Private Enterprise: Hammersmith (twenty-seven)

Private Enterprise: Hammersmith (twenty-seven)



Private Enterprise




“Cranston,” Zetland said, “believes when he undertakes a thing, that he will improve it over all undertakings of the past. If I make myself clear.” A general nod passed over his audience; he’d given them little enough to quibble at, so far. “He has made himself commander-in-chief of a small army of mercenaries, has he not?”

“Well,” said Aimee. She knew what Vic had told her about the American Patriots’ militia. Shaw and Minnie were outsiders, so it seemed she would have to act as representative, as to Hammersmithan affairs. “I don’t think he pays them.”

“He will pay them in the traditional way—that is, by spoils, if he succeeds in his plan. But what is it he hopes to succeed at?”

Had Vic got a moment alone with her, he might also have briefed Aimee on Zetland’s manner of imparting…but crumbs and questions regardless, she found herself able to anticipate the gist.

However, Shaw, at this prompt, put in:

 “An expeditionary force of his own, a private army, sent to Cuba…to impose order, as he sees it. Mossbunker says all this infighting in the Congress shows America weak-willed. He expects the army will be hamstrung, fighting Spain on a serious of half-measures, tight-fisted funding…”

“Oh, I see,” Aimee said. “And so Mossbunker thinks he will actually win the war himself?”

“Ah. And there are complications.” Here, Zetland felt the need of a small prop. Using Derfinger’s sugar tongs, from the coffee tray he took up a cube, and waggled it with gravity. “Mrs. Bard, your son.”

“I haven’t got one.”

“Ah. This Abel.”

“My stepson.”

“He owns the house you live in. Now you plant on it, this farmland, we will say, apple trees. You build a house for a man to manage the orchard. Hogben, it may be.”

“Hasn’t,” she asked, “Hogben been made an agent of Mossbunker? My fault, I agree.”

“All the better for the example I am about to make. Mossbunker acquires this land from Abel… And your trees are his trees. Your apples are his apples. Hogben may stay. The house you have built for Hogben is Mossbunker’s house to collect rent. But, now, we make the condition that Mossbunker will let you stay as well. You will only give him most of your profits from the apples, and only, if you want to bring apples to the marketplace, pay a fee to Mossbunker for this also.”





More of this piece on Hammersmith (continued) page





(copyright 2018 Stephanie Foster)




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