Witness Protection for Sea Monsters

The Feds are trying to protect the Sea Monsters, but the Dragon is coming.

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When Sammy turned six, his mom gave him one piece of advice. “When the Great One wants to manifest, don’t get in his way or you’ll regret it.”

The Great One hadn’t done that yet, but he was getting close. Sammy could feel him lurking in the depths of the ancient ocean that had spawned him. Sometimes the Great One peered at the world through Sammy’s eyes, startling the federal marshals who had come to look after his safety. Sammy liked those people, and they liked him, but the new marshals were still getting used to him. The newest of them, Harris, turned to the others and said, “They told me this would be like The X-Files. They weren’t kidding.”

Sammy had seen The X-Files on TV, and he agreed. “The truth is out there,” he told Harris. Harris grinned and high-fived him.

Harris didn’t help Sammy build the Apollo 11 model his dad had bought for him. Sammy knew he ought to figure that one out for himself. It wasn’t that hard — it was just that he wanted to do it right. His dad had known all about NASA and the American space program (quite a lot about the Russian one, too), and Sammy wished so much that he and his dad could have built it together.

If wishes were fishes, his mother liked to say.

We would eat them, was Sammy’s reply.

Sammy ate his wishes and built his own model. It turned out pretty good. He did his home-schooling lessons, worked on his models, and waited for the Great One to claim what was his.

His mother waited for someone else. She waited for the dragon who wanted to kill them. Wise though she was, even she couldn’t say who would get there first.


“Ma’am — ” Marshal Harris had a default setting for courtesy, but he found it especially easy to follow that impulse when talking to Sammy’s mother, Serena. “Pardon me for asking, but isn’t it hard for you to live in Arizona? Don’t you need to be near the sea?”

Serena gazed at him with eyes the color of sea foam. Both she and Sammy shared that trait, along with jet-black hair that was so smooth it looked wet. “The sea is with us, wherever we go,” said Serena. “Can’t you feel it? It’s all around us.”

Now that she mentioned it, there was a sensation Harris had not been able to put his finger on every time he stood in the safe house. He had thought it was because of the way Serena and Sammy decorated with shells and coral, and the artful way those things were arranged, but that had not been an adequate explanation for the barely perceived sounds that teased his eardrums, that evoked Claude Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral, like a submerged bell sounding from the depths. Light in and near the house sometimes rippled the way it does when it’s shining on water; in other places it seemed filtered through something blue, bent in waves, or pooled in spots that were dark as ink.

“An ancient sea covered Arizona for millions of years.” Serena picked up a piece of limestone that had lenses of chert in it. “This is a chunk of the Kaibab Limestone. The seaway that deposited it may have persisted for 50 million years. Other oceans were here even longer.” She took a deep breath, as if she were breathing sea air. “My kind were more plentiful back then. That is the time from which we draw our strength.”

If that were true, Harris could see why Serena would want her family in Phoenix. She was going to need that strength to survive Dorian Dragon. The Order of the Dragon had been running crime syndicates in Eastern Europe since before the reign of Vlad the Impaler. Dorian was a descendent of that tyrant — loved by his allies, hated by his enemies, and feared by all.

Dorian had been a thorn in the side of American law enforcement since he had moved operations to L.A. Not content simply to sell drugs, Dorian also oversaw extensive money laundering and human trafficking operations.

Until recently, informants against Dorian Dragon had all ended up as burned corpses. His friends included politicians and billionaires all over the world. His fall would damage many of those allies. He had destroyed the careers of prosecutors and investigators from six different countries.

However, if there was one thing investigators shared, regardless of their country or creed, it was tenacity. Those who persist eventually find a way. In this case, the way was Serena, a font of useful information who would give testimony about the dealings of Dorian Dragon — very specific testimony. Once her information was entered into the record, all sorts of criminal operations were going to find that a monkey wrench had been thrown into their works.

The wheels of justice move slowly (hence the reason for tenacity), so Harris and his colleagues had been hiding Serena and Sammy for almost two years. That’s a long time to keep someone under wraps, so Harris was alarmed, but not particularly surprised, when Marshal Tsosie showed up with lunch and bad news.

“We’re going to have to move you again, Serena.” Tsosie handed out red beef burritos for the marshals and shrimp po’ boys for Serena and Sammy. “You’ve been made. We’ve got a new place set up near Bryce Canyon.”

Serena smiled. “Ah — Bryce Canyon. It was an island when the Cretaceous Inner Seaway split North America. The Great One enjoyed sunning himself on its rocks.” She bit into her po’ boy, chewed lustily, and swallowed. “But moving may not be our best option.”

Harris squared his shoulders when he heard the tone in her voice. He had often thought Serena should be commanding troops with a voice like that — though she didn’t use it often. He set aside his burrito, but Tsosie seemed unflappable. That may have been Tsosie’s Navajo demeanor: soft-spoken, mild-mannered, dry — but Harris suspected it had more to do with Tsosie’s long experience in Witness Protection (not to mention long experience with Serena).

“Dorian Dragon could show up any minute,” said Tsosie.

“It can’t be helped,” said Serena. “I think my sister will keep tipping him off. She’s not doing it on purpose, but she’s looking for me, and she’s good at it. Plus she’s writing a book about her side of our family. She’s already published an excerpt in The New Yorker.

“You have a sister?” Tsosie asked between bites.

“She’s human.” Serena took a sip of her coffee. “Mostly.”


When Sally Philbert had worked up the courage to call Serena Smith, she had imagined many responses — but not the one she got.

The phone rang twice; then Serena answered. “Hello, sister.”

Sally gasped — which was a little embarrassing. She had hoped to sound collected (if not cool), and she had already been knocked off balance. “You read my article in The New Yorker.”

“No,” said the voice on the other end — quiet, and scary in a way that Sally could not define. “I know about you in the same way you know about me.”

Sally stared at the bulletin board next to her desk, the one with all the pictures, notes, and arrows pointing to relationships that had been one of her main tools in her search for her birth family. “You’ve been looking for me?”

“Sally … ” the voice chided. “Don’t rationalize. You know I’m talking about the second sight. You inherited that from our mother.”

“I hired a private detective,” said Sally.

“Eventually, yes, but first you dreamed about us.”

That was true. Sally didn’t want to talk about those strange dreams. She wanted answers. “How long have you known about me, Serena?”

“Since the day you were born. You were a sweet little thing. We had to be careful with you. Do you remember the seashells?”

In fact, the seashells were the most vivid memory Sally possessed. “They were gigantic. As if the creatures who made them had been building them for a thousand years.”

“That’s about right,” said the spooky voice on the other end of the phone. “Sally — did you know your nephew and I are in the witness protection program? You’ve exposed us.”

Sally’s ears began to ring; this always happened when she felt embarrassed or alarmed. “I didn’t — I just wanted — ”

“It’s not your fault,” said Serena. “He was going to find us eventually, so we may as well get it over with.”

“Is he a gangster?” said Sally.

“Yes, among other things. That’s why we qualified for the program.”

Sally thought about what she had revealed in her article, and the ringing in her ears grew louder. “Is my family in danger?”

“You’re not a primary target. The genes never expressed themselves in you or your offspring — we checked. Though it may occur in your grandchildren, but that’s at least ten years down the road. By then, you’ll have met the federal marshals. They’ll look after you if we can’t.”

Sally stared at her bulletin board. Somewhere among all those notes, photos, and maps, a federal bureaucracy had been hiding. She had never seen a hint of that. Serena was veering so far off the track she had wanted to pursue, Sally had to abandon the diplomatic approach. “What happened to our mother?”

“You already know she’s dead,” said Serena. “I expect you’ve dreamed some of what happened. If you want a concise answer, our mother was killed by our worst enemy. He’s a dragon. She bought time for us. That’s why you and I are still alive, and that’s why we were fostered.”

“Because Dad died too? At the same time?”

“Actually, he died long before that. They weren’t married, so we always had Mom’s name.”

That got to the heart of another big question. “What’s our real family name? I have a hard time believing it’s Smith.”

“Smith is the name we assumed in the witness protection program,” said Serena. “Our real name would have attracted far too much attention from the wrong people.”

“So — you can’t tell me?”

“There’s no reason to keep it secret any longer,” said Serena. “Our family name is Sea Monster.”


“You have a right to know,” Serena told Harris and Tsosie (and Browne and McClary, who were doing an admirable job of eating burritos and monitoring traffic outside at the same time), “Dorian Dragon hated my family long before I became an informant. Our hostilities go back almost one thousand years, long before Vlad the Impaler escalated the conflict. You may have heard of Vlad. He was a nasty fellow.”

“People thought he was a vampire,” said Tsosie.

Serena laughed. “I know — can you believe it? His name was Dracula, “son of the dragon”! Right out there in the open. Hello!”

Tsosie shrugged. “Most people don’t speak Romanian.”

Serena regarded the new marshal, Harris. “Much of the records about my family have been sealed, but you’ve probably pieced together some of the truth on your own. We were gangsters too.”

“People in witness protection often are,” said Harris.

“Our specialty was smuggled antiquities,” Serena continued. “There was a market for them even back then. Eventually that got pretty spotty. We had to resort to a protection racket to stay solvent. Ships payed us a percentage of their profits, and we didn’t sink them. We helped them out of tough spots, when we could.”

Back in the old days, the Sea Monsters and the Dragons had treaties. Sea Monsters didn’t bother Dragon ships, and Dragons didn’t bother Sea Monster caravans. Then a Dragon coveted some pearls, and those pearls had a Sea Monster provenance. Serena’s folk sank the Dragon ship to get the pearls back. That all sounded rather silly, but the Dragons were a greedy bunch. They would not have stopped with the pearls.

Serena took a big bite of her po’ boy and munched, thoughtfully. (Judging by the sound, Harris wondered if her teeth were a good deal sharper than his.) “Anyway,” she said, “Long-story-short, they attacked this caravan, we attacked that ship, and the conflict cut into profits. We had to hammer out a truce. The truce favored both families. Then someone had to go and invent the damned airplane. Not as much stuff went by boat anymore, and there weren’t as many of my kind to monitor the ships. So — ” another bite, another round of munching, and a big swallow, “ — it wasn’t working out so well for Sea Monsters anymore. The Dragons demanded more and more money to protect our trucks and trains. They finally forced us out of business.”

“So this is payback,” said Harris. “They ruined you and you want to return the favor.”

“Well, they are jerks,” said Serena, “but no. We don’t need revenge. It’s a question of balance. Because Sea Monsters are the only ones who can stand up to the Dragons. If you think Dorian’s ambitions stop at money-laundering, you can think again.”

She studied Harris for a long moment, measuring him. She decided she approved of what she saw.

“You, who live by the rule of law,” she said, “hear me. The Dragons find you useful because you create banks that can buy influence with governments that can be bribed. But they also find you palatable. If you don’t want to see an American government that enables that sort of predation, you must defeat Dorian Dragon, now. Do you understand me?”

Palatable,” said Harris. “As in edible?”

“Yep,” said Serena.

Harris gave her a thumbs up. “Got it.”

“Good.” She grinned, trying not to show him too many of her teeth in the process.

“Head’s up,” said McClary. “Someone’s coming up the front walk.” He paused. “And he looks like a professional.”


West thought of himself as a contractor, though he did have a patron on the East coast. His patron owed a favor to Dorian Dragon. So West had done some jobs for him. This was the last one.

It took patience to do the sort of work West did. He could wait hours for a target to get into the right position for the hit. He could sit at a table with bosses all day without saying a word unless he was spoken to. And he could drive eight hours straight to deliver a threat from Dorian Dragon.

The front door opened before he got to it. That was no surprise — they had probably spotted him as soon as he parked. The fed who stood in the doorway was a Black man, a guy who obviously knew his way around a gym, but also a man who had probably seen military action before he became a marshal. West knew plenty of vets from Afghanistan, and this guy looked like them, except that he was wearing the suit and tie that feds always thought they should have, as if they were working out of Wall Street instead of Quantico or Glynco. Although stock brokers would have better taste, in West’s opinion.

“Something I can do for you?” asked the fed.

“Yeah,” said West, his tone neutral. “I’ve got a message for Serena Sea Monster.”

The fed quirked an eyebrow, as if West didn’t know how funny that sounded.

“I’ve got a long drive ahead of me,” said West. “You want to cut the crap?”

The fed didn’t take the bait. West hadn’t thought he’d get to deliver the message to Serena in person — she was protected. He wasn’t too happy about telling it to this man who stared at him like he was a jerk. In a way, just showing up here was a message, so maybe he should leave.

“I want to see him,” someone commanded in a voice that was pitched too high to belong to a man. The Black fed looked over his shoulder and gave a short nod. A little boy appeared next to him at the door. The fed put his hand on the kid’s shoulder.

The kid stared boldly at West, with weird blue eyes. “Say what you’ve come to say.”

“Watch your mouth, kid.” West gave Sammy his Stone Cold Killer glare. He was damned if he would let a child speak to him that way.

The boy stared back, calmly. “You’re here to deliver a message. Stay on topic.”

West tried to stare the boy down. The kid held his own, easily, so West shrugged. “Okay. I have some advice for you. You need to pay some dues. You can start with the bank accounts you hid from Dorian. What’s in those accounts belongs to him now. And you need to name the people inside Dorian’s organization who’ve been tipping you off. Do those two things and Dorian will spare your Aunt Sally and her little kiddies in Utah. Maybe he’ll even spare you, little boy. Tell your mother.”

The boy nodded. “I understand. I also have some advice for you, sir.”

West almost said Save it, but an inner voice sometimes warned him about things, and right now it was telling him, Hear the kid out.

“Don’t return to Los Angeles,” said Sammy. “Phone in if you have to, then go back to the East Coast.”

West made a sound that was almost like a laugh, except that it had nothing to do with humor. “Why should I do that?”

“Because,” said the boy, “if you report back to Dorian Dragon in Los Angeles, he’s going to eat you.”

West stared into calm eyes that possessed a knowledge belonging to no human child. He tried to think of a reply but couldn’t come up with one.

“Really,” said Sammy, “I can’t imagine that pissing off your patron could be much worse than being devoured by a dragon.”


The bold visit by one of Dorian Dragon’s men was troubling, but it had an upside. It lit a fire under the federal prosecutors. They scrambled to arrange for Serena to testify immediately, citing imminent danger.

Serena’s testimony took three hours. She delivered it in the presence of a federal judge. The whole shebang was taped. It could be presented as evidence.

The fact that Dorian Dragon didn’t try to stop all that meant his lawyers were going to do that work for him. “Which is as it should be,” said Serena. “The Rule of Law, and all that.”

“So now that you’ve dug up all the bones,” said Tsosie, “what do you think Dorian will do?”

“Kill every remaining Sea Monster he can find,” said Serena. “He was going to do that, anyway. I have a plan. I just need to nail down a few of the details.”


Back at the safe house, everyone followed Serena into the attic. She eyed the boxes up there until she spotted what she was looking for. “Ah-hah!”

Serena dragged a trunk out of the pile and pried open the lid.

The objects inside the trunk were not the usual sort of things families stored in their attic. No old family photos, or antique quilts, or dishes. There were a few books, but they looked ancient, and the symbols printed on them were from no human language. Everything else looked like objects that belonged in a magic show.

A really scary magic show.

Serena examined each artifact before she selected one: a plain mask, the color of bone — that may have actually been made of bone. She sat back on her heels and regarded each marshal in turn.

“You fellows have been briefed about me and my family,” she said, “so perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve done my homework on each of you, as well. Tsosie is descended from Navajo healers — he can’t have anything to do with this particular artifact. McClary had a great, great, great grandmother who was hanged in Salem — but, though she had mystical powers, she was a pious woman.”

McClary placed his hand over his heart. “God rest her soul.”

“Browne — ” Serena stared at him for a long moment. “Your Uncle Cosmo knew plenty of magic tricks, but he also worked real magic.”

“I knew it!” Browne grinned.

“However — ” Serena sighed, “his particular talents for speaking with the dead were eldritch and forbidden, and he didn’t use them. Therefore, Harris — ” she turned to him, “ — now we must confirm rumors that probably have circulated in your family. You are descended from a long line of bokors who practiced Voodoo. You will not flinch if you meet Baron Samedi. You will know what to do with this.” She held the mask up so he could see it.

Harris might have argued about how happy he would feel to meet the Lord of the Graveyard, but he couldn’t take his eyes from the mask. Suddenly the most important thing in the world was to put it on. He didn’t even think about why he should do it. He placed it over his face and pulled the cord over his head.


The house disappeared. Harris stood in a cloud bank. The floor under his feet felt solid, but the white lady in front of him was not. He could see right through her. She looked sort of like Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady. She sounded like her too. “Hello, Luv. I’m Mary Thomas.”

“Hello Mary,” said Harris. “Where am I?”

“Well now — that’s more complicated.” Mary hoisted an iced drink that resembled a latte, except that it was orange.

“I don’t remember dying,” said Harris.

“Oh, you’re not dead, dearie. You could think of this place as a sort of waiting room.”

“Okay. What am I waiting for?”

“You’re waiting for my friend David to pass a message to Sammy. He and his mother are in a lot of danger, you know.”

“I did know that, yes.” Harris touched his face. He wasn’t wearing the mask. Yet somehow he was sure it was still in place, back where his body was really standing. “I’m supposed to protect them. I can’t do that if I’m here.”

She took a healthy sip of her drink. “It will only take a few minutes, and then back you go.”

“Mary,” said Harris, “David is dead. Are you also dead?”

She smiled happily. “I am.”

“Then why are you drinking a latte?”

She stirred her drink. “It’s not a latte. It’s Thai tea, sweetened, with cream. Delightful. To answer your question, the tea is an act of will. I choose to remember this sensation, and here it is.”

“That’s a nice trick,” said Harris. “Could I do it too?”

Mary looked regretful. “I’m afraid not. You’ll have to wait until you’re dead. Once you are, come ’round and see me. We’ll have a tea party.”

“I’ll do that, Mary. I hope you don’t mind if I wait a while.”

“Not at all.” Mary winked. “I’ve got all the time in the world.”


Sammy watched Harris put the mask on. A moment later, the eyes looking at him through the holes were no longer brown, like those of the marshal. They were blue.

The masked man bent and hugged Sammy. “I only have a few minutes,” he said. “I need to warn you.”

Sammy looked into those eyes and knew them. “Dad!”

“Don’t let them move you to another house, Sammy. You and your mother have to make your stand here. You’re going to have to make it soon.”

“But Dad — the Great One hasn’t — I don’t … ”

“There was an ancient ocean here,” said the masked man. “It abided in this spot longer than it did anywhere else. The power of the Great One is as strong as it will ever be, right here. You’re going to need that strength.”

No one wanted to hear Sammy’s doubts, so he put them away. He and Mom would make their stand. He would just have to do his best.

“Dad, I built your model, The Apollo 11 rocket!” Sammy knew that was off topic, but it was the one thing he wanted his father to know.

The masked man squeezed his shoulders. “You did great, son. I’m proud of you.”

Then the blue eyes turned brown. He took off the mask, and he was Harris again. He looked over at Tsosie. “Guess what? When you’re dead, you can drink Thai tea.”

Tsosie didn’t bat an eyelash. “I’d rather have black coffee.”


That night, they all ate pizza (including one with anchovies for Serena and Sammy). They watched Law & Order and The X-Files on Netflix, and stayed up late. Browne and McClary took the first watch of the night, and Harris and Tsosie took the second.

Tsosie made contingency plans. If Sammy and Serena were going to stay put, Dorian Dragon would eventually attack the house. That included the possibility of fire-bombing, if Dorian followed his usual pattern.

“Sammy and I can put out any fire he sets,” Serena assured him. “I don’t think he’ll opt for an indirect attack. I expect we’ll be seeing the dragon in person pretty soon.”

Serena was right. Dorian showed up just after lunch.

He parked his Mercedes SUV a few houses down. It chirped as he set the alarm and walked up the street toward the house. He didn’t walk up to the door. Instead, he stood in the middle of street, an expectant look on his face.

A handsome fellow, if you didn’t mind that fact that he could eat you alive — and eventually would, if you spent enough time with him.

Serena came out the front door and closed it behind her. She was dressed casually, in yoga pants, a sweat shirt, and flats. She walked calmly toward Dorian, as if this were any other day. She stopped at the edge of the sidewalk. “Hello, Dorian.”

He watched her with heavy-lidded eyes. “Hello, Serena. Everyone else slipping out the back? I’ll track them down once I’m done with you.”

“I doubt you’ll have time,” said Serena. “You’re going to be very busy.”

He spat a wad of thick mucus. It hit the street with a splat, and began to burn a hole in the asphalt. “One weak female.” He yawned, exposing double rows of pointed teeth. “That’s the best you can do?”

“You have yet to see the best I can do,” said Serena. She began to grow — and to change shape.

Dorian did the same.


“Back up!” Tsosie shouted into his headset, and the four marshals scrambled back from their hidden positions in neighboring yards to give space to the growing bodies of the scions of the Sea Monster and Dragon families. Once Tsosie judged they would be clear from thrashing tails, he signaled the SWAT teams standing by in vans. “Get into position. It’s going down.”

If Serena couldn’t stop Dorian, those SWAT teams would have to try to take him down. They were armed to the teeth with grenade launchers and other heavy ordnance, and Tsosie could only be grateful that Dorian had made his move before school let out for the day. Most of the people in the neighborhood weren’t home yet.

Serena had Dorian’s full attention. It was time to get Sammy to safety. Tsosie ran to the van he had parked four houses down and wrenched open the driver’s door. Sammy had been belted into the back.

The boy wasn’t there anymore.


“Sammy’s in the wind,” Tsosie called. “Harris? You have eyes on him?”

“Negative,” Harris reported. “Checking the safe house — ” Sammy may have gone back for his Apollo 11 model. They had evacuated him before he could pack anything.

Harris ran for the front door. When he passed the front window, he saw something that made him stop.

Water was leaking out of the space between the panes. The whole window bulged outward from the pressure — because the water level was above the top.

In the street behind him, Harris heard a roar. He spun to see two creatures who dwarfed the houses around them. One of them spouted fire from its mouth. The other sprayed the flame with a gout of water from her own jaws. Then she bared her teeth and lunged for her enemy’s throat.

Go Serena! Harris prayed. Take him out!

Before she could get a good hold on the dragon, his head shot forward. He clamped his jaws around Serena’s neck. Then he lifted her off the ground and slammed her down again.


It was over in a ridiculously short time. Dorian dropped the limp creature who had dared to challenge him and gazed at her with a mixture of disappointment and disgust. There had been a time when the Sea Monster family had been formidable foes. Without them, who would keep the Dragon bloodlines strong? Certainly not the weak mortals who were surrounding the area with their vans and their puny weapons. Dorian estimated he would be done mopping them up in time for an early supper — for which their fresh bodies would do nicely.

He smiled as he watched Serena shift back to her mortal guise. She looked like a tasty morsel, but she deserved more respect than that. True, she had not been strong, but he admired her courage.

Besides — he didn’t care for seafood.

“Where is your sssssson?” His dragon form made speech a bit sibilant, but he liked the effect. “If I have to sssssearch for him, it won’t go eassssssy for him.”

Serena lay gasping her last breaths, but she harkened to his threat. She crooked her finger, beckoning him closer. So Dorian obliged her. He shrank back into the man form in which he conducted so much of his business these days, and knelt beside Serena. He bent closer to her.

“I’m going to Eversea,” she told him.

“That’s lovely,” he said. “Now — where is your boy?”

Serena gave him a happy smile. “Right behind you,” she said.

A wave loomed over him, and inside the wave he could see a gigantic, goggle-eyed creature.

“ … oops … ” said Dorian Dragon, and then the wave crushed him.


The house behind Harris exploded. He hit the ground, waiting for the water that would crush him. Only a few drops rained on him, and when he looked up, he saw water arching over his head. All of it was moving in the same direction, pouring into one small spot — but it wasn’t just water. Something lunged with that water, straight for the man who had been a dragon. It seized Dorian and snapped him in half.

The water flowed away down the street in both directions, and with it, the goggle-eyed creature who had killed the dragon also diminished. It shrank into the form of a boy, who fell to his knees next to his mother.


“Perfect.” Serena put every bit of love and approval she could muster into her last smile. “You have arrived.”

Sammy touched her hand. The will that should have moved it was receding.

He held onto it anyway, until she was gone to Eversea.

The four men who had protected him and his mother came to stand next to him.

“Sammy?” Tsosie spoke quietly. “You and your mother had a plan you didn’t tell us about.”

“Yes,” said Sammy. “Because we didn’t know if it would work. My mother was strong, but the one who manifested through me is stronger. We had to try to — provoke him into coming through.”

“So now what?” said Harris. “Dorian’s cousin comes after you?”

“No. Dorian ate the strong dragons in his family. Only the weaker ones are left.” Sammy looked up from his mother. “That’s the problem with the Dragon family. They’re way too competitive.”


Sally watched the marshals getting out of their car. Both men fit the G-man stereotype, so similar in demeanor that it took closer inspection to see that one man was Navajo and the other was a Black man. The Black marshal opened a door, and a little boy got out of the car.

Something inside Sally’s spine uncoiled and took notice.

The marshals and the boy approached Sally. She couldn’t tell if the men were looking directly at her, since they were wearing dark glasses, but the boy stared openly. They walked all the way up to her front door before they spoke to her.

“I’m Marshal Tsosie. This is Marshal Harris. And this young man is your nephew, Sammy Sea Monster.”

Sally had not been in the presence of her family for many years. Serena had assured her that she had little of the family legacy — but she knew what lived inside Sammy.

“Our family’s greatest enemy is dead,” said the boy. “My mother sacrificed her life to accomplish that.”

“No more witness protection?” guessed Sally.

The boy cocked his head. “That depends on you.”

Sally didn’t need intuition to tell her what that meant. “If I won’t take care of you until you’re grown, the marshals will?”

“Yes,” said the boy, “but that’s okay with me. I’m not here so you can protect me. I’m here so I can protect you. Some of Dorian’s relatives are still alive, and they’re a notoriously vengeful bunch.”

In his eyes she saw an ancient sea. There was so much she still had to learn, and she couldn’t do it from a distance.

“I’m the one who wanted to know my family,” said Sally. “I may as well start now.” She opened the door wide, letting Sammy in, and all that came with him.

Featured image: Excellent backgrounds / Shutterstock

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