Magnum Finds His Zen ~ Another Day In Paradise

Author’s Note:  Continuation of Magnum’s life in Hawai’i in the Sylum Clan Universe

Sylum Timeline: 2018 Jefferson is staying at Robin’s Nest while Lady Rogue prepares his new home in Los Angeles. He moves from Robin’s Nest in April 2019.

Fandom: Magnum, P.I.(1980), Blade Trinity, A-Team(TV),
Characters/Pairings: Thomas Magnum, Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, Thomas Jefferson, Hannibal King, Templeton Peck, Humphrey Marrion Murdock, Billy, Original Characters
Rating: PG-15

Previously …

Running into the study, Thomas saw 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.

“What happened?”

“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.” Jefferson snarked.

“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 Murdock came through the door.

“He’s here for Higgins?” Jefferson showed Temp and H.M. the photos. “Damn, you were badass.” Murdock 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 Murdock. “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.

June 2018

“Land’s sake, I didn’t realize the boy felt so deeply.” Jefferson watched out the window as Magnum stormed across the yard to the guesthouse.

“Still waters run deep, old friend.” Higgins tried to clear his throat of the lump that had taken up residence. Magnum didn’t often show his emotions publicly, but he knew his Childe held him in high regard, but never dreamed his actions would invoke such emotion.

Hurt and angry after what had been revealed in the library, Thomas slammed through the guesthouse. There were only a few of his things left in the house … Lily, Ryan, and the kids would be moving in at the end of the month. Once Thomas moved his remaining things to his new suite in the main house, the contractor would do a few updates before the staff put everything to rights. He threw himself on the couch and spread the pictures out on the coffee table still trying to wrap his head around what he’d been told.

He spent several minutes staring at a face a lot like the one he saw in the mirror every day. Counting backward from when his plane was shot down in Vietnam, he figured his father was five minutes out of the Naval Academy when World War II brought the shiny new Navy Lieutenant to the islands. He laid the photo down and rubbed his hands over his face. He shouldn’t have taken his shock out on Higgins, but all the emotions that had crashed through his head when he saw his father standing next to his Sire had just exploded.

Thankfully, years of repression and compartmentalization drilled into him by the Navy kicked in, and he limited himself to growling at everyone in the room before snatching the photos and leaving. He should be packing so the contractors could get started in the morning, but the old photos seemed to whisper his name. Grabbing the legal pad lying on the other end of the coffee table, he began scribbling notes about his observations.

The dogs’ barking brought his attention back to the present. Noticing the time, he threw the rest of his things in his duffels, putting the pictures and notes on top. Thomas spent the remaining time until supper setting his suite to rights, and stowing his bags in the walk-in closet. Waking his computer, he composed an email to Lady Blossom with his questions and scans of several pictures. Knowing a little of what the Shogun Clan had suffered during World War II, Magnum hoped she would remember the people who influenced the Emperor.

With the pictures on his phone, Thomas went around to the library to drop the originals off on his way to the dining room. Before settling in his chair, he took in the emotions floating around the room. A light blush colored his cheeks as he turned his attention to Higgins.

“Higgins … Jonathan … I apologize for the way I acted earlier.” He settled into his chair.

“Perfectly understandable. I’m sure the photos gave you quite a shock, so while I accept your apology, there’s no need. Now let’s enjoy this excellent meal Cook has prepared.”

Templeton Peck proved why the citizens of New Orleans called him Mayor, even when someone else held the office. Between his talent for working the room and Murdock’s questioning of the third president, supper passed pleasantly until Higgins announced after dinner drinks on the lanai.

Jefferson grabbed Magnum’s elbow and steered the younger vampire out the French doors with Peck and Murdock trailing behind … Murdock talking to Billy. Before he could protest Magnum found himself shoved into a chair and a tumbler of single malt shoved in one hand, and one of Higgins’s hand-rolled cigars in the other.

“I’m sure Higgins won’t begrudge you a treat after the shock you got earlier today.” Jefferson sounded more like a nanny than a president. “As your Sire, you should give him a chance to explain his reasons …” He trailed off as Magnum stood to his full height gently placing the crystal tumbler on the table.

“I realize as one of the men, and the Spymaster that helped birth this country, you are used to being in control of those around you, but you are not my Handler nor my Commander-In-Chief. I appreciate you want to keep peace between us, and for us to not air our laundry in front of the guests …” Magnum waved in Peck and Murdock’s direction. “But this affects all of us, so there can’t be secrets if we want to either take out or contain Chang. If we have to end the dear General, we’re going to need a damned good reason for the Council.”

“Well … Yes … You’re right.”

Jefferson was a bit non-plussed. In the years since Magnum returned to Hawaii, he had forgotten how many years of experience the former SEAL had in the spy game. He probably knew more about what was going on in the Asian theater than anyone except his Handlers. Jefferson didn’t fear the Oceania Hunter, but he could see the flashes of green and gold in his hazel eyes showing his emotions were riding close to the surface.

“Thomas.” Magnum’s head snapped in the direction of his name. The aura of calm exuding from his Sire seemed to quiet the anger boiling inside. “You need to be seated if you wish to hear the information I have to impart.” Thomas turned away to pour himself a cup of coffee. Higgins turned on Jefferson. “And you, Mr. President, need to stop being such a troll. It will certainly come around to bite you one day.”

Giving Higgins a sheepish look, Jefferson settled with his cigar and whiskey. He didn’t know what it was about Clan Caretakers that always made him feel like he was still in short pants. Magnum settled next to Murdock, prompting the pilot to reach over and settle Billy in his lap. Murmuring his thanks, his hand landed on something soft and solid when it dangled off the chair’s armrest. Eyes wide he looked over at Templeton, who gave a smirk and a wink.

Attention was soon diverted from the mystery of Billy the dog by Higgins starting his narrative.

~*~*~*~

“It was the autumn of ’43. I had been tasked by MI6 to travel with a group of lads drafted into the RAF. I was to act as aide-de-camp to their commanding officer, a Colonel by the name of Alexander Standish. As an aide-de-camp, I would be in the perfect position to overhear conversations of varying degrees of importance.

We disembarked at New York Harbor then shuffled off to the nearest military airfield and loaded on a transport for Grosse Ile, Michigan. Once we were settled and the lads began their training, I was run over by a tall young man in the process of catching a football. He was immediately apologetic as he helped me to my feet and introduced himself as Leftenant Thomas Sullivan Magnum III, please call me Tom, and he invited me home for dinner to make up for not watching where he was going.”

“Not to interrupt what sounds like a fascinating story, Higgins, but you’re telling us you were absent from your Caretaker duties? Why the British Army and not the Australian?” Magnum quizzed.

“Though Herbert and I are always loyal to Oceania, I felt the need to serve king and country. Maximilian wrote me a letter of introduction to M. After a brief training period, I was moved where she needed eyes and ears on various military leaders.”

“So, that’s how you ended up trailing all the famous Generals.” Jefferson teased.

“As you say.” Higgins glared at the Clan’s Legal Counsel. “Where was I … Oh yes …”

“Tom introduced me to his heavily pregnant wife, Katherine, who was very gracious to an unexpected guest. That was the beginning of one of the most unusual friendships of my many years. He would search me out to include me in his activities. His explanation was he noticed people in my position seemed isolated. Not included by the lads due to being on call to their leader, but not welcomed by the officer ranks. To this day, I hold dear the memory of Tom opening his home and friendship to a total stranger. The day after you were born, your father’s flight wing and our RAF lads were loaded onto a train headed to San Francisco where we would board a carrier bound for the Philippines with a stop in the Marshall Islands to offload the RAF pilots.

We had been dropped off on one of the many unnamed islands for survival training. The ship was being sent off on another mission to return at the end of training. We had been told the island was deserted, but on the third day of our training exercises, we found out differently. We weren’t outmanned, but we were outgunned. It didn’t take long before we had been captured and placed in cells that were once storage rooms in the basement of an abandoned temple. The Japanese thought the temple would make a good outpost. With a little work, they had retrofitted the building to make accommodations for the men posted there.”

“We had been the reluctant guests for two weeks and I was beginning to feel the effects of the tender ministrations of the Japanese and not being able to feed.”

A shiver passed through all the Vampires in the room at the thought of the Hunger that drove them when they were in starvation mode.

Tom noticed that I was in much worse condition than the others, and much like his son is today, was a constant irritant until he got the outcome he desired. One night after the other men in our cell had gone to sleep, I explained about Vampires. After I finished my recitation, he spent a good while staring at me while ruminating on all that I had told him. After what seemed like an age, he nodded his head as though he had come to a decision. The next thing I knew he shoved his wrist under my nose and said ‘bite me’.

Higgins risked a glance toward Magnum and caught the sheen of tears in the hazel eyes.

“Allied forces tried to take the island several times in the next six months but were repelled. Lt. Chang soon realized that we had no information that would be useful. It caused a loss of face for his family and their position in the emperor’s court. This information brought out the cruelty that he had kept under control in previous interrogations.”

“The later pictures showed you turned things on the Japanese.” Jefferson pushed.

“We did. Thinking we were too weakened to be a danger they took us all outside while they ‘cleaned’ the cells. We were able to overcome the guards and arm ourselves. We lost many brave lads, but we took the day. Our captors enjoyed our former accommodations while we radioed any ships in the area. A week later we were steaming our way to the Subic Bay Naval Base. Most of us continued with our missions, there were a few that were returned home unable to recover from the experience.”

“And Chang?” Murdock asked the question before the others gathered their wits.

“Was to be sent to Australia with the rest of the soldiers that survived our takeover.”

“That sounds like he didn’t make the trip.” Templeton’s mind was going a mile a minute.

“He did not. The officers were separated from the enlisted troops. I did not see Chang again. I thought to return to Australia with the prisoners of war, but M sent orders that I was to continue my assignment.” He looked at the expectant faces. “Which you can read about in my previous book.”

“Since story time is over, I need to walk Billy.” Murdock looked at the Dobermans laying at Higgins’s feet. “They won’t chase Billy, will they?”

“I assure you Captain they are very well-behaved and will not bother your companion.”

“Great.” He snatched Peck’s hand and gave a tug. “Come on, Temp. Time to get the blood circulating.” His smile was wide. “Thanks for the story, Mr. Higgins.” He shouted over his shoulder. Templeton gave them, a what can you do, look as he let himself be pulled along.

“You wrote in your first book on the war that you ran across Chang working for the North Vietnamese numerous times while you worked with the French in Vietnam.” Jefferson’s whole attention was on the Caretaker.

Magnum took advantage of the older men’s distraction to slip from the room and head to his suite in the part of the house furthest from their guests. He’d been nursing a whiskey, enjoying the Cuban cigar Jefferson had stuck in his pocket when the click of toenails on the Spanish tile alerted him that Higgins had entered his room.

“Magnum … Thomas …” Higgins started but was quickly interrupted as he sat in a nearby chair.

“Did you convince my dad to fly missions for the CIA over southeast Asia?”

“How did you arrive at the conclusion?”

“He was shot down close to both the DMZ and the Laotian border.”

“I admit that I had lost contact with your father in the late 1950s. We were both involved in the Indo-China conflict that became the Vietnam War and had met several times as we were both working with French and American advisors. I believe he was training pilots for South Vietnam and was flying sorties with the pilots he trained when he was shot down.”

“Why did you never say, Higgins?”

“There never seemed to be a good time, even after your Turning and we were living in each other’s pocket.”

Thomas took a pull from his cigar and his whiskey before he continued. “I suppose in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter. The longer we live the more faded the feelings and memories for our Human family will become.”

A man of moderation, Higgins felt this evening was perfect for a bit of overindulgence so poured himself another two fingers of scotch.

“I have found over the years I can compartmentalize the bad memories, and the good memories can sometimes become memorialized.”

“You mean they seem better than they were?”

“Why did you go searching for the wreckage of your father’s plane before you went to the Naval Academy?”

“My dad’s best friend had moved to Naval Intelligence and would talk about rumors of a white man living in the mountains near where he was shot down. No, I didn’t ask all the logical questions. I was 18 and had grown up with stories about my dad being this ace. If there was any chance he was still alive I had to know.”

“Did you find your answers?”

“No, turned out to be a ploy by the CIA trying to flush out a rogue agent.” Thomas turned away signaling an end to that line of questioning.

They sat in companionable silence until Higgins finished his scotch. Setting his tumbler on the tray, he laid a hand firmly on Magnum’s shoulder.

“Sleep well, Thomas.”

“Nite, Higgins.” Thomas patted the hand on his shoulder.

~*~*~*~

The next morning, Thomas had put his memories back in their boxes and headed for his new offices. In amongst the construction and moving, there were still cases to be worked, and bureaucratic paperwork to fill out. He grumbled under his breath about meddling old spies that should have stayed out in the cold as he plowed through stacks of files. A low growl escaped when he heard Wyatt flirting with his Executive Assistant, Tangi.

“Don’t you have something to do other than flirt with my EA, Dr. Braxton?”

“As a matter of fact, Kapena, I do. I have come to your rescue by taking you to lunch.”

Closing the file he was reading, he secured everything on his desk. “Well then, let’s go. I wouldn’t want it said you couldn’t complete an assignment.” Magnum relaxed his shoulders as he followed Wyatt out the door.

“Good of you to be concerned with my reputation.” The men headed toward the kitchen.

“Someone needs to be.” Thomas teased his Chosen as he riffled through the refrigerator. Pulling out makings for a sandwich, he wasn’t surprised when Wyatt indicated he wanted the same.

“When’s Lily and her family arriving?” The psychiatrist prodded while pulling chips out of the pantry.

“Soon. The contractors are doing some updates to the guest house before they get here. The container with their stuff should be here in a couple of weeks and they’ll fly in after.”

The men worked in companionable silence until they were settled at the table. Thomas scanned the room with enhanced senses marking where everyone was in the building.

“Kapena?” Wyatt copied his Vampires actions trying to find what had his Captain acting like he was in the middle of an undercover op.

“How’s your workload, Wyatt?” Magnum asked like he wasn’t the boss. Wyatt rolled his eyes taking a bite of his sandwich to keep from making a snarky comment about the obvious. “The reason I’m asking …” He checked the room again. “I need your help. I need your help as my Chosen One. You can say ‘no’ and I’ll figure out something else. It’ll nominally involve your family.”

“If it was just me, I’d say ‘yes’ right now, but you’re talking family, so I’m going to need details.”

“Come to the old offices tonight around 8. This is for your ears only. Any computer work Lincoln and Danni can’t handle will go through the Sneakers crew in the city.”

“Dark eyebrows arched toward his hairline. “We’re going to handle the computer stuff?”

“I’m no Martin Bishop, but I have picked up a few skills over the years. Not just a pretty face, Braxton.”

“I am aware, Kapena.” Wyatt leered at him from across the table.

Thomas had a feeling there would be more to their meeting tonight than work. He was smiling when he went back to his desk.

Returning to his office after Wyatt left, Thomas checked that his official work was finished before he opened the files Hannibal King had given him before he left Sylum Manor.

Reading the files and what amounted to after-action reports that the Hunter had given him, gave Thomas a full 3D picture of the Rogue. The information King had included from 00 Agent, Paul Mallory read like something out of a spy novel. It also made Magnum wondered what happened to the highly trained crews of Humans and Rogues loyal to Chang. Sitting back in his chair, he thought about the bumbling sniper attempt on Higgins. The General was no one’s fool, and from everything he’d heard and read, a control freak. If King and Mallory had broken his operations in Singapore and Europe, it would stand to reason that he had lost not only his ‘troops’ but also his reputation and clients.

A change of name and living a low-profile life while raising his twin ‘daughters’ would give him time to build a new reputation. He has few loyal men left, so he begins rebuilding using the Yakuza for resources, then sets his sight on Hawai’i. It’s close to the Mainland, but has a certain reputation for tolerating the Yakuza so long as they remain out of the spotlight.

He wondered why Templeton Peck hadn’t seemed to know about the things he read in King’s files, and what kind of profile Wyatt could build on Chang. Picking up his phone, he decided to answer one of those questions now.

~*~*~*~

“King.”

“Hannibal, Thomas Magnum.”

“Thomas, what’s up? I know Temp and Murdock enjoyed their vacation, but only had a few bits of information about Chang setting up house in Honolulu.”

“Glad to hear they had a good time. The thing is, I was surprised by their lack of information they had considering what I read in your files and the ones from a Paul Mallory. Jefferson found a bit of historical information in a collection of World War II memorabilia Higgins bought at an estate sale.”

“Ummm … Yeah … About that … Look, Chang did a real number on Temp. He was the only Human in a core group of Vampires. He saw the effect the torture of his Mate had on Murdock. If he wouldn’t have accepted being Turned we’d have lost him and Murdock in that hell hole.”

“So, Peck is need to know. Things like Chang’s approximate location and whether or not he’s headed in the direction of New Orleans?”

“Look … The healthier and happier Temp is the more stable it keeps Murdock. We do what we can to keep things low stress. When Eric was killed things were bad until Temp got his Zen back. I think Billy called in some friends to help the two of them.”

“If I was to try to profile Chang, I would say what he does is more about power over those he sees as inferior and in his control. I know a lot of the older Vampires keep assets in legacy companies with few pictures of their founders. Your reports talk about Chang’s well-trained army of Humans and Rogues and money to burn. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of them at the present.”

“Paul and James may have had something to do with that. Paul took a mortal injury and James Turned him. He’s living happily ever after with his two Mates and his various weird pets in a ‘house of ill repute’ in England.” King snickered as he finished his rendition.

“House of ill repute?”

“It’s a very special, high-class house. Invitation only.”

“You’re telling me that Paul and James broke the back of Chang’s organization sending him to ground for nearly 20 years?”

“Chaos and mayhem are two of James’ specialties.” Hannibal stopped as though he had a sudden thought. “You’ve probably never had the pleasure of meeting James Bond, 00 I never met anything I couldn’t blow up.”

“No, but I’ve heard stories.” There was silence between the two Hunters. “Did you connect with anyone from Shogun?”

“I spent a bit of time …” Magnum could hear Hannibal’s eye roll all the way to Hawai’i. “I did spend a bit of time in Japan while I was waiting for Don to grow up, and I call Kensei when I’m in the neighborhood. I’m not sure about Paul. I don’t think he was in the know about Vampires and Clans until he was Turned.”

“You and your friend, Paul’s files have been very helpful, so pass on my thanks. I got a bit sidetracked with Higgins’ memorabilia. Turned out my father was friends with Higgins during World War II and they were briefly in a Pacific POW camp with Chang in charge. I admit I was a bit put out with Higgins for not telling me.”

“Yeah, I can see how that might make you a bit touchy.”

“Got me to thinking Chang coming to Hawai’i was about me and Higgins. I’m a near image of my father, so Chang might think Higgins Turned my father during the war.”

“Wow, aren’t you giving him a mindfuck?” King laughed.

“Every little bit helps when you’re Hunting someone like Chang. I’ll let you know how things go. I think we need all the help we can get keeping track of someone like Chang.”

“A lone wolf Rogue with no ties to the usual suspects. I think we’ll make a great team, Tom.”

“I’m sure we’ll have two old busybodies following in our wake.”

“Come visit New York when you need a break.”

“I will.”

The two Hunters shared a laugh as they disconnected their call.

~*~*~*~

When Wyatt couldn’t find his Kapena in any of the rooms that were once the NCIS Special Operations Offices, he headed for the lanai closest to the beach. It was the one place he knew to look when he couldn’t find his Vampire. When he told his mother about how he’d become a Chosen One to Thomas Magnum, she patted him on the cheek and said she was glad to see someone in the family carrying on the tradition. That Thomas always turned to the ocean for comfort was something Wyatt hadn’t yet been able to change. He’d constantly urged his boss to turn to him and the Braxton family, but his Captain was a stubborn one.

“Kapena.”

“Pull up a beer, Wyatt.” Magnum waved in the direction of the cooler between the chairs. “Let me preface my next question … You say no and we’ll finish our beer, enjoy a relaxing evening, and I’ll enjoy a pint of my favorite Braxton. You say yes, we’ll make some plans, have a relaxing evening, and I’ll still enjoy a pint of my favorite Braxton, if you’re amenable, of course.”

“I’m always on for a relaxing evening and a pint with my Kapena. Now tell me about the rest of it.”

Explaining how he wanted to use the Braxton family businesses to keep passive surveillance on Chang. There were several around the area of the Vampire’s base of operation that he had frequented while he was getting moved into his penthouse.

“I’ll pass the word along.” Wyatt gave Thomas a mischievous smile. “You know the ohana loves to help.”

“Oh no.” Magnum shook a finger at his Chosen. “They are not to do anything but give me copies of any security footage IF Chang comes into their business. They are not to engage him outside of normal parts of their business. Hiroaki Inaba Chang is psychotic, and I thought a long time about it before asking you here tonight. I do not want anything happening to your family.”

Seeing how serious Thomas was about Chang, Wyatt nodded his agreement. “I’ll impress upon the cousins that this is Vampire business and not to be taken lightly.”

“Good. We thought his target was on the Mainland, but some evidence has come to light that Higgins fits the profile more than the Mainlanders.”

“Higgins? Chang must as psychotic as you claim if he’s taking on Higgins. No way I’d even think about pissing that man off.” Wyatt took a drink of his beer.

“One more thing I need from you after reading a file for your eyes only is a profile on Chang.” Magnum waited while Wyatt took a moment with his thoughts. Giving a nod to the affirmative, he gave his Vampire a leer. “Now, Kapena, that we have business out of the way, don’t you think it’s time we got to the relaxing part of the evening?”

Hazel eyes blazed green and gold as Thomas reached out to remove the bottle from his Chosen One’s hand. Suddenly, feeling hunted, Wyatt stood and began backing toward the house. After the third step, he turned and ran for the stairs.

~*~*~*~

Always a curious man, Thomas Jefferson once again had all of Higgins’s photographs back in their proper order. The revelations of the past few days had him practically itching to find more information about what happened between Higgins, Chang, and Magnum’s father. His lips twitched up into a grin thinking the story would make a good television show. When he finally makes it to Los Angeles, he’d have to track down Bruce and suggest it to him. His fingers tapped the pile of pictures as he got to thinking about where he could find additional records from that time. The Philippines would be the logical place to look, but he figured all those records were moved when the US gave up its military bases.

Trying to remember where he left his phone, he finally found it in the workrooms where Higgins allowed him to work on his inventions. Figuring the time difference between Hawai’i and Australia he dialed the number for Stephen McGarrett. The Oceania Head of Security promised to send him an email with some resources, paper and electronic. While waiting for his email from Steve, he went in search of Templeton Peck. He found the blond reclined on a chaise with a book watching his Mate splash around the lagoon.

“Peck.” The former President settled on the chaise next to Templeton.

“Jefferson. Something I can help you with?” He placed his book on the side table.

“How deep have you delved into Chang?”

“It’s more being aware of where he is as opposed to what he’s doing. One of the Clan set up a web crawler that keeps track of when and where he travels. He’s kept to his side of the Pacific until now.”

“A computer program?”

“Well, the man is an elitist, xenophobic throwback to the time of the Japanese Imperial Court. Everyone is a means to the end of him rebuilding the face he lost during a couple of wars. Seems like every time he’s trusted with a POW camp, the inmates take over or escape.”

Thoughts swirling, Jefferson looked out over the lagoon trying to get them into some semblance of order. Murdock’s antics caught his attention. “Is your Mate trying to catch fish with his bare hands?”

A fond smile crossed Peck’s face at Jefferson’s reaction. “No. He’s playing with Billy. They’ll both need extensive clean-up to get all the salt and sand off everything.”

“Billy?”

“That’s right. You were in Australia when we came to Sylum. Billy is Murdock’s service dog. He keeps him level emotionally.”

“Emotional service dog.” He looked back toward the water and what appeared to be Murdock and something else playing in the water. “Anyway,” he stood, “thanks for your help.”

“We talked about Murdock and Billy.” Templeton was confused.

“It helped settle some things that were running around my brain.” Jefferson grinned as he headed back to the house.

Spymasters may know who committed the sins, but the researchers and archivists knew where to find the paperwork. Logging into his email, he sent a request to his fellow Legal Counsel. Magnum wasn’t the only one with a network.

Taking time to check his Clan email, Thomas smiled when he saw an email from the Shogun’s Archivist/Librarian, Fukuzawa Yukichi. One of the first things he’d learned at the Naval Academy was to make friends with the paper pushers and bean counters. They were the people that could get you the information to fill out an investigation. With Fukuzawa’s Mate being a historian and Researcher for Shogun, he hoped the attached file had the information to help him fill find out more about Chang. Printing out the file, he stuffed it in his case, so he didn’t give into temptation and start reading while he was on the government’s dime.

~*~*~*~

Going from deep sleep to awake Thomas pulled on a pair of pants and his shoulder holster with his service weapon. Slipping on a pair of moccasins, he eased out the French doors onto the lanai and began looking for whatever had drawn him out of a sound sleep.

The guesthouse was dark and quiet. Lily, Ryan, and the boys had arrived a week ago right after Peck and Murdock returned to New Orleans, and quickly settled into the routine of the estate. Thomas’ patrol ended at the fence leading to the lagoon. Two scents didn’t belong, and he’d found two sets of footprints that showed they had entered and left by the beach gate. As soon as it was daylight they would be going over everything with a fine-toothed comb to check for sabotage.

“Magnum?” Higgins’s soft voice came from the shadows along with the soft sound of Atlas and Kratos panting.

“They entered and left through the beach gate. The guesthouse is secure. I couldn’t find any signs of entry into the garage, the visible alarm sensors may have put them off, but I want the cars checked over before any of them are used. Since it’s Saturday, no one should have to go anywhere until we finish.”

“We’ve talked about securing that gate before. I suppose it’s time.” The Caretaker’s shoulders slumped at the thought of limiting access to the lagoon.

“Before you go sealing off the castle walls,” Thomas flashed him a toothy grin, “maybe we should leave that open. It’s an access point we can control. We can install a few more cameras and put security on three shifts instead of two.”

“Atlas … Kratos … Patrol.” Higgins sent the Dobermans out after warning security they were loose on the grounds. “Are you returning to your suite?”

Higgins’s question jarred his senses back to normal as he’d been straining to hear or smell anything out of place. “I won’t go back to sleep, so I think I’ll enjoy the sunrise. I don’t take the time to enjoy it as much as I should. Maybe get my swim in before the rest of the house is up.”

Several hours later, Magnum rolled the mechanic’s creeper from under Higgins’ Audi. Atlas and Kratos were looking toward the house. “I guess that means Higgins is up.” He chuckled giving each dog an affection pat. “Might as well make a raid on the kitchen for some coffee.” Giving the man’s hand a lick, both dogs took off for the house with Thomas following at a more sedate pace.

“Anything?” Higgins handed Magnum a mug of coffee.

“They couldn’t find the main box for the alarms, so there wasn’t much they could do other than dodge the cameras, gate guard, and the dogs.”

“I shall be contacting the security company this morning. Are you going into the office?”

“Lily and Ryan need to go to their office, so I told them I’d watch Jackson and Chance. They change so much at this age. I’m glad I’m going to get to share their formative years.”

The silence between the men was telling. He knew how many years he’d been on O’ahu and would soon need to make plans for what was next. He knew Tom and Hetty would be full of suggestions, but he needed to decide what he wanted. “I’m going for my swim before the boys are pointed in my direction.”

Watching Magnum stride across the yard, Higgins sighed as he refilled his cup. A hand reached down to take the extra cup he had filled.

“Boy sets his roots deep.”

“You would know.” Higgins prodded. “Efford said they nearly had to use a blasting cap to get you away from that musty mausoleum they turned into a museum.”

Jefferson chuckled into his coffee cup. “Truth. But once I let go it was glorious.”

“I think Magnum will soon be leaving the nest.” Higgins’s voice was soft.

“Did our visitor last night do any damage?”

“No, he thought we would be an easy target.”

“Maybe that’s what he was supposed to do. Find the estate’s weaknesses.”

“Hmmm, yes. Thomas and I discussed that in the small hours of the morning.”

“Must have been before Magnum and the dogs hid out in the garage.” Jefferson teased the Caretaker.

Rolling his eyes at the former President, Higgins headed for the kitchen. “Lily’s family will soon descend upon us, so I should check on breakfast.”

The chaos of breakfast with two pre-teens reminded Jefferson of breakfast at the winery. It made him a little homesick for Adelaide, but he was also excited to see what Lady Rogue was setting up for him in Los Angeles. He’d forgotten how a good hunt of any kind got the blood flowing. He was going to have to stop trying to compete with Magnum. Maybe digging through the rest of Jonathan’s hoard of history would pull together all the pieces of information.

~*~*~*~

Hiding in a seldom-used parlor, Thomas groaned as he stretched out on the couch. He didn’t remember Lily having that much energy when she was the age of Jackson and Chance, but maybe boys were different than girls. They swam until they were waterlogged, gone out on the surf skis, and wandered up and down the beach within a mile of the estate. It gave him a chance to watch for signs of where their nocturnal visitors had accessed the beach from the road.

He found the boot prints that had entered and left through the beach gate three houses down the beach. The Harrisons were on the mainland for a month visiting their new granddaughter. He’d check out their house after he took a nap. That was his last thought until Atlas licked his face to wake him for supper. Stopping to wash the dog spit off his face, Thomas decided to take an after-dinner stroll and check out the Harrisons’ house.

Finding no sign that the intruder had done anything other than run through the Harrisons’ yard, Magnum almost jumped in the car to troll some of the Braxton family bars before remembering he promised his grandsons he’d join them for family movie night. There was a smile on his face as he strolled back toward the estate.

Cursing the 14-hour time difference between Hawai’i and Japan, Jefferson wanted to talk to someone about a theory that had smacked him in the head while he was arguing Japanese culture with Higgins. In truth, the Caretaker was probably right since most of Jefferson’s knowledge was from books, many written by people looking for ways to exploit the ‘new’ country they discovered.

Finishing his email to Shogun Clan Researcher, Sima Qian, he went in search of Magnum while wondering if Hetty Lange would poison his tea if he called her this late in the evening. Thankfully, he didn’t have to test Hetty’s patience when Magnum stepped quietly through the French doors of the library.

“Just the man I was thinking about.” Jefferson proclaimed.

“Seriously? I thought you were a bit put out with me for being cross with you earlier.”

“Bah.” Jefferson waved off the backhanded apology. “I was a bit out of my lane. I just sent an email to Sima Qian, but I wanted to run the questions I asked him by someone with more knowledge of the Japanese culture.”

“I’m listening.” Seeing the pot of coffee, the staff had provided, he poured a cup and got comfortable. Jefferson was a hell of a speaker once he got wound up, and Magnum intended on enjoying a brief look at what made the man an American Founding Father.

“One of the big things in Asian culture is … Or was … Honor … Saving face.” At Magnum’s nod, he continued. “Now, we don’t know Chang’s Sire or when he was Turned. We do know that his ‘family’ was a part of the Imperial Court for many generations. We know from history and experience how hard it is to remain in royal favor for that long. You have to be smart and resilient, and not squeamish about cutting away the parts of the family that can’t carry their weight.”

“From my conversation with Lady Blossom and Katsumoto, Asian culture was particularly ruthless. It’s could be why seppuku was used even by people who were not Samurai. Family honor was everything, and those in Court would be seen as weak if the dishonorable were not dealt with. It’s not like Europeans where they sent their women to the convent, and their men out as part of exploration parties where they would either be a success or die.”

“Right. Let’s speculate a bit, and this is what I asked Sima to research for me. What if Chang is old. We know how easy it was before computers and paper records to be whoever you wanted to be. Chang builds a family and ingratiates himself to the Emperor, coming in every 40 or 50 years as his own descendant. Right now, he has adopted twin girls. Very cultured, educated, traditional but modern. Very sought after on the marriage market because along with building a family, there’s some business he’s built run by the family we don’t know about. He appears and re-appears with an ease that only comes from long experience, power, and money.”

“Japan is an ancient culture and we don’t know how all the Vampires moved across the world after Viduus. So many of the elder members of Shogun don’t know their Sires like Zi Juan. She only knows ‘demons’ came through their valley killing most but Turning her. Wars are the perfect hiding places for Vampires … Rogues and good guys.” Magnum shrugged at the look Jefferson gave him. “What? I only play a charming bad boy, I am very good at what I do.” He gave the charming smile that had many spilling their secrets to him over the years.

“I can see why you’re good at what you do.” Jefferson chuckled feeling like he was getting to know the real Thomas Magnum behind the handsome face.

“It’s a good theory you’ve got. Think we should pass it on?”

“No. Right now it’s just a theory. We don’t have any evidence to substantiate it. Though seems Peck has dropped down Chang’s pecking order. Perhaps we should do our best to erase him from the list. If we’re right, I think we can give him more important things to worry about.”

“Agreed. So, we know he’s used the name Chang and Inaba a lot and developed a reputation as a fixer. So where does a fixer get their information? In our case, we have Sneakers and Frankie. We put Chang in Frankie’s place … Who is his equivalent of Sneakers?” Unable to sit still, the Hunter roamed a path through the library collecting his thoughts. “YamaYuki Cyber!” He grabbed his phone and dialed. “It’s Sullivan. You know that project you’re working on for Braxton … I need you to add YamaYuki Cyber to the mix … Thanks.”

Jefferson watches the tall man prowl the room while his brain worked on his idea. When he started thinking out loud confusion set in when he shouted a name and pulls his phone out of his pocket. Once the call finished, he demanded the Hunter’s attention.

“Magnum!”

“What!?” He stops his pacing like he’s forgotten anyone else was in the room.

“Care to share?”

“What … Oh … Yeah.” He sits across from Jefferson and works to gather his thoughts. Running his hands through his hair pulls it from the ponytail he’s taken to wearing. “Oceania’s A-1 fixer is Frankie. Spy, scary SOB, putty in the hands of his Mate. So, we have Chang, who shows up as a fixer for the Yakuza. Freelance, since he still has all his digits. Has all the big boys for the local Yakuza scraping and bowing and hoping he isn’t looking at them … Just like Frankie.”

“Where does YamaYuki Cyber fit into the picture?”

“When I was retiring Captain Thomas Magnum and becoming Thomas Sullivan, I worked for Sneakers. I remember everyone going gaga over this new cyber security company in Kyoto … YamaYuki Cyber. Sneakers competed with them on several contracts.”

“You think Chang’s behind the company?”

“They’re in Kyoto, Chang flies out of Kyoto on a Yakuza private jet … Yeah, I think he’s the man behind the curtain.”

They sat in companionable silence with their thoughts for several minutes. “It’s time for me to think about sleep and winding down my brain. Higgins keeps the good brandy in his office. Join me for a nightcap.”

With a sly grin, Magnum signals for the former President to precede him out the door. “Excellent idea, Mr. President.”

~*~*~*~

The next morning both men had an answer from different members of Shogun. Sima was intrigued and would send them information as he found it. Jefferson heard Magnum laughing at something on his phone. He didn’t understand the language he heard from a female voice but he understood the emotion he heard and the male laughter other than Magnum’s coming out of the phone.

“Find out anything new?” Jefferson asked as they settled at the breakfast table with Lily, Ryan, and the boys.

Only that there was something that got by Lady Blossom, and her Mate was having a moment of humor at her expense, which she will make him pay dearly for as soon as she fills the gap in her knowledge.”

“Sounds like a formidable woman.”

“You have no idea.” Truth be told, much of Blossom’s yelling had come from Thomas asking about Hannibal King and his time in Japan.

The estate was quiet after Lily and Ryan took the boys with them to make some last-minute checks of equipment for the soft opening they would be leading out to Ka’ala Natural Reserve for a week. It meant they could concentrate on Chang without worrying about Humans getting caught in the crossfire.

Searching through the estate, Magnum couldn’t find Higgins. Locating the head housekeeper, he asked if she knew Higgins’s schedule for the day. She gave him the name of one of the many clubs and charities of which Higgins was a member or patron, and that he should be arriving home at any time. After checking with the gate guard, he pulled out his phone and hit number two on the speed dial. When the call went to voicemail, he had the guard watching the cameras to pull up the GPS on Higgins’ Audi. The Hunter was relieved when he realized his Sire was merely running behind schedule. He was irritated that the man had not asked him to ride along with him to his meeting. He knew Higgins could take care of himself and was stubborn as a Missouri mule, but that didn’t mean he shouldn’t take precautions.

Since Higgins was close, Magnum checked his weapon and took off down the beach. He would check the Harrisons’ house and then wait for Higgins to pass on his way to the estate. Hearing the familiar sound of the Audi, Magnum began scanning the hillside. As Higgins slowed to turn in the gate, Thomas caught the sun flashing off glass. The road was clear of traffic, so he gave a burst of Vampire speed up the hill toward the flash. He was halfway to his target when a shot rang out. Purposely cracking the brush as a distraction, caused the first shot to embed in the stones of the gatepost. He heard the shooter eject the shell casing as they set up another shot.

Taking his eye away from where he saw the flash, Magnum saw the panic on the shooter’s face as he saw Magnum bearing down on his position. Letting his hunting instincts reach out to his prey, the man froze like a rabbit under the eyes of a wolf.

By the time the police arrived, the panicked man had told Magnum everything he knew, which wasn’t much. Everything had been done anonymously over the Internet, and the would-be sniper seemed almost happy to be put in the back of Duke’s police cruiser.

“You sure this guy is a sniper, Brah?” Duke grinned at Magnum.

“It was a very short career. Luckily, he only hit the gate post. I’ll make sure your forensic guys find it.”

“Take care of Higgins.”

“Absolutely. Thanks for everything, Duke. Make sure to put Australia on your vacation plans. Your dad’s friends would be happy to see you.”

“I can’t retire. Who would take care of your people.” Duke gave him a big grin as he settled behind the wheel. Come sign your statement before work.”

“Leave it with the desk Sargeant.”

Heading for the house to check on Higgins, he paused long enough to check on Mike, the gate guard, and to make sure everything was being collected by the forensic techs. Satisfied, he jogged up to where Higgins was giving his statement. Once the officer had left, Magnum grabbed his Sire up in a hug that lifted the man off his feet.

“MAGNUM! You great oaf, unhand me this instant!” Higgins squawked at his Childe.

“You’re not supposed to be out by yourself.” Magnum growled. As he set his Sire back on his feet.

“I am quite capable of defending myself.”

“It was a sniper. If he’d have been a better shot it could have been real ugly.”

Still hearing the growl in Magnum’s voice, and realizing how badly he scared his Childe, Higgins took a breath to settle himself. “I was being mindful and I am armed.”

“It’s time I put a stop to this. Chang … Inaba … Whatever he wants to call himself is not making his new home in Hawai’i. Not with my family here. He can pick somewhere else in the Pacific.”

He stalked across the yard with his phone in his ear.

“I say … Someone is about to have a bad day.” Higgins’s smile was all teeth as he gathered his things from the car.

~*~*~*~

Staring at his phone, Wyatt wondered what crawled up his boss’ ass and died. Since he was close to the top of the pile and shit rolls downhill, he pulled up his contacts for the team and called the IT tech Thomas approved for their Chang problem.

“Linc … It’s Wyatt. The Boss is on the warpath, so I need to put a match to the fuse … Thanks, Linc.” Wyatt hoped whatever happened didn’t have Thomas going to war. He didn’t know if O’ahu could survive the Hunter.

The quiet of a Sunday in the Special Projects office was soothing to the anger still coursing through Magnum’s veins. Chang had caused enough pain and trauma to his Vampire family, and the man would either crawl back under his rock or lose his head.  Wyatt and Linc had come through for him by cutting down the amount of video he had to scroll through for a look into the life of Hiroaki Inaba Chang.

He was close to the end when he saw what he needed. One of the Braxton cousins had inherited a bar in one of Honolulu’s oldest neighborhoods. The locals knew to keep their business outside, but there was Chang big as life trading envelopes with some kid who looked like he should be riding skateboards instead of sitting in a bar.

He paused the video wondering how he could use this to get Chang to pack his tent and go back to Kyoto. If the Rogue was as old as they’d speculated, Thomas wasn’t sure he could take on a Vampire that powerful, so he had to be smart.

Not seeming the type to give up his plans easily, Thomas needed to come up with something that would be effective in the here and now as opposed to whatever happened over 70 years ago. He looked at the picture again and wondered what it was that made Chang make such a blatant move. Could be it was to see who would take the bait. If Thomas confronted him with the video, Chang would probably go after the Cousins for being informants.

Another question was what was going on with the Overlord drug. He didn’t think they had distributed enough to get a good sampling of the market. Maybe the test failed. With so many other street drugs out there that were cheap and easy to make on the Island, there was no reason to go to the expense and hazards of shipping.

Doodling ideas as he finished watching the rest of the video, Magnum thought he had the beginnings of an idea. Peck and Murdock were safely back in New Orleans. The information in Hannibal King’s files was what had given Thomas an inkling of an idea on how to get rid of Chang. Now, if he could keep two crotchety Vampires out of the middle of things, he might be able to push Chang out of Hawai’i without anyone losing their head. Making a list of things he needed to put in place, Thomas made phone calls to several of the Braxtons to make a few arrangements.

After supper, Magnum retired to his suite to pack a few things he didn’t keep at his apartment in Honolulu. He’d bought the building off Stephen and Danny while he was transitioning from Thomas Magnum to Thomas Sullivan. It helped with establishing his new identity. Grabbing his duffle and computer bag, he loaded his SUV. After that, he went in search of Higgins to let him know he was going to stay in the city for a while.

“Magnum …”

“We need him gone. I don’t want us spending the time he’s in the country looking over our shoulders. This is our home, and Chang is like an invasive weed.”

“I should call Matthew …”

“I don’t need …” Magnum rolled his eyes when keen ears picked up the sound of crotchety Vampire number two trying to sneak up to the door of Higgins’s office. “You to make any phone calls.”

“Why would we need to call the Lead Hunter?” Jefferson poked his head around the corner. “I was just …” He came into the room looking sheepish.

“We don’t. I was simply letting Higgins know I’m going to be staying in the city for a few days.”

“Oh. Did you find out something about Chang? We can help …”

“No … I refuse to have Herbert make the rest of my life miserable because something happened to you.” He shook his finger at Higgins. “And Lady Rogue would help him if I ruin her plans.” Magnum chastised the two older men. “You’re working on a book. Don’t you have things to write, edit, pictures to organize, facts to check?”

“Well, yes, but …”

“You do realize this is what I do for a living? That I was a SEAL and a Captain in the Navy.”

“Of course, Thomas, we were not trying to say you’re not perfectly capable.” Jefferson tried to placate the Hunter. His comment was met with raised eyebrows. “We just worry. We’ve just found out how little we know about Chang.”

“I have no intention of crossing swords with the man in the middle of King Street. It’s a psychological, not physical thing.”

“You hope.” Higgins scowled. “I know how ruthless the man can be.”

“Yeah … Well … You had Chang, I had Ivan. All soldiers have someone like that in their lives.” Magnum headed for the door. “I’ll be working my day job while I’m tweaking Chang’s pigtails, so I’ll keep you posted.”

The drive into Honolulu was spent considering how he wanted to proceed. He wanted Chang’s attention … subtly. He’d relax tonight, get settled back into his apartment then start spending time in various Braxton family establishments until his fishing expedition caught something.

~*~*~*~

Monday morning found Magnum reading a file that was going to tie up most of the team investigating some new player in the human smuggling business. This wasn’t the usual groups of Chinese escaping the CCP. Many of the people were coming out of the Middle East, including several on the terrorist watch list.

He wrote down a few suggestions for his two Senior Supervisory Agents, Wyatt and Megan before putting it back in the file for his assistant to get to the agents. He was reading through the list of remaining renovations on the armory and gun range when Megan and Wyatt descended on his office.

“Why did you hand this off?” Megan had barely settled in the visitor’s chair. Wyatt sprawled in his usual spot with a smirk that told Thomas the psychiatrist/agent already knew his superior’s reasoning.

“Since Hetty announced her retirement, I have been taking over more of her day-to-day responsibilities. So … Since I’m the new Director, Wyatt will be taking over as Agent In Charge, which means more of the investigative and undercover will fall on your shoulders. Lani with back-up from Wyatt will still be responsible for keeping everyone mostly sane and on an even keel along with Wyatt being AIC.”

We’re going to need some new agents.” Megan frowned as she mentally rearranged her team’s workload. “Promote Jaxson to a Team Lead, I’ll make Rangi my SFA since she steps in for Jax when he’s out of the office. Then we’ll need a SFA and two agents to fill out Jax’s team.”

“When you get your candidates narrowed down, Wyatt can bring me their files, and we’ll start the process. Let’s locally source our agents if possible. If we can’t find anyone, I’ll cast a bigger net.”

“You got it Kapena.” Wyatt gave Magnum a two-fingered salute as he pushed up out of his chair and sauntered out of the office.

“I swear that man gets any more laid back and he’ll slip into a coma.” Megan groused as she gathered her files.

“That trait will come in handy now that he’s AIC.” Thomas pointed out. “Send me Jaxson and Rangi and I’ll pass along the news to them, and Jaxson can get started on a more detailed training with Rangi.”

“Will do.” The smile was mischievous as she headed back to her desk.

After work, Thomas showered and picked one of his better suits out of his closet with a moue of distaste. He knew he looked good, but he always felt like a Ken doll when he wore a suit.

He’d paid a visit to each of the Braxton cousins over the weekend, sans Wyatt, to make a plan of how to contact him should Chang make a reservation or appearance. A text earlier from Emica Braxton Chisaka informed him that Chang had a reservation for three at 9 pm. Emica had taken over the running of her parents’ high-end Japanese restaurant after their retirement. She had remodeled, making it look like something out of Tokyo and revamped the menu to match. Many language students from the university used the restaurant as a training ground to improve their Japanese. The restaurant had become a required stop for many Japanese business people visiting O’ahu.

Pulling out a black suit, black shirt, and emerald green tie, Thomas checked the time. He could dress, drive to the restaurant, and be established at his table before Chang and his party arrived. He tucked several files on various pieces of real estate he owned and was in the process of deciding the best way to utilize them. He was thinking of corporate rentals. It would provide a stable income, and his property manager could take care of the daily minutia.

Emica had stopped by his table with a pot of his favorite tea, to let him know she’d already placed his order, and that there would be an email with a video file before he got home. Thanking her for her help and admonishing her to be safe, he settled back to read his file and enjoy his tea. The time he and Hetty had spent at Shogun and her introduction to Takezō Kensei, the Shogun Caretaker had given him a new appreciation of the beverage.

Savoring his meal, Emica’s familiar scent alerted Thomas she was leading Chang, one of his adopted daughters, and an Asian man who appeared to be in his fifties to a table nearby. Magnum continued his reading as he finished his meal. A fresh pot of tea appeared with dessert, which gave him a reason to linger a while longer. He’d felt Chang’s eyes on him as he’d seated his daughter before taking a seat that was in profile to his booth.

Thomas felt Chang’s attention again when he stood, gathering his files to leave. Knowing it would annoy the Vampire to be ignored, he continued as though he was unaware of how close he was to the Rogue.

The pattern continued for the next two weeks. Magnum would already be in place when Chang would appear at a place of business, usually a bar or restaurant. He was having a beer at Cousin Cory’s dive bar near the naval base when Wyatt slid his fine ass on the barstool next to him. Chang had left ten minutes earlier after meeting with three men he remembered as being local muscle.

“Imagine meeting you here, Kapena.” Wyatt’s tone was sarcastic. “If you wanted to bar crawl you should have called me.”

“Not bar crawling, smart ass. I’m fishing.” He took a sip of the non-alcoholic beer Cory had served him, giving him a wink as he set it down.

“Fishing. You have your hunting grounds. No need to be trolling strange waters.”

“Not that kind of fishing. Possessive much, Wyatt?”

“I don’t step out with other Vampires, Kapena …

Wyatt’s anger over the possibility that Thomas might be feeding elsewhere sparked his Vampire, and soon Wyatt Braxton found himself practically shoved in Magnum’s SUV. When he woke the next morning in Thomas’ apartment, there was a very smug expression on his handsome face.

“Proud of yourself?” Thomas offered a cup of coffee to his Chosen One.

“Very. Imagine my surprise when I questioned your security detail and found out that you haven’t been using them for the past two weeks. When I went to the estate to talk to you, I got a second surprise when Higgins said you were playing Bait the Rogue with Chang.”

“Yes, and I don’t need my favorite Chosen One in the line of fire if my plan goes sideways.”

“What is your plan?” He sat cross-legged in the middle of the California king bed scowling at his boss.

“Tease, irritate, and piss off Chang until he initiates a conversation. Convince him that the Rogue to Hunter ratio of the Islands is not in his favor.”

“Just like that?” Wyatt scoffed.

“I can be very persuasive; he’s supposed to be somewhat intelligent.” Magnum took the coffee cup out of Wyatt’s hands as he crawled up the bed to remind his Chosen One of his persuasiveness.

He was six weeks into his ghosting of Chang. He settled into his booth at Emica’s restaurant when all his plans went poof. He glared darkly at his Sire who had plopped his pompous ass in the seat across from him.

“You need to leave now.” Thomas demanded through clenched teeth.

“You need to come home and see your family.” Emica seeing his predicament brought a pot of Higgins’s preferred tea.

“It is good to see you again, Mr. Higgins.”

“Don’t encourage him, Emica. He’s not supposed to be here. He’s supposed to be safe at home … Behind locked gates.”

“Really, Thomas. One needs to stretch their legs a bit.”

Take the Lads for a run down the beach.”

“I’ll bring you the Chef’s Special.” Emica chose to retreat rather than stand between the Sire and Childe.

“Why are you here?”

“Lily asked me to remind you of Jackson’s birthday on Sunday.”

“You could have called or texted, but I don’t need a reminder of my grandson’s birthday. Stop being obtuse and answer my question.”

Before Higgins could answer, Magnum looked up to see Jefferson headed their way. Dropping his chin to his chest in exasperation, he closed his eyes and prayed to anyone listening for patience.

“You just can’t help yourselves, can you?” Hazel eyes blazed green as he fought to rein in his anger.

“What. We wanted some excellent Japanese food, and the Internet says this place is the best.” Jefferson smirked at the younger Vampire.

“Taking care of Rogues is literally my job both as an occupation and a Vampire. Now, either I’m qualified for that job, or Matthew and all my other mentors were negligent in allowing me out of Australia.”

Both men started talking at the same time.

“You’ve got this all wrong, my boy.” Came from Jefferson.

“You know better, Thomas.” Higgins insisted.

The whole fiasco was compounded when Chang chose that moment to walk in the door. Thomas was armed with his service weapon, but his sword was in his car. He had his weapon drawn and hidden under the table as Chang approached.

“Gentlemen. While it is not a surprise to see Mr. Magnum here, I am surprised to see the Sergeant Major and friend.” The three men kept their expressions bland. “Give me a moment to speak with the proprietress to secure us a private room where we might speak freely.”

“Agreed.” Magnum spoke up glaring at the older men.

“I believe we have much to discuss.” Higgins glared right back at his Childe.

They all followed Emica into a private dining room the wait staff had prepared with meals and drinks for the four men.

“I will personally see to your needs this evening. I will return shortly with refills and dessert.”

“Thank you, Emica. Please assure your cousin I’ll be late, but everything is under control.”

“I will, Thomas.”

“Would that be one of your colleagues, Mr. Magnum?” Chang asked.

“He’s one of my Chosen Ones that I made plans to meet after my meal. I simply wanted to let him know of my change in plans.”

“Do you always give your food such consideration?” The former General’s tone was snide.

“Which do you prefer these days … Chang or Inaba?” It was Thomas’ turn to be snotty.

“Touche, Mr. Magnum. At the present, I am Hiroaki Inaba. I am well acquainted with Sargeant Major Higgins and Lt. Magnum, but I do not know you, Sir.”

Actually, I’m Thomas Sullivan, and this is Thomas Jefferson.”

“Wasn’t one of your Presidents named Jefferson?”

“At your service, Good Sir.” Jefferson pulled out his best gentlemen farmer manners.

“Now that we know each other’s names, why are you in Hawai’i?” Magnum went straight to the point.

“Looking for a new home.” Inaba’s answer was innocent, but his expression was sly.

As a fixer for the Yakuza?”

There was a slight paling on Inaba’s face, but he kept his cool. “I help businesses that are having problems find solutions.”

“And why would a man try to shoot me as I entered my home?” Higgins leaned back in his chair.

“A man lives long enough, he collects enemies. A problem to be fixed.” Chang’s smile was all teeth.

“I am a simple Caretaker.”

“And once you passed yourself off as a simple aide-de-camp, and I paid the price.” Chang practically hissed.

“It was a time of war. It was our duty to escape. It didn’t seem to slow your progress since you reappeared in the same situation as a General during Vietnam. Also torturing our brethren. Perhaps you should consider professional help.”

“An underappreciated art. One that takes years of practice. You, Mr. Higgins, have been the cause of many setbacks in my career.”

“So, what are your intentions, Chang?” Jefferson pushed.

“Ideally, I kill Misters Higgins, Magnum, Peck, and his companions that escaped my camps. Thus, my honor would be restored, but there is no one left alive who remembers when I lost face. So, I would be attempting to kill several fine upstanding members of the Clans, and have all the Clans’ Hunters after my head … Or I can live my life, build my fortune, and let you all wonder if and when I will come for you.”

“How’s that psychological warfare worked for you so far? There was a report on the news today about a human trafficking ring put out of business yesterday. They didn’t catch the top of the food chain, but these things take time.” Jefferson pushed back his teacup ignoring the look of outrage on Chang’s face. “I think I could do with a nice brandy. Maybe a cigar. Thomas?”

“Sounds like a wonderful idea, Thomas. I think that the psych game works both ways, Mr. Inaba. Good choice on the name. Chang is so … Plebian. You made a mistake crawling out from under your rock. Now we have a hook, we can ping your ass like a prize poodle.” Magnum stood to his full 6 foot 4 inches. “In the modern world, you have to work smarter. Gentlemen, going my way?”

“We are.” Higgins directed Jefferson out the door in front of him. Knowing the former President, he’d want to interview Chang for Higgins’s book if they didn’t push him out the door.

Once the two men were out the door of the private room, Magnum turned back to Chang. “You should think about moving your family back to Japan. I don’t think the Islands are big enough for your family and mine.”

“Are you threatening me, Mr. Sullivan?”

“No threats, Mr. Inaba, simple friendly advice from one father to another. Children are so important to the future. Something you just can’t put a price on. Aloha, Mr. Inaba.” Thomas began to walk away.

“Mr. Sullivan.” Thomas looked back over his shoulder. “Is that your birth name for you truly look like Mr. Higgins’s fellow prisoner, Lt. Magnum.”

“The name my parents gave me is Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV.” With a boyish smile and a waggle of his eyebrows, Thomas walked out of the restaurant.

The monster under the bed had been reduced to a dust bunny … For now.

~ Fini ~

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