Mermaid, Chapter 27, part 2

More Noro as he visits Doug’s, talks about discreet construction and more.

We got in the car and Josh gave Bill instructions. “This doesn’t seem to be the most direct way. Why are we going this way?”

“So that the people in the party house don’t see the car heading into Doug’s. We’re going in Doug’s back way.”

“How did you know about it?”

“Steve and Joe told me. They were there yesterday and Doug showed them the back way after they discovered the party house. Actually Andy and Trillia discovered the party house. They went on an exploratory Swim and found a house with Germans in it.”

“Fresh water? I bet that fresh water was an experience for the kids. Sort of like a low strength watery beer.”

“According to Steve, the kids weren’t really bothered. They were also too busy looking into what was going on. They actually saw the Colonel. Two Colonels, actually.” “So the Colonel had a Puppet at the meeting too. I wonder if he took it into see Chrissie?”

“I don’t know. There were times when Chrissie was going throught her Change that I had wished that I had a Puppet to take the grief. That was before she used her abilities. If I thought that Chrissie thought that I was in any way responsible for Tom getting hurt, I would want a Puppet. Since Chrissie was told of Tom’s impending death I expect that she reacted inappropriately in her usual dramatic fashion.”

“Sort of like she did when Tom went up to Vermont right after their picnic on the beach?”

“Well, yes. The interesting part is that while you and I got the brunt of that, Tom didn’t after the original little spat, even though he didn’t stay around for the histrionics. Usually Chrissie is pretty targeted with such things. Other than crying on your shoulder, she let just everybody else know how upset she was, except Tom.”

“Tom’s time will come. That was bond fuzz, mostly. Along with Tom not really understanding what was going on. It was good for him that he made sure to end things right away when he got back. If you hadn’t marooned him, he was going to chase after Chrissie and have a long talk and other things with her.”

“At least she got you out of your funk and back up top again. I missed you and I didn’t realize just how much.”

‘You had as much to do with that as she did. You and John. Of course Chrissie grabbed a winner. You and Mera lucked out. Your two daughters did very well for themselves and all your kids turned out great.”

“Yes they did. Now I get to play grandfather. And I can get Tom to help out for the things that I need done. Not that the family is going to let you off.”

“I know. Now that they have me, they won’t let me drag myself back into that pity pit again. That was a mistake.”

“It was, and we should have been paying more attention. I was so wrapped up in the business and then trying to make the boat work that I never saw what was happening down in the city and other places. Well I will have to pay the price for that. No boat next year. Altris read me the new rules when I went down the weekend before last. At best I get three days a week and one of those had better be Saturday.”

I laughed. “Now that Mera is going to be up top again, you won’t have any excuses.”

“Another problem is that doing the Games is going to set Tom back a month and his backlog in the shop and the things that we need him to do just keeps growing. We need him to bring some family up to speed in modern manufacturing methods and thinking, help family and the artisans learn new skills, get the tank beds started and then there’s what Lou wants. I just hope that we can keep from overloading him.”

“That will annoy Chrissie. When this thing with the Colonel is finished I think that she will want to drag him under for a week or so, certainly more after the Games are over.”

We arrived at a discreet gravel road that had been plowed and seemed to be an access road for the power company. Josh told Bill to turn in and park. Along with several other cars, there was a phone truck working at a junction box on the main road and two phone company people that seemed to be rather familiar. Bob was on the ground and saw us. “Hi Noro, Josh. We’re just rewiring the tap they put on. We want them to hear certain things and not others, so we’re adding a line.”

“What do you want them to hear?”

“Well Gretchen is going to get a call from Ed later because Bruce is over here and he’s upset about it.”

“He knows?”

“He was here yesterday. He was a bit upset, but Tony convinced hin that dragging Bruce out in front of the werewolf hunt might not be the best idea. Bruce wants to let his grandfather know where he is, so that he can confuse things. So Ed is going to call Gretchen, who is back for the weekend to arrange some things and complain about Bruce being over here for the weekend with all the werewolf hunting going on. We figure that Bruce being here, with Andy, the Colonel is likely to focus here. He’s already been seen here.”

I looked around and other than a shed, I didn’t see any evidence of a way to get to Doug’s house. I turned to Bob and asked, “So how do we get Doug’s?”

“Through the shed. There’s a tunnel through the hill. Doug won’t let us use it, but you shouldn’t be a problem.” “Ok, We’ll do that.”

Josh and I walked toward the shed with Bill and the door opened as we got close. A man was standing there and said, “Josh, go right on through. Doug is waiting. Who is this?”

“My father in law, Noro, or should I say, Mr. White. I’ll introduce him to Doug and around on our way out. I see that you don’t want the boys poking into things down here.” “Not that we don’t trust them, but father doesn’t want the temptation right out in front. They agreed anyway and we wanted to keep an eye out back here anyway. So father had one of us back here.”

“Did you see anybody?”

“Not today. There was somebody flying around last night, trying to be discreet. We’ve noticed them before.”

“Those are the things that have been living at the Academy,” Josh said. “There are four of them, as far as we know. I hope that you prepared something on the roof.”

“The boys suggested that we strand some barbed wire across the roof and we did. We also put a baffle in the chimney. Just in case there are any surprises.”

“Eric was also doing some of that. Noro’s aide and some others are going to be flying around as well.”

“Steve’s people brought some surprises too and the boys set up some flash bulbs that Tom had on the corners of the roof with tripwires.”

“We’ll get everything from Doug and Al. Noro and I want to get a look at the party house from the water.”

We went through the elaborate and well constructed tunnel through to the house. There was a hall and a staircase on the other end and we turned toward the front of the house. There were some women in the front, doing various things, some of which were using there abilities. One of them heard us walk in and looked up. “Josh, who is this?”

“This is Mera’s father, Noro. We’re checking out the party house. Noro, this is Doug’s wife, Vera.”

“A very strange party. They have been watching us today, from the other side of the road. But the boys set up the glamor and projector, so they see us as normal and not what we are really doing. The families are all sleeping in the workshop tonight anyway. We are not going to make this easy for them. We will not become slaves to the dark.”

Josh said, “We will work to avoid that. We can all hope that we can prevent that. We need to get outside and take a look.”

“Do that. Andy and Trillia have been down there several times this morning already. Bruce, Gregor and Jimmy have been watching the road and the house.”

“Jimmy?” Josh asked.

“His mother dropped him off because her husband is handling the sheriff’s hunt in the area. They have a comfort station up the road for the hunters. She knew that Andy and Bruce were already here. Hilda and Stephie are at the comfort station as well. They are also keeping a discreet eye on the party house and its activities. Not that the boys need help.”

“Well, we need to keep moving because Noro is meeting with somebody so we’ll move in outside.”

We went outside and Al was sitting there on the porch obviously focused on something with another man I didn’t know. The man saw us and said, “Josh, Al is maintaining the projection right now. Who is this?”

“Doug, this is my father in law, Noro. He wanted to meet you and get a look at what’s going on here. How have things been going overall.”

“Well we built the false wall in the workshop last night and as you can hear, they are putting it up now while Al, Stelios and I have been maintaining a glamor using Tom’s projectors and the tubes the boys made up this morning.”

“The boys said that you were going to use the projector to make the house bigger. Apparently you changed things a bit,” I said.

“The false wall was fairly easy to construct and maintaining the projector takes more energy if you try to hold it for very long. So we are using a fixed glamor on the wall to make the house look bigger than it is and the projector to hide the fact that we are on to them. I’ve also weakened the house shield somewhat so that normals see the glamor.”

“So you are masking the construction rather than the wall itself. That makes sense,” Josh said. “Did they get a close look at the house before hand?”

“We don’t think so. The things flying around never came very close and we only saw people from the street side and not the back on the hill. So they won’t know that the wall is fake.”

“What if they bring ladders and go over the roof?”

“Some of the slate roof tiles are loose. And the roof has ice on it for some strange reason. At least it will this evening. There is more than one use for those tubes of Tom’s. We also set up some of what Stephie calls the press corps at the corners of the roof to light things up. She brought them when she and Hilda wanted to look into their kids.”

I smiled. “The kids that are cooking up trouble probably.”

 

“Yes. All of them, which may lead to more trouble later.”

“Josh and I want to take a look at the house,” I said. “Is it better from the land or the water?”

“I can’t say anything about the water, but the house is set back from the road and on the lake, so getting close might be tricky.”

“Ok, We’ll go for a water approach.”

 

Doug looked at the clock. “Time to change.”

He stopped talking to us and Al blinked a bit. “Sorry Josh, I had to keep my focus and this is bigger than the thing for Stephie. They should be about done soon.”

“Not a problem. So it looks like things are going well.”

“I won’t know until they actually hit. Steve is still annoyed that the Colonel got through everything that he set up. On the other hand, nobody who’s been to the Academy has sensed any doppelgangers and this is a bit bigger thing than just driving a car off. We’ve set up all sorts of surprises and most of Stelios people and Lieutenant Kowalski’s people are up the road with the rest of the hunters, hanging out with the slugs at the comfort station.”

“Lieutenant Kowalski?”

“He brought a platoon of Marine recon types. Not fae, but good in the woods. Well some of them may be fae, but Kowalski wasn’t telling. They will close in later. Right now he has some people watching the party house. In camouflage and concealed. He’s also watching the road. If he sees anything funny he will let us know.” “Can we borrow you for a bit?” I asked. “We want a look at the party house.”

“I can do that. They are almost finished up there and I want to see what Eltra and Nera are up to. They Swam down there about an hour ago with Mike, Andy and Trillia. Some of the other kids took a cart down to the bridge with some surprises.”

“Was there any of Tom’s stuff going off last night?” Jos asked. “I imagine that the kids had quite a bit of thing to set off.”

“They did, but Steve and Joe convinced Andy, Gregor and Bruce to wait until later today so that the things would be a surprise. So they are going to launch things off starting about four o:clock or so. I suspect that the Colonel told his people about Tom’s stuff already. Of course not all of Tom’s things were in the book and Bob, Scott and I have been coming up with some new angles as well.

Why don’t we go for our Swim? The others shouldn’t spend much longer in the fresh water anyway. We can slip down there and you can get a look. Yesterday was very interesting, though a bit frustrating.”

As we walked toward the building with a water wheel, sounds of sawing and tools got louder. The various sheds were bustling with activity and people were moving to and fro doing various things to get ready. We approached the mill pond where somebody had set up a small shack from something as a Changing space, out of the wind. As we approached, Tim and Suzy popped up. Tim called out, “Is Vic here!?”

I called back, “No! He had an interview!”

Tim Swam closer and said, “He didn’t mention an interview. I would have been willing to go with him, even if it was with Jacob again.” “Vic didn’t want to involve you. The interview was with the Colonel.” “That explains why the Colonel isn’t here.” “Who is here?” Josh asked.

“Some people that look like soldier types. The werewolves showed up and left again, according to Stelios. We haven’t seen the bird things, at least in Change. There doesn’t seem to be any doppelgangers and the Necromancer hasn’t shown up. He might be out there, but we haven’t seen him here. Stephie and Hilda are looking out for him and passing his picture around for the hunters. We don’t want a zombie accident.”

“That’s for sure,” Josh said. “That thing should be on our kill list.” “It’s on Steve’s already and Tom is making a point to find the Necromancer and deal with him.”

“Is that why he was over at the stables doing that work today?”

“I didn’t know about that. I’ve been at the comfort station, the spa with Suzy and here. I just know that Tom pulled some guns he had left at the farm. Apparently they were projects that he did for some people in Washington.”

“I know what those are,” Al said. “Why don’t we get going.”

We went into the shack, undressed, sat down on the convenient bench over the water, Changed and entered. Josh looked and me and said, “Somebody has been going for Swims.”

“Mary insists that I Change and Swim in the pool at least every other day. That way a Change won’t hurt me that much. Tom is going to be the one that will be hurting.”

“He has been spending time outside his Change. But he’s young and will get over it.”

We followed Tim and Suzy over the dam and down the river under the ice. After about a mile or so there was a hole in the ice. Stelios was there poking his head out of the hole from time to time. He sensed us Swimming up and popped down. “Hi, Josh, Noro. Come to look at our foreign visitors? Take a look.”

We did and they seemed to be stacking large crates into trucks. There were two tractor trailers parked near the house away from the load and four smaller trucks, along with some cars and a couple of panel trucks. The crates seemed to be about coffin sized, but had air holes. Guarding the whole thing were a couple of men with a gun that I was not familiar with. I turned to Al and asked, “What kind of guns are those?”

“Bergmann MP18’s. They are like the Thompson. Submachine gun. The Germans made them as trenchbrooms during the war for the Sturmtrups. Which those fellows probably were. Good for putting a lot of fire out at short range.”

“How did they manage to get those?”

“Bannerman’s probably. The Colonel probably placed the order and had them shipped someplace. I’ll talk to some friends at Bannerman’s and find out for certain. When the German army had to disarm, a bunch of the guns went onto the market. They have their problems, especially when you reload the magazine. Bergmann made a straight magazine version, but not too many countries picked it up.”

“Those magazines looked clunky.”

“They were originally designed for a Luger aircraft model as a high capacity magazine. When Bergmann was starting to MP18, the German ordnance people insisted that he use the magazines already available. Which was rather ridiculous, even though they worked. As I said, they are a problem to reload. I looked into them before the Thompsons were out and decided that the rate of fire for a few seconds wasn’t worth it.”

Josh had poked up to look and said, “They don’t even seem to realize that they are exposed. Especially with all those guys out there on the werewolf hunt. If somebody looks in and they start shooting, the noise is going to bring more trouble than they want.”

“The house is set fairly far from the road and other than Doug’s, it’s all summer places that are closed down” Al said. “But you’re right, especially since the Colonel kicked off the hunt himself. We don’t know where the werewolves went to, though and Doug’s is about twenty miles from the Academy, along a very few roads. So if the Colonel does his thing against the Academy with werewolves and maybe zombies, especially with all those people at the thing for the Games, he probably expects to attract all the attention over there. If he hits Eric’s with some werewolves and other things, he probably thinks that he will have all the opposition locked down. That’s what he thought the last time we tangled. I doubt that he even knows that I’m in the neighborhood this time. If he did know, which he would have if he hadn’t rushed things and done his homework, he probably wouldn’t be doing things quite this way.”

“Why not?”

“Because I gave him a very bloody nose and shot his son when he did. He wasn’t as discreet as he thought he was being and when he showed up to set up his operation in our sector, what he was doing leaked out, people knew he was coming and started to look for potential targets. Some of us had even read his book. I wish that Steve had told me a bit earlier, but he probably didn’t want me making noise and messing things up when this whole thing started and he wasn’t sure that Colonel was involved. He did hint and told Eltra to keep an eye out, along with Stacey, who told Sam and his uncle. So they sent the picture down and I could see it and was sure that the Colonel was here.”

All three of my daughters Swam up from down the lake. Eltra called out, “Hello father! We were helping Stelio’s people at the bridge. Fresh water has it’s disadvantages. We haven’t wanted to stay too long at a time.”

“How are things going down there?”

“Fine. Mary has been making discreet flights over and the people here haven’t noticed. Bob and Scott fixed up some phone stuff and we put some things in the water and in the woods in front of the house to wake them up a bit. Al’s people did that and Steve’s people and us have been putting stuff in the water while Andy and Trillia, along with Bruce, and Jimmy have been putting some of Tom’s little tricks in caches to set off later. Gregor and some of Doug’s grandchildren have been playing stupid kids watching things at the party house.”

“Where’s Tony?” I asked.

“Keeping an eye on the kids in front of the house while keeping out of sight. He’s actually very good at that. I suspect that he’s had quite a bit of practice. He also doesn’t want the kids to feel closed in and constrained. Especially Gregor. The three menaces and Trillia have no such problems.”

“The three menaces?”

“Andy, Bruce and Jimmy. Stephie, Ginny and Hilda think that they could probably deal with the characters here all by themselves. But Hilda and Stephie won’t let them get in that much trouble.”

“Well Andy did seem to have things in hand at the Manager’s,” Josh said. “Hilda seems to have wanted him that way and the other boys were right with him. In his home environment, rather than New York, I expect that these people wouldn’t know what hit them after the boys and the rest having been through those classes of Tom’s. Noro, we need to get going if we’re going to make it back to the station in time to pick up Vic.”

Josh kissed his wife and we left Al and the others, retraced our steps, collected Bill and got back in the car. As we headed toward Plattsburg and the station, I said, “They seem to be prepared.”

“Yes they do, and Al seemed to know what he was doing. I want to make a quick stop at the comfort station and talk to Hilda and Stephie before we pick up Vic.”

Josh told Bill to make a turn about two miles up the road and we wound back to the main road and what appeared to be a farmer’s produce stand that had was bein used to provide a space where coffee, donuts, sandwiches and cider were being provided to some rather bedraggled looking men. They were rather surprised when we showed up in the car. I made appropriate noises to the men as Josh talked to Hilda. Stephie came into the shed with another woman with a fresh pot of coffee, put the pot on the counter that was probably usually used for fruits and vegetables and came over with the lady. “Noro! Come to see the adventure?”

“Josh wanted to see what was going on. Who is this?” “This is Ginny, Jimmy’s mom. She teaches school with me. Her husband is out in the woods right now, keeping an eye on some characters.”

“The ones down the road a piece?”

“Those and our three menaces,” Ginny said. “After all those classes that Tom did, all three of them want to stir up some trouble. It’s Stephie’s fault, of course.” “How so?”

“Well she’s been boosting Tom, along with all her friends, for years.Then Tom actually comes back and he’s just working in the shop, no matter how much Stephie pokes him. Just dull work on farm equipment and guns seemingly. So Stephie took a hit until Andy fell off that bridge and spread the story around the Monday after it happened about Tom, the bridge, Chrissie and the stuff he was doing with guns. Then Stephie and Hilda go down to the city after Andy was taken and they get Tom to cut loose in front of Andy and Gregor. Both of them immediately tell the other two all about what went on. Of course Tom didn’t help matters with that book of his. Leaving it in the shop like that. He should have stashed it better like the other things that even Bill never saw. But Stephie should have told us about that book.”

“I never actually saw the book until Tom pulled out the original to make copies. Bob and Scott, along with Ed Steele found it and made sure that I never saw it.” Stephie grinned. “They made a copy for the three menaces and copies for themselves and some of Ed’s buddies and other friends, but as a mom, I was a potential adversary and they didn’t want me telling Hilda, Mary, Diana and Theresa what they could be up to. Not that my sisters didn’t know already. Fortunately for Helen and Katherine, the boys haven’t wanted to play Tom’s games. So far, anyway. This summer is going to be interesting. The good thing is that Andy and Bruce are both going to be down on Long Island and the Cape and Jimmy’s going to be up here.”

“Not necessarily,” Ginny said. “My mother is making noises about wanting me and Ralph down there in the city for the summer. Though why she can‘t come up here, where it’s cooler is beyond me. But she wants Jimmy to get some time in the business.”

“What is the business?”

“I don’t really want to say. It’s more than a little strange and involved in a bunch of things.”

“I have friends and tenants in the same sort of work. Work that they want to keep a bit discreet, even if it is legal.”

“Then you understand. The family’s customers don’t like certain things talked about. Especially our special customers.”

I thought about what kind of business it might be and decided to ask Big Jim if he knew these people. Stephie came over and said, “Noro’s ok to to talk to about certain things. Josh is too. Of course Josh is a special case. Ginny’s family is in construction. Discreet construction that the customers may not want other people to know about.”

“How do you know about it, Stephie,” I asked.

“We help with materials. Along with certain special features. George does anyway. So we know a bit.”

“How does one request their services?”

“I don’t know. We haven’t needed them. Ginny, how do you?”

“You ask around and find one of the customers,” Ginny said. “They make the connection. If you don’t know the customers then you don’t need the work.”

I was definitely going to have to ask Jim about them. That is if Lou wasn’t already using them for certain things. Josh came back over and said, “Hilda says that the werewolves haven’t turned up. On the other hand, Bill and the sheriff aren’t closing the circle until after Steve and the general hit the pestholes at about four this afternoon. Stephie, we need to keep moving and pick up Vic. Or at least deal with what we want to do if he doesn’t come back.”

“Where did he go?”

“An interview with the Colonel, who has been conspicuously absent from the party house today. According to Al, he was there yesterday for some time.”

As Bill pulled us away, I turned to Josh and said, “Ginny’s family must have an interesting business.”

“It is. They build speakeasies and other discreet additions to places.”

“I’m not going to ask how you know them, but have you used them?”

“I have, and so have you, but you probably don’t remember it. They actually did the pool at my house and Altris has them working on the place for you when we get back home.”

“She seemed a bit young looking to have adult children and be a grandmother. Stephie and Hilda have said that she and Ralph aren’t fae, but I wonder.”

“Noro, around here, most people probably have a touch and the fae in the city don’t go blurting it out unless their name is Chrissie Benton. So they may be fae. I suspect that Trillia is checking Bruce, Jimmy and some of the Benton kids out for low and high fae tails and their mothers.”

“Isn’t she young to be doing that?”

“Talk to Mera. She’s the one who mentioned it to me and there are some anxious mothers with under sea kids at the Sound bower. Andy and Trillia have been trying to get them to come up top and be a part of the world. Now that the Director has funded the school, Trillia has been encouraging some of the other kids to come up top. She has had to carry a lot of things at a very young age. Especially since she lost her father.”

“There’s also the fact that she tied into Andy so quickly. I wasn’t too surprised at that, but I expected that the Sound bower keystone would wait a bit and not nudge so hard. But there it was, she made sure that he wasn’t getting away.”

“She also came up here with him. Probably to keep him from getting in real trouble. He’ll probably be a bit more careful when she’s around.”

“I want to know more of the “three menaces” stories. Tom had better watch out. He was out of the fun for a long time and now that the family has him, I suspect that they will be wanting to get him involved.”

“Along with ours. I just know that my daughter has something planned for him. Whatever it is is probably waiting down in the bower right now for him and her to show up. She’s been going easy on him.”

“I can’t wait for their first real argument. At least Tom doesn’t have any of the quirks that far too many of the family has. I wonder how they will handle the Colonel?”

“I don’t think that Tom will just shoot him, though by the time we are all done with him, the Colonel will probably want Tom to shoot him. The Colonel may even force Tom to shoot him. I think that Ed will force Tom to shoot him.”

“That’s going to rough on Tom. Ed is a friend with an affliction. I think that you are right about Ed attempting to force Tom to shoot him. Ed was careful to get Gretchen out of the picture.”

“That is if she stays out. Gunther showing up was a warning. Gretchen is probably as headstrong as Hilda. And probably about as helpless. Look at her who her coworkers are and the fact that her son is one of the three menaces.”

“We will have to learn more about that. There’s probably a fair amount of fun potontial there. Especially with Tim’s parking adversary.” “I thought that Mr, Day apologized and capitulated. Which was a smart thing to do. I’m guessing that Nera, Steve and Mary all had plans.” “Well, I owe Vic some time and a little fun. Tim and the parking spot provides the opportunity and if the three menaces and their friends want to rattle Jim’s neighborhood, that’s all to the better.”

“That won’t be hard. With Trillia’s contacts and the bureau and Steve’s people to help, the kids will have all sorts of ways to make poor Jim’s life a little chaotic. That’s if Trillia doesn’t get the bower involved and I suspect that she will, if for no other reason than to get people looking up top. We’re lucky that we have all those businesses and companies that want Swimmers for various things like the shipyards. Your up top program has worked out better than we imagined.”

“I know. Between the people working in the shipyards, the fishing, the Cape and the navy, the bower will probably seem to be empty some of the time. But it will be stronger and a part of the community. Steve told me what Helen said at the diner when Steve was talking to Joe and Al. Normal and fae, we are all the same community and that makes us stronger.”

“Helen knows about the Colonel? That poor man. He’s in real trouble. He has to take a boat and just about everybody that has a boat or is on the water eats at one of Helen’s relative’s places in our area. I imagine that she, and the kids are rather pissed that Chrissie was taken like that.”

“Steve didn’t mention the Colonel by name. Of course, Helen almost certainly knows about him by now. That is if Eltra or Stacey didn’t tell her straight out. But she has good connections on the grapevine. But Helen was rather fiesty about the Colonel messing with us. Along with everybody on the Cape, that is. That is something that I never quite imagined. I just wish that Lili were here to see it. Not the willingness to fight, but the fact that the community exists.”

We arrive at the station and since we were a bit late, Vic was waiting. Bill stopped the car, got the door and Vic joined us as we drove off toward Lake Placid. “How did it go?”

“Interesting. The man has a Twisted mind.”

“Was the interview at the Academy?”

“I’m not sure. I was blindfolded until I got to the room and the room had no windows. Jacob was not there. It was just him and me. He made a statement and I asked my questions. The man was surprisingly frank about some things. He also avoided the typical need of the megalomaniac to inflate himself.” “So what did he want?”

“To report what he did, I think. However it turns out, he wanted the word to get out that he actually attempted his part of an arrangement. I think that there was an agreement he made and that there was something that he needed to insure was protected.”

That made a lot of sense to me. The Masters were probably threatening the Colonel’s domain if he didn’t carry out the attempt to obtain the Creators. The Colonel had probably told the other Masters that success could not be guaranteed. This made what was going on in regards to taking Chrissie and the other ladies make more sense. The kidnapping’s purpose was to raise the level of attention on the events to the point where they would make international news and thus the Colonel’s report would also be news and so would his failure, if he failed. So the Colonels’ domain would be protected, regardless.

The fact that things had been rushed was also part of it. The Colonel had seemed to be rushing things because he was. I suspected that the Masters were rather frightened by the events that they had unleashed and had imposed a time limit on the Colonel to provide them with the Creators. If he had found two and taken them, then he probably needed two more. Therefore, Doug and the Creator up in Maine. So the ship arriving Monday, near where the operation was going on and the rest of it was also starting to make sense. The ship was porting in Boston because it was the most useful and fastest way to get all four of the communities aboard. The Colonel probably didn’t have much choice about ports because Portland was too small a port where a strange ship would get noticed, New York was bureau headquarters and Portsmouth was next to Boston anyway. So the Colonel had chosen Boston. In that the activities of the Manager and the Director had helped him, because they had focused attention on New York. All of us had been paying attention to the sharks and the related operations rather than looking into things up here.

At least until the parade and everything that had happened since. Us showing up at the parade must have been rather a shock. Especially with Al, Mike and Hilda poking into things. The Colonel almost certainly knew that all three of them knew who he was and we hadn’t really been that discreet about our activities. They had been pointed at the Director, but the Colonel had no way of knowing that. So he had needed to distract us and had probably sent a message to the Masters and diverted the Captain to the Academy rather than a safe house where he was originally supposed to end up. That’s where the Board came in.

I was beginning to see what was really happening. The Colonel had come over about the time that Tom and Chrissie had been running Tom’s boat. He had looked for Creators and found some, probably using information that the Masters had obtained from the Director. Then he made his plans to create diversions and discreetly kidnap the Creators and their extended families. The two in Pennsylvania were probably not tied to strong fae communities, though I wanted to talk to Helmut about that. There were possibly some rather annoyed kings down there in Pennsylvania.

I was thinking about that as I said to Vic, “We have some time before the event tonight. Why don’t I show you around.” “Do you think that I will get a daily Jacob?”

“I doubt it, but who knows. Since Tom is ‘dead,’ Jacob shouldn’t be the kind of pest that he has been. On the other hand, my granddaughter and her friends haven’t been released. So they may try to make more demands on me. The problem is that Eric has what they want and he’s not going to just give it up. Did the Colonel say anything about a diary or his daughter?”

“No, he didn’t. He kept things strictly to what he was doing. That was bad enough. He didn’t mention Gretchen, Tom, Chrissie or any of the rest of it. I certainly wasn’t going to bring that up if he wasn’t.”

“So you will hand your copy in forty eight hours? On Monday?”

“It’s already in the mail with a note not to open it until then. That was my insurance. There was a typewriter in the room and I typed it up before they brought me back to the railroad station and I mailed it from the post office across the street from the station.”

“I know enough not to pry.”

“Yes you do. We’ve played this game before. That doesn’t mean that you will try to find things out some other way. But the Colonel won’t tell you and the only other people involved are the Colonel’s”

“Well let’s see the storefront and Tom’s famous office.”

“I’ve heard about that. Doris said that Chrissie outdid herself.” “She did,” Josh said, smiling. “But that’s Chrissie all over. You’ve been watching her all the time that she was in the city. That’s typical, though she really hadn’t had a chance to go all out since she went under sea. At least not in front of Mera and I. When Tom showed up, it was a different story. It was a good thing that she didn’t want to upset me or she probably would have made a bigger splash. Not that she wasn’t planning one. A certain barge party that my kids didn’t tell me about comes to mind.”

“Do tell.”

“Well, about August, My son in law, George, son Joe and my brother in laws set up a party on a barge to arrange for Tom to get sloshed and fall into the water where Chrissie was going to ‘rescue’ him. The party didn’t happen because Tom bought his boat and was working on it. Of course neither Tom nor Joe told me about the boat. Joe didn’t tell Chrissie either. So she started to stick herself in pots until I told Mera about it. Of course Tom had his boat in the water and Chrissie was in the boat that evening.”

“What happened?”

“Tom, being the sensible man that he is, chased Chrissie off with a boathook.” I said, grinning. “Then he made the mistake of going to Josh to try to figure out what was going on and Chrisse had beaten him there and was into her typical histrionics. Tom said he was sorry and Chrissie was running his boat the next morning. What Chrissie hadn’t told Tom was that she had removed the nut on his propeller and arranged for the bridges to get tied up if he tried to run. Now that Tom knew that she existed, she wasn’t letting him get away under any circumstances. She had to get Joe under the boat with a wrench to fix the wheel before it fell off. It’s a good thing that Tom coddled his boat and Chrissie had taken over running it right away until Joe could discreetly get under the boat and fix it.”

“What were you doing in all this, Josh?”

“Now that they were together, staying out of it. I figured that Chrissie would get Tom on a beach soon enough. She did, but Tom had some issues and Chrissie expected a bit too much. Of course, by that point, she was out of it and Tom was more than a bit confused. That also was when Mera and I took Nera down to the city and went to figure out what was going on down there in the Rockaways. The plan was that we would have a boat trip, Nera would find Mike, something that Mera had made a bit easier with a phone call to Mary and then Mike and Nera would take a nice ride out to Fire Island together to close the deal, I would talk to Lou for a week, and Mera would visit with her aunt and talk with Helmut to find out what was going on. Things didn’t work out that way as Tom and Chrissie had a spat, Chrissie went into her usual histrionics and Noro here decided to play games with the weather in front of the hurricane. ” “Noro, why would you do something like that?”

“I was out of it. Completely. Chrissie came crying about Tom and all I could think about was striking out at something for Lili, more than anything else. Chrissie and Ilutra pointed me at the weather magic probably to keep things from getting too out of hand and the hurricane had sprung up in between forecasts. Then I kept pouring myself into that stupid spell, which could have been a true disaster. Joe sent a message and got Josh back up to stop me and John, Josh and Joe hauled me back up top and into work.”

“Where was Tom in all of this?”

“Up here in Vermont, talking with Eric and Greta about bonds and other things,” Josh said. “He missed the circus and almost from the time he got back to the Cape, Chrissie was all lovey dovey over him. It didn’t hurt that the first thing he did was go out in his boat and save Chrissie and some kids. Then they spent the day rescuing other people and making plans to get together. Plans that I helped along and it worked, mostly. That is until the sharks showed up and ruined their little get together. Tom made it fairly clear that doing that was rather stupid.”

“By shooting most of the sharks. From what people have been saying, Tom and guns are not something you want to be on the other side of.”

‘He’s had practice,” I said. “He doesn’t like killing, but he doesn’t hesitate when he has to. It started with Brad, but the monsters have been too big a part of his life ever since.”

We arrived at the storefront and Eric was there with Gunther showing off what they were up to. Before we went in I showed the Jacob theatre to Vic and he laughed as it ran through its cycle. After we went inside, I introduced Vic to Eric and Gunther and Vic said, “When Tim brought his pistol down to the Stock Exchange the other day, I don’t think that I’ve ever seen the police there so impressed. How did that happen?”

“My son, Lawrence, went to gunsmith school in 1908. The family paid for it, because I felt that we needed to be able to take care of our own guns. A bit later, Tom started to talk to Bill, our neighbor who had the lathe that became Tom’s first tool when Bill became ill with cancer. Bill taught Tom the basics of how to use the tools and started him on his creative path. So Tom was using the lathe to make things and do the farm work and Larry was doing gun work. The war came and Brad was drafted. Lawrence worked at Colt doing finish work on the guns during the war and when the war was over, there was a lot of scrap from unfinished contracts. Lawrence bid for a lot of the scrap from Colt, Winchester and Remington and had it shipped up and stored in our barn. He planned to use the leftovers to make guns to sell over here and in the city for people that wanted special guns. Tom offered to try to do some machine work on his lathe and it worked out. As time went on, Tom bought the shaper and the mill and got better at making the guns. Then he shot his brother and left. Since he didn’t want to leave Lawrence out in the cold, he would run a batch of rifle recivers and pistol frames on his vacation. So Lawrence has always had a limited number to sell. Tom holds his frames to tighter tolerances than Colt can without changing a machine and the business has grown. But we may be having trouble unless we can get somebody very good to take over from Tom. The boys will probably work out for the short term, but they are off to college and other things.”

“So Tom machines the parts and Lawrence does the finish work. Who does the engraving.” “Colt has engravers for their work and Lawarence has some people that he goes to. Tom does his own work on certain special guns that he does for his friends and relatives.”

“Tim being one. Noro too?”

“Not yet,” I said. “Tom hasn’t had the time and I haven’t wanted to push. I’ll wait until he gets set up down in his new shop on the Cape. That is if he gets any time from all his other work.”

“You set up a shop for him?”

“Stacey and Stephie did as a wedding present. He was going to put a shop together, but the Manager, Andy and the Games happened. He was hoping to run the shop as a business for himself. It’s starting to look like he won’t be able to work with it full time like he planned.”

“What did you do to him?”

“He did it to himself. With a little help from Stacey and Chrissie. Why don’t we all go to his office while I tell you the story. Since it’s almost four, we can go on to the thing at Jacob’s stable where I expect that some things are going to happen.”

I told Vic how Stacey had asked for Tom’s address book and shown the book to Chrissie. “That was Tom’s big mistake. We had agreed to let Stacey and Mary handle his connections discreetly since there were some that Tom did not want waved around. But he let Chrissie see his desk book from Washington and she showed it to me. Then he pulled off kicking Jacob out of his office and taking over. Of course Chrissie manipulated that somewhat.”

We arrived at the committee building and the door was still open and some people still there as we peeked into Tom’s office. Vic said, “The pictures don’t do it justice. How did he fit it all in?”

“I have no idea. Josh, do you?”

“No. When I met Tom, he was just bumming around, looking for work on the boat. Joe pointed him at me after Chrissie locked on to him. So I started him on the boat and he never said very much about what he had done before. I didn’t think to look into him and Mera didn’t either. He didn’t tell me about the boat and Joe didn’t either and he was driving that old truck of his. So he didn’t look like anything very special. I should have paid more attention. That truck is a giveaway and I had even ridden in it. I did find out who Eric was and Mera called Greta and started to talk with her, but Tom had hidden this stuff from them too. It was all stashed out there in the barn and until Chrissie started to haul it out, Tom never said very much about any of it. Of course Lou started to get hints when he started to look into Tom as a family member and potential employee.

Then the thing with Andy happened and the stuff up here. Tom took charge there and when thing started up here, did it again. By the time that Noro and I had finished the meeting with the Committee, Tom had kicked Jacob out of the office, solved the water issue, and basically taken over operations. All in about an hour.”

“You let him?”

“He was doing a good job and had things moving. I didn’t want to mess things up and start a fight when he had things in hand. Noro and I watched for a bit to see if he stumbled, but by the end of the week, things were pretty much settled as far as I was concerned.”

“The fun thing is that he did it to himself,” I said, smiling. “So don’t pay any attention when he complains about suits. Chrissie may have manipulated him into the office, but he put himself in the job, just by being who he is. I haven’t talked to the Congressman yet, but Lou has talked to the people at Pratt, who are rather annoyed that Josh poached their potential Vice President and they are kicking themselves for letting him go. Of course once Chrissie happened, Josh and Lou had the inside track.

While I was still a bit out of it, I said that Tom didn’t know anything about production to Lou. Tom has rubbed my nose in that ever since then and none of it has been deliberate. Of course today is probably going to be amazing. Jacob has been beating up on Tom for weeks and he never seemed to notice that Tom wasn’t really striking back. Of course he has been setting something up, but he has been obviously busy and not even near any of Jacob’s places except once or twice for work related reasons. Jacob even had a restraining order put against him to keep him away from certain places.” “I’m looking forward to it. Probably everybody who’s ever met Jacob is looking forward to it. Do you have any ideas about what he’s going to do?”

“Some, but I’m not going to spoil it. The fun thing is how is going to arrange for Chrissie to see it. That’s going to take some timing.”

“Do you think he’s going to do that?” “Chrissie has been wanting to see this for a month,” Josh said. “If he doesn’t arrange it, he’s in real trouble. So he needs to get Chrissie out of the Academy before about eight when Helen will want dinner served.”

“Can he do that?”

I grinned. “We will have to see. He’s had two weeks to set this up and lots of help from his friends and relatives. Why don’t we stop by the press office that I set where Tim and Suzy are probably waiting for you and pick them up.”

“Did you tell him?”

“It sort of spilled out when he popped up from Doug’s millpond. He was looking into things there after visiting the werewolf hunt. He and Suzy went for a Swim to look at the place where the colonel was staging his people. The place was just a bit too close to the water. In any case, Tim will probably want to know that you are ok.”

“I can take care of myself.” “He knows that. But he hasn’t known you that long and he has been a bit alone for some time until recently. Also I suspect that he doesn’t want to deal with Roger and telling him that he didn’t watch out for you while you were up here with all his friends and relatives.”

“I can see that. He’s young too and has a large sense of responsibility. Also he hasn’t been around us long enough. If he had been he would be looking up obscure torture techniques and feeding them to the colonel.”

“I don’t think that Tim would do that,” Josh said. “He’s has too good a sense of honor and innocence and you haven’t managed to corrupt him yet. That’s going to be harder with Suzy and Suki watching out for him.”

“Suzy maybe, though Nera is probably working on her. Suki could be more troublesome. She has rather strong opinions about certain things, she knows a lot and listens to people.”

“But she’s foreign, she may not understand everything,” Vic said.

“This is Suki we’re talking about,” Josh said. “She’ll understand.”

“She does have an amazing sense of empathy, doesn’t she,” I said. “Tochi is a lucky man.”

“Well Suki isn’t above her little jokes,” Vic said. “When the whole crew went down to Bennies, She managed to end up in Tim’s car rather than Tochi’s.”

“Was Tim carrying his gun?”

“She made sure that he was. She also made sure that he had it when he eoncountered zombies and told Tim and Sal to look out for them.”

“So that is how he dealt with the Necromancer,” Josh said. “That was a good thing, especially where that happened.” “Suki said the same thing. She was rather blunt about that to Tim. Apparently the thing that makes zombies can be a very bad thing with a lot of dead before it’s over.” “It can be,” I said. “I’ve seen it, once. If you go back in the history files for Long Island, around about 1748, there will be an epidemic that they call small pox that didn’t spread very far. It didn’t spread very far because my son killed the Zombie Master.”

“Which son, Altris, or Ilutra?”

“Neither. My son killed himself after everything was over. Josh and I are hoping that we can prevent Tom from going along that path.”

We arrived at the office and went inside. Things were rather busy for a Saturday afternoon and when we arrived in the central office the reason why was obvious as Sal, Mike and Helmut were talking with some of the White’s people that I knew were fae and some others that were wearing the uniforms of Boris’s department, along with some people from the bureau. Roger saw us come in and said, “We’re getting ready to hit the pestholes.”

“Did the werewolves show up?” Josh asked.

“Well, yes, and no. We know where they are, but they aren’t moving toward anything that is connected to the Academy. They have a safe house and they have been staying put since this morning.”

“Will the werewolf hunt grab them?”

“It might if they go on the prowl. Right now the hunt is fairly close to the Academy. We want to close down the pestholes before getting too close to the Academy. So the hunt is being used as a cover for the people we have watching the Academy while Bob Vickers and Steve’s people discreetly take the pestholes out, with some help from Bill, Hilda And Boris”

“Where are my sons.”

“Joe is with Tom at the stables. Steve is driving around to check on his people and General Vickers’ people as they get ready to hit the pestholes.” “Where’s the Necromancer?”

“At the safe house with the Chemist. At least that is where he was. Tom is concerned that he may go looking for soldiers. Mike agrees with that. Ralph and Bill are keeping the hunt away from the safe house for the time being. Tom and Joe have some surprises set up if the Necromancer tries to Take another crew both at the stables and at the Games. Not least of which is the fact that between Tom’s family, your people and Bob Vickers’ people all the people doing work at the party and the Games today are fae and strong enough to be immune to being Turned. Altris sent some people up from the Cape when Steve and Eltra asked for them and Eltra is providing Antonio with staff for the party. They came up with Eltra on Friday.’ “Antonio is catering the party?”

“Helen asked and he agreed. As long as Jacob doesn’t interfere. Helen had set this party up long before any of this happened. So Antonio had already set things up and Helen made it clear to Jacob that he wasn’t going to mess this up.”

“That doesn’t mean that Tom won’t,” I said.

“He has plans, for the stables. He’s not doing anything at the house. At least not regading the party. So it’s just Jacob and not Helen. Frankly Helen is on pins and needles like the rest of us wanting to see what Tom pulls off.” “So what’s been going on at the party house since we left?” Josh asked.

“They are getting ready. They haven’t sent the fliers over and while they sent somebody to watch they haven’t twigged to the fact that the houses are rigged and that they are expected. Al is keeping an eye on things.

“Where are my wife and her sisters?”

“On the way here after a turn at the spa with Tim and Suzy. They want to get the fresh water out of their systems before going to the party. They should be here momentarily.”

In fact, there they all were as Tim and some others rolled the ladies in and Mera and Nera spotted their husbands. Mera said, “Good, we caught up with you. Vic, Tim is a bit annoyed with you. He was a bit concerned that he was going to have to call Roger and tell him that his senior business reporter had been killed and disappeared.”

Tim came over as Vic said, “Roger wouldn’t have blamed Tim for me being killed. I told Roger about the interview and we both knew the risks. Tim, sometimes you have to deal with things like that and dangerous people. Frankly I wanted you out here, looking in, and visible, so that the Colonel wouldn’t be tempted to just deal with me after I filed the copy he wanted. Remember that in cases like that, the other guy wants something too. The dangerous time for me wasn’t the interview, but after I filed the copy. So having you and Noro here helped that.” “What did the Colonel want?”

“To get a report out on what he’s doing. I think that he’s concerned that what he’s doing will go bust and he is covering for somebody.” “His domain,” Mera said. “Even though he has stayed away for some time, he probably feels a responsibility for it. He was also poaching in the other Master’s sheep pens and a lot more fae died in the wars than the masters counted on and so many left and came here. The Colonel probably had an agreement with the other Masters that he would obtain some Talents that they no longer had in exchange for them not starting a war with him and his domain. So you sending in the report and Roger printing it is to make sure that the other Masters know that the Colonel held up his end of the agreement regardless of what happened.”

“That explains why he was so frank with me. He wanted to make sure that some other people knew that he had actually done what he agreed to do.”

Eli, Hank and Leo had come over and Eli said, “You had an interview with the Colonel? Tell us all about it.”

“I can’t say too much about it because we have an agreement that I won’t release anything until the Monday papers.” “You can still tell us what went on” Leo said. “Did he take you to see Chrissie and the others?”

“No, he didn’t, actually. Of course that was probably because he agreed not to do anything that could be considered criminal in front of me. So no Chrissie visits or anything else. I was taken in a car bindfolded to a windowless room with a typewriter, did the interview, typed up the copy, gave him a carbon and was taken back to the station the same way.”

“Well, he did take you to the Academy. We saw you go in from the blind. We went up there before coming here. We were watching Tom at work.”

“What was he doing?”

“His usual, spreading confusion and deception for his opponents. At least this time we weren’t on the other end of it. He’s playing carpenter at Jacob’s stables. Of course that only means that the Colonel is getting the things that Tom has set in motion. Hank, you remember that time we spent an entire day watching Tom and Sumitomo on a boat fishing on the Potomac.”

“I sure do. We were looking at him from different places because we knew he was up to something. We figured that it had something to do with the boat. What we didn’t know was that Brian and Dan had come down for a visit and Tom had recruited them to help some other friends for some things. So he and Sumitomo sat there all day catching the occasional fish and throwing it back while the others, who seemingly had no connection to Tom were setting us up.” “What happened?”

“We were going after some proposals that the Congresman was working on and Tom was involved in. He was supposed to hand over the stuff to a staffer on the committee chairman’s staff as discreetly as possible, so that they could keep things quiet. We figured that he was going to use the boat to make the hand off. While he was on the boat, his cousins went into the office to visit and while there, pulled a switch and walked out with the documents that we were looking for. So when we got in and got the documents, they were not what we had thought was going on. Meanwhile the boys take the real documents over to the congressman’s home when they visit for dinner. We thought that the hand off for the stuff was going to be on the boat or at the boat rental place and never saw Tom’s cousins. Who probably did the hand off at some point while on tour and handed the other stuff over at dinner.”

Josh smiled. “Noro, we really should have looked into Tom last summer. Think of all the fun we missed. Tom didn’t do anything like that and we didn’t know enough to poke him into doing stuff like that. On the other hand, he did hide the fact that he was buying that rum runner.” “Tom bought a rum runner?” Leo asked. “How did that happen? That doesn’t seem like the kind of business he would involve himself in. Especially now.”

“That was how he got the boat, cheap,” I said. Most people don’t want to deal with the downsides of having a boat with that much power and the extra gas that it uses. I think that Tom had some special requirements in mind and Steve likes the boat for various little things that he has been doing.”

“I think that Steve and Joe will be using it more than he will, next summer,” Josh said. “Tom fooled me completely with that “I’m just bumming around, I could use a job,” sad sack routine that he came onto me with. Did he do that to you two?”

“No, it was the simple farm boy, which admittedly he could pull off because he was younger and looked the part. You could almost smell the hay on him. We figured that he would be easy to put one over on and our bosses did too. Until he started to take pet projects apart and provide those briefs for the committee. The services would have some highly technical explanation for our latest toy and the snow job they were trying to put over and he would take the thing apart, point out the issues and where the pie in the sky stuff was. He was very good at putting egg on the faces of generals and admirals. They would have a big presentation in front of the Committee and about the same time that the presentation was done, he was handing the congressman a sheet of paper and the congressman was asking rather pointed questions.”

“That explains some of the access he has,” Josh said. “The Admiral and some other people have been surprised at just how much he can pull.”

“Well after a while it was easier to just get him down and pitch whatever it was to him directly than have high level brass embarrassed again. Especially when it came to new small arms. Then the generals and admirals found out the he was the ‘T’ in LT customs and they definitely wanted to stay on his good side. Of course he has his relationship with Miss Vicky. He’s one of the few people who managed to rebuild his relationship with her after blowing it. But he realized that he made a mistake and apologized. But the entire town knows that messing with him means that you might have Miss Vicky looking into you.”

“What was the result of Chrissie’s little party?”

“Well it made Chrissie very popular,” Hank said. “A lot of people are happy that Tom has found somebody and it looks as if she’s going to keep him out of town and distracted. They are also glad that Chrissie is a perfect mate for Tom and will watch out for him. Of course the party lit some things off when we suspected the Colonel was in the area.”

“Which is why Steve was told to send some people up,” Josh said. “He was more than a little annoyed that nobody told him about Ed and what happened. I’m a bit annoyed that I hadn’t heard about Ed either, but I can understand in my case and I’ve talked with Eric about Ed since. He was trying to keep Tom and Hilda from going off the handle and didn’t know that Steve’s people had shown up until Hilda told him. So he didn’t send Boris instead of Hilda. Eric had been keeping quiet about Ed because Ed wasn’t a threat. Both he and Bill had known about him before Gretchen showed up and when Gretchen essentially became family, they decided that just being discreet about Ed unless Hilda went off was the best way to handle it. Boris doesn’t know for certain what happened, but his deputy probably couldn’t keep Roger from pushing and Ed’s monster tripped off when two fae started chasing him. Eric was also getting some rumors about werewolves across the border and up in Maine and Bill and Greta had been getting hints that something was poking around.”

“We apologized to Steve about that,” Hank said. “We weren’t sure about the Colonel and didn’t know that Major Macdougal and Agent Wendell had been digging around with Eli and Theresa. We sent Steve’s people up because we figured that he knew the people up here and would be a fresh eye and see things that we weren’t. Considering who Ed is married to, we should have told Boris and Ed as well that the big bad wolf was probably sniffing around. But we weren’t sure and chaos and panic are the big bad wolf’s favorite things. So we wanted to keep a lid on things.”

“I wonder how much dodging the colonel did to avoid us,” I said. “He was probably setting things up, gathering information and making plans. Then we show up suddenly, and start poking around, including Mike, Al and Hilda, who he knew would spot him if they even had a hint. That was probably when he started to play games with Eric’s phones and sending people over there. He also set up the plan to take Chrissie and found out about Tom.”

“I didn’t think to ask about that,” Vic said. “The man does seem to be off kilter a bit and I think that he’s become unsure whether he can pull this off. He’s acting confident and he’s very good at projecting that, but there’s that little twinge of concern and he has to know that there are a lot of people around who have really good reasons to take him out. Tim, why don’t you take me over to the pressroom and tell me what you saw today while you were going around as well as going over the background material that you got on Tom.”

He pulled Tim and Suzy out of the room and I turned to the others and said, “Vic is usually good at seeing through people. He certainly saw through me when he was a cub reporter and we met. He’s also been around the block and talked to a lot of people over the years. Of course getting him to leak stuff is also almost impossible. The Colonel made a good choice by bringing him in for an interview. I want to know how he set it up, but he has a lot of contacts in unusual places. My guess would be that he has a contact through the Director and used it.”

“We saw him go in the Academy at the blind just before lunch.” Leo said. “He was blindfolded and they were careful to keep Chrissie and the other ladies out of hearing. The ladies stayed inside today because the werewolves had gone. Tom showed up after lunch in his Mr. Downes persona with Steve, Joe and some other people and started to do some finish work and set up for the party. I expect that he’s got plans for Jacob’s stables.” “I’m not going to spoil it,” I grinned. “He has been doing things on the side and talking to people, but he hasn’t actually said what he is planning, has he, Josh?”

“Not to us,” Josh answered. “Steve and Joe have been involved, along with Bob and Scott. He was also talking to Jacob’s contractors which may have put them where they would get killed. They were Turned last night before Tom’s little meeting with the Colonel where Tom arranged his ‘death.’ Tom was rather miffed at the Necromancer and the Colonel taking Vinnie and his crew.”

“That’s the Colonel all over,” Leo said. “He likes making his opposition angry and not thinking straight. Of course that has made it harder for him in the past. For instance that is one reason that he has a price on his head so large that almost everywhere he goes, people look around for him. People looking to collect. Of course he may have gotten away with that by using Puppets. I talked to several people over in Europe and western Asia that were certain that he had been killed.”

“I wonder if Tom’s fun and games was the first time that a Puppet had been used on him. I also wonder if he still has the Puppet he had yesterday.”

“If Chrissie was her usual self and spotted the Puppet, there’s a good chance that Puppet Colonel is no longer with us,” I said, grinning. “She was warned of Tom’s impending ‘death’ and when she goes off it can be rather spectacular. We were lucky that she never bothered to learn how to use her abilities for very much. At least she never showed them when the family was watching her. But she has them now and I imagine that if she was playing the despondent woman who just lost her bonded, she was going to overdo it.”

Roger, Mike and Sal came in and Mike called out, “It’s time to get the show started.”

He started to give aout assignments and people started to leave. He came to our little group and said, “Josh, could you take these two and go ahead to the party. I want some eyeballs on Tom until Sal can get there. Not that I think that he’s going to anything rash, but he’s been playing bait for the Necromancer all day hoping that the Necromancer will try to Take him and the people he has working with him. Not that that would work out very well, but another set of eyes can’t hurt.”

“What about Vic, Tim, Doris and Suzy?”

“They are going with the press a bit later. Tim is keeping an eye on the press for me. Just in case werewolves or zombies turn up.”

“Ok, I’ll take these two and get going.”

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