Story: The King's Fountain Pen

Language English – A story for learners of English
Level C2 (6 of 6) – Advanced (Native) What's this?

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. The evidence is conclusive.

“Miss Anchor saw a bald man, matching Mr. Grey’s description, leave the tourist section of the palace, and steal the King’s priceless fountain pen from his private room.

“The security cameras saw exactly the same thing. And Mr. Grey’s visitor ticket was found on the King’s desk, where it fell from his pocket.

“Mr. Grey is a lifelong thief. In school, he stole food from other children. At age twenty, he stole eighty wheels of cheese from the local factory. Next, he took all the jars of jam from the supermarket. Most recently, Mr. Grey was caught stealing a whole batch of fresh cakes from the bakery. The King’s fountain pen is the latest addition to this pattern.

“If he hadn’t been caught, who would have been the next victim? If he is released, you could be his next target.

“Mr. Grey has admitted that he owed a lot of money to a loanshark. And so his motive is clear. He gave the pen to the loanshark, in exchange for clearing his debt.

“One of the most valuable artefacts in the country is now being sold on the black market.

“It is not likely that we shall ever recover the King’s priceless pen. But we can uphold the principles of justice. Ladies and gentlemen, you must find the defendant guilty.”

The lawyer turned around. He had a striped suit, slick black hair, and a constant smile. As he sat down, he winked at Mr. Grey’s lawyer, a small woman in a plain dress. She looked almost as worried as Mr. Grey himself. She tidied her papers, smoothed her hair, and stood up.

“You may proceed,” said the judge with a bored voice.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” the lawyer began.

“Mr. Grey has been unlucky in life. He made bad friends, and they trapped him in a cycle of debt. But since leaving prison, Mr. Grey has changed his life. He got a job, started a family, and he’s working with the police to bring the loanshark to justice.

“The idea that Mr. Grey’s ticket jumped out of his jeans is preposterous. The real thief took this ticket from the bin outside the palace, and placed it on the desk.

“Miss Anchor saw a bald man in his fifties, about six feet tall, wearing jeans and a black jumper. There were dozens of visitors that day who looked exactly the same.

“The security camera never sees his face. But what does it see? It sees a star-shaped birthmark above his left ear, which Mr. Grey does not have.

“Ladies and gentlemen. If you agree that this evidence is inconsistent, you must agree that Mr. Grey is innocent.”

She sat down, and breathed. In a case with such strong evidence against her client, she had done the best she could.

A short while later, the court clerk said loudly: “All rise!”

The judge looked around the courtroom. The case had proceeded exactly as he had expected. But what he didn’t expect was that his wig had become trapped between the chair and the desk.

As he stood up, to a height of six feet, the wig slid off his bald head. All at once, a dozen reporters saw, and began to photograph, the star-shaped birthmark above his left ear.