The Golden Butterfly, Chapter 40, Part 1

Here’s the start of the next block of the Golden Butterfly. Stephie goes after Hannah and people start looking into the Red Lady’s castle.


Chapter 40.
Gert.
Wednesday November 16, 1932.
The car picked the family up at the train station that I had left so long ago. We were driven to the house through the familiar gateway and the drive. There were some people waiting and in the middle was the sister that I had not seen in so long. She saw me get out for the car, ran over and hugged me. “Gert! I am so glad to see you! Welcome back.”
“You came and rescued us. Here, meet Anna and my children.”
I introduced Anna and the kids and Greta introduced her husband, her daughter Mary and her husband, Roger and her grandson, Tony and his bonded Jeanette. My Greta asked, “Why didn’t Tom come?”
My sister looked at her and said, “So you want to see Tom. I suppose that is understandable. His wife is having a baby and they stayed home. He also has to finish his new books. You all will get them when they come out. I brought a lot of pictures of Tom and my other children and grandchildren to share with you all.”
“Where are Hilda and Stephie?”
“Listen.”
There was a the long crack sound of a black powder rifle. “They are indulging themselves a bit. The groundskeeper has been annoyed at some wild hogs of late and they are seeing if we should have roast pork for dinner.”
I laughed. “You showed them the gun locker, didn’t you?”
“They were looking for it. The aversion still held. They should be back soon. They want to see your shop with you. Is it still there?”
“Yes. I didn’t want to haul off too much when I snuck in here and took my stuff since sister was rather possessive about the place.”
“I’ve noticed. She has spies looking in on us. I haven’t pulled the compulsions because we aren’t doing anything important in front of the spies.”
“Hannah was rather put out that Stephie took her room.”
“That wasn’t her fault. Frau Shultz did that. I think that she anticipated that I would be returning perhaps and Bill and Hilda were given the master suite, so the choice was obvious. Sister has been sending Hans to harass us, but it hasn’t worked out very well.”
As we went through the house there was a bunch of men cataloging things and crating things up. Nazi armbands were frequently visible. I turned to my sister and said, “I’m surprised that you are letting them do this.”
She still had that little grin that she had when she was getting away with something, “I felt that keeping Hans and my sister occupied was helpful and the things were going to be needed to be crated up in any case.”
“I wanted to let you know that other family are coming tomorrow and that we are willing to help.”
“Now that we know that you all are alive, we will take steps. If you want to leave, that can be arranged. In your case that presents no difficulties as Larry and Eric would be glad to have you.”
“Even though I made that Puppet for my sister?”
“What, that? It fooled us for a bit.My sister needs to work harder, though. She should have arranged things so that she was in the ground before Stephie arrived and not attended her own funeral. All we had to do was open the casket, see the leftovers from the mouse and we knew. Of course both Hilda and Stephie have experience with bodies. But Hannah better watch out or she will become a FBI training demonstration like our last adversaries did.”
“Who did Hilda do that to.”
“One of the Master’s associates, the Manager. He took Hilda’s son hostage in an attempt to force Hilda to let herself be raped and force the werewolf Change. Tom and his father in law arranged what they called helpless Hilda because Tom had just met Hilda and didn’t know that Hilda had been in and out of New York for years. So poor scared and helpless Hilda was supposed to be lost in Grand Central Station and call her Uncle Mr. White while the Manager’s indentured was trying to find Hilda after Hilda’s train was horribly late and on the wrong track.”
I laughed. “Did it work?”
“The indentured and the Manager were totally confused, but the Manager was such an idiot that the exercise was pointless because Hilda had to get in the Manager’s car and talk to the Manager directly and then the Manager had the discourtesy to go out like a light when Hilda reflected and missed Hilda and Stephie’s little show that they had set up.”
“So they released the boy.”
“Actually Hilda left Andy right where he was, the poor Manager. She didn’t want to be trying to shop for clothes for Chrissie’s wedding and Christmas and be dealing with an Andy with a full head of excitement. So she made sure that the Construct guards had Andy’s school things and other things to do, Andy had some new friends and he found that shotgun you did that his girlfriend’s father had had. Of course Andy didn’t meet Trillia until after he was released because the Twisted were occupying the backyard and he didn’t want Tony or Robert hurt because they were dealing with idiots.”
The whole thing sounded hilarious. “So where is Andy now?”
“At the school we set up with Tony, Robert and Trillia’s grandparents when he isn’t causing trouble with Trillia or helping with babysitting and teaching the other kids to cause trouble.”
“Is Trillia seafolk? It sounds like it and seafolk have strange names.”
“Yes and she arranged to drag Andy into the water with her as soon as she could. That doesn’t mean that they don’t manage to visit the farm from time to time.”
“Were all the kids like that?”
“No, Larry is rather calm about things and Mary and Diana are rather more ladylike and more subtle that Stephie or Hilda. Brad was rather wild, but a lot of that was Brad and Arney together. Stephie and Tom were going at each other for a long time until Brad came back afflicted by the Colonel and Tom had to shoot him. At least the Colonel showed up and Tom was able to release his burden. Do you know if my sister had anything to do with the Colonel discovering that Brad had a diary.”
“Hannah hasn’t shared that. Was the diary important?”
“To us, other than an artifact and the story of Brad’s life after he was Turned, not so much. But the Colonel was concerned that Brad had the goods on his activities involving poaching in the Masters’ reserves, which he did, and wanted the diary so that the Masters couldn’t get their hands on it. The thing that we have never discovered is how the Masters discovered that the diary exsited in the first place. For that matter how did the intelligence people know about it? As far as we knew, the only people that knew of the diary’s exsistance were Tom, Hilda and Brad, and Brad was dead. Yet we had the intelligence people looking for it, even though they should have known better.Was Hannah somehow involved and discovered it.”
“That could be. She was certainly obsessed with the fact that you and Eric bonded right off the bat like that. Forty years and she still cannot let go.”
Eric caught up with us and handed my sister something and she handed it to me. “This goes with the pistol.”
It was a shoulder holster in hand tooled leather. My sister continued, “My daughter Diana makes these for the pistols. Each pistol has a holster for it.”
“About that, Stephie seemed rather disparaging of the royals.Your present impressed an entire city of very skeptical gunmasters on Monday. We enjoyed it very much.”
“That has to go back to Tom. Until fairly recently, Tom kept fairly quiet about who he was friends with and what he did while he was a Congressional staffer in Washington. We had some hints and acquired a bond who was connected and told us some things. Then this character shows up at Larry’s shop wanting to know more about our “royals” because he had discovered one when he went on safari with an Indian prince. It turned out that it was one of the pistols that Tom gave as presents and used as exchanges for favors. He started that because his friend Tochi’s wife nattered Tom about making Tochi a gun because if Tom made it, Tochi would probably carry it. Tochi and Tom had had an incident with some zombies and a Necromancer and Suki was rather upset for obvious reasons. So Tom, over the course of a year, made the pistols and stamped them x/40 so that Larry would know that they were Tom’s gifts and not to bill for repairs. But we didn’t know who Tom was giving them to until Jim Miller showed up and tried to find out who had the special guns. But Tom hasn’t told us either. We know who most of them are because they were either at the party that Chrissie gave or we have met them since. I think that Jim Miller has found twenty, but Tom isn’t saying. Fortunately, he decided to give the last ones away to friends we met last year. At least that was what he said he was doing.”
“Stephie was complaining about going through customs with mine.”
“It isn’t the first time that a royal has caused excitement. But Tom never intended for them to do that and only gave them because the recipients were friends of his or were trading something that Tom wanted. For instance, Tom has a wonderful Ford trimoter that a friend made and exchanged, for a royal. There are some other things. But the pistols were never made or given because Tom wanted to curry favor with anybody. Hakim had the pistol because Nadia was concerned about her husband’s safety since he would walk around the city all by himself in the evening and asked Tom to make him a pistol after she talked with Suki. The fact that Hakim was a prince had nothing to do with it. The royal bit was something that Jim Miller came up with. It got out of hand.”
“Did it lead to sales?”
“Yes, but Larry has to tell customers that the royals are not available for sale. There have been people with rather ridiculous amounts of money attempting to buy one and we had to tell them that the royals were intended as gifts. As far as I know yours was the only one that Tom did not hand to the recipient himself and that was because I asked him to pull the pistol to make a statement.”
“Has Tom given pistols that were not royals?”
“Some. He hasn’t had a need to give as many as he did in Washington or the royals would be gone and the pistols recently have been given to relatives and friends that had special needs as a result of their Change, so Tom made special guns for them. His wife, for instance.”
“Well Tom has put me on notice. I will have to do my best work for the gun that Hilda commissioned for him. The entire gunmakers guild in Suhl wants to demonstrate that we are not second best.”
Eric, who had been quietly walking with us, said, “That is a worthy challenge. Of course you have one advantage now for a while. Tom is going to be too busy being a father to have much time to make guns and too busy with all his other work to make guns for anybody else. We have a new man that is starting to do the work since my grandsons will not be able to. My in laws want to retire and are going to push Tom so that they can.”
Little Greta came up and said, “Poppa, come see the pictures. Did you know that the Troubleshooter is real and he was here!”
“The Troubleshooter was at the house? There is no trouble to shoot here.”
“Tony said that he was and said that he knew the Troubleshooter, the shoot for the trouble and Jimmy so he knew that the stories were true.”
I turned to Greta and said, “I think that we will be looking at pictures.”
“Does Greta like the Troubleshooter?”
“Yes. There is a comic book that somebody put out that has gangsters in it and the Troubleshooter comes and beats up and scares the bad guys and helps people. I never thought that he was real.”
“He just borrowed Hannah’s car.”
“Hannah has a car?”
“Well she did. Now that she is dead, it has become the Troubleshooter’s, since it was too much trouble to bring the Duesenberg.”
Poor Hannah had not known what she was doing to herself when she had faked her death. Greta pulled us into the parlor where the trunk full of photographs was. Tony was there with Jeanette and had an entire large album of Troubleshooter pictures, with his car, his wife, his big house, the rather tough looking people that worked for him and the raids and other things he did. I laughed as Greta went though picture after picture and asked poor Tony question after question. When dinner was called, she said, “The real Troubleshooter is better than the comic book, much better. He saves kids.”
“Yes he does,” my sister said. “He’s pretty incredible, all right.”

Farkas.
Thursday November 17, 1932.
The trio returned from their mission looking like carefree young people going on a drive. They put the car away and came over to my cabin. I looked up from the leatherwork that I was working on and said, “How did it go?”
“Well. They are very interesting fae. They also seem to have a lot more resources than they showed us. They were not concerned even though they were surrounded by Nazis and even had them in the house doing an inventory.”
“So the Nazis were being their usual selves and robbing the place. The family must have been well off to attract that kind of attention and yet they were not concerned that they were being pillaged.”
“We had the feeling that there was something else going on. The royals from the family had come over and taken charge, at least at the house. There was a lot going right under the Nazi’s noses and they seemed to know what they are doing. They are sending a young couple to help us cause the lady some trouble as they put it.
“What about the trucks?”
“They want them for cover. Apparently the family members challenge each other and play games to get better at things like this. The ladies mentioned raiding the family vault because a new family member wanted something inside and another family member removing whatever it was and placing it in plain sight. The object in the vault was apparently the start of a Creator’s masterwork and his sister’s birthday present. But using techniques of deception and concealment seem to be second nature to them.”
“They didn’t use them when they were here the last time.”
“That may have been a test of the Lady’s defenses. If the Lady had had guardians out, a small group like that would have alerted them, but they probably would not kill them and risk the noise that killing somebody makes.Or they were fairly confident that they could avoid or destroy a random patrol.”
“From the way that they were talking, it was the latter. They were not too concerned about you when you showed up. Of course they knew to look for you because the Red Lady has been looking for werewolves to counter us for some time. Was there anything else?”
“They wanted to know about the water fae.”
“The nixies? That is interesting. They were also using those suits as well. We have never considered using the nixies and a water assault. Perhaps it is time for me and my old friend Gerhardt to have a talk. We have been a bit distant lately, but we are all in the same boat and maybe these people are planning to punch the Red Lady in the nose. So what else did you see?”
“That the Nazis are getting worse as they get more power. They haven’t gone after “witches” yet, but it is only a matter of time. There were some brochures and other material from the White Company concerning a strange kind of bed for seafolk, more than likely because who else would want a tank of water as a bed.”
“That is interesting. One, it says that they were in contact with seafolk here and two, that they must have seafolk that they are in contact with and probably associated with. So there are bowers over there in America and they have enough contact with the land that they talk with each other, assist each other and probably even crossbond. You three did well in this. I think that you should continue to be the point on this. Learn as much as you can about these people and how they do things.”
The three left again and I was left to ponder what I learned. This thing was risky to be involved in if the Red Lady knew that we were involved and these people failed. They had been careful, but they could go away and not have to deal with an angry vampire queen and her associates. On the other hand that man, Bill seemed to be determined to exterminate every vampire nest he encountered and teach others how it was done. In any case, I was going to have to go to Gerhardt’s tavern and talk with him tomorrow. These people were coming to our neighborhood, whether we liked it or not and they were going to do whatever they did and then leave. In any case, this was an opportunity that we could not afford to waste.

Steve.
Friday November 18, 1932.
I was with Paulo on the bridge wing as the ship entered Marseille harbor. How I ended up here was a bit of a surprise to me. I had expected that Haruka and I were returning on the same transport equipped with tank beds and other accomodation for seafolk back to New York. Apparently my grandfather and the Admiral were talking with each other again. So instead of me and Haruka returning east, the ship diverted to Oahu and Pearl after taking on some sugar and coffee at Hawaii. 24 hours and some work by shipfitters later there were two more tank beds installed and Leo and I were on our way to France, via China. Stelios and his team, along with two other characters and my cousins David and Michael were sent with them. They caught up with us at Pearl with detailed orders. So there we were in France. Paulo said, “I hate these French ports. They are all so cramped.”
“At least we don’t have the Yaoguai clowns anymore.”
“That’s something to appreciate. It took Wu long enough to figure out that compulsions were pointless on everybody on board.”
I laughed. “He was a pretty good dancer by the end, wasn’t he? He and Jídiànjí danced so well into that trash pile. Ming and ‘delia were using them as puppets before you hit Hawaii. I would say that we should have discouraged them but the whole thing was their own fault as they kept trying compel the kids.”
“Persai liked it. She had all sorts of sketches of the dancing Chinamen.”
“Persai got all sorts of sketches and sculpts, didn’t she. Especially after Haruka insisted that me and the boys Swim a bit every day. At least we are in good shape and we didn’t lose anybody.”
Leo came onto the bridge. “We are here at last. At least we are here in the South of France and not the North.”
“We’re heading that way, all too soon. We should have realized that my grandfather and the Admiral were not going to let us enjoy Hawaii much longer.”
“This was a rather unique way to change our plans.”
“The Admiral had an expert on the local conditions thanks to you chasing the Colonel and a tactical specialist, me, sitting on an island where they were sending some clowns for disposal. Then my Aunt Kitty, and the rest come up with this scheme and you just know that those two and your bosses at the Navy want to play, so here we are.”
“Who is your Aunt Kitty?”
“If you want something that belongs to somebody else, she is the lady to talk to. She is very expensive though. Governments like her because she helps them deal with embarrassing documents and such. From the telegrams that my Uncle Altris was sending, she finally bonded with somebody, which is good news. The bad news is that it was with Number Two Son, which was a bit embarrassing for Uncle as he probably recruited all sorts of family to help keep the Tiger out of the vault and then was stuck as Kitty recruited grandfather and who knows who else to get into the vault. The whole thing was probably a riot and my sister, who was probably the nominal opponent couldn’t change a thing because she was in Japan.”
Leo turned on Paulo and said, “You didn’t mention Kitty when you told us about the circus.”
“I should have. Chrissie is the only one to ever catch Kitty at what she does, wasn’t she, Steve.”
“How did she manage that.”
I laughed “Capture by surprise party. Dad was rather annoyed. I was when I found out that I had been recruited for night work without asking me first. The job paid well, but I would have liked the possibility of saying no as I was in the service at that point and getting arrested would not have looked good.”
“Why did Chrissie do that in the first place?”
“Kitty borrows things from the gallery where we sell things from the bower to art collectors. Chrissie really likes Christophe’s things, especially after grandmother was killed and when she was thirteen, worked hard to buy a bower scene picture from the gallery. She put a deposit on the picture so that it wouldn’t be sold and trooped over to the gallery on her bicycle every time she could to look at “her”picture. One day it was missing because Kitty had borrowed it. Chrissie had a fit and it got worse because everybody else told her that it wasn’t a problem because Kitty would return the picture before she was ready to take it home. Since nobody would help her or tell Kitty to put the picture back, Chrissie dealt with things. She setup through some contacts to recruit Kitty for a job, using access to me as a quid pro quo, told Joe that she was playing a joke on some friends and would he please remove the pins and nuts on the wheel and the rudder of a certain boat and got grandfather to loan her the artifact that shields the office for a high fae surprise party for her friend Alissa. I think you can guess what happened.”
“Kitty went in to take something and suddenly was in the midst of a kids’ surprise party with the goods and the cops and maybe the press right there.”
“Yup. Kitty bailed herself out and the picture was back the next day.”
Leo laughed. “What did your dad think about it?”
“He wanted to strangle Chrissie. He was caught up in the middle. At least Kitty didn’t seem to want to make a scene and things calmed back down. The party did wonders for Chrissie’s reputation. There was a reason that everybody told Tom to watch out for her. Of course she was planning to catch Tom with a party, but Tom bought a boat and she didn’t need to.”
Paulo looked out across the dock as the mooring lines were tied up and said, “I think I see some familiar faces. There’s Bill, Kitty, ‘Hǔ and Sal. I see that he managed to get himself a fancy car.”
“The Troubleshooter does that. George has the gangway out, and here they come.”
The group came up the gangway and Leo and I went down to meet them. Bill was dressed in a very fancy suit and I said, “Dressing up?”
“I became a big time mob boss by accident.”
“How did that happen?”
“I was having a discussion with a casino manager and mentioned some people who had worked for me in the past. A long time ago. The character’s bosses contacted one of the guys who is over here for legal and health reasons, he confirmed it and said that if I was shooting people that then they had trouble that needed to be shot and to contact Sal. So they did two things. Contacted Sal for Troubleshooting service and banned said cardsharp, me, from every casino table in the South of France. I can sit in the bar and talk to people, but I can’t play, not that I mind. Of course all the places in our area know me and I’m banned there too.”
Sal laughed .“That’s what you get for name dropping. Al and Jim would have been fine, Dom too. Pulling that wedding picture out would have done the trick. But Lucky is over here for health and legal reasons so they could talk with him and you scared them so much by invoking the Peacekeeper that they sort of had to talk with somebody.”
I grinned “Bill, that was a mistake. Why didn’t you just shoot the character?”
“Because I was using him and his boys as patsys for the vampire nest I was about to destroy. I took their guns, borrowed their car and left the car and the guns on the side of the road after we took out the nest. You can’t use dead guys as patsy’s. As for Lucky, I was floor boss for Big Jim back in the day and the kid did some gofer work for me. I hadn’t talked with him in a very long time. Since my wife’s funeral, actually. The character in the casino was such a toady and a cheapskate that I just couldn’t help but roll right over him when he made those Corsican threats.”
“Are the Corsicans after you? I can send a message to dad.”
“Worse, they hired me to manage the cleanup. That won’t be as much fun as it’s probably going to be twisted factories, dark fae and Twisted because the vampires are already dead. At least that will confuse the Red Lady somewhat.”
I turned to Leo and said, “This is Kitty. Aunt Kitty, I am surprised that you are here.”
“I was planning to go toe to toe with a certain Golden Butterfly while ‘Hǔ and I had a nice European tour paid for by Uncle.”
“Stephie is here? What did she do to annoy you that much?”
“Stephie is here, but I was concerned with her aunt, who Leo here probably knows as much about as I do as she has the nasty habit of giving his friends a bloody noses as much as Tom does.”
“You are talking about Fraulien Schee then,” Leo said. “She is very bad news.”
“Yes, but she made rather a mess for herself.”
I looked at Kitty and said, “Why don’t we go to the art room where we can go over these things with everybody?”
“The art room?”
“Persai took the third class dining area and converted it into an artroom for the voyage,” Paulo said as he joined us. “Steve, Leo and Little Tiger have been using it for planning and Persai has used photographs and material that Leo provided to make a model of a certain castle.”
“We were just there, visiting a village. We have potentially made some new friends.”
We headed to the art room where the little dragons were working with Persai on yet another amusing Chinaman. Stelios, Little Tiger and Jimmy must have spotted us because they came in right behind us. At one end of the room was the model of the castle, the large map that ‘delia had painted and all the information that Leo and naval intelligence had had and sent ahead to Pearl. Bill looked at it and said, “The clay is still wet, good.”
Persai grinned. “Steve thought that there would be changes based on information that whoever was here collected. Sal, is Sillia at home?”
Sal smiled. “She’s here. She and Hilda are talking with some ladies about tail issues and resolving them.”
“We thought that all the seafolk were gone.”
“Not all of them and the folk that are up top are concerned about having to go under sea again without bowers. Sillia and Hilda are discussing alternatives with them.”
“If we can arrange it, I think that I, Namami and Haruka want to talk with the ladies. We can even show them the tank beds that we have been using.”
“I’ll see what I can arrange. Do you want a car or are you going to Swim.”
“Car at first, but I think that Swim will be better if we have a way to be discreet.”
“There is a villa in Nice that will work for that,” Bill said. “The owner had a sudden life issue after bringing kids in for dinner. Of course that got me in trouble.”
He told everybody about how his nefarious past had caught up with him. Then he, Kitty and ‘Hǔ went over the details of the castle, the potential local contact and things like penetrating the water supply. I wanted to know more about those suits that Tom came up with, but that could wait until I talked with Tom myself. There was a more important issue and I turned to Bill and asked, “Are there any waterfolk?”
“Yes and our new friends may open contact for us. I think that all the keystones have attracted loose fae to them, so there are a cluster of them poking in at the Red Lady wanting their keystones back.”
“What about the Golden Butterfly?” Little Tiger asked. “When we were over here as laborers and poking around, she was all over us a good portion of the time.”
‘Hǔ laughed and pulled out some pictures. “She is having family issues. She invited the family to come over when she faked her death and then is having a problem with the fact that the family has come and taken over.”
I looked at the pictures and the first one was a woman who looked like Stephie in Change, but almost certainly wasn’t, doing some horizontal dancing with with a middle aged normal who obviously was running with a very bad crowd if the uniform jacket hanging off the bed was any indication. The other pictures were the lady flying around, in Change, obviously looking for whoever took the first photograph. I looked at ‘Hǔ and asked, “So who got these?”
“Stephie did. She knew that her aunt was still alive and that Herr Steiger there was doing some sort of recreation at the inn since the estate owned it. The guess had been that it was either Steiger’s driver or Hannah. It turned out to be Hannah.”
I passed the pictures around and Leo said, “Have my bosses seen these yet?”
“Probably. Stephie had the bureau develop them and I expect that Miss Vicky and Mary made sure that they were sent to the appropriate people.”
“How did Miss Vicky see them?”
“I set up a surprise party for Chrissie and she was invited,” Kitty said. “As for the pictures, I expect that they have been shown around to all sorts of places by now.”
“So you finally got even with Chrissie for the Night to Remember,” I said with a grin. “Did she like it?”
“Vey much. I found a certain picture and had Christophe make a picture from it.”
“Let me guess, the Chrissie in the pot picture. Who showed it to you?”
“Greta, along with all the other pictures of Tom and Chrissie’s adventures.”
Jim and Adelle came in and Jim said, “I see that you all are cooking up trouble. It must be related to part of the reason that Greta wanted Adelle and I up at the house. I don’t know some of you. Of course Number two son and I are old adversaries. I am glad that he has found somebody at last. How did he find you, milady?”
“My cousin set me up.”
“Who is your cousin?”
“Altris.”
“Then you are a member of Noro’s family then.”
Adelle said, “Jim, stop playing inscrutable Chinese man. We have seen the telegrams from Xing and she mentioned Kitty here. Kitty, we are pleased to meet you at last. Who are you robbing this time?”
“Some Nazis, which is what you will be involved in and a very bad lady and her associate. I thought that the associate would be a good deal of trouble, but she has been having family issues.”
I turned to ‘Hǔ and said, “I think that you, Kitty, me, Leo, Mike and David should go up to the castle for a discreet look see. We can just be tourists or something. Little Tiger’s people already have a contract for Whites that they are supposed to expedite. Their boss and minder should be here shortly. Jim and Addelle are art experts that Greta called in because of her great uncle’s collection. The little dragons are going with them along with Jimmy and his people.”
“What about your people,”Sal said.
“I expect that the Troubleshooter will hire some discreet shooter talent that just showed up for some of his trouble. I think that Stelios should start to build a bit of a reputaion”
“Yes, my new boss might want some capable shooters for some special work.”
“I think that that can be arranged,” Bill said.
Stelios said, “What would I want with a reputation? Those things can be dangerous. Look at what Bill’s did to him!”
Everybody laughed at that.
The Chancellor
Saturday November 19,1932.
I never thought that I would miss Milady Hannah and the Colonel until they were gone. The French Master had called a meeting to consider the events in her domain. She was complaining about the fact that her operations on the Riviera were being systematically destroyed in a gang war. She pointed her finger at the Red Lady and said, ‘It was your fault that he came.”
“That who came?”
“That Troubleshooter. He shut down one of my places Thursday.”
“Haven’t your associates been able to stop him?”
“He has all sorts of friends and the rest are afraid of that Construct he has as his “shoot for the trouble.” The big problem is that the simpletons all still look at comic books and there was that stupid comic book about American gangsters. So when he showed up in that fancy car that your toy gave him, they were all over him,wanting to help him out. The bosses want him doing what he is doing because it makes them look better and the police are actually helping because he makes them look good too.”
“My butterfly is dead by her own hand. Do not interfere with my grief. I am bereft of an able and beautiful servant. At least you still have yours. In any case, you should be able to deal with some losses.”
“That was not what you said when your “children” were being killed.”
“For which I received no sympathy or promises of aid. If the hunter has moved on or the Troubleshooter has come, better your people than my Children.”
The meeting went on like that with pointless accusations and no resolution. In any case none of my Masters seemed to want to aid any of the others, none wanted to adapt or change the way they did things and none wanted to provide any solutions other than crude demands that somebody kill the people that were afflicting them. Finally the meeting broke up after accomplishing nothing. As the meeting was breaking up, the Red lady came to me and said, “You failed in obtaining werewolves. But the wolves still pester me and want something that is my trust. Perhaps you could send the Agent to see what they are up to. There are strange noises and other things of late and they are a nuisance.”
With the master’s gone in whatever transport they used, I met with Etienne in my hotel. When I walked into the private room, he looked at me and said, “I take it that things did not go well.”
“None of them have any ideas for a potential course of action and just end up agreeing to do nothing except that somebody relieve them of the thing that irritates them, which is easier said than done. So why did the Troubleshooter come to you neighborhood?”
“He was recommended to the Committee by a gentleman with knowledge of what he did. Highly recommended. Apparently he has a long history in New York of arranging the destruction of things that can be bad for business. Which Master is afflicted this time?”
“The French witch. Apparently the Troubleshooter hit one of her places.”
“The child brothel. As I said, the kinds of businesses that the Comnittee does not want. He makes the business look cleaner, the police look better, some children are free and the press has news to report.”
“So is anything else happening?”
“We have some interesting visitors. Some seafolk ladies from Japan and America came on a ship and are talking with my wife and some other ladies about the problem of not living under sea and having a tail. The conversation has been enlightening and instructive.”
“How did that happen?”
“My wife heard that one of her favorite artists was on the ship and discovered that the lady and some others had tails. The artist is the wife of the ship’s captain and the others are travelling with their husbands. Apparently they took advantage of special provisions that the shipping line is experimenting with to travel around the world.”
“Let me know how that turns out.”
“I will. I think that we should not be seen too long together.”
He left. I suspected that Etienne wasn’t telling me everything, but for those of us with hostages at stake that was standard.
Greta
Monday November 21,1932.
It was looking as if this would be the first Thanksgiving that Eric and I would not be at home. On the other hand, finding my brother and the cousins alive was a bit of a miracle and we had agreed to have a dinner for Thanksgiving before I left on Monday. Jim and Adelle arrived with Jimmy and his people along with the two dragons. Of course the arrival of some others that Hans did not know about drew him out again. The arrival of the various family for our family reunion had probably kept my sister from getting too close. Of course my daughter made sure that everybody, the adults, at least, saw the picture of my sister with Hans and knew that my sister was very much alive before they all departed again Sunday afternoon. Jim and Adelle arrived Sunday morning and Adelle’s parents came over from the home in Britain for a visit. Of course we were all watching as Hans drove up and went through his little ritual. Adelle’s father, George laughed and said, “Thank you for inviting me. Seeing these toadies for myself is enlightening.”
Hans marched up and said, “Who are these people?”
Jim answered, “I am James Yang. Mrs. Benton knew that I was on a ship on my way back to New York from Hong Kong and wired me with a request to view and appraise her great uncle’s collection. So I diverted somewhat with my daughter and her friend and met with my wife’s parents here.”
Hans looked at George and said, “And you, sir?”
“I am Lord Beavercreek, meeting with my son in law and visiting the Bentons as they deal with the disposition of the property here.”
“You know the Bentons?”
“My son in law’s partner’s husband is a friend and he took me to one of their rather unusual shoots earlier in the year. I also know Tom from his days as a Congressional staffer. I was not, unfortunately one of the elect as Tom hadn’t give me a pistol even though my wife had been making hints, hadn’t you dear.”
I turned to George and said, “We can fix that, George. It won’t be a royal because they are gone. But I expect that Tom is going to make a batch for friends this year.”
Hans turned to me and said, “What are you playing at?”
“What makes you think that I am playing at anything. Hannah forced this on me and I will miss Thanksgiving dinner for the first time in years. If Bob and Scott were not in College I would inflict them on her and you, but I do not want to interrupt their education. We will get this done. I am bringing in top appraisers, as you see. My cousins and Gert were here and went over and selected some things, so that is handled. As for the rest of it, if my sister is so eager to come after me, she knows where I am. Eric and George are planning a hunt today with the huntmaster and some others, so I think that I will bid you good day.”
We went back inside and George said, “You must have something planned. You’ve been letting his people pack things up and only set aside those chests. Full of things, but only a tiny part of what is here and he will not let you hire a large crew of removers and some lorries to handle this.”
“George, I was in New York before coming here. Who do you think I was talking with?”
George grinned. “I think I begin to see. That pimple is watching you here and you set things up with Noro and Josh in New York. You don’t need to hire lorries and a crew because you already have.”
“Hans and my sister still think of me as the girl that I was when I left. Hans because he never really knew me and Hannah because she has never been forced to grow up.”
“Sort of like the Black Dragon?”
“Yes. For the same sort of reasons, actually.”
“So they don’t know you and what they are dealing with.”
“If they had, my sister would never had faked her death in the first place.”
With that we went back to making preperations.
Farkas.
Tuesday November 22, 1932.
The young couple that the lady had sent were more than a bit amusing. The girl was attempting to convince the young man that drinking wine was ok here and he was maintaining a bit of reluctance. They did make a wonderful couple. The young man also had a taste for mischief and a large gift in that area. He was also very good in the woods even without Change. Right now we were talking to Gerhardt in his tavern. Jeanette was translating as Gerhardt said, ‘You are strangers. Why should we expect you to help us?”
“We have our reasons. The Lady over there and her friends have attempted to make our lives miserable for a long time. They also have something that belongs to my grandmother’s family and we want it back. At some point one of my aunts may ask for it politely, but in any case we are getting it back.”
“Are you sure that you will succeed?”
“Not at all. After all, it is a castle. My Aunt Mary hasn’t been down here and looked it over. Taking it down may require more boom than we want to risk so close to the village.”
“You think that you can destroy the castle? The Lady has lived there over five hundred years and turned back armies.”
“As I said, my aunt hasn’t taken a look at it yet. The problem isn’t taking the place out. The problem is putting the boom where my aunt wants it and the collateral. I suspect that my aunt will only want part of the place anyway.”
The cats walked in with two men that looked dangerous and competent and two young men of the same kind as Tony. Tony called out, “Hi boys. Ready for some fun?”
‘Hi Tony. Grandfather sent us to watch over you and Jeanette.”
“That was a mistake,” Jeanette said. “What was your excuse that got you out of school?”
“Family business. With a work release written by Grandfather. In our area that always works. We can forge Grandpa Altris’s signature. But Grandfather has only been up top recently and we don’t have any samples of his. But he wanted us and we are here. We were also watching some rather mangy foxes across the Pacific. As far as school goes, we were not off the hook and still needed to do the work,plus reports on China and the other places.”
“Who are these men?”
“This is our cousin Steve and his friend Leo. They wanted to see some castles so we left the ship with them and Aunt Kitty and ‘Hǔ brought us to where we could see a bunch of them.”
That was the truth, but hardly all of it. The two men looked military, though both of them hid it very well. Tony introduced the four to the rest of us and Steve asked, “Is the castle open for tours. That seems to be a common thing.”
“Nein, it is not,” I said. “The lady is very private.”
“Does she leave?”
“From time to time. She takes her train car and goes off. We do not know where and the times seem to be random. They have been more frequent of late.”
Another couple came in and Tony called out, “Hi Aunt Mary. Looking for ideas for the resort?”
“Hi Tony. Mother said that you would be here. Steve, you made it!”
“Hi Mary. I should have known that grandfather and my boss talking should have been dangerous for me. Especially with my aunt in the mix.”
“How is Nera involved.”
“This is just the sort of thing she likes as an exercise. We have real targets that we can really shoot. I also have to set up a complex operation on the objective and develop intelligence. This has my aunt all over it, trust me. She was probably annoyed at me over Ed and the Colonel and she wants to make sure that I don’t make that sort of mistake again.”
‘Might I ask what happened with Ed and the Colonel,” I asked. It would be interesting to see how much he revealed.
“I guess that Tony hasn’t mentioned that we were coming. You are Mr. Farkas and I don’t know who this other man is. Since we are asking you to trust us and we are playing in your neighborhood, I think that I will tell you, somewhat. I am Lieutenant Commander Steve Claytor. Around Christmas last year, the War Department asked me to send some people to watch my sister’s big party.”
“Why did they do that?”
“That was where things got messed up. They didn’t tell me. I assumed wrongly, that it was just because my sister invited a bunch of her husband’s friends from the Capital to a party at the farm and they wanted some extra eyeballs. So I sent up a team to do just that. At the same time, my brother in law, who is skittish about werewolves, discovers that Ed, the heir over across the lake is probably still alive and more than likely has the werewolf affiction, both of which were true, but were not the whole story. I send one of my teams up to the farm and Hilda, who was not told about Ed by her father in law, briefed them about what she thought was a werewolf threat. There was one, but it wasn’t Ed, who had been controlling his affliction while being under compulsion and protecting the main Twisted factory because he was tied to his keystone and the other side couldn’t use him to assault fae communities like they planned. It was the Colonel, who was looking to collect Creators for the other Masters in exchange for the Masters leaving his Domain alone as reparation for his poaching. But the clowns in the war department kept me in the dark about that, my lieutenant and the deputy, both fae, picked up on the Colonel as he was checking out the farm and the inn and went after him while Ed, visiting his family for Christmas, happens to pull out right behind him, realizes something is wrong, drops his son off at a friend’s and starts for the state line and when the deputy starts to wave him over, pulls over and stops. The deputy and my man, thinking that they have a monster on their hands, come out of the car, guns drawn, Ed’s monster trips and the deputy and my lieutenant suddenly have a very sneaky, very powerful monster that nobody wanted while the real monster drives off down the road. I was left with a mystery and a dead officer because the War Department couldn’t be bothered to send a man with a brief or send a man upstate and tell the people, including Ed, who happens to be bonded to the Colonel’s daughter that the Colonel might be poking around.”
“You speak as if Ed is still alive.”
“Very much so. We needed him thanks to the dark infiltrating his kingdom and his father’s weakness. His wife won’t let the monster get out of control and Ed is careful in any case.What happened was a misunderstanding and it wasn’t Ed’s fault that he had to defend himself. In any case, my aunt was as annoyed as anybody and wants to make sure that I do not send my people into something blind again. If I had been briefed properly, I could have briefed my people to keep an eye out for things even if everybody was fairly sure that Colonel being around was speculation. I could have told my uncle, who is one of the few men that had given the Colonel a bloody nose, that the Colonel was possibly in the area. I could have told my great uncle who was one of the Colonel’s potential targets and kept my sister, my bonded and Leo here’s bonded from being taken hostage by the Colonel. I will not make that mistake again.”
“The Colonel was very dangerous.”
“Yes he was, especially when he was allowed to operate in the shadows because nobody was shining lights on things. Once we knew that he was there and what he was up to, he became a lot less dangerous.”
“Bill said that it was easy, in the end.”
“It was. At that point we knew what he had, had prepared and were all set up and waiting for him. We had decimated his werewolves, captured most of his support people, including his Creator and we had his escape route covered. But all that didn’t matter because he walked into a situation that was essentially suicide for him and his people. He knew that we had machine guns and rifles available, that everybody on the farm, including the kids had a gun and knew how to use it and that his people were outnumbered and unarmed. Yet still he came.”
“You didn’t kill him.”
“Eric wanted him and my job was to make sure that he died, not kill him. I did have a rifle on him and would have taken the shot if I needed to, but Bill took the shot. I was hardly the only rifle pointed at him after Eric ended his dance. For that matter, Eric could have ended it, if he needed to.”
“Then why did he let Bill take the shot?”
“Because Bill had been at the farm for the Manager and Eric owed him a monster. Gentlemen, time is short, as is the day and I have much to prepare, so, Tony, why don’t you show us around?”
They left, taking my three with them. I turned to Gerhardt and said, “What do you think?”
“Interesting. I’m surprised that he let the werewolf live even after the werewolf killed his man, that he didn’t take the easy path and blame the werewolf for the death of his man when there were other things involved, that he admits that he made a mistake and that he is taking steps to correct the mistakes.”
“About their roles?”
“Steve is combat. Probably clandestine. Almost certainly seafolk since he is in the navy. Not a marine, so it is some sort of special force, for missions like this that the American government would like to remain discreet. My time in the Austrian navy helps with seeing what he is., The navy wanted to recruit waterfolk though the priests tried to keep fae out of the military and certainly the army. Apparently the Americans, at least the navy, have no such prejudices.”
“And the other man, Leo?”
“He didn’t speak at all, but you can be sure that he was listening to the questions that we were asking. I would say intelligence, very good and an expert on the Colonel and the other Masters. Very good with languages and probably not bad with a gun. Seafolk as well, more than likely.”
“So this is bigger than just a family seeking revenge. They are also being very careful not to reveal too much, even the boys.”
“Do you think that the Mary that just arrived was the Aunt Mary that Tony was discussing?”
“Almost certainly. She didn’t say very much either.”
“They didn’t seem bring a lot of weapons with them.”
“I suspect that they have made arrangements, like Bill did. I would like to meet him. Where is he?”
“I do not know. I suspect that the Red Lady and the other Masters do, though.
Nehimiah, Ken and Miri returned laughing about three hours later and I asked, “What happened?”
“Steve phased through the sally port and wandered around just being stupid American tourist until the guards found him and threw him out the gate. It took them about half an hour to find him and another half hour to find somebody who spoke English well enough to ask him why he was there. They didn’t even take the film from his camera.”
“Did they realize that he was fae?”
“No. When we asked him how he knew how to phase without Change he said that his grandmother had come up with the trick and taught most of the family at this point.”
“So what else did he do?” Gerhardt asked.
“Looked into deliveries and took photographs from the village and of the village.”
“Where are they now?”
“They left in the car. They did say one thing. We should be alert for some crates from White Farbenwerk to arrive and to send a message to the house when they did.”
“So they are expecting something from White’s.”
“So they said.”
“Do you think that it was weapons?”
“I don’t know.”
“What did the lady do?”
“Took photos and looked at the gate, the road and the village. She also walked in the woods outside the castle grounds and asked about the telephones.”
“The telephones? That is interesting.”
I looked at my grandchildren“So what did the boys do?”
“Went through the village, shopped and talked to people with us. We did stop at the bridge at the edge of town and above the castle. But Tony and Jeanette have been here for a bit.”
“So they all had things that they were supposed to do.”
I turned to Gerhardt, “So what do you think of all this?”
“They haven’t asked for anything from me directly. They did ask for trucks from you. I think that we should keep our eyes open for strange trucks.”
“Strangers as well?”
“Somewhat. But I expect that part of what they were doing was to establish themselves here as people that were not seen as strangers. Thus the shopping the boys did with the couple who had been here for a couple of days already. They need to move unseen, so that is why they want to know about us in the water. I expect that there will be some sort of noise as a distraction and going into the castle itself was very interesting. Miri, how did Steve explain getting into the castle to the sergeant?”
“How did you know that it was Sergeant Barron?”
“Because he is the only one readily available to the castle people that speaks English.”
“It was and Steve said that the door was open. The door was open because he opened it after phasing through. He just said that he wanted to see the inside of the castle, had been following a path and encountered the open door. Since he seemingly had gotten inside by accident, nobody made a big deal out of it.”
“That was clever,” Gerhardt said. “The response told Steve and the others how well things are guarded at the castle. I suspect that we will see them again Thursday and everthing will light off, Friday or Saturday. I will tell my people to be prepared to lie low or take part depending on what they say on Thursday. I think that I will close early today.”
With that we left the tavern and went home after our very interesting day.

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