The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 9 Excerpt

The wind whipped at Zoey’s hair. She laughed. This was almost as much fun as flying. She pressed her feet down on the clutch and the brake as she zoomed around the corner of Forest and Ivy. Then pressing the forward accelerator again, she zipped in and out of traffic as the candy apple red Bromfeld X shot past other steam carriages and riders upon the backs of iguanodons. Zoey was at the corner of Newlands Street before she knew it, and brought the car to a screeching halt.

Pulling the brake into place, she grabbed her purse, hopped out, and danced around to the back, where she opened the release cock. A whistling scream of hot gas shot into the air.

“Oops, too much heat,” she said, opening the firebox with her bare hand and sticking her face into it.

Reveling in the warmth for just a moment, she then closed the door and walked up the cobblestone path to Martin & Shinde Men’s Emporium. The bell rang as she stepped inside. As she breathed in the smell of leather and wool, her mouth watered. The store, some twenty feet wide but at least four times that deep, was packed with suits, shoes, belts, hats, and sundries for men. A stack of round tins filled with mustache cream drew her attention. She picked one up and opened it, taking a sniff.

“Mmm.”

“May I help you, young miss?”

Turning to her left, Zoey found a thin bespectacled man in a very crisp pinstriped suit. He had a large nose, but a narrow mustache. He gave her a close-mouthed smile and a slight bow.

“I would be very grateful if you could. You see, my young man has recently given me a wonderful present and I thought I would get him something nice too. Can you help me, Mister..?”

“Shinde, Mattius Shinde.”

“Oh. Like the name of the store.”

“Exactly.”

“Do you think you can help me, Mr. Shinde?”

“Of course. I assume, since you are here, that you have narrowed it down to something in menswear. Is your young man a snappy dresser?”

“Indeed. He always looks his best, and he enjoys quality in his things.”

“And you say he bought you a present?”

“Yes. He’s very thoughtful.”

“May I ask what he gave you? Perhaps that will help us judge just what sort of present you should get him.”

“A car!” she said, her eyes lighting up. “It’s brilliant, and red, and extremely fast for something limited to the ground.”

“Well…” Mr. Shinde looked around. “We have some of the finest new suits from Brechalon.”

“No. I don’t want to get anything he has to get fitted for. I want to give it to him today.”

“We have some of the very finest hats.”

“He has a lot of hats already.”

“How about some aftershave lotion?”

Zoey sighed. “Maybe I’ve come to the wrong place. Aftershave lotion? I mean really! He bought me a car!”

“How about shoes?”

“He does like shoes,” she said.

“Excellent. We have the very finest walking boots and pumps, as well as very nice dress shoes.” He led her across the room to a section of the wall filled with footwear.

“I like these,” said Zoey.

“Excellent choice,” said Shinde, picking up one and handing it to her. “Cap toe oxfords of high quality cow hide.”

She held the shoe to her nose. “Why do cows smell so yummy?”

He shrugged.

“These are just the thing. I want a pair in brown and a pair in black, and of course I want spats to go with them. Laces too.”

“Excellent.” said the proprietor. “Now about the size.”

“Augie’s foot is exactly this big,” she said, pointing to her chin with one index finger and her hairline with the other.

Shinde looked like a man who very much wanted to ask a question, but wasn’t going to do so. At last, he picked up a shoe sizer and held it awkwardly to her face.

“Size nine,” he reported. “I’ll get those ready for you.”

A few minutes later, he had the purchases secured in boxes wrapped with twine.

“That will be fifty-four marks, twenty p.”

Zoey opened her purse and withdrew a huge wad of banknotes. She stopped and narrowed her eyes, and looked at Shinde like might at any moment pounce on her money. Turning away, she counted out fifty-two marks, and then fished out four two-toned five-pfennig coins. After putting the rest of her money away, she turned around and held it out. Shinde had to pull the notes out of her tightly clamped fingers, but at last he had the payment and handed her the merchandise.

“Thank you so much!” she called, as she slipped out the doorway.

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