The golden Butterfly chapter 41, Part 3.

Here’s part 3.

Sal.
Thursday December 7, 1932.
Since the Sharks had just fed, I figured that baiting them with a bonding couple would be a bit problematic. On the other hand, their boss had probably told them to go after me if they could, they probably didn’t know that Stelios and his people were Swimmers and I had been going for a Swim every morning from the hotel in Monaco that I was currently using as a headquarters. This morning, I hit the water and Stelios discreetly came up and handed me one of those spears that had a shotgun shell attached. “We have a shark that isn’t acting like a shark.”
“A Scout then. Has he spotted you?”
“No and there are some other seafolk around a bit. The ladies are a bit nervous about sharks in any case.”
“Where are they living?”
“In caves or under their husband’s boats during the night. They go fishing or other things with their husbands if their husbands don’t have jobs up top. The people are very interested in talking with Tom and even more interested in what we know about the Sharks. They were interested in the spears and I told them about the shop where we had them fabricated.”
“So the Sharks will have a rougher time regardless.”
“I hope so. They deserve it.”
Stelios sank back into the deeper water as I went along with my Swim. I sensed the Shark and ignored it and Swam along the same path I had been using all week. When I emeged from the water, Steve was waiting with Sillia and a robe. I said, “we have a toothy fish following me. He hasn’t brought any friends yet.”
“I know. We picked up on him Tuesday but didn’t want to scare him off. Some of John’s people found the beach where he left his car.”
Sillia frowned at me. “I hope that you two aren’t taking advantage of the fact that I don’t have a tail right now to take chances.”
“Sillia, Stelios and his people were watching. So I wasn’t taking any chances. Other than being in the water in the first place and if they come after me there, they have fewer people to do it with than they do up top and we have dealt with the Sharks before.”
“That’s true and if we make them disappear below, the Witch will have to wonder what happened to them. Why don’t we take Steve to breakfast.”
After breakfast with Steve, Bill, Hilda and Tony we headed over to the school with the girls. Tony was smiling as he packed a carton on the bus before we left. I looked at him and said, “What’s that for?”
“I want to make sure that the girls have fun stuff.”
“Some people might be unhappy with that.”
Tony grinned. “I’ll risk it. After all I won’t be at the school here.”
We arrived at the school and I introduced my little crew to the headmistress and Tony started to look around, with a bit of a troubled look on his face. The reason became rather obvious as Tony handed books out to the girls who were collecting. A rather large woman with a family resemblance came out and said, “I figured that you would cause me trouble, brother.How come you never write?”
“I couldn’t. We were not supposed to be sending mail.”
“That was last year. I know what you’ve been doing after your Charge was killed and there was no excuse. I know that you had the address and knew where I was. Yet not a letter from you and Robert. As for Helmut, you can let him know that he isn’t off the hook either.”
“Somebody has been saying a bit much.”
“Well yes, we do have a visitor who mentioned you. He should not have had to. How come you haven’t visited until now?”
“I have been working and been busy.”
“Not as busy as all that. For that matter, I will have to have a discussion with another lady, but that can be done later. So now that your Charge is gone, and how did you let that happen, what have you been up to? Why don’t we go to my apartment and have a chat about this.”
The lady dragged poor Tony off and Bill and Sillia were laughing as we made the arrangements for the girls. Hilda returned and said quietly as we prepared to leave again, “Tony and Jeanette are fine. My aunt has a daughter here. I will have to tell mother.”
“That explains why Tony didn’t just up and leave. Of course that would have meant that Tony’s sister would have been chasing them and she looks to be pretty capable.”
“She had Tony’s number, didn’t she? I’ve never seen him so out of sorts. Of course that was our two kidnapped kids’ fault. I would have to guess that they told Rosa what her brothers had been up to.”
Tony came back, not looking too beat up and said, “Tony said a bit too much.”
Hilda had a big grin as she said, “Tony, a good part of that was your own fault. Of course Hannah didn’t help. She put the kids here and they knew you and your brothers and needed to keep the lady on a friendly basis. So of course they told stories and you were a big part of them. You seem to have survived.”
“I have, but you can bet that Rosa will have the two Mary’s addresses and then all three of us will be in trouble.”
“Mary isn’t going to talk too much about what Helmut does, and the school is a good thing.”
“I know, but Rosa’s Charge is Hannah’s daughter and Hannah will have issues that mean that Hannah is going have to be dealt with permanently and Greta will invite Rosa and Gretel to the States.”
“So she can join Gretchen at the school. That is if she doesn’t teach at the high school. I don’t see the problem.”
“You are not us. Since she will be close, she will be keeping an eye on us and she isn’t into the fun stuff like Robert and I are.”
“I see, I think. You’re afraid that she will constrain you, somewhat.”
We all went to the our various cars and drove back to the hotel. Sillia was laughing at Tony’s dilemma. “He’s really rather frightened considering that he hasn’t seen his sister for a very long time.”
“I think that he is afraid that Rosa will not approve of the way he handles kids.”
“Most people think that he and Robert are great with kids. As for failing their ‘Charge,’ I think that Tony and Robert were too good with the Manager. They let him isolate himself from the consequences of his actions until the consequences were unavoidable. Of course we have another problem during lunch.”
“What?”
“Telling Greta about Rosa and her niece.”
“That’s more Bill and Hilda’s problem than ours. She already knows about Rosa already.”
“That’s true.”
Telling Greta about Rosa and her niece turned out to be unnecessary as Etienne did during lunch. In the late afternoon, the four of them went to the school and had a nice chat with the headmistress and the teachers. Greta also visited her niece, who was in a sort of class that her grandson had been maneuvered into teaching for the girls. When she returned with Eric, she had a huge grin. I looked at her and said, “That must have gone well.”
“For me, yes. It was so nice to see our task mistress a bit frazzled. Of course, Tony was having to deal with some rather unbelieving girls. He told them the story of Tom and Chrissie.”
“They didn’t believe in mermaids?”
“That part they didn’t have a problem with. No,they didn’t believe that Tom knew the President.”
“I can understand that,” Eric said. “We didn’t believe it either until Chrissie dragged all the stuff out and forced Tom to tell us about all his friends.”
“Chrissie does do that. She is rather amazing. She provides a disturbance and takes things out of balance.”
“Including herself.”
“Herself, very much so. Greta, your sister is lucky that Chrissie isn’t involved.”
Greta laughed, “I don’t know, she might have actually enjoyed the experience. At least it would have been unique.”
We speculated about Hannah and Chrissie, to the mystification of Etienne and Eloise and the entertainment for the rest of us until dinner was over and Sillia and I returned to the hotel.
Jean.
Friday December 8, 1932.
Glinde had managed to drag me under with the encouragement of my parents and a stay in an inn next to a lake upriver from Nice in a village near our horse farm. We had a rather interesting time exploring the bottom of the lake and each other for two days. Thursday we returned to my sister’s. When we arrived she told us that they had Jeanette and Tony in the girl’s school of all places. So we had an enjoyable evening Thursday night. Friday morning I received a message from the Unbonded wanting to meet for lunch. Glinde came with me this time and the Unbonded said as she walked in, in German, “Jean, you brought your bonded. It is nice ot meet you at last.”
“This is Glinde. She is a bit nervous when I talk with you.”
“Glinde, I have no reason to hurt your bonded. Rather the opposite, in fact. On the other hand our employers are not necessarily so polite.”
“I live next door to your employer. At least I did. I doubt that she will be able to return very easily after the children were found in her dungeon.”
“She was a bit put out by that.”
I looked at Hannah, “So what do you want, milady?”
“Our employers are wondering why their requests for Constructs have gone unanswered and where the Constructs that attacked the Lady’s house in Normandy came from.”
“My brother in law decided to move his family out of the master’s reach since they were no longer keeping their side of the deal. My nephews are at sea at the moment.”
“Going where?”
“I don’t know, precisely. Somewhere in America, I presume.”
“What about the Constructs?”
“I don’t know anything about that at all. I think that your sister probably does. I know that you have seen the reports. I’m not surprised that Greta brought a box of jars. Her grandsons certainly have enough for their shoots. How many were there?”
“Milady Gwynne said that there were ten. Her people had halberds to damage them and they exploded.”
“Halberds? Who did the lady think that she was dealing with? I hope that too many people were not hurt.”
“The guards backed off when the bombs went off. So there were some injuries, but no deaths.”
“Then whoever it was was going easy on her. The explosions sound like your niece, Mary. The Constructs were probably handled by the two boys from Noro’s family since I expect that Tony and Jeanette are still locked up.”
“The lady I have holding them hasn’t contacted me and told me that they have escaped. In any case, Milady Gwynne wants a closer arrangement.”
“So you will be moving them. That can be risky. Of course Milady may find out that holding them when they don’t want to be held is rather difficult. After all, the younger boys were giving the Colonel a run for his money and the mermaids had essentially taken over the Academy before the end. Then there are Bob and his cousin. This will be interesting. When do you plan to make the transfer?”
“It started this morning. The journey should be comfortable.”
She left and we finished lunch.
Tony.
Friday December 8, 1932.
When I woke up, it was dark and I was moving. Jeanette was there on a mattress sitting up and said, “Good, you woke up.”
“Where are we?”
“On a truck, boxed in. It looks like a truck for horses.”
My head was pillowed on something and when I turned over, it was my jacket. I sat up and checked the more or less hidden pocket where my gun was and the pocket were my collar pack was and both were still there. I turned to Jeanette and said, “The aversions held or Rosa packed us.”
“I’m guessing that Rosa did it. They probably had something from a Chemist to put us out and then Rosa handled putting us in the truck.”
‘Did she arrange for a coat for you?”
“There are some things like that here. I imagine that she was pretty insistant and Whoever was in charge didn’t want to mess with her.”
“She would probably do what my aunt told her, but probably wouldn’t tell my aunt that my grandmother had been talking with her. In any case we are in good shape.”
“Not entirely and there is something we should do to fix that. We proably have several hours cooped up in here, so now is a good time to do something I have been thinking about all week.”
“What?”
She kissed me. “We complete our bond. I was hoping that we could wait and have a romatic time of it, perhaps at the inn during Christmas. But we are facing a Master and I see what happened to the Unbonded because she waited. So we will not wait.”
She started to unbutton my shirt and I kissed her back. Things went on from there and it was a good thing that the truck was noisy. Afterwards we cuddled a bit in our Change and then dressed again as the truck drove along. The truck stopped for a bit and I was tempted to phase through the door and exit but I needed to show Jeanette how and the back of the truck was shielded. Somebody thought that they had us and they had no idea that we more or less wanted to be where we were.
The truck started again and then a bit later turned into an obvous dirt road. The truck stopped and after a short wait, the door opened. There were two men waiting as we go out, carrying swords sheathed. There was third man who said in French, “Come with us younglings. The lady would like to have a discussion with you.”
I looked around and the truck had stopped in front of a barn next to a stable. Across a garden that looked rather brown at the moment, the house, a stone chateau with tile roof with chimneys poking out loomed across the garden. The man, in the uniform of a servant from two centuries ago said, “If you will follow me madamosielle and monsieur.”
We followed the man on the drive around the garden to the house. The other two followed us and I did a quick scan and they seemed to be Constructs. The servant was tainted and an obvious dark fae. As we entered the house there were other servants, who seemed to be normals and strangely enough, did not seem to be compelled. As we walked through the house, it didn’t seem to have the miasma of most of the Twisted. On the other hand, neither had the Manager’s house nor the Academy. We entered the main hall, which was surprisingly small and there was a woman in a chair waiting. The woman looked, old. Not aged like a normal, but as if she was carrying the weight of centuries. Even as a fae, time had done its work on her. I fought the temptation to bow as she said, “Welcome, younglings, to my current home. I am Gwynne De la Sorci. So what brings you here?”
Jeanette responded,“You did. Milady. You kidnapped us and brought us here.”
“I didn’t do that personally. Milady Elizabeth’s Aide did that. What I want to know is why you are here, on the continent, in the first place.”
I decided to tell the lady the truth, since she probably wouldn’t believe it. “We came to deal with my grandmother’s estate. Since my aunt faked her death, the estate became my grandmother’s responsibility.”
“So all this is the result of that? The Hunter was here before you arrived.”
“He is collecting the bounties and awards related to the death of the Colonel.”
“Then why did he go after milady Elizabeth’s children?”
“They were there? The first nest was near my aunt’s brother’s place, he picked up on it and did what he does. That character had an address book with all the other children in it and when Bill was in the area, he indulged himself. “
“Why does he deal so aggressively with vampires?”
“A vampire king Turned his wife and killed his wife’s parents. He took that rather personally and the vampire king came after him and lost his head because of that. Ever since, any vampire that comes near where we live is going to lose its head or get staked. For that matter, any Twisted that doesn’t move right through is going to get in trouble very quickly.”
“So he doesn’t limit himself to vampires?”
“No, he doesn’t. He has had a lot of practice since your employees kept sending things where we live.”
“So we kept sending things for the Hunter to kill?”
“It got to be a pain to deal with. It stopped for a while. But it was pretty regular for a long time.”
“So it wasn’t just the Hunter that dealt with things?”
She was fishing. The interesting thing was that she was fishing for things that were in things that were in the Director’s reports. I hadn’t seen the reports myself, but the compelled had done a summary of those reports and sent it around. I had seen that when grandfather passed it to dad who passed it to Bob and I. She should know how we responded to the things that were sent at us. So she was either trying to find out what I knew and thus how sheltered we kids were or she really didn’t know what was going on. “The sheriff and my uncles dealt with most of that. We kids were kept out of it for the most part. We were kept at the farm when whatever it was showed up.”
“Normals were involved?”
“The family told the sheriff that the things were strainge killers. The normals acted as beaters so that the Hunter and my uncles could deal with whatever.”
“Is the sheriff a normal?”
“Sheriff Covington, yes.”
George Covington had been the sheriff before Uncle Boris. He retired when Uncle Boris took over. In any case, he had more or less grown up with grandfather and his grandsons were friends of mine. Of course what might be considered normal in our neighborhood was open to debate.
“I am surprised that your grandfather would allow such an important position be outside the family.”
“The family doesn’t try to actually be the government. We participate like everybody else, but actually trying to exert control causes more trouble than it’s worth.”
“You don’t use compulsions?”
“Now that isn’t going to happen. Everybody in our neighborhood is immune because a good portion of the kids at school are fae and play games. So compulsions get put on kids and pulled either by the fae kids or their parents and by the time all the kids are thirteen or so, the compulsions just don’t work anymore. So we did other things. In any case , compelling people is something that we don’t do.”
“Then how is the proper order maintained?”
“That depends on what you mean by the proper order. We don’t want to impose an order on our neighbors and they don’t want to bother us. We share the work and the fun and by and large, with exceptions, get along. It’s not perfect, but we do ok.”
“So tell me about your grandfather, who must be the king of your community. He must be a very strong man.”
“I’m not sure that his strength is what defines him. He doesn’t rule over things so much as guide and provide assistance and guidance. He doesn’t want his children and his grandchildren to be usless drones with no accomplishments.”
“So what does that say about you?”
Now we were getting to the meat. She wanted to know just how much trouble I was going to be. “I do my part. We kids are expected to be in school and prepare as much as possible. So we aren’t expected to involve ourselves too much yet. I think that grandfather expects us to grow into the business.”
He did. He also expected us to be involved as soon as we could as well as look into ways of creating our own opprtunities. I wasn’t going to tell this lady about that though. I continued, “We are expected to do our part, but we are only asked to do what we can.”
“So what do you do when you are not in school.”
“We have hunts and do some shooting. I like to read and we have a library.”
“Do you ride?”
“Not as much as my aunt. We don’t keep horses like we used to since we use tractors.”
“So you are out of practice. Why don’t we go to dinner, since the cook is probably waiting.”
At dinner there was another man who didn’t say very much. He had probably been listening all through the interrogation and was listening now. All through dinner the lady peppered me with questions about how I lived and what we did. In order to confuse things, I mentioned my UncleTom and the fact that he had not seemed to be fae at all. The lady asked, “How so?”
“My Uncle Tom was grandmothers last child, born much later than my other uncles and aunts. He’s twelve years younger than my father, for instance. Most importantly, he never seemed to develop his abilities at all, which drove my Aunt Stephie a bit crazy, since grandmother forbid anybody discussing anything related to the fae where my Uncle Tom might hear about it.”
“I suspect that your uncle is something rare and precious to a fae kingdom, an unattached prince.”
“That turned out to be the case, but Tom was just confused by my aunt’s antics and when a neighbor showed him how to make things, he used that to return my aunt’s antics. That led to all sorts of fun and games until my Uncle Brad came back from the war with an affliction given to him by the Colonel.”
“I think that the Colonel expected rather much from Bradley. He certainly made good use of him here, to hide certain things. You probably know more about that than I do, thanks to a certain diary that Bradley was keeping.”
“How did you discover about that? As far as we knew, the only people that knew about it were my aunt, Uncle Brad and Uncle Tom and my aunt never talked about it and Uncle Tom had it stashed so deep that only he could possibly have found it without tearing his shop apart. That is, the building that the shop was in.”
“The Golden Butterfly was watching her nephew and managed to discover it. Of course she kept that to herself until she could use the fact that it existed to pressure the Colonel when we realized that the Creators were all gone. How did all those Constructs show up at my home?”
I grinned. “I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. How many Constructs were there?”
“Ten. A profligacy of them.”
“Ok, so that was probably my brother’s leftovers that he didn’t use for the September and October shoots. Grandmother probably brought the jars over. I’m guessing that my brother and Scott have enough for Christmas and jars don’t keep forever. Especially when you need to have good solid Constructs.”
“Just how many Creators do your relatives have access to to have so many?
“Jeanette, we had nine at Eli’s thing in September, didn’t we?”
“Yes, that was who showed up. There were three or four more that Bob and Scott buy from, but couldn’t make it for that. Abby and your grandmother are setting up a better organized thing for the Christmas party at Eli’s.”
The lady looked rather shocked at that. I shouldn’t have been surprised. The impact of what the Masters had wrought probably hadn’t come home to roost until we came over and started to be active here. “How many jars does your brother have?”
“I wouldn’t know, but I expect that he plans two shoots for Christmas, one up at the Inn for Aunt Chrissie’s party and another for Eli’s party, so eighty to a hundred, if he can’t come up with some big add on, which he probably will. We still have the big projector from the Olympic closing ceremonies and I expect that he will want to do a big show.”
“And your brother can handle so many at once?”
“That shouldn’t be a problem. We’ve had plenty of practice. We know what to expect with these things now. I expect that my brother is a bit annoyed at me right now. I was supposed to be home by now, handling the business and the gun shop for dad. Of course, if you keep me here too long, he will be annoyed at you.”
The other man at the table apparently had heard of my brother and Scott, because he was beginning to look a bit nervous as the desert showed up in the candlelight. With the end of dinner, The lady said, “Louis will take you to the guesthouse. I wouldn’t try to wander around at night. I wouldn’t want to make Louis and Pierre nervous. There is no place nearby that you could go in any case.”
Louis was one of the Constructs and he was not one of the conversational types as he wouldn’t say much more than “Qui” or “non” when I asked questions. When we were inside, I said to Jeanette in Seneca, “That was interesting.”
“What language is this?”
“Seneca. Bill taught it to us and some of us worked his parents place in Western New York for a couple of summers. His parents live right next to the reservation and they all speak the language. It’s useful when you want a to say something that nobody around you will understand. I would expect that our two Construct guards probably speak English but not Seneca.”
“These two are not as nice as Rosa.”
“They aren’t, are they. On the other hand, Rosa wanted us to escape or at least open a contact with my grandmother and her brother that she could use. These characters want us kept here and if they are too friendly, that probably makes their job harder.”
“I think that your family makes the lady nervous.”
“Not as nervous as she should be. The question about riding was interesting.”
“A question that you evaded quite well. You ride just fine, don’t you?”
“I sort of had to. We have to do trail work and map out trees for logging and you need to ride to do that. I don’t have a horse that is ‘mine’ though Billy thinks that I am his, considering how much the old thing makes me work. But, yes I can ride.”
“Is Billy like Antonia?”
“No. He’s an old plow horse that likes to get a ride and doesn’t mind doing some work in the woods. So I use him for marking trees for cutting in the Fall and setting up for planting saplings in the Spring. He’s sort of like Tony was, a horse that we got cheap because nobody else could handle him. He likes me, for some reason, though.”
“I want to meet Billy when we go to the farm again. Right now I think that I want to do some cuddling with you and then perhaps we can see about a bit of a Run.”
The cuddling was wonderful and afterwards, we spent an interesting if rather frustrating evening playing trying to hide from Louis and Pierre and failing by and large. We also discovered that the things that Louis and Pierre would be nervous about were not us, as we nearly ran into a farm that was home to a family of Liches. We were able to back off before the things picked up on us and headed back to the house. When we got back to the house, Jeanette insisted that we share a rug in front of the fire in our Change and that was what we did.
Greta.
Friday December 8, 1932.
Eric and I went back to the school right after lunch with the trunk of pictures from all our adventures so that we could share them with Rosa and the girls. Rosa looked rather crestfallen when we arrived, “They came and took the two. Milady Hannah insisted, like we expected.”
“I am not surprised. I expect that the Masters want to attempt to pressure us somewhat. On the other hand, Tony can take care of himself and Jeanette and keeping one of us hostage means that it places our eyes right in the middle of what they may be doing. That was what happened when the Colonel took Chrissie last year. Of course that led to some interesting things happening and we cleared up our relationship with the family across the lake, something that had been festering for a long time. The only downside of that is that now the whole bunch of them are trying bigger things to get my son’s attention.”
“You know that I didn’t have a choice about them taking the two. They are such a wonderful couple.”
“Yes they are, and you are here to protect my niece. I understand that my sister has been bitten and tainted by the Red Lady. I was sort of hoping that somehow she could escape, but I suspect that the taint is far too deep. My sister in law was released, but the taint is there, the blight and the hunger persists. Dora will not, for instance, spend any period of time with my or my brother and sister in law’s children for that reason. I can only imagine that my sister expects that she will force me to kill her. I hope that will not be necessary, but I will do it if I need to protect Gretel and the other children here.”
“I fully understand and I think that you are right about it. Milady has been doing things that she will not discuss with me and she spied on your son when he was here for reasons that I did not understand and did not tell the lady what your son had found.”
“We had wondered about that. The existance of Bradely’s diary was only known to Hilda, Bradely, Tom and my daughter, Stephie who was helping Hilda search for it. Neither Hilda nor Stephie told us about it and Tom never breathed a word about what he was doing until after Chrissie came along and he didn’t have a choice. Yet we had people looking for the diary. I suspect that my sister engaged Hans in some way to get her hands on it as Brad was doing those little jobs for the Colonel near the Red lady’s reserves and somehow the military people got wind of it and started to look for it themselves. So when Tom showed up in Washington, they were hoping that he would show it to them, but Brad had told Tom to keep the diary and the rest of the material that he collected on the Colonel buried unless the Colonel actually showed up. Eric was collecting material as well after the congressman started to send him the things that Tom was asking questions about. By the time the Colonel actually showed up, we knew all about him and had some friends that knew even more. The poor Colonel didn’t have a clue what was going to happen when he took Chrissie.”
“Tony said that taking her was a mistake. She is a mermaid. So tell me how he managed to get her out of the water.”
“Getting her out of the water was the easy part as she was helping her new friend from Japan find her bonded who had managed to leave before the poor lady could make herself known. So Chrissie was helping the Japanese make as big a splash as they could to attract attention. It didn’t work because the man had been chasing the Colonel over here. But the ladies were making a splash and attracting all sorts of attention.”
“How did they hide their tails?”
Eric laughed. “They didn’t bother, for the most part. The press knew Chrissie because of her aunt’s dancing shows and the family business and so covered for the ladies more than a little bit and they were with the Japanese princesses for most of it. In any case, I don’t think that anybody made a big deal about the tails.”
I brought out the clippings from Chrissie’s New York Adventures. “Judge for yourself.”
I wasn’t sure if Rosa could read English, but she had no trouble and the pictures were more or less self explanitory. She went through them all and said “Where was her husband?”
“Up at Lake Placid, dealing with the Olympics and the Director. He was setting up to deal with the kind of places that Sal does here. So there was no way that he could restrain her.”
“So he was working and she was entertaining important people, which was work as well.”
“Yes and they do very well together.”
“I can’t wait to meet them and the kinder. I have wondered how you and yours would turn out. Poor Hannah had so much taken from her and was forced to do horrible things. She carried the taint of the bite and has suffered for it.”
“There was nothing that I could do at the time. I was sent away as discreetly as possible probably because my parents sensed the Red Lady and her minions sniffing around, and I bonded with Eric right off the boat. We took the train to Vermont and met with his parents. Of course, Eric’s sister was bitten, Erics father tried to deal with the vampire and save Eric’s sister, was killed and we lost Eric’s mother shortly afterwards. Then Bradley came along and I was focused on my own family and its problems and trials. It wasn’t for some time that we realized that there had been no communications from my parents and it wasn’t until Mary and Roger came over right after the war and found out the true scope of the disaster, but couldn’t find any other family.”
“Your sister blames you for being away and having a soft life. But it doesn’t sound has if your life has been as soft as all that.”
“No, it hasn’t. There have been trials, especially surrounding Tom, what he is and delaing with that. He is rare and unique and dealing with that has not been easy, especially since he is an attractor of both the good and the evil.”
“Does he really know the President?”
“Yes, along with some other good friends. The Christmas party that Chrissie set up to embarrass Jacob, the king across the lake was rather amazing, wasn’t it, Eric.”
“It was. The only problem is that we have to have the party again and time is getting tight. We need to be back home for that and some others need to be back for a wedding.”
“Tony has a Monday deadline, Adelheid should have most of the people that want to go gone by then and my brother should have the gun done and has already sold the shop to his employees that are not going with him. Sal is finishing up here and heading to the ship with Sillia and his people. Rosa, should we leave my sister her car?”
Rosa laughed. “I think that the car should go with the Troubleshooter. That will teach milady not to play games with you. I think that she will want to be more discreet for some time in any case.”
“What about you and Gretel?”
“I don’t know. Milady hasn’t said. If she were not tied to the Red Lady, I suspect that she would have said already. But the Red Lady probably considers any children that milady should have as future children and strong ones at that. Milady has been very careful to not even mention that she has a child to the Red Lady.”
“Do you think that she arranged for Bill to destroy the vampire here?”
“I don’t think that she can take any actions that threaten one of the Lady’s children. I do know that she did nothing to keep Bill from going after the children even when he took one right in front of her.”
“The vampire near my brother, though we didn’t know that at the time. Gert said that she was in the city at about the same time. That was even before she faked her death and she even told Gert who Hilda was.”
The girls must have been looking for Tony and Jeanette as they found us and we had to explain somewhat. I told them that Tony was not unprepared or unarmed. I also shared the pictures of our eventful year and the new family and friends.
Sal.
Friday December 8, 1932.
The Sharks finally bit this morning. Of course they were the ones who ended up on the hook as the blood and guts launcher messed them up and we finished them. That left the house, but the place must have gotten clue as the Shark seed did the smart thing and left. We hit the place and rescued the kids before it could self destruct. After things were done, we headed over to the school with the kids and Eric said that Tony and Jeanette had been pulled early in the morning. I turned to Greta and said, “So now what?”
“That lady this morning who left when the Sharks were destroyed. Is she being tailed?”
“Yes. She got on the train to Lyons. Steve called his dad’s buddy and Leo called some people, so the lady is being watched. Eli and Theresa have Madam De La Sorci’s homes located in any case. The closest one is in Burgundy.”
“Not too far from Lyons, is it?”

“No it’s not. On the other hand, the train to Lyons also goes to Paris. We do have a direction to go in now.”
Steve found us and said, “I think that we have dealt with the Shark problem here for some time. Sal, Eric, the boys and I need to start thinking about heading home or I will have some aunts rather annoyed at me. If Stelios doesn’t show up for his wedding, I probably will never hear the end of it. On the other hand, we can take advantage of the liners being faster. I think that we should arrange for a Monday or Tuesday departure.”
“The Aquatania makes a departure on Tuesday.” Eric said. “I’ll book us all for that.”
“Aren’t you concerned about Tony and Jeanette?”
“A bit,” Gretel said. “But I doubt that they are in that much trouble, Bill and Hilda are not leaving and we can use other resources that the lady doesn’t know are connected with us. For that matter, if the lady doesn’t give up Tony and Jeanette, she can keep them for Christmas and then we all come back and make her life miserable.”
“What about your sister?”
“That is an interesting question. Rosa, would you and Gretel like to visit America for Christmas? I think that it is time that Gretel met the rest of the family.”
“I would love to do that. Tony, do not warn my other two brothers.”
Tony had a huge grin. “Rosa, why would I want to spoil the reunion?”
“I wouldn’t know. Of course you are here and they are there. I can keep you in line. You have grown and are far less loutish than you used to be, so that is good.”
“Rosa, I am free from the idiot and that makes the difference. You can’t know what it was like to be tied to somebody who refused to grow up.”
Tony.
Saturday December 9, 1932.
After another chat with the Lady at breakfast, Jeanette expressed an interest in the horses here and the lady handed us to her head groom, Jacques who was glad to share with somebody who was interested. The horses were fun and looked to be well bred. Of course there was one who was joker and saw me coming a long way away. This was a stallion with the improbable name of Fleur. A flower, he wasn’t. I’m not sure how he got out of his stall and snuck up on me, but he managed to pull a Tony on me and then run off with two grooms chasing him. I turned to the head groom and said, “He’s done that before, hasn’t he?”
“You must have horses in America.”
“At our farm, yes. My aunt used to compete at the national level in both steeplechase and show jumping. Her favorite horse was a horse named Tony who used to do that.”
‘Did he do it to you?”
“My uncle. Tony died a long time ago. My uncle bought my aunt’s daughter Tony’s granddaughter for Christmas last year. That was how I met Jeanette here.”
“How did that happen?”
“I was watching Antonia and Jeanette wanted to know where she came from, so she chased Antonia down. I was watching her for my cousin who was getting her scores.”
“Do I know you, madamoiselle? You seem to be familiar.”
“Jeanette Tobaire. My family has bred horses for a very long time.”
“Oh, then I do know, not you, but your head groom. He and I trained under the same master. He never said that you went to America.”
“I went last summer with my uncle to help him in his work. Once I met Tony, I was staying with my other uncle in New York and with Tony’s family in Vermont. But this was recently and my family didn’t want to make a big deal about it until we met Tony’s family.”
“What does your family do, young man?”
“We have a farm in Vermont, an inn, timber, a cabinet and leather business and a gun shop. We’ve never been big into horses, but that may change. My dad and uncle run the gun shop, at least until recently when my uncle got married and his in laws drafted him into the business.”
“Your name is Benton? Any relation to Lawerance Benton. They have a gun business as well in Vermont.”
“That is my dad. He and my Uncle Tom make guns from the scrap my dad bought after the war. At least my dad does. We have a new man to replace my Uncle Tom since he had to work in his father in law’s company.”
“So your father is the ‘L”in LT customs. They make fine rifles, by all reports.”
“I have two at home and everybody says that they are good. I’m working on one for myself right now and I was hoping to get it done before Christmas, but this thing came up and grandmother wanted us here.”
Jeanette started to talk horses and a car drove past toward the house, so I went outside and threw a sense string out using the window on the door. A lady got out of the car and The Lady came out and said, “Liesel, what are you doing here?”
“My boys were destroyed yesterday.”
“How?”
“They went after the Troubleshooter, who had been Swimming every morning alone all week. I don’t know what happened, but I felt the pod die very quickly. It must have been a trap, all along.”
“Why didn’t the boys watch carefully?”
“They did. Scout went out and checked every morning and never sensed anyone other than the Troubleshooter who never seemed to pick up on Scout. They thought that the Troubleshooter was being careless in the water.”
“Apparently not.”
“I need to stay here for a time.”
“Not very long. I have hostages and I expect that they are being looked for. Were you followed?”
“I don’t think so. I took the train and met the car in Lyons. The car came down from the other house and is heading back there. They didn’t seem to be anybody following me here. Mama, my other sister is dead. This was not supposed to happen.”
“We have had some setbacks. The people overseas failed and as a result we have been seeing some actions taken by the people over there.”
“They destroyed my home! They killed my boys! We had won here. Then these people came and they couldn’t be stopped. They found both the pods and killed first my sister when the pod was feeding and then they came for me. I barely escaped.”
“You did escape and while Suzette is a great loss, we can start to rebuild. I have taken hostages and the Red Lady’s aide was not dead after all.”
“This was her fault. The rumors were all over the Cote De Azur. She has a daughter there somewhere. She was hiding the daughter somewhere on the coast. I and the Red Lady’s child were looking for her, but the Butterfly was careful. We were hoping that the girl could be used for a truly special recruitment. Instead the Hunter showed up and killed the Red Lady’s child and the Troubleshooter and his seafolk killer team went after the Shark pods, houses and the Schools.”
“Where did the seafolk killer team come from?”
“They seemed to be Americans. At least the leader was. The rest looked like people from the coast, but that may have been because the seafolk went to America and these are the children. Whoever they were, they are very good both on land and underwater and have special tools for dealing with things like a Shark pod. There may also be some dragons and Chinese people involved.”
“Why don’t you come inside and get something to drink. You are safe here at the moment. In the morning I think that you must take the car and return with it to the other house. Perhaps you should go to the Normandy house and plan your rebuilding.”
They went inside the house. I don’t think that either one saw me standing there. If I could, I wanted to send a message to grandmother or Aunt Hannah, even, to pull her daughter and take her to the States. If Rosa and Gretel left with Tony and the rest of the kids, they could hide in a crowd and not be noticed. In any case my family needed to know that Gretel was a target. With that in mind, I sort of walked in Louis’s direction. I had a thought about him. He probably wouldn’t do anything for me, but I bet that the staff here had kids and he probably watched them like Tony and Robert did. I sort of came up next to him and said quietly in English, “Tired.”
He answered in French, “Not very. You are fairly good in the woods, but the young lady lacks experience.”
“True. We at home have had to be good in the woods because of the things like the place that we almost ran into last night. I wasn’t trying to lose you last night in any case. Is that place down the road a problem?”
“It could be. Pierre and I try to make sure that the kids stay away.”
“Are there more places like that out there?”
“I think that I will let you discover that for yourselves. After all, you have been warned to stay out of the woods.”
“We probably won’t be here that long, but if you need help with dealing with something taking a kid, I have experience.”
“I will keep that in mind. Most fae are bothered by the likes of me. You don’t seem to be.”
“I have good friends that are very like you. Considering that you may need certain services, I think that you may want to go out of your way to talk to my friend Tony while he is here so that certain arrangements can be made.”
“What services would those be?”
“The services of a Creator. Right now, the only Creator on the continent is my grandmother’s brother and that will not be for very long.”
“He could be forced to stay.”
“By whom? His visa to the states with his family has already been approved, the reservations have been made and I doubt that the Masters have anything that will be stupid enough to get close to a relative of my grandmother until after they are sure that the Hunter is off of the continent.”
“You have made a very good point. So why discuss this with me?”
“I won’t ask you to do anything regarding us , I don’t know what your Charge is currently and I won’t ask. But the ladies over there were discussing going after a little girl that is a relative. If the opportunity presents itself and you can discreetly contact the Butterfly and tell her that her daughter is at risk, my family will greatly appreciate it.”
“You are not asking me to look the other way regarding you and the girl?”
“That wouldn’t be much fun and I doubt that you or Pierre would in any case because that would involve the security of the Lady. Of course that security has been weakened a bit when that other lady showed up. I would encourage your Lady to get rid of her as soon as she can.”
“How so?”
“The lady is a Shark. If there is one thing that the Troubleshooter hates, it’s Sharks recruiting. At best you have a couple of days here before he finds out where she went and then things get unpleasant.”
“Worse than the house in Normandy?”
“I was locked up in a girls school all week. What happened in Normandy?”
“We were attacked by Constructs that went boom. The house also had a small boom, but the boom just tore a treasure box apart. It didn’t even break the windows.”
“That sounds like my Aunt Mary. She likes booms. That was the ten Constructs the Lady was talking about? It sounds as if nobody was hurt. Was there anything in the box?”
“A devise, but a rather useless one that we kept just in case.”
“I think that I know why. It can be used to communicate with stored people and make Constructs like you under the right circumstances. But it doesn’t bring the people back and the people are better off joining with a keystone. It needs an artifact to power it though.”
“That is exactly what it did. How did you know?”
“We had an incident that involved somebody needing a devise like that and making deals over here for it. We managed to stop that and resolve things.”
“The Red Lady was expecting to get her hands on some werewolves at last so that she could counter her pesky neighbors.”
“I met the neighbors. They were good people. The lady’s friends and employees, were not.”
The still loose Fleur found me and did another Tony as Louis laughed. I reached up and grabbed his bridle before he could run off again. I looked at him and said, “You are a pain.”
I swear that the horse was grinning at me all the way back to the stable. Jacques and Jeanette laughed as I walked up with the not so little flower and handed him over to Jacques. Jacques said, “He likes you. Sometimes it can take half a day with him playing games. Of course he has a weakness for carrots and will be an instant friend for a few sugar cubes, at least until the next time.”
“I’ll remember that. He must be a pain to ride.”
“Very few will try. We don’t want to geld him because he gets very good stud fees and he is very particular about who will exercise him. He seems to like you and he is probably a bit tired. Would you like to see if he will let you?”
Jeanette was begging with her eyes so I said, “I’m probably making a foolish mistake, but why not.”
With that, Jacques and I got a blanket, saddle and riding bridle out. It was quickly apparent that Fleur knew all the tricks and wasn’t afraid to use them. After making sure that the bit was set correctly and that the saddle girth was tight, I mounted. Jacques had saddled a mare for Jeanette and we were off. Fleur had a wonderful gait and a very sneaky disposition. He wasn’t trying to buck me off. But if I fell into the pond or a rather crackly broken bramble bush, that was fine with him. When he realized that it wasn’t going to be that easy he settled down. We kept to the obvious trails and only stayed out for an hour or so because we didn’t want to keep the Lady, or more importantly, the cook, waiting for lunch. As we approached the stable there was a relatively soft patch in the garden and I let Fluer throw me off where the house could see it. Strangely enough, Fluer didn’t even try to run as I grabbed the reins and walked my sore body and him back to the stable and handed him over to Jacques. “This character is a joker all right.”
Jacques laughed. I swear that Fleur did too. The servant came over and said, “Monsieur, Madamoiselle, you are expect to dress for lunch. Clothes are provided for you in your rooms.”
We returned to the guest house and dressed. Then we went to the main house and into the dining room where the Lady, Leisel and the other man were waiting. After we were seated, the Lady said, “Was Jacques playing a trick on you? Fleur can be difficult to handle.”
“He was all right. He did throw me a few times, the last one you probably saw. My horse at home is almost as big a joker. Grandfather gets horses like that because they are cheap. We do ok with them, but most people don’t want to take the time on a horse like that. We don’t have as many horses as we used to.”
“You do not breed horses?”
“We never have, at least while I have been alive. We may have at one time, but the last ten years or so, the familyhas been purchasing tractors rather than horses. We use the tractors and trucks for most of the things that we used to do with horses. On the other hand, my Aunt Mary bought some horses this year for the inn so that we can offer carriage and sleigh rides to some relatives that have never had the experience.”
“Why wouldn’t they have had the experience? Are they so young?”
“Because they live underwater. A lot of relatives we have now have tails, but come up anyway since we have pools with salt water and other ways of accomadating them and they can experience something new. So we need the horses for the carriages and sleighs. With Jeanette and my cousin in the family we may look into breeding some horses for ourselves and selling to customers. We have the pasture for it since we don’t use it for the workhorses anymore and the stable as well. Our stable is fairly new since my great grandfather built it just before he was killed.”
“Before we go too far abroad, I want to introduce my daughter Liesel and Heger Fränks, who does work for me and some others.”
So that was the Chancellor. Good to know what he looked like, though Aunt Stephie had that picture that she took of the entire crowd. Jeanette said, “Hello Monsieur Fränks. I haven’t seen you in some time.”
“I am glad to see that you are well, Jeanette.”
“You didn’t say very much last evening.”
“I felt it better that the Lady have her chance at you, since she didn’t know you.”
“It is good to see you again. You can tell my father that Tony and I are fine.”
“I think that you father is a bit put out with me right now.”
“I doubt that he blames you for something that Lady Hannah was responsible for. Of course Lady Hannah may wish that she was back with the dead before this is over, but that is between her and my father.”
The Chancellor winced and I said, “Monsieur Fränks, you seemed to be rather worried about my brother and Scott being annoyed at you. They can’t be that bad, can they?”
“I have never met them, myself and you certainly know them better than I do, but they do have a reputation and a lot of Constructs to play with.”
“True, they do, but they are also rather busy. I wouldn’t worry about them for a bit unless they work for Chrissie’s grandfather again.”
The poor Chancellor got a very frightened look on his face as he asked “Is he coming here?”
“I don’t think so. Not this year, anyway. He has a wedding coming up and all the things going on around Christmas with the family. So I doubt that he will show up.”
“That is good to hear.”
“On the other hand, his sneaky great grandsons have been here and playing with us the entire time and another one turned up with a bond, so you never know. I certainly haven’t seen him.”
If anything the Chancellor got even more frightened. I could understand that. A Mr. White that was visible bad as that could be, was probably a lot better than a Noro that you didn’t see. I had been talking with various family members all summer and everybody said that he was as sneaky as anybody. I wasn’t going to talk with the Chancellor about Eli and Theresa at all. Jeanette asked about Fleur and we talked about horses for the rest of lunch.
After lunch was over the Chancellor followed us to the guesthouse, “I think that I need to talk with you.”
“What about? By the way, Louis, at least, speaks English.”
“I’m not surprised. Those two are older than Tony and Robert and very competent, if not as intelligent as Tony or Robert, let alone the other one.”
“Helmut, you mean?”
“If he is the boss of the bureau, yes. We didn’t notice he and the woman over here and not at first when they started to work for the government, so I never bothered to learn his name.”
“So what do you want to discuss?”
“What is going to happen and my family. I almost assuredly will not escape what is coming, but my family may, if I can arrange it.”
“You should talk with my uncle,” Jeanette said. “He respects you for what you tried to do and how impossible your job was. I think that your family was taken care of somewhat. Certainly the vampires watching them were destroyed.”
“Yes, and when you see Bill, give him my thanks.”
I looked at the Chancellor and said, “If you see my aunt, tell her that she needs to see Rosa and make some arrangements as soon as possible.”
“Hannah’s daughter has been discovered.”
“Yes. The two ladies were discussing it and apparently the Sharks and the vampire were trying to find out how they could take the girl and make it look random so that my aunt couldn’t strike against them. They were apparently planning a truly special recruitement but hadn’t found where the girl was. My aunt must have slipped up and the rumors started that she had a daughter and that she was someplace on the Cote De Azure. Grandmother, and more importantly Tony are here and my aunt should tell my grandmother to take the girl and go.”
“I can agree with that. I would tell the ladies that taking the girl would be a disaster now that your family knows about her, but they are beyond listening at this point. For that matter, taking you two was a mistake and a costly one. The thing that surprises me is that you are still here.”
“I don’t want to make an escape attempt that fails, I don’t know the territory and I have Jeanette with me, who needs more practice in the woods, along with two very competent Constructs. Of course the Shark lady coming right back home to her mother may have cost this place its greatest protection.”
“Do you think that she was followed?”
“No, but the people involved didn’t need to. All they need to do is ask where the lady got off her train and between one connection or another, they will know where she went and that will lead Sal, at least, right here.”
“That would be the result of the Colonel and Bill dealing with him. That probably created all sorts of relationships.”
“That is some of them. Sal did his part as well. In any case, the Lady’s protection here is probably tattered.”
Jeanette said, “Since I don’t have experience in the woods, why don’t we explore the grounds here and meet the people. Chancellor, we will see you at dinner.”
She dragged me off and I asked quietly, “So why did you not want to talk with him?”
“Because I don’t want the Lady to know how close the relationship was. Talking for a short period is understandable, but a long conversation, here, might lead to questions. How did you find out so much about Liesel?”
“A technique that I learned. Here, this is how you make a sense string.”
I showed her and she said, “So what good is that?”
“Let me walk over there and hold up a leaf. Throw a sense string at the leaf.”
I walked over to the stables, picking up a leaf on the way. I held up and said, “Jeanette, you are a foxy girl.”
I was looking at her as she started to laugh and came over. She reached me and kissed me. “Yes I am. So that is how it works. There were no leaves where the ladies were, so what did you use?”
“The window. The technique works as long as there is a surface that virbrates with sound like a microphone does. It’s like a kid’s string telephone. Captain Golphinho came up with the idea when he was a boy and avoiding the local bullies.”
“Why don’t we practice this and some other things that you need to teach me, like being able to phase without Change. That way we can both get some practice.”
We did that and explored the various places that supported the Lady and the household. Jeanette charmed everybody and I made some friends of some kids by showing them how to make exploding boats. I also gave the boys tips about handling the rifles that they had. By the time we returned to the house for dinner, we had made quite a few friends. Liesel wasn’t one of them, as she was rather frightened by the occasional boat that went off.
After dinner and a cuddle, Jeanette and I had a Run while the Constructs watched us somewhat. I discreetly placed some things that I had made while showing the boys some of Uncle Tom’s things. The boys and some of the girls knew about the book and were saving pennies and hoping to get copies for Christmas. I hadn’t brought a copy with me, but I could show them how to make all sorts of trouble. In any case, between my efforts with the boys and the things in my collar pack, I could set up some discreet distractions. I had an idea about how I was going to get Jeanette and I out of here and I was getting ready.

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