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Luck of the Dragon
by Walter Reimer
© 2004 by Walter Reimer
As the office door began to open, Nailani flattened against the wall beside the door, her revolver raised and ready as Peng-wum hurriedly finished removing the money from the safe before hiding behind the desk. They held their breath, waiting.
It was the dhole, Fat Leon’s doorman. He held a small satchel with him as he stepped into the room and paused, looking at the rainwater on the floor and the curtains shifting in the wind from the open window as the door swung closed behind him. At the sound, he turned and blinked as Nailani stuck the muzzle of her gun against his nose. “Stay quiet, Hari,” she whispered, and he stayed still as Peng-wum emerged from cover and took the satchel from the canine’s paw.
As the dhole’s tail thrashed angrily Peng-wum examined the contents of the satchel in the feeble light coming from the window and whispered, “It’s about what I expected. What do you think we should do with him?” he asked as he transferred the money from the satchel to the oilskin bag.
Nailani shrugged. “I don’t know.” She was looking at her husband, and Hari took advantage of her distraction to seize her gun paw in his. Peng-wum dodged aside as the two started fighting, the muzzle of the squat revolver aiming itself at random targets. The revolver fired, the bullet caroming off the desktop and burying itself in the wall as Peng-wum drew his knife and came forward.
The two were in a tight clinch and sounds could be heard outside the office as Peng-wum stepped up behind his wife and stabbed Hari, the knife angling up between Nailani’s arm and her body. The dhole shrieked in pain as the knife slashed deep into his chest, and as he fell the red panda grabbed his wife. “Nailani, let’s get out of here,” he said urgently as footsteps could be heard approaching. She nodded, letting the gun slide from her paw as she grasped her gun arm. Her face twisted briefly in pain, and she climbed out of the window and into the rain as Peng-wum hurriedly secured the oilskin bag and left the office just as two wolves battered the door down. A bullet smashed into the window frame as Peng-wum’s ringed tail whisked out of sight and into the rain-swept darkness.
As lights began to come on in the house, Peng-wum and Nailani headed straight for the surf, splashing into the waves as the rain muffled the sounds they made and obscured their scents. From there the two started swimming, headed north toward the curve in the island that sheltered the Ni Family’s private dock nearly a half-mile away.
Peng-wum swam awkwardly, burdened by the oilskin bag, and he finally stopped when he felt his wife’s paw grab his tail. He turned and saw that she was treading water, breathing hard. Dashing cold salt water from his eyes he asked, “What’s the matter?”
“I got a cut on my arm,” she explained, almost shouting against the incessant drumming of the rain. She cried out as he ran his paws over her limb in the darkness and found a long cut.
It was his doing, and he knew it as soon as his fingers traced the line of the wound. Suppressing his sudden pang of guilt he said, “The seawater should clean it. Come on, let’s get into shallow water and walk the rest of the way. Ahmad should be watching.” He sensed her nod and the two turned back to the beach. To their left they could make out the lights at Fat Leon’s, and Nailani unexpectedly giggled. “What’s so funny?” Peng-wum asked.
“I was just thinking of the look on Fat Leon’s face when he hears who robbed him,” she said, and winced again as they started along the strand.
* * * * * * * * *
Two hairs and an eyewitness were all the proof that Leon Allworthy needed. “That blasted panda!” he raged, shoving his dinner plates from his desk with a clatter of fine silverware and the smashing sound of breaking china. The picked carcass of a whole roast chicken slid across the wooden floor as one of his bodyguards stepped out of its path. “Two entire weeks’ receipts, as well as the payroll,” he growled, paw tensing as he gripped his cane. He bared his teeth as one guard ventured to start cleaning up the mess, and the wolf straightened. “I want word sent up the hill,” Allworthy grated. He started to stand up, grimacing with the effort. The bodyguards gaped as he said, “Never mind, I shall go myself.”
The door to the adjoining room burst open just then as Susie hurried in, strapping a military web belt around her waist from which two crossdraw holsters bearing German Lugers dangled. “Leon!” she cried, and hastened to help him to his feet.
With her to steady him he was soon on his feet, breathing heavily and leaning on the she-wolf and his cane. As soon as he was able, he waved her away with a fond smile and a kiss on her muzzle. “Susie,” he said softly, “I will be back. This crime is insupportable, and that ringtailed rat will rue the day he ever thought to cross me.”
“Leon,” Susie said in a warning tone that made her own cultured British accent sound positively aristocratic, “I’m not about to let you kill yourself over such a trifle as money. Send word up the hill if you must, but you’ll kill yourself if you carry on so.”
Allworthy smiled. “Dear sister,” he said, ignoring a surprised flick of ears from the watching guards, “I have no intention of dying on you at any time in the near future. Why, I could almost thank that whelp – I haven’t felt this alive in weeks.” He gave her a hug and a kiss that caused one wolf to glance away in embarrassment, then said, “Now then, let us head up the hill. Come.” Shuffling as he supported himself on his cane, Leon led the group from his office.
It took several minutes for a truck to be brought up to the house, and several more minutes to see Allworthy comfortably situated in the passenger seat before the driver started up the muddy road toward the collection of buildings that made up Fort Bob, the only town on the island.
Word was hurriedly passed in as the obese wolf was helped up the steps and into the building. Allworthy submitted to a brief and very courteous search before sinking gratefully into a chair, wheezing as his eyes closed in pain. He opened them as the owner stepped out of his office and sat down facing him. “My dear Leon,” the fur said, “are you all right? Someone told me that you had been robbed.”
The wolf sat back, and his cane hit the floor as his right paw briefly massaged feeling into his left arm before replying, “Yes, I have been robbed – robbed, sir! Can you believe it?” His basso voice was edged with an indignant tone. “And by a business partner, to crown my shame.”
“Oh?” The fur steepled his fingers. “Who?”
“Ni Peng-wum.” The words were growled like a curse as Leon shifted his weight, which caused the chair to creak alarmingly in response. “I shall have my men rounded up and we – “
“You want a war, Leon?” the fur asked. “Over a simple theft?”
“’Simple,’ sir?” Leon barked. “That little whelp and his wife stole my entire payroll and two weeks’ receipts, almost three thousand pounds, as well as seriously wounding one of my assistants.”
The fur actually appeared amused, sitting back and taking a small glass of brandy from a bodyguard. The guard then offered one to Leon, who took it and sipped moodily as the fur remarked in an absent tone, “I didn’t think he could pull it off.”
Leon’s eyes went wide and he asked, “You knew he was going to do this?” His free paw groped for his cane, and one of his bodyguards scooped it up from the floor and handed it to him.
“Yes, he actually asked for permission. Very astute of him,” the fur replied, and gazed levelly at Allworthy. “After all, Leon, you did gouge him rather badly on that deal.”
“He agreed to it!” the fat wolf protested, but subsided as the fur raised a paw.
“It doesn’t matter, Leon. He paid about ten times what that contract was truly worth, so did you really think he’d sit still and let you get away with it?” The fur’s face grew stern. “If you want a war with the Nis, Leon, I’d say no. They are a stronger organization and at least two members of the family are rather cold-blooded killers. I would suggest that you either swallow your pride and forget the loss, or take your establishment elsewhere – Hong Kong, perhaps?” he asked in an insinuating tone.
Allworthy grumbled to himself, paws gripping his cane. A Royal Warrant and a hangman’s noose waited for him in Hong Kong, and in any other place over which the Union Jack waved; Krupmark Island had been very much a last resort. He twisted the cane, and a bare inch of razor-sharp Sheffield steel peeked out before he closed it and laid it across his lap. “I shall return to my house, sir, and set things back in order,” he said stiffly.
“Finish your brandy first, Leon,” the fur said, studying his guest carefully. “You look chilled and, if you don’t mind my saying so, a bit unwell. Are you feeling all right?”
“It’s nothing,” the wolf dismissed the idea with a wave of a paw. “Mere reminders of advancing age – just as this theft is a sign of advancing senility,” he added with a small smile, trying to see the humor in his misfortune. With his bodyguards assisting him he got laboriously to his feet and walked painfully out of the room.
As the truck jounced and slid its way back to the Beach, the driver asked, “What do we do now, Boss?”
Allworthy favored the wolf with a sour glance. “That little thief covered his tracks well,” he said. “Since he had permission, I can’t rely on or request support from the others. But I can wait until he makes a mistake. Then I’ll have his head on my desk.”
* * * * * * * * *
1st December 1935
Didn’t I tell you to stay away from that raw fish? I thought it looked a bit off. It’s bad enough the Japanese have to heat their beer, but to serve fish raw is asking too much. I’m glad that was the only thing wrong, and that you’ll be out of the hospital soon.
Work here at the hotel isn’t very hard, since this is the off-season. I’m spending most of my time with the staff doing maintenance and odd jobs, because there aren’t any guests at present. It does help me learn everything about the place, so when the tourists do come in I shouldn’t have any problems.
Daven’s a great help, because maths aren’t my strong point and I can’t rely on Peng-wum to do our books. You should see Daven’s fingers fly over an abacus.
I’m looking forward to seeing you again, and we’ll have fun over the holidays.
* * * * * * * * *
“I can’t shake the feeling we’re being followed,” Hao said for what seemed to be the tenth time. He and Anna were sitting at a bar near the waterfront, still waiting for the work on the K-85 to be finished. The mechanic had found a corroded valve lifter and was in the process of replacing it.
Anna craned around, trying to look but not be conspicuous about it as Hao sipped again at his whisky. “I still don’t see anyone or anything,” she said, and looked at him as one of her paws stroked the fur behind his right ear. “With your paranoia, Hao, you would have made a great NKVD agent,” she remarked, and laughed as he finally grinned. “I hear there’s a movie showing at the theater tonight,” she said.
“Oh?” Hao said. “What’s the title?”
Anna smiled, her ears laying back. “It’s called The Thin Fur, with William Howl and Myrna Koi,” she said. “It seemed to be a romance of some sort.”
Hao laughed as he laid some bills on the table to cover their tab, and slipped an arm around her waist as they walked out. “You know,” he said, “you’re getting to be quite the romantic, Anna.”
She laughed as they walked past an alleyway, and their ears perked as a sound came from the darkened passage. They turned as a feline with dark gray, almost blue, fur stepped out with a pistol already drawn.
The pistol fired, twice.