Luck of the Dragon: Hedging Bets© 2012 by Walter Reimer
(Songmark and characters courtesy of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
(Inspector Stagg and Sergeant Brush courtesy of E.O. Costello. Thanks!)
“It looks as if you have had a profitable night, Sergeant,” Inspector Stagg said later that morning as he limped into his office at the Constabulary. His vulpine sergeant was busily scribbling notes on a pad, while a small pile of neatly tagged paraphernalia sat on the floor by his feet.
“Yes, Sir,” Sergeant Brush said. “Some good huntin,’ that’s fer sure. Illegal firearms, catnip – oil an’ leaf – an’ even dirty pictures,” and he pointed with his pencil at two squat reels of movie film.
“Films? Interesting. The usual output from various firms in Tijuana, I gather.”
“Not accordin’ ta th’ labels, Sir. Sez here they’re made by some outfit called Golden Lotus.”
“Hmm.” The whitetail buck sat down at his desk and glanced over the inventory of seized property. “One of the films is actually titled What the Policeman Saw? Hardly original.” He raised a brow as Brush seemed to flinch a tiny bit. “Sergeant?”
“Have you seen these films?”
“Well, Sir, onea dem wuz on when we busted in.”
“I see.” There was a pause. “This one?”
“Er, yeah, Sir.”
The buck stooped in his seat and picked up the spool of film, then unreeled a few inches of it and held it up to the overhead light. Squinting at it and moving his paws to help focus, Stagg said, “I fear I may need better glasses, or at least longer – “
He paused, lowered the reel, and looked a bit nonplussed.
He then looked at it again.
“I assure you, on my oath, that this is not me in the film.”
“Nor is it Miss Baumgartner.”
I didn’ t’ink it was, Sir.”
Stagg looked at the film again.
“Mind you, they certainly do flatter me – that is, if that is meant to be me in the film.”
The tod-fox said nothing, and busied himself with feeding a piece of paper into the typewriter to complete his report.
The Inspector wound the film back up, and picked up the other reel. “School Days? Worse and worse . . . “ He squinted at the images. “Sergeant?”
“Did you see this one?”
“Take a look.”
Ciss Lopp was working in the outer office when the rabbit doe paused.
Sergeant Brush didn’t laugh that loudly in the office.
“Well, they haven’t killed each other yet, so I guess that’s a good sign,” Shin replied to Tatiana’s question regarding Hao and Xiu some two weeks after the newlyweds had come back from their honeymoon. “They’re getting settled in.”
“And what will she do, when Hao goes out on business?” the Russian sable asked.
“Good question,” the red panda said. “I think she might want to go along with him. How he’ll take that, I don’t know.” She paused and glanced at Brigit. “Brigit?”
“You keep grinding your teeth and you’ll have to become a herbivore,” Shin teased. “What’s gotten up your nose?”
“Maureen an’ that English cow in the first form, Cathy,” the Irish setter said in a sulky tone, referring to the Ulsterite member of Crusader Dorm and the bovine first year student. “They’ve been celebratin’ an’ gloatin’ this while o’er th’ news.”
“What news?” Liberty asked. She had been writing in one of her notebooks.
“That King o’ theirs an’ his old gray mare had their foal christened, ‘twas in th’ newspaper,” and Brigit gave a contemptuous flick of one long ear. She brandished the paper and tossed it on the bed disgustedly.
Tatiana picked it up and looked it over. The copy of the Spontoon Mirror had a photograph of the beaming parents holding their child while Archbishop Crowley looked on with a happy grin. The accompanying article related that the christening had been held at the St. George Chapel in Windsor Castle. Attendees included proxies for the foal’s godparents.
The prelate’s grin reminded Tatiana of a photograph she’d seen once, of a fellow named Rasputin.
Not so much the teeth, but the eyes.
“Edward Albert George John Aethelwulf,” she read aloud. “That is quite a few names. Russians are so much more efficient. Streamlined.”
“What kind of name is Aethelwulf?” Shin asked.
“An’ how th’ Hell would I be knowin’ that?” Brigit countered. “Tis no proper Irish name, I’ll be tellin’ ye, an’ that from a man with Patrick in his namin’.”
Tatiana passed the newspaper to Shin, who looked at the back page. “Hmm, nothing new at the movies . . . Liberty?”
“What do you make of this?” The red panda held the paper out to the half-coyote, indicating a short article in the tabloid’s foreign news section. It described a riot in an area of San Francisco called Pacific Heights. Members of the Anti-Wealth League had clashed with police, with many being charged with vandalism and two with arson.
The New Havenite read the whole article, then sat back and thought for a moment as Tatiana read it. “What it means is that the proletariat in the United States may be getting impatient with Long’s revolution from above.”
The sable nodded, her ears canted toward Liberty as she spoke.
“That could be bad for business,” Shin said. “I think I’ll have a word with my brother next weekend.” Red Dorm had gate duty this weekend, alternating with another group of third-year students.
Brigit nodded. “An’ how are ye getting’ on with that squirrel?”
“About as well as you’re getting on with Maureen.” There were times she envied Tatiana’s apparent serenity. Those times were few and far between, to be sure, but were there nonetheless. “My problem’s been trying . . . “ Her voice trailed off, and she looked lost in thought for a moment.
“What?” the Irish girl said.
Shin stood up and said, “Just remembered that I had an idea.”
“’Tis no wonder ye looked surprised, then.”
“Ha ha. I’ll be right back.” The red panda left the room and headed downstairs for the first-year dorms.
Eva Schiller answered the door. “What do you want?”
The Chinese girl said, “I want to talk to Alpha.”
The German’s eyes widened. “Moment. Alpha!”
The Cranium Island shrew stepped out into the hallway and looked up at Shin. “Yes?” she asked, looking as if the effort of speaking at anything other than her usual auctioneer’s pace caused her discomfort.
“I want to talk to you – privately,” and she glared at Eva. The vixen shut the door quickly, unwilling to cost her dorm precious points by crossing a third-year.
“It’s about Nancy.”
The red panda held up a paw. “Slow down and don’t jump to conclusions. Your – Nancy’s doing well in her studies, but she won’t believe me when I tell her.”
“Probably.” Shin chose her words carefully. “But I’d like you to let her know that she is progressing.”
The shrew gave her a calculating look. “Iwillisthatall?”
“Not really. She – and you – are fellow Songmark students.”
“I want to warn you both. Stay away from Krupmark Island.”
Alpha blinked. “I could have said the same to you about Cranium.”
“Why didn’t you?”
The red panda cocked an eyebrow. “An experiment?”
Seeing that that was all the answer she was going to get from the shrew, Shin dismissed her and went back upstairs.
That little girl gave her the creeps sometimes.
“Where are you going?”
Hao smiled at his wife as he stubbed out his cigarette. “Just stepping out for a little while,” he said. “I may be gone a couple days.”
He rubbed the back of his head with a paw. “Well, maybe it’d be better if you didn’t know, Xiu. I mean, I don’t want you to worry . . . ”
She smiled and stepped close to him, then gave him a hug. “Darling, it’s sweet of you to think of me.”
She reached for him then.
“Eep . . . ”
Her smile never wavered, even as her tail swung around to twine around his. “A good husband shouldn’t keep secrets from his wife, Hao.”
“Um . . . ”
“Don’t you agree?”
“Erk . . . yeah, yeah, I agree.”
“After all, I might want to come with you.”
He stared at her. “Come with me?”
“Of course. Don’t you think I can’t take care of myself in a fight?”
She let go, and he gasped a bit. “You fight dirty, Xiu.”
“So I can come with you?”
(Ending the story section "Luck of the Dragon: Hedging Bets”)
next (Continues with the short story "Luck of the Dragon: Settling In"
followed by the serial story section "Luck of the Dragon: Jacks Over Kings" Chapter 192)