0900 hours: I am informed that my presence is requested at Bugscuffle County Justice Court, Precinct 1/2. I park my cruiser outside of the TrueValue hardware store in the spot marked by the sign what reads: “Thou Shalt Not Park Here”, wend my way past the nail bins, toss a cheery wave to Jimmy Don and scoot up the stairs to the second-floor courtroom.
The sound of a badly-mangled version of a Hank Williams, Junior song lustily warbled at the top of someone’s lungs is the first clue I have that things Might Be Interesting.
“Godda shot-rifle, a sumthin’ ‘n’ a four-drive wheel!”
I tap gently on the frosted glass panel of the door, and open it, to find the judge at his desk, elbow planted firmly, chin cradled in hand as he gazes in mild bemusement at what I guess would be the defendant.
Unless it’s the guy sitting next to the singer, face cradled in both hands — but I’m betting he’s the lawyer.
“Ah can skin a trot, ‘n’ run a buck-line!”
I cock an eyebrow at the judge, “I hate it when I skin a trot.” The judge snorts, there’s a muffled groan from the lawyer, and the court reporter giggles. I grin and sneak a look at her legs before opining, “I’m guessing the defendant …”
Never taking his chin off his palm, or his gaze off of Breakfast Theatre, the judge whisks a sheet of paper off the desk and hands it to me. It is an Adjudication of Guilt for Public Intoxication and a Commitment Order for five days. It is, I further note, on a PI ticket the Sheriff wrote two weeks ago.
“Ah,” sayeth I, “And the subject would be …”
“Drunker than a waltzing pissant” opines the judge.
“Not to mention …”
“All of nineteen years old.”
“And it’s only …”
“Nine-thirty in the morning.”
“Goodness. Should I cite him for Minor in Consumption, or Public Intoxication on the way to the pokey?”
The subject in question promptly — albeit shakily — climbs on top of the table and defiantly bellows, “CUZ A CUNK-, CONN-, CONNTREE BOY CAN SHUR-, SHUR, SOMETHIN’, DAMMIT!”
The judge ponders this performance for a moment. “Yes.”
And we’re off.
1115 hours: Meet with Reporting Party concerning a Dangerous Dog.
I pull into a small trailer park on Ranch-to-Market Road 1777. I have the distinct feeling that the man waving the baby parka at me is most probably going to be the Reporting Party.
Upon closer inspection, the baby parka turns out to be an extremely deceased chicken. The owner of the decedent has no doubts as to the cause and perpetrator of the Vile Deed.
“Vicious! Brutal! Da-angerous! I want that hound locked up, or put down — and somebody’s gotta pay!” He is extremely wrought-up, and to avoid getting smacked with a dead chicken I gently remove the carcass from his grip.
“So,” I ask, frowning as I notice the scar-tissue from where the rooster’s comb had been removed quite some time ago, “Are you sure it’s the dog next door?”
“Sure?! Am I sure?! I saw the mutt run into my yard and maul my five hundred dollar prize rooster! Who’s going to pay me for my rooster, huh?! Who?”
I raise my hand — the one not currently occupied with a chicken corpse — in a ‘peace’ gesture, “Let me go talk to your neighbor.” Without waiting for a reply, I walk to the trailer next door, pausing to look over the back fence belonging to the bereaved chicken owner.
Five other rooster look back at me, all missing their combs and all on six foot lengths of chain that prevent them from touching each other.
Oh-ho, thinks I.
I knock on the door of the trailer occupied by the owner of the rampaging mongrel.
It opens, and I am faced with a very large man, grey hair escaping from under a gimme cap, full grey beard and mustache — braided with tiny pewter skulls — black leather vest and knuckle rings on every finger — all displaying skulls, bones and various incarnations of death worked in pewter.
“Morning, sir. I’m Deputy LawDog, Bugscuffle S.O. and there seems to have been an incident with your dog.”
I peer around the old boy, fully expecting to see a rottweiler or a pit-bull, but he interrupts my looking with a slightly — abashed — confession.
“It’s my fault, really. That damn rooster got up on the yard gnome, and started crowing like to beat anything you ever heard. I went to the door and yelled at it to, ‘Git!’ and Buster — well, Buster heard me yellin’, and kind of took off and jumped.”
“All right, then. Before we go any further, sir, where is Buster? I’d hate for there to be some kind of misunderstanding while I’m talking to you …”
I suddenly realize that the man has a chihuahua draped across his forearm. Granted, it has a tiny black bandanna with white skulls around its neck — but it’s still a chihuahua. Then, I notice the Spongebob Squarepants band-aid sliding down it’s furry foreleg. And fresh blood under the band-aid.
You’ve got to be … I point, “Buster?”
Buster wags his tail happily at me.
“Yes, sir, this is my Buster.”
I look at the dog. He rolls over on the man’s arm to have his belly scritched. I lift the chicken. Seven pounds. Easily. I look at Buster. Not seven pounds. If you stuffed his bandanna with bricks — five or six pounds. Maybe.
“Now I know that Buster shouldn’t’a done killed that chicken. But, it was in his yard, and Buster gets kind of territorial and he kind’a gets mad at the things I get mad at. But I done offered that man a hundred bucks for his chicken — even though it was in my yard where it had no right to be…”
I hold up a hand, and look at the chicken-slaughtering brute, kicking his back leg in an orgy of bliss as his tummy gets scratched. I walk over to the garden gnome. Well within the property limits. Blood and feathers everywhere.
I return to the chicken owner.
“That’s a five-hundred-dollar prize-winning rooster…”
I hold up a hand, forestalling the impassioned speech that’s building up steam.
“You’re about to lie to me. Again. And that would be unwise.”
He looks at me, bottom lip quivering.
“Take the hundred dollars. I found where — let me speak — I found where the chicken was killed. It’s not even close to your property. You don’t want his dog to kill your chickens, keep them off his property. Now, you can insist that I investigate and file a report. If I do so, anything I find during my investigation will be acted upon. As a creative articulation, let’s say that I find that someone around here is raising gamecocks for fighting — well, then, I’d have to act on that. And serving search warrants and seizing everything someone owns because they’re involved in a criminal enterprise — well, that just causes heartburn all the way around.”
He looks at me.
“Sir,” he licks dry lips, “Come to think, a hundred bucks for that chicken is almighty reasonable.”
I hand him his dead chicken. “I’ll just go deliver the news then.”
Buster’s owner takes the news with some relief. I look at the chihuahua, dozing happily on the man’s arm.
“He doesn’t weight as much as the rooster did.”
“No, sir, that he don’t.”
“That rooster had a black-belt in chicken-fu.”
“Yes, sir, I reckon he would have to have.”
We look at Buster. A slow, proud smile escapes the beard and creeps across the man’s face.
“He sure [deleted] that chicken up, didn’t he?”
Does anyone else have days like this?