War Came Early 2: West and East by Harry Turtledove

War Came Early 2: West and East by Harry Turtledove

Author:Harry Turtledove
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
ISBN: 9780345521842
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Published: 2010-09-01T04:00:00+00:00

Chapter 15

Pete McGill had never figured he would walk into a shop that sold carved jade and other jewels. Then again, he’d never figured he would fall in love with a White Russian taxi dancer. Life was full of surprises. He was enjoying this one a hell of a lot more than, say, getting stomped by half a dozen Japanese soldiers with hobnailed boots.

All the same, he’d come to the Jade Tree Maker out on Yates Road by himself. If he’d had any of his buddies along, they would have told him he was pussy-whipped. They might even have been right. But that would have made him more likely to try to punch them out, not less.

A Eurasian man in a sharp silk suit stood behind the counter. “Good day,” he said in smooth English. The way he dipped his head was almost a bow. “How may I help you today, sir?”

“Right now I’m only looking,” Pete said.

“Of course.” The proprietor or clerk or whatever he was pretended the American Marine didn’t exist. He was good at it. A white man would have kept sneaking glances Pete’s way. This fellow didn’t. He had the Oriental knack for not seeing what lay right under his nose. You needed that knack if you were going to live in the crowded warrens of Peking or Shanghai without going nuts.

If Pete tried to heist something, now … The man in the suit would turn out to have been watching all along. Understanding as much, Pete kept his hands to himself as he examined the merchandise.

Jade trees, sure enough. They came in all sizes from three inches to three feet tall, all qualities of jade—jadeite was a much more brilliant green than the cheaper nephrite—and all degrees of elaboration in the carving. Prices started at a few dollars Mex and went straight up like a mortar bomb.

He thought—he hoped—Vera would like a jade tree. He had cash in his pocket. A corporal’s pay was nothing back in the States; in Shanghai, it made him well-off. He had nothing to spend his money on but cigarettes and booze—both cheap—and his lady love. Spend he would.

He picked up a jade tree: not a very big one, but full of detailwork in the carving of branches and leaves, and of peasants and cattle on the base. When he took it over to the counter, the Eurasian man dipped his head again. “You are a man of taste,” he said.

Which meant the dicker would be harder. “How much do you want for it?” he asked.

“The price is on the tag here.” The man in the silk suit tapped it with his forefinger. “One hundred twenty-five dollars Mex.”

That was about forty bucks U.S.—a month’s pay, more or less. The exchange rate went up and down, often wildly. Pete didn’t get mad or storm out. He’d played these games before. “I know that’s what the price tag says,” he said patiently. “But how much do you really want for it?”

“You are an American,” the Eurasian said.


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