CAVEAT EMPTOR

translated by Simon Geoghegan / Gai Sever


“I’m sorry, but your licence has expired.” The officer handed back the document. “You will have to pay a small fine.”

“When I fired my weapon, my licence was still valid,” Mr. D. replied, perplexed.

“I can confirm.” The respectable witness nodded. “It was exactly five to twelve when I heard the shot ring out.”

“The police report was signed at four minutes past twelve. So the licence had expired for a full four minutes.”

“Well, you arrived at two minutes past twelve!” Mr. D. began to lose his composure.

The crowd tittered, indulgently, as one would with a novice. The respectable gentleman smiled condescendingly.

“The Rules state that the time that the shot is fired is formally deemed to be the moment when the police report is signed. And here, you should have planned ahead. After all, in our city, there are some neighbourhoods where the police might arrive as much as twenty minutes later.”

“If that’s the case, the Rules are idiotic! And if that’s the case, why on earth wasn’t I warned about this?”

The respectable gentleman was taken aback.

“What should you have been warned about, and by whom? And what is there in the Rules that you so dislike? I hope you are familiar with them at all. The Rules definitely apply to the situation in which you find yourself. You are obliged...”

“I’m not obliged to do anything! I paid my money! I fired my weapon before my licence ran out! And I am not obliged to work out when the police were meant to arrive and sign this stupid report.”

There was a tense silence.

“I beg your pardon! Are you aware what...”

“I am fully aware! And anyway, what has this to do with you? There are witnesses without you. So be on your way.”

The respectable gentleman turned as white as a sheet.

“Excuse me... I demand, if you please, that you deport yourself in a manner that befits polite society! I demand, sir, that you take your words back!”

“Which words exactly are you referring to? Now be on your way, you’ve been told once already!”

A shot shattered the tense silence like a thunderclap. Mr. D. collapsed onto the pavement, a bullet through the head.

“I think you’ll find my licence is in perfect order.” The respectable gentleman handed his document over to the officer.

“It certainly is.” The officer stamped the document. “And Mr. D’s fine will be paid by his guarantor.”