The Black Dragon, Chapter 31, part 3 and end

Josh again from chapter 30. It will all make sense when I post chapter 32.

Josh.

Wednesday, February 3 – Friday February 5,1932.

Mera had a bit of a mystical look on her face all day as we closed down the office and prepared to go down to New York. Noro finally called and told us what happened at the ship, including the circus that he had created for everybody’s amusement and Nera’s little dance for the kids. When I told Mera about that she said, “I want to see if I can dance with my sisters.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem. You can set something up on the Cape at the bower over the summer.”
“That will probably be too late. I think that both Chrissie and Nera will have news for us very soon.”

“So they will be moving into another part of their lives. It should probably be easier for them than it was for us.”

“Well Nera certainly has a lot of examples that I didn’t. Going up top with you was a bit frightening, but I think that we started a trend. Persai and Paulo among others followed right along behind us. In any case, I think that if I wait too much longer to surprise Nera, the opportunity will be gone for some time.”

“Well, from what Altris’s grandsons have said at the party, Nera hasn’t had a chance to do her end of the year thing since she was with us the whole time. So now that she and Mike are at the Cape and I’m not, she’ll probably put something together.”

“Did you ever want to surprise her and show up?”

“Sometimes, but I figured the grief wasn’t worth it and let it go. I figure that that was something you two had to resolve. I think that we will probably have an opportunity to surprise your sister sooner than we think. Chrissie will probably set something up if we just wait.”

“Do you think so?”

“She and Tom are taking the ladies down, so I think that she will want to show off.”

Tom and Chrissie showed up and Tom and I had a brief meeting while Chrissie talked with her mother. After I took a brief glance at the report I said to
Tom, “This is just like the report you did for the sharks. How did you learn to do things this way?”

“In Congress, sometimes on the fly while some big shot was making a presentation. I learned that the guy reading the report didn’t want to read a bunch of stuff that he didn’t need to know. I think that my reports were what got me upstairs at Pratt.”
“Lou is going to like this when he sees it. It’s concise and just has the important things that he needs to know.”

“Maybe I should start to write crappy long winded reports and you and Lou will let me escape the suit.”

“You’re trapped. We’ve already seen the other stuff you did. Chrissie won’t let you out anyway.

By the way, when it comes to being bad about reports, you would have to work really hard to beat Noro. He didn’t call about the ship until this morning.”

“What happened there?”

“They found the French ladies’ kids, the major surrendered and the guy the Masters had in charge became something rather disgusting before Al shot him. On the other hand, Noro got to run one of his little circuses. The Pennsylvania Creators are staying for a bit to meet with you and so that the kids can meet with some mermaids.”

“I imagine the kids will like that. How did the kids know about mermaids in the first place?”

“Some of the bower girls were encouraged a bit to entertain the indentured kids and they shared with the Pennsylvania kids apparently. You can get the whole story when you get there.”

“Do you want me to tell you the story?”

“Not unless it’s really good. I’ve seen Noro’s circuses before. He’s not the only one who can do things that way. Let’s just say that Chrissie gets it naturally. It’s time for lunch and the ladies are waiting, so I think that we should put this away and go to lunch.”

We did and lunch was rather hilarious as Jacob showed up, presented a large wooden plaque to Tochi and gave Tom and Chrissie photography licenses. I think that he was trying to make up for the things that he had done under compulsion and giving Tom notice that Jacob wasn’t going to let Tom off easy. I thought about that and decided that a discreet talk with Altris, John and Jake might be called for. As lunch broke up and Chrissie arranged with Tochi, Adelhied and I to get a tour of the academy a bit later, I turned to Mera and said, “We could just get wet at the Academy.”
“I think that Chrissie wants Tom in the pool, alone for a bit.”

“There has been some of that. Sort of like you were before Steve came along. Nera has been the same way with Mike, hasn’t she? We’ll use the spa.”

“Yes and now it will be our turn to subvert her kids, so be prepared to come up with some fun stuff to distract them.”

“It seems to me that you helped somewhat with that subversion.”

“Well it was that or go a bit crazy. Steve and Joe were a real handful. I figured that I would hand them over to my sister as a form of revenge. It didn’t work out quite the way I expected.”

We drove over to the spa and got wet for a bit as Mera insisted that I join her. Afterwards, we drove over to the Academy where Chrissie took us for a tour along with Adelheid, Tochi, Leo and Hank, followed by a wonderful afternoon of watching Tom with the kids, along with Chrissie, Nanami and Misako dancing in the pool, followed by Andy and Trillia having a little water practice and some rather fun attempts at dancing together until it was time for dinner and we headed to the train with Hilda, Gretchen and Bill along with Andy, Trillia and the rest of the kids from the school that hadn’t gone down with Tony. Mera asked Gretchen, “Why didn’t you stay with your mother and Günter?”

“Ed can take care of them and I want to get together with Mary and Albert to set things up for the Academy and get Bruce back down with his girlfriend.”

“I’m a bit surprised that you just didn’t abandon the place.”
“It has too much potential. Before the Director’s people came in, it must have been rather amazing. Anyway, the various kids up there need to get together or the feuds will go on. They need to stop thinking of themselves as Martins and Bentons, especially when they are all going to be one family anyway.”
“Is that what you see happening?” I asked.

“Lizzie and Scott were a clue. Then there are the extra girls on the Martin side and the extra boys on the Benton side of the lake. Of course your family may stir things up a bit.”
“How so?”

“All those boys your brother in law sent up to work for Antonio and Eric. Some of the girls were looking at Chrissie and thinking that a tail might be fun. So they are looking at boys that already have one.”

“That happened to Joe,” Mera said. “On the other hand, Moira and Joe have known each other since school. Josh and I didn’t know that Alex was fae until Moira Changed, so their relationship was more than a bit of a surprise. Especially since Joe and Moira kept things discreet in amongst the circus surrounding Chrissie and Tom.”

“That was a circus, all right,” Hilda said. “The fun part is that Stephie, Boris, Bill and I went down to the Cape and saw the dancing and Chrissie after father snuck in and told us about it. We took the kids, but we didn’t try to visit Tom and he couldn’t sense us. Stephie wanted to pull something on Tom, but he was out on the water or in the boatyard most of the time and we couldn’t find his place, so we let it drop.”

“What was the dancing like?” Mera asked. “Josh and I have never been.”

“You must go,” Hilda said. “The show was amazing.”

“We may not get the chance, at least not when my sister is involved. It is likely that she will have legs all too soon.”

Mera looked more than a bit disappointed by that and afterwards in our compartment I asked why.

“When we were young, Nera would lead my sister and I into such wonderful and joyful dances. They were truly a magical part of our lives. Then the dark war came and we sort of lost that magic after our brother killed himself. Then I had to become mother’s hands and take more responsibilities. You came along and we grew so apart. I think that I would like one chance to have the magic back, but I don’t see how right now.”

“Things will work out. If nothing else, Nera will teach others to dance like she has been. Haven’t you noticed how good she was at that at Sal’s?”

“Yes I did, actually. She was also very willing to teach our kids and we didn’t pay as much attention to that as we should have.”

“In any case we will be in New York next week and so will Nera, so we can arrange something.”
“That is why I love you so much. Change and share the tank with me.”

I did and afterwards fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.

The next morning the train pulled into Grand Central and we got off. The others headed to the subway and Penn Station for the trip to Long Island and the school. We headed for the cab stand and the Waldorf so that we could drop our luggage off and go back downstairs for some breakfast. As we waited for our breakfast, one of Tochi’s boys spotted us and ran back out of the restaurant. I looked at Mera and said, “We might be in trouble. Should we leave?”

“He seemed to be fairly determined and was looking for us.”

“How did he know we were going to be here?”

“Tochi probably talked to Suki after we left and mentioned that we were coming down.”
“Well, we could leave.”

“I want my French toast. We can put up with Suki.”
“Do you think that she will just come down?”

“She’s probably send the lieutenant or the boy again. But if we don’t agree right away, she’ll be down with all the circus that goes with that.”

It was Suji again and I waved him over. “Hello, Suji, have you had breakfast?”

“Yes I have Mr. Claytor. I think you know why I’m here.”

“You mother wants to talk to us about something before we get too involved with our day and doesn’t want the big fuss that would happen if she came down herself.”

“Mother and Aunt Ayoko, who would insist on coming down too. They want to know about Chrissie and the other ladies.”

“No surprise there, Did your mother put a time limit before she comes down or should you send your bodyguard there back up to tell her that everything is fine.”

Suji smiled. “We have about forty five minutes before I have to report in. I told mother that you hadn’t started breakfast yet. Does Mrs. Claytor need to get wet?”

“Not immediately,” Mera said. “I’m planning to be at the Rockaway bower talking to my aunt today. That is unless our plans are changed by your mother. I expect that it has something to do with Misako’s father.”

“He got here last night on the train. He’s looking for Misako and she wasn’t at Lake Placid with father.”

“Chrissie and Tom took Misako and Nanami down to the Cape for a Swim today.”
“That’s what father said. He also said that Nanami found the one that she was looking for.”

“So Nanami was looking for Leo?” Mera said. “That explains why the ladies came over in the first place. Also why the ladies wanted to go up to Maine. Leo was still in Europe then, so he wasn’t at the bower and Nanami never got a chance to go down to Washington. As far as finding each other, they seem to be doing just fine.”

I waved the waiter over and asked for a phone. When the phone showed up, I called the office and left a message with Lou that Mera and I would be talking with Suki for a bit and to send a messenger over for the packet.

Breakfast came and we told Suji about what Tom and Chrissie had gotten up to upstate. Suji also wanted to know about Andy and Trillia. Then Suji told us about his sister’s antics with the other girls. At the end he said, “It’s a good thing they don’t make those amulets for normal girls or Keiko would be right there Swimming with the others in the navy yard.”

“That lore was lost a long time ago, at least in my family and as far as Keiko goes, it would be impolitic to give her one in any case as the Change for a girl is one way and the tail would be liability for somebody who will have to be as public as your sister will be,” Mera said.”

“That wouldn’t stop her, but Uncle would be rather upset. At least he would try to look upset.”
With breakfast over, I signed the check, we collected the lieutenant sitting discreetly in the corner with his coffee and went upstairs to meet with Suki. As we left the restaurant there was an earnest young man in a suit, obviously looking for me. “Mr. Claytor? The company sent me to pick up something from you for Mr. Gollancz.”

“Here’s the packet. Tell Lou that I will be right over after we talk to Suki. It shouldn’t take very long.”

He left again, heading back across the street and I said to Mera as Suji rolled her across the lobby to the elevator, “Maybe having the office where it is, is just a bit too convenient.”
“That was father and the Commodore playing their games. The Commodore had a bet that father couldn’t turn the land over his railroad yard into anything useful and father had to pay the Commodore the twenty after five years, but kept the rights and when they built the new station, built his building and moved the offices. The hotel wasn’t there then.”

Suji asked, “Who was the Commodore?”

“Cornelius Vanderbilt,” Mera said with a grin. “He was an old friend of my aunt’s and dragged father up to Manhattan for fun and games. He regretted that a bit later. Well to hear him tell it, he did, but his wife had a different story. Father had a lot of fun for a while. Of course that led to some other problems for him, but that was his own fault. You can get the whole story from him when you see him again.”

We reached Suki’s floor and Suji led us to his parent’s suite where Suki and Ayoko were waiting with another man who had the feeling of a royal fae about him. Suki saw us and said, “There you are. This is Umitei, Misako’s father. He speaks English, something he didn’t tell me when I was home.”

“Suki, it wasn’t important at home and sometimes keeping the fact that you speak another one’s language a secret is an advantage in negotiations. That was why I learned English in the first place.”

“When did you do that?” I asked.

“I learned that from a sea folk US navy officer just before your civil war. I’m hoping that I can see my old friend while I am here, but my daughter must have my attention for the time being. How is she?”
“She was fine as of yesterday evening when they were leaving for the Cape,” Mera said. “My father and brother are taking care of the ladies along with Tom and Chrissie, so they should be fine. They went down to the Cape for a brief Swim in the ocean before returning to the Olympics.”
“How did that work out? My wife and I tried to convince my daughter that the Olympics were going to be a long way from the water and she wouldn’t listen. We figured that Suki and Tochi could convince her that going was not possible. Apparently young Tom found a solution.”

“Actually, that turned out be easier than we expected,” I said. “The Pullman people had already made similar arrangements for other seafolk who travel to the south very year and the navy, who need to transport families, some of whom are seafolk and Tom’s family had made arrangements for Chrissie and my wife so that we could visit.”
“Suki mentioned a tank bed. I can see where that would be convenient at times. My wife will be interested when she gets here.”

“I imagine that she will,” Mera said. “The beds were something that my son in law and his family came up with when he and Chrissie were forced to go to Vermont by some toothy visitors to their little beach camp and Tom wanted to make sure that the toothy visitors didn’t cause trouble between my family and his, that the toothy visitors associates weren’t poking around looking for some of Tom’s things and introducing Chrissie to the family.”
“The toothy visitors being the shark Change that Suki was telling me about.”
“Yes, those toothy visitors. Josh, I think that you, at least should take Umitei up to the Cape so that he can see that his daughter is fine. You can bring him up to date about what went on. You can hand him over to father and come back.”

“Suki also said that my sister had found the man that she had apparently bonded with a long time ago,” Umitei said. Do you know him well?”

“We haven’t really sat down with him yet,” Mera said. “Suki, who has been rather quiet through all of this and Tom know him much better.”

Suki had been rather quiet as we talked. She had been in and out, talking with her kids and sister in law and doing various things, but staying out of our way. She said, “Sometimes it’s better to just listen and none of you need my advice right now, so I can take care of getting these slugs up to my rather annoying husband.”

“Don’t you want to hear about what happened up there?”

“I will find out soon enough. I will make sure that my husband tells me everything and everybody else will be there. I think that getting Umitei brought up to date on what happened is rather important. I’ve also been talking to Tim this week already and he has told me most of it.”

“Mera, why don’t you bring Umitei up to speed while I go and talk to Lou. I think that Meria can wait for a bit today,” I said.

“Josh, make arrangements for you and Umitei to go up to the Cape today. I think that you will have to. Tell Lou that this is family business. He can have his people wait until next week anyway. That will make them happy and they can be better prepared.”

“Ok, I’ll go over and have my talk with Lou while you entertain Suki and Umitei with the latest Jacobs and the rest.”

I went back to the elevator, through the lobby and across the street to Noro’s building. The doorman opened the door as he saw me approach in the light rain that we had this morning and said, “Hello, Mr. Claytor. Is your daughter ok?”

“Chrissie’s fine. She drove the people that took her hostage crazy.”

He laughed and had a huge grin on his face. “I expect that we will be seeing more of her and Mr. Benton shortly. The buzz around the building is that he did good things for us up there and dealt with some very nasty characters.”
“Ask George about that. He’ll have the report.”
“He’s briefed us already and we can hardly wait to meet Tom when he comes down.”

“I don’t think that he will be able to line you up for pistols. He’s passed that business over to his nephews.”

“We won’t ask, but we’re all interested. Young Tim has brought his present around and the piece was worth all the noise that ‘LT’ gets. I think that Isaac is looking for you.”

I looked across the lobby and he was, so I walked over. “Hi, Josh. I expect that they want you upstairs, but I just wanted to let you know that there may be an Oriental lady looking you up.”
“Other than the princess? She’s already seen me this morning.”

“The Japanese princess? No, not her. This lady is from China. She traded some very interesting stones and wants to find some people who can discreetly recover some things from that ship that sank recently.”

“Up near my way?”

“Yes, up near the Cape, the ship that had a sudden explosion and sank off the Cape.”

That had been during the storm. With all the rest going on, Eltra, John and Jake hadn’t had the time to investigate and the prognosis from the Coast Guard was that it had been a coal bunker explosion even though the surviving crew members had said that there had been no bunker fire. The captain and chief engineer had not survived. I said to Isaac, “I’m going up to the Cape for the weekend for family business, but I will be in town next week. Let Lou know if she comes back.”

“I will. I also pointed her at your business office up there at the Cape.”

“That ship is in fairly deep water and the salvage people haven’t wanted to go at it until the spring. But the office will talk with her. Did she say what she was looking for?”

“She wouldn’t tell me, other than it was very old and very valuable to her family.”

I thought that I wanted to talk to Noro about this. It had a fae smell all over it. It sounded as if Isaac was thinking the same thing. I said to him, “I’ll let the business office know discreetly to look out for her or a representative. I’m going to see Noro this evening briefly, so I will let him know as well. I need to get upstairs before Lou gets upset with me so I will see you later. By the way, I doubt that you will be seeing any zombies again for some time. Tom dealt with the last Necromancer we ran into. The thing was an idiot and made it personal with Tom. Noro can tell you the story when he gets back.”

Isaac was smiling as I went into the elevator and up to the office. Lou’s secretary buzzed me in and I said, “Lou, sorry that I’m a bit late. Suki dragged me in on some family business.”

“Misako’s father. She called the office yesterday to make sure that I let you know to talk with her about that.”
“She sent her son to capture me at breakfast this morning. We should have gone to a different hotel, but Mera was going down to the bower right away and I was going to be here, so there we were.”

“That gave me a chance to go over the report. If this is any indication, Tom is exactly what we’ve been looking for.”

“What have our people in the plants been saying? I sent him down as often as I could.”

“Other than to tell them ahead of time to know when he is coming, so that they can have their kids with their books lined up? They haven’t been able say enough good things about him. He’s quick, handles surprises very well, gets along with people, gets into the right details, has things ready and gets right to the point.”
“That’s good to hear. You want to retire, and we really want somebody in the family to take over when that time comes. We want Steve right where he is, George is needed up at the Cape, Joe is building his own business and is also needed up at the Cape and neither of them has the knowledge of the things that the company does that Tom has. Also Tom knows government and that may become very important. You and I need to quietly exit the scene before people start asking too many questions about how long we’ve been around.”

“Noro seems to get away with that.”
“He likes to play the mysterious character and being ageless is part of that. He’s also been out of the spotlight for a long time and people are just going along and not asking too many questions. We, on the other hand are going to need a new and fresh face to cover our disappearance.”

“When do we break the news to Tom?”

“Not for a long time. He’s a bit skittish about taking big responsibilities and I don’t want to frighten him into running away if we can avoid it. Noro made that mistake a bit with me and you know how much trouble that caused.”
“We’re going to have to be careful. He’s probably as hard to fool as you are.”
The phone rang and Lou picked up. He listened for a bit and answered some questions, finishing with, “Chrissie, your father is right here, do you want to speak with him? No? Bye then.”

He put the phone down. “Chrissie just called and said that we should all go up to the Cape this weekend for one of her aunt’s shows. Since it’s going to be the last one for a very long time, she wanted to let me know. The show is going to be at the boatyard this evening”
“So she’s telling you, so that you can tell me. I need to go up anyway, do you want to go?”

“I imagine that Stacey has already called her office and we will have quite a few people here who will want to go. I know that I do. You’ve never seen one of your sister in law’s shows, have you?”

“I haven’t. When did you?”

“About the time that Noro started to mope and stay under sea all the time before he just handed you the proxies and power of attorney and let you handle everything. Quite a few times since, when I could sneak up there for a weekend with Jane and the grandchildren.”
“I should never have let Noro get away with saying under like that. If hadn’t been dealing with Mera going under sea, some other business issues and things piling up, I would have been more careful. I figured that I could do something to mess things up and drag him back up top to fix things, but it just got too easy for Altris and I to get things done. I also figured that he would get bored and come back up top on his own, at least at first. Then I didn’t want to risk losing him, so I didn’t push as hard as I should have. We certainly had our fair share of fights, but I couldn’t get him to make that last step until Chrissie was involved.”
“How was he at the Games?”

“He had it easy after Tom took over. We both did. Tom took all the shots and dealt with the big issues, so all we had to do was do the work to back him up. It was the most amazing thing you have ever seen. He just did things, and didn’t even try to pass the buck once. The hardest part was getting him to shut down when things were over.

As for Noro, he enjoyed himself, played some games and had some fun with Bob and Scott. Then the Colonel took Chrissie and that made things interesting. Noro had a lot of fun with that. ”

“As well as making a rather large purchase.”

“We may need that purchase. To bring as many fae over from Europe that we can before the Masters get their hands on them.”

“Well, I’m going to tell Noro that the company he purchased is not something that White’s wants on its reputation. It’s rather sketchy, actually, more in Jim’s or your line of work. The Colonel made a good choice for what he wanted”

“That will work out better for this. It’s not the first time that we’ve had businesses that were more than a little sketchy. I think that the mysterious Mr. P. will hand his new business over to his underwhelming grandson to play with.”

“Joe will like that. Besides, we can hide things in the sketchy. After all, who would expect an up and up company like ours to be involved with things like that? Shall I book for the noon train to Boston?”

“That will work. I’ll go back and tell Mera. Book a compartment for us and I’ll take her down to that pier that the bureau uses to get wet just before we leave.”

“Go down right after you finish with Suki. I’ll have a car ready and you and Mera can have a nice Swim in the river before we go up. By the way, Chrissie said that she may have an announcement when you two get up there. She’s seeing your doctor this afternoon.”

“Her fins were starting to get red and she was rather grabby with Tom the last few days, so I think I can guess what the announcement will be.”

“Well, congratulations on being a grandfather again.”

“At least this time, Mera can be grandma. Stacey was rather miffed at Mera for a while because she wouldn’t come up top because she thought that she shouldn’t. Now that she knows that she should, all our grandkids are not going to be neglected. Mera doesn’t know how lucky she is that Dori didn’t just jump into the water.”

Lou laughed. “Bill and Ray would have been a bit upset by that. You need to get going and make the arrangements.”

I did, so I made my way back through the office, down the elevator, back through the lobby and back across the street to the hotel. Once back in Suki’s suite I said, “Mera, your sister is doing a show at the boatyard by Tom’s place. Lou wants us to go.”
“How will I get up there?”

“We get wet, Lou picks us up and we take the train right up to Boston. Then you get wet before we go to the Cape, we have dinner and we drive down.”
“What about your meeting?”

“Lou figures that enough of the staff wants to come that we can do most of it right on the train. Stacey was spreading the news around, so a bunch of people were making plans last night. Chrissie called and said that she might have an announcement for both of us.”

“Then you both need to go,” Suki said. “I wish that I could, but my husband needs a talking to and I want a long talk with Edward.”

“Are you done with Tim for the time being?”
“Yes. He knows what’s important now, won’t get full of himself and won’t go around looking for dangerous trouble. Ed, on the other hand will need advice, help with dealing with his affliction, his guilt over what happened over Christmas and he might do something stupid to get himself killed. He feels guilty over killing those men and that wasn’t really his fault. None of them knew what was going on and things got out of hand. Meanwhile the thing they all wanted dead got away. I will talk to the general about briefing the people he sends out so that they know who is who and who might be about. All three of them should have gotten together and chased the Colonel, rather than trying to kill each other.”
I couldn’t disagree with that assessment. I had a bad habit about monsters, but I wouldn’t have chased after Ed if Eric had told me that he knew who he was and why he wasn’t a threat. At least I understood why Eric hadn’t wanted to make a fuss about Ed over Christmas. As for the people who sent Steve’s people up blind, Suki wasn’t the only one who was going to have long talk with them. If Ed hadn’t happened along when he had, it would have ended up the same way when the two ran right into the Colonel without knowing who and what he was. If Roger had known about Ed it was likely that the deputy could have recruited Ed like Suki said and sent him to a phone to call into Boris if nothing else. For that matter the Colonel may have actually used the compulsions on Ed without Ed’s knowledge. In any case, sending Steve’s people up blind was just stupid. Ed was just as much a victim that night as the other two. I hoped that Suki could help him.

“I’m surprised that you haven’t taken after Josh,” Mera said. “After all, he chases monsters too.”
“He does that to protect you and the rest of your family. I haven’t seen him chase after random monsters since I got here. Also, with all the people telling him not to take risks, including you, my voice would be just one more in a crowd. When your husband really needs my wisdom, I will provide it. Frankly there should be a monster shortage here for some time as Mike and Tom have probably dealt with all the monsters in the area. Now that the kids are coming, that is a good thing.

You two need to get to your car. Take Umitei with you and show him the pier so that he knows where it is when his wife gets here next week. Poor Misako is going to be in trouble.”

She chivied us out to the elevator and as we went down, I asked Umitei, “Why is Misako going to be in trouble? She didn’t arrange to get herself kidnapped.”

“Not for the kidnapping, for the rest of it. Mermaids are supposed to be discreet and mysterious, not put themselves in the paper every single day for a week.”

“That was Suki and my daughter,” Mera said. “Not that the other two weren’t willing participants and Haruka was pushing too, but Suki and Chrissie were behind most of it.”

“My wife knows my daughter and won’t believe that for a second. At least Nanami found what she was looking for, which was why they did things that way in the first place.”
“So they were making a splash hoping to get Leo’s attention. Meanwhile Leo is busy chasing the Colonel and didn’t run into them until after the Colonel was essentially out of the picture.”

Lou had a car ready and we went down to the pier where Alex was waiting to take Umitei on a quick tour of what the bureau had done regarding his daughter and all the other things that had happened while Mera and I had a Swim for about an hour. As we left for the station, Umitei asked, “He was high fae. How many of them at that bureau are?”
“Up until recently, all of them,” Mera answered. “You will meet Helmut when you get up to Vermont as the bureau is finishing the clean up for the academy and the werewolves this week. His partner Mary is out at the school right now with the kids from the Academy. They collect fae orphans and attempt to find bonds for them. Recently the bureau has picked up some recruits that are not fae that were stuck in the Manager’s web of compulsions and forced to be his slaves. They are rather dedicated to beating the dark back and do things that the bureau didn’t do as well like interface with law enforcement. All in all, the bureau has done much better recently. My sister and brother in law will probably take over for a while after Alex and some others find mates.”

“What about the bosses, Helmut and Mary?”
“I don’t know. They haven’t said. I suspect that they and father might get up to something together. Father is rather annoyed at the Masters and I suspect that his recent purchase of the shipping line is a first step.”

“Will he go on to the path of sacrifice? What about his bonded?”
“My mother was killed some time ago by the Sharks. As for going on the path of sacrifice, the masters should get so lucky. A frontal assault is just not my father’s style. He’ll make use of everything that Tom and some others have collected and the Masters may suddenly find that they have unrest in their territories, no fae to feed on and money issues. He’ll have Tom, Ed and Eric to help him out as well as our family, so he will have some new tools to work with. Then there are Josh’s friends and all their associates over there. I don’t think that the Masters realized what they did to themselves when they forced the Colonel to come over here and the Colonel kidnapped my daughter so publically. Josh has a lot of friends who owe him some rather large debts and they won’t even wait for him to actually call in his markers. The only reason that any of the Colonel’s people got away with what they did down in Pennsylvania is that some people made some discreet phone calls and told some people to let us handle it.”

When we arrived at the station there were some well dressed people from
White’s lining people up and handing out tickets. There was quite a crowd and most of them seemed to have kept their kids out of school for this. As Lou came over, I said, “This is bigger than I thought.”

“Well most of the people at the company have heard of Nera’s shows if they haven’t been to one, so they are taking the opportunity. Also we had a good year last year and these people deserve it.”

“Where are you putting them up?”

“The same hotel that you had the wedding in. Altris made the arrangements when I called. Let me introduce you and especially Mera around.”

He did, and everybody was glad to meet Mera at last, especially the people that had talked with her over the phone over the years but not met her. If anybody paid any attention to the tail, they didn’t mention it. On the other hand White’s was a fae friendly company and these people were all going to a mermaid dancing show, so a mermaid going along shouldn’t have been that big a surprise. Just as they opened the gate for departure Mr. Droege ran into me again. “Josh, taking another trip? Who are all these people?”

“This is my wife, Mera, Umitei is a guest of my son in law’s family visiting from Japan and the rest are people from my father in law’s company.”

“Hello Mera. I am so glad to meet you again. Josh has been hiding you too much.”

“We’ve been busy recently and I have been watching over my father.”

“Hi, Lou. What does Josh do for you?”

“He’s my boss. You can guess who his father in law is.”

“You had to tell him, Lou!” I almost screamed.

“Josh, you’ve been running the shop for ten years now. Most people know who you are. That simple waterman’s act of yours isn’t fooling anybody, is it John?”

“Leave me out of it, Lou. As far as I’m concerned Josh is a waterman if that is what he wants to play being,” Droege said with a huge grin.
“So when we talked just before the storm, you knew who I was?”
“Other than you being you? After I arranged dinner for you, I called Lou and asked what was up. He was a bit annoyed that you just passed through and didn’t stop in.”

“There were reasons and I didn’t want to mess things up at the other end more than they were already, so I didn’t check in.”

“Lou told me that the old man was apparently up to something and scared the hell out of everybody up there.”
“He was completely out of it and trying to commit suicide by dragging a bunch of people down with him, so I didn’t want to take the time to discuss the business and miss my train.”

“I don’t think that I need the details. How did things with your daughter and son in law work out?”

“They are fine. The character that took my daughter hostage ran into my son in law’s father, his son in law the sheriff and a bunch of deputies. He and his people didn’t last very long”

“Well the Pullman people and my people want a long talk with your son in law as soon as things settle down for him. Even without the young lady and her friends being taken hostage he has been rather busy. Lou, your people are boarding and it’s on my railroad so I will let you get going.”

As we got on the train, I said to Lou, “Why did you tell him?”

“He already knew. Josh, you’ve been up and down on the trains for a long time now and you know that most of the people on the railroad know you already. In spite of what you may believe, you haven’t been a big secret to them and they know a good deal about you already. For that matter, you aren’t exactly in your waterman’s outfit right now, are you?”
I wasn’t actually. Since I was planning to be at the office today, I had worn a suit like I usually did. I hadn’t been paying much attention and Mera had packed, so the suit was actually a very good one. Not a suit that a waterman would spend money on. For that matter, Mera and I had been traveling on the railroad a lot lately, using the special services for merfolk and Tom was involved in that so I expected that John knew what Mera was. In fact he had just said so, rather discreetly.

We had our compartment in the lounge car at the end of the train which departed right on time at twelve. Mera, Lou and I went over Tom’s report until a dining car steward brought lunch in right about the time that the train crossed over the state line into Connecticut. I supposed that I should have been surprised that the lunch was steak, but Lou’s comment about how often we were using the railroad lately was starting to sink home. They knew what Mera was going to want for lunch and just brought it. I said to Mera, “Let’s take the boat to the city.”

“We’re Swimming. I’ve already called Hilda at the Wyanadotte and the Mascot and we’re being met at both places with clothes for dinner. Steve and Haruka are going back with us. Steve said that Nera and Mike might be as well. We’ll go out to the island and spend an evening there, Swim over to Montauk on Saturday, and then on to Patchougue on Sunday. Lou can have a car ready at Bennies Monday at noon or so.”

“We haven’t done a long Swim like that in a long time.”
“I know. Now that we can, we will. Lou, how about you and Josh deal with the business matters in the lounge while I bring Umitei up to speed about his daughter here. He’s been waiting to talk with us and you and Josh can get the business done without me easily enough.”

Umitei had been waiting at the door to the compartment and Mera was right, so Lou and I got together with the people from White’s and went through the last six months and what had happened up in Lake Placid. Most of what we went over was stuff that I would have handled over the end of the year except for the Manager, Andy, Tom’s wedding and honeymoon and the Games. I said to Lou, “Sending me up there was the right move and us getting Noro up there worked out so well. The committee was spending so much time looking at what Noro might be getting up to that they never saw me coming, let alone Tom.”
“I wish that I could have been in the room with you when he beat Jacob up like that.”
“Not you too. When did you meet him?”

“At the Cape, one summer. He tried to pull the same sort of crap that he did up where he lives.”
“I didn’t know that he went there.”
“He usually goes down when you come into the city in June for the month. This was just before Liltra was killed, you were out on the boat with Mera and Altris was handling it. Noro was staying out of the day to day business on the Cape and having fun with your boys and some others. That may have been the first time that Jacob showed up.”
“I never knew. Altris never mentioned him. Probably for good reasons now that I think about it. I wish that he had told me what I was getting in to by going over there into his territory. Not that Eric didn’t give me most of it. Fortunately most of that was the stress from his compulsions and trying to keep his domain going with the dark infiltrating while being forced to help the dark. He was much better when I left.”
‘Of course, Bob and Scott don’t know yet how many friends they made with the fun and games at the parade. Tom has made even more friends than he already had with that gag he pulled off at the stable.”

There were smiles all around the lounge and I asked, “Just how much trouble did Jacob cause when I was tied up and not paying attention?”

“Enough,” Lou said. “He would pick at every invoice and delay everything he could. Then he would get sticky about anything that might involve his property which a lot things had to. Fortunately we had Mr. Roosevelt’s cooperation as a big stick if we needed it. The biggest sticky was that stupid water main and I wish that we had known that Tom could have fixed that with a phone call back in October.”
“He never said anything about who he knew and those books were hidden so well that nobody else would have ever found them intact. In October, Chrissie was running his boat for him and trying to get him on a beach. Tom probably wouldn’t have pulled out his contacts if Stacey hadn’t insisted.”
“How much of that office is Chrissie and how much is him,” Somebody that I didn’t know asked. “We’ve seen the pictures, but it was Chrissie.”

“We sat there in Eric’s dining room going through that stuff and it was amazing. Then Tochi showed up and it was fairly obvious that all that stuff was real. Of course Pratt has been calling the business office off and on since October when they found out where Tom had gone and the farm frequently until he married Chrissie.”

“Ed Renschtler won’t talk to me,” Lou said. “He’s pissed at you too, Josh, for taking their new Vice President prospect out from under their noses.”

“Tom never said very much about where he had been until he was tied up with Chrissie. Of course they probably waved pretty girls at him too. Miss Vicky certainly did and some of those were high fae girls.”

“Are you sure, Josh?”

“Definitely. Miss Vicky told Greta and Mera how Tom had been sort of a disappointment to them and both Miss Vicky and Mrs. Coolidge knew what he was. They did not want an unbonded royal fae running around loose if they could help it, especially one that was a monster magnet. You’ve seen Theresa’s file with all those society page entries in it.”

“Josh, I’m Bob Radcliffe.” The man who had spoken up before introduced himself with a grin. “Now that we have Tom, what should we do with him.”
“Any ideas?”

“Not a new one, but the tank bed is probably a good thing for him to keep going on, even if it fails. In fact a failure and how he deals with it will be educational for both him and us.”

“Good point, Bob,” Lou said. “Do you have some reason to believe that it will fail?”

“Not at all. I don’t know Noro, except by reputation, but I do know that the one thing you can’t do is run a proposal by him that looks like a big money winner. The word around the office is that he can smell one a mile away and watch out for your project if he does. Now that he’s around again, the word went out after he showed up at the office. I had some people start to follow up on Tom’s numbers, then we were told to drop it and then we picked it up again. So something happened and Noro was involved. The word going around was that he panicked more than a little bit and Josh had outfoxed him. That caused me to see if I could get better numbers and I used something my cousin went through to find them.”

“Your cousin is a mermaid.”

“Yes, she’s up top right now with her husband. She mentioned dropping out of school because of her Change and I started to send some surveys out to schools near the coast to see how many dropouts they had had of girls age fifteen in the last five or ten years.”

“How many did you find?”

“For the east coast, a good guess is one hundred thousand.”

“That’s a bigger market than we thought.”

“I know. I talked to Stacey and she’s getting numbers for your bower, Josh, but the fact is that there are a lot of tails looking at being separated from their kids and being more than a little afraid of the bowers, especially if they didn’t grow up in one, which an amazing number of the ladies haven’t. The stories about the Sharks and the rest of it haven’t helped.”

“I think that it’s a good thing that Noro hasn’t heard about this. Also, Bob, could you have the numbers sent down to Bennies? There may be problems here that are more important than the tank beds. The Sharks were partially the result of families breaking away from the Sound Bower because they didn’t need the bower for financial reasons. If people are staying away for other reasons, that could be a big issue. I need to talk to the various bowers in the area, but I think that all of us are going to have to have a more open approach to visitors and a larger up top presence that meets the needs of our communities. I will have a long talk with Noro about that as well after the Games are over. Good work, by the way.”

Tom being settled for the time being, we went on to other issues and then the meeting broke up and I went back to the compartment. It was past four and the train was past Providence and approaching Boston when I walked in, Mera looked at me and said, “The meeting went on for a long time. It must have been more interesting than you expected.”
“Other than everybody slobbering over the prospects of getting their hands on Tom, yes it was. Somebody backed up Noro’s instincts about the tank bed with some rather interesting numbers. Umitei, have the girls in your bower started to go to school yet?”

“Yes they have, along with their mothers being up top until the girls are fifteen.”
“Well we apparently have a lot of girls like Chrissie who don’t really want to live in a bower when they Change. Apparently the news about the Sharks and the rest of it has been going around longer than we realized and the girls don’t feel very comfortable living in a bower and their mothers don’t either. Especially if they weren’t brought up in a bower in the first place. I think that next week I want a long talk with Stacey and Chrissie.”

“How many girls?” Mera asked.

“The estimate was one hundred thousand girls in schools close to bowers had dropped out at age fifteen in the last ten years. I expect some of them are normal girls dropping out like they do, but I think that a large portion of them are mermaids going under. The good news is that the tank beds will be a success, the bad news is that the bowers are going to have problems if people won’t live in them. Especially the younger sea folk.”

“That could be an issue. How did this happen?”

“At a guess, it’s several things happening all at once. First of all there have been all those people like my parents and Joe who came over and weren’t able to be a real part of a community and then there are the people that came over with legs and never found a community. Finally there are the people like Stacey and George who just like being up top. Then there were the shark attacks and I suspect that the people that came over are more sensitive to things like that than we were. So we have a lot of people who aren’t comfortable living in a bower and want an alternative if they can get one.”

“What do we do about it?” Mera asked.

“We have that meeting coming up. I think that the bowers are all going to have to expand their up top presence and have discreet places like Bennies so that people know that they are welcome to visit. I also think that the bureau and the navy need to be important part of the bower security and people need to know that things like the sharks are being looked for and dealt with. We can talk to Nera and Mike about this on the way back. I also think that I want to see if I can find somebody to open a place like Bennies in town or near the yard. Even if it costs the business money, I think that we need it.”

The place like Bennies turned out to be easier than I thought as we were joined by another lady in our Swim just before dinner. She apparently knew Altris and Railia quite well as they were frequent customers, she lived in the bower when she wasn’t up here and wanted a tank bed. Her kids worked in the restaurant and were going to college. After she introduced herself she said, “This is getting to be a pain. I can’t give the business the attention it needs and be down at the bower with my own things. Joe has offered to build a studio for my work, but I’m not sure how up top would work and frankly there are people and things that I need in the bower. I keep telling Joe that he should move the place but he doesn’t want to risk losing his customers.”

“We were just talking about needing a place where people from the bower can come up top.” Mera said, “My aunt’s son, Bennie was forced to open a place after being attacked by the sharks and that has worked out very well for my aunt and her family. Maybe if you push and we pull, we can get Joe to open a place down on the Cape as well as the place here.”

“Do that. Jimmy can take over here and Joe and I can get more Swims together. Let’s be sneaky about this and get together with Altris to set things up. Altris will be happy because every time he comes up here, Railia goes shopping. Since Noro bought that ship, poor Altris has had to spend a big chunk of that dirty money he got over Tom and Chrissie. They were here for lunch with Noro, but they aren’t staying. When are they coming back home?”

“After the Olympics are over,” I said. “Tom is the company’s man on the spot and flesh presser with Noro for the Games.”

“That explains Chrissie going back. She probably has another party all set up.”

“She didn’t say, there is a budget for things like that and the inn is open, so she probably will. Or Noro will hold one.”
“I just hope that Chrissie doesn’t go through her Change while in the public eye. I suspect that it’s very close. She was very grabby with Tom while they were here yesterday.”

“She’s seeing the doctor today and said that she may have an announcement. That’s one reason we snuck up today.”

“The other reason being to surprise your sister at her little show. It’s about time that you all got back together. I know that your family likes its fun and games but things were getting ridiculous with you all stepping around each other to avoid the things you knew you really wanted. Well, Chrissie has fixed that. Let’s get you to dinner with the people you brought up and get you on your way to the dance. I’m sorry that I’m going to miss it, but I’m here and Joe needs me.”

We Swam back to the discreet Changing room that had been set up in the back of the place, dressed and had a wonderful time with dinner. Then it was back in the cars and bus to the boatyard where there were a bunch of people setting up things as Nera was sitting in a chair running things. I rolled Mera up behind her and she must have sensed us as she gave a little start, turned around and said, “Josh, What are you doing here!”

“Maybe I should be asking that question. Actually Lou said that we should come up for this.”

“I want to dance with you again, sister, while you can,” Mera said. “You are getting red, aren’t you?”

“Not just me. Eltra hasn’t but Chrissie has. We both saw the doctor this afternoon and it was yes for both of us.”
“So you get to find out what being a mother is like and I get my chance at you.”
“Yes and It’s a good thing that I will be living in New York. If I have boys, don’t dunk them, please.”

“Why not, Steve and Joe turned out fine,” I said. “Of course that led to some interesting things at the school and certain activities, but it wasn’t that big a deal.”

“Here at the Cape where you and father are more or less in charge, no. Down in New York, it might.

It looks as if Tom and Chrissie are about done, so we need to get ready. Mera, Eltra wanted to do the dance that we used to do as well, so we will save it for the end of the show. I’ll signal you to let you know when to get in the water.”

“Ok, I need to collect Misako’s father, introduce him to Noro and find Misako and Nanami.”

“They’re not back from dinner yet. We all had dinner at the steakhouse. I wish it was closer to the water, like Bennies.”
“We want to talk to you and Altris about that and some things that the people at White’s discovered,” Mera said. “Josh, why don’t you find Lou and Umitei show them around while I talk to my sister, or at least annoy her a bit, since she is obviously busy.”

“Good, you can keep the kids out of my hair for a bit,” Nera said. “I seem to have lost my girls for a bit to some boys from Pennsylvania.”

There they were actually, girls I recognized because they were friends of Chrissie’s with some young men that I didn’t recognize. Mera started to collect kids as I went to collect Lou and Umitei so that I could introduce Umitei to an old scoundrel and find Umitei’s daughter. Finding Noro turned out to be easy as he had already found Lou and he was talking with Umitei about the goings on at the Academy. They spotted me and Noro smiled. “I see that Chrissie got you and Mera up here.”
“Chrissie? Lou, you talked with her, I didn’t.”

“She pulled the same thing you pulled on me, only with an announcement rather than a hot business.”

“Lou, have you told him yet?”

“Not yet. I figured that it can wait until after the Games and we have better numbers.”
“Noro, it turns out that the tank beds may be part of a bigger problem. I’ll get together with you and we’ll go over it with Eli, Theresa, Meria, Tono, Mike and Joe.”
“You have intrigued me. What is the problem?”

“Girls staying up top. A lot more girls than we knew about. I’ll give you the details after the Games are over, but you can see that happening in our own family.”

“Anything else?”

“I haven’t caught up with Altris yet, but there may be a Chinese lady showing up with a deep water recovery of old family property. She traded some gems to Isaac for cash and asked about somebody to do some recovery from that ship that sank during the storm. The ship that we haven’t had a chance to look into yet. Since you’ve met Umitei, I’ll let you go find the ladies and I’ll find Altris and let him know.”

I left them to find my brother in law, who was with Jake, keeping an eye on traffic. When he saw me, he said, “Chrissie got you here. Has she told you the news yet?”

“Mera and I haven’t seen her yet.”

“Well, she and Tom are going to be on the dock behind their boathouse with Moira and Joe, along with some others.”

“Has the Chinese lady shown up yet?”
“What Chinese lady?”

“Isaac said that a mysterious Chinese lady sold him some ‘interesting’ as he put it, stones and was asking about somebody who could discreetly recover something from that ship that sank during the storm. Old family property as Isaac put it. He gave her the business office line.”

“Very interesting. Eltra and John think that there was something fishy about that ship and how it exploded, but we have been rather busy with other things and Eltra has been getting settled in with Al, so she hasn’t had a chance to look into it. The salvage people weren’t going to send somebody down until the weather eases in the spring in any case. I’ll get the manifest from the coast guard and when things calm down a bit, send somebody down to take a look. Maybe even send a barge out and pull the ship’s safe.”

“Isaac hinted that there may be fae issues here and with the Colonel playing around, there may have been somebody else playing around too and with all the other stuff going on we missed it.”

“Talk to Eltra and Al about it. I suspect that you and Mera are planning to go back to the city with Nera, Mike, Steve and Haruka. Al and Eltra are planning to go out to the island with you all and come back in after the weekend. I think that you better get to the boathouse before things get any more crowded.”

We did and Chrissie made it look as if she was surprised to see us. Then the show started and it was amazing with the girls leaping through water in a flurry of splashes and rapidly changing lighting and even some fireworks and various dancers went through their routines. I could tell that things were coming toward the end as there was a huge chreshendo of dancing and Nera waved at Mera, who slipped quietly into the water and joined with her sisters in one of the most amazing things that I had ever seen. Then Nera took her well deserved bow to the cheers of the crowd. Mera popped up and said, “Josh, get undressed and Change, right now. I want to find a cozy nook someplace before the crowd starts looking. Put your clothes in Joe’s place. We’ll collect them in the morning and hand them to Steve before we leave. Haruka is handling arrangements for the trip back to the city. Joe is sending a boat out to the island in the morning with fuel and fixings for the mine.”
I rolled Mera’s chair into the boathouse and over to Joe’s, undressed and dropped into water to Change. It was cold for a bit, but Mera found me and we were able to find a cozy little nook to get warm in.

The next morning Nera and Mike found us and Nera said, “we’re having breakfast at Helen’s before heading out.”

“Why?” I asked

She grinned, “Because you and Mera need to see something before you go out. We’ll use Alex’s car.”

We did and when we went into Helen’s, she was a bit nervous, but stood her ground as there on one wall was a wall of pictures under a sign that said, Chrissie Benton, Best Mermaid Ever. The other wall had Tom, with the same sort of sign. The pictures left no doubt that both Chrissie and Tom were seafolk as the pictures included the Chrissie in the pot picture and the pictures of Tom in Change. The whole thing was rather amazing. Mera turned to Helen and said, “This is wonderful. The kids did it, didn’t they?”

“You aren’t upset that they didn’t keep the secret?”

“Altris put an aversion on it, didn’t he? As far as I know, everybody on the Cape already knows. It just took Josh and I a long time to figure that out. This is wonderful.”

“Well, don’t be a stranger anymore.”

“We won’t. Have Tom and Chrissie seen this yet?”

“Yesterday. They were rather amazed that the kids put it together.”

“They must have gone to a lot of people to get some of those pictures. The pictures of Chrissie as a child, Altris must have given you from the albums that I had stored at the business office and the newspaper pictures came from Tim. The government pictures probably came from Miss Vicky and Tom’s from Greta. Still this is amazing work.”

The kids came over on their way to school and basked in the glory of their accomplishment. Mera congratulated them and I took her to join the rest for breakfast. Nera said, “I was amazed when Mike and I came in for breakfast on Tuesday. They obviously like Chrissie and Tom very much.”

“They saved the kids’ life during the storm,” Mera said. “I imagine that they were rather upset when the Colonel took Chrissie prisoner.”

“Everybody up here was,” Steve said. “Even if grandfather hadn’t bought the company, people here would have dealt with the Colonel, one way or another. The only reason that ship was left alone was that everybody wanted to see what grandfather came up with. They were not disappointed.”

“Noro was wearing his Mr. P. getup yesterday, so he was playing those games wasn’t he?” I grinned as I said that. “Who did he get to run the ship?”

“Paulo and Jean for captain and first mate and Mac for crazy Scottish engineer. Altris played owner’s representative and George was the flunky. Joe and I played yard dogs fixing the things busted up to get at the leaky steam pipe.”

“What happened to the Colonel’s people?”

“The major surrendered, the guy the Masters sent committed suicide when he realized just how badly he had been had and the French kids’ minder died trying to escape the wrath of the mothers.”

The mothers were actually there at the diner with the kids, and I could see why the lady was willing to die to escape. “Just like that teacher the Manager had.”

Helen brought our breakfasts and afterwards we headed back to the yard to start our Swim As we were Swimming out I said to Eltra, “Isaac had an interesting visitor. Where is that ship that sank during the storm. Maybe we can take a quick look today.”

“Altris mentioned that Isaac had talked with you. Did he give you any details?”

“Other than to keep an eye out for a mysterious Chinese lady and that she wanted something that was on that ship, no.”

“Mike and Al, you haven’t learned to float things up,” Nera said. “Why don’t we see if we can float up the ship’s safe and stash it on the island. Steve and Joe can show us how to do that.”

My sons groaned a bit and Joe said, “Aunt Nera, we never left anything in your yard.”

“I didn’t have a yard. I suspect that I will and you will be teaching your kids and mine to fill it up, all too soon. That is if I can’t keep the kids dry.”

I suspected that that was going to be a challenge now that Nera mentioned it. We Swam out to the ship and Steve took a look at the side of the ship in the silt and said, “What did the Coast Guard say wrecked this ship?”

“As far as I know, the consensus was a coal explosion caused by a bunker fire,” Joe said.

“I’ll want Tim Kirk to come up and take a look at this. George Barnes as well. It looks to me as if this ship was hit from the outside, by a torpedo or mine. But we aren’t downstream of the old U-boat that they want Tim to take care of. I think that somebody sank this ship deliberately. Let’s see if we can find the ship’s safe.”

We checked the purser’s office and something had ripped a large hole in the bulkhead and removed the safe. I turned to Eltra and said, “I don’t mind people moonlighting, but ask around and see if any of our people have been at this ship already.”

“I don’t think that anybody has, at least from our bower, Josh. With all the activity from Steve and me, nobody from our bower would get out here without being noticed and between the storm repair, shipyard work, the Manager and Andy, along with the stuff upstate, most of the people that might be interested in this have been busy doing something else.”
Al Swam in with Steve. “Eltra, we found the safe on the bottom, over there, torn open, but there were actually bags of coin and cash still in the safe.”

“Dad, when we get into the Wyanadotte in the morning I’m having Tim and Merlia come out and go over this with Aunt Eltra and Al” Steve said. “That safe looks like it was taken right after the ship was sunk. By sea folk who knew what they were doing. Aunt, when you get back, talk to some of my old friends. You know the ones. They should come out and see this too.”

“You don’t think that any of them did this?”

“No. I’ve been talking with them and there is a fairly large contract with a salvage company to dive this ship and the insurance company. That involved cargo and things like the pursers safe. The dives were going to start in April and there wasn’t going to be much point in coming over here alone. Also, whoever did this wasn’t interested in the money in the purser’s safe and they tore it open underwater rather than cracking it open up top. You know those guys. Do you think that any of them would open the safe underwater if they could float it up and crack it where it was dry with saws and tools if they didn’t get the combination. This was somebody in a hurry, who probably wasn’t local.

Dad, you know the locals here. Do you think that anybody would just do some random wreck pillage like this and risk pissing you off? Especially now, after the mess with Chrissie and Tom? Without taking the money? These people were after something specific. Now that I think about it, this couldn’t have been anybody local or even from the area. I’ll call Ray, Joe at Bennies and Dom, when we get to the inn, but I think that they’ll say the same thing.”

“How did they get a boat?”

“Not from us,” Joe said. “Every boat we had and just about every boat on the water was doing search and rescue during the storm. I’ll ask around and see if anybody saw any strange boats. After the storm, we were all working clean-up and with grandfather as well as pulling the boats for the winter. They may have been on a ship or working off a trawler like Angelo’s”

We poked around the wreck for a bit and then headed toward the island, stopping to forage along the way. Nera and Eltra also took us exploring in other wrecks and the bottom until we reached the island, started the mine up and added the fixings and forage to make our bake. Then we waited off shore and Nera said to Mike, “Zombie cows, what happened with the zombie cows?”
“Tom must have mentioned that. Ok, I guess I’ll have to tell the story. Otherwise Andy will and he has a hard time getting through it without laughing himself silly. About five years ago zombies started showing up in a small town in upstate New York. I’m not sure why, but a Necromancer seemed to think that he could collect people and have them farm for him as if they were peasants in Europe. In the middle of dairy country. He made two big mistakes. There weren’t enough people for that and zombies can’t run tractors. So he attracted attention, Eric got wind of it and called me to let me know that I should look into it. I went up there and told the local sheriff and his deputies about zombies, with the examples that manifested and we started to take care of them and track down the Necromancer. We trapped him in a dairy barn and he starts to Turn the cows inside and send them after us. The problem with that is that a zombie cow is still a cow and you probably know how stupid cows are. Basically, we ended up shooting all these slightly dangerous stupid animals more likely to bite grass than people and more likely to run than attack. By the time we got to the Necromancer and took him out, we had all those zombified cows and one huge mess. It’s funny now, but it was only a little funny when it happened.”

We laughed and I said, “I’ve never had to deal with a Necromancer quite that stupid. That one takes the cake. I hope that we got his master so that we don’t see any more idiots.”

“I think Pete may have been almost as stupid,” Nera said. “There we all were, waving guns around and he lit that stupid ambush off anyway. For that matter, Turning the beach patrol before he even knew that Tom was coming, in our area.”

“Well I’ve seen one that was even more stupid,” Mike said. “There was the Necromancer that thought he could hit Eric. This one didn’t even come from the Manager.   This was about eight years ago, right after Boris had been elected sheriff for the first time. I think that the clown thought that he could hit Eric while Boris was getting his act together and take over.”

“What happened?” Steve asked, smiling.

“He came into town when Eric was in the Sheriff’s office, Eric walked outside, just looked at this character and the thing went right into Change then and there. Eric shot the thing right after that.”

“The same thing happened to me with that Necromancer on the barge.” I said. “It’s a panic reflex caused by encountering a fae much stronger than they are, trying to Turn them and finding out just how much trouble they are in.”

“That explains the one that Tom killed and the one that Tim killed. The one that Al shot didn’t do that.”
“Al shot him from far away and the thing was in too much pain to concentrate hard enough to initiate Change. I was ready to shoot him very quickly if he did. When you encounter a Necromancer again, you will cause the same kind of reflex.”

“I didn’t when I was dealing with the crazy guy with the cows.”
“You hadn’t bonded and weren’t in contact with our abilities. So you weren’t an obvious threat to the Necromancer until it was too late. At least not enough to cause the reflex. He still couldn’t have Turned you any more than the Necromancer could Turn Tom. Noro explained that to me after the barge incident.”

“Speaking about Tom, tell them what happened at your meeting with Lou on the train up.” Mera said.
“What part, the one where the tank beds are likely going to be a big success or when I realized the reasons why and their implications.”

“I think that we can start with the success the same way you did.”

“Ok, remember how Noro went into a bit of a panic over the tank bed. I didn’t know this, but at the company, the best way to have your project killed was to have big numbers when Noro was looking at something, so when he panics like that, it usually means very big numbers. So somebody followed up by asking how many girls dropped out of schools near the bowers.”
“Most girls go up top for school if they can,” Nera said. “In our bower, I think that almost all the girls’ mothers were up top if they could be. That was one reason that I was trying to maintain my dirty lander stance. It didn’t work, the mothers went up top so that the kids could go to school and I had far too few young dancers.”

“You seemed to have enough tonight,” Mera said.

“Some of the girls liked it when they went under sea. Also the dance teachers at the schools know who I am, who the most likely prospects are and have swim sessions with the girls. It’s not quite as good as growing up with a tail like Trillia and her friends. On the other hand the girls can read, understand dance diagrams and understand that you can fall and get hurt. Now that it is likely that I will be up top myself, something that makes me a terrible hypocrite, I’m going to work with the girls up top when I can in the city. One thing that you, Josh taught me, was how to grow and adapt.”

I liked the new Nera so much better. Of course the longer I spent with the new Nera the more I was realizing that the old Nera was more than a bit of a front. There had been those times when Chrissie had been going to school that I thought I saw Nera’s head and didn’t believe it. But if she had programs at school and worked with them the way she did all the other training and education things she did, she was probably hands on and up top more than I realized. Of course she was her father’s daughter and playing games was second nature. She went on, “So what was the bad part of the tank bed, Josh? I think that I can guess, but I want to be sure.”
“The bad part and it isn’t that bad is the fact that the role of the bower is going to need to change. One concern that the surveys found was that the ladies do not feel comfortable living in a bower especially if they never lived in one before.”

“Considering what the Masters did over there and here, I can’t really blame them. The fear is always there and the fae of New York can look at what happened to the Amboy bower and the Rockaway bower. Our bower as well, frankly. This is different from the days when the ships were small and wood. I can see why the ladies see the risk of living under sea as being too great, Especially if their husbands work up top, which so many do, these days. I’m beginning to realize now in ways that I hadn’t before just how important father’s programs are.”

“One thing you must know, Aunt Nera, is that the people of the Cape see the bower and us as part of them” Steve said. “You should have heard Helen right after Chrissie was taken. Grandmother would have been so pleased.”

“I think that I will tell the bowers that they must be part of the shore communities like we are or face a slow death,” I said. “The fact that under sea kept themselves separate and exploited their neighbors was one thing that the Masters exploited. I think that the Director and his people were more than a bit surprised when Mera and others from the bower were up top and in the communities and the navy positioned to stop what they were doing. In any case, the bowers are going to have to change.”

“What about the secret,” Al said.

“What about it? I don’t think that we need to go waving certain things around, my daughter notwithstanding, but the secret seems to have been in tatters for a long time already.”

“I think that Helen expected you to raise a fuss over the pictures,” Joe said.

“At that point, it was rather pointless. Most of the pictures had been seen by a lot of people already and most of Helen’s customers already know, that is if they are not sea folk themselves. Also, I could sense Altris’s aversion and making a stink would just hurt Helen and Joe’s feelings and I eat there all the time.”

 

The dinner was ready and we had an enjoyable meal and separated to find cozy nooks and some together time. After we snuggled and made love, Mera said, “I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t make fuss too.”

“Think it through. The one young lady I really don’t want to get angry with me is Chrissie because Lou and I are going to need Tom to fill our shoes so that we can make a discreet exit from the scene. If Chrissie is upset with me, she will use her substantial resources and Tom’s skills to thwart that. Upsetting Helen’s kids will get Chrissie angry more than a little bit. So the pictures come under the category of it’s not worth the grief. I think that we will find a lot of things in that category.”

“What if Tom doesn’t want Lou’s job?”

“I think that he will complain and accept the responsibility the same way he did at the Games. We didn’t ask him to take over, he just did. You weren’t there, but after Chrissie maneuvered Tom into Jacob’s office and Jacob came right in and managed to piss Tom off, there was no stopping Tom. By the end of the day, not only had he taken on the tasks that we had given him, he had the whole show. I don’t even think that he even thought about what he was doing or asking us where he should stop.”

“Well, we don’t want to overwork him too quickly.”

“We won’t because that would be the one way to lose him. Events might intervene again. The Masters haven’t gone away and they will be wondering what happened to the Colonel and there is Tom, up front and center in all their reports. Then there is this Chinese lady and this mysterious ship.”
“I think that the ship is more Steve and the navy than Tom. The bureau is probably already looking into the Chinese lady, if she is fae. George would have picked up on her and called down about her. If the lady is high fae and unbonded they will want to know about her for various reasons. We can call Mary at the inn tomorrow.”

I thought about that as we fell asleep in each other’s arms. There were so many mysteries even after the Colonel and the Director were gone. Well we had so many new friends to help with the mysteries.

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