Mermaid, Chapter 29, part 4 and end.

The Director is free at last and more fun and games on the ship.


Monday, 2/01, 1932.

Josh and Mera woke Chrissie and I up and we all went in the car to the office. The welcome we got was rather amazing and the entire staff was ecstatic to see Chrissie released and back with me. As I got together with the staff, Lacey and Cordelia were getting together with Chrissie, discussing me, apparently. They were also going over all the papers and clipping stories to add to the wall of stories that the ladies had been collecting since Chrissie’s adventures in New York.

I went into the office and the toy company had sent a huge carton of gags that kids had made to cause Chrissie’s kidnapper trouble. I wish that it had come yesterday when I could have given the Colonel more trouble. Now he was facing another kind of trouble. I called the company office to have Josh send a truck over and take the carton back to the farm later. I also wrote a thank you letter to have Lacey type up for me and send to the company people, the papers, my publisher and the toy company. There was no way that I could send thank you’s to every kid who made and sent something, but I did truly appreciate what they had done.

I also wrote personal letters to Vinnie’s wife and all the families of his crew. Thanks to the Necromancer, they didn’t even have the comfort of a body for the funeral. Chrissie came in, saw what I was doing and said, “Tom, don’t even think of destroying all the Necromancers by yourself. Daddy did and in the end couldn’t find out how they happened.” “Maybe I should talk to your father about them.”

“Well you just released one burden, now that the Colonel is dead. Do not take up another one. There is no need to hunt the Necromancers at this point.

On the other hand, talking to daddy about Necromancers might not be such a bad thing. We don’t need to take them on as a burden, but we can collect information about them, help prevent more Vinnies and point other people at the Necromancers so that they can be destroyed. I certainly know what they feel like now, Ugh.”

“I also want to talk to my father about what he has. On everything.” “You, daddy and Helmut. You all need to share everything you have. I’m not letting you off easy and neither is my mother, grandmother or sister.

Enough about this. So what else do we have on the agenda today?”

“The pumps are being installed today. That’s the last big item we had.”

“Do you have a dedication set up for that?”

“No, I’ve been busy and distracted the last couple of weeks.” “Ok, since it was my fault, I’ll deal with it.”

She rolled out of the office again and I didn’t see her for the rest of the morning. But she was right and we should have set something up for that. I called Josh to see where Bob and Scott were. “School this morning. The phone company this afternoon and that way everyday until Thursday. The phone company needs to have things closed up this week, so Paul wanted the boys all week and I said yes. Noro is going to be down at the Cape all week, we have things closed up here and we shouldn’t need them. As for the rest, Eric and Boris have them chasing werewolves.” “Ok, I just wanted to have them keep an eye on what Chrissie was up to and do any heavy lifting she wanted. She’s setting up a dedication for the water main.”

“I know. She called me already to get the help. Don’t worry about it, she has it under control.”

“I’ll just run a tour of the sites and see if things are done, then.”

“Wait a bit. Hilda is bringing her brother, Gretchen and Gretchen’s mother over and you can take them around. They just left here and should be there shortly. Bye.”

He hung up and shortly thereafter, Lacey buzzed me and announced that the visitors were here. Hilda came in and said, “Tom we have the ‘keep Tom from hassling people duty today.’”

“I wasn’t going to hassle people.”

“Josh said that you probably would, because you had been so wound up for the last few weeks and everything has come to a stop.”

“I’m surprised that you aren’t hunting the werewolves.”

“Don’t need to. Old lady Stiller called the deputies to say that some animals were after her sheep and she had dealt with them. The deputies came and found five bodies and five very scared naked men. They had been trapped by old lady Stiller and shot.”

“How are you going to deal with the live werewolves?”

“That’s an interesting question. We’ve never had any surrender before. On the other hand their monsters are still there and they have confessed to attacking farms up in Maine and Canada. So we have a problem. In any case it’s not your problem, so why don’t you take us on the tour? We have one of Noro’s cars.”

“Good, because Chrissie just took mine.”

Gunther had been looking around the office and was looking a bit shocked. As we were leaving, he said, “Who set that office up for you?”

“Chrissie did. She pulled out all the stuff from my days in Washington and other places and put it together.” “So all those things are not real?” “They are real, I just don’t usually have them out.”

“So you know the President?”

“Yes. Not very well though. We didn’t really get along when I was down there. I know the Coolidges much better. I suspect that I will be attending a funeral for President Coolidge soon, unfortunately, if what Miss Grace said at the party last month is true.”

“You know all those grand and important people and yet you live here, at the farm.”

“Actually I don’t. It was just convenient for the Olympics. Not that my place on the Cape is huge and in fact I haven’t actually slept there yet, because of the things that happened right after my wedding.

I did live here at the farm for about a year and a half and I had a small place on the Cape while I was looking for a shop space and setting the shop up to move and Chrissie was, unbeknownst to me, chasing me and everybody on the Cape was trying to put me on a beach with her.

As for how come I know all those people? I worked in Washington and had to know them to do my job. Because the city is a swamp in the summer, most people don’t actually live there. So, other than a few, most people don’t live in high state. Also, people are there to do their jobs and don’t worry about playing too many status games.”

“Don’t let him fool you, Gunther,” Hilda said. “Tom knows all those people because they want what he can do for them. You haven’t seen him operate yet, but it’s amazing.”

“How do you know so much, Hilda,” Gretchen asked. “You and Stephie have been talking to Suki too, haven’t you?”

“We wanted to know what Tom had been up to and Suki was willing to share and trade for Tom’s baby pictures.”

“You didn’t!” I screeched.

“No, Greta did. Along with the pictures of you growing up.”

We got into the car and Bill, who had brought them over, drove us around to the various sites and venues. I showed them the water main that had caused so much trouble, the skating rink, the outdoor rink, the ski jump and the bobsleigh track. As lunch was approaching, we headed to Antonio’s where Josh, Mera and Chrissie were already there. As we sat down Gunther said, “A lot of the venues seem to be lightly constructed. Not like the things that I have seen in Europe. And there was no alpine skiing.”

“They are,” Josh said. “The Games were built on a very tight budget with money from local business from the most part. We vendors are mostly in it for the exposure and we made sure to keep the costs down as much as we could. The large skaking rink was built by the state. When the Games were being put together, there was no money for a gondola like they have in Europe just for the Games and no existing facilities for the Alpine skiing so they couldn’t put alpine skiing into the budget. You’ve seen the rope tow at Roger’s ski area. Something like that could have been done, but at the time that the games were being set up, the rope tow didn’t exist so the alpine skiing couldn’t be fit into the budget.” “Also, the best places for a ski area were on Martin land and father was playing his games, mostly because I told him to, because I was compelled to protect the Academy,” Ed said.

He kissed his wife and sat down. Chrissie turned to me and said, “That reminds me, Tom. We are going over to the Academy and pulling all your gags before the class this afternoon.”

“Why the rush? The building is going to be empty in any case.”

“Actually, it won’t,” Gretchen said. “I haven’t talked with Mary and Albert about it yet, but Ed wants to have the school have a campus up here as well as down in the city. That way the city kids get out into the woods. So Tom, I want you to get together with Bill and Dan and clear out everything you installed. You are here, now and the way things are, who knows where you will be in two weeks. So we get this done now. We already had Steve make sure that all his stuff was gone yesterday before my father showed up for lunch. Now it’s your turn.”

I was stuck. “But I need to be in the office this afternoon.”

“No you don’t,” Josh said. “In fact I don’t want you in the office this afternoon. One of the most important things I’ve had to learn is when to quit. You’ve been wound up tight with a bunch of things this last week and all of them would normally have occupied your full attention. So you’ve been running under a lot of pressure and now that the pressures are gone, you are still running as if you were under the pressure. The werewolves are gone, the job here is done and Chrissie is safe. The last thing that the people still doing the things we need done to close things up need is you breathing down their necks. I had to learn that a long time ago. So you and Chrissie get wet in the pool, clear out your stuff, give some kids a class and go back to the farm. The pumps should be installed by the morning, you can go over them tomorrow for the startup and have Chrissie’s little dedication in the afternoon. Wednesday you can start getting the office closed down and moved.”

“Won’t I need it for the Games?”

“What for? Your job at the Games is to be the company’s front man with Chrissie. We’ll be pulling things out and shutting things down fairly quickly. I have already shut down a bunch of things and paid for some leases to close down. You and Noro can press the flesh, make sure that the international types get their booze, have a good time and keep the VIP’s happy. You’ll have the office to keep up appearances, but there won’t be any real work done there and other than Lacey, your people are moving to the Cape, New York and your real offices. There will be a press person and some sales type to provide support for you and Noro, but there shouldn’t be any real work.”

“Where will you be?”

“New York. I have a week long session with Lou next week. I’m leaving Wednesday. Mera is getting together with Meria, Stella and some of the other ladies about matters that will need to be resolved now that the dark has been pushed back.”

“Ok, leave me Mark and Charlie up here as well for a crisis team in case we need it.”

“Do you think that we will?”

“No, but I’ve watched too many things go down in flames, sometimes literally to not know that stuff happens. After the first few times that somebody is asking for more money because they didn’t think that things would go wrong, you start to plan for things going wrong.” “Good point. You can give Mark and Charlie a vacation on the company’s time.”

“I wonder what’s going on with the ship down there in Boston?”

“If Altris got who I think he did, a lot of fun and games. Chrissie probably knows that bunch better than I do, because the entertainment side has always been more Altris and I suspect Nera than it has been me. I’ve been mostly on the fishing and boat side of the operation, not that there isn’t quite a bit of crossover.”

“I think I know who Altris got for the crew,” Chrissie said. “Some old seamen dragged under by tails who play with boats in the summer and work in Boston and relax under sea with their wives during the winter. I’ll introduce you around when we visit the bower on Thursday, Tom. Since lunch is over, we should get going. I want to get you wet and get those things taken care of. There are also some surprises coming up at the Academy this afternoon.” I rolled her out to the car and Bill took us to the Academy. We went in the back door and the lights were on as I rolled Chrissie back to the pool, she undressed and flipped into the pool. As I was standing there, she popped up and called out, what are you waiting for? You are still dressed.”

I bowed to wisdom and undressed. Before I could sit to Change I was nailed from the back and fell into the pool where Chrissie grabbed me as I Changed. She kissed me, I kissed her back and things went on from there.

After our session was over, I climbed out of the pool, found a towel that somebody had left for us, dried off and dressed again. I turned back to the pool and said, “These are the wrong clothes for this and where is Bill?”

“There is a suitcase in the car and Bill’s office is next to the back door. So no more excuses. You can change in the locker room.”

I went back to the back door and there was a door next to it, so I knocked. A man opened it and I said, “Bill? I’m Tom.”

‘I am so pleased to meet you, sir. Especially since I can visit my grandchildren again, something for which I truly thank you.” “It wasn’t just me. My wife helped and there were others.”

“That Troubleshooter character. Where did you find him?”

“New York. He helped out with some issues with my grandfather in law and my nephew.”

“Andy, who’s managed to acquire a tail somehow.” “Let me go out, get some clothes more appropriate for dirty spaces and I’ll tell you the story behind that.”

I went out to the car where a smiling Bill handed me the suitcase and followed me back in. I went back to the locker room, changed and caught up with both Bill’s and Dan, the custodian, who Bill introduced me to. We got right to work as I told all of them how Andy got his tail and the rest of it. Dan asked, “So how did those books that have been spread around get started?”

“That was an accident. I was having some copies made up for Andy and some of my other nephews and relatives. The print shop in Greenwich Connecticut where I was when I had the copies made had some extras done as counter sales. A publishing executive saw one, bought a copy, and when their Christmas book flopped, sent it down to his art department to pretty it up and printed a run.”

“That reminds me,” Bill said. “The belts in the shop are all in tip top shape and it’s ready to go.”

This was Chrissie in action. Along with Helen, more than likely. As we got close to the office, where the last of my little gags were installed, Bill said, “Leave those. I might want them later.”

“I’ll give you copies of the prints and a diagram of how to set them up. If my wife finds out that I left any, I’m the one that will be in very hot water.”

“Good point. I can always set up my own fun and games if I need to. You don’t know how much I wanted to over the years.”

“I know some other people that were in your shoes and they are the same way. They have been a big help in dealing with the Colonel.”

“What happened to him?”

“Bill shot him after my dad ran him around the farm and sort of wore him out. He brought some of his things and hit the farm last night.” “That’s not the first time something like that happened. The last time was before you were born. Ever since, Eric has been rather aggressive about things near the farm.”

Chrissie rolled up, “Are you all about done? Bill, did he get everything?”

“Chrissie, we are and he did,” Bill said. “I wanted to keep some up and he insisted that he take them down.”

“Good. I don’t want some random kid setting something off by accident and nobody knowing how to shut it down.

Is the shop ready? We have some kids coming soon. I want to give them the full Tom.”

“The shop is good to go. How many kids?”

“I’m not sure. Helen is bringing a bunch, Stephie is bringing a bunch and Vera and Doug are bringing a bunch so figure thirty to forty for dinner.”

“I’ll tell Mitch. He’s going to be happy to cook for some real people again.”

“What are you planning, Chrissie?”

“Just what you’ve been doing, already. Only over here at the Academy rather than at your shop. As long as we have the Academy, I think that we should use it. Also, Doug’s and Helen’s kids haven’t had their chance at you yet.”

“Is Doug coming?” “He and Hans both. They want to share ideas.”

“You set all this up this morning?”

“Some of it. Some of it with Gretchen and Helen yesterday at your mother’s while you were in the shop with the kids. I wanted to meet Doug and he wanted to see you in action, so I arrange for him to bring the kids here today. Helen had mentioned how disappointed the kids had been that they couldn’t have any time with you at the party and well Stephie was going to bring the kids over to your shop and it wasn’t that big a deal to make the thing a special trip. Tim and Vic are coming too, so be prepared to be in the paper.”

I turned to the others and said, “Was she this scary when she was here?”

“Worse. She ran the ladies here ragged. ”

“By the way, where are the books from the library?” Chrissie asked.

“Upstairs,” Bill said. “We sort of put them in an empty room for the kids to discover, but the lady banned them from that section of the Academy and we couldn’t tell them to look because of our compulsions. I don’t think that the ladies wanted the kids reading. They demanded that the books be removed the first day they showed up. Fortunately they did not insist that we throw them away.” “What did Chrissie do, other than the rifles?”

“There was that call to the booze connection that she just shut down, the call to have somebody come and pick up the rifles,without dialing, scaring the poor werewolves with that rifle and then just handing it over and the deliveries.”

“The deliveries were me.”

“They didn’t know that. The stuff just showed up for the kids addressed to Chrissie. I think the worst part was that Chrissie just didn’t have somebody come and pick her and the other ladies up when it was obvious that she could. Then it was obvious that she knew more about what was going on outside than they did. That kid that escaped from the school, for instance. They couldn’t find Ed to bring the kid back as usual and Chrissie seemed to know what happened to him.”

“The kid was smart. He knew that Ed would have to bring him back, so he made a trail into the woods the day the school received deliveries, hid in the truck, got off at the next stop and had them call the sheriff. I told Chrissie about it when I visited later.”

“That scared the hell out of those Board fellows,” Dan said. “Especially after they were fairly sure that you had been in the building, but not when and why. They wanted constructs to protect them and the Director didn’t have any.”

I smiled. “My nephews have them all someplace. They won’t even tell me where. They also have contracts for every single construct jar Created in the area. They need them for their shoots and can pay better than anybody else. The Colonel managed to find four and launch them yesterday and the boys turned them into a publicity stunt and mini shoot for the kids from the Academy, my family and some others. The poor Colonel had to watch his diversion just get diverted.”

“The Colonel put up a good front,” Bill said. “But it seemed to me as if he was out of his depth.. For one thing, he had been coming in and out of here for a couple of months setting things up and yet he never seemed to find out who the people around here were. If you knew what to look for, he panicked a bit when you and the family showed up at the parade. He didn’t seem to realize that Eric lived across the lake. Then he had to deal with Hilda and those government types poking around. That kept him dancing. He was trying to find out more about you and he couldn’t make the connections that he needed. Finally he had the Board brought over as a front and had them buy all that stuff you had.”

“We wondered about the Board. They never seemed to do very much. Other than try to go after me.”

“They were a front and a intermediary with the Director so that the Colonel wouldn’t have to expose himself too much. He was trying to stay in the shadows.”

“That didn’t work as well as he thought. A bunch of people started to notice that his people were up to something. Of course Ed and Jacob had been fighting their compulsions and pointed us at this place and we had run into the same thing before.”

“That thing the Troubleshooter raided a while back. Also what happened when your nephew was taken.”

“Yes, the place that a lady used to tempt young men into a very dark path was found and when they took my nephew they put him in one of their schools.”

“That probably didn’t work out well for them. You have a reputation and the boy’s mother certainly does.”

“No it didn’t. The boy’s mother and my sister fixed Andy up with a cap gun that wasn’t and he had a bunch of loose cartridges in his school bag that he used to make up some of my exploding boats. He was rather bored with the place in a about a day. As for Hilda, she and my sister went down there and used the Twisted as targets to score the end of their year. The whole thing ended up in a fiasco for the Manager.”

“That may have been because the Director was here, and other places, running errands for the Colonel, who told him to forget that he had done them.” Bill said. “He usually watched the Manager fairly closely, but while he was doing things for the Colonel he wasn’t keeping an eye on what the Manager was up to or watching what was going on.”

“That explains some things,” I said. How things seemed to go from the bowers nearly collapsing to the fiasco that happened with me and Andy.” The building filled with the noise of kids and Chrissie said, “Good, they’re here. Tom, let’s go over to the shop.”

Both Bill’s and Dan headed toward the kitchen as I rolled Chrissie over to the shop. The shop looked ship shape and ready to go. I started to set out tools and get things ready.

That was a good thing as the first batch of kids was Doug and Vera’s, followed shortly by Helen’ grand kids and some others from their school, along with their shop teacher. Since these kids hadn’t been through my safety lecture about machine tools and so forth I went through that part first before my sister’s batch showed up. Doug even had a left over dummy that I used for demonstration purposes which shattered nicely when it was caught in the lathe.

Tim, Vic and our batch showed up, along with people from the local papers on both sides of the lake, so there were plenty of pictures as the kids worked on the stuff they brought from school and I went around giving tips on how to use tools. Hilda brought her brother and his cousin over and Ed brought Gretchen.

As things went on Chrissie was her usual self even charming the skeptical Hans, who was apparently rather prejudiced, at least initially about merfolk. He wanted to know how I had bonded with Chrissie and I told him the entire story including the boathook and the sharks with Gunther intrepting as my German was rusty.

After about three hours it was time for dinner, which was Chrissie’s crab and Jacob showed up. “Tom, you are in violation of the restraining order!” “Isn’t it a bit late for that?” He had a smile and twinkle in his eye, something I had never seen before. “We need to fix that!” He handed me an envelope. There inside, was an unrestraining order. “There, that should correct any issues.”

Everybody was laughing at Jacob’s little joke as we ate. I suspected that my daily Jacobs were not over, but that they were going to get a lot more fun.

After dinner, the kids lit off a bunch of the gags that they had made, some of the leftovers from the Colonel and we even lit off some of the noisemakers. Then it was time for Trillia and Chrissie to get wet, so they gave us a wonderful little dance before we all went home.

Captain Golfinho

Monday, 2/01, 1932.

When I walked out on to the bridge the weather was a reflection of my my mood, cloudy and uncertain. It looked like the weather was going to turn sour, tomorrow, if not today. On the other hand, today was the last day of our fun and games and I intended to make sure that we all got maximum enjoyment out of the whole thing.

The kids walked onto the bridge. Marie asked, “How come you didn’t tell the lady about the mermaids?”

“Because she wouldn’t have believed me if I had. She didn’t want to see mermaids for whatever reason. So they don’t exist for her. You,on the other hand, wanted to see the mermaids and they wanted to dance for you. I wouldn’t bother the lady about them.”

“Do you think that we can see them again?”

“Oh, I’m sure that you will.”

“Good,” Jean said. “Maybe we can attract their attention.”

The kids left the bridge, discussing things on their way to the galley.

There seemed to be shouting forward and I went out onto the bridge wing to listen. Herr Ernst and the major were having a discussion. “Where is the chemist?! The passengers still have not woken up.”

“I do not know, Herr Ernst. The support missed a check in call this morning and they were not at the hotel that the Colonel arranged for a secondary rendevous point. So I do not know what happened to them.The Colonel may be pursuing another Creator or doing something else.”

“Where is the Colonel?”

“He also had not arrived at any of the alternative contact points and I have received nothing from him since Sunday morning. If nothing else there should have been a telegram from him this morning. I can only conclude that either the Colonel is not in a position to send a message or something has happened to the Colonel. Considering what I encountered in Vermont and some of the other reports I have received from Maine, if the Colonel remained in Vermont for his personal mission there is a very good chance that he is dead. I told him that dealing with the king there was dangerous.”

“You are not fae! How do you know such things!”

“Herr Ernst, my family has been a loyal servant and assistant of the Von Wulfs for generations. No we are not fae, but we are trusted. The colonel brought me over here to perform the parts of the task that he could not have fae or the werewolves perform. He also brought me over to provide advice if he needed it. I have been against this mission since he brought it to me six months ago and I told him that there was a high probability of failure. He felt compelled to attempt the mission regardless. I also told him that the young man would probably not do things the way he expected and that the community up there in Vermont would not react in the same ways that he had been accustomed to. They certainly proved that to be correct.”

“They certainly had you running away.”

“Once I was compromised, that was the only choice I had. As it was thirty werewolves were destroyed almost immediately.” “You had a hostage.”

“The hostage was the Bear’s daughter and his wife was known for how well she shoots. In fact she shoots so well that the local gambling people take bets on who will win the shooting contest she has with her sister in law. The Community up there is heavily armed and actually manufactures firearms. There was no way that I was going to take the Bear’s daughter hostage in any case.”

“The Bear?”

“You did not serve on the Eastern Front or you would know. He was the Czar’s chief investigator and troubleshooter. Not somebody you would want coming after you for personal reason under any circumstances even if he did not have the connections that he does. He is County Sheriff up there and married a Benton. So there is no way that I was going to mess with the family directly if I could avoid it. If the Colonel attempted what I think he did, then he is more than likely dead.”

This was getting interesting. Tom’s family was more interesting than I think Noro or Josh realized.

“If the Colonel is dead?”

“Then we pursue the mission for the good of the domain or we abort. Preferably without any more deaths and getting deeper into the hole than we already are.”

“You are considering aborting the mission?”

“Very much so. There was too much exposure in New York and the Colonel’s actions with the Benton family made things almost impossible to remain discreet. The fact that the support and indentured seem to have disappeared as well as the Colonel may mean that the mission is already irretrievable. If the Colonel is dead then my obligations are to the domain and the lady was opposed to the mission from the start. If I know for certain that the Colonel is dead, then I will have to reevaluate.”

“Killing the passengers will be difficult and I was not able to place a self destruct device aboard the ship. I was counting on the Chemist to provide a self destruct for the voyage.”

“I don’t think that killing the passengers is an option at this point in any case. At least not one that I can use at this point here on the pier with the ship’s crew aboard. At sea there are difficulties as the ship’s crew would likely not cooperate with us and I do not know how to navigate a ship. Do you?”

“What if the passengers do not wake up?” “Have you any contacts with the local fae?”

“There are no people from the Director’s operations that are local. The bower here has destroyed or frightened away all the dark fae that would have provided the Director with resources. In any case the Director has neither a Chemist or a healer at his disposal.”

“So we are on our own, regardless. We will meet again at noon and I will make the decision to abort, or not.”

The two separated and I went to find Jean and then, Mac. Jean was with the purser and I told him to find me and Mac when he was done and then went below to the engine room to find Mac.

He was forward, in the boiler room, lighting the boilers and starting them up, a process that would take several hours. He turned as I walked up and I said, “Mac, I know that you are busy, but if you could take a discreet look around the ship for something that doesn’t belong, extra wiring, say, and make sure that it doesn’t go boom in our faces, we will probably be better off. I just heard Herr Ernst talking to the Major and he said that he did not plant a self destruct, but you can take that for what it’s worth.”

“I already thought of that. Altris mentioned that these people like to have their things go up in flames. So I talked to the ship’s engineer who brought the ship over, Jaques and he said that nobody had installed anything over there and all the cargo from over there was unloaded here.I also checked the engine room and the holds and there wasn’t anything that didn’t belong. So we are probably safe from a sudden boom at sea.”

“The major seems to think that things are going wrong. The Colonel hasn’t checked in for some strange reason and apparently the major had more exposure to the Bentons than the colonel did.”

Jean found us and said, “So, captain, what did you hear from our charter?”

“They are rather confused at the moment. The major thinks that the Colonel is probably dead.”

“He is.” George came in with a big smile. “Josh called last night. Apparently the Colonel and Eric went toe to toe and Eric cut the Colonel to ribbons before Bill shot him.”

“Tom didn’t shoot the Colonel?” Jean frowned a bit. “I would have expected him to after the thing with Chrissie.”

“Eric wanted Bill to have a very nice retirement fund, so he arranged for Bill to take the shot. Eric also thinks that Tom is going to be in the spotlight and so does Josh, so it’s better if Bill collects.” “From what than major was saying, that family is not somebody you want to mess with in any case,” I said. “He was rather frightened of Boris, or the Bear as he called him.”

“Well the family certainly takes lengths to avoid Boris’s ‘Russian talking to’ as they call it. They also know about Boris and what he did for the Czar before and during the war. Boris and Bill have a friendly rivalry going on over monsters and Bill getting caught. So far Bill hasn’t. Did they say anything else? “Well the major said that if he knew for sure that the Colonel was dead that he would have to reevaluate the mission and contact the people at home. He mentioned the lady.”

“She’s up at the farm right now, with family members, including Hilda’s brother, who is his new boss then. Noro should be here shortly. He’s coming down with some indentured looking for their children.” “They’re here, having a great time. Other than the lady that is their minder. My daughter and some of her friends danced for them yesterday. They were very impressed with Persai when she came over yesterday. They like the idea that I am an almost pirate captain with a mermaid wife. I haven’t told them that one of the dancers was my daughter yet.” “Well Nera and Eltra came with Mike and Al this morning and are out there with the girls. Mike and Al are putting a team together with Steve’s people and Roger’s people along with people from the bower and the coast guard. So we should be set regardless of what they do. Noro will probably want to play his typical fun and games. So I think we should let him, don’t you?”

We all smiled. This was getting even more fun by the minute. George went on, “My father and the rest have been keeping him entertained and now it’s our turn.

Anything else?”

Mac said in his full Scottish accent, “George, there is a stame pipe that I think that I naid too look at before the system is oonder pressure.”

“Why is that a problem?”

“It roons through the starboard steerage bearth.”

“The starboard Steerage is where the first group of ‘passengers’ is,” I added. “The charter says that they are under quarantine. Of course the charter neglected to tell me of potential medical issues before they boarded the ‘passengers’ and Mac had planned to get to the steam pipe for the generators this morning.”

“Well then I think we need to have a discussion with Herr Ernst, don’t we? Perhaps we can arrange for Mac to do his inspection during lunch when the ‘passengers’ are in the steerage dining area. Mac are you needed down here?”

“I dinna think so. At least not for Soomtome. Me boys can handle the rest.”

The four of us proceeded up to the promenade deck, Mac still wearing his filthy coveralls and blackened face and over to Herr Ernst’s cabin. I knocked on the door. “Who is it?”

“The captain. We have an issue and we need to resolve it fairly quickly.”

He opened the door. “What is it?”

“Mac, tell him.”

“It’s the stame pipe in the starboard steerage. It runs aft froom the bilor room to the generators aft of Steerage. I need to inspect it.”

“Why didn’t you do that earlier?”

“The luine needs to be inspected hot and under low pressure. We only had the auxiliary bilor going and it daenna connect to that line. It only connects to the port luine.”

“I’m not sure that is possible. The passengers are under quarantine for their health.”

“I was thinking that we do the inspection during the passenger’s lunch, when they would be oot of the bearthing spaece”

“Can you do that?”

“I cann get it done if the luine donna need work.”

“If it does need work?”

“I have some shipfitters standing by,” George said. “It should take about an hour.”

“What if the work is not done?”

“Then the lights could go oot and other thangs like the radio doon’t hae poower. Oof Coourse the Pilot woon’t let us depart if we doon’t have power foor the radio and rooning lights.”

“So the work is necessary. I will tell our people to be prepared.”

We left the cabin and George said, “The work will be required, won’t it?”

“Aye. A little roost faery goot to the liune.”

“Mac, are you sure you aren’t family?”

“I dinnae think so. On the oother hand I’ve been with your family for soo long that I dooubt that it matters.”

“Well I’m off to collect Altris and Noro. Be prepared for a surprise visit from our mysterious owner. You may also have some flying visitors that will make the kids happy. They will be discreet, however.”

He headed toward the gangway. The kids saw him leave and came over. They looked a little disappointed. Jean said, “We missed him.”

“What did you want from George?”

“He said that he could get some crab for us. We wanted crab for the mermaids.”

“The mermaids get plenty of crab on their own. Now steak on the other hand, that is something they like. But you can’t bait a mermaid like a fish and catch her.”

“How did you catch a mermaid?”

“As I said, she caught me. I had been running my lumber schooner up and down the coast and she liked the cut of my jib. She tried being mysterious for a while, giving me glimpses of her, letting me know that she was there, teasing me and then she hit me with that wave when I was being careless. She’s been a big part of my life ever since.”

“She’s beautiful,” Helen said.

“I know. I spend just about every day trying to be worthy of her. It has worked out.” “You said that you spent the winter under sea with her, yet here you are,” Jean said. “Why are you working for the bad men?”

“I’m not going to say right now. You will see shortly, I expect. There is a surprise coming that you will like very much. As for the bad men, well they have a surprise coming as well. Why don’t you keep an eye out for the mermaids if the lady doesn’t want you for school.”

“We’re hiding and moving around. That man who came yesterday said that he would teach us about the weather. The lady never teaches us real things like that.”

“Just don’t bother Mac. He’s busy getting us ready to leave.”

“We won’t.”

The kids left in a bit of a hurry and were around the corner when the lady turned up looking for them with a frustrated look on her face. I nodded and headed toward the bridge. Altris had told us about the lady that was working for the Manager. Frau Shultz seemed to be of the same type.

I worked on paperwork at the desk until Jim Barnes the pilot, showed up with his people. “Hi Paulo, everything ship shape?”

“Yes except for a steam pipe that Mac needs to check out in the Starboard Steerage berth. Shouldn’t be a problem even if it is leaking. The owner has a shipfitter on call if we need it.”

“What’s the pipe for?”

“The starboard generator. Mac could check the port pipe out because it had a connection to the auxiliary boiler, but couldn’t check the starboard pipe until number three boiler was hot.”

“If I had a nickel for every one of those slammed together plumbing jobs.”

“That’s for sure. Mac has started a little list for when the ship gets docked.”

“I’m surprised that Noro is branching out. On the other hand Josh and Joe did buy that yacht last year.”

“That yacht they have spent a fair amount of time cruising in already. If this keeps up they may never actually use it for charters.”

“They will. That family is too business smart to just buy something like that to play with, even if they do play with it. Considering the time of year I think that Joe wanted to give it a good test before he docks it next month.

I’m just glad to Noro around again. He’s apparently been having fun with Chrissie and the Olympics. How did that happen?”

“According to Altris, who got it from Lou, Josh went up with Tom and Chrissie, that Martin character shows up and essentially insults the entire family and the Olympic people wanted Noro as a patsy. Noro handed them to Josh who did his usual.”

“Ouch. Then Chrissie got her licks in with that party right after Christmas.”

“That was our Chrissie all right, over the top and overdone. I wonder if we can find some poor idiot to insult her down here.”

“Nobody’s that stupid. Not around here. Not now.”

The kids charged in and saw Jim. “Captain, Who is this?”

“This is Captain Jim Barnes, who will be our pilot out of the harbor today.”

“Why do you need a pilot?”

“Because the captain of a ship might not be experienced with a particular port and the traffic inside it. A port can be a crowded place, especially a port like Boston or New York and a Pilot is an expert of that port.”

“Aren’t you a pilot?”

“Yes I am. But this way I can watch the ship and Jim can watch the port. Even though I am a qualified pilot for Boston, the ship is safer if we have a pilot.Since this is my first voyage with this ship, I want a pilot so that I can see how the ship handles. In any case, the owner is insisting that we have a pilot.”

“So a pilot is a second captain for the port?”

“Yes. Otherwise every captain would have to know every port or only go to the ports that they were familiar with. Pilots make shipping easier. I need to talk to Jim here, so you kids should start to get ready.”

The kids left and Jim said, “Good kids. Where did they come from, other than France, obviously.”

“I’m not sure. They were aboard when I came aboard. I have my suspicions, but I’m not going to say anything unless the mothers don’t show up like they are supposed to.”

“We could call the cops.”

“Alread y called. This is a bit bigger than the kids.”

“Considering that Noro is involved, probably something to do with Chrissie being kidnapped and the rest of the stuff upstate. I see that they got Chrissie out and there was another of those white slaver kid brothels shut down. What did they want from Tom anyway? I can see going after the old man for money, but why Tom? As far as I know he was more or less drifting until he met Chrissie last year.”

“Drifting in strange places. That little shindig that Chrissie put on came right out of his address book from his days in Washington.”

“So that office Tom has up there wasn’t one of Chrissie’s jokes.”

“It was, but according to Altris, everything in it was Tom. As for what they wanted, apparently Tom’s brother had the goods on somebody that was running the slavers and he wanted Tom to deliver them to him.”

The third mate came in, grinning. “Captain, your wife is here. I think that she wants to take you to lunch.”

Jim started to grin. “Paulo, I think she has you. You better do what your boss wants.”

As I headed toward the gangway, I wondered how Persai had gotten a driver. Phillip was at college today. We had insisted that he take course during the off season which had worked very well. The driver issue was answered when I reached the gangway as Persai had one of the business office cars that they used for the business and one of Velt’s people driving. I walked over to the car and she rolled down the window and said, “Hi dear! Why don’t you take me to lunch. Altris and Raila have a place they like and we will be joining them.”

“All right, They shouldn’t need me. Jean can handle Herr Ernst and Mac.”

I got in the car and Persai said, “Why should Herr Ernst have to deal with Mac?”

“There will be a leaky steam pipe in the Starboard steerage berthing compartment. Herr Enrst had to clear out the compartment and put the ‘passengers’ in the steerage dining area until Mac inspects the pipe, discovers the leak and has to call in shipfitters because the rot is going to be worse than he knew.

Will there be tail issues at this place? This isn’t the Cape, where tails are expected.”

“No. The owner has a tail at home. In the bower actually, though the tail comes up frequently and sits in the kitchen. Her kids work the place, the sons and older daughter. She’s married and has legs. The owner is very interested in Tom’s tank bed project. He’s also more than a little annoyed at the people who took Chrissie and diverted Tom from working on that. He also annoyed at Mr. Martin for the same reason.”

“Noro and Josh took on the Olympics. I’m not sure just how much Jacob had to do with that. On the other hand you know that being annoyed with Jacob is a default around here.”

“Well the owner is very pleased that Chrissie is out and wants to have Tom and Chrissie over for lunch if he can.”

“Everybody does, at least if they are seafolk. Tom needs some time to actually do the work.”

We arrived at the place and Persai was having one of her little jokes as it was one of those swanky places on the waterfront and she hadn’t warned me, so I was still in my rather bedraggled ship captain’s outfit. Persai’s beauty and elegance covered a lot of sins as the maitre de essentially ignored me as we went to a table of some more familiar tails and disreputable types along with Al and Mike, a couple and three ladies that I didn’t know, but who were waiting anxiously. Noro introduced Eli, Theresa and the three ladies and Jeanne said, “Monsieur, you apparently know about our children.”

“If they are the six kids on the ship, yes.”

“Are they well?”

“As of just before lunch, yes. If things are the same way as yesterday the girls are in the galley right now helping George with lunch, Jean and Jacques are learning Scottish curses in the berthing compartment and Pierre may be looking for mermaids or waiting for Ilutra’s people.”

“Why would the boys be learning Scottish curses?”

“Because Mac is taking a leaky steam pipe apart and I expect that the pipe is worse than he expected. The boys will probably want to help out.” “Why would it be worse than he expected?”

“Because of rust faery issues and scale, probably.”

“So the pipe was made to leak on purpose. Why?”

“The pipe runs through the berthing compartment where the ‘passengers’ are being kept. The ‘passengers’ are now being kept in the steerage dining area until the pipe is repaired.”

“So you want access to the compartment, or the ‘passengers’ out of the compartment.”

“George, Mac, Altris and I thought that doing something like that would be useful. Also the rushed work to fix the steam line creates all sorts of opportunities.”

Noro was smiling at me. He said, “And the rest of the ‘passengers?’”

“They still haven’t woken up, for some strange reason. The major is considering aborting the mission and taking his people out. He was rather disturbed by what he ran into up there.”

Noro, Mike and Al were all smiling. I went on, “The major is not fae, but his family has been a part of the Colonel’s domain for generations and been in the Colonel’s family’s service for a very long time, apparently. The major was opposed to the mission from the beginning. He is also fairly sure that the Colonel is dead.”

“We suspected that the major was sharp when he let Katherine go like that.”

“Once he knew who she was, that was automatic. He didn’t want to deal with Boris, or the Bear, as he called him or Stephie chasing him on a personal level.”

“That is perfectly understandable. Nobody who knows about them would want either one chasing you.”

“Apparently Boris made a big impression over there on the Eastern Front.”

“Eric said that after he married Stephie and the kids came along, he mellowed somewhat. The major did have everything going off around him right after he took Katherine.”

“He mentioned that as well and that is why he is sure that the Colonel is dead.”

Lunch was a fun time as the Noro and the rest of the people that had been up there told us about Chrissie’s antics at the Academy and Tom’s daily Jacobs. As lunch was ending I asked, “So how do you want us to handle things, Noro?”

“That depends on the major and if he wants things going up in flames.”

“He doesn’t. At least he said that he doesn’t. Herr Ernst, on the other hand is perfectly willing to go down with the ship for the Masters. But he was not able to place a self destruct aboard that Mac could find. He also said that he had expected the Chemist to build a self destruct.

The major is rather concerned that he can’t make contact with his support staff or the Colonel.” “How did you find all this out?” Noro asked.

“Herr Ernst had an argument underneath the bridge this morning. I sort of listened.”

“How did you do that,” Eli asked. “My wife and I have a bit of a professional interest.”

“When I first started to reach into my abilities like most fae do at about age eleven or so, I was rather small for my age and since my parents did not fish like the rest of the village, rather bullied by some of the other boys. In order to know what they were up to I realized that if there was a piece of paper, a leaf or even a window, that you could place a sense string and hear what the people nearby were talking about. My father had taught me about sense strings and I expanded on them a bit. Sort of like those tin can telephones. The technique has been useful from time to time.”

“Grandfather, Paulo taught it to us a long time ago,” Joe said. “He’s right and it has been useful from time to time. Paulo, We’ll show our grandparents the trick when we get a chance and show you their trick of phasing without Change in exchange.”

“Your grandparents, Joe? I didn’t think that Josh’s parents were still alive. You all could never track any clues down. We all looked hard enough over the years.”

“They found us over Christmas,” Noro said. “I had Lou hire them to sniff around up there near the Olympics after Jacob’s fun and games over the parade and werewolf issues had Tom bring them to the farm.”

“That makes sense. The major said that he had been up there for some time and had been working on this for six months.”

“So what does Josh think of his parents?” Persai said. “He’s more or less thought of Noro and Liltra as his parents as far as that went. That is when he wasn’t fighting with Noro.”

“We’re not sure yet,” Theresa said. “We’ve all been carried along by events. Not that the whole thing hasn’t been so much fun even with the kidnappings and whatnot. Josh fights with Noro?”

“All the time, up until the last few months. Especially the last couple of years when Josh wanted Noro to take a larger hand in the business and he wouldn’t. Josh just sort of gave up when he couldn’t get Noro up top and out of the bower. Still he argues with Noro over bower issues. At least he did until the the thing with Chrissie and Tom started up and the fun that went on there.”

“Fun that Josh didn’t tell me about,” Noro said. “Since lunch is about over, captain, the ship should expect a visit from the mysterious owner.”

“Not Mr. White. The major probably knows Mr. White by now.”

“Not Mr. White indeed. I think it’s time for the shadowy and crooked Mr. P. to return to the scene.”

“Well that fits better with being an almost a pirate captain with a mermaid wife.”

“Who’s idea was that?”

“The kids. By the way, Nera, if the girls show up again, the kids will really appreciate it. Frau Shultz probably won’t.” “Who is Frau Shultz?” Nera asked.

“The kids minder. Dark fae. Says that mermaids don’t exist.”

“Now THAT is something that we have to fix. Mac is probably busy and Tom is upstate still and I doubt that we could keep this going until Thursday as the golems are going start to fall apart, but I can cook something up on the fly this afternoon. Persai, can you help?”

“Glad to. Paulo, let’s head back to the ship.”

“Paulo, tell the kids that I’m sorry that I forgot their crabs this morning,” George said.

“I told them that steak probably works better if you are fishing for mermaids.”

The ladies all laughed at that as I rolled Persai back out to the car. As I was putting her inside she said, “Was that what that was? You had something that smelled so good in your galley the first time I saw your ship. I had to have it, so I started to chase after the ship and then I spotted you and I was taken.”

“Well it must have been something that made me so lucky. I told the kids that you can’t bait a mermaid like you do a fish anyway. She catches you.”

“Well I did catch you. It took some effort though. You’ve made it worth my while every day since. When this is over tonight, you and I are going for a Swim.”

“I told the kids that I tried. I guess that I did better than I thought.”

“Yes you did.” She reached over and kissed me. We just enjoyed each other’s company until we reached the ship.

She left me at the ship and went off to scheme with the rest of them. As I walked up the gangway I could here the banging and pounding going on in the berthing compartment as well as Mac cursing away at something. Herr Ernst was waiting when I reached the top of the gangway. “You said that it was a minor inspection! Not something like this!”

“What happened?”

“Your man went in and shortly afterwords the room filled with steam, he came back out cursing up a storm and headed toward the phone. Ever since he has had a crew in the cabin and more people showed up with tools and pipe. Half the room is torn apart.”

“That’s why he wanted to inspect the line in the first place. Apparently the line had gotten wet in the past or collected scale, or both.”

“What is scale?”

“Why don’t we go see.”

“Where were you anyway?”

“My wife took me to lunch with the owner. I was hoping to convince him to stay away from the ship today. I failed. He’ll probably show up later. He’s trying to impress his latest lady.”

Mary was going to play the mysterious Mr. P’s. latest play toy, among other things. These poor people had no clue what they had set themselves up for. Noro figured that if he could create a big enough circus the ladies could fly in and nobody would notice. We certainly were going to try. What Nera and the others were going to come up with for poor Frau Shultz was probably going to be amazing.

We reached the chaos that was the starboard compartment and things were torn apart to get to the stream line and there were pieces of pipe all over the place with Mac in the middle with Jean translating showing the two boys what scale looks like. He handed me the pipe. “We have scale. The second I poot some preeshure on the liune it started to spit and leak something fierce.”

“Why didn’t it do this on the voyage over,” Herr Ernst asked.

“The liune was hot and under preeshure, which kept everything cloosed up and when they shuut thangs down, a piece of scale that had been coovering the roost cracked and there was a leak. With stame oonder preeshure that leak became larger once the stame started to erode it. Since it was all Roost, the eeroosion happeened verae quickly.”

“What is scale.”

“Water has minerools in it. When liune cools the stame coondenses and you have water in the liune. When the liune gets stame in it again, the water biles oof and laaves the minerools behind. That’s scale.”

“Why isn’t the water treated to prevent scale?”

“It is. But water, especially seawater, may change it’s coomposition and what works for one saalt dinnae work for all of them. I hoove an entire shelf of books on water treatment at home and there are still more things aboot scale that I dinnae know. In any case this is a bigger headache than I thoot it would be. I need to get back to work.”

He went back to work with the two boys following right along. Herr Ernst left, probably to talk to the major. I turned to Jean and said, “Where are the rest of the kids?”

“With Ilutra’s people learning about barometers and other weather instruments. The girls were in the galley earlier learning how to cook steaks. They had the door open on the galley so that the smell would attract mermaids.”

“According to Persai, that might actually work. She said that was what attracted her to my ship, and me.”

“Not that these mermaids need to be attracted. They’ve been right under the ship all day.”

“Nera and Persai are up to something. I told them about Frau Shultz’s comment about mermaids and they are looking to surprise her. There may be water tubes involved.”

“Why do you think so?”

“Because Nera was talking about Mac or Tom helping out. Tom is still up in Vermont and Mac is busy at the moment, but they have Al and he certainly knows how the tubes work by now. Plus the kids’ moms, who are planning to fly in at some point. At least three of them are. The other one is still up in Vermont because she was still shook up from a flying accident last night during the Colonel’s little ruckus.”

“Any more details.”

“Noro gave us pretty much what George told us. The Colonel hit the farm looking for Tom and got Eric. The irony is that the Colonel had set up a meeting and Tom had given him everything he wanted, if not the way he wanted it and Eric gave him an hour to get out of the county. From what Noro said, Eric didn’t even bother setting up the hunt, just waited there at the farm for the Colonel to show up and he did, with a bunch of werewolves all of whom had a rather bad day. The survivors were beaten up by an old lady.”

“Is the lady fae?”

“Not according to Eric. She’s had sheep and wool on her farm for decades, her husband died recently and the werewolves hit her place looking for something to eat. She shot five of them and killed them and the other five hid in the sheep pen and surrendered to the deputies when they showed up. She actually scared the werewolves out of their Change.”

“Is there something in the water up there?”

“I’ve never been up there, so I wouldn’t know. I wonder if Persai would like to try sledding.”

“Sounds like fun.” “I’m going to the bridge and see if Jim is ready to go.”

I went back to the the bridge where Jim was talking with his people. He turned to me and said, “With the exception of that steam pipe, everything looks ship shape. We should be good to go on schedule. That is if you go at all.”

“What makes you think that we will not?”

“With Noro involved and things like that steam pipe. Plus there’s something really wrong with your charter and the way they are keeping people sequestered like that. They claim it’s for quarantine, yet they have no medical people aboard. If you hadn’t said that you already called the authorities I would be.”

“The authorities are in this and we have contact with the kids’ mothers. In fact I spoke with them at lunch. As well as the authorities and Noro.” “So we are getting one of his circuses.” He grinned. They all did. “We haven’t seen one of his circuses in a long time now and I get to be in the middle. When is the ringmaster due to arrive?”

“About three, probably. He didn’t say exactly and Nera is setting something up.”

“What tripped that off.”

“I told her that the kids’ minder said that mermaids didn’t exist to the kids.”

“That will do it. I hope that Josh isn’t around.”

“Noro said that Josh is closing the Olympics down with Tom this week and then going down to New York to meet with Lou. So Nera can go as wild as she wants. Since her husband is the Fed in charge of this case, you can believe that she will.”

The grins got even larger. All the guys in the pilot corps were fairly regular attendees with their families to Nera’s little shows. “I’m going to add that her husband hasn’t seen one of the shows yet, so she’s probably going to give him a taste.”

“He hasn’t? Then how did he meet her?”

“He touched the water and she chased him down in New York, with the help of Josh and Mera who were going down there for other reasons. She locked him down right away to make sure that he didn’t get away. According to Altris, right there on a dock.”

“That’s not the first time she did that. At least this time it stuck.”

“Well I better check on Mac’s circus.”

I went back down to steerage and things seemed to be progressing well, if not well enough for a fretting Herr Ernst. He turned to me and said, “You said one hour. It’s been closer to two hours.”

“Actually Mac said that and you’ve been watching him work. He didn’t anticipate that the problem would be as large as it was. It looks to me as if the pipe, at least will be done before departure. The rest can be done by Mac and Jesus, the ship’s carpenter after we leave.”

“But the passengers must remain quarantined.”

“We can work around that. Like we did today. In any case the space must be returned to a usable state as soon as possible before bad weather conditions.”

“Why does the weather matter?”

“Because the ship pitches and rolls in bad weather and loose objects like the paneling become dangerous and the paneling protects the pipe from potential damage. So the paneling and the lockers above must be returned to normal as soon as possible.”

Seeing the dismantled lockers reminded me of something else, but there was no point in bringing it up. The ‘passengers’ hadn’t brought any baggage with them. If they were going someplace for a long stay, wouldn’t they have baggage?

I walked toward the dining area and discovered that there were more kids aboard. Or at least the kids had, as they were looking through the porthole that looked into the dining area at the kids who were looking out. Jean started to reach for the clamps to open the porthole and I went over and said, “Kids, that needs to be closed for the time being.”

“We just want to talk with them.”

“They may not speak French.”

“Good, then we can practice English with them. We’ve been learning with Jean.”

“I know that you would like to talk with them, but Herr Ernst has forbidden the other passengers and crew from coming into contact with them. For their health, he says.”

“Can we pass a message?”

“Leave it in the berthing compartment with Mac. He can leave it when he is done.”

The kids left to find a pencil and paper. The kids on the other side of the porthole looked rather disappointed and went back to their parents. I followed the kids to the pursers office where they found paper and pencils and said, “At three o, clock or so, keep an eye on the water. We are also expecting the ship’s owner.”


“My wife may pay a visit in the water.”

They really looked forward to that. As I left the pursers office, Joe and Steve turned up. Joe said, “Hi captain. George said that some people from the yard should get here and help Mac close up after that busted steam line. I brought a crew up from the yard.”

He had, with tool boxes and some of them looked rather military. They headed down to the berthing space. They passed Herr Ernst, who frowned and came over to me. “Who are they?”

“Yard hands from the yard on the Cape. They were sent by Mr. Douglas to perform the repairs that I was talking about earlier.” “Will they make it on time?”

“More than likely. Or they can arrange for a boat to pick them up after departure. If the weather turns very sour, they get a round trip voyage to Europe and back. Since that will piss their wives off, they will work very hard to get things more or less closed up by departure.”

“Well then it appears that you are resolving the issues. Excellent.”

He headed back to his cabin and I went to mine and my desk. Shortly before three, there was a knock on the door. I went to the door and the major was there. “Captain, I am Manfred Steiger. I am in charge of the charter at present. May we speak privately.” “Certainly, come in.”

I returned to my desk and he sat down. “What is it that you wish to speak about? Herr Ernst has been watching the repairs and the company has sent people to ensure that they are complete.” “You are fae, high fae more than likely.”

“How do you know.”

“I observed your wife yesterday while we were preparing the passengers. She has a tail and a certain carriage and presence.”

“A tail?”

“Captain, I have been watching mermaids for the last four weeks where you would not expect mermaids and at this point I can tell that a woman is a mermaid even if they are trying to hide it, which your wife was not.” “No she wasn’t. She was entertaining the children. So how is my wife’s peculuarites pertinent.”

“Because of what you are, you are aware of certain things. You are also from your old country, but came over here as a child, more than likely.”

“That is very astute for somebody who is not fae.”

“I have been near and around the fae for my entire life. So I know what they are like and I have also been watching horrible things that I have been unable to prevent for my entire life. I also know that the fae over there sent families over here to protect them. Your family was not merfolk, but probably had had close contact and may have been connected to a bower over there in Portugal. Since Portugal has been sending fishing and seafarers away to sea for centuries, nobody would notice a few more.

I’ve also been going across Europe since the war, looking for the remaining fae and telling them that the Baroness has a domain where they can go if they need to. The baroness and my father figured that I, as somebody that is not fae, would be beneath the notice of the Masters. All of which brings me to my reason for talking with you. I and my people are prepared to surrender without a fight.”

“Why haven’t you left?”

“First of all, Herr Ernst, who works for the Masters and not the Colonel, would probably attempt to compel the passengers to commit suicide and kill the children. He probably tried to compel you which will lead to problems for him if he did.

Second, if the authorities have been watching things and at this point, the amount of noise the Colonel made up in New York ensures that the authorities are very alert, getting out of the country would be difficult, if not impossible.

On the other hand, because of my travels, I have a lot of information about the fae and the Masters that I think that certain people will want. So I am willing to negotiate for our release eventually.

In any case, attempting to continue the mission at this point is pointless. I suspect that my superior, the Colonel is dead. In fact I am certain of that at this point and the Baroness was opposed to this fiasco from the start.”

“Why did you carry it out?”

“My family has been tied to the domain for generations and we have provided the Von Wulfs with retainers for centuries. My father served the Baron and his father did. Once the Baron decided that the mission was necessary to protect the domain from the threats it was facing I was forced to aid in it’s success even when I was almost certain that it was going to fail. The fact that the Baron had personal and family issues involving his daughter and son in law only made things worse.”

“So what do you think happened to the Colonel?”

“He probably compelled Ed and his father as hostages, used them to try to get to Tom and find out where his daughter was. He never really spent the time over there in Vermont that I did and never talked to people. If he had, he would have known that his daughter Gretchen shoots with the other two ladies, I think you know who I am talking about and his eldest grandson is a member of what people up there call ‘the three menaces.’ So they weren’t going to be the helpless innocents that the Colonel thought they would be. The Colonel probably got in too deep and Eric, Boris or Bill dealt with him like they deal with everything else.”

“You don’t think that Tom killed the Colonel?”

“If the Colonel came upon Tom all by himself, Tom would probably shoot the Colonel and kill him. But I suspect that Eric doesn’t want Tom to get in the habit of shooting everything in sight. He’s good enough at that already.”

He was very sharp. He was also right that Mike and Noro would want a very long talk with him. Mera certainly would. I looked at him and said, “I can confirm that the Colonel is dead. We should be getting a visit shortly by the people who you need to talk to.” “What about Herr Ernst?” “He tried to compel me yesterday. I don’t think that he’s going to be an issue. As for the lady, she is about to get a surprise. A rather large one.”

I was looking out through the porthole across the water to the next pier and there were trucks and people doing something. Considering that there was no ship moored there, that was a bit mysterious. Of course Nera was a family member too and a master show mistress with a great deal of experience. I looked at the Major and said, “Ok, Major, I will tell the appropriate people that you are prepared to cooperate. Be prepared for a bit of a circus.”

“Let me guess, Noro is coming.”

“How did you know?”

“I’ve been watching the man for a month. For something like this, in his domain? He will be here.”

“When this is over, we will have to talk to you about what he got up to up there. Noro, Josh and the rest. Were things as fun as they looked?”

“Not from my side of things. Well, some if it was. The record, though, brrr. When the girl said that she had babysat for that boy, I was glad to make a deal about the record. I hope that the Bear doesn’t use it in interogations.”

“The record?”

“Never tap the phone up there at the farm. Trust me, just don’t. Well I will keep Herr Ernst occupied. When you talk to the authorities please have a fae healer come as soon as possible. Those poor people who never woke up worry me.”

He left as I grinned. Somebody could explain the golems later. I had the feeling that he and his people had had a rough time up there at the farm. Chrissie alone could create a rough time. Apparently she bonded with Tom for good reasons. As it was getting close to six bells I decided to see what the kids were up to. They weren’t in the berthing compartment and when I looked down the hall they were back at the porthole, holding pieces of paper up. Somehow the kids inside had also gotten their hands on some paper that looked familiar and they were exchanging notes and pictures back and forth through the glass. The kids heard me approach and Marie turned and said, “These people aren’t ill. They were taken prisoner by the bad men. Can you get them out?”

“Shhh, we’re working on that.”

“They are some Creators and their families from Pennsylvania. They want to know where they are.” “You told them, I presume?”

“We told them they were on a ship and that we thought that the ship was in Boston. They asked for you and to call the police.”

“Tell them not to worry, the police are already working on it. They should be free shortly. Did you tell the other kids about the mermaids?”

“Yes we did. They want to see them too.”

“Tell them to watch the starboard side of the ship where the water is. You should go there too. I suspect that there is quite a show coming.”

Pierre was furiously writing on a sheet of paper on the bulkhead and when he was done, handed it to Marie, who held it up and the kid looking through the porthole nodded. The kids looked around and left quickly as a woman’s footsteps approached from around the corner. They were gone by the time Frau Shultz emerged from the corridor. She looked at me and shook her head and continued on. I went back to the berthing compartment to talk to Steve. He and a bunch of his people were putting some of the lockers back up when I walked up and quietly said, “I had a visit from the Major. He and his people are willing to cooperate.” “I’m not surprised. He seemed to have his head screwed on straight up there. He acted very quickly to get his people out when thinge went bad after Katherine was taken.” “Apparenly there is a boy with a record that gets use on tapped lines. It must be really bad.” “Everybody that heard it has said so. Tom is sending some very good Scotch to some old adversaries in apology. Jeremy dropped the record before he went down to New York.”

“There are a lot of record stores in New York.”

“Larry is taking the kids to the bookstores and radio row first.” He looked at his wrist watch. “It looks as if it’s time for the show to start.”

He pointed the dial at me and it was just after three. Time for things to start indeed and I walked toward the gangway where there was a line of cars coming down the pier, led by a car that I hadn’t seen before, but knew about. The Troubleshooter was paying the ship a visit. The Duesenberg was followed by Altris’s Packard, George’s Packard, A huge black Cadillac and another Cadillac. Altris and Stacey got out of the car with George and stood waiting. Al and Sal got out of the Duesie and walked over to Altris. Four rather tough looking characters got out of the Cadillac in the rear and two more from the one in front, with the driver holding the door as a woman that looked like a typical floozie emerged with her hand being held by a man in an all black suit, large black leather hat and coat and ebony came with a silver shark’s head on top. Some other people got out of the cars and the whole crowd headed toward the gangway. I heard a laugh beside me and there was the Major. “The Troubleshooter is a nice touch. I did say that he would show up. This isn’t Mr. White though.”

“This is Mr. P. He bankrolls loansharks and other unsavory characters. A very nasty piece of work who nobody has been able to pin anything on. He has some relation to the Peacekeeper, but nobody’s sure what it is.”

“So the mysterious owner emerges at last.” The major was grinning. “I see where Chrissie gets her tendency to overdo it. I better get ready for my part in this charade.”

He left as I went to the top of the gangway and down to the pier. Altris and Mike walked over to me and Mike said, “You were getting along with the major there.”

“He’s cooperating to be able to exchange information for his release. He knows a lot about what’s happening over there and where the fae are over there. The Baroness and his father sent him looking for fae because they figured that the Masters wouldn’t notice a non fae poking around.”

“Good, we can have a nice easy bust for the papers and then they disappear from the public eye. Nobody pays attention to court cases unless it’s a celebrity case anyway. Since the Colonel is already dead we can pin most of it on the Colonel.”

“The papers are here?”

“Louis from the Post was tipped off. A nice juicy scoop for him and some discreet coverage for us. We do this all the time in New York. Let’s get the show started.”

Mike the flunky took me over to Mr. P., the big shot, who said, “Captain, why don’t you take me on a tour of your vessel. I want a good look at my new purchase.”

We started the tour and the kids joined us. Somebody must have told them that the Troubleshooter was here, because they spotted him immediately. They came over to me and said, “Captain are you in trouble. Will you be shot?”

“I’m not in trouble. The Troubleshooter is doing some consulting for Mr. P. and is here as his guest.”

Herr Ernst turned up and I said to Noro, Mr. P., this is our charter leader.”

Noro said, in a rather dismissive fashion, “Pleased to meet you. Mr. Posidenitus has not informed me of the nature of the charter.”

“It is a medical retreat to Europe for some people with a condition. The condition requires that they not be exposed to the potential germs of others, so they must be kept under strict quarantine.”

“There does not appear to be a doctor in your group.”

“He has been delayed along with some others. I’m not sure why they have not arrived. I was hoping to negotiate a delay.”

“Mr. Posidenitus?”

“I’m afraid that a delay is not possible at this time. This ship is committed to another charter for a group in Southhampton later this month and then South to Africa and return here for docking.”

“Very well, I leave the business to you. Who are these wonderful children?”

“Their mothers do work for us in various capacities,” Herr Ernst said. “They have also not arrived as yet.”

I suspected that Herr Ernst had tried to compel Noro and was rather mystified why Noro was ignoring them completely. Noro turned to Altris and said, “These are the children you told me about. I wouldn’t want them to get bored on the voyage. Did you arrange for the little packages that I asked for?”

“Yes I did. They are being loaded even as we speak.”

The forward Port derrick was over the side and something was being raised in a cargo net. Jean came up and was smiling. Phillip was a bit old for a trouble kit, though he had bought a copy of Tom’s book, which, since he was attending MIT was sort of a necessity, because all the pranksters there had copies. If Tom had not been up at the Olympics, he would be beating the mobs of MIT types out of his shop every weekend, according to my son . Still the trouble kits were instantly recognizable. Noro turned to the kids and said, “These should keep you in trouble.”

Frau Shultz had joined the group and was trying to contain herself. I wasn’t sure if it was the idea that the kids should be given presents or that she recognized what the trouble kits were. I did know that Noro had made some friends today.

The whole group of us started down the starboard promenade when suddenly a pair of spotlights came on on the pier across from us and trained across the water. Other lights lit the water up in different colors and suddenly Nera, my wife and a mermaid that I didn’t know leapt right up into the air almost to the level of the promenade deck and splashed back into the water, followed by the girls with just a slightly lower series of flips. The air suddenly became foggy as a scene from the bower lit up and the mermaids danced through it. The show went on for ten minutes until Nera took the bows to the cheers around the pier and the lights turned off. The word must have gone out that Nera was up to something, probably from the lighting people because about a hundred people had gathered for this magical show. Noro said off handedly, “Somebody said that there were no such things as mermaids. I guess they were wrong.”

Poor Frau Shultz was in a state of shock and the kids had rather smug expressions on their faces. We went down below to the steerage deck where they were putting the finishing touches to the repair and Noro said, “Mr. Claytor, I see that you did your usual excellent work under pressure.”

“We try Mr. P. Especially for our better customers.” Joe replied, smiling. “This wasn’t that hard a job. The passengers can move back in now.”

We walked forward and Mike suddenly held up a badge. “Herr Ernst, I think that I must insist that I speak with the passengers. There were some people taken from their homes under mysterious circumstances and as part of the team investigating the crime I requested that Mr. P. allow me to interview the departing passengers.”

Herr Ernst had a rather shocked expression on his face, which only got worse as he realized that the corridor was empty of the major’s men and that the frantic compulsions that he was attempting to apply had no affect whatsoever. He screeched, “They must be kept isolated for their health!”

Marie said in halting English, “They said that they were from Pennsylvania.”

Mike turned to me and said, “Captain, I think that I should resolve this. Is the door open?”

I checked and it was locked. “The purser has the key.”

“I just got it,” Jean said. “Mike talked to me earlier during the tour and I went and got the key from Jacques. Here let me unlock the door.”

He did and when Mike entered the dining area, there was shouting and people yelling, “We have been kidnapped, we are not ill and under quarantine” Mike held up his hand and said, “I’m senior agent Mike Wendell, in charge of this case. We are here to evacuate you from this vessel and return you to your homes after we get your statements. I have people here to escort you ashore.”

Some of the people that had come with Noro stepped forward to take the people by the hand and lead them ashore to get their statements and arrange for a hotel. The kids from Pennsylvania weren’t eager to go and our bunch were looking rather sad and Jean said, “What will happen to us? Our mothers disappeared.”

“We are right here.”

There they were, indeed. They apparently hadn’t even had to fly aboard as they were all dressed. Pierre and Helen looked and cried, “Aunt Jeanne, is mama all right?”

“She is fine. She had a flying accident yesterday and fell. So she was shook up and the healer wanted her to stay in Vermont just in case. She will be here Thursday with some other people coming down from Vermont. We are staying here for the time.”

Mike turned to the rather shocked Herr Ernst and said, “The others?”

“Port berth. They never woke up”

We went over to the berth and the door wasn’t even locked. There they were, sleeping away, except for two where the mice must have left and had returned to their wooden skeletons and sandbags. Herr Ernst spotted them and almost went into shock as he realized just what the bodies were. Al came in and said, “I guess they were never going to wake up. They were never even alive.”

“You knew! All along, you knew! Where the ship was, about the Creators! How?!”

Herr Ernst started to shake, there was a ripping of clothing and suddenly he was a thing, ugly with tentacles and stench. There was a bang and the thing dropped and started to melt. Al said, “Shoot for the trouble. I hope somebody got a picture.”

“I did,” Steve said. “I knew that Tim would want one for the book.”

Frau Shultz ran forward, tearing at her clothes and we followed, as she reached the deck, Changed and leapt into the air. The three ladies were also reaching for their clothes when two winged shapes appeared. Frau Shultz saw them and realized that there was nowhere to go, released her Change and dropped hard onto the cold water, dying almost instantly as the mermaids closed in and retrieved the body. It was over.

I went and found Jean. “Get some crew together and get the mice out of the golems, soonest or we will be having real problems.”

He nodded and went off to find some people to discreetly deal with that small issue. At least it was a small issue now. I hoped that the ship’s cat would find the mice that had escaped already. Mice aboard ship could be a real problem.

Jim showed up grinning and said, “I guess that this vessel will not be departing this afternoon after all. At not unless it wants to travel empty. Noro pulled off a good one this time. I’m so glad that he’s back in shape.”

“Aren’t we all. At least you won’t have to live in the bower with him.” “No, but he doesn’t play his tricks in the bower. He can’t get away with them there.” He looked over the side. “I think that Persai is trying to get your attention.”

I looked over the side and she was. She pointed at the pier and held up ten fingers. I turned to Jim and said, “She wants me on the pier in ten minutes.”

“Thank her and Nera for the show. That new technique for the scenery was impressive.”

“I think that Tom came up with that for his wedding to embarrass his sister. I need to talk to some people and then get down there.”

I went to find Noro and Altris. They were bringing Mac up to date with Joe and when they saw me, Noro said, “That went very well.”

“So what’s next?”

“Joe arranged for the ship to get dock space next week, so next week you take it down to Fall river for docking. We may need it for real soon.”

“If the major is correct, for the domain. It may need to be evacuated.”

“That is a certainty. Did the major mention Hitler?”

“No he didn’t. But I’m not sure that he was spending much time in Germany. Is the baroness worried about Hitler?”

“Very much so. The domain’s keystone uprooted itself.”

“That explains why the major was willing to help with this fiasco even though he was fairly sure that it would fail. If it failed the Colonel would probably go with it and if it didn’t the domain gets some breathing space to move. The major apparently spent a fair amount of time looking at Eric, Boris and the rest and didn’t go far to make sure that the Colonel knew what he was getting into.”

“Not that he could have restrained the Colonel in any case. The monster was too close to the surface. The Colonel had lost most of his ability to stragetize and reason. Eric was rather disappointed at how easy it was at the end. The Colonel never saw the end coming until Eric put him where he wanted right in front of Bill who had been standing in the same place throughout the fight.”

“The major was fairly certain that if the Colonel went to Vermont, he was going to die. Even if he got what he wanted, he wasn’t going to get it the way he wanted, but like having Hilda or Stephie deal with him.

So we will probably need the ship and a crew. How are the tank beds coming?”

“Tom has been working on them. I’m going to poke him a bit during the Games when we can keep most of the other work off his back. He’s been using a prototype bed even when Chrissie was at the Academy. Of course Chrissie may create other issues.” “How so?” “Both Chrissie and Nera are probably fertile and being very grabby toward their husbands.”

“So they either go into Change and legs or stay under. Knowing both of them, it’s going to be legs. Nera will have a harder time adjusting than Chrissie will because Chrissie has had legs already. Nera will probably have it like Persai did, along with the joys of things like diapers. Well, we managed and I expect that Mera and Josh did too.”

“In any case, Tom will not need a tank bed for himself fairly soon. From what I’ve seen, he has a fairly good handle on things in any case.”

“Persai wants me on the pier, so I better get going.”

“We will be having dinner at the same place again. With the girls and the kids, along with their mothers. Telly is going to try to get her father cleaned up. Nera will probably arrange the cars for her and the other mermaids.”

I left my bosses and headed down to the pier. Persai was in the water with the girls, Nera and the mermaid that I had not met and the kids from Pennsylvania and the kids from France were all talking to them. The French kids were with their mothers. Jeanne turned to me and said, “Thank you captain, for taking care of our children.”

“It was not a problem. I just let them be themselves and gave them the run of the ship. I did it mostly to confound Frau Shultz.”

“Whatever the reason, it was a good thing.”

“Don’t believe him, Jeanne,” Persai said. “He did it for the kids. He can’t stand people just keeping the the kids restricted uneccesarily because it was convenient for them. You should have seen the battles with the school people over our kids.”

Who is this other lady that I haven’t met?”

“This is Sillia, Sal’s wife. She has been training with Nera at the Navy yard and her home and when the dance was being put together, volunteered.”

“Welcome, Sillia. I expect that we will see you from time to time.”

“Yes you will, when I can get my workaholic husband out of looking for trouble to shoot. There are days that almost wish that he had never found the car.”

“That wouldn’t have changed anything, Sillia,” Nera said. “By the time Sal and Al went to visit Jimmy’s place the Troubleshooter rumors had already started. The car had nothing to do with it other than Jimmy mouthing off about it and Al spreading the story. Of course it wasn’t just Al. Sal was spreading the story and so was Jimmy. For that matter you told your mother the story that night after Sal told it to you and you mentioned the car to Stella that same night. In any case the car didn’t make Sal the Troubleshooter, The Troubleshooter grew into the car. Mike mentioned that to me and my sister did too when it happened. As for Sal looking for trouble to shoot, all the trouble has been finding us. Sal doesn’t go looking for characters like the Colonel, the sharks or the Manager. They found us and tried to kill us.

For that matter, compare your honeymoon in Florida, lazing on beaches with mine, up there at Lake Placid dealing with the daily Jacob.”

“That was Tom.”

“Yes but somebody had to take laugh duty and that was hard work. Then we had to set up for that party that Chrissie put together and send out all those announcements and invitations. It wasn’t all sledding and cider by the fire. Then Tochi and Suki showed up to increase the fun.”

“Who are Tochi and Suki?” Jeanne asked.

“The son of the Emperor of Japan and his wife,” Nera answered.

“Those two. We could never understand why a prince would stay at such a lowly place.”  

“He’s an old friend of Tom’s and in no way a stuffed shirt. I think that the company was more important than a fancy place and armies of servants. As for Suki, I expect that if you stay around us, you will encounter her all too soon.”

I wondered about that. It sounded like Chrissie had all sorts of new friends to play with now when Tom came into her life. I just hoped that she didn’t forget us all entirely now that she had new friends. On the other hand, if what I had seen so far was any indication, they were going to be so much fun.

Persai turned to me. “Dear, Joe brought one of your suits from the house. I want you to look more appropriate for dinner this evening. Nera, I and the other ladies are going to the discreet place we set up and dressing. Nera has already arranged the cars. You will get dressed and go to the restaurant with Noro, the French ladies and their kids. Then you get wet with me.”

“What about the ship?”

“What about it? Rafael and George have the night watches tonight and you aren’t planning to take it to the yard until next week in any case. So you don’t have to be on board every second. We will just be going to the islands outside the harbor for the night anyway, so you won’t be that far away. You’ve had a stressful several days and have you Changed in any of them?” “I couldn’t. I didn’t want Herr Ernst to find out that I was fae.” “Well then you definitely need to get wet. I don’t want to go throught what Mera does with Josh from time to time. So you spend an evening with me and being wet and then we find a nice cozy spot until the morning.”

I said goodbye to the ladies and returned to the ship. Jean was already inone of his rather outlandish suits and Telly had managed to get her father to clean up and dress for dinner, probably because Mac’s wife was going to be there. So I went to my cabin, dressed in the suit that Joe had left and rejoined Noro and the rest so that we could go to dinner. Dinner was wonderful and entertaining and Persai made sure that the rest of the evening was as well.


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