Mermaid Chapter 30, part 4

In this we have the first part of Tom’s very eventful year.

Tom.

Saturday, 2/9 – 11/30, 1932.

Finally, it was time for the Olympic Games. The opening ceremony went off with out a hitch or any Bob and Scott issues, much to the disappointment of quite a few people. When they asked me about that I had to tell them that Bob and Scott had simply been too busy with phone work to actually have time to pull anything off.

The games themselves were a lot of fun and I only had to come up with a way of getting the times at the bobsleigh track as the committee had thought that the bobsleigh people were responsible for that and the bobsleigh people thought that the committee was setting that up. I dug into my supplies for some electric eyes and had a setup done in a day that everybody liked. So Mark and Charlie ended up pretty much helping me in the Academy shop with the kids in between events.

I was stuck all too frequently at a storefront my publisher and the toy company set up so that they could push my books and trouble kits. Apparently the publicist had seen the storefront that father and Noro had set up and set one up too since I was going to be there anyway. The sales people had gags all over the place from the stuff that kids sent while Chrissie was taken and put them up on display, along with some things they borrowed from Stephie. The whole thing was rather embarrassing, but I did contribute prints taken from the various drawings I did for the gags in the first place and signed a stack of books.

Chrissie was as popular as usual and She, Tochi and the Admiral kept the inn very busy, much to my sister’s delight. She had me in the pool, either at the farm, the inn or the academy all too frequently and by the time the Games were over, her fins were very red and toes were beginning to form. The closing ceremonies were a lot of fun as Bob, Scott and Lizzie made their contribution with some advice from Nera who came up for a week. Surprisingly she managed to drag Mike up as well and they spent most of the time on the slope or in the pool.

I’m not sure how Jacob managed to recruit Bob and Scott for his mischief, but he managed to get his hands on the plans for the puppet show and at his after the Games party there it was, the circus between Chrissie and I, sharks included. I turned to Chrissie and she had that little grin she had, I decided to not say anything and she grabbed me and kissed me after the show was done. Of course the thing was going to end up in the business office. Helen’s kids were just going to love it.

Once the games were over Chrissie and I moved down to the Cape and the boathouse at last. We actually had some Swims and had a very nice getaway on the island before her Change finally started.

Noro had had me do quite a bit of work on the tank beds during the Games and by the time they were over, the beds were more or less ready to go. When I got together with Bob Radcliffe to start with the initial production number he said to go for a thousand in the first month. I looked at him and said, “Are you sure, Bob?”

“Trust me. The numbers support it.”

“Where are we going to get a plant to do that?”

“The compnauy has a plant in Chicago for the plumbing. We can farm out the sheet metal to places up and down the coast.”
“How do we find installers?”

“The bowers. Let’s talk to Stacey, she has the contacts you need.”
We went over to Stacey’s office and she knew who to call in the various bowers up and down the coast. In fact, by the end of the day we had people calling us wanting to work on the project for us. We also had orders for a big chunk of that thousand already. I turned to Bob and said, “You must have had better numbers than we got.”

“When Noro came in that first week and panicked, I knew that something was up. My cousin had a tail and we talked about some of the issues and I thought about asking the schools near the bowers how many fifteen year olds dropped out. The number was one hundred thousand.”

“So the tank bed numbers were bigger than we thought. Also I expect if what I’m hearing is true, a lot of ladies do not like the separation from their families and don’t really feel that the bowers provide protection. The Director and his friends didn’t help and the bowers are probably stuffed with refugees from over there right about now as the girls get tails.”

“You’ve mentioned some of the reasons. There are others. In any case the beds are going to be popular for a while.”

I talked to Josh about the beds and he agreed with Bob’s numbers and said, “There are some other concerns that go with that. The bower are going to see an exodus of the younger seafolk. That has already started and we are going to have to deal with that. The fact is that the bowers failed, over there and somewhat over here. They counted on being under sea and hidden to be safe but the masters must have had a way to find them, created the shark change and compelled fishermen to trawl through the gardens. Since the bowers didn’t have any up top relationships, they were doomed. We need to make sure that that doesn’t happen here.”

“That meeting is coming up in April. You can talk about this there.”

“So can you, You’re expected to be there. The company will want you and the bower will as well. Especially since you were right at the center of everything that happened.”
“Well Mac and I will have the shop going by then and that gives me an excuse to be in the city for a week or so. Chrissie will want to go shopping.”

“Spending your money?”

“I’m not sure. Since Chrissie and Daisy handle my accounts I can’t be sure. Considering how many people pay me for different things, if I had to take the time to keep things straight, I couldn’t do my job. I don’t think I’m going broke and I don’t worry about it.”

“I would keep an eye on the money from time to time.”

“I try to, but the numbers keep getting tangled. But they keep getting bigger too. Chrissie also plays games and has quite a lot of money of her own. Then there is the family’s businesses and things just get into a mess. As long as the purchase orders get paid and the shop gets paid, I’m not going to worry. Is that why you kept the boat?”
“More than a little bit. Having a lot of money has it’s downsides as well as it’s upsides. I learned that a bit even before I met Chrissie’s mother. Also, the boat force me to be up top when Noro might have wanted me down below. As long as I had the boat he still needed to do some of the things down below.”
“Who’s doing that stuff now?”

“Altris and I actually moved quite a bit of that into the business office some time ago and let Noro play around, but nothing he did meant very much. He could play king down below while Altris or I did the real work out of the business office. That was one reason that Joe doesn’t like going down to the bower very much. George doesn’t for the same reasons. Mera kept an eye on things. That was one reason that she stayed down so much.”
“So ‘keeping the secret’ was a bit of a front?”
“It was somewhat. Also, I didn’t want a circus and wanted to keep certain things discreet. But I wasn’t a total thickhead and I could count the number of girls that left school in Chrissie’s class and figure out that a good portion of the people were sea folk, were related to sea folk and those that were left, knew sea folk. So everybody here had to know already. But me making a stink about it kept Noro pissed off more than a little bit and I was hoping that he would get together with John and do something to poke me in the eye and remember how much fun he had. I let things go on for too long.”

After Josh left, I checked my calendar with Lacey and that week had already been set aside. Well that was efficiency.

The last two weeks of March were a bit of madness as Hans, who had somehow been put in the shop and Nilia, Nera’s head dancer, found each other. Hans still had his prejudice about mermaids somewhat and Nilia didn’t like Germans because of an incident with the Hessians back in the revolution. So when Nilia showed up at the boathouse looking for one of George’s wheelchairs because she needed to be up top more with the dirty landers, there was Hans working on something with me and wham, they started right in on each other. I would have thought that that meant that they hated each other, but it turned out to be the opposite as Nilia had sensed a bond and Hans was it. But they both liked to argue and after they got past the German and mermaid bit, they went on to other things while they were almost constantly together. They had a good time, but the rest of us were having a hard time getting anything done. I was going to maroon them, but Karl showed up with his wife to warn Hans that his mother was on the way and Hans and Nilia borrowed my boat and Joe to take them out to the island and marooned themselves. Apparantly the one thing they agreed on was that they did not want to deal with Han’s mother before they closed the deal and Hans could disappear if necessary.

That would have kept things quiet if Hans’ mother hadn’t shown up the next day with Hilda, Gunther and Adelhied looking for Hans with Gunther and Hilda’s mother and my parents. Noro pointed out to sea and said, “He’s out there, someplace. A tail dragged him under.”

”How could you let that happen?”

“Tom, how could you let that happen?”

“Me? Joe took them out to the island. Hans wanted to see it. Then Joe had engine trouble and left the boat with them while he Swam back to get the workboat from the yard. He got stuck with an emergency job, but I’ll go out with a boat later and check up on them.”

“Why don’t we all go. The Tuna Chaser is back in the water.”

So I collected Chrissie, who had been in the back of my office laughing her head off with Karl, who had been very careful to be very discreet and hiding with Lelia, who had been doing the same thing, collected Joe and Moira, who didn’t even bother wearing a dress to hide what she was and we headed out to the Island. There was my boat at anchor and no sign of Hans or Nillia except Han’s clothes, rather torn apart in the lean-to and a dying fire in the mine. Noro said, “No sense looking for them now. They could be anywhere.”
“My poor Hans! What if there are sharks?”

“The gun is still there”, I said. “I wouldn’t have let Hans out here in the first place if I didn’t know that he knew how to use it and what to look for if Sharks show up. As far as we know any Sharks in the area were killed. Normal sharks are not a big deal.”

“He could drown!”

Noro smiled.“Not anymore. Death by drowning has sort of been taken out of the picture. Tom and Chrissie can get the boat back. I expect that Hans and Nilia will turn up in about a week or so. Joe, pull over to Tom’s boat so that he and Chrissie can take it back and we’ll head back.”

Joe ran the yacht up next to my boat and Chrissie and I jumped over and I pulled the hook while Chrisse went into to the wheelhouse to try to start the engine. Perhaps not to surprisingly the engine started right up. As the yacht retreated and headed back toward the boatyard, two heads popped up.

“Is she gone?” Hans asked.

“Well, yes,” Chrissie said. “But I would go on a long Swim for about a week.”

“We were planning to anyway,” Nilia said as she giggled. “This way Hans can get used to the water. Thank Karl for warning us. Hans, dear, you were absolutely right about your mother. She did show up and she acted just like you said she would.”

They dropped back out of sight and disappeared. As she turned the boat back toward the yard, Chrissie said, “They seem to have stopped arguing. They probably have other things on their minds At least they get the week.”

“They will and we will too. It sounds like there was a point of all the arguing.”

“Weren’t you listening? Hans was trying to get Nillia out to the island and him under before his mother showed up and Nillia wanted to have dates at the steak house and close the deal when things got warmer. Hans is rather tired of his mother at this point.”

“He was rather prejudiced against mermaids.”

“That was jealousy, mostly. He was also a bit frightened about Karl and Lelia and what had happened to them. Once he knew that they were here and alive he calmed down a bit. But he knew what had happened to the bowers over there and that was why he got so upset at Hilda about Andy. Uncle Altris is going to be happy now that we have a Creator again. Aunt Nera is going to be happy that Nillia bonded.”

“It looked as if she was planning to spend more time up top anyway.”

“Probably so that she could argue with Cally in the off season. Now that she has bonded that may change. Poor Cally is going to be upset though. She’ll have to deal with both of them now and not just Nillia.”

Of course, when we arrived at the boatyard, another circus had started as Hans and Karl’s mother found Karl and Lelia talking with Adelheid and Gunther who had not gone out to the island with Hans’s Mother and started to tear into Karl about letting this happen in the first place. Karl turned that on her by pointing out that it had been she that had kept Hans so tied up that he couldn’t find anybody more suitable to her and that once Hans was on his own, he was probably going to find somebody sooner or later. Of course she then started in about where were her grandchildren. Karl said, “They are at home, mother. Except for my eldest who is at the Naval Academy. They could not come and I and Lelia were coming up to meet with Hans about arrangements when you came with Gunther, Hilda and the Baroness. They are being taken care of, my littlest two, at least, by the lady who is our landlord and lives in our building. Mother, you have never wanted to visit our children before or us for that matter, why the concern now?”

I want to meet my grandchildren now that I know that they exist. You just disappeared and I was concerned that I had lost you all like I had lost Bernhard. When Gunther went to where you were living, came back and said that everything had been destroyed I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. Then to find out that you were alive, here in America and that you were in a terrible condition tore my heart out.”
“It was hard, but not terrible until the Sharks came again and they have been dealt with, by Tom here along with some others. Mother, this isn’t the place to discuss this. Why don’t we go to the hotel and discuss it there.”

They left and Hilda breathed a sigh of relief. “hopefully we can keep my mother and Elfreide focused on Hans for a while and they won’t get on Bill’s and my case.”

“Have they been on your case, Hilda?” Chrissie asked.

“A bit. Bill and I have been fairly careful to keep things a bit discreet since they showed up and Gunther has been quiet about our situation. We’ve explained the situation to Gunther and while Bill and I would like to make our relationship public, Bill’s parents do not. Fortunately, Bill’s brother’s son is old enough as heir that he can take over, which takes a lot of pressure off of Bill. So maybe we can take advantage of mother and her desire to make our relationship valid in the eyes of god as she puts it.”

Karl managed to get his mother and the circus back on the train to New York and Hans and Nillia must have been enjoying themselves as we didn’t see them again for another two weeks. Of course by that time I was in Chicago having yet another interesting encounter during my visit to the company’s casting and machining plant where we were making castings and plumbing for tank beds. As I was leaving my hotel just before lunch on the last day, there was a rather tough looking man in a nice suit waiting for me. “Mr. Benton? Mr. Capone would like to have lunch with you.”

“I think that I can do that. Should I tell my plant to book a later train or will I be able to make my train?”
“We should have you back in plenty of time.”

“Good. I am meeting my wife in the morning in New York and if I don’t show up, there will be trouble.”

The man laughed and said, “Oh, I’ve been there too. Why don’t we get going. We don’t want to keep Mr. Capone waiting.”

Actually I suspected that somebody had already called plant security and if I didn’t show up in an hour or so, things were going to start happening. On the other hand, I doubt that Mr. Capone was going to want to start a war with my father, let alone Josh and Noro. We drove off and the man said, “I’m Mario, by the way. Sorry if things sounded a bit rough, we didn’t mean it. The boss just wants to meet you and find out what happened to your wife.”

“I figured that. I just wanted to make sure that I made arrangements for a different train and didn’t leave my wife at the station.”

We arrived at a swanky place where there was only one man other than the staff. I was ushered in and the man, who’s face was instantly recognizable stood up and held out his hand. “Mr. Benton, I’m Al. I wanted to meet the man who caught our Chrissie.”

I shook his hand, “She caught me. She certainly tried hard enough. It’s Tom by the way.”

“How did she catch you from the water. Did she dance?”

“Her dad wouldn’t let her. So she stuffed herself in my lobster pots but her dad caught her and then when I bought boat, snuck aboard and waited for me. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be caught by her, so I grabbed for my boathook, just to be safe , you understand, and she went right back into the water and ran over to her dad to tell on me. I went over to try and find out what was going on and she caught me then. The next morning she was running my boat.”
He laughed. “You have a bit more than a boat now.”

“They didn’t tell me about all that. You know Josh. He likes to play that waterman character, which worked and I didn’t have a clue until we were engaged and things started happening. The old man had been hiding himself until some toothy characters showed up that I had to shoot. Chrissie wanted me on that beach, not some sharks that weren’t sharks. They wouldn’t go away and I had to deal with that.”

“How did Chrissie get taken by that Colonel character?”
“Her brother, Dom Caliabierti and some people from the navy along with a friend of mine had arranged to have the street where the ladies were picked up tightly secured. The Colonel managed to replace two of my friend’s people and get his hands on the ladies. Of course we didn’t know at the time that it was the Colonel doing it and his patsies dropped Chrissie right into a place that Sal and the rest of us were already planning to hit anyway to do some clean up before the Olympics started. So they ran Chrissie and the other ladies up in a fish truck and put her where she could do the most damage. But we slipped up by not dealing with the characters who can make themselves into other people because there is a limit to how many times you can do that and they were at the limit thanks to another caper.”

“What was the other caper?”

“The patsies, though we didn’t know that they were patsies at the time because they had been trying to kill me for some time, kidnapped my nephew to get to my sister in law.”
“That would be very stupid. Which lady was it? The lady that is married to the ‘L’ in ‘LT’ Customs or the other one, whose husband was killed in mysterious circumstances, by you in fact.”

“The latter. She works for my brother in law and shoots with my sister.”

“I know about those two. They keep my shooters awake at night. Whoever did that must have been absolutely nuts.”
“They had fun. The character’s people didn’t. The kid got a nice shotgun and a girlfriend out of the deal.”

“So he is doing fine.”

“Well other than being forced to behave somewhat by his girlfriend, yes.”
Lunch came and the meal was excellent. When it was over he said, “It was nice to meet you, Tom. You live up to your reputation. Keep Chrissie safe.”
“With everything I have, Al. Because to lose her is to lose myself.”

“Well I doubt that we will be meeting again so I wish you the best of luck in your ventures and tell Mera to drag Josh under more.”
“Everybody says that. She’s actually started to do it now.”

He laughed, I said my goodbyes and Mario drove me back to the hotel. As we were driving back, he said, “I hear that you are the ‘T’ in LT customs. Since you are a big shot, how are the pistols going to work out? I’m on the list for later this year.”
“I ran a large batch of frames over Christmas and Larry does about two or so a week if he isn’t busy with other work. So you should get yours without any trouble. I went through my processes with my nephews so that they can do the pistols and the rifles, and my shop is equipped for that work. Of course me getting access to my own machines is getting to be a pain.”

“How so?”

“I’ve been in the shop for a month and a half and do you know how much machine time I’ve had? Four hours one Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, “It’s Mr. Benton, we can do that for you.” The whole point of the shop for me was so that I could do my own work.”

“Who comes in on the weekends?”
“The MIT kids wanting to find out about my latest gag. They want first crack at the stuff for my next book before it comes out, so they come down and work in the shop. I don’t even pay them.”

He laughed. “At least that probably keeps your wife happy.”
“Somewhat. Of course my wife is expecting and that has other issues.”
“Morning sickness.”

“Not much, thank goodness. The cravings. Trust me, you don’t want to know the lengths that I have gone to deal with them.”

Mario dropped me back at the hotel where there was a man from the plant security in plain clothes waiting for me. He said, “Mr. Benton, you should tell us when you go off with strangers. I’m Geoff Sinclair from White’s security and you gave us a but of a scare. If we lose you, we would be in real trouble”
“I didn’t have a chance to. This guy wouldn’t have hurt me anyway.”
“Who was it?”

“Al Capone.”
“I think that you are right about not hurting you. You aren’t in his business and I don’t think that he would want the heat he would get if he hurt you after taking you in public like that. We were called almost immediately and they told us that it had been one of Al’s people that you had gone off with.”

“I wasn’t unarmed and they didn’t even bother to search me.”

I reached behind me and pulled out the .38 that I had taken to carrying when I was wearing a suit. I had done the pistol the same way that I had done the pistol for Tim and Larry had finished it for me while I “I don’t think that Al was too worried that I would shoot him. On the other hand he knew about my sisters.”

“Then he wouldn’t be stupid enough to mess with you.”
“He said that they keep his people up at night.”

“I can understand that. Why don’t we get you on your train so that you don’t have deal with the wrath of your wife. I understand that she has legs and is expecting.”
“Yes and yes, so we need to get me to the station and on my train.”
There was a car waiting outside and I only had one bag, my drawings and prototypes had been checked already so getting on the train was no problem and I had a nice easy ride to New York, arriving just after nine o clock. Chrissie was waiting for me with a man from White’s to take care of my checked stuff and she dragged me up to the suite at the Waldorf. Once we were upstairs, she said, “I thought that we would stay here rather than Sal’s for the meeting. This way we are out of the crowd.”
“That makes sense. Where is Noro staying?”

“Here. With your parents and Adelheid.”
“Are Tochi and Suki here or in Washington?”

“In Washington. Leo and Nanami are here with Nanami’s brother but they are staying at the Rockaway bower. Leo’s mother came down with Matt on the yacht.”
Joe had been using the yacht to shuttle the seafolk that would not use the train up to the Sound or the Rockaway bowers. Captain Paulo and his wife had been running it while Joe and Moira played host. This would be the first trial after the yacht had been docked and refitted last month.

Once I was settled in, Chrissie asked, “How did it go?”

“Fine, up until just before leaving when I had a bit of a scary encounter.”
“With who?”

“Mr. Capone.”
“He isn’t that scary once you get to know him.”

“I know that, now. I doubt that he would have come after me so publically anyway. That would be stupid for a lot of reasons.”
“Daddy would shut his business down and grandfather would not be nice to him. That is if your sisters didn’t get to him first.”
“He knew about my sisters. I expect that somebody put something together before he had me visit for lunch.”

“A lot of the boys down here have seen your sisters. We never did figure out where Vic ended up and if he went to Chicago, Al probably knows all sorts of things. On the other hand Al isn’t going to piss me off in any case.”
“I suppose not. I’m not going to ask why.”
I kissed her and said, “So what is on the agenda for today?”
“We are dedicating the new shop at the school. Also you will be entertaining all the kids at the school and Sal’s today this morning and going over the Manager and the Director and how the sharks were set up this afternoon at Bennies.”

Mrs. Rockefeller had gotten in touch with the school and with Al somehow and Al had contributed the tools in his shop that he had moved out of and Mrs. Rockefeller, a new building. Chrissie had been involved as well. I would have been, but I had been just a bit busy with the tank beds. As far as entertainment goes, I expected that. As well as shopping trips over the weekend and other things. One problem I had for my shopping trips is that the places on radio row now knew who I was because the latest edition of my book had my picture. I had been spotted after my latest expedition in early March, while I came down for a meeting and decided to pick some things up for making up some new gags for my upcoming trip to Washington with Chrissie. The circus that resulted was entertaining for everybody, but I had a hard time browsing for my parts. The good thing was that a lot of companies were now sending parts and samples directly to the shop. I was going to use Mr. Downes to do some of my old style browsing after the meeting was over.

Chrissie and I were driven out to the school in one of the company’s cars, one of Noro’s white Cadillacs, almost inevitably, and joined Josh, Mera and Noro for the dedication. Then it was time to get to work and I spent the rest of the morning showing various kids how to use tools, signing books and helping with gags that didn’t quite work as expected. Considering that a good portion of the kids were seafolk, Joey’s water tube guns were very popular and there were a bunch of them popping off over the water.

Friday afternoon was a presentation at Bennies by me, Tim, Sal and Mike about the Sharks and how they had operated, with the pictures of the sharks, the missing person report and all the rest of it. Tim went through the kidnappings from beginning to end and pointed out how the Sharks had used a place where fae had started to congregate to find children to feed the Change. Sal went through Sylvia’s house of horror and how it served the double function of drawing the young bower seafolk who had been separated from the bower. I went through how the Sharks had attacked Chrissie and I during our joining and how they attacked high value couples as well as random newly joined couples in the water. I ended my presentation with the pictures of the attack on land and said, in my case, they sent in constructs, which neither my bonded or I knew anything about at the time. Fortunately I had the shotgun available and could deal with the constructs.”

Somebody asked, “Why did you have the gun on the beach in the first place?”

“By accident under bond fuzz. The gun had been on the boat and since it has a bayonet lug and I had lost a flashlight during the storm the previous day, I was playing around with attaching a flashlight like a bayonet. I was thinking of making a lug like that for my boathook. Since the flashlight was still attached to the gun and Chrissie wanted us to get on with certain things, I brought the gun with the flashlight attached.”

Everybody laughed. Somebody asked how was the best way to deal with the Sharks and what should be done if they suspected that a pod was operating in the area. Mike answered, “First, call the bureau. Second look for strange kidnappings with your local police force. They might pick up on the kdinappings before you notice the Sharks. Keep an eye out for disaffected young men who might be tempted by the Change. The sharks need to rebuild their numbers frequently because the Change is so unstable and destroys the fae who Changes. If you do think that you have Sharks in the area, but haven’t had any kidnappings, have bonidng parties and have boats and noise guarding the beach. Put together a squad of seafolk to be ready to spear the Sharks if they show up. Space the bonding parties four months or so apart because the Sharks need to feed about every three months. If you think that you have Sharks, but aren’t sure, have some local fishermen put towels used by newly joined mermaids in the water and see if a shark shows up.”

Mike went over the things that we had encountered , answered some more questions and handed out the briefing book on the Sharks that the bureau had created.

Then it was Father’s, Josh’s and my turn as went over how the Director and the Manager had operated and essentially managed to destroy the efforts of fae to build new communities. I went through the material that I had collected over the years and what it meant. Mike followed up with some of the cases that he had run it to and father went over how the Director had continued to send things up to the farm long after it was obvious that he was getting nowhere. Josh told the story of the barges and the other things that he had encountered over the years. We finished with a thorough going over of what the Colonel’s objectives had been and what had probably happened to the Masters. The big question that was asked, was, “Are the Masters going to send other things to prey upon us?”

Mike answered, “The diary and everything we have seems to say that the masters are in dire straights by and large. The best thing we can do is be alert. Which leads to the bigger questions.”

After that Josh and I went over the tank beds and what they might mean for the bowers. Noro and Altris followed up with a presentation on how the bower and the Cape worked together. I ended the session with saying, “I don’t know about the sales in other bowers, but the Cape bower sales are for secondary residences that people have or for people that are establishing a secondary residence for being with their children or grand children. They are not leaving the bower so much as having two homes. Many people on the Cape had the second homes already and just want a way for the women to stay up top if they need to. But things are going to change and the Sharks and rest of it are going to have an inpact.”

That ended the session and Chrissie and I headed back to the hotel with Noro. Noro said, “That was moderately productive.”

“I think that we scared them somewhat.”

“Well they should be scared. The Masters concentrated their efforts up here the last time. They may go after the bowers in the South if they start another effort. Especially if they are coming to feed and not to expecting people to run back into their clutches. Well at least we are all talking together now.”

Hans and Nillia had Swum down with most of Nera’s dance troupe together with the yacht and were doing a show using the projector at Sal’s Saturday night. Nera recruited me to help set up when we had dinner at her and Mike’s houseboat Friday night and I spent Saturday morning setting things up at Sal’s place with a lot of help from stagehands that set things up both up top and under sea as Nilia brought Mac and his people down to handle the under sea work and there was a Broadway lighting crew to handle the up top. I wasn’t sure who up top was fae or not, but nobody blinked an eye at the Swimmers or Andy, Bruce, Trillia and the rest helping out with the undersea work. Of course that didn’t mean that we were safe from the occasional exploding boat, but I think that everybody expected that.

Satuday afternoon was me demonstraiting how the noisemakers and some of other things worked to a select audience of navy, army and bower security people. I had had the shop make up a set of noisemakers and put together some control boxes and Stelios and his people set them up and set them off next to Roger’s place with Tony telling people how the distractions worked.

Then it was dinner and the show, which was wonderful and Nera was so pleased with her head dancer. The fun part was that her up top lady attached herself to my cousin Dan, who had come down with my parents to help out with the meeting. That would make his mother happy and I could use Dan in the shop. It looked as if I was going to need another shed.

The meeting was going on through the week, but I needed to get back up to the Cape after a brief visit to the office on Monday and a discreet visit as Mr. Downes to the toy store. I had some ideas that I wanted to try and I expected that my old asdversaries had people keeping an eye on what I was buying.

Chrissie was staying to help her mother. I was tasked to look for a plot of land. Chrissie wanted her own house. A rather large one. I wasn’t quite ready to move yet, but she made the argument that it would be better to have the house arranged before the kids came and that there was no real reason to not go ahead and build it. We had argued about it during March, but in the end she convinced me that she was right and I started looking around. I had two plots that I was looking at, one nears Al’s house on the shore and the other near town on the other side of the harbor. I wanted a house where sea access was going to be easy so that I could go on the Swims that Chrissie insisted upon. Since I didn’t know who owned the plots I went to the business office to see who talk to find out who did. As soon as I mentioned where they were, Daisy said, “We own those. Altris and Railia are going to build a place on one of them and Ilutra was going to put up a place on the other, but he found a house near Woods Hole that will work out better for him, so he just moved his stuff over from Josh’s. Both of them are spending more time up top and now that Mera is moving more or less permanently into Josh’s they wantred the books and other things moved out. Railia and Marlia want to be able to entertain in any case.”

“Which lot are Altris and Railia taking?”

“I’m not sure, you will have to ask.”
Since Altris was out at the bower today I took advantage to Swim out and talk with him. Of course that meant a bunch of other things that came up, but I was expecting that and Altris was taking the lot near the harbor and I took the lot near Al and Eltra, who had just gotten red, so that was settled. The next thing to do was find a builder and an architect that could handle our special needs.

That turned out to be fairly easy as Daisy had a list of people that the business office used for different things and one of the people on the list was Ralph and Ginny’s family, so that made making the call there fairly easy. It was still going to take a lot of work to get things started and Chrissie was going to have her say about what went on. I was certain of that.

The week went quickly and Friday I took the train down to Washington. Chrissie met up with me on the train in New York and Tochi and Suki were with her. They had been seeing Misako and her parents off before getting ready to leave themselves. Suki insisted that we stay in the Japanese Embassy for our stay in Washington for the week, so that was what Chrissie and I did. I took her around and we were welcome at the White House, along Embassy row and at the Capitol. Of course Suki and Tochi made sure that everybody knew I was in town and there was huge party under the blooming cherry blsosoms where Chrissie had a chance to meet everybody who hadn’t come to the party during Christmas. Of course that meant that she collected still more pictures and wedding presents. Miss Vicky was ecstatic over Chrissie and the fact that she was expecting. Of course they sat down for a long talk about babies while I went over to the Capital to see my old boss. Of course that meant that I was invited to dinner with Chrissie by the congressman and his wife. Of course that meant still more gushing over Chrissie. That was the trend throughout our week in the City until the last day when I had to have a joint meeting with my old adversaries and go over all my adventures and the daily Jacobs. Of course we did play some fun and games, which kept some people alert.

The rest of April and Most of May was calm and peaceful for the most part except for Chrissie wanting me to go out to our garden for exotic seafood that she wanted raw from time to time. That kept me Swimming. Towards the end of May Mac came and said, “We have a problem.”

“Why?”

“The internships.”

“What internships.”

“White’s wants us to take in some interns for the Summer. MIT and other colleges want some students to get some exposure.”
“So what is the problem? We can use some gofers and junior draftsmen.”

“The problem is that MIT wants ten spots, Harvard five and Boston college five. But we really only have spots for twenty and two of those are reserved for your nephews.”

“They had first crack and they invaluable in both the Andy thing and the Academy. I promised them that I would have them here for the summer. Perhaps more importantly, I promised their mothers that I would have them for the summer.”

“I’m a bit concerned that the other boys will see them as being here as being a result of nepotism rather than the competition we imposed because we had so many applications.”

There had been a couple of hundred applications for those twenty spots and Mac and I had had do something, so we set a bit of skills competition to make sure that the people coming to actually do the work. But Bob and Scott had already proven to me, at least, that they could handle the work by doing a good bit of the work for Larry and the rest of the family. I turned to Mac and said, “Bob and Scott could pass the tests easily. In fact they handle a lot of the work that I used to do for my family including the gun work. So far their haven’t been any complaints about their work over mine when it came to the pistols. Yes they had an inside track because they were my nephews, but they earned it because of the work they did.”

“That means that they will have to prove that.”
“I don’t think that that will be a problem.”

That turned out to be a moot point as Noro co-opted the boys for his superboat project with John when we went up to Vermont for the construct shoot just before they graduated. When we discussed it, Noro said, “I have my shop and I want the boys to work on our superboat. I would get you, but you are a bit busy right now with the tank beds and the other things. By the way, we’re taking the boat shed next to your two.”
“That explains why Alex and Joe wouldn’t rent it to me. We had to find another place for the expansion. Fortunately we did, an old mill in Pymouth. We can use it to assemble the first tank beds next month as well.”
“Don’t let Josh and Lou dump too much stuff on you. Are you getting any shop time for your own things?”

“I finally put my foot down and said that the tools in the office are for my use only and moved a Bridgeport mill and a 12in lathe into the office as well as the two Hardinge machines. I’ve been taking advantage of living across the street and being able to work a bit later to get some things started for the next book.”

“Chrissie lets you?”

“I go for my Swims first thing in the morning and some boys from the bower bring the seafood that she wants from our garden and I bring it in then.”

“The cravings. Josh was lucky. Mera was big on butter and steak.”

“We have those too, as well as all sorts of things for lunch. But I can order those from a grocer. Cahoons doesn’t even have most of the things she wants.”
“She seems to be fine with lunch today.”

“Mother and Antonio are doing lunch today. She isn’t going to want to hurt any feelings just to satisfy a craving. She also arranged for oysters with Nera, Eltra and Nillia.”

Nillia had managed to get pregnant and legs very quickly after bonding with Hans. That hadn’t kept Mera, Adelheid and Hans’s mother from planning another wedding. Fortunatley it wasn’t going to be as big as Chrissie’s and mine. It was going to have a fair amount of guests from overseas. Guests that wouldn’t be going back home very fast.

The shoot itself was a lot of fun and we had a blast. The Minotaurs were a hit and the golems the boys and Doug came up with were almost as good as constructs as far as the shooting went. The big surprise was when a red dragon, followed shortly after by a green dragon went charging across the field during a cease fire. Bob frantically leaned on the whistle in the long blasts that were the don’t fire signal and nobody did. Scott went chasing after the dragons with a motorcycle. Later Chrissie and I went to the boys’ shoot headquarters tent where a rather irate Bob, Scott, Mike, Nera, Al, Eltra and Boris were all looking at a very contrite Alex from the Bureau and a Chinese lady. Al was saying, “Alex I can excuse the lady here somewhat, just a bit, but you know better than to run along a firing line.

“I was trying to stop Xìngyùn before she got out in front of everybody and got herself shot. I knew that the cease fire was in effect but she Changed and ran out after something and I changed her to stop her, which I did,on the other side of the hill, unfortunately right after she ran down the entire firing line.

The Chinese lady said defiantly, “It is not as if the gunfire would have hurt me permanently in any case.”
Bob said, “Are you sure of that lady? Then you haven’t met our safety shooter. Remember we have to be able to take down even the strongest and toughest constructs if necessary. That’s one reason why we use Rolf as our safety shooter.”
Chrissie turned to me and asked, “Who’s Rolf?”

“Ex POW. Likes guns, Large guns. He likes to shoot the T Geware that he got from someplace.”

“T Geware?”

“Anti tank rifle. Shoots very large cartridges that will punch through a thick steel plate.”

“Oh.”

Bob went on, “Lady, your Change may be tough, but you are not a tank. Rolf has killed tanks with a rifle just like the one he uses here. Before he was captured, Rolf stopped a French assault twice with a T Geware. He is a very good shot, he shoots with Bill and takes constructs out, if necessary by blowing the head clean off. That was why I was leaning on the whistle like that.”

Mother and father came in and father said, “There was something out there. Katherine was riding out near the cliff and saw something that looked like a fox, but was much bigger. Whoever it was got in a car and left for the county line rather quickly once they were spotted. Miss,would you care to explain?”

“They are members of the Yaoguai, a dark organization that is mostly fae. They are looking to steal certain artifacts from the ancient wars. I am also looking to recover those artifacts for my people or at least ensure that they are in safe hands.”

“There are very few artifacts from the ancient wars,” father said. “Most were destroyed at one point or another, for very good reasons. The rest were buried very deeply.”

“The community of the dragons had seven that had been found over a very long time. Four of them were stolen about two centuries ago.”

“So you believe that they are here, somehow.”

“Yes. We think that the artifacts were brought here to keep them away from us. We were closing in on where they had been kept and then they were suddenly moved to Hong Kong and then sent abroad. I came to New York and tried to track down a ship that had been carrying one of the artifacts and sank, but events intervened.”
“You bonded with Alex, obviously and were probably distracted somewhat.”

“Yes we were. First by me trying to find a place to complete the bond as caves are rather rare in the city and then we enjoyed ourselves for a bit.”

“Did the Yaoguai sink the ship?” Chrissie asked.

“I’m not sure,” Xìngyùn said. “I tried to make contact with some people that a contact suggested and they have not replied.”

“That was daddy and grandfather,” Chrissie said. They have been going over that ship, but there are some things that didn’t make sense like the safe being opened and all the money being left. Who ever did it had to be seafolk, but all the comunities that could have been involved were busy dealing with the storm and wouldn’t have had a boat out the day the ship was sunk. I think that they expected you to show up in person on the Cape and grandfather could play some fun and games.”

“Then it was a good thing that I did not go.”

“I don’t think that grandfather would have played any games with you as long as you were as straight with him as you were with us. The other guys on the other hand, might have some trouble.”

“That is what Alex said. He also said that coming up here for this would be a good way to open up communication.”

“It is. Daddy couldn’t come because they are getting together with Lou starting next week and going over the business.”
“So Mr. Claytor will be in New York next week. I can make an appointment.”

“Let me make the arrangements. Tom and I are going in on Wednesday anyway.”

Noro came into the tent. “`So this is our mysterious dragon. Milady, I am pleased to meet you at last. Can you shed any light on our mystery ship?”

“You found it?”

“We live under the sea. It wasn’t so much about finding it as figuring out why it was sunk and why the safe was left under sea, opened, with all the money inside.”

“There may have been something else in the safe.”
“Not according to the purser, who survived and the manifest. All the contents of the safe were accounted for.”

“Then the item was not in the safe. Have you checked the cargo yet?”

“We are working on that. First of all, it has required good weather and the ship is on it’s side. So we have had to cut our way in and since the cargo has shifted and we have to use hard hat divers for the work, it is very slow going. Fortunately the navy is using the work as training, so we’ve been working together on the ship.”

“You are sea folk, why do you use normals?”
“Because working in a confined space like a sunken ship can be dangerous because of the way seafolk senses work,” I said. “My sister demonstrated that to me when Chrissie and I were up here last year.”

“What did I do?” Stephie had just walked in. Bob, Scott, they want you out there.”
Bob and Scott left to continue the shoot. Stephie said, “Alex, I see that you bonded. Your Change raised some excitement.”
“I apologize for that a bit,” Xìngyùn said.

“Apologize to the boys. Now they are going to have to have Dragons at the next shoot and that won’t be easy. Especially since they are going to be at the Cape with Tom all summer and college right after. On the other hand, they will be with Noro, Tom and Hans all summer.

So what was that about, other than those interlopers trying to hide out in Hilda and Bill’s lean-to.”
“You knew about them?”

“My daughter discovered them this morning. If Andy and Bruce hadn’t had their tails up here and work to do, the three menaces would be hunting them right now.”
“They are dangerous fae.”

My sister laughed “My nephew and his friends? Very dangerous. I’m so glad that Trillia and Verelia are here to more or less restrain Andy and Bruce. Also that whoever they were, they were not werewolves. The boys would definitely hunt any werewolves around. Bruce doesn’t want any packs messing with his dad.”

“One of the boys’ father is a werewolf? How is he still alive?”

“Ed keeps his monster in control and Gretchen keeps Ed in control.”
“They must be very strong fae.”

“Around here, that is pretty much normal,” Noro said. “The fae in this country had to adapt and they have been under pressure from the dark in Europe. Also the communites over there sent large numbers of high and royal fae here to escape the terror, murder and destruction of the kingdoms over there. So the fae grew in strength as a result. I will add that two of the three menaces are high fae and the third is probably at least low fae, though the family is not saying. If what I saw during the thing with the Colonel is typical of the boys any typical fae would be in real trouble dealing with them. As for Ed, he is the heir across the lake and a very strong fae. But it is his family that helps to keep the monster in check.”

Chrissie whispered to me, “Why don’t we go out and be hosts for the shoot.”
Ok, but why?”

We went outside, walked toward the shooting line and Chrissie said, “Because one of those artifacts is sitting in your office right now.”

“That jade dragon, right?”

“Yes.”

“The President gave that to me a long time ago. He bought it when he was in China and he exchanged it for a pistol. He was commerce secretary then.”

“I think that your mother has another one. We may have one too at the business office. It came off another ship that sank a long time ago.”

“The Jade dragon is probably not one of the artifacts that she mentioned. The one at the business office is certainly not if it was on a ship a hundred years or so ago.”

We watched the shooting since Hans was making some constructs up for us for the Cape shoot next month, but we didn’t have any jars yet and Doug was only making them for the boys, Stephie, Hilda and Gretchen. So we couldn’t shoot today and only came up for the weekend so that Chrissie and I could visit with my parents and relax a bit. Noro caught up with us and said, “So what do you think about our dragon lady?”

“I think that we should keep certain things put away when she is around,” Chrissie said. “I also think that there are more than seven of those artifacts.”
“The last is certainly true. For that matter, between the various families I know of at least eight right off the bat. Tom has two in his office, both inactive, fortunately.”

“We were fairly sure that the jade dragon was one, what is the other?”

“Tom’s letter opener. It is rather older than the swords. Haven’t you noticed Tom, that the letter opener doesn’t rust?”

“I hadn’t really paid attention. I’ve always kept the swords oiled. I just oiled the dagger at the same time.”

“When Chrissie was cleaning off the swords before she put them in your office they required a bit of work, not surprisingly. She asked me about how to do that at the time. The dagger didn’t, so I looked more closely at it. At one time, it was far more than a simple knife.”

“We think that Tom’s mother has one, and that there is one in the business office as well,” Chrissie said.

“Greta hasn’t said very much about such things and yes there is at least one in the business office, the one that you know about, Chrissie. It actually powers the shields for the building and does some other things. Most fae will not talk about things like that, for very good reasons. Eli and I have been discreetly letting people know that there may be parties interested in certain things and that they may be willing to go to a certain degree of trouble to get them.”

“What about the objects that Xìngyùn is looking for?” I frowned a bit as I thought about them. “Do you or Josh have any leads?”

“Other than the ship being sunk deliberately and our Chinese dragon lasdy showing up, not much. We’ll try to keep you out of this one, but keep your eyes open.”

The rest of the shoot was a lot of fun, even though Chrissie and I didn’t shoot. Andy and Trillia recruited us to handle the range at least part of the time for the shoot in late June. Of course June was my birthday and Chrissie was planning a party. She didn’t say very much about it and I was too busy with the meetings in New York the first two weeks in June to pay much attention to it.

 

 

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