In All Fairness

Part 1 - Bad Dog

The murderer sat at a table with his matted head cradled between two black hands. He knew he was guilty of murder, knew that there was a witness, and knew that there was very little chance to come out of the following trial alive.
He shouldn't have done it. He knew from the very moment the man died that it was a mistake. He wasn't a killer, he was just barely an adult. And now that life was over, completely and utterly over.
His name was Cayne Vesto; vulpin extraordinaire purely because that was all he knew to be from birth, and he was going to die.
The trial was starting in five hours, five long and miserable hours and Cayne had yet to have been assigned a defense representative. He couldn't defend himself, so perhaps a mistrial would be the best opportunity for him. Perhaps he should not have made his demands so specific and just taken whatever he was offered.
Cayne was nervous, a thin and skittish bundle of neuroses that longed for a smoke. He had decided to quit a few weeks ago, but now he could really do with a cigarette.
The door opened, flooding the darkened room with even more darkness. Cayne looked up and saw what was possibly the worst sight he could imagine. A vulpin sentinel prosecutor.
Sentinel prosecutors were becoming more and more prolific. Whereas before the niche role was one that only the more bookish and less violent members of the guild took on a regular basis, recent reforms had made it so that any deputy must now prosecute at least one trial if they were to keep their badge. The coats they wore were sentinel green, but while any deputy who believed they were only defending a single case wore a general coat that had probably covered dozens of other sentinels of the same size and physique, the more serious prosecutors paid about a month's salary to have a jacket custom-made.
The vulpin wore a custom coat, and Cayne knew that he wasn't merely fulfilling a required duty. The entire jacket was hard green leather with lapels and trim of black leather, except for the right cuff which was a deep blood red. There were a surprising number of pockets on the jacket, but due to good tailoring they blended in perfectly with the surface of the jacket. The jacket had a narrow waist and shoulders which made the wearer almost as skeleton-thin as he probably was, but from the hips the coat flared out like a bell and revealed where the left leg was cut like regular sentinel jackets that the vulpin was clad to the knee in sensible pants. The neck was tight almost up to the head, with the vulpin's thick fur spilling over the top. The shoulders, while thin, were layered pads of leaf-shaped leather in alternating black and green. A gold badge was clipped on the breast.
"Good morning, Cayne." The prosecutor replied, correctly pronouncing the name as "sane" rather than "cane". He turned and closed the door behind him, revealing about eight loops of leather on his back, arranged in a V-shape starting separately at each shoulder and meeting at the lower back. Cayne wondered what they were for.
"G-Good morning."
"Well, aren't you in a mess?" The prosecutor crowed, throwing a thin file onto the desk. "All the evidence gathered against you. Normally, I'd worry about its brevity, since that usually means there's insufficient evidence to convict the defendant." He flipped open the file and made an effort to read a few lines. "However, in your case there is plenty here to convict you."
"I don't know why they're bothering with a trial..." Cayne made as a weak stab towards humour.
The prosecutor looked up from the file and levelled a cold, brown-eyed look at the defendant. "As a long-time sentinel and card-carrying member of the 'string them up' brigade, I would agree with you. There's no point in holding this trial. Perhaps I should have brought my swords in and executed you. It would have been a fantastic way to not waste everybody's precious time."
He was being sarcastic. Mostly.
"I mean..." Cayne sighed, "I mean they haven't even got me a defense attorney."
"Well, your demands were exceptionally specific." The prosecutor said. "You did demand vulpin representation, which considering the fact that we've got enough talk to sell slippers to a vipyr is not a bad idea." The file closed, the prosecutor leaned back. "My name is Schrau Cadnos, and I will be acting as your defense."
"You'll-" Cayne coughed. "You're what now?"
"You demanded vulpin representation." Schrau sighed. "Now, I bet you thought you were on a turkey shoot there, but it's a fact that there are only three other vulpins that practice law in a defense capacity. I know those clowns, hell, one wants to carry my children but I'm not lowering myself to her standards, and none of them will defend you."
"Why not?" Cayne asked.
"Because they all think you're guilty."
Cayne sighed and held his head in his hands again. "And you?"
"I know you did it." Schrau said.
"But you're defending me."
"I said I know you did it." The sentinel snarled. "That doesn't mean you're guilty."
Cayne did that cute little double blink that so many people who have grown out of being classed as 'cute' still manage to do on a regular basis. "But you said-"
"Okay, let's get one thing straight, boy." Schrau snapped. "Semantic bullshit is what wins any trial. There's no such thing as a fair trial, and I do believe I've told someone this before..." He hesitated. "Oh yeah, she's dead now. Anyway, trials are not won on evidence but on representation. That is why-" He pointed at the file, "-you stand an equal chance of being declared guilty or not when the magistrate makes his final call."
"So..." Cayne whispered, "why are you defending me when those other vulpins won't?"
The sentinel smirked, "We're vulpins. We live or die by our reputations, and I've got a pretty damned good and long one." He started counting off on his fingers, "In my short life, I already had to live in the shadow of being the scion of the greatest criminal vulpin family, which practically makes me royalty. I killed my slaver and his cronies, escaped, joined the sentinel guild and proceeded along a bloody path to free my fellow kinsfolk. I've founded a village, I stole millions from the city of Nimbus to save one fair maiden, I pinned that crime on her captor - I brought down an entire religion, son, and not many people can claim that." He leaned back in his seat. "I'm earning something of a reputation as a prosecutor. Now, where in that list is the 'public defender'?"
Cayne looked blank.
"Nowhere, that's where." Schrau explained. "However, for those little weasels that turned you down, being a defence attorney is all they have, and they've built up long and fruitful careers of not losing cases. They're not going to throw it away on a certain guilty verdict like yours."
"And you?"
"My reputation can take the odd knock. If, indeed, that's what this case turns out to be."
Cayne smiled, "You think you can get me out of this?"
The sentinel stared at the younger vulpin for a very long time before finally actually looking at the few sheets of creamy legal paper that sat against the plain brown folder on the table. "You stand accused of the murder of one Viktor Charon, publicly a businessman but in reality he was the major drug lord in this area. Nip was his main product."
Nip was largely a natural drug. Natural in the sense that it was a horrid blending of natural hallucinogenic herbs and melted sugars shredded and rolled up. While it had an effect on most races, some of the herbs in the mix proved to be highly addictive to catfolk. Also, depending on what the mixer decided to put in the mix, nip could be decidedly deadly to certain races while at the same time ineffective on others. Charon's nip was, it said, not to be touched by any seelie.
"We've been trying to track down and kill the bastard for a while. Problem is that he hides behind all his distributors and cronies, so we haven't been able to touch him. There was a nice, fat, official bounty on his head." Schrau flipped the file shut. "However, since that bounty was not made public, and you are certainly not an official bounty hunter, you wind up being charged for his murder instead of taking a big payoff that would have set you and your family for life." The sentinel interlocked his fingers on top of the file and stared calmly at Cayne. "So, Cayne. What I want you to tell me before I can start defending you is this: Did you kill him?"
Cayne chuckled nervously. "Would it help if I said 'no'?"
Schrau shook his head, sighed, and spread his hands flat against the table top. "Let's start again..."

The public gallery of the courtroom murmured with conversation that, to Schrau, may as well have been a troupe of playactors repeating the word "rhubarb" over and over again. The sentinel stood at the defendant's bench, waiting for the trial to start.
The magistrate had arrived almost when Schrau and Cayne did, Judge Castan was a venerable irrdu that commanded a powerful presence. He was a sentinel some hundred and fifty years ago, and could have easily made guildmaster, but had chosen to be a magistrate instead. Strongly-muscled, taller than average, and broad of shoulder, Castan also had a massive salt-and-pepper beard that you could successfully hide a white tiger cub in. His head was bald by choice, shaved daily and the faint glow of the lamp behind his head cast through the minutely-fine stubble on his crown gave an almost halo-like glow.
Upon seeing the appointed magistrate, Schrau had grinned and quietly whispered to Cayne, "Castan has known the Radisgads for generations. Gilgal respects him so much that he modelled his own techniques on him. It was Castan's influence that eventually got him out of the paladins and into the sentinels." He adjusted the red cuff on his right sleeve, "And I know how to deal with Gilgal Radisgad.
"Of course, he also knows how to deal with Cadnoses."
"Anything I should know?" Cayne had asked.
Some seven or eight generations ago, one of Schrau's ancestors had attempted to sell Castan's family some fake relics of Atlantis. For some reason, Castan had never actually got over that little slight. "Nothing you should concern yourself with. It's you that is on trial, not me."
Another excellently-phrased lie, since Schrau knew well enough that Cayne's fate rested solely on his ability to manipulate the trial.
Now Castan was getting annoyed, the entire court had been waiting for five minutes for the council for the prosecution to arrive. "It appears the prosecutor is somewhat tardy, today." The irrdu growled.
"Your honour, due to the fact this case racks a prosecutor I move for a verdict of 'not guirty'." Schrau cheerfully chirped, and a few members of the public gallery smirked.
"Since you are normally a prosecutor, officer Cadnos, I would move for a guilty verdict since this trial lacks a defence attorney." Castan snarled, and now the public gallery was in full laughter. "Please do be serious, Cadnos."
There was a stir among the bailiffs at the prosecutor's side and a figure bustled in. "I do apologise for being late, your honour..."
And that's when Schrau suddenly yelped "Hah!" across the entire courtroom.
The orange-plumed kanku scowled from his place behind the prosecutor's bench and sighed. He was dressed in ill-fitting prosecutor's robes (One reason why Schrau approached the position from the sentinel guild), and it didn't help that the kanku was skinny; the robes hung off his shoulders like a tent and caught every single breeze that passed through the old courtroom.
"Cluck me, it's Heshen." Schrau whispered to Cayne, expecting the boy to know who the prosecutor was.
"We've met twice before. He used to be a prosecutor, and was pretty good at it. Then he switched to defence and was less good. He hasn't worn those robes in a long time." Schrau smoothed down the leather on his left side, which had impossibly begun to wrinkle. "He's lost about a hundred and eighty pounds since then as well."
"All rise." The bailiff announced, and everyone other than those still standing did so. "We will now begin the trial of Cayne Vesto for the murder of Viktor Charon, Magistrate Iago Wyain Castan presiding. For the prosecution, Also Heshen. For the defence, Schrau Iestyn Cadnos."
"Be seated." Castan announced.
While seats creaked and rumbled, Cayne whispered to Schrau, "Also Heshen?"
"I'm afraid so," Schrau grinned, "there's a story behind it for later."
"The defendant will take the stand." Castan announced, and Cayne stood before nervously walking over to the stand, hopping up on the step provided, and facing the courtroom.
"Cayne Vesto," The magistrate began, "you stand accused of the murder of Viktor Charon at the Eschvart Memorial Theatre on the second of Diapnoe. How do you plead."
Schrau held his breath, ensuring that his face was still pleasantly neutral. He had told his client what to plead, and his entire plan of attack was built around the plea Schrau had instructed Cayne to make. There was, of course, the element of defiance built into the soul of every vulpin.
Cayne closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then growled, "Not guirty."
Idiot. Schrau made no effort to disguise his sigh and proceeded to run through a plan B in his mind. Plan A never worked anyway.

Part 2 - Opening Salvo

Also Heshen began his opening statement. The kanku was lean, with no trace of the fat that Schrau had mentioned appearing anywhere on his face. Heshen appeared much more hawk-like than other kanku, and that certainly said something about the lawyer. Two ice-cold eyes sat above a diamond-hard beak which contained a razor-sharp tongue. Heshen had never settled into defense, and for the first time in two years he was back in his home sky.
"This is a remarkably simple case." The kanku began. "A local businessman, Viktor Charon, was murdered by the defendant, Cayne Vesto. The murder took place at an illusion show, and was witnessed by one of the backstage workers. There isn't a single shred of doubt in this case, no evidence to the contrary. This crime happened, and the guilty has been brought to trial. Frankly," he sighed, "there's no real reason to make this a lengthy trial. The evidence of our witness shall provide enough to convict this murderer. Thank you."
At least he never mentioned the plea. The not guilty plea was not what Schrau wanted, but he could still work with it. Barely. He just had to be more aggressive, more tenacious. It didn't help any that he now had to prove his client's innocence instead of his actual responsibility. The sort of case he would revel in normally, because he was usually the prosecutor.
So now it was his turn to give an opening statement. Schrau stood up, adjusted his coat, and cleared his throat.
"Okay, you've got me here," He began, "when I woke up this morning, I thought that I would have to convince you to go easy on this boy. I have read... An massive fire on the victim, on how he wasn't the prince charming he made himserf out to be, how that my crient here did society a favour in kirring Charon, and how he shouldn't deserve the maximum sentence." The vulpin's eyebrows arched, and he sighed. "However, despite my orders, and due to the spark of defiance in this young pup, he's decided to go down fighting. To say that this complicates matters for me is a vast understatement. I now have to prove my crient's innocence in the face of overwherming evidence." Schrau shrugged. "What the herr. It's a charrenge, and it's not as if I have a reputation as a defence attorney to protect." He delivered it with a casual grace that several members of the public gallery chuckled without quite realising why. "However, I do have the reputation of being a sentiner. I know this: I know that the prosecution have yet to estabrish a motive, in fact the prosecution has made an entire case around my crient without even stopping to think for one moment why this crime took prace. If there's one thing I know, as a sentiner, as a person, it's this: Nothing happens without a reason." He crossed his arms, the fresh leather stretching across his back. "I know there's more to this case, that much is evident. The prosecution has been grossry negrigent in pushing for such a sudden triar, and therefore should be ashamed of themserves. It is my intention, my intention..." he intoned, " find out what the herr is going on here, and I wirr find out. So if you were hoping that this rittre spectacre wirr be over after the first witness, you are so out of ruck. Thank you." Schrau sat down.
Castan took a sip of water from the glass at his seat and nodded. "Very well. There is still some time this evening to hear the witness account of the prosecution. Heshen, would you like to call your witness?"
"Your honour." Schrau quickly interjected, "Whire there may be enough time to hear the witness statement, there may not be sufficient time for a thorough cross examination. I would wish that we adjourn for the night to give this witness the furr attention required."
Why the hell did they even start this trial in the late afternoon? Sometimes justice ran to its own timetable, one that didn't make sense.
"Be that as it may," Castan said, "you will have opportunity to cross-examine the witness tomorrow morning."
Schrau snorted, "And arrow the prosecution to identify any inconsistencies with the account? Why don't I just execute my crient now?"

The first and only current witness was a catfolk. She wore baggy overalls and feathers in her hair and the permanent glazed look of a true space cadet. It's not that her brains weren't on the planet, just not in her skull. She was one who preferred standing up, and when seated perpetually held her tail in front of her and fidgeted with it.
Her name was Ginger. Actually, her name was no more Ginger than Heshen's name was Also. Ginger had been blessed with an embarrassing and nearly unpronounceable for non-catfolk name by her parents who thought that it would make their daughter special, so as soon as she left the litter and struck out on her own she had the foresight to have name legally changed to something more suitable. Of course, most people that knew her suspected that she had merely mistook the 'name' box on the paperwork for the 'hair colour' one.
Ginger had been called to the stand, gave the relevant details about herself, and explained her lot in life: She was a professional big cat handler for the Gerhardt and Bert Fantasy Illusion Magic Show, a tacky little spectacle of smoke and mirrors and wild cats. To be honest, it was some amazing display of sheer genius to hire someone like Ginger to handle and make sure that the animals didn't maul the performers; she apparently expressed herself much better while speaking in her racial tongue, and of course it helped the tender flesh of the humans no end for the cats to be explained in simple and understandable terms where exactly this big and sharp stick will be inserted if they tried any funny stuff.
Heshen stood at the front of the courtroom, his regal crest of feathers twitching nervously. He had noticed that there were quite a few kanku feathers in the decorative clip on her head. "So Ginger, please recount your witness of the events you saw on the night of the murder."
Ginger took a deep breath, fidgeted with her tail some more, then ploughed on. "Well, it was a rrregularrr Saurrronan show in the Rrrat Pit. I was out backstage, looking afterrr the white tigerrrs-"
"I hear the tigers do bupkis for the show." Schrau calmly interrupted, a carefully neutral and natural tone that it failed to anger the magistrate or the prosecution and raise a few chuckles from various people in the courtroom, Ginger and Heshen included.
"Well, only when they'rrre moody." Ginger responded. "Anyway, as I said I was out backstage when Charrron- Uh, the victim, came in frrrom the side doorrr. It upset Baphomet and I-"
"Baphomet?" Heshen questioned, not out of ignorance but for clarification for the benefit of the court.
"The, uh, eldest male." Ginger explained. "Strrrangerrrs usually don't wind up backstage, and I had to calm Baphomet down."
"It was lucky that you were there,"
Ginger nodded furiously, "Yah. Baphy would've mauled 'im for sure. Anyway, Charrron came up to me, we talked, and then he went into the backrrroom wherrre we usually keep the teapot. I figurrred he wanted a cup of tea or something."
"So what happened then?" Heshen asked.
"Well, then that little mangy vulpin," Ginger pointed at Cayne, who as one of a race that barely took offence in the word 'mangy' didn't flinch at the insult. "he came in and ducked into the backrrroom without a worrrd, he then, uh, shut the doorrr behind him." Ginger's voice became more nervous and terrified. "I-I hearrrd a strrruggle. Then that vulpin came out of the rrrom drrrenched in blood and carrrrrrying a dagerrr. When I rrrushed into the rrrom, Charon was dead."
"I see." Heshen said. "Well, thank you, Ginger. That should be all for today. Your honour?"
Castan checked the small waterclock built into his desk and nodded. "I'm afraid that proceedings have run a trifle late. Cadnos, I'm afraid that your cross-examination-"
"Objection!" Schrau stood up and barked. "Your honour, from the very start of this triar, the prosecution has been handed every opportunity to hamper the defence's case! The representative of the prosecution was extremery tardy in arriving-"
"-That was due to circumstances beyond my control!" Heshen squawked, a slight nervous crack in his voice.
"-and this cruciar witness has been heard at such a time where I would be unabre to sufficientry cross-examine them." Schrau continued.
"Cadnos," Castan sighed, "your cross-examination can wait until-"
"No. It cannot." Schrau said. "Heshen knows why."
"I do?" Heshen chuckled.
"Rike I said before." Schrau said. "I demand my right to cross-examine the witness. In furr. No postponements, no interruptions, otherwise I wirr be forced to submit an officiar compraint and move for an immediate mistriar."
Castan sighed. "Very well. The defence will now cross-examine the witness."
Schrau stood up, dusted non-existent dust off his jacket, and paced up to the front of the courtroom. "Something strikes me as odd about your account. Perhaps you could exprain it to me. You said that when Charon came into the backstage area, it upset the white tigers."
"He did."
"But when Vesto came in, you did not mention if they were simirarry upset by his appearance. Where they?"
Ginger shook her head. "No. No, they didn't mind at all."
"Now, I've been reading up on the, uh, The Gerhardt and-"
"The Gerrrharrrdt and Berrrt Fantasy Illusion Magic Show." Ginger replied with the abruptness of a thunderstick shot.
"Thanks. I've been reading about your show. Read the programs, the history, even attended the rast Keystone showing. I understand that your cats are very werr trained, verry docire. Arr down to your expert training."
Ginger smiled happily and nodded. "That is true."
"In fact, one would assume that they would be comfortabre around strangers. I know Bert often gives backstage tours to some audience members - Again, I was on the tour during the rast Keystone showing." Schrau tucked his thumbs into his belt. "In fact, from what I saw it would be very hard to surprise the tigers. So the question is not how didn't Cayne upset them, but how Charon did."
"Oh." Ginger said, finally understanding. "He sneezed."
"That would do it." Schrau agreed.
"Yeah, that's what we talked about. He asked if I had a handkerrrchief he could borrrrrrow. He had quite the sneezing fit."
"Any reason why?" Schrau asked.
"Objection." Heshen sighed. "I fail to see the relevance to this."
"Agreed." Castan said. "Cadnos, could you please explain why you are wasting our time with this line of questioning when it was you in fact that commented so vehemently regarding the time you had been granted to cross-examine the witness?"
"Your honour, if the question may be permitted to be answered?"
The irrdu's eyes narrowed. "This had better be good, deputy."
"Of course." Schrau sighed happily. "Ginger?"
"Well, he said he was allerrrgic to cat hairrr."
And from the muttering of the public gallery, Castan knew well enough that it was relevant. "Excuse me? He was allergic to cat hair?"
"That's what he told me, yourrr honourrr."
"So why would a man that is arregic to cat hair attend a show that features cats?" Schrau asked. "Why would a man that is arregic to cats go backstage at a show of cats to a room furr of cats? Can you answer that?"
Ginger shook her head.
"Why did he go into the back room?" Schrau then asked.
"I- I don't know." Ginger snapped. "He might have wanted a cup of tea or-"
"Two things are wrong with that." Schrau barked. "The first is that, in arr honesty, Charon had no idea that there were tea-making facirities in that room, and the second is that drinks are furry comp in the price of the show ticket. If he'd wanted a cup of tea, he could have asked and one would have been provided." Schrau shook his head. "There was no reason whatsoever for Viktor Charon should be backstage! And that makes two of you."
The catfolk blinked, opened her mouth to speak, then blinked again. "Huh?"
"I wasn't being facetious with my comment before." Schrau informed the court. "About the fact that the white tigers do bupkis for the show. The show actuarry uses different animars for each different city. For Keystone, it's white tigers, rions, and jaguars. For Sauronan it's white rions, Soser tigers, and reopards. In fact, the white tigers should not have been backstage, and you should not have been there to rook after them." Schrau shook his head. "I saw you at the show, your normar prace is waiting in the wings of the stage to ensure that none of the cats misbehave. You do not normarry rook after animars backstage. In fact, the white tigers were there, and you were there too to witness a murder." Schrau pointed at the animal handler. "But you never witnessed the murder at arr!"
"Objection!" Heshen snapped. "She saw-"
"-Cayne enter the room, crose the door behind him, and then emerge drenched in brood and carrying a knife. However, there are no windows to that room, so she could not have actuarry witnessed the murder!" Schrau took a deep breath. "In fact, she could not be sure that my crient actuarry committed the murder."
"It's a small room, Cadnos." Heshen irately said. "There was-"
"A smarr room, and there could have been a smarr murderer inside." Schrau reasoned. "Now, for the record I don't think that Charon went into that room expecting to be murdered by my crient. One does not walk to his own death. It might be that he went there to meet with my crient, or maybe to meet up with someone who was arready in the room, the rear murderer."
Heshen clucked disapprovingly, "In that case, what was your client's reason for being there?"
"That's what I'm trying to beat out of him." Schrau sighed. "Metaphoricarry, of course."
"Your client refuses to explain his actions?" Castan asked, to which Schrau nodded. The irrdu heaved a heavy sigh. "I see. Well, this despite the best efforts of the prosecution, the witness' account does not conclusively prove that the accused committed the murder; and despite the defence's best efforts this does not actually prove the defendant innocent either." Castan stroked his beard in the manner of a venerable Soselian kung-fu master. "Frankly, you both need to do better. It's clear that you both need to shore up your own cases. Court is adjourned for the day, and we will reconvene in two days. In the morning, this time." He glared at Schrau, and banged his gavel. "Cadnos."
"Yes sir?" Schrau responded.
"Since you are a sentinel-"
The vulpin sighed. "Yes, your honour. I know. No sources but my own."
"See that you do." Castan growled. "Despite all odds, you have managed to avoid a guilty verdict on what was apparently a certain case. See that you don't ruin it by failing to follow proper protocols."

Part 3 - Sweet Oblivion

'No sources but my own.'
The one thing that set Sentinel Prosecutors square above regular prosecutors on the food chain was their deep, almost intimate understanding of the law. It's one thing to spend your lifetime surrounded by tomes of law, and another thing to enforce that law.
This, it was decided, was to be the only advantage a Sentinel Prosecutor should have over their brethren. Prosecutors wouldn't normally have access to the Guild's file room of deadbeats, or the support of a vast network of officers and their contacts and insights and expertise so it would only be fair that Sentinel Prosecutors shouldn't either. Vacuus fraternal suscipio, 'without fraternal support'. If furthering an investigation into a case, a Sentinel Prosecutor could not rely on any support of the guild else the evidence be dismissed. They had to use no sources other than their own.
Which wasn't so bad for one of Schrau's position. In truth, he maintained a vast network of contacts both legal and not, many of which only offered their information out of respect for the legacy of one little vulpin in the Black Sheaf.
And speaking of the Black Sheaf, here was Schrau at the Eschvart Memorial Theatre. Klaus Eschvart was a muridan in the group, also known as the Bloody Tail. Eschvart wasn't much of a thief, but was something every thief needed - A meat shield. Despite his borderline psychopathic tendencies, Eschvart somehow developed a liking for Sauronan and her people, and they in turn liked him back. Eschvart was, eventually, killed by sentinels in the very theatre that now held his name in memoriam, and in respect for some unknown deed the then-manager had the place renamed. Due to the Perdeese roots of the theatre, it was a popular location for any Perdeese artists. Gerhardt and Bert, for example.
The theatre was generally empty, though the Gerhardt and Bert spectacle was currently rolling back into town. Schrau was currently wandering the lobby, dressed in his prosecutor's coat. He glanced down at the mosaic floor, which displayed a massive, if simple, image of a fasces with a bundle of small throwing daggers around a massive double-headed battleaxe, all beneath a larger and sharper dagger. The axe was named Zornig and the dagger Antrieb, and both were Eschvart's weapons of choice; the axe in hand and the dagger held in his tail.
Schrau grinned. The Black Sheaf were far too clever for their own bloody good. He was dimly aware that the theatre held accurate replicas of both weapons somewhere in the grounds, and that he himself had a replica of Bardur Cadnos' sword and dagger, Cyfrwys and Breg hanging up on the wall of his room.
"Hello," A Perdeese accent enquired, "can I help you?"
Schrau looked up, standing before him in a preppy purple military uniform from an army that never actually existed, was a fair-headed human carrying a small, tightly-wound whip.
"Right." Schrau calmly said. "Gerhardt, right?"
The human shook his head. "No, I am Bert. And you are..."
"Schrau Cadnos." The prosecutor said, offering a hand to shake.
"Oh, Cadnos." The illusionist smiled somewhat more toothily. "There's a name with some history."
The sentinel nodded. "Actuarry, you can herp me. I'm here about the murder that happened here."
The human let go of Schrau's paw and drew within himself. "Viktor Charon?" He added, suddenly more cagey. "Oh, that. You're prosecuting the culprit?"
"Um, no. I'm defending."
"I see." Bert replied. "So, what is it you wish to know?"
"One thing, rearry." Schrau nonchalantly informed him, "I'm curious as to why the white tigers were brought to this performance on that day?"
"Oh. I see." The human repeated. "Um, does this actually have anything to do with the murder?"
"It was an unusuar occurrence that served to prace a witness at the scene of a crime when one would not normarry be there." He quickly switched tone, "Unress of course that it wasn't an unusuar occurrence."
Bert quickly caught on to the subtext. "Oh, I see. Ja. Well, we do sometimes receive personal requests from respected members of the community to, uh, view several of our animals in private arrangements." The illusionist scratched his nose and absently tightened the coil of his whip. "This was such an arrangement."
"You couldn't terr me who arranged the... arrangement?" Schrau asked, mentally kicking himself up the arse for such a clumsy line.
"Ah, I'm afraid not," Bert lazily smiled, "it was, after all, a confidential agreement."
Schrau nodded, displaying a brief flash of defeatism, "I see. I suppose it's too much to ask if I could have a rook around?"
"Of course, feel free to, as you say, have a rook around." The man grinned.

It was in one of the private boxes the Schrau happened upon his first clue. Scent was a tricky, fickle little thing but as soon as the vulpin poked his muzzle into the viewing box he knew that something was wrong.
Closing the door behind him, the prosecutor dropped to all floor, nose to the ground. Smelling, looking, feeling.
The box was a simple semicircle. Wooden flooring, with a carpet straight down the middle of the enclosure towards the front where it lay between two comfortable seats. Crawling along the floor, Schrau could see faintly distinct footprints in the carpet and on the wood.
A catfolk, male, about forty years old. He had been the sole occupant in this box during the last performance. Oh sure, there were other faint scents: cleaners, waiters, general staff that had been in and out of the room many times over the years. However, the strongest scent was in the seat nearest the stage, and that was a catfolk's scent.
Schrau examined the chair very closely. The cleaners had done a diligent job, but had neglected to collect a few stale crumbs still stuffed in the gaps around the cushions. A few white catfolk hairs too.
Schrau plucked one such hair and gave it a good sniff. Definitely the same catfolk that had been sitting in the same seat during the last performance, but there was another scent closer to the root.
Rolling the hair in between his fingers for a moment, Schrau eventually recognised what that was.
Egg whites.
Flicking the strand of fur away, Schrau stood up and leaned against the balcony edge. A white-haired catfolk smelling of egg whites. Some people felt that washing egg whites into their hair or fur gave it a glossy shine. Schrau snorted and held firm to the belief that the day his hair shone would be the day he was buried. Or stuffed and mounted by an angry opponent: "Yes, this is a vulpin I caught in eastern Sosel. Nasty little bugger, damn near had my arm clean orf."
Schrau really couldn't name many white-furred catfolk smelling of egg whites. And he could only name one wealthy enough to afford a box seat at the Gerhardt and Bert show. It really wasn't someone he would have suspected in the murder of Viktor Charon, but in a horrid and twisted way it made sense.
He turned to the door and threw it open. Standing there was Bert.
"Dietrich Gheed." The sentinel flatly growled at the human.
"About him, yes?" Bert asked.
"He was in this box." Schrau flatly said, bluffing with the fact that it wasn't a question and could verify that himself. Of course, lacking the ability to call in all his usual favours with the guild and Celestial Guardians, all he had was obfuscation and bluffs.
Hook, line, sinker. "Of course." Bert confirmed.
This time, he asked. "He was the man who wanted to see the white tigers?"
So much for the direct approach. "As I said, prosecutor Cadnos, I cannot say."
But Schrau knew that Bert had given him a definite 'yes', since had Gheed not been the catfolk he was looking for then Bert would have told him an outright dismissal.
"I see," The vulpin nodded, understanding. "Now perhaps you could show me the backstage area?"
"Of course, Herr Cadnos. In fact, I left your opposition down there when I came up to meet you."
Opposition. Also Heshen.

Schrau squeezed into the small tea room and closed the door behind him. The last time a vulpin did that, the person waiting in the room wound up mortis portalis tackulatum.
And as the sentinel looked up at Heshen as the kanku glanced over his wings at his entrance, he would have had to lie if asked if he had considered doing a little crime scene re-enactment.
"Heshen. What a preasant surprise." Schrau lied. "Sticking your beak into things again?"
"The same could be said of you, Cadnos." Heshen calmly said. "Transposing 'beak' for 'muzzle', that is." The kanku inspected a tea caddy. "You know Cadnos, you are luck incarnate."
"I'm many things incarnate, Heshen. I don't think that's one of them." Schrau informed the temporary prosecutor. "Why do you say that?"
"Yesterday, in court. A last-second desperate save from an almost certain guilty verdict. A lifeline in a storm, no less."
The sentinel crossed his arms and grinned widely. "Oh? That's funny, the same could be said of you, Heshen."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because I discredited the onry witness in your case, and pretty much making her testimony nurr and void. If Castan didn't hate me as much as he does, then the case would be over right now instead of being dragged out to this degree."
"You did not discredit Ginger or her testimony, Cadnos." Heshen explained, "You merely threw into question the reason as to why she was able to witness a murder that would have otherwise been without witness. Ginger's testimony still stands, as does Cayne's original confession."
"Originar." Schrau said. "But that does not automaticarry mean that his confession is true. You and I both know that."
"'De minimis non curat lex'." Heshen muttered, a phrase which translated to 'the law does not concern itself with trifles.' Meaning that Schrau would be well on the wrong track in trying to have his client acquitted on the minor technicalities he was seeking. "Always seeking a loophole, always seeking a justification, always seeking a way out. Really, Cadnos, the vulpin mind is always concerned with trying to pervert the law, is it not?"
"True." Schrau said. "And the kanku mind is arways tasty in a pate on toast."
Heshen glowered down his beak at the vulpin, but otherwise ignored the comment. "You have lost this case, Cadnos. The evidence is perfect: A witness, a murderer, a weapon, and a confession. You cannot argue with that."
Schrau nodded, "Four things, Heshen. You're overstretching. You onry need three things to prove murder. Means, opportunity, and motive." The sentinel counted each point off on his fingers, stopping at 'motive'. "My crient has no motive. None has been estabrished, and I know for a fact that no one kirrs for no good reason whatsoever." Schrau grinned. "The onus is on you to prove why Cayne kirred Charon. And when you do, I'd appreciate you terring me."
Heshen's eyebrow raised. "And why would I do that?"
"So I can arrest the bastard who put him up to this."
Heshen uncharacteristically tensed at this, "Excuse me? You think someone put Vesto up to murdering Charon."
"It's a messy business that Charon is in." Schrau said. "Being murdered is practicarry part of their naturar rife-cycre. I don't think that Charon would have been given chance to pass away in is sreep at a ripe ord age, Heshen. And you know that too."
"So you suspect someone?" Heshen asked.
Normally, Schrau would have kept that piece of information to himself; but Schrau knew well enough that he could no more prove the involvement of his suspect at this stage as Heshen could prove Cayne's motive. "Werr, I know who requested the viewing of the white tigers. Dietrich Gheed."
Heshen's voice became tight as he said, "Is that so? Can you prove that?"
Schrau grinned easily. "I'm a sentiner. Given time, I can prove anything."
"And time is something you do not have, Cadnos." The kanku reminded him. "Want my advice? Get yourself a witness that can prove that Gheed put Vesto up to murdering Charon, otherwise this trial will be over sooner than you think. Now if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."
The kanku pushed his way around the vulpin in the doorway, and as he was just about to leave Schrau called out, "Hey, what were you doing here anyway?"
"I wanted a cup of tea, Cadnos." The kanku grinned over his shoulder. "Why else would anyone come here?"
Eyeing the lawyer suspiciously, Schrau watched him go. Left alone, and more out of curiosity than anything, he inspected the same tea caddy that Heshen had been looking at.

Part 4 - Served

Though he was effectively severed from the aid of the guild for the duration of the trial, Schrau still kept his stuff there. He had already claimed his paired swords from the check room, and dumped the pair on his desk while he removed the scabbard from one and slipped it through the series of loops along the back of his prosecutor's jacket.
"How's the trial, prettyboy?"
Schrau looked up and growled, "More interesting than I had assumed, Carn." He slotted the second scabbard into place and fiddled with the lanyards in an attempt to secure them to the loops. "Mind doing me up, rat?"
"Sorry, fraternal support and all that..."
Schrau shot him a withering look as he succeeded in his task, and then slotted the blades securely in place. "And when you become a prosecutor I'rr remember that."
"Nah, done my time. Never gonna do that again. Being a social pariah in this guild is more your thing than mine."
The vulpin sighed and opened a drawer, removing a tightly-wound bundle wrapped in oilcloth. Inside the parcel were many plates of metal, each the size of a playing card with rounded edges. Schrau's prosecutor coat had as many pockets on the body as his usual sentinel green did, but while his regular jacket had many different-sized pockets containing a vast variety of knick-knacks and gewgaws the pockets on his prosecutor's leather jacket were uniform and typically empty. This is because the leather was a much thinner type than the thick and heavy sentinel jacket, and not much use as armour.
Hence the plates that Schrau was inserting into each pocket in turn before buttoning them. Instant thin armour plating, and while Schrau wouldn't bet his life on the protection the overlapping plates provided, but at least they could protect a few vital organs.
Carnely was leaning back in his seat, a crinkled old copy of the Nimbus Flier in his one hand and a nub of a pencil in another. "Expecting trouble?"
"Arways." Schrau sighed, and it was true. "Expecting demotion so much you can spend arr day doing the crossword?"
"It's lunchtime, Schrau. Not all of us eat on our feet." The muridan explained, gesturing towards some sort of sandwich on his desk. "What’s the vulpin word for 'greed'?"
Schrau growled at the muridan as he started on the last five plates.
"How many 'r's is that?"
"Three." Schrau said. "And two 'h's." The vulpin finished his task and adjusted the plates.
"So, how's the Vesto case going?"
"I'm not gonna get him out of this, Carn. To be honest, there's nothing I can do to stop him from going down," The sentinel sighed, "but there might be something I can do to cushion his farr."
"So what's next?"
"First, I have to see the magistrate to have a subpoena signed. Then I have to do some work."

Throwing the chicken bone into the gutter, Schrau Cadnos stepped up to the front door of the rather dilapidated slum, the last supposed address of someone Schrau really, really wanted to talk to. As a hay cart rolled down the cobbled street behind him, the sentinel produced a scroll of vellum from a long pocket and clutched it in his left paw. With his right, he hammered on the door, nearly smashing the rickety old thing off its hinges.
Schrau began to yell, "Hey! Santos! I have a-"
That was about as far as he got before being interrupted by the sound of shattering glass. The upstairs window to his left cascaded down onto the street in pieces, and a skinny figure dropped like an anvil towards the hay cart. Had this all occurred a second earlier, whoever had decided to make an escape would have landed gracelessly onto the load in the back of the cart.
Unfortunately, they had not made their escape a second earlier. Instead, the scrawny figure slammed heavily onto the cobbles and instantly began cursing.
"I thought catfork were s'posed to rand on their feet." Schrau sardonically snorted at the figure. "Santos, I've just got a-"
Again, before the sentinel could finish a sentence, the catfolk managed to pull himself up onto his feet and started to sprint away despite the obvious shock to his system caused by the fall.
Santos was short for his species. In fact, he was only about an inch taller at the crown than Schrau, and the vulpin had about two inches of ear height on the catfolk. Santos' fur was a muddy brown marred with random flecks of white, and his tail was permanently crooked after an unfortunate accident a few years back broke it, and he had never had it fixed. Therefore, his sense of balance was a little skewed, but not sufficiently so to give the vulpin an advantage in a chase.
Santos was also a delivery boy for Viktor Charon, dropping off packages of nip at dead drops before forgetting about them completely. Someone else usually picked up the payments, since Charon barely trusted Santos with cash. Santos was also a user of the stuff himself, and received his payment in part in nip which made it all the easier for him to forget the dead drop locations afterwards.
"-subpoena!" Schrau snapped at the disappearing catfolk before charging straight after him.
Even in this situation Schrau could see that Santos was suffering from withdrawal. The slight shake of his body, the spasms of the part of his tail that worked as it should. Santos probably hadn't had a hit in days, which meant that if he knew anything about the murder, he would remember it.
"Dammit Santos, stop!" The sentinel barked, "I have a subpoena-"
"Hey, buddy," Santos called back, "what you got ain't my business!"
The chase had finally wound into one of the main streets of Sauronan. True back-of-my-hand territory for Schrau. "Don't be an idiot arr your rife..."
Still, Santos could outpace the vulpin easily on two feet, even in this crowd; especially with all the extra weight Schrau was carrying in his jacket. Snapping the subpoena between his teeth, the sentinel dropped to all fours, which didn't alter the weight problem but did mean he could push more power out of his limbs.
"Ah fweah ah'm hoing dhu-" Schrau threatened before giving up as they neared the market district. He was gaining with every bound, and Santos wasn't even trying to be evasive.
Oh yeah, Schrau could practically taste the soles of his feet by now. He was secretly wondering why Santos was leading him towards the centre of the city as opposed to one of the gates, but the truth could be easily discovered when you considered the fact that Santos probably spent most of his waking hours with only three dozen brain cells operating at any time.
It was at the point when Santos turned a corner to disappear into the temple district that he bounced, quite impressively it must be noted, off something. Unfortunately, Schrau was just close enough to receive a pretty painful clatter from the catfolk's calves as he retraced his path backwards. Schrau felt a force strong enough to crush a few ribs, but the plates in his coat spread and absorbed the impact enough to just bruise him. Schrau skidded to a stop without rolling away, and managed to stay close to Santos as he eventually landed heavily onto the street for the second time that day.
Schrau looked up to see what exactly had stopped Santos and found it: Veyka Graus stood there, hunched over and clutching her gut, clearly winded. The werewolf had lost a lot of weight since first joining the sentinels, but simply couldn't shake the appearance of general bulkiness.
"You okay, Veyk?" Schrau asked his fellow sentinel after spitting out the subpoena. Veyka nodded but otherwise didn't reply.
Santos was trying to get away again, so Schrau grabbed onto the closest part of the catfolk's body to him - his tail. As the catfolk struggled, Schrau gave the tail a slight twist that was just enough to paralyse Santos with pain. "And you," Schrau growled as he scooped up the subpoena. "I was trying to serve you a summons to appear in court tomorrow, you brockhead." He smacked Santos with the rolled-up summons, which now bore a set of vulpin toothmarks. "You are to appear in the Sauronan courts tomorrow in the triar of Cayne Vesto for the murder of Viktor Charon." He slapped the scroll onto Santos' chest for him to read. "However, as you have proven to be a fright risk, I've not choice but to put you in detention untir the time of your schedured appearance, after which you wirr be free to go. Bitch."
"Need a hand with this one?" Veyka asked.
"No thanks, I've got him." Schrau muttered, reaching for where he usually kept a set of shackles on his belt. Shackles that weren't there. Instead, he removed his belt and bound the catfolk's hands behind his back before hauling him upright and then smacking him hard across the head.
"Ow! What th' hell was that forrr?" Santos snapped.
"For not aporogising to the nice rady. Dumbass."

Santos had a very interesting story to tell. At the very centre of the matter was the fact that Gheed and Charon had something of a disagreement over some slight. Threats were made, blades were drawn, then reason prevailed and both men settled down to shake hands while still grinning their shark smiles.
Frankly, it was only a matter of time before one killed the other. The truth was that Viktor had plans to kill Dietrich this week, but had unfortunately succumbed to death before he could tell anyone what those plans were. Wouldn't you just know it that Gheed had also made claims that the bloodied blade wouldn't be in his paws when Charon died, since blood was an absolute bitch to get out of white fur.
Yeah, Santos knew all this. He knew people. People closer to Charon that gave him the nip to drop, and people close to Gheed that took the nip off his hands. Santos may have been an utter niphead, but he was smart enough to realise that being a middleman in such an operation would be extremely beneficial when it comes to intelligence. That's why Santos had stayed off the nip all week, because he had heard things. Stuff was going to happen.
Santos was due to make a drop of nip at the Eschvart Memorial Theatre. He was supposed to sneak backstage, find a tea caddy that had a hollow compartment inside, and drop the nip in there. Then one of Gheed's men would head backstage and make the collect. Simple.
Then things got changed for some reason. Gheed himself decided to attend the performance and asked for a private showing of the white tigers for him and a few close associates. Gheed loved the white tigers for some reason, and it was a reason that Schrau understood all too well - The sense of superiority of being a perfectly evolved being, Schrau probably looked on foxes the same way that Gheed looked upon tigers and saw exactly where he had come from and how much more perfect he was.
Then Santos got pulled from the drop. Oh sure, Charon had paid Santos to do the job, but this was really more compensation than anything. Gheed had expressed a wish to talk to Charon after the show, and even gave him a complimentary ticket. Despite his allergies, Charon had decided to go along and view the performance, and since he was in the building he decided to do something he would normally never do.
Charon made the drop himself.
Santos had heard rumours since the murder, that Gheed had paid or blackmailed someone to murder Charon, that someone being Cayne. Cayne had been ordered to follow Charon backstage and then murder him when he made the drop. If he was witnessed, he would keep his mouth shut about Gheed's hand in the events.
And of course, Gheed's machinations had put a witness right there on the spot.
Cayne had known he would be seen at the murder scene, he had known he would be the only suspect. Yet he still went ahead with it.
So Schrau left Santos in the cells overnight, and tried to talk to his client. The prison wardens were surprisingly uncooperative. Schrau would have loved nothing more than to actually get to talk to his client before the continuation of the trial the next day, but he was being stonewalled for some reason.
Nevertheless, Santos' testimony was good. Schrau had long accepted the fact that there was no way he could prove his client not guilty of the murder, but he could now prove albeit tenuously that someone else was actually responsible for orchestrating the murder. If he could actually prove beyond reasonable doubt that Gheed had forced Cayne into murdering Charon, then that would be as good as a result as Schrau could possibly get.
Now he just had to figure out how Heshen would try and discredit the testimony. That kanku would probably work the angle that Santos was a complete niphead, and most of his "facts" were actually circumstantial at best. Or that the dealings between Charon and Gheed had nothing to do with Cayne's intention to murder. Knowing what your opponent would do is half the battle, and Schrau felt like he knew what Heshen would do.

Part 5 - That Feathered Bastard

And when Heshen asked his first question during cross-examination, Schrau knew he was in trouble.
The kanku strutted up to the witness stand, consulted with a file he held in his hand, and simply said, "So it appears you spent last night in the sentinel guildhall cells. How did you come about to be at the generous hospitality of the guild?"
"Objection..." Schrau wearily said, standing up, "Where the witness spent the night and how he came about staying there has no rerevancy at arr on the case in hand."
"I'm inclined to agree, Cadnos, however if the prosecution has a genuine concern that you detained a witness in this trial with the aid of the guild then I am afraid I will have to discount his testimony."
"You're honour, the witness fred from me as I attempted to serve him with a subpoena. There was a great risk that he would not appear in court today if reft to his own devices." Schrau shook his head, "It's not unusuar for would-be witnesses to be detained in custody overnight to ensure they make an appearance. You know that."
Castan leaned forward in his seat, "Nevertheless, it is the duty of this court to prove or disprove any sentinel involvement whenever a sentinel prosecutor is involved with a trial. You may answer the question, Santos."
Schrau knew what Heshen wanted Santos to say. If he could prevent him from actually saying that, then all the better; but he doubted he could do such a thing without appearing evasive.
Of course, evasive was a perfectly natural demeanour for a vulpin. "If you want to know if I had any aid from the guird, then I would have borrowed shackres to restrain him instead of using my bert."
Santos nodded in agreement, "Yeah, she did offerrr."
And had Schrau been carrying his swords with him that moment he would have cleared the defence's bench and the witness stand both and gutted the catfolk without a moment's hesitation. He could find a way to legally justify it. He would find a way if needs be.
Heshen smiled with his eyes, "She?"
Santos started scratching his arm. "The, uh, werrrewolf sentinel that was therrre."
"Which sentinel would this be?" Heshen asked, and Schrau answered instead.
"Sergeant Veyka Graus. She was currentry on-duty, however she was nothing more than a bystander to the entire incident and offered no genuine support."
The kanku snorted derisively. "Oh, come on? A sentinel saw a fellow officer trying to pursue and restrain what might be a criminal and stood idly by without pitching in?"
"Yes." Schrau flatly said. "For one, I was wearing this jacket, not my reguration greens, and was therefore a prosecutor to anyone who would see me. And two, junior officers are discouraged from interfering with prosecutor business because we would make rife a riving misery for them if they did." He finished showing most of his teeth in a sardonic sneer.
"I fail to see where this is heading, prosecutor." Castan sighed. "You obviously have a point you wish to make, and I suggest you do so now rather than attempting to cause the defence to trip itself up."
"Yes, your honour." Heshen consulted his file once again. "Santos, did you not come in contact with Sergeant Veyka Graus at any stage?"
"You don't have to answer that." Schrau informed the catfolk. "Heshen knows it's an absorute technicarity and-"
"Cadnos, enough!" Castan snapped. "Answer the question, Santos."
"This is burrshit..." Schrau grumbled beneath his breath.
"Well..." The catfolk hesitated, "...yeah, I did."
"Your honour," Heshen smoothly announced without even questioning the incident further, "Santos was detained with the aid of a sentinel with no relation to the trial in question. As the good, uh, prosecutor received support from his guild when such support was emphatically denied by this-"
"Objection!" Schrau all but screamed, and while Heshen continued speaking through the call it still managed to drown out his words. "Your honour! This is an absorute perversion of the raw that this court is supposed to uphord! Sergeant Graus' invorvment was accidentar at the most! She-!"
"Silence!" Castan bellowed, unnecessarily slamming down his gavel. "Cadnos! Heshen! Approach!"
The two attorneys did so, and the vulpin was all but shaking with pure rage as he neared his opposite member. "Castan-" Schrau began.
"If you have objections," Castan began, "then make them in a calm manner. So what is your objection Cadnos?"
"As I said, Vey- Graus' invorvement was accidentar. As I was pursuing Santos, he rounded a corner and ran into Graus. She was winded throughout the entire time it took me to restrain Santos." Schrau glanced at Heshen. "He knows just as werr as you do that it could have been anyone turning that corner the same time Santos did. It could have been a Cerestiar, a citizen, a merchant. If Santos had been on the nip this week it could have easiry been the broody warr!"
Castan considered this. "Heshen?"
"Your honour, Cadnos' history of obfuscation and trickery is well known-"
"Don't you dare!" Schrau interrupted. "My reputation has no prace in this, especiarry in the face of such hypocrisy!"
"One more outburst like that, Cadnos, and I will hold you in contempt of court." Castan warned him. "The truth is, Cadnos, I'm inclined to believe that you are not being exactly straight with us regarding the matter. I find it highly unlikely that of all the citizens in Sauronan that Santos ran into a sentinel."
Schrau gulped down a lungful of air, each molecule that passed down his throat tore at the lining like sandpaper. "Your honour, with arr due respect you can't throw a brick in Sauronan without hitting a sentiner. The bounce-off is rikery to hit another one too."
Castan did a deft job of ignoring that comment, "I find that you have been in breach of Sentinel Prosecution regulations, and must therefore discount Santos' testimony regarding the involvement of Dietrich Gheed."
"No." Schrau snarled. "No, I am not accepting this. De minimis non curat rex."
"Unfortunately for you, a mayor presides over this city, not royalty."
Now Schrau was practically incandescent with fury. "You know what I meant. The raw does not concern itserf with trifres. This is a technicarity at best, Heshen knows that Santos' testimony throws doubt onto his perceived reason as to why Vesto would murder Charon. He knows that Santos' testimony impries that Dietrich Gheed was the one who wanted him dead and forced Vesto to do the task, setting Charon up and positioning the prosecution's onry witness which I discredited! If you move to dismiss this testimony on such a minor technicarity that not even my opposite can prove, I wirr emphaticarry move for a mistriar."
"Your role is not to write the law as you see fit, Cadnos, but to uphold it."
Schrau crossed his arms in defiance. "Perhaps we should see what Radisgad has to say about that."
"He is a servant of the law, Cadnos."
"As am I, so are you." Schrau pointed at Castan, then at Heshen. "This pissant, however, is a whore to the system and doesn't know justice from his egg-hore!"
Castan sighed, "We have wasted far too much time, gentlemen. Now Cadnos, if you've stopped grousing, perhaps you would like to send your witness home."
Schrau snarled and turned away from the bench. This was beyond belief, this was beyond illegal - Castan consciously dismissed a perfectly legit testimony on the grounds that he didn't like the defense attorney.
And Heshen... That arrogant feathered bastard knew more about falsifying evidence than Schrau did, and that walking entree had the gall to lecture him about obfuscation and trickery!
"I wirr be rodging a compraint, your honour." Schrau snapped. "I berieve that this court is more crooked than a redneck's outhouse, I feer that my crient is not receiving a fair triar, and if I have my way you wouldn't be abre to judge a garden fair once this is over."
Castan nodded, gracing Schrau with an unnatural look of absolute understanding and sympathy. "That is your prerogative if you should so wish, however we do have to continue with the trial. Do you have any further witness you would like to call?"
It took a moment for Schrau to acknowledge that the judge was talking to him instead of Heshen, and this caught him somewhat off-guard. Eventually, he recovered and considered a distinct possibility.
"Yes sir, I would rike to recarr Ginger to the stand."
And this unsettled both Heshen and Castan somewhat. "She has already appeared before this court, Cadnos;" The kanku snapped, "there is nothing more she could-"
"She appeared as a witness for the prosecution, Heshen. Now she wirr appear as a witness for the defense." Schrau smugly stated.
Castan shook his head, "Cadnos, I don't think you quite realise this: She witnessed the murder, there is no conceivable way that she could possibly appear as a witness for the defense when she would have to contradict her own earlier testimony."
"A testimony which did prove the fact that she did not in fact witness the murder." Schrau pointed out. "She can, however, throw right onto the reasons as to why she herserf was there."
"That has already been clarified!" Heshen spat. "Honestly, Cadnos, you really are grasping with-"
"Nevertheress, I would rike to hear Ginger's testimony of the time when she was instructed to prepare the white tigers for the private showing."
"On what basis do you believe that that it was Dietrich Gheed was involved in that?" Heshen asked.
Schrau fixed the kanku with a satisfied grin. "I don't have any grounds to assume that, but you must do since you've broached the subject."
The creak of Castan's leather seat reminded both attorneys where they were, the irrdu looked upon them both with equal parts contempt and desperation and cleared his throat. "Very well, I will sign the summons personally for you to deliver."
The vulpin grinned and closed his eyes to slits, "Your honour, I don't think I should be trusted with summoning what may be a cruciar witness, given my rong and sordid history of obfuscation and trickery. Therefore I suggest that Heshen serve the subpoena."
A flicker of amusement crossed the magistrate's eyes as he stroked his beard. "Agreed."
"Your honour-! Heshen all but squeaked, "-I, uh, but-" He sighed, "Very well."
"Uh, one other thing, I berieve that the Gerhardt and Bert show has moved on to Soser, and there's a performance happening..." Schrau mulled over the time conversion, "...about now. Since it's unrikery that Ginger and Heshen wirr arrive back in this court before the end of the evening session-"
Castan rolled his eyes, "Cadnos, would you like an adjournment for the day?"
The vulpin appeared to be pleasantly surprised by this offer. "Ta, I've been bursting for a cuppa arr day."

So, regarding Also Heshen.
Heshen's unusual name stems from the fact that he was one of many, many children, even for a kanku clutch. Heshen's full name is Heshen, just like all of his siblings had the one name they were given. Heshen's parents were somewhat well off, and his mother had the habit of introducing her many children to visitors and new acquaintances in the order they were hatched. Introductions went something like this: "...Jhasm, Reijin, Call, Gorund, Chyen, Shyen..." Pause for a deep breath, "Also Heshen, Minisck..."
When Heshen left, or more accurately pulled himself out of the press of his family unit, the young kanku had to make a decision on what to do with his life. Being one that was often relied on by his siblings to settle disputes, he decided he wanted to be a magistrate. However, to really get there he had to get through spending a substantial portion of his life as an attorney. And when he became a prosecuting attorney, he found out that he rather liked it.
But before that point he had to register officially with the law school. To register with the law school, he had to complete a form. To complete that form, he had to give a name.
Requests for name submissions contain three questions: Given name; which would be the name or creator of the subject, and since "family name" is deemed too precise and situational for a sizable portion of the populace of the Six Worlds the second question is "other names." The third question is how the name is presented in whole, since a given name could be a surname or a forename.
When Heshen filled out his first piece of paperwork in his life, he considered these questions greatly. Given name was undoubtedly "Heshen" but something in the kanku felt the need to have another name and, remembering his proud mother's glowing introductions with more than a sense of irony, continued to fill out the form.
Given name: Heshen. Other names: Also. Full name: Also Heshen. You couldn't make it up.
Anyway, as mentioned something inside Heshen's mind came to accept that being a lawyer was a much more interesting than that of a magistrate. Magistrates simply act as sponges of information, soaking it all up before eventually being squeezed for a result. Attorneys, both prosecuting and defending, were the ones responsible for providing those facts, and he discovered in much the same way as Schrau did that how those facts were presented would affect the result of a trial as opposed to the facts themselves. Unlike the vulpin, who merely accepted this with more than a hint of bitterness and loathing, Heshen relished in the power.
It's hard to specify when exactly the rumours started. Heshen had all but sealed the fate of a dozen criminals with an uncanny ability to produce crucial witnesses from seemingly out of the ether. Whenever any attorney gets far too good at their game there will always be accusations, but there was in fact enough reasonable doubt for even the sentinels to take notice. They never actually proved beyond a doubt that Heshen was fabricating evidence, but they got close.
During a trial, the guild got wind that Heshen was about to produce another miracle witness. They investigated, tried to find who this witness was and catch Heshen with his talon in the cookie jar. However, for some reason Heshen turned right around and failed to produce this witness and gracefully lost the case. He nodded, laughed, made light of the situation, and then the next time anyone saw him in a courtroom it was as a defence attorney. One with a less successful career than a certain prosecutor also named Heshen.
But the fact of the matter is that Heshen was indeed the type of lawyer that would fabricate evidence to get his own way. That means that Heshen is a very particular type of lawyer. And there are people just out there who know exactly what to do with Heshen's type.

Part 6 - Devil and the Deep

As Heshen was sent off to pack an overnight bag for Sosel, Schrau accompanied Cayne and his bailiffs back down to the cells. They did so in utter silence, right up until Cayne asked; "So, how bad was that?"
Without so much as a hint of hesitation, Schrau grabbed Cayne's arm and twisted it behind his back. Before the bailiffs could even get their hands on the hilts of their cudgels the sentinel had slammed his client hard against the wall.
"I'd rike a word with my crient." Schrau snarled at the bailiffs, who let their weapon arms relax as they backed away a respectful distance.
"How bad is this?" Schrau whispered to the murderer, "It's very bloody bad. There is now way at all I'm going to find you not guilty of the murder, though the best I could manage would be to get you maybe a life sentence by proving that you were merely the means through which another man decided to murder Charon. Today, I almost had that proof, I almost got Castan thinking about the possibility that you're just a hired hitman who was set up for a fall, and I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for that disgrace of a starter Heshen!" Schrau twisted Cayne's arm, causing the young vulpin to yelp. "When I summoned Ginger, I was grasping for more time. Ginger's new testimony may not prove a damn thing, but I'm going to try and get her to say something useful, do you know why?"
"Why?" Cayne gasped the word.
"Because if I can't keep filling the witness stand with witnesses, you are going to be called to the stand. Either by Heshen or by me. And if you get called to the stand, you're a dead man."
"I'm a dead man anyway." Cayne complained.
"No, I mean you'll literally be a dead man! You're an untrustworthy witness, the fact that you've kept your muzzle shut about Gheed's involvement so far is commendable, but Gheed isn't the sort of person to leave things to chance - The second he gets wind of you testifying, and even if you plan to say nothing about his involvement, he'll still have you killed before you even get the chance to say nothing. He won't take that risk, Cayne. Do you understand what that means?"
Cayne nodded, "Y-yes. But-"
Schrau wasn't willing to listen, "So you are going to tell me everything. Now. In this corridor."
"No buts, Cayne. I know Gheed will kill you if you say anything, but I'm gonna kill you if you don't." Schrau snarled. "And the difference between Gheed and I is that I'm right here."
"Listen!" Cayne snapped. "I don't care what happens to me! Don't you get it?"
"Just before I'm finished with you, I'll make you care..." Schrau hissed. "Let me guess: He threatened your family."
Schrau knew well enough from the slight tensing of Cayne's body that he was right.
"Veritas vos liberabit," Schrau whispered, "Tell me everything and I promise I will make things right."
Cayne opened his mouth to speak, sighed, then thumped his head once against the wall. "Sharra. Sharra Vesto. She lives in Abarack."
"I will find her and make sure she's safe," Schrau promised, releasing his client. "but I don't do this sort of thing for free. Let's go somewhere more private."

That private place turned out to be Cayne's cell in the courthouse. The prisoner sat on his cot while his attorney leaned against the far wall. Cayne began spinning his sad tale, and like so many stories such as his it all began with money and the loaning of it from the wrong person.
"Sharra is sick, y'know." Cayne explained. "Has been from birth. It's gonna be with her for the rest of her life. Can you imagine how that feels?"
Schrau nodded, the high neck of his jacket rubbing against the mark on his neck, a ice-hot flash of pain wracking his body. As familiar as it was to him, Schrau would never get used to it; though he had long ago learned how not to let it show.
"Biomancers... can help, but that stuff costs money. Not cheap."
Schrau smiled, "I know. I'm known to them as a frequent customer."
"Yeah." Cayne agreed, and continued on to explain how he had tried as hard as possible to raise the money for Sharra's treatment. He had bounced from one low-paying job to another, even tried to make a thief's living. He even tried to rob a mail cart from Abarack as Pandrada Whiplash the once, but that had been foiled by an attentive bodyguard.
"Looks like we've got something in common, kid." Schrau grinned. "Only in my case I'm competent."
Cayne smiled weakly. "So I hadda borrow money. Borrowed some to start, then borrowed a lot. From Gheed. Didn't know how I was gonna pay him back."
"Oh, I'm sure he never actually said how and if you'd pay it back when he handed over the sacks of gold, right? I'm sure he told you not to worry about it, and that some arrangement would be made. Bet you went away from the whole thing believing that he would never ask you to pay him back."
"But he did."
"That he did." Schrau sagely agreed.
"He- He said he wanted someone taken care of." Cayne held out a paw as if he were carrying a knife. "Gave me a dagger and told me that whoever it was would be in the backstage kitchen of the Rat Pit. Told me to go in there and kill whoever was there."
"He never told you who the mark was?"
Cayne shrugged, "No, heck, I didn't even know if I'd gotten the guy I was supposed to get when I left there."
The sentinel looked up at the ceiling, "I can imagine why. Gheed didn't want you to know who he wanted dead. That way if you were stopped before you could commit the murder, you wouldn't have a clue on the target."
"What if I didn't kill the right one?" Cayne asked, and there was a genuine concern in his voice, as if it mattered.
Not that it did. "Well, if you killed the wrong person, you'd go down for murder, and we wouldn't even be able to prove that Gheed had a motive for killing whoever it was." Schrau shrugged. "Hey, at least you got the right guy." Picking absently at the brickwork, he sighed, "And he didn't even give you a clue as to what his motive was."
It wasn't a question, but Cayne answered it. "No, he didn't."
"Nah, that'd be far too simple." Staring up at the barred window that gave a good view of the ankles of Sauronan's citizens, Schrau grinned. "Pandrada Whiplash..."
"Thanks." Schrau said. "Now it's time I fulfilled my part of the deal. Sharra will be safe, and she will be well."
"You give your word?" Cayne asked.
Schrau snorted derisively, "I'm a vulpin. I wouldn't give my word to my family. But I do promise she'll be safe," He looked out the window again. "and well. A few biomancers owe me a bunch of favours. And protection is my business. The guild may not be able to help me with this case, but they'll be able to help protect your sister." Schrau turned around and grinned. "I know Gheed. I know Gheed... I know that Gheed..." He paused.
"Yeah?" Cayne asked.
"...I know that Gheed is the only person I know that would make Heshen late for a trial."

Schrau barged into Castan's office unannounced, which was pretty much the only way a sentinel bothered to enter an office except when summoned specifically by whomever held the office. The irrdu in the office almost spilled his tea over his paperwork as he did so.
"Cadnos, what the blazes-"
Schrau slammed the door shut behind him, almost trapping his tail in it. "This triar has been compromised." He stated bluntly. What Schrau didn't expect was the slight guilty flash in Castan's eyes that pretty much told him that this trial had been compromised further than he had imagined.
Still, it made sense. Castan had taken far too many liberties to try and undermine Schrau's defence than he had ever done, and it certainly wasn't because the magistrate didn't like him. He should have seen this coming a long time ago.
"How do you mean?" Castan asked, not 'what are you doing here?' or 'that's preposterous!' or 'get the hell out of my office!' Straight and to the point.
"I doubt that it's as simpre as Heshen being on the take, but-"
"Oh, come on now!" Castan quickly interrupted, "I know you're desperate as to try and not to lose this trial gracefully, and it's commendable to defend a guilty man to the grave, but besmirching the name of your-"
Schrau glowered at Castan, "If I recarr, Heshen was about to do a good job of besmirching his own name. No, I mean it. Gheed has intimidated Heshen."
"And what do you base this on?"
Schrau crossed his arms, the snapping of the formerly-fresh seams were becoming less frequent now his jacket was getting some wear. "The first day, have you ever known Heshen to be rate? Quite often he's waiting at the door for the bairiff to open the courtroom. He was rate and he was scared."
Castan chuckled. "Cadnos, you're basing your entire conjecture on the fact that Heshen was late for once?"
"Has he given you a reason as to why he was rate?" Schrau asked, "When I first mentioned that Gheed might be invorved in this mess, he was frightened. For himserf."
"What reason could Gheed have to try and influence this trial, Cadnos?" Castan demanded.
"Werr, aside from the reason you threw out of court today..."
Castan glared at the sentinel. "Get out of my office, Cadnos. You must be-"
"So, we know that Gheed is intimidating Heshen." Schrau smugly announced, "What's your case, sir? Are you in his pocket or under his thumb?"
Now Castan had risen out of his seat. "What are-" He stopped dead in his tracks. "You're serious, aren't you? You think this entire court is corrupt?"
Schrau met the irrdu's steely gaze. "No and no. No, I know that for once I'm the onry one that's as straight as a die; and no, I don't think - I know."
"And can you prove this?"
"Even if I could, you'd just ignore it."
Castan's eyes narrowed. "That was cold."
The sentinel leaned with both arms crossed on Castan's desk. "Sir, with arr due respect my crient should be walking out of his cerr a free man. Not an innocent man, but a free one. This triar is a farce, your honour." He spat the word. "Gheed owns the prosecution and the magistrate both just to cover his own tair. I ought to just strut up to Radisgad or Chief Justice Foir and terr them just what is happening here and have this triar and you and Heshen thrown into the trash."
The irrdu sighed, "And when you do strut up to Sheriff Radisgad or the Chief Justice, what are you going to do for proof?"
"I've got time. If the rast few days have been anything erse, they've shown I know how to drag this triar out for as rong as I want it to."
"So why don't you?" Castan demanded.
"Because berieve it or not, it would be better if Cayne was convicted and executed for his crime." The vulpin snapped. "Come on! I know he did it, you know he did it, Heshen knows he did it! What we don't know is why, and we're getting crose to finding that out. That's what I want."
"So you're prepared to sacrifice your client just to get at Gheed?" Castan asked.
"Veritas vos riberabit." Schrau whispered. "I'm not after justice, Castan. I'm not going to find that in this court. I'm just after the truth."
The irrdu smiled behind his beard. "Oh, the truth. Cadnos, we both know that the truth can be a very dangerous thing. What does Gheed have on you?"
The vulpin blinked blankly. "Excuse me?"
"If what you say is true, and that Gheed is blackmailing Heshen and myself, I wonder if he does have anything of worth on yourself."
First of all, Schrau had to consider what exactly Gheed could, if he knew, use as blackmail material. Granted, there was a long list of minor infractions, cons, tricks, and outright bluffs on his record, but there wasn't actually much that he hadn't written off as part of his sentinel duties. The rest...
No witnesses, no crime. It's as simple as that. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, nobody would be able to identify the rogue lumberjack once the stumble across the toppled trunk. There was also one other thing, a changeling face disappearing down the side of a very tall tower.
Gheed couldn't have known about anything that his superiors didn't know about already. Everything else - well, everything else were things that only he knew about.
Schrau smiled easily, "If Gheed should mention anything that I may or may not have done, then I'm just going to have to remind him who is better at making the guirty pay for what they thought they could get away with."
"Well, good luck with that." Castan shuffled some papers on his desk before adding, "Really."
The last word sounded extremely genuine.

Part 7 - One More Time

Schrau eyed Heshen across the courtroom as Ginger once again took the stand, knowing well enough that he would be willing to take his building tension out on anyone that came to hand. He was a very busy vulpin these days, with this case and another and another two all running on different planets at different times. He had to finish this cross-examination as quickly as possible so he could hop onto the next ship to Welstar to prosecute another trial, and then he had to make a round trip to Raji and Sosel and back to Wysoom again. He couldn't remember the last time he had slept.
Heshen would be a good target. Schrau smiled at the kanku and wondered two things: What Gheed actually had on him, and whether he could use it for his own porpoises instead.
Porpoises? Schrau inwardly winced. He needed sleep. Scalding coffee and heavily-sprinkled salmon doughnuts weren't a good long-term substitute. What he really wanted was to shuck off his prosecutor's jacket and slip on a crumpled mass of green leather and spend the next three days pounding cobbles and taking down the cutpurse population of Sauronan down a significant notch.
Cayne coughed in defendant's box and Schrau glared at him for too long. Cayne would be another good target to vent on.
The bailiff swore Ginger in again, and Castan looked over at the defending attorney. "Cadnos, would you like to begin your examination?"
"What I would rike..." Schrau smoothly said, " a mug of Rajian coffee the size of a smarr chird's skurr."
The catfolk was perched in the witness stand, absently twiddling a feather in her hair as if she had forgotten where she was. The vulpin grinned. This would be a perfect target of opportunity. Time to make it count.

Schrau took a moment to stare down into the mug of thick black Rajian espresso that was the size of a small child's skull. It was very much like a tar pit in the sense that one could conceivably fall into the viscous liquid and suffocate. Normally, the stuff was only served in cups the size of small thimbles, and now Schrau had a whole giant mug of the stuff. A mug so large that it would naturally kill anyone who didn't share a sentinel's tolerance for caffeine.
He took a sip. Sweet, but far too hot at this time. Setting the heavy mug down, Schrau grinned at Ginger and cleared his throat. "Ret's get straight into this. So, Ginger, could you recount for the court the time when you were instructed to prepare the white tigers for the private showing?"
Still twiddling the feathers in the clip on her head with the fingers on one hand, and clutching her tail which wriggled like an aggressive snake in the other, the cat handler began to speak. "Okay."
And that was it. There was an uncomfortable silence in the courtroom for almost half a minute; a single cough and what might have possibly been a cicada, or possibly the rats in the wallspace, smashing against the silence like wave breakers.
The sentinel sighed, took another sip of his coffee, and tried again. "Ginger, recount the time when you were instructed to prepare the white tigers for the private showing for the court."
"'kay." Ginger cheerfully announced, "Well, it was earlierrr that day, Wysoom time, an' we werrre packing up the Welstarrr show and getting' everrrything on the carts when Berrrt comes up to me and asks if I can shove the tigerrrs onto the carrravan forrr a prrrivate showing."
"Bert didn't terr you the name of who had requested the showing?" Schrau asked, clutching the mug in both paws.
"Nuh-uh." Ginger shook her head. "All he said was that it was a well-paying customerrr."
"So peopre pay for the privirege?" Schrau asked.
"Uh, not norrrmally, no. Generrrally if you'rrre a good enough frrriend of the show like Gheed is you-"
"Objection!" Heshen snapped, and Schrau grinned into his mug.
"You'll have plenty of time to object during your cross-examination, mister Heshen." Castan sighed.
The kanku scowled, "Yes, your honour, but I object to the witness naming a person who has nothing to do with the trial."
"If I may?" Schrau interjected, "Ginger, you said that you had no idea as to who requested the showing, did you have any suspicions as to his identity?"
"Well, yeah." Ginger replied, "It was one of Gheed's boys that brrrought the sack of gold to Gerrrharrrdt." Then, almost as if she realised what she had said, she added; "But it's not as if the guy said that the money was forrr the showing."
"But you knew that the crient in question was paying Gerhardt and Bert for the showing?" Another sip, this was good coffee.
"Well, yeah." She repeated. "Berrrt said as much at the time."
Heshen sighed, his beak whistling. "Cadnos, I fail to see the relevance of this."
"Nor do I," Castan intoned. "get to the point. You're not just wasting the court's time, but also your own."
Schrau grinned. "I don't rike coincidences. I arso know that this court doesn't rike coincidences. The facts are simpre: First, the crew of the magic show are tasked with transporting a bunch of wird animars for a request that isn't unusuar but is normarry a free service. The crew is then informed that the crient is paying for the showing, and this is before, as the witness put it, one of Gheed's men then paid one of the founders of the show with, I quote: A sack of gord. So, I put it to you that it was Dietrich Gheed that requested the showing and none other."
Castan nodded, "It's a stretch, but it still fails to prove anything regarding the murder of Viktor Charon."
The sentinel eyed his coffee, catching his reflection in the ripples of dark espresso. It was a minor victory, sure. He now had tenuous proof that Gheed had arranged the private showing, and thus the witness for the crime. He could place Gheed at the scene. He needed something else.
Whether it was the lack of sleep, or the caffeine in his veins, Schrau had an idea. Ever since he had heard of the depths that Gheed would stoop to in order to keep everyone involved in this case from speaking as they normally would, Schrau had decided to match him. All it took was a little climb. It's simply amazing what you could find out about someone by just looking.
"Ginger, did you know that Viktor Charon went backstage to make a drop of nip?"
Ginger's feathers twitched almost as if they were a part of her. The catfolk opened her mouth, closed it, then opened it again. No words escaped the open mouth.
"Objection..." Heshen sighed. "Why would Ginger possibly need to know that?"
"Despite his arregies, Charon braved a show and a backstage of cats just to enter that smarr room for a reason." Schrau explained. "Arso, despite his arregies, Charon sord nip to catfolk for a profit. Of course, he never actuarry met them in person, just had a bunch of distributors and middremen rike Santos. Now, Santos' craim notwithstanding-" Schrau mentally inserted a sardonic thank-you to Castan and Heshen after that. "-Charon was trespassing backstage. He was where he was not supposed to be." Schrau glanced at Ginger. "One would think that if someone caught a trespasser backstage, they would terr them where to go rather than ret them just go wherever they prease."
Now the coffee had cooled down enough so that he could take larger gulps of it, and gulp he did. Settling the mug down, but not taking a hand off it, Schrau continued. "Maybe Charon exprained himserf. Maybe Ginger actuarry knew what he was doing backstage. In fact, Ginger does know who Viktor Charon is, if onry by reputation."
"Is that true?" Castan asked.
Schrau produced a folder with his free hand, a criminal record. "Ginger has a previous conviction, amongst others, for possession of nip two years ago. The nip matched the same mix as that which Viktor Charon serrs and no other."
Castan's eyes narrowed. "Gerhardt and Bert employed a convicted niphead to work for them?"
Schrau shrugged, "Eh, I wouldn't go pointing fingers if I were them." He stooped down and pulled up a thick string-bound file and dumped it on the bench before him. "Gerhardt's rove of hashish is werr-known to the Brack Guard."
Truth was, it was well-known to the universe at large. In one memorable performance, Gerhardt appeared on stage completely out of his skull, almost goading one of the lions into attacking him. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why the Gerhardt and Bert show achieved its peculiar fame across the six worlds.
"Ah. I see." Castan dourly noted. "Your point?"
"My point is that-" He paused for a moment, actually trying to remember what his point was. The coffee must have torn his attention span to shreds. "Oh yeah. My point is that Ginger knew about the drop of nip that Charon was making, though not probabry expecting the big cheese himserf to make the drop. Having inspected the room where the drop was sipposed to be made, and having discovered the tea caddy that Santos had described, I can onry assume that whoever was supposed to receive the nip knew of its rocation and in which caddy it would be hidden in." Schrau glared levelly at the catfolk. "I can name two nipheads in the theatre at the time. One was Dietrich Gheed, who was viewing the show from a private box..."
"...And the other being the witness." Heshen completed the defence's summary.
"I had assumed that Gheed was receiving the drop, however I can't herp but wonder this... Ginger, was that kiro of nip for you?"
Though the question was directed at the catfolk, Schrau's eyes were firmly fixed on the kanku across the room. Schrau could tell that something bothered Heshen, and he was actually fast in figuring it out. Heshen's beak opened to raise an objection-
-but Ginger was faster in replying. "Yeah..." She sighed. "The key was forrr me."
"Obj-Dammit!" Heshen yelled, slamming his hands down onto the bench in front of him. Schrau grinned smugly, lifted his mug in a toast to his opponent, and downed the lot in one gulp.
Castan looked confused. "Care to explain that outburst, Heshen?"
The kanku was doubled up over the bench, his talons dragging long trenches in the woodwork. His eyes were closed, strained. "Objection, your honour..." Heshen whispered. "The defence is leading the witness."
"Quite the contrary." Schrau said. "I'm just proving that the witness had no idea with regards to the nip drop whatsoever."
"And how are you doing that?" Castan asked. "Can someone get Heshen a glass of water?"
"And a straw." The kanku hissed.
Schrau stooped down and produced a tea caddy that was only a little larger than the mug Schrau had just emptied. "Nip is not that dense a drug. Even compressed into a brick, nip remains pretty weightress." He bent down again and dumped a large block, about the size of two cinderblocks and wrapped tightly in brown paper on the bench next to the tea caddy. "This is one kirogram of nip, borrowed from the sentiner evidence room. Creared with arr proper permission, of course." Schrau added with raised eyebrows. "As you can see, the amount of nip that Ginger craimed to be receiving could not have been conceared inside the caddy, which has a removabre inside that's somewhat smarrer than the outside." To demonstrate this, Schrau opened the battered caddy and removed the inside, placing both next to each other. The inside stood about an inch shorter than the container. "In fact, a key of nip is hard to concear on oneserf. When we inspected the body of Viktor Charon we found this on his person..." Schrau retrieved a small brown-paper wrap and placed it on the bench before him. "A 'drag' of nip, the paper it's wrapped in actuarry weighing more than the drug itserf." The vulpin grinned to himself. "Damn, I'm good."
"So what you're saying is that Ginger was lying about receiving the drop from Charon?" Castan asked.
"No, what I'm saying is that, of the two known nipheads in the theatre at that time, Ginger was not the one who was supposed to receive the drop."
"So you're saying that Gheed was the one who would be receiving the drop?"
"Get him on the stand, and we'rr ask him."
Heshen waved a finger at Schrau. "Or we could ask the witness."
Schrau shook his head. "You can try. Ginger?"
The catfolk was now dry-swallowing, blinking rapidly, breathing shallowly. "Um... What I mean to say is... Uh... I can't."
"Can't or won't?" Heshen demanded.
"Both." Schrau replied. "May we approach the bench, your honour?"
Heshen glared suspiciously at Schrau. "What do you know?"
"Whatever it is," Castan sighed, "I'm sure he can announce it to the court."
"To be honest, sir, I cannot." Schrau replied. "It's a matter of confidentiarity. Either we approach, or you dismiss the pubric garrery."
"Very well. Approach."
Heshen hobbled from around the prosecution's bench, adjusting his robes and breathing raggedly. Schrau on the other hand had the equivalent of seventeen espressos inside him and the upper hand. He did not so much as walk over as float.
"So what is it, Cadnos?" Castan whispered to the vulpin as he climbed atop a box placed at the judge's chair just so he could see over the stand.
"I'm sure the three of you are aware of the, ahem, bargaining techniques that Gheed is fond of using in order to force peopre into cooperation..." Schrau let the last word hang in the air, almost daring Heshen or Castan to try and correct him. "As it happens, I berieve that Gheed has some simirar arrangement with our witness."
"So you're saying the witness has been compromised?" Heshen queried. "In that case, I would request that her testimony be brought into question and dis-"
"As it happens, I found out Ginger's dark secret by just checking her record. I remind you that she has a few drug offences to her name?"
"Yes, you did mention that."
"Werr, there were a few other... offences on her record. Arr on fire."
Heshen's eyes narrowed. "What offences."
"Misdemeanours. Nothing actuarry serious, a fine a few hundred gord each time."
Castan shrugged. "So? Why would she wish to keep that a secret?"
"Because, unrike her drug offences, these other offences would mean an end to her career with the magic show." Schrau's grin threatened to split his head in half, and placed the folder containing Ginger's criminal record on Castan's desk.
"I fail to see how-" Heshen began as the judge flipped open the file and read the contents.
"Bestiality." The irrdu interrupted plainly.
The kanku's beak fell open. His eyes bulged as he stared incredulously at the judge, then at Ginger, then at Schrau then back once again at the catfolk who now sat on the witness stand with her head in her hands. Schrau let his grin fade somewhat; there was no need for it now.
"Arr in arr, some three hundred and seventeen accounts, ending just as she found employment with the Gerhardt and Bert show, who probabry would not have hired her had they known of her... needs."
"I... I... I..." Heshen babbled, "I had no idea."
"Of course, it is a highry private matter and one that should not be discussed in pubric for her sakes." Schrau sniffed. "In fact, some, uh, 'native' catfolk tribes practice such acts as part of their coming-of-age rituars, though I don't think that Ginger is from one of those tribes. Besides. This is civirization, and it's just not civirized, is it?"
"Well I'll be buggered." Heshen whispered, before suddenly realising what it was that Ginger actually did for a living. "The girl loves her work, eh?"
"Frequentry, I'd wager."
"So the gist of your argument is that you believe that Gheed is aware of this fact and is using it to blackmail Ginger into silence?"
"Werr, arr I know is that of arr the previous times that Gheed has had private viewings of the white tigers and his catfolk acquaintances, Ginger was the onry member of the show's crew to be on hand to, uh, check on the animars." The vulpin's ears drooped a little. "Sometimes I wish I didn't have such a good imagination, and that's a fact your honour."
Castan suddenly became interested in the water clock on his stand. Schrau couldn't exactly blame him, as he would have burned planets to try and get away from where that particular line of thought was heading. "You're almost late for your trial on Welstar, Cadnos. I think we've seen and heard enough for the day. So, your next witness?"
"Werr-" Schrau began before realising that he was talking to Heshen. The kanku nodded.
"I would like to call Cayne Vesto to the stand."
Schrau stifled a sigh, but couldn't help from letting his shoulders droop.
"Do you have any objections, Cadnos?" Castan asked.
Schrau shook his head. "None, your honour."
"Very well. This court is adjourned until tomorrow morning." Castan announced, banging his gavel. "I believe you have a ship to catch, Cadnos?"
"Yes, your honour." Schrau nodded at Castan then at Heshen. "See you in Suthnas rater, Arso."
As Schrau collected his evidence and made his way out of the courtroom, he knew he would have to make a trip back to the sentinel guildhall; not just to drop off the key-and-a-drag of nip that he carried on his person, but to get a few eyes on a few people. Cayne in particular.
All he knew was that Cayne was never going to make it to court the next day.

Part 8 - Truth Will Out

Schrau dumped a fairly large stack of files on his desk and sighed to himself. The last few hours had been hectic enough with the four trials he was representing in. Just as well that two guilty verdicts on Raji and Sosel had halved his workload.
That still left him with the two most important trials on his caseload, and at least he could see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Viktor Charon murder trial. It was, in fact, essentially over.
Cayne Vesto had been murdered in his cell in the courthouse.
A bailiff did it, and he would have gotten away with it too if a sentinel hadn't suddenly appeared in the cell block of the courthouse. It was a hell of a coincidence.
The bailiff was now in a sentinel cell, probably nursing a severe headache and feeling very sorry for himself. Sentinels were now tearing his home apart looking for anything that could explain this sudden and entirely unexpected attack.
Staring at the two closed trial files, Schrau decided that he would file them away himself later rather than whip a junior officer into doing so. He had to deal with the interrogation of the bailiff, had to get ready for court, and maybe do enough to finally get what he wanted. But first...
Schrau quickly left the guildhall, winding through a stream of officers like a salmon heading upstream. He stepped out into the street, turned left, then ducked into an alley. "Hey, Calla."
A female vulpin, a few years older than Schrau, sat on a few empty donut crates rolling herself a cigarette. She was dressed in loose rags that could easily be removed to reveal the much neater street clothes she wore beneath. "Hey Schrau."
"So, what have you got for me?"
Tucking the cigarette in the corner of her mouth, Calla grinned and struck a match. "Everything. Caught up with the chicken not long after he left the court yesterday. Had a nice long chat with Gheed in the fur."
"Perfect." Schrau whispered. "Hear anything good?"
Calla's ears twitched. "You're asking the best pair of ears in the business that? I got what Gheed's got on Heshen. Castan, too."
"Ooh, a nice bonus."
Flicking some ash into an upturned crate, Calla threw her head back and exhaled. "Gonna cost extra."
"Wouldn't have it any other way." Schrau produced a heavy purse from his jacket. "Never guessed that Gheed would discuss the right honourable judge Castan in his conversation, so here's what I owe you for what's on Heshen, plus ten percent extra."
Calla produced a folder from her rags just after the purse disappeared into them. "Fair enough. Here's what I got on Heshen. If you want to know about Castan's dirty little secret-"
Schrau received the folder. "I'll have the money for you when I get out of court today."
"No problem." Calla hopped off the stack of crates and set out for the mouth of the alley. "It's worth the wait, hon'. I promise."

The empty air before Heshen became oak flooring in one painful moment as he fell over, dropping files that slid away from him on the smooth floor.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't see you there." Schrau muttered from an alcove, his leg still stuck out as it was when he tripped the harried kanku.
"Uh, Cadnos, what's the meaning of this?" Heshen muttered, dragging the files toward himself and gathering them up before pulling himself up to his feet.
"Oh, I just want to talk." Schrau calmly said, glancing back down the corridor. "About the triar today."
"The trial? It's all but over, Cadnos." Heshen sighed. "Still, don't get me wrong when I say this isn't how I would have liked for it to turn out."
"Yeah, me too. Would've been better for Vesto to be executed by the state."
"So you caught the bailiff who did the act?" Heshen asked.
"Me? No, just an officer who happened to be in the right prace at the time."
Heshen's eyes softened slightly in a kanku expression of cynicism. "I'm sure. Anyway, as I was saying there really is no trial. At best, the proceedings today will be a mopping-up exercise."
Schrau shook his head and grinned. "Oh no. No it won't be. Your witness cannot make it to the stand due to his death, and now you must carr another."
Heshen snapped out a sharp laugh. "Why? The trial is over! The suspect is dead and-"
"-a verdict can stirr be made on him, we can stirr hord a triar in his absence, and we can stirr get to the truth." Schrau grinned. "You are going to carr Dietrich Gheed to the stand."
Now the kanku was scowling. "You cannot ask me to call to the stand a person whose involvement in the case has yet to be proven."
"I think yesterday's triar proved that he is invorved, and you are going to say as much in your summary today, just before you carr him to the stand."
"Schrau..." Heshen sighed, "You can't threaten me."
Now the vulpin's grin was predatory. "Yes I can."
"What do you mean?"
Schrau tucked his hands into his pockets. "We armost had you, Heshen. During the Arthur Termaine triar. You were just about to purr another of your miracre witnesses out of your magic hat and we were ready for it."
"I-" Heshen glanced furtively to the side. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"No, you don't. Werr, you do know about the witness, but you didn't know that we were on to you. You would have gone straight ahead with presenting that witness and we would have had you.
"But the witness vanished." Schrau added, "Now, we thought you had finarry got wise to the fact that you were far too perfect, we thought you had cancerred the witness yourserf; but you didn't. Gheed did. And that's what he had on you."
"If you're right, and Gheed is blackmailing me, if I call him to the stand he will release that information and ruin me. I could lose everything."
"And if I'm right, and you don't carr him to the stand, then that piece of information wirr stirr get out and you wirr stirr be ruined." Schrau grinned cheerfully.
"Castan would never stand for this."
"Oh, I'm sure that Castan has his own interests to protect." Schrau said, "In this game, everyone does."
"Even you?"
"Eh, maybe. But I'm better than the rest of you."
"You know, Gheed mentioned something about an incident on Nimbus..."
"Just carr him, Heshen." Schrau sighed, finally exasperated. "You're going to regret it if you don't, but if you do then maybe we can save you..."

Perched on his seat, Schrau Cadnos watched with a mild interest as Also Heshen stood up and cleared his throat.
"Your honour, I wish I could say that the circumstances we find ourselves in are unusual and unexpected. Unfortunately, we once again find the security of our cell block lacking and we find ourselves once again with a suspect dead prior to his sentence."
"Yeah, they could at least wait until we do the job ourselves..." Schrau muttered to himself, low enough so that the courtroom didn't have to ignore him.
"I'm sure that many members of the public gallery that this case is seemingly over just as we were getting to the interesting stuff..." Heshen said with a light-hearted chuckle that quickly spread through the gallery. "Unfortunately, these things happen. However, I feel that we would be doing the justice system a disservice by failing to bring judgement upon the late Cayne Vesto, and I must therefore request that once all the evidence has been presented, and once all the witnesses have been heard that judgement be carried." The kanku finished with a slight bow of the head.
"Very well," Castan announced, reaching for his gavel. "As the prosecution has just had its current witness murdered, I must therefore ask if the prosecution has any further witness they would like to call?"
Heshen's eyes closed briefly, and when he opened them he seemed like an entirely new person. "The prosecution does not have any further witnesses, your honour. The prosecution rests its case for the time being."
Schrau rose to his feet and glowered at Heshen, he opened his mouth to yell at him, call him a bastard and liar and a crook. Before he could do any of those things, Heshen raised a hand. "However, I would like to request that if the defence have any suitable witnesses they would wish to call that their request be heard."
Castan eyed the suddenly placated vulpin, who was just realising that Heshen was merely covering his own feathered ass. "Well?"
"Your honour, I would rike to carr Dietrich Gheed to the stand."
"Yesterday, the defence presented to possibility that Dietrich Gheed is somehow involved in this trial." Heshen blandly announced. "While both the prosecution and the magistrate dismiss this as a ridiculous notion, it would satisfy matters if mister Gheed was called to the stand to face and denounce the defence's accusations."
Schrau's mouth parted in a smile. "I accept the prosecution's view on the case, your honour."
"On what charges?" Castan asked.
"I would rike to charge Dietrich Gheed for arranging the murder."
"That is a fairly hefty accusation, Cadnos. I trust you can prove this?"
"Your honour, I have the evidence I need to do so." Schrau announced to muted gasps from the public gallery.
The irrdu's eyebrows raised in surprise. "That is most fortunate. I suppose that it's too much to ask if you have the evidence prepared so that we may subpoena Gheed right now?"
The sentinel shook his head. "No, I'm afraid it wirr take a day at the most to assembre."
"That is a shame." Castan bitterly replied. "Though, if you claim you have evidence supporting your accusation, I suppose that I have no other choice but to call Dietrich Gheed to the stand."
"I will issue the summons myself, your honour." Heshen offered.
"Very well, court adjourned..."

"Hey, hon'."
Schrau stopped dead in his tracks and turned towards the voice. "Oh, hey there prosecutor."
Prosecutor Calla smiled and adjusted her suit. The vulpin wore a public prosecutor's badge on her lapel and a shark-like grin. "I was just thinking about you. Have you got what I want?"
"No problem." Schrau replied. "In fact, I took the liberty of putting the payment in your desk on my way in."
Calla winked and punched Schrau lightly on the shoulder. "I know you did, kiddo. I took the liberty of putting what you want in your desk drawer in the guild after you left."
"Thanks. So, care to give me a hint as to what it is?"
"Oh, the usual stuff. I'm not sure if I can appear before Castan in court with a straight face today." The elder prosecutor leered.
"Hey, just do what we do normally. Sit there with a self-satisfied grin on your face and everyone will just think you're being a typical asshole vulpin."
Calla nodded and turned to walk away, "Hey, that's what I usually do. I taught you that trick."
"Bullshit, I knew it before I started prosecuting. Good luck!"
Calla stopped dead in her tracks, turned on heel, and glowered. "I don't need good luck. I'm a vulpin."

Part 9 - Veritas Vos Liberabit

And so it was that Dietrich Gheed was shown to the witness stand. The public gallery was crowded to the rafters, the front few rows threatening to spill over onto the courtroom. Heshen was standing rigidly at the prosecution's bench, Castan perched behind his stand, and it wasn't long before the bailiffs escorted in the catfolk.
Dietrich Gheed took his place behind the witness stand, unnecessarily straightened is immaculate tie, and grinned at Heshen. Gheed was a powerfully-built person, his form accented by the thick white suit with its broad shoulders. Almost everything he wore was white except for the ebony tie and glossy black leather gloves he wore at all time. His white fur gleamed in the gloom of the courtroom, and Gheed had a strange unearthly aura around him that simply shone.
Everything was seemingly prepared, except for one thing:
No defence attorney.
Castan glanced at Heshen, who just shrugged from his position behind the bench, then the judge saw fit to announce; "Well, it appears that the council for the defence is somewhat tardy today."
"Neverrr mind, eh?" Gheed cheerfully boomed from the witness stand, "We can wait all day, hmm?"
"If only it were that simp-" Castan began, before the loud crack of the double doors leading into the courtroom being slammed against the walls interrupted him.
"Sorry I'm rate..." A vulpin voice sneered, while not sounding sorry at all. Schrau strode into the room carrying a crumpled heap of green leather across his left shoulder and a pair of swords in his right. "If anyone wants to know, I've been swimming."
Castan glowered at the vulpin as he sauntered to his position behind the defence's bench and loudly slapped what now appeared to be his regular sentinel's jacket on the bench before him.
"Very well, let's begin." Castan said over the sound of Schrau clattering the swords onto the chair next to him.
The vulpin had removed his badge and held it in his hand before making an act of realising that everyone was looking at him. "Oh, right... Uh, wirr the witness prease state his name and occupation?"
"Well," The catfolk smoothly said, "my name is Dietrrrich Gheed, and I suppose you could say that I'm a businessman..."
"Information brokering?" Schrau suggested, carefully placing his badge down on the desk with a thunderstick-snap.
"Hah, yes." Gheed laughed, "I suppose that is my field."
Schrau smiled with his eyes as he unbuckled his belt, "Okay then, could you describe to the court your actions in the Eschvart Memoriar Theatre on the second of Diapnoe?"
"My actions?" Gheed asked.
"Yeah, what you did and stuff. It's common practice for a witness in a courtroom." The vulpin leered as he removed the multi-folded lace cravat around his neck and began unfastening the buttons of his jacket, rubbing the black mark on his neck as it was revealed when the collar opened up.
"Before he does," Castan interrupted, "might I be as bold as to enquire as to what the bloody hell you are doing?"
"Sent business." Schrau replied, as he removed his coat. "Prease continue, mister Gheed."
"Okay..." Gheed began, managing to sound less and less sure of himself with every letter. "Well, it's all verrry simple. I had purrrchased tickets to view the show - a favourrrite of mine, I must admit..." Gheed chuckled, now aware that vulpin was now very neatly but very noisily folding up the fine leather jacket. He went to continue, but something remarkable caught his eye: The cotton undershirt and britches that the sentinel wore were immaculately pressed, but as Schrau set the prosecutor's jacket down and straightened up the appeared as if they had been wrinkled for weeks.
"I, uh, I had arrrrrranged a prrrivate viewing of the white tigerrrs afterrr the show..." Gheed paused as Schrau gripped the collar of his sentinel's jacket and shook it free with a very loud snap. Various objects rattled in the pockets of the jacket.
"Unforrrtunately, the showing was cancelled with the tragic death of Viktorrr Charrron..."
The leather belt around Schrau's waist snapped as he buckled it tightly and the swords rattled as he slung them across his shoulders and tied them securely. "Nothing more?"
"Well, I rrreturrrned to my home of courrrse..." Gheed chuckled. "I am not some sort of vagrrrant."
Schrau had finished tying a single leather bracer onto his left forearm and nodded in agreement. "Very werr. The prosecution may cross-examine the witness if he should so wish." The vulpin then frantically shook out his head and tail, once miraculously-pristine fur scattering out into a tangled mess.
"Um... The prosecution has no complaints regarding the witness testimony..." Heshen managed.
Schrau nodded and somehow seemed to relax. He gently pried the badge from the bench before him and palmed it.
"The defence rests its case, your honour."
Castan seemed surprised, but Gheed was far more incredulous. "So that's it? You drrrag me down here forrr that paltrrry testimony and you-"
"That's not why I dragged you down here." Schrau interrupted, his voice suddenly becoming cold.
"Cadnos, yesterday you claimed that you had evidence that the witness was involved in arranging the murder of Viktor Charon." Castan announced. "Yet you have not presented any of this evidence. Would you care to explain yourself?"
Schrau flipped his badge up into the air, caught it, then hooked it to his breast before giving it a quick polish with his sleeve. "Check the court record. Not once did I accuse the witness of arranging the murder of Viktor Charon yesterday." Schrau then turned to Gheed, took a brief moment to straighten his badge, and then said; "Dietrich Gheed, I am arresting you for arranging the murder of Cayne Vesto."
He read the catfolk his rights, each word drowned out by the sudden uproar from the public gallery and of Castan's gavel pounding out demands for order. Eventually, when the noise died down, the only sounds that echoed throughout the courtroom were the sounds of Gheed's massive leather clad paws hammering out an applause and his laughter.
"Capital! Oh, Cadnos, that is a capital attempt!" The laughter between his words finally petered out, but the clapping continued on for a few moments more. "That... That was most amusing, but if you'll excuse me, I have business to attend to."
Gheed started to stand up, but suddenly became aware that the two bailiffs that had escorted him to the stand still stood to attention by his sides, blocking his egress. He also became aware of the fact that these were not the gentle sort that shuffled around behind the scenes, but rather the sort that would drag convicts away kicking and screaming - The prisoner doing all the screaming and the bailiffs doing the kicking.
Schrau was leaning on the bench before him, grinning. "To reiterate: Gheed, you're under arrest. For arranging a murder. Of Cayne Vesto."
"Oh now, honestly?" Gheed snorted. "You honestly believe you can make this stick?"
"Oh, more than that. I have evidence."
"Which you were supposed to present, Cadnos." Castan informed him, "Yet you have not."
Schrau spread his arms, "What is this, a courtroom? He's not on triar here, therefore I do not need to present evidence untir that time."
"He's got a point." Heshen blandly announced from his relatively safe position across the courtroom. "This is the trial for Cayne Vesto, not Dietrich Gheed."
"Yes!" Gheed rallied, "Yes, this is not my trrrial, so if you'll excuse me-"
"Sit. Down." Schrau snapped. "You are under arrest. I don't remember reading anything about how I couldn't arrest someone in a courtroom."
"Again, he has a point." Heshen confirmed.
"Of course, if you would rike to pass judgement on Cayne Vesto now, your honour, then it would simprify matters."
Castan opened his mouth, eyed his gavel, then said, "Well, this is a highly unusual event..."
"I agree, your honour." Schrau nodded.
"So you're requesting that I find your client guilty?"
The sentinel crossed his arms, familiar leather creaking across his chest. "No, just pass your judgement on him."
Heshen gripped his gavel by the handle and nodded in agreement, "Well, I suppose since you've made this request-"
All eyes were now on Heshen, who stood leaning against the bench.
"Ah, good man." Gheed added.
"Your honour, I object to passing judgement on Cayne Vesto." The kanku snapped.
"And why do you object?" Castan demanded to know.
Schrau waved a dismissive finger at the judge, "Because he knows that if Gheed did arrange Vesto's death, then that would be an obstruction of justice."
"What!?" Gheed hissed.
"Let's look at the facts, shall we?" Heshen said. "Cayne Vesto was due to give his testimony during the session yesterday. His testimony could have either cemented his guilt, or throw further doubt on his actual responsibility in the crime. However, due to the actions of a certain individual, Vesto was denied his opportunity to present his testimony and was denied a fair trial!" The kanku paused for breath, "Your honour, if the defence can somehow prove that the wit- Dietrich Gheed was somehow responsible for the death of Cayne Vesto, it is therefore proven that Dietrich Gheed had tampered with the judicial system and was directly responsible for denying Vesto his fair process!"
"Hear, hear." Schrau chimed in.
"Bah! This is prrreposterrrous!" Gheed snapped. "I was not rrresponsible for that vulpin's death! I hearrrd that one of yourrr own bailiffs did him in!"
"Yes," Schrau nodded. "Marcus Jaynus. Human, forty-three years ord. He was the bairiff caught escaping Vesto's cerr with the murder weapon in his hands."
"Exactly!" Gheed agreed.
Schrau shook his head, "But, oh, you know what? You paid him to murder Vesto, you paid him to escape, but you didn't pay him enough to keep quiet."
Gheed clapped his heavy paws together, "Nice trrry, Cadnos. He made that claim underrr durrress."
"And the smarr sack of gord in his home?" Schrau asked.
"And that handwritten note from you detairing the target and how you wanted him disposed of?"
"I-" Gheed hesitated, "I don't know what you'rrre talking about."
Schrau nodded. "I bet you don't. Stirr, we have prenty of time to discuss what you do know during your interrogation and triar."
"Oh, you arrre going to rrregrrret this, Cadnos." Gheed grinned. "You arrre going to live to rrregrrret this."
"And I suppose you're going to make me rrregrrret this?" Schrau asked.
"Angelo Horrras was a good frrriend of mine..." Gheed warned.
"Yeah. Death seems to happen to good friends of yours." Schrau snarled. "Is that arr you've got on me, or are you actuarry going to threaten me with something my superiors don't know about?"
Castan cleared his throat in a way that Schrau was familiar with. He was trying to dismiss the entire situation out of hand, it was something Gilgal Radisgad had picked up from the irrdu, and one Schrau knew how to deal with. "Cadnos, I'd like-"
"Oh, I know what you rike, sir." Schrau quietly said directly at the judge, knowing well enough how lousy the acoustics in the courtroom were. "I do know what you rike. Never figured you as that type, sir."
The magistrate suddenly appeared flustered, "Are you trying-"
"Try 'succeeding', sir." The vulpin smirked. "So, Dietrich Gheed, do you refute the charges brought against you?"
"Yes, of courrrse I do." The catfolk snapped.
"And do you deny the evidence against you?" Schrau asked.
"You manipulative bastarrrd! Of courrrse I do!"
Schrau crossed his arms. "Good. The prosecutor is going to have fun with you. Take him away, boys."

The courtroom stood mostly empty. After Gheed was dragged out of the courtroom in shackles, Castan ordered that the public gallery be cleared. Now, only Castan, Heshen, and Schrau remained in the room.
Castan pinched the bridge of his nose and looked pensive. "That evidence you promised, does it exist?"
Schrau nodded. "Of course."
"Gheed did arrange the murder of Cayne Vesto?"
"That is without a doubt."
Castan sighed, "Well, without a doubt this is by far the most unusual trial I have ever presided over."
The vulpin grinned, "I wish I could say the same from my point of view."
"Despite everything, you've achieved a minor miracle." Castan shook his head. "And despite everything, it seems that I am unable to reach a verdict all due to the prosecution's efforts to stall this trial."
"So it seems."
"Heshen, is there any reason why you appeared to do the defence's job for him?"
Heshen idly shrugged, "It seemed like the best thing to do at the time."
"How long do you suppose Gheed's trial will last?" Castan asked of Schrau.
"It shouldn't be as... invorved as this. Decisive evidence, the assassin wirring to testify. It shouldn't take that rong."
"Of course, since the outcome of that trial has an impact, albeit however slight, on this trial, then I feel that we will be unable to satisfactorily reach a verdict until that time." Heshen pointed out.
"In a sense, I suppose I should be gratefur that this is a better resurt than I was expecting." Schrau added whimsically.
"Cadnos, your behaviour through this trial has been almost reprehensible." Castan warned Schrau. "In fact, many would consider your actions unethical."
"None of 'em vurpins, though." Schrau sniggered. "Your honour, the truth is that I did what was necessary to have who I thought was responsibre arrested for a crime he did commit, and one that could be proven of committing. Now, you on the other hand arrowed yourserf to be intimidated into forcing this case away from where it should be headed." He took a deep breath, "Your honour, I would say that your actions should be considered unethicar, and I am shocked an apparred with how you treated this case."
Castan scowled. "I'm not sure I like your tone."
"I'm not sure you should. I'm disappointed, sir. I expected more from you."
"Hmph." Castan muttered, "So I suppose you'll be lodging that complaint then..."
"To be honest, sir..." Schrau sighed, "I'm tired. Rearry tired. This triar has been deeper than you could ever imagine, and just keeping everything together has worn me down. So, your honour, I think I wirr take my reave, and try an put this behind me. Untir you're ready to make your ruring, of course." He added.
"I suppose I can't help but agree with you." Castan announced, before moving to stand up before noticing that both attorneys were still looking at him. "What?"
"Court is still in session." Heshen pointed out.
"Oh yes, of course..." Castan embarrassedly said before sitting back down. "Well then, as far as the trial of Cayne Vesto is concerned, court is adjourned until further notice." The irrdu announced, punctuating the statement with a clap of his gavel.