The Black Dragon, Chapter 34, part 1.

Chapter 34 is the end of the Black Dragon story. More highjinks, mysteries, dragon fights and romance. Here is part 1.

Chapter 34.

The Agent

Monday July 11 – Friday July 29, 1932.

The ship was going back down the coast toward New York again. I turned to the captain and said, “Will you have a problem finding a pier?”

“We’re not going to. We’ll just anchor in the harbor as if we are waiting for cargo. Nobody will ask too many questions.”

“I hope not. We’ve been operating in the dark throughout this thing and our shoreside people have been rather inadequate.”

“I know.”

“I am going ahead to New York with the Lieutenant.”

“Will you take the strike team as well?”

“Not at present. I want to talk with our agent and collect that report. I also have been requested by our master to find some sort of shore side facility for him.”

“He wants a place in New York? That will not be easy. It is not as if he can rent an apartment and eat in a delicatessen.”

“I know. We will want a place that is discreet and a bit distant from other places, hopefully with a place where we can store live animals without attracting attention. We will also need to secure a suitable vehicle for his transport.”

“That will probably be easier here. There are large trucks for transporting cattle. He probably will not care about the smell of scared animals very much.”

“Actually I think that he likes that smell. Drop me off when you pass Boston.”

“Provincetown will work better. We will put you ashore on the beach and you can   walk into town and catch the boat across the bay. This time of year, nobody will pay very much attention to you.”

That turned out to be the case as we made our way across the beach, on to the road, into the small town and over to the waiting boat, where we just paid for the ticket and got on. If we had used the launch from a ship in Boston there was the chance that an officer would have asked for our passports. Here, as long as we were in with the rest of the people, we could just walk in.

Once we were in Boston we caught a cab to the Southern station and a train to New York. I picked up a paper and it must have been a slow news week as they had sent out a reporter on a boat out to where they were salvaging the ship off of Cape Cod. I showed the article to the Lieutenant and said “They probably have the horse already.”

“Those stupid Yaoguai couldn’t be bothered to tell us that the thing was part of an exhibit and traveling in a crate with other things. Then we had the Cape people sniffing around and rescuing people. Why seafolk would rescue landers is beyond me, but there it was. I’ve been talking with people and that seems to be what seafolk do here. As well as being up top almost as much as they are below.”

“I think that the bowers here do things like that to show that they are good neighbors. I will know more when I see the report, but from what our spy said, all the bowers were rather concerned with seafolk just sinking ships, especially in their backyards. They help the landers so that the landers help them like they did the other day when the launch had that incident.”
“So because the Yaoguai screw up, we spend the last few months tramping to maintain our cover while the Yaoguai continue to screw up and the locals start to notice. The captain will not be happy when he hears about this. This was supposed to be quick and easy.”

“I think that I will ask our spy to look into young Mr. Thomas. He may have been more than he seems or a resource that we could use to our advantage. There is another way in which the seafolk here connect with landers. Seemingly the boy was a normal, yet that girl from the Sound bower knew him for some time before they ended up on the beach. Their parents probably knew each other as well. I’m going to need to find out more. When we started this mission, everything seemed so obvious and yet a lot of the relationships don’t seem to be. The spy mentioned that the seafolk here have ties to the navy and have for a long time.

We never did hear back from Jídiànjí about what he was doing up there in Lake Placid. He may have been moonlighting for the Tiger rather than looking for the things he was supposed to be looking at. In fact, considering that he, was as our spy put it, annoying Mr. Benton, and not looking for the things that he was supposed to be looking for, he was neglecting our business and wasting time, to say nothing of alerting the very people we were trying to hide from. Mr. Benton was never a proxy for the objects.”

“A bit of quid pro quo is to our advantage. The Tiger may have been obtaining assistance to pursue our objectives and Jídiànjí aided the Tiger by providing resources and going up to Lake Placid.”

We arrived in New York and found a hotel near Chinatown. My first task was to find a shore side base that was discreet. I did that by looking into industrial spaces that were available for rent and found one out in Brooklyn that was more or less in undeveloped land, backed by a railroad and surrounded by farms. The area had been in the process of developing in the last decade and even the farms were not worked and were only being used for pastures for cows and some horses while waiting for money to build the houses. The old, more or less abandoned dye factory was the only built up block in a large area. The lieutenant and I checked it out and he said, “It’s no palace, but it will work. I would rent the place.”

“Why bother. We can just move in and compel anybody who gets nosey.”

“Look at the kids around here. Too many fae. Any compulsions would be discovered. That is if they would even work in the first place.”

I did a quick scan and the lieutenant was right. There was a bunch of kids playing around in a field and about half of them were fae. I suspected that it was because the neighborhood had been far away from the city and the fae were being discreet. Then the subway came and the city started to grow up around them as more fae came over as the Masters drove them out.

So we arranged to rent the building. In the end that was an easy process and we used the Director’s old accounts to take care of the financial ends. Still, the process took most of the week and the lieutenant and I were rather frazzled by the time it was over. Wednesday afternoon the lieutenant and I went to Jídiànjí’s headquarters to have a discussion with him. He saw us enter and jumped up with a rather fearful expression on his face. “Why are you here? I didn’t call for the ship?”

“The ship should be here tomorrow. Are you making any progress in finding what we are looking for?”

“The Tiger should arrive momentarily and we should have something to report. We have found one of the objects and are pressing the current possessor to turn it over to me.”

“Is he cooperating?”

“I believe so. He needs time to bring the dagger back to the city. He wasn’t quite sure where he had put it. We attempted to search his office and the object was not there.”

The Tiger walked in and said, “Hello Jean. I am surprised to see you.”

“I was getting a report from Jídiànjí. Apparently you have been making progress on our joint venture.”

“Much progress. I have retained the services of the young man that your agent recommended and he has proven to be quite resourceful. He has obtained a print of the picture that was taken from Jídiànjí.”

“The picture was taken?”

“As part of our quid pro quo arrangement, Jídiànjí was pressuring a businessman who I believe had the thing that I have been chasing and the businessman was rescued by gangsters. As he was leaving, he picked up the picture and took it with him.”

Jídiànjí was looking rather frightened even though the Tiger and I were speaking English. I looked at Jídiànjí and said, “Who was the businessman?”

“A Thomas Benton. He works for the White Corporation as a junior executive. We didn’t expect that he had connections.”
Idiocy, total idiocy. Jídiànjí added, “The man set gangsters on me and I will have my revenge upon him and that Troubleshooter. I will eat their hearts and livers in front of them as they die.”

I had been reading the material that the Masters had given me in light of what the spy had said. The Colonel would have had Jídiànjí for lunch without raising a sweat. I had worked with the Colonel during some things and knew how capable he was. Yet young Mr. Benton had destroyed the Colonel and all his efforts without much difficulty once he knew that the Colonel was in the area. If Jídiànjí went directly up against Mr. Benton, Jídiànjí would be destroyed without much trouble. That is if Mr. Benton’s wife didn’t make Jídiànjí disappear because he interrupted a tea or something. The Troubleshooter would probably be worse. With that in mind, I said, “Leave off your petty revenge until your task is done. We don’t have time to waste on your anger. So what else have you been doing?”

“We have been pursuing the Red Dragon. She has apparently not been looking for the objects.”
“What about her partner?”

The Black Dragon was rather annoyed at the Red Dragon’s partner. Apparently he had encountered him and the experience had been rather painful as the partner had been carrying a rifle at the time and was a good shot. In any case the Dragon had made sure that I knew about the man before we left Hong Kong. After our discussion I had done some digging and found out more about the man. He was formidable for a non fae of very lowly birth. He also had strong ties to the British government though his business partner and father in law as well as being a sort of troubleshooter for the government for those discreet things that came up. Of course Jídiànjí compounded his idiocy by saying, “That little rat? We’ve been ignoring him. He can’t cause us trouble here.”

So they had been leaving one of the top people in the business of Chinese antiquities loose here for months to work his way through the dealers and look around undistracted while they chased the Red Dragon around. The Red Dragon who was probably carefully avoiding coming too close to the objects even if she ran into them and letting Jim and whoever else she could do business with find and obtain the treasures she didn’t already have. I looked at Jídiànjí. “You have been following the Red Dragon. What has she been doing?”

“She has apparently bonded. She has been going around with a man and been seen together with another dragon. We haven’t been able to discover very much about the man.”

Wonderful. Considering that the Red Dragon was on the path of sacrifice and a royal fae, the bonding would have had to have been royal and that meant that the lady probably had access to resources and a community as well as a partner who was local and knew the territory. Things were only getting worse. Unfortunately there wasn’t much I could do about it. I turned to the Tiger. “That young man, Little Timmy, is he competent?”

“He has managed to keep up with Noro White and I know from personal experience that doing that isn’t easy. He is obviously a very strong fae as he has managed to get multiple photographs of the man when I gave him that assignment as a test. The reports about the Red Dragon and Jim have been accurate as far as I can tell and he is diligent in his work.”

“Do you trust him?”

“Only as far as I pay him. He is very mercenary and stays strictly to business. I will not tell him anything more than he needs to know to complete the work and I am sure that he is attempting to keep a close eye on me. On the other hand he is seemingly well connected and can operate without much attention from the local tong and doesn’t seem to be too concerned that law enforcement will bother him too much. He is bonded to a young mermaid, so you can guess that he has full access to his abilities and has Change.”

“Can he obtain a car?”

“I will ask. I will be seeing him tomorrow for a meeting. The Yaoguai have cars, why do you need another one?”

“I suspect that the cars that the Yaoguai have are known by certain people already. I would like to have a vehicle that my opponents do not know about and are not following.”

“That is a very good point.”

I wasn’t going to tell the Tiger that we had already purchased another car from the used car lot near our new safe house. If there was a problem with the car that the young man provided, we could abandon it without trouble. We had also purchased a cattle truck. The Yaoguai and Jídiànjí might come face to face with the Black Dragon. I said to Jídiànjí, “I think that we will take our leave. The lieutenant will be back to assist you.”

We left and the Lieutenant had a deep frown on his face. “My men and I sunk a ship and risked our lives and these clowns can’t perform a simple task. Not only that, they attracted the attention of the people we least want to have notice us. I’ve never seen such arrogance and outright idiocy. The Yauguai up in Boston were a bit better and I expected that the leader would be at least semi competent. Instead, we have this clown. He hauled Mr. Benton downtown, probably right from the White Building without knowing who owned the building and who was a tenant there.”

“How did you know who that was?”
“I spent that time in Boston. Noro and Peacekeeper stories go around and so do the Troubleshooter’s. Put the Troubleshooter in the building, add a mob boss and zombies and the story is going to be told at every opportunity.”

“Stay close and keep an eye on the clowns. Take a look at the young man. He may prove to be useful and the quid pro quo can be used to our advantage. I will contact the spy and see if we can find out more about the dragon and her partner. I wish that we had known about the bond when it first happened and not months later when they are probably more settled and working together rather than being distracted and playing games on bridges.”
“You didn’t tell Jídiànjí about the spy. I think that I can understand that. If he can’t acquire his own resources by this time, he’s even more useless than I thought. Why did the Black Dragon send him?”
“He hasn’t told me. I expect that the Yaoguai are really the only resource that he has and he doesn’t understand the changing world because he doesn’t really live in it. So he has never developed other resources like Mr. Yang and the others.”
“Mr. Yang is not fae. You’ve said that. He is the son of a prostitute mother and an unknown British sailor.”
“Yet look at what he has done. He has created businesses from nothing and beaten the Yaoguai numerous times. Of course we are also probably dealing with the Yaoguai’s cousins and some others.”

“We haven’t seen them. The Yaoguai haven’t mentioned that they are here.”
“Would you trust Jídiànjí to admit that they were here if it would cause him embarrassment?”
“No, I would not. You can see that in how he reacted to the incident with Mr. Benton and the Troubleshooter. He is so caught up in his own embarrassment and loss of his face that he doesn’t understand both Mr. Benton and the Troubleshooter could have killed him and the only reason they didn’t was that he wasn’t a big enough threat to make it worth the trouble. You will have to find out who he is hassling about one of the objects and how much trouble the Yaoguai are causing him. The Yaoguai don’t seem to understand that they are on the verge of being trouble that people will want shot, one way or another.”

“You are in the same boat, thanks to that ship that you sunk.”
“That was a mistake. In fact I said so at the time, but Jídiànjí insisted and the Black Dragon ordered us to do it, so we did. We were lucky that the Cape people were tied up with the Bentons after the storm and not actively hunting for us. We were also lucky that we left and tramped cargo almost immediately afterwards. I underestimated the amount of anger that sinking the ship would cause.”

“At least I convinced the Dragon to buy our ship outright and that we can’t have the ship purchased out from under us like the Colonel did.”
“That must have taken some doing. The Dragon is so tight with the money that it’s obvious that he doesn’t understand that money isn’t something that you pile up. Money is only worth something if you use it to achieve what you want.”

We passed a Western Union office and I said, “Go on ahead. I want to get this message off to the Spy. I think that we will meet in the park on the end of the island tomorrow morning.”

I stopped into the office and sent the message to the spy’s address. Then I caught up with the Lieutenant and we went to dinner. On the way to dinner we passed the young man’s establishment, but things seemed to be quiet and I didn’t want to reveal anything at this time. If the young man was as competent as he seemed, revealing ourselves would not be in our best interests if he could sell the fact that we were in the area to the interested parties.

The next morning I met with the Spy. We would be dealing with the ship’s arrival and the delicate task of transporting the Dragon to our new headquarters in the afternoon and I wanted to get the Spy’s material and talk with her before being in the Dragon’s presence again. So I stood at the bottom of the island, waiting and watching the ship and boat traffic in the harbor. I even thought I saw the flash of a seafolk tail more than once, but I couldn’t be sure. With three bowers and more than likely, still more seafolk that had run from the Masters, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I turned to the lieutenant and said, “I think I saw seafolk out there.”

“There certainly are. They aren’t even really trying to hide it very much. I’ve seen several working on one thing or another and some girls with tails getting wet. I think that lady you were waiting for is here.”

He pointed and there she was, waving. We went over and she said, “Hello Jean. I have the packet. Who is this?”
“This is an associate. We have much to discuss.”

“It’s a bit of a trip, but the food is worth it and I found another former associate of the Director’s that you can talk to. Actually I found their secretary, which is even better. So why don’t we go over to the subway, start our discussion, have a nice lunch and have a nice chat.”

Actually, considering what I was dealing with this afternoon, that sounded like a wonderful idea and so we followed her to the subway and started down to Coney Island. As we traveled I looked at the material and it was evident that the bowers, at least, were concerned about the activities of the Masters and how they might work together to stop things like Sharks and random ship sinkings. All the bowers present seemed to have connections in one way or another with top side law enforcement or were going to develop those connections. It was also evident that the bowers saw their future as being up top as much as under sea and part of the neighboring communities.

We arrived at the station where the spy had arranged for a cab and we went to a place up the road where things were obviously fae friendly. As we walked in there was a merman in back, with three people, who did not look to be fae, discussing some business. None of the other men seemed to think that anything strange about the man as we walked through a door and into the next room in the crowded restaurant to a table where another woman was waiting. The spy called out, “Sarah, here we are!”
“Jean, this is Sarah, who works for a high level investigation and research company. Sarah, the other gentleman has not given his name.”

“It’s Georges, ma’am.”

Both the spy and the other lady were open and forthcoming, the food was wonderful and I obtained a better perspective about the local fae. The lieutenant asked, “Now that the Sharks are gone, the number of bondings has probably increased. Some friends of mine ran into a young couple a few weeks ago. They seemed to be low fae and a normal, but they were very happy with each other.”

“Did you get their names?” Sarah asked. “I like to keep track of those things.”

“The young man said that his name was Tim Thomas and the girl’s name is Suzy. The young man had a nice car and seemed to be well off. The young lady said that she came from the Sound Bower, but that her father was opposed to the match.”
“I know who they are. The engagement was announced in the papers recently. The girl’s father is very close to high fae and probably was hoping his daughter would bond up. On the other hand, he works with the boy’s father in business and I’m not surprised that the kids got together as the young man is quite the go getter. Joe Thomas is big in import export and other such businesses, but the son actually works for the World as a business reporter. He interviews business contacts and has a column. He’s going to Columbia in the fall. I suspect that the mothers set up the beach rendezvous.”

“That explains some things. We weren’t sure what was going on and the Sound Bower seemed like quite a swim to that beach. I expect the girl was let off to get wet before they joined up.”

“Almost certainly. I expect that we will see a lot more shenanigans with bonding couples now that the Sharks and the rest of them are gone.”

That was the way thing went as we discussed the other goings on and local flavor. Things here were quite different from the way I had grown up.

After lunch, we were dropped off at the subway station and it was time to get back to work. The ship arrived and the Dragon discreetly swam to the pier where we had the truck waiting and the lieutenant drove the truck to the factory. The Dragon looked at the building that we had set up for him and said, “This will be suitable. It is not much more than a cave, but I am not expecting to need to impress the foolish here, so ostentation is not necessary. The facility is large and distant from any neighbors and you have provided food. This way I can take a direct hand if necessary. “

I gave my report and said, “We don’t know very much about the dragon that the Red Dragon bonded to. I will have the Spy look into him.”

“That young man she recommended seems capable. Unlike my servants, the Yaoguai, who have proven to be rather a disappointment. They have proven to be rather arrogant, rigid and not diligent in their tasks. At least they have proven to be that way here. Perhaps it was a mistake to send Jídiànjí rather than his brother, but sending the treasures here with proxies was Jídiànjí’s idea in the first place when the Red foxes and my brother had closed off the gates to Hong Kong and the Red Dragon’s servant managed to drive me away. How is Jídiànjí handling the servant?”

“I will let him report on that.”
“Poorly then. Jídiànjí has always had a problem seeing normals as people. My great mistake was the same, until the girl came into my life and I, rather than treating her as a person, destroyed her, and myself. That she would refuse me was inconceivable and I had just come into my Change and its appetites. So my anger let the Change loose and into madness. My brother warned me and I didn’t listen. Then my brother set the family against me and I was forced to destroy them.”

The monster must have been quiet as the Dragon was being rather frank today. I wondered who his brother was. The Dragon continued, “The servant was the first to be able to cause injury enough to stop me in some time, at least enough injury to drive me away from a goal. Do not underestimate him.”

“I haven’t. On the other hand the Yaoguai are more concerned with others.”

“Such as?”

“A young businessman who has apparently acquired what the Tiger is looking for. They were involved in sharing the work with the Tiger and the young man and his family caused them some trouble.”
“What happened?”

“From what I understand based on what our Spy told me and Jídiànjí confirmed when I talked with him, the Yaoguai attempted to obtain what the Tiger thought the young man had and the young man’s family and some others made their lives miserable upstate and then when they brought the man downtown to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse, he was rescued by some mob types sent by his wife within minutes of the Yaoguai taking him and made off with the picture of the treasures that Jídiànjí had brought to show the young man. Then the young man or his wife made a call and that Troubleshooter character gave Jídiànjí and some of his people a ride and had a discussion with him. Afterwards the Troubleshooter’s people took them back up to Chinatown and dumped them into the trash.”

The monster laughed. “I imagine that Jídiànjí was rather annoyed at the humiliation.”
“He was talking about eating hearts and livers. I don’t think he realizes that the only reason he is still alive is that neither the young man nor the Troubleshooter thought that Jídiànjí was worth the trouble to shoot. The young man was responsible for the Colonel’s destruction and the Troubleshooter is certainly involved with the destruction of the Director and everything else the Masters had here, so he is certainly no lightweight. I told Jídiànjí to leave the two alone until the mission is complete.”
“I will agree with that. As much as Jídiànjí losing face reflects on me, powerful enemies that we know very little about is something I would prefer to avoid. I think that you have given me everything of relevance. We will discuss things every day from now on. I have the feeling that success or failure is hanging by a thread right now.”

With that, I took my leave. I made sure that things were being dealt with as best I could. The Lieutenant caught up with me and said, “We may have a problem.”

“What?”

“Come with me to the front gate.”

I did and when we got there, he said, “Look around.”

I did and there was a horse and cart on the street being passed by a car. Other than that, things seemed to be quiet. “I don’t see anything.”

“What was here when we rented the place?”
“The children playing.”
“They are not here now. They all left about the same time as we brought the Dragon in and haven’t come back. They were over there all day yesterday.”

“Maybe they found something else to do.”

“I hope so.”

With that I went back to the hotel. I looked through the paper and nothing much other the usual things was happening. So I went to bed.

The next morning the lieutenant and I peeked at the young man’s establishment where a big black car that obviously was owned by some very powerful gangster drove up and the young man got in. He was returned shortly thereafter and the lieutenant and I decided to go over to the Youguai’s establishment. When we arrived there was a bit of excitement. I asked a Youguai who was walking past me, “What is all the excitement.”

“The Golden Dragon is here! He brought the cabinet.”

“What cabinet?”

“The cabinet that has the fake treasures in it. The fakes could be used to confuse us. We must retrieve the fakes.”

Considering that the Red Dragon had bonded I shouldn’t have been surprised that her parents would show up. I went to find Jídiànjí. He was sending people to hotels and temples here in Chinatown to look for the Golden Dragon. I said to him, “I will want two of your people to go with the Lieutenant and arrange for the car with the young man. I also want him up at the Cape later in the week. We can use him to retrieve the horse from the bower.”

Jídiànjí nodded. I turned to the Lieutenant and said, “I want to do some looking around. We will come back later.”

We left and the Lieutenant asked, “What are we looking for?”

“The Yaoguai are going about looking for the Golden Dragon the wrong way. Mr. Yang has an address and I will bet that the Golden Dragon is there. We just need to consult a directory.”

The Lieutenant grinned as we went over to the phone booth on the street. Mr. Yang had been in the city long enough and was conducting business, so there he was in the phonebook. I wrote down his address and we went over to take a peek. Not only were both of the Red Dragon’s parents there, but so was Mr. Yang’s wife, children, mother and father in law from the noises they were making as the whole lot of them were going in different directions for the afternoon. The Lieutenant said, “That was easy. How did you figure that the Red Dragon’s parents would be staying with Mr. Yang?”

“Because when I was looking into Mr. Yang, they had been doing that for years. The Yaoguai have been assuming that the Red Dragon’s parents would want a fancy hotel. In Hong Kong, the lot of them lived in a fairly modest house that Mr. Yang had with Mr. Yang’s mother, who is the only one not here. I imagine that Mr. Yang rented enough space for everybody except the Red Dragon when he arrived last year. So this was just a case of showing up. Of course, since we were away and the Yaoguai were not paying any attention, when the various family members showed up is problematic.”

“We could get in and take the cabinet.”
“No reason to. I would rather find out why they brought it than obtain some fakes we don’t need.”

“The Yaoguai will probably want it.”
“I’m sure that they will. I am certainly not going to do their pointless work for them.”

The Lieutenant’s grin got even bigger. “I can see your point there.”

“Let’s get some lunch and then take a look at the fish market. I want to see what things are like in the afternoon.”

The fish market was fairly dead and closed down with only some people selling fish to individual customers at the end of the day and putting fish in baskets and crates and putting the baskets and crates on trucks to fill orders. The fishing boats had all headed for their docks or back to the sea and the only people left on the piers were straightening things away. We watched for about an hour and walked around the piers and market. Then I said, “Let’s go back to the ship and check in with your people. We will want to plan out the week a bit.”

The boat was waiting at the pier down near the Battery where boats from the ships could tie up. We went through the small customs station and the chief took us out to the ship. The Lieutenant and I went over what had happened and what they could expect from the Yaoguai. They were not happy with what they heard and I couldn’t blame them. We mapped out some possible course of action and at four o’clock the chief and the Lieutenant left for the shore side. The lieutenant came back and said “I arranged for the car. We can pick it up over at the Jamaica station when the young man and his people go up to the Cape. He also is going to handle the details up there when we go up. By the way, we are being watched.”

“By whom?”

“I’m not sure, but there are Swimmers in the water and barge just anchored nearby. Some girls are flashing tails.”

“Anything more direct?”

“Not yet, but I’m going to have a Swimmer in the water after dark looking below from now on. I don’t want us to suddenly find ourselves on the bottom.”

“Since I am not a Swimmer, I can live with that.”

The chief came back later and said, “When we were picking up the car, we ran into the kid from the beach. We tailed him, but he picked up on us and tripped a speed trap so that he could break the tail. We may have been tailed as well, but they were very good at it and I couldn’t be sure.”

“Don’t bother with the kid from the beach. It was just some kids bonding on the beach like you figured. The engagement has been in the papers. The spy’s friend knew who they were.”

“What about the rest of it?”

“Some policeman saw you and called the Cape people. They came out and the navy sent the plane to get some practice. According to our spy, the Cape bower has a working relationship with local police forces and the navy and the bower are worried about things after the Director and the Sharks. So somebody sent a plane out or the plane was already out and somebody radioed it.”

The next morning the Lieutenant checked on the Yaoguai and he managed to get them to send the young man after the cabinet rather than looking for it themselves. The young man promptly demonstrated that he had a far better grasp of the situation than the Yaoguai did as he obtained the cabinet, took the objects and dropped the cabinet some place. I watched as the Yaoguai went to the young man’s establishment and berated him when he said that he had the treasures. He replied, “I failed becawze dese aren’t de real tings? Yuh wanted dese. I knew dat dey weren’t de real tings, butcha guys are payin’ and I do what de custmmoi wants. I have an idea where some of de real tings are. One of dem is at a weddin’ tomawhrow and I can use de fake tuh make an exchange. Yuh got me so fahr? I already have some boys wawhkin’ de weddin’ fawh othuh custmmois and it will be easy. So just wait until Monday and have money ready. I know whatcha offered dat Benton charactuh and dat sounds like a nice round numbuh.”

With that I left to report to the Dragon. When I told him what happened his dragon laugh rumbled across the room. “They were chastising the young man for their own failures? Truly foolish. Find out where the wedding is being held. There should be notices.”

“Should I tell the Yaoguai?”

“If going to the wedding is going to get them in trouble, yes, tell them by all means. Have the Lieutenant watching them. If the wedding is just a joining of normals of no consequence, let the young man handle it.”

“I will be right back.

Fortunately a copy of yesterday’s paper was still in the office and when I looked at the social pages, there was a nightmare. Roger Elliott was getting married to Vilia Posidenitus. With engagement pictures that made it fairly obvious that the girl had a tail and the text made it fairly clear that the girl was Noro’s granddaughter. None of the other weddings seemed to be the kind of thing that the young man would be interested in and I went back to the Dragon.

“The wedding is probably this one. At least this one would give the Yaoguai, or anybody else wanting to mess things up, a lot of trouble. The bride is Noro’s granddaughter and I think that they met during the thing with the Bentons last year. “
I looked at the guest list and just from a quick glance, there were three sets of local royal fae, with the Bentons, the Claytors and the Sound bower royals in attendance. To say nothing of Tom Benton and his wife, most of Noro’s family and it appeared, the Troubleshooter.

“Considering the guest list, the bride’s family would be a nightmare. The groom’s family has a lot of business and government heavyweights, most of which are probably fae. The navy is also going to be there.”

“So they will have security.”

“The Bentons alone will probably provide enough, just as a general principle. Some of the navy is probably Cape bower and family, but if the bureau has an inkling that you are in the area, there will be security, especially for the kids.”
“Then tell the
Yaoguai about the wedding. I imagine that they will use their typical raiding tactics or plan to and get a very bloody nose. Even I would hesitate to raid a wedding full of royal fae and their families, especially if they are well armed and probably prepared.”
“When the Bentons are present, we can assume that ‘well armed’ is an understatement. They will probably bring Ccnstructs as well.”

“We could obtain some.”

“Not unless we have access to a Creator. The Benton boys buy all of them for their shows.”

“Then the Yaoguai will not be able to obtain them.”

“Not unless they already had them or bought them last year.”

The Dragon laughed again. “This is looking to be a lot of fun. Tell the Yaoguai about the wedding. Let’s see what happens.”

I sent the Lieutenant to tell Jídiànjí about the wedding and then went to take a look at the field across the street. The children were still staying away and when I did see them, they were running or riding bicycles past the building as fast as they could. Something was making them afraid of this place and I thought that I knew what it was.

The rest of the day and Sunday I made preparations for soliciting cargo in my role as the ship’s shore side representative. I set a tentative departure date for the Monday after next. It looked to me as if that would be the longest that the ship, at least, could stay in the area without attracting more notice than it had already. Just after dinner the Lieutenant appeared looking rather tired, wet and bedraggled, but he was smiling. “That was a mess.”
“What happened?”
“I had to Swim back. Jídiànjí came up with a plan to raid the wedding like we figured and I went with most of his people. One group was supposed to go after the kids and take some hostage and the rest were supposed to take advantage of the ensuing chaos. The kids were guarded by the Red Dragon of all people, along with her bonded, some Bentons and a Construct. Not a Construct that has a clock on it, but solid, smart and capable. He was keeping in the background and if you didn’t realize that he was there, he would be real trouble. If you didn’t have silver bullets he would be real trouble anyway. Not somebody I would want to mess with. So I had the Yaoguai back off and wait to see what happened, the kid showed up with the Cup, the dragons showed up and chased the kid and I hit the water. The kid had a car and got away with the Cup. He was rather annoyed with the Yaoguai for showing up.”

“I can understand that. He had things set up and the Yaoguai stomped all over things. I expect that you neglected to mention who the wedding involved.”

“No, I told Jídiànjí right up front who was going to be at the wedding. I did not want a repeat of the ship on my back. He came up with his plan anyway. I even mentioned that the Bentons were going to be there. He insisted that his people could pull it off.”
“Are you sure it was the Red Dragon?”
“She was in Change, with her bonded, entertaining the kids the whole time. They had a bunch of very happy kids with them.”

“What happened to the Yaoguai?”

“They got back in their cars and went home. Once the kid had the Cup, there wasn’t any reason to stay.”

“I will report what happened. At least the young man has the Cup.”

“He was on top of things from the beginning. The Yaoguai were not.”

“Why did he not turn it over?”
“He is holding out for money. Apparently the Yaoguai offered a rather large sum to Mr. Benton and the young man wants to be paid accordingly.”

“I will tell the dragon that.”

I went over to the Dragon’s cave to report. “The young man has the Cup.”

“The Yaoguai?”

“They had a plan to take some children hostage and use the confusion to take the Cup. The children were protected by the Red Dragon and some others. The Lieutenant pulled the Yaoguai back when he realized how well the children were guarded.”

“Do you know why the Red Dragon was there?”

“I have not discovered that. I think that I will need to talk with the young man directly tomorrow. I will press a bit to see what he does. The young man wants money for the treasures. The Yaoguai already set an amount and the Spy and the Tiger have both said that the young man is very mercenary.”
“Find out what he wants. We can press, but unless he brings all four of the Treasures with him and the Lieutenant provides security for the
Yaoguai we really will have no choice other than to do things his way. Did he have any issues with handling the Cup?”

“The Lieutenant did not mention any.”

“Then the Cup may see him as fit to be a Custodian. So he will not have the problems of being unfit. That has been our problem all along.”

I left with a lot to ponder. Since the Tiger was seeing the young man this morning and arranging some things, I sent him a message to meet with me at the Coney Island subway station and called the taxi company that the Spy had used. We met at the station and I had the cab head to Bennie’s. The Tiger asked, “Why here? It’s more than a bit out of the way.”

“Yes it is, but you should know about this place and the lunch is worth the trip. I wanted to discuss the car and other things.”

“Both I and your man told the young man about the car and he said that he has it ready. I’m not going to ask too many questions about where he got it. It will probably be stolen, though I have certainly paid him enough that he could purchase a vehicle. How did things go yesterday?”

“The young man obtained the Cup without much difficulty. The Yaoguai weren’t even able to get close enough to provide entertainment. Has it been like this for the last months?”

“Yes. I sent them up to Lake Placid as much to get them out of the way as anything else. I figured that they would distract the Red Dragon and her partner. They did, somewhat.”
“So you never thought that Mr. Benton was up there in the first place?”

“No. The man had bonded to a mermaid from the Cape. All you had to do was look at the papers around the turn of the year to know that. The wedding and honeymoon cruise were there, as well as the young lady and her Japanese friends making a huge splash here in New York. Then her husband essentially made the Olympics possible. Followed by what the Colonel had done and the man couldn’t hide if he wanted to. The man has been spending time up at his office on the Cape, his factory in Plymouth and other business for the company.”

“Do you think that he has what you are looking for?”

“That is a big question. I was fairly certain that the President had purchased it, but it was not in his office when I searched it. When Mr. Benton obtained it is rather problematic as I doubt that he could afford to just buy it, at least not when the President and he were both in Washington. Since he was dealing with his burden and the path of sacrifice, I doubt that he would make a purchase that did not assist in that pursuit. He continued to use an old farm truck he had for the entire time he was in Washington.”

‘You seem to have found out quite a bit about Mr. Benton.”

“I started to look into him when I realized that he probably had the Dragon. I wasn’t certain about it until I saw the pictures of his office. Mr. Benton left a wide path behind him and it wasn’t hard to get stories about him.”

“Now that he knows, how do you think that he will deal with things?”

“I imagine that I will be dealing with Federal agents sooner, rather than later. There will be decoys and misdirection. There will be copies of the Dragon made and the real one hidden in plain sight in some sort of excellent camouflage. That is if the old man does not get involved in this.”

“If the old man does?”

“Any kind of direct action will be almost certain to fail. Even getting out of the country would be difficult. He gave me some difficulties the last time we engaged and I do not look forward to a repeat.”
“He has been under sea and from all reports, out of it, for some time.”

“Now that the killers of his wife have been destroyed ,he will be looking for new opportunities for his games. Your Masters should be wary. I imagine that he is not pleased with them and has plans for them already.”

We reached Bennie’s and our driver went in with us, went to the back to get two lunches and went back outside. The Tiger looked at that and said, “I suspect that our driver has tail in his future. He’s obviously familiar with this place.”

We sat down and ordered. After the waitress left, I said, “So how much do you trust the young man?”

“To be capable, quite a bit. On the other hand he probably has other agendas and we will have to be wary. He is mercenary and obviously well connected. I have already initiated the process of transferring the funds he requested. If he actually obtains the dragon, the cost will be acceptable. If he brings a fake, which he probably will, I will know that I am being misdirected. By who will be the question.”

“His adventure at the Cape will be interesting to watch. I will give you a report.”

“You can expect the Red Dragon to show up, as well as her partner.”

“Why?”

“The old man and the lady’s grandfather were my adversaries, years ago. So if the lady contacted her teacher and grandfather on her way here, he would put her in touch with the old man.”

I wish that somebody had told me this a long time ago. My eyes must have widened because the Tiger said, “You did not know?”

“The Black Dragon has not mentioned that his brother and the old man knew each other.”

“Perhaps he didn’t know. The White Dragon has been over here for some time, probably to pursue things without his brother’s knowledge and build new relationships.”

“If the Red Dragon shows up, I think that we can assume that the old man is involved in at least part of this. So far he hasn’t been in evidence.”

“He wasn’t during the thing with the colonel either until the end.”
The Tiger told me the story of how the Colonel had met his end and some of what Mr. Benton did in Washington. I hoped that he wasn’t directly involved in this. Lunch came and soothed me somewhat. As we left I said, “I think that I will engage the young man directly this afternoon.”

“Keep an eye out for that Troubleshooter character. He showed up this morning to give the young man a warning. The Red Dragon and her bonded showed up as well, but they may have been chasing him as a result of yesterday.”

“I will.”

We collected our driver and headed back to the subway station where we parted. I went to the factory, found the lieutenant and said, “Which of the Yaoguai speaks English?”

“I know who, does it matter which one?”

“No, I just need one to meet with the young man. I also want some Yaoguai waiting in case he runs. They can follow his scent. I want to rattle his cage a bit and see how he reacts.”

The lieutenant grinned. “How the Yaoguai handle things as well.”

“That too.”

We arranged things and went to meet with the young man. In the ensuing conversation, he rattled me more than I rattled him. Certainly all of the threats were countered. The hard fact was that as long has he had access to the objects and knew where they were, he had us and he knew it. The dragons showed up as the Tiger predicted. They must have been watching the young man, who lit right off and ran. They chased him and the Lieutenant called on the squad that he had arranged to follow. Three hours later we came up behind them and they had been run through some coffee and sugar mills along with going to a pier next to the market before ending up at a ruin where the dragons were looking around. Somewhere in the chase, the young man had lost both the Yaoguai and the dragons. The Yaoguai did manage to sniff out some bags of wonderful cookies that we shared as we headed back to the Yaoguai’s headquarters. We dropped off the Yaoguai and headed back to the factory to report. The Dragon looked at me and said, “The day did not go well?”

“I discovered some things from the Tiger that were rather interesting. Did you know that your brother was here?”

“Actually I did not. He tends to be far more subtle than I am.”

“Did you know that he knew Noro White and had a battle against the Tiger with him?”

“The Tiger has never mentioned that. He must have not come out well in the encounter.”

“He said not. He also said that he expects to be misdirected by Mr. Benton. Apparently that is a habit of Mr. Benton’s”

“So my old associate is running into difficulties. What about the rest of it?”

“We poked at the young man and he was rather blunt about our current situation. The Red Dragon showed up, the young man ran and led both the dragons and us on a merry chase through coffee and sugar factories before arriving at a ruin where we found some cookies.”
“I expect that the cookies were there for the dragons. Sugar can have unfortunate consequences for dragons. They must have broken off the chase before they reached the sugar factories. I expect that the trail was false and laid for the dragons and not you or the
Yaoguai.”

“Why?”

“It may be part of the Dragon mating ritual, the Chase. The young man may have involved himself in the Red Dragon’s bonding and been the selected victim. At least they will not eat him. Some others would.”
“You?”
“My eating people was madness and a mistake. My family did not have that habit during a Chase. I will never bond, so no, I will never have a Chase.
Nor will I ever enjoy sweets again. Were the cookies tasty?”

“Very. Do you think that the young man has some sort of family relationship with the Red Dragon’s bonded?”

“It is possible. I’m not going to waste energy on pointless speculation. What are your plans?”

“The young man is heading up to the Cape with some people. Some of the Yaoguai and the strike team are going up as well. The young man is going up with his girlfriend over through Long Island.”

“Could we take the girl as a hostage?”

“I don’t know which bower she is from or even if she lives in the bower. Since she could be at any of them and knows the waters, finding her would be difficult. For that matter, none of us have actually seen her, so we don’t even know what she looks like and she is related to the royalty of the bowers here.”

“So taking her hostage would be excessively difficult and could have consequences.”
“We also do not have the resources to keep her alive on land like the Colonel did. Trying to keep her on the ship would be dangerous.”

“Anything else?”

“The Red Dragon’s parents are here.”

“That is not a surprise, especially if she bonded. The man must be high fae, what do you know about him?”

“So far, that he is a dark green color in his Change. I should ask the young man about him. Jim’s wife and children are here as well, along with her parents.”

“I’m not surprised about that either. There are probably other family members who have not shown themselves as well. Enjoy your time on the beach at the Cape.”

“I’m not going. I need to procure a cargo for the ship tomorrow and through Thursday. The Lieutenant can watch things.”

The next two days involved me going to shipping agents and getting together with the chief to get the cargo squared away. I also arranged for a pier for the next week and an oil barge to refill the ship’s bunkers. Thursday morning I decided to see if the young man was back. I ran into the Tiger and we had a brief chat before heading back to the young man’s establishment where he made his demands while demonstrating that he did indeed have all four of the treasures. After leaving the Tiger, I went over to the factory to see if the lieutenant was back and get a report. He was back and said, “Never try to break into the old man’s business office when the dog is there.”

“What happened?”
“We met up with the young man, who had arranged for a safe house and boat for us and he warned us about the dog. The Yaoguai insisted that they go in anyway and were torn up for their trouble. They were right about one thing. The dog wasn’t normal. It was smarter than any dog I have ever seen before.”

“How did the young man get around the dog?”

“By creating some distractions and going in during the day when the dog wasn’t there. He made it all look easy.”

“Some of that may have been misdirection. He does have all four of the objects at this time. I need to report.”

I went over to the Dragon’s cave. After I gave my report he said, “I think that I want to see things for myself. There is a lot going on here that I do not understand.”

“Will that be possible?”

“We will use the truck. Nobody will notice yet another truck.”

The dragon mounted the truck, we made sure that the cover was tight and the lieutenant and one of his people drove the dragon as I followed with three more of the strike team. The street was fairly empty and the young man never appeared. As it began to get dark the dragon said, “We will come in the morning. We missed him today.”

We returned to the factory and went back to the fish market the next morning. The young man was obviously doing something as he came, left for a brief time, came back again, left again and didn’t return. Neither the Red Dragon nor anybody else of consequence showed up either. The one thing I did know was that we were being watched, both by the young man’s gang and the more serious men of the local mob boss. The Dragon’s effect on children also caused them to cross the street or go in other directions if they could to avoid the truck. That was making the truck even more conspicuous. I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally left.

When we arrived back at the factory, the dragon said, “Do you know where the young man lives?”

“No, we haven’t made the effort to find out. Considering that the dragons couldn’t lock him down and all our tails failed as well, finding out would be very difficult. He has never given us a last name and there is a possibility that he lives in a bower.”

“That would make things rather difficult. We already discussed taking his girl hostage. Suppose we take him hostage and talk with the girl?”

“The girl may not know where the treasures are at present and almost certainly could not obtain them on her own due to her limitations. I imagine that the young man has not told her where the treasures are located simply to protect her.”

“So you are suggesting that we pay what the young man is asking.”

“We have the funds in gold aboard the ship. It would seem to me to be the most straightforward course.”

“I am reluctant to part with that much gold. Let us return tomorrow and see what we see. I also do not trust the Tiger to not interfere and the young man to deliver.”

I departed with a sense of foreboding. The young man had a lot of his boys on the street and if they didn’t seem to be armed, that did not mean that they were not. I was concerned about what the Red Dragon had been up to and where they had been all day. Whatever it was did not bode well for us.

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