I thought I’d take a brief break from my current work-in-progress to revisit with Stephanie and Daniel.  Good to see old friends.

They say “Hi” by the way.


Mischief and the Judge

On average three hundred and sixty days out of the year, Stephanie Hawthorne got along with her brother like oil and water.  The rest of those days, however, was a completely different story.  That’s when parents stop letting their children play outside.  When dogs are no longer man’s best friend.  When we have proof of which came first: the chicken or the egg.  When Life stands still and quivers in its boots.  I know I do, and I’m related to them.

Which is probably why I was really enjoying watching Life take its turn.

Surprisingly enough, this was only the second time Stephanie had been before a magistrate. Things were a bit different this time.  More than a bit really.  Stephanie and James were chagrinned.  I found it utterly hilarious.  Even the bailiff had a hard time hiding a grin.  Only the judge seemed to lack a sense of humor.

“Do you think this is funny?” he roared like God on High.

A grin split my face.  I sure as hell did.  But then again, I hadn’t been seeing malcontents and miscreants all night.  Sympathy dampened my mood, but only a bit.  Too much would ruin the night, and it was Halloween after all.

“You,” he pointed his gavel at James, “are a police officer, a respected member of the community, and one whose job it is to prevent such those actions you stand accused of.  Strike that, I don’t have any doubt that you’re guilty.  Who ever heard of a nun playing Ding Dong Ditch?  Makes the getaway a little obvious, don’t you think?  Oh wait, you didn’t.”

Stephanie snickered and the judge rounded on her.

“Don’t you start, Miss—what the hell are you supposed to be anyway?”

“A flamingo, Your Honor.”

“A flamingo?  You look more like Big Bird’s long lost cousin after he had a run-in with the local tomcat.”

“That’s because I tripped, Your Honor.”

“Tripped?”

“Yes, Your Honor.  He tripped me.”  Stephanie pointed a wing at her brother.

“You’re claiming that a nun tripped you?”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

That was too much for me.  I guffawed.  The judge shot me a look that implied that if I made another noise, I’d be joining them.  Setting his jaw, he shook his head and looked back at the siblings.

“So did you just decide to tag along or did you honestly believe a giant pink bird was a valuable escape tool?  What was he supposed to do, ride off on your back?”

“No, Your Honor.”

“‘No, Your Honor.’ ‘Yes, Your Honor.’ You two aren’t giving me much of a reason to leave you unsupervised.  What do you have to say for yourselves?”

James reached up and scratched up under his habit while Stephanie shuffled her feet.  “It was just a practical joke, Your Honor,” she said to the floor.

“It was just my sister’s house!” he roared.  I was wrong before, that that was the word of God from on High.  He was mad, but. . . .  There was a crack.  Small, but there.  The corner of Stephanie’s mouth moved a fraction of an inch and James’s ears twitched.  Both of them saw it too.

I wracked my brains.  This wasn’t some murder to solve.  Why would the judge. . . .  My mind raced as I watched him watching my wife and her brother.  Ding Dong Ditch.  Stephanie crossed her arms.  Or attempted to, before letting them drop to her sides.  His sister’s house.  James opened his mouth only to close it again.  Ding Dong Ditch.  Silence filled the courtroom.  His sister’s house.  Raising his gavel, the judge took a deep breath.  Ding Dong—it clicked.

He thought it was funny.

“You two are respected members of this community, but it’s Halloween.  I don’t want to see either of you before my bench again.”  The gavel hit home.  “Charges dismissed.”

I wished for the millionth time that I’d brought a video camera.

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