Luck of the Dragon: House Rules© 2007 by Walter Reimer
(Songmark and characters courtesy of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
(Sergeant Brush and related characters courtesy of E.O. Costello
and M. Mitchell Marmel. Thanks!)
Later that day, Kara was at Luchow’s enjoying a light salad for dinner. She had a date that night and wasn’t interested in getting too filled up. Some of the vixen’s dates had wandering paws.
It helped to be agile at times.
She glanced up as a shadow fell across her plate. “Oh, hello Orrin,” she said as her fork speared a small section of mandarin orange. “Care to join me?” She saw the expression on his face and asked, “What’s wrong?”
Brush was visibly angry as he sat down facing his sister. “I found – “ he paused, looking around at the other diners and switching to Spontoonie as he lowered his voice. “Truth-tell, Kara-sister; thou-self see creature with ring-tail bushy outlander?” he hissed.
“Affirmative is.” She raised a brow.
Her younger brother’s jaw almost fell open in surprise, but he recovered quickly. "Query-emphasis? Ears-self trouble having!"
"Emphasis calm-thou, Karok-brother,” she said placidly. “Creature with ring-tail bushy outlander hire-self, additionally assist creature with ring-tail bushy outlander work-permission obtaining - "
"Creature with ring-tail bushy outlander emphasis law-breaker is!"
She smirked. "Knowledge self-same, additionally value-paper-symbolic emphasis good, existence money-hive <Bank of Spontoon> being."
"Emphasis knowledge-thou outlander lawbreaker is?"
A nod. "Emphasis calm-thou, Karok-brother. Mate-precious thine negative desire soul-engine injury. Offspring-kin creature with ring-tail bushy outlander fix sun-hour meeting, self-same speak unto friend-self."
His eyes narrowed as he asked, "Query identity friend-thine. Query friend-thine rude diminutive toy-copulation-thine?"
His estimation of her date caused her tailfur to bristle slightly, even though she had to admit it was true. "Affirmative is. Amused-self is, additionally Jarok-son-Davik friend-good, fact-same fox-male same think-self Pantheon-gift-unto-vixens . . . "
"Emphasis accept-thou has value unclean, value blood has . . . Mother-ours knowledge acquire future, same angry future."
Her eyes widened and she wagged a finger at him. "Myself business having creature outlanders these, additionally value accept. Query situation future making thou."
"Emphasis negative same is. Negative lawbreaker is."
"Emphasis situation-present against Wise One teachings is. Negative worry-thou myself, Karok-brother."
"Kara-sister - "
"Emphasis negative use-thou speech-rude myself, Karok-brother-diminutive-emphasis. Myself able is, give future Karok-brother knowledge useful."
Brush’s ears flicked. "Query knowledge-useful. Query knowledge-useful offspring oath-shatter-thine, profession law speaker?"
"Query knowest-thou term-law Euro <confidential informant>?"
With a final growl of disgust, Brush shoved away from the table, stood and stalked off, leaving Kara to finish her meal.
She smiled as she ate the last of her salad. While it was sweet of her younger brother to fret about her, he had other things to do, and she was confident that the Nis wouldn’t do anything so stupid as to retaliate against a lawyer – at least not while they needed her assistance.
And she was certain that they knew who she was related to, and what kind of retribution they could expect.
Brush sent a silent prayer to as many gods as he could name, fervently asking them to grant him patience before Inspector Stagg’s cane got smashed to toothpicks. He was already having a bad day, and now this.
At his announcement that none other than the head of the Ni Family and both of his sons were not only on Spontoon, but opening up a business, the fox was further angered to see a spasm of pain flicker across Inspector Stagg’s normally placid features. Obviously, the whitetail buck harbored at least some anger or resentment – after all, he very nearly died back in January.
Stagg, however, quickly recovered his usual quiet demeanor except for the moody stare at his hooves and his cane tapping against the floor. Finally the tapping stopped and he looked up at his sergeant. “My apologies, Sergeant,” he said. “I know how much my nervous habits set your teeth on edge.”
“It’s no problem, sir.” He hadn’t started grinding his teeth yet.
“I was just thinking, and your information gives me quite a bit to think about. I suppose that the biggest question is why are the Nis setting up an office here, when they know they’ll be watched? If not by us, at the very least by the Finance Ministry’s auditors.”
“I dunno, sir, but they’re a shifty bunch. I was tempted t’bring ‘em in on gen’ral principles ... “
“Without charges? We couldn’t keep them very long, Sergeant, and if our experience with Ni Hao and the Attorney-General’s interview with Mrs. Wo are any indication, questioning either of them would be a waste of time.” The buck’s fingers curled around the silver head of his cane as he grimaced. “However, at some point I would very much like to have a chat with Mr. Ni.”
Stagg favored Brush with a wintry smile. “Just a chat, Sergeant. I think it would be worthwhile to at least meet the man who tried to kill me.”
After Brush left the office to go home, Franklin Stagg sat thinking for a while longer. Discounting all the racist claptrap about ‘The Yellow Peril,’ the Nis had shown themselves to be clever and resourceful, as well as ruthless. He had been surprised and concerned when Rosie told him about her encounter with Wo Shin, and he had felt the need to warn her that claws are a poor defense against bullets.
He stood up, thinking that the bed at Luchow’s tonight was far preferable to his own room in Printer’s Lane.
“So, any idea who we get next?” Liberty asked, her tail whisking back and forth in quite an uncharacteristic display of happiness. The others giggled.
Despite the amount of work they had to do, Red Dorm had managed to pull off practical jokes (humiliating, but not harmful) on two of the members of Crusader Dorm, starting with Brigit’s coating Svetlana with crankcase oil and Tatiana convincing Maureen to go to the Double Lotus. The shell-shocked look on the Ulster bulldog’s face was more than satisfying for Brigit.
Shin thought for a moment before replying, “Isabella. She’s all yours, Liberty. That Rote’s mine.” The red panda’s eyes gleamed a bit unhealthily as she contemplated what she might do to the squirrel.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs and the four girls immediately started talking about their classes, Liberty and Tatiana asking each other questions that they thought might be seen on upcoming tests. All four looked up and scrambled to their feet as Miss Devinski appeared in the doorway.
“Good,” the canine said briskly, “you’re all here. That will make this easier. Shin?”
The Labrador stepped to face the red panda. “Your father was here earlier today,” and as the younger woman’s eyes went wide added, “he wants to see you this weekend.”
Shin’s mouth fell open slightly and she blinked for a moment before standing straighter. “Yes, ma’am.”
“However,” and the word fell like a hammer, “he stressed that you must have a pass – a legitimate pass.” Devinski smiled as Shin’s tail drooped. “And should you get any ideas, Shin, if you leave here without a pass don’t bother coming back.” The canine leaned a bit closer, her smile widening. “Your father wanted you to know that he agrees with that.” She started to leave, then paused to look at the others. “And if Shin does leave, and any of you helped her, you may as well go with her.”
Her footsteps receded and Shin sat down on her bed, shaking her head in bewilderment as the others gathered around her. “What’s your father doing here?” Liberty asked.
“I don’t know,” Shin admitted. “I’d expect him to go visit my brother and his wife on Main – but why would he come here? It must be important.” Her fists clenched in frustration as she suddenly growled, “And here I am, unable to find out until the weekend – and only if I have a pass.” One fist thumped against the bed.
“Well, what could th’ problem be?” Brigit asked. “Knowin’ yer family, Shin – “
“Family’s family, Brigit,” and the red panda glared at her momentarily. Her features softened although she still looked frustrated. “Any one of you’d do anything for your families – well, maybe not you, Liberty, but you’d do anything for your cadre, right?”
The half-coyote nodded. “And my family.” The New Haven girl thought for a moment. “If a pass is what it takes, then you need to earn a pass for the weekend, Shin.”
“And we know the Tutors will make it difficult,” Tatiana chimed in.
“Or impossible,” Brigit said.
Shin nodded, her jaw set in determination. She stood up. “I’m going to wait before doing anything to that squirrel,” she declared. “I have to earn that pass. Liberty – “
The New Havenite held up a paw. “I can wait before going after that little prong-nosed tramp. It’ll make what I have in mind a lot sweeter.”
“Thanks,” Shin said, reaching for her textbook.
A small table at Luchow’s, set beneath a screen that blocked the heat of the day while admitting a cooling breeze off the lagoon, was always reserved for Inspector Stagg. He sipped at his water, slightly lost in thought.
“Franklin, your stuffed mushrooms are getting cold,” Rosie Baumgartner admonished gently. “And they’re a bother to reheat.”
“Sorry, Rosie,” the buck replied. “They really are quite good,” and he smiled as the feline blushed at the compliment.
While he ate, he glanced around at the small dinner crowd. Business would pick up starting in June as the tourist boats arrived, and right now he welcomed the relative peace and quiet.
Rosie finished her roast chicken and was about to say something when her ears perked. “The gate’s opening,” she remarked as Stagg’s own ears swiveled to catch the sound. “Another customer – what’s wrong, Franneleh?”
The whitetail buck was staring fixedly past her shoulder, his jaw tensed and his paw gripping the fork tightly. She twisted in her seat to see what Stagg was looking at.
The man walking toward them was a red panda, nearing middle age, wearing a light gray suit and trailed by two younger furs who could only be his sons.
Rosie’s claws popped out of their sheathes as she saw that the older man’s appearance bore a strong resemblance to the young woman she had confronted weeks earlier.
Rosie put on a decidedly unwelcoming smile as she stood. "May I help you, sir?" It was rather obvious she was spelling the last word 'c-u-r.’
The older son stepped back as the younger raised his paws to chest height, fingers slightly cupped. Oy, Rosie thought grimly. Some fancy-shmancy Oriental boxer stuff. This, I don't need.
Stagg stood up. "Rosie, please...leave this to me." The buck placed a paw on Rosie's shoulder, moved her aside and coolly regarded the older red panda, his jaw tightening imperceptibly. "...Mister...Ni Hei, I believe?"
“Yes, Inspector,” the fur said in barely-accented English, and suddenly fell to his knees and bent forward, touching his forehead to the patio floor.