“Huzzah!” My huzzah had been premature. It dropped like a refrigerator on a sidewalk. More to the point, it was met by a pair of eyes. Or rather, two dozen pairs of eyes. Twelve pairs of eyes representing the best of multicultural London. About six pairs enveloped in robes. (On who wore them best, it should be left to the imagination.) Of the six, two were paired with glasses. Added to that was a scattering of pairs of eyes throughout the room. Finally, one pair beneath an impressive white wig. The wig stood several feet below the coat of arms of the United Kingdom.
These eyes shared the commonality that they were all focused on me. Some of the mouths that inhabited the lower regions of the faces to which the eyes belonged to were contorted in all sorts of forms of disapproval. Some of these contortions were quite novel.
Only one pair of eyes remained immobile. Its owner’s face a beacon of stoicism. Its benign air that of imperturbable phlegm. That face belonged to Mildred Ypres, my lady’s assistant. The kind of person who helps me with the more tiresome things of life, such as bookkeeping, making travel arrangements, or peeling fruit. The situation I found myself in needed all the resources Ypres uses when embarking on oranges.
I happened to be stationed in the public gallery of the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales (the nation, not the fish – or is it a mammal?), in the City of London. I was attired in a no nonsense you-can’t-handle-the-truth outfit that screamed civil law. My purpose was to witness the judgement in the Crown v. Miss X case. Of course, Miss X is not her real name. I am merely preserving her identity, or covering her tracks, as I believe the term is in the legal profession. The careful and faithful reader will remember Miss X from our first encounter at Heathrow. If not, a brisk visit to the Vasa archive will refresh the devout Vasaniasta’s memory.
Miss X had hit me over the head with oversized luggage by the baggage carrousel as I was sharing a sentiment of pride with Ypres. She was aiming for Lanky Ella Lanesbury, of Mayfair fame, but, as Ella ducked for cover, it became evident that the trajectory of the luggage could not be altered.
The part that was of interest to the Crown, much to my dismay, was not me, but the oversized luggage. After Miss X realised that she had mistakenly knocked the daylights out of me, she dropped her belongings to the ground. As what is now known as Exhibit A hit the floor, it became clear to onlookers that its content, white, and packed in small plastic bricks bound by duct tape, was most likely illegal. It shortly became clear to a nearby sniffer dog that its content was most likely illegal. Within a jiffy, it became clear to the officer to whom the dog was attached by way of a lead that its content was most likely illegal. After a rather spectacular arrest and some administrative trivialities, the case ended up at the Old Bailey.
By the time the judge uttered his ruling, I was in the public gallery. Ypres was by my side with a reference volume on some chap she knows called Lord Mansfield. There Ypres sat, in full Britannic sang-froid, as I believe it is said in the better parts of Brussels, her fish face unperturbed. She sat like Britannia, coolly awaiting what was to come. I, on the other hand, after my premature “Huzzah” had left most of London staring at me, felt as denuded as Lady Godiva.
Of course, my “Huzzah” was appropriate. When one finds out that the miscreant who has concussed one with cheap airport luggage has been found guilty, one is entitled to feel joy. Therefore, when the judge, or Lord Justice, or whatever title he prefers to be referred to while sipping cocktails with the law and order set, upholds a guilty verdict issued by a jury, one feels a “Huzzah” is appropriate. A “Right ho”, even dropped with elegant grace, would not cut it. Only a “Huzzah”, delivered stage right with the gravity or gravitas (I can never figure out which one it is) of a victorious cricketer will do. Surely, a judge used to issuing verdicts in the god-have-mercy-on-your-soul tradition of English law would empathise. Alas, it was not the case.
No sooner had my tasteful “Huzzah” been uttered than some sort of court concierge (the legal term escapes me) told me to please be quiet. The words left her mouth with the frigidity of a Siberian night. I informed her that I always kept my emotions in check, as we Brits do, but that such a situation warranted a bit of spontaneity. I was then ignobly shushed. I stood up and informed the court about the personal circumstances that linked me to the case. In other words, the fact that I had been concussed at Heathrow because of Miss X’s poor aim. I had just got to the part where I declared that I was really a hero, because if Exhibit A had not hit my head with such violence the Crown would have no case, when the judge slammed his gavel.
The judge mentioned something about me being in contempt. As I turned to Ypres to find out what contempt actually meant, and asked that she stick to the Oxford English Dictionary definition, or OED for aficionados, I found myself being escorted out of the Old Bailey. Ypres followed in close pursuit as two individuals proceeded to eject me. She was just rambling on about how Dr. Johnson’s definition merited further discussion, when my posterior touched the pavement, as it were, and my two ejectors, content with their work, high-fived each other before returning inside the building.
“Ypres, I’ve been thrown out of court without so much as a Corpus Christi!”
“I believe habeas corpus is the expression you are looking for. Although, in legal terms, it does not apply to the current situation.”
“Thank you, Ypres. I knew it was something with a corpse in it.”
Here I was on Newgate Street, buttocks on the sidewalk, with the age-old question: what next?
Chapter II will be published Monday, 12 September 2016, at 12:00 EST 17:00 GMT. Vasa and Ypres’s first full-length adventure, Vasa and Ypres: A Mayfair Conundrum, is available on Amazon. If you enjoy Vasa and Ypres, please share on social media. Vasa and Ypres is on Twitter. You can also join over 1050 WordPress followers.