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Cass and Logan: NorthWatch, #2

Cass and Logan: NorthWatch, #2

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Cass and Logan: NorthWatch, #2

Length:
468 pages
6 hours
Released:
Dec 16, 2019
ISBN:
9781622534630
Format:
Book

Description

Cass is counting down to her father's inauguration when she realizes that Mac Beverly may be alive. Her 2036 kidnapping now seems a lovely vacation.

Cass Watson tries to put her kidnapping last year behind her as her father's inauguration approaches. On her first day of school, though, the WatTechPrep parking lot explodes outside her window. More incidents follow. When her father vanishes on the eve of his inauguration, Cass becomes certain that her kidnapper, Mac Beverly, has returned.

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS the second book in the funny, fast-moving, action-packed "NorthWatch" series of young adult coming-of-age mystery/thrillers. [DRM-Free]

BOOKS BY MR. CAGEY MAGEE:

  • Cass and Wat (NorthWatch - 1)
  • Cass and Logan (NorthWatch - 2)
  • Cass and Nat (NorthWatch - 3)
  • Cass and Keith (NorthWatch - 4) [Coming Spring/Summer 2021]

MORE GREAT YOUNG ADULT FICTION FROM EVOLVED PUBLISHING:

  • The "Chosen" Series by Jeff Altabef and Erynn Altabef
  • The "Darla Decker Diaries" Series by Jessica McHugh
  • The "Dirt and Stars" Series by Kevin Killiany
  • "The Desert" Series by Angela Scott

 

Released:
Dec 16, 2019
ISBN:
9781622534630
Format:
Book

About the author

Author, editor, teacher, virtuoso, Mr. Cagey Magee, graduated from modestly bookish, obnoxious kid to obsessive young-adult reader at around the age of eleven. He lived not far from an excellent library filled with novels that led him to faraway universes and fascinating people. He devoured them—the novels, not the people—and soon became obsessed with writing his own horror, young adult, mystery-thriller, and coming-of-age stories. Cagey’s first novel came in at the size of two long books. He quickly learned the error of his ways when he needed to print the thing out and carry it. His current novels are more compact but still a little offbeat. He inevitably falls in love with his characters and really hates to kill them. For Cage, the near future holds infinite marvels. No one is all good or all bad. He loves them for who they are and where they go next, and hopes his readers will hang in there for the bumpy ride.


Book Preview

Cass and Logan - Cagey Magee

JKR.

Chapter 1 – Family

—2037—

Puberty with a splash.

—1—

Liberty, N.Y. WatTechPrep. 4:00 PM. Cass.

Cass Watson pig-giggled as she opened the door of her dorm suite after her first day back at WatTechPrep. To maintain her preferred reputation for taciturn mirthlessness, she usually giggled only at the few parties where she wished to flirt-tease boys that she liked enough to recognize their existence. Now, though, she couldn’t keep a straight face.

She’d loved her first day back at WatTechPrep. On top of that, puberty had arrived with a splash ten days ago—finally! She hated push-up bras and catty put-down snot-shots, but didn’t much want to stay a skinny standpipe with a pageboy cut either.

Her favorite teachers and friends, female and other, had all returned to school. She loved her new classes. Her principal, Dr. Nips Purman, had reappeared with a bang and a hammer and had nailed her third doctorate to her office wall. She also nailed her new coat-of-arms, a pewter shield engraved with a whip and chair on a heart, to her door.

The kids referred to Principal Purman as Nips. Staff called her Juniper or June or ma’am. Unlike most principals, the kids enjoyed visiting her even if they were in trouble. Never easy on anybody, Nips’s charisma grew from projecting herself as never wrong, mean, or unfair, always concerned, and definitely in control.

To top everything off, Cass’s suite-mates—the ClutterSuities by a better name—little brother PipPlus and potential boyfriend-elect KeithCute, had gotten their disgusting arrival-mountain of odorous boy crap out of the middle of the dorm suite living room after only twelve hours of nagging and two cans of WatFresh Room Activator.

This day could not be any better.

She wanted to dance in circles—really dance, really in circles. Added all together, her after-kidnapping school world had bloomed with a smooth high-octane pow! Appropriate: long ago, her father and Uncle Nat had joined Gramps and Great Uncle Mike as owners of WatTechPrep. Everybody knew that four billionaires were better than two. Now came the icing on the cake: her family, including Gramps Logan and President-Elect Pa, was due any—

Good afternoon, Cass.

She spun, and there he stood, vast and beautiful. Gramps?

Logan Watson, Leo to some, and his twin Mike constituted excellent specimens of the male of the species—the better models, anyway. Until recently, she had called the huge man standing in the doorway to her living room, Uncle Mike. At Christmas, though, Gramps left his fingerprints on Uncle Mike’s eggnog cup and accidentally exposed himself as Logan. They were truly identical—except for the fingerprints, of course.

"It’s really you, Gramps, my genuine Log?"

I’m afraid so, Cassandra. There was no mistaking Gram Bodil’s baritone snarl-horn. We may need to keep that bit of Log’s carelessness secret for now. To the world, he’s still Mike.

Grandpa moved over, and there on the sofa sat his wife, Bodil Watson, and—holy sacred crap—Becky O’Brian, former nanny to Cass’s Pa and Uncle Nat.

Cass’s eyes shot wide. Gram? Beck?

In a word, Becky O’Brian had supposedly harpooned Jerome Westerlow, who allegedly blew up Grandpa Logan and killed Becky’s mom and all of the Stags except Little Nat and his sisters, and probably burned the Stag House in Jonesport, killed the sisters, and left Nat in the Bangor Medical Center with near-fatal burns.

Thanks to little Glen’s lobbying for his best friend, Bodil Watson had adopted Natty. Glen and Nat had come into the damp Maine world on the same day, in the same birthing suite up at Bangor, had become best friends when they were six, and still depended on each other.

Anyhow, so goes the Watson family legend. Maybe part of it is even true.

If the Bodil-Becky-Logan arrival wasn’t enough, Cass’s boys exploded into the suite. Keith led the way. Pip, Cass’s little brother and best friend, followed an inch-and-a-half behind. Fifteen-year-old Keith did okay in school. Ten-year-old PipDiddle would soon finish second-year college physics with an open fly, untied shoes, no underwear, and a lunch badge of mac-and-cheese on his left cheek and right shoulder.

How does he do that? His aim stinks in so many ways.

Gram! Keith dropped his books on the floor and raced past Cass, who had apparently gone invisible. Gram jumped out of her seat, and the two of them hugged like they hadn’t seen each other for twenty years.

We all celebrated Christmas together two weeks ago!

Gram never showed concern for any non-family semi-humans, except Keith, apparently. Maybe she had lost her mind. Her body looked fine, though. She could probably arm-wrestle a Tyrannosaurus Rex and win—she could certainly intimidate one.

Keithy, are you okay? Gram asked seriously.

Keith’s tendency to go hyper at the drop of anything contrasted with Gram’s unflappability. Fit as a fiddle and ready to pluck, Gram. How about you?

Cass would not dare say that to Gram. She sometimes made small children cry simply by being kind to them.

Yet Keith possessed no apparent fear of the old woman. From the looks of the hug, he also possessed no fear of breaking her.

I’m great, Keithy, but I hear that my son Glen, our ill-advised president-elect, offered you a home and a guardianship. Like Uncle Nat, Keith had lost his entire family, but at barely fourteen.

Yeah, Gram, he did. I haven’t given him an answer yet.

"Well, what if I offer you a home and guardianship, in addition to a prime place in my will?"

Keith stopped and thought, possibly thought twice. Since the Battle of NorthWatch, his opinion of himself hovered at the height of an anorexic worm’s rectum. Now, he always self-evaluated, then worried about it. Gram, are you and Glen fighting over me? That thought seemed to cheer him.

Of course, we’re fighting over you. You’re the brass ring. She usually used that disgusted tone for disobedient rodents. "I plan to win, of course. Glen and I do agree that you should pick your own guardian. We’ll get around to formally offering you that choice when we get tired of trying to out-maneuver each other."

Gram, I think that you and Glen need to work that out. I admire Glen, and I love and admire you. Keith could be amazingly rational and diplomatic on rare occasions. I’m... well, I don’t want to.... He also excelled at uncertainty.

No matter what you decide, Gram said, saving him, "you shall remain an honored member of our magnificently dysfunctional family. You shall absolutely remain at WatTechPrep until you leave for college, preferably a well-structured gold leaf institution of learning—only a few remain—to become whatever you decide that I approve of. Feel free to take your time. Let us know when you’re ready to pick a guardian. Until then, I’ll tell you what to do because I love you like the son I’ve never had."

Gram, Cass burst, your son is the president-elect of the United States. She realized too late that she had walked straight into the jaws of Hell with that one.

Precisely! Gram snarled, switching on her most evil tone. "You know my view on that, Cassandra! She suddenly changed back to gracious then. Keithy, darling, you are already a member of my family."

Cass’s Pa had infuriated Gram when he ran for president, and truly pissed her off when he won.

The Keithy puzzle consisted of several dark, angry, secretive, child-like pieces patiently waiting for healthy females like Gram and Cass to assemble into one superb teenager, boyfriend, and fifteen-year-old man.

At the moment, Keith had developed a pink blush, though. Thanks, Gram. Can I take time to think about my choice for guardian and stuff?

"I already told you that you may," she said firmly. Even in those she loved best, Gram would not tolerate loose thinking or unnecessary questions.

Yeah, you did. Keith grinned, hugged her again, and kissed her cheek.

Now, Bodil blushed. Cass had never seen her do that before.

He really loves her. My Keithy, Pip, and I might be the only kids in the world that Gram doesn’t terrify.

That didn’t surprise Cass. Under the cold military exterior that the OmegaTroops had tried to give Keith, oozed a whirlpool of compassion, adolescent lust, and an incredible letch for raspberry baked-brie.

No problem.

Keith’s intense desire to prove himself fit nicely into Cass’s plans to pussycat him.

When Cass finished feeling shocked by all the lovey-yucky, she noticed that Pip had dumped himself into Becky’s lap. He was kissing her on the cheek and hugging her as though he wanted to squeeze all her nanny-juice out. When Cass and Pip visited her up at Main Haven, a daffodil bin for the rich and dangerous—after all, she did harpoon a billionaire—they always had great fun. Beck appeared about as nuts as Solomon.

Grandpa Logan had gone over to inspect the windows.

Since everyone else appeared busy with Gram and Becky, Cass decided to take what she could get and walked over to her favorite adult relative. Grandpa, how are you? She said it flatly, disinterested, straight-faced—their personal challenge game.

The first face that reacted lost. They had played this crack-someone-up game even back when supposedly dead Mike was live Grandpa Logan... or vice versa... or something. Cass felt certain that she hadn’t heard the end of that bit of conniving.

Fine, Cass. Equally disinterested.

Foot healed, Gramps? Bored.

Pretty much, all size fourteen of it.

Cass fought to keep herself from laughing. She and her Grandpa-Uncle Mike-Logan thoroughly enjoyed these contests.

Cut myself shaving this morning, he said.

Electric?

Straight.

Blood?

Gallon or so.

My first period arrived ten days ago.

That did it. Grandpa turned red, grinned, tittered, probably came close to peeing.

Cass had never understood why men and boys found normal girl things so embarrassing. I win, Gramps, she said coolly.

Indeed you do, my darling granddaughter, indeed you do. I’ll send you a ten-dollar gift certificate or something.

Don’t need it, Gramps. Then came the big warm hug that told Cass she’d really won.

And I’ll get you for that, Log whispered before he kissed her forehead and pressed something into her hand. Call me anytime, but tell no one that you can. It will operate only with your DNA, a Nat special.

Cass looked down and saw a brand new SuperPhone.

This one is unique. Can’t explain here. Late night is best for me, but any time for emergencies. Others involved.

Thanks, Gramps.

Remember: tell no one. I have some genuinely noxious enemies, and that phone has all kinds of built-in devices, including hard-core encryption. Nat will explain.

—2—

Monticello, N.Y. Meg’s Lair. 4:40 PM. Nat.

Nat had remained at Meg’s console for six hours now, not unusual for him. A MegaSuper computer took as much time as a wife would. "Okay, Meg is my wife." His hands rested in his lap as he studied his brother, Glen, the president-elect of the United States, wandering mindlessly around Meg’s Lair. Nat could not distinguish between the appearance of Glen, the live man, and Glen, the Meg-created WatSim.

Shortly, Nat hoped to add substance, independent reasoning, and speech to his WatSims. Years ago, household 3-D printers became commonplace—they could now duplicate live bacteria, fertilize human eggs, and create small animals. Meg, Nat’s MegaSuperComputer, had taken the concept forward and would advance it further still, a good reason for her isolation and secrecy.

He had earned billions for WatTech and himself, but the most expensive and extraordinary computer system he had ever created would remain non-commercial—he would never market or share the technology.

Glen had agreed—surprising given his favorite precept: You can never have enough money, which colored most WatTech projects that he pushed.

Glen had openly wondered if Nat would ever build a MegaSuperComputer who surpassed Meg.

Yes, I will. Smaller. More powerful. Easier to conceal. I should say that Meg and I intend to build it. These days, computers performed most advances in Device Science, sometimes without asking. He’d already begun Meg II.

Cass and Pip expected him this evening. Not a problem, as WatTechPrep sat a mile-and-a-half away from Meg’s home. Cass and Pip didn’t know that, of course.

Keith had heard from the late Mac Beverly that Nat was hiding something somewhere in Monticello, just not where, what, or why. When Keith passed that on, Nat began trusting him even more.

Apart from that revelation—Mac should not have known about the Meg project—Keith had mentioned nothing else that had happened, or that he had learned as an OmegaTrooper before the Battle of NorthWatch. He seemed to have forgotten. He undoubtedly wanted to forget.

Nat would give every dollar in his bank accounts to forget that a wholly justified bloodbath had elected Glen as president of the United States. Glen, too, probably wished he could kill some of his memories as easily as he had killed his teen-tough attackers. As January 20th hurtled toward them, he still hadn’t announced whether he would go through with the inauguration or, if he did, would remain in office for long.

Nat knew the answer to that. Cass knew. Few others.

The Watson family keeps its secrets well.

There’s nothing worse than seeds between the cheeks after a fart.

It’s time to visit the children, dear, said Meg in her smooth voice.

She’s the sexiest computer in the world.

Nat could foresee the day when people would no longer need people, just warm fuzzy computers with consciences, souls, and near-human bodies—SoulBots.

He’d contributed mightily toward that time, but prayed he would never see it.

Chapter 2 – Suite 57

—2037—

Always rats.

—1—

Liberty, N.Y. WatTechPrep. 5:20 PM. Nat.

WatTechPrep, Sullivan Preparatory School for Young Gentlemen when Nat and Glen grew up here, sat on a woodsy 250 acres well off the main road to Liberty, fifteen minutes from Meg’s lair.

The long forest entrance road hadn’t changed. Deer, coons, coyotes, possums, weasels, and skunks still roamed here. An occasional bear dropped by too.

And rats, of course. Always rats. Perhaps the rats will prevent computers from multiplying willy-nilly on their own. They have developed a taste for plastic cables and the nutrients they now harbor.

Nat loved this gorgeous place. He sometimes wished that he could have stayed in middle school forever. He’d been bigger and stronger than the other kids. He quickly became their leader, loved them dearly, and prevented the vicious little bastards from raping and killing one another, especially when it concerned pretty little Glen. Mac Beverly and Nips had taught Nat that skill.

Three rats, larger than any Nat remembered, greeted him at the main entrance. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought they recognized him. When his WatGold SmartTruck eased into a parking place near the front gate, a feeling emerged that the whole place remembered him.

How could this place not remember me?

Nat, Glen, Mac, and Nips had made history here, in more ways than good.

As he walked across the parking lot, he studied the dorms. After he and Glen became partners in WatTechPrep with Mike and Logan, they encased the original English boarding school-style buildings in barely noticeable security shells. When you catered to the super-rich, super-powerful, and scholarship-lucky brainiac kids who would rule the world one day, you made sure they stayed safe.

Every bit of WatTechPrep harbored covert weapon detectors, as well as cameras with WatTech I.D. capability. If Al Capone came back from the grave and walked through any of the WatTechPrep entrances, or crawled in through a window even, the system would recognize him.

Entrance 20a led straight to the hall outside Suite 57, the kids’ suite. Nat heard happy voices inside before he knocked.

The door opened, and Logan Watson filled the doorway for only an instant before he stepped into the hall and hugged Nat. How can I ever thank you enough, Natty? If it hadn’t been for you and Meg, I would—

Who’s Meg? Pip leaned sideways to see past Logan, raised his left eyebrow, and grinned at Nat.

Girlfriend, Nat tersed. He planned to introduce Pip to Meg very soon. Both Cass and Pip had skill-levels appropriate for dealing with her, and Keith had hidden talents of his own.

Didn’t know you had any girlfriends, Uncle Nat. As Pip squeezed past Logan, the boy’s cowlick twitched. His round glasses always wandered his nose from tip to bridge, but for the moment had poised midway. As usual, he smelled like talcum powder and horseradish. You really have girlfriends? I always thought you were gay. Pip-terse, straight face—a contest of sorts, which he’d obviously learned from his big sister and Logan.

Nat loved this little guy and was rapidly becoming his TechMentor. Boy, do I have a computer for you, kid. I have dozens of girlfriends.

Okay. Pip grabbed Nat’s hand and led him in past Gramp’s bemused face. I believe you. I suppose you need them. I probably will soon. Do you have a book?

Logan fell into step just behind them and listened as only a grandfather could.

"I always thought you were gay," Nat whispered confidentially.

Without breaking his smug smile, Pip whispered back, I’m ten. Anything’s possible. I might decide to get the hots for purple porcupines. He looked thoughtful, as he often did to suppress his ten-year-old giggles. His niggles, he called them.

Pip will undoubtedly end up the new TechGuru of WatTech.

In the living room, Cass was serving finger sandwiches and bacon-cheese toast-points. If Glen didn’t arrive soon, he would miss his favorite snack. Slightly hungry for a non-healthy treat, Nat accepted one of the toast-points—finger sandwiches reminded him of fat proctologists—sat down between his mother and Becky, and patted a knee in both directions.

Don’t get fresh, Natty, his mother snarled.

Nat loved that snarl.

I’ll hire four bozos to take you down and spank you.

Ditto, Becky said, a person of one word except with Bodil and Logan.

Congratulatory tiny-talk flitted through the air. Finally, Cass, standing in the middle of the room, raised her voice. Thank you for coming, folks. I love all the fuzzy nicenice. It’s truly a warm bed of lavender-scented cotton candy. Gram, I believe that you want to say something.

The room fell silent as a ghostless tomb. When Nat’s mom spoke, the universe listened.

Yes. Gram remained silent for a short moment and did not move or change expressions. Yes, I want to remind all of you that Logan is still playing Mike. The world believes that Logan perished on Hawk Island. So much for the world. Mike is actually having marvelous fun at the burlesque, the opera, and the grand balls in Paris. In his spare time, he makes all kinds of money for himself, the Watson family, and our friends. He has also added a new identity, but don’t ask.

Cass giggled. That’s terrific, Gram. Jeez, I admire your chutzpah, and Uncle Mike’s too.

As well you should, Gram said. We want to continue the Logan-Mike masquerade, at least for a time. Even the Ian Commission believes that Mike has returned to supervise them at the behest of Glen, who will soon be too busy to manage a vast shadow government. Giving the head chair up is one of his many mistakes.

Don’t you think that he might have his reasons, Gram. Cass clearly couldn’t allow her Pa to dangle out there.

Most important, also, Gram said, ignoring Cass. The world must continue to believe that Becky has moved from MediHome in Maine to a Paris rehab facility, except for U.S. visits and world travel under Watson family supervision. We’re not sure which Watson enemies remain out there who would want to harm Logan, Beck, or anyone else with a Watson connection. My friend God backs my decision. Believe that I trust everyone in this room. Also, I personally want to welcome Keithy to—

Fire mushroomed outside the windows of Suite 57. The floor shook. Debris smashed against the windows.

Nat’s experimental WatGlass held. It’s in the parking lot, he shouted. Everybody stay put.

Bodil’s pink-handled Beretta appeared in her steady left hand.

Nat ran to the window and saw his new WatGold SmartTruck blazing, what was left of it. Shit. Fortunately, he’d parked at the far side of the parking lot so that he could walk and enjoy his memories. What the hell is going on?

Tick and Tock rushed into the suite and barely escaped destruction by enraged-bull Logan Watson charging out, a CZ 9mm in his hand. He hadn’t bothered to stay put as Nat had ordered. No surprise there.

After Logan vanished through the door, Glen Watson bolted in, his antique forty-four caliber Smith & Wesson angled toward the floor. Four panting Secret Service men appeared behind him, trying to keep up. Nice glass, Egghead. Looks like it held.

Of course it held. Glad you like it. It cost a fortune. Nat had participated in developing the glass. He could take credit for it, but wouldn’t. Only a few knew the special tech he hid there.

What’s going on, Natty. Glen holstered his forty-four. In today’s world of miniaturized, high-load everything, Glen’s precious gun looked wildly out-of-place.

Nat had always thought that Glen’s forty-four resembled a disembodied erection. No idea, Mr. President.

Daddy! Pip launched himself into Glen’s arms.

"That was your truck, wasn’t it, Nat?" Glen gave Pip a few hugs and a mini-backrub before setting him down.

"Yes, my new, now late, WatGold SmartTruck. The manufacturer gave it to me while I dickered for a new fleet for WatTech."

I have the same truck. Glen’s disgust radiated from his pores. "I even paid for it."

"They appear to blow up well, Asshole—our fault, not the fault of Universal Land & Air Vehicles. They never do anything wrong. We own majority stock. Remember that, if ThePress gets to you about the explosion."

Cass snickered but stopped when Glen added, Nat, we best isolate all new company vehicles. Something’s fishy. Also, find out which of our guys inspected it.

Also, Nat said, we need to visit Meg, Bro. Together. Alone. Now! Tell the SS you need to take a two-hour defecation.

Shit! Pip’s high voice cut through the noise, and everyone stopped talking. The friggin’ place blows up, so you’re introducing Daddy to your girlfriend, Uncle Nat?

Yes, I am. Nat managed a tiny smile. Live with it, kid. I’ll loan you my book. He didn’t feel as frazzled or defensive as he probably looked.

—2—

WatTechPrep. Cass’s Bedroom. 11:00 PM. Cass.

Cass, Pip, and Keith sat in a triangle on the floor of Cass’s bedroom and stared at three fat, against-school-rules, scented candles. The lavender and basil drifted around them in waves. They nibbled on a platter of imported Swiss cheese and lovely little garlic crackers.

Oh, my God, I’m turning into a hippie-scented valley girl.

Pip added horseradish to his garlic Swiss cheese treats. He put horseradish on everything, even himself. The building had protected them from the explosion, but Cass still seethed.

How dare someone blow up my parking lot!

Log had provided her with the candles. He said they would soothe both her and her HeEm, Pip and Keith.

The explosion had shaken her, but not as much as it had shaken Grandpa Logan, who, gun in lap, had decided to sleep in the corridor, between the two doors to her suite. Cass had never seen Log or her Pa lose their cools like that. Nat, on the other hand, reacted like the thoughtful, constipated clam he tended to be. The WatTechPrep buildings sustained no damage other than a few burn marks. The gate, fence, and trees, on the other hand, hadn’t done quite that well.

Being the daughter of WatTechGlobal offered many perks, but also a risk or two. In less than three months, Cass had experienced kidnapping, confinement, a lethal gun battle, an exploding parking lot, and near rape—‘near’ thanks to Keith.

What a frigging effing mystery, she muttered.

This is adding up to real money.

"What’s a mystery?" Keith asked.

Yeah, what? Pip could often guess her thoughts, that or he just reacted the same way.

What? I’m tired of this shit! That’s effing what. She couldn’t restrain the growing annoyance in her voice. Crapissimo appears to follow us like puppies. For company, Cass wanted to excite DippleDub and KeithyButt to her level of flaming girl-fury.

Yeah! Keith was super-cute and, in his own way, smart, not to mention all muscles and a good protector. One fine day, he would make an excellent lover. His conversation skills needed work, though.

I’ll double the shit and raise you a truck, Cass. Pip’s non-sequiturs always led somewhere interesting, but not always immediately.

This time, she decided to goose BitBub’s cerebrum and see what fell out. Just what does that mean, Pippy?

"Well, WatGolds come in all sorts of vehicles: big and little trucks and cars, smart and dumb vehicles, and all sizes of RVs. Daddy has a new WatGold SmartCar as well as a WatGold SmartTruck. Uncle Nat has—did have—a WatGold SmartTruck. WatTech owns a whole new fleet."

Yeah? she said, imitating Keithy’s wisdom.

Pip sounded wise when he explained soup, but brilliant when he explained science, computers, or the Watson family. It’s one of those deals where Daddy and Nat bought the company and changed the name. The price differential in most of the vehicle lines is still for the glitz and pointless pleasure-features that sell cars.

At the moment, Pip had become the mystery. Get to the point. Cass wanted to go to bed.

Yeah, so? Keith said, obviously wanting to remain in the conversation.

"So, all the models in the GoldLine come with similar stuff, and with potential add-ons such as omnidirectional obstruction response, self-drive on demand, and both hydrogen and electric power—all of it easily installed because of universal wired and wireless connection points."

That’s nice. Cass shrugged intelligently, trying to hide her boredom.

Pip plowed ahead. "In other words, all WatGold products have slightly different versions of the same electronics. You could easily use the connection points to install very special non-improvements such as explosives that you or yours could detonate remotely. Connecting anything to the whole frigging world has both advantages and disadvantages."

Are you really ten? Cass heard this conversation getting even odder than her Suities.

"Yeah, so did you, Keith?" Pip had interrupted his lecture and launched that truly queer question.

What the crap! Are these two hiding shit from me already?

Pip raised his hand in a halt-gesture to stop Keith’s answer, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, then lifted both hands, tilted them slightly out, and shook his head once, a quarter-inch, like a Buddha amazed that he had gas but didn’t plan to admit it.

Cass remembered that gesture from NorthWatch Castle. It meant shut up, because Pip suspected bugs. That’s interesting, Pip. So, are you guys ready to go to bed?

Keithy scratched his butt, casually reached into his jeans pocket, pulled out a PortaSensi and, palm down, handed it to Pip. No one watching would have seen it except Cass, and she had a feeling that Keith and Pip wanted her to.

Here we go, and there they go.

Pip and Keith, their fingers to their lips, had calmly risen from the floor and headed out of Cass’s bedroom.

The lavender scent made her a little dizzy. She picked up her new phone and pushed, Mike.

Hi, Cass, are you okay? Grandpa Logan asked. Uncle Mike was in Paris watching naked women, opera, and money, of course. His button on her new phone said simply M.

Yes, Gramps, I’m pretty hard to shake up. I’m plenty pissed, too.

That explosion had Mac Beverly written all over it, Cass.

Is Mac really dead, Gramps?

"His wounds should have been fatal, but his body disappeared. He’s probably dead. No one has seen him. One of his followers could have done this, or Mac could have planted devices for the future. I loved Mac, the tough, brilliant little kid. Growing up, he spent way more time with us than with Cali and his brutal stepfather, who fortunately dropped off the face of the earth. That’s why I gave Mac the money to set Cali and Amy up in Dobbs Ferry."

I’m a little scared, Gramps.

Me too, Cass.

Goodnight, Gramps.

Goodnight, Cass. Don’t forget that I’m here for you, just outside your door at the moment. Your grandma is spending the night with Nips. Please don’t fret. We’ll short-sheet this shit soon.

I couldn’t possibly fret, Gramps. Even with the explosion, I thoroughly enjoyed this day, possibly more than any other. Goodnight. I love you.

After they disconnected, she whispered, I’m not the fig plucker, I’m the fig plucker’s son. But I’ll pluck figs ‘till the fig plucker comes.

Chapter 3 – Friends

—1999—

He called them ollifarts.

Maine. Stoneridge. 7:00 AM. Six-year-old Glen.

Lobsterman here. The down-east twang of Captain Francois Stag’s deep voice sailed up from the Stoneridge kitchen to the entire mansion. Only a dead kid could have missed it.

Glen Watson awoke the rest of the way and jumped out of bed. Glen loved Captain Stag and loved lobsters too. He especially loved the drawn butter you dipped the lobster meat in—he would drink it on its own if his mommy let him.

Halfway down the hall, Glen yelled back over his shoulder, Mommy, the lobsterman is here!

Glen had forgotten his slippers, and the floor felt cold under his feet. His butt felt cold too because he also forgot his robe, and October in Maine never warmed anybody’s butt. When he reached the kitchen door, Glen ran pell-mell and launched himself into the arms of Captain Stag, Glen’s friend, and the best and greatest lobsterman in the world. He had the best boat too, The Abattoir. Glen loved Capt. Stag and drawn butter too.

I’ll be right with you. Becky’s voice echoed through the huge house into the kitchen from somewhere.

Glen loved his sexy teenage assistant nanny.

I’ll be right with you too. That was the voice of Marie, Becky’s mama and the cook, head housekeeper, and nanny of all of the Stoneridge Estate.

Glen loved her too, though.  She could be strict, but was a great tucker-inner and gave lots of hugs and made yummy-delicious super gingerbread boys that looked just like Glen.

Capt. Stag finally finished hugging Glen and put him down on the floor. "Glenny, I want you to meet Nat, my youngest son. He’s exactly your age. You even have the same birthdays. His brothers are in bed with the mumps, so Nat is helping make our deliveries today. I’m even teaching him to pilot The Abattoir."

Gee, you’re lucky, Nat. Glen ran over to his new friend who didn’t know it yet.

"I know I am, Glen. I’ve been asking since I was three and finally got to start learning for my sixth birthday back in August. Daddy even carved my initials in one of the boat timbers. I was the last Stag to get ‘em there. My sisters didn’t really want to drive the boat, but they did it enough to get their initials carved in. It’s important in my family, a turbation... er, I mean tradition." Nat hopped up and down and sounded like he’d explode wide open with excitement.

"Traditions sound neat. I don’t know if we Watsons have any. We got lots of stuff, though."

Hey, Glen, if we had the same mom and dad, we’d be twins. We really do have the same birthdays, August 10th, and our mommies dropped us little suckers side-by-side at Bangor Hospital. My mommy tells me all about it sometimes—it’s my favorite bedtime story, how I came out. Mommy said that she and your mommy got so interested in gossiping about Maine-coast weirdos that they almost forgot they were birthing us. They said they didn’t notice while they made us either—I guess they found out soon enough, really. Surprise is good. I love surprises.

Glen had almost drowned in all of Nat’s words and didn’t know what half of it meant, so he concentrated on trying to think of something to say that would make Nat want to become and stay a friend. Before Glen could decide, Nat stuck his hand out like he forgot it at first, and they shook like real people. Hi, Glen. Nat seemed happy to meet him.

Maybe he likes me even though we only just met.

Nat had a big hand.

How old are you again? Glen wanted to make sure he’d heard this birthing thing right.

Six.

Me too. I had my birthday back in August too.

Me too. Nat giggled some more, as though he needed a friend too and found Glen interesting.

Having the same birthdays seemed queer since Nat stood inches taller than Glen. Before things got any weirder, he offered, Would you like to come over and play sometime.

Sure! Nat sounded ready to pee with excitement.

Maybe he always does.

If Glen got excited enough, he sometimes peed a little too. If they timed it right, they could pee on a dead fish together. That would make them blood brothers.

Glen’s mommy, Bodil Watson, came in then, followed by Marie and Becky. Bodil—Glen had permission to call his mommy that—always exploded into a room as though she was gonna get an academy award or scabies or something, sort of like Meryl Streep.

Captain, good morning, she said. "I want to determine seafood availability today. We’re having a banquet for some of Logan’s investors, most from New York, and I want

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