Copyright © 2002
PROLOGUE-Monday April 28,2003
I'd asked my cousin Edward for some help and also invited him to an early rehearsal for Fridays concert, and told him he could bring as many guests as he liked. There were a total of twelve kids and one adult, beside him. I had no idea that he knew that many kids. Three were Gypsys and five were werewolves, as was the adult. I wasn't sure of the others. Two I was sure weren't fully human and I was just as sure that the last two were. All of the kids, except for one, who looked to be about sixteen or so, were pre-teens.
They obviously were excited to be there, and they didn't seem to mind the constant interruptions as my band and I worked out the kinks in the songs. I always liked to have an audience and later in the week, when we got to the point where we would be polishing the songs, I would invite groups of school children to the rehearsals.
The kids with their enthusiasm made enough noise for five times their number. All except one. He wasn't just sitting there though. He was taking in everything and he was fully concentrating on all that was going on, but there were no cheers from him, just a look of content on his small face, and complete concentration. When we were finally finished the rehearsal, he put two fingers in his mouth and I was expecting a shrill whistle.
Instead, it started off low and slowly rose in volume, then leveled off, held for a few seconds and then faded out. There was complete silence around the stage area, as we all took in his unique tribute, and there were tears in the corner of my eyes. And then the world came back to life and I shook myself, as all of the kids abandoned their seats and headed to the stage for autographs.
He came last and he held out an old CD of Memories, which was almost ten years old. It had never made platinum status; it had barely made gold. The other kids had also had CD's but they had all been of more recent vintage. "This was always my father's favorite and it's always been mine."
"Who should I autograph this too." I asked him.
"Robby Hansen." That was a very familiar name, when I'd visited Edward's mother three months ago, at least half the conversation had been about one Robby Hansen.
His big green eyes twinkled at me, "I see Mama Franco has been spilling the beans. Well you can trust her with secrets, but everything else is grist for the gossip mill."
"Are you going to be coming to the concert, Robby?" When he shook his head regretfully, for some reason, I felt disappointed.
"The other kids will all be there, but my blocks wouldn't hold up under the stresses that forty or fifty thousand people, all concentrating on one thing would put on them." I saw him wince and then shudder.
"Blocks?" I asked, not sure exactly what he meant.
*You know from Mama that I'm an Elder and a Healer, one thing she doesn't know is that I can also read human minds as well. Normally it's a conscious effort, with emphasis on conscious and effort. When I'm in a crowd such as the one that will going to your concert, all thinking about one thing, the emotions spill over and I have to put a block around my mind to protect it. When there are that many people, I simply can't block enough of the emotions, to protect myself adequately. I can if necessary go into that type of crowd, however the resultant headache would be horrendous, no way would I be able to enjoy anything under those circumstances.*
*I have a type of block which was provided to me, but it will only protect me against a human being who has the ability to consciously try to damage my mind, not against accidental leakage.* I realized with wonder that he was talking with me mind to mind.
"By the way, you wanted help from Edward, because you suspect a stalker. That's the main reason that he brought us here this morning. I know who it is and it's not a stalker. Once Len and Vernon take the kids, and head for home we'll meet in your dressing room to discuss it." My heart jumped into my throat at that. The stalker, whoever it was, had been bothering me for about six months, and I wanted it stopped.
When I reached my dressing room, Robby and Edward and my manager Nelson March. Robby said softly, "As I said it's not exactly a stalker, but if you want to use that term, well Nelson is your stalker. Actually part of him is."
I looked at him in disbelief, "I've known Nelson for twenty years. How could he be the stalker?"
"You said that you could feel a werewolf on the things that you've been finding in your dressing room. That's because as a Gypsy, you're more sensitive than the majority of people. Nelson has a physical problem. From his aura, I can tell that his ability to change is blocked."
"Being a sensitive person, finding it very hard to deal with the problem, his mind came up with a solution, to save his sanity." He smiled briefly. "Most shrinks would probably consider a split personality a sign that he wasn't quite sane. I don't. Both personalities are completely sane and harmless. Nelson A the dominant personality, is the one that you've known for years, and he's not aware of Nelson B."
"Nelson A is in charge ninety percent of the time, but occasionally when the stress becomes too great Nelson B takes over, and Nelson B is quite aware that Nelson A exists, and he is a little obsessive. Since the personality split was to protect his mind from the fact that he couldn't change, he doesn't direct his obsession in that direction, but in yours, and it's simply gratitude that you've been his friend for so long, despite what he feels is his inadequacy. In the last six months it's just overflowed in gifts put in your dressing room."
"I'll take you for a little trip through his minds to show you that he's harmless." I felt Robby enter my mind this time, and since I hadn't earlier, I realized that he must be allowing me to feel him. He gave me a glimpse of Nelson's mind and the two personalities sharing it allowing me to see that they shared the traits that I had always liked in Nelson, and then we withdrew again.
"I'm a werewolf Healer and seventy-five percent of the cases I deal with are identical to Nelson's, only usually my patients are much younger. Normally by the time they reach Nelson's age, unless they have a disorder such as Nelson's, they simply disappear into the general population, severing all ties with the werewolf community, because it hurts too much.
"If Blue were here I could remove the blockage in about five or six hours. Alone it would take me three times that long. Since that's the case, we're going to have to go to Benson. I THINK, that if the physical problem is solved then, the two personalities will integrate themselves, since the duality will no longer be necessary, but I can't guarantee it. Do you wish to come along?" he asked.
I nodded silently. Nelson was my friend and I wanted to see him well, but I was curious, "Shouldn't you ask him first."
He smiled gently, yet there was a firmness in his eyes, "Werewolf society is far more autocratic, than general society. As an Elder, my decision is final. If you asked him he wouldn't even question my decision."
I had Nelson put on a bathrobe before Blue and I began. Normally my patients were seven, eight, and nine years old, or younger, and by the time I was finished, they'd be wringing wet with sweat. I just stripped them down, toweled them dry, and then dressed them again. Nelson was a little too big for that procedure.
I was thrilled to be in Diane Whitworth's presence. I had been caught by her first album twenty years ago, long before she became famous. I'd even slipped Teddy a CD earlier to get her autograph. When I'd been in Los Angeles my position occasionally brought me into contact with celebrities and not many of them had impressed me very much, but she was different.
"Anybody mind if I put on a movie?" I asked. Diane motioned to where Nelson was lying on the hospital bed, Robby sitting beside him with Blue on his lap.
"Won't that disturb Robby?" she asked.
I grinned at that idea, "Ms. Whitworth, Robby and Blue are no longer even aware of our presence, you could set a bomb off ten feet from them right now and they wouldn't even notice. In a couple of minutes, they'll go into a trance state with Nelson, and they'll go even deeper. Believe me you want to be doing something, and the loved ones of Robby's patient's, usually parents but sometimes husbands or wives, are too anxious to read."
"Call me Diane, please Len, and is it really that boring a process?" she asked.
"I remember the first time I watched Robby heal someone. It was an eight year old boy, and it was a fairly minor problem, though somewhat similar to Nelson's. Blue told me watching Robby doing his job was like watching paint dry, and I'm afraid it's the complete truth."
Taking my word for it, she decided on a movie, and when Edward mentioned that she had always liked Abbott & Costello, we finally settled on a couple of Abbott & Costello movies, though we had to choose a couple others before Robby was finished, interrupted by a stack of sandwiches, provided by Seamus Riley.
It took him longer than he had expected and it was almost eight hours before he came out of his trance. Blue jumped down to the floor and stretched before trotting over to me and jumping up on my lap. He spoke to us in mind speech, *Robby wants you all to witness this, though he intends to moderate the pleasure you will be feeling from Nelson, it will be so much more intense than with most children, since it has been delayed for such a long time.*
*You can change now, Nelson, take your proper place among your peers and change.* Robby continued his light pressure on Nelson, until he began to try to change. I felt it every time I changed but the glorious feeling, as Barry called it, washed over me in waves, of intense pleasure as Nelson achieved, I suspected, the first change of his life. I know we weren't feeling anything like Nelson was but after the first thirty seconds, Robby damped the feelings that we were getting from Nelson way down. The pleasure being received second hand would simply have overwhelmed us, after a time.
I don't know exactly how long it took, but finally Nelson completed his change, and what looked like a large pure white Siberian husky, was lying on the bed. Now we were simply watching the two separate personalities with our minds, and nothing seemed to happen for the longest time, but then the barrier between the two senses of self began to crumble, and the two different identities began to coalesce into one. When it was complete there was one single personality, but we could all feel that it was much stronger than, either of the two separate ones had been.
Much stronger, and much more content. Nelson was complete at long last.
I was sorry that Robby couldn't join us at the concert that Friday night, though he had attended all of the rehearsals except for today.
Before she sang her last song, she made an announcement. "This last song is new. It was both the easiest song I've ever written and at the same time the hardest. It's dedicated to two special people, my manager of more than twenty years, Nelson March, and one who unfortunately couldn't be here tonight."
She swept into the first lines of Changes. It gave nothing away yet at the same time it caught the essence of the joy a werewolf felt when he changed. When she was finished it drew a thunderous ovation, and she was required to make three encores of the song. When it released less than two weeks later, it ended up being one of her top singles of all time.
A nice tribute to the unique little Elder, who had helped inspire it.
"I know you don't generally concern yourself in purely human affairs, Elder, but I need help. Melton says he owns my county, and in effect, he does. The people elected me to clean up, and I get tips that I know are legitimate. When my men and I make a raid, the gambling, or the drugs labs, or whatever are gone. There are signs indicating that they were there, but nothing else. Soon the tips are going to start drying up and I'll be as ineffective as all the other sheriffs have been." said Tyler Williamson.
"As you say, we don't usually concern ourselves with human affairs, but lately the Council has made somewhat of a policy change. They have decided that in certain cases everything concerns us, that those Councils in the past that ignored human affairs were neglecting something that could affect us seriously, so they've assigned one of the Elders the task of helping in these situations. His budget is more limited than in other areas, but he is ingenious in using what he has. You will be surprised when you see him, but he has been involved in more important events in the last year or so than any other Elder has in the last fifty years, and the Council has complete confidence in him."
I knew I had come to Prescott in search of one Robby Hansen. I had no idea what he looked like or any more knowledge than the fact that he was an Elder. He was supposed to get in touch with me, and he did, abruptly, *Head for the nearest washroom, Tyler and bring your bag with you.*
I got up and picked up my bag and did as I was told. I was aware that as I got near the washroom that there was someone close behind me, and I tensed a bit at that. I relaxed a bit when I took a bit of a glance over my shoulder and saw that that it was an airport worker. I pushed open the door, and when it closed, I could hear it being locked behind me. I felt somewhat tense, but I pushed open the inner door, and standing there leaning against the counter with the washbasins, was a boy of about twelve, he was wearing a flowery Hawaiian shirt, and blue shorts and sandals. His hair color was a reddish blond and his enormous green eyes were twinkling.
"Don't worry, Tyler. Ben just locked the door and put an Out of Service sign on the door to give us a little time. We want you to disappear for a while, because Mr. Melton has someone watching you. He headed for the parking lot where he joined someone waiting in a parked car." He turned and picked up a carryall and a small bag, reminiscent of a camera bag. "By the time we get finished with you, we'll look like father and son, and we'll just walk out of here and the people watching in the parking lot will just ignore us." He handed me the carryall, "Here, change your clothes, and then transfer anything from your bag that you need right away into the carryall, and put the bag in the cleaning cart. Ben will make sure that you get it back."
"I'm Robby Hansen, by the way, and your Elder told you that you'd be surprised. It's certainly not an unusual reaction." he said dryly.
Surprised wasn't the word for it, I was astonished, but if I was being watched, his instructions were a logical first step in losing the tail. I took the carryall, and taking off my suit, I dressed in the clothes provided, which were virtually identical to what he was wearing, except the shorts were a darker navy blue.
"I'm afraid you're going to have to lose the beard as well, so when you transfer your stuff leave your razor out." While I wasn't a movie star, I was moderately good looking, but it felt strange. I'd worn a beard since I was old enough to grow one, and my face felt naked, and looked it, when I saw myself in the mirror. I realized that there was a problem, but before I said anything, "Please Tyler, we knew what would happen when you shaved off your beard." He took a small bottle out of the bag he was holding and handed it to me, "Here, put this on your face, it'll darken your skin. Keep putting layers on until where you shaved looks like the rest of your face. Use these latex gloves to prevent your hands from also turning color."
By the time, I was finished, I looked like a different person, but apparently Robby wasn't quite satisfied. He took one more thing out of the bag. It looked like a combination of a brush and a sponge wrapped in plastic. "This will lighten your hair, until it's closer in color to mine. Unlike the skin dye, this can be washed out using a special solvent, though it'll wear off in a week or so, if you don't want to bother." He undid the plastic covering it and handed it to me.
Since I had his hair right in front of me, it wasn't much trouble to match my hair color to his. When I was finished, I realized as I looked in the mirror that if it had been someone else, and I knew him, I could have passed by without recognizing him, so different did I look.
He took a small garbage bag out of the bag, and carefully holding the brush/sponge by the handle, dropped it in, and then put the bottle of skin dye in as well. "Put the latex gloves in the garbage bag." And after I did as he told me, he tied up the end and dropped it in the cleaning cart. "We don't really care if they find this stuff later, because once we've left the airport it no longer matters, but it's unlikely they'll find it anyway."
He took a second carryall from the cart. It matched the one he had given me in color, but was smaller. Opening it, he took out a camera. "The final touch, no tourist is complete without a camera. Once we get into the airport, don't be surprised if I act like an eight or nine year old. I'll probably skip a few times. When I do tell me in a parental tone to behave myself. My Mom's a cop, though she just had a baby at the end of March, and is on maternal leave right now, so I know if you speak like a cop you'll just about have the right tone of voice."
Robby told me, "When I came in I had on a T shirt and a baseball cap, and most people don't pay much attention to kids anyway, so it's unlikely anyone will remember me. If your watcher is really alert and sees through your disguise, I have a backup plan, just in case."
It felt a little strange holding his small hand in mine. I was a bachelor and while I had a couple of younger married sisters, neither had children yet, so I had never held a child's hand before. It was a little disconcerting when I found the sensation pleasant. I wondered if I was ready to settle down and start having kids. Of course finding a wife first would be essential.
We reached a dark blue mini-van, which already had a driver. Robby opened the side door and threw his carryall into the other seat. He took my carryall and was a little more careful with setting it on the floor, and then climbed in. Obviously, he intended for me to sit up front. I opened the door and climbed in, shutting the door behind me.
"Tyler Williamson, this is Len Peters. Len has dual duties, he's in training to be assistant to the southeastern US werewolf contact, and he was intended to be my contact in Benson, but he's ended up becoming more of an assistant." I offered my hand and it was taken in a firm grip, and I noticed I was being sized up by shrewd brown eyes. "Glad to meet you Tyler."
"Melton's watchers ignored us, Len, so let's head for home." About five miles from the airport, I saw a lone State Police car sitting on the side of the road.
Robby said, "And that's our back up plan. If we'd been followed, Charlie would have stopped them and delayed them for a few minutes. By the time Charlie let them go, they would have been so far behind that there's no way they would have found us again."
*Thanks, Charlie. We're not being followed.* Robby said in mind-speech, obviously letting me hear him. Charlie hit his siren briefly in acknowledgement and then in the side mirror I saw him start up and make a U turn and head back the other way. "In case you don't know it, Benson, which is where we're going, is the werewolf capital of North America. Benson and the area surrounding it have more werewolves per capita than any other region, and since a lot of us end up in law enforcement the State Police has a large number of them, and in fact the Commissioner is a werewolf."
"Mr. Melton, as far as we can determine, has no Mob connections, though he has Mob contacts. By that, I mean that the drugs he produces go to the Mob. That's good news in one sense. Destroy Melton and we're home free, as long as we make sure that nobody moves into the vacuum left by Melton's absence." Robby said to me.
"The futile raids you made, on what you considered were valid tips, indicates that both the Onario County, Sheriff's department and the Onario City police department are riddled with spies and informants, not necessarily paid ones. Comp One up." The monitor on one of the computers lit up. "File Richardson on screen." And a newspaper article was brought up."
Robby said, "Len and I have been looking at the history of events in your county that have occurred since Melton took over in nineteen-seventy."
Tyler read the headline.
MILLER CASE DISMISSED FOR LACK OF EVIDENCE
Dusty Miller, cousin of prominent citizen Sid Melton, charged with the hit and run death of David Richardson, fifteen year old son of prominent police officer Aaron Richardson, was freed today when the prosecution could not produce the two eyewitnesses, whose testimony resulted in Miller being charged in the first place. The Judge refused to grant them additional time in which to continue their investigation and dismissed the case.
Robby said, "This article was written in November of 1973, so it happened not quite thirty years ago. Everyone knew that Miller was guilty. The two eyewitnesses who came forward weren't the only witnesses, they were the only ones with the courage to be good citizens, and it probably got them killed. The police had enough physical evidence that an extension would have been reasonable."
"Two days before the trail got to this point, the Judge's daughter, was almost hit by a car. You had a weak man in a position of power, who decided his family came before society. Not an unusual reaction, but it's intolerable. Someone in this position cannot do something like that or society will break down completely." I looked into his big green eyes and they were very cold, "Innocents sometimes have to be sacrificed, for the greater good, and if you take a job such as this you must decide in advance that you will let no threat, not even to your family stop you. About ten years later, the Judge must have finally realized that, for he took his life. On the suicide note, he just wrote 'I'm sorry!!!'"
"This we think was the pivotal event, it proved to everyone that not even the police department's loved ones were safe. Police officers are always aware that their families may be at risk, they don't like it but they accept it as part of a job that helps hold civilization together. When loved ones are harmed, they expect them to get the same justice that everyone else gets. The Judge in this case just threw the case out, and when the police tried to gather the evidence for a new trial, Miller took them to court for harassment, and the Judge, the same Judge by the way, told the police to decease and desist."
"As a werewolf Elder part of my job is that of a lawgiver, judge and sometimes executioner, and my oath covers that. As a policeman, your oath is to protect society, not to satisfy personal gripes. Unfortunately, you had another weak man in Aaron Richardson. He went against his oath and killed one who in the eyes of the law was innocent, and then killed himself. By killing Dusty Miller, he actually helped Melton. The police no longer even had a suspect so they could not continue the investigation, and their case died and in effect their authority died with it."
I asked him softly, "Have you considered what would happen if it was one of your family?"
His eyes held mine steadily, "I have, and most of my family know my decision and approve of it. Barry's only five and still a little too young but Teddy is almost eight and being the brother of an Elder matures you faster and he also approves of my decision. They know that if it ever becomes necessary I will sacrifice them rather than betray our society." He smiled slightly, but it was a cold smile. "But after that I have a little advantage over a police officer. My actual oath was 'I accept, knowing the responsibilities that will now be mine. I will not shirk my duties, knowing at times I will have to judge my own kind.' It is implicit in the oath that punishment if necessary follows judgement. My oath doesn't prevent me from seeking revenge, when the time is appropriate, since as you know our primary law follows very closely the Biblical one of an eye for an eye, with few of the modern caveats that human society has developed."
"Now we need a distraction that will catch Mr. Melton's attention and worry him a bit so he's wondering what's going on." Robby's green eyes twinkled. "Comp One conference call, Jeff Huston, Dallas, Tim Mayer, Los Angeles, Louisa Mayer, Houston, Major General Rutherford Mayer, Grant Air Force Base."
General Rutherford Mayer
My private line rang and I picked it up absently, "General Mayer, please stand by for a conference call." I raised my eyebrows at that, only a few people had this number. After about thirty seconds a computer voice announced, "All participants are on line. Three of you know each other very well, General. Your sister-in-law Louisa Mayer, and your nephew, Tim Mayer of the NIA are on line as well as Jeff Huston, of the FBI who's been transferred from the Los Angeles to Dallas since we last talked, who worked with your nephew briefly."
"Now we wish to ask a favor of the four of you. We intend to help Sheriff Tyler Williamson, clean up Onario County and we need a distraction, and you can help provide it."
I grunted, "Why should we help someone who's just a voice on the telephone."
"Oh, we're much more than just a voice General, I've got your dossier here in front of me. Head of the NIA from nineteen-ninety to nineteen-ninety five. We worked with you on five occasions. After the first two times, you gave us a code name. Let's see. Oh yes, BeeGee."
I sat up straight in my chair. He, though there was no way to tell whether it was a man or a woman, had brought up one of the things that had most fascinated me during my period as head of the NIA.
The was a delay of about thirty seconds, and then the voice gave a little laugh, and there was a tone of respect when it spoke again. "We underestimated you, General. It's not BeeGee at all is it. It's the letters GB. You connected us with the Lincoln message somehow. May I ask if you had concrete information or if was just a guess?"
I had to admit, "Just a guess. Certain things were reminiscent of the way you operated during my term in the NIA."
"Would you like to hear the reason for the Gold Bullet message? We've got plenty of time. We want to give Mr. Huston and your nephew sufficient time to trace us." The voice asked cheerfully.
I must admit I was intrigued, "I've always wondered."
"Lincoln got the message right away. While our organization was fragmented just like many others during the Civil War, we merged again after the war almost seamlessly, and we had several people close enough to see Lincoln when he opened the box, with the gold bullet in it, and he smiled his complete understanding."
"We got word that Booth planned to assassinate Lincoln. Unfortunately, we no longer had the manpower in Washington to do anything about it ourselves. For all intents and purposes, the war was over, and we had been evacuating our people from Washington for the previous two months. We knew that nothing could win the war for the South at that point, that the death of Lincoln's at the hands of the South could have grave consequences for us."
"We passed the message to Pinkerton himself, we included the bullet so that Pinkerton would as least think about the message. We were almost surprised when he acted upon it, and prevented Lincoln from attending the Ford Theatre the night Booth planned to kill him."
"Booth and the conspirators were arrested and eventually executed. The used gold bullet simply stated to Lincoln that while we were spent we still had some value. It was unfortunate that Lincoln died of a heart attack less than a week after Booth's aborted attempt, but our analysts agree that Reconstruction would have been much worse if Lincoln had been killed by a southern sympathizer."
Len and Tyler were looking at me with some surprise. What I had been discussing was not something that werewolf children learned in school. "Now Mr. Huston, Mr. Mayer, are you willing to give up your attempt to trace this call now."
Huston said ruefully on the phone, "We had time to do the trace five times, we ended up with my home phone number all five times. I doubt if my Siamese cats, Ling or Tam have learned how to use the telephone or how to talk."
I looked down at Blue in my lap, and smiled. Blue couldn't quite do it either though using his nose, he could dial a phone, but he couldn't talk over one.
"How about you, Mister Mayer?" I asked.
"Is this number legitimate?" he asked somewhat incredulously.
"Completely Mr. Mayer. Let's see Diane Whitworth, ten platinum albums and sales of over sixty million records in the last twenty years. She has already agreed to appear at the benefit for the Heart and Stroke Foundation that your mother is putting on a week from Friday, but she insists that your mother call her, to personally confirm it. Few people are aware of this, but she lost her father and older brother to heart attacks before she became famous." I told him. Edward Franco had told me about that. It wasn't in her bio. Her manager had told me that she had an open date for that Friday, and it was a cause that was dear to her heart. She generally contributed money, since she didn't often have the time to perform at these types of benefits. Also, she felt she owed me a favor.
"Young man, what exactly do you want us to do? Despite the fact that three of us are related I don't think you called us because of that." Louisa Mayer said abruptly.
"No Congresswoman, I called you because of your mutual hobby." I told her.
Len said, "It's a lousy neighborhood."
"True but hopefully we're only going to be here for a week, or so. I've got exams at the end of this month. But it's an ideal location for what we want. The county courthouse, which contains the sheriffs department, is right in back of us and right in front of us is the 4th Precinct, with three hundred police officers. From here, we can provide Tyler with almost five hundred people in manpower for the raids on Saturday, and we can find out which county Judges and prosecutors to trust. How did the fix on the mini-van go?"
"The mechanic swears that nobody will be able to tell that the tire has been fixed to go whenever we want it to. The explosive is brand new, and it was developed by the same people who developed the tranquilizer guns. The receiver that they use as a detonator is less than one sixty-fourth of an inch square, and he says the explosive will completely destroy it. With you in the left rear seat and hitting the telephone pole with the front right, neither of us should get a scratch, and it'll take the police about a half-hour or so to clear up the accident, we cause. Melton's at home right now, as usual."
"Let's do it then." I said.
Len asked, "We're coming up on the point we want. Are you ready?"
"Ready." I affirmed, though my heart was racing. Holding up the transmitter. "I'm hitting the switch… now." and I pressed the button, and the right front tire blew. Expecting it Len never lost control as we went into a skid and we hit exactly where we intended, the telephone pole crunching the right front of the mini-van. Being concrete the pole was sturdy enough to take our impact without snapping in two and coming down on top of us, but we'd be here for a few minutes, at least, hopefully for as much as half an hour.
Actually, we ended up as one of a list of accidents that occurred at just about the same time, and since nobody was hurt at our accident site, we ended up with almost an hour. I got over a hundred and twenty targets from Melton and his top people, spread all across the county.
The medics insisted on taking us to the hospital for a checkup, but after that Len called the rental agency for another mini-van, and we ended up back at home base about two and a half hours after we had started out.
*Tyler are you alone?* I asked.
*I am. How did it go?* he asked.
*I got over a hundred and twenty, way more than you're going to be able to hit, but there are some very juicy ones in that list. How did everyone take your beardless state?* I asked with curiosity.
*If I get one more comment that 'you never looked better, boss', I intend to throw that person through the closest window.* he said sourly. I giggled, making sure he heard me.
*I'll enter everything in the computer, and categorize it and give the various locations. Maybe if some of them are close enough together, some of your teams will be able to hit more than one target.* I told him.
*Thanks, Robby. I'm ready for curtain call tomorrow morning. Talk to you later.* he said, before I dropped contact.
After entering all the information in the computer, the county map indicated that there were six areas in which there were two targets close enough together that possibly one team could hit both.
Tyler was nervous, and he had a right to be, right now he was putting his job on the line. Well he was on. This was going to be a very unusual roll call. The night shift just going off duty had been instructed to stay as the day shift was coming in. He switched on the mic and he was patched through to the whole building. "Officers, and ladies and gentlemen of the clerical staff. I've been conducting a special investigation into the failures of the recent raids we carried out and before the end of the roll call I've been assured that I will have the names of the informants, who prevented us from achieving our goals in those raids."
Fear was the ideal stimulus we needed to bring the guilt to the surface of their minds. I began giving Len names and details. "Paul Reiss." Then some details of what information he had passed on what he had been paid and what bank account it was in." Midway through I gave him a name which lightened our up mood a bit, at least for Len and I. "Ray Houston… No forget him. He's just having an affair, and he's in deadly fear that his wife will find out." I said with a strangled voice, stifling my giggles. We didn't have time for it right now.
We came up with a total of thirteen names, seven police officers and six clerical staff. None in the Emergency Task Force which surprised me somewhat, but thinking about it later it was logical. The first part of their name implied what they did most of the time. Emergency. Usually they only knew minutes in advance, where they might be going and they simply didn't have time to get in contact with anyone, so it would have been no use recruiting anyone from that unit. Actually, out of two hundred and fifty people, it was a very low ratio, but until Tyler's election, Melton had owned the sheriff and therefore the sheriff's office, and he hadn't needed many informants.
I nodded to Len, "Fax Tyler the information."
I closed my eyes and looked through Tyler's eyes as his secretary came out of his office and headed for him, with faxes in hand, one for the police officers and one for the clerical workers. We had cleared her early. There was no happiness on her face either, she knew what those faxes were just as well as Tyler did.
"The following officers are suspended with pay until Internal Affairs has a chance to investigate this matter further." His voice was crisp and even as he read the list, but his heart was heavy. Those police officers named were simply stunned, and as their fellow officers turned to look at them, the look of guilt on their faces told them that their names belonged on that list. Whatever happened with the investigation, their companions on the front line knew they were guilty.
Tyler turned to the second list, "The following clerical workers are also suspended with pay, until I have a chance to meet with the union reps to discuss their termination." He began to read the second list, and his heart wasn't any lighter. While these people hadn't betrayed an oath, they had still betrayed their companions, and he knew most of them as well as he did the police officers.
When he was finished, he clasped his hands behind his back. "The night shift is dismissed, the day watch commander will go over the usual assignments. Carry on." He headed for his office, and everyone could tell he hadn't been happy about what he'd done, but he'd done it anyway because it was necessary.
The roll call at the 4th Precinct that evening went just about the same way. The news had already gotten around about the morning roll call at the Sheriff's Department, and apprehension was already flowing thick and heavy, when a roll call for both the day and night shifts at the 4th Precinct was called. Len and I were able to start even before the roll call began. The guilty stood out like a red flag. By the time we faxed the Precinct Captain, we had a list of thirty-three names, twenty-five of them police officers.
However, we had expected this Precinct to be heavy. This was where Melton had started out, and where his base was to this day. Aside from being the ideal location, we wanted to take this area away from him, disrupting Melton's crime roots, and sticking a knife where he was most sensitive.
Starting at ten o'clock, just when Melton's Breakfast Tea was starting and the cream of Onario City's society was there the distraction I had arranged with the Mayers and Rushton began, the motorcycles showed up and began going by in a steady stream, blipping their throttles as they passed. He hadn't been challenged in almost twenty years, and after the shakeup of the Sheriff's Department and the 4th Precinct, this incident almost threw him over the edge. After a few minutes, Melton just went berserk, and began screaming obscenities.
It certainly ended his Breakfast Tea, the cream of society, who knew exactly what he was and attended his society events anyway, began streaming out. It would take years to mend his fences, and if he was still sane after the raids on Saturday I would be very surprised. The confusion his people would feel after Melton went totally bonkers, would add immensely to Tyler's ability to hurt the organization. With the directing intelligence gone, Tyler could carve them up piecemeal. David Richardson would finally be avenged, in a way that was totally consistent with Tyler's oath.
"What in heaven's name are we doing here?" Tyler asked in the evening, after Melton's disastrous Breakfast Tea, as we entered the lobby of Onario City's finest hotel.
"Visiting relatives." Robby told him. "Mine and distantly, Len's."
I was equally baffled by what was going on, but I didn't intend to ask, I had learned with Robby that you would find out when he wanted you to. He had dressed in the tux that Sam Reynolds had bought him for his wedding, and I had found out to my immense surprise that mine had also been packed. Obviously, he had known we would need them. Tyler was in his dress uniform.
I saw a man wearing a name tag declaring him Assistant Manager start toward us when he saw Blue on the leash that Robby was holding. But when he saw Tyler he stopped and hesitated. By the time he recovered, we were in the elevator. Robby pushed seven. He looked at us and I saw the wicked twinkle in his eyes. The one he only had when he was matchmaking. Since his efforts in that regard toward me was concentrated on Jeannie Reynolds I assumed that meant he had a prospect for Tyler. This evening could be interesting.
When we got off the elevator on the seventh floor Robby handed me Blue's leash. He walked to 701 and knocked. In a few seconds, the door was jerked open, and a young women, stood looking down at the boy. Her hair in a page boy bob was shorter than Robby's, but it was exactly the same color, and how many times had I looked into almost identical enormous green eyes. In the face she didn't look that much like Robby, but she looked familiar, and she had a werewolf aura.
Recognizing him, she yelled, "Robby!" and sweeping him into a bear hug, twirled around in the hallway half a dozen times before she set him down again. She bent down and kissed him on the cheek and then holding him out at arm's length she whistled, "Fancy! All for me?"
Robby said dryly, "For you, and Aunt Louisa and the General. I see you're still dressing down for the occasion."
"I have to dress up for modeling assignments. When I'm just me I like to be comfortable." she said.
I knew why her face was familiar now. I'd seen her face countless times in magazines. Jennifer, Super Model. She must wear wigs most of the time, that and colored contact lenses, since I had never seen her with red blond hair and green eyes.
Obviously, she knew what I was thinking because she struck a pose. "They prefer me blond with blue eyes." she said in a posh accent, then she giggled. "Come on in." and swooping down, she swept up Blue in her arms, and disappeared back into the suite, Robby close behind. Shrugging my shoulders at Tyler I followed Robby and Tyler followed me."
Aunt Louisa looks a lot like my mother, despite the fact that the blood relationship between them isn't very close. But we were all descended from my namesake, Robert Richard Hansen, so we figured the likeness came from that. She was almost the same height, and she had black hair and brown eyes like my Mom. And unlike Jenny she and the General were dressed up, oh not like we were, just casual evening wear.
I shook hands firmly with my Aunt and the General as did my companions. They asked us to sit down and after I did I said dryly, to Tyler and Len. "Aunt Louisa is a women's libber from way back. Her viewpoint isn't quite as radical as it once was but she doesn't kiss, she shakes hands. With everybody, except husbands, and Presidents of course. I saw that tape on TV of the President giving you a kiss. He did it just to annoy you, didn't he?"
"He did. I swore I'd get him on his next bill, but it ended up being one that was badly needed, so I haven't been able to get him back yet." she said with apparent annoyance, though there was a twinkle in her eyes. "Now don't you think you'd better introduce your friends."
"Certainly, the tall one with the brown hair and eyes is Leonard Peters, usually called Len, and he's a Benson Peters with all that implies. Tyler Williamson is the sheriff of this county."
"My Aunt Louisa Mayer, she's my granddad's younger half-sister, and staying with the half theme, she's half werewolf. She was originally married to Lon Swanson's oldest brother and Jenny," I gave a bow in her direction, "Jennifer Swanson, was the only child of that union, and she's a full werewolf."
"Major General Rutherford Mayer is her brother in law, she married his brother twenty-two years ago. He was a congressman and when he died in an airplane crash two years after they were married, she was appointed to complete the remainder of his term. Since that time, she's been elected every time. She's very popular in her Congressional District. Getting back to the General, who I've met three times before, he's in the airforce, but from ninety to ninety-five he was head of the NIA."
"Right now Granddad and Aunt Louisa aren't talking. It's lasted longer than usual. Whatever got them upset happened at my eleventh birthday party. During such occasions which are quite common, Aunt Louisa gets her news from Rose Peters and my mother, and Granddad gets his information through Jennifer."
Looking amused, Aunt Louisa said, "Not completely, we have truce periods. One happened when you were hurt by that dog pack a year ago last Christmas and another was when you were hurt this last Christmas and the last was when your sister Grace was born. Do you deliberately choose Christmas to almost get yourself killed?"
I shrugged my shoulders, "It just happened that way. One of the reasons we're here is to thank you for honoring my request to bring in your motorcycle clubs."
Both the General and my Aunt showed surprise but they were silent, they just looked at each other, they apparently decided through non-verbal communication that the General would ask the questions.
"Obviously if you're BeeGee right now, you weren't while I was head of the NIA." The General commented.
"True I would have been a little young, especially in nineteen ninety, when I was just a dream in my parents minds. But BeeGee doesn't actually exist in any organizational sense. Only during wartime does it have anything approaching a real physical structure, such as the organization that sent the Lincoln message. BeeGee is made up of all trustworthy werewolves, run usually by the Elder on the scene. Here and the case involving Alexander Macen in Los Angeles that your nephew Tim was involved in, that Elder was me."
"Tomorrow it might be an Elder in Japan, or any of the many places that we live. It has a continuity of style because the people are all werewolves so they have a certain way of thinking, whatever their cultural background happens to be. Our objective is simple, protect our people and protect our secret."
The General asked, "How far would your people go to protect your secret."
"A hundred years ago, General, we probably would have gone to any lengths to protect our secret, including killing innocents if necessary. In nineteen ninety, the Council at that time, three members of which are still sitting on the present Council, brought that question up and made a final decision. The decision handed down went like this. 'We the Werewolf Council have decided that if there is any danger of being exposed by an innocent, we will not harm that innocent. Such an action would forever diminish us, and we are unwilling to take an action which would so adversely affect our society.'"
"That was a much easier decision to make thirteen years ago than it would have been one hundred years ago or even sixty years ago. It would be almost impossible to expose our secret today. How would you prove it, General? Film, tape, television. The general public is skeptical now General. The reaction you would be most likely to get is, 'Oh, look George, the special effects they have now, aren't they just marvelous.'" I finished in a high squeaky voice, a grin on my face.
The adults all laughed. I had a valid point, and they knew it.
Aunt Louisa asked, "You said you had a couple of reasons for coming."
"Rose probably told you about the incident involving Jacob." She nodded and so did Jennifer, but the General just looked puzzled. "You're been keeping secrets from your brother-in-law Aunt Louisa, that's not nice."
"It wasn't really that important. I'd always had a feeling that Benson wasn't our ancestor, that missive simply confirmed it." she said to me.
I grinned, "You're not interested in the fact that over half of it is a complete fabrication."
She sat up straight, "Exactly what parts, I hope that it's not the part about Benson?"
Taking out a piece of paper. I unfolded it and began to read it.
'I, Robert Richard Hansen, make this last entry. Possibly I should have destroyed this book when I came upon it, since it chronicles the life of a truly evil, man; a man called Benson W. Hansen. The man who I am supposedly named after, the man who is supposed to be my father.
If the reader is a descendant of mine, please take comfort in the fact that the supposed fact is a total lie. I was born in England in 1812, the son of Augustus Hansen and Mabel Pierce, both orphans, and we traveled to this new land of America in 1819 after I could control my change. If you are my descendant you will know what that means. Unfortunately, both of my parents died on board ship, and I landed in the port of Charleston, South Carolina an orphan like my parents before me.
The crew and captain cared little for my newly orphaned state nor did any of the other passengers... Well I should not say all; one did care, for he was the first mate and an Elder. All I had ever heard him called aboard ship was Benson, and he seemed a good enough man to a seven-year-old boy. When I left the ship and he came up to me, with the incredible charm, that was part of his evil, I fell under his spell immediately.
Somehow, he was aware of the money belt containing one hundred English pounds, hidden under my breeches. To this day, I do not how he found out about the money. He proposed, that he pretend to be my father, and that we travel west, and it was not until we arrived in this area that has come to be known as Benson, that he showed his true colors.
"That part is a lie, once he knew that Benson was an Elder he would have known that the man simply took the knowledge out of his mind." I told them. "He may have been obscuring the knowlege just in case the diary came into the possession of humans and not his descendants." I continued.
He stole the money that I had on my person and purchased some land, in this area. Possibly, he intended to do away with me, but obviously he did not, and treated me as his son. The diary will tell you what he did to me. Be warned it is not pleasant. It was not until we arrived in this area that he added the name Hansen to his own, stealing that from me as well. It was then I found out he was an Elder, and as an Elder he of course knew what I was, and what many people in this area were.
As an Elder, he lorded over our people, only showing his charm. To those few of our people, he showed his evil side, they died, and he was never suspected.
When I was sixteen I ran away, and headed into the true Wild West, and for ten years, I enjoyed myself immensely, traveling with the natives and others. But then I began to get restless, feeling that I wasn't accomplishing anything. I was lucky at that time to find a pocket of gold nuggets, and I took some of it, knowing that it would be there if I needed it in the future. What I took was not enough to make me rich, but enough so that I could travel East and get a good education as a doctor.'
I looked up at Aunt Louisa, "Up to that point, it's completely truthful, because we were able to trace his parents to England, and confirm the rest of it including the fact that Benson was the first mate, on the ship he was on. After that except for the facts about Jacob and his heart attacks and the fact that he didn't quite trust his family to do the right thing, it's a total lie." I read out loud, the last part of what I intended to use.
'Then I returned to Benson's Place, as this area had begun to be called, to see if I could mitigate some of the wrongs that Benson Hansen was still perpetuating among our people and humans. I was in fact able to do some good, because among his many faults Benson was a coward, and I had grown to be a big man, almost twenty pounds over two hundred, and outweighed Benson, by close to forty pounds.'
"Whether he was physically afraid of Robert wouldn't have mattered in the slightest. According to this, Benson was an Elder and Robert was not. Len you know a bit more know of what being an Elder means by now." Our attention turned to Len.
He thought for about thirty seconds, "I was trying to think of an analogy. Think of werewolf's mind as a cat. An ordinary werewolf would be the size of Blue, who's so shamelessly enjoying being petted. An Elder would be the size of a leopard. Blue would have absolutely no chance of defeating a leopard, not even if the leopard got careless. Unlike Blue, if an Elder got careless then an ordinary werewolf would have a chance, and with today's modern weapons, he could strike from beyond an Elder's range. But in Benson's time if an Elder knew a ordinary werewolf was after him, then the werewolf would, like Blue, have absolutely no chance. The Elder would simply lock the werewolf's muscles so he couldn't move and dispose of him at his leisure."
I took back the tale, "So even if Benson was a coward, he wouldn't have been afraid of Robert, he would known that Robert would have no chance against him. Unless," I paused, "unless, Robert was also an Elder and therefore Benson's equal. There are two ways that could happen, he could have been initiated by three Elders, which was the requirement in those days, and had them keep quiet about it for some reason. Or he was initiated by a Healer, which was forbidden, though in fact as long as an Elder initiated in such a way didn't claim the title or position, they generally ignored it, unless a specific complaint was made and an Elder and a Healer would remove the Elder abilities. I rather think it was the latter, otherwise there was no reason to keep the fact that he was an Elder a secret. Every Elder who's ever read that note was aware that Robert was lying about that portion of the tale."
"That also of course means that Benson, must have been initiated the same way, by a Healer. Otherwise, he would have protested to the Council, who would have sent an Elder and a Healer to look into the matter. Between the two of them, they would have been able to detect a false Elder. Now since Robert wasn't claiming or using the position, even if they had discovered it, they simply would have removed the abilities. The fact that he had them would have been passed on to a Werewolf Historian. If on the other hand Benson was claiming and using the position falsely, he would have been killed."
"That's absolutely the only reason that Benson would have run from Robert. If he was an equal, and the only reason he wouldn't have complained to the Council and removed the threat that Robert represented was if he was an illegal Elder, and the Council represented more of a threat than Robert did."
I was aware that Tyler had been paying more attention to Jennifer than to the tale, and when Aunt Louisa looked like she meant to include him in the conversation, I interrupted her. *Now Aunt Louisa, Tyler and Jenny are having a nice time acting shy with each other. You don't want to bother them right now. Despite your woman's lib tendencies, you're always wanted to get Jennifer married off. Well she's finally found someone she's interested in. She's never been shy with anyone else as far as I can remember.*
*You're acting as a matchmaker?* she accused me.
*Of course. As an Elder, that's part of my job description, though we don't advertise it. That's why Granddad has always had what you called his annoying tendency to interfere. We try to get suitable couples together, and after that, we try to keep them together if we can. We're realistic enough to know that a pairing which can be ideal in the beginning can change over time, and simply fall apart. But you can't know that at the beginning.*
Aunt Louis gave a chuckle, though she didn't explain to the others what it was she found funny.
Aunt Louisa Mayer
"Getting back to Mr. Melton. Clearing house, in the Sheriff's Department and the 4th Precinct on Wednesday seriously annoyed him. The motorcycles going by his Breakfast Tea this morning, and his berserk reaction, has ruined his place in society. The raids which are scheduled to begin at eleven this evening and to go on throughout tonight and through Saturday, will complete the job. Whatever happens, by tomorrow night, Mr. Melton, will no longer care because he's going to be in a padded room, locked up in a straight jacket. That will destroy his organization, because, the key bits are in Melton's mind and they no longer will be accessible." Robby comment was delivered almost offhand, but his green eyes had gone very cold, and I felt a chill go up my spine, as I realized how much my great-nephew had changed since I'd seen him last. He was still a child, but at the same time, he was much more. "Of course there is a second possibility, one of his lieutenant's will kill Mr. Melton when everybody realizes that he's insane. In either case, Mr. Melton will no longer be in the picture."
"With all the computers around his people think everything is available on the computers, as I said the key bits are in Mr. Melton's mind. His lieutenant's will find that they can't access the important items, while Tyler's people can, because I've given them those key bits." That jerked me up straight in my chair, as I realized the implications.
"You can read human minds, as well, can't you Robby? I thought that was impossible." I said incredulously.
"I am unique, Aunt Louisa." he said, absolutely matter of fact. It was part of something he was, he didn't consider it any more important than any other part. "That's the only way we could clear the Sheriff's Department and the 4th Precinct, as quickly as we did, any other way would have taken months. I read their minds to find the informants." He turned those big green eyes on Ford, and they were twinkling, "And no General, if you take over the NIA again, and I'm aware the current head is resigning and you're on the short list, probably right at the top, I'm probably not available, but you're always free to ask. If I consider it important enough I may change my mind, but in a case like that, only you will know that I am involved, and I'd be using my own people."
I saw the thoughtful look, on Ford's face, and I knew that he was thinking about the type of resource that Robby could be, if he could get him to agree to help. I saw the grin on Robby's face, and I realized that he knew exactly what Ford was thinking and he didn't resent it. Robby looked at me, "An Elder will use any resource that he has available, and the position as head of NIA is certainly that of a human Elder, if humans used such a term. Why should I resent his thinking about doing the same."
I wondered if he had read my mind or my face. "Your body language is very similar to my Mom's. You're both very forthright and very easy to read."
"Well stop reading me so accurately, or despite that fancy monkey suit, I'll turn you over my knee and give you a few swats on that well dressed bottom." Complacently he reached up and straightened his bow tie a bit.
Sunday Onario City Flyer May 10,2003
MELTON MACHINE SHATTERS UNDER HAMMER OF MULTIPLE RAIDS
With over, sixty successful raids carried out over the length and breadth of Onario County yesterday, the Melton machine is in little pieces today. Sid Melton, who many times claimed he owned our county, died under the gun of Max Morrow, his chief lieutenant, who hoped to take over during the confusion.
There was much more of course, on the framed front page of Onario City's daily paper that I handed to Tyler Williamson Sunday afternoon, in my Aunt's suite. I left him to enjoy it and as I was leaving, Jennifer slipped her arm though his.
Aunt Louisa, the General and Len were next door in Ford's suite, and I joined them. They had a bottle of champagne open, and three glasses poured, pointedly there was a can of ginger ale and an empty champagne glass sitting on the bar. I grinned. Aunt Louisa obviously intended to remind me of my age. Blue was already savoring a small bowl of Bud Light.
I'd been allowed to try a little at my mother and Paul's wedding. I hated it at first taste, and since I absolutely loathed it, I was quite happy to be having ginger ale. I winked at Len, who grinned, knowing that Aunt Louisa's efforts to put me in my place had backfired.
We made a couple of quick toasts, and then Len and had to leave to make our flight to Prescott. I got a promise out of my aunt that she would visit within the next month.
We got home just after supper, which obviously had been pizza take-out. Which was unusual, Sunday was usually a home cooked meal, no matter what. Even when my Mom was called out on police work, which she wouldn't right now since she was on maternal leave, Paul was quite a good cook.
Len and I ran into Barry in the living room, and he had an enormous black eye. "What happened to you?" I asked him, he just said "Swoosh!" throwing his hands wide and giggling. After a couple of attempts, I gave up and Len and I headed for the kitchen. Mom and Paul and Teddy were sitting at the kitchen table.
"What happened to Barry?" I asked. The three of them looked at each other and began giggling.
Finally Mom managed to get out in a strangled voice, "You'd better get it out of Barry's mind, he knows the most." and she went back to giggling.
I headed back into the living room and Barry, followed closely by Len and Blue. I corralled Barry and after a few minutes he stopped swooshing and was just giggling, as I held him between my legs. I entered his mind and got what had played out this afternoon, relaying it to Len and Blue.
Barry was in his bathing suit, on the porch where Mom was putting Grace down for a nap. He said to Mom, "Mommy. What should I do. Teddy's at the Ronson's and the Ross's aren't home so I can't go swimmin'."
Mom finished tucking Grace in, and said, "Why don't you fill your pool. You can't swim in it, but you can do some splashing."
Barry brightened, "Okay." He ran down the steps and pulled his Turtle pool out from under the porch. Getting the hose he dangled the end in the pool.
Mom said, "I'll watch it and tell you when the water starts coming out."
"Okay, Mommy." Barry yelled as he ran around the corner, to the tap that the hose was connected to. He turned it a couple of times, which was usually enough, and he stopped to listen for Mom's call. Now Barry was a very literal little boy, something he'd probably grow out of, but Mommy had said she'd tell him when the water started to flow, so he began turning the tap again. I was already starting to break into laughter, when Barry puzzlement kept turning the tap.
Finally the tap stopped turning, and he looked at it puzzled. Now that particular tap was notorious in Benson for having one of the highest water pressures in town. Glen Hicks, who belonged to the volunteer fire department, who lived across the road, often said that he wished some of the fire hydrants in Benson had that type of water pressure and he wasn't kidding. Barry scratched his head and then straightening up he trotted around the corner, and stopped horrified.
Mrs. Carruthers, the minister's wife, in casual clothes was standing on the hose. She wasn't fat but she was no lightweight, and the hose had a bulge about a foot in diameter instead of the inch it should have been. He started jumping up and down, screaming, "Mommy the hose is about to 'xplode." Mommy had gotten distracted, and she was brought back to her duties abruptly. Uncharacteristically she panicked.
"Barry grab the end of the hose." She really should have had him turn the water off first, but obeying her he ran and grabbed the end of the hose, and Mom pulled Vivian Carruthers off of the hose. And sure enough there was a swoosh as the blockage suddenly removed, the water just exploded out of the hose. Even Steve Ross probably wouldn't have been strong enough to hold the hose at that point, and it just jumped out of Barry's hand like a live thing. Mrs. Carruthers was holding tight onto Mom and she couldn't get free to get to the water tap to turn it off.
Barry with uncontrollable giggles was trying to tackle the hose, and the way it was snaking around he kept missing it. Suddenly he was joined by Teddy in trying to corral the miscreant hose, but they kept missing and that's where Barry got the black eye. He got Teddy's knee to the face in one of their tackle attempts.
Suddenly the water stopped, and Paul peeked around the corner. Everybody else was on the ground laughing uncontrollably and soaking wet. Teddy and Barry had hosed Mr. and Mrs. Carruthers down in the past and got squirt guns banned in our house, but they'd been all dressed up at the time. Mrs. Carruthers was a good sport and she was laughing as hard as the rest of them.
I withdrew from Barry's mind and he said, "Swoosh!" and began giggling, and we ended up in a tangle on the floor both giggling. I saw Len collapse in an armchair, tears of laughter streaming down his face, and Blue was on his back, and his meows on this occasion were unmistakably laughter.
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