by Bryan Cole
Lawrence Dragonowski casually looked out over the square. The bar on the roof of his casino in downtown Madrid afforded him some degree of privacy in off-hours as well as giving him a somewhat decent view, at least of the park. The spiraling arcologies had successfully enshrouded several blocks of downtown Madrid as the corporates pursued their goal of masses of labor huddled together, and the masses pursued their goals of consuming and working and providing for their children, the perpetual force that kept the economy rolling.
Lawrence Dragonowski thought that was a fine goal, if one either: a) Had no ambition or; b) Had no desire to see something better for themselves or at least their family. Not having a family, the Dragon had only himself to better. His casino owed the existence of its relatively low roof to a unique series of events. The building was seen as being upon structurally unsound footing, not due to the quality of the construction material, but for the gap under it created by the failed attempt of fundamentalists to blow up a synagogue.
What the amateurs (Dragon couldn’t help but think of them that way) hadn’t realized was that the foundation of the building was built on top of poured ferrocrete and rebar supports, and that by planting their semtex under the structure, they had only killed themselves when their device triggered prematurely. The concussive pressure was enough to send a half dozen manhole covers rocketing several feet into the air around the block they had targeted.
Since then the synagogue had moved, more due to gentrification than religion. The city engineers, however, had disappointed the new developers: Rather than risk a high-rise on a dodgy block that could collapse if it was given too much strain, they simply invoked a vertical limit on the site and quietly closed the matter. In the interim period, some squatter had converted the temple to an unlicensed speakeasy.
Convincing the squatter to vacate the premises was one of those episodes that Dragon had always and would always remain reticent to disclose. Those events, though, had given the building a reputation for bad luck that Dragon had leveraged into a dark reputation that lured in gamblers.
“You still taking it easy, old man?”
The Dragon half-smiled as he turned part way to address his guest.
“Hard to do with you whippersnappers running things into absolute shit these days.”
“And here I figured you’d have decided to make yourself less ugly with all this cred you’ve got banked.”
From the Fuchida-Matsuro Capital firm occupying the fourth through the seventh floors of the Ichiban-Martinez building, Accounts-Surveyor Pablo Espadillo looked briefly out of the window in his cubicle (which had been his reward for saving the company 250,000 when he isolated a graft account being used by one of the less-liked executives of the company). He witnessed two rather burly-looking men hugging on the roof of the casino he walked past on his way to work.
“A gay bar, that’s just great,” he thought to himself as he settled back in to working on his resume.
Dragonowski noticed with some surprise how smoothly Hatcher had palmed the object from Moscow into his hand, and he subsequently slipped it into his pants pocket with equal dexterity. It would never appear around Hatcher, either in form or in topic, again. Dragon knew enough about Hatcher to know that there would be no questions.
“Heard you got your freedom. Glad to see you up and around.”
“Thanks. Good to still be with the living.”
Dragon cut off the comment in his head that formed in retort. Whatever time Hatcher had done in Leavenworth, and for all the action he must have seen in whatever black outfit they had volunteered him for, he still looked capable.
“Guess we’ll need to get you situated. Figure out where the Hell you’re gonna live.”
“You mean I can’t bunk with you, grandpa?”
“No, junior, you’re a big boy now, and I need you somewhere handy but separate from me.”
Hatcher nodded his head as they headed for the stairs back down to the casino. If they were already setting up OPSEC for his stay in Madrid, then he suspected things were about to accelerate to his preferred pace.