Part 14: Fit The Twelve : Road To Nowhere
Fit The Twelve : Road To Nowhere
It was bloody Sophia who roused me out of my sleep. The butler had gone home for the night so it was only her and me in the house, and she must've heard me laughing maniacally in my sleep and burst into my room.
There, now, snap out of it, Wal!
Wha- huh, what are YOU doing here?
You don't remember? Well, it stands to reason. It sounded like you were having some sort of horrendous nightmare.
Oh. Yeah I guess I was. Thank goodness it was only a dream. The thing is, I can't even remember anything from, well, about last night. I don't even know why you're here actually, what time is it?
I peered at the clock, which read a little after eight. I had a bit of a headache but my stomach felt like a cement mixer.
Eight? What you even doing here at this time of the morning? We didn't... you know... do IT...
*sigh* No. For some reason we got stuck into the Drambuie after dinner, and, well, you passed out. I was feeling too poorly to go home myself so your butler set me up in the guest quarters for the night.
Why did I even have you around for tea?
I came to your office in the afternoon to protest the lack of schools but you were apparently preoccupied in your office with something, as Beryl said, something about... Vinnie, so she was trying to give me the buzz-off, bless her. But she passed on the message that I was here, so you came out and said you could use some company for tea to take your mind off things, so we came back here and ate and got smashed before anything else happened.
That's about the last thing I remember, in fact. Now I'm putting it back together. Fuck, Vinnie. Now I remember. That's what the bloody dream was about!
What was it about?
I received all this money, went mad with the power, and somehow managed to summon alien beings from another world to come destroy the city. It was kind of cool, actually.
You are a very strange person.
Right, I gotta get back to City Hall. Need a lift?
I threw down a few glasses of water to deal with the hangover, then a coffee, then a couple of bread rolls with the merest smear of butter on them, as that was all I could handle. By this time the cook was around so he was able to give Sophia a cooked breakfast. He smirked at me as he got it ready in the kitchen and gave me the thumbs-up, I shrugged at him and said it wasn't like that, and he looked at me as if to say "yeah sure mate". Damn.
Eventually we got into the car and drove downtown, around that damned statue, and I wonder if I deserved any of it.
I was in fact quite annoyed with myself that I didn't have the bottle to deal with this Vinnie thing yesterday. As I parked the car and let Sophia out to pick up hers, I freezed for a second when I realised I had mentioned Vinnie to her. Hopefully she wouldn't twig.
Anyway, there was no time like the present.
I walked into the office, laid my coat down, picked up the card, examined it, got the operator to call this "Vinnie", apparently she knew who he was, but I guess telephone operators have to deal with all kinds of sordid businessmen.
The call went through, and a gruff voice answered.
"This is Mr Bunkley, I assume."
"I believe you may be interested in a certain fundraising scheme that I've organised. Warehouse 6 at noon. Come alone."
Of course I wasn't coming alone. Did I seem that stupid? Maria arranged for a few police officers to accompany me, though they would keep hidden unless required. I also took Mortimer along, because what could be more fun than implicating your closest advisor in a bottom-of-the-harbour scheme? He would stay back with the officers.
They parked short of the warehouse and I walked into the complex alone. A short, stocky man stood in the dark in the middle of the empty shed.
Wallace Bunkley! So very pleased to see you. An honour, no less.
If you say so. Let's get to the point.
That didn't even make sense! "Electronic transfer"? I felt sure that he wasn't quite what he said he was. I knew I was from the future, but still.
OK, I really need to consult with someone.
Can't you make this decision on your own? I thought I said you were to come alone.
Do I really look that dumb?
I went off to find Mortimer to tell him all of this - mainly to cover my arse - and he was even more sceptical than I was.
Odd. That's exactly what he said in the dream.
Yeah, don't worry, I'll sort it out.
I walked back into the warehouse, where Vinnie was pacing like a thoroughbred.
The answer's no.
A sting? Grave consequences? ENTRAPMENT? I'll give you bloody "Zyxwvu"!
Something snapped in my mind, so I lunged at his chest, grabbed him under the shoulders and began to shake him to and fro.
One of the cops later said that the roar of anger I emitted managed to drown out the noise of the nearby port, which sparked them all rushing into the warehouse from their hiding spots. They came across a man screaming "DID O PUT YOU UP TO THIS?" over and over again, as he shook the shorter man around like a cocktail flask.
They pulled me off Vinnie, who dusted himself off.
Well, shit, man, with the legalised gambling and crime going nuts in this town and all, I thought you were on the take.
Hmm. You make a fair point. But I don't apologise at all for lashing out, with this Mob charade and all. And what the fuck was with that severed llama's head that landed in my bed?
Severed llama's head? I don't know anything about that.
To tell the truth I was getting fed up with all the problems that legalised gaming had caused in town. Organised crime seemed to be enjoying itself in Funkytown, but the City got very little in return for allowing it such free rein.
An amount of §500 a year wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything we couldn't live without, especially since crime levels would drop as a result. I hated to be a puritan about things like this, but it just wasn't worth the hassle.
Next council meeting I had the ordinance thrown out. Bernie would be disappointed but he still had his bowling, besides which Euchre was probably not the best card game to gamble on.
Doing away with gambling didn't fix everything, though. Sophia popped in again not long after the nightmare incident.
Hey, Sophie, how's tricks.
Well that was actually what I was going to bother you about when you were all wrapped up in that Vinnie business.
I'm glad that's sorted, at least.
We just go on disappointing each other, don't we?
As I predicted, crime dipped soon after gambling was banned again. Hopefully that'd make Maria chill a little bit.
It also halved the number of criminal cases that the county court had to handle, which was a plus as well. It meant less lawyers lurking around the Hall district.
I noticed a few abandoned apartment blocks around town, particularly near the port.
On the other hand the first big factory had just been built...
...which helped to add to the peculiar ambience of the area.
I had a rude shock when the population figures for December came through. Ten thousand people had moved out. Then someone reminded me that the Great War was well under way and they were probably somewhere in Belgium getting trenchfoot. I couldn't help thinking that I may have cheesed all those professional Euchre sharks, but they were free to go, frankly. It'd take some pressure off services, at least. Well that's one way of looking at it.
Still the rate base seemed pretty solid, in spite of the exodus.
And since there wasn't much point expanding the residential zones, we could concentrate on other areas.
Such as filling in some gaps in the industrial estates.
And finally filling in that gap around Fifth Street. I decided that it would become Vincent Square, just to be wry.
A notion entered my head. I called Moe in.
Moe, I feel like building a road.
That's great, boss.
I just feel stretching things out south a little. Towards that headland. Do you reckon you could sort that out?
Why? Who can say. I think it'd probably eventually get connected to RuPaul, but it would also form the main arterial link for whole residential swathe along the coast.
It was another long term project, chances are it wouldn't really get settled until the mid 1920s, but whilst I had some spare cash for the year, I figured I'd have it laid down now.
The headland was the first thing I noticed about the city site, along with Karen, as she lamented the lack of trees. I still haven't done that much about that. I might put some trees on it, one year, as well as something else.
Land values around Memorial Park had gone up, thus so had the quality of housing. The park
was now named in honour of the 10,000 that went missing a few months back so that they could serve their country by getting in the way of mortar shells.
Samson the Vigilante still had a bee in his bonnet about his damned jail.
I though I'd sorted out the crime problem. We don't need a jail.
But there are lawbreakers running free! I want to see them locked up!
Yeah. I guess.
City profits were on the up again. This was, of course, due to one loan that was taken out a decade ago being paid off, with the second one not far behind.
The distribution of police stations still vexed me, and with a view to servicing my next little expansion, I had Maria work out how to fix the coverage problems. It was proposed that the existing police station would be demonished, to be replaced by one a little further downtown, plus a new station on the edge of Lake Bunkley, next to my mansion, in fact. I wasn't totally rapt in that idea but I wanted policing to be more efficient. The approximate locations of the next two stations were also plotted but it might be a while before they were needed.
The Deadmeat Street/Memorial Park commerical district was expanded a little more.
But the big project for the year would be Ashy Bend; the area between Lake Bunkley and the Ashy Bend River. Firstly, some carefully planned extensions of Main Street and the rail line.
And the beginnings of the zoning. I was expecting it to be quite an exclusive area once it was all laid down. This would do for a start, however.
Deadmeat Street may not have been intended to be the great shopping area of the district, but it was shaping up well. Of course, as I well knew, the buildings could disappear in a matter of months. I hated that. I could start heritage-listing buildings again, although this would curtail higher quality development.
I made a point of avoiding Gus because Gus was boring. One day he asked me why I was treating some areas so shabbily with the water dept, and I said it was because they deserved it. He just shook his head and started mumbling about Ohms and Watts again.
Another day, I saw a zombie in my waiting area.
What the hell is this, Beryl? Land of the Dead?
Beryl said nothing.
It's me, the Town Granny.
Oh Granny, why aren't you dead yet?
Because I can't afford to die you shameless cad!
At least I don't raise them like some mayors do. So think about that!
She began to hit me with her walking stick. It was like getting tapped with a feather.
People always complained when we were raking it in. Never mind that it was all spent on the good of their health. Well, OK, maybe not literally.
I contemplated the clusterfuck that Sledgehammer Circle had become, though the traffic figures weren't too bad there, people were morons and always wanted to drive the wrong way around the roundabout.
And happiness; we were as good as free from debt. Now, I suppose I could satisfy Granny and lower taxes a bit, but what would be the good in that? After all, she was going to be dead soon.
Europe may have been getting fucked over by the twin curses of war and pestilence, and while Funkytown didn't get off lightly, it had a new spring in it's step after after the whole Vinnie episode.
A work in progress, to be sure, and sometimes the progress seemed to take forever.
But there was always new things coming up. That freak Constance had visited England for her holidays (during a bloody war!) and she was going on about how good Windsor Castle looked next to the Thames. I'd wondered where the hell she'd been, actually.
It was an interesting idea. I'd have to go to England sometime myself, for research purposes of course.