The Tiger and the Guardian, Chapter 37, Part 3.

The Yaoguai have taken the girls and Andy? What ship are they on?

Jean.
Sunday September 11, 1932.
I was amazed how quickly my niece had managed to attach herself to the young man and the Benton’s. Early this morning she was writing a letter to her mother about the wonderful young man that she had discovered at the horse show. She was going to mention that the young man was from Vermont, but not that he was a Benton, yet. When I entered her room, she said, “This will please mother. She will be happy that I found fae that I can date, let alone a bond. She will also want to communicate with Theresa and Greta frequently.”
“The Chancellor may have some concerns about you being here and how that effects your brother’s ability to make Constructs. So what do you plan to do today?”
“Tony is going to take you and I to a Construct demonstration at the Creator’s place near Plymouth. The Creators have all been working on Construct ideas and want to test them. We want you to come as well.”
“When do we leave?”
“At nine. Tony wanted us to have a chance for breakfast.”
At nine o’clock, Jeanette’s young man showed up in a car. It wasn’t anything very fancy and I asked, “Is this your car?”
“I don’t have one yet. This car came from the family business pool. I’m just borrowing it today.”
“So this is the Bower’s car?”
“Yes. I signed out for it on Friday because I was working with the Creators on their little project.”
“Why you?”
“Well, it isn’t just me,but you probably know about my brother and cousin. Then I already knew most of the Creators and that makes things easier.”
We drove out of the city and through some towns to a rather run down place that had a remarkable amount of cars and trucks parked already. Tony dragged Jeanette off to meet his brother, cousins and other friends. I noticed Alex and some others and headed in their direction. As I walked up, Alex was talking to the Troubleshooter and woman in a wheel chair who must have been the Troubleshooter’s wife. Tim was talking with a man who was a normal and must have been his mentor as the man was going over Tim’s notes. Alex noticed me and said, “Jean! Have you met Sal yet?”
“No, I haven’t. I am surprised that he is here. At last report he was shutting down a place of ill repute last Friday.”
“Sal, this is Jean. He was watching things for the Masters during the thing with the Black Dragon.”
“Hello. I shut down the place Friday and came up here yesterday after the report came in about the Yaoguai. Did the ship make it back?”
“As far as I know they did. At least the Chancellor hasn’t asked me any questions about it. The Black Dragon took full responsisbility for the events. I am surprised that you all aren’t looking for the children the Yaoguai took.”
Alex grinned. “No need to. The girls are having fun on the ship chasing mermaid relatives today and Andy is here for a bit with Trillia.”
“The young man is here?”
“We want to go over things with him and as long as the Yaoguai think that he is in the brig, they aren’t exactly going to be looking for him.”
I grinned. “He can Change and phase, can’t he.”
“Yes,” Alex replied. “That was something the Yaoguai never bothered to learn. It is not as if Andy and Trillia were trying to hide the fact that Andy can Change. I think that most people in your neighborhood know about that, don’t they Sal?”
“There may be one or two, like the Percy’s that don’t know about Andy. I think that everybody else does.”
I looked around. “Where are they now?”
Alex’s grin got a bit bigger. “Andy is watching the range for his cousins. Trillia is with him. He was planning to do that today when he was interrupted yesterday.”
“So what is this place, other than a discreet place for Creators to get together.”
“It’s Noro’s brother, Eli’s place. His daughter and son in law volunteered it when they heard about the Creator meetup from Altris.”
“Is Noro here?”
“No. He and Eli don’t get along, so he decided to play Mr. P. at the ship today. He’s entertaining the girls. Why don’t I take you around and introduce you to everybody.”
My nephew had a small shop and a workshop. This was rather different as there were several small buiding and sheds which belied their rather dilapidated appearance. There were a lot of children running around happily and the two dragons that I had seen yesterday being chased by a bunch of them. There was a small range and there were the young man and his friend, with two mermaids, running things. Tony had brought Jeanette over and she had a small rifle and the young man and Tony were obviously instructing her on how to shoot. A man came by and said, “That boy is very good at this.”

Alex said, “Jean, this is Eli, Creator and owner here. Eli, this is Jean, the Master’s agent for little tasks like retrieving our wayward werewolves.”
Eli grinned. “That may be a bit hard as they are going to die tomorrow.”
“How are the puppets coming?”
“Very well. The tricky part is making so that the ‘dead’ bodies do not just dissolve. We were planning to tell the boys to dump them off a dock during the firefight, but Doug suggested that we mix some golems into the puppets. Apparently he, Bob and Scott have been playing with using Constructs to animate golems for their shoots. We should have a set ready for the boys to play with this afternoon. Mario is doing the finish work on the first set.”
“You have quite a large facility for a Creator,” I said. “My nephew has just a small workspace.”
“Most of this is things that Creators in the old country don’t do. They don’t take work in from non fae. I do very little with traditional fae things and I do lot more job work for everybody else. When my wife was murdered, I didn’t want to be involved in fae things, so I started to do other things and my sons, grandsons and great grandsons kept it up. I may apprentice one as a creator at some point, but until recently there just hasn’t been much of anybody wanting much of the fae stuff. The boys and their Constructs, the projectors and other things are changing that a bit. But for things like the projectors a full service shop like mine works better anyway.”
“Do the other Creators think the same way?”
“Not as much, though I’ve been taking them through the shop and giving them my contacts so some tool places are probably going to get some business. Hans has also been taking them through Tom’s shop as well and Abe and Bill in New York both have full service shops like I do.”
There was suddenly a bunch of shooting that wasn’t coming from the range and I asked Alex, “What was that?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t we go see?”
‘That’ turned out to be a bunch of children shooting at small Constructs on what appeared to be some sort of fallow farm field. I looked at it and said to Alex, “Can they afford to waste the Constructs?”
“There’s Scott, so why don’t we ask?”
We walked over to a young man who looke like a Benton was with another young lady and Alex asked, “Scott, I’m a bit surprised that you are just letting these Constructs go.”
“We’re not, really. This is a dry run for the kids for the big shoot next week. The boys here haven’t done a shoot before and they had a bunch of old Construct jars that Eli had made and never sold and we’re using them up here.”
Jeanette and Tony caught up with us. Tony introduced Jeanette to his cousin and the rest and then they came back to us. Jeanette was even more bubbly than usual and said, “Isn’t this wonderful. I wish that Roberre could be here. There are so many ideas! Have you seen the Construct wood?”
“Construct wood?”
“Yes. It doesn’t last very long, but you can use it to make things that surprise people. Hans, Doug and Jacob have been running gags. Let’s go see.”
Xing camne over and said “Alex, it’s our turn on dragon duty. Mother insists.”
Alex pouted a bit and turned to me, “I have to go, Jean. On the other hand it looks like these two have a good handle on things here.”
Alex was dragged off by his bonded as Jeanette dragged me over next to the houses where there was a huge puppet show. At least until it collapsed and disappeared. After a bit a huge player piano sprung up an went through a tune before disappearing in a cloud of sawdust. A woman saw us and came over. Hi, Jeanette, you came back!”
“I wanted to show my Uncle. Uncle this is Nillia. She is Han’s bonded and Nera’s head dancer. Actually she is running the dance shows now.”
“Yes. We have our last show of the season tomorrow evening. I hope that you will come.”
“We plan to, Nillia,” Jeanette said, “even if it’s only to the beach.”
“You and your uncle are invited to the boats if you want. Tony is already going with his parents and grandparents.’
The next Construct appeared, a huge Calliope, which went through it’s tune and then collapsed. I said to Nillia, “They don’t last very long.”
“No, the Construct wood doesn’t. Tom and Hans have been playing with it, but the templates just aren’t stable enough for a long clock.”
Suddenly, some rockets flew through the air nearby and exploded. Along with some boat in the pond and some other things. Nobody seemed too startled by the small explosions. Jeanette said, “It’s lunch time, so why don’t we find lunch.”
That turned out not to be very hard as Tony found Jeanette again and dragged us to a table full of lobsters, crab, clams, oysters, some soup and other things, all of which were looked over by young men with a family appearance. Tony took us too a table where a man and a woman were there with Eric and Great, along with a Chinese man and a woman. Greta said, “Jean, Jeanette, this is my son Larry and his wife, Theresa, ‘Hǔ and Kitty. ‘Hǔ and Kitty bonded recently.”
Jeanette grinned, “How did that happen?”
“My cousin set me up,” Kitty said. “he set up a meeting with ‘Hǔ about some werewolves that ‘Hǔ acquired and had me come. ‘Hǔ and I clicked and set up some dates. Of course ‘Hǔ being bonded to me upset some of Chrissie’s plans, but I can live with that.”
“How did that happen?”
“We have a family rule that if one family member goes after another one and recruits more family member, the target can rcruit whatever family members they want until the same number are on each side. Chrissie recruited my uncles, and they recruited some others, so I could recruit Uncle, Eli, Theresa and some others to even things out once ‘Hǔ was family.”
“So Noro and the Tiger are on the same side?”
“Yes. They are working against my cousins along with a mess of family members. Next week is going to be a lot of fun.”
“Chrissie is in Japan right now, at last report,” I said.
“Yes. Of course Tom has done his bit to not make things easy. But that got Stephie on our side.”
“She’s not here, is she?”
“She’s watching her daughter. Jídiànjí has some bad habits according to just about everybody who runs into him and Stephie wants to make sure that if he goes after the girl, that he and his friends have a sudden dance with death.”
Greta said, “Now that you are all here, tell me about my sister and what she has done. As I said to Kitty some time ago, I have been deliberately not looking into the things that she does and attempting to maintain the projection I had of her when we were young. It seems as if she thinks differently and even if I ignore her, she cannot ignore me. Jeanette seems to know quite a bit about her.”
Jeanette told Greta the things that she had seen over the years and the fact that, for instance that the Unbonded had admitted that she had killed most of her own family. Greta looked rather ill and said, “Was that just hearsay?”
“No,” I said. “She’s said that to me, and others that have talked with her.”
“She’s told me the story as well,” Jeanette said. “It is part of her not so mildly threatening you. I suspect that if you believe that she would mercilessly murder her own family, that what she would do to you, would be worse. It didn’t work on me because I knew that she is not completely mad and that she is aware that the Masters would demand her head if she were to mess with my family too much.”
Greta was frowning. “Dear, whether you and Tony get together, and it looks as if you will, we must teach you certain skills, especially shooting. Do you think that taking my granddaughter was something my sister came up with, or was it just the Yaoguai being their usual selves?”
“I think it was the Yaoguai. At least Jean never mentioned that the Unbonded had given him any special instructions regarding your granddaughter.”
The young man who we had seen at the range earlier came in, rolling his tailed girlfriend. He was sporting a black eye that I hadn’t noticed before. “Grandmother, grandfather, I think that I need to get back aboard the ship. Captain Paulo might have problems if I’m not there.”
“Yes, of course. Who is taking you?”
“Scott is taking me over to Nantasket pier. Trillia and I will Swim from there.”
“Make sure that you take a gun. Who gave you that shiner?”
“Captain Paulo while I was trying to escape. We needed a reason for him to dump me in the brig.”
“The brig must be below the waterline on that ship,” Jeanette said.
“Yes it is, strangely enough. We need to go.”
He rolled the girl out again and Jeanette said, “He is very brave.”
Greta grinned. “I don’t know about the other young girl yet, but taking Andy and Katherine after the Colonel, the Director and the others wasn’t the brightest thing that Jídiànjí could have done. We wanted the kids to return to some degree of normalcy and not think of things the way they were during the Colonel. Hilda will probably be rather miffed at me for letting Andy let himself be taken hostage again.”
“You mean he had a choice?”
“He was immune to compulsions and armed. I suspect that if there hadn’t been a crowd, that he would have shot whoever the Yaoguai sent after Katherine rather than just letting himself get abducted again.”
“What if the ship hadn’t been one that was known?”
“He would probably just have jumped overboard, letting the Yaoguai think that he was dead. Then he would have found a phone and called the business office. I’m glad that Paulo knocked him around a bit even if he arranged it with Andy. Andy should know that being taken hostage can be painful.”
“He did seem to be enjoying himself.”
“When the Colonel thing started up and the Colonel was looking for his grandson Bruce, who had also acquired a tail and the ability to Swim, Andy and Bruce were making plans to let themselves get taken hostage and take over the ship with the Colonel and his people aboard and bring the whole lot to the authorities. They had Doug make a Puppet Bruce after Doug made a Puppet Tom and used that to confuse the Colonel instead.”
“Doug being one of the Creators,” I said.
“Yes. He is our local Creator. He’s here with Jacob Martin. They want to see what Tom has arranged for a birthday present for his sister.”
“Tom is not even here.”
“No he isn’t. but when he arranged for Stephie’s horse, Tony to get out of his stable, he hadn’t been near the stable for a week. Stephie has aways been disapointed that she missed it as well. As well as my in laws poking her about Tom and abilities or the lack thereof.”
“That reminds me,” Jeanette said. “My family has bred horses for a very long time and Katherine has a fine horse. Where did you buy her?”
“Antonia? Tom bought her as a Christmas present for Katherine. He bought her from the same stable that Stephie’s horse Tony came from. She is Tony’s granddaughter.”
“Is Tony gone?”
“Yes, unfortunately. The stable had to sell off some horses and gelded Tony to make him easier for the girls that ride these days. Not that Tony was ever an easy horse. After a string of girls bought Tony and couldn’t handle him, Stephie got Tony for a very good price and went to the top with him. Then we had the incident with my son Bradley, Tom left and Tony missed Tom so much that he would get out of the stable and look for him. He died one cold day just before Tom came back for Christmas.”
“Tony must have been a remarkable horse.”
“Yes he was. I think that Tom was the only one who truly knew how remarkable. If you stay here in the country, Tom can give you the address of the stables.”
“I will want that. Horses that remarkable are very rare.”
We had a very interesting chat with Greta that I suspected was the beginning of a long series of chats between my niece and Greta and Tony came looking for Jeanette and took us to see the projector that had been set up and was running as some pixies danced. We moved on to other things that were going on until everybody started to drift toward the construct shoot where five men were seemingly waiting. Suddenly they ran right into the shoot while the kids fired, Changed to werewolves as they were shot at and finally collapsed and reverted, leaving bodies. The creators, all nine of them, had watches out and waited. After about fifteen minutes the bodies started to rot quickly, leaving skeletons that did not seem to be bone. Alex saw me and waved, I went over and he said, “You and Olivia need to pay a visit to the ship now. When you get there, tell Paulo fifteen minutes.”
“For the bodies?”
“Yes. We want to make sure that the game isn’t given away and Paulo needs to get the Puppets in bags before it becomes obvious that they are not real bodies.”
“Why do I need to go to the ship today?”
“To go meet with ‘Hǔ and Kitty to arrange the transfer.”
“Won’t Jídiànjí be suspicious that the vault wasn’t raided?”
“It was. This morning. Andy had more than one reason to escape and Noro, The Tiger, some kids and others hit the vault early this morning. The Tiger has the box. You will meet them there.”
“Oh.”
Noro.
Sunday September 11, 1932.
Chen Hǔ and I had originally planned to hit the vault on Saturday. On the other hand, my son probably thought that we would too. Taking the kids had been a distraction, but Chen Hǔ and I were planning to use it to our advantage. For one thing, Mr. P. was visibly at the office on the pier harassing his useless wastrel grandson, the wannabe politician about not harassing the ship captains over trivial nonissues. Of course the Mr. P. on the pier was Olivia and not me. She hadn’t had an opportunity to show Ray her Change and abilities and they loved the idea. It also let them watch the girls in plain sight. Andy was with Bruce helping me out by grabbing Tom’s boat. Tommy Warshowski had set kids up at the usual places that Altris used when he came in from the bower and so far he hadn’t shown up. The boys were out at Eli’s place running the shoot for the Creator’s meeting. Since Eli would have a fit and kick me off his place, there was no way that I could go in any case. Stephie discreetly flew around the empty office and joined me. “It’s just Julio, Roger and the other two security types, along with the two desk people.”
“I will have to take Altris to task for that. He knew that I would probably pull something. Did you cut the phones?”
“Except the lines for the desk, yes. Little Tiger did that at the junction box.”
“Any sign of Jake’s people in town?”
“Jimmy says that everything looks normal. I’ll go and join with Kitty, ‘Hǔ and Chen Hǔ and tell them things look good. When do the turkeys get here?”
“In ten minutes.”
She disappeared again. I pulled my watch out of my pocket and checked the time. About nine minutes later a truck loaded with boxes that had holes in them turned the corner and a tire blew just as the truck was going around the corner and the truck rolled over, spilling boxes and then turkeys right into the business office parking lot. Roger came charging out, chasing the turkeys with Julio and our other two security people trying to round them up. The street filled with noise as sirens went off, but no police cars showed up. Somebody must have set up some Tom gags on the street as they were going off everywhere. There was smoke all over the parking lot as well as smoke from the truck. Kitty, ‘Hǔ, Chen Hǔ and Stephie came up the street side and entered the accounting building. It took longer than I expected but they emerged and I quickly drove up our borrowed geataway car. They piled in and I drove off heading for O’doul’s chandlery, where I parked the car and we headed across to the waiting boat with Andy and Trillia running it. As Andy was taking us away, I asked, “so what took you?”
Kitty grinned,“Altris must have found somebody to shield the walls and put a new shield and aversion on the door.”
“So how did you get in?”
“I went upstairs and went in through the ceiling. Altris forgot to shield the ceiling. So I went in from upstairs and opened the door. The box must have been tuned to Chen Hǔ because the aversion shutdown and the box became just a box.”
“The Dragon was not inside?”
“No this was.”
Stephie held up a large and elaborate key that had a ‘1’ in the center of the bow. “There was also this.”
She held up a note on fine paper. She handed me the note and it said, “Happy birthday, sis. This is the first key. You and the Tiger will have to find the other six. This won’t be easy as some places will have disappeared when you opened the box. You will have to open the places in the correct order and find the keys and the box. There will also be more boxes, puzzles and things. I wanted to make this as fun as I could. Chen Hǔ, the Dragon is at the end of this. What you do is between you and it. The Dragon talks with Chrissie more than it does to me. But I have talked with others that know you and communicated with your bonded who truly wants you whole sane and home. You made a promise and I hope that as part of solving this puzzle, that you come to understand that you have kept that promise. I understand the the burden that the Path of Sacrifice carries and that sometimes things are not as obvious as one would like and that the resolution of the Path may not be as straightforward as one would think. In any case, here is my challenge. Signed: Thomas Benton.
Stephie said, “I think that this is going to be fun.”
I turned to Andy and said, “Run the boat back to the boathouse and then Kitty and ‘Hǔ will drive you and Trillia over to Eli’s for the Creator meeting so that your grandmother can see that you are Ok. You can run the range this morning as I doubt that you will be missed.”
Andy brought the boat quietly up to the boathouse, went back to get Trillia’s wheelchair, put her on it and then helped us with the moorings and fenders. As he was behind us and pushing Trillia’s wheelchair, he must have turned to look at the boat, because he said, “The boat is gone.”
We all turned around and replacing the boat was a toy like boat with a ‘3’ on the side. Stephie said, “I see what’s going on now. I used to drive Tom a bit crazy by making things disappear and reappear from time to time. But never on this scale.”
She reached down to pick up the boat, but her hand passed right through it. “Another aversion. I bet that the only one that is open is the ‘2’ now.”
As we passed through the boathouse toward the front, Andy said, “Tom and Chrissie’s place has disappeared too. There is a box with a ‘4’ marked on it.”
We went out front and the old part of Tom’s shop that had his office had also disappeared and been replaced with a ‘5’. I looked at Stephie and said, “You have your work cut out for you. I suspect that number ‘2’ is Tom’s office at the business office, ‘6’ is his new house and ‘7’ could either be his office in Plymouth or White’s, probably White’s. I don’t think that Tom would do this to anything that would affect any business outside his own. Of course we have only three weeks before he gets back and subjects us to the humiliation of showing how easy it is to solve.”
“I won’t be able to work on this full time. I have school starting this week.”
“He knew that. We may have been working a bit slower than he anticipated. There are probably things that require manufacture, shop time or waiting for something or somebody. This is going to be so much fun.”
Chen Hǔ said, “if I had known that he would do something like this I would have been more careful when sending the Yaoguai up to his office.”
“He probably started thinking about this about the same time that the Olympics shut down,” Stephie said. “He wanted to give me something extraordinary that would rub my aunt’s face in the act that they thought he was defective. He add you into the puzzle once he realized what was happening. Let’s go see what is happening with my daughter and Sally.”
Kitty and ‘Hǔ left with Andy and Trillia and the rest of us headed for Boston and the ship. We parked my modest Buick behind the big black Cadillac and went inside the office where the rough looking captain was there with the smooth dressed play boy and rather nasty Mr. P.. Joe said, “Good, you are here. How did it go?”
“We got the box. There was a key inside. All of Tom’s places disappeared including the boat after we tied up.”
“So there was a huge Tom gag involved. You should have expected that.”
“But it will be fun,” Chen Hǔ said. “I was surprised by this elaborate puzzle. I expected that we would discover in the end that we had been staring at the Dragon the whole time, but disguised. Instead he did this. I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have been during the Colonel.”
I laughed. “That was fun to watch. Not everything worked and Tom did over do some things. Putting Chrissie in the mix didn’t help matters. At least she held off and let Tom, Steve and Josh handle things. Where’s Boris?”
“Playing idiot farm county Sheriff pissed that his daughter was taken over at the Police Department rattling some cages. He’s trying to get the detective in this case to send some people toward this area of the waterfront without giving too much away.”
“Josh should be here tomorrow afternoon, if he doesn’t come out tonight.”
“Boris knows that. He’s trying to get the cops pointed in the right direction when the hammer comes down.”
Stephie looked at Paulo, “What is my daughter doing?”
“She and Sally volunteered to help with breakfast in the galley.”
“The Yaoguai let them?”
“I said that there was a guard on the gangway and there was no point in just letting two twelve year old girls just sit there in the cabin. I said that confining them would cause more trouble than it was worth.”
“I hope you told Sally not to mention that you are her uncle Paulo,”I said.
“I didn’t have to.”
“Andy had a nice shiner this morning.”
Paulo smiled “I bet that he was proud of it. Mr. Wu was rather frightened of Andy’s pistol when I showed it to him and told him that Andy had had it with him. I didn’t tell him that Andy was immune to compulsions and knew how to reflect. I didn’t want to scare him that much, especially as Mr. Wu was responsible for taking the kids in the first place.”
Boris returned and said, “I think that I have them thinking in the right directions.”
I laughed. “You weren’t too pushy were you?”
“I’ve mellowed some since I was working for the Czars. I also didn’t want to frighten the soon to be witnesses away. I also told them that I was talking to the press.”
“Are you?”
“After the colonel thing and Andy being taken again? The press found me yesterday. Tim was there at the horse show and had pictures anyway.”
“Of the kidnapping?”
“No, though another reporter got Katherine getting into the car. Tim just had some nice pictures of Katherine riding.”
Chen Hǔ said. “Olivia, Release your Change and give Noro his suit back. I think that the Tiger and the shark need to talk with the rat, Mr. Li.”
Olivia went into the back office and came back with Mr. P. on a hanger. “I could have played the role.”
“I’m sure that you could,” Chen Hǔ replied. “Noro carries the mantle of what he his and has experience with delivering the right amount of menace without even being very threatening. Where is Mary, by the way?”
“Flying overlook. The Yaoguai haven’t noticed.”
“I’ll help with that,” Stephie said. “I have plenty of practice.”
I changed to my Mr. P. persona as Stephie Changed and disappeared. Chen Hǔ and I wnet with Paulo and Joe over to the gangway and up the gangway and on to the deck. Paulo went to Mr. Wu’s cabin and knocked. Mr. Wu there are some gentlemen who would like to speak with you.”
He opened the door and Chen Hǔ said, “Where is Jídiànjí?”
“How did you find us?”
“Fool! Do you think that I would have been doing what I was doing without developing relationships and acquiring associates? I have been discussing certain arrangements with Mr. P. here for some time. We have done business out west when he was younger and I have known him for some time. Take me to Jídiànjí. I want to know why he almost disrupted the delicate business arrangements that I was conducting yesterday and did what I explicitly told him not to do. Where is he, or do I tell Mr. P. here that you can be disposed of.”
“The cabin at the end of the row, I will take you.”
We strode down to what was the largest cabin on the ship. Mr. Wu knocked on the door and Jídiànjí opened it. Chen Hǔ had a brief discussion with poor Jídiànjí and turned to me and said, “Let’s go.”
We returned to the gangway, leaving Mr Wu behind. After we were more or less out of earshot, I asked, “What did you say to him?”
“I told him that he must go this afternoon and discuss the return of the girl with the Bentons.”
“He told me that he had tried to make his demands and that they had not been at their hotel today.”
“I told him to try again and that I would have the box this afternoon. I also told him that I had promised you that he was not to touch the girls under any circumstances and that whatever happened, he was to release the girls before he left for China tomorrow.”
“You didn’t tell him that the reason that Katherine’s parents were not at the hotel was that they were already here did you?”
“Of course not. Frankly he should have known better thant to take a Benton hostage in the first place.”
As we were walking up the pier toward the shore a car drove up and stopped. The window rolled down and Persai said, “I’m going aboard.”
“Are you sure that you want to do that now?”
“I will be fine and I can keep an eye on the girls for Stephie and Regina. I want to try out the tank bed while Mac can still get his hands on it, if need be. This is the first real test of the ocean going tank beds.”
The car went down the pier toward the gangway. Chen Hǔ looked at me and said, “Explain tank beds. Other than they are Tom’s business. I could find out that the company was spending money, but where sales were coming from was rather mysterious.”
“The tank bed started last year when Tom took Chrissie home to meet his parents.”
I told Chen Hǔ the whole tank bed story and ended with, “Does your domain do any manufacturing?”
“Some. No large business.”
“Well you can tell any seaside domains that there will be good business and if they can get in contact with Tom, it will make them very good friends in the bowers. Tom is handling Japan right now as we speak.”
“You don’t sound all that happy over a large new business.”
“We are heading right for the end of the fiscal year and will have a huge balloon payment as all the 90 day receivables come in from the August deliveries. Tom managed to ship 5000 beds in August.”
“That doesn’t seem unreasonable.”
“At a thousand dollars a bed. That was five million in sales that I didn’t need at the worst possible time. Vic was ecstatic when heard the August sales numbers.”
“Who is Vic?”
“The company in house IRS guy. A real shark.”
“At least the idea of having to pay heavy taxes will keep you up top and not sulking down in the bower. Do you know how hard it is to find good adversaries?”
“My sons sort of dropped the ball somewhat this morning, didn’t they? They should have shielded the ceiling of the vault. They knew that Kitty was on our side. They probably had an alert set up that would lock the whole building down if Kitty tried to Change to phase and didn’t realize that Kitty had been talking with Josh’s parents. On the other hand, if Chrissie didn’t want the box out of the vault, Tom’s plan wouldn’t work unless the box was removed from the vault. We were focused so much on getting that done that we never thought to check out the other places until it was too late and we were even using Tom’s boat for the raid. There’s my other son and his crew.”
There was Ilutra, the WHOI truck and some more trucks and cars filled with young happy faces. He saw us, stopped the car and waved the rest past us. “Hello father. I heard that there was some excitement this morning at the vault and certain things disappeared. You got the box, but Tom got you, didn’t he?”
“That’s about the size of it. Did you help with setting any of that up.”
“The vault protection that didn’t quite work? No. Altris obviously slipped up there. Jake couldn’t figure out what you used for the getaway as none of our cars were used and you don’t seem to have bought one when he checked. Lou wasn’t going to let the company buy one for you either. How did you get away?”
“I think that I will wait and tell everybody after we deal with what Tom did. This is Stephie’s birthday present and I don’t want to spoil it.”
“How are the girls?”
“Fine, though I haven’t seen them yet. They will probably harras you.”
“That’s fine. Andy certainly would. Where is he?”
“He drew a gun on Paulo trying to escape and Paulo put him in the brig.”
“The brig that is below the water line on the outside of the ship, so that Andy could escape, probably help you out in your little escapade this morning and then see grandmother. I think I see how things are going. I need to get going and make sure that everything is aboard and, see what gets broken and get harassed by little girls who may or may not be relatives.”
He drove off down the pier as Mr. P. got in his car and took his associate to lunch with a bunch of disreputable fellows.
Captain Golfinho
Sunday September 11, 1932.
As I watched Noro and the Tiger stride up the pier my wife was driven down the other way. I started to look for a crew to hang a bosun’s chair overside, but George, the first mate, beat me too it. George had been on several voyages with Persai and I before I settled down here and had been visiting when a tail caught him. His tail still had legs and small children, so she wasn’t going to be with us, this trip. He had known Persai for some time and knew that she would need special assistance coming aboard. At least while we were in port. At sea was a different story.
While George was rigging the bosun’s chair, several more vehicles showed up and George started the crew rigging a cargo net. Ilutra bound up the gangway. “Hello captain! I bring minions that will voyage with you.”
“Hello Mr. Posidenitus. You and your people are always welcome when we have room. Are you voyaging with us?”
“I can’t, this time. I have a class starting on Tuesday. I have a crew of eager and experienced sample takers and observers and some new instruments to try out. They will be voyaging with you and hand me a report and the data in three months when you return.”
Mr. Wu joined us and asked, “Captain, who is this?”
“Professor, Posidinitus, meet Mr. Wu, who is returning to China with us.”
“Taking the slow boat, Mr. Wu? I do that when I can. You can see so much and enjoy the sea air. You have time to think and contemplate the weather and it’s diverse nature.”
He walked off, seemingly musing to himself.
Mr. Wu looked at me. “Is he coming on the voyage?”
“No, not this time, thank god. Just some graduate students taking samples.The professor is a leader in weather forecasting. His classes are always well attended. He also has students and others developing new weather instrumentation. They will be testing the instruments on the voyage.”
“I’m surprised that Mr. P. would allow things like that?”
“Mr. P. doesn’t care and and Woods Hole is in Mr. Claytor’s district. Letting the Professor voyage with us puts ‘supports science’ on the flyers.”
“I see.”
He strode off. I went up the deck to join my wife, who Ilutra was covering for. I didn’t want our passengers looking to closely at my wife quite yet. At least not until we were at sea and there wasn’t anything that they could do about it. She saw me and said, “I decided to come a bit early and try out the tank bed with you tonight.”
“Keep an eye on our niece and her friend too, I suspect.”
“Andy as well. Where is he?”
“Not aboard at the moment, which could be troublesome if Mr. Wu thinks to check the brig. Trillia came and pulled him under this morning and they aren’t back yet.”
“They were part of Noro’s little escapade this morning and I think that they went off with Kitty and her bonded.”
“They probably went to the Creator’s thing at Eli’s. Phillip was planning to take us until the idiots took the girls and Andy.”
“Why don’t you roll me to our cabin and take me to lunch?”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea.”
When we arrived at our cabin, there were two little girls waiting. Sally said, “Hi Unc- Captain. Where’s Andy?”
“With his girl in the water someplace. At least they are someplace. They should be back soon.”
“You will like Trillia, Sally,” Katherine said. “She’s the princess of the Sound bower, but she wants to know as many people as she can.”
“How old is she?”
“Fourteen. Andy is thirteen right now.”
“Have they closed the deal?”
“They are going to do it when Andy is eighteen and starting college. Trillia has it all planned out.”
“So what are you two up this morning?” Persai asked.
“Helping in the galley, watching for mermaids in the water and watching Uncle Ilutra and his boys.”
“Are their mermaids in the water?”
“Yes, but I know them all because they used to babysit me when I was little,” Sally said. “They are Chrissie’s friends and some others. As well as cousin Maria. I think that she is planning to stowaway on board, skip school and go with you to China and back.”
Noro had had to have a rather hard talk with the local school board after he came back up top about girls dropping out of school because they had tails. There were enough of them that it played havoc with the school’s graduation numbers and now that Noro was back up top, they could talk with him and deal with the problem. The Peacekeeper was one thing and Mera had gone below with Stacey before the problem had become evident, but the schools wanted the girls to graduate someplace so that the schools weren’t hit with those low graduation rates and the reputation of being bad schools. Mera had agreed and so a special school for the girls was set up as part of that complex that Noro had built and the girls were starting on Monday. The girls weren’t that happy about it. On the other hand, the school was not entirely for the girls and there would be boys there that they could chase and drag under. Maria already had a bond, though he was in the navy at the moment and they hadn’t closed the deal. In fact John was serving with the China Station right now. John was not yet a Swimmer, so the navy would probably send him back fairly soon so that he and Maria could get together, but Maria was getting a bit impatient. Persai grinned and said, “Paulo, maybe we should let her come.”
“With the Yaoguai on board?”
“I doubt that they would give her that much trouble. On the other hand I want the tank bed for you. If she shows up, I will talk with her. John is being stationed here in December anyway for deal closing and wedding purposes.”
“Great, so I have to buy a wedding.”
“We will just have to make some good trades on the voyage and set things up. We are planning the wedding for next June in any case and now that your grandfather is here, we can make it truly magical. I will talk with Maria about this.”
After lunch Persai entertained the girls while I went to the office on the pier and got together with Joe, George and the custom’s officer about the manifest and immigration about our passengers, at least most of them. The immigration and customs officers were George and Ron, who frequently came to the special shows and knew me. George said, “The people in my office will be glad to see this lot go. We should have deported these slimeballs right off the bat, but we couldn’t get enough on them to have a case. I notice that Persai is taking you on this trip. That’s a good thing. You were getting rusty on the boats.”
“My daughter is trying to sneak aboard. She wants to drag her boyfriend under and the boyfriend is on the China Station.”
They laughed. George said, “I’ll be back tomorrow for any last minute departures. Does your daughter have a passport?”
“Yes, but not having one wouldn’t stop her. In any case, Persai and I have agreed that since John is coming back in December, Maria can chase him here. She can also finish school and graduate.”
They laughed and left. George said, “I guess that the girls are rather annoyed that they have to go back to school.”
“Somewhat. On the other hand, school is where the boys are still going. This isn’t like the old days where the boys went to sea or on the water at the same time that the girls went under. The parents want the boys to graduate and the jobs have changed too because sail is disappearing. So the girls are better off at school anyway. We don’t want a bunch of Tom’s and Chrissie’s do we?”
Joe and George laughed. Joe said, “No, we don’t.”
A bunch of men that looked more or less Asiatic arrived in cabs and a truck which headed down the pier. Two of the men came in and Joe said, “Hi, Little Tiger, leaving us?”
“I’m not, yet. I’ll stay with Jimmy here and watch uncle. The rest are, since uncle won’t need us and Number Two son doesn’t want them and wants the Yaoguai watched. We’ve also agreed to help with the Yaoguai when we get to Shanghai.”
“The immigration and customs people were already here today. They will be back tomorrow.”
“That isn’t a problem. I understand that your owner here has issues with irregular documents and other such things.”
“He is trying to keep his nose clean,” Joe said with a grin.
Stephie and Boris came in. “Since Persai is watching the girls, we are heading back to the hotel to wait for Mr. Wu when he shows up. We will act appropriately ignorant, at least about the fact that we know where they are and will have Noro, that is, Mr. White with us. Altris will be with us as well.”
They left and we continued work until everthing was ready and then I returned to the ship. Ralphaelo, the chief engineer came up to me as I was walking to the bridge and said, “Our passenger has returned to the brig.”
“Alone?”
“What do you think?”
“That there is yet another tail out there.”
“Yes, actually two. We also have a stowaway with rather wet clothes. I’ve put him to work already.”
“Who is he?”
“Andy’s friend Bruce. He acquired a tail, but he is from Vermont, seems to be good with machines and has known Andy since he was about five.”
“Did he bring a gun?”
“What do you think?”
“I think that he brought a gun and other things that would make the Yaoguai nervous.”
“He said that he had a copy of Tom’s book for a couple of years and lot’s of practice.”
“Tom didn’t even print the book until just before last Christmas.”
“There was a copy at the farm and he and Andy found it. He’s had a lot of fun with it.”
“At least we don’t have Bob and Scott, today.”
“We will tomorrow, along with the rest of them. Bruce said that there was a bunch of trouble being cooked up at the Creators meeting yesterday and today.” He grinned. “The only person not in this is Tom.”
Raphaelo had been working with Mac in the shop all year. He was very impressed with Tom and had his kids go to Tom’s evening classes. I smiled as I made my way to the bridge. As I was going up the stairs, I noticed Mr. Wu heading up the pier. He was probably heading for a car and the Cape to have discussion with Katherine’s parents.

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