that she couldn’t listen. Or answer yes or no questions. For that matter, there were pads and pencils in the old gym office and Millie had no problems writing things down. She also had no problems with making up sketch maps of things. So actually talking to us while we plotted wasn’t absolutely necessary.

As it got later, the noise started outside. Inside as well as it sounded as if there were a lot of Tom’s boats and other things going off. The sounds were music to our ears.

Tom.

Wednesday 1/27, 1932

Tim and I went in with Josh and Noro to the office and then Mark and Charlie joined us as we went to the bobsleigh track and did a final check on the bases for the stands. They would be arriving tomorrow and Friday for the final push. Jacob showed up and said, “Tom, I need to talk with you. It’s important.”

“Jacob, I have a reporter here from the business section of the World and we’re trying to get this last bit done. Call the office and make an appointment.”

“They won’t talk to me.”

“I didn’t tell them not to. But you were banned by Mr. Claytor and Mr. White. Frankly Jacob, why should I want to talk to you?”

“Aren’t you concerned about your wife?”

“You have information about my wife? Let’s go talk to the sheriff right now.”

“I can’t do that. I will see you later.”

He left.

After Jacob left, I introduced Tim to Vinnie, who was very pleased to meet him, especially when he found out that Tim was going out with Sal’s sister. After going over things with Vinnie and going back to the office Tim, and I joined Josh and Noro for lunch. As we sat down, I said to Josh, “Jacob was trying to talk to me. He didn’t seem to want to talk to me in front of people. I told him to make an appointment.”

“He can’t. Noro told your people not to talk to him before we left for Sal’s wedding. So he can’t call in and make an appointment.”

“Then he’s going to have to work harder. Or the rest of them will.”

“These people can’t seem to handle the fact that you aren’t just sitting and waiting for them to send an intermediary,” Noro said. “They can’t seem to move to the next level. You will want to be on your guard. I expect that they will try to kill you again. Using Twisted or zombies, perhaps.”

“I would sense Twisted and zombies. For a while down in Washington, it was the Twisted of the month with Mike, Alex or I spotting them and quietly getting rid of them as they were looking for me. As for zombies, the Manager tried that too and Mike and Tochi’s guards dealt with them and Sumitomo and I dealt with the Necromancer after he Changed. I didn’t realize it at the time as the zombie master got back into the park he had launched his zombies from before he dissolved and Mike dealt with most of the clean up after I made sure that Tochi was out of the picture. Suki gave me hell for putting Tochi at risk until Tochi told her to back off and that it hadn’t been my fault.

Tochi and Sumitomo wanted to pick the place that night and the area was a good one. We didn’t expect to get robbed and Tochi had his guards go get the car. The zombies showed up and started for us and Sumitomo realized what they were and we ran. Some of them had been friends of mine and when we reached my truck, I pulled the pistol out and tried to approach them, realized that there was something really wrong with them and started shooting. Mike showed up with some bureau people and took them out and then Tochi’s guards came up and beheaded some of them with their swords.   The Necromancer came out from a cross street and tried to Turn me or compel me and I shot him. I didn’t shoot to kill and that’s when he Changed and I shot him in the lower neck. He ran into the park and dissolved.

Tochi said that I should have a sword and that’s when he gave me the Samurai outfit. Suki laughed when I wore it at a party for the first time. In any case, I know what zombies and Twisted feel like at this point. As for werewolves, well I know what they feel like and I even know what this batch feels like. So it’s unlikely that they can sneak up on me.”

“Well, still be on your guard.”

“I will be. We still haven’t encountered the flying things that we sensed. They haven’t shown themselves like the werewolves have.”

After lunch I continued the interview and took Tim around to the ski jump and the indoor and outdoor skating rink and pointing out what we had done since we started. Jacob seemed to be at the edge of things off and on, but never came close and talked to me. Which was fine as far as I was concerned. At about four o clock Josh and Noro met with us at the office to go back with us in the car to to the farm. When we arrived at the farm, Roscoe and Linda had arrived. As we got out for the car, Roscoe called out, “Tom, what’s the latest on Chrissie?!”

“As of last night, she was fine. We infiltrated the academy and I did some phone work with Sumitomo, Bob and Scott. Let’s go inside” “You didn’t. The usual things?”

“Yes. I haven’t had a chance to come up with anything new yet. We pretty much cleaned out my Washington boxes and installed all of it as special equipment to reduce line noise.” “That old gag again? Well it worked with Army intelligence. Anything else?”

“Chrissie found a bunch of old rifle club Krags with ammunition and felt that if she was going to be held hostage that there should not be a large supply of rifles in unguarded gun cabinets. She had them picked up. Steve, Joe and I put them back because open gun cabinets are an invitation for any loose gun to just fly in. She hasn’t called again to have them removed. I suspect that the fact that her brothers were involved may have had something to do with that.”

We walked into the house. As we entered the living room, Roscoe said, ‘I don’t see Bill or Hilda. Are they over there tonight?”

“Yes they are, actually. They can see better in the dark and are setting off the occasional bang, courtesy of just about every kid that I run into, among other things. Joe and Steve are over there as well with Steve’s people. They were setting up noisemakers today with Bob and Scott and the Japanese ski team. They want to let the ladies know that they are there.”

“So, do you still want us to infiltrate tomorrow?”

“Of course, First of all I dismantled the self destruct, but they could have put it back together. That is if anybody thinks to check on it in the first place. Also, Chrissie has probably been working on things and I don’t want to go in there too often to visit. After all, if I can just go there whenever I want, what’s the point of keeping her hostage?”

Helmut came over and smiled. “The Director is coming up tomorrow. They sent a telegram out this morning ordering him to come up.”

“I guess they got tired of trying to have Jacob dictate their demands. They probably want a new way to do that. Or least some idea of why I’m not behaving as they expect.”

“They obviously don’t know you.” Mike grinned. “On the other hand, if they had known you they wouldn’t have tried to take Chrissie in the first place. For that matter, if they had known your wife, they wouldn’t have taken her under any circtumstances. The only thing worse would have been taking Suki, especially now.”

Suki looked up and said, “I heard that, Mike. Why now?”

“Because, other than those poor sergeants at the Statue of Liberty, you haven’t driven anybody insane lately and you must be looking for a target.”

“I would go after Jacob, but he’s already crazy.”

“See what I mean. You’ve been deprived.”

Suki slapped Mike on the head. “Watch out Mike, I might drive you crazy.”

“You already tried, Suki. It only created a delayed reaction until I met Nera.”

“I didn’t drive you crazy,” Nera said, smiling. “I straightened you out.”

Mike reached over and kissed his wife. “Yes, you did. And I needed it. If I had known how much, I would have started to take vacations on the Cape sooner.”

“Mary said that you never took any vacations. Greta said the same thing. We’re going to fix that. On the Cape.”

Nera was rather pushy where Mike was concerned. Especially when it concerned Mike and overwork or taking stupid risks. The last few weeks had been amazing to watch. The phone rang and father picked up. He talked for a bit and put the phone down. “Al is coming right up. He wants to be here tomorrow.” “What about Eltra?” Nera asked.

“She’s coming up Friday as we planned. Al is sending something to you, Mike and to Hilda and Boris. Apparently he discovered some bad news. Tom what do you know about somebody they call the Colonel?”

This was very bad news. I turned to father and said, “Is he coming? I didn’t collect that much about him because he never was in the country before. Everybody that I talked to about werewolves from our side brought him up. He was the leader of the werewolves and the sturmtrups that were attached to them. He was also responsible for arranging for soldiers to be Turned. Ed probably knows a lot more than I do, but he’s about the sneakiest monster out there. He’s also big on diversions. That might explain why they made such a big splash taking Chrissie. Mike, do you know anything more?”

“I never ran into him. By the time I was recruited into chasing werewolves he was elsewhere, down in the Caucusus, chasing people for the Bolsheviks. I’ve heard the same things you have from my friends in the army. Al ran into one of his operations twice. The first time just by accident as his outfit was setting up for an operation of their own and the second time, there was some intelligence that the Colonel was across the trenches and Al set the Colonel up and gave his people a very bloody nose. The Colonel’s son was leading the attack and Al nailed him personally with a rifle from a snipers nest that he set up. Along with ten more werewolves and some back up heavy weapons people. Then Al’s people caught the rest out in the open with BARs and Lewis guns.

In any case, the Colonel likes to play things the same way you do, Tom, only he sacrifices his own people for the diversions. I wonder if the Colonel was the reason that the War Department sent Steve’s people up for the party. If somebody in Army intelligence knew that he was crossing over, that would have sent up flags and the party was an obvious high value target.”

Brad had warned me about the Colonel. In fact he was rather emphatic that I didn’t do anything that would attract attention to me by looking into him, and I hadn’t. But Brad and I had also put a bunch of things in a stash about the Colonel and I was only supposed to even tell anybody about the stash if the Colonel was here and a threat. If the German clowns playing with the phones were any indication, he was here and a threat.

The various intelligence people and I had played games about Brad’s diary and other stuff. I had never actually told them about its existence,but they knew about it and had tried to find it. Without letting father and Bill know that they were looking for it and why, which made the game fun. Boris knew that they poked around from time to time and that was part of the game. It looked as if the game was over. The Colonel was coming or possibly, already here. He wanted something, from me and Gretchen. Ed too, probably. The task now was to not let him get what he wanted and keep everybody alive.

 

 

Tony.

Wednesday 1/27, 1932

Robert and I had flipped for the opportunity to watch Tom’s fun stuff when it went off and the kids should be watched. But that wasn’t the real reason that I was up here. I needed to talk to the Creator about Bob. Scott was going to be busy rebuilding the kingdom over the lake, but Bob was probably going to be looking at making things. So far most of that was fun stuff, but playing with constructs could be dangerous. It was likely that somebody might tell Bob as some point what he wanted to know and I didn’t want him playing with construct magic without understanding the consequences. I was also hoping that Bob, Scott and Tom would find new ways for the fae to create things. Ways more in tune with the amazing things that were being created and the energy of this new world.

I also wanted to make sure that Robert and I still had a contact for maintainence when we needed it. We had been lucky lately that we hadn’t had to absorb any bullets or magic, but that couldn’t last. At least now we would be doing it because it was something we wanted and not for some kid who refused to grow up. I had never told Tom just how glad we were that that had come to an end. Tom had even managed the end without shooting the Manager. With that in mind, I borrowed a truck from Eric and headed across the lake to the Creator’s place. Robert and I had found it when we came up looking for the Manager’s werewolves and ended up watching Tom and his sister battle with each other for six months as we found out just what had happened.

Once we realized that the werewolves were dead, at least the Manager’s werewolves were dead, the Director instructed the Manager to remove Tom from the scene to protect the place across the lake and the werewolf stuck to it. That had turned into a fiasco as the Manager would send Twisted up and they would never be heard from again. The Director arranged for some indentured and the Manager assigned us to look after the kids. Athena went down to Washington to find out what happened and the simple fact was that the bureau or Tom shot whatever showed up. As for anything that got sent up to the farm, well the only thing we ever discovered there was Hilda, who started to talk to Athena. Of course she never told us about Bill and the fact that they had a relationship that had lead to an accident. Not that Bill needed his wolf Change. The Manager hadn’t paid attention to the guy who was killing his idiots.

The good thing that had come out of the fiasco was that we found the Creator. Robert and I were tough, but we were not invulnerable nor immortal. We needed repairs and sometimes we needed something fixed. That was especially true the older we got. So it was good that we had somebody who could fix us up.

As I drove up to the Creator’s place he came out front. “Hi Tony! So what brings you out my way? Where’s your brother?”

“Still down in the city. As for what brings me here, I think you know, or at least you should. He buys your constructs.”

“The two kids. At least one of them. The other one bonded to the princess around here and it’s likely that he’s going to be very busy getting things fixed up after your associates were all over the kingdom here.” “They weren’t my idiots. I was just stuck with them.” “I heard that your charge came to a bad end. A rather public end, which was a bit of a surprise.” “We could protect him from just about everything but his own stupidity. He created the guy who finished him, more or less because he couldn’t leave things alone and the guy squashed him.”

“Well it’s cold out here, why don’t you come inside.”

The Creator’s place had been around for a long time and was a village in of itself. His grandkids as well as his kids had their families there and the place hummed with people making things. We went into his house and his bonded, Vera said, “Doug, you didn’t leave Robert out in the cold, did you?”

“Ma’am, Robert is still in the city watching some kids.” I smiled. “So, Tony, what have you been up to?” “Watching Tom finally deal with the Manager. Robert and I finally got to see one of Tom’s things from the inside.”

“He’s been up here working for his inlaws. Then some idiot took his wife.” “I’m staying with the family. Some kids and other people came up to help with the idiots.”

“They’re idiots all right,” Doug said. “For ten years, Ed and Bill had a deal and some clowns showed up and the first thing they did was put the bite on Bill’s cousin.”

“Those are the idiots. They came over from Europe and were supposed to look at the way things were going for the Director. The first thing they did was take Chrissie to get to Tom. The second thing they did was to let the werewolves loose to take Chrissie.”

“They might have had a reason. The Manager was going after Tom because of Ed. Not that that worked, but they didn’t know that it wouldn’t at the time. They knew he was an unbonded royal fae and thought that being one made him vulnerable. They were also concerned that somebody from Jacob’s family might bond with Tom and he would come over here and take over. That didn’t work out quite like they expected.”

“Instead Tom found Chrissie and they got Scott. Which brings me to why I’m here.”

“Those two and constructs. Though the fact that they found something useful to do with them was more than a bit of a surprise. At least something that doesn’t involve death and destruction. I wish that the younger me had chosen a different path. I could justify it when I say that I only make the tools, but many people have been killed over the centuries by my tools.”

“The problem is that they want more constructs.” “I know. But there are only so many I can draw blood for and that’s it.”

“They might be able to help with that. For that matter, so could I. They have access to a lot of fae kids in their families and I have access to even more.” “That might work. But I don’t want to poke other people’s kids. My family understands and I can use their blood. Frankly I don’t want to have to use blood and if those two come up with something else, I would be able to stop bleeding my family for my Need.” “That’s the problem. The Need, the reason you can’t stop making constructs. Our Creator had it and it ran away from him. Once he lost his kids to the plague he made us from what was left and killed a bunch of other fae to do that. In the end Helmut turned on him before he could be bound to some other clown like we were. I want to keep Bob from ever developing the Need.”

“I can’t argue with that. Frankly I think that we probably want to talk to Tom about that. Tom probably doesn’t realize just how unique he is. I don’t think that there has ever been a royal fae Creator. Certainly never in the old country. He’s gone on paths that we never could have imagined.” “I know. I’ve been watching him for a long time now. It was annoying when the Manager went after him again with the sharks and tripped him off after he bonded with Chrissie. Not that the result wasn’t fun to watch. But then this latest thing. The idiots must have guessed something about Tom because they set off a huge mess to try to go after him again.” “There’s some rumbling around that there are more werewolves out there, including a boss werewolf. I think he’s looking for Ed about something and is the top guy in the effort to take out Tom.” “So you think that he’s a Master? We’ve been seeing a lot of stuff about the Colonel show up.”

“Nobody has wanted to look too deep. The werewolves fed off some places over in Maine and Canada last week. A lot of werewolves.”

“There have been some people poking around the other side of the lake. Not werewolves because Tom or Boris would have spotted them if they got too close. Military types though. I called Robert to make sure to keep an eye on our new teacher. Somebody was messing with her phone. Tom was going to mess with them when the clowns over here took Chrissie.”

“That may have been the point. To keep Tom looking at something else and not his back.”

“Playing that game with Tom won’t work. Especially if werewolves are involved. Then there’s everybody else in the family watching his back and for stuff like that, along with the bureau.”

“We’ll watch his back and Chrissie too. Tom came over for a chat with his mother in law and I don’t think he knows what he did. But we have a stake in this too. Tom is concerned that he might need constructs, a lot of them.”

“He likes tools and resources even if he doesn’t use them. When the manager hauled all those Twisted down, he had a fifty caliber rigged up on his boat. “The family has two of them. That was a family project for a while. My boys said that they hauled both of them and ran them at the party. That was part of the shoot, but I think that they were also making a statement. That party was making a statement.”

“I think that the whole family is pissed at the Masters. All the family. The Colonel doesn’t know it yet, but he should have just left them alone.”
Al.

Wednesday 1/27, 1932

 

I had just finished getting things squared away for the day when Don from the Boston FBI office walked in. “Al, you know that bureau that deals with weird stuff. The bureau that works out of the Manhatttan Office?” “Sure, why?”

“We had a bunch of cases come in all over Northern Maine that seem to be up their alley and I put in a call, but they haven’t sent anybody up.”

“What kind of cases. They have a big case that they are closing and some stuff related to the Olympics in New York.” “Murders of families on farms by rabid wolves. In addition to the two in New York there were three more in Canada and two more in Northern Maine. We sent the cases to the office in New York, but we haven’t heard back yet. There was some more weird stuff going on too. Some RCMP officer’s bodies were found, what was left of them, that is.”

“What have you got on the cases?” “Here’s what we have. The RCMP started to look at entries and ships that didn’t arrive after that case about ten years ago. They contacted us because they knew that we knew the people that closed that case up.”

I started to go throught the material and as I went through the entries one picture stood out. I pulled the picture and said, “Did the Mounties have anything more on this guy?”

The picture was of the Colonel. The things that Steve had been hinting at on Saturday suddenly made sense. I suspected that he didn’t want to start talking about the Colonel until he was sure and I don’t think that there were many people alive who knew what the man looked like. I did, because I was the leader of the detail that had handed his son’s body over, but the camera that we had had at that little event had failed.

“Why?”

“He’s on the watch list. He’s on everybody’s watch list. This is the Colonel.”

“The Colonel?”

“He was in our sector during the war. Ran the sturmtrups and other things. We need to get a packet up to Hilda in Vermont soonest, and down to Washington. To the New York office too. If he’s in the country, it’s very bad news.” Even in a war like the Western Front there are people that stand out as being very bad. We had our bad apples and more than our fair share of idiots, but on the other side, there was one guy who stood out. Especially when werewolves showed. We called him the Colonel, but he was old Prussian Junkers stock from a very private family. He was also a werewolf. That much was certain. As well as being around for a very long time. His name was Hienrich von Wulf. At least that was the name he used during the war. He was definitely a hands on leader who liked it bloody. He was also a master of tactics and infiltration.

After the war the rumor was that he was involved in just about every little spat around. Boris still had some contacts over in Russia and he had been involved in the revolution. Since then he had been a troubleshooter for hire for a bunch of tin pot dictators and on call by the Soviets to deal with their nasty problems. Now he had shown up here.

I looked over the cases again. The noise that the werewolves Tom was dealing with made suddenly made sense if the Colonel was involved. He might have been using them as a diversion. This was an old tactic of his. Set up a raid to draw attention and empty some trenches while he infiltrated and hit his real target. That was how I had run into his werewolves the first time, when my sniper teams had been in the rear setting up for moving into the trenches and ran into them behind the lines. The second time we saw it coming and gave his people a bloody nose. When Bob Vickers and I had heard he was in the neighborhood I picked the most likely sniper position along his probable infiltration route and Bob arranged to pull the people from the trenches when the Colonel set up his usual diversion. He pulled them back to the third trench line and we waited after we mined the first two trench lines. Between my sniper teams, the mined trench lines, my back up people and Bob’s people with light machine guns, and trench mortars, I don’t think that very many of the Colonel’s assault company survived to make it back to their trench line.

The question was what was his target and there were only two up here that I could think that would interest him. The Maine and the Vermont fae kingdoms. The bowers were probably safe for the moment. But the Maine kingdom and Eric were right in the firing line. I didn’t know very much about the Maine kingdom as they didn’t have the relationships with our little group that Eric did. The question was how long had the other side been setting this up. I looked up at Don. “I think I need to go straight up to Vermont. You are going to want to call Director Hoover about this and the War Office as soon as possible.”

I wrote down a number and handed it to him. “Call this number and tell them what you just told me and mention the Colonel. This is Army intelligence and they know who he is.” “Is it that bad?” “It could be worse. May I have this material? I think that I want to drive it up personally after checking in at home.” “Tell Eltra hi. Take it. We have copies and already sent it in to Washington. I’ll call this number right now.” He left and I grabbed my coat and picked up the packet. Rather than using the train like I usually did, I grabbed a car from the motor pool and drove down to the house. I could have somebody bring my car from the station on Friday. I was a bit early and Eltra hadn’t come in yet from the bower. I started to get things together and pack. As I was cleaning my rifle, Eltra rolled in. “What’s going on?”

“Something I hoped I would never have to deal with again. The Colonel came over here.” “The Colonel? You’ve never said very much about anybody in the war.”

“The Colonel was probably responsible for the werewolves and the sturmtrups that worked with them. Real nasty character that likes being a monster and killing. They had a habit of hitting things behind the lines. I need to go up to the farm soonest and let Bob Vickers know.” “I’ll go with you.”

“No, don’t come with me. I need to move faster than I could with you and more importantly I want you underwater and watching out for the bower. The Colonel may know about us and if he does, he could come after you.”

“Why?”

“Because I shot his son when we ambushed one of his attacks. I suspect that he took that personally even if I didn’t. The guy was just another werewolf that I was supposed to stop and we did. They didn’t go home that day. I only learned later who the werewolf was after the other side wanted a special body transfer and were willing to trade prisoners for the body. Of course those prisoners had been Turned and would have ended up in the dirty dozens if I hadn’t had to shoot them, so that was no real trade. Since all four of them were friends of mine, I take the Colonel personally too, but I wasn’t going to hunt for him. But now that he’s over here, He’s going to need to be dealt with. Now I know what Steve was hinting at.

I wish that he had told, me, but I think that he wanted more information before lighting us off. Well I will give him more.”

“Ok, I will have somebody take me to the train on Friday like we originally planned. Let me go out and get Velt to assign you a Swimmer. Also, do like Tom did and go up the coast and then over to White River Junction. That way if you sense the Colonel’s things you can drop into the water and disappear. Now that I have you, you will not take unnecessary risks, sir. I waited too long for you and I don’t want to think what I would do if I lost you now.”

“Ok, and I’m going to call Roger. Don’t hesitate to ask the General for people. He’ll probably get some orders from the War Department if he hasn’t already. As far as I know the Colonel never conducted any over the water operations, but the bowers over there were destroyed by somebody and there were some amphibious landings that did better than they should have against the Russians and some other strange stuff going on.”

 

Tom.

Thursday, 1/28, 1932.

I got up early Thursday and went out to get the one stash that I hadn’t shown Bill or father. I had shown them all of my stashes, but this one wasn’t mine but Brad’s. He had collected the stuff after he was Turned so that he could potentially deal with the monster responsible. Then just before I shot him, he told me about the stash and that I would know if I needed it. He couldn’t tell me more because of the monster and his compulsions and he told me to not open the stash until I needed it so that I wouldn’t give away that I knew more than I should. In the end it hadn’t mattered, since they went after me anyway, but by the time I realized that, I didn’t have a pressing need to go open the stash anyway. In fact after I left Pratt I had added a box of the material I had collected on the Colonel on my own to the stash. While I could handle getting to the stash most of the year, I was going to need help breaking some ice now, so I went to father. “Father, I was hoping that I would never need to talk to you about this, but there are some materials that I need to get to and I will need some help.”

“You said that you showed Bill all your stashes.” “I did. This one isn’t mine, its Brad’s and it concerns the Colonel and what Brad found. He told me to never look at it unless the Colonel showed up because if I didn’t know about something I couldn’t give away what I knew and they wouldn’t try to kill me. They tried to kill me anyway and frankly I more or less just forgot about the stash because I was looking at a bigger picture of the things happening over here.”

“Where is the stash?”

“Under the ice in the millrace. Normally I would just get to it and pull it, but I don’t want to take the time it would take to break the ice myself and I have this feeling that we are going to need the stuff in there, soonest.”

“You said that you didn’t collect that much about the Colonel.” “I didn’t. but Brad did, Army and Navy intelligence did and I have a copy of everything the Army and the Navy has. Along with stuff from some other countries, all the stuff that people gave me when I was looking into the draft records and other stuff that I set aside and stashed with Brad’s stuff. I didn’t want to dig too deep and light something off that I wasn’t planning for. I had enough on my plate already over here to worry too much about somebody who seemingly was staying over there. So I just added it to Brad’s stash and hid it away in case he did show up and we needed to deal with him.”

“So this was Brad’s legacy and he told you not to open it unless you needed to to protect all if us.”

“I think that he didn’t want us to know everything that he had gone through. He may have also been hiding things like Hilda and if I opened the stash I probably would have gone looking for her and Andy and he didn’t know what would happen if I found them with the other side looking over my shoulder. I think that we need to crack the ice out and plug the millrace so that I can get to the stash and pull it.” Josh and Noro came in. “Tom, are you ready?” “There’s something I need to do first. I need to pull Brad’s stash from the war. The Colonel is coming and I want to be ready.”

We went out to the barn to get a hammer and pry bars for the ice when Mary came by in her truck. “Where are you going with those?”

“We need to get the ice out of the millrace so that I can get at it.”

“I can deal with that.”

She reached into her truck and pulled out a tool box and a detonator.

I looked at it and said, “we don’t want to destroy the millrace, just crack the ice out.”

“We will, watch and learn.”

We went over to the millrace and she took a stick of dynamite out and carefully cut the end off. Then she repeated the process and reached into the tool box again and pulled out two detonator caps, some wire and some twine. She handed me the ball of twine and said, “string this how I tell you.”

I went out and strung the twine in sort of a cats cradle above the ice. Once I was done, Mary suspended the dynamite over the ice and installed the caps. Then she attached the leads and unrolled the wire back her truck to as we followed. She attached the leads to the box, looked around, called out, “Fire in the hole!!” looked around again and pushed the plunger down. There was a bang and when we went back to the millrace, the ice was cracked and flowing down the race slowly. My sister looked at the ice and said, “now that’s how it’s done. So why did you need to crack the ice?” “You’ll see, sis.”

I went and found the board that closed off the millrace and slid it down into it’s slot. The water drained off to a trickle and it was time for the next step. I went into the shop and pulled a hammer and a pry bar. I went along the foundation of the mill and pulled two stones out with pry bar. Then I reached up with hammer and knocked the board that looked like it was the sill. Then I reached in and pulled the two Aluminum boxes that were inside, set them aside, knocked the board back in and replaced the stones. Father grabbed one of the boxes and I took the other one and we went into the shop. Josh, Noro and my sister followed us and Josh asked, “Why didn’t you pull the boxes from inside the shop?”

“I couldn’t without a lot of work. The shaper was in the way and weighs 1,000 pounds. Now I have to knock some rivets of these boxes.”

I grabbed a ball pein hammer and a cold chisel and cut all the rivets on both boxes. Once that was done I knocked the lids off and and looked inside. The wooden crates that Brad and I had made for the box liners were intact and I pulled them out of the boxes. “Let’s take these inside.”

We took the slightly dirty crates to the workroom as my sister drove off. Steve, Joe and Tim followed us in. Steve asked, “What are these and what was the boom this morning.?”

“This is Brad’s stash. You go through it with Sal, Mike and Helmut. We need to go.”

Josh, Noro, Mary and I drove off toward the ferry. As we were driving out onto the road Noro asked, “Why didn’t you stay and look at the material?”

“Because this way they don’t know that I pulled it. Boris did a sweep last night and there was nobody that could overlook the farm and see me pull the boxes. Mother would have told us if she sensed anybody. This way we keep them guessing. Also, if Jacob presents the demands and they include the diary, I can honestly say that I do not have it.”

“Do you think that they will demand the diary?” Noro asked. “It seems like a trivial thing.”

“They want it. They have wanted it since Brad died. They probably started to try to kill me because they were afraid that I had read it. Brad must have had a reason to bury it so deep. Especially since he made me promise that I would not look at it unless the Colonel actually showed up. There must have been an overwhelming reason, and I don’t think that it was Hilda and Andy, since the other side must have known that Helmut and Mary had Hilda. There is something that the other side must keep hidden and they are willing to take the risks associated with killing me to insure that what they want hidden, stays hidden. We’ll see what else they want.”

I had a thought. I didn’t have Bob and Scott today since they were in school, so I would need somebody with me in the truck. Somebody involved already. I was a little leery about asking, but I thought that I needed to see if this could be done. “Noro, can a construct be made to look like a person?”

“A skilled Creator can do that, why?”

“Well I was joking with the boys about a Jacob construct. But I was wondering if Doug could make a Tom construct?”

Both Josh and Noro smiled. Noro said, “Josh, how about I front for you and Tom while you go over to Doug’s and ask this afternoon.”

“I want to meet him anyway,” Josh said. “Mera was very impressed with the man and he wants to send people down to us for training. To Tom mostly, but I think that some of our other artisans will want to share as well. So I want to talk to him about setting things up. Also, I’ll get a second opinion for you, father.”

“Do that. I also think that Tom constructs might not be a bad idea. We’ll talk to the boys and Bill about werewolf constructs too.”

I was dropped off at the office and we had a routine day until I went out for lunch. Jacob must have been lying in wait at the door, because as soon as I stepped out, there he was. “Tom we need to talk.” “All right Jacob, we have a few minutes before Josh and Noro show up, so talk.”

“Some people want certain things.”

“What does the Board want?”

“They want the location of a woman and some documents that you may have in your possession.”

“Be more specific. They just paid a large sum of money for documents that had been in my possession.”

“They want your brother’s diary and some related documents.”

“I’ve never actually seen those documents or my brother’s diary.”

“You know where they are.”

“So they are going to turn the ladies over, or am I supposed to go and get them?”

Tony stepped around the corner. “You Mr.Martin? Mr. T. would like to have a word with you.”

He grabbed Jacob and there was a rumble as Sal’s car pulled up. Sal rolled down his window. “You Mr. Martin? A little birdie tells me that you were using the fact that I know Mr. Benton here to make trouble for Mr. Benton. Now you know what I do to trouble. So be a good Jacob and leave Mr. Benton alone. Otherwise some trouble may need to be shot.”

The window rolled up, and Sal drove off. Tony walked away out of sight. I turned to Jacob and said, “What woman are you looking for?”

“One of your sister’s coworkers, Gretchen.”

“I don’t think that I will turn her over. You should ask Ed first.”

“What?”

“Ask Ed if he wants Gretchen turned over. If he says yes, I will, not that it will do you much good. In any case, I see Josh and Noro pulling up and we don’t want Mr. T. to become convinced that you are messing with his business, now would we. Tell the Board that they are going to have to try a bit harder. I would advise that they release the ladies before those documents get to people that they don’t want to see them. By the way, if they should actually hurt the ladies in any way, I will make sure that all the interested parties see the documents. Good day Jacob.”

I got in the car and it drove off. Noro asked, “so they made their demands? What were they?” “The diary and Gretchen.”

“Not the secluded spot where they can kill you?”

“I suspect that that was coming. They would probably want a private transfer in that nice secluded spot where werewolves, Twisted or zombies would suddenly show up.”

“I understand that the Troubleshooter was irked and was going to express his displeasure with Jacob,” Josh said.

“Well a character did show up in a Duesie and say some nasty things to Jacob. I’m not sure what he expected when he made all those accusations the week before last.”

We pulled into Antonio’s and the Duesie was parked there. Tony and Sal were there talking to Bill and Hilda with Tim who had probably been taking pictures of the whole thing. They were laughing themselves silly as we walked in. As I sat down, I asked, “were you pleased with your daily Jacob? How did you know that he was going to be there?”

“Tim spotted him,” Sal said, grinning. “We were looking around and Tim was taking pictures while we waited for Josh and Noro to show up so that they could take us through your famous office. We wanted to see what Chrissie had done. When we spotted him, I went to get the car, Tim went discreet with his camera and Tony went around the block. You came out, Tony grabbed him and I drove up and did my little public service troubleshoot. What did he want anyway?” “He was finally able to make the Board’s demands. They want the diary and Jacob’s daughter in law, who he apparently doesn’t know about or is willing to give up. Either way, that’s not happening. Jacob will probably be back looking to have me make the exchange in some secluded spot where his associates can kill me. I may even let them. Or at least arrange for Tom to die while they are watching”

Tony cried, “what!!”

“Construct Tom, if we can bring him to life, that is.”

Everybody was grinning at that. Tony asked, “so you want a construct that looks like you? Doug can probably do that. It might take him a day and you will need some practice at Puppetry.”

“Puppetry?”

“Looking at out the constructs eyes and working it as if it’s you. It takes time to get good at it, but for what your thinking, you just need to be able to handle the Puppet for a short time. I’ll go with you and talk to Doug about it.”

“I’ll take you, Tony,” Sal said.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea. Doug may not like it.”

“I will make an effort to be real Sal and not Federal Agent Sal or the Troubleshooter unless Doug needs some trouble shot. On the other hand, If a Creator that is far more dark than Doug is shows up, I want to know what to look out for.” “I see your point and I think that Doug will too. For that matter, any Martins looking will see your car and not Tom’s.”

“My truck is still over here and I was planning to use that,” I said. “There are so many old trucks around that my truck will just go around unnoticed. Especially if Sal is in the neighborhood.”

It turned out that the boys, Steve and Joe were using my truck for something, so Josh and I just took a company car out to Doug’s. As we were driving out, I said, “The boys seem to have gotten attached to my truck. I wonder if it’s going to go back to the Cape with me?”

“I think that you will be able to afford a new car. In fact I think that it’s time that you got one. You are going to need something better than the truck anyway.”

“This wasn’t what I planned on.”

“You think that I had either. You know father. How much did you think he told me about White’s before I was in too deep to back out? It was just “help with the family businesses, you can have a boat too, to pay your bills.” The boat did. But that was largely because I used it to and didn’t draw from the family accounts for my personal income. Not that I needed a lot. Mera never seemed to want a big lifestyle and I was happy just working on the boat. Noro started feeding me more and more work until mother was killed and I was stuck with everything.”

“Don’t let Theresa hear your call Liltra mother.”

‘I will be careful with that, but for a long time, she was the mother that I had never really had. She was a truly remarkable woman. I think that Chrissie gets a lot of her up top habits from her grandmother. She wasn’t too concerned with hiding what she was when she could do good for some people. The big regret was that the sharks did not leave enough for a funeral and we just let the sea take the rest.”

“So what do you think of how I’m playing this?”

“I don’t know. You know more about the Colonel and how he operates than I do. On the other hand, as long as they don’t pick up on the puppet, it’s a great idea, especially if they think that there is a new player. Where do you want to set up the meeting, if you can?” “Some cliffs south of the ferry. I figure that construct Tom will suddenly fall to the bottom of the cliffs.” “Where the D&H railroad goes through. I used to work that line as a brakeman and freight agent a long time ago. Maybe we can have a train show up in the middle of the meeting and the werewolves won’t be able to get to the body with the train crew around. So Bill hands your stuff over to Eric.”

“I also want to make it as if some new player has entered the game. Somebody the Colonel doesn’t know about to cloud things up.”

“That’s rather ambitious. Sneaky though.”

“A bit ambitious. With this character though, I think that ambitious and sneaky is the way to go. In any case, I doubt that he’s going to stop simply because he thinks I’m dead. But if a new opponent turns up that he knows nothing about, he’s going to have to rethink things. For some reason, I have this feeling that he’s rushing things anyway. He’s been sloppy and pushing things. The way he set up the werewolves here at the Academy and took Chrissie right off the bat, without knowing what the potential backsplash would be so that he could get to me faster. Frankly if he had wanted me dead, the way he’s doing that is stupid and this game with the diary and Gretchen is playing things my way and not his. This how we played the game in Washington, not the battlefield.”

“So you think that he’s going to make mistakes.”

“He already has.”

“What?”

“The Colonel was responsible for turning my brother into a monster. What do you think that my dad thinks about that. As long as the Colonel stayed out of my dad’s reach, my dad would not have to deal with him and he doesn’t go out of his way to make problems for himself. But now the Colonel’s directly threatening the farm and going after yet another of my dad’s sons.”

“Your father hasn’t seemed to be doing very much.”

“That’s an indication right there, This is the time of year when my father usually has some project working. With all that’s going on, he hasn’t even started.”

“He built the pool for you and Chrissie.”

“There is that, but he stopped. Normally he would be building improvements for us. He’s doing something else. Then there’s Ed.”

“Ed?”

“I got all excited about Ed, but he didn’t. I should have paid more attention to that. Especially since he usually very sensitive to threats and he didn’t even pay much attention. Bill didn’t jump on it either. Yet Ed has been coming over to our side for years. Dad and Bill probably didn’t see Ed as a problem.” “Hilda didn’t know about Ed.” “I think that Bill and father didn’t want her to worry about a good wolf in the neighborhood.”

“Bill was talking about hunts.”

“Hunts which somehow never got started. Trust me, if Ed had been a real threat, that hunt would have been put together on Christmas Eve and Ed gone by midmorning the next day. Bill went through the motions with me and probably expected that I would check things out on Monday and see that nothing had happened. Then Bill or father would have pulled me aside and told me the story. Father probably started to look into bigger threats right after Stelios showed up. Doug had heard some rumbles and if he had, father certainly has. If you hadn’t been up here, you probably would have too. Matt probably sent you a heads up, but being here, you don’t get everything you would at home.”

“Why didn’t your father say anything?”

“One, he likes his kids to take charge and run things. Two, he likes to play things close to the vest and not move until he knows the full situation. Then this thing with me blew up and he’s watching our backs. The last thing we need is panic because of the Colonel. From what people have told me, he relies on that.”

We turned into Doug’s road and Josh asked, “how does he deal with Jacob as landlord? George and the other boys didn’t seem to know where to go for constructs.”

“Jacob isn’t Doug’s landlord thanks to Jacob’s grandfather to not paying his bills.”

“So Jacob’s lack of business sense is inherited.”

“Not according to Doug and father.”

We pulled up and parked the car. The Duesie was already here. It hadn’t attracted a crowd of admiring kids yet, but I imagined that it would soon enough. We walked up to the house and Doug came out. “Tom, who is this?”

Josh spoke up. “I’m Josh Claytor and my wife said good things about you, so I wanted to discuss some things with you in regards to your sending some boys to apprentice with Tom.”

“Isn’t that Tom’s concern?”

“It is, and I won’t interfere with that. But I am responsible for the businesses that the bower has and I am looking for new ways to build the business and create a better relationship with the people we have deals with.”

“Well come in. That is an interesting approach from somebody with your reputation as a dark slayer.”

“I’m aware of that reputation and it’s effect that it has on members of the fae community like yourself. Normally I let my wife deal with the first few encounters and lately my daughter has done a fair bit of that, though I find myself doing more of it because my wife was under sea.”

“We are a bit far from the ocean.”

“Things have changed recently, my wife discovered that the restrictions we had on our lifestyle were to large extent self created and since we can manage better without them, why not? So she gets to be up top with me and involved in the things that we used to do together.”

We went inside where Tony and Sal were talking with two of Doug’s sons with them apparently trading Troubleshooter stories for first hand accounts of the parade and other daily Jacobs.

Vera came in with coffee. “Josh, I’m glad to meet you. Your wife said that you weren’t the ogre of your reputation.”

“That reputation gets in the way sometimes. Including making my parents avoid me for years. But I’m stuck with it and it helps to keep the Cape safe from most of the dark. Of course the idiots that do show up tend to be more dangerous, like the current clown.” “The Colonel,” Doug said. “Tony mentioned that he was probably here and there were a bunch of werewolf hits on farms in Canada and Maine last weekend.”

“We’re almost certain now that the Colonel was responsible for taking Chrissie. My son Steve and a young reporter who I am surprised didn’t tag along with these two, collected a bunch of material on the Colonel and Tom pulled his brother’s stuff. Things that the Colonel must want more than just about anything other than his daughter. Did Sal tell you about the daily Jacob and the Troubleshoot?”

“They told us. Tony says that you want a Puppet.”

“Yes. I’ll trade you my water tubes and projections for it,” I said. “I want ‘Tom’ to die. Since they want to kill me so badly, why should we deny them?”

“Where would you control the Puppet from? You would have to be fairly close.”

“The lake, I think. I suspect that they have gotten so used to seeing me up top that they have more or less forgotten my Change.”

“Chrissie won’t let you,” Josh said. “It’s a good thing that I arranged for two more tank cars of salt water for the pool at the inn. Changing frequently and spending time in the water is a good thing. You haven’t felt it yet because you’ve been Changing so much recently and Swimming frequently, but if you don’t have a Swim for about three weeks, the next time you do is not going to be fun. That’s one reason that Joe could only Change once.”

“Joe?” Doug asked.

“Our young reporter’s dad and my brother. Older brother, but officially he was thirty and drafted. They couldn’t get me because of the fact that I was needed for the war effort and too old. So Joe was wounded and couldn’t Change more than once. When his daughter went into Change with his wife, Joe did too, expecting that the young reporter would take over the business. That didn’t work out the way everybody figured and the young reporter is still making copy while Joe runs the business from an office he has set up near the bower. If anybody notices the tail, they don’t really care.”

“That’s interesting. Tony! What happened to the reporter?”

“He’s taking pictures of Jacob’s stables and house outside for the thing that the Committee is putting on.”

“That thing on Saturday?”

“Yes, since Tim is up here to do an extended interview with Tom, he’s staying for that.”

“What are Jacob’s bully boys going to do?”

“If they run into Tim? Go away if they’re smart. If they even think of compelling him it could be bad news for them. He learned to reflect, but not how to control the reflection and he’s burned out one guy already. Scott and Lizzie are taking him around anyway.”

“He burned somebody out?”

“Shark. No loss.”

“Ok, just how bad were the sharks?”

“A bunch of degenerate rich kids,” I said. “Their families didn’t know what they were up to until it was over. I shot a bunch of them and the rest committed suicide after eating five more kids. Tim could tell you everything, but it was bad.”

“Well, since you two are working, why don’t we get some things squared away so that you can get back to work,” Doug said grinning. “After all we don’t want to let Jacob miss his chance to tell you what the details are.”

We went over the arrangements for the apprentices, I showed him how to make the water tubes and the projecter and he drew a small glass tube of my blood. When Doug was done with that, he said, “I’ll get started on this while I talk to Sal and Tony. The reason that I’m willing to talk about things with Sal is that he is not a Creator and he will probably need to know what to watch out for. Josh already does and Mera can teach you and Chrissie what you need to know without you knowing too much. Come back tomorrow and we can play with your good new friend, construct Puppet Tom.”

We left and headed back to the office. Things went on in a somewhat normal fashion until just about four when Steve, Joe, Sal, Tony and Tim showed up. Tim was smiling as he said, “We caught up with Sal and Tony at Doug’s. Those people make some amazing stuff.”

Sal looked around at the office and said, “Did you ever sleep?”

“Yes. Ten years piles up when you are having fun. Of course a big part of this is Chrissie going wild with my stuff.” “That’s true, but it’s all real anyway. Since it’s your quitting time and Steve and Joe have had a very hard working afternoon with your truck, we’ll get going.”

Linda and Roscoe came in after Sal and the others left. “We’re going in. Is there anything that you want to tell Chrissie?”

“That news of my sudden death will be exaggerated.”

I told them about Puppet Tom and they laughed. “We’ll tell her. We’ll also tell her to put on a show of anguish when the news of your death arrives, if it does.”

They left and I got ready to leave. Lacey and I went over things for tomorrow and then I got my coat and hat and headed outside to wait for Josh and Noro. Unfortunately Jacob was there. “We forgot to say where we were meeting to make our little exchange.”

“Ok, the Board is going to show up there? I really want to tell them what I think of them. Tell them not to plan any funny stuff. If they don’t come themselves, tell them to send somebody that is not Twisted. Not you, though. No other compelled either. I don’t want to upset Ed, Helen and Lizzie by having to shoot you. If you show up, I leave and you will have to come up with something else. I can sense a werewolf miles away, I doubt that you can find any constructs and if I sense zombies the deal is off. We’ll meet on Route 28 next to the cliffs tomorrow after work, say five o:clock, six miles south of the ferry. I’ll bring the diary and what else I find with it. I’ll drop the documents off and wait. Bob and Scott will know where I am and come and get me when the ladies show up at my office. If Bob and Scott don’t see the ladies in half an hour, they won’t come and I leave, taking the documents with me. One more thing, if Board hurts the ladies, all of you will wish that you had never been born. If you even touch the documents before Bob and Scott come and tell me that the ladies are at the office, the person trying dies. Take it or leave it.”

Josh and Noro showed up with the car and I went in. Jacob looked rather miserable as we drove off. Noro asked, “Well?”

“I set up the meeting where I wanted. I played hardball, but since they want to kill me, they should expect that. It all depends on how much they want the book. Which is dumb. What is preventing me from making copies and spreading them around?”

“Steve talked to me about that after lunch. The book is keyed. To you, probably. You are the only one who can open it and make the pages visible. If anybody else does it the pages are blank.”

“So the Colonel is more worried if I read it than the information inside. Or he doesn’t want the key removed. The person the book is keyed to can do that, probably, Yes?”

“Yes they can. But the key may be linked to two people. One can read it, but it locks again when you close the book. The other can’t read the book, but opens the lock. But we can’t discover that until you open it. It has to be somebody who actually touched the book.”

“What if they are dead?”

“The lock opens. But Mera scanned it and both keys are active.”

“Has Hilda touched the book?”

We don’t know yet. Hilda was out at the blind today with Bill. Bob went to get her.”

“Well, more than likely it was either Hilda or Andy. Because every one else is dead. Now here’s another question. How hard would it be to make a fake?”

“We would want it done by a relative, preferably Larry. We don’t want you to do it and have you both the locksmith and the key. Your father would work as well. We could use Andy as the second key. How good a fake do you want?”

“Good enough that they think that it is real, for long enough for me play some games with Puppet Tom.”

“Puppet Tom?”

“Yes, a construct alter ego that I had made up. Why die yourself when somebody can do it for you?”

Noro smiled. He turned to Josh. “How did the rest go?”

“Very well. Doug is a good businessman if a bit unwilling to use technology. But he realizes that and he and his family are not the only artisans to think like that. Tom, you have your work cut out for you for our bower and the others.”

“Like I need another job?”

“Welcome to our world,” Noro said. “I didn’t want to be up here doing this. But somebody needed to and it needed to get done. If we hadn’t, not only would the kingdom here be weakened still further, but your father would have been weakened, so would the kingdom to the West and eventually us as well. You like to share and teach anyway. This will also force us to make sure that you get time in your shop, which will make Chrissie happy.”

“My sisters too.”

“That was a consideration,” Josh said, smiling. “In any case, I didn’t let Noro overload me in the beginning and we won’t overload you. Even if I have to give up the boat.”

“Stacey has been at you, hasn’t she?” Noro said laughing.

“Worse, she’s been at her mother, now that her mother is up top and she can talk to her. I think that she wants more time with George going places. So she wants me in the office more.”

“The office that I haven’t even seen,” I said.

“You’re saying that as if it’s a bad thing,” Josh said. “On the other hand, I want you to get your shop up and running first. Noro, Altris and I can handle the office and after this thing is over, we can let you have some time to catch up. Though the tank beds are going to have to be a priority.”

“I know. I wonder if I told the Colonel what he was doing to himself if he kills me and that he shouldn’t go right home. How are the ladies at weather magic?”

“Good enough,” Noro said. “Depending on the ship and where it departs, I wouldn’t feel safe at sea if I were him. A big liner would be all right, but if he uses a tramp or lumber hauler, he could find himself in the water with some pissed off ladies if he managed to kill you off. So tell me more about this Puppet Tom?”

We did and then we plotted the rest of it all the way to the ferry and the farm.”

When we arrived, Al was there with two old friends, so to speak, from my days in Washington. “Hi Henry, here after that record?”

“No, a big bad wolf came over here to blow the house down.”

“Leo came too.”

“I wasn’t going to miss this.”

“Josh, Noro, this is Colonel Henry Decker, US army intelligence and Commander Leo LaFarge from the Navy. They were the other side in the budget battles, working for their bosses. I imagine that they want to see what I’m up too.”

“Things weren’t quite the same when you left Tom.” Leo grinned. “I even had to take an extended European trip and chase our furry friend all over Europe. Of course, I get back and he comes over here and gives you, of all people, trouble. Henry and I haven’t even had a chance to meet Chrissie yet. Steve was saying that you knew where she was. Why have you left her there?”

“Because she’s running the characters over there crazy. I think that Suki was a bad influence on her.”

“I was not!” Suki and Tochi had just walked in. “Leo, Henry, you both know me. Would you think that I would be a bad influence on Chrissie and the other ladies?”

“Suki, Tim was telling us about some poor guys at the Statue of Liberty,” Leo said. “Look at what those ladies were up to. They were at the Empire State building and Chrissie is the princess of the Stock Exchange. Is that a good thing for mermaids?”

“Yes it is. So I was a good influence. Do I need to call Clara and Marie about you two?”

“You don’t need to do that, Suki. We’ll be good. It was Tom that was saying that you were a bad influence.”

‘Why, Tom? Do you think that driving those fools over there crazy is a bad thing?”

“No. But the big bad wolf might get upset. On the other hand if we can drive him crazy, that would be a good thing. Speaking about that, where is the diary?”

“Your father and Hilda are in the living room waiting for you,” Suki said. “They have it and Andy is with them.”

I went into the living room and father handed me the book and said, “here, Tom. Open this up and we will see if Andy can open the lock. Hilda has never touched the book and neither have I, though Brad did tell me some things. Not as much as he told you, but enough.”

I took the book and it opened to the day of Brad’s induction. I flipped back to the the front’s piece and the diary had been purchased from a stationers over in town. I looked from the diary and asked father, “is this place still in business?”

“Yes, I buy everything from them. Why?”

“I’m wondering if they have another diary like this. So that we can make another one.”

Father smiled. “I think that I see where you are going with it. Since the diary is keyed to you and somebody else, you want to make a fake diary keyed to you and the other person. If they kill you, the diary will never open and if they have to find the other person, that makes thing more difficult. Andy, why don’t we see if you are the key to this lock. I will show you how to remove it.”

Andy was the key and father showed us how to remove and place locks. Then I started to read. The beginning was basic training and the transfer into a unit that had high numbers of fae concentrated. Brad also saw how those units were kept in one sector of the front even when they were desperately needed in other sections of the front. Then he wrote about the werewolves showing up and the Turnings started. He wrote how he had been taken prisoner apparently, Turned and dumped back on our trenches in a single night. Then there was his time in the dirty dozens, his taking leadership and his determination to find out why this had happened to him and the others. There was the transfer to Russia and then things got interesting. The Colonel showed up and started pushing the pack West while having them do errands for the Colonel. Specifically hitting places and attracting attention to divert attention from other things going on. His encounter with Hilda and bonding. I showed that to Hilda and said, “Brad didn’t think that him finding you was an accident. Not you, perhaps, but other fae in your neighborhood. Are you sure that the rest of your family is dead?”

“I thought so, why?”

“Because Brad thinks that his pack was covering for the Colonel taking fae and moving them.”

“Where?”

“East Prussia, probably.”

“Why?”

“Brad thinks that the Colonel was poaching fae from the other Masters to ensure the health of his domain.”

I read on. Brad wrote about his pursuers and having to be forced to light things off again and again for the Colonel’s various machinations. Then there was the day of Andy being born and how good it felt to be a father. Followed, as things went on, by Mike and Boris, who he named, freeing Hilda and Andy. “Hilda here, Brad wanted you to see this.”

I handed her the book, she looked at it and started to tear up. “I always wondered how Brad felt about Mike and Boris getting me away. He obviously loved me so much and wanted me away, even if he couldn’t escape himself. He even thanks Mike and Boris for saving me.”

Hilda handed me the book back. I went through the entries of that horrible trip across Europe and Canada to the almost a month that he had had back at home and a final message to me. “Tom, if you are reading this, I am dead. Probably by your hand, if the circumstances that I see occur. You are one of the few people that I trust to deal with me and the monster without hesitation. Thank you for releasing me from the monster. Take care of Hilda and my son and if the Colonel shows up, let him know that I helped to bring him down. His associates won’t like what he has done to them. But then, if you destroy the Colonel they will go too. If he does show up, remember that it is an act of desperation, one way or another. The price the Masters paid for their victory was too high and they didn’t realize what victory had cost until it was too late. So don’t hesitate to destroy the Colonel. When you do, I free you of this horrible burden that I have forced on you.”

I handed the book to father, “Well that’s that. Brad set me on the path and the Colonel has come to end it one way or another.”

Father said, “Brad may have set you on the path, but it is our battle. Let me call Diana and we will create a fake for this. This is Brad’s legacy. We will protect it and use it and the other things he left to destroy the Colonel. He’s come over here. He’s not the first Dark fae king that I have dealt with and the fact that he has come over here at all means that his own keystone has cut him off. He’s been here for at least two months and away from his domain for years. So he has no connection, or a least a very thin one. That may be why he wants Gretchen and Bruce.”

“He probably knows about Bruce, but not the other two. Or how well Ed and Gretchen get along.”

“Why don’t we go to the workroom and see what all your fun friends and family have gotten up too. Why didn’t you tell us about them?” “I didn’t want to get in trouble with Miss Vicky. At least the friends down in Washington. Of course I didn’t know how much fun my own family was.”

We went back to the workroom where Hank was talking to my sister in law and smiling. He turned to me and said, “there’s some good news for our adversaries.”

“What happened?”

“Jeremy dropped the record and it shattered. The poor guys won’t have to listen to it anymore. Just young teenaged girls talking about horses and boys. Along with other kids talking about what you are up to.”

“What am I up to?”

“They don’t know yet, but they want to.”

Leo looked up from the stack of papers that had shared the box with Brad’s diary and a copy of the Colonel’s book in German. “The Colonel has been a very bad boy.”

“Other than having a huge price on his head?”

“Oh, yes. He was poaching in the “sheep pens” and the reserves, the fae that were being left alive to provide resources, of his fellow Masters. Brad noticed that when he was compelled to attack places to cover up things that the Colonel was up to.”

“That explains the things that Boris and I saw,” Mike said. “All those places that made no sense at all. Especially since we talked to Eric about Brad. Brad was raised to sergeant for his leadership abilities and he wouldn’t have made those kinds of stupid mistakes.”

“Brad knew that you and Boris were after him. It was in the diary.”

I handed it to him. “He was happy that you managed to get Hilda and Andy away.”

He started to flip through the diary. “I can see why the Colonel wants this. With what we have here, the other Masters would not be very happy.”

“Brad also thought that the Masters may have been too successful. That they could no longer sustain themselves.”

“When I was over there, that may have been evident,” Leo said. “At least the fae that were left were hiding themselves very deep and their neighbors were more likely to protect them than go on pogroms or witch hunts like they would in the past. The Masters have created so much turmoil that it’s burying them.”

Mother called dinner, which was pot luck and contributed by the entire family because we had so many people. It turned out to be a wonderful gathering, with the only thing that I was disappointed about was that Chrissie missed it.

 

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