The Golden Butterfly, Chapter 42, Part 3.

Here’s part 3 of chapter 42.

Sunday December 18, 1932.
Jeanette and I were keeping an eye on Gretel for grandmother at the reception after the wedding when Bob and Scott showed up. My brother said, “Where were you all week? You were supposed to be home last week, not this week.”
“Grandmother’s sister took us hostage.”
“You didn’t bust out?”
“There were reasons. The biggest is Gretel here. How did the parade go?”
“Easy. We arranged with Karla,who was the princess this year, but not fae, to help us debut our Construct dragons during the skating. We didn’t mess with the phone or shoot anything off at the parade. Everybody liked the show and that was what mattered. So who is Gretel?”
“Aunt Hannah’s daughter.”
“She let you take her? Who was stealing who?”
“She’s dead.”
“For real this time?”
“She was finally Turned and recruited and grandmother had to shoot her. I would be on your best behavior for a bit. Gretel, this is my brother, Bob and his fellow troublemaker, Scott. You won’t see them very much, as they are going to college.”
“That will make Rosa happy.”
My brother looked at me and said in German, “Who’s Rosa?”
She was walking up toward us. I laughed. “The lady who’s looking for her Charge. Rosa, these are Bob and Scott, my brother and cousin. We told you about them.”
My brother and Scott jumped a bit. Rosa looked them over. “They don’t look like devils, but then boys don’t always. They have bondeds, who I have met already, so they will be better behaved.”
Scott laughed. “So you are saying that we are good boys?”
“Oh, no. I know better than that. I have been around a long time and talking with my lout brothers, at least two of them. The third is here and probably hiding from me. I have met his lady friend, though. I will find him.”
She continued her search and I said, “That was the other reason that I didn’t bust out. I had Jeanette with me and she didn’t know how to phase without Change and the room was shielded. By the time I had a plan ready to get clear, we knew about Gretel and I was told by grandmother that keeping an eye on Gretel for Hannah was more important than escaping. We were trying to keep Gretel from being discovered by Aunt’s associates. So a large degree of discretion was needed. The ship was gone by the end of the first day anyway.”
“How did Aunt get you in the first place?”
“We were looking for a shark pod, a friend of Jeanette’s had been indentured, apparently and she sent us into a trap with a Necromancer that was an idiot. He tried to Turn me and when he couldn’t went into the reaction. I had grabbed a knife from one of the bully boys that Aunt had sent and chased the thing down and dealt with it before we had a big mess. Aunt had more bully boys, they sapped me and took Jeanette and I and dumped us with Rosa. Aunt said good bye and Gretel showed up with her friend about a day later. I resonated and realized that there was more than just Jeanette and I being kidnapped.”
“So you were dealing with a zombie master and why didn’t you shoot him?”
“I had left my gun in the car because we had been going in and out of places and the casinos have shields and get sticky about guns even if you aren’t at the tables, so I took it off and hadn’t put it back on again. Up until things got nasty, we hadn’t had whiff that Aunt hadn’t backed off and Jean only found out about it after things had started and then he was dealing with the leftover zombies.”
“Where was this?”
“In a warren of little streets in Monaco. The streets are very narrow and that was how they were able to box us in. We have some pictures of the place that Sal took afterwards when they were looking for us. When the idiot Necromancer went off, I had to deal with him and he was running into and Turning people all over the place.”
Lizzie found Scott and said, “You must be Gretel. Welcome to our rather crazy family.”
Jeanette translated and Gretel smiled. Lizzie said, “It’s about dinner and it’s dark so why don’t we find a good spot for Aunt Stephie’s whale dance.”
We did and Aunt Stephie fluttered out and Gretel had a rather shocked expression on her face and called out, “Mama, you are here!”
Aunt Stephie must have heard, because when the dance was over and she dried off she fluttered over and said, “Tony, who is this?”
“Mama, don’t you know me?”
“Aunt Stephie, this is Hannah’s daughter, Gretel.”
“Leibchen, I am not your mother, unfortunately. I only look like her in my Change, something that I made light of in the past. I’m sorry that your mother left us and I wish that she had found a better way to tell us about you. I have my own children. See, here they come. I imagine that my horse mad daughter is looking for Jeanette with her friend, Sally. Why don’t you talk with them while I Change and change. I will be right back.”
My cousin Katherine, along with her friend Sally came over and started to talk to Jeanette about horses. Of course, Jeanette had to mention Fleur. Katherine turned to me and said, Tony, was he as big a joker as Tony was?”
“I don’t know. I was little when Tony was around, I only saw Fleur for a couple of days and just rode him a few times. He was a joker though. I’m glad that he is in France and I am here now.”
The girls all laughed. Aunt Stephie came back out and said, “See child, I am not your mother. If you were younger, I would try to be, but you are old enough to understand. You know what your mother was. I certainly sensed the taint. I don’t know how your mother died, other than my mother was forced to kill her. I am sorry that my little dance caused you some grief. But the dance is something that I do with my friends, the whales who take such pleasure in it.”
Gretel looked at my aunt. “You talk to whales?”
“Let’s keep that a secret. For now, anyway. It’s supper time, so why don’t we sit with some mermaids.”
We did, including Suzy and Tim, who had been taking pictures for Steve and Rillia. There were others taking pictures as well including my Uncle George. After supper we watched the mermaid dancing as Nillia and Nera put on big show with Mermaids, pixies and more. Gretel was amazed at the show. Then Uncle Tom made his contribution with a huge projector show of the last year. Chrissie came by pushing a carriage with her two sleeping babies. I introduced her and Gretel asked her, “why are you on land?”
“Because my grandfather and father need my husband on land doing what he does. So do a lot of other people, including a lot of ladies with tails. I’m on land so that I can help him and enjoy the world.”
“Does your husband really know the President?”
“Yes, but not very well, even though he traded the President one of those pistols of his.”
“Did he really point a boathook at you?”
“Yes he did.Tony you have been telling this girl stories, haven’t you?”
I grinned and didn’t say anything. Chrissie grinned at Gretel and said, “My husband had to shoot his brother and at the time the only thing he knew about the fae were monsters. Tom’s mother, your aunt, hadn’t made that clear to my mother and I was in deep bond fuzz and frustration. Tom was in deep bond fuzz and ignorance. So when I showed up in his boat, he wasn’t sure how to handle me and grabbed his boathook just to be safe.”
Steve was walking by with Joe and said, “That was justified, Gretel. Of course my sister goes into her usual histrionics, jumps right out of the boat again and runs right our father to cry on his shoulder. That was when Tom made his big mistake and went looking for my father.”
Steve and Joe started to walk away again, Chrissie started to shout at them and stopped. “My brothers deserve a talking to, but one thing I’ve learned in the last month is to let sleeping babies sleep. I think that I will move on before I get in more trouble. Gretel, we can have a long chat with your aunt and pictures at Christmas next week.”
She left again and we watched Xing’s parents do a flame dance. Then Grandmother and Stephie came over and grandmother said, “Gretel, I think that we should all go to bed early. Stephie wants to make a stop that is a bit out of the way with Jeanette and Jeanette’s parents tomorrow and Eric and I want to show you the country. Tony, you and Jeanette should get to bed as well.”
Monday December 19, 1932.
Saturday, Gert, Bill and I had George from the embassy come down to Cologne and meet us at Hannah’s apartment. I used Hannah’s death certificate and my relationship to gain access to the apartment and we started to dump stuff in boxes and hand the boxes to smiling men who had a rather military bent to them. While my aunt had a few pictures on the wall that we packed, and things that looked like Gretel had done them and pictures of Gretel that we made sure to pack much of the contents of the apartment were work related. George looked at the things that involved Gretel and said, “Nobody knew that Hannah had a child. Where is she now?”
“Home. At least in the States. Mother took her home with her. My aunt went to great lengths to set that up so that it was discreet. Not discreet enough as my aunt’s employer tried to make a claim and mother dealt with the lady rather permanently.”
We found a picture like the one that I had of Brad and I said, “I suspect that this is the father. I have one like this of Brad, my first husband. Let’s put this with the rest of the things we are taking ourselves. George, why don’t you get a picture and talk to the people in France. They might have a better feel for who he was.”
“Do you think that he is dead?”
“I think that the Colonel got him and he died in the mess. At least that was what mother said that Hannah had said.”
Once the apartment was empty of everything portable, I handed the keys to the manager, told him to dispose of the furniture as he wanted and we left. After leaving the apartment we had lunch with George who said as we finished, “With the sudden death of Fraulien Schee’s employer, and the fact that we were able to share that with some people, we will have quite a haul for my bosses to go over. We can expect some shakeups South of here. Probably not in a good way, unfortunately. The war took too many of the people that could have pointed things in a good direction, one way or another and the continent is still hurting.”
“That’s been obvious,” Bill said. “Hilda and I will do a report on the voyage for Miss Vicky to hand around, but we’ve been talking to a lot of people, haven’t we, Hilda and things have been nervous all around.”
“Yes they have. Especially with some characters acting up.”
The restaurant had had a radio and Hitler had given another speech. Listening had not been fun. With lunch over, we left the restaurant and started south to Stuttgart. We arrived in Stuttgart, where Hans had his office in the palace. I discreetly went past the people working for him, his secretary and phased through the door where he was on the phone, to his wife. I waited as he went through repeated “Da Liebchens” and hung up before becoming visible. I tripped the shutter on the camera I had and said to him, “Herr Stieger, I just wanted to tell you that Hannah is dead.”
“How did you get in here!”
“I have my ways. If you are lucky, you will not see me again. In any case you will have to find somebody new to play with. Of course, you could just stick with your wife, but that is your problem. Taa, taa!”
I wrapped my shields, phased through the door again and left the building. When I got into the car, Bill said, “What took you?”
“I was waiting for him to finish a call to his wife.”
“He has a wife?”
“Apparently. The kind that keeps him in an iron fist. I would talk with her, but we need to get to Mannerheim, drop the car off, get the train to Bremerhaven and head home or we will be in trouble.”
“With Andy, if nobody else. He wants us with him and Trillia for Christmas.”
With that, we drove to Mannheim, dropped the car off at White’s and caught the train north to Bremerhaven and the ship.
Monday December 19, 1932.
When Grandmother was putting together our little trip yesterday, I was a bit worried because I didn’t think that we had the cars for it and Dad had brought my younger brothers and sisters down, Bob and Scott just had Scott’s car and Uncle George had brought his family down too. When I asked grandmother about it, she said not to worry. I found out why when I stepped outside the lobby in the morning. There were two new Packard limousines. I turned to grandfather and said, “The castle went to your head.”
“Actually, Roger ordered these before we even left. We need them for the inn this year.”
“What about the cars from the castle?”
“They will help, but we didn’t know about them when we placed the order. They are also still waiting in New York. In any case, this is a good opportunity to get used to these.”
He handed me a set of the keys. Then he turned and handed Roger another set. We were stuck and I expected that getting used to the cars would be a big help for next week, since Roger and I were going to be driving them a lot.
We loaded up and Jeanette joined me in the front seat. She looked around and said, “You didn’t have these cars earlier. This is a much nicer car. Don’t you have a driver?”
“I will be the driver. At least for next week. I imagine that there will be some others a bit older than we are after Roger and I start school through the winter.”
“I see, this is being involved in the business.”
“Yes. We don’t have the money to afford to let family layabout and we have a bigger family than you do, so we have to help out. This is how I make some money to do the things that I want to try later.”
Aunt Stephie opened the middle window and said, “Tony, we need to get going.”
That started us on the drive West through to the stables North of Hartford. The lady who ran the place, Claire, was ecstatic when Aunt Stephie showed up and she knew how Katherine had been doing with Antonia. She said to Aunt Stephie, “We do better when one of ours does well. We were a bit concerned about Antonia, because we thought that she would either do well in the right hand or badly with a girl that wasn’t as caring. We were so glad when Tom showed up last year looking for a horse from Tony. Tony was a truly remarkable horse.”
Aunt Stephie frowned “He was, and I wasn’t as caring as I should have been. I was more than bit concerned how taking care of Tony myself would have looked to the other girls, especially those across the lake. I should have paid more attention to what Tom was trying to tell me. Of course, at the end, I had other concerns and Tony had become more or less just another farm horse to me. Tom had left by that point and we both let Tony down more than a bit.”
“Tom told me the story. Are you looking for another horse for Katherine?”
“Not at present, though I expect that she will need one if we want Antonia to be a mother and I think that we do. Jeanette here, is moving with her family from France and they have a breeding farm there. She saw Antonia at the show last September and wanted to know where she came from. She looked for my daughter, who some mangy foxes had just taken hostage and found Tony here. They have been dating since then.”
“That’s wonderful, tell me more.”
The ladies went on about farms and horses and breeding lines and Jeanette said, “We ran into a horse that must be like Tony was at chateau in Burgundy as we were travelling. He really took to you, didn’t he, Tony?”
“The not so little flower? He was a joker, all right. Smart too and probably a good woods horse. On the other hand, I’m glad that I don’t have to deal with him.”
Jeanette laughed. “I think that Jacques would send him to you if he could.”
With that we headed home at last. We stopped over night north of Springfield so that we could get a good start in the morning.
Tuesday December 19, 1932.
I was getting closer to my niece. One thing that helped was Rosa and the other was my sister had been upfront about what was going to happen. I expected that Hannah had expected that Rosa would be forced to kill her if she had Turned and gone after Gretel, which could have happened. We arrived at the slightly snowed in farm in the late afternoon and were surrounded by family who greeted us. Included were Gert’s wife and children. The kids grabbed Gretel to show her all the things in the farm and Rosa said, “This seems like a good place for the kinder. They grow strong, like Tony has.”
My husband smiled. “We’ve tried. So far it has worked. We will introduce ourselves properly with a Change party this evening.”
“Shouldn’t you be discreet? What about your neighbors?”
“Oh, they already know, by and large. Now that we aren’t trying to hide things from Tom, it has become much easier.”
“Tom did not come with us.”
“He’s gone to New York for a couple of days to take his people there for an end of the year dinner. They will be here Friday for the weekend and the big party coming up on Saturday.”
“What people does he have in New York?”
“The people at White’s that work in the office he has there ,the people that publish his book and the toy company. He’s taken Bennie’s for the evening.”
“What is Bennie’s?”
“I think, Greta that we should let Rosa’s brothers take her and Gretel, don’t you?”
I smiled. “Yes, I think that will work. Why don’t we plan to go down after Eli’s thing on Tuesday.”
“I met Eli and his daughter. He seems to be a good creator, if a bit unhappy.”
“He lost his bonded a long time ago. He came out of his shell recently.”
I needed to have a discreet talk with my brother and Anna as there were a couple of ladies in the family who had lost their bonds. The lady’s network had worked on Noro and we could work on Eli as well. I didn’t want them to get like the Lady that I had shot, welcoming death and hating life. Nor did I want them to become like the lady that Tony had described, uncaring about anything except the amount of amusement that something would bring her. Noro was much better and Abby and I had been looking around for somebody that would put up with Eli.
Wednesday December 20, 1932.
This was my last class with Professor Simpson. Unlike most of my classes, he didn’t have a final. I had had to turn in a last composition Monday. Which I had done on the train home. Suzy was Swimming back with Andy and Trillia, along with the newlyweds who were taking the yacht, doing some shopping in New York and then heading off to Bermuda. Of course Simpson had asked for something “special” from all of us. I handed in a piece that covered the election from the business standpoint. The people I talked to were taking a wait and see where Mr. Roosevelt was concerned. Some were optimistic and others were more than a bit nervous.
I walked into the hall with the rest of the class and Simpson started. “This is the end of our time together. I have your papers here and your paper grade and your final grades are on them. I looked for effort and how you all improved. Some of you may be disappointed. I can only say that it reflects effort to improve that you put into this course. Come as I call and collect your papers.”
He started down the list and when he got to mine he said, “Mr.Thomas, I am a little disappointed in you. I asked for something special and while this paper is interesting and your employer will probably like it as well, you certainly had more special things to write about last weekend. You still get the ‘A’ the paper deserves, but I hope that you bring some more special things next term.”
I quietly said, “Are you sure? For instance?”
“That wedding you attended last weekend and some other things.”
“I didn’t think that my relatives would like it very much to have certain things brought out in public. I could have given you the version for the paper, but I only took photographs and didn’t write the piece. At least not all of it.”
“I think I understand. My wife wants me to invite you and your young lady with the tail to dinner. Can you make it the Friday before New Years? I imagine that you have other things planned.”
“I can do that. You are right, that I do have a few other things, starting Friday.”
I left to get my next grade. Afterwards, I went to the Navy yard and said to Suzy, ‘I think that Vic, Noro and my professor were playing a fast one on me. Somebody told Simpson about the wedding.”
Suzy had a little grin. “It was Noro and Vic. It must have been.”
“Or somebody you know. Ok, what’s really going on? You swapped the boxing story and the professor knew about the wedding.”
“You are the reporter, you can do better than that.”
I could, and I had a business to do that. I hadn’t thought of checking my professors out because they hadn’t seemed to be the types to play games. I looked at Suzy and said, “We are invited for dinner the Friday after next. He seemed to know that I was going to be tied up with things this weekend.”
“Anybody who knows a bit about you could guess that. Sal is back and dad has that party every year, Chrissie is having the thing Saturday and we are expected and Eli is having the Creator’s thing with Noro and Nillia’s thing on Wednesday. So we have have my dad’s party tomorrow, up to Vermont on Saturday, down to the Cape after Christmas for Eli and back here.”
“That’s a lot of back and forth for some parties.”
“True, but we missed Chrissie’s thing last year, Vic wants you there with him and Abby wanted us at her thing for some discreet press.”
“You also want to find out what happened overseas, don’t you?”
“Don’t you? There were probably some big things happening. We need to get to Bennie’s for Tom’s end of the year thing, so we need to get going.”
She was right and I rolled her out to the car, put her inside and drove down to Bennie’s. Tom and his people hadn’t arrived, so I went back to talk with dad while Suzy took some time to visit below and shop a bit. I said to dad, “I think that somebody pulled a fast one on me. My composition professor is probably fae and knows me a bit too well. He knew that I was at the wedding last weekend even when I didn’t have a byline and he knew that my week was tied up. I think Suzy has a connection.”
Dad grinned. “That could be. It could be somebody else though. Noro and Vic, for instance.”
“Vic has been busy and so has Noro. They are going to all the things I am, though.”
“Make sure that you find out what happened overseas. There was that young lady who Greta brought back and some other things. It wasn’t supposed to be a matter of bringing family back, and yet Greta brought quite a few in the end. I haven’t had a chance to have a long talk with Noro yet, Eric and Greta went upstate after the wedding and Josh had to come back to the city for the end of the year. At least he doesn’t have something like the Olympics as a distraction this year.”
“Ok, I will talk to everybody we can. Sal probably knows more about things and we should talk with Eli and Theresa.”
“They were working for Noro and they would need his permission before they send a report around. I want the fun stuff and first hand impressions anyway.”
“Ok, I’ll get those. Noro and Helmut will want me to do something anyway.”
Tom’s people started to show up, Suzy came back in with a bit a grin, the various ladies went gushy over the twins when Chrissie arrived with Tom, Tom gave a little speech and a bit of a show, handed his new book around to the kids and sat down for dinner. He said to me, “How did your classes go?”
“I passed everything, even the algebra. My composition teacher is probably fae and knew about Suzy. I smell a conspiracy.”
“Noro and Vic?”
“No. Vic has been busy with his book and the usual stuff and Noro has been away over there. I’ll tell you later who I think it is. In any case, it’s another party.”
“You have quite a few. The same ones I do, in fact. Suzy’s dad tomorrow, Chrissie’s up at the inn next and Eli’s after Christmas.”
“At least you already gave me a pistol last year.”
“I’m going to have to be careful about doing that anymore. At least about marking them in such a way that they are distinctive. The only gun I did for Christmas this year is Hilda’s rifle. I made toys and did some other things for the rest.”
“Watch out. If you do that too much you might get in trouble.”
Chrissie laughed. “More than he already is? Rosa was giving him a dressing down for the book last year.”
“Where did she come from anyway. The boys didn’t mention a sister.”
“Apparently she was an old family retainer to my aunt’s bonded and passed down, Charge to Charge. She was given to Hannah for her kids, which she didn’t have until Gretel came along during the war. Talk around and find out the whole story, would you. I don’t want to find out that I have people I am suddenly responsible for.”
“Like that character at the door?”
Tom had brought back some characters from Japan. They were everything the Yaoguai were not. Efficient, capable and they liked Tom and Chrissie very much. They were also fae, tasked by their king and Suki to watch Tom and they did. Tom glanced over and said, “Those, among others. Chrissie likes the idea of me having a bodyguard. Worse they and the boys get along just fine.”
“What about George?”
‘He and Julio are ecstatic that they have people to watch me that I can’t just tell to go away.”
“You could run away.”
“George already knows who I talk to and where to send them. He also knows the city better than I do. I can’t get anything done if I have to play games anyway. I’ll save it for when I need it. Anyway, running would piss Chrissie off and I don’t want to do that. It’s a good thing that I hadn’t heard the stories until after we were married.”
Chrissie laughed. “I wouldn’t get too angry if you ran, Tom. I would just make some calls and you would be found. It’s not as if you were Kitty with all that experience.”
“That didn’t do her any good when you played with her. You had her tied up without much trouble at all.”
“No trouble then, but Joe and Steve are a bit wary of me. If you ran, in the worst case I would have the Little Tiger and the boys chase you.”
“I’ll be good. I would get in too much trouble if I ran away with a lot of ladies and I couldn’t think of using a boat here on the east coast. I might get away on the West coast, but only for a while. At least you can’t set Rosa on me.”
“I wouldn’t count on that. Your mother could and I could probably convince Gretel to.”
“Then it’s a good thing that I’m not planning to leave you, Brad and Lili in the lurch.”
Chrissie reached over and kissed Tom. “No it isn’t.” She turned to us and said, “So what have you been up to, Tim. We’ve been a bit busy since we got back from Japan.”
“College, the election, interviews and my business. Plus frequent Swims when this girl drags me under.”
“I hope that you do that often, Suzy.”
“Every chance I get.”
“Good. I get Tom in the water as much as I can. Mom wasn’t fussy about that with dad, and she needs to do that more now. So what do you think happened over there and where did Gretel come from?”
I frowned. “Tom, it is your family. Where do you think that she came from?”
“Mother has never said very much about her family, at least to me. I’m going to wait and let them explain. At least they are not trying to hide things and mother didn’t want me involved because of Chrissie and the babies. We were also in the thick of things the last time. This was supposed to be a quick in and out with picking up the keystones and Hannah was supposed to be dead. Instead mother went over, Stephie brought the keystones and then mother comes back a week late with Gretel. She also brings back the entire contents of the house. We will need to get the story when we can.”
The conversation went on from there until Tom had to say good bye to his guests and Suzy dragged me under. We had a good Swim before finding a place and cuddling.
Thursday December 21, 1932.
It was good to be home. We had had a busy week after the wedding, letting the clients know that we were back and that we had a report on the things happening in Europe. Between Noro and us, we actually had a good look at the way things were going. Unfortunately the rumblings were not good. The war ahd taken a deep toll and the depression was not helping. Struggling people can make bad decisions and pick bad leaders and the evidence was that the bad leaders had come into power all over Europe. There seemed to be either ineffectual or tyrants. Sarah looked up as we walked into the office and said, “The ambassador from Monaco called again. He wants to set up a discreet meeting after the new year. What is this about? What did you do over there?”
Eli laughed. “It wasn’t us, it was Sal. He was dealing with clean up and handed our report over. The prince’s aide liked it and Sal gave him our address for the office. Treat it like any other prospective client.”
“Ok, I’ll give them the treatment. It’s going to be a bit harder because it’s a country and not a business.”
“You can use the challenge and look at it this way, it will be easier than Noro.”
“We never vetted Noro.White’s was already a client when he called us in for the thing with the Colonel.”
“True. We didn’t vet Noro at the time because he wasn’t an issue when Lou approached us. We did some looking around over there and we can talk to Sal and Jean. I think that Monaco will be an excellent client. The man that Sal was talking to was apparently the son of the king of a bower that had been destroyed and is concerned about things like Sharks. The Sharks are probably extinct and I think that the French Lady will hesitate before starting something like that again. We have quite a file for you on her and the Red Lady, but the Red Lady is dead, so that file is a bit of academic interest.”
“She’s dead? Did Bill kill her?”
“Greta did, after Greta was forced to kill Hannah after she was finally Turned and was rather annoyed that the Red Lady wanted Hannah’s daughter.”
“A lot more seems to have gone on than you planned. This was supposed to be fishing expedition for you and Noro while Stephie and Kitty recovered the keystones.”
“The Committee called Sal in because of Twisted and Shark issues and Hannah started to play games with Greta so that she could hand her daughter over before Hannah’s associates realized that the daughter existed. As part of that, Hannah took Tony and Jeanette hostage so that they could discover the daughter and report that to Greta. But the French witch asked for Tony and Jeanette and Hannah had to turn them over. So she did. The French Witch had an old vampire lady as a neighbor and the thing started a hunt on Tony, Jeanette and Greta,who had a bunch of kids heading for the boat with Rosa, who you met at the boat and Gretel, Hannah’s daughter, who Greta was evacuating. The Red Lady was visting another of her children in Le Havre and decided to participate in the hunt.”
“How come Bill didn’t deal with the Vampires? Didn’t he have a list?”
“Not for the older families. They didn’t use things like telephones and so were not on the list. Bill had found the family near the French lady and was going to deal with it after Greta was clear, but by the time he returned to the neighborhood the lady had started in on her hunt. Everything will be in the report.”
“That is a report I can’t wait to read. Ok, here’s the list of clients that you need ot talk to. I’ll get the Europe report finished.”
We made calls all morning, went down to Bennie’s to talk with both our sons and Meria about the things we had seen and finished up just before it was time to go to the house for Mike’s party. The party was a typical Sal party with boys chasing tails that were trying to catch them, dragons, mermaid dancing, pixies, Tom getting the kids to start trouble and showing off a bit. Both Nera and Chrissie, along with Violet and some other ladies showed that the we had a future.
Friday December 23, 1932.
Gert, Bill and I arrived in New York and made it through customs without too much difficulty. Surprisingly, Tom was waiting for us with one of Noro’s cars. A Japanese man who apparently worked for Tom started to put the various bags and trunks in a truck that Tom had brought. I said to Tom, “This is a surprise Tom. This is your Uncle Gert. I’m a bit surprised that you are here, Tom.”
“Mother wanted me to wait for you and get you to the house and I had a bit of a task that Josh dumped on me.”
“What was that?”
“Jeanette and her mother had Jean send some of their horses over and Etienne asked Josh to handle transport.”
“He can do that.”
“Yes, but he delegated it to me with, “Tom, it’s time that you learned how to do these things and develop your own contacts. Then he took Mera to catch the early train up, went to talk to Joe and his parents and left me to get the horses arranged. The horses will be joining us in their own car on the train up this afternoon. We need to get going or we will miss the train.”
We were loaded and on our way. Gert said, “This is a very fancy car. Fancier than the two at the estate.”
“I’m borrowing it from Chrissie’s grandfather since Joe at the desk, and Oroku up front there won’t let me drive myself in the city anymore and Chrissie backs them up since the thing with Jídiànjí running me downtown in July. That makes things a bit harder for me. Fortunately I was able to set up most of Stephie’s birthday present before Jídiànjí took me for a ride.”
Bill laughed. “Why didn’t you shoot him?”
“He was so pathetic that I didn’t see him as a viable threat. I did make a call to State, but they were a bit slower than they should have been about checking the Yaoguai’s lack of immigration status and Sal Troubleshot them, so I didn’t think that they were that big a deal. Chrissie and I were on our way to Japan right after that in any case.”
Gert said, “You managed to impress an entire city of gun masters, including myself with your gift. You do excellent work.”
“Those were special. I was giving them to my close friends and I wanted that to show. I also had a stack of frame forgings to select from. So I went out with a pair of calipers and went through a stack to pick best frames that I could start from. Then I tightened all the setups and that was when I started to take extra care with setting up the tools. That paid off. I also finished all of them myself and ran them until I was absolutely sure that they were as good as I could do. I didn’t want a friend getting killed because one of mine failed when it shouldn’t have.”
“Stephie said that the family guns are better. I don’t see how they could be.”
“I tailor a family gun to the family member and they often have special requirements like my sister does. Also, if a family gun were to fail, I would never hear the end of it. The royals are gone, but you can try a family gun and see for yourself.”
We arrived at Grand Central and I said, “You can see why Tom came up with “Helpless Hilda.”
“This is a big and possibly confusing place. Especially if you are worried about Andy. Will we meet him?”
“I didn’t make any arrangements for tails, but he probably went up with Chrissie and Mera this morning. He usually runs the range and I imagine that Ed and Gretchen want Bruce and Verelia up for Christmas. As for worrying about Andy, I think that you were more worried about what he was going to do to the Manager, who was an idiot.”
“How so?”
“You probably know about my book. I left the kids the first Trouble pack and Andy had already read the book. The Manager should have stayed in bed until the kids had gone over to Sal’s party. Then he would have been able to get some peace and quiet. At least until Sal dealt with him.”
Gert laughed as we boarded the train and found our places. Tom said, “I couldn’t get compartments, so we have to settle. I was originally going to go up this morning when Josh diverted me.”
Josh joined us across the way. “It wasn’t diverting you, it was delegating something to you. For that, I’m taking the lower berth. I was going to give it to you, but you complained. Hi Hilda, Bill. Who is this?”
“Greta’s Brother, Gert. Gert, this is Chrissie and Steve’s father, Josh Claytor. So Jeanette wanted some horses?”
“Apparently. Jean handled it from their end but Etienne wanted things expedited and so I handed it to Tom, who made the same calls that I would have. I’ve been covering for him the last few months and it’s his turn.”
Tom laughed. “How were you covering for me, Josh?”
“All those trips out to plants getting equipment installed that wanted somebody to solve urgent problems. What they wanted was you to show up with a pen and a stack of books. You went off to Japan and I had to disappoint a bunch of people.”
“If I hadn’t, I would have disappointed Suki. What choice would you have made.”
“I didn’t say that you made the wrong choice. I just won’t feel guilty about delegating family tasks like this to you.”
“Little things like the Olympic Games?”
“That was your own fault. You could have let me beat Jacob up.”
“There was no way that father would have let me hear the end of it if I had. Up there, Jacob was our problem, not yours. I wasn’t sure how much you or Noro knew about him. I forgot to talk to Altris about him at the wedding because of all the other more important things going on. You didn’t seem to know him at the parade and I didn’t want to let you mess with him until I was sure that you really wanted to.”
“I didn’t know who he was, because he always came down in early June when I came to the office here for the board meeting and Altris didn’t want me sitting in on the meetings that get held every month. I was handling boats and that side of things as well as the company, so I hardly needed any more work.”
Gert smiled. “Why did you need to take over the Olynpics?”
“Because they were messed up, the payments were behind and Jacob was involved,”Josh said. “Tom pulled the connections that he hadn’t said anything about when it would have resolved the biggest sticky in a timely manner, the Committee was in a panic, the thing was heading toward a fiasco for us and some other companies, Noro was just in the early stages of coming out of his funk and needed something to occupy his attention and the Committee called us. Jacob essentially insulted the entire family, both sides, after the boys pulled off their show and we were needed. So I made a rather tough deal, with the biggest item other than getting the vendors paid, being Jacob not coming near the Games until we were done. Tom borrows Jacob’s office, otherwise known as his reading room and hatrack while Noro and I are starting things up with the Committee, is working on resolving the water issue that was the biggest issue we had and making a call to the White House office mom to get a permit issue expedited. In walks Jacob, who starts to demand to know why Tom is using his office for real work, Tom tells his friends at the White House about Chrissie and getting married, gets the permit squared away, receives some congratulations and then proceeds to throw Jacob out of Tom’s office.”
Gert laughed. “So where were you?”
“Noro and I were in the back next to the conference room being discreet and laughing our heads off.”
“What happened next?”
“Tom essentially just kept going, handled most of the operations, hired some more people and had everything going very well by the end of the day.”
“The rest of the week was fun too,” Tom said with a grin. “I had a daily Jacob, Tochi showed up, Chrissie redecorated the office, I beat up Adam and Victor and met Josh’s parents, who were scared of him.”
“Why was that?”
“Josh was left in an orphanage by his parents because they had a budded keystone and were separated from the rest of the family and raised up as heir by the keystone. They were trying to avoid the Director’s Twisted, who were looking for small loose families so that they could either destroy them or force them back overseas. So Eli and Theresa left Josh shielded so that they could wait for the rest of the family. The rest of the family had been attacked by a Twisted using compelled soldiers and killed for the most part. The keystone planted itself and Eli and Theresa were stuck in New York. Meanwhile Josh gets adopted, doesn’t know anything about fae, grows up, kills a bunch of monsters while working the trains and boats, bonds with Noro’s eldest daughter, has a spat with the family, goes to New York and lives on a barge with Mera, and Noro manages to drag Josh back, Noro’s bonded is killed by the Sharks and Josh has to take over. Then I get bored at the farm, go down to the Cape, Chrissie locks onto me and the circus starts.”
“With boathooks and other things.”
“You’ve heard the story.”
“Your sister told us about it. Apparently Chrissie was rather desperate. Putting herself in lobster pots.”
“She does tend to overdo the dramatics sometimes,” Josh said. “The girl did not know the meaning of the word subtle. I hate to imagine how things would have gone if you had pulled her up, Tom.”
Tom grinned. “I would have thrown her back. I was trying to work and the last thing I needed was mermaids in the pots.”
“Then I’m glad for my boat’s sake that you didn’t catch her. She would have stranded you and called in Billy and Dolly as well as her other friends. You would have ended up in the drink and I would have been without a boat.”
“Then it was good thing that she showed up in my boat at the dock. Of course, I would have been annoyed when my wheel came off. So it was a good thing that I went over and talked with you.”
“Of course you left her on the beach later.”
“That was father’s fault. He sent the family emergency message. Of course he was playing his games and mother didn’t call down first and talk to Mera. At least not before you left without telling anybody where you were going. Anybody up top that is.”
“You’re right and Mera and Greta talking before we left would have saved a lot of grief. The good part of that was that we finally managed to drag Noro back up top.”
Tom and Josh kept us entertained as they went back and forth over the remarkable year that we had had until it was time for bed.
Saturday December 24, 1932.
Dad woke me up in the early hours of the morning. “Tony, Father needs you and Roger.”
“What for? I was bringing people to the inn yesterday and just about everybody is here. ”
“We have a shipment coming and we need you, the truck and the trailer.”
“A shipment of what?”
“Why did Aunt Mary want horses delivered today?”
“Not Mary, your in laws. The horses are coming from France. We are going to need you, Roger and both horse trailers. It was a good thing that we held on to both of them.”
I groaned. I couldn’t even complain that it wasn’t my job, because it obviously was. I dressed, went downstairs through the dark house and went over to the farm to collect a truck and the horse trailer. I left the newer trailer for Roger and as I headed out, Jeanette must have woken up, as she waiting. She got into the truck and said, “I will help with this since I expect that some of the horses will be mine.”
“I don’t know what the rush was. They could have shipped them up next week. We are going to be busy enough.”
“It’s early and we can get this done. The stable is ready and I made sure yesterday with Katherine. This should be easy.”
After about forty minutes we arrived at the station where a car was set out with a ramp. Uncle Gert, Uncle Tom, Aunt Hilda and Bill were waiting with Josh and a Japanese man. Bill saw us and they all came over as the train people opened the doors on the car. Roger pulled up as Jeanette and I entered the car. Jeanette found her horse and started to open the stall when I suddenly had a whinnie! in my ear. I quickly reached up to grab the joker’s bridle and turned to look at the horse. I had a bit of a shock and said to Jeanette, “Do any of your horses look just like Fleur?”
“No, why?”
“I want to know where this one came from. Come on you joker, let’s get you outside and home.”
I grabbed his halter reins and we went outside and down the ramp. Out in the early dawn it was obvious to me that not only did this character look like Fleur, it was Fleur. I made sure to keep a tight grip as we went over to the trailer and Fleur went right inside as if he knew that he was going to be giving me trouble for a long time. Jeanette said, “That is Fleur, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is. I’m going to want to have a chat with your uncle. Louis is a bigger joker than I thought he was.”
Jeanette put her mare into the trailer, I closed things up and we started off. When we arrived at the farm, I put Fleur into a stall and made sure that the latch strap was closed. I put a pin in it to make sure it stayed that way. Jeanette put her horse away and it was off for the next load after a quick breakfast. Jeanette stayed at the stables to handle the incoming horses, Bill helped me load the next two and went back with me. He said, “That horse looked a bit familiar.”
“Your friend Louis is a bigger joker than I figured and just gave me a Christmas present. That’s Fleur, the horse I ran into at Lady Gwynne’s place.”
“He looks like a very good horse.”
“He is. He’s also a big joker who likes to play games.”
“Then he will fit right in. I missed Tony. I’m glad that we have smarter horses and not stupid people.”
“But I didn’t want a horse.”
“Jeanette rides and you do as well. This way you can ride together and a horse like that will pay in stud once the word gets out. You know how to handle horses.”
“Of course, now I have to return the favor with Louis?”
Bill grinned. “Any ideas?”
“I have some, but I want to talk to Uncle Tom and make the surprise worthwhile.”
We arrived at the farm and Jeanette had stalls ready, so Bill and I were able to transfer the horses quickly. Then it was back for my last trip. Uncle Tom helped with the horses and went back with me. “I thought that this would be easier than waiting for a car, since you and Roger are probably the drivers.”
“Yes. Dan and Vince are supposed to help with that a bit later, but I imagine that they weren’t as easy to grab for this as Roger and I were.”
“What about Bob and Scott.”
“They slept at the inn. But they were setting up all day yesterday with David, Mike and Eli’s boys and helping Antonio too. So Roger and I have to do this. Since the horses are probably Jeanette’s responsibility, I’m involved anyway.”
“What happened over there? Aunt Hannah wasn’t really dead, was she?”
“No she wasn’t.”
I told Uncle Tom about everything on the ride back. I finished with, “I’m going to get into the habit of carrying a spare magazine.”
“While that is a good idea, keeping your head is better and you did very well under very trying circumstances. You shouldn’t have left your gun in the car that one time, but I can see that happening and I have certainly been in the same position and had some close calls. You dealt with the Zombie Master directly even though you were taken by Aunt Hannah, something that needed to happen if Gretel was to be extracted.”
“Leaving the gun in the car was a mistake. We also need to teach Jeanette to shoot and Gretel too. As well as those water tubes of yours. They proved to be very useful.”
“They do, especially since the other side doesn’t know about them. How did you use them?”
“I was lucky and there were some shipyards and repair places for fishing boats right next to the hotel where the girls and I had lunch. So I bought some tubes for a projector and some other stuff. If Dave, Mike and Steve hadn’t shown up from the water and Bill, grandfather and Aunt Hilda from the land, I was going to set up some quick Constructs that tripped off, some fog and hide until a tram showed up, run right through the Constuct trap and trip the fog. Of course by that point I had already killed eight of them and not fired a shot. Vampires don’t cooperate and it shows.”
“I don’t have that much experience with multiple vampires other than one thing with Quill in New York and they weren’t on the hunt. All the others were singles, but I thought that was the Manager sending them, one by one.”
“By the way I need to talk with you, Tony, Robert and Helmut about a big joke that I can send overseas, is not too expensive and that Constructs will go a bit crazy over.”
“You saw that horse I loaded, the stallion.”
“Yes, a very nice horse.”
“Well Louis, the French Lady’s Construct probably sent it. I didn’t think that he was as big a joker as Tony or Robert. It turns out that I was wrong. Fluer shares some things that Aunt Stephie’s old horse did.”
“He gets out of the stable and sneaks up on people.”
“Yup. He latched on to me right away. He’s also as good a woods horse as Tony was and doesn’t spook easily. He was steady when I was dealing with that member of the neighbor’s family. Me dealing with that is probably why Louis sent Fleur over.”
“Why didn’t you use the water tubes?”
“I had to be sure and I hadn’t practiced with the tubes very much. I had the thing stopped and standing there, I had the gun pointed at him and if I had used the tubes and not hit right on the money, I was going to be using the gun and making the noise anyway. I did use the tubes later in Le Havre, but I was on the ground, the vampire was closer and I was worried that a shot would attract people.”
“It sounds as if you had fun except right at the end. Even when Aunt Hannah kidnapped you. I, on the other hand have had a museum of stuff dumped on me.”
“Why you?”
“Because I have the office in New York, live on the Cape and most of the stuff is still in New York or Boston because mother isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with it all. There are some things that will have to come home in any case. Even if we have to build another building for it.”
“For instance?”
“You must have seen all those family portraits.”
“The ones with the family members with a picture of them in Change behind them in the painting?”
“Those. Fortunately Kitty got a look before they became public. Our family had very good taste when they had their portraits done. Tim had a friend of his from the Met look at them and he brought in a raft of experts and you can essentially see the best of the masters from about 1500 to the late Nineteenth Century when your great grandparents had them done. But we can’t donate those to a museum. At least not in the long term and connected to the family. We will have to do a show at this point. The big downside is that Chrissie wants Christophe to do one of mother and father the same way. She’s arranging it for their anniversary next year.”
“Look at it this way. We won’t have Hans handing them over to his buddies to curry favor. You didn’t see the man, but I did. I saw the entire clown show, but it wasn’t funny when they had the guns and just about everybody else didn’t.”
“Speaking of guns, we did get those through the process and my sisters will be happy that they can play with them.”
“They already have.”
“I’m not surprised about that.”
We arrived at the house, Uncle Tom helped me get the horses dealt with before Chrissie came looking for him, I put the trailer away and then drove the truck over to the inn where Bob was rather annoyed at me. “Where have you been all morning?”
“Horses. Jeanette’s family had some sent up and we needed to deal with them.”
“Since you were at the house, why didn’t you bring a rack?”
“Sorry, I was putting the trailer away and didn’t think to stop and talk with dad. I can go and get one now.”
“It’s handled. Get started getting things set up. Mike and David said that the spike Constructs worked very well. We’ll have to get together about everything. We can’t do that now.”
“I can make up a quick one for Constructs to trip. If you have the tubes I can set it up real fast and put it on the show trail. By the way, the scent trail works too.”
“A long get together then. We need to get to work. I’ll get some tubes.”
Bob went back to what he was doing and I made up a quick setup using a raccoon that was handy and set it out near the show trail. Then I helped Dan finish the set up for the stands and joined dad at the gun table. Dad looked at me and said, “Things must have gone well this morning.”
“Other than somebody’s big joke, yes.”
“Who was the joker this time?”
“The Construct from France, Louis. He sent that horse from the Lady’s house, Fleur over with the horses from Jeanette’s family. I now have a horse that I hadn’t planned for.”
“That is not a big deal. You have to ride for other things anyway and Billy is getting a bit old for that. Tom was using him as plowhorse when he was pushing the plow and that is a long time ago.”
“True, and Jeanette likes to ride. It’s just that Fleur is such a character. Jacob’s boys would have a fit over a horse like him.”
“You have no idea how much money dad saved over the years buying horses that everybody else couldn’t handle. Especially from across the lake. Tony was one of the last and he and Stephie rolled right over the Martins and everybody else. Think of this as an opportunity. Did they place Fleur for stud?”
“Jacques and Louis said so. I’m surprised that Louis sent him. I will have to return the favor.”
“Make sure that you send pictures too.”
“Good idea. Though it feels weird to be friends with the characters on the other side.”
“You are friends with Tony and Robert aren’t you. They didn’t have a choice about their Charge and I expect that Louis does not either. But Andy liked them right away.”
“I wasn’t sure what his Charge was. He seemed to be more of an employee and sort of partner for the Lady.”
“What was she like?”
“Very old and didn’t seem to care very much about things one way or another unless they presented a challenge or entertainment. She didn’t seem to get too upset when Sal killed one of her daughters when she was feeding. Her daughters were the original seeds for the Shark Change and Sal caught one in the water and the other ran when Sal arranged an ambush for the other pod.”
“We’ll have to have a long chat about this later. In fact I will push father, Noro and Bill to start up a long report for family and Helmut. This turned out to be bigger than a quick grab and a fishing expedition.”
“It was. Hi Gretel. Hi Rosa.”
Rosa grinned. “Tony, Gretel wants to help. Can you give her something to do?”
Dad said, “We sure can. Gretel why don’t you help me at the table here. That way you can see how we do things and meet all sorts of interesting people.”
“The President?”
“He couldn’t make it. The First Lady is having a thing at the White House and he and the family were sort of obligated. We also lost some of the Embassy crowd for the same reason. We do have an Indian Prince and some others that didn’t make it last year. No Germans for some reason. I think that mother annoyed some people when she stripped the house.”
Gretel settled right in and helped, smiled and said thank you as people came looking for guns. She was quick to pick up on how things worked and people enjoyed the French girl dealing with the sign ins. Tim came by and took her picture. She turned to me and asked, “Who is that? He was on the train and at the wedding too, but he doesn’t speak French and I was afraid to talk with him. He has a nice girlfriend with a tail who is very pretty.”
“That is Tim. He works for a newspaper. He started the Shark kidnapping story last year and they made him full time. He mostly works the business section, but he is family and handles thing like this with some others who know what to keep discreet.”
“We have a big family.”
“Yes we do. Especially with Chrissie’s family and some others. We all like fun. Are you having fun today?”
“Andy and Trillia are going to take me to shoot Constructs after I help you. I was practicing yesterday.”
“Here’s Andy now.”
Andy came up and arranged for a .22 for Gretel and took her off to the range. Dad and I continued handing out rifles and shotguns and Gert joined us to talk with dad. Gert’s kids all came by to pick up .22’s which they seemed to know what to do with. Gert and dad sent them to the range anyway. George and Eli showed up and dad said, “We can handle things here. Bob is waving at you and wants you on a stand more than likely.”
He was and when I went over, He looked over at the table and said, “Those guys don’t need you and I do. I asked Uncle Gert if he wanted to shoot and he said that he wanted to talk with Uncle Tom and dad this time. He’s coming to the safety briefing anyway. I think that Uncle Tom wants to talk guns with him and dad does too.”
“Guns and other things. Which stand do you want me to take?”
“Back up Joe at the pistol stand. Go get some lunch. At least we learned and the whole party is out here for lunch so everybody can play and not forced to be stuffy.”
I went to grab lunch from the long tables of all sorts of food and grabbed a plate. Jeanette caught up with me and said, “This has been fun so far. I’ve met all sorts of wonderful people. It’s a bit different from the Creator’s thing.”
“This is Chrissie’s party and I don’t think that she wanted to be too obvious about certain things. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some fun things, but this is skiing, skating, sleigh rides, shooting and the inn. The last time we didn’t know the Creators and just had the typical Construct shoot. We’ve all been away as well. Thanks to my Aunt, we had to rush things when we got back. Jacob and Ed had Doug for their thing yesterday. So they had their chance at fun and games.”
“I think I see. There are a lot of people giving parties at more or less the same time. So you share things.”
“This year, Chrissie isn’t trying to humiliate Jacob and Ed and Gretchen are my Aunts’ friends.”
Jeanette stayed with me through the shoot, and we managed without any real issues. Uncle Tom came by with Chrissie to talk to people. Neither of them seemed to have a gun with them. The Construct dragons were a big hit and we ended things by having Construct Yaoguai that ran right into my killer rabbit trap. Everybody laughed as the rabbits dealt with the Yaoguai and were dealt with. After the shoot, we ran the projector and Aunt Stephie had her dance, followed by Bob and Lizzie. Al didn’t get anybody wet this time
The kids must have been at work on somebody as we had dragons running through the crowd being chased by kids. I wasn’t sure who the dragons were as there were a number of possibilities. At dinner, Gert’s daughter, Greta found Jimmy, who had come up with his father in law and his wife and Al and forced them to tell her Troubleshooter stories. Jeanette and I were forced to sit and provide translation when necessary. Jimmy turned to me and said, “How did she run into Sal?”
“She was already a fan and Sal took some people over after Bill dealt with some bad things that went after some friend of Jeanette’s family.”
“The things that like people? I know what Bill is like. Especially after the things went after his in laws and his wife. He doesn’t know that he was a scary story in the neighborhood for all of us kids. I think that he was used to keep the kids from going off the deep ends by our moms. Of course the old boys in the gangs talked about him to, especially not to play cards with him.”
“He cleaned out a casino in our neighborhood that was owned by the bad things,” Jeanette said. “He also scared the Corsicans. That takes some doing.”
Tim came by and took another picture. Of course Al and Jimmy pulled him in, so that he could tell his share of the Troubleshooter stories and then Suzy managed to show up and haul all of us into the inn for dinner. Gretel caught up with us and wanted to know who everybody was and sat with us for dinner when Rosa showed up. She and Rosa nailed Tim for the shopping and tour trip next week with Suzy’s full support. She also wanted prints of all the pictures to send to her friends at the school. Tim said, “Some of those need to be discreet.”
I translated and Gretel smiled. “Not at my school. Jeanette tell him!”
Jeanette laughed and said, “Tim, many of the girls at the school are fae. I don’t know how many because the sisters kept things discreet, but Bill donated the money he won to the school for a pool and I think that you can understand why.”
“Tail issues.”
“Yes, including my brother’s bonded. That is not an issue because we are here,but the Sharks had been taking couples.”
‘I’ll have to get the story from Sal. Since he was there, I imagine that he dealt with them rather permanently.”
“Yes he did. So what do you do other than chase the Sharks?”
“Take pictures, chases stories and go to college. I’m also sort of stuck with a business that I started as a mistake.”
“A mistake? Tell us.”
Tim did and even Gretel was laughing by the time he was finished. She said, “Tim, it will be a bit before I learn English but you could use some girls. We can poke into places that a boy will get noticed.”
I translated and Tim laughed. “You haven’t even been in the city a day and you are looking for work.”
“I figure that mama did that sort of thing for bad people and if I do the same sort of thing for good people I won’t have to do it for bad people.”
After I translated, I said, “She does have some talents in that direction and she didn’t panic during the vampire hunt.”
Tim’s eyes glittered. “A vampire hunt. Was it Bill huting vampires?”
“Worse, it was the vampires hunting us. Bill had gone back to clean them out when they showed themselves chasing after grandmother Tony, Rosa and the kids. The vampire queen saw Jeanette and I while she was visiting the French Lady while we were being held hostage and decided that she would recruit us and the family came out after Tony and the kid in the morning while Jeanette and I were escaping. I had to shoot a vampire going after a kid, which blew our escape. Tony had a flat and we passed them going back with the Lady’s Construct because I wanted to be available if the vampires were out and Louis and Pierre needed me. Bill and Aunt Hilda dealt with the vampires that we ran into, but the queen followed us to Le Havre. Gretel wanted to go to Mass and we ran into the vampires while we were shopping.”
“How did Greta’s sister come into play? Greta said that she had to kill her, but not why.”
“The Red Lady went to one of those meetings the Masters have and called Aunt Hannah in for a drink. So the taint was high. Hannah went to Le Havre to see Gretel off. Meanwhile Bill is right behind the vampire lady and I’m picking up the fact that they are closing in on us. I send a message to grandfather, we go to lunch to slow things down, I do some quick shopping for some useful things and we head up to the Casino where I had told grandfather were we were going.”
“That seems an odd sort of place to go.”
“It was on the beach. I thought that the vampires had no clue that we had seafolk with us, and there were two tram lines nearby, so I could use them to get away if I had to. I figured that I could make a quick projector, some Constructs with a remote trip, fog things up and make an escape if I needed to. Steve, his people, Dave and mike got there first with Bill and Grandfather. Unfortunatley, the vampire queen was able to escape the chaos, use a glamor to look like Aunt Hannah, who was Turned by seeing the vampire go after her daughter, Bill shot the Vampire queen and Grandmother had to shoot Aunt Hannah, which I think that Aunt Hannah knew would probably happen.”
Tim turned to Gretel, “Where’s your dad?”
“Dead in the war. I never really had a dad.”
“Ok I think that I can use you, but you are going to need to have some training. To learn English for a start and how to do things that you might need. You might need to do things like learn how to be a lady’s maid. You will have to learn how to use a camera and how to use one without the person you are photographing knowing it. You will have to go to school, but I think that your aunt will put you in the special school with Rosa here so that she can keep an eye on you and help out there. You will have to learn to do things like cook and shoot. You will have to learn how to see and be unseen without using your abilities. My final interview isn’t easy, as it is taking pictures of people who may not want to have their pictures taken. Mermaids dancing in the navy yard for their boyfriends when they are not supposed to, for instance. That can get you in trouble and them in trouble if they get caught. So you need to be prepared for water magic trying to get you to drop the camera.”
Gretel turned to Suzy with a grin. “Would you do that?”
“Yes, if I felt that security was at risk. I take care of my girls even when they are doing things they probably shouldn’t. A picture by some snoop in a paper and we will have people on the bridge looking for us and Rosa’s little brother will be annoyed with me.”
“Rosa, why would your brother be annoyed at Suzy?”
“I don’t know. When I asked what his Charge was, he said that he couldn’t tell me for security reasons. Mary, his partner manages the people that watch the fae, so my brother is in charge of that, but is playing games, so he’s not going to say. Mary did say that most of the office has found bonds and that she and Helmut want to help the loose fae in Europe.”
“What do you think of me working for Tim?”
“It sound as if he isn’t going to go easy on you and he wants you to be ready when you start. I can agree with that. I have already talked with Greta and the wonderful couple that run the school, so that is already arranged for you, if that is what you want. Greta does want you up at the farm as well, but there is the Academy here and Greta says that is not a probem either.”
Tim continued, “I also want you to talk with and work for my grandparents and Kitty.”
“Who is Kitty?”
“She does acquisitions for people who want some things that other people would rather not give up.”
“She is a thief!” Rosa said.
“I prefer acquisitions specialist.” I hadn’t known that Kitty was at the party. She continued. “You must be Rosa and this is Gretel. I wasn’t there when Greta found you. If you were to work for me, Gretel it would not be in the acquisitions part of my work, but the preperations. I am one of Tim’s clients for things like that and he is going to need help with experience over there. Actually, what we will be doing in the near future is going through the things that came from the house, including your mother’s things, Gretel. Considering what your mother used to do, I don’t think that Rosa can complain that much.”
“I’m hoping that we can keep Gretel free of most of that.”
“That’s understandable. So did my mother. You can have a long chat about me with her when we go to Eli’s party. On the other Hand, Gretel attracted the attention of the Masters and the better prepared she and the others are, the better. I heard what you did in Le Havre, Tony and while you did ok, it was closer than it needed to be. I will help with that. You can exchange those Construct traps and some of the other things you did with ‘Hǔ and I. speaking of which, I need to track my tiger down and tell him that we have a Run with Athena and Boonsri tomorrow.”
She left again and Rosa said “She doesn’t apologize for what she does. Good. I imagine that she only steals from the powerful in any case.”
I laughed. “Mostly from governments for other governments. She likes art, but apparently only robs pictures from museums to attract attention to the pictures. Of course Chrissie has another viewpoint on that, but I will let her tell the story. Jeanette, It’s getting late, I have to be up in the morning to help with the milking so I , at least need to go home and to bed. I will see you in the morning.”
I said good bye and took the truck home to end the long day.

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