Mermaid, Chapter 30, Part 5

This brings us  to the end of Tom and Chrissie’s story and their entry into a new one.

One thing I did do since the dragon had appeared in the background of pictures of the office at the Olympics was quietly buy a block of jadeite, take some pictures of the jade dragon and give both to Paulo’s wife Persai so that she could quietly make a replica. It was not as elegant as the original, but that was ok as I wanted to look as if it had just been something that the President had picked up in China when he was there that wasn’t real. The real dragon went into storage at the business office in amongst some of the other things that Joe, Steve and some of the family members had found on the bottom and floated up when they were kids that hadn’t dissolved into rust but the family didn’t want just being shown around.

When in New York, I took advantage of Mr. Downes to make a run on the toy store and had some more sessions with the kids. Ed had come down to be with his kids and Gretchen and said to me, “Watch out for my father and your sisters.”

“Why? I wouldn’t think that they would all work together.”

“That was then, this is now. They all looked at you during the shoot and think that you aren’t having enough fun. So they are planning to fix that during your party. I can’t be there because of full moon issues. They will be though. Father is spending his usual week and your sisters are joining them at the hotel.”

“I’m safe. Bob and Scott are on the Cape.”

“Working for you? I thought that Noro grabbed them for his superboat.”

“He did.”

I hadn’t been able to pay too much attention to the boys and they seemed to be fine. They had been rather closed mouth about what they were up to since the they had an ongoing competition building a fast boat with the MIT crew at my shop and they said to me, “Uncle Tom, we want to tell you what we’re doing, but our competition works for you. So we aren’t going to tell you about what we are up to until August and our little race.”
I said to Ed, “You think that they are all plotting something?”

“This is our family, what do you think?”

“I think that I’m probably in trouble. At this point the whales are even cooperating since Chrissie can’t play with them any more.”

“How do your sisters get in contact with whales?”

“Andy and Trillia, more than likely. Well at least it’s just going to be gags and they are trying to keep me from working too hard.”
“About that, how is it going?”

“We should have some happy mermaids next month. We were a bit late, but the first installations are going in at the end of the month. We also have most of the issues resolved. Chrissie is starting to get big and well, things have been going about as expected. The house is coming along and should be finished about the time that the baby shows up. The shop is full of people wanting to see what I’m up to and now that the tank beds are on the way, I can do some of the other things I want to do. I’ve been sending sketches to Diana, along with some fabric that I ahd found in the bower and some grommets from a place in the city for a harness for rescue Swimmers and Steve’s people.”
“Have you been Swimming?”
“Every day I can. Chrissie insists that I do. I also have to be in the bower frequently.”
“Good. Mother, Greta and Gretchen all insist that I get runs frequently. They think it keeps the monster quiet and I’ve been having exercise sessions with your father, Hilda and Bill to keep in shape.”

“Has it helped with the monster?”

“Surprsingly, it has. Wolves are pack animals and if the full moon is a Run with friends the monster doesn’t feel the need to go wild and chew on people if we can hunt some deer or something. Plus the ladies scare the monster more than a little bit.”
“I can understand that. They certainly scare me.”

Ed laughed. I suspected that I was in a great deal of trouble.

Of course trouble had a way of finding me as I discovered when I left the office on the Friday before we were to return to the Cape to walk across the street to the hotel and was accosted by two Asian men with guns who were rather insistant that I get in the car with them. I thought that they were trying to compel me as well, so I played along for the time being. They didn’t even bother to search me for a gun, which was rather stupid. I played along and they drove down to a place in Chinatown and walked me inside. There was a room in back and a two men, waiting, one a seemingly older man with a mustache . The younger man said, “Mr. Benton, this is Li Jídiànjí, a very great man from China. He would like to acquire some things that you may have.”

“This is a very poor way of introducing yourself, Mr. Jídiànjí.”

The young man translated. The man frowned and said something. The young man said, “He didn’t think that it would be appropriate to conduct business at your office for somebody of his rank.”
“So what would he like to acquire?”

“There are four objects that have made there way to this country. He believes that you may have one of them.”
“Do you have a picture of the items?”

The young man translated again. One of the other men left and came back with a picture in the old Chinese style. There were seven things in the picture, An ornate cup, a carved cylinder, a dagger, a little statue of a horse, a sphere and and object that was impossible to make out from the picture.
“I don’t have any of those objects.”

He translated again and the man replied. The young man turned to me and said, “He believes that you may have a jade dragon. There has been a jade dragon in photos of your office”

“I do, but there is no dragon in the picture here.”

“The dragon may be the object that is not in the picture.”

“The object in question is not present here in New York in any case. I would want to have a better sense that it is the object in question. Why don’t I go back to my hotel and you can call my office in Massachusetts and make an appointment to see the object in question. How much are you willing to offer for the object?”

The young man turned to the older man and then said, “The equivalent of one hundred thousand in gold.”

“That will get you the appointment up at my office to view the object. Purchasing the object itself will be rather more expensive.”

The young man repeated what I had just said and the man got angry and started to yell at his flunkys. Then he said something to the young man, who went outside and brought back a pad and paper. He set them down on the table and said, “You are to write your wife and tell her to bring the dragon to the hotel tomorrow. If she does not, we will start sending pieces of you to encourage her.”
I looked at the young man and said, “What is your name?”
“Jimmy, Jimmy Fong.”

“Do you happen to know where they picked me up from?” I gave the building’s Park Avenue address.

He blanched. “They said that you were just a businessman. The boss told me to be their local guy. I didn’t know that you were connected.”

“It gets worse. Would your boss want to make the Peacekeeper annoyed?”

“Are you nuts? Nobody would want to do that. They wouldn’t last a day in the business.”
“Well, my wife, the woman I am writing this to, is the Peacekeeper’s daughter. I figure that we have about an hour from the time that the boys over there picked me up before she realizes that I’m very late, all hell breaks loose and your boss finds out that he’s in way over his head.

I will also point out that since the events of earlier this year, my wife is rather sensitive about kidnappings and me taking unnecessary risks. She is also expecting our first child and moody about that. I would much rather not have to have a full time body guard to keep her happy. Worse, she just might want to make an example of anybody who took me as a hostage. If you were to do something like send a finger you can expect that she would arrange something rather unpleasant for anybody who did something like that.”

Jimmy started to speak rapidly in Chinese to the other man in rather dramatic fashion. The conversation was interrupted by two men coming in the door after kicking it open. One of the men held a shotgun on the men in the room as the other said, “Mr. Benton? Mr. Messimo wants to apologize for letting someone make off with you in front of our building. I think that your wife is waiting. We wouldn’t want to upset the lady.”
“No, we would not,” I said. I picked up the picture. “I’ll take this with me. If I actually do find the objects in question, Mr. Jídiànjí, then perhaps we can deal. Or perhaps not. In any case, next time, call the office and make an appointment. Jimmy, let your boss know what he was messing with and what this clown almost kicked off. If your boss gets too upset about that, call the office and I’ll see that you get a new gig.”

Poor Mr. Jídiànjí looked rather shocked at the way things went. The man without the shotgun said as we went to the car out front, “Mr. Benton, I’m Johnny. I want to apologize for our people letting you get dragged off like that. George’s people and the two guys I had out front couldn’t get to you in the crowd and none of them had a clear shot. We didn’t pick up that they were waiting.”

“I think that I’ve been going back and forth on too regular a schedule. I’m going back up to the Cape tonight in any case.”

“Well, let’s get you back uptown before your wife starts to worry.”

“Does she know?”

“Only that you are late and went someplace. She called White’s wondering where you went, Mr. White happened to be in Mr. Messimo’s office at the time and Mr. Claytor came down. George and our people got the registration for their car, we called Mary, had a brief discussion with the young man’s boss and found out where the clowns were operating from. Out of town idiots.”

We made the trip back to Noro’s building where Chrissie, Noro and Josh were waiting in Jim’s office. We walked in and Johnny said, “We got him.”

“Any problems?” Jim asked.

“None on our side. Mr. Benton stalled them nicely until we showed up.”

“Are we going to have to make more forceful arguments?”
“I don’t think so. These guys were out of towners and the boss was rather contrite about what happened.”
“What did they want, Tom?” Josh asked.

“An object in my office, they thought. They were willing to offer a rather large sum of money for it. I told them that the money would get them into the office, but the actual price would be rather higher. Then they wanted me to send a letter to Chrissie telling her to bring the object back to the hotel”
“That would not have worked out for them,” Chrissie said.

“Chrissie, I don’t think that their boss was too concerned with that. He was in a country where he didn’t speak the language, didn’t know the culture or the people and couldn’t even read. Yet he was acting as if he was right in the middle of his culture thinking that people would be afraid of him. The young man who was local got the point right away when I brought up the Peacekeeper.”

“Chrissie, we need to get going to lunch or Mera and the others will start to wonder what happened to us,” Josh said. “We will discuss the details in the car on the way down.”

We went back downstairs to the waiting car. As the car pulled away, Josh said, “You got more than you were saying, didn’t you, Tom?”

I handed him the picture. “I got this. I suspect that the characters from out of town were the fox demons that Xìngyùn was telling us about. I think that they tried to compel me. In any case they didn’t even bother to search me for a gun. I think that they were so confident that the compulsions were working that they never considered that I was just going along with them.”
“That was taking a risk, Tom,” Chrissie said. I could see the storm clouds forming.

“Somewhat. I didn’t want them shooting right there on the street and they couldn’t compel me. I figured that they wouldn’t hurt me until they were sure that they wouldn’t get what they wanted and by that time, somebody would have tracked them down.”
“What if Jim’s people had been slow?”

“I was going to write the note to you like they wanted and wait. If things got touchy, I would have dealt with it. I had water tubes in my pocket and a gun. There were only four of them and none of them had guns drawn. As it was, I think that I had convinced Jimmy that pushing me was going to be a very bad thing. I imagine his boss is having a long discussion about that with him right now.”

“You need to protect yourself better. Perhaps we should get somebody to watch you all the time.”

“Crossing the street? Having a body guard attacts attention too. I should have been more alert and not have gone across the street at the same time to go to lunch with you or back to the hotel after I was finished with work every day.”

I had had that habit of breaking my patterns up in Washington to keep the things chasing me guessing, but after the things were gone I had lost the habit. After all if most of your work is across the street from where you live or your hotel, what is the point. Al should have been a wake up call, but Al hadn’t been looking for anything other than having lunch and sharing some stories about Chrissie. These characters were a different story. I was going to have to start taking precautions again, at least here in the city.

“Chrissie, I was in the habit of breaking my patterns slightly in Washington to make it harder for the things chasing me to get a bead on me. Since we are going back up to the Cape this evening there isn’t much I can do about that today and I won’t be back in the city until late August when we leave for Hawaii and Japan, so they will have to play their fun and games on the Cape where my shop is still right across the street from the boathouse.”

“I’ll tell Jake to keep an eye out for these people,” Josh said. “I’ll tell Ray as well. They might try to work out of Boston’s Chinatown like they did here, but that will be tougher as the tongs in Boston work with Ray’s people for the most part.”
“I told Jimmy that if he nedded a new gig, I would set him up. He seemed to be the only guy in the room who had a clue.”

We arrived at Bennies for our lunch with Mera, Dom, Tara, Joe, Maria, Sal and Sillia. As we sat down, Mera said, “Tom, you apparently had a bit of excitement. What happened?”

“Two guys tried to compel me and took me to a place in Chinatown to meet with some character from China. He wanted to purchase the jade dragon that Herbert Hoover gave me.”
“Did you tell them that it wasn’t for sale?” Dom asked.

“I told him that his price would get him into my office to examine the object. That was when the threats started to come out. He wanted me to write a letter to Chrissie telling her to bring the object to the hotel. Considering that the object is up at the Cape, that would be rather a pain to do on a deadline.”

“I wouldn’t have brought the real one anyway,” Chrissie said. You had that nice fake made by Persai. Not that I want to give that up either. That dragon inspired her and she’s doing several more for the gallery. I might have to annoy Uncle Altris by bidding on one or two of them. Railia really likes Persai’s work and now that she has a house finally, she can show it off.”

“So can you,” Josh said. “There are more than one of Persai’s pieces at the house and the bower.”

“Those and Christianos,” Chrissie said. “I know what I like.”

“Speaking of Christianos, Tim had a surprise on the tenth anniversary of Liltra’s death,” Noro said. “He certainly surprised me when I saw it at Sal’s”
“The picture of mother with the children,” Mera said. “Apparently there is a painting at the hospital in Manhattan and he was inspired. So was Christianos when he saw the picture. When he heard where Tim wanted the picture and why, he refused to charge for it.”

“Of course when I asked for a copy, he did charge, but I expected that he would,” Noro said. “I hadn’t realized the painting existed. Vic never said very much about the pictures that he and Joe took. That was right before Liltra was killed. In fact I may have been the last happy day in the house that I had with her.”

“How did she get to the house from the Cape?” I asked.

“My boat or we Swam. That last trip out she wanted to Swim. I was already in the city and we were going to meet up with Meria and Brian at the bower. She wanted to visit and have a picnic on the beach with Vella and Vella’s son, so she decided to Swim.”

“I want to remember grandmother as she was in the picture,” Chrissie said. “I think that Tim wanting to have grandmother’s picture in the house to help forget the sharks and what they did is the right approach. We can’t bring grandmother back but we can live the lives that she wanted us to.”

For the rest of lunch Chrissie and I talked about our forthcoming trip to Japan in September. Tochi, Suki, Misako and Sumitomo had pulled and Chrissie, Josh, Lou and Noro had pushed, so I was going at last on what would be a working vacation as I visited Tochi and Suki, the White’s office in Tokyo and other businesses, as well as setting up a small tank bed business for Asian seafolk. After lunch it was the train back to Boston and the Cape where It was time for my birthday party.

Saturday was the shoot and Chrissie and I had constructs of our own to shoot, so we did. The boys also used golems and other things to make up a very fun show even if they didn’t have dragons this time. The day was capped off with an evening of mermaid dancing and I turned to Chrissie and said, “I missed a lot last year.”
“Yes you did. If you had been paying attention, you could have been in the water with me instead of sitting in that bar and walking the beach all by yourself.”

My last birthday had not been fun. I didn’t really know very many people here at the Cape and there really hadn’t been any point in doing anything. So I walked along the beach. The irony was that Chrissie had been working the dance show and I had left the beach before she could show up. Chrissie kissed me and said, “I hope that this makes up for it.”

It had, and after church, Jacob and my sisters got their chance to spring their surprise on me, a big heliotrope showing me being treed by that bear and Tony saving me at Chrissie’s party. The thing had been built by the kids and it was actually a very big and fun surprise as they had managed to keep it a secret until it showed up at the party. Chrissie, of course, had that little grin she got when she had pulled something off.

The whales got their chance when Chrissie and I went to the island for a romantic evening Saturday night and they made sure that Chrissie remembered what being wet was like when we were on my boat going out to the island. I suspected that Andy and Trillia had something to with that. Along with my boat drifting several islands away after I was certain that I had set the hook. Strangely after drifting away, the boat anchored itself again. On the other hand there was a pan inside with some nice lobsters, clams and crab when I finally found the boat, so I didn’t have to forage for dinner.

With my birthday past, things settled down. Josh and Mera took the ship out to Hawaii for Steve’s wedding with Haruka and Steve Misako and Misako’s mother. The boys and Noro’s superboat people had their little race with Mac and our people the first weekend in August. Things were actually fairly even but the MIT boat manged to pull ahead in the last heat. The whole thing was a lot of fun and all the students and young engineers had a great time.

Noro, Mike, Nera, AL and Eltra were going out on the train with us to San Francisco to catch the boat to Hawaii along with George, Stacey and the kids since both Nera and Eltra had legs at this point. The trip was a lot of fun as I pointed thing out from my trip that I had taken out and back a long time ago to Chrissie and the others.

Late August we all were in Hawaii for the wedding. Haruka had managed to get Bob and Scott out as well as Boris and Stephie, so Bob, Scott and I setup the projector and Misako and Haruka danced. The wedding was on a beach hotel owned by Haruka’s father and Josh and Mera danced with Haruka’s parents in a wonderful show. The surprise was that Misako and Haruka’s brother seemed to spend a good portion of the week that we were in Hawaii on the beach together and Misako and Haruka’s parents looked very pleased with themselves.

After the long voyage across the Pacific Chrissie and I arrived in Yokahama to a rather discreet royal welcome. Tochi’s older brother had become emperor after their father’s death and he arranged to have Chrissie and I taken on the Imperial train to the palace. Suki and her son Suji took us to see the sites in Tokyo and then Chrissie was on the flipside of what had happened in New York as it was her turn at he stuffed shirt events at the American Embassy, the palace and other things while I was working with the White’s people and Umitei to get the tank beds and some other things set up. Then Sumitomo and I made awhirlwind trip down to the Mitsubishi and Nakajima aircraft engine plants where I did some work for Pratt in resolving some issues for some licened engines. After that Chrissie and Suki joined us as we took the train to Kyoto and Nara to visit ancient temples and castles. At some point, my publisher’s Japanese partner found out that I was in the country and I had to do an interview for the Ashai Shinbun. That led to the usual book signings and visiting a school shop and “joke club” where they had a stack of gags from my book. Fortunately the publisher had a photographer and I only had to do one session.

The tanuki question was resolved in a very sneaky way on their part. On the way back, Chrissie now had a maid and secretary and I had some people from White’s going back with me to the home office. The Tanuki had been working at White’s all along and as Chrissie was getting bigger and more exhausted every day, she needed staff and the tanuki had a couple that wanted to see America and liked Chrissie almost immediately. I suspected that Noro had something to do with some of that, but I didn’t see how he could have known to arrange things. In any case Chrissie and I were escorting three families of troublemakers right back to the Cape to work for the big troublemakers.

When we arrived in New York, I had and a message waiting from my father. An aunt had apparently died. I looked at Josh, who was in the city we arrived and said, “Did my father explain?”

“Yes, but I think that he and your mother should tell you.”

“As far as I know all my father’s brothers and sisters were fine. Was there an accident?”

I hadn’t gotten along with my aunts and uncles, but I wasn’t expecting any of them to die suddenly.

“I will let your father explain. It involves some of the things that you were involved in.”

This was getting rather mysterious.

“Should I go up from here? I still need to bring my truck down.”

My truck never made it back after the Colonel Bob and Scott hadn’t brought it with them when they came down either. I had my suspicions about that when Chrissie piped up, “We need to go back to the Cape anyway and it’s not that far from there. We can drive up in your car.”

Since Chrissie wouldn’t drive my car even though she had gotten a license and getting somebody from the farm to drive the truck back during the harvest might be a bit problematical getting the truck back might be a bit of a problem. On the other hand, I could be sneaky too and I had made some arrangements with one of the MIT students that came from my old neighborhood to bring the truck down when he came back to school in September. I just didn’t want to tell Chrissie about that quite yet and have her try to play games with the truck. I hadn’t been planning to drive it around, but Mr. Downes might need his truck. I expected that the truck was already hidden in the boatyard, but I wasn’t going to tell Chrissie that.

In any case it was me in the driver’s seat and Chrissie taking pictures again in the early fall. This time we didn’t have to worry about keeping Chrissie wet and Chrissie made me get wet before we left and gave me a reprieve because we were so far from the water. We had a wonderful dinner at the hotel in White River Junction and after an early breakfast wer on our way to the farm. The Cadillac was wonderful ride up through the mountains even if the truck had higher acceleration. We arrived at the farm in the early afternoon and Stephie came out to greet us. “Tom! You got the message, obviously.”

“Who died, Stephie?”

“Mother’s sister.”

“I didn’t know that mother had a sister. How did she die?”

“ We don’t know. Mother knew very little about what happened to her after mother came here. The sister was a twin so mother knew that she was alive and in a very dark place. She never bonded and her Change was a lot like mine. Then last month while you were gone, mother sensed that her sister had gone”
“How is mother?”

“As well as might be expected. Mother knew that her sister was probably in the deep thrall of one of the Masters, the witch of Transylvania, more than likely. Apparently she collects Changes, especially women. Father and the agent at the estate kept an eye open in case mother’s sister showed up and then suddenly she was there on a street below a castle, naked and dead from a very great fall. The local authorites had a photo that the estate agent had sent out and contacted him when the body was found.”

“So she tried to escape with her change and when she couldn’t, released her Change and fell.”

“More than likely, yes.”

“Who lived in the castle?”

“Nobody at present. It is a museum and meeting center.”

“So the Masters were using the castle for a meeting. About the Colonel, more than likely. What are we going to do about it?”

“Let’s go inside. That’s what we need to decide.”

Mother saw us walk in and said, “Good, you are here.”

The room was fairly crowded already with Noro, Mary, Ilyse and Hans there as well as the family.

“We came as soon as we heard,” Chrissie said.

“What are the details?” I asked.

“Here’s what was sent by the estate manager, Herr Shultz,” Father said. “The government wants me to sell the properties to the tenants and turn over the house now that there are no living family members in the country. That is fine with me. Herr Shultz wants to hold out for a better deal for the house and its contents.

As to what happened, there is very little other than the body. There was some kind of meeting going on at the castle, but all of the people who work there and the people who set it up cannot remember a thing about it. All that we know for certain was that Hannah’s body was found on the street.”
“That was mother’s sister’s name?”

I looked over the material that had been wired over. There wasn’t much to go on.

“Yes. We never told you about her for the same reason that we kept other things. Things have been too busy this year and we haven’t had a chance to go over things with you and Chrissie.”
“So what do we do?”

“Bill and Hilda are already over there with Gunther preparing to get as many of the community over as discreetly as possible. Stephie and Boris want to go, but your mother is rather reluctant. Stephie shares the same Change as her aunt and the witch might go after her.”
“I’m counting on that,” Stephie said. “If she comes after Boris and I, she will find out that I am rather more dangerous than my aunt. I’m more worried about Katherine.”

“Does she have Change yet?” Chrissie asked.

“Not yet. She’s only fourteen. On the other hand, it could come at any time. From what Adelheid has said, the Baroness considered the Golden Butterfly the jewel in her collection. Since Katherine takes after me, I expect that she will have the Change.”
“We can put her in the school while you are gone,” Chrissie said. “It would take somebody rather remarkable to get past Tony and Robert.”

“We plan to. That spy that Tim found earlier in the year is still out there. She managed to evade the bureau and disappeared very quickly. So she could be looking into the school.”
“So you want me to be keeping an eye on Katherine when I’m in the city,” I said.

“Yes. Also, after those Chinese characters were troubleshot after they took you earlier this year, nobody would mess with anybody you considered family. So a visit or two from ‘Uncle Tom’ will probably have rather chilling effect.”
Sal had done quite a number on the Chinese gang that took me and the foxes as well. The boss character had managed to make himself scarce, but the Chinese gangs both in New York and Boston were not going to want to incure his wrath anytime soon. Getting killed was one thing. Getting publically humiliated was another.

“Who’s taking care of ‘Nia?” Chrissie asked.

“Some of Katherine’s friends and Amy.”

“Stephie, you might get yourself in to more than you can handle,” Mother said. “I’m worried that you don’t know the territory.”
“I speak German, Russian and French fluently, mother. I have everything father and Tom have on the Masters. I have Herr Shultz’s, Adelheid’s and all the White’s office’s contacts and addresses. Boris and I will not be unarmed and Boris still has quite a reputation over there, even if the Soviets don’t like him very much. I can’t promise that there will be no risk involved, but I will not be working alone. Mother, somebody needs to go and close things down over there at the very least. We owe the people on your estate that at the very least. Frankly after everything the Masters have tried to do to us over the years, it’s time they found out what it’s like to be a little afraid.”

We discussed what we were going to do. None of it involved Chrissie and I directly and Mother said to me, “With the baby coming, Tom, you keep out of this as much as you can. I don’t want to worry Chrissie right now and you shouldn’t either.”

“I’ll keep him out of any of this except for shop time and advice,” Noro said. “If the witch does come over, looking for Katherine, I hope that she is better than the Colonel or it won’t be much fun. Tim didn’t tell that spy anything about all the things that we all got up to and we have so many things that we can do to the lady. She will not be the first royal vampire that I have dealt with.”
“Do you think that she will come?” I asked with a frown. “The Colonel at least knew about the diary and wanted Bruce. He had reasons to come at us directly. This lady will do things differently if she comes.”

“Well you have other responsibilities now, Tom,” Chrissie said. “Me and little whoever down here. Though the way they are kicking it feel like two little somebodies down there.”

Mother looked up and stared at Chrissie for a bit. Then she smiled a rather mysterious smile. Later, I asked her what that was about and she said, “You will find out in about a month, dear.”

Over the weekend I helped some of the older kids who had taken over the shop in the boys’ absence and generally had a good time. On Monday Chrissie and I started another nice drive down to the Cape. As we were crossing the bridge onto the Cape, Chrissie frowned and said, “I didn’t see your truck and you didn’t even ask about it. It wasn’t there, was it?”

“No, it wasn’t.”
“Did you give it away?”

“I can’t. Not really. At least not outside the family and it has special needs and requirements. I know that it just looks like an old truck, but there are things in the engine that need to be kept more or less discreet. I have an agreement with Pratt to keep certain things confidential. I suppose that I could junk the truck, but even then there is a risk.  So I had the truck brought back. Mr. Downes might need his truck in any case.”

“I see. We can keep it for the time being. As you said, Mr. Downes might need it. We should have talked about it earlier. I guess I didn’t want you to be like George and his cars.”

“Well Stacey won’t let him play those games anymore. Him and your uncle Ilutra. Joe and Steve took care of that.”

“They did, didn’t they. It was amazing that their trucks just never seemed to make it back from the farm and that Tony and Mark just ended up with them.”

“Well they did get damaged in that thing with the Colonel and the boys wanted them, so the trucks stayed. George and Ilutra haven’t had the time to go back and get them anyway. The co-op has a car for George and the institute has a truck for the weather people so they don’t need those wrecks anyway.”

‘No they don’t and my sister is just happy that she and the kids aren’t embarrassed anymore when they go out.”

“So what are we going to do about a car now that the baby is due?”

“We can shop for a car for me or we can use one of grandather’s. I think that grandfather will want me to use one of his, at least in the beginning. It’s a good thing that the house is almost done and we can move in right after the baby comes.”

“I’m a bit nervous about all of this.”

“So am I, but we can handle it. Our parents did. Look at all the duds who manage. How hard can it be? It not as if we can go back to what we had before even if we wanted to.”

We drove up to the boathouse and I dragged our bags in. Chrissie followed and we went to the steakhouse for dinner and came back for the night. It was a bit cold, but Chrissie insisted that I get a Swim anyway.

November was a series of big changes. First the Republican were out in the elections. That wasn’t too much of a surprise. The mess had just gotten too big and the Hoover Adminsitration just hadn’t been able to get things back on track. I think that his more or less progressive policies had a lot to do with that, but it was the fumbling that caused the loss of confidence in the man and the party. Then it was the most life changing event, for me and Chrissie anyway when in the second week of November, Chrissie said, “Tom, I think that it is time.”

That was followed by a rather scary trip to the doctor’s and after a seeminly long wait and screams with, ending with, “It’s a Boy!” followed shortly by, “It’s a Girl!”

Thus began an entire new part of our lives. But that is another story.




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