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12 December 2005
Let's Doe It [Lets Fall In Love]
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn created by EOCostello
"The Bells Are Ringing, For Me and My Doe"
by E. O. Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel
"The Bells Are Ringing, For Me and My Doe"
by E.O. Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn, Lodge, Inocenta de Ciervos (c) E.O. Costello
Willow Fawnsworthy, Rosie Baumgartner, Leslie duCleds (c) M. Mitchell Marmel
"And then what happened, Constable?"
"The defendant, Mr. duCleds, threw an empty whisky bottle at my head, Your Honor."
Even in the state of near-death that I was in, I could appreciate the fact that the presiding magistrate wasn't in a cheery state of mind. From the first screamed "Hear ye! Hear ye! The Court of Oyer and Terminer for Casino Island is now in session, the Honourable Charles King Spaniel presiding!" I could tell that said presiding officer was bound to take out his irritation at being separated from his Christmas breakfast upon the assorted miscreants before him.
Raising my head (a painful mistake), I could see that we had quite the Quality Assortment of miscreants this morning. Aside from yours truly, the starring attraction in Althing v. Leslie duCleds, there was the signficant cast of Althing v. Deborah Lamm et alia (a cast that seemed to have misplaced a large portion of its costumes). Last but not least, the starring attraction at the end, Althing v. Reginald Buckhorn & Willow Fawnsworthy.
The plot of Althing v. duCleds was somewhat unclear to me, though I'm sure that if I didn't have gremlins hammering inside my head I'd probably be able to follow the dramatis personae much better. The gist of it seemed to be that the constable giving the testimony had been the leader of a group of four of Spontoon's Finest that had been despatched to check on a series of disturbances at Front Street.
The constable testified that upon entering the establishment that appeared to be the source of the disturbance, he encountered a large number of individuals illegally gathered there after closing hours, and creating a breach of the peace, to wit, a large cheering noise. The noise was allegedly the result of a proposal of marriage between two of the individuals in the establishment. The constable indicated to the crowd that they were gathered there illegally, and that the noise must cease immediately and the crowd must disperse, likewise immediately. It was at this point, the testimony went on to say, that an empty whisky bottle was thrown at the constable's person, missing by a very narrow margin of a few inches. The example thus set was emulated by the other persons in the establishment, who proceeded to throw projectiles, to wit, empty and not-so-empty bottles of Nootnops Red and Nootnops Blue, at the persons of the constabulary. All of these actions constituted a breach of the peace and an assault on the constabulary.
The constable, with a great deal of relish, indicated that enquiries had been made, and that it had been determined that the defendant, viz., Mr. duCleds, had been drinking heavily for some indeterminate time before the incident in question, and had been sold (legally) an entire bottle of Glenfinich. The remains of the whisky bottle were retreived, and proved to have Mr. duCleds' pawprints on them.
The constable was dismissed from the stand. The magistrate shuffled his papers, and in a voice calculated to raise the dead (other than me), the cry of "Mr. duCleds!" went forth.
I got to my feet, Another mistake. Doing so started to make the courtroom spin 'round and 'round. I steadied myself on something that turned out to be a rather husky and somewhat irritated constable.
"Mr. duCleds, these are serious charges."
I blinked and gritted my teeth. "Do they carry the death penalty?"
"Dammit. Oh, well, can't win them all."
"Mr. duCleds, what on earth made you act this way?"
"Are you referring to the emptying of the whisky bottle, or the throwing of the whisky bottle?"
"I don't give a damn about the drinking."
"Well, it doesn't matter. Either way it ties into Reggie Buckhorn. I pranged my plane bringing him back to the Spontoons around ten last night..."
"Which reminds me: what do you know about an incident involving a barge near the Eastern Island aeroport that blew up last night?"
"Yes, well..." Here the magistrate shuffled a few papers, and produced one. "Apparently, it was carrying a cargo of five hundred gallons of pineapple brandy, when it was struck by an object from the sky, which caused a chain reaction that ignited the brandy like a Christmas pudding." This reminder of delayed Christmas eating seemed to make the magistrate even more irritated.
"Put it on the tab of Gen. Billygoat Mitchell. Army Air Corps, Waspington, D.C.," I muttered irritably.
"I beg your pardon?" the magistrate asked.
I shook my head. Ow. "Never mind...I imagine that's part of a pending investigation, sir."
"Hrmph. Proceed, then. You were saying about Mr. Buckhorn?"
"Well, the constables, when they came, interrupted a celebration."
"Mr. Buckhorn had proposed to Miss Fawnsworthy, and she had accepted, you see."
The magistrate gulped a few times, and drank a glass of water to steady his nerves.
"So you felt, Mr. duCleds, that this justified throwing a heavy glass bottle at the officers?"
"Well, a lot of people felt that way, sir. I mean, really, a fellow proposes and..."
"Never mind that. You set an example. Hrmph. Well, I should make an example of *you*..."
As long as the jail cell had a bed, fine by me. It had been days since I had had any stretch of sleep.
"But considering that you made the pages of this morning's Mirror, I'm inclined to think that the public will have already been made aware of the example you set."
Hell. Well, at least the Spontoon Mirror doesn't circulate in Delahare. I think. Hopefully, Willow won't drop nickel on me to my family.
"Five hundred pound fine, pay the cashier on your way out. That'll keep you from buying more liquor to go on your sprees. And Mr. duCleds? You are to stay here in case we need more of your testimony. And do stay awake."
Five hundred pounds? No problem. Staying awake? Now THAT was cruel
and unusual punishment.
Testimony in Althing v. Lamm et alia was put under wraps. Too bad. It would have sold a lot more papers than showing Leslie duCleds being carted out, four paws in the air, to the paddy wagon.
I spoke up for the girls, God bless 'em all. Each of them was ready, willing and able to testify as to what they did. A few offered to re-enact what they did. For some reason or another, the judge hastily declined that. Instead, Hizzoner relied on the written reports of the detectives, supplemented by Sergeant Brush on the stand.
"Sergeant, are you *certain* this report is accurate?!"
"What can I tellya, sir. Th' defendants, they was real reasonable-like when I questioned 'em. I ain't hearda half that stuff 'fore, but then 'gain, I'm Catholic, see, an'..."
"Never mind that. You are sure about what happened on the buffet table?"
"Yep. Five witnesses, six participants. Stories jibe."
"And you're sure about the maitre d'hotel's trousers?"
"Well, we ain't found all th' pieces, yet. We're still lookin' fer th' buttons an' parta th' seat."
"By the way, where *is* M. d'Arbres? Why isn't he giving any testimony?"
"Well, see, I don't think he's in any sorta way t'give no testimony, leastways none that's so folks can figger it out."
"Why is that, Sergeant?"
Durian-puss grinned nastily. "Way I hear it, Doc Meffit's got 'im so pumped fulla happy juice he ain't gonna come down fer a week. Found th' guy hidin' unner a rack of Burgundies in th' cellar of th' rest'rant. Damn near hadda use a crowbar t'get 'im out."
"Spare me the gory details, Sergeant. So I have to rely on your affidavit, which goes on from there to discuss..." Here the magistrate stopped, and gawped at the papers. He read something over twice, and looked up with a puss twisted in amazed horror.
"With a MELON?!"
I raised my paw. "Your Honor, it's very simple. You know how a snake unhinges its jaws to eat an egg? Well..."
The alte cocker waved a paw furiously at me. "No, no, no, no, no! Please, dear God, don't give me any sort of expert testimony. There's entirely too much testimony as it stands right now."
Spaniel hurriedly stuffed Brush's affidavit in a folder, and shooed the gumshoe off the stand. He then glared at me over his muzzle.
"Miss Baumgartner, there is disruptive behaviour. There is riotous behaviour. There is obscene behaviour. Your friends have opened up an entirely new field in Spontoon jurisprudence-the category of UNBELIEVABLE behaviour!"
"And I'm very, VERY proud of them, your Honor, each and every one." The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me Yahweh.
Spaniel held his head in his paws. "Tell me, for the love of all that's holy, that Buckhorn doesn't have anything to do with this."
"Nothing directly, your Honor."
The magistrate looked up. Again with the frozen-horror look. "Nothing *directly*?! Dear God, do you mean he orchestrated this?"
"Oh, no. Lover B...I mean, Mr. Buckhorn was out of the country when all of this happened, to my knowledge."
"Then how --"
"The girls told me how mean acorn-breath had been to Reggie, and they felt he needed to be taken down a few notches."
Sergeant Brush piped up. "That ain't nothin' new. Ya wanna list of th' folks that hate d'Arbres' guts, get a 'phone direct'ry. Me, I'm sup'rised no one ain't taken a chunk outta his bushy tail 'fore this. I got test'mony from a busfur..."
The magistrate groaned. "Dear God, tell me he wasn't..."
Durian-Puss chuckled. "Nah, he ain't involved. Invited, yeah, but he ain't involved. Anyhoo, he tells me that d'Arbres cracked wise t'some of the dames, an' they didn't take it real good, so they teaches 'im a lesson. Me, I figger th' bozo had it comin' long time."
The applause this got from the crowd indicated that Brush had it on the nose. The magistrate gaveled for order, and threatened to clear the court if there were any more disturbances.
The upshot of it was that charges of assault against acorn-breath were dropped. All charges against four of the group were dropped, as their school promised to take care of them. The rest were given a variety of fines totalling about 950 pounds. This was all of my winnings from betting on myself in the duel, plus a little extra. But it was money well spent on my best friends.
Everyone came out a winner.
Except the nutmuncher.
Okay, everyone who *mattered* came out a winner. I figured everyone would pay me back, eventually. One way or another...
The judge looked down at me over his grey muzzle. It was clear from the Glare Baleful that he had had more than sufficient of Reginald Buckhorn to last him this lifetime, and perhaps the next two or three lifetimes in the bargain.
"I've done some checking, Mr. Buckhorn, in the records. It seems that in the nine months you have been here in these Islands, you have been brought before this court no less than twenty-four times, and have accumulated the sum of approximately six thousand, four hundred and thirty-nine pounds, 11 shillings, and nine-and-one-quarter pence in aggregate fines."
"Jolly good! Did you get your cut?"
The beak purpled. "Wipe that fool smile off your face, Mr. Buckhorn."
"It's rather permanent, I've been told."
"Oh, shut up, for God's sake. I don't have any evidence of it, but I swear by all that is mighty that SOMEHOW you're behind each and every incident of riot that has occurred in these islands in the last nine months..."
Well, I *am* on a first-name basis with the chappie who heads up the Riot Squad for the Constabulary. But I didn't say that.
The lecture continued. "You are a bubble-brained, booze-bingeing, brouhaha-brewing blot on your species, these Islands, and frankly, the entire damned planet."
"You've had testimony from my sire, have you?"
"Shut up, Mr. Buckhorn. Don't even get me *started* on those events. I don't know how on earth you instigated a food fight in the middle of one of our most prestigious hotels..."
Willow, who was standing paw-in-paw next to me, couldn't resist, and let out a giggle. The Majesty of the Law fixed her with a ferocious stare, which was returned with a perfectly beatific smile.
"Miss Fawnsworthy, is it?"
"Soon to be Mrs. Buckhorn." Said with a great deal of pride, too. The blood stirred.
"You're admitting this in open court?"
"Don't care who knows it. I'll tell the world."
"You've pledged to marry...this?" Indicating self with shaking paw. The precise terminology applicable seemed to elude him at the moment. Or perhaps it was self-censored.
Willow flashed her ring at the judge, and smiled.
"You did this *voluntarily*?"
Willow nodded defiantly. The most cagey Old Bailey barrister couldn't have shaken this witness. I regret I wasn't taking notes.
"Oh, God. You're going to be breeding, too. Heaven help us all." The beak held his head in his paws at the notion of fawns with the Buckhorn-Fawnsorthy blood combo. Willow, for her part, gave my paw a hard squeeze at this moment for some reason.
Finally, sentence was pronounced through gritted teeth. "Mr. Buckhorn..."
"Still here, old thing."
"Goddamnit, will you...!" A hastily gulped glass of water forestalled any further unjudicious remarks. A series of deep breaths followed. "Mr. Buckhorn, I'm going to release you into the custody of Miss Fawnsworthy, here, who seems to have a clean record. God only knows what she sees in you. I figure that having to keep you under her care for the rest of her natural life is a sentence that's more ghastly that anything the Althing allows me to inflict. If I had a black square of silk, I'd put it on my head right now, and ask that the Lord give the blessing of mercy on Miss Fawnsworthy's soul."
Willow beamed. "How nice. Most people usually give the happy couple a silver-plated fish server."
It was at this point that the judge began to shake all over, and the proceedings were brought to a swift and happy conclusion.
Well, for nearly all of us.
Willow and I stepped out of the courthouse into Christmas Day.
Not a cloud in the sky, light breeze, low sixties temperatures. You could not have had a day more brimming with peace on Earth and good will to furs if you had ordered it from Fortnum & Mason's. It alone was enough to put a spring in the buck-step. I had other reasons for walking as upon clouds, of course. The best was walking arm-in-arm with me.
We had a one-beaver reception committee, in the form of that worthy Lodge, dressed up in his best striped trousers and jacket, and who had dusted off the bowler for outdoor use. This was raised courteously to self and doe.
"I am thinking. The word 'merry' is entirely insufficient for this Christmas. When you have a moment, rub a few brain cells together and come up with a better word."
"Indeed, sir. Am I to assume, from your demeanor, that all is well with you and Miss Fawnsworthy?"
"All, Lodge, is oojah-cum-spiff. I beg to correct you on one point, however, a point that was raised in court just now. This is, of course, the future Mrs. Buckhorn."
Lodge gave that rarest of things in his arsenal, a warm and open smile.
"That is most gratifying and satisfactory news, sir. And miss. Speaking of news, two telegrams arrived this morning. One addressed to each of you." The same were produced out of thin air, like a magician's trick. I was sort of hoping to see some doves fly out of Lodge's hat, so this caused a bit of delay in opening my communication.
Willow smiled broadly, and then showed me her telegram:
"WELCOME LOVE GWLADYS ENDS"
I blinked in astonishment. "Good Lord! How did she know? I mean, I never said right out what I was going to do, but..."
Willow eyed me with mischief in her expression. "Training, Reggie. Training."
I puzzled over that one, until Willow poked me in the ribs to open up my telegram. Which read as follows:
"FATHEAD SIZZLING STOP WILL TAKE CARE OF HIM STOP WITH REGARD TO TAKING CARE OF WILLOW DO NOT STOP MUMMY STOP ENDS"
This was another puzzler, as it seemed like a word got dropped somewhere. Willow assured me that it wasn't the case, and that I should heed my mother's advice. Coals to Newcastle, of course. She was more interested in the "fathead" reference. I patted my pockets, and found my copy of the telegram I had sent yesterday to the Sire. Willow read it, with a broad and silent smile. The telegram was duly confiscated, and stashed in her purse.
Lodge put paws behind back, and cleared his throat to get my attention.
"There is the matter of Christmas brunch, sir."
"Heavens! Slipped my mind, Lodge. By all means, slay the fatted acorn and let joy run untrammeled."
"I met Miss Baumgartner as she was leaving the building, Miss Fawnsworthy. She will collect a fresh outfit for you and some things so that you can refresh yourself and change at Mr. Buckhorn's suite..."
"Thank you, Lodge! Oh, but Lodge? Can't Rosie join us for brunch, too? Reggie?"
"Only if you seat her where she can't poink my nose, Lodge. The spirit of the season does have its limits, you know."
"I understand, sir. I should inform you that Miss Baumgartner has made some rather extraordinary suggestions concerning myself."
"Do they involve a melon, Lodge?"
"It is to be earnestly hoped, sir, that they do not."
"Never mind, then. Oh, what are Baron and Baronin von Kojote doing this morning, Lodge?"
"I will make some enquiries, sir. I am sure the Baronin will be eager to speak with Miss Fawnsworthy."
"Top hole, Lodge. Err....let's see. Oh, yes. And the de Ciervoses?"
"Did you wish Senorita de Ciervos to form a part of the party, along with her parents, sir?"
A simultaneous "NO!" from both Willow and myself. Two minds with but the single you-know-what.
"Very good, sir."
"Oh, er Lodge? Regarding yourself. You, ah...??"
"I anticipated that you would be most accomodating to myself and Mr. Po'na, given recent events. Mr. Po'na is, at this moment, preparing a specialty of the islands back at the suite for us all."
"Does it involve pineapple brandy?"
"I have it on the very best of authority, sir, that pineapple brandy will not, now or ever, feature as any part of a celebration involving Mr. Po'na."
"A clear sign of native intelligence, Lodge."
"Indeed, sir. Will that be all, sir?"
"Lodge, you have done yeoman's work of a morning. Put away the bowler, and find some more festive headgear suitable for the occasion. If I don't have you wearing a hat from a Christmas cracker by sundown, my name is not Reggie Buckhorn."
"As you wish, sir." And with that, the worthy glided off Shepherd's-ward, leaving buck and doe to stroll in the sunshine in one of the squares of Casino Island. Willow and I, of course, were going to take our time getting back. I had just started to give her a spontaneous kiss (beating her to the idea by a half-second) when the bells from the various Euro churches on the island begain to chime merrily, summoning one and all to Christmas services. Bang on cue. Couldn't have done it better at Azimuth.
It was only after a leisurely smooch that a discordant note crossed the brain-pan. "Blast! Willow, we have to telephone Lodge. We've forgotten to invite Les to the feast. He'll be rather miffed to think we've forgotten him."
Willow smiled, patted my arm and gently tugged me homewards. "From the way Les looked in court, I think he had other things on his mind. The only thing he's looking for right now can be found between the bedsheets."
Amazing. I still recognize them. I haven't seen them in so long.
Clothes taken off, thrown to a far corner of the room. To be dealt with at an appropriate time. Say, a few days in the future.
Nearly drowned in the shower when I started to snore, but it had to be done. Couldn't inflict myself on the bed smelling like jail, stale whisky and umpteen different varieties of female musk. That last wasn't so bad. In fact, I could still catch a hint of it in the air.
Ahhhhhhhhhh! Freshly laundered sheets. Soft pillow. It made me want to giggle giddily.
I'm not out of it that much, that I don't recognize the giggle is pitched much higher than mine.
From somewhere near in the darkness came the dread words:
Followed by another giggle, attached to a pair of rather aggressive paws.
I gave a long, deep, frustrated sigh.
And gave in to the inevitable.