“Now let me get this straight,” Inspector Mère drawled, as she extracted a pencil and notepad from an inside pocket. “You say you were nowhere near the accused at the time?”
She peered down at the small man, her left ear raising as her left eyebrow lifted in a questioning expression. She pursed her lips and waited.
“Well, no, I didn’t say I wasn’t by him. I said he came up to me when I was working, and then he shoved me down and said I took his Lego piece.” Imploring eyes raised to Mère’s face, innocence emanating from the diminutive body.
“Hmmm,” Mère supplied. She made a note. “So, you were near the accused, yet you did nothing to provoke him?” The question wrote itself across her features yet again.
The accuser paused to consider. “Ye-e-e-es,” he slowly replied.
“Mmm-hmm,” the inspector noted aloud, as her pencil noted her observations on her pad. Scratch, scratch, scratch, it said.
“Thank you for your testimony. You may be dismissed,” she finally instructed, to excuse the fidgeting youth. He stopped kicking his own toes and ran out of the room.
“Next, please,” she announced to the door he had exited through. Another young man came in, adjusting his clothes and face.
“And, what testimony can you provide?” Inspector Mère inquired. On her paper, she wrote Accused, and underlined it. Then she stuck the end of the pencil barely between her lips and studied his face intently.
“I was playing downstairs and saw that he,” the accused paused, to point toward the open door, “That he had messed up my sets again. I came upstairs to talk to him, and he smiled at me and wouldn’t show me what was in his pocket.” He took a deep breath, then continued with, “And he stuck his tongue out at me.”
“I did not!” Piped a voice from the hall.
“Did so!” Retorted the youth in front of her.
“That’s enough,” Mère loudly stated, across their continued volley of accusations. An uncomfortable cease-fire silence fell. She looked at the accused, closely. He seemed to be intently working on a neutral facial expression.
“So, your statement reads that you attempted conversation with your accuser, that he refused to show you evidence, and that he mocked you.” The inspector looked at his face as she read and wrote, ensuring that all information was correct and met his approval.
He considered, then nodded.
“Accuser, please return. It is time for my report and judgment,” Mère called.
The first young man sidled back inside the room, evidently from a waiting place just outside the doorway. He walked forward hopefully, confidently. He stopped and stood near the other youth, just beyond his arm’s reach.
“I have listened to both accounts of the incident, and have made my decision,” Inspector Mère began. “Since descriptions varied, I have no choice but to assume error with each.”
The boys began complaining immediately; but she held up a hand, and a stern face. The noise eventually quieted; mutinous expressions waited for her to continue.
“Eric,” Mère addressed the accuser, “You were innocently working, then were physically assaulted by the accused.” She studied young Eric, who appeared slightly confused. “You were not doing anything, and Tom pushed you,” she translated, tapping the pencil against the open notepad. Eric’s face cleared and he nodded. Tom’s face clouded.
“Tom,” Mère turned to the accused, “You uncovered evidence of property damage, sought restitution, and were denied.” She studied her notes, then added, “And were insulted with a rude facial gesture.” Raising her gaze past the paper to meet Tom’s gaze, she was met with his somewhat suspicious nod.
“Therefore, Eric, you are instructed to turn out your pockets.” Inspector Mère said abruptly to the first boy. Surprised into action, he reached into the pockets of his jeans. Making an unreadable expression; he withdrew a blue rubber band, gum wrapper, half a plastic army man, two pennies, a smooth garden pebble, and two red Lego bricks attached by a blue hinge piece.
“That’s mine!” Exploded from Tom, who shot a hand out to take the Legos immediately. Mère was forced to intercede, stepping forward between them and retrieving the pieces herself.
“The evidence speaks, Eric,” she told Eric reprovingly. Lacking the sense to appear guilty, Eric pouted a glare in response.
“Now, Tom,” Mère said to the other, depositing three Legos into his hand, “You are required, by law, to make verbal restitution for injuring a family member.” She looked expectantly at Tom, waiting. Behind her back, Eric imitated her countenance, including the same raised eyebrows.
It was Eric’s turn to glower. He gladly did so, till he caught Inspector Mère’s eye. He looked down. “Sorry,” he mumbled to his hands.
Mère studied one child, then the other. “Both parties may be excused, on the condition that each promises to adhere to family guidelines of behavior,” she instructed to each disgruntled face. Quietly, tensely, the boys broke away and returned to their previous tasks.
Inspector Mère sighed, closed the notepad, and pocketed it with her pencil.
“Case closed,” she declared.