Luck of the Dragon: Dealing a Cold Deck© 2009 by Walter Reimer
(Songmark and characters courtesy of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
A couple of the others lining the rail snickered.
Hao cocked an eyebrow at the furs above him and toyed with the idea of reaching for his pistol, then discarded the idea. He was outgunned and had nothing to shield himself. He turned back to Waimea. “Knew I shouldn’t have trusted them.” He shook his head and shrugged theatrically. “Can’t get good help these days.”
“Seem so,” the sow said. She squinted up at the freighter. “Now what?”
“It’s your boat, and my money,” he said agreeably, and pulled a bosun’s whistle from his pocket. “Shall we?”
“Okay.” He blew an ear-splitting blast on the whistle and dove over the side as the crew on the Kisama Maru started shooting at him.
Naturally, this provoked a response from the crew of the motorboat, and a spirited firefight started as Loose Mary screeched and hurled insults in Tahitian, pulling her own guns from under her cleavage and joining in the shooting.
Hao surfaced, eyes stinging from the salt water, near the freighter’s stern and watched the boat pulling away from the freighter, furs aboard it shooting all the while as they started to withdraw. He put the whistle to his lips again as bullets started to splash around him, blew another shrill note, and dove to avoid getting shot.
The water was cold, and he felt that chill seeping into his fur to his skin, making his fingers go numb, and he knew that he had to get away and get dry.
Before he froze to death.
He came up for air again on the other side of the ship’s stern and he coughed as the sound of twenty-millimeter cannon fire and the chatter of a Lewis gun joined the increasingly sporadic small-arms fire from the former Japanese freighter. His old crew aboard the trawler had been waiting for the whistle, aware that the furs aboard the larger ship were all hirelings from Fort Bob – and not the best that could be bought, either.
The two Malays and a few others had obviously had their own ideas about what to do with a pirated freighter and its purchase price as a grubstake.
Too bad for them.
He felt a vibration in the water.
“Damn . . . “
He started swimming for the trawler as fast and as hard as he could, his tail dragging at his forward progress as the freighter’s single screw started to turn.
Bullets started flicking at the sea around him as he came up for air again, and he felt at least one graze his fur as he swam. He surfaced and felt strong paws grab him. “We’ve got you, Hao!” Jack said, and the young man was dragged aboard as the trawler turned to starboard, its guns continuing to fire on the receding freighter.
A canteen of fresh water was poured over his face to flush the salt from his eyes and Hao spluttered, got to his feet and watched as the ship moved away. It was bigger and faster than his trawler, and pursuing it would be futile.
He turned and looked at Jack.
The civet shrugged. “Damn it.”
“So,” Ni Hei said a day later.
His youngest son shrugged. “So they got away, ship, money and all. I thought we were paying them enough.”
“So did I,” his father said with a wry grin. “Didn’t you have one of your own with you on the ship?”
“Yes. I figure he either got killed or decided to throw in with them.” His tone implied that if the man weren’t dead, he would be eventually.
“Are you all right, Hao?”
“Still a bit cold, Father. I’ll head over to the Casino and get a hot bath. You know what irritates me most about this?”
The young red panda growled, “I lost my cap.”
“Ugh,” Shin rumbled as she stepped out of the shower the next morning. Attacking her headfur with a towel she amplified, “If anything, I think that stuffing smells worse.”
“Look on bright side,” Tatiana offered. “You either get used to it or your own scent will change to match it.” She grinned at the red panda as Shin growled.
“So says Saint Lysenko, huh?” Shin said, rubbing the last of the water from her legs before grabbing her furbrush. Liberty and Brigit, already dressed, joined the Russian sable in laughing at their Chinese dorm-mate. When they were all presentable, they headed downstairs to breakfast.
Shin added milk to her hot breadfruit mash before attacking it, the others following suit. The third year’s table was a short distance from the second years, and the red panda shrugged as she noticed the members of Crusader Dorm looking in her direction. “Hmm,” she said softly, “we’re being watched.”
“And when aren’t we?” Liberty asked, keeping her voice down as well.
The red panda nodded, and smiled just in time as Nancy Rote turned in her seat to look at her. In response to the squirrel’s narrowed, suspicious gaze, Shin winked and smiled wider as Rote’s ears went straight back and she returned to her breakfast.
The breadfruit tasted better.
After a long morning of flying relays in the Junkers with the other dorms, Red Dorm was having a brief lunch. Liberty had found a newspaper lying on a table in one of the hangars, and was glancing through it as she ate.
The others looked up in surprise as the half-coyote started to snicker.
“What is that, Liberty?” Tatiana asked.
“Must be fun,” Shin said. “What happened?”
“Here,” the New Havenite said, passing them the paper and indicating one article with a fingertip.
The article reported that the Archbishop of Boston had retired, following a consultation with his superiors at the Vatican. No other reason had been given. The others looked from the newspaper to Liberty, who was still snickering.
“Come on,” Shin urged. “Out with it, Liberty.”
The canine got herself under control and said, “I was working over the summer – unlike some I can name,” and she cocked an eye at Shin, “and I heard a few bourgeois tourists talking. I got close enough to listen, and even asked a few questions. My accent’s pretty close to theirs, so they didn’t suspect anything.”
“And what’d ye learn?” Brigit asked.
“Their Archbishop has two nephews who are priests – “
The Irish setter snorted. “That’s no’ so bad.”
“And they’re both married.” That made the Irish girl’s ears stand up as Liberty added, “And they’ve been skimming funds from the Church to support their families – and their uncle’s been covering it up.”
“Ooh,” Brigit said, “that’ll surely cause a ruckus in Rome.” All four of them giggled at the thought.
“So,” Shin said, “you happened to hear this, got talking with a pair of tourists, then you told New Haven?”
“And they obviously leaked it to the papers up in Boston.”
“Exactly, and while it won’t get rid of the parasites there, it’s damaged their reputation.”
“And New Haven will not be suspected,” Tatiana said. She grinned at the Trotskyite. “Great job, Liberty.”
She blinked at the Starlingist sable for a moment before returning the smile. “Thanks, Tatiana.”
The sable caught her expression and said, “New Haven is a small country, oppressed on three sides by a large capitalist power. While the Red Fist could surely have used bombs, such an act would have drawn unwanted attention.” She regarded her empty plate and nodded. “This was subtle and effective.”
“And if someone like Tatiana says that,” Shin said with a sidelong, teasing look, “take it as a compliment, Lib.” She said to Brigit, “Why aren’t you mad at her?”
The Irish girl grinned. “I’m a good Catholic, so,” she said, “but there’s some who don’t warrant Holy Office, an’ that’s a fact.”
They all laughed.
How’s business? I hope things are going well with you, and I can’t wait for you to come out to Hong Kong.
Father’s started teaching me more about his business, and I find that it’s really very interesting. Not as much fun as your line, but it has the same aims.
Business has had its ups and downs, I guess. I miss you too, so I think I’ll ask father if I can go to Hong Kong for a few days.