home - contact - credits - new - links - history - maps - art - story
### 29 October 2004 ###
Incidents in the life of Inspector Franklin Stagg
as reported by Detective Sergeant Orrin Brush
by EO Costello
Illustrated by Kjartan
"Sleight of Paw"
26 November 1934 0725
Th' late fall 'round here in the Spontoons can get kinda slow. It's the rain an' all that, so folks don't hardly go to th' beach, an' th' weather kinda slows down the seaplane traffic. The gents who run th' casinos don't pay this no neverminds, though. See, they're buncha smart gents. If ya want traffic, ya gotta make traffic. So th' stakes get raised at the tables so the folks with the foldin' stuff arrive, an' they bring in th' folks who can sing 'n dance, an' do other fancy stuff on stage to keep 'em happy when they ain't playin' at the tables.
All of this, fer me, is second-paw, see? Me, Detective Sergeant Orrin Brush, I gotta wife an a few kits, an' they keep me busy most nights, th' nights when I ain't workin' with my boss, Detective Inspector Franklin J. Stagg. We're th' only detectives, leastways the official ones, in the islands. An' the Interior Ministry don't pay us enough, neither.
I fixed it so that fer once, I pulled a bit a' early duty. Stagg was home, I guess, Dunno where it's at, but it don't gotta phone. Checked outta Shepherd's a few months ago. Anyhow, HQ's gotta phone (MEeting-1212, in case ya wanna call), an' someone wuz usin' it, 'cause onea the constables poked his muzzle 'round my office door. Hell of way ta start the day: I get the G-2 that somebody's knocked over th' Sun King Casino. That means two things: one set a' mad owners, and one set a' mad private cops. See, th' casinos got their own cops. Big guys, too. An' they don't got any limits on' the kinda stuff they do ta folks who don't behave.
So I sticks a notebook in my jacket, an' leave a message for th' Inspector as to where I'm goin', an' head off ta find a water-taxi fer Casino Island.
26 November 1934 0750
Th' Sun King is buzzin' round like someone kicked over a bee's nest. Got my I.D. checked three times 'fore I'd even left th' lobby, an' I don't think even then, they was too happy to see me. Guess they figger th' Constab'lry is th' competition. Anyhow, I goes to where th' action is, which is 'round back, 'way from th' tables.
Went to th' place, specific-like, where I sees the most frownin'. It's th' countin' room. One of the private badges is a fox from my village, so I try to get th' story from him. Shifts his eyes 'bout a bit, but blood's thicker'n than water, so he tips me off.
'round about 0300 last night, 'bout a half-hour after mosta th' tables shut down, fewa th' casino's employees are trundlin' back some dough in a lockbox. One guard, packin' heat, an' another, also packin' heat, pushin' a cart with th' lockbox. Goin' down th' hall, when th' guard gets a whack on th' onion, an' goes down. Other guy's about ta turn 'round, an' gets 'nother whack, which puts his lights out. Leastways, both are out fer a few minutes, an' when they get up, th' lockbox is still there, ain't been touched. They get it fast, ta th' strongroom, an' pass it on ta th' guy in' the green eyeshade ta do th' countin', while th' other pair goes off ta report. They come back wit' reinforcements, an' find th' other guy muzzle down on th' floor. He don't know what hit 'im, all he knows is that he'd opened up th' lockbox, taken out th' first sack of dough, an' was 'bout two-three minutes inta it, when things went dark on him. Ain't even sure how it happened. Buncha sacks missin', don't know how much, but they figger it's prolly 'bout 25,000 pounds' worth. 'bout maybe a quarter of th' night's take.
Th' casino's cops are buzzin' round. Idiots are pawin' all over the lockbox, so I ain't gonna get nothin' useful in th' waya pawprints, an' they took out alla the sacks, so I ain't gonna have no luck findin' out how things were. They does let me have a look, least, at th' lock. Lotta scratches, but ain't none of 'em bright, like they was recent. Th' two guards who got shanghaied are still 'round. All I get outta them is that eacha them saw a fist, comin' down right 'bout eye level, then blackout. Didn't see nobody 'ceptin' onea the performers, a skunk, who they saw across th' hall just before things went down, an' who musta taken off when the fun started. Dunno what that means, yet.
26 November 1934 0820
Walked down th' hall, an' started ta watch in on th' casino cops lookin' over th' stage. Seems th' show they got is th' "Circus Bock." Ain't a big show. Just got the goat, who I figger is Bock hisself, some big warthog, paira real lil' chipmunks, an' one lady skunk. They're all watchin' while th' cops are pawin' over buncha props. It's 'round this time that I hear a clump-clump-clump behind me, an' th' Inspector shuffles inta the room.
He don't look so good, real tight 'round the face, an' I can see from the way he's leanin' on his walkin' stick (th' one he won offen Colonel Cougar), an' how fast he sits down, that his hoof, the busted one with the hunk gouged outta it (thanks to some rev'lutionaries back where came from), is givin' him hell 'gain.
"Well, they've certainly tightened security here. Some of the other casinos have made a loan of some police. They were checking all the rooms, and apparently, they've been searching everyone who's tried to leave the hotel since early this morning. Did you have any problems getting in?"
I shakes my head, an' fills Stagg in on what I learned. "I don't get the 'pression we're in friendly territory, here."
"Well, I think the assaults on the casino police have likely made them jumpy. It's to be expected, I suppose."
Stagg 'n me look at the cast, who are sorta lookin' placidly as the cops take apart the props. Buncha boxes, some hats, an' one thing that looks a hell of a lot like a coffin. They open it up. Sure enough, it *is* a coffin. The goat sees the expression on our faces, an' gives us a smile.
"Dramatic prop, is it not? Josephine's use of it during the show makes it even more so."
Stagg flashes his badge at th' goat, who bows a bit, an' walks over and sits down wit' us. Stagg clears his throat, soft-like. "The lady skunk? Oh, I see. I understand she was near the scene of the crime."
Lady skunk, who's in a black silk robe, shrugs. "I smoke cigarettes after show. I see guards pass. I turn to smoke, I hear bif! bof!, I see guards on floor, I run. I no want to know what happen." She's kinda small, and she ain't got no kinda reach. Guards easy got a foot an' about 100 pounds each on her.
Onea the guards pipes up. "Yeah, we seen her butts in' th' hallway. Hey lady, you ain't s'posed ta smoke in th' hallways." Skunkie just shrugs her shoulders, an' tosses her hair.
"Where were the other members of the troupe, er, Mr. Bock?"
"For myself, I was in the bar having a nightcap, as was Bos (here, he points wit' a finger at th' warthog), and as for Ned and Fred (th' two squirts), they were attending to the props, as is their duty, after the show. I fear, after this, they will need to put everything back together. Please, gentlemen, be careful with that mirror. I have no desire to see you get seven years bad luck." Th' casino cops glare at 'im, and tip the coffin over, spillin' out a satin pillow.
Stagg sorta squints at the coffin', an' a fewa the props. "Very nice work. Panthera & Panthera?"
Bock grins. "No, in fact, you are wrong. Their rivals, Schwarzenschwein. But you know of these matters, sir?"
Th' Inspector shrugs. "Illusionists were popular where I come from. The papers used to write of them often. I remember there was a tiger who had a fascinating trick with a unicorn..."
"Ah! Dear old Rajiv the Mystic! Yes, that was a marvelous trick, no one has been able to duplicate it since. You have splendid taste in the matter. Permit me, then, to invite you to tonight's show. I cannot claim to have Rajiv's extraordinary talents, but I hope to amuse. I have provided your assistant, here, with two passes."
I blinks. I got no idea what th' hell he's talkin' bout, 'til he points at my brush. I feel 'round in it, an' sure enough, there are two ducats in there, for tonight's 10 o'clock performance. Now, I ain't overly sensitive, but it ain't right goin' round messin' with a guy's tail. Folks get hurt that way. Stagg sees I ain't too happy, an quick-like jumps in.
"That's very kind of you, Mr. Bock. Are you sure you'll be able to go on with the show?"
Ned 'n Fred are lookin' round, paws on hips, as' th' cops stomp off, leavin' a whole lotta tipped over stuff sprawled over th' floor. Someone's gonna be puttin' in overtime.
"Oh, Detective, surely you of all know that the show must go on..."
26 November 1934 1120
Glad ta get th' heck outta Casino Island, an' back ta HQ. I started workin' on a report on th' whole matter, while Stagg did some thinkin'. I notices that he pulls a few cable blanks while I wuz doin' my thing, an' he starts composin' somethin'. We finish 'bout the same time, an' with a smile, he offers a trade. This is what I reads:
" TO MINKPEEP NEWGUERNSEY FROM SPONPOLICE MEETING SPONISLANDS PARAGRAPH FOR INFORMATION COLON ROBBERY CASINO PRESENT DATE IN JURISDICTION COMMA SECURITY ASSAULTED CASH ESTIMATED TWO FIVE OUGHT OUGHT OUGHT SPONTOON POUNDS TAKEN STOP PARAGRAPH RESPECTFULLY SUBMIT THREE QUESTIONS STOP QUERY ONE ENQUIRE OF MANUFACTURERS ILLUSIONIST EQUIPMENT SCHWARZENSCHEWIN AS TO SPECIFICATIONS FOR MATERIAL PRODUCED FOR QUOTE CIRCUS BOCK ENDQUOTE AT ANY POINT RECENT STOP QUERY TWO PLEASE ADVISE RE INCIDENTS OCCURING TIMES NEAR PERFORMANCES OF QUOTE CIRCUS BOCK ENDQUOTE INVOLVING MINKPEEP CLIENTS STOP QUERY THREE PLEASE ADVISE RE ALLAN EM STATUS OF MARASCHINO INTAKE STOP PARAGRAPH PLEASE ADVISE EARLIEST CONVENIENCE STOP FRANKLIN STAGG DETECTIVE INSPECTOR STOP MESSAGE ENDS."
"Minkerton's Detective Agency. They're engaged by a significant number of American insurance companies to do investigations more quietly than the police, when losses are reported. Especially socially awkward ones. I don't think it's productive for *us*, Sergeant, to look right now at an inside job, or at the various guests of the Casino. I think our distinguished counterparts are doing that, right now, by taking the hotel apart, as well as anyone who doesn't cooperate in their questions. But I doubt they're going to take the extra step of backtracking the players of the Circus Bock. A longshot, of course. I don't really expect to get any information regarding the props, since magicians never reveal their secrets. Nor their suppliers. But one never knows."
"What's this bit 'bout maraschino?"
Stagg gives a lil' wintry grin. "Allan Minkerton, or, more accurately, Allan Minkerton III and I crossed paths on more than one occasion in my...ah, previous life. Purely a personal reference, by way of authentication and encouragement. After all, I doubt we have it within our budget to hire them, officially."
Stagg sends my stuff out fer typin', an' the cable for cablin', an' we kills the time until curtain wit' some other minor stuff. Stagg gives a buzz to th' Casino 'round 'bout dinner time. Sorta winces at th' answer ta his question of what was up, an' holds th' phone a few feet from his ear. Don't need ta know *that* means.
26 November 1934 2200
Me 'n Stagg got pretty decent seats, right centre near th' stage. The mater D kinda frowns at our getup, since we ain't wearin' penguin suits like th' resta the gents in th' audience, but he sits us down anyhow, after a conference wit' a sour-lookin' rhino who's obviously packin' heat under his dinner jacket. So we has a nice view of th' whole thing.
Th' stage is all dark, usin' some sorta black material. Some faint lights 'round the place, allowin' ya ta see a few things standin' on the stage, but if I hadn't seen them earlier, I wouldn'ta guessed what they wuz. Th' lights dim, an' a small orchestra starts up, heavy on the oboe an' cello. Sudden-like, there's a reddish flash an' a bang, an' there, standin' with a grin on his face, is Bock.
He's in evenin' dress, too, but he's got a red tie, red cummerwhatsit, an' a bright red rose in his lapel. They shoots a small red spotlight on 'im from above, which gives him a real nasty air, 'specially with his horns 'n hooves 'n all. His fur is made up so it's real pale white, too, an' his beard is slicked up. He sure looks like he'd pay good money fer a batcha souls.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome...to Hell. I am your host, the Prince of Lies. For what is illusion, ladies and gentlemen, if nothing but lies? I assure you, everything you shall see and hear tonight is a complete lie."
There's a boomin' laugh, an' outta the shadows steps the warthog, whose made up even more ugly than real, which is sayin' somethin'. He's dressed like some sorta sinister jester, in a red 'n black checker outfit an' cap.
"Come, sir! Can you state truly that everything you say is a lie? Because if you do, then you are telling the truth and telling a lie all at once!"
"You underestimate my powers, Fortunato." The "Prince" holds up a white disc, an' begins flippin' it around single-pawed, where it starts changin' colour. "If I say white is white, it is so. If I say white is black (colour change here), that is so, too. I can even say black is white, or neither, or both." Th' disc is whizzin' around in his paw, an' starts turnin' purple, orange, green an' yellow.
At this point, there's a flash, or, rather, two lil' flashes of red, an' th' two chipmunks appear, an' begin clamberin' up th' Prince, an' swipe the disc. They begin playin' "keepaway" with the disc, which changes colour 'n shape as they're tossin' it. Th' Prince taps his hoof in irritation. "Bah! I shall not suffer these imps to mock my powers. Begone!" He puts a paw on eacha their heads, an' shoves down, wit' the two vanishin'.
"Surely, Your Highness, Hell is quiet tonight? Is there a bear market in souls?"
"The market in souls is always in a boom, Fortunato. See my latest acquisitions!" Th' Prince pulls from his pocket a pawful of glowin' vials. He starts jugglin' them in the air. "They are, of course, cheaper when you buy them in bulk. Will you have one?"
"Fortunato" takes onea the vials right outta th' air, an' opens it, producin' a bunch louds screams an' wails. He tips the vial back in his mouth, an' seems like he's drinkin'. There's a hiccup, an' he belches a stream of greenish fire.
"You are a glutton, Fortunato. You do not appreciate fine souls. That was a particularly rare vintage, the soul of an honest politican. Here, let me show you how to savour a fine soul." He opens up a few vials, an' what looks like a few misty critters, not much more'n vapour, come pourin' out. They fall to what look like their knees, an' plead with th' Prince in a series of wails an' groans, paws wavin' about. Th' Prince commands them ta dance, an' they do, writhin' ta the music played by th' orchestra, an' the Prince beatin' time with his paws, 'till the imps come back an' start tossin' tomatoes an' whistlin' at their performance. Th' Prince opens up the vial, and th' spirits are sucked in, like a Hoover. The Prince grabs onea the imps by the scruff, an' tosses him at Fortunato, who whips out a huge loaf a' bread. The imp gets stuffed in the loaf, an' Fortunato has some lunch, with the imp squealin' loudly until he's swall'd (or so it seems). Th' other imp has ta pick up th' vials, an' then gets booted off th' stage, high 'nough ta turn three flips, 'fore he vanishes wit' a bang.
"Buffoon that you are, Fortunato, you amuse me. Out of the generousity of my heart, I shall grant you a boon. Observe my Machine of Desire." Th' Prince holds up a lil' chest, bound all in brass. "It can look into your heart, and discern your most passionate yearnings. As you have just dined and supped, I think we can safely say that we will not be producing mere victuals. Here, press it against your breast, so that it may read you."
Fortunato does, an' starts to think. Immediately, th' box begins spittin' out white sheets of paper, rectangles. Which look a hell of a lot like money. I turn ta look at the casino security boys, an' I can see them start to flex their fingers, an' get a closer look.
"How disappointing, Fortunato. You wish for mere money? Have you not heard of the wisdom of the old phrase that a fool and his money are soon parted?" At this, th' "money" begins to flutter 'round, an' soon it's flappin around like a buncha moths, just outta Fortunato's reach. Th' imps, botha them, start sneakin' on stage, wit' a net, an' they begin ta have a lot better luck catchin' th' money. Th' Prince frowns, an' claps his paws, an' th' bills begin' explodin' inta lil' puffs a fire, chasin' the imps 'round the stage.
"Money does have a tendency to vanish at a casino, Fortunato..." Th' audience gives a sorta nervous laugh at this, but I can see the security boys ain't laughin', an' the rhino don't think it's in good taste, neither. "Since we have touched on the sins of avarice and gluttony, let us turn to other sins, shall we?"
Th' prince claps his paws 'gain, an' the orchestra picks up a bit with some spooky music. They throw a spotlight, an' it shows th' coffin. It creaks open real slow, an' soon, there's someone floatin' out of it. It's the lady skunk we saw earlier, only they added a bunch to her tail, guess fer dramatic effect, and subtracted from her wardrobe, 'cause she ain't wearin' more'n a few strategic-placed feathers. Th' Prince waves her over, an' she comes to a stop, in front of the audience. She opens her eyes, an' gives a nasty hiss, showin' she's got some real sharp fangs to go with it.
"But your Highness, how do I know this succubus is for real, and not some conjured lie?"
"I should be insulted by your doubts, Fortunato, but I am in a forgiving mood. Here, observe!" Th' prince opens up a closet, revealin' a full-length mirror. Sure enough, you can see his reflection, an' the warthog's, but the skunkie's image ain't there, even tho' it should be.
"I could not have doubted you, Highness, for it is apparent she casts no reflection on you."
Th' Prince was about to say somethin' when the imps show up again, in the mirror, makin' faces at the Prince behind his back. They then appear behind the lady skunk, an' make like they're "borrowin'" onea the feathers from her backside. She makes wit' a loud hiss, an' uses her tail to knock the two of 'em into the air. Good thing the warthog catches each of 'em on his tusks.
"Highness, I fear this succubus and her power. Can you not dispose of her?"
"It is difficult to destroy one of this race, Fortunato. Observe!" Th' Prince waves his paws, an' the skunkie starts whirlin' in the air, an' he turns her round, an' dumps her in a box, an' slams the lid. Only her head an' her feet is showin'. "Mere cold steel has no effect, Fortunato..."
Wit' this, he takes a huge silver axe, an' slams it down on the box, splittin' it in two chunks, which he pushes aside. Th' only thing the skunkie does is give a loud hiss and snarl. She gives another when th' imps start tryin' to tickle her feet wit' the feather they stole. Th' Prince puts the two halves (box and skunkie) back together, an' she promptly busts outta the box, an' bares a paira wickedly sharp pawfuls a' claws. She makes like she wants to cut up th' Prince.
"Sterner measures must be called for, Fortunato." Wit' that, he lifts his paws inta the air, an' waves them. Music gets real quick now, wit' a lotta violins. Suddenly, a buncha leather belts start slitherin' across the floor, and make their way up the skunkie, who tries ta throw 'em off her. Too many of 'em, though, an' soon she's got 'em strapped all over her, wit' her paws behind her back, wit' a buncha padlocks all over. Th' Prince waves his paws, an' she floats, well, gets sorta tossed, inta th' air, an' lands face up in th' coffin. Th' Prince slams down the lid, an' takes out a large mallet an' a real sharp wooden spike. He takes the mallet, and wit' one motion, drives the stake home, right through th' lid. He steps back, an' wipes his brow.
"And that, Fortunato, is how you destroy one of her race. As you see..."
He opens th' coffin, but she ain't there, just a buncha belts. One feather drops from the ceilin', accompanied by this real nasty, screechin' laugh.
"Well, ladies and gentleman. The only way I could conclude this tour of Hell was to tell one final lie, it would seem. Enjoy your walk back to your rooms...but I advise you to take care, and look behind you..."
An' wit' that, he and Fortunato vanish in a puff a' red smoke.
27 November 1934 1005
No cable back from Minkerton's yet, which don't surprise me none, so me 'n Stagg sorta jaw a bit 'bout last night.
"Fascinating performance last night. I haven't seen a good illusionist in a long time. Very good technique. I noticed you liked the lady skunk, Sergeant."
"Just so long as I don't gotta admit that to Mrs. Brush. There's your tour a' Hell, right there. Coulda hid a Dornier in that tail a' hers, though. Them tail extensions must cost a fortune."
Stagg raises a 'brow, an' gives me that look I seen before.
"What? What? Awright, so I'm a tail man. Sue me."
"No, no, Sergeant. You made me think of something else, something that had been bothering me. You said the guards, the ones in the hallway, had been attacked by a fist coming down from above, at eye level, right?"
"Yeah, but it ain't th' skunkie's. She's too little, an' sides, she was 'cross th' hall. How's she gonna cross th' hall that fast?"
"She didn't. Her confederates did."
"But nobody seen any..." I stops, an' thinks. Well, I ain't shamed ta say my jaw kinda drops open. "Jeez, ya mean...?"
Stagg's about ta say somethin', when onea the sec'taries comes in wit' a cable. Stagg pulls open th' envelope, an' reads it. Reads it over 'gain, an' gets a smile on his puss. Here's what it sez:
"TO SPONPOLICE MEETING SPONISLANDS FROM MINKPEEP NEWGUERNSEY REFERENCE CABLE TWENTY SIX NOVEMBER STOP ITEM ONE COLON QUOTE CIRCUS BOCK ENDQUOTE NO CRIMINAL RECORD COMMA BUT MEMBERS QUESTIONED RE JEWEL ROBBERY JUNE NINETEEN THIRTY THREE COLONIAL HOTEL CHICAGO AND IN ROBBERY PURSER OFFICE ESS ESS GERMANIA FEBRUARY THIS YEAR NO EVIDENCE FOUND CASES OPEN INSURANCE COMPANIES INTERESTED STOP ITEM TWO COLON MANUFACTURERS GO TO GRAVE BEFORE GIVING UP SECRETS HOPE YOU CAN HANDLE INFORMATION STOP ITEM THREE COLON WHEN EYE VISIT YOU SPONTOONS YOU BUY ROUND MARASCHINO STOP SIGNED ALLAN EM MESSAGE ENDS."
"Mr. Minkerton was good enough, it seems, to involve himself directly in my questions. A round, indeed. I do owe him."
"What'd he tellya? I mean, what's that all 'bout with handlin' the information?"
Stagg gets up, grabs 'round fer his walkin' stick, an' puts on his hat. "Enough, Sergeant, for us to get a search warrant. But we're going to need to execute this warrant with as many witnesses as possible."
"Why? Ya worried 'bout what Bock'll do?"
Stagg limps out th' door, but turns ta me. "No. I rather fancy others may take an aggressive interest in this information..."
27 November 1934 2250
So we sits on' the warrant all afternoon, an' inta the evenin'. Th' Casino ain't too happy ta see us, 'gain, 'specially when Stagg waves his warrant. The Rhino an' a few torpedos troop after us, an' watch us as we go up ta th' stage.
Bock has just gotten through th' bit wit' the mirror, when I helps Stagg up onta th' stage, an' folla him. He looks real surprised, but he recovers pretty quick, an' bows ta Stagg.
"It seems that Hell has an additional pair of visitors, tonight. Do you seek something, Inspector?"
"I am in search of the truth, Mr. Bock."
"You have come to a strange place to find it. As you may have heard last night, we here in Hell deal only in lies."
"Truth can be concealed in many places, even wrapped inside lies, Mr. Bock. For example, let us turn to the events of a few nights ago, when Josephine, here, was smoking her cigarettes in the hallway. I assume you were still wearing the tail extensions you use for your performance, ma'am?"
Th' skunkie glares at Stagg, but she nods. "It did strike me that you are, of course, far too small to knock out two guards far bigger than you are. But the lie that is your artificial tailfur concealed the truth. Namely, the presence of your two confederates, Messrs. Ned and Fred."
Both of th' imps peer out from the mirror, an' narrow their eyes at Stagg. "I not only saw, but observed, Mr. Bock, that Ned and Fred are very skilled at jumping and tumbling into the air, particularly when either kicked or propelled by other means, such as by a tail. It would have been the work of a moment, almost literally, to knock out the guards by these means, and still remain across the hall."
The audience is real quiet, so you can hears Stagg clumpin' cross th' stage as he's talkin'.
"Considering your escape skills, ma'am, it's no wonder you would have been able to pick the lock on the strongbox without leaving any obvious marks. And a skilled contortionist, one with long experience, would have been able to insert herself into the strongbox, under cover of the contents. In a way, you were a Trojan Horse, brought into the enemy's armed camp by its own guards. A second instance of a lie containing a truth."
"But surely, Inspector, that's an unnecessary extra step. Why not simply take the money then and there?"
"As an illusionist, Mr. Bock, I need not explain to you the purposes for which indirection are used. Suffice to say, by knocking out the third guard in the strongroom, a robber could make it appear as if this was an inside job. Which it was, in a certain sense. It would then be the work of a moment to summon the confederates, and take the money and secure it."
"But where, Inspector? You yourself saw the Casino police take apart all of our props here, and both our persons and our rooms were thoroughly searched."
"To answer that, Mr. Bock, I will need the services of my assistant, Sergeant Brush." Stagg motions me over to th' coffin, an' has me stand ta one side. He starts knockin' with one paw on th' sides an' lid. "Would you not say, Sergeant, that this coffin exhibits masterful craftsmanship?"
I ain't too thrilled about bein' a stooge, but I plays along, an' nods. Stagg then starts runnin' his paws along th' sides a th' coffin. Now I gots sharp hearin', an' I hears a raspy click when Stagg pauses for a brief second. But, natch, I don't say nothin'.
Stagg closes th' lid of the coffin, and moves it 'round in a circle. "And now, for the third and final instance of a lie containing a truth." He takes his walkin' stick, an' raps th' end of it three times on th' coffin, an' then opens th' lid an' lifts.
It's right then that outta th' coffin, an' th' false bottom that he'd opened by fiddlin' with the coffin handles, that a buncha wrapped bundles a' currency come tumblin' out. Th' audience likes this, an' starts clappin'. Bock an' th' warthog look stunned, but the skunkie an' th' two chipmunks scowl, an' look like they wanna make a break fer it. It's right 'round then that they sees th' rhino and his torpedoes have broken out their gats, an', considerin' these guys had whacked 'round some of their buddies, ya gotta figger they had somethin' more than tea 'n cookies on their minds. They're startin' to come real fast toward us all.
"Mr. Bock, I'm afraid you and your troupe will have to come with us to Headquarters for questioning. Will you come voluntarily?"
Bock nods. "There is no need for you to handcuff me, Inspector." He holds up his paws, an' he's already got a set a' bracelets on. "I have my own, you see."
28 November 1934 0815
It ain't hard ta see th' headline in the morning final o' th' Mirror ("COFFIN FIT!"), 'specially as th' Chief is wavin' it 'bout six inches from our muzzles.
"Have you two *completely* lost your minds? I hired you two to be detectives, not some knockabout vaudeville act!"
"Considering, sir, that there was a substantial amount of money at stake, and considering the likely attitude of the Casino's police..."
"Oh, for heaven's sake, don't start in on *that* again, Inspector. Which reminds me, the Sun King's head of security called me this morning. He's practically incandescent! What *were* you thinking, showing his force up like that?"
"After what them boys did in muckin' up th' evidence, they needed showin' up."
"Hold your tongue, Sergeant. *You're* not the one who has to deal with him every day. Nor the Minister. Neither he nor I relish being woken up at one in the morning to hear about some dashed tomfoolery."
Yeah, he likes bein' woken up at that hour by only one person, an' fer one thing. Didn't say that, though. I gots enough sense fer that.
"With respect, sir, we got confessions from the lady skunk and her two confederates regarding the robbery and some past actions, and it's certain Mr. Bock and Mr. Bos will co-operate..."
"Hang your co-operation, Inspector. You, of all people. I would think that with your experience, you'd be above this sort of nonsense...
Th' Chief's secretary pokes her lil' pink nose 'round the door, just 'bout now. "Sir? The Minister is on the phone. He wants you to assist him in answering a question that just got tabled at the Althing..."
"Oh, GOD!" Chief grits his teeth, an' looks up above fer a bit a' strength. He gets it, an' uses it on us. "GET OUT OF MY SIGHT, YOU TWO!"
Lemme tell ya, that wuz one long walk down from th' Chief's office. I don't think hardly nobody on Meetin' Island missed hearin' that lil' session in th' woodshed. Certainly nonea the uniforms at HQ, who sorta look away a bit from us.
Stagg sorta sits down wit' a sigh in his chair, back in our office. He's got that look like he's been knocked in the stomach 'bout fifteen times, an' I bet I ain't lookin' happy-go-lucky.
"Good thing the wife ain't spent my Christmas bonus, yet. That just went flyin' out the window."
Stagg's sorta flippin' through the first mail delivery, an' stops at a fancy envelope, which he opens. Smallish card, heavy stock. His face gets a bit better. "Well, at least the Casino Association takes a diffferent view from the Chief and their security forces." He waves the card. "Thank you note, and an indication that a pass for dinner for two is forthcoming. Perhaps you'll be able to give Mrs. Brush a Christmas treat, Sergeant?"
"They say how th' pass is comin'?"
Stagg looks at th' card. "No." He then looks up at me, wit' a sorta smile. "Perhaps you ought to check your tail in a few hours."