The Black Dragon, Chapter 32, part 1

We’re past the retreaded  material. We now have Alex and Xing chasing each other.

 

Xìngyùn

Thursday February 4 – Friday March 11, 1932.

Thursday I tried again at Whites and Mr. Claytor had been called away on family business right after he arrived and had taken most of the staff with him to see his sister in law’s dance show, which must be rather magical from the way Mr. Gollancz’s people talked about the shows. The good part was that I actually got a look at my bonded when I caught the subway uptown and he was going downtown to his office.

Jim had managed to find out some things about that office including the fact that it was very unwise to tail anybody into that building or mess with anybody in that office. Fortunately Jim was wise to the ways of the street kids and used them himself frequently. It was also evident that the word had gone out from the office to keep an eye on me, which made the Yaoguai’s life a bit unpleasant when they spotted me and tried to tail me. Four powerful fae were suddenly crowded by a swarm of boys, many of whom seemed to be fae themselves and run off. Jim had organized the same sort of thing in Hong Kong with more or less the same result. I was beginning to love my bonded so much and we hadn’t even met yet.

The rest of the month was a bit frustrating as Mr. White and Mr. Claytor were up at their home in Cape Cod or apparently busy with some sort of meeting. I was leading poor Alex on a merry chase while the Yaoguai kept sniffing around. Since I could speak English and function in the rest of the city and they had to resort to proxies from the Tong that whose leader that Jídiànjí had apparently compelled the Yaoguai were at a distinct disadvantage.

I took advantage of that to explore around the city for places that I wanted Alex to take me to later and then arranging for him to follow me to those places. I also took note of Alex’s rather ratty suits and made a point to lead him to a tailor shop.

Jim had done some digging and when we met in a little place in the village one evening he pulled out a paper. “It’s likely that the Yaoguai will go after young Mr. Benton if they see this.”
He had the paper folded to a picture of young Mr. Benton’s rather famous office up in Lake Placid. There in the back of the picture was the Jade Dragon. The Dragon had not been one of the objects in my charge, nor had my family ever had it on their possession and we had thought that it had been lost along with its guardian in a fae war. I looked at the picture and said, “It could be a copy.”

“It could be. But the Yaoguai will probably want to find out.”

“How do you think he got it?”

“We haven’t had a chance to look at the man but he married Mr. White’s granddaughter so he is very high fae.”
“If the object was looking for a protector, and it probably was, it would have manipulated things a bit to gain one.”

“Do you think that the dragon in the office is a copy?”

“It could be. I have one that Adele bought for the house a long time ago. I have seen others. On the other hand with the turmoil and the dark rising, the objects that were not guarded would want to make sure that they could not be misused again.”
“Mother has been telling stories again, hasn’t she?”

“She does that. I talk to others as well and Adele certainly has her stable of fae friends thanks to you, so she is collecting stories.”

“For that book of hers, no doubt.”

Adele had been working on a collection of ancient Chinese legends and faery stories even before she left England. She had been aggressive about taking advantage of our relationship, my family and their connections. She and my mother loved to share the lore that they found with each other.
“In any case, the Yaoguai will probably attempt to strong arm Mr. Benton and pay the price for that.”
“What do you think he will do?”

“That depends on what they do. If they were smart, Jídiànjí would have somebody call his office and offer to make a trade. I suspect that our adversaries will forget that they are no longer in China and do things they way that they usually do. If they do that, they are in for a nasty surprise. I’ve been talking with my friends down in Washington and making some new ones and the first thing you hear when you bring Mr. Benton’s name up is not to mess with him, with stories. Then there are the Peacekeeper stories and Mrs. Benton being pregnant. If our friends mess with Mr. Benton, she will be making calls and they won’t be to daddy. That is if the outfit here doesn’t just deal with the problem or for that matter, Mr. Benton deals with the problem himself.”

“Do you think that he can?”

“My marine buddies have seen him shoot. He can deal with just about anything and he will probably have a gun with him at all times.”

“That just increases the chances that the dragon is real. But we are not stealing from the local fae. If we get a chance, we can tell Mr. Benton to be wary.”
“So what are you going to do about your boyfriend?”

‘Keep the chase going and have some fun while we find a cave. Have you learned to drive yet? There are caves upstate.”

“They drive on the wrong side of the road. We could hire a driver and a car.”

“Then we are limited to the city.”
“The only cave here is a little one in a public park that would be far too public. There are tunnels including the new subway under construction. You can use a tunnel that is complete but not used as yet. I will search out some likely spots.”
“Are you jealous?”

“Relieved. Now I won’t have the guilt of being with you, your mother will get off my back because I haven’t lined up somebody suitable for you and you will be complete.”

“You haven’t wired mother yet, have you?”

“I’m not going to say.”

“So the carpet is on its way, isn’t it?”

The carpet was the mating carpet that the family had for joining. It was traditional and it I had always considered it a rather bad piece of work as it was covered with dragons mating in and out of Change to provide suggestions to the newly joined couple. The carpet was also immune to dragon fire and almost indestructible. So I was sure that Jim was planning to arrange for it to be in whatever tunnel we discovered that would be an appropriate place for my joining. I was just lucky that Adele and mother were not on their way, yet.

Jim grinned and said, “I do have some good news. I found one of the objects, the cup.”
“Where?”

“In an antique store uptown.”

“Did you buy it?”

“No. They wanted a rather large sum of money for it and the Yaoguai didn’t seem to be watching the place too closely, so I just talked to the owner and expressed an interest to find out what he knew. It had been part of a collection that had been sold recently as the owner needed money after the stock market crash.”
“So the owner was an unwitting Yaoguai proxy and the Yaoguai may be watching him, but do not yet know that the object was sold. Have you found the owner and talked with him?”

“Yes, and he purchased the object in Hong Kong on the recommendation of his guide as a souvenir. It was part of his small collection and he was forced to sell.”
‘His guide being a Yaoguai or a proxy.”
“Probably, though is he was not somebody that I knew. Do you wish me to purchase the cup?”

“Not at present. We do not have a secure place to put it and if the Yaoguai discovered that you had it, they would just steal it and we would be right back where we started.”
“That’s what I thought. It would be better to be in a position to secure all four at once and leave, that is if you leave.”

“You don’t think that I will stay?”

“Your bonded is here and if we lift your burden, I think that you will want to stay, which will please your cousin.”

After my brother’s death there had been a certain degree of uncertainty about the heir since I had not bonded. My cousin was the most likely prospect, but the possibility of me bringing a bonded to take over had hung over his head for a very long time. I grinned at Jim and said, “Are you sure that you are not a member of the family?”

“Your father wishes that I was fae and a member. But I am only a lowly servant.”

He left with that grin he got when he was putting something over on somebody.

 

Alex.

Monday February 8 – Friday March 11, 1932.

After a quiet weekend it was back to work chasing the two mystery ladies. My bonded, I was fairly sure was playing a bit of a game with me as I followed along and as I would get close, she would disappear. Strangely, all the places she would disappear were places that I suspected that she would like to go with me later. A walk through central park and an afternoon on a rowboat looked like a wonderful idea, as did the Fifth Ave. shopping. The disappearance in front of the tailor’s shop was fairly obvious and I did buy some new suits.

The other lady, who we suspected was a spy for the Masters was quite a bit harder as she disappeared after it became apparent that Jim Doolan was not going to be ruined as a result of the interview. She was also very good at picking up on fae being near her and messing up cameras, so we didn’t have a picture. In any case, she moved out and disappeared onto the train away from the city. The forwarding address for the contents of her apartment was a storage warehouse. So she was gone. Without any connections there wasn’t any way to track her down.

As for my bonded, she was being more or less pursued by some rather nasty Chinese gang types. They backed off a bit when the irregulars made it clear that the lady was under their protection. When I talked to Sal about that he said, “Do you want them troubleshot?”

“Let’s save that. They will probably do something really stupid fairly soon. The boss guy seems to think that he’s still in China.”
“Why are they here?”
“They are looking for something. If I can lock down my bonded’s partner, maybe I can find out what.”

“Have Josh and Noro been contacted?”

“No, but they have been busy with Meria and the Admiral getting ready for next month. They want things to go smoothly. So does the boss.”
“We all do. If we can get the bowers and the rest of the local fae talking to each other, the idiots over there will have a much harder time. How is it going with your lady friend.”

“Well we haven’t actually met, but she’s been leading me to places where I suspect that she wants me to take her.”

Sal laughed as I went back to my desk.

I still hadn’t met my bonded, but I did meet with her partner after George Carpenter put me in contact with him. He was a man in his late thirties of a sort of mixed heritage that said that he was probably from someplace like Hong Kong. That was confirmed when he said as I picked him up where we had arranged, “Mr. Griffen, I am James Yang from Hong Kong. I think that we should talk.”
“My car is right here and I know a great place that your lady friend does not.”
He grinned as he got into the car. “Just so you know, the chase is part of the game when a dragon bonds.”

“Not that it is important with high fae, but the sleeping around as well?”

“Unbonded dragons have appetites that must be fed or they may go mad or worse. My lady uses those to her advantage because such ladies are usually beneath notice. Once she bonded with you, she no longer had the need.”

“So she stopped seeing men and started getting me to chase her. Won’t you talking to me mess that up a bit?”

“Perhaps, but she is also involved in a very risky task and I would not have you get involved unawares. Also her mother will want to know more about you.”

“You are not fae, how did you get involved with this?”

“My mother was a poor prostitute and my lady was working in the same house when I was fifteen. She was found and attacked by the Yaoguai and I arranged with some friends to drive them off and saved her. I have been with her as a servant and partner ever since, for twenty three years now.”

“So why are you here?”

“Because the thieves, the Yaoguai came here with the things that my lady is bound to recover. I’m sure you know what the path of sacrifice is.”

“Yes. I hope that hers is not like the one that we just resolved.”

“The young man and the werewolves.”

“Yes.”

“This one could be worse.”

“How so?”

“It involves certain very old fae objects and what they might do.”

When we started our training at the bureau, Helmut and Mary outlined some of the things that we would need to be very careful with and ancient fae artifacts topped the list. We had two that were in very deep storage in a warehouse someplace out west that we didn’t even know the location of. They had been taken from dark fae kingdoms that the bureau had destroyed. Eric had another one that he didn’t talk about and we had rumors that Noro had more, but he wasn’t talking and we weren’t asking.

“That could be worse. So the lady has been tracking these objects down. You think that they are here, in the city?”

“I am sure of it. I found one at an antique store on the upper west side. I would like somebody to keep an eye on it discreetly. I do not yet have the resources to do such things myself.”

“Why did you not buy the object?”

“I do not believe that the Yaoguai know where it is and if I did buy it, I might give the game away before we find the other two.”

“How many are we talking about?”

“Four were stolen. They were sent by the Yaoguai using proxies that may not know what they are. We believe that one is aboard the ship that sank off Cape Cod late last year.”

“Do you think that the Yaoguai sank the ship?”

“I do not know, nor does Xìngyùn. We were hoping to make contact with the friend of an associate but he has been unavailable and I haven’t learned to drive on the wrong side of the road and none of my associates drive at all.”

“The friend being Noro, who is still rather busy and the people you should be talking to about that ship are where we are going.”

“We are meeting with Mr. Claytor?”

“No, but we are meeting with Joe Thomas and Altris Posidenitus. I called Joe after you called me and Altris is down here to talk with Joe and some others about that ship, coincidently so this is a good time to tell us what you know. Do the Yaoguai have seafolk amongst them?”

“Not that I know of. You seem to be certain that seafolk are involved.”

“We’ll go over everything we have, but the short answer is yes, we are certain that seafolk are involved. Seafolk that are not from around here.”
“Are you sure?”

“The ship sank off the Cape Bower in a hurricane. The people that could have done that in the Cape Bower were all busy with storm work, the Rockaway Bower was tied up with the storm and other issues, the Amboy Bower was dealing with the same issues, only worse, the Delaware Bower was cleaning up, the Chesapeake and Virginia Bowers were doing the same and the Maine Bower was battening down for the storm. None of them had a boat out. There was a schooner out, but nobody knows where it came from or where it went.”

We arrived at Bennies to a rather large table for the late working lunch with Joe and his salvage guy, Vince, Altris and his salvage guy Tony, The Admiral, Mike DelVecchio, Bob Farr, George Barnes, Steve Claytor, his second in command, and Tim Kirk. Joe and Altris had a drawing of the ship on its side on the bottom on the table. I introduced Jim around and he told everybody what he had told me. Steve said, “We found the safe cut open, but they didn’t take anything.”

“That would be something that the Yaoguai or somebody they compelled would do. They have other resources for money and do not concern themselves with petty theft.”

“You were right, Steve and they were after something specific,” The Admiral said. “Mr. Yang, do you know which of your four it was?”

“Not the cup, since I discovered it.”

“Well we went through the cabins and pulled all the cabin safes,” Altris said. “We’ve opened all fourteen of them and there was nothing fae related in any of them, so whatever it is, it was in the cargo.”

“So can you get to it?” Jim asked.

“Not until May at the earliest. We need good weather out there for the dive barge.”

“Dive barge? Aren’t you seafolk?”

“Yes, but unless the need is great or immediate, sending seafolk into a ship that is enclosed has a high risk factor attached, so we use divers that are more protected and back them up with Swimmers who can do things like keep the lines clear. The approach may seem to be slower, but we’ve done this many times and this way has proven to keep everybody safe. In any case we are going to need a crane barge as well, so we wouldn’t be going out earlier.”

“Are you keeping an eye on the ship?”

“Very much so, along with keeping an eye out for strangers on the Cape, shipyards or Montauk looking to rent work boats. These people tried for a quick grab of what they wanted in my territory. Had they found what they wanted, that would have worked for them in the short term, but my sister would have found out about it and started to make calls. Whoever it was is lucky that my sister was occupied with Tom, Chrissie and their toothy party crashers and other family issues for a couple of months.”

“Your sister being one of the brides at that big wedding you all held.”

“Yes. What with bond fuzz, the wedding and the honeymoon as well as the rest of it, she was rather distracted and Velt, our second in command was looking out for Sharks, dealing with storm damage and since the ship wasn’t an emergency, it was neglected except for the salvage crew until your partner brought it up at father’s office and Josh, Steve, Al and Mike and my sisters went over to take a look.”

“The Yaoguai will probably approach the salvage crew at some point.”
“We’re counting on it,” Steve said.

“They will use compulsions.”
“That would be rather stupid as all the divers and the rest of the crew are either fae or grew up with fae, so they are all immune, thanks to the games they all played as kids. By the time the Cape kids are fourteen, compulsions are rather pointless. At least they were in my and my brother’s classes, which made things a bit less fun for some kids.

If they do approach the salvage crew they have been instructed to play along up to a point. Your friends probably have a better bead on where the prize is and if they tell us, we don’t have to look.”

Lunch came and we ate and talked as plans were made for the ship. When we were done and on our way back to Manhattan, Jim said, “You will definitely have to take the lady there.”

“That is if I can get a table. The only reason that we could have that meeting was that we had a late lunch.”

“I need to ask you about one other thing that I will need to talk to the lady’s mother about. I need to know what your lineage is and how you are where you are.”
“My lineage is a bit complicated as my parents never said anything about where they came from or anything related to the fae before they were killed in ’98 when I was fifteen. That is typical of our little shop. I drifted for a bit, joined the army at judicial request, stayed there for a while, went into business, was pulled back into the army for the war and ran into some werewolves. The Colonel didn’t get me and Helmut recruited me.”

“Weren’t you a member of a kingdom?”
“My parents may have been, but like a bunch of others in Europe their community was smashed by the dark. Then the dark sent fae over to discreetly murder or terrorize the fae who did not have a community and prevent communities from forming. They were able to get away with this because the fae did not talk with each other or take steps to protect the loose fae. My bureau was first started to deal with that, but between the fae being afraid and only talking to us when things were happening and our need to be more or less clandestine we were in the dark more or less about the big picture. Tom Benton and Mera shined the light on the big picture at the end of last year and the dark got a very bloody nose as a result.”

“I have seen very little evidence of the dark here, except for the Yaoguai.”
“Well the dark was all sort of shot at the end of the last year as the result of some things, at least around New York.”
“The things being the boy being kidnapped, the kidnappings at the market and the big thing at Lake Placid.”
“Those and others were all part of it. Why don’t we set up a day and I will bring everything.”
“We should wait until after you join. Xìngyùn will be rather annoyed at me if I talk to you too much.”

“Does she like cookies?”

“Very much so. Those English sugar cookies especially. Why do you ask?”

“I may need bait.”

Jim laughed. “Are they really good cookies?”

“Steve’s people are glad they are up at Newport and away from the market because of them. Does she like shows?”

“She likes to see new things and dancing.”
“Good, then I have a plan.”

“Don’t tell me. You know how it is with high fae and lying. I can’t lie to her. But if you don’t tell me I can honestly say that I don’t know.”
“What will her mother think about my lack of background? There were some issues with that a while back up on the Cape.”
“With the young man and the very popular mermaid?”
“With her mother.”
“And Josh?”

“Ask Altris about it, but around the turn of the century a man showed up at the Cape and Mera was swept away by him. That was Josh, with no sense that he was even fae. The story about what happened next won’t be hard to find. If you stay around us long enough, you’ll get the whole thing, from the people involved.”
“My wife will want to know the story. She collects fae stories.”

“Don’t introduce her to Suki then. That is if you have to be with her. I imagine that they would be talking together for days sharing things.”
“Who is Suki?”

“She’s the Japanese Prince’s wife. Her real name isn’t Suki, but she wants everybody to call her that and we do. How soon is your wife coming?”

“I’m not sure, but she and Xìngyùn’s mother will be here all too soon, so chase her quickly.”

“Just what I need, a mother in law while I’m trying to start a relationship.”

Jim laughed and said, “I’ve known the lady for a very long time and it could be worse, it could be mine.”

“Give me that address of the place that you want us to keep a discreet eye on, so that we can get right on that.”
“I hope that you won’t buy the object.”
“Only if it becomes necessary to keep it out of your friends’ hands. On the other hand, those objects have certain properties and messing with them should be done very carefully. Also what good is a trap without bait? If your friends do come looking, we will be able to get a good look at them.”

He gave me the address and I dropped him off where I had picked him up and headed back to the office. Mary was waiting and I handed her the address. “Have the boys keep an eye on this place and tell the NYPD to let us know immediately if the place is broken into.”

“How did things go otherwise?”
“Altris and Joe know what to look for on the ship and my mother in law is on the way. I’ll put the rest in the report. What is Tim up to these days?”
“Vic has him working the police blotter and following up stories that seem interesting.”

“That might be useful. I’m supposed to chase the lady and if he just shows up, he has an excuse. On the other hand I want to talk to Kay. The lady likes cookies.”
Mary smiled. “Since she is new in town we must introduce her to the best that we have to offer, especially the little secrets.”

“Do the irregulars have a bead on her habits?”

“Well she likes to have breakfast at a place in the village. She has a place in Chinatown, but she doesn’t seem to be there every night. She isn’t sleeping with anybody else recently. She seems to spend a fair amount of time going to antiques stores.”
“I know why and it will be in my report.”
I went over to my desk and typed up the report. Nera was with Mike getting ready to go out before they went home. Nera had lost her tail about two weeks ago and seemed to be adjusting just fine. Mike was the one a bit nervous even though Nera wouldn’t start to show for months yet. I finished my report and took it over to the boss’s office and when he saw it he called Mike and Nera over to the office. “I want to get all of you on this, at least part time. If these things get loose, who knows what will happen. Mike, you and Nera handle the irregulars and Alex you keep on the lady and Mr. Yang. I think I will have Bob from the house back up whatever paperboys are up near that store and see if Mary can arrange it so the boys are fae. I think that Mr. Yang is right about not just buying the object, especially if it is in any way active. Neither of you were around for the two we have already because that was before the war, but the things can have minds of their own. They are also very dangerous. I’m glad that we have Tom if we need him. I suspect that the objects will respond well to him.”

“We have one at the business office and since it likes us and where it is, it doesn’t give us any trouble,” Nera said. “But we don’t flash it around. Tom actually has two in his office, but they keep very quiet.”
“They didn’t mind being out in the barn?” I asked.

“All I know is that father spotted them and told Eltra and I about them as a precaution. Eric and Greta spotted them as well.”

“I think that they respond to Tom as a protector and a Creator,” the boss said. “Now that he has full access to his abilities they will be even happier than they were.”

“Are these things alive?” Mike asked. “You’ve never talked about these like that before.”

“You didn’t have access to your abilities before,” the boss said. ‘Now you, Mike do and Alex will soon. Both of you are going to have to be dealing with new responsibilities, especially when Mary and I are not here.”
“Are you leaving, boss?” I asked.

“Not right away, but it’s time to give those clowns over there a bloody nose and Noro, Mary and I are going to do just that. You and Mike can handle things here. Mera showed Mary and I that it was time to think about moving on. When you bonded, that only leaves Ray and Susan and both of them have prospects so all of you won’t need us, we were getting into a rut and that got a lot of people hurt. We should have caught on to the Sharks and the attacks on the bowers earlier.”

“We will miss you,” Mike said. “On the other hand both Nera and I had seen the same things that you have. You held on to us for too long. Suppose that you had sent me up to the Cape years ago and I had found Nera then. On the other hand, with the Director gone, we should have an easier time of things.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” the boss said. “The conflict over there has left the city stuffed with fae and loose keystones, the bowers are scared and who knows what’s going on in Chinatown. But you are prepared to handle those things and it’s time for Mary and I to move on.”

We left the boss’s office and since it was getting late I headed to the subway and my place. I thought that I sensed Xìngyùn following me, but I acted as if I didn’t know that she was there as I went to dinner and then to my empty place. As I went upstairs I sensed her stopping and almost turned around to invite her in. She moved on and I went on upstairs.

The next morning I paid a visit to Kay’s early enough that she hadn’t sold out bought several bags of cookies and arranged to have her send four bags to the office every morning for the next two weeks. She looked at me and said, “Alex, you have a bond?”
“We haven’t actually met yet. Apparently forcing me to chase her is part of our building the relationship. She keeps giving me little hints to places she would like to go.”
“That’s why you are getting my cookies. That is very clever. You will catch her. When you do, I will talk to the girls and arrange a show.”

“Mike won’t like that.”
“He’s sort of bowed to the inevitable at this point as long as the girls aren’t too outrageous about it. The boys like the dancing and Nera keeps an eye on the girls and gives classes.”

“She is good at that. Mike is very lucky to have her.”

“Well I suspect that your lady will do wonderful things for you.”

After I left the market, it was over to the office to check in and up to the Upper West Side to check out the antique store. There was a paper boy on the corner and Bob was playing bum on a bench in the park across the street, watching the store and the kid. I could almost sense the cup but I didn’t go inside.

After that I went down to Chinatown to some of the places that Xìngyùn frequented to see if she turned up and sensed her going down the street. I followed at a distance until she led me to another restaurant and more or less disappeared again though I could sense a ghost of her moving away. I also spotted some rather unsavory looking characters who also seemed to be looking for her and followed them to another place that they were apparently using as a headquarters. Shortly afterwards an older well dressed man was picked up in a car. I wrote down the registration. Then I headed down to the office.

The rest of the week went like that but I started to do things like send the cookies to her address and sitting at that place she liked to have breakfast and ordering breakfast for her. She still managed to ditch me, but it was getting easier to find her again. That’s the way things went until the middle of March.

 

Josh.

March 15 – May 1, 1932.

Noro had suggested that I play hard to get with our mysterious Chinese lady. That wasn’t hard as I was stuck down in the Rockaway bower and Bennies with Mera after the business meetings were over when I wasn’t going out to one plant or another for Lou. By mid March, both Mera and I were ready to just stay up at the house on the Cape until the big meeting in April. That meant that it was Altris’s and Joe’s turn at me, but we expected that. Mera got to be grandma as she and Stacey got things ready for the meeting in April.

The ship continued to be a mystery as we went through and pulled all the safes, most of which were empty and none had been opened. One thing that did happen was Alex bringing our mysterious dragon lady’s partner to a meeting that Joe and Alrtis were having with Steve, Tim Kirk and Mike DelVecchio about the ship. Alex had apparently bonded with the lady but she was leading him on a merry chase because that was dragon tradition. Eltra and Velt had been going up and down the coast looking for the strange lumber schooner that the Chatham lighthouse had seen along with the ship that had needed the lifeboat as well as assistance from the bower.

Steve and Tim Kirk had been out to the ship several times already using Tom’s boat and both of them thought that the ship had been sunk by a small magnetically attached mine attached to the hull. Since the ship was a coastal steamer going up and down the coast and was heading for the canal on its way to Boston, it didn’t seem to be the type of vessel that would be a target of Chinese dark fae. Yet there it was. We were also getting rumors of some dark fae in Boston’s Chinatown and that was why Ray and I went to meet with Tommy Chung for lunch. He smiled as we came in and said “Ray, you brought Josh. Good, you two can catch me up with all the things that Chrissie got up to.”
“Before or after she married Tom?” I said, laughing.

“Well, before we all know about. What I want to know is how she dealt with that Colonel character and the rest of them. Was it as over the top as it looked.”
“Yes it was. Tom did his part as well. Noro had his circus down here too.”
“I knew about that. Those poor clowns didn’t know what they were messing with. I’m glad to see him up top. Are you going to point him at these idiots?”
“We don’t know very much about them, that’s why we are here.”
“Well, I contacted family over in Hong Kong when they first started to show up right after the storm last year. I wanted advice on how to deal with ‘devils’ as they are called in China.”

“Have they tried compulsions? Most of your people are immune.”

“Yes they have. They were also pretty sloppy about it. We don’t have any powerful fae in our community but I do have good people from the bower who can pull compulsions if we need to. The people call themselves the Yaoguai and for the most part they are fox devils. They also had a Southern European type with them who seemed to act like he was a seafolk.”
“Did you get a picture?”

“The camera had messed up film. Sort of like what Noro does with the papers.”
“Not anymore,” I said, smiling, “We encountered a young reporter who was strong enough to shield his camera even though he didn’t know what he was doing and the reporter caught him.”
“Which getup was he wearing? Noro has been going around as Mr. P. again with those shady slavers of his that he bought recently. Some of my people were more than bit scared that he may want to put them out of business. I had to reassure them that it was probably an act and that he had taken some of their competition for the labor market out of the picture for the time being.”

“Mr. White. Noro was playing in New York and drawing the reporter into his nefarious schemes.”

“I hope that you warned him. The only thing worse is being drawn into one of Mera’s things.”

We all shuddered a bit. Mera in full mermaid princess mode was a bit hard to stop.

“Mera’s aunt and some others warned him,” I said, laughing. “He knew that Noro was coming and snuck the picture. Ask Altris to show it to you.”
“Oh, I will, I will.”

Ray said, “I hope that Tom understands that that little shindig that Chrissie put on up there in Vermont was not something unusual for her. We had a bit of a break when she was under sea and didn’t want you to know just how much she wasn’t under sea, Josh. But she and George started something up for Tom and a barge when she couldn’t get him where she wanted him.”

“I found out about the barge party and lot of other things during the thing with Tom’s nephew. I thought that it was George and Joe’s idea. I didn’t know that Chrissie was that involved.”

“She was on the phone with me making arrangements for the booze and arranging for a caterer with that steakhouse that Mera likes. I think that she wanted you and Mera to find out about the party as a surprise and Mera to come up and meet Tom. It didn’t work out because Tom had his boat and Chrissie was running it for him.”
I grinned. “She had to. She had pulled the nut off his wheel and she wanted to make sure that there weren’t any accidents, so she ran the boat. Of course she was her usual self and didn’t actually start to look deeply into Tom as much as she should have and didn’t talk to Mera about talking to Greta before setting up her little bake. It didn’t help that the beach patrol boys interrupted.”
“That was a very expensive mistake they made,” Ray said. “They had the pool for that week and only Altris was left after. So when they were their usual selves, it cost them, big time.”

“Chrissie didn’t help by pushing matters. The problem was that Mera and I were on our way to New York by that point and weren’t there to keep a lid on things, Chrissie went into hysterics because Tom up and left and tripped Noro off. Most of that was my fault for letting Noro get so out of it in the first place.”

I went through everything that had happened and then we got down to arranging things a bit better for Tommy so that when these characters showed up, we could welcome them in our usual fashion. Then Ray and I shared the Troubleshooter stories and we had a fun lunch. As lunch was about over Tommy said, “Do you think that we could get the Troubleshooter on these characters?”

“I think that will be arranged at some point,” I said. When it will have a big impact and make a lot of noise. Sal doesn’t like messing with small stuff.”

“I can understand that. I wouldn’t want to waste his time on something that wasn’t worth the effort.”

“Oh, he’ll have people working on it for Noro. But he won’t show up until it’s time to make a splash, just like he did with Chrissie.”
“Between him and Chrissie, I’m surprised that anybody knew that the Olympics were even going on.”
“Chrissie wasn’t going to let something like that happen.”

She hadn’t either. She was all over the games with Nanami and Misako, attending as many events as possible and when she wasn’t at an event, she was in the office planning some sort of thing. She wasn’t going to let Tom’s efforts go to waste. A little thing like being kidnapped by a dark fae Master wasn’t going to keep her from making sure that her husband got all the credit and notice that he deserved even if he wanted to fade into the background. Of course she didn’t let him do that either.

The rest of March was just the typical business and in April we set up at Sal’s for the big meeting with all the bowers. I had expected that our mystery lady would show up, but she didn’t and when her partner did he explained why. She had bonded with Alex from the bureau and Alex was taking a month or so and they had both gone up to a place that Alex had upstate to have some time together before the lady’s mother showed up and started to talk wedding. That explained the dragons at Sal’s the night of the party. Alex and the lady had been in Change and the kids had mobbed them all evening so they couldn’t get together with Mera and I.

“We can help with that,” Mera said. “That is if she wants the wedding here.”
“I’m not sure what she will do,” Jim said. “Since Xìngyùn’s brother was killed Xìngyùn has been carrying both the burden of being an only child and her burden of being on the path of sacrifice. As far as I know, Alex will not become the heir to the kingdom and the rest of the family will be happy if Xìngyùn stays here.”

‘You seem to be remarkably close to the family for a non fae,” Mera said.

“It just sort of happened after I saved Xìngyùn’s life years ago. I have proven useful to her father and the rest of the family and I can go places where a fae would attract attention. That has proven useful when we were looking into the Yaoguai’s activities.”
Sal came over and said to Jim, “Do you want the Yaoguai troubleshot?”
“Not yet. They have actually been rather discreet when they are here. That is unusual for them. I have talked with Alex and he has people looking into the Yaoguai. So far they haven’t done much more than attempt to find people to look into the ship.”

“That’s not going to happen. Joe and Altris already have the salvage contract lined up and we start operations next month.” I said with a grin.

“Be careful about things.”

“We are. The only reason that they got away with what they did was the fact the between my daughter’s bonding, the storm and other things, we were rather busy.”

I wondered about the strange seafolk that had apparently sunk the ship. They had not been part of any of the bowers that we knew of and our patrols were keeping an eye out for that strange lumber schooner. It helped a bit that steamers and the railroad were doing more of that trade and Altris had had Paulo look up some of his old friends who were still in that trade. So far things were still a mystery. Adelheid and the major were overseas at the domain preparing for the discreet exit of as many people as possible, so I couldn’t ask her about the possibility of the Masters talking to the Black Dragon or if they had any dark fae seafolk.

One thing that had become evident, at least to the Cape bower was that one of Xìngyùn’s objects was on board the ship. We knew that because the thing had become more active and was screaming for help. Well, it was May and we could start to deal with that. If the people who had sunk the ship had wanted to be discreet, doing what they did right next to the bower was a mistake.

 

 

 

Xìngyùn

Friday, March 18 – Friday April 8, 1932.

Alex and I were getting closer. He was buying me breakfast and the bags of cookies left places where I went or handed to me by boys suddenly appearing on the street were wonderful. I took advantage of him being at work to chat up his apartment manager’s wife and we snuck in and cleaned his place for him. I also went past the antique shop where the object was and the bureau was keeping a discreet eye on the place with a fae paper boy and a man who had been compelled in the past with a very rough compulsions and was totally immune. Just scanning him for compulsions hurt. Jim had found out some things about Alex and his parents and Alex’s father apparently had had a woodworking business making things for factories and boats over in New Jersey and Alex still had some property in upstate New York including a cabin next to a lake in the woods. The carpet had arrived and Jim and I had found an unfinished subway tunnel near the park. Then Alex and I were forced together by circumstances. I was in the subway, some members of the Yaoguai spotted me and gave chase. Alex must have spotted them and followed discreetly behind as I dodged through the tunnels of the Union Square station. I was going to be blocked by the fence separating the two subways when Alex appeared, flashed a badge and we went right through the gate and onto an approaching uptown train. I looked at him and said, “Thank you for saving me. Changing so that I could phase would have been rather inconvenient.”
“Well, may I take you to lunch in exchange?”

“I think that I can do that. That doesn’t mean that the chase is over.”

“No, but perhaps we can share some things now too.”

“I love the cookies by the way. How did you know?”

“Somebody suggested that you did when I asked.”
“You’ve been talking to Jim, haven’t you?”

“I don’t think that I should say. You might hurt him.”

“Never. On the other hand he wouldn’t want to spoil you chasing me without good reason. So it was work related.”

“It was, and he wanted to warn me about your mother being on her way.”

“That was a good thing to do. As far as I know, she and Jim’s wife are still in Hong Kong, but they may be visiting England with Jim’s mother in law.”
“There must be a story there. Jim seemed to hint that there was.”

“There is and I will let him tell it.”
A young man suddenly appeared out of nowhere when we got off at 42nd Street. Alex spotted him as he approached and said, “Did you get them?”

“They never even knew that I was there, the idiots.”

Alex turned to me and said, “Xìngyùn, this is Tim Thomas, the reporter that did the kidnapping and the shark stories. I grabbed him with his mentor’s permission so that we could practice getting pictures where the people didn’t even know that the picture was being taken, not that he isn’t good at that already.”

I took a closer look at him and he was a very strong fae who was bonded. I said to him, “Did you get a picture of me?”

“Alex wanted one. It wasn’t an embarrassing one. Alex can show you.”

He must be very good as I had never even sensed him. I turned to Alex and said, “So you set the press on me.”

“No, actually Tim is doing a story about Chinatown as part of working the police blotter and I took advantage of that. You’ve been taking even more pictures of her friends, haven’t you, Tim?”

“Yes, they are starting to attract wrong kind of attention and that poor guy the leader is bullying is getting a lot of grief from his neighbors.”

“Have you talked to Jim about that yet?”
“I talked to him yesterday. We had lunch and I did some driving for him.”

“You are talking to Jim?” I asked. “Why, other than my search.”
“Because he’s looking for business and I want to see how he operates for a story. It’s all perfectly legitimate and I made the contact through George Carpenter, who I know because he was there during the kidnapping. So if anybody checks, I was just chasing down a story that had nothing to do with what your friends were looking into and trading some rides for connections in Chinatown and Hong Kong.”

“Why don’t Xìngyùn and I take you to lunch, Tim and you can tell her about your adventures with her friends.”

“I can do that, I’m going to dinner at Suzy’s tonight so she isn’t expecting me for lunch.”

Lunch proved to be very entertaining and informative as Alex and Tim told me about the things that had appeared in the papers when Jim and I had arrived in the country and stories about the various goings on of their friends. When it was over, Tim left and Alex handed me two cards. “This is my card with my direct number so that we can make some dates at those places that you keep pointing at. The other card is the offices number for an emergency.”

I turned the card over. “Why is there a car picture on the card?”
“That was the infamous car used by the Manager and the Sharks to do various things like kidnap boys that only a crazy person would dream of touching and take fae kids so that they could eat them for dinner.”

I looked at him. “You’re not joking, are you?”

“Not about the kids being eaten. The fae eating the kids were doing it to stabilize a dark Change that turned them into Sharks. They were also eating various seafolk that were bonding or were important. Fortunately the Sharks are all dead now.”

I was a bit shocked about that and wondered how it had gone on, seemingly for some time. I looked at Alex and said, “How did this go on. Didn’t the fae communities notice?”

“Not at first. None of them put the pieces together and the entire thing was well organized. There was also a mass of fae coming from overseas and the dark hid amongst them and everybody else. We started to have an inkling as to what was going on, when the werewolves showed up and a young man had to kill his older brother.”
“Well I must go, so I will get the full story later.”

I stood up, gave him a kiss on the cheek, wrapped my shields around me to disappear and hurried out of the restaurant. He didn’t follow very fast and I really didn’t run very hard. I checked in at Mr. White’s office again, but he was probably playing games with me as the secretary suggested that I contact the business office on Cape Cod. I was tempted, but I didn’t want to be that far away from Alex, now that I was sure that I had him.

As March headed into April and the days got warmer so did the chase as it went from the occasional lunch or breakfast to him taking me to a wonderful place for dinner. When he mentioned that he was going to be busy for the next two weeks with a big meeting of the bowers and I received a telegram from Adele, I realized that it was time. Mother and Adele had gone to England to find what they could about Alex’s family on their way here. If we waited until the big meeting was over, my mother would be here and nagging Alex perhaps a bit much as well as sharing certain instruction manuals for certain kinds of activities. So after a wonderful lunch with Tim and Tim’s bonded, Suzy at the navy yard officer’s club and some mermaid dancing in a filled drydock by Suzy and some of the other girls in the navy yard, I said to Alex as were leaving, “Catch me, if you can.”

I ran off, went discreet and we had a wonderful afternoon of him chasing me until we reached the end of the platform into the tunnel and I let him catch me. I kissed him and said, “Follow me.”

As we went down the tunnel he asked me, “Why are we here?”
“There aren’t really any caves here in the city and I needed a substitute.”

“A cave for what?”

“Well we have to do something. You will like it and if we did it in your apartment there would be consequences.”

“You’ve been with men before and nothing seemed to happen.”

“That was because they weren’t you. They were just feeding my need and for amusement. They would never provoke a Change. You, on the other hand, will. I also want to warn you. When we start, don’t stop, for both our sakes. Bad things can happen if you do. There will be a time that I will not be able to speak in a human fashion. If you do stop, I will try to release my Change. Whatever happens, don’t run or try to escape.”

“It’s good thing that you didn’t bond with Tom, as strong as he is. He pulled a boathook on Chrissie the first time he saw her.”

“Why did he do that!?”

“He wasn’t sure that he wanted to be caught by Chrissie. That turned out to be a wise precaution even though he was as caught as I am. I won’t run.”

He kissed me and it felt so good. We reached the space where Jim had set up the nest with lights, some lanterns and the carpet. Alex took one look at it and said, “Somebody wanted to make sure that we did things right.”
“My mother. She is very strong about the proprieties. She sent the carpet over. The carpet is one that the family uses for occasions like this.”

“Obviously they were leaving nothing to chance.”

I took off his coat and the pistol holster underneath. “I don’t think that we will need this.”

“What if your friends show up?”
“Jim is at the end of the tunnel and he said that he was bringing some of your friends.”

“At least we are not Mike and Nera.” He kissed me again as I reached for the buttons on his shirt.

“What did they do?”

“They were so out of it that they closed the deal in broad daylight on that dock next to Bennies. Fortunately there wasn’t the kind of crowd there then because the storm was coming.”

I peeled off his shirt and he started to pull on the zipper of my dress. I slipped out of it and out of the chemise and bra underneath. That was the way things went until neither of us were wearing anything and we were skin to skin. Things went the usual way but as things went, I could feel my change start with each pulse until I was the full dragon. I looked at him and he looked at me and kept on as I rode the pulses higher and higher until he released as I reached a peak and his Change started as it was his turn to ride up the pulses through his Change until we both peaked together and suddenly filled the cave with bright blue flame. I looked at his glorious dark green dragonhood and thought at him, “Hungry?”

He looked at me. “Yes, very.”

“I will be right back.”
I slithered over to the pen that Jim had set up with four now very scared hogs and picked up two of them in my claws. I went back carrying the struggling hogs and handed one to Alex who grabbed it a bit diffidently in his claw. The hogs were screaming as I said, “Bite the head off like this,” and crunched the head off. “Then drain the blood.”

He bit the head off and then we chowed down on the hogs. When they were gone, we had another session and then I went for the other two hogs. When were finished with hogs and another lovemaking session and I was nuzzling Alex, there was a sudden flash and I turned to Alex. “Jim! Taking a picture for mother, probably.”

We charged out of the tunnel and I heard running feet and chased after, only to come right up to a concrete wall with no door. Alex was right behind me and said, “Not Jim, Tim more than likely.”

“How? His Change wouldn’t exactly let him run and he can’t phase outside Change.”

“Actually he can. His grandparents discovered that little trick and taught it to him and the rest of the family. He figured that you would know that there is a station on the other side of that wall and wouldn’t want to be running in your Change right through a station full of people.”
“Actually I could have done it and not be seen, but I want to show you how after we have another session.”
“You wouldn’t have caught him anyway. He knows the city better than you do and there was probably a train in the station when he went back through the wall. He’s also very good at disappearing as you’ve discovered already. We wouldn’t have gotten the picture in any case as he probably had one of his friends waiting to hand the film to right on the train, the friend has already gotten off and the film is on its way to Mary who probably wanted it anyway.”

I growled in frustration. I should have expected this. I knew that Jim and Tim were talking together. I just hadn’t realized that Tim could phase without Change and would have an escape plan that took advantage of that. We went back to our nest and Alex nuzzled me to make me feel a bit better. I turned to Alex and said, “I want to meet Tim’s grandparents in the morning.”

“You should. We’ll run by their place tomorrow.”

“I want to learn that trick. I have some things to trade.”
“They like to do that. What will you do about Tim?”

“We will get you in shape and then we will set up a dragon chase.”

‘Not to hurt him, I hope. On the other hand he has been getting cocky lately and being taken down a peg won’t hurt him. Not it’s going to be easy.”

“It definitely won’t be with Jim and mother involved as well as Tim’s family. Well we have something to do right now.”

With that, I licked his muzzle clean and moved down, starting another session of lovemaking. When it was over, I said, “Let me show you some things and then we can sneak up on Jim.”

I showed him how to be discreet and phase as well as some other dragon skills and then we snuck up the tunnel to where Jim and some other people were sort of waiting in the empty station. I was trying to sneak up on him when he turned and went, “Boo! It took you long enough. Did you have a good time?”

I became visible and nodded yes.

“Well I suspect that you want to take Alex out and have a night on the town, so I will clean up here. I will take your clothes to Alex’s place. Have a wonderful night and don’t steal any sheep.”
I pouted.

“Well, don’t get caught stealing any sheep.”

Alex looked at me, “We didn’t fool him, did we?”

“He’s been around dragons for a long time including my cousins’ children trying to sneak up on him. He is fairly sensitive to us. Let’s go have some fun. Do you know where there are some sheep?”

“Yes, but I’m not sure that I should tell you.”
“Spoil sport. Well I will have you corrupted before the night is over.”

What followed was a wonderful evening as we went across the city, climbed up the sides of buildings, rode the subway invisibly, went by Tim’s place, where he wasn’t home and made love on the top of the Brooklyn Bridge in the city lights. We did indeed, steal some sheep, but they were sheep that the Yaoguai had for fresh meat when we checked out their headquarters. Around midnight we ended up phasing into Alex’s apartment and finally released our Changes. I kissed Alex and said, “Make love to me again.”

“Won’t we Change?”

“I think not.”

“I don’t want to burn my building down.”
“That lack of control only happens the first time. We didn’t flame on the Bridge, did we?”

“Well, ok.”

We went into Alex’s bedroom. Mother had always said that sex with your bonded was so much better than anything else that you would never want to be with anyone else. She was right.

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