Half butcher, half medicine show

"It began with the usual, an offer to buy him a round at Bull Terrier Hall.  Even after this gesture of civility, he couldn't help but deride me.  I drowned my temper as best I could and placated his ego, telling him that yes, this was it.  He had won.  I choked on my pride as I suggested to him what his prize, his going-away present might be.  He was shocked, but intrigued.  Certainly not disappointed.

"At my quarters I poured wine, and into his second glass I spilled a fair dram of strong laudanum— gathered once again from my angel in Herbology— and quite soon he was...no longer inside himself.  I bound his hands and feet with strips of cloth and relieved him of his room key.  From his room I took his papers and his summons, and for good measure helped myself to his wardrobe, which I had always admired.  Finding that he was still dozing upon my return, I took my time preparing my disguise.  I allowed myself to study dear Sebastian and cut my hair to match his.  I compared my face in the mirror to the photograph on his documents and was assured I had achieved a passable likeness.  To be sure I smudged the ink.  Feeling drowsy I prepared a mild tea of coca with lemon.  When I was certain my head was clear and my inferior attributes would be camouflaged from sight, I tucked my own papers inside Sebastian's jacket, and wrote him a note of explanation.  I also left him a knife with which to free himself."

[the defendant's cigarette has burnt out]

"I see I've gotten your attention again."

[the humble transcriptionist admits to being on the edge of her seat]

[the defendant lights another cigarette]

"With that I headed posthaste, by train— the coal-fired line that was running from Newcross to Bromley at that time— and appeared before the draft board at the appointed hour.  The exam was cursory at best, I barely had to remove my overcoat.  They were so desperate for fresh blood that I do believe they would have taken me had they known the truth.  Even more so with my own credentials.  I was attached to Her Majesty's 7th Mechanized Brigade, as a Triage and Pharmacology Attendant, first class.

"When anyone asks me what that means, I tell them I'm half butcher, half medicine show."

[the Inquisitor does not respond]

"I know what your silence means, Inquisitor.  It means that nothing I have told you matters.  It means that you are still going to drum me out, regardless.  It's fine that my words don't matter— they're the ramblings of an admitted fraud, an over-ambitious cheat who stopped at nothing to get ahead.  Disregard my words, it's for the best.

"I won't let you disregard my actions."

[the counsel seeks the defendant's attention]

[the defendant dismisses the counsel]

"How many lives have you saved, Inquisitor?  How many bloody men— bloody boys— have you run to when they cried for you on the battlefield under a hail of shells and the crack of lightening cannons?  When was the last time you touched someone's heart literally, Inquisitor?

[the defendant becomes hostile]

"I did two days ago, in a muddy ditch outside of New Almden, I put my hand in a man's chest and forced his heart to beat until I had squeezed enough life into him for my team to get him back to camp.  And now you have the gall to keep me here because I lied to get in to the service?  How many lives do you think you're wasting by holding me here?  How many will die because the law says I'm unfit to serve?  How much longer can you afford to keep me here because I'm a woman?

"Let Sebastian bear my scarlet letter, and let me get back to treating my soldiers.

[the defendant stands and flicks her cigarette onto the table]

"And if you see him, tell him I won."

Transcript from the Office of the High Tribunal, Redcastle, in the 6th year of Our Majesty, Queen Adria

The End

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