Chapter 1: In Which I Get To Meet A Celebrity, Albeit A Dead One
I walked to work today, as I did every day. My employer, housemate, and best friend Ludlow Fitch walked beside me, prattling on about the history of whatever old building or landmark had caught his eye today, as he did every day. For all intents and purposes, today seemed like it would be one of those days that would come and go with little consequence. At least, as little consequence as is possible when your line of work requires you to handle the recently deceased, especially the recently deceased of a city like Irudimena. Irudimena is a lot like a plastic Easter egg. It's certainly attractive on the outside, but you can never be completely sure what's inside it without taking a look. Living and working here was never entirely average.
"...as old as history itself! The statue of Gilgamesh was one of the first things ever erected in the Logotechnia district, nay, Irudimena itself, and we have the honor of living in a building so close to it! It's quite amazing when you really think about it. Don't you agree, Hector?"
Upon hearing my name, I returned to reality. "Oh, yes," I said, not entirely certain what he was talking about. "It really is an impressive thing to behold every day."
"Indeed it is! You feel like you're getting his blessing every morning, like he's saying 'Go forth, sir, and perform your duty to this fine city, whatever that duty may be!' It's wonderful."
"Wonderful enough to make you forget that your duty to the city is to bury its dead?"
"Hector, you seem to be saying that you don't enjoy your current occupation."
"I seem to be?"
"Very well, you are saying that you don't enjoy your current occupation. Perhaps you should refrain from saying that to the man who not only keeps you employed, but also helps keep you off the streets," Ludlow said with a smirk.
"I find it hard to believe that you would even give me a pay cut for saying that, let alone fire me," I replied.
"And you would be correct in your disbelief," he replied, pretending to sulk.
We reached the funeral home that was our place of employment. As we stepped through the door, Katherine, the receptionist, looked up.
"Mr. Fitch, it's not a very good sign for a business when the owner is always late. I had to open up shop myself. I've had to reschedule three clients, and two of those clients just called and canceled. It's almost as if you want this place to go under."
"Never mind that. If they canceled, it's their loss. Now, who might the third one be?"
"The third client is Sally Jackson-Blofis. Her son, Percy, committed suicide a week ago."
Percy. That name sounded familiar. I couldn't quite place why, though. I asked, "Didn't an actor named Percy commit suicide about a week ago?"
"As a matter of fact, he did," Katherine replied, "Percy Jackson-Blofis, stage name Perseus Jackson."
"Did you hear that, Hector?" Ludlow asked, overcome with a morbid sort of excitement, "We're hosting a celebrity's funeral!"
We had scarcely measured the cadaver for the casket when the officers arrived. I almost dropped the late Mr. Jackson when the door to the funeral parlor slammed. Voices came from the lobby, but I couldn't understand what was being said.
Katherine poked her head into the room. "Mr. Fitch, the police want to speak to you. They say it's about him," she said, motioning toward the body.
If Ludlow was fazed, he didn't show it. "Thank you, Katherine. Tell them I'll be right out," he said.
Katherine obliged, slipping back out into the lobby.
"Do you have any idea what they could want to speak to you about?" I asked.
"Well, if it's about our friend Mr. Jackson, they probably discovered that the hands that ended him were not his own."
As usual, he missed the sarcasm. "Aren't all mysteries? Especially murder mysteries. Why, getting involved in one would probably be the greatest thrill of anyone's life!"
"You worry me sometimes."
"Oh, hush. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go speak to the constabulary."
He left, closing the door behind him. Now, I had no desire to get involved in any sort of murder mystery, especially one as inevitably high-profile as this one. So I did what any sensible young man would do. I quietly slipped into the lobby and eavesdropped on the conversation.
The first thing I noticed, before anything being said registered in my mind, was that one of the officers...stood out, to put it one way. To put it another way, he was a skeleton. Not a skeleton in the sense that he was clearly anorexic, a skeleton in the sense that he clearly lacked skin, flesh and organs. Oddly enough, his partner was a dark-haired woman who was pretty, but otherwise unremarkable.
The pair flashed their badges. "Officers Pleasant and Cain, Irudimena Police Department," the skeleton said in the important sort of tone policemen tend to speak with, "I presume you are Mr. Fitch?"
Ludlow tipped his hat slightly. "At your service. I take it you're not here to inquire about the date and time of Mr. Jackson's funeral?"
"No," the woman said in a bitter, less professional tone, "we actually need to ask you a few questions. Those idiots in the forensics department-" here she used a rather unfriendly term for having made a mistake- "so there's a large possibility that his death wasn't a suicide, and we have to question everyone who knew him or was involved in anything after his death."
"I assure you that I knew nothing of Mr. Jackson when he was alive, unless you count what was printed in the tabloids. Nor did my assistant, though he evidently believes himself to be stealthier than he is," Ludlow said with a smirk and a glance directly at me.
Embarrassed, I slunk back into the back room and made a mental note to figure out how he always seems to know exactly where I am.
Author's note: I have no idea why I named this story Slide. I own nothing, though.