The Golden Butterfly Chapter 41, part 1.

Here’s the next part of the Golden Butterfly

Chapter 41.
Jean.
Saturday December 3, 1932.
Glinde and I had had a very pleasant two days with my family. Unfortunately, I had received a message sending me to the kind of place that I would rather not go. The Committee allowed certain amount of outsiders and the reach did not extend South through Italy, though there was a certain amount of raproachmant. In the cracks were some rather rough people smuggling, petty theft and willing to doanything for money. I was meeting Hannah at the establishment of one these characters. When I entered, it was worse than I thought. Hannah as talking with some gentlemen that were very Twisted indeed. They were both Necromancers. She looked at me and said, “Good Jean, you are here. I have acquired some resources and some old associates of mine. Unfortunately some other associates failed to do the job.”
“You didn’t mention that. My niece did. You were lucky, because if you had taken my niece, my brother in law would have been rather put out. The Witch already has enough trouble with the Troubleshooter and the other Masters will not like the loss of their Creator.”
“That is as may be. I won’t hurt the girl in any case, at least if your brother in law cooperates and sends the Troubleshooter back where he came from. The Troubleshooter isn’t the kind of man to be easily bought. His wife has some bad habits.”
“Such as. She has been pleasant when I have been with her.
“For instance making threats that there is no possibility that she can carry them out. She said that if I messed with her husband, that I would end up swimming with the fish.”
“Why don’t you think that she cannot carry that threat out?”
“I doubt that she has the kind of connections that would do that.”
“Actually you should do your homework. She very well can arrange things like that.”
A young man grinned with pointed teeth“Not if she is feeding some fish herself. We will have to see if we can arrange that. Milady, we will provide a distraction for you this evening. We must feed and we have a new recruit this evening for their first meal.”
I looked at him. “The Troubleshooter’s wife is hardly going to go into the water this time of year and if you managed to feed on her, her family would make sure that your existence was short and painful.”
“She is prey. We Sharks do not care what the prey does.”
I had read the reports from the end of the Sharks the previous year, but had never quite understood the madness of the Change until now. I didn’t fully understand the total unconcern until I saw it. I stayed behind as the Unbonded sent the others on their way. She turned to me and said, “Your role is to be our intermediary. You have done that before.”
“Not with my own family. This will not end well for the Masters as this will be seen by my brother in law as breaking the deal between the Masters and our family.”
“I suspect that the Masters see that deal as broken already. After all your Niece was with her bonded at my Mistress’s castle and the Troubleshooter was brought in by your brother in law.”
“Only after the vampire took my nephew’s bonded and made it clear to the Committee that clean up was required. Neither I nor my family recommended the Troubshooter. An associate of the Committee did and the Committee voted on hiring him. As for my niece, she has bonded and that changes her loyalties somewhat. In any case I doubt that her participation changed anything very much at the castle. Her being close to the other side has given the Chancellor valuable intelligence.”
“So she tells the Chancellor my sister’s social schedule. I am sure that is useful if the Chancellor would like to go to tea with my sister.”
“Perhaps you should pay attention to what has happened. In any case, if you do take my niece, I will function as an intermediary, but I and my family will no longer provide any resources to the Masters.”
“We have other resources.”
“Your brother, I presume?”
“How did you find out about him!”
“After the last few weeks, it was hardly a secret that you must have had a Creator that the other Masters did not know about and Stephie and Hilda have been in and out of his shop rather frequently. He was also at the estate and talking to other people, not least of which was my niece. In any case I suspect that your brother is no longer a reasource that the Masters can rely on for very long. I think that I will go about my day.”
I left the Unbonded to her scheming. It was time to openly choose a side and the Unbonded and the Masters had stupidly made the choice for me. They had crossed the line and gone directly after my family. It was with more than a bit of terror that I went to my brother in law’s office. He stood up as I walked in and said, “Where are Tony and Jeanette?”
“Why?”
“The Unbonded is going after them again to get to Bill and Greta.”
“I sent a message to the Chancellor telling him that was stepping over the line after the last time. The deal was that we would not be molested by the Masters or their associates. I was bit upset over the matter with Giselle and the last time Jeanette was with Tony and involved somewhat. On the other hand, there was nothing Jeanette could do to stop what happened at the castle and the Lady herself was told that something was going to happen. If she could not prepare after Stephie warned them, then that is not Jeanette’s problem. Who else was involved?”
“Hannah has brought in some Necromancers that the Red Lady had someplace, the Witch seems to given the Unbonded a Shark pod and the usual people who don’t know who they shouldn’t mess with. There may be more that we don’t know about.”
“OK, Tony and Jeanette went to Monte Carlo to look for a Shark pod. They wanted to track down some disappearances that the chef said had happened in the area.”
That was bad, because Bill, Hilda and the rest were at the other end of the Cote de Azure destroying the Shark pod there. I looked at my brother, “I’m going to need a gun, something bigger than a pistol.”
“Tony left that MP18. Take that. You don’t usually carry a gun.”
“We have Necromancers involved and if I need to deal with them, I want to make it quick. What does Tony have?”
“His pistol, but he may not have it with him if he is visiting the casino or a hotel. You know how they can be.”
“Ok, I am off to find them. Loan me Andre, just in case.”
“I was just about to suggest that .”
Andre was High Fae and had been with the family for a very long time. He had a shotgun and his hunting jacket full of shells as we drove off. Andre drove the car along the winding mountain road, skidding a bit on the turns as we went past the mountain villages. As we were forced to stop by a flock of sheep on the road, Andre asked, “So where do we start?”
“At the casino. It is likely that they went there first and they know Jeanette there, so they might keep her there.”
“That sounds like a good bet.”
The sheep finally went on their way and so did we. Andre had us speeding along the road and we passed hilltop willages witht their stone houses with tile roofs in a blur. We reached Fontvieille and headed through the old gates and toward the casino. When we arrived Henri was at his post at the desk. When he saw me, he cane out and hugged me. “Jean, it has been so long since you have graced our establishment. Jeanette was here and said that you found somebody at last!”
“Henri, I have. I will bring her by when I can. Is Jeanette still here?”
“Non, monsuier. She left about an hour ago.”
“Did she say where she was going?”
“Old Town, Fontveliele and then the Condamine”
“I must go, Henri. It is important.”
I went back to the car and said, “Fontveliele!”
“We just went through there!”
“I know, but that was where Henri said she was going, We’ll try the Condamine first.”
As we went through the narrow streets of the Comdamine I did not see the car or Jacques. So we went on to Fontvieille, where we spent a frustrating hour following my niece and Tony in their wanderings, but not catching them. Finally I said to Andre, “Let’s go back to the Conamine. Maybe we can get ahead of them.”
We raced back trough the gate and I couldn’t escape the feeling that there was something really wrong. As we passed the railroad station and turned right Andre said, “There’s Jacques and the car.”
Andre pulled us behind Jacques and we got out of the car, guns underneath our coats. Jacques looked up and said, “What’s wrong?”
“Where are my niece and Tony?”
“Talking with a perfumer who is fae and knows about some the disappearances, why?”
“It’s a trap. The Unbonded is using necromancers to creat a disturbance and kidnap Tony and Jeanette.”
Jacque reached under the seat and pulled out the shotgun he kept there. “Let’s go.”
We headed down the tight confines of Rue Grimaldi toward the corner with Reu de Mille when the screams started. People started to run out of the street followed by some of the ruffians that I had met with earlier, alive, followed by three more, that were no longer alive. Andre and I shot simultaneously, followed by Jacques and the zombies dropped. Andre and Jacques reloaded and Andre said, “I need to thank Bill for giving us his lecture on things like this.”
So did I. I only had one magazine for my submachine gun and it would be empty very fast. I couldn’t afford to waste shots. Another zombie approached, a woman, chasing after what was probably her child. The blood on her mouth said that she had already bitten somebody, probably other family members. Andre dropped her. A policeman who was no longer alive came down the street and Jacques shot him and reloaded. A policeman came up, gun drawn, “Stop! What are you doing!? You are all under arrest!”
Another zombie, some sort of worker came down the street straight at the policeman, who was intelligent enough to realize that something was really wrong and shoot the thing, which did no good until Andre shot the thing in the head. I turned to the policeman and said, “Saving your life, officeur. If that thing had bitten you, you would died a horrible death in hours. Reload your gun and shoot for the head if you see one again. We have a horrible monster here and this needs to be dealt with very quickly.”
We went up the street, shooting two more zombies and it appeared to be over. We found a last body, dissolving with a knife wound to the back and it’s throat slashed. Somebody, probably Tony, had dealt with the Zombie Master before things got completely out of control. Soldiers from the palace guard showed up and saw the mess. That started the usual threats of arrest until the police officer vehemately defended us. Our guns were taken and we were taken up to the palace so that the Prince’s authorities could try to make some sense out of things. Finally a man with a large degree of gravity for somebody in the uniform of a servant waved everybody else away and took us to a quiet room. “Gentlemen, I am Aristede De Le Mer. So tell me what is really going on. I do know that you helped to avoid a great tragedy today and if that Zombie Master had not been put down very quickly, we could have had a true disaster.”
I looked at the man.“How much do you know about the Masters?”
“Far more than I did when we had our bower out there in the ocean. Before the Sharks took my father, brothers and most of my family, the keystone was destroyed and our gardens were ruined. Since we were forced ashore, I have been looking for answers.”
“Recently the Masters sent some things to America. They also cooperated with another Dark fae and sent me to provide assistance. I also had other tasks. My niece went to America with me, looking for a bond and found one with a very strong family with links to most of the fae in America one way or another. Two weeks ago, the family made their displeasure known by taking from the Red Lady the keystones that she was holding. In the mean time another member of the family has destroyed most of the Red Lady’s children.”
“Do these events have anything to do with that young man who has been doing some welcome clean up for the Committee?”
“Not directly. A vampire family was destroyed near my family’s home in Nice and as a result of that, the Committee hired Mr. DelVecchio as a consultant.”
“Perhaps I should discuss doing the same here. He has a talent for making the things public that will shed light on things, yet keep the things that should be discreet off the table. The children, for instance.”
“He does do that. He has quite a bit of practice.”
“So what happened today?”
“My family was, up to today, held hostage for my indenture by the Masters as well as other services.”
“From your nephew, yes. Why did that come to an end?”
“The Unbonded went after my niece and brought in two Necromancers as associates. Things got messy. If I had to guess, the Necromancer tried to Turn my niece’s bonded, discovered that he could not and that tripped off the panic reaction. I knew about the Necromancers because I was supposed to be the intermediary after the two were taken. I had a discussion with my brother in law and came here to chase my niece down. I was too late.”
“So the Necromancer was after your niece and her bonded. Did her bonded know?”
“I didn’t have a chance to warn them. That was what I was trying to do.”
“Here is my card. Keep me informed about this. Tell your brother in law that he has my and the Prince’s cooperation on this. The Guard will return your firearms. I think that you will need them. Thank you for stepping right in and preventing a disaster.”
“Tony did that by taking care of the Zombie Master right away. We need to talk with some people.”
The three of us took both cars and headed back to Nice. We had to tell my brother in law that his daughter and her bonded were in the hands of the Unbonded.
Tony.
Saturday December 3, 1932.
Jeanette and I decided to see if we could track down the rumors of seafolk and another Shark Pod. I had suspected that there had to be at least one more because there had had to be more than one to deal with all the bowers. Of course it was Jeanette’s turn to show me off with all the people she knew along the coast, which was a surprising amount. We started at the hotels in Menton and worked our way to the casino where we had lunch at café du Paris. Then we went to Fontvieille to talk to Giselle’s aunt. She said that there was a perfumer in the old town seemed to have a hand on things. So off we went to the Condemine. As Jacques was driving us to the narrow streets, I said, Do you think that Marie was a bit nervous? She’s up top, yet where was her kids?”
“I don’t know. She didn’t bring them up. Perhaps they were in school?”
“On Saturday. I don’t know, something doesn’t feel right.”
Jacques dropped us off and that was when I realized that I had left my gun with Jacques in the car. Grandmother was going to kill me if she found out. We headed to the address that Marie had given us when I felt the taint of a Necromancer. I turned to Jeanette and said quietly, “We want to turn around and leave, right now. There is a Necromancer heading our way.”
There were six rather tough looking characters behind us as we turned around and one of them said in French, “You don’t want any trouble, so you kids come with us.”
He flashed a knife and I Pulled it out of his hand, “It’s not a gun but I can use it.”
His buddies pulled knives and I turned as the Necromancer stepped up and said, “We only need the girl and I can use a new apprentice, so I will Take this one.”
He tried a compulsion on me which I ignored and I felt a Twist, which hurt a bit, but I was not Turned. The Necromancer began to look a bit frightened as I started to move toward him. Suddenly he Changed and reached for two of the rather rough characters who were instantly Turned. Followed immediately by a third. I called out to Jeanette, “Go to Jacuqes, NOW! I’ll chase that thing down and deal with it.”
Their buddies screamed a bit and ran, with the zombies chasing them. The Zombie Master went down the street Turning a woman who immediately started to bite her husband as her daughter ran. I chased after the Zombie Master. If I didn’t get to him fast, the area could become a bloodbath very fast. I passed a cop who was in the beginning stages of becoming a zombie along with another man. I passed two more and that was then I managed to grab the Zombie Master and stab him in the back. Then I grabbed him by front of his head and tore the knife through his throat. I dropped body and it fell away, splashing blood and goo all over as it began to fall apart. I backed off so that the goo didn’t get on me. I started to look around and that was when the back of my head took a huge hit and things went black.
Jeanette was washing my face with a cloth when I regained consciousness. I looked around that the rather spare room and said, “Where are we?”
“I’m not sure. They put us in a truck without windows and drove for about an hour.”
“Grandmother is going to be pissed at me.”
“Why?”
“I left my gun with Jacques in the car. On the other hand, I did get the Necromancer.”
“Why did he just Change like that?”
“They do that when they encounter a powerful fae that they can’t compel or Turn. I was just above the threshold and thus immune. The important thing was that I needed to put him down as fast as possible once he Changed or it would have been very bad. So how did they get you? The bad guys all ran or became zombies.”
“There were more “bad guys” with your great aunt waiting around the corner and they grabbed me and sapped you.”
“What happened to the zombies?”
“I don’t know, but there was some shooting while we were being dragged away.”
“Hopefully Jacques could tell the people doing the shooting what they were dealing with. At least I did what I could.”
Jeanette slapped me, “Too much! I don’t think about what I would have done if lost you!”
“I didn’t want to risk you. I wanted at least one if us to get out.”
“We are together and we will face the challenges coming, together.” She kissed me.
“Has there been anybody to contact us?”
“Not yet. I think that somebody is watching us. The walls are shielded. As you can see, there is one window and it is barred and painted. It has been shut for a very long time. It opens to the inside in any case.”
“What did you see when they brought you in here?”
“Just an empty building. The truck was inside the building and the door closed when they took us out.”
“Clever. We don’t know where we are. The inside walls are shielded. I can’t phase very well and my aunt knows about that trick thanks to Aunt Stephie taking that picture. I suspect that we will be seeing her all too soon.”
Even as I was saying that, the door opened and she was there with a large woman who seemed to a Construct and felt a bit familiar. I said, ‘Hello aunt, I think that there are better ways to introduce yourself than kidnapping us.”
“Perhaps, but it will get certain people’s attention.”
“It will, if that is what you want. More people than you know, but that is your problem. In any case you know that you have about a week or so to resolve this.”
“Why a week?”
“Because once my grandmother hears about this, she is going to call everything in and that is how long it will take to get everything here.”
“What is everything?”
“I think that I will let you find out. That is if grandmother bothers. So far we’ve been doing fairly well.”
“I have you.”
“Because I was an idiot, made a mistake, left my pistol in the car and that thing of yours was an idiot and tried to Turn me and panicked when he couldn’t. Didn’t you know that that can happen?”
“I hadn’t seen it first hand. I thought that he would be strong enough to compel or Turn you slightly since you were so young.”
“If I hadn’t been bonded, there is a slight chance that he could have. On the other hand, my Uncle Tom wasn’t much older than I was and he forced the reaction. Once the reaction tripped I had to deal with your mess before it caused a much bigger mess. Who is this?”
“This is Rosa. She will be watching over you. I doubt that you can get past her. She has proven useful in the past.”
I switched to my rather poor German, “Guten Tag, Rosa. I think that I have met your brothers.”
“Those useless louts. They could not keep their Charge alive and cared for.”
“I wasn’t there, but my brother was and I have talked with your brothers since then. Your brothers tried. Trust me, they tried. They warned the Manager about my Uncle Tom. They warned everybody around the Manager. The Manager didn’t want to listen and sent them away to watch the indentured’s children. They liked doing that. In the end the thing that your brothers could not protect the Manager from was himself.”
Hannah said,“This is all very nice, but I must go. Rosa, you will make sure that these two don’t wander away.”
“Ya, I will.”
My aunt left and Rosa said, “It is dinner time and you are young, so why don’t I fix you something while you tell me about my lout brothers. I was perhaps mistaken a bit about them. It seemed strange that they would survive their Charge. I will be right back.”
She left and returned with dinner. As long as we didn’t make any moves to the door to the outside, Rosa turned out to be an insightful and wonderful woman. She laughed at the stories that I told about her brothers and the rest. She loved how Andy set off the exploding boats and the rest of it. “So my brothers were protecting the kinder from the Twisted?”
“Yes. My Aunt, after she had a discussion with the Manager, left her son, Andy, with your brothers while she did some shopping and some other things. That turned out to be good for my Aunt and bad for the Manager and his associates. Of course your brothers made sure that Andy was stocked up on trouble supplies and my Uncle had delivered a trouble package so that the boy could cause as much trouble as he wanted. My grandmother put a note in the package saying that Andy could be as bad as he wanted as long as he didn’t burn the house down.”
“So he is not a good boy?”
“He and his friends have earned themselves the title of “The Four Menaces.” My Uncle Boris is glad that three of them have bonded with mermaids and will be underwater for the next few years. Boats don’t work where we live and the tails need salt water, so they can’t stay too long.”
“What about the fourth kinder.”
“That would be Jimmy. He isn’t fae. At least if he is, his parents aren’t saying. On the other hand they seem to be rather active and young looking for grandparents. In any case, he hasn’t acquired a tail as yet.”
Rosa laughed. “So they are typical boys, then?”
“Yes, with a bunch of us older boys as rather bad examples.”
Jeanette laughed,“I haven’t found you to be a bad example, Tony. Rather the opposite.”
“You haven’t known me that long and I’ve been here most of that time. Also, after my brother and Scott, mother would have come down on me like a ton of bricks if I started after the Martin boys. Of course Ed has clamped down on the worst of them and the Martins are going to be family all too soon, so the opportunities for chaos are going to be rather limited.”
“The Martins are a fae family near you?” Rosa asked with a grin. “Fae families can do that. I was given to the family next to Lady Hannah’s who were always fighting with that family.”
I looked at Rosa, “Tell me more. My mother is Hannah’s sister and she hasn’t said a thing about any other families and the things that went on.”
Rosa did, and we had an enjoyable dinner. Unfortunately, Rosa was rather insistant that we return to our room afterwards, so we did without making a fuss. If she was a strong as Tony or Robert, I didn’t want get into a physical fight in any case. After she locked the door, I turned to Jeanette and said, “This won’t be easy. On the one hand, I have an obligation to escape and on the other hand, I don’t want to get you hurt or me hurt by trying to fight Rosa and even if I had a gun, I don’t really want to shoot her. But neither Hannah nor the Red Lady know much about me and they left my jacket. That was a mistake.”
“How so?”
“I can pick locks. Grandfather made sure that we had certain skills in case we were taken by things.”
“Do you think that you can get us out?”
“Probably, but Tony and Robert don’t sleep very much and I bet that Rosa doesn’t either. Picking old locks like these is going to make noise. I also want to get a better feel for what’s going on. Rosa is here for a reason and it probably involves family and something my aunt wants to hide from her employer and associates.”
“Are you sure?”
“No, but there must be something bigger than Hannah going after Grandmother. She pulled us here for something. She didn’t know that we were planning something on our own and that threw her off. If she was working for the Red Lady, why didn’t she go after Bill when he first started to go after the Red Lady’s Children. He had taken care of five before she even talked with her brother and Bill did one, essentially while she was there, or close by. Then she has that puppet made and fakes her death. In any case, let’s not rush into anything. If my aunt wanted us dead, we already would be. She brought John in and tried once and probably only brought that idiot Necromancer in as a last resort. If I had known that he would try what he did, I would have handed us over to Aunt to prevent that. If we get a chance, one of us should escape and let people know where we are, but I have a bunch of hostage responsibility to live up to. I need to be as good at it as Andy or I’ll never hear the end of it.”
Jeanette grinned. “We do, don’t we. Rosa is lucky that they didn’t take Andy. We will have to do at least that well. With that in mind, why don’t we get to bed and get some sleep.”
Sal.
Sunday December 3, 1932.
The Monaco people were very professional when they went over what had happened. Unfortunately Hannah was proving to be as good as people said she was and we didn’t have much to go on. The gang she hired’s boss was the first to be taken by the Zombie Master, his second had been the next and they had been the only ones at the meeting with Jean. We hadn’t tracked the second shark pod down yet and they had indeed fed on a couple last night. Sillia and Persai were dealing with the distraught parents, both seafolk and fishermen, this time. John thought that this Shark pod was operating out of Menton or Genoa, but finding the connection would take time and manpower looking into things. Time and manpower were things that we didn’t have. Gisselle’s aunt had disappeared and we suspected that she was indentured. I was going to have to look for a school. Jean, Bill, Leo and I were left with a big bunch of fog. The good news was that Tony and Jeanette were probably still alive.
On the other hand, Greta, Eric, Mary and Roger were flying down tomorrow and I had quite a few people on hand already. Hannah didn’t even know that Eli and Theresa existed, and we had been careful to keep contacts discreet. Other contacts I wanted to be out in the open and that was I was meeting with Monaco’s Chef of police, the head of security of the casino and Aristede De Le Mer. Since my French was rather poor in spite of the efforts of Sister Steam Locomotive, Jean was there to provide what translation that was necessary. My Japanese was actually better than my French thanks to have had Nanami and Misako at the beginning of the year. Sillia had actually been fluent in Japanese because of the way seafolk speech worked underwater and was fluent in several other languages as well as a result of the various groups that had moved to the bower. She was talking to the seafolk that had come forward when it was apparent that I was doing clean up. As I walked in with Jean Mr. De Le Mer, said, “Welcome. My English is probably not very good and I expect that your French isn’t either, so we can settle with Italian?”
“That will work. I am not a native but it was common enough in my old neighborhood.”
“So tell us how you ended up doing this work?”
“I had always wanted to be a police officer, unlike the other kids who went into other things. Still, most of the my friends didn’t hate me for that even when I busted them from time to time. I had one friend whose dad had become rather important in the business because of his underwater work and other connections that I didn’t know about at the time. That was Vinnie Caliabierti. He went into the business and became his dad’s troubleshooter. There were somethings that he couldn’t shoot. They were illegal and criminal though and he could discreetly make a call to me and we would set up to bust the places. After I made detective, Vinnie wanted me on the fast track to Lieutenant and we did a lot of cleanup. Too much, as it got noticed at headquarters as we made sure that the press knew what we were up to and we busted some people with clout for things that they couldn’t walk away from. Anyway, the higher ups at the Department made it clear that I should stop talking with certain friends and some toothy people took Vinnie and his girl off the beach, which nobody told me about. Then a bit later, I am following up a case when my partner and I get attacked by something that shouldn’t exist. Shortly after that, I get recruited by some people who will let me look for answers, I do some more work in the weird and the strange and during a case, my wife shows up and my current boss gets together with some people about me doing cleanup again. So here I am.”
“Your current boss must be fairly loose if he has you working with people in illegal businesses.”
“My current boss is more concerned with making sure that we don’t have monster issues than a little thing like some booze or gambling. Both my boss and father in law, along with some other people like it that way.”
“So why did you come here?”
“The Committee sent a proposal, my people liked it and so did my boss, so we made it happen. One thing we discovered last year was that the problems we had at home, started here, so dealing with certain things here keeps them away from us.”
“The Sharks, for instance?”
“Yes.”
I reached into my briefcase and pulled out the detailed version of the Shark report. This report had the things that Tim left out of his book, for weird and strange reasons. I handed it to De Le Mer. “This is the full report on the Sharks and the rest of it.”
“The things that were not in that interesting book that was released recently?”
“Yes. In fact both this report and the book came from the same person for the most part. He had to leave certain things out of his articles and the book.”
“Does he work for your mysterious boss?”
“No, actually. He actually works for his paper. But a tail flashed him when he was investigating, He was dropped into the middle of things and does additional work for my boss and some others. The tail is my sister.”
“Ah, so he knows you.”
“Yes.”
“Is the rest of your family so interesting?”
“My brother stays out of things, somewhat, and my parents try to be as discreet as they can and my other sister hasn’t gone Swimming yet. So I’m the odd duck right now.”
“I imagine that that will change.”
“I hope not, but I never expected what I am doing right now. Why don’t I go over what you should be looking for when Sharks are around and the rest of it.”
I went over how the Sharks needed a couple every three months and how they would take fae children if they needed a new recruit. De Le Mer said, “We have kidnappings from time to time, but nothing like what your young friend found.”
“That was because a friend of mine shot a pod to pieces to escape them. They were trying to rebuild the pod. They needed more than one child to do that and they kept going back to same neighborhood to take the kids.”
“So, if one place has repeated kidnappings, the Sharks may be involved.”
“Yes, but they may be spread out over a long period if the pod is just maintaining itself. The pod’s best protection is hiding itself. Once they become visible they become a lot less dangerous.”
The chef had information on local kidnappings and we started to look for a cluster. Jean said, “There should have been one recently. I think that the Sharks may have had a new recruit recently.”
There had been one last week at the fishmarket in Menton. In fact there were several cases of kidnapping over the last few years. All of which were families that would not be the kinds of families that would have their kids taken. I went over what they had and we found another club. I also had permission to pay a visit to a certain villa that had been rather suspicious. I shared with them some things that Eli and Theresa had given me that went beyond just suspicion. The chef looked at me and said, “How did you get this?”
“I can’t say. My source is very good and very discreet. They have a lot of practice and very reliable.”
De Le Mer said, “Are they available for hire?”
“Yes, you would have to make contact through the office in New York . I will let them know that you are interested. I do not know who most of their clients are, or their people here.”
“Very well. Do you have the address for New York?”
“That I can give you.”
I wrote the address for Eli and Theresa’s office down. That, at least was fairly public and Sarah handled the opening client negotiations in any case. I said to De Le Mer, “I hope that you understand that they vet their clients and the first thing they sell you is their results, on you. As I said, they are very good.”
“That is an interesting approach to that kind of work. I must pass this on to the prince. We are a very small country and having good resources outside, especially those that are discreet about a connection and reliable can be important. I am surprised that you would reveal so much.”
“I just gave you the office address. The woman that handles the office is very good at knowing how to handle potential customers and knowing how to spot trouble. “
“You have intrigued me, indeed.”
After the meeting, Jean and I met up with Bill and Hilda. Bill grinned as we walked up. “How did it go?”
“Why don’t you take the meeting the next time?”
“I’m just a stupid American farmer. Nobody, especially royalty takes me very seriously.”
“I think that people here are starting to take you very seriously indeed.”
“I imagine that the monsters are.”
“Any luck?”
“Not really,” Hilda said. “We did visit the fruit and vegetable markets and chase some stories down. There was a truck near where the kids were taken, but it was just a truck. We’ve been underestimating my aunt. That stops now.”
“Do you think that the kids are still alive?”
“If they were dead, the bodies would have been left. Aunt doesn’t bother trying to do sophisticated cleanups when the mess just helps her. Also, you can’t use dead people to get people to do things for you. On the other hand, keeping Tony will be tricky. Of course it could be worse for Hannah. She could have taken Andy.”
“She wouldn’t want to do that. First of all, Trillia wouldn’t like it. Second, Andy would and we all know what happened the last time.”
That brought laughter all around. Hilda continued, “Of course Tony knows that he’s going to have to live up to his brother’s and cousin’s reputations. If he can’t raise a little chaos, the family will be disappointed in him.”
We found a café and made some plans, especially for the place that I found and that was going to get Troubleshot this evening. We wouldn’t get the Sharks, but they would have a bit of difficulty finding recruits when the their recruitment office was shutdown. We had Stelios and his people for at least one more day and I wanted to make a statement that I wasn’t shutting down.
Greta.
Monday December 5, 1932.
When Eric and I got the news about Tony and Jeanette I was rathered annoyed about letting the kids get exposed like that. On the other hand, Tony could take care of himself. I was going to give him a hard time about not having a gun to hand when he needed it. That is if Roger or Mary didn’t do that first. I had planned to take the ferry across from Dover when George said, “Take the plane to Marseilles. The weather should be good enough to fly tomorrow and you can get to Marseilles faster than if you took the ferry and the train.”
Jim said, “Adelle and I will go with you and we’ll take these two troublemakers. They know Tony and Jeanette and can perhaps go places that we cannot. I wonder why your sister took those two. That would seem to be more trouble than it’s worth.”
“I don’t know. At this point the house is gone, my sister has failed to do much more than bother me, the keystones are gone and not coming back and my sister should know that the family is going to be on my side and not hers. It does seem a bit strange. According to Jean, he and my sister were supposed to be stopping Bill and Kitty. Kitty is about to arrive in New York with Boris and Stephie and stopping Bill is rather difficult. Lord knows, we’ve tried, haven’t we, Eric.”
“Very much so. I’ve tried, but if something shows up or if we even get word of a monster in the area, off he goes and deals with it. It was better after Hilda came, but she’s perfectly willing to go and help, so they both go off and deal with whatever. The only monster that Bill doesn’t molest is Ed and that’s because Ed hasn’t hurt anything and we know him. Anything really dark shows up and things happen.”
Flying, at least in an airplane, was a new experience for me. The plane was cold, but we wore coats, and noisy, with a lot of noise from the engines. The flight was interesting as we could see the French countryside that we had just driven through. The plane landed in Paris to refuel and exchange passengers and the mail and then started south to Lyon and then Marseilles. Roger was waiting with two cars when we landed and as were were driven to Jeanette’s parents’ villa I asked him, “So what happened?”
“Sal and Steve were cleaning up some Sharks here with Bill and Hilda and Tony and Jeanette went to investigate another Shark pod. You sister had talked with Sal and had tried for us in Genoa, but the people she had turned out to have a boss who was related to Noro’s family, so that fell flat. She had more people on hand, apparently and her boss sent two necromancers. One of them was with the gang that went after Tony and probably tried to turn him and when he couldn’t Turn or compel Tony, panicked, causing a mess. Jean, Andre and Jacques arrived just as the zombies were starting to make a bigger mess and shot the zombies. Tony knifed the Zombie Master, but was taken by Hannah’s people. We were sloppy.”
“I think that we all were. I wish that Tom were here, but even if he were to leave, he wouldn’t arrive until things were probably over, one way or another. Is there any sign of my sister, yesterday or today?”
“Not yet. She’s either waiting for you to show up or wants to make us sweat. Should we stop by the ship before it leaves. Etienne and Eloise are staying but the rest of the family is going, including Giselle and her parents.”
“So the Masters are losing their Creators. That will be hard on them. Would you and Mary be willing to pay a discreet visit to the French Witch’s home?”
“What are you thinking, mother?”
“I brought some of Bob and Scott’s jars and we haven’t had a chance to set them off. I really don’t want to bring them home with us.”
“We don’t, do we. We’ll have quite a baggage load going home in any case. May I have the little dragons?”
“I don’t think that Adelle will mind. I assume that you want Little Tiger and Jimmy as well.
“Altris’s boys too, but I will ask Steve about them. They did that Construct shoot with the rest of them and they know how to handle a bunch of them.”
“I think that that will keep the boys out of trouble.”
Tony.
Monday December 5, 1932.
Sunday had been rather boring. Since Jeanette and I had not joined, I couldn’t phase through the walls. I did discreetly try the lock and open the inner door at least, as well as showing Jeanette how it was done. If Rosa noticed when she brought the midday meal, she didn’t say anything. Frankly I expected that she thought that I would try something at some point, so I was going to take it slow and make sure that when the opportunity presented itself, that whatever I did would work. I asked Rosa, “If you were tied to the other family, how come you are working for my aunt?”
“My previous Charge was Gerhardt, the Lady’s bonded. He gave me to the Lady so that their kinder would be my new Charge.”
“The Manager didn’t do that. Of course he never bonded or had any children of his own. So Tony and Robert were stuck with him for far too long. The Manager never grew up and became very dark, but no brighter.”
I told Rosa about how the indentured had warned The Manager about us and the rest of the family and how the Manager had set the Sharks on my Uncle Tom after all the other things that the Manager sent had failed. Rosa looked at me and said, “The Sharks are only useful against seafolk, which you are not. So your Uncle bonded with a mermaid. That sounds wonderful. I hope that the Sharks did not take them.”
“My Uncle took the gun that he used to shoot my Uncle Brad and shot the Constructs and then pretty much all the Sharks when they showed up to put the bite on him.”
“He took a gun to his joining?”
“The previous day he and Chrissie had been on my Uncle’s boat doing rescue work during a storm. He lost a flashlight and wanted to figure out a way to attach a flashlight to a boathook so that he could use the hook with both hands and still have a light. The shotgun was the gun that my Uncle Brad brought back from the war and it had been modified by the military so that it had a bayonet lug attached. Uncle Tom used the bayonet lug and some pipe clamps to attach the flashlight to the gun and when Chrissie’s dad ran my uncle out to maroon him with Chrissie, Tom wanted to set up a bit of a camp, brought the flashlight with the gun still attached and when the Constructs showed up, shot them. The Sharks were shot later when they went after Chrissie.”
“Why didn’t they leave in the boat. That is, unless they couldn’t leave.”
“The tide was out and the boat was stuck. Uncle Tom fixed the boat, but the tide needed to come in before they could leave.”
“Why did they not Swim away?”
“Uncle Tom didn’t want to take the risk unless it was absolutely necessary. At the time, he didn’t know how many Sharks there were and what he was dealing with. So the boat was safer and faster than the Sharks as well as the boat is a retired rum runner and is a bit overpowered. Fun to run, though.”
“So what did your uncle do then?”
“Brought Chrissie back to the farm.”
“A mermaid? How did he manage that? Why did he do that?”
“He managed because we had been making arrangements for having Chrissie up for Christmas anyway. Bill found an old sugaring tank and we set it up as a bed for Chrissie. That worked out better than anybody figured it would.
As for why he did it, Uncle Tom had been collecting information on the operations of the Masters over where we live for along time and wanted to hand it over to the people who could use it. So he sent it down with the tank bed and some other stuff and went down to the Cape with my grandparents to meet with Chrissie’s parents. Of course the clowns tried to ambush Uncle Tom and Chrissie, which did not end well for their Necromancer. Chrissie’s dad does not like Necromancers.”
“Who does, filthy things.”
There was some banging on the ceiling and it sounded as if somebody was working on the roof. Rosa looked up. “They are here now. I must go. These workmen are a bother.”
She left and we put the dishes away. We explored the outer room a bit, but it was a storeroom that was pretty empty and the doors were all closed. The banging went on all day and when Rosa came with dinner, Jeanette said, “The workmen were doing a lot of work up there. Was the roof that bad?”
“This roof, no. It didn’t have any loose tiles. The others, were worse and we had some leaks. The gift could not have come at a better time.”
“So the new roof was a gift?”
“Yes from a strange American who apparently won a lot of money in the casino and didn’t want it.”
“That happens. Poppa has a list of places that need help. Taking large sums of money that you are not ready for can be a bother. I expect that the man had other funds and didn’t need the money. We have had some visitors like that recently.”
Jeanette told Rosa about the Troubleshooter and how the Committee had called him in to do some clean up. Rosa said, “That will make me happy. I was concerned with some of the things that might go after the kinder. Having those places closed will make my situation much easier. Since dinner is over, I think that you should go back to your room.”
After Rosa left, Jeanette said, “That was a rather interesting day, after all. I know we are now.”
“Where?”
“The school, Saint Catherine’s Of The Waters. I went here when I was younger for a time until my father became concerned and brought in tutors.”
“Your local vampire?”
“Yes.”
“I am surprised that the sisters let you go to the school. The Church supposedly considers the fae anathema.”
“They did in the past. A healthy dose of being persecuted themselves like they were in the last century during the Revolution cured that somewhat. The sisters were exiled around the turn of the century this century and came back. That is one reason that the buildings are so dilapidated.”
“So now that we know, what do we do about it?”
“I want to know more about why Rosa is here. I think that you are right and your aunt brought us here for a reason. It may be that it was the fact that Rosa was available, but I don’t remember her when I was going to school here, so she hasn’t been here for very long. She is also obviously not a sister, so how that arrangement works is a bit interesting.”
“Rosa can certainly protect the children, especially the fae children. Tony and Robert do that very well.”
“Did your aunt have any children?”
“Not that I heard. This whole thing is strange.”
Paulo.
Tuesday December 6, 1932.
It was time for departure again. The passenger list had changed a bit and we had Etienne’s family and some others rather than Steve and his people. Nanami and Haruka were going with us. It was a good thing that Leo and Steve were not, as Phillip had somehow become attached to Brigitte’s sister, who was also making the voyage with us. Persai liked Marie already and she wanted to bring Marie back to meet the rest of the family. I just hoped that Marie and her parents wouldn’t be overwhelmed by our rather extended family and friends.
Captain Boullard, our pilot today came out to the bridge wing and said, “Captain, I hope that you and your wonderful wife have an easy voyage.”
“Not this time of year, but that is the price we pay for our South Seas voyage earlier. At least my passengers will actually enjoy the bad weather for the most part.”
“They must be very strange passengers then.”
“It is work for them. They are taking samples for the institute at home. So this is a scientific expedition for them and bad weather actually works better.”
“Ah, I see. Well then, we must get them to their work.”
“For the next ten days or so. I think that they enjoyed their little trip here.”
The departure was routine and soon after we were on our way. I just hoped that the rest were going to return as well.
The adventure had been fun though and Eric and Greta could handle Greta’s sister.
Jean.
Tuesday December 6, 1932.
I was at my sister’s waiting for Bill and Hilda to return when a telegram came in. It asked me to go to a certain café on the boulevard in Nice and it was signed “H.” Andre was going to cover me and I didn’t want to mess things up. Of course the meeting was going to have some extra people, but I expected that Hannah would expect that she would be tailed. When I arrived at the café, she was alone. I sat down and said, “My sister is rather put out with you.”
“I can imagine. The kids are fine, for now. I have somebody very good watching over them. Don’t bother tailing me, because I won’t be going near them.”
“So what do you want?”
“Me? I don’t want anything. Our bosses want the Hunter and the Cat. At least the Red Lady does. The witch wants the Troubleshooter to go away.”
“He has a new client thanks to your little thing in Monaco the other day.”
“That wasn’t supposed to happen. That idiot Necromancer went over the line of what I intended and tried to Turn the boy, hoping to make him a Necromancer. But he’s already bonded and the idiot panicked and Changed.”
“I know. I arrived right after the mess started.”
“So you dealt with the zombies. I wondered who reacted so fast.”
“As for the Cat, she already left the continent some time ago.”
“With the stones and the contents of my house.”
“I don’t know who the stones ended up with. As for the contents of the house, you will have to ask you sister about that.”
“I will, when she arrives, probably tomorrow.”
“You don’t have to wait!”
Greta and Eric had been sitting there rather discreetly the entire time. Greta continued, “Sister, you didn’t have to play those games. In any case the contents of the house are gone. If you want your things, you can come to the States and we can discuss them. As for the stones, they are somebody else’s responsibility.”
Hannah looked rather frightened seeing her sister face to face. “As for the kids, I really would return them before things get going. Certainly before Tom decides to come over and play.”
“I don’t think that I will worry too much about that. Tom has two new babies to deal with.”
“So you have been keeping up.”
“The birth announcement was in the paper, which was a bit of a surprise.”
“Not really. In any case, what are your formal demands for the return of Tony and Jeanette?”
“That Bill cease his activities and that the Troubleshooter go home.”
“Bill has sort of run out of your lady’s children at the moment and we don’t want him just going off and just destroying vampire nests like that. You lady had them all there, not really trying to hide and none of them actually tried to take a vacation. Once Bill had his little list, what happened was rather inevitable. If your lady thinks that hurting the kids is going to stop him, you don’t know him at all. If the kids were to die, he probably won’t leave until all the Twisted on the continent are gone and I would have no reason to ask him to stay his hand.
As for the Witch, Sal really doesn’t like the kind of places that he deals with and some family members will give him a large bonus if he actually manages to destroy the Shark Change permanently. On the other hand I suspect that he is probably done with his contract. So he should be getting ready to leave unless there is a reason such as a family kidnapping to keep him here. In any case, we are planning to stay through next week. Since you want to play, that is what Eric and I will do. I’m sure that we will enjoy ourselves, but your employers won’t.”
Hannah said, “I think that I will take my leave. I will let my employers know what you said.”
“By the way, I would tell your other Necromancer friend to stay clear of this for Peacekeeper issues. His son is here and will probably make sure that your friend has an accident just to make sure that his father doesn’t want to make a business trip when he hears about your friend.”
Hannah got up and left and I said, “That was a bit rough for somebody with Hannah’s reputation.”
“We have practice,” Eric said. “If you let them run things it lets them be in control and that can lead to making poor decisions all the way around. So in the beginning, we play hardball. Of course Tony will be taking steps to let us know where he is. That is unless whoever is holding him is very good indeed or there are other reasons. For that matter, I wonder what Hannah really wants. She brought us over here for something.”
“To try to kill Greta.”
“Why? For that matter, she’s been trying that for some time and had to know that trying that wasn’t going to be easy. We were so focused on what we were doing that we weren’t paying attention to what Hannah was doing. She staged her death, knowing that it would attract our attention, kept going back to the rest of the family so that we would probably find them and then takes Tony and Jeanette hostage so that we stay rather than leave. As for killing Greta, she hasn’t tried to kill any of us. Even after we took the keystones. She just admitted that the Necromancer was an accident and she was telling the truth. I suspect that she could put something together if she really wanted to kill us. Certainly she has done that to others.”
“True, she has. So what will you do now?”
“Mary and Roger will entertain themselves,” Greta said. “Hannah is lucky that this is Larry’s busy season or he would already be on his way. He and Theresa are going to be upset that they missed a chance to play.”
“You don’t seem to be taking this seriously.”
“We are, Jean. Trust me, we are. But I suspect that the other side is watching us and if they see us not taking them seriously, they will get more aggressive and make mistakes. Since we don’t know where Tony and Jeanette are right now, mistakes are what we want. Why don’t we head back to your sister’s?”

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