Little Fuzzy – Day 40 of 77

“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.”

“But if he throws out the Kellogg case, that’s it,” Gerd van Riebeek said. “When Jack comes to trial, nobody’ll say a mumblin’ word about sapience.”

“I will, and I will not mumble it. You all know colonial law on homicide. In the case of any person killed while in commission of a felony, no prosecution may be brought in any degree, against anybody. I’m going to contend that Leonard Kellogg was murdering a sapient being, that Jack Holloway acted lawfully in attempting to stop it and that when Kurt Borch attempted to come to Kellogg’s assistance he, himself, was guilty of felony, and consequently any prosecution against Jack Holloway is illegal. And to make that contention stick, I shall have to say a great many words, and produce a great deal of testimony, about the sapience of Fuzzies.”

“It’ll have to be expert testimony,” Rainsford said. “The testimony of psychologists. I suppose you know that the only psychologists on this planet are employed by the chartered Zarathustra Company.” He drank what was left of his highball, looked at the bits of ice in the bottom of his glass and then rose to mix another one. “I’d have done the same as you did, Jack, but I still wish this hadn’t happened.”

Huh!” Mamma Fuzzy looked up, startled by the exclamation. “What do you think Victor Grego’s wishing, right now?”

Victor Grego replaced the hand-phone. “Leslie, on the yacht,” he said. “They’re coming in now. They’ll stop at the hospital to drop Kellogg, and then they’re coming here.”

Nick Emmert nibbled a canape. He had reddish hair, pale eyes and a wide, bovine face.

“Holloway must have done him up pretty badly,” he said.

“I wish Holloway’d killed him!” He blurted it angrily, and saw the Resident General’s shocked expression.

“You don’t really mean that, Victor?”

“The devil I don’t!” He gestured at the recorder-player, which had just finished the tape of the hearing, transmitted from the yacht at sixty-speed. “That’s only a teaser to what’ll come out at the trial. You know what the Company’s epitaph will be? Kicked to death, along with a Fuzzy, by Leonard Kellogg.

Everything would have worked out perfectly if Kellogg had only kept his head and avoided collision with Holloway. Why, even the killing of the Fuzzy and the shooting of Borch, inexcusable as that had been, wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been for that asinine murder complaint. That was what had provoked Holloway’s counter-complaint, which was what had done the damage.

And, now that he thought of it, it had been one of Kellogg’s people, van Riebeek, who had touched off the explosion in the first place. He didn’t know van Riebeek himself, but Kellogg should have, and he had handled him the wrong way. He should have known what van Riebeek would go along with and what he wouldn’t.

“But, Victor, they won’t convict Leonard of murder,” Emmert was saying. “Not for killing one of those little things.”

“‘Murder shall consist of the deliberate and unjustified killing of any sapient being, of any race,’” he quoted. “That’s the law. If they can prove in court that the Fuzzies are sapient beings….”

Then, some morning, a couple of deputy marshals would take Leonard Kellogg out in the jail yard and put a bullet through the back of his head, which, in itself, would be no loss. The trouble was, they would also be shooting an irreparable hole in the Zarathustra Company’s charter. Maybe Kellogg could be kept out of court, at that. There wasn’t a ship blasted off from Darius without a couple of drunken spacemen being hustled aboard at the last moment; with the job Holloway must have done, Kellogg should look just right as a drunken spaceman. The twenty-five thousand sols’ bond could be written off; that was pennies to the Company. No, that would still leave them stuck with the Holloway trial.

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