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## Upload January 2005 ##

"Telephone Inspector Stagg!"
Incidents in the life of Inspector Franklin Stagg
 as reported by Detective Sergeant Orrin Brush
& edited 

by EO Costello

"The Unblinking Eye"
by EO Costello

2 January 1935 0645

     Lemme tellya somethin', it ain't easy gettin' inta work after a four-day weekend, 'specially after th' holidays an' all.   Stagg was real nice, an' more or less fixed things so I didn't gotta show up much 'tween Christmas an' today.  Most time I've had in real long while t'play wit' th' pups.  Not many folks on th' beach, so I plays a lotta catch, and does a buncha swimmin'.  So I kinda felt good, mental-like, gettin' in.

     Stagg'd left me a memo.  Thought it was somethin' 'bout what happened, but it was just sorta a funny memo 'bout a movie I seen before Christmas, 'bout a Frenchie deer-detective.  Funny thing was that Stagg really did have some inside stuff 'bout what happened, leastways toward th' end.  [Note: the memorandum my great-grandfather refers to has survived, as has been reproduced in this collection - OXFB IV]  Kinda figures, knowin' him.

     'nother new thing I sees is that we gotta telephone.   Stagg comes in, not long after I does, an' sorta looks it over, pickin' it up.  It's one of them French jobs, don't look like no 'merican or Brit job.  Musta been picked up down south from Tahiti or such.  Looks used hard, but it works.  Plugged in t'HQ's switchboard.  Downsidea this is that th' Chief's gotta new way t'yell at us, but then, I figger he ain't all that keen on yappin' with us nohow.

      Kinda quiet fer us, guess th' nogoodniks gotta hangover or somethin'.   Papers today had more stuff on th' filmin' that's goin on right now.  See, Azimuth, big outfit east in Hollywood, they likes doin' filmin' 'round here.  Right now, they're doin' a sorta sea epic.  They been here doin' boat-shots for a buncha weeks, an' they started doin' some talkin' scenes last month.  I asks Stagg 'bout it, since he's sorta quiet-like doin' paperwork.

      "Yes, I've read about it.  Curious, in a way, since from what I gather, the plot involves the Royal Navy's anti-pirate patrols in the North Pacific, and the colonization of the Spontoons by the British.  I would have thought that would be a sore subject for some, here."

      "Yeah, well, ain't no bandage likea stacka greenbacks, hanh?  'sides, most folks 'round here came afterwords, so they don't care."

      "Which reminds me.  You said your ancestor, the first one here, jumped ship early in the 19th century from a whaler.  But the books I've read indicate that the Islands weren't really settled until much later..."

     "Settled official-like, yeah.  In th' tax-payin' sense."

     "Which leads me to believe that your family was operating unofficially, then."

     "Used t'brew this sorta homemade hooch that had a real kick, usin' local fruits an' such. Pirates, folks from t'other islands, they'd trade fer it, an', well, y'know, th' older Brushes figgered they didn't have t'follow no laws 'bout registerin' marriages, payin' taxes, keepin' records, an' such.  Brits didn't hold wit' nonea that, when they comes in.  Broke up th' fun.  So my kin, we scoots up ta t'Uplands, an' we keeps makin' our hooch.  Why we broke inta th' law business."

     "The 'poachers make the best gamekeepers' theory?"

      "'bout right.  Leastways, we knew when th' Brits were comin' lookin' fer our still.  Anyhow, ain't much that's lasted, though.  We don't sell th' hooch no more.  Folks want their Johnny Walker, not Sour Cocoanut Popskull.  Folks ain't got no respeck fer history no more."

2 January 1935 1350

     Me 'n Stagg had a good, long lunch at Luchow's, joint near HQ.  Luchow offers Stagg a platea "roast hedge, with all the trimmings."   Stagg sorta smiles.  I was wonderin' how many ways Luchow could describe a deer's lunch.  Only so many synowhatsits for leaves, y'know?

    Anyhow, we ain't back more'n a minute, hardly time to hang up our hats, when th' phone rings.  Nearly made me jump, but Stagg sorta stretches outta paw, like it's instinct.  Didn't even look, didn't blink none.

    "Detective Bureau.  Inspector Stagg speaking...yes...oh, I see...where?...Island Hospital...is she...I see...any witnesses?  I see.  And this took place...?  Ah.  Who telephoned in?  Oh.  Yes, I'm sure that Ministry will contact us, too.  Yes, Sergeant Brush and I will start right away.  Good afternoon."

    Stagg hangs up, an' looks at me.  "That was one of the constables over on the Main Island.  It seems one of the extras on the location of that motion picture they're filming, filling in as a "local," was assaulted. They don't know by whom.  Apparently, things are little confused and fussed over there.  The constable's superior told him to telephone me, apparently.  I'll go over and visit the site.  The victim, it seems, has been admitted to Island Hospital.  Since she is, apparently, a native, I think she might be more comfortable speaking to you, Sergeant."

     I nods.  Makes sense.

2 January 1935 1535

     Didn't get much outta th' young miss.  Native all right, as far as things go.  Kinda smallish kittie.  Speaks th' native lingo wit' no gaps, so I figger even if her grandfolks ain't Spontoonie, she is.  An' judging from her ma, who's comfortin' her, she's native, too, though her Spontoonie ain't as rapid-like.

    She looks real scared up at me, an' it don't get a whole lot better when I flashes my buzzer an' intro myself.

     (Peace unto you, sister.  Myself Karok-son-Karok.  Query respectful emphasis name of thou?)

     She gulps, nods, an' bites her lower lip.  Ain't hard t'see some real nasty bruises 'round her throat, where a paw had squeezed real hard in.

     (Myself Kanata-daughter-Felata.  Emphasis scared myself is.)

     (Myself understanding thou is.  Myself sees injuries thou.  Query respectful emphasis relate unto myself regarding injuries these.)

     The kittie looks up at me, shakes her head, an' starts tearin' up.

     (Emphasis scared myself is.  Myself negative relate unto thou injuries reasons.  Emphasis shame fear myself.)

     An' wit' that, the kittie clams up, and she don't say no more.  I nods, an' I figger this ain't gonna get nowhere, 'specially if th' ma's about.  So I chats up th' doc outside.  He tells me a bit.  Perp quite a bit bigger 'n kittie, strong.  Only one setta paw marks, yet she almost kicked it.  Largish paw, bruises ain't real clear what species.  Perp tried to choke her, an' she lost consciousness, but he didn't finish th' job.  Took all of this down fer Stagg, an' I wuz just 'bout t'leave when the ma catches up t'me.

     (Relate unto myself outlander name thou.)

     "I'm Detective Brush, ma'am, when I ain't speakin' Spontoonie."

     "Ah.  I do not often speak the English these days, Detective.  My daughter, I am sorry, she will not speak."

     "Yeah.  Scared.  Think she knows who did this?"

     "I know not much of this, Detective.  I know my daughter, she sees one of these Americans, these film people.  The filming, it interests her, and she gets job as native Spontoonie.  She does not tell her mother about seeing this American, but I hear things, I see the little gifts she gets, the small jewelry, and I know these things, they are American.  I know not who this American is, and Kanata, she does not confide in me or confide in friends who this American's name is."

     "Know much 'bout what happened?"

     "Kanata, she was to be in the filming of a beach scene today.  I know not more.  The other natives, they see Kanata lying on the ground, they call for help."

     "Okeh.  Thanks.  That's helpful, anyhow.  I'll tell my boss."

     "This boss, this is the outlander?  The one with horns and the stick?"

     "Yup, that's him, all right.  He's over talkin' ta th' film boys now."

     "Ah.  The Wise One in my village, she speak of him.   Many Wise Ones know of him.  Please tell him for me to do his best."

2 January 1935 1805

     I takes a water-taxi over ta t'Main Island.  Driver knows, as they always does, where th' action is.  It's sorta gettin' on gettin' dark, but folks are still buzzin' round.  Can't hardly say why, though, since there ain't no filmin' goin on.

     I sees Stagg pacin' on the beach, so I heads up, an' I tells him what the ma kittie tells me, an' what the docs tells me.

     "Sorry I ain't got more, but it ain't easy givin' the third ta lil' scared kittie, know what I mean?"

     "Well, what you told me is interesting.  It tallies with what the other extras were telling me.  They said that Kanata was seeing an American with the film crew.  They didn't know who he was, but apparently this American was causing her to worry, for some reason, in the last few days.  She seemed quite upset when she got to the location this morning, but she was in the scenes on the beach.  Something happened on the fourth take, because when the shooting stopped, one of the extras tripped over her body.  Filming stopped, of course, much to the aggravation of the Azimuth executives.  No one, of course, in the film crew knows who she was, and I've spent the entire day talking with the extras up to the technical crew and even the aforementioned executives.  So I'm not much further along than you are, Sergeant."

      "So what now?"

      "Well, I've asked to have the footage from the fourth take prepared for screening.  Perhaps there's a chance something has been caught on camera that will give us a clue, or some sort of help."

      Stagg looks at his watch.  "In fact, it's supposed to be ready right about now.  Let's see what's been captured by the unblinking eye of the camera."

2 January 1935 1910

     Ain't no place on shore fer modern film-makin', I mean, the guts of it, so they has the setup in this fancy yacht that some busted broker musta sold to Azimuth.  Screenin' room is right in the centre.  Plush.  Lotta comfy chairs, lotta booze, lotta cigars.  Kinda wish HQ would borra this idea, but I ain't holdin' my breath.

     Editor's still workin' on settin' stuff up, so the intros are made.  Th' ones that get my eye are th' director, a whippet-sorta guy who looks like he's workin' on his fourth ulcer.  Th' leadin' lady, Esther Ermine, is there.  Kinda dressed down from her usual, she's wearin' slacks an' a pullover sweater, an' smokin' an Abdullah. Th' leadin' man's Paul Meuli, real ramrod straight-arrow deer.  Now see, this is kinda funny, 'cause he's the guy who plays th' Yank deer in "Th' Deer From Th' Surete," meanin' he's th' one who took Stagg's role.  [Note: Brush here is referring to the fact that Azimuth's screenwriters, in adapting the memoirs of French detective Henri Charles Grandcerf, assigned certain events that had involved Inspector Stagg to an American deer, played by Mueli.  See the memorandum Stagg wrote on the subject, which precedes this case - OXFB IV.]  He sorta does a startled-like double-take as he shakes paws, an' sits down quiet.

     A few minutes later, while we was waitin' fer the film, he turns t'Stagg.

     "Forgive my reaction, Inspector, when I was introduced to you.  I was led to believe that you were dead."

     "It's not for lack of trying, Mr. Meuli.  I'm sure that there are those who would like to prove your supposition correct, after all."

     "Yes...well, I do remember you, in your old job, I mean.  I played in New Haven a few times..."

    "As Prince Hal, to Derek Ramm's Falstaff.  You ran for almost six months at the Long Wharf back in '24.  I saw your performance twice.  I also saw you in "Midnight Strikes," the year after that, just before you went out to Hollywood."

     Meuli gives a smile.  "I'm flattered, Inspector.  The only thing I remember is that you arrested the killer of that theatre critic toward the end of my run with Ramm."

     "Hmmm.  Yes, Shrike.  Shot at point-blank range in the bar of the Savin Rock Hotel, in front of thirty witnesses, none of whom saw a thing.  Or so they claimed.  Of course, they were all actors and actresses, so that may have had something to do with it.  We had quite some time helping the District Attorney to find a jury that would convict the killer of a critic in a theatre-mad city like New Haven, in those days.  In the end, the jury gave the killer only twenty years, as partial justification."

    "Well, perhaps the cameras, here, will be less biased.  Tell me, Inspector, do you mind if I watch you closely?  I always like to learn from life, as it were."

    "Perhaps I can convince you to give up acting and join Sergeant Brush and myself.  A third set of paws is always welcome."

    Meuli grins, but he ain't got time fer a crack, 'cause the film gets set up in th' booth.  They douse the lights, an' start up th' reel.

    It's a wide shot, with Mueli, in Royal Navy officer duds, talkin' t'Ermine in th' centre.  Or at least, I thinks they're talkin', 'cause this ain't got no sound.  Buncha natives off right.  Th' take lasts about a minute or so.  Somethin' happens in th' centre, 'cause Ermine stops, turns, an' stamps her foot twice, an' the take ends right after that.

    "How come there ain't no sound?"

    "It's a long shot, Sergeant," sez Meuli, "they dub in the sound later when they mix and match the best shots.  Did you see the young lady who got attacked?"

    "Yeah.  Mebbe th' Inspector can back me up, but I seen her, right near th' edge, sorta in the back.  Just see her head."

    Stagg turns to th' director.  "Let's run the film again, I want Sergeant Brush to make sure of his identification, since he's the one who has actually seen and spoken with the young lady."

    They does, an' I gets up close an' look.  "Yeah, that's her.  See?  Only kittie in th' whole group, 'ceptin those two down in front.  Crowd keeps movin' though, so she pops in an' outta sight."

    Stagg kinda frowns.  "Hmm.  This is difficult.  She's in an excellent position to be ambushed, even during a shot, with hardly anyone knowing.  Nearly all of the attention is going to be on the two principals..."

     Ermine pipes up.   "Yeah, I'd hope so.  Otherwise, I ain't earning what Azimuth pays me."

     'course, that gets a guffaw, an' even Stagg smiles.  "Well, we do know she was all right at the start of the take, and we know when the take stopped, she was unconscious.  When is the last point we actually see her, though?"

    We runs the film a third an' fourth time, an' I swipes a stopwatch from a flunkie.  Kittie's seen a few times in 'bout the first fifteen seconds, an' then the crowd sorta covers her up, an' then it's about another minute 'fore the take gets blown.  Stagg looks at the watch each time, an' thinks.  "So, there's about a minute timeframe that starts fifteen seconds into the take when it happened.  Well, that's some more information."

     "Say, where do they get th' sound they glue in?  Ain't nobody recordin' while this is goin' on?"

     Th' director winces, an' glares at me, real nasty like.  Course, that coulda been his stomach.  "No, what do you take us for?  We're recording the actors and picking up their dialogue for the more important close-up."

     Meuli butts in.  "That would be the two-shot, Inspector, showing myself and Miss Ermine, which is the key shot for this scene.  It would be from there that any dialogue would be spliced in, from that recording to the long shot."

     Th' director glares at Meuli.  "Crissake, you gonna take over my job, too?  Or you just studying to play a director whose head's gonna be on a silver platter if the cops don't fix this fast?  That's one part I've got no problem with you playing."

     "Take it easy, Harold.  Just show the Inspector the dubbed reel of the other camera shot, the two-shot."

"Unblinking Eye" art Kjartan

     So they loads that one up.  Pretty clear on this one, real sharp.  Sound right from th' getgo, when th' guy with th' clapping gizmo announces th' take.  I've got th' watch runnin' from th' clap sound, an' listenin' to Meuli. He's tellin' Ermine that it's his duty ta clean up this neck a' th' Pacific, no matter what the risk.  Ermine, who's dolled up real nice in costume, lissens, an' she's beggin' him an' such not ta be foolhardy, when she blows her line, turns from the camera, an' lets out a double-jointed comment.  One, let me tellya, that would make th' fur on any film censor's hide shrivel.

     "Crissake, wish the screenwriters would give me a set of lines that I can actually speak.  What university did we dredge these birds from, Harold?"

     "Look, baby, this guy's gotta whole shelf of prizes, you just let him do his job.  And while you're at it, why don't you do yours?"

     Stagg chimes in here, 'fore things get outta paw.  "Sergeant, did you hear any noise on the sound track in that last minute or so that would tip off as to something happening?"

     "Well...um.  Sorry, sir, I wuz watchin' Miss Ermine."

    "Thanks, sweetie, I'll give you a signed photo.  At least someone in this joint has taste."

     Th' Inspector sorta looks mildly at me.  "And did you notice anything, Sergeant?"

     "Well, her tailfur swishes real nice when she's mad, sir."

    Natch, this brings down th' house, even th' director.  Only Stagg an' Meuli look sorta thoughtful.  Ermine turns t'me.

    "Jeez, you foxes are all the same.  I've never seen a species that goes for tailfur like you guys.  Oh, yeah, your name Brush?  Figures."  She's grinnin' though, an' gives me a wink through a clouda cigarette smoke.  Good thing I'm married.

    Stagg's thinkin', though, wit' his chin on his paws, on his stick.  Room quiets down, an' folks are lookin' at him, an' at each other, wonderin' what's goin' on.  After a few minutes, he turns to th' director.

     "I want you to set up both reels, side by side, right about the time Miss Ermine has her line trouble.  Run the two-shot first, and then run the long shot."

    "As for you, Sergeant, since you're the expert here on tailfur, I want you to time with that stopwatch how long things take from the point at which Miss Ermine has her line trouble, until the end of the take."

    So they runs th' reels again.  I looks down after they does, an' finds somethin' odd.  "Hunh.  They don't match.  There's a diff of a few tenths."

    Stagg has them run the reels again.  And again.  Same result.

    Ermine blows a clouda cigarette smoke.  "They ought to send this reel to the screenwriter.  I think this is the way they really spoke in those days.  They just didn't want to admit it."

    Stagg's lookin' down at his hooves, an' Meuli's lookin at him, in that sorta funny way deer got when they're studyin' somethin'.

    "Miss Ermine?  Could you please stand up for a minute?  And you, too, Mr. Meuli."

    Both of them looks at each other, puzzled, but they gets up.

    "I'd like you to repeat everything that was on those two reels.  And when I mean everything, I mean everything, down to the reactions."

    Ermine looks sorta amused.  Meuli, though, looks dead serious.  They goes through the routine, though.  Ermine puts some real pizzaz inta her fit, though, an' says the double-jointed like she means it, an' gives a good stomp of her foot an' swish of her tail.  One stomp.

    Stagg an' Meuli watches her real close, an' both look at each other.  It's only after this, that the bulb goes off in my head.

    "That ain't th' way she does it in th' long shot.  Two-shot, yes.  But it ain't in th' long shot."

    Th' director snorts.  "That's impossible, they're filmed at the same time.  You can see that from the clapboards."

     Stagg looks up.  "Run that long-shot reel again."

     Real quiet while they're rewindin', an' then when they runs it.  In th' long shot, you can sees Ermine give her tailfur a good hard swish an' stomp her foot.  Twice, real fast.

     When th' lights come up, Meuli ain't there.  Stagg sees this.  "Quick.  Where is the editor's office?"

     "Down the corridor, third door on the left, but..."


     He didn't have ta give no details.  Meanin', Brush, get there *fast*.  I tear outta there, an' it ain't hard ta find th' office, 'cause there's some yellin' goin on in there.  I busts in, an' I sees Meuli and a sorta largish cat strugglin'.  Meuli's got onea th' cat's paws, an' is bangin' it hard against a table edge.

      "Come on, damn you, drop it!  Drop it!"

     Th' cat's gotta holda Meuli's neck, but he sees that I've gotta my Police Special .38 pointed right at his head, so he lets go of th' deer.

     "Hey, buddie.  You heard th' deer.  Drop it, what's in th' paw, there."

     Cat gives me a good hard glare.  I mean, he's onea them mountain lion types, who could break your neck soon as look at you.  But there ain't no arguin' with a .38.  He opens up his paw, an' out flutters a crumpled bit of film, ain't more'n a few inches.  Meuli picks it up, just as Stagg comes in th' room, wit' the rest right behind.  He takes the film scrap from Meuli, and holds it up to the light, an' looks real close, fer 'bout a minute.

     "What's his name?"

     "Tom Catamount.  He's our film editor.  What...?"

     Stagg turns to this Catamount.  "Have you anything to say, Mr. Catamount?"  He don't get nothin' but a nasty look.  "Well, be that as it may, Mr. Catamount, I think these frames of film must show something very interesting.  Interesting enough that you would edit them out of the reel and loop in a few frames of Miss Ermine's tantrum.  Something, of course, that you would know how to do, technically.  And since you were probably the only one to see the film closely after it was delivered to you for processing, you knew what you would see.  And who would be the wiser?  Who would think to keep, after a few days, a film of a spoiled take?"

     Catamount just gives a low, snarly growl.  Stagg shrugs.  "Given the fact that Mr. Meuli over there is rubbing his throat, I can venture a guess that you have a favourite tactic for dealing with those who get in your way.  Don't rub so hard, Mr. Meuli, I'd like to get a photo of those bruises, for comparison purposes.  Quite some strength, being able to do that, one pawed.  Do you have anything further to say, Mr. Catamount?"

     Catamount just snarls something unner his breath, so I claps a paira cuffs on him, an' leads him out.  Stagg turns t'Meuli.

    "Some advice, Mr. Meuli.  When researching from life the role of a detective, it's best to do so from a safe distance.  Realism should only go so far."

4 January 1935 1105

     Stagg wuz right.  They blows up th' few frames we got offa Catamount, an' surest thing ya know, he's in one frame, sneakin' away.  Ain't hard to guess it's a mountain lion.  Can't see his look, but I'll bet it ain't nice.  Most folks don't look like angels when they just been throttlin' someone.   Anyhow, Ermine blowin' her line stopped him from finishin' his job.

     I shows Katana th' mug shot of Catamount in th' hospital in a buncha shots.  She ID's him, all right, after she hears we got somefur in jail.  Didn't give me a whole lot other than that, but enough ta makes me guess it's somethin' romantical that went bust fast 'n ugly-like.

     A few of th' boys from the Althing an' a few suits from Hollywood burned a lil' midnight oil fer the last two nights, tryin' to hammer out somethin' ta keep this quiet.  Prolly a payoff ta th' kittie, wit' some sorta doc to make sure she don't go spillin' her guts ta t'Birdwatcher or somesuch.  Don't wanna upset business, see?

     Anyhow, it looked like th' file wasn't goin' nowheres, leastways ta t'prosecutin' office, so we just types it up, ties it up, an' sends it on up ta th' file room.  Stagg gets in one last thing, though, this mornin', in an Azimuth envelope, delivered over from th' Main Island.

    Stagg opens th' envelope, an' takes out a paira photos.  One's a nice shot of Meuli, wearin' th' airman's uniform from "Th' Deer From Th' Surete."

    "To Inspector Franklin J. Stagg.  Thank you for your advice and your example.  I intend to take both to heart."

    Th' other's a shot of Ermine, an' it's in somethin' that I thinks was done 'fore the Hays Office kicked inta high gear.  Shows her tailfur.  Also shows a whole lot more.  She writes somethin' fer me on th' photo.

    I'd rather not say what it wuz.  Th' wife may find out.  I mean, she knows I'm a tailfur guy, but...