The Tiger And The Guardian, Chapter 36, Part 3.

The Tiger (Chen Hǔ)
Tuesday August 23,1932.
Little Tiger and Jimmy were smiling about something as they entered the restaurant and sat down. I looked at them and said, you look as if you are pleased with yourselves.”
“We managed to get our hands on Noro’s shop.”
“How did you manage that?”
“Tommy Warshowski and him asking Jimmy question about Tom’s book.
Jimmy added, “I had been a machinist in the army and I could give the kids tips on how to run machines. Mrs. Warshowski was willing to give me and the rest access to the shop in exchange for watching Tommy and his friends when they were using tools. As you might imagine, it is a well equipped shop, even if things are a bit out of date.”
“What about the harbormaster?”
“He saw us working on a job, asked his daughter in law what was going on and gave us permission and a key.”
“The harbormaster is an old friend of Noro’s”
“We know. But that didn’t come up and the kids are watching us anyway.”
“What are the Yaoguai doing?”
“Trying to stiff the Creator over Construct jars,” Little Tiger said.
“The idiots! I gave them the funds. What happened?”
“The Yaoguai gave the Creator two thousand and paper that had glamor for the rest. The Creator looked at it, had one of his boys hand over two jars and when the Yaoguai started to push for the rest, the guns came out, the Creator threw them out and said that if they came back, they would be shot.”
“So what are their plans for the two Constructs that they have?”
“There is a parade in the town where the business office is and they plan to use the Cosntructs as a disturbance and raid the business office, find the vault and break in.”
“So they do not even know where the vault is, are going in amongst buildings presumably with some people there even on Saturday because of the nature of the business and are expecting the other side to be diverted by two Constructs that the other side already knows about because the Yaoguai made the source of the Constructs angry. Do you think that he will plan to sabotage things for the Yaoguai?”
Little Tiger smiled. “He doesn’t care. His great grandsons on the other hand, have been hanging around with Bob and Scott all summer along with Altris’s boys and learning things in classes taught by ‘Uncle Tom.’”
“Where are Fritz and my wayward son.”
“Going up to Vermont to reassure the old lady and make some visits with his bonded.”
“So my son is talking to Eric. I shouldn’t have been surprised.”
“He might be talking to Eric, but the important discussion is going to be between Greta and Kitty.”
“What are they going to be talking about?”
“Kitty has a grand niece and Kitty’s sister in law was rather insulting and rude to Kitty mostly because mostly because of Kitty’s work. She was also rather insulting to Noro and most of his family because of ‘improper’ bonds. The lady wants her graddaughter to bond with somebody that she will not be ashamed of. No strange orphans or “Farm boys from Vermont.””
“Apparently the lady does not know just how sought after that farm boy from Vermont was. If she had spent time in Washington she would be amazed at the old and very influential fae familes throwing girls at Tom for bonding purposes. Or the girls throwing themselves without any prompting. If what I had heard when I was looking into Tom during my time in Washington is true, most high fae families considered him the top catch if some girl managed to land him. Chrissie is very lucky that she did. The lady is a fool.”
“That much was obvious. We enjoyed the story when Kitty told it to us. Kitty wants to have the girl come up here for a while.”
“With some of Greta’s boys here at the same time.” I started to grin. Even if I failed, this was going to be a lot of fun. I expected that Noro was going to love it. I liked it already. My new daughter in law was going to be so much fun.
Noro.
Wendesday August 24,1932.
Altris had been sending fairly regular telegrams and this one deserved to be spread around. So I found Josh and Mera on the beach with Haruka’a parents and showed it to them. Mera looked at it and said, “Kitty bonded? To the Tiger’s son?”
“It gets better.”
“I imagine that her mother is ecstatic. On the other hand it makes things a bit awkward for Altris as Kitty can evoke family rules.”
“I imagine that she has. Altris says that there are complications involving the werewolves and that Number Two son is not going to let his father turn them over to the Masters. Apparently Number Two Son had been part of those Chinese labor contractors during the war and used the opportunity to look into things”
“I think that we should talk with him and his people,” Josh said. “Tom left for Japan Monday or I would talk with him about the Dragon.”
“Tom said that he was using the Dragon as a bit of a game with the Tiger and Stephie for Stephie’s birthday.”
“So whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting. You should be back there in time, even if Mera,Steve, Haruka and I are not.”
“Altris wants to have an all family meeting. Kitty is pushing for it too. As soon as I get back. We didn’t really talk to my brothers and sisters other than Meria during the last few things and Kitty and Altris realized that the land side of the family wasn’t as aware about certain things as they should be.”
“That’s something that we should have done. Altris was right about that. We also should have introduced the new family, especially my parents, though Kitty knows them already.”
“Here’s where it gets really interesting. Kitty took Number Two Son to the city to talk with your parents, Tim and my sister and get the entire story about everything. She then tried to get in contact with her brother.”
“That jackass? His secretary agrees with his wife and doesn’t let him know that family wants to talk with him. Not even me. I could have used him in the city to keep an eye on things and he was right there during the thing with the Manager. I tried to see if we could use his place and he never answered.”
“Kitty had the same response and since Ben was having a party, crashed it to talk to him. She chased him down and overheard a conversation where Lucy was proceeding to insult, me, you, Nera, Tom and Chrissie all at the same time. Centered around Tom just being a “Farm boy from Vermont.””
“That’s Lucy. She was worse than Nera when I showed up and she blamed you for letting it happen.”
“Then she went after Kitty over some of Tom’s things.”
“I imagine that she would be rather startled by those. Were they Kitty’s fault?”
“She did talk to the kids at the school. But the Elliotts were having big bash as a benefit for the botanical gardens, the kids were invited anyway and even if Andy and Bruce were not there, Gregor and the others were, and they had plenty of Tom Stuff. The mermaid dancing and the pixies were the girls getting a show together to make the benefit more magical. Doroty skipped out on the party that was ‘for her’ to visit with her friends next door.”
The rest of them started to laugh. Mera said, “Do we tell Chrissie or do we let Kitty do it?”
“Let Kitty do it.” Josh said. “Kitty has wanted to get back at Chrissie ever since the night to remember. Frankly, I don’t blame her.”
“What was the night to remember,” I asked.
‘You were in your funk and undersea, but do you remember when Chrissie asked you for permission to use the artifact to make a shield?”
“I do, faintly. Something about arranging a high fae surprise party and wanting to make it work.”
“That’s because you weren’t there for the pay off. Somehow, and Jake and I are fairly sure that Chrissie actually set the job up through friends of mine who won’t tell me, Chrissie managed to put that surprise party for Alissa right in the middle of Kitty’s next job. A job that was a little light for Kitty, but she went for it anyway. So Kitty lifts the painting from the gallery and suddenly the lights go on, Jake and Louis from the post are at the door and Kitty is stuck with the goods in the center of a bunch of high fae, most of whom were relatives and knew her. Chrissie had also cajoled Joe into removing the wheel and rudder from a certain boat saying that it was a joke, on a ‘friend.’ That was not one of Kitty’s better days.”
“What has Kitty done since?”
“Stayed away from Chrissie and not borrowed pictures from Christophe that Chrissie had deposits on.”
“Is that what was the cause of it?”
“Yes. Chrissie had saved money and talked Christophe into a discount so that she could buy one of his things. It was very important to her. Typical teenage girl stuff. Then Kitty borrows it. Chrissie went around trying to get Ray or Jake to take some kind of action to return her stolen painting even after both Christophe and Stacey told her that the painting would be back when she was ready to pay for it. Since she didn’t think that anybody was taking her or the thing seriously, she dealt with it herself.”
“That could have been more expensive than the picture.”
“The job was cash on delivery. No delivery, no cash and Chrissie made sure that the delivery wouldn’t happen.”
I laughed. “What happened to the picture?”
“It was back in the gallery the next day.”
“So that is why Kitty is making it a Tom and Chrissie against Kitty and her bonded match. This is going to be so much fun. I’m guessing that since Chrissie has already used a bunch of family rule slots that I will be involved, probably on Kitty’s side. There’s even more fun coming. Altris says that Eli is coming out of his funk somewhat.”
“That will be a good thing. You and Altris never told me about him being a Creator, but Mera did, didn’t you.”
“Yes I did,” Mera said. “I know that he had his thing about father, but he was family and I wanted to you to keep a discreet eye on him, even if he wasn’t going to talk with us. Altris gave up on him, but Stacey and Abby kept in touch. For that matter Abby and I used to go to lunch from time to time when I was up top. How did the thawing start?”
I smiled.“Altris doesn’t say. He just said that he paid Eli a visit after talking with Kitty about meeting with Number Two Son.”
“Why was Altris talking to Number Two Son?”
“They were setting up a plan for the boys to die.”
“With Puppets, presumably and they wanted something special.”
“Nillia suggested that the show would be better if the werewolves could Change.”
Josh grinned. “That would sound fun. Mera and I should be back in time for that,if they are scheduling around the next full moon.”
“I suspect that they are. Now how the battle with the Tiger is going to work out is a mystery.”
“Very much so, as it is Kitty and Chrissie now rather than us vs an enemy and Tom probably has things set up to be a big surprise for Stephie.”
“What do you think he did?”
“He had seven months to think about it. Stephie did that thing for Tom’s birthday with Jacob. He’s also said that Stephie is not very good with puzzles. So it will be a very complex and fun puzzle involving the use of his abilities. I can’t wait. You do know that Kitty and Stephie are going to recruit you.”
“I know. I get to have a lot of fun, work with an old adversary that I respect, test my two sons and nobody is going to die except some Puppets and probably the Yaoguai. That is if we couldn’t arrange to get them Shanghaied to Shanghai.”
The Company had a ship porting soon. The last cruise was ending in middle of Spetember and I wondered if Paulo and Persai would like a round the world cruise for a trip. The Yaoguai had been rather obnoxious and made more than a bit of a pest of themselves. I could ask Jim, Dom or Ray to deal with them, but then we might be looking for Jídiànjí’s brother to start something. If we dropped the Yaoguai in the garbage someplace on the street in Shanghai, we would make Jídiànjí his brother’s problem.
Kitty.
Wendesday August 24 – Friday August 26,1932.
We arrive at the inn late Tuseday afternoon after what had been a fun ride. Greta and Eric met us there with two of my tailed cousins and their husbands, which was a bit of a surprise, at least to me, but they had tank beds, a pool and spent the day in a carriage enjoying the Vermont air and their husbands away from the bower. At dinner, Greta looked at me and said, “Dear, when was the last time you had a good Run?”
“I haven’t had one for some time. It’s a bit difficult in the city and I might scare somebody. I can Run discreetly out on the Cape from mothers, but after April it’s too much of a pain.”
“Well from now on, you and ‘Hǔ should come up at least once a month and get a good Run and maybe chase something. First thing in the morning, go out and enjoy yourselves.”
So we did. The surprising thing was that we encountered two ladies that also had cat Changes, one of whom was also a Tiger. The other, who looked more like a lion, said, “Hi! I’m Athena and this is Boonsri. You’re new up here.”
“Are there more cat changes up here?”
“Some. A lion that I’ve seen and some cougars over across the river. So who are you two?”
“I’m Kitty, that is Catherine, but nobody calls me that, and this is ‘Hǔ.”
“Well we have some deer that we are tracking for lunch. Care to join us.”
We did and I had forgotten how good a hunt was. Greta had been right. When we were done enjoying the meal, I asked Athena, “‘Hǔ has been telling stories about Roger and Tom. So has Hilda and Arney. Do you know about them?”
“Not really. I have to work in New York and up until fairly recently I was one of the Manager’s indentured. If Gregor weren’t crawling around the woods with his friend Jimmy and other friends from the area, he would be at school at the Academy or New York. He was down there for a party that he said a cat lady wasn’t told about when she asked the kids at the school to make her brother’s party more exciting.How did that work out.”
“Very well. My sister in law was rather put out though. The kids had things set up before I asked, didn’t they?”
‘You’ll have to ask them. Boonsri and I were helping Meliana and Barbara with things. That party was a lot of fun.”
“My brother’s was rather dull. But that was my sister in law’s own fault. If she doesn’t know to call cousin about seafood and a caterer, Ray about liquor, and Nera about entertainment, that is her problem. As for the party gags, I don’t know if her grandsons have Tom’s book. If Lucy had her way, they would not.”
“You and your sister in law don’t get along.”
“Since I only bonded to ‘Hǔ here recently, I worked in acquisitions, not necessarily legal acquisitions.”
“Why did you start?” Boonsri asked.
“It started when Uncle asked me to spy for the General.”
“Is Uncle, Noro?”
“Yes.”
“Then you were spying for General Washington.”
“That was the man. I was very good at it, but the thrill was enough that when the war ended, I didn’t stop. I also like art and having it for a time. But some people don’t want to share so I take it anyway. I never keep it for very long. There are aspects of my work that are very lucrative though and I have been known to play games at Uncle’s business.”
“I’m surprised that Noro didn’t recruit you during the things that we had at the beginning of the year?”
“I was out of the country. One country wanted me to acquire some documents that another country had stolen and make them disappear. The job took longer and was rather more exciting than I wanted it to be.”
“What were you up against?”
“Some vampires and other Twisted working for the thing they call the unbonded. The other master’s toys are just that, essentially. The Golden butterfly is not.
In any case, Lucy does not approve of what I do or things that are outside her sense of propriety, like bonding from a farm boy from Vermont, for instance.”
“She didn’t pay attention to the other high fae mothers on the coast then,” Athena said. “When we were indentured, my main job was trying to find out what Tom did to whatever the Manager sent to kill him. Of course what happened to them was Tom, Hakedeo, Mike or other high fae friends of Tom destroying them as they went after Tom. But one thing that I did notice was that Tom was a girl magnet for high fae, especially royals. You wouldn’t believe how many threw themselves at Tom trying to get through his shields and form a bond. None worked of course, thanks to his being on the path of sacrifice, but they did try. Chrissie is a very lucky lady.”
I sensed somebody out there and said, We have visitors?”
Athena looked around and said, “it looks as if my son and his friends have caught up with us. Do you want to run?”
“I’m too full.”
We were surrounded by kids, including one that I recognized, who said, “Mom, it looks like you ran into Kitty and ‘Hǔ.”
I looked at him and said, “You set me up at the party. You already had things planned there.”
“Trudy goes to the school and asked us to arrange for some distractions so her friend could sneak over and see the dancing with Trudy and go to our party. We had the stuff and set the noisemakers and press corps up on Friday. But you did ask for something to make that party more interesting and it needed it.”
“I think everybody but my sister in law would agree with that.”
“This is Gregor,” Athena said. “What did he and his friends set up.”
“I’m not sure, but there were noises out in the woods as a small war was going on, a bunch of flashbulbs and some fireworks in the water before the dancing.”
“Just the usual things then. There were probably some exploding boats and other things too.”
“Yes there were. You kids did a very good job of rattling my sister in law.”
“She deserved it. Dorothy and her mom are all right, but the old lady complains if we make too much noise. If she believes that you were responsible then maybe she’ll think better of us.”
“Not likely. She doesn’t think much of Tom at all.”
That got a bunch of shocked and angry expressions.
“She doesn’t like Tom? Why not?”
“Because Tom came from here, wasn’t born in silk sheets and she was upset that her uncle let his granddaughter bond with a farm boy from Vermont.”
“But Tom does all those great things, is a perfect partner with Chrissie and has all those interesting friends like Tochi.”
“I know that, but my sister in law doesn’t. Mostly because she doesn’t pay attention. Kids, we need to head to the farm. Greta wants us for the afternoon.”
‘Hǔ and I made our goodbyes and headed toward the inn. On the way back we were chased by a pack of rather happy werewolves. Fritz said, “Have you seen a bunch of kids?”
“Back there a piece, why?”
“Good, We need to find Arnold’s and tell them to come home.”
“That shouldn’t be hard. They are with two other cats.”
“We thought at first that that was who you were. We need to get going.”
They ran toward where the kids were. I turned to ‘Hǔ and said, “They seem to be having fun.”
“Yes they do.”
We reached the inn, Changed and headed over to the farm to talk with Greta. When were telling her about our adventures and discovering what had gone on, she said, “Have you seen the pictures?”
“What pictures?”
“Between Chrissie, Sillia and Tim, there were pictures of most of it. Let me get them.”
She did and I made a note to talk to Altris about bringing a set to the meeting. One picture from Tom and Chrissie’s rather chaotic romance stuck out. “Why was Chrissie sticking herself in pots?”
“At that point, Tom was supposed to be working on Josh’s boat and Chrissie was stuffing herself in Tom’s pots so that Tom would pull her up. But Tom didn’t tell Josh that he had a new boat that he was working on and Joe didn’t tell Chrissie either. So Chrissie kept getting caught by Josh.”
“Why was Josh on the water that much in the first place. Didn’t he have somebody working with him?”
Altris had quietly been putting one grandson or another on Josh’s boat for the last few years. In fact there were two running the boat right now.
“Josh hired Tom for the work. Then he was on the boat much of the time because Tom had bought a boat and Josh didn’t tell Chrissie when he wouldn’t be.”
“Who has the negative for this?”
“Mary’s office does. Do you want a print?”
“I do, but Chrissie’s birthday is coming up and I want to surprise her. I owe her a birthday party and a Christophe picture.”
“Tell me, what happened?”
I did, and she laughed. I contined going through the rather dramatic pictures of the Sharks attacking Tom and Chrissie, Chrissie and Tom here at the farm, Josh holding a beach party with my cousins, Tom, Chrissie, Steve, Sal, Sillia, some people I didn’t know and some people who were wearing navy uniforms and must have been part of Steve’s people. The party ended with Constructs and zombies getting shot for trying to spoil the party. Then there were the pictures of the warehouse in New York, Sal and Sillia, along others, pictures that Tim had taken, including the one of Uncle, a picture of a car, along with a bunch of pictures of Suzy, the car and some pictures of boys setting thing up in the woods, pictures of Andy and Trillia, what looked like a fun party, what must have been the end of the Sharks, Chrissie and my cousin’s wedding. Tom’s office at the Olympics, Chrissie’s party, Sal’s wedding, another warehouse, some more Sharks. and pictures from what must have been the thing with the Colonel from New York and here. I turned to Greta and said, “I made a mistake in missing this. For several reasons. This looks like a great wedding. I’m a bit surprised that Mera bothered. She hadn’t for Stacey.”
“Mera wanted to have a meeting of as many of the high fae as she could because we had just found out about what was going on. So she set up the wedding as the cover. Of course my son slipped up more than a bit. He never showed us his address book from his days in Washington. The guest list would have grown somewhat if he had. I understand being on the path of sacrifice, but Tom made keeping secrets about himself an art form. Fortunately we have managed to pry loose most of the secrets at this point.”
“My sister in law rather nastily said that Chrissie married “A farm boy, from Vermont.”
“He is that. But he is more than that. Your sister must be one of those shallow people that only sees the status of people and not who they are. That is a mistake that Tom doesn’t make.”
“Unlike my sister in law, who only sees the surface. Frankly, I doubt that Chrissie would have ever bonded with somebody that was completely ordinary. She has always had a rather large personality.”
“I have this feeling that you want to talk with me about bonding, your sister in law and Chrissie.”
I told Greta about the party and what my sister in law said. She looked at me and said with a smile, “We must see about doing something about that.”
“You don’t seem to be insulted.”
“If I had been as uptight about things like Bonding as your sister in law, I would have missed what has been, for the most part, a wonderful life. I did bond with, as your sister in law said, “a farmboy from Vermont,” somebody who my family would have considered entirely unsuitable. Over in Europe I had a rather sheltered existance and perhaps lived in a bit of a gilded cage. My parents sent me, rather than my sister, since she had a bond and I did not. I was sent without any servants or retainers as discreetly as possible and the result was that I arrived free. I barely got off the ferry from New Jersey and there was Eric, selling a load of maple syrup in the market, we bumped into each other, rode up together to meet his parents and here we are.”
“What happened to his parents?”
“Eric’s father was killed by a vampire and his mother followed soon after. That was when the monsters started as well. But we survived and prevailed.”
“What happened to the rest of your family?”
“They are dead or lost. I don’t know how, but like so many others, they were destroyed by the Masters. My sister is still alive, but I can sense that she is deeply tainted and in the thrall of the Red Lady.”
“I may have ecountered your sister. Is her Change like Stephie’s?”
“Yes and don’t tell me how and what my sister did. I would prefer to remember as she was, and not what she has become. I know that it is a conceit, but that is how it is. If she were to act against the family, that would be a different story, but if she has acted against us, it has been through proxies like the Director.”
“I don’t think that she thinks the same way.”
“I am sure that she does not. She has been tainted and Twisted by the dark and is probably obsessed with the fact that I and the family have survived and prospered. I suspect that not all the things that came here were the result of the Director or random. Now that the Director is gone, she may attempt more direct action if her mistress will let her.”
“Her mistress probably will not. Your sister is too valuable to the Mistress and she wouldn’t want your sister to risk herself in a combat with you and Eric.” ‘Hǔ said. “Your sister is too valuable as an assistant and an aide for the Red lady to let her pursue anything as risky as a vendetta against you.”
“It’s time for me to start supper. Kitty, why don’t you and I start on that while ‘Hǔ talks to Eric. I don’t think that he really wants to know what we get up to concerning your niece.”
“No, I do not, because I expect that what you and Kitty come up with is going to be sneaky. I do know that Dorothy is looking in the right directions and is not too concerned about bonding with somebody inappropriate.”
Greta and I plotted over vegetables and getting the roast ready. After we were about done, she said, “So your niece would be willing to be on the look out for ‘hunks.’ I think we have some here. The two best hunks have bonds already. Your niece should know that she will be competing with a lot of girls from other fae communities. After Tom, the girls are on the hunt and will be looking for more Toms.”
“Can you afford the loss?”
“We will survive.”
We had a wonderful chat and made plans for the meeting in September. I told Greta about what I did and she said, “I imagine that you did it for the thrills. Unbonded fae, especially girls, can go a long time trying to fill the empty spot in their lives. Your cousins were a perfect example.”
“They certainly were. Nera with her dancing and playing around. Mera wasn’t much better as far as that went until Josh showed up.”
“How did your side of the family respond to that?”
“Mixed, especially since we found out that Josh came from an orphanage. It didn’t help when Josh took the community’s princess and put her on a barge.”
“Mera hasn’t complained about that. She’s also said that the barge was so that Noro couldn’t track them down and not because Josh had to take a job like that.”
“A big part of it was that Josh just up and left when it was obvious that he was going to be the heir. Of course Josh and Mera certainly had every encouragement they needed to leave. He also came back when he was needed.”
“There was more going on than that. Have you met Josh’s parents?”
“I’ve done work for them, actually.”
“I shouldn’t be surprised. Did they trade some things with you?”
“Yes, they did.”
“They also have a keystone and a very small family, of which Josh was raised up as heir. Most of their family was killed before it could escape and Joe and the rest of the community were drawn into the Rockaway bower.”
“That explains some things. Was this before Josh and Mera bonded?”
“It happened when Josh was a baby, which is why he was put in that orphanage. In any case Josh was the heir to both the bower and his parents and his parents keystone probably pulled on him more than a little until Noro’s wife was killed and Josh’s parents found Joe and started to talk with him.”
“So Tim is heir, or will be.”
“You’ve met him already.”
“Yes. He was taking us around New York with Suzy. They make a wonderful couple.”
“Don’t they. That reminds me, I expect that Al will find you now that you are talking with the rest of us, but do you shoot?”
“Not for a long time and not with modern guns. We all learned to shoot pistol and musket during our war with the dark, but in my work, shooting can make things worse. My goal is to leave as little trace of me being there as possible.”
“Have you ever been caught?”
“Once, by Chrissie. She pulled a surprise party on me.”
I told Greta and Eric, when he came in, about how Chrissie had set me up over picture.
“I can understand that,” Eric said. “Tom and Chrissie gave us one of Christophe’s things for Christmas and she obviously likes him as much as her grandmother did.”
“Christophe doesn’t mind that I borrow his pieces from time to time as I occasionally have visitors with money that will come and buy them after I return them. My mistake was taking the picture of the bower that Chrissie liked, but I liked it so much as I will never see the bower. Christophe did another one for me that I still have. In any case, I ask Stacey what Chrissie is looking at and don’t touch it.”
“Is that why you want the picture of Chrissie in that lobster pot?”
“Yes. Christophe will love it, Chrissie’s birthday is coming up and she has a house to hang it now.”
Eric and Greta had huge grins on their faces. Greta said, “Mary will love that.”
Eric said, “‘Hǔ said that Altris set you and he up, but said to ask you about the specifics.”
“My dear cousin knew that I, as well as his sisters had not found bonds for a very long time. Then ‘Hǔ manages to get himself arrested for sober driving and talks a bit with my cousin about the boys. Cousin sends me a message saying that he wants to talk and since I wasn’t busy, thought it would be interesting and we meet at a diner that we use for meetings that are a bit discreet, especially from family. He tells me about Alex, Xing and their associate, Jim and suggested that I look in on a meeting he’s having with ‘Hǔ. I did and after my cousin left, introduced myself and had a nice chat and made some dates. Altris set me up and if Chrissie hadn’t been on the way to Japan, I would think that she had a hand in it, somehow. But my parents like ‘Hǔ and I can’t wait to have a nice cuddle with him. I think that we will do it at the inn when the time comes.”
“We will have to talk about wedding plans with your mother as well. I expect that she will want one.”
“I’m sure of it. Lucy gave her daughter one and made a big deal over the fact that some arrangements hadn’t been made for Ben and her. The woman has that habit to stepping in it.”
We finished making dinner and the large roast was explained as Eric’s son, daughter and spouses, Larry, Theresa, George and Diana joined us with their kids including two sixteen year olds that looked to ‘Hǔ and I as very nice hunks when we talked about it as we went for a brief run after dinner.
The next morning we went for another run before collecting with the boys, Eric, Greta and perhaps not surprisingly, the two young men we had met last night. I said to Greta, “Can you spare them for a couple of weeks?”
“That will make Ray happy as they are the next two that can drive and having them away from Tom’s truck is a good thing. They are handling Katherine’s horse for the upcoming competition, at least until we get to the stable we use down there.”
“What is special about Tom’s truck,” ‘Hǔ asked.
“Tom and his friends played with it just a bit much. He has made arrangements with a student to have it discreetly returned to the boatyard on the Cape, so we won’t have it as a temptation anymore. It’s still a good idea to get the boys down to the Cape and the other bunch wanted them for the thing on Saturday with Bob and Scott’s Construct equipment in case they need it.”
Eric and Greta rode with us until lunch and then we had Arney’s kids, who were calling me ‘Aunt Kitty’ by the time we arrived at the hotel. For nonfae they seemed know quite a bit aobut my family and apparently a significant number of their friends were fae and the girls were expecting Changes and tails in Marie’s class as she was fourteen. The entire conversation had been very interesting by the time we arrived at the hotel in White River Junction.
The next morning we had the kids again and they told us all about Roger and Tom the Easter bunny. ‘Hǔ hadn’t had a chance to take us over to the store this time, but the boys had taken the kids and played wolf and bunny with Tom right in front of the store with everbody laughing.We stopped at the diner in Plymouth for a lunch that was a bit late, picked up ‘Hǔ’s father and we were off to the Provincetown ferry, dinner and the wonderful mermaid dancing. ‘Hǔ’s father sat entranced through the entire show and said, “That was amazing and truly magical. Number two son, how come we don’t have any seafolk in our family?”
“Because we don’t live near the water, father. This was wonderful, wasn’t it.”
The Tiger turned to me and said, “Thank you for bringing us into your life.”
Alex.
Saturday August 27,1932.
When Xing and I went over to the business office with Xing’s parents, Jim’s kids and Hijon, Altris said, “Be ready with your Change.”
I looked at him, “What for?”
“If we need to, taking out the Yaoguai if they get too obnoxious without using guns. If people see you, they will think that we are putting on some kind of show. You being in Change at the mermaid dancing helps that somewhat. This time of year, I’m a bit skittish about shooting.”
“I don’t blame you. It’s also better if they are shooting at us and not people in the office or on the street.”
Stephie, Hilda, Boris and Stephie’s kids,with the exception of Katherine caught up with us. Stephie said, “Alex, Xing, you have to see what the boys did. Come back outside.”
We did and there were signs all over the offices. One said, “Boss’s office,” and pointed at the door of Altris’s office. Another said, “Security,” which was Julio’s office, with “Beware of dog. Really beware of dog. The Security guy isn’t nice if you wake him either. ” Over Tom and Josh’s office the sign said, “Peacekeeper and Big Joker. Do you really want to piss these characters off.” There was actually a sign on accounting and payroll that said, “Vault here. It was payday yesterday and you really don’t want to mess with our accountant after payday. Or any other time.” There were other signs all over the place pointing at things and making comments about the people in the various offices, most of whom had come out to look at the signs and laugh at them. The Chinese characters on all signs were a nice touch. Stephie said, “You need to see the sign over the driveway.”
We walked over and over the driveway it said, “If don’t have business here, you really must abandon all hope. For travel, attraction, and hotel information go here,” and it pointed to the travel center up the street. The sign had a skull and crossbones on it.
Altris laughed and said, “I suspect that the boys thought that the Yaoguai needed all the help that they could get.”
Kitty became visible and said, “It looks like the boys wanted to make sure that the Yaoguai knew where to go. The thing about waking up Julio is funny. Is he here?”
“He’s coming over now,”Altris pointed to where Julio was coming with a teenage girl and Roger happily dancing around them. Julio looked at the signs and said, “The boys outdid themselves.”
“Why did you let them?”
“They said that they were putting signs up to tell people coming here where to go for things because Daisy was constantly being interrupted. Daisy confirmed that and said that the boys said that they were making some signs and had some extra boards and paint, so they would make the signs at the same time. I wasn’t here when they put the signs up.”
All five of the boys showed up, saw Xing and I and came over. David said, “Alex! Are you going to be here for the parade?”
“Yes.”
“Good!”
The boys went back to the truck, pulled out another large sign and there was a map of the office and towns with dragons at the office that said, “Here Be Dragons.”
The sign had scorch marks and claw marks on it. The boys hung the sign and said, “We need to get going and get set up.”
The boys left again. I turned to Kitty and said, “Where’s your boyfriend?”
“Keeping an eye on the Yaoguai with Fritz, Little Tiger and Jimmy. He can shut them down if they start to do something really stupid.”
Eric and Greta pulled into the parking lot, saw the sign and laughed. Since Eric was dressed as the typical tourist, when he got out of the truck he said, “I would guess this is not the place to ask inane questions.”
“We get enough of them,” Altris said. “Alex. are there any boy dragons who would like to have a nice easy job chasing idiots out.”
I grinned, “I’m not sure. You would need to talk to Barbara.”
“I think that I will. We have some girls with tails looking for young men in any case.”
“Where is Barbara?” Kitty asked.
“She is my aunt and lives in New York.”
“Perfect. Is she the mother of the girls that were dancing at the party?”
“I wasn’t there, so I wouldn’t know. Were they pixies?”
“Yes. Barbara works at the botanical garden, doesn’t she?”
A couple came over from the street. The woman said,“Kitty what are you plotting?”
“What makes you think that I am plotting anything, mother?”
“Your father and I still haven’t heard from you about what happened at the party last weekend.”
“I figured that Lucy would tell you the important things. She never hesitated before. I do need to give you and father a report that you need to read. Frankly I have been a bit busy this week. Unlike Lucy, I don’t have the time to run right to the phone and call you about all the things that Lucy said about Uncle, Tom, Chrissie, Mera, Nera and the rest of us.”
“You set up those rockets and boats and things.”
“Actually I didn’t. The kids had already planned that. Lucy really needs help with parties if they are so boring that the person the party is for,supposedly, creates a diversion so that she can sneak out and be next door with her friends. Apparently Lucy didn’t bother to talk to her granddaughter about the party.”
“Lucy didn’t mention that Dorothy had skipped out of the party.”
“She probably never even noticed. Dorothy managed to get to the party next door faster than ‘Hǔ and I did and we had a car. Of course she probably left at about the time that the first gag went off.”
“I don’t think that we need to tell Lucy that Dorothy skipped out.”
“If Lucy wants Dorothy to have a good bond, rather than trying to find the ‘right people’ she should be inviting boys to the house, not chasing them away. One problem Lucy has is that the boys that she would like Dorothy to bond with don’t want anything to do with Lucy and so they won’t go to Lucy’s party. So Dorothy went next door to the party that the family there set up to attract the boys that Lucy wanted. The botanical garden benefit was an excuse for exactly that and everybody had a good time. The strange part was that Mrs. Elliott used our family to run the party and Lucy didn’t.”
“Are you going to tell Chrissie about Lucy?”
“Yes, I am. I’m going make a point to tell Chrissie, and Tom about my sister in law. By the way, this is Eric and Greta, Tom’s parents. Eric, Greta, This is my mother, Beth and my father, George.”
“So what brings you down here, other than the usual,” George said.
“Our grandaughter is competing at an event at the Norfolk Hunt club next weekend”, Greta said. “So we are spending the week here. Eric is also meeting with Altris for my son in law and discussing getting people up at the inn for the winter this year. It worked out very well last year. My daughter in law is also heading to Europe to meet with her brother and his family on Monday to start to resolve some things that happened just before the Olympics last year.”
“The things in the report our daughter giving us?”
“Those things yes. There were certain issues surrounding the death of man who was assaulting our home and some moneys need to be dealt with, one way or another and there may be some property issues.”
“You don’t seem to be too upset about what my daughter in law said,” Beth said. “Presumably Kitty has told you.”
“What she said about Tom, yes. Tom is my unexpected child and has been both a joy and a strain as a result of what he is. He has also suffered because of the loss of his brother and how that happened. But Tom is, after all, a farm boy from Vermont. Yet he has been able to succeed and prosper, even if he has a supposedly lowly birth and is seeming defective. He also found a wonderful strong bond like I did when I ran into a farm boy from Vermont right as I stepped off the ferry from New Jersey. As for your daughter in law, she is making a terrible mistake and she only has to look right next door to the Elliotts to see the consequences of the mistake. I would tell your daughter in law to talk with her aunt down at the bower and see what trying to restrain bonds can do. Not that Dorothy will be restrained from all reports.”
Kitty’s mother had a rather thoughtful expression and said, “I will talk with Lucy. She has let things get twisted around and perhaps looks too closely at the surface. George, we need to find a good spot.”
They left, heading to the street and Kitty had a smile as she turned to Greta and said, “Thank you.”
“No problem, dear. Your mother probably knows that Lucy is in the wrong. I certainly have my share of relatives in our family that only see things on the surface. Eric’s sisters are the same way somewhat, especially considering Tom. They have had to eat a substantial helping of crow this year.”
“Why did they think that Tom was defective?”
“Because he didn’t seem to be using his abilities like the other children. But that was because he had very strong shields to protect himself and others. But they still nattered at me and encouraged my daughter to poke at Tom with hers. That led to all sorts of interesting places, didn’t it, Stephie?”
“Yes it did. The thing is that I learned so much from how Tom did things. Still, the old ladies eating crow this year has been fun to watch. They can’t even natter mother about grandchildren because Tom and Chrissie started right in.Of course Chrissie pushed their noses out of joint by buying that car for Tom.”
“What car?”
“That Cadillac over there, in the shed,” Altris said. “They left it here, because they didn’t want to just leave it in the boatyard.”
“Is that where Chrissie is living?”
“For the moment. Joe set it up when they first bonded for he and Moira and Tom and Chrissie. Then he bought a boat to live on while Chrissie has legs and pushed Tom into building a house for them.”
“So why did Chrissie buying a car for her husband get their noses out of joint. She certainly can afford it.”
“Because they are jealous that Tom can afford things like that,” Stephie said. “Tom can because he had so many successes at the end of last year and that is what annoys them.”
Kitty giggled. “I am going to have to have a long talk with Chrissie when they get back.”
“What are you going to do if she goes after us over this?”
“Divert her with Lucy, not that that will be hard, talk with aunt and hire Tim, more than likely. I haven’t been paying attention to Chrissie lately and apparently she has been doing a lot and growing quite a bit.”
“Yes she has,” Greta said. “Of course you do have one advantage for the next little while. Chrissie is expecting.”
“She didn’t waste any time. The downside is that she will be up top again for some time, but the kids should be distraction for a few years until they get old enough to disctract me.”
“Maybe you and ‘Hǔ shouldn’t hold off that long,” Altris said.
“I think that this will be resolved fairly quickly and so does ‘Hǔ. I think I will go and find him.”
Kitty went looking for her bonded as Altris returned us to the office and the kids dragged us out to see the streets and the town until it was time for the parade to start. We wandered around and met with Altris, who took us to lunch. Xing did some shopping at the galleries and found some things that had obviously come from the bower. After they were wrapped, she said, “I think that I need to talk to Stacey and find out where the good things are.”
After Xing finished her shopping, we headed back to the office to find a spot to watch the parade. We ended up on the porch outside Altris’s office with Raillia and some other tailed ladies from the bower who had had their husbands arrange to put them where they could both see the parade and what the Yaoguai were going to get up to. Roger came around looking for Annie apparently, as he lay down next to her seat. The parade started and the thing was the typical small town parade of the boyscouts, several high school bands, the Elks lodge, Jake’s state police troop marching and on motorcycles and cars, various businesses and the various clubs just having fun. Both Tom’s shop and Noro’s superboat had the boats on trailors, all decked out with bunting, filled with girls, some of whom obviously had tails. As the parade was heading toward an obvious end, Xing and I left the porch, Changed and waited discreetly in the parking lot next to Atlris’s office. Two cars came barreling into the parking lot and the Yaoguai poured out, only to realize that the lot had a fair amount of police motorcycles, cars and troopers just standing there and that the parade seemed to be abslolutely peaceful, without any disturbances or chaos. In the face of such obvious overwhelming force, the Yaoguai retreated in a bit of a panic. Xing and I returned to the porch to watch as the last float, with not so fake mermaids, drove down the street advertising the fake mermaid dancing, followed by two rather tired looking Constructs carrying large signs for the boy’s shoot next month. Altis came over and I said, “You knew that Jake’s people were going to be parking in the lot.”
Altris smiled. “Jake did ask for parking and I did say yes. I didn’t think it important enough to make a deal about. Better Jake’s people than some strange tourists anyway.”
“Some people obviously made a wrong turn.”
“They did, didn’t they?”
Jake came over, looking very spiffy in his uniform with a huge grin. “I think that somebody made a bit of a mistake.”
“I think that they made a lot of mistakes.”
“Thanks again for letting us use the lot.”
“Jake, it’s always a pleasure for these things. The local merchants don’t like the lots tied up with paraders after these things and you all have to have somewhere to put things after it’s over. The Elks use the bank’s lot, the fire department uses the freight station, the bands have a place to go and you use our lot. That way everybody is happy.”
“Except for some clowns that didn’t seem to have a clue. Let me get my people squared away, so that we can all get together for dinner. Alex, bring your family and the others too.”
We did, and dinner turned out to be a big picnic on the beach. The only downside was that the mass of kids all knew about our Change and insisted that we change after dinner. There was some impromptu mermaid dancing and a good time was had.

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