It was the trial of the century. All the Town was ablaze with gossip and rumour. Miss Sabeline was to appear before the magistrate on three charges of assault. Rumour was that the Bunny boys had not gone to sea as their mother averred but instead had been driven, bloody and beaten, from Town by Miss Sabeline.
Sabeline, when the two apologetic officers arrived to escort her to the initial hearing, appeared entirely calm.
“Of course boys, let me just fetch my mink. I shan’t be a minute and then you two lovely chaps can escort me wherever you please.” She smiled very wide, maybe too wide, but then again, didn’t Sabeline always smile just a little bit too wide?
Whispers came out of the hearing that, when asked about the Bunny boys, Sabeline had shrugged her mink-clad shoulders and said appealingly, “I do declare, you don’t think I had anything to do with that? They were such delectable young things too; I quite miss their charming faces.”
And the allegation that the boys had last been seen entering her garden and had never once written to their mother since their disappearance?
“To be sure, they did come visit before they were going away. I was quite desolate to see them go! I really was quite fond of them. And I simply couldn’t say why they haven’t written – I’m sure I have no part speculating on their relationship with their mother.”
She blinked beseechingly up at the judge who had cause to reflect that in general, perhaps, Sabeline did not blink quite as much as other folk.
The initial hearing was adjourned with no one the wiser but the gossip-mongers much the richer. Sabeline permitted herself to be led to the gaol to await the trial. She was kept only two days before the warden let her go under the condition that she remain at home and return for the trial. She said, “Why, of course I shall attend. It is quite the most delicious thing.”
He said, “She’s slippery that one, but I think she’ll show.”
And Sabeline did show. Day one of the trial opened with her seated demurely, throat clasped snugly by a rich black velvet cloak and lips expressive with bright red lipstick. She sat very quietly and very calmly through the opening procedures, smiling broadly at Judge Trillit whenever he glanced at her.
The bombshell hit when, in the late afternoon, the prosecution produced their final piece of evidence. With a dramatic flair, Sidney unveiled the clincher.
“This, ladies, gentlemen, honourable beasts, is the shirt Nathan Bunny was wearing when he and his brothers tragically left home to make their fortune. Yes, my squeamish or avid viewers, those are bloodstains that you see before you! And where was this shirt found, you may ask. Where indeed.”
Sidney paused for effect. The courtroom sat in rapt silence. “This shirt was found buried in the bottom of Miss Sabeline’s garden!”
Uproar. Outrage. Delight in the spectacle.
Sidney turned in triumph to where Sabeline sat. “What have you to say to that, madam?”
Silence fell as the crowd waited to hear what Sabeline could possibly say in response to this incontrovertible evidence. She showed no sign of being discomforted.
“How atrocious! I have not the slightest knowledge of how that shirt came to be in my garden. Surely, I did see the Bunny boys before they went abroad. But they left after a lovely chat. I am quite sure they were entirely clothed at that point.”
“So you admit you were the last person to see them alive, in Town?” Sidney asked eagerly.
“The last person? Oh no, my dear, oh no, I was not the last. We were the last.”
“We? Someone else was there? Who?”
Sabeline smiled coquettishly. “That is a most personal question, but if you must know, I was there with Ivan. We spent the whole evening together. I’m sure he would have noticed anything amiss with the Bunny boys.We were quite…inseparable.”
Sidney stepped back, flabbergasted. Murmurs spread through the crowd. Judge Trillit peered over the courtroom.
“Is Ivan here?” he demanded.
From the back row, Ivan stood up.“
Can you confirm what Miss Sabeline has here said?” asked the judge.“
I can, Your Honour.” Ivan spoke in a low rumbling purr, “As Sabeline says, we were entirely…occupied together.”
Sidney tried to pull himself together. “Was there any point that night in which Sabeline would have been alone? Perhaps after you left?”
Ivan shook his head. “As I said, we were occupied. Right up until morning.”
Several ladies fainted and had to be removed from the courtroom. Sidney stuttered, the wind taken out of his sails. Judge Trillit ordered the court adjourned. Ivan winked at Sabeline as she sat, entirely composed, smiling broadly.
Sabeline was acquitted as she and Ivan provided each other with smiling, impenetrable alibis. Mrs. Bunny left the courtroom in tears and forbade all her numerous relations from ever going near Miss Sabeline’s house again. When they were finally dismissed, Ivan offered Sabeline his arm and escorted her proudly home.
by Adena Brons