The Black Dragon, Chapter 34, part 4 and end.

The end of the Black Dragon. What comes next?

Tim

Tuesday August 2, 1932.

After a lousy breakfast, the agent character took me to a phone. This was where things were going to get interesting. Suzy had updated me last night on some       things when we talked, including the fact that George had managed to get himself fired over me and my shenanigans and some property of the Rockefellers. So with the Lieutenant and ‘Jean’ right there as I made the call, things were going to get interesting. I dialed the number and Joe at the desk picked up. “Joe, it’s Tim. Yuh put Geawhge on de line. I need tuh tawhk tuh him about some tings he was holdin’ fawh me, okay?”

I figured that somebody would be listening in on the conversation when Suzy set it up with me. I could hear George laughing faintly in the background as Joe said, “He doesn’t work here any more. The old man canned him yesterday.”

“What do yuh mean de old man canned him? Why?”

“It’s your fault. John Rockefeller found out that you had stashed something of his here and bitched about it to the old man. The old man went looking for it and it wasn’t there.”

“Are any of de othuh tings I left dere eithuh?”

“That cabinet and everything in it is gone. There’s another one, but John Rockefeller brought in an expert who was visiting from Hong Kong and the things in the cabinet are fakes.”

I hung up and turned to the other two people in the room. “We’ve got trouble. Dat rat, Geawhge pulled a fast one on me and de old man canned him. Geawhge has de tings now.”

“Then we don’t need you any longer.”

“Yes yuh do. Now we have de old man pokin’ his nose in tings and yuh will need tuh know what de real tings feel like and probably need somebody who Geawhge trusts. Yuh guys have enough problems wit’out my family all ovuh yuh any way.”

“We will need to discuss this. Lieutenant, return the young man to his room.”

As we were walking down the hall, there was suddenly a bunch of noise that sounded as if the building was being shot at. The Lieutenant turned around and that was when I ran and turned the corner. I phased through an abandoned office and out the other side and ran down the stairs, through the loose board and into the street. Once I was on the street I went discreet and walked over to the general store where Alex was waiting with a soda in a bottle. “It took you long enough. Did they find out that George was canned and has the treasures?”

“That went off like a charm. I suspect that they are getting a call from the Yaoguai telling them that George wants to have a meeting about some things he has from his former employer.

“We need to collect Little Timmy and get ready for the end of this.”

“Where is the Puppet?”

“At your dad’s office. We set up there because it wasn’t that far away and everybody knew where Bennie’s was. Suzy started it when you were taken.”

“Who’s going to kill Little Timmy?”

“Sal, after you shoot George.”

“So you had a George Puppet made as well.”
“We thought that George should pay for his crime. He is going to meet with the Yaoguai where Sal Troubleshot them and you are going to shoot at them and George is going to fall into the water while you drive off with the cabinet.”

“How will I get away?”

“You borrowed a cab from your uncle’s lot. Of course Sal was going to Troubleshoot the Yaoguai and saw the whole thing. He’s going to convince your great aunt and your grandparents that you have been tainted too much and are a dangerous liability. Sal has been given the go ahead to deal with you, one way or another.”

We arrived at my dad’s office where Suzy was waiting and insisted that we get a Swim. Then we collected the George puppet and took him to that pier where Sal had troubleshot the Yaoguai to wait. George showed up with the cabinet and we set the cabinet on the edge of the water with Puppet George next to it. Then Frankie and I sat in the cab to wait. Jídiànjí and four of his people showed up in a car and stalked down the pier. I put a sense string out to a handy piece of paper stuck to the pier. ‘George’ looked up as one of the Yaoguai said, “We are here as arranged. Do you have the things at hand?”

“Right here. Do you have the money as we agreed?”

“Perhaps we should make another arrangement. You are here alone.”
“Are you that stupid? I see a gun or sense you pulling on your abilities and the things you want go in the drink. If I don’t make a phone call shortly, some people are going to get a call and they are not that far away. The people at the navy will be getting a call as well. So any funny stuff and you will get nothing. Show me the money and the whole thing goes down easy. You want things to go easy and fast because you never know when the Troubleshooter will show up.”

The Yaoguai talked to Jídiànjí and said, “How do we know that these are the real things?”
George opened a drawer on the cabinet and I could sense the anger, pain and anguish from here. What ever was in that drawer wanted nothing to do with the Yaoguai. After closing the drawer again, George said, “That will attract attention. Every fae in the area now knows that there is something going on now. Some of them are probably making calls already. So show me the money.”
The Yaoguai conferred and one of them went and brought back a briefcase, set it down in front of George and backed away. George opened the briefcase, took out one of the stacks of bills and flipped through it. He checked a couple more of them at random and said “This looks like it’s all here. You weren’t as stupid as I thought you were.”

That was our cue and Frankie drove the cab on to the pier into the crowd as I Pulled the cabinet into the cab and Frankie grabbed the briefcase. ‘George’ drew a gun and I drew my pistol and called out, “Nobody backstabs Little Timmy!” and fired, hitting ‘George’ several times. ‘George’ fell into the water and disappeared under the pier as Frankie sped off in the cab. After driving a few blocks, we reached the street where George and Alex were waiting. George was laughing his head off. “That was as cliched as it gets.”

“Do you think that they went for it?” I asked.

“Well you left them with nothing.”
Frankie was looking through the briefcase. “How much money did you ask for, George?”

“I thought that two hundred grand was enough.”

“They stiffed you. There’s twenty grand on the top and paper and a bit of a glamor. I think that they were expecting that you wouldn’t be able to count the money.”

“I didn’t need to. If I was really concerned about making a straight deal, I would have asked for gold and you can check that fairly easily. Let’s get out of here before somebody calls the cops.”

We headed back to Joe’s office and Noro was there with a bit of a grin, along with quite a crowd of people. “So George, did you die properly?”

“They stiffed me, the rats. Little Timmy did his number on me, I fell appropriately into the water and disappeared.”

“So they think that Little Timmy has the objects again. Excellent. So what are you going to do now, Tim?”

“Let them sweat for a bit. Unless any of you have a better idea.”

“I think that Little Timmy is in Trouble and that the Troubleshooter is looking for some trouble to shoot,” Alex said. “I think that you should show up at your little place, close things down and be obviously getting ready to run. I think that the troubleshooter will show up in a bit looking for you while you duck out the back. I also think that you may have dragon issues a bit later.”

I smiled. “I did leave some papers I don’t want people looking at. Let’s go, Frankie.”

Frankie smiled as we got into the cab and started up through Brooklyn. I handed him my gun for safekeeping. I didn’t want it to get wet. When we arrived at Little Timmy’s place, we got right to work, cleaning out the files. After a while, the two characters showed up. ‘Jean’ said, “I heard that there was an incident this morning.”

“Dat guy Geawhge was backstabbin’ me. Aftuh I got him out of trouble. We had a deal and he was goin’ back on it. So I dealt wit’ him. Yuh gotta do dat sawht of ting sometimes, right?”

“You also recovered the objects at hand.”

“I wasn’t gonna let Geawhge get away wit’ dat and I wasn’t gonna letcha get away wit’ de tings aftuh whatcha did tuh me. Yuh got tuh do whatcha got tuh do. Yuh with me? By de way, dat was a nice downpayment but I wouldn’t have tried tuh stiff Geawhge like dat. I want de rest in gold befawh I hand dem ovuh and no tricks dis time. Ya’ dig? Frankie, have yuh put all de files in de cah? Tings are gettin’ hot.”

“All done Tim.”

“Den get out of here. I’ll pull de rest of de boys and meetcha at de spot when I finish tawhkin’ wit’ dis charactuh.”

Frankie pulled the cab away and disappeared. As he was turning the corner, Sal appeared in the Duesie. “Tim, you have stepped over the line. The old lady wants to talk with you right now.”

“What if I don’t wanna tawhk wit’ de old lady? She just sits down dere at de bowuh anyway. Ya’ dig?”

“She is rather put out with you since you killed one of her brother’s people. She wants to have a rather sharp discussion about that. I think that you want to get in the car with me.”

I turned to the other two and said quietly, “I need tuh leave radder quickly through de back. Let’s meet at de cawhnuh stawh near your factawhy and tawhk. I will see yuh dere in three hawhs. Brin’ de money, all of it and I will tell yuh where de tings are. Ya’ dig?”

I ran through the building and dropped into the water. For the first time I Changed while wearing clothes, which did them no good. I went deep, collected the rather torn clothes and my rather ruined shoes before Swiming off to the pier where Alex and Xing were waiting with my suit. Suzy was in the car as well and said, “From now on, the only Little Timmy is the Puppet. You are not to take any more chances. Did my brother send his message?”

“The Troublshooter showed up as expected. Apparently Aunt Meria is not happy that I shot Puppet George.”

Suzy grinned. “Poor innocent Puppet George, he will be missed. Did he die well?”

“Fell right in the drink. I hope they don’t look too hard for a body.”

“That’s because there’s no body to find.”

After lunch, where Sissy wanted to know about all my adventures and my parents fussed over me, Frankie, Alex, Xing and I drove over to the corner store. After we parked behind a rather familiar car next to the railroad, we climbed up the embankment and Mike, Sal, Steve and Bill were already there. Mike must have sensed us because he handed a pair of binoculars to Alex and said, “Take a look. It looks as if most of the guys left from the strike team are there.”

Steve handed me his binoculars and I looked over the house that was the corner store and the vegetable garden and small farm behind it and the characters weren’t even trying very hard to be discreet. They also separated from the factory and the Black Dragon by the railroad. I handed the binoculars back to Steve and said, “They made a bit of mistake. The Dragon is over there in the factory and these characters are trying to hide over here. They aren’t doing very well.”

Sal said, “No they are not. They are also having other problems. The kids have sort of found them.”

They had, actually. Nothing attracts a kid like an adult acting like they don’t quite belong where they are and there were a bunch of kids, some of whom I knew, hanging around. There was also the occasional bang going off. I looked at Sal and said, “Did you have anything to do with that?”

“Andy did. He brought Bruce and Jimmy over from the school, said that Tom was his uncle and that he knew you. So the kids were all in on helping him out even though he was a stranger. He also said that he knew Alex and Xing and could get them into Troubleshooter parties.”

I grinned. “More kids, crashing your parties. That will make Trillia happy as they are fae kids.”

Andy actually came up behind us. “Hi Tim, these idiots should have figured out that being discreet was going to be tricky in front of a kids hang out like this. This was easy to set up. All I had to do was tell them that Tom was my uncle and they couldn’t wait to show me the things that they came up with.”

“I know. You were making a bit of noise in the factory yesterday.”
“We started that to rattle them a bit. The local kids felt a bit scared of something in that old factory and were glad when I told them who and what was there. If it had been a vampire or something else, they would have told their parents, but the Dragon was new and they just stayed away.”

“That was a good policy,” Alex said. “Even though the Dragon’s brother told us that he hadn’t actually eaten any children in a very long time. Xing said that the only reason that he was able to get close to their kingdom was that at that time there were no children near their castle.”

I looked at my watch and said, “It’s about time that I showed up there at the store. How do you want to handle it?”

Alex grinned. “Prepare to be chased again by Xing and I. See if you can draw out the Black Dragon while you are being chased and head down to the place you took us the other day. By the way, you hid the chest in a wreck of a car down there. Here are the keys.”
He handed me a set of car keys. I looked at them and said, “Does it run?”
“Yes, but it may have issues if you try to drive it very far. The radiator isn’t in good shape and it may leak some oil.”

“Burn oil too, probably.”

“Yes, it is smoky. Noisy too.”

“Will be any problems guiding the Puppet down there?”

“According to what Abe said, not until right at the end. Frankie can follow along with the car and it shouldn’t be a problem.”

I walked down the embankment and soon after, Frankie showed up with Little Timmy in the cab. I put the keys in little Timmy’s hands, sat in the cab and shifted my viewpoint so that I was looking out Little Timmy’s eyes as Frankie was driving the cab to the store. I put the keys in my pocket and got out of the car to wait as Frankie drove off again. The character showed up and I looked at him. “Where’s da money?”

“Not here. The Dragon would like to have the objects at hand for the transfer.”
“Not dat crap again. Yuh guys have already screwed tings up.”

“We didn’t shoot the man.”

“If yuh guys had been straight from de beginnin’, dat wouldn’t have happened, right? I had tings nice and easy and yuh had tuh play games. Now I got pain dat I definitely didn’t want and de old lady will want me locked up under sea if de Troubleshootuh doesn’t shoot me. It’s gonna take big money tuh convince anudder bowuh tuh put up wit’ me and I can’t disappear becawze of my girl. I should have made a deal wit’ de red dragon. Yuh got me so fahr?”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Becawze huh bonded is a government type and dealin’ wit’ Feds can get sticky. Dey tend tuh be goody two shoes about tings and don’t pay very well. Ya’ dig? I figure dat yuh were offerin’ bettuh money and once I had de tings, I was already tawhkin’ wit’ yuh and de dragons were tryin’ tuh run me down. So I didn’t tawhk wit’ dem and now it’s too late.”

“You didn’t tell us about the Red Dragon’s bonded before.”

“Yuh didn’t ask and didn’t pay me tuh look into dat. Frankly, I would have kept my mouth shut about it anyway. Dat’s heat dat nobody wants if dey are smart. I found out when de Red Dragon and huh bonded started tuh chase me, okay? But I wasn’t gonna brin’ it up until tings got too hot. Oh Crap. I’m out of here. Dere is a car down on Barren Island. Here are de keys. I will tell yuh where de car is when we meet down dere. Yuh might wanna brin’ de big charactuh. I’m not sure dat I can keep those characters off my tail.”

I was looking up the street where Alex was trying to be discreet and failing as certain kids were bugging him. I ran to the store where there was a bike parked out front, grabbed it and peddled up the steet under the railroad and on to the corner. I made a left turn and peddled quickly past the factory and west toward the city. Xing’s dad showed up as I passed the factory and started to chase after me. There was a roar in the factory and I suspected that the Black Dragon sensed Xing’s dad after me. I didn’t waste energy in anything other than peddling as fast as I could. I dashed through the intersection on the other end of the factory and cut a right and then a couple of blocks later cut across the avenue and left down another one. Some of the roads weren’t paved and I knew about some farm tracks, but even though it had been dry for the last week or so, I didn’t want to take a chance with a dirt road. I could see what looked like a thunderstorm coming anyway.

I ditched the bike next to some houses that were under construction, ran for a bit and then sat Little Timmy in one of the empty houses. I disconnected and turned to Frankie in the moving car to tell him where ‘I’ was. As the car was driving up, I reconnected and put Little Timmy in the back seat. Then we drove off to the rendevous with Bill, Scott, Bob and Xing. Alex and Xing’s dad showed up and Xing handed them their clothes so that they could discreetly Change. As they came back to the hidaway, Alex said, “You didn’t run us past any kids this time.”

“With the big guy out there, I didn’t want to take the risk. What happened to him?”

“I think he’s going to be along in that truck again,”Xing’s dad said. “At least he didn’t chase after me once I got past his hideout. He started for me and stopped, but I think that he knows that exposure helps us and not him. I think that he is starting to realize that he is in very deep trouble right now. The Black Dragon was never stupid after his first mistake. He is in the position now that, either he wins everything or we destroy him one way or another. Since Xing bonded and the treasures are almost in her grasp, his options are to admit defeat and go back to a China in turmoil or go forward and continue the attempt. Considering that as a result of what has happened, he has killed his brother, I believe that he will continue on the path he has started.”

Xing’s mom showed up, along with the Red Foxes and some of Steve’s people. Stelios found us and said, “We set up all sorts of surprises yesterday.”

“Will the neighbors be surprised?” There was still a little community on the island, in amongst the trash heaps and dead horse plants. The word before I left the area was that the city was expanding the airport and Mr. Moses wanted the rest for a highway and a bridge out to his park on the Rockaways. The airport was obvious and I could see the road expansion work. Most of the people had moved out already, though the little school was still there. So were the garbage heaps.

Mike and Nera went around and said to the fae down here that there was a monster that was going to be troubleshot yesterday. So they know it’s coming.”

Scott was up on top of the abandoned factory that we were next to and called out, “I think that it’s showtime.” He pointed up the road and there was a familiar truck on the road as another car came down and stopped. I connected with Little Timmy and walked him toward the car. The boss character got out and I said, “Where’s the money?”

The boss character never had a chance to answer as I spotted the Duesie driving down the road and ran toward the water. Sal called out, “Don’t run Tim! The old lady said that you come or I shoot you, it doesn’t matter to her!”

I kept running until I hit the pier. Before I hit the water, there was a shot behind me and the connection broke as little Timmy fell into the water. That was the end of Little Timmy. Sal raced away again as the Dragon tore out of the truck and the rest of them started to run around in a bit of a shock. Alex and Xing’s dad became indiscreet in Change and headed toward a wreck of a car on the beach as the Black Dragon pursued them, only to stop as the other dragons raced past the car as ‘shots’ started going off all around. As the Black Dragon tried to make sense of things, there were more shots, real ones this time, and the Black Dragon was hit several times. He roared and flamed at random, probably trying to get the shooters. Of course, as he flamed one direction, he was hit from another. He chased after Xing’s dad, who ducked into one of the old factories, which promptly exploded as the Black Dragon ran through it. The dragon shook the remains of the factory off and came charging out of the debris. I had gone discreet and was getting pictures of all of it as Alex started running around some parked cars. The Yaoguai and the Greek characters pulled guns and started to shoot at Alex. Alex ripped the roof off one of the wrecks and pulled a black cabinet out of the car. He ran with it in his mouth toward the airport, but the Black Dragon was there and Alex dodged in a different direction. The Black Dragon pursued until Alex dodged aside and there was a burst from what must have been Tom’s BAR noisemaker, most of which hit the Black Dragon at very close range. The Black Dragon staggered and looked around, ducking into the trash heaps to regenerate as shots continued. The Greek characters and the Yaoguai were on the ground, wounded or dead.

Alex ran toward a rather familiar truck as Jim drove up, made a U turn and stopped. The Black Dragon came chasing after Alex and Jim pulled out a machine gun that I recognized from my Colonel research and started to fire at the Dragon in short bursts, filling the Dragon with yet more holes. The Dragon roared and started to charge Jim until Alex rammed into the Dragon, clawing at him and then backing off. The Dragon turned his attention to Alex and Jim fired some more bursts from the gun and then got into the truck and sped off. Alex ran to the old abandoned rendering plant that the vampire had used and the Black Dragon chased him into the plant after hesitating. Alex emerged from the plant and dodged into the trash heaps past some wrecked cars. The Black Dragon stopped to look around and there was large boom, followed quickly by another one and the Dragon dropped. There was another shot to the Dragon’s head, but he was already dead. Back at the end of the street, the car the Yaoguai had arrirved in sped away. It was over except for the clean up.

The Agent.

Tuesday August 2, 1932.

Early in the morning, before having the young man make his call, I had a conference with the Black Dragon. He looked up as I walked in and said, “We will have to be very careful. Everything we encounter could be a trap.”
“I expect that it will be. They will have to expose the real treasures as bait to expect to pull me in. The other dragons, at least, want my head. That may provide an opportunity. In any case, take down this message and send it to my nephew in China if I do not survive. I would like you to take steps to protect the ship, the crew and the bower. They have served me well and deserve better than what will probably happen to them if they are not careful.”

“I will.”
I took down his message as he dictated it. It was fairly obvious that he thought that his chances of success, or indeed survival, were slim. When he finished, he said, “I exepect that the young man will escape soon at some point.”

“He had a newspaper and I didn’think to ask how he got it.”

“I think that there has been an elaborate game played on the Yaoguai and us. Just how the pieces fit together is a bit of a mystery. Considering the players on the other side, the fact that we are being misled is almost inevitable. The Red Dragon’s servant has infected the family with his love of doing things like that as well as my brother and his friends.”

“We could kill the young man.”
“At this point, that would do more harm than good. I do not want to annoy the local fae and have them more involved than they already are. Let us let things develop and watch for an opportunity to turn the tables.”
With that, I took the young man to the phone to make his call. There was a sudden turn of events as the young man’s contact had apparently been fired over the young man’s leaving of the treasures in the building and after the call and a brief discussion, the young man promptly escaped and disappeared. The lieutenant came back after a brief chase and said, “He must have grown up in the neighborhood and knew this place better than we did. There was loose board in the fence.”

Shortly after that, Jídiànjí called and told us that a man had called, said that he had worked for White’s and that he had all four treasures. Jídiànjí and the Yaoguai were going to meet with the man at the pier where that character had humiliated them. I took the news to the Black Dragon who said, “You can’t be there yourself in time. Take the lieutenant and followup. Don’t be surprised if things go wrong for the Yaoguai.”

“At this point I do not expect things to go well for them. I am going now.”

Things didn’t go well for the Yaoguai and Jídiànjí was rather upset when I arrived. “What happened?”

“The young man shoed up as we were making the deal and took the money and the treasures. He also shot the man who brought them.”

“Are you sure that it was a man?”

“I did not scan him and the body fell into the water and we did not have a chance to investigate.”

I left again and the lieutenant, who was with me, suggested, “Lets’ go to Little Timmy’s place and see who shows up.”

I grinned. “That seems like an interesting idea.”

We did and after a while, Little Timmy came and had his boys piling files into the cab that Little Timmy had driven up in. The Lieutenant and I started to have a little talk with the young man as the other boys loaded the cab and the cab drove off. As the cab drove off, another car that was rather infamous showedup. Apparently Little Timmy’s family was rather annoyed that he had killed a family retainer. Little Timmy ran through the back of his place and disappeared after arranging with us to meet near the factory.

I returned to the factory to report to the Black Dragon. After I finished he said, “This will be a trap of some sort. Doyou think that the man that was shot was a puppet?”

“Possibly. Having that happen is just a bit coincidental. Jídiànjí is certain that the objects are real.”

“I think that he is probably right. Have him bring his people here. We will need them.”

“For the meeting?”

“We will need them when we enter into the dragon’s mouth to retrieve the objects. That will be where our opponents will show their hand. The only question is what they will bring with them. Whatever it is will almost certainly be enough to finish me.”

“Do you think that the hunter is here?”

“I suspect that he is right outside the door here, but we will not find him unless he chooses to show himself. There may be more of the Benton family there as well.”

“Why?”

“We went after young Mr. Benton without knowing who he was. If I were his family I would want to send a rather clear message since the Yaoguai and Jídiànjí did not leave. Doing a small favor for a family they want to do business with would be a good way to open a relationship, the same way that I have done things with the Tiger. Prepare for the meeting and get ready for the unexpected.”
“You seem almost happy with the prospect.”

“I have not had the opportunity to risk everything and go wild for a very long time. If the last thing I can be is a worthy adversary, then I will do my best. Better that than a life of endless skulking in the dark. Go.”

I went and the Lieutenant and I set up at the little general store. Things were made rather difficult because the kids were all over the Lieutenant’s people asking inane questions and indulging in petty harrasement as well as the occasional bang.The Lieutenant came over and said, “If I hear another “watcha doin’, mister,” it will be too soon. By the way, I think that there are people watching from the railroad up there. They are being careful and being discreet, but I wouldn’t try to do any funny stuff to the young man when he shows up.”

“Doyou think he will?”

“He just did. That cab just dropped him off.”

It had. I walked over and as I did, I performed a quick scan. I was talking to a Puppet. We had a brief discussion, the Puppet handed me a set of car keys, the Red Dragon’s bonded showed up, in Change, the Puppet grabbed a convenient bicycle and left, with the dragon right behind him. The Lieutentant came over with the car as the rest of his people got in the other car and headed back to the factory. As I got into the car, The Lieutenant said, “I wish we still had that wreck.”
“I noticed that it hadn’t been around the last couple of days.What happened to it?”

“One of the team was using it for an errand, went into a place to eat, and noticed police officers looking at it. He acted as if he was just a curious bystander and found out that the car had been stolen from a police detective.”
“I think I know the detective and Little Timmy probably thought that he was doing him a favor.”
The Lieutenant laughed. “As well as setting us up.”

“That too. Do you and your people want to head to the ship?”
“We’re sticking this out. My people are responsible for the ship that was sunk. The rest of crew was not. So if we escape with the treasures, the Masters will protect us against the ire of the old man and the seafolk here. If not, the seafolk here will not attack the ship and the bower if we are killed. We underestimated the anger that we would cause by sinking that ship, badly.”

“You were against that in the first place.”
“We should have found another way, or done it in such a way that most of the crew and passengers were not drowned. If I pay for that one way or another, then my brother, his bonded and their kids will have a chance to come here and be away from the Masters. The Dragon wants you alive and I want you to tell my family what happened and help them if you can. You are in the same boat as the bower, but perhaps we can talk with the people here and bring our families here, where they will be safe from the Masters and their Twisted.”

We arrived at the factory and the Dragon was waiting. “How did the young man want to make the deal?”

“We are to bring the money to an isolated spot near here and he will point out a car with the treasures inside. He gave me the keys.”

I held them up.

“Let us go. You give the lieutenant the keys. You will stay in the car and out of things until it is over one way or another. By the way, the Red Dragon’s father just passed by, chasing what appeared to be the young man, but was more than likely a Puppet.”
“It is. They must have better access to a Creator than we expected.”

We went in the various cars and the truck to the rendevous and the Puppet approached and asked for the money. I never got a chance to answer as the Troubleshooter showed up, the Puppet ran toward the water,was shot for his trouble and the Troubleshooter left as the Black Dragon and the rest emerged from the cars and truck and were placed under heavy fire until the Yaoguai and the Lieutenant’s people were shot and finally the Dragon fell. I pulled the car away before anybody noticed me in the chaos and after just a few blocks, parked the car alongside a large tram station, abandoned the car for a departing tram and made my way into the city.

Xing

Tuesday August 2, 1932.

I looked at the body of the nemesis that had been my focus for so long and realized that my long burden had been released. The treasures were secured and the Black Dragon had been destroyed. Alex came up and said, “Hand me the rifle. I will put it in the car.”

“Does my father still want the head?”

The Black Dragon’s head had some rather large holes in it. Apparently the Dragon’s skull had been tough enough to shatter the bullets, but they kept going. Alex looked at it and said, “I’m not sure I would want it in the house. We will have kids and they might be frightened by it. Or use it to frighten their friends. It is also a rather large thing to hide if we have non fae guests.”

“I will talk to mother about not having the stuffed head in the house. You have good points there. What about the rest of the carcase?”

“Bob and Scott are going to tow it back into the building. Sal and I were already planning to burn it down thanks to its former resident. We have plenty of thermite and Mary wants to play with it.”

I handed the rifle to Alex and he went back to the car. Tim was taking pictures of the dragon with mother making sure that he took plenty as Mary was going around doing mysterious things. I went up to mother and said, “Has Alex mentioned that we don’t want the head in the house?”
“Yes. I’m suggesting to your father that we settle for the horns and some of the teeth to send with the pictures. The head is rather a mess anyway. You must have wanted to be sure.”

Helmut, Mary, Mike and Nera walked over. He looked at the head and said, “Your father has first call on it, but I think that I wouldn’t want something so obvious in the house.”
I nodded in agreement. Mother came over and looked at the head. She had apparently found time to release her Change and dress after things were over. One of Alex’s cousin’s came by holding a rifle and said, “Xing, if you wanted that head mounted, you should have left me something to work with. That rifle did a number on this character and I would have to practically start from scratch to make a decent mount. Why don’t we just keep the horns and I can make something that most people won’t think is weird and strange.”

Mother said, “Xing, that makes sense, especially for the house. We can send some talons and teeth to the family as proof, with the pictures. I think that we better hurry to get talons before the three menaces do or we may have to negotiate with Andy for one.”

She was looking at the three and they were already at work on a forepaw with knives. It looked as if that it was hardly the first time that they had done that. Mother walked over and talked with them as Bob and Scott came in. They looked at the boys and said, “Good, they are getting that done. Your father didn’t want the skull after all, Xing and the boys said that they would start getting the talons and teeth. Our aunt will probably want the hide, but we’ll take care of it.”

I thought that I would ask Diana what she could make from the hide. A nice Dragonskin coat to keep Alex safe even when he wasn’t in Change sounded like a good idea. Mother said, “It is very rare that a dragon doesn’t revert and this is an oppotunity not to be wasted. I’m glad that I told the boys earlier to not waste any time.”

“So they weren’t just going after the talons?”
“There was a bit of that, but I did ask Bob and Scott to deal with the hide and they delegated the boys. They do this with bears that they run into from time to time.”

Alex had released his change and dressed after putting the rifle away when I went back outside. He was organizing the coroner’s office and taking away the bodies of the Yaoguai. I looked at the bodies and Jídiànjí’s body wasn’t there. I turned to Alex and said, “What happened to Jídiànjí?”

“Did you see him? I was chasing and being chased too quickly to notice.”

“He was here. He probably slunk away in the chaos. He does that when things get too hot. If you need an incentive to chase him, he raped me once a long time ago.”

“You let him?”
“Change would have been rather inconvenient in the Imperial Palace. I was trying to chase down the objects that
Jídiànjí, who was a high level Imperial servant at the time had. I used a role as a concubine to a low level official as a way to get into the palace. Jídiànjí sensed me and purchased me from my owner without me discovering until it was too late. That was one time that I did NOT enjoy the experience. Jídiànjí did lose a house later when he made the mistake of taking me there. His brother was handling the treasures and took them to another location when he realized who I was. Right after I tried to kill Jídiànjí, for obvious reasons.”

“I think that I begin to understand why you don’t like Jídiànjí very much.”

“There are other reasons. He took Adelle hostage and Jim rescued her, which is how they met.”

Mary came over with Bob, Scott, Stephie, Hilda and Al. “Diana is going to be annoyed at you, Xing.”

Alex asked, “Why?”

“Because you damaged the hide so much and didn’t give him a chance to regenenerate before you killed him. She’s never had dragon hide to play with before.”

“Were there other monsters?”

“I’m not telling. Father doesn’t like us saying too much about how we deal with monsters, especially Changes that don’t revert. Those can get real ugly.”

“Tom never said anything about those.”

“Father never told him about them and for the most part, they were before he was born.”

As far as shooting the Black Dragon, we were all doing that. Except for me, who was clawing at him and biting him a bit. It wasn’t as if we had much choice. Diana didn’t come down and come up with something.”

“That’t true and she could have. In any case, she’s going to have to talk to your cousin, Alex about the hide. He’s taken over and seems to have a handle on it. He’s extended and invite to my sister and I will tell her when I get back. This was fun. Especially the show coming up.”
“What did you do?”
“You’d find out when it gets dark. Helmut arranged for us to go to Bennie’s for dinner and I want to, since I haven’t been yet.”

“You haven’t?”

“No. I haven’t been down here this year and I wasn’t during all the things that went on. This is my chance and I want to take advantage. I want to talk to Bennie anyway.”

“What about?”

“Things that seafolk might like that are not fish. We’ve been getting a pretty good stream of seafolk both with and without legs and I want them to have a good experience with us.”
“Have you talked with Chrissie.”

“Several times, but she isn’t in the business. Sissy wants to arrange a trip for parents anyway and if I show up, I can pull while she pushes.”

Alex turned to me and said, “I think that you better release your change. We wouldn’t want to startle people in Bennie’s.”

Alex was right, so I grabbed my bag, found a discreet place, released my Change and dressed. When I came back, Alex was talking to the reporter that we had spoke with last week and Sal, who had returned. What was left of the Black Dragon was conveniently out of sight. Tim came by and I asked him, “Did you see where Jídiànjí went?”

“He ducked out of here and snuck on to a trolley car heading into the city. Some of the kids saw him and I had a boy at the trolley barn up the street. That other character did the same thing, but he had a car.”

“He’s probably heading to Chinatown,” Alex said. “If he’s smart, he’ll take what is left of his people and get out of town as fast as possible. He is out of his depth here and Chrissie may decide that she doesn’t want him anywhere near Tom when they come down next week for the housewarming.”

I grinned “I think that we should make an effort to make sure that Tom is not harassed by Jídiànjí again. We don’t want to make our guests unhappy.”

We helped with the clean up, with Alex helping Roger with the local police since Alex knew them from the incident with the vampire and me dealing with the local kids who wanted to know where the good dragons went. After that it was dinner at Bennie’s with Sissy wanting to know how things went and Suzy bothering Tim until he agreed to Swim over to the forthcoming fire and explosions. After Dinner was over, we all went back to the island where Mary demonstrated her art in a rather dramatic fashion. The end of the Black Dragon was rather spectacular and then Alex took me to the end of the island, we Changed and had some fireworks of our own.

Olivia

Wednesday, August 3, 1932.

‘Jean’ wanted to have another talk with me. Considering what had happened yesterday, I wasn’t surprised. The big surprise was that he wasn’t gone already. Ray joined me as we met down at the battery again. ‘Jean’ walked up and said, “Who is this?”

“My bonded. Considering the event of yesterday, I think that we should have a serious talk.”

“Unlike our previous talks where you were feeding me rather misleading information. About that young man who was seemingly shot yesterday, for instance.”

“That was mostly the truth, actually. I missed Little Timmy getting shot. Did he die properly?”
“He died rather spectuarly with the Troubleshooter shooting him, presumably at the auspices of his great aunt, the queen of the bower. You negelected to tell me that the bureau had access to a Creator.”
“That was a recent thing, which happened when one my bosses bonded to a wonderful lady and they foundmost of his family.Why don’t we head down to Bennie’s and talk with some people about things. You obviously want some assistance, or at least our not interfering.”

“Yes. Circumstances are rather grim for me, and especially my family since the Draogn failed. Of course the failure was the result of hubris on the Dragon’s part and incompetence on Jídiànjí’s. Did you capture or kill him. In all the fuss yesterday, I didn’t keep track of what happened to him.”

“He managed to sneak away. Apparently he does that. He also left town very quickly, though we’re not sure how yet. His place in Chinatown was empty.”

We went over the car and started down to Bennie’s. Ray said, “I figure that you have family over there like Olvia does. We want to help, for obvious reasons.”
“Family held hostage for me performing tasks, yes.”

“I’m surprised that you didn’t have suicide compulsions.”
“For certain tasks, compulsions can be a danger. If somebody like you scans me, I would be giving myself away or worse, if I were freed from my compulsions, that could be damaging to the masters. So they use other means.”

“The indentured here were under compulsions, but you are right that did lead to other problems. Certainly, when it was wise, the compulsions were pulled almost immediately.”

“The Director liked to use indentured. Of course, his use of the schools had problems. Not least of which was the limited use of both the indentured and the child who was Twisted. I presume that all the schools and the Twisted are gone.”

“The schools, yes. The Twisted, we aren’t necessarily sure about. It will very difficult for them to find prey and almost impossible to find fae to Twist at this point.”

“The Twisted are compelled to reveal themselves and when that happens they don’t tend to last very long.”

“Too long, if you are the one cleaning up after them.”

“Or being forced to watch as they destroy. The worst are the Twisted that do last a long time or are Twisted from powerful fae, like the Colonel was. The Colonel was very dangerous and a great strategist as well as a monster. I am surprised that he was destroyed seemingly so easily.”

“I wasn’t there. From what the people who were there said, the Colonel was his own worst enemy because he used werewolves right in front of people for whom werewolves are a red flag.”

“Like young Mr. Benton, who was the focus of the Manager for so long.”
“He was one of them, you can figure out that his dad was another, and then there were the people that had been over there and fighting against the Colonel. When he started having werewolves attack,that got the attention of all sorts of people and some of them knew about the Colonel and what he looked like.”

Ray explained about how the colonel had attracted attention and how that had created the failure of his mission. “The diary was the big screwup. If he hadn’t gone after Chrissie in that attempt to get the diary from Tom, he might have pulled off his mission. But going after Chrissie pissed off two of the biggest heavyweights on the coast as well as Tom and that was a huge mistake.”

We arrived at Bennie’s and went inside. Helmut and Mary were waiting for us, along with Noro and Josh. So was another man that looked like a sea captain. When we sat down, Noro said, “Jean, we wanted to have a discreet conversation about the Masters and your family as well as a discussion with the captain here about the bower over there. As far as we know and the captain is failry sure that we are correct, his brother’s bower is the last intact bower in Europe. He has also said that you, he and his cousin, the lieutenant were all opposed to sinking the ship near my bower for a variety of reasons, not least of which was the potential for pointless loss of life and the fact that it would attract my people’s attention. As it was, the Lieutenant was luck that my family and I were involved in search and rescue due to the storm, the Manager’s actions and my granddaughter’s bonding. Since the Lieutentant is dead with the others of his team and neither you nor the captain were in favor of sinking the ship and only aided the action as a result of the Black Dragon’s assistance, we don’t see any point in attempting to press the issue. Franly there are bigger issues at stake than a ship sinking.”

With that we made plans. Jean was much happier after lunch was over and as we left, he said, “I thought I saw Little Timmy in a suit, talking to that other man, who looked like a mob boss.”

Ray laughed. “It looks as if Vic isn’t wasting any time. He has Tim right back at work, taking interviews.”

Jean grinned “So he was forced to interview a mob boss? That sould be dangerous. Though I had the feeling that he was rather well connected.”

“That was Dom and Tim is a relative through Suzy and his mother,” I said. “That wouldn’t matter to Vic. He would insist that Tim interview a mob boss that wasn’t family if Tim didn’t know them all already. Vic told him to crash a party last Friday and he picked a party at the botanical garden. He could have gone to the party that Dom and Tara was holding or something on the gold coast, but Alex and Xing set him up with the Creator who was part of Alex’s dad’s community and was making a Puppet for Tim.”
“The Puppet that Tim used later. What happened at the party?”
“Alex and Xing caught him and dropped him in front of Suzy so that she could tease him about the dancers.”

“So Tim was the object of a chase. The Black Dragon thought it was a possibility. But Tim is not related to the Red Dragon. Is he related to her bonded?”

“Not related, but Alex had a case that involved Tim and a vampire and Tim felt bound to help us and Alex. He has. Xing’s partner recruited him to take a picture of Alex and Xing in the subway tunnel that they were using to get together and he got away with the picture, much to the annoyance of Alex and Xing. So the chase was on. He also wanted to have the Black Dragon, Jídiànjí and the Tiger set up for engagement presents. He missed with the Tiger, who backed off, Jídiànjí is still around loose and the Black Dragon you know about.”

“That explains his elaborate ruse somewhat. I wonder how he learned to do things like that.”
“He was involved with something similar with an acquaintance of Noro, Sal, before joined up with us, and Sal’s friend Vinnie. Tim and a bunch of the other kids were gofers and spies for that character and they were all there helping Tim out with his little business. Of course, Tim’s big problem now is that the business is still going on since he took other work to create the illusion that he wasn’t just doing business with you and the Tiger. Since he didn’t close things down, he can’t just up and disappear even after the arranged for Little Timmy to die.”
“Considering how he was in and out of Mr. White’s building, a bunch of the work must be with Noro.”
“Noro, the paper he works for, Jim Yang, Socks Lanza and some others that he can’t just drop for girlfriend reasons.”

“We never looked too closely at his bonded. Since she was seafolk, usingher as a hostage would have had difficulties even on the ship, especially if she’s learned to phase and she probably has. How did Tim meet her?”

Ray told Jean the camera and the market story as well as the story of the kidnappings and Tim’s rather heroic saving of Dori. Of course we had to cover all of Tim’s antics until we dropped off a rather happier Jean than the one that we picked up earlier. As we drove off to the bureau I said, “He needs a bond.”

“He’ll probably pick one up, now that he is out from under the thumb of the Dragon. It could be more dangerous if he feels that he has to go back.”

“A bond will make him stronger and more complete like yours did with me.”

“That’s true. So I have to file a report and Mary will want to talk to you about Jean and potential bonds. Then we have the rest of the afternoon to ourselves.”
We went back to the office and Mary did want to talk to me about Jean and bonds when she arrived shortly after we did. Of course that led to a discussion about Ray and his background. Mary and I had been conducting a discreet campaign tofind keystones and run Ray by them to see if there was an affinity or a connection. So far we were clear that it wasn’t any of the keystones in New York City, the two in Eastern Massachsetts or the two upstate, but those two both had large stable communities to support them. Mary and I were going to see if we could convince Ray to take a vacation with me down to Pennsylvania Dutch country and check things ot down there. I was also planning to talk to the orphanage about the circumstances surrounding Ray’s parents. My family, at least would want to knw aobut their new relatives as soon as I told them. I had just received yet another “You need to bond and settle down from mother. I had been very careful not to tell her what I had been doing for the Masters.

After my talk with Mary, Ray took me to the botanical gardens in Brooklyn and we had a wonderful afternoon with Alex’s aunt and then we had dinner with Suzy and the other girls so that we could catch them up on Tim and his friends. That was the end of a wonderful day.

Xing.

Wednesday, August 3 – Saturday August 6, 1932.

Wednesday morning, mother showed up at Alex’s place and dragged me over to the house. We spent the rest of the day watching members of Alex’s family move furniture and get things set up for the house warming on Saturday. In amongst the chaos I turned to mother and said, how did you get them to help so fast?”

“I asked Barbara for help and she volunteered. She couldn’t make it today and we were busy yesterday dealing with that thing.”

Mother never mentioned the Black Dragon by name since he killed and consumed her son. Now that the Black Draon was gone, that would not change. I talked to Alex about that and other things that he should be aware of after I arrived back at the apartment. He kissed me and said, “When do you want to move in?”

“Won’t you be busy this week?”

“I did the report this morning and Jídiànjí and his friends were seen on Route 1, in cars, heading North up to Connecticut and probably Boston. With the bad guys out of the picture or on the run, this is a good time to get it done. Your mother wants a party at the house anyway this weekend before Josh and the others take the boat out to Hawaii. So we have to get moved this week. Let me make a call and we can get it done. We’re not taking the furniture anyway. Your mother bought new for the house.”

With that, Mary’s enthusiastic support and some movers that showed up and just started to move things, we moved to the house. When Alex asked who to send the check to, the movers said, “It’s dealt with. Don’t worry about it.”

I suspected that it was a little present from Sillia or Tara after Mother had told them that we were moving in this week. With that, the rest fo Thursday was spent shopping for things for the house and getting things arranged.Of course mother took advantage of that and the picture of Alex’s parents was in a rather prominent place. When Alex complained a bit, mother said, “Alex dear, your parents had this painted for you. I understand why they didn’t tell you about what you were, condiering the situation, but I imagine that they would have, probably when you get back. With the Director and his Twisted destroyed and the dark driven back and you having an established community, there is no need to hide what you are any longer. Frankly, if your parents had told you from the beginning, some things could have been avoided. You should not have been left all alone like you were. You and Xing should share your life, all of it, with your children.”

The picture stayed. Most people who didn’t already know, would just consider it a strange picture anyhow. One thing I was certain about. There was a wall hanging that had my parents and me at the the castle and it and some other things from the castle and my house were probably already on the way. In fact, Jim’s mother had probably been managing everything. She had a habit of taking charge when something big needed to be done and my bonding was about the biggest thing she would have to deal with untilher daughter was married. She had been conspicuous by her absence when Adelle’s parents were here with the boys, and Jim’s daughter, who was sixteen and hadn’t shown up either.

After the movers started, some rather familiar things started to show up as mother pointed and Jim and Adelle showed up, towed by his mother and looking a bit stressed out. I looked at Jim and said, “How long has she been here?”

“She’s been here about a week. You and Alex were busy chasing Tim and the Black dragon, so I didn’t say anything about her. She loves the house, by the way.”

“She brought my things, didn’t she?”

“And some other things the family sent. Since we wanted to be discreet about certain things and mother does a good job of taking charge, she was a good choice to handle that.”

In amongst the chaos was Jim’s daughter and a certain young dragon that somehow seemed to be attached to her. I sidled over to mother and said, “How did that happen? She isn’t fae, is she?”

She grinned. “There are ways. They make a good pair. The keystone did some nudging and some things did a little manipulation and there it was. Your father wished that Jim was family and now they will be.”

I wondered if there had been manipulation of Jim’s boys and decided that it wasn’t my concern. It was not as if Jim hadn’t been more or less family for a long time in any case. With that, it was into the chaos, cleaning, arranging, shopping and getting things ready for the rest of the day and all day Friday.

Saturday morning, we rested and took stock of what we had all done. The effort looked wonderful and Barbara said so as she and her husband showed up with flower arrangements. Shortly after that, Bennie’s people showed up and so did Kay. The mermaids from the navy yard showed up and slipped into the pool in the back of the house. I turned to Alex and said, “Was the pool there before?”

“It was there. I wasn’t sure why my parents had it, though I was taught to swim in it. I think that it was a bathtub for dragons.”

“That sounds wonderful. Let’s try that later.”

Sal’s pool and the pool at the school had been wonderful for that when I tried them I had wondered how to push Alex into bulding a pool. Apparently his parents thought the same way when they built the house. I did a bit of looking around the house for other things that were intended for dragons and was not disappointed. It was too bad that Alex’s parents were gone, because they must have been remarkable people.

Bob, Scott and Elizabeth showed up with Mike and Nera, along with some Broadway types to help with the set up. I asked Nera, Don’t these people have work tonight?”

“This is a slow season for the shows as the theatres are warming up new shows this time of year. So they can go to things like this.”

“We shouldn’t run out of food.”

That wasn’t going to happen as more of Alex’s family showed up with the big barbecue again and started it up. With the exception of the mermaids, nobody was in Change, yet. People were still arriving and Alex and I had to greet and share house tours with mother and father as the family and friends that had become my world showed up.

As the afternoon started to go to evening, the place was rather crowded and mother and father Changed and insisted that Alex and I do as well. Alex niggled out of it for a while saying that he was the host and had to talk to people. That worked until Barbara showed up and told Alex that she would handle the translating if necessary and that people,especially the kids, expected him in change. So he was stuck. He looked at me and whined, “How did I get into this?”

‘It just sort of happened were you happy with the way you were?”

“No, but I at least thought I knew what was going on. You changed all that.”

“Was that a bad thing?”

“Of course not. I even slayed the dragon for you.”
“I did that. Of course you helped. It’s time to enjoy ourselves. Let’s take a dip in the pool.”

We did and I appreciated Alex’s parents even more as the water felt so cool and comforting. Of course the kids forced us out with a bunch of splashing and laughter and we went over to the barbecue and grabbed a plate of wonderful roast pork. Barbara’s daughters were dancing again in amongst a wonderful show. At least it was wonderful until the end when the girls were suddenly dancing in a blizzard. Barbara turned to me and said, “Daivd must have been talking to Tom. Not that the girls didn’t ask for it.”

“What happened?”

“David found a tail at the navy yard last week and was bringing her to see the gardens and the girls had some fun with poor David. What the girls didn’t know was that David had been helping Bob and Scott during the thing with the Black Dragon and discussing all sorts of mischief for the rest of the week. Bob and Scott introduced David to Tom and Abe, so you can imagine that they were coming up with something. Tom is quietly recruiting outside his family for fun and games. He thinks that Noro is going to try something big about the time that the baby comes.”

“As a distraction, probably,” father said. “Xing, it’s your and Alex’s turn at the stage.”

With that, Alex and I had a wonderful dance without the snow, this time. With our dance over, the pary wound down and we said good bye to everybody. After things closed down I said to Alex, “There is a someplace I want to try.”

“Where?”

“Your parents cave. So let’s get down there and try it out.”

I dragged Alex down, locked the door and kissed him. Things went on from there and we lit the space up with our flames. I looked around and there it was, a way out that could only be seen by dragons. I turned to Alex and said, “Let’s see where this goes.”

We did and the tunnel led to a ledge overlooking the city across the river and the river with all the boats and lights. There was another dragon blanket and the place was an almost perfect place to cuddle. So that is what we did. As we cuddled I thought about the events of the last months and how wonderful it was that this weird place had taken me in, resolved my burdens and given me a home.

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