The Skeleton in Armour
By Everett A Warren
an excerpt, slightly but not nearly completely edited
My client was dead to begin with.
I'd say that you needed to understand this, or nothing after would seem wondrous strange, but this isn't Dickens and it's not even London. There, I would expect the cobblestones to be lousy with big lugs like this, crawling out of their mounds or wading ashore, as leaky as their tubs they sank to the bottom in, but this is Longfellow's town. It doesn't matter what manner of mischief came over with the Pilgrims, nor what slipped to our shores since from the Old Country or Older Countries, if you catch my angle, but the last thing I thought I'd see standing there dripping all over my fine Persian, one meat hook holding the damask canopy around my bed aside, filling my room and then some, was a massive Viking warrior in full battle array, just several centuries past his prime.
He set the axe down and I took a breath, thinking this just might not be the last thing I see, which took a load off, I can tell you. He almost crushed the little folding number I leave out for my dressing gown, and him not even skin with those bones, because whatever flesh he had fed the fishes long ago. I didn't quite hear his sigh -- no lungs, no air, you know how it is -- but it was there nonetheless as he settled into the chair.
I took a moment to compose myself, then quickly reached behind me and gave out my own little sigh of relief, with real live breath included, no less. My sweet butler sleeps deeply, but not that deeply, and I didn't want to have to replace the furniture if he woke up to find Snorri Skeletonson here in his squeeze's boudoir. Although an ogre's handy to have around for all kinds of reasons, I was more than happy to remember he was working down the docks to make some folding green while seeking his return to a more upscale vocation. As strong as he is, and no matter how I like him by my side, I don't think I would have been able to prevent him from being destroyed. See, I have an eye for power, and the bones before me were old, worn... and if their power were liquid, it wouldn't just drip like the saltwater onto my rug and robe. No, it would put the Molasses Flood of '19 to shame, and I'd have to find a new city to live in.
If I survived.
I shifted to the edge of the bed, leaving the silks behind, and walked across the room. His head turned to watch, flares of light within empty eye sockets following my progress, and me with all the flesh he doesn't have. I am not a modest dame by any measure, and to tell the truth if he had been hale and hearty, I might have done the same. Well, perhaps not, as I would have no need to gather a few things just to chin with my new friend, and I might even just ask him for the robe he's sitting on. Or I might give him lead poisoning, but you can't exactly let daylight into something that's been dead so long there's not a scrap of meat left behind to catch lead.
I grab some salts, some sands, and a little bit of that glitter I picked up at Filene's the other day. I say the words as I walk back towards him, casting a trail of colour with each hand, leaving the marks on the floor in just the right pattern. The glitter? Cut a doll some slack, I was losing out on my beauty sleep and needed something to add a little pretty to my night.
"So... tall, bone-white, and handsome wasn't in my cards. That gypsy girl hyped me, didn't she?"
I sit down in front of him and wait for him to speak. Sometimes it can take a while, but that is all up to them, and there's nothing for me to do but crack light to pass the time. I don't even have to try to think of a good joke, because he jaws almost before I'm even settled in. I listen to what he's got to say, and then I agree to take the case. From somewhere up in there under his deepest blue-green byrnie, where organs used to be, Beowulf's uncle pulls out a bar of gold that looks nearly as time-worn as he does. He sets it down almost gently on the floor at my feet, tops it off with a string of amber, gathers up his weaponry, nods once, and he walks out of the room.
I take it back. Maybe it is wondrous strange. Even with what all I've come across, it certainly plays out something surreal.
I stand, twirl and sweep an arm low, and all the signs and sigils are cleared, carried by little swirls of wind and tidied up in little piles under the armoire and, well, other corners of the room. Out of the way, and harmless enough until some morning when I need something to do. A whisper over the gold and it's off to safe keeping, only a slight haze that fades quickly, and a shimmer of glitter of the genuine variety left behind as I wrap the unfinished raw amber around my neck, glancing in the full length and finding them fair fetching with my fiery red locks. The weight of the gold -- and the even greater value of the amber to the warrior -- is a reminder this little romp won't be duck soup.
To reflect proper gravitas and give Leif Deadguy his due, I smile sweetly at myself in the mirror before a yawn rolls in and swallows me whole. I stretch and collapse into bed, asleep almost before I'm down and covered, visions of runes dancing in my head.
Copyright 2013 Everett Ambrose WarrenIf you enjoyed this little teaser, stay tuned for news of what happens next ~ all I have to do is write it! Simple as that! And, of course, get it edited and published. And all those other little niggling kind of things. You can, however, read an earlier fantasy noir tale featuring this same private investigator, The Hollow Man, which can be found in the pages of Fae Fatales: A Fantasy Noir Anthology.