Big Bad Got A Bum Rap

(Once Upon a Time No. 2 Originally blogged October 21, 2020)

“Yo, Pete!  Izzat you Pete?  Pete Peters?”

“Guilty!”  I turned to see none other than Jacques Benstokk coming out of the High Sheriff’s Tax Assessment and Revenue Collections hut.  I’d unhappily finished my business there thirty minutes before.  Pumpkin farming stinko this year anyway, Chauncy Eldor, one of the Deputies, knew I’d not even put a crop in this year anyway, being out of country.  I escaped with the shirt on my back.  Jacques’ face suggested he was as unhappy as I was.  “Jacques!  Dewd!  What up?”

“Aw, not so much.  Man, the Sheriff’s let this tax thing go to his head.  Gonna have to run someone against him come spring.  Say!  You’d be a first-water Tax Assessor. Foreign Service and all, you know.  Ever think of running?”

“Nah.  Still working out from under that scandal The Town Crier caused a while back. With the wife and all, the Pumpkin Incident, ya know? Afraid everyone in the hamlet is still a little distrustful.  Someone would bring it up.”

“So.  How is the wife, Petey?”

“She’s well.  After that bit of gossip, The Crier’s allegation, and me back from overseas, she takes spells where she goes into something of a shell.”

“I feel for ya.  The Crier did a number on me not long after they skewered you.”

“Yeah?  Don’t remember that.”

“Yup.  Damned MSM. Just starting to get out of hand then.  Be okay except when there ain’t no news they make stuff up. Or worse, twist facts so even Simon Simple knows it’s phony.  Just enough truth to suck folks in.  Still wouldn’t be bad, except all the hamlet’s liberal wags just eat up that drivel. 

“Yeah.  Unh, pandering to the womenfolk, championing women’s causes.  Causes didn’t bother the hamlet women much until The Crier started in, convincing them they’d been wronged.  The Crier gains readers getting the women all pouty and teary-eyed about wrongs they didn’t know existed before. Hamlet menfolk can’t handle that, so they sign on to keep marital peace.”

“Well, it’s not entirely without justification, Pete.”

“Oh yeah?  When’s the last time the women did moat duty?  Eh?  Carried scutums in front of the knights when the Scots took another shot at running us over?  The Crier causes a lot of problems, Jacques.  Panders to effete men in the hamlet and of course the ladies.  Now they’re milking, unh, sorry man…”

“It’s okay.”

“Anyways, Kowtowing… Ah, geeze…”

“’It’s okay, just keep going.”

“No, I should back-off.  The Crier and The Tattler caused me a tonne of grief. So bad I took that trip to France.  Thought to enlist in the Crusades.”

“Yeah?”

“France was laying-out, overcommitted.  Had to go to Spain.  There was a real language problem. Did one deployment. Got homesick, so I tucked tail and here I am.  Just back a fortnight or two.”

“The MSM thing is worse now.  You of course, have seen the latest, Pete?”

“Not yet.”

“Well.  For background, I’ll recap what The Crier called the ‘Beanstalk Scandal’.  See, Guy Ent and I already were pretty good buds.”

“How’s that?”

“You know my momma’s a crafty old witch, out to wheedle every farthing out of everyone who makes the mistake of stopping by the farm?”

“Yunh.”

“She sent me to trade our ancient cow for anything of value.  Ma knew old Bossy had mastitis in three quarters. Be a headache for whoever. More a liability than anything else.  Passing by Guy’s truck farm he and I got to talking.  He’s an immigrant you know, like me, from France?”

Oui. Mais certainement!

“Well done!  Anyway, Guy said he’d take Bossy.  Well you know he had beef bourguignon in mind, which was okay. Probably past time anyway.  He gave me a hefty sack of pole bean seeds – his best variety – Fee Faes. Reckoned with demand and all, it’d be good to have a second farmer providing for the hamlet.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Well, back at the farm, I commenced planting.  Ma got wind of my trade and had a conniption.  Guy stopped by one afternoon accounta I told him the seeds weren’t germinating.  Ma launched off on the man like a demented spell-caster.  A flea assaulting a jousting stallion.  She was wailing on him like nobody’s business. Guy’s shins were taking a beating and I knew before long he’d have to defend himself.  She was, my Ma and all, so I had to step between them. I took a few healthy smacks in the puss.”

“So?”

“Guy said. ‘No worry.  Fee Faes are hardy but late to sprout.’  Ma said, ‘Fee Fae, you foul scum, Imma knock you on your bum!’ and started back in.  As luck would have it, that’s when The Crier scribe passed by.  She got most of the scuffle down, but with a lot of embellishment that just wasn’t factual.”

“And then?”

“That took some living-down.  Got so I had to pretty much lock momma away except at night. Pressure came off when B. B. Wolfe, you remember Benjamin Bowdin Wolfe, right?”

“Yunh.  Hamlet do-gooder?  Public service.  Worked the school crosswalk in front of the main drawbridge.  Chased off a couple of rogue ogres who’d strayed in from the river?”

“That’s the one.  Well, one morning Beatrix Pieux mentioned to BB at the crosswalk she’d lost fourteen of her sheep.  Well, BB – had an eye for the ladies anyway – was strolling near the woods that afternoon, came across a dozen untended sheep.  Assumed them to be Beatrix’s.  Delivered them to her.  While Beatrix was squealing in delight, the Sheriff arrived, as did a scribe from The Crier.  Seems the sheep weren’t Beatrix’s.  She denied any knowledge, claimed BB was using them to further his unwelcome advances on her.  Cleverly morphed her delighted squeals into moans of despair.  The Sheriff took BB away.  The Crier had a field day.  BB took the gaff and became ‘Big Bad’ and Beatrix became ‘Bo Peep’ in the sordid headlines.”

“Whoa!”

“It gets better.  Deputies did some checking.   Took three months, all the while BB taking the gaff, but they discovered Bo was a known sheep rustler; stole them from local farmers, gave them a quick shear, then dumped them in the slaughterhouses.  Started, I guess with the Baa Baa Black Sheep Caper a few years prior.  The Sheriff let BB go.  Bo of course split with the sheep the day of BB’s arrest.  The damage to BB’s rep was by then irreparable.  You know once the MSM puts a story out, right or wrong, no amount of truth will put it right.”

“And it certainly isn’t gonna come from The Crier or The Tattler!  ‘Big Bad’ huh?  Seems I saw something about that in the French edition of The Crier.  But not Bo Peep.”

“Nah.  That would have been Red Riding Hood.  Big auburn-haired Woman.  Things weren’t so good for BB when the Sheriff cut him loose.  He took a job with ‘Red’ alias Red Hood.  Ms. Hood and her attorney Larry Woodman swindled a house on the edge of the woods from the real Granny Hood, shipped granny off to a convent.  Turned the place into a sporting house.  BB was hired as part of the muscle.  But Wolfe figured out what the deal really was and got into a scuffle with Woodman over it.  Woodman picked up of all things an axe aiming to do BB in.  BB turned the tables and Woodman got nicked pretty good.

“I suppose the Sheriff and The Crier were right there?”

“Yup. Once again BB spent some time in the pokey while the Sheriff’s Deputies sorted through things.  Eventually came up it was a house of ill-repute.  BB wasn’t attacking unprovoked, only defending himself. Before the law could make real arrests, Red Hood sold the house to the Swine Brothers, got Woodman patched-up and the two of them fled to Paris with all the money.  The Crier was busy selling papers with headlines reading “Big Bad Wolf attacks Little Red Riding Hood!  Attorney near death!”  Pah! ‘Little’ Red Hood probably came in at twenty stone.”

“Swine Brothers?”

“Immigrants from Sicily. Crier and Tattler refers to them as “The Three Little Pigs.” Bernaldo Swine is into construction.  Doesn’t get built here unless Benny says so.   Leonardo handles all the drayage contracts.  You have goods to move, you are in bed with Lenny.  Vincenzo handles big-ticket item procurement for construction and manages the former Little Red House.  Vinny also handles the liquor since that kind of fits the Red House business plan.”

“Interesting.”

“Not really.  Benny, Lenny, and Vinny caught righteous flak from The Crier and The Tattler on a regular basis in the beginning.  Suspected shady dealings.  Stopped suddenly.  Benny, Lenny, and Vinny suddenly became model citizens as far as the MSM’s were concerned.”

“Why?”

“My understanding, I got this from BB you know, is that Benny now owns fifty-one percent of The Tattler and Lenny sixty percent of The Crier.  Vinny is kind of hands-off right now, since his, um, nighttime establishment is regularly in the public eye. Too exposed, so to speak.”

“How would BB know all this?”

“Odd.  BB was thinking of running for Sheriff.  Why not?  None of the charges brought against him to then stuck.  The MSM’s wouldn’t accept his campaign ads.  Quizzed as to why not, the Managing Editors referred BB to the Swine Brothers in the big house on the hill.  The Brothers made the mistake of only sending five security goons to get rid of BB.  You understand BB’s been around the castle a couple of times.  He dispatched the security team and was going after Lenny who’d made the mistake of going outside to watch security clean BB’s clock.”

“Lemme guess.  The Sheriff showed up?”

“You betcha! And both MSM’s.”  BB’s a tough character but he’s law-abiding. It only took eight Deputies to calm BB down. Swine & Company managed to get the charges to stick.”

“Anyway, BB knows about ownership because?”

Tattler cub reporter, Penny Walkwater, pretty woman.  Worked accounting before she got her first field assignment.  Saw BB and took a shine to him.  His machismo, I guess. She spilled the beans, if you’ll pardon me there. She’s secretly waiting for BB to come up for parole in a year.”

“Who’d a thought?”

“Say, I’m going to go visit BB.  Wanna go with me?”

“Sure! Why not?”

“I don’t think we’ve heard the last of BB Wolfe yet.”

“Hey!  Lookit there!  Izzat Jack Nimble?”

“Yeah steer clear of him.  No truth of it but The Crier is trying to tag him with fault for the big fire over in the Kielder Forest.

© SPWilcenski 2020

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