Little Fuzzy – Day 53 of 77

“Now Brannhard is talking about bringing suit against the Company, and he’s furnishing copies of all the Fuzzy films Holloway has to the news services. Interworld News is going hog-wild with it, and even the services we control can’t play it down too much. I don’t know who’s going to be prosecuting these cases; but whoever it is, he won’t dare pull any punches. And the whole thing’s made Pendarvis hostile to us. I know, the law and the evidence and nothing but the law and the evidence, but the evidence is going to filter into his conscious mind through this hostility. He’s called a conference with Brannhard and myself for tomorrow afternoon; I don’t know what that’s going to be like.”

XI

The two lawyers had risen hastily when Chief Justice Pendarvis entered; he responded to their greetings and seated himself at his desk, reaching for the silver cigar box and taking out a panatela. Gustavus Adolphus Brannhard picked up the cigar he had laid aside and began puffing on it; Leslie Coombes took a cigarette from his case. They both looked at him, waiting like two drawn weapons—a battle ax and a rapier.

“Well, gentlemen, as you know, we have a couple of homicide cases and nobody to prosecute them,” he began.

“Why bother, your Honor?” Coombes asked. “Both charges are completely frivolous. One man killed a wild animal, and the other killed a man who was trying to kill him.”

“Well, your Honor, I don’t believe my client is guilty of anything, legally or morally,” Brannhard said. “I want that established by an acquittal.” He looked at Coombes. “I should think Mr. Coombes would be just as anxious to have his client cleared of any stigma of murder, too.”

“I am quite agreed. People who have been charged with crimes ought to have public vindication if they are innocent. Now, in the first place, I planned to hold the Kellogg trial first, and then the Holloway trial. Are you both satisfied with that arrangement?”

“Absolutely not, your Honor,” Brannhard said promptly. “The whole basis of the Holloway defense is that this man Borch was killed in commission of a felony. We’re prepared to prove that, but we don’t want our case prejudiced by an earlier trial.”

Coombes laughed. “Mr. Brannhard wants to clear his client by preconvicting mine. We can’t agree to anything like that.”

“Yes, and he is making the same objection to trying your client first. Well, I’m going to remove both objections. I’m going to order the two cases combined, and both defendants tried together.”

A momentary glow of unholy glee on Gus Brannhard’s face; Coombes didn’t like the idea at all.

“Your Honor, I trust that that suggestion was only made facetiously,” he said.

“It wasn’t, Mr. Coombes.”

“Then if your Honor will not hold me in contempt for saying so, it is the most shockingly irregular—I won’t go so far as to say improper—trial procedure I’ve ever heard of. This is not a case of accomplices charged with the same crime; this is a case of two men charged with different criminal acts, and the conviction of either would mean the almost automatic acquittal of the other. I don’t know who’s going to be named to take Mohammed O’Brien’s place, but I pity him from the bottom of my heart. Why, Mr. Brannhard and I could go off somewhere and play poker while the prosecutor would smash the case to pieces.”

“Well, we won’t have just one prosecutor, Mr. Coombes, we will have two. I’ll swear you and Mr. Brannhard in as special prosecutors, and you can prosecute Mr. Brannhard’s client, and he yours. I think that would remove any further objections.”

It was all he could do to keep his face judicially grave and unmirthful. Brannhard was almost purring, like a big tiger that had just gotten the better of a young goat; Leslie Coombes’s suavity was beginning to crumble slightly at the edges.

“Your Honor, that is a most excellent suggestion,” Brannhard declared. “I will prosecute Mr. Coombes’s client with the greatest pleasure in the universe.”

“Well, all I can say, your Honor, is that if the first proposal was the most irregular I had ever heard, the record didn’t last long!”

“Why, Mr. Coombes, I went over the law and the rules of jurisprudence very carefully, and I couldn’t find a word that could be construed as disallowing such a procedure.”

“I’ll bet you didn’t find any precedent for it either!”

Leslie Coombes should have known better than that; in colonial law, you can find a precedent for almost anything.

“How much do you bet, Leslie?” Brannhard asked, a larcenous gleam in his eye.

“Don’t let him take your money away from you. I found, inside an hour, sixteen precedents, from twelve different planetary jurisdictions.”

“All right, your Honor,” Coombes capitulated. “But I hope you know what you’re doing. You’re turning a couple of cases of the People of the Colony into a common civil lawsuit.”

Gus Brannhard laughed. “What else is it?” he demanded. “Friends of Little Fuzzy versus The chartered Zarathustra Company; I’m bringing action as friend of incompetent aborigines for recognition of sapience, and Mr. Coombes, on behalf of the Zarathustra Company, is contesting to preserve the Company’s charter, and that’s all there is or ever was to this case.”

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