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Fuzzy Nation Part 26

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"Who?" Soltan said.

"The two fuzzys who were killed," Holloway said. "I called them Baby and Pinto. Baby was the one that was stomped. Pinto was the one who was shot."

"Continue," Soltan said.

"Who were Baby and Pinto to you," Holloway said.

"The one you call Baby was my child," Papa said. "The one you call Pinto was to be the mate of my child in time."



"Tell us what happened that day," Holloway said.

"Your Honor, we have already seen what happened on video a number of times," Meyer said. "We can stipulate the events we've already seen."

"Your Honor, there's not much point in witness testimony if the witness isn't allowed to describe the events," Holloway said.

"Agreed," Soltan said. "But let's not dwell on details, Mr. Holloway."

"Yes, Your Honor," Holloway said. He looked back to Papa. "Tell us what happened that day," he said.

"You were gone," Papa said. "When you are gone, we leave your home and go to our people to talk and be with them. Baby heard the noise of a skimmer going to your home. Baby went to see. Baby wanted to see Carl. Pinto went with Baby. I was near but I was in the tree, eating. I did not go with them.

"I heard Pinto call to me to say that the man was not you, but some other man. Then I heard my child cry and then stop. Then I heard Pinto yell. Then the man yelled. Then Pinto called for help.

"I came from the trees and heard a very big noise. Then I came to the tree by your house and saw the man step on my child. I saw the man kill my child. I saw the man hold my child and put my child in your house. Your house was on fire. And then I heard the man speak."

"Tell us what the man said," Holloway said.

"I did not know some of the words," Papa said.

"Try," Holloway said.

"The man said 'jesiscris miG.o.dam face,'" Papa said.

"He said 'Jesus Christ, my G.o.dd.a.m.n face,'" Holloway said."

"Yes," Papa said. "Those are the words the man said. The man was very loud."

"Did you see his face?" Holloway said.

"I did not see the face of the man," Papa said. "I did not need to see a face. I knew the voice."

"How did you know his voice?" Holloway asked.

"The man had come to your house before," Papa said.

"When had he come to my house before?" Holloway asked.

"The man came with three other men," Papa said. "You let the three other men go to your house. You did not let this man go to your house. You did not let the man get out of the skimmer."

"How do you know it was the same voice?" Holloway asked.

"The man was very loud in the skimmer," Papa said. "Pinto went to look at the man and the man did not like that. I was in the tree and I heard the man yell."

"Did you see the man's face that time?" Holloway asked.

"Yes," Papa said, and pointed at DeLise. "This is the man."

Holloway glanced over at Meyer and then at Aubrey and Landon, who sat in the audience seats with their flotilla of lawyers. He smiled at each of them and picked up his infopanel.

"This is the day Papa is referring to," Holloway said, and loaded up the video of DeLise pitching a fit in the skimmer while Pinto rubbed his bottom against the gla.s.s. "Unfortunately there's no sound with the video, but I think it's pretty obvious that Mr. DeLise is being quite vocal."

"Mr. Holloway, you didn't mention that Mr. DeLise had been to your home before," Soltan said.

"It must have slipped my mind," Holloway said. "Probably because he didn't actually get into my house, he was stuck out in the skimmer. As you can see."

"Why was he there in the first place?" Soltan asked.

"Because he was allegedly Wheaton Aubrey's security detail," Holloway said.

"And what was Mr. Aubrey doing at your place?" Soltan asked.

"I'm not sure it's entirely relevant to the matter at hand," Holloway said.

"Let me be the judge of that," Soltan said.

"All right," Holloway said, and then looked over at Aubrey and Landon. "They were there to bribe me into throwing the hearing to determine the fuzzy's sapience. Offered me the entire northwest continent, they did."

"'They,'" Soltan said.

"Yes. Aubrey and his a.s.sistant, Brad Landon," Holloway said. "Chad Bourne was there too, but I'm pretty sure he was just their cover for sneaking out to my place in the guise of one of Chad's official contract rep meetings. You could ask him. I'm sure at this point he'd be happy to talk."

"This is all allegation, Your Honor," Meyer said. "And for once, Mr. Holloway is right. This isn't the right venue for this line of questioning."

"I agree," Holloway said. "Although now that I think of it, it does offer an explanation for how DeLise got access to the skimmer. All that time alone in the skimmer would be a perfect time to duplicate the data off the key fob. That is, when DeLise wasn't busy yelling at fuzzys."

"There's no proof of that," Meyer said.

"Oh, he's definitely yelling at the fuzzy," Holloway said, intentionally misreading Meyer's comment. "It's the same fuzzy he shot later, in fact."

"That's enough, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said.

"This is a complete farce, Your Honor," Meyer said. "It's bad enough you just allowed Holloway to slander Mr. Aubrey and Mr. Landon, but entertaining testimony from this creature is beyond ridiculous. The creature can't make the visual connection between Mr. DeLise and the man in a ski mask. Instead we're asked to believe instead that this thing can recognize a voice it's allegedly heard only once, days after the initial encounter. This is a sham, Your Honor. Pure and simple."

"While I wouldn't call this a 'sham,' Ms. Meyer has a point, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said. "There's a reason they're called 'eyewitnesses,' not 'earwitnesses.'"

"Your Honor, do me a favor and order Mr. DeLise not to speak," Holloway said.

"Excuse me?" Soltan said.

"Please, Your Honor," Holloway said.

Soltan looked at Holloway strangely. "Mr. DeLise," she said. "You are not allowed to speak again until I tell you to. You can nod your understanding." DeLise nodded.

"You have your silent defendant, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said.

"Thank you, but it's worth noting he had been silent before," Holloway said. "In fact, Mr. DeLise has been silent the entire time Papa Fuzzy has been in the courtroom. So I propose a little challenge. Ms. Meyer says it's impossible that Papa could have recognized a voice it heard only once before. Fine. Let's do a lineup." Holloway waved at the small army of lawyers. "This courtroom is full of men. Pick as many of them as you want and put Mr. DeLise with them. Then turn Papa around so it can't see any of them. Have them speak the same sentence. If Papa picks the wrong one or can't identify the voice, throw out the testimony."

Soltan turned to Meyer, who looked about to object. "You were the one who objected to earwitnesses," Soltan said, shutting her down. "Pick four. Mr. Holloway, pick four as well. Gentlemen, if you are picked, go to the far wall of the courtroom, but don't line up yet. Mr. DeLise, you go back there as well."

Holloway and Meyer made their picks; DeLise shuffled back to the far wall. "I also have a pick," Soltan said. "Mr. Aubrey, walk to the wall, please."

"Your Honor, this is outrageous," said Brad Landon.

"Don't you start, Mr. Landon," Soltan said. "Your boss goes to the wall or he goes to a holding cell on a contempt charge. One or the other. I don't have all day."

Aubrey walked to the wall.

"Mr. Holloway, prepare your witness," Soltan said.

Holloway walked to the witness stand and turned Papa around. "Do not look," he said. "When the men speak and you hear a voice you know, say so. Yes?"

"Yes," Papa said. Holloway looked up at Soltan, who nodded. "Arrange your men, Ms. Meyer." Meyer arranged the men so DeLise was eighth, and Aubrey tenth.

"Swap the last one with one of the others," Soltan said.

Meyer bit her cheek and swapped Aubrey with the fourth man.

"What shall we have them say, Mr. Holloway?" Soltan asked.

"I think 'Jesus Christ, my G.o.dd.a.m.n face,' would work just fine," Holloway said.

"Number one, say the line," Soltan said.

"Jesus Christ, my G.o.dd.a.m.n face," said the man. Holloway glanced down at the fuzzy, who was motionless and silent.

"Number two," Soltan said, after a minute. The man spoke his line. Papa said nothing. It did the same with number three.

"Jesus Christ, my G.o.dd.a.m.n face," said Aubrey.

"I know this voice," said Papa. "It is one of the other men who came to the house of Jack Holloway. It is not the man who killed my child."

Soltan looked at Aubrey with a face that said got you got you. Aubrey did not seem particularly concerned.

"Number five," Soltan said.

The man said his line. Nothing from Papa. Man six, nothing. Man seven, nothing.

"Jesus Christ, my G.o.dd.a.m.n face," said DeLise.

Papa took in a sharp breath, held it, and let it out. "I know this voice," the fuzzy said. "It is the voice of the man who killed my child. It is the voice of the man who killed the mate of my child."

"Are you sure?" Soltan said.

"I know this voice," Papa said, and its voice was surprisingly forceful. Papa looked up at Soltan. "Do you not have a child? If a man killed your child, you would know about that man. You would know the face of the man. You would know the hands of the man. You would know the smell of the man. You would know the voice of the man. This is the voice of the man who killed my child. My child who I cannot see. Who I cannot hold. Who is gone. My child is gone. This man killed my child. I know this voice."

Papa fell to its knees in the witness stand and keened, silently, as far as the humans could hear.

The courtroom was absolutely still.

"Your Honor," Holloway said, quietly, after several moments.

"The testimony stands," Soltan said, also quietly. "Everyone, sit down again."

Chapter Twenty-six.

"Your Honor," Holloway said, after everyone had sat. "If Papa's testimony stands, we have another issue to address."

"And what issue is that, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said. She seemed drained.

"We have reasonably established Mr. DeLise at the scene of the arson," Holloway said. "Ms. Meyer may still attempt to call forward her list of so-called witnesses testifying to Mr. DeLise's whereabouts, but we have DNA evidence and a credible witness, and we have excluded other potential arsonists. I doubt any of Meyer's witnesses will stack up to the evidence I've presented to you today. And on top of that, we have more than reasonably established that the fuzzys are sentient. By accepting Papa's testimony, you have effectively declared its species so."

"I'm still waiting to hear about this other issue, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said.

"Quite obviously, I'm talking about murder," Holloway said.

"What?" DeLise roared. After glowering through the entire preliminary hearing, he was suddenly engaged.

"Murder," Holloway repeated, turning to look at DeLise. "You murdered those fuzzys, Joe."

"This is bulls.h.i.+t, bulls.h.i.+t," DeLise said, standing up.

"No, not bulls.h.i.+t, bulls.h.i.+t, Joe," Holloway said. He stalked over to DeLise. "Not this time. It's Joe," Holloway said. He stalked over to DeLise. "Not this time. It's deep s.h.i.+t deep s.h.i.+t this time. Because you walked right up to a tiny sentient being, lifted up your boot, and stomped the life right out of it. And when its mate tried to defend it, you killed it too. That's two counts of murder, fair and square, pure and simple." this time. Because you walked right up to a tiny sentient being, lifted up your boot, and stomped the life right out of it. And when its mate tried to defend it, you killed it too. That's two counts of murder, fair and square, pure and simple."

"Your Honor." Meyer looked around DeLise and Holloway to Soltan, to get her to stop the two men.

"Mr. Holloway," Soltan said.

"How do you think this is going to look, Joe?" Holloway said, ignoring the judge. "We discover a new sentient species, only the third one we've ever found besides ourselves, and the first thing you do is stomp one of them to death. How do you think that's going to play, Joe?"

"Get out of my face, Jack," DeLise said. "I'm warning you."

"Because you know what, Joe, murder's not the only thing they're going to throw at you. They're probably going to hit you with hate crimes against xenosentients, too. There's not much doubt you targeted that first little fuzzy because of what it was, is there? You came, you saw, you crushed it to death."

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