The Black Dragon, Chapter 33, Part 5 And End

The end of the Chase.

The next morning my parents showed up again and mother said, “Since we didn’t meet yesterday, I thought that I would catch up. Tim obviously got away. Where did he send you?”
“To an old vampire nest that Sal and I destroyed three years or so ago. It was Sal’s first case with the bureau after he ran into the construct and Tim was nearly Taken by the vampire.”
“He got back to Bennie’s a long time before you did. In fact we, Jim and Adelle met with him and took Suzy back to the navy yard. He was going to wait for you to show up and tell you where we were. We were all supposed to have dinner with Mike and Stella and get together for setting up the housewarming.”
“Vic got him instead and he and we had a little trouble we had to shoot,” Alex said. “The Troubleshoot should be in the papers.”
“Tim explained that, but you were a bit later than that.”
“Alex wanted to talk to an old friend and we made a discovery. We found Alex’s family.”
“You did! How did that happen?”
Both father and mother had huge grins. Mother continued, “We couldn’t find out where the family went and there weren’t any Drakas in the directory other than Alex.”
“Apparently Alex’s father has a sister and she is here as well. Alex’s ‘Uncle Abe’ told us about her. Alex’s parents didn’t want to tell Alex because of royal fae issues until he was older and then his parents were killed and Alex didn’t know that he had an aunt.”
“Well where are they?”
“At the Botanical Garden, apparently. Izzy was going to call and let Barbara and her husband know that Alex is coming. We made arrangements to visit this morning when we talked.”
“Who are Abe and Izzy?” Father asked. “Other than friends of Alex, that is.”
“Abe is my father’s community’s Creator,” Alex said. “I just knew him as a friend of my father’s and we hadn’t spoken recently.”
“So you have family and a Creator as well. He was probably keeping track of people for your father.”
“Yes, he was. I suspect that he didn’t want to say anything to me before I bonded so that I couldn’t reveal anything if I happened to be taken, as I almost was.”
“You’ve never said anything about that,” I said.
“I think that I mentioned the Colonel and his werewolves,” Alex said. “I was in the same area as Al and some others and the Colonel probably would have come after me and my people if Al hadn’t given him a bloody nose first. Knowing what I know now, I would have certainly have been on the short list for being drafted if I wasn’t already in the Army. My previous service helped there, since I was already in officer’s candidate school and over a bit later than some. I was brought back into the army during the Mexican mess and then went to the officer’s school when the army could see the war coming. At least some people could. In any case, Al got the Colonel’s people before the Colonel could get me like he did Tom’s brother and at that point I didn’t even know about it until Al told me later when we were both in the Federal Building. Helmut recruited me right after that and then we went up to Russia chasing Tom’s brother where we found Mike and Boris.”
“Let’s go to breakfast and meet your aunt,” mother said. “I want to find out as much about your family as I can. So far things have been more fun than I could have imagined.”
Alex checked in with the office and then we were off to the botanical gardens, where we found a bigger crowd than we expected as Misako and Nanami were there with Suki. Leo was in the background and Alex and I went over to talk. Leo said, “There is a flower arrangement and bonsai exhibition and Misako and Nanami are judges.”
“How did that happen?” Alex grinned. “I’m not really surprised, even though the ladies haven’t been in the papers very much since the Olympics.
“The museum contacted the embassy and the embassy contacted Suki and the ladies wanted to do it. I think that Misako is tweaking her mother’s nose a bit. Misako’s mother was a bit annoyed when she arrived because of their antics. As for being out of the papers, Nanami has been at the Embassy so that she can keep an eye on me and Misako has been down at the Delaware and Virginia bower waving her tail around. She has royal fae issues and I think that you would have been the best candidate, but Xing got you first. We are going out with Mera next week to Hawaii with Haruka for Steve’s wedding and Misako is going home from there, I’m going to be stationed there for six months and Nanami is going to come back with me when my tour is over for the wedding next year. So what brings you here?”
“It turns out that my aunt is here, or at least we were going to meet her here. Her husband apparently works here.”
We went over to where the contest was being held. Presiding over things and dealing with Suki, was a Japanese man who seemed to be in charge of things, and three young ladies who were probably his daughters. A woman spotted us and came through the crowd towards us. “Are you Alex and Xing?”
“I’m Alex Draka.” Alex was a bit flustered and obviously uncomfortable. The woman suddenly hugged him. “I’m your Aunt Barbara. Izzy said that you had bonded at last and had a wonderful girl from China. My husband is rather busy and my daughters are as well with this thing. These must be your lady’s parents.”
Alex introduced everybody and Barbara said, “Why don’t I take you for a tour while my husband and our daughters are busy.”
Barbara took us on a tour of the gardens, the park and a quick round through the museum. As she led us around through the wonderful gardens she told us how she had come down here as they were building the gardens with questions about the Wisteria that she was attempting to grow for selling to the flower market on Manhattan and there was her bond. “By that point my brother was already gone, Alex was out of touch and without a bond, unable to take over and the family and the community were a bit scattered. Bill over in New Jersey was keeping an eye on you and we were a bit concerned that you were going into dark places.”
“I was a bit. I suspect that some of my ‘friends’ were trying to lead me down a path where I could be Twisted, knowing what I know now. The judge must have seen some of that when he told me to join the army or he was sending me to prison for a long time.”
“That explains why you joined the army.”
“I don’t know if my boss was watching me at that point. I’ve never asked. But the army was a good place to get me straight and after that I was in the business until I brought back in for the Mexico mess because I had been a scout in New Mexico.”
That was when one of Suki’s boys caught up with us. Alex said, “How did you get get caught up in this Taki? Couldn’t Jim and George come up with something?”
“They did, but mother wanted Suji and I here to help with the ladies if they needed it. By the way, Tim is here as well. Are you going to Chase him?”
“We’re trying to Chase him later,” I said. “We want to talk to Suzy and Alex is meeting with his family here this morning.”
“Mother just found that out. She wants to take everybody to lunch after this is over.”
“Who is everybody and where does she want lunch?” Alex had a bit of a frown.
“We already have a table at Bennie’s and she is taking the ladies to get wet down there and leaving them for the afternoon, so we are planning to go there. Suji and I are getting together with Jimmy and Georgie with their grandpa and checking out that barn you burned down yesterday.”
“This is the princess we are talking about and where is Bennie’s?” Barbara asked. “Alex, why are you burning down barns?”
“It was work and it had to do with the warehouse that burned down over by the navy yard last year,” Alex answered. “Bennie’s is on the end of Sheepshead bay, on the water.”
“That makes sense with the ladies’ condition. They need to get wet after they finish here.”
“I think that we better go back and talk to Suki,” Alex said. “Otherwise we could be in trouble. Taki, did your mother say where she wants to collect us?”
“She said that when you are done with what you are doing is fine. I’m supposed to stay with you and bring you over when things are supposed to be done over there.”
We continued our tour and Barbara asked, “How do you know the princess?”
“We were involved in the ladies’ kidnapping and some other things at work. Then she sort of adopted us a bit. Apparently she does that.”
Barbara continued the tour with a bit of a mystified expression on her face. When we approached the exhibition Suki had managed get herself out of the center of attention and was waiting for near the entrance. “Alex, how come you didn’t tell me about the rest of your family?”
“Suki, I didn’t know about them until last evening when I was talking to a friend of my father’s about some things.”
“Something to do with your Chase of Tim. It’s about time you were looking for bait.”
“Mother has been telling stories again, I see,” I said. I frowned at mother a bit.
Suki said, “Well yes she has. So have the boys and Jim, who’ve been watching things from the sidelines while I’ve been busy with events. We can get caught up while Tim is going to lunch with Susan at the usual place and getting wet for a couple of hours. I’ve done my duty today and I want some time for myself before we leave for the embassy. I may see if I can convince my not so useless husband to go up to the inn for the weekend. It’s too hot in the swamp this time of year.”
Barbara was looking a bit boggled and said, “I don’t have time to get ready to eat lunch at a fancy place, princess. As much as I appreciate the invitation, I don’t think that I can take the time right now. We have to get set up for the public show tomorrow.”
“Bennie’s isn’t fancy and it’s worth the trip,” Alex said. “Suki likes to do things like this and I think that I’m her latest target. She also probably has plans with some people we know including Xing’s mother.”
The Japanese man and three girls joined us. Barbara said, “Alex, this is my husband Tetsudo and my daughters Sakura, Yurika and Fujiko, that is their names today. They are usually May, Daisy and Hermine, but when we were choosing names we gave them both English and Japanese names and they like to switch depending on circumstances. David doesn’t bother, but he isn’t trying to get onto Broadway. Girls, this is your cousin Alex and his bonded, Xing, from China.”
“He seems to be a bit old to be a cousin,” Sakura said. “Mother you’ve never told us how old you were. Is there something we should know?”
“You may be alone for a very, very long time if you are not careful,” I said.”It is part of being who we are.”
“According to your mother, Xing, alone isn’t the way I would put it,” Suki said. “Some other ladies said the same sorts of things as well. Why don’t we get going to the cars?”
Suki’s people had already put Nanami and Misako in the car, along with Leo. My parents joined them and Taki sat in the front seat with the driver. We sat with Barbara and her husband as well as Suki and the girls joined Keiko and Suji in yet another car. They had apparently been talking already as they seemed to be starting right in again. Suki said, “Good, I can ride with adults and not that bunch. It will be worse when we get to Bennie’s.”
“Why?” Alex asked. “I haven’t noticed much different.”
“You haven’t been there on Fridays. That is when the various boys come to chase the tailed girls.”
“That will make Meria happy,” Mother said. “Some mothers up on the coast as well. I’ve been talking with Meria and she was a bit concerned.”
“High fae girls?” Barbara asked. “The boys must be as well.”
“Yes they are,” Alex said, “which had some consequences last year. I hope that you didn’t send your daughters to the market late last year.”
“When the kidnappings started again? Since they only seemed to be taking children, I kept Daisy at home. Some of my friends had lost children to the first round and there were one or two more. The shark club that was doing that committed suicide last year when the police were closing in after the cops and the mob were working together apparently to close them down. The stories were big in the papers.”
“My employers were responsible for shutting that down when we found out about it. I will tell you what I can.”
Alex told his aunt and her husband about the Changed sharks, where they had come from and how they had been created because of the imbalance in the bower’s births and the wealthy fae not being able to find mates of fae in Europe.
“So taking the girls to Bennie’s may not be a bad thing at all,” Barbara said. Since you didn’t know about us, you didn’t know that our old community is having the same sorts of issues, only as you can see from my family it’s pixies and lady dragons.”
“There are more dragons?” I asked. “That will make mother happy.”
“Yes, there are several families that have the dragon Change as well as others. We will have to get together with your mother and Alex and decide how we want to set things up now that Alex has come into his own at last and the dark doesn’t seem to be trying to stop us.”
“The dark has had some rather bad setbacks at the beginning of the year,” Alex said with a grin. “We shot a lot of trouble and did very well.”
“Was that Troubleshooter character involved in that? He seems almost like a radio or a character in one of David’s adventure novels.”
“I’m not going to say right now,” Alex said with a bit of a grin. “I don’t want to give the surprise away quite yet.”
I think that Alex was hoping that he could spring Sal as a surprise during our housewarming, but that was taken out of the picture as Sal’s big car was there, along with some other cars that were becoming familiar. As we walked into the restaurant, Sal was there with Sillia, Mike and Nera, along with Alex’s bosses. Helmut spotted Alex and waved him over. “Are you coming to the office this afternoon?”
“I was planning to. I was meeting some family members last night and this morning and Suki brought me down here instead of me going over there. I was going to write a report about yesterday. Tim led us to one of Sal’s and my old cases and we found the last of the Chemist’s remnants, I hope. I also got in touch with some old friends and they put me in touch with my aunt here.”
“Ok, we can talk then. By the way, that was a good catch yesterday.”
Alex introduced his aunt and uncles to the people at the table. The others, except for Suki and my parents seemed to be rather stunned as we went through the door to the shop next door that Bennie had rented as an expansion. We found out tables and sat down. Keiko must have made some arrangements as the girls from the navy yard and some other girls from the bower were there and she introduced her new friends to them. Misako joined them while Leo and Nanami found their own table. Barbara had a very strange look on her face as she asked, “Was that the Troubleshooter and a Construct?”
“I can’t talk about my boss unless he gives me permission and yes, that was Sal and his wife. They were all looking at what we did yesterday.”
All through lunch Suki and mother pushed poor Barbara for details about the family and the community that had come over with Alex’s parents. I just listened and Alex poked a bit. As lunch was ending, Alex went over to talk with Helmut and then came back. “Xing, we’re heading back to Manhattan with Mike and Nera. Helmut and Mary are going to catch a cab a bit later. They want to talk to Meria and Joe in back for most of the afternoon.”
He turned to his aunt and said, “Suki can take you back to the museum. When do you get off work, typically? I think that I want to talk to Mike and especially Nera about the girls.”
“Nera is very good at choreography and the connection for the Broadway and movie folks for people that can bring a bit of magic to a show. I want to see if she will talk to the girls.”
“Ok, then. Tell me later what she says. We usually leave around five.”
Actually, the girls must have been talking to the navy yard mermaids and some of the other girls and sort of snuck over to talk to Nera already as there they were, talking with her about dancing. Mike said, “Alex, are these your cousins? How come we never met them before?”
“I didn’t know about them. I didn’t know that my parents had any brothers or sisters until I talked to a friend of my father’s last night. He is a Creator, by way. I found that out last night as well.”
“That must have been some evening after you left here last night,” Helmut said. “How did that happen?”
“Noro took us to my place and we were talking a bit about making Tim’s life more interesting. I remembered my ‘uncle’ Abe and that he might know some interesting fae that might entice Tim. So I called and we went over to talk. Abe mentioned my aunt and her pixies, who I suspect have been a bit indiscreet in the botanical gardens if what Abe said was true.”
“Not enough to get any attention,” Mike said. “Most fae know to contact us if something threatening shows up these days. Of course the girls here could hardly be considered a threat.”
“I know, but I was going to drop a word with Jonney this afternoon.”
Mike smiled. “He probably already knows, but he’ll like that and you can tell him about the barn and the rest. He’ll want know how things are going with Tim in any case. Tim is one of his boys.”
Mary said, “I think that I should talk with your aunt at some point soon. If what the girls here have been saying, your community is rather more established and larger than many.”
She went over to where my parents were talking with Tim’s parents and Meria in a back corner and started to talk with them. Mother went over and collected Barbara and Tetsudo and brought them over to talk with the others. George and Jim’s boys collected Suki’s two and left for their expedition of the afternoon. Mike talked with Nera and then said to us, “Nera wants to have the girls this afternoon. She is going to talk with their mother about it and meet up with me later. She’s going back to the botanical garden to see how the girls are set up, to the navy yard to have them give a discreet demonstration and she’ll probably want to talk with your Creator as well.”
“Why don’t I introduce you to him on our way up,” Alex said. “We should know about him at the office anyway and he’s already working with Tom on tank beds.”
Alex gave Mike directions to Abe’s place and Mike drove us over. As we were going over, Mike said, “I’m going to have to make sure that Tim knows about Abe.”
“What for?”
“He was trying to see if he could talk to Hans when he was up at the Cape and couldn’t quite manage it discreetly, so he had to let it go.”
“Tim wanted a Puppet for what he is up to.”
“He hasn’t said what he wanted the Puppet for specifically, but he was up there with the rest of us and saw Tom and the Colonel playing with them. Having you Chase a Puppet would be something that he would come up with.”
“That wouldn’t work with me,” I said. “I’ve encountered them before and know what they smell like. For some reason the Youguai leadership was a bit reluctant to meet with me in person and they used Puppets. At least they did the first few times until they realized that I would just destroy the Puppet and then come after them.”
We parked in front of Abe’s shop and went in. Abe was working with two of his sons on some project and we introduced Mike. Abe said, “Alex, you should have told us about the people you work with some time ago. We knew about a lot of the things happening and we would have called if we knew who to talk to. Those things were not something that you can just talk to anybody about.”
“We realized that after the Rockaway thing,” Mike said. “We were handling things on a case by case basis and chasing the odd monster, but we didn’t have a picture of what the communities here in the city and other places were like and what was going on. We are working to correct that and Mary will be in touch with your wife.”
“Looking for stories about me,” Alex said. “She collects those. You will probably get a visit from a young man looking for a Puppet all too soon.”
Abe grinned. “The young man being chased by Xing here? I can understand that. But should I make him one?”
“Yes,” I said. “It wouldn’t work with me, but there are people involved who are of the dark and fairly arrogant. We told you about some of them last night. Alex and I don’t want the Black Dragon or the others to get their hands on Tim if we can avoid it. So if he comes, make him the Puppet. Of course we can have some fun with that if we know he’s coming here.”
Abe grinned. “I expect that your cousins are already cooking something up since you took them to lunch already. They will do that.”
“My wife is taking them to the navy yard for some discreet discussions about dancing,” Mike said. “So they, and Suzy will be coming up with something, probably. Suzy has been looking for an excuse for a new way to tease Tim for some time. Alex we really should check back at the office before Mary starts looking for us.”
We said our goodbyes and started off toward Manhattan. Alex said to Mike, “Leave us off at the Battery. I want to introduce Xing to Jonney.”
“You hadn’t done that already?”
“We’ve been a bit busy and Jonney is in a rather conspicuous spot. Frankly it slipped my mind a bit.”
“It shouldn’t have, especially since you’ve been Chasing Tim. Jonney has spent more time with him than just about anybody.”
“That’s true and I knew that.”
Mike dropped us off at one end of the Battery near the ferry pier and el station. Alex held my hand and we headed along the edge of the park to a shoe shine stand and paper boy, who was packing up for the day. The man at the shoeshine stand called out, “Alex! Is this the lady I keep hearing about?”
“What have you heard?”
“Well, that she is very good with kids and they tend to chase you when you are your other selves.”
“That does happen.”
“What happened over there in Canarsie yesterday?”
“Jonney, this is Xing. Xing this is Jonney, who has had his stand here for as long as I can remember. He keeps an eye on the paperboys here, among other things.”
“It’s nice to meet you at last. Alex should have brought you over a long time ago, but I imagine that you have been distracting him somewhat.”
“Yes I have. He just remembered to introduce me to his family yesterday and this morning.”
“I also understand that you have been chasing my boy Tim.”
‘Not catching him,” Alex said. “He’s smart and sneaky.”
“That he is. He caught Mr. White right here and actually got the picture. That isn’t easy. Of course he had some advantages that I didn’t exactly tell him about. Those advantages had a price until he met his young lady.”
“You watched over him. It was a good thing that he was here. He had a very close call just before he came here. Xing and I were led back to a very bad place yesterday and I realized just how close it could have been. If the thing over there had taken Tim and not his friend we could have been dealing with a very bad thing.”
“Don’t I know it. That was why Mary pushed the boy a bit to give up the spot here and Bill over in Canarsie pushed Tim to get the spot and sell papers here and look into the business.”
“That worked out for everybody.”
“Yes it has. So what else have you been up to?”
Alex told Jonney about our adventures and Sal’s Troubleshoot of the Youguai. Jonney listened and said, “You know our troublemaker came over on Wednesday and asked if I knew of a Creator in town. He had talked to Jimmy and some others at the market and they didn’t. He wanted something done up at the Cape when he went earlier this week and didn’t get the chance to set it up.”
“Actually I can help with that. My dad’s Creator is over in Brooklyn. I introduced Xing to him and his wife last night.”
“Do tell. Give me the address and I will tell Tim when I see him. I suspect that you need to get back to your office. This has been a nice chat and lady, bring your parents by and we can go to lunch sometime and have a very long chat. I think that you and Alex will need to know things and I’m the one to tell you some things that Alex and the rest don’t know about.”
We said our goodbyes and left toward the office. As we walked uptown I said, “He’s a character, isn’t he?”
“Very much so. He’s also been at that stand longer than we’ve been in the city and knows a lot of things about the fae in the city. He’s been a useful resource and a big help with things that needed to be kept discreet.”
“Did you know about Tim being setup there?”
“Mary didn’t tell me, but that spot and some others tend to have a concentration of troubled high fae boys that need to be looked after.”
“The boy there today wasn’t fae.”
“Tim sold the spot and the boy is new. Since the spot was Tim’s, I think that Mary decided not to use it for a while. There are others that the bureau can park kids at if we need to.”
We walked over to the office and I talked with Vickie about the Tim Chase and the other goings on while Alex wrote up the report for Helmut. After Alex was done, we headed back to Tim’s operation. We used the place that we had used yesterday and sat down with our teas as Little Timmy showed up and went about his activities. He left once and we discreetly followed him over to Jonney’s spot where they seemed to be exchanging stories. Then he hurried over toward the subway station and we went over to Jonney, who said, “I told him about your Creator over there in Brooklyn. He’s going right over. I didn’t tell him about that the Creator was related to you. I think that Timmy boy needs a surprise from time to time. He’s been rather cocky lately and might get careless. I don’t want all those awards going to his head.”
“I think that Suzy agrees with that,” Alex said. “We need to get to our next stop se we will get going.”
We headed toward the subway ourselves and I asked Alex, “Where are we going?”
“You have the camera?”
“Of course.”
“We’re heading to the Botanical garden and my nieces. I imagine that they have things cooked up and I want to find out what they came up with.”
“We aren’t going to chase Tim at Abe’s?”
“We don’t need to and I don’t want to give anything away at Abe’s quite yet. He will need to pick up the Puppet tomorrow for the exchange anyway.”
“So we will be at the botanical gardens, with Nera and the girls. I think that I see where you are going with this.” I grinned.
We took the subway over to the botanical garden and went over the workspace that Barbara had shown us that morning during the tour. She was there and smiled as we walked in. “That was a very interesting lunch that Suki arranged. You have such interesting friends and coworkers, Alex.”
“So it’s Suki now,” I said.
“That’s how she wants to be known by her friends and she apparently wants to be a friend of the family.”
“Watch out. That could be dangerous.”
“Now that you know about us, she wants me and the family to keep an eye on you. Apparently she was a bit concerned about you.”
“She’s strange, you know.”
“Not if you listen. I found her to be very enlightening. Your mother and I had a wonderful chat with her, Xing. It was also good to meet Meria and Bennie, along with Mary and Helmut. Alex, we should have been more assertive with you. You were delving into some dark things. You were also doing some rather risky things, like being in burning buildings. ”
“Mary was telling stories, wasn’t she?”
“Well yes, she was.”
“Mike was on the case for the big ones at the beginning of the year. I was the desk and support for the most part.”
“Mary said that you have taken your own share of the risks and did your part. In fact, you were responsible for the Director’s end.”
“He wanted it. The way he ended it was a way of committing suicide. We had three strong fae and he became a zombie master. But he could have done that in his company and created bunch of zombies and a big mess or just Turned the employees there. He wanted to die.”
“I suspect that I am at the beginning of a long conversation with you and with Xing about you. Now why are you here? Other than doing something about your Chase with the young man that I want to meet more closely.”
“Abe said that your daughters danced in the gardens at night.”
“For special occasions, you mean. All three of them do. In fact Nera is bringing some people and we’re doing a bit of a show tonight. You are, of course invited. So are Suzy and some of the other girls.”
“What about Tim?” I asked with a bit of a grin.
“Vic is going to have him busy this afternoon. He’s taking advantage of that game that Tim is playing to He mentioned that to Suzy yesterday. Suzy was going to tell him to follow along.”
“So we can come back here later this evening then?”
“Yes, let’s plan for that. I’ll arrange for more of the family to show up and we can have a party after closing. I’ve already invited Sal, Sillia and their parents, along with Leo and Nanami.”
“I think that we should go back to the office and then keep an eye on Tim,” Alex said. “For some reason I have this feeling that the Black Dragon is going to take a direct hand in things either tonight or tomorrow before the exchange is supposed to happen. More likely tomorrow when he thinks that Tim will have all the things he wanted close to hand. Aunt Barbara, we will see you later this evening.”
Alex took us back to the subway and we headed toward Manhattan. The train was not crowded and I said, “Tim isn’t likely to be there if he’s at Abe’s and Vic has him working. So why are we going back?”
“Tim may or may not stop in. The Youguai probably will and I want to stop in and talk with somebody. He’s been ignoring Tim’s little operation and I can understand why. But I want to give him a heads up that things could get ugly.”
“Who are we visiting?”
“Socks Lanza. He runs labor at the fishmarket the same way that Jimmy does at the Wallabout, but he’s not fae and rather more asstertive about how he does things. Not a very nice character.”
“Why would he keep hands off with Tim?”
“Because Tim is Sal’s brother in law prospect and Joe’s son. He’s not going to mess with Dom or Joe if it comes to it. Nor is his boss, Mr. Luciano, who is out of the country right now for his health.”
“How do you know so much?”
“Socks came to us a while back. There were some seafolk that were misebehaving and he called us in to handle it. This was before the sharks were hitting the bowers and the seafolk not from the Rockaway or Amboy bowers. They were immigrants like the rest of them and hadn’t tied into a bower like Joe and some others. They were convinced to stop what they were doing and behave.”
“They were killed?”
“No, actually. At least not after the shooting stopped and we were able to broker a deal. Socks ended up hiring most of them and setting up the families out in Rambletown on the water. I expect that they are among the people watching that ship out there now.”
“So he knows about the fae and tails. I wonder if he knows Noro?”
“He probably knows Mr. P. I expect that Mr. P. is Noro’s front when he does business that is more than a little shady. I don’t think that Noro necessarily plays by the rules that the rest of us do. On the other hand, he was part of setting things up here in the first place and he won’t go off the deep end unless things are coming apart.
I want to stop and check in at the office before we start looking in on Little Timmy’s operation. So let’s head there first.”
We got off the subway and headed over to the office where we had a bit of a surprise before we went upstairs as Alex stopped in at the armory to pick up the shotgun again and Al and Eltra were there talking with Bill and Joe. Al saw us come in and said, “Great, you’re here. I don’t need to chase you down. There is a rather large surprise for you out at the school.”
I had a huge smile on my face. “You and Tom finished the gun.”
“Yes we did. We can’t really test it though, because it needs somebody rather larger than us and you weren’t available. We didn’t know that you were coming out earlier this week. Eltra and I are in town to do the midyear inspection and visit with Mike, Nera and the rest. I wanted to get that done before Eltra has to leave with Mera and Josh for Hawaii since she still has her tail. How is your Chase with Tim going?”
We told him. Al laughed and said, “We should arrange to Troubleshoot those Youguai characters again. They have been making pests of themselves and Josh is getting rather annoyed.”
“We think that things are going to be over very soon. Why don’t I go up and check in and then we go over and take a look at Tim’s little establishment and talk to our old friend, Mr. Lanza.”
“Has he had any trouble? We resolved his tail issues and I doubt that the tails across the river would be anything other than entertainment.”
“No, but I want to make sure that he and his people know that something bigger and uglier than the Youguai could show up.”
“You’re talking about our friend on the ship. The ship was out in the harbor, according to Steve.”
“It still is, as of this morning. I need to check. Xing, you don’t need to come up if you don’t want to.”
“I want to get together with Mary and tell her about the party tonight and hand the pictures we’ve been taking to Steve so that he can make prints for Mary and Maria. She wants the pictures when the Chase is over.”
As went up in the elevator Alex quietly said, “So does your mother.”
“Of course, that goes without saying. She will be sending a packet with all the pictures of our adventures home for the community to enjoy.”
“She isn’t going back herself?”
“I’m not sure, but she could be here for quite some time. I suspect that my parents cut themselves off from our keystone when they heard that I bonded and was staying here.”
“Great, my mother in law is staying.”
“With all the turmoil in China and your kingdom being weak, I think that my parents felt that the treasures should stay here and that they should help us build our community. Now that we know that the community is already here, my parents can just relax once we deal with the Black Dragon. Of course you know what the next thing that she is going to bother us with.”
“The wedding.”
“That, and kids.”
“Some things never change.”
We reached the Bureau’s floor and were laughing as we got out of the elevator and walked over to the office. Mary smiled when she saw us. “Al wants to see you two. He has something ready.”
“We saw him on the way up,” Alex said. “Xing, hand me the pictures. I will drop them off with Steve and talk to the boss while you talk to Mary about things.”
He went back into the office while I had a quick chat with Mary about what I thought about Barbara and made sure that she knew about the party at the gardens tonight. As we were wrapping up I said, “I thought you and Helmut were spending time with Meria and Maria this afternoon.”
“We finished a bit faster than we expected and I knew that you and Alex would be back. Thank you for telling me about the party, dear. Barbara wanted to make plans to have more of the family meet Alex as soon as possible. That was one reason that we came back a bit earlier than we planned. We really should have worked harder to track down Alex’s family. I think that Alex is done and he has something that he wants to do.”
“We are going to talk to a man named Lanza.”
“That isn’t a surprise. Alex managed to resolve some things over there in the fishmarket with some seafolk and Mr. Lanza. It actually ended well all around.”
“Alex doesn’t like to kill if he can negotiate some sort of settlement.”
“We encourage that as much as we can. Some things have to be destroyed. Things tend to be less simple when dealing with the dark. You’ve met Julio, who works for Altris, for instance. He could have been drawn into the dark even though he was just trying to take care of his family. But he does very well up there at the Cape.”
“You were involved in that?”
“A bit. I kept a discreet contact with Liltra. We didn’t have one with Noro, so he didn’t know who we were, or probably forgot. He had been out of it as a result of his grief for a very long time. You better get Alex and get going.”
Alex was at his desk and looked up when I looked up at the door. “Ready to go?”
“Why didn’t you come and collect me?”
“You looked like you were having an important conversation with Mary and we are not running tight today. Was it interesting?”
“Very. There was more to your work than just killing Twisted and such.”
We went back downstairs and Al was waiting. “Mary caught you, Alex?”
“Not me, she caught Xing. She was telling her about some of the relationships that the bureau has facilitated in the past. Noro and Julio, for instance.”
“He’s been doing well, Helena is very happy with the way things turned out and a tail is chasing Alberto. He really enjoyed playing with the boys and the Youguai.”
“They didn’t. At least the Youguai didn’t. Little Timmy and his boys managed to work around Roger.”
“Let’s get a car, that way we can make a stop at Mr. Lanza’s, look into Little Timmy’s operation and go over to the school. Mike and Nera are bringing Eltra to the party later.”
We picked up a car from a smiling George and headed over to where Mr. Lanza had his establishment. It was actually in the same building as the little café with the adequate tea and he was standing out in front of his establishment with some of his people, some of whom looked like seafolk staring down the street. He saw us and called out, “Alex it’s about time that you came to talk to me!”
“I figured that you could figure things out pretty much by yourself.”
“As far as the kid and his games, yeah that was pretty obvious. It’s been fun to watch.”
“I notice that you didn’t hassle him.”
“Joe is his dad and the Troubleshooter his girl’s brother. Either one would be grief that I wouldn’t want to mess with. Also the word came from upstairs to leave it alone. I could also see that you were involved. In any case the thing has been fun to watch and those characters have not made any friends.”
“No they haven’t. I just want to give you the heads up that something bigger and uglier might show up.”
“An old man said the same thing when he was here the other day. Like your Change but bigger and black. He told me to keep an eye out for strange things. That’s why I’m out there now. There’s been a big cattle truck hanging around. It just left.”
“A cattle truck? I could understand that over in the meatpacking district, but the trucks here are for the fishmarket. Has Jimmy or Gianni seen the strange truck?”
“I’ve asked and no, they haven’t. I’ll let Mary know if it shows up.”
“Keep an eye out for compelled as well.”
“We went down that road before. That’s why I have Ted here keeping an eye on things. He’ll pull any he can and call in Mary or Sal if we can’t. You, now that you can. Why don’t you introduce me to your lady now that you can talk and Little Timmy seems to be elsewhere. I’m not surprised that you’ve been having trouble with him. My boys did when he first started in his spot and they tried to shake him down. Then Joe quietly told me to back off. We were going to anyway. There’s just so much grief you can take and he was starting to make it expensive.”
Alex introduced me and Mr. Lanza looked at Al and said, “Al, bring your wife by. I haven’t seen Eltra since Noro went under sea. Please don’t bring the old man. Forget that I said that. I’m kidding myself. He’ll show up on his own. This has his fingerprints all over it.”
“Socks, I’ll bring Eltra over before we leave for Hawaii,” Al said. “We can have a chat. Right now we’re a bit busy today. Alex, let’s go checkout Little Timmy’s thing and then go to our next stop.”
We looked at Tim’s operation, but things seemed to be quiet there, so we got into the car and headed over to the school. Tony was there as we arrived. So were Andy and the kids.
“Andy, we’re just shooting the big rifle in Xing and Alex’s Change” Tony said. They can’t play with you guys today.”
“I know. Al wanted me on range duty. The rest here just want to watch. We know that they have plans for Tim tonight. We also have some things to give them.”
With that we went inside, said hello to Albert and Mary, Changed and went over to the range. Al, Andy, Trillia and the rest were there and Al handed me the rifle. “I thought that you should take first shot since you paid for it. Bob and Scott made up an appropriate target.”
The boys came out carrying a wood and sheet metal dragon’s head that was about the same size as the Black Dragon’s. “Did we get the size right?”
I nodded and reached for my tablet. “It’s wonderful. The size is about right. It is a shame that we have to destroy it.”
“We can make another one,” Bob said. We can also make a mount for the real thing.”
“You’ve been talking to mother.”
“Your dad, actually. He would love to have the Dragon’s head. After all the Dragon ate his son and heir. The Colonel reverted or our grandpa probably would have had him stuffed. In any case, your dad wants the Dragon stuffed.”
The boys took the head and set up next to the wall between the school and the Manager’s old house. We stood at the range set up on the other side of the hose and Al showed me how the gun worked. I fired a magazine and managed to hit the head twice. Then I handed the rifle to Alex who hit the target four times. Al reloaded the magazines and I went again. This time I hit the rather bedraggled looking head four times. Alex managed to put all the rounds on target the next time and I thought at him, “Showing off?”
“No, trying to be better than my lady at SOME things.” He licked my nose and all was forgiven.
Noro showed up and said, “I called Abe since the boys were down here to introduce him to them. Abe said that the family was getting together tonight at the botanical and gardens and that I should come over this evening. I came here to pick up the boys and here you were.”

Since by that time it was five o’clock, we Changed, packed the rifle in the car and drove over to the botanical garden. Somehow Andy, Bruce, Trillia and Verelia had managed to get themselves invited too. Noro said to Tony as we were leaving, I’ll take care of this bunch.”
“If I don’t see anything about the gardens being wrecked, not that I will, that will be fine. That bunch can take care of themselves. If the Youguai show up, try not to let them know. Bruce and Andy were a bit disappointed that their Aunt Stephie kept them all to themselves and that they have been too busy down here to play.”
“Keeping them busy is a good thing, according to their mothers,” Noro said. “We’ll give them a good time.”
With that we were off to the Botanical gardens. Barbara was waiting as we got out of the cars. She saw Noro’s white Cadillac and said to me, “You brought a character.”
“You know him?”
“We haven’t met. I met his wife when she was alive. She was part of the people who set up the museum and gardens and was a big contributor. She also wanted to know about the fae families that might need help. We were ok, but there were others. By the way, once we reach the party we expect you to be in Change. The family set up an aversion for things like this quite some time ago. None of us have room for a big family get together so we get together here. Now that the house is back we can use it again. So why did you bring him?”
“He brought himself. He also brought two young men who want to speak to Abe about Constructs.”
“Are those the two that do the shows? Are they bonded?”
“Yes, both of them. One of them bonded last year and the other at Tom’s wedding,” Alex said. “I think that I know what you were thinking. You have three high fae girls and the word going around upstate was that the boys were as I quote one young lady, “the top of the hunk heap.””
“You would know better than I would. But, yes the word had started to go out about them here in fae circles, especially after the thing with the kidnapping and the news got around.”
“Greta has other boys. I should introduce you to her.” I said. “She already knows mother.”
“I want to meet her. I also want to talk to Mera when I go up to the Cape. I’m also going to be talking to some ladies at the school.”
We arrived at the growing party where there were some dragons already there, pixies flying around and other sorts of fae gathering around tables of food. In amongst the weird and strange parents, kids were happily running around. We were forced to go to a room where there was a pile of clothes that was obviously used for others to Change and did. Fortunately there were enough dragons around, so we weren’t mobbed as we found Barbara, who hand now problem talking with us in Change. She took us around and introduced us to Alex’s more distant family and the other members of the community. There was a rather impromptu band put together and some wonderful pixie and other faery dancing going on the lawn in front of the conservancy green houses. Barbara’s girls were talking with Nera, Bob and Scott and looked as if they were waiting for something. Another winged faery showed up and tied on to Scott, who was not in Change. My mother caught up with us and said, “Alex, your family is wonderful, now that we have discovered them. They are not seemingly afraid to be what they are.”
“We took care of the big reason for the fear at the beginning of the year. I don’t know these people yet, but I suspect that the rest is just not being afraid of who they are. I’ve noticed that the nonfae staff seems to be here as well and nobody’s batting and eye and doing anything other than enjoying themselves.”
That was certainly the case as one of Alex’s cousins ran past with kids on his back being followed by more. As we were circulating back to the greenhouse a truck was there and people were unloading equipment. Nera came over and said, “The girls heard about Tom’s projector and wanted to have the boys show them how it works. Specifically they wanted the boys to show David and some other how they worked and how to make the tubes. Suzy told them about the projector at lunch and we talked about it.”
I pulled out my tablet and wrote, “You put things together fairly fast.”
“Other than the projector, which was at Sal’s and we had have somebody bring it over, the lighting and the rest was making a couple of calls. This is hardly the first event here and actually the equipment is staying here so that it can be ready for a wedding on Sunday and other one next week.”
They knew who Barbara was already, evidently and didn’t bat an eye at the party as they set up and then went over to the tables to grab something to eat. Since the party was feeding dragons in Change there was a lot to eat and a huge barbecue on a trailer with an entire side of beef on it where a smiling fae in a chef’s hat and apron was slicing off steaks from the other side of beef that had already been over the coals.
Alex said, “They have obviously done this before. Let’s find Barbara. By the way, we have a crasher.”
“A lot of crashers, from the looks of things, but you must be talking about Tim over there.”
“That one, yes. The others are just boys that the girls invited at lunch and some navy types that found out about the party when Suzy set up a shuttle to the navy yard for mermaid dancing.”
“They probably couldn’t do the dancing here and the navy yard is just nearby.”
We found Barbara and she was talking with Suzy’s parents. “It’s quite all right for you to bring people. The girls want a new audience anyway and we have planet of food. We expect that there will be more crashers as the word goes out from all our kids.”
“You’ve obviously done this before.”
“Not just for us. The Gardens and the Museum have discreet special parties for donors. In fact that is why the people are setting up for the girls tonight. The girls love to dance and it makes the Gardens a bit magical. Thank Sal and Tony for the liquor. We have a connection, but he would have been stretched on such short notice and this was sort of impromptu.”
“Well, the mermaids’ greatest fans are doing their dance first and then coming up here for to eat and do the dancing here.” Stella said. “Your cousin said that they would do a dragon dance a bit later when it gets dark. At least that was what his bonded told me as he couldn’t exactly talk and she could.”
Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but there were two couples that had bonded after their Change and thus were dragons and another type of fae. Barbara saw us and said, “That is going to work out. Mike was a bit concerned when people from the yard started to slip up here in the shuttles. Since Sal’s people are handling the liquor, the navy is fine. The food isn’t an issue as we always get a lot when we do these things.”
“You put this together amazing quickly.” I thought at her. “I’m surprised that you could throw something together this fast.”
“I did most of the calling this morning and some of the family just love making food for these things. I also had some things sent up from Bennie’s when I was there. I want to put him on the catering list anyway and this way my bosses get to sample. The tables and whatnot were already here for the wedding on Sunday. Since Suki didn’t want a thing for the contest this morning we could get the gardens tonight”
“Speaking of Suki, I think I see some rather familiar troublemakers,” Alex thought at us. He pointed with his clawed hand. “Suki may have not wanted a thing, but her kids did. They’re here. Along with Jim’s”
There they were, with Andy and some other likely troublemakers with a box that they were taking something out of and hiding. I could sense Alex’s grin. “I sense some bangs and noise shortly.” He added.
He grabbed Barbara’s arm and pointed. She grinned a bit. “I see that there will be some trouble. That book has been a lot of that. Somebody shouldn’t have done that.”
“He’s coming down next week and I will bring him here so that you can tell him that,” Noro said.
He had walked over and joined us. “Barbara, my daughter corralled me to tell you that they are about set up. Xing, our young troublemaker is here.”
I pulled out my tablet. “We know. We saw him earlier. Has he spotted us?”
“Yes, but with so many dragons, he can’t take advantage of the kids to lock you down and you have been in and around the party. Why don’t we go down and see the mermaid dancing and come back.”
That actually sounded like a wonderful idea and since the girls wouldn’t be doing their dance until the band came after the mermaids had their dance, this was an opportunity to mix things up. So we went back to the Changing room to release our Changes and over to the navy yard where quite a crowd from the party were doing the same thing next to the mermaid’s little complex where there were more smiling navy types with food and cookies. It turned to Alex and said, “They’re cheating. They must have talked to Kay about the cookies.”
“It wasn’t cheating and Barbara certainly knew about them. Kay was at the party, but you must have missed her. I talked with her while you were freshening up.”
That had been easier than I had anticipated with the provision of a handy compost pile that functioned as the dragon toilet. There were advantages to being with other dragons.
The dancing and the band were wonderful and the girls were very enthusiastic if not at the level of the dancers at the Cape. I turned to Nera and said, “These girls are not quite as good as your girls up there at the Cape.”
“The girls up at the Cape get more practice and don’t have other work. These girls have to be discreet, though Sal’s helps a bit with that and they have other jobs to do. They practice when they can.”
Since the girls were staying here at the yard I went over to Suzy and said, “I will try to bring Tim down here.”
“You do that. He’s been too full of himself lately. Dump in the dock here and I will make it worth your while. I haven’t given him a big tease in a long time. Have the camera ready when you get here.”
“We will, trust us.”
Noro found us and we headed back to the Gardens. Alex said, “We talked with Mr. Lanza this morning. He doesn’t want you around, but expects that you will show up.”
“Not to bother him. He’s been behaving and has seafolk to take care of and who take care of him. So he won’t have dark fae issues like he did the last time we tangled.”
“That must have been when he was taking over at the market.”
“It was and some of the director’s people were causing some trouble. I pulled Mr. Lanza’s compulsions and dealt with a vampire, back in ’17. The war and the Colonel were probably distracting Helmut’s bosses and they weren’t paying attention to things like they should have been. On the other hand, enither was I. I would like to meet Helmut’s bosses.”
“So would I,” Alex said. “They’ve never come to the office that I know of. They give us a free hand and keep a hands off.”
“I will have to ask Tom if he might know who they are. On the other hand, perhaps I shouldn’t. Tom probably knows who they are, but like a lot of things, will keep it to himself unless it’s important that we know. I expect that they will be talking to you and Mike shortly.”
“The boss and Mary are already talking about doing something with you about the Masters over there.”
“I’ve been looking into them and their proxies. If they succeed, it’s going to be rather ugly and Europe could be fairly depopulated by what they kick off.”
“Europe depopulated? That would be something that would take something insane. How could they do that?”
“I think that they tried during the war with that flu that came out of nowhere and killed so many. That had all the fingerprints of something a dark fae would come up with. Somebody who didn’t care how many normals they killed. Fortunately vaccines were effective before the virus could mutate again. I and several others have quietly established a viral medicine center so that they can’t get away with something like that again. But there are other methods of killing and both the Russian and German Masters are looking to use them.”
“That may be why they wanted Creators so badly.”
“That was one reason. The other is that they wanted Constructs that would be immune to the disease and the rest of it for after the next war is over. In any case, Helmut, Mary and I want to take a very good look over there and poke the Masters more than a little bit.”
“What about your keystone,” I asked.
“Josh and Altris have been handling things anyway and I’ve been more or less cut off since my wife was killed. I won’t do anything stupid for Mary and Anthony’s stake, but the Masters need to be dealt with and I am in a unique position to do exactly that.”
“So you are planning a European trip soon?” Alex asked.
“Not until my grandson and some others get married. I have two more great granddaughters that found people as a result of the end of last year. You know who both of them are and their prospective husbands.”
‘Hali and Stelios and Rillia and Steve.”
“Yes. I want to see them married before things heat up. Of course your aunt has started to head hunt already.”
“I noticed. That didn’t take long. I haven’t even known her for a full day.”
“She has three daughters and I suspect was like my daughters, where she was unbounded for a very long time. Mera was ecstatic when Tom showed up. She was up in that booth on the dock looking into Tom with Greta the next day. She got the number from Joe.”
‘Mike was close to Tom, so Mary sent him up when he got off that last vampire case. Then you sent Josh down here.”
“That was Mera being sneaky and convincing me to have Josh come down here. When it was obvious that Nera had locked onto Mike, Mera and Mary set everything up and took advantage of the fact that I was out of it to convince me to send Josh down to the Rockaway bower. Of course Stacey played games with my sister on her mother and my sister stayed under as things developed. Since neither Josh nor Mera talked with Stacey, she could get away with not telling Josh that he should have talked with my sister right off the bat. Of course Chrissie’s antic with Tom, my antics with weather magic and Nera’s antics with Mike sort of messed everything up a bit.”
We arrived back at the party and Changed again. The band came and set up and the girls started their dance in a scene of flowers. The flowers changed as the scenes traversed though the gardens and the girls whirled through trees and flittered across flower beds and through the red gate before alighting on the lilly pads to take their bows. I looked over at Tim and he seemed to be totally mesmerized. I turned to
Alex and said, “It’s time.”
We snuck up around Tim in amongst some of the other dragons and I slowly slid my tail around his feet. Suddenly I lifted him up as everybody around started to laugh and Tim screamed a bit. With that, Alex and I went discreet and tore off through the Garden and down the street toward the navy yard. We reached the dock and I dropped Tim next to it. Suzy popped up and called, “Xing was he misbehaving?”
I nodded.
“Tim you get in here right now.”
“My suit.”
“Take off your Jacket and pants or I will deal with them.”
I had the camera out as he started to take off his suit jacket and pant. He barely had his pants off when Suzy nailed him and he fell into the flooded dock. Shortly afterwards, Suzy managed to spring out of the water while she was holding Tim and kissing him. I took the photograph as they splashed down back into the dock and then popped up again. Tim called out, “So you caught me. Don’t do that again, please.”
Suzy called out, “Only if he misbehaves. Tim, I have been neglectful if you were looking at other girls.”
“They were dancing. You are supposed to look at dancers. It’s not my fault that you missed them.”
“Well the girls and I arranged a special show for us, so we will be heading back, in Change.”
Tim squacked a bit. “In Change, without wearing anything?”
“Yes. The girls asked and I promised. Alex, Xing, we will see you at the party.”
With that Alex and I went discreetly back to the party. My parents were doing a flame dance on the stage and the band was obviously enthusiastic as they twined their flames and themselves in the wonderful ancient dance. Alex turned to me and said, “We have to learn that.”
“We will, soon. You need to train up for it. We can do that after the Black Dragon is dealt with.”
My parent ended the dance and it was Scott and Lizzie’s turn where they did the dance that they had done at the Christmas parade last year, with great applause and laughter as Bob used the projector to show a little show that Tom had come up with to embarrass Jacob. After that it was Barbara and Tesudo doing a rather Kabuki skit that they had obviously practiced showing the antics as they met and ending with a wonderful dance in their Change. Tim and Suzy showed up to great applause and the girls did another dance for them and the rest of us. Then my mother and Bob sprung a surprise on us as he used the projector again and flung images of the whole of my courtship with Alex and the Chase up for everybody’s amusement and our embarrassment. I turned to Alex and said, “You had Tim taking too many pictures.”
“Not just Tim. It wasn’t me though. I didn’t recruit Tim until the day we met and had lunch. This has Mary’s fingerprints all over it. Tim just gave her the tools by encouraging paperboys to get cameras. All she had to do was point them at us. Since neither of us was paying attention, we didn’t even know to mess up the cameras. Of course Tim was setting us up at every step of the Chase and between your mother, Sillia, Tim and us, for that matter, getting these was easy.”
“So mother and Mary were plotting against us the whole time.” I growled about that a bit.
“You said that your parents were on Tim’s side and I should have warned you about Mary and pictures.” He gave me a lick and he was forgiven.
That was when Andy and the other troublemakers made their contribution as boats started to explode in the pond, rocket went off and bangs happened in all sorts of places, along with some other of Tom’s gags. Alex turned to me and said, “I think that this party is pretty much done. Why don’t we talk to Barbara, sneak off for a swim and find a nice quiet nook someplace. We’ll put our clothes in your bag and come back for the car later. Were you satisfied with the Chase?”
“Yes. Now that it is over. You have a wonderful idea. So let’s do that.
So that was what we did.

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