A Story by LJ

humor / satire / neo noir


She was dressed in black and shaped like a grand piano. Big, with the largest swell toward her creamy shoulders. Unfortunately, she wore a black hat with a black netting that covered her face. I glanced down. Yes, her legs were thin, there were only two, and they were encased in black nylons. My guess was that somebody close to her died, which she didn’t like, and she wanted to fix things by hiring me.

I spoke before she did. “We can dig up a body,” I said, “but we can’t guarantee that it’ll be revived. That costs more, and I’m sure you know how expensive we are.”

“I do,” she said, like a twisted bridal vow. “They say you cost an arm and a leg. Well, you can take them off the hussy he’s buried with! His ‘favorite companion’...Ha!”

“Oh, you must be talking about the Captain. Everybody knows he had his pet buried with him.” I peered at her, trying to see her face. “Who are you?”

“I’m his favorite companion, d****t! I was at his side every second of the last six weeks! No, no, I mean six months!”

She sat down, and I watched to see if she’d count on her fingers. No. But she did lift the veil. Real tears spilled from her eyes, which were either infected or she’d been crying a long time. I pushed the tissue box within her reach and sat at the desk.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Mandy,” she said. “Just Mandy. He was going to marry me! He loves me! He said so, many times!”

She blew her nose, which broke the spell. I got businesslike.

“Well, Mandy, you can just call me Cipher. I didn’t see you at the funeral. I go to most funerals and I would’ve noticed you at that one. The Captain had very few friends, it seems.”

“Yes!” she cried. “I am his friend! For months! Much more his friend than that thing he called ‘Pooky’! He called me ‘honey’!”

I considered pushing the secret bell to have David come in. I was in full female form, and somehow that told me Mandy was a class-A liar. I could always spot the liars as a woman, which is why I was at the desk then. Even as a woman, I dressed like a man. Some people never realized who I really was at either point of my body-changes.

David was the muscle and I was the brains, regardless of form, so I manned up and told Mandy to stop crying.

“And stop using all those exclamation points,” I said. “You can’t fool me. As it is, we have to have his butler’s signature to dig up the Captain. We can’t just go digging around, willy-nilly. It has to be legal.”

Mandy blotted her eyes, her cheeks and her lipstick. She leaned forward, showing the requisite cleavage.

“The butler is in the car, you, you... person! You think I’d come down here alone? I’m the Captain’s fiancee! He’s going to marry me!”

I raised my index finger. “Mandy, the Captain is dead. He’s not marrying anyone.”

“He will if you revive him,” Mandy hissed. “You want the butler to sign? He will. He’s in the car. I’ll get him.”

She stood. “The butler has a name, by the way,” she added.

“What is it?” I asked, though I already knew.

She slowly winked. “I’m not sure of the whole name. I just call him Hank.”

I watched her leave, a concerto in a black dress. I never thought Henry Goodson would let anyone call him Hank.

I rang the bell for David. He was resting next door, probably looking like a sleeping walrus. At rest, his muscles sort of relaxed into layers that resembled blubber. But David was alert when he came in.

“Say, Boss,” he said. “Since when do we interview zombies?”


“Can’t you smell it?” he asked me. “They smell nearly dead. That broad who just left either has very bad perfume on or she’s the one going bad.”

I stood and paced the office. David waited in the client’s chair.

“Okay,” I said. “She’ll be back any minute with Henry Goodson, who may or may not sign to have the Captain revived. So. One... is Henry fully alive? Two... why does she want the Captain back? Three... what’s important about the Captain’s pet?”

“You mean Pooky?” David said. He was the smart one that day. It happens.

“Pooky smells off, too,” he said. "That little pick-pocket monkey is mainly after brains. The Captain used to say she favored rat brains. Didn’t you ever talk to him? He was so proud of Pooky.”

“No! I talked to the butler. C’mon David, is the Captain himself dead or alive now?”

“If they want to revive him, who cares? We get an arm and a leg if we do it. Maybe we can get the entire Pooky.”

“And why do we want the monkey?” I asked, frowning.

“Her software alone would run the office for months. And the damn thing is cute slipping wallets out of pockets...”

“Shh, they’re back.” I sat at the desk again and David stood.

As I greeted the butler, I glanced at David.

He shrugged. Butlers are always hard to read, or smell, and Henry was an expert butler.

“It’s about the Captain, Miss Cipher?” he asked. “I’m surprised Mandy couldn’t sign for a revival. I’d be happy to do so myself. It’ll be very nice to see the Captain alive again.”

“Will it and why?” I snapped.

Mandy and Henry looked at each other.

“Personally,” Henry said, “I want my position back, but without that rascal Pooky. I understand you’ll take the monkey as your payment?”

I just glared at him.

“It would be best,” he continued, “for the Captain to be free of such dependence. Mandy will fill the Captain’s days with joy, and I will continue my light chores unabated.”

“Yes!” Mandy declared. “I’ll marry the Captain and we’ll travel the world, in love with each other forever!”

“And why do you think a revival lasts forever?” I asked angrily. I knew they’d get their way.

“Because I’m known for being endless fun,” she said, “and with Hank’s help, the Captain is known for his brains! We’ll be like cheese and crackers together! Suitable forever!”

I sighed.

David nodded.

The paperwork was soon finished.

We were committed to raising the half-dead and leaving them half-dead.

© 2020 LJ

Author's Note

How can the dialogue be improved?
Can you picture the narrator?

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Added on September 28, 2020
Last Updated on September 28, 2020
Tags: a new kind of detective story, over-the-top humor




i am testing this to see what it's all about now. i used to write here years ago, and enjoyed it very much. i wrote fiction mostly, and many reviews for other writers. i made friends, and hope to agai.. more..

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