Mermaid, Chapter 28, Part 1.

Here we have Tom’s or Mr. Downes very busy day.

Chapter 28
Tom.
Saturday 1/30, 1932.
I got up early. Even so, mother was still earlier and making me and some other breakfast. Before sitting down in the kithchen, I said, “Mother, you didn’t have to get up this early for me.”
“Yes I did. You are my baby and always will be. Regardless of what happens today, I want you to know how proud I am of you. You have held up so well under severe strain. So eat up, this is going to be a long day.” Father came in and said, “So what are your plans, other than returning from the dead this evening.”
“Go the blind. Play it by ear. See if I can come up with some surprises for some werewolves.”
“Be careful.”
“I will be.”
Charlie came in and said, “That truck we’re using, I didn’t think that there were any that bad that any of the family or the hands had.”
“It isn’t from the family. At least our family. It’s one of George’s. Steve and Joe brought both George’s and Ilutra’s trucks up.”
“George? He doesn’t get paid enough for a decent truck? I thought he ran a bunch of the family businesses down there. He even offered me a summer job on a boat if I wanted it.”
“From what Stacey and the rest have said, George believes in being the frugal waterman, even though everybody knows better. He picked that up from Josh when he was a kid. Stacey won’t let him live in a cottage, he has four boats, everybody knows what they are like and he has a big office at the co-op, all of which destroy the image. So he drive trucks and cars almost as old he is. What he didn’t understand was that Josh’s frugal waterman act is by and large to poke Noro more than a little bit. Josh also doesn’t feel the need for a big house when his wife lives underwater and his kids are all grown. That may change now that Mera is going to be spending time up top.
In any case, we have a truck that’s perfect for drifting contractors and if we should happen to get it wrecked, Stacey will owe us a favor. In any case, according to Steve and Joe, the trucks are not supposed to go home with them.”
We finished breakfast, and as we walked out from the barn, Steve and Joe showed up from the inn in another old truck. Steve said, “We thought that we would stay with you this morning and see if we could get some creative carpentry.”
“Don’t you need to be with your people?”
“Not until this evening at the earliest. They are where they are supposed to be and I’ll check on them this afternoon. Being with you, I can stay on top of things discreetly along with Joe. We can also drop in on our bondeds and say hi. I think that Chrissie, at least, will want some reassurance that you are still alive.”
“I think that you are right about that. Did you get breakfast?”
“At the inn. So why don’t we get going?”
“I need to pull something from the armory and my carpenter’s tools and then we can get going.”
I found a canvas sack, and stopped over at the locker to pull three 1911 magazines and a box of cartridges. I dropped them in the sack and then went over to the armory and pulled a little project that I had done for the Secret Service. About the same time that silencers were being marketed, some Secret Service guys and I were in a bar talking and we wondered just how quiet you could make a gun. Not a little gun like a .22, but a full size cartridge like a .45. I had just done the discreet rifle for my sister, though I didn’t know who the gun was for at the time because the whole thing had gone through Larry and this was another challenge. The answer was very quiet indeed, if you closed the bolt and used a large gas expansion volume with lots of baffles. The problem was that the gun was almost as big as a carbine, but still only had the same ballistic performance as a 1911. There was a very secret contract for ten of the guns from the Secret Service and I made one for a prototype that very few people knew about. The thing was such an obvious assasination tool that having it out sort of said that I was planning to kill somebody. So only father, Bill, Al and Boris knew that it existed. The only reason that I was bringing it with me today, was that if the Necromancer showed up, it might be in a crowd and I wanted him shot and dead as quickly as possible without making a stink about it. I pulled the gun out of it’s case, checked the action and dropped it into the bag. Then I went outside, dropped the bag in the front seat of the truck and went to get the toolbox. I put the box in the truck and Steve was there in the truck looking at the bag. As I started the truck he said, “May I open the bag?”
“It’s classified, but I suspect that you have clearance and can find out about it anyway, so go ahead. It’s something that the Secret Service and I cooked up just before I left Washington.”
He took the gun out of the bag and said, “This is the shortest M1903 I have ever seen.”
“Look more closely.”
He pulled the bolt back. “This wouldn’t clear the chamber on a .30-06. The stroke is way too short.” He reached back into the bag and pulled out one of the boxes of cartridges. “.45 ACP? Why? It must have something to do with the fact that the barrel cover is so fat, It’s nothing but a gas expansion chamber, isn’t it? Has Al seen this?”
“Yes. He’s even fired it.”
“I think that I see what you were going for here. This is a gun that is very very quiet, so that you can use it and not make a big noise. Secret Service? So they want a gun that they can fire discreetly in a crowded area where the President may be and not cause a sudden panic. It would also be useful for dealing with sentries when you are trying to break into a place. Say, a counterfeiter’s headquarters.”
He put the gun back in the bag. ‘You brought it for the Necromancer, didn’t you? Good thinking.”
“The first time I encountered a Necromancer, it was on a crowded street. If he starts to Turn people at Helen’s or on the street, it could get real ugly fast. This is good to one hundred yards or so and it won’t make a lot of noise or attract a lot of attention. Boris has actually used it more than I have for similar situations.”
“How does it compare to Hilda and Stephie’s discreet guns?”
“Well if they had had this at the Manager’s, Andy would not have had to shoot that ghoul before it could get to Gregor.”
“Why didn’t you bring it down for the Manager?”
“Larry did. But it’s not a gun you want to be waving around if we didn’t need it and it turned out that we didn’t, so it stayed with some other things that Larry brought and we didn’t use. I let father make those calls with the exception of the fifty caliber. But it was fairly common knowledge in certain circles that we had at least one, so running it for something like Andy where we were working with the Feds wouldn’t be that big a surprise. This thing, the Secret Service and I would rather keep as discreet as possible for obvious reasons. When everything is settled tomorrow, you can get some range time with it.”
“I can go with that. How fast did it take you to make the ten?”
“A week, but I had lead time for the barrels, which Colt had to do, because I don’t have a rifling machine. So it took six weeks overall. That’s not counting the couple of months that my friends and I spent playing with that one after I built it up.”
“I’m surprised that you haven’t managed to acquire a rifling machine.”
“I’ve had several opportunities and there is one in my shop on the Cape. But the shop up here just didn’t have the space for a specialized tool and I get good turnarounds from Colt, Winchester and Remington when I need a special barrel.”
“The Colonel should have been more careful when playing with you. You always seem to have a new surprise. Not that he isn’t crafty, all by himself.”
“Yes, he is, and he has Chrissie, so I need to be careful.”
“Does he have Chrissie, or does Chrissie have him? You really haven’t known my sitster for very long, so you don’t know what she can get up to. Her general principle in life is that if she can do something, she can overdo something. That goes with everything that she does.”
“Her trip through New York with the ladies, for instance? Though I suspect that most of that was Suki waving the lady’s tails around as much as possible.”
“That’s typical Chrissie. Completely ignoring the fact that she isn’t supposed to be waving her tail around at all. On the other hand, she didn’t wave it in your face like she should have. But a chunk of that was mom and mom suggesting that she be mysterious rather than just popping up in front of you while you were sitting on the dock or dropping into dad’s boat and just start running it for you.”
“She didn’t waste any time running my boat once I had it.”
‘The indirect approach hadn’t worked and she was getting nervous. This way she could get out of some other work that mother wanted anyway. Chasing after you was much more fun than tending the gardens. So she took your boat over and made it seem as if it was the most natural thing in the world.”
“I noticed that everybody knew when she was doing it even when she was dropping off out of sight of the harbor.”
“She was doing that to keep mom happy and not make it obvious that she had been spending time on the dock before she ran into you.”
“How do you know so much?”
“Joe told me. After all, he was there. Dating Moira under the smokescreen of you, Chrissie and Chrissie’s circus. Aunt Nera told me some of it. She was laughing on the sidelines at Chrissie trying to catch your attention without “giving the secret away” while doing her usual summer business, some of which Chrissie was working for, which caused Chrissie a bit of difficulty as you would be on the water working and she would be working and not able to chase you down until you were onshore. Or there would be an evening show and you would be walking down the beach and Chrissie was busy. Then you started working on the boat.”
“Why didn’t Joe tell your dad about the boat, or Chrissie?”
“Because if he had, the circus would have ended and mother would have been looking into him. He was keeping his love life outside the circus.”
“You’re lucky that you could keep yours way out of the circus.”
“For the time being, though my father in law is due this week and I will want tickets for events.”
“I can arrange that. Is your mother in law on the way, as well?”
“Yes, but she isn’t due until two weeks from now with my sisters in law, their husbands and kids. By the way, they have heard about the tank beds.”
“At this point I would be surprised if any merfolk hadn’t. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep that moving, though losing the last two weeks to the Colonel hasn’t made things any easier. I’ve been using the one in the farm at least three times a week, in Change, just so I live in it.”
We reached the ferry and crossed in the morning mist. Steve got out and waved at the wheelhouse and there was a toot. As he got back in, I said, “Took over the ferry again?”
“Not at present. But we are keeping an eye on strange trucks and other vehicles.”
“What if the Colonel shows up?”
“He may find that he is stuck in the middle of the lake surrounded by my people and guns. My orders are to take the shot if we get it. He managed to piss off just about all my bosses when he played his little games with my bonded, sister and the other two ladies. The fact that he has that reputation doesn’t help him very much. So if I get a shot, I’m going to take it.”
“He’s been fairly careful not to give us shots. He’s been in and out of the Academy, but he goes in the back door where we don’t have coverage. It’s been frustrating to the boys at the blind. He also works to break tails, the times that we have tried them. Bob did give him and the Director a cab ride yesterday. I don’t think that the Colonel picked up on the fact that it was one of us bringing him in. He took Jacob and one of the cars from the Academy to check out the meeting site and his puppet. We saw all that.”
“I was there when he picked up his Puppet. I wonder what Chrissie did to it?” “Something over the top and creative, I imagine. After all, he killed you.”
“We must visit this morning and find out.”
We talked as we drove over to the shack and pulled snowshoes from the pile in the shack. The Martin boys hadn’t figured out that we were using it. Joe and Charlie joined us as we trecked torward the blind. Brian, and Dan, along with two more of emy cousins were waiting when we showed up. As Steve and I ducked in I asked, “Anything happening?”
“Helen is at the stables trying to find Vinnie and his people. John is here making calls”
“Vinnie is dead. So are his people. The Necromancer took them last night. The Colonel was looking to piss me off.”
I started to have a thought. Mr. Downes probably wanted work. I turned to the others and said, “Mr. Downes needs work and we have a crew here. Does anybody else need some easy work?”
There were smiles all around. Steve said, I think that Mr. Downes could use some help and the nice lady needs the work done, so we can make some easy money.”
“Anything else happen?” I asked.
“The werewolves left early this morning. They thought they were being discreet. Ralph thought they were stupid noisy. He, Bob and Tony were watching the back this morning and saw them leave. Ralph tracked them to their car. The rest of the support people are still there for the time being, along with the four ladies we’re calling harpies for the time being.”
“Ok. We’ll help the lady out and make some money. If the werewolves come back, lst us know.”
Brian and Dan joined us and we marched back to the the trucks. Brian and Dan had my truck, but I let them have it and stayed with George’s wreck. We drove back over to the stables and John Wiggens was there, looking more than a bit nervous as we rather disreputable looking types drove up. “Are you Mr. Wiggens?”
“Yes, who are you?”
“I’m Ted Downes, carpenter and contractor. I was in town this morning and the talk at the diner was that you needed some people for work.”
“I didn’t think I did, but the crew we were expecting disappeared. Do you have any references?”
“We just arrived recently, so nothing local. How about this. If you don’t like the work, you only pay us half. I’ve made that deal a bunch of times and I haven’t had to take half yet.”
“That sounds like a good deal for me, but what if somebody wants to cheat you.”
“I think I know who you’re talking about. There are enough stories about him going around. You tell me what you need, we’ll make a list of the work and I’ll itemize everything. When we close up this afternoon we’ll both have the same list and have things checked off and done.”
“That sounds professional. I don’t really have a choice anyway, because what with the sheriff’s big thing and the Games, there just isn’t anybody to do any work.”
“Does the sheriff have a manhunt going on? I hadn’t heard anything about a big fugitive in the area, but there was that strange thing that I saw on the cliffs last night.”
“That’s part of it and the Sheriff is putting a bounty on rabid wolves that’s attracted just about everybody with a gun. Some wolves attacked some members of the sheriff’s family and he’s making sure that they don’t hurt another one.”
“That would sound like something I would chase, but I’m new to the area and need work. So why don’t we get started?”
“Well, go to this address and ask for Helen. She has a list of the things that she needs done. Start at the house and finish up here.”
“Will do.”
As I headed back to the truck I said to Steve, “Before we get too deep into this, I think that I need to make a discreet visit.”
“She’s probably sensed you out here already and if we don’t stop in, we’ll be in real trouble later.”
I parked the truck around the corner from the gate and we used Theresa and Eli’s trick to discreetly get through the gate without opening it. We walked around the inside of the wall unit we were close to the back door and went inside. There was some splashing and happy noises from the pool, so I guessed that Chrissie wasn’t too upset about my demise. Things got quiet as we approached and the pool and the room were seemingly empty as we approached the pool. As we got close to the edge, there was a sudden silver flash and I suddenly had a heavy Chrissie in my arms. “About time that you showed up. I was beginning to get worried that you didn’t care about me anymore. I’ve been sensing you out there for the last hour. What with this new you anyway. You look old and decrepit.”
“Meet Drifter Ted, Carpenter. He’s doing some work for Mrs. Martin today.”
“Why isn’t Vinnie doing the work?”
“Vinnie’s dead. The Colonel and his Necromancer Took him and his people for our little meeting last night.”
She got a terrible look on her face and said, “That’s terrible. He did that just to spite you, didn’t he?”
“He was probably looking at my normal friends on the gangs at the games. Vinnie was rather obvious and Jacob was looking into Vinnie as part of his fun and games. So there was Vinnie right where I put him, just outside. I screwed up because I didn’t want any family connections to Vinnie so I didn’t make sure that there was a family member on the crew to spot something like that.”
“He was a true friend. You are planning something, aren’t you?”
“Well if the Necromancer comes around looking for people to turn at the stables this afternoon, he’s going to be out if luck. Your Aunt has handed Antonio a bunch of family from the bower to help out today.”
“That’s not a surprise. We have too many slugs just laying about this time of year anyway. So that’s covered. Don’t go chasing the Necromancer all by yourself like daddy does.”
“I’ll try to avoid that. I brought a special surprise for him in any case. I need to drop you back and get going so that we can help Helen out.”
“All right get going. You will get me out of here before the big thing tonight?”
I dropped her back into the pool. “Yes, that is a given and Sal and I have already got things together for that.”
“Well after you rescue me, I have dibs in you and this pool tonight. I am definitely setting up for some major distraction tonight.”
“I’ll look forward to it.” I kissed her as Steve kissed Haruka and we retraced our steps to the trucks.
Joe and the rest had piled some rather familiar looking things in one of the trucks and were winding up some wire. When Joe saw my curious expression, he said, “We decided to pull the Academy’s noisemakers. Since the werewolves have left, they won’t need the surprise and we figured that the Colonel will set the werewolves and the rest either at the stables, which are covered, or at the house. We’ll do some quiet setup and if they hit the house, they will get a nice surprise.”
Steve and I smiled at that as we got into the truck and drove off. We approached the Martin house, or castle as the case may be and Steve said, “Overdoing it, much?”
“Not when it was built. The place dates back to early last century and there were still some Indian fights and actual wars going on. Our place has some of the same sorts of arrangements, but they are buried under the house because my grandfather and father have built it up so much. Helen has done some stuff with the back over the years. You’ll see as we go in.”
Helen was waiting with her butler as we drove up. “Good, you are here. You must be Mr. Downes. Richard here has the list. Thank goodness that you showed up.”
“Ma’am, my crew and I need the work. I came up to see if there was any work at the games and I found some leads, but any work will help. Did Mr. Wiggens call ahead?”
“Yes, he did and you made a very fair deal. I chased my husband away by the way by threatening him with work if he stuck around. When it comes to actually doing something he can be fairly useless. It wasn’t always that way. In any case he won’t be getting in your hair.”
“Ok, we’ll start here, then do the stables and help setup for the thing there this afternoon. Let me get together with Richard and get things started.”
I did and the morning was quick and rather enjoyable. Since most of us knew the area and Richard was more than willing to help us out with getting deliveries made we managed to keep things going. Steve and I were also able to get the noisemakers installed and wired up.
The only thing that slowed us down very much was my own fault. The Martin kids had bought my book and since we looked like we knew something about tools they kept poking us for advice. Helen managed to round the kids up with a promise that me, Tom was coming to dinner tonight. As lunch time approached she said, “This place is catering the party. They can put up with some rather ragged types like you to help out. So go down and tell them that you are having lunch on me. Not that you will be any worse than the rest of the characters eating there today. Don’t be fooled by the nice suits.”
“Thank you Ma’am. We’ll be on our way.”
As Steve and I drove away, Steve said, “Mary was keeping an eye on things from above.”
“I know. And Bill and Hilda stopped by to check in. Let’s make a quick stop at the White’s office to get an update.”
We did, but Roger had already been grabbed by Josh and Noro, so we went ahead onto Antonio’s. Antonio said as we walked in, “You must be Mr. Downes and his crew. Mrs. Martin called me and said that you were here to help with the party tonight. Apparently the crew that had been working for her had disappeared. Go ahead and get some lunch and we can discuss what I may need after lunch. Mrs. Martin was very pleased with your work this morning and she is very hard to impress.”
We went inside and were accosted by a pair of rather unsavory characters who wanted to know what I had been up to. We had a short discussion about work, lunch came and we ate. After lunch, Steve and I stopped off with Antonio to go over Helen’s list. He didn’t poke very much even though I knew he knew who Steve was and probably guessed who I was. He did make some mournful noises about the missing Tom Benton. After talking to Antonio, we headed back to the stables and got to work. It was twelve thirty already and we were supposed to be out of the place by four at the latest. I also wanted to make a quick check on Doug’s before I tied up with Sal at six thirty and got my wife out of the Academy before she wrecked the place. Things went smoothly and even some special party gags were ready to go by the time that Antonio’s people showed up and we started to help them set up. We had some laughs as Helen showed up, spotted Scott and Lizzie and dragooned him into a suit to help with host duties. Of course, the unsavory characters showed up again and started to make nuisances of themselves. I hadn’t caught a whiff of Necromancer all day, which was rather disappointing. On the other hand, the Necromancer would have had a rather nasty surprise Turning our crew, Antonio’s crew or any of the crews still working at game sites today, because for some strange reason all of them were high fae and immune to a Necromancer. In any case we managed to get our part set up and us out of there more or less on time.
Since there was a little time before Tom had to return, Steve and I wanted to check in at Doug’s. So we stopped by the office, where Roger finally gave us the bad news about the two communities taken in Pennsylvania. As we headed over to Doug’s, Steve said, “This isn’t good. Father and grandfather probably have plans for the Colonel’s exit, but if the attempts here bounce, the Colonel may have a community or two up in Canada that we don’t know about. I almost wish that we could fake the attack succeeding tonight.”
“Let’s talk to Doug and Al. maybe they have some ideas.”
The whole lot of us pulled into Doug’s, where things were hopping in the growing darkness. Al and Doug were heading over to the woodworking shed and Joe, Steve and I followed them. Steve said, “The Colonel hit two places in Pennsylvania last night.”
“We know. Bill and Hilda told us. They won’t succeed here.”
‘I know, but I’m afraid that the Colonel is expecting some of his attempts to fail and knows about some Creators that we haven’t warned yet. He bounces here and hits somebody else in Canada tomorrow. Is there some way of making a construct or a glamor that would fool them into thinking they have you?”
“I don’t know. There would need to be some sort of framework and a power source. I’ve never tried something like that and we don’t have much time before they strike tonight.”
I was trying to not think about what they were talking about and just letting idea flow through my head as I was looking at the various things that they made here. Then I saw what appeared to be skulls, very nicely made skulls. I turned to the three of them and said, “Doug, you said that you needed a frame work. What are those skulls for?”
“We have a business where we sell wooden skeletons to schools. They aren’t as likely to fall apart as real skeletons and are easier to take care of.”
He looked at me. “We have quite a few bits and pieces that we made that weren’t good enough to sell. The children play with them until we burn them. But I imagine that there are still enough pieces around. We would needs some fats, but that isn’t a big deal, and a power source.”
One of Doug’s granddaughters came in. “Grandpa I found a mouse nest. Can I take care of it?”
He smiled. “Silly Annie, you know better than to try to bring mice into the house. The cats will have them for dinner. But we can send them to a better place in a nice home. Get the rest of the kids together and see how many mice you can catch. It may be important for some other kids.”
She turned around and left. Doug said, “I think that we can make this work. The skeletons are the framework, the mice, the power source and we use the blood from the family to make the glamors. It’s going to be tight, but I think that we can have the entire family in bed snuggily asleep by the time that they give us their gas.”
“If we aren’t ready, we just run the noisemakers and the rest of it the first time and they’ll break off and regroup, more than likely,” Steve said. “Tom and I need to be at the show at the Academy, but Joe and Al can help here. After Helen’s party is over, I’ll collect some of my aunt’s people and her and come over. They will probably hit while there is a diversion at the dinner tonight, so you can figure between nine and ten.”
“Eltra and Nera are already here, Al said. They are at the house that Tom arranged yesterday near the bridge. Along with the marines. We haven’t wanted to make it too blatent that there are a lot more armed people around than there should be. I’ll go get Nera and Eltra while you all get started on this.”
He left and Doug called out to his sons and grandsons to start looking for skeleton pieces and then went over to the house and talked to the ladies.
Joe and I started to set up tables and look for tools. More people came in and skeleton pieces started to show up, along with glue, screws and rubber. Things had started going and the first golems were finished when Steve came over and said, “Tom, we need to go. Sal is probably looking for us.”
We left and got in the truck. “That was fun,” Steve said. “I hope that they can make it work. We, on the other hand, had better be there when our ladies are released or we will be in real trouble. I doubt that my sister will accept that we got busy and forgot as an excuse. Even with a new scheme to befuddle the colonel. By the way, Al called Sam and they are doing the same thing in Maine. So the two groups they are taking here are going to come up empty when they open the boxes on the ship. Though grandfather has almost certainly played with the ship already.”
“Are you sure?”
“It’s the way he does things. Before he went under sea, he had a bunch of ways of taking your supports right out from under you. When you get a chance, talk to some of the older hands on Wall St. The guys that were clerks and whatnot when grandfather was playing games. I started to collect stories the first time I was stationed in New York, just in case grandfather ever came back up top. The big thing is that grandfather is perfectly willing to allow the Colonel to think that he is winning while coming at him from a completely different direction. The ship is an obvious one. Of course, knowing grandfather, he didn’t buy the ship, he bought the company. Joe will like that. He’s always wanted ships and a shipping company to play with. My bosses might find it useful as well for certain things.”
“That is if your grandfather hangs on to the company. What if it’s a big loser?”
“Then he will definitely hang onto it. You managed to scare the hell out of him last Thanksgiving and you weren’t even trying. Now that you are starting to run at your full potential, he’s going to be looking for all the losers he can find to balance your winners. Of course, that’s going to be fun for you, George and Joe as you start turning his turkeys into swans.”
“Do you think that we will?”
“Count on it. Grandfather has never been that good at management. He likes to play too much. Dad is better, and Joe, George and you are even better than dad because you aren’t carrying his baggage around. I love my Aunt Nera, but boy did she mess things up for mom and dad. At least we are getting past that now.”
“Chrissie has never said very much about any of this.”
“She was busy being a teenage girl, dealing with mom, dad, and the other issues. She hasn’t been in a position where she needed to deal with the business until after she ran into you. Then the Games and all the rest of it showed up and you’ve seen what she has been up to. Jacob gave her the perfect foil for her skills and you provided a whole new tool kit.
You didn’t know her when mother went under sea and left her up top. I think that she resents the fact that mother almost never saw her except on the boat while she was running it with dad. Not that mom didn’t try, but she wasn’t there while Chrissie was going through some difficult times. I expect that Chrissie is going to handle tail issues rather differently.”
‘By essentially ignoring the fact that she isn’t supposed to wave her tail around? So far she hasn’t managed to get on the front page Swimming, but that seems to be discretion on the papers’s part rather than Chrissie trying to hide the tail.”
“That’s certainly true, but Chrissie is better at that than it seems. The fact is that she knows the press and has been in the public eye one way or another since she was about twelve or so.”
“Even with the tail?”
“She’s very good at making people see the Chrissie and not the tail. She doesn’t try to hide it so much as make it irrelevant. I didn’t see her at the stock exchange, but I did at the navy yard and the market afterwords and none of the press paid any attention to her peculiarities at all. Of course most of them knew already, but a lot of that was Chrissie. Stella, Mabel and Ella are the same way.
Of course Chrissie and the ladies may have annoyed the press a bit when the press was excluded from the tour so the navy wives could dance for the ladies.”
“I’m in trouble. I didn’t know about any of the things surrounding Chrissie until after she had nailed me and dragged me under.”
“Well, don’t blame me. I wasn’t even there. If you think you have problems just wait until you see my in laws show up. My in laws are on their way and once Haruka’s dad and grandfather get together, I won’t be safe any more. At least I can use the navy as an excuse.”
“That won’t work very well when you are stationed at Newport. The bower isn’t that far away and Noro is going to be up top.”
“I figure that he and dad are going to be riding herd on you for some time so that they can go back to slacking off. It’s your own fault, by the way. If you hadn’t let Chrissie manipulate you into Jacob’s office, dad and Noro wouldn’t be seeing what you can really do. Not that they wouldn’t have found out soon enough.”
We arrived at the White’s office and as we walked in, Mike said, “There you are. Nera said that you were on your way when I called Doug’s. She’s on her way over to the stables with Tim and Suzy. Up to your old tricks again?”
Leo came over. “What did you do this time, Tom?”
“It wasn’t my idea, at least not entirely. We made fake people to get hauled away to the boat.”
“How?”
“Doug makes wooden skeletons for school. A little fat, some sand bags and a mouse to power the glamor and one sleeping dummy, ready to be kidnapped.”
Mother came over with a suit on a hanger. “Tom, dear. You need to change your clothes for this. We wouldn’t want anybody connecting you with Mr. Downes. You may need him later.”
I bowed to wisdom, found a restroom and changed. There was a rather dilapidated suitcase with the suit and I put Mr. Downes inside. Mother was right and he would probably be useful in the future. When I came back out, I asked mother as I handed Mr. Downes to her, “Did father ever have a ‘Mr. Downes’ persona?”
“Of course, dear. You’ve even met the man, though you didn’t know it at the time. He uses it to discreetly check things out where his real self might be unwelcome. He even came down to the Cape to see what Josh was like, discreetly after we started to talk to Mera and things looked serious between you and Chrissie. He even went to one of the mermaid shows and actually tried to get you to go. Since he was a random stranger and you weren’t interested in much more than being on the water, he couldn’t get you to go and he had to come home anyway.”
I remembered that. That strange character from the speakeasy, who was dressed like the rest of the tourists. That was just before I had bought my boat. “Did he talk to Josh?”
“A bit. Josh is rather tightlipped with people he isn’t familiar with. He was more than a bit stressed as well. Your father wanted to help out with suggestions, but he had to come back up here for Athena’s monthly visit and anything the Manager might send. We were debating whether to tell Athena that you had gone to the Cape. We didn’t, in the end, but Mary tracked you down anyway when you and Chrissie finally met and set resonances off. It looks like Sal wants you.”
There he was, looking for me, obviously. “Good, you changed. You’re going to be our face out front for this.”
“Why me?”
“So that we keep Steve in the background, something that the Admiral and my dad, among others, want and so that the other ladies aren’t brought out front and Tochi doesn’t have to make that big a splash. Chrissie is very good at getting eyeballs focused on her and not certain things that we would rather remain discreet like the kids.
Plus the fact that the press is going to eat this up, “Young executive and author rescues wife from white slavers and breaks the ring up. You make the perfect front. You can do a little press conference and the press guys will just love the magical couple getting back together.”
I was beginning to start to have doubts as Mike and Helmut came over. Helmut saw the expression on my face and said, “Tom, don’t get too worried. We’ll run the show, right in front of the people over there at the stables and people will just love it. Well, except for Jacob. This will make the bureau look good and we can keep things discreet because we can use the you and Chrissie as a cover. The press will be looking at you and Sal and not us.”
“Well I’m sort of committed at this point, so it’s not as if I had a lot of choice. How do you want to handle timing for the inside stuff.”
“Paul at the phone company is waiting to start things up when we make the call. We figured that we could start things up right from the switchboard.”
“That will work. The timer is set for fifteen minutes.”
“Ok, I’ll make the call right before I leave with the second wave.”
“Tom, it’s starting to get toward seven and we need to get going,” Mike said. “There’s a car wating out front for you. I’ll go with you.”
The car was one of Noro’s Cadillacs As we got in I said, “Making a statement?”
“Get used to these. For a while, you will have one on call, all the time. George and Lou don’t want to lose their golden boy and you can expect to be using the car a lot. At least that was what Lou said when I talked with him before I came up here. You’re lucky. Nera’s friends are talking about an “appropriate car” for her. Now that they can, they want to see their big secret live in the style they think that she is entitled to. So Nera and I are getting all sorts of gifts. I’ve been letting Mary handle the paperwork and since the bureau is clandestine they aren’t as fussy about certain things, but I never expected this when we got married. As far as I knew, Nera didn’t know anybody up top, let alone New York City. I found out that she’s almost as well known as Chrissie is. At least she doesn’t get her name in the paper every week. Roger’s theatre guy is talking to her about a column though, so that’s going to change.”
“How did Roger’s theatre guy find out that she was in town?”
“Tim dropped her name to see what would happen. Just after Chrissie and the other ladies were taken and we were busy, so we didn’t find out until Roger called Mary. Mary and Nera were all for the idea. We’re supposed to be discreet and clandestine, not writing columns. Mary also wants me to start sending stories to that radio show with Tim and Sal in it. She says that I have a lot of good material from my case files and we can use the show for exposure for certain things.”
“I don’t think that a column and some radio stories will blow the bureau’s cover. The radio stories will probably help. We can send the crazy stuff, what to do about it and when the real monsters show up, people won’t panic and the messes won’t happen. How many times over the years have you had to deal with a stack of bodies because somebody couldn’t take the problem out fast enough. I think I see where Mary’s going with this. The only reason that all those things showing up in Washington were not a real problem is that you, I and Tochi knew how to deal with them and we taught the cops as time went on. The bureau can’t get to every cop in the country, but you can slip things in and make people think.”
“I see that you brought your toy.”
I had tossed the canvas bag in the car. I wasn’t going to not have it if I needed it.
“If the Necromancer shows up tonight, I want to keep it quiet.”
“What about the Colonel?”
“That depends on what he wants. Along with what he thinks he has. He had a chance last night to make things easy and he just managed to piss me off. I’m tired of the dark taking my friends to try to get to me, especially when it doesn’t work. Once he took Vinnie and his people, getting what he wanted from me just became much harder.”
“Not that it would do him much good even if you had told him where Gretchen and the kids were. Gretchen is in the same club with Stephie and Hilda when it comes to shooting and Bruce is right there with Andy and Jimmy. You’ve been busy over here and Gretchen has been down in the city, so you didn’t get the stories. Nera and I had her and the kids over at the houseboat and she had a bunch of stories about what Bruce, Andy and Jimmy get up to. She says that it is a good thing that it’s at least another three years before any of them get their hands on a car. At least one that they can drive on the road without Boris pulling them over. They had their eyes on that car you had stashed, but you gave it to Bob and Scott before Andy could ask for it and they figure that Bob will give it up again after he finishes his car. Which they are helping with. In any case, I think that the colonel would be rather frightened of his daughter and her kids.
The Colonel comes near the boys and it’s going to be hunt time. They have been known to hunt Bill and Hilda, so they know how to play with werewolves. They all have coats from your sister and know how to mask scents even from Bill. The only difference is that this hunt wouldn’t end with breakfast in bed for Bill and Hilda.”
“Is that what they do?”
“Apparently. They go out, find some rabbits or raccoons, far away from Bill and Hilda, trap or shoot them and drop them off where Bill and Hilda are nesting. Andy wants to make sure that Bill and Hilda enjoy their howls.
In any case, those boys can be trouble. Gretchen says that she and the other ladies call them the ‘three menaces.’ They aren’t quite on a Bob and Scott level yet, but they are trying.”
“And I’ve been making things worse. How come none of the ladies complained?”
“This is Hilda, Stephie, Gretchen, and Ginny who we are talking about. I haven’t met Ginny, but the other three are just watching to see how much the boys can poke you and what you are going to teach them.”
“I’ve noticed. Gretchen not so much, but that was probably timing. The other two certainly haven’t wasted any opportunities.”
“The thing you pull off at Jacob’s had better be spectacular.”
“What thing?”
“Tom, I’ve known you for a long time now and I know what your response to Jacob’s punching at you is likely going to be. So do Leo, Hank and Stephie. So don’t try that with us until the party is over tonight. Or Al and I will start cooking something up with Noro for next Christmas.”
“You and Al are just unimaginative Feds. You don’t scare me.”
“We may just be Feds, but our wives aren’t. We now have resources and people who will just love to pull something over on you.”
“I’m in trouble.”
“You bet. That’s what you get for slacking the last two years. Now that people are seeing you around again, you are going to have to watch out.”
“I was halfway going to just let the party alone tonight.”
“Don’t you dare! We’re all tired of Jacob and what he’s been doing. Also, Jacob arranged for Vinnie, so don’t you let him off easy. You don’t want to disappoint everbody tonight any way.”
“That’s true. It’s all set up any way.”
We reached the stables and the cars lined up as Sal and Bill Jacobs let people know what was about to happen. According to the blind, most of the customers were inside as the plow truck smashed the gate and we rushed toward the door, guns drawn.
The inside was chaos and noise, as the bureau and Bill’s people started to round up the “visitors,” starting with the lounge that had been a library. There was one of the compelled trying to figure out how to shut the stuff down and I had mercy on him and everybody else so I went and found the timing box and flipped the shutoff. As I walked back to the pool and my wife, my sister came up and said, “That was fun. This was your Washington stuff, wasn’t it?”
“All of it that I had handy. Of course I never used all of it at one time like I did here. For one thing, the offices weren’t big enough and I never wanted to mess up an entire building.”
We arrived at the pool and Chrissie was looking a bit annoyed at me in amongst a bunch of rather scared kids. “Tom, wasn’t that a bit much? And why didn’t you tell me how to shut it down so that I could tell Bill. Things ran for ten minutes and that was way too long. You scared a lot of people here.”
“That was the point. Scared people won’t be thinking of shooting you. I didn’t want to risk that. Also, when I installed the stuff, I had werewolves here and I didn’t want them even to begin to be able to think straight when things went off.”
“Ok, I forgive you, provisionally. Stephie, you’re back. Looking at what Tom did?”
“Among other things. What happened to the Colonel?”
“He was here with the director and a normal that they brought in blindfolded and then took out again. He and his people left again at about five o, clock.”
“They left the Director at the railroad station. He’s probably on his way home by now. Tom, why don’t you take your wife up front and talk to the press. Mary and I can handle the kids.”
Mary had come up behind us with some of the compelled and her ‘Mother Mary’ persona was already in action. The bureau people were already nudging the kids up front while treating them gently and with concern. I grabbed Chrissie’s chair and started to roll her up front as Tochi’s people took Nanami and Misako along with Misako’s brother and Steve took Haruka over. When we arrived at the front, there was the press and cameras. Chrissie waved and attracted attention to herself before hugging her mother and turning back to deal with the press.
Chrissie gave a little speech thanking the officers and Sal for rescuing her and saying how happy she was to be with me again. I answered some questions about where I had been last night and today and how we knew where Chrissie was. I let Jacob off the hook more than a little bit, mostly because Ed had been with us and helping out as much as he could. If I could manage to shoot the colonel and pull Ed’s compulsions rather than having to shoot Ed, that would make me a very happy man. Josh and Noro had managed to discreetly come over and got in the car with us for the short little drive to the stables. When we arrived at the stables I got Chrissie out of the car as Josh wanted to know where Ed was. I was just glad that he hadn’t shown up for any of the little parties at the various pestholes and the Academy. We went inside the barn and Chrissie pulled me down and whispered, “How soon.”
I looked at my watch and said, “Any minute now.”
About the time that I finished saying that, the first stable doors were being unlocked. Followed by a huge rendition of the show by Scott and Lizzie, some fireworks and a huge construct Jacob show that ran through the cycle once and then dissolved. Along with a bunch of other gags going off. Chrissie had her hands in front of her face and was laughing herself silly as the newsreel cameras had caught all of it. She was finally able to stop, reached up, grabbed me and kissed me. Stephie came over and I had never seen her so happy as she hugged me. She was laughing so hard that she couldn’t even say anything as she turnd and hugged Chrissie.The only problem was that I couldn’t even really enjoy it as much as I wanted, thanks to Vinnie. No gag is worth somebody’s life.
Noro came over and asked me why I wasn’t happy about my great triumph and I told him how I felt about this and Vinnie Noro tried to cheer me up by pointing out that the Colonel probably would have gone after Vinnie anyway. That made me feel a little better, but the fact was that I had messed up and not made sure that there was somebody with Vinnie’s crew that could handle a Necromancer even though I already knew that the Colonel had had one. Well that was the last time that the Colonel was going to get any use out of this character. Helen was nudging us to dinner and as we were getting into the car, I made a quick trip over to the other car and retrieved my canvas sack. I had Bill put it in the trunk and after I got in the car, Josh asked me what it was. I told him a bit, but not everything. When we got to the Martin’s stone pile I had Bill get me the sack and handed it to Chrissie. She looked inside, but didn’t ask any questions. Bill and Hilda were waiting with Bill Jacobs and I took the sack from Chrissie and handed it to Bill. “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,” Hilda said. “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,” Noro 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 Bob found a tap on the sheriff office’s phone yesterday. 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, we only had a week 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,” I said. “I’ll sneak out if I sense the Necromancer. I want to deal with him discreetly.”
I didn’t catch Chrissie’s rather annoyed expression because as soon as I went through the door, I was mobbed by the rather disappointed Martin kids, who had missed all the fun at the stables and a troublshoot as well. Chrissie and I handled things fairly well, though the Academy shop was going to get a workout next week for at least three afternoons. I also told them to watch the back windows as something might happen tonight. That got me off the hook for the gags for the time being. As I managed to get Chrissie started toward the table she said, “We’ll have to come up with something for the Games. You know that. Something that all the kids can help with.”
“More kids than you know. Father sent most of the farm kids over to Doug’s, so it’s going to be Doug’s family, my family and the Martin’s plus everybody they tell. I hope that the shop at the Academy is large.”
“It is. There is also a gym next door. We have a spot reserved at the pool after dinner and you, sir are going to have a nice session with me before we go back to the farm. I’ve already talked with your mother and we have the pool tonight. Since you don’t have to work tomorrow, expect to be fully distracted.”
As we found our places, I 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 into 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.”
My friends and family knew me too well as they started to laugh at me. Of course Chrissie didn’t hesitate to set me straight. “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?” Noro 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 himself.”
“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?” Noro asked.
“Between, you, 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,” I 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.”
I 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. The Colonel may even get what he wants, he’ll think. 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.”
We were interrupted as the Committee picked the time to embarrass the hell out of me. George Dewey gave me the first gold medal for getting the water issue resolved, the chief made me a warrior and honorary chief in the tribe with headdress to match and the mayor gave me the key to the city. All that for one phone call?
Then it was Josh’s turn for embarrassment as he got his share of the awards. When the speeche were over, Antonio served dinner and we ate. Chrissie wouldn’t let go of me and wanted to know everything that I had done while she was down in New York and in the Academy. I told her about my trips to the plants and signing books as well as the ongoing classes in the shop. I also told her about my trip to Doug’s who she wanted to meet. She turned to her grandfather and said, “I hope you made an offer if Doug needs us. We don’t have a Creator.”
“I did,” Noro said. “Doug is staying put. Of course the Colonel is trying to move Doug without giving him any choices. The Masters managed to lose all the Creators except what the Colonel has in his domain. That is why the colonel is here.”
“Not the book and Gretchen?”
“Not entirely. His relatives want to ensure that he is stopped. His son in law, who just happens to be Hilda’s brother, is here tonight. Eric is keeping him company. You can meet him tomorrow.”
“I want to. Has he met Andy yet?”
“Not yet. That’s going to be fun.”
Dinner was about over and I sensed something that I had sensed before, with it’s touch of the stench of death. The Necromancer was here. The noisemakers started to go of as I turned to Chrissie and said, “I’ll be right back, there is something that I need to take care of.”
I walked out to the front entrance where, Bill, Bob and Scott were waiting. Bill pulled the quiet carbine out of the bag, handed it to me and said, “You smelled him, didn’t you. He’s over there, near the road. The werewolves tripped off the noisemakers in back and Bill has deputies at the bottom of the hill. All the deputies here have been through my training course and half of them come from Boris. Stephie and Hilda are backing them up, but they shouldn’t need to do any shooting. So let’s get this character before he Turns somebody.”
I checked the chamber and we spread out. I think that the Necromancer was trying to be invisible for his hunt, but that just made him more obvious to us. We slowly surrounded him and closed in. He spotted me and went still until I said, “That’s pointless. There really isn’t anything you can do or go, at this point. And unlike my friends who you took yesterday, we are all immune, so maybe you have something to tell us. About the Colonel maybe. I would really like to know where he is, right now.”
That did it and he Changed. I aimed, took a shot and the thing started to dissolve. Bill looked at him and said, “He didn’t want to talk about the Colonel. Well that was stupid. If he really had something on the Colonel we might have let him live, on that island of yours, this month, without water. Oh, well, That’s that. We’ll clean this up in the morning, let’s see what’s happening in back.”
As we walked back toward the house I handed the gun to Bill again and said, “Now I face the music. I’ll keep you all out of it.”
“Thank you for that. I suspect that there is a side to Chrissie that we haven’t seen yet and I imagine that it’s just like everything else with her.”
“I expect that I will be finding out all too soon.”
That turned out to be the case as I sat and trying to make light of things, said, “Well there’s one dealt with. Now it’s just the big bad wolf.”
Chrissie proceeded to tear me up one side and down the other about the risk that I had taken and the other risks that I had been taking. We explained about Puppet Tom and what steps we had taken for the meeting. Fortunately Josh managed to distract Chrissie a bit with Gunther and the Colonel’s Creator. Chrissie managed to get back on track when the Captain came up and finished with asking how many times I was Changing. Fortunately the tank bed saved me as she dragged me off to the Academy for a session. The plan was that we would have session in the pool, go over to Doug’s to check on the kids and then go back to the farm. We got into the car and Bill drove us over to the Academy where there were more kids than we had planned on. Not only were the residents still there, but Tony had talked to Helen about some school busses, pulled all the kids out from Doug’s and brought them to the Academy so that he and the bureau could watch all the kids. As for the pool, Andy and Trillia were using it to give a show to the happy crowd. When I rolled Chrissie in, she was immediately mobbed and since it looked like she was going to be a while, I decided to check out the shop When I looked in, there was a young man working on what looked like a very strange gun. He looked at me nervously and said, “Hi, I’m Joey. I’ll get out of your way.”
“I’m Tom and you stay right there. What are you working on?”
“It’s for Chrissie. It’s a water tube gun. I wanted to finish it up before she went away”
“A water tube gun? Let me see. I never thought to make one of those.”
He handed it to me and while the workmanship was crude, the ideas were solid And I liked how he was thinking. I turned to him and said, “You need to work on your skills a bit, but the ideas are solid. How about we work together and I’ll show you some tricks and how to do things a bit better while we shiny this up for my wife.”
He smiled and we got started. The thing didn’t need a lot of work and I showed him how some work with a sander would cover a lot of sins. As we were finishing up, he said, “I wouldn’t think that you would make any mistakes.”
“I make them all the time. Sometimes big ones that get my friends killed and sometimes little ones on stuff like this. The only thing you can do is get up again, admit you made a mistake and go on. As for what other people do, especially to kids like you, that was not your fault. The best thing you can do is be better than they were and spit in their eye.”
“I wish that Chrissie wasn’t going away.”
“I’m not going anywhere soon,” Chrissie said. “I wondered where my husband had got to. As for me going away, I’ll be here most of next week, you kids are going to a real school with wonderful teachers and people who will make sure that visitors can’t do the things they do and I will be sure to visit frequently.”
Joey handed her the gun and said, “This is for you.”
“Tom helped with this, didn’t he.” She looked at it. “A water tube gun. Have you two tested it yet?”
“Not yet.”
“Then let’s take it out back and test it. Our range tyrant will make sure that we don’t take risks.”
The whole bunch of us, including Andy and Tony went out back and ran some water tubes though the gun. As we were trying the gun out, Stephie showed up, took a look at it and said, “That’s interesting. Tom, I wanted to let you know that Katherine has been taken. Boris is on it already, father and mother are already on their way and I’m going right over after catching up with you. Hilda and Bill are already on their way over”
“What happened?”
“Katherine took ‘Nia and rode up to Hilda and Bill’s camp again. The farm heard some shots, ‘Nia showed up lathered a bit later and when some of the cousins got to the camp there were two naked bodies, Katherine’s rifle and some fired cartridges. Bori’s deputies and the family are chasing werewolves up and down the hill. They aren’t lasting very long.”
“How many werewolves.”
“Boris said thirty so far. They were probably setting up to hit the farm as part of the general distraction and when things blew up in their face, started to run. Between the family, the deputies, Steve’s people and our neighbors, their situation got hopeless very fast.”
“Ok, We’ll finish up here and after dropping in at Doug’s, head on over.”
“We can handle something like this. You stay with what you are doing. If you get the Colonel or even just keep him running around, we can act more quickly because we don’t have to worry about what he is up to.”
She left again and we went back to the testing. After a few more rounds it was getting late and Chrissie still wanted to make a quick drive by at Doug’s so we headed to the house that I had arranged with Al next to the bridge. Chrissie brought her Krag as well as the water tube gun, just in case the Colonel showed up. We crossed the bridge and pulled into the house and Bill parked the car next to a rather eclectic bunch of vehicles including my truck. Joe came up out of the darkness and said, “They hit Doug’s earlier and bounced. Chrissie why don’t you join Aunt Nera in the water while Tom does a sweep at the house.”
“Ok, do you have some way to tie my guns together. Just in case the Colonel shows up. I want him shot if I can get a shot.”
Joe found a rig that Steve’s people had for handling guns and I rolled Chrissie to the dock as she unzipped her dress. As she got ready to get into the water she said, “Are you sure that you don’t want to Swim?”
“Maybe in a bit. I’ve already seen the house from the water and I want to get a look from the land and check for the self destruct.”
Nera popped up and said, “Hi Chrissie. Why did you bring those?”
“In case the colonel shows up.”
“He hasn’t been here today at all. On the other hand his first attempt sort of bounced. Let’s go.”
Chrissie leapt into the water and she and her aunt disappeared under the ice. Joe turned to me and looked at me curiously, “Why didn’t you go with them?”
“Because your father and grandfather are probably right behind us with Hilda’s brother and my niece was taken tonight. If I’m in Change and underwater while they are looking for me, that might slow something down that we don’t want to be slowed down.”
“You do know that Chrissie is going to have you in the pool tonight, probably.”
“She’s already tried. Andy and Trillia beat her to it. We do have the pool at the farm. I think that I will book a trip to the Cape for us on Wednesday and coming back Friday for the opening ceremonies on Saturday.”
“Be prepared for Helen and her kids. Stacey says that they are up to something. The kids have been at Altris and Ilutra for every picture of Chrissie that they have. They’ve also been at Aunt Nera’s office, so they have a lot of pictures by now. So be prepared to be surprised.”
“I imagine that Helen and the kids were not happy that Chrissie was taken like that. Is my jacket still in my truck?”
“Yes. I think that you want to take a peek, before my father shows up, so let’s get going.”
We grabbed my jacket and poked our way through the woods. A patch of woods that seemed to have quite a few men in white ponchos in it. As we approached the house, Steve came over and said, “They’re setting up for another attack. I slipped inside and they are arguing with their Creator over constructs. Apparently they had planned on having constructs and they haven’t been able to find any jars. The Creator here doesn’t have any access to kids and didn’t bring any jars. Bit of a slipup on their part.”
“Do they have a self destruct?”
“They did. Linda took care of it already.”
“We have some extra noisemakers. Why don’t we set them on the ice while they are distracted.”
Steve and Joe grinned at that and with Stelios and his people’s help, we quickly and discreetly got them set up facing the house from the woods and along the shore. When were done, we waved to Nera and Chrissie and returned to the woods to wait.
As we were waiting we sensed Josh and Noro drive by, heading for the bridge and Steve said, “Let’s go collect those two and find out what they are up to.”
Steve and Joe talked to some of Steve’s people and the marines as I headed back to our base. I walked up as Bill parked the car and Josh and Noro, along with Gunther got out of the car. Chrissie and Nera must have sensed Josh and the rest because I could sense that they were heading back to the dock from the house. We talked a bit and then Josh, Noro and I went over to get Chrissie and Nera.
We collected them and Steve and Joe caught up with us. Nera talked to Steve a bit about training his people better. She had not been impressed with the people here and how they reacted to the noisemakers. As she was talking to Steve, who looked rather concerned, Al and Eltra popped up. Al said, “They seem to be getting ready, So it’s time to set up.”
“What do you need from me and Gunther?” Josh asked.
“Go with Steve and Joe. They know the plan already. They have been discreetly inside once already and have the marines watching the place and ready to go.”
He slid back in the water with Eltra and Steve said to Noro and Josh, “I know that both of you are good at being discreet. Still, I don’t know about Gunther, so all three of you stay back until we go in. Tom will as well. I have people in the water with Al and Stelios and Lieutenant Kowalski has his people hidden out front and covering the road.
Tom has set up some distractions on the ice and when they hit Doug’s again, things are going to get funny here. There will also be a truck that accidently blocks the road right after they leave. The road in the other direction will be blocked by a sheriff’s car. You three, and Tom’s job are to pull the compulsions on the support staff and convince them to stay at the house until the main body is long gone. If that is not possible, to get them to the car and over to the Academy as soon as possible.”
The actual raid went well and I didn’t have much to do until Linda came down and asked me to check the self destruct, which was just like the others and we left it to deal with at another time with it’s plug pulled. Josh and Noro had taken charge of the Colonel’s people and I went back to the car and Chrissie. “So what do you want to do next?”
“Go to the farm, as fast as possible. I’m worried a bit about Katherine.”
“We’ll take my truck. This late and moving fast, we won’t need security anyway.”
“That won’t matter because I’m riding rifle.”
“Isn’t that shotgun?”
“Nobody’s getting that close to you, buster.”
Mera was laughing at us as Chrissie collected her guns, I handed her the canvas sack and after putting her in the truck, collected the keys from Joe and we were off. She looked into the sack and pulled out the gun inside. “You’ve been carrying this sack all day today. What’s special about this gun.”
“It’s very discreet.”
“Like Stephie’s or Hilda’s?”
“Better. Back when I was in Washington I had a bet going with some friends in the Secret Service that I couldn’t fire a .45 ACP in a room and have nobody notice. This was right after silencers started to be marketed and the claims were rather ridiculous. Still a bet is a bet and so I built the first version of that. That’s the fourth try you are holding. I lost the bet, but the Secret Service ordered ten more for Presidential protection and other things.”
“Since the Coolidges are friends, that’s a good thing.”
“I thought so. But we want to keep that gun a secret, so we’ll just put it away when we get back to the farm.”
“Do you want to bring it home?”
“I don’t think so. I’m not going to be in the habit of shooting people in crowded spaces and Al and Boris have gotten more use out if it than I have. Al will probably want me to make a couple for his office at some point. But we can deal with that at home.”
She put the gun back in the bag. “If the Colonel shows up, we don’t want to be discreet about shooting him.”
“You don’t like the Colonel at all.”
“You didn’t have to talk with him. I did. Then there’s the fact that I cared more about his men than he did. He just left them at the Academy to get shot. His captain didn’t take any steps for security and before taking us hostage didn’t even check the building for weapons and potential hazards to his men. There were gun lockers that were full of rifles, a large shop and materials. I didn’t find any explosives, but Bill probably has some dynamite around for stumps and things.
The colonel didn’t brief the men on who was who, about you, your father, Boris, Ed, Bill Jacobs and his family, or anything else. The lieutenant barely knew that he was in America, let alone where the nearest National Guard base was, what they had for weapons or who might be poking around. That was inexcusable.”
“Steve was annoyed at that as well. We set up the field telephone at the blind and the werewolves didn’t even know that we were doing it.”
“I tried to make them better adversaries. But the Colonel pushed his nose in and went all Prussian on the boys. Then he sends them over to the dinner. That was just stupid. He’s had time to collect all sorts of information and he hits a place that we knew might be hit with unarmed werewolves. So they ended up right in front of Bill and what happened was inevitable.”
“Well I learn from my mistakes.”
“You better, buster. Now that you are mine, you better take care of yourself. When we get to the office on Monday, you better believe that I will be talking to Lacey about that.”
“I want to take a trip to the Cape Wendesday.”
“We should do that. We’ll take Misako and Nanami if we can. We can come back in time for the Games.”
We made plans for the rest of the week as I tore through the night toward the ferry. The ferry was waiting and left just as I got on. I got out and waved and there was a toot . As soon as the ferry reached the other side of the lake, we were off again as I tore down the familiar roads at speeds that I hadn’t driven since I had left for the Cape. Every sheriff’s car that we saw waved us past and we reached the farm in record time. But when the got there, the activity seemed to be fairly quiet and when I rolled Chrissie inside, there was Katherine with her parents, telling her story. Apparently they let her go in exchange for destroying the record. Having heard the record, I understood perfectly. Chrissie hugged Greta and said, “Tom and I are going to the pool now. Stephie, if you come and get us in the morning, you will be sorry. Think whale sorry. Think being wet for a week sorry. I’m taking Tom to the pool and locking the door. Since he doesn’t have to go to work tomorrow, you may not see us. Knock if you bring breakfast.” She turned to me and said, “Pool buster, now.”
Everybody was laughing as I rolled her to the pool, closed the door and locked it. I put the key on it’s hook as Chrissie splashed into the pool popped up again and said, “Well, what are you waiting for. Get in here.”
With her frowning at me, I quickly undressed and sat beside the pool to Change. “You can Change in the water!”
She dragged me in the water and things were rather fuzzy until we both fell asleep, exhausted.

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