Daddy Bear Daddy Bear Daddy Bear
String

Part Four
Electric Vegetables

The Old Bailey PLC was enjoying one of its busiest days in many months. Above its austere stonework facade was a large neon sign surrounded by flashing lights:

TONITE ONLY
THE TWO BEARS
vs.
THE ENTIRE BRITISH JUDICIAL SYSTEM
The contest to be decided by two falls or an admission

A plush limousine drew up from which a haughty woman emerged, wearing several dead animals around her shoulders. She looked up at the big sign, sniffed the air, realised she was in the wrong place, then got back in the car and drove off.

Nigel watched the building from across the street. He was wearing a false beard and a long overcoat - and the parrot on his shoulder wore a moustache and a cloth-cap.

"Are you sure about this?" Scabby asked him. "I mean, what are you going to do once you get in there?"

"I'm going to walk into the courtroom and reveal myself," said Nigel.

"I don't think they'll be quite ready for that."

"I'm going to tell them exactly what happened," Nigel went on to explain. "The truth, the whole truth and all that jiggery-pokery."

"And you think that they'll believe you?" Scabby asked.

"They'll have to," said Nigel. "I'm the key witness."

With that he crossed the road and marched up to a man who looked vaguely official. "Hello," he announced. "My name is Rudyard Svenson and I am a cotton wool salesman from Oslo, and not a grizzly bear at all. Could you tell me where Mr. and Mrs. Bear will be appearing today?"

The official consulted a clipboard, then in a voice that sounded like it needed oiling he told him that the Bears would be in Centre Court. Nigel thanked him in Norwegian and gave him a three-month-old Polo mint, which he assured him was a valuable piece of Norwegian currency, worth approximately fifty pounds. Then he bought a punnet of strawberries and an ice cream and went into court.

"Silence in court!" bellowed Justice Frog. "Silence in court, I say!" He banged a black pudding three times on his block. "Who's pinched my gravel?"

The courtroom was filled with a childish babble.

"Order! Order!" cried the judge.

The courtroom fell into silence, save for one man sitting in the public gallery next to Nigel, who shouted at the top of his voice: "Egg and chips twice please!"

"Who said that?" demanded Justice Frog.

The man stood up. He was dressed in a tatty striped blazer and a straw boater, and he had a walking cane hooked over his arm. "I did, your Honour," he said proudly. "Eric Scum, professional entertainer: available for panto, game shows and personal appearances."

"Mr. Scum, I have served in this court for forty years," said Justice Frog soberly - as sober as a judge, in fact. "And every day," he continued, "for forty years, I have heard that very same joke. I therefore hold you in contempt of court and sentence you to be taken out and shot through the head at close range."

Two policemen dragged Mr. Scum outside, screaming.

"Well that's got us off to a good start," said Justice Frog, rubbing his hands together. "Now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, members of the press and of the public, I'd just like to make one thing clear. I may be a hundred and sixty but that doesn't mean I'm a senile old fool who doesn't know what's hip and funky, or how to get down and get into the groove like a real hot funk machine, do I make myself clear?"

He reached behind him and switched on a cassette player, then started to rap to the beat the emerged:

"Listen kids, my name is Frog, I'm a real cool cat, a real top dog, I can move like an eel and squeal like a hog, And you'll get down and groove with me baby or I'll send you to prison for an extremely long time.

"Banging," said Justice Frog, switching off the machine. "You watch, that'll be number one this Christmas. Needs a bit of work, maybe. Right, let's get on with it."

A man with a glistening bald head and spangly suit appeared from nowhere and grabbed a microphone that hung from the ceiling.

"Good evening, Thang-yew, thang-yew. This is to be a nine round contest. In the blue corner, the titleholder, the entire British Judicial System! And in the red corner, the challengers: two fucking great grizzly bears!"

A big girl in a leotard walked past holding a card on which was displayed the legend: 'Round One'.

"Now, I want a good clean fight," said the bald man. "No holding, no punching below the belt and no last minute witnesses. Seconds away, round one!" He walked off, stage left, and locked himself in a cupboard.

Boris Karlof, acting for the prosecution, immediately stood up, though initially no one noticed, as he was only four feet tall. "As my first witness I should like to call the defendant, Mr. Bear, to the stand."

"Call Mr. Bear!" shouted an usher at the rear of the court.

"Call Mr. Bear!" shouted an usher outside in the corridor.

"Call Mr. Bear!" shouted an usher standing outside the building.

"Call Mr. Bear," shouted an usher standing in the middle of a shopping centre in Coventry.

"There's no need to shout," said Daddy Bear, who was sitting in the front row. "I'm not deaf." He took the stand.

"Will you please place your hand on the Bible and read from the card," said Mr. Karlov, who was now spelt differently.

"This isn't a Bible," protested Daddy Bear. "It's the 1974 Top of the Pops Christmas Annual."

"Just read from the card," Justice Frog boomed, doing his impression of a high-ranking and influential judge.

"All right," Daddy Bear said, and he cleared his throat. "Dear Steve, hope the party goes well. Luv Jim."

"Thank you Mr. Bear," said Mr. Karloff. He paced in front of the witness box, his hands on his lapels, wondering why no one could spell his name right. "I want to take you back to the morning of the third of October."

"Yesterday?" asked Daddy Bear.

"That is correct," said Mr. Carlov. "I'm going to ask you a question now, and I want you to think about it very carefully before you answer... Did you kill those two policemen?"

"No!" said Daddy Bear.

"Liar!" screamed Mr. Karllof. He addressed the judge. "That concludes the case for the prosecution, your honour."

"Your witness, Mr. Dickens," said Justice Frog.

Charles Dickens, for the defence, stood up nervously. "Your honour," he acknowledged with a slight bow of the head, and he tentatively approached the witness box. "You are Mr. G. Bear of 142 Elm Tree Avenue, Enchanted Forest, London, are you not?"

"We know who he is," said Justice Frog.

"With respect sir," began Mr. Dickens tremulously, "we haven't yet formally established the defendant's identity."

"He's a fucking grizzly bear, isn't he?" snapped Justice Frog. "What more do you need to know? Carry on."

Reluctantly Mr. Dickens continued. "Mr. Bear, could you tell the court where you were at approximately eleven o'clock on the morning of the third of October?"

"I was at the park," said Daddy Bear, "fishing my son out of the pond."

"Do you have any witnesses?"

Daddy Bear thought about it. "No I haven't," he said. "There was no one else there."

"I see," said Mr. Dickens, and he paused theatrically before going on. "Well, I put it to you, Mr. Bear, that at eleven o'clock yesterday morning you were not at the park as you claim, but were in fact at home, mutilating two cuddly policemen!"

"That's not true!" protested Daddy Bear. "I was in the park... Just a minute, I thought you were supposed to be on my side?"

Mr. Dickens looked puzzled. "Am I?" he asked, glancing helplessly at the judge.

Justice Frog sighed as he scowled at him. "Yes Mr. Dickens," he said wearily. "It is usual, in these circumstances, that someone speaks on behalf of the accused."

Mr Dickens shook his head, clearly puzzled by this new development. "Your honour," he said, "are you quite sure about this?"

"Quite sure," said Justice Frog.

"It just seems such an odd way of going about it," said Mr Dickens.

"Well that's how they do it on the telly," said Justice Frog, sounding like a man who knew his onions.

"But it's such a pity," Mr. Dickens said with an edge of disappointment in his voice. "I've got a brilliant case planned for the prosecution. What a shame. This is my first day, you see. I don't suppose you'd let me go ahead and present my case anyway? I've put so much work into it."

"Very well," said Justice Frog. "The sooner this case is over, the sooner I can go and sit in the park and eat my Pot Noodle. Call your next witness."

"I wish to call Detective Inspector Lionel Crump," announced Mr. Dickens.

"Call Detective Inspector Lionel Crump!" shouted the usher at the back of the court.

"Call Detective Inspector Lionel Crump!" shouted the usher outside in the corridor.

"All right, all right!" said Inspector Crump, who was also sitting in the front row. "We've done that joke already." He took the stand and placed his hand on the book. "I swear by Almighty God that the evidence I give is the truth, the whole truth, but that I may, if I feel it to be necessary, tart it up a bit so that it sounds more incriminating."

"Inspector Crump," Mr. Dickens began, "I wonder if you could tell the court what state Mr. and Mrs. Bear were in when you first encountered them?"

"I certainly can folks," said Crump, playing to the public gallery. "They both smelt a bit, and Mr. Bear in particular had some sort of cruddy bits around his - "

"No, you misunderstand," Mr. Dickens interrupted him. "I was referring to their state of mind."

"Oh, I see," said Crump, grinning. "Well they were both very excited and a bit difficult, all in all. If I was looking for one word to describe their state of mind, I think 'murderous' would be an awfully good choice."

"Thank you," said Mr. Dickens. "I believe you've had forensic experts examining the scene of the crime?"

"That's right," Crump said. "They've taken every stick of furniture from the Bears' home, cut it into inch square cubes and boiled it."

"I see." Mr. Dickens nodded. "And what has been discovered as a result of this fascinating exercise?"

"Absolutely nothing at all," Crump replied.

Justice Frog was becoming restless. "Hasn't this gone on long enough?" he asked. "Surely we've heard enough to string to beggars up by now?"

"We haven't called Mrs. Bear to the stand yet," protested Mr. Dickens, who was just starting to enjoy himself. "And there's a tree outside - "

"No, we've heard all we need to," Justice Frog insisted, and he proceeded to sum up. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, blah, blah, blah, blah. You've heard all the evidence... Well that's a bit of a fib actually, but let's just pretend that you have. Now then, I must remind you that it is your duty to consider the facts of this case with complete impartiality, regardless of the fact that these people are the scum of the earth."

"Wait!" The voice cracked like a pistol-shot across the spellbound courtroom. Nigel Bear was standing in the public gallery, his arms held aloft. "Wait," he repeated. "I have something to say!"

Justice Frog squinted at him curiously. "What can a Norwegian cotton wool salesman from Oslo possibly have to say in relation to this case?"

"Aha!" said Nigel as he whipped off his ingenious disguise. "For I am not a cotton wool salesman from Oslo at all. I am Nigel Bear! and I tell you that my parents did not kill those two policemen."

"Is that a fact?" Justice Frog humoured him, then to the usher: "Get him out of here!"

Mr. and Mrs. Bear watched forlornly as their son was dragged out. "It's true," Daddy Bear protested. "We're innocent. This trial has been a sham!"

"Innocent, Mr. Bear?" scoffed Justice Frog. "I find that most unlikely. The day you are pronounced not guilty will be the day the Loch Ness Monster wins the Grand National. Now sit down and shut up." By now Justice Frog had become very impatient indeed - in fact he had already put his coat on. "Have you reached a verdict?" he asked the jury.

The members of the jury all nodded, then each of them held up a card with a number on it.

Justice Frog read them from left to right. "Five point four, five point seven, five point six, five point seven. Oh dear, Mr. and Mrs. Bear, you haven't got a very good score at all." He thrust his hand deep into his coat pocket and pulled out a black handkerchief, which he placed on his head.

"I would like to sentence you to be grilled lightly, stuffed with garlic and served with vegetables," he said. "But unfortunately I see from my Big Boys' Bumper Book Of British Justice that such a form of punishment is not admissible. I therefore have no option but to inform you that you are to be taken from this court to a place of execution where you will be eaten alive by a very large crocodile.

"Thank you very much, and goodnight," he added to thunderous applause, then rushed off before he missed the last bus.

A single baying howl sounded outside the main entrance. Within moments the cry was repeated a thousandfold as it was taken up by the eager pack of journalists waiting outside the building, hungry for a story. They pawed the ground, jostled and pushed as they competed for a place at the front of the mob. Then their quarry emerged, the air turned blood red and with manic professionalism the newsmen tore at the exposed flesh.

"Eric Stump, Daily Mail," a man announced. "Can I ask if you're happy with the verdict, Inspector Crump?"

"Quite happy, thank you very much," the Inspector replied as a sprinkling of flashlights went off in his face.

"I'm not," Daddy Bear mumbled as he and his wife bumbled blindly along. Blankets had been thrown over their heads 'to protect them from undue attention' so Crump had said. Mummy Bear had already walked into three walls and a tea trolley, so if this was what Crump meant by protection she dreaded when the real aggro' would start.

"Derek Fart, Sunday Express," called another reporter. "Don't you think the sentence was a little too lenient?"

"Well, obviously it's not my place to question the judge's decision," said Crump as he bustled past them. "But yes, I do feel that being eaten alive by a very large crocodile is far too good for these villains."

"Gerald Slime, Sunday Sport," another voice said. "Can we see Mrs. Bear's tits?"

Crump, ignoring the question, had almost reached the waiting van, and the reporters began to panic. Their questions started coming thick and fast.

"Jane Smug, Auto Express," shouted one. "What brand of oil does Mr. Bear use?"

"Tracy Lump, Just Seventeen. What is Mrs. Bear's favourite pop group?"

"Percy Squint, Bomb Disposal Monthly. Is it the red wire or the blue wire?"

"Bryan Willy, Angling Times. Has Mr. Bear ever held a conversation with a trout? I know I have. His name was Simon and he kept me talking for hours about thermodynamics."

"Gentlemen please," said Crump. He raised his voice above the babble. "Quiet please! I'm afraid I can't answer any more of your questions at the moment as we have a rather pressing engagement with a large reptile. You may be interested to know that my book, How I Single-Handedly Halved The Crime Rate In The South Of England, will be available on Monday, published by Krap Books and priced ludicrously expensive."

"Let my parents go!" shouted a new voice defiantly. Inspector Crump looked up and saw Nigel. He had climbed up onto the bronze statue of a middle-aged man wearing a raincoat. At least he had thought it was a statue at the time. It turned out to be just a man standing very still at a bus stop.

"Power to the people!" shouted Nigel. "Viva La Grizzly! Yeah, all that stuff!"

"Oh, not you again," said Crump in a tired voice.

"It's a grizzly bear!" shouted one of the pressmen, with a shriek of alarm. "And it's loose!"

"Quick, someone kill it," shouted a woman, "before it explodes and destroys us all!"

A wave of panic passed rapidly over the assembled crowd. "Explodes?" cried one reporter. "Do bears explode?"

"Probably," replied another, wielding a microphone like a club. "Best be on the safe side and stamp its brains out before it has a chance."

The crowd advanced. Nigel found himself backed into a corner, a semi-circle of journalists tightening around him like a noose around his neck. This was it. This was the end. Well at least he was going to die in battle, albeit a somewhat one-sided one. He closed his eyes and kissed his parrot goodbye. Then suddenly he had an idea.

"Look behind you, there's a giant hamster about to eat you all!" he shouted in Russian.

The journalists all looked behind them and Nigel, his 'giant hamster' ploy having worked yet again, beat a hasty retreat.

A tired and much disheartened young bear returned to the alley behind the kebab shop as the afternoon drew to a close. Scabby was already there, standing and watching forlornly as two dustmen dismantled his home piece by piece and threw it into the back of their truck.

"They've been found guilty," Nigel gasped, almost choking on his own breath.

Scabby showed little interest. "That's my bedroom," he said as a Yummy Cheesy Snax box was tossed down the gullet of the ravenous crusher. "I'd just decorated that."

"They're going to be eaten by a crocodile!"

The rubbish truck growled fearsomely, devoured the last of Scabby's home, belched and drove away. "This happens every week," Scabby said. "Just as I get the place looking right they take it away and I have to start all over again."

"I don't give a damn!" Nigel said angrily. "My parents are about to be eaten by a crocodile and all you can do is babble on about a few cardboard boxes. Where I come from people at least show some concern when someone they know is about to be eaten by an eight foot reptile."

"Well, won't they get a chance to appeal?" Scabby asked.

"Not in this life," said Nigel. "You should have seen the look on those people's faces. It was like a lynch mob. No, it's up to us now. We've got to do something."

"Oh be realistic," Scabby replied testily. "Short of going out and buying up all the crocodiles in the country there's not a lot that either of us can do about it." He shrugged. "Just try not to get so upset about it."

"Don't get upset?" said Nigel. "I know what this is - you think they're guilty, don't you?"

"To be honest," Scabby said, "I neither know nor care. Ever since I met you I've been trying to help you out, and I haven't received so much as a single word of thanks. So from now on you can fend for yourself, you ungrateful little prick." He picked up a crushed matchbox, which was all that remained of his home, and left before Nigel had time to contemplate a reply.

"Well it's good to know that I can count on your support!" Nigel shouted after him. Then, once he was well out of earshot, he added, "Dickhead!"

Nigel fell back against a wall and gradually slipped down until he was sitting on the cold pavement. The breeze was constant and cutting, and it blew muddy sweet wrappers and cigarette packets into his face. He caught a sheet of newspaper as it glided past and stuffed it beneath his coat to keep out the chill.

The air itself was becoming dark and it screened the sun like a silk curtain obscures a flickering candle. As the cold invaded Nigel's bones a listless melancholia began to set in. His mind wandered, turning over the events of the last couple of days until his memories were confused and out of sequence. Suddenly he recalled what Scabby had said to him just before he had left, and Nigel was struck by an idea. With new vigour he jumped to his feet and headed for the High Street before the shops shut.

"Gordon?" said Mummy Bear in a timid voice. The van was in darkness, save for he narrow bands of grey sunlight that rippled along the floor.

"Gordon?" she repeated, her voice dying to a croak in her throat.

Daddy Bear put his arm around her. He breathed deeply, then spoke in a soft voice. "It's all right," he said. "Everything is all right."

She put her head on his chest, her face distraught. A tear slowly collected at the corner of her eye. It hung like a dewdrop, then burst and ran down the bridge of her nose. "I don't want to be eaten by a crocodile," she said quietly.

Daddy Bear gently stroked the back of her head, but there was nothing he could say or do to make a difference.

Then the van stopped abruptly. There was a burst of shouting outside and the steel wall chimed, as if struck by a heavy object. Daddy Bear held onto his wife tightly as the two armed escorts accompanying them moved to the rear. Suddenly the doors were torn open from the outside. The guards were pulled out onto the tarmac, out of sight, and whatever fate befell them there would ever be a matter of conjecture for Daddy Bear and his wife.

Moments later two raiders wearing Balaclavas leaped into the back of the van, dragged the Bears outside and began to bustle them down a side street. Daddy Bear resisted, forcing them to stop. "Hang on, what's all this about?" he demanded. "What's going on?"

"You're being rescued, you fool!" one of them said. "If we'd known you weren't so keen on the idea we wouldn't have bothered. Now are you coming or not?"

"Sounds good to me," said Mummy Bear, and she dragged all four of them onwards.

They stopped in a small grey square that boasted a fountain full of litter and green scum, and was bordered by smoke-stifled bedsits. "Here we must part company," said one of their rescuers. They both removed their Balaclavas. One was a man, about twenty, and going prematurely bald. The other, was a girl of about the same age, who had dark hair, cropped short save for three long pigtails that hung down her back.

There's no particular reason why I should pay so much attention to their coiffure, it's just that it helps to flesh out two otherwise rather bland incidental characters.

"Who are you?" asked Daddy Bear, feeling quite disappointed that it wasn't the Lone Ranger and Tonto as he'd first suspected.

"We're members of the Animal Liberation Front," said the girl.

"Oh that's nice," Mummy Bear said. "I've always thought that it's terribly important for young people to have a hobby."

The girl gave her a shove. "Well go on then," she said. "Run to freedom! Shoo! Shoo! Go and take a dump in the park, or whatever it is that grizzly bears usually do."

The young man glanced furtively around and dug his comrade in the ribs. "Quickly, we've got to get away from here," he said. "Somebody might have seen us."

The two of them donned their Balaclavas and ran off, straight into a wall. They picked themselves up, adjusted their headgear and managed to reach the main road before they were run over by a road sweeper.

"You'd have thought they'd have given us passports and a new identity," said Daddy Bear.

"Don't be so ungrateful," Mummy Bear said. "They didn't have to rescue us, you know. They could quite easily have stayed at home and watched Friends instead. Anyway, we'd better decide what we're going to do next."

Daddy Bear looked around him. The grey walls of the buildings were starting to blend in with the murky sky. Warm lights flickering in nearby windows made him feel all the more exposed. "I think our most immediate concern is to find somewhere to spend the night," he said. "Then in the morning we'll head north."

"Home!" cried Mummy Bear. "Back to our son."

"We'll have to be very careful," Daddy Bear said thoughtfully. "They're bound to be watching the house."

"Oh I do hope Nigel managed to get home okay," said Mummy Bear. "He's never been left on his own before."

"I'm sure there's no need to worry," Daddy Bear reassured her. "I know that Nigel isn't exactly carrying a full load, but he's not the type to do anything really stupid."

"I want to buy a crocodile!" announced Nigel to the shopkeeper.

"I beg your pardon?" queried the shopkeeper.

"I want to buy a crocodile," repeated Nigel. "This is a crocodile shop, isn't it?"

"No sir," said the shopkeeper. "This is an egg whisk shop. We specialise in the finest, hand-tooled egg whisks made with Swiss precision... No crocodiles."

Nigel frowned at him. "But the sign outside said Wainwright's Crocodiles."

"Does it really?" asked the shopkeeper with a puzzled expression. He walked to the front of the shop, opened the door and peered up at the sign. "Oh my word! Yes, you're quite right," he said. "It does say that. I must be in the wrong shop." And he left.

Another shopkeeper appeared from the rear of the shop. "Hello sir, sorry to keep you waiting. Can I help you? My name is Mr. Wainwright."

"I want to buy a crocodile," said Nigel for the third time.

"Well you've come to the right place," said Mr. Wainwright. "This is a crocodile shop. We specialise in the finest, hand-tooled crocodiles, made with Swiss precision."

"Right," said Nigel. "Now we're getting somewhere."

"Yes, Wainwright's have been dealing in crocodiles for four hundred years. We've been official suppliers to the crown since Queen Victoria. In fact, to tell you the truth, we've got a bit of a monopoly on the market. We're the only suppliers of crocodiles in the country. You'd be hard pushed to get one anywhere else. You'd have to get one from Germany by mail order, and that could take months."

"Is that a fact?" asked Nigel.

"It is indeed a fact," said Mr. Wainwright. "I wouldn't stoop to telling porkies sir. Here, have a look at this." He heaved an eight foot crocodile onto the counter. "Look at the workmanship in that," he said.

"It doesn't appear to be moving very much," Nigel commented.

"Well of course not," said Mr. Wainwright. "It's drugged."

"Drugged?"

"That's right," said Mr. Wainwright, and he prodded the slumbering creature to demonstrate the fact. "After all, you don't want a bloody great crocodile leaping on people all the time, do you? If this crocodile wasn't drugged it would have your arm off before you could say Maisy Wellington."

"Maisy who?" Nigel asked.

"It doesn't matter sir, she's just a casual acquaintance of mine," Wainwright said. "Now, was it just the one crocodile you were wanting sir? It works out cheaper if you buy a set of six."

"Actually I want quite a few," said Nigel in a low voice as he glanced furtively around the shop. "If that's possible?"

Mr. Wainwright watched him suspiciously. "Certainly," he said guardedly. "You are over eighteen, I take it?"

"I am," Nigel lied.

"Then there's no problem at all sir," Wainwright said, satisfied that all was well. "How many crocodiles would you like, exactly?"

Nigel shrugged. "How many have you got, exactly?" he asked.

"Well, as I said, we are the country's main supplier," Mr. Wainwright said. "And at the moment we have exactly four hundred and twelve crocodiles in stock."

"That's uncanny!" Nigel exclaimed. "Because I happen to want exactly four hundred and twelve crocodiles. I'll take the lot please, Mr. Crocodile Salesperson."

"That's an awful lot of crocodiles," Mr. Wainwright said.

"Well, I'm really into crocodiles," Nigel explained. "However, I do have one teensy-weensy problem - I only have twenty pence."

"Only twenty pence, eh?" Mr. Wainwright pondered. "Well crocodiles don't go cheap you know."

"I should hope they don't," said Nigel. "Do you think I could have them on hire purchase?" he asked.

"Four hundred crocodiles on H.P.?" Mr. Wainwright said. "You've got a bit of a sauce."

Nigel fluttered his eyelashes at him, and Mr. Wainwright agreed. He placed a sheet of blank paper on the counter, pointed to the bottom of it and asked Nigel to sign. Nigel signed Mr. Wainwright's finger. Mr. Wainwright thanked him, then asked him to sign the paper. "Right. I'll just go and fetch your crocodiles," he said.

"Could you wrap them up for me please?" Nigel called after him. "And make it snappy!"

Ten minutes later, Nigel left the shop with a carrier bag brimming with four hundred and twelve individually wrapped crocodiles that had been made snappy. As he went out, two men entered.

"Good evening sirs," said Mr. Wainwright amiably. "You've just caught me, I was about to close for the day."

"Allow me to introduce myself," said the tall, poker-faced man with the restless hands. "I'm the Lord High Executioner, and this is my assistant, the Slightly Lower Executioner."

"Hello," said the Slightly Lower Executioner. "Pleased to meet you."

"And I am most pleased to meet you too, sirs," Wainwright said. "How may I be of assistance?"

"We would like to purchase one of your crocodiles please," the Lord High Executioner said. "You can put it on the account."

Mr. Wainwright sighed a deep, regretful sigh. "And I would dearly love to sell you one sir," he said. "Unfortunately I must disappoint you. The hairy gentleman that just left has just bought my entire stock."

The Lord High Executioner looked worried and turned to his assistant. "This would seem to present us with a bit of a problem," he said.

"A bit of a problem. Yes," the Slightly Lower Executioner repeated.

"This is the first time anyone has been sentenced to be eaten by a crocodile in two hundred years, and we haven't got a crocodile."

"Yes, a bit of a problem," said the Slightly Lower Executioner. "Couldn't we use an alligator?" he suggested helpfully.

The Lord High Executioner shook his head. "Would that we could, my fine and upstanding colleague. But no, the judge specifically said a crocodile. Besides which, I'm a perfectionist and I will not stoop to using inferior materials."

"A bit of a problem," said the Slightly Lower Executioner. "No crocodiles. Bad news. We're in the doo-doo."

The Lord High Executioner thought for a moment, eventually realising there was only one solution. "Well, I'm afraid there's only one thing for it," he said, his voice heavy with disappointment. "We'll just have to send off to Germany for one, but that could take months."

"Doo-doo," said the Slightly Lower Executioner, and all present agreed.

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