Little Fuzzy – Day 39 of 77

They set the body down. Mike and Mitzi and Cinderella began digging; the others scattered to hunt for stones. Coming up behind them, George Lunt took off his beret and stood holding it in both hands; he bowed his head as the grass-wrapped body was placed in the little grave and covered.

Then, when the cairn was finished, he replaced it, drew his pistol and checked the chamber.

“That does it, Jack,” he said. “I am now going to arrest Leonard Kellogg for the murder of a sapient being.”

VIII

Jack Holloway had been out on bail before, but never for quite so much. It was almost worth it, though, to see Leslie Coombes’s eyes widen and Mohammed Ali O’Brien’s jaw drop when he dumped the bag of sunstones, blazing with the heat of the day and of his body, on George Lunt’s magisterial bench and invited George to pick out twenty-five thousand sols’ worth. Especially after the production Coombes had made of posting Kellogg’s bail with one of those precertified Company checks.

He looked at the whisky bottle in his hand, and then reached into the cupboard for another one. One for Gus Brannhard, and one for the rest of them. There was a widespread belief that that was why Gustavus Adolphus Brannhard was practicing sporadic law out here in the boon docks of a boon-dock planet, defending gun fighters and veldbeest rustlers. It wasn’t. Nobody on Zarathustra knew the reason, but it wasn’t whisky. Whisky was only the weapon with which Gus Brannhard fought off the memory of the reason.

He was in the biggest chair in the living room, which was none too ample for him; a mountain of a man with tousled gray-brown hair, his broad face masked in a tangle of gray-brown beard. He wore a faded and grimy bush jacket with clips of rifle cartridges on the breast, no shirt and a torn undershirt over a shag of gray-brown chest hair. Between the bottoms of his shorts and the tops of his ragged hose and muddy boots, his legs were covered with hair. Baby Fuzzy was sitting on his head, and Mamma Fuzzy was on his lap. Mike and Mitzi sat one on either knee. The Fuzzies had taken instantly to Gus. Bet they thought he was a Big Fuzzy.

“Aaaah!” he rumbled, as the bottle and glass were placed beside him. “Been staying alive for hours hoping for this.”

“Well, don’t let any of the kids get at it. Little Fuzzy trying to smoke pipes is bad enough; I don’t want any dipsos in the family, too.”

Gus filled the glass. To be on the safe side, he promptly emptied it into himself.

“You got a nice family, Jack. Make a wonderful impression in court—as long as Baby doesn’t try to sit on the judge’s head. Any jury that sees them and hears that Ortheris girl’s story will acquit you from the box, with a vote of censure for not shooting Kellogg, too.”

“I’m not worried about that. What I want is Kellogg convicted.”

“You better worry, Jack,” Rainsford said. “You saw the combination against us at the hearing.”

Leslie Coombes, the Company’s top attorney, had come out from Mallorysport in a yacht rated at Mach 6, and he must have crowded it to the limit all the way. With him, almost on a leash, had come Mohammed Ali O’Brien, the Colonial Attorney General, who doubled as Chief Prosecutor. They had both tried to get the whole thing dismissed—self-defense for Holloway, and killing an unprotected wild animal for Kellogg. When that had failed, they had teamed in flagrant collusion to fight the inclusion of any evidence about the Fuzzies. After all it was only a complaint court; Lieutenant Lunt, as a police magistrate, had only the most limited powers.

“You saw how far they got, didn’t you?”

“I hope we don’t wish they’d succeeded,” Rainsford said gloomily.

“What do you mean, Ben?” Brannhard asked. “What do you think they’ll do?”

“I don’t know. That’s what worries me. We’re threatening the Zarathustra Company, and the Company’s too big to be threatened safely,” Rainsford replied. “They’ll try to frame something on Jack.”

“With veridication? That’s ridiculous, Ben.”

“Don’t you think we can prove sapience?” Gerd van Riebeek demanded.

“Who’s going to define sapience? And how?” Rainsford asked. “Why, between them, Coombes and O’Brien can even agree to accept the talk-and-build-a-fire rule.”

“Huh-uh!” Brannhard was positive. “Court ruling on that, about forty years ago, on Vishnu. Infanticide case, woman charged with murder in the death of her infant child. Her lawyer moved for dismissal on the grounds that murder is defined as the killing of a sapient being, a sapient being is defined as one that can talk and build a fire, and a newborn infant can do neither. Motion denied; the court ruled that while ability to speak and produce fire is positive proof of sapience, inability to do either or both does not constitute legal proof of nonsapience. If O’Brien doesn’t know that, and I doubt if he does, Coombes will.” Brannhard poured another drink and gulped it before the sapient beings around him could get at it. “You know what? I will make a small wager, and I will even give odds, that the first thing Ham O’Brien does when he gets back to Mallorysport will be to enter nolle prosequi on both charges. What I’d like would be for him to nol. pros. Kellogg and let the charge against Jack go to court. He would be dumb enough to do that himself, but Leslie Coombes wouldn’t let him.”

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