The Tiger and The Guardian, Chapter 35, part 3

Here’s part three.

Chrissie

Monday August 8,1932.

When we arrived in New York at two thirty I made Tom go down to the bureau’s pier to go for a Swim and then went looking for grandfather. This was a bit frustrating as he wasn’t at the station to greet us and wasn’t at the hotel either. I went across the street to the office and went upstairs to talk with Millie. “Chrissie, Mr. White was taking Alex and his father in law to lunch.”

“Did he say when he would be back?”

“Probably before three.”

“Ok I will wait.”

“How are things going with you. We haven’t talked in a bit.”

“Other than losing my tail and carrying this weight around that keeps getting bigger, fine.”

“You will survive. We all have. Motherhood has it’s ups and downs, but it is part of being human. You could have stayed below.”

“Not really. It’s not as if Tom could do what he needs to do below and I need to be able to help him. Also I want my kids to have what I had and not be like some of my cousins, cut off from the world.”
“From what I’ve seen lately, your cousins, tail and all are coming up top as soon as they can. Is it three or four that bonded this year?”

“Four so far. Two left that haven’t bonded.”

“I don’t see Tom.”

“I sent him for a Swim since he hadn’t been yet today.”

“Do you make him get wet every day?”

“I try. I want him to get as familiar with his Change as I can. He didn’t have the long time underwater that I wanted when we bonded because of all the things happening. Mom got to keep daddy underwater when they first bonded for a while until things got bad in the bower and they came down here. But things sort of prevented me from getting Tom to settle in the bower for a while and get comfortable with it. So it has been short Swims every day.”

“How is the house coming?”
“It should be finished by the time we get back.”

“Did Tom’s book pay for it?”

“Most of it. The tank beds still aren’t making money yet and Tom’s other things haven’t made a big splash yet. I wanted a real house to live in so that we wouldn’t end up like mom and dad did. I also made Tom build a bit bigger place because I think that we will need it.”

Grandfather came in and Millie spotted him before he could escape. Surprisingly, he wasn’t wearing his Mr. White suit. “Mr. White, Chrissie is here to see you.”

He looked at me and said, “Chrissie, what couldn’t wait until dinner?”
“I need to talk with you discreetly without Tom being there and the sooner we get it done the easier it will be to keep things discreet.”
“Why don’t we go into the office and talk then.”
We went into grandfather’s real office, which was actually rather small. He had a bigger one that he used to impress people. Hanging on a hanger was one of his Mr. White suits. I sat in the chair in front of the desk and asked, “So where did you go?”

“I wanted to introduce Alex and his family to their neighbors and the opportunity came up because Alex wanted to talk to me about the Tiger.”

“So you took him to Mr. Bera’s place for lunch and talked about the Tiger. Is Alex going to be chasing him?”
“Apparently. Mike is going with us to the wedding and I expect that Helmut wants Alex to get some time outside the office.”

“The Tiger is what I want to talk with you about. I had a very interesting chat with Tom’s Dragon.”

“That must have been interesting. The things don’t usually talk directly, especially to those who are not the custodians.”

“It could talk to me more easily than it can with Tom bacause I am still tied to our keystone and Tom isn’t tied to one at present.”
“Meria is waiting for you and Tom to get more established. You are both young and have time. So the Dragon is concerned about the Tiger.”
“Yes somewhat. Roger is getting a bit old and he was concerned that we were all heading away and that Tom and I were going as far as we were.”

“Did you tell it that your uncles are staying?”
“Yes I did. I also told it that I was having Annie take care of Roger while we were gone.”

“Roger likes Annie and Julio likes Roger, especially after little Timmy’s antics. Did the Dragon give you any clues as to what the Tiger wanted?”

“The Tiger is apparently on the path of sacrifice to bring his brother back to life.”

“That confirms everything that I have heard about this. That never works out well. In order to do that, the Tiger would have to have a source like the Dragon, his brother’s family stored in jewels, which he probably has and sacrifice some relative’s children. At best and it is a very long chance that you even do that well, you get a Helmut, Tony or Robert. I will point out that Herr Schmidt used several of his cousin’s children and some others and still didn’t bring his own sons back. Tony, Robert and Helmut are their own personalities.”

“Nice personalities, but you are right. There is something a bit off about Tony and Robert and Helmut sometimes has trouble understanding certain things. Once you know them well enough you sort of spot things.”

“I’m not sure when Mary picked Helmut up. They have been together for a very long time and Helmut has had that time to learn from Mary and how she deals with things. So he is very hard to distinguish from a normal person. Tony and Robert were tied to the Manager when he was a child. They work well as guards, but you can see that they relate better with kids than they do with adults that they don’t know.”

“They like Tom a lot.”

“That is because Tom is always looking for the next surprise and when you have been around as long as they have, doing the same job, surprises are a true treasure. Also, Tom turns most fae inside out and rolls right over them. I imagine that Tony and Robert have seen enough that they don’t really like most fae very much.”

“So what the Tiger wants is impossible, like the Dragon said. Does that mean that somebody will have to shoot him to stop him?”
“We will try to avoid that. I had an interesting chat with Alex and Xing’s father. We are hoping that we get the Tiger’s son, who has not bonded, to find somebody.”

“Considering the number of high fae girls around, that shouldn’t be hard. How old is he?”

“A couple of centuries at least. So the younger set may not work.”

“There are still some ladies on the Cape that could work out and Aunt Meria has some that are really looking to drag a man under.”

The intercom buzzed and Millie said, “Hilda and Bill are here. They are looking for Chrissie and Tom.”

Grandfather said, “Send them in. Have somebody bring in two more chairs.”

“Roger has already got the the chairs. I figured that you would want them.”

The door opened and young man set two chairs down and left as Bill and Hilda came in. Hilda smiled when she saw me. “I stopped at the hotel and they said that you had gone here. So we came up. I’m guessing that you sent Tom for his daily Swim.”

“Yes I did. He went down to the pier and is supposed to Swim down to Bennie’s I will bring clothes with me.”

“I wanted to talk with you about Andy and Bruce. They are using your place for a bit while you all are gone.”

“I know. I told them that they could. They want to do some things for Tom.”

“They are also looking for werewolves.”

“Werewolves?”
“You haven’t heard yet?”

“Tom and I didn’t get a chance to talk about certain things with Uncle before we left and I was concerned about some other things that I am guessing were related or could be.”

“That being the Tiger and the Dragon. We talked to Helmut on the way up and that came up. You must have had more that you didn’t want to bother Tom about.”

“The Dragon had a chat with me and asked me not to tell him about it. The Dragon doesn’t want to risk Tom going off on another path of sacrifice.”

“That is undstandable, especially since the Tiger is already on one,” grandfather said.

“The Dragon said that the path had made the Tiger unfit and that it had created Guardian dogs and influenced normals to escape. So what happened to the werewolves. The last I saw, they were happy taking care of the old lady and her sheep.”

“Boris said that they were repairing a fence, some people in cat Change came and used their compulsions to get them to another truck and took them away,” Bill said. “Whoever did it planned things very well and used normal hands that hired on to keep an eye on the werewolves and got in and out very quickly. Eric is rather put out by that.”

“Do you think that the Tiger was responsible?”

“I will have to do some checking around,” Hilda said. “But there aren’t too many things left out there since the Director left the scene that could put something like that off and the cat Change isn’t that common here. There aren’t very many things that would want to mess with the werewolves without the compulsions and without the keys, the only people that could affect them are Mabel, me, Boris and Ray. Eric doesn’t have the key. Adelheid does, but she is overseas. So the only people left are the other side or people that had access to the other side, which, since the black dragon is out of the picture, leaves the Tiger. Jean said that he gave the Tiger a copy of the things he had from the masters.”

Grandfather frowned. “Taking the werewolves is something that number two son could pull off. He likes challenges and sneaky opponents. The good part about this is he won’t like leaving the werewolves out to dry like the Colonel did. He also doesn’t resort to wanton murder either, because it makes a splash.”

“What if the Tiger wants to hand over the werewolves to the Masters.”

“I expect that Number Two son would do as his father says and then pull the werewolves’ compulsions.”
“That would not be a good thing for whoever the Masters sent to pick them up,” Bill said. “I’ve talked with the boys and they will not just go over there without a fight. They had to do terrible things for the Colonel as part of his operations and they said that they would not let themselves be put in that position again. They will let their monsters loose on anybody that tries to force them again.”
“I don’t have a problem with that,” grandfather said.

“So are you Ok with Andy using my place for a bit?” I asked Hilda.

“I don’t have a problem. I’m going up with Alex, Xing and her parents as well as Mary and Roger. I’m sure that the girls will keep Andy and Bruce from going off the deep end and they have made the Swim before. The werewolves know all of them as well and on the Cape, there are advantages to being seafolk and being able to pop up and talk to people. Since Bob and Scott are going with you and are here, they won’t be in a position to use lead Andy and Bruce into real deep trouble.”

Grandfather had a bit of a grin on his face and while Bob and Scott were going with us, my cousins were not and they had been right there, working with grandfather. For that matter, I wasn’t sure where Bob and Scott were right now. They had been at the boat races yesterday, but I hadn’t seen them on the train when Tom and I had come down. I had noticed that my cousins had latched right onto Bob and Scott when they showed up and had them on boats and into the usual things. I looked at grandfather and said, “Where are Bob and Scott now. They didn’t come down with me.”

“They went home so that Scott could have some time with Lizzie and pack.”

Lizzie had been with Scott already. They had been here in the city during the thing with the Black Dragon after Roger and Vilia’s wedding. So Scott didn’t need to be going upstate unless he was up to something and wanted the shop or his brother and the other cousins. If my cousins wanted some discreet shop work done that uncle didn’t know about they probably talked to Bob and Scott. The bunch of them had been spending a fair amount of time at the classes that Tom had been forced to give in the evenings for all the boys and some girls. “What are you up to, grandfather?”

“I’m not going to say anything other than it’s mostly insurance at this point. That and your uncles.”

“Does this have anything to do with the werewolves?”
“Not directly. Since they were taken, they will be involved at some point.”

Bill and Hilda were grinning at us. I turned to Hilda and said, “What do you know about this?”

“Other than getting old lady Stiller off of Greta’s back, not much at this point. I’m not surprised that Bob and Scott are putting something together, probably with your cousins, Tom’s cousins and some friends of yours. They like the boys and know about Mrs. Stiller and Greta.”

“We all do,” Bill said. “For a normal, she is very sensitive to fae affairs since her son was killed by a vampire. I think that Greta feels that she owes Mildred for that.”
“One of the lady’s sons was killed by a vampire?”
“He was friends with Don and the thing grabbed him and killed him before going after Don, who was able to shoot it and get away. We started the hunt up and took care of the thing, but I think that Greta feels a bit guilty about the thing getting that close in the first place.”

“Tom never said anything about that.”
“It happened just before Tom was born. In fact Greta was pregnant with Tom at the time and that may have been why her sensitivity was low. In any case, ever since, Mildred doesn’t hesitate to call if she thinks that something weird or strange is going on.”

“Are there false alarms?”

“Not as many as you might think. Quite a few in the beginning and less as Mildred learned things and what to look out for. Of course she has her fair share of Twisted that she has dealt with over the years. She even taught me some things.”

“That explains why the lady could deal with the werewolves and why the werewolves’ monsters are scared of her.”

“Mildred scares me sometimes. The usual run of the mill monster won’t go near her place.”

I was going to have to talk with Great about the things that had gone on that Tom didn’t know about. Grandfather got us all started down to Bennie’s and I took Tom’s suit over to wait for at the Warehouse. He flipped up out of the water and said, “That was a nice Swim.”
“Good. Hilda and Bill want to talk with you about some werewolves that went missing over the weekend.”

Tom got dressed fairly quickly. “So somebody took the boys. That was stupid.”

“How so?”

“A pissed off old lady Stiller is rather relentless and she doesn’t miss very much. Putting one over on her is almost impossible and her kids are all very smart. Arney and Brad used to drive me and the other little kids crazy. Arney lives near us. I think that we should invite him to the housewarming. His son is in the shop this summer.”

“I think that I know Arney already. He knows Uncle Ilutra. Is old lady Stiller that smart?”

“I don’t have any way to really judge, but she has been getting to mother for as long as I can remember and that isn’t easy.”

We walked across to Bennie’s where Tom, Bill and Hilda shared stories about the things that old lady Stiller had done with me, grandfather, Aunt Meria, Joe and Maria who joined us.

The Chancellor

Monday August 8,1932.

I was waiting in my study for the last aide to come for the monthly report. The news had just come in of the Black Dragon’s failure and destruction. The report was a bit sketchy as to just what had gone on, but apparently the Red Dragon had found a bond and together they had destroyed the Black Dragon and secured the treasures. The treasures would be going back to China with a trusted associate along with proofs of the Black Dragon’s death.

The Black Dragon’s death was a fairly good indication as to what would happen to the most powerful dark fae if they attempted to function across the sea. There was one good bit of news and I was going to tell it to the lady who was already late. She had probably indulged herself yesterday which meant that there would be a mess to deal with. I was thinking about that when suddenly I was blinded by golden light.

“Guess who!”

“Guten Morgen Milady Hannah. You are a bit late.”

“I indulged myself last night a bit.”

“How much clean up will I have to do?”

“None. He survived. I must be getting tame. So any good news?”

“Yes. We may have some loose werewolves for your lady.”

“How?”

“They are the leftovers from the Colonel’s attempt on your sister’s family.”

“My sister let them live? That is unlike Eric. At least the reports from the Director over the years about what happened to whatever he sent were fairly clear.”

“I don’t know the details, but they were living with an old lady and doing quite well until an associate used their compulsions to obtain them. The associate has plans for them and then he has agreed to turn them over.”

“If that is the good news, what is the bad? You haven’t mentioned the Black Dragon’s progress, if any.”
She had that habit if getting right to the worst of it.

“The Black Dragon is dead.”

“Do you know how?”

“Here is the report from our spy. Look for yourself.”

She picked it up and read through it. None of the other ‘aides’ had done so. Milady Hannah, golden treasure that she was, was actually a true asset to the Red Lady even if both the Red Lady and Hannah were careful not to reveal that to the other Masters. She finished the report and said, “I suspect that the Red Dragon’s bonded works for that little bureau and is a royal fae. It would take somebody that powerful to divert somebody on the path of sacrifice. So the Red Dragon was able to obtain the resources of a kingdom and the bureau as well as her family. What happened to the resources that you sent with the Black Dragon?”

“They managed to escape.”

“Watch them closely. If my family was involved, the escape was more than it seems.”

“Do you think that they were suborned?”

“My father would have done that. Consider how clean the sweep was of the Director’s operations, anything that survived must be suspect.”

“We have hostages.”
“True. I suspect that the information that we get from over there is correct and true, but not the whole truth. Watch what happens to the hostages. What is happening in the Colonel’s domain, for instance?”

She had found another thing that was not going well. “The major and Baroness have returned. The people from the domain have not, but that may be because they are dead.”

“Or something else is going on. Did the major bring his people back?”

“Yes he did, actually, except for the werewolves.”

“So he brought back the people, immune from compulsions, that the domain trusts and left the werewolves over there in Vermont where my lady probably could not get her hands on them. I am sure that Baroness was talking with my dear sister as well.”
“You don’t like your sister very much.”

Getting Hannah to talk about her sister was a useful distraction.

‘She was the lucky one who was sent to America. I was left here when the attack came and left to deal with a monster while my sister found a very strong bond almost right off the boat and has a large and wonderful family while I am tainted and dark. So no, I don’t like my sister and my dead family very much. Especially since the lady forced me to kill them to preserve some of what was left.”

“You have not gone over and engaged them.”
“The lady has other tasks for me. She promised that the Director would destroy them and other than the one son who was brought over and Turned by the Colonel, he failed.”

‘Not from lack of effort. He certainly sent what should have been enough resources to accomplish the task.”

“True. I also made contributions from time to time. I would have expected a Necromancer as powerful as the one that I sent to be able to accomplish something, but it was destroyed almost immediately.”

“Greta was not responsible for the things that happened here.”

“True, but she was supposed to be sent with little and struggle. Instead, there was Eric at the market next to the pier, they bumped into each other and he ran her right up to Vermont.”

“You could have been the one.”
“I had a bond, until he was killed. By the Lady before we could complete the bond so that I would remain bondless and be able to be turned. My sister did not have any prospects, so the decision was made to send her so that she could be safe and perhaps find somebody. She did.”

“Their life has certainly not been without struggle.”

“She has had Eric and her children. They have struggled together and overcome. I have had to struggle with the monster on my own. Well, enough about this. Hand me the report and I will return to my lady.”

I handed her the report. Unlike the other copies that I had handed over, I was sure that it was going to be gone over thoroughly and that Hannah was going to have questions when the next report was due, if not before. The problem I had was that finding answers that I trusted was going to get harder. There were things going on in the Colonel’s domain and seemingly things going on overseas in addition to the destruction of the Black Dragon. The Masters giving the Director to the Colonel when he asked for resources was a hard blow. Of course I suspected that the Director was doomed in any case as soon as young Mr. Benton found him. At least Jean should be back by Friday and could give me a detailed report on the events surrounding the Black Dragon.

Hilda

Tuesday August 9,1932.

Bill and I joined Alex, Xing and her parents on the train for Vermont with Mary and Roger. We all sat together in the coach and Alex said, “Did Chrissie have anything to add?”

I smiled. “She’s arranged quite a welcome for the Tiger and his people on the Cape.”
“Bob and Scott won’t be there. Nor will Noro.”

“Bob and Scott are not the only troublemakers involved, apparently. Altris has grandsons.”

Xing smiled. “Grandsons that are working for Noro, probably. We didn’t see them during the Chase.”
I grinned back. “According to Chrissie, you weren’t supposed to, and you and Tim probably were not looking in the water as much as you should have been. They were also working with your cousins.”

“They were probably born into Change and very good with their abilities and being discreet,” Alex said. “We also weren’t looking for them because Noro kept Bob and Scott, who we knew, visible and we didn’t think to look for more troublemakers. Did they work up at the inn during the Games and after?”
“Since there was a bunch of them, I’m not sure. I’m going to guess that they did and my relatives were talking with them already.”

“Looking for help with the werewolves if they ended up on or near the Cape, probably.”

“We can ask around.”
“How did Mrs. Stiller happen?”
Bill answered. “It started just before Tom was born when Eric’s nephew Don and Bill Stiller were a lot like Andy, Bruce and Jimmy.”

“Guns and in the woods?”
“Yes. Don and Bill were inseperable and into the woods all the time. They both had Winchesters by that point. In any case Don was being hunted by a vampire for the usual reasons and ran into both of them. According to Don, they didn’t both open fire because they thought it was a strange bum. The thing killed Bill to make sure that there were no witnesses and Don shot the thing in the knee and ran. He managed to get far enough way before the thing’s knee regenerated and make it home where the rest of the family went on the hunt and dealt with the thing.

Greta had to explain to Mabel exactly what had happened to Bill and why and Mabel has been sensitive about fae issues and a terror on any monsters that come into her path ever since. The big surprise wasn’t that she shot some of the werewolves, but that some of them survived.”

“I’m a bit surprised that Greta didn’t pick up on the vampire.”
“she was pregnant with Tom and that dulls certain senses somewhat. The thing was being a bit sneaky too. It kept it’s shields tight until it was a long way from anybody but the boys and used a farm track to hunt from. It had a horse ready for the get away and a nest all set up, deep in the woods about a mile from the farm. Hilda and I still use the camp.”

“I thought that you built that for us,” I said. “I suppose I should have realized that you put it together too quickly.”

“I did rebuild the lean-to, since it had collapsed. The fire pit didn’t need much work.”

“You are forgiven.”

“From what Greta has said over the years, Mrs. Stiller must have blamed her somewhat for her son’s death,” Alex said. “She certainly goes out of her way annoy Greta more than a bit.”

“She was doing that before Bill was killed,” Bill replied. “She thought that Don was a bad influence on Bill and Brad was the same way with Arney about the same time. As far as I could tell, the getting into trouble was a case of mutual agreement and if one of them didn’t come up with something, the other would. Arney was a bit more bookish, but that just meant that they were always looking into books and things for new sources of trouble.”
“Did Brad have anything to do with the things that Tom came up with?” Xing asked.

“You will have to ask Tom about that. Certainly Brad was coming up with things to rattle Stephie on his own and just how much he was using Tom as a proxy and how much was Tom is hard to tell at this point. Tom did like his older brother a lot though and Brad kept some of the things off Tom that people might have tried when Tom’s abilities hadn’t manifested.”

Alex said, “That explains some things somewhat. Brad was playing games with Stephie and Tom probably thought of Brad almost as a mentor. Then Tom’s abilities didn’t manifest and the rest of the family became concerned. So when Tom went and started to work at making things, Eric and Greta supported him, Brad had new ways to rattle Stephie and when Stephie went after Tom, Brad and Tom hit back.”

“Brad didn’t involve himself directly at that point,” Bill said. “He had his own work and Tom was doing well enough on his own. He did help Tom buy the shop a bit, but Tom paid that back in a lot of different ways. Then Brad was sent overseas.”

Alex and Xing proved to useful for getting Bill to open up a bit about my bonded and his friends. He had always been a bit reticent with me about Brad, because he was afraid that he would hurt me. This was the good part of my bonded’s life that I had not had a chance to share. I was going to have to have a long talk with Arney about Brad. That was going to be easier because the werewolves were probably going to end up on the Cape anyway. In any case, once Bill started, the stories kept going and I just reveled in the two men that I loved, one that was gone and the other that I was going to make sure didn’t get lost without me.

When we arrived in the evening, Boris was there with Rayand two cars. Mary and Roger left for home in their own truck We split people up for the trip to the house and Boris asked Alex, Bill and I, “How did it go down there?”

“The black Dragon was confounded by Little Timmy and shot by Xing. Mary is sending the full report up.”

“Was it fun?”
“Very. Sal had some Troubleshoots and burned a barn down, Tim ran the opposition ragged and made Alex and Xing’s Chase a real challenge until they baited him with a party and the Black Dragon tried treachery and paid for his mistake. He did kill his brother though, which was a great loss. So it wasn’t all fun and games.

So what happened here? Other than Mabel being her usual self.”

“Actually, Mabel has been a big help. She did the calling that you normally do and let just about all the people around know that the werewolves might show up. She also called Arney and had him talk to Altris. That turned out to be easy because Arney and Ilutra know each other and Arney’s son goes to MIT and is interning with Tom.”

“Chrissie had Mac unleash the interns and the rest on the poor unsuspecting Yaoguai and any of their friends. She also had Andy and Bruce Swim over and stay in the boathouse.”

“What has Noro done?”
“Remember those two that attached themselves to Bob and Scott after the thing with the Colonel?”
“Altris’s grandsons? They didn’t cause any trouble up here. At least any trouble that we caught. They left with the rest of them when the Games were over and Antonio didn’t need them.”

“They were in the background all through the thing with the Black Dragon and being the back up for Bob and Scott. They have also been teaching Bob and Scott how to run boats at night.”

“With Bob and Scott teaching them about guns, Constructs and cars and the whole lot of them learning from Tom. It’s a good thing that the lot of them are going to college this fall and they can be somebody else’s problem.”

We arrived at the house and Eric Greta and my mother were waiting. Mother had more or less moved into the cottage after she arrived as I was spending all that time in the City this year and Andy had moved to the school and the bower. Tono needed Andy even though he was so young because there wasn’t anybody else to do a lot of the little jobs that needed doing. Andy and Trillia were pushing the kids that had been born into Change up top with the help of Nera’s dance classes and Robert and Tony’s fun stuff trips. Bill had done very well with his enhanced adversary classes and we were leaving with mother for the domain and a long trip to some exotic places so that some people could meet the man who destroyed the Colonel.

Mother came and hugged me and then Bill and said in a bit broken English, “Good. You came. That woman is driving poor Greta crazy.”
“She does that.”

“We want the boys back anyway. Alive if we can. Away from the monsters that took your bonded if possible. They want the boys back, especially the Red Lady. She was always after the Colonel’s boys, trying to pull some loose. She and her bondless toy.”

“How have things been going otherwise?”

“The children are with the rest of the troublemakers and we are doing well. I hope that we can get the others out quietly and that Günter and Ilyse come back soon with the Baroness. Where is Andy?”

“Going to the Cape with Trillia. Bruce and Verelia to stay in Chrissie’s place while she is gone. They are Swimming out and I arranged for some clothes. Andy and Bruce want to work with the boys in Tom’s shop.”

“Will they be safe traveling in the water?”

“They have harnesses and travel packs, can catch fish and forage and Trillia knows most of the people on the shore, so they will be fine. They have done the Swim before. It’s during the week, so there won’t be any parties to crash.”

I didn’t tell mother that both boys had those spears that Tom had come up with and guns as well. Things might not be perfectly safe, but the kids were not unprepared. I wasn’t going to let Andy be an easy victim. There were a lot of boats on the Sound this time of year anyway and the sound bower did a fair business providing crews and lifeguards, all of whom also knew Trillia.

Stephie came out and saw me. “Good, you can be the detective and man the phone. As well as deal with Mildred.”

We went inside and plotted for the rest of the evening.

Alex

Wednesday August 10,1932.

Xing and Stephie were showing her parents all the hot spots. Hilda and I had to go over and deal with Mrs. Stiller. When she saw us walk up she called out to Hilda, “Where have you been? The rain could have obliterated some clue.”

“Mildred, Ralph, Ray and the others can take photos and do the plaster casts just as well as I can. I doubt that whoever did this was stupid enough to leave a distinctive scent and they left in a truck. I know that you called Arney and told him to talk to Altris. I was talking to Noro and Chrissie yesterday to see what kind of welcome they setup for the people who took the boys. I was also making some other calls and dealing with some things. Alex here was doing the same sort of thing. Why don’t you tell me what happened as we go over things and why you think the boys are going to end up on the Cape?”

She did and she had apparently worked her way down to the same conclusions that we all had. The cat tracks were still evident, but somebody had picked up the tools and put the truck away. The way they went was also clear. I looked around and said, “Did anybody look to see how they came in? The boys would have seen them before they could use the compulsions if they came in the same way.”

“Let me get Ralph. Oh, there he is. Boris must have sent him over.”

Ralph approached and said, “Hi Alex. I met your fiancé and her parents just now at the office. They said that you were here.”

“Did you look at where the cats came from?”

“You know, we were looking at where they went, but we just assumed they came in the same way. Why do you think that they came another way?”

“Because the boys would have seen them before they could compel them. You have to be fairly close in the beginning to place or open a compulsion and the way they went out is visible from here for about hundred yard where they would be seen. Even if they were using shields they couldn’t hide from the boys because the boys are high fae. While they wouldn’t be seen from the house, they can be seen easily from here.”

“You know, you’re right about that.”

Ralph started to look at the tracks. He walked around the edge, over to what looked like a deer path and found a broken twig. The twig had yellow hair on it. He turned to me and said, “Alex, I’ve seen your Change. Maybe we can make use of it and you can track back.”
“Now that is an idea,” Hilda said. “You’re bigger than I am and can push through things and not get sratched by the twigs like those characters obviously did.”

I couldn’t argue, so I went around some trees, undressed and Changed. I came back and Mildred laughed. “I bet the kids just love that Change!”

I couldn’t answer , so I led everybody up the trail. The trail wound up the hills to an abandoned shed where there was some evidence that somebody had stayed for some time. There were also car tracks and tracks from a truck. Hilda looked around and said, “They must have waited here for the boys to come out to fix the fence.”

Ralph held up a pair of wire cutters that looked far too new to have been in the shed. “Or they arranged for the fence to need repairs. I think that we should talk to Roger at the hardware store and see if these came from his place.”

Hilda turned to Ralph and said, “Take Alex and talk to Roger. I’ll find out who owns this shed.”

Mildred said, “Steve Barnette owns this place. Vince tried to buy it a while back and Steve’s dad wouldn’t sell. Then Steve let the field go to woods and the shed to rot. He doesn’t even use the wood from the lot.”

I looked around and the place would not have been obvious from the road if somebody wasn’t looking for it. Ralph said, “Alex let’s get going. We do want to make a stop and have you release your Change before we head to the store. Roger isn’t fae and we don’t want to startle him.”

We headed back and I released my Change and dressed again. As we got in Ralph’s car I said, “Roger probably wouldn’t mind after all the kids showed up. One big downside of that Change is that it is a kid magnet in fae neighborhoods.”

“I know, but Roger is one of those determined not to believe in the weird and strange. Brad and Arney used to pull things on him and he always was able to come up with an explanation for it. Including halucinations and swamp gas miles from a swamp.”

“He must have loved Tom.”

“For a lot of reasons. First of all Tom could pull his weird stuff without the strange and second, he was a very good customer.”

We arrived at the hardware and lumber place and went inside. The place was typical for a rural hardware place with stuff all over the place, buckets of nails, a scale and rows of drawers behind the counter. Along with an aging man that seemed to go with these kinds of places. Ralph said, “Hi Roger. This is Alex. He works for Helmut.”

“Chasing Mildred’s boys I bet. That’s going to be futile. They probably got tired of her and ran off.”

Ralph put the wirecutters on the counter. “Did you sell these?”

He looked at the tool and said, “I bought a bunch of these right after the war and still have some, so it probably came from here. Let me check. Tom, get down here!”

A younger man came down from upstairs. Roger looked at him and said, “Have you sold any wirecutters recently?”

“I sold a set about a week ago, why?”

“Was it to old lady Stiller’s boys?”
“They bought some tools, including some wire cutters and fence pullers right after the planting. They were going to fix the fences when they could. That was months ago.”

Ralph held up the wire cutters. “Was it these?”

“Ralph, that was the cutters I sold about a week ago. They are black because I gave the cutters and some other tools we had a brushing and some fresh paint. The cutters I sold the boys were still army green.”

“Do you know who you sold the cutter to?”
“Somebody I had never seen before. They had brown hair, but looked a bit Chinese. There were four of the guys. I figured that they were doing a job for somebody and broke a tool.”

“Thanks, Tom.”
We left and got in the car. Ralph said, “See what I mean?”

“What about Tom?”

“Tom is fae. He just works there.”

‘So Roger ignores certain things and Tom doesn’t reveal certain things.”

“More Roger ignores things. I’ve seen Tom prance around in his Change all day and Roger not pay any attention the fact that the Easter Bunny was working the store. Everybody else loved it.”

“That takes a strong sense of self aversion.”

We laughed about it as we headed to Boris’s office. Hilda was talking to Xing and her parents when we arrived and when we walked in, said, “So how was your Roger and Tom experience?”
“Interesting. Roger seems determined to be averse to certain things and Tom seems to have a handle on what’s going on. Ralph says that Tom actually worked the store in his Change.”

“That happened. In fact Tom does it the Saturday before Easter every year. Roger says that it is some sort of fancy costume or some other excuse. The kids just love it. The wire cutters came from there, didn’t they?”

“Yes. According to Tom, he painted some cutters and other tools to freshen them up a bit and the only set of these cutters that have been sold after he painted them was this set. What did you find out about the property?”

“Pretty much what Mildred told us.”

“I had a thought. Does the Tiger have a flyer or two? That place would be impossible to find just driving around unless you knew it was there. So whoever saw it another way, or talked to people that knew about it, but Boris’ people have been talking and nobody really noticed anybody asking about places. Did Mr. Barnette hire somebody recently?”
“No he hadn’t. I asked. He has a store in Burlington and doesn’t get out here very much. I’m not sure why he keeps the place other than to poke Mildred in the eye.”

“Somebody found the place, cut the brush back just enough so that a car or truck could get in and took advantage to set up the boys. How do Bob and Scott set up for those little runs they do?”

“About that way,” Ralph said. “They grew up knowing the area and they have places where they can hide the car. Both cars now. Of course they got the deputies caught up once Bob finished his car. Bob did a good job of hiding it until a strange car started to trip speed traps and run away with our deputies. The interesting thing is that the car would only show up for the deputies who hadn’t been inducted. It was almost as if somebody had access to the duty roster. The strange car has disappeared lately.”

“What about Tom’s truck. The boys brought it down for the thing with the Black Dragon.”

“It’s in the shed at the farm again. Stephie drove it back when she came up. Chrissie doesn’t want Tom thinking too much about it and the boys are afraid to use it very often and have Tom come and take it away.”

“That’s understandable. Let me type up the report for the file before Xing gets annoyed that I am ignoring her.”
“You’re working, Alex,” Xing said. “Stephie took us to get the Roger and Tom experience earlier. You were out at Mildred’s for some time.”

“We found where the Tigers had set up a camp and found some tools. They had a car and the truck we already know about. They cut the wire in the fence and waited for the boys to discover the break and come out to fix it. Apparently the boys have been repairing the fences all year to catch up. The camp was set up in a shed that was essentially abandoned. Let me get this typed up and on its way.”

I wrote up the report and when I was done, the photographs of the shed, the wire cutters and the rest of it were ready so I handed everything to Ray to get wired down to the office. When I was done, Hilda said, “Let’s go to George’s for lunch and we can show your parent the things your haven’t seen yet.”

“We also need to get Alex to relax,” Xing said. “Mary told me to do that. “So, Alex, we go for the drive today and tomorrow you and I are out in the woods in our Change.”

“The kids are going to be out of school.”
“I’m counting on it. If you don’t relax we may even startle Roger.”

Everybody laughed at that.

 

Èr hào lǎohǔ

Wednesday August 10,1932.

I had put myself in the position of having to attempt what my father wanted again while setting myself up to fail. The worst part is that I had dragged Fritz and his buddies into this because my father wanted to make another of his bad deals. After we had secured the boys and had a long talk with them, there was no way that I was going to let that deal happen. Father had been here, chasing the Dragon while I had been in Europe with the other contract labor. My small group of cousins and I had seen the carnage, at least the remains and how what fae were left had gone into hiding. Fritz had been part of the carnage, as an unwilling participant with his family as hostage for his cooperation. He had hoped that by staying with the old lady that his Masters would think that he was dead like the rest. I had inadvertently ruined that. I had been investigating young Mr. Benton, looked into how the Colonel had met his end and found the werewolves. Then I made the mistake of telling my father who was looking to deal with the Masters. I had tried to tell him that the Masters would soon have little to provide for a deal in any case. As I told father, I was not going to let the boys on a ship heading for the Masters without pulling the compulsions first.

It was that thought that Jimmy and I went into Fritz’s room. I had an idea. The problem was that it was going to take some timing, cooperation from my opponents and access to a Creator, one of whom didn’t want to work with anybody and the other who was caught up in his bond, new family and worked for the other side. Jimmy and I had just gone to talk with Elijah Hancock and it had not been pleasant. Considering that he hated Noro, wouldn’t talk with Altris and was a bit scared of Mr. Claytor, who had only recently discovered that he existed during the thing with the Colonel, one would think that he would be looking for a connection that could provide some protection after the rather public demonstration that the Masters wanted Creators rather desperately. Fritz looked up as I walked in. “Did you talk with him?”

“Yes. He wasn’t going to make ONE Puppet, let alone five.”

“Dat dummkoph. Did you tell him what the Colonel was doing?”

“He already knew.”

“He is a total Dummkoph then. He doesn’t talk with Noro, Altris had stopped trying to talk to him in the middle of the last century and Mr. Claytor didn’t even know he existed. The Colonel was just going to pick up his family if he needed to.”

“Why didn’t he?”

“Because the Colonel wanted to present capable and competent Creators and that clown was neither. I talked with Doug about him. He doesn’t use what he has very effectively and does shoddy work. He is also rather tainted by the dark and likes certain things a bit much. In any case the Colonel thought that he was a poor second best choice.”

“How do you know so much.”

“Because I been a prisoner of war in Southern Africa before I was turned and spoke English, something I neglected to tell the Colonel. So unlike some of the others, I could function here. I also worked in the wardroom cleaing things and whatnot and read over what the Colonel had. Certainly the Colonel did not brief us on what he planned, where we were going or any of the rest of it. He didn’t even brief the officers more than the minimum amount necessary. I suspect that he thought that regardless of what happened we and our monsters had become too great a liability and he was going to leave us behind. I have discussed this with the major and he said that no special plans had been made for us on the voyage back. Then the Colonel led us right to the Benton farm and a huge trap.”

“A trap that you escaped.”

“Because we were not there as I arranged for my squad to be the diversion at the inn and we broke off when the noisemakers started. The big mistake was that we raided the lady’s sheep and she shot half the squad. Fortunately the deputies showed up after we hid in the barn and we could surrender. So what is your plan now?”

“I think that I am going to get myself arrested.”
The expression on Fritz’s face was priceless. Jimmy’s wasn’t much different and he had known me for a long time.

“Arrested by whom?”
“The police on the Cape. Actually I think that any police will do the trick, but the Cape seems to be the easiest way to get what I want.”

Both of them grinned. “So how do we pull this off.”

It was amazing what a bunch of devious minds could come up with.

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