Night Court Fanfiction: Defining Normality - 8. Chapter 8
Chapter 8- Razzle Dazzle and Mel Tormé
Hatti Digger curled up on the couch with a bowl of macaroni cradled in both hands. She drew her knees to her chest, using one to make up for the absence of her right hand which took up the fork. She’d made it out of the box, not having the energy to bother with “real cheese” or the like. Instead she allowed the powdered kind to gum up her throat with every swallow, washed down with a glass of water sitting on the side table. Across from her the TV showed some old black and white movie that Hatti had no interest in watching, but did nothing to change the channel. It was on mute anyways, she disliked the intrusion of sound when she was home alone. A noodle between her teeth, the young Baillif let out a soft sigh through the nose. She couldn’t quite identify the feeling that had overtaken her. Boredom, or some strain of loneliness? Hatti imagined that even on their days off, Christine and Harry might be out to a Musical or something equally ridiculous. Roz would be out at a club, if not at home sharpening and cleaning all her weapons. Mac would be with his family, his wife and small daughter (neither of whom Hatti’d had the pleasure to meet), and Bull would be doing something erm, quirky, but didn’t that describe all of them and everything they did? Yes, Bull would be at home practicing the accordion or writing a long poem about his “deep” inner feelings.
Hatti smoothed out a wrinkled in her jeans with her palm, suddenly feeling a headache coming on. All of them, from Harry to Bull had something at least semi-worthwhile with which to spend their time. What did Hatti do? She sat on a couch and ate bad macaroni feeling sorry for herself.
The sound of the phone ringing nearly sent Hatti out of her skin! Heart beating like a bongo drum, she set aside her dinner and rushed to the kitchen where her phone hung on the wall, waiting for her to pay it some attention. She took it, shifting her hair so that it could reach her ear. Hatti could hardly contain the faint hope that it was one of her parents remembering to acknowledge her existence, but the probability was small and thus she spoke: “Hello, you have reached Hatti Digger’s residence.” She placed her free hand on her chest so that her fingertips touched her collarbone. The sound that met her was nothing but heavy breathing, a sickly sound that seemed to steal the air out of her own lungs. Face reddening with anger and disgust Hatti thrust the phone back to the receiver only to hesitate nearly nearly a centimeter away from hanging up. Slowly she brought the phone back to her ear, “Dan?” The idea was ludicrous but still she asked.”…How’d you know?” came the pouty reply. Hatti sighed again, quieter, and this time with relief. At least she was being harassed by someone she cared about.”What on earth were you doing?” she demanded, her voice light with humor. “Wait, you have to let me finish!” protested her boyfriend, Hatti raised an eyebrow but allowed him to continue. Dan cleared his throat then spoke in a low, seductive rumble, “Hey Baby, I’m just sitting here, naked and alone,here in my apartment thinking of you…interested?”Hatti laughed then, it burst out of her like water through a broken dam. Feeling both utterly confused and equally amused, Hatti pinched the bridge of her nose. “Who wouldn’t be?” she muttered sarcastically.
There was a momentary pause where neither knew what to say. Hatti listened to his breathing instead, faint as it was over the phone. “So… how are you?” Dan asked awkwardly, clearing his throat in a single cough directed away from the receiver. Hatti plucked at a loose thread at the edge of her jeans, “I’m fine. And you?””Good,” Dan replied, “Besides, you know, incredibly bored.””Ah I see,” Hatti rolled her eyes, “You want me to entertain you,” the toe of her shoe pushed against the slim foot of her stool. “Well, yeah. Why do you think I’m dating you?” he laughed, it sounded sort of giggly. Dan always seemed to be the one to laugh at his own jokes. “Well alright,” she conceded with a bob of her head that he, of course, could not see, “Perhaps we should send our conversation in a more entertaining direction?”
Dan didn’t say anything for a good amount of time. Hatti didn’t have the heart to interrupt, for fear he was thinking of something, something important or silly- whatever tickled his fancy. “So,” he started eventually, “You never did tell me why you became a Bailiff.”
Hatti suddenly felt very tired. She cast her gaze to the living room across the way, her macaroni nearly cold and her water slowly going stale. “I wanted to, is that hard to believe?” she asked. A snort. “No… well, yes actually. I mean, I get that you’re brave and have a strong sense of justice and all that stuff, but, why not a police officer?” the genuine curiosity in his voice threw Hatti a bit. She fought for a good answer, one that would make sense for both of them to understand. “Because I couldn’t imagine myself being anything else.” The fact that Dan had said that on their first date was clearly not lost on him, he hummed with displeasure. “Fine. Well do you at least have any plans to move up in this career of yours?”
Hatti shrugged, then remembered that she had to say something too, “I am not particularly interested at the moment.” The thought hadn’t even occurred to her. Was there more she could do with this job? She supposed there was always Head Bailiff, not that it looked like the cushiest job.
“But you must have some form of ambition!” Dan prodded determinedly, his voice lowering a fraction as it turned more serious. Hatti ran a hand across her scalp, drawing in a slow breath. “I started this job less than a month ago,” she argued. The man on the other end tsked, “Oh puh-lease. You have to put yourself out there… like me.”Hatti let the phone cord drop from her finger, “Example please,” a smirk tugged at her lips. Dan didn’t hesitate to answer her, “Well, for example, I once ran for City Council!”
A memory long forgotten struck Hatti and her eyes widened, “I remember that.””Actually maybe it’s better you not-” Dan stumbled. Hatti continued regardless, “I do believe I voted for you.”
The man on the other end made a strange noise that sounded like the excited squawk of a bird, “You did?!” Hatti tilted her head, the question making little sense to her, “Yes. Wasn’t the other man… dead?”
The subject went on for some time, Dan chattering about the advantages of being alive. Hatti merely listened, unable to disagree but too confused to get as worked up as he was. Eventually she managed to send it a different direction, allowing her boyfriend another stab at a conversation topic- perhaps one less interrogative.
“So, how’d your little date with Bull go?”
Hatti blinked, not expecting that question. The fact that the “date” as he called it had been about two days ago probably had something to do with it. “It went well. If you had come along you might have known that,” she challenged him. The following scoff was so mockingly derisive Hatti nearly hung up on him. “I don’t get how you could be around Bull rather than me. He has the mental capability of a turnip!”
“Did you know, that when you described him as “assiduous” at his job he thought you’d called him a type of tree?”
He stopped, probably pouting. Dan had the ability to look completely innocent when he pouted, hiding the fact that he was indeed a grown man getting ready to throw a temper tantrum. Hatti fought back the growing anger at him, repeating in her head that he was trying to be a good, steady boyfriend and thus she should be able to tolerate the swing of his moods. “Are you jealous Mr. Fielding?””No,” he mumbled (still pouting), again she allowed herself to envision his movement. Stretching out his neck, tracing the lines of his neck down to his clavicle with thumb and forefinger, “Never.”
“Good,” Hatti let her shoulders slump a little, “Then perhaps we could let this go? Mr. Shannon is my friend and nothing else.” it felt good to say it out loud, some assurance that she was not romantically interested in Bull Shannon. Though he was a tall man, with a strong jaw and an appreciation for art.”Listen to you, Mr. Fielding, Mr. Shannon. You’re so uptight.”Hatti fought down the sudden overwhelming urge to call out “Am not!” and instead switched ears with the phone, “I hardly think that’s appropriate-“”There see, who talks like that?” Dan laughed. It surprised her to hear no actual taunt in his words or his laughter, unlike the way he insulted everyone else. It felt as though he were merely stating fact and he accepted it. She wasn’t sure how to feel about that.Hatti could just imagine his smug little smirk, eyes crinkling at the corners. She understood what he meant, that didn’t mean that it bothered her any less. Hatti had never been comfortable with people in a way most others were. With Bull she feared upsetting him in some way if she made a joke she might with Dan, she didn’t like Christine enough to really try, and she certainly couldn’t talk openly with the Judge! Hatti suddenly remembered a moment from her childhood, at school watching other children all huddle into their groups. She’d picked one at random and, with a book about making friends (a gift from her mother) tucked under her arm, had told a knock-knock-joke. They’d played along long enough to get to the punch line, then fell into stony, unimpressed silence. Hatti’d merely smiled, trying to appear amicable at all costs. While that particular friend group hadn’t been mean, they had started another conversation as though she’d never been there at all. Was Dan right? Was she really so out of place?
It was only a moment later that Hatti realized she’d been silent for far too long. Allowing her memories to fall back into the pit from whence they’d come, she tutted at her boyfriend. “I have manners, there is a difference.””Oh come on,” came his disbelieving reply, “I bet you haven’t done a single improper thing in your life.” Hatti narrowed her eyes, not sure if that was true or not. The first (and last) one night stand she’d gone through had been rather improper- but she could hardly bring that up! As it turned out, she didn’t need to when Dan’s voice cut through her thoughts, challenge in his tone.
“Oh yeah? Prove it.”
Harry Stone let his chin fall onto his arms, crossed atop the bench. His gaze trailed over the small crowd, a few recognizable faces in the audience. Phil was there, looking as though someone had given him the important job of sitting there and By God he was going to do it! Lips sticking out a little, Harry turned to Christine who tapped her fingers impatiently on her table. Mac approached with a file, looking towards where the Assistant District Attorney should have been but clearly wasn’t. “Dan not here yet?” he asked, clearly a question he already knew the answer to. Harry nodded, wrinkling the sleeves of his robe. “I notice Miss Digger isn’t here either,” Mac continued regardless of his friend’s silence, “I wonder why?”The Judge grunted as he thrust his head back, leaning against his chair this time, “I really don’t want to know,” he said, managing a smile at the sight of Mac’s cheesy grin. He knew the Clerk was trying to alleviate both the boredom and the frustration at being made to wait. Session was supposed to have started ten minutes ago! “Oh me neither sir,” Mac nodded.”You don’t suppose they’ve been in some kind of accident do you?” Harry’s brow furrowed as he imagined a number of terrible circumstances that could have befallen the two. The Clerk standing before him rolled his eyes, “Both of them? In separate cars?”
Bull’s approach did not go unnoticed, “Maybe they crashed into each other, leaving a mangle of burning flesh and warped metal?” he offered helpfully. Harry groaned, pinching the bridge of his upright nose, “I’d appreciate it if you kept your ideas to yourself next time Big Guy.” Bull merely shrugged.
The double doors across the way opened, and a body slid past them gingerly. Hatti Digger shuffled her feet, standing mere inches from the entrance, looking nervous. Harry was about to say something to her, ask her why she was late maybe, when she opened her mouth and did something surprising.
“Give ’em the old razzle dazzle… razzle dazzle ’em*”
Hatti’s voice was quiet and out of tune, though perhaps with some training she might turn out to be a decent singer. Harry watched, dumbstruck, as she continued. “Give ’em an act with- with lots of flash in it, a-and the reaction will be passionate,” her face reddened and she looked at the floor, her voice wavering. Harry had never heard her stumble over her words, it was oddly pleasant to see her being human The door behind her opened to reveal Dan Fielding’s head, he muttered something that seemed to bolster Hatti’s courage a little bit. What in the Hell was going on? Hatti started to sing louder, “Give ’em the old hocus pocus, bead and feather ’em. How can they see with sequins in their eyes?” she stretched out the final word, her foot tapping out of synch with her song and in a stilted motion. Dan fully entered the courtroom, putting himself next to his girlfriend. In a voice clear as day Hatti sang, “What if your hinges all are rusting?” to which Dan replied in one of his slimier voices, oozing with greasy charm: “What if, in fact, you’re just- disgusting?”
Then the two joined together for the big finale, “Razzle dazzle ’em – and they’ll never catch wise!” Dan struck a pose, Hatti hugged herself.
Well, there was only one thing Harry could do in such a situation… he stood up and started clapping!
Hatti’s face schooled into something more blank, though he could tell by the rosy color of her round cheeks she was less than pleased. Dan bumped against her arm with his, “Nice job. Here kid you earned it,” the ADA reached into one of the pockets of his suit and removed a crisp dollar bill. Hatti snatched it from his grip, then raised it up again, “I do believe the deal was ten dollars Mr. Fielding,” she said in a terse voice, though nothing about her body language suggested her to be actually angry. Harry watched as Dan reluctantly removed another bill from his pocket and slapped it into Hatti’s hand, muttering something rather naughty. Hatti nodded her head once, graciously, walking towards the jury box to take up her place next to Roz. Harry sat down again, grinning from ear to ear. “That was great!” he declared, slapping a hand on the bench’s smooth surface. Hatti wrinkled her nose. “Do you take requests?” the Judge asked. If he were closer to her, he would have elbowed her in the side playfully. Hatti pursed her lips, not saying anything. The joke had run its course, time to get to work.
Harry broke session for lunch with a heavy bang of his gavel, sending a raised eyebrow at the defendant as he was led away, he’d been charged with indecent exposure after sunbathing in the park in only his shorts. The weird thing, was that he had a bra shaped tan line but no such garment had been found around him! Shaking his head as though he were trying to dislodge water from his ears, Harry attempted to forget the mental image. With a rush he rose to his feet, rocking from one to the other before he took up a trot towards Hatti who stood in the space between the jury box and Dan’s table. “Hey Miss Digger,” he greeted. “Judge Stone,” she said plainly. Harry was sad to find her quiet demeanor returned, and decided that would never do! “Stop me if you’ve heard this one. What do you get when you cross a giraffe with a german shepherd?” he leaned towards her expectantly. The look Hatti gave him was unreadable, “I don’t know sir,” she replied good naturedly. “A watchdog for the eighteenth floor!**” Harry gave his signature wide eyed, wide mouthed expression as he waited for the laughter. Hatti shook her head, “That… that was terrible.”The Judge was about to reply when he was rudely interrupted by of Dan Fielding.
“You ready to go my lovely?’
His tall form cut between the Judge and the Bailiff, pulling her into his arms only to end up with an elbow in his stomach that made him yelp. “Hey,” he huffed unhappily, though he allowed Hatti her space. Harry raised an eyebrow at the two of them, crossing his arms over his chest. “So Dan, dare I ask why you two came in late today…singing?” He wasn’t upset of course. Harry enjoyed anything that could lighten the mood in what was sometimes a dismal evening. There was poverty and cruelty and all manner of things that choked the life out of a person unless they either 1: grew to not care- or 2: learned to add a little sunshine to the darkness. Harry thought he himself offered plenty of sunshine for everyone, but that didn’t mean he didn’t appreciate a little help every once in awhile. Dan looked thoughtful for a moment, “Well, first I offered her ten dollars and then… no wait, that’s it.” He tapped his chin with his pointer finger. Harry rolled his eyes, “Well, if you ever decide to do that again might I suggest a little,” eyebrow waggle, “Mel Tormé?”
A sudden yell on Dan’s part interrupted Hatti’s sentence before she could get to the second word. The sharp, slightly alarming shout startled both Harry and Hatti who turned to look at him as though he were insane. It took a moment for Harry to grasp what the Bailiff had been about to say (likely the reason for Dan’s sudden cry) and his mouth dropped open, “Oh come on, don’t tell me you’ve never heard of Mel Tormé!” The horror! Dan put his forehead in his hands, groaning. Hatti blinked, “I imagine he or she is a singer?”
“HE is the world’s greatest singer. The Velvet Fog. Seriously what is it with kids today, do they live under rocks?” he threw his hands up irritatedly, slapping them back down on his thighs. Hatti’s brow knit together, “I’m thirty eight***. I also don’t listen to music unless I have to.”Dan laughed lightly, incredulously, “What?” his eyes narrowed slightly. Hatti shrugged her shoulders, ruffling her hair, “I prefer things to be quiet. Does that bother you?” the honesty in her question allowed Dan to answer in a less than sarcastic manner, a slight pout formed out of his thin lips. “I don’t know,” he hummed, “You at least have a favorite style of music though, right?”
Hatti shook her head.
An uneasiness fell over the group. Harry cleared his throat, summoning their attention once again. “Well uh, we best get off to the Cafeteria. I hear there’s tacos!” he backed away from the two, ushering them forward with a hand. He was happy to find the two following him immediately. Just before the double doors though. Harry heard their footsteps stop. After a moment a gentle “What was that for?” from the Attorney suggested either a hug or a kiss. Hatti’s voice could barely be heard, but Harry still managed to make out the soft words whispered to her boyfriend.
“For singing with me.”
Again I apologize for the wait- and also the spacing, my word program doesn’t transfer perfectly with this site.
*That song gets stuck in my head way too often!**The watchdog for the eighteenth floor joke I heard on Mork and Mindy. XD***So I imagine that this is set somewhere around the middle of the series (definitely after Dan’s Operation), so that makes him around forty two or forty three? I wanted Hatti to be at least sort of close to his age so I settled for thirty eight. 😉
-Thanks for reading!