Spontoon Island
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## April 2005 ##

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

by EO Costello

"The Doe Who Isn't There"
by EOCostello

17 August 1936 0130

     My old man was on th' job, like me, chasin' th' bad guys here on th' Spontoons.  'course, he did it as a cons'tble, not as a detective, like me, so he got, usual-like, th' rough stuff.  He told me oncet, "crime don't keep no banker's hours."  True enough, tonight.

     I usually talk into this thing 'round midnight, anyhow, so I'm up.  [My great-grandfather is referring to the fact that he used an early-model Dictaphone, with wax cylinders, to dictate these memoirs, usually after the rest of his family had retired for the night.  This was done in an effort at self-analysis and self-improvement - OFXB IV.] Th' telephone operator calls me on th' line I gots in my den, so I don't wake th' wife an' kids.

     Cheery stuff.  Some Euro was taking his sweet thing out fer a lil' night cruise on his boat, not far from Casino Island.  You knows and I knows what that means, 'course.  Anyhow, they're on th' deck, in th' moonlight, gettin' in the mood, 'round about midnight, when th' skirt lets out a yell that must have woke half th' island, at least th' half that's sleepin'.  Bumpin' up against th' boat is a floater.  I don't mean what ya ties a boat to.  I mean someone who ain't gonna be doin' much more'n bein' room temp.  Guy figgers he ain't gonna have no fun nohow anyways, so he sends up a flare, an' gets a crashboat out, which hauls th' floater in.  Crashboat radios it in t'HQ, HQ calls me, 'cause I gots th' duty.

     My boss, Detective Inspector Franklin Stagg, he's usually up at this hour, anyhow, six nights outta seven.  I ain't real easy wit' him takin' th' night duty as often as he does.  I mean, it's good for me 'n th' kids, but it ain't right.  So I'm kinda happy at least t'pick up a bitta slack.  We finally gots a Murder Box fer me, too.  That's a big bag wit' all sortsa gizmos fer detectives t' look at a crime scene wit'.  Plus my Speed Graphic an' a few packs a' film.  So I heads on over t'where the crashboat has put th' body, on th' wharf.  Just managed t'beat a guy from th' Mirror, who snaps a photo of th' floater 'fore I tells him t'buzz off an' let me work.  No hard feelin', 'course.  Guy knows I gotta work.

     Took th' last happy snaps this guy's gonna get this side of th' Pearly Gates.  Middle-aged porker, male, kinda overweight, and naked as a jaybird.  He ain't been in th' water long, 'cause he's intact, nothin' missin', no bloatin' or nothin'.  Gave th' body a pretty good once-over.  No blood or nothin', nothin' bashed. I can sees a few small bruises 'round his neck, but they ain't much of a much.  Only thing sorta outta place is a big tattoo the guy's got on his bicep, in Russkie writin', which I can't read.  Red star an' a anchor.  Took a good closeup of that.  I figger th' boys at th' Russian embassy are gonna have t'know 'bout this sooner or later, but I figger later is better.

    Crashboat boys point out where th' floater was found, not far from one of the nav buoys in th' channel.  I gotta hunch where th' guy coulda come from, growin' up 'round here an' all, but I wants t'hear one of the wetboys twopenny'orth on it.

    "Two 'an six says it's Hairpin Cove, Iron.  They ought to close that place up tight at nights, it ain't safe."

    See, this is a place 'bout maybe a few hunnert yards, as th' seagull flies, from where th' body was found, but it kinda dipsy-doodles around.  Hairpin Cove is kinda long, thin an' wobbly, an' it's kinda a nice place t'swim, but when th' tides are movin', like th' wetboy sez, it ain't safe there, unless you're in real close.  Usual-like, oncet a year, some dumb Euro goes skinny dipping there, an' manages t'kill himself wit' the rip-current.  Kinda small beach, compared t'other parts of th' Island, so it ain't all that crowded, even in th' day.  Most nights, y'can have th' beach for yourself, if ya want.

     Anyhow, I figger th' best thing t'do is send the stiff over in a meat wagon over to Doc Meffit's shop.  Since he's th' Medical 'xaminer, he does th' pokin' and proddin' of th' stiffs.  I has a few constables watch Hairpin Beach, t'keep out folks, so when Stagg gets on duty, he can have a look-see wit'out nothin' gettin' tramped on.

17 August 1936 0610

     I takes a bit of shut-eye at HQ after I gets back.  Ain't no one t'bug me about it, 'specially since th' Chief Const'ble, who don't like me (or Stagg) is nice an' tucked in his own bed, wit' his special lil' bit o' company.  So it's Stagg who pokes me up when he gets in.  Early.  He even beat th' two-star edition of th' Mirror, which I'll bet is gonna have th' floater in it, front an' centre.  Looks like th' heat an' his usual hoof trouble gave him hell last night, but he's a trooper, he still puts in a full day an' then some.  I fills him in on th' floater, an' tells him what I done.  He gives a nod, an' a clap on my shoulder, which makes me feel okeh.  Good enough t' tag along wit' Stagg an' his Murder Box t' Hairpin Beach, t'see what we can see.

17 August 1936 0745

    T'get on Hairpin Beach ain't much.  There's th' coastal road, an' ya sorta make a turn offen it, t'ru a path in th' underbrush an' unner some trees, an' there it is.  There's two paths, so ya pretty much only need t'ree constables t'watch it.  They sez ain't no one been around since I sent them there, which is good.  We takes one path offen th' road nice an' slow, real careful, but there ain't nothin' t'see, even fer Stagg, who's good at that sorta thing.

    Hairpin Beach is kinda small.  Mebbe fifty feet wide by 'bout twenny feet at high tide, mebbe thirty at low tide.  So if there's somethin' there, you're gonna see it, quick.  So it ain't a surprise both of us sees a pile a clothes dumped on th' beach like a buncha dirty laundry.  Stagg has me take a few snaps of this at a distance.

    Both of us pads real careful over there, 'cause we don't wanna mess up no tracks.  One setta tracks ain't hard t'spot.  Pig trotters, all right.  At sorta a fast pace, like he was skippin' or runnin'.  Area near these tracks is sorta disturbed.  Looks like somethin' dragged funnyways.  Stagg has snaps of that, too.

     Finally, we gets up t' th' clothes pile, an' Stagg puts on some gloves from his Murder Box, and gets out a buncha envelopes.  Tie (cheap, kinda loud like mine), white shirt, white undershirt, white linen pants, white boxer unnerwear, white linen jacket, straw hat.  Lotta sweat steans on th' shirts, an' on the jacket, plus th' guy's a slob, he's spilled somethin' on th' tie an' th' shirt.  Clothes are dry, ain't a whole lotta sand stuck on them, which Stagg says means they ain't been here all that long.  Above th' tide mark, too.  One watch, still tickin', Russkie make, pretty good quality.  Silver-metal cigarette case wit' an anchor on it, full wit' cheap local cigs.  Cheap Zippo-type lighter, red star on it.  Key ring.  Wallet, 72 pounds in notes.  I.D. in the name of M.I. Rahksov, wit' th' face of th' floater I seen early today starin' back at me.  Russian Embassy I.D., which means there's gonna be trouble when he don't show up fer work t'day.  Pants pockets have some silver an' copper coins, plus a stub from th' Grand, looks like dinner fer two, plus a whole lotta drinks.  All this gets shoved in envelopes by Stagg, an' I label it up an' date it.  We don't wanna lose nothin', see?

     After we finishes up baggin' th' late lamented's clothes, Stagg takes off his gloves, an' stretches, sorta lookin' round.  I makes a guess what's on his mind.

     "I figger we oughta send one const'ble, each direction, have a close-in look at the roadsides, see if there's anythin' interestin'."

     "I was thinking along the same lines, Sergeant.  Go ahead and give the orders.  While they're doing that, we ought to ask around, certainly at the Grand, and along the road here, to see if they recall Mr. Rahksov.  A phone call to the Foreign Ministry is probably in order, as well, I'm afraid..."

17 August 1936 0955

     Waiter at th' Grand remembers Rahksov, all right.

     "You would think that someone from a nation that has such concern for the working class would leave a tip, but oh, no, he must think it's some sort of decadent bourgeois habit..."

     Stagg cuts 'im off 'fore he gets real goin' on this topic.

     "Yes, he racked up quite a bill, about 28 pounds' worth.  Started out at late afternoon tea, went on into dinner.  Kept a table occupied for hours.  Had to break a 100 pound note, if you please.  Supposed to be all he had.  Rock lobster bisque, some of which ended up on his shirt front, fish course, ditto, and chocolate mousse, also ditto.  Obviously, they don't teach them table manners.  Nor how to hold their liquor quietly..."

     "So Mr. Rahksov had a number of drinks?"

     "He split both a quart of grain vodka and a bottle of white wine with his guest.  Rather unpleasant, hatchet-faced little weasel, spoke with a New Haven accent out of the side of his mouth.  Um, sorry, Inspector, I..."

     Stagg sorta sighs.  "No need to apologize, sir.  I'm not responsible for the actions of my countrymen.  So Mr. Rahksov was intoxicated when he left?"

     "He wouldn't have been able to walk a white line, unless it had been painted by an abstract artist.  Probably about 9:15 or so."

     "Did you happen to hear what Mr. Rahksov and his guest were talking about?"

     "Well, when they saw me listening, they switched from English to Russian."

     "Were any other guests aware of Mr. Rahksov?"

     "There were complaints about the noise, but other than that, nothing special that caught my attention.  What happened to the gentleman?"

     "He was found dead early this morning, floating in the ocean."

    "Well, that's what you get for not tipping."

17 August 1936 1040

     Constable askin' questions 'round th' area got results.  Spontoonie vendor seen Rahksov, along th' coast road, prolly 'bout 9.30 or so.

     (Enquiry seen thou swine outlander night previous, brother.)

     (Affirmative, brother.   Saw myself swine outlander.  Myself to hearth walking.  Myself work-day complete.  Outlander clock-reckoning nine and one half of night.)

     (Enquiry actions swine outlander doing, seest thou, brother.)

     (Swine outlander shameful behaviour occuring.  Same absent senses, same intoxicating spirits smell.  Expression disgust.)

     (Enquiry swine outlander alone was.)

     (Negative, brother.  Myself see swine outlander with, shameful in the telling, Spontoonie female.  Same grass skirt, flower wearing ear near, garland flower make over chest.)

     (Enquiry Spontoone female belonging species.)

     (Spontoonie female like unto creature with horns outlander here present.)

     (Enquiry certain thou species.)

     (Affirmative, brother.  Tail Spontoonie female like unto tail creature with horns outlander, white flag similarity.  Ears likewise creature with horns outlander similar.  Spontoonie female long dark hair possessed.  Colour black possessing)

     (Enquiry stated thou shameful in telling relation Spontoonie female.)

    (Myself hears Spontoonie female vending of self discussion, negotiation with swine outlander...)

     ""Good evening, sir.  I am Nuki-Nuki.  You lonely? You looking for fun?  You like number one boom-boom on the beach?""

    Nuki-nuki.  Great.  Wish t'hell th' tarts 'round here would think up a better name t'use, sometimes.

     (Offer shameful was, brother.  Virtue selling behaviour shameful is.  Myself Wise One future discuss.  Emphasis repeat shameful was.)

    (Enquiry swine outlander travel following sighting thou.  Same likewise doe Spontoonie.)

    (Swine outlander, same likewise doe Spontoonie coastal road walk.  Emphasis negative myself follow.  Fire demons vendors of virtue take.   Enquiry reason question thou myself swine outlander regarding.)

    (Swine outlander deceased is.  Creature with horns outlander divination attempt truth, likewise myself.)

    (Expression emphasis satisfaction.  Virtue lack rewarded has been.)

17 August 1936 1135

     Stagg phones in t' Doc Meffit, tells him t'look fer certain types of fluid, if ya gets my meanin'.  Meffit says he'll put it on th' list.

     Second call t'HQ tells us t'go back up near Hairpin Beach.  Const'ble found somethin' near it.

17 August 1936 1210

     Const'ble points out what he found.  Communal compost heap, one th' boys at th' Min'stry of Public Works keeps up t'take care of th' nat'ral trash they get.  I takes a few snaps, an' then Stagg leans down, an' uses his stick to gentle-like take out a grass skirt.

     I seen what th' const'ble guessed.  It's still kinda fresh, an' it's all intact.  Ain't no part missin', so why ditch it?  Kinda funny t'sees it.  Stood out on th' compost heap.

    Stagg sniffs it a bit, an' then hasta cough, his eyes waterin'.  I takes a sniff myself, an' I has t'do th' same.  I mean, even a bit of time onna compost heap, that's gonna give somethin' a real hum, if ya knows what I mean.  Ain't no way we're gonna get no scent from this, an' no pawprints, neither.  Skirt had a whole buncha sand in it, tho, like it had been used fer sweepin' a beach.  Stagg puts th' skirt in a bag, t'sees if we can finds some fur or such.

17 August 1936 1300

     Sure enough, when we gets back t'HQ, all hell is bustin' out.  Th' Mirror's afternoon edition plays up th' findin' of the late lamented, front page.  Th' Chief hauls us upstairs, an' he's gotta guest, this sorta shifty-eyed dog.  He wants the low-down on what we done t' fix this, so Stagg tells him all we finds out.

     This sorta settles th' Chief a bit.  I mean, he can show this dog, who turns out t'be some sorta security guy at th' Russkie Embassy, that we ain't lettin' grass grow unner our hooves on this one.  Dog turns t'Stagg.

     "If you need results, Inspector, please do not hesitate to call upon my...services."

     Stagg sorta stares at him fer 'bout fifteen seconds, long 'nough t'make th' dog fidget a bit.  "Many thanks, but I am more interested in the truth, than in mere results."

     Chief shows us out th' door 'fore we can have any more fun.  Me, I thinks th' bum deserves it.  I figger he don't like nothin' better than a little 3rd degree in th' basement.  I ain't squeamish, mind, but I don't hold wit' puttin' interrogatin' 'fore findin' out what happens, see?

17 August 1936 1350

     Stagg's in a good mood when we gets down t'our office.  I think takin' a poke at that Russkie bum helped him.  Anyhow, Meffit himself shows up, personal-like, a few minutes after we gets in, and he ticks off what he finds.

     "Well, gentlemen, the primary cause of death was certainly drowning.  No shortage of water in the lungs.  Alcohol level in the blood, even with the passage of time, was very significant, so I imagine he was quite intoxicated at the time of his death.  And you were right, Inspector.  There was a little, ahem, indication in the approriate place that he had had a sexual encounter shortly before his death.  The sample had not washed away while he was floating."

     "Heart attack?"

      "I didn't see any signs of a myocardial infarction, which is my shop talk for a heart attack.  Mind you, with his diet, and probable lack of exercise, he was cruising for all sorts of health issues.  Liver like a football.  I'd hate to think what his daily vodka intake was.  Rather overweight as well.  I'd say even in the course of natural events, he would have been a candidate for a massive heart attack in a few years.  This, of course, does not take into account getting judicially administered lead poisoning, which I'm told is at near-pandemic proportions in his native land."

     "Sergeant Brush says he saw some bruises on the throat.  What of it?"

     "Yes, there were some bruises on the throat, but it's hard to make out what they mean.  The deceased's throat bones were intact, which means he wasn't choked to death.  Throttling someone requires a great deal of pressure, and you would get far more vivid bruising."

     "Were the bruises indicative from a position in front of, or behind, Mr. Rahksov?"

     "The way the bruises are arranged suggests a position behind him.  Very firm grip, but not nearly enough to injure, let alone kill.  And not firm enough to give any clue as to the species of the person giving them."

     "Enough to hold him under the water, perhaps?"

     Meffit takes off his pince nez, an' polishes 'em, thinkin'.

     "Well, if what you told me a few minutes ago, that he had some sort of encounter with a doe, I'd wonder.  Even drunk, a pig of this size would be very difficult for a doe to handle.  Certainly possible, I suppose, but I have my doubts."

17 August 1936 2005

      Me 'n Stagg spend most of th' rest of th' day makin' a whole lotta calls, usin' a th' directory an' th' census sheets an' reports from th' Ministry on Euros visitin' th' Islands.  Whitetails ain't all that common here, so it's not like we gotta sift t'ru thousands.  'bout 110, mebbe 120, youngish whitetail does, an' we knocks down th' list t'about nine by th' time we packs it in fer th' night.  Musta had half th' const'bles on Southie an' the Main Island runnin' around, lookin' fer scattered does where there ain't no phones.  Th' nine we ends up wit' ain't got no alibi fer last night, so we tells 'em t'drop by HQ t'morra mornin', fer a lil' show-an-tell.

18 August 1936 1000

     Well, it's mid-mornin', an we gots nine young whitetail does, standin' in a line at one end of a big room.  Stagg walks in, looks quick-like at th' does, who look back at him.  He sorta turns pale, an' mumbles t'me that he's gotta do some paperwork, an' he bolts.  I figger he don't wanna face folks that look like th' fawns he lost.  Can't say I blame 'im.

     One of th' does, Euro nurse over at Island Hospital, makes a sorta wry face.  "Shucks.  I was hoping he'd stay around.  He's kind of cute.  I like the vulnerable type."

     'nother doe, a Euro teller at a bank, sorta sniggers.  "You should shoot a little higher, dear.  He's an N.H.  N.H. stands for New Haven, and it also stands for Nut House, which is where they ought to chuck the deer that come from there.  I dated a guy who used to be in their Flying Corps, believe me, I know."

     Third deer, a doe wit' glasses and a hairdo that makes me think she just wandered in from some library, blushes bright red at this conversation.  Musta led a sheltered life.

      A few other Spontoonie does, native dress, an' last, an' certainly not least, a doe with long black hair, an' a frilly white dress, wit' an umbrella.  Look like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.  She's lookin' real unhappy, an' givin' me a nasty look.  I mean, she's one hell of a looker, but even I'd cross th' street if I seen her comin'.

      Anyhow, we brings in th' vendor we talked to, t'see if he can I.D. the doe he seen wit' Rahksov.

      "Awright, ladies.  I wants each of ya t'step forward, an' nice an' clear say out loud: "Good evening, sir.  I am Nuki-Nuki.  You lonely? You looking for fun?  You like number one boom-boom on the beach?""

      Well, this don't go over well.  Most of th' does squeal real loud at this.  Th' last Euro doe, th' one wit' th' umbrella, points a paw at me.

     "Well, ah nevah!"

     Lookin' at her, I don't believe it.  I knows a professional virgin when I sees one.

     "Look, just read th' line.  Th' sooner y'do, th' sooner y'can scoot.  Now will ya just play nice?"

     Most of th' does start givin' me further hell.  They ain't gonna say that line, an' how dare I thinks that one of 'em is a hussy, and ain't I got no shame, an' things got real low when a doe gets accused of bein' a doe of th' evening, an' such.  Miss Professional Virgin down at th' end is givin' me thirteen t'th' dozen on this.  Finally, I has t'read 'em th' Riot Act.


    Th' does simmer down, but they ain't happy 'bout it.  I hears more'n one comment about runty lil' foxes gettin' a hoof across th' chops if they ain't lookin.  They steps forward, an' reads th' line, one by one.  Few gotta repeat it, 'cause they says it fast, which gets 'em even madder.  Th' Professional Virgin yells she ain't gonna do it, an' she's gonna get a lawyer if I puts her in th' pokey.  Vendor whispers t'me that she ain't what he seen, nohow.  He'd remember a type like that.  So that's that.  Bowled fer a duck, no luck.  It's kinda a relief t' see th' backside of them does.

     I did thanks one of 'em, th' mousy librarian type.  She read her line, one take, in a sorta flat American accent.  She sorta blushes at me, says "thanks" real meek an' quiet like, an' skedaddles outta there.

     Only thing we got of th' whole thing: th' vendor looks at th' grass skirt, and sez it's like th' one he seen on Nuki-Nuki, whoever she is.

     First thing I does when I gets back t'my desk, is take th' bottle outta th' bottom drawer an' pour myself a good stiff one.  Stagg's at his desk, doin' th' paperwork.  He sorta eyes me, a bit guilty-like.

     "No dice, sir.  An' I gots a favour t'ask.  Don't never stick me in no room wit' no nine whitetail does no more.  I seen enough t'day t'make me glad I'm a dogfox, and that I ain't no whitetail buck."

     Stagg sorta sighs, an' rubs an antler.  "I'm sorry I inflicted that on you, Sergeant.  It was just, well, I couldn't..."

     "Aw, hell wit' it, sir.  Don't pay me no neverminds.  Just let me stick one of them does I seen t'day in a waterfront dive, an' see how long she lasts."

19 August 1936 2310

     Well, we don't got no luck findin' another witness who seen this Nuki-Nuki.  It's like she's the doe that ain't there.  No one heard of her.

     Real quiet-like, I chats up a few of th' guys who are in th' business of providin' company, if ya get my drift.  They ain't heard of no whitetail doe like that, an' they don't like no free-lancer operatin' outside of their turf, neither.  These guys, they gots th' reason t'know who's who an' what's what on th' streets, an' they ain't got no clue.

     Funny thing, th' lil' weasel, th' one that Rahksov had been chowin' and drinkin' wit'?  No one seen him around, neither.  Interior Ministry ain't got no record of a New Haven weasel bein' here in th' Islands legal-like.  There's another guy I wanna have a lil' chat wit'.

21 August 1936 1100

     Magistrate brings up what they calls a coroner's jury.  That's a hearin' when a bunch of Spontoonies hear some folks talk, an' make th' call whether somethin' is an accident-like, or it's somethin' nastier.

     Meffit, bein' th' M.E., had first innings.

     "In my opinion, the late Mr. Rahksov met his end through misadventure.  He had had a significant meal, and he had been drinking heavily for a number of hours on the night that he died.  My autopsy indicated that there was a high level of alcohol in his blood at the time of death.  He had also engaged in some sort of sexual activity very shortly before his death, which could have placed further burdens on his body.  He was swimming in an area with known dangerous currents, and I believe that he may have become disoriented, from being both tired and intoxicated, and he was swept away by the rip-tide of Hairpin Cove, and met his death by drowning."

    "What of the bruises that were on the deceased's neck, Doctor?"

    "I think those were probably a function of the sexual encounter that the late Mr. Rahksov had shortly before he died.  As my report indicated, there is no evidence that he was throttled or choked to death.  There are no injuries consistent with that kind of action.  The bruises, of course, were administered before death; after death, they wouldn't have registered in the way they did."

     Stagg got his chance at an innings, too.

     "Your Honour, I believe that there are a number of unexplained facts that warrant a continued enquiry.  All of what Dr. Meffit says with regard to the medical evidence relating to Mr. Rahksov's body is accurate, but there can be a different interpretation placed on them."

     "Dr. Meffit is right: Mr. Rahksov's powers of resistance were likely very low, as a result of his intoxication and his sexual encounter.  It would not have taken much, though, to get a firm grip on his neck from behind, perhaps as part of the 'play' of what he was supposed to pay for.  From there, holding him under the suface of the water would be quite possible."

     "But surely, Inspector, even if you suppose that, there's no other evidence to suggest foul play."

    "Consider this, Your Honour.  Hairpin Beach is very isolated, and it was not likely that there would have been any interruptions.  Anyone intending to do in Mr. Rahksov would have had plenty of time.  But let's suppose, arguendo, that this was, in fact, an accident, that Mr. Rahksov somehow slipped under the water without assistance."

    "Why would his companion take the trouble to obliterate her tracks, but not take any of the deceased's possessions?  The deceased had the not insiginficant sum of 72 pounds, in untraceable form, on him.  Counting the 28 pounds he paid for his meal and drinks, this totals 100 pounds, and we have evidence that this was the only significant money he had on him.  So his companion was not paid.  She obliterated her tracks, but she did not take any of the money that she was theoretically entitled to, so to speak?"

     "In addition, it is highly suggestive that we found a grass skirt, similar to the one worn by the companion of Mr. Rahksov, discarded in such a manner that it would obliterate any scent deposited on the skirt, but still look reasonably natural on a compost heap, had it been there for a little bit longer.  It seems curious to me that the companion would ditch the only item of clothing she was allegedly wearing."

     "Assuming that skirt belonged to her."

     "The skirt was intact, and reasonably fresh.  It would seem improbable that a skirt like that would be disposed of on a compost heap near the scene of the incident.  Furthermore, there was a significant amount of sand on the skirt, consistent with being used to wipe away tracks on the beach.  I think it's reasonable to believe that this was the skirt the companion was wearing."

    "Did you find anything on the skirt that would indicate who its owner was, Inspector?  Or for that matter, on Mr. Rahksov's clothes?"

    "No, Your Honour, there were no hair or fur fibers on the skirt.  We were not able to find anything on the clothes of the late Mr. Rahksov, either, either hair or fur."

     "And you were not able to find a whitetail doe that met the witness' description."

    "Our enquiries are continuing, sir.  But no, the sole witness failed to pick a doe out of a lineup.  I believe the fact that no doe answering to this description was known in her, ahem, profession, or on a survey of the whitetail deer in the Islands indicates that she is, or was, an outlander, possibly in the country illegally.  We have reason to believe that the dinner companion of the late Mr. Rahksov was also here illegally."

     "And you have not been able to find him, either."

     "No, Your Honour."

     "So you do not know what, if any, connection he has to this incident?"

     "No, Your Honour."

     "And you have not been able to establish a motive for this companion to allegedly attack Mr. Rahksov?"

      "Not at this time, Your Honour."

      "Sergeant Brush?  Do you have an opinion on the matter?"

      I didn't like bein' put on th' spot, but Stagg just nods at me, encouragin'-like.

      "Well, I figger that this Nuki-Nuki, see, she's doin' her job, an' things get a little rough, see?  Before she knows it, Rahksov's bought th' farm, mebbe she dunno how, an' she's stuck wit' a stiff on her paws.  So she shoves him out in th' current, t'get rid of th' body, an' clears out her tracks.  She then does a bunk, real fast, an' ditches her skirt, an' that's that."

      "And goes off into the night, naked?"

      "Hell, it's Casino Island.  Folks prolly see this sorta thing now an' again.  What's 'nother naked doe, more or less?"

      Jury liked that one.

      "But you haven't found this Nuki-Nuki?"

      "Kinda obvious it ain't her real name.  No, we ain't found her."

21 August 1936 1555

     Coroner's jury took 'bout two hours t'come back wit' a decision.  Meffit sez that ain't what usually happens.  Usual-like, th' jury don't even have t'go outta th' box.

     No joy for us.  Jury comes back wit' a verdict: death by accident.

     Stagg sorta shrugs, an' shakes paws wit' th' magistrate, jury, an' Meffit.   Meffit's a good sport about this, an' takes me 'n Stagg out for a drink, on him, at th' Marleybone.

     "Well, Inspector, I'm sorry you came out on the short end.  No hard feelings?"

     "What you testified to, Doctor, was possible.  It was plausible.  It's just that I had a different interpretation on the matter.  Professionals can disagree civilly, can't they?"

     "Oh, quite, quite, Inspector.  Well, you got the jury to argue it out over two hours, so they must have taken your argument seriously.  Or perhaps Sergeant Brush's."

    "Yes.  His was also possible.  Furslaughter, not murder.  I suspect that the natives on the jury might well have taken his analysis regarding naked does to heart.  I doubt if the witness we found would have appreciated it, though."

     We're almost t'ru our drinks, when a round of vodkas gets put in front of us by th' bartender.  "Courtesy of the gentleman at the far end, sir."

     Turns out it's th' Russkie dog we seen in th' Chief's office.  He raises a glass at us, an' pads on over.

     "No luck in finding the truth, Inspector?  Pity.  You should try for results, rather than the truth, some time.  Much more satisfying."

     Stagg raises an eyebrow.  "You seem to be taking the death of your colleague rather cheerfully."

     Th' dog shrugs.  "Drunkard.  Getting loud and careless.  Meeting with undesirables and going off on his own personal adventures.  Moscow, of course, had noticed all of this before.  It was only a matter of time before the Centre would take action to bring him home for "debriefing."  Comrade Rahksov's death was providential.  It save a lot of bothersome paperwork."

    Stagg passes his vodka over t'me.  "Yes.  Providential.  That's the word for it.  But for whom, I wonder?"

(See "Justice Takes a Hand" on the Willow Pages section of the Story page.)