Little Fuzzy – Day 46 of 77

“They don’t know anything about court orders,” he said. “They don’t know why I didn’t stop it. They think Pappy Jack let them down.”

“Have they gone, Jack?” Brannhard asked. “Sure?” Then he rose, reaching behind him, and took up a little ball of white fur. Baby Fuzzy caught his beard with both tiny hands, yeeking happily.

“Baby! They didn’t get him!”

Brannhard disengaged the little hands from his beard and handed him over.

“No, and they signed for him, too.” Brannhard downed what was left of his drink, got a cigar out of his pocket and lit it. “Now, we’re going to go to Mallorysport and get the rest of them back.”

“But…. But the Chief Justice signed that order. He won’t give them back just because we ask him to.”

Brannhard made an impolite noise. “I’ll bet everything I own Pendarvis never saw that order. They have stacks of those things, signed in blank, in the Chief of the Court’s office. If they had to wait to get one of the judges to sign an order every time they wanted to subpoena a witness or impound physical evidence, they’d never get anything done. If Ham O’Brien didn’t think this up for himself, Leslie Coombes thought it up for him.”

“We’ll use my airboat,” Gerd said. “You coming along, Ben? Let’s get started.”

He couldn’t understand. The Big Ones in the blue clothes had been friends; they had given the whistles, and shown sorrow when the killed one was put in the ground. And why had Pappy Jack not gotten the big gun and stopped them. It couldn’t be that he was afraid; Pappy Jack was afraid of nothing.

The others were near, in bags like the one in which he had been put; he could hear them, and called to them. Then he felt the edge of the little knife Pappy Jack had made. He could cut his way out of this bag now and free the others, but that would be no use. They were in one of the things the Big Ones went up into the sky in, and if he got out now, there would be nowhere to go and they would be caught at once. Better to wait.

The one thing that really worried him was that he would not know where they were being taken. When they did get away, how would they ever find Pappy Jack again?

Gus Brannhard was nervous, showing it by being overtalkative, and that worried Jack. He’d stopped twice at mirrors along the hallway to make sure that his gold-threaded gray neckcloth was properly knotted and that his black jacket was zipped up far enough and not too far. Now, in front of the door marked The Chief Justice, he paused before pushing the button to fluff his newly shampooed beard.

There were two men in the Chief Justice’s private chambers. Pendarvis he had seen once or twice, but their paths had never crossed. He had a good face, thin and ascetic, the face of a man at peace with himself. With him was Mohammed Ali O’Brien, who seemed surprised to see them enter, and then apprehensive. Nobody shook hands; the Chief Justice bowed slightly and invited them to be seated.

“Now,” he continued, when they found chairs, “Miss Ugatori tells me that you are making complaint against an action by Mr. O’Brien here.”

“We are indeed, your Honor.” Brannhard opened his briefcase and produced two papers—the writ, and the receipt for the Fuzzies, handing them across the desk. “My client and I wish to know upon what basis of legality your Honor sanctioned this act, and by what right Mr. O’Brien sent his officers to Mr. Holloway’s camp to snatch these little people from their friend and protector, Mr. Holloway.”

The judge looked at the two papers. “As you know, Miss Ugatori took prints of them when you called to make this appointment. I’ve seen them. But believe me, Mr. Brannhard, this is the first time I have seen the original of this writ. You know how these things are signed in blank. It’s a practice that has saved considerable time and effort, and until now they have only been used when there was no question that I or any other judge would approve. Such a question should certainly have existed in this case, because had I seen this writ I would never have signed it.” He turned to the now fidgeting Chief Prosecutor. “Mr. O’Brien,” he said, “one simply does not impound sapient beings as evidence, as, say, one impounds a veldbeest calf in a brand-alteration case. The fact that the sapience of these Fuzzies is still sub judice includes the presumption of its possibility. Now you know perfectly well that the courts may take no action in the face of the possibility that some innocent person may suffer wrong.”

“And, your Honor,” Brannhard leaped into the breach, “it cannot be denied that these Fuzzies have suffered a most outrageous wrong! Picture them—no, picture innocent and artless children, for that is what these Fuzzies are, happy trusting little children, who, until then, had known only kindness and affection—rudely kidnapped, stuffed into sacks by brutal and callous men—”

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