The Tiger and The Guardian, Chapter 35, Part 4.

Here’s the last part of Chapter 35. Chapter 36 is going very fast.

Altris.

Thursday August 11,1932.

The day had been the normal chaos that we dealt with this time of year until mid afternoon when Jake called. “We have a drunk driver that we just busted and he wants to talk with you.”

“Is he a class one customer?”

“No, but he mentioned that Noro knows him as Number Two Son and mentioned werewolves. He also is not drunk.”

This was very interesting. “I’ll be right down.”

I went outside and told my secretary that I was dealing with a discreet arrest and headed over to Jake’s. The man in the cell stood up when I entered the cell block. “Mr. Posidnitus, I am Èr hào lǎohǔ or number two son as your father knows me. I needed a way to talk with you rather discreetly about my father and some werewolves.”
“Werewolves that you took.”

“That was a bit of a mistake. My father asked me to and I didn’t ask why he wanted them. I have told my father that I will not turn the boys over to the monsters overseas without pulling the compulsions first. Frankly, I already have.”

“Then why are the boys staying with you? Presumably they could just leave you.”

“That is the difficulty. The boys were attempting to disappear in the mess surrounding the deaths of the rest of them and hide for a time. The old lady was helping them with that. I let my father know about them and he used them as a bargaining chip with certain people. The boys are concerned that a certain lady would keep after them now that she knows that they exist.”

“I think that I see the problem now. Since you told your father who was talking with the people overseas, it will be much harder for the werewolves to disappear again and you realize that you made a mistake. Presumably you thought that the boys would be used for some sort of diversion while your father went after the thing that he has been chasing, with your help somewhat.”

“That and there are other issues involving the boys’ families over there in Germany.”

“They are hoping that the families will be safe if the Masters think that they are dead.”
“Yes. Not that that is a great hope. I have seen the carnage over there, done under the cover of war and the disease. I went with some cousins as part of the labor that the British hired to look into what the Masters were up too.”

“I think some people want to have a long talk with you. Unfortunately, they just left for a wedding and won’t be back for some time.”

“Josh, Noro and Tom, probably. My father plans to take advantage of the fact that they are gone.”

“We were expecting that.”

“I will not betray my father and I am obligated to assist him. On the other hand I want to correct my mistake and for that the boys have to die.”

“Publically and obviously, I presume.”

“Yes and for that to happen, we need to do the same sort of the thing that the young man did recently.”
“Little Timmy. You mean he wasn’t shot by the Troubleshooter after he shot my father’s security man?”

“Is that what happened? I was not sure. My father saw some of it and some associates saw more.”

“So you must be looking for a Creator. There are some around, some that don’t even like us here on the Cape.”

“We met. I’m not surprised that you never told Josh about him even when you wanted a Creator. How long has he been like that?”

“The last time I tried to talk with him was before the civil war. I never told Josh because, one, he is rather badly tainted by his work, two, he is poor at what he does and three, as you discovered, he is impossible to deal with. I almost wanted the Colonel to take him, but I suspect that the Colonel didn’t want him either if there was an alternative.”

“Did you talk to the major about that?”

“It never came up and quite frankly I don’t think about the man if I can avoid it. So you want werewolf puppets, some chaos, and maybe a failed attempt at the Dragon to convince your father that he is looking for the impossible.”

“This is going to be tricky. Even your father knows how sneaky my father is and mother wants him home to help us. But the path of sacrifice is to the end, one way or another and the hard part is going to be convincing my father that he has fulfilled his quest without a lot of pointless grief.”

“It’s worse than that. If we pull this show off, I will have to live with my father and sister forever ragging on me for not letting them play too.”

Èr hào lǎohǔ Grinned. “The burdens we must bear.”

“One last thing that the ladies are going to want to know. It doesn’t appear that you have a bond.”
“I do not. Am I in trouble?”

“Not yet, but there are a lot of high fae ladies around here and if you stay too long there may be consequences.”

“I think that I must risk it.”

“What will your mother say?”
“She will be ecstatic if I found somebody at last.”

“So we have a window of next week if you do not have a good way to contain the werewolves or next month if you do, if we can keep your father running around that long.”

“I do not have a good way to contain the werewolves at present. On the other hand stretching things out can help us. Do you have a barn and some old sheep?”

“I think that something can be arranged. Why don’t we meet here on Saturday?”

I wrote down the address of a diner in Plymouth that I knew. It wouldn’t be the first time that I had used it for discreet meetings. “I will see you then.”

I walked back up front and said to Jake, “You can cut him loose. Take him to the train station.”

Jake grinned. “Noro is going to be upset that he missed this.”

“We’re going to see if we can contain the werewolf problem this month and keep things moving until next month.”

“That will give you time to setup a really big splash and make it after the season was over.”

“That was a consideration, yes. Having chaos and a creative mess next week might have some unfortunate consequences if somebody not in on the game shows up. If we run things into next month we can mitigate those and make a bigger splash. We aren’t the Colonel and we can arrange better timing.”

Julio

Thursday August 11, 1932.

I walked into work and there with Roger was Altris. “Julio, I had an interesting conversation with the man that has our wayward werewolves.”

“Is he sending them home. The old lady has been calling every night to see if they have showed up.”

“There are issues. Number Two son did what his father wanted and thought that his father would use them as a diversion as we figured, we would catch them and send them home. His father was talking to the Red Lady and making a deal, probably for the sort of things used to make solid Constructs. The werewolves were playing dead to protect their families and the Domain and now they are not dead.”

“That could be a problem. That sounds like something that Hans would be responsible for. Puppets seem to be the ticket.”

“We want Puppets that can Change.”

“That is very tricky. My grandfather was a Creator and managed it. I hadn’t heard of any Creators here that could.”

“I knew about your grandfather. I talked with Maria today. I also heard that your family moved before things got bad. Do you know where?”

“Macau. At least my grandfather did.”

“Do you have any contact?”
“My mother does. I have been meaning to get my parents up here for a vacation but my father doesn’t like to leave the shop this time of year. I will tell him it is for you and he will do it, which will make my mother ecstatic since she likes to visit the grandchildren. It will also make my brother happy because he wants my father out of the shop more often and he won’t go.”

“It’s short notice, but would your mother be willing to come up next week?”
“Let’s go over to my place and talk to Maria. I think that we can say that there was a sudden cancelation and that the train tickets and everything are all arranged, but they have to come next week.”

“Julio, I am disappointed in you. You didn’t even push for meals.”

“I didn’t? I did say ‘everything.’”

We laughed as Altris drove me back home. We walked in and I said to Maria, “Dear, Altris has a proposition for mother. He wants her here next week. There was a sudden cancelation.”

“We can tell mother that. What is really going on?”

“We want to contact grandfather and have him come here.”
“I can do that. We should get your mother and dad up here anyway. He spends too much time in the shop making shoes and not enough time talking to people. Joseph will kick him out. You must want grandfather for something Creator related.”

“We do. Tell him that we have a bunch of Creators that would just love to share things with him and mention Tom.”

“Tom will not be here.”

“Not when he gets here, but we can work on grandmother and get him to extend his stay. He should meet Xing and her parents in any case.”

“Ok I will send the message and charge it to the company account. Since you have been talking about the werewolves, this must involve them.”

Altris and I went back to the office as she went to send the message to Macau. As we parked the car, Altris said, “That was easy.”

“Maria will know how to get my grandfather here. She is very good at that. It might take more than one message though.”

“If we can make this work, father will just love it.”

“The first hump is next week and find a place to put the boys that is discreet for the evening with some sheep, hogs or something to chew on.”

“Do you know any people with a sound barn?”

“Several, but they are not fae and might not understand. I’ll do some calling around in the morning.”

“I’ll talk to Mac and Paulo too. I will see you in the morning.”

He left and I sat down to wait for the chaos.

 

The Agent.

Friday August 12, 1932.

I had managed to book onto a ship to Le Havre on Monday. The ship would follow slowly, tramping as we had done before as a cover. I was going to be facing the Chancellor long before the ship could arrive.

On the trip over, I completed a report going over the events surrounding the death of the Black Dragon. Other than my contact with Noro and the others, there really wasn’t anything that needed to be kept discreet. ‘Little Timmy’ was dead, the treasure were in the possession of their rightful custodian and the Black Dragon had been Troubleshot and cremated. I still knew little of the people that wanted to help me and frankly it was better that way all around. When I arrived and went through customs, there was a car and driver waiting and I was taken to a small hotel where the Chancellor was waiting. I handed my report over and he said, “What was the big problem?”

“The Black Dragon overestimated the Yaoguai’s ability to function in a foreign country. They proved to be incapable of even the simplest task and created problems rather than relationships.”

“For instance?”

“The Red Dragon’s father had arrived and the Yaoguai could not figure out how to use the phone directory to find out where the Red Dragon’s associate lived and make a discreet check to see where if the Golden Dragon was living there. He was. The Yaoguai, rather than looking for the things that they were supposed to be looking for went on wild goose chases for the other things that very powerful people had and when they actually found the treasures, tried to strongarm the Rockefellers, among others.”

“What about the young man?”

‘He is dead, because he killed a family retainer.He was attempting to make a deal with the Black Dragon and the Red Dragon and the opposition had discovered where and killed the Black Dragon and retrieved the treasures.”

“Where are the treasures now?”

“I do not know.”

“Did the Bentons act against the Dragon?”

“Only at the very end as a bit of a favor for the opposition. The spy said that they worked together and the hunter backed the Red Dragon as she shot the Black Dragon and one of the ladies set some explosives to cremate the Dragon’s remains. That is in the report.”

“Would the Bentons have taken charge of the treasures?”
“I doubt it. They were not involved and the Red Dragon and her parents were the rightful custodians.”

“Were there any other difficulties?”

“The Black Dragon being what he is. His presence and the effect it had, especially on children made sensing that he was there almost inevitable. The Black Dragon also made poor choices. We sank a ship right next to the Cape bower to obtain one of the treasures rather than tracking it and waiting for an opportunity to present itself. Because of where the ship was sunk, it attracted far too much attention and we did not manage to retrieve the treasure. In the end, all the sinking accomplished was to insure that when the Cape bower did discover what had happened, they were rather annoyed, as were all the seafolk. That meant that they, and the navy were looking for us. At the end, the Black Dragon, rather than complete a deal with the young man, chose to reveal himself, kill his own brother and take the young man who was intelligent enough to secure the treasures where we could not get to them even after he told us where they were.”

“Did the young man have a girl that you could have used as a hostage?”
“He did, but we never actually saw her, she had a tail, lived in the navy yard apparently and stayed in the water for the most part where even if we knew what she looked like, she would be impossible to find.”
“You had the strike team, surely they could have obtained her.”

“From inside the navy yard? At that point we didn’t even know that she lived there and we were not the only people with seafolk fighters as we discovered the hard way.”

“This was supposed to be an easy task undertaken while the Colonel was accomplishing his task. Why did it take so long?”

“The Yaoguai did not take advantage of the time when the opposition was distracted. The Red Dragon could function without difficultiy because she and her associate both spoke English. The majority of the Yaoguai did not. It did not hurt that she bonded with a local royal fae and could draw on the family as well as on her own family.”

“The fae that worked for the bureau?”
“I wasn’t sure about that. They did seem to be working closely together, but that was the case with a lot of the things we saw. Relationships and who is working together is rather complicated over there.”

“Well you must be exhausted. Why don’t you return to your home and wait for a new assignment. I do not see that you or the ship had any responsibility for the way things went.”

“The Black Dragon said the same thing just before he went into the final conflict. We had told him not to sink the ship and that the Yaoguai were not being as discreet as they should have been and he acknowledged the mistake. That is in the report.”

With that, I left the meeting, returned to the car and headed to the train station. I sat down in my compartment and suddenly I was in Golden Light. The Unbonded wanted to discuss something with me. “Good afternoon, Jean. I thought that I would take the opportunity to discuss with you your recent voyage that ended so badly.”

“I just gave the Chancellor the report.”

“A report that I will have to wait three weeks to see and may be edited. Do you have another copy?”
“I do not. I am only supposed to hand the reports to the Chancellor and I did not make another copy.”

“Come now, I’m not that stupid and you are not either. You know what our bosses are like, especially when bad things happen. You must have made a carbon.”

She had me. I had two actually, since I triple typed the report. One was going to be mailed to the Domain in East Prussia and the other was my insurance that the report was what I said it was. I had kept the carbons as well. I reached into my case and pulled a copy of the report out. She looked through it and said, “The bureau seems to have had a lot of bonds lately.”

“I wouldn’t know. I have been at sea with a cranky dragon for the last nine months or so. When I was ashore, I could hardly talk to the bureau.”

“I see that my niece torched the dragon. How deeply was my dear sister’s family involved with this?”

“The hunter, Bill probably called her in when they were at a wedding. I suspect that the Golden Dragon put a bounty on the Black Dragon’s head, or he had put a bounty on the Black Dragon’s head a long time ago. The Black Dragon mentioned it when the young man used the hunter to threaten the Black Dragon. In the end, the Red Dragon used a rifle to kill the Black Dragon after her bonded set him up.”

“In her Change? That must have been some rifle. Where did she get it?”
“I have no idea. She had access to a discreet gunsmith presumably.”

“Or a family of fae gunsmiths. Eric encouraged that. Young Tom certainly has made a name for himself making guns.”

“I wouldn’t know anything about that. I have heard some rumors about Tom and his sisters, but the Lieutenant told me about them as rumors and barside conversations he had heard while looking into the Cape Bower. You probably have better information than I did.”

“Knowing what my dear sister’s family does isn’t very hard. If you subscribe to a gun magazine an article will come up at least once a year raving about an LT custom pistol or rifle. Along with a long discussion as to why they are worth their large price tags and long waits.”

“I haven’t had regular mail in some time, or regular access to a newsstand. I normally do not deal with guns in any case.”

“Neither do I, but my dear sister does and one must keep up. Did you get a chance to see my nieces shoot?”

“Not unless they were there at the end of the Black Dragon. They were hardly the only ones shooting there or on the dock if they were.”
“You managed to escape uninjured.”
“The Black Dragon wanted me on the sidelines so that I could give an accurate report to his relatives and see if I could take care of the ships’s crew and the bower. That is also in the report. I mailed a report to the Black Dragon’s nephew before I left New York.”

“Did you ever figure out what the young man was up to?”

“Little Timmy? He was poking his family in the eye and things got out of hand at the end and his family’s Troubleshooter shot the trouble. His great aunt, the queen of the Rockaway Bower insisted.”

“That was rather rough.”

‘Little Timmy shot a family retainer and had cooperated with the Director and then with us. The old lady was rather annoyed at him and he had stepped over the line and done it rather publically.”

“I think that the ticket collector is coming and since I don’t have a ticket, I must be going.”

She handed me the report and disappeared just as the man opened the compartment door, to my everlasting relief. I had managed to escape both the Charybdis and the Scylla this time. The Unbonded was rather obsessed with her sister. I wondered if Greta knew that.

Alex

Friday August 12,1932.

After a wonderful day Thursday where Xing’s parents visited with Eric and Greta and caught them up on what we had been up to and Xing and I played dodge the fae and not so fae kids, we took the overnight train to Boston after Mary said to talk to Altris about our wayward werewolves. In the restaurant where we we eating breakfast, Xing’s father said, You slept well last night.”

“We were sort of run out yesterday,” Xing said. The kids found us faster than I thought they would. Their leader was a bit of a tyrant.”

“That was Jimmy, wasn’t it,” Xing’s mother said with a grin. “Ginny said that he can be relentless.”
“Andy and Bruce must have put him up to getting our picture together as he tried hard enough.”

My mother in law had a bit of a grin. Jimmy had been in the city with his grandparents along with Bruce and Andy. He knew us and Xing’s parents. We had managed to escape and find a nice little cave that Jimmy ‘accidently’ led us to and we went back to after we had escaped for a rather spontaneous session, so the day had been fun regardless.

There was a car waiting when breakfast was over and we started our drive to the Cape. Hilda and Bill had driven down and were meeting us this evening. They were bringing Hilda’s mother so that she could work on Han’s and Nillia’s wedding with Nillia’s mother. Han’s mother had dragged Karl and Lelia out for the weekend. The mothers wanted to get the wedding out of the way before Nillia got any bigger. So they were shooting for right after Noro returned. The arrangements for Han’s family to come over were already set and all of them were planning rather extended stays.

When we arrived at the office, Altris was waiting. “I had a rather interesting discussion about the boys yesterday.”

“Number Two Son wants to hand them back.”

“Yes. There are problems though. The boys have familes over there and the Tiger opened up negotiations with the Red lady using the boys and revealed that they were alive. Something that the boys, Ed and Eric were trying to keep a bit discreet.

“Have you talked with Eric about this yet?”

“Not yet. Number Two Son wants to use Puppets to arrange for the werewolves’ deaths. It’s a good idea, but in order to make it clear that it was the werewolves that died, we really should have Change as part of it. I talked with Hans and Nillia last evening and that was their suggestion. Hans also had some insight into the Red Lady and her assistant, who he calls the Unbonded. Apparently she is a maneater, somewhat literally. In any case none of us want to hand the boys over to her and we really don’t want to kill them if we can avoid it.”

“Can Hans pull it off?”
“No, but we may have somebody who can. I talked with Julio last evening. His grandfather is a Creator and can pull it off. The grandfather is in macau and Maria is making the arrangements.”

“What do you want from us?”
“Would you be willing to fumble an investigation for a few weeks.”
“Helmut isn’t going to like that, especially if something else comes up. Since the boys are ok and are in this too, presumably, I suspect that we can arrange something. Let me call the boss.”

I went to the phone and called the office. Mary answered and said, “How did it go?”
“Well, actually. We know what happened to the boys. I need to negotiate with the boss about something.”

“I’ll put you through.”

“Alex, how was your little trip?”
“I talked to the old lady, did some investigating, had a good day avoiding one of the three menaces, went to the Cape and found the boys.”
“So, you are on your way back and the boys are as well. The old lady wants them in the barn and has a nice lamb all set up.”

“There are some problems. The Tiger opened negotiations with the Red Lady and revealed that the boys are alive. Altris wants to arrange their ‘deaths.’”

“That shouldn’t be hard. We have Creators that can make Puppets like they did for Tim, Tom and George. All you have to do is call Abe.”

“Altris did yesterday after talking with Hans and Nillia. Nillia suggested that the Puppets be able to Change, but Hans, Doug and Abe and the other Creators don’t have that skill. Julio’s grandfather does, but he is overseas.”

“So you want some time. I think that can be arranged. Stay in Boston and talk to people there. The Director was asking if I had something that his boys could use to test their new training from Bill on. So you can use them to look for enhanced adversaries. I’ll send Ray and Olivia up to back you up. Realistically you’re close enough that if something big comes up that you can get there quickly enough. You and Xing enjoy yourselves. Is Altris wanting to put things off until Noro gets back?”
“That’s one reason. He also doesn’t want something making a big spash before the season is more or less over. He also wants to take his time and set things up for a good show.”

“He probably wants to time things around next month’s full moon. I think that Mary and I will come up with Steve. Vilia wants to talk with her mother about something.”
“Let me guess, she went to the doctor.”
“Mary asked and that did come up. By the way, at some point this month some people want you and Xing down in Washington to have a discreet chat. Nothing bad, but we don’t want to do it up at the office and things are moving along.”

“So we are going to meet our mysterious bosses at last.”

“Yes. We kept things discreet, but since Mary and I are planning other things, you and Mike need to talk with them.”

“Why not wait until Mike gets back?”
“There is somebody else involved who wants to meet Xing. You can guess who it is. By the way, make sure that you tell her when the wedding is.”
“I don’t even know yet. Xing’s mother hasn’t told me and Jim’s mother and Barbara are working around the schedule at the gardens.”

“Jim’s mother didn’t waste any time taking charge of you and Xing, did she?”

“We barely move in and she took over. Apparently she did that to Xing and her family a long time ago.”

“They don’t seem to complain.”
“They wouldn’t dare.”

Helmut laughed. “Mary will call you about the appointment. Enjoy yourselves.”

He hung up and I turned to Xing. “We have a trip coming to Washington.”

“Miss Vicky wants to meet us and I suspect that your bosses want to open up communication before Helmut and Mary leave. That’s not a surprise.”

“Mary will make the appointment.”

“Then I will handle it with Mary for you.”

“Are you sure that you should be doing that?”
“Yes. We are partners in every way.”

“What are we going to do about Jim’s Mother?
“Hijon? There isn’t much we can do. Trust me, I have tried. We can expect her here tomorrow now that we will be staying a while.”

“She didn’t chase us up to Vermont.”

“She was busy. You can bet that she called Antonio, though. The next time we go up, we will be served baby food.”

“Baby food?”
“Food for making babies. That and my favorites. Yours, when she finds out what they are.”

“We’re doomed.”

“We’ll survive. My cousin did and they have four kids.”
“Including that young man who seems to have been attached to Jim’s daughter. Did you know about that?”

“No, but it isn’t the first time our keystone has drawn in the children of a normal retainer. One of the treasures still at the kingdom did the manipulation and the keystone nudged. Those two have been together since they were babies.”

“I noticed that none of the family seemed to be surprised.”

“There aren’t the numbers of eligible fae, especially high fae that there are here. So there was a need and a compromise was made. I am glad that Jim is going to be family.”

“What about the other two?”

“That will probably be up to our keystone as soon as things are ironed out. Why don’t we go for a swim while we can?”

Xing pulled me out as here parents and Altris laughed and daisy signed us out a car. Of course Xing and I were nailed on the way out by a rather precocious little girl. “Hi Gail, This is my bonded, Alex. Alex this is Gail.”
“I am pleased to meet you, Gail.”

“So what are you doing today? You are not in your Change.”
“We can’t be in our Change all the time,” Xing said. “For a lot of reasons. We need to be discreet so that we don’t scare people.”

“Like the werewolves that are coming? They are not that scary. My aunt is going out with Fritz when they can.”

“She doesn’t have a tail?”

“No, so she can’t give Fritz a tail and make his monster go away forever. But they can make the monster mostly go away and the monster can be used to hunt the things that Uncle Josh does. That way Uncle Josh won’t have to. Mr. Noro and Altris both want that very much. Everybody does.”

“I want to take my bonded here for a swim, so we need to go. We will be around for a while.”

“Unlike that Little Timmy character. He won’t be back. He was Troubleshot.”

“Ok, well, we will see you later, Gail.”

We got in the car and I said, “That may have been a mistake.”
“We’ll survive. That was a very interesting conversation. I hadn’t thought of using the mer Change to quell things like the werewolf affliction. Gail didn’t seem to be afraid of them in any case.”

We found a quiet beach, Changed and had a wonderful Swim. We were lucky this time. The kids didn’t find us.

Altris

Friday August 12, 1932.

Father didn’t make a big thing about his lander brothers and sister. They liked it that way and frankly they were more exposed than we were below. The family kept things discreet and so did they. Most people looked at my Aunt Meria and assumed that since she was the only relative with a tail, she was the only brother and sister that father had. The reality was that my aunt was like Moira, born as a lander and going under sea. Aunt had been under sea so long that nobody thought that she hadn’t been born there. Actually, Brian had shown up a couple of centuries ago and swept aunt off her feet and down below.

I had some cousins that were landers. Some of them actually worked for me. But there was one that most of thefamily were a bit disappointed with because of her choice of profession. She was a cat burglar. The best in the world actually. She strictly went after high value targets and loved making fools of them. At least most of the targets were high value and usually crooked. I wasn’t so sure about the museums, especially since my cousin had the habit of making sure the thing taken was found with quite a circus surrounding it and some crooked character in middle rather befuddled as to what just dropped on him. I shouldhave introduced her to Sal some time ago.

In any case, I had called Stacey yesterday and mentioned that I wanted to meet with my cousin, Kitty and a message had come back to meet at the same diner that I was meeting with Number Two Son Tomorrow. Actually that was perfect. My cousin hadn’t found a bond either and Number Two Son seemed to have the same kind of personality. With that in mind, I headed over to Plymouth and the diner after Alex and Xing left.

I walked in, sat down and my cousin did the same trick that Theresa liked. I was going to make an introduction, but Stacey probably beat me to it. She looked at me and said, “So cousin, what do you want?”

“I wanted to introduce you to Josh’s parents as a potential business opportunity for you.”
“Stacey beat you to it. We met at Tom’s birthday. Now there is somebody I want a discreet discussion with, but I don’t need you for that.”

“Well I was hoping that you could sit in the corner for a meeting that will probably be interesting tomorrow, here.”

“You don’t like my business, so what is in it for me?”

“Some fun and games and new contacts in your line of work. How much do you know about the events in the city?”
“That an old Chinese artifact raised a fuss in the water because some idiot sank it next to the bower. There were some people with interesting Changes looking into that and a rather notorious dealer poking around. Now I might be willing to make a trade for his conection.”

I wrote down Jim’s address. “Done.”

“What’s the catch?”

“Well, Jim’s associate bonded with a member of the bureau that deals in the weird and the strange and Jim and his wife are taking some things rather visibly back to Hong Kong.”

“Do you want me to acquire them? Those Chinese idiots were looking for somebody in acquisitions but my associates and I weren’t going to touch them with a ten foot pole.”

“The issue of those things has been resolved and the last thing I want is more ancient sentient things messing around. We have enough of them already. The things have a good home and I think that is better for all of us.”

“Why didn’t you call me about that earlier. It looks like Uncle had a lot of fun with that.”

“That was why I didn’t. Father was his old self, making new friends and enjoying himself immensely. I didn’t want to mess that up. The more that we can even get him from even thinking about going under sea for a anylength of time the better off we all are.”

“My apartment is on the twelth floor and the idea of a huge storm bearing down on the city does not make my comfortable. How did Ilutra screw that up.”

“Chrissie. Along with father being out of it and Ilutra just made his morning check. The news that the storm was off Bermuda didn’t show up until after father had spun the thing up and Josh was down in New York dealing with Aunt Meria’s problems.”

“Problems that were Troubleshot. Now there is somebody I would like to meet. Is he bonded?”
“Bonded, deal closed and married around the turn of the year. You could have crashed the wedding. It was at father’s old house. I can arrange for a meet with Sal.”

“I was out of the country working. Things got a bit dicier than I wanted because the Unbonded put her golden nose into things.”
“Who is the Unbonded?”

“Fae that was Turned by the Red Lady. The Unbonded is supposedly one of the Red Lady’s toys. I made the mistake of thinking that that was all she was. I won’t make that mistake again.”

“So she is one of the Masters’ Aides. But not a play toy like the others.”

“I should have had a long talk with you before going over.”
“We didn’t know as much then. The Colonel coming over and going after Tom opened quite a few doors. How come you didn’t crash Tom’s wedding?”

“Mera and Stacey didn’t tell me about it until it was too late to cancel my commitment. So I was on the boat, going over there just before the wedding. Obviously the thing with Tom’s family and the boy worked out. Stacey hasn’t had a chance to sit down and give me all the juicy bits. Is our new family as much fun as they look?”

“I will let you discover that for yourself. I could tell Bob and Scott that you said that they were ‘good boys.’”

“Do I look like that Martin Character? I would rob him blind except that all he likes is bad horse art and his wife has all the class in the family. Chrissie and Tom did the number on him any way.”

“You could rob Tom.”

“That would be scary. I would probably get away with it, for a while. Until either he or Chrissie made the kind of calls that Josh or Mera wouldn’t. Chrissie is the big collector there anyway and she knows me. Tom just accumulates things.”

“Real treasures, but yes. From what I have seen, he doesn’t really think about the things he has. He uses an artifact as letter opener.”
“Is that the one that the clowns were chasing after?”

“No, it was just a dagger from Japan, seemingly. The thing that the clowns was after is a Dragon.”

“A Dragon that Tom has had copies made of. At least he had the first one made. I doubt that it took very much for Persai to get inspired. You probably have one and Chrissie has one.”

“Yes. She is also giving one to the Empress of Japan when they go.”

“That’s Chrissie all over. She felt a bit restrained when she was under sea and her mother was watching a bit. She was also looking for a bond until she went under sea and after she went under sea. Lunch is here, so why don’t you catch me up on the goings on. Things had been so boring at the beginning of last year and then I go away and all sorts of fun starts.”

I told my cousin about Tom showing up, the Sharks, Sal and the car, Andy, the warehouse, Chrissie’s party and all the rest of it. When we were finished, she said, “You have intrigued me. I will be here tomorrow. I want to meet this character and Alex and Xing as well. Don’t tell them what I do for a living.”
“What, rob poor innocent museums.”
“Trust me, they are not innocent. The best way to make something notorious and popular is to arrange to have it stolen. I acquire something, keep it for six months or so and then unload it on some jerk who doesn’t know what hit him. Then the museum has a big show of their famous stolen painting.”

“You like having art on the wall.”
“True, but if I wanted famous paintings without the grief, I can just wait until it comes up for rental and hang it. All the museums have more stuff than they can hang anyway and the rental are a significant source of income. After six months or a year, I change things around and send the things back. But that doesn’t help the painting any. Creating a scandal puts the painting in the news and then people want to see and appreciate it. I will see you tomorrow.”

“I will be here. Who knows what might happen.”

“It hasn’t happened yet.”

She disappeared and I wonder what she had traded for Theresa and Eli’s little trick. I still hadn’t managed to get the vault shielded, but Kitty had access anyway. Regardless of what she did for a living, she was still family and we trusted her when it was important. Actually it looked as if we should have an all family meeting when Josh and Mera returned from Hawaii. The land side hadn’t been involved in things as much as they should have if what Kitty said was true. It was time to make sure that the entire family knew what was going on. Including one brother of father that hated father with a passion. With that in mind I drove over to a little place that was more than a bit of a dump. Uncle Eli came out and said, “What do YOU want?”

“To discuss certain things with you.”

“About that Colonel character? I already know. He could have had me for the asking. I would love to get an easy ticket back over there.”

“I can arrange that, if that is what you really want.”

“Ever since Noro arranged for my Millie to run into those monsters and get killed I really haven’t cared about much. On the other hand the rest of the family doesn’t want to go and I won’t go without them.”

“Father didn’t arrange for the werewolves to take Millie. They hit us, took Cal, George, Rachel and a bunch of the other people up top. They shielded the boat they used and we didn’t notice it crossing in the dark. There was no way to know what they were planning and they must have had somebody looking into everything up top.”

“My brother managed to stay safe under.”
“We didn’t stay under. We were not safe either. The Dark fae had a ship with a compelled crew filled with gunpowder and set to get blown up right over the bower. We came as soon as we could and tried to save what we could. We didn’t have any Constructs ready, our guns were not effective at first and we lost people trying to use swords to fight back. In any case we went and destroyed the dark fae, at the cost of my brother. Uncle it is time to end this stupid argument.”

“Your mother tried to say the same thing and then your father screwed up again. Your mother was a truly great lady.”

“That was why they went after her. That wasn’t an accident. Right now, except for the fact that I’m not sure when the thing started to play his games, I’m not sure if the attack on us wasn’t the start of something bigger.”

“So you say.”

“Uncle, we documented all of it. We also have people that saw some of it from the inside. The Colonel was not just some dark fae doing the same sort of things that dark fae do. He was one of five very strong dark fae called the Masters and they were sending Twisted and other monsters to destroy all of us. We invited you to my sister’s wedding and the meeting afterwards and you never replied. I think that the entire family needs to see what was going on. We were sort of rushed and developing new relationships, father was still out of it and we sort of forgot to talk with you and my other uncles until somebody reminded me that he had talked with you about Puppets.”
“I turned him down. Did you send him? I would have been more aggressive if I knew that you had.”

“I didn’t send him. Frankly you should have given him what he wanted because we are on the opposite side of things. Anyway I doubt that you can do what we needed. We sent a message to Julio’s grandfather.”

“Try me.”

“We wanted a Puppet that can Change. We didn’t think that you could do that and you weren’t talking with us anyway.”

“I can do that. It’s a bit tricky and I haven’t made any Puppets for a very long time. Not since the disaster in fact. I sort of lost myself.”
A rather large man came outside. “Is he bugging you, father?”

“Joseph, this is your cousin Altris.”
“I know who he is. They cut us off.”
“Actually, I cut them off. Altris, have Stacey call me when she gets back from Hawaii. She tracked me down after the thing with the Colonel. I think that we do need to resolve some things. I’m as bad as your father in using my grief as an excuse and this has gone on far too long already.”

“I can sweeten the deal.”
“How?”

“I can make sure that I introduce you to Tom when he gets back.”

He actually grinned. “Considering that book he put out, that’s a bit frightening. Is the rest of the family like that?”
“I’ll let you discover that for yourself. If I really wanted to bug you, I could tell father to send the boys.”

“I’ve heard rumors. Worse, I think that your grandsons told them about me and my great grandsons were right there looking at their cars.”

I got back in the car. Things had gone much better than I had expected. When I arrived at the office Raillia was waiting. “You were gone a bit longer than I expected.”

“I talked to Kitty and then went and talked with Eli. He seems to be willing to talk with us somewhat.”
“About time. He’s blamed Noro for the werewolves striking that night for far too long. Noro didn’t know that they had snuck over in that shielded boat and ran right through your brother’s sweeps. They planned things to his us as hard as they could and took Cal and Rachel right off the bat as well as Millie and just missed Eli. They wanted to decapitate us with their first blow and they came very close. They also had that ship that had compelled sailors heading right for the bower that they were going to sink on top of the bower. Noro had to stop that before he could deal with the werewolves and the Necromancer turning the people in Chatham. Noro and the rest of us didn’t have time to coddle Eli that night and Millie was the first one killed because the werewolves were looking for Eli.”

“I want to get the family together for a meeting. The land side hasn’t been as keyed in to what was happening because they haven’t been as involved.”
“I bet Kitty wanted to be.”

“She had a job.”

“It hasn’t made the papers yet.”

“She had some interesting insights about museums.”

“What did she say?”
“That they hire her to rob them and plant the stolen goods on somebody.”
“I can believe that. They want to make a splash with something that they think is special and people ignore it. Somebody steals it and suddenly it’s the most valuable and significant painting ever because it is now so notorious. Did she want to know what you wanted her to steal?”
“Yes. What I really was doing was seeing if I could put her in the room with Number Two Son. They seem to be compatible.”

“Railia laughed. “Your father will love it if you pull it off.”
“I warned both of them, so if something happens, it won’t be my fault.”

“Well why don’t you take me for a Swim before we meet at Joe’s with Alex and Xing for dinner.”

“Ok, I want to talk with Julio about Number Two Son and see if he found a place to a place to stash werewolves after dinner.”

We had a wonderful Swim and Alex and Xing joined us for dinner. I toldAlex about Eli and mentioned that my cousin was going to be at the restaurant in the corner tomorrow.”
“So we are set with the Puppets regardless?”
“I hope so. Eli will probably ask for something that he wants.”

“I can call Abe and see what he thinks that Eli will want. Since he is family, you can feed him to Tom.”

“That scared him somewhat.”

We all laughed.

After dinner was over, I dropped Raillia into the water and went over to talk with Julio again. He looked at me and said, “I have a place, on the mainland. It’s owned by an old fae that has been around forever. He wants tickets to the mermaid dancing for his grandchildren. I said that that wouldn’t be a problem.”

“I can talk with Cally, but I don’t think that it will be.”
“I already did and it isn’t. I just need you or Cally to sign off on it. She’s meeting me at the diner with her bonded in the morning if I hadn’t seen you.”

He handed me the sheet and I signed it. “How come you didn’t use one of the emergency presigned sheets.”

“No reason to and I like to have as many as I can get for real emergencies. At least Mr. Martin isn’t an emergency anymore.”

I shuddered. Every time he had shown up, there had been something for years. Now that Ed was in charge, things were much easier. I looked at Julio. “Anything else?”
“How did your meeting with your cousin go? She isn’t going to hit us again, is she?”
“I didn’t get into an argument and I handed her Jim’s address. A little late, but she doesn’t need to know that right away. She wants to talk to Tom.”

“Then she definitely doesn’t want to hit us and incur the wrath of Chrissie. I don’t think that Chrissie really understands just how much clout she has because she controls acess to Tom. At least with the family and the company. Not that Kitty is going to piss Chrissie off in any case. She did that when Chrissie was thirteen.”

“That was not fun. At least it wasn’t for John, Jake, Josh, me and Kitty. Chrissie enjoyed her histrionics, ran right over Kitty and Kitty never saw it coming until the surprise party cut loose right in the middle of Kitty doing a job. She’s hitting a place, it’s closed until suddenly it wasn’t, there are a bunch of teenage girls and there is Kitty who can’t even hide because most of the party was High fae.

 

Then Jake shows up with his people, John has to deal with a boat that has come loose and strangely enough, lost its wheel and rudder, Kitty is being busted, Josh is trying to get Chrissie calmed down and I was trying to quiet everybody else and keep the splash off the street and out of the papers after reporters showed up.”

“That was a night to remember. I think that your wife will be upset if I keep you any longer.”
“Upset with you! She’ll blame me!”
I headed back to Joe’s and the water where Raillia was waiting and ended a very good day.

 

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