Tuesday Teaser 3/7/17 Victoria’s Cat Part 10
Happy Tuesday! I hope you are experiencing nice spring weather where ever you may be. After a Sunday in the upper 50s we’re having a terribly windy here today. And snow. Sigh. Winter is not yet over, that’s for sure.
As long as it’s not too cold or windy on March 25 when I move it will be alright. I am spending this week going thru my closets, drawers and shelves to weed out what I should throw away, what I should donate, and what I should keep and move. I have got a LOT of stuff! This is a lot of work! *whine* My official move date is March 25, but I plan to have all my packing done by the 23rd. We’ll see how that goes.
This week’s snip from Victoria’s Cat is maybe a little boring. I want to show the threat facing Omaha and also introduce some new characters. This is one of the sections that I may revise pretty heavily when I do my revisions. As usual, not proof-read.
The entry of five men distracted her from that thought. The one in the lead had iron gray curls just touched with brown and an erect bearing. The last one was short, slender, and reminded Victoria of a rabbit. The men walked to the stage, climbed the two steps and filed to their seats, but did not sit right away. They stood silently, waiting for the attention of the representatives and delegates. Victoria noticed that the man with the curly hair must be Mayor McGrath. She had never met him, but she knew that years ago, before he became mayor, he had helped to save aunt Ellie’s life. Gradually, the noise died down. Mayor McGrath raised his hand.
“Welcome to the twenty-second session of the Omaha Legislature. We have special guests for this session due to a matter which we will discuss at length. I am Ryan McGrath, Mayor of Omaha. On my left is Charles Beauregard, vice-mayor of Omaha. On my right is Judge John Case, chief justice of Omaha, and on his right is Captain Dean Erikson, head of the Omaha City Guard. The gentleman in the front corner of the stage is Joseph Finley. He is the legislative secretary, who will make a record of everything that is said here. Remember that before you speak, because any citizen of Omaha has the right to review the legislative records. Nobody wants to sound like a fool in a public record.” He smiled a thin smile and chuckled. “Not even me. Let us begin.”
The four men sat down. Mr. Finley laid a sheet of paper in front of the mayor, and then went to sit down at the smaller desk on the side of the stage. Mayor McGrath raised the paper to read, and after several minutes, laid the paper back down.
“There are a number of matters of concern to Omaha, but I think we’ll set those aside until the end of the legislative session and concentrate on the big issue that faces us now.”
The mayor had a strong voice that carried well. Victoria was pleased that she could hear him clearly. She listened attentively.
“We have invited all the towns and settlements in the area to send a representative to this legislative session. We’re glad to see so many of you here today. In the letter I sent out to your towns, I explained our situation. President Michael Todd of Kansas-Missouri wants to ally with us. I see three main benefits of an alliance between our two regions.” The mayor raised one finger and looked out over the assembly. “One, trade. Since much of Missouri is on the Mississippi River they have access to goods that we don’t, or that we have to pay high prices for. If we ally with them, there would be no additional tariffs. Goods that we would like to have would not cost as much, so more people could afford them.” He lifted a second finger. “Two, military. If Omaha is attacked, Todd would send military aid.” A third finger joined the other two. “And three, medical. If the Woman Killer Plague breaks out again, he would provide us medical personnel and medications.”
A voice rose from the middle of the room. “Yeah? About that military thing. Who would attack us?”
A second, more belligerent, voice yelled, “And what about the drawbacks?”
Victoria jerked in a breath. But the mayor didn’t seem annoyed at the interruption.
“There are drawbacks,” he said calmly. “As allies, President Todd could expect the same things from us. If Kansas Missouri or any of their people were attacked, they would expect us to send military aid. If a plague broke out, they would expect us to send medical help.” McGrath’s voice was steady and strong. “That would be fair. But there are other things I have concerns about.”
The mayor rose from his desk. “I’ve been watching Todd over the past five years. He started out as the mayor of Kansas City. In the first year, he started bringing the smaller towns and cities in that area under his control. That didn’t seem to be a problem. Todd required the other cities to send their people to work to rebuild Kansas City. That didn’t sit right with me, but I thought maybe labor was all those smaller places had to offer in exchange for protection. But it’s gone beyond that.”
Mayor McGrath stepped around the table to come to the edge of the stage and looked out over his audience. “Todd got together an army, and he didn’t use it to protect his people but to conquer people who did nothing to bother him. And then he made those people work for him. I’m not talking about jobs. Those people are slaves. That’s wrong, but did it affect Omaha?”
Victoria fixed her whole attention on the mayor. He was a good speaker, but even if he had been as dull as ditchwater she would have listened carefully. She already knew what answer she, as the clan’s delegate, would give. Her father and rest of the clan had talked at length in council as to what to stand the clan would take in this matter of alliance. The clan wanted nothing to do with a war between Omaha and Kansas-Missouri.
“No, it did not affect Omaha.” The mayor folded his arms. “It didn’t affect us then. But it does now. Todd controls all of Missouri, the eastern half of Kansas, parts of Illinois, and a bit of Iowa. He took control of those regions by offering them an alliance. When his alliance was accepted, the city was annexed to his empire. The current governing body remained in place, but reported to Todd and sent taxes to Todd. Heavy taxes. Some of the people were sent to live in Kansas City or other cities under Todd’s control.”
“Hostages,” muttered a low voice behind Victoria.
“When his alliance offer is rejected, as it was by Jefferson City and Springfield, his army simply smashes the city and takes it over by force.” McGrath was grim. “I’ve heard the stories from survivors. A lot of the people were killed, businesses looted, houses burned. Women and children were taken away and re-distributed to Todd’s loyal men.”
On either side of her, Victoria heard the low rumble of wolf warrior rage, but neither Quill nor Hawk spoke. The rules governing courteous behavior in council were too ingrained in them for their anger to be set free.
“So,” the mayor went on. “we need to decide how we will respond to Todd’s offer of alliance. That is why I’ve invited you all here now. I want to know your—”
A man three rows in front of Victoria leaped to his feet with a screech of wood on wood. “We have to fight him!” he shouted.
“No!” Another jumped up. “We’ll be killed if we fight.”
Victoria felt her jaw drop. The mayor hadn’t even finished speaking! More men were jumping to their feet and yelling. She looked at Hawk with disbelief. Didn’t these townsmen have any manners? Hawk shook his head sadly, as if he had read her mind. It seemed like she, Hawk and Quill were the only ones still sitting in their seats. She folded her arms and glared straight ahead. The yelling would stop eventually.
The boom of a gunshot cut through the shouting voices, leaving instant silence in its wake. The mayor stood with a small pistol in his fist. Victoria realized the gray square on the wall was a bullet trap.
McGrath barely raised his voice, but he didn’t have to. Victoria knew an alpha when she heard one, and the others must have too. Chairs squealed as the men sat.
“I guess Captain Erickson was right. He said we should’ve gone over some ground rules before we started. But better late than never, right?” The mayor gave his audience a fierce smile. “Dean? Would you mind?”
The lean man with short blond hair stood up and came to the edge of the stage. “The rules aren’t difficult,” he said. “First of all, only one person speaks at a time. There are ninety-eight of us in the room, and if we have everyone talking at the same time no one will be heard. Anyone who speaks out of turn will be asked to leave.”
There was more noise from men shifting in their chairs and come low murmurs Everyone will have a chance to discuss in smaller groups. One man near the front raised his hand like a kid in school wanting permission to speak. Dean Erickson stared at him for a long moment before nodding.
“With that many of us, how can we have a discussion?”
Erickson nodded. “That’s good question. We’re going to do it this is way: you will be divided into groups of eight. That’s a good number to have a discussion without having to wait an hour for a chance to speak again. Your group will take the rest of this morning to talk, ask questions, discuss your feelings about the proposed alliance. One of you will write down all the questions that the members of your group want to ask. We’ll collect your questions and read them over. Tomorrow Mayor McGrath will address those questions, and we will go from there. The important thing—” The captain said to hard Claire around the room. “Is that you discuss the issues and questions, without yelling. Do not interrupt someone else while they are speaking. Everyone’s voice will be heard.”
The mayor slapped Erickson on the shoulder. “Good job, Dean. Succinct and to the point.” He chuckled. “Let’s number off. You.” He pointed at the far end of the first row. “You are number one.” His finger veered to the right. “Two.”
The next man said, “Three?”
“Nice,” said the mayor approvingly and moved his finger again.
Marty’s voice said, “Six.”
They numbered off one by one, and Victoria wanted to be a number six, but she was a two. Everyone got up from their seats and milled around to find where their group was meeting. Chairs were dragged over the floor to form circles. Victoria approved. A circle was the best way for a group to hold council. The only person she recognized in her group was Brother Saul. He stared at her with obvious incredulity before frowning and turning to the man beside him.
“A woman?” he said. “What’s a woman doing here?”
Victoria’s teeth ground together. I’m representing the Lakota Wolf Clan. The delegate from the Lakota Wolf Clan should not slap the other delegates. She forced a smile as she sat down. “Good morning. I am Victoria Wolfe, representing the Lakota Wolf Clan.”