Franklin Stagg

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Detective Inspector Franklin Stagg is a deer character created by E.O. Costello. He appears in a number of the stories set in the Spontoon Island world.

He is the senior of the two official police detectives in the Spontoon Islands Constabulary, his junior being Detective Sergeant Orrin F.X. Brush. Stagg also has been engaged for his codebreaking expertise by the nation that is responsible for the defence of the Spontoons.

Stagg appears as a primary character in a series of short detective stories, the novella The Catto Comeback, and the serial The Wolf Without Wings. He is also a supporting player in a number of the short stories and serials starring Reggie Buckhorn and Willow Fawnsworthy, and has made appearances in the Spontoon serial Luck of the Dragon and Pursuit!


Note: some spoilers follow.

The family of Franklin Junius Stagg had been prominent in New Haven since the period when that nation ended its colonial ties with Great Britain. (In this world, New Haven Colony did not merge with Connecticut, as it historically did, and did not join the United States, declaring its independence separately in 1775.) Specifically, the Stagg family was involved in newspaper and book publishing, and were the owners of New Haven's oldest and most prestigious paper, The New Haven Evening Mail . Stagg's grandfather, in the 1880s, was New Haven's Ambassador to France, and his son (Stagg's sire) served as one of his aides.

At some point or other, Junius Stagg fell in love with a doe from the Buchsbaum (Bucksbaum in some spellings) clan of Geneva, in spite of the fact that he was already married and had sired three fawns. Little is known about his lover, save for the fact that she had jet-black headfur, deep violet eyes, and was a skilled piano player. She became pregnant by Junius Stagg, much to the fury of her conservative Jewish family. When she died in fawnbirth, a major scandal threatened to erupt, which was only averted by Junius Stagg accepting responsibility, and passing the newborn fawn off as the offspring of both himself and his mate. While this averted the scandal (the story was almost universally believed in New Haven), it put a permanent strain on the marriage, and Franklin's step-mother and step-siblings had a cold and distant relationship with him.

Stagg was privately tutored by a Benedictine friar for most of his childhood. Among other things, he learned to speak French and German; ironically, the languages of his natural mother. He attended the Collegiate School (the analogue in this world of Yale University), earning both an undergraduate degree and an LL.B.

As it was unlikely that a position in the family firm would be open to him, he chose to join the New Haven State Police as a detective upon graduation, and in the years before the Great War he managed to gain a reputation as one of the outstanding members of the force. In addition, he acquired a close friend in Allan Minkerton III, the future head of the Minkerton's detective agency, and a wife, the former Diana Horne, who quickly bore him two doe-fawns, Grace and Helen.

The Great War intervened, and Stagg was assigned to be the chief of intelligence for the New Haven Flying Corps, New Haven's principal contribution to the war effort. Stagg scored some significant successes, most notably assisting in the capture of the notorious spy Madame Onca. During this time, Stagg made two further key friends, Surete official Henri, Comte de Deux-Bois, and newspaperfur Whitney St. James.

After the war ended, he returned home, and soon fathered a third doe-fawn, Margaret, who was a dead ringer for her natural grandmother. Aside from his continuing work as a detective, he also assisted New Haven's government in cryptanalysis, though this effort was largely sidetracked by the continuing problems New Haven had in the 1920s with unstable and corrupt, revolving-door governments. The peak of Stagg's career as a detective may have been his smashing of the Red Fist ring that had assassinated New Haven's head of state; many of its leaders were captured, tried and sentenced to long periods of imprisonment.

In the summer of 1929, a major bribery scandal erupted in the New Haven State Police. Stagg was ordered to suppress a report, and refused, tendering his resignation on the same day the reports of the scandal broke. Stagg, who had been the fourth-highest ranking member of the State Police, and was also the highest-ranking official untouched by the scandal, was offered the job of Chief of the State Police, which he turned down. His daughter Grace, to whom he was devoted (and who also cherished a desire to follow in her sire's hoofsteps), convinced him otherwise.

The Crash and the subsequent Depression caused the collapse of New Haven's economy, and in November of 1931, a violent revolution broke out in New Haven. The leaders of the Red Fist escaped from prison and overthrew the weak and ineffective government. Stagg had refused to fire on the crowds gathered at the General Assembly building, for fear of killing innocent civilians. This did not earn him any favours with the new regime. He was severely tortured, with a large chunk of one of his hooves being torn out, injuring him for life. The verdict of his show trial was a foregone conclusion, though Stagg behaved with dignity and courage.

He was sentenced to die, but for reasons that remain unclear, Stagg escaped the firing squad and ended up crossing the border into Gnu York State. Enraged, the new regime took measures to arrest his family. At virtually the same time, Stagg's friends Minkerton, Deux-Bois and St. James attempted to rescue the family by armed force. They failed, but in the furious firefight that ensued, circumstances allowed the eldest doe-fawn, Grace Stagg, to escape. She was assumed by all (incorrectly) to have died in the firefight.

Stagg's mate and his two other doe-fawns were publicly hung from an elm tree on the Green in New Haven. News of their murder/execution shattered Stagg, and added to the deep sense of guilt he had for not stopping the Revolution.

Stagg spent the balance of 1932, and all of 1933, seeking asylum in the United States. The new Moosevelt administration, seeking some sort of modus vivendi with New Haven, denied Stagg's request. However, the Spontoon Islands, at that time setting up a formal detective force, offered him a position, which he accepted in the spring of 1934, and he started his new position in mid-summer, 1934, getting a murder case within 24 hours of his arrival ( The Wolf Without Wings ).

Description and Life in the Spontoons[edit]

Stagg is tall and lean. His rack has grown back from being sawed off by the Red Fist (a deeply humiliating experience for a buck), but it many ways there is a gaping wound in his pysche similar to the gaping hole in his hoof that forces him to use a cane (and later a walking stick that he wins from a professional gambler in Knave High ). A devout Catholic, Stagg seeks some solace in prayer, and commissions a cenotaph in stained glass to be installed in St. Anthony's, Meeting Island, where he attends church.

For the first few years of his time in the Spontoons, Stagg is a lonely and troubled buck, wracked by pain from his hoof and often unable to sleep owing to nightmares about his family, or keep food on his stomachs. While this does not prevent him from being an efficient and effective detective, it does make his life a misery, and is a source of worry to his friends.

Eventually, he has the good fortune to fall into the paws of Rosie Baumgartner, a kind a sympathetic fur (species: cheetah). She may not be able to heal all of his injuries, but after one acute attack of gastritis that nearly kills him in early 1937 (brought about by information indicating a scandal is brewing in the police force, reviving bad memories of 1929), she gently nurses him back to some semblance of physical and mental health. Indeed, she is probably responsible for giving him a reason to keep on living.

As of early 1937 (the point reached in the currently published stories), Stagg has a new and more sympathetic boss, and a lover who cares for him deeply. He has, reluctantly, consented to assist the governments of Rain Island and the Spontoon Independencies in Projects "Babel" and "Xanadu," respectively, projects designed to gather signals intelligence and use primitive computers (which he had initially designed, and which were being improved upon) to break codes. An early version of this machine, nicknamed "Medusa" from its nest of snaking wires, had brought down one of the most notorious criminals in the region, Lord Leon Allworthy.

Stagg is unaware that his eldest and favourite doe-fawn is not only alive, but is almost literally under his nose in the Spontoons. Grace Stagg, under the name "Willow Fawnsworthy," is keeping her real identity a secret, guessing (correctly) that the truth would likely kill her sire. The few furs who know the full story, including Rosie Baumgartner, are deeply reluctant to back this policy, but recognize the risks of revealing the truth to Inspector Stagg.