Luck of the Dragon: Jacks Over Kings© 2014 by Walter D. Reimer
(Songmark and characters courtesy of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
(Inspector Stagg and Sergeant Brush courtesy of E.O. Costello. Thanks!)
Two hours later all three girls had been examined by the hospital staff. Liberty’s hearing loss was only temporary, and she would recover. Shin had numerous scrapes and bruises and, embarrassingly, a feral dog bite on the tip of her tail. She had also been allowed to wash the worst of the blood and grime from her face and paws.
Brigit, on the other paw, had needed several stitches to close up the deep graze in her right thigh. Still, she was in high spirits.
A state of affairs that ended when she was wheeled into a small room.
“Now that you’ve all been cleared by the hospital,” Inspector Stagg said, “I would like some answers to a few questions. Mrs. Wo, please tell me what has happened – both to your father, and to your husband, who has apparently vanished.” He nodded to Brush, who shepherded Liberty and Brigit from the room.
Shin took a deep breath. After all, she may as well start getting her facts in order.
Miss Devinski would require a report.
She took another breath and closed her eyes briefly, then opened them. “Inspector, my father told me and Fang that there was a direct threat to my family.”
“We began to plan to deal with that threat.”
“Very delicate language, Mrs. Wo, considering what I believe you were planning.”
The three women were having lunch when Sergeant Brush met with his superior to compare notes.
“That’s a cold-blooded bunch, Sir,” Brush said, his tail twitching. Word had come from the constables searching the plane that a severed tail had been discovered.
The fur indicated that the former owner had been lupine.
The burly fox suppressed a shiver and concentrated on his notes. “That Morgenstern girl seemed mighty proud of freein’ slaves, though. First time I ever seen her smile. Sorta creepy.”
“Hmm,” Stagg grunted as he looked over his own notes. “Mrs. Wo is particularly dedicated to her family. We knew that, of course, but to plan and execute something like this . . . I would imagine that attacking some of the higher-ups at Krupmark must be very problematic.”
“Well, they managed it, accordin’ t’what they’re sayin.’” The fox said in a clearly disbelieving tone. “Should we check in on Doc Meffit, Sir?”
“Yes, after I make a phone call to Songmark,” the buck replied. “I would enjoy being, as they say, a fly on the wall for the inevitable confrontation with their tutors, but I doubt I’d be allowed.” He got to his hooves and the two left the room.
The noon sun shone down on Fort Bob, and on smoke that still drifted skyward from a few houses that had been blown over the previous night. People who lived in the area were already picking up the pieces, or squabbling over property that no longer belonged to anyone.
Mad Mac had disappeared, and several thought he was back up at the church.
More than a few hoped that he was dead.
Shen’s villa still burned. The roof had caved in shortly before dawn, and no attempt had been made to put the fires out. The old mandarin’s remaining guards were dead, or nowhere to be seen.
His former slaves were enjoying their freedom by adding fuel to the flames and spitting on the severed heads that still grinned from their posts at the damaged wall. Hao had left a small group there to maintain a bit of order, and to determine who of the former slaves would make good employees.
An offer had already been made to put them all back to work on the farm, this time as free tenant landowners.
Down the road at the Ni & Sons building, Peng-wum sat slumped in his father’s chair. The normally tidy desk was littered with scattered notes as he labored to organize things. His eyeglasses lay amid the papers and he was rubbing his eyes in a vain attempt to get the grit out of them.
The first concern was whether they could expect any repercussions from the others on the hill. The probability of that was almost nil – they had their own pelts to look after, and anyone who couldn’t fight off an attack by a subordinate deserved to die. Of course, he might have to pay for broken windows or other property damage from the bomb.
Why did Hao have to use so much? He thought, not for the first time.
The second was whether there were any other heirs to the Shen Clan’s power and influence. There were indications that there was only one possible heiress, Ming’s grandmother. But word from one of Shen’s former employees was that assassins had been sent to kill her. Peng-wum resolved to hire a professional or two to make certain.
Hao and Fang were resting over at the Lucky Dragon right now, and he was determined to get a nap before he fell over. Nailani wouldn’t like him overextending himself.
Wouldn’t like it at all.
The fact that he badly needed a bath would please her even less.
There was a sound of an engine outside, followed by car doors slamming. He put his glasses on, turned in the swivel chair and looked out of the heavily-glazed window.
A Duesenberg limousine sat parked in front of the building, a tall and well-built stallion wearing a chauffeur’s uniform and a collar standing beside it.
“Oh, Gods,” he whispered. He stood up, swayed and smoothed his headfur as best he could. He needed a bath and a change of clothing quite badly, but there had been no time. He walked across the office and headed downstairs.
“Madam, I am honored,” he said a few moments later, bowing formally to the elegantly-dressed canine woman. Another stallion stood slightly behind her, arms folded across his brawny chest.
The woman, known variously as ‘Miss Chartwell’ or more simply ‘Miss C,’ smiled graciously. “Young Mister Ni, I must apologize,” she said in an aristocratic, slightly condescending tone. “Have I caught you at an inopportune moment?”
“Not at all, Ma’am. I apologize for my appearance. I fear that it has been a very busy night - "
“I can well imagine. Lord and Lady awakened me – something they rarely do.” The woman looked around at the office. “You seem to be doing a very brisk business, so I will not detain you long. Tell me, is your father upstairs?”
Peng-wum steeled himself and told the truth. “No, Ma’am. He is – by this time – at the hospital over on Spontoon.”
A delicate brow arched in question. “Hospital?”
“Yes, Ma’am. He tried to kill Shen himself.”
She seemed impressed.
Very much despite herself.
“Then please pass on this message to him, young man. Tell Ni Hei that he has . . . earned a seat at the table. We will look forward to seeing him.”
“On his behalf, thank you Ma’am,” Peng-wum said, and bowed.
The woman and her bodyguard left, and the red panda noted the look of pride on many of the faces in the office.
“Back to work, please,” he said, and went upstairs to tell his mother.
“Cyanide intoxication,” Meffit said. “According to what his daughter told me, he bought the incense and used it, knowing exactly what it might do to him.” He shook his head. “Either very brave or very foolish – which, I won’t say.”
“Fortes fortuna adjuvat,” Stagg remarked in Latin as he looked down at the sleeping man.
Ni Hei was still breathing hard, drawing pure oxygen into his lungs through a mask strapped to his muzzle. A glass bottle dripped a clear fluid into a tube that ran to a needle in his arm. “I take it that he will live?”
“He should, unless this therapy doesn’t work,” the doctor said. He pulled a small brown glass bottle from a pocket of his coat. “Amyl nitrite,” he explained. “Very potent stuff – inhaled, it causes the blood vessels to expand. With the other chemicals we’re administering, it should help flush the rest of the poison out of his system.” Meffit sighed. “He also has three broken ribs and a minor skull fracture. Some bleeding from the right ear, which has stopped.”
“You know my next question, Doctor.”
“Yes, well. I think that if he can survive the next twenty-four hours he has every chance of a complete recovery,” Meffit said judiciously.
“That will be acceptable, Doctor. I’ll also want to post two armed constables here at all times. One here in the room with him, and the other outside the door.”
The skunk’s brows drew together in a frown, causing the thin white stripes in his headfur to crinkle. “Yes, I suppose that would be for the best,” he said.
Heads turned as the door to the room burst open. Shin stood in the doorway, while behind her a constable massaged feeling back into his paw. “How is he?” she demanded.
“Calm down, young lady,” Meffit said sternly. “Here he is, and as you can see he’s resting comfortably.”
Shin looked down at her father, and her face drew into an impassive mask. A gleam in her eyes betrayed her real feelings. “Will,” she said, and swallowed. “Will he recover?”
“Thanks to you, very likely. We’ll know for certain if he lasts the night,” Meffit replied. “Now, I think you and your friends should leave, Mrs. Wo. I’m sure your family will want to be told the news.”
“Yes . . . Thank you, Doctor,” and the red panda left the room.
She stepped into a restroom, and the tears that she had held back were given free rein.
“She said that, did she?”
“Yes, Mother. Her exact words.”
Madam Ni Peng nodded. “As if we needed another problem. It’s something your father never wanted, you know.”
“He didn’t. All he wanted was for us to be free.”
“I’ve already doubled the number of bodyguards.”
A sigh. “Well, we’ll have to see what your father says.”
Shin had freshened up and was walking with Liberty and Brigit (the Irish girl was on crutches) when they heard a very familiar voice snap, “Attention!”
All three of them braced as Miss Devinski and Mrs. Oelabe walked up to them.
Neither member of the staff looked very happy.
“Shin, report,” the Labrador said.
“Ma’am, I report that we were successful,” Shin replied. Her crisp, businesslike tone was an effort – she was exhausted. “We have some injuries. My father is currently in the hospital, and I have a number of weapons and a plane to see to.” A pause, and she dug into a pocket of her jumpsuit. “And this.”
She pulled a severed wolf’s tail from the pocket.
Miss Devinski’s expression was cold. “I see.” Mrs. Oelabe was already checking Brigit’s stitches and talking with the Irish girl and Liberty. “You will see to their safe storage before you return to the school, Shin – and you will dispose of that immediately. Preferably at sea, with the tide running away from these islands. You two will come with us back to Songmark to get cleaned up,” Miss Devinski said.
As the canine led the group away, she caught Shin’s eye.
A penetrating stare, then a grudging smile and a single nod.
Shin felt like she’d just been awarded a gold medal.
An hour or so later, nothing but a swirl in the lagoon showed the resting place of the last piece of Shen Ming. A stone tied to the severed end of the tail would make sure that it wouldn’t wash up anywhere.
13APR38 WO SHIN TO WO FANG STOP FATHER SAFE STOP
14APR38 WO FANG TO WO SHIN STOP SUCCESS HERE STOP LOVE YOU STOP