Rundle peels off his sweat-soaked jacket as soon as he's back in his office. There's a tiny breath of breeze coming in through the open window, but not enough to compensate for the muggy heat of the day.
Rundle hangs up the jacket methodically, and starts on his tie. It hasn't been a good day; despite how hard he leaned on Connington last week, this morning the idiot voted against the potash bill amendments and helped the liberals defeat the bill.
Rundle sinks into his desk chair with a heavy sigh, wondering if there's any iced lemonade to be had. Stacked in his in-basket are three more bills. He may have more power since Tsibola's left town, but he doesn't have any more more money.
Rundle lets his thoughts turn to his dear Aunt Matilda, who for the past month has been on her deathbed. She'd better hurry it up; he needs the money he'll be inheriting from her. Soon. The sooner, the better.
Dewey knocks on his boss's door, carrying a couple of folders and the morning mail.
Rundle: Come in.
Rundle welcomes the distraction from his glum thoughts.
Dewey: Morning mail, boss.
Dewey holds out the stack.
Rundle: Thanks, Dewey. Any chance of an iced lemonade to go with it?
Rundle takes the mail and begins leafing through it. Bill, annoying begging letter, bill, bill. He tosses the pile to his desk.
Dewey: I'll see if they've refilled the pitchers in the front office.
Rundle: Anything interesting in the lot, or is this all just more of the same?
Dewey: A couple of things that you should know about. First, we got a call from Connington's lawyer, protesting the incident last week on behalf of that night watchman and his family.
Rundle: Hmm. What's he looking for?
Dewey: Apparently, the fellow won't be able to work for a few months, and his family is worried about how to pay for medical attention and living expenses.
Rundle: Cash, then, and lots of it.
Dewey: At the usual rate, or do you want to go higher?
Rundle has dealt with such incidents before; it's not the first time his hirelings have gotten a bit... overenthusiastic about their work.
Rundle: The usual should be sufficient, I'd think. It's not as if I'm made of money. Um, we'll have to tie this up in paperwork for a bit; we've a slight cash flow problem this month.
Rundle silently wishes Aunt Matilda would hurry up and let go. Unfortunately, she's as stubborn as her nephew.
Dewey: I see.
Dewey wonders if his paycheck, too, will be delayed. Again.
Rundle: I'm expecting to see the whole financial situation resolved within the next few weeks, Dewey. Everything will work out.
Dewey: I sure hope so, boss.
Rundle's mouth offers a cruelly reassuring smile, which doesn't make it as far as his eyes.
Rundle: It will.
Dewey: Oh. There's a letter from a Mr. Howe, from Yartmuth, in the stack. Looks official.
Rundle: Yartmuth, you say?
Rundle leafs through the stack with scarcely disguised eagerness. This could be it.
Rundle finds the envelope and rips it open.
Rundle: "regret to inform... peacefully at home... reading of the will scheduled..."
Rundle looks up at his aide with a most unseemly grin.
Rundle: This is it.
Dewey is a little ~~ taken aback ~~ by this response.
Dewey: It is?
Rundle: My Aunt Matilda has died.
Dewey: I'm sorry to hear that, sir.
Rundle: My very wealthy Aunt Matilda. Whose sole heir I am.
Dewey thinks that over for a moment.
Dewey: Oh. I think i see, sir.
Rundle: As of three days from now, my financial worries are over. No need to stall on the Connington settlement now.
Dewey: I see, sir. I'll get right on it, then.
Rundle: You do that. But first...
Rundle: My lemonade?
Dewey: Oh! Of course, sir. I'll send out for it, if I have to.
Rundle: You do that.
Dewey rushes out, ~~ happy ~~ at the prospect of paying his rent on time, after all.
Rundle sits back to contemplate wealth beyond the wildest dreams of profligacy. He's sipping on his third lemonade and sorting his bills into prioritized stacks when another knock sounds at the door.
Cheatum barges through the door without waiting for an answer.
Cheatum: Rundle, you've gone too far, this time! What in the world did you do to "persuade" Connington, anyway? Threaten to slaughter his wife's favorite dog?
Rundle: Calm down, Artus. We'll pay him off.
Cheatum: You're too late. The Centrists already did.
Rundle: What do you mean?
Cheatum: He's downstairs now, telling the press that he's switching parties.
Rundle: He's what?
Rundle slams down his glass of lemonade with a thud.
Cheatum: He's bolting the party, because, as he puts it, he "got a very close look at Conservative ethics in action, and didn't like what he saw".
Rundle surges to his feet.
Rundle: That little turncoat! I'll...
Cheatum: You'll what? Give him more ammunition for his next press conference?
Rundle sinks back into his chair, grinding his teeth.
Rundle: What, exactly, did he say?
Cheatum: He didn't give particulars. This time. But from the grim look on the face of the lawyer standing behind him, that may not last.
Rundle's hand jerks toward where he would be wearing his pistol, if he were carrying one today. His elbow strikes the glass of lemonade, sending it to shatter on the floor.
Rundle: Find out how much it will cost to shut him up.
Rundle scowls. This isn't what he'd planned to do with Aunt Matilda's large, but not limitless, nest egg.
Cheatum: I'll put out a feeler, but it's possible that the Centrists want your head badly enough to push Connington into something very embarrassing for us.
Rundle: Outbid them. Whatever it takes.
Rundle has been in this game long enough to know that there's always some amount of money that's enough.
Cheatum: Since when have you been able to outbid the likes of Paluxum or Torbil? You can't even pay your club fees on time, I hear.
Rundle: Since now.
Rundle rummages among the piles on his desk, and pulls out the letter fron Yartmuth.
Rundle: Auntie M finally did it.
Rundle thrusts the letter into Cheatum's hand.
Cheatum scans it.
Cheatum: Huh. You'd better hope she's left you a bundle.
Rundle: She's worth more than a bundle.
Cheatum: I should tell the club you'll pay your dues soon, then?
Rundle: Yes, yes, everything.
Rundle is still, despite Cheatum's news, feeling the invincibility that only wealth can buy.
Cheatum nods with some ~~ skepticism ~~, and leaves.
Rundle sits fingering the letter from Yartmuth, wondering why his tastebuds should suddenly be assaulted by the memory of Auntie M's famous peach crumble.