Mermaid, Chapter 27, Part 1

This chapter is going to be all from Noro’s point of view as he travels through the events of a very busy day for everybody in this story.  Today, Nor meets with Vic again, takes him to the station for an important interview that he is doing and other shenanigans

Chapter 27.

Noro.

Saturday 1/30, 1932.

Several things that I had set in motion were going to come to a head today. Hilda, at least, was going to get a nice surprise that Sarah had discreetly called the office yesterday about. I hadn’t been sure that Hilda’s brother was coming over with Gretchen’s mother. Hilda had, with good reason, assumed that her family was all dead and Gunther had not been sure that Hilda was alive until he had seen her in the picture with me while Hilda had been playing helpless.

Then there was the purchase that I had Lou make. White’s was in the shipping business, at least for a while on a small scale. Lou had purchased a certain shipping company after Sarla had been looking into ship charters after she found the werewolves showing up. Sarla had figured that if a bunch of people had to come in, they would have to go out and that if they made noise they couldn’t just leave discreetly the same way they came in, especially if they were leaving with people who were not going voluntarily. Since the ship that had been chartered had a bad reputation as a labor hauler and had been in the low cost immigrant trade up until that trade ended, why the ship would be porting at Boston had raised some flags. John and some others had noticed the ship as well and since the company that owned the ship was in trouble, Lou had no trouble making a deal that the former owners were not likely to refuse. So the Colonel had lost his escape route.

I was sort of sad that Jay and Jim weren’t around to see this. This was almost as good as buying all those steers and shipping them on the Commodore’s railroad during a rate war. Bringing the ship into Boston was a mistake in the first place once Altris started talking to our people there and the government people, which he did right after Chrissie was taken. It would be very unlikely that a ship could load a large group of men and perhaps some unconscious people without attracting notice. In any case, the ship was getting a new captain and crew once it ported. I had friends and it was not hard to find somebody in the bower who had been a ship captain and looked rather rough even after having been under sea for some time.

Josh and Mera had taken other steps and called Matt in Maine who was using his connections in Portland. We didn’t think that they would try Halifax as an exit, but if they did, The Canadians had people looking for a strange ship as well.

Eltra had shown up with a bunch of her people to support her husband Friday but he had apparently already left White River Junction when she arrived on the train and she proceeded to Burlington where I arranged to have her picked up. She was staying at the inn with Suzy, Mabel, Mera and Nera, taking advantage of the tank beds and pool that Tom and Eric had set up.

Tim had taken some steps with the other reporters to make sure that Tom was missing and presumed dead rather than dead so that when he eventually turned up again, nobody would be completely surprised. The fact that no body had been found under the rocks helped that.

Tom left early in his Ted the drifter get up using George’s old truck that Joe and Steve had brought up. He took Charlie with him and was going to the blind and maybe do some creative carpentry. Stacey had quietly given Joe instructions to make sure that the truck had an accident and didn’t make it back to the Cape. Since the truck had Massachusetts plates and obvious hard useage, it was perfect for something that poor old Ted would drive. Tom had dropped a tool box in the back and gone off with it right after breakfast along with Joe and Steve in what looked like Ilutra’s old truck.

The car with Hilda’s surprise got back from the railroad station just before she finished breakfast and her face went pale as Eli and our mystery man walked in. “Gunther! You’re alive! How?”

“We were taken by dark fae and kept. The Colonel came and took us to his domain. We lost you and had heard that you had bonded with a werewolf and then disappeared. I didn’t know that you were alive until I saw your picture with that man there and the story about your son. Where is he? The Colonel is here.”

“Andy is with the rest of them across the lake, stirring up trouble, probably. I was going to go over and check in to see what he and Trillia were up to, along with Bruce.”

“Where is this?”

“At the Creator’s village. My father in law was concerned about an attack here and sent them over there to be out of the firing line.”

“He put them into the firing line. That is one of the Colonel’s targets.”

“We know. Al figured that out yesterday and has people set up to give the Colonel a very bad time. Bill and I are going over there later to help out. In any case, if the Colonel takes Andy and the other children, my sisters and I will light off a hunt with the rest of the family. Of course the Colonel may find that holding the kids near here is rather difficult and that getting them out is even more so.”

“Ilyse’s mother and I were talking to Gretchen and she said the same thing. She called Andy, Bruce and Jimmy the three menaces.”

“They are that. I imagine that both of them are helping Al cook something up if they have found the Colonel’s people. I hope that Ralph doesn’t take the other troublemaker over when he goes over for the werewolf hunt, but that’s up to him and I suspect that he will not want to leave Jimmy out of something like that.”

“Won’t Jimmy’s mother worry? Is Jimmy fae? Gretchen did not say.”

“Jimmy isn’t fae and Stephie said that Ginny and some of the other ladies were making sandwiches, soup, coffee and a keg of cider for the intrepid hunters. So she’s going too.”

“These are werewolves, will everybody be able to deal with them?”

“Boris, Bill Jacobs, Bob Vickers and Bill are putting people in teams and one member of the team will be a deputy from here that has had Bill’s special training. For the most part, the hunters are to make noise, have a good time and cause a little panic. We’re going to walk them by the pestholes we know about to set them off and destroy the Twisted as they try to run. Bill and Boris have both done things like that before. As for the werewolves, if they show up tonight where we think they will things are going to get hot for them.”

“You know where they might show up?”

“The werewolves at the Academy snuck out the back door last night. At least they think that they snuck out. Ralph was watching the back with Bob and Tony and tracked them to where they had cars picking them up. That was a mistake as Bill Jacobs really wants them. He was willing to not look for them too hard when they were in the Academy with Chrissie and the others, but once they came out, they became fair game.”

“Is Bill Jacbobs fae?”

“No, but he’s been handling fae issues for a very long time and knows quite a bit about them. He also consults with the bureau and was sheriff when the werewolf hunt went off over here after Brad was killed” “Brad was your bonded? How did he die?”

“I wasn’t here, because I had been rescued by Boris and another very dear friend and was being kept in New York with Andy at the time. Brad talked to Tom, his younger brother and left a shotgun loaded with special shells next to the door over there in the gun rack. He had told Tom that if he heard noises outside on certain nights to take the gun outside when he investigated. Tom did and emptied the shotgun into the monster that Brad was, just like Brad intended. Of course that caused Tom to go on the path of sacrifice and some people to go after Tom for various reasons. It also caused a lot of stress in the family. Tom left to pursue his path and I moved up here. This has been my home ever since.”

“Well, you will have to return with me.”

“That won’t be possible. Andy has ties and so do I, as well as responsibilities to the community and the family here. Who is alive other than yourself.”

“Some forty or so, including mother. Father was killed and most of the community Taken, one by one. I am concerned because you have the wolf Change and that the Colonel or the other Masters might take you.”

“I’m not. We had a dark fae take my son to try that. Andy did very well out of that, but the Manager didn’t. I would have dealt with him myself, but my sister and I decided to let Tom have him. I wanted to see if what Stephie had been saying about Tom all these years was true. Tom managed to even exceed Stephie’s expectations. We enjoyed ourselves, destroyed a bunch of Twisted, and had a chance to watch Tom in action, along with some great parties and shopping with a bunch of new friends and family.”

Stephie came in and said to Hilda, “Are you ready? Who is this?”

“Stephie, this is my brother Gunther. Gunther this is my sister in law, Stephie.”

“Hilda, we thought your family was all dead?”

“Apparently not, though how they survived is a mystery. Gunther, this is a bad day to have a reunion. We need to go.”

“I could go with you.” Gunther said.

“NO! Stephie, Bill, Boris and I are going to be running all over the place dealing with the Colonel’s people, the Director’s things and our people. You can go over with Noro or Eric and sit on the sidelines. We’ll meet at the Committee’s thing this evening.”

Hilda and Stephie left. Gunther turned to me and said, “I am the Colonel’s heir. I should be there to restrain him if necessary. He is a royal fae.”

“That is something that we are not short of. In any case the Colonel cannot be in two places at once and there are certain things that he wants very much. Hilda made a phone call about them this morning and a bit later Andy is going to make a call about his new friends and what they are trading for something they want him to do. The phone calls are lines that the Colonel has tapped. Your sister in law also called Stephie last night and said that she is coming up on the evening train with her kids and asked Stephie to pick her up.”

“Gretchen wasn’t on the train with me.”

“Of course not. She will, of course be calling her friends from home and inviting them to a get together at her place tonight”

“From New York? I know that she is down there and not up here.”

“Tom and the bureau arranged it with the phone company. Tom has apparently done similar things in Washington.”

Stephie and Hilda left in a car. Gunther looked a little shocked at the response he was getting, which wasn’t much of a surprise. Josh rolled Mera in and he said, “Is this Gunther? Theresa said that Eli was bringing him. He looks a bit shocked.”

“Hilda didn’t have time to be happy to see him.”

“This is going to be a busy day. Especially for Hilda and Bill. They are going to check in on Al, go over to Bill Jacob’s office to coordinate the wolf hunt and drop by the blind and the Academy. There are going to be a lot of people running around today.”

“What about the Colonel?” Gunther asked. “Aren’t you worried about him?”

“A bit,” Josh said “But he picked the wrong time and place to start up his little game. We were already dealing with related issues and had people coming up and in place. If he had done this next year, we might not have seen him coming. But he started things off when we were already alert thanks to the activities of the Colonel’s associates and we had dealt with and were dealing with those issues already. The Colonel actually helped with some of that when he put Chrissie in the Academy as we needed somebody inside to get a good look anyway.

The colonel may have other things going on, but he seems to be focusing here and in Maine where the king has good access to more people if he needs them. It helped that Mera had talked to Al about his people and tracked down Sam, but the king up there made sure that his contacts up in Canada sent stuff down about the werewolf attacks that he had seen. My nephew Roger took some people up there to help Sam and his people out.

Since the Colonel is collecting Creators he probably has found more that we don’t know about and he has managed to get our attention focused here. On the other hand collecting the people is one thing and getting them out is another. The Colonel really should have done more homework before trying something like this where I would pick up on it. I’ve already made quite a few calls and Noro has done some things as well. So even if the Colonel does manage to collect some people, we have plans. Frankly I would like to believe that he’s better than what we’ve seen so far.”

Josh and Mera went back to the workroom with Eli to talk with Hank and Leo about the stuff that Eli and Gunther had brought up last night. Eric said to Gunther, “Why don’t I show you the farm and explain what is going on. Things are going to be rather hectic today getting ready for the evening which may be very hectic. Hilda will be back later.”

He took Gunther outside and left. Josh came back in and breathed a sigh of relief. “I want to trust him, but he probably has his own agenda. From what Theresa said last night, he had been rescued by the Colonel and bonded with the Colonel’s other daughter. He’s also the heir to a domain under threat. So keeping him out of the middle of things is probably a good idea.”

Tim came in and brought a surprise as he rolled Suzy in. There with Doris was Vic, who I hadn’t seen for far too long. Vic had chased me as a reporter for years and we had been going back and forth for a long time. Frankly I was surprised that he hadn’t tried to chase me down up at the Cape. Liltra had liked him and he and his wife had been good friends back in the day. As he walked in he said, “Hello, you old scoundrel. Somebody must have had a net and dragged you up again. This time they didn’t throw you back.”

“Why would somebody throw somebody of my obvious quality back?”

“Because they would know how much trouble you were. Why did you just drop out like that?” “Because I didn’t want to face my friends with Lilli gone. Especially when Emma and some others passed away.”

“Well, I tried to chase you, but it was hard to talk to you underwater, John couldn’t talk with you and Altris said that you weren’t responding to the messages we sent. So I gave up.” “So why are you here, now?”

“To make sure that you aren’t corrupting my young apprentice more than you have already.”

“More than you would? He was bad enough of a snoop before you got your mitts on him. He even took my picture when I was going to offer him a job.”

“Served you right. What was he supposed to think, you in that getup of yours.”

“You’ve seen the picture?”

“Tim gave me a couple of prints as a present. I’m surprised that you didn’t offer to pay him for the negative.”

“I have paid him. We now have a new photo of me for the newsletter, thanks to my granddaughter and my editor. Of course by that time, everybody in the family and a bunch of others had seen it already. So what have you done with him, now that you have him?”

“Well he has a car.”

“So?”

“He parked it in Jim’s spot.” “And got the ticket. Is Mr. Day still doing that? I got one just before Lilli was killed.”

“He got off.” “How did he manage that?”

“He took a picture of his car with the city hall clock in the background. He turned it in with some other pictures that he had taken of Sal and Sillia for the files and had one picture left in the camera, so he took a picture of the car and we made sure that he had it with him when we went out to go on a drive.”

“How did you find out about it?”

“I was waiting Doris’s office for the the inquisition and Doris looked out the window, saw Tim park his car and take the picture. As we are watching from the window and Doris calls Roger, just in case, Tim comes into the building and Jim is driven up in front of his building, walks around Tim’s car, starts yelling at the cop and goes into his building to send messengers out to find the clown who parked in HIS spot. Of course, the messengers were looking for a man owning a Packard rather than a cub reporter which made things really fun when Tim and I got in his car and Jim comes roaring out, looking for Tim’s employer and the man who dared to park in his spot.”

“We may have to make some arrangements,” I said, smiling. “We wouldn’t want Jim to get the idea that he could get away with being that bad.” “Already happened,” Tim said. “I took Suzy to dinner at Bennies, Roger brought Jim down and Jim apologized. He had been read the riot act by just about everybody. Also, the story of me and the picture was spread around newspaper row by lunch and just about everybody who had gotten a ticket was planning to park there and take a picture. Jim is taking the subway to work anyway. It’s a good thing he apologized because he has the house between Sal’s and the Manager’s so The kids were planning to cause trouble.”

“In the end, Tim decided that he was only going to use the parking spot to bring you to meet Vic,” Suzy said. “Now that Vic is up here, he won’t need to do that.”

“Yes he will,” I said. “He’s obligated now.”

I could tell that Vic was thinking the same thing I was. There was a lot of potential for fun here. Especially since Tim hadn’t known either of us long enough. Of course Tim getting the better of Jim Day was a lot of fun in itself. Chrissie had actually told Tom about it and Tom had told Josh and I, but not mentioned Vic’s part in it. I said to Vic, “Chrissie said that Tim had had a run in with Jim, but didn’t mention you. At least Tom didn’t when he told us the story the next day on our way in.”

“I kept myself in the background during the dinner. I wanted Tim to get in the habit of talking to people and telling stories.Of course the biggest problem he has is dealing with Suki.”

“I can understand that. But why would Suki spend enough time with Tim that dealing with her is a problem.”

“You will have to ask her. But she has. Of course Tim was locked up at the Waldorf being the inside reporter and family representative after Chrissie was taken. Nera put him on that duty.”

I ran down the choices for candidates and my daughter had done a very good job of picking a choice that kept certain things discreet. Not that she had had a lot of options, but I didn’t think that the Admiral would have been pleased if Steve had been all over the papers. Nor would the Admiral’s bosses who wanted Steve and his people for some of those discreet little things that came up from time to time. Before my descent into under sea there had been a fair amount of discussion about the use of seafolk in the navy as more were recruited. I didn’t realize that Nera had been part of that, but she and Steve had a very good relationship and she kept up with his career. In any case, we had been lucky that Tim was available and I owed Joe and Maria one.

Vic said, “Other than mermaid princesses being taken, what have you been up to? I wish that you could have seen Chrissie and those guys at the market. She was the princess of the trading floor.” “That’s Chrissie. I’m sorry that I missed that. I saw the news stories. The stories with the ladies on the front page all week. Apparently she and the other ladies had a marvelous time until they were taken.”

“How are they?”

“As of last night, fine. Tom was killed last night, at least that was what we want the guy on the other side to think. I imagine that Chrissie was pretty upset by Tom’s ‘death.’”

“So that was Tom who left this morning in that wreck.”

“The wreck is Josh’s son in law’s. My granddaughter has told my grandsons that it is not to come back home.”

“I don’t blame her. What does the man do?”

“He runs the Co-op for Josh, among other things. The Co-op has an allowance for a car for him that he doesn’t use. On the other hand, his boats, all four of them are among the best on the Cape. And my granddaughter gave him a Packard sedan for his birthday three years ago. The first time his kids rode in it was the wedding.”

“How come I missed that?”

“That was my fault, mostly. I hadn’t reestablished my connections and Mera was rushed a bit. Then the Andy thing happened and was a big distraction for everybody.”

“I’m surprised that you stayed up here for the Games. I would have expected Josh to deal with things once he knew about them. I understand that he was sort of out of the picture for about four months last year. Lou was not happy when I talked with him.”

“Josh essentially took a vacation to get Tom and Chrissie together and he and Mera forgot that I liked to play those games. I think that Josh wanted to get in touch with his old self and have a summer of Swim time with Mera. So he took the time to try to get Tom and Chrissie together. That didn’t quite work out the way you expected, did it Josh?”

“Not quite,” Josh answered, grinning slightly. “Chrissie was rather annoyed at me by the end of September and I didn’t want to sneak away and take the week that Lou wanted. Tom didn’t tell me about his boat until he almost had it ready and Joe didn’t either. So Chrissie was putting herself in pots to be caught by Tom on what was supposed to be Tom’s day and being cagy about just how much time she was spending up top for certain things, while Tom was being cagy about the boat and asking for time to work on it. So I kept pulling Chrissie up and getting her out of the pots. I think that I caught her five times before Mike finally took that picture, Tom put the boat in the water and Chrissie started to run it for him.

I can understand why Lou was a bit pissed at me. Especially when I got up here and saw the fiasco. This was supposed to be the company’s show job, we were almost taking a loss to make it work and then when I showed up with Eric at the Christmas parade, things weren’t done. During the thing with Andy, Lou asked me to take a look so Mera and I went with the rest of them on the cruise and up here.”

“Then the Committee handed things to Noro.” Vic said, smiling. “That wasn’t the best idea in the world.”

“They didn’t know me.” I smiled as I said that. “They thought that they were going to get doddering old fool doting on his grandaughter as a patsy. I handed them to Josh for education and recruited Tom for his connections. That turned out to be a real surprise.”

“How so?”

“I said that Tom knew nothing about production when he and Josh dropped a new business proposal that looked fairly hot on me. He’s rubbed my face in that in every which way including demonstrating an amazing executive ability. He gets things done and has people eager to work with him because he is eager to work with them. He made the project his from the first day and never looked back. Of course he also dealt with Jacob Martin in all sorts of entertaining ways.”

“That jackass? If I get pissed at Tim, I’ll have him do an interview with the man as a test.” “I already did, yesterday,” Tim said. “I figured that I would get some background for my interview with Tom, so I called and asked for twenty minutes while I bought lunch. It was not fun. I can’t even blame Ed and his compulsions because none of what I asked about touched on the fae at all.”

“Did he clear the restaurant?” Vic asked.

“No, but I was small fry. I was playing the cub reporter forced to get a story and looking for dirt on my target, Tom, to the hilt. Most of what Jacob said was about the great big cheese he was and what a crook Tom must be. I didn’t tell him that I had also talked with his business manager and Antonio before talking with him. I also talked to just about everybody on the Committee and the office and they all had the same opinion of the man.”

“Do you have the writeup?”

“Yes. I also sent it down to the paper for you and John to look at yesterday. Both my interview with Tom and all the background material including my interview with Jacob.”

“Good, we can go over it before we go to the big thing at Jacob’s. Doris arranged to have both you and I present. You as a photographer, primarily, but your background will be helpful.”

“Now that Tom is ‘dead’ you won’t get a chance for a daily Jacob. Suki said that I shouldn’t miss them when I was up here and she was right. Tochi says that the man is cursed and I can believe it.”

“What set him off?” Vic asked. “He’s an idiot, but he’s usually too occupied in himself to just keep going after somebody like that.” “Ed told Tom that it was the first time that somebody just said no to him over and over since Ed’s grandmother died,” I replied, smiling. “So Jacob just keeps coming back for more.”

“How did this start?”

“Two of Eric’s grandsons and some fun and games. The boys were fixing a hay wagon and when one of Jacob’s nephews tried to bully them, they took his car apart while Jacob’s granddaughter was stealing one of the boys. The nephew came back over for Thanksgiving for more fun and games after being convinced that he could get away with it by the people the people who took Andy. While Eric was having a meeting with Jacob about that and other things, Jacob said that Bob and Scott were “such good boys.”

“Jacob likes to have his important meetings private. How did the boys hear about it unless Eric told them.”

“They were in the room as bus boys. Eric figures that since Jacob was bringing a bunch of his people to those things, he didn’t have any problem augmenting Antonio’s staff, which made things handy for Scott and Lizzie. So the boys were in the room when Jacob was spouting off and proceeded to make things at the parade more fun and interesting.” “I saw that. But how did you get involved?” “We came up so that Chrissie could show off the farm to Josh and Mera and we could just have a good time while Tom set the boys up in the shop with the gun business. Apparently Colt and some others had been after Larry and Eric to make sure that they weren’t left high and dry for their custom guns. I think that they were rather concerned that Lou and I had gotten our mitts on Tom and poached their secret weapon. So we all went to the parade to watch the show and Jacob went out of his way to generally make an ass out of himself right in front of all my daughters and granddaughters that were there, and then followed that up with accusing Scott of kidnapping to Josh right after we all dealt with Jacob’s nephew being involved in the thing with Andy. You know that I wouldn’t let an opportunity like that get away and then the Committee dropped the Games in my lap. The fun part has been Tom, who has managed to be a rather big surprise all the way around.” “I was surprised at how much authority you let him have.” “He took it and made it stick. By the time Josh and I had finished the start up meeting with the Committee, he had resolved the biggest issue we had, arranged for some new contractors who had worked out very well and taken over most of the day to day operations, as well as kicking Jacob out of his office. He just grabbed the ball and ran with it. That was a big help because that made him the center of attention rather than Josh or I.”

“So you two could get things done without any real interference.”

“Yes. Of course Tom isn’t all that happy with being stuck in a suit again, but I don’t think that he’s going to be able to avoid it from now on. We need him too much and my son has a very nice office at the Cape set up for him.”

“So does Lou, though Lou doesn’t expect him to spend much time there. He needs somebody to do what Josh should have been doing last year. Somebody from the family with the ability to cut corners and override the managers if necessary. Somebody who is also good at the things that Tom is good at. When Lou was talking to me about the Games and what had been going on, he was as happy as I had seen him in a long time. Not only did he have you around again, but he had a new face that wasn’t Josh to deal with the things that needed to be dealt with. Tom’s government and business connections were only a huge bonus. Then there’s Chrissie. Who could probably dance in front of all New York down at the Battery and nobody would notice the tail. Well at least they would just be fine with it. Of course I’ve seen Chrissie dance and she is marvelous. The Stock Exchange was the most amazing thing you have ever seen.”

“We’ll have to talk to Chrissie about that this evening. When did you see Chrissie dance?”

 

“The prince and princess went on a tour of the navy yard with Chrissie and the other ladies. Suzy and some other ladies set up a dance in one of the dry docks and Chrissie and the others did one too. Both of the dances were amazing. Tim has the pictures. Do you think that we will be able to see her tonight?”

“The place where she is being held is going to be troubleshot just as Jacob’s thing is going to start and Tom is going to come out of hiding and help with the lady’s release. Tom has planned to make Jacob look foolish and he had it planned for the thing tonight. I don’t think that Tom or Chrissie will let the gag get away.”

“What if this Colonel character tries to kill the ladies?” “You know about him?”

“Tim took him on as an assignment and a rather interesting character showed up at his desk to talk to Tim about a book that Tim found. So Tim has been working on him a bit. He found quite a bit about the man just from the paper’s morgue and a lady down at the Associated Press has just about everything ever put in the papers about the man.”

“To answer your question, the ladies are not unarmed, and the place that they are being held is closely watched. We haven’t taken them out because of other circumstances and the fact that Chrissie and the others took their outlook from Suki.”

“What do you mean?”

“They are driving the people in the Academy crazy.”

We talked some more and Tim and Suzy went into the living room to talk to the Admiral and Mabel. Mera rolled in and said, “Hello, Vic. We haven’t seen you for some time. How is Claire?”

“She passed away about three years ago.”

“I’m so sorry. I sort of became disconnected when I went under sea. Josh and I thought that was we were supposed to do. That turned out to be a mistake.”

“So why weren’t you with Chrissie?”

“Because Josh and Noro needed me up here. I’ve been expediting the things that Tom hasn’t with the government. Plus I have been getting to know my new family and working on some other issues. We made a mistake and kept ourselves separate from the up top world too much in spite of father’s best efforts. So Josh and I are working now to correct that mistake.” “Is the Colonel part of the mistake?”

“Yes, though he just came here recently. There were other things that happened because we were so wrapped up in ourselves, not least of which was my mother’s death.”

“Your mother was killed by sharks. The same sharks that Tim was chasing if the stories that Doris and some others have told me are part of it.”

“Yes. Josh and I stopped the trawls through the Cape bower’s gardens, but we didn’t stop to look any deeper. Even when George and you warned us that there was more going on. We didn’t think that those kidnappings were related and Josh didn’t go down and talk to his friends to find out what was happening. So we never realized what the sharks were until they were putting the bite on Chrissie and Tom, who thank any god you can think of, never seems to be without a gun.”

“I can’t wait to meet the man.”

“Vic, why don’t I show you around and stay out of Eric’s way. Josh and Mera are going to the office, but my aide, Mary, is doing something else today and we are at the stage of having just about everything done, with a couple of exceptions that Tom has already dealt with.”

“The Games or the other thing?”

“Both, actually. Once Tom dealt with the water situation using his connections, the Games were actually fairly fun. Then we discovered the other thing, Tom set up his usual fun and games and we started to put things together to deal with some things that Jacob and his son pointed us at.”

“That Jacob pointed you at?”

“Jacob is a mess. Some of it is his own fault, but much of is the fact that the other side got deeply in control of what he’s doing. But he hid all of that and we didn’t know to look until we all went over there for that parade. Why don’t I show you Tom’s shop first.”

We went to Tom’s shop, which not surprisingly, was empty today. Today was the day that things were going to happen and I doubted that anybody was going to need to be in the shop today. At least that was what I thought when Bob and Scott came in behind us. “Hi, Noro. Who is this?”

“This is Vic, Tim’s mentor from the World.”

Vic shook hands all around and asked, “So what are you two up to today?”

“Tubes. We want to build a big projector and Doug doesn’t have the tools to make the tubes quick enough. So we’ll do them here and bring them back while Doug’s people do the frame.”

“What’s the projector for?” I was curious, because nobody had mentioned one last night. “Al wants to move Doug’s house a bit and make it bigger,” Bob said. “Doug had some window frames that he wasn’t using yet and the projector frame is going to be a fake wall. Al figures that the guys coming tonight will want to pump the gas though the windows while everybody is supposedly asleep. So we’re making a fake wall and windows where Doug’s second floor is dug out from a hill. Since the front of the house has a big room and other things that you have to climb and walk all over, we figure that the guys will come up the hill, where there is cover.”

“What happens then?” Vic asked.

“Noise makers, Aunt Hilda and some deputies, including us show up and Al pops up behind them from the mill pond. Meanwhile, some marines that showed up last night come out of the woods and the guys are arrested. Andy and Victor’s little party house gets the same treatment when the trucks show up.”

“The projector is what you used for that little show with the young lady, isn’t it?” Vic asked.

“Uncle Tom came up with it to surprise Aunt Stephie at Chrissie’s wedding. We made one up to surprise the family at Christmas as a present for Uncle Tom and so that Lizzie and I could announce our relationship,” Scott said. “Then Mr. Martin started to spout off about what good boys we were and we just couldn’t let that pass, so we made thing bigger for the parade. Doug’s house is going to be good practice as we’ve already agreed to do one for the Closing Ceremonies and Haruka wants one for her wedding in June.”

“I presume that you are getting paid for the Olympics. Isn’t your Uncle Tom angry about that?”

“We asked and he said to go for it. The Committee had been dropping hints and he finally told them to talk to us since we had done the show at the parade. He hasn’t had time to do the things he wants to do because he’s been so tied up with the Games. He said that he had only planned to use the projectors for Aunt Stephie’s surprise and if we wanted to use them for other things, we were welcome to. Nera wants to talk to us about some shows on the Cape next summer too, so it looks like we may be doing a fair amount of them.”

The boys got to work and we watched them for a while and left. Vic said, “Those boy have a lot of energy and good heads on their shoulders. They should go places.”

“I know. My new relatives are so much fun. The place isn’t much to look at at first, but they do such amazing things. The boys have been amazing to watch, but some of the rest of them have been interesting too. Let’s get in the car and go on up to the inn.”

We got in the car that was waiting for me and Bill drove us up toward the inn. “You’re still using these? What did Lou do when you were gone?”

“He used the four or so he bought each year as performance bonuses. There were some disappointed people this year. At least until I turn the cars over. There are a couple more that Lou uses to impress people. So it isn’t hard to get one in the city and Lou sent three up here when he heard that Josh and I were going to be up here for a month or so. Tom is going to have access to one, probably all year, if George has his way.”

“Why? “Security. A lot of people have shivers when Tom puts himself at risk. Especially after he married my granddaughter. When Chrissie had her little party, I had some high level people quietly let me know that Tom should take better care of thing s like that, now that he could. Not that the Cape was unsafe, and the farm certainly isn’t, but when Tom released some material at the wedding, he raised a lot of flags. Some people were concerned that somebody would come after Tom and light a bunch of things off that would get messy.” “Is Tom really that important?”

“Well the Colonel went out of his way and exposed his people to extreme risks to take my granddaughter, a girl who under most circumstances, nobody in their right mind would mess with, to try to get to Tom. The Colonel must have been either afraid of what Tom had on him, which if what I’ve seen so far, was pretty much everything, or afraid of what Tom might do. So the concern has turned out to be justified to a certain extent. Not that Tom hasn’t demonstrated that he is very hard to kill. Then when you talk to just about everybody in business and government that Tom has dealt with in the past, you get nothing but praise and telling you that working with him will be to your benefit. That permit for the water main was a case in point. The Committee had been trying for a year to get a permit to build a pipeline through the Indian Reservation for a new water main and been stonewalled. Tom had that cleared up with a phone call. He called the White House to do that, but I imagine that he had other connections if he needed them.

My granddaughter, Stacey, is one of the biggest networkers around and she was stunned when Tom handed over his address books.” “I know Stacey. She was willing to talk with me, but not to arrange to get me on the list. I think that she didn’t want to upset you.”

“Stacey put herself on the list while I was under sea. Then she took over the New England editor’s position. Bill at the newsletter is one of the biggest booster of the tank beds, even though Dori is only seven. She was probably hoping that you would tickle me and get me back up top.”

“So Stacey won’t have tail issues for some time?”

“Not unless Dori falls in the water and is threatened with drowning. I haven’t asked George if he’s drownproofed Allen yet.”

We arrived at the inn where the Admiral and Tochi were discussing going over to Lak Placid for the day I turned to Vic and said, “Should we go with them?”

“I can’t. I have an interview appointment.”

“Who with? I can get you to everybody important involved up here.”

“The Colonel. Drop me off at the railroad station in Plattsburg. I will be met.”

“Are you sure that you want to do that? How did you make the appointment in the first place? Is Tim involved?” “I’m not going to tell you how I made the appointment. You can figure it out if you think about it. As for Tim being involved, he isn’t. My life is essentially over anyway and I can afford to take the risk for a big scoop. I would have Tim take a discreet picture of the man, but he already has. I don’t think he realized that he’s already pulled the new top of the bounty list when he took that picture the other day. But Tim has a bright future and Suzy would make my life hell if I put Tim at risk unnecessarily. So Roger okayed me looking into the man. Quite frankly, I had heard about him during the war when I was over there as a correspondent.” “Why do you think that he is doing this? I wouldn’t think that talking to a reporter at this stage would be a good thing for him.”

“He probably has something that he wants to say. We do have a forty eight hour nondisclosure agreement as long as he doesn’t actively do anything criminal in front of me.”

“Well don’t tell him that you know me.”

“I won’t. Nor will I tell him what you have been up to, not that you have told me very much.”

“Don’t tell him what the boys are up to.” “Of course not. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise. The boys probably have the other ways in covered anyway.”

We finished our tour and got back in the car. Vic had looked at the ski area and said, “That could be a good business. Especially so close to the city.”

“I know. Roger has been looking into setting things up with the railiroad for tours. Josh has been helping a bit and we’ll probably be doing more. When is your interview? We’re setting up a storefront for the Games and I can take you through it afterwords.”

“Drop me off at the Plattsburg station. Pick me up there about three. If I don’t show up, you can take what steps you think necessary.”

“I could arrange for a discreet tail.” “I agreed not to do anything like that. So please don’t do anything that will mess things up.”

“If they take you to the Academy, say hi to Chrissie.”

We talked as we rode over to the ferry and across to Plattsburg. I was more than a bit concerned about what Vic was doing. I hadn’t told Vic what the Colonel had done last night to get to Tom. I didn’t know what Tom was planning to do about Vinnie, but the needless deaths had hit Tom hard. I just hoped that the Colonel didn’t try to play that game with me. On the other hand, the Colonel probably didn’t know me and I hadn’t been out front during the events of the last week.

It had been Tom and Tom’s wife, not Mr. White’s granddaughter that had been the focus of the press and the stories. Actually the press had been taking a hands off with Tom over the last week, mostly because Josh and I had released a press release and had a press office set up to keep the noseys off Tom. In fact that was my next stop, to fuzz up some rumors about Tom and his ‘death.’

I walked into the office and was mobbed by reporters, asking about Tom. After I waved everybody down, I said, “My son in law and I haven’t heard from Tom since last night. He went to meet with the kidnappers with some documents that the kidnappers were supposed to exchange the ladies for. The ladies were supposed to be brought to the Committee office and they were not. Nor have they turned up anyplace else. We do have assurances that they are still alive. I have hired a consultant to help deal with the situation. Tom has been working with the consultant and they may be cooking something up. Here is Mr. DelVecchio to tell you a bit of what’s going on.”

Sal being around was a big help and I had arranged to have him here today. He took over with some of the compelled and other bureau people who had come up with him and had been handling case related work. They had been staying over here in town after Sal got here. I just hoped that the bureau wasn’t stripped completely. I had asked Roger about that when he came up and he said that this way the bureau could handle something this big and still have a staff in New York at the house and office to deal with other issues that came up. Also the compelled made a good front for the bureau and if the reporters saw them, who looked more or less normal, they didn’t really look at the weird and strange issues.

After I finished with the press I took Roger to lunch at Antonio’s to get an update on things that had happened outside the area. Sal took the press to lunch and the place where Tom was ‘killed.’ The Admiral, Josh, Tochi and Mike joined us for lunch and Roger started his update. Roger started with, “Two small towns in Pennsylvania had a bunch of families disappear last night. The Pennsylvania State Police is investigating, along with the FBI. There had been some strange wolf or dog attacks that we hadn’t heard about. Helmut is sending Ray and Steve down to collect what they have and look into things.” “Any reports of stolen trucks?” Josh asked.

“Some, but they may have stolen the trucks elsewhere. Or bought or rented some. There were some witness reports. Boris is having the Sheriff’s around here check for strange vehicles.”

Josh wrote down a number, and then another one. “Call these people and let them know to keep an eye out for strange trucks. Tell them it’s a heads up from me.”

“Who are they?”

“The big truck rest stop people in Northern Pennsylvania and Southern New York. Between the two numbers, this should cover just about everybody that stops for fuel.”

Josh maintained a lot of connections with freight agents, railroad and trucking people. That had been a big part of his Peacekeeper persona. Just before and while he had been on the barge with my daughter, he had made a big impression and that had only strengthened as time went on and the people he knew started new businesses. Of course Josh was not adverse to throwing bones to his friends and that paid off in times like this.

Roger folded the note and put it in his pocket. “I’ll call them when I get back to the office. I’ve heard stories about your contacts, Josh. Now I’ll have a chance to develop some of my own.”

“Just be careful. There are some pretty rough characters out there.” “Not as rough as I’ve had it. The Manager wasn’t exactly easy on us and his ‘enhanced adversaries’ didn’t mind knocking us around from time to time. There are ten or so graves out back of my house that are not Twisted.”

Tom came in with two of his cousins along with Charlie, Joe and Steve. He was in his Ted the Drifter persona and I was surprised that he could get in here. He said aloud, “This is a swankier place than they usually let me into, boys. The lady did say that we could eat on her for lunch, though.”

Josh and I went over and I asked, “So what have you all been up to?”

“Some lady had a big party and her crew didn’t show up this morning to finish up. I was checking out a stable that somebody in town said needed work and she wanted somebody right away. I got my friends here and we got started. The lady said to come here for lunch.”

“Was the lady Mrs. Martin, by and chance?” Josh asked, smiling.

“Yes it was, in fact. Somebody left that nice lady out in the lurch with all those swells showing up at her place and the stables. We went up to her place and got things fixed up before lunch. We’ll do the stables this afternoon. We’re getting paid good money and the lady is happy.”

“What about her husband?”

“She said that work scares him away and he went someplace else for the day. We didn’t see him.”

“That’s a good thing,” I said.

“We know. We’re new to the area, but we’ve heard stories. Apparently he insulted some real heavyweights. Called some guy’s wife a dumb girl or something. The same girl who was with those Japanese ladies all week and was kidnapped. I hope that she is ok.”

“We’ll let you men get back to lunch. I imagine that the lady wants you back.” “That she does. But we can handle the work before the party.”

We sat back down and Tochi said, smiling, “I would go over there, but I don’t know Mr. Downes. Apparently you have met him.”

“We met last night,” Josh said. “He was a witness to the thing with Tom. We helped him get his truck out of hock after it had been repaired and he came back over here looking for work.” “He apparently found it.” Tochi smiled. “Strange that he could get a crew up so quickly.”

“I imagine that he has friends around and they were looking for work as well. There’s a lot of that going around.” “Perhaps my wife needs work done.”

“In Japan?”

“Yes. But I would have to insure that his woodworking skills are suitable. We will see them at the event tonight.”

Tom and the rest finished lunch and left to go over to the stables. I didn’t know what they were up to, but I suspected that the Colonel wouldn’t like it very much. After they left, Josh asked, “Where is Vic? I would have expected you to bring him here.”

“He had a big interview. With the Colonel.”

“Isn’t that risky? What if he tells the Colonel what we are up to?”

“I figured that we haven’t really said very much in front of him and even if he did, that wouldn’t help the Colonel very much other than to tell him that we are planning something.” “What about compulsions?”

“Vic is immune. That’s how we met. A dark fae had compelled him to go after me and I pulled the compulsions before he could do anything. So the Colonel will have a nice surprise if he tries. Since Vic isn’t fae he probably won’t even notice. The Colonel will know that Vic probably told some other people that he was doing the interview anyway.”

“Why don’t I take you over to Doug’s. We can take a quick Swim with Al and see what’s going on.”

“I want to meet Doug anyway. Both you and Mera have said good things about him.” “He doesn’t want to leave. I don’t blame him too much. I think that we need to talk to Helmut about finding and maintain contact with loose fae Creators and Artificers. The fact that the Colonel picked up at least two families and we didn’t even know where they were to warn them and the local police is a bit worrisome. Far too many fae are not connected to the established communities and they are vulnerable.”

“We’ll talk with Helmut and Mike about that. We need to keep a better eye out.”

“Giving the Colonel a bloody nose will be a help. I just hope that he doesn’t have another ship coming.”

“That all depends on how much money he committed to the operation. Roger, did you track anything back from the Director’s dividends?”

“Yes I did. Not from the dividend checks when they stopped, but when they started up again. The money had to come from someplace and I had an old friend watching the dummy company. When the deposits started, we tracked back to some accounts that had strange ties. I’ll have a full report written up as soon as this thing is closed up, but the upshot is that the bureau can track where the money comes from and where it goes. As far as I know, we have the US account being used for this operation and the ship charter that we knew about already. There isn’t another one as far as we can tell.”

“I haven’t heard about another one, either,” Josh said. “Sarla’s boss hasn’t either when she asked. Most of the likely ships that could handle what the Colonel wants are down south on African and South American labor contracts or laid up for scrap. There aren’t as many since the steerage trade closed down. The war took a fair amount of the ships one way or another and what was left were worn out anyway. A ship like that showing up at any US port raises eyebrows and attracts attention.”

“How is Tom going to explain his coming back from the dead?”

“He and Sal worked it out,” Roger said. “Sal is going to show up with Tom and Troubleshoot the Academy. It’s going to be the center of a white slavery ring and Tom and Sal faked his death to draw out the slavers.”

“Roger, Admiral, Tochi, I need to meet up with Vic at the railroad station at three, so Josh and I need to go. We’ll catch up later.”

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