The Tiger And The Guardian Chapter 36, Part 1.

Here’s then next part of The Tiger And The Guardian.

Chapter 36.
The Custodian had left with the Lady on their journey. Before he left, the Custodian had come to the Safe Place with a shielded box, taken the Dragon and left with a grin. I was going to follow when the Dragon told me to stay with the Horned man and the Little Girl. The Little Girl was almost as much fun to play with as the Boy but I was concerned about the Dragon now that it was not in the hidden Safe Place. The Dragon explained that the Custodian had made his own Safe Place that only he knew about. It also said that if I stayed where I was, the enemy would think that the Dragon was still at the Safe Place. Then the Boy came with his tailed girl and his friend and the friend’s tailed girl to watch the Safe Place. I could not tell the Boy that the Dragon was not in the Safe Place. The Boy and his friends, as well as the Custodian’s friends were obviously planning something to deal with the enemy. I knew that the enemy was sneaky and determined, so I was going to remain alert. I lay in front of the Horned Man’s work place and watched the goings on. So far, everything seemed to be as it should.
Saturday August 13, 1932.
Alex, Xing, Hilda and I started off to the diner. Èr hào lǎohǔ was waiting when we arrived and Kitty was sitting at the counter not even trying to hide. Èr hào lǎohǔ saw Alex , Xing and Hilda and said, “I’m not surprised that you brought them. Alex, Xing, we haven’t met, but I am Èr hào lǎohǔ or Number Two Son. Hilda, we bumped into each other at the hardware store one time just before Easter. Does that Pookah really parade around in his Change often?”
“Tom? Just before Easter, typically.”
“His boss is not fae. He must know something, but he didn’t seem to.”
“That is a mystery that nobody has been able to solve. Roger ignores everything related to the fae and has excuses for everything. Which excuse did he use on you?”
“Tom was wearing his Easter Bunny costume for the kids. That was the truth, but it hardly covered what was going on.”
“That was an easy one. He uses it every year. Some of the others get weirder and stranger than real fae. If you push, he will tell you about the Martian Invaders that he defeated, saving the planet.”
“Was that Bob and Scott with Constructs?”
“No, that was my bonded and his friend Arney Stiller, with Constructs. Mabel Stiller told me the story. I haven’t had a chance to talk with Arney about what he and my bonded got up to.”
“Losing your bonded is a great blow. At least you have your rather precocious son. How did he acquire the tail?”
“You know that he was kidnapped and the boys have probably told you why. Well, there was a girl looking for people who could tell her about her father in the war, She popped up at the Troubleshooter’s party and my son and she bonded. Andy couldn’t even swim before. Now he Swims. He’s offshore now, cooking up something for your friends.”
“I’m hoping that we can entertain the Yaoguai and use them to keep my father distracted. I have other people of far more value.”
I smiled. “The men doing work for Mrs. Macdonald and others.”
“How were they spotted.”
“The kids picked up on them. Tommy Warshowski told my night man last Monday about them. You should warn them that the kids want to come up with things to impress Tom and most of them have Tom’s book. Tom’s publisher’s rep is running a not so little contest for the best gag to go in the new book. Considering that my grandsons, the MIT types, the superboat people and some others are all playing, things are going to get interesting.”
“I’ll warn Jimmy. He doesn’t startle easily. He served his time in the war.
Speaking about being startled, did you find a place to stash the boys?”
I wrote down the address. “Yes we did. For obvious reasons we wanted that dealt with.”
“My biggest concern is that Mabel will come looking for them,” Hilda said. “Eric told her why they needed to be away, but she is a rather forward old woman.”
“You’re telling me?” Èr hào lǎohǔ said. “Getting in once we found out about the werewolves was almost impossible. You know abut Jimmy’s people by now and I had some family. Jimmy’s people could hire on and look around, and we fae stayed out of the neighborhood to avoid getting Eric’s attention. We suceeded for the most part. But getting past that old lady? I know that she isn’t fae, but we were all set and ready and what does she do? Get in the car and truck and come down here to parade the boys on the beach. We chased along but the fae in our group were made at the bridges and couldn’t stay around. According to Fritz the little trip did very well and when this is over, his girl is going to be rather annoyed at him. When she took the boys home it was more of the same. That woman is smart and keeps an eye on things. Fortunately we found that old shed and cut the fence so that the boys would have to fix it.”
“How did you find the shack? It wasn’t that easy to find.”
“By accident and avoiding some of Eric’s boys. We were running from them, looking for a place to hide and Jimmy saw a break in the brush on the side of the road, so we ducked in and found the shed.”
“I’m going to have to talk to Boris to see if the boys actually saw you. As far as I know, none of them reported any strange fae.”
“I think that they may have thought that we were some of the Martin boys and didn’t want to spoil the fun.”
“How will you deal with things if Mabel shows up.”
“Hand the boys back and have them take the heat. Since I removed the compulsions the first day, they could have gone back if they wanted. They haven’t so it is their fault.”
We all laughed at that. Since the boys were settled we plotted some of the rest of it. I told Èr hào lǎohǔ, “Nillia, my dance leader suggested that the Puppets should be able to Change.”
“You can do that? I wasn’t sure. Very few Creators can.”
“My nightman’s grandfather has that skill but he lives in Macau We have invited him for a visit so that he can see his greatgrandchildren and he has accepted. There is another option that you have already met.”
“Yes. I talked with him, he can do it and I actually managed to convince him that he should. I used Tom as bait or a threat. I also told him that if he didn’t, I was going to tell certain young men that he said that they were ‘good boys.’”
“Those two were on their way to the wedding with Tom. I’m sure of that because the talk about it has been going on since the Games.”
“They are not the only boys in the family that create chaos. I would keep your eyes open because I approved some resources to the other pair of troublemakers, the two that you all didn’t see during the thing with the Black Dragon.”
“I’m still surprised that he didn’t push you off. Why does he hate your father so much?”
“I don’t want to say. It is a family matter and events that happened a long time ago and were very bad. When my father gets back, you can talk with him.”
Èr hào lǎohǔ hadn’t noticed Kitty in the background yet, but she seemed to be purring a bit when she looked at him. It was obvious that she liked what she was seeing. If this worked, her mother would be very happy. I had the feeling that Èr hào lǎohǔ was on his way to being family already. We finished lunch and setting up the week and agreed to meet next week. As we were leaving, Hilda said, “Who was that at the counter. Did you know her? She seemed to start to go catty over that man.”
“She was, wasn’t she. I’m not going to say who she is. You are a Fed and she is rather notorious. So far she has only been busted once.”
“How did that happen?” Alex asked with a bit of a grin.
“She messed with Chrissie. Chrissie had placed a deposit on one of Christophe’s things and Kitty lifted it. It wasn’t a big deal, but you know how Chrissie can be when she is pissed. So Kitty was setting up a big job at one of the Galleries in Provincetown. To this day, I don’t know how Chrissie found out where and when. But the night that Kitty was hitting the place, Chrissie managed to arrange a surprise birthday party for one of her friends. Kitty had lifted the painting and suddenly the lights went on, “Surprise!!” and there was Kitty with the goods in the middle of a bunch of high fae girls including some you know and their parents with Jake’s people on the way and reporters right behind. Meanwhile a boat suddenly comes loose with the people on it running the engine, but not going anywhere. Chrissie had her picture back the next day. The world’s best cat burglar, run over by a thirteen year old.”
Everybody laughed at that. Alex said, “You expected her, didn’t you.”
“I’m not going to say. I do think that I made points with certain parties and it was time that Kitty found somebody and settled down.”
“That will make the galleries and museums happy.”
“No it won’t. But you can set the insurance fraud people and the FBI on that angle. The crap that ended up in prison can stay there.”
I dropped Alex and the rest off and headed to my office. Around about three, there was a presence in the room. Kitty became visible and she looked more than a bit pleased with herself. “You set me up.”
“I warned both you and him.”
“I should make you pay for the dates that are coming up.”
“Did you have a nice chat with him?”
“Very nice. He’s taking me to dinner and the mermaid dancing Monday.”
“At least Chrissie and Tom are far away. You have some time before she finds out.”
“I know. She is just going to love the fact that I bonded at last. I haven’t talked with mother yet.”
“I would call her, sooner rather than later.”
“You must be pleased with yourself. I think I will pop your balloon a bit. I just checked the vault. There is a very strong aversion on the Dragon. Royal fae aversion. The interesting thing is that it is keyed.”
“Could you crack the key? At least to discover who the aversion is keyed to?”
“No. I really want to meet Tom now. I wonder where he learned encryption. That isn’t something that most people know how to do. In any case there is no way to know if the Dragon is still in the vault or what is in the box.”
“Roger is still here.”
“Who is Roger and why is that significant?”
I went to the window. Kitty followed me and looked out with me into the yard and parking lot where two of Julio’s children were playing with Roger. She looked a bit closely. “Roger is the dog?”
“Somewhat more than just a dog. The Dragon created a Guardian for itself when it was originally taken from your boyfriend’s family. As events went on, the Dragon decided that the family was unfit and has been looking for a new Custodian and family. It chose Tom.”
“He is very young for such a responsibility and hadn’t even met Chrissie had he, when he became the Custodian. I am a bit surprised that he would just leave the Dragon in the vault and go halfway around the world for a month and a half while he knew that the Tiger is close.”
“You don’t know Tom.”
I told Kitty about the files he had collected and hid all over the farm. As well as some of the other stories that I had heard since he had come around. “Stephie’s birthday is coming up and he probably wants to surprise her with something. He’s been busy, but he knows all the shops around here, can get things made very quickly in his own shop and played with his sister for years when she had abilities and he did not.”
“So he turned this into his sister’s birthday present? How do you think that that is going to work?”
“I have no idea. I think that you and boyfriend should find out. Talk to Alex for a start, Tom’s parents and your boyfriend and his father should talk to people in the embassy. Tom had a wide path down there. If you don’t want to wait until Stacey gets back, you can talk to Tim and Stephie. In fact I would definitely talk to Stephie. She has been on the other side of Tom longer than anybody else.”
“So dates in New York, a date to Vermont, talking to people that I really shouldn’t be talking to and a mystery. If I didn’t know that there was no possibility that Uncle could be involved I would say that this something that he would come up with. I will tell ‘Hǔ. By the way, I am invoking family rules. Since you have the two boys already and your brother, I have four more slots since ‘Hǔ is family and you have Tom and Chrissie already. Maybe it’s better to say that Tom and Chrissie have you. I’m going to do this as if it’s Chrissie and I on opposite sides of things. I still owe her for a certain surprise.”
“Tom and Chrissie are not even here.”
“No, but they both set things up. When ‘Hǔ wasn’t family, that didn’t matter, but now that he is, it does.”
She left with more than a bit of a grin. I had outfoxed myself. The opportunity had been too good to pass up. Since there was no conflict that was dangerous to the bower, Kitty could invoke family rules and I had recruited my brother and the boys, Chrissie and Tom were certainly involved and Chrissie had recruited Andy, who was family. I called my brother. “Ilutra, things just got a LOT more fun. Why don’t we take our wives to dinner at the steakhouse.”
“What happened?”
“I pushed Kitty toward Number Two son and they clicked. She’s invoking family rules.”
“So Number Two Son is now family and Kitty knows how we play. A LOT more fun. Meet you at seven?”
“That works.”
Around six, I picked up Railia and met Ilutra and Marlia at the steakhouse. As I rolled Raillia to the table, Marlia said, “Ilutra says that you managed to get Kitty bonded and outfoxed yourself.”
“I did, and I hadn’t thought the potential consequence through. Kitty invoked family rules.”
“Kitty being bonded is more important in any case. Tell us about the man. Where did he come from?”
“China. He is doing some acquisition work for his father and made a mistake.”
“He is the one who took the boys,isn’t he?”
“Why doesn’t he just send them home? For that matter three of them have bondeds right here in the neighborhood.”
“The man’s father used the boys as a part of a deal with the Red lady for some things. We want to arrange for the boys to die and disappear again.”
“The Red Lady wants werewolves. Chrissie told me that the Colonel was keeping his people under very tight control because of that.”
“I assume that we are helping with that.”Ilutra said.
I smiled. “Oh yes. I even went and talked with Eli.”
“Was he the same? He has been carrying that grudge against father for way too long since Millie was killed.”
“I think that the grudge was keeping him from sinking into a funk. He wants to talk, in any case. We need to have an all family meeting and introduce Tom and the rest as well as update the lander side to what has been going on. They weren’t in the middle like we were.”
“So do we do it before or after Tom gets back?”
“I think that we need to do it right after father gets back. Certainly right after Josh gets back. I have this feeling that we really can’t wait for Tom.”
“So what about our forthcoming fun and games.”
“Tom put an aversion on the box the Dragon is in, keyed to somebody. Kitty couldn’t crack it.”
“So the box can’t even be touched by anybody other than Tom and the person the box is keyed to. I wonder who that is.”
“I would guess that it is Stephie. Her birthday is next month and Tom probably wants to run a huge gag for her.”
“A box with an aversion is hardly a huge gag.”
“I know. There is probably more to it.”
“Tom has been busy,” Raillia said, “how could he set something up?”
“His shop is right across the street from the boathouse, Chrissie probably hasn’t been as large a distraction since they settled down and we have all seen how Tom uses time. If had something in mind for Stephie, he did it.”
“We can always check to see if Stephie is the key anyway,” Ilutra said. “She and Gretchen are coming down right after the full moon with Ed, Boris and the kids. They are getting together with Bill and Hilda. We can run her through the vault and see what happens.”
Monday, August 15, 1932.
I was at my vanity, getting ready for my date. ‘Hǔ may have been Number Two Son, but he was already my number one. I took my time so that I looked my best and then drove down to the diner where he was waiting. He got in my car and we headed across the bridge to the steakhouse. I had called Cally and arranged for a beach pass rather than trying to make it all the way to Provincetown. Dinner was wonderful as we shared stories of the various adventures that we had had. As we were heading to the beach, ‘Hǔ asked, “So how did Chrissie manage to trap you like that?”
“I have no idea. Somehow she managed to find out where and when the job was. She has never said how. She used her influence to set up Alissa’s surprise party and must have had somebody setup very good shields. It may have been Uncle, but that would have been a violation of family rules as it was just her and me.”
“Family rules?”
“If you have looked into the family you will have noticed that the lot of us like fun and games. When Mera bonded with Josh, Nera and some others in the family went after Mera and Josh. Uncle created a rule that if a family member recruits another family member to go after another family member, that family member can recruit any other family member they like until the numbers are equal. You should know that since you are now family and since Chrissie and Tom have recruited my cousin and others, you can now recruit me and I will tell you who else to recruit, starting with Uncle.”
“Noro would help us?”
“Definitely. Since what your father wants is not a threat to the bower, he will be willing to play.”
We parked the car and walked across the dune to the beach. I had made sure to bring a blanket. As we arrived at the beach, Hilda spotted us and waved. We walked over and Hilda was there with a man, a boy and young mermaid who must have been born into Change. The boy was in Change and had obviously bonded to the girl, though they hadn’t closed the deal yet. There was also another man,his wife and their kids. “Hi Kitty! This is Bill, Arney Stiller and his wife and their kids and my son Andy and his friend Trillia. Bruce and Verelia went to get wet for a bit. They should be back soon.”
“The other man said, “You are the man who took the boys. Are they ok?”
‘Hǔ said. “They are fine. Has Hilda told you why they didn’t just go home?”
“Yes. I called mother yesterday and told her. At least she knows that they are all ok. You may be dealing with the boys’ bondeds soon. Mother isn’t the only one worried about the boys. The girls have agreed that things need to settle down before they get together and everybody is worried about the families over there.”
“My father made a mistake. Frankly, is unlikely that the Masters are going to last very much longer, but there is likely to be a very big mess. Some of my relatives and I took advantage of some labor contracts to go to Europe and see what was going on.”
“I know about the Masters. Before Brad was taken, we met while we were on leave together and talked about things that we had seen. I actually signed up when Brad was drafted along with some other family members. I wanted to be his back like we had always been. I failed. There was something worse that was using the war as cover. Did you see that too?”
“Yes we did. We left the labor pool and managed to actually get close to the Masters as they were having a meeting. There were very dark things going on.”
“Where are Alex and Xing?” I asked. “I’m surprised that they are not here.”
Hilda laughed “Look around. Look for the kids on the beach.”
I did and most of the kids were surrounding two dragons who were entertaining them. I laughed. “How did that happen?”
“Some of the kids knew who they were and insisted that they Change. It happens just about every time they are with kids.”
The show started and Alissa had Chrissie’s spot on the platform, calling out announcements and sparking the crowd as the show went on. The back scenery projections were new, as were the winged faeries. I hadn’t realized that the land side had involved themselves with the shows, but apparently Nillia and my cousin were trying new things this year. The girls put on a wonderful show as they always did. ‘Hǔ turned to me and said, “When is the next show? We must bring father.”
“Friday evening and you are right. I don’t think that we can make that show, but next week’s is definite. We can be on the boat and closer next time.”
After the show was over, Andy and Trillia went into the water with the other two and ‘Hǔ asked Hilda, “Are you worried about them?”
“Not really. That is Andy’s life now. They are using Chrissie’s boathouse anyway. At least they are under it.”
“How did that happen? They seem to be very young.”
“They are, but the Sound bower had had it’s heir killed in the war and there was only the king, his daugther and Trillia. Trillia wanted to find out what had happened to her father and talked to everybody on the coast. She is very popular and when Andy was kidnapped and rescued, they bonded.”
“Andy must have had one of those amulets,” I said with a bit of a grin. “Did Trillia give it to him and how did they sneak it past you.”
“She did and Trillia came and asked me if I would be too concerned about Andy and tails. I wasn’t, since I knew that it was coming in any case.”
‘Hǔ said, “My father said to me that Tom would probably use misdirection and take the Dragon out of the vault. Kitty checked and the box that the Dragon is in has a strong aversion and is keyed to somebody. We think that it is his sister, Stephie, since her birthday is coming up.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Tom has something prepared for Stephie and it will probably be big. Tom probably wants to make sure that Stephie gets something that she will just love. So the gag is going to be big, a puzzle and involve the use of his abilties to do things differently than he has ever done them before. Stephie is coming here next week with Ed, Boris, Gretchen and the kids. We will have to see if Stephie can open the box. Of course the box could be keyed to your father, but the only way to discover that is for your father to get into the vault. I think that I see what is going on.”
“Well, I haven’t gone up against Chrissie in a long time and I owe her for a certain surprise party” I said. “Getting busted was rather a shock. Especially when it was Jake.”
‘Jake goes easy on you?”
“No. But I try to not get caught where my family will be embarassed. Actually that time was the only time that I was caught. Outfoxed by a thirteen year old.”
“Andy is thirteen and he’s playing. So be alert.”
“I will be, trust me. We have to figure out the family rule slots before things go too much farther.”
We left the beach, I kissed my bonded good night and returned to my rather empty apartment.
The Tiger (Chen Hǔ)
Tuesday August 16,1932.
My rather laggardly son sent me a message to meet.Since there obviously hadn’t been any preperations for an assault tonight, I wanted to know what he had been doing. When I arrived at the location, he was with a lady. One thing was immediately obvious. My son had a bond at last. My wife would be ecstatic. I was just annoyed. My son stood up. “Hello father.”
“Who is this?”
“This is Kitty.”
“You are not prepared for an assault this evening. What happened?”
“Many things. The plain fact is that we are not ready. Jimmy and his people wanted more time to setup distractions and it is fairly obvious when I drove around the Cape that they exepected us to show up tonight.”
“The werewolves need to be secure.”
“They are.”
“We are losing our opportunity. We should strike now.”
“The strike would fail and be pointless. In any case, the game has changed.”
“I am family.” The lady said.
“You are not seafolk.”
“Most people make the mistake of looking at my uncle who is seafolk and assuming that he was born into Change. Actually, my aunt was the seafolk partner.”
“Your aunt is seafolk and the queen of the Rockaway bower.”
“Brian was seafolk in that case.My aunt spends so much time uder sea and had her kids below, so people think that she was born undersea. Since my uncle makes those big splashes of his, the land side can hide in the shadows somewhat.”
“What do you do?”
“I am in acquisitions. I acquire things that people want. I am very good at it.”
“There is something that I wish to acquire. Perhaps we can deal.”
“I already looked into that. The thing you want has a very strong aversion with an encrypted key that I could not crack. The key is tied to somebody, but I could not decrypt it to figure out who.”
“Is the Guardian still there?”
“Roger? He was playing with some children when I saw him. Julio likes having him around.”
“If we wait to much longer the old man will be back.”
“I am counting on it. This is me and ‘Hǔ against Tom and Chrissie now. They recruited my cousins. My cousin recruited two of his grandsons and Chrissie recruited Andy. There’s also Hilda being involved, but she is working in her capacity as Federal Officer chasing the boys. I may recruit her and I am definitely recruiting Stephie as well as Uncle Noro when he gets back.”
“Will he cooperate?”
“Yes. He’ll love it. This way he gets a chance to really test out Tom.”
“Tom will not even be there.”
My son looked at me. “Father, you said that Tom would probably use misdirection and multiple copies of the Dragon. I think that is exactly what he is doing. I do not think that the Dragon is in the vault. I do think that the box will need to be opened to find the Dragon. If Stephie is not the key, the next step will be to get you inside the vault and see if you are the key.”
“That will not be easy,” the lady said. “My cousins will do everything to keep you out and they have a lot of resources.”
“I wish that we could recruit your young man,” My son said. “But he is dead.”
“No he’s not,” the lady said. “We can recruit Tim and Suzy if you would like. We should talk with them, Eli and Theresa in any case.”
“The Yaoguai saw the Troubleshooter shoot him.”
“Sal would hardly shoot his brother in law. We haven’t met yet, but I do know what is happening in the family, including the Rockaway bower. Also, Tim saw the Colonel and Tom playing with Puppets and was asking about Creators when he was at Tom’s birthday earlier this year. The Yaoguai also saw Tim shoot my old adversary, George and yet there he was, moving into a place in Plymouth and working for Tom.”
“I doubt that Eli would make Tim or George a puppet,” My son said. “He would barely talk with me and they are connected to your uncle.”
“Uncle Eli makes a few crappy Constructs a year and some other things of dubious quality. He hates Uncle Noro because Uncle Noro managed to keep the bower alive after Eli’s bonded was killed by werewolves in a dark fae raid that started a war between us and them. We squeaked through that rather terrible night and Uncle Noro couldn’t stop to deal with his brother and his grief. Uncle Eli has been stewing in self pity ever since. It’s rather pathetic, actually, because before that night, Uncle Eli was a wonderful man and a very good Creator.”
The rest of the luncheon was Kitty telling us stories about the family. In the end I decided that my son had been right and the raid would not have succeeded in any case. Of course there was the chance that he was playing some game of his own. At least Kitty had reasons of her own to play with Tom and Chrissie and she was obviously a good fit for Number Two Son. We agreed to meet next week.
Wednesday August 16,1932.
Ray and Olivia showed up on the 2:30 train and we met at South Station. As we sat down for coffee, Ray said, “The boss said that you found the boys, but that there were complications.”
“The boys were concerned that the Red Lady would come after them or go after their families.”
“The families are in the Baroness’s domain, are they not?”
“Yes, but the domain is rather exposed and Adelheid and the major are working to get as many as possible out discreetly.”
“Some of the boys have bonded, haven’t they. We could use the wedding angle again.”
“Not with the Red Lady and her assistant watching things. We want to arrange for the werewolves to die.”
“You can get Abe to make some Puppets.”
“Nillia suggested that it would make a better show if the werewolves were to Change before they died. The only Creator in the country or at least in the area who can do that is Noro’s brother and everybody that I have talked to about him says that he is impossible to deal with. The Colonel even passed over him even though he lives only a few miles from Boston.”
“He’s that bad? Why?”
“He’s Noro’s brother, his bonded was killed when the bower was fighting dark fae a very long time ago and he blames Noro for that.”
“He must not be seafolk if he doesn’t live in a bower.”
“He isn’t. Apparently much of Noro’s family isn’t and we hadn’t met them yet. The one that Xing and I have met is rather fun, isn’t she Xing?”
“For a notorious cat burglar, yes. Apparently the only person who has ever caught her is Chrissie. Chrissie pulled surprise party on one of her jobs.”
Olivia grinned. “Now that is a story. How old was Chrissie when she did it?”
“Thirteen. Apparently Chrissie and Kitty liked the same picture, Chrissie put a deposit on it and Kitty stole it. Kitty’s next job had the surprise party and the getaway boat had propulsion and steering issues after the moorings cut loose. Kitty returned the picture right after that.”
“Things are getting even more interesting,” I said. “Since Kitty bonded with Number Two Son and the opposition is Tom and Chrissie, Kitty is invoking family rules.”
“Tom and Chrissie are not even here.”
“They set things up and recruited people. It’s not Kitty’s fault that Tom and Chrissie went to Japan.”
Ray smiled. “So who is on what side other than us poor suffering Feds.”
“Chrissie has Altris and Ilutra and Altris recruited two of his grandsons that run around with Bob and Scott. Kitty is going to recruit Noro and Stephie.”
“Noro I can understand, but Stephie?”
“The box the Dragon is supposed to be in has an aversion that is keyed. Kitty thinks that the key is Stephie and that Tom wants to go over the top as a birthday present for Stephie.”
“That actually makes sense. Stephie, Hilda and Jacob did go a bit over the top for Tom’s birthday. Do you think that Noro will want to go along?”
“Everybody thinks so.”
“How did the boys get through yesterday?”
“With no real problems other than Loraine coming out and nailing Fritz for not telling her that he was Ok when she discovered that he should have.”
“So what is the game plan?”
“We keep the Yaoguai out of the business office until Noro gets back around the first of September. We also provide some enhanced adversaries for the FBI types to look at, namely the Yaoguai.”
“What about the cats.”
“They may show up with the boys. Number Two Son and Altris are going after each other for the next couple of weeks. Stephie is arriving Saturday with Boris and the kids. Along with Gretchen and Ed ”
“Whose side is she on?”
“She gets to play with Tom with the potential for a big gag. When she heard what was going on, she loved the idea.”
“Where are Kitty and Number Two Son now?”
“Heading to New York to talk with some people.”
“Let me guess, Eli, Theresa and Tim. Sal too, probably.”
“Yes. Eli and Theresa are one of Kitty’s customers and Number Two Son wants to talk with Tim.”
“How come he didn’t think that Tim was dead?”
“Tim is family. Kitty knows who he is.”
“Why didn’t Noro tell us about all these other relatives?”
“Noro? Are you kidding?”
“Right. We slipped up. We should have asked Al about them. Nera too. Whose side do you think they will be on?”
“I have no idea. Mike will probably try to stay out of it, Nera might too. On the other hand, Mike likes to play. Al and Eltra will be on Altris’s side because Stephie.”
Olivia and Xing were giggling through all of that. Olivia asked Xing, “Where are your parents?”
“We just dropped them off,” Xing replied. “They are taking the train back to new York and dealing with some negotiations surrounding a bond.”
“In your family, Alex?”
“One of Barbara’s daughters hooked up with one of Quill Bera’s grandsons,” I said. “Apparently there is more to it than two young people getting together. My family had bonding issues until after I bonded and our keystone woke up.”
“New relationships will make Mary happy.”
“That is true. Miss Vicky as well.”
“You don’t seem to be crazy about it.”
“When the year started all I had to worry about was the occasional vampire or Twisted. Now I’m responsible for a big family, the businesses and my job, which is getting crazier than it was. At least I can just shoot the vampires.”
Xing reached over, kissed me and said, “There are compensations. Me, for instance.”
I kissed her back. “Well yes. The vampire supply is rather low right now anyway.”
Wednesday August 16,1932.
“When ‘Hǔ and I arrived at Grand Central we were met by a young man with a very nice Packard sedan. He put our bags in the trunk, ‘Hǔ got in the front seat and I joined a mermaid in the back. As we were driving off he said, “Miss Percy, I’m Tim and this is Suzy.”
‘Hǔ grinned. “I take it that news of your death is a bit exagerated.”
“Me? Suzy wouldn’t let me take those kinds of risks. Are you talking about that other character that managed to squeeze out of his family problems?”
“I wouldn’t know. My father talked to the people that thought they saw a young man get shot by the Troubleshooter.”
“My brother would hardly shoot Tim,” Suzy said. “Mother would make his life miserable.”
“I have heard about you somewhat,” I said, “especially that rather dramatic rescue of Josh’s granddaughter, but how did you two meet?”
“Over a picture of a battleship,” Suzy said. “I was dancing a bit to give the crew of the Pennsylvania a good send off and this snoop was taking pictures. He caught me and I went after him to improve security and catch him.”
“You obviously did. Tim, you have a sort of ‘Josh’ feeling about you. You must be related to his parents.”
“My dad is his brother. You will meet my parents and some other people later. Right now, I have been told to take you to Eli and Theresa’s”
“Is this their car?”
“It’s mine. That has caused me some trouble.”
Young Tim told us the story of his run in with the publisher, Mr. Day and beating the ticket. I asked him, “You also got a picture of Uncle. Did you collect on the bounty?”
“No, because Noro was offering me a job on the newsletter and there were other family reasons.”
“I’m going to guess Aunt Meria, among others.”
“Yes, she did mention that Noro might show up. Suzy’s dad’s boss did too. So I knew he was coming.”
“He was wearing one of those outlandish suits, wasn’t he?”
Tim handed me an envelope. Inside was a picture of Uncle, wearing one of his ‘Mr. White’ suits walking on the street as if he had no clue that a camera was pointed at him. “I wasn’t sure if you had seen it or not, so I had a print made.”
“May I keep this?”
Mother was going to love it. She loved popping her brother’s balloon and since he had been moping under sea, she hadn’t had a chance to for a long time.
“Keep it. There must be family members that haven’t seen it yet. Do you want more copies?”
“What has uncle done to you recently?”
“I would rather not say, but it’s my turn.”
I handed the picture to ‘Hǔ, who laughed. He asked Tim, “How did you get this? Noro caused us some trouble with cameras.”
“He can’t do that to me for royal fae reasons, though I didn’t know that at the time. I was taking an important picture of some pigeons and when I was putting the camera down, the shutter tripped. If you need a shielded camera, Steve taught me how to do that.”
“How come you didn’t go to the wedding?”
“Work. After some recent diversions, my boss has me going around and talking to businesses. I also have a new business that snowballed a bit and I have to keep an eye on it. I tried to sell it to Eli and Theresa, but they wouldn’t buy or even take it for free.”
“What is the business?”
“I hired some kids I know and started to look into things for people. It turns out that people need people to look into things.”
“That was the business that my father used.”
“I’m not sure if I should say too much. Is your dad annoyed at me?”
“Not particuaurly, other than the fact that you managed to get yourself killed. He thought your were very efficient and reliable.”
“So did the other customers. Unfortunately I couldn’t dump them like I could your dad. First of all they were my boss, Socks Lanza across the street from my place, my dad, and my grandparents. So I had a mob boss, actually more than one, as clients, my real boss at the paper and my relatives.”
“How about Alex and Xing?”
“They weren’t clients, they were the people I was looking at, along with Noro. Your father wanted pictures of Noro and I got them. I would run, but Noro’s family and hard to escape anyway.”
Tim told us about the things that he had done with uncle, Josh and the rest. That kept us occupied until we reached a building in Brooklyn and Tim let us off. “I will return in a bit. Suzy wants to check in at work and get me wet.”
He drove off and we went inside. Theresa was waiting for us. “Hi Kitty. Is this your bonded?”
“Yes it is. This is Èr hào lǎohǔ, or Number Two Son. He’s number One with me, though.”
“Actually, I have been hearing good things about you, Èr hào lǎohǔ,” Theresa said. “Well, at least that you are competant and discreet. You managed to get around Eric and that isn’t easy.”
“It wasn’t. Between him and the old lady, I almost gave up on the boys. Knowing what I know now, I should have. My father doesn’t need the things that he is bargaining for and dealing with the Masters, especially the Red Lady and her associate is asking for treachery and pain.”
“Who is her associate?”
Most people call her the unbonded,because she lost her bond before it could be completed. She’s also known as the Golden Butterfly. In any case, unlike the other ‘aides’ the Masters have, she is chllingly competant.”
“I can verify that,” I said. “She managed to almost mess me up. That isn’t easy. The only other person to ever do that is Chrissie.”
“Why don’t we go into the office to discuss things?”
We went into the office and Sarah jumped up. Kitty, you found a bond!”
Theresa said, “Èr hào lǎohǔ, this is Sarah, our assistant. My husband is out at the moment.We will be meeting him at dinner if he doesn’t return sooner.”
We went into Theresa’s office and she said, “So what brought you two down here, other than Kitty showing off her bonded?”
“I’m invoking family rules and want to recruit you.”
“That could be expensive or we could come to a quid pro quo agreement since you have already done some work for us. So who is the other side in this battle?”
“Chrissie and Tom. Chrissie owes me one.”
“Now this is a story I hadn’t heard. What happened?”
“You know Christophe, don’t you?”
“Yes. Stacey manages his topside gallery for him, among others.”
“Chrissie really likes his work and when she was thirteen she put a deposit on one of his things. I also noticed it and lifted it. Christophe doesn’t mind because I always return them after six months or so. Stacey knew about it, but Chrissie didn’t. Christophe and Stacey tried to convince Chrissie that there was no real problem because the picture would be back by the time she was ready to finsh paying for it. She wouldn’t listen and went to Jake and everybody else saying that her picture had been stolen. You probably haven’t seen the full Chrissie yet, but up on the Cape, we have.”
“That may be one of the reasons that Jacob called Chrissie a “stupid girl” at the Christmas parade.”
“You know what happened after Jacob did that. I had just returned to the country when she pulled off that little party. She did the same thing to me.”
“What happened?”
“I had a little job at a gallery in Provincetown. Everything was tight, just get in and get out, make a quick run south to the harbor and a waiting boat and over to Long Island. Quick and easy. Should have been a snap.”
“It wasn’t?”
“Nobody, and I mean nobody in the family has ever been able to figure out how Chrissie knew time and place for the lift, where the getaway boat was, or any of the rest of it. But just after I lifted the piece, the lights went on and there I was, in the middle of a kids surprise party surrounded by high fae, many of whom were my relatives, with Jake’s people knocking down the door and the press right with him. I have never been so embarassed in my life. If Uncle hadn’t been moping in the bower, I would say that the thing had his fingerprints all over it.”
“What about the boat?”
“It ended up floating there in the middle of the harbor with no wheel or rudder. After I bailed myself out, I took the picture right back to Christophe. I am the best in my business, but I was taken out by a thirteen year old and she made it look easy.”
“Could she have set you up?”
“You mean set up the job and hire me through proxies? She may have. That would take resources, but she had those if she wanted them. Josh used to take her to meetings when he talked to his friends. I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Chrissie set Jacob up. She did things that were seemingly stupid like redecorate the office that had been Jacob’s while setting that party up using Tom’s address book. Meanwhile Tom was building a little puppet show to make Jacob look foolish and plotting with his friends on something bigger.”
Èr hào lǎohǔ said, “We are wondering how Tom does things. You know what my father is after. Up until recently, the thing was in the family vault and guarded by the Guardian, but accesible by family members. I suspect that young Tim could have picked it up during his recent trip. Then suddenly, just before Tom left, the box was replaced by one with a strong aversion on it keyed to somebody. I and just about everybody else else are fairly certain that the object is no longer in the box and that something will happen if the box is opened. Just what is not known.”
“Stephie’s birthday is coming up next month,” I said. “Since she and Jacob made that thing for his birthday, Tom probably wanted to do something over the top for Stephie.”
“That wouldn’t surprise me at all,” Theresa said. “Tom and Stephie have an interesting relationship. Tom is also stretching himself and learning new things constantly.”
“Where did he learn encryption?”
“Probably during his time in Washington. He used to go toe to toe with all the intelligence people.”
Èr hào lǎohǔ was starting to look a bit frightened. He looked at me and said, “When I saw him, he seemed so ordinary. Just a business man.”
“When Josh bonded with my cousin it was the same way. At that point he wasn’t scaring the entire East Coast into submission. Theresa, how did he manage to be able to do that?”
“Eli and I have no idea. Up until recently, Josh was our lost child that we didn’t know. We first encountered him when he was dealing with a Necromancer on the water. He scared us away for a long time. As for Tom, he was forced to direct himself in strange ways by the death of his brother, who he admired, because he had to destroy the monster that his brother had become. He tends to be very efficient at everything he does, because he felt that he needed the strength for dealing with the things he didn’t understand. Also his battles with Stacey forced him to be stronger and do things in ways that the fae do not do them. You said, Èr hào lǎohǔ, that your father expected that the Dragon in the vault would be a misdirection. Your father should have expected that Tom would do something once he knew that somebody was going to great lengths to get the Dragon. Once Mr. Li ran Tom downtown and threatened him, Mr. Li was the trigger that set things in motion.”
“Tom didn’t destroy Jídiànjí. Jídiànjí was humiliated, but not killed.”
“Tom probably had an inkling that there was somebody behind Jídiànjí and didn’t kill him so that he would lead Tom to his real opponent. He did the same thing with the Manager and the Sharks, who Tom had far more reason to kill. He also didn’t think that Jídiànjí was worth the effort involved with killing him. Then your father went right to Tim, going after Noro. Once that happened, Tom had his opponent and came up with a plan. The good thing is that since your father is on the path of sacrifice and Tom understands that, he will treat your father with gentleness since he knows that he is not the target. Jídiànjí on the other hand, has had his chance and if he makes a nuisance out of himself with Tom, he will not like what happens to him.”
“What will Tom do?”
“He probably won’t kill him unless Jídiànjí and his people become much more capable than he seems. Humiliate him utterly and drop him on the dock in Shanghai probably. Jídiànjí simply is not something that Tom will bother himself over. Chrissie, on the hand will quietly make some calls and Jídiànjí will never be heard from again.”
“You seem to know what Tom thinks about this,” I said. “Did you discuss it with him?”
“A bit, at his birthday party. He asked for, and we provided some of the information that Tim collected about Èr hào lǎohǔ’s father. I suspect that he called some of his other contacts. Then he and Chrissie departed on their trip, leaving behind a mystery and the beginning of a game.”
“Then Chrissie set things in motion on her end, which was my cousins, and probably Paulo, Mac, Jean, John, Jake and some others,” I said. “They are not even family so I can’t used them against my family rule slots. I don’t think Andy showing up was a coincidence, was it?”
“Andy and Trillia have been in and around the area all summer, including the Cape once or twice. Trillia has been sharing out her babysitting jobs with her friends and relatives to get them up top more and she has been teaching Andy her world. She also likes Chrissie and Tom. So does Andy, since Tom saved his live last year. So if Chrissie wanted somebody to watch the boathouse and Tom’s boat, Andy and Trillia would have no problem Swimming out and staying for a few weeks.”
“It’s summer now, but what about school?”
“Andys’school is rather unsual. Andy will have to do a report about what he did, but other than that, he’s fine. This is work in any case.”
We talked for quite a while about all sorts of very enlightening things, much of which involved my family. I was beginning to get a bit annoyed at uncle because he should have had a family meeting about much of this and he hadn’t. Altris had said something about an all family meeting as soon as uncle returned and I think that as soon as the end of the season happened and things calmed down, we were going to have to have that meeting. Josh tended to focus on the water side of things, but Uncle knew better. I said to Theresa, “There was a lot going on that my side of the family hadn’t been brought in on. Could you make a report if you haven’t already. This will come from the family accounts.”
“We have, and we can make some copies and send them up. How many will you need?”
“Ten I think, if we don’t include Eli.”
“Don’t include me in what?”
“Not you Eli,” Theresa said. “One of Noro’s Brothers, correct.”
“Yes,” I answered, frowning. “Ten should cover my parents, my two lander uncles other than Uncle Eli, my aunt and my lander cousins that are in the area right now.”
“We will want to be at that meeting,” Eli said.
“I was hoping that you would ask. I would call Atris about it.”
“So who is this other Eli?”
“One of my uncles. You know about the battle we had with some dark fae and their things a long time ago?”
“Yes. Noro has mentioned it.”
“There were some losses and my Uncle Eli’s wife was one of them. He blames Uncle Noro for that.”
Tim rolled Suzy in, “We’re back. Why don’t we start off down to Bennie’s?”
“Before we go, tell Kitty and Èr hào lǎohǔ about the Sharks,” Theresa said. “I’ll have Sarah get the report.”
Tim did, including how they had gone after my aunt. That hurt. She had been always understanding even if she didn’t approve of the way I made a living. Of course the hole in uncle and what happened as a result were part of the aftermath of my Aunt’s death. The Red Lady and the Unbonded were lucky that I hadn’t known that they were at least partially responsible for her death. When he finished, I said, “I’m going to tell my cousins that we really need an all family meeting. Including Uncle Eli if we can convince him.”
We got in Tim’s car again and ‘Hǔ asked, “So what did you not tell my father?”
“Other than my family relationships, you mean?”
“That and the obvious confidence set up.”
“Your father didn’t seem to have noticed that.”
“I have been around more than my father has. I also was a bit closer to how Noro operated than father was. Did he help you set it up?”
“He was there, but he was on the other side. How much do you know about Dragon bonding rituals.”
“You were Chased.”
“Yes. My goal was to make the thing entertaining, tie up your father and make him an engagement present and show Alex some things that showed why I was doing what I was doing. I failed to tie up your father as he left the scene after I brought Tom’s fake Dragon down from the Cape. I did get the Black Dragon.”
“Why didn’t you bring the real thing, other than the obvious family liabilities.”
“Because your father had asked for the Dragon in the office. I was trying to make it look as if that Dragon was the only one that Tom had ever had. I was also not revealing just how much I knew about the family.”
“You might have suceeded if my people hadn’t spotted the Guardian.”
“He was a pet at the Commerce Department when the current president was Commerce Secretary. He was up at the farm for a long time and would not sleep inside. Then he goes to the Cape.”
“Chrissie brought him down.”
“That saved some time, but the Guardian would have made his way to the Cape in any case, the same way that he made his way to the farm. We have been chasing the Dragon for a long time and looking for the Guardian has always been a clue that the Dragon is near.”
“Roger didn’t chase after the Dragon when Chrissie put it in his office.”
“The Guardian was probably told to stay put and keep an eye on Chrissie.”
“That makes sense. The Colonel was poking around then.”
“The Colonel was very sneaky. I saw some of his operations during the war. How did you discover him?”
“It started when Ed killed a deputy and a navy officer that the War Department had sent up to the farm because of Chrissie’s Jacob party. Steve went out with Suzy and I on a Swim so that Steve could get the report from the Junior officer, Ensign Delios. Meanwhile Ed talks to Tom and Scott and shows them some rather nasty Twisted pestholes and arranges for his bonded and her kids to come down here.”
“Steve is Josh’s son, isn’t he?” I said.
“Yes. At the time he was looking into the Philly Sharks and didn’t want to go up just to go to a Chrissie party. So he just sent one of his teams up. In any case Steve, Tom, Boris and some people that Tom knows decided to clean out the pestholes and the Twisted Factory when they found it. Meanwhile the Colonel is spooked because suddenly there were Al, Mike and Hilda running around, all of whom knew who he was and both Al and Hilda knew what he looked like. He starts tapping the Benton phones and playing other games which attract attention. He was looking into his daughter because he needed an heir and setting up Creators, something that we didn’t know at the time.”
“Fritz told me about some of that. The major’s people did the groundwork and the werewolves were supposed to provide distractions.”
“After I finished the Shark story, I wanted another story like that and some friends of mine were talking about the Colonel and the war. My mentor and my boss assigned me to chase down a rumor and I decided to chase the Colonel, since at the time, I didn’t think that I would find anything close by. Then the Colonel decided to go after Chrissie.”
“Was he crazy?” I said. “This was when Chrissie still had her tail, the tail that she was flashing around with her friends for a week or so. The Colonel should have talked to people in our area about going after Chrissie.”
“He ran her up to Lake Placid in a fish truck and put her right in the Academy, that Twisted factory that I mentioned while Tom was watching.”
“What did Chrissie do?”
“Be Chrissie. We had the phones tapped, they relied on compulsions to keep the residents out of the basement and the shop and never found out that there was a range and shop available to Chrissie. So Chrissie just reaches for the phone and asks for somebody to show up with a truck because Chrissie doesn’t want to be ridiculous, hands all the rifles she found to Tom’s cousins after scaring the werewolves silly, cuts off the liquor supply, starts to train the werewolve so that they would make better opponents for Tom and other stuff. Of course Tom, Steve and Joe had their contributions.”
“Whoopee cushions and stink bombs, along with other fae gags.”
“Since both of them have bonds, they needed to be responsible and get rid of some things.”
“What happened to that stuff. I owe Joe and Steve a bit. Those poor werewolves were not their only victims, by any means.”
“Nera took the stuff. So far none of them said anything about what happened to them, at least to me.”
“Now that Nera is up top, I will talk with her. So the Colonel took Chrissie, Tom was watching and setting things up to take out the place she was in anyway and the Colonel was doing what he was doing, which probably did not involve Chrissie messingthings up.”
“How did you discover the Colonel and what he was doing?” ‘Hǔ asked. “The thing with Chrissie must have been one of his diversions.”
“It was. I accidently took a picture of the Colonel and his werewolf captain down at the place that we are about to get to, A navy intelligence guy was looking for the Colonel’s book and found me right after I bought it and we realized that the Colonel was in the area. A man who had fought the Colonel and beaten him in the war started to look for real targets, realized that Creators were vulnerable and that the werewolf attacks that were seemingly random, weren’t. Then Andy and Trillia were visiting Doug, the Creator up there and found some soldiers from out of town. It’s all there in the report.”
“My mother is going to love this,” I said. “All sorts of scary stuff, battles and new relatives that are strong and fierce. How did Trillia manage up there in fresh water. Fresh water is not healthy for seafolk.”
“Eric and the inn have saltwater pools, there is a spa over near the Adademy, and the tank beds were available. Seafolk up there is not a problem.”
“The man that found the Colonel must have been Major Macdougal,” ‘Hǔ said.
“How did you know?”
“There are very few people who have actually beaten the Colonel and Major Macdougal is the only American who would know what he looked like and be able to anticipate what he was going to do.”
“You didn’t say what uncle was doing in all of this. Was he out of it, or being his usual self?”
“What do you think?”
“He put something together, spent some money and there must be a reason that Joe has been a shipping magnate this year with rather sketchy ships. He bought the getaway ship right out from under the Colonel. Altris probably came up with the crew.”
“That was about the size of it.”
“What did Tom do about Chrissie.”
“Tom got her out in time so that she could be at Jacob’s party for Tom’s big gag. I think that there was no way that he was not going to have her there for that.”
I giggled. I couldn’t help myself. While I had been playing games with the Golden Butterfly, my new relatives had been having so much fun. That poor Colonel.
We arrived on a street near the water and Tim found a parking space that was next to Eli and Theresa’s car and a Duesenberg of all things. A young man who had sort of a family resemblance had been protecting the spot and Tim called out, “Thanks Silvio.”
“Not a problem.”
He left, Tim put Suzy in a wheelchair and we went inside. The lady at the door with menus said, “Welcome to Bennie’s” then looked up, saw Tim, Suzy, and me. She put the menus down, came over and hugged me. “Hi Aunt Kitty.”
That was when I recognized the little girl that I had taken around when she was up at the Cape long ago. This was Sissy, my aunt’s great granddaughter. She picked up the menus again and said, “You are talking with grandmother, and some others, so let me get you there. How long are you going to be in town? We must get caught up.”
“‘Hǔ and I should be here for a few days and yes we should.”
She led us over to a table and there were my aunt, Eli, Theresa and some merfolk that I didn’t know and some others were all sitting. Tim said, “Kitty, ‘Hǔ, these are my parents, Joe and Maria, Suzy’s parents, Mike and Stella and Sal and Sillia.”
He pointed to a normal man and a fae woman. “This is my mentor from the paper, Vic, and Doris.”
Aunt said, “Welcome Kitty. I haven’t seen you in some time. I could have used your services after Brian was killed.”
“Uncle was killed? I thought that he was attacked by sharks like aunt was.”
“They were the same Sharks,” Tim said.
We definitely needed to have a family meeting. Uncle being in his funk for so long had caused real problems and Josh and Mera had apparently missed a lot. I was going to have to tell my brother that he and his friends were going to have to be more involved in things here in the city. They had their own not so little business on Wall St, but didn’t pay much attention to the Company or the bower. I turned to Aunt and said, “What exactly happened here?”
She told me. It wasn’t pretty. The chemical thing was somewhat new and many of the parts had come right from the Company because everybody was dealing with day to day crises and didn’t see the big picture. Sal told us the Jimmy story that had started the Troubleshooter legend and I was glad that while he was a bit young, he would be a good leader here. When the wonderful dinner was over, Eli and Theresa took us to the hotel next to the railroad station. After they dropped us off, I looked at the report and handed it to ‘Hǔ.
“It is a good thing that I didn’t know about this before I went to Europe or the Golden Butterfly would have had a very bad time.”
“At least things seem to have resolved themselves.”
“I’m going to take you to meet my brother in the morning. I think that he and I need to talk about this.”
“Your brother? Your family keeps getting bigger. How many siblings do you have?”
“Two, but my sister managed to obtain a tail a long time ago and I haven’t seen her very often since her kids grew up. My brother decided to play on Wall St. after uncle had his fun and games and did fairly well. He tries to maintain a stuffed shirt attitude and we can go and pop his ballon a bit. I will see you in the morning.”


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