The Golden Butterfly Chapter 40, Part 3.

Wherein a machine guns occurs, the sergeant works hard to not see anything and Hans complains about a record.

Saturday November 26, 1932.
I was eating breakfast with Glinde when the Sergeant found me and said, “Inspector, why don’t we check out some shooting in the woods?”
“Ok, but why?”
“Because we want to be away from the castle for a bit.”
“A message was sent by the Red Lady that something may happen this morning. There were extra guards earlier and when I just checked after a truck made a delivery there were no guards at all. I think that discretion says that we should be doing something productive elsewhere.”
“Investigating shooting in the woods is certainly part of my instructions. Glinde, I think that once we finish breakfast that I must join the sergeant in this unpleasant task.’
Glinde smiled, “Indeed you should. Unfortunately the boys are lollygagging in the lake today and can’t help you.”
After breakfast, we took the squad up to the woods overlooking the castle to look for shooting. We found it, or at least the sounds of it, but there never seemed to be any people about, or wolves either at first. We reached a cliff that overlooked the castle and the sergeant looked down and said, “Somebody was shooting from here. They cleaned up their cartridges though.”
The sergeant looked down at the castle. “They hit something too. We should head back.”
There were some bodies next to the door of the keep and other places.
I had the sense that we were being shadowed all the way back and I spotted what looked like wolves in the distance, but I couldn’t be sure. There were some sporadic noises, but nothing like the way out. The troop fanned out, but we didn’t find anything.
We drove down to the castle and the gate was wide open. When we went inside we were deluged by frantic staff members and crying maids, none of whom seemed to be vampires. We went to the guardhouse where the guards had been shot, the outside barracks with four more dead guards, the door to the keep where there were three more dead, one of which looked as if his head had been hit by five or six heavy rifle rounds. I turned to the Sergeant and said, “Have your people start taking statements. This must have been the shooting in the woods that you heard. He was hit by fire from a light machinegun, fired from that cliff. A Chauchat or Madsen maybe. Something like that that fires a burst, used by somebody that is very good at shooting.”
“I’ll start getting the statements. You take some people and go through the house.”
I did and things were pretty much the way that things had been outside. If you were a vampire, you died. If you were staff, you were put to sleep, but left unharmed. When I reached the room I had been most concerned about, considering what I had not been sensing, the pain on the wall was gone and so were the keystones, all of them. I left the room and went through the rest of the keep, finding staff members fighting to wake themselves or dead vampires. On a bit of a whim, considering the villa in Nice, I checked below the keep where there was a dungeon that had been emptied. The sergeant came up behind me and said, “I think that the Red Lady’s immunity just ended. We’re going to have to call this in and you can bet that my brother and old man Farkas are going to be bringing in a batch of just rescued kids. Some of which will be my relatives. Right now, the Red Lady should take that train car and run as fast as she can. It looks as if my brother and old man Farkas just won their war.”
“With some help, but yes.”
I thought of something and went upstairs and into the great hall. A certain lady had the habit of leaving a card on the jobs that required the most skill to accomplish. It was her way of poking her nose at the great and powerful. There on the Lady’s chair where I had not noticed it before, was a card. Slightly dfferent this time as the cat’s head was shared by a tiger’s. I carefully picked up the card and found the sergeant, “She likes to sign her work.”
The sergeant laughed. “Our little town has been honored by the great today. Why the tiger’s head?”
“She bonded recently. To a tiger.”
I handed the card to the man taking photographs. Not that it would do him any good. Nobody else had ever caught the lady. Well, with one exception.
When I left the castle, there were Bill, Hilda, Tony and my niece with two boys that looked like they were part of Noro’s family. My niece waved me over and said, “Jean, so why are you here?”
“I could ask you the same question. Especially today.”
“I am taking the boys and Bill and Hilda and looking at castles. Is that one open for tours?”
“Not at present, but it will be soon.”
Glinde must have been looking for me for lunch as she came up and said, “Jean, who are these people?”
“This is my niece Jeanette, her boyfriend Tony, two of Tony’s friends from America and Tony’s relatives, Bill and Hilda.”
“Welcome to our little village. So what brings you here?”
“I’m looking for some hunting,” Bill said. “I suspect that some excellent game should arrive here shortly.”
Jeanette translated, but she probably didn’t need to. Glinde said, “Watch out in the woods. We have wolves here.”
“I get along with wolves just fine at home. At least the ones in my neighborhood. It’s the other things that cause trouble and have to be dealt with.”
I said, “You apparently did some hunting this morning.”
“I was doing some other work this morning. A bit of recovery for Greta. We got her lost item back, so I am in good water with her right now.”
“Where is the item now?”
“I don’t know. Somebody else was handling delivery.”
The sergeant came up and said, “We have a clue. A truck came to make a delivery, the crates contained some chests that a maid saw the thieves put the stones into, the chest went into the crates again and the crates went back onto the truck. The truck was a local delivery vehicle and we should check it out.”
“Jeanette, I must go. How about we meet for dinner this evening.”
“We are planning to catch the train and head to the house so that I can take Tony to meet mother, so we will have to do that another time.”
We drove off to the delivery company and the Sergeant said, “That was your niece wasn’t it?”
“The rest were Americans. Some of whom have been in and out of the village. I think that the one couple may have been in the castle this morning.”
“Almost certainly, but none of the staff will have seen them or they wouldn’t be here. If the Red lady returns, she will see him, very briefly.”
“That is Bill then.”
“Yes, that is Bill.”
“He doesn’t seem that scary.”
“You are not Twisted.”
We arrived at the delivery company and talked with the dispatcher and discovered that three crates from White Farbenwerk were to be delivered to the castle.I turned to the sergeant and said, “We can chase this down, but it is a dead end.”
“You seem certain.”
“The crates are an old man sending a message. White Farbenwerk will turn out to be a subsidiary of the White Corporation, founded by Noro White, current chairman of the board and chief proxy holder, Josh Claytor. The old man wants the Masters to know that even though they cannot reach him, he can reach them and hurt them, badly.”
“Let’s see where this goes in any case. We get so few actual mysteries here.”
We did and the driver who had had the assignment had two men come to him and offer to take the job. “They were two Polish guys. They said it was a bet. Actually paid me to take the job. I wasn’t going to complain. They brought the truck back,no sweat.”
“Was the truck empty?”
“What do you think? Of course it was. They made the delivery just like they said they did. They even handed me the signed paperwork.”
“What was the odometer on the truck when you started this morning?”
“I have it right here on my logbook.”
I checked the odometer and there were only 2.5 additional kilometers on the truck. I said to the Sergeant, “They made the transfer here in the village. It is just over a kilometer from the castle to the freight house. At best they could have diverted a hundred meters or so. Why don’t we backtrack a bit. There is a café about half way between the freight house and the castle.”
“You don’t think that they would be that obvious.”
“I think that they wanted witnesses.”
As we backtracked toward the café, I was looking along the road and as we passed a bakery with that had wood fired ovens I noticed the side of a crate. I said to the Sergeant, “Stop the car!”
we got out and there they were, the three crates with the White company logo on them. The lids were loose and when I opened one there was a pile of dust inside and nothing else. I turned to the sergeant and said, “As I thought. The chests were Constructs.”
“Construct chests?”
“Yes. When I attended a meeting of Creators in America recently, one thing that the Creators had done was make Constructs out of things. You have a thing and the Construct can duplicate it in any size that you want. The Construct doesn’t last very long, but long enough. The chests and the keystones were never in these crates. At least the chests did not leave the castle in these crates. They went elsewhere with them and just handed the truck back, leaving us with a mystery.”
“I said that this would be a mystery. I think that we should head back to my niece and keep you out of trouble.”
“I haven’t even bonded a full day and I am already in trouble.”
“Welcome to being a couple. There are benefits though.”
We arrived back at the café, but Bill and Hilda had left. Jeanette said, “Glinde says that you and she bonded because you were an idiot and fell in the lake. I can understand the idiot part somewhat, but falling in the lake?”
“I was chasing exploding boats for the Red Lady.”
“That explains it a bit, but isn’t that a bit small of a job for you?”
“The Red Lady was making a stink about the noise and the Chancellor sent me down.Of course the reason for the noise is that Bill or Hilda were passing Tom’s book out to cover up what happened this morning?”
“What happened this morning?”
“You know perfectly well what happened this morning. You were up there on the cliff watching it happen.”
“How would you know? The great inspector was having breakfast with his girlfriend.”
“Somebody was shooting from there, with an automatic weapon. Somebody with experience with such things.”
“So it would be an army veteran, more than likely. Somebody in our army where they used such things. I remember all the stories about the Chauchat that saved the nation.”
“So it wasn’t a Chauchat.”
Glinde was laughing herself silly at our bantering. My niece bantered back, “I have never seen a Chauchat so how would I know?”
Tony said, “I can fix that, but if you fire it, it won’t be fun. Ours jams all over the place and Larry won’t touch it anymore, so we have to keep it running ourselves if we use it.”
“So you wouldn’t use a Chauchat?”
“No. We don’t have a Madsen, so I’ve never fired one. I learned the BAR from old man Browning and his son, so it’s what I am used to.”
“So we have our expert from America on automatic weapons.”
“I’m not expert.We don’t fire BARs that much because it’s expensive to go through cartridges like that and frankly ripping stuff with full auto gets boring real fast. If you want an expert you need an army guy. There are probably a lot of guys right here in this village who are better at machine guns than I am.”
“So why are you all still here?”
Michael said.“There are train issues. The line is blocked by a rockfall. We were planning to go to Jeanette’s home by train so that Tony could meet Jeanette’s parents and we could see how the resorts operate for grandfather. That will help make this a business trip.”
The sergeant had left and came back. He had heard Micheal and said, “It is likely that the trains will be delayed for some time. Inspector, there is a special train coming to transfer the passengers. Perhaps you should notify a certain lady of the events of this morning. If you all are desiring to proceed on your journey, this train would be a good way to continue. Inspector, according to reports, the important resident is on the train that you were sent here to conduct your investigation for. Perhaps you should deliver a report on the events of this morning.”
Tony said, “That sounds like a good idea, sergeant. My aunt and uncle should be here shortly. When is the train due to arrive?”
“At two o’clock.”
“There are my aunt and uncle now.”
A couple strode up. The woman said, “There is a train at two. Kids, I think that we should be on it and get going. Mother will want us to be on our way. The castle apparently had some sort of incident and there may be some structural issues with the building, so we can’t visit.” She held up a camera. “I did get some pictures for the kids and Persai. Let me get one last picture and we can catch the train.
She pointed the camera at the castle to take the picture and as she started to take the camera from her face, there was a Crump! and the tall tower that I suspected that had the Lady’s apartment inside slowly fell over and collapsed with a large thud, shocking everybody. “I guess that they were right about the structural issues. It was a shame, such a beautiful castle. Glinde, it was nice meeting you and I hope that you and your bonded can visit our lake. I think that you will enjoy it and the inn.”
“I think so too, Mary, Thank you for inviting us.”
“Guys, we should head for the train.”
They left and I followed. The train arrived and I used my credendtials to get a place with the guard as the train was rather full. About an hour later, the train stopped and everybody got off and trooped toward the stuck train, which would be backing back to the nearest station where it would be turned around and sent back the way it came. I went back to the Lady’s train car and the Lady and the Chancellor were preparing to change to the other train. The Lady said to the Chancellor, “We will have to suffer, but I will be home.”
The Chancellor spotted me and said, “Jean, why are you here!”
“There were some events this morning that you should know about. Lady, you no longer have a home to go to here.”
“Why, what happened.”
“Where are your guards.”
“I sent them ahead to tell the staff that I was coming and prepare a car.”
“Then they are dead.”
“The Hunter is here. I saw him. He was looking for game and you gave them to him.”
“And what about my house?”
“The house was raided by parties unknown this morning. They killed all your guards and family, removed the keystones and released the children in the dungeon. Then they disappeared. Later, the tower that I suspect contained your apartment collapsed.”
“The wolves did this! I will have my revenge. Where were you to let this happen!?”
“I was investigating some shooting noises and looking for wolves as you instructed this morning. We found where some shooting occurred but neither the Sergeant nor I had seen or heard anything unusual at the castle until we were at the cliff where the shooting had occurred. We returned to the castle to find that the staff had been rendered unconscious by means of a gas, probably and any guard or family killed.”
“How did you know that the Hunter was there?” the Chancellor asked.
“Because he was drinking coffee in the café across from the castle and talking about hunts.”
“Why did you not arrest him!” The Lady demanded.
“Because he is an American, seemingly travelling and I doubt that anybody would have seen his face or tie him to the deaths. He is very skilled at that. If the Bear could not find grounds for arrest I doubt that I or the Sergeant could.”
“The Bear looks for grounds to arrest the Hunter?” The Chancellor asked.
“It is a game they play. The Hunter destroys a Twisted and the Bear, as sheriff, investigates. I doubt that the Bear would go easy on Bill and Bill doesn’t want him to. So far, Bill has avoided arrest. In any case, the thief left a calling card. The Cat paid you a visit at some point last night or this morning.”
The lady looked as if she would explode in rage.“I want you to find my Butterfly, get together with her and find this Hunter and this Cat and destroy them!”
“I’m right here.”
We looked up and there was a wolf in armor? carrying a rifle?
“I’ve been watching you for the last twenty minutes or so. Lady, if I wanted you dead, I’ve had a clear shot at you the whole time. The thing is that somebody killing you may be exactly what you want. A man asked me if I had ever been subject to despair? One of your “children” tried to bring me to that state by taking the people and life that I loved. He did that deliberately because I interfered with a place that he was running. He enjoyed doing it right up to the point where I put a load of buckshot into the back of the monster’s head. Now it’s your turn. Feel the despair and the loss of your ‘children,’ the things you care about and the loss of this thing that you and the others tried to inflict on the world. You can watch as the thing collapses and I, at least, am not going to give you an easy way out. Good day.”
He disappeared.The lady turned to me and demanded, “Go after him!”
“To what purpose? I do not have a gun or Change. He can hide in the woods and I will never find him. Chancellor, I would suggest that you and the Lady return to the train car and go to one of the lady’s other homes in a different country. At least the Lady should leave before the word gets out about the children that were probably found in her cellar during the raid this morning. Lady, your bad habits have caught up with you at last and it is time to retreat. I will look for Milady Hannah,but I imagine that she has other concerns. Chancellor, I will return to the castle, file a full report for you and the other Masters. At this point what occurred appears to be a professional job conducted on behalf of Mr.White, though no one will ever be able to tie it to him.”
“The keystones?”
“Gone. We tracked the crates that delivered the chests and were apparently used to take the chests with the keystones away. That was a ruse. I found the crates, empty,at a bakery where they were going to be burned for firewood.There was dust on the bottoms of the crate of the same kid of residue that comes from the collapse of a Construct object. The crates all had the “White Farbenwerk” label on them.”
The chancellor said, “Lady since you no longer have a home to return to, I would stay with your train and use the car to go to one of your other homes, in Romania perhaps. I would stay there as discreetly as I could. I would also tell your children, the ones that are left, to leave their homes immediately. I will go with the Agent and see what happened at your home and see if I can find any trace of the keystones.”
He went with me as we returned to the other train. As the train started to back away, he said, “I think that I saw your niece with a young man boarding the train.”
“You did. She has been taking her yong man on bit of trip after assisting the young man’s grandmother in the disposition of an estate.”
“Milady Hannah’s estate probably.”
“Yes. I think that I will look for her there.”
“You knew that the keystones were going to be taken.”
“How? The Red Lady sent me here herself. Before that point I had other tasks.”
“Tasks in America that involved the people that are here now.”
“Now that was Milady Hannah’s fault. She faked her death and that brought Stephie. She inflicted that Nazi pimple on them and that brought in Greta. I may have mentioned the lady’s pain room to certain people, yes. Being there was not a pleasant experience.”
“Stephie actually came to the last meeting. You didn’t tell her where it was, did you?”
“I didn’t know myself. I was at the castle chasing exploding boats. At the Red lady’s insistence, I might add. So what did Stephie want?”
“She asked for her mother’s keystone and all the others.”
“The Red Lady should have returned the property. They were going to take it in any case.”
“True. Stephie managed to frighten the Masters rather dramatically.”
“They are trying. I doubt that the Masters know just how frightened they should be. This attack on the Red Lady was done exactly the way Tom handled the Manager. With different techniques and tactics, but the approach of using their opponent’s actions and weaknesses against them was the same. Bill killing the vampires was a diversion for this, somewhat. Considering the timing, it was also a diversion for something else and this was also a diversion for something else. What was the reason for the meeting?”
“The Troubleshooter destroying the witch’s facilities in the South of France, a picture of Hannah with a member of the German Master’s organization and Stephie playing Hannah and sending the German master’s organization’s people on wild goose chases all over Europe.”
“So somebody wanted the German secret police and intelligence people chasing ghosts all over Europe. At the very least it will make them reluctant to chase things down for some time. Meanwhile we have no way of knowing where the keystones actually went, how they are transported or where they are going.”
“Those cases are probably the clue. They will have to be heavily shielded.”
“They are. I expect that the cases were made by Tom. The same kind of cases that can deceive a royal fae with the full use of his powers and Tom’s own sister. The cases will be well disguised. There is also the fact that we don’t know who all was involved this morning other than Kitty, ‘Hǔ, Bill and Hilda.”
“Bill being here was a bit of a shock. At last report, he was still in the Riviera with the Troubleshooter dealing with the Witch’s facilities.”
“Where he will be seen again shortly, by Monday probably. Meanwhile others of the Lady’s children will have sudden accidents and the other masters will start sniffing around the lady’s resources like the jakals that they are. That was very clever.”
The train arrived and the sergeant took us over to the castle where the Sergeant and I took the Chancellor through the castle. When we were done I asked the man who was dealing with the bodies, “Have you discovered what kind of gun was used?”
“That one there was shot multiple times by high powered rifle bullets very quickly, so it was either a bunch of people with rifles or somebody with some sort of automatic rifle or light machine gun. It is hard to determine exactly what type becase the slugs were so deformed that we don’t have an exact measurement and most military bullets are very close to the same size in any case. The others were all shot with what appear to be 9mm pistols or single shots from a submachine gun.”
“Did you find any shoe traces?”
“No. Not on the path to the sally port that they probably used to enter since one of our officers was found asleep there and the court here is cobblestone and gravel. In any case, appears that they took steps to avoid scuff marks.”
“Were there any cartridges left behind?”
“No. They either policed them up or the guns they used did not eject cartridges. Considering that no gunfire was heard inside the castle, they were probably using some kind of special gun that is very quiet.”
“Are the pictures ready. I will need to prepare a preliminary report.”
“They should be back from the dark room soon. We are not really prepared for something on this scale.”
“You are doing well. I think that people will be satisfied with your work.”
The sergeant said, “Here is what I was afraid of.”
There were two rather angry gentlemen with some other people, who were obviously parents and some children who all had signs of bad treatment. One of them men said, “Johan, we have been telling you that the lady here had been responsible for the disappearing children. You have said that there were other reasons. Well these children were rescued from here this morning.”
“Why did you wait until now to bring this to my attention?”
“We wanted to get the parents together and make sure that the children would not be conveniently disappeared again.”
“Have the children said anything about their rescuers?”
“Only that they were men that they had never seen before, put on a truck where they could not see out. Gerhardt and I were at his tavern when the call came to go down a certain road where three of my trucks that had been stolen while their driver were having coffee had been left. The children were with the trucks.”
“How come the theft was not reported to me?”
“Nobody could find you or your officers. All morning we could not find a policeman to report to, so I sent my boys looking around for the trucks. I received the call a couple of hours later and retrieved the trucks.”
“Where are the trucks now?”
“Back at work. I can’t afford to have three trucks down for very long.”
“So you left me with no way to track where the thieves took the trucks and anything they carried with them.”
“The trucks were borrowed, not stolen,really. And there were the children, which were far more important. I hope that you have contacted the government about this monster that has been scourging us for so long and hiding behind these walls and her wealth. We know now what she was doing and it is time that the terror ended. If somebody borrowed my trucks to make it happen then I have no problem with them.”
If the Red Lady had actually returned, things would have been very bad for her, as she had been caught red handed, the children were all known in the village that was up in arms about it and when more police and the press arrived, the scandal grew. The police went looking for clues,but I suspected that the general attitude was that if they actually caught the people responsible, the police would be well willing to provide whatever they needed to go wherever they wanted. In any case the perpetrators had all left the scene with the goods and were long gone.
The Chancellor and I left the castle to the growing army of officialdom and I went to look up Glinde. She was at her father’s tavern and said, “You have a long and probably very tiresome day.”
“Since your boss probably won’t need you, why don’t we go and see your parents. Poppa can use Gert here and we can meet your parents and then find nice lake where it is warm and Swim together. It is better to Swim when it is warm, at least at first.”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea. We can look for the Golden Butterfly where it is warm. At least that way,we will get something for our wasted time.”
Saturday November 26, 1932.
Hans’s people had finally tapped the phone yesterday. The two moving trucks that the government would let me use were here and being loaded. We would finish the loading Monday of the last things. As for the tapped phone, Stephie had found a record player, I told Jorge to use his phone from his house for the next few days and put the record on with the adapter that Stephie had brought with her. I hoped that the people on the other end of the line enjoyed it. A maid had picked up the phone by accident and slammed it down and went off muttering about kinder and dinosaurs and was upstairs for the rest of the day. Eric went up and explained but she stayed upstairs and wouldn’t go near the phone.
Stephie and Boris returned and Stephie said, “The Red Lady is probably in difficulties right now. I think that I scared the Masters more than a bit.”
“What do you think that the Red Lady will do?”
“Send somebody, Jean probably, to look for Hannah. At least that was what she told the Chancellor to do. They don’t know about sense strings or think about why I shot the window out when I didn’t have to, so they never looked see if there was anybody outside and Boris was just sitting there across the street listening to what ever they said. Of course we also talked with the servants of the place and after we said that we knew ‘Hǔ and the others they were perfectly willing to talk with us. We have a pile of stuff for Adelheid, Gunter and Helmut.”
Gert came in and said, “Herr Steiger is on his way with another car.”
We watched as he drove up, did that little ritual as some men in brown shirts and military hats and rifles lined up and stood at attention. He walked up and saluted. “Heil Hitler!”
Eric asked, “What is it this time, Hans?”
“I have come to tell you that Truppfuhrer Schmidt and his men will be staying here for the next few days. There have been rumors of strange things happening in the area and I want some eyes on the estate after you vacate.”
“The only thing that is strange around here is you,” I said. “But the Truppfuhrer and his men can stay for a bit. Gert show them where they can stay and watch things here.”
We went back inside and Adelle said, “who are the young men in the clown suits?”
“Some people that Hans sent to afflict us.”
“So what are you going to do about them.”
“The two dragons have been so well behaved. I think that they need to let off some steam, don’t you?”
Adelle smiled, “We don’t want them overexcited on the ship do we?”
My brother came with a truck and some cousins. We thought that we would pick up the things that we set aside.”
I looked at my niece, who had come with them.“Greta, be alert. There is a surprise coming.”
She perked up and started to look around. At about noon, the Bugatti drove up, Sal and Sillia got out as Tony drove up in a bus that he had and a bunch of kids popped out. Tony called out, “Here Greta! They’re all yours!”
“Are the tickets ready?”
“All set! I’ll keep an eye on them here and until the ship and then go back for more. Robert should be at the ship with Mary and Suzette.”
Little Greta had been holding on to me and looked a bit frightened as she asked, “Who is this?”
“Sal, Sillia, meet my niece, Greta. She wants to know all about you.”
Greta started to look at Sal more closely and then said, “You are the Troubleshooter! Momma, Poppa, the Troubleshooter is here!”
“Greta, this is Sal and his wife Sillia. We are letting them stay since they are arranging the transfer of these orphans to the states with us.”
She ran to get her parents and I said to Sal, “She’s a fan. She thinks that you are pretty indredible. So I take it that things are going well.”
“Yes, Etienne and I want to keep the kids out of the potential clutches of the French witch so were bringing them now while Stelios and Bill are occupied.”
The Truppfuhrer marched over, started to open his mouth, took one look at Tony and decided that maybe he should be elsewhere doing something else. His men followed him. Sal laughed. Greta returned with her parents and asked, “Is this guy the shoot for the trouble?”
Gert translated and Sal said, “Not the original. The original is too scary for kids and his wife is keeping him home as she is expecting.”
“Al isn’t that scary,” Tony said. “Not unless you’re an idiot. Greta, you don’t look like an idiot like that character that just left.”
“All my teachers say that I am very smart so I am not like that guy. He probably is one of Aunt Hannah’s idiots.”
I introduced Sal and Sillia and Tony. Greta said to Tony, “I thought that you were scary at first, but you’re nice. Not like the Truppfuhrer.”
“I try not to scare kids. Idiots, on the other hand, had better be scared of me.”
He switched to French, “Kids, lets’s go to lunch!”
Greta follow the rest of the kids.
He got the kids lined up and on their way to lunch. We followed them into the house and Gert said quietly “He’s smart for a Construct and very good with kids.”
“Very good,” Sal said. “For one thing, it’s obvious to anybody that if you mess with his kids, you are in deep trouble. He’s also very good at things.”
“Where did these kids come from?”
“From some Twisted factories and Schools that French witch had. These are the fae kids that we couldn’t find relatives for. We’re sending them to the states and a special school that we have set up for kids like that in New York.”
“You obviously set up for that.”
“We knew that it was coming when the Committee contacted my people so I arranged for some people to handle the shuttling of the kids.”
“Who is paying for this.”
“The kids? The Director. He made a rather large donation to the school before he left us.”
“Now that wasn’t in the reports. So what happened?”
“Tom had collected a lot of material about what the Director was doing while looking for werewolf material. During his wedding, in order to mollify Greta here, he turned it over to my office. But there were multiple copies because Tom believes in fire protection including some reduced copies stashed in some crates. Hilda and some others put together a plan to turn the documents over to the Director in batches, because Tom wanted the Director to know what Tom had on him.”
“Because the information was useless to the Director, but knowing what Tom knew would force him to change his operations around and come out into the light.”
“So how did the School get the money?”
“The Colonel. The Colonel wanted everything that he could get on Tom. Actually he was hoping that the diary would show up, but Tom kept that stashed and hidden deep and anything related went into the same stash. But the Colonel didn’t know that and ordered, through some proxies, the Director to get everything in one shot, Hilda and the other principles set a price of one hundred thousand dollars and the Director paid. Hilda and the others didn’t need the money and set it up so that the money went to the school.”
“So the Dark paid for the school.” My brother started to laugh.
When we went into the dining room, Greta was with poor Sal asking questions in a mixture of broken English and German. She saw us and said, “Poppa, come over here and help.”
Anna and I laughed with Sillia on the sidelines as Greta asked question after question. As lunch was over, Sal said, “Greta, you will just have to come to America soon and talk with my mother.”
“I will!”
After lunch, Tony and Greta took the rest of the kids on a noisy exploration of the house and the grounds,including a visit to places like my brother’s shop which he had made arrangements for. Rather discreet arrangements for.
Sunday November 27, 1932.
I stopped in the compartment that I shared with Mike and David to pick up something and as I was walking to the dining car for lunch as we were travelling through Northern Italy, I resonated. I kept walking and when I sat down with the others at the table, I said, “I resonated with somebody on the train in First Class.”
David said, “That’s strange. Your family is German and we met most of them. You would know who it was, if you met them.”
“I know. That was what was strange. Especially as it was as strong as Uncle Gert.”
“You don’t think it was you aunt?”
“It could be. The question is what is she doing? If she’s on the train, is she after us or is she up to something on her own.”
Aunt Mary was sitting at the table across from with Uncle Roger and said, “If it is Aunt Hannah, that raises some interesting possibilities. Now we were supposed to change trains in Genoa. Suppose we do that in Milan instead. On the other hand, Boris and Stephie have had a lot of fun with the lady and Roger and I haven’t. She doesn’t know me at all. Nor Roger and Roger typically isn’t as extroverted as Boris or Tom, so people tend to ignore him.”
Uncle Roger grinned, “I like it that way. Everybody sees Tom’s guns and gags and never sees what you and I get up to. Except for the oops like that tower.”
“How did you do that?” Mike asked. “There didn’t seem to be much of an explosion and over it went.”
“A little improvisation and some engineering.I grew up on a farm and that is the way things have to operate. When we walked around the tower, I Encouraged the mortar to rot a bit and Mary planted some charges. The tower came down like the silo we had to take down last year at that barn next to the inn.”
“Ugh, That was a pain. We had to help clean that up. It did fall where it didn’t hurt anything. I thought that you just ran the ski resort.”
“I had to build it before I could run it and we had to start from scratch, didn’t we, Mary. We were also dealing with kids and the rest of it. We didn’t have a lot of money and we had to build and make things that didn’t exist in the states. The tow rope was an improvisation because there was no way that we could afford a gondola and we needed a way for people to get up the slope. Hiking up gets old real fast and the fun balance doesn’t really work. That rope tow changed one or two runs a day to five to ten. That makes a big difference when people are coming up from New York. Mary’s dad did provide some support, but most of what you see is Mary and I building things up.”
“How come you are here? Isn’t this when you need to start up?”
“It is, but this is a bit of a test for my cousin, Brian, who said that he could handle things. If I have to ride herd on him, that could lead to problems later. In any case, mother wanted us here, this is family business and more important than the inn and the ski resort. We also have an opportunity to see the latest things over here and taking an occasional peek at our competition doesn’t hurt. We saw some things already, didn’t we Mary?”
‘Yes we did. I also just resonated with the lady that just sat down at that table. You did as well, didn’t you, Tony?”
I had felt it. Not as Strongly as Aunt Mary, but I had. The lady was behind me and I didn’t turn around. Jeanette quietly said, “She reminds me of your Aunt Stephie somewhat. But she is angry and sad, where your aunt is fun and happy.”
“Aunt Stephie is going to be dancing in the clouds for weeks after Uncle Tom’s birthday surprise. So how do you want to play it, Uncle Roger?”
“Let’s go on to Genoa. I have some left over from the boom and Mary and I can set up a contingency. We all have guns under aversions and now that we have spotted her, the surprise is gone. Jeanette, do you have any ideas about what she might bring to the table?”
“There are some bad people that work outside the Committee somewhat. They work for the French witch. They sometimes take people hostage to influence politicians and some extortion. The French witch also has pets in the Fascist government. I think that she is sending people to Africa looking for artifacts.”
“Ok, if anybody compels, reflect. If it’s government types we go discreet and disappear and Jeanette makes some calls when she can. If it’s gangsters, we play it by ear and see what happens. By the way, you three are such good boys.”
We grinned and Jeanette said, “You mean that they are not? Tony has been good to me? As for these other two, who knows?”
After lunch we went back to our compartments and made some preparations. Steve had given me a present as we broke up yesterday, the MP18 that that vampire had had. He hadn’t wanted to be carrying it around, we were a bit exposed and had been obviously visible, so he wanted me to have a surprise in case we needed it. I had taken it apart and scattered the pieces in my bag since when it was apart it looked like bits and pieces of plumbing and junk. The stock looked like it came off a toy and the magazine looked like a toy or some strange piece of a machine. The thing taken apart looked harmless. I started to put it back together. When I was done, I put it on top of the bag. I hoped that I wouldn’t need it but in my family having firepower and not needing it was beaten into us when we were kids. Once we were older than about seven, grandmother would get upset if we didn’t have a gun and hadn’t shot something we should have.
In the late afternoon, the train pulled into Genoa. Mike looked out the window and waved to Dave. “Dave, I, don’t believe it, but look who’s here. It’s John, isn’t it?”
Dave look out the window. “That’s my brother all right. I wonder what he’s doing here? This is going to be interesting.”
As we prepared to get off, I asked, “So what is going on?”
“We’ll see, but it’s going to be interesting.”
I got off the train and four men were standing on the platform. Jeanette followed me and the men approached. I felt the tickling of a compulsion and then it stopped as one of the men saw the two characters behind me. The man waved his buddies off and walked up. “So why are you two in Genoa?”
“Hi John. Still making trouble?”
“Dave, how are you involved with these two and how is the family involved over here?”
Aunt Mary and Uncle Roger got off the train and we headed forward to make sure that our luggage was taken off the train. Dave said, “John, this is Tony and Jeanette along with Tony’s Aunt Mary and Uncle Roger. To answer your question, it’s business and family.”
“Who would send you two?”
“He wouldn’t send people over here.”
“Not grandpa Altris. Grandfather.”
“Is he out of his funk?”
“Is he here?”
“Not yet. Hali and Selia are getting married next month.”
“They found bonds? What about Chrissie?”
“Chrissie started it. She married this character’s uncle. Believe it or not, Aunts Nera and Eltra found bonds too.”
“You’re kidding!”
“Not one bit.”
“So why are you two messing up my nice simple little job?”
“You would have been in trouble and the job would not have been simple. We just saved you a lot of trouble that you don’t want. Tony show him what was in the bag.”
I opened the bag a bit. “The compulsion wouldn’t have worked and you all were standing right next to each other. That wasn’t the smartest thing to do.”
“Where did you get that?”
“Your cousin Steve was working and this was a leftover.”
Dave said, “Doesn’t mother send you any mail at all?”
“Not very much and Andria keeps that up.”
“So you have no idea what’s been happening the last year.”
“Other than everything is fine, no.
“That explains why you were about to kidnap your cousin. This is Tom’s nephew.”
“It was supposed to be taking a Committee Bigshot’s daughter to put some pressure on him so that upstairs would get some heat taken off.”
“Boy, did you get yourself in a mess.”
I looked around and my great aunt was discreetly standing there probably wondering why Jeanette and I weren’t being carted off. I turned to David and said, “So what do you want to do now?”
“John, our train is due. Do you have an address? We’ll come back or you can pick a place in Nice. I think that you need to get caught up. So does your upstairs. Bring your bonded. Mom will want pictures.”
The train pulled into the station, we got on and the train pulled away. My aunt was still on the platform. John and his boys had disappeared. I turned to my compartment mates and said, “What’s going on?”
“Ok, you know about Kitty and Chrissie’s little surprise? Well, John and his buddies were running the boat for Kitty.”
“The boat that went nowhere. I think I begin to see.”
“After it was over, they were miffed at Joe and went after him. So far that was ok. Of course they should have talked with Joe and joined up with him going after Chrissie, but what they did was go after Joe at the yard, which started to affect business. That brought Uncle Josh in. There’s another little rule the family has and that none of the fun and games affects business. So Josh told John that maybe he should go wandering a while.”
“So he was a bit of a black sheep and Josh exiled him. He ended up here.”
“We didn’t know where he ended up. Mother did, but she spends her time under sea.”
“Apparently he took a job to take Jeanette and I hostage for the French Witch with my aunt involved. The French Witch is probably feeling the heat from Sal and wants him to back off. The problem is that she doesn’t know us at all. Poor John needs to come back with us and meet the family. Grandfather’s response to somebody taking a family member hostage tends to get ugly for the people doing things like that very fast.”
“My father is the same way,” Jeanette said. “I am amazed that anybody on the coast would take the job. The Committee will have to have a conversation with some people. You brother backed off very fast though.”
Dave grinned. “This was business and family. It was also something serious and Gradfather was involved, so it was very serious. My brother will want to know what is going on and how big it is. He’s probably telling his boss right now to stay away from all of it.”
“That would be very smart,” I said. “Of course Aunt Hannah is involved and I imagine that she is rather upset right now.”
Jeanette looked at me,“I want to know what that thing about good boys was all about.”
“It goes back to the end of last year. Jacob was having a fight with grandfather about George and the thing with Andy. In amongst all of it, Jacob rather sarcastically said that my brother and Scott were “Such good boys.” Those two took that as a reason to go wild all over the Christmas parade and embarass the hell out of Jacob.”
“Why did they do that? Jacob seems like a nice man when I met him at the Creator’s meeting.”
“He’s mellowed a lot since Ed could come out of the shadows and take over with some things. But last year, Ed was placing him under compulsion because Ed was under compulsion and Jacob and the keystone were fighting all of it. But we didn’t know that and thought that Jacob was just crazy. So Bob and Scott did a number on the parade. Everybody loved it anyway and they are stuck with coming up with something again this year. Fortunately they have a lot of help on both sides of the lake this year. Of course Jacob will pull something at the Chrismas party this year, but that can be expected. But since then, the good boys quip is family code for saying that we have permission to go all out.”
“I see. So your Aunt Mary was saying that you could do whatever you want. David, you saved your brother from a lot of trouble.”
“No we didn’t. When Steve hears about it, he and Stelios are going to be having some fun with my brother if I don’t warn him first.”
I laughed “I told him that Steve is in the neighborhood. If he doesn’t consider himself warned, I can’t help him.”
I had been dismantling the MP18 the entire time and when the border people went through the train, it was just anomynous junk and toys again. Shorty afterwards the train arrive in Nice and I met Jeanette’s parents. We were driven to the family villa and a wonderful evening with Jeanette’s parents and some others that we knew.
Monday November 28, 1932.
This was our last day at the house and we were getting the last things packed. In amongst the chaos Steve and Leo showed up with Kitty and ‘Hǔ. The poor Truppfuhrer and his men didn’t even notice them arrive under the onslaught of the kids. Little Greta had started them in on it and the fact that Tom’s books had gone around hadn’t helped at all. The Truppfuhrer and his men could hardly stand or sit in one place for ten minutes or so before there was a bang of some sort. By lunch on Sunday the Truppfuhrer came to me and said, “Frau Benton, we will decamp to the gatehouse if you keep the kids here. We don’t like the Landesinspekteur either, but we are under orders.”
“Why did you join the SA in the first place?”
“Because otherwise we didn’t feel safe. It was join or being suspected of being a Comunist or religionist or something. Everybody was wearing their loyalties on their shirts and beating anybody who wasn’t part of them. There were only bad choices.”
“I am truly sorry. I will tell Tony to keep the kids near the house.”
So Monday was a bit less chaotic as we loaded the trucks. The armada chests, all twenty five of them were loaded last and the trucks departed for France and La Havre. Boris and Stephie took one of the estate cars and went with them. Tony and Sillia loaded the kids back up on the bus and they left. The rest of us decamped to the inn for the night. Later that evening a rather frightened and dirty Truppfuhrer came in looking for a phone. Shortly afterward the rest of his little troop came in and looked rather frightened as they tried to get gerta the marmaid to bar the door. They had apparently lost their rifles for the most part as there was only one between them. After about ten minutes, Eric went to the Truppfuhrer and asked, “So what is going on?”
“We were patrolling the grounds and we were assaulted by monsters.”
“Yes, fire breathing dragons. They chased us all over the grounds.”
“You do not seem to be injured.”
“They must have been toying with us before making us their meal, so we were able to evade and hide. But they seemed to find us over and over.”
“We have been here several weeks now and we have not seen any dragons, have we, Greta?”
“I don’t think that we have ever had dragons on the estate since great uncle left. But strange things have happened in the past. Truppfuhrer, stay here tonight. That way you can watch us and make sure that we are not returning to the estate and making off with the party’s property.”
“That will work. I don’t think that anyone will want to face the dragons in any case.”
Monday November 28, 1932.
Jeanette and I joined David and Mike at the restaurant in Monte Carlo when John called and set up the meeting. We were driven over and sat down right next to the water. John approached with a woman and sat down with us. David said, “Brother this is Tony and his Bonded, Jeanette.”
“So how did you meet Jeanette, Tony?”
“We met at the horse show in Massachusetts while Tony was holding his niece’s horse after his niece had been kidnapped.” Jeanette replied with a smile. “My father sent me over there hoping that I would find a bond and I did.”
“So why was your niece kidnapped and what happened to the kidnappers?”
“I think that we should start from the beginning,” David said. “A lot of this makes more sense if you know the players and how things went than if we just go over everything piece by piece.”
“You can start with the character that Chrissie bonded with. He must be really strange to put up with her. I wish that I had known it was Chrissie and not Joe responsible for leaving me there in the lurch.”
“Ok, about June of last year this character shows up and talks to Joe about a job. He wanted to rent space at the yard for a shop and was looking for work to help pay to bring the shop down. Joe likes how he handles things and gives him a job. Chrissie stops by and realizes that she has bonded with this character. So she sets up with Uncle Josh to have the character work on Uncle Josh’s boat.”
“That must have made grandpa unhappy. Josh working on his boat means that he isn’t in the office.”
“It did, especially after Tom and Chrissie can’t get together because Tom doesn’t know about the fae, Change or any of the rest of it.”
“Why not?”
“Because we were forbidden from telling him,” I said. “That was to protect him, but you wouldn’t believe the stress that caused in the family.”
“Why did he need so much protection?”
“Because he is an unattached royal fae and he had to shoot my Uncle Brad because one of the Masters Turned my uncle and Tom had to destroy the monster. So until he bonded we did not want to risk him being vulnerable to being Turned and possibly becoming a monster that nobody could stop.”
“I can see why. Ok, so Chrissie is trying to get his attention and for the first time in her life, failing. Didn’t she dance in front of him?”
Dave answered, “Uncle Josh was running the boat with him and you know how he was about “Keeping the secret.”
“Didn’t anybody point Tom at the dancing show?”
“We all did. There was a huge pool by that point and we were all looking to lose. We tried everything we could to get those two together and nothing worked. You’re lucky you missed four months of frustrated Chrissie. She was even stuffing herself in pots. We have a picture of that.”
“So how did she let the character know that she existed.”
I laughed. “Joe and Alex sold Uncle Tom a rum runner that Alex bought. Joe and Uncle Tom fixed the cabin up for two, the stuck shaft and broken prop. Then Tom put the boat in the water and Joe finally told Chrissie that Tom had a boat. She went right over and cornered Uncle Tom on the boat. Uncle Tom did the smart thing and pulled a boathook on her.”
John laughed. “That was absoloutely the right thing to do, but it obviously didn’t take. What happened then.”
Dave answered, “Chrissie goes over to Uncle Josh to cry on his shoulder, Tom followed trying to figure out what sort of monster he was dealing with and Chrissie and Tom talk. The next day, Chrissie was running Tom’s boat for him. She had to. She had pulled the same stunt on him that she pulled on you.”
“Ok, so what brought grandfather out of his funk if it wasn’t doing the same thing to Tom that he did to Uncle Josh?”
“Chrissie and Tom seem to be going fine, Uncle Josh goes down to New York to take Aunt Nera to hook up with her bond after she’s been moping around for months, Chrissie gets Tom to a beach, Tom balks and because Tom’s dad sends a message saying that there is a family emergency, heads back up to Vermont leaving Chrissie crying on the beach until Bill and Bob pick her up. She goes running to Grandfather, cries on his shoulder, he starts talking war talk, cranks up the weather magic right in front of a hurricane, Uncle Josh has to rush back and shut that down, but everybody knows what grandfather was doing because Joe had to send Uncle Josh a telegram, the harbormaster tells Uncle Josh to bring Grandfather back up so that John can give Grandfather a talking to.”
“About time. I miss Grandmother too, but without Grandfather, things were getting out of hand. So how did Aunt Nera’s bond work out?”
“She closed the deal right off the bat, which is where we leave the fun and games and get to the serious part of the things that were going on and why we are here.”
Dave went over the warehouse, the Sharks, the Manager and all the rest of it, with Mike and I adding pieces. Then I went over the Colonel and what he had tried, the Academy and the rest of it. When I finished, John said with a smile, “He took Chrissie as a hostage? Was he crazy?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “He sure acted crazy at the end. You can ask your cousin Steve when he gets back.”
“Steve is here? What is he up to. He gave you that submachine gun, so it must have been something big, but it hasn’t made the news yet.”
“Ask my Great Aunt. She was with you yesterday. That is if her boss has given her the news yet. My grandmother wanted some property returned and since my Great Aunt played dead, retrieved it.”
“Before we get into current events, I want to know why your cousin was kidnapped.”
“She and her friend Sally, who is Eli’s great granddaughter were kidnapped because some mangy foxes were trying to coerce your Grandfather and my aunt, among others into giving something up from the family vault. They had been trying to get it for some time.”
I told him the story of the Black Dragon, the Yaoguai and all the rest of it, finishing with, at the end the poor Yaoguai ended up in the trash in Shanghai and my Aunt Stephie and the Tiger had a great time solving Tom’s masterwork as my Aunt’s birthday present.
“Why were your Aunt and the Tiger cooperating?”
“Because your Aunt Kitty bonded with the Tiger’s son. So family rules were suddenly in effect and Chrissie had recuited a bunch of people in the family to protect the vault. So Kitty got to balance things out.”
“Whose side was Grandfather on?”
“Kitty’s. He was at Steve’s wedding in Hawaii when things started up, so Chrissie didn’t recruit him.’
John turned to his brother and said, “I can guess that you were on grandfather Altris’s side.”
“Well, sort of. Things got a bit mixed up and by the time it was over it was pretty much everybody against the Yaoguai and Stephie’s birthday present going off.”
“So who all is here from our family?”
“Mike and I with Kitty and ‘Hǔ, along with Steve and his people. This started out as Eric and Greta’s show after Greta’s sister apparently essentially committed suicide.”
“That explains why the Unbonded was said to be dead and then returned. She does not like her sister at all.”
I laughed. “She’s tried very hard to get under Grandmother’s skin. Her mistress has had a very bad time and Aunt Hannah can’t understand why all we do is play games with her.”
Jeanette said, “Lady, you haven’t said anything. Why?”
The woman said, “I am Andria and I have been enjoying hearing about all John’s relatives and their adventures.Up until recently I did not have legs and it was not possible to visit John’s family. I had John’s mother’s letters, but I hadn’t met any family. When my children are a bit older, we will visit.”
“The family has a ship in port right now if you would like to go,” David said. “Or other arrangements can be made. Money is not an issue as we need every business expense we can get this year.”
John blinked. “Why?”
“You know how Grandfather is about taxes. Well Tony’s Uncle Tom and Chrissie made a trip up to the farm last year right after their incident with Sharks. Tony’s family used an old sugaring tank to make a bed for Chrissie as the pool wasn’t finished. Chrissie liked the tank and they brought it back so that they could set it up with Joe and Moira in the boathouse in the boatyard, the boathouse that you messed with that got you in trouble. Chrissie mentioned the bed to her friends, who were interested, they told their mothers about it, and they were interested. The thing snowballed and since Grandfather was playing games, Uncle Josh did an end run around him and did the initial funding through the family. The company and Tom’s family are all involved and have cuts. Rather large cuts.”
Andria said, “I want to know more about this. We have a villa with a pool and mother doesn’t have to be unprotected below but some of my friends do not. If this provides some sort of solution I will discuss this with father.”
Jeanette said, “Andria, my father is already looking into it and there are some ladies visiting who are involved and the ship they came in has beds, so you can see one for yourself.”
David laughed, “Poor Grandfather. This is what he has been dealing with for the past year. The last thing he has wanted is to make huge money and this happened.”
That made for a wonderful lunch and I asked John, ‘How did you end up doing jobs like that thing last night?”
“It has to do with my meeting Andria and her father’s debts.After their bower was trashed, by sharks and the same sort of thing that you just told me about, he was forced to borrow money to keep things together with a bunch of people who had never been up top. I was drifting around and after I bonded, I offered my not insignificant skills in nightwork and wreck salvage to the local boss as payment against my father in law’s debts. So far I’ve made a pretty big chunk go away. The thing last night was supposed to make them go away. After lunch today and what I’m going to tell him, I think that they will go away. I’ll tell him that there are Peacekeeper issues involved and I just saved him a world of pain, especially with Grandfather playing.”
“The people you are paying off’s bosses are responsible for the Sharks and the rest of it. I’m going to be talking with some people and if there are any Sharks around that you know of, they will want to make them go away.”
“The same people that have been doing cleanup for the Committee that got me involved in this mess in the first place?”
“Yes. Let’s just say that Sharks are trouble that will be shot.”
“Since the Sharks were apparently the same ones that killed Grandmother, I’m in. Andria, we have to talk with some people, so we need to get going.”

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