Continued from previous post:
Henri clarified. “Mr. Rowe does not have YOUR goat, Dr. Brian. He has HIS goat. He had the papers.” He paused. “But why, dear friend of crazy youthful days, is there such interest in the goat? I am not understanding. This goat is not your friend.”
Just then, the bailiff began performing some scurrying activity off to the right, hovering about the entrance to the judge’s chamber. It was time for this insipid show to continue. “Henri, I must let you go. Can we meet for dinner to further discuss this situation.”
“Dinner? Will they let you out for such?”
I sighed. “Henri, I am no longer IN jail. I was released on my own recognizance, which, quite frankly, came as something of a surprise to me. If my sterling reputation is all it takes to get me out, then why bother with the arrest in the first place? In any case, I can do whatever I want. Except leave the city or approach small children, and who would want to do either? Dinner, Henri?”
“The usual place?”
I slid the phone back to my lawyer, Olivier, who snatched it up and then made a small entry on the expense report he always has open before him. Petty little man, always about the money and who has how much of it. But I needed him for now.
We dutifully stood, as the squat and moody judge woman entered the room and regally made her way to the throne of her tiny kingdom. I’ve never understood this business with the standing as legal officials arrive. It reeks of superficiality. If we really had any respect for her interpretation and application of law, we wouldn’t be doing things that would have us presented to her in the first place.
After a few moments of Her Highness perusing all corners of the room to ensure that even babies and the senile infirm where basking in her glory, she waved a dismissive hand and took her seat. Whilst the room did likewise, she then proceeded to spend an inordinate amount of time shifting around royal implements lying about her desk. Finally satisfied, she cleared her throat.
“Before we continue, I would like to address our timeline for the completion of this trial. While I understand that the popular press is making a tremendous amount of money on these proceedings due to the salacious nature of the charges…”
(She glanced at the long row of windows on the left side of the room, where photographers were pressed against the glass, snapping photos of her irritated face which they could then use for belittlement purposes on the evening newscast.)
“…We must also keep in mind that expediency is a just and wonderful thing. That being the case, and along with the fact that the cheese festival in Rocamadour is set to begin in two days, I trust that we can have both a verdict and a sentence by tomorrow afternoon. Ring the bell, bailiff person, and let’s get started.”
What? How could this be? The prosecution was still in the midst of its long-winded and illogical presentation, showing no signs of slowing or any grasp of the truth. Even if they could manage to cease with their bilious puppet show by the end of the day, how could we possibly present a viable defense in a few short hours tomorrow morning?
I turned to Olivier. “How can she do this? Is this legal in any way?”
He sighed. “It’s the cheese festival, mon ami. These things happen.” Then he made another tick on his spreadsheet. Apparently, I was now being charged by the question and not the hour. He was truly an irritating man of suspect worth.
“But, Olivier, are we READY? Can you do this?”
He sighed again, which was quickly becoming his most loathsome habit, about to surge ahead of “his tie smells like garlic”. He fingered his storyboards once again, and then turned to me. “You must trust me, Dr. Brian. Because trust is all we have. We have not much of anything else. They are very strong with the evidence. It is tres difficult to win when there are photos of your manhood where it does not belong. But I will try.”
“But I didn’t DO anything, the entire situation was completely circumstantial, there were many factors well beyond my control or counsel, and really, how harmful is it that enlightened children in a progressive daycare facility were briefly exposed to the male anatomy?”
He sighed a third time, sending me closer to the edge. “Dr. Brian, we really should not rely on the defense strategies utilized by the Vatican. However, it IS true that the children are the heart of the matter. Let us see what the wee ones say, yes?”
On cue, the Prosecution began calling upon the little terror tykes to take the witness stand.
And of course, each of them looked amazingly cherubic, as if they had just dropped down from the artfully-painted domed ceiling of the courtroom, gracing us with their angelic presence, causing the entire jury to coo and smile. They all had the same story, recounting an innocent day wherein they simply wanted to learn about world peace and play Chutes and Ladders. Then the tranquility was shattered by the sudden appearance of an evil man, accompanied by horned-animals and Crisco. They have cried every night since.
As each of the urchins left the stand, they were presented lollipops from the lead prosecutor, the judge, the bailiff, and Mia Farrow, who always flies places where foreign children are in need.
Olivier leaned over to me and whispered. “You are right, Dr. Brian. We must find the goat immediately.”
Later that evening, I rushed to meet Henri at our favorite restaurant, a tiny venue that serves exquisite mushrooms. He was already there, perched at our usual table and well into the process of wine-swilling. I tried not to let his inebriation irk me, for we really didn’t have time for lectures and hateful accusations. Besides, being a fellow mental physician, listening to disturbed people talk of inane things all day, I can understand the attraction of alcohol.
Upon seeing my distinguished figure marching in his direction, Henri’s face lit up. He bellowed something unintelligible and tried to stand. This resulted in the spillage of a water glass, a basket of breadsticks tumbling to their tiny deaths, and an obvious non-Parisian who clearly did not understand the hierarchy in this establishment, muttering about rudeness to her androgynous table partner.
“It’s okay, Henri,” I said soothingly, as I removed my raincoat and placed it on a nearby chair, making sure one of the sleeves slapped the ignorant patron in the back of the head. “I don’t need you vertical. I just need you to tell me where the goat can be found.”
He looked at me with blood-shot eyes, a speck of dried souffle clinging to his chin. “J’ai dit que-”
I held up my hand. “In English, Henri. I’m too traumatized to translate. The children want my soul.”
His eyes came into focus a bit more. “Perhaps I should have the coffee, then.” He snapped in the general direction of the waiter, and within two seconds there was a steaming demi-tasse of thick liquid expertly placed before him. (This is why we loved the place: quick service, glorious food, and a general lack of idiots. The harridan at the neighboring table must have slipped through during a slight breach of security.)
Henri began adding the first of 12 sugar cubes to his beverage. “As I explained, the goat is now in the possession of Mr. Rowe. He knocked on my door shortly after your arrest, presenting me with official ownership papers and waving a leash.”
“But why, Henri? Why would Mike Rowe own a French goat?”
My companion stirred the cup before him. “This I do not know. It is possible that he explained this to me while retrieving the goat, but I was somewhat distracted by the camera crew.”
“Camera crew? He was FILMING?”
Henri nodded, then downed half the coffee in a startling move. “Yes, I believe he plans to use the footage somehow, although I am not certain. He is in our country, producing another episode. He seems to think the Americans will be titillated by the concept of “dirty French jobs”. I am not certain what this means, but his crew snickered and one of the camera people ran into a wall whilst laughing. Americans are clumsy, are they not?” He downed the rest of the cup and signaled for more.
“Henri, do you know where I can find Mr. Rowe? Was there contact information on his ownership papers? Did he give you a card? Did the goat leave a forwarding address?”
Henri accepted his second cup from the efficient waiter, smiling warmly and possibly flirting. The he turned his attention back to me. “I can do better than that. I know exactly where Michel is.”
My heart leapt. “Please tell me, Henri, it is critical.”
“He is at mon apartement, filming a segment for his TV show.”
I was taken aback. “What possible dirty job could he find THERE?”
Henri smiled. “Have you ever tried to get goat crap off of hardwood floors? Mon dieu, it‘s overwhelming.”
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