Little Fuzzy – Day 42 of 77

Then he stopped laughing suddenly and became deadly serious, like an engineer who finds a cataclysmite cartridge lying around primed and connected to a discharger. He reached out to the screen panel and began punching a combination. A spectacled young man appeared and greeted him deferentially.

“Good morning, Mr. Wilkins,” he replied. “A couple of homicides at the head of this morning’s docket—Holloway and Kellogg, both from Beta Fifteen. What is known about them?”

The young man began to laugh. “Oh, your Honor, they’re both a lot of nonsense. Dr. Kellogg killed some pet belonging to old Jack Holloway, the sunstone digger, and in the ensuing unpleasantness—Holloway can be very unpleasant, if he feels he has to—this man Borch, who seems to have been Kellogg’s bodyguard, made the suicidal error of trying to draw a gun on Holloway. I’m surprised at Lieutenant Lunt for letting either of those charges get past hearing court. Mr. O’Brien has entered nolle prosequi on both of them, so the whole thing can be disregarded.”

Mohammed O’Brien knew a charge of cataclysmite when he saw one, too. His impulse had been to pull the detonator. Well, maybe this charge ought to be shot, just to see what it would bring down.

“I haven’t approved the nolle prosequi yet, Mr. Wilkins,” he mentioned gently. “Would you please transmit to me the hearing tapes on these cases, at sixty-speed? I’ll take them on the recorder of this screen. Thank you.”

He reached out and made the necessary adjustments. Wilkins, the Clerk of the Courts, left the screen, and returned. There was a wavering scream for a minute and a half. Going to take more time than he had expected. Well.…

There wasn’t enough ice in the glass, and Leonard Kellogg put more in. Then there was too much, and he added more brandy. He shouldn’t have started drinking this early, be drunk by dinnertime if he kept it up, but what else was there to do? He couldn’t go out, not with his face like this. In any case, he wasn’t sure he wanted to.

They were all down on him. Ernst Mallin, and Ruth Ortheris, and even Juan Jimenez. At the constabulary post, Coombes and O’Brien had treated him like an idiot child who has to be hushed in front of company and coming back to Mallorysport they had ignored him completely. He drank quickly, and then there was too much ice in the glass again. Victor Grego had told him he’d better take a vacation till the trial was over, and put Mallin in charge of the division. Said he oughtn’t to be in charge while the division was working on defense evidence. Well, maybe; it looked like the first step toward shoving him completely out of the Company.

He dropped into a chair and lit a cigarette. It tasted badly, and after a few puffs he crushed it out. Well, what else could he have done? After they’d found that little grave, he had to make Gerd understand what it would mean to the Company. Juan and Ruth had been all right, but Gerd—The things Gerd had called him; the things he’d said about the Company. And then that call from Holloway, and the humiliation of being ordered out like a tramp.

And then that disgusting little beast had come pulling at his clothes, and he had pushed it away—well, kicked it maybe—and it had struck at him with the little spear it was carrying. Nobody but a lunatic would give a thing like that to an animal anyhow. And he had kicked it again, and it had screamed….

The communication screen in the next room was buzzing. Maybe that was Victor. He gulped the brandy left in the glass and hurried to it.

It was Leslie Coombes, his face remotely expressionless.

“Oh, hello, Leslie.”

“Good afternoon, Dr. Kellogg.” The formality of address was studiously rebuking. “The Chief Prosecutor just called me; Judge Pendarvis has denied the nolle prosequi he entered in your case and in Mr. Holloway’s, and ordered both cases to trial.”

“You mean they’re actually taking this seriously?”

“It is serious. If you’re convicted, the Company’s charter will be almost automatically voided. And, although this is important only to you personally, you might, very probably, be sentenced to be shot.” He shrugged that off, and continued: “Now, I’ll want to talk to you about your defense, for which I am responsible. Say ten-thirty tomorrow, at my office. I should, by that time, know what sort of evidence is going to be used against you. I will be expecting you, Dr. Kellogg.”

He must have said more than that, but that was all that registered. Leonard wasn’t really conscious of going back to the other room, until he realized that he was sitting in his relaxer chair, filling the glass with brandy. There was only a little ice in it, but he didn’t care.

They were going to try him for murder for killing that little animal, and Ham O’Brien had said they wouldn’t, he’d promised he’d keep the case from trial and he hadn’t, they were going to try him anyhow and if they convicted him they would take him out and shoot him for just killing a silly little animal he had killed it he’d kicked it and jumped on it he could still hear it screaming and feel the horrible soft crunching under his feet….

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