Luck of the Dragon: Breaking the Bank© 2015 by Walter D. Reimer
(Songmark and characters courtesy of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
(Inspector Stagg and Sgt. Brush courtesy of E.O. Costello. Thanks!)
“Come in Brigit. Sit down.”
The Irish setter smoothed out her uniform skirt as she seated herself. Her headfur had been styled conservatively to enhance the image of a young businesswoman, and she waited patiently as the Tutors looked over her business plan one more time. Miss Wildford looked up at the slim canine with a quizzical look on her muzzle. “Supply and logistics?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Brigit replied promptly.
“You interest me. Please elaborate.”
The setter nodded pleasantly. “O’ course, Ma’am. Y’see, while an army marches on its stomach, good strong boots help, too.” She clasped her paws in her lap. “My idea is t’set up a sort of consignment an’ distribution business, supplyin’ things like boots, food an’ th’ like ta various countries’ militaries.”
There was a collective narrowing of eyes on the other side of the desk. “’And the like,’” Miss Devinski said. “Would ‘the like’ include, say, bullets?”
“Chemicals for the manufacture of, oh, let’s say mustard gas?”
Brigit frowned. “Absolutely not, Ma’am. M’great-uncle Terrence fought in th’ Great War, he did. He told tales ‘bout th’ gas that’d make yer fur stand on end, an’ that’s a fact.” She paused for a breath or two. “My idea is ta supply only th’ things that aren’t prohibited by treaties, Miss Devinski. Tinned food, clothes, bandages. Things like that.”
“I see. Where would you get your supplies?”
“One o’ th’ first things is ta set up a group o’ customers, Miss Devinski,” Brigit said. “That done, there’s companies an’ countries willin’ ta provide products for a profit.”
“And with you as the middlefur, taking a profit on the distribution.”
The setter nodded. “Yes, Ma’am. There’s a bit o’ precedent ta this. Rain Island’s been after settin’ up something similar – makin’ its military rations available commercially. By supplyin’ stores as well as th’ Naval Syndicate an’ Army Union, they’ll build up a large stockpile that they can draw on in an emergency.” She gestured toward the proposal. “Part o’ my plan’s ta contact th’ folks on Moon Island, an’ set things up.” She refrained from mentioning that part of her relationship with Michael Fairweather wasn’t romantic. The red-tailed hawk was a Rain Islander and a member of their Embassy staff. Through him, she’d already spoken with a few of the military types on Moon Island.
The hawk wasn’t so dim that he didn’t know what she was doing, and recognized the possible profits from such a venture. “Another part’ll be supplyin’ explorers an’ expeditions. There’s still uncharted bits o’ th’ world, and no matter who goes t’look, they’ll need clothes an’ food.”
“So, no Maconochie?” Miss Wildford asked.
A firm shake of the head. “No, Ma’am. I’d have me professional business reputation t’consider. I’d lose customers if I tried ta sell that stuff.” She smiled slightly. “I might try me paw at sellin’ some ta New Haven, though.”
Miss Blande suppressed a smile while the other Tutors sat stony-faced at Brigit’s joke. Finally she said, “We will consider your business plan further, Brigit. We will let you know.”
“Thank ye, Ma’am.” The Irish setter stood up, smoothed her skirt once more, and walked out. Her tail swayed a bit as she moved, the appendage not betraying anything about her thoughts.
When the door closed Devinski looked at Wildford. “Are you planning on voting for approval?”
“Her aunt was arrested for smuggling,” Miss Wildford pointed out. “I rather doubt Brigit would want to join her, and the idea, as it stands, is a good one. It’s always possible,” the curiously patterned feline said, “that a crate marked ‘Pineapples’ might actually contain tinned fruit, rather than grenades.”
“Are we talking about the same Brigit Mulvaney?” Devinski asked. “She still sends whatever money she can back to Ireland, and you know exactly where it goes.”
“We all know. That’s why I have misgivings about this proposal of hers. Of course, it sounds perfectly reasonable, and I’d endorse it with no trouble – if it were coming from anyone other than our little Fenian.”
“There’s still Wo Shin’s proposal.”
“Don’t remind me.” Wildford’s smile was mirthless. “Hopefully she won’t decide to become an Air Pirate. That job’s already taken.”
Franklin Stagg glowered as he studied the backs of his paws. Ni Hei had been escorted from Dr. Meffit’s office that morning by his daughter and a hired private nurse. The nurse had solid bona fides, and even Dr. Meffit knew her professionally. Wo Shin had told the skunk that her father had expressed a desire to visit his daughter-in-law and grandson in the village of Pangai, on Main Island’s western end.
Stagg didn’t like it. Although the red panda couldn’t be charged for any criminal act in his jurisdiction, the buck didn’t feel comfortable having the Ni Family’s patriarch at liberty, especially so far west.
His paws were clasped over the head of his cane as he contemplated and discarded options.
A growling noise made him glance up at his sergeant. The fox dipped his ears in embarrassment. “Sorry, Sir.” It was clear that Sergeant Brush wasn’t happy either.
“It’s quite all right, Sergeant. I share your sentiments, believe me. I’m just bothered by the lack of a real Constabulary presence in that part of Spontoon. Despite the fact that we can’t prosecute Ni Hei, I would be happier if he were being watched.”
"Yer not gonna get much outta dem Mahokus, Sir," Brush said, referring to Ni Nailani’s extended family. He had been growling ever since his conversation with the rabbit clan's chief. To’afa Mahoku had been very polite and hospitable toward the uplander fox, but adamant about his clan’s ability to police their own tribal area.
"Are the Mahokus always that stubborn, Sergeant?"
"Mosta th' time, Sir. They’re real what yez call independent-minded. Their rep in th' Althing's a real piece of work."
"Ah. Political influence. Hardly something new to me, Sergeant."
Brush shook his head. "Naw, it ain't like that, Sir."
"Naw. He just likes t'keep th' pot boiling, y'see. Causes trouble for the sheer hell of it sometimes, but usually goes along when the vote's called. Calls it ‘assertin’ local rights.’”
"I reiterate my earlier comment. But then, you never met my half-brother, of course."
Brush merely nodded, having heard a few anecdotes and come to a remarkably accurate assessment of the late Prescott Stagg. “Still not real sure why you want him watched, Sir. He ain’t charged with anything, so good riddance to him, I sez.”
A ghost of a smile tugged at the corners of Stagg’s mouth. “It’s how the game is played, Sergeant.”
The boxes were getting heavier, Hai Wei noted.
Hai Wei had just gotten back to his apartment after his twelfth ‘package delivery.’ Each time, the recipient was someone else, and the location where the package was switched had changed as well.
The packages remained sealed just as thoroughly as the first one. He’d even taken a chance and put his nose against it, inhaling deeply to catch any scent. No smell of tobacco, hashish, opium or catnip, nothing. One thing was certain, though: he was damned if he was going to taste it.
What the hell were they having him carry?
“’Morning, Zheng.” He slipped the package onto the boss’ desk and headed for the door.
“Hey, where’re you going?” Zheng said.
“To work. That’s what you pay me for, right?”
Zheng gestured for the Shar Pei to step back into the office. “Close the door, and sit down.” When the canine was seated Yao tapped his fingers on the box. “You’d like to know what’s in here, eh?”
Hai shrugged. “Not my business.”
Zheng’s expression grew sly. “What do you think is in it?”
Again, he shrugged. “Could be the Crown Jewels of Cranium Island . . . ‘cept they’re not glowing.” He regarded Zheng with a straight face until they both started to chuckle.
“And they haven’t tried to eat you yet, huh?” Zheng chuckled. He poured two cups of tea and slid one across the desk toward Hai. “These have been little tastes, just feeling you out.”
“I guessed that.”
Zheng nodded. “We knew you’d figure it out. You’re not stupid. Let’s say that you’ll have a bit more in your sea bag when you go out with the fishing fleet next week. We’ll give you instructions then.”
Hai Wei nodded and nodded toward the package. “What about my pay?”
A Spontoonie ten-pound note appeared on the desk, and a flick of a fingertip sent it sailing across the desk to him. “Here. It’s a raise.”
The note was thrust into a pocket. “Thanks.”
The two sat and drank their tea. Finally Hai stood up. “I gotta get to work.”
Zheng nodded and gave him a short wave of one paw.
“Yeye!” Ni Mikilani cried out, holding his paws out for a hug that his grandfather was all too happy to give. Hei scooped the little cub up in his arms and kissed him as the child giggled and hugged him. His mother grinned at her child as she ran a paw absently over her swelling belly.
“He’s growing up so fast, Nailani,” Hei managed to say. The private nurse that Shin had hired sat nearby, along with an oxygen tank.
The rabbit femme smiled as she helped Hei sit down. Shin had sent advance notice, as had Chief To’afa, so she knew he was coming. “I’m glad that he’s growing up,” she chuckled. “He’ll need to make room for this little fellow,” and she patted herself. “We’re hoping this one’s a girl.”
Hei smiled as he tousled his grandson’s headfur. “Daughters are a joy,” he said, “but sometimes they can be a bit of trouble,” and his smile widened into a grin as Shin sputtered. “The last word we had was that Peng-wum is doing just fine,” he said to reassure his daughter-in-law.
“I’m glad of that.” The rabbit’s ears dipped as a troubled frown made her whiskers bob. “I was so worried that he – that is, that he might – “
“Shh,” and at his gesture she crouched beside him and sank against him as he hugged her. “We were all worried, but we’ve made it through. And from what I hear, things have appeared to calm down. That is,” and he gave Shin a glare over the top of his glasses, “certain people aren’t conspiring to merely give me good news.”
Nailani chuckled as Shin sputtered again. “Father!” she yelped.
“It’s been known to happen, Shin.” Hei sat there for a few moments, hugging his daughter-in-law and his (so far) only grandchild. He finally said in Fukien, “Daughter.”
“Contact Hao. It is time I went home.”