by M. Mitch Marmel & E.O. Costello
© 2010 By E.O. Costello and M. Mitch Marmel.
All characters © E.O. Costello and M. Mitch Marmel.
Mature for adult situations.
What the hell was I thinking?
Good thing my family’s business is explosives.
This is potentially more explosive than pure nitro padded in guncotton and secured with detonating cord.
And no, I’m not exaggerating.
In the confines of my drawing room at the Marleybone were my father-in-law Don Carlos de Ciervos, his boon companion Baron von Kojote, Lord Josslyn Buckhorn, Reggie, and Allan Minkerton.
All but Minkerton and Reggie’s father were known quantities to me. What I had heard of the elder Buckhorn, though, was plenty, and I could understand why Reggie felt some trepidation around him.
After all, I’m still a bit in awe of Uncle Pierre.
The guests sat down, and I took orders for drinks.
Don Carlos and Heinrich – brandy (of course).
Josslyn rumbled, “Do you have Scotch, duCleds?”
“Twenty year old single malt, Lord Josslyn,” I replied, although my ears twitched at his tone.
“Same for me, Leslie,” Allan said, sitting back with a smile on his face.
“How about you, Reggie?”
The guest of honor leaned back. “Well, Les, I haven’t had a drink all day, so a G&T would be nice.” He caught his father’s eye and added, “JUST one.”
Lord Josslyn grumbled.
After the drinks I started to sit down and Allan asked, “Tell me, Les, do you have some cards around here? Drink and talk are all very good, but I want something else to do.”
“Bridge?” Heinrich asked.
“I had thought poker, Baron.”
“Bueno,” said Don Carlos, and Reggie and Josslyn looked at each other, then nodded.
Not a bad idea, actually.
At least if their paws are holding cards, they won’t be able to throw things.
Midway through the third game I thought I’d figured everyone out.
Don Carlos: Very methodical player. His initial clumsiness was a ploy to deceive the others.
Baron von Kojote: Plays like he’s at the controls of his fighter, but without the unfortunate side-effects.
Leslie: Takes risks, probably wins more often than not.
Lord Josslyn: Poor bluffer, takes having to fold as a personal insult.
Reggie: Bluffs well, but hasn’t won anything. He’s nursing the hell out of that gin and tonic, and his father’s watching him like a hawk. From what my dossier’s said about him, the senior Buckhorn’s probably waiting to see if Reggie will either get drunk or try to play a practical joke on him.
“I’m out,” and I toss down my paltry pair of twos. I’ll bluff if I have to, but I’m not that cutthroat in a friendly game.
“I shall fold as well, and go to my casa,” Don Carlos said. “Dona de Ciervos will be wondering where I am.”
“As will my Sophia,” the Baron chimed in, and the two left, somewhat advanced in liquor but not actually drunk.
Leslie looked at his cards, tapped them against the table, and laid them down.
“It seems that it is just you and I, Father,” Reggie said. “I’ll raise you ten.”
Lord Josslyn purpled. "Damn your impudence, boy! If y'think you're going to bluff your sire, you've got something else coming."
I raise you twenty."
Actually, this place isn’t so bad, as jails go. It’s cleaner, for starters. I recall one lockup in Nevada where you had to thumb-wrestle the cockroaches for bed space. And with six thumbs each, they had an unfair advantage.
I guess I’m getting too old for things like this, and I hope Allan doesn’t find out.
“Ladies, come with me, please,” a constable said. “The judge wants to see you.”
Rosie, Willow’s cheetah friend, asked, “What gives? Judges pulling overtime now?”
“Nothing like that,” the officer replied. “For tourist season some bright boy on the Althing decided that we should have a judge on the night shift.”
So we were herded along to the courtroom and as soon as we got into the dock Rosie said, “What the hell’s this?”
Lodge was waiting for me when I returned to my room, sometime around one o’clock. It was rather disconcerting, as I not only knew the time but I was sober enough to care.
“Is everything all right, Sir?”
“Yes, yes, thank you Lodge. The night was spent – well, productively, and Les was quite vigilant in keeping me to one drink.”
“Very good, Sir. Would you like something before retiring, Sir?”
In fact, my stomachs were starting to fill up with butterflies. I needed sleep, so I could be at my best tomorrow.
“Warm milk, Lodge.”
The beaver raised one eyebrow, then nodded. “Yes, Sir. I have laid out your pyjamas for you.”
“Thank you, Lodge.”
By the time I was ready for bed, Lodge had arrived with the milk, which was the right temperature and conspired with the gin I’d had earlier to send me off to Dreamland.
I could swear I was asleep before my head hit the pillow . . .
“Wake up, Defendant Buckhorn!”
These winning words were punctuated by a series of sharp pokes to my ribs and more tender parts. I woke up, batting at whoever was poking at me, to find that I’d apparently fallen asleep sprawled across a table in a courtroom.
There was only one other person in the room, a tall corvine who wore the black robe and peruke of a judge. The Court glowered at me.
I recognized the scene.
“What the blazes am I doing back here?” I asked. The last time I had been the proud recipient of a major nightmare that resulted in me hoiking the entire contents of my liquor cabinet out into the street, and nearly getting into a fistfight with Les afterward.
The crow in the wig said, “The Court has had your case under review, Mr. Buckhorn.”
“Oh?” I drew myself up to my hooves, prepared to defend myself.
“Yes. Your actions since the last session of this Court have shown that you are, at least, capable of reform.”
I felt my ears flick at that. “Willow’s been a good influence on me.”
“But all of the good influences on Earth could not hope to reform you, if you did not already have the potential within you,” the Court intoned. “Your behavior has shown improvement.”
I was still inclined to give Willow all the credit, but held my tongue.
“Therefore, it is the ruling of this Court that you be married to Willow Fawnsworthy. God have mercy upon your soul,” and the gavel came down.
I woke up at that precise instant, to sunlight coming through the curtains and the sound of a lorry backfiring up the street.
It seemed like I’d only been in Slumberland for a few moments but I felt quite refreshed and ready to withstand the rigors of The Big Day.
With Willow beside me, I could face anything.
I couldn’t believe it.
Just couldn’t believe it.
Behind the bench sat a duck, a very familiar duck that I’d last seen selling cigars at Shepherd’s. He puffed at a cheroot in his beak, took it out and flourished it as a big-eared fox said, “Hear ye! Hear ye! The Spontoon Court of Oyer and Terminer is now in night session. The Honorable Judge Julius presiding.”
“In other words,” the duck said sarcastically, “Welcome to You Bet Your Freedom. Say the secret word and get thirty days in the cooler. Okay Fennecman, who’s our first lucky defendant?”
The fox turned to the clerk, a big-nosed canine I recognized as Benelli, one of the duck’s sidekicks. The two started to shuffle through the files and a scrum ensued that resulted in papers flying everywhere.
Fennecman finally emerged with a sheet of paper. “We have Willow Fawnsworthy, from Casino Island, Your Honor.”
“Enough about my honor. Tell me what she’s here for.”
“Oh, um, Miss Fawnsworthy’s charged with assault and battery, and corrupting a minor.”
Another bailiff, a diminutive deer named Randolph, promptly produced a shaker, a dry cell, and a miner’s lamp.
The Court seemed unimpressed by this. “I've seen the minors around here, and how anyone could corrupt them, I'll never know.”
“Oh, and burglary.”
The duck nodded and peered at Willow through a wreath of smoke. “Burglary, Mr. Fennecman? Does she have a good story? Does she have a good second story?”
This prompted the canine to mug and say, “Eh, I dunno Boss, she don’t need no second story. She gotta nice balcony.”
The duck pointed at the bailiff. “That’s just Benelli, our clerk. He’s illiterate.”
“Atsa crazy,” came the reply. “I’m-a in good health.”
I piped up. “What are you here for? Tired of selling cigars?”
“I wanted to make an honest living, but instead I became a magistrate.” The Judge tipped some cigar ashes onto the floor before looking closely at Willow and what she was wearing.
Or almost wearing. Before we’d tried this stunt I had managed to talk her into wearing the same skintight black number I’d worn last year. It didn’t fit her all that well, as I’m a bit of a zaftig femme.
“You know, I never forget a tight black suit. Didn't you have spots last time?”
“Not since I was a fawn,” Willow said. The catsuit (or could you could call it a doesuit) was a bit torn here and there. Her flag flicked back and forth, and I recognized the signs that my friend was starting to get angry.
“Oh, so you borrowed the catsuit from her?” the Court observed, gesturing toward me. “You'll forgive my observation, but the suit is a little loose up top. But then does don’t have racks, do they?
“She got-a enough for me,” Benelli supplied, and Randolph produced a small spice rack which he placed on the table. He then proceeded to sprinkle pepper about liberally, causing everyone to sneeze.
I wiped my nose on my sleeve and asked, “Can we please get on with this?”
The duck on the Bench nodded. “Say, Miss Fawnsworthy, aren't you getting married in a few hours?”
“Sowing wild oats, were we?”
I tried to resist grinding my teeth. Lord knows, it was a struggle. “No. I had sent Miss Baumgartner’s handyfur to Mr. Hung’s to get some attar.”
“Attar no good,” Benelli interjected.
“Was this for the wedding?” Julius asked. “’Cause if it wasn’t, I’d like to examine the defendant. Say, in my chambers?”
I gave this the silence it deserved, and started to lay out the whole sad story. “So,” I summed up, “you see, Your Honor, we wanted the attar from the otter, not the blossom from the possum, but we got the cocoanut from the loco nut...”
While the duck relit his cigar (after that little scamp Randolph had put it out with a squirt from a seltzer bottle) the door to the courtroom opened and in came two constables escorting a pair of otters.
My heart sank.
“Pardon us,” the judge said, “while we have a strange interlude.”
It occurred to Vee and I that Willow might not have told the entire story, so we settled back to hear what the Hung Family had to say. The elder otter, Wai Lee Hung, and his son Vai Ree were sworn in by Fennecman, and they started telling their side of the story.
The boy looked rather pleased and immediately proclaimed, “Today I am a man!”
“Is that so?” the judge asked. “Your dad buy you a car?”
His father shrugged and shook his head. “Takes after his mother.”
“Yeah. Just like his eleven brothers.”
Silence reigned for a second, and the judge regarded the lit end of his cigar. “Mr. Hung,” he said carefully, “I like cigars, too, but I take them out of my beak once in a while."
Vee and I giggled.
Rosie rolled her eyes, and Willow looked mortified.
It transpired that while effecting an entrance into the Hung’s domicile, Willow had reached out and accidentally placed her paw on the oldest son of the family, asleep in his bed and having a very pleasant dream.
Compounding the error, it seemed that Willow had felt around carefully before realizing just what it was she held in her bare paw.
Certainly a sticky situation.
“Say, kid?” the duck asked. “Who were you thinking of, and do you have her phone number? Though with my luck, it would be an unlisted dream.”
Benelli said, “Ay, boss, woulda-it-a be an Arabian dream?”
“No, that would be a dream of genii. If you were in it, it would be a nightmare.”
“Ey, I had-a one of those. It was wit' a lil' furry bunnie femme.” The canine grinned and ostentatiously dusted at his lapels. “Suuuure. She was no blonde, though, a brunette.”
“So she was...”
“A genie that was a light brown hare. Atsa good one, hanh boss?”
The judge slumped over to one side and asked, “How much would you charge to put your head under the gavel?”
“I no do that no more. Mr. B'onss, he underbid me last time.” Benelli immediately tried to fend off a blow from a mallet wielded by little Randolph, and a pitched battle erupted that again sent files and loose papers flying.
While this was going on, the duck questioned the young otter, who still looked excessively pleased with himself. “So, young Mr. Hung, tell me your story in your own words. If you don't have any words, I can sell you some, cheap. Talk is cheap, and so's my girlfriend. When we go out, we go Dutch.”
I could understand why.
“So what were you doing, Mr. Hung?”
“I was dreaming.”
“Of a girl.”
“I'm relieved to hear *that.*”
HONK! HONK! The little deer sounded a loud horn and looked like he was about to chase Willow. He was restrained by Benelli.
“Anyway, so it was a good dream?”
“And along came the defendant?”
“I guess so.” This said with a grin.
“Are you sure?”
“I recognized the flag, sir, when she tried to leave.”
“I should think so, young man. You should always come to attention when you see the flag. Did you salute it?”
This question provoked another round of sniggering, and Willow blushed bright red.
The judge sat back and puffed at his cigar for a moment before saying, “Well, it would appear that Miss Fawnsworthy got enough grope and Hung herself.”