Mermaid, Chapter 29, Part 1.

The Colonel uses Ed as a game piece. Will constructs be a big enough distraction or will Bob and Scott just deal with them to give the kids some entertainment. Fun and games in Burlington VT.

Chapter 29.

Tom.

Sunday, 1/31, 1932.

I woke up in a fuzz. Of course I was drifting on the bottom of the pool, still firmly attached to Chrisse. As I started to move my pelvic fins to detach, Chrissie woke up and started to kiss me and things went on from there. About the time we finished our session, there was a knock on the door and my sister said, “I can hear you splashing in there, so get up and get breakfast. Don’t bother Changing, Tom.”

We separated from each other at last and Chrissie said, “I think that we should get breakfast. Breakfast on the side of the pool would be wet and messy anyway.”

With that she leapt into the waiting wheelchair and put a dress on. I was not quite as agile, but I made it into the chair and reached for a blanket to keep myself from being too cold as I rolled over to the kitchen. Stephie was saying to Chrissie as I went through the door, “You’ll have to make your own flapjacks. The sausage is in the oven, the orange juice is squeezed and in the ice box and the coffee is on the stove. I need to get my kids to church. We will be back for lunch and want to hear all about your adventures.”

“Why didn’t you want me to Change, sis?” I was a bit curious about that.

“I don’t think that Chrissie wants you wandering around too much this morning and if you have a tail, you can’t.” “You’re right about that, Stephie.”

“Well I need to get my girl and my bear off to church, so I will see you two later.”

She left and Chrissie started in on the first batch of flapjacks. As she was doing them, she said, “You make the next batch and then we both work on the cleanup and washing the dishes. Go and get the orange juice.”

I rolled over to the icebox, found the pitcher of orange juice and poured two glasses and put the pitcher back in the icebox. Then I found a kitchen rag and scooted around Chrissie to get the sausages out of the oven and put them on the table. By that point Chrissie had the first batch of flapjacks done and we started in.

When we were done, I started the second batch and Josh rolled Mera in. I turned to them and said, “Do you want breakfast?”

“No, we had breakfast already. So why are you still in Change?”

“Stephie’s idea. She doesn’t want me running away from Chrissie today and Chrissie won’t let me, at least not this morning.”

I finished the flapjacks and put them on the table and Chrissie started in on them. I joined her and Josh rolled Mera over and sat down. “Well, we want to hear about your adventures, Chrissie, both those up here and in New York.”

“Ok, I’ll start with New York.”

She told us about her adventures in New York, The visits to the various places, going shopping with the ladies and the events. We all had a laugh over Suki and the Statue of Liberty. She also told us about how Steve tried to prevent the Colonel from taking the ladies and how he had started to look into the Colonel once Theresa told him about him. When she was finished, Josh said, “He should have called me once the War Department started to give him the run around. I didn’t realize that he wasn’t getting what he needed and I would have made some calls. Especially when we had a better handle on things up here and were on the wrong track.”

“My boss was responsible for that and it was a mistake.” Hank and Leo had just walked in. The smell of the flapjacks must have attracted them as they dove in when I set the plate on the table. I turned to Chrissie and said, Chrissie, “This Colonel Henry Decker, Army intelligence and Commander Leo LaFarge, USN, my old adversaries in Washington.”

“We’re pleased to meet you at last. You have made some Changes in Tom’s life,” Leo said.

“I hope so,” Chrissie said. He has been a trial sometimes. More than a bit of a thickhead too.” They laughed as they spread the butter and poured the syrup.

I started another batch. Fortunately there was plenty of batter still in the bowl. Mother must have thought that we would have an appetite. Hank continued. “We weren’t sure that the Colonel was here, we were tied up in other things and couldn’t send somebody up to look around. We also had hints in Pennsylvania, but the bureau was tied up with your thing and the backsplash from Philadelphia and we didn’t have any fae to send and figure out if something was up. The fact is that we should have given Steve a better brief about what we knew and the things we knew about up here, including what we knew about Ed. That wasn’t the sort of thing that you can send throught the mail, the young lady’s party took us by surprise and we didn’t know that Agent Wendell, Hilda and Major MacDougal had already been looking around. The general should have sent me up to talk to you, Tom and get a feel for what was going on.”

“At that point we didn’t have anything either,” Josh said. “We could sense that there was something ugly and the dark was laying hints, but that was the Academy and it’s consequences. Of course you missed Tom’s daily Jacobs.”

“Those alone would have made it worth coming up for, wouldn’t they, Leo. We haven’t had any real exposure, though he does have a reputation, but from what Tochi has been telling us, the man is truly cursed.”

“When I laid the ground rules for taking over the games, I made two big ones. The first is that the vendors would get paid, the second was that Jacob would be nowhere near the jobsites, the company offices or anywhere near any activity involving the Games including the committee offices. Yet there he was, screaming at Tom after Tom had just called the White House.” “Miss Vicky, probably.” “Yes,” I said, smiling. “I was telling her about Chrissie, apologizing for not telling her earlier and delicately negotiating the water situation which made Jacob standing there rather an annoyance. I was afraid that Josh would show up, start things off and ruin everything, so I had Bob and Scott throw Jacob out of the building.”

I put the done flapjacks on the plate that Chrissie was holding and Chrissie looked around and said, “This should be enough. I don’t want Tom overstuffed and we have a date with the pool again before we start on the day.”

I turned off the stove and took the coffee pot over to the table.

“That explains the tail,” Leo said. “You weren’t ready to let him up yet.”

“Breakfast in the pool wouldn’t work so well unless it was crab or clams, but I don’t want Tom just running off. It was Stephie’s idea anyway.”

“Well, Tom, Hank and I want to thank you for the bounty you gave us this weekend. The diary and the rest of it.”

“I haven’t had a chance to really look at the diary, let alone the rest of it,” I said. “Is it really that good?”

‘Very much so. The army lost a real talent when Brad was killed. I wish that I had known about him when he was drafted. We could have used his talents. He wasn’t in the middle, but he was able to put an amazing picture of what the Colonel and the other Masters were doing and the consequences of what they were doing. We can go over it this afternoon.”

You didn’t happen to have copies made of the diary, did you ?”

“Yesterday. Eric took care of it through some of your cousins. He had several copies made of everything, including the material that Gunther brought.”

“Good, because I don’t think that the Colonel will just give up and go away with the people he’s taken. He wants the diary and the rest of it and he wants Gretchen.”

We finished breakfast and Chrissie and I went over to the sink and rinsed the dishes off. Noro came in with Mary and said, “Theresa, Gretchen and her mother are coming up. Eli is going to pick them up.”

“I hope that doesn’t create problems,” I said.

“It might for the Colonel,” Josh said. “Noro and I were talking with Stephie and Ginny yesterday and they seemed to think that in a conflict with the Colonel the kids would make his life hell and that Gretchen could handle herself just fine. Gretchen also knows that her father is here. On the other hand the Colonel will not know that Gretchen is here, let alone that her mother is.” “I want to know more about this Hitler character,” Noro said. “Gunther and the others seemed to be far more frightened of him than they were of the Masters.”

“That’s justified,” Leo said. “I was there for one of his speeches and it wasn’t so much the crazy things that he was saying, but how he was able to soak people up into the craziness.” ‘Gunther said he was a toy of one of the Masters.”

“A very dangerous toy who could take all of Europe right back into war. I’ll send his little book to you. The problem is that we expect that the country will be drawn in whether we like it or not. Also the war will be costly and there may not be much left of Europe after it’s over. The last one was bad enough.”

“Won’t France be able to stop him? Germany doesn’t have a real army.” “The Germans have been playing games with the Russians and others to get ready for the next war, which is just stupid on both their parts, but the Masters probably are behind that. So both countries are experimenting with tractors and mutual defense and assistance treaties. France is relying on the ability to blockade and starve Germany while fighting the last war, better. But Hitler and the Russian character have a lot of friends in France.”

We were finished with the dishes and Chrissie rolled over to her mother, kissed her and said, “Tom, come with me. We will be back in about an hour or so. Tom and I need to talk in the pool.”

They all laughed as I followed Chrissie to the pool and closed the door. She had already leapt into the water and popped up. “Get in here!”

“Not that I’m complaining, but why so eager?”

“Because you need to be distracted! Get in here.”

I bowed to wisdom and flipped into the water. Chrissie grabbed me and almost immediately our bodies were clamped together again and I responded. If we hadn’t been at the bottom of the pool I think that Chrissie’s screams of joy would have been heard at the Academy. Once it was over we separated and relaxed. I turned to Chrissie and said, “That was a distraction, all right.”

“You could have died. I missed you so much, stuck there in the Academy.”

“I was right outside a good bit of the time. I missed you too, frankly, even though I knew you were coming up. I just never expected you to come up the way you did”

“That horrible truck. Like a thousand skillets. I hope that the Colonel didn’t do something terrible to the drivers.”

“They were killed and the truck dropped off a cliff. That was stupid, because the truck was seen being pushed off the cliff and called into Bill. Frankly, this whole thing has been sloppy. If we hadn’t already been looking at the Academy, we would be, simply because there weren’t that many places where they could keep you alive.”

Father knocked on the door. “Tom, Chrissie, I’m sorry to interrupt, but we just got a telegram from the Colonel. He wants to meet with you, Tom, to discuss the diary.”

“I think that I need to release my Change for this.”

“I think that you are right, even though you meeting the Colonel in Change might be funny.”

I dragged myself out of the pool and Changed. Chrissie leapt into her chair as I started to get dressed and slipped her dress back on. She turned to me and said, “Let me tie your tie.”

“Ok, you aren’t going to let me out of suits, are you?”

“Only on the island, where you won’t be wearing anything.”

I was doomed. I resolved myself to the inevitable and let my wife tie my tie and put the suit jacket on before rolling Chrissie out. Father was waiting and as we went toward the living room, handed me the telegram. I read it and handed it to Chrissie. She read the telegram and said, “He has Ed?”

“I suspect that that was why Ed never showed when we took the Academy out. The Colonel went for the one thing that Gretchen was sure to respond to.”

“He won’t like what he get, if he toys around with Gretchen,” Father said. “She likes to play with Stephie and Hilda.”

“With guns?”

“Yes. For that matter, Bruce is no slouch either. He, Jimmy and Andy spend a fair amount of time in the woods during the summer. They aren’t shy about hunting Hilda and Bill. Athena too, for that matter. So the Colonel may get a surprise when he meets with his daughter.”

We went into the living room, where a there was a crowd. Father took the telegram and handed it around. Bob said, “George’s? Is he kidding?”

“I suspect that it was convenient and he didn’t understand the ramifications,” Father said.

“Do you want Scott and I as bus boys?”

“No. I want you outside. I will be right back.”

He left and came back with his gun cleaning kit and the pistol that I had made for him a long time ago. It was one of my first and he rarely used it. I had made the pistol for him as a Christmas present even before Brad had returned. He never took it out, unless things were serious. Larry and I had made two others for him over the years as everyday guns, but this was special. He started to dismassemble the pistol for cleaning as Eli and Theresa came in with Gretchen, Gunther and a woman that I didn’t know, but must be Gretchen’s mother. Gretchen looked at Chrissie and I and cried, “What happened to Ed?”

“We don’t know,” I said. He never appeared at the Academy or at any of the other things we did. Nor did he show up when your father took Doug’s community.”

“Father took Doug? How did that happen?”

“He thinks that he did,” Josh said, smiling. “Tom and Doug came up with the idea of making glamor dummies that were very lifelike. So the Colonel’s people took them, sleeping away.”

Gretchen turned to her mother and said, “See mother? This is what father was dealing with. Where are Bruce and the other troublemakers?”

“At the Academy for a massive sleepover,” Stephie said. “Along with most of our kids, Doug’s kids, the Academy residents and maybe Martin kids by this point. All of whom are in the shop by now, making trouble for their Uncle Tom, if what Tony said when he called was correct. Those that weren’t down at the range practicing, that is. Tony is bringing our lot and the Academy bunch over here later so that he can take the Academy kids, Bruce, Andy, Trillia and Gregor back down with him. Mary is going with him along with some other bureau people to keep an eye on things. He’s planning to leave on the evening train for New York. He figures that Tom and Chrissie can handle the kids this afternoon.”

Gretchen introduced her mother around and Adelheid struck up a conversation with Mera almost immediately. I handed the telegram to Gretchen and said, “I think that your father took Ed. Ed never showed up for any of the things we had going on yesterday at the pestholes, the Academy or Doug’s. I would have thought that his compulsions would have forced him to protect the Academy, though by the time that anybody at the Academy knew that there was a threat, it was over and we cut the phones before we went in.”

“Along with all your games,” Chrissie said. “I know that you were protecting me and that you were planning to deal with the werewolves, but you went overboard. After we finsh with the Games tomorrow we are going over there and you will go through with Bill and Dan and pull everything you did. Then you will hand everything over to Leo and Hank so that they can send it overseas and use it there.”

“We can’t do that, Chrissie,” Leo said. “We have a gentleman’s agreement not to use any of Tom’s things for the games we play.” “I want some of them anyway, Chrissie,” Stephie said. ‘Now that I have seen what they do, I agree with you that Tom went over the top yesterday.”

“Ok, Well we can stash the rest back in the barn until the kids need the parts and take them apart.”

I hoped that I never needed those things again. On the other hand, I had the drawings and could make new ones if I needed to. Father said, “I think that we should have a talk with the Colonel. I will call George and see if we can make sure that the place is empty for the meeting at two o’clock. Boris, you will have extra people on hand. Bill and Hilda are already on their way with all of Steve’s people. Al, Eltra and their people are already here. Helmut, Mike, Nera, Steve and Haruka are coming ahead of Tony and they expect to be here about one o’clock as well. I have already talked to my brothers and my sister’s husbands at church today about the possibility of a hunt. I am willing to make a deal with the Colonel. If he frees Edward, I will give him one hour to get out of my county. At the end of that hour, I will deal with the Colonel. If he does not free Edward or unleashes the monster in the restaurant, the hunt starts then and there. Tom, as far as I am concerned, the Colonel can have the diary and the documents.” “Father, I am good with that, as well. The copies, that is. The diary itself belongs to Hilda and the family. I will also add that if the Colonel does not release Edward then I personally will take steps to ensure that the entire file that I have of the Colonel goes to every embassy in Washington.”

“If the Colonel does not release Ed, I will put the word out that the Colonel kidnapped me and the other ladies,” Chrissie said. “Father, you will tell all our friends that.”

Josh winced bit, but didn’t say anything. I wondered just what is was that I had married and that was after I knew a bunch of connected guys. Chrissie had more to say. “I warned the man, so it’s not as if he doesn’t know. I told him what could happen if he killed me or my friends. Ed is a friend and the Colonels’ son in law. Treating him like that is inexcusable. As for kidnapping me and the other ladies, that was just stupid.”

My wife apparently really did not like the Colonel. Father turned to the boys and said, “Make sure that you bring the construct handling kit from your shows. Use Tom’s truck.” “Why, grandfather. We aren’t planning to launch any constructs.”

“You aren’t, but the Colonel likes them and he may have some jars, even though we took his Creator. Or he have obtained some from his raids. In fact I would be surprised if he hadn’t. So be ready to intercept and redirect any that he may have.”

Bob smiled. “We can do that. Unless they are covered by guys shooting and he’s not likely to bring a bunch of guys into town without us noticing, we can snatch any constructs he has. We’ll run them down to the lumberyard South of town and start them in a circle. We might even arrange to get them shot.” “Don’t take chances. I don’t want you boys hurt because of a construct.”

“Grandfather, there is probably no one in the country with more experience in handling constructs. We’ve had them go off path and had to divert them and know how to handle things like that. The people who launch them may have done it once or twice before. Scott and I have done it hundreds of times, including our fair share of mistakes. We know what we are doing and that will keep the risk as low as possible. If they do launch constructs, we can handle them.”

They left and Sal rolled Sillia in. “Everybody seemed to be here, so Sillia and I wanted to know what was happening with the Colonel. Mike and Nera are right behind me.”

Gretchen handed him the telegram. “Father wants to play games with my husband as the toy. I can understand my husband wanting to commit suicide by Tom, but I will not stand for my father using him as a bargaining chip. Eric, make your deal. My father may try something, but as far as I’m concerned, he either frees Edward or I free Edward by killing my father.”

“That is a bit extreme, dear,” mother said. “I’m sure that Tom, Bill or Boris can deal with the man appropriately. In any case, the man WILL be dealt with one way or another. A lady should not feel that she should need to shoot somebody unless it is in self defense, my daughters notwithstanding.”

Stephie winced a bit at that. Steve rolled Haruka in, followed by Tochi and Umijiro with the two ningyo. “We were wondering what lunch plans were,” Steve said. Since just about everybody was here, we came over.”

Sal handed Steve the telegram. “We are going to George’s for steaks at two. The Colonel is going to be there.”

“Well, good. I want to have a rather sharp discussion with the man and the appropriate behavior toward my bonded and the other ladies. For that matter, Haruka wants to talk to the man as well.” “We all do,” Namami said. “He kidnapped us all to make a scene and take advantage of us being in public and having a good time, while we were representing our bower and country here. He also attempted to cause strife between the prince and his friends and hurt the country. Tochi sama, I think that we ladies would like steak for lunch. Chrissie, you did say that the steak was very good there.”

“Aren’t you afraid of what the Colonel might bring?” Tochi asked.

“We’ve seen the caliber and quality of the people that he attracts to himself,” Misako said. “He may have somebody of ability working for him, but that is only by accident. The others will be like those poor werewolves, sacrifices.

A man can be judged by the quality of the people he attracts and how he develops those people. My father would never treat his people the way this man does. Nor would he let his samurai be so ill trained and unprepared. Yet all I saw last night was the kind of incompetence that only comes from neglect.”

“They were not totally incompetent,” Father said. “They did manage to achieve the Colonel’s main goals, at least initially. You are correct about the caliber of people that we have seen and what they did. We had a werewolf attack that was totally unprepared for the fact that things might explode in their face and go wrong. At least the man in charge pulled his people people before they were all captured or killed. Still he lost a lot of people when the hunt lit off right in front of his people. His people should have been more alert to what we were doing.”

“My father says that every man is a treasure and victory is not measure in how many you send out, but how many come back. The Colonel doesn’t seem to care how many of his people come back.”

Mike and Nera came in with Roger and Helmut and immediately Nera got together with Steve, Al and Boris and came up with a dance plan. Well, that was what she called it. We all had a part to play and while Tochi, the nignyo, Umijiro, Gretchen and Adleheid were going to be at George’s, Noro and Mera insisted that Josh have his lunch at the inn with her. Father insisted that George, Diana, Mary and Roger keep them company. They were all rather put out by that, but I could see the point. Adelheid insisted that Gunther have lunch at the inn as well.

The inn and the approaches to town were covered by family members and by the time we added Bob Vicker’s people to the mix, the biggest problem was going to be hiding the fact that the city was covered by well armed men. As we were getting ready to leave, Joe handed me something that he had brought up from the Cape, but hadn’t handed to me before, the gun. “I think that this might be an appropriate occasion for this, don’t you?”

“Why didn’t you give this to me earlier?”

“I was going to, but we were all over the place and I wanted to hand it to you at the appropriate moment. This seemed like the time and Moira and I are going to be at the inn anyway.”

“You are?”

“Dad said that if he had to be there, at least one of his sons had to be there and Moira and I aren’t in the middle of this like Steve and Haruka are. So I will be having a talk with George about the wood finishing for the yacht, something I need to do anyway over lunch. Now that Chrissie is free, I need to get back to work.”

I was becoming a bit concerned that the inn was becoming a target, but the Admiral and his wife were there, with shore patrol and the staff he had on hand, Tochi had people there and Steve did as well. Also Boris had people looking for strange traffic.

I talked to Al and Bill for a bit and then Chrissie and I went to the workroom with Leo and made up the material for the Colonel and placed it in a carton. By that time it was one o’clock and time for those of us that hadn’t already gone to leave. Chrissie and I ended up in the car with Noro and Mary and I asked Noro, “Why did you insist that Josh stay at the inn.”

“Other than all the hits I would have taken from all sorts of people if I hadn’t? Josh is my heir and has my daughter as a wife, and kids. He shouldn’t be risking himself on things like this that are not a direct threat to the bower. Also, if something should happen to me, or you, Josh will make the Colonel’s short existence a living hell. Josh is able to bring in resources very quickly if the inn gets attacked and he will keep the rest safe. Not that the inn will be attacked.”

“The Colonel likes diversions.”

“Oh, I’m sure that he’s come up with something. But the problem is that the people he would need to get enough attention diverted to the inn to make it worthwhile were driven away last night and they can’t come back without being noticed, at least not in the time that the Colonel has. The Colonel also has to cover for the trucks that he has carrying the people he’s taken and he needs his people for that. So he doesn’t have the people that he needs to assault the inn in a position to assault the inn in the time frame that he needs. Especially since the phone calls made just before the Colonel’s taps all went dead this morning have people all over the place and nowhere near the inn. I think that the diversion will be close to the restaurant and like Eric is thinking, involve constructs. Something that Bob and Scott will deal with. Using constructs when they are around is just handing the constructs to them.”

“You seem very confident of that, grandfather,” Chrissie said.

“I heard the boys and what they said. A typical dark fae or somebody who wants to use a construct to assault somebody will use perhaps ten sets of attacks in a very long lifetime and perhaps twenty constructs. There were more than that during the shoot and the boys handled them without difficulties. Even in the ancient times of the fae wars before the normals had civilizations the construct masters never had to deal with more than ten each.” “The ancient wars?”

“Mera will tell you about them. She is the Lore Master for the bower now that her mother is gone. But there are tales of a very dark time long before the history that we know. Much of what we know from that time is gone, but the ancient wars were very bad. In any case, I doubt that the Colonel has enough constructs to give the boys very much trouble.”

“Shouldn’t the Colonel and the other Masters know about the ancient wars?”

“I am certain that they do. But they have let their fears make them forget. Thus the current mess.”

We arrived at George’s and as we were going inside, Boris came over and said, “Jeb Dolittle had four of his bulls stolen last night.”

Chrissie and the rest were mystified by that, so I explained. “Jeb is a cow breeder. He likes to have the best bulls and earn money by studding his bulls as well as selling cows. So he probably is screaming at the Sheriff’s office right now, looking for Hilda and some people. Jeb’s bull shed is near the road and I suspect that somebody was looking for material for constructs. Large strong constructs.”

Father and mother were sitting at a table and waved at us to sit with them. I set the carton down, rolled Chrissie to the table, unslung the shotgun and leaned it against the table. The place was actually rather full as George took our orders between the various family members, and other disreputables trying to hide in the corners. Especially the press table with Tim, Suzy, Doris and two other reporters, one of whom apparently knew Noro, as he switched tables. Just before the Colonel was due to arrive, Tim went outside with his large camera. Shortly thereafter the Colonel did arrive, with Ed, Jacob and- Helen. Mother had a huge frown when she saw that. As the Colonel sat down, she stood up and said, “Helen, why don’t we go and introduce you around. Tochi and the ladies are such interesting people.”

Before the Colonel could say a word, Mother and Helen were gone, heading toward Tochi’s table. Father said, “Colonel, I am Eric Benton and we have things to discuss. You wanted to meet with my son and I am taking advantage of the opportunity to discuss the circumstances under which you Turned my son Bradley.”

“What did Bradley tell you?” The colonel asked.

“Not enough. He told me what he had become and what would probably be necessary. He also told me that he had bonded and asked me to take her in, which Greta and I have been more than happy to do. Hilda has been a true daughter and Andy a true wonder. Bradley didn’t mention you or what had happened as he went across Europe. I only learned those things later, when certain people came to me and one of them bonded with my daughter. The Bear has been a truly great addition to the family and our community.

I am not sure what you and your associates were thinking when you sent the Director and his associates over to plague us. Especially after they had destroyed so much. Didn’t they see what they were doing? Then to take our best, using the war as an excuse. You took my, and many other’s sons and when you could not Turn them, killed them. When you did Turn them and afflict them, you sent them back to plague us even more.

In any case, I was left with a dead son, another one under stress because he had to kill the monster that his brother had become and a lot of questions. Questions that once I started to look, led to you. I’ve talked with a fair amount of people about you and built up quite a file in case I should ever need it.”

I was surprised by my father, but I suppose that I should not have been. I had learned a lot of how I did things at his elbow as a little boy before things had started to turn sour. He had always approached things as diligently as possible and right now I wondered how much of the job with the congressman was a result of Mike and how much was father. Considering who my father was, the congressman would certainly want to do father heavyweight constituent service in the case of something like my brother’s military record. Even take in a young man on his staff as a junior staffer.

“So you knew about me all along, yet did nothing apparently.” “Well, a bit more than nothing. I did not have the resources to send to Europe and deal with you, especially when so many have tried and failed. I have maintained contacts with as many as I can and developed new ones. I have also studied how you do things in case you came here. Now to business. You must want something.” “The diary and the documents attached. My daughter’s whereabouts.”

“What are you willing to pay for those things?”

“Not releasing Edward as a monster here in town.”

“That would not end well for him or for you. The diary and the rest is easy, Tom has copies made for some friends of his in that carton next to the door. As for your daughter’s whereabouts, I wouldn’t turn around if I were you.”

The sound of a 1911’s hammer being cocked is rather distinctive. Gretchen had just cocked one of mine. “Hello father. If you can’t tell, I am rather angry with you. Especially since you decided to use my husband and his family as hostages. If you should order Ed to release his affliction here in town so that Bill, Tom or Hilda has to shoot him, I would feel compelled to shoot you. I do want to tell you that I have been with Bill and discussed dealing with werewolves, among other things, in the past. So watch what you say and do not attempt to move quickly.”

The Colonel looked rather shocked by the turn of events. He was no longer in control and things were not going as he expected. Gretchen went on, “Mother is here with me, and she is not happy with the things that you did this weekend. In any case Eric has a deal for you.”

She slowly lowered the hammer on the pistol and returned it to her purse.

“So you have me,” The Colonel said. “What is the deal?”

“One hour.”

“What?”

“If you release all of Edward’s compulsions and any you have on Jacob and Helen, you have a one hour of me not hunting you. At the end of that hour, the hunt is on.”

“Why should I not ask for more?”

“Because if you don’t take the deal, you better have a very good way of being discreet and able to hide in my home territory. A territory where we have become very good at dealing with the Dark. If you believe that you can hide and deceive Bill, Boris and I from here, you are welcome to try. Bill doesn’t usually bounty hunt, but the bounty on your head will make him a rich man and he loves Hilda and Andy too much to tolerate somebody like you anywhere near. I suspect that the Director has told you about Bill somewhat. You must understand that he lost his bonded because she was Turned by a vampire and he had to kill her. Ever since, until Hilda and Andy showed up, he has lived for one thing and that is hunting monsters. Lately the hunts have been sort of lean here as the monsters wouldn’t come near the area unless they were commanded by the Manager. You are sneaky and Bill does like a sneaky monster.”

“There’s also another part of the deal,” I said. “If you somehow manage to survive after causing Ed’s death, I will personally deliver the entire file that I have on you, of which that carton is only a small part at this point, including several pictures of you, to every embassy in Washington. I imagine that that will put damper on your ability to operate in many countries.”

“Why should I believe that you will not do that in any case?”

“If I am not pressed, I will be too busy for the next few weeks and probably not able to put things together until April, when Chrissie and I will be visiting the Capitol. In any case, there is a lot of work that would have to be done personally to set up something like that. On the other hand, you have managed to annoy me considerably and make Chrissie’s life miserable for a week or so, along with frightening her.”

“From what I saw, not that miserable and she didn’t seem very frightened of me. A certain saw blade comes to mind.”

“A saw blade?”

“When I, or rather my Puppet, went to discuss your demise, she slung a saw blade at my neck and destroyed the Puppet.”

“Did you do that, Chrissie?”

Chrissie giggled a bit. “He had just killed you. Of course I was upset. It was only a Puppet anyway. I was trying to be convincing.”

“It was, at least for a bit,” The Colonel said. “I firmly believed that Tom had been killed, for a time. At least until my people said that no body had been discovered and things got so confused. That is another issue. I assume that the werewolves and the Necromancer had an accident at the Martin’s dinner last night, but my support people with the exception of the four ladies seem to have disappeared. At least they did not arrive at the rendezvous.”

“You would have to ask your wife about that,” Father said. “She is responsible for them, once the compulsions were cleared.”

“She’s here, isn’t she? My son in law as well, I suspect.”

“Well she is sitting next to your daughter behind you. As for your son in law, he is eating elsewhere and conducting some business with some people.”

Our lunches came and father said, “Why don’t we eat, the steaks here are excellent.”

As we ate, the Colonel said, “Hans was going on about merfolk in the lake Friday. How did that happen?”

“That was Andy and Trillia,” I said. “At least they are the ones that Hans must have sensed. The others would probably be a bit harder to sense. Trillia dragged Andy under using an amulet right after Christmas. After Chrissie was taken, they came up in the hopes that you would take Andy and Bruce hostage and put them on a ship.”

“A mermaid friend of mine gave Bruce one of the amulets and a tail arranged for an accident when they went on a fishing trip recently,” Gretchen said. “You actually saw them getting ready to leave.”

“So that was what I sensed, down there at the bower. A remarkable place. How did you know that I was there? If the construct had picked up on me, he certainly would have told everybody else of my presence.”

“A young reporter was taking pictures of the kids and took yours with the Director” I said. “He didn’t know who it was at the time. The picture did attract the attention of some old adversaries of mine.”

“If the picture was not how you discovered my presence, how did you? By the time Mr. Martin delivered the demands, you knew who I was.”

“The Canadians took your picture and when the werewolves started to eat people, the Canadians sent the picture to Boston where an old adversary of yours spotted you.”

“At a guess, since there were very few people from your side who knew what I look like, it must be Major MacDougal. Another man I have unfinished business with.”

“Well he is outside with a bunch of friends and coworkers waiting to play with you. Which is another reason to take father’s offer. He married Chrissie’s aunt. You really should have paid closer attention to the news. My mother in law went for a joint wedding.”

As we were finishing lunch, Brian came in and whispered in father’s ear. He turned to the Colonel and said, “You apparently have a little show for us as a diversion. With constructs. Some of your people stole some bulls last night and you probably expected to create a bit of chaos on the street. Constructs are not the best way to do that here, except to provide some amusement for the children. The children that just coincidently arrived on the ferry. Well, some of them did. There are probably others that ran home for their guns when they saw Bob and Scott. Why don’t we go outside and see the show?”

Father ushered the Colonel out as I picked up the shotgun and rolled Chrissie outside. Most of the rest were already outside as we went outside. As we were leaving, father said to the Colonel, “Where is your car? I think that you will want the carton and I don’t think that you will want to be walking around with it when you are in a hurry.”

The Colonel pointed at his car seemingly in a daze and father turned to Brian and said, “put that carton in the man’s car, Brian. He may be in a hurry in a bit.”

Brian put the carton in the car as Dan walked up. He had a shotgun over his shoulder and said to father, “Bob talked to Joe Edwards and we’re using the lumber yard as the place where we deal with the constructs. Tony has taken the kids to the shed so that they can shoot with the lake as a backstop. Whoever taught the people launching constructs went big into the exotic and they are taking their time with the launch points. The bulls haven’t shown up yet. We think that they are planning to launch them straight down King St. Bob is going to net them and divert them down Champlain St and into the lumber yard.”

We could see Bob setting something up in the street with some deputies rerouting traffic. The reporter that I had talked to before came over and said to Eric, “The boys doing a show?”

“No, somebody else is launching constructs and Boris wanted the boys to handle them. Things should be starting up. Chrissie, let’s get your grandfather to take you down the street with the other ladies. I imagine that you will want to see the festivities. We will join you as things happen.”

Father went over to talk to Noro and he came over and rolled Chrissie to the car, where Haruka and Misako were already waiting. Leo must have been eating lunch with Namami because he rolled her over to the car and walked over to us. He looked at the Colonel and had a rather disappointed expression on his face. He didn’t say anything and started to look at the street. Father came back and rejoined us. He turned to the Colonel and said, “Didn’t you tell your people that they would be dealing with high fae? They have been trying to be discreet over there and they haven’t noticed that we are watching them. Well it looks as if the show is about to start.”

Two trucks sped down King St. toward the ferry wharf and dumped the dead bulls off where the construct circles must have been and suddenly four huge Minotaurs appeared out of thin air as four winged shapes flew away. The Minotaurs roared and started up King St toward the center of town to the cheers of a gathering crowd. They reached whatever Bob had been doing and suddenly turned the corner and headed down Champlain St. as Brian drove slowly ahead of them, while Scott dropped what appeared to be wooden disks. Father waved Bob over. “Bob, why don’t you explain to the Colonel what you just did?”

“Well, it’s fairly straightforward. If a there isn’t a definite path or line for a construct to follow, they drift. For most people launching them, they probably don’t care, but if we have a drifting construct, we either have to destroy it and lose the construct or reset the path very quickly. So we have methods of creating what we call a net in front of the path and making paths so that the construct gets back to where we want it. I took my time with the net as I wasn’t sure how wide the spread of constructs was going to be or if I was going need a second net to catch any loose constructs. I didn’t. I need to go, grandfather.”

He marched down the street after the constructs and father said, “I think that we should follow.”

He started off down the street and we followed him. The Colonel seemed to be in shock and Ed had a bit of a smile on his face. Gretchen had hold of his arm and was not letting go. I turned to Ed as we drifted away a bit from my father and the Colonel and said, “You haven’t said anything.”

“I didn’t want to be fighting my compulsions and I wanted to see how deep the hole would be that the Colonel dug for himself.” “You don’t seem to be worried that the Colonel would release your monster.” “If he does, you or Bill will kill it before it does any harm to anyone. Then the Colonel follows the monster as Gretchen kills him.”

“I will be rather put out by father if he does something like that,” Gretchen said.

“Did you really give Bruce one of the amulets?” Ed asked.

“The young girl’s mother gave it to me once it was obvious that the girl was chasing Bruce. She was afraid of accidents. Then Bruce somehow ended up in the drink during that fishing trip. That wasn’t really an accident. The girl was rather put out that Bruce came up here with Andy and she couldn’t come too. Ed, we will have to make arrangements for you to go down to New York.”

“I can’t. The monster would not let me.”

“Well the monster’s power is going to be greatly diminished soon.”

“Aren’t you afraid that the Colonel will release it?”

“My father doesn’t like no win situations. He always wants an out. Releasing you is a no win situation for him at this point, so he will take Eric’s deal.”

“Well that is about the only way that he can dig himself out of the hole that he put himself in today. I’m surprised that you all didn’t insist that he return Doug and the other Creators.”

“Father hasn’t raised that, but I don’t think that the Colonel would be willing to give them up at this point. Of course there are some surprises there, too.”

“What did you do? Wait, don’t tell me until the Colonel releases me.”

We were approaching the lumber yard and there was a crowd of people with guns lined up and the Minotaurs seemed to be going in circles as Bob, Scott, Andy, Bill and Tony were making sure that things were clear down range. Bill gave a wave, the others waved back and Bill called out, “You may commence fire!”

The kids and the rest started to shoot, and shortly thereafter the Minotaurs were starting to fall apart as Bill called cease fire and Tim, the local reporter and the others took photographs. The Colonel turned to father and said, “I think that I must take your offer and depart. I release Edward and the others.”

Father took out his pocket watch and said, “One hour from, NOW. Don’t waste it.”

The Colonel started to march off toward his car. Ed leaned into his wife and had a strange look on his face. He looked at us and said, “I feel free. Only the responsibilities that I want to have and none of the ugliness. I have some things to atone for, but I can now.”

Helen came over and said, “Edward, I have a bone to pick with you! You let us all think that you were dead.” “Mother, I was trying to protect you and trapped by my compulsions.”

“Well now that they are gone, you will have to introduce me to your wonderful wife and children.”

“Bruce is over there, mother, with the rest of them. Why don’t I take you over and introduce you?”

“Edward, this is my mother,” Gretchen said. ‘I think that she should meet Bruce as well. She’s already met the other two.”

“Well, before we get too deep into family matters, Tom, I want to know what you did about Doug.”

“Let me go with you and get Chrissie and I will tell you.”

“I will join you,” Father said. “I would like to to know what you all did as well.”

We started toward the shed and I said, “Ed, you probably know about Doug’s business selling anatomy tools to the schools.”

“When I saw some crafted skulls and other things his sons had done I suggested it.” He started to grin. “Skeletons. I think I begin to see.”

“I’m new at this, but if you have a mouse, you can power a glamor and a wooden skeleton makes a good support for a dummy.” “So the Colonel took a bunch of dummies rather than Doug and his family. Why didn’t Al and the others just stop him like they were planning to?”

“Because the Colonel took two more Creators and their families and we were concerned that there are more Creators that we didn’t know about, but that the Colonel did.”

“That turned out to be correct.” Mike joined us. “We talked to the Colonel’s support people, who by and large were all too willing to talk with us once their compulsions were removed and they realized how much trouble they could be in. The Colonel had two more Creators that he knew about, one in New Hampshire and the other in Eastern Massachussetts, neither of which were tied to a community. So if he had failed to take Doug or Michael in Maine, he would have sent people tonight to take them.”

“Why did you just let the Colonel go like that?”

Noro came up. “Who says that we have? He took Chrissie and the other ladies. He’s not getting away. On the other hand, he has taken some people and we wouldn’t want them injured, so we let him think that he is getting away with things. Al, Doug and Tom’s playing with the golems helps. In any case, if he is smart, he is looking for ways to avoid Eric. If he is very smart, he will use the roads and cars and not go into the woods. He may go South and switch cars very quickly. In any case, I’m not sure if he thought things through very well.”

We reached the firing line and the various shooters, including Chrissie, who must have put her rifle in the car, were putting guns away. Andy, Bruce and Jimmy were keeping a stiff eye on things until Bruce saw his father and mother together and ran over. “Dad, we have to get you away. Why are you here?”

“The Colonel brought me, but your mother insisted that he let me go. I’m free of the compulsions.”

“Your monster! It might get loose!”

“I will take steps to not let it loose. Your mother will help. Now that the Colonel has released the Dark, the monster will be a far easier thing to control.”

“What about the Director?”

“I somehow don’t think that he will be a great concern any more. The Academy is not going to be a Twisted factory, the school is shut down and the rest of the pestholes are gone.”

He turned to me and said, “Tom, I want to thank you for that. Not only doing that, but doing it in such a way that they didn’t know that the hammer was going to drop until it was over.”

“It wasn’t just me, it was Sal, and the rest. Along with you, who fought your compulsions to let Scott know where the pestholes were and Jacob who dropped Scott right in front of the Academy.”

Sal and Sillia came over. “I see that the Colonel is gone. That’s a shame. He provided such entertainment this afternoon. I was concerned that Sillia and I would have to wait until late May to see a Construct shoot and the Colonel provided us with one. You must be Ed. I’m Sal DelVeccio.”

He shook Ed’s hand and rolled Sillia toward the Duesie. Ed turned to us and asked, “Who was that?”

“Gone upscale, dad,” Bruce said. “He shoots trouble.”

“Like Chrissie at the Academy, I suspect.” “He did shoot that trouble, yes.” Chrissie had rolled over with a camera. “I want a picture of you and Gretchen, Ed.”

She took the picture and then turned to me. “Tom, I need to stay with the residents and the other kids from the school until Tony takes them down to New York. I think that your father is going to want you.” “Weren’t you worried about me taking risks?”

Gretchen and Ed were smiling at us as Chrissie said, “I made my point with you last night and I talked to Eric about what he may need from you. If you go after the Colonel, you won’t be alone and you certainly will not be unprepared. In any case, the only one that can free yourself of the task that your brother placed upon you, is you. The only thing that I want you to know is that now that you have me, you will never be alone. Now go talk to your father.”

I went over to father. He was talking to Boris, Bill and Helmut, obviously planning something. As I came up, he looked up and said, “Chrissie got you, good.”

“So you don’t think that this is over.”

“I never did. As powerful as he is, the Colonel is a werewolf and the monster reacts a certain way to stress. It is a testament to the Colonel’s power and control that the monster was not released already, but with all that went on, the monster is coming to the surface.” “Why didn’t he unleash Ed’s monster?”

“Once Gretchen was there and in control, there was no way that he could. Gretchen helpless would have let the monster unleash Ed and he would have. Gretchen with a gun pointed at the monster and the monster lost the ability to unleash Ed because of the consequences and Gretchen’s strong bond with her husband. The monster was not willing to risk it’s certain destruction by unleashing Ed, especially, when Gretchen would just suppress Ed’s monster.”

“So what do you think that the monster is going to do?”

“That is a good question. The soldier Colonel would take the victory that he thinks he has and complete his mission as a priority. The monster is going to want revenge for the slights and defeats that it has suffered. I suspect that the first thing that he is going to do is collect his pack, probably someplace fairly near the farm. I think that the monster will think that his normal soldiers are unsuitable for his needs and use them to guard and facilitate the movement of the Creators to the ship.”

“How large a pack?”

“I don’t know. Last night he lost forty nine in the various actions. Sam called Al and said that he lost ten more in his diversion attacks in Maine and even if the werewolves there started in this direction right after the attack, they would not arrive until late this evening. As to how many werewolves he used in Pennsylvania and were they are, I think that it is probably another pack like the captain’s and that they are probably not far away, to the south, with the trucks carrying the other two Creators.”

“So as many as forty, fifty at best,” Bill said. “The problem is that many strangers of any kind are going to get noticed if they move in large groups. People are on edge here already after last night and most people know that something is going on, both here and across the lake. The ruckus was just too big to hide and I think that people know that it wasn’t over last night.”

“So what do you want from me, father?”

“I want you to go back to the farm with Chrissie,” he replied “Take Tony and the kids and run the shop for them like you have been. But be ready. I think that the monster will want to come after you, or Al. Al is going to be hard to find and moving around, so the monster will focus on you.” “So I am bait.”

“Not really,” Bill said. “But a monster that is looking at you, isn’t looking at Eric, Al, Mike, me or Boris. Chrissie will attract most of the attention anyway. You also have a reputation and the Colonel has seen you operate for the last few days. This is a sneaky monster, but he’s running on a tight time constraint and that takes a big advantage of being sneaky away as he can’t choose his own time to attack. He had to do something like lunch today or he would never get another chance at what he wanted. So he set it up and didn’t prepare for what might happen. He certainly did not expect Eric to take a hand in this.”

“That surprised me as well. I hadn’t known that you had been looking into this, father.”

“I didn’t tell you for reasons that you already know. But did you think for a second that I would just let something like what happened to Bradley just sit without at least trying to discover what happened, especially after he returned from the war as he was? Of course not, especially after Mike and Boris brought Hilda to us and she told us more of the story. Mike convincing you to go down to Washington was a big help when I started to ask questions. You would have the material ready and the congressman would send it to me. Not that the congressman or I got all of it. Frankly, I didn’t see that you had gone so far down the path of sacrifice and what all you were doing until you hauled all that material out at the wedding. Still I knew about the Colonel and what he was. I even have a copy of his book. I knew that there was something terribly dark going on over there in Europe and Greta has not been able to contact her family. When Mary and Roger went over for their honeymoon just after the war, they could not find a trace of Greta’s parents or her siblings.”

“I have always wondered why you paid for that.”

“Roger’s parents helped and it was a stretch, but all of us were concerned about what had happened and the honeymoon was the perfect opportunity to look into things. We found some things, but very little and I need to have a long talk with the lady Von Wulf about Greta’s family and what went on. In any case, the devastation of the fae was obvious and if Mary and Roger had not been as strong as they were and Americans, they would probably have been hunted. In fact they may have been and only the fact that they kept moving to different places as tourists kept them safe. In any case, they could not establish contact with Greta’s parents. There may be a sister still alive, but she does not live at the family estate. Nor is there a keystone present. The only thing that has come of that is that the business manager has my address for legal matters since Greta is the essentially the only family that he has contact with. I thought it wise to not take any money from the estate. The families there like that because the rents are low and I do not ask for any portion of the crop income.”

Helmut and Roger came over with a bearded man and Helmut said, “This is Isaac Nusbaum. We brought him up here because some of his community were taken Friday night.”

Isaac did not look happy. Father said, “Mr. Nusbaum, welcome. As you can see, we are dealing with an issue here.”

“With constructs, probably stolen along with Aaron, our Creator” Nussbaum said. “These gentlemen seem to know much about this even though neither of them are fae.” “Well they have reason. Have they explained what they do?”

“Somewhat. I will have to visit the offices in New York and talk to some people. You seem to know a lot more.”

“That is because of what has happened with my family over a very long time. I have known Helmut as a friend for a very long time now and we have worked together on various things, mostly in fighting the Dark.”

“Then this happened. How did nobody see this?”

Mike came over. “We were distracted with dealing with other things that involved the near destruction of several fae sea communities and an attempt to create werewolf packs using Eric’s daughter in law, of all people. So when this started, we were tied up in other things and dealing with a bunch of Twisted as well. So when the Colonel moved his people in, we were busy with his associates over here.

Frankly, the bureau has been tied up putting out fires for so long until recently that we got stuck in playing the fireman and not working on fire prevention. We are working to change that and one thing we are doing to change that is outreach with communities like yourselves so that we know the people we serve better. When this started we should have been calling around and warning the communities and you should have had our number to call when the werewolves started to sniff around. That not withstanding, we didn’t figure out what the Colonel was actually doing until he took your Creators and just knew that he was in the area and up to something.” “He took the Creator here as well.”

I smiled as I said, “He thinks that he did. When we heard about the Creators downstate, we didn’t want to let him think that he had failed, so we sort of created sleeping dummies that replaced the Creator and his family. We didn’t want the Colonel to go after some more Creators because he had failed to take the ones here and in Maine. That way, he would think that his mission was complete and we had more time to work against him.”

“Was all this part of that?”

“Yes and no. As you probably know, he kidnapped my wife and some other ladies in order to attempt to force me to give up some information I had on him and other reasons, not least of which was arranging my death if he could manage it. At least that was what he said to my wife.”

“Who said what to me?” Chrissie had rolled up behind me. “Who is this, Tom?”

“Chrissie, This Isaac Nusbaum, who had some people in his community taken by the Colonel Friday night.” I turned to Isaac and said, “Mr. Nusbaum, this is Chrissie, the woman who dragged me under.”

He smiled and said, “It is nice to meet such an interesting lady. How did you manage to drag him under?”

“With great difficulty as he had a hard time understanding that I even existed. He’s a bit thickheaded that way. When I did show up in his boat, he drove me off with a boathook.”

“You didn’t, Tom!” “Isaac, at that point I had no idea what I was in for. Actually I didn’t drive her off with the boathook, I just grabbed it to protect myself, something that turned out to be fully justified, but little did I know that I was already trapped. She went right back into the water and off to daddy to tell on me. Since he was my employer and seemingly knew everything about the water, I went to ask what was going on and there she was, crying on daddy’s shoulder. Her dad made himself scarce, leaving us to settle things, we talked for a bit and she went back into the water. The next morning, she was running my boat. She needed to make sure that my propeller stayed on after she had removed the nut the night before. She wasn’t letting me get away.”

‘No, I wasn’t,” Chrissie was giggling she said that. “Tom, we need to get in the car so that we can go with Tony and the kids to the shop. Make sure that you take care of the gun.”

That was good sense because I had almost forgotten that I had it. I rolled Chrissie back to the car and I handed the shotgun to Vince to put in the trunk. In the car were Ed and Gretchen. I looked at them and said, “Are you sure that you want to be going to the farm?”

“If father shows up, I imagine that Eric has surprises for him. I want Ed to meet Hilda and Stephie and see what Bruce and the other kids have been up to. He already had a construct shoot, courtesy of my father.”

“That was amazing,” Ed added. The ladies launched the constructs and Bob took them right over and marched them right down to where he wanted them. All without raising much of a sweat.”

“They have had to develop techniques for handling constructs,” Gretchen said. “When they started it was just one or two at a time, but as time went on, they kept putting more and more into the show. The Christmas show was amazing and I suspect that the next one is going to be even better after all the things they got up to at Doug’s on Friday.”

“They weren’t allowed to look into making constructs.” I grimaced a bit as I said that. “Neither was I, for that matter.”

“Did you need to, Tom? I have the feeling that you all were coming up with all sorts of stuff.”

“How could you know?”

“Ed introduced me to Doug and Vera after the last construct shoot this fall. I was going to give Stephie and Hilda construct jars for Christmas, but things got a bit confused and Doug sent them all out to Ronny and Albrecht. In any case, I called Vera to see what was going on Friday and she said that you, Bob and Scott had all been there.”

“Just to pick up Puppet Tom.”

“That’s one of my father’s favorite little tricks. Don’t tell me you did it to him.”

She started to laugh her head off. “That was how you faked your death wasn’t it?”

“Poor Puppet Tom, chased by werewolves off a cliff.”

“While talking to Puppet Colonel,” Chrissie said. “Who lost his head while talking to me.”

Gretchen started to laugh uncontrollably. When she recovered, she said, “That’s my father, all over. But you don’t seem to be laughing, Tom.”

“He sent a Necromancer to take some friends of mine who were doing some work for Jacob and brought the zombies to the meeting.”

“Work for you, too,” Ed said, smiling.

“Yes there was some of that. My big mistake was not putting somebody from the family there to sense the Necromancer. I knew about him and since he apparently was staying in the Academy, we didn’t think to much about what he was there for.

In any case, there were my friends as zombies, there at the meeting. The funny thing was that had he played it straight, I would have given him what he wanted, the same things he wanted today and he would have had a clear shot at Doug and the other Creators because we wouldn’t have been looking for it. Instead he played games and Al started to look into what he was up to. Frankly, considering the splash and noise, taking Chrissie and the other ladies was just plain stupid.”

“Well, you should have a calm week, next week,” Ed said. “I removed the compulsions from my father. He probably won’t be well for some time. Or he could recover and make a pest out of himself. Gretchen and mother are going to put me to work in any case, taking care of the things that father neglected, not least of which is the behavior of some of my nephews. Adam and Victor are going to have learn the virtue of hard work. Some of the others are in even deeper trouble. I’m hoping that Scott has a clean house when he takes over. I want my family to be what it was before my grandfather died.”

“Are you sure that it was an accident?”

“We’ve always assumed so, why do you think differently?”

“I have a collection of ‘accidents’ dating back to the civil war. Mera found some that I hadn’t and when we get the Director’s stuff, we’ll know.”

“Do you think that you will get the Director’s stuff?”

“One way or another. I suspect that the bureau has most of it already after the Manager and the Sharks, both pods, went down. Things have not been going very well for the Director recently and he’s been stretched. In any case, there were too many fae who were killed by ‘accidents’ and far too many convenient fae drafted, like you and Brad were. That was what I went down to Washington to look for, as well as the werewolf story.”

“My grandparents have more,” Chrissie said. “My sister does as well.”

“I thought that your grandmother was dead, Chrissie,” Ed said. ”The death even made the papers, which was strange for a mermaid. But your grandmother had a lot of stature in the community because of what she had done of the fisherfolk and when they heard that she was gone they gave her a service on the water. The papers said that the death was a boating accident.”

“I was at that service. I had legs then. My other grandparents. Dad’s parents. They did work for the Director for years.”

“Those two are Josh’s parents? It’s a good thing that I didn’t hunt them, not that I was going to. I was just rattling the Director a little bit.”

“We discovered them over Christmas. They were a bit skittish about dad.”

“Anybody tainted by the dark is a bit skittish about your father. I’m surprised that he wasn’t here today.”

“Grandfather made him sit it out, probably because the Colonel seeing dad would have made him flip out and release your monster, followed by his own. Daddy does have that reputation. He’s mellowed out a lot after we grew up and Steve, Joe and George could deal with a lot of that.”

We arrived at the farm and Steve and Joe were there, with some of Steve’s people. When he saw Ed, Steve came over and Ed said, “I want to apologize for your man. I had Bruce in the car, let him off at Jimmy’s and wanted to be as far away as possible before stopping. Then your man and the deputy came out of the car, guns in hand and the monster tripped.”

“That wasn’t your fault. Roger was chasing the Colonel, though he didn’t know that at the time.” “How did you find that out?”

“The safe house that Boris hit last night. The Major kept a log and left it behind when he left in a hurry. The Colonel had heard about the party, wanted to check things out and make sure that Boris wasn’t looking into his operations over here. So he went by the inn, where Roger must have picked up on him, Roger started to follow him, and then the Colonel drove down toward Gretchen’s where he probably realized that he had a tail and turned toward the bridge. Then you left Gretchen’s right behind him and there was Roger with the deputy following along behind, thinking that you were the Colonel.”

“That explains the guns drawn and the rest of it. I keep very tight shields and controls on the monster, but I suspect that the Colonel does not most of the time. I had expected that the deputy would give me a ticket for speeding and that would have been the end of it. It wasn’t the first time and I was fairly sure that Boris and Eric knew who I was.”

“They did, but they hadn’t told Hilda because of Gretchen, they figured that Gretchen would tell Hilda if necessary and they didn’t really have time over Christmas to tell Tom. The people in the War Department who had me send people up neglected to tell me just what I was supposed to be looking for, which was really stupid because the last thing I needed was dad going on a random werewolf hunt over Christmas. I was busy and keeping an eye on things in Philly where the bureau and some other people were setting up to close down the Director’s operations and chasing sharks. At that point, finding and destroying the sharks was my primary concern and I didn’t want to take the time to come up here because my sister was having a party. So I didn’t come up here, find you and Gretchen to warn you that her father may be in the neighborhood, keep a lid on my father, or talk to Mike and the rest and do some digging myself. Meanwhile, our Colonel guy at naval intelligence was over there in Europe tracking the Colonel’s people as they were setting up for something big and getting on boats to come over here. He didn’t get back until right behind the captain and his little crowd.”

“The War Department knew who I was?”

“That was my fault,” I said. “They were poking around trying to get at Brad’s diary, preferably without me finding out about it and getting pissed off enough to call the White House about it and as a result, looking into everybody who could help. That included finding out about just about everybody up here and then there was Gretchen, who they were keeping somewhat of an eye on because of her father. Also you had been involved with the werewolves. So, yes, The War Department knew who you were. Of course, for obvious reasons, they didn’t tell me about you and Gretchen. I think that they were concerned that I would go after you in some sort of wild werewolf hunt.”

‘Let’s get inside,” Chrissie said. “Tom take me over to the pool, so that I can get wet for a bit and then go over to the shop and get ready for Tony and the kids.”

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