The Black Dragon. Chapter 32, Part 2

More story, the mystery continues.

Alex.

Saturday April 9 – Friday May 27, 1931

After our wonderful night I had to get to work at the meeting. At least that was where I thought we were going. That was until I checked in and Mary said, “You and Xìngyùn come by the office here after breakfast to say hello, go to Sal’s for the show tonight and take the rest of the day for yourselves. This meeting is mostly for sea folk anyway and you were at the desk for most of the things that happened so we don’t need your view of things first hand. Then tomorrow you and your lady go upstate and have a good time before her mother shows up in two weeks.”

“Do you want us to come in Change?”
“Tonight at Sal’s. I have the picture already. You two look wonderful.”

“Tell Tim that he’s in trouble with Xìngyùn. She wants to have a dragon chase with me and Tim is ‘it.’

“Jim already told him that. He and Vic want to watch when you chase Tim. You know, of course that he isn’t going to be easy.”

“I already told Xìngyùn that.”

“At least Vic and Noro won’t let him stay under and escape that way.”

I laughed. “That will make things easier.”
“Don’t bet on it. Now get some breakfast and get down here with your lady before things start to get hectic.”

She hung up and I turned to Xìngyùn. “Mary wants us in the office after breakfast.”

“In Change?”

“No. She already has the picture.”
She growled, “Tim is so going to get it.”

“It’s going to be tough. You have probably guessed how sneaky he is. On the other hand we can recruit Suzy for this. She likes to tease Tim about snooping. Let’s get dressed and go to breakfast. We don’t want to have Mary send the troops out for us.”

Jim had left our clothes outside the door in a bag last night and I had discovered them when I brought the milk in for our coffee. We had breakfast at the deli down the street and then took the subway to the office. Mary was there and hugged Xìngyùn. “I am so glad to meet you. Alex made a wonderful bond. Tell me about yourself. I just loved the picture of you and Alex in Change.”

I left the ladies to their chat and checked in with the boss. He looked up and said, “We shouldn’t need you for the meeting. Frankly I want you at loose ends anyway and away from the city with the lady for a while. That way her friends will be a little lost.”

“Have they tried for the object in the store?”

“Not a whisper. Either they are being cagy about it or they don’t know where it is. I suspect that they don’t know where it is. Noro, Roger and I have a scheme cooked up when you get back from upstate. He’s having one of his people make up an obvious fake.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“You and your lady have a good time at your place upstate.”

My place upstate was a leftover from my dad’s business. It was a woodlot for his woodworking business. My dad’s partner still had the business in Hoboken. I had gotten a little wild after my parents’ death, been forced to join the army after being involved in a gang and done sales and other things in the business until the war and being drafted because they desperately needed sergeants. In fact they needed men who could step up and run things, so it was off to the officer’s school and the on up the ranks. In any case, the woodlot had cabin on it and the business kept it up. So I called Bill over in Hoboken and arranged to have the cabin through mid May. Xìngyùn and I would have to do the cleaning up, but I expected that.

After calling Bill I called Eli and Theresa’s office. Sarah answered and said, when I told her why I wanted to come over to the office, “If your bonded and you get right over, they can talk with you for a bit. So Tim put one over on you?”

“We’ll tell you when we get there. We’ll be right over.”

I went out front and Mary and Xìngyùn were still talking, so I said to her, “We should be going if you want to meet with Eli and Theresa. You come down in about five minutes while I get a car from George.”

It was more like eight minutes, but she came down. That was OK, because George must have heard about me and Xìngyùn and insisted on going back into the confiscated vehicle pool and pulling another roadster out. It was a rather fancy Studebaker this time and I said to George, “I don’t want to get stuck with this.”

“Just don’t pull a Troubleshooter with Jimmy and you won’t be stuck with the car.”

“Not likely. I don’t run with that crowd, Jimmy wouldn’t fall for that again and he knows me.”

George laughed and said, “Is this your lady?”

There she was, I introduced her to George and we got into the car. When we were driving across the bridge, I asked, “So what took you?”

“Mary wanted to make sure that I met everybody in the office. That took a bit longer than we expected because Helmut wanted to make sure to tell me to take care of you. I have never seen a construct like that.”

“He and his brothers are something special. You’ll meet his brothers this afternoon at the party.”

“Mary also said that Eli and Theresa could help me with my quest, but they are expensive if I don’t trade for the help.”
“They are, but with what is involved, they would be a big help.”
“I have some money and a discreet agent that isn’t obviously connected to Jim or I would be a good thing in any case at this point.”
“Well Eli and Theresa are wonderful people and Josh and Joe’s parents. So they are involved in any case and Noro probably has them looking into things already. Don’t feel uncomfortable with them.”

“Well they can’t be any worse than Adele.”
‘I can’t wait to meet her.”
“You’ll be sorry.”

We talked back and forth until we arrived at Eli and Theresa’s building. Xìngyùn looked around and said, “There is a keystone here.”

“That was Eli and Theresa’s problem. But I will let them tell their story. Sarah was waiting when we went into the office with a camera. “Hi, Alex. This is your lady?”

She took the picture and said, “You two stirred up a bit of a ruckus last night.”
“We were seen?” Xìngyùn said.

“From the navy yard when you were having fun and games on the bridge. They figured out who you were, but things were tense for a bit. It didn’t help that it was the Admiral who spotted you while he was Swimming with his wife.”

“The Admiral knows me.” I said. “If Mary hadn’t spread the news of my bonding around, I will be remarkably surprised. For that matter, Xìngyùn and I visited the mermaids at the navy yard yesterday.”
“Well things are nervous because of the big thing going on. This is the first one and we are the hosts. Other than that, The Admiral has mermaid issues already, the Shark kidnappings at the market and if too much weird and strange stuff keeps going on around the navy yard, his bosses will probably be upset with him. He’ll probably ask you to go to a different bridge next time.”
“I don’t think that we will quite be doing things that way the next time,” Xìngyùn said with a grin. “We were a bit out if it and enjoying ourselves maybe a bit too much. I will apologize to the Admiral.”

Eli and Theresa came in. Theresa smiled, “Alex, is this your lady?”

“Eli, Theresa, this is Xìngyùn.”

“The name means fortunate one,” Xìngyùn said. “And I am very fortunate.”

“Well what brings you to us?”

“Alex said that you know how to phase without Change and we were interrupted by a certain young photographer last night.”

“So Tim was the reason you were on the bridge last night,” Theresa said.

“No, we weren’t chasing him last night. Alex figured that he was prepared for that. We were just enjoying ourselves.”

“So you want to be able to phase without Change to chase our grandson. What will you trade for that?”
“Aren’t you concerned that we will be chasing your grandson? I will trade some skills that I have used in the past that you may not know.”

“Tim can handle himself and I doubt that you want to eat him. A little chase will keep him on his toes.”

“We don’t eat humans normally. They are too large and a meal that large means that a dragon cannot release its Change. Too long in Change and we would not be able to release the Change at all without killing ourselves. My family prefers to be discreet about certain things. Other families did not and that has led to some dark things. That is why I am here and I wish to hire you for a time to aid my search.”

“We will be occupied for the next week or so for the reasons that you already know. Why don’t we meet in two weeks when you get back from your little trip and make arrangements. Mary has told us some things already.”

“That will work for us because my mother and my partner’s wife will be here to help.”
“Why don’t we trade our skills and then you can tell us about what your issues are?” Eli asked. “That way we can start poking around discreetly and start Sarah working on it.”
“That will work. I can tell Alex at the same time. Let me call Jim, my partner and have him come over as well.”

We spent the next few hours with me learning a lot of things that I was glad to be able to do, now that I could. Jim showed up and Xìngyùn berated him a bit about letting Tim get away with what he did. He held his ground and said, “Milady, if Tim hadn’t wanted to take the picture, I would have had to do that and I don’t run as fast as I used to. Your mother would have been upset if I hadn’t arranged for a picture and I was a bit afraid that you would not have been in full control and hungry. If you had eaten me, you would never forgive yourself and been stuck in your Change for a month. So I made the arrangements with young Tim and he did very well.”

“Tim is probably using you as background for the story he’s going to write about this when it’s over,” I said.

Jim smiled. “There was some discussion about that. Tim is also going around with me when I do my business here in the city and seeing how I and the people I’m talking to do things. That way he understands how trade works. For that he is willing to take me places in his car. It’s a rather substantial car for somebody his age.”

“It was Joe’s.”

“Joe told me that as well. It works well for me and our adversaries have not picked up on the fact that Tim and I are working together or about the car yet.”

“So you’ve been plotting behind my back,” Xìngyùn said laughing. “Well it would hardly be the first time. Mary seemed to know when mother was going to turn up, but you haven’t told me.”

“I am supposed to be the inscrutable loyal sidekick. How can I be that if I tell you everything.”

“Tim is working on another radio script isn’t he?” I said.

“What radio script?” Xìngyùn with a frown.

“After the thing with the Colonel wound down, Mike from the office, Tim and some of the other office guys started to get together and come up with scripts for a radio show that has a Tim and Sal character in it.”
“Sal as the Troubleshooter?”
“Sal in his Detective DelVecchio get up which you haven’t seen yet,” Theresa said.

She told Jim and Xìngyùn the story about Sal and how he became the Troubleshooter and his Detective getup. By then it was getting a bit late and we all headed over to Sal’s. Xìngyùn had wanted to meet with Josh and Noro, but that was thwarted when Mary and Sillia insisted that we be in Change for the party and the kids mobbed us. We were forced to keep the kids entertained and since we couldn’t talk to them without Changing we couldn’t get away from a bunch of fae kids led by Gregor, Bruce and Andy, along with Trillia, Verelia and Cindy. We did lead the kids on a merry chase through Sal’s place, Jim Day’s place, Roger’s rather dilapidated house, the School and George Carpenter’s place before getting back to Sal’s where Sillia was waiting with some wonderful smelling roasted hogs and two kegs of cider to wash them down. She said, “I’m sorry about that. We didn’t expect the kids to like dragons so much.”

We nodded, chowed down on the hogs and then joined the kids again for the mermaid dancing. When it was over, Xìngyùn said, “When we get up to the cabin I will teach you flame dancing. This was wonderful.”

Now that it was dark, we were able to get back to our clothes, Change and join the rest of the party as the kids had moved on to Tom and the usual things that went bang. Sillia and Sal found us and Sillia said, “Now that we can talk, thank you again for taking the kids like that.”

“I don’t think that I have seen so many fae kids in one place before,” Xìngyùn said. “It must be overwhelming.”
“Some of them are the kids that came up with their parents for the meeting. Not all of them were fae in any case. But it was a mob.”

“I will have to tell Nera that the dancing was wonderful.”

“That wasn’t me this time,” Nera said as she walked up with Mike. “This show was Nillia and Hans. Not that I didn’t help. Alex, you and your lady were wonderful today. Is this your bonded?”

I introduced Xìngyùn to Mike and Nera. Nera went on, “Mike said that you and Alex joined in a subway tunnel that was under construction.”

“It is traditional for dragons to join in a cave,” Xìngyùn said. “I suspect that it is to keep the partner from running away.”

“That’s a good thing. I made sure that Mike couldn’t, right away. Chrissie didn’t,” Nera said, grinning.
“I didn’t do what,” Chrissie said. “Tom said that there were dragons. Was that you, Alex?”

“That was us,” Xìngyùn said. “So you let your bonded get away, Chrissie?”

“I did after we had a bit of a fight when he balked the first time we were on a beach together. It was my own fault because I had spent too much time chasing Tom and not enough time finding out about him. That came later.”

“Was that when he attacked you with the boathook? I can see that you might have been put out by that.”

“No, the boathook was when I snuck aboard his boat and he didn’t actually attack me with it. Well I need to chase my husband down and make sure that he gets a Swim tonight even if I can’t.”

She left again and Nera said to Mike, “You sir, are going for one as well as I get the dancers packed up before they start fun and games. Alex, Xìngyùn, we will see you in a couple of weeks.”

I turned to Xìngyùn and said, “I think that we should be going back to my place so that we can get an early start in the morning.”

We had a wonderful evening and the next morning, I packed some clothes for me, we went by Xìngyùn’s place so that she could pack some things and then we were off to the cabin. On our way out, I stopped by the office and picked up a camera and a shotgun and put both in the trunk. Xìngyùn looked at the shotgun and said, “You don’t really need that anymore.”
“When we get a chance I will introduce you to Al and he will argue that with you. If he hadn’t been transferred to Boston he would already have had that discussion with you. In any case, circumstances may arise where Changing is not possible or will be worse than just using a gun. I am also not necessarily comfortable with my Change yet.”

She kissed me. “We will change that.”

I became a lot more comfortable with my Change and we stayed at the cabin a bit longer than I had planned because I made a mistake and left the groceries out. When I went out to get them after we were cleaning up the cabin, there was a bear, a young male, it turned to attack, I Changed and killed it, and since I was hungry, ate the bear, all 150 pounds of it. Then I found a sunny spot, curled up and slept off the meal. Xìngyùn found me a bit later and said, “I think that somebody had an accident. We will be spending more time in Change than we planned.”
“Why?”

“Try to release your Change.”

I couldn’t.

“Your body won’t let you release the Change until the meal is consumed and with something as large as that bear, it will be at least three weeks.”

“Could the Change become permanent?”
“Not unless you make a habit of eating bears and become bloated. I won’t let that happen.”

“Did this ever happen to you?”

“Do you mean, did I ever lose my girlish figure? You shouldn’t ask about that, but yes when I first came into Change I ate a calf and remained in Change for a month.”

I should have known that the camp’s caretakers were fae, because they spotted me about a week into our stay and after that the kids started to hunt us. Of course Mrs. George insisted on taking pictures of us. But the fun part was that the kids kept leaving raccoons and rabbit as well as the occasional wild hog as a tidbit for Xìngyùn. She would only give me a taste until I released my Change finally about the middle of our third week. By that time I was very comfortable with my Change indeed.

When we arrived at the City, Jim had his wife and Xìngyùn’s mother, Chin-ling with him. When we met at Bennies they grinned when they saw us. Xìngyùn’s mother said, “You were a bit longer up there than you planned, Xìngyùn. You must have enjoyed yourselves.”

One consequence of my Change was that I understood Chinese perfectly well now.

“Alex ate a bear, mother,” Xìngyùn said. “He was stuck in his Change. On the other hand, yes we did enjoy ourselves.”

“He ate a bear. Well, that happens. With you it was that peasant’s calf. We made you earn the money to buy him another.”

“You wanted me to do certain things that I don’t want to say too much about to Alex yet.”

“Alex, she slept with men, a lot of men. Dragons have to before they bond. Well we girls do. The men are a bit luckier, especially since they usually come into Change later or only after they Bond. They can also find willing ladies or pay them.”
“MOTHER! Jim, help.”

“I’m not going to. If you hadn’t bonded, I would be on the hook unless you had somebody else. Now Adele doesn’t need to share with you.”

“As long as I was sharing him with you, Xìngyùn, I didn’t have to worry about sharing him with some floosie,” Adele said. “I’ve always looked at it as you sharing him with me, along with the rest of the family. After all, you met him first and got him ready to be the man I needed.”

The Admiral rolled Mabel in and spotted us. He came over and said, “I hope you choose a different bridge for your fun and games the next time. You caused a bit of a stir.”

“How much?” I asked.

“More than it should have as you were being discreet and just having fun, but after the Sharks taking the kids and the number of fae in our neighborhood, seeing large magical predators made some people nervous. The barge people called the yard about you and raised the alert. Of course by that point, you had moved on. You being at Sal’s thing helped quite a bit as the kids were with you the whole time and none of them were even hurt, so that calmed things down quite a bit. How well do dragons swim?”

“Dragons swim well enough,” Xìngyùn said. “We’re sorry that we cause a bit of a stir. Do you want us swimming over there near the bridge?”

“Not really. I don’t really want more people looking for strange things in the water near the yard for other reasons. The girls do good work, but they also attract a bit of attention. We’re more exposed than some of the other bases, so we have to be a bit discreet or we will have audiences on the bridges for the mermaid dancing and I will catch hell for that. Fortunately Nera is holding her classes down here and setting things up for shows that are rather discreet. So the girls will not as tempted to dance up at the yard.”

“Alex hasn’t told me the entire story about the Sharks yet. I do get the feeling that it was pretty bad.”

“It was bad all the way around. That’s another reason to chase Tim. I’ll leave you to your dinner.” He went back to his table with a bit of a grin.

Chin-ling asked, “So why do you want to chase Tim? All he did was take that picture for Jim.”

“Certain things should be private, mother,” Xìngyùn.

“When I joined with your father the whole kingdom was waiting outside the cave to celebrate. We needed to have a picture so that the kingdom can share in your joy. Alex, dear, Jim told us about you, somewhat and we actually did some checking in England, looking for your family. Like so many, your keystone is gone there, but it doesn’t seem to have been destroyed as that leaves traces and it doesn’t seem to be in your father’s business. Do you have a house over there in New Jersey?”

“It was sold after my parents died. I didn’t know to look.”

“You should look at the house. It might be important to know. We discovered that most of the fae over in England were gone.”

“Have you talked with my boss yet?”

“Yes. That is a start of what will be a very long conversation. You know of Xìngyùn’s task and that the objects were stolen from our care. We have never looked too deeply into the motives of the Black Dragon or the Tiger other than knowing that they are totally corrupt and wicked. The Black Foxes, the Yaoguai, are traitors that have gone down a very dangerous path when they took the objects. Those things are very old and will not bend to somebody’s will easily. They could do great harm and of course we wanted to retrieve them. Jim says that there are more objects already here. The Jade Dragon in the young man’s office being one of them. The Yaoguai may go after him.”

“That will provide Tom with some mild amusement,” I said. “If they were smart and did their homework, he’s one character that you don’t want to mess with under any circumstances.”

“Why not.”
“Tom by himself is incredibly dangerous and very well connected. His wife, Chrissie is just as bad and she is expecting, so anybody that goes after Tom is asking for a world of hurt as she will arrange to have whoever was responsible be made into an example in the worst possible way. Then her father comes into the picture. If they listen to the guy whose organization they have more or less stolen, they wouldn’t even dream of messing around with the Peacekeeper’s son in law. We have Chrissie’s mother, who plays government so well that she scares the boss and that was before she took over at fisheries. Then there is Tom’s family. All of whom are high fae and scare just about anybody who encounters them. Tom’s family is one reason that there are almost no Twisted in the area up there.”

Tim rolled Suzy in, followed by Suzy’s parents. He almost looked ready to run out again when he saw Xìngyùn and I, shrugged and rolled Suzy over to the table. Xìngyùn looked at him and giggled. She said in Chinese, “This is going to be fun.”

“Who is that?” Chin-ling asked. The she looked more closely. “That is Tim, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“You aren’t going to chase him now, are you?”
“No, mother. For one thing, the water is right outside and his parents just came in.”
They had, actually, from the back.

“A chase now would be very short and rather unsatisfying. Alex and I can do better. But it will take some planning.”

“I want to catch Tim in an embarrassing situation with Suzy,” I said. “That won’t be easy. There is a hotel they like and there is always Sal’s. Things are getting warmer and there may be some opportunities. We can talk to Mike and Nera.”

“Well enjoy your chase, dear. But make sure that young Tim does as well when it is over. He did what he did for the family and the family owes him a small debt for taking the risk, small as it was. His bonded looks like a wonderful girl.”

“Talk to the Admiral and arrange a tour, mother and she and the rest of the girls will dance for you.”
“They already have. Jim took us there and the market for those wonderful cookies.”

“That was how I caught Xìngyùn,” I said, grinning. “I had boys make deliveries to her and we started to meet at places. Then some Yaoguai goons showed up, I had Tim get their pictures while I provided Xìngyùn with a shortcut through the fare gate on the subway and took her to lunch.”

“How did you know where to take her?” Adele asked, grinning.

“She was leading me to places that I figured that she wanted to go. Macy’s, for instance and the boathouse in Central Park, for instance along with places to stop and eat, so knowing where to go was easy. I also know places myself and we started to go to lunch together. Jim warned us you were coming and I thought that I had a large job coming, so Xìngyùn found a subway tunnel that she could use as a cave, Jim set things up with that rather suggestive carpet and with some of my friends covered for us as Xìngyùn caught me.”

Xìngyùn and I shared how things went as we were chasing each other as we went through dinner. We also told them about being dragons for all the kids at Sal’s get together and how the kids chased us all over the neighborhood. Chin-ling asked, “There were that many fae children?”

“How many were there, Xìngyùn?” I asked. “I think it must have been about fifty or more.”
“That feels about right after you count the mermaids. I think that Trillia had about ten of her friends, there were twenty from the school at least and the rest were the kids brought by their parents and some non fae local kids from next door crashing the party.”

“That doesn’t sound very discreet,” Adele said.

“In that neighborhood, it was just a typical party,” I answered. “The local kids already know about the seafolk offshore and so do their parents. So trying to hide is sort of pointless and when they did, things got bad. So they are better off and everybody had a good time, didn’t they, Xìngyùn?”

“What if dark fae showed up?”

“They would find out very quickly why that is a bad idea. Even nonfae in that neighborhood are sensitive to Twisted and dark fae at this point and walking into the Troublshooter’s house means that you will be Troubleshot, one way or another. Then the bureau will get a call from the local police to check out yet another strange body. That reminds me dear, we need to get Bill and Hilda’s special training for dealing with enhanced adversaries. I was last on the list at the bureau because I wanted to make sure that everybody else had the training. Jim, I will set you up for that as well.”

“What is the training? I’ve been through the Royal Marines.”

“Do you have any buddies here? We can talk to your consulate about getting the training as well. The training is dealing with Twisted or other dark fae without using special bullets in your gun. Bill is very good at that since Eric won’t let him have any specials and he likes to hunt monsters.”

“That sounds very interesting. I never ran into them during the war, but there were stories about werewolves.”

“There aren’t any werewolves around here that you will have to worry about. On the other hand, your friends, the foxes might want to make sure that they do not attract any more attention than they have already.”
“I don’t think that they will pay attention. Their leader certainly will not. He is tasked to collect any objects that they run into. So any they find, they will attempt to steal.”

“So they will go after Tom at some point, probably while he is here which will not be until June at the earliest. Xìngyùn, you have been trying to make contact with Noro discreetly. Why don’t we plan to go up to the Construct shoot at the end of this month? Even if Noro isn’t there, we can talk to Tom’s family.”
“What is a construct shoot?” Jim asked.

“Two of Tom’s nephews found some construct jars about three years ago and boys being boys, they launched one, started to shoot at it and when a deputy responded to a shooing call the construct attacked the deputy. Since the deputy was only slightly injured and the constructs had originally come from the idiots across the lake in New York the boys and the sheriff’s department got together and started to hold monster shoots to introduce people to constructs and just have some fun without anybody getting hurt. They hold three or four over the year. I think that since Mike went to Chrissie’s party where they held the last one, I, Sal and some others should go to the shoot this time.”

“That sounds like fun, Jim,” Adele said. “We haven’t had a shoot together for some time. My father will want to come as well, if he can arrange it.”

“Do you think he will be able to?”

“I’m here, you’re here and he’s in England at loose ends because his tour in Hong Kong is over. He probably has snob buddies from the war and the embassy over here and you know that he is always looking for an excuse for a shoot. I’ll send a message today. You’ve also been doing some business here and he’ll want to know what you’ve been up to.”

“Just the two, Jim, right?” I asked. “I think that we will want to get our reservations in as soon as possible.”

“Why?”

“Chrissie had her party at the last shoot and it was very popular with the snobby crowd. So your father in law is going to be in good company.”

Dinner was ending and as we were getting ready to leave, Chin-ling turned to me and said, “You and Xìngyùn have a fun evening together. You are everything I hoped for when she found a bond. Why don’t we meet at your office in the morning and take a look at your old house?”

“Why?”
“Because I suspect that it misses you.”

“What?”

“Humor me. You will understand when we get there.”

The next morning Xìngyùn and I took the car over to the office and I dropped the shotgun off, unused and the camera and film off, very much used with a smiling Steve. Then I told the boss that I was heading over to New Jersey with my mother in law and he said, “I think that she wants to confirm something, it concerns you and we should have looked into it a long time ago.”
“What is it?”
“I think that I will let you find out. If it is what I think, it will be a good thing. In any case, show your new family where you grew up.”

I went back outside the office and there they were, talking with Mary. I had an inkling that there was a wedding in my near future. We all went back down to the garage, I pulled a sedan from the pool and off we went through the tunnel New Jersey. When we reached the house, it looked as if it had not been occupied for some time and there was a weathered ‘for sale’ sign on the brown front yard. The house was the big rambling place that I remembered with the dragon decorations on the corners of the tile roof and dragon decorations in the wood trim. I hadn’t seen the place for thirty years, but it felt like it was welcoming me home. Xìngyùn turned to me and said, “This is perfect. Lets’ buy it.”

Chin-ling was smiling and I asked, “You know more than you said yesterday.”

“There is a keystone here, your keystone. It was very unlikely that Xìng would bond with a fae that was not royal, especially since she is on the path of sacrifice. Yet she did. So, before Adele and I left Hong Kong, we sent a message to Mary asking for more information about you and she replied with what she knew about your family. We checked where your family had been in England and there were the remnants of a community, some fae hiding what they were, evidence of the kinds of attacks that had happened here and no keystone present. So we looked into your father’s old business and the building was still occupied. We didn’t have an address for your old home, so we couldn’t check that until just now and the keystone is here. Now we should contact the number on the sign and get your house back.”
“I can’t afford a house.”

“Actually you can. You still have the partnership in the business and it has done very well. Jim looked into that. Xing has a lot of money, but getting it here would be problematic as people notice several tons of gold being moved around. ”

“I’m surprised that the house wasn’t torn down or burned.”
“The keystone had an aversion against anybody doing something like that. You could build up the property, but no one else can. The keystone also made living here uncomfortable while it waited for you.”
“What if I had been killed?”

“Then the next powerful fae, light or dark that came near would have had a great gift. Since you were not dead or bonded, the keystone hid itself until you were ready.”

We went to a phone booth, contacted the number on the sign and went over to the office. The house went for a very low price as the previous owner had moved out because the place was ‘haunted’ and everybody else had just ignored the house as it sat there. It wouldn’t be ready to move into until I could find a contractor and fix some things, but it was ours. I called the power company and had the lights turned back on so that we could go through the house. As we went through the house I remembered something and took everybody down into the basement and over to a steel door that I had never been able to open as a boy that opened to a room that my dad had always called the dragon’s cave. This time, the door opened right up and when I tried the lights, they worked. As we went in there was another door that proved to be a sort of treasure room that had pictures of my parents and the family in and out of Change so that there was no doubt as to what they had been. There was a stack of diaries that Xing grabbed, along with the pictures, a chest filled with very old gems and jewelry and another with gold coins from the Seventeenth Century. On one wall there was a large painting of two dragons that I was guessing were actually my parents as they were holding a baby that looked a lot like my baby pictures. Then there was the other room that was set up with a carpet similar to the carpet that we had had for our joining. Xing said, “We will have to come back when it’s just us two, Alex. This is perfect. I wish that we could have met your parents. What happened to them?”
“Train wreck. They were traveling west to a cabinet making and woodworking convention, the train derailed and they were killed. It was yet another of the Director’s attacks, killing a community before it started. Carrie actually found a reference to the attack in the Director’s files just before you showed up and showed it to me. A dark fae had caused the rail to crumble just before the train was to arrive. They actually killed several fae couples on their way to the same convention in Chicago on that train.”

Xing kissed me before I started to cry over my loss all over again. “We will remember them and make this house live again. You and the others have destroyed the Director and he cannot hurt us.”

We went back upstairs, locked the house, said that we would be back soon for some reason and got back in the car to head back to Manhattan. Jim said, “Well that will make one thing easier. We now have a secure place for the objects.”

“Yes, a keystone bonded to a family member will be very secure,” Chin-ling said. “You mentioned the possibility when you sent us the telegram about Xing’s bonding. Alex, we will have to teach you how to shield the house. The old shields were pulled in by your keystone as part of its efforts to hide itself. I think that the house will be a priority for the next month or so until it is ready.”

“Does that mean that we should go ahead and buy the object?” I asked.

“That is being handled.” Jim said with a grin. “We have a well known collector arriving soon with his grandchildren.”
“George is bring the kids isn’t he, Jim,” Chin-ling said with the same grin. “We left them over there in England, but they were going to show up at some point.”
“Are Noro and Helmut in this too?” I asked. “They were cooking something up.”

“Oh they are, they are, along with Roger” Jim said. “Adele and I are playing the art experts from Hong Kong with the slightly shady background.”

The rest of the month was work and working on the house. Since I wanted things to be rather discreet about the house, I took Xing to lunch with Tony, Dom and Tara and Tara recommended a discreet contractor when I brought the issue up. When I was talking to Hilda at the school about setting up a training class with Bill, she recommended the same people. Apparently they were old friends of the family upstate. I had secured reservations for the shoot and a week before, so Friday the 20th the whole lot of us started up to Vermont on the train. I was going to take a car, but Helmut made arrangements with the Bentons so that I didn’t have to. When we arrived, things got interesting as the Yaoguai were poking around. When Boris mentioned that to Jim and me, Jim said, “They may be looking into Tom.”

“Why, that is about the stupidest thing that they can do other than going after Eric up here. Tom isn’t up here anyway and won’t be until next Saturday for the shoot.”

“He had his office here for the Olympics and there was a certain object visible in the papers.”
“That jade dragon. It made noises from time to time. Not that Tom ever noticed. It likes Roger being around if Tom isn’t.”

“Roger?”

“Roger is one of the farm dogs. As much Tom’s dog as he is anybody’s. In any case, the dragon went with the rest of Tom’s stuff down to the Cape. I will discreetly let Tom know that somebody will be after the dragon. In fact I will tell Chrissie and let her handle it. So far these characters haven’t done anything that I can arrest them for and we are keeping an eye on them. It’s a good thing that they are foxes and not werewolves.”
“Why?”

“Hilda and Bill are bringing Andy, Gregor and Bruce, along with their girlfriends with tails up for the shoot and the weekend. If they even heard that there were werewolves were in the neighborhood the hunt would be on and the werewolves would be in very deep trouble.”
“From the kids?” Jim asked. “How bad could they be?”

“Very bad. Especially Bruce who wants to make sure that his dad isn’t tempted by his monster. So any werewolves that we hear of other than Ed are going to have issues.”
“Ed is a werewolf?”

‘I’m not going to say. It’s his affliction and we just got done dealing with issues surrounding it. Now that the big bad wolf is dead and the dark doesn’t have a clown over here operating an extermination campaign under cover, Ed can have a more or less normal life and we need him over there across the lake.”

“How do you deal with him preying on the community?”

“He doesn’t. Unlike my brother in law, Ed never went through the horror of the dirty dozens and rest of it, bonded with a wonderful woman that keeps his monster in check and Ed goes and hunts deer off in the woods those nights when the monster has to come out. The only time that Ed’s monster has killed somebody in a very long time, it was one my deputies and a navy officer with him, a case of mistaken identity and it was in self defense. My deputy and the guy with him thought that Ed was the big bad wolf when the big bad wolf drove by the inn checking out Chrissie’s party.”

“The big bad wolf being the Colonel. That was in the papers.”

“Yes. Bill and Hilda are going over to Europe starting next month to start the process of collecting the Colonel’s bounties. It may take years to get all that resolved. The Colonel was discovered and came to a bad end when he went took Chrissie to go after Tom.”

“We saw that in the papers too. We couldn’t figure out why and up until recently we didn’t know who to ask and then Xing was occupied with Alex.”

Greta came over with her son in law, George. “Alex dear, I want a picture of you and your lady in Change.”

I left Jim and Boris talking, I went into the barn, Undressed, Changed and joined Xing next to the mill pond for our pictures. That was when the kids spotted us and mobbed us again. We led them on a merry chase and managed to get away. Or at least they let us get away. That herd of deer that showed up where Xing and were having some get together time should have warned us. For the rest of the week Xing and I had to get in the hills and hide from the growing mob of kids after school until dinner. I asked Xing, “Do the kids over in China do this?”

“No, but the fae kids in our kingdom are mostly dragons and relatives or close allies. We don’t have the number of kids that there is here. They seem to like us, don’t they?”

“At least they are in still in school this time of year. Should we head the kids toward the foxes if they come?”

“I think that the foxes will be in a bad way if they show up over here. Boris and Eric have been talking with Bill and Ed and they have been keeping an eye on the foxes. The foxes don’t seem to have figured out that Tom doesn’t live there. Of course Jacob has sort of encouraged that a bit.”

“Jacob? I wouldn’t have thought that he would get involved in something like that.”

“He’s been leading the foxes through the nose by playing big cheese and hinting that Tom is having meetings or that he’s in his office. He and Stephie even made a fake office that looks a bit like Tom’s, without the jade dragon, of course.”

“How did you find out about this?”
“I was talking to Stephie and she told me. She and Jacob are working on a surprise for Tom on his birthday with the kids.”

“More kids. How do they deal with that?”

“Let’s ask Stephie after dinner.”

We managed to corral Stephie and she said, “Thank you for playing with the kids all week.”

“How do you deal with it?” Xing asked.

“Normally they have work to do. This is a fairly slow time because the harrowing and the weeding hasn’t started and the planting is done. Normally the kids go and find things to do in the woods.”

“Along with causing some trouble.”

“That too. I’m glad that Andy and Bruce are not going to show up until the morning and that the shoot is tomorrow.”

“The same thing that happened here happened at Sal’s” I said. “Andy and Bruce were right in front of that with Trillia and Verelia making sure that we couldn’t swim our way out of trouble. At least the people here don’t seem to be frightened of us.”

“Were some people frightened of you?”

“The barge people next to the navy yard spotted Alex and I when we were having fun on the bridge and called the navy,” Xing said. “Mabel was taking the Admiral Swimming and they saw us too, but the barge people raised the alarm. It was understandable after the thing with the Sharks. We haven’t had a chance to entertain their kids yet.”

“They will just have to be happy with the girls.”

“That might annoy the Admiral but the barge people will like that.”

After dinner, Xing had me Change again and we went out into the woods and had a wonderful time with me chasing her until I caught her or she caught me. After it was over I looked at her and said, “We should slow down or there may be consequences.”

“What?”
“Our own kids will start to chase us.”

She licked me and had a dragonish laugh. “We will survive.”

Spy,

April 8 – May 28, 1932.

While I was waiting for Ray and dinner at Bennies I thought about how my life had turned sideways the last two months. Things had started when I realized that young Mr. Thomas had not just run off with the interview and his paper had not been the scandal monger that it had been in the past. Then I noticed that I and my place were being watched, by fae. So I evacuated to Baltimore. While I was there I did the checking that I should have been doing about young Mr. Thomas before engaging with him and through the fae grapevine and the papers, it was apparent that Tim was high fae, bonded, related to the Troubleshooter and Noro White and probably did work for the bureau. He probably had reported on my activities right after he dropped me off. I was stupid to even think about compelling him because if he even thought about reflecting, I was going to be burned out.

I was going to wait at least two months before returning to New York, but the Chancellor was not happy with my report and wanted me back in the city to keep an eye on a new venture that the Masters were supporting with some dark fae from China. So I was back in New York. I decide not to start up my old business because it might attract the wrong kind of attention. As I started to look into the Masters’ associates it was apparent that they had already attracted the wrong kind of attention as one of the bureau’s people was discreetly keeping an eye on them. The reason I spotted him was that I also realized that I was resonating with him, we had bonded and that my old business wouldn’t be possible any more as I wouldn’t want to dance with anyone other than him.

I thought about what to do about that and finally sat down across from him while he was eating lunch and said, “I think that we need to talk.”

“I’m Ray, and I think that you are right.”

‘I’m Livia and I think that you and your bosses are looking for me.”
“You are the lady that Tim encountered a few weeks ago.”

“Yes.”
“That is an interesting Change that you have.”
“It has its uses. Jim was fairly easy to copy. It’s only a surface copy and a scan will give it away. Tim must have scanned me.”
“You should have checked him out before trying to deal with him. It’s not as if he was trying to hide things very much.”

“I know. The people overseas were pushing after the Colonel was killed. Could I arrange to have a discreet talk with your bosses about this?”

‘Why don’t I buy you lunch here in three days. I suspect that we will be having a lot of lunches together. Do the people overseas have a connection with this crowd?”

“I’m not going to say because I don’t want to embarrass them.”

“Yes this crowd is fairly bad. They haven’t picked up on the fact that they were made almost immediately and the boss they sent doesn’t have a clue.”

That was how my new life started. Ray came to lunch three days later. I went down to the Coney Island subway station where a cab was waiting to take me to dinner at a wonderful place with interesting people where we had a very interesting discussion about the Masters, getting my family out from under their notice and stabbing them in the back.

Ray and I had actually been helping all day with the big meeting that the seafolk and some of other local fae were having. Ray came over and sat down. He handed me some used carbon paper. “Here’s today’s summary. You can type it up and send it off.”

“Won’t that tell them what you are up to?”

“Today was just going over what the Sharks and the Colonel did and Tom and Josh selling tank beds. I doubt that they will pay attention to why they were talking about the tank beds as far as I know, none of the Masters are seafolk.”
“I didn’t see Tim covering this today.”

“He’s switching off with his friend Steve at the Times. Tim is going to be at Sal’s tomorrow. The party can go into the papers. I think that the bowers will want to keep the fact that they all met a bit discreet for the time being, so the meetings are going have a newsletter and summary only distributed to the attendees.”

“I will have to send a suitably damaged copy to the Chancellor.”

We grinned as we ate. This was so much more fun with a partner and I didn’t have to worry about Ray chasing vampires, at least not until I learned to shoot and we could chase the vampires together.

Saturday at Sal’s was a lot of fun as there were two dragons that the kids would not let release their Changes as they led the kids on merry chase around the neighborhood as everybody laughed. The party also had Tom running his noisemakers at the Manager’s old house and mermaid dancing with the band from the Pennsylvania.

The rest of the next week was meetings, most of which were setting up arrangements for security for the bowers and naval and coast guard recruiting. By the time things were over I had quite a large packet that I mailed to the Chancellor, including detailed accounts on the end of the Director and the Colonel. Apparently the total destruction of the Master’s efforts here in America was not of interest to the Chancellor and his masters as the only thing that I received was a request for more details about what Jídiànjí and his clowns were doing. What they were doing, apparently, was looking for something that was no longer there, Tom’s office.

When Ray and I arrived at lake Placid, we were met by Tom’s sister, Stephie and Jacob of all people. I had known of Jacob, though sleeping around was not one of his vices as he was high fae, but this was hardly the clown that I had heard about. Jídiànjí, on the other hand didn’t seem to understand that his activities stuck out like a sore thumb, especially with all his people being Chinese and acting like gangsters setting up a heist. When Jacob and Stephie realized what my Change could do, they cajoled me into actually playing Tom being the big cheese around town and actually set up a fake office. Just before the shoot across the lake, Jídiànjí’s people hit the office, only to find that it was totally empty and there was no sign of Tom ever having been there. The next thing that they knew, the Sherriff was on his way and Jídiànjí and his people left town very quickly. When it was all over, Stephie said to me, “This worked wonderfully. The only bad thing about it is that they hit the office a day early and Tom wasn’t here to see it.”
Ray and I grinned. “But we did get pictures and when this is over we can tell him about it. We don’t want to do that yet. What were they after anyway?”
“Tom’s jade dragon. I’m not sure how he got that. I’ll tell Chrissie to put it away when they get back home. I know a great place to eat. Let’s get some dinner.”

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