Luck of the Dragon: Hedging Bets© 2011 by Walter Reimer
(Songmark and characters courtesy of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
(Sergeant Brush courtesy of E.O. Costello. Thanks!)
As soon as she was in her office Miss Windlesham laid the rod on her desk. The sound of iron striking wood was quite loud, and reminded Shin of a judge’s gavel. “Tell me,” her tone crisp, “what this is, how you got it, and how it comes to be here.”
Shin replied, “It’s an iron rod, Ma’am. My husband gave it to me Sunday as an early Christmas present. I came through the gate with it.”
“I had it in my sling.”
“You weren’t searched?”
The feline quirked one eyebrow. She picked up the rod, hefted it, and gave it back to the red panda. “You are injured, so this is an effective equalizer. Do you know how to use it? From Cathy’s expression, you hit her rather hard.”
“I tried to be . . . judicious,” Shin said after finding the right word in English. She smiled when she saw Miss Windlesham’s reaction.
“You certainly were that. You could have broken her leg.” The older feline thought for a moment, then pulled a sheet of paper from her desk and scrawled a note. “Take this to the Naval Syndicate base on Moon Island today, after lunch. It authorizes you to receive some training on the use of this baton so you won’t accidentally kill anyone. I strongly suggest that the training continue throughout the holidays. I take it that you have this in lieu of a firearm or knife?”
“Of course, Ma’am.”
“Remove your sling. I want to see how your arm is doing.” Shin obeyed, and the red panda demonstrated a series of motions with the injured limb. She then blocked Miss Windlesham as the Tutor made several attacking moves at her. Finally the feline gestured for Shin to put the sling back on. “Your arm’s weakened, but that’s expected. You need to exercise, practice – and get rid of the sling. You don’t need it any longer.”
“Red Dorm has gate duty tonight?”
“Yes, Ma’am. Every night this week until end of term.”
“Then off you go – and be very careful with that until you’re properly trained.” She nodded as Shin left the office, and jotted another note, reminding her to bring up a number of topics at the next Tutor’s conference.
“And she didn’t confiscate it?” Liberty asked later. She was clearly disbelieving.
Shin shook her head, and after swallowing her bite of lunch said, “She knows I’m a bit hampered on this side. But,” and she giggled, “I think the ones who didn’t search me are going to be in for it.”
The half-coyote smirked. “Can’t have lax security.”
“It can cause . . . difficulties,” Tatiana added, the sable showing her teeth as she grinned.
“I’d na be bankin’ on it happenin’ again,” Brigit remarked.
“I’m not,” Shin assured them. “What time’s gate duty tonight?”
The New Havenite made a face. “We have the ten to two shift.”
The Chinese girl mimicked the expression. “Lovely. You do realize something, of course.”
“They’ll try us.”
“When don’t they?”
It was raining again in Los Angeles, but few people really complained about it. The summer had been a hot one, but now temperatures were mild and the rain made the Christmas lights gleam more brightly. People needed to see at least some semblance of holiday cheer.
Especially now, several months into the deepest recession since the worst days of the Depression only five years earlier.
Raindrops spattered against the mansion’s window panes as the otter sipped at his Scotch and soda. His host was a bear, muzzle and fur around his ears gone silver-gray, who slouched in a very comfortable leather armchair and sipped at his own drink. The room was large and well-appointed with paintings and hunting trophies decorating the white stucco walls.
“I want to thank you for seeing me,” Emmanuel Carpanini said to the ursine.
“Your father was a good man,” the bear harrumphed. “Why shouldn’t I see his son?” He smiled almost wistfully. “My son’d be about your age if he hadn’t died.”
There was little to say to that. Manny had known the man’s son. “He was a good man,” the otter said simply. He studied the light winking off the cut-glass tumbler he held in his paws before saying, “I wonder if you’ve read the news lately.”
Manny met the bear’s gaze. “That guy in Washington.”
Mention of President Long drew a frown. “What now?”
“One of the papers back East said that he’s not satisfied with the Reds Act.”
The bear harrumphed. “No one’s satisfied with that law. We’re in a bad way. The markets are down again.”
“According to the article, Long’s thinking that the rich are hiding their fortunes rather than pouring their ‘excess’ money into the Treasury like good citizens.”
That drew a sour chuckle. “First time that fool’s shown any sense in years. So, what’s he going to do about it?”
Manny took a sip of his drink, enjoying the taste and slow burn of the very good Scotch. “The A.W.L.”
The bear glared, and started coughing. The Anti-Wealth League had surfaced as an idea shortly before the passage of the Revenue Reapportionment Act, in a speech by one of Long’s supporters. The League’s various chapters were supposed to watch for any sign of hoarding by the rich, so that the government could better enforce the Act.
“That was a damned stupid idea.”
“Nevertheless, the paper said that Long’s actually considering it.” The otter took another swallow of his drink and refilled the glass from a nearby decanter. He waved it toward his host, then poured more for him. “We can’t go on like this, as you know. The country’s being driven into the poorhouse. Moosevelt had to have been senile to make Long Vice-President.”
“Yes, business is bad. We can hope that the next man’ll be better. Someone who’s good for business.”
“We may not last that long.”
There was a short silence, broken by the ticking of the grandfather clock in the room. Finally the bear asked, “What are you thinking?”
“It might be possible to hurry things along,” Manny said, “if enough business-minded people act.”
There was another silence as the bear thought things over. His gaze rested on a model of an oil derrick on a nearby bureau. After a long pause he said, “No, I can’t. Tried that more’n ten years ago, and one of my best friends went to prison for it. No, Manny. Can’t help you.”
“Well, I’m sorry – “
“At least, not directly.” The bear winked at the otter, and the two shared a chuckle.
“It’s an interesting idea, Hao.”
“Well, I thought it might work, Father.”
“It’ll be done. You know more about this than I, Hao, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. You know we still have them in the warehouse, you know.”
“They haven’t been sold?”
“I considered them a possible investment.”
It wasn’t police work. It was a lot harder on the body, if not on the brain, which suited Wei just fine.
The fishing boat had been careened, then laboriously hoisted farther up onto drier ground until it was above the high-tide line. Once it had been secured, it was chocked in an upright position so that its hull could be scraped.
Removing barnacles and the other creatures that take up residence on a boat’s hull is dirty, smelly and backbreaking labor, but it must be done. Marine growths can slow a boat down, which costs time and money in more fuel, and eventually the small animals may gnaw their way into the wood, costing even more money to repair the craft.
Wei wielded a scraper, basically a straight-edged metal blade attached to a wooden pole, to remove the barnacles. The creatures were stuck fast to the metal hull and smelled bad enough to make him gag. Fragments of their shells and their slimy remains made the going slick underfoot.
Fortunately, the other members of the boat’s crew, six furs in all, were similarly engaged in scraping the hull clean, so the work was progressing.
The Shar Pei paused in his work and lit a cigarette. The smell of the smoke masked, to a certain extent, the stink. A thin, chill drizzle was making the work rather miserable. He dropped the match, and it sizzled out in the mess at his feet.
“Heh,” and he stiffened at the sound of Brush’s voice. “They gotcher cleanin’ th’ bilges? Or yez bein’ th’ cabin boy?”
Wei turned to face the fox. The rest of the crew kept silent, watching what the canine ex-cop might do.
Wei gazed at Brush for a long moment, then at the edge of his scraper. “You know,” he said carefully, “what the difference is between you and this muck I’m standing in, Karok?”
The burly fox said nothing.
“It smells better than you,” and the Chinese canine went back to his task as the other crewmembers chuckled to each other.