Madame Olatana, Warbut Astrologer, page 23
Lieutenant Iwan of the capital’s police department rushed into Madame Olatana’s reception room.
“Does she have a minute to see me?” he asked Pache.
“Madame will be free in six minutes,” Pache answered. “Coffee and doughnuts?”
As soon as the policeman was seated, Madame Olatana asked her usual question. “What brings you to see me today, Lieutenant?”
“I’ve already begged your forgiveness for accepting that commendation on the Frak Fallgan case, over five years ago,” Lieutenant Iwan started.
“Indeed you have, several times. As I told you before, I expect only to be paid. And that invoice was paid seven months and fourteen days after it was presented,” Madame Olatana said.
“Are there any outstanding invoices now? For the police department, I mean?”
“Exactly four. One is aged over six months, so I expect it might be paid soon,” the astrologer answered.
“I’ll see what I can do. Meanwhile, I hope you can help me with our missing person, Madame,” Lieutenant Iwan said.
“I assume you mean Lotgh Wilnaugh’s partner, Lieutenant.”
“Yes. The Universal Message Service reports every day on people who are missing, checking the locations of each Warbutian under one hundred years of age by the use of the bracelets and anklets, and comparing that information to the brain’s activity,” Lieutenant Iwan said.
“I understand. This daily check has been going on for over two hundred years. And now this Leia Wilnaugh is missing. The news article said she left all her bracelets in the house, to be burned,” Madame Olatana replied.
Lieutenant Iwan sighed. “She was issued seven bracelets, and she bought three more, all with jewels from various planets around the Universe. We have recovered only one, but the bed-check sensors can’t find her matching brainprint. Not on our island, not on Telluric Island, and not on any of the settlements on those islands to the west,” the policeman told the astrologer.
“Are you thinking she is dead?” Madame Olatana asked.
“She is either dead or stowed away on a spacecraft. One left the capital’s spaceport two hours after the house fire that left Lotgh Wilnaugh homeless,” Lieutenant Iwan said.
“Let’s look. I brought her birth data over from the Clerk’s database just after the news reports came out, just in case somebody wanted some help,” Madame Olatana said.
“You mean me, Madame?”
“You, Lieutenant, or Lotgh Wilnaugh. He called me a fraud just a few days ago, and I have been waiting to hear him eat those words,” Madame Olatana declared.
“If you help me find her, Madame, I will personally serve those words on a silver platter for him,” Lieutenant Iwan said.
“At any rate, she is not dead,” Madame Olatana said as she looked at the console with Leia Wilnaugh’s birth data.
“Where is she?”
Madame Olatana looked at the Universal Clock and noted the time.
“I’ll have to order a horary chart, Lieutenant,” the astrologer said as she pressed the button for the chart that would show the positions of the planets in Warbut’s star system for the exact minute the policeman asked his question.
“And how long will that take, Madame?”
“It is here now, Lieutenant. The chart shows the subject of the question is south of the questioner. I often see that answer when somebody is on a spacecraft, so I would have the crew look for the stowaway.”
Lieutenant Iwan sighed again. “Alive, and perhaps on the spacecraft.”
“Or perhaps south of my office. This island is the southernmost island that is open for services, Lieutenant,” Madame Olatana said.
“Except for that island being prepared for the immigrants from Noowal, Madame.”
“You are right, Lieutenant. And aircraft leave for that island with workers nearly every hour, I understand,” Madame Olatana replied.
“Lots of leads for me to check on, Madame. Thank you.”
“Maybe you can move that oldest invoice along, Lieutenant.”
“Where is Noowal, Madame?” Pache asked. “They found that woman, Leia Wilnaugh, on a Warbut island that is being outfitted for people from Noowal.”
“Indeed. I think Noowal is not in our galaxy, Pache. Those entities are different from Warbutians. Sexual creatures as we are, not androgynous, and with very pale skin. Descended from a craft that left Octula so many eons ago. There are two types of intelligent entities, one very outgoing and managerial and the other quite introverted and technical. The females of the managerial entities are in charge of the planet, and our immigrants are mostly the technical types,” Madame Olatana explained.
“Why would Leia Wilnaugh want to hide there?” Pache wondered.
“It was away from the sensors that take our census every day, Pache. I found Lotgh Wilnaugh to be a difficult person to talk to, and perhaps his partner was even more exasperated with him,” Madame Olatana answered.
“The article said she had been planning everything for months,” Pache went on.
“That’s the trouble with a slow-moving planet such as Nicknard, Pache. Things started when the planet moved into orb can take many months until materialization. I suspect we have not seen the end of this matter yet,” Madame Olatana predicted.
Four days after Lieutenant Iwan’s detectives found Leia Wilnaugh on the southern island, Pache dashed into Madame Olatana’s consultation room with more news.
“She refuses to come back, Madame!” Pache said.
“That Leia Wilnaugh. Her story is that she paid for the home with her inheritance from her father, and she could burn it down if she liked. She says she has not filed a claim for insurance money and does not intend to do so,” Pache went on.
“Lotgh Wilnaugh is quoted on the Universal Message Service as saying his name was on the property, he lived there, and his brother’s family lived there, too. Now they are all homeless,” Pache told Madame Olatana.
“And does Leia Wilnaugh counter this?”
“Does she tell the reporter why she felt she should put the entire family on the street? That’s what I mean.”
“She says, according to this article, Lotgh Wilnaugh just moved the brother’s family into her house without any discussion,” Pache answered.
“I can believe it,” Madame Olatana said.
“And the brother and his wife are both sickly, unable to contribute a cent to the household expenses. That’s what it says here, Madame.”
“I’ve got a mess, Madame,” Lieutenant Iwan whined. “My former boss, now King Hoselah IX, is pestering me to dismiss the case against Leia Wilnaugh since she has shown Lotgh Wilnaugh paid nothing for that property she set fire to. Not a cent. She put up the entire purchase price and has been paying all taxes, maintenance, utilities, and whatnot for the last five years.”
“What is the charge from the fire department, Lieutenant?” Madame Olatana wanted to know.
“She wrote the fire department a check for their efforts, Madame. The Social Services department has eight people who are homeless, living in that department’s guest quarters, and Leia Wilnaugh says she has no responsibility for those people,” Lieutenant Iwan told the astrologer.
“Not even the husband?”
“Not even the husband,” Lieutenant Iwan went on. “Madame, that marriage was never recorded with the Clerk. They just lived together.”
“What do you want me to do, Lieutenant Iwan?” Madame Olatana asked.
“I want you to tell me when this will be resolved, Madame. I have no other open case on my books, and this has been dragging on for nearly two months. The average case is settled within forty-eight hours.”
“Lieutenant Iwan, I am sorry to say this matter will hang on for several years,” Madame Olatana answere
“Lotgh Wilnaugh will not be satisfied with just letting her go,” Madame Olatana predicted. “She has all the money in her own name. He spent nearly every cent he made on the brother’s health problems, and he wants some restitution from the balance of her inheritance.”
“So he will keep this alive in the courts, Madame?” Lieutenant Iwan asked.
“For years, Lieutenant. It might go as far as the Universal Supreme Court. The question, as I see it, is one of a public partnership that has not been legalized, and the court has been very reluctant to penalize a pseudo-partner for the problems of the other,” Madame Olatana said.
“And the outcome?”
“His natal Nicknard is very afflicted for years and years,” Madame Olatana told the policeman. “He will receive neither cash nor sympathy. His only friends are turning away from him now.”
“Who was at the door, Pache?” Madame Olatana asked. “I don’t have an appointment with anyone for another several hours.”
“It was a process server, Madame,” Pache replied, in her usual offhand way.
“A process server! And did this entity leave anything for me?” Madame Olatana demanded.
“Just this paper.”
The astrologer snatched the sheet from the receptionist’s hand.
“I am being sued!” Madame Olatana cried.
“This time it is not for some overdue bill, Pache. Lotgh Wilnaugh is suing me for causing him to be homeless!” Madame Olatana shrieked.
“Didn’t you see that in your chart?” Pache wondered.
“I’m too busy to look at my own transits,” Madame Olatana explained. “He says I caused the fire in his home.”
“Did you ever go over there?”
“I have no idea where the place is. The Universal Message Service has stopped reporting the locations of fires since those locations were frequently looted after the articles appeared in the media,” Madame Olatana said.
“What is the amount he is asking for?”
“Five million in Universal Gold. Although I carry insurance, my policy is not at that level. More like one hundred thousand,” Madame Olatana admitted.
“The Universal Message Service estimated the value of that place at sixty thousand,” Pache told her employer. “The damages are estimated at forty thousand.”
“This suit has nothing to do with that house. It says I caused him to be evicted from his home. He has the idea I can control events,” Madame Olatana whined.
“Of course I can’t, and you know it, Pache. I can see trends and probabilities only. I told Lotgh Wilnaugh there was a probability of a breakup in his home. That is all I said. It is all on my office recordings.”
“Better call your lawyer,” Pache said.
“I’m sorry you have to be summoned, Lieutenant Iwan,” Madame Olatana said. “This is a civil suit, of course. You just have to tell what evidence you have that Leia Wilnaugh was planning this fire long before the date of Lotgh Wilnaugh’s appearance in my office.”
“Glad to help, Madame,” Lieutenant Iwan said. “The king wants this off my books. Lotgh Wilnaugh and his relatives are still staying in the public housing, and Lotgh Wilnaugh has been fired from his job with the Parliament.”
“Fired! Lieutenant, I thought nobody ever lost a job with the Parliament.”
“Lotgh Wilnaugh, Madame, has been venting his anger at Leia Wilnaugh and at you ever since this fire occurred, and he became less than useful as the Parliament’s ombudsman. He refused to discuss the complaints of the clients until he had aired his own troubles,” Lieutenant Iwan reported.
“Perhaps that is why my own business has redoubled, Lieutenant,” Madame Olatana surmised. “Warbutians I have never heard of have called for appointments.”
“No doubt, Madame. Certainly I have never boasted to anybody that the police use your services on a regular basis.”
“Welcome to my office, Madame Olatana,” the Earthling said as he stood up from behind his desk. “I am Maitre Warren Wilson, your trial lawyer. I will support your own attorney as we present your case to the Warbut Supreme Court.”
“What happened to Avocat Fium?” Madame Olatana asked.
“The workings of the court are strange, Madame,” Maitre Wilson agreed. “We Earthling attorneys have made something of a specialty of appearances before the Court, especially since the advances in translation cubes were introduced that included a complete legal dictionary. We tend not to be as clever as the Warbutian attorneys, so we are relegated to this lesser role.”
“I see,” Madame Olatana said as she took a chair, although she did not see why a dumb Earthling would be a more suitable speaker for her than Avocat Fium, a Warbutian who had more than adequately handled her legal work for over seventy-five years.
“So we need to consider how to couch your case,” Maitre Wilson went on.
“The case, couched or not, is very simple,” Madame Olatana told the Earthling. “No astrologer has any ability to modify future events. We only can look at the placements of the planets and make predictions about what events are likely to occur. Sometimes we are eerily accurate, and that happened in the case of Lotgh Wilnaugh.”
“So what is your estimate of how often you are eerily accurate, Madame?”
“Perhaps fifty percent of the events I predict actually come true,” Madame Olatana answered. “If there are more than one or two planetary indications, the predictions based on those indications are much more likely.”
Maitre Wilson cleared his tiny throat. “I would like to present the case as just a lucky guess, Madame. Nobody is willing to have you lose this case to this hothead Lotgh Wilnaugh, and presenting the entire pseudoscience of astrology as entertainment is our best tactic,” the Earthling said.
“The Warbutians who come for advice do not consider my work as entertainment,” Madame Olatana returned. “They consider all these Earthlings who parade around Telluric Island as kings and queens of long-forgotten kingdoms as entertainment, but they tend to take my advice seriously.”
“I understand, Madame,” Maitre Wilson calmly said. “However, we are trying to win this case, and we need to bend the story a bit to fit the audience.”
“Seven of the nine judges on the court, Maitre Wilson, are my clients, although not one of them will admit to it,” Madame Olatana firmly said.
“Very well, Madame. However, we need to make the point that it is common knowledge that astrology is nonsense, and Lotgh Wilnaugh was aware of that common knowledge when he heard your prediction about his home life,” Maitre Wilson said.
“You will ruin my business!”
“No, no, astrologers have been providing a valuable service for millennia, and that will always continue,” Maitre Wilson insisted.
“I would rather pay whatever the Court decides than admit I am perpetuating a fraud!” Madame Olatana shouted.
“Ah, Madame, it is your insurance company that is unwilling to pay,” Maitre Wilson said, shaking his small head vigorously. “And that company is paying me, and I am responsible to that company for the tactics we will use in front of the Court.”
“So this meeting today is nothing but a chance for you to dictate to me your strategy?” Madame Olatana asked.
“And to meet with you prior to taking your testimony,” Maitre Wilson continued.
“My testimony? I thought I was to appear before the Court!”
“Oh, no, that is never done these days. The defendant gives his or her testimony in a closed room, and it is played back for the justices later at the trial. All that hogwash about a cross examination is eliminated by having a truth analysis machine estimate the likelihood of the accuracy of the testimony,” the Earthling said.
“So you will answer any questions addressed to me by the Court?”
“Exactly. That is my role,” Maitre Wilson said,
“Are we all here?” the Chief Justice of the Warbut Supreme Court asked.
“All here but Justice Alvret,” the clerk answered.