Monday, May 11, 2015
First, Kill the Lawyers
As an officer of the law in Talbot's Peak, Otto Wolffe was used to dealing with weird. Therefore, when the two gentlemen in business suits marched into the Peak's police station, he thought nothing of it. At first.
The taller of the two slapped a document on his desk. "We're here to free our client," he announced.
Officer Otto glanced at the paper, then treated its bearers to a longer scrutiny. The tall one had a thin, pinched face dominated by dark-rimmed glasses and a sheep's tight curly hair. His suit fit him perfectly, every inch impeccable. His partner was shorter, stockier, and hunched his shoulders like a ram preparing to charge. His mouth moved in cud-chewing motions. Unlike the tall one, his suit appeared to have been tacked onto his squat body as an afterthought. He looked like he should be playing Third Goon from the Left in a Godfather movie.
"Your client?" Otto hazarded.
"Yes, our client. A mister … " The tall one consulted the paper. "Mr. Billy Goat." He handed Otto a business card. "We've been informed you've been holding him in your jail—without any formal charges, I might add—for several weeks now. I suggest you and your entire department brace yourselves for a lawsuit."
Otto looked at the business card. Dorset & Merino, Attorneys at Law.
"We've got a goat in lockup," he said. "Somehow I don't think he hired you."
"We've been retained on his behalf. Are you going to release him or aren't you?"
"I don't think you understand," Otto said. "He's not a shifter. He's a goat. An honest-to-Lupa goat. Some paintballers were using him as a lure. Maybe as a target too. His coat was kind of rainbow-y when they brought him in."
"Animal abuse," the tall one said to his partner. "Make a note." The squat one made a snort instead. "We need to see our client, to ensure there has been no further neglect. Do you mind if we inspect his cell?"
"He's not in a cell, exactly. Right now we've got him picketed out back. We leave him outside during the day. He's been grazing on the lawn by the parking lot."
"Have you been paying him?"
"For mowing the lawn," the sheep said patiently. "If you make an inmate work, you're obliged to pay him, even if it's only a token. If we find out you've been forcing a prisoner to work without compensation, that's additional charges."
"He's a frikkin' goat!"
"Then he should have been turned over to Animal Control. By keeping him in custody and treating him as a subject of arrest, you've implied he is indeed a subject of arrest, with all the rights and privileges of any other arrestee. May I ask what he's been charged with?"
"He hasn't been charged with anything. He's a goat."
"Then you've been holding him against his will. That's false arrest, kidnapping, cruel and unusual punishment—"
"I dunno," the squat one said. "Letting a goat graze ain't so unusual. Don't see how you can call it cruel, either."
"All right, we'll let that one slide. The rest, however … officer, your entire department is currently in deep droppings. We may have to go so far as to alert the Mayor."
"Are you kidding me?"
"No," the tall one said. "We're not."
Otto studied their faces and decided they weren't. Lawyers weren't exactly known for their manic sense of humor.
"Let's take it from the top," he said. "You've been hired by somebody to get a goat out of lockup." He checked the paper again, then asked, "You want to tell me who hired you?"
"That's confidential information. I assure you, both we and that person only have our client's best interests at heart."
"Your client's a goat."
"That's irelevant in the eyes of the law."
Otto stared into the sheep's glasses and felt his gut sink to his shoes. Lupa help me, we're going to be here all day.
Just then the squat one spoke up. "Look, you and I know it's a goat. The lamb here, I ain't so sure about. But we been paid, so we gotta do the job. Tell you what: you give us the goat, we take him home to his rightful owner, everybody forgets this happened and we all sleep peaceful tonight. Waddaya say?"
The tall one gaped at his partner. "Joe!"
"Jesus Christ, Alex, give it a rest. This ain't a million-dollar lawsuit. It's a friggin' goat. We'll just call it a plea bargain and let it go at that."
"Done," Otto broke in. "I'll be right back with the prisoner."
"We appreciate it." The stocky one added in a stage whisper to Otto, "Fresh out'a law school. You know how they get."
"JoeBob Merino, I'm standing right here."
Otto hastily made his escape. He returned moments later with their client on the end of a rope. The stocky one gave the goat the once-over. "Don't look abused to me," he pronounced. "You must have some good grass out there. I say we're done here."
"Not without the paperwork." The tall one produced another document. "If you would sign here and here, and date this here … "
"Fine," Otto snapped. He fished his own paper from a desk drawer. "Here's one for you. Sign there and there."
"In a moment." The tall one adjusted his glasses and proceeded to give the paper a thorough reading. Otto handed the goat's rope over to the stocky one. Lawyer and client regarded each other with chewing jaws and similar sour expressions.
Otto sat back in his chair. I should put an announcement on the bulletin board, he thought. Common sense is now officially dead. One thing you could say about working in the Peak: there was no such thing as a dull day.