"I see," said Mary, sounding a great deal colder than she had
intended. "And who's he?"
Briggs patted her arm in a fatherly manner. He could sense
her disappointment, but it wasn't up to him. Chymes picked his own people.
"That's DI Jack Spratt, of the Nursery Crime Division. The
NCD. You'll be on his team. Or at least you and a few others will be the team.
It's one of our smallest departments." He thought for a moment and then added,
"Actually, it is our smallest departmentif you don't count the night
shift in the canteen."
"And his Amazing Crime Stories rating? What about
"He's not rated," replied Briggs, trying to make it sound all
matter-of-fact and not the embarrassment that it was. "In fact, I don't think
he's even in the Guild."
Mary stared at the shabby figure and felt her heart fall. All
of a sudden DI Flowwe didn't seem quite so bad after all.
Jack Spratt looked around the room. Most of the newsmen had
by now left, and aside from Briggs and a woman Spratt didn't recognize at the
door, there were only two journalists still in the room. The first was a large
man named Archibald Fatquack, who was the editor of the Reading weekly gossip
sheet The Gadfly. The second was a junior newshound from the Reading
Daily Eyestrain, who appeared to be asleep, drunk, dead or a mixture of all
"Thank you all for attending this press conference,"
announced Jack in a somber tone to the as good-as-empty room, "I'll try not to
keep you any longer than is necessary. This afternoon the Reading Central
Criminal Court found the three pigs not guilty of all charges relating to the
first-degree murder of Mr. Wolff."
He sighed. If he was intending it to be a dramatic statement,
it wasn't, and it didn't help that no one significant was there to witness it.
He could still hear the excited yet increasingly distant chatter of the newsmen
as they filed down the corridor, but it was soon drowned out by Friedland's 1932
Delage D8 Super-Sport, which started up with a throaty roar in the car park.
Jack waited until he had gone, then continued on gamely, the extreme lack of
interest not outwardly affecting his demeanor. After nearly twenty years, he was
kind of used to it.
"Since the death by scalding of Mr. Wolff following his
ill-fated climb down Little Pig C's chimney, we at the Nursery Crime Division
have been following inquiries that this was not an act of self-defense
but a violent and premeditated murder by three individuals who, far from being
the innocent victims of wolf-porcine crime, actually sought confrontation and
then acted quite beyond what might be described as reasonable self-defense."
Jack paused for breath. If he had hoped his misgivings over
the outcome of the trial would be splashed all over the paper, he was mistaken.
Page sixteen of The Gadfly was about the sum total of this particular
story, sandwiched ignominiously between a three-for-two Hemorrelief
advert and the Very Reverend Conrad Poo's weekly dental-hygiene column.
"Mr. Spratt," began Archibald, slowly bringing himself up to
speed like a chilled gecko. "Is it true that Mr. Wolff once belonged to the
Lupine Brotherhood, a secret society dedicated to traditional wolfish pursuits
such as the outlawed Midnight Howling?"
"Yes, I understand that to be the case," replied Jack, "but
that was over fifteen years ago. We do not deny that he has been investigated
over various charges of criminal damage arising from the destruction of two
dwellings built by the younger pigs, nor that Mr. Wolff threatened "to eat them
all up." But we saw this as an empty threatwe produced witnesses who swore that
Mr. Wolff was a vegetarian of many years' standing."
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