Luck of the Dragon
by Walter Reimer
©2003 Walter Reimer
The next morning Leon sat at his desk, flanked by an accountant and a bodyguard as he watched Peng-wum, similarly escorted, step into the office. The wolf smiled and gestured toward the silver coffee service on a nearby table. His paws were, as always, impeccably manicured; somehow he always seemed to be well groomed despite the legend that he hardly ever left his desk. “Good morning, gentlemen,” he said affably. “Please, have some coffee and relax before we conduct our business.”
Peng-wum smiled and bowed slightly, the slightly built fennec and the wiry-muscled ferret flanking him standing stolidly behind him. “Thank you, Mr. Allworthy,” he said, “but business presses, as I’m certain you understand.”
Fat Leon’s ears laid back. There was a certain etiquette to business, in his mind, and speed was never part of it. A slow nod, and Allworthy gestured to a chair. “Now,” he rumbled as the red panda took a seat opposite him, “I believe that we agreed on two thousand now, and three thousand within one week. Correct?”
Peng-wum nodded, and raised his right paw. The fennec slipped his paw into a jacket pocket, and smiled as the two wolves flanking Leon tensed. The fox removed a fat envelope from his jacket and pressed it into Peng-wum’s waiting grasp. The panda opened the envelope and removed a sheaf of large banknotes. As the accountants watched the desk and the bodyguards watched each other, Peng-wum and Leon watched as twenty one-hundred-pound notes were counted out. When he was finished, he pocketed the empty envelope and smiled. “Shall we have coffee now, Mr. Allworthy?” he asked.
Leon grinned, a finger toying with the corners of the stacked notes. “Of course. Willard?” One of the wolves nodded and began pouring coffee as everyone visibly relaxed. The pile of money vanished into the other wolf’s paws, and he and the fennec retreated to a far corner of the office to arrange the receipt. Peng-wum accepted a steaming cup, smiled as milk and sugar were added to it, and for a few minutes there were few sounds save the clink of spoons in cups. Leon sipped his, then sighed in pleasure at the taste of the good Brazilian coffee. “A fine day’s business, my young friend,” he commented. “I am certain that young Nailani will be pleased when you tell her.”
“I trust she will be, sir,” Peng-wum said as he blew gently on his coffee, the breath causing small ripples on the milky surface. He had, in fact, cleaned out his private account with the family’s bank, but he’d never admit it to an outsider. “It is most gratifying to do business with someone of such taste and refinement.”
The obese wolf laughed. “Ah, my young friend, were we in England, and twenty years in the past – but let us not dwell on the past, shall we?” His eyes twinkled. “Shall you tell Nailani now, or when we have concluded the sale of her contract?”
“I believe I shall tell her later. After all, I would hate to dash her hopes if I am unable to meet my side of the bargain within the week, as promised,” Peng-wum replied. He glanced at the Bulova watch on his wrist and said, “And now I am afraid that I and my associates must be going. Business calls.”
“Of course, of course,” Leon said with a nonchalant wave of his paw. The wolf watched as the panda and his escorts left, and his expression hardened the instant the door closed. “Archie.”
“Yes, sir?” his accountant replied.
“Notify our recruiters. For the money that young whelp’s
paying I can afford to hire another ten girls to replace Nailani.
New blood’s always beneficial, hmm?” he asked with a slight leer, a mere
lifting of a lip to bare his teeth.
Peng-wum dismissed the ferret at the entrance to the Ni & Sons building, and he and the fennec went to his office. “Good job back there, Ahmad,” Peng-wum said as he took off his suit jacket and hung it up. “Place the receipt on my desk, and take this,” and he held out a folded note, “to the wireless office.”
“Oui, sir,” the Algerian said as he took the note. He paused, huge ears twitching. “Your father,” he remarked with a wink, and left by a side door as Ni Hei stepped in. “Peng-wum, good morning,” his father said. “How are things today?”
“Fine, Father. I was just sitting down to look the night’s receipts over before Ahmad got back with the news. Is anything wrong, Father?”
“No,” the older panda said, looking extremely pleased with himself, and Peng-wum’s ears perked slightly. Father must have come to some decision about Shin and Fang, he thought. No telling what that decision might be, but he was sure his father would tell the family in due time.
They went over the receipts and the ledgers together, occasionally arguing good-naturedly about a few dollars here and there. While Krupmark’s various interests and business concerns handled any type of currency, dollars were still good despite the slump America’s economy was currently still mired in. A knock, and Ahmad entered, holding several telegrams in his paws. “Ah, the news,” Peng-wum said, closing the private ‘Family’ ledger. “Read them please, Ahmad.”
The fennec cleared his throat and said, “One of our observers on Casino Island reports that Ni Hao has been seen over the past few days with a young woman, a canine.”
He glanced at Ni Hei, who remarked, “I should cable him and ask him to return. He and I are overdue for a talk. Go on, Ahmad.”
“Yes, sir. Confirmation from our bank in Singapore that the drafts cleared for our transaction with Wu Tang,” and Ahmad handed the telegram over. “Finally, the latest wires from the Amalgamated Press offices in Hong Kong,” and he placed a small stack of paper on the desk. The Nis were avid about the news, basing some of their investments on developing trends. They had made quite a bit of money investing in foreign machinery concerns, such as Messerschmidt and Mitsubishi. Peng-wum thanked the fennec, and the big-eared fox left the office.
Hei glanced at some of the news, and frowned. “What is it, Father?” Peng-wum asked.
“It seems that the government in the Philippines has decided to close several banks for unethical practices,” he said quietly, reading between the lines of the terse wire report as much as he could. “Hmm … you may have been right with your reservations about this project, my son,” Hei said absently, lost in thought.
“I had hoped I would not be. Father?” he asked suddenly.
“I need to talk to some people, business associates of ours. I wish to take Frank and Ahmad with me. I will be gone perhaps three days, maybe four.”
Hei thought it over, then asked, “Why?”
Peng-wum smiled. “I wish to take steps now as a precaution to cover our position should anything happen. Consider it a form of insurance, Father.”
The elder Ni smiled and patted his son on the shoulder. He liked Peng-wum for always thinking of the family business first and foremost. “Take care of yourself, my son. Go immediately.”
* * * * * * * * *
Anna scented smoke, and opened her eyes to see Hao seated beside her on the bed, a lit cigarette held between his fingers. He smiled at her, and his free paw stroked her headfur. “Good morning, Pilar,” he said quietly, and leaned over to kiss her.
She returned the kiss, a brief and rebellious thought urging her to tell him her real name, and reveal everything. She squelched the thought firmly, but a lingering doubt remained.
Hao offered her his cigarette, and stretched as she took a drag on it and handed it back. His back popped softly several times as he stretched, and he yawned, then smiled as she chuckled and handed the cigarette back to him. Pilar rolled over on her back and asked, “Do we have to go anywhere today?”
He laughed and stubbed the cigarette out in the ashtray beside the bed. “No, we don’t,” he replied. “We can always call up for room service, but what would the staff think?” He placed a paw on his chest and stared theatrically. “Good heavens, what a scandal.”
She laughed, and they kissed again. The thought resurfaced, but she put it down again. A bit reluctantly, this time.
A nondescript brown-furred canine seated at a small drink kiosk sipped at his glass of fruit juice and only occasionally glanced up at the second floor of the hotel.
* * * * * * * * *
At the Lucky Dragon, Shin stepped out of an upper-story room wrapped in a towel, followed by a cloud of steam. Her parents had looked at her oddly when she had asked to keep rooms at the casino, but they had acquiesced. After all, Shin had practically grown up at the Lucky Dragon, first as a cashier and coat check girl, then as an assistant to her mother. Sometimes she even worked as a dealer, until she got too practiced at fleecing people of their money. Two feline hostesses stepped out behind her and whispered among themselves, giggling at times, as she lay down on a massage table. The two hostesses started giving her a rubdown as she sighed, “Oh yes … that feels great …”
One of the felines looked up as Fang eased into the room, then giggled and winked as he held a finger to his lips. She moved aside as his much larger paws started to rub his lover’s back. Shin reacted at first with a shudder as her tail fluffed, then laughed as he tickled her. “Fang! Stop that!” she protested. “I just got all relaxed, and now you had to ruin it.”
“Really?” the tiger asked, smoothing his paws down her back. “Do you really want me to stop?”
Shin squirmed, finally laying still and going limp as her lover rubbed her back. “No,” she replied softly. Fang turned to the two hostesses and asked, “Could you please have some breakfast sent up for us?”
One of the felines asked in an insinuating tone, “Will that be breakfast for one, sir?”
Wo Fang laughed. “What, you think I’m going to eat her?”
The other hostess rolled her eyes as she remarked, “Well, sir, there have been rumors …” She and the other feline burst out laughing and left the room as Fang gave a mocking growl.