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The Fall of Humpty Dumpty

During the years in which the Dutch controlled trade and finances in the world, a man we know as Humpty Dumpty appeared. His name was Humphry Dunkin, and he lived in Amsterdam from the early 1600s until 1664. We think of him as an egg because he was barely five feet tall and weighed over 300 pounds. He used to conduct business at a tavern called the Wall, which was located near the sea wall in the city. He often watched ships he owned travel up and down the river as they either put out to sea or returned with their treasures.

Humphry started a trading business with his two partners, Karl Anderson and Joseph Waal. They named the corporation Dunkin, Anderson & Waal. They met nearly every day in the tavern, which was also a chocolate and coffee house. A painting of the egg-shaped man and his partners seated at one of the oak tables in the main dining room still hangs on one of the walls.

The business went quite well for years. Cocoa from Africa and coffee from the South America and Central America arrived regularly at the Wall along with sugar, rum, spices, tobacco, and gold. Slaves were also sold by Dunkin, Anderson & Waal to plantation owners in the New World.

The business made the partners wealthy. But as most good things go, the fortunes of the partners collapsed when the British defeated the Dutch. Humphry had planned to retire in New Amsterdam on an estate on Manhattan Island. But when the town fell to the British, Humphry’s dreams were shattered, and the loss of his outposts in Africa and the Americas caused him to commit suicide. But since he had 14 children, three of the young men in the Dunkin family managed to keep the business fiscally alive, though weak, for years.

We know the famous nusery rhyme of Humpty Dumpty. Here’s how it really ought to go:

Humphry Dunkin sat in the Wall.
Humphry Dunkin had a great fall (a financial fall).
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men (the Dutch military)
Couldn’t put Humphry together again.

Fast-forward to the 1980’s when DA&W is being run by CEO Olie Dunkin. He has invested in such things as Philips Electronics, Saab, and commodities, as his famous predecessor had. But he has also made some bad deals, which have forced him to take out loans that he might not be able to repay. He is about to have a financial fall like Humphry when a researcher working for NATO and the Pentagon approaches him with a proposition.

There is a Soviet agent transferring Western technology to Moscow through Amsterdam. He had never been caught in the act. But there are plans for a particle beam weapon code named WILDCARD, which is to be used to flush out the agent. It hasn’t been built yet. But computer simulations indicated that the weapon could be just what President Reagan needed to make SDI a reality.

Olie was offered $15 million to work with NATO and the Pentagon in order to interest the Soviet agent. It was felt that Gorbachev might secretly authorize the purchase of the weapon to prevent the Americans from acquiring it or to keep it from being built. If it looked like “Star Wars” would become a reality, a bidding war to keep it from happening might begin.

But the weapon proved to be a workable idea. NATO researchers built a hand-held version of it that was the size of an RPG launcher with a backpack. It contained a small nuclear reactor which powered the weapon.

The Soviet agent offered Olie and his “assistant” — who was a woman scientist working on the weapon — $30 million for the plans. According to NATO and Pentagon plans, half of the money was to be returned to the American government and the other half would be kept by Olie to help out his company.

At the airport outside Amsterdam, the money was about to be handed over to the woman in a briefcase when the operation nearly fell apart. An overeager captain appeared on the tarmac with the weapon on his shoulder. He pointed it at the agent before the money could be exchanged for the plans. The agent grabbed the woman and placed a pistol against her head. He demanded that he be allowed to fly to Soviet-controlled airspace or else he would shoot the woman. The particle beam weapon was aimed at his head as he negotiated terms.

For several minutes, there was a standoff as NATO soldiers surrounded the plane. A few people from the Soviet embassy were seen driving toward the plane by then. When it appeared he was about to get away, he let down his guard a little and the woman stomped on his foot and ducked. This allowed the soldier with the particle beam weapon to nail the agent between the eyes. The charged particles penetrated his head and also the fuselage of the plane, which meant the man was dead and the plane couldn’t take off. But at least the Soviets couldn’t obtain a weapon that might have shifted the balance of power in Moscow’s favor.

Today, WILDCARD is being secretly tested by the Pentagon at an undisclosed location. And the company that “Humpty Dumpty” founded is going strong. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men won’t be needed to put the descendant of Humpty Dumpty together again.

Copyright © 2005 by Bewildering Stories on behalf of the author

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