Seen from the huge, arched windows of the boss' penthouse office, the approach of the airship over the afternoon sun-dappled ocean was truly magnificent. Mikey and Leo couldn't help but to stare as it homed in on the mooring towers. But at a mild clearing of Rico's throat, they abruptly returned their attention to the big boss himself and looked suitably chastened.
"So I wanted you here in person to show that I have an interest in all facets of my businesses," Rico continued smoothly as if his subordinates hadn't been distracted.
"We 'ppreciate dat."
The two men straightened in their chairs and nodded vehemently. They were young, low-level street lieutenants whose responsibilities included bringing their territorial weekly book earnings from the back-room parlor card tables, dice, and numbers rackets. Rico went on, talking to them as id he were their direct mentor instead of having several layers of underbosses, captains, and the like between his office and their grubby turfs.
On one side of Rico's massive, carved blue-oak desk, his accountant, Rutherford, peered over his half-moon glasses as he riffled through the tally sheets with one hand. His other hand, or rather three fingers of it, was plugged into the brass calculator. With metal keys replacing the end joints of those three fingers, he could manipulate the machine at a far faster and more accurate rate than by pounding the keys of an adding machine. The calculator's gears fairly hummed as Rutherford made them whirl and shift with minute muscle movements.
Only the best accountants had those implants - ones who needed their machines to run in synch with their quick minds and running several equations at once. Some people were uncomfortable at the sight, reminding them of the graft droog gangs in other continents like Anglia and East Vespana. Those were punks who had metal implants for the purpose of decoration, intimidation, sex, and violence.
Although teeming with slums and low-income areas, the city-island of Hoganville had never produced any homegrown version of these gangs. Several years ago, a small horde of nearly fifty graft droogs from Anglia decided to set up shop. The police were at wits' end in trying to handle them but Rico and the other executive board members of the Hoganville Merchants' Benevolent Society had addressed the situation directly. There was some confrontation, of course, but in the end, the matter was settled rather quietly as four dozen weighted canvas bags gently drifted to the bottom of the ocean.
When the calculator stopped, Rico finished his sentence and turned to the men.
"South Docks at minus .27 below standard mean and the Garibaldi district is at minus .43," the accountant announced.
Mikey and Leo shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Their haul was slightly below the norm this week but still within the acceptable margin, as Rico had already anticipated. Along with giving them a rare bit of personal face time with the big boss to motivate them, Rico also wanted them to learn.
"So we're good," he said to the two men as Rutherford extracted his fingers from the calculator and began packing up. "Not every week can mean a rise in profit, but we're still earning well."
"Sure ting. Waddevuh we can do for's yah."
Rico eyed the men's cheap woolen suits. Undoubtedly, they were the best they owned, but the maître d' and wait staff at Rico's Heaven Club, located in the levels just below the office, wore much better. Still, it was passable enough if they were sitting in a lower lit area off to the side.
"Well, gentlemen," Rico announced. "I thank you for coming and please, enjoy a dinner and drinks on the house. Seamus will show you to the executive entrance."
Mikey and Leo were surprised at the appearance of Rico's tall, angular majordomo who had entered the office at the far end and had walked the length without a sound. The low sun lightened Seamus's moustache with gold tones which also shone from his thinning pate. They turned back to Rico, murmuring effusive thanks as they were escorted away to spend a few hours in the place of legend. They had some promise, both of them. But poor Leo would need some elocution lessons if he was to rise any higher in the organization.
Rutherford needed only a simple nod to know that he was dismissed and he left in his usual efficient manner; nearly as economical in his stride as he was with his calculator hand.
Left alone, Rico swiveled his leather chair so he could admire the view of the airship as it settled in. In truth, he never tired of watching them come in and leave. But he made it a point to disregard it when he had company in his office -even subordinates - to show that business came first.
The azurine-powered engines would be settling to idle now that the great propellers had stopped. The airbags were deflating as well since the hard frames of the top decks and lower gondolas were secured to the towers. The engineers were doing a good job with the controlled bleed-off of the heated air. If it was done too rapidly, the air was expelled with a noticeable bilabial fricative sound. And the next time the ship came in, they would be greeted with a number of "No Farting" signs from the grounds crew and other air yard workers.
Gantries for cargo and foot traffic were already in use as the ship's officers and the first-class passengers were proceeding directly to the Heaven Club. The newer Endeavour-class airships carried more luxury accommodations which meant it should be a good night at the club.
Farther below, crew and, standard, and steerage class passengers would be headed for the streets for other levels of entertainment; none of which as refined as the Heaven Club. While Rico would make money from several of those ventures, his personal interest was with those who came to the Heaven Club, where business would be allowed to mix with pleasure.
Walter nodded as he eyed the masses on the lower gantries. Although too far away to count individual bodies, he could see the moving mass of color and knew it was going to be a good night for business. Closing and latching the wooden shutters of the glass=less window, he barked out to his wife.
"Is she moving yet? We're gonna lose money."
"Trixie, get yer lazy bones down here!"
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Mr Double's Palisade
A MrDouble Production:
Changes last made on: Monday, January 15, 2018