The Tiger And The Guardian, Chapter 36, part 2

Here’s part 2.

The Tiger (Chen Hǔ)
Thursday August 18,1932.
Jídiànjí and I were having a meeting. He was rather upset with Number Two Son. “Why did we not strike at the full moon? The time was right. We were ready to go and we could have had a chance at the dog and taken the treasure.”
“Do you know where the vault is?”
“My people know where the offices are. Our sniffer can find the vault and the treasure.”
“My son is not so certain. In fact he has argued that the treasure is not in the vault in any case.”
“Because he hooked up with that woman. How did a bond like that happen?”
“My son has been wandering and performing services for our domain for a long time. Being what he was, some keystone was going to nudge a compatible woman to him and it was going to happen.”
“She is a foreigner.”
“She is fae. So far she has impressed me.”
“She is distracting your son from his duties.”
“She gives us leverage that we did not have.You are free to return to your home.”
“As what? The man who was thrown in the trash by a lowly gangster. As the man who was robbed by a businessman who was so unconcerned about me that he has ignored me since.”
“You handed him the picture. He had no idea what it really was. I imagine that Mr. Benton had other concerns on his mind.”
“Then he set gangsters on me, Gangsters and lowly Constructs.”
“You took a man from right in front of a building that had the top mob boss as a tenant and the man was the building owner’s grandson in law. What did you think was going to happen? Look, if you want to attempt to obtain the Dragon, go ahead.”
“I want Constructs, this time.”
“That is rather difficult. I doubt that any Creators would sell you any.”
“There must be one.”
I had an idea. “I do know of one, actually. He hates Noro and might be willing to sell you Constructs if you tell him why.”
I handed Jídiànjí Mr. Hancock’s address and he left. I then walked over to the table where Fritz, Jimmy and one of my nephews had been sitting the entire time. “Mr. Jídiànjí is impatient. I handed him Mr. Hancock’s address. He wants Constructs.”
“That is foolish,” Fritz said. “The two boys are not here, but there are others in the Benton family who are almost as good with them and I imagine that the boys were teaching some of Noro’s boys how to play with them.”
“I’m sure of that,” Jimmy said. “Two of Altris’s grandsons have been going around teaching the two boys the fun things to do on the Cape and I imagine that Constructs were discussed. The whole family is looking for new ways to make things interesting for their guests. What are you going to do about Jídiànjí?”
“Let him do what he wants. I imagine that he is going to be surprised by what happens and there is no real reason to not see what the response is. Who knows, he might actually succeed.”
“It might snow tomorrow,” my nephew said. “But I wouldn’t take a bet that it would.”
Friday August 19,1932.
Xing and Hijon were looking for a house to rent on the Cape, since we were going to be here for several weeks. Xing and I were just going to stay in a hotel, but Hijon showed up Thursday and in her usual fashion said “House. We rent house and I take care of you. I can’t do that in hotel.”
So there it was. So while Xing was chasing down a house, I was working with the local FBI types, keeping an eye on the Yaoguai after Fritz had told me about a rather interesting conversation Jídiànjí and the Tiger had had yesterday. Agent Rogers was not fae, but that didn’t matter as the Yaoguai didn’t seem to understand about taking precautions and not being tailed as Jídiànjí traveled down to a rather ratty place and talked with a man. I sent a sense string out and Jídiànjí and his translators were looking for Constructs. The Creator, since that was what he obviously was, said. “A grand a jar. I have ten jars that I can sell you.”
The Yaoguai said, “We did not expect to pay that much. The price is seemingly much lower from others.”
“Have you tried any others? There are some people that get their Constructs for a lower price. They are legit and everybody knows what they do with them.You don’t look legit and if you release those things here in the neighborhood, people are going to be talking with me. Including the Peacekeeper, now that he knows that I exist. If you want me to not tell the Peacekeeper all about you, you pay my price. Ten bucks a jar for the jar and nine hundred and ninety for Peacekeeper insurance. That’s cheap, trust me.”
“We will be back tomorrow with the money.”
Agent Rogers was laughing as we followed them back to Boston. “That was predictable. Eli was his typical self.”
“You knew him?”
“If you run into something weird and strange around here, there is a good chance that he is involved if it is a bit dodgy. Especially if he can poke Noro in the eye. In any case, he overcharges and is impossible to deal with. He is one of the local characters. Been around forever. Some people say since before the revolution, but at least he doesn’t change very much.”
“What if they try to strong arm him tomorrow.”
“Then somebody will be collecting bodies. It won’t be the first time and while the guns weren’t being flashed around, that doesn’t mean that they weren’t there.”
“Mr. Hancock seems to like being prepared for trouble.”
“He does. Most people around the area know better than to try to give him any.”
“I hope that these clowns understand that.”
“We’ve been watching these clowns for some time now. They still don’t seem to get the picture. I’m amazed that they haven’t been Troubleshot.”
“They have been. I don’t think that they understand that they need all the Peacekeeper insurance that they can get.”
“What did they do to annoy Chrissie?”
“Why Chrissie?”
“Well, Josh won’t really come after you unless you’re something a lot worse than these clowns, but piss Chrissie off and you are asking for all sorts of trouble.”
“They took Tom on a ride to talk to the boss clown about something that Tom had.”
“That was crazy. Chrissie must have not wanted to go full Chrissie in front of Tom, since these characters are all still walking around.”
“She has that much clout?”
“Around here, a pissed off Chrissie is something that nobody wants. Talk to the family about that. She’s been out of the picture the last few years for the usual reasons to everybody’s relief. Well at least she was supposed to be out of the picture and not flashing tail around, so she kept out of the papers where Josh might see it. That didn’t mean that she wasn’t keeping an eye on things. At least she has Tom and kids coming to keep her focused.”
I dropped off Agent Rogers at the local FBI office and headed back down to the Cape. Since I was going past in any case, I decided to introduce myself to Mr. Hancock. I drove up his driveway, parked the car and got out. The door opened and Mr. Hancock said, “Who are you and what do you want?”
“Mr. Hancock, I am senior agent Alex Draka and I am from a bureau that handles fae affairs. I wanted to introduce myself and ask some questions about those people that you were talking to before.”
“I don’t talk to cops unless they are coming to clean up the mess, and I don’t ask questions about what my customers are doing.”
“We want to open up and talk with as many fae communities as we can, so that they know about us and who to call when they encounter certain things. Since you were isolated and vulnerable to certain activities earlier in the year and I was passing by, I decided to pay a visit.”
“The Colonel. Frankly, he wasn’t that big a deal. If he wanted me overseas, I would have been willing to see what he had to offer.”
“The colonel wouldn’t have given you a choice if he had wanted you.”
“Then it would have been expensive, for him. Especially if he brought werewolves. Werewolves took my Millie and as far as I’m concerned the Change should be exterminated. If he tried something else, we are not unprepared.”
“In any case, here is the number for our office in New York.”
I handed him a car card. “Keep this, just in case.”
“You’re not going to tell me not to sell the Constructs to those characters? You watched as they were here.”
“Go ahead, the Yaoguai have been pretty useless without Constructs and I doubt that they are going to be better with them.”
He actually laughed as I got into the car and headed across the bridge onto the Cape and over to Altris’s office where Xing was waiting. “We rented Al’s house.”
“How did that happen?”
“Normally he rents it during the summer, but since he lives there now, that didn’t happen. Since he and Eltra don’t have children yet there are spare rooms and when I talked to Daisy this morning, she suggested it when we couldn’t find anything else. Hijon is happy with it, though she says that if we come up here frequently, we should have our own house.”
“Hijon is very good at spending our money.”
“You haven’t seen her other side yet. For important things,yes, she spends money. For normal things, she makes coins squeal and storekeepers scream.”
“So now what?”
“We are going with Altris to dinner with Railia while you tell us about your interesting day.”
We did that and as I was telling the story about Mr. Hancock and the Yaoguai, Altris said, “They deserve each other. Of course, I’m not surprised that he stuck them with Josh insurance.”
“Agent Rogers said that they needed Chrissie insurance. Especially after they gave Tom that little ride”
“The Yaoguai don’t appreciate how lucky they were. Not that that they will get off easy, especially if they keep playing around here. I’m sure that she has plans for them, once Tom is distracted.”
“She’s in Hawaii and on her way to Japan.”
“That doesn’t matter. She probably set things up right after the Yaoguai gave Tom that little ride. Just what she has planned, nobody is going to find out until it happens. Just like Kitty didn’t.”
“She can be that bad?”
“Her mother ran enforcement for fisheries. Her dad is the Peacekeeper. As much as we in the family disapprove, she has a lot of rather disreputable friends. Frankly her having a tail and being under sea was great as long as it lasted, not that having a tail slowed her down very much. Look at what she did to Jacob. The Yaoguai should have gotten the mssage and split. The fun part is going to be how Chrissie conceals things fromTom.”
“So why does Eli hate Noro so much?”
“Eli is father’s brother and was our chief Creator. We also had another one who was Eli’s former apprentice. Back when we first were established, father convinced a big chunk of the family, who were landers, to come over and settle. Then the Dark fae hit us. They hit the up top community with werewolves, Twisted and a Necromancer. The werewolves managed to kill Cal, our other Creator, his bonded, their children and Millie, Eli’s bonded who was visiting with Cal at the time. They also had a ship with a compelled crew filled with gunpowder that they were planning to blow up right over the bower. We managed to get the ship, release the crew from their compulsions and get some people to the land community. We didn’t have very many guns and the until the militia showed up and started shooting, the werewolves were a real problem. They ran to their boat, got away and we were left with a mess and without a Creator. Fortunately we had a silversmith named Revere who became rather notorious later and a lot of sunken silver. But ever since then, Eli has blamed Noro for Millie’s death. He’s also spiked my efforts to get a Creator here until Hans showed up. Actually, I think that Eli is starting to accept reality. That may be because Josh now knows about him and he doesn’t want to piss him off.”
“He’s selling the Yaoguai constructs,but I suspect that he knows that Bob and Scott have been spreading Construct knowledge around.”
“He does. Eli’s boys are hanging out with my grandsons and going around with Bob and Scott, probably for exactly that.”
“So we have your boys and his boys to handle the Constructs. For which Eli will be well paid. I think that your uncle shares some traits with his brother.”
“Now that he came out of his funk, we will have to see.”
Saturday August 20,1932.
The two days that we were in the city were rather fun and frustrating. Fun because Tim and Vic took us around to all the scary hotspots of the events of the beginning of the year as well as taking us to the navy yard to meet Suzy’s friends, the other tailed ladies and Jimmy along with Kay and her rather magical cookies. Frustrating because my brother would not return my calls. I couldn’t even get past the desk in his building as the people there would ask if I had an appointment and wouldn’t let me upstairs to the office without one. I was tempted to use my skills and leave brother a rather nasty reminder that he should not ignore his sister when I called mother Friday afternoon and she said, “Just go to his party Saturday.”
“Where is it?”
“His house on the Island.”
I turned to ‘Hǔ and said, we’re crashing a party tomorrow, but I want to make a stop before we go to Bennie’s tonight. I don’t think that Tim and Suzy will mind.”
“The school. While Andy and Trillia are not there, there are enough troublemakers, many of them with tails and I want my brother to know that there are new family members that play new games.”
Tony at the school and a bunch of kids were very coopertive about setting some distractions of my brother’s party. It didn’t hurt that my brother’s place wasn’t too far from the Elliotts and the kids were going to base their little operation from there. There was some talk of “noisemakers” and a “press corps,” but I didn’t pay attention. I asked Tony, “Will the Elliotts mind?”
“Not at all.They like having the kids over anyway. Tails and fae things are not an issue and if this wakes your brother up, the Elliotts will consider it a bonus. There are quite a few sound bower fae who lost touch of who they were and they want to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”
Tim had a grin as he and Suzy took us to Bennie’s where we had wonderful dinner with Vic and Doris where we made sure that to let Doris know that a certain stuffed shirt party was going to have some of its stuffing pulled. That setup everything for Saturday afternoon when Tim drove us over to the party with Vic. Vic and Tim played business reporters wanting to talk to my brother while ‘Hǔ and I were discreet in the back. Tim’s car did the trick and as we were driving in, I said to Tim, “Does this car help with things like this?”
“Somewhat. The people that know me don’t see me any differently. With the people that don’t, I age about ten years when I have the car.”
We got out of the car and ‘Hǔ and I used Glamors to conceal who we really were while Tim and Vic went on the hunt. We drifted around and I encountered my sister in law with my brother Benjamin. “Ben, I want everything to go perfectly tonight. Dorothy’s daughter is sixteen and we want to find a good bond. She isn’t old enough to be sent overseas, so we will have to do our best here.”
“We could send her to the Cape.”
“NO! Your uncle is far too loose and who knows what she might tie up with. Your uncle has been out of it for too long and look at what his daughters bonded with, now that they stopped their rather bad behavior. The family didn’t even know who they were and Josh came straight out of an orphanage.”
“I don’t think that the family has suffered from Mera bonding with Josh. Rather the opposite, in fact.”
“Look at who his daughter bonded with. A farm boy! From Vermont!”
I was going to make sure that I told Chrissie about this. Ben replied to Lucy, “I don’t know about that. I talked to Lou when that tank bed thing started and he gave Tom high marks and said that the beds were going to be a winner for the company. Tom seems to have all sorts of very good connections. From what I understand the only reason that President Coolidge did not go to the wedding was that Mera set things up too quickly and Tom did not have time to give Mera his address book.”
“Calvin Coolidge is from Vermont too. That whole state is like a small town.Of course Tom knew the Coolidges. In any case, things are going perfectly tonight.You make sure of that.” Lucy stalked off.
I was definitely going to make a point of telling Chrissie about this. Mera too, come to that. It wasn’t quite time yet, but I went and found ‘Hǔ anyway. We ran into Doris and I said, “Do you know what Lucy just did to herself?”
“Said that Chrissie just bonded with a mere farm boy from Vermont. I don’t think that she knew that I was there.”
Doris had a big grin. “Are you going to tell Chrissie?”
“Well she also insulted uncle, Josh and Mera, along with Nera and Eltra a bit. Of course I am going to tell them. How is this party so far?”
“Deadly dull, like most of them.”
“The kids are about to fix that. ‘Hǔ, let’s find my brother.”
My brother was standing a bit nervously by himself as we released the Glamors and walked up. “Kitty! What are you doing here?!”
“I wanted to introduce my bonded and talk with you about some matters that were really fairly important. This is ‘Hǔ.”
“Why didn’t you make an appointment.”
“Brother, for the last few days, I have been trying to do exactly that. Your secretary has the messages unless she dumped them. You really should return your calls, especially to your sister.”
“Does mother know that you bonded to a Chinaman?”
“Yes. We went to the house just before we came down to the city. She’s rather ecstatic actually. Dad likes ‘Hǔ too.”
My brother looked nervously around. “Why don’t we talk some other time. The press is here and I have a lot of guests.”
“Along with Lucy saying things that other family members probably won’t like very much.”
“You heard.”
“I did. I imagine that Mera, Uncle and Nera won’t like what she said very much. As for Chrissie, I imagine that she will be very annoyed.”
“What can Chrissie do?”
“Are you sure that you want to find out?”
Right about then the first exploding boat went off. Followed by a bunch more. Rockets started to fall into the yard and explode. Lucy charged over and said to Ben, “Ben, call the police. I don’t know what’s going on, but I want it stopped.”
People had started to drift down to the seawall to see what was happening when on the other side of the house it sounded as if there was a small war going on as fireworks started going off from the water as well. Suddenly a light and fog steamed up from the water offshore and a scene from a place that I had never been able to see but had always wondered about appeared, music started next door and mermaids suddenly started dancing through it. This went on for a bit and then was replaced by a scene from a garden with pixies. As everybody stood a bit amazed, flash bulbs started to go off from the fence and still more rockets, little cars that went bang, the boats and more went on as everybody was laughing. People started to surround poor Lucy to tell her what a great surprise this was and how fun the entire thing had been. Ben came over to me and said, “Now that Lucy is a bit distracted, what did you really want to talk about?”
I pulled the report out of my purse. “Read this. You really should have been keeping a better eye on things down here. Aunt was very nearly killed and her husband and two of his sons were. The third was badly injured.”
“I didn’t know.”
“You should have.You knew that uncle was out of it and that Josh was carrying a big load. Did you offer to help Josh here in the city or talk with Stacey about goings on? You ignored them, ignored family and it could have been a disaster for them and you. I know that Tim has talked with you tonight as a typical reporter. Have you set up for one of his interviews?”
“I wasn’t sure that I would.”
“Go right now and set it up. He’ll take you down to where Aunt is and they can tell you what was going on almost right here in your back yard while you were playing games on the street. Altris and I are setting up an all family meeting as soon as Uncle gets back and I expect you to be there.”
Lucy must have spotted me, because she came over and said, “Kitty! What are you doing here?!”
“I was talking with my brother and introducing my bonded.”
“You were not invited.”
“We were in the neighborhood and decided to visit. Mother suggested that we come.”
“Are you responsible for all that chaos?”
“I think that everybody enjoyed it. It was something that a farm boy might do.”
“Ben, you tell your sister to leave. I can’t have her ruining my party.”
Ben looked at his wife. “Lucy, are you sure that is what you want? Nobody was hurt by the surprise and it seems as it everybody enjoyed most of it. Kitty is family and I don’t want mother upset.”
I smiled. “Never mind brother. Call a cab and ‘Hǔ and I will go. Lucy, I imagine that things are about to get far more interesting for you. Ben, why don’t we find Tim and arrange for that appointment before he gets bored and leaves.”
My bother was wincing as I grabbed him and took him to where Vic and Tim were talking with Doris. “Tim, my brother wants to make an appointment for one of your Bennie’s interviews.”
“Mr. Percy, I didn’t think that you wanted to. Why don’t we set it up for Friday. I will call your office on Monday to confirm.”
“My sister tells me that my Aunt Meria is frequently there and that I need to talk with her and you about certain things.”
“My interviews don’t involve those things, but yes, we can talk about them. I am surprised that you didn’t already know. We certainly made enough noise here at the end of the year last year and all your neighbors know.”
“I wasn’t paying attention.”
Tim turned to me. “Did you get what you wanted. Vic and I were going to go on to the Elliotts’ party.”
“The Elliotts are having a party?”
“It’s a benefit for the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. A rather special benefit.”
“Ben, Altris will be in touch about the meeting. It will be in early September.”
We got back in Tim’s car and went over to the Elliotts. That was where I met Alex’s family and the Beras, as well as some sound bower people, all of whom were in Change. Meliana rolled over and said, “This is a Change only party for those who can. Those who can’t, like Vic will just have to suffer.”
So ‘Hǔ and I spent a very enjoyable evening in our Change, along with dragons including Xing’s parents, pixies, seafolk, including Suzy, Sal, Sillia and Sal’s parents and a really fun crowd. The surprise was that the young lady that Lucy’s party was for, had snuck over here, was crashing the party here rather than her own party and was flying around with the rest of the girls. She saw me, came down and said, “Aunt Kitty, don’t tell my grandmother.”
“Why should I tell her. She kicked me out tonight. Of course, I was coming over here anyway. Have you met my Tiger yet?”
“You bonded! That is wonderful! Does great grandmother know?”
“How did it happen?”
“Your uncle Altris set me up.”
‘Hǔ came over and I introduced him to Dorothy. He said, “How come you are not at your grandmother’s party?”
“Trudy Elliott, who just got her tail, said that her mother was having this benefit and that there would be all sorts of people from all over. She also told me about the dancing and Nera, who isn’t here, but I can’t wait to meet.”
I smiled. “Did she tell you that Nera is a relative?”
“No. Is she?”
“She is Uncle’s daughter. She bonded recently and came up top.”
“I really can’t wait to meet her then. So what else is happening in the family?”
“If you want to get caught up, there is a place in Sheepshead bay called Bennie’s that is run by family. They know everything.”
“I want to go there anyway. Everybody says that the food is great. If what’s here is any indication, it is. Grandmother didn’t say that the place was run by family.”
“She didn’t know because she didn’t ask. ‘Hǔ and I are going up to the Cape tomorrow. Do you want to come with us?”
“I think that grandmother will get upset and drive mother crazy again. Is it important?”
“Well, you might meet some real hunks.”
“You have intrigued me. What family? Maybe not this time, but soon, probably.”
“There are several posibilities. In any case, I have extra room in my apartment and you are welcome any time. My mother will be glad to see you again.”
We stayed at the party until Tim said that he and Vic needed to go. We got in the car and I said, “Where’s Suzy?”
“Swimming over to Sal’s for the night. We are going on a longish Swim tomorrow, so that is why I need to leave early.”
Sunday August 21,1932.
I had a quiet day down below with Raillia when I received a message from Kitty in New York saying that she wanted to meet at the diner. So Rallia and I Swam in, dressed and drove over to Plymouth. Kitty and ‘Hǔ were there and Kitty said, “I had an interesting day yesterday. Do you have Greta’s number?”
“I do.” Rallia said with a huge grin. “It must be good.”
Kitty smiled. “I went to my brother’s party and while Lucy was complaining to my brother she said that Chrissie had bonded with “a farm boy from Vermont.””
I frowned. “Since things are going to be slow here, you want to go up to Vermont and talk to Greta. Lucy is trying to push Dorothy to bond ‘properly’ isn’t she?”
“Yes. She also insulted Uncle, Nera and Mera as well as Chrissie at the same time. I haven’t heard from mother yet, but I imagine that Lucy probably complained about what went on at her party yesterday.”
“What went on.”
“I asked the kids at the school to make things more exciting. The show was rather larger than I expected, but George and Meliana Elliott were having a benefit for the Botanical Gardens and were making an effort to make it a truly magical and fun party. So I expect that the mermaid dancing and pixies were part of that and not something the kids did. The rockets, exploding boats, flashbulbs and so on were definitely the kids.”
“So why will Lucy think that you were responsible.”
“When she accused me of it, I said that what happened was the sort of thing a farm boy fromVermont would come up with.”
“If it’s what I think it is, a farm boy fromVermont did come up with it. Of course you shouldn’t have set the kids on the party.”
“Brother had been giving me the brush off for three days. I wanted to make sure that things were not dull at his party. I only heard about the party after mother told me about it. Seriously, my sister in law needs to talk with family more. Everything the Elliotts did came from Nera and Tom, who Lucy was insulting. Of course she also insulted Uncle, Mera and especially Chrissie. Then she went after me and ‘Hǔ, so I am going to make sure that Chrissie knows.”
“Are you sure you want to?”
“After this little thing we are doing, yes, especially if we pull it off. Finding Chrissie another target will be a good thing. In any case, Lucy was essentially bad mouthing the entire family because of what she thought were the proprieties. We had a lot of that for a long time and suffered for it. So if Chrissie and I can squash that right off the bat we can all be better off and be keeping an eye on the important things. Brother has that house right in the middle of all those things that went on and he was blind to all of it, which cost us my Aunt, kept Uncle in a funk for years and overloaded Josh because my brother couldn’t take the time to call and see if he could help. I wasn’t much better and I wish that I had stayed here rather than going overseas, but at least I was here and willing to help if somebody had called. Brother wouldn’t even return my calls after I said that they were important and were about family issues.”
“What if Lucy invokes family rules?”
“Then Chrissie can handle it by herself. I doubt that she needs any help with Lucy.”
“What about Dorothy?” Raillia said with a bit of a grin.
“I have invited her to stay at my apartment in Boston if she would like and mentioned that there may be hunks around here.”
“So you want to ask Greta to provide hunks that Lucy thinks are inappropriate.”
“Since she was insulting to ‘Hǔ as well, yes. If she can’t see beyond the surface to the quality of people, that is rather sad.”
I turned to ‘Hǔ. “Was Lucy that bad?”
“I missed the farm boy from Vermont, but the rest of it was bad. She immediately jumped to the conclusion that Kitty was responsible for the gags when in actuality the kids had all been going to the Elliotts anyway and were going to launch off the gags in any case. They did launch at the Percy’s party once they knew it was there, but I suspect that that would have happened in any case.”
“Well, you have been driving this family meeting with me, Kitty and you haven’t met Greta and the rest up there, so call and go ahead. ‘Hǔ knows the territory up there anyway.”
“This way I get to meet the people and not be hiding.” ‘Hǔ said.
On the way back, I stopped in the office and Rachel, who handles the weekend said, “Your aunt wants you to call.”
“Why me?”
“She wouldn’t tell me. She said that it involved her daughter and daughter in law and that you should know.”
“I just talked with Kitty. She told me.”
“Just call her.”
I went to the phone and asked the operator to connect me with my aunt and uncle’s place. She answered and I said, “So what is it, Beth?”
“I haven’t talked with Kitty yet to get her side of the story but Lucy is rather upset that she just showed up a her party with ‘Hǔ.”
“I know. Did she tell you what she said?”
“No, was it bad?”
“You will have to ask Kitty, but apparently she pulled a Jacob and insulted father, Nera, Mera, Chrissie and Tom right in front of of Kitty. Then she insulted Kitty and kicked her out.”
“Lucy said that Kitty set some kids to light off explosions and things and some mermaids to dance right in front of the party.”
“That was next door, primarily. Kitty did tell some kids to liven up the party, but they had already planned to be next door anyway. The mermaids and the rest of it were the navy yard mermaids and the botanical garden pixies dancing next door for a benefit for the gardens. According to Kitty everybody loved it anyway and Dorothy actually left her own party to go next door.”
“I think that I really need to talk to Kitty then. Ben was a bit concerned that Kitty will say something about what Lucy said to my brother and the others.”
“I suspect that she will. She was rather annoyed at her brother because he ignored her phone calls and her for three days and then after you told her to go to the party, kicked her out. Lucy putting her foot in it didn’t help.”
“I should have called Ben and told him that she would probably show up. Kitty did call and tell me how frustrated she was. How did she find out about the kids and the gags in the first place?”
“Somebody we knew took her by the school and she was at Tom’s birthday, crashing the party a bit. She didn’t know about the Elliotts’ party until the people she went to her brother’s party with said that they were going over there.”
“So it was just some of Tom’s party gags and a show put on by some girls for a benefit.”
“That’s about it. The only thing that Kitty did was point the kids at the party but they probably would have found the party and next door knew about it already. For that matter, it may have been Dorothy setting up a bit of a diversion so that she could escape her grandmother. Did Lucy mention that Dorothy had gone missing from her own party?”
“She didn’t say anything. Were there a lot of boys at the other party?”
“I suspect that there were. The Elliotts and some others have a vested interest in making bonds happen and they have been using parties for exactly that. Frankly, Beth, if Lucy had called me about the party early enough, I would have told her about the mermaids, the pixies, Tom’s stuff, an excellent caterer who happens to be family, the connection for the best liquor and told her to talk to Nera about a band. I expect that Meliana did exactly that and she used the resources that are by and large connected to the family and Lucy did not. All because Lucy thinks that we are the bad side of the family and not worth paying attention to. I better hang up before I think that Lucy insulted me. Bye.”
I hung up and went to find my wife. She was with Rachel telling her the story and I said, “That was Beth. Lucy got to her first and blamed Kitty for everything. At least for the Tom stuff and the mermaid dancing, which was stupid because that takes time to set up and Kitty wouldn’t know how. As for the gags, Kitty may be taking the heat for Dorothy setting up a diversion with her friends so that she could escape and go to the party she really wanted to go to. The one with boys.”
Raillia smiled. “Kitty doesn’t know how that stuff works, but David and Michael do. They have been setting it up for Mac at the dancing. As for Chrissie, Lucy should know better. Especially if she wants her parties to have good liquor.”
“I don’t know that Lucy knows that if Chrissie wants to have a party in her neighborhood she can put it together amazingly easily even if she doesn’t use Sal’s. Lets go for a Swim and get away from this for a while.”
Monday August 22, 1932.
Xing and I were having breakfast at the diner with Hilda, Stephie and Boris and I said that I was going to talk to Eli and see how things had gone with the Yaoguai. Hilda said to Stephie, “we should go too.”
“I’m not sure that you want to.”
“He’s more than a bit of a character.”
“We’re from Vermont and Stephie and I are always dealing with characters. Worse than Roger?”
“I’m not sure. He doesn’t have Roger’s powers of unbelieving, but he is fae and stuck in the same place for a long time.”
“I want to check out the Norfolk Hunt club with Katherine,” Boris said. She has an event there coming up. Father is bringing ‘Nia down when he comes. I’ll take the kids and make an outing of it.”
“I’ll go with you, Alex,” Xing said. “I’ve heard so much about this character and I want to see for myself.”
With that we were off. When we arrived, a woman was leaving and said, “What has my father done now?”
“Why would he have done anything?”
“Two of you have ‘cop’ all over you and that is a government car. I’m Abby by the way.”
“You don’t seem to be too excited about us,” Hilda said. “Why not?”
“First, if it were something serious you people would have talked with Josh and he isn’t here. Second there hasn’t been much excitement around since the beginning of the year and I doubt that father has been up to much more than the usual. Anyway, two of Altris’s boys are cooking up something with ours and they won’t tell me what. After you talk to my father and the boys, why don’t you come over to the house, have a chat and tell me where all the monsters went.”
There was hammering in the background as we walked up to the shed and Eli came out. “You came back. Who are these ladies?”
“This is my bonded, Xing, Stephie Ravitz and Hilda Benton. I wanted to see how things went with the Yaoguai.”
“Why should I tell you?”
“Because Stephie and I want to know how many Constructs you can sell us.” Hilda said.
“Why do you want Constructs.”
“You know about our nephews’ little shoots, don’t you?”
“Yes. My boys are actually planning one themselves with some boys that I don’t really approve of. That is their concern and they and their parents told me rather bluntly the who the boy’s friends were and what they did with them is their business and that since they are paying for the fallow cranberry bog, maybe I should be a bit nicer to some people who are here helping the boys out.”
“Let me guess, Altris’s grandsons.”
“Yes. I’m a bit annoyed that they tied up with each other, but there we are. Are either of you ladies the mothers of the other two?”
“No, those are my sister and sister in law,” Stephie said. “You didn’t call them good boys, did you?”
“Are you crazy? Of course not! Not any of them. My three are bad enough by themselves.”
“That’s a very smart attitude to take.”
“So you want Constructs. Don’t the boys have plenty?”
“They do, but they don’t want us to play with them.”
“Why not?”
“Because the Constructs don’t last long enough. So the boys put my sister here and I in the ‘buy your own Constructs’ club. The problem is finding a source to buy Constructs from.”
“Doug is up your way. Won’t he sell to you?”
“Yes, but his first customer is the boys and his second customer is the Martins,” Hilda said.
“I wouldn’t think that the Martins would be that big a customer. They aren’t exactly big on shooting in any case.”
“That was then, this now. Since the events of last year that changed a bit and some of the boys and girls managed to put themselves in the club at the May shoot. Since Doug’s grandkids want to continue at the Academy this fall, that gives Gretchen leverage. In any case, we want another source near here and you are the only one that the boys haven’t locked down yet.”
“Now what is in it for me?”
“Well, a gentler approach when Feds talk with you, for a start. Steady sales of Constructs and we will want other things.”
“Alex here seems to have more influence as far as that goes and he seem to be pretty reasonable so far.”
“Access to Tom. As well as an intimate knowledge as to how he does things.”
“Why would I be concerned with Tom? He hasn’t bothered me except to send people looking for contract work. Which we did and they were happy with what they got.”
“Altris says that you like guns.”
“Guns are a tool. I like tools when a job shows up. I will admit that I like good tools.”
“My brother makes very good tools,” Stephie said. “We can put in a good word about you with my brother.”
“I’ve never bought one of your guns. The wait list has always been too long.”
“We could make it shorter. Maybe arrange for you and my brother to have a bit of a discussion about you helping out We have a business that is sort of stretched and we are about to lose two people important to it. We would like to keep things in the family.”
“We have done gun work in the past. That might make it worth my while. When your brother comes down, we will talk. This isn’t something my brother came up with, is it?”
“Noro, no. Other than Altris saying interesting things about you and telling us your tragic story, nobody from the Cape has said very much.”
“That is family business.”
“And we are family,” Hilda said. “We want to get to know all the family, not just the part that Noro shows us. I also lost my bonded to tragic circumstances. Tom had to kill him because he had been afflicted with a monster. I do not blame Tom for killing my bonded because I have seen that he suffered as much as I did. But I have moved forward with my son and my new life. I want to help others do the same.”
“The Yaoguai bought eight constructs?” I blinked at that. “I doubt that the Tiger would be Niggardly with funds.”
“I have eight constructs to sell. For you ladies, I think that we can agree on twenty bucks a jar unless you decide that you want a lot of them.”
“That is steep,” Hilda said, “but not entirely unreasonable.”
“There’s more than just the jars involved. If the boys’ shoots work out, you can have tickets with the jars and I can also throw in gun work and provide discreet gun work if you need it. I don’t think that you want the jars immediately in any case as the next shoot is the one here in mid September and that isn’t happening until Bob and Scott get back and can help the boys get things going.”
“So why did the Yaoguai only end up with two jars?” I asked.
They tried to stiff me, the idiots. They handed me two grand and paper with glamor on it. That was just stupid. So I handed them two jars and tossed them off my place. They can get their Construct jars from somebody else from now on.”
“So what are the boys up to?”
“Why don’t we find out?”
We went back in the shed, where the orderly appearance and good lighting belied the outside appearance. All five of the boys were working on what looked like advertising placards,but were huge, much bigger than a man could carry. The boys saw us and David said, “Hi Hilda. Hi Stephie. Hi Alex and Xing. What brings you here?”
I replied. “Stephie and Hilda were looking for Constructs and I wanted to find out how things went with the Yaoguai.”
“Well, the Yaoguai tried to stiff Grandpa,” one of the other boys said. “So we gave them the jars that they paid for and threw them off.”
“What are you doing.”
“Advertising for the shoot.”
“That will be a bit big to carry around.”
“Not for a Construct,” David said. “We have two constructs that are going to be doing something useless and while we could just have Hilda and Stephie shoot them, we think that we can do better.”
“So you know how where the Yaoguai are planning to launch them and when.”
“That was pretty obvious, though Jimmy, Fritz and Little Tiger told us anyway. The Yaoguai are planning to use the Constructs to create chaos at the parade in Hyannis next Saturday, sneak in and raid the vault.”
“Roger won’t like that. He chewed on them quite a bit the last time. So you are going to take the Constructs over, put the placards on them and just run them in the parade?”
“Yes. Bob and Scott showed us how to suppress the attack reflex and how to net and guide constructs.”
“You seem to have things in control. Did Bob and Scott give you any practice.”
“With small Constructs during the June shoot and Grandfather gave us some old jars that made bad constructs. So they were good practice. These should be easy. We setup good jars for it.”
“You knew that the Yaoguai were going to stiff your grandfather.”
Little Tiger, Jimmy and Fritz told us what they did in New York. They were rousting people, stiffing people and playing those games with Glamors all over the place.”
Eli said, “I expect that I better take you all to the house before Abby starts looking for us. She’ll want to know all about you.”
Eli took us to the house and Abby had a long chat where we told her about the goings on at the Olympics, the Colonel and the Sharks. She was rather amused and said, “So the Troubleshooter was an accident and not something that Uncle came up with? He is living in Uncle’s house.”
“Mike and Sal needed a headquarters for the booze operation on the gold coast and when Noro found out who was occupying the place he threw them out and set Sal up there,” I said. “As far as the Troubleshooter goes, Sal had been doing that work with his friend Vinnie until he rattled too many big shots at NYPD, they transferred him and the Sharks put the teeth on Vinnie and his bonded.”
“Do you have a number for Aunt? Never mind, I will call Stacey when she gets back. Father, we will be making a trip to the city soon and talking with Aunt about this.I know that you don’t like Uncle, but that doesn’t mean that we should have ignored the rest of the family. Alex, could you and Mike have used Constructs and other things?”
“What we could have used was insight to how Constructs and the other things worked so we knew what to watch out for and access to the other Creators in the area. If we had known who they were, the Colonel wouldn’t have been able to pull things off.”
“Well I hear that Altris is putting together an all family meeting as soon as Uncle gets back.”
The door knocked and Abby brought Kitty and ‘Hǔ out to the porch where we had all been sitting for lunch. Kittty looked at us and said, “Hi Hilda. Is this Stephie?”
“Stephie, this is Kitty and ‘Hǔ,” Hilda said. ‘Hǔ was making our lives miserable a couple of weeks ago by taking the boys. Kitty is Noro’s niece and a notorious cat burglar who has only been caught by Chrissie.”
“That’s one story that I want to hear,” Stephie said.
Hilda told the story and we all laughed. Kitty then said, “Do you know what my stupid sister in law said about Chrissie and Tom, Saturday?”
“How stupid was it,” Abby said. “Lucy puts on airs and thinks that because Ben did well on Wall St, she’s better than the rest of us.”
“‘Hǔ and I went down to Bennie’s to talk with Aunt about what had went on and connected with Josh’s parents who gave us a report about everything.”
“I will want that,” Abby said.
“I didn’t get one for you or Eli, because I wasn’t sure if you were talking, but I can give you Josh’ parent’s address and you can talk with Sarah, their assistant.”
“I want to do that anyway. We never knew who Josh’s parents were. How did they find him”
“At the farm, last Christmas. The farm that Lucy was smashing as she said that Chrissie had bonded with a farm boy from Vermont, Mera with a nobody, Nera with who knows who and Eltra the same. She said that Uncle was far too loose as far as bonds were concerned.”
“Was there anybody she didn’t insult?”
“You and Uncle Eli here, but that may be because she didn’t have time. When my brother mentioned that Tom knew the Coolidges, she implied that it was because everyone knew everyone in Vermont.”
“We do, somewhat,” Stephie said. But that is because the family goes out of its way to be a good neighbor and big in the whole community. Yes, I know Mrs. Coolidge. So does mother. But as far as Tom goes, he spent almost five years in Washington as a congressional staffer who everybody I have talked to has said, was very good at his job. The only reason that he isn’t still there was the burden he was carrying, the things after him and wanting to protect people he cared about. We’ve met a lot of Tom’s friends, haven’t we, Hilda, and they are his friends, not because Tom has high status, but because they like Tom and want to be his friends. So when do we tell Chrissie about this?”
“I think after this thing is over. That way, Chrissie isn’t focused on us.”
“That is a good thing,” Abby said. ‘”We’ve been lucky and the only person recently to set off the full Chrissie was that Martin Character.”
“We were there and poor Jacob never saw it coming,” Stephie said. “There she was, being a ditz in the office that she had manipulated Tom into stealing and Jacob was making a pest of himself while Tom is taking over the Olympics for Josh, on the line with the White House, entertaining the Japanese Prince, who was one of Tom’s associates in certain things in Washington and talking with reporters. Meanwhile, Chrissie calls down here, makes some arrangments, makes some other calls, sends party invitations with the wedding announcements and gets Bob and Scott to set up a shoot, my sister to offer free skiing for a day, as well as sleighrides and the rest of it, steals Jacobs’ favorite caterer and sets up a whale of a party in less than a week the day after Christmas. A party that was so much fun that people are looking for invitations to the next one if we are holding it. Poor Jacob was left stunned and crying.”
“Who is the Japanese prince and why was he there,” Abby asked.”
“Tochi wanted to know how to get arrangements set up for some influential family friends at the Olympics. The family friends had tail issues, not that that slowed them down.”
“They were the ladies with Chrissie when she went off the wall in the city, weren’t they. Why were they here?”
“One of them had a bond that she was chasing down and the other’s brother was competing.”
“How did the Colonel get involved?” Eli asked.
Hilda went over everything that the Colonel did and what had happened at the Academy and the rest of it. When she finished, Abby said, “Chrissie went easy on them. She must have been trying to be a bit discreet, or she was trying to leave a favorable inpression with her new family.”
“The residents did say that the Mistress and the rest were afraid that bad men would come and deal with them. Of course Tom, Steve and Joe made their contributions. I think that the thing that was really scary was that the staff knew that Chrissie could leave whenever she wanted and there wasn’t really anything they could do to stop her.”
“Of course the Colonel abandoned them in the end,” Stephie said. “He even abandoned the werewolves he brought over that he had created in the first place. We shot them,but the Colonel put them in the position where they had to be shot, without a retreat, escape plan or space on his escape ship.”
“What was Uncle doing in all this?”
“That escape ship? Noro bought the company and replaced the crew.”
“From around here, I bet. That explains those French kids and their mothers that work for Altris now.”
“They were indentured. Another fine feature of the other side. They kill a fae man, take his kids hostage and use the mothers for a few years and then kill the mother and put the kid in a Twisted factory to be raped by dengenerates and Twisted into the Twisted.”
Abby turned to me. “Do your people have a detailed report on all of this?”
“I gave your father the card with the number the first time I was here.”
“You should call Mary anyway,” Stephie said. “She’s very easy to deal with and easy to talk to.”
Kitty grinned. “Abby, I got some copies of the reports from Mary and Josh’s parents.”
“Josh’s parents? You mentioned them before. What are they like?”
“Very interesting people. I have done some work for them.”
“They deal in stolen goods?”
“They deal in information and discovering things that people want to know. I did some rather discreet collections. You can meet them at the family meeting.”
“I think that I will call Sarah this afternoon. I want to find out all about them. It wasn’t just Nera and her friends who were dumping on Josh. Lucy and her friends did the same thing, especially when Josh and Mera went away. Not that I blame them a bit. I’ll also call Mary and get that report. Father, I know that you had your disagreement with Uncle, but it could have hurt us if the Colonel had come for us and Josh didn’t know that he was there.”
“I would have been willing to talk with the Colonel if he could make some arugments that we should move overseas.”
“You don’t want to do that, uncle Eli,” Kitty said. “The things that wanted the Colonel to take Creators needed them because they misused the Creators they had trying to Turn them to the Dark and the Creators fought and died. The Colonel was going to take famiiles and hand them over to monsters. I saw the monsters and actually had to deal with one and her pet. The lot of them are not something that you want to deal with.”
‘Kitty, when you go up to the farm, you and ‘Hǔ tell Eric what you saw over there,” I said. “I think that he and your uncle should know. We have stories from other people, but you were closer than most of them.”
“Too close. By the way, Stephie, has somebody taken you to the vault yet?”
“No, should somebody have taken me to the vault?”
“Tom may have left you a birthday present. The same thing that the Yaoguai are going after on Saturday.”
“What did Tom leave? My birthday is next month and I will bet that Tom will have something big after his birthday.”
“We don’t know. He replaced the box that had had his dragon with another one with a very strong aversion on it, keyed to somebody.”
“That is very intriguing. Alex, now that lunch is over, and Abby, thank you very much and mother will be in touch, we should go over and talk to Altris about this. Kitty have you called mother and told her you are coming yet?”
“I did this morning. We are going to take the boys with us so that Mabel can see that they are all right. Greta suggested that that would be good idea. We’re are leaving, going to a hotel that Greta suggested and then up to Mrs. Stiller’s. Fritz called her and she knows that they are coming. Arney, his wife and kids are going with us. We are all coming back for the mermaid dancing Friday.”
“And the parade on Saturday?” I said.
“Well that hadn’t come up, but it sounds like fun.”
“I think that the boys and some others are going to make sure that it is a lot of fun,” Abby said.”
“For some of us,” I said. “The Yaoguai might not have so much fun.”
We went back to Altris’s office and Stephie said, “Altris, Do I have permission for the vault or do you have to comewith us.”
“You had the rest of your family already have permissions, but I want to come anyway. So how did things go at Eli’s. You were there quite some time.”
“We saw your boys and Eli’s boys planning some Construct theft, had a very nice chat with Abby and a nice lunch.”
“The boys are planning to steal Constructs? Where?”
“The parade. The Yaoguai are planning to launch their massive Construct army, both of them and in the ensuing chaos, probably use the sniffer to find the vault, crack the shield somehow and heroically punder the dragon and whatever else of value you have in there.”
“So they are planning to raid a place in broad daylight where we have fifty people on weekend duty, most of whom have guns at hand because they like to shoot, Roger hanging around, to get to a vault in a building were that vault has strong aversions powered by an artifact that isn’t even in the same building, overcome that, find the one shielded box they want in amongst all the other shielded boxes, all the while a bunch of things in there are attracting attention to the fact that the Yaoguai are in the building even before they find the vault.”
“That’s about the size of it according to Little Tiger,” Hilda said. “He was talking with the boys and helping set up the Construct thefts. Of course the true act of stupidity was trying to stiff Eli in the first place. They were expecting that they could make off with the ten jars and that Eli wouldn’t make a fuss because he had part of the money.”
“That wouldn’t work. What did Eli do? He obviously sold them some jars.”
“He had to. I think that the boys would have been unhappy if he hadn’t.”
Altris laughed and said, “Let’s get you to the vault, Stephie and see if you are the key to this mystery.”
We went over to the vault and while Stephie could drop the aversion and pick up the box, she could not open it and when she put the box back, the aversions retstored themselves and she was not the key. Hilda said, “Tom works in mysterious ways. It looks as if he anticipated that Stephie would want access to the box, but she is not the key.”
We exited the building and Ed and Gretchen caught up with Hilda and Stephie with Boris and the kids right behind. “Hilda! Hans and Nillia have invited us for backstage boat seats on the steamer for the dancing tonight. We need to get going to Provincetown before the boat leaves. Alex, do you and Xing want to come? Nillia says that there is room for a crowd.”
Xing said, “We’ll come.”
It turned out that it was more than us, as Addelle’s parents had brought the kids up for a visit and the kids wanted to come too. Hijon and Adelle’s parents were going to the beach.
So we took the kids, joined Hans and the crew, including Mac and his wife, at diner that they took over near the boat for dinner, got on the boat, had fun with whales and mermaids and a wonderful show.

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