Characters: Thomas Magnum, Henrietta Lange, Thomas Morrow, Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, Thomas Jefferson, Templeton Peck, Humphrey Marrion Murdoch, Oceania Clan Members, Sylum Clan Members, Original Characters
Author’s Note: Thank you, BJ for teaching me how to talk like a pirate in my head.
Summary: A picture from a collection of World War II photos, found by a former President begins an investigation that takes Magnum deep into his and other Clan members’ old nightmares.
Sylum Timeline: April 2018 to April 2019
* * * *
The third President of the United States sat on the veranda outside his suite of rooms at Robin’s Nest. Sipping the excellent Kona coffee Jonathan’s well-trained staff had delivered shortly after he’d sat down. Movement in the lagoon caught his attention. He watched the long slim form make several laps before he realized it was Thomas Magnum … Thomas Sullivan, one of Oceania Clan’s Hunters. Jefferson would have to remember since he planned to stay at the estate until his new home was ready in Los Angeles. He and Thomas had many interesting conversations about working in Intelligence and its effect on political shenanigans. Thomas’ daughter, Lily, like most children raised in the Vampire Clans, was an interesting combination of youthful innocence with a cynical worldview. It was a shame she spent most of her time stomping through the bush with Dundee.
A commotion below him pulled his attention out of his thoughts. Two beautiful Doberman Pinchers raced toward the gate to the beach where Thomas came through with a towel dangling around his neck. Higgins followed behind the dogs at a more sedate pace watching his Childe take the time to play with the two young dogs. Atlas and Kratos had been the Clan’s Christmas gift to the Caretaker as Ares and Hades had been retired after ten years of guarding Robin’s Nest. The Oceania Legal Advisor’s keen eyes watched Magnum exchange a few words with Higgins before the Hunter retired to the guest house.
By the time breakfast was served on the lanai, Magnum showered and rejoined them. Jefferson frowned at the dark circles under the hazel eyes along with other signs of deep fatigue.
“When was the last time you fed and rested, Thomas?”
Giving the former President a wane smile, the younger Vampire sighed. “It’s been a few days. There have been some developments at the office that kept too many eyes on me to get away for a bite.” His grin was a poor imitation of his usual boyish charm.
Before Jefferson could call for a maid, Higgins appeared with a tray containing three mugs of what he assumed were warm blood. The three men enjoyed the companionable silence that settled between them while Magnum emptied the mugs.
“Can you share what’s been happening that has kept you so busy, Magnum?” Higgins’ tone carried a note of concern for his Childe. Thomas was a gifted investigator, but when trouble caught up with him it was always of epic proportions. “Miss Lange and your fellow agents are all well?”
“Yes. You remember that block of houses on the lagoon I picked up at a foreclosure auction several years ago?” At Higgins’ nod, he continued. “Hetty asked to rent one as a residence, and since we need a bigger office, she went after the budget people in D.C., until they agreed to lease three to renovate for offices, labs, and stuff, and turn the old offices into a safe house.”
“Well, that turned into a tidy little investment.” Jefferson gave him a sharp look. “Need me to look over the contracts.”
“It’d make me feel better. I’m getting the Sneakers crew to handle security and the computer systems. Since I own all the houses on the cul-de-sac, there will be a double gate system. Pull inside one where there will be a guard who’ll let you through the second. The lagoon only has one entry point visible from any of the houses, which will be linked by breezeways.”
“All while continuing with your investigations and assignments.” Higgins called the kitchen for breakfast to be cleared away.
“Thankfully, things have been quiet. I’m picking Hetty up at the airport tomorrow afternoon. She’s going to be staying here for the rest of the week while the contractors finish a few renovations she requested.”
“Not a problem. I think Thomas will find Ms. Lange delightful company.” Higgins chuckled. He was sure Jefferson would find the former spy quite confounding.
“Why do I suddenly feel like some sort of sacrificial lamb?” The former President looked over his Clanmates with a jaundiced eye.
“I’m sure Higgins can fill you in on Hetty … I’ve got to get to the office.” Thomas emptied his coffee cup and dashed across the lawn to the guest house before he could be questioned further.
Hearing Higgins chuckle, Jefferson gave the Caretaker a frown. “Why do I feel like there is an inside joke to which I am not privy?”
“Director Lange is a perfectly lovely woman with a highly developed palate for fine tea and has been in the spy game since the Vietnam era. I believe the two of you would get on swimmingly.”
“Are you matchmaking, Jonathan?” The frown turned to a glare.
“Of course not. She visits on the regular, and always provides stimulating conversation. You can trade spymaster stories.”
“As long as that’s all it is.”
“I would never presume …” Higgins puffed up like a bantam rooster.
Jefferson snorted in disbelief. “I’ve heard you pushing Thomas to get out and mingle.”
“Well … Yes … With Lily building a life in Australia with her young man and children, it’s time for Thomas to build a well-rounded life for himself. I do not want to see him isolating himself from affairs of the heart because the person catching his fancy does not happen to be his Mate.”
“I thought we got Thomas through the “I’m going to outlive my friends and family.”
“We did … We have. For all Thomas appears to be a bit of a tomcat when it comes to dating, there have been very few people he cared deeply about. I believe the trauma of thinking the woman he married in Saigon was killed in a car bomb, then finding out she wasn’t, made him wary of exposing his heart. Then, when she returned five years later married to another with Lily in tow and abandoning them both to return to Vietnam, made him even more skittish.”
“Good Gods, Man, is the woman some sort of Mata Hari?” Jefferson started to slam down his cup when he remembered the fine China cup he held.
“It turned out she was. A double agent. After she convinced Thomas Lily was his daughter, I had Franklin and Matthew tear through her background.” Higgins had the kitchen deliver a tray of cold drinks to replace the abused coffee service.
“A double agent for who? What about Lily? I mean … It doesn’t matter if she’s Thomas’, she’ll always be family.”
“Michelle DuBois was the daughter of a North Vietnamese spy and a highly placed French general. She was educated at the local convent until her mother remarried at her handler’s request. Michelle learned spycraft at her mother’s knee until their handlers in Hanoi sent her out of the country to college. She had been groomed her entire life to take over her mother’s role. For all his missions with the SEALS and Intelligence, nothing had prepared him for Michelle DuBois.”
“I bet she angered quite a few people in Hanoi when she left Lily with Thomas. Maybe she had enough of a heart that she didn’t want the same life for her daughter.” Jefferson scowled at the Caretaker.
“Franklin and Matthew cornered Thomas before he moved back to Hawaii and showed him all the information they had collected, though, after so many years as a troubleshooter for Director Morrow, he was quite cynical when it came to anyone that approached him romantically or sexually.”
“No wonder the man is skittish with everyone telling him is prime material for a honeytrap.”
“He’s always hidden behind that boyish smile and laissez-faire attitude.” Higgins shook his head. “I have duties to attend to, but I trust you can keep yourself occupied and out of trouble.”
The look Higgins leveled on Jefferson was one he’d seen on the face of every Caretaker he’d ever met. He wondered if they conducted video calls so they could practice until they got the right tone and tenor of the expression that caused Vampires thousands of years old to quake in their shoes. Giving a huff of disgust at himself for pausing to think about his plans for the day, he abandoned the morning breeze blowing across the lanai. He headed for his suite ignoring the voice in his head that sounded like Higgins. Dammit, he survived the Revolutionary War, acted as a midwife to the birth of a nation, and had been the President of said nation. There was no way he was going to curtail any of the activities he had planned while he was in paradise.
Thomas growled under his breath as he opened a drawer to find it full of ‘stuff’ just like the last. As a member of the military, he had learned not to accumulate ‘stuff’, so how is it that he now was a participant in a secret breeding program for ‘stuff’. The sad part was he had no idea where most of the ‘stuff’ came from. He pulled out a shirt that looked like something from his days as a private investigator and decided to donate his ‘stuff’ to Hetty’s undercover closet. Technically, that took up two rooms but was slowly expanding into a third, he was afraid it would soon have a house of its own.
The scrape of a door opening caught the Vampire’s ear and pulled him from his inner dialogue. A draft of air carried a familiar scent allowing Thomas to relax back into his packing.
“Kapena.” Dr. Wyatt Braxton, Senior Supervisory Agent, awesome Undercover, psychiatrist, and a tall drink of water sauntered into his office.
“Wyatt.” He was a slim man, with dark hair touched with silver, and hooded dark eyes that caused people to underestimate him. He slouched down into one of Thomas’ visitor chairs. “What prodded you into the office on your day off? Come to help me move to my new office?” Thomas quirked his eyebrows at his right-hand man.
“You kidding me, Brah. I’m allergic to moving. Don’t know who decided we needed a bigger office.” The baritone voice dropped into the musical drawl of a native Hawaiian. “Was visiting with my cousin, Noa last night at his bar over near your place on Market Street. Saw and heard some interesting things we should talk about.”
Labeling the box he finished packing while Wyatt talked, Thomas sat down in the second visitor’s chair. Island lore said the original Wyatt Braxton came to Hawaii with Captain James Cook and liked it so much he went native.
Hetty laid a file on his desk with the name Wyatt Braxton, Dr. Psychiatry, causing Thomas to call his Clan’s Second-In-Command to ask if James remembered the original Wyatt Braxton. Cook had chuckled as he recalled the man was always looking for someplace warm to leave the ship. Seeing a picture, he swore Wyatt to be the reincarnation of his ancestor.
“The Wyatt Braxton that served with me on the HMS Resolution was a hell of an Armorer and sly as a fox. Could charm the birds from the trees if he set his mind to it. Got off the boat when we landed in Waimea Bay on Kauai and disappeared.”
“The present-day Wyatt’s grandfather moved to O’ahu to attend college and was working as a doctor during World War II. Became a bit of a family tradition since Wyatt’s father was a surgeon. There are also several talented blacksmiths in the family on O’ahu and Kauai. The Braxton family is quite prodigious and have their fingers in a lot of pies around the Islands.”
“An excellent source of information for a Special Projects agency.”
“Makes for a lot of grey areas in a background check for a security clearance,” Thomas growled. “I called more to salve my curiosity than thinking you’d have any information about this particular Braxton.” He rubbed the back of his neck a little embarrassed about calling James. They’d become friends over their mutual love of Hawaii after Higgins hauled Thomas to Australia to learn how to be a Vampire.
“Oh, Thomas, one more thing you should know about MY Wyatt Braxton …”
“You going to tell me you were shipmates with benefits?” Thomas teased.
“Close, but not quite.” The shipping magnate started to laugh. “He was one of my Chosen.” He was still laughing when he ended their call.
Shaking himself from the memory, Thomas looked over HIS Chosen Braxton. “I’d say from your expression you weren’t exchanging fun facts.”
“It was fun until Mona walked over with a $20 bill folded around these.” Wyatt pulled out a small plastic bag with two blue tablets with Japanese characters 君主.
“Overlord.” Thomas murmured. He pulled out his camera and snapped a picture.
“All the years I’ve known you, I didn’t know you read Japanese.”
“I’m passable in several Asian languages plus your Aunties have rounded out my Hawaiian.”
“What! They didn’t tell me they adopted you.” Wyatt glared at his friend.
“I keep telling you it’s the dimples.” He put the tablets in an evidence bag and tagged it for their Forensic Scientist, Jann. “Open a case file for this. Does your cousin have cameras where we might get a look at whoever gave these to Mona?”
“Ahead of you.” He pulled a flash drive out of his shirt pocket. Thomas pulled the video up on his computer. Wyatt placed a hand on his shoulder as he leaned over to watch, too. If he wasn’t touching Thomas, he would have missed the twitch of reaction to the video. “Recognize someone?”
“Maybe. It’s been years since I saw him in person.” He shut down the flash drive after making a copy and put it in another evidence bag. “I need to go to the mainland for a few days. I need you to handle things here.”
“Want to clue me in before you take off?”
“If this is who I think it is, I need to talk to the man that’s been hunting him for fifty years.”
“Do what you need, Kapena. I’ll watch the kids.”
“Take those and drop them off for Jann to process and behave or I’ll call your Mama.”
“That’s not Ohana, Thomas.” Wyatt called after him as he headed for the new office so he could drop off the boxes loaded in his agency SUV.
Wyatt had secured the evidence and left by the time the last box was stacked in the corner when he heard two people come into the office. Sticking his head out the door he saw Hetty and Tom Morrow heading to Hetty’s office. He ducked back into his office hoping to avoid getting sidetracked by his bosses, but luck was not with him.
“Thomas, join us, please.” Hetty called out. Hanging his head in frustration, Thomas did as he was bid. His bosses were sitting on the couch in Hetty’s with a tea service on the table in front of them ready to pour. “The Director and I were enjoying afternoon tea when I received a call from Dr. Braxton. Something you want to tell us something that’s only fit for Chosen ears?”
Feeling like he was being stalked by lions, Thomas gave in with a huff. “Not sure. I think it might be General Chang, so I’m going to New Orleans to see Templeton Peck and have him look over the surveillance footage. If this is Chang, I want to find out what kind of intel Peck has and if he has any on his recent movements.”
“What about intel from our agencies?” Hetty got up to pour hot water into the beautiful teapot sitting on the coffee table.
“It was next on my list after booking my flight. I doubt they have much. Even the Hunter network doesn’t have much on Chang. We don’t how, when, or who Turned him. Though he was a General in the Vietcong army, we don’t know if he’s Vietnamese, Chinese, or one of the other Asian countries. He moves between the Yakuza, Triads, and other Asian gangs because the only color he sees is green. He doesn’t hold the same xenophobic beliefs that some of the Asian cultures hold against each other, so many use him as a go-between. We know he’s a sadist bastard with a series obsession with blue-eyed blondes, and Templeton Peck in particular.” Thomas paused as a thought derailed his information dump. “Damn. I need to call Hannibal.” He said more to himself than his audience. “Chang might think he’s safe in Hawaii … Though I find it hard to believe someone with his smarts doesn’t know Vampires are living in the Islands. He hasn’t avoided Hunters this long by being stupid.”
“Think he’s trying to draw out Peck?” Morrow accepted a cup as Hetty played Mother for their impromptu tea party.
“Not enough information.” Thomas took a drink of his tea while deciding how many long-buried memories he wanted to dig up. “We were in Cambodia when T.C.’s helo was shot down, so we were captured by the Russians as opposed to the Vietcong. Ivan was no walk in the park but compared to the stories I’ve heard about General Chang, Ivan was a sweetheart.” He grimaced as the memory of the beatings he and his team had experienced at the hands of Ivan’s ‘Interrogators’ flashed through his mind.
“Why do you believe this warrants a trip to New Orleans.”
“A few years ago personal betrayals and security breaches were discovered and have caused all of the Clans to become diligent in their need to update Chosen and Clan databases with background checks on lesser known or new members. Our sense of paranoia has multiplied several times over.”
“You think someone could listen in or hack into our secure computer lines?” Morrow looked incredulous at the thought.
“Working with Sneakers has taught me there’s always someone somewhere that can hack the latest and greatest. Plus, there are some conversations that you shouldn’t have over the phone or video.” He looked at the antique clock sitting on the bookshelf. “There’s another call I need to make. Thank you for the tea. Wyatt should have the basics on the file ready for your perusal in the morning. We’ll need to wait on Jann’s reports before we know what we’re dealing with.”
“Thomas.” Morrow got his attention. “I’m flying back to the mainland in the morning if you’d like a ride.”
“What time, Sir?”
“0900. I’ll have my driver pick you up.”
“Thank you.” Thomas gave the pair a brief smile before heading back to start unpacking his new office.
After spending a restless night in his suite of rooms at the new Special Operations compound, Thomas was earlier than usual swimming laps in the lagoon. Morrow’s driver was scheduled to pick him up at 0730 and he wanted to keep his routine as close to normal as he could as it helped calm the memories seeing the video stirred.
His conversation with Lady Blossom and Wales did very little to settle his mind. The pair usually had a nominal idea of where Chang had slithered off to, and with whom he was doing business, but he had dropped off the radar six months prior after being seen with the Kuromaku of Yamaguchi-gumi family. If Chang had aligned with the Yakuza, that meant they were about to start a new wave of drugs into Hawaii. Using Chang to handle the logistics of getting their drugs through the port almost guaranteed a fifty to sixty percent chance of success.
His thoughts were broken by a call from the gate guard that the car had arrived to pick him up. Thomas gave a shake of his head to clear his mind before grabbing his duffle and computer bag. Wyatt had stopped by so Thomas could “top off his tank” and give him tidbits of information the Braxton family network had sent to Wyatt. Chang had not made another appearance but more of the Overlord pills had turned up in several clubs across the city.
Tom was already on the plane when Thomas stepped inside, so he strapped in wanting to get underway. When the seat belt sign turned off and the flight attendant brought them coffee, Thomas handed him a copy of the file they had started on Overlord.
“As Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence Enterprise Operations, I know drugs isn’t your normal bailiwick, but as we’ve run missions together all these years, I thought you should be aware.”
“I’ll take extra care when going through the morning reports on chatter from the Intelligence community.”
“I think I’ll give Hannibal King a call. He’s Temp’s Sire, so he knows all the gory details, and can help Temp keep his head.”
“It’s my understanding Peck is heavily involved with the city government. Knowing you can’t run off willy-nilly should help keep him grounded. What about Peck’s Mate, Murdoch? Doesn’t he know?”
“Temp says H.M. doesn’t know the details of his sessions with Chang, only that he was always in worse condition when he came back from one than when they pulled him out of their cage. People tend to overlook Murdoch, so he always knows more than people think.” Thomas signaled the attendant for more coffee.
Morrow closed the file he’d been reading and leaned back in his seat and considered his old friend. “Hetty and I have been having conversations about what happens after we retire.” Thomas started to protest until he realized how much time had passed since Tom and Hetty had taken him into the fold. “I know Vampires sometimes lose the thread of how much time has passed, and we need to keep you in place as long as possible in Hawaii. Yes, there are other Vampires on the Islands that can keep watch, but they don’t have your intelligence skills and contacts in the Intelligence Community. Only a few realize how much we need to keep an eye on what’s happening in Asia and the Pacific.”
Thomas rubbed a hand over his face to give him a minute to check his emotions. He had taken a look at his friend as he spoke and finally saw how stress and worry had aged him as much as the years. Damn, he would never get used to losing his Human friends. “I could hide out with Braxtons on Kauai or live on the Big Island be a beach bum ala Sam Axe.” He gave Morrow a boyish grin hoping to lift the other man’s spirits.
He was interrupted by his phone vibrating in his pocket. Reading the text message, a soft expression of love filled his eyes. “Lily wants to set up a video call. Says she has news that she wants to see my face when she tells me.” He typed in a message setting explaining he was out of town but set a tentative time for Sunday. That would give him a week to handle his business on the mainland.
“If she wants to see your expression, she may be going to present you with a third grandchild.” Tom coaxed.
Frowning for a moment at the memory of the birth of her son, Jackson Thomas Magnum, he shook his head in the negative. “After Jackson, they told her no more babies.” He thought for a few minutes, his frown deepening a hint of emerald and gold flashing in his eyes.
“Thomas.” Morrow’s tone was low and soothing.
“She named Frankie Jackson’s godfather, and she’s been talking about her and Mick wanting to expand their expedition business into Hawaii since a lot of scientists are getting a lot of money to study the origin of indigenous cultures throughout the Pacific Rim and the Ring of Fire. It would be a good way for Frankie to embed his people for intelligence gathering.” He growled at thought of the spymaster endangering his daughter and her family.
“Ritchie would kick his ass if Frankie did anything that would harm a hair on those kids’ heads.” Morrow reached out to pat Thomas’ knee, but it might be a good place for Thomas Sullivan to re-invent himself in a few years. You said Lily has been wanting to come home.”
“Guess I’ll find out Sunday. So, explain to me this plan you and Hetty have cooked up for my future.” Thomas leaned back with a fresh cup of coffee as Morrow laid out a plan that took him until they landed to refuel in Los Angeles to explain.
They retired to the lounge in one of the hangars while re-fueling and a check of the plane was accomplished. Thomas took the time on the ground to call Hannibal King and Templeton Peck. Hannibal to see if the man wanted to be in New Orleans when he talked to Temp, and Peck to confirm his arrival in New Orleans. Temp had insisted he stay with him and Murdoch, and there had been mention of maybe staying at the Manor a night or two for the security’s sake. It might sound paranoid, but there was no such thing when it came to the former General Chang. The man seemed to have ears everywhere.
He was pulled from his ruminations by the pilot calling them back to the plane for the final leg of their journey to New Orleans. Tom had meetings with the head of the Homeland offices in the region before flying back to Washington. Thomas had booked his return flight to O’ahu for Friday, so his mind was clear to concentrate on Chang.
Both men were beginning to drag from exhaustion by the time the plane landed at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. The short naps between stops were just enough to finish out their day … Morrow at his hotel, and Thomas gratefully let Murdoch grab his duffel as Temp guided him towards the car.
Two mugs of warmed blood later, the three Vampires relaxed in the courtyard of the antebellum house close to downtown. Thomas was setting up his laptop when someone leaned on the doorbell.
“Billy and I will attend to whoever is calling this time of the evening.” Murdoch practically levitated across the courtyard talking to the spirit dog.
“That’s probably Hannibal … Or maybe Hannibal and Don.” Thomas reached for his glass of iced tea.
“Why did you …?” Templeton’s question stopped at Thomas’ arched eyebrow. “I know he’s my Sire and was there, but Murdoch and I are the ones that have kept up the search, even though Murdoch doesn’t know exactly what happened.” The blond was in a pout.
“You sure about that. I don’t know where all Hannibal has been while he was waiting for Flack to grow up. I’m hoping he’s been as diligent as you keeping track of Chang.”
“Temp, why didn’t you tell me your Daddy was coming for a visit? He brought step-dad along, too.” Murdoch announced as Hannibal burst out the door with his Mate hot on his heels.
“You can slow your roll, King. Chang isn’t here.” Thomas grinned at the New York cops.
“Yes, but I imagine he knows you flew out of Honolulu … Slick bastard.” Hannibal flopped down in a chair while Don followed at a more sedate pace.
“Good thing I was flying with one of my bosses. He probably assumed we were headed for D.C.”
Flack tossed him a flash drive. “Our files.”
Temp handed him another. After loading the files on his laptop, he merged the files to compare what they both knew and what was different.
“Let me start with what is happening at present.”
By the time the five men had rehashed their history, Murdoch had shocked his Mate about how much he knew about the things General Chang had done to Temp. They had filled in any details not in the files up to the present day and went over the reports, Thomas had received while they were getting everyone on the same page. Lady Blossom had found where Chang had flown out of Kobe on a private plane owned by the Yamaguchi-gami Family under the name Hiroaki Inaba, Security Analyst for one of the many shell companies owned by the Yakuza family.
The surprising part had been the report from Dr. Jann Jordan, the Special Operations Forensic Scientist. Though as insidious as any of the designer street drugs, there was nothing out of the ordinary with the Overlord drug … So far. Since it was something new, there would be a honeymoon period until a customer base was built before any shenanigans would start. Thomas ran a check on Chang’s alias. It showed the man had left the O’ahu for the big Island of Hawaii. Before he could speculate on what Chang was doing, an email from Wyatt popped into his inbox. “From my cousin, Kiki’s high-dollar restaurant. Chang had dinner with the Yakuza ‘manager’ for Hawaii. He took the late flight back to O’ahu. He’s been playing tourist today. Have a hurricane for me, Wyatt”
“Well guys, looks like Chang is playing tourist while having dinner with known organized crime, and peddling samples of Overlord across the Islands.”
“You’ve got eyes on Chang?” Hannibal sounded incredulous. “I figured he’d be too paranoid to let anyone near him.”
“Thomas doesn’t need to get an agent on surveillance …” All eyes turned to where Murdoch sprawled on the outdoor rug petting Billy. “He has his own private network of Chosen spies.” The pilot giggled at the blush creeping up Thomas’ neck.
The New York cops’ heads swung from Murdoch to Magnum. “The Braxton Family originated with one of James Cook’s sailors, who jumped ship the first time he tied up on Kauai. Wyatt is one of my senior agents. He became a Chosen on one of our nastier cases, after which all his Aunties decided they needed a Vampire in the Ohana. Members of the family own various businesses across most of the Islands. They’re always willing to share their knowledge with Wyatt.”
“You dog.” Hannibal growled. “You always did have the damnedest luck.”
Thomas leered at the couple before turning serious. “What we don’t have enough information to determine is if this is strictly business, since Chang has never been in the US, the question I’m asking is … After he handles business for the Saiko-komon in Hawaii, what’s next? He’s traveling as a Japanese citizen, and his US ESTA (Electronic System Travel Authorization) allows him to be in the country for 90 days and is good for two years.”
“I’m sure he has several other aliases in his pocket should the need arise.” Don had been quiet up until then. “It’s true, that since 9/11 it’s gotten harder to get fake IDs, but Vampires get around those problems every day, and if he’s working as a liaison for the Yakuza, Chang will have access to good forgers.”
“You know, Temp, Sweetie, you’re not running the city government at the moment, and you have an excellent business manager. It might be a good time to take me and Billy on an extended vacation.” Murdoch now sat cross-legged while Billy laid in his lap.
“Templeton …” Hannibal growled at his Childe.
“Hannibal, there’s no way to predict how long this could take. You and Don can’t leave your jobs or your city for an undetermined amount of time.”
“I can call Higgins to warn him you’re coming. I’ll give you his number so you can call and let him know your travel plans. Jefferson is staying at Robin’s Nest until Lady Rogue has his new place ready in Los Angeles.”
“Jefferson, who?” Murdoch piped up.
“Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, author of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. He’s also the Legal Advisor for Oceania Clan.”
“Oh, man! This will be so cool! All the cool inventions he came up with. I’ve got so much to show him.” Murdoch jumped up and ran into the house. “Come on, Billy, we’ve got lots of stuff to pack.”
When they finished chuckling at Murdoch’s antics, Temp, Hannibal, and Don turned back to Thomas to find the Hunter frowning at his computer. “Bad news?” Temp laid a hand on Thomas’ arm.
“Yes and no. Good news, Lilly’s moving back to Hawaii to open a branch of the expedition business she and Mick have in Australia. She’s bringing Ryan and the boys with her. Bad news Lilly’s moving back to Hawaii with Ryan and the boys, and Chang is in Hawaii.”
“Murdoch is right. It is a good time to take a vacation.”
“Only if you get your training up to snuff.” Hannibal’s glare could have set the table on fire.
“I think a visit to the Manor for a talk with Nico’s in order.” Don put a hand on his Mate’s shoulder to calm the Hunter.
Templeton pulled out his phone and dialed Thomas.
Thomas Jefferson had a mind that was never quiet. He’d borrowed one of the estate’s cars and headed to the nearest shopping center that had a craft store and a hardware store. He came back with all sizes of sketch pads, pencils, and markers, along with a pile of bits and bobs from the hardware store. The only thing better would have been if the estate had a blacksmith shop. The affronted look on Higgins’s face when he suggested installing one was worth the Caretaker being in high dudgeon the rest of the day.
One evening after supper, he and Jonathan were enjoying a brandy while telling stories from their time with Oceania.
“When Magnum rejoined the Navy after the final debacle with Michelle and Lily, he gave Robin Nest’s publisher my manuscript about my time in North Africa with Field Marshal Montgomery.”
“I remember that. You were apoplectic while Magnum grinned fondly as you yelled. It was one of your most successful books.” Jefferson chuckled.
“Yes … Well …” Higgins cleared the lump in his throat at his Childe’s show of affection. “A few years ago, I began to gather research materials from my time in Burma, including photos from various news agencies.” Higgins opened a steamer trunk Jefferson had assumed was merely for decoration. He pulled out a pile of albums containing said photos. “I recently purchased a very large collection from the estate of a photographer embedded with the Japanese army, and as you are quite the prodigious writer yourself, I would ask your help in sorting these into a timeline.”
“Be glad too.” Thomas looked around the study at the empty tabletops. “I see you already anticipated my acceptance of your invitation.” He chuckled as he took a sip of brandy.
Higgins blushed at the teasing. “The only way to keep the Thomases in my life out of trouble is to find ways to keep your hands and minds occupied.”
“And that is why you and Herbert are our Caretakers.” The former President chuckled as he reached for the first album.
A pot of tea and several hours later, the men called it a night. A short, terse phone call the next morning to inform Higgins that Misters Peck and Murdoch, along with their dog, Billy, would be coming to O’ahu for approximately six weeks kept the Caretaker occupied for most of the day freshening one of the suites and ordering in extra food and blood. Jefferson, not having any such duties, stayed out of the way by continuing to sort through the photographs in Higgins’s study.
Walking into the guest house at Robin’s Nest, Thomas’ shoulders dropped as he finally relaxed. Murdoch had flown them back to O’ahu, and he’d spent an hour arguing with the airline about getting reimbursed for the cancellation. The former Army Captain was an excellent pilot until he started listening to the voices in his head. It often caused things to be interesting for the passengers. He was glad when Temp had joined his Mate in the cockpit. He didn’t want to think of all the things that could go wrong while trick flying over the Pacific Ocean. When he felt an invisible weight settle on his lap, Magnum figured Billy was of a like mind, so he settled back and spent the rest of the trip petting a dog he couldn’t see.
Diving into the lagoon the events of the past weekend began to run through his mind as his body took over propelling him across through the water.
Watching out the window, Thomas couldn’t believe he was at the Sylum Manor House. The past week had been a whirlwind of introductions as the ‘unofficial’ mayor of New Orleans had taken Thomas along during his work day. The day usually ended at O’Malley’s, or one of the other Vampire owned businesses in the city. He met so many Vampires, he began to wonder if there were any Humans lets in New Orleans. When he voiced the thought out loud, H.M. had looked at him like he was simple-minded. “Of course, there are, Tommy boy. We have to have Chosen.” Temp had nearly fallen from his chair he was laughing so hard as Thomas hung his head in exasperation. Jefferson had quite a repertoire of stories about life in the Sylum Clan, but Magnum always thought he was exaggerating … Now, he knew he wasn’t.
Temp and H.M. had introduced him to Sylum’s Clan Leader, Nico, and his Mate, Warrick. Nico had become involved in the Vietnam conflict because his Second-In-Command, Antonio, had wanted to lose himself in war, so he was there when Hannibal, Eric, and Murdoch had brought their baby Vampire, Peck, along with their fellow POWs back from the Rockpile. Nico had a few extra items to add to their file on Chang and was amenable to Peck and Murdoch going to Hawaii for a short stay.
“I know all the Executive Assistants in city government have your cell number and email, so the city will still be standing when you get home.” Nico teased.
“But who will fly you around when Lancie isn’t available?” Murdoch pouted. “You’re not seeing strange pilots behind my back, are you?”
“Never. You’re always my number one after Lance.” Nico assured him.
“Then we’re all set.”
>>As if it were just that simple.>> Magnum thought to himself as his phone pinged new notifications. >>Way too many Thomases.>> He opened the text from Wyatt first.
Kapena, Chang bought a penthouse at One Waterfront Towers under his alias,
Hiroaki Inaba. His Personal Assistants are Human. Twins, female, reminds
me of snow on Haleakala.
The next message was an email from Lady Blossom.
Looks like Chang is moving into a new life as Hiroki Inaba. He’s set himself up as a security consultant but is actually
a fixer for the Yakuza. He bought a modest house in Kobe that he shares with his twin adopted daughters. He has a
network of contractors that handle the actual dirty work for his clients.
On a lighter note, I hear Lily and her family are moving back to Hawaii.
He chuckled at how well his two friends knew him. Maybe after the offices were secure and he figured out Chang’s game, he’d tackle his social life. He was 75 years old for crying out loud, he should be able to have Human friends and a social life. There just weren’t enough Vampires in Hawaii to only have them as friends, but he’d soon have his grandsons to spoil.
“Gonna share, Tommy?” Murdoch broke through Magnum’s thoughts.
Feeling a blush creep up his neck, he cleared his throat. “Yeah. Messages from my Senior Agent and Lady Blossom. Lady Blossom’s email confirmed the information that my office sent. Chang is setting up a new life as Hiroki Inaba, Kobe, Japan. He’s a security consultant/fixer. Most of his clients are Yakuza from various families. He has adopted twin daughters that Wyatt says have the personalities of a glacier and a network of wet work contractors. He owns a house in Kobe and just bought a penthouse apartment in Honolulu.”
“When are you returning to Hawaii?” Nico asked.
“One-stop flight New Orleans to Honolulu, Hawaii, leaving at 8 am Monday. We’ll stop in Los Angeles for fuel and should land in Honolulu around 4 if we don’t have to circle LAX for hours.”
Nico leveled a look on Templeton that was pure Roman General. “Keep me in the loop.”
“Yes, Sir. Though with your network of minions, you’ll probably know before I do.” Temp gave him a wink as he followed Murdoch out of the office.
“I get no respect.” Nico pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Max says the same thing.” Magnum chuckled as he stood to follow his friends. “Think I’ll find … Your Majordomo … Thomas … That’s it. See if I can find a sparring partner. It’s been a while since I was able to cut loose.”
“Let’s not take Thomas from his duties,” Nico came from behind his desk. “You should probably change into something you don’t mind getting nicked or sliced.” He grinned as Magnum looked down at his clothes.
“I don’t have a suit of armor in my duffel, but I think I can find a pair of pants I don’t mind throwing away. “When he sparred with Wyatt’s brother, he wore BDUs from his Navy days. Thankfully, they were easy to replace in the age of the Internet, but he made a note to order several more pairs when he got home.
“Meet me back here in 15 minutes If I can’t get away, I’ll find someone, then we’ll find you a blade to use.”
Thomas was a few minutes early and was enjoying the view out the French doors when he heard a quiet step behind him.
“Hello.” Blue eyes roamed over the tall muscular body dressed in a black t-shirt and BDUs.
A smile and extended hand greeted him as Thomas turned around with a quick smile. “Thomas Magnum … Well, it’s Sullivan at the moment.”
“Aye, there are moments I have no idea where I am, let alone who. Captain Edward Kenway, at your service. Nico got tied up on a phone call and asked me to stand in for him.” He took Thomas’ hand but didn’t let go.
“I appreciate you taking time out of your day, I’m sure I’m going to get my ass handed to me because I’m used to sparring with Humans.”
A wicked laugh escaped the pirate. “How about we get started? Follow me, and we’ll head to the armory and find you something that might help … A little.” Kenway’s chuckle was nasty. Magnum wondered why he thought this was a good idea as he followed the man that reminded him of a younger, nastier Jack Wales.
Nico cursed the person that invented the cell phone, it was probably Harold. He caught sight of movement outside. There was his other problem pirate laughing as he stood in the middle of the garden like it was the deck of a ship.
“You’ve made a good showing of yourself Thomas Magnum, but you’re no match for the likes of this pirate. You can run, but you can’t hide.” Kenway shouted.
Nico smiled at his brother’s shenanigans. Magnum had been a SEAL and carried out a lot of operations for Tom Morrow. It was good to see the man hadn’t lost his edge. It was good to see someone trying to challenge Edward. He paused to wonder if anyone had warned Magnum about Kenway. He continued to watch, waiting for the carnage. Movement from the branches of an ancient willow caught his eye as Thomas dropped down on top of his brother. The two rolled down the path like a ball of cats until they bumped against one of the landscape boulders. Kenway came out on top pinning Magnum with a blade against his throat. Mud, grass, blood, and bruises covered both men with Thomas looking to have gotten the worst end of sparring with Kenway.
The Clan Leader laughed out loud when he saw an efficacious looking Thomas Efford staring down at them.
An exhausted Magnum and grinning pirate looked up at the sound of a throat being cleared. “Dinner will be one hour. I would suggest a shower and change of clothing.”
“Aye, aye.” The former Navy captain and pirate stood and saluted Thomas with their swords before Kenway slipped an arm around Magnum to help him back to the house, not seeing the fond smile Thomas gave them.
“I’ll send up some blood Master Thomas.”
“Thank you, Thomas.” Magnum leaned heavily on Kenway. “I knew this was going to hurt.”
When Warrick asked why he was smiling, he told him it was good to see Kenway beating the crap out of someone else for a change.
If anyone noted the absence of Magnum or Kenway at the dinner table no one was grinning at each other about it either. Who didn’t appreciate a good round of sex after trying to kill each other?
The pair was still missing the next morning at breakfast. Thomas explained they’d been down earlier and grabbed coffee and pastry before they left with the normally stoic Kenway, who had a devilish smirk.
The two were back and cleaned up in time for supper. Thomas and Kenway both carried scratches and bruises while Magnum was favoring his right leg. Thomas handed him a mug of warmed blood while giving him a chastising look one would give a naughty teenager.
Nico arched an eyebrow at his brother, who gave him an impish grin. He knew exactly what the two had been up to, there were disadvantages of living in an old house. He didn’t mind that his brother found some companionship, besides Thomas didn’t look too worse for wear, and had a satisfied smirk.
He gave both of them a look, then shook his head. “Next time you visit I’ll make sure Thomas gives you a more secluded room in the garages. I know how loud Pirates can get, when they claim their booty.”
Kenway laughed boisterously, while Magnum shook his head trying not to blush or laugh.
Going into the office, Tuesday morning, Thomas met with his full team to go over the information he could give them on Chang. He’d sat down with Temp, Murdoch, and Hetty after they got to Robin’s Nest, so she had the whole story, and not just the Human edited version. He set his computer specialists, Lincoln Hayes, and Danni Inoa to find everything they could on Hiroki Inaba. If they could build a case, they had to have the documentation of the steps they took.
He dismissed everyone back to work except for his most senior agents, Wyatt and Megan Akami. They brought him up-to-date on any changes in their cases. After they were finished, Thomas found himself headed to Hetty’s office as everyone got back to work.
“Tom told me about the plans you two made for me.” He settled into the chair in front of her desk.
“Good morning to you, too, Mr. Sullivan.” Hetty slid a cup of tea across the desk.
“Indeed. He can probably eke out a few more years depending on the political climate. I have to retire next year, though I’ll only be across the courtyard in the beautiful house you gave me. Morrow is a cagey old bird. I believe he plans to retire at the next change of administrations.”
“You think whoever holds the Director’s chair at NCIS will calmly go along with your plans?”
“If they know what’s good for them, and they like their job.” Hetty’s grin was feral as she picked up the delicate cup. “Before I forget, the side missions you did for Tom will come from General Jack O’Neill, who is also a member of the Sylum Clan.” Thomas finished his tea and picked up the files Hetty had given him. She planned to turn more duties over to him so that by the time she retired, he would already be doing the job. “Oh, and Mr. Sullivan …” He turned to look back at the petite spy. “It’ll be good to have Lily home again. I can’t wait to see the boys.”
“Then I expect you’ll be spending time at Robin’s Nest. With Chang around, that’s the safest place they could be.”
Returning to the guest house at the end of the day, Thomas couldn’t wait to get changed and pull out his surf ski. He hadn’t even grabbed his computer bag when the 3rd President of the United States headed toward him at full speed.
“Thomas! Come quickly! We have something you simply must see. It’s in the study.” Jefferson grabbed him by the wrist and started tugging him toward the main house.
Thinking something must be wrong with Higgins, his long legs quickly caught up with Jefferson. “Is Higgins, okay? Where’s Temp and H.M.?”
“I don’t know. They were walking their dog along the beach. Higgins is mostly fine.”
Running into the study, Thomas sat Higgins on the couch with a tumbler of whiskey. His complexion was a bit pale, but he looked like he’d had a terrible shock.
“To keep me from underfoot or figuring out how to blow something up, Higgins set me to sorting photographs for his next non-fiction book. They’re pictures from the South Pacific during World War II.”
“Burma?” Thomas practically whispered.
“Yes. These all seemed to go together, and I was to the point where I was building a timeline. Here … Look here.”
“I remember Higgins talking about being captured. He looked at the men lined up as Japanese soldiers pointed guns at them. “He pulled the picture closer. “He didn’t say anything about any Americans being taken with the Brits.” He looked at the back of the picture. The names of the prisoners were listed on the back. Next to Jonathan Quayle Higgins III was Lt. Commander Thomas Sullivan Magnum III. Standing behind them was a very familiar face … Lt. Hiroki Chang.
He was jerked out of his shock when Jefferson shoved another picture under his nose. It was the same men, but a year later with their positions were reversed. The prisoners had taken the camp and captured the guards.
“Holy … Chang isn’t here for Templeton Peck … He’s here for Jonathan Higgins.” Magnum and Jefferson slumped down on the couch across from the Caretaker as Temp and Murdoch came through the door.
“He’s here for Higgins?” Jefferson showed Temp and H.M. the photos. “Damn, you were badass.” Murdoch slapped Higgins on the shoulder.
The slap seemed to jolt Higgins out of his stupor. “He may also be after Magnum. He is the image of his father.”
“Higgins, why didn’t you ever say you knew my father?”
“It was not the best of times and not the type of stories one tells his son.”
“You know my past.” Magnum was hurt by the secrets one Father kept about another Father.
“Yes, and I chose not to add your father’s nightmares to your own.”
Thomas took the pictures back from Murdoch. “I’ll get a message to Lady Blossom. Maybe she can find out more about Lt. Hiroki Chang of the Imperial Army of Japan.”
“But why after all these years would he be after Higgins?”
“Might have something to do with the new alias he’s establishing. Maybe he’s afraid Higgins knows something he doesn’t know he knows.”
“Higgins looks like you’ll be traveling with security, and staying behind the estate gates until we figure this out.”
Higgins frowned darkly at his Childe as he stood over him. “I will not hide from the likes of Chang.”
“And I won’t watch another father turn to dust.” Magnum snarled as he grabbed the pictures and left the house.
~ Fini ~