"The real reason for the rift."
That's what unjust Judge B "Bub" Burns wanted to know as he grilled the trio of pitiful little creatures sulking in the cold dark courtroom. They looked as if they'd like to sink into the floorboards. But following the recent tragedy, he was in no mood to coddle them.
He pointed to the hot seat. "First up, Suicide."
"Yes, Your Unworthiness." A skinny, wart-faced devil moved nervously toward the scalding chair and carefully eased his rump into it.
Ow, ow, ow. Sizzling.
"Now," said Burns, giving him the third degree, "Let's hear it from the bottom one more time."
"Well, it's like this. The girl - Julie - was looking in the bathroom mirror this evening, staring at her pimply face. To aid her discomfort, I opened the medicine cabinet, pulled a hidden razor blade from it, and dropped it on the counter. 'Just one little slice is all it takes,' I told her."
Choking back bitter sobs, Suicide continued. "She - she said cutting was - was Baal worship, that it was - was stupid." His chest shaking violently, he pulled a dirty rag from his pocket and blew his nose in it. "And we used to get along so well!"
Burns frowned. "Crying won't help you. But a scapegoat may."
"Y - y - yes, your Dishonor."
"So who can we blame for this sudden discord?"
Suicide licked his lips. "How about that no-good low-down prankster Shame who snuck up on me and popped a boil on my chin just as I was about the reestablish a rapport with her?"
"Hey, I just dropped by to wish him a lousy birthday," muttered a slick hunchback devil with short greasy hair and six-inch-long fingernails. "Can I help it if he's got a face like bubble wrap?"
"You sleaze bag!" cried Suicide. "I was on assignment!"
"A boil's a boil," quipped Shame. "Get over it!"
"I'll show you getting over it!" cried Suicide, leaping from the chair.
Burns banged the gavel. "Disorder in the court!" he screamed, deciding it was Shame's turn to have his bottom seared.
Next question on the list: What happened immediately after the boil episode?
Apparently, Suicide's cell phone rang. He answered it, got static, then no reception. Horror of horrors, the ring tone started playing, 'Gloria In Excelsis Deo.' A terrible tune, but a catchy one.
"Just stick to the facts," insisted Burns.
"Okay," said Shame. "So then the doorbell rang and the Julie gal answered it, without our permission. We tried to stop her, but that dork over there snuck up and gagged us." He pointed to a tall, gangly devil with a big neck and puffed chest.
"Thinks he's all that," complained Suicide. "Don't you, Laryngitis?"
"Call me Larry," replied the newly accused. "And yes, I am hilarious. Get it - hill-Larry-us? Wish I'd snapped a picture of your shocked faces to put in my Disgrace Book album." He shot the gavel wielder a wicked smirk.
"Don't worry," replied Burns. "Our crew got pictures of the whole thing. Including that despicable Rachel character."
"You mean the girl with the fire on her head?" asked Shame.
"Yes," said Burns. "But you must not mention the F word, unless you want to be charged with aiding and abetting a revival."
Yikes! Now that would be an absolute nightmare.
But it wasn't nearly as frightening as what might happen to them if they didn't find someone to blame for the scrambled signals, and the disaster that had stolen another young lady from their kingdom.
"Hmmm," said Laryngitis, stroking his chin. "It couldn't have been the bird, could it? I heard it singing outside my bedroom window this morning about how Suicide always wanted a surprise birthday party. 'But not today. He has a job to wrap up and wants to be left alone.' Wonder where that stool pigeon got its information."
"Pigeon?!" screamed the judge. "Did you say 'pigeon'? You idiot! That was no pigeon. That was a dove! A sly-as-a-serpent, Noah's ark olive branch bearing dove. It used an information overload to fry your lines of communication. And you fell for it!"
Uh-oh. That last part didn't sound good. The SSL team had hoped that once they nailed the scapegoat, they'd be off the hook. But as it turned out, the scapegoat had just nailed them - ensuring that although their communication breakdown had been brief, they'd never hear the end of this one.
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