13: ADVICE AT A PRICE

The sense of contentment didn't last long. Spanakopitus, uneasily pacing back and forth, back and forth, had had a premonition of something unsettling about to occur. Spanakopitae tried to calm him with chamomile tea, but it had little effect on his distress.

Suddenly the door blew open. Uninvited, unannounced except for some hail the size of cannonballs, in strode Spodiodi, Spanakopitus' half-brother twice removed. Newly returned from rounding up small gales, he had left his well-regulated hurricane outside, rattling the shutters and doors, but he had neglected to remove his lightning spurs, which always vexed Spanakopitus because they damaged his fine wood floors. (Apart from the fact that Spodiodi only came when he wanted something, the spurs were Spanakopitus' biggest objection to the man.)

Spodiodi, a dark-visaged man, wore a face like a black anvil cloud. As befits one who deals in hurricanes, he lived in a granite castle, around which whirled day and night a herd of small gales that reported to a major storm. It was rumored--though never confirmed--that the dungeon of his castle held, in perpetuity, two prisoners: Paroxysm and Solipsism. This he would neither confirm nor deny. From time to time he cut colossal farts of swamp gas, which he occasionally lit, producing a stupendous explosion.

It was little wonder that Spanakopitus felt unsettled.

Now, Spodiodi was wealthy in his own right, having in his youth cornered the market on hurricanes, which for years he had been leasing to the Venturi. He arrived on his favorite demonstration model; the racket it raised as it dutifully circled the house, waiting for him, annoyed and distracted Spanakopitus.

"Well, what have you come for, then?" asked Spanakopitus somewhat testily. "It's never just for a social visit, that's for sure."

"Advice, my good man, advice."

"Would you take it if I gave it?"

"I might, I might. The matter is of some significance--some urgency, I might add."

"Sit down and put your feet up, then--no spurs!--and let's hear what's on your mind."

With a sigh and a roll of his eyes, Spodiodi bent over and removed his lightning spurs. Spanakopitus noticed that his movements seemed stiff and slow.

"Well, it's this. I know you to be a canny businessman, shrewd but fair. I, on the other hand, am but a tired old hurricane jockey. Too old to do this much longer. Time to turn over the business to younger blood."

"Anybody in particular in mind?"

"Actually, I've had my eye on that Bang!opolis. Strikes me as erratic, but full of energy. So, you know the fellow pretty well, I've heard. I've only had a couple of dealings with him. We've had discussions about him buying me out, but he doesn't have the billion dollars I've been asking, only a few hundred million.

"So here's the thing: I'm willing to stay on for a year, to advise and consult, and we're trying to structure a deal where Bang can put down several hundred million and pay the rest, over time, out of the profits of the company. What do you think about that?"

"Is it agreeable to you?"

"Seems fair enough."

"Sounds like a sensible deal to me. The market for hurricanes isn't going to go away any time soon--especially not this year, with The Powers That Be gearing up for a truly premier winter--so you should be protected. And Bang is hard-working, if a little crazy. He can do the job.

"Tell you what. I'll give you the name of my attorney. He can draw up the papers for you, for a few hundred thousand dollars."

"Who's your attorney?"

"It's sort of a strange name." Stepping over to his desk, Spanakopitus rummaged around and finally withdrew a bill marked Paid. "Here it is. He's called Poovster. You'll be taken aback by his charges, but he does a fine, thorough job. There's no use scrimping several hundred thousand dollars when you're talking a billion-dollar deal.

"Oh, and when you call the Poovster, be sure to tell him I recommended him. This may get you a somewhat better deal, and it may get me a case of fine single-malt scotch for recommending his services."

With that, Spodiodi thanked Spanakopitus profusely, snapped on his spurs, hopped on his waiting hurricane, and was gone in a flurry of hail that thundered on Spanakopitus's door just as he was closing it after his guest. One second later and the greatroom would have been inundated with hail.

Just then, hearing all the racket, Spanakopitae came down from the master suite, where she'd been sipping tea and reading. "Whatever was that?" she asked.

Over the roar of the departing hurricane, they heard Spodiodi call out as he left, "Sorry about that, Span-o. I just can't control these guys any more! HeYA, HeYA!"

Spanakopitus shook his head and said, "Ah, my dear, I don't know about that man. I just don't know."

14: Transitions
Home