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Update 4 April 2006
Leslie duCleds created by M. Mitchell Marmel
"Inocenta Until Proven Guilty"
by E.O. Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel
Inocenta Until Proven Guilty
by E.O. Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel
[I believe it is only prudent, ladies and gentlefurs, to advise you that this particular episode contains immature situations. Thank you.
Look, I think there's some kind of a mistake in what you just said...
Surely, you mean to say that this episode contains a *mature* situation, right?
I believe, Sir, that le mot juste for the situation at paw is, in fact, "immature."
Hmmm. Well, that's as may be, Lodge.]
Sleep deprivation, I'm told, is used as an interrogation device by unpleasant sorts in the
I can testify that it works. By the time I stumbled into my rooms at the Grand, I was ready to tell anyone anything about anybody at all.
After another near drowning experience in the shower, I collapsed face down on the counterpane, not even bothering to turn down the covers, let alone put on my pajamas...
My sleep was deep, but my dreams were strange. I kept hearing the Toucan Sisters
"I took her home
And politely she said
'I'll see you later!'
I nearly dropped dead
But when I got upstairs
She was under my bed
It must be an old Spanish custom..."
I was partially roused (so to speak) by the gentle touch of a couple of soft paws gently kneading my tense shoulders. I could smell a lightly flowery perfume and just a hint of doe scent.
I sighed happily within my dream. "Ah, Miss Doebin, you have precisely six months to stop doing that. What? Call you Deanna? My pleasure, my sweet..."
A soft giggle in my ear. "Leslie-puppy is being very silly."
It was a measure of my utter enervation that the best I could muster was to flick one eyelid open. A chiding tone from the doe on my back. "Ah! No-no-no-no. Why you make with the tense up again? No, no, Leslie-puppy, you make with the lie down, Inocenta will relax you so you make beddie-byes good."
I closed the eyelid and, again, prepared for the inevitable. A satisfied grunt from Cupcake as she started in on my shoulders again. Say one thing for the kid, she could do a backrub. A certain pressure on my back, though...
"Whtr yuh wrriing?"
A delighted giggle. "Ah, no. The clothes, they get in the way of the nice backrub, no?"
Cupcake started working her way down my spine. Shivers shot through me as she began to softly knead my ribcage-
You know, that sounds like Daddy Deer.
"ÁMALPARIDO! ÁHIJO DE MIL PUJAS!"
You know, Daddy Deer sounds a little ticked off for some odd reason. Must have something to do with his naked daughter perched daintily on the small of my equally unadorned back.
BANG! Zing! FWACK!
Something small and hard embedded itself in the headboard next to my head.
Yep. Definitely ticked.
Amazingly, though, I'm wide awake now.
A quick glance shows that Papi is waving a Colt around that looks like a relic from the Civil War.
Ours, not his.
No matter, a cap and ball revolver can kill you just as dead as a brand-new Luger.
So into the three-point stance, and over goes Daddy like a Princeton lineman. A quick grab to get Inocenta (not to mention myself) out of the line of fire sounded like a damned good idea, right now.
From the later hearing:
"State your name for the record."
"Well, sir, my name is Stephen Raymonds."
"And, Mister Raymonds, did you see what happened?"
"Yeah, Ah did. I was standin' by the seegar stand, and here he comes, runnin' through the potted plants, nekkid as a jaybird. I hollered over to Ethel, 'DON'T LOOK, ETHEL!' but it was too late. She already got the floor show."
*****For some reason, a naked canine carrying a giggling doe (equally naked) while running at
high speed through the lobby of the Grand being pursued by an angry father waving an ancient revolver about...
...tends to attract a certain amount of attention.
At the foot of the steps, a ricksha stood waiting. Salvation! I dumped Cupcake in. "Get
us out of here! Fast!"
It was at this point I noticed that the ricksha was already occupied. My uncle Pierre
smiled gently and asked, "Started the party without me, did we?"
About what I said earlier, regarding "immature?"
Forget it. You're right as usual. Carry on.
Very good, Sir.]
I decided the moment had come to bring in reinforcements, so I called a meeting over at
Reggie's suite. Present and accounted for was my best female friend, Rosie Baumgartner, and, somewhere in the background, Lodge. Reggie himself was off playing tennis with one of his chums, and was thus safely out of the way.
Rosie was not all that enthusiastic about getting involved in Les' romantic life. "Look.
Willow. I busted MY tail, you should excuse the expression, getting involved in *your* entanglement with Lover Boy..."
"...(sigh) Reggie. I don't wanna risk any more parts of my dainty lil' person (snicker from
me, glare from Rosie) bailing out Les duCleds. Even if I am workin' for him part-time."
"Not for long, if my recent history is any guide."
Rosie grinned. "Say, I could use some new clothes. Any chance of Les firing me and rehiring me of an afternoon?"
I looked thoughtful. "Aside from sneaking up behind him and saying "who you?" A giggle from Rosie. "Sorry, no. I don't have any idea off the top of my head."
"Oh, well, worth a shot, nu? Anyhow. So, why is it *you're* so hell bent of Les covering his paws with, well, Cupcake?"
"Why, Rosie!" I looked at her amusedly. "Everybody ought to be in love. Right?"
Rosie just grinned. "Why, Miz Fawnsworthy!" Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. "I have no idea of what you could possibly be talking about." Her halo was pure tin. "Anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it."
I snickered. "Yeah, suuuuuuure. I heard you two on Christmas morning. "Sweet Mystery of Life," indeed. " A charming blush from my cheetah chum. I relented. "Okay, okay. In any event, wouldn't you like to keep Inocenta de Ciervos out of trouble?"
"Depends on the trouble," Rosie mused. "There's some gals at the Lotus who could keep her occupied..."
"Um. No. Let's keep innocent bystanders out of this."
"Innocent is the LAST way I'd describe that lot," Rosie purred.
I held firm. "No."
Rosie shrugged. "Okay, then, cut out the middleman and go for the braintrust. Where is
A quiet clearing of the throat next to Rosie erupted. Rosie reflexively jumped and extended her claws. When she saw the source of the throat-clearing was wearing striped trousers and a look of keen concentration, she relaxed a bit.
"Criminy! How long you been there, Lodge?"
"Since I delivered the plate of cookies five minutes ago, Miss Baumgartner. The one you have been eating from."
Rosie looked down at the space where a half-dozen butter creme cookies used to be.
"Tchah! Oh, well. More of me to love." She crooked her head at the beaver. "I assume you're up to speed about Les and Cupcake, right? Okeh. Got some sort of subtle plan for getting them together and keeping them there?"
Lodge was about to say something, when his ears twitched and he padded over to the window. A few yells were heard, followed by a loud gunshot. Old habits die hard. Within 1.5 seconds, my Starr 9mm was out of its concealed compartment in my purse and I was flattened alongside the window. Lodge, evidently confident in the small target he presented, was watching the passing scene impassively.
"It would appear, Miss Fawnsworthy, that subtlety may be out of the question, for the time being..."
So far, it had been a pleasant afternoon. A few brisk sets of tennis against Toby Trotter,
won with ease by the self, followed by some refreshing glasses of orange juice in the bar.
For some odd reason, I'd been feeling a bit more alert and full of pep lately. Memo to self: ask Lodge about the new pillows on my bed, and where I can get more.
In any event, Toby and I were slaying the fatted orange on the verandah of the bar at
Shepherd's and surveying the passing scene. At one point, the passing scene began to show some great interest.
The first indication of this was a sudden mass scattering of assorted pedestrians and
bicyclists, which caused a number of packages, papers and such to be blown to the four
winds. The apparent cause of this was soon made apparent, by the sight of my ricksha driver, Po'na, coming up at high speed with his instrument.
At first, I wondered how he could possibly be making any speed at all. The ricksha appeared to be full to well-nigh overflowing, with one largish fur in the back of the ricksha, a pair of hooves sticking out one end of the vehicle, and what appeared to be a canine tush sticking out of the other. Po'na was weaving from side to side, taking up most of the street, attempting to control his charges. I was wondering what had gotten into Po'na, when I heard the sound of a gunshot, and I immediately hit the floor about one tenth of a second ahead of Toby. The sound of the mirror shattering behind the bar told me that I should be thankful for my primitive instincts. It also told me what had gotten into Po'na; namely, an attempt to prevent something getting into Po'na.
Toby and I decided that it would be well-nigh prudent to finish our glasses of orange
juice under the table until such time as the all-clear was sounded. Toby had the curate behind the bar add something to his orange juice for Dutch courage. Five minutes (and another orange juice) seemed to be sufficient, so I girded my loins, sheathed my tennis racquet and went forth to investigate. (Toby told me he'd hold the fort. At the rate he was guzzling screwdrivers, that was the only thing he was going to be holding in about an hour.) My guess was that Lodge, somehow, would be informed in the mystical manner he usually is.
I found that worthy standing in front of the door to the suite, with a worried expression.
"It would be best, Sir, if you did not enter the suite just now."
"Eh? What? What's wrong? Have they found Judge Crowter in there? A long way from Gnu York City, I know, but..."
"I would strongly suggest, Sir, that in this particular case Ignorance would indeed be Bliss. Perhaps you would care to go to the bar for a drink?"
"Rot, Lodge. The only thing to see down there is Toby Trotter getting hammered. And it's never a pretty sight to see a stallion of his size going down beneath the table with all hands."
"I would reiterate, Sir, my strong objections to your presence at this time..."
"And I reiterate, Lodge: Rot. A deer's suite is his castle, and if you don't mind, cut out the Horatius at the bridge routine." I gently cleared the way, and opened the door.
Mr. Buckhorn opened the door, and peered inside. Almost at once, his tail flagged up and stayed there, and he quickly and firmly closed the door again.
"I'm a reasonable buck, am I not?"
"I believe so, Sir."
"I make very few complaints about my lot in life, correct?"
"I believe that statement is also true, Sir."
"Would it be unreasonable, then, for me to ask why there is a naked doe giggling and bouncing on the sofa in the main room of the suite?"
"No, Sir. It would not be viewed as unreasonable."
"Why is there a naked doe giggling and bouncing on the sofa in the main room of the suite?"
"I feared you would ask that question, Sir."
"Well, I'm not about to take counsel of your fears, Lodge. Now, out with it. Why is there a naked doe giggling and bouncing on the sofa in the main room of the suite?"
"That would be Miss de Ciervos, Sir."
"Which doe it is, Lodge, is of interest, but you are evading the question."
"Mr. duCleds brought Senorita de Ciervos to your suite, Sir."
"Buck naked, if you will excuse the irony inherent in the expression?"
At this juncture, Mr. Buckhorn flattened his ears against his head, and looked deeply puzzled.
"Did Mr. duCleds indicate why he decided to bring Senorita de Ciervos in an advanced state of undress to my suite?"
"I confess, Sir, that I had a great deal of difficulty in communicating with Mr. duCleds, so I do not know the answer."
"Why did you have a great deal of difficulty in communicating with Mr. duCleds?"
"Mr. duCleds was distressed to discover that Miss Fawnsworthy and Miss Baumgartner were having tea in the suite at the time of his arrival."
"And he was thus embarrassed to present them with La Ciervos au naturel?"
"Well, Sir, there was an additional fact regarding Mr. duCleds."
"He was, as you put it, Sir, in an advanced state of undress."
"You are informing me, then, that Mr. Leslie duCleds, of the City of Wilmington, State of
Delahare, United States of America, and Senorita Inocenta de Ciervos, of the City of Madrid, Republic of Spain, have chosen to come to tea chez Buckhorn in little more than the Good Lord chose to endow them with on their birth?"
"I would note, Sir, that certainly Miss de Ciervos' endowments have changed since the time of her birth..."
"Thank you, Lodge. I may be oblivious on many occasions, but the given that Miss de Ciervos was bouncing up and down on my sofa, that fact did come to my attention. Now then: in the absence of any indication from Mr. duCleds as to what went on, did you get any indication of why these two have decided to make an Adam and Evesque appearance in my suite?"
"Mr. duCleds told me that they made a sudden appearance in his ricksha."
"I thought you said just now that Mr. duCleds was not capable of communication."
"I beg your pardon, Sir. This is Mr. Pierre duCleds."
"Of the City of Wilmington, &c.?"
"I believe that to be the case, Sir. There is a distinct family resemblance."
"Oh? He is naked, too?"
"Are you sure about that, Lodge? Think carefully before you answer. There seems to be a running theme of nakedness around here. Or a lot of naked furs running around."
"I am quite sure, Sir. The facial resemblance to Mr. Leslie duCleds was noticeable."
"Facial resemblance, Sir."
"No other body parts?"
"None to my knowledge, Sir."
"So. Correct me if I'm wrong. We have two duCleds and one de Ciervos in a ricksha, correct?"
"This is the ricksha that I saw in the very recent past being driven like mad up the street by Po'na?"
"Yes, Sir. Which reminds me, Mr. Po'na requests the night off, as he needs to calm his nerves."
"From the ride?"
"There is the matter of the gunshots, Sir."
"Gunshots. I believe that Mr. Po'na was quite upset by the fact that he was being fired upon."
"By whom, Lodge?"
"I have reason to believe that the gunshots were being fired by Senor de Ciervos."
"The pater of the aforementioned Senorita de Ciervos, of the City of Madrid, &c.?"
"Would it be unreasonable, Lodge, to suggest that the gunshots being fired by Senor de Ciervos are directly connected with the fact of the state of undress, at the same time and in close proximity, of Mr. Leslie duCleds (of the City of Wilmington, &c.) and Senorita de Ciervos (of the City of Madrid, &c.)?"
"I fear so, Sir. You will recall, no doubt, that Senor de Ciervos took exception, briefly, to what he believed were your dishonourable intentions with respect to Senorita de Ciervos."
"All too vividly, Lodge. While this does make the blood stir to think of the hot-bloodedness of my fellow Penn graduate, one does have other concerns. Now, to sum up. Present and accounted for in my suite at the present time are: Miss Baumgartner, hopefully clothed..."
"I can attest to the fact that she is clothed, Sir."
"Oh, *jolly* good. To continue: my fiancee, Miss Fawnsworthy, also hopefully clothed...that's rhetorical, Lodge, you need not answer...Mr. Pierre duCleds, whom we have established is clothed, plus Leslie duCleds and Inocenta de Ciervos, who are without a stitch and who are presumably on the lam from a gentlefur who is known to have a marked preference for the use of firearms in deadly combat. And they are all in my suite, as we speak out here on the landing."
"That is a fair summary, Sir."
"You've gone barking mad."
"I am very sorry, Sir. I will try not to let this happen again."
"Again?! Ye Gods, Lodge, even for someone of my confessed colourful past, this one occurrence takes the biscuit. Two such incidents would be beyond the Pale."
"I repeat, Sir, that I am very sorry indeed."
"Well, Good Lord, we have to keep the constabulary from finding out about this."
"I am very sorry, Sir, but I believe that will be quite impossible."
"It's not like you, Lodge, to be so pessimistic off-paw."
"Indeed not, Sir, but if you will turn around, you will note the presence of Detective Sergeant Brush of the Constabulary, who has just arrived."
Mr. Buckhorn whirled around, his tail going up in a flag again. Sgt. Brush grinned rather unpleasantly at Mr. Buckhorn.
"That's some kinda party ya gots goin' on in yer joint, Mr. Buckhorn. Mind if I have a look-see?"
Mr. Buckhorn's ears drooped. "Do I have much of a choice in the matter?"
The vulpine shrugged his shoulders, and gave his sooty paws a very loud knuckle-cracking, which sounded like a string of fireworks. "Well, y'know, I can gets th' hotel management, t'open th' room, y'know, an' that's bound t'attract some attention..."
Mr. Buckhorn sighed and opened the door with one paw over his eyes. Thankfully, the delay occasioned by Mr. Buckhorn's conversations with Sgt. Brush and myself had allowed sufficient time for a bath-robe to be found for Leslie duCleds, and a rather thick bath towel for Senorita de Ciervos. Sgt. Brush was receptive to the idea of bringing the police vehicle to the tradesfurs' entrance to the kitchen, thus permitting a semi-dignified exit from the hotel.