The Golden Butterfly, Chapter 41, Part 2

Here’s part 2 of Chapter 41.

Tony.
Tuesday December 6, 1932.
After breakfast things got a bit interesting. There was quite a bit of noise that was rather familiar as well as some cursing in French added to the construction noise and when Rosa brought lunch, she was a bit flustered. Jeanette asked her, “So what is going on?”
“The girls are making trouble. If I find the man who wrote that horrible book I will give him a talking to.”
I laughed. “So the girls got their hands on a copy of my uncle’s little book?”
“Why did he create that devil’s work?”
“My Aunt Stephie and playing games. You are lucky and the best stuff isn’t in that book. The new books I am not so sure about, as he was finishing them up when we left. On the other hand the best stuff requires access to a real shop, so the girls can’t actually do that.”
“Thank god.”
“How many girls are involved? You can tell them that if they make new things I will give the best tricks to my uncle for the next book.”
“YOU WOULDN’T! If I tell them that, who knows what they will come up with?”
“Since Uncle Tom lives in America, the tricks would be somebody else’s problem. You aren’t the only one in any case that thinks that that book should have never made the light of day.”
I told Rosa about Tochi and what had happened with the kids for Christmas last year. “We older kids stayed away at first, but the younger kids had a blast. Of course, my brother and my cousin did their number on the Christmas parade just before the Olympics last year. That was a lot of fun.”
“Why did they do that?”
“My cousin bonded with the king over there’s granddaughter and they wanted to make it public in the most visible way possible. They achieved that. It was a lot of fun to watch. It did have consequences , but Jacob did ask for it by saying that my brother and cousin were such good boys.”
“They are not?”
“This year they have been, somewhat, because they are both starting college and have bondeds. Last Christmas was their big chance and they took it. The parade was a masterpiece. The problem is that they will have to come up with something bigger and everybody is watching for what they come up with.”
“Since lunch is over, I must go back to keeping some girls out some workmen’s way.”
She left again and Jeanette and I started to poke around a bit. We found some stairs that we hadn’t seen yesterday and Jeanette said, “Going up there would probably be interesting, but rather dirty and we do not have spare clothes. I don’t want to be obviously dirty unless we have a good excuse.”
“I can agree with that. At some point we will have to see if we can escape or talk with somebody, but I don’t want to be too obvious about what we are up to.”
Just as I said that, there was a crash and a voice cried out in French , “Ouch! Liselle I’m stuck!”
“Gretel, I’ll go get Rosa!”
“Don’t! We aren’t supposed to be hiding here.”
I turned to Jeanette and said, “I think that we have our reason. I’m going up.”
“Be careful!”
“Trust me, I will be. We had an old barn that was dilapidated and rotten and we kids were always in there. The last thing we wanted to was to get caught by hurting ourselves. Let me see what is going on. Keep an eye out for Rosa. If she does show up, explain. I am smaller than she is anyway, so I can handle this better.”
I went slowly up the stairs and scanned around. There were two girls of about fourteen next to a window that was open. A board had cracked and one of the girl’s shoes was caught. I looked at the floor, made note of the wooden pins that held the floor down and walked along the edge until I got to the window. I put my finger to my lips and said, “Let me get you out of that.”
I carefully reached down and pulled the girl’s leg and shoe out of the broken floor plank. “There. You are out.”
“Merci Monsieur. Who are you?”
“ A friend. I think that you should go before Rosa finds you.”
Liselle said, “Let’s go, Gretel. He’s right. We don’t want Rosa to catch us.”
The girls left through the window and I made my way back to the stairs. Jeanette was waiting at the top and said, “Why didn’t you tell them that we are being held captive?”
“Because I resonated with Gretel and a bunch of things have become rather clear and we will want to be discreet about certain things.”
“The girl is Hannah’s daughter? How did that happen? She can’t be more than fourteen.”
“My aunt does have a bit of a reputation for certain things and at a guess, did some horizontal dancing with a high fae man, probably during the war and he may have been killed, maybe by the Colonel. She hid the child somehow and has Rosa watching her. That would explain why she may have known about the diary and why she told the Colonel about it, or told the Chancellor, who told the Colonel about it.”
“Do you think that we will see her again?”
“I’m sure of that. If for no other reason than she will want to know who I am. I think that as far as she knows, the only family she has is her mother.”
“I think so too, simply because we are a mystery. I even sort of know the girl. I don’t know if she saw me though.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Rosa came back with dinner and noticed how dirty I was. She said, “Perhaps I should lock you in the room.”
“We heard a noise upstairs and Tony wanted to make sure that things were ok.” Jeanette replied. “Neither of us can fly in our change, so we could hardly fly out the window.”
“What was the noise?”
“I’m not sure, “I said “Whatever it was, it was gone by the time I got up the stairs. It may have been a cat.”
Rosa smiled. “That is possible. Certainly we have cats here. Cats that like to get into things. Along with other things that like to get into things they shouldn’t. Let’s have dinner.”
After dinner, we were locked in the room again. At least we were closer to an answer.
Stephie.
Wedenesday December 7, 1932.
I suppose it was inevitable. I got stuck in customs again. The inventory from the house was rather mind boggling, but at least it was cataloged and known property. The mess up was a painting that mother had apparently purchased in Paris when she visited as a teenager just before she came to the states. The painting had come from a starving artist that she had run into and bought the painting from. The artist turned out be rather more notorious after his death. So there I was, inadvertently trying to pass a Van Gogh through customs as just a painting because I had not known what it was. Fortunately it wasn’t as bad as the royal and I got the thing packed up and on its way home with the rest of it. The chests with the keystones were ignored. When I finally emerged, Kitty was laughing at me. I looked at her and said, “Why didn’t you help me with that?”
“If I had tried, the customs people would have thought that you had stolen it, or worse, had me steal it.”
“Mother didn’t even put it on the inventory. I shudder to think that the rest of the paintings she had in her room are the same way.”
“They probably are, but that Van Gogh was the one that caught the agent’s eye.”
“I wish that it had caught mine. But I’m not exactly a student of art and didn’t think about it. It looked rather childish, frankly.”
“That is the secret. If I need to impress somebody, I’ll borrow it.”
Josh found us and said, “I have bad news. Tony and Jeanette were kidnapped Saturday in Monaco.”
“My aunt got her act together at last. How did she manage that? Tony wasn’t exactly an easy target.”
“She used a Necromancer. Tony was dealing with that when he was taken. At least that was what your mother’s message said. He wasn’t carrying a gun because he had taken it off earlier. So what was the hold up?”
“A Van Gogh that mother bought because she was sympathetic. At least the rest of the big ticket items can be mother’s responsibility”
“Did you get the stones?”
“Without too much trouble. Steve gave me a report for Helmut, the Admiral and you.”
“And the rest of it?”
“The dragons kept the Nazi types secure in the inn. They never saw the people or the trucks. Of course the trucks were nearby for company reasons.”
“We did divert some resources, didn’t we. By the way, Steve stayed until the kids are freed. Stelios and his people too, but he’s going to be in real trouble with a bunch of relatives if he gets tied up too long.”
“He won’t be. If Tony can’t attract attention, I will be remarkably surprised. So why are you here?”
“Tom and Chrissie are showing Brad and Lili around. Mera gets to be grandma. Mike and Nera are showing Ed around as well.”
“So we have babies. Wonderful.”
“Not if you have to share a house with them.”
“Things will get better. The first few months are the hardest.”
“At least they are not on a small one room barge shed.”
“Where is my brother?”
“At the office. The work hasn’t stopped. How did things go on the South Coast?”
“Very well. I didn’t get to go down there, but Hilda and Bill were happy. I don’t know how sales will work out, but Jeanette’s parents and some others are already looking to open contacts.”
“Good. Why don’t we get the things on their way and the rest of us to dinner. Which are the important chests?”
“Those three. Those go with us to the office.”
The three chests were loaded and we drove to the office behind the truck and the bureau people unloaded them and took them upstairs. When the chests were set down in the office, I took the special keys that Tom had made for the chests and unlocked them. Mary opened them and said, “This is wonderful. We have the communities of so many here. This is a true treasure.” She turned to Kitty and ‘Hǔ and said, “Dears, you have done a truly great thing. Did it go well?”
“Very well. We were able to get in and out without any problems. The shields were flimsy and they didn’t even take serious precautions when Stephie told them that we were probably going to hit the place.”
“It’s time to celebrate, so why don’t we go down to Bennie’s and tell everybody what you all did.”
Both Chrissie and Nera had brought their babies with them, but they slept through dinner other than getting their meals from their mothers. The rest of us had a wonderful time.
Mary.
Wednesday December 6, 1932.
Roger and I typically didn’t make a big splash, but the Witch needed a wake up and we were making sure that she got one. She was currently residing in a chateau in Normandy. I wasn’t planning to demolish it, but I was going to make a bit of a splash. The Twisted on guard hadn’t even noticed when David and Mike painted the stripe down road to the gate and put the circles in so that the path for the constructs went right up to the gate. Roger had done some looking around and found two old bulls and some hogs that we were going to turn into the Constructs that were the first wave. The second wave was going to use some foxes and rabbits. The boys had some sign boards ready, but I had turned these signboards into booms. When the Costructs hit anything, the results were going to be explosive. In any case it was just after dawn and time to wake some people, if we could use the term loosely, up. I turned to the boys and said, “Let’s get started.”
The bosystarted the constructs and froze them while we put the harnesses over them and then let the entire lot go. The Constructs started to march up the road as we took the car and drove up to the inn that we had been staying in, that was across the road from the chateau. The first minotaur reached the gate and the gate guards pulled out halberds, of all things, to try to stop it. They were rewarded by the Costruct more or less ignoring them and walking right up to the gate where the charge that I had put on the Construct went off, throwing the gate sideways in a cloud of dust. The guards ran as the second Minotaur hit the other gate and exploded and the rest of the Constructs, all eight of them marched their way into the gardens beyond and the frantic guards were trying to decide if they should attack the Constructs or run. The various timers that I had constructed made the decision for them as the clocks ran down and the bombs went off. Roger was running a movie camera that we had purchased in Germany and said, “I needed to get this for the family. They are going to love this, especially the boys.”
A bit later, the two dragons appeared. Ming said, “We left the note, Aunt Mary.”
“Since when am I your aunt?”
“Aren’t you sort of an aunt?”
“Did you leave the box?”
“They should be getting the bang right about now.”
In the photographs that Eli and Theresa had taken there had been a wooden box in the lady’s recieving room. The contents of the box had turned out to be a devise that probably was the one that they were trading to the Tiger for the werewolves.The dragons had removed the contents and left a surprise. One of my better works as getting the energy just right so that the box came apart, but the room didn’t had been more than a little tricky. In any case there was a Whump! as the charge went off. Roger put the camera back in it’s case and said, That is that. Why don’t we start getting ready to go?”
We did and met up with my uncle and his family for breakfast. Gert said, “Thank you for inviting me to this.”
“Mother thought that you might enjoy it. The guards didn’t shoot the Constructs like I wanted.”
“I think that the Witch doesn’t understand guns. The Red Lady was better, but I think that was my sister’s influence. It was fun anyway.”
“Are you going to have any problems getting Tom’s gun done on time,” Roger asked.
“No, because Whilhelm has it for engraving. Since the engraving is actually rather understated for a gun like that, it should be done with no real problems.”
“Guns with a lot of flash get laughed at where we live. So understated is a good thing.”
“Whilhelm was a bit disappointed.”
Breakfast service was a bit slow and the innkeeper apologized. “The excitement was too much for the kitchen staff. I expect that meal will be slow all day today.”
“That was exciting, wasn’t it?” Roger said. “What ever it was woke me up. They must have had a gas explosion or something.”
“The police will investigate, I think, though the lady is very private. She may just tell the police to ignore what happened and go on. I hope that the rest of your trip is more peaceful.”
“We have three young men and a young lady with us. Peaceful is not what a trip is.”
The various young men and lady just mentioned all grinned at me. David said, “Is that a challenge?”
“No, unless you want me to saddle you with my kids when you get back.”
The kids laughed. David said, “I think that we will restrain ourselves.”
“Good idea,” Mary said. “We don’t want any problems next summer, do we?”
“For that matter, you boys are probably going to want jobs at the inn next year and dealing with our kids comes with the territory.”
“We are all going to college, but you’re right. So we will not be too chaotic. At least on you.”
We bantered about as we all got into the cars and drove off, leaving some mystified villagers and a rather chaotic chateau.
Tony.
Wednesday December 6, 1932.
After breakfast the noise from the construction started, the bangs from the various Tom gags started and Rosa said, “If I let you loose will you make your Uncle’s life miserable?”
“I doubt that I could. His wife just had twins.”
Rosa put hand to her mouth and started to laugh. “Underwater?”
“No, so we are going to have them inflicted upon us, plus some others that are coming along. In any case, Uncle Tom is going to be losing enough sleep as it is.”
“I think that I need to chase some girls for the sisters. They are having a bit too much fun.”
Send them here and I will show them how it is supposed to work. If they get be too much we can send the girls to my Aunt Stephie. On the other hand, she would point them at Uncle Tom and you don’t want to know what he did last Christmas.”
“Does it involve that book?”
“Yes, and a bunch of kids, most of whom were fae, so you can imagine what our year has been like at home. Of course Uncle Tom and Chrissie live on Cape Cod, in New York and visited Japan for a month, so he was safe.”
Rosa laughed and left. As short time later, there was some noise upstairs and I went to the top of the stairs to see what was happening. The two girls were retracing my steps from yesterday rather carefully if a bit more noisily than I did. Gretel saw me and waved to Liselle. They walked over to the top of the stairs and when they reached the top and me, Gretal said, “Bonjour. We wanted to say merci for saving us yesterday and for not telling Rosa about it. We also want to know why you are hiding here.”
“Who said that we are hiding? We could be prisoners. Why don’t we go downstairs and have a chat?”
The girls followed me down and Jeanette said, “I am Jeanette. I think that I know you, somewhat.”
Gretel said,“You were here some years ago, no?”
“Yes.”
“So how did you meet this boy?” Liselle said.
“My parents sent me to America to be with my Uncle, I went to a horse show and his niece was competing. I went to find out where her horse came from and there was Tony.”
“Why did your parents send you to America?”
“So that I could meet somebody like Tony. It worked.”
“So why are you back?”
“So that Tony’s family could meet my family and we could help Tony’s family deal with a their house in Germany. They needed to clean it out.”
Gretel frowned. “Like my mama’s house?”
“What happened to your mama’s house.”
“She wasn’t living there and the rest of the family came and took everything away. That was not supposed to happen.”
I laughed. “Gretel, your mom faked her own death to get her sister, who happens to be my grandmother, over here to deal with the house. Then her friend made a perfect jackass out of himself with my aunt, who was supposed to deal with things and that brought grandmother over. If you mother had been the least bit reasonable, none of that would have happened. Frankly, the house should have been dealt with a long time ago, but your mom made sure that most of the family didn’t talk with each other and we in America didn’t know what was going on until your mother started this.”
“Mama does get carried away. She doesn’t like your grandmother, at all.”
‘We sort of figured that out. She is having Rosa keep us prisoner because of that.”
“So that is why you are staying. Rosa isn’t that bad.”
“True, but we want to find out what is really going on, especially about you. So we haven’t pushed Rosa. We don’t want you and the other girls getting hurt because there was a big fight with Rosa and we don’t want to hurt Rosa either. This fight is between my grandmother and your mom.”
Liselle said, “Where do you live in America.”
“On a farm in Vermont.”
“So you are peasants?”
“Not really. My uncle, for instance, just spent a month living in the Imperial place in Japan.”
“You are making that up!”
“I’m not. We had the prince and his wife at the farm last Christmas. Their kids came up a bit for the summer and I took the boys shooting. I can’t show you the pictures because grandmother has them. When this is over, I will show you the pictures.”
“You promise.”
“Yes. The noise seems to have quieted down and I expect that Rosa or your teacher will be looking for you, so I think that you better go.”
The girls left again. Jeanette said, “You didn’t hesitate to tell Gretel about your mother.”
“I figured that she knew some of it already. I’m not surprised that Aunt Hannah is upset that grandmother cleaned out the house, but it was her own fault. On the other hand, the house would have needed to be dealt with with those Nazi characters in charge and this way grandmother can handle things the way she wants.”
“Why didn’t you tell the girl to call the police?”
“That would have been the easy way out. It also may attract attention that Hannah doesn’t want attracted to her daughter. Hannah could have found any number of places to stash us and she stashes us here. She had a reason and I want to know what it is before making an overt move. On the other hand, I think that I will check out that window this evening. I wish that my Change were more like dad’s and not mom’s.”
“I like your foxy good looks. They are like mine.”
“But dad can fly. So can Bob. In any case, I think that I will do some sniffing around this evening. We’ve been here long enough that Rosa will probably not be as jumpy.”
“Here she is with lunch, so we will find out, somewhat.”
Rosa came in with lunch and said, “Did you two have visitors?”
“Why would we have visitors?”
“Because two girls that should know better were missing for the better part of an hour this morning.”
I turned to Jeanette and said, “Jeanette, was that who visited us? Rosa, since you are probably as good about such things as your brother, yes, two girls, including my cousin, did visit us this morning. Since Gretel is obviously your Charge and the reason that you are here, I will tell you that we did not make a big deal about why we are here and want as much as you and my aunt to keep things discreet. How about I make a deal with you that if we make an escape attempt, it must not involve the girls or attracting the attention of certain parties in any way. Frankly, the conflict is between my aunt and my grandmother and I wish that Aunt Hannah had invoked family rules before starting all this.”
“What are family rules?”
“This didn’t start with our family. Chrissie’s grandfather started it, but grandfather and our family have made it a rule as well. The rule is fairly simple. If a family member wants to go after another family member, my Aunt Stephie and Uncle Tom, for instance, and recruits additional family members, say my Aunt Hilda, and their kids, then the other family member can recruit anybody they want until the sides are equal. In a conflict between Chrissie, Tom and an adversary known as the Tiger, Tom and Chrissie recruited a bunch of family members. Then the Tiger’s son bonded with a family member and she invoked family rules. So the Tiger could recruit all sorts of family to balance things out.”
“How did it work out?”
“The Tiger got into the family vault, my Aunt Stephie had a two week long birthday present and the fun was incredible. But that is how family rules work. Unfortunately, my aunt made it an actual battle and raised the stakes, which means that most of the family is going after her and they think that my aunt will try to kill them during this thing. Of course, at this point, Aunt hasn’t actually even hurt anybody, but she has her reputation.”
“She hasn’t, has she,” Jeanette said. “At least not family. There were those people that were killed by the Necromancer while she was taking us, but that was that idiot Necromancer’s fault more than it was your aunt’s. He tried to Take you and when he failed, panicked. That caused the mess.”
“I see that those family rules are a good way to keep things from getting out of hand. I wish that somebody had come up with those a long time ago.”
“The king of the Cape bower family came up with them after his son in law and the rest of his family had some arguments after the son in law and the king’s daughter bonded. That caused quite a bit of strife in the family. So family rules kept things in control. The other big rule is that family fights can’t involve the business.”
“That family sounds as if they enjoy their fun and games a bit much.”
“You have no idea. Two of the sisters played a game on each other for over thirty years. But they are fun.”
“What is the king like? Is he very strict?”
I started to laugh. I couldn’t help myself. Jeanette did as well. When I could finally stop, I said, “The man is the biggest trickster ever. Some people, and they were there, said that he was responsible for the American Revolution and it started as a joke. If he gets involved, watch out.”
“I think that I will tell the girls that they can visit, since they will anyway.”
Jeanette laughed. “Is that normal for those two?”
“Oh,yes. When they are not cooking up trouble, they are poking their noses in things that they shouldn’t.”
“Since I don’t have a copy of the book, I won’t give them one. If they run into grandmother, she will.”
“Too late. Some girl managed to sneak a copy in here.”
“Your lucky that your brother hasn’t discovered these girls yet. He knows my uncle, keeps a stack of the book handy and is always teaching the kids more fun stuff.”
“If we run into him, I will tell him that he shouldn’t be doing that.”
Jeanette laughed. “Rosa, if the Japanese prince couldn’t convince those two, you probably can’t.”
“The Japanese prince is not my brother’s sister. They will at least have to listen to me.”
“They may listen, but they probably won’t change very much. On the other hand, when this is over, I will give you the prince’s address and you can talk to his wife.”
Jeanette said, “Be very careful when you do that.”
“Jeanette, you have never met Suki.”
“No, but your grandmother and just everybody else was talking about her. All of which were rather interesting. On the othe hand, she won’t have any problem with Rosa.”
After lunch was over, Rosa left and we occupied ourselves with straightening things up and poking around again. We even found an old rusty musket from early in the last century. I said to Jeanette, “This is more dangerous to us than anybody we could point it at.”
“Why”
“It might be loaded and with a barrel this dirty and rusty, there is no way that I would ever try to find that out by firing it. We ran into some muskets like this at the farm and they can be bad news. In fact, that was why grandfather sent my dad to gunsmithing school after they had some near accidents. An old muzzleloader like this may have been loaded at some point and then put away, loaded, without any powder in the pan. But if somebody comes along, loads it and fills the pan, you have a double charged gun that could be weak and could blow up in the shooter’s face. So the rule in our family is to always consider these things loaded and dangerous until you take it apart and clear the barrel. I don’t have any tools, so let’s just put this away and don’t mention it right now.”
“Ok.”
We put the musket away. It was probably here because of Napoleon and some soldier wanting sanctuary at the convent and the sisters putting the gun away and forgetting about it. We actually found the more or less rotted remains of the soldier’s uniform coat as well. We put that back and continued to go through the things that had been left over the years. Around about four or so the door lock rattled, the door opened and we had a group of young visitors. Jeanette grinned and said, “Gretel, you brought some friends!”
“Well Rosa said that your uncle was the man who wrote the book, so we wanted to talk to you about it?”
I said, “So Rosa said that? That’s one way to distract me. Did you bring some pencils and paper?”
“Why?”
“Because there are no tools here and anyway, my Uncle says that you should always start with pencil and paper when coming up with an idea.”
“He would say that, he is an adult.”
“He was taught that when he was your age. That was where the book came from.”
“The drawings in the book are too nice for a kid.”
“The publisher had an artist improve them. He made them nicer, but Uncle Tom learned to draw and make things from our neighbor. The neighbor also sold my uncle his shop when he got sick. In any case, my uncle has always made a drawing of whatever he does. There should be some new ones if the new book.”
“There is a new book!?”
That made for a bunch of happy girls.
“Yes. I don’t know if the French edition has been arranged but my uncle’s people were working on the end when I came to France and he did a lot of things for my aunt Stephie as well as having classes where he lives. So yes, there will be a new book.”
Liselle asked, “You didn’t say why you were here before, are you really prisoners or hiding?”
“It is a bit of some and some of the other. Gretel’s mom did go overboard and bring us here, but Jeanette and I think that Gretel’s mom may have had reason beyond the family battles. So we are staying for the time being. Also, having us hidden away helps Rosa protect Gretel and the rest of you and I suspect that Gretel’s mother wants that protection for Gretel and the rest of you right now. Gretel’s mom may not like my grandmother very much, though considering what our family is like, that may be posturing more than anything else, but I think she knows somewhat how capable we can be.”
“Why haven’t you left?”
“Because Rosa would feel obliged to try to stop us, and we might get hurt or Rosa might get hurt. Then there are you kids and what I expect is going on. In any case I made a promise to Rosa that whatever we do, it will not involve you all. So please, don’t do anything to ‘help’ us without discussing it with us first. Don’t go to the police and say that we are being held here, for instance. We want to keep things discreet and keep eyes that might want you girls away from this place.”
“What if we were to get the Troubleshooter here?”
The girls all looked excited at that idea. I laughed and said, “I don’t think that the sisters will want this place to be seen as trouble to be shot, even if you think that they may deserve it. If Sal shows up on his own, tell me and I will talk with him, discreetly. Of course he might bring Rosa’s brother. Do you really want another one watching you like that?”
“Rosa is bad enough, all by herself.” Gretel said. “Nobody said that she has brothers.”
“She does, and they are all a lot like her, but fun too. He probably won’t be as strict as Rosa. But he does have other kids to look after. Why don’t you go and get some paper, pencils and your books and I will show how my Uncle Tom does things.”
There was a bit of a discussion and one of the girls ran off and returned with pencils, paper and two copies of the book. I got started showing the girls how some of the more interesting things worked. The girls were impressed. Jeanette was laughing and said as dinner approached, “You have had practice.”
“There was a copy of the book in the shop and my brother found it about four years ago now. We boys and most of the girls knew how to do most of the things simply because they had been passed down, kid to kid, but seeing it all in the book was a bit amazing. There are various copies all over the place because the book was copied in a print shop or by hand off and on. The thing is that we kids were supposed to stay away from my uncle for various reasons and we didn’t tell him that we were interested in the things in the book, so he just started to do gun work and farm repair.”
The girls left before Rosa brought dinner in and she said, “Merci for taking the girls like that. They are our worst troublemakers.”
“Who, other than Gretel and Lisette are fae?”
“All of them. Some have lost one parent or both. We have many girls here who are hiding secrets.”
“Tails as well,” Jeanette said. “My brother bonded with one and it was obvious that there were more. At least the vampires met Bill and the Sharks were troubleshot.”
“Speaking about that,” I said, “If Sal does show up, tell me and I will explain things and give him a wave off. If it were just my aunt,it would be one thing, but these girls will be terribly exposed and there are a lot of hungry predators out there. How many girls did you lose to that vampire that was here?”
“Some. That was sort of inevitable even if I didn’t like it. Some girls like Jeanette here went home at night and others, especially as they get older, go out shopping and other chores. They would get taken and we would call the police. But there was little that they could do and I did not have the resources to deal with the vampire myself and milady could not. When the opportunity presents itself, I want to thank that man and his wife.”
“Not wife precisely, but yes. Of course mother was a bit miffed at the vampire lady. We were hoping that Bill and Hilda would have a nice easy time with Jeanette’s parents and that idiot vampire lady takes the girl who just bonded with Jeanette’s brother right in front of Bill. Couldn’t the lady have hid until he was gone?”
“You don’t want the vampires destroyed?”
“We don’t want Bill doing it. He likes it just a bit much and there is always the possibility that he might slip up and get hurt. We need him at home and he has other obligations. When it’s a vampire nest from time to time or a travelling family, it’s one thing, but vampires that can’t even figure out that he might show up after he already had taken care of five nests already? The red lady needs smarter children.”
“He shot the Colonel as well.”
“That was a late Christmas present from grandfather after the thing with the Manager and my aunts dealing with that. My grandfather and Bill made a bet that the Colonel, in Change, with his Monster wouldn’t even be able to scratch grandfather and that grandfather could set up the shot for Bill while Bill was standing in the same place the entire time. Grandfather wanted Bill to take the shot so that my Uncle Tom wouldn’t. Uncle Tom was on the Path of Sacrifice with the Colonel at the end of it and grandfather didn’t want to have the other Masters going after Uncle Tom and setting him off again.”
“The Path can be a terrible thing. So why was your uncle on the Path.”
“Because he had to shoot my Uncle Brad because he was a werewolf and his monster had gotten loose during the time of high blood. For royal fae reasons, the family could not tell Uncle Tom what he was, Uncle Brad was the heir and realistically, only Uncle Tom, grandfather and Bill would be in a postion to resist the monster. Grandfather and Bill were watching to see if they could steer Uncle Brad into the woods and control him somewhat and instead Uncle Brad went into a barn and Uncle Tom shot him. But that created a great deal of stress in the family and Uncle Tom went to Washington, with some information that Uncle Brad told him about and some contacts, looking for answers.”
“Didn’t the family know?”
“At the time we didn’t, because my grandparents hadn’t quite realized how much Uncle Tom felt cut off from the family and didn’t understand that there were important things that he wasn’t telling us. Grandfather thought that most of it was Uncle Tom wandering to look for a bond, something that a lot of people wanted. Grandmother got all sorts of calls wanting to make contact, only to have some rather disappointed girls. It took the really determined one to crack through and she did.”
“How determined?”
“Chrissie had difficulties because she had a tail,but it still took her four months and a month on the boat and a hurricane before she could close the deal. That was determination. Especially after my uncle tried to chase her off his boat with a boathook.”
“Why did he do that!”
“He wasn’t sure what he was getting into and wanted to take certain precautions. It didn’t work as he had been working for Chrissie’s dad and when he went looking for answers about girls with tails, there she was , crying on her dad’s shoulder, making a scene and getting Uncle Tom in trouble. Of course, Chrissie’s dad got out of there and let them talk. Chrissie was running Uncle Tom’s boat for him the next day. She had to. She had loosened the propeller nut and didn’t want Uncle Tom to find out about that.”
Rosa started to laugh her head off. “So she wasn’t letting him get away. Good for her.”
“Considering what happened when she did let him get away, that was the smartest thing that she could do. But I will say that it all worked out in the end, except for the Sharks.”
“The Sharks deserved it.”
“True, in more than one way.”
Rosa put us in the room and I said to Jeanette, “I think that it is time that we did some discreet exploring.”
With that we removed our clothes, Changed and I picked the lock on the door. We made our way up the stairs to the window and slunk through the window. Outside there were some loose stones and I put one between my fingers. I looked down and Rosa was seated in front of our building. The building was also shielded. I whispered to Jeanette, “Let’s keep the shield between us and Rosa. Otherwise she will pick up on us.”
We slunk along the back of the roof that faced the street, running along the end of the tile roof. The school was surrounded by a wall and we took advantage of the darkeness to run along the top of it until we arrived at was apparently the main building, which was also shielded. We slunk in through a window, opening it and closing it. Then we moved through the building with Jeanette pointing out where the dorms, offices and other things were. Since this was a girl’s school, there was no handy shop that we could pillage but there was a small workshop used by the school staff. I didn’t take anything as I didn’t have any clothes and we were walking on four legs. As we started to head back, a car drove in and I whispered, “This will be interesting.”
It was Sal’s Bugatti. Sal and Bill got out of the car. They strode inside and we waited. As they were leaving I grabbed the stone that I had carried with me and tapped out two dashes and three dots, followed by a dash, a dot and another dash. Bill didn’t even look up as he got into the car, but did scratch his nose. They left and we headed back to our room. When I locked the door, Jeanette asked, “So what was that about? At least I know why you were carrying that stone around.”
“I was carrying it in case we needed a distraction. The tapping was my family code, “TB” and a “K” which meant that we were Ok and no immediate action was necessary. Bill got the message. We do that from time to time when some of us are discreet and in Change while dealing with Twisted and the like. Usually I have a sort of collar with a bag filled with useful things like a tin cricket for doing that. But I left that at your house. I should have stuffed it in my jacket. I’ll have my Aunt Diana make you one when we get home.”
“Let’s cuddle. We haven’t done that before and now that we are in Change, we can.”
We curled around each other and fell asleep.
Sal.
Wednesday December 6, 1932.
As far as finding Tony and Jeanette things had been rather frustrating. So far we had come up with nothing. The surprising thing was that Greta and Eric seemed more conscerned about the Necromancer and where he was than they did about Tony and Jeanette. At breakfast, I asked Greta, “You don’t seem to be too concerned about Tony. Why not?”
“First of all, if my sister really intended to kill them, she would have. Nothing I have seen indicates that my sister is stupid and she’s seen the reports about Andy and the other boys last year. So she either has them in a very secure place or they haven’t tried very hard to escape. It is unlikely that she was able to get them very far away and the fact that Tony hasn’t made contact says that there are circumstances that we don’t know about.”
“What if he is in danger?”
“If that were the case, he would have gotten Jeanette loose already. Tony is very good at improvising, and even better at looking at things and planning them out. Bob tends to be more chaotic and improvisational but Tony likes to take a more methodotical approach to things when he can. Not that he isn’t fully capable of action and creating chaos, but he likes to wait and let things develop. Bob would be making noise by now, but Tony is probably biding his time, not pushing and letting his captors relax. Meanwhile he’s getting ready in case things do get dangerous.”
“You seem to rather confident about that.”
“Oh, yes. Sal, you have seen most of my grandchildren by now. Do you really think that any of them are stupid?”
“No. Rather the opposite, in fact.”
“They all grew up in a place where things can be very dangerous. Trust me, they all have well developed abilities to sense real danger and know when to call in assistance when they need it. You saw what Andy did with the Manager. As soon as he could, he was launching those boats. That let us know where he was.”
“Then Hilda left him there.”
“I imagine that the Manager probably wished that she had taken him and the rest of the kids with her. Andy had a lot of fun and met some new friends, something he needed. He needed to get pushed a bit, and Hilda left him in a place where he would be in an environment where he wasn’t comfortable.”
“Do you want me to slow down what I’m doing?”
“No. If we did that, we would abandoning the iniative. Right now they are reacting to us and not taking actions on their own. That was why Mary and Roger paid that visit to the Witch’s chateau. We used Constructs to make the point that we had them and they didn’t have any. Jean can tell them that the ten we used there was just a small bit of the the number that we can use. He can also tell them that we have more experience with them than anybody else. Right now, the only Creator left on the continent is my brother and that will probably frighten them more than a little bit.”
“Constructs aren’t all that dangerous once you know about them.”
“Not to us, but I imagine that they think differently. In any case, I don’t want you or Bill to slow down right now, here. If my sister is playing with Bill, she won’t be looking into Tony and that gives him the time he needs.”
With that, I went on to starting in on my next little project. Bill and Hilda joined me as we cased the place and set up the bust. The Cote De Azure would be a lot cleaner place when we left. The rest of the day, we set things up and in the early evening the things went in, so did we, we had some more rescued kids, dead or busted dark fae and some busted big shots. After it was done, I said to Bill, I wish I had a good place to put the kids?”
“I have an idea. Why don’t we check out the school in Nice. The school that I already made a large donation to for tail reasons. They are probably fae friendly already. It might be a good place for the girls anyway.”
Once things were done, Bill and I made a rather discreet visit to the school. The headmistress, who said that we should not call her mother superior was willing to take the girls and pointed us at another school for the boys. With that problem solved, we left and as we were driving out, Bill said, “I found Tony, He’s ok and there may have been a Construct sitting over there. She felt a bit familiar. I think that we may have found the boys’ sister.”
“I didn’t see Tony.”
“He and Jeanette were on the roof, more than likely taking advantage of their Change. Tony tapped out his code and “k,” so he is ok and not in serious trouble.”
“What if he had been.”
“Then it would have been his code twice. If the danger had been immediate and to us, it would have been his code and SS.”
“And the Construct?”
Sitting next to that shielded storage building. That’s probably who Hannah has watching Tony and Jeanette.”
“Why haven’t they tried to escape?”
“I suspect that at first Tony didn’t want to have a fight with the Construct lady until he knew more about the situation. Escaping would probably be like trying to escape from Tony or Robert, let alone Helmut. I think that Tony wanted to know if he was dealing with a Tony or a Helmut and Mary situation. If it was just the single Construct, that would be one thing. If there were a bunch of dark fae or other things, that would be another. Tony’s also collecting information that we can use later. I imagine that the mother superior has some things that she wasn’t telling us and we already know about the fae girls. So there is more going on and Tony wants to find out what. We’ll make a discreet look around in the morning.”
“How about I bring Tony and the kids. That way we can introduce the kids, Tony can pick up on his sister and we can sneak some things in with the kids.”
Bill grinned. “That sounds like an interesting idea. Do we tell Tony that we know about his sister or not?”
“I’m a bit nervous about that. Tony never mentioned a sister and neither have the others. Nor has Greta. Let’s ask Greta first.”
We went to Etienne’s to talk with Greta and Eric. I said to Greta, “We found Tony and Jeanette.”
“Where? Bill how are they?”
“Tony tapped out that they were ok. They were at the girls school, guarded by a lady Construct.”
Etienne said, “That would be Rosa. She showed up there about five years ago. She does odd jobs and security. Since the vampire was here, and the girls were vulnerable, I thought that having her was good thing. I never thought to look into where she came from.”
Greta grinned. “So we will be battling my old nemesis again.”
“You never mentioned Rosa existed before.”
“I wasn’t sure that she was still alive and since she was over here, I didn’t want to say anything to Tony and Robert unless they brought her up first. They didn’t. Helmut and Mary certainly knew about her and I have shared my stories about her with them.”
“So why was she your nemesis?”
“Because she was in charge of the fae kids in the next family over and we were like us and the Martins, without cars and guns. We did have Constructs and some of the rest of it. But the queen and my mother set Rosa on all of us to keep things from getting out of hand by setting up a school where we were all together. Rosa had Gerhardt as her Charge. I wonder if she was given to Hannah.”
“That sounds a bit like slavery.”
“You know the brothers. Do you think that any of them would think of themselves as slaves. On the other hand the Constructs need a reason to exist and a certain amount of protection. You’ve seen that with the brothers. So Rosa was handed to the Von Fayes as a guardian and handed down Charge to Charge so that the kids didn’t end becoming like the Manager and not growing up. Rosa was probably given to my sister with expectation that her oldest would be the next Charge.”
“Should I tell Tony or surprise him?”
“What do you think?”
“Tony loves surprises and fun stuff. We’ll just take the girls over and see what happens.”
“I think that is a wonderful idea.”
Tony.
Thursday December 7, 1932.
The morning started off normally enough with Rosa bringing us breakfast. If she had spotted us last night, she didn’t say anything. After we had our morning chat and she left, we poked around until we had a visitor through the wall from the outside. “Tony, you left this in the car.”
“Hello, Aunt Hilda. I guess that Bill told you that I was here.”
“Yes. Here are your gun and your little package.”
“Thank you. So what is going on outside.”
“A family reunion. Of course Tony is in trouble.”
“Why?”
“He didn’t write when he could. You told Rosa that you were talking with him and he knew how to contact Rosa.”
“He never mentioned Rosa to us.”
“No, and that is a bit understandable. Greta knew about her, because of the relationship with family next door.”
“Grandmother never said anything about her either. Rosa did say that she was going to give Tony some trouble over losing their Charge like that. I told her that it was the Manager’s own fault, but I’m not sure that it stuck.”
“So what is going on here?”
“Aunt Hannah has a daughter here. She dropped Jeanette and I here and I don’t think that was just to park us here. She wanted us here and wanted to make it look as if she had done it to harass grandmother. The Necromancer was a mistake.”
“I am so glad that Andy isn’t here with us. He would love this. Trillia wouldn’t because she couldn’t be here with him. I need to make a discreet exit.”
Hilda phased through the wall and disappeared. Jeanette was looking at my collar pack and said, “This is clever. I can see how this would work in your Change.”
“I missed it last night We use things like this when we have to deal with things in our Change and want to keep things discreet.”
“Who do I talk with in the family about making one for me?”
“My Aunt Diana. She’s probably already worked on it. Mine was a Christmas present right after I Changed for the first time. Let’s put this and my gun with my jacket so that they don’t cause a fuss with Rosa. We don’t want her more upset than she probably already is.”
It turned out that Rosa wasn’t upset at all. In fact she came in with a huge grin on her face. “Danka for getting my lout brother here.”
I was trying to look innocent and probably failing as I said, “I had nothing to do with that. After all, how could I be talking with Tony.”
“I did get a peek of something foxy last night and the Troubleshooter was here last night to talk about bringing some fae kinder here. He seems to be a nice man.”
“He is. So what did you say to Tony?”
“That he should at least write from time to time about what he and my other lout brothers are up to. He knew where I was.”
“He never said anything about you to the family. As far as writing, I expect that the Manager and the Director didn’t want spurious letters revealing things.”
“True. But the Manager and the Director have been gone for a year now, my brothers have that fine position at that school with the fae kinder and do they write and say anything? No they do not. At least they know to write now.”
“So Sal was here last night.”
“Yes, and you were poking around in your Change last night. You were careful and I wasn’t sure until Sal showed up with Bill, Hilda, his wonderful wife, my brother and the kinder. You sent a message of some sort and they came with a distraction. Good.You may need to be better equipped.”
“Why?”
“The Witch is probably rather frightened at this point, the Troubleshooter obviously hasn’t stopped and the Witch may ask Milady’s mistress for you.”
“Aunt Hannah would give us up that easily?”
“If the command came from the Red Lady directly, she would have no choice. Milady is stuck between the Twist and the Red Lady trying to spread the taint and trying to keep the Red Lady away from the family and her daughter especially.”
“My aunt was bitten.”
“You know about that.”
“Yes. We had another aunt that was bitten long ago,before I was born. My great grandfather died killing the vampire king and my great aunt was able to be freed from the stain because she hadn’t had it for very long. She never bonded though, and lives alone and apart from the rest of us. Taking my great aunt was probably the first step in an attempt on my family. In any case, I am not surprised that Aunt Hannah was bitten and tainted. The Red Lady probably drains her as little as necessary to maintain the taint because my aunt is so able an aide and the Red lady needs her to offset the other Masters’ power.”
“You seem to be very knowledgable for one so young.”
“My brother Bob and I are on the heir line because my dad is heir. So we have had to be prepared in case things became very serious.”
“I am not surprised. Your grandmother was very good with preparation.”
“That’s still true. I’m going to be in trouble for rushing in with the Necromancer unarmed.”
“I can understand your grandmother being upset about that. With that in mind, tell me more about my lout brother so that I can be prepared to discuss things with him.”
I told Rosa about the last year and everything that I knew about. I also told her to send letters to Mary and the other Mary. When she asked who they were, I explained. She said, “I will send letters to them. They are probably important people.”
“Yes, but they are both very friendly and I expect that they will want to hear from you, in any case.”
“Well I need to communicate with somebody since my lout brothers won’t.”
Jeanette laughed. “I don’t think that they will be able to escape you now.”
“The only bad thing about my brother being here with the Troubleshooter of all people was that he was passing out more of those evil books.”
It was my turn to laugh. “I warned you. He does that. I don’t think that any trouble kits were shipped over.”
“What is a trouble kit? I’m almost afraid to ask.”
“When the publisher wanted a list of tools, Chrissie’s father in law’s company, who was handling the book at that point, sent the publisher a list of things that my Uncle Tom had purchased when he was getting a kit ready for my aunt Stephie’s kids and Andy, especially for Andy so that he could make trouble for the Manager. That became the trouble kits when a toy company put the tools together with the book in a nice tin box.”
“That sounds like a good way to get the kinder in trouble all right. How much trouble did Andy give my brothers?”
“Your brothers were giving advice and helping. No trouble at all, for them. As I said, they really like fun stuff. The Manager’s Twisted, on the other hand, had a very bad time of it.”
“It is time for me to go. The girls will be here later to give you trouble.”
She left. I don’t think that she even bothered to lock the door. I didn’t try the door in any case. Right now Gretel needed protection, perhaps even from her own mother. That was the terrible thing about the spread of the vampire Twist. It slowly took you over. Even if the Twist and the source of the Twist were removed the taste and the addiction never went away. That was why my great aunt lived far away from the rest of the family, especially the kids. Bill also had standing instructions that if my great aunt ever seemed to be Twisted again, to kill her. The instructions had been given by my great aunt herself. If Aunt Hannah had been bitten and she seemed to have been, that was very bad news indeed.
Today a bunch of the girls accompanied by a nun showed up and I pulled some tables out of the pile and set things up. The sister said, “Bonjour, Jeanette. Are you hiding this young man from your parents?”
“Sister Joan, Non. I would never hide Tony. We were brought here by Gretel’s mother to keep an eye on her and some other reasons, I think. Tony here is Gretel’s cousin.”
“So this is one of Milady Hannah’s things. She is very generous, but more than a bit strange.”
“That fits in with the rest of the family, sister,” I said. “There are other things involved so we felt it better to stay and keep a low profile for a few days. My aunt was here this morning to check up on us.”
“Milady Hannah hasn’t been here. Her car was, but a man and his wife were driving it. How they got it is a bit of a mystery.”
“My aunt was playing games with her sister, my grandmother and played dead to get my grandmother over from the States. Since my grandmother thought that my aunt was dead when she talked with Sal, she loaned him the car. So Sal took and brought it down here.”
“That explains it. Apparently your aunt is still officially dead.”
“She did arrange that.”
The sister laughed. “I think that I will leave you with these troublemakers. Keep them out of the work on the roof.”
“I sort of have to. My uncle was responsible for the book.”
“Why did he do that not so small bit of devil’s work.”
“Why don’t you come with Rosa for dinner and I will tell you all about my uncle and the book. It is too long a tale to tell right now.”
Gretel said, “But then we won’t hear the story.”
“Ok, but some parts are going to be rather unbelieveable. If any of you girls say, “I don’t believe that, I will stop. Just because a tale is a bit unbelievable does not mean that it isn’t true.”
With that, I started in with my Uncle Tom, my Aunt Stephie, Uncle Brad and Bill, our neighbor. Then I told the rather rapt girls about how my Uncle Brad had gone to the war and come back as a werewolf, how Uncle Tom had to shoot him and his gag with Tony in the stables. None of the girls said the story was unbelievable, so I went on with Uncle Tom going to Washington and meeting the President and all the rest. I also told them about my Aunt Stephie marrying her bear, Boris becoming Sheriff and the monsters that we kept having to shoot, Bob’s Construct shoots and the rest of it. Then it was Uncle Tom coming back, going down to the Cape and meeting Chrissie the mermaid princess. After that it was Andy, the Manager, the Sharks, the Troubleshooter and how Uncle Tom accidently had the book printed. When I finished, Lisette said, “That was a more than a bit unbelievable. Your uncle knowing the President and princes. That doesn’t happen.”
“Yes it did. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just send a letter to any gun magazine and ask about the royals. My Uncle Tom made them and they are world famous. The only way to get a royal is to be a friend of my uncle and have him give you one. Or you can just check with my grandmother.”
“How can I do that. She is not here?”
“Are you sure? Grandmother, why are you here with Rosa?”
They had just quietly come through the door. The girls were all looking at me and didn’t see her enter. She said, “Tony, officially, I am checking with the headmistress about the girls that Sal left this morning with Etienne and Eloise. Unofficially I am talking with my old teacher and protector, Rosa and meeting my niece.”
Lisette said, “Does Tony’s Uncle Tom know the President?”
“Yes. He didn’t tell us though.”
“Why not?”
“Because he didn’t want to make a big scene about it. We knew about it somewhat, but Tom wasn’t in the Capital to make friends and meet people, he was there to do something that was important to him, find out why his older brother was turned into a monster. He did that and made all those friends too. I will come back and bring all the pictures so that you can see.”
Gretel said “Are you really mama’s sister? You look too nice to be as mean as she said.”
“What did my sister say?”
“She said that you took our house.”
“I didn’t take the house, just everything that was in it. You mother had an old friend who has always been with bad people and he was going to take everything that he could for his nasty friends. At the time I thought that my sister was dead, or at least she was playing dead, so I could hardly ask her what she wanted to do and I wasn’t going to let my sister’s friends take away the family legacy. If my sister had not done what she did, I would not have taken the things in the house. I do think that my sister had more important things on her mind and that is you. So I am here to discreetly meet you and tell Rosa that if your mother’s mistress and her associates should come for you, I will take steps. Tony and Jeanette will watch you as well for your mother. We may be having our argument, but that should not involve you in any way. Frankly I wish that my sister had just come out and told the family about you, but I can understand why she didn’t”
I turned to Rosa and said, “You didn’t say that you were grandmother’s teacher.”
“How do you think that I could watch over all of the kinder. The families had a school together and I was a teacher.”
“So you know her better than you said you did.”
“Yes, but I wasn’t going to tell you that. You were supposed to be kidnapped. You still are.”
Grandmother said, “Tony, we think that for the time being that you being here and watching Gretel is a big help. You know what else is going on and we have to keep the attention down here and not other places right now. If you can keep the two Ladies’ attention here with some help, that will make some other family member’s tasks easier.”
“How long.”
“Try to keep things going through Monday.”
“If the Witch wants me, should I escape?”
“Yes, if you can use it to make a fuss. Make it noisy and public. See if you can raise as big a fuss as you can. I want Bob to hear about it.”
“So I have to do things on a Bob scale. That’s not going to be easy. Jeanette, the other side better not take us, because if they do, we have our work cut out for us.”
Jeanette laughed. The sister looked rather frazzled. She turned to grandmother and said, “Who is Bob and how much trouble is that?”
“Bob is Tony’s brother and has a national level reputation for being able to create chaos. I think that that is Jeremy’s fault, along with our neighbors across the lake. Jeremy is Bob and Tony’s younger brother and liked a certain record. Too much as he would play it endlesly and that drove Bob to his cousin Scott’s and out in the woods and Tony as well.”
Gretel grinned. “So who were the neighbors across the lake?”
“I think that story should wait for another time, with the pictures. I don’t want to make it too obvious to any prying eyes that we are connected.”
Grandmother left with Rosa and I started in with the girls and the copies of my uncle’s books that suddenly seemed to have multiplied. Of course, Tony had been passing them out. Jeanette and I were able to keep the girls occupied until dinner.

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