The Black Dragon, Chapter 32, Part 3.

The plot thickens, there is an encounter on the beach and more fun and games.

Josh

Tuesday May 1 – Friday May 27, 1932.

Steve, Tim Kirk and George Barnes had set up an office in Chatham for the navy’s part in working on our mystery ship. One thing that we were all concerned about was random seafolk sinking ships for fun and amusement. At the meeting the last month all the bowers were concerned that if that sort of thing started up like it had in Europe over the centuries, all the good will that most of the bowers had built up over the last two centuries would be destroyed and when explosives and powered boats were readily available, the bowers needed the good will up top. Tom had outlined the potential sinking of a large vessel directly over the bower as one reason that he went straight up to Vermont and that had scared almost everybody at the meeting.

Eltra and Velt had been going up and down the coast talking to seafolk for some time now and looking for leads. We still didn’t have very much. The Chinese clowns seemed to be distracted by something or somebody had warned them about messing in our territory as they had been spending their time in New York. Since they were staying there, I decided to work on the ship.

Altris had secured the salvage contract and most of the cargo was a total loss. There were some things in the main holds that would be recoverable with any luck. What the people who sank the ship had not understood was that there was a small space underneath the bridge with high value cargo. That was where our nose maker was apparently and that was where we had to go in. Tony Collins, who ran salvage for me, was one of the best in the business even before a tail had locked him down fifteen years ago. He emerged from the water and said, “This is going to be a tough one. I’ve had my Swimmers clearing away the debris. I wish that we could tell that thing to shut up so that we could do our work in peace.”

“The owner is a bit distracted right now. She bonded with one of Helmut’s people. I was hoping that she was going to come up here, but she hasn’t.”
“Well, we can deal with the noise. Vince should be here with the crane barge tomorrow and George will be here about the same time. So we can get started Thursday. I’ll get our barges out here tomorrow. Ilutra says that we should have good weather through next week.”

“I hope so. This is a bit exposed. On the other hand the sooner we get to that thing, the sooner it will shut up.”

“There is that.”

Mera popped up. “Josh, you get in here right now!”

“What about the boat?”

“You have the line down. It isn’t going anywhere.”

There were swirls in the water. Since I didn’t want to lose my clothes, I hurriedly undressed and flipped into the water as Tony laughed. I was cold until my Change hit as I started to Swim toward the ship.
“Good, now let’s go and look at something.”

She Swam away toward the side of the ship that was on the bottom. “We didn’t notice these before, but why would somebody weld wire rope loops to the ship?”

She was right, there they were, ten loops welded to the bottom or attached through loops on the hull.

“So that Swimmers could hold on while the ship was moving?”

“That’s what Steve and Tim thought. Whoever did this attached these while the ship was someplace else and then the Swimmers Swam up and held on until the ship was where they wanted to sink it. They also probably compelled the crew of that lumber Schooner and had it out here waiting. So when the ship was sunk, they just pulled the safe, cracked it open and left. They hadn’t considered the fact that there was a space for valuable cargo.”
Steve Swam up to us. “Mother got you under, good. You needed to see this. Tim and I think that it was done in New York.”

“Why New York?”

“Because that is where there are the largest number of fae to hide in. I suspect that these people are not members of any of the bowers here. None of them have the kind of cultures that would tolerate doing this sort of thing. This is the sort of thing that the bowers over in Europe did, sinking ships and pillaging them.”
“You and Joe pillaged ships,” Mera said. “All that stuff you floated up.”
“We didn’t wreck the ships. They were already there. We just collected stuff. I want to get these clowns shut down before anybody else gets ideas. If people are already leaving bowers, then this sort of thing will just make things worse.”
Tim Kirk Swam up. “Hi Josh, I’m going to be looking for welder rentals or thefts last year. Maybe we can get a bead on these characters. In any case a lot of people are not going to be happy with these characters, especially after Rockaway and Amboy.”

“Mera, I need to get back or Altris will be annoyed at me.”

“We can Swim back in. There are clothes at the boathouse.”
That was what we did and Chrissie was waiting as we Swam up. “I have the pictures from our Washington trip. Hopefully Tom can stay home this month.”

“Where is he?”

“He and Mac went over to look at a place in Plymouth to assemble tank beds and have a shop expansion. Grandfather took the third shed for his boat project.”

“Other than scary guys taking Tom to lunch, how are things going,” Mera asked.

“We should be on schedule, more or less. We have parts and the first beds are being assembled. Having to do the assembly over in Plymouth will slow things down, but Mac and Tom are thinking of moving all the tank bed stuff over there anyway. That way the shop can do other things.”

“Who is getting the first beds?”

“I’m not sure. Mac and his wife and Paulo and Persai, along with some others. None of the family for the first ten. We decided that some time ago. You and daddy have a pool, so you won’t need one immediately.”
“That seems fair. That way nobody can say that you are favoring the family.”

“Not the direct family, but Mac and Paulo have certainly been almost family for some time,” I said.

“True, but we didn’t want to inflict beds that might have issues on people we didn’t know, so they get the first beds.”

I dropped Mera off at Fisheries where she was sharing running things with George for the time being and then headed to the business office. Fisheries, the business office and helping Tom with renting the plant over in Plymouth ate up the week and I wasn’t able to get in the water to the ship as much as I wanted. We were heading toward getting things going for the season, the boats in water and all the rest of the chaos that went with that. Chrissie was a big help with that and the fact that people weren’t trying to hide things from me anymore was an even bigger help. Paulo was taking over the yacht for the first cruises, Jean was taking over the tour boats and Altris’s grandsons were taking over the charters and my boat, for what it was worth. Tom just told the boys to take his pot lines and Steve and Joe used his boat for their various activities. Chrissie did insist that he Swim every day and was very creative when it came to cravings that she HAD to have that required Tom to take long Swims all over the bay. Of course Tom was sneaky, had a full wallet and new gags, so he was able to cheat and have things collected. When I heard about that I said to Mera as we were in the pool, “Why couldn’t Chrissie crave Steak and ice cream like you did.”

“Back then steak and ice cream were hard to get. Now getting steak and ice cream is easy. Chrissie knows that Tom can just get those things.”

“So the cravings are to get the husband to work to get the things that the woman wants?”

“Well yes. It’s proof that the man still loves us.”

“Well I loved you and still do.”

I kissed her and proved that. After our session, Mera said, “Tom and Chrissie seem to be doing better than we did.”

“They are, but I suppose that can be expected. Tom is willing to let Chrissie just get away with things. Maybe a bit too much. He doesn’t pay as close attention to the books as he should.”

“Chrissie can handle that and he trusts her. You don’t pay much attention to where every penny comes from and where it goes either.”
“I had the boat to rely on. The business was something that I could trust others with.”
“Tom has his shop and his boat, as well as the book income. I don’t think that he will neglect those things. As for the other things, those are family and company responsibilities. So he trusts the family and the company, just like you do. If he spent his time looking at the accounts, as twisted as our accounts usually are, he wouldn’t be able to get the work you want him to do finished. Give him time to adapt. We don’t have to drop him in the deep like you were. You still haven’t forgiven father for retreating like he did. On the other hand, this is Tom that we are talking about and I suspect that he keeps better track of the numbers than he says he does.”

She was right as usual, so I just kissed the wonderful woman who had made me part of her life.

The next two weeks went smoothly, but the people that we expected to show up, didn’t. So I called Helmut to find out what had happened to the clowns. According to Helmut, they had actually gone up to Lake Placid, looking for Tom’s office, apparently. According to the Chinese lady who Alex had bonded with, they were probably looking for that dragon that President Hoover had traded Tom a pistol for. “I’ll let them tell you the story when you go up for the shoot.”
“I can’t go. I need to be in the city with Lou for the next three weeks. I want to get that done before Tom’s birthday party.”
“That’s understandable. Chrissie will probably go all out.”

“Well Tom is going into the city for two weeks and Chrissie will be joining him for the last week. But Nillia and Hans are cooking up something, and I suspect that others are too.”

“It sounds like another Chrissie ‘don’t miss’ party.”

“For Tom’s first birthday with her? I think that you better believe that it will be. I’ll see you, bye.”

Apparently the clowns were going after Tom again somewhat. I thought about the Colonel and wondered if there was somebody else playing another game. Whoever it was, they didn’t seem to be doing it here. The day before Mera and I were going down to New York we Swam out to the ship again. The barges were there and the divers had cut the skin off the ship and were starting to lift cargo out to clear a passage. Tony Swam by and said, “We should have the thing by the end of the week. You can tell the lady to pick it up.”

“We’ve talked to Noro and he wants us to keep it for the time being.”

Tony grinned. “So he’s cooking something up.”
“Yes, but he hasn’t told me the details. Any sign of any strangers?”
“Not a peep. Velt has been running sweeps and there hasn’t been any strange traffic at all. The only Swimmers that aren’t local are the salvage guys from the Rockaways, the navy guys and their wives who came out to visit and harass Tom a bit. That’s understandable. I would be doing it too if my girl wasn’t only twelve and we can wait a bit for the rush to get through.”

“The rush may be going on for some time. We may have to have security for Tom harassment duty.”
“Chrissie is handling that.”

“That’s true. I need to catch up with Mera at the bower. She’s Swimming away without me.”

Tony laughed as I Swam after my wife. We spent the rest of the day in the bower and then spent the night in our bower before heading into town where Joe was waiting to take us over to the station.

When we arrived in New York, Tim Kirk and Leo wanted to talk with us. So we dropped into the office and checked in with Lou before taking a car over to the navy yard where Mera got together with Stella, Ella and Mabel while I went over to Tim Kirk’s office where Steve, Mike and Leo were waiting as well as Tim and a man I didn’t know but seemed a bit familiar Leo said, “Josh, this is my father, Jacques LaFarge.”

We shook hands and Jacques said, “You probably don’t remember me, but we were on the same Schooner just before we sailed past your wife. I sensed her in the water, but you didn’t.”

“Was that why you were trying to arrange to get me dropped overboard?”

Now I remembered him all too well.

“Well yes. I figured that you would make a wonderful discovery, there was a beach nearby and she would take care of you.”

“Don’t let Mera find out that you tried that or I’m in real trouble. She is still rather miffed that she had to chase me up to Boston and be in the water there. That was a couple of weeks later after I jumped ship to avoid a crazy second mate named Jacques. Where is your wife?”

“With Nanami down at the Rockaways and Namani’s brother making plans.”

“Leo, I think that you are in trouble.”

“I knew that the minute that she caught me,” Leo said. “At least it got mother to Washington.”

“So what did you find?”

“The strange lumber schooner that we couldn’t track down.”

“Where is it?”

“Off the South coast of Long Island. It ran aground in the storm and then slipped off again after the storm dragged it back. The crew was recovered by a coastal lifeboat, but they had no clue why they had been out there in the first place and not battened down in Boston like they were supposed to be.”

For large vessels, it was better to be out in the storm and steaming. For small sailing vessels like the lumber schooners, it was better to be battened down in a harbor than trying to sail against a lee shore. I said to Leo “So they were compelled like we figured.”

“Dad discovered the compulsions and cleared them when he went to talk to the crew after hearing about the wreck.”

“Have you checked out the wreck yet?”
“Yes we have, and there were ten extra sets of clothing around and some evidence as to who they were.”

“Swimmers, right.”

“Yes, how did you know?”
“Tim and Steve must not have told you about the things attached to the ship yet.”

“We got here just before you did. What things attached to the ship?”
“Wire rope loops welded to the ship,” Steve said. “Since dad was on his way we wanted you all here before we started to talk about it.”

“Ok, have you figured out how they did it?” I asked.

“We found out where the ship was docked when it was here in New York” Tim said. “It was actually docked at the coffee piers taking on coffee. That made doing a quick check of the bottom very easy and you will never guess what we found.”

“A welding rig and some wire rope, probably”

“No, they had those on the punt. We did find some cuttings. We also found the name of the company they rented the punt from and the name and address of the character that did the welding. He dropped his wallet out of the punt. He’s actually a normal diver who does jobs like that all the time for rather nefarious purposes.”

“Illegal tows of things that people are trying to transship,” Leo said.

“Yes,” Steve said with a grin. “For him it was just another job and he didn’t ask too many questions. He did give us the name of the guy who paid for the work and it was that gang that the foxes took over. So we have them implicated.”

“What about the Swimmers,” I asked.

“We’re working on them,” Leo said. “We think that they have a ship that they live on.”
“All their gear was mariner’s stuff and well used,” Jacques said. “We have the name of the ship, but we don’t know where it is.”

“They maybe went north, up to Canada, waiting to come back and pick their foxy buddies up with the loot,” I said. “The Boston Chinese boys let me know that there were some Swimmers with the foxes, but they never came back. On the other hand they may be waiting for us to do the hard work for them without knowing what we should be looking for. When I get back to the office I will tell Altris to lookout for that ship.”

“I already did, dad,” Steve said. “These people were responsible for ten people getting killed on that ship in the storm. They are not getting off easy.”

That was the general sentiment in the room and from the Admiral when he came in to get briefed on what we were talking about. On the way out I stopped in to talk to Mike, but he was busy breaking in a new boss, so I left a message and went over to pickup my wife. She was there with the ladies in the kitchen that the girls had set up making lunch with the others. The girls were still at work. Mike came in and said, “I figured that you would be here. I have a new boss. Bob got the Pennsylvania as a consolation prize for winning the contest last year.”

“Getting a big command is a consolation prize?”

“That’s because Mike wins by default.” Ella said. “That happened when Bob took a cruiser for a year five years ago.”

“So you stay here?”

“Unless the Pennsylvania gets stationed in the Pacific as part of the Pacific squadron. We own the house and our bower is here, so there isn’t a big reason to move unless the ship is stationed in the Pacific. We’ve done this before. The tank beds will resolve the biggest housing issues if it does happen.”

“Mike what will your new boss think of the girls?” I asked.

“He’s ecstatic already. He had been through here before, there had been a Swimmer shortage and his efficiency reports had been terrible. Then he was stationed at Norfolk where they had both an abundance of Swimmers and Swimmer ladies and girls available and it was much easier to keep things ship shape. So he had been anxious to take over from Bob until he saw the girls. He’s happy just so long as they don’t overdo the dancing.”

The girls started to flip out of the pool and Suzy said, “Daddy, we haven’t overdone the dancing. The biggest thing to attract attention around here were those dragons and you know who they were.”

“Alex and Xing are not in the navy, dear,” Stella said. “They also said that they would not have any more fun and games on the bridges here. They just bought a house in New Jersey. Xing’s mother told me about it at lunch last Thursday. Xing and Alex are on their way to Vermont this week for the shoot with some other family.”

“That explains why I haven’t seen any messages from her recently,” I said. “I think that it’s getting to the point where I need to have a sit down with her about her foxy friends. We should also have her toy out of the ship soon.”

Tim came in looking for Suzy and I asked him, “So what have you been up to other than running those interviews.”

“I’ve been doing one of those a week. I’ve been on the night court the last two weeks. I thought that the fae were weird and strange until I saw that crowd. I’m also looking out for Xing and Alex.”
“What for?”

“I’m sure they are going to subject me to a dragon chase for taking their picture when they joined. Jim asked me to as he knew that I could phase without Change.”

“Well that’s what you get for being a snoop,” Suzy said.

Considering the victim of the chase, I was sure that father was going to be in on it. He still owed Tim for getting that interview and getting it published before Vic and Noro could play games with it. I looked at Tim with a bit of a grin and said, “How are you planning to handle it?”

“I have an idea. I’m not going to say, but I got the idea at Sal’s party.”

“The party where the dragons were mobbed by the fae and not so fae kids?” Mera asked with a grin. “You do know a lot of fae kids around here.”

“The dragons did cause a bit of panic,” Mabel said. I don’t think that they realized that they weren’t as discreet as they thought they were when they were playing on the bridge. On the other hand, if they come back the kids will love it.”

“That’s part of it. I’ve also heard that a certain dragon likes cookies.”

It sounded as if Tim was planning to have some fun with our dragon couple. When lunch was over I said to Mera, “Let’s visit my parents.”
“Don’t you have to be at the company?”

“I’ll call Lou and explain I want to go over the ship stuff with Eli and get caught up about the foxes and our dragons.”

There was a phone in the kitchen and I called the office and told Lou what had happened and that I wanted to talk to my parents about it. Lou said, “At least you checked in. I suspected that you would get dragged away when Leo and Tim called. What did they find?”

“The lumber Schooner that picked up the Swimmers and where the ship docked. I’ll get back to you later.”
“How was lunch with the girls?”
“It was fun. They are a bit peeved about the dragons making a scene on the bridge. How did you know about lunch?”

“Tim took Bill and Ray the other day. He was buttering them up for people to interview for that series that he’s doing. He’s a bit annoyed that he didn’t win the Pulitzer but the story about how people have it rough in the Depression was a bigger story.”

The Pulitzer people had picked the Depression story because the Depression was hitting everybody. Tim had been a close second. On the other hand, both Tim and Bill were under thirty and the correspondent in St Louis was over fifty, so Tim and Bill would get more chances for big stories.

“I can see that he would be a bit peeved. But he seems to be carrying it well.”

“Suki got to him again and straightened him out, not that he needed it. Ok, I will let you go. We can meet at three or so and set up an agenda for the rest of the week.”
“That will work, bye.”

When I went back to Mera, she said, “Dear, why don’t you go with Tim over to Eli and Theresa’s? I want to talk with the ladies and I will take the car down to Bennies for dinner.”

“Ok, that will work.”

As Tim and I were leaving the navy yard, I said, “I hear that you didn’t get the Pullitzer.”
Tim went into a Brooklyn accent and said, “I wus robbed by dem bums. I wus robbed.” Then he laughed and said, “I would have given that guy the award too. I remembered the stories and the pictures he took. I did get picture of the year for the Dori picture.”

“Are you going to be chasing the dragon story?”
He grinned. “What dragon story. Those barge guys are crazy anyway. It’s not as if there is a picture is there?”

“You were there at Sal’s. Did you get pictures with the kids?”

“I took pictures of the kids for the papers. If other people were in the pictures, in Change or not is not something that was my fault.”
“They are setting up to chase you.”

“I know. And I have plans. Unfortunately Xing and Alex talked to my grandparents about certain things and they have declared themselves out of the game because Xing and Jim are clients.”

“You also know that Noro is going to be on their side for this.”
“Yes. Of course, I’m invoking family rules and that means that I get Steve.”

I grinned. “That was clever. For every family member that he recruits, you get to recruit one. I don’t think that he really understood that. But you are family and he is subject to the rule. So you have Steve and by extension, the cooperation of the Admiral and the rest of the navy. The barge kids are looking forward to seeing the dragons and you have the paperboys and the rest in your back pocket.”

“Not entirely. I’m not sure where Mary is going to be in this. Helmut said that the bureau was staying out of it, but individuals can play if they want.”

I couldn’t help smiling. This looked like it was going to be a lot of fun when it kicked off. “What about our foxy friends?”

“I’m hoping that they can play a role, but they seem to be even bigger idiots than the Sharks were. They went up to Lake Placid looking for Tom’s office.”

“Helmut told me. I expect that somebody is going to play with them a bit.”

“I’ll want to hear about that. Suzy wants to go to the Cape shoot, so that is what we are doing.”
“She probably also wants you to Swim.”
“Yes, we will be Swimming out and back.”

“That is a good thing. Mera didn’t force me to take as many long Swims as I should have.”

We arrived at my parents building and George waved us in with his typical smile and Theresa was there to hug me. “Josh! We didn’t expect you today.”

“I wanted to bring you up to date about our mysterious ship. I also want to talk to you about our mysterious Chinese visitors.”

“So what did you find out?”
“There were swimmers going along for the ride who set off a mine. They had a diver attach wire rope loops while the ship was taking cargo here in New York.”

“What kind of cargo?”

“The ship was loading coffee, right next to the navy yard which made Steve and Tim Kirk’s discreet investigation very easy.”

“What did they find?”

“The diver they used dropped his wallet by accident. So they found out that he had been hired by the foxes. Leo also found the lumber schooner that we had seen. The crew had been compelled, ran the ship aground in the storm and were rescued. Leo’s father found them later. The schooner was forced back in the water by the storm and sank offshore.”

“So there are Swimmers working for the foxes. Have you found out which bower   they are from?”
“They are not locals. Leo and his dad went over the wreck and found some evidence that they were operating from a ship. My contacts up in Boston have seen them and they don’t look like locals. Eltra and Velt have been talking with all the bowers about this and they are pissed.”
“I’m not surprised. They are vulnerable if somebody decides that sea folk are not really people,” Eli said. “Creating storms and sinking ships for fun and profit is one reason that the seafolk were such easy targets when the Masters went after them.”

“Noro has worked very hard to build the trust of everybody in our neighborhood and that has worked very well for all of us. Considering how people acted after his stunt with the weather magic that scared everybody, very well indeed. Most of the people are more concerned that he is ok and not that he could have brought the storm upon them because he was so out of it. If these clowns keep doing what they are doing and get away with it, a lot of that trust will be eroded.”

“That is certainly true. We just finished dealing with the Director. We don’t need to have something like this mess things up.”

“I also heard that you have taken our mysterious Chinese lady as client.”
‘Yes we did. So we can’t tell you everything about her.”
“Well I found out why she stopped making her regular visits. Apparently she bonded with Alex from the bureau, had some fun and games on the Brooklyn Bridge and bought a house.”

Theresa grinned. “Those we can talk about. Yes, she did bond with Alex, they did have fun on the town, go up to Alex’s place in upstate New York and did buy a house.”

“We should also be recovering the thing that she was looking for fairly soon. I would like to arrange a meeting to talk with her.”

“We can help with that. Noro is talking with Jim, her partner as well.”

“Helmut said that they have some scheme going. I think that I’m going to stay out of it. I’m also going to stay out of Tim and the lady’s little chase unless I have a good reason to get dragged in.”

“So are we, other than trading some things that we have already.”

Tim got a bit frightened. “You taught them to phase out of Change, didn’t you?”

“We may have,” Theresa said. “Of course if a certain young man hadn’t used that right in front of her, Xing wouldn’t have thought to ask Alex about it and she wouldn’t have known to hire us.”

“She’s a dragon. I wasn’t sure that I could outrun her. So I used the escape route. I had everything timed out and I was sure that she and Alex were going to chase me through the wall into the station, but they went back and had some more fun instead.”

“Alex knew you and expected that you had an escape plan set up. He also figured that you would have swapped film or cameras with somebody waiting on the other side of the wall.”
“That was true. Steve was waiting and we did swap cameras. Then I grabbed the downtown train while he went over and grabbed the uptown.”

“So we know what the dragon lady is up to, what about the foxes?”

“Steve probably told you that they went up to Lake Placid looking for Tom. Specifically they are looking for something in Tom’s office. The jade dragon.”

“Yes, Steve told me about that. Now why they thought that Tom is still up in Lake Placid is beyond me. The company doesn’t even have anything there anymore.”

“I think that it is cultural,” Eli said. “The character that is in charge of the foxes thinks that big bosses are tied to an area by their responsibilities like a mandarin in China is. Since Tom was apparently in charge up there, he is still in charge up there. Of course Stephie is helping to support that idea with Jacob’s help.”
“Jacob’s help?”

“Since Ed can take over most of the responsibilities, Jacob has mellowed out considerably and he’s practicing so that he can pull one over on Tom. Stephie just wants to pull one over on Tom.”

We discussed the foxes and they seemed like such obvious clowns that I said, “These people have been so obvious that I want everybody to keep their eye out for a Colonel type sneaking something else in the chaos.”

“We’ve been looking for that and so far we’ve seen nothing.”

“I want to have a long talk with Xing and Jim as soon as we can arrange it.”

“Will you be in the city for a while?”

“Through mid June and Tom’s birthday. I’m in trouble if I miss that party.”
“If it’s a Chrissie party, I hope that we can get in. do you know what she has planned?”
“Not yet. She isn’t saying very much to Mera and I and frankly I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

We said good bye and Tim drove me back to Manhattan. He looked more than a bit nervous and said, “They had to show Alex and Xing that trick.”

“Alex knew about it and it was only a matter of time before somebody showed them how to do it once Alex could take advantage of it. He was another royal fae, though where his keystone was is a bit of a mystery. But once he could tap into certain things it was only a matter of time. Consider the challenge that they present and have a good time. Also, you are helping keep Noro occupied. That is always a good thing and you’ve managed to give him a run for his money, which is better than I’ve managed over the years. You could just hide underwater.”
“That won’t work. Vic and Noro will find things for me to do.”

“Night court, for instance.”

“I don’t think that night court is part of it. But with those two, you can’t tell.”

“You were warned.”

“Not enough. I figured that Noro and Vic didn’t know each other THAT well.”

“You should have known better. At least he’s up top again and enjoying himself. If you think his fun and games are bad, I had to put up with ten years of him convincing himself that he was all alone, delusions of grandeur and just being out of it while I was trying to keep a community together since he was worrying about nonexistent threats and ignoring the real ones. Don’t worry, he will move on to bigger things all too soon. So will you. Enjoy the fun while you have it. At least he isn’t looking at you as if you might be dinner.”
“Alex and Xing might be.”

“I doubt that. Alex knows you too well and will not want to face Suzy and Sal if he inadvertently eats you. That doesn’t mean that they won’t come up with something else.”

Tim dropped me off at the office and I went upstairs to talk with Lou and get things started. The next two weeks were the usual business, talks with Meria and bower stuff. We did get the object out of the ship, but Noro wanted to keep that quiet until Persai and her people had a chance to copy the little marble horse. At least the thing stopped making noise and settled down once it was inside the shield at the business office with its dragon friend. At the end of the month I asked Noro if I should go up to the shoot since our mysterious lady and her family had gone up with Alex and Noro said, “I’ll go. Tom and Chrissie are going and Mary and I can take Anthony up.”
“How does he see you?”

“Not as his dad. He knows that his dad is gone. As a friend and somebody to have fun with, which he is. Mary and I are making sure that he is not neglected, even if he is at the school.”

“Of course his friends are all there and he gets a lot of attention from the ladies.”
“That is one reason that Mary and I want to take him to the shoot. Of course he and Andy are friends and they have plans for poor Tom.”

“Have a good time and I will see you here before Tom’s thing.”

Tim.

Saturday May 28 – Monday May 30, 1932.

I was safe for the moment. Xing and Alex were upstate with Xing’s mom, Jim, Jim’s wife Adele and her parents and kids. Unfortunately they were upstate with Noro who had declared himself on their side. I wanted to get together with Steve, but he had gone up to Rhode Island for the long weekend to be with his people, Haruka and her father. He was taking them on a Swim around the Cape. Suzy said Friday at dinner, “That sound like a wonderful idea. Why don’t we drive out to the Wyanadotte and spend the weekend out there in the islands.”

That did sound like a wonderful idea and we hadn’t been spending as much together time as we had when we first joined. Stella had explained that the pressures were off the various keystones and they weren’t pushing us toward kids like they had been when the Sharks and the Manager were active. Sal and Sillia were eating dinner with us at the navy yard and Sal said, “Sillia and I will go with you. We can check out that lumber schooner and the wreck off the Cape.”

Tim Kirk said, “I’ll go too. Merlia wants an outing and I want to see that wreck too, even if Leo and his dad cleaned it out already. We might find something that Leo didn’t.”
“So how do we break the cars up?” I asked

“Sillia and I go in the Duesie and you, Suzy and Tim and Merlia use your car. We can meet at Bennies in the morning.”

Tim cleared things with the Admiral, I told Vic where I was going to for the weekend and Sal told Helmut and everything was arranged. When I called Vic he said, “Make sure you take a camera.”

“I was going to. I expect that Sillia will too.”

When we met at Bennies the next morning, she had. So we drove off on our trip. We stopped off at Fire Island for a bake lunch and Swim, borrowing the hotel’s beach buggy and then went out to Flying Point and our wreck. When Sal Tim and I went to the top of the dunes, there over the wreck, was a powered launch from a ship with two men on it with binoculars. We ducked down behind some dune grass and they apparently didn’t see us as I took a picture of the launch and Sal and Tim looked through binoculars. A bit later, a head popped up and started to argue with one of the men on the launch. The man popped down again and shortly thereafter another man flipped into the boat, and traded places as the man who had been arguing stripped, Changed and dropped into the water. I took pictures through all of it. Tim said, “Steve is going to be annoyed. I’ll call this in, but by the time he gets the boat here, even if he uses Tom’s boat, he won’t get here before these characters are gone.”

Sal said, “Let’s go back to the ladies before they start to worry.”

That sounded like a good idea so we backed slowly off the dune and then went back to the cars. There was a state police officer talking to the ladies and he grinned when he saw Sal. “Detective DelVeccio, they gave you your car back. Considering what you do with it, I’m not surprised. Who are you Troubleshooting today?”

“I hadn’t planned on Troubleshooting anybody today. We were just going to have some beach time today since it was warm. But there are some people out there and they are part of something that happened over on the Cape.”

“The ship. Josh’s people have been asking around about that. Then there was that lumber schooner that sank right off here. Who are these two characters?”

Sal introduced us to Sergeant Murphy and Tim said, “Sergeant, can you take me to a phone? I want to call this in to Steve.”
“Steve Claytor? We can do that.”

They left to make the call and Sal said, “So what can we do to keep these people distracted while Tim and I see what they are up to.”

“Tim and Suzy can close the deal,” Merlia said, grinning. We take Suzy, Sillia and me up the beach a ways and we get in the water. Then Tim drives his car just where they can see it and spreads out a blanket. Suzy shows up on the beach and they start in on the usual things while acting as if they don’t see the boat. Meanwhile you, Tim, Sillia and I watch what they are up to or mess up their boat a bit.”

Suzy said, “That sounds like fun.”

“Let’s wait until Tim gets back,” Sal said. “I want to know if Steve is close or far. On the other hand, Tim showing up and something like closing the deal would be a distraction. Tim, let’s go up and see what they are up to.”

We did and they were apparently rather frustrated. I said to Sal, “I don’t think that they realize that there are other seafolk in the area or that the seafolk are interested in what they are up to. They are probably looking for their stuff and can’t understand why it might not be there.”

Tim came back with the Sergeant. The Sergeant said, “Do you want me to bring some people by, Detective, or is this one of Josh’s things?”

“I don’t know, but I suspect that Josh thing covers it a bit as the clowns are in the water.”

“What for? They don’t handle booze here and it’s only one small boat? It isn’t related to those shark attacks is it?”

“Those aren’t coming back anytime soon. This is something else.”

“Tim here already talked to Steve. He was actually on the island and should be here shortly. Eltra will have people here but they can’t be here for several hours. I’ll go back and report this in. Do you think that you will need back up?”
“I don’t think that I want to bust these characters quite yet. This is part of a bigger investigation.”
“Ok. I will be back.”

The sergeant left and Tim said, “He knows about the seafolk, which shouldn’t be a surprise. They work with Eltra’s people all the time on things.”

“I sort had the feeling that that was the case. He also was probably here earlier and saw what these characters were up to.”
“He was,” Sillia said. “He mentioned that they were out there when he did another patrol earlier when he stopped to check out our cars and talked with us. It was a good thing that we weren’t in the water already. The state police and local sheriffs and police are rather nervous about cars left on the beach in the off season after what happened.”

Steve found us and drove up with Seaman Lisowski. “Something interesting has come up apparently. I was called in to Hilda’s and then Tim called. What did you find?”

“Let’s go see,” Sal said.

We went back up the dune and they were still popping up and down. I took yet more pictures. We could see that there were five of them. Steve said as we walked back down the dune, “We don’t really have the people here right now to bust these people properly.”
“Sillia had an idea,” Sal said. We drop the ladies and us up the beach and Suzy Swims up the beach and Tim shows up as if he’s closing the deal. Meanwhile the rest of us get a good look at what they are doing and mess up their boat a bit.”

Thing worked out better than we planned as I drove the car and set up the blanket and Suzy showed up. We went through the motions of closing the deal and as we were crawling toward the water, all five of the men on the boat Swam to the beach, Changed and walked toward us. The apparent leader called out, “Boy who are you!?”

I hadn’t been talked to in that way for years. None of the guys I had ever sold papers to had ever treated me like that. On the other hand, if he was thinking boy, he wasn’t thinking dangerous, so I acted scared and like the boy he thought I was. “Tim Thomas.”

“What bower are you from?”

“I’m not from a bower. My dad works in import and export along with other businesses.”

“How did you meet this girl?”

“I was at dad’s dock and she showed up. We’ve been sneaking time together for six months and she wanted to be with me on the beach so we arranged it.”

“Girl, what bower are you from?”

“The Sound bower on the North Shore. Daddy didn’t approve of Tim because he was a normal. But he couldn’t have been a normal because he Changed. Who are you?”

Suzy was playing stupid ditz. She hadn’t managed to do that with me, but it fit the boy me. We were just two stupid teenagers getting together on the beach. They never caught on that Sal and Tim were there on the dune taking their pictures.
“We are security for the Cape Bower. You are out of your territory. We will let it pass for now. I think that you want to get wet with your young man, so go on your Swim. Be careful about sharks. They have been aggressive lately. That is why we are running patrols here.”

They went back to the boat and we went into the water and Swam in the direction that Suzy had come in the first place. As soon as we were sure that they couldn’t hear us we both started to laugh uncontrollably. The rest of the group Swam up and Steve asked, “What’s so funny?”

“All of them came up to us when we were heading toward the water,” Suzy said “We were playing low fae and inappropriate bonding and they fell for it. They also acted like idiots. They said that they were from the Cape bower and that we were in the Cape bower’s territory, we should watch out for Sharks and that they were Cape bower security. The idiots were also not paying attention when I said that I was from the Sound bower on the North Shore.”

“Aunt Eltra and Velt are going to be rather annoyed that they were trying to be Cape bower security and REALLY annoyed that they were playing territorial games. We have never done that. Of course it didn’t hurt that the bowers around here are friends and family but we have never really felt the need to patrol boundaries. That’s the sort of thing they used to do over in Europe.”

“So what now?”

“They will probably go back to what they were doing. They really should have left somebody on the boat.”

“So what do we do now?”

“You two play games and watch them for a bit. The rest of us are going to wait for our reinforcements.”

The strange seafolk did go back to looking for stuff around the wreck. Suzy and I played games around them as if we were a newly joined couple and Swam in and out of the wreck. A shark showed up and Suzy was properly scared into the wreck and I followed her, Swimming clumsily and then we headed up top and I took pictures of Suzy and the beach. Then it was back into the water and Swimming away from the scary wreck for some together time while we kept our senses on the visitors who didn’t even try to use shields even though that they knew that we were there. After about two hours we heard a boat approaching rapidly and all five of them leapt up into their boat, which wouldn’t start for some strange reason and then back into the water where they scattered. As they rapidly disappeared in the deeps, we joined Ensign Stelios, Petty Officer Costa and some of Steve’s people on Tom’s boat. Steve’s people leapt off the boat and then shortly after leapt back on. Stelios said, “They went deep. They will probably lie low until we leave and without a lot more people than we have, we’ll never find them. Sorry sir.”

“It’s not your fault, Stelios,” Steve said. I expected that. On the other hand that means that their ship is out there over the horizon. I think that they are going to find out why that is a bad idea.”

Shortly after Steve said that a navy sea plane passed overhead and Mr. Costa started to signal to it with the large lamp that had been mounted on the wheelhouse roof. The plane headed out to sea. Steve looked at the launch left behind and said, “Let’s see what they found.”
We did and there were quite a few coins, some wallets and other stuff. The coins were not American and came from quite a few different countries. Since it was starting to get dark, Steve looked at us and said, “Why don’t you folks and I head over to the inn before Hilda gets upset.”

Sal, Sillia, Tim, Merlia, Steve, Suzy and I returned to the beach, our clothes and the cars. Sergeant Murphy was waiting with a huge grin. “You didn’t catch them, but it was still a good one, Steve. Do you think that they will be back?”

“I doubt it. If they haven’t figured out that they have been made by now they are total idiots. I suspect that they will go out to that ship we are fairly sure that they have and go elsewhere before a destroyer shows up.”

“Well say hi to your aunt for me. We’ll miss her now that she’s expecting.”

“I will, Sergeant. Think of it this way, you have fifteen years or so to train up new people for the next batch of troublemakers.”
“No we don’t. Your grandfather is importing two new ones this summer. Some boys that we already know about, since your brother in law brought them down last year.”
“I wouldn’t worry about those two. They both have girlfriends who will make them behave. On the other hand there are more kids coming.”

“There always are. At least the only swells we’ll be seeing this year will only be chasing tails. Well I will see you all.”

He left and we made our way to the inn where Hilda and Haruka were waiting. “So what happened?” Haruka asked.

“We have a nice motor launch and some coins,” Steve said. “Tim and Sal found the clowns Swimming on the lumber schooner wreck and took a bunch of pictures. They were looking for their stuff. Tim and Suzy played low fae teenagers closing the deal and they fell for it.”

“Were you stupid kids, you two?”

“Very stupid,” Suzy said. “I ran away from daddy the tyrant in the Sound bower and Tim didn’t know what was going to happen until he Changed. Daddy was upset that I was going with a normal, but Tim Changed, so he couldn’t be a normal.”
Haruka laughed. “I can see buying into that. I tried the same thing with Steve, but daddy didn’t fall for it for a second. Of course what I didn’t know was that he had wired Josh through the navy and found out all about Steve. So what else did these clowns do?”
“They said that they were Cape bower security, but I don’t think that Eltra would have anybody that stupid on her staff. They also seemed to know some things, but not about how the bowers interact.”

“Well lets’ join father for dinner.”

We did and kept them all amused with the games we played on the strange seafolk. As dinner went on, I thought about something and asked Steve, “Steve, when you were on the launch, were there any guns at all?”

“There was a flare pistol. That was probably part of the launch’s emergency gear; other than that, no.”
“They certainly weren’t carrying when they approached us. That was just stupid. They also had no clue who might show up. In fact the cops did show up and they called Eltra and you. This is like the Colonel without the major getting the things he needs to know for him. Whoever’s in charge is running in the dark with Noro and the rest of us on the other side.”

I thought about it and decided that I was going to give whoever was in charge of this fiasco to Alex and Xing for an engagement present. Maybe I could arrange for this character to arrive on their doorstep in a nice neat bow.

The rest of the weekend was a romantic Swim, foraging for dinner, shopping in the bower, visiting the wreck, mermaid dancing and just having a good time. Monday afternoon , we headed back, making a brief stop at the schooner wreck, but there wasn’t much left to find at this point. I dropped Tim, Merlia and Suzy off at the navy yard along with the pictures and went to my place and bed.

The Agent.

Saturday May 28 – Monday May 30, 1932.

You get used to the rhythms of a ship, which make the changes all the more jarring. So when the engine increased its pace, it was obvious. All day, we had been making slow circles offshore while the people that we sent out recovered or destroyed the evidence that may have been aboard the lumber schooner that our strike team had commandeered and had later sunk, but only after the crew had been rescued. Now we were heading out to sea. As I headed to the bridge, the crew was standing in the corridors with paint buckets and tools, waiting for something. When I reached the bridge, the captain was watching something and as I looked out over the water a US Navy patrol seaplane flew low over the ship. The captain must have sensed me as he turned and said in Greek, “Well there is no doubt that they’ve spotted us. But I expected that, it’s near dark and I doubt that there is a destroyer with steam up to come out here before dark.”
“What happened?”

“A boat and some Swimmers from the Cape bower showed up at the schooner wreck. That may have been because the Cape bower people were discreetly watching the couple that was joining or somebody else spotted them. I didn’t take the time to get a full report.” He looked out at the plane which seemed to be leaving in the gathering darkness. “Ok he is going. Alexios, in half an hour bring us to course 265 and slow us to eight knots. That should put us in the shipping lanes. When you slow the ship to eight knots, fuel the boilers with coal. Then have the crew perform the magic. I think that I will get a full report now.”

We went below where the five men were waiting. “So chief, what happened?”

“We found the wreck and started to look for the clothing and other evidence that had been left behind. We didn’t find very much, mostly coin and most of that wasn’t ours. Around about four bells a car shows up on the beach, but doesn’t appear to notice us. A young man, about seventeen to twenty starts to spread a blanket as if he is with a young lady, but there is no young lady. Shortly afterwards a young lady shows up in the water, the young man collects her and they join on the blanket. As they headed toward the water we intercepted them, told them that we were Cape bower security and that they were trespassing Cape territory. We also told them that we would allow it this time, warned them about sharks to rattle them a bit and returned to work. They Swam around the wreck and nearby for a while, went away for a while, went up top so that young man could take pictures of the young lady and then we heard a boat approach. We tried to start the engine on the launch and when the engine failed to start, evacuated. There were seafolk pursuing us, but we went deep and shielded and they did not find us.”

“Who were the couple?” I asked.

“The young man said that his name was Tim Thomas. We never got the mermaid’s name but the young man called her “Suzy.”

“What kind of car was it?”

“A very nice car a Packard or Studebaker. We didn’t pay very much attention to it. The young man said that his father was in business and the car must have been the father’s.”

The Director had reported about a young reporter who was named Thomas before his exit, but he hadn’t reported about a car. The spy had also used the reporter as a source for her report on the end of the Colonel. The reporter was connected to some other rather troublesome characters and I asked, “Did you see anybody else?”

“I did not station anybody ashore as we did not have any guns and I only had five people. There was nobody on the beach until the boy showed up.”

“Why didn’t they have guns, captain?”

“I thought that having guns would potentially create more problems. If there were no guns it was just five men on a launch, fishing or something that would not attract attention. They must have attracted attention anyway. We should have waited another two weeks or so. But then the beaches would have been crowded with people. Apparently the other side already found the wreck and was watching it somewhat.”

“Well, I think that I must report this failure. I just hope that we have not been jeopardized to a great extent.”

“Well we will soon be a different ship than the one that the patrol plane just photographed. If we are stopped and they ask, we saw another ship heading south out to sea at full speed.”

As I headed toward the hold and the door that we all dreaded I could hear noises throughout the deck as the crew was busily knocking off panels, removing a deckhouse, adding a cover to the bridge wings, removing fake ventilators as well as removing the canvas that had changed the funnel color. There were also crews over the side repainting the ship’s name. By the time the work was done, the ship would change ownership and nationality and have the papers to prove it.

The problem was that this venture was vulnerable and that the fae here were alert because of the Master’s other venture and its consequences. Those same consequences also meant that most of the resources that I had been counting on did not exist anymore. So I was operating in the dark in a place where my adversaries were alert and had vast resources to stop me if they found me. I was also working with somebody with no grasp of the realities. That would have been true in any case. I thought about that as I went through the door to report.

The huge black shape was curled underneath an open hatch in the hold that was where he had his space. He was messily eating large hog as I entered and he looked up from his meal and I cursed the gift that gave me speech with everything intelligent “We are changing course, why?”

“There was an incident at the wreck and a patrol plane was sent to look for us.”

“What sort of incident?”

“A couple was joining on the beach and they must have had discreet security that contacted the bower and the bower sent a boat out.”

“Why would a young couple have security?”
“Because of the activities of the Director and the Shark pods that were here. I imagine that a worried father would want to keep an eye on his daughter without the daughter knowing and raising a fuss.”
“Were they high or low fae?”

“I am not certain. It would seem to be low, but that may not mean that the girl’s parents are poor. They could be wealthy and if the boy’s parents are as well, the Sound bower’s keystone may have wanted to create an alliance. If they were high fae, which is also certainly possible even if the boy’s parents did not know what they were, then the keystone could have created the alliance. In any case, after the Sharks, the parents may have had people watching the couple and they called the police who called the Cape people.

The other alternative is that the launch attracted the attention of the police who called the Cape people.”

“That seems strange. Why would the normals call the bower?”

“I don’t know. The Director’s people did not send very much about how the bowers and the other communities operated.”

“Why did the people on the launch not have people ashore?”
“They did not have enough people and they were not armed.”
“The captain should have provided the people and provided arms.”

“Having a gun fight is not something that we can win and we did not have the crew on the ship to send a larger party. The strike team is at the ship attempting to retrieve the object.”

“I hope that that is a success. This venture has had more than its share of failures already. You must find assistance for Jídiànjí. He has not been able to find the other three objects. He did manage to find the Jade Dragon in the office of a young businessman and is attempting to make contact with the man.”
“Who is the man. I will see what I can find.”
“I believe his name is Tom Benton. He has his office at Lake Placid.”
This was going to be delicate. On the one hand I had the report from the Director and the news stories about how the Colonel had met his end. On the other hand I was dealing with a monster with a low tolerance for failure. The monster that had no clue what he was dealing with. At this point the only thing that I could do was insure that none of the failures were mine. I took my leave and left the monster to his meal.

Later that evening the ship turned north and east again and we picked up the strike team. They had yet more bad news. “The ship is under salvage and it appears that the object is no longer aboard.”
“Are you certain?”
“No, but by this time, the object would have been calling for help. We should never have sunk the vessel right next to a bower.”

“That was Jídiànjí’s and the Dragon’s decision. At the time they thought that the bower was moribund and they didn’t want to risk taking the object in Boston under the Peacekeeper’s nose. The object was going to be part of an exhibit on ancient Chinese art. They were concerned that the Red Dragon would find out about it and make a deal with the owner after the exhibit was over.”
“The Peacekeeper was distracted with his daughter’s bonding and dealing with things in New York. He wouldn’t have noticed yet another shady deal or petty theft going on in Boston. The only reason we got away with the sinking at all was that the Sharks attacked the Peacekeeper’s new son in law and the Peacekeeper was stopping the old man from playing with weather magic.”

“How did you find out so much?”

“We met with the foxes in Boston after it was apparent that the ship was under salvage. They have been lying low and were on their way to Vermont to meet with the rest of them and provide some cars for something that Jídiànjí was doing. We also visited some seaside establishments and bought some drinks. The Peacekeeper’s daughter and her getting together with the young man was the story that everybody knew and wanted to talk about and the old man up top and playing games again was another one.”

“I thought that you seafolk didn’t talk to people up top.”

“That was a long time ago. The bowers were strong and the ships small and made of wood. Now most of the bowers are gone thanks to the Masters. So we were forced to make a bargain with the dark to survive. We do what we can, but there are limits. We stirred up something that could hurt the Masters, badly. Or rather the Colonel did. We were lucky that the Colonel did not use us as a resource.”
“That was not luck. The Colonel was not to be told of this ship and your presence unless he had secured the Creators but lost his ship home. That fell apart and we were not revealed to the other side as the Colonel was destroyed.”

This had been supposed to be easy. Assist the Master’s associate in the recovery of some objects before his opponents could. The objects, all weapons from the ancient wars had been sent to New York using proxies and all we had to do was find the proxies, retrieve the objects and discreetly retreat while the Colonel provided the distraction with his activities. What the foxes had not counted on was that the proxies would sell the objects. But the proxies had had losses in the chaos of the Depression or did things like provide the object to the traveling exhibition on its way to Boston. The Foxes and Jídiànjí had urgently demanded that the seafolk sink the ship and the seafolk had done so. Because the foxes had not told us that the object was part of a larger shipment, the strike team assumed that the object was in the ship’s safe and the team was forced to leave because the Cape bower had sent a sweep to investigate. In any case the seafolk were leery about Swimming in the dark in confined spaces in a storm with the possibility that the locals would show up at any moment. Monday evening the ship dropped anchor in Halifax and I went ashore to send my report to the Chancellor. This was starting to look like a bigger mess than the Colonel had turned out to be. With the same players on the other side.

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