Mermaid, Chapter 29, Part 3.

Roscoe chases some birds and we meet a captain and a ship. Did the kids see mermaids?

Roscoe.

Sunday, 1/31, 1932.

Linda and I had an early morning flight together before breakfast and flew from the inn to General Vickers’ discreetly hidden headquarters in a closed for the season motel near the bridge. Tom’s sister Diana had made a pair of lightweight packs for us so that Linda and I could carry clothes while we flew and while it was a bit of a strain, having clothes so that we didn’t startle people was an advantage when we arrived and I went into the general’s tent. He was inside and I saluted. “Good morning, Major.” “Good morning sir. What happened to our friends last night?”

“The trucks with Doug’s people went North to the top of the lake and then east. The normals went with them in cars and trucks. The people over here scattered when Boris lit them off. They haven’t come back yet.”

“I wonder how long it will take them to figure out that they have been had?”

“Hopefully not until they reach the ship tomorrow.”

“Well want do you want from Linda and I today?”

“I talked with Eric and he thinks that the Colonel is going to try something with the werewolves. So do Steve, Al and Boris. I’ve put people up on hillsides with radios.” “How did you get so many radios?”

“I stopped by Fort Monmouth on my way up and we’re using the opportunity for a large scale test. We took all they had and set up an army level communication set up for squads. Frankly, stringing wire won’t work anymore if things move faster than troops on foot, which they will. So knowing how to use radios further down the command chain is going to be critical.” “Radios are hardly very mobile.”

“Right now, but that’s going to change as we get better sets. We’ve also got one of your air corps buddies today with a radio equipped plane. Since we have good weather today, luckily, we’re taking advantage of it.”

“So what do you want from me, today?”

“Take care of our lady friends of the air. If you and Linda can keep an eye on them and deal with them as well as whatever the Colonel comes up with, that will take away his eyes. Though those eyes haven’t worked out for him.”

‘He did get the Creators in Pennsylvania and took Doug here.” “Because we let him. As far as I know, he doesn’t even know what we have out here. On the other hand I know what he has and where his people are for the most part.” “Ok, Linda and I will head back to the inn and breakfast. We’ll check in this afternoon.”

“Keep an eye on Tom.”

“After last night, that goes without saying. He outdid himself at Jacob’s thing last night. Fortunately, Chrissie hasn’t let him up yet. When we get back, I will talk to Eric. At least taking care of the Colonel will release Tom from that burden we all saw.”

“That was a heavy thing that Brad placed on him. Not that Brad had much choice and we’ve all benefited. He’s also come a long way since he showed up in Washington and started to make our lives so interesting.”

“He did do that. I’ll get going.”

I saluted and left the tent. Shortly thereafter, Linda and I were on our way back to the inn, enjoying the flight and each other. We reached the inn and dressed for breakfast. Tochi was there with the ladies, one of whom was being peppered a bit by Leo about Japan, which was strange, because he had done a tour there before coming to Washington. Josh and Mera were eating and we joined them. Josh looked at us and said, “Did you have a good flight this morning?”

“Wonderful,” Linda said. “Informative as well. We stopped and talked to the general.”

“So he’s keeping an eye on things. He probably doesn’t think that this is over any more than Eric or I do. So what are your plans?”

“See if we can track down the harpies. The general wants to take out the Colonel’s eyes in the sky.”

“Has anybody taken a close look at them?” Mera asked. “I haven’t been near them and had a good look at them yet, but they may be indentured.”

Mike came into breakfast with Nera, who was looking pleased with herself and as he sat down, said, “That could make things difficult if the Colonel did not bring the children over here. We should check with Gunther and see if the children are in the Colonel’s domain. If they are here, they must have come in separately from the ladies, because they were not with the ladies when they came off the boat.”

“So how do you want to handle this?”

“Carefully if we can. If they are indentured, I want to know. The kids may be with the Pennsylvania team or the Maine team, more than likely the Pennsylvania team, since they will reach the ship first. I’ll call the Cape after breakfast and see if Altris has seen any sign of the kids.

Josh and Mera finished breakfast and Josh pulled Mera back from the table. “Where are you off to?” Nera asked.

“To talk with Chrissie and Tom about their adventures. Sister, I think that we three and some of the other ladies need to have a discussion this afternoon in the pool.” “What about?”

“The Changes that are coming in your lives. If things keep going the way they have been with you, Mike, Tom, Chrissie, Al and Eltra there are some surprises coming and you need to know the ramifications. Mother told me about them and the choices. I want to make sure that you understand them and I think that you and Chrissie need to know fairly quickly.”

“Ok, sister. We can get together at the pool on the farm this afternoon and discuss what I think that you are going to want to discuss. Mike and I are heading to Boston on the late train to help Altris deal with the ship. Al and Eltra are going too.”

Hank came over and we talked a bit about the harpies before he dragged Leo away from his lady friend and over to the farm to look at the files that various people had brought with them.

We finished breakfast and I made a quick call to the field in Burlington where we had been having some observation planes operating for the thing with the Academy. The weather was going to be good for flying today and I watned palnes up and flying around. They were looking for the werewolves, but more importantly, they were going to attract the attention of the ladies so that they wouldn’t see Linda, Mary or I until it was too late. I was hoping to ground one fo them today.

Mary and Noro came in for breakfast and Mary asked, “Are you two going to want me today?”

“I think so. I just called the field and they are going to have some planes up. I think that if the Colonel is up to something the ladies will be looking into things. Mike thinks that the Colonel is up to something.”

He came over and said, “Yes I do. He was absent from all the things that happened last night and so was Ed. The only reason for that is that somebody was riding Ed’s compulsions and that must be the Colonel.”

“At least Gretchen is in the city.”

“She’s coming here. With her mother and Theresa. She wants to have a sharp word with her father. Eli is going to pick them up later. By the way, Stephie says that Gretchen shoots with her and Hilda frequently.”

“That will be a rather nasty surprise for the Colonel”

Noro came over, talked with Mary and then said to me, “You have Mary today, so I will have the car to myself for a while. I think that we will meet at the farm in a bit.”

“Father, take Mike and I over to the farm,” Nera said. “I want to talk to Mera, Eric and Greta and see what’s happening with the Colonel. Mike needs to look in things over at the farm before checking in with Helmut.”

They left and Sal and Sillia came in for breakfast. They had been at the Academy fairly late dealing with the kids and the shot trouble and had taken a Swim in the pool before they came into breakfast. They came over to us and said, “Any sign of the Colonel and his people?”

“Not this morning. I’m going over to the farm to talk to Hank and Leo as soon as we’re finished here.”

“Ok, We’ll follow along a bit later and find out what’s going on. Eric and Greta weren’t going to church this morning, so they are at the farm.”

We finished breakfast and Linda and I got in the car that the bureau was letting us use. As we got in the car Linda said, “I would almost rather fly, but we’re going to need the car later.”

“So would I, but the car does have it’s advantages and it doesn’t get tired. We also don’t want to be flying around in broad daylight.”

The trip to the farm was quick and people were gathering as we all started to get a handle on the situation. Linda and I talked with Leo and Hank over the files that had been obtained from Tom and others. Tom and Chrissie had come out of the pool for breakfast and then went straight back in.

The problem of finding the Colonel became academic as he was coming to us. At about eleven or so, a telegram was delivered and when Eric read it, he went over to the pool’s door, knocked and brought Tom and Chrissie out. The telegram was passed around as people came in and Mike and Nera started to prepare for the dance as she called it. Linda’s, Mary’s and my parts were simple. Perch in appropriate spots discreetly, wait for the ladies to show up and follow them after the Colonel made his deal with Eric.

Mike, Josh and Eric had discussed Ed over the last week and the consensus was that having his community the way it was would be a potential disaster, Jacob was too weak and likely to be ill when his compulsions were removed and Scott and Lizzie needed time to grow into the roles that they would need to play. So we needed Ed, free of compulsions, if we could get him. Since the Colonel had been the orgin of the compulsions, Eric was going to make a rather hard deal to get them released as gently as possible. Having Gretchen available to constrain Ed’s monster was going to be a big help.

Linda, Mary and I drove into to town to find places where we could watch things discreetly. That was more than a bit harder than it would be in Manhattan as Burlington did not have a lot of buildings taller than three stories, especially near George’s and the ferry. Still we found a place to stash the car and wait on some rooftops on the hill overlooking George’s and the ferry.

Al joined me on my rooftop across the street from George’s looking down the street at the ferry with a huge rifle that I had not seen before. I looked at it and asked, “Where did you get that?”

“It’s a loaner from Winchester. I have it for a year. Stacey and George picked it up for me when Stacey was at Winchester during the thing with Andy and the Manager. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to give it a workout and haven’t had the chance. It fires .50 BMG cartridges. Winchester was trying to get the army interested in it as an antitank rifle, but they’ve had some problems with the receivers failing catastrophically, it really isn’t light enough for a squad to carry and if you need a horse, why not carry the entire M2 machine gun. So the army doesn’t have a use for it. They handed it to me so that I could see if there were law enforcement applications and I’ve been lugging it around all through the Manager, The Academy and the Colonel hoping to get a use for it and not found a good reason to shoot.”

Tom, Chrissie, and the rest arrived at George’s and walked inside. By the time that everybody showed up, it was quite a crowd. After that, things quieted down for a bit, other than the wonderful smell of the steaks cooking.

We looked down the street and a car dropped off four women who became discreet and started to make what looked like construct circles in between some boats next to the ferry ramp. Soon after Bob, Scott, Brian and Dan showed up in two trucks and with deputies rerouting traffic, Bob started to lay what looked like rope separated by canvas in a vee across the street with the tip of the vee toward the right side of the street. People must have seen Bob and Scott doing something because somewhat of a crowd started to collect. The ferry arrived and along with the usual cars, a bus got off. Dan ran over to the bus and pointed down the street and the bus turned down the street.

The colonel arrived in a car with Ed, Helen and Jacob. They went inside. After about half an hour, Brian went inside the restaurant and the people inside started to come out including Tom, Chrissie and the others with the Colonel. Noro waved for his car and took Chrissie and the other ladies down the street toward the lumberyard that I could see at the end of the street, followed by Sal’s car. Bob and Scott had apparently finished setting up whatever it was and were standing next to the truck, waiting.

Suddenly two trucks sped down King St., dropped four bulls off and sped away. That was our cue as four minotaurs suddenly started charging up King St, only to hit the boy’s barrier and turn toward the tip of the vee where Scott was sitting in the back of a truck, dropping painted wooden circles with a pole as the truck moved slowly down the street.

I only saw that out of the corner of my eye as I was chasing after the flying ladies. It turned out that I was too far away, they spotted me and flew quickly toward a waiting car that sped away. Linda was high above me, tracking the car, but it soon left us all behind and Linda and Mary joined me as we watched the car leave town in frustration.

Over at the lumberyard, there were shots as the constructs met their end and we returned to the car, Changed and dressed. Mary said, “They were sneaky, if they had stayed in the air, we would have had them, at least some of them, but with the car, they were able to escape. We just weren’t fast enough.”

“We can fix that” I said. Let me talk to Mike and Eric and then we can head over to the field.” I drove us over to the lumberyard where Eric, Boris and Mike were shutting things down. Mike looked up as we approached and said, “The ladies got away, didn’t they?” “They had a car ready. Somebody must have sensed us over at the Academy.”

“That’s not too surprising. We were probably not as discreet as we should have been because it was obvious for the most part that the people were not paying attention. At least the werewolves weren’t. Some of the others probably were and set things up in case you showed up. Also, flying around in broad daylight here is not a good idea even if you are being discreet as the fae population is large enough that you would be spotted fairly quickly.” “Well the general has people up in the hills with radios and we have a transport plane and some observers at the field outside of town.” “Well, get into the air. Eric gave the Colonel an hour before he lights off the hunt, but we think that the Colonel is going to be back with a werewolf pack after Tom and probably Al. He also wants Bruce.”

“That won’t do him any good. Unless he comes up with a way to keep Bruce unconscious, the minute he’s on a boat, Bruce will be in the water and deep under and on his way to the nearest bower and a phone. I’m on my way.”

We went back to the car and drove over to the field outside of town where my old friend from the war and Langely, Major Joe Harlan was waiting with a C14 transport and two O19 observation planes. Joe saw us drive up and called out, “Hi Roscoe. Who are these wonderful ladies?”

“This Linda Renton, my fiancé and Mary Slater, somebody who is working on this with us.”

“I’m glad to meet the woman who can tie this character down. Or do you fly as well?”

Linda looked at me and I nodded. “He knows.”

“I fly. Roscoe caught me before I could fall and taught me to fly. Sometimes in airplanes.”

“Well I am so glad that Roscoe doesn’t fly alone any more. He’ll live longer if he has somebody watching his tail. So we are up looking for our ladies of the night again?”

“They may be out in the daylight,” I said. “They left some surprises in town just now and the surprises were taken over and turned into entertainment for the kids.”

“There was a monster shoot and I missed it. Why didn’t you tell me about it?”

“I didn’t know and Bob and Scott didn’t either until the things were launched.” “That’s a shame. From what people are saying around here, the Christmas party was a blast.” “We were there and it was,” Linda said. “We can put you in touch with the boys so that you know about the next one.”

“I’ll hold you to that, Linda. From the sounds of it, my rifle, my kids and I will have a great time and the thing will be worth the trip. For right now though, I think that we need to get into the air.”

We boarded the big plane and Joe climbed into the pilot seat. In the plane, running the radio were two other old comrades of mine from the war, Sergeants Doolan and Ratwoski. Both of them were fae and knew about me. The plane started up, taxied out, ran down the dirt runway and lumbered into the air. The aircraft was cold as we rose into the air and I turned to the ladies and said, “We will want to be in Change after a while. The air is going to be cold up here and we will be up for several hours. These guys have to settle for wool and leather.” “That explains the heavy coats,” Mary said. “I think that Changing is a good idea even if it gives these guys a show.”

“They’ve seen it all, anyway. We should be discreet in any case, so that the ladies do not sense us.”

We went discreet, undressed and Changed as was we waited for the ladies to show up.The observation planes were orbiting in large circles where the general had some sort of exercise going that just coincidently crossed over the Benton farms at regular intervals and we were flying long straight lines as if we were air mail planes on their routes going back and forth. The ladies probably didn’t have a feel for what would be ‘normal’ air traffic this time of year and after the planes had been doing the same sort of things all week they would probably ignore the planes. Doolan called out, “Major, Smitty spotted them.”

“Where?”

“Flying over the farm. Ratowksi is radioing the guys on the ground.”

Ratowski was keying a message on the other radio, stopped to listen and turned to me and said, “They already saw them. The ladies aren’t really that good at being diescreet. Or they don’t know how many fae are in the neighborhood.”

Doolan was listening again and said, “Smitty says that they landed next to a car. The car went East for a bit to a house.” “Probably to report to the Colonel. It looks like Eric and Mike were right and he didn’t run.”

After about ten minutes Doolan said, “Roger just spotted them leaving the house, The ladies came out and the car is heading a bit North.”

“Where?”

Doolan pulled out his map and showed me. The ladies were heading away from the farm and more or less toward the inn. If the Colonel wanted a diversion to attack the farm, he might want the ladies to play the same sort of games they had last night. I picked up the intercom and said, “Joe, the ladies probably want to make life easier for the werewolves at the inn by dumping sleepy gas down the chimney. Head a bit in that direction and we will be leaving you shortly.”

“Now why would you want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Give the ladies my regards.”

Ratowski opened the door and said, “woo, a bit of a breeze out there, watch your step. That first one is a Duesie.”

We dropped out of the plane, one by one and spread our wings as soon as we were clear of the plane. I could sense the harpies as they flew up above the car and gained altitude. We were above them and I waved to Linda and dove toward the one in the rear who seemed to be carrying something. She never saw me until I slammed into her back, causing her to drop what she was carrying, lose control and fall toward the trees below. As she fell, there were sudden cries and the other three dove after her. I followed and the lady managed to get some control before she slammed into a tree and fell to the ground. When I reached them and drew my gun, the other ladies were surrounding the fallen harpy and calling out in French, “Suzette! Are you hurt!”

Suzette seemed to be mostly stunned and the others looked up as I approached. Linda and Mary were right behind me as one of the harpies said, “Who are you and what do you want?”

“I’m Major Roscoe Duthie, US Army. This is Linda Renton, Federal government and Mary Stiller, a private consultant. We are working on stopping the Colonel.” “Stopping us, you mean. Well, destroy us if you must, but try to get our children safe.”

I turned to Linda and said, “Compulsions?”

“I pulled them. The same thing we saw with the Manager’s people.

Ladies, we don’t want to destroy you and we have dealt with your situation before How many children?

Six.

Did the Colonel bring them here?

He said he did. We were supposed to be with them on the boat back to Europe.”

I turned to Suzette, “Can you fly?

I- I think so. For a short while.

We will take you to the farm. There is a lady there who can look you over.”

The other ladies assisted Suzette and we headed toward the farm. As we approached, the farm lit up and a battle started with werewolves attacking and the various people on the farm shooting the werewolves, Since I didn’t want to take us into the middle of a battle without knowing what was going on, I sensed around and found Al. We glided down beside him and he said, “I finally got a shot with this thing. Did a number on their cars, but it’s still not worth hauling it around.”

We looked over at the show and I could see Eric, Tom and Bill fighting with a werewolf that must be the Colonel. At least Eric was, handily running the Colonel around the farm as the Colonel couldn’t even seem to scratch Eric, let alone kill him. The thing ended with as the cut up and battered Colonel was frozen in a spot of light as Bill shot and killed the Colonel. The werewolves that were left ran for the hills. I turned to Al and said, “Suzette here may have some difficulty flying. Do you have a car?”

“About a mile or so up the trail there. Let me get this thing apart and I will meet you there. That was quite a fight.”

“Remind me never to piss Eric off. The Colonel never had a chance.”

“Eric has trouble finding opponents that can keep up with him. At least dark fae. This was almost pathetic.”

The ladies seemed to be rather stunned by it all and when we reached the car I asked for their names. The lady who, seemed to the be the eldest said “Suzette, you know. This is Brigitte, Clara and I am Jeanne. We are sisters. We all lost our bondeds during the war. The Colonel took our children and forced us to come here with his people. From what we’ve seen, the fae seem to be much safer here and we should have come before.”

“What happened to your community?” Linda asked.

“Destroyed some time ago, in a previous war. We managed to escape and then our husbands were taken during the war.”

Al joined us and I introduced him as we all drove down to the farm. Things were a bit chaotic as people were winding things up from the battle. I chased down Eric and said, “Where’s Greta?”

“Over there, with the injured. We didn’t lose anybody, thank god, but there were some injuries when werewolves got a bit close or some of the boys got too excited and made mistakes.”

“Ok, I have a lady who needs some attention.”

I turned around and Linda had already taken Suzette and the other ladies over to Greta, who was looking at Suzette’s wings. I walked over and Greta said, “Roscoe, you were rather rough on this poor lady.”

“Most of that was the tree. I just wanted to knock the gas canister out of her hands so that she couldn’t put it down the inn’s chimney.”

“That wouldn’t have worked. The chimney has a trap in it because some Indians tried that during the revolution. At least the chimney for the common room does. The other chimney just leads to the furnace.”

“In any case, I wanted to stop the ladies from what they were doing to help the Colonel. Suzette, I apologize for slamming you like that.”

“Monsieur, that was your job and we were not doing what we doing for anything other than keeping our children alive.”

“They are indentured.” Greta said. “Any ideas where the Colonel has the children?”

“I want to call the Cape. They may be on the ship.”

Noro and General Vickers came over. The General said, “You got the ladies, good.”

“They are indentured, like we figured. They think that the kids may be on the ship.” “I can have that checked,” Noro said. “Let me make a call to Altris. He’s been having fun playing mysterious owner’s representative since Thursday when the ship ported in Boston. He and George have been plaguing the Colonel’s man about different things while the rough captain just wants to get things rolling and back to his usual haunts far away from pesky owners.

I think that Mary and I will drive down to Boston tonight, so that the owner himself can see his new purchase.”

Helmut came over and said, “General, I think that Roscoe and Linda should drive with them. I’ll provide a car and driver.” “I think that you’re right. We may want some discreet eyes on those kids.” Jeanne said, “You know where the ship is, qui?”

“I sort of bought the company,” Noro said. “Through some cutouts, of course.”

“Suzette should stay, but the rest of us can go. May we go with you?”

“I think that something can be arranged. Where are your clothes?”

“At the car or at the Colonel’s safe house. I think that the car is over there on fire. That man we met before shot it with a big rifle. We can show you where the safe house is.”

I said to the general, “Let me find Boris. We will probably want some deputies.”

I found Boris talking to Al, Hilda and Stephie and said, “The ladies know where the Colonel’s safe house is. Could we borrow some deputies to make it official.”

“I’ll go,” Hilda said. “Let me wrangle up four or five of our people.”

She left and the general left to recruit a squad. When we were all collected it was about twenty five people after Hilda recruited her sister in law, Mary who brought in four of her cousins to do her heavy lifting. All that for a house that turned out to be empty of everything except the signs of quickly departing people who left just about everything behind except a booby trap. Hilda held up a carton and said, “Look, they even left the carton Tom gave them this morning and the cartons that the Director funded the school with. Along with some more stuff from the Academy.” “I doubt that material on the Colonel is going to relevant any more, except as an academic interest,” I said. “He sort of ended the need for that tonight.”

“I know. Suicide by Eric. Father has a real problem finding opponents outside the family who can really challenge him.”

“I wonder if the Colonel actually looked at the diary.” “I think that was what set the Colonel’s monster off. The fact that Brad had set Tom on the path to destroy the Colonel and the werewolves. Once he actually saw the diary, the monster came out and we saw what happened. Well, the ladies have their clothes and their bags, the general has a car for you and you need to be off. We can handle what’s here.”

“Will the Colonel’s people find out that he’s dead?”

“Not from us. The local paper comes out Tuesdays. We have an agreement about withholding details about pending cases. Tom and Chrissie will make a big splash over at Lake Placid tomorrow and attract all the attention anyway. The werewolves that escaped are going to be hiding up in the hills until Bill and I can deal with them, but they probably don’t have somebody to call at the ship and the rest of the Colonel’s people are in transit, heading for the ship. So they probably won’t know until things are over. In any case the Colonel’s people will probably stick to the plan right to the end.”

We put the bags in the cars and Noro’s driver and the sergeant had us on our way. We arrived at the fae hotel in White River junction late and stayed over until early next morning when we were off to Boston.

Captain Golfinho

Sunday, 1/31, 1932.

I standing on the bridge after finishing lunch in my cabin. It was good to be on the bridge of a ship even if it was only for brief period. When Altris and I had set up this little charade after the old man had bought the company, I had been a bit dubious, but so far they were buying my old skipper persona right along, Portuguese accent and all. I wasn’t about to let them see my master’s papers and find out that the only vessels that I had commanded for the last five years were the Provincetown tour boats. Of course my old sea captain persona was perfect for those boats and entertaining the kids. I had logged a hundred voyages sail and steam before a tail here in Boston had caught me and dragged me to a beach. That was twenty five years ago and we had shared some voyages before my wife went under sea again and I settled down and worked the boats for Noro and Josh. Now that the ladies were looking up top even with the tails and our kids were grown, there was a good chance that Persai was going to want a tank bed at home and maybe one in a cabin on a ship, so that we could see the world again.

My first mate, Jean, who was another character from the Cape, came in and said, “Where do those kids get the energy?”

“Where were they this time?”

“The engine room. How they got there is a mystery, but there they were, pestering Mac about engines. In French, which Mac doesn’t speak. I had to go down there and translate for him, though my Scottish is as bad as his French.”

My first mate was a native of French Polynesia and liked to walk around Provincetown as Quequeg from Moby Dick, complete with tattoos. He had caught the wandering bug and gone to sea, until being beached here the same way I was. He had quite a racket going with the local whale population who lived for a good joke and loved to splash and bounce the whaleboats he took the tourists out in. There was even an albino sperm whale that showed up. In any case I understood what he meant by Mac’s Scottish, especially when it came to machinery.

“That must have been entertaining for everybody.” “The kids had a grand time, but Mac wasn’t happy.”

“Is Mac ever happy?”

“Not that I’ve ever seen. At least to hear him talk. I’m fairly sure that the whole Scottish thing is a charade. His tail thinks so. On the other hand, Altris hasn’t introduced him to Tom yet. Until you recruited him for this, he’s been slobbering all over Tom’s prints in the shop. He can’t wait to meet the man.”

“Where are the kids now?”

“Watching the grain being loaded with their minder. Now there is somebody unhappy. If she had her way, the kids would be locked up in their cabins except for meals. She doesn’t like you at all.” “That’s why I insisted that the kids have the run of the ship.” “You’re thinking the same thing I am.” “Six French kids and not a mother in sight. All cousins. All fae. This is the indentured all over again. The Colonel wants the mothers for something. I just hope that the people up there figure that out.”

“Altris is coming again for another of his owner’s representive meeting,isn’t he?”

“Yes. I’ll make sure that he tells Noro about about the kids.”

The third mate came in. “What is it, Mr. Callahan?”

“Herr Ernst wants to see you, sir.”

“He knows where to find me.”

“In his cabin, for a private discussion.”

“Well then I suppose I must attend his lordship.”

Herr Ernst had come over from Europe with the ship. He had not been pleased by the change of ownership and crew. Which was fine, as we were not exactly pleased with him. Captain Jenkins, who had had the ship before it ported and I took over was glad to see the last of the man representing the charter. I was stuck with him, well at least until the hammer dropped.

I reached his cabin and knocked. “Come.”

“Herr Ernst, you wanted to see me?”

“Yes. The first of our passengers will be arriving soon. Under the terms of the charter the passengers are our responsibility and your crew is to have no contact with them. You and your crew are not allowed into their berth.”

“What about life boat drills and other safety requirements?”

“You seem like a reasonable man, perhaps an arrangement can be made.”

He didn’t know that I was high fae and could sense him trying to compel me. An effort that just sort of tickled, but I went along with it, anyway. He was going to pay for that later. I had plans for when I reflected.

“I’m sure that we can avoid those bothersome drills and the crew will not need to enter the steerage berth, for some sort of arrangement. Perhaps you will be more willing to tell me our destination so that I might arrange for some special cargo.”

“I can’t tell you anything other than what I have told you already. As for now, you destination is Danzig, as we discussed. We will recompense you for any losses you may incur because you cannot make cargo arrangements.”

“Well cash speaks volumes and gold speaks louder. So be prepared to pay in gold.”

“We can do that. We are settled then.” “I believe so. What am I to say to the owner’s representative when he arrives for the departure meeting this afternoon?”

“Just keep him out of the berth. If he asks questions, send him to me.” “Very well, is there anything else?”

“Madam Shultz is complaining that you are not restraining the children.”

“I am captain of the ship, not a nursemaid and certainly not a jailor. I was free to explore the ship on my first voyage as a boy and discovered the sea. Why should I deny that to some other young man or lady?”

“Well, you will have to deal with the Colonel when the lady complains to him.”

“I think that I can deal with the lady. Is there anything else?”

“Not at this time.”

“Well I will bid you good day. We need to be ready for departure a four fifteen PM tomorrow.” “What if there are delays. Some of the passengers may require special needs and may be delayed as a result.”

“I have a pilot assigned and the outgoing tide is at four. Any delay beyond five and I lose the pilot and we will have to wait until the morning tide.”

“Must we have the pilot?”

“Unless you want it insure the ship and any possible consequences of a collision, yes. The owners representitive was very strict about having a pilot take us from port. Apparently the owner has other interests in Boston and does not want to have legal issues over a minor thing like a pilot.”

Alrtis and I had been working to make the owner seem to be a big time mob boss hiding in the shadows. Ray loved the idea and was willing to provide assistance and resources when we told him what was going on.

I wasn’t about to tell Herr Ernst that I was a qualified Boston pilot and usually handled ships in and out of Boston during the off season. Under normal conditions I would just take the ship myself, but these weren’t normal conditions. The concern about a delay was interesting. Perhaps things were not going as well as the Colonel had planned.

I looked at Herr Ernst and said, “If that is all, the ship needs to be ready for departure and I am very busy.”

I turned and left. Almost from the second I closed the door, I was mobbed by kids. “Captain, captain, we saw a mermaid!”

“A mermaid? Really? Where?”

“On the pier, next to a car.”

How did you know it was a mermaid?”

“She was in a long dress and a wheelchair.”

“Well, let me look.”

I walked over to the side of the ship and there was my younger son with the car and my wife. The kids came over and cried out, “See!”

“Well that may be a mermaid. But if it is, she may not want people to know. So let’s be quiet about her for the time being. I think that I need to have a chat with the lady in any case.”

I went down to the gangway and then down to the pier and over to the car. “Hello, dear, what is the occasion?”

“Seeing you as a captain again. You miss it, don’t you?”

“More than a little bit. Especially if I can be on the sea with you.”

“Well Joe is going to need a good captain for the yacht and I’ve been talking to Ralia about tank beds for us. We wouldn’t need one for the yacht and with a larger ship, the captain’s cabin should have plenty of room.

The other reason is to cover for Altris a bit. He wants me to give you a report so that he doesn’t have to while Herr Ernst is watching. So here’s a bit of an update.

There were two Creator families taken Friday, They think they took two more last night. Tom and some others made golems instead.

Chrissie and the other ladies are out. We should see that in the evening papers. Certainly in tomorrow’s. Eric’s granddaughter was taken and released by the Colonel’s people.

The Colonel’s wife and son in law are here in the country and they released the Colonel’s Creator.”

“Ok. Herr Ernst said that the first passengers are due to arrive momentarily. Those must be the families taken Friday. Herr Ernst was also concerned about somebody being delayed.” “The Colonel, I suspect. Altris said that the Colonel met with Tom to try to get the diary and failed. The Colonel and Tom were both puppets. Chrissie dealt with the Colonel Puppet in her usual fashion.”

“Overdone and over the top. We’ll have to get the full story later. By the way, the kids spotted you.”

“I wasn’t trying to hide very hard. Tell them to keep an eye out in the water later today or tomorrow and they may get a show. Our daughter and her friends were up near Provincetown last night. At least that was where they were supposed to be. I need to talk to Stella in New York about the navy and finding occupations for girls with tails.”

 

A man with military bearing strode up. “Who are you and why are you here?”

“I’m Captain Golfinho, master of this vessel and this is my wife and younger son. We discussing some family matters. Who are you?”

“Urs Schleigal and we are about to transfer passengers. Your wife and son will have to leave.” “Why? The company owns the pier and they have authorization to be here.”

“The passengers are victims of an illness and we are maintaining quarantine. So any unnecessary personnel must be removed.”

That was the line that they were using?

“Dear, I need to get back in any case.” She kissed me, Philip put her back in the car and they drove off.

I watched as the first ‘passengers’ were escorted onto the ship. The people that were apparently the Creator families were obviously on some sort of drug and a combination of light compulsions. The other people getting on board had military bearing and were loading equipment as well. They did not seem to be heavily armed and I didn’t see any obvious firearms. On the other hand they didn’t look like medical people either. The loading went quickly and smoothly and when it was over, I took a peek in the pierhouse where there were some coffin shaped boxes with holes in them and some trucks departing. I suspected that the trucks were not going very far.

I went back aboard ship and the children found me. “You knew who that mermaid was.”

“I hope so. That was my wife, making sure that I behave and take care of you all.”

“How did you marry a mermaid?”

“I was on a ship and when the ship was South of the Cape there was a sudden wave, I fell overboard and there she was. We got married about six months later.”

My mother had gotten together with Persai’s mother and arranged a real wedding. Back then a mermaid wedding was unusual. That had changed a bit and after Chrissie’s wedding I suspect that any mermaid that just wanted to find a beach and close the deal was going to be in real trouble with the families. Closing the deal and making sure the poor guy was locked down was ok, but the wedding announced it to the world and made the thing real.

“Does she stay underwater?”

“Most of the time. We have a house on the Cape and a place in the bower. Typically this time of year, I spend time under sea with my wife unless I need to pilot a ship or do some other work for the business. Summer, I run the tour boats at Provincetown.

My wife is an artisan and artist who has well known work. She even has a piece in the Boston Museum. So she has her studio down below and the business handles the up top part of the work.”

My status with the kids had reached soaring heights at that point. Not only was I an almost a pirate captain, but I had a mermaid wife as well. I said to them, “Keep your eyes on the water. My daughter and her friends may be near. If they are and see you, they will probably dance for you.”

With that, the kids all dashed to the other side of the ship to watch the water. I just hoped that my daughter and her friends showed up. Actually, if Persai mentioned it, they were almost certainly already there. I hadn’t reached out with my senses because that could be detected by Herr Ernst and I didn’t want him looking into the water because of the other watchers out there. My wife was much better at sensing underwater and more than likely, Altris had set things up with the girls.

I started back toward the bridge and ran into Jean, who was watching the crew batten the hatches after the grain had been loaded. I said to him, “Keep a weather eye out for mermaids. Persai says that the girls may be out there.” “They are. Telly was tapping Morse to her father while we were down there in the engine room. That made things a bit dicey for Mac with the kids down there, but they never noticed the tapping. At least they didn’t ask about it. I see that Persai came by.”

“Phillip brought her. I also think that she has a gallery opening soon and she was checking things out on the weekend when her pecularities won’t be noticed.”

“She’s been more hands on about those recently. A lot of the ladies seem to be drifting up top again for various reasons. You might think that they don’t trust us.”

“I think that they are afraid of what we might get up to now that Noro is back up top. Things like this maybe.”

“He’s been too busy in the city and upstate. He’s been saving most of the fun for that new crowd and the family up there in Vermont.”

“I hope that we can set up a construct shoot this summer. From what Altris’s boys were saying, it was a blast.”

“Where are Altris’s grandsons? I haven’t seen them in the bower recently.”

“Still up in Vermont. They were sort of told by their mothers to find jobs up there for the Olympics and not come back until the Games are over. Along with some of the other boys.”

“Altris should have told me. I would have sent Phillip up with them. Altris is not the only one with boys sort of hanging around in the bower this time of year.”

“Well you can talk to him when he shows up. He’s due any minute now.”

I went down to the pier to wait. Of course Altris was late, but that was part of the game we were playing. He showed up in the Packard he had borrowed from Ray for this, including suitable driver with Stacey playing secretary. He was also competing with his father for the most outlandish outfit, only it was a black suit, leather hat and a long black leather coat and gloves. I walked over to the car. “The first batch of ‘passengers’ showed up.”

“Persai told me. We met at the gallery after she was here. Ralia is going to cost me some money again.”

“Herr Ernst tried to bribe me and compel me to drop the safety drills and keep hands off where the ‘passengers’ are concerned. He’s also concerned that some of his people might be delayed.”

“They will be having problems with the rest of their ‘passengers’ when they get here. Be ready. We’re not sure if they will arrive tonight or in the morning.”

“They won’t be able to wake the ‘passengers’ up. That’s going to be fun. Who came up with the golems?”

“Tom, Al and the Creator up there. They wanted to make sure that the Colonel didn’t take some Creators that we didn’t know about.”

“The girls are here.” “I know. They are providing cover for Eltra’s people. If they sense mermaid girls playing around they won’t be looking for people in the water who aren’t playing around or at you and your people.” “The kids will like that. We think that the kids are hostages for indentured.”

“For the harpies, probably. I’ll tell Mike, but he has probably already guessed. In any case Roscoe and Linda were going to take care of them today. The Colonel is having lunch with Tom, without puppets this time.” “With Noro and Josh? I feel sorry for the man.”

“Noro, not Josh. Noro insisted that Josh sit this one out. Though with Eric and the rest of the family involved up there, I’m sure that there were a bunch of things cooked up.” “We’ll have to get everything when the rest get back.”

“Well the important owner’s representitive needs to get along to his other important things and Herr Ernst is watching us, so, “CAPTAIN, I DON’T CARE IF YOU CAN HANDLE THE SHIP YOURSELF! YOU WILL HAVE A PILOT AND YOU WILL DEPART ON SCHEDULE. THE SHIP IS DUE IN SOUTHAMPTON ON THE 20th FOR ANOTHER CHARTER AND I WILL NOT ACCEPT DELAYS. IS THAT UNDERSTOOD!”

With that, he got back into the car and left. Stacey was laughing her head off at the whole thing. I walked back to the gangway and climbed back up to the deck. Herr Ernst was waiting at the top of the gangway. I looked at him and said, “That did not go well. Having a charter in Southampton means that if your final destination is furher East than Danzig, say Riga, things will be tight and I will be short on coal. I will also have to run at full speed for the crossing. You also heard what he said about delays. So we depart with the tide, regardless.”

“And if the Colonel’s people have not arrived?”

“I will call one of the boat operators and see if a tender can be arranged or we can make a diversion to Halifax briefly to pick them up. That is the best that I can do.”

“If that is what we must do, that is what we must do.”

“Well I need to get together with Mac and figure out the coal usage. It’s a good thing that the bunkers were all topped off.”

I looked across the pier and said, “Well this is going to be a fun voyage.”

A pair of trucks and two cars were coming down the pier. Herr Ernst looked at them and said, “Who are they?”

“The representive’s brother, his students and associates from the weather bureau and the oceanographic institute looking for a free ride again.”

“Tell them that they may not board.”

“I can’t do that. The owner’s representative asked me if first class was still empty and I said that as far as I knew, you had not added any other passengers to first class. Dr. Posidenitus must have asked his brother about the ship and made arrangements. Since we have the berths, I can’t refuse them. The professor does this with ships on the North Atlantic every year to collect water samples and weather information.”

Ilutra did. In fact he was planning to depart from New York next Saturday on Cunard, who was pleased to have him. He and the people he brought over were going to set up permanent weather stations on all the ships that Noro now owned and train crew members to run them. When Noro had bought the shipping line, Ilutra and his buddies were ecstatic that they no longer had to be passengers on somebody else’s ships.

The students started to haul gear to the pier and some of the smiling crew readied the forward starboard derrick boom and lowered a line with a cargo net to the waiting students who started to load the net with the equipment. Ilutra bounded up the gangway and Herr Ernst joined me at the top of the gangway to greet him. Ilutra was his usual self, wearing well worn seaman’s clothing and Herr Ernst was looking his nose down at him as I said, “Herr Ernst, this is Docter Ilutra Posidenitus. Professor, this is Herr Ernst, the representative for the charter.” “Then you are the one responsible for this opportunity. We were going to go on the Aquitania next week, but a liner is really too fast for what we want. When my broher said that his company had a North Atlantic charter this time of year and open berths, we jumped at the chance.” “What university are you affiliated with, Professor.”

“I jump around. Wherever I can find a classroom and students to listen. Lately I’ve been working out of the oceanographic institute at Woods Hole.”

I could almost hear the gears turning in Herr Ernst’s head as he dismissed Ilutra as the type of professor that was a flake and barely tolerated by the academic community. I was not about to correct Herr Ernst about that.

“Captain, I need to supervise getting the instruments installed, so I will take your leave.”

As he went forward to watch his people load the equipment, Herr Ernest turned to me and said, “How did he get the professorship?” “The family put him through school and he teaches, as he said, where he can find a classroom. At the Naval Academy, the Merchant Marine Academy, The Coast Guard Academy, MIT, Columbia and now Wood’s Hole. He’s actually very good at his specialty, weather observation and prediction.”

“He probably doesn’t pay any attention to much else.”

‘His socks wouldn’t match if his wife didn’t take care of that for him.”

“Well, he seems harmless enough. I will tell my people to keep out of his way.”

The kids had already discovered the activity and were watching from the sidelines with one of Ilutra’s students explaining in French what was going on as crew members and Ilutra’s people started to place weather instrumentation in various places on the ship. Since that seemed to be going well, I decided to look Mac up. I found our intrepid chief engineer inspect the steering. At least that was what he looked like he was doing. From the sounds of the tapping, he was having a conversation with his daughter. They had started to do that after her Change and he was working on various boats. Jean did the same thing with his daughter and setting up fun and games with the whales. He looked up as I walked in and “Between the kids and Telly, things were a little hectic in the engine room.”

“I heard. Apparently you went full Scottish on them.”

“They loved every minute of it. They certainly didn’t leave. It works on the boats, it works here too.”

“So what is your daughter talking about?”

“What Tom and Chrissie got up to last night. We are definitely going to have to get Tom to try to pull one over on Noro. I’ve been going through his stuff and he is amazing. Nera and I definitely need have a long talk with him. I wasn’t sure if that thing he came up with at the wedding was fluke or not. It’s not.” Mac’s wife was a dancer in Nera’s shows.That was how they met. Mac handled Nera’s set pieces and theatrical support as well as handling the boat maintenence for me. “So what did Tom and Chrissie get up to last night?”

“You know how that Martin clown had been being a pain all through Tom working at the Games up there.”

Mr. Martin had vacationed on the Cape just about every year for the last ten with members of his family. They were not exactly our favorite guests. Then he proceeded to insult Chrissie right in front of the entire family, blame Josh for kidnapping and play games with Noro and the business. All in one day. If Mr. Martin was smart he would go elsewhere next year for his vacation.

“So what did Tom do, since Chrissie was being a hostage.”

“He rigged Mr. Martin’s fancy stables with just about every gag he could come up with. From what Telly is saying the thing was amazing, according to Nera and Mera. We’ll have to get the full story when they get here for this.”

“By the way the first ‘passengers’ have been loaded and the charter people are saying that they are under quarantine and to be kept islolated.”

“So that’s the line that they are using. I imagine that they had to come up with something.”

“Yes they did. The instructions are that our people are not to have contact with the ‘passengers.’”

“I may have to go full Scottish on you shortly over a steam line that needs attention and goes right into their berthing compartment.”

“Wait a bit for that. There are going to be issues with the second batch of ‘passengers.’ They will not be able to wake them up.” “That could be problem. Is there a reason that they will not wake up?”

“Because they are golems and sleeping dummies. Tom, Al and the Creator upstate came up with them.”

Mac started to laugh, “I hope that we can get the Creator down here after this thing is over. Since Tom is going to be my boss, I shouldn’t want him back so fast, but I can’t wait to get started working with him. I’ll go Scottish on you about not being able to get into the berthing compartment later when we can make it fully entertaining for our guests.”

“I need to make the rounds, so we get back to that later.”

I left the steering compartment and headed forward. Somebody had ‘altered’ the locks on the steerage berthing compartments and a fae could no longer manipulate the locks. Standard picking methods still worked and I suspected that our charters were going to be unpleasantly surprised when the ‘passengers’ fully woke up and started to look around the berthing compartment.

By the time I walked down the length of the ship, checking in with the steward and the purser’s office, Ilutra and his people were done and getting ready to leave. Ilutra came over and said, “Captain, we are done for today. Is noon fine for departure?”

“Noon should be fine.”

Ilutra and his people went down the gangway, got into the various trucks and cars and left. I watched them leave and turned back to the ship. It was getting toward evening and the lights were on all over the ship as the crew worked to get things ready for our departure tomorrow.

I went back to my cabin to work on the departure paperwork. At about six o, clock, a sterward’s mate brought dinner. It was amazing how we had all dropped into familiar roles even after long periods where we had all lived entirely different lives. This was a charade, but I think that we all wanted to actually go on a voyage, albeit with better passengers, or at least a better class of charter.

The third mate knocked on the door. “Captain, I think you will want to see this.”

He was smiling as we went over to the port side, the kids were all there on the bridge wing and close offshore there was a glowing spot in the water and six mermaids dancing across the water. My second mate, Rafael, had a camera and was taking pictures as the girls went through their little show, Mac’s daughter took the bows and they disappeared, along with the spot of light. For once all six of the kids didn’t have a question and I have never seen more amazed children.

Being the spoilsport that she was, Mrs. Shultz showed up and said, “Children, I think that it’s time for bed.”

“But there are mermaids!”

She looked out over the water. “I see no mermaids.”

She turned to me and said, “Captain, were there mermaids?”

“Do you believe in mermaids, Frau Shultz?” “Certainly not!”

“Well then there could have been no mermaids in the water, could there?”

“Children, to BED!”

She pushed her charges toward their cabins. Rafael said, “There are none so blind that they cannot see and there is a fae, albeit a very dark fae that refuses to see the magic, while we have hundreds of people that are not fae that seek out the magic every year. What is worse?”

He went to put the camera away and go on watch. I returned to my cabin. I wasn’t there very long as the third mate was back and said, “I think that our second batch of ‘passengers’ have arrived. They seem to be rather comatose.”

We went over to the bridge wing where they were using what were probably the bottoms of the coffin like boxes that I had seen earlier to transfer what appeared to be sleeping people up the gangway and to the starboard steerage compartment. Herr Ernst was arguing with some people and I used a little trick that I had learned from my father and a piece of paper tacked on the wall of the pier to create a sense string and listen to what they were saying. My German was a little rusty, but more than adequate for this.

“Why won’t they wake up!”

Herr Ernst, I do not know and neither does the major.”

“Where is the Chemist! Maybe he can prepare an antidote.”

“Major?”

“The Chemist and the other members of the support did not make the rendezvous.”

“Including the Creator?”

“Yes.”

“Where are the Colonel and the werewolves?”

“The Colonel had another mission to attend to and took the werewolves. They were supposed to join us and haven’t. Nor have the indentured. They should be on their way here.” “What if they are not?”

“Then I take command and complete the mission, if possible. At this point it is impossible to tell if the mission has been compromised and the opposition may be on their way here. The Colonel may be leading them away. That was an option that we discussed. In any case, we don’t want to spend a lot of time with the passengers here on the pier. We might attract the kind of attention that we do not want.”

The only reason they hadn’t was that the attention knew that they were coming and was deliberately not paying attention. At least making it look that way. I watched as the argument continued for a while and then went down to the gangway, down to the pier and into the city to find a paper. I wanted to know just what some dear friends were up to upstate. When I picked up the paper, there they were, Chrissie being her usual over the top self and the pictures of Mr. Martin’s party and the things that Tom had pulled off. I paid for the paper and walked back to the ship. Rafael was on the bridge when I walked in and handed him the paper. “Our girl did it again.”

“She does that, doesn’t she. I wonder what they did to that Colonel character.”

“What makes you think that they did something to the Colonel?”

“Kidnapping Chrissie? They did something, you can believe that. Have you been to Helen’s diner recently?”

“Not recently, why.”

“The kids have a wall of the best mermaid ever, starring Chrissie. I don’t know how they managed it, but they got all sorts of pictures from Chrissie as a kid to the dance shows, to her wedding and the pictures from the papers before she was taken.”

“Josh might be a bit upset about that. You know how he has been about ‘the secret’.”

“Altris put a bit of an aversion on it so that anybody who doesn’t already know sees Chrissie with legs. This time of year everybody knows anyway.”

“Does Tom have a wall?”

“What do you think?”

He’s got a wall too.”

“Yup. And it’s amazing too. I really want to meet him, now that we aren’t trying to arrange dates for him with Chrissie.”

“That was fun even when we couldn’t seem to make it work. I’m going back to my cabin to read the paper and get some shut eye. Tomorrow is going to be fun.”

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