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The Unhooding of the Claw

Chapter Text

After a long and felonious double-life, the treacherous mastermind of mischief, Sylvester Sneekly, better known as the Hooded Claw, came at last to the common fate of all living things; and the next thing he knew, he found himself seated in an enormous atrium, as wide as the horizons and full of stools, seating-mats, sofas, hammocks, divans, cushions, and armchairs, every one occupied by some disreputable-looking specimen of humankind and every similar species.

A voice said, on one side of him: 'Sneekly? Is that you?'.

Sylvester turned, and said: 'Dick Dastardly? What're you doing here?'.

Dick Dastardly answered: 'Whatcha think? I'm dead! same as you! An' we're all waitin' here f'r our fates t' be decided'.

Said the Hooded Claw: 'Fates? What fates? You mean, We're going to be judged here, for all we've done wrong?'.

Dick Dastardly answered: 'Not just what we've done wrong, but all we've done right, an' ever'thin' in b'tween. Bu' don' worry, ol' man; I've bin here since I died, a couple years ago, an' nobody here's bin called yet'.

At that moment, an agent of the court entered, and called: 'Sylvester Sneekly, alias the Hooded Claw, you are summoned to appear at once!'.

Said Dick Dastardly: 'What?! Why?! How come he gets t' go naow?! I w's 'ere f'st!'.

The agent answered: 'That is of no consequence here, Mr. Dastardly; and believe me (speaking unofficially, off the record, just between us), you won't be quite so anxious for your own hearing, when it comes. Mr. Sneekly, follow me!'.

With that, the Hooded Claw, nervously nibbling his nails, followed the fearsome form of the official, into the court-room of the Beyond, where (as soon as his eyes adjusted to their radiances) he beheld the awesome presence of the Judges of the Dead.

One of the Judges said: 'Read the charges!', and a prosecutor read aloud:

'"Mr. Sylvester Sneekly, Esq., certified family solicitor, alias the Hooded Claw:

You stand before this judicial bench, accused of multiple and unrepented attempts on the life, limb, and liberty of your ward, Ms. Penelope Pitstop, with designs upon her inheritance. You are further charged with numerous collateral damages, including risks, and actual injuries inflicted, either directly by you or in consequence of your designs, upon Ms. Pitstop's friends, rivals, and associates, including but not limited to the Ant Hill Mob and the other regulars of the Wacky Races; and, finally, with wanton destruction in the course of the aforesaid attempts on the life, limb, and liberty of your ward. How do you plead?"'.

Said Sneekly: 'Guilty;–– but not as charged. Those attempts, as you call them, on Penelope's life, limb, and liberty, were in actual fact, disguised lessons, intended to teach her certain virtues: namely, courage, resourcefulness, indomitability, self-reliance, honesty, thrift, punctuality, agility, stamina, and good judgement of character, among others. By her success in escaping all my (alleged) tricks and traps with ease, she has proven herself to have learned these lessons; and in so doing, justified and validated my methods. I should be commended, not condemned!'.

The prosecutor continued: 'Let the record show, Mr. Sneekly repeatedly and periodically professed the intention to destroy Ms. Pitstop and seize her fortune, and made multiple efforts to do so, as mentioned'.

Sylvester answered: 'That professing was all part of the act. I said it in the hearing of witnesses, including (at times) Penelope herself, to preserve my disguise;–– of course it was necessary to keep it up, or else she'd've laughed off my training and gone through life without it, and then where would she be? Probably facing a real treasure-hunter after her family jewels, without any idea of how to chase him off! Thanks to me, she can handle anyone and anything that comes her way! She's learnt to take everything in stride, until nothing can perturb her! I've made her a heroine, even outside the racing-circles! How can you punish me for that?!', and stood up in his seat, with his nose in the air.

The Judge said: 'Sit down, Mr. Sneekly. Prosecutor, continue'.

The prosecutor continued: 'You mentioned a real treasure-hunter; but so far, there have been few of these, and none of them ever persecuted Ms. Pitstop as you did. Indeed, many were more merciful, and few if any made such elaborate attempts at assassination'.

Said the Hooded Claw: 'The only thing assassinated around here, is my character! Of course I was worse than any other enemy the Pitstop girl had! If I'd been any less, someone worse would come along and make a hash out of her! Impractical little thing, she was: drove races in a mobile beauty-salon, and signalled her competitors into the ditch without meaning to (which made her as bad a cheat as any other Wacky Racer in the game!), and inveigled that Dastardly fellow back onto the track, after he'd been warned off, just because she enjoyed spoiling his evil plans! He wasn't the only one, either! What's more, she took up with those idiots of the Ant Hill Mob, and made them all fall head-over-heels in love with her; so I had to show how unreliable they were, and force her to rescue them, every time they tried to rescue her. It was necessary, I tell you, every last trick in the trade! And she enjoyed it, too. It amused her no end'.

Said the prosecutor: 'That is rather to her credit than yours. Mr. Sneekly, you have confessed to everything. How can you say, Not guilty as charged?'.

Sylvester answered: 'I've just said how: because I did it for her good. Can't you see that?! I rest my case'.

The Judge answered: 'We shall now have a recess, to determine our judgement'.

With that, the Judges went out, and Sylvester turned to one of the functionaries and asked: 'So, what do I get, if they decide I'm guilty?'.

The functionary answered: 'I'm not supposed to say, but the usual thing for betraying a ward, or a righteous leader, or anything else like that, is immersion in a lake of ice, for a hundred thousand years'.

Said the Hooded Claw: 'A hundred thousand?! O, well, at least that's not for ever'.

The functionary answered: 'It might as well be; I mean, One hundred thousand for every crime you've committed'.

Said Sneekly: 'O, no! O bother! O blast! Drat, drat, and drat again! Curse me, Hooded Claw! O my poor Penelope! What have I done?!', and covered his head with both hands.

The functionary answered: 'Don't worry, old fellow; it might not come to that'.

In came the Judges, and said: 'It certainly won't! Mr. Sneekly, alias the Hooded Claw, you are sentenced to only one hundred years of punishment; and then to be re-born, as a descendant of Penelope Pitstop's, with none of your memories, but an incurable curiosity about your past self. Sentence to be carried out immediately. Bailiffs, take him away!', and the bailiffs did.

On the way out, they passed Dick Dastardly, frog-marched between two more bailiffs, going the other way. As the great doors shut, Sylvester heard the Judges say, 'Richard Milhous Dastardly, for your numerous efforts to cheat in races and wreak havoc on all and sundry, you are sentenced to ten thousand years in the burning fiery furnaces. Sentence to be carried out immediately. Bailiffs, take him away!',

and, a moment later, heard Dick Dastardly cry out, 'What?! No! It can't be! Stop! Don't! Get off me! Le' me go! Stop them! Change your minds! Get me out of this! Put me down! No! Let me down! Stop, stop, stop!'; and with a final cry of 'Muttley!', he was silenced.

In after years, a boy was born to the descendants of Penelope Pitstop, who took a great interest in the most notorious adversary of his famous ancestress; but that is another story.