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Authors: Corey Redekop

Moot

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Moot

by
Corey Redekop

 
 
 
 

Moot
©
2015/2016 by Corey
Redekop.

This eBook is a work of
fiction. The names, characters, and events are entirely fictitious. Any
resemblance to persons living, dead, or moot is entirely coincidental.

All Rights Reserved.

Published by Husky Monkey
Publications.

No part of this publication may
be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or in
any means – by electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise –
without prior written permission.

 

Originally published by
Exile Editions in
The Exile Book of New
Canadian Noir
(2015
).

 
 
 

Table of
Contents

Moot

About the
Author

Moot

 

“You’re moot.”

#

She was worth a
stare, and knew it. Late twenties. A face of superbly crafted beauty. Five feet
nine inches of unblemished curvature sheathed within a dress formulated to be
gawked at.

Not what I was used to
seeing at nine in the morning. Or any time. My clientele tended toward the
shabby.

She’d walked in as I was
polishing my eye. Dumb luck I hadn’t bothered to turn the lights on. The dim
from the morning sun barely cut the smog, let alone the window that hadn’t
known clean since the Allies won. I popped it in before she could notice.

“Miss Carmen Lopez.
Miss
Lopez, if you’d be so kind,
Mr.
Pasco.” Her lips smiled. The rest of
her didn’t bother. No one ever truly smiled in my office.

“I might be so kind.” I
propped my feet up, showing off socks that had been new when Roosevelt took
office. The first time. “I aim to please, Miss
Lopez. Says so on my
business card. But if you’re here for personality, I have a different office
for that. And I’m disinclined to put on airs without a look at your bankbook.”
I leant back, slid a cigarette into my mouth, and flicked a matchstick with my
thumbnail. If I’d been wearing my fedora I’d have tilted it over my eyes.

Ever since Bogart’s
Maltese
schtick
, people expected a show for their buck,
and I was happy to play the part if it meant a client. But where I once
followed up dry witticisms with professionalism I now intentionally prodded.
Helped maintain a distance. If you were at my door, you’d likely as not be put
off by a little brusqueness anyway.

Her fingers whitened
around her handbag. She wasn’t used to lip. “Mr. Pasco—”

“Dudley, please.” I took a
long drag, imagining the rush that once upon a time calmed my nerves.

“—I am looking for
someone, and you come ... recommended.”

“By whom?”

“Does that matter?”

“I suppose not.” I puffed
out a few half-hearted rings. “But I offer a discount for referrals.”

“Money is no object, Mr.
Pasco.”

“Never is, until it is.”

She withdrew an envelope
from the purse and laid it on my desk. I ignored it. “Why don’t you tell me why
you’re here? I hate letting money get in the way of friendship.”

I motioned to the chair
nearer my desk. She looked at me, uncertain.

“Please sit. I rent it by
the hour.”

She cleared her throat. “I
think I’d rather stand over here. If it’s all the same.”

The door must have looked
inviting, she kept inching toward it.

“Something on your mind,
Carmen
?”

She took a breath and
said, “You’re moot, Mr. Pasco
.”

I sighed, camouflage
blown. “Well done, most don’t notice. What was the tell?”

“You haven’t blinked since
I came in.”

“That’d do it.” I slipped
my sunglasses on. “Better?”

“By degrees. Also, your
eyes are different colours.”

I sat up at that, rattled.
“What?”

“Your left eye is brown.
The other is green. Were they like that before?”

I clawed a mirror from my
desk drawer and peered in, not seeing what she saw. I’d lived in tones of grey
for months. Forgetting myself, I scooped the right out, scowling.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Quite.”

“I’ll kill him.” I shoved
the marble back in. “He swore they were twins.”

“It’s hardly noticeable.”

“Not the point. In my
line, appearance is important.” I spat the cigarette to the floor and ground it
beneath my toes, forgetting that my shoes were in the closet. I heard the flesh
crisp as embers singed through the wool of my left argyle, not feeling a thing.

“Now that my mootness has
been uncovered, sit and spill, will you? It only looks like I have all day.”

I gave her a moment. She
gnawed at a fingernail, caught herself, and sat, crossing her legs. In another
life that would’ve been it for me.

“I do apologize, Mr.
Pasco. I wasn’t expecting...”

I waved her quiet. “No one
ever gets used to it. Moots, I mean.”

“You look...” She
struggled for the word. “...real. Alive, I mean.”

“My pay mostly goes to
upkeep these days.”

“Why do you…?” Miss Lopez
blushed, ashamed of her curiosity. “Please forgive me. I shouldn’t pry.”

I finished her thought.
“Why play lifer? Tell the truth, would you have come to my door otherwise?”

“Perhaps not,” she
admitted. “It’s not that I’m
deathist
, you
understand. My maid is moot. But she’s not…what’s the word? She’s not smart?”

“I prefer the term
‘sentient reanimate.’”

“Yes. Cora beginning
to...” She looked around, hesitant to utter such
unpleasantries
.
“...spoil. There was a burglary. She was struck with a crowbar. Here.” Miss
Lopez drew a line across her forehead with her finger. “It’s unpleasant, of
course. She makes almost as much mess as she cleans. We took her to
Greytown
once. I thought she’d prefer it there, among her
own, but she wandered back the next day. Not that I mind. Cora’s family.”

Family
. I swallowed my
irritation at her
necrophobia
. Family, just not
capital F
family. Family, but not family
enough to set Cora up in a resurrection community.

“Start again,” I said,
taking out a pad and pencil. “Begin with why.”

She composed herself.
“It’s my sister. Isabel’s always been unpredictable. Went to
all
the
best schools, because none could handle her for more than a month. Can’t sit
still, won’t take anything seriously. A
hellraiser
,
as my father says. She’s only sixteen, and already she has been involved with
men. And drugs. My family has spent a great deal to keep her out of the
papers.”

“And she’s taken off for
parts unknown.” Kid nobody understands runs away, takes up with a bad scene.
Not the oldest in the book, but a classic for a reason. “Have you called the
police? They’re helpful with missing persons, especially well-off missing
persons.”

“We’d prefer this be
handled quietly. My father feels Isabel has embarrassed us enough.”

“Your dime. Luckily,
you’ve caught me with a gap in my schedule. I get thirty per plus expenses,
which you’ll received itemized once I’ve found her or the trail runs cold.”

It was more than I usually
charged, but she could afford it. Plus, my doc wasn’t the cheapest in town, and
I was only going to get worse. Especially if I killed him for the peeper
switcheroo.

“There’s more.” Her eyes
began to mist. “Isabel was never interested in religion. We couldn’t even get
her through Sunday School. But when Cora returned last year, Isabel started going
to church.”

“Not surprising. I hear
attendance in the pews has quadrupled since this all started.”

“Suicides, too,” she said.
I nodded, fiddling at my shirt cuffs.

 
“It hit Isabel particularly hard. Cora is the
closest thing to a mother Isabel knows. She was the one who discovered the
body. Cora returned in Isabel’s arms.”

“Unsettling.”

“After that, Isabel
started taking things more seriously. After the inconstancy of death became
clear.”

Inconstancy. I liked that.
Nicer than random chance or fickle finger of fate. Or worse, God’s Will Be
Done.

“So Isabel found God. Not
usual for a runaway.”

“It’s my fault. We are
good Christians, Mr. Pasco. But Isabel never does anything halfway. She prays
loudly all hours of the day, she preaches chapter and verse to anyone and
everyone. When she’s not at church, she has her head buried in the family
Bible. I’m ashamed to say this, but her belief has become frightening.”

“There’s religious, and
there’s
religious
.”

“You understand, then.”

“Too well.” I glanced at the
corner of my desk. She followed my gaze and frowned, curious at the picture
frame lying there, face-down.

“And then Isabel left,” I
said, louder than I meant to.

“Yes, Monday. We had been
arguing again. This obsession, especially with death, it’s unhealthy for her.
Then Isabel didn’t show up for breakfast. Cora was agitated, but I didn’t think
much of it. I thought perhaps she had gone to an early Mass. Later on, I
noticed the safe in my father’s office was open.”

“She took money?”

“A few thousand dollars.
We haven’t heard from her since.”

“How about your church?
Anything going on there? Hate to say, it wouldn’t be the first time a trusting
young woman was taken advantage of.”

I scratched at my wrist
absently while Miss Lopez assured me at length of Reverend Carlson’s impeccable
reputation. We both remembered the Bishop O’Shea case. For an entire year it
had consumed the city’s attention. A clergyman taking advantage of young girls
has a way of firing up the populace.

“What about the maid?”

“Oh, Cora’s practically
doornail.” If she thought the term would bother me, she didn’t show it.
“Honestly, I’m thinking of putting her down.”

There’s only so much
oblivious
mootism
I can take. “I’m sure that’s for
the best. Cora’s not really family. Will you have it stuffed?”

She blanched. “Oh, that’s
not what I—”

“Get the bones
resined
? Use it as a hat rack?”

“That isn’t fair,” she
protested.

“None of this is. But your
moot’s the one that recommended me.”

Her mouth gaped at that.
“How did you know?”

“Who else could you have
asked? It’s probably not quite the doornail you think.”

I’d have to talk to the
moot, that much was plain. After a few more questions, I saw Miss Lopez out
with the promise to expect me at her house that afternoon for a moot-to-moot
chat.

After all, even a rusty
doornail has its uses.

#

I wrote myself a
note to eviscerate my physician – or at least get a refund – and opened the
envelope. Inside, a sheaf of centuries promised another year of function, maybe
two if I could barter Doc down on a few procedures.

As a rule, moots invest
any savings they accumulated in life in priests and charlatans and quacks;
anyone promising something beyond their shambling nonexistence. There are
many
ways – grisly ways,
bloodsoaked
ways – to escape
the clutches of
unlife
, but most moots, sentient and
doornail alike, continue to crave spiritual assurances on the state of their
immortal souls.

I’d never gone in for the
godbotherer
bit. In my opinion, whatever deity was in
charge had either died, left work early, or simply stopped caring.

Myself, I kept to the
routine. I had little else to do. My family was gone, my unplanned early
retirement refused.

Rather than try again, I
stuck around and took my punishment.

Beneath the cash lay a
photo of Isabel in all her sixteen-years-of-life exuberance. Youthfully curvy,
face pleasingly baby-fatted. Polka-dot dress fit for both church suppers and
driving young men wild. A wide-brimmed hat shadowed a mischievous gap-toothed
grin that would keep any boy she deigned to favour with a smile occupied with
dirty thoughts and dirtier socks.

Regretting it but helpless
to do otherwise, I lifted the picture frame and held it next to the photo. They
could have been sisters. So and Jo gazed out at me, arms around each other’s
shoulders, their toothy grins infectious enough to bring one to my lips even as
a lump formed in my throat.

Three years dead, and
still my body refused to forget.

I put the picture back,
face up. I pocketed the photo and deposited the bulk of the cash in my floor
safe beneath the desk, grabbing a Michigan bankroll I kept there for
emergencies. After a second of thought, I loaded and holstered my gun, a loaded
Colt Detective Special I named after my wife.

Like the pistol, Marion
promised safety.

And delivered death.

#

I typically
neatened up for house calls. Laundered pinstriped suit, shined patent leathers,
tie fully
windsored
, chin shorn of shadow. The
prospect of interrogating a moot dissuaded me from looking my best.

At the sight of my rumpled
apathy, the Lopez butler promptly broke the first rule of
butlering
and allowed his blank features the momentary gift of undisguised loathing. I
followed his stiff-backed majesty through the manor, marching past the
requisite displays of animals cut down mid-snarl and traversing a kitchen fit
to feed an entire restaurant filled with the highest of high society.

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