Cruel and Unusual.

“Ok, Harry, you’re coming with us.”

Wut da hell you talkin bout? Why should I come witchoo?

“Call it community service and maybe you can get some time off your sentence?”

Tink da judge gon’ buy dat?

“Hell no.”

He crosses his arms and pouts at me. “Fine then. It’s come with us, or stay locked in the back of the car.”

Dog-dressed-like-a-pirate there is henceforth known as Scurvy Dog.

Um, sir, I don’t think I can let you take my namecard-

It’s a police investigation, there’s a kidnapping or something, give me the pass and get out of my way.”

Sir I’m the official judge and I think you need a warrant to-

“Oh and there’s a bomb, you need to evacuate!”

Max is putting the finishing touches when I get back. Ya had any troubles takin care of da papers?

“Nothing a little improvisation couldn’t fix. I see you got our assistant all ready.”

Cappah ah kno ah done some downright dirty stuff but dere aint nuffin I coulda done ta deserve-

I kinda tink he’s gawt a point Sly, why does he gotta dress like-

“Because it’s funny.” I crack my knuckles and grin. “Now let’s solve a mystery.”

It takes Harry a minute to get the hang of the oars, but that’s ok. Nobody’s going anywhere fast. They’re shouting fast, and pointing fast, and their scowling velocity is approaching the world record. But they’re not moving anywhere. The center of interest seems to be the boat with the festive balloons all over it, and I’m getting a funny feeling about what’s going to turn out to be inside. But no… it can’t be.

Youze guys is just jealous o’ my ingeniousness! cackles a familiar voice. It is. Dis race is in daprovoibial bag and de only ting whats gonna stop me naow is- Harry?!

Shit, not so loud, fool, don want nobody reconizin me!

What’re you doing dressed up loike Popeye da sailor’s snooty cuzin?!

“He’s bringing the celebrity judge. Hello Shrew.”

But… but… butbutbut… you cain’ be here! I made sure! You’re meant to be-

“Doing what, Shrew? What am I meant to be doing?” Little steel in the voice, might as well have his scared as well as stupid.

He glances down and wrings his hands so frantically that he appears to be trying to knit with the oars. Nuffin.

“Well, I’m here now, so I guess the race can begin. Go!”

Uh, says the dog dressed like a pirate for some reason, but isn’t he, with the balloons, isn’t that cheating?

“Hey, I’m the official official here, cause I have a nifty patch that says ‘official’ on my back.”

I still sex you shoulda worn it on da front.

“Shut up Max. And as the official I say the race can begin. Go!”

The whole race takes about three hours. Two and a half of that is waiting for Shady to get back to the starting line after he got a quarter of the way through a lap and gave up and tried to turn around. “So walk me through the scheme here, Shrew. You concoct this elaborate threeday plot to keep me distracted so that I can’t show up and tell you that your attempt to cheat is the worst idea since unslicable bread? Not seeing where you come out ahead, honestly.”

Screw youz and da hoirse ya rode in on! he manages to pant as he drags himself out of the boat.

“And all for what? To cheat on a race? You’ve really got a fixation with boat races. Must really burn you to have spent all that time on a distraction that wouldn’t have helped even if it worked.”

Hohoho, no. No. He goes to point at me, misses, falls on his back, decides he might as well stay there. You cannot pin dose posters on me, on account of I had nuttin ta do wit em anyway! So there.

Maybe. Course, there’s the fact that I never said anything about posters.”

So Harry gets some company on the way back to the station. “Say, Max, where’d the sailor suit go?”

We burned it. Growls Harry.

“…fair enough.”

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