"So what was your basis for a murder prosecution again?" asked Archie, scratching his head.
"We believed," replied Jack in exasperation, as he had made the same point in the same room to the same two disinterested journalists many times before, "that boiling Mr. Wolff alive was quite outside the realm of 'reasonable force' and that the fact that the large pan of water would have taken at least six hours to reach boiling point strongly indicated premeditation."
Archibald said nothing, and Jack, eager to go home, wrapped up his report.
"Despite the not-guilty verdicts, we at the NCD feel we have put up a robust case and were fully justified in our actions. To this end we will not be looking to reexamine the case or interview anyone else in connection with Mr. Wolff's death."
Jack sighed and gazed down. He looked and felt drained.
"Personally," said Briggs in an aside, " I didn't think the jury would go for it. The problem is that small pigs elicit a strong sympathetic reaction and large wolves don't. There was a good case for self-defense, tooMr. Wolff was trespassing when he climbed down the chimney. It really all hinged on whether you believed that the pigs were boiling up a huge tureen of water to do their washing. And the jury did. In only eight minutes. Do you want me to introduce you?"
"I'd prefer tomorrow, once I am officially on duty, " said Mary quickly, thinking she might have to go outside and scream or something.
Briggs picked up on her reticence.
"Don't underestimate the Nursery Crime Division, Mary. Spratt does some good work. Not high-profile, you understand, but important. His work on the Bluebeard serial wife killings case was .... mostly good solid police work. "
"That was Spratt?" asked Mary, something vaguely stirring in her memory. It hadn't been in Amazing Crime, of course, just one of those "also-ran" stories you usually find dwelling in the skim-read part of the dailies, along with city prices, dog horoscopes and "true-life" photo stories. It had been under the subheading "Colorfully hirsute gentleman kills nine wives; hidden room contained gruesome secret."
"That's him. Jack was onto Bluebeard and was well ahead of events."
"If nine wives died, he couldn't have been that good."
"I said it was mostly good police work. More notably, he arrested Rumplestiltskin over that 'spinning straw into gold' scam and was part of the team that captured the violently dangerous psychopath the Gingerbreadman. You might have heard about Jack in connection with some giant killing, too."
Something stirred in Mary's memory again, and she raised an eyebrow. Police officers weren't meant to kill people if they could help itand giants were no exception.
"Don't worry," said Briggs, "it was self-defense. Mostly."
"The last one he ran over in a car."
"The last one?" repeated Mary incredulously, "How many have there been?"
"Four. But don't mention it; he's a bit sensitive over the issue."
Mary's heart, which had already fallen fairly far, fell farther.
"Well, that's all I have to say," said Jack to the sparsely populated room. "Are there any more questions?"
Archibald Fatquack stirred, scribbled in his pad but said nothing. The reporter from the Reading Daily Eyestrain had moved slowly forward during Jack's report, until his head was resting on the seat back in front. He began to snore.
From The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. Copyright Jasper Fforde 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Viking Publishing.
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