All Things Mysterious Volume One Hundred One
The exciting conclusion to The Trial!
Brand was very devout in his atheism; he put his left hand on an old copy of The Baseball Encyclopedia and affirmed to tell the truth. Then he settled into the witness chair.
‘Now, Mr. Brand, what was your connection to Mr. Who, and to the defendants?’
Brand stroked his chin, and replied, ‘Harold Who and I crossed paths a few times when we were both trying to call attention to the unhealthy properties in Krock’s Kandy. I’ve never met any of the defendants; I try to stay away from gangsters.’
Hamilton Sandwich was on his feet in an instant. ‘Objection! Gangster is a pejorative term and will simply serve to prejudice the jury!’
‘Sustained,’ said the judge. ‘Jury will disregard the statements by the witness regarding the employment status of the accused.’
Mason Perry hooked his thumbs into his galluses and strolled slowly past the jury box, trying to burnish his folksy credentials. ‘Seems to me that vandalism and sabotage are funny ways to ‘call attention’ to alleged unhealthy snacks, Mr. Brand.’
Brand, stung, replied, ‘I’d think so too, sir, if I had done anything like that. But even if the jury is disregarding my statements, I never stole or broke anything in my life. I always tried to avoid trouble, see? Like when Harold mentioned the flexi-bottles I changed the subject real fast.’
‘Tell us what you know about the flexi-bottles.’
‘Harold had one when we went on the boat ride last year. I only saw it twice, once on the boat and one other time, right before they tried to kill the kitties.’
‘Sustained. Mr. Brand, you will refrain from making conclusions about the defendants.’
‘B-but that’s what the story said--that they had tried to kill the cats in revenge. And that’s what I heard them say,’ stammered Brand.
‘You heard the accused say that they were trying to revenge themselves on Mr. Costello and The Brown Recluse and the animals?’ asked Mason Perry.
‘I was at Bill Fields’ pet store and Breck and Prell were in there arguing with the clerk.’
‘Your honor, may I ask about the details of that meeting?’ said Sandwich.
‘Just when was this. Mr. Brand? How did you know the defendants and why were you in the shop?’
For once completely unperturbed, Brand replied, ‘I was there to get the details on adopting a goldfish. Those cops, Costello and Avery, thought at one time that I had a connection with the Mayhew gang, and his henchmen too, which I didn’t, so I knew about Breck and Prell when I saw them in the pet shop about three or four weeks ago.’
‘Thank you, your Honor. Mr. Perry?’
Mason Perry turned his attention from the cute lady juror all dressed in brown back to the case, and to his witness on the stand.
‘Mr. Brand, let us get to the heart of the matter. While at the pet shop, or at any other time, did you see or hear anything that might have a bearing on this case?’
Brand said, ‘I’ll say I did. While I was waiting in the goldfish department, Prell and Breck were arguing with the poor girl behind the counter.’
‘I see. And what were they arguing about?’
‘They wanted to know the fastest poison for getting rid of cats. When the salesgirl refused to help them, they tried to get tough.’
‘How did they do that?’
‘Oh, they hollered and threatened, but she stuck to her guns. I thought that she was pretty brave to do that.’
‘Yes, that took some courage to stand up to these thugs.’
‘Sustained. You know better than that, Mr. Perry.’
‘I beg the court’s pardon. No further questions.’
‘Mr. Brand, how could you have overheard the private conversation between the defendants and the shop girl? Were you eavesdropping?’
‘No sir. The goldfish department was right next to the cash register and anyway those guys were yelling, it was hard not to hear them.’
‘I see. And you can not think of any reason other than animal cruelty that these gentlemen might want to dispose of cats?’
‘No, what other reason could there be?’
‘No further questions.’
Mason Perry spoke up. ‘Your honor, if it please the court, just one or two more questions on re-direct for this witness.’
‘Proceed, Mr. Perry.’
‘Mr. Brand, do you know what a feral cat is?’
‘No, sir, I don’t believe that I do.’
‘Wild, untamed cats who would just as soon tear your throat out as look at you. They are a grave nuisance in many communities, and sometimes there is no alternative than removing them from this mortal coil.’
‘Huh! Well, live and learn.’
‘Mr. Perry, there are no feral cats in River City. Kindly move on.’
‘Yes, your Honor. Mr. Brand, you once tried to force yourself on that poor shop girl, didn’t you?’
Now that made Brand mad. ‘I did not! Like I said, I thought she was pretty cool and I asked her for coffee, she said no, and that was the end of it.’
‘She rejected you, and you didn’t like that, did you?’
Brand shrugged. ‘It happens.’
‘So you decided to get back at her and tell these gentlemen just how to get rid of those pesky cats, did you not?’
‘I did not!’ Brand said again. ‘I told them nothing, I knew they were hard cases, and it was easy to figure out what they were planning.’
‘And what were they planning?’
‘Why, to get rid of Cinnamon and Raffles as revenge for foiling their plot!’
‘And by ‘their’ you mean the defendants?’
‘And did you see the flexi-bottle after you saw it on the boat with Harold Who and Missy What?’
‘And where was that?’
‘At the pet shop. I think they wanted something they could spray at the cats.’
This revelation caused a minor uproar in the courtroom, but Judge Blusster was thoughtfully staring at Brand. Finally he spoke.
‘Mr. Brand, Mr. Who stated that he only made one prototype of the flexi-bottle.’
‘That’s what I thought too, sir.’
‘Was the bottle stolen?’
‘I think somebody who was on that boat stole the flexi-bottle for the Mayhew people, because that was the only two times I saw it.’
‘We know that there was an attempt to use it on the animals, which backfired. That seems to show premeditation to harm the cats. But what of the enmity between Cinnamon, Raffles, and Sonny the big dog?’
At this Ellen Amora, alias the Brown Recluse, spoke.
‘Your Honor, may I request that you and the jury look at this?’ And she indicated a small office, used for the court recorder, in the corner of the larger courtroom.
Dutifully the judge and jury filed over to the smaller room, while the bailiffs kept watch over the defendants and the judge’s brown-bagged lunch.
From the room came a giant whooshing sound: Awwwwwwwwww….
Brand strolled over from the witness stand. Sonny the big dog, Raffles and Cinnamon the cats were all curled up together, sound asleep, like they’d been pals for years.
‘Move for dismissal.’
‘Motion denied!’ shouted the judge. ‘Moreover, I believe that Sonny the big dog was coerced into this life of crime! I direct the jury to disregard all charges against the animal defendant. This court is adjourned until nine a.m. tomorrow.’ And he tapped his pencil on his desk to emphasize his words.
Ellen Amora, alias the Brown Recluse, and Costello walked out of the courtroom together.
‘Bet it’ll go tough on Breck and Prell now.’
‘Sure will,’ the woman replied. ‘I wonder if they’ll get the ‘meow-nimum’ sentence?’
Ouch! Bet Breck and Prell are in for it, but you never know! Drop by each Thursday for another exciting story about the folks of River City, or possibly a look at a crime fiction writer, or maybe something about the National League!
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