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to be given a trial before an impartial jury. After that he'd claim that, with his perverse conception of justice, the judge had actually defiled the sanctity of the entire justice system and, to pay for this sacrilege, should permanently remove himself from the bench. He'd finish by suggesting that if, in case, the judge failed to renounce his judgeship, he should be forced to cooperate with an official inquisition into all his past rulings—and then be impeached for any wrongful punishments the probe might uncover.

And if, Pinocchio decided, when he voiced these many recriminations he sounded like an annoying, disputatious lawyer, too bad. And if he sounded like some militant political activist, all the better—because, after all, serious wrongs had been committed and they needed to be rectified as soon as possible.

But Pinocchio soon learned that he'd be unable to present his case to anyone. According to the jailer, the court of appeals, the only body empowered to invalidate a judge's decision, was defunct. And since Fool's Trap was an autonomous region, there was no recourse outside the area either.

Poor Pinocchio probably would have remained incarcerated indefinitely had it not happened that, by a narrow margin, the mayor of Fool's Trap had just been elected to a second term. After the losing candidate grudgingly conceded, the mayor quietly gloated for a few days. Then he suddenly convened a special government meeting to announce that, in order to celebrate the extension of his regime, he was ordering fireworks displays and granting amnesty to all rascals.

On learning the news, Pinocchio immediately said to the jailer, “Let me out, please.”

Although the jailer had the authority to implement the mayor's order, he wasn't sure if Pinocchio really fell under the category of rascal. He said, “But you're not a rascal, you're a pup—”

“I beg your pardon,” interrupted Pinocchio, “but I am a rascal.”

“Do you have any written evidence to document that?”

“No, but I've always been a very bad—”

“Just a minute. Let me think.”

As a low-level bureaucrat, the jailer was expected to rigidly followed the letter of the law. But he'd often longed for some leeway to exercise independent judgment, however fallible that judgment might prove. Finally he answered, “Well, thank you for apprising me of your true status. Far be it from me to deny the rights of a rascal.” Then he added, “But I have to warn you: Leaving here won't be easy. Once you're out, you'll have to live with the stigma of having served jail time. You'll be treated like a second-class citizen.”

“I don't care.”

“All right, then. Now sign this legal document that states that you're a bona fide rascal, and I'll stamp it with the official seal. Then you can go."

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