Gadget in Chains
Written by: Loneheart
The Trial of Gadget Hackwrench
The dawn had brought with it the promise of a new day. Gadget Hackwrench was confident that for her, that promise was one of freedom, if at the price of some considerable embarrassment. She was to be tried in a small animal courthouse located in the attic of a cigar shop half a block from the Street Watch precinct where she was being held. As a Rescue Ranger and an engineer she had the skills an experience to break out of the overnight cells where she was being held before they came to get her but chose not to because she believed freedom was certain.
At 6 am the morning shift guard woke the prisoners. It had been a difficult night for Miss Hackwrench. She was unaccustomed to sleeping in the same room as someone else, especially someone who smelt and snored. Her own mattress was lumpy, damp in places and infested with parasites.
Gadget welcomed the chance to shower, even under the watchful eye of the female guards in the limited privacy of one of three shower stalls the precinct had available for prisoners. She took the opportunity to wash the dye out of her hair, in the vain hope that everyone would say "Oh my! How can we have been so foolish?" and let her go at once. Without the necessary hair treatments she was only partially successful and she was left as a normal red head. Though she did not notice it at the time, the rest of her fur was darkened several shades to a mild tan colour in the process.
Gadget was scratching against the advice of her cellmate at 8 am when the guard, accompanied by two court officers, fetched her out of the cell and put shackles on her arms and legs. The shackles permitted her to run on two legs in the event of predator attack but kept her hands helpless.
In fact it was not the first time Gadget had been held prisoner or been shackled. It was the first time the people holding her had been on the side of law and order.
At 9 am they arrived at the courthouse. It had taken most of an hour to process the paper work for Gadget and the other prisoners who were going to be tried that morning. Gadget was processed under the alias of Jane Doe, as she insisted that her real name was Gadget Hackwrench and the morning newspaper reported that that individual was close to death, having been given only a 1 in 5 chance of survival by a "hospital source".
She was introduced to her court appointed lawyer for the first time a few minutes later, in a room made from a converted shoebox.
"Oh, Thank Heaven. I never thought I'd speak to a sane person again." Gadget smiled as a dormouse with unkempt fur entered the room, trailing papers from the folder under his arm.
"Huh?" The dormouse yawned. "Why, is this a competency hearing?"
These are not the first words you want to hear from the lawyer who is going to be defending you.
"Um. No." Gadget tried to keep the worry off her face. "This is a trial for fraud and deception, as I understand it, and damaging public property. Unless they've changed the charges against me, or dropped them completely which wouldn't surprise me at all under the circumstances, given the fact that this is a case of mistaken identity and I'm completely innocent."
"Ah, right. Good. Got you. I thought I had the wrong file for a moment. So, you're innocent. You've never once called yourself Gadget Hackwrench." The dormouse blinked happily. He didn't seem to be properly awake.
"No! I call myself Gadget Hackwrench all the time!"
"What?" The dormouse sat back in surprise. "Um. That could be a problem for our case You see you really shouldn't do that, you know. Call yourself by another's name, I mean."
"No, you don't understand. I am Gadget Hackwrench!"
"No, you don't understand. Even if you could say that and the Rescue Rangers weren't available to say otherwise, the whole city knows that Gadget Hackwrench is on her deathbed."
"Deathbed? No! I have to speak to my friends! They don't know they're dealing with an impostor!"
The lawyer yawned. "Pardon me, I tend to get a little sleepy every so often. Miss, is it your contention that you are the real Gadget Hackwrench and that the mouse who so bravely prevented the biggest jewel robbery in the history of animal crime, perhaps at the cost of her own life, is an phoney? Because if it is, I have to tell you that I don't think the jury are going to buy that."
Gadget stared at him agog. "It isn't going to be up to any jury! As soon as one of my friends gets on to the stand the case is going to be thrown out of court!"
The dormouse looked at her sceptically. "Have you got any family I could contact for you?"
"No. My parents travelled a lot and now they're both dead."
"What about someone who's known you a long time?" Enquired the dormouse, taking a bottle of pills from his jacket. "A doctor perhaps?" he suggested, inspired by the pills.
"There's a doctor that all the Rangers go to for medicals. His name is Dr Frisk. He's a water rat."
"Excuse me, these pills stop me from hibernating. I have to take them every morning and evening." He dry swallowed the pill with practiced ease, as though he had been doing it his whole life. "Miss, if the person in hospital is an impostor, don't you think that Dr Frisk there would have noticed? I mean, he has you medical records, he knows you "
"I don't know why he hasn't noticed. Perhaps there's another Doctor treating me. I mean, her."
"Another Doctor treating you? Who would that be?"
"How should I know, I'm here?"
"Okay, have we got anyone who can act as a character witness? Friends? People you've worked with? Teachers?"
"The Rescue Rangers. There must be hundreds of people I've helped over the years."
"At last report the rangers were holding a bedside vigil. How do you think they'll react to getting a message asking them to be a character witness for someone accused of impersonating Gadget Hackwrench?"
"Monty and Chip will both be furious, Dale will be confused and Zipper will want to come just in case I'm telling the truth."
"Alright, it's against my better judgement but I'll send a message asking for one or more of them to come. Is there anyone else we can rely on?"
"Jen! I thought of calling her last night but she's not on the phone!"
"Well, I guess it's not all that common; unless you happen to be human, that is. It's not the expense so much as the risk of discovery. I hear some places have their own lines though, completely separate from the human network."
"I've been to a few of those places."
"You have? Staten City?"
"To bad you have to fly to get there in less than a day. I could ask them to adjourn the trial, but that will mean you going be held on remand. If you won't give them a name besides Gadget Hackwrench then there's no way I can ask for bail."
"Are you saying a fake could be back on the street by lunch time but the real Gadget Hackwrench can't get out of jail at all?"
"Are you quite sure there isn't another name that you could give the court?" The dormouse's eyebrows wiggled, suggestively.
"Ah ha! Now we're getting somewhere!"
"I mean there is no other name that I can give the court." Gadget yelled.
There was a hostile silence.
"Look, this is just the arraignment, you know. It could be weeks before a trial date. Frankly I think the longer the delay the better. It would give people a chance to cool down."
"What? No! Absolutely not! I want this over with today."
"That is definitely not in your best interests. I have to tell you, I haven't had time to look through your file properly. I only got this case an hour ago. I haven't been doing this job very long. Plus, everyone hates you!"
"Hates me?!" Gadget's eyes misted over and her jaw hung slackly.
"You're accused of impersonating a mouse who is very highly regarded in this city. She's practically another Bianca Raboga. Plus; people might not think about who she is and what she does all the time but the week you picked to get caught is the one week the papers are screaming her name like she's Joan of Arc on the eve of the barbecue."
"I'm Gadget Hackwrench! This is insane! I can't be represented by someone who doesn't believe me!"
"I'm not obliged to take your case if I don't believe what you're telling me. If you want to get another lawyer then you'll have to wait for another one to be assigned. That means "
"I know. I know. Remand."
"Which is probably for the best, given the public feeling. I mean; I don't need to do a survey to know that people are angry right now. So, what do you want to do?"
"I want you to send a message to the Rescue Rangers telling them the real Gadget Hackwrench is in trouble and needs their help!"
"Okay, if that's what you want. What about this "Jen" you mentioned? Can we contact her?"
"I'll give you her address. Can you get to her before we go to court?"
"Probably. But from what my boss told me when he gave me the case, they want to get this out of the way before it turns into a circus. The arraignment is at ten. Any other friends? Asides from the Rangers, I mean."
"A few. I'll write their names and addresses down. But you can get them here for the trial, right?"
"Yes. I'm sure we can."
"Here are the addresses. Jen works evenings so she should be in."
"Is there anyone else you want me to contact? Any evidence at all to back up your claim?"
"Nothing comes to mind. I could give them a lecture on aerodynamics if you think it would help."
"We're supposed to prove your claim to be Gadget Hackwrench, not whether or not you are an engineer."
"But everyone knows that Gadget Hackwrench is an inventor! Surely proving that I know the things that an inventor knows would strengthen my case?"
"That's exactly what the prosecution would say after your lecture. Any impostor would learn enough basics of Gadget's job to be able to bluff their way around normal folks."
Gadget rested her chin in one hand. "Maybe I should approach this from a new angle. I know!" Her face brightened suddenly. "How do you prove who you are?"
"What, me? I'm not on trial here!"
"Seriously, what do you do when someone wants to know who you are and they need more than your name? Like when the guard let you in?"
"Uh, well actually, the guard who let me in was my cousin."
"Well, suppose he wasn't!"
"I would have shown him my identification. My law degree, my birth certificate. I always carry one of them for identification."
"I have a birth certificate, but it's at home."
"Great, where's home!"
"Rescue Ranger Head Quarters!"
"Oh, boy! Look, I think maybe you should get another lawyer."
"I don't have time!" Gadget looked pleadingly into the dormouse's eyes. "Please?"
The dormouse didn't stand a chance.
"Uh, okay. Boy, I hope I know what I'm doing. Look, one thing I do know: you can't show up in a courtroom wearing that thing. Asides from anything else, the male jurors wouldn't hear a thing I said."
"My other clothes are at-"
"I know, I know. Rescue Ranger headquarters. Don't worry about it, I have a sister about your size. I'll bring you something else you can wear."
I need to get some advice on this and I don't have much time." The dormouse began gathering up his papers. "I'll see you at the arraignment."
"Wait, what's your name?"
"Franklin. Franklin Kafka."
"Seriously!?" The door closed on Gadget's amazement.
At ten minutes to ten, Franklin Kafka requested an interview in the judge's chambers. The Prosecutor was already in court awaiting the start of proceedings and was asked to join them.
"I was wondering, your honour, how you would feel about having my client assessed by a psychiatrist?"
"Before the arraignment? I don't blame you for asking but I'd have to think very carefully before allowing it. It would be opening the door to an insanity defence." Judge Harpon said thoughtfully.
"The state would have to strenuously fight any such defence. There is ample evidence to show that these crimes were committed solely for material gain." The prosecutor added.
"Do you have a psychiatrist in mind?" The judge asked.
"No, your honour."
"Well, in that case I suggest you save it for the trial." The judge told him. "Not that committing her straight away wouldn't have advantages. It's not going to do anyone any good to prolong this, the prisoner included. Longer it goes on the bigger the circus will become."
"I'm afraid the District Attorney's office feels that wouldn't be justice, your honour."
"So your boss told me when he spoke to me this morning. I imagine that Mr Kafka's superiors have had similar conversations with him?"
"What? No! What are you talking about?"
The judge and the prosecutor exchanged long looks and sighed. Eventually the prosecutor shrugged and sat in a chair on the far side of the room, leaving the judge to explain alone.
"Son, I don't believe I've seen you before "
"It's my first case."
"Okay, this is how it goes and if you repeat any of this you can forget trial law in this town, got it?"
"The public is about to loose a hero, by the looks of things, and some of them are out for blood. There's no question that the prisoner is guilty. If she's released on bail, either she'll be lynched or she'll disappear. Either way we'll look like morons.
If we have a long drawn out trial then it'll turn into a media circus, which is the last thing anyone, the prisoner included, needs right now. She's obviously setting up for an insanity defence and once that happens the waters will get so muddy that the liberals will scream miscarriage of justice if we convict and the conservatives will scream break down of law and order if we don't. Either way, we could have a riot on our hands when we finally get a verdict."
The judge sat back and took a long breath. Franklin opened his mouth to say something, but the old mole cut him off.
"Now for my money I'd be as happy to see her in a padded cell as any other kind of cell, but the District Attorney wouldn't and it's his decision whether to fight an insanity plea or not. He's made it clear he would."
"This is outrageous!" Franklin yelled. "I've never heard of anything like it!"
"If it's your first day on the job I'm not surprised. Before you rush off all indignant, remember that your boss knows as much about it as anyone else. Son, we all work to bring about a just and fair out come in the normal scheme of things. Sometimes we can't achieve that by working in the way we would all like."
The judge peered into the dormouse's angry, bewildered eyes. "If you have a problem with any of this, including the fact that barring a miracle you are going to lose this case, then my advice is not to take the case or to have your client sit in remand until you're ready to fight it tooth and claw."
There was a long, uncomfortable silence while the judge and the prosecutor watched the loss of innocence, a sight that is never as pretty as the phrase implies.
"What if I've already agreed to take the case and my client refuses to wait in remand? She insists on going to trial today." Franklin asked.
Even deeper sighs.
"Son, in that case you're on your own."
Gadget Hackwrench, a Rescue Ranger in need of rescue, a prisoner accused of a crime she did not commit, looked nervously at the guards on either side of her. The truth was that she was tired and frightened. She had been tired and frightened many times before but this was only the second time she could think of when knew for certain that no one was coming to help her. Her friends thought the real Gadget was with them, dying, perhaps dead by now.
She took a series of deep breaths to help clear her mind but the air was stale and too warm to help. To pass the time she had made a list.
Since noon the previous day she had found out that two of the people she depended on most in the whole world were keeping secrets from her (and important ones at that), she had narrowly escaped serious injury from a failed invention (again), been so badly bruised that she could barely sit down (Please, Lord, let the seats in the courthouse be padded.), had her vehicle stolen (two of her vehicles, if what she had heard about the Ranger plane was right), been drugged and knocked unconscious in a bar fight (she still didn't feel right in the head or stomach), been arrested and locked up over night (There had been a chance to wash, at least, but she was sure she had caught fleas from the mattress and that some of them were still with her.) and finally deprived of coffee. Surely there was something in the constitution about allowing a prisoner her morning coffee?
Franklin Kafka's sister had supplied the dress she was wearing. It was the only good thing she could think of right now. The floral pattern reminded her of Dale's shirts and it had a high ruffled collar that left nothing on display. The skirt stopped somewhere south of her knees and the whole thing was too large for her, but she would have died of embarrassment if she had been forced to stand trial in the red mini-dress she had borrowed from Jen.
Despite that one mercy, Gadget was bruised, aching and sore. Worse, she was also caffeine free. She had only had three hours sleep from worrying about her friends, who were probably going to go mad with grief if the impostor died on them. The horrible truth was she wanted to get hold of the person responsible for all this and duct tape her to a space shuttle, hospital bed and all.
Well, Gadget thought, at least it would be over soon. It couldn't get any worse than this.
One of the guards opened the defendant's door to the courtroom.
A ringing chorus of boos, hisses, whistles and shouted insults exploded in Gadget's ears. The already tender muscles at the base of her tail tensed as the end began twitching madly, a fear response designed to draw the eyes and aim of a predator away from the vital areas of her body. She had meant to walk into the courtroom with her head held high and her gaze steady to show her confidence. Instead the sounds of hatred had her pulling back, fighting the grip of the guards who were trying to push her towards the roaring, angry mob.
Thus, the first sight of her the public had was of her digging in her heels, struggling with the guards, her eyes and head jerking wildly around the room looking friends, enemies, a way out or a place to hide. Looking for anything but a way of facing the kind of justice that was waiting for her.
Gadget found herself being led to the defence table where Franklin was already sitting. When she joined him, she noticed a stain on the shoulder of his jacket where someone had thrown a rotten red grape at him. Tomatoes can kill when you're a mouse.
"What happened?" She shouted in his ear.
"There was a crowd waiting for your trial since seven o'clock. It could be a lucky break!" He yelled back.
The crowed jeered. A dried pea flew between them and bounced off the desk to the accompaniment of the Judge's gavel.
"How could THIS possibly be a lucky break?"
"It helps establish grounds for appeal! Oh, and I got to give an interview to a newspaper reporter saying how justice must be approached with a pure heart and an open mind and that everyone, especially you, was entitled to a fair hearing."
"There's a rotten grape stain on the back of your shirt."
"I know, I think the reporter threw it when I turned my back."
The judge hammered the bench again and this time the noise died, largely because two large officers of the court were throwing out the worst of the troublemakers. Before speaking he fixed Gadget to her seat with a particularly venomous glare. To cap it all, Gadget had just realised that the chair she was sitting on had a large coin for a seat.
"This court will come to order!" The mole on the bench roared. "The defendant will stand."
Gadget rose, unsteady in her manacles.
"Bailiff, will you read the charges against her, please."
One of the rats began reading from a clipboard. "The defendant is charged with nine counts of fraud, twelve counts of deception, twenty one counts of misrepresentation, eighteen counts of theft, one count of lewd conduct in a public bar-"
Gadget shrieked! "What?! That's absolutely ludicrous! Are you insane?"
"Mr Kafka, explain to your client that if she interrupts again I can sentence her to three years for contempt of court right now, without any of us having to go to the trouble of a trial."
Gadget sat, her ears so far down that her hair hid them completely. "It's not right. I was drugged, I tell you!" she hissed into Franklin's ear.
"Well, for heaven's sake don't tell them that. They'd add narcotics use to the charges!" Franklin hissed back.
"One count of lewd conduct in a public bar, assault, affray, causing a public nuisance and property damage." The bailiff finished.
"Does the defendant understand these charges?"
Gadget started to rise but Franklin put a firm hand on her shoulder and pushed her down again. Gadget sent him a glare that wasn't missed by the courtroom.
"She does, your honour." Franklin spoke for her.
"What plea do you wish to enter?"
"Last chance to plea guilty." Franklin whispered in her ear. "Or enter an insanity plea."
"No!" Gadget practically shouted.
"Mr Franklin, it is customary in most cases for the defendant and the lawyer representing them to reach an agreement about what plea will be entered before the court is in session." The judge said pointedly.
"Defence wishes to enter a plea of not guilty, at this time, your honour."
There was a moment of silence and then the shouting began. It began with machine-gun rattle of exclamations around the public benches and became a deafening roar of screamed abuse and whistles.
The judge used his hammer again, but no one could hear it. Finally he stood and shouted. "If this court is not silent I will have it cleared! I will see to it the last person to be silent is locked up even before the defendant is!"
The court quietened slowly. Just when it seemed they had order, a young mouse boy blew a particularly juicy raspberry at the judge, who fixed him with fierce, red-eyed glare, even as the boy's mother clapped a hand across his mouth and gave a desperate, apologetic smile to the bench.
"Now, then. Was that not guilty by way of insanity, Mr Kafka?"
"No, your honour. Just the regular she-didn't-do-it kind." Franklin swallowed and glanced at Gadget. Even he was having trouble hiding his disbelief.
"I see. Does either side wish to make representations to the bench at this time?"
Franklin looked at his client, who gave him a stern, if feminine, look. "Uh, no, your honour. Defence just wishes to proceed to trial as speedily as possible."
"Prosecution also wishes to proceed straight to trial, your honour."
"Very well, we will proceed to jury selection. Will the officer of the court bring in the first candidate?"
The officer of the court brought in a large pack rat was and the prosecutor began to ask searching questions. At length.
"How long does this usually take?" Gadget asked in a low undertone.
"Huh? Oh, well, usually the second day of trial. We're already kind of rushing things."
"I don't have that long! The sooner we get to trial the sooner I can clear myself and get out of here."
Franklin avoided her gaze. "Oh, well. That's too bad, but you see we should really be careful about picking a jury. You see we really need to make sure we get impartial people on there. No one with an axe to grind."
"By the time we're done everyone is going to know who I really am!"
"What do you want me to do, tell them it's okay to skip the trail all together and go straight to a lynching? One of the bailiffs confiscated tar and feathers at the door you know."
"Just pick a jury as quickly as possible."
"No buts. I want to get this whole thing over with today!"
"Then you should have pleaded guilty. There's no way you can try a not guilty plea in less than three days." But as he said it he made the mistake of looking into her eyes. They were begging him, commanding him, threatening to break his heart simply by disliking him for one solitary second.
"Mr Kafka, did you hear what I said?" The judge enquired.
"Uh, I'm sorry, your honour. I was conferring with my client."
"Do you wish to ask this juror any questions?"
"Um. No, your honour, he'll do fine."
"You're certain?" The judge gaped at him.
Franklin sighed. "Yes, your honour. I'm sure he'll a fair juror."
"You don't even want to ask him why he brought the tar and feathers?"
Franklin winced. He really should have been listening to the questions the prosecutor asked more closely.
"Uh, I'm quite sure I dont need to be hear it, your honour."
"And you don't object to this individual acting as a juror?"
Franklin opened his mouth to say: "Of course we do." Then he felt his client's eyes on his back, silently damning him if he did. "No; we don't object, your honour." he actually said.
And so it went on. The prosecutor would ask a few pertinent questions. Do you know the defendant? Do you find her attractive? (Three males were disqualified for saying they did, one was also fined by the judge for phrasing it as "Oh, **** yeah!") Could you put aside your all too understandable hatred for the crimes and look at the person accused of committing them in a fair way? It took only two hours to select a jury.
"Can we finally get to the trial now?" Gadget complained. Her rump was killing her.
"No. It's lunch time."
"You're absolutely sure?" The Judge said after the court had reconvened.
"Yes, your honour, quite positive. We accept the prosecution's evidence unchallenged. Except on the point of the defendant's identity."
The Judge looked hopefully at the Prosecution.
The prosecutor shrugged. "I certainly can't object, your honour."
The Judge scowled. He knew the prosecutor was right, of course. "Will both counsels approach the bench?" He ordered.
Franklin felt like a schoolboy who had just been called to the principle's office.
"Just what the heck do you think you're doing, Mr Kafka?"
"My job, as my client instructs me to."
"You have to be kidding? They'll tear the place apart."
"Them! The public, who do you think- No, don't look at them! Look at me when I'm talking to you! There is no way you can convince anyone of this nonsense!"
"I have witnesses. I can put my client on the stand."
There was a sigh of defeat from the bench. "Alright, but tread carefully, Mr Kafka."
The prosecution case took longer than Franklin Kafka had predicted. By four o'clock the prosecutor had finished displaying his evidence with an almost casual air of over confidence. The jury had listened to every word with hardly a blink or a cough between them. An experienced defence attorney would have recognized that as a bad sign. Franklin, however, was distracted by the constant fidgeting in the chair next to him.
Leaning over he asked: "Nervous?"
"This seat is killing me." She replied.
It was four-twenty when they reconvened for the second time and Franklin Kafka played what he hoped would be a get-out-of-jail-free-card for his client. "I call Jennifer Talbert-Hall to the stand."
Jen took the stand with wide eyes and her ears laid back. She was frightened and it showed. When Franklin smiled reassuringly and asked her to identify herself she answered hesitatingly. Her red-rimmed eyes fluttered about the room as she spoke.
"Do you know why you're here?"
"No. I got a message asking me to come because Gadget Hackwrench needed me here."
There was a stony silence. Then the judge said: "Mr Kafka, would you approach the bench. Now."
Franklin tried to bury the memory of an unpleasant interview he had endured in junior high school, but it was the thirteen-year-old Franklin Kafka who walked slowly forward.
"Have you brought this lady here under false pretences?" The Judge demanded.
"No! I mean, if I prove my case the message I sent will have been true!"
"And if you don't?"
"Then I'll apologize."
"You'd better! I'll see to it you do! Resume the deposition."
For a horrible moment Franklin thought the judge had said: "Assume the position", and his jaw dropped.
"Well, don't just stand there. Get on with it!"
"Uh, pardon, your honour?"
"Ask your questions, darn it!"
"Oh! Yes, your honour." Returning to his witness, he asked: "Ms Talbert-Hall, might I ask how long you've known Gadget Hackwrench?"
"I first met her when I was just a little girl. Her father was staying in England with her. I met her again when we were both teenagers and most recently about four months ago when I started to live and work in the States."
"Objection!" The prosecutor rose from his chair.
"It's a perfectly straight forward question!"
"How do we know that the mouse the witness met four months ago and has known for the last four months is the real Gadget Hackwrench?"
"I'm sure you'll be able to go into that when you cross examine, Mr Javert. Proceed."
A more experienced defence lawyer would have realised that the Judge's ruling was not a victory. The Prosecutor had managed to get his point heard by the jury in a way they would remember. Franklin made the mistake of allowing himself a smug look that earned him the instant dislike of two of the jurors.
"Ms Talbert-Hall, can you identify the mouse sitting over there?"
"I don't think so, no."
The courtroom was in uproar. Franklin was nearly having a heart attack. Gadget was very nearly in shock.
"What?! You mean she isn't even slightly familiar?"
"She looks a lot like my friend usually does, but I read in the newspaper that she's in hospital right now."
"Ms Talbert-Hall please look carefully. Could the person in that chair be your friend?"
"I dont see how. Everyone knows-"
"Please, Miss, I beg of you. Put aside everything you have heard outside this courtroom and go by what your eyes alone tell you at this moment."
"My eyes tell me that the mouse in that chair is the right size, but Gadget has much lighter fur and yesterday Gadget came to me yesterday we dyed her hair auburn so no one could impersonate her. This person doesn't have auburn hair, your honour."
The public gallery erupted in angry noise.
"I did dye my hair!" Gadget shrieked over the noise, her voice, harsh, hysterical and unrecognisable even to her. "I washed it out this morning! I don't know why my fur is darker in here! It must be the light or something!"
"Order! I will have order!"
"I'll have a slice of humble pie and whipped cream, your honour." Franklin joked in a quiet voice he thought that only he could hear. But one of the jurors, a vole, had sharp hearing and made a note on his notepad.
Gadget's patience snapped. She launched herself forward, shouting. No one could hear her over the racket, anyway. "Jen, why are you doing this to me, you spiteful little witch?"
Unfortunately the officers of the court managed to restore order just in time for the last sentence to be heard, though not clearly or correctly, by most of the court.
"Bailiff, you will take the defendant from the courtroom and return her with a gag in her mouth!" Thundered the Judge, who's hearing had been declining with age in recent months and was ringing from the assaults it had been under that day.
The public gallery cheered.
A few minutes later in one of the little rooms next to the courtroom, Gadget was standing stiffly to attention. Franklin joined her just before they fastened the buckle behind her head. "Well, you did it this time!" he said, shaking his head. "I don't know what we're going to do."
"Mmmmfff." Gadget said sadly.
"Do you mind? I need to confer with her." Franklin continued as they removed the gag for a brief moment. "For what it's worth, I was standing close enough to hear what you said a little clearer than the judge. I know you called her a witch and not anything worse."
"Is that what she said?" asked one of the guards in surprise.
"I wondered, but to you want to be the one to tell his honour?" one of the others replied.
"Heck, no. He's in no mood to be contradicted."
"Amen to that." Franklin agreed. "We'll just have to live with it." He took a breath. "Miss, I told you that I dont have to represent someone if I don't believe them. After what your so-called friend said in there I need some more convincing, or permission to change your plea to guilty."
"Okay, okay. Jen's always been short sighted but her mother was on the stage and Jen's always been a little vain because of that so she never wears glasses. She had contact lenses custom made in Europe, I remember asking her all about it, but she was so red-eye when she got on the stand I guess she wasn't wearing them." Gadget blinked for a moment, suddenly realising something.
"She's been crying." Gadget realised. "Probably because she thinks I'm in hospital. Oh, this is horrible. She really doesn't know who I am."
"When she gave evidence, she did go be colour rather than features." Franklin considered. "And with all the noise in there, I can see why she wouldn't recognize your voice."
"It's okay, we can go back now things have calmed down, you can ask her stuff about her contacts, get her to take a closer look at me-"
"No. I can't do that. See," Franklin broke off awkwardly. "Well, Jen was a lot further away from you than I was and, well, the fact of the matter is she misheard you like the judge did and got all upset after they took you out of the room. The judge sent her home for the day."
"What? But that's terrible! What are we going to do?"
"Don't worry, I've got another witness from the hospital where they're treating Gadget- I mean, the impostor, and all we have to do is ask what colour hair she has. That'll be all it takes to clear you, or at least make them take us seriously enough to get the rangers here."
"Unless the impostor has had her hair dyed too. She had people waiting for me when I left Jen's apartment so she might have if she took the time."
The door to the courtroom opened and a bailiff told them it was time to go back in. It had already been made clear to Gadget that she would be held down and forced to accept the gag if she did not co-operate. She had offered to put it in herself, but the shackles bound her hands to her sides and the guards had refused to remove them. There is something about allowing someone else to put something in your mouth, however wholesome and clean, which makes you feel vulnerable and awkward.
One guard held her jaw with one hand and used the other to press the gag home. The other did up the strap behind her head. As they led her back into the courtroom, the straps were already pinching her ears.
The Judge banged his hammer as hard as he could. It was unnecessary, really; the court became silent in favour of gawking at the gagged prisoner as soon as she entered.
"Mr Kafka, may ask if you have anything to say to the court?"
Franklin took a deep breath and his career in his hands. "Yes, your honour. I'd like to call my next witness."
The entire court gasped.
"You have another witness?"
"Have I got another witness?" Franklin laughed lightly and then suddenly looked uncertain. "Uh, do I have another witness?" he asked the bailiff, who nodded. "Yes, I do, your honour!"
"I wait with baited breath." His Honour said, dryly.
A middle-aged squirrel lady took the stand. She was wearing a white uniform that could have been from a hospital or a beauty parlour. Unlike Jen, this witness seemed calm, collected and ready to stare down a human; let alone a rookie trial lawyer.
"Could you identify yourself to the court?" Franklin asked. And to me, he added in the privacy of his own head.
"My name Florence Dodd. I'm a senior nurse at the Small Animals of Mercy Hospital."
"I see. And what brought you here today?"
"Your message to Doctor Frisk, who is on a month's holiday in the Bahamas at the moment. You asked that someone who had seen Gadget Hackwrench could come down here and give evidence."
"When did you first see Gadget Hackwrench?"
"I passed her in the corridors a couple of times when her work brought her in. I told her where to find someone she wanted to visit once a year or so ago."
"When did you last see her?"
"When I helped prepare her for surgery after she was brought in yesterday."
There were angry murmurs from the public gallery.
"How was she identified when she arrived at the hospital?"
"From the paperwork and her clothes."
"The paperwork that was filled in by the people who had found her unconscious?"
"Who had never met her and only knew her by her clothes?"
"Sustained. Mr Kafka, you know perfectly well that the witness doesn't know every single person Gadget Hackwrench has ever met."
"Of course, your honour. Ms Dodd, did you notice anything about the patient that struck you as unusual?"
"Sustained. Mr Kafka, have you ever heard of patient confidentiality?"
"Does patient confidentiality extend to telling us if the patient's hair was dyed?"
The Judge blinked. "I don't know, but I'm quite willing to take it under advisement."
"Yes, her hair was dyed." Nurse Dodd decided the issue.
"It was?" Franklin looked stricken.
"Definitely." Nurse Dodd repeated the damning fact. If Franklin asked her how she knew, Nurse Dodd would let him feel the sharp edge of her tongue. She had undressed the patient and seen for herself that the mouse they had brought in was a natural red head, not a blonde.
Franklin was stumped. All it would have taken were two words, to free his client and win a victory that would have made him famous and successful for the rest of his life. The words were: "What colour?" But the first thing through his mind after the shock wore off was his client saying: "Unless the impostor's dyed her hair too."
Finally, aware of the sound of drumming fingers coming from the bench, he asked: "Nurse Dodd, could you tell me if my client is at all familiar to you?"
Nurse Dodd, who wasn't in the least short sighted, looked sternly at the prisoner. "If she were paler and her hair was a different colour then maybe she'd look like Gadget Hackwrench. But she looks a little skinny compared to the real thing if you ask me."
It could be the dress, he thought, but his confidence in his client was almost entirely gone. My sister's bigger than her and likes loose clothes, Franklin told himself, but he knew the only thing saying it out loud would get him was a laugh from the public gallery.
"Uh, thank you. No further questions." Very slowly Franklin Kafka returned to his seat.
The Prosecutor rose. "If that concludes the case for the defence, I would like to call a rebuttal witness to some of the testimony just heard."
"Seriously?" The Judge goggled at him. "I can't imagine how rebutting anything the last two defence witnesses have said would make the prosecution case stronger!"
"Call Zoë Merrieford to the stand."
Franklin Kafka scribbled "who?" on a legal pad and looked at "Gadget". His client looked at him with lost eyes and shrugged.
Together they watched a tall, young female mouse take the stand. She was wearing a uniform Gadget knew she had seen before but could not place. Zoë identified herself, puzzling Gadget, if no one else in the courtroom. What was a museum guard doing here, unless they were going to accuse her of that too? But no one had tried to blame her for it, yet, because she had been found so far away from the museum.
"Ms Merrieford, could you tell us when and how you first laid eyes on the real Gadget Hackwrench?"
"It was at my job. I'm an assistant tour guide at the Museum of Culture and Antiquity. She was in a tour party there about three days ago."
"I see. And you recognized her by sight, because she was well known."
"No. I don't read the newspapers and I don't leave the museum often. I didn't realise who she was until after we started talking about some of the artefacts." Actually, they had talked about the alarm systems guarding them but Zoë had forgotten that. "She introduced herself after the subject of the rumours about her came up."
"After the subject came up?"
"Yes. I'm afraid I mentioned it. She asked me what I thought about them. I don't recall what I said, but she told me that she hoped that the person responsible would be caught and punished soon!"
Cheers sounded from the back of the room and there was a smattering of applause.
"And what else did she say?"
"Towards the end of the conversation, she called me a friend. I know it doesnt mean as much for some people as it does for others and I know that she's a friendly person who would probably do as much for a stranger as she would for a friend but, I believe that she meant it and that she would call any other good person in this court a friend, if she could talk right now!"
"Thank you, Ms Merriford."
Zoë opened her mouth to say something more but realised that she probably couldn't top the impromptu speech she had just given and that if she said anything else she would most likely only succeed in making a fool out of herself.
"Mr Kafka, do you wish to cross examine?"
"Mmh? Wha?" Franklin Kafka's eyes had taken on a glazed, lost look. Beside him, the prisoner began mumbling into her gag.
"I said: do you wish to cross-examine?" the judge repeated slowly.
"Huh? No, not today " Franklin mumbled, his eyelids drooping dangerously and his face as peaceful and relaxed as meditating monk. The mumbling became an indistinct and indignant grunt.
The Judge and the Prosecutor exchanged significant looks. The air in the five o'clock courtroom had been made heated and stuffy by it's repeated journey through five hundred pairs of lungs through out the day. Dormice are famous for their hibernating instincts, so much so that some animal space programme experts wanted to send them to Mars. It had been a big day for the new lawyer and it was that time of year again for Franklin Kafka.
Together and without a word between them, both Prosecutor and Judge saw their chance to put the whole mess to bed, along with the bumbling stooge the Public Defender had sent along to a job he couldn't handle. They gave each other a gentle, almost unnoticeable nod, and then busied themselves shuffling papers.
"Mr Kafka," the judge said, gently, "are you planning to call any more witnesses?"
The prisoner began to struggle in her shackles. The officers of the court moved at once to restrain her. She did not continue to struggle, but the sound of her voice grew louder as she tried to get her lawyer's attention.
"Whaa?" the dormouse replied.
"No more witnesses?"
The prisoner's muffled pleas were frantic by now, her eyes going from her own chair to the witness stand.
"No." Franklin Kafka said in a voice so tired it might have come from beyond the grave.
Her gag choked the prisoner's shriek of protest.
"Then I believe it's time for the closing arguments." The Judge said. "I know it means prolonging this beyond the hours the court is in session, but I think we're very close to a conclusion."
The prosecutor stood as close to the jury as he dared and spoke in calm, even tones that were loud enough to be heard by all, yet curiously lacking in strong emotion or sudden changes of pace. Things that might in fact shock a sleeping person back into wakefulness. The jury watched him solemnly, listened carefully and thought about what the witnesses, Zoë especially, had told them.
"Defence will now make their closing argument." The Judge said, flatly.
Franklin Kafka seemed to be hanging his head. His weight was supported by the way his elbows rested on the table. He gave no answer to the judge's prompting.
"I know you may be having trouble finding the right words after the evidence we heard today. Nevertheless, we must have a closing argument from the defence, Mr Kafka." The judge waited for a response, not really expecting one. Mr Kafka did not surprise him. He took up his hammer again and struck the bench once, with considerably less force than he had at other times that day.
"Huh, what?" Franklin looked around in a daze.
"We need to hear your closing arguments, Mr Kafka."
"I don't have one!" Franklin yelped in alarm. Understanding he had been asked to perform an action had jolted him back to full wakefulness.
Pow! The Judge's gavel cut through the babble of surprise that had threatened to interrupt proceedings. "Then we'll proceed to straight to the conclusion of this business! Bailiff, take out the jury so that they can consider the verdict." The old mole spoke so quickly that he didnt have time to take a breath between sentences.
Franklin jumped to his feet to object, but another crack of the gavel silenced anything he might have said, as did the sound of several hundred people standing up to get some fresh air outside the courtroom. He looked towards his client and had a tortured moment of eye contact with the mouse-maid who, innocent or guilty, he had just failed so badly. Then the guards took her away. Groaning, Franklin began gathering his papers. He felt so tired and sick of it. He just wished that it would all go away. Yawning, he staggered to his feet and walked to the door at the side of the court.
"Do you want to talk to her again, Mister?" one of the guards asked in the waiting room a moment later.
"Sure, sure. Just give me a moment." Franklin replied, sitting on a bench. Less than a heartbeat later he was sound asleep.
"Poor guy, I hear it's his first day on the job." The older of the two guards said.
"Sure picked a heck of case to start with!" the other shook her head.
"We'll let him rest for a moment." They agreed.
The younger guard looked over at the prisoner, glaring at her sleeping lawyer. "What about her?"
"Against the rules to take the gag out unless she's conferring with her lawyer or the judge says so. You know that."
They both shrugged. The prisoner rolled her eyes. Franklin snored. By the time they tried to shake him awake, fifteen minutes later, the sleep had deepened into full-blown hibernation.
"Hibernation? Are you sure?" The judge asked the bailiffs. "Has a doctor been called?"
"Your honour; in view of the circumstances we took the unusual step of asking Nurse Dodd, who gave evidence, to take care of him. She has found a bottle of pills which she says are for treating narcolepsy."
The only sound in the courtroom was the sound of the prosecutor slapping his own forehead. "Your honour, at this time the prosecution could not oppose a retrial more strongly! The jury is ready to deliver a verdict and we dont even know what it is yet!"
"I'm aware of that, Mr Javert, and believe me this is one trial I don't want to try a second time, but the defendant is entitled to be represented by a lawyer and right now she doesn't have one."
"Her lawyer had concluded his case! The only thing left for him to do was shake his head and shrug his shoulders, or congratulate her as she walked free."
There were murmurs of agreement from all around the court. Slowly, the judge nodded.
Gadget was brought in and placed in her old position, but before she could resume her uncomfortable seat, the judge spoke again. "The prisoner will approach the bench."
An apprehensive Gadget was led forward.
"An unusual situation has arisen." The Judge told her, forgetting that she already knew. "Your lawyer has been rendered incapable while the jury is considering its verdict. That does not effect their decision on whether you are guilty or innocent.
"It does mean that if you are found guilty and wish to appeal the sentence or the verdict, you will need to wait until your lawyer wakes up or you will need to find a new lawyer. Verdict and sentence will have to be delivered before you can appeal against either one. Is all that clear?"
"Take her back to her chair." The judge said.
The jury was brought in. They looked tired but self-satisfied. They had spent less than an hour considering the verdict.
"Foreman of the jury, have you reached a verdict?"
"And what is that verdict."
"Guilty on all counts!"
Gadget shut her eyes tightly. It's a mistake, she told herself, they don't mean it; they wouldn't say that if they knew! They would get this straightened out, any minute. The judge would rule a mistrial and she would be turned loose. These were good people, Gadget kept reminding herself. They didn't mean her any harm. They just felt the way Gadget had, when she had listened to the stories of robbery and deception for the first time.
"Defendant, you have been asked several times to provide a name other than Gadget Hackwrench. If I told the bailiffs to remove your gag, would you do so now?"
Gadget opened her eyes and shook her head defiantly.
"Then, under the court imposed name of Jane Doe, I sentence you to a total of fifteen years imprisonment! The last three years for contempt of court in your earlier conduct and in refusing to give your correct name through out these proceedings! The two years before that are for the bar-fight you started before you were arrested and the ten years before that are for your various acts of fraud and deception. It is my final recommendation that you not be considered for parole until the final three years of your sentence."
Gadget felt like each word was a wave breaking over her. She was drowning and there was no water in sight. As the judge went on her legs grew weaker and her eyes rounder. She had thought that she would be able to testify in her own defence but Franklin's nap had cheated her out of that. It finally sunk in that she was going to see the inside of a real prison before she saw her friends again.
Fear began to take over from frustration and disbelief. She couldn't go to prison. She didn't belong in prison. She had to find someone who would listen to her. She was gagged and her hands were still fixed to her sides, but her feet were free.
As the guards came to lay hold of her again, Gadget threw herself over the barrier between the court floor and the public benches. She landed badly heavily on one knee at the feet of the first row of spectators.
Screams broke out as Gadget scrambled to her feet. A male mouse stepped forward to block her way. A memory of knocking down some gangster's henchman came to mind as she slammed her shoulder against his chest and sent him sprawling.
Gadget leapt over the prone mouse and started running. Strangely it seemed that the guards were the only people trying to stop her. No wonder so many bad guys thought they could get away with it.
"Stop her!" Thundered the judge.
She was half way down the aisle now. Astonishingly, she the guards she had left behind her seemed not to be chasing. Ahead of her, the main door to the courtroom had been propped open to let air circulate. The guard stationed there was missing.
She was going to make it. A corner of her mind was already making plans about where to go next, after the courtroom.
In the last few strides before the door, the missing guard reappeared and threw himself at Gadget in a desperate tackle.
She had no warning and no way to steady herself or fight him off.
Reflexes trained by years of Ranger work saved her. She jumped sideways and the guard landed heavily on the floor. With one last leap she was through the door and free.
Unseen by Gadget, one of the guards knelt in the aisle shouldering a crossbow. No sooner had she cleared the door, than the plunger harpoon was fired and struck home with a painful thump.
"I've got her!" The guard shouted.
"Good work! Reel her in, boy!" The judge praised him.
With the help of his friends, the guard hauled on the crossbow to drag the fallen prisoner back into the courtroom. Gadget had no choice but to lay face down and still; with her hands shackled she couldn't right herself, or do anything about the glue-coated plunger arrow that was firmly stuck to her rump.
Brought down with my own invention, Gadget thought, it's like having your own children turn on you!
The inventor remembered building the crossbow to retrieve unreachable bodies and catch escaping felons. Adapted from the ones she used in her Ranger work, the bow was made from a watch-spring and the bowstring was high gauge fishing line, looped through a four-wheel pulley system. The suction cup on the end was the real break through- it was covered in quick setting adhesive and the edge of the suction cup was kept folded against the shaft of the arrow to make it more aerodynamic in flight. It was one of her finest inventions. It could reel in an escaping felon from six feet away, which was long range, to a mouse.
As she was pulled further and further into the court more of the gaping crowd saw where the plunger had hit home. A ripple of laughter began, starting from around her and spreading outward. When it reached the walls of the court it grew louder, until it echoed so much that it was still ringing in Gadget's ears on her way to prison.
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