The Black Dragon, Chapter 33, Part 4.

The question is, Does Tim know about the pixies at the Botanical garden?

We took the car back up to the station in Boston and the four o:clock train to New York. We had a wonderful trip in a private drawing room that Noro arranged and dinner in the diner was wonderful. Jim and Adelle joined us afterwards and Jim said, “That was interesting.”
“How many pictures of us did you get?”
“What makes you think that I was taking pictures?”
“Well mother didn’t have a camera and Tim was too busy running, so somebody had to be running the camera.”
“Well I will admit that I did place myself rather strategically this morning to watch the various goings on. It’s a pity that you ran into that little girl this morning.”
“You took pictures of that?”
“Of course I did. That little girl was wonderful.”
“She was, wasn’t she? Noro is she typical of the Cape?”
“I don’t know, who was she?”
“She said her name was Gail and that her father worked for you in salvage, probably. She was with her brother near the business office. Her mother is a mermaid, she said.”
“I could ask Altris. I was under sea for the last few years. I suspect that she is not that different than Chrissie was.”
“Her brother already has a tail. He didn’t say very much. He seemed to be rather shy. Presumably the mother was up top since the kids were. She also said that most of her friends were mermaids.”
“I’m not too surprised. The ladies staying up top is going to make problems for the bower and Tom a lot of money.”
Noro told us about the issues involved and how that was forcing the bowers to change and adapt. He didn’t seem to be too upset at the prospect and I said, “It looked to me as if you had gone a long way along that path already. The business office dealt with bower issues as well as the business and Helen seemed to know what was going on even if she couldn’t go under sea herself.”
“That has worked out in ways that I never expected. Helen did seem to know what was going on and that is not unusual.”
When we arrived at Grand Central, Josh was waiting with a man in a very expensive looking suit. “Noro, look who turned up.”
“How did you find him?”
“It wasn’t hard once Roger and Mary knew that I wanted him. The hard part was convincing him that I had no hard feelings about what he tried and that you weren’t going after him again.”
The other man said, “Noro, we had a deal. I stay away from your business and you don’t look for me. Why did you change that?”
“We have some things to share and you have a young man that you inspired. I thought that you would want to see what he was doing.”
“Josh told me most of it. Knowing what I know now, I wish that you had contacted me. The thing up state looked like a work of art.”
“It wasn’t me, it was Josh’s son in law and his family. As for being a work of art, the poor guy never saw it coming. Tom took him out in about a week and Chrissie enjoyed herself immensely.”
“I’ve been watching. I’m sorry about Liltra. She was a wonderful lady. I would have poked you a bit but Josh gave me the wave off and I was more focused on another character and his people.”
“So we found out. You cleaned out a character down in Brooklyn and dropped a nickel on him afterwards.”
“He was asking for it and I wanted to see how good those two were when they actually worked together. I had heard rumors, but they seemed to be too scary to be true. The rumors weren’t nearly as scary as watching those two take that character apart. The character never figured out that Vinnie was working one angle while the detective was working the other and both of them were the jaws in the vice. Who are these folks and what are you dragging them into?”
Noro introduced us and then we went up to his suite. Joel said, “So why did you want to track me down? It looks like you’ve more or less put my meal ticket out of the picture.”
“Well involves a young man named Tim Thomas along with Sal and Vinnie, of course. You did a number on that character down in Brooklyn and made a big impression on the young man. Of course I want to hear more about Sal and Vinnie.”
“Vinnie was killed by sharks. He wasn’t the only one. Liltra was and some others. The Rockaway royals were heavily hit and so were the Amboy royals.”
“How much do you know about the Sharks?” Alex asked.
“Enough to know that the whole thing was being run by a character on Long Island and involved a bunch of young men with money and some rather bad habits. I was going to make them my next mark, but things fell apart when Vinnie was killed and I would have been a bit exposed. I had quite a bit of stuff but there was nobody to shut things down and I was concerned that I couldn’t get away clean. Then that Troubleshooter character showed up and took the whole thing out. Now he was a surprise because nobody knew where he came from. You were involved, Noro, or must have been, because the Troubleshooter moved into your old house. I’m not sure what happened to the shark club.”
“My son in law shot most of them when they messed up his getting together with Chrissie” Josh said. “It turned out that the toothy club were Changed sharks and went after joining couples as well as the people you know about. Tom had a gun on his boat, I marooned him and Chrissie because of what Noro had gotten himself into and when the Sharks showed up, Tom didn’t want to get eaten, so he shot the Sharks.”
“So the Sharks were a Change? That explains SO much. The club was also responsible for taking kids. Nobody could pin anything on them, though a bunch of us tried. That’s why I started doing what I did. My sister lost a kid to the Sharks about sixteen years ago, but the cops couldn’t prove that they did it. Lieutenant Buckley sure tried. Presumably the Sharks are all dead, since the attacks have stopped and there were all those stories at the end of last year.”
“We got together and dealt with them, mostly thanks to Tim and Sal, who played detective and Troubleshooter and between them, found out everything about the Sharks and Tom, who survived and took pictures of the Sharks and the Change, so everybody knew what was going on.” Noro said.
“What happened to the Director? He was usually discreet and then suddenly he was all over the place and doing things like taking the ladies and hauling them upstate.”
“He was under compulsion from one of his bosses, a character called the Colonel.”
Josh and Noro went over the Colonel, the Director and the rest of it and Alex filled in some details. None of them seemed to hold anything back when talking to Joel, who was an admitted confidence man. When we were leaving, I asked Alex, “Why did you tell that man everything?”
“Did you sense any of the dark on him? I didn’t. In any case, spreading the story about the events that happened last year to interested fae is bureau policy. There’s a good chance that he knew most of it anyway and making sure that he had a grasp on what’s going on means that he’s more likely to volunteer information when we need it. In any case, he gave the Director some pain. The big thing we need to do is talk to one another.”
“So how will we catch Tim? It’s going to be Thursday tomorrow.”
“Let’s see what the Youguai do. They know that Tim has two of the treasures and knows where the rest are. They are probably going to do something stupid.”
We reached the apartment and went to bed.
The next morning we staked out Tim’s operation again. When it became apparent that Tim wasn’t there yet, Alex said, “He stayed the night at Hilda’s. Or under Hilda’s, as may be.”
“What is Hilda’s?” I asked.
“Hilda runs the Wyandotte Inn next to the Montauk lighthouse. Tim, Sal and the rest use it for a stopover on their way to and from the Cape. Suzy probably insisted that they stay overnight.”
“So Tim probably will not be here for some time.”
“The train takes four hours and leaves at seven thirty this morning. They also have to change at Jamaica if they want to come into the city. Suzy will want to get wet, so they may go to the Rockaway on the Rockaway branch or Long Island City. Why don’t we get a car and head over to the school? Tim gave us a trouble kit and I think that it’s our turn to create some distractions.”
I smiled and said, “Yes it is.”
We Changed and went over to the bureau office to pick up a car. George gave us the Packard again and as we drove off, Alex said, “We’re going to get stuck with this car, I know it. Your mother will probably buy it like Sal’s mother in law bought the Duesie.”
“Tara bought the Duesie?”
“Yes, after it was obvious that Sal was more or less stuck with it. The boss and Tara set it up and made it official and then sprung it on Sal when he wasn’t paying attention.”
“So mother will get the car for us.”
“The same way that the Broadway producers got that Cadillac for Mike so that Nera would get around in the style they thought that she was entitled to.”
“Well if this car is the only thing that mother does to us, we’ll be lucky. I imagine that we have staff on the way already. She did go right over to the house and if you hadn’t bought it, she would have.”
We had a wonderful chat about what mother was going to do to us when she got the chance on the way to the school. When we got there, Andy and Trillia were happy to recruit some of the other kids to help us make some things to provide distractions in our Chase of Tim. I asked Andy how come he wasn’t one of Little Timmy’s gang and he said, “Bruce and I decided to stay out of it. We had our chance with the Colonel and both our mothers work here at the school. Not that we haven’t been keeping an eye on what Tim has been up to. Tim also wanted kids a bit older than we were. We’ll have other chances. Also, Trillia has been keeping me busy helping her grandpa and Bruce has been helping me, so we didn’t have the time.”
“Well we are glad that you can help us,” I said. “Tim has been almost more than we can handle.”
“It hasn’t all been going his way. Bruce and I want to come up with some new things for Uncle Tom’s new book. So this helps us as well.”
We kept at making distractions until eleven or so and then we took our finished work and returned to Tim’s little operation. This time we sat in the car. He hadn’t shown up yet but the Tiger came and went. He looked rather impatient. At eleven thirty, some of the boys that had been with Tim up at the Cape showed up. Then Tim came sauntering down the street. Joel came up with a rather discreet Noro and said, “Not too full of himself, is he? Has the mark visited yet?”
“He showed up about half an hour ago,” Alex said. “He wasn’t happy. I don’t know if he’s heard about what happened up on the Cape. There he is again.”
“Well, well, well, I wouldn’t have expected that character to show up again. I’m assuming that the Chinese character is the Tiger.”
“Yes. That other character seems to be working for the Black Dragon. How do you know about him?”
“When I first started to mess up the Director’s operations that character showed up. He was the liaison for the Masters. He has a real gift for languages including being able to speak to those in Change who cannot speak.”
“He’s been doing that. I imagine that he’s been the mouth for the Black Dragon with the seafolk on that ship they have.”
Alex had thrown out a sense string and we could hear what Tim and the others were going to say. Tim waited as the two men approached. “So yuh got my money?”
The man with the Tiger said, “I think that we need to discuss the transaction.”
“Yuh know I have de goods. I showed your guys de tings when I got my hands on dem. So yuh need tuh come up wit’ de dough.”
“Five hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money. Perhaps we can negotiate a lower price.”
“Perhaps I should ask de dragon lady whose been chasin’ me around if she has de dough. She sold some nice pretties tuh somebody I’ve done business wit’ and she probably has mawh. Dealin’ wit’ dem, I can ackshully do bettuh as de pain I will have tuh deal wit’ is a lot less. Yuh got me so fahr?”
“Selling the objects to them could have consequences.”
“So yuh say. Yuh’ve been sayin’ tings like dat right along and your boys have been sayin’ de same sawht of crap. Yuh boys have been troubleshot once already. De next time it might not be wawhth de trouble tuh not shootcha.”
The Tiger said, ‘Not to interrupt, but you were going to obtain something for me while you were at the Cape Bower.”
“I got it. It wasn’t in de bowuh. I just hope dat Mr. Benton doesn’t figure out dat it was me dat took it. Frankie, brin’ de othuh box ovuh.”
A young man came over and stood with the box a bit away from the Tiger and opened it. The Tiger took one look at it and said, “That is a copy. Are sure that this was the dragon from the office in Lake Placid?”
“As fahr as I know, it is. I went into de office playin’ cub repawhtuh fawh de local papuh and tawhked tuh Mr. Benton’s secretary, who said dat it was a gift from President Hoovuh.”
“Then the President must have obtained the copy from somebody who was attempting to confuse me. I will pay you for your efforts. What will you do with this copy?”
“Take it uptown and hand it ovuh tuh de people at White’s. Dere is pain I can deal wit’ and pain I wanna avoid. Not pissin’ off Mrs. Benton is on de shawht list of avoidable pain. Frankie, put de box away until we can arrange tuh get it uptown.”
“You seem rather afraid of Mrs. Benton, why?”
“I’m sea folk and she’s related tuh all de heavyweights around here includin’ my dad. Fawh serious dough, I’ll risk pissin’ huh off. But not ovuh some ting dat I can’t sell fawh what it’s wawhth anyway.”
“I think that our business is concluded. Here is the money that I said I would pay you for your efforts and another thousand dollars for a bonus.”
The Tiger handed Tim the money. Tim turned to the other man and said, “See, dis is how yuh do it. Everythin’ is done nice clean and businesslike wit’ no threats or any of dat othuh stuff. If yuh guys had done dat, yuh would have saved yawhself a lot of grief. Okay, well why don’t we meet Monday, yuh brin’ de money and I brin’ de tings and we make de exchange. We can do it in de baggage room at Grand Central. It’s nice and public so yuh can’t pull any funny stuff.”
“That is perhaps too public and we would like to make the exchange earlier.”
“Ok, dere’s a street fair on Saturday ovuh dere in Little Italy and Chinatown. We’ll do it dere, okay? Yuh can enjoy de great eats and we can be discreet in a cawhnuh. But we can still be sure dat nobody pulls any funny stuff. Ya’ dig?”
“That seems suitable. How do we know that you have all four of the objects?”
“I was expectin’ dat. Bobby, Jean, open de othuh two boxes.”
The boys did and the dagger and the globe were inside. Then the boys left rather quickly. Tim turned to the two and said, “Good enough. Yuh know dat I can hold up my end. Yuh bettuh hold up yawhs.”
He went back into his shack and Alex said, “Why don’t we tail the Tiger for a bit? In fact, why don’t we rattle his cage?”
He waved one of Tim’s little group over and quickly wrote a little note on a pad. “Do you know who Mary is?”
“Who doesn’t, in this neighborhood?”
“Take this to her. As discreetly as possible.”
“Will the boss get pissed off?”
“Tim? I don’t think so. In any case he isn’t going to piss Mary off.”
The kid ran off in the direction of the Federal building as we discreetly followed the Tiger and his friend. They hadn’t seemed to pick up on us as we followed them around downtown over to the west side of the Island. About ten minutes later Ray and two other people from the bureau showed up. Alex talked with them briefly and then all four of them went up to the Tiger as the other man headed toward the waterfront. Alex pulled out a badge folder and said, “Sir, Federal Agents and we would like to speak with you. Could we see your passport?”
The Tiger looked at them and replied, “I think that you should. I presume that you’ve seen a diplomatic passport before.”
Alex took the passport folder and looked at it. “This appears to be legitimate. We still would like to talk to you about some matters related to some events that have happened recently.”
“I’m afraid that you will have to go through my embassy in Washington for approval. Since my task is complete, I will likely be returning to my country before you can get such an approval. Good day.”
He continued on and Alex came back to us with a bit of a grin as the other three not so discreetly tailed the Tiger. I looked at him and said, “Aren’t you even a bit annoyed?”
“Not particularly. The diplomatic immunity was clever, but it has some downsides as he can be regarded as a spy.”
Noro said, “He didn’t have the diplomatic immunity the other time he was here, but things were different then and the Empire was essentially isolated. He’s taking advantage of the current government. He probably arranged it with a donation to the current government so that he wouldn’t have to deal with interference in his activities from annoyances like you.”
“Jídiànjí doesn’t seem to have that protection, or at least hasn’t used it.”
“Jídiànjí thinks like a fae gangster,” I said. “He doesn’t think about how things like diplomatic immunity can be useful. Or how to develop relationships that can help him.”
“Do you have a diplomatic passport?” Alex asked. “I never thought to ask.”
“Actually I do, through Adelle’s family connections. You may have noticed that Jim has a lot of friends at the Embassy and having a British passport has more clout than a Chinese passport. I just don’t like to wave it around unless I needed it and I haven’t, thanks to being with you.”
“I knew that I was good for something.”
I reached over and kissed him. “You’re good for a lot of things.”
“Before things get much mushier, I think that we need to plan for how we deal with Little Timmy and the rest of those characters, Noro said. “Now that things are heating up, we need to be ready to bring this to a conclusion.”
“Do you think that the Tiger is convinced that Tom never had the real dragon?” I asked. “He seems to be cutting his losses.”
“I’m not sure. Bai Long knows more than I do. But he has to know that he’s under scrutiny already and he doesn’t know Tom as an adversary at all. So he may be backing off and checking the trail to make certain that the real dragon is here before pushing harder.”
“Is this Tom Benton we are talking about?” Joel asked. “He was a pain in the Director’s side for years and the Director kept sending things to kill the man, but they all ended up disappearing one way or another.”
“That’s the Tom we are talking about. He bonded with my granddaughter last year amongst all the rest of it. We didn’t know anything about him when he showed up and Chrissie latched right on to him. To make things worse, we didn’t actually start to look into him until after he blew the Changed Sharks away and ran home, with Chrissie, tail and all, up to Vermont and he and the family managed that without much difficulty.”
“Then he sort of took over the Olympics for you and made that Martin character miserable.”
“He did do that. Of course it helped that the Director had had Jacob under compulsions for years and by the time we encountered him, he was more or less out of it as a result of fighting the compulsions.
As for Tom, that was amazing to watch. Tom borrows Jacob’s office after Josh and I are having a meeting with the rest of the Committee so that Tom could address the water supply issue that was the biggest sticky that nobody had been able to resolve. He uses his Washington connections to resolve that, throws Jacob out of his office and by the end of the day has essentially taken on everything that was left, with schedules and new contractors.”
“You and Josh let him?”
“Joel, by the end of the first day, it wouldn’t have been worth the fuss to slow the man down. He had most of the big issues at his fingertips and was on top of everything. Josh and I just had to cross the T’s, dot the I’s and make sure that the resources and vendors were all in, Tom carried the weight of the Games for the rest of it.”
“How is he at fun and games.”
“Do you have kids or grandkids, especially boys?”
“I have three grandsons, eight, ten and eleven.”
“What did they want for Christmas?”
“A lot of things, but one thing they all wanted was a little book of jokes and things.”
“Tom has made a lot of money out of that book of his even though letting it out was a bit of an accident. Of course during the incident with the Colonel and Chrissie being kidnapped he was rather amazing. But to the task at hand.”
We went back to Tim’s little business, but he seemed to have gone elsewhere. Noro said, “Why don’t we go to lunch?”
“You go. I think that I will stick around,” Alex said. “There’s a hot dog cart that I use from time to time and I want to keep an eye on Tim.”
“I’ll stay with you,” I said.
Noro and Joel went back to Noro’s car and we headed to the cart which was run by an old gentleman who perked right up when he saw Alex. “Hey, I haven’t seen you around lately, Alex. You getting too good for me?”
“This is Xing, my girl, she’s been keeping me busy and I’ve had work.”
“Those new clowns up in Chinatown, I bet. The word is that they are bad news. I thought that things would calm down when all that stuff happened out on the Island and the Trouble got shot. Your usual?”
“Yes. I don’t know why, but nobody does hot dogs like you do.”
“It’s the kraut. I have my own way of making it and I use brine I get from the pickle factory. I also pickle my onions.”
“Well, we’ll take four and two lemonades.”
Alex paid the man a quarter and then we went along with our hot dogs. I took a bit and said, “These are wonderful.”
“The New York hot dog is a tradition and George’s are great. I’ve been eating his dogs for years.”
“He also seems to know what’s going on.”
“He keeps his ears to the ground and talks to people. He’s been a good contact about things before.”
“Certainly not the fancy lunch that Noro wanted, but I think I know why you’re not ready to just leave. You think that the Youguai are going to try something?”
“They went after Tom because they thought that he had a treasure. They know that Tim has all four of the things they are looking for. Jim told me how they went after you in Hong Kong and the pressure on Jídiànjí and the other character must be intense. I’m just hoping that the Black Dragon doesn’t show up here looking to threaten Tim.”
“He must be getting frustrated at this point. He also doesn’t really understand a mercenary outlook and likes to use fear as his way of getting things done. Of course that limits the choices he has.”
“Does the Black Dragon have the money that Tim wants?”
“Yes. He certainly does. But money is something he hoards, not something that he uses as a tool. He won’t want to part with a moderately large sum of money if he doesn’t have to. What do you think the Masters will do?”
“Last year they would have just wired the money and it would be done. The problem now is that they do not have anybody that they could wire the money to this time around and they may know that the bureau is watching those accounts that they used to send money with. Now, we will have to talk to Roger about that.”
We watched the goings on at Tim’s little business from across the street in a place that catered to the fishermen that sailed into the market. At this time of the day, the market had quieted down as most of the customers had long since made their purchases for the day and packed the fish off to their stores and restaurants. The seagull made a raucous noise as they fought for fish scraps.
I saw a man walk across the window and said, “Master is here. Let me go and get him. I ran out the door and caught up with him. “Master, we have a table and some adequate tea if you like to sit.”
“I think that I will. I have been keeping an eye discreetly on the young man. Why have you not Chased him yet today?”
“The Tiger and the Black Dragon’s man were here and we want to keep an eye on Tim. Tim has been rather clever about escaping from us and we didn’t want him walking into trouble while we were getting ourselves out of whatever he put us into.”
Master and I went back inside and Alex and I told him about Tim’s antics up at the Cape and previously. After we finished the Master said, “Try to arrange a Chase with Tim if you can, this afternoon. After all, if you cannot find him, our adversaries will not either. In any case this has been a good thing for you, Xing.”
“We have discovered one thing. Kids, especially fae kids, love dragons.”
“They sense that you are good and a protector. They would flee the Black Dragon on sight.”
“That is good to know, Alex said. “Considering the Black Dragon’s appetites, who knows what he may do with kids.”
“The Black Dragon has not eaten a child in centuries to my knowledge,” Master said. “The stigma of when he had still wraps him like a miasma. Most children run away and the parents tend to attack on sight. While he can remain hidden and discreet from adults, it is far harder to hide from children. This has been something of a bother to him.”
“You know him quite well.”
“He is, after all, my brother. So yes, I know him quite well. He is also evil and a great stain upon my ancestors, especially my parents, whom he killed. He also killed my bonded. Fortunately my children have escaped and grown away from the terror of my brother.”
My parents must have been looking for us because they came in. Mother saw the master and said, “Hello father. Teaching your granddaughter again?”
“I try. She is resistant to my teachings however. She ties up with strange barbarians instead.”
“Alex isn’t strange!” I barked. “He was perfectly normal until I ran into him.”
That sent laughter around the table. As we laughed I looked out the window and Tim was walking up the street and toward the bridge. I turned to Alex and said, “Let’s give Tim a surprise when he comes back.”
With that we left my parents and Bai Long and went to the place that we had used before. I said to Alex, “I’ll Change and you remain discreet.”
“Why you?”
“I have my bag. You can follow and I can run ahead with the little things that we had made up this morning. You also know the city better than I do.”
“That will work.”
I undressed and quickly Changed while Alex remained discreet and we waited. We waited for Tim to come back, looking over the street crowded with trucks and wagons moving cargoes and people walking up and down the wide street on their various errands. I sensed Tim approaching and climbed up a wall to wait. He must have sensed me or Alex because he turned and went in another direction and the Chase was on.
I sensed Alex turning toward the street that Tim went down and I headed up another street see if I could cut him off. He managed to get up the staircase of the el station just as a train arrived and head uptown on the train. I managed to leap onto the back platform of the train and rode it discreetly uptown as the train wound through the canyons. I could sense Alex on the train ahead. The train made a stop at 42nd Street and Tim got off. Alex followed and I stopped as Alex quietly said, “He’s probably dropping the dragon off. At least that is what he wants the Youguai to think. That may not be the only thing he does.”
That turned out to be the case as he went directly up to Noro’s building and then came back outside. Then he went quickly back down the street through the building at the end of the street and into the station on the other side. By the time I was able to crawl through the tunnel in the building he had gone into the station. I followed through the bustling carts and shouting men as they move things around. Tim went straight through to the station itself and dashed through a little thing that the State of New York had as advertising on the balcony. Of course that had to be where I was spotted by a boy who said, “Mommy there is a dragon here!”
The woman, who must have been yet another fae, saw me as well and said, “The dragon must be advertising Chinatown. We’re going there for the festival and we can see them there.”
I managed to escape the boy and the grinning people that were running the booth. Tim had managed to escape out the door on the other side and I followed as he went up through the sides of the station on glass catwalks, back down into the concourse and down the ramp to the lower level and past the Oyster Bar before ducking into the subway. Tim actually turned left and went down the passageway to the trains going uptown and I just missed catching him as he dropped a nickel in the turnstile and hurried down the stairs as a downtown local train pulled into the station.
The stairs were crowded and I couldn’t get down fast enough while being discreet, so Tim managed to escape on the rumbling train. Alex caught up with me and said, “we’ll catch the next one. I think that I know where he is going.”
A few minutes later the next train showed up, on the express track this time and Alex held the door on the center of the last car as I discreetly got on. As the train pulled away, Alex said, “Tim made a small mistake. He got onto the local. But he could be getting off at 18th Street and changing to the BMT by walking down the street.”
That must be what happened as the express beat Tim’s local into Union Square Station and when Tim’s train appeared, he wasn’t on it. Fortunately there were some steel caged walkways above the platforms and I could more or less hide above the platform as the crowds went by. Alex went over to the BMT side of the station and I followed discreetly. It was a good thing that I had learned to move through crowds in Hong Kong, because the station was crowded with people.
Alex stood in the mezzanine and asked me, “Can you smell a trace of Tim?”
I shook my head and Alex said, “Then let’s go over to the Canarsie Line.”
I followed him through the underground maze until we arrived at another platform. I smelled Tim, but he had already caught another train. Alex said, “Lets’ get back to the IRT, we can still catch him.”
We headed back to the IRT platforms and caught the next downtown local at the rear car where I hid as much as I could. Fortunately we got off again after three fast stops and changed trains at Canal Street. We headed out across the bridge into Brooklyn. After an interesting trip along the streets, looking over the rooftops of houses and buildings, we reached a huge tangle of steel and tracks and Alex had us get off. “This is Broadway junction. The Carnesie line is just a bit slower than the line we just used and we can see if Tim comes out.”
The train from Manhattan showed up as we remained discreet and Tim was on it still, so we discreetly got on the train. The train headed back to the ground and through the villages, factories and small farms on the outskirts of the city. The train made yet another of its stops and Tim got off and ran toward the exit. We were at the other end of the platform and he was able to get out of the station, on to a bicycle parked at the station and start down the street. Alex said, “When we get out of the station, I think that I better Change. I think both of us are going need to be fast for this next bit.”
We emerged onto the street and Alex found a discreet corner and Changed quickly, coming back out and handing me his clothes so that I could put them in my bag. Then it was off after Tim on his bicycle. I asked Alex, “Why the bicycle?”
“I think that I know why. Look at how uses it in traffic. Also, he’s playing Little Timmy and I suspect that Little Timmy doesn’t have a driver’s license. At least that is what he wants the Youguai to think.”
“He’s already provided them with a car.”
“A stolen car. A car that he has stolen from the police, but the Youguai
haven’t found that out yet. I expect that the Detective is looking for his car.”
“So Little Timmy is setting them up again. Where are we going,? He seems to be heading for a beach, but if he was heading toward the water, I think that we ran by several closer places already.”
“I’ll tell you about it when we get there. I think I understand the mystery that Tim is trying to show us. “
Tim turned off and Alex kept going through the back lot of the factory that Tim had ridden into. We emerged from the other side and continued running down the street. We crossed a bridge and Alex had us turn south along a more or less dirt track to a place that was obviously an old dump filled with the remains of tanneries and other places that dealt with the remains of dead animals, along with a dump where people dumped their garbage. My nose cringed as I turned to Alex and thought at him, “Why here?”
“Three years ago, Sal and I chased a vampire who was nesting here. I think that Tim was involved. That was Sal’s first case with us. We also had a reporter that keyed us onto something strange happening down here. The vampire was nesting in that old factory over there.”
“It looks as if they are paving things over.”
“The city started an airport. They filled in the marsh, built the road over the dump and built the hangers. The airmail people still fly the mail into Newark. The city actually has a proposal to expand a little airport in Queens. So this is a bit of a waste.”
“Why was the Twisted here?”
“I think I know. This is where people that came to the country that wanted to start their lives a bit apart came. I couldn’t sense the fae then, but I suspect that a large percentage of the people that live here are fae.”
That was demonstrated as the kids exited the little school and almost immediately saw us. We managed to get away by going into the airport and Tim showed up at that point, talked to another man and ran down to the pier behind the old rendering plant, took off his clothes and dropped into the water. Alex turned to me. “Well, we won’t catch him now. Why don’t we Change, get dressed and talk to that man. We haven’t talked in some time and I think that I should introduce you.”
“Who is he?”
“That’s Bill Sanders. He’s the stringer for the Herald who called us about the things going on down here. He covers things and has a little local paper, The Flatland Register.”
We found a corner, Changed, dressed and returned to the empty factory. The man saw us and called out, “Alex! The kid said that you would show up. Is another of your cases? Where’s your partner, or is this your new partner?”
“Hi Bill. This is Xing, my partner of another kind. I expect that Sal will be showing up shortly. I’m sure that Tim is going to be talking with him, that is if he hasn’t already been talking with him, which he probably has. I didn’t know that he had been involved in the thing that happened here.”
“He had a friend who was dragged down here. He followed it up and then talked to me when the cops wouldn’t pay attention to him. I did some poking around and when the weird and strange seemed to be going on, I called you. Tim seems to have had some changes to his life when he was over there in Manhattan.”
“It was his girlfriend that was responsible.”
“Like yours? I noticed some rather frightened dragons earlier. The kids were rather disappointed. They heard about you from the kids over there in Canarsie.”
“Well Xing was responsible for the dragon part. That made the boss and Mary rather happy.”
“Other than you showing up and Sal burning that house down a few months ago, the weird and strange has been pretty tame recently. At this point it’s down to marriage announcements.”
“There was a lot of clean up at the beginning of the year.”
“Upstate and up on the gold coast. Sal got a nice car out that.”
“A nice lady with connections as well, but I’m not going to say very much about that.”
A car pulled over and Sal poked his head out. “Hi Bill! Tim told me that you were coming down here again.”
“This place is probably doomed.”
“Why?” Alex asked.
‘Robert Moses and his projects. He wants a park in the South of Brooklyn, the islands don’t have anybody important living there and the airport is already here, so there are plans for a parkway along the coast and a bridge over to Rockaway. So this place is right in Moses’ bulls eye. He also wants to turn the inlet into a park. Since the project for a port collapsed he can probably get away with it.”
“A park atop the trash heap? That will work out well.”
Sal got out of the car, which was neither the Duesie nor the wreck. So no Troubleshooter or Detective today. He strode up. “Alex, I was a bit surprised that Tim knew about our little dance with that character who put the bite on people. At least he did until he was staked.”
“Hi Sal,” Bill said. “Where’s your fancy big car?”
“At home, getting some care. It attracts too much attention and I didn’t want to make a splash. Some rather nasty characters have been looking into what Tim was up to.”
“What has he been up to, other than giving me and every other reporter a run for their money? Can’t he afford a suit?”
‘He’s been playing a game with the nasty characters. He’s being Little Timmy again. I think that it’s Little Timmy’s last act. As for what he’s been up to, he decided to help Alex and Xing here.”
“That’s not as big a surprise as you might think. He was lucky with that toothy character, because the character went after his friend Billy Collins before the thing realized that he should have gone after Tim. Tim didn’t reach into certain things for the same reason that you didn’t, Sal, and that protected him somewhat. Of course I called Manhattan. Alex and some others had come down to deal with some other thing and I knew who to call when Tim couldn’t get anybody to listen about the thing here in the old factory. Why don’t we go over to the factory and we can tell the story to the lady here.”
We did and the factory had the typical left behinds of a vampire nest, along with the left behinds of being used for horse and other animal disposal during the war. The place had been shoddily built in the first place and was starting to fall down now. I was sorely tempted to Change and torch the place with a good hard burn, but I suspected that Alex and Sal wouldn’t appreciate that. The place still carried a miasma over and above the stench of the offal and rot that had pervaded the place. Sal turned to Alex and said, “Now that you can, maybe you should give the place a burn.”
Alex had a bit of a frown. “I don’t think the boss would like that.” Then he smiled. “On the other hand we do have a bunch of thermite looking for a good use and maybe we should come back. Let’s get Al and some of the others down here when we do that.”
Sal had a grin as he said, “We can even make it a Troubleshoot. That sounds like an excellent idea.”
Bill said, “I think that that sounds like a wonderful idea. Sort of like that house you torched over in Canarsie last year.”
“I didn’t torch that house, it torched itself.”
“That reminds me, the character that rented that place had some stuff stashed in a more or less abandoned warehouse over there.”
Both Sal and Alex got very serious faces. Alex said, “Somebody should have called about that earlier, where is it? We’re going to have to make some calls.”
“I’ll take you there. You’re right and I should have called about it. We never knew what that character was up to.”
We got into Sal’s car and followed Bill back to Canarsie and a rather dilapidated building dating back to the last century. The building had obviously been a barn at some point. There was a newer building that had a garage inside that apparently fixed cars for the used car lot across the street next door to the lot that the building sat on. In the background a train crossed over the road, a seemingly endless freight following what appeared to be three large boxes on wheels. There were sparks from the wires over the track as the train rumbled by. The lot that the building was on was empty and filled with old cars, rusting farm tools and machinery. Sal dropped us off and headed to find a phone. Bill looked around and said, “The owner is across the street at that used car lot. I’ll go get him.”
Bill went across the street and came back with an aging man. “This is Vincent Ceraso. He has the building and the house across the street.”
Alex flashed a badge and said, “Mr. Ceraso, We think that your tenant may have been involved in dealing with hazardous material. We want your permission to search the building.”
“You want to look into my building? Do you have a warrant?”
“We can get one, Mr. Ceraso, if it’s necessary,” Alex said. “We hope that you will want to cooperate. Your tenant was responsible for the deaths of some people last year and died in a fire of his own making during a raid on a warehouse over by the navy yard.”
“Heinrich is dead? I hadn’t heard. I wondered why he hadn’t paid for the place in June.”
“He’s been dead since October. Didn’t you wonder when there wasn’t anything happening here?”
“Heinrich never used this place for his active business. It was just a place where he put things that he didn’t need immediately.”
“Have you been inside?”
“No, I don’t go in there. I don’t do very much anymore and my son keeps his cars that he fixes up outside and has that garage next door.”
“How long did Heinrich have the storage?”
“About nine years now. It was easy money for me and I wasn’t using that old barn for anything as I stopped farming years ago. I sold the land for houses.”
Sal came back and said, “I called the boss. We should have some people down shortly. Is this the owner?”
Mr. Ceraso took one look at Sal and said, “Is this a troubleshoot? You should have mentioned that.”
“We wanted to keep things discreet,” Alex said. “Sal works with us on certain things as well as dealing with some of the same people. In this case the trouble has already been shot so we didn’t want to make a splash unless it was necessary.”
Another man in a flashy suit came across the street. “Dad, who are these people?”
He noticed Sal and said, “I’m paid up. I’m not getting troubleshot, am I?”
Sal grinned. “Not unless you want to be. Your father rented a place to somebody that was very bad and I troubleshot him last year. It’s a good thing that you didn’t try to go into the barn.”
“Heinrich was creepy and if I didn’t go into the barn, I was going to be better off. Dad should never have rented the place to that character in the first place. There was something just wrong about him. Are you here to look into this?”
“We heard about it and wanted to get a handle on it in case it got loose. Your tenant had a house nearby and it was lucky that we showed up just after the owner opened the door and got him out before the place burned itself down. Your tenant had a habit of setting up things so that they would do that. It’s a good thing that you or your father didn’t go in there.”
“I have my stuff in my garage and dad doesn’t really do much more than putter around in his garden at this point. Mom wants a house on the beach for her and dad and I’m thinking of getting them one. I’m also planning to open up a dealership with Plymouth soon and deal in new cars, so I think that dad, you should just let the Troubleshooter troubleshoot that old barn.”
“Well, if Heinrich is dead, we’re going to have to go in and clean it out in any case.” Mr. Ceraso looked at Alex. “Are you sure that going in there is dangerous?”
“Mr. Ceraso, We’ve gone through a bunch of the places that Heinrich was responsible for and every single one had a booby trap rigged to burn the place down. We also had some places that Heinrich’s boss was using go up in flames, usually with the people who worked there. So, the odds are, the place is rigged. The good thing is that Heinrich relied on outside power for his igniters and didn’t set up a battery, so cutting the power cuts his traps.”
“I can do that. The power for the barn goes through the garage.”
“We’ll have power company people cut the power to both buildings,” Alex said. “We’ve been working with some people to develop procedures for dealing with these things and this is a good opportunity to test them before we have to go into a place that we know is active.”
Roger and Bob showed up from the house with Sal’s car and some fire and police people. Roger parked the Duesie, walked over and said, “The boss wants a bit of a show. We have people from White’s, the navy and the office on the way. The power people should be here soon.”
What followed was a cavalcade of trucks and people showing up as various participants arrived and the street was blocked off. Mike and Nera showed up and Mike said, “So how did we miss this?”
Alex looked at him and answered, “Heinrich was paying the rental on an annual basis and the rent was due in June. The owners didn’t know what Heinrich was dead and never attempted to open the barn. There was probably an aversion on the barn. So it was just sitting there. I suspect that the paperwork for this place went up with the warehouse or we never noticed it when we went through Heinrich’s papers. At that point we were fairly sure that we had all of the plants that Heinrich started accounted for and shut down.”
“Have you checked for a booby trap yet?”
“Not yet. The power company just got here.”
“According to Xing’s mother, you and Xing are fairly impervious to fire and toxins, so after we cut the power, you take a quick look through the roof before we go in. We’ll do this by the book, but I think that we should have you take a discreet look before we put people in who haven’t been involved with this before. This will probably turn out to be a big nothing and if there were anything active we would have found out about it the hard way, but now that we have your Change, we should take advantage of it.”
Alex grinned. “Other than keeping the kids entertained, you mean?”
“Well that will probably happen. But we can take advantage of your other skills as well.”
I looked at Mike with a grin. “We aren’t getting our Tim chasing time doing this. On the other hand, he’s under the water and missing this.”
Mike grinned back. “I put a call into Bennie’s and the navy people are on the way, so he’ll find out soon enough. The problem he has is that this is work and he has to count on Nera and I distracting you long enough for him to get away.”
“Both you and Nera are going to be busy, but Xing isn’t. She will want to be in Change to watch out for me, though.”
Things went on as the various people collected. By the time everything was ready the crowd of people and equipment was rather impressive. Finally it was time to go in and Alex and I found a place to Change and went discreet. Alex looked at me and said, “You wait outside. I won’t be going in very long.”
He crawled up the wall and phased in through a door that must have led to a loft. Shortly afterwards he came back outside, climbed onto the roof, became visible and nodded to Mike who sent the team inside.
Shortly afterwards the people in rubber suits came back outside and took the suits off. After talking to Mike, the rest of the people went inside and started to bring stuff out and go through it. Alex rejoined me and said, “There wasn’t even a self destruct. I think that the Chemist thought that if this place was found he would already be out of the picture and probably was concerned that if the place went up spontaneously, it would attract the wrong kind of attention to the neighborhood. There didn’t seem to be anything other than some old files and machinery in there anyway. This is probably where he put his first attempt at the equipment that he used to brew up his stuff. The things he put together that we found later used parts and equipment that were not available when he arrived.”
We watched discreetly from the sideline as people hauled stuff out, Steve and his bonded took photographs and the things were hauled away. Most of the things were covered in a patina of rust and had obviously been in the barn for a long time. Sal came over with a plain metal can and said, “Look at what I found. There are a whole bunch of these cans of thermite in there. I guess this is where Heinrich kept his stash for his booby traps. That may be why he wasn’t too concerned about setting a self destruct up here. He probably thought that he could set something off and torch the place if he needed to and this was just a place that he dumped stuff that he might need.”
Alex said, “Look at who showed up, in a suit and with his car.”
There was Tim, as Alex said, wearing his suit and standing next to his car with Vic and a camera talking to the Cerasos. Some other reporters were with him and Alex pointed for Sal. Sal laughed and said, “I suspect that Vic and Roger chased him down.”
Alex turned to me and said, “You stay in Change. I need to get to work and help get this cleaned up. Hand me my clothes.”
I did and he went back to where we had Changed earlier and returned to the crowd to help Mike and Nera get things cleared out. I stayed discreet and prowled the area until the kids started to show up and Nera put me on “keep the kids distracted and out from underfoot duty. That kept me tied up as many of the first kids to show up were fae, checking out the activity at the “weird barn” as the kids called it. By the time the building was empty there was quite a crowd which made things fun as the younger Ceraso wanted the barn demolished so that he could start his car dealership, so the bureau and the rest took advantage of the thermite and the fire department already being present to torch the barn which entertained everybody. By that point it was getting fairly dark and I found a place to Change and Alex and I went with Nera and Mike to Bennie’s for dinner. Alex turned and asked me, “Why didn’t you chase Tim?”
“Because it was Tim and not Little Timmy this time and he had his car. Also, he was working and I didn’t want to take too much advantage, especially since it was near his old neighborhood, I was surrounded by kids already and he knew the area better than I did. On the other hand, we should get together at Bennie’s with Noro and Vic. I have an idea.”
We sat with Noro and Vic and I said, “When my cousin had his Chase and his bonded’s brother was the runner I said to my cousin’s bonded that her brother was a bit attached to his stomach after he made off with my lunch one day. I’m sure that Tim is aware of that story, probably because he heard it from my cousin’s brother, but after the events today perhaps we can we tempt him with something else. So far Alex, We’ve just Chased Tim where he led us. He’s been able to plan and confound us.”
Alex smiled. “There have been some interruptions and I think that we’ve learned some things. I think that we could have intercepted him today if we had really tried. I, at least, wanted to see what he was going to show us.”
“What did he show you?” Noro asked. “Joel and I wondered what happened.”
“We sat down and watched Tim and Xing’s old teacher came by and suggested that the best way to cofound the Youguai was to set Tim on a Chase. He led us up through your building, Grand Central and then went out to his old neighborhood again where he must have been involved in an old vampire case that Sal and I had, because that was where we ended up before he hit the water again. The vampire had been going after fae kids in the neighborhood, having them for dinner and dumping the bodies in the trash heaps out there on Barren Island. He Took a friend of Tim’s rather than Tim, a local reporter called the office and Sal and I went out there. It was Sal’s first case with us.”
Joe and Maria rolled in and Noro called out, “So what happened to Tim!?”
“He was taking the car, picking Suzy up and heading to dinner with Mike and Stella. Suzy must have known that he was going to end up here, because she called just before he got here and told him to pick up the car right about the time that Vic called and said that something was hot in our old neighborhood. What did Sal burn down this time?”
“The Chemist had rented an old barn and left a bunch of his thermite in there,” Alex said. “The barn didn’t have any of the Chemist’s nasty stuff in it, but the owner wanted to demolish it and replace the building, so we used some of the thermite. We saved some for another building that needs to be torched.”
“Since you were with Tim, I think I know what building you are talking about,” Joe said. “We thought that Tim was playing games and didn’t pay any attention even when he said that his friend Billy had been taken. Neither did the police and Billy’s family didn’t want to ask for help. Eventually Tim went to Bill, who must have called you in. That was a stupid mistake on my part, but the business was having issues and I was stuck dealing with that and my night job. This was about the time that I bought the car. Tim left to start working his spot about the same time. We had wondered why he quit school and got the spot in Manhattan, but at first we thought that he felt that he needed to send more money than he could get from a spot selling papers where we lived in Brooklyn. We didn’t think that there was more to that.”
“I thought it was strange,” Maria said, “But it was hard to convince him to stay home when he seemed bound and determined to do what he was doing. I think now that he started a bit on the path of sacrifice after Billy was taken. The fact that he tied right into Sal and the bureau when the opportunity presented itself and that he is going well out of his way to aid you and Xing in resolving Xing’s burden points to that.”
“I hope that Suzy can keep him from going too far down that path,” I said. “Before I met up with Jim and then Alex, the burden became overwhelming at times because I was so focused, Perhaps too focused on the burden and not as concerned about the consequences to myself and others. Master has been chastising me about that for a long time. He is ecstatic that I have bonded at last and have true friends and partner to deal with my burden.”
“Chrissie was a big help to Tom when he dealt with the Colonel,” Noro said. “Either one of them are something that can be hard to deal with. Together they are truly impressive. Between Chrissie and the family, when the time came to end Tom’s burden things went very well.”
“Except for the Colonel,” Alex said. “He had a rather bad time before things were over.”
We had a fun time at dinner and as Noro took us back to Alex’s place, Noro asked, “So what are your thoughts about our young man? Other than a Suzy tease, of course. You obviously have some ideas, Xing.”
“When cousin and his bonded were Chasing her brother, I suggested to her that a pot of his favorite stew would be a good bait and he did stop to eat which got him caught. I don’t think that Tim would fall for some of his favorite food just left out, but we might be able to tempt him with a story or curiosity.”
“Do you have any ideas?”
“Not at present, because I haven’t been here very long and most of the stories that I know are from Hong Kong and China. Perhaps we can talk to Adele’s father.”
“I know who we can go to,” Alex said. “A friend of my father’s who has been in the area a long time. He has a place in here Brooklyn. We’ll talk with him and see what he can come up with. Let me make a call.”
Alex went over to the phone, pulled out a little book and dialed a number. After talking for a bit he came back. “He wants to meet you, know what I’ve been up to other than the obvious and doesn’t have a problem with Noro.”
“So he either knows me or has just seen the stuff in the papers.” Noro had a bit of a grin. “I suspect that he either knows me or Josh.”
“He didn’t say. I just asked if I should come with you or just with Xing and he said that you would be fine.”
We left Bennie’s and Alex gave Vince, Noro’s driver for the day, instructions. We wound through the streets to a modest home that seemed to be surrounded by small factories, workshops and similar homes. Noro took a look at things and said, “I think that we just found your father’s Creator and parts of your community. I wonder why they settled here and not closer to the house?”
“I don’t know. I was a kid when things were going on. I suspect that dad and ‘Uncle Abe’ didn’t want to make things here a target. Uncle Abe did talk about moving, but his business was growing and the move kept getting bigger.”
When we pulled up, a woman came out in the growing darkness and called out, “Alex! Why didn’t you bring your girl over earlier?”
“We’ve been a bit busy, Aunt Isabel.”
A man followed the woman out and said, “Izzy, we weren’t going to bother Alex about that. He’s just lately understood some things. He and Xing need time to discover each other.”
“Uncle Abe, this is Noro White. Noro this is Abe Stringer.”
“Welcome Mr. White. You’ve never met me, but your son Altris has had some discussions with me the past few years when we went up to the Cape for a vacation and so has Josh.”
“He’s been looking for a Creator for some time,” Noro said. “I imagine that he keeps his eyes out for any that show up and extends invitations. He had me extend one to the Creator upstate.”
“Doug? I’m not surprised. Altris started doing that after you went under sea and the monsters started showing up. Why don’t we go inside and get your man there some coffee while we have a chat.”
We went inside and Alex and I had a wonderful chat with his ‘aunt’ who Alex really should have introduced me to and his ‘uncle’ who had been more or less been in charge of the people that Alex’s father had brought over slowly over a period of years after Alex’s father had died. Abe took us around and showed us the various businesses that had grown up over the years. Noro said, “I probably shouldn’t ask this, but do you make Constructs?”
“I haven’t made very many. There are quite a few Creators in the area and until recently there was just not that much of a need and I had had some jars stolen a while back, so I made a couple of jars a month or so and sold them to some people that I felt wouldn’t sell them to the dark. They didn’t, but the character in charge used proxies and got them anyway. Lately two young men seem to be buying every jar in the area. I asked Doug about it and he said that I should come up to one of their things when they hold the next one. I missed the May one and didn’t know about the one on the Cape soon enough. How did it go?”
“They both went very well. The boys are getting very good at them and other things.”
“Doug also said that they were working for you this summer.”
“I had a project and my new grandson in law has been rather busy.”
“Those beds of his. I talked to Joe down at the Rockaways and we may be talking to some people that we have done things before about providing some things for that. Joe is a bit overwhelmed by the response he got. Bill over in New Jersey is in the same boat.”
“Bill isn’t fae,” Alex said. “At least I’m fairly sure he isn’t.”
“He isn’t, but he has done things for the bower there in the past and when the tank beds started up, he was on the short list for the woodwork and other things.”
“The tank beds were a surprise all around. Until my CEO had some people look into it we had no idea just how many ladies were going up top. We should have had a clue from my own family. My daughter in laws did not go up top at first, but all three of my daughters have and my grand daughters are splitting the issue so far, but I suspect that all of them will be up top at some point. In any case, Tom’s little thing was more than a bit of a surprise.”
We finished the tour and Isabel said, “So Alex, have you had a look at the house yet?”
“We bought it back in May.”
“Good, though we may not be moving to New Jersey for some time. We don’t have to move everyone and everything all at once and we have customers here and your office is in Manhattan anyway. While I’m glad to see you bring Xing here, did you have a reason?”
“We have a young reporter that we need bait for and I thought that you might know some that might be tempting to him.”
“Does he know about that market over there by the navy yard? There has been some strange things going in over there for some time.”
“We dealt with that and the reporter found a tail in the navy yard.”
“That sounds like a wonderful story, tell us about it.”
We told the Stringers about Tim, Suzy and the battleship, the Sharks and the rest of it. Isabel said, “So he knows about the cookies already. Kay keeps selling out unless you order ahead of time.”
‘He knows about the cookies. In fact he’s one of the reasons that the word has gone out on those.”
“Since Joe is his father, he knows about Bennie’s as well.”
“Very much so. We went there for dinner.”
“What about the pixie dancers in the Botanical Garden?”
“There are pixie’s in the Botanical Garden?” Alex grinned at that.
“Yes and they are even your cousins. Your father’s sister is their mother.”
“My parents never told me about them.”
“They didn’t come over until just before your parents were killed and afterwards you were into your bad period and didn’t want to deal with family. Your father didn’t want to tell you about certain things until you were ready. Then he was killed and we wanted to avoid attention in case they were watching you.”

“Tim has already bonded, so he won’t be interested in the girls that way, but he does like weird and strange stories. How old are the girls?”
“The girls are nineteen, fifteen and fourteen. Their brother is seventeen and looking for work outside the gardens.”
“I can arrange that,” Noro said. “But there is a significant risk that if I do, he may bring a tail back to meet his parents. At least the navy yard isn’t that far away.”
“We also know of a school for fae kids,” Xing said. “It is perhaps too late tonight, but perhaps we should talk to your aunt tomorrow, Alex. We are having the housewarming next month and I want to discover more of your family. We can also introduce the girls to Nera.”
“We should do that in any case,” Noro said. “She is always looking for new talent. It’s getting late and Mary will start to worry if I don’t show up.”
“Uncle, I should have not been a stranger,” Alex said. “Aunt Izzy, I will do better from now on.”
We said our goodbyes, collected Vince and were on our way. As we headed to Alex’s place, Noro said, “Alex you should have told us about them some time ago.”
“I sort of forgot them.”
“I had wondered where your community had gone. I doubted that your father would have left without sending some of it forward before he left when things went bad.”
“When things went bad for me I lost it for a bit. Then, other than Bill in New Jersey, I didn’t really want to face my parent’s friends and I was tied up later at the bureau. Of course I was learning slowly about things like keystones and the fae. By that point I had more or less not been thinking about Abe and Izzy very much. I did visit from time to time. You’re right and I should have taken Xing to meet them, but we’ve been dealing with Xing’s burden, the Youguai, the Black Dragon and the rest of it.”
“Abe would have been a good place to park the treasures. He still would be since neither the Youguai nor the Tiger knows about him.”
“Do you think that the Tiger will come back?”
“I don’t think that he ever left, at least, he didn’t go very far and probably is back and looking for new resources.”
“So he’s going to go after Tom?”
“I think that he will wait and watch. He knows that you probably saw him with the Youguai and must have been watching them. I will keep an eye on him.”
Noro dropped us off at Alex’s place and we went upstairs. As we finally got ready for bed after our very long and interesting day, I said, “So you had family after all. You just forgot to tell us about them.”
“I had forgotten about them too. That sort of happens when you have to live in the shadows like we thought that we were supposed to. I think that we should meet my cousins tomorrow and then see how we can introduce them to Suzy and Nera.”
“Now that’s going to be interesting. What’s going to be even more fun is introducing them to my parents.”
“Are you sure that you want to?”
“I think we want to before Noro does.”
Alex kissed me. “I think that you are right about that. Why don’t we go over to the Botanical Gardens in the morning? We haven’t been there yet anyway and they are a wonderful place to visit.”
“I’ve already talked with Izzy and she’s calling your Aunt Barbara and telling them that we are coming.”

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