Mermaid Chapter 27, part 3

Things go on as Chrissie is rather disappointed with her werewolves.

We all got in the car and I noticed that Bill had a man riding shotgun. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to attract attention to him and the fact that anything had changed. After about fifteen minutes we arrived at the stables where surprisingly Scott was there in a suit with Lizzie. “We’re the early arrivals hosts,” Scott said as we got out of the car.

“How did that happen?” Josh asked.

“I was setting up with Antonio, Lizzie spotted me and stopped to say hello and Helen spotted us and recruited me.”

“Where did you get the suit?”

“It’s one that one of Helen’s nephews doesn’t wear any more. He’s about my size. At least he was. Mike wanted Bob and I to keep an eye on Uncle Tom anyway.”

“Where is he?”

“Ted and his crew are back there, setting up tables. You’re early and we’re not ready yet.”

“Mike was a bit concerned that Tom was going to go on a Necromancer hunt,” I said. “He’s been playing bait all day.”

“Mike said the same thing to Bob and I earlier when we checked in after finishing all the phone stuff for Al and some others. We were coming here anyway to help Antonio. Eltra brought some fae to help Antonio out anyway.”

I wasn’t really that surprised as I started to walk around and spot some of my grandsons and great grandsons along with other people from the bower in uniform setting up tables and getting things ready. Antonio came by and looked pleased. “When Altris wanted to send these people up, I was rather dubious,” He said. “But they seem to know what they are doing.”

“They usually handle the same sort of thing for places on the Cape during the summer. Altris has a bunch of family and others twiddling their thumbs this time ofyear and raising a bit of hell. So sending them up here, now that he can is a good thing.” I didn’t tell Antonio that the boys had also been quietly asked to get out of the bower, wander a bit and see the sights and maybe find somebody by their mothers. The bower may have had more girls than boys at present, but after the event of the last few months Mera and some of my daughter in laws were going to do some not so gentle nudging. Josh said, “I want to see how Mr. Downes is doing. Why don’t we find him.”

We did and he and Joe were setting up yet another table while Bob was waiting with a tablecloth. Bob spotted us and said, “You’re early. We’re not ready yet.”

“Scott told us the same thing. Mike sent us to keep an eye on this character. He’s concerned about zombie hunts.”

“Mike should know me better than that,” Tom said. “I’m not about to chase after that character when I know that he will probably show up here at some point. If the Colonel is going to try to pull his thing off at Doug’s, he will probably want a diversion that attracts a lot of attention. So he’s going to send either the werewolves or the Necromancer here to disrupt the party. The word has been going around about this thing for months now and like Chrissie’s thing, it’s an obvious target. I thought about that this morning when I got to the blind and Helen was calling the business office because she couldn’t find Vinnie. The werewolves and some others left the Academy last night and when I did a discreet sweep of the place and said hello to Chrissie this morning, the Necromancer wasn’t there. So I took Joe, Steve and the others, drove over to the business office and offered to do the work.” “Did Helen guess who you were?”

“If she did, she didn’t say anything. She did get Jacob out of the house today. He was here this morning and is at the house now. We need to get this done and us out of here before more guests show up.”

They went back to setting up tables and we drifted around. The others that had been at the lunch were doing more tables and hanging lights as more people were setting up place settings. Most of the people doing the work I recognized as various members of Eric’s family or from our bower. I went over to one of my great grandsons and asked, “So what’s going on with this?”

“Grandfather and Eric set it up as an experiment. Frankly we spend too much time down below this time of year. So some of us and our cousins came up. We’ve been working at the inn and for Antonio since just after Chrissie’s party. That way we get to ski and meet new girls.”

This was Mera and Greta at work. How it was all going to work was going to be interesting. At least it got the boys out of the bower for the winter. If they found girls that wouldn’t hurt either. Also they were probably learning to shoot from Larry and Bill, so that would be a big plus if we had another thing like this. Not that Roger and the General hadn’t been dragging the boys up to the range. But the more exposure the better. Josh was grinning as we walked on. As soon as we got out of earshot, he said, “Altris isn’t wasting any time. We have a surplus of people that work the places and the boats in the season, but don’t have much to do this time of year. Sending some of them up here gets them out of trouble. That also means that we have people that can move around to different spots to fill in as necessary. Roger and Antonio up here, Bennies in the city, Matt in Maine and us on the Cape. This is Mera and Greta at work.”

“Mary too, probably, along with my sister. They are all talking to each other now. We may be doomed.”

“We’ll survive. At least it’s better than it was. I’m just glad that we didn’t have any shark potential in our bower. Or what we are seeing here. Let’s walk out front.”

We started out toward the front of the stables and Tom was there with a man I that I had only seen briefly from time to time, John Wiggens, Jacob’s business manager, who looked like he was paying Tom for the work he had just finished. As we approached, John was saying, “You people surprised me for some people that just showed up off the street. You came in, got the work done and finished up on time. Mrs. Martin is pleased with the work and would want you back. Do you have a number where you can be reached?”

“Not at the moment,” Tom said. “We’ve been drifting from job to job. The best way to reach us is my brother in law’s boatyard in Massachsetts right now. We check in for mail about once a week.” Tom gave John the yard’s number. He went on, “My sister in law has an office that I use for tax purposes, they know where I am.” He gave John the business office number. “That’s probably the best way to get me if you need somebody quick. We have some work coming up, so we’ll be out of the area next week anyway.”

Josh said, “If we don’t see you, Mr. Downes, thank you for handling the matter with my son in law. They haven’t found a body, so he may still be alive.”

“Well something strange went on there. What those things were, I don’t know. The sheriff and the lady were saying werewolves and there was a big hunt out there today, but I take work when I can get it and hunting when I don’t have work, so me and the boys did the work instead. Mr. Wiggens, we better get out of the way before more of the lady’s guests show up. We wouldn’t want them to think that you weren’t ready.”

Tom, Joe and his two cousins got in the two rather dilapidated trucks and left. Presumably to meet up with Sal someplace and prepare for the big show at the Academy. John Wiggens turned to Josh and asked, “Do you know them?”

“Not most of them, but Mr. Downes was a witness to Tom’s little meeting last night and talked to Bill and Hilda about it after I found him on the road. We bought dinner for him. At least we were supposed to buy dinner. The two boys came in and paid for everybody.”

John grinned, “I’m not sure what bet they made, but it must have been a big one. Poor Jacob and the parents were just mortified. Bill was rather blunt when he picked them up and wouldn’t take money. He wants the boys taking care of his cousin’s farm until things are settled there. Doing real work will be good for them. I’ve told Jacob over and over that he should get the boys out there and working rather than just letting them have allowances, but he won’t listen. I have some of them in the office and they aren’t totally useless, but the rest of them are like Victor and Andy. What do you do, Josh?”

“Well my two boys work. They always have. As for my brothers in law, some of their boys are right here, now, working for Antonio and Eric. The rest do various things in the business. We don’t have the money to just hand out allowances. At least, if I’m not collecting one, which I do not, then nobody else does either. Frankly, allowances have never even been a real question, have they Noro?”

“No, they haven’t. If the boys want money, we have lots of work on the various boats, the hotels and restaurants and other businesses. If they want education, we will help, but the family expects some return, like working in the office, unless like Roger or Steve, they are serving in the military. Most of the girls are the same way, one way or another.”

“Eric is the same way and always has been. He runs a tight ship and all his boys have their own businesses. Growing businesses. I tried for years to get Jacob to get a ski area set up and Roger and Mary just did it. As for the gun business, well I see that Larry has a storefront. Jacob wanted to pull the lease when he saw Tom’s little show, but they have the place for a month and probably for the year. Not that Larry needs the store, because I’ve seen his backlog, or at least his lead times, which are over a year since Tom stopped being in the shop full time. Did Eric take any steps with the boys and Tom setting things up?”

“Yes he did,” Josh said. “That was one reason we all came up here in the first place. Of course that was before we discovered Tom’s other skills. My brother in law and Noro’s CEO are just waiting for the Games to end, so that he could get to work for them. That is if he’s still alive.”

“Do you think that he’s dead? Bill couldn’t find a body and he hasn’t been seen since. On the other hand, I remember how cagy he was before he shot his brother and went South. He used to come over here and give the boys hell while the rest of us laughed at what he would get up to. Faking his death is just the sort of thing he would do. On the other hand he’s dealing with a dangerous crowd.” “He’s pretty dangerous, all on his own,” I said. “There are a bunch of people who found that out the hard way when he was having a date with my granddaughter and they wanted to put the bite on him.” “I’ve seen him shoot and I won’t argue with that. For two years he was at the top the shooting regionals here in spite of all the money that some of the Martin’s put into guns. Of course some of that money went straight to Larry and they should have thought about who was making Larry’s receivers. For some reason they never thought about the fact that Tom would make as good, if not a better gun for himself.”

“We’ve seen his rifle. A gun expert was impressed when he tried it out,’” Josh said.

“That would not be a surprise. Larry does a very good business with customer s over here and I know that he sells to select people in government and military services. Of course Tom did other things too and his gags were a legend even before that book of his showed. A book that was rumors around here for years, but people actually having a copy was a bit of having the right connection. All of a sudden somebody must have gotten a hold of it and published it. Do you two have any idea how that happened? I don’t think that Tom would go into a publisher and hand it over.”

“When Andy was kidnapped, he wanted to make sure that Andy had some support,” I said. “So he stopped over at a printshop and had some copies made for Andy and Stephie’s kids. Apparently Stephie had managed to start up their battles again. At least enough so that Tom was thinking about Christmas presents for Stephie’s kids. So he had the books made up and the printshop made some extras to sell. They did and an executive at a publishing company saw them and seized the opportunity. Tom has done very well from that.”

“Well more power to him, that is if he is still alive. I expect that if he is, we’ll see him here tonight.”

“Why?”

“Jacob has been trying, at some pain to me and some others to make Tom’s life miserable ever since Tom kicked Jacob out of that office. Something that I need to thank him for. But most people around here know Tom and what he can do. So far he’s been just working for you two and doing a very good job of that. Of course Chrissie had that party of hers and made Jacob’s life miserable while doing it, but other than Tom tossing Jacob out of the party he didn’t seem to be involved.

Now Helen is having the dinner at the house and I don’t think that Tom would go after Helen and the dinner. But the stables are Jacob’s hobby since just about everybody else bought cars and grew up, so, with the exception of Elizabeth, they don’t ride anymore. Most people around here know what Tom pulled off at his stables with Tony and they figure that he’s going to pull something on Jacob, probably tonight.”

“As far as I know, and I’ve spent a good part of my time with Tom the last few weeks, other than taking some people scouting for VIP’s and Jacob trying to get Tom arrested for that stupid restraining order, Tom hasn’t been near the place.” I was grinning when I said that. “Of course that doesn’t mean that Tom doesn’t have friends.”

“Jacob doesn’t know how many friends Tom has. After the thing with the Indian Affairs permit, which saved the town as well as the Games, I did some calling around discreetly. I found out about you, Josh, fairly easily. Noro too. But Tom was the big surprise. I don’t think that Jacob realizes what could fall on him if he manages to really piss Tom off and Tom starts to make calls. When your clout starts at the White House and goes on from there, that’s not something you want to mess with under any circumstances. I need to get around and make sure that things are set up. Not that Antonio’s people will slip up.”

Josh was grinning as the man left and we headed back into the stables. The hay barn was where the party was being held and we walked back in as Antonio’s crew continued to set things up. After a bit the Admiral, Rachel and Mabel joined us and Vic came in with Doris, Tim and Suzy along with a bunch of press people. Tochi came in after and I asked, “How did you get on the guest list, other than being who you are?”

“The Admial brought me as part of his party. Sumitomo and I arranged it this morning. There was no way I was going to miss this. Tom is almost certainly going to do something brilliant. He has to now. Too many kids are expecting this.”

“Well he was here, at least Mr. Downes was. They just left after finishing work.”

“I doubt that he will be away for very long. The Troubleshooter has been looking for him about some trouble that needs shooting. Something to do with Chrissie I believe. Along with some other ladies held under duress.”

Tim came by with a another young reporter that I knew. “Noro, I thought that I should get Steve from the Times to get together with you. After all you did him a big favor last year.” “Yes I did. You got my picture with a little help from Tim. How is your lady doing?”

“Cindy is fine, but a little annoyed that I had to come up here and there wasn’t time to make arrangements. She wants to push Tom for obvious reasons.”

“All the under sea ladies do. This current problem doesn’t understand what would happen to him if he manages to kill Tom. He needs to take a boat home.”

“I hope that arrangements have been made in case he manages to pull what ever he’s planning off.” “I’m not going to say, but there are things going on. So keep your eyes open.”

“I pulled the Associated Press file on the character right after Chrissie and the other ladies were taken. I also got some stuff from people I met during the fun and games in Philly, so I’ve been looking into this character. He’s sneaky, but he can slip up and he’s been very sloppy with all the werewolf attacks. I have some friends at the Philly papers chasing down the attacks in Amish country and to the North, as well as the people that disappeared. There’s also a community leader who’s rather angry at what happened. I gave Roger his name and address. Cindy’s uncle knew who he was. Cindy’s uncle was upset too, because of what the missing families did.”

“They are upset about losing the Creators. I’m not surprised. Well a bunch of people have surprises for our friend the Colonel and his associates.”

Some Committee and other people related to the Games had come in and I introduced the young reporters to them. Then I left them and found Josh. Still more people were arriving and milling around. I made appropriate short hellos and moved around. The governor couldn’t come, but the lieutenant governor did and wanted to know where I had been. I told him that I had retired until my granddaughter had gotten married. We chatted for a bit and I moved on after he congratulated me on getting the Games done. I talked with some Wall St types and press people who wanted me to know that Jim Day had finally gotten his. I told them that I knew the reporter who had done it to Jim and that probably started some rumors even though Tim had done that all by himself.

Jacob showed up, with Helen pushing him and he did not look comfortable at all. He started to look around as if he was expecting something but nothing seemed to be happening as he started to take people on tours of his stables. By that point it was about six thirty and Sal showed up with Bill Jacobs, some people from the State Police and obvious Feds alond with bureau people and Tom.

Since he had arrived in his car, people noticed when he drove up with the train of cars, trucks and a plow truck along with a bunch of army types. He called out, “Hello Folks! Just stay here and watch for a bit. I will explain when this is over.”

He turned around and the plow truck smashed through the gate next door at the Academy followed by the army, people, Feds and bureau people. Jacob went screaming over to Bill Jacobs about warrants until Bill held a warrant up. “Jacob, I wouldn’t be screaming too loud about this. We have been watching the Academy for some time now and we have pictures of all the ‘guests.’ Sal came up here with his associates to help out because Tom thinks that his wife is being held there. He’s also said that he believes that you were being blackmailed by these white slavers and trying to keep the rest of your family out of it.”

Jacob cried out, “Stop! This could be a disaster.”

“I doubt that, except for some folks. In any case, we’re going in.”

They were, as the plow truck rushed the gate and the cars rushed for the front door. There some sporadic shots and it was suddenly over. Sal escorted the press people over as Roger, Mike and Helmut started to deal with the people that had been inside, both living and dead. Tom came back out with Chrissie and Steve, Sumitomo and Tochi had the others surrounded by Tochi’s people. Chrissie was waving and attracting attention to herself, looking none the worse for her ordeal. Tom rolled her over to her mother, who I hadn’t seen arrive and they hugged. The mood of the party seemed to be one of exuberance with the exception of poor Jacob. Just about everybody was glad to see Tom alive and were mobbing him as Josh and I walked up to him as he was talking to reporters. When Tim asked, “Where were you all night and what happened yesterday, he answered, “I was contacted about making a trade for some documents that my brother had had for my wife and the other ladies. I set up a meeting place and the other guy showed up. The cliff fell, but I was able to jump and hold onto the cliff as a fight started up at the top. I climbed back up when things settled down, Josh was gone and so was my car, so I walked into town and found Mr. DelVecchio, who had been assisting me in the matter concerning my wife. He had discovered where they probably were and had people and local law enforcement ready to go in, which you just saw. Mr. DelVecchio can answer the questions about the raid. I need to find my mother and let her know that I’m ok.”

That wasn’t a problem as Greta came over and hugged him and Chrissie rolled over and latched onto him. After things had calmed down a bit Josh asked, “So you didn’t need the noisemakers you set up here. What are you going to do with them?”

“Some of them are still there. Some of them we moved this morning, just in case. Sal, Bill and I figure that the werewolves might show up after dark, either here or at the house. I doubt that the Necromancer has found very many people he can use to make zombies as all the groups hunting near the safe house are high fae for some strange reason. Between Al’s people, Boris’ people, my cousins and some friends from over here, we have that covered. Also one of the werewolves’ cars is having trouble, so they are short.”

“Did you arrange that?”

“Brian snuck in and did it. They didn’t want me playing and shooting the Necromancer by mistake. We have plans for him after dinner tonight.”

“Do you expect him to show up at Helen’s?”

“Either him, the werewolves or both at this point. That’s why we moved the noisemakers when we did some other work. Sal, Mike and I are hoping that taking out the Academy when we did will throw things off.”

“Where’s Ed?” Josh asked.

“Not here, obviously. Of course we hit the Academy without apparent warning to the people inside and we took steps when the pestholes were hit and Sal hit the school with Hilda just before he hit here. Hilda and Stephie are taking the kids to Doug’s for the time being so that they can be with the rest of the troublemakers. Johnny was with the rest of the kids there and Hilda and Stephie felt that the kids would feel a bit less rattled if they were with somebody they knew.”

“I don’t know how Ed’s compulsions are going to work out,” I said. “If it had just been the Academy threatened by us, he would have sensed that and shown up. The Director and the Colonel being in the area and the Colonel being the obvious bigger threat to both the domain and the Academy probably has Ed chasing after the Colonel. Which is going to be interesting. It will be interesting to see how the thing plays out.”

Chrissie rolled over and whispered in Tom’s ear. Tom looked at his watch and replied, “Any minute now.” All of a sudden there was cracks like shooting, horses everywhere, grooms chasing horses, a huge fog, a projection of the parade with Scot and Lizzie dancing, along with fireworks all over the place. Over by the drink table there was a huge version of the puppet show that had seemed come out of no place running the same show that had been in town except when it ended, the entire thing dissolved into sawdust, the press was taking pictures of everything, there was a newsreel camera going and everybody was laughing. Jacob just stood there, looking woebegone as the whole thing went off. Helen was beside Jacob laughing her head off as gag after gag seemingly went on until it was all over. Boris and Stephie came over and she was about crying as she hugged her brother. The funny thing was that Tom was in a way, almost as woebegone as Jacob. He had pulled this off magnificently and he didn’t seem to be very happy about it. I went over and asked, “You don’t seem to be as happy with this as everybody else. Why not?”

“Because having this cost me a friend. I had Vinnie come over here to set this up and he was taken by the Necromancer to get to me because of that.”

“I think that he would have been a target in any case. Jacob knew about him and just about everybody else did as well. The Colonel was going to select the people you worked most closely with to throw you out of sorts. That was Vinnie’s people. This was magnificent. A true work of art. I suspect that you made quite a few people happy with it.”

“Not Jacob.” “He’s getting off easy and he should know that. He was with the people holding the ladies and working for the other side, even if it was more or less involuntary. What happened to those people?”

“Well they committed suicide after the self destruct didn’t go off. That is, except the Colonel’s people who left before we showed up, including the Director and the Colonel. They left shortly after they finished with Vic. The boys in the blind saw them leave along with some of the others.” Helen came over and said, “Tom, my daughters in law have been telling me about your little surprises for years, but I was never able to see them because you would only pull them for Stephie and your other sisters and not for your mother when she had things. Well you outdid yourself this time. You don’t have more at the house coming, do you?”

“No, I wasn’t going to mess with the dinner. You haven’t been making a pest out of yourself for the last month like your husband was. There may be some crasher deterrents though that I set up when I did the other things. Furry crashers that have been hanging around lately and chewing on people.”

“How did you know where Chrissie was? We had all thought that the Academy was abandoned for years.”

“Your husband and son pointed us at it. Jacob fights the compulsions and Ed does as well.”

“Ed was killed in the war. At least that was what Jacob has always said and Ed’s never come close to me.”

“Ed had his reasons, not least of which were his wife and kids, along with the people responsible for what was going on at the Academy. He, and Jacob were trying to protect you from the dark and the dark fae. The problem is that Ed has the werewolf affiction and has been under compulsion set by the thing that showed up here recently. In a lot of ways, he is like my brother was.”

‘Being Ed, he probably wants to go the same way your brother did. I don’t think that he would let the affliction get loose and I would have heard about something like that.”

“He hasn’t, except for an accident over on our side of the lake. An accident that wasn’t entirely his fault. Partly it was mine and partly it was some former associates of mine looking out for the big bad wolf and neglecting to tell my brother in law that the big bad wolf was in the neighborhood for reasons that were valid, but that created some problems.”

“Well I think that Antonio wants us for dinner. Noro would you take Tom and Chrissie in your car as well as Josh and Mera.”

Tom rolled Chrissie and Josh took car of Mera. After Tom put Chrissie in the car, he said, “I’ll be right back.”

He left in the direction of the academy and came back with a canvas sack a few minutes later. He had Bill open the trunk, put the sack inside and then got in the car. Josh asked, “What was that?”

“A surprise for our Necromancer. It’s not something I can talk about generally.” He shouldn’t have said that. I was sure that it was some kind of gun and just what it did was probably going to be interesting considering some of the things I had seen already. So my interest was poked a bit. On the other hand it was probably something that somebody in the government wanted kept more or less discreet. Well, I would have to keep my ears and eyes open tonight, because Tom and the others apparently didn’t think that the fun was over at this party. After about fifteen minutes of talking we arrived at the Jacob’s house, which was built like a castle from my youth. I turned to Tom and said, “Who built this?”

“Jacob’s grandfather. In the early nineteenth Century originally. He probably thought that it was going to impress people and it does. Knowing what I know now, I can understand somewhat why he built it, especially when he did, but we kids, on both side of the lake called it the stone pile.”

Bill handed Tom the canvas sack and he gave it to Chrissie who held it as we approached the castle.

When we walked across the actual drawbridge Bill and Hilda were there with Bill Jacobs and Tom handed Bill the canvas sack. “We didn’t need this at the stables. We may need it here.”

“How did it go, other than Chrissie here being released?” Hilda asked. “Bill told us some of it, but he was outside for most of the fun.”

“We went in and things went like we expected. The kids are out, the compelled freed and the dark fae and the Board committed suicide when they realized that there was no way to escape. The ‘visitors’ were busted, by and large. They didn’t even have any Twisted guarding the place. All of the Colonel’s people had left, including the Director.”

“He’s waiting for a train in Plattsburg. The FBI had a couple people there and they spotted him. The bureau is going to collect him and raid his office when he gets back.”

“I need to take Chrissie inside. The werewolves never showed at the Academy or the stables.”

“Bill told us. They’ll probably show up here to try and make a splash and distract from hitting Doug’s.”

“I’m surprised that you two are up here,” I said. “I thought that you would be at Doug’s.” “We will be. But we want to deal with what’s coming here and make some rather scared phone calls. Tom wasn’t the only one tapping phones here and Tom found a tap on the sheriff office’s phone. Bill and I are going to be making calls, calling in deputies to deal with the thing here and the big mess that we found.”

“The mess that you are working to make sure doesn’t happen.”

“That mess, yes,” Bill said. “I hope that these things aren’t stupid and just drive up and rush in.” “I tried,” Chrissie said. “I really tried. But I’m afraid that it may have been pointless. If I had had Steve or Roger and more time I probably could have shaped them up. But it was just Haruka and I and a couple of weeks and the Colonel was sticking his snout in and being all Prussian for the last few days. So I expect that the boys will just rush in and try to make a mess.”

“Well, then they won’t be much fun. The Colonel on the other hand, is going to be a challenge, I hope.”

“I’m surprised that you, Hilda, Eric and Greta are all over here tonight.” I said.

“We haven’t seen any signs of werewolves near the farm, not that that matters very much and we know where the rest of his people are. If they do something stupid, the boys over there can handle what they have. If they bring in more, they will let us know. Steve has people on the ferry and we run it, so we can get across fast if we have to. The Colonel, on the other hand, may have some difficulties.”

“I think that we need to get inside,” Tom said. “I’ll sneak out if I sense the necromancer. I want to deal with him discreetly.”

We went through the gate house and the door beyond and Tom was mobbed by kids wanting to show him the stuff they had made, sign books and let Tom know how disappointed they were that he hadn’t had any gags where they could see them. I hadn’t really paid any attention to the fact that there hadn’t been any kids at the stables. The rest of us moved on into the Dining room as Chrissie and Tom dealt with the kids. Helen came up and said, “I want to apologize for that. The kids were waiting for Tom once they knew he was alive.”

“How come you didn’t have them down at the stables?”

“Cars. I couldn’t arrange for cars and enough parents to take them down and bring them back. Between what Tom pulled off and the Troubleshooter showing up and shooting some trouble, I’m going to be in real trouble with my grandchildren and great nieces and nephews for some time. I invited Sal to come up, but he wants to make sure that things are tied down and take care of other things going on. I wish that Jacob had told me that he and his wife were in the area.”

I wasn’t about to tell the poor woman what Jacob’s actions lately had been doing to the family’s reputation. I just hoped that she wouldn’t suffer for Jacob’s messes. She started to greet somebody else and Josh rolled Mera inside and I walked beside them as we found our places. Tom and Chrissie caught up with us and Tom said, “I’m in trouble this week. I’m going to have to open the Academy’s shop and start giving lessons over here, too or I’m not going to get anything done. Chrissie said that the shop was working, so I can’t cut out. So, more than likely, I’ll have Doug’s kids, the Martin kids and once the word gets out and this bunch will be spreading it tomorrow, who knows how many more until the Games are over and I can go home.” “So you are subverting the Martin kids too,” Josh said with a grin.

“I think that their mothers already did. They’ve been spreading stories about me since I left for Washington. My mistake was pulling this gag off.” “It was amazing,” Mera said. You outid yourself.” “I was trying. But the big problem that since I was trying to humiliate Jacob, I pulled it off at the stables and the kids weren’t there. Then Sal shows up, car and all and shoots the trouble, right in front of everybody. I should have just gone in the Academy, gotten Chrissie out and drove off, without making a scene of the whole thing. I had to listen to Mike, Sal and Helmut. “We can use this. It will make the bureau look good, the press will love it.” I was snookered.”

I was grinning at poor Tom. Of course we all knew about his games by now. Chrissie grabbed him and said, “Tom, this was a good thing. This way it will be harder for places like the Academy to hide. Tomorrow I will take you behind the academy where they buried the bodies of the kids that died or that they couldn’t Turn. Those people were monsters and they made monsters. So making what they did public hurts them just like you hurt the sharks. If that means that you are in the public eye a bit more, we can pay that price. Frankly, I had a good time before they dragged me up here, even though I missed you. So I, at least, will be out, and visible. I also will not let you hide anymore. If you have to share what you do, that will only help.

The Colonel would not have gotten as far as he did if we had been talking to each other. He was able to slip in and target people so that he could make them into slaves for monsters because we were so wrapped up in ourselves that we never noticed that he was here. You haven’t been with the man, but I have and he is as bad as anybody that I have ever encountered.” “What happened to the Puppet?” I asked. “We knew that the Colonel had one, but he’s been playing cagy today.” “The Puppet had an encounter with a saw blade. I imagine that the saw blade was a bit of a surprise to the Colonel. The Director liked it though. Even if he did get goo all over him.”

“So you overdid it like you usually do,” Mera said. “Wouldn’t water magic have been enough?”

“Yes, but I figured that the Colonel would be expecting that and have shielded. So I threw a bunch of water magic around that didn’t hurt anything and had the saw blade suspended above the door where the Colonel would have to look straight up above his head to see it if he sensed it. The fact that he didn’t look up told me that it was a Puppet. So I could overdo it and kill the Puppet and not worry too much about killing the Colonel.”

“Why didn’t you want to kill the Colonel?” I asked. “I would have expected you to want that.” “Because the Colonel is Tom’s burden and I wanted the Colonel to have to deal with everything that’s about to fall on his head.”

“How did you know that there is stuff going to fall on his head?”

“Between, you, grandfather, Daddy, Eric, Bill, Al, Boris and Sheriff Jacobs. To say nothing of what Tom might cook up. Stuff is going to fall on the Colonel’s head all right.”

“Other than getting you out, I haven’t done very much,” Tom said.

“Yes you did. You brought that book out that he wanted so much. You are also playing helpless Gretchen, aren’t you? Though I suspect that Gretchen is not as helpless as you thought. In any case, you played those games and the Colonel was bothered by them. You probably have other things going on to do more of the same sort of thing.”

Tom smiled. “I’m not going to say. It may not matter, because he’s hitting Doug tonight, probably and Al is waiting for him and his people. With some surprises. Then Bill and Hilda are going to try to collect Bill’s retirement money by chasing the Colonel. If he were smart, he would be heading west right now, trying to get at least past Rochester by morning. Of course the rest of Bill’s family lives out that way. Maybe he should go South instead.”

I was going to tell Bill later this evening to look East tonight and tomorrow and Boston on Monday, that is if he didn’t already know. Roger had probably told him already. Bill almost certainly had other resources. I had some checking done for mysterious cases in the area and there were quite a number that seemed to be vampire, other Twisted or werewolves over the years, here and there over the years. Those were the cases that nobody had ever been able to close. On the other hand, the Colonel was certainly a “sneaky monster.”

George Dewey went to the front of the room and said, “We’re here to celebrate the near completion of a task that many of us didn’t think was going to happen even just a few weeks ago. As a result of that doubt, we consulted with the head of one our major vendors and contractors to see if they could expedite things to completion. They could and Mr. Claytor and Mr. White took it upon themselves to carry things forward. As part of that, they borught in somebody who most of us knew, by reputation, at least, to assist. At first many of us were skeptical of the young man who has done so much to bring the games to a success. He proved his competence and ability in the first day that he took over much of the job and getting it done. He did that by resolving the most important issue we had using channels that none of us at the time dreamed that he had. Since that first day he has gone on and worked to make the games a true success. With that in mind, I want to award the first gold medal of the games to Tom Benton, who did so much to make sure that the games happened at all. Tom come up and accept this as token of gratitiude for all that you have done.”

Tom went up front and George put the medal around his neck. He would probably say that he didn’t deserve it, but he had done more than any of us at White’s to make the games happen and he hadn’t slacked off even when Crhissie was taken. Of course the awards weren’t over as the chief made Tom a honorary chief, with headdress and the mayor gave Tom the key to the city. Chrissie was grinning through the whole thing and if I hadn’t known that she had been inside the Academy and probably hadn’t had routine access to the phone I would have expected her to arrange this. Not that Tom didn’t deserve it.

There were other awards to people, including Josh, who was almost as bad as Tom when it came to denigrating himself. As soon as they were finished and there were the presentations for the VIP’s Antonio served dinner and we ate. As dinner was about over there were lights flashing outside and I heard noisemakers go off as all the kids went over to the windows. Tom got up and said to Chrissie, “I’ll be right back, there is something that I need to take care of.”

He walked out the door toward the front of the house. Josh grinned and said, “I think I smell a Necromancer about to get burned.”

I reached out and felt the taint as well. I wasn’t the only one as people throughout the room looked as if they were getting a bit nervous. Josh didn’t seem to be getting up and I asked, “Not tempted to chase it?”

“It won’t get very far. Bob and Scott have Tom’s truck and their car out there and Tom probably sensed the thing about the same time it was dropped off.” “That explains why I didn’t see Bob and Scott here serving. They were being deputies.”

“Bill wanted them and their car, if he needed to get someplace fast. I asked some questions at the stables.”

“What tripped off the noisemakers?”

“The werewolves, more than likely.”

Chrissie was frowning a bit as other than the noisemakers there wasn’t any shooting going on. The kids liked the show though and I went over to the window with Chrissie to take a look. This time the noisemakers were pointed away from the house and the werewolves could be seen in the snow trying to run from the hail of fire down the hill away from the house. At the bottom of the hill a row of cars showed up and the werewolves, being in Change found themselves between the possible guns up the hill and the Bill’s people and Hilda. None of them Changed or tried to surrender and none of them lasted very long. Chrissie turned to me with a bit of a pout and said, “I tried. But they just didn’t understand. They weren’t even sneaky monsters, just sacrifices. I hope that Tom is ok. I wish that he had told me what he was doing and had Bill shoot the Necromancer.”

“The Necromancer took Vinnie last night, along with the rest of the crew that Vinnie had working on the stables. Tom took that rather personally.” “I know. I understand why Tom is dealing with the Necromancer himself even if he’s taking a risk. Vinnie had become a true friend and I will miss him very much. Let’s go back to the table. It’s just noise now.”

I rolled her back to the table and on our way back I said, “Do you want a trip down to the Cape? With the other ladies of course.”

“I don’t think so. Haruka will probably go with Steve if he goes down, but I don’t think that the other ladies will want to leave quite yet.”

“You may have to go down. The Colonel has a ship coming in to Boston and I think that there’s no way that Tom won’t be involved if the Colonel gets away from here.” “Did you find out what his mission was? Other than Brad’s diary? Where is that, by the way?”

“At Eric’s, along with the rest of the material that we have on the colonel, including the material that his wife brought.”

“She’s here?”

“With Gretchen in New York. Hilda’s brother came up with the material this morning. Eli and Theresa are entertaining the lady and I’m letting her stay at my suite at the Waldorf. That is if she doesn’t move in with Gretchen at the school.”

We reached the table and Josh said, “I expect that the werewolves are dead.”

“Yes,” Chrissie said. “I tried to warn them about Hilda and Bill, among other things and I don’t think that they understood. They didn’t even take the rifles out of the cellar when they left. They just used their Change and expected their opposition to be frightened of them.”

As we were starting desert, Tom came back. “Well there’s one dealt with. Now it’s just the big bad wolf.”

“What are you planning, Tom?” Chrissie was frowning as she said that, and Josh flinched at the warning signs. “You aren’t going to be taking any risks now that I’m back, are you? Like meeting alone with the Colonel?”

“Both of us were Puppets, which made the whole thing ridiculous in a way. Josh, you were there when I set that up, was I taking any risks?”

“Chrissie, he was in the water guiding the Puppet and Bob, Scott, Mary, Hilda and Bill, along with me were nearby and we had construct werewolves to distract the Colonel, Josh said. “Noro, Tom, that reminds me. We need to track down Gunther and ask if the Colonel poached the domain’s Creator for this thing. I suspect that he did and that is why Gunther is here.”

“Who’s Gunther?” Chrissie asked.

“Hilda’s brother and the Colonel’s heir. I imagine that the Creator is someone they want back home fairly quickly. I want to make sure that he isn’t in the crossfire or left alone without a way to get back home. I suspect that he is under compulsions from the Colonel.”

“Bringing the Creator is that big a deal? Tom, you met with the one here.”

“We think that there are very few Creators over in Europe at the moment,” I said. “Maybe none. The Colonel is here to obtain Creators for the other Masters. That is his mission.”

“What about the book and the rest of it.” “He wants to make sure that Brad’s diary and the rest of the material that Brad collected does not come into the hands of the other Masters. The diary shows how the Colonel was using Brad’s pack to distract the compelled and Twisted of the other Masters while the Colonel took fae communities and artificers and brought them to his domain. That’s how Gunther ended up there after Hilda bonded with Brad. Gunther is concerned that the wolf Change will continue through Ed and Gretchen’s children or through Andy. We know that the Change will not be going though Andy or his kids in any case. The girls anyway.”

“The Director and the Board didn’t seem to know what was really going on, at least the Director didn’t at first. He never talked with me, but it was fairly obvious that Director was not in charge right from the start. When Ed took the Captain, the Board didn’t seem to have a clue either. At least they didn’t say anyting to stop Ed.”

“They probably couldn’t,” Josh said. “Ed was probably in charge up here and he was working with his mandates to protect his keystone and the Academy. Any dark fae would essentially be powereless against something like that.”

“That’s why the Captain just got in the car with us without a fight,” Tom said. “He didn’t even try to resist as we cuffed him and took him away.” “You shot the Captain afterwords,” Chrissie said. “Tom, how could you put yourself at risk like that?”

“It wasn’t really risky. The captain ran out of the office and directly into the shotgun. He wanted to die, Chrissie. Ask Mike why. I’m much better at shielding, but there was no way that he did not know that I was outside the office waiting for him. For that matter, Hilda, Bill and Boris were right behind him. But I was ready for him and took the shot. He couldn’t have Turned me in any case and he wasn’t getting past me onto the street.”

Chrissie went on berating Tom for taking risks and ended it with, “Have you been Changing regulary?”

“Well at least once a week. I was in the water last night.”

“Fresh water, which isn’t good for you. Well, we have the pool at the Academy and before we go back to the farm, you, buster are spending some time in the water with me.

“What about Steve and Haruka?”

“Steve isn’t here at the dinner and Haruka dragged him under already. It’s our turn after dinner. I’ve been two weeks without you and a pool and that changes as soon as dinner is over. Then we go over to Doug’s and make sure that the kids are ok.”

“Are we going to be allowed to use the Academy?”

“I don’t think that Jacob is going to complain about anything for a while. At least not to you. Or about anything you do. Let alone me.”

“What about Ed?”

“What about him? I’m sure that he’ll show up at some point, but he didn’t tonight. I understand why he wants to kill his monster, but I hope that he doesn’t force you to do it for him like the Captain did. Brad was bad enough. I hope that you have the diary in a safe place.” “I don’t even know where it is. The Colonel may think that Hilda has it.” “Why would the Colonel think that Hilda has it?”

“Because there was a phone call this morning from Bill to Hilda to pick it up and another phone call from Doug’s from Andy telling mother to tell Jimmy to come to Doug’s when he is here and check out Andy’s new gun that “some new friends gave him.”

“Why would some “friends” give Andy a new gun?” Chrissie frowned a bit. “I think that he probably has all the guns he wants at the moment.”

“Because his horrible Uncle Tom didn’t give him that Wincheser rifle that Tom no longer needed and mistreated Andy’s mom. But Andy is the key to the book that the colonel wants to see and some people got their hands on it during the incident last night and since I had opened it, they wanted it unlocked. So they found Andy and made a deal. According to some people it wasn’t the first time that Andy and his friends had been recruited.”

“Who recruited Andy and why?”

“Well some adversaries of mine from Washington found out that Theresa really doesn’t like our phones being messed with and my nephew Jeremy had a record that is broken and no adult can listen to for more than a very short period of time. My adversaries wanted Andy and his friends to arrange an accident with the record. Jeremy apparently hid the record and they weren’t able to arrange an a accident. I heard the record and my adversaries are absolutely right about it. I may have a clause in the contract that my sister in law can’t let Jeremy play any music over the phone lines. Jeremy had an accident with the record before he went down to New York anyway.”

“The record was that bad?”

“Chrissie, I have talked with Army and Navy intelligence people that were trying to play games with Tom, along with Bob, Scott and Tom about the record and they have all said the same thing about it.” Josh said. “We haven’t heard from the Colonel’s people yet, but they tried to tap the the farm’s phones and Theresa ran the record, so we may have some crazy werewolves trying to hit the farm tonight looking for it.”

“Crazier than the ones here?”

“Maybe. The ones here had to deal with you, though, so it may be hard to tell.”

“Steve and Joe did more than I did. Sneaking in and planting all that stuff. Along with the rifles. Tom did his part in that too. The poor lieutenant almost had me calling mother.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Because I didn’t want any hand grenades left about and you know, daddy, that Steve would have started to put stuff like that around, just like he used to float wreck stuff up and sneak it into my room when I complained about the stuff in the yard. With that stuff, it wasn’t so serious, but I didn’t want the kids finding random hand grenades.”

Steve had mentioned grenades and a machine gun, so Chrissie was right on the money. Tom said, “We only put the rifles back and some gags. No grenades or machine guns. We didn’t even see the gags go off.”

“Because you were messing with the phones. The things that scared everybody tonight.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Well just before Sal raided the place, the PA system went crazy with howling, the lights started to flash all over the building and there were smoke bombs, stink bombs and fireworks in the halls. Of course the phones stopped working too and poor Bill was not able to find the problem until Tom came in and shut it down.”

“They were supposed to scare people,” Tom said. “We wanted them distracted so they weren’t thinking about shooting us, or you. This wasn’t some sort of game and I was concerned about you, the compelled and the kids’ safety. So I pulled all the stops out and used all my stuff, along with things from my sister, Steve and Joe. You were upset about me taking risks, so you can’t be too upset when I take steps to reduce the risk to the most important thing in my life, you.”

Chrissie reached over and kissed her husband. Then she said, “No I can’t. You are forgiven. Just think about me when you do things. I don’t want to have to go through losing you for real.”

Mera, Josh and I were all smiling at both of them. Tom had handled himself very well. I was thinking about that when I said to Chrissie, “At least you got to experience all of Tom’s gags tonight. Who knows when he’s going to be in a position to go all out like this again. Stephie only got to see the stables.”

“Actually she was with us at the pool with Hilda helping to collect the residents as they ran to the pool and the stables and she’s outside. There was no way that she was going to miss all of this.”

“That explains why we haven’t seen her,” Josh said as we left the table to mingle for cocktails. “There she is now.” Stephie was making a beeline for Tom smiling broadly. “Tom, you have outdone your self tonight. I want to know how you made that disintegrating puppet show.”

“It’s an experiment that the boys and I were playing with. I’ll show you more at the shop. Essentially it was an attempt to make construct wood and then use it to make parts that disappear. It worked. We could also use the original show as a copy and make it bigger, as you saw. The big problem is the short clock.”

“Well, you you have redeemed me tonight with the few remaining skeptics. Of course you do know that you will have to work hard and top this next Christmas at the Cape when we have the family party there.”

Hilda came over with Gunther and said, “Gunther, this is my brother in law, Tom, his wife, Chrissie, my sister in law Stephie, who you really didn’t have a chance to meet this morning, Josh, Chrissie’s father and Mera, Chrissie’s mother, and Noro, Chrissie’s grandfather.” “We were just going to look you up,” Josh said. “Chrissie said that the Colonel is using Puppets and that means that he probably brought a Creator with him. Did he take it from you domain?”

“I wasn’t going to say, but things are different here than I expected. Yes he did, and I hope that I can keep him alive. He is a cousin. Hilda knows him. Hans Gruber is his name. He has never been out of Germany before and other than our village and the Colonel’s domain he has never traveled. He doesn’t speak English.”

“So he’s family as well as a Creator. We will keep an eye out for him. Did you bring a photograph?”

“Yes I did. Hilda is having it copied by Helmut’s people so that we can give copies to the sheriff here, Boris and Helmut’s people. I do want to say that I am impressed by Helmut and his people. They are something that we don’t have where we are and we may need. If there had been some way to communicate and share, the domains would probably not have fallen the way they did, one by one.”

“We ran into that when my aunt’s bower was attacked and we up at the Cape didn’t even know about it,” Mera said. “Since then, the bureau and the fae communities have strived to work together because it was obvious that the same sort of thing was starting here when we looked into it. I imagine that your sister in law is is giving your wife and mother in law the full tour while explaining what happened. You’ve seen what has been happening here.”

Hilda said, “Gunther, could I park you with Noro for a bit. Stephie and I need to get together with some other people and make sure that the Colonel gets a bloody nose tonight. That is if he doesn’t back off when his distraction falls apart.”

Steve and Haruka came over and Haruka said to Chrissie, “The pool is all yours. He looks as if he needs it.”

“Take me out to the car, Tom. We’re going to the Academy and getting you wet.”

Tom rolled her out as we laughed. Stephie and Hilda followed.

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