Luck of the Dragon: Hedging Bets© 2011 by Walter Reimer
Wei glanced at the man, a stocky canine in faded, stained denim trousers, a grubby plaid flannel shirt, flat cap and work boots. He vaguely recalled him. “Who the hell are you?” the Shar Pei grumbled. He shifted on the bar stool.
“Name’s Jackson,” the canine said. “You put me in jail six months ago.”
“Yeah.” The canine’s smile turned nasty. “I don’t see no badge on ya.”
“Leave ‘im alone,” the bartender growled.
“Sez you,” Jackson snarled back. “He ain’t got no gun and no badge to hide behind no more.” He clenched his right paw into a fist. “I aim to – “
Wei swung around, the empty beer bottle in his right paw making a solid connection with Jackson’s jaw. The canine fell to the floor and several of his friends got up from their table.
The Shar Pei sighed and brought his paws up.
Two came at him low, and one high as the fourth helped Jackson to his feet. The three who hit him managed to pin him against the bar as he started punching, landing a blow or two as they overwhelmed him.
The last thing he heard before losing consciousness was the sound of police whistles.
The voice was someone he vaguely recognized.
The bucket of water that hit him refreshed his memory.
“K’ooka!” Wei spluttered as he rolled off the bed and onto the concrete floor. “What the hell?”
What the hell?
The floor of his apartment was wood, with a few throw rugs.
Concrete . . . he sniffed, sneezed water from his nostrils, and sniffed again.
“I’m in jail?”
“Yeah, Wei, you’re in jail,” the otter assured him. He sat the fire bucket on the floor with a thud. It was still half full. “Here’s a towel,” and the article was tossed onto his bunk. “Never thought I’d ever see you on the inside looking out.”
“You and me both,” and Wei sat up on the floor and started gently feeling his muzzle and face, wincing at bruises. He probably had at least two really beautiful shiners developing around both eyes. Fortunately, though, he couldn’t feel any broken bones or missing teeth. “Where’s – “
“Two are in the hospital,” K’ooka laughed, “and the other two are still sleeping it off two cells down. You know, you play rough.”
“You were never in the Guides.” A true statement; non-Spontoonies were not allowed to join.
“No, but that doesn’t mean I had to go blind around people who were,” and the Chinese fur reached up – painfully – and applied the towel to his face and headfur. “I guess you woke me up to tell me I got court.”
“In a couple hours, after breakfast. I gotta wake up the rest of them. You’re lucky it’s a Saturday; Brush would’ve just dumped you into the toilet to wake you up.” The otter offered a tin tray and a mug of weak coffee. “Ain’t much, but it’ll get you standing.”
“Thanks, K’ooka.” Wei grabbed the bars and hauled himself to his feet, and the two furs shook paws. “You’re a good friend, always was.”
The lutrine grinned as he shrugged. “You’re good people, Wei. Everyone makes mistakes. Gotta go and wake up the rest of the guests. Hey! Hey, you two! Rise an’ shine!”
Wei sat on the bed and started to eat as K’ooka picked up another fire bucket.
He didn’t really have the appetite for the tepid breadfruit mash and salted dried fish, but he forced himself to eat anyway. No telling when he’d eat again, and since K’ooka had given it to him he didn’t want to waste it. Two cells down he could hear the other two guys groaning and complaining as they ate.
“Hey, Chink!” one of them called out. The hail was repeated when Wei failed to reply immediately.
“Have a drink!” and a cupful of urine flew down the corridor toward his cell. Wei dodged and the liquid splashed against the floor. None of it got on the bed, fortunately.
The fluid was followed by a series of epithets referring to Wei’s parents, heritage, habits and ethnicity. None of the terms were terribly original and the Shar Pei largely ignored them. One was repeated, and he called out, “If you cared that much about what your mother did at night, why are you in here? You should be at home.”
The howl of rage that ensued made him smile.
“Besides,” he shouted, “we don’t get visitors till tomorrow.”
Silence greeted this information.
Wei was the last one to be moved from the small cellblock to the courtroom. The two furs who had attacked him had to walk past his cell. K’ooka was shepherding them, and the constable did his best, but one of them managed to spit at Wei as they walked past.
He missed, his aim possibly affected by the fact that his right eye was completely swollen shut.
Wei didn’t hold it against the constable. He had been faced with similar problems when he still wore a badge. Reminding himself of that made him sigh and his tail drooped.
After a while K’ooka came for him. “They paid their fines and headed out,” the otter said. “You might not see ‘em again.”
“Good. Who’s the judge today?” Wei asked.
“Dear gods.” He stepped out of the cell and K’ooka closed the door, then fell into step behind him. The canine wasn’t looking forward to this at all.
Magistrate Spaniel gave a flick of his long, pendant ears as Wei was shown into the dock. “The Althing vs. Hai Wei,” the bailiff said.
The canine judge took his time and read through the affidavits before glaring at Wei. “So, Mister Hai, you are in my court but not in your usual place.”
The Shar Pei swallowed, but kept silent.
“Drunk and disorderly . . . the Court has evidence that you started this fracas, Mister Hai.”
“I didn’t, sir.”
Spaniel sniffed and made a show of looking around the nearly-deserted courtroom. “As the Court sees no one present to offer any testimony in your defense to this charge, Mister Hai, the Court will look upon your assertion of innocence with – shall we say skepticism?” The glare was back. “The Court also takes notice of the circumstances that led to your dismissal from the Constabulary. I have no idea what happened to let you avoid jail time, former Sergeant Hai, but had you been before me you certainly would not have been let off so lightly.”
Wei swallowed hard, but kept his mouth shut. He’d seen Spaniel in action enough times to know that anything he said at this point would likely make things worse.
Spaniel shuffled papers. “In light of the lack of any defense by the defendant, this Court sentences you to seven days in jail, with the option of paying a fine of fifty pounds.”
Wei gulped. “I cannot pay, Your Honor.”
“Then you’ll get out in time for Christmas.” The gavel clacked against the Bench. “Bailiff, escort the prisoner to the jail.”
“Bad luck,” K’ooka commiserated as he locked the cell door behind Wei. “But it’s only for a week – and we’ll try to keep Brush off your back.”
“Thanks.” Wei figured that the fox would quickly lose interest in goading him if he saw that his jibes weren’t having any effect.
K’ooka opened the cell door, Wei’s home for the next seven days. “You need anything?”
The Shar Pei paused at the threshold. “Got anything to read?”
“Today’s Elele. When I’m on duty I’ll make sure you get it after I read it, okay?”