Chief Prosecutor Darvon Rausmaus had just finished reading the UnderWorld constabulary’s report for tomorrow’s court case– assault by phurba* with intent to cleanse–when a sharp knock rattled his office door.
“Come in,” Darvon called out, setting the papers aside.
The door slowly opened and Mervyn, the court clerk, poked his head through the threshold. “Am I interrupting something, Mr. Prosecutor?” he asked timidly, his eyes roaming around the room.
Darvon motioned for the young ghost to come inside. “Not at all, not at all. What is it you need?” he asked, removing his reading glasses and placing them onto the desk in front of him.
Mervyn closed the door behind him and fidgeted nervously with the folder in his hands. “The civil prosecutor just called in sick and one of his cases is scheduled to begin soon. Judge Hovrel sent me to request you step in for him so the case may proceed.”
Darvon stared at the lad, slack-jawed. “How can the civil prosecutor be sick? He’s a ghoul. Ghouls don’t get sick.”
Mervyn’s ghostly face flushed and he looked down at his feet. “I don’t know, Sir,” he mumbled. “He said he was sick.”
No sense shooting the messenger, thought Darvon. “Never mind,” he told the clerk, waving his hand in the air. “He called in sick. Got it. What’s the case you need my help with, then?”
Mervyn looked up from his shoes, visibly relieved. “A Skeletal** went into full scale lament inside the Fiery Forge lounge last month. By the time it was over, the shrieks had chased off all the lounge’s customers and caused significant damage to the glassware. The owner is seeking financial restitution.”
Darvon groaned. Now he knew why the civil prosecutor called in sick. Skeletals as defendants were a prosecutor’s worst nightmare. Whenever a prosecutor won a case against a Skeletal, the Skeletal would pitch a nerve-shattering, ear-splitting fit. Reaching for his stress ball at the end of his desk, Darvon asked, “And I suppose the Skeletal denies shrieking?”
Mervyn shook his head. “No. He doesn’t deny it. But he insists he was fully within his rights to lament. The lounge garnished his cocktail with the wrong swizzle stick.”
Darvon snorted in frustration and squeezed the squishy ball in his hand a few times to calm himself. How stupid could they possibly be? he thought. Every ghost and beast in the UnderWorld knew how particular Skeletals were when it came to their cocktails.
“Why didn’t the bartender just make him a new drink with the right swizzle stick?” Darvon asked, huffing out a disgusted sigh.
Mervyn squirmed uncomfortably in his shoes. “He couldn’t, Sir. The Skeletal ordered a Blue Banshee, and the lounge had run out of blue-colored swizzle sticks. When they gave him a yellow stick instead, the Skeletal started shrieking and moaning. They tried to calm him, even offered to exchange the yellow swizzle with a blue umbrella, but the Skeletal would have none of it.”
Darvon closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Great. How much damage did the lament cause?”
Mervyn flipped open the case file and scanned it before answering, “Almost all of the lounge glasses were completely shattered. They lost a few crystal nut bowls too.” He paused to read a little more. “And several bar tabs were still open when the other patrons stampeded out of the lounge in panic.”
“Total reimbursement requested?” Darvon asked, dropping his hand and opening his eyes to look at the clerk.
Mervyn scanned the file again. “Two hundred phantasmals.”
Darvon whistled. That was definitely not chump change. “What’s Judge Hovrel’s take on this? Surely, he doesn’t want an upset Skeletal in his courtroom.”
Mervyn shook his head. “No, Sir. He doesn’t. He wants you to talk the lounge owners into dropping the charges.”
Darvon frowned. “They’d never agree; not with damages that high. Why doesn’t Hovrel just rule in the defendant’s favor?”
“The Judge likes to dine in the Fiery Forge restaurant. He would prefer to stay in good favor with the owners.”
“Of course, he would,” Darvon grumbled.
“Court convenes in ten minutes, Sir. What should I tell Judge Hovrel?”
Darvon shrugged. “Tell him, the defense has a valid case for immediate dismissal, due to the lounge’s swizzle stick malpractice. If they fail to successfully exploit that defense, I’ll softball the prosecution’s rebuttal. Whatever happens, I advise Hovrel rule in the defendant’s favor and find a new place to dine. That, or deal with a full-scale Skeletal lamentation in his courtroom. I think we both know which outcome Judge Hovrel would prefer.” Mervyn nodded his agreement and slipped silently out the door to report back to the judge.
For another courthouse adventure with Darvon Rausmaus (aka: Mr. Prosecutor) and Judge Hovrel, check out the second book of the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency: The Woebegone Oddity of the UnderWorld.