Everyone in the house made it past breakfast before the outside world intruded that morning. Not the police or a player, this time. Jimmy’s dad called the house to invite the ladies out for lunch. He had heard from Jimmy and had news to share.

Though the man invited Maximus, Marius, Magnar, and even D/OG to come along, the latter four opted to stay behind rather than trying to find room for all seven together in the one van. Marius was easy, but the other three were all persons of significant heft.

On the other paw none of the furred or feathered people wanted to send the ladies across the river unguarded, so far from their defenses, at that time of month. The lunch might have been put off until Sunday, after everything was settled, but there might be something Lynne, or one of the gentlemen needed, or needed done. No one said that they might not be around to assist on Sunday, though they all knew the possibility existed.

In the end, everyone agreed that D/OG would go along with the ladies. He was, to some extent, an unknown factor, but the mirror incident spoke in his favor, and Marius and the others had done their homework, investigating his background and bona fides. He was a very good D/OG. Not to mention, his digital and mechanical components gave him some very surprising defensive abilities, and as a non-player, he did not labor under the same sort of restrictions, if the need arose.

After the luncheon party departed, those left behind made a quick circuit of the remaining things in their various abodes, and then went on a grand tour of all the month’s significant scenes.

Dennis Yates amade a determined snatch at them not far from the mine collapse. He used a net, perhaps hoping to repeat Magnar’s abduction. Unfortunately for the man’s plans, his woodcraft was execrable, so his quarry knew just where he was, and had a good guess what he was about and how long he had been following along. Also, net throwing is a skill that takes some practice. One does not just fling it out, any-old0how, and really expect to catch much. Magnar and Maximus took off in widely divergent directions, while Marius went up and back over the man’s head. They left him where he and his net had gotten tangled up in two thorn bushes and some tree limbs.

A lot of activity centered around the ruins of the Neighborhood Watch building. A sizable group of both cultists and concerned neighbors had turned out to search through the remains for anything salvageable as part of clearing the site for rebuilding. Mrs. Hillary scowled and tightened her hands on her shovel, but there was nothing she could do in front of so many witnesses.

My three friends variously perched, fidgetted, and stood, talking quietly in the center of the sunken cercle near East Wood Haven when an unexpected fourth approached on silent feet. “Do you fellows mind if I join you?” Mouche asked politely.

“Be our guest,” Maximus invited, settling into a seated position.

“How have you been?” Marius asked politely.

“And your master?” Magnar asked with a trace of a smirk in his voice, if not on his face.

Mouche huffed a brief laugh. “However did you figure that one out? I thought we had everyone fooled.”

“In spite of the spectacular nature of the collapse, none of the officers or special agents suffered more than scrapes, bruises, and a very few broken bones, mostly acquired in the investigation and rescue attempts,” Magnar pointed out.

“If the collapse was natural, it would have taken more than their investigatory robot to set it off,” Maximus pointed out.

“If it were a triggered defense, it would not have collapsed the living space as well,” Marius added.

“We are also aware that your Master would never have made the mess that drew all the official attention if it was not for the collection of curses he keeps.” Maximus sounded almost apologetic.

“We have some friends who can and would help with those, by the way,” Magnar offered.

Mouche sat and stared for a minute or so as his brain ran faster than he could give tongue to. “And here I approached you to offer an alliance, and reassurance that you were not the only Closer’s left, with hopes of finding out just what you were planning, to make certain we did not unintentionally spike your wheel with our sudden reappearance at the last moment.

“I expected to be calm, withdrawn, and mildly superior from my position of superior experience, but I think, while I seem to know more than any of the others, there is still more for me to learn,” Mouche settled into a comfortable position.

“I have already calculated that you three are the players, and all, or at least I thought it was all of what, that implies,” he prompted.

The others exchanged speaking glances, and then, for once, Marius started to talk. The whole plan was initially his idea, after all. Overhead, the moon grew rounder, and the power rose.


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