The Golden Butterfly Chapter 42, part 2.

Here’s part 2 of Chapter 42.

The Chancellor.
Tuesday December 13, 1932.
Jean, his bonded and I used my car to chase the Queen and her brood. They stopped to watch some police that were investigating a body that was probably one of the Queen’s family. Then they went south before starting to sniff north again. The police must have sensed something because they started to follow. I left Jean and his bonded to follow along and went to find the Lady. She was standing outside her child’s chateau and when she saw me drive up. said, “It appears that the hunt is coming in our direction. Did you see anything from the boy’s family?”
“No, but that doesn’t mean that they are not present. The queen is in full hunt mode and not paying attention.”
“We are going to join in, shortly. Pierre has prepared a way to my train car and I have had the car readied on a special train, so the girl and I can be away, very quickly. I think that I may have finally finished my Butterfly’s recruitment at last.”
I thought about all the reports over the years about the Bentons and what they did to the people that the Director had sent against them and the others who had tried to molest the family. The old man was here, and since he wasn’t obviously visible, there was no way to know just what he had available and what he was doing. The Red Lady was so focused on what she could sense and see that she wasn’t paying attention to the bigger picture.
There was a bit of a surprise as the Lady Gwynne showed up in a car with Louis, the Construct worked with her. She smiled at Lady Elizabeth and said, “I had some rumors that my neighbor was going after the young man and Louis and I thought that we would see how he is doing. Chancellor, so how is he doing?”
“It is a bit hard to tell. He was going to Mass with his bonded and the Unbonded’s daughter and then did some shopping. I’m not sure if he was able to send a message to his grandparents at the hotel.”
Louis was looking down toward the beach and casino and said, “I see them. If they went shopping, they either did not make any purchases, dropped them someplace or posted them to their ship. If they did that, they probably sent a message as well. The question is why they came this way and how long it took to get here.”
Milady Elizabeth said, “We are off to collect our prize. Watch and enjoy the fun, Gwynne.”
“I will.”
The lady left, taking everybody but the servants, the Lady Gwynne, Louis and I. I turned to the lady and said, “Your other daughter is gone. The Troubleshooter showed up when she started to recruit.”
“I am not surprised. The Shark Change had some issues and the sea is demanding. In the end the sea took its due.”
“You are not upset at the Troubleshooter?”
“He was doing a job. I expect that he had his reasons. My daughter made the mistake of taking certain actions in front of him when she knew the risks. If the opportunity should arise that I can inflict some punishment on the man, I will, but I will not let it consume me like this thing has consumed Elizabeth. She should not have intervened personally. Even with a potential recruit like the Butterfly’s daughter. At least this way we can watch our opponents when they have to do things without a lot of planning. Louis, what do you think?”
“How about we bet Fleur against that horse you like.”
“You must be fairly certain about what is going to happen. I will take the bet. I expect that you will be losing a horse. Where are the three, now.”
“Seemingly hiding in amongst changing booths on the beach. Some of the vampires are closing in.”
“You don’t think that the boy has trapped himself?”
“If he did, it was deliberate. Accidents happen, but the only reason he came back with me is that he agreed to help with obnoxious neighbors and didn’t want to make a scene. He wouldn’t have let them box him in unless he wanted them to think that he had. So something else is up.”
“We’ll find out. I will point out that the reports were not exactly clear where the Troubleshooter found all those seafolk he was working with, we haven’t seen them and this is a beach. If the family was collecting to leave, there may be some family that the lady didn’t see.”
“The Hunter is bad enough. Heger, what do you think?”
I looked down the hill. I didn’t have Louis’ eyesight and it was impossible to see very much other than the beach huts on the beach. I turned to Louis and asked, “Where are they?”
“Near the wooden pier that the casino has, next to the sea wall behind some huts. In order to get at the girls, they would have to come at him from the other end of the row or jump off the seawall right into his gun. They are going to take casualties whatever they do. The question is how many spare magazines he has.”
“Because he took that vampire down at the chateau with one shot. If he has spare magazines and they can’t rush him, he can probably kill all of them. He is not alone in any case. This is going to be fun.”
“What do you see?”
“Seven Construct circles with chickens, fish and rabbits in them. Whoever made the circles was very good and made them small. They must be the same people that sent the Constructs against the house, milady. We never did find out quite how they did it. I see that they have a flyer up. She is very good and seems to be a bit familiar. She may have been an indentured.”
The lady looked and said, “One of ours. That is Suzette. She apparently was not destroyed with the Colonel. Since her children went with the Colonel, I am not surprised that the other side took advantage. Louis, you are right. This is going to be fun. This time we can see these people in a situation directly where they did not have time to prepare. Elizabeth should not have charged in without paying attention.”
Tuesday December 13, 1932.
The trick was to make it look as if I was trapped when I really wasn’t. If we had still been alone, I would have shot off the diversion I had purchased, left the beach when the tram was coming and grabbed it back toward the hotel, getting off before we ran into the welcoming committee that I was sure would be there. Once I knew that my message had gotten through, I had a different game. Especially since Bill and grandfather had almost certainly arrived before I did. Aunt Hilda was probably playing cop liason and backup like she did when things were bigger than Bill and Aunt Hilda would typically handle on their own. I didn’t see David or Mike, but the tide was coming in and they were probably well hidden at this point. Suzette was flying overhead, and just dropped her shields so that I knew that she was there.
The vampires were getting close now, at least the lead ones were. One thing the family had taken advantage of was the fact that vampires did not seem to be able to coordinate together even when they were operating in a group. With them it was always ‘I’ and teams didn’t even enter into the picture. So like that thing at the monument, they were going to charge in, rather than waiting for the rest of them. One of them was close, making that clicking sound with it’s teeth that the things made. The thing called out, “I know that you are hiding near, boy! Just give us the girl and we might change our minds about you and your lady.”
I took advantage of a little trick that my brother and I had picked up for such occasions and used a projection to send my voice down the next row of beach huts. With a bit of quaver on my voice I called out, “No! I won’t give in to you!”
The things headed toward the huts and ran into the surprise that I had left on my way to where I was. It wasn’t quite enough to kill the thing, but he did feel it. My bag only had room for the one boom and I wanted to use it to make them cautious. Unfortunately for the vampire, he was sitting there in a bit of a shock where I could see him and I Slung a spike through his throat and he dropped. That was two. I then used a projection to parrot the vampire calling out, “He’s over here!”
Then I retreated back to the girls. Jeanette looked at me and whispered, “You shouldn’t take risks like that.”
“I wasn’t taking a risk. Let’s move up the row. These thing don’t know how to coordinate.”
We moved up the row of beach huts and I took a look at the sea wall next to the street. Down the street, next to the restaurant that was part of the casino was the miasma that I had sensed at the Lady Gwynne’s place. I figured that meant that the gang was here for the most part. The beach was sand on top of rocks, so I didn’t drop any sharp surprises. I started to check the beach huts for loose boards and found one. I turned to Jeanette and said, “When the show starts, we can duck in here.”
A vampire appeared on one end of the row and another showed up a bit later. They both approached and the closer one called out, “We have you now!”
“Snap! Snap!” They both dropped. I used a projection and called out, “Wrong place, I was never there and you are dead!”
That was four. I turned to Jeanette and Gretel and whispered, “In between the sheds here. I want to see what is out front.”
We discreetly ducked through a narrow gap between two huts and I peeked quickly. There were four of the things heading toward where I had called out, not even trying to hide. The range was long for getting a kill and I only had three more spikes so I didn’t Sling another one. I did a quick scan around and suddenly there were screams where the vampires had just gone out of sight. We ducked back through the huts and there were some crunching sounds in the direction that the vampires had gone. I grinned and said, “They found the rabbits.”
Jeanette laughed and said, “I think the rabbits found them. How did the boys set up the paths so closely?”
“They didn’t. The rabbits used the same tubes that I had used at the Lady’s. The boys set them up with a tripwire and the vampires were already into the attack range when the Constructs launched. That’s eight. Let’s go.”
It turned out that it was seven, but I made it eight and then recovered that spike and the one that I had Slung earlier. I checked my watch and it was two thirty. There wasn’t a vampire on top of the pier and I had us stay where we couldn’t be seen from the road even if we dropped our shields and became visible. There was suddenly a “TB” click Followed by a “N.” I turned to the girls and said “We’re supposed to go north. Let’s turn around.”
Tuesday December 13, 1932.
We managed to obtain a car and follow my sister. I and probably Rosa could feel the monster and the taint rising under threat of Gretel being Taken. Suzette had taken off from the ship and was flying overhead. She and her sisters had come from Normandy and she knew the city well. With her as guide, we reached the Casino right behind my sister who started to look around. I felt around for Tony and Jeanette and they were on the beach. So were some vampires with more, including a very old and powerful one coming up behind them. I and the Constructs remained discreet as the battle started. I didn’t see Bill or my husband, even though I was sure that he was there. Jimmy was playing Chinese laborer at the Casino with a shovel that he had found someplace. Little Tiger was loitering on the street. I didn’t see Roger or Mary either, but they were probably planning a surprise.
So far, Tony seemed to be handling the vampires he encountered all on his own. Larry and Theresa were going to be so proud of him. I wasn’t sure of the pookah Constructs were his, but they tore three vampires to pieces as they went down, damaged and dissolving in the end. Tony dealt with the last vampire and then collected his spikes. Hilda came up with a police officer and said, “Hello, mother, this is Inspector Dreyfuss. He doesn’t have the people right now to deal with something like this. I said that it was probably being handled.”
“Hello, Inspector. Since they are making my grandson late for the ship, we are involved. I would tell your people to stay back and keep an eye out. Your local problem may show up.”
“Qui. Hilda said that there might be more.”
“They can’t help themselves. Especially with prey like my niece. Unfortunately they already Took my sister, though she has resisted the taint.”
Tony had been drifting South when he turned around and headed north remaining discreet and ducking into the rows of beach huts. The vampires, including the Queen couldn’t seem to lock onto him until suddenly he appeared around a beach hut and shot one in the face. Then he started to run as the rest saw him and gave chase. That was when a fog came up and hid Tony again, along with anything else that may have been in the fog.
The Chancellor.
Tuesday December 13, 1932.
Milady Gwynne said, “This has been interesting. He hasn’t used the gun he must have and he’s dealt with seven.”
“I’m not sure that all of them are his,” Louis said. “I don’t think he set up the constructs. On the other hand, that trick of having Constructs that you can set up and use as a trap is useful. We will have to see if we can duplicate it or obtain the secret. That is if we can get the Constructs in the first place.
“There is that. Without viable Creators we are bereft. My associates were so determined to exercise total control that they didn’t realize what would happen until we were left with almost nothing. Of course the Red lady was hiding her pet’s brother and using the relationship as cover. Is he gone as well?”
“Soon,” I replied. “He is moving to be with his sister and Eric in the states.”
“Are there no steps that can be taken to stop him?”
“The visa arrangements have already been made, the ship booked, the family has already left and the Hunter is going to be staying and leaving with him and some other family. So any steps at this point would probably not work and I was hoping that we could get the Bentons to go home.”
The lady laughed. “Good point. I would not want to go up against the other sister without knowing far more than I do already. Especially when one Creator more or less would not make a significant change in how she can do things”
“Worse, It’s Christmas, the boys are on vacation and she might just inflict them on us.”
There was suddenly a shot and Louis said, “I think that the big show is about to start.”

Tuesday December 13, 1932.
As we were going back north David became visible where I was fairly sure that the vampires could not see him, pointed at his watch, held up five fingers, made running motions with his fingers, a shooting motion and pointed more or less along the beach. Then he disappeared again. Jeanette said, “In five minutes, David want us to run visibly along the beach, shoot any vampires that we encounter and go in that direction.”
“I figured. There probably will be Constructs and other surprises. Be ready.”
I kept an eye on my watch and the minutes counting down, as the vampires were still wandering around but getting closer, I pulled my gun and got ready. At five minutes I dropped my shields and started to run. A vampire spotted us and started toward us, so I shot it. That attracted the attention of all the vampires and they suddenly turned and saw me. As one they came after us. As they started to get close, a fog came up and apparitions appeared. We kept going and as a vampire popped up in front of me, I killed it. Then another. There were screams back in the fog as I suspected that vampires ran into Constructs and yet another vampire passed me, running. I shot it anyway. We exited the fog along the seawall and Bill was there with a shotgun. He hauled Gretel up the seawall and said, “Stay there. I will watch Gretel. Good job.”
The distraction turned out to be a mistake as Gretel suddenly called out, “Mama?”
I looked and it wasn’t Hannah in Change, even though it looked like her. It was the vampire queen, using a glamor. The thing beckoned and Gretel ran toward it. There was a growl and another vampire flew toward the thing and yelled, “Not my daughter!”
My aunt tore into to the vampire queen who was forced to drop the glamor and defend herself from my aunt. Bill reached the rather shocked Gretel and grabbed her. He said, “That wasn’t your mother and unfortunately, your mother isn’t your mother anymore. Tony, take the girl. Do you need another gun?”
He dropped Gretel back down with us and I said, “Yes!” so he pulled his pistol out and tossed that too. I grabbed it and put it in my pocket. Hannah was holding the vampire queen more or less on the ground and Bill took his shotgun, put it to the vampire queen’s head and pulled the trigger. The projector had run its course or Mike had shut it down, the fog cleared away, leaving dead and melting vampires with Steve’s people naked except their guns and a sort of poncho heading back to the water. They were in the water and getting ready to disappear as grandmother and grandfather came up. Bill looked up and called out, “We have more company. Steve! There are more coming!”Steve turned around and waved Stelios and his people into a firing line. David and Mike joined them. Grandfather was covering grandmother and grandmother was covering her sister. Tony and Robert jumped over the seawall with Rosa and Rosa said, “We have you now, Shatz! We will protect you.”
The Chancellor.
Tuesday December 13, 1932.
Louis said, “Now those are interesting.”
“What?” the lady replied.
“Those covers the seafolk are using. They look like ponchos, but are so much more. They must have a glamor They can allow the wearer to conceal without shields and see in things like fog. I wonder how they made the fog on the beach? I think our neighbor just made a fatal mistake.”
I looked down and two vampires were battling with each other. Bill grabbed the girl who must have been the reason for all of this and tossed her down to Tony. Then he looked at the vampires and shot the one being held down in the head. Louis grinned and said, “Definitely fatal. This has been very interesting indeed.”
The fog cleared, revealing dead vampires dissolving. The seafolk appeared to be getting ready to disappear when Bill apparently waved them back. Both Tony and Robert jumped down with a lady Construct and surrounded the girl. I turned to Milady Gwynne and said, “Milady Elizabeth has just made a big mistake. Taking the girl from Tony is bad enough as you know. Taking the girl from Greta and the Constructs? That is going to take more than the lady has. I told her to stay out of this.”
Louis turned and said, I think that it would be best if we all departed. I suspect that the Hunter and the police will be here all too soon and the further away we are, milady, the better. I think that another Master has been lost.”
The lady grimaced. “I think that you are right. Let us go. Chancellor, stay and watch until this over and then give us a report.”
“Very well.”
I continued to watch, what little I could see. I suspected that there was more than one vampire lord about to meet their demise. It appeared that Greta had just killed her sister. I doubted that doing that would put her in a good mood.
Tuesday December 13, 1932.
I reached into my purse, pulled out the gun, cocked it, cleared the safety and stood covering what had been my sister. The thing that had taken her was no longer any connection that I knew except for one tiny bit that said in the German of the land of our birth, “Please sister. End this before I become the monster fully. End it now. Take care of my daughter and let her know that I loved her so much. In the end it was that love which the Lady used to Take me. Don’t let me become the souless monster that she wants. Gretel, I love you and my sister must do this for your sake! Don’t hate my sister for this! Hate the thing responsible if you must! For as long as she lasts”
Bill said, “Greta, do it quick.We have company coming and if the thing coming gives the order, you know what will happen.”
My sister looked at me and said, “Give me mercy. Don’t let the Bloody Lady have me.”
I pulled the trigger. I did not miss even with the tears in my eyes and Gretel yelling, “Mama!”
This had been the hardest thing I had ever had to do. I just hoped that Gretel could forgive me. I just hoped that I could forgive myself. I knew that there had been no other choice unless I wanted to let a monster loose upon the world and that even if I had not done it now, I would have had to deal with my sister at some point. The thing that my sister had become would leave me no choice.
As the thing that had been my sister started to dissolve, I turned to the approaching monsters. The local vampire king must not have had a large family as there were only fifteen of them and they died very quickly as I killed them one by one, changing magazines after the first ran dry. I suspect that Bill, Eric, Jimmy, Little Tiger, Tony or Steve’s people killed some of them as there was still some cartridges left in the second magazine when Bill handed me his spare. The vampire Lord tried to attack me and died for his trouble. That left the Lady. She stood frozen as I approached. I think that she knew that I was death. If not now, at some point in the future. I said to her, “Now, or later?”
“Now. This is over and you have taken everything. My children, my home, my treasures and my future. If I had known that I was creating my own death, I would never have molested your family. I have and this is the price.”
I pulled the trigger one more time.
Tuesday December 13, 1932.
This was over. It was more than we planned but at least we had done everything that we had planned to do. The community had been evacuated, the vampires watching the communities destroyed, the keystones recovered and the Masters put on notice that they were not safe from us. The police helped in getting the neighborhood, what there was of it, calmed down. Fortunately the villas, and hotel, along with the casino were more or less closed this time of year. The loudest shots had been Tony’s shooting vampires, Bill’s shotgun shot and mother’s rampage. Fortunately all the vampires had been in Change and hunting before they were destroyed. Also, we went up to the vampire lord’s villa and the usual compulsions and left behinds made convincing evidence that we had done the right thing. The Inspector and some of the other police looked as if they wished that the vampire lord could be brought back so that they could get a shot at him.
Bill and I managed to get everybody else on the ship on time. I promised Inspector Dreyfuss that Boris would get Tony and Jeanette’s statements and send them back. With the exception of Dreyfuss himself, none of his people even saw Steve, Mike or David. They disappeared very quickly when things were over, leaving some strange objects on the beach and a mystery. Bill and I had dinner with Jean and Glinde and left afterward heading east to join Greta’s brother. His family had gone with Adelheid and were already in the States. As we sat together in our compartment, I said to Bill. “I am glad that things are more or less over. At least for now.”
The Chancellor.
Tuesday December 13, 1932.
I watched Greta go through the Lord’s family as if it were not there, except for the fact that vampires in Change and at full strength dropped like swatted flies, with only a shot each. It happened so quickly that the vampires never even had a chance to react, let alone attack. I wasn’t sure if Greta herself killed them all, but however it happened, it was over in seconds. The old vampire lord tried to intervene and died like the others. Then Greta stood over the Lady and there was a final shot. It was perhaps the most terrifying thing that I had ever seen. Especially as the thing had been done with no emotion whatsoever, just a brutal intention to get a nasty job done as quickly as possible.
When it was over, Greta went back to the rapidly dissolving remains of her sister, handed the pistol to her husband and started to break down. Tony found a piece of pipe from something and handed it to Eric, who put what little was left of Hannah inside and closed the end with some sort of foil. Then they all left, and I left as well. It was only a matter of time before the police arrived and I didn’t even want to think about the cellar here.
When I arrived at my hotel, Louis and the lady were waiting. Louis said, “So, what happened?”
“Greta killed her sister and then the Lady.”
Milady Gwynne frowned, “The lord and his family did not protect her?”
“They never had a chance to. They were all gone in seconds. Greta’s pistol sounded like a machine gun, yet all of them only took one shot.”
“It would seem that we underestimated them greatly. Louis I think that you have won the bet.”
“Of course, milady.”
“What are you going to do with Fleur, now that you have him?”
Louis smiled“It is the time of year for giving gifts and Fleur became rather attached to a certain young man. I think that they deserve each other.”
The lady grinned, “Louis, you are your usual self. That is brilliant. The young lady will like it as well. So how do we handle delivery?”
“I think that Jacques can arrange it. He has a contact with the young lady’s family and I expect that some horses will be traveling to the States in any case. If that doesn’t work, I can talk with Bill.”
“I will leave it with you.”
Friday December 16, 1932.
We arrived in Suhl again today. Mother felt that it was important that somebody tell her brother personally what had happened and since Bill and I had already planned to go home with him, we were the logical choice. We were all leaving on the 20th from Bremerhaven. I walked into the shop and Uncle Gert said, “Hello, Hilda, I think that I am more or less ready. It will be sad leaving what I have built up, but being free of certain things is a tremendous attraction.”
“Uncle Gert, Aunt Hannah is dead.”
“For real, this time? How did it happen?”
“She had a daughter that she kept hidden from everybody. That’s why she kidnapped Tony and Jeanette. So that she could draw mother in. We found the girl and Rosa, who was protecting her, but Tony and Jeanette were taken to the French Witch’s chateau in burgundy and there was one of the Red Lady’s children nearby. A very old and powerful one. She latched on to Tony and Jeanette and when mother had some kids with her, including Hannah’s daughter, the vampires went into a hunt frenzy and pursued us to Le Havre. Aunt Hannah was forced to have a session with the Red Lady and was carrying a lot of the taint. She followed along to Le Havre and the vampire lady caught up with Tony, Jeanette and Gretel. We were on top of things, but the presence of the vampire lady tripped Aunt Hannah into recruitment and mother had to shoot her.”
“I think that Hannah wanted that. Frankly I think that all the business of arranging her fake death was to cause her real death and Greta was the only one who could give her that mercy. What is the girl like?”
“Wonderful. You didn’t ask about Rosa.”
“I know what Rosa is like. I doubt that she has changed that much. I wish that she would find her lout brothers as she calls them so that they could help her.”
‘It turns out that mother already knew all three of them. So do I. So that problem is solved.”
“What are they like? They cannot be as loutish as Rosa said they were.”
“Definitely not. I think that you will like all three of them.”
“The gun is finished. I’ve put an aversion on the case so that customs doesn’t look that closely.”
“Thanks to my aunt, this turned out to be a bigger adventure than we planned. On our way to the ship, we need to do one more thing. Two more, actually.”
“What are they?”
“Clean out aunt’s place in Cologne and tweak Herr Stieger one more time.”
Uncle Gert smiled. “Do you have any ideas?”
“Not at present. I don’t know him well enough to have any knowledge of his habits other than the fact that he did horizontal dancing with Hannah.”
“We have pictures of that.”
I grinned. “We do, don’t we? Who can we send them to?”
“Herr Moss has bought several guns from me. He owns a paper in Berlin, the Tageblatt. I think that I should send my old friend a joke picture involving a Nazi. He will probably enjoy it.”
“I suspect that he will.”
Friday December 16, 1932.
Gretel and I were having our daily cry together. For some reason, we had been together right after lunch and both of us started to cry again over her lost mother who was my lost sister. We had found a little lounge near the stern of the ship that was more or less closed because of the storm surrounding the ship that was perfect for my mood. Since we had already sent what Hannah had had at the house ahead with my daughter along with the rest of of the things at the house, I didn’t have anything to share with Gretel except the stories of our lives together. So far that had been more than enough, especially when Rosa joined in. This being the last day before our arrival, Gretel said, “I’m afraid.”
“There is no reason to be. Tony and Jeanette will be with you. Rosa will be as well. Nobody will blame you for your mother. We love you already and will make sure that you are prepared to make your own way forward. This is what your mother wanted and that is the last thing that I can do for my sister.”
“I miss my mama!”
“So do I. Much more than I realized.”
“You killed her!”
“I killed the thing that she had become. That is what she wanted. She knew that it was going to happen and she wanted somebody who was powerful enough and loved her enough to finish the thing that she was going to become before it could hurt you or anybody else. I think, that other than getting you away from the Lady, who preyed upon my sister and so many others, that is what my sister wanted more than anything else. She was willing to risk everything to bring you and I together and in the end, after all these years, it was her love for you that broke down the final barriers and allowed the lady to Take her fully at last.”
Gretel started to cry again and that was when Eric and Noro found us. Noro had managed to miss all the fuss with Tony and my sister because he had gone straight to the ship from the hotel and was already aboard when things broke loose. He was a bit annoyed with himself that he hadn’t paid attention and missed things. But everything had happened so fast that nobody thought to look for him. Noro said, “I am sorry that of us all, I never met your mother, Gretel. Not even to have her as an adversary. By the time I arrived, she was arranging to get you and your aunt together. Apparently your mother was respected even by her adversaries for her competence and courage. She knew that her end was inevitable and that she needed to get the only thing truly precious in her life away from the monsters that had Taken her. So she arranged this. She made some mistakes, but in the end, you came out of this intact and whole and that is her victory. I lost my much beloved wife to the same monsters, who managed to put their minions in my own home and take advantage of my grief to hurt my family and my community. Take heart, remember that your mother loved you more than anything else and that you have friends and relatives that will be with you and aid you in the challenges you face. Also, make sure that you find joy in your life and live it as your mother wanted and not consumed by the monsters.”
Gretel seemed to be feeling better and I asked Eric, “So why are you here?”
Noro smiled. “We are arranging a discreet transfer of some things and I wanted to know if there was anything other than those cases of wine that you wanted kept away from prying eyes.”
“Not at present. Are we near Boston?”
“Halifax. They are sending a tender out for the mail and some things like that wine that may have to take a more discreet path to delivery. Ok I will arrange things.”
Captain Golfinho.
Friday December 16, 1932.
We were finally home. The mooring lines were set and the gangway run out. Ron from Customs came up and said, “Hi, Paulo, I thought that I would get a fast start. This should be easy, for the most part.”
“Unfortunately not. We had some last minute cargo in Marseille and I have no idea how you are going to handle it. Here’s the list.”
I handed him the list and he took one look at it. ‘Paulo, I know that you work for a big joker, but this is ridiculous. Show me the real manifest.”
“That is the real manifest.”
Tom must have been told that we were docking today as he came into the bridge with Joe. Joe said, “Hi Paulo. You’re back. Where’s my brother?”
“Haruka is on board. Your brother is on another ship. There were some issues with Tom’s aunt and he’s helping with them.”
“Just so he brings Stelios and grandfather back. Eli and Theresa can ride herd on them and will get them back before there’s any real trouble.”
“Why did you come, Tom?”
Tom frowned. “Mother wired ahead that I might want to take charge of some things she was sending. What things?”
Ron handed him the manifest. He looked at it. “These things. Ron, you don’t need to worry. The company’s insurer will be happy too. This is all personal property and the tax was paid a long time ago when my grandparents passed away, so there is no money changing hands and no duty involved. I’ve already talked with some people about this when the first load came through. Josh and I have a place set up for it until we can figure out how to disburse it. I also called some people at the National gallery about some donations. Some people here in town as well. We have some bonded trucks set up for this. I’m glad that mother told me about this beforehand. The first load was bad enough.”
“What happened?”
“My sister had a run in with the people in New York when she brought the first load in. The Van Gogh started it, but the idiots working for Steiger missed quite a bit that mother and her sister had collected, along with my grandmother and suddenly we were dealing with a pile of French impressionist and post impressionist things that nobody had seen before since mother and my aunt had bought them directly from the artists in stalls in Paris when they were teenagers.”
Ron laughed. “That will do it.”
“The paintings were just stashed in boxes and loaded up. Apparently nobody was paying attention to my mother and aunt’s rooms because of the rest of the house. My mother just packed the things and there was my sister stuck with the mess, which she promptly dumped on Chrissie since she had to pick up her kids and go back up state. You can guess what Chrissie did.”
“Dumped it on you.”
“Part of it. Some of the rest on the Company’s people that deal with legal and shipping issues and the rest with a call to the White House. I am glad that Miss Vicky is leaving so that Chrissie can’t just make those calls anymore.”
“Because then it bounces back on me and I have more work. At least with this everything is settled and we all made arrangements for this, since we knew it was coming.”
“It sounds as if you are on top of things. I should have paid more attention to my mail, but I figured that it would be Steve, Haruka, the Woods Hole people and the others and if Steve wants to smuggle something, we wouldn’t even see it.”
“It’s a bit hard to smuggle an art museum.”
“Don’t say that to Noro.”
“I won’t. He’d try it, just because it would be fun. At least this is here and mother was smuggling it out of Germany and not into the country.”
We all laughed at that. Ron said, “Welcome to the neighborhood. How are Chrissie and the kids doing?”
“Fine, except that with two, I’m having sleep issues.”
Ron and I laughed. I said, “It will get better until the next one.”
“That’s what everybody says. Joe, I need to get back and keep things moving or I will have a lot of ladies mad at me.”
He left again and Joe laughed. He turned to me and said, “Captain, I’m glad that you are back. Did those Yaoguai characters make it home ok?”
“Yes they did. Hopefully they will get the message and stay away.”
“As Tom said, the bonded trucks are on the way and we need to be ready. Do we have to deal with Sal’s car?”
“No, since he didn’t ship it with us. There were some things that came up at the last minute and he needed it.”
“One less thing to deal with then. Let’s get started before the rain starts.”
We did and as the trucks showed up, we carefully unloaded the crates and the rest and the people that Josh had arranged loaded the trucks. As things were going along, Persai caught up with me and said, “I am glad that we are home at last. Why don’t we make sure to get a Swim tonight.”
“That sounds like a good idea. Mac and Tom can wait for the tank bed report for a while.”
Friday December 16, 1932.
After a wonderful drive and a bit of a dip in the river, Glinde and I were visiting the family stables to make some arrangements. My sister had been talking with Greta and arranged for space at the farm for some select horses, including Jeanette’s mare. It was up to me and Maurice to arrange shipment and we started to arrange the trucks to Le Havre and transport on the next liner which would be departing on Monday. The French Line was happy to set things up and they had practice with handling horses before for the races and show horses. Right after lunch, a truck drove up and Maurice called out, “Jacques, I haven’t seen you for some time. What brings you here?”
“My associate here has a bit of a gift for a young man. I called you about it since your employer is involved.”
Two men, or rather a man and a Construct got out of the truck and went to the back and brought out a very good horse. The Construct grinned and said, “This is Fluer. I am Louis and this character seems to have an attachment to young Mr. Benton. I thought that young Mr. Benton should have him.”
We grinned all around. I wasn’t sure about the details, but this was probably the horse that Tony had run into at the lady’s house. From the things my niece had said, the horse was a joker and liked to play games with Tony. I said to Louis, “We were just making arrangements to send some horses to the States. I think that we can add one more.”
“That should work out. Maurice told Jacques that you were making arrangements so I didn’t have to track Bill down. I wasn’t sure where he was going.”
“I’m not sure either. I think he’s run out of easy vampires and I imagine that the ones that are left are hiding.”
“He did clean up my neighborhood and while the lady doesn’t concern herself with that, I do. Jacques, I think that we have to get going.”
They left again and Maurice said, “That was the man who was holding the young lady, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. At least for some of it. Of course he is just the guard and not the one that was actually holding Jeanette and Tony and he obviously likes them both.”
“That was obvious. You don’t give a joker like this to just anybody.”
Fluer had managed to get himself loose and was making grooms chase him. It was obvious that he was very experienced at driving grooms crazy. I said to Maurice, “The Bentons tend to like jokers. The jokers challenge them and make them work.”
Saturday December 17, 1932.
Josh was waiting for us with cars and a bus for Tony and the kids. Tony, Robert and Rosa performed a miracle and got all the kids on the bus, their luggage loaded and the lot on the way with almost no trouble at all. Josh stood and watched the whole thing and then asked Eric, “Who’s the lady?”
“That’s Rosa, Greta’s old teacher. She was attached to Hannah.”
“She was calling Tony and Robert, brother.”
“They are.”
Josh grinned. “They are in trouble then.”
“No, I and the rest of the family are. Rosa is going home with us. We have her Charge, Hannah’s daughter.”
Josh turned to me and said, “We need to get going and get on a train. Cally will make my life hell if I let Stelios and my son gum things up.”
He froze Steve with his eyes and said, “I talked with the Admiral already. We go up and you report up at the Cape. He’s up there anyway, already.”
Steve grimaced. “We should check in and we have gear to deal with.”
“It’s being dealt with and you can check in up a Newport, tomorrow.”
I looked around and there was truck with some ratings dealing with the things that Steve had loaded. They brought over the personal bags and the petty officer said, “We’ll handle this, sir. Mr. Claytor’s right and the captain gave me strict instructions. You are to check in with the Admiral up at the Cape. Frankly I wouldn’t want the Admiral’s wife mad at me.”
Steve grimaced. “True.”
“To say nothing of your wife,”Josh said, “as well as your mother.”
With that, Josh pushed poor Steve into the car and a grinning Stelios and Petty officer Costa followed. Josh and I ended up with Eric, Greta and Gretel. Gretel looked more than a bit frightened and asked, “Where are we going?”
“To a wedding with family at first,” Greta said. “I’m sorry about the rush, but we were late and this is a good time to see the family since most of us will be there.”
Gretel looked at the city and said, “This place is big and amazing. May we come back. With a camera so that I can send pictures to Lisette?”
“I think that we can do that,” Eric said. “In fact we can even have our own reporter.”
He turned to me and said,“Noro, Vic will go for it, won’t he?”
I shared his sudden grin as I said, “I think that we should talk with him, yes. We’ve been away and Tim has probably been getting off easy.”
Gretel looked at us and said, “Who is Tim?”
I grinned. “Somebody who likes to take pictures. Of me, especially. I expect that we will run into him shortly.”
We arrived at Grand Central and started to unload the cars and push everybody toward the train. A flashbulb went off with Tim behind it. Suzy was next to him in a chair with Trillia. Tim said, “You took your time. You’re almost late. Andy is checking our bags. He should be back soon.”
Josh had people that he sent to check our bags and said, “We were ok. At least all the hiccups in customs were with Paulo and Tom.”
Andy returned and said, “Hi grandmother. I’m glad to see you back.”
I looked at him and said, “I’m surprised that you didn’t Swim.”
“Trillia wanted to try the train and I was busy yesterday down in the bower, so we figured that we would go with you. Suzy and Trillia got wet at the Bureau’s pier and we’ve made arrangements at the other end. The gate just opened.”
It had and Josh started to get our crew down to our train car. By the time the entire crowd had boarded we had essentially taken it over. The porter said to me as we boarded, “Mr. White, it is good to see you again. Every time you ride with us, you bring more interesting people. Have a good trip.”
It was dark as the train exited the tunnel and Gretel asked Greta, “those girls have tails, don’t they.”
“Suzy and Trillia? They do. Trillia was born under sea after her father was killed like yours was.”
“Terrible! Is her mother still alive?”
“She was here at the time and yes. The Sharks had not attacked the Sound bower at that point, so they only lost the heir to the Colonel. But the royal family is very small and when my grandson came along, Trillia grabbed him.”
“If she was under sea, how did she find him?”
“Andy had been taken prisoner and kept in a house along the shore. Trillia came to Sal’s first party where he lives now and then found Andy when he was freed. They have been together ever since. Why don’t we talk with them.”
Greta went to where Andy was sharing a seat with Trillia and they started to talk. Josh laughed and said, “I’m glad that Andy came with us.”
“Who suggested that Andy and Trillia take the train?”
“Nobody. Tono did keep him busy for the last two days and Trillia did want to ride the train. Of course Mera did mention how it worked and so did Nera.”
“Where are my daughters?”
“Up at the Cape already. Mike had a fork case and Nera is showing Ed around. Mera was busy at fisheries this week and couldn’t come down with me. She’s also been helping Callia, Vidilia and Rallia with the wedding.”
“I’m glad that they went for a double wedding.”
“So is Altris, Vince and Paul, who are footing the bill, not that the bill is that big.”
“So the same sort of arrangements that Chrissie had are at work?”
“We still own the hotel, the booze is handled, though I told Ray not to be so eager to lock up the top shelf stuff again and catering was Joe. We had the advantage this time that we could plan the wedding way in advance.”
“What are they planning for the honeymoon?”
“The ladies wanted someplace warm and cozy, so Jean, the yacht and Bermuda.”
“That sounds like a wonderful trip.”
Josh grinned. “Joe thought so. He’s pushing Jean to give him a complete report when he gets back. Maybe we can use the yacht for winter cruises.”
I looked over and it looked as if Andy was telling Gretel about the Manager and the Sharks. Tim went over and took a picture and Andy waved for him to sit down and the talking continued. I turned to Josh and said, “The girl had a very bad time when her mother was killed.”
“What happened?”
“Her mother was Turned because a vampire queen was coming after her and she was finally taken by the Twist,” Eric said. “Tony and Jeanette had taken Gretel to Mass and to do some shopping and the vampires were on the hunt.”
Josh frowned. “Didn’t Bill pick up on them?”
“He was right behind them. The French Witch had had Tony and Jeanette hostage for a brief time and the vampire queen had come for a visit. We were driving close by last Monday to see if we could pick up on Tony and Jeanette and Tony and Rosa had that load of kids that you saw in a bus behind us. The vampire were very hungry and locked onto the kids. Tony and Jeanette were in the process of escaping and Tony killed one of the vampires who was going after a little girl. The Red lady had discovered Gretel and wanted her. So the vampire queen showed up in Le Havre and started in on Tony and Jeanette. Tony sent a message and kept the queen distracted while we set her up with Steve, his people, David, Mikcheal, Bill, Little Tiger, Jimmy and I. But Hannah talked with Greta and pursued the queen. The Queen used a glamor on Gretel and that Tripped Hannah’s Twist and she was Turned. Greta had to shoot her.”
“The Red Lady?”
“She apparently was coming to collect her prize and Greta finished a vampire family and her right afterwards. Unfortunatley Gretel saw all of it.”
“Greta tends to stay out things as much as she can.”
“She does. That doesn’t mean that she can’t handle things. This time she had to. Hannah was a very strong vampire for the brief time that she lasted. She was able to outfight a queen who was at least two centuries old and very powerful.”
“What happened to the queen?”
“Bill killed it, but had to deal with and protect Gretel when the Red Lady showed up and Greta was the only one who could deal with Hannah. Hannah wanted her to. Of course the Red Lady, the child and his children found out why my wife stays out of things, the hard way. The family was dead in about 20 seconds and the Red Lady capitualated and took the shot rather than have Greta chase her.”
“How did Tony handle being pursued?”
“Very well. He only had his pistol and a single magazine, he was in the city where things were crowded in the beginning and he had Gretel with him,so he couldn’t Change and run with Jeanette. He evaded the net, sent us a message, dumped the purchases they had made in the mail to the ship, then reversed his course and stopped for lunch in a hotel. Afterwards he collected some supplies so that he could make some water tubes, killed a vampire that was scouting, rendezvoused with Micheal and David, who had set up some Constructs, killed some more vampires without using a gun and set the rest up where the Constructs and Steve could get at them. Unfortunately the queen managed to avoid the chaos and use a glamor to attract Gretel.”
“Vampires don’t work in teams.”
“Tony took full advantage of that. He did very well.”
“Other than sending a museum home, did everything else go well?”
“Very well. We recovered the keystones, emptied the house and Sal cleaned up the Cote De Azure. We met some interesting people including a relative of yours that you exiled.”
“He could have come home if he wanted. Callia is a bit annoyed at him.”

Steve joined us. “He had tail issues, dad. As well as some family debt issues. Bonding does that. Still, he’s going to be in trouble once Sillia or Greta talks with Aunt Callia and she talks with Haruka. That is if Aunt Callia isn’t talking with my wife already.”
“Just so long as everybody knows that it isn’t my fault. He made his mistake and I punished him appropriately. How is he doing otherwise?”
“Fine. He has two kids, his wife is a wonderful woman and his father in law wants to talk with you or Tom.”
“Tank beds?”
“How did you guess?”
“I figured that there were a bunch of tails without bowers down there and likely some Shark issues.”
“Not any more. Sal and I have probably managed to make the Shark Change extinct. We found two pods and dealt with both of them as well as the seeds. But yes dad, the lady’s want better arrangements and you can talk with Etienne after the wedding on Monday about how things work there.”
Josh looked at me. “Why didn’t you deal with it?”
“I was trying to be discreet and get a look at things. Eric, you and Greta messed me up somewhat by giving two of the Masters such bloody noses and destroying one. Not that I am going to complain.”
“We probably were moving faster than we should have been,” Eric said. “We went outside the plan when Hannah showed up and Sal started in on the Cote doing his clean up. The keystones went off without a hitch and Hannah messed things up with what she was doing. It took a few days to figure out exactly what was happening and at that point, Tony had been already taken by the French Witch.”
“What is she like?” Josh asked. “I can figure out what the others are like because they are Twisted. But she seems to be a mystery, somewhat.”
Eric waved Tony over. Jeanette joined us as well. “Josh wants to know what the French lady is like.”
Tony frowned. “That isn’t easy. I think that she lives for novelty and entertainment as much as anything else. She treats the people who work for her well, but everybody else exists as sort of an object, including her own daughters when they were destroyed. She didn’t seem to be very upset about the fact that Sal killed one of them other than the fact that he was destroying operations and costing her some revenue. She wasn’t too concerned about us trying to escape other than setting her constructs to watch us. Grandfather, you saw what Louis was like.”
“What were they like?” Josh asked.
“Very competent, older than Helmut, Tony or Robert, work the same sort of ways, and looking for a challenge. I gave them one and they enjoyed that.”
“What was their Charge?”
“I’m not sure. They work for the Lady, but I don’t think that she is their Charge. The preserve may be and they seem to be concerned with the fae there, especially the kids. Louis really like it that I shot the vampire to save that girl. He also made sure that we stopped in a the inn there.”
“We all did that,” Eric said with a laugh. “The innkeeper made sure that we had a good taste of the local wine and cheese, among other things.”
“Did it work?”
“There are some discreet deliveries coming to the inn that should arrive before Chrissie’s party. I will let you judge for yourself.”
We continued to talk until the train pulled into the station and we all got into the waiting cars.

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