Luck of the Dragon: Breaking the Bank© 2015 by Walter D. Reimer
Four pair of eyes scrutinized the sheaf of typewritten pages. The proposal added up to thirty pages, single-spaced.
Finally Miss Wildford glanced at Miss Devinski. “Interesting.”
“You predicted she’d do this.”
“Hardly a difficult thing to do. You wouldn’t expect her to suggest a profit-making venture. We’re talking about New Haven, after all.” Jayne Wildford tapped the stack of pages with a fingertip. “Or are you claiming jurisdiction over predictions?” she asked with a chuckle.
Catherine Devinski chuckled along with her. “It may be part of my Calling, but I make no claims at all. Predict away – goodness knows you do well enough at cards.” All four of the Tutors laughed. “So, shall we reject this out of paw, or have her in to defend it?”
“Hmm.” Miss Blande’s tail swished for a moment before she said, “Bring her in. I want to hear this.”
“Senator?” His secretary called out from the outer office. “Phone call for you.”
Harold McAfee groaned quietly. He’d only been in Washington a week, and had found him inundated with letters, telegrams and phone calls from constituents, friends, well-wishers, job-seekers, and special interests. It made actually trying to get started in his new job all the harder. “Put it through, Nancy,” he said, trying to get a hint of weary frustration out of his voice. “Hello?”
“Hello, Senator.” The Chicago accent immediately made the badger’s lips curl back from his teeth. “Our mutual friend in Saint Paul sends her congratulations.”
“What the hell do you want?” he nearly whispered into the pawset.
“Well, what I want right now is to invite you to lunch. There’s a small diner, Second and D Streets, Northeast. Name’s Lou’s. The food’s really good, and we can talk there.” The line went dead with a click, leaving the badger staring at the pawset before replacing it on the cradle.
He knew that the cervine would make another appearance. The amount of money required to get him nominated, then elected, demanded some sort of compensation.
He hoped it wouldn’t be too high.
A few hours later, McAfee stepped out into the bright sunlight and hailed a cab. He gave the driver the directions he’d been supplied and the Checker pulled away from the curb.
“Lou’s, hah?” the cabbie asked. “You look like one of them big shot Senators. Usually don’t go for that kind of grub.”
“I’m from Minnesota.”
The mouse snorted. “Takes all kinds, I guess. Food’s good, though.”
“Who set you wise to the place?”
“Hmm? Oh, someone in my office.”
The eatery was only a few blocks from his office, a local spot with dim interior lighting so people could eat or drink at the bar away from the bustle of the nation’s capital. He took a booth at the back of the place, near the kitchen doors, and accepted a menu from the rather buxom canine waitress.
McAfee was looking over the items on the menu when he looked up to see an all-too-familiar deer take a seat facing him. “How you been doing? Settling in all right?” The whitetail jabbed a finger at the grease-marked paper in the badger’s paws. “Try the roast beef,” he said. “They do something with horseradish that makes the meat sing.”
“You’re a deer. How do you know?”
The cervine smirked. “I got ears, and people talk.” He sat back as the waitress approached.
“Whatchoo boys want?” the canine asked.
“I’ll have the roast beef sandwich, with horseradish,” McAfee said, giving the deer a glance. “And a glass of water, with ice.”
“And you, honey?”
“Buckhorn’s sandwich, on rye if you have it.”
“Get it fresh every day, hun.”
“Good. Oh, and a glass of iced tea.”
“Gotcha.” She gathered up the menus and left.
“You’re probably wondering – “
McAfee raised a paw. “Skip it. You and your friends succeeded in getting me here. Now what?”
The deer hesitated as the kitchen door opened. The waitress set down two glasses and bustled off to greet some more customers. “Okay. Here’s what we want you to do.”
McAfee braced himself.
The deer took a sip of his iced tea. “Obviously, you don’t like Long, your speeches during the campaign proved that. You’re new to this job, so you need to get into how the place works and so on.”
“Can’t be too different from Minneapolis.”
“You might be surprised.” Their lunches arrived, and McAfee was forced to admit that the deer had been right. The creamy sauce on the meat added a tart zing to it. “You’re one of the first, though.”
The man paused, as if berating himself for letting something slip.
The half-coyote closed the door behind her and stood at attention. “You wanted to see me, Miss Wildford?”
“Yes, Liberty. Please sit down.”
The New Havenite glanced around the room before taking a seat, her ears swiveling. Her tail was held in such a way that a stray air current might stir the hairs and alert her to a presence behind her.
She has definitely taken her training to heart, Wildford thought. She touched the stack of typewritten pages before her, the other Tutors flanking her. “We wanted to discuss this with you, Liberty. As all Songmark students know, one of the requirements for graduation is to submit a comprehensive and credible business plan, one that will build upon the student’s resources and the skills that they have learned here.”
Liberty Morgenstern nodded solemnly, her paws resting loosely in her lap. She’d expected this meeting ever since she turned in her plan (ahead of the other members of Red Dorm) and she had carefully marshalled and formulated responses to any argument, both for and against.
It was something her father had taught her, and her Songmark education had reinforced.
“New Haven is a Communist state,” Miss Devinski said, “and the stated declarations of the Red Fist are that the People’s Republic has no need for money. Therefore we understood when your plan did not take into account any idea of profit or money.” The blond Labrador folded her paws on the table in front of her. “Summarize the plan for us, please.”
Liberty nodded. “Yes, Miss Devinski. My plan is to make New Haven the vanguard of the Fourth International by creating a training school for young men and women. The school would be analogous to Songmark, apart from it being open to both sexes.”
“The vanguard must be composed of people trained, educated and indoctrinated in the belief that only through equality can they move forward into the future.”
“Songmark’s curriculum includes flying. New Haven has no air force.”
“The former regime purchased several biplanes from Fokker over ten years ago,” the younger woman said. “I have asked, and ascertained that the planes could be made airworthy with some work.” Her written proposal had gone into detail about the condition of the Fokker D.XIIIs, and she was understating the case.
“We also teach survival techniques – in all climates.”
“That is true. There are ample small islands and areas on New Haven territory for seamanship and cold-weather survival training. When the civil war in Spain is over, the plan calls for the arrangement of hot-weather training there.”
“That presupposes that the Nationalists will lose.”
The half-coyote sat up a bit straighter, if that was possible. “The People shall prevail. It is a matter of historical inevitability.”
“I see.” Liberty had either not heard of the disastrous rout of the Loyalist forces in the Aragon Offensive, or was choosing to consider it a mere setback. It was an ideological blind spot. “You propose housing this school where?”
“The old Governor’s Residence at Savin Rock Park, Miss Devinski. It requires an amount of restoration work – that will be the largely the task of the first classes of students – but it is large enough for student dormitories and other facilities. There is sufficient space to allow for hangars, a machine shop and an airstrip, as well.”
Miss Wildford glanced at the last pages of the plan. “I see nothing here about governmental approval. Songmark enjoys a good relationship with the Spontoon Althing, as well as with the Tillamookan Senate and the Rain Island Governing Syndicate.” She gazed across the room at Liberty. “What does the Committee of Nine have to say about this?”
“I have communicated a draft of this plan to the Committee, Miss Wildford,” she replied, “and the Commissariat of Education – “
“My father is the chief Party ideologist.”
“Thank you. Go on.”
“The Commissariat of Education has discussed the plan with the other members of the Committee, and they see merit in the concept. As my plan details, the school’s curriculum includes education in Comrade Trotsky’s precepts of permanent revolution and the importance of an educated Party vanguard.”
“You’ve also set yourself a – may I say – ambitious time frame for the release of these vanguards of the Revolution.”
“Yes, ma’am. Fifty years. I calculate, as you can see, that the Red Fist will be positioned to lead the worldwide revolution beginning in nineteen eighty-eight.”
“You’ll be over seventy, Liberty.”
Unnervingly, the New Havenite smiled. “I would consider it the achievement of a life’s work, and a life that was not wasted.”
Wildford glanced at the other three Tutors. “I see. Your plan is approved, Miss Morgenstern. You may go.”
“This place stinks.”
“True enough. All the more reason to take care of our business and get back.” The bear and the saiga antelope were making their way through the Thieves’ Bazaar in Fort Bob, after traveling from Vladivostok in a fishing boat that was ostensibly a smuggler craft. The NKVD crew used the cover of fishing to gather intelligence on the Japanese, and Ilyumzhinov was sure the captain managed to get in a few things for himself that were unavailable in the Soviet Union.
Their contact in Fort Bob was supposed to meet them at a place called the Lucky Dragon.